Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label short stories. Show all posts

Monday, December 26, 2022

Review: The Angel of Rome by Jess Walter

The Angel of Rome by Jess Walter
Publication Date: June 28th, 2022
Hardcover. 274 pages.

About The Angel of Rome:

"We all live like we're famous now, curating our social media presences, performing our identities, withholding those parts of ourselves we don't want others to see. In this riveting collection of stories from acclaimed author Jess Walter, a teenage girl tries to live up to the image of her beautiful, missing mother. An elderly couple confronts the fiction writer eavesdropping on their conversation. A son must repeatedly come out to his senile father while looking for a place to care for the old man. A famous actor in recovery has a one-night stand with the world's most surprising film critic. And in the romantic title story, a shy twenty-one-year-old studying Latin in Rome during "the year of my reinvention" finds himself face-to-face with the Italian actress of his adolescent dreams. 

Funny, poignant, and redemptive, this collection of short fiction offers a dazzling range of voices, backdrops, and situations. With his signature wit and bighearted approach to the darkest parts of humanity, Walter tackles the modern condition with a timeless touch, once again "solidifying his place in the contemporary canon as one of our most gifted builders of fictional worlds" (Esquire)."

I didn't initially plan to review this short story collection, as it was one I picked up on a whim during a sale and hadn't heard of prior to that, but I ended up enjoying it so much that I felt it deserved it's own review (and I guess that's a review in itself!). I really didn't know what to expect from this collection of stories going into it, so I was really surprised by how much I loved many of these stories and how immersed I became in many of them. I listened to the audiobook edition of The Angel of Rome and thought the narration by Edoardo Ballerini and Julia Whelan was absolutely perfect. Each narrator managed to captured the voice of whichever story they were narrating deftly and made each one a captivating experience. 

My favorite stories were:

"Mr. Voice": I really enjoyed this take on a blended family and how all of the different familial dynamics played out. The narrative voice of this one features a woman looking back on her childhood with "Mr. Voice" himself, and I appreciated the reflection and insight that was present.

"The Angel of Rome": This story follows a man's time spent in Rome as a student attempting to learn Latin. In Rome, he sort of stumbles into a friendship with an actor, which is also how he meets a famous Italian actress (known as, you guessed it, "the angel of Rome"). He retells his life at this period and how it impacted him, and I loved the ending on this one. 

"The Way the World Ends": This felt like a very impactful story centered on the commonality that exists within humanity. It starts out featuring two climate scientists who meet at a bar and end up realizing that they are both competing for the same job as professor at the local university. It's a surprisingly hopeful story that, although covering a slightly future world in which climate is causing more and more problems that many people choose to ignore, includes some very thoughtful insight on how we can look at the world around us. There is also a rather interesting cast of characters that keeps things entertaining. 

"Fran's Friend Has Cancer": This is a very short, seemingly random vignette following a conversation between a husband and wife at a restaurant. It has an odd little twist that I loved and that added so much discussion-worthy for me to think about. 

Many of the other stories were just as well-written and compelling and each had their own special charm to make them stand out. This was a really stunning collection of stories that touched on so many human emotions, from the comedic to the serious, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something compelling without ever being too heavy. 

Overall, I've given The Angel of Rome five stars!

Buy the book: Amazon |

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Review: The Way Spring Arrives edited by Yu Chen & Regina Kanyu Wang


The Way Spring Arrives edited by Yu Chen & Regina Kanyu Wang
Publication Date: March 8th, 2022
Hardcover. 400 pages.

About The Way Spring Arrives:

"From an award-winning team of authors, editors, and translators comes a groundbreaking short story collection that explores the expanse of Chinese science fiction and fantasy. 

In The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, you can dine at a restaurant at the end of the universe, cultivate to immortality in the high mountains, watch roses perform Shakespeare, or arrive at the island of the gods on the backs of giant fish to ensure that the world can bloom. 

Written, edited, and translated by a female and nonbinary team, these stories have never before been published in English and represent both the richly complicated past and the vivid future of Chinese science fiction and fantasy. 

