Like almost all short story collections by various authors, this one is a mixed bag of hidden gems and ones I didn't even finish. If you'd asked me beLike almost all short story collections by various authors, this one is a mixed bag of hidden gems and ones I didn't even finish. If you'd asked me beforehand to name a list of YA authors that I'd like to appear in a short story collection, many of the ones here would have made that list: Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, Holly Black, Gayle Forman, David Levithan and maybe Rainbow Rowell (I like but don't love her books).
Then if you'd asked me what kind of short story collection I'd like to have from these favourites of mine, you would have got all kinds of weird and wonderful suggestions from me... but a collection of holiday-themed romances would never have occurred to me as something enjoyable. I'm not much of a romantic or a Christmas person, to be honest. I'm more of a Halloween type of girl - and all the genres that could possibly go with it. But I did get some really nice surprises here. I'm not sure it's worth buying the entire collection but it would be sad for you to miss out on the better ones. And it is a pleasingly diverse set of stories, filled with people of all races, ethnicities, religions and sexualities *thumbs up*
Personally, I think this book starts and ends with the two best stories, from Rainbow Rowell and Laini Taylor respectively. Taylor's work came as no surprise but I didn't see Rowell's tale coming. She really hit me where it hurts (in a good way). The story made me sit up and take notice in a collection that I wasn't sure would be my thing. I'm not going to review every single story properly because some didn't pique my interest and some I skim-read, but here's what I thought.
"Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell - 5/5 This was my favourite story and it probably wasn't a good idea for it to appear first because so many that followed received unfair comparisons with it. It tells the story of the midnight countdown on New Year's Eve over several years, revisiting the same characters in a non-chronological order and slowly filling in the blanks on their personalities and relationship. It amazed me how much I fell in love with the two protagonists, how well-developed their characters were in so short an amount of time and pages.
“You’re a kaleidoscope. You change every time I look away.”
It was a funny, sweet, wonderful little story. With a hint of melancholy, as all the best New Year stories should be. There's something really sad about the possibility of the new and moving on and becoming someone else, not being who you once were. Rowell captures that hint of fear people have about growing up and everyone they once knew changing around them.
"The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link - 2/5 This was one I didn't read properly. It started well and had an intriguing premise but I grew bored.
"Angels in the Snow" by Matt De La Pena - 3/5 I really liked the idea of this one and my only real problem with it was that I didn't like the female love interest. It was refreshing to see a YA romance told from a male perspective and I liked the subtle exploration of race and racial stereotyping that existed without overtaking the main story. It's about a guy who is house-sitting for his boss over the Christmas period and is slowly starving in a house with no food (he is broke). An encounter with his pretty neighbor sparks an interesting and unlikely relationship that is built up through the telling of stories.
Indulging more and more tidbits about each others lives, the two grow closer. But how much of what they tell each other is the truth?
"Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me" by Jenny Han - 2/5 It must just be something about Jenny Han's writing style that doesn't agree with me because I've been unable to like any of her books. I started to skim read this story and I can't actually remember what it's about. Hence, no real review. Oh well...
"It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins - 4/5 I'm really not surprised that Perkins delivered. It was her name that I saw first on this collection and I added it immediately before checking out who else was included. Her stories are always so cute and sweet, but without too much of the cheesy. This one is no exception.
Unlike Rowell's story - that deals with a relationship over the period of several years - Perkins tells us a love story that takes place over just a few hours. And it is surprisingly effective. She builds instantly likable characters and uses her gift for dialogue to convince you to root for the two protagonists even after such a short amount of time. It is one of the more feel-good, enjoyable stories in here, but it also deals with anxieties about the future and the expectations other people have of you.
"Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan - no rating I didn't read far enough with this one because I felt no connection to the characters, which is why I'm not leaving a rating or review. I'm extremely pleased that an LGBT romance was included in the collection, I know some romance collection publishers in the past have been douches about it, but I wasn't grabbed by the story. As much as I have enjoyed Levithan's work in the past, most of his more recent stuff hasn't really worked for me.
"Krampuslauf by Holly Black" - no rating Sometimes I love Holly Black so much that I get pulled in and completely addicted to her stories. And sometimes her style does nothing for me. This time was the latter. Didn't finish.
