Posts Tagged With: short stories

Ford County by John Grisham

 This is John Grisham’s collection of short stories, all of which are set in America’s Deep South, in the fictional Ford County.

There are seven stories in the collection, and they are by turns, touching, funny and insightful. 

The book starts off with ‘Blood Drive’ – an amusing tale about three hapless men on a mercy dash to Memphis.  Unfortunately there are a number of distractions along the way!  This story was very entertaining and made me laugh on a number of occasions.

The second story is ‘Fetching Raymond’, about two brothers who take their mother to see her third son in prison.  Raymond is intelligent and manipulative, but whether his guile will help him now, remains to be seen.  This was one of my favourite stories in the collection; Raymond made for an irritating, exasperating but ultimately pathetic character.

‘Fish Files’ tells the tale of a small town lawyer who suddenly sees a chance to make big money and escape his humdrum life.  An interesting tale which ended up very differently to how I had expected.

The fourth story is ‘Casino’ and is about a man who learns the intricacies of gambling in order to ease his broken heart and gain revenge.  This was the one story in the whole collection which didn’t really work for me.  I did feel that a knowledge of casinos and how certain card games were played would have helped.

‘Michael’s Room’ describes the ordeal of a lawyer who is forcedby gunpoint to see the results of his legal wrangling in a case years earlier, where he was able to deny a family with a disable son, the compensation which they so obviously deserved.  It was a thought provoking story, with an abrupt end – I would actually have liked to see how the tale progressed beyond the short story.

‘Quiet Haven’ is about a conman working in an old people’s home.  Despite his intentions, he is one of the only person to show compassion and tenderness towards some of the people in his care, and it was hard not to like (or at least have some respect for) him, although he made no attempt to hide his less-than-pure actions from the reader.

The final story in the collection was also my favourite.  ‘Funny Boy’, set in the late 1980s in Ford County, describes how a young man with AIDS returns to his home town after living in San Francisco and New York.  He has come home to die, but despite his illness, people in Clanton, Ford County are largely unsympathetic, due to both his homosexuality and his illness.  Lack of understanding about AIDS is demonstrated in the way people refuse to shake his hand, or refuse to even touch anything which he has touched (it’s worth remembering that in the late 1980s, AIDS was a relatively newly discovered condition and there was far less understanding of it than there is now).  However, he does form one connection of sorts with an elderly black lady namd Emporia who agrees to look after him in the hope of securing her own home as payment.  This story made me both angry (at the attitude of people towards Adrian and his condition) and sad.

It’s easy to see why John Grisham has sold as many books as he has.  He simply tells a great story in an engaging fashion, and it’s easy to lose yourself in one of his books for a few hours.  Short stories don’t always hold the reader’s attention in the same way as a full length novels – there is less time to devote to characterisation and twists and turns – but these stories were very enjoyable.

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Dream Makers by Nora Roberts

Waterstones Synopsis:

“Untamed”: Jo Wilder was certain her charming new boss, Keane Prescott, imperilled everything she cared for, but she couldn’t deny the attraction between them. Though Keane’s kisses left her breathless, it was his tenderness that threatened to tame her heart…

“Less of a Stranger”: Confident and arrogant, David Katcherton swept into Megan Miller’s life and awakened feelings that had long been lying dormant. But she wasn’t about to fall for this irresistible stranger who was after her grandfather’s business, despite the passion Katch aroused within her…

This is two books in one – both romantic short stories, and both I really enjoyed. This is the second Nora Roberts book I’ve read, and again I finished the book feeling satisfied. The first short story is called “Untamed” and it is based in the circus. The owner has just died and left the circus to his son, whom he had had no contact with for most of the son Keane’s life. Jo, the protagonist is worried that Keane will sell the circus and has disliked him since before his Dad’s death. Yet things change when she meets him. The chemistry is instant and distracting… The second story is called “Less of a Stranger” and is shorter than Untamed. The feature of this novel is a fairground. Megan has grown up with her grandfather, who owns the fairground. She is worried when a stranger – Katch comes along and tries to buy it. Although the fairground is only just making a profit, Megan does not want to see it go. Along with that, Katch is determined not only to have the fairground, he is determined to have Megan too; and she is finding it hard to resist falling for him…

