In Isak Dinesen’s universe, the magical enchantment of the fairy tale and the moral resonance of myth coexist with an unflinching grasp of the most obscure human strengths and weaknesses. A despairing author abandons his wife, but in the course of a long night’s wandering, he learns love’s true value and returns to her, only to find her a different woman than the one he left. A landowner, seeking to prove a principle, inadvertently exposes the ferocity of a mother’s love. A wealthy young traveler melts the hauteur of a lovely woman by masquerading as her aged and loyal servant.
Shimmering and haunting, Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales transport us, through their author’s deft guidance of our desire to imagine, to the mysterious place where all stories are born.
What I thought
“The Young Man With The Carnation” ⭐⭐
“The Heroine” ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“The Sailor-Boy’s Tale” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“The Pearls” ⭐⭐⭐
“The Invincible Slave-Owners” ⭐⭐
“The Dreaming Child” ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“The Fish” ⭐⭐⭐
“Peter and Rosa” ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“A Consolatory Tale” ⭐⭐
This book is easily the most frustrating book I have ever read. I knew going into it that short story collections can be a bit of a mixed bag, as it is. But while I enjoyed the writing style immensely, I couldn’t help but feel exasperated with these stories, as a whole.
Isak Dinesen writes beautifully, simply put. I can’t begin to tell you how many passages and turns of phrase there were that absolutely took my breath away. The writing itself is why I gave this three stars. I liked what I read, I just didn’t get it.
I like to think that between being a lifelong reader and having taken my share of literature courses that my literary comprehension and analysis skills are, at the very least, decent. So, it was very discouraging to me when, upon completing (what felt like) every story here, I was left thinking “huh?” Especially after reading one glowing review of this after another. Maybe I was just thinking about it too hard, or maybe I’m not as smart as I thought.
Ultimately, I finished this book feeling frustrated because I had hoped to enjoy it so much more than I did. Maybe I’d revisit this if I had the chance to read this with a book club or a class, but for now, I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.
So We Can Glow by Leesa Cross-Smith Publisher/Year: Grand Central Publishing, 2020 Format: ARC – paperback Pages: 245 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
A lush, glittering short story collection exploring female obsession and desire.
From Kentucky to the California desert, these forty-two short stories–some long, some gone in a flash, some told over text and emails–expose the essence of girls and women in moments of obsessive desire and fantasy, wildness and bad behavior, brokenness and fearlessness, and more.
Teenage girls sneak out on a summer night to meet their boyfriends by the train tracks. A woman escapes suffocating grief through a vivid fantasy life. Members of a cult form an unsettling chorus as they extol their passion for the same man. A love story begins over cabbages in a grocery store. A laundress’s life is consumed by obsession for a famous baseball player. Two high school friends kiss all night and binge-watch Winona Ryder movies after the death of a sister.
Leesa Cross-Smith’s sensuous stories will drench readers in nostalgia for summer nights and sultry days, the intense friendships of teenage girls, and the innate bonds felt between mothers, while holding up the wild hearts of women so they can catch the light.
What I thought
Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Let me start this review by saying that I don’t think I have ever loved a short story collection so much. I want to have Leesa Cross-Smith read me a story every day–that’s how much I loved this collection. Ranging in length from short flash fiction to longer stories, this was a beautiful and sensuous tribute to what it means to be a woman. And I LOVED it. I want 42 MORE stories. This was exactly what I was in the mood for, and I’m so glad to have read it. I can’t get over how much I felt SEEN and how much nostalgia I felt for my own teenage/college years. For stories with ALL the girl power, I can’t recommend this one enough!
Land of Bones: 14 Tales of the Strange and Macabre by Glenn Rolfe Publisher/Year: Alien Agenda Publishing, 2018 Format: E-book (Kindle) Pages: 155 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
Demon lights, granted wishes, strange things, and brutal love at the Lucky Lounge Motel. A haunted sister, desperate parents, a little human touch, and the end of the world…
These are the stories whispered among dead leaves, the script etched bare for all to see. When the chills sink deep and your heart begins to pound…are you alone? Welcome to Glenn Rolfe’s Land of Bones: 14 Tales of the Strange and Macabre.