Time travel to a winter's day on the West Lake, explore the very boundaries of death itself, and meet old gods and new heroes in this stunning new collection."

The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories: A Collection of Chinese Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation from a Visionary Team of Female and Nonbinary Creators is an imaginative and incredibly creative collection of stories from a fantastic array of Chinese authors. This is a magical, enlightening, and entertaining collection of stories that have so much heart in them and that are simply filled to the brim with imagination. Since there are so many stories in this collection, I’ll share my thoughts on a few of my favorites below. 

“The Stars We Raised” by Xiu Xinyu, translated by Judy Yi Zhou: “The Stars We Raised” is the opening story of this collection and I think it was a perfect way to start this collection. It evoked a lot of different emotions from me, from awe to intrigue to even a bit of a melancholy air, and it had such a great sense of imagination that I think captured something really special. 

“Blackbird” by Shen Dacheng, translated by Cara Healey: This was a rather melancholy and somewhat eerie story that I found myself particularly captivated by. This one features a modern setting in an elderly home and is about a young nurse and an elderly woman, the latter of which is not quite ready to move on from life just yet. I thought this one was exceptionally thought-provoking. 

“The Way Spring Arrives” by Wang Nuonuo, translated by R.F. Kuang: This titular story was a beautiful story about the ways in which the earth rotates and how the seasons are changed throughout the year. I think this was a great choice for the title of this collection because it really evoked a sense of freshness that fits well for both the upcoming season and the creativity of this collection. 

“The Portrait” by Chu Xidao, translated by Gigi Chang: This was such an incredibly beautifully written and translated story. The story itself was not necessarily my favorite, but the writing was so elegant and delicately crafted that I couldn’t drag myself away from it. 

“The Woman Carrying a Corpse” by Chi Hui, translated by Judith Huang: This story is about exactly what the title says: a woman carrying a corpse. We encounter a variety of different people that the woman meets on her travels and all of the questions they ask her about the corpse. This is probably one of “weirdest” stories, and I can’t say I know the exact theme or message it was meant to be, but I still feel like I got a lot from this woman’s journey. Definitely an odd one, but one whose format I enjoyed as much as I did the content. 

There are a couple essays sprinkled throughout as well, such as “Translation as Retelling” and “The Future of Gender in Chinese Science Fiction.” I thought these essays were really well written and fascinating/informative and appreciated their inclusion. My only sort of problem is that they felt fairly randomly included and I think made the transition from short story to essay a bit choppy and didn’t flow all that well. 

This is a large collection with over 15 stories, so it’s well worth the read and sure to have at least a couple stories to your taste! Overall, I’ve given The Way Spring Arrives 4 stars.

*I received a copy of The Way Spring Arrives courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, November 22, 2021

Review: A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth by Daniel Mason

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth: Stories by Daniel Mason
Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: May 5th, 2020
Hardcover. 240 pages.

About A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth:

"On a fateful flight, a balloonist makes a discovery that changes her life forever. A telegraph operator finds an unexpected companion in the middle of the Amazon. A doctor is beset by seizures, in which he is possessed by a second, perhaps better, version of himself. And in Regency London, a bare-knuckle fighter prepares to face his most fearsome opponent, while a young mother seeks a miraculous cure for her ailing son. 

At times funny and irreverent, always moving and deeply urgent, these stories---among them a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart Prize winner---cap a fifteen-year project. From the Nile's depths to the highest reaches of the atmosphere, from volcano-racked islands to an asylum on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, these are tales of ecstasy, epiphany, and what the New York Times Magazine called the "struggle for survival...hand to hand, word to word," by "one of the finest prose stylists in American fiction."

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth was one of those books that was not on my radar in the slightest until I saw the audiobook on sale and decided to try it out. I own one other book by Daniel Mason, The Winter Soldier, though I've yet to read that one. Still, it was a familiar name and the stories sounded interesting so I decided to give it a shot. 