"What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman - 3/5 This story is about a Jewish girl who moves to college in a small, very Christian place where she feels like a complete outsider. There she meets a black boy who is equally treated like an outsider and these two big city small town misfits find something important in each other. I liked it okay.
The characters were interesting enough that I read to the end and enjoyed reading about their relationship. However, I think the story was built up solely around addressing racial and religious stereotypes, which I agree is important, but here it overshadowed everything else that happened. Most of the dialogue was made up of the two protagonists discussing the way other people saw them in this new town. I understand the idea about outsiders coming together, but I got the impression that these two got together simply because she was Jewish and he was black. Plus, the ending got a little too cheesy for me.
"Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire - no rating I didn't read this one. Someone tell me if it's good and I'll go try it :)
"Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White - 3/5 White is not one of my favourite authors. I've tried a bunch of her books and never been able to get into them or understand the hype. So I didn't have much hope for this one, but I tried it and it was better than expected. Unlike most of the authors in this collection, White goes with a quirky, funny style that was easy to digest and enjoyable. The characters weren't as memorable as some of the others, but I did get a few laughs from it.
"Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter - no rating I didn't try reading this one either because it just didn't appeal to me. Feel free to let me know if it's good.
"The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor - 5/5 *sigh* And finally... Laini Taylor is so reliably, consistently good in her storytelling and her beautiful, evocative language. In a collection full of contemporaries, she manages to take us into her own fantasy world and breathe some magic and wonderful prose into the holiday season.
All evening long, real snow would fall from the ceiling to glitter on the lashes of dancing girls and ardent boys, but Neve and the Dreamer didn’t linger. They had other things to do: all of them. All the things, dreamed and undreamed, in the depth and breadth of the whole spinning world.
Beautiful words, beautiful stories, beautiful characters... you know, this is just one damn beautiful book. I am in awe of it. Can you fall in love w
Beautiful words, beautiful stories, beautiful characters... you know, this is just one damn beautiful book. I am in awe of it. Can you fall in love with a book? If so, I'm guilty. I don't mean to sound condescending to young adult readers (I am one) but this book simply does not deserve the readership that thought Twilight was the best book ever written.
Everything about the marketing and presentation of this book does not convey how truly wonderful it is. Firstly, though the cover illustration is a stunning work of art, I think it tends to immediately appeal to younger readers and rule out an older audience. It's pretty... but it looks like a children's book. Same with the title... it's cute, very cute and it's quite a subtle representation of what the book is about... but again, it sounds like a cutesy Twilight-style romance. Another thing it has in common with the saga is the genre it is categorised in: paranormal romance.
But to say that Twilight and Lips Touch: Three Times are both paranormal romances is like saying tin and platinum are both metals. It's in an entirely different league. And I almost didn't read this because I saw reviews saying the first story was just like Twilight. No, no, no. The very main difference between the two is that Laini Taylor remembers the basic principle of quality writing.
Let's look at Bella Swan for a second... after four books what do we know about her?
1) She's that girl who's in love with a vampire 2) She's that girl who's in love with Edward Cullen 3) She's that girl... um, that's about it.
In one paragraph of that first story called 'Goblin Fruit', that according to some is "just like Twilight", this is Kizzy:
"Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, freeze an enemy's blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn't possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer's small airplane, champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear an indigo veil against the stinging sand, just like the nomads. Kizzy wanted."
YES. In just one paragraph, Laini Taylor has created a far more complex character than Stephenie Meyer ever managed. And let me just say, this book is hard to quote from because the entire thing is a quotable masterpiece, you can find something beautiful in every single paragraph on every single page. I actually took longer than it would normally take me to finish a 250 page young adult novel, and not because it was hard work, but because I would read a few sentences, think "wow", and go back and read it again. And again. My only fault with it is that I finished the last story and wanted to cry because there wasn't any more.