What I thought
This was the first work by Glenn Rolfe that I have read, and rest assured, this won’t be the last. For me, starting out with an author’s short stories can be hit or miss, but I’m happy to report that I’ve found another horror author to watch for. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but as with any anthology, I enjoyed some stories more than others. Or rather, I should say some resonated with me more than others because I truly enjoyed all of the stories here. Anyway, here’s how I would rate each story (for me):
-“Land of Bones” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ -“Ghosts of Spears Corner” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ -“Simon” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ -“Not Kansas Anymore” ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 -“Fire” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ -“Welcome to Paradise” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ -“Wish” ⭐⭐⭐ -“Avenging Kitten” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ -“Charley Sings the World Away” ⭐⭐⭐ -“The Fixer” ⭐⭐⭐⭐ -“The Rooster” ⭐⭐⭐ -“Too Much of a Dead Thing” ⭐⭐ -“Little Bunny” ⭐⭐ -“Death Lights” ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Overall, I was pretty impressed with the talent here in this short collection. It was great for reading while packing up our house for moving. I could pick this up and get sucked into a story for a while. I also liked that while some of the stories gave me goosebumps, not all of the stories were the same type of horror. Being tied together around the theme of loss, they often hit and evoked a different set of feelings. I’d recommend this one if you’re looking to find a new, quality horror author. Land of Bones was an impressive intro to Glenn Rolfe’s works.
American Supernatural Tales edited by S. T. Joshi Publisher/Year: Penguin Books, 2007 Format: Paperback Pages: 477 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
The ultimate collection of weird and frightening fiction by American writers
It takes an unusual caliber of writer to deliver readers into the terrifying beyond–to conjure tales that are not only unsettling, but unnatural, with elements and characters that are all the more disturbing for their impossibility. From Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King, American authors have excelled at journeying into the supernatural. You’ll find them here, including H. P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and others. An unprecedented anthology of phantasmagoric, spectral, and demonic writing, American Supernatural Tales celebrates our enduring need to be spooked and horrified.
What I thought
If you are looking for a collection of “supernatural”/horror short stories, look no further. This was a solid sampling of stories from some of the genre’s best authors. I was so excited to dive into this one to not only read selections from some of my favorite authors, but also to discover some of the other greats that I hadn’t read before. As with any collection, there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others, but for the most part, I really liked what I read and even found a few new favorites. I also really enjoyed Joshi’s introduction and found his commentary on the genre to be fascinating, although I highly disagree with his opinion of Stephen King. All in all, I thought this was a comprehensive anthology and one I’d like to add to my own shelves!
Here’s my rating of each story:
–“The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving ⭐⭐⭐ –“Edward Randolph’s Portrait” by Nathaniel Hawthorne ⭐⭐⭐ –“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe ⭐⭐⭐ –“What Was It?” by Fitz-James O’Brien ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“The Death of Halpin Frayser” by Ambrose Bierce ⭐⭐ –“The Yellow Sign” by Robert W. Chambers ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“The Real Right Thing” by Henry James ⭐⭐⭐ –“The Call of Cthulhu” by H. P. Lovecraft ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis” by Clark Ashton Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“Old Garfield’s Heart” by Robert E. Howard ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“Black Bargain” by Robert Bloch ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“The Lonesome Place” by August Derleth ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“The Girl With Hungry Eyes” by Fritz Leiber ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“A Visit” by Shirley Jackson ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“Long Distance Call” by Richard Matheson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“The Vanishing American” by Charles Beaumont ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“The Events at Poroth Farm” by T. E. D. Klein ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“Night Surf” by Stephen King ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“The Late Shift” by Dennis Etchison ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“Vastarien” by Thomas Ligotti ⭐⭐⭐ –“Endless Night” by Karl Edward Wagner ⭐⭐ –“The Hollow Man” by Norman Partridge ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“Last Call for the Sons of Shock” by David J. Schow ⭐⭐⭐ –“Demon” by Joyce Carol Oates ⭐⭐⭐⭐ –“In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888) by Caitlin R. Kiernan ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe Publisher/Year: Scholastic Inc., 1989 Format: Paperback Pages: 210 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
The Pit and the Pendulum…The Purloined Letter…The Tell-Tale Heart…A Descent into the Maelstrom…and six other choice chillers by the acknowledged master of mystery, fantasy, and horror.
These ten absorbing stories, selected by a famed anthologist of science-fiction and the supernatural, prove that even after a century Poe’s imagination still works its macabre magic.
What I thought
Update – 2018
Since this was a re-read for me, I don’t have too much to add on top of my original review. I will say that this little collection of stories has become one of my favorites, and it does contain a good handful of my favorite Poe stories. While it pains me that it seems like a lot of people are quick to dismiss Poe’s verbose writing, I will say that his writing does get heavy after a while. I do think this collection is the perfect size to get a feel for Poe and appreciate his words without getting bogged down. With the gloomy, chilly, rain-filled fall we’ve been having here, this was just the right time to re-read this one. If you’re looking for a good introduction to Edgar Allan Poe’s prose, this collection would be a good place to start. Plus, look at this creepy vintage cover–I just love it!