I was taken aback by how much I loved this collection of stories, and nearly every one brought me a great deal of enjoyment and made me really think deeply about their meaning and the characters that make up the story. A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth is historical fiction spanning a few time periods, all of which take place before the modern world, or so it seemed to me. This collection also has a full cast, which for this collections simply means there's a different narrator for each story, and I think that they were all excellently chosen for each story. Since this is a short story collection, I figured I would highlight a few of my favorites below. 

"The Second Doctor Service": This story grabbed me because of how completed shrouded in a sense of mystery it was, and how there was so much unexplained and unknown throughout. Our main character experiences some rather shocking bodily experiences and cannot figure out what exactly is wrong with him, which is sort of the leading basis for the story direction. One thing that I'll mention with a lot of my reviews of these stories is Mason's ability to capture something really special and otherworldly, a sense of magic that masterfully evokes a sense of wonder and awe. This story, for me, is where the collection really takes off and the rest of the stories maintain this thread of magic and awe. 

"The Mysterious Discovery of Psammetichus I": If I had to pick one story that doesn't fit the collection it would be this story, but I say that while also thinking it perfectly fits the collection. I know that's confusing, but if you read this collection, you'll understand. This story basically shares a bunch of smaller parables of sorts about the experiments of a man called Psammetichus I, and his experiments tended to center around the raising of children, to put it mildly. I was captivated by this story and thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. 

"On Growing Ferns and Other Plants in Glass Cases, in the Midst of the Smoke of London": I adored this story, although I'll admit that the last portion of it was not my favorite. Still, it was an excellent story about a young boy who has what seems to be some sort of extreme asthma while living in the soot-filled city with his mother and regularly has extreme fits of coughing that causes his mother no shortage of worry. As may be expected from the type of stories this collection has had, the coughing fits are not nearly as straightforward as they may seem. I loved the way in which Mason set up this story and slowly led the reader through the mystery and discovery with the boy's mother as they try to figure out what's going on. 

"The Line Agent Pascal": This is a particularly short and difficult story to summarize, but I'll do my best in saying that this is simply a story about a telegraph operator living in the Amazon and his interactions and experiences with other telegraph operators in the area. I really can't say what it is exactly about this story that I loved so much, but I can say that it it's one that had a sort of quiet impact that felt as if it had a much deeper undercurrent of sentiment than expected. 

"On the Causes of Winds and Waves": This is a slightly longer story, and for good reason because it tells the tale of a balloonist who makes a rather startling and mysterious discovery in the upper reaches of the sky while ballooning one day. This discover is, of course, met with much skepticism from other explorers and researchers, but she cannot forget or give up on her discovery. 

Overall, I've given this collection a 4.5 rating because of how much I enjoyed just about every single one of these stories–a rare feat when it comes to short story collections! I loved the themes and sense of wonder that acted as a thread throughout these stories, and they are stories that I know I will continue to think about for a while to come. 

Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Some of My Favorite Short Story Collections & Novellas

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme now hosted by Jana over at The Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's topic is: Favorite Novellas/Short Stories

I have apparently read more short stories/novellas than I imagined, so I did my best to narrow it down. :) I am hoping to read more short stories in the future, so let me know if you would recommend any!

  The Last Wish 
Gilded Ashes  by Rosamund Hodge
Sometimes I think I recommend this one too often, but it's just this incredibly dark and wonderful Cinderella retelling novella. I really love it.
Buy the novella: Amazon (ebook only--but it's cheap!)

