Category Archives: short story anthology

Friday Faceoff – Myths and Legends… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week featuring on any of our covers is the word LEGEND. I’ve selected Myths and Legends by Anthony Horowitz.

 

This edition was produced by Kingfisher in April 1994. I love the Medusan head glaring out at us, but that ugly blue textbox really spoils the whole effect – particularly as the font is so very boringly ordinary. It is entirely in the wrong place, blocking out too much of the cover design.

 

Published in November 2003 by Kingfisher, we still have the threatening glare by an angry female, but this time she is an Eastern princess. I love the box opening and all the creatures escaping. The title running up the side of the cover works well and allows the attractive design to be properly seen.

 

This hardback edition, published by Kingfisher in September 1985 demonstrates just what a difference a textbox can make. This version of the first cover is far more effective as we now can see those amazing snakes writhing around. I also prefer the green colour of the textbox as it merges with the overall design, rather than clashing with it – though given the choice I’d do without it altogether.

 

This edition, produced by Kingfisher in July 2007 has nailed it. Who doesn’t love a dragon – and what a dragon! The vibrant orange hues are glorious, snagging attention and begging for me to pick this one up. The artwork is beautifully detailed without any textbox AND the font has been bevelled and shaded to give an attractive 3-D effect. This is my favourite.

 

This edition is something of a mystery. Unusually, it appears on Goodreads with no other publication details alongside it, though it does look rather amateurish. The dark background doesn’t work with the deep blue font, to the extent that the author’s name is nearly invisible. That’s a shame, because the shading across the title works quite well. Which is more than can be said for the various creatures floating around the page, as they look like they’ve been selected from clipart and simply plonked there without any overarching design to pull them together. Which of these covers is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – You can’t sow an apple seed and expect to get an avocado tree.

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a cover featuring a seeds or spores, so I’ve selected The Seeds of Time by John Wyndham.

 

This edition was produced by Penguin in 1959 and I do like it as a piece of history more than because I think it’s a great cover. It has the generic Penguin orange and white cover with an additional dandelion clock moulting seeds which is reasonably effective though not particularly imaginative or exciting. An average effort.

 

Published in 1964 by Penguin, at least this cover displays a modicum of imagination. The lime-green cover is eye-catching and attractive, though the artwork would have looked better if it had been in black, which would have contrasted well with the cover. As it is, it’s a struggle to make out what is going on.

 

This edition, published by Penguin in September in 2014, is evidently going for the retro look, judging by the looping font and eggshell blue background. The snag is, the face is far too poorly executed to be the work of the average cover artist of the time. I cannot even work out if it is supposed to be a man or woman…

 

This Spanish edition, produced by E.D.H.A.S.A. in 1958, is certainly a huge improvement on any of the previous efforts. The quirky abstract design fits the tone and style of a science fiction short story collection, while the colours are attractive and eye-catching.

 

This cover, published in 1988 by Penguin, is at long last a worthy effort. The spacescape featuring a nicely exotic space ship and a planet – presumably Earth either emerging into daylight or being plunged into darkness immediately alerts a prospective reader as to the genre. And Wyndham’s name is also attractively highlighted, which certainly makes marketing sense, given his fame as the author of The Day of the Triffids. This one gets my vote, with the Spanish edition a very, very close second. Which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – The silver apples of the moon…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is food, so I’ve chosen Golden Apples of the Sun by the incomparable Ray Bradbury.

 

This is the e-cover produced by Amazon for the Kindle version of this anthology. Initially I was slightly underwhelmed, but after wincing at some of the truly awful covers for this sublime book, I’m now more appreciative. At least there isn’t a family of woodentops passing around gigantic apples or oddly blue hands waving around *shudders at the memory*…

 

This Turkish edition, produced in April 2016 by İthaki Yayınlarır is quirkily effective. The bats coming out of the apple is an arresting image and the tangerine coloured cover is eye-catching. I quite like this one.

 

Published in November 1989 by Minotauro, this cover is really effective. I love the spacescape with the golden apples dotted around instead of stars with the golden sun shimmering below. It certainly comes closer to depicting the wonderful prose of both Bradbury’s short stories and the final line of the beautiful poem of W.B. Yeates he chose as the title…

 

Produced in February 1979 by Bantam, this cover has a real pulp-fiction feel. The weirdly coloured sun and that particular font which defined London in the 50s and 60s harks back rather than looking forward. While I like the quirkiness, my reservation is that I’m not sure if anyone other than a science fiction fan would go near this collection – and that’s a crying shame as Bradbury’s prose deserves to be read by a far wider audience.

