Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, Horror Fiction, Kevin Lucia, Short Fiction

Things You Need by @KevinBLucia

The things we want are so very rarely the things we need.

Clifton Heights, a modest Adirondack town, offers many unique attractions. Arcane Delights sells both paperbacks and hard-to-find limited editions. The Skylark Diner serves the best home-cooked meals around, with friendly service and a smile. Every August, Mr. Jingo’s County Fair visits, to the delight of children and adults. In essence, Clifton Heights is the quintessential small American town. Everyone knows everyone else, and everyone is treated like family. It is quiet, simple, and peaceful.

But shadows linger here. Flitting in dark corners, from the corner of the eye. If you walk down Main Street after dark, the slight scrape of shoes on asphalt whispers you’re not alone, but when you look over your shoulder, no one is there. The moon shines high and bright in the night sky, but instead of throwing light, it only seems to make the shadows lengthen.

Children disappear. Teens run away. Hunters get lost in the woods with frightening regularity. Husbands go mad, and wives vanish in the dead of night. And still, when the sun rises in the morning, you are greeted by townspeople with warm waves and friendly smiles, and the shivers pass as everything seems fresh and new…

Until night falls once more.

Handy’s Pawn and Thrift sits several blocks down from Arcane Delights. Like any thrift store, its wares range from the mundane to the bizarre. By daylight, it seems just another slice of small town Americana. But in its window hangs a sign which reads: We Have Things You Need. And when a lonely traveling salesman comes looking for something he desperately wants, after normal visiting hours, after night has fallen, he will face a harsh truth among the shelves of Handy’s Pawn and Thrift: the things we want are rarely the things we need.

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How’d I end up here?

1

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(@crystallakepub, 28 September 2018, ebook, 306 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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AMAZON

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This is a new author for me. I have a few of his titles that were on offer for free a while ago and I look forward to reading more of his work. This is more like a collection of short stories linked by a man who finds himself in the town by chance in the thrift store where he stumbles across some of the darkness at the heart of the town. I really enjoyed the stories but wanted to know more about the narrator. The thrift store reminded me a lot of the store in Stephen King’s Needful Things.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, Margaret Atwood, Short Fiction

Wilderness Tips by @MargaretAtwood

A leathery bog-man transforms an old love affair; a sweet, gruesome gift is sent by the wife of an ex-lover; landscape paintings are haunted by the ghost of a young girl. This dazzling collection of ten short stories takes us into familiar Atwood territory to reveal the logic of irrational behaviour and the many textures lying beneath ordinary life.

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THE WAITRESSES ARE BASKING in the sun like a herd of skinned seals, their pinky-brown bodies shining with oil.

TRUE TRASH

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(@ViragoBooks, 7 January 2010, first published 1991, ebook, 242 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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Atwood is one of my favourite writers and I still have quite a lot of her back catalogue to read. I’ve found some of her earliest story collections a bit of a hit or miss so wasn’t sure what to expect with Wilderness Tips. Thankfully, this is a good collection of ten stories. The stories are quite dark at times and have a dark undercurrent even though events at times seem quite simple and ordinary. I enjoyed every story.

Posted in 2021, Claire Keegan, Contemporary Fiction, library book, Short Fiction

Antarctica by @CKeeganFiction

From the opening story about a married woman who takes a trip to the city with a single purpose in mind – to sleep with another man – Antarctica draws you into a world of obsession, betrayal and fragile relationships. In ‘House Calls’, Cordelia wakes on the last day of the twentieth century and sets off along the coast road to keep a date with her lover that has been nine years in the waiting. In ‘The Singing Cashier’, a local postman visits two sisters bearing fishy gifts in the hope that his favour will be returned in kind. One of the most moving and disturbing stories in the collection, ‘Passport Soup’, features Frank Corso, who sits alone eating green tomatoes and bacon, mourning the disappearance of his nine-year-old daughter: ‘At one point in that late evening, she was there, and then she wasn’t.’ Keegan’s characters inhabit a world where dreams, memory and chance can have crippling consequences for those involved. Compassionate, witty and unsettling, Antarctica is a collection to be savoured.

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Every time the happily married woman went away she wondered how to would feel to sleep with another man.

ANTARTICA

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(@FaberBooks, 7 November 2013, first published 1999, ebook, 228 pages, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs)

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I’ve read and enjoyed other books by the author and was looking forward to this collection of short stories. I thought the stories were remarkable, each one different so I never knew where the author was going to lead me. The stories are all quite dark at times, disturbing and haunting. The best stories on offer were the title story, The Singing Cashier and Passport Soup. These are well worth a read.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, library book, Short Fiction, Zadie Smith

Grand Union by Zadie Smith

In the summer of 1959, an Antiguan immigrant in North West London lives the last day of his life, unknowingly caught in someone else’s story of hate and division, resistance and revolt.

