Mini-Reviews: Short Stories, Vanquishers of Book Slumps

ss-jan-17

I’ve figured out the secret. (Or, more accurately, I’ve been let in on a secret.)

Friends, if you ever experience a book slump, read short stories. They’re bite-sized, more often than not they’re truly incredible, and they will probably get you out of that book slump. I’ve managed to weather some book slumps by binging on short stories, so today, I’ll be sharing with you mini-reviews of short stories that I’ve read! (Note, I will not be doing mini-reviews for¬†The Terracotta Bride¬†and¬†The Paper Menagerie –¬†two short stories I loved, so I want to write more about them!)

I also want to take this opportunity to give a shoutout to Aentee from Read at Midnight, who recommends a lot¬†of the¬†short stories that I read. Thank you so much, Aentee!¬†‚̧


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zenith
ZENITH BY SASHA ALSBERG & LINDSAY CUMMINGS

I do not hate this book. Cause for such a strong opinion often requires substance. Rather, after finishing Zenith I genuinely struggled to find anything redeeming or positive about it.

It is disappointing when you see a potentially amazing premise undermined by its own ambition. Zenith is the kind of story that tries desperately to be likable and badass. It presents a plethora of ideas that seem cool: all-female cast, a proficient murderer/mercenary with a conscience, girls who can kick ass, or the love-hate-betrayal relationship. In theory, these ideas are great; in theory, these ideas are likable. However, Zenith proves that cool ideas do not a good story make. Execution and substance matters, and that is the first failure of Zenith.

Poor delivery of its ideas, lacklustre and cardboard characters that border on inane, unpolished writing, and a whole lot of storytelling that flounders, Zenith fails to develop a sliver of its 62 pages. I appreciate that it is only the first part of a larger story so there is understandably a limited opportunity for development, but Zenith fails to do the one thing that firsts of a serialization should do: capture interest and inspire.

Find this book: Goodreads
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ginga

GINGA BY DANI√ČL JOSE OLDER

I haven’t read Older’s series Bone Street Rumba; I came across this short story when Lucille shared it on Twitter!

What I loved most about Ginga was its enigmatic cast of characters. There’s Carlos Delacruz, the half-dead half-resurrected soulcatcher who is badass but has a sensitive side and a kindness to him, but my absolute favourite was Kia, a teenager who has crushes, a job and homework from school, who fierce, strong, and a force to be reckoned with.

Even if you haven’t read books from the Bone Street Rumba series, Ginga is still an intriguing and enjoyable short story. I had never read any of Older’s books before, but now I’m thinking that I might – his writing style is charming and sharp, and the dialogue is witty and hilarious. Older’s worldbuilding in Ginga was fantastic; I loved the urban atmosphere and feel of New York City haunted and disturbed by ghosts.

Charming and fresh, Ginga is story about Carlos and Kia’s very different lives and how, by chance, they collide and tangle — with a twist.

Find this book: Goodreads, or read it here for free
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hungrydaughters

HUNGRY DAUGHTERS OF STARVING MOTHERS BY ALYSSA WONG

Wow. This short story won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story and I can definitely see why.

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers¬†is a horror-fantasy set in Manhattan, about a girl who feeds on thoughts –¬†but¬†that’s all I’ll say for now.¬†The story is dark, a little twisted, the right amount of creepy, but that’s why I loved it. On top of its incredible, deft narrative is an eloquent and subtle tale about hunger (for things other than food), the darkest parts of human nature, and desire. The story also features a diverse cast of queer Asian Americans, all who are fascinating and compelling¬†characters.

Promised to be unlike anything you have read before, Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers is a unique, perverse, and wonderfully strange short story. Excuse the cliche Рbut it is a must-read.

Find this book: Goodreads, or read it here for free
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afistof

A FIST OF PERMUTATIONS IN LIGHTNING AND WILDFLOWERS BY ALYSSA WONG

After reading¬†Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,¬†I was desperately craving more of Wong’s short stories. And so, I found¬†A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers.¬†

I read this short story three times, and with each reading, I found more to appreciate, more to think about, more to love.¬†A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers¬†is a haunting, sad, but strangely beautiful story about two sisters. Wong’s storytelling is sublime, and the structure of¬†A Fist of Permutations¬†gave the story a rare kind of intensity and an escalating desperation with each verse.¬†And yet, there is something peaceful and comforting about the narrative, and how it sits so closely and genuinely with grief and the rawness of it.

Quietly powerful and utterly profound, A Fist of Permutations is a stunning short story by Wong. I cannot wait to read more from her.

Find this book: Goodreads or read it for free here

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Something that I love about short stories is that they, more often than not, can convey so much emotion and so powerfully in such a short time. So if you ever want to read something that makes you¬†think¬†and¬†feel, read a short story! A good starting place is at Tor.com under¬†Fiction¬†– there, you’ll find plenty of short stories, and you can filter by genre! Have fun!