Who is this Laini Taylor who seems to have appeared out of nowhere all of a sudden with her extraordinary writing and her pink hair? I don't know but I do know I'll be getting my hands on her future work if I have to sell my soul in exchange (yeah, that was a bit melodramatic but I haven't come out of fairyland yet). Read this, spread the word. 'tis fantastic! ...more
1) This story is wonderful. 2) It has nothing to do with the Grisha trilogy. 3) I don't particularly like the Grisha trilogy - first one was okay but the second was disappointing, IMO. Haven't read the third. 4) This is a little folk tale about a fox who survives by outsmarting others - but has he finally met his match? 5) It's just the right amount of dark. 6) Just read it. You don't even have to spend anything :)...more
I'm not sure my review of this is really needed. If you're wanting to explore the world of the free Tor short stories, you should just check out karenI'm not sure my review of this is really needed. If you're wanting to explore the world of the free Tor short stories, you should just check out karen's reviews, which is where I find all the good ones. But I can't just leave this review space blank either, the story deserves more than that.
“Mama Alice would say that God never gives us any burdens we can’t carry.” The harpy says, Does she look you in the eye when she says that?
I find it amazing sometimes how I can read a 500-page novel and remain fairly emotionally detached, but some writers are just able to tear my heart open and leave me thinking about their story for hours... with just a few pages of powerful writing.
This story is so raw. The writing has an edgy, gritty, ugly honesty about it that drew me in and had me living inside the narrator's mind. I guess it's some kind of magical realism / dark fantasy if you want to get into genre-specifics but it's also way more than that. It's a portrait of a young girl called Desiree who was born disfigured and sick, a girl who is dying and must take pills every day... but she's not dying - in her own words - "fast enough".
"I’m dying. Just not fast enough. If it were faster, I’d have nothing to worry about. As it is, I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do with my life."
If she had a couple of years, she could resign herself to her fate; if she had a full life, she could live it happily. But, instead, she's somewhere in between. Still dying, longing for everything normal people get to have, and having to decide what to do next with her half-life.
Every day, she visits the harpy who lives in an alley near her home; she feeds it garbage and the two form a strange kind of friendship... strange, but possibly the most genuine relationship in Desiree's life. Hell, I feel emotional just trying to write this damn review.
It's a very dark, bleak tale that you probably shouldn't read if you're feeling particularly depressed, but it was an incredibly effective piece of storytelling. I hung on the author's every word.
Recently, I've read a number of short stories with the intention of cutting down my huge reading pile and I've been largely disappointed. ParticularlyRecently, I've read a number of short stories with the intention of cutting down my huge reading pile and I've been largely disappointed. Particularly by common favourites like Edgar Allan Poe and his many famous horror tales - I was surprised to find them rather lacking.
The Lottery, however, is one of the best short stories I've read. It's very rare that I would give five stars to a short story because I reserve the top rating for meaty, well-rounded, often complex and/or clever novels, so a four star rating means a lot in this case. Jackson's tale is undeniably creepy and tells a story that, though seemingly unknown to us, draws parallels with our world and the ridiculous way people are prone to behave at times. Her story is pure fiction, it is not about any world from the present or at any time in history... but it's meaning is something that applies still today.
It all comes down to one simple three-syllable word: tradition. Oh, what silly nonsense has been committed in the name of tradition. How often progress has been halted in favour of an outdated practice that remains simply because "that's the way it's always been". In Jackson's short story, every person in the town where this novel finds its setting is forced to draw a ticket in The Lottery. In the end, only one person can be the "winner", but this game has a sinister twist. Will you see it coming?
As the story builds up to its climax, we see the town citizens discussing the tradition of The Lottery. We are told that other towns nearby have started to ban the practice, that there has even been talk of banning it in this town. But everyone brushes this off with distaste - how can you ban something that has been going on for so long? How will people cope without this routine that they've come to rely on? I found this story fascinating. Both simple and clever and, ultimately, very effective.
4.5 I apologise for my lack of originality, but I need to steal karen's perfect summarisation of this book: "this book is life - it is tender and gentl4.5 I apologise for my lack of originality, but I need to steal karen's perfect summarisation of this book: "this book is life - it is tender and gentle and melancholy and real. not everything works out according to plan here, but what ever does?"
There is no better way to put it than that. Winesburg, Ohio is a collection of short stories about the inhabitants of the small town of Winesburg, it is a very real story about the lives of "normal" people. Those people who work hard every day of their lives and never get rewarded for their dedication. Those who pray each day for the one thing they've always wanted... only to remain disappointed. Those who are sad and broken from having never been loved as a child, those who were never good enough for the people in their lives. This little book captures so many emotions in just over 250 pages: pain, happiness, fear, want, greed, sadness, frustration...
