Review: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

Title: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories 
Author: P.D. James
Genre: Mystery, Short Stories
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

As the acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’ P.D. James was frequently commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a special short story for Christmas. Four of the very best of these have been rescued from the archives and are published together for the first time. P.D. James’s sparkling prose illuminates each of these perfectly formed stories, making them ideal reading for the darkest days of the year. While she delights in the secrets that lurk beneath the surface at enforced family gatherings, her Christmas stories also provide enjoyable puzzles to keep the reader guessing. 

From the title story about a strained country house gathering on Christmas Eve, another about an illicit affair that ends in murder, and two cases for James’s poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh — each treats the reader to James’s masterfully atmospheric story-telling, always with the lure of a mystery to be solved.

Review:

This is a festive collection of murder mysteries. This is the second collection of P.D. James stories that I’ve read, and I find her stories a little disappointing. I find that many of her stories don’t end in justice being served. That was the case in some of these stories.

I didn’t like the ending of The Mistletoe Murder, because I thought it was too obvious. The Boxdale Inheritance was very complicated, and I think it would have been better as a full novel because there were so many characters. The Twelve Clues of Christmas was anticlimactic, even though it was about an unusually, staged suicide on Christmas. I liked A Very Commonplace Murder the best because it was unpredictable, and I couldn’t guess the ending.

If you like P.D. James, I’m sure you will love this collection. However, it didn’t work for me.

What to read next:

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Cover Her Face (Adam Dalgliesh #1) by P.D. James

Have you read The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories? What did you think of it?

Review: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore Presents #1)

Title: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore Presents #1)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Pottermore Limited
Source: Purchased
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

‘Minerva was the Roman goddess of warriors and wisdom. William McGonagall is celebrated as the worst poet in British history. There was something irresistible to me about his name, and the idea that such a brilliant woman might be a distant relative of the buffoonish McGonagall.’ – J.K. Rowling

Pottermore Presents is a collection of J.K. Rowling’s writing from the Pottermore archives: short reads originally featured on pottermore.com with some exclusive new additions. These eBooks, with writing curated by Pottermore, will take you beyond the Harry Potter stories as J.K. Rowling reveals her inspiration, intricate details of characters’ lives and surprises from the wizarding world.

These stories of heroism, hardship and dangerous hobbies profile two of the Harry Potter stories’ most courageous and iconic characters: Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin. J.K. Rowling also gives us a peek behind the closed curtains of Sybill Trelawney’s life, and you’ll encounter the reckless, magical-beast-loving Silvanus Kettleburn along the way.

Review:

This is a great collection of stories from Hogwarts. It is part of an ebook series created by Pottermore. This book gives some details of characters, which do not appear in the Harry Potter series.

The book begins with Minerva McGonagall’s life story. It wasn’t until I started reading it, that I realized we don’t know much about her past from the series. She faced many hardships in her early adult life, but they shaped her into the strong woman she was as professor and headmistress of Hogwarts.

The second part was about Remus Lupin, so it was definitely a tear jerker. J.K. Rowling even said it was an emotional story to write. He is one of my favourite characters in the series, and he had a tragic life.

The book ends on a lighter note with stories about Sybill Trelawney and Silvanus Kettleburn. They were minor characters, and Kettleburn doesn’t even appear in the original series, but their stories were entertaining.

This is a great start to the Pottermore series, which is a must read for Harry Potter fans!

What to read next:

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists by J.K. Rowling

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling

Have you read Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies? What did you think of it?

Review: Kindred Spirits

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Title: Kindred Spirits
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Short Story, Young Adult
Publisher: Macmillan Childrens Books
Source: Purchased
Release Date: February 25, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

‘Everybody likes everything these days. The whole world is a nerd.’
‘Are you mad because other people like Star Wars? Are you mad because people like me like Star Wars?’
‘Maybe.’

If you broke Elena’s heart, Star Wars would spill out. So when she decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new movie, she’s expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke and Leia just as much as she does.

What she’s not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people; to have to pee into a collectible Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels.

