Category Archives: Short Stories

Sanditon, Lady Susan, & The History of England, Jane Austen

Sandition, Lady Susan, etc., Jane AustenSanditon, Lady Susan, & The History of England by Jane Austen

First Published: Posthumously – Writen c.1786-1817

Pages: 504 (Hardback)
Form: Collection of juvenilia, short stories, and unfinished novels

Rating: 3/53/53/53/53/5

This rare collection is a must for all Jane-ites. It represents what Richard Church regarded as Jane Austen’s literary work-basket, and contains some of Austen’s earliest work – her hilariously brief History of England, illustrated by her favourite sister, which is a worthy forerunner to 1066 & All That, to the unfinished Sanditon, the novel of her maturity on which she was working at her death aged 42. Also included are two epistolary novels, Lady Susan and Love and Freindship (sic), The Watsons, Catherine, Lesley Castle, Evelyn, Frederic and Elfrida, Jack and Alice, Edgar and Emma, Henry and Eliza and The Three Sisters.

The History of England is illustrated by Cassandra Austen

While I  thought Lady Susan was absolutely greatI would probably only recommend  Austen’s juvenilia and her later unfinished novel to people who are really interested in Austen and her development as a writer. Personally (and although a fan I’m not an Austen worshiper) I thought the juvenilia was absolutely fascinating and would have loved to see the finished versions of the two abandoned novels. If that sort of thing doesn’t interest you, though, and you want a completed story then just go for Lady Susan or give this book a miss completely and stick with Austen’s published novels. Continue reading

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Usborne Greek Myths for Young Children

Greek Myths for Young Children

Greek Myths for Young Children by Heather Amery
Illustrated by Linda Edwards

First Published: 2000
Pages: 128 including pronunciation guide (Hardback)
Form: Picture book, short stories

Rating: 4/5 = I really liked it4/5 = I really liked it4/5 = I really liked it4/5 = I really liked it4/5 = I really liked it

The Greek myths are wonderful stories, full of brave heroes, terrifying monsters, powerful gods and goddesses, battles and great adventures. In this book, they are retold in a way that young children can listen to and understand, and older children can enjoy reading the tales for themselves.

Beautifully and imaginatively illustrated by Linda Edwards, this is a book that will be a source of interest and pleasure for the whole family.

One of very many children’s books on Greek mythology, I picked this one up mainly because it’s Usborne (I grew up on Usborne books and I have a certain amount of loyalty to them despite the fact that they keep putting out gendered shit like this) and because the pictures inside are pretty dang gorgeous. With so many of these sort of books about though it’s always worth flipping through a few in the bookshop, maybe reading a couple of the stories, and getting the one that works for you.  This one, I have to say, doesn’t quite work for me. It’s very good, perfect for the purpose I got it for – which was to ensure my Greek storytelling event later this month is age appropriate  – and I’ll be keeping it in my library of Greek myths, but it’s far too kiddified in places for my own personal liking. For public storytelling where I don’t know how (over)sensitive or protective children’s parents are it’s great. For my own kids/nieces/nephews (if I were ever to have any) I would want something that didn’t gloss over Theseus leaving Ariadne, or pretended that Jason and Medea didn’t murder her brother.

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Celtic Fairy Tales and More Celtic Fairy Tales, Joseph Jacobs

Celtic Fairy Tales & More Celtic Fairy Tales, Joseph JacobsCeltic Fairy Tales and More Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs
Illustrated by John D. Batten

Publisher: Senate (Random House)
Pages: 552  (Paperback)
Form: Short Stories

Rating: 3/53/53/53/53/5

Passed down through the centuries by generations of story-tellers Celtic folk tales have all the magic, excitement, humour and romance that any audience could wish for.

This collection combines two volumes of Celtic tales first chosen a hundred years ago by Joseph Jacobs, an authority on the folklore of the world. Determined to find the most authentic versions of local stories, he included only those which had been related by speakers of Scottish and Irish Gaelic, Welsh and Cornish. Now rewritten to appeal to the widest possible audience, they offer a wide-ranging cross-section of Celtic culture, from the Irish tragedy of Deidre to the Scottish ghost story of the Sprightly Tailor. Their variety is charmingly captured in the different styles of John Batten’s black-and-white illustrations.

A welcome reflection of the true heritage of Britain and Ireland, this delightful collection of forty-six tales will bring hours of pleasure to readers of all ages.

I actually read these stories in two different editions. I started with the Collector’s Library edition  of Jacobs’  Celtic Fairy Tales before realising that they had cut all Jacob’s original annotations and end-notes. Purely by chance I then I discovered this rather dusty copy hiding in the spare bedroom, spotted that it had all those end-notes and also contained Jacob’s follow up More Celtic Fairy Tales, and did a bit of a book swap. The Collector’s Library edition is undoubtedly the more attractive book – this one is pretty old, has awkward page numbering that starts over again at 1 halfway through, and that annoying thing where illustrations are followed up by a blank page even in the middle of a story – but for me having access to Jacob’s notes on each story was more valuable than how pretty the book was.  Sometimes in fact those notes were more interesting, and in several cases rather longer, than the stories they were about – though I didn’t always agree with some of his comments. Probably not something that matters to a lot of readers, but if you’re interested in the provenance of the fairy tales it’s def worth checking out if the edition you pick up contains these end-notes or not.

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The Demigod Files, Rick Riordan

The Demigod Files by Rick Riordan

Publisher: Puffin
Pages: 171 (Paperback)
Form: Compilation (short stories, quiz’s, and background information)
Series: Percy Jackson

Rating:

If you’re reading this book, your life is about to get a lot more dangerous.

