Newest Short Stories Reviews

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The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu

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If anyone thought that the short story as a form had been relegated to the pages of women's magazines (no disrespect) – think again. One genre that has always been a stalwart supporter and encourager of the short form is Sci-fi. So when you pick up a collection of Sci-fi shorts, you know that it will have just as much depth and thought-provoking philosophy as any similar novel. Add to that the intrigue of seeing how the concepts are approached by someone from China which – to be polite – has a somewhat different world-view in many ways to much of the rest of the planet…and add to that an author who is not only a best-seller in his home country but has the distinction of having produced the first translated work of SF ever to win the Hugo Award…this has got to be good! Full review...

I Am The Brother Of XX by Fleur Jaeggy and Gini Alhadeff (translator)

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I Am The Brother of XX is a collection of twenty one short stories from Fleur Jaeggy, who expertly wields malevolence and spite throughout, from the evil done between husband and wife in The Aviary, a nasty tale of Oedipal menace and vicious, although admittedly, artful cruelty, to senseless annihilation and immolation in The Heir. Jaeggy also appears to have a particular fascination with religion, from the nun receiving a rather special sort of communion in The Visitor to general references to the Church and religious devotion throughout many of her stories. Family is also a recurrent theme; whether focused on the distance between siblings in the titular story, told from the point of view of a brother filled with longing and loneliness trying to create a bond with his distant older sister, or the primal need to protect the bond between mother and son, regardless of the cost in Adelaide. Full review...

You Will Grow Into Them by Malcolm Devlin

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You Will Grow Into Them is a thrilling collection of ten short stories all centred on the nature of transition and change. The often grisly, macabre and ghoulish nature of the stories included in Devlin's debut collection are intoxicatingly illicit and the darkness within each tale is deviously addictive. Full review...

Letters From Klara by Tove Jansson

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Famed in the UK for her creation of the Moomin family, Jansson is rather belatedly beginning to gather the richly deserved esteem for her adult writings. For that I offer my heart-felt thanks to publishers Sort of books and Thomas Teal, who has been responsible for most of the translations. Receiving this one, two things strike: firstly I somehow seem to have missed one of the series, and secondly there'll come a time sooner rather than later when there'll be no more to be had. The former will be rectified, the latter is a sad thought. Full review...

No Middle Name by Lee Child

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There is a theory, to which those who regularly read my reviews will know I sometimes subscribe, which says that the short story's heyday has passed and it has now put itself out to grass. This is particularly true, some say, and I have been known to concur, of the crime and thriller genres. Tosh! I can only apologise to all authors involved and own up: I simply haven't been paying attention. Not even to shorter offerings my by favourite authors. So: big thanks to Lee Child and publishers Bantam Press for putting me straight with No Middle Name : a collection of short stories about my favourite latter-day, American-style, Robin Hood by the name of Jack Reacher. Full review...

A Fanfare of Tales by Patrick C Reidy

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I love short stories, so I'm always happy when a new collection arrives for review. A Fanfare of Tales by Patrick C Reidy promises me a compilation of short stories that highlight the adventures of diverse characters as each encounters unforeseen challenges. I like this premise. So how does the book shape up? Full review...

Children of Lucifer: Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell and Enric Badia Romero

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Out of ninety-five diverse comic strip stories, the publication of this book leaves just the last three yet to be presented in these fabulous large format paperbacks. So if you haven’t yet met with the sassy brunette with her curves and her great crime-solving mind, and of course with her Willie, this is the last-but-one chance for you to do so. And if you have any interest in quick little action tales, or even dated kitsch, for both apply here, then you should eagerly be on board… Full review...

Miraculous Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards (editor)

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Consider the following scenario: a policeman hears someone screaming and runs to a house on a particular street, number 13, from where the noise is emanating. When he peeps through the letterbox he discovers a dead man in the hallway with a knife in his throat. He goes to fetch help, but upon returning, finds that the street does not have a number 13 and that the body and the room he saw have both mysteriously vanished... Full review...

UFOs and GOD: A Collection of Short Stories by Michael R Lane

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From stories of young people caught up in a Robin Hood style operation gone wrong, to a believer in God having her faith shaken by the arrival of aliens, author Michael R Lane has compiled a collection of fascinating and clever short stories here. From farm to urban, from World War II to the Digital Age, the places and times, people and events in UFOs and God spotlight the tender underbelly of the human condition in all its glory and despair on these varied stages of fiction. Full review...

For a Little While by Rick Bass

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For a Little While is a collection of twenty-five short stories from Rick Bass. As someone previously unacquainted with Bass' work this new collection was a wonderful introduction to his quirky, unusual style which focuses on stripped back, simple fables featuring often mundane situations, mysterious characters and magical experiences. The characters in each tale are beautifully crafted and the stories are dreamy, loose narratives covering everything from love to death to choices made and chances taken. Full review...

