A Dead Djinn in Cairo

by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’ve had to think hard about my rating for this novella, as the story did show some fantastic creativity and I loved some of the descriptive passages & I found the end very exciting.

It’s just that I wasn’t totally engaged at the start – in fact, I was more than a little confused! This could say more about me as a reader than Clark as a writer.

Anyway a 3.5★ from me means that i have enjoyed the story enough that I want to read more work by the author & I’m hoping to get to The Angel of Khan el-Khalili very soon.

Country House Murders

by Thomas Godfrey (Editor)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I bought this book (in hard cover!) many years ago. I read The Usual Suspects, but couldn’t get into the authors that had fallen into obscurity. I’m now an enthusiastic Golden Age mystery reader, so I thought I’d give these stories another try.

The Adventure of Abbey Grange by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Not every story in this book is Golden Age – and what collection of mysteries would be complete without a Sherlock Holmes! This isn’t one of Doyle’s best, but it certainly gives some interesting insights into Holmes’ character and his relationship with the faithful Dr Watson! 3★

A Marriage Tragedy by Wilkie Collins. I tried (& failed) to read The Moonstone many years ago. Maybe I would be more open to it now. I was definitely intrigued enough to finish to find out what had happened to husband from Hell, James Smith. This is by far the longest selection in this book (most of the others are less than 20 pages) and it did drag in a couple of places and the ending was somewhat gloomy. 3.5★

Lord Chizelrigg’s Missing Fortune by Robert Barr. Entertaining but very improbable. Lord Valmont is like an early version of Hercule Poirot! 3★

The Fordwych Castle Mystery by Baroness Orczy. Looks like it wasn’t just the obscure writers I was disappointed by! Silly, improbable, melodramatic and didn’t make much sense. I was really disappointed as Lady Molly was one of the first female detectives. 2★

The Blue Scarab by R. Austin Freeman. Competent mystery with workmanlike writing. Similar in style to Conan Doyle, but less engaging. 3★

The Doom of the Darnaways by G.K. Chesterton. Now this was very engaging writing with a cleverly constructed mystery. The clues are there for you – you just need to know where to look! 4★

The Shadow on the Glass by Agatha Christie. I read this last year in The Mysterious Mr. Quin I thought this was one of the slighter stories in that collection. I still think that 3★

The Queen’s Square by Dorothy L. Sayers. This was just too short to carry all the ideas & potential this mystery had. Bit of a shame. 3.5 ★

Death on the Air by Ngaio Marsh. Dame Ngaio didn’t write many short stories & (if this is representative of her skill with them) that is a pity because this one is ingenious & puts her normal snobbishness (which normally drives me crazy!) to good use. Unusually for Marsh this one shows a contempt for young female servants – in this case, insensitive & heartless. Still 4★

The Same to Us by Margery Allingham. Witty & entertaining, with a sly dig at some racist assumptions. My favourite so far. 4.5★

The Hunt Ball by Freeman Wills Crofts. A very fine example of what Thomas Godfrey (the editor of this collection) calls an “inverted” mystery where the reader knows who commits the crime & waits for the story to play out. 4★

The Incautious Burglar by John Dickson Carr. A satisfying mystery even though there were very few suspects. 5★

The Long Shot by Nicholas Blake Well written, but a bit improbable. 4★

Jeeves and the Stolen Venus by P.G. Wodehouse Funny (Of course – it’s Wodehouse!) But I was confused. 3.5★

Death in the Sun by Michael Innes Just too improbable for me! 3★

An Unlocked Window by Ethel Lina White. Yes I did guess where it was going but the journey was wonderfully thrilling! 5★

The-Wood-For-The-Trees by Philip MacDonald. I have been looking for The Rasp for quite some time, as I know reviewers who really love it. This short story made me want to look even harder. I’m quite sure I’ve read it before, a few too many characters, & if I hadn’t read it before I did a very good job of guessing everything that was going to happen! 4.5★

The Man on the Roof by Christianna Brand. Not so this one, although I normally like Brand’s work. Occasionally witty, but a confused/confusing mish-mash. I’m wondering if I should read again, but provisionally 2.5★

