Rayne's Five Favourites: Short Story Collections
Here are five short story collections I enjoyed, each by a different contemporary author, each published recently in ebook format. The selection is highly subjective, based on my personal taste. I like stories which are creepy, quirky, twisted or dark, or which allow me to peek into different cultures and faraway places.
1. Dark and Twisted: The Fairy Cake Bake Shoppe And 13 Other Weird Tales by April Grey
These are easy-to-read, entertaining stories, but they have a bite to them. Paranormal elements - vampires, zombies, fairies, ghosts, sexbots, magical cupcakes - are woven into everyday reality. Some of the stories have dark or erotic content - nothing overly graphic, but unsuitable for young readers.
I enjoyed Exile where a vampire gigolo tempts an older woman with eternal youth.
2. Short and Vivid: Short Stories To Read On The Bus by Frederick Langridge
I wouldn't read stories on the bus - I'd get travel-sick if I tried - but there are many other occasions when there's just time for a quickie read. Since I take my Kindle almost everywhere these days, it's handy to have short story collections like this. The stories are short, but not too short. I felt I was getting a good complete story with every one.
Some of the stories resonated more with me than others, some I didn't care for, others I loved. But that's ok. The collection contains a lot of stories, and it's fun to choose favourites. My favourite was the ghost story Beware of Tuesdays because the suspense is high, and after reading it I kept thinking about the nature of this haunting.
What I liked particularly: The beginnings are vivid, immediately introducing the characters, the location and the premise, so I was hooked from the start. The pacing is perfect and the stories keep up the interest (at least, this reader's interest) throughout, and there's no dull middle. The narrative voice changes from story to story, always appropriate to the main character's perspective.
3. Exotic and Sensitive: Coloured and Other Stories by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
These stories deal with cultural contrasts and different societal traditions in an intelligent, sensitive way. Many of the characters experience some kind of culture clash, for example, they grew up in one culture and now learn to adapt to another, or they belong to one culture and their family to another. The stories are about the characters' way of conciliating and integrating these cultures.
I like the vividness and sensitivity, and I felt I learnt quite a bit about the concerns of people who come from those cultures. In places, the stories are sad, but the overall tone is uplifting.
The story which stuck in my mind long after reading is Dasi. It has an interesting structure, told backwards from when the narrator is a 78-year old widow to when she's a 14-year old bride, and it is at the same time gentle and shocking.
4. Intelligent and Entertaining: Ghosts Can Bleed by Tracie McBride
I love the stories, every one of them. Each develops a 'what if' scenario, sometimes taking a very basic idea and spinning it out into a plot. The ideas a surreal, but utterly plausible. Based on human nature, I can believe these bizarre things are really happening.
The stories are intelligent and entertaining. Some are thought-provoking, too. Many have a paranormal, fantasy, science fiction or horror element.
My favourite yarn in this book Last Chance To See which offers an original take on the undead state.
5. Atmospheric and Moving: Gifts - Four Poignant Stories by Jonathan Broughton
These stories are a little sad in places, but filled with hope and beauty. They're set on the south coast of England where I live, so I can personally relate to the location.
My favourite is Three-Ply Fantasy Special,a sensitive piece about an older person with a domineering daughter. I first read this story more than two years ago and still can't get out of my mind.
I'm delighted to have discovered many excellent short story collections and anthologies recently - far more than ever before.
A few years ago, most publishers would not touch single-author short story collections. This kind of book didn't sell in big enough numbers to cover the costs of printing, paper, storage, transport and shelf space.
But things have changed. With the advent of e-books, these costs no longer apply, and single-author story collections have become viable ventures. Many get published, and some are very good indeed.
Another benefit of the internet age is the ease of communication between readers and authors. Many authors include an e-mail address at the back of the book, inviting readers to get in touch. I've corresponded with the authors of these books, something which would have been unlikely in the days of snailmail.
I liked some of the stories so much that - wearing my Editor hat - I selected them for inclusion in my themed anthologies. You'll find, for example, a story from The Fairy Cake Bake Shoppe in Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, and one from Ghosts Can Bleed in Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts.