Shorter Reads

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.

Lemon

Lemon

Author: Kwon Yeo-sun Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/10/2021

Taking in the absurdities of life, misfortune and tragedy, Kwon Yeo-sun’s Lemon is an engaging, read-in-one-sitting novella of remarkable intensity. In some regards, it’s a crime novel, but one that turns the genre on its head to create an enigmatic emotional puzzle in which a woman warped by grief engages with the person she believes killed her sister. Back in 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became called the High School Beauty Murder. There were only ever two suspects, one of whom had an alibi, while no evidence was found to convict the second, so the case was never solved. Seventeen years later, Kim Hae-on’s younger sister, Da-on, remains utterly eaten up by the murder. Her life is on hold, her mind trapped in twisted stasis. Fixated on finding out what happened to her sister, she discovers unexpected truths that strike her to the core. Told from multiple perspectives and times, the story sparks with descriptive perfection, such as this evocation of the victim: “She was very pretty, but not in a typical way. How could I describe it? Her beauty was urgent, precarious, like the piercing wail of a speeding ambulance. I could not look away”.  It also swirls with powerful undercurrents of raw emotion - desperation, regret, longing, guilt, the brutal ripples of grief. Presented in all their ludicrous complexities, such raw states are overlaid with the mundanities of everyday life. Though short, this is an intensely gripping and profound reading experience. As Lemon ponders: “Couldn’t each moment we’re living now be the meaning of life?”

Debut Books of the Month
Daggers Drawn

Daggers Drawn

Author: Maxim Jakubowski Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/09/2021

Dive in and discover 19 winning short stories by some of the greats in the crime writing world. You can sink in and totally immerse yourself in the writing, or pick and choose at your leisure. The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) was founded in 1953, and they have run their annual awards, The Daggers, since 1956. Take a look at the shortlists of each Dagger and you are set up with a beautifully meaty reading list, the Short Story Dagger is no exception. Maxim Jakubowski, the current chair, has assembled this collection and as he declares in his introduction: “Every story a winner!”. The first, Swiftwing 98 by Peter O’Donnell in 1985 was from a time when the Short Story Dagger had to submitted and include certain ingredients. He had to work in a bottle of champagne, a cryptic message on a micro computer screen, a beautiful blonde Hungarian pianist and Victoria Station, and it is fascinating to see how these feature in the story. Maxim explains that not long after, the rules changed, and the award was given to what was judged to be just the best crime short story of that year. Particular stand outs for me were the amusing intrigue of Herbert in Motion by Ian Rankin, the slicing horror of the Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing by Danuta Reah, and the heartbreak of Martha Grace by Stella Duffy. Chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, Daggers Drawn is a perfect gift for any crime fiction lovers and short story aficionados out there.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Cat Who Saved Books

The Cat Who Saved Books

Author: Sosuke Natsukawa Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/09/2021

An absolute little treasure! After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro finds himself on an adventure with Tiger the talking cat, to help books that desperately need saving. This incredibly quirky and beautiful novel highlights the importance of books, friendship, and self-belief. The simplicity of the story highlights the warmth, the love, and the true power of books. It also encouraged me to explore my own relationship with books. Sosuke Natsukawa painted images straight into my thoughts, simple, clear, vividly bright, they still sit in my minds eye. A shout out to the translation by Louise Heal Kawai, as I felt as though I was reading the original Japanese version. If you, like me, think of books as being more than words on paper, if you talk to them and pat them, are moved by them and have thoughts altered by them, then I recommend The Cat Who Saved Books with my heart and soul. Chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, it really would make the perfect gift, either for you, or another book-lover in your life.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Several People Are Typing

Several People Are Typing

Author: Calvin Kasulke Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/09/2021

Super smart and a little weird (in the best possible way), Several People are Typing comes served with a huge dollop of darkly quirky, smirky humour. This novel, which comes in at under 250 pages, is all written in the workplace chat function of the app Slack. Gerald is uploaded into the Slack while working on a spreadsheet, his pleas for help initially go unanswered by his work colleagues. We use Slack at LoveReading, but you really don’t need to be aware of it in order to ‘get’ this book, anyone who uses a workplace communications channel, apps or social media will just slide into this book and within a couple of pages feel right at home. Gerald and his colleagues could be anyone, anywhere, the little darts of jealousy, humour, support, showboating, flirting, and all the other emotions that highlight office life can be found on display. In terms of characters, Slackbot is a particular favourite of mine, the horror of the situation is deftly handled with humour by Calvin Kasulke. While office politics and shenanigans are front and foremost, I really enjoyed the relationship element sneaking in to stir things up. And it really did stir things up as it also poked a thought-provoking elbow into sexual consent. Several People are Typing is a fabulously ballsy read that edges along a tightrope between provocative and humour.  