The death of Amy Robsart by Cyril Hare. In case you are wondering if this Golden Age author wrote a historical murder mystery – he didn’t. Very entertaining murder mystery with a film setting. There is a plot hole but I enjoyed this very much. 4★

Fen Hall by Ruth Rendell. The first thing I have read by Rendell. Well written but another plot hole & this one isn’t a whodunnit! Still very well written & I now want to read some more Rendell. 3.5★

A very Desirable Residence by P.D. James Well written but improbable. I found the end quite satisfying though! 3.5★

The Worcestershire Enigma by James Miles. “Who?” You might well ask! I couldn’t find any other trace of this author who uses another author’s creations (Conan Doyle’s) & a real life person. (I won’t spoil this for you) very badly. It isn’t quite as bad as the Orczy one but I am still giving this 2★

So, as always with short story collections, a very mixed bag! I would still recommend reading if you want a ‘taster’ of some of the less well known writers. Most of them I want to read some of their full length books!

The Adventures of Professor Challenger

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“You have been good enough to allude to me in one of your recent lucubrations,” he said, shaking the paper at me. “It was in the course of your somewhat fatuous remarks concerning the recent Saurian remains discovered in the Solenhofen Slates. You began a paragraph with the words: ‘Professor G.E. Challenger, who is among our greatest living scientists_'” “Well, sir?” I asked. “Why these invidious qualifications and limitations? Perhaps you can mention who these other predominant scientific men may be to whom you impute equality, or possibly superiority to myself?” “It was badly worded. I should have said ‘Our greatest living scientist,'” I admitted.

This was near the start and I did have high hopes that this might be an entertaining read. But it was not to be.

The irascible Professor Challenger was loosely based on the character (among others) of Arthur Conan Doyle’s good friend, William Rutherford a Scottish physician and physiologist. Rutherford lectured at the University of Edinburgh when Arthur Conan Doyle studied medicine there.

I’m 57% of the way through and I can’t remember any plot details at all. This was this year’s Steampunk read, but this year’s festival was a little disappointing – & so is this book.

DNF on page 84.

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Uncanny Magazine Issue 25: November/December 2018

By Lynne M. Thomas

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I was led here after reading an absolutely wonderful poem by Hal Y. Zhang in an issue of Strange Horizons. I’m not sure if Strange Horizons magazines are allowed on Goodreads & I don’t want to find out by having my review deleted, so I will review here.*

From Strange Horizons 22/02/21 Issue
Go Agile I thought this poem was mad, fragmented and absolutely wonderful. Read it on Goodreads 5★

I was so intrigued I wanted to read more. Cardioid for me was not the equal of Go Agile, but it was still an evocative, intriguing poem. 4★.

Now that I am here, I will be reading more.

& here I am, reading more!

The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society
I enjoyed this short story, I thought it was funny and quirky. Wasn’t really what I was expecting from a fantasy short story, but I am a bit of a novice in this genre. 3.5★

The Thing About Ghost Stories I think Naomi Kritzer is a good fit for me! How can I not love an author who manages to work books by two of my favourite authors ([author:Jane Austen|1265] & [author:Georgette Heyer|18067]) into her short story. & this short story captures so well the off-the-wall, almost callous way a caregiver starts to feel about the most beloved of Alzheimer’s/Dementia cases – and the way your feelings suddenly turn back to love. I have never read a ghost story like this one! An easy 5★

How to Swallow the Moon by Isabel Yap. This story is a combination of so many wonderful, magical ingredients – a love story, fairy tale, fantasy and the supernatural with a good dose of Phillipines culture. I was completely enchanted and some of the twists and turns took my by surprise. Unusually in a short story I really cared about the two heroines.