Original review – 2010
I can be an atmospheric reader. Certain books should be read in a certain setting. Thoreau should be read on a stump in the middle of the woods. Jane Austen should be read curled up in bed with a cup of tea in the middle of winter. Twain should be read lazing under a tree in the grass in the middle of the summer. And Poe should be read in late fall, somewhere around Halloween.
Well, as I just found out, he makes for excellent campfire reading, as well.
For me, Poe is the ultimate of suspense. As a reader, it is evident just how haunted of a man Edgar Allan Poe really was. This makes his writing quite effective and allows the reader to become pleasantly creeped out. I love his writing and adore immersing myself in his words. An absolutely classic author, I dare say.
What’s unique about this edition is that it goes to show that Poe writes more than just horror–namely suspense and science fiction (and don’t forget poetry and romance, even though they don’t appear here). I also enjoyed this little edition because even though it includes Poe classics like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” it also includes less well-known stories.
Overall, not a must-have for Poe enthusiasts (as this is just a little snippet of his total works), but recommended for those who would like to become better read in Edgar Allan Poe or who would like to see what he is capable of.
Not Just Voodoo compiled by Rebecca Hamilton Publisher/Year: 2017 Format: E-book Pages: 487 Rating: 🌟🌟🌟 Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
To celebrate the release of Something Like Voodoo by New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Hamilton, we’ve put together this paranormal fantasy collection of short stories that include works from some of her favorite authors!
Most of the stories in this specially curated collection are brand new, exclusive content–never before distributed anywhere else and yours for the taking!
If you’re in the mood for unique magic and familiar creatures, this anthology is sure to add spark to your day!
Margo Bond Collins – Major Arcana
When a teenage fortune teller in a traveling carnival meets up with an attractive townie, she finds new magic in her tarot cards.
Erin Hayes – I Wish I Weren’t A Djinni
A djinni who is summoned by a young man has the power to grant any of his wishes, he simply has to believe her enough to ask.
Aileen Harkwood – Splintered Magic
Though Saige McMullins may feel like nothing more than a half-witch freak, when evil with a nasty appetite threatens the beach town of Lost Cliff, she knows she’s the only one who can stop it.
L. C. Hibbett – Wicked Witch
Destiny isn’t a good witch. She lies, she cheats, and she dances on the dead. But Destiny has a secret that might just change everything…
Megan J. Parker & Nathan Squiers – Journal of Abigail DiAngelo
As a hunter in training and high school student, Abigail DiAngelo would much rather live a normal life than fight monsters with her father, but when an unexpected chance for change arises, it’s up to her to take charge…
Katerina Martinez – The Witch and the Thief
When Nicole Harriman receives an urgent prophetic vision, it’s up to her to protect what is hers.
K. N. Lee – Awakened
A young witch betrays her darkest secret and risks her crown, life, and soul for the love of a human.
Nicole Zoltack – Gavin’s Gamble
Gavin thinks nothing can be worse than having a witch hunter for a father until he experiences possibly magical phenomena…
Debbie Cassidy – Deadtown
A pocket of crazy, a town hostage to magic, and a mysterious warlock boss equal a recipe for disaster.
Alicia Rades – Visions Among Frost
Crystal Frost can see ghosts and predict the future, but when her friends pull out a Ouija board at their sleepover, it’s up to her to clean up their mess.
Monica Corwin – The Dying of the Light
When Charity dies on the first day of her new job, she rallies with the help of her new reaper partner, and her eight remaining souls, to take down the criminals responsible.
Jasmine Walt – Tested by Magic
Shifter and bounty hunter Sunaya Baine would much rather chase after hardened criminals, but when a child goes missing in her magical city, she’ll stop at nothing to find her before she falls prey to the real things that go bump in the night.
Thea Atkinson – Reaper’s Redemption
A grim reaper’s next fare might be her last.
Rebecca Hamilton – Leaves Like Magic
A young witch joins forces with a shapeshifting ally in a race against the clock to save her best friend from vampires.
