Newest Short Stories Reviews

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Review of

Cherry Blossom Boutique by Brooke Adams

3star.jpg Women's Fiction

Thirty-one-year old Liberty Rossini has had her shop, the Cherry Blossom Boutique, for just six months when she's nominated for - and wins - the Retail Best Newcomer Award. She's delighted and the two people she's brought with her to the event couldn't be more pleased. Sonja, her mother, is an ex-model and Brazilian: you can see where Liberty got her looks from. Jessica's thirty-four and Liberty's best friend: they've known each other since university and Liberty adores Jessica's husband, Charles and their four-year-old daughter, Ava. Life would be perfect for Liberty if it wasn't for one thing: she misses having a man in her life. Full Review

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Review of

But Never For Lunch by Sandra Aragona

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If a woman approaching the menopause can be likened to a Rottweiler in lipstick, an Ambassador nearing retirement resembles a pampered peacock about to be released into the company of carrion crows or, more to the point, about to discover the real world of bus timetables and paying his own gas bills.

You don't get many better opening sentences than that, do you? We first met His Excellency and The Ambassador's Wife in Sorting the Priorities and we learned what it was like to be moved around countries like accompanying baggage by the Italian Government but the time has come for HE to retires and for Sandra Aragona to become The Wife of Former Ambassador... They have left The Career and settled in Rome. Well 'settled' rather overstates the situation and their dog, Beagle, has no intention of slowing down any time soon, despite being sixteen and deaf. Full Review

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Review of

Capturing Emilia by Brooke Adams

3star.jpg Women's Fiction

He's Charles Devereaux, thirty-eight and a partner at Wickham Jones, the Mayfair letting agents. She's Emilia, twenty-nine, librarian and archivist in the heritage library next door. Emilia has read The Secret but she's moved on from new age books like that, which leave you dependent on someone else's philosophies, to something a little deeper. Charles is more of a Jack Reacher man himself, but, above all, he's shocked that Emilia reads The Guardian. They're obviously not at all compatible, so why can Charles not get this woman out of his mind? She's not his usual type at all: it's obvious to his friends. And given that Emilia regularly feels repulsed by Charles's superficiality, why does she feel drawn to him? The relationship's obviously a non-starter, isn't it? Full Review

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Review of

Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales by Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane (editors)

4.5star.jpg Fantasy

Curses. They're there throughout tales of faery and other fantastical folk – people being cursed to do this, or not to be able to do that. Children can be cursed, as can princesses on the verge of marrying, and older people too. It seems in a way there's no escaping it. Which is why the theme of this book of short stories is such a standout – we may well think we know all there is to know about this accursed character, that demonised place, and that other bewitched person. We'd be very wrong. Full Review

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Review of

An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe

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Christmas – the time of traditional trauma. You only have to think about the turkey for that – once upon a time it was leaving it sat on the downstairs loo to defrost overnight, and if that failed the hair-dryer shoved inside it treatment was your next best bet. Nowadays it's all having to make sure it's suitably free-range and organic – but not too organic that you can go and visit it, and get too friendly with it to want to eat it. Christmas, though, is of course also a time of great boons. It's cash in hand for a lot of plump people who can hire red suits and beards, it was always a godsend for postmen with all the thank-you letters to aunties you saw twice a decade that your parents made you write out in long-hand as a child, and as for the makers of Meltis Newberry Fruits – well, did they even try and sell them any other time of the year? Full Review

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Review of

A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Tove Jansson's worldwide fame lasts on the Moomin books, written in the 1940s and later becoming television characters of the simplicity, naivety and sheer 'goodness' that would later produce flowerpot men or teletubbies. Simple drawings, simple stories, simple goodness. What is often forgotten outside of her native Finland is that she was a serious writer…that she wrote for adults as well as children…and that she had a feeling for the natural world and the simple life that not only informed those child-like trolls but went far beyond any fantasy of how the world might be. Full Review

