Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Shorts This Summer: 5 to keep you reading

Way back in 2009, I wrote a blog post on short stories for summer reading and it seemed like enough time had passed to do another. The long days of summer mean lots more time for reading, but there's nothing to say you can't read in short installments: grab the deck chair and your favourite pair of cut-offs and dip into one of these recent or upcoming collections.

This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You (M)
by Jon McGregor

"This debut collection by Bermuda native and Man Booker Prize-nominee McGregor comprises 30 stories roughly organized by their various British settings. The book includes a few perhaps too-clever experimental short forms mixed with longer traditional stories, which rise to the top as the book's better reads. "In Winter the Sky" juxtaposes free verse narrative poems penned by Joanna and the prose narrative of how she and her husband, George, struggle to profitably operate their family farm. 

The collection's plum is the ironic, eerie "Wires," where university student Emily Wilkinson's windshield is smashed by a lone sugar beet flying off the back of an open lorry. Rescued by two dubiously chivalrous men, Emily is too busy worrying about breaking up with her ill-tempered boyfriend to sense the danger in her current predicament. The majority of these tales-like the delightfully surreal antiwar satire, "I'll Buy You a Shovel"-are full of quirky characters and accessible enough to hold general readers' interest, while the other pieces will entice fans of experimental literary fiction.” -Publisher's Weekly

Signs and Wonders (M)
by Alix Ohlin

" This latest collection from Ohlin features 16 pieces about our connectedness to one another, intentional or not, and about the decisions we make or are made for us, despite our intentions to the contrary. Deceptively simple predicaments are presented. In "The Stepmother's Story," a stepson detests his stepmother, but her hunch is what saves his life; in the title story, an annoying neighbor turns out to be the best friend of the very woman who tried to destroy her. 

Elsewhere, characters marry and divorce, end some relationships and start others anew. People long for what they think they are missing. Quandaries develop and change unexpectedly-ups that by rights should be downs and vice versa-yet the reader is left hopeful if not necessarily with a happily-ever-after feeling. VERDICT Presented from unusual perspectives in a distinctive, sometimes enchanting voice, each story is filled with paragraphs that are often whimsical short tales in themselves. Readers who enjoy a youthful, fresh approach will find each story a satisfactory adventure" - Library Journal

Sorry Please Thank You (M)
by Charles Yu

"In his new story collection, Yu draws from both sci-fi and literature to conjure a world of emotionally stunted people, unable or unwilling to cope with reality and the love or loss that it entails. With somewhat mixed results, the book charts eclectic territory, from a zombie in a megamart to a new pharmaceutical drug that generates a sense of purpose, and explores retreats from reality and emotion. In "Standard Loneliness Package," Yu imagines a technology that transfers guilt, heartbreak, and other bad feelings onto the employees of an "emotional engineering firm" based in India. In "Adult Contemporary," which recalls George Saunders, a man trying to buy a new life realizes that he's a character in someone else's story. 

Less successful stories delve into the workings of fiction itself; Yu wrestles with ethics as he imagines himself as a character struggling against his author in "Human for Beginners." At their best, the tales amusingly send up American consumer culture, but Yu's fondness for self-reference and literary games leads to some dead ends. While Yu's imaginative allegories are mostly too obvious to be genuinely thought provoking, they're nonetheless an impressive sendup of contemporary life.” - Library Journal

Vengeance (M)
edited by Lee Child

"Revenge propels each of the 21 all-original stories in this high-quality anthology mixing headliners such as Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly with lower-profile talent such as C.E. Lawrence and Adam Meyer. Given this common motive, readers will have little trouble anticipating the final resolution as a rule, but the writing is top-notch, especially in Lehane's "The Consumers," in which the abused wife of a white-collar criminal turns to a professional to eliminate her spouse. 

Brendan DuBois's especially satisfying "The Final Ballot" features an unsophisticated woman's quest for justice when a powerful politician with national ambitions victimizes her daughter. Lawrence's "Silent Justice" presents a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest with a moral dilemma after a young man confesses committing a murder to him. But Meyer delivers the biggest jaw-dropper in "Blood and Sunshine," about an evil five-year-old boy who torments everyone around him. As with other such theme anthologies, readers will best enjoy these stories a few at a time." - Publisher's Weekly

Love Is Murder (M)
edited by Sandra Brown

"Romantic-suspense star Brown celebrates the genre's vitality with a wonderfully diverse and exciting collection of short stories by 30 writers both well known and emerging. From Roxanne St. Claire's erotic opening story, Diamond Drop, to Lee Child's splendid I Heard a Romantic Story, Brown's selections cover the spectrum from sexy to scary with surprising and compelling tales about stalkers and cops, private eyes and serial killers, bodyguards and thieves. The authors include Lori Armstrong, William Bernhardt, Bill Floyd, Heather Graham, Vicki Hinze, Andrea Kane, Sherrilyn Kenyon, James Macomber, Carla Neggers, Brenda Novak, William Simon, and Mariah Stewart. With this stellar group, readers can enjoy a story by a favorite author and discover new talent. Brown has made sure that there is something here for everyone." - Booklist

*UPDATE* Although I didn't know it when I first put this post together, I've since realized that local author Pamela Callow has a story included in the Love is Murder collection. Even more incentive to check this one out!

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