Book Reviews by Genre: Short Stories

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Stevenson, Robert Louis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Lewis Stevenson is a novel about a scientist in London, Dr. Jekyll, that has the misfortune of having to control and mask his alter identity, Mr. Hyde. After some unfortunate events partake, others begin to realize that the wise Dr. Jekyll has an alter identity. This novel has an unpredictable ending that left me stunned. I thought that the book was really good due to the continuously moving plot and the amazing characters that create a wonderous mystery throughout the book. I was required to read this book for school and I would definitely recommend it for readers that are in middle school and beyond that enjoy a great science fiction or mystery novel. Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Nicola
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Stevenson, Robert Louis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a novel about a scientist in London, Dr. Jekyll, who struggles with controlling his alter ego, Mr. Hyde. As he attempts to mask his other personality, horrifying events occur that present the horrible personality of Mr. Hyde. Other citizens begin to discover the connection between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as the novel finishes with a jaw dropping climax and resolution. I was required to read this book for school and I would recommend it for readers middle school and above. I really enjoyed the progression of the plot and the ending that was unpredictable. Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Nicola
Look Both Ways
Reynolds, Jason
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Look Both Ways By Jason Reynolds is a ten different short stories about kids walking home from school. The ten stories are woven together by the context of a school bus falling from the sky. But no one knows because they were all too busy with their lives. In ten different walks home from school, Look Both Ways captures the humor, poetry, and liveliness encompassing middle school and early high school life. It also explores seeing two sides or more of the same perspective. For example, the ‘bad kid’ may be good-hearted. I think the book was masterfully put together and woven ten stories seamlessly together. This book made me laugh, hope, cry, and believe. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book with 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Stories of Your Life and Others
Chiang, Ted
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After reading Exhalation , I found myself in search of more stories by Ted Chiang. This led me to Stories of Your Life and Others. Partly because this collection included many of Chiang’s earlier stories, not all of them were great pieces of literature like the ones in Exhalation. I could tell that Chiang was still trying to find his voice as a writer as he explored many science fiction topics common to the genre. While not all of the stories are fantastic, there are enough good ones to warrant reading this collection.

What’s a little disappointing is how some of the ideas Chiang explores in this book are truly interesting topics, but the execution of these stories feels a little too erudite for the common reader. I appreciate Chiang’s later ability to humanize these ideas (as shown by my love of Exhalation), but he just wasn’t quite there yet with these early works. Still, there are a handful of award-winning stories in this book, including “Tower of Babylon” and “Hell Is the Absence of God.” Chiang’s ability to combine science and religion is second to none, and these stories prove as much.

One story in this book stands out from the rest. It makes sense that “Story of Your Life” was the titular choice for this book. For those unaware, the movie Arrival (2016) is based on this short story (and is a pretty close adaptation). Even if you only read “Story of Your Life,” I think you’ll get something out of this collection. It is by far the most approachable of these stories, and it deserved all of the awards bestowed upon it when it was originally published in the late 1990s.

A good collection of Ted Chiang’s early works that contains a few sparkling gems, I give Stories of Your Life and Others 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Wrong Train
De Quidt, Jeremy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A boy is trying to get home by train, but he ends up on a strange platform with no one around and no idea when the next train is coming so he can get home. A man suddenly appears and sits with the boy, telling him rather strange stories while they wait.

This book is a collection of short stories that revolve around a bigger story. All of the stories are creepy and mysterious. If you are the kind of person who likes to be creeped out just a little, but would still like to sleep at night, this book is for you. I am not a huge horror fan, but I could not put this book down. I found this book in the kids section (the little ghost sticker on the binding intrigued me, so I thought I would give it a try) so this could be the reason I found it more bearable and less creepy than other books of that genre. No matter what grade, if you are looking for a spooky book, you should give The Wrong Train a try (unless you find it not scary at all, in this case I suggest you read it anyway because it's still pretty good.)
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Emma
The Metamorphosis
Kafka, Franz
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

After turning into a bug, Gregor realizes he is late for work. However, it soon becomes apparent that Gregor will no longer be able to work. His family's view of him quickly changes as his previous contributions to it are quickly forgotten. This thought provoking book questions people's worth after they are lo longer able to contribute to society. Although the writing style is dry, the book is filled with allegories and symbolism that comment on the nature of individuals in society. This leaves readers to examine their own views on an individual's worth to society.

Reviewer's Name: Mark
Everything's Eventual
King, Stephen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I read this book because I watched the movie “1408” which is based on the short story by Stephen King thats in “Everything’s Eventual” and I wanted to see if the book was as good as the movie. Everything’s Eventual is a book that’s full of short story’s, and while I didn’t like a few, there was also a couple really good ones! I would highly recommend one of the short story’s called “The Road Virus Heads North”. It has actually become one of my favorite Stephen King stories. Also, I personally thought it was one of his creepiest. Overall, if you are a big Stephen King fan like me, I would recommend reading this book.