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Review of

Nights of the Creaking Bed by Toni Kan

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Nights of the Creaking Bed is a collection of short stories by Toni Kan. The series of stories tell of the lives and lusts of an assortment of characters living in and around Lagos, Nigeria. Nigeria, in this collection, is imbued with its very own heart of darkness. Danger stalks the shadows and people are killed for nothing more than a wrong look. Kan writes with a vitality and passion that allows these cynical stories to achieve a glimmer of hope. Full Review

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Review of

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

5star.jpg Science Fiction

Over the past twenty-eight years, Ted Chiang has published fifteen science fiction short stories, these magnificent stories have won twenty-seven major science fiction awards so if you are a science fiction fan it is likely that you have already come across some of the work by Ted Chiang. If you haven't then take this opportunity to do so now. Trust me; your imagination will be grateful. Full Review

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Review of

Watchwords by Philip Neal

4star.jpg Short Stories

This satisfying collection of short stories has a provenance at least as beguiling as the provenance of the antique watches that inspired it.

Philip Neal lost a watch. It was a watch he was fond of and had been told was like a 1930s Cartier. Instead of mourning its loss, he began to collect vintage watches that resembled it. And that's how he became a watch collector. An eBay purchase led him to the Antique Watch Company watch repairers in Clerkenwell. The eBay purchase was a fake, but the friendship that grew between the buyer and the repairer of watches was not and the seed of an idea for a book was born. Full Review

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Review of

Return to Wonderland by Various Authors

4.5star.jpg Short Stories

In following a young girl called Alice down the rabbit hole a few years ago, when the first book she was in hit 150 years of age, I found that I didn't really find too much favour with it. The wacky-for-the-sake-of-it did not gel, and I don't remember loving it more as a child. But I would suggest I am the perfect audience for this book. I had every chance to enjoy these short stories that come at the core from a tangent, that show the benefits of the oblique glance. I've always preferred coming to an author's output through their least obvious, allegedly throw-away pieces, and it's the same with franchises – I'd more likely go for Bree Tanner's short novella than the whole Twilight saga (although that remains just a hunch, for obvious reasons). For another thing, there was every reason to expect some kind of greatness here – with Carroll much loved by millions, surely pieces written with that love in mind could only provide for success after success? Full Review

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Review of

The Long Path To Wisdom by Jan-Philipp Sendker

4star.jpg Short Stories

On my travels around the world, I have a tendency to end up in any bookshop that is selling English-language books, and while I buy as many second-hand escapist tales as the next person, what I'm really looking for is the 'local' – the cookbook maybe, the maps definitely, but above all: the folk tales. If I ever get to Burma, I won't need to hunt, I can read before I go. Full Review

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Review of

Alternative Medicine by Laura Solomon

4.5star.jpg Short Stories

Laura Solomon's publisher describes the short stories in Alternative Medicine as black comedy with a twist of surrealism. I'm rather glad that I didn't see this until after I'd finished reading as I'm not normally a fan of either, but I've come to two conclusions about the book: what the publisher says is correct - and I really enjoyed it. The comedy is not too black and the surrealism is gentle and perhaps best described as a twist or flick of reality when you were least expecting it. Your comfort zones are going to be invaded in the nicest possible way. Full Review

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Review of

Tales of Love and Disability by Laura Solomon

4star.jpg Short Stories

I've always believed that less-able writers produce longer books: it takes a great deal of skill and talent to write a short story which holds the reader and keeps them coming back for more. There are far too many collections of short stories which are all too easy to put down and forget after you've read a couple of pieces. I've recently read a couple of novellas by Laura Solomon - Marsha's Deal and Hell's Unveiling and enjoyed them, so I was intrigued to see what she could do with an even shorter form. Full Review

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Review of

Going To The Last: Short Stories About Horse Racing by K D Knight

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In the opening story, a man whose wife has deserted him visits Sandown with little money but comes away with cash in his pocket - and his wife. In A Grey Day an owner struggles with the problem of whether or not to run his horse in the Gold Cup when the ground is against him. My favourite was The Story of H, the story of Foinavon. H is depicted as a kind horse who only wanted to please people. After changing hands on various occasions he came to the yard of John Kempton. H (or Foinavon) was entered in the Grand National and considered a no-hoper. In one of the most dramatic runnings of the race, a pile-up occurred at the 23rd fence. Foinavon, who had been many lengths adrift, cleared the fence and galloped to the line, winning the race at odds of 100/1. Full Review

