Tuesday 24 May 2016

My Favourite Short Stories

With May being Short Story Month, I thought it would be nice to list some of my favourite short stories (that weren't written by me).

So I went through my Goodreads read list, and I came up with the following:

Sweet Violent Femmes by Holly M. Kothe (Collection)

These four short stories are all quite different, but they're all about women who've been hurt. In some, the hurt is once-off; in others, it's caused by systematic abuse. In some, the women are psychologically jaded or damaged at the outset, and in others they're perfectly normal, seemingly well-adjusted people until something pushes them over the edge.

I found myself struggling as I read the stories, to decide which one I would say was my favourite. In the end, it was impossible because I just loved them all so much.

These stories touched me in a way that no story has, for a really long time. They're all beautifully written, vividly detailed in their descriptions, and visceral in the emotions and experiences of the main characters.

Buy Sweet Violent Femmes from Amazon, or in paperback from Loot in South Africa.

Dangerous Voices by Rae Carson

This is a really entertaining little story about a man who is a "music mage" (makes magic with his song). He's been imprisoned for a really long time, and doesn't sing for fear of his guards killing him (a not unfounded fear).

It took a couple pages to really get into the story, to figure out what was going on, but once that happened I became truly and deeply invested in his fate, and the fate of a companion that he acquires early on.

The writing is awesome, and the ending is stunning. If you can spare thirty minutes or so to read it, do!

Get Dangerous Voices free from Smashwords.

Cage Life by Karin Cox (Collection)

These two short stories fit the title of the book perfectly.

Still Life was amazing! It tells the story of a young single mother, disillusioned with her marriage and her husband. It's very believable, and I really felt her frustration throughout. My heart sank at some of the tragedies she had to endure, and I cheered inwardly at some of the victories that she won.

The Usurper was also very good. It's about an ailing old man who's been taken in by a much younger women, who loves him and whom he falls in love with. It's the story of their relationship together, and the trials that it faces.

Definitely a great couple of stories, well worth the read. Karin Cox's writing style is... well, not quite unparallelled, but very pleasant indeed!

Buy Cage Life from Amazon.

Five Rows Back: A Short Story by Dan Kolbet

I really enjoyed this little story of a girl who suffers from (presumably) OCD. She is obsessed with, and consequently stalks, a man on a bus, and everything she does has to be in a number divisible by five.

Why she's stalking the man is surprising, and the ending is very good. This is a well written book that really gave me pause and made me think.

Get Five Rows Back free at Smashwords.

The Visitation by Jo Robinson

A pretty cool story, with lots of food for thought. Is humanity really inherently evil, and do we deserve to be wiped off the face of the earth for the atrocities we've caused? Maybe, but there are two sides to every story.

It was good to read a South African author again, and I could almost hear her speaking to me in a dialect, and with an accent, that I can identify with.

Buy The Visitation from Amazon.

The Harpers by L.L. Watkin

It didn't take me too long to get into this intriguing short story. Two brothers, sharing the same mother but different fathers, live together under one roof. The eldest has possessed magic for quite some time, but the youngest has only recently discovered his own gift.

It's an enthralling read, and quite "different" to the usual fantasy staples. You can finish it in an hour or two, and I recommend you do, if you're a fan of the genre.

Buy The Harpers from Smashwords.

When God Whispers Loudly by Chris M. Hibbard

This is a really inspirational and thought provoking Christian story. It's about an un-named protagonist who's driving home from work today, cursing God for everything that's gone wrong in his life. He has a car accident, and proceeds to learn some very important life lessons.

I enjoyed the story, it had a good plot, and some interesting twists and turns. There were one or two points I didn't really get, but overall it's a good, strong read.

Get When God Whispers Loudly free, at Amazon or Smashwords.

Swords and Scimitars by Cate Rowan

This is a pretty cool little short story. It concerns two brothers, sons of gods, who are horsing around one day when something terrible happens.

One of the brothers winds up going down to Earth, and ruling his country with an iron fist.

It's pretty well written, and a wonderful introduction to the author's fantasy world. If I had any issues with it, it would be that the formatting of the ebook that I read on Scribd leaves a little to be desired. Firstly, there's lots of front-matter to get through, mostly praise for the author and the story, before I even get to read the thing. Secondly, there isn't really a proper table of contents, which I find frustrating when I have to decide when to stop reading for a session.

All in all, I enjoyed it. It's described as romance, which I don't normally enjoy. The thing is, while there are some romantic elements in it, I personally wouldn't put it in that genre.

Buy Swords and Scimitars at Amazon or Smashwords.

Root Canal by Sharon C. Williams

At first glance, this seems like a rather silly concept for a story, but by golly, it works!

This is the story of a tooth inside the mouth of a woman, who doesn't take care of her teeth very well. One day, the tooth begins to ache, and it (it's written in first-person, from the tooth's perspective) hopes against hope that its host will take it to the dentist, and also that it won't need to be taken out and thrown in the trash.

There isn't really much point to the story, and it isn't obvious that it means that people should take care of their teeth, although I gather that was the moral the author was going for. Even so, I really enjoyed it! My only concern is that, with the story being as short as it is, it was kind of annoying to have to wade through 20% of front-matter first, before getting into the story. If the story were longer, I would say move all that stuff to the back, since people read differently on e-readers, and it's not so easy to just skip past it as it would be in print (and also it means people who sample the book get less of the actual story to sample). But with the story this short, I'd say most of it can be dispensed with altogether.

Buy Root Canal from Amazon or Smashwords

Crutch by Alex Rushmer

Conner's parents are very nervous at dinner. It's the eve of Conner's eighteenth birthday, and tonight he must complete a coming of age ceremony that could very easily result in his death. To add a bit of a twist to this story, Conner is disabled, and nobody holds out much hope that he's going to survive the ordeal. The book doesn't explain the exact nature of his disability, only that he walks around on crutches.

It's a pretty good story, very vivid in its descriptions. I'm surprised that it's written by a fifteen year old girl. It does leave some questions unanswered, though. 

Buy Crutch from Amazon or Smashwords.

So what do you think? Have you read any of these short stories? Are there any gems that I've missed?

About Graham Downs

I'm a self-published fiction author living in South Africa. At the moment, I write short stories, novelettes, and flash fiction collections, in a range of genres. These books are perfect for people who long to read, but don't have the time, because they can be read in short, sharp bursts, like during your lunch break, or while your baby's catching a nap!

To find out more about me, and what I have on over, go take a look at my website, at http://www.grahamdowns.co.za/.

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