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Twisted Scarborough

Twisted Scarborough

Author: J.B.Forsyth Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/09/2021

‘Twisted Scarborough’ by J.B. Forsyth is the latest in a series of horror-filled short story collections all based in Scarborough. In these 12 stories the reader will discover a strange clifftop cave, see the consequences of playing with a magician’s hat, an encounter with a Roman God and more besides in this delightfully chilling anthology. Expertly written, with plenty of tension, dark humour and cliff-hangers, these short stories are the perfect entertainment for a winter (or a summer) night. I liked ‘Books to Die For’ most for it’s ingenious twisting and warping of reality to suit this mysterious bookstore. Each story is unique, with their own characters, pace and tone. As I read I was excited to see what the next story would bring while also lingering over what might have happened at the end of the last. I can see myself and many other readers enjoying this collection from cover to cover and then returning to read and ponder over their favourites. There is horror here but it’s mixed with a perfect balance of brevity, tension, the uncanny and fantastical plot. The only way these stories will be keeping me up at night is to ponder over how much has been packed into so few pages, and what could have happened after the writing ended.

Indie Books We Love
How to Raise an Elephant

How to Raise an Elephant

Author: Alexander McCall Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

The latest instalment from the beloved THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series Catch up on the latest from Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and other favourites in this new instalment of Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. As the temperature rises in Gaborone, Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, wonders whether the heat could be the reason that business is particularly slow. Luckily, a slower pace in life is her natural preference, unlike her colleague Mma Makutsi, who is alert to every passing observation and inclined to making snap decisions. With fewer cases to handle, Precious has time to contemplate her new neighbours, a couple who, by the sounds of it, have a rather volatile relationship . . . But then a distant cousin of Mma Ramotswe's comes to the agency with a plea for help, and the ladies decide to pursue the issue together. Armed with Mma Ramotswe's circumspection and Mma Makutsi's sharp eye, they proceed with confidence and open hearts. What, after all, could be more straightforward than a family matter? Meanwhile, their colleague Charlie is behaving oddly, borrowing Mma Ramotswe's van and returning it in an unusual condition. Digging a little deeper, the explanation is both strange and extraordinary, and takes Charlie, along with Mma Ramotswe's husband, Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, on a hair-raising night-time expedition. In the end, Precious is reminded of the need to view a picture from every angle, to accept the imperfections in people and situations, and then find a solution - preferably over a delicious slice of her friend Mma Potokwani's fruit cake.

Star Books
Circles a Clover

Circles a Clover

Author: Michael Egan Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/08/2021

Egan’s finely tuned skill as a storyteller seduces you. Right from the opening chapter he sets up a delicious, nerve-tingling sense of foreboding, with references that range from Game of Thrones and mushroom clouds to Afghanistan, Iraq and the impending end of the world. He doesn’t so much hook you into his imagined world, as gently caress a net around you, coaxing you onto each page after the next. And what a story he tells.  Plucky, thoughtful Kyle Halfpenny, year 11,  lives with her Dad who is either a mad drunk or prescient seer. She sees bigger pictures and small details and has views, thoughts and fears that all speak of a profound understanding and compassion for the lot of those in her world.  She communes with foxes, mourns for a lasagne that had ”shrunk in on itself, like it was trying to hide from it’s own failings” and through the absence of her mother and missing her brother, she cares for her Dad, a lasagne made mortal, who seeks sanctuary with Kyle on a island imbued with history, overrun by rabbits and the home of hope. This is a one hell of a read, for YA readers as much as for the intended adult audience. It is a cautionary tale of the corrosive effect on life of unfettered fear, the acid that eats joy. It is a sad and lyrical hymn to our responsibilities to ourselves and to each other. And, with its exquisite, magical, story-within-a story, it is an enchanting fable about the gritty beauty of life and of all lives. Unless you’re a rabbit.