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
This novella is quintessential Murakami to me--something strange, but still compelling. 
Buy the novella: Amazon | Book Depository

The Last Wish (Saga o Wiedźminie #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski
This is the first of two collections of short stories from The Witcher series! I really enjoy this series and love these short stories, and it's recommended to read these before reading The Witcher books. 
Buy the short story collection: Amazon | Book Depository

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
This is an incredibly short story graphic novel collection and the stories are so creepy. I love the illustrations and color scheme used throughout this book.
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
I love how magical these short stories were and how much they made me fall back in love with the Grishaverse setting.
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
Murakami is one of my favorite authors and his short stories are just as wonderful as his full length novels.
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
This such a great look at death and for a seemingly simple premise, it is surprisingly compelling
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman
This is a collection of short stories featuring various magical and unnatural creatures selected by Neil Gaiman. It's a ton of fun!
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
This collection doesn't have all of my favorites, but I love this edition and "The Little Mermaid" and "The Emperor's New Clothes" are both featured and those are some of my favorites!
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales #1) by Catherynne M. Valente
This is a bit of a stretch since all of the stories are interconnected, but I still consider it somewhat of a bunch of short stories all woven together into one large story. It's so beautiful.
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite short stories/novellas?

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Mini-Review: After World by Brittany Miller

After World: Tales of the Post-Apocalyptic by Brittany Miller. Brittany Miller, 2018. Ebook. 66 pages.

To begin, the only reason that I'm labeling this a mini-review is because this collection is only about sixty-six pages long and consists of nine post-apocalyptic flash fiction pieces/short stories. There's only so much I can say about each one without simply retelling each story to you.

I've read only a small handful of post-apocalyptic books, so this is an area that I've been interested in exploring more of and which made me eager to explore this collection. Miller also pitched this book to me as having no zombies, which pretty much sold me because I am just not a huge zombie fan--I just don't get the appeal.

I was really impressed by Miller's writing in these short little stories.She has a talent for saying a lot in a short amount of words, which showcases her deft skill at both word choice and the ability to develop a strong atmosphere. There is a very simplistic, almost austere quality about these stories, which seems to fit well with the post-apocalyptic genre of this collection.

"The Pleasure Earth" and "The Man of Snow" were probably my two favorites for very different reasons."The Pleasure Earth" felt so relevant and so honest, and I loved the bleakness that it ends with. "The Man of Snow" is probably the longest story of the bunch and is packed full of interesting things to ponder--I hesitate to go into any details because it'd be best for you to explore all of these without much knowledge going in.

"She Dreamed of Horses" is one of the shorter, simpler stories one of the bunch, but I have to say that it is also one that has stuck with me. It is about a girl who only wants horses in a world where none are left, and it's subtle emptiness really grabbed me.

Overall, I've given After World four stars! If you like short fiction, want to read more short fiction, or are a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, then I very much recommend After World!

Buy the book: Amazon 
(note: at the time of writing this review, the Kindle edition was only $2.99!)

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Discussion: Keeping Track of Short Stories — How Do You Catalog Them in Your Yearly Reading?

One of the course I'm taking for this final quarter of University is focused on reading world literature, and we are doing this through reading a variety of short stories from around the globe. Because I generally like to keep track of my yearly reading (using Goodreads, for instance, as well as my own Excel spreadsheet with more details), this prompted me to consider how short stories should be included in reading lists, as I've yet to determine a good way to include short stories.

If I'm reading a collection of short stories and I read the entire book, then I just count that as one book. But how do you include short, 20-40 page stories? Does it matter? I consider short stories just as important as full-length novels and I always want to keep track of them. It's fairly easy to include in my Excel document, as I include page counts in my tracking, but on apps and websites like Goodreads, it becomes slightly more complicated.

Because of this, I'm curious to find out how you all include short stories in your yearly reading lists, or if you even count them at all. Or, maybe you don't even consider this a problem because you don't keep yearly reading lists. So please leave a comment below with your opinion on this topic! 

Do you combine a certain amount of short stories and then add them together one book? Do you count them individually? Do you even worry about including short stories in your yearly reading? Let me know!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Fourteen of My Favorite Short Stories (and Short Story Collections) + A Few on My TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly book blog meme hosted by the lovely girls over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme is short books, and since I sort of just recently made a post highlighting some great books that are 200 pages or less, I thought I'd tweak this theme a little bit... and share some awesome short stories and short story collections, along with a few short works of poetry and plays thrown in for good measure (I'm being liberal with the term 'short story')! Now, I thought that this would be more difficult to do since I'm not really a big short story person, but apparently I like more than I thought - who knew?