A mother looks back on her early forays into matters of the human heart – and other parts of the human body – considering the ways in which desire is always an act of negotiation, destruction, and self-invention.

A disgraced cop stands amid the broken shards of his life, unable to move forward into a future that holds no place for him.

Moral panic spreads like contagion through the upper echelons of New York City – and the cancelled people look disconcertingly like the rest of us.

A teenage scion of the technocratic elite chases spectres through a premium virtual reality, trailed by a little girl with a runny nose and no surviving family.

We all take a much-needed break from this mess, on a package holiday where the pool’s electric blue is ceaselessly replenished, while political and environmental collapse happen far away, to someone else. Interleaving ten completely new and unpublished stories with some of her best-loved pieces from the New Yorker and elsewhere, Zadie Smith presents a dizzyingly rich and varied collection of fiction. Moving exhilaratingly across genres and perspectives, from the historic to the vividly current to the slyly dystopian, Grand Union is a sharply alert and prescient collection about time and place, identity and rebirth, the persistent legacies that haunt our present selves and the uncanny futures that rush up to meet us.

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‘I would like to be on good terms with all animals’ remarked the woman, to her daughter.

THE DIALECTIC

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(@PenguinUKBooks, 3 October 2019, ebook, 241 pages, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @BorrowBox)

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I’ve only read a couple of the author’s book but have enjoyed them so was looking forward to this collection of stories. I really enjoyed Grand Union. The stories are all different, which I like as there’s nothing worse than a collection of stories which are similar. The stories have different styles, structures and cover different themes and subjects. I enjoyed every story on offer here.

Posted in 2021, Bolu Babalola, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, First Read, Myth Retelling, Short Fiction

Love in Colour by @BeeBabs

Bolu Babalola finds the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology and rewrites them with incredible new detail and vivacity in this debut collection. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines iconic Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from countries that no longer exist in our world.

A high-born Nigerian goddess feels beaten down and unappreciated by her gregarious lover and longs to be truly seen.

A young businesswoman attempts to make a great leap in her company, and an even greater one in her love life.

A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman is forced to decide whether to uphold her family’s politics, or to be true to her heart.

Whether captured in the passion of love at first sight, or realising that self-love takes precedent over the latter, the characters in these vibrant stories try to navigate this most complex human emotion and understand why it holds them hostage.

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OSUN WAS USED TO BEING LOOKED AT.

OSUN

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(@headlinepg, 20 August 2020, ebook, 219 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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I didn’t enjoy these stories as much as I expected to after reading so many rave reviews. I had high expectations for Love In Colour but the book fell a little short for me. I love re-telling’s and different versions of popular myths as well as using old, well told stories as the base for something new. That said, the stories in this collection are all well-written and entertaining. I enjoyed them but I expected something really special and didn’t exactly get that. The stories were a little too modern at times with many focused around social media platforms so they were very similar at times.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Joanne Harris, Short Fiction

Honeycomb by @Joannechocolat

Long ago and far away,

Far away and long ago,

The World was honeycomb, we know,

The Worlds were honeycomb.


The beauty of stories is that you never know where they will take you. Full of dreams and nightmares, Honeycomb is an entrancing mosaic novel of original fairy tales from bestselling author Joanne M. Harris and legendary artist Charles Vess in a collaboration that’s been years in the making. Dark, gripping, and brilliantly imaginative, these magical tales will soon have you in their thrall.

Each original tale is a small piece of the larger picture – a clue or a message, a theme, or a warning – interwoven with the tale of the Lacewing King as he travels the Worlds and encounters a multitude of characters: a toymaker who wants to create the perfect wife; a princess whose heart is won by words, not actions; a tiny dog whose confidence far outweighs his size; and the vengeful Spider Queen, and deadly Harlequin . . .

Turn the page and be swept up in the adventure.

Perfect for fans of Sandman, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s EyePiranesi and The Midnight Library, this tour de force is a beautiful achievement, from two exceptional creators at the top of their game.

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When the Nine Worlds were still very young, there were no stories.

NECTAR

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(@Gollancz, 3 June 2021, ebook, 384 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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This is one of my favourite writers. I couldn’t wait to read Honeycomb. This is collection of linked fairy stories, both light and dark and you need to read each one to understand the themes, links and nuances that connect all of the stories. They are not complete without each other and lead into each other, blend and change each other to make a whole picture. The stories touch on ideas of Norse Mythology explored in other books by the author with references to the Nine Worlds and other creatures. I really enjoyed all of the stories especially uncovering the links between them. This is an impressive collection.

Posted in 2021, A.S Byatt, Contemporary Fiction, Short Fiction

Sugar and Other Stories by A.S. Byatt

It should come as no surprise that short stories by the author of the magical Possession are populated by erudite paranoiacs, witches, changelings, and the ghost of a dead child. A S Byatt’s short fictions explore the fragile ties between generations, the dizzying abyss of loss and the elaborate memories we construct against it, resulting in a book that compels us to inhabit other lives and returns us to our own with new knowledge, compassion, and a sense of wonder.

