Archive for the Short stories Category

The Night Bookmobile – Audrey Niffenegger

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Short stories with tags on May 5, 2011 by Cara Marie

The blurb calls The Night Bookmobile a graphic novel but really, it is an illustrated short story. The speech bubbles and sections of sequential art do not change that. And as a short story, I liked it: I like the idea of someone watching over your reading, of a place that catalogues all you’ve ever read, that even though you’ve forgotten is still a part of you.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with the protagonist. I understand the desire to just hang out with your books all the time, but at the cost of all the books I haven’t yet read? Today I read The Silver Metal Lover for the first time, though it has been sitting on my shelf for years. And I loved it. And there are so many more Tanith Lee books I still haven’t got too. I want more than the contentment of what I already know. So even though The Night Bookmobile worked, even though I bought the ending, I was disappointed by the main character’s choice.

And I don’t think the illustrations added anything to this. It felt obvious to me that it had begun as a short story, which is not what I want from a graphic adaptation. I want something that takes advantage of its medium, where the illustrations pull their weight – because if they don’t, they’re just decoration, and frankly I don’t like Audrey Niffenegger’s art enough to think it worth adding.

On the other hand, if the story was included in a prose collection, I wouldn’t mind tracking that down. It’s just disturbing enough to make me want more.

In continuing series…

Posted in Action/adventure, Books, Fantasy, Middle fiction, Short stories with tags , , , on April 3, 2011 by Cara Marie

Now that I am off work for a few weeks, I have time to read more books! Some short thoughts on the latest reading:

Scorpia Rising – Anthony Horowitz

The latest (and last) Alex Rider book was a disappointment. Snakehead was emotionally and narratively gripping; Scorpia Rising needed to be way tighter, and I felt rather disconnected throughout it. I don’t think not having your protagonist show up for over 150 pages is a good start.

There were a few moments were I felt, yes, this is why I love these books! But they were rather far between.

Tortall and Other Lands – Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce’s short fiction is diverting, but not satisfying in the way that her novels are. I read Pierce mostly for the school story aspect, and you can’t really get that out a short story. I think my favourite in this collection was ‘Student of Ostriches’, which I’d actually read before, where a young girl teaches herself to fight by imitating the prairie animals, and uses those skills to defend her family’s honour. Generally, I liked the ones that didn’t deal with characters we already know – the ones featuring Nawat and Kitten felt unnecessary, skippable.

Succubus Heat – Richelle Mead

I raced through this. I’m enjoying this series so much; I have basically no critical thoughts about them. I am all, omigosh, about every new revelation, and my reactions are purely emotional.

This book shows that, even without her powers, Georgina is an awesome lady who spreads joy and brings out the best in people ♥ I mean that in a nice way. I really do hope for the best for her.

Except it turns out I am very disapproving of infidelity in books. Not that it’s being condoned, but! Stop being unfaithful, people! Here’s hoping the ending indicates a new, snark-filled direction in Georgina’s love-life. I’m not even in it for the love-life! I’m in it for the mythology and the mysteries, and for Georgina. I do think the mysteries are getting stronger as these books go along, and I love Georgina’s determination to get to the bottom of things. So stop being a distraction, men!

Four books in, my pleasure in this series has not dimmed. Looking forward to my copy of Succubus Shadows arriving soon.

My best books in 2010

Posted in Action/adventure, Books, Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Short stories, Young adult with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by Cara Marie

It’s that time again! These are my favourite 2010 prose releases, in varying detail; I’ll hopefully come back to the comics later.

Young adult fiction

Life Swap (Abby McDonald) was a book I was not expecting to enjoy as much as I did. An English and a Californian girl ‘swap places’ – they’ve both applied for an exchange program at the last minute, and are accepted with the proviso that it is a direct swap – so Tasha, who has been a bit of a slacker, is doing political theory at Oxford, and Emily is taking film studies. There’s a great deal of culture shock, and struggling to meet people’s differing expectation. I loved both parts of the story: Tasha’s coming to a sex-positive understanding of feminism, in the face of more judgemental attitudes, struggling to do well when no one thinks she can; Emily learning to loosen up, to look outside the life she’s always had lined up for herself, and discovering other things she’s good at.

There’s romance for both of them, which does and does not work out, but which are important for what they learn about themselves in the process. They befriend those they hadn’t thought they could relate to, and they befriend each other too, messaging each other, trying to figure out how to not feel so alone.

I was expecting this to be a light read, and it is, but it’s also a fine character study, smarter and more satisfying than the cover would lead you to believe. It’s sold as YA, but it’s set at university/college, and it was nice to read about people closer to my own age and stage in life.

A book I did have expectations for, on the other hand, was the sequel to Anna MacKenzie’s Sea-Wreck Stranger, a gorgeous, low-key post-apocalyptic novel. Ebony Hill did not disappoint.

(This spoils the ending of Sea-Wreck Stranger, but I don’t know that’s a big deal – that book ends in a pretty inevitable way.)

Having left the island she grew up on, Ness is still trying to find her place in a new society, that while more technologically sophisticated, is not having an easier time of it. Trouble strikes when the farm Ness is staying at comes under attack.

The novel deals matter-of-factly, unflinchingly with the consequences of these attacks – not just the loss of life, but the threat to the city that rely on the farms for survival. The community fleeing isn’t an option: people need that harvest. And Ness gets caught up in this.