**These titles are listed in particular order. Enjoy!

Unnatural Creatures
1. Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman
As the summary describes it, Unnatural Creatures is "a collection of short stories about the fantastical things that exist only in our minds. The magical creatures range from werewolves to sunbirds to beings never before classified." And yes, this collection is every bit as magical as it sounds. 

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
2. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Jack Zipes
Besides being absolutely stunning, this particular is the first translated edition of all 156 stories by the Brothers Grimm from the original 1812 and 1815 editions. I love folk/fairy tales, and these one did not disappoint at all. They are as close to the way they were originally written as possible, and it's wonderful. The illustration, by Andrea Dezso, are also a lovely addition.

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories
3. "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
"The Yellow Wallpaper" will never get old. This 6,000-word short story essentially documents slow descent of a woman into madness, and that's all you really need to know to jump in. 

Howl and Other Poems
4. "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg
I am a big fan of Ginsberg's poetry, which I first mentioned in a review for some uncollected works, and because of this I had to include his short book of poems in this list. This particular collection resulted in the arrest of its publisher and editor for "disseminating obscene literature." What's more enticing than banned books?

A Modest Proposal
5. "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift
This is, hands down, one of my favorite pieces of satire to ever be written. Essentially, Swift suggests that in order to ease the lives of the poor and provide them with more food, they should begin selling children as food to the rich. Thus, the poor would make a profit and food would begin to be in greater supply. As you might expect, it wasn't received by everyone with as much enjoyment as it is now. 

Through the Woods
6. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
I am so in love with this book. There are three short stories contained within, each one delightfully creepy and haunting. I read these all in one sitting, and I definitely recommend them.

The Sleeper and the Spindle
7. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
In case you hadn't noticed, I like Neil Gaiman. The Sleeper and the Spindle is a short book inspired by a "weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic." It's gorgeous, and the illustrations by Riddell are as stunning as every other thing he's ever created.

The Complete Works
8. The Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
I know, I know, I probably include Poe too much on these list, but I can't help it! I love his short stories (and poetry!) and I think they are some of the best out there.  They are classically disturbing and I just cannot get enough of them.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
9. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Another classic! If you haven't read the tale of the headless horsemen, then I encourage you to do so!

The Lady With the Little Dog and Other Stories, 1896-1904
10. Lady with the Dog and Other Short Stories by Anton Chekov
If you haven't read anything by Chekov, this is a great place to start! The Lady with the Dog is about an adulterous affair, and supposedly Vladimir Nabokov called it one of the best pieces of short fiction he's ever read, so there's that.

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
11. Fragile Things: 
Yes, more Neil Gaiman. And more wonderful short stories.

After the Quake
12. After the Quakes: Stories by Haruki Murakami
And another favorite author of mine. This particular collection features six short stories written in response to the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

Greek LivesLives of the Caesars
13. Greek Lives by Plutarch & Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius
All of these are great. They're fascinating if you're at all interested in Ancient Greek and Roman figures. I just translated a good portion of Life of Antony this past quarter for a Greek course, so I am slightly biased, but they are still fascinating. And Suetonius' lives of the Roman emperors are delightfully juicy. I highly recommend them.

The Bacchae
14. The Bacchus by Euripides
Euripides is a brilliant Greek author, and I think this is one of his best works. 

Short Stories I want to Read:
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
I don't even know how many years this book has been on my TBR at this point, but I am still dying to read it! I love every thing I've read about this collection, and I think it sounds like it is right up my alley.

Moral Disorder and Other Stories
Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood
I love Margaret Atwood and have heard great things about this collection! I've yet to read any short stories by Atwood, so I'm excited to see how it is.

Little Black Book of Stories
Little Black Book of Stories by A. S. Byatt
I'm just so fascinated by the sound of this one. I read Possession last year and I think I really liked it (it's complicated), and I think this sounds like a perfect match for the taste of Byatt's writing that I received from Possession.

Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite short stories/short story collections?