In these top-secret files, Rick Riordan, Camp Half-Blood’s senior scribe, gives an inside look at the world of demigods that NO regular human child is allowed to see.

These highly classified archives include three of Percy Jackson’s most perilous adventures, a Spotter’s Duide to Monsters, a Who’s Who in Greek mythology, Percy’s Summer Camp report and much more.

So, if you’re armed with this book, you’ll have everything you need to know to keep you alive in your training. Your own aventures have just begun…

Ok, so I’m not normally one for these sort of ‘added extras’ type of books. They’re generally just a bit too kiddy and a bit too gimmicky for me, but I was interested to read the three short Percy Jackson stories Riordan had written so I picked a copy up from my library. As expected, most of the content is pretty gimmicky, aimed firmly at the intended child audience for the books rather than geeks like me still reading kids books in their twenties. A lot of it, surprisingly, though was stuff I had already read, little extras like the ‘Who’s Who in Greek Mythology’ that I read in the back of my library copy of Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson’s summer camp report that was in the back of another of the books. I think the majority of new content (bar two of the short stories) was the interviews with named campers, which didn’t really appeal to me and the quiz’s and puzzles at the end. Whatever though, I didn’t borrow the book for the gimmicky stuff but I’m not going to begrudge the publishes for including it if the younger audience enjoy it. The big thing for me was the short stories.  Were they any good? Well… I have to say that, although I enjoyed The Sword of Hades,  I found the other two rather lacking.

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Miss or Mrs? The Haunted Hotel, The Guilty River – Wilkie Collins

Miss or Mrs? The Haunted Hotel, The Guilty River by P.G. Wodehouse

Publisher: Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford University Press)
Pages: 361 including notes – plus introductions (Paperback)
Form: Collection of Novellas

Rating:

Wilkie Collins brought to the novella all the qualities for which his full-length fiction is renowned: gripping situations, an atmosphere of mystery and menace, and page-turning suspense. The fast-paced Miss or Mrs? (1871), with its extraordinary heroine, features attempted murder, blackmail, clandestine marriage, and commercial fraud. Eerie and psychologically absorbing, The Haunted Hotel (1878) is set in a modern hotel converted from an ancient Venetian palazzo that houses a grisly secret. The Guilty River (1886), one of Collin’s most haunting tales, blends nostalgia and violence as two alienated men find themselves attracted to the same woman.

All three novellas reflect the prevailing themes of Collin’s later work: the exploration of legal aspects of marriage, his preoccupation with the figure of the Outsider in Victorian society, and the depiction of unconventional relationships. This edition sets Collins’s novellas in the context of his literary career, and the late-Victorian reading public.

This was my first time reading Wilkie Collins. It’s something I’ve intended to do for years and simply never got round to, so when one of my goodreads groups suggested we do a group read of The Haunted Hotel I dusted my copy off and eagerly got down to it. Although not quite what I was expecting and far from perfect as either a ghost story or a murder mystery, I enjoyed the story so much that instead of picking up another book I went straight back to page 1 and got started on the other novellas in this collection. And while I would love to say they didn’t disappoint, the truth is that the last one did. However, each story had some strong things going for it, and each well worth the read, especially if you’re a fan of gothic literature.

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Audiobook: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Read by Derek Jacobi

Series: Sherlock Holmes #3
Publisher:
BBC Audio
Time:
11 hours 7 minutes (unabridged)
Format: Audible Download – Short Story Collection

Story:
Narration:

Scandal, treachery and crime are rife in Old London Town. A king blackmailed by his mistress, dark dealings in opium dens, stolen jewels, a missing bride – these are cases so fiendishly complex that only Sherlock Holmes would dare to investigate.

Story:

For anyone new to Sherlock Holmes this is really the place to start. Doyle finally hits his stride with this collection of short stories. It’s a format that suits both the characters and the mysteries far better than the slightly drawn-out novels (with the exception of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is ace) and has the blessed relief of absolutely no obscenely long and involved story within a stories. It’s also, from memory, the most solid of the short story collections as a whole – Memoirs containing a couple of duds and later collections a little bit lackluster in comparison – even so, it’s a mixed bag. On second reading (or rather listening) there were stories I liked rather less than on my first read, but none that I actively dislike. Continue reading

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Don’t Look Now and Other Stories, Daphne du Maurier

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier

Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics (Penguin)
Pages: 268 (Paperback)
Form: Short Stories
Series: Standalone

Rating: 

John and Laura have come to Venice to try to escape the pain of their young daughter’s death. But when they encounter two old women who claim to have second sight, they find that instead of laying their ghosts to rest they become caught up in a train of increasingly strange and violent events. The other four haunting, evocative stories in this volume also explore deep fears and longings, secrets and desires: a lonely teacher investigates a mysterious American couple; a young woman confronts her father’s past; a party of pilgrims meets disaster in Jerusalem; a scientist harnesses the power of the mind to chilling effect…

Originally published as Not After Midnight, this collections brings together five atmospheric short stories by Daphne du Maurier. They’re a bit of an odd bunch – a mix of the supernatural and the mundane. Some of them embrace the ‘unknown’ with psychics, pagan worship, and life after death, while others seem to be building you up to a similar supernatural element only to have the explanation be something quite simple. Whether you find this second-guessing rewarding or frustrating, though, is probably personal preference. One theme that runs through all the stories, however, is the idea of taking the protagonist away from their home and putting them into an unfamiliar environment, where the setting itself serves to increase the sense of suspense or the character’s alienation. It’s a collection of stories about how people react and adjust when taken out of their comfort zone and thrown into situations they have very little control over. And it has to be said, most characters don’t do so well… Continue reading

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