Land of Big Numbers

Land of Big Numbers

Author: Te-Ping Chen Format: Audiobook Release Date: 19/08/2021

A dazzling debut collection which, deftly and urgently, tells the stories of those living in the biggest and most complicated country on earth. A brother competes for gaming glory while his twin sister exposes the dark side of the Communist government on her underground blog; a worker at a government call centre is alarmed one day to find herself speaking to a former lover; a delicious new fruit arrives at the neighbourhood market and the locals find it starts to affect their lives in ways they could never have imagined; and a young woman's dreams of making it big in Shanghai are stalled when she finds herself working as a florist. These are just some of the myriad lives to be evoked in The Land of Big Numbers, a collection of stories which - sometimes playfully, sometimes darkly - draws back the curtain on the realities of modern China and unveils a cast of characters as rich and complicated as any in world literature. With virtuosic brilliance, Te-ping Chen sheds light on a country much talked about but little understood and announces the birth of a bright new star in the literary firmament. 

Audiobooks of the Month
Table for One

Table for One

Author: Ko–eun Yun Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/07/2021

An office worker who has no one to eat lunch with enrolls in a course that builds confidence about eating alone. A man with a pathological fear of bedbugs offers up his body to save his building from infestation. A time capsule in Seoul is dug up hundreds of years before it was intended to be unearthed. A vending machine repairman finds himself trapped in a shrinking motel during a never-ending snowstorm. In these and other indelible short stories, contemporary South Korean author Yun Ko-eun conjures up slightly off-kilter worlds tucked away in the corners of everyday life. Her fiction is bursting with images that toe the line between realism and the fantastic. Throughout Table for One, comedy and an element of the surreal are interwoven with the hopelessness and loneliness that pervades the protagonists' decidedly mundane lives. Yun's stories focus on solitary city dwellers, and her eccentric, often dreamlike humor highlights their sense of isolation. Mixing quirky and melancholy commentary on densely packed urban life, she calls attention to the toll of rapid industrialization and the displacement of traditional culture. Acquainting the English-speaking audience with one of South Korea's breakout young writers, Table for One presents a parade of misfortunes that speak to all readers in their unconventional universality.

Here is the Beehive

Here is the Beehive

Author: Sarah Crossan Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Ana and Connor have been having an affair for three years. In hotel rooms and coffee shops, swiftly deleted texts and briefly snatched weekends, they have built a world with none but the two of them in it. But then the unimaginable happens, and Ana finds herself alone, trapped inside her secret. How can we lose someone the world never knew was ours? How do we grieve for something no one else can ever find out? In her desperate bid for answers, Ana seeks out the shadowy figure who has always stood just beyond her reach - Connor's wife Rebecca. Peeling away the layers of two overlapping marriages, Here is the Beehive is a devastating excavation of risk, obsession and loss.

Star Books
Taking Flight

Taking Flight

Author: JT Torres Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

A gorgeously simple yet heartbreakingly complex debut that strays into magic realism and explores the meaning of family. Tito and his grandmother probe the magic of family bonds, as they grow older, their struggle to keep loved ones close takes its toll. Fairlight Moderns are little gems of books, small and compact, beautiful inside and out, each story packs a punch. J T Torres writes with a compassionate and thoughtful yet penetrating and provocative pen. A chain reaction of emotions ran through me as I joined Tito and his Nana and echoes of Cuba slid into Florida and Alaska. It feels as though the magic of Taking Flight will release a totally different experience to each person who steps between the pages. While readers always take a part of themselves into a book, here that piece of me stayed within it. With a devastating delicacy, Taking Flight delves into the intricate complexities of family, migration, and mental health and has been chosen as one of our Debuts of the Month.

Debut Books of the Month
The Disaster Tourist

The Disaster Tourist

Author: Yun Ko-Eun Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/2021

Yun Ko-eun’s The Disaster Tourist is a triumph of originality and slick, satirical style. It’s a richly wry, cuttingly dark comedy that shines a light on the absurdities (and ethical dubiousness) of certain tourism practices, and on modern life more generally, with its understated lyricism packing poignant punch. Through Yona, we certainly see the bizarreness of the world we live in. A world in which a thirty-three-year-old woman works for a travel company that specialises in disaster tourism package holidays. To compensate Yona for being sexually harassed by him, her boss allows her to take a break on one of the trips they’re thinking of axing. What a deal! What a way to deal with harassment! Yona goes on the trip to the remote Vietnamese island of Mui, where the major attraction is a supposedly catastrophic sinkhole. When she becomes trapped here, the island takes on the appearance of “a theme park that wasn’t yet open”. Then, after making a hideous discovery, cutting truths are revealed like exposed nerves amidst escalating absurdity - and tragedy. Quite brilliant.  

Star Books