Great Reads: Short Stories

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Sometimes, a bite-sized read is just what you need. Whether you’re on the bus or just want to digest something quick before bed, short stories can really hit the spot. Here are a few I’ve read that I think should be recommended!

These books are in no particular order.

1.

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

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Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, two ranch hands, come together when they’re working as sheep herder and camp tender one summer on a range above the tree line. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is casual, inevitable, but something deeper catches them that summer. Both men work hard, marry, have kids because that’s what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives, and they do anything they can to preserve it. – from Goodreads.com

The story that inspired the famous film with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, and coming in at only 55 pages, or just over an hour if you listen to the audiobook like I did. The story of Ennis and Jack is a beautiful one and really makes me love the film even more.

2.

Bluebeard (and other Fairy Tales) by Angela Carter

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Angela Carter’s playful and subversive retellings of Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tales conjure up a world of resourceful women, black-hearted villains, wily animals and incredible transformations. In these seven stories, bristling with frank, earthy humour and gothic imagination, nothing is as it seems. – from Goodreads.com

In this little collection, Angela Carter manages to rework, and reignite, what keeps us going back to the classic fairy tales again and again. This collection includes Bluebeard, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty in the Wood and Cinderella!

3.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

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If you broke Elena’s heart, Star Wars would spill out. So when she decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new movie, she’s expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke and Leia just as much as she does. What she’s not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people; to have to pee into a collectable Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels. – from Goodreads.com

Rainbow Rowell wrote this short story for World Book Day 2016. I don’t think it would be selfish of me to ask for a full-length book based on this little snippet, as lots of people seem to love it as much as I do!

4.

Different Seasons by Stephen King

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This gripping collection begins with “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” in which an unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge—the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption. Next is “Apt Pupil,” the inspiration for the film of the same name about top high school student Todd Bowden and his obsession with the dark and deadly past of an older man in town. In “The Body,” four rambunctious young boys plunge through the façade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality. This novella became the movie Stand By Me. Finally, a disgraced woman is determined to triumph over death in “The Breathing Method.” – from Goodreads.com

My first experience with Stephen King was watching The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me in English class, so when I realised that these films were based on actual short stories, I thought I better get around to reading them. The films captured the essence and tone of King’s short stories perfectly, and these are amongst my favourites!

5.

Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. – from Goodreads.com

In the same vein as Angela Carter’s revised fairy tales, JK Rowling has compiled a collection of stories most loved by wizard children, that had been passed down in wizard families from generation to generation. It was interesting to read and compare to our own fairy tales and see their differences and similarities.

So these are some of my favourite short stories that I think you should all read. Got any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

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Top 5 Classics I Want to Read

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There are some classics that are forced upon us, and some that we think “hey, that actually sounds quite good!” This list is the latter: classics I actually want to read!

These books are in no particular order.

1.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote’s comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. – from Goodreads.com

If it’s one thing I love it’s a good crime story, even better if it’s true crime! I’ve not read any other of Truman Capote’s books but this book has shot to the top of my TBR pile and has been recommended to me so many times already.

2.

Psycho by Robert Bloch

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Norman Bates loves his Mother. She has been dead for the past twenty years, or so people think. Norman knows better though. He has lived with Mother ever since leaving the hospital in the old house up on the hill above the Bates motel. One night Norman spies on a beautiful woman that checks into the hotel as she undresses. Norman can’t help but spy on her. Mother is there though. She is there to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. She is there to protect him with her butcher knife. – from Goodreads.com

As a Bates Motel fan, I think it would be a crime (boom boom!) to not read the original novel. I’ve been really getting into a horror/thriller mood recently, having read Carrie by Stephen King, and I think Psycho is going to be another great addition to my genre experiment!

3.

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fizgerald

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Between the First World War and the Wall Street Crash the French Riviera was the stylish place for wealthy Americans to visit. Among the most fashionable are psychoanalyst Dick Diver and his wife Nicole, who hold court at their villa. Into their circle comes Rosemary Hoyt, a film star, who is instantly attracted to them, but understands little of the dark secrets and hidden corruption that hold them together. As Dick draws closer to Rosemary, he fractures the delicate structure of his marriage and sets both Nicole and himself on to a dangerous path where only the strongest can survive. – from Goodreads.com

The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite classics, and arguably Scott Fizgerald’s most famous work. This novel is probably his second best known, and so I’d love to see how it compares to the masterpiece that is The Great Gatsby!

4.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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For years now the Ramsays have spent every summer in their holiday home in Scotland, and they expect these summers will go on forever; but as the First World War looms, the integrity of family and society will be fatally challenged. To the Lighthouse is at once a vivid impressionist depiction of a family holiday, and a meditation on a marriage, on parenthood and childhood, on grief, tyranny and bitterness. – from Goodreads.com

A few months ago I went to visit Virginia Woolf’s property, Monk’s House, in Rodmell, Lewes. It was so eye-opening and inspiring to be in the same room as where Virginia lived, and not too far away from the spot where she died either. To the Lighthouse is one of her books that appeals to me the most, and I can’t wait to get reading!

5.

The Town and The City by Jack Kerouac

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Kerouac’s debut novel is a great coming of age story which can be read as the essential prelude to his later classics. Inspired by grief over his father’s death and gripped by determination to write the Great American Novel, he draws largely on his own New England childhood. – from Goodreads.com

Another writer whose work I’ve read before! I read On the Road by Kerouac last year and loved it, and so I really want to read his autobiographical novel, The Town and The City.

These are the top five classics I really want to read. Are these on your list too? Or do you have some you’d like to recommend to me? Let me know in the comments!

Shows to Binge-Watch This Summer on Netflix (UK)

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Who doesn’t love a good binge watch? I know I do! And if you’re getting a break this summer, you’ll have lots of time on your hands to sit down and catch up on all you’ve been missing. Here are the top five TV shows I think you need to start watching.

These TV shows are in no particular order.

1.

Orange is the New Black

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The series revolves around Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a woman in her 30s living in New York City who is sentenced to 15 months in Litchfield Penitentiary, a minimum-security women’s federal prison in upstate New York. Piper had been convicted of transporting a suitcase full of drug money for her then-girlfriend Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), an international drug smuggler. – from Wikipedia

The infamous prison drama, based on Piper Kerman’s real-life experiences in Danbury Minimum Security Federal Prison, is back this June with its fifth season. With only thirteen episodes per season, it’s easy to catch up in time!

2.

Riverdale

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The show features an ensemble cast based on the characters of Archie Comics, with KJ Apa in the role of Archie Andrews, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, his next door neighbor who also happens to be crushing on him, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, his new love interest that just strolled into town and Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, his ex-best friend and the narrator of the show. The show also features Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy, the lead singer of the Pussycats, and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom, the twin sister of Jason Blossom, who is at the centre of the series’ mystery. – from Wikipedia

Another adaptation, this time based on the Archie comics. We see Archie and his friends come to live in Riverdale, a PLL-meets-OTH murder mystery, and will certainly fill the hole that Pretty Little Liars leaves in its wake when the show ends this June. Riverdale also has only thirteen episodes, and has just been renewed for season two!

3.

Stranger Things

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Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980s, the first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy by his friends, older brother and traumatized mother and the local police chief, amid supernatural events occurring around the town including the appearance of a psychokinetic girl who helps the missing boy’s friends in their own search. – from Wikipedia

Although Stranger Things isn’t based on a pre-existing idea, it certainly takes influence from Stephen King novels and movies like The Goonies. This show is another one with only a few episodes in its first season and has been renewed for a second coming this October.

4.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmit

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The series follows 29-year-old Kimmy Schmidt (Kemper) as she adjusts to life in New York City after her rescue from a doomsday cult in Indiana where she and three other women were held by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) for 15 years. Determined to be seen as something other than a victim and armed only with a positive attitude, Kimmy decides to restart her life by moving to New York City, where she quickly befriends her street-wise landlady Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane), finds a roommate in struggling actor Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), and gains a job as a nanny for the melancholy and out-of-touch socialite Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). – from Wikipedia

This show gets the award for most catchy theme tune ever. You’ll be singing it for days, guaranteed! Kimmy Schmit is written and produced by Tina Fey and has just released its third season. Each episode is only twenty minutes long, so it really doesn’t take very long to get through. The trouble is, if you binge-watch it, you’ll have to wait another year for season four!

5.

Orphan Black

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Starring Tatiana Maslany as several identical people who are clones, the series focuses on Sarah Manning, a woman who assumes the identity of one of her fellow clones, Elizabeth Childs, after witnessing Childs’ suicide. The series raises issues about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning, and its effect on issues of personal identity. – from Wikipedia

Another science fiction pick from me, Orphan Black is a master class in acting from Tatiana Maslany, as she takes over twenty identities, some only as pictures but characters none the less. It’s quite incredible and definitely up there on my recommendation list!

So that concludes my list which I hope you will find helpful! Have you got any recommendations for me this summer? Let me know in the comments!

Show Time by Phil Harvey – Review

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Harvey’s Show Time, a grotesque social commentary bridges the gap between The Hunger Games and Stephen King. It examines human nature, our morbid curiosity and our ever declining sensitivity towards violence. With the rise of social media, reality TV (sometimes “reality” TV), violent video games and the YouTube generation, our access to potentially harmful content is at it’s peak. Popular dystopian futures, like The Hunger Games and Divergent, often provide similar commentaries, but Harvey’s Show Time gives us a raw, gritty, darker side to these worlds, and shows an inevitable step up from the previous YA bestsellers.

Phil Harvey’s recent work is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Although Suzanne Collins opened the door to this genre of YA, readers are now thirsting for something deeper, and arguably more violent, which is exactly what Harvey provides, both in the novel’s synopsis and reveals some truth in the underlying message about human nature. Show Time tells the story of a world where future viewing audiences have become totally desensitized to violence and are eager to escape their boring workaday lives. This addiction is nurtured by the media with graphic portrayals of war and crime and with so-called reality programming. Now, TV execs have created the ultimate reality show: Seven people, each bearing the scars of his or her past, are deposited on an island in the middle of Lake Superior. Given some bare necessities and the promise of $400,000 each if they can endure it. The three women and four men risk death by starvation or freezing as the Great Lakes winter approaches. The island is wired for sound, and flying drones provide the video feed, so everything the contestants do and say is broadcast worldwide. Their seven-month ordeal is entirely unscripted, they