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Want to read a story with all the depth, questions and quality of a novel, written by highly skilled writers in about 5% of the space? Short stories can be heartbreaking, mysterious and incredibly detailed; for a perfectly formed, bite-sized smorgasbord of stories, browse our Short Story recommendations here.
December 2016 Book of the Month. St Andrews in the 16th century is once again brought to captivating vibrant life. With allegations of ghosts, witches, the Spanish Armada and high jinks, the year 1588 is full of life… and death. If you adore the ‘Hew Cullan Mystery’ series then you are in for an absolute treat, as in this ‘Calendar of Crime’ are five different books. They may be short, but each packs a punch as Hew uses his investigative skills in an attempt to solve 5 different mysteries. Shirley McKay sets you so completely in that time that awareness settles over you like a cloak as you read. The very different tales take place in various parts of town, and while the same core characters travel with you through the year, you also greet new ones along the way. The historical notes section and glossary at the end is an interesting read in itself. You can dip in and out of ‘1588: A Calendar of Crime’ and read it as five fascinating stories, or completely immerse yourself in it as I did, and read it one satisfying sitting.
There are ghosts here and jovial spirits. Chances at love and tricks with time. There is frost and icicles, mistletoe and sledges. There's a cat and a dog and a solid silver frog. There's a Christmas cracker with a surprising gift inside. There's a haunted house and a SnowMama. There are Yuletides and holly wreaths. Three Kings. And a merry little Christmas time. And for the icing on the Christmas cake, there are twelve festive recipes from Yuletides past and present. Red cabbage, gravlax, turkey biryani, sherry trifle, Mrs Winterson's mince pies and more.
A Faraway Smell of Lemon: The School Term has ended. It is almost Christmas but Binny, out last-minute shopping couldn't feel less like wishing glad tidings to all men. Ducking out of the rain she finds herself in the sort of shop she would never normally visit. The Marriage Manual: Christmas Eve. Two parents endeavour to construct their son's Christmas present from a DIY kit and in the process find themselves deconstructing their marriage. Christmas at the Airport: A glitch in the system, travellers stranded and all sorts of lives colliding in the face of a sudden birth...The Boxing Day Ball: Maureen has never been out with the local girls before. Who knew that a disco in the Village Hall could be life-changing? A Snow Garden: Two little boys, dumped with their divorced father for his share of the Christmas holidays and none of them with a clue how to enjoy it. I'll Be Home for Christmas The most famous boy in the world comes home hoping to escape the madness with a normal family Christmas. Trees: As if Christmas wasn't wearing enough, now his elderly parent is asking for a hole in the ground ...Father and son break old habits and plant a tree to mark the start of the new year.
Acclaimed author Mitzi Szereto explores the many complexities of desire, love and lust in this rich and varied “best of” collection of erotically charged short stories. In these 17 provocative and often witty offerings, Mitzi Szereto travels expertly between genres with tales that explore both the light and the dark sides of sexuality. Oysters and Pearls gives the reader a glimpse into worlds that are as ordinary as they are fantastical and mysterious. Like a skilled lover, this sensuous and imaginative compilation will leave you wanting more.
If you are an intrepid reader and delight in the creatively eerie, startling and spine-chilling, then some distinctive and perfectly crafted short stories await. Of course there are 13 tales, however there is nothing about the obvious here, as they range in length from one page to a novella, then float through history, fantasy and reality. ‘Night Music’ has the ability to encourage the imagination to go into overdrive, so it felt as though John Connolly was wielding a sharpened and potentially double-edged pen when I found further books, some alive with malice, lurking within the pages. I particularly enjoyed ‘The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository’ which will remain vibrantly alive and functioning within my mind. So from the strangely weird and wonderful, through to bitterly sorrowful, and grimly formidable, here have gathered, waiting to provoke your imagination, some wonderfully readable tales of the supernatural. One of our Books of the Year 2015.
Offered as a Hammer novella, you may well expect a substantial amount of supernatural horror, however a more rational yet none the less uncomfortable and captivating read awaits. The story is told from Muna’s viewpoint, held as a slave, abused and kept in the dark, she still has a cunning intelligence and quietly bides her time. The simplicity of the writing reveals a truly complicated and at times distressing subject matter. The ending is left on a note of uncertainty, your thoughts scrabble for purchase as they are pushed off a cliff of understanding. The author writes with a true level of compassion without hiding the cruelty explored in this creatively taut, original and chilling read.
As the acknowledged 'Queen of Crime', P. D. James was frequently commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a special short story for Christmas. Four of the best of these have been drawn from the archives and published here. P. D. James' prose illuminates each of these perfectly formed stories, making them ideal reading for the darkest days of the year. While she delights in the secrets that lurk beneath the surface at family gatherings, her Christmas stories also provide tantalizing puzzles to keep the reader guessing. P. D. James embraces the challenge of the short-story form, and ingeniously weaves the strands of plot, setting, characterisation and surprise to create a satisfying whole within only a few thousand words.