I also read Caroline M. Yoachim’s interview with Ms Yap – she is quite the overachiever – Harvard, no less. I enjoyed the insight Ms Yap gave to this work. Rated together 5★

Monologue by an Unnamed Mage by Cassandra Khaw. I have heard good things about this short story writer and she did not disappoint. A science fiction love fragment. Beautifully written. 5★

Osiris by Leah Bobet I was about to wrap this review up, as I have so many books/magazines on the go at the moment, but then I spotted that this poem was an award nominee…

… which did restore my faith that entering awards on Goodreads data base is worthwhile. Like all excellent poems this one is open to interpretation, & mine was that this was a war survival poem. I loved it. 5★

& I was going to leave but the title of the Valentinelli entry has me intrigued. Just one more…

…but first I have another stray. Martha Wells & her Murderbot series has long been recommended to me & this wonderful little story The Future of Work: Compulsory appeared on Wired. You can read it here https://www.wired.com/story/future-of-work-compulsory-martha-wells/ NB: there has just been a change in policy on how Goodreads handle short stories and poetry published in a non book form (NABs) I’m excited about it but not ready to remove my entry from here just yet. This is a big change for Goodreads & not all librarians are members of the Librarians’ Group.

I loved this story that did remind me (a lot) of Naomi Kritzer’s Cat Pictures Please Quirky & funny is a science fiction sub genre I can definitely get behind. 5★

My Name Is Cybernetic Model XR389F, and I Am Beautiful by Monica Valentinelli At first this story had me giggling, but there is a more serious message behind it. Very well done. 5★

Not so the interview Caroline M. Yoachim did with the author. Talk about being programmed! I felt I was being told how I should interpret the story 2★

Translatio by Sharon Hsu Not science fiction but a poem about culture being lost. Elegant & achingly sad. 5★

An Account of the Land of Witches by Sofia Samatar. This is billed as “reprint fiction.” I did a spot of research & it looks like Samatar started being published around 2012. This story was wonderfully evocative, giving two versions of a truth. it shows a lot of the author’s Sudanese heritage & her multiculturism. Although some parts were evocative, it didn’t totally hold my attention. 3.5★

There is still some non fiction I haven’t read but I will finish my read of this magazine with smile by Beth Cato. To be honest, a poetry title in lower case always makes my heart sink a bit. Poetry fragment. I’m not big on fragments. 2.5★

I cannot leave this magazine without without saying how much I love the cover by John Picacio. It is unusual to see a portrait of a female character from this angle – which denotes power. I love it!

  • * Of course this is my blog, not Goodreads. so I could review Zhang’s poem separately. But I’m so far behind with my blog, that I am not going to edit this review.

The Future of Work: Compulsory

by Martha Wells

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’m starting this review with some exciting news! Edit; well, it was exciting two months ago – I’m waaaay behind with my blog!

Goodreads has had a change in policy on some items previously considered Not a Book (NABs) You can read about it in the Librarians Group Please read the whole thread before commenting, as some things won’t change. (for example no, Goodreads isn’t going to remove old books that don’t have ISBNs, stories like Cat Pictures Please that haven’t been published individually will still be merged into the magazine or anthology they originally appeared in) but little gems like this particular short story will be able to be reviewed. The catch is, when a librarian who does these sort of edits comes across them, the author will be changed to NOT A BOOK until they are published individually or in a collection. But I think this is a step forward as reviews will be preserved.

Martha Wells & her Murderbot series has long been recommended to me & this wonderful little story The Future of Work: Compulsory appeared on Wired. You can read it
https://www.wired.com/story/future-of-work-compulsory-martha-wells/

I loved this story that did remind me (a lot) of Naomi Kritzer’s Cat Pictures Please. Quirky & funny is a science fiction sub genre I can definitely get behind. 5★

My library system doesn’t carry any of Ms Wells books. I’m seriously considering requesting that they start!

No Way Out

by Betty R. Wall

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My neighbour was given this novelette and she thought I might enjoy it.

Which I did – Betty has a nice, easy writing style and I am a sucker for an eye catching cover. But…

I think this book was too short for all the ideas that the author was trying to pack into it. Chris (the hero) needed more character development. Maybe Betty was going for enigmatic, but Chris’s actions came across more as odd and senseless.

Also I thought that there were a few plot holes.