Kindred Spirits is an engaging short story by Rainbow Rowell, author of the bestselling Eleanor & ParkFangirl and Carry OnKindred Spirits has been specially produced for World Book Day.

Review:

This is a great short story about a Star Wars fangirl.

I don’t think I could ever camp outside for a movie like Elena does in this story. The irony is that they didn’t even need to camp outside since they had already bought their tickets online. But Elena, Troy, and Gabe did it for the ultimate fan experience.

I liked that they talked about different kinds of fans. Can you only be a real fan if you’ve seen all the movies? Or can you be a super fan when you’ve missed the prequels? I think if you love any kind of fandom, you’re a valid fan!

I loved this story! It had a great ending.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Review: You Think It, I’ll Say It

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Title: You Think It, I’ll Say It
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
Publisher: Random House
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

‘Most people I know who have read anything by Curtis Sittenfeld would read anything else the woman wrote, me included’ The Times

In ‘The World Has Many Butterflies’, a married woman flirts with a man she meets at parties by playing You think it, I’ll say it, putting into words the bitchy things she guesses he’s thinking about their fellow guests. But she is in for a shock when, in time, she finds out what was really in his mind. ‘The Nominee’ sees Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, confessing her surprising true feelings about a woman journalist she has sparred with over the years. In ‘Gender Studies’, a visiting academic sleeps with her taxi driver, for what turns out to be all the wrong reasons.

The theme that unites these stories in this dazzling first collection by Curtis Sittenfeld is how even the cleverest people tend to misread others, and how much we all deceive ourselves. Sharp and tender, funny and wise, this collection shows Sittenfeld’s knack for creating real, believable characters that spring off the page, while also skewering contemporary mores with brilliant dry wit.

Review:

I loved Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Elgible! It is one of my favourite Pride and Prejudice adaptations. So I was excited to read her new collection of short stories.

I really enjoyed these stories. The stories all give the same message at the end: people are often misjudged, either by ourselves or others. This was more obvious in some of the stories than others. This message became clear in the second story entitled “The World Has Many Butterflies.” In that story a man and woman play a game which they call “I’ll Think It, You Say It,” where the woman judges people nearby, presumably saying what the man thinks about them. After that story, I understood the point of the collection.

Some of the stories were so detailed and hooked me right away, so I was left wanting more. I loved “Plausible Deniability.” It had a great twist that I didn’t see coming. “A Regular Couple” was also good, and kept me holding my breath to see how it would end. These stories could be expanded into great novels.

I liked this collection! It is clever and entertaining.

Review: A Big Hand For The Doctor

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Title: A Big Hand For The Doctor
Author: Eoin Colfer
Genre: Short Story, Science Fiction
Publisher: Puffin
Source: Purchased
Release Date: January 23, 2013
Rating: ★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Eleven Doctors, eleven months, eleven stories: a year-long celebration of Doctor Who! The most exciting names in children’s fiction each create their own unique adventure about the time-travelling Time Lord.

London, 1900. The First Doctor is missing both his hand and his granddaughter, Susan. Faced with the search for Susan, a strange beam of soporific light, and a host of marauding Soul Pirates intent on harvesting human limbs, the Doctor is promised a dangerous journey into a land he may never forget…

Review:

I’m not very familiar with the first Doctor Who. I’ve watched a couple of episodes with him in them, but they are very different from the current episodes. He isn’t my favourite Doctor, but without him the show may not exist today. The actor who played the Doctor got dementia, so he could no longer act on the show. They had him “regenerate” into a new actor. It was a clever way to keep the story going for 50 years.

I didn’t like the way the Doctor was portrayed in this story. He spent a long time obsessing over his new strange claw hand thing. He looked for weapons to fight the bad guys, when the Doctor is supposed to be a peaceful figure. He didn’t seem like the character I know. He may have changed over time, but this version isn’t right for today’s audience.

The narrative was strange. It kept switching from the Doctor’s perspective to the perspective of other characters. It was all done in third person, but the narrator knew everyone’s thoughts. I don’t like this style, because it isn’t focused on one character. It is too broad.