 

This is a real blast from the past – a 1964 edition published by Corgi, hence the rather battered look of it. But despite its age, it gives a sense of excitement and weirdness to this collection. Though there is rather a lot of bare flesh which gives the impression that Bradbury’s content is more sexually explicit than it actually is.

And here is that lovely poem…

The Song of Wandering Aengus
By William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Sunday Post – 26th June

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s my birthday, so I shall be conspicuous by my absence today as I’m hosting a family birthday get-together, complete with four generations of the family. Yesterday, we went out for a meal together in Brighton at a vegetarian restaurant, which was lovely. This week has been very busy with all sorts of non-editing activities.

I can’t quite believe it – but I’ve now finished this year’s Creative Writing courses, other than a one-day Summer Surgery course in July. So there has been a tranche of paperwork and admin to wrap it all up that needs to be dealt with. Wednesday night was Northbrook College’s Information Evening, where I met up with my other Adult Learning teaching colleagues as we start looking forward to September’s new courses.

I’m also in the process of changing computers – my desktop was bought in 2010 and works very hard. So as a birthday pressie, I’ve got a spiffy new model with a solid state hard drive which, hopefully will mean I won’t be spending vast acres of my life staring at the screen as it leisurely takes minutes at a time to consider opening up. My marvellous son, who helped me choose it in the first place, has helped me set it up.

I’ve managed to catch up a bit on my reading this week, completing:

City of the Lost – Book 1 of the Casey Duncan series by Kelley Armstrong
Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. Since then she’s become a talented police cityofthelostdetective, tethered only to her job, her best friend, Diana, and the occasional evening with her sexy, no-strings-attached ex-con lover, Kurt. But then Casey’s own dark past begins to catch up with her. The two women need to run—and Diana’s heard of a place where they won’t be found, a town especially for people like them…

I thoroughly enjoyed this contemporary murder mystery set in a confined, isolated community under a fair amount of stress – an ideal backdrop for all sorts of high jinks.

 

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
magicbitterMaire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from. When she is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being, she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.
This is a struggle for finding lost identity, with a number of fairy tales stitched into the storyline. I found this an unexpectedly moving and enjoyable read and will certainly be hunting down more books by this interesting author.

 

Demon Road – Book 1 of Demon Road series by Derek Landy
thedemonrdDemon Road kicks off with a shocking opener and never lets up the pace in an epic road-trip across the supernatural landscape of America. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers: they’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in…Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves.

This YA offering isn’t for the faint of heart – full-on, bloody adventure features right from the start. That said, I really enjoyed the protagonist, Amber, and the cast of characters both good and bad who whisk the narrative along at a good clip. But I wouldn’t be happy for a young teen to read it, given the level of violence.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 19th June

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno

Teaser Tuesday – Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Eve of War is Unleashed…

Review of The Obsession by Norah Roberts

Review of The Passage – Book 1of the The Passage series by Justin Cronin

Friday Faceoff – Armed to the Teeth featuring The Thousand Names – Book 1 of The Shadow Campaigns series by Django Wexler

Review of City of the Lost – Book 1 of the Casey Duncan series by Kelley Armstrong

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

This made me laugh on a rainy Thursday afternoon. Five of the worst ways to ask for print ARCs http://cuddlebuggery.com/blog/2012/06/06/five-of-the-worst-ways-to-ask-for-print-arcs/

I enjoyed reading these nuggets of information about one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Five Fascinating Facts about A Midsummer Night’s Dream https://interestingliterature.com/2016/06/22/five-fascinating-facts-about-a-midsummer-nights-dream/ …

This is a great article about how the age of the internet can allow us to share those hefty, or tricky reads with someone else. Five Benefits of Buddy-Reading https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/06/23/five-benefits-of-buddy-reading/ …

Steph Bianchini gives us yet another lovely slice of science with this fascinating article.
Skies from other planets – The peaks of eternal light http://earthianhivemind.net/2016/06/21/skies-from-other-planets-the-peaks-of-eternal-light/ …