Reviewer's Name: Emani K.
The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher
Sapkowski, Andrzej
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Those of us who have seen Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher will find this collection of short stories quite familiar. The first book in the series, The Last Wish introduces the titular Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, as he goes about his job ridding the world of dangerous supernatural creatures. It’s no wonder the TV series felt a little disjointed, as it had a series of short stories that were loosely connected via Geralt to work with. Still, these stories are solid and help flesh out the world where humans and creatures live together, rarely in harmony.

Told in a somewhat chronological manner, these bite-size stories often carry over and blend into each other in a way that feels natural. Actions in one story may influence the characters in another, so there is something deeper here than just a collection of short stories. While this technique is rarely used, I can appreciate how each story has a purpose in advancing the main character's overall story. That being said, not every story is as enthralling as trying to save a noble’s daughter from a curse (which was one of the best in the set).

Part of why I like this method of storytelling is how simple it is. There’s no huge overarching and complex series of events here. The only character that matters is Geralt and how he reacts to the people around him and the jobs he takes to pay the bills. While additional characters like Yennefer or Ciri help to round out the series, focusing on the series’ namesake is important for building a foundation for world-building. I almost wish more series would take this route, as it helps establish the lore before diving into the first “official” book's main plot.

Great character foundation through multiple short stories, I give The Last Wish 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Exhalation
Chiang, Ted
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

My librarian uncle introduced me to Ted Chiang recently, and I was so intrigued by such an award-winning author who wrote exclusively in short stories that I had to check out one of his books. Exhalation is a collection of these stories, and I can see why Chiang is lauded as a writer. It seems that modern science fiction is too focused on new technologies and how they can lead to utopias or dystopias. In Chiang’s stories, I saw some stark realism that took well-tread topics of the genre and examined them through a lens that was extremely realistic to how society would function with such advancements.

It was refreshing—a sigh of fresh air, or exhalation, if you will—to read stories about parallel universes, artificial intelligence, and time travel that didn’t stick to the same tropes that have made science fiction almost boring in comparison. In the end, Chiang is so concise with his language as to create these universes anchored in our reality and uncover all the intricate ways in which new technologies would change it without delving into the fluff of a full-blown novel. And perhaps that’s what makes these short stories work: focusing on how people interact with new technology, instead of just society at large.

These stories' personal nature hits home, mostly because they were pulled from current technologies and extrapolated into the fringe sciences that are on the cutting edge. For instance, we already record much of our days, so how does our memory change if we have a perfect record of the past? Additionally, how many technologies are made widely available as entertainment first, and how many interest groups pop up as fans of these technologies until they are eventually made obsolete? These and many other thoughtful topics are only some of the reasons I would recommend any fan of true sci-fi read this book.

A collection of some of the best sci-fi stories I’ve ever read, I give Exhalation 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Cask of Amontillado
Poe, Edgar Allan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

5 out of 5 stars the action and plot and the is so interesting . All the climax adding up then exploding with action . Montesor"s revenge and hate for Fortunato really driving him to kill him . Fortunato's ego get him killed because he want to prove he was better that another wine taster .And the ending just puts the cherry on top on everything when Montresor say no one has disturbed the body in 50 years

Reviewer's Name: Tyrice J. J.
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
King, Stephen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is the best jail break story ever! I loved this short story when i read it in "Different Seasons". I read this book after seeing the movie, and I love both of them! Its about a guy named Andy Dufresne who is sentenced to life at Shawshank for the murder of his wife and her lover. In prison, he meets Red, a guy who knows how to get things. They become good friends. Andy always said he was innocent, and after being there for almost 20 years he escapes. It's a really really good story and I would highly recommend this book to anyone!

Reviewer's Name: Emani
Cover of the book The Body
King, Stephen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This is definitely my favorite book! It's basically a coming of age story about four 12-year-old boys. They go on an adventure to find a body as the title suggests. However, despite the dark name, and the fact that the author is Stephen King, this book is not horror by any means. Reading this book, you feel like you're going on an adventure with Chris, Gordie, Teddy, and Vern. I would also highly recommend the movie that was based upon the book, Stand By Me. All in all I would recommend that anyone should read this book, it's an amazing story!!