One of our Books of the Year 2016. October 2016 Book of the Month. Three years ago Cardiff born Ellie moved into a small block of twelve flats in Kensal Rise, London. Her life is dull. She does tele-ad sales for a trade mag and then suddenly she gets postcards from Greece addressed to a S. Ibbotson at her address. They are from an “A” in Greece as he travels round the country. She loves them and sticks them to her flat wall. After a few months she is inspired to go there herself. As she leaves for the airport she picks up a small package from her post pigeon hole. It contains a notebook in “A”’s handwriting. So we learn the man, Anthony, was expecting his love to join him for a fortnight’s holiday though she never came. He was in Greece researching a book and has the advance which will last a year if he is careful. Dejected and in despair he goes travelling to forget, escape, lose himself … all those things Greece can offer, plus fantastic scenery and sunshine. As he is alone the locals embrace him and many tell him tales. There follows a series of short stories as he moves from village square to village square and listens. They are gentle, poignant, very Greek and quite charming. Some have religious undertones, some touch on mythology, quite a few are just human drama tales of love, deception, loss and sadness, although many do have happy endings. The most horrific is The Honeymoon, the sweetest Air on a G String. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
One of our Books of the Year 2016. Gosh, this is absolutely and completely enchanting. The moment I laid eyes on ‘The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow’ I knew I had fallen in love, I hugged the book before even opening the pages. I felt like a child again, it’s beautifully sized, it’s big, the cover stunning, it just invites you to pick it up. The story began when Jackie Morris created Christmas cards, one a year for Help Musicians UK, the words, while there all along, arrived later, in the creating of this book. The illustrations speak so eloquently and beautifully they brought a tear to my eye and goose bumps magically appeared on my arms. This is a book where you just sink into the pages, drift away on the words, and it feels like a half remembered dream. I whole heartedly recommend ‘The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow’, it would make a perfect gift (even for yourself), and is a fairy tale delight of a read. ~ Liz Robinson A message from the author, Jackie Morris: Between the covers of this book there is a gathering, of images* and stories. The words tell only a small part of what can be found in the images. These stories ask more questions than they answer. Look at the paintings and find within them more answers. The book is a harbour in which to rest, a catalyst for the imagination, and the stories are a series of lullabies for grown-ups. My hope is that the threads of stories will wrap around the dreams of others and spin fine gold threads to catch the imagination. * - The illustrations were originally commissioned Christmas card designs for the charity Help Musicians. The brief was always the same: anything, so long as there were musical instruments or musicians in it. A message from Jon Boden, singer, composer and musician: A tantalising glimpse into an enigmatic, free-flowing world with music at its heart... Music, painting and words have long been close acquaintances, but in The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow Morris has discovered a way of bringing the three art forms together in a truly organic, intuitive amalgam. Click here to read more about Jackie's inspiration for this title and also a word from Jon Boden.
The ominously significant title of ‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’ slashes through the delicate vibrancy of the cover, summing up the contents beautifully. 18 short stories and two poems, steaming with life, death, passion, regret and the occasional gnashing of twisted, gnarly fangs. I absolutely loved Stephen King’s short introductions to each tale, almost as much as the stories themselves. The story behind the story reveals snippets of information, of reasoning, the why and how. This is a wonderfully diverse collection from full on fantasy, to possibilities and practicalities, and yet there are links to be discovered. Some tales made me shiver, others raise a smirking eyebrow, they all though, set my mind pondering and questing, and personal favourites were Afterlife and The Little Green God of Agony. These are knowing, crafty, sharp stories, ready to catch you unaware and to give your imagination a hammering - in other words, they are fabulous. ~ Liz Robinson
Ransom Riggs’s spine-tingling fantasy novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is now a film directed by – who else? - Tim Burton, and this extremely handsome book purports to be a collection of favourite peculiar folktales. Anthologist Millard Nullings, himself a peculiar, exhorts readers to enjoy the Tales ‘before a crackling fire on a chilly night, ideally, a snoring grimbear at your feet’ which would indeed be the ideal setting for these curious, occasionally macabre but often gently comic stories of cannibals, shape shifters and other outsiders. Each story begins with a beautiful illustration by Andrew Davidson created from his wood engravings. You don't need to be a fan of the original series to enjoy this book, but Miss Peregrine devotees will find lots of references hidden in its pages. ~ Andrea Reece
First came a sinister warning to Poirot not to eat any plum pudding...then the discovery of a corpse in a chest...next, an overheard quarrel that led to murder...the strange case of the dead man who altered his eating habits...and the puzzle of the victim who dreamt his own suicide.
There is a real skill in being able to conjure a whole life in just a few pages, to be able to leave a reader with an enduring feeling in just a short time. Here you will find lasting stories about life the universe and everything, from authors you already know as novelists and some that will be knew and welcome friends. We love a good short story, not just because they provide great reading in bite-size chunks - perfect for the trip to work, or a moment when you just want a small piece of brilliance in your life – but also because they are (if they are good) a perfect piece of art, capturing the human condition in a snapshot that stays with the reader for much longer than it took to write. As Graham Greene put it; “a novel can seldom have the sense of perfection which you find in Chekhov’s story, The Lady with the Dog.” From Chekhov to Julian Barnes via a whole host of other perfectionists, we have hand-picked the very best of short story collections for readers of all tastes.