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Review of

Hell's Unveiling by Laura Solomon

3.5star.jpg Short Stories

A little while ago I really enjoyed Marsha's Deal and I was delighted by the opportunity to read the sequel, Hell's Unveiling. It's probably not much of a spoiler to say that Marsha bested the devil in Marsha's Deal, but the devil is not one to take defeat lying down. He's out to wage war on Planet Earth and particularly on Marsha (who's thought of as a 'goody two shoes' in Hell). Although a strong person, she's vulnerable where her foster children are concerned. Daniel is framed for a crime he didn't commit and sent to juvenile detention and refused permission to return to live with Marsha. Then, of course, there are all the other children who are not only targeted but - worst of all - subverted to the devil's evil ends. He's out to prey on their fears and weaknesses and as with many foster children, their self-esteem is very fragile. This is no small-scale operation, either - the devil has set up a training complex on earth, complete with an elevator to Hell. Full Review

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Review of

Marsha's Deal by Laura Solomon

4star.jpg Short Stories

Marsha didn't have an easy ride in life the first time around. She'd been afflicted with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a rare disease which turned parts of her body to bone when they were damaged. Finally, she was unable to stand her life any longer and went to Dignitas, the Swiss euthanasia clinic. She'd thought that would be the end, but after cremation, her body went straight to hell and she found herself face-to-face with the devil. And that was when she made the pact. In exchange for details about some of those who had been close to her - their strengths and weaknesses - she would be reborn on the same day to the same parents but would live her life free of disease. Full Review

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Review of

Roses in December by Matthew de Lacey Davidson

4star.jpg Short Stories

Roses in December is a collection of twenty-two short stories. And when I say short, I mean short, with each just a few pages long and some brushing the flash fiction genre, such is the brevity. I think the shorter the story, the harder it is to write and the more difficult the task of engaging, then satisfying, the reader. So it is to the immense credit of Matthew de Lacey Davidson that I sighed in appreciation many times while reading. He has a good sense of which moments of the human experience to capture in order to make the point he wants to make. Some highlights: Full Review

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Review of

Quick and Quirky: Short Stories with Quips! by Fred Onymouse and Ann Onymouse

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Quick, and indeed, quirky, are positive attributes, I'm sure you'd agree – apart from perhaps in surgeons. I like things that have a quirk, and I approve of the quicky. I've been dabbling in the world of creative writing for a few years now, and whenever anyone asks what it is I mostly write, I define it with the catch-all safety net of flippant. So this book should be right up my street, being as it is a bijou selection of illustrated and fairly large-print short stories. Full Review

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Review of

Strange Weather by Joe Hill

5star.jpg Short Stories

Strange Weather is a collection of four short novels all linked by, unsurprisingly, strange and cataclysmic weather. Each novel is distinct and showcases Hill's restrained yet vivid style which takes everyday events and makes them bitingly, acerbically macabre or blindingly beautiful, often switching from one sentence to the next. As Hill himself says the beauty of the world and the horror of the world were twined together, never is this truer than in Strange Weather where moments of abject horror are coupled with raw beauty. Full Review

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Review of

Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams by Philip K Dick

3star.jpg Short Stories

Philip K Dick's stories were originally published in the 50s, but they are more present than past. On the big screen Blade Runner 2049 relaunched the Dick-inspired cult classic to reviews of pure praise; and on slightly smaller screens, Channel 4 has adapted the author's short stories for TV. Startlingly, Dick's current relevance reaches beyond fiction and into the factual: his topics from intrusive advertising and loss of privacy to the increasing machination of society are all headline material in today's news. It is as if half a century after their inception, Dick's electric dreams are becoming reality. Full Review

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