Reviewer's Name: Emani K.
Book Cover
O'Brien, Tim
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Things They Carried is a memoir by Tim O'Brien about his experiences as an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. O'Brien was chosen to be drafted in 1968. This incident was extremely stressful for O'Brien who had taken a stand against the war, yet didn't want to disappoint his community. He pondered running away to Canada, but eventually decided to fight. The Things They Carried is a series of stories that are so well written. The work is a bit hard to understand just because O'Brien wrote it in a way that is not completely nonfiction. In the book, he explains this concept more in depth. Overall, I thought this book was a very well written, interesting, and educational story regarding the horrors of war from O'Brien's perspective in Vietnam.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth P.
Universal Love
Weinstein, Alexander
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Universal Love" is 11 short stories set in the near future, showing how people use technology to navigate relationships. In one story, a widower signs up for a program to re-create his deceased wife, only to find out his daughters downloaded a fictitious history from romance novels. Another story has testimonies of why people use on-line dating services. A third story explores the relationship of two robotic children who try to act like human children, even to the point of having real life problems and addictions. An interesting look at technology and how it could be in our not far future of how we relate to each other. One constant remains, and that is our need for human interaction, no matter the media we use to get it.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Doyle, Arthur Conan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is a masterpiece of short stories. Sherlock Holmes continues to dazzle readers with his incredible deductions in these eleven short stories. From the beginning of Holmes' career in "The Gloria Scott" to large-scale crimes in "The Naval Treaty," the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. The introduction of Sherlock's brother, Mycroft, and his most notorious nemesis, Professor Moriarty, ensure that readers will be captivated by these stories. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is phenomenal and I highly recommend it for any fan of Sherlock Holmes or crime fiction.

Reviewer's Name: John
Almost Home
Debbie Macomber
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Almost Home is comprised of four short stories detailing 4 people who take risk of opening their hearts to new relationships. "Whale Island" is about a children's writer who is resisting falling in love with the reporter who interviews her because she has a big family secret to hide. In "Queen of Hearts', a man who was a real geek in high school has become successful and handsome as an adult and has run into the woman who he had a crush on in high school but felt out of her league. "The Honeymoon House" is a story of a photographer who finds a bridesmaid of a halted wedding destroying his house. And finally "The Marrying Kind" reunites two high school sweethearts who has a very brief marriage right when they got out of high school but were cruelly torn apart by family members. A great read if romance novels are your genre!

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains
Gaiman, Neil
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As I’d realized in previous works of Neil Gaiman’s that I’ve read, he excels at (at least) two things: short stories and fairy tales. One could argue that the latter is a subset of the former, but longer works like Stardust cause me to separate the distinction. Perhaps this book was made all the more magical by its audiobook production. Not only did the author himself read it, but it was accompanied with some great atmospheric music to enhance the mood produced by Gaiman’s words. I missed the illustrations this book sports, but I think the words can speak for themselves.

In terms of a fairy tale, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains manages to contain the usual flare of morality and truth against a backdrop of riches and mysterious wonder. I’m almost surprised there aren’t more authors writing modern fairy tales as Gaiman has since there is a precise formula here that Gaiman has consistently used to create these fantastical narratives. After all, most fairy tales are trying to teach something intrinsically human, and this one touches on the oft-repeated moral of greed versus the consequences of obtaining wealth.

Of course, much like Gaiman’s other “fairy tale” works, this story is intended for adults. Sure, traditional fairy tales are gruesome and are used to scare children into submission. Regardless, the lesson contained in this story is something most adults need to hear. We all love the idea of the “get rich quick” scheme, but there are often secondary effects that we overlook when we head out to seek our fortunes. Perhaps if the more adult aspects were toned down a little, it could be used to teach children about these moral pitfalls before they encounter them, instead of after the fact.

Another superb adult fairy tale, I give The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Doyle, Arthur Conan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson have captivated audiences for generations. This collection of twelve short stories is fantastic. From stolen jewels to mysterious circumstances and brilliant crimes, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes has it all. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is full of mesmerizing deductions and wonderful short adventures. I highly recommend this collection of short stories for every Sherlock Holmes fan and anyone searching for great mystery novels or short stories.

Reviewer's Name: John
Mars
Bakić, Asja
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

A debut collection of short stories by Bosnian feminist Asja Bakic who uses dystopian, science and speculative fiction techniques to shine a light on gender relations through lenses of eroticism, skewed humor and horror. The stories are a series of twisted universes set in the former Yugoslavia and Mars. The main characters must make sense of their strange reality whether they are a woman who will be freed from purgatory once she writes the perfect book (Day Trip to Durmitor), a woman who awakens with no memory before learning the truth about herself (Abby) to another meeting her clone (Asja 5.0).

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
The Hero Next Door
edited by Rhuday-Perkovich, Olugbemisola
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Hero Next Door is published as part of a partnership with We Need Diverse Books. It's a collection of short stories by 14 award-winning authors. It's a celebration of everyday heroes that make a difference in their worlds and challenges each of us to be a hero in our world. While every story may not speak to you, there's something in this book for each of us as we work to make the world a better place.

Reviewer's Name: Carol