Tis the season for free short stories

Heads up, readers.

Do you love short stories? I’m not an avid fan but I do like them now and then. Penguin Randomhouse has a great program where you can receive free short stories in your inbox in installments. Stories in the past have been written by a number of different authors, some very well known like Mona Awad, Yaa Gyasi, Jay McInerny and even Margaret Atwood. Each time they offer this, the stories are taken from books of stories by that author. It’s a sample and I suppose they hope you might buy the whole book.

The short story is divided into four parts and you will receive one part each day from Tuesday to Friday for three months. I did this last year. Some of them I liked though one or two weren’t to my taste. Everyone’s different, right? If you think you might like this, go to the website and sign up. You can read a little bit each day or save the four parts for the weekend and read the whole story at once. 


Review: The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

2017: 43
2.5 of 5 stars
Published January 2011

The Red Garden spans nearly 300 years telling the stories of the inhabitants of a small Massachusetts town, Blackwell. It’s really a series of connecting short stories about the descendants of the founding families, touching base every generation or 2 or 3. I had thought it would be a family saga, and it is, kind of, but on a higher level than I expected. You don’t really get to know the characters all that well because it covers so many of them over the years and it gets a bit more confusing to connect the characters to the original families as they intermarry and the names change.

Through it all is the garden, with red soil and where all the plants end up blooming and producing in various shades of red, including the old apple tree, the Tree of Life, that produced fruit during the year there was no summer, keeping the original inhabitants alive through a long, tough winter. Elsewhere, there is an element of magic, of the spirits, of folklore (Johnny Appleseed, the ghost of a child, a woman that may or may not be a mermaid).

I enjoyed the first story about the families that founded the town and the woman, Hallie, who was instrumental in keeping them all alive by hunting in the winter, and even milking a hibernating female bear. She lied and said she’d found a cow wandering. I wondered why the others didn’t ask her why she didn’t just bring the cow home? But I digress. Hoffman is a lovely writer but I’m afraid the characters and the stories felt more like snapshots. Though I liked a few of them, overall, they didn’t grab me. Perhaps it’s just that it wasn’t what I was expecting. I have read a couple of her books and I really enjoyed them so I think this is just an exception, for me. And only my opinion, of course. You may really like it.

Review: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

2017: 36
3.5 of 5 stars
Published June 2014

This is a novella or a long short story by Gillian Flynn, the woman behind Gone Girl, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, all of which I really enjoyed.

The unnamed narrator is a woman that has grown up running cons with her grifter mother and is now giving psychic readings in the front of the shop and hand jobs in the back. Most of the people that come in for readings are easy marks for someone that can read people well but when Susan Burke comes in, clearly upset, the narrator gets drawn into a tangle of a situation. Is Susan’s house haunted? Is her stepson evil or possessed? Is the con being conned? The story was pretty good, but the ending was a bit fast and loose.

Review: Doctor Who: The Legends of River Song

2017: 17
3.5 of 5 stars
Published June 2016
Authors: Jenny T. Colgan, Jaqueline Rayner, Steve Lyons, Guy Adams, Andrew Lyons

Dr. River Song is the erstwhile wife of timelord Doctor Who. If you have followed the tv series in the past 10 years, you’ll be familar with her. She’s brash, sassy and ever stylish. She is also in Stormcage prison for killing The Doctor. But that’s another story. River Song has kept a diary of all her adventures with The Doctor and solo as well and this book gives us 5 of them, a romp through space and time, adventures on her own terms.

Each of the stories is actually written by a different author. A couple of them also feature The Doctor, Matt Smith’s incarnation since that’s the majority of the time she was on the show. Some stories work better than others in both the story and in capturing the essence of River Song. It’s fun for fans of the show.