A Collection of Short Stories by Gillian Fletcher-Edwards

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Marged Evans allowed a break-up with a lover to affect everything in her life. Osian wanted to invest in the present but Marged loved the past. Since they drifted apart, Marged's life has been careful, ordered, unadventurous. But then Osian sends her a Christmas card and everything changes. Marged Evans is the first and longest in this collection of short stories from Gillian Fletcher-Edwards. It's almost a novella and its initially slow pace sets off quite the masterclass in how one event can throw everything into unexpected - but lovely - chaos. Full review...

The Book of English Folk Tales by Sybil Marshall and John Lawrence

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From ghosts to witches, to giants and fairies, The Book of English Folk Tales is a fascinating collection of stories retold by social historian and folklorist Sybil Marshall. Out of print for over three decades, this beautiful new clothbound edition is complete with wood engraved illustrations by John Lawrence and is sure to capture the attention of a new generation of lovers of folklore. Full review...

1588: A Calendar of Crime (A Hew Cullan Mystery) by Shirley McKay

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A lot of crime happens in St Andrews during 1588 and therefore in the life of law lecturer and local investigator Hew Cullen too. As we travel through the year with him, his recently wedded English wife Frances, doctor brother in law Giles and his sister Meg, the wise woman, we also encounter some of his most interesting cases. In fact there's one to match each of the year's big festivals: Candlemas, Whitsun, Lammas, Martinmas and Yule. Full review...

Sins by Mary Telford and Louise Verity

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Is there enough new to say about the seven deadly sins? We've seen them all shown to us, from school age and up to the movie Se7en, which we sincerely hope was NOT shown to anyone at school age. We can each recount them all, having been long familiar with them, even if we probably can't pin down when they were actually set in stone without help. Similarly, is there anything new in the world of fairy tale? We know the tropes - characters identified by their status or gender (the woman, the husband), a clear set of rules to obey, and a moral as strong as, if not stronger than, the formulae involved. Well, this volume demands we decide the answer to those questions as being positive ones, and if it's not always definitive in the writing here that there is something new, rest assured there will be something in the imagery that will definitely strike one as fresh... Full review...

How Much the Heart Can Hold: Seven Stories on Love by Carys Bray and others

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This Sceptre collection does not have as simple a remit as it might appear; these are no straightforward love stories. Instead, they each take one aspect of love – often one of the ancient Greek classifications – and provide a whole new way of thinking about it. After all, the heart holds a lot of metaphorical weight. Full review...

Cockfosters by Helen Simpson

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This was a belated reunion for me, having been introduced to the author's snappy short story collections courtesy the very first one while at uni. Mind, it was a much more gentle and placid reunion than the one that starts this book – Julie and Philippa have had a shop-bought curry together, but have had to forsake a cultural chat for a trip haring along the London Underground chasing after a pair of glasses one of them left behind. The piece is definitely about the subject of ageing – about time passed and what might be remaining ahead – but you soon discover that not only do all the pieces here have titles that are unadorned place names, but they all concern that very theme. Can anyone, let alone Helen Simpson, sustain such a vaguely morbid topic over a full collection? Full review...

The Road More Travelled: Tales of those seeking refuge by David Beckler

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The Road More Travelled is an anthology of short stories - and one poem - written in response to the refugee crisis as it exploded across our TV screens and newspapers throughout 2015. To the horror of the authors, the language used by many was aggressive and dehumanising, describing this mass of desperate people as a swarm or a horde. The stories together form a response to this othering. Full review...

Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs

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A fork-tongued princess. A boy who can control the currents of the sea. Cannibals who feast on the limbs of a village of peculiars. These are just a few of the brilliant stories to be found in Tales of the Peculiar, all of which hold mystical information about the peculiar world - a place familiar to many of us since its first introduction by Ransom Riggs in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The stories in this collection explore peculiar history and folklore in a wonderfully imaginative way, and also include some beautiful illustrations to accompany each of the tales. Full review...

I'll Be Home For Christmas by Benjamin Zephaniah and Others

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Publisher Little Tiger and homelessness charity Crisis have got together and produced I'll Be Home For Christmas - an anthology of short stories from some of the most popular writers on the UK YA scene. The stories are connected by the theme of home. What does home mean to you? Is it your house, the physical place where you live? Is it your family? Your friends? Home can mean different things to different people, can't it? The book opens with a powerful poem by Bookbag favourite, Benjamin Zephaniah. The following stories are disparate - some telling tales of hardship and fear, some warming the cockles of your heart. But all of them are about home. Full review...