The novel doesn’t valorise fighting: Ness does what she needs to, but her skills are elsewhere, and just as necessary for survival. The story has a very practical focus, which is one of the things I appreciate so much about it. This isn’t a bleak or romantic post-apocalypse story, it’s people doing their best to thrive as well as survive; it’s the rebuilding of society, and how fragile that is. I think it’s a kind of story there should be more of.

Honourable mention: Sarwat Chadda’s Dark Goddess, the sequel to The Devil’s Kiss. Even more of an adventure story, and with a less Abrahamic focus. More female characters too. Billi is a marvellous heroine, struggling to deal with conflicting loyalties, determined to do her best and do her job and save the world while she’s at it. I enjoyed this a lot.

Adult fiction

Mira Grant’s Feed I have already written about a bit. Zombies as science fiction rather than horror. I feel like I need a second copy of this so I can give it to more people. I got a text from my mother while she was away saying, “I never thought a book about zombies would make me cry.” Me neither.

Tansy Rayner Robert’s Power and Majesty was fabulous secondary-world fantasy, in a classical rather than medieval setting, with fantasy elements that felt fresh, a focus on female friendship, the kind of fucked-up secondary characters you hate to like, and a heroine who is able to save the day because of her feminine qualities, and be a better leader because of them.

NK Jemison’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms managed to hit a lot of my story kinks beautifully, in a way that reminded me of my favourite Tanith Lee stories. I love love love stories that are really mythic, so I raced through this. The sequel is also very good, though less id-y and maybe not as well structured. On the other hand, Oree was more memorable to me than Yeine, even if Yeine’s story-arc hit me more, and I enjoyed the different perspective it gave to the world.

Honourable mentions for new books in continuing series: Tanya Huff’s The Truth of Valor kept it fresh, and Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Chaos went even more epic than before. Seanan McGuire’s An Artifical Night was probably my favourite new urban fantasy book for the year, in a year which really solidified my love of the genre.

Short story collection

I picked up Angela Slatter’s The Girl With No Hands at Worldcon, after I heard her putting a copy of The Secret Feminist Cabal aside and deciding that meant her stories were probably ones I’d be interested in. My favourite is ‘The Living Book’, which despite beginning in a fairy tale setting, perfectly fulfills my robot kink. Many of these stories are drawn from fairy tales, finding other ways to look at them. It’s other ways to look at things in general, including a disturbing antidote to all these zombie love stories I cannot believe exist. There’s a lot that verges on horror here, all beautifully told.

Readings for November, with many short stories

Posted in Books, Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Short stories with tags , , , , on December 2, 2007 by Cara Marie

Readings for November

Snake and Lizard – Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop

Posted in Books, Junior fiction, Short stories with tags , on July 7, 2007 by Cara Marie

This is so cute! Gecko Press do such wonderful productions, very high quality. Probably the stories themselves didn’t matter so much to my enjoyment – but Gavin Bishop’s art, and the whole presentation – just awesome.

They’re little fablelike stories, of the friendship between Snake and Lizard (who are utterly completely adorable) and how they get along despite their differences. Why, for example, if snakes and lizards go on picnics together they should each bring their own food. I liked the picture where Snake was bumped like a string of beads from the eggs she’d eaten.

It is a bit odd when you read picture books by New Zealanders that blatantly cannot be set in New Zealand – this is a new edition of a book only published previously in the states. A far superior edition, I am told. The production really complements the art.

Leannan Sidhe: The Irish Muse and Other Stories – Brian O’Sullivan

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Short stories with tags on May 22, 2007 by Cara Marie

Leannan Sidhe – “a kind of fairy muse that takes an artist for a lover. In return for her lover’s affection she bestows a gift on him; the ability to create a work of art of immense feeling.” There are no fairy creatures in this collection from Irish-born Brian O’Sullivan. Instead the stories span continents and genres in a world where magic is often forgotten.

This is most obvious in ‘The Ringmaster’s Daughter’, where an encounter with a supposed witch doctor leads the protagonist to abandon her life as a business woman – one of many stories showing a distaste for corporate life. ‘After the Beep’ explores the hypocrisy of a telecommunications company through the recorded voice message of a customer driven too far. It doesn’t convince as something supposedly spoken, but all can relate to the frustrations of corporate phone systems. It is these satiric stories that are the strongest.

Others, such as the title story, are bogged down in prose. ‘Leannan Sidhe’ contains some lovely evocative descriptions – of the landscape, the music – but a phrase like “superstitiously misinterpreting such unaccustomed stylistic eccentricity…” pulls you right out. Such language is more textbook than fairytale.

The dialogue too suffers – the character’s discussion of creativity reads like the author espousing his own ideas. Dialogue ringing false is a problem in all the stories – but this first suffers the most.

The collection ends on a stronger note – ‘Morris Dancing’ is a laugh-out-loud, yet unsettling vision of the Maori colonisation of Britain. It is these funny, disturbing that are the most enjoyable. Others try for poignance – but without a sense of humour, they fail. ‘Slither’ combines the two, and works the better for it, as the story of a ‘senior escort’ in a seedy nightclub who loses his position in a suspect attempt to defend a customer from a younger rival.

The stories in ‘Leannan Sidhe’ range from love story to sick satire and back via the somewhat fantastic. But even in those that do amuse, none of them could be called ‘art of immense feeling’ – especially those that want to be.