I must apologise for the lateness of today’s post – Nat King Cole sang about those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer being filled with soda and pretzels and beer (or something to that effect), but here in Brisvegas it’s more like heat-induced coma and sweat rash and bemoaning the fact that we are too poor for air conditioning. I’m not making excuses (well, actually I am), but the heat is wearing down even my rock-solid resolve and that’s why I’m a bit behind on today’s post.
Nevertheless, I hope you are prepared for a third helping in our Double-Dip-a-thon, today featuring bite-sized short stories for grown ups and kiddies. We received both of today’s titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley. Let’s start with the offering for the younglings, shall we? Things From Other Worlds by Anne E. Johnson is a short story collection aimed at a middle grade-ish audience, with a fantasy/sci-fi twist. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Many strange things wait inside these pages. There’s a fuzzy ball of kindness, camped out on a grumpy man’s porch. A chewed piece of gum with a mind of its own. A smart Alec who actually stands in line twice when they’re handing out brains. A girl who isn’t afraid when all the plants in her neighborhood come to life.
This collection of 15 science fiction and fantasy stories for kids by award-winning author Anne E. Johnson is perfect for ages 8-12, or anyone with a child’s heart.
…a fun collection of easy-to-read stories that would make great brain-breaks in a classroom setting. The content runs the gamut from sentient beetles assisting with illustrator’s block to aliens that binge on Vitamin C. For kids that enjoy fantasy and science fiction, this will be a welcome addition to the library. The stories are basic enough for the younger end of the middle grade age range to manage on their own but have wide enough appeal for older readers to enjoy them as well. Brains Coming Out of My Ears, featuring a boy who stood in line twice when they were handing out brains, was my stand-out favourite, being the story with (in my opinion) both the cleverest concept and the most humour in the telling. I also really enjoyed To Be A Tree, in which a boy discovers that looking after the environment takes a lot of commitment, because it had a sinister undertone and creepy ending.
Don’t dip if…
…you’re looking for short stories that have a twist in the tale. I was a little disappointed with the lack of suspense in these stories. Most of the fantasy and sci fi elements are given in a very matter-of-fact way through the narration and I felt that this didn’t do the stories any favours. I suspect that having grown up in Australia, I have been spoiled by being raised (as many Aussie kids of a certain era were!) on the incredibly funny and brilliantly executed short story collections of Paul Jennings and therefore have a very high expectation of short stories aimed at children. I am also a great fan of Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror short story collections and Neal Shusterman’s Darkness Creeping, that feature similar fantastical themes, and this collection doesn’t live up to those by any means, having a much more placid narrative style.
Overall Dip Factor
While not being the most inspiring short story collection I’ve read for this age group, Things From Other Worlds is still worth a look if you have a budding fantasy or sci-fi fan who is beginning to read independently and is looking for a change from the standard chapter book format.
Now onto the grown-ups. Joy to the Worlds is a collection of eight short stories by four authors (Gayle Clemans, Maia Chance, Raven Oak and Janine A. Southard), each featuring both a sci-fi or fantasy element and a certain festive twist. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
What do you get when you mix mystery and speculative fiction, then toss in the holidays for good measure? A mobster Santa, genetic hanky-panky, Victorian villages, time-travelling detectives, Krampus, eerie bell spirits, and more–this collection of short cross-genre fiction is the perfect counterpoint to traditional holiday reading!
This collection stars four authors, each with their own distinct style. National bestselling author Maia Chance, who is famous for her cozy mysteries, dazzles with humor and folklore. IPPY award-winning science fiction author Janine A. Southard beguiles with unexpected time-travel science. Science fiction & fantasy bestseller Raven Oak offers a look into the gothic past. And for a whole new perspective, debut fiction author and art expert G. Clemans dives into the intersections of creativity and mystery.
Joy to the Worlds brings together eight short works that explore mysteries across time and space. Ranging from dark dystopian worlds to comedic retro-futures, four diverse writers find new ways to combine these disparate worlds.
…a solid collection of fantasy and sci-fi jaunts that will leave you with a strangely satisfying Christmassy feeling. The stories range from a murder mystery featuring the Wild Hunt to a YA offering that proves Christmas decorating can be deadly, via an intergalactic, political thriller set in a historical theme park and a cautionary tale about theft and the Krampus. There’s also St Nicholas on a space ship if you’re into that sort of thing (Dr Who fans take note!). Some of the stories seem heftier than others but they all have a strong narrative voice and the spread of content kept me returning with fresh eyes. I’m still tossing up which of these is my favourite – I suspect Odysseus Flax and the Krampus will take the title, but I also enjoyed Wild Hunt, as I’ve been in a bit of a murder-mystery mood lately. Each story has a little introduction and afterword also, which was quite fun and gave a taste of what was to come and how the story came about.
Don’t dip if…
…you don’t like sci-fi and fantasy or you don’t like Yuletide. With such a broad range of stories, there’s sure to be something any lover of fantasy or sci-fi will enjoy here.
Overall Dip Factor:
I really enjoyed this collection and would have liked to have had more time (the eternal whinge of the book-laden reviewer!!) to dip into this at a more leisurely pace. This would be a great choice for those looking for a festive read, but not willing to give up on their love of fantasy and science fiction. It’s also a great introduction to these particular authors – one of whose other work I already have on my TBR. I would suggest picking this one up if you’re after a Christmas-time read that is a bit out of the ordinary.
Starting to get full yet? Well I suggest you go and have a good old burp, because we’ve still got one more course to go in our week of Double Dips. That’s a double helping of fantasy fiction on Wednesday.
Until next time,