If you like chick-lit and quick-reads than this book is for you. Both of these stories were good and I enjoyed them both immensely. I probably preferred Untamed more as it was a bit longer so I felt I engaged with the characters more. However, both were very good. They were predictable but I didn’t mind that. And I liked how they had unusual settings for romance novels. I loved reading about the circus and the lions in Untamed, and reading the descriptions of the fairground was lovely too. One of my favourite parts was when Katch and Megan were on top of the Ferris wheel looking down at the fun and lights below.

I liked both Jo and Megan. They were determined and prepared to stand up for what they believed in and what they felt was right. I loved the affection they had for others, such as Megan for her grandfather, and I enjoyed reading how they pursued what was right. I liked the outcomes for both them too. I found them likeable and believabl.

These were not hard to read. I was hooked from the beginning and enjoyed both stories. Roberts wrote wonderful characters and although the outcomes were not a surprise I liked how she picked original settings, making a great story. This was not a let down and I would highly recommend this book.

4/5

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Love Begins in Winter by Simon van Booy

love begins in winter

Synopsis from www.harpercollins.com:

On the verge of giving up—anchored to dreams that never came true and to people who have long since disappeared from their lives—Van Booy’s characters walk the streets of these stark and beautiful stories until chance meetings with strangers force them to face responsibility for lives they thought had continued on without them.

This book contains five short stories. In all of them the protagonist is lost and looking for love. They all find it, but the journey each take are individual and life-changing. The characters are all likeable, and you find yourself wanting the best for them. The outcomes are not always as you expect, but that just adds to the joy of this book.

This is a beautiful book. Everything from the cover design to the stories is just gorgeous. Van Booy explores the power of children, growing up and the power music can have. The sentences are short but the stories just flow from the pages. It is a quick read, gripping and thrilling. This is a real page-turner. As I sit writing this I can’t think of a bad thing to say about this book. I was hooked right from the beginning. All five stories are different but with one theme: love. This is an uplifting book, and I highly recommend it.

10/10

Published by: Beautiful Books

RRP: £7.99

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The Wow Signal by Patrick Chapman

The Wow Signal is a collection of twelve short stories, which have been described as ‘beautifully written vignettes that have a filmic quality’. They are certainly difficult to categorise, and each is very different to the last.

The opening story, Burning The Bed was actually made into a prizewinning short film, and it is a touching description of a breakup. Return Of  The Empress is rather disturbing, and Wake is incredibly so! Others, such as Happy Hour show a lighter, humorous side of the author.

My own personal favourites are Venus d’Arc and No Place Like Home, a tale of mother and daughter, and lost love, which would make a good novel if expanded.

This is a varied collection, which you will want to read, reflect on, then read again. For those who like to explore the art of the short story, this is not to be missed.

Published by bluechrome.co.uk

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The Secret Season – Tim Jeffreys (Audio book)

A selection of short stories, all with a menacing atmosphere and very well told by the narrators, Mia Jaye and Josh Cass.

Bones in the Meadow has a dark fairytale feel to it and is about the fate that befalls a group of young boys who are out camping.

 The Caged Sea is scarily realistic. It’s about an angry worker and his rage against society.

 The Monkey and the Munequita is slightly off the wall fantasy story and very quirky.

 Two cards on the Table is about a game of chance. It’s filled with a nightmare quality and has a dark,  brooding quality to it.

 Alice and the Scarecrow really creeped me out. Little Alice should have learnt to not be so mean before going on her picnic.

 The Secret Season finishes  this fabulous selection of dark horror tales.

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