Still a fun afternoon read.

Clarksworld Magazine, Issue #100

by Neil Clarke (editor)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I could list all the stories/novellas individually since this isn’t Goodreads, but I kind of liked them being grouped together. This is the most popular of this magazine on Goodreads & I can certainly see why!

Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight by [author:Aliette de Bodard|2918731]

I don’t read much Science Fiction or Fantasy. If this isn’t a wildly original short story – don’t disillusion me! I was completely transported into Quang Tu’s world. I felt his grief, I could visualise his sister as a mindship (a new concept for me) The grief was so well handled and I have never seen such complete world building in a short story. An easy 5★ for me.

Ether by Zhan Ran.

Finding out that [author:Ken Liu|2917920] was one of the translators was enough for me to want to try this author’s work.

And for most of this novella, I was suitably intrigued. I felt the story about an abused child/young adult, who was thrown out of his home, but became an alcoholic loser like Dear Old Dad as an adult was interesting. But I just hate the trope both on the page and on the screen of a young woman becoming interested in a middle aged unattractive alcoholic with a red nose to boot! I know it is a common male fantasy, but it just doesn’t happen! For that I had to mark down to 3★

PS; As far as I could tell, the translation was well done.

The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild by [author:Catherynne M. Valente|338705]

Oh, this was a Carrollesque gambol through really colourful word pictures.

Just a kid with hair the color of raisins and eyes the color of grape jelly, living the life glasstastic in a four bedroom wine bottle on the east end of Plum Pudding…

I was so in love with the journey I wasn’t too worried about trifles like plot structures, but about half way through this novella did start to drag a wee bit – just a bit. Fortunately when I clicked on Part Two (I’m reading online) the story recovered its energy. I’m happy to give this Wild (heh!) ride 4.5★

A Universal Elegy by [author:Tang Fei|8065533]

This was well written and as far as I can tell, well translated but this science fiction version of a woman’s madness and her escape from a lives she wasn’t suited to didn’t really grip me. The elements of this tale that were different were more like window dressing really. Just not my sort of thing. 3★

Cat Pictures Please by [author:Naomi Kritzer|345914]

My two favourite stories bookend this review!

This was sweet, whimsical, charming – and above all cheery!

It did make me think about how an AI might know about my life already.

This may be as far as I go with this magazine read but I have enjoyed the journey and will try another Clarkesworld soon.

Acting on Impulse

by Georgette Heyer, Jennifer Kloester & Rachel Hyland

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was my holiday treat!

I am a Heyer completist. GH, especially in her early years, wrote short stories for magazines for some quick money – and to refine her craft. I’m glad the determined Jennifer Kloester was able to unearth so many of these treasures. Jenn wrote forwards for each story and Rachel Hyland wrote the afterwards.

I loved Jennifer Kloester‘s introduction & as an avid GH fan myself, I was deeply envious of her experience pouring through old records in libraries and online, in the hope of finding some GH gold! One of my favourite parts of the book & it had me excited to read the short stories. 5★

I read some reviews & many of the reviewers didn’t like the forwards & afterwards for each story, so I only read them that way for A Proposal to Cicely. (only one of these short stories that I had read before) Even allowing for GH’s extreme youth, during past reads I haven’t liked this story – mainly because of my dislike of Cicely. Much to my surprise, I have always given this story 2.5★, but in spite of Rachel’s explanations of Our Heroine’s motives I just can’t go higher than that.

The Little Lady 

Oh boy, I really hated this one. Confused & mawkish. I hate to do this to a Heyer short story & yes, I know GH was very young when she wrote this but 1★

Lincke’s Great Case
(Tried Lynx as a pronunciation, finally ended up with Link-kezz.)