What I thought
I’m going to intentionally keep this short. I don’t want to review each story, but I did keep track of what I’d rate each of them, which I’ll list later. As a whole, I liked this collection, hence the 3 stars. While I really liked some of the stories (4 stars), there were quite a few that I simply liked (3 stars) or thought of as just okay (2 stars). I admit that I didn’t find this to be the strongest anthology, and even though it took me a million years to read, I didn’t have a bad time reading this one. Actually one of the things I enjoyed most was just trying out new-to-me authors. I do think this collection would be more accurately named as a “sampler” because most of the stories were prequels. Overall, while this might not have been an all-time favorite for me, I am glad to be walking away with some new authors that I want to check out!
“Major Arcana” by Margo Bond Collins 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“I Wish I Weren’t a Djinni” by Erin Hayes 🌟🌟🌟
“Splintered Magic” by Aileen Harkwood 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Wicked Witch” by L. C. Hibbett 🌟🌟🌟
“Journal of Abigail DiAngelo” by Megan J. Parker & Nathan Squiers 🌟🌟
“The Witch and the Thief” by Katerina Martinez 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Awakened” by K. N. Lee 🌟🌟🌟
“Gavin’s Gamble” by Nicole Zoltack 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Deadtown” by Debbie Cassidy 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Visions Among Frost” by Alicia Rades 🌟🌟🌟
“The Dying of the Light” by Monica Corwin 🌟🌟
“Tested by Magic” by Jasmine Walt 🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Reaper’s Redemption” by Thea Atkinson 🌟🌟
“Leaves Like Magic” by Rebecca Hamilton 🌟🌟
The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer Publisher/Year: Unnerving, 2018 Format: E-book Pages: 83 Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 Goodreads
Summary (from author)
The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him.
The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.
For the sea was a fair master.
About the Author
Calvin Demmer is a dark fiction author. His debut collection, The Sea Was a Fair Master, was released in June 2018. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe. You can find him online at www.calvindemmer.com or follow him on Twitter @CalvinDemmer.
What I thought
This was my first time reading flash fiction, and I’ll be totally honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m all about development, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about stories that were all less than 5 pages long, especially stories from several of my favorite genres. But I have to say, these were pretty darn good stories! As with any collection, I prefer some over others, but I really did enjoy a majority of them. Since they were so short, I wanted to take my time with them, so I only read one or two per day so that they would linger with me. And I’ll tell you what, Demmer really knows how to pack a punch in just a handful of words! Overall, I was truly impressed. I’m definitely curious to see what this author could do within the realm of short stories or even with a novel!
Thank you very much to Calvin Demmer for providing me with a digital copy of this collection in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my review.
Twice 22: The Golden Apples of the Sun / A Medicine for Melancholy by Ray Bradbury Publisher/Year: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1959 Format: Hardcover Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
Twice twenty-two makes forty-four–a multiplication that explodes into nightmare fireworks when the twenty-two (and the forty-four) happen to be the number of collected stories in a collection by Ray Bradbury. For the first time, two complete books by the acknowledged Grand Master of fantasy and science fiction are here brought together: The Golden Apples of the Sun and A Medicine for Melancholy.
But of course it would be a mistake to call Bradbury a “science fiction” or a “fantasy” writer: he uses elements from both forms in the way a painter uses pigments. He can create images of the darkness and density of, say, “A Sound of Thunder”–a strange parable of the Faustian lust to conquer Time–and at the same time evokes the haunting delicacy and lightness of fifth century China in a story like “The Flying Machine.” His “All in a Summer Day” is an indelible portrait of a child’s torment and isolation; his “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit,” a splashy mural wild with gaiety. Endlessly, he subjects the reader, under his commanding power, to worlds as redolent with reverie, humor, and fear as those of Hawthorne or Poe or Kafka–worlds which have given him a multitudinous audience, including such men as W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, and Dylan Thomas.
What I thought
I think it’s safe to say that Ray Bradbury has officially made it onto the list of my favorite authors. This man is just a brilliant writer, simply put. I am so very glad I stumbled upon this collection of short stories.
Bradbury is a master of his craft, and nowhere is this more evident than in his short stories. Usually with a collection of short stories, it ends up being pretty 50-50 for me–some I like, some I don’t. With the exception of a few (and I’m talking 3-4 out of 44), I really loved these. There was a little bit of everything here; it wasn’t just one genre or another. And his stories are short & sweet, if you will, which I liked. They weren’t drawn out unnecessarily, and they got to the point. Bradbury has such a way with words that this brevity really worked. He describes things in a way that you’ve never thought of but that makes perfect sense. This makes his stories come vividly to life without the need of cumbersome back story. I truly have no other words–his stories are beautiful.