The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff

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Rebecca Schiff's collection of short stories was a revelation. It has everything I want from a collection: humour, (often of the black variety), heartbreaking sadness, and moments of shocking clarity. These stories feel like the revealing of the inner workings of a young American woman's psyche. In fact, in the last short piece, entitled Write What You Know, it feels that the narrator/author is telling us the experiences which have led to this collection. I only know about parent death and sluttiness', she tells us. She goes on to talk about her knowledge of Jewish people who are assimilated, liberal and sexual guilt, and I think it is no exaggeration to say that these are the underlying themes to practically all of the stories here. Full review...

Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon Van Booy

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A diverse, haunting and humorous collection of short fiction, Simon Van Booy offers a collection of stories highlighting how human genius can emerge through acts of compassion. With characters ranging from an eccentric film director, an aging Cockney bodyguard, the teenage child of Nigerian immigrants, a divorced amateur magician and a Beijing street vendor, Tales of Accidental Genius takes the reader on many, incredible journeys, and conveys more in a few pages than many authors would struggle to do in a whole novel. Full review...

Here I Stand by Amnesty International

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Every so often Amnesty International gets together a number of great authors and produces an anthology of writing. This time, they've done it for younger readers with Here I Stand. Twenty-five contributions explore where we are with human rights in today's society: the sacrifices many made to win them; the sacrifices that still need to be made to spread them; how, where and why these rights are under attack and how deep is the need to defend them. Full review...

He Runs the Moon by Wendy Brandmark

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This is the first time I had read any of Wendy Brandmark's fiction, and I was intrigued at the theme of the stories. She sets out writing short stories about different cities in the US, Denver, Bronx, New York, Cambridge and Boston, but also weaves in setting the stories in different eras. So we have a collection of stories ranging from the 1950's to the 1970's. Full review...

Hah by Birgul Oguz

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I was interested to receive this book for review as I knew it was written in a modern, interesting style, being effectively a collection of short stories, but appearing more in a novel structure. I was, however, rather disappointed with the book. Whilst it does have some very fine examples of prose writing within the stories, I felt disconnected from the narrator, who is the daughter of a recently deceased man who was involved in a Turkish military coup in 1980. There is therefore a lot of examples of the narrator relating the conversations they had shared regarding revolution, and the way this had affected the daughter's upbringing and childhood. Another 'story' then delves into a seemingly disconnected wander through the town, whereby we see the narrator working at gutting fish, and talking about a man she finds repulsive, but who appears to be in love with her. Full review...

Make Something Up by Chuck Palahniuk

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What are we to make of that subtitle-seeming writing on the front cover – stories you can't unread? Does that not apply to all good fiction? Clearly it is here due to the reputation of the author, and the baggage his name brings to the page. We'd expect a dramatic approach from anything Palahniuk writes, and an added frisson, an extra layer, from which we might be forced to shrink back. But a lot of the contents don't quite go that far. Yes, things are dramatic, when society starts attaching defibrillators to itself, to create the perfect, simple, care- (The Price is Right-, and Kardashian-) free happiness. A man buys a horse for his daughter – but boy is it the wrong horse to buy. A man falls in love – yes, sometimes the plot summaries of these stories really are better off for being short (speaking of which, don't turn to the three-page entrant here as a taster, it'll put you off by dint of being, almost uniquely here, a nothing story). A call centre worker can't convince people he's on the level and even in their country – until someone starts riffing back to him. A housing estate report conveys bad regulation violations, but not as bad as the happenings at a 'Burning Man'-styled festival, in a very clever couple of tales. But many too are the instances where that extra step has been taken. Full review...

Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards (editor)

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I'm not big on short stories, but two factors nudged me towards this book. Firstly, it's broadly golden age crime, one of my weaknesses and secondly, the editor is Martin Edwards, a man whose knowledge of golden age crime is probably unsurpassed and he's done us proud, not only with his selection, but with the half-page biographies of the writers, which precede each story. There's just enough there to allow you to place the author and to direct you to other works if you're tempted. It's an elegant selection, from the well known and the less well known, all set in and around the country house. Full review...

Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

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I often feel that short stories are an indulgence on the part of the author, they get to write down a lot of their ideas that don't really fit into a larger story. The stop/start nature of them never sits well with me, just as I am starting to get to know a character they are gone. One way of solving this would be to use characters that a fan will already know; perhaps explore the past, or the future. That sounds great for a fan, but how do you do this whilst also catering for a new reader? Full review...

The Shore by Sara Taylor

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The first story we hear from the Shore, a group of isolated islands off the coast of Virginia, is from Chloe, who's telling her sister about what she overheard in the store. She'd been there buying chicken necks so that they could go crabbing. Normally they used bacon rinds, but they'd already eaten those. Cabel Bloxom had been murdered and they done cut his thang clean off. The girls are motherless and Chloe is fiercely protective of her little sister Renee. She's the first of the strong women we'll encounter in these stories, which interlink to give a greater picture. Full review...