I loved this pictorial journal of a day trip from another part of the world where I’ve never been. A one day escape… https://indigodrift.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/a-one-day-escape/ …

eve-of-war-finalAnother slice of excitement is that Fox Spirit Books has published Eve of War, a short story anthology of science fiction, fantasy and horror tales of women battling their foes, which includes my own story ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ imagining what happens to Prospero and Miranda after they leave their enchanted island at the end of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.flashfloods

 

For a change, I’m not the only one moaning about the atrocious weather – we have endured some torrential downpours and my heart goes out to the poor souls who have endured flash flooding and damage with lightning strikes. Flaming June for all the wrong reasons…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Eve of War is unleashed…

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I’ve copied this announcement from Fox Spirit Books. For obvious reasons I’m not reviewing this particular anthology – but I would just add that I’ve had the opportunity to read through all the stories. And my mate Mhairi has done it again:).

You may remember BFS shortlister Tales of Eve where Mhairi Simpson collected fantastic tales of women seeking their perfect partner in life and the consequences of the search. Well now we see Eve’s daughters, fierce and defiant stepping out to battle.

Edited by Mhairi Simpson, who once again pulled in a great group of authors and Darren Pulsford who curated them into the anthology, we bring you Eve of War.

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Cover art and layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

Sharp of mind and instinct; with poise and grace and power – Eve’s Daughters are a match for any opponent. Whether seeking out a worthy test or assailed by brave (but foolish) foes, she is determined and cunning, and will not fail.

Here are fifteen tales from across the ages; full of prowess both martial and magical, from an array of unique voices.

Contents:

Miranda’s Tempest by S.J. Higbee
The Devil’s Spoke by K.T. Davies
Himura the God Killer by Andrew Reid
The Bind that Tie by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Et Mortuum Esse Audivit by Alasdair Stuart
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick by Juliet McKenna
A Veil of Blades by R.J. Davnall
In Amber by Rob Haines
Skating Away by Francis Knight
Ballad of Sighne by Rahne Sinclair
The Crossing by Paul Weimer
Lucille by Alec McQuay
Born by G Clark Hellery
Repo by Ren Warom
One Sssingular Sssenssation by Chloe Yates

Review of Tales of Eve edited by Mhairi Simpson

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My friend Mhairi Simpson informs me that this small anthology was born during a late night session at the bar during a Con last year. It’s one of those cool ideas that once suggested, everyone wonders why they didn’t think of it. And it came to fruition because once everyone completely sobered up, it was still a cool idea – an anthology around the notion of women creating an ideal companion. Hence the title, Tales of Eve.

Weird Science, Stepford Wives, that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer…  Genre fiction abounds with tales of men creating (or tales of eveattempting to create) the perfect woman.  Now it’s the woman’s turn. But being female, she’s flexible. She doesn’t just want to create the perfect man. She wants the perfect companion, be it man, beast or washing machine.

The other smart touch was to ensure there were a couple of big names in this anthology, along with those not so well-known and male contributors as well as women. In short, a genuine mix. But what was clearly necessary to get into this select anthology of ten stories, was that the writing had to be good, the concept sharply original and the story to bounce off the page. There isn’t a poor or indifferent story in here – and I’m picky about short fiction.

“Father’s Day” by Francesca Terminiello is one of the most memorable for me – mostly because the ending gave me goosebumps – in a creepy, oh nooo… way. She sets up the characters very effectively, so that I really cared about little Molly, which had to be the point to make that ending so disturbing. Very, very well done.

“The CompaniSIM, The Treasure, The Thief and Her Sister” by C.J. Paget takes the main theme in a completely different direction. I hated the protagonist and what she was doing – so the reveal at the ending gave me great satisfaction, as well as underlining there is nothing so visceral as real sibling hatred.