  • Do you like reading short stories? Why or why not?
  • What are some of your favourites?
  • Do you ever feel like you’re ‘cheating’ when you add short stories to your Goodreads Challenge?
  • On that note, how many books are you all aiming to read this year?
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26 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: Short Stories, Vanquishers of Book Slumps

  1. I’ve never been that big on short stories apart from when I had to do them in class–no particular reason, just that I’m used to reading novels and never really had the urge to read short stories. But I think that just changed! I will definitely be checking out these short stories you talk about here. I’m glad to hear some of them left such an impact on you! They seem really good. Will be looking forward to your reviews on the other two short stories that you loved! ;) Thanks so much for sharing!! <3

    • Hi Analee!!

      Oooh I know what you mean tbh. I never really looked at them before my friends started recommending some good ones. I think a lot of mainstream short stories feel very… similar?

      Aw, thank you!! I hope you enjoy the ones I rec! They’re wonderful, esp Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers. ‚̧

  2. OMG YES Hungry Daughters is absolutely incredible. Thanks for the link to the author’s other story, I am definitely going to be reading that as soon as I finish commenting!

    I adore the fact that you’re featuring short stories on your blog more often. They’re some of my favourite pieces of writing, and I think that they’re terribly under-represented by book bloggers! I can’t wait to read your reviews of The Paper Menagerie and The Terracotta Bride. :-)

    • Hey Wendy!

      Isn’t it just amazing?! I read it and it just. It blew my mind.

      Aw, thank you! I really agree. I hope to do this every so often whenever I find more short stories. More so, I find that some short stories convey more depth and emotion than some full-length novels do. I have so much love for them, esp the diverse ones.

  3. I had VERY resentful feelings toward short stories for a long time. They all came from my creative writing classes at university, where we were assigned story after story to read – almost all of them some variation of sad white man ponders the universe.

    Not so much my thing.

    Since I’ve left I’ve started to get interested in them again. Lenny does a fiction edition every few months, almost always by women. Sherman Alexie writes some AMAZING short stories too. It’s different, but at the start of her collection The Pedestrians, Rachel Zucker published a few long poems which she just called ‘Fables’ and I adore those too. They are almost all about women walking out into the wilderness, alone (basically what I imagine myself doing all the time but never actually do).

    I think I need some Alyssa Wong in my life. Thank you for the recommendation.

    • Hey Lydia!

      HAHAHAHA I can totally relate to this, and I don’t blame you tbh. A lot of the short stories I read before I started reading more diversely lacked a lot of depth and seemed a little self-gratuitous.

      Ooh I have never heard of Sherman Alexie but I’ll have to check it out – thank you! That’s a very interesting premise – I’m interested to see what sort of themes the stories will have.

      Alyssa Wong is spectacular. I think you’ll love her work, especially Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.

  4. I don’t usually read short stories, I think the last ones I read were Stars Above (a book in The Lunar Chronicles series), and if I really enjoyed it, I tend to prefer big books ahah :) Though I think that Ginga seems interesting, I might have to add it to my TBR :)

    • Hi Marie!

      I don’t usually read short stories either, but when I don’t feel like reading something long, I turn to short stories.
      Ginga is great! I haven’t read his other works, but now I’m interested to try them out. :)

  5. I agree, when in reading slump, read short stories! I have been in a horrible slump since January, but recently I read the Hogwarts Short Story from Pottermore and I flew through it xD And they also get me out of my slump. These stories are all very interesting, I will definitely check them out :D Thanks for sharing CW <3

    • Hey Tasya!

      I had no idea that Pottermore had short stories?! I was thinking of re-reading either HP4 or HP3, so maybe when I do, I’ll read some short stories from PM too! :P
      And thank YOU for visiting, as always. ‚̧

  6. When I first started looking for diverse fantasy and scifi a few years ago, I came across short stories too. Some of the best portals I could ask for.

    A few more short story writers: Helen Oyeyemi, Sofia Samatar, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion & Ship’s Brother), Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Kelly Link and Yoon Ha Lee.

    For fairytale retellings, Travel’s with the Snow Queen is amazing: http://uncannymagazine.com/article/travels-snow-queen/

    Aside from bookish friends, SFF magazines with an inclusive focus like Strange Horizons, Mithila Review (loved their Asian SFF round-table), Glittership Podcast (LGBTQ+ SFF) and Uncanny magazine are a great source for short stories and critical pieces. The Glittership Podcast also includes the transcript of short stories.

    *This post is wonderful. Reminds me that I should stop procrastinating on sharing a page of short stories I’ve read too <3.

    • Hi Glaiza!

      I totally agree. Some of the ones on Tor are amazing.

      Oooh thanks so much for the list and the SFF magazines! I’ll save these names and read their work when I’m in the mood for a short story. ‚̧

      I wanted to subscibe to Strange Horizons but $$$. T_T But one day, I will subscribe to them aaaaaall. :D

      YES YES! I’d love to hear your short story list, since you always give the best recommendations. ‚̧

  7. I remember reading this book of short stories about ordinary people in Wales…everyone seems to love it, but I just found it mostly meh, and only one or two calling out to me. When I think about it, they’ve got a bit of a fantastical element to them, so I’m definitely sticking to SFF short stories :D

  8. YES!!! I ironically just figured this out as well! I only read one short story, but it was a 40-pager about a puppy and a cute romance. Bingo, slump cured! I’m going to read Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers right now!
    -Amy

  9. Pingback: February Recap: Mini movie(?!) reviews and commemorating Black History Month | Read, Think, Ponder

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