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When was it clear that Martha Crichton-Walker was the antagonist?

RACINE AND TABLECLOTH

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(@vintagebooks, 15 October 2018, ebook, 256 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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A.S. Byatt has been on my radar since I read her extraordinary novel Ragnarök and realised the author I’d thought was ‘too hard’ for me enjoy was the exact opposite. It’s nice to be so wrong about something. This is the second book by her that I’ve read. I also have a copy of The Children’s Book and plan to read her back catalogue. I enjoyed all of the stories in Sugar And Other Stories. They are quite dark at times and definitely mind kind of thing. The best stories included Racine and the Tablecloth, The Dried Witch, Precipice Uncurled and Sugar. The stories are excellent.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, Kim Bo-Young, NetGalley, Science Fiction, Short Fiction

I’m Waiting For You by Kim Bo-Young

THE TIMES SCIENCE FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH

‘Her fiction is a breath-taking piece of a cinematic art … powerful and graceful’ – Bong Joon-ho, Oscar-winning director of Parasite

’Dazzling’ – The Times

A stunning collection of short fiction by one of South Korea’s most treasured writers, available in English for the first time.

In the title story, an engaged couple working in distant corners of the galaxy plan to arrive on Earth simultaneously and walk down the aisle together. But small incidents wreak havoc on their vast journeys, pushing the date of their wedding far into the future. As centuries pass on Earth and the land and climate change, one thing is constant: the desire of the lovers to be together.

Through two pairs of interlinked stories, Kim explores the driving forces of humanity – love, hope, creation, destruction, and the very meaning of existence.

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I SAID GOODBYE TO THE GUYS, AS THEY WON’T BE SEEING ME until the wedding.

HIS FIRST LETTER (I’M WAITING FOR YOU)

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(@HarperCollimsUK, 15 April 2021, 336 pages, ebook, copy from the publisher via #NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed)

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This is a new author for me. This collection of four long-ish stories is worth reading for the title story and its companion piece, On My Way to You alone. The two stories are among the best pieces of short fiction I’ve ever read. I didn’t want either to end. The stories focus on a man and woman travelling in different corners of the galaxy and at different speeds who plan to reach Earth at the same time to get married and the various catastrophes that seem determined to get in the way. These were funny, sad, delightful stories. I loved them both very much. The other two stories were good but I struggled to make the human connection I did with the title story and On My Way to You. I really enjoyed this collection.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, library book, Ransom Riggs, Short Fiction, YA Fiction

Tales Of The Peculiar by @ransomriggs

A new set of stories from the world of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

In this collection of fairy tales, Ransom Riggs invites you to uncover hidden legends of the peculiar world. A fork-tongued princess, a girl who talks to ghosts, and wealthy cannibals who dine on the discarded limbs of peculiars are just a few of the characters whose stories will have you hooked.

Featuring stunning illustrations from world-renowned artist Andrew Davidson, this compelling, rich and truly peculiar anthology is the perfect gift for fans – and for all lovers of great storytelling.

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The Peculiars in the village of Swampmuck lived very modestly.

THE SPLENDID CANNIBALS

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(@PenguinUKBooks, 3 September 2016, ebook, 352 pages, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs)

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I’m a huge fan of the Peculiar Children book so was really looking forward to reading these stories. The book is aimed more at children or a young age-group but if you’re a fan of the series you’ll enjoy these. Each story focuses on a different Peculiar in history and their life, experiences and strange abilities. I really loved The First Ymbryne which reveals how Miss Peregrine and co came about and how the loops the Peculiar’s live in came about. The Pigeons of Saint Paul’s and The Boy Who Could Hold Back The Sea are also stand-out stories. Now I can’t wait to read the final book in the series.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, Haruki Murakami, Short Fiction

First Person Singular by @harukimurakami_

The eight masterly stories in this new collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From nostalgic memories of youth, meditations on music and an ardent love of baseball to dreamlike scenarios, an encounter with a talking monkey and invented jazz albums, together these stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the exterior world. Occasionally, a narrator who may or may not be Murakami himself is present. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides.

Philosophical and mysterious, the stories in First Person Singular all touch beautifully on love and solitude, childhood and memory . . . all with a signature Murakami twist.

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SO I’M TELLING a younger friend of mine about a strange incident that took place back when I was eighteen.

CREAM

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(@vintagebooks, 6 April 2021, ebook, 240 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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I’ve become a rabid fan of the author so was looking forward to devouring this collection of stories. I started to feel apprehensive after I read a few reviews, while not exactly scathing were hardly full of praise. Thankfully, my apprehension was in vain as I really enjoyed this collection. The stories are undeniably Murakami. They are a mixed bag and some for example, With The Beatles work much better than others. The shining light in this book is The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection, more of a personal essay which really appealed to me. I enjoyed these stories.