All in all, I enjoyed this collection immensely and it is not to be missed for Bradbury fans. I can definitely see myself revisiting this in the future. If you are a fan of the short story and are looking for some incisive, artful stories, look no further –Ray Bradbury’s your man.
Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe Publisher/Year: Pocket Books, 2003 Format: Paperback Pages: 457 Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 Goodreads
Born to an unfortunate heritage, orphaned, unsympathetically raised, and then abandoned, Edgar Allan Poe struggled for greatness in an adverse social and economic climate–a setting not improved by his fiery temperament and caustic criticism of others. Poe’s melancholy brilliance, his passionate lyricism, and his tormented soul would make him one of the most widely read and original writers in American literature. Here, in one volume, are his classic short works: masterpieces of horror, terror, humor, and adventure–and the finest lyric and narrative poetry of this ill-fated genius whose influence on both prose and verse continues to this day.
What I thought
I feel like this probably goes without saying–as with any collection, I definitely preferred some stories and poems over others. And really, I’ve come to find out that I prefer Poe’s prose over his poetry. That’s not to say that his poetry is bad. Some of my favorite classics were present here. I just think poetry is so much more personal, so not all of his poems resonated with me. Not to mention, Poe is more versatile with his different story types, and they are simply just more entertaining. All in all, this is a very conclusive collection of Poe’s writing & an excellent addition to any fan’s shelf. Moody, atmospheric writing–this makes for a perfect fall read.
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan Publisher/Year: Scribner, 2014 Format: Hardcover Pages: 208 Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Goodreads
An affecting and hope-filled posthumous collection of essays and stories from the talented young Yale graduate whose title essay captured the world’s attention in 2012 and turned her into an icon for her generation.
Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.
As her family, friends, and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits. She had struck a chord.
Even though she was just twenty-two when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assemblage of Marina’s essays and stories that, like The Last Lecture, articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.
What I thought
This book has been high on my radar for a long time, so I was really excited when my library hold came in. Reviews seem pretty mixed, but I had a feeling I was going to love this & love it, I did.
Marina’s death was so tragic, and now having read this, it seems all the more tragic to me. She was so bright, and it shines through her writing. These stories & essays are ablaze with potential, and it makes me so incredibly sad that this is all we are going to have of Keegan’s writing. There was just an honesty & genuine candor here that I found incredible coming from someone so young.
Say what you will about why this was published (& by such a big-name publisher), but I truly thought that Keegan showed immense talent & I think it’s a damn shame that this world lost such a budding writer. She had such a way with words that after reading each story, I had to close the cover just so I could absorb it & catch my breath again.
Overall, I think this is an excellent collection & well worth anyone’s time. I need to actually purchase a copy of this so I can peruse it from time to time when I’m looking for something genuine.
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link Publisher/Year: Random House, 2015 Format: Hardcover Rating: 🌟🌟🌟 Goodreads
She has been hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction” and by Neil Gaiman as “a national treasure.” Now Kelly Link’s eagerly awaited new collection–her first for adult readers in a decade–proves indelibly that this bewitchingly original writer is among the finest we have.
Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The nine exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You, a middle-aged movie star makes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll.
Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids…These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty–and the hidden strengths–of human beings. In Get in Trouble, this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.
What I thought
Ahh, this is going to be a tough one to review. I’m just going to address the elephant int he room–this was just okay for me. I can appreciate what Link did with this collection. Her writing is actually superb & insanely creative. I think the best word to describe it is “surreal.” I really loved three of the nine stories: “Secret Identity,” “Origin Story,” and “The New Boyfriend.” The only one I actively disliked was “Valley of the Girls.” However, that being said, the other five stories left no impression on me. That isn’t to say they were “bad”–just that I didn’t connect with them, which is more my own fault than that of the author’s. Personally, (and this is just my opinion) they were just too “out there” for my taste.
Again, I can’t stress this enough–Kelly Link is a brilliant storyteller. I can see how this was a Pulitzer finalist. I would recommend this collection to fans of surrealism/magic realism, but it was just okay for me.
Ford County by John Grisham Publisher/Year: Doubleday, 2009 Format: Hardcover Pages: 308 Rating: 🌟🌟🌟 1/2 Goodreads Synopsis In his first collection of short stories John Grisham takes us back to Ford County, Mississippi, the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill. Wheelchair-bound Inez Graney and her two older sons, Leon and Butch, take a bizarre road […]
Ford County by John Grisham Publisher/Year: Doubleday, 2009 Format: Hardcover Pages: 308 Rating: 🌟🌟🌟 1/2 Goodreads
In his first collection of short stories John Grisham takes us back to Ford County, Mississippi, the setting of his first novel, A Time to Kill.
