Short stories read in December

Well, short stories and a book of poetry – it was quite short so I’ve included it here.

The really really good. I don’t often give five stars to short stories but there were some real treats this month.

Dr Bones and the Christmas Wish by Emma Jameson***** I love this mystery series set in a Cornish village at the beginning of WWII. Dr Benjamin Bones is a wonderful ‘hero’ and his relationships with his neighbours and patients plus a budding romance with Lady Juliet are delightful. The author is clearly not British and there are occasional anachronisms as a result, but the stories are fascinating and heart warming and the style is assured.

Goldilocks and the Bear by Clare London***** The story of Gil, Bruin and the Christmas Tree. How do you get a large Christmas tree through a narrow door? The story is light hearted fun with lovely references to the fairy tale and plenty of innuendos for grown ups – a kind of textual pantomime. It brightened my day.

The White Gods by Lawrence Osborne ***** This story in the Christmas Special of New Statesman absolutely hooked me. A wealthy American family tour Mongolia with guides, and inadvertently disturb a grave. To say any more would be to give spoilers and I really hope some of you might be able to find it somewhere.

Frost at Midnight by Elin Gregory***** A gorgeous look at Dafydd and Colin sharing a farm in the Welsh countryside. It has Dafydd attending midnight mass, and there is snow in the hills. The perfect story for Christmas.

The good. This is my default setting for short stories as a rule.

Gifts for the Season edited by RJ Scott **** This collection had some really gorgeous stories but some were set in series I hadn’t read and I quickly learnt to avoid those. Anthologies are always difficult to grade as they inevitably have at least some content that is not to this reader’s taste. The profits go to The Trevor Project and the book is worth buying for all the lovely standalones, and because this is a worthwhile charity.

Katy by Bryan Washington**** This story appeared in the Guardian on 20th December. The narrator moves back to Katy (a town) to help his friend open a bakery. It’s a very sweet mm story that shows how people can be wrong about events in the past, and that there’s always hope for the future. It pleased me because it appeared in mainstream media with no hint of apology or explanation for its inclusion.

The readable – well written but ultimately boring to me.

A Christmas Intervention by Mara Ismine *** This was a very readable story but for my tastes there was too much explicit sex, especially for a short piece. If you like ‘steamy’ mm romance, you’d enjoy it because it’s well written.

Boxing Day 1975 by Drew Payne *** This can be found in Stories written on lined paper. It’s quite short and the use of Rashomon style is clever but didn’t go far enough. Drew isn’t afraid to experiment: Rashomon style uses more than one narrator for the same event and the reader has to make up their own mind about reliability. The story suggests one of the characters is outed as gay, and looks at family reactions but I would have preferred some kind of follow-up using the same technique.

 Travelling Light edited by A Elliott-Cannon and Neil Adams *** This is a book of poems I unearthed from one of our boxes and couldn’t remember having read. I’m not surprised. It’s a collection of semi-humorous poems by a variety of authors and the standards are very varied too. The good ones can be found in other anthologies.

And the ones I didn’t like

Handspun by Charlie Descoteaux** This is very short and is mostly explicit sex so although the writing is technically good I didn’t enjoy it at all.

Difficult Times by Adrian Tchaikovsky** A sci fi tale about a pop group called Cosmic Strings. It appeared in the New Scientist Christmas special. I nearly abandoned it but husband wanted confirmation that it was rubbish… It wasn’t well written and the concept could have been much better handled. Then we saw that the writer has had multiple awards for his work. I have no idea why.

Incidentally, I didn’t abandon any novels or short stories this month. In fact, the only thing I abandoned was the Peak Cavern Concert I referred to in my post about December viewing.

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