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 2020, Adam L G Nevill, Contemporary Fiction, freebie, Horror Fiction, Short Fiction

#BeforeYouWake by @AdamLGNevill

A new trilogy of horror tales from the award-winning writer’s second collection – HASTY FOR THE DARK – featuring more of the nightmarish visions and ghastly creatures that have been disturbing readers for years. In this book you’ll find three stories of occult and demoniac horror.

No blackmail is as ghastly as extortion from angels.

A swift reckoning often travels in handheld luggage.

No sign of life aboard an abandoned freighter, but what is left behind tells a strange story.

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Still a little surprised such things were tolerated in the city, Frank stared at the mess.

THE ANGELS OF LONDON

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(Ritual Limited, 7 August 2017, 54 pages, e-book, freebie for signing up to the author’s newsletter)

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I enjoyed the stories on offer here a bit more than Before You Sleep. They are a little darker and more to my taste. I haven’t read the collection Hasty for the Dark so had never read any of the stories before. The opening story, The Angels of London is the best. I also wanted the collection to be much longer. Three stories is just enough to whet my appetite.

Posted in 2020, Adam L G Nevill, Contemporary Fiction, Horror Fiction, Short Fiction

#BeforeYouSleep by @AdamLGNevill

A trilogy of horror stories from the award-winning writer’s first collection of short stories – SOME WILL NOT SLEEP – and an introduction to the nightmarish visions and ghastly spectres that have been disturbing the sleep of readers for years. In this book you’ll find two ghost stories and a tale of ancestral demoniac horror.

In the big white house on the hill angels are said to appear . . .

When the children left the house, their toys remained . . .

A confused and vengeful presence occupies the home of a first-time buyer . . .

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One side of my body is full of toothache.

WHERE ANGELS COME IN

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(Ritual Limited, 23 August 2016, 58 pages, e-book, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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I enjoyed the three stories in this little collection. I’d never read any of them before. The best story is the opening story, Where Angels Come In which is very unsettling and disturbing. I enjoyed the other two stories as well but this just appealed to my tastes more. I felt the collection was very short. I knew there were only three stories but I wanted there to be much more.

Posted in 2020, Adam L G Nevill, essays, freebie, Short Fiction, Top Books

#CriesfromtheCrypt by @AdamLGNevill

A free full-length horror companion featuring selected Writings by Adam L. G. Nevill.

Available for free from http://www.adamlgnevill.com. Stories, missing chapters, advice for writers, recommendations, author interviews, and more.

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IF YOU DRIVE from Penrith to Windermere on the A592 and cut up towards Troutbeck, you won’t see the house from the road.

LITTLE MAG’S BARROW

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(Ritual Limited, 19 July 2016, 206 pages, e-book, freebie from the author’s website)

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I’ve read a few books by Nevill and have loved them, especially The Ritual but for some reason I’ve never got round to reading all of them. This needs to be rectified immediately. I enjoyed the fiction in this collection the best, specially the opening story Little Mag’s Barrow which really freaked me out. I also loved the interviews. I’m one of those fans who love it when writers talk shop. There’s a good mix of stuff here and you don’t need to be an uber-fan to enjoy it. I’ve added several more of Nevill’s books to my enormous TBR pile.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, Contemporary Fiction, library book, Short Fiction, various authors

#BehindTheSong

A song to match everyone’s heartbeat.

A soaring melody, a pulse-pounding beat, a touching lyric: Music takes a moment and makes it a memory. It’s a universal language that can capture love, heartbreak, loss, soul searching, and wing spreading-all in the span of a few notes. In Behind the Song, fourteen acclaimed young adult authors and musicians share short stories and personal essays inspired by the songs, the albums, the musicians who move them.

So cue up the playlist and crank the volume. This is an anthology you’ll want to experience on repeat.

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[‘Dude’ I say (SUBURBIANA BY DAVID ARNOLD)]

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(@SourcebooksFire, 5 September 2017, 376 pages, e-book, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs)

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I loved the concept behind this collection, stories and essays inspired by music. Music is something that does speak to everyone and certain songs resonate more than others. Perhaps they remind us of a significant experience such as first love or someone who once met a lot to us. I enjoyed the essays more than the stories which surprised me. The essays were a mixed bag written by singers discussing their own music as well as writers inspired by specific songs. The best essay is Cold Beverage: The Song I Wrote That Changed My Life by G. Love. I enjoyed all of the stories as well. The stories were a mixed bag, spread across different genres and styles. My favourites included Miss Atomic Bomb by Anthony Breznican, Tiffany Twisted by Ellen Hopkins and City Girl by E.C Myers.