Read twice & liked better on the second reading, but still found it a bit weak. & a very weak romance. GH just can’t help herself! Jenn speculates that maybe GH’s father helped with the writing. Certainly this story lacks Gh’s usual sparkle. 2★

The Bulldog and the Beast Improbable but charming. This story was just intended to be a diversion, so in spite of all the improbabilities (view spoiler) I really enjoyed this. If I was a reader of the time, I would definitely be looking for more of GH’s works. 3.5★

Acting on Impulse I wasn’t a fan of the kidnapping part of the plot, but was still charmed by this tale, because of the delightful hero & heroine. Love the name Kenneth – I think it is due for a comeback! 3.5★

Whose Fault Was It?
I’m glad I decided to read this short story a second time before giving an opinion, as I liked it much better the second time around, although (view spoiler) But the rest of the story was light & fun, with a good moral. 4★

The Chinese Shawl
Charmed by this one, even though it wasn’t clear how Janet fit into Mary’s life. 4.5★

The Old Maid
Fresh,bright & funny.

Not deep, but who wants deep if you are in the dentist’s waiting room or putting your feet up with a magazine & a quick cuppa? Helen seemed like a real person & is one of the oldest of GH’s heroines.5★

Love
Well, I was the lone voice from the Georgette Heyer Fans Group, but I loved this one, in spite of finding the beginning a bit confusing.Believed to be GH’s only romantic tragedy – something to treasure. 5★ & my favourite.

Rachel’s essay about vanished GH short story On Such a Night. Good, determined detective work & Rachel’s solution is plausible. 4★

I liked the forwards to the stories & loved finding out their publishing history. From memory, a couple of spoilers though. I found the afterwards became more & more negative as the book went on and a couple of them I wish I hadn’t read.

Death by Scrabble

by Charlie Fish

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Well, this is a luxury! I can record a short story I read without having to use the workarounds I need to use on Goodreads to record my short story reads!

Don’t get me wrong – I do agree with Goodreads policy about short stories in online magazines. If that is the only way the short story has been published, then that is the way it has to be entered. It is the same if you read a short story in dead tree format. If it has only been published in a collection, then that is the way it has to be recorded on Goodreads. Since Goodreads doesn’t confide in it’s volunteer Librarians, (and yes, for my sins, I am one) I’m only guessing at the reasons, but I’m sure they include;

📚 Goodreads uses the ISBN (or ASIN in the case of Kindle books) as the identifier. Random short stories without this will make a lot of work and mess. Don’t believe me? Look at the shambles some of the works on Goodreads that have many pre ISBN works. Alice in Wonderland or anything by Jane Austen would be a good place to start.

📚 A short story that isn’t published individually won’t have a cover. No problem, the member will simply ignore the rights of the copyright holders and grab an image from online. Or decide to use the cover for the whole collection which leads to a big mess and confusion. I know GR members grab random images for their reviews all the time – but I’m assuming Goodreads TOS will mean Goodreads are absolved and you, Dear Reader will be the one facing a complaint.

📚 Less common but it does happen. The author only wants his/her work displayed in the format it was offered for sale. How you enter a short story will turn up on their dashboard.

I’ll leave my workarounds for another review. Here is my (micro) review!

Short, darkly funny and not a word wasted. And a double word score for being about one of my favourite board games!

I found this short story here http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/DeatScra.shtml

Ashenden or The British Agent

Ashenden, or The British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


3.5★

“I gather from what you have not said that he is an unmitigated scoundrel.”

R. smiled with his pale blue eyes.

“I don’t know that I’d go quite so far as that. He hasn’t had the value of a public-school education. His ideas of playing the game aren’t quite the same as yours and mine. I don’t know that I would leave a gold cigarette-case about when he was in the neighbourhood, but if he had lost money to you at poker and he had pinched your cigarette-case, he would immediately pawn it to pay you.”

Maugham was the real deal. This book (or rather, a collection of short stories) is based on Maugham’s own experiences after being recruited as a spy during World War One. The best of them were dry and amusing but other than the final story I was never totally engaged. Normally with short stories, it is best for me to read one or two at time, but some of the stories were interlinked, so I don’t think my memory would cope with that.

The other problem for me was I was reading this book on Open Library. Apparently downloading on to your Kindle is only available in the States (Boo! Hiss!) If anyone knows a work around I would be grateful. Reading on my laptop wasn’t an altogether enjoyable experience.

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