This book is filled with beautiful, quotable writing and the last line is one of the best finishing lines I've ever read. It just adds that cherry on top of this sundae and left me feeling a whirlwind of emotions. As does the whole book. Sherwood uses the short story method to explore different styles of story-telling when dealing with different characters in this small town. For example, the second story in the book is called Hands and tells the tale of Wing Biddlebaum through his hands that have inspired emotions from wonder to hatred in the hearts of the people he has known in his life. "The story of Wing Biddlebaum is a story of hands. Their restless activity, like unto the beating of the wings of an imprisoned bird, had given him his name."
Another example of Sherwood's experimentation with styles that I really liked was in Godliness: A Tale in Four Parts. In this, the author tells the story of a family from the point of view of different family members and your opinion of the characters change with each one you read. At first, Louise is a selfish and argumentative woman who neglects her son and is prone to fits of anger or alternatively periods of withdrawal and silence. But then Sherwood switches perspective to allow for understanding: "Before such women as Louise can be understood and their lives made livable, much will have to be done. Thoughtful books will have to be written and thoughtful lives lived by people about them." Because Louise was not born with rage and frustration inside her, it was put there by life and others who failed her. Sherwood's portrait of a woman at this time and the limits put upon her because she is a woman and not a man is sad and somewhat ahead of its time.
I really wanted to give this five stars and I almost did, but I held back from doing so when I paused to look back over the book and realised the quality of some stories is far greater than others and it was the stronger stories that were tempting me to rate higher. But readers of short story collections often acknowledge that this is frequently the case and I don't want to put you off reading this. It's hard not to be touched by the realities these people faced and I think this would be the perfect opportunity to compare with The Casual Vacancy - another book about the lives of people in a small, quiet town and how they are not as calm and gentle as one may be tempted to believe.
I want to make this comparison because I tried to read Rowling's adult novel and found myself too bored to continue. So I inevitably started to believe that this was down to the subject matter and the subtle tone of the book and perhaps my not-so-secret super love of wizards and magic. I personally think Winesburg, Ohio is proof that it wasn't my lack of ability to appreciate a certain type of story and that it really was just pretty boring (sorry fans!). Because this is about small town relations too, it is about people who aren't celebrities or supernatural creatures or dating supernatural creatures... and it hooked me from start to finish....more
This book is very misleading. Rather than being a collection of stories celebrating women who are both strong and feminine, it is simply various shor
This book is very misleading. Rather than being a collection of stories celebrating women who are both strong and feminine, it is simply various short sequels, prequels and spin-off stories from popular urban fantasy series. Some of them are mildly entertaining, but most are not. Or at least, they're not to those who, like me, are unfamiliar with the series they come from.
Most of the stories cannot be appreciated if you aren't already a hardcore fan and in love with the characters. Seeing as I am neither for five out of the six stories I read, I was bored, unengaged and got no real sense of what this book was supposedly about: chicks kicking ass and taking names. For example, the first story by Rachel Caine, which featured Djinn from her Weather Warden series, seemed to centre around a super hot female Djinn who our protagonist was jealous of because her (also Djinn) boyfriend was paying her a bit of attention. Surely being jealous of other women isn't a great message for female empowerment? Just saying...
The best story by far was, for me, "Hunt" by Rachel Vincent. It was almost certainly because her Shifters series was a favourite of mine prior to book 3 (where everything went downhill) and I was delighted to see the formerly meek and mild character of Abby take her turn in the limelight and save the day. In the Shifters series Abby plays only a small part as a secondary character who ends up being the victim of rape in book 1. In "Hunt" she finds herself stumbling onto the scene of an attempted rape and she is determined not to let the women suffer what she went through. I felt like cheering her on all the way through and was so pleased that she didn't submit to the pack's orders and wait for the men to turn up the way Faythe so frequently did.
If Rachel Vincent fancies writing a spin-off series centred around Abby, I would be all too happy to give her another chance to make up for the latter half of Shifters. ...more