What you find is not always what you’re looking for

Another busy week around my house had me searching again for a humorous short story for my Saturday review.

That wasn’t really what I found in the book I selected, but I came away satisfied with a good read, anyway.

After a searching the Kindle store for short humor, I finally settled on “Six Impossible Things” by¬†Renee Carter Hall for today’s reading. The cover art reminds me of a CD cover for the band Cake, which I really enjoy and can be quirky and off-beat in their humor, so I had really high hopes for a little laugh-out-loud comedy to lighten my mood.

According to the description on Amazon, this book includes, “A new father is visited by his childhood imaginary friend. A woman falls in love with a cartoon character. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse show up at a big-box retail chain. Sometimes humorous, often poignant, and always memorable, the six short stories in this collection may just make you believe impossible things.”

Although I didn’t find the light-hearted comedy that I was searching for, I did find a beautifully written, moving set of short stories. They mostly left a smile on my face, although I came closer to crying than I did to laughing in reading these short stories. Hall’s stories had a magical sense of nostalgia about them; they truly embraced the spirit of childhood dreams.

This is definitely a great free book for any fan of short fiction. I’d have even been satisfied with a purchase at the regular digital list price of $.99. I find it unfortunate that Hall doesn’t seem to have made more use of Kindle Direct Publishing or other easy sources to make her work available on digital format, as it seems only around half of the works on her Amazon page (which also includes a number of anthologies with other authors) are available in digital format. I hope she’ll consider releasing more short story anthologies in the future, because I found myself capitvated by this one.


Another unsettling short

After a hectic week, I realized that I’d barely even started any of the larger collections of short stories that I have on my Kindle awaiting review. But a search for short stories later, sorted by lowest price, added some new free reads to my collection and provided a topic for my leisurely Saturday blog.

I selected “The Snow Owl” by Jon Hartling. Without revealing the entire plot of this very short tale, it is a well-written story of a very mysterious young boy and his relationship with his father. I found it to be quite touching, though slighty disturbing, and I connected with the story deeply as a parent.

Hartling’s words left me wanting to read more, longer stories. A second selection, “Firebug,” is also available for free on the Kindle, and two other titles are available for 99 cents, though I really wouldn’t pay for stories so short.

All four short stories were released in 2011, then Hartling seemed to fall off the grid. I was so touched by his words that I did a quick Internet search to determine what had happened. In his last personal update on his Facebook author’s page, he mentions that he is working on a young adult fantasy novel (the first of a promised trilogy), but is busy in his personal life. However, this was in April of 2012 and his last Facebook post was in May 2012.

I do hope that Hartling returns to the pen (or the computer, as the case may be) at some point, as his stories are quite enjoyable.


Selected shorts of Norman Crane

This week I’ve read three free short stories by Norman Crane. While his serial novels seem to lean toward science fiction, the only word I can find to describe these shorts is “eerie.”

(An aside as to how I selected these short stories – I found the first one during a search for free books with the word “crane.” I was looking for picture books about cranes or more specifically, origami cranes, after taking my 2-year-old daughter to the local Donut Palace for Father’s Day treats. There were origami cranes hanging above the counter and everyone – myself more than anyone else, I’m sure – was impressed when she pointed them out and clearly said “crane.” No clue how she identified them! BTW – I didn’t find any free picture books about either real cranes or origami cranes.)

So, one of the free books I came up with during that search was “Don Whitman’s Masterpiece.” I felt kind of lost and found myself re-reading a lot of paragraphs in this story, as it doesn’t seem to be quite in the right order. But it all ties well enough in the end to bring everything together in a way that’s understandable. This is a creepy tale of the curiousity of boys and facing danger. I didn’t feel like it was the best of what I’ve read from Crane, but it was intriguing in a haunting sort of way.

This story (like the others) was very short – no complaint, it was free after all! So I decided to see if there were other free short stories available. The next I read was “Dear Bette Davis,” a tale about a young boy and the way smoking was glamorized in old movies that will leave a harsh taste in your mouth. It wasn’t what I would call an “enjoyable” read, but this tale seemed to be much more linear than “Don Whitman’s Masterpiece” and still had a quality that drew the reader in.

My last foray into Crane’s short stories was “The Boy Who Spoke Mosquito.” This tale may have been the creepiest of the three. It was the story of a boy who was very different from other boys his age and the way he was bullied and what, eventually, he did about it.

These three tales definitely weren’t lazy reading for comfortable days, but if you want some reading that will haunt your thoughts, Crane is a great storyteller whose work will definitely provide some unique fodder for your nightmares.

Due to length, I definitely wouldn’t pay for any of these works individually, but I might as part of a larger collection of 10 or so works – although I didn’t see anything of this nature offered. But, these stories also appear to be offered as freebies to draw readers into his serials and longer works.


Short story Saturday (continued)

A Perfect Nanny” by Marian D. Schwartz is the classic kind of short story I recall from my younger reading days. There’s a slight air of mystery throughout the brief tale, but it’s told in muted tones and subdued undercurrents rather than the more flamboyant offerings of some works that seek to set a “hook.”

This Giffort Street Story is offered as an introductory tale to Schwartz’s collections of short stories, which feature the same characters.

While you won’t feel the thrill of the chase with each new page, you might find yourself gently longing to know more about the well developed characters who are written with just enough mystery to leave you yearning to know a little more.

This short story reads like a classic, and fans of classic short fiction should not pass this by.


Short Story Saturdays

With two little ones and a full-time job, my reading often consists of short stories, simply because I want something that I might actually be able to finish before jumping up to do another task.

I’ve decided to work this into the spirit of my blog by introducing a new feature, “Short Story Saturdays,” where I’ll commit to featuring either a Kindle single or short story collection each week.

To start, I’d like to highlight a short book of essays, “A Trip to the Hardware Store and Other Calamities” by Barbara Venkataraman. I picked this book up as a freebie back in March, but it’s available now for 99 cents.

This collection of vignettes seems to be pulled directly from Venkataraman’s life, but they are told with such smooth prose that they feel like short stories. Or chatting with a friend, dishing out some favorite tales of what has happened in life.

I completed the book in around an hour of reading, but all in all, I don’t think 99 cents is bad for an hour’s entertainment.

According to Venkataraman’s author page on Amazon, she has a number of similar volumes I’d definitely consider them for future reading, and would be sure to snatch them up if they ever cross the freebie lists.