Wheelchair-bound Inez Graney and her two older sons, Leon and Butch, take a bizarre road trip through the Mississippi Delta to visit the youngest Graney brother, Raymond, who’s been locked away on death row for eleven years. It could well be their last visit.
Mack Stafford, a hard-drinking and low-grossing run-of-the-mill divorce lawyer, gets a miracle phone call with a completely unexpected offer to settle some old, forgotten cases for more money than he has ever seen. Mack is suddenly bored with the law, fed up with his wife and his life, and makes drastic plans to finally escape.
Quiet, dull Sidney, a data collector for an insurance company, perfects his blackjack skills in hopes of bringing down the casino empire of Clanton’s most ambitious hustler, Bobby Carl Leach, who, among other crimes, has stolen Sidney’s wife.
Three good ol’ boys from rural Ford County begin a journey to the big city of Memphis to give blood to a grievously injured friend. However, they are unable to drive past a beer store as the trip takes longer and longer. The journey comes to an abrupt end when they make a fateful stop at a Memphis strip club.
The Quiet Haven Retirement Home is the final stop for the elderly of Clanton. It’s a sad, languid place with little controversy, until Gilbert arrives. Posing as a low-paid bedpan boy, he is in reality a brilliant stalker with an uncanny ability to sniff out the assets of those “seniors” he professes to love.
One of the hazards of litigating against people in a small town is that one day, long after the trial, you will probably come face-to-face with someone you’ve beaten in a lawsuit. Lawyer Stanley Wade bumps into an old adversary, a man with a long memory, and the encounter becomes a violent ordeal.
Clanton is rocked with the rumor that the gay son of a prominent family has finally come home, to die. Of AIDS. Fear permeates the town as gossip runs unabated. But in Lowtown, the colored section of Clanton, the young man finds a soul mate in his final days.
Featuring a cast of characters you’ll never forget, these stories bring Ford County to vivid and colorful life. Often hilarious, frequently moving, and always entertaining, this collection makes it abundantly clear why John Grisham is our most popular storyteller.
What I thought
Although it seems like an odd place to start, this was my first real read of John Grisham’s work (I read Skipping Christmas years ago). I will definitely be reading more, although I won’t lie, I’m kind of disappointed to hear that this is out of the norm for his writing.
As a whole, I really enjoyed this collection. I’m a very big fan of Southern lit, and I felt that Grisham truly portrayed the Deep South with genuine authenticity. The reason why I’d give this collection 3.5 stars is because while I did like the first 3 stories, I really loved the last 4. The unevenness is what kept this from being a solid 4 star for me.
So, I’m just going to give some short wrap-up thought on the stories:
– “Blood Drive” – I thought this one was darkly hilarious. I mean, I felt like I was reading something off a darker version of the Dukes of Hazzard, it had so much slapstick humor at times. I will say, I wasn’t expecting such a gritty ending.
– “Fetching Raymond” – This was definitely moving–between an elderly mother’s unconditional love for her youngest son on death row and his brothers’ almost stoic detachment.
– “Fish Files” – What I liked about this one was that you almost can’t help but root for this lawyer, even though he’s actively swindling money.
– “Casino” – I don’t know why, but I really love reading stories about people figuring out how to win big at blackjack. I have never gambled & have NO clue how in the hell to play blackjack. But this story was highly entertaining to me.
– “Michael’s Room” – I LOVED this story. It was my second favorite of the collection. A lawyer actually REALLY having to see the consequences of a lawsuit he won for a client. Violent, but also heartbreaking & eye-opening.
– “Quiet Haven” – I absolutely love unreliable narrators, and that’s all I’m gonna say about this one. Really enjoyed it, expertly done.
– “Funny Boy” – Oh, my heart. This was, by far, my favorite story of the collection. The ending had me tearing up. (The last line of Adrian’s letter to Emporia KILLED me.) This story made my heart physically ache, it moved me that much. It blew me away–I was not expecting that from John Grisham.
Overall, this collection is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are in the mood for authentic, gritty Southern lit.
I also want to leave the link for Part 1 of a short 4-part series of videos that John Grisham did where he just kinda talks about this collection of stories and about his inspiration for writing them. It was very interesting (if you’re into that sort of thing), so here’s the link for Part 1: