Review: Don’t Look Now and Other Stories – Daphne du Maurier

don't look nowThis was, once again, an incredible collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier. It’s also actually the penultimate of her short story collections for me to read. Thankfully I do still have one left to read, which I didn’t think I did at the start of this book – I thought I had read them all. Needless to say, I savoured this over the entirety of the month of December thinking it would be my last foray in to her short stories.

On the whole this was incredible, as with all of her short story collections. There were a couple in the collection that I didn’t click with quite as much but damn, this was good.

The stand out story has to be the first one, which sent chills down my spine when I read it. I kid you not. It starts out really mundane but then becomes really trippy and honestly it is so good. It was atmospheric and completely bizarre but so, so very du Maurier and I loved it.

I hate to repeat myself but her ability to build atmosphere is incredible and I just find myself so drawn in to her work and I just can’t tear myself away. There was a low point in the collection, there is always a weak story, but a weak short story by du Maurier is still an amazing story by the arbitrary standards I rate a book on!

Overall this was a 4* read. Alongside the titular story, my favourite was The Way of the Cross which was also a damn good read. I’d put this up there with my favourites, but honestly of her short story collections my favourite will always be The Rendezvous which I really ought to reread soon! I still have The Breaking Point to read – which I will have to get to in the near future! I’d recommend her short stories to anyone so seriously, give them a whirl!

Review: Public Library + Other Stories – Ali Smith

Public LibraryAli Smith is probably my favourite living author. The way that woman can turn a sentence is just incredible and I honestly think her work just keeps getting better. Her short stories are always masterpieces and this collection is no different.

I will start with a simple statement; this isn’t her best collection, not by a long shot. But it is, nonetheless, amazing. I really liked the layout of this book in that each story is separated by an interlude from various people and how much libraries mean to them. The stories themselves were all perfectly readable but they were primarily 3* stories to start with and, in my opinion, the stories became stronger as the book moved on. The final 3 or 4 were amazing and if the whole book – or even just a couple more stories – were of that calibre I would very easily be able to give this 5*.

However, my final feelings with this book is that is was good, I loved it, it gave me everything I went in to it expecting but I didn’t feel it gave me much more which is what I was holding out for. Ali remains one of my favourite authors and I will read anything she writes, short story collections are notoriously hard for me as a reader to give 5* and this sadly just missed out (I gave it 4* if anyone cares!)

Final words are a big thank you to my lovely friend Sar for gifting me this for my birthday. It was very much loved & appreciated!

Review: A Portable Shelter – Kirsty Logan

PortableShelterSo I read The Gracekeepers, I also read The Rental Heart; both of them got 4* from me so it was given that I was going to pre-order this because Kirsty is just fabulous, her writing is beautiful and I just needed this in my life. However, I didn’t expect this to be quite as wonderful as it was. I went in with trepidation, I had such a good feeling about this collection that I just didn’t want to be disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed – how could I have been, this is just beautiful – and it’s my favourite short story collection of the year – without doubt.

This is a collection of short stories told within a novella. So it’s a bit inception-y in that there is stories within a story. Ruth and Liska are having a baby, they have promised to only tell the truth to their child but both want to tell their unborn child fairytales and things they have learnt from them. So Ruth tells stories to her unborn child when Liska is at work and Liska tells them to the child inside Ruth when Ruth is asleep, so neither get caught breaking their promise.

How this series of stories was told was inspired. The fact that it’s stories within a story, that between each fairy tale we get an introduction from either Ruth or Liska to the story directed at the unborn child is just such an interesting way to approach a series of short stories.

This collection was a 5/5 for me – even though it is full of fantastical tales of witches and werewolves and fairies it was really relatable. The messages that Ruth and Liska were telling their unborn child through these tales hit me. I was so emotionally invested in some of these stories, the emotions were raw (the last story made me cry, it was about grief and really just hit me in the gut after losing my grandmother at Christmas. Reading that last paragraph of the book I couldn’t see straight.)

This is an incredible collection and I really, really recommend it. The hardcover was a limited run of 1000 from an independent publisher in Scotland but I think Amazon still have a few copies left. If not, Vintage will be publishing the paperback next year. Seriously, try and get your hands on this because it’s the best of Kirsty’s work that I have read and the best short story collection in a long time, if not ever. This woman is a marvel and I really can’t wait to find out what she’s writing next because I already feel bereft!

Review: The Rental Heart & Other Fairytales – Kirsty Logan

9781907773754frcvr.inddAfter reading The Gracekeepers not so long ago, I fell in love with Kirsty’s writing. It was a couple of people, but mainly Christie who encouraged me to actually buy this. I’m so glad I read it. I had mixed feelings about The Gracekeepers, her writing was beautiful but this – these – are fabulous.

The titular story, The Rental Heart, featured first and I just devoured it. It was a great start to the book; there were so many great things in it – a bit of the sci-fi, fluidity of sexuality, a great character and ultimately, beautiful prose. It’s set in a world wherein you just rent a heart, when you go through a breakup you just get  your deposit back and get a new one. This story made me very excited to read the rest of the book so… on I went!

I always feel I should avoid doing a point-by-point breakdown of books like this, because I feel it ruins the surprise. All I will say is on the whole this was fantastic. The book contains a total of 20 stories, covering a variety of themes. Throughout the book she you move backwards and forwards in time, playing with sexuality, fairy stories, myths and folklore. Everything is told with this beautiful, sometimes flowery, prose and offset with a sudden burst of straightforwardness. Something I appreciated a lot is while there is a focus on same-sex relationships it isn’t the focus of the story, the point is it’s love and the emotions are the same whether the two people involved are of the same or opposite genders – I loved that. There are also stories of varying lengths, some are quite lengthy while others are more flash-fiction, which I really appreciated. It was a collection I had to keep putting down between stories because I just wanted to think about what I had just read.

Reading this, I really cannot wait for Kirsty’s next collection which I have on preorder. I read a review on goodreads which compared her short stories to the early work of du Maurier and, honestly, I can see that as a lover of du Maurier’s work. This collection was honestly one of the best collections I have read in a long time, there were a few stories that I didn’t enjoy which ultimately brings this down to a quite harsh 4* – I may end up changing it to 5* with more time to think on it!

Review: Faery Tales – Carol Ann Duffy

FaeryTalesI loved this collection. I absolutely adored it actually. I am so glad I picked this up to read during the bulk of my exams because it was just so beautiful to read a couple of stories before curling up to sleep!

I initially picked this book up a few months ago, simply because I loved the cover. I don’t often do that, especially when it’s a £20 book but this was so worth it. If you haven’t seen the book in person, you really ought to check out out because it genuinely is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever had the pleasure of looking at.

Anyway, the stories in this book are very short, and the font is relatively big and it is just a pleasure to read. Duffy is a master of language; the adaptations of well known fairy tales mixed in with new stories of her own creation leads to a wonderful collection that is perfect for the slightly childish grownups among us.

The original fairy tales (Anderssen and Grimm’s) were quite dark, most people are aware of the fact that Cinderella was not nearly as pretty as Disney painted it. Duffy does echo the format of these traditional tales; there is violence, questionable morals, things are black and white, good or bad – there is no in-between or shades of grey. There are also beautiful, black and white, illustrations which are so intricate… gah. I cannot express how much I loved the publishing of this book.

It wasn’t perfect, there were a few stories that were 3/5, some that were 5/5 so ultimately for me this is a 4/5.