I didn’t like this story, but I hope I like the others in the 50th anniversary short story collection.

Review: Reader, I Married Him

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Title: Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Purchased
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

This collection of original stories by today’s finest women writers—including Tracy Chevalier, Francine Prose, Elizabeth McCracken, Tessa Hadley, Audrey Niffenegger, and more—takes inspiration from a line in Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel, Jane Eyre.

A fixture in the literary canon, Charlotte Brontë is revered by readers all over the world. Her novels featuring unforgettable, strong heroines still resonate with millions today. And who could forget one of literature’s best-known lines: “Reader, I married him” from her classic novel Jane Eyre?

Part of a remarkable family that produced three acclaimed female writers at a time in 19th-century Britain when few women wrote, and fewer were published, Brontë has become a great source of inspiration to writers, especially women, ever since. Now in Reader, I Married Him, twenty of today’s most celebrated women authors have spun original stories, using the line from Jane Eyre as a springboard for their own flights of imagination.

Reader, I Married Him will feature stories by:

Tracy Chevalier, Tessa Hadley, Sarah Hall, Helen Dunmore, Kirsty Gunn, Joanna Briscoe, Jane Gardam, Emma Donaghue, Susan Hill, Francine Prose, Elif Shafak, Evie Wyld, Patricia Park, Salley Vickers, Nadifa Mohamed, Esther Freud, Linda Grant, Lionel Shriver, Audrey Niffenegger, Namwali Serpell, and Elizabeth McCracken.

Unique, inventive, and poignant, the stories in Reader, I Married Him pay homage to the literary genius of Charlotte Brontë, and demonstrate once again that her extraordinary vision continues to inspire readers and writers.

Review:

This is a great collection of short stories!

I loved the stories that expanded on the original story of Jane Eyre. “The Mirror” tells about the marriage of Jane and Rochester. In that story Rochester tries to convince Jane that she made up his mad wife in the attic, which makes Jane question if she is going mad herself. In “Reader, She Married Me,” Rochester tells his side of the story of his marriage with Bertha. He loved her so much, and ended up marrying Jane because she wore him down. These are both fascinating takes on the classic story.

Some of the stories weren’t obviously about Jane Eyre. One of those was “The Self-Seeding Sycamore,” which was about a woman who had to fight with her neighbor over an invasive tree between their yards. It didn’t have an obvious Jane Eyre theme, but I still enjoyed reading it.

This collection is a must-read for fans of Jane Eyre!

Review: The Radical Element

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Title: The Radical Element
Author: Jessica Spotswood (editor)
Genre: Young Adult, Short Stories
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In an anthology of revolution and resistance, a sisterhood of YA writers shines a light on a century and a half of heroines on the margins and in the intersections.

To respect yourself, to love yourself—should not have to be a radical decision. And yet it remains as challenging for an American girl to make today as it was in 1927 on the steps of the Supreme Court. It’s a decision that must be faced whether you’re balancing on the tightrope of neurodivergence, finding your way as a second-generation immigrant, or facing down American racism even while loving America. And it’s the only decision when you’ve weighed society’s expectations and found them wanting. In The Radical Element, twelve of the most talented writers working in young adult literature today tell the stories of the girls of all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs—whether that means secretly learning Hebrew in early Savannah, using the family magic to pass as white in 1920s Hollywood, or singing in a feminist punk band in 1980s Boston. And they’re asking you to join them.

Review:

This is a collection of stories that feature girls who live on the margins of society in some way, and rebel against the expectations of society.

I loved the tension and pacing in the stories. They often ended right as something was going to happen, which left me wanting more. I’m going to look up other works by these authors, because they were all great.

One thing that bothered me about these stories was the lack of geographical and racial diversity. The first half of the stories featured white main characters and were set in southern United States. The one main character who was Mexican used her magic to appear white to blend in with the other actresses in early twentieth century Hollywood. Each of the girls had some other way that they stood on the fringe of society, whether in ability, sexuality, or religion but I would have liked to see more races and settings in the stories. The latter half of the book featured more main characters who were women of colour, but I wish they appeared earlier in the book.