Juliet McKenna’s very first science fiction short story “Game, Set and Match?” is great fun. The pacing and tension were beautifully handled all the way through. But under the apparent humour lies a far sharper observation and this is one of the stories that has lodged in my head – because  men often do get far too caught up in the competitive business of playing a ‘friendly’ game…

Rob Haines managed to pull off a really nifty trick, to make me really care for an artificial intelligence in the story “In Memoriam”. And the one that I recall as the most disturbing is Ren Waroom’s “Unravel”. There is more than a metaphorical edge to this exploration of grief.  Suzanne McLeod’s “Mother Knows Best” mines the slightly fraught mother/daughter relationship with humorous and unexpected results.  While Adrian Tchaikovsky’s story “Fragile Creations” is another one with an unexpected twist…

But the thing is – they are all gems. Every. Single. One. A massive tribute to Mhairi as editor and kudos to Fox Spirit for publishing the anthology – we all know that short story collections don’t make anyone rich. If you enjoy writing and reading short fiction, then track down this collection – it is a masterclass in how to take an apparently simple concept and meld it into a number of original, beautifully crafted stories.
10/10

Review of Downside Girls – short story collection by Jaine Fenn

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This collection of four standalone stories, with a foreword by Alistair Reynolds, features some of characters from Fenn’s debut novel, downsidegirlsPrinciples of Angels. It isn’t a surprise that someone has jumped at the opportunity to publish further stories in this fascinating world, where the Angels are augmented female assassins principally employed to kill politicians that the electorate have judged to be inadequate. One of the ironies in Fenn’s world is that the Angels are taken from the feral underclass who eke out a living on the underside of the floating Kesh City, most of whom are far too busy trying to survive to bother with voting…

I read Principles of Angels, the first book in her Hidden Empire series, after meeting Jaine Fenn at Bristolcon last year and while I enjoyed the story, it is her world that has lodged in my head ever since. Her clean, unfussy writing style belies the layered intricacy of her worldbuilding, where her protagonists are completely ringfenced by their extraordinary environment which Fenn manages to depict as entirely normal. It’s a neat trick to pull off and a lot harder than Fenn makes it look. The slightest sense of flourish on the author’s part would have immediately undermined the gritty edge of reality confronting her characters.

This collection can be read without having ever picked up a Jaine Fenn book – in fact provides an excellent introduction to Fenn’s writing and the world.

Collateral Damage – When Vanna Agriet accidentally spills her drink over an Angel it could spell death, but instead it leads to a rather peculiar friendship. This story provides an insight into the life of an Angel, and their unique role within society is explored from an enjoyably oblique angle, compared to the political machinations that drove the plot in Principles of Angels. I particularly enjoyed the twist at the end.

Death on Elsewhere Street – The downsider Geal hopes for a better life topside, only to find herself embroiled in a ‘removal’ by the Angel Thiera. This is another story that explores the role of Angels – and what the consequences of becoming society’s official assassins can be for those involved. I found it all the more powerful that it was told from the viewpoint of someone else caught up in the action.

Angel Dust – Downside, Isha’s brother Rakul brings a little black box home with him, and sets Isha on a journey that takes her to a meeting with the most powerful man in Kesh City. This story is the one in the collection that highlights the grim conditions in Downside as Isha struggles to deal with the fallout when her brother becomes embroiled in one of the gangs. I particularly enjoyed the incident where Isha narrowly avoids death when she’s drawn to the ornamental fountain playing Topside, only to receive an urgent warning that it is poisoned to prevent citizens from drinking free water…

The Three Temptations of Larnia Mier – Larnia Mier, a talented topside musician and instructor, is injured after witnessing a removal first-hand. As her abilities diminish, new possibilities open up. This is the odd one out. Larnia Mier comes from the privileged part of Kesh City – Topside. No gritted, giddying journeys for her to gather sufficient water, hopping over holes in the walkways that could plunge you to your death…

The other interesting difference with this story is that it is told in third person point of view, whereas the others are all narrated in first person viewpoint. Yet, it’s my favourite… I’m still trying to figure out why – I’m a sucker for gutsy heroines from hard backgrounds and first person pov is always the one I’m attracted to, both as writer and reader. I found her fascinating in Principles of Angels, too. Fenn has her brittle, solitary personality absolutely nailed, and I think she leaps off the page. I also very much enjoyed the ending – initially, I figured this was going somewhere more predictable and less tricky and hats off to Fenn for giving us this less tidy, yet far more convincing conclusion to this story.

As Reynolds mentions in the Foreword, short story writing is demanding in ways that novel writing isn’t, and in order to produce an anthology of successful short stories takes a high degree of writing skill. Fenn’s Downside Girls not only is a great addition to her list of published books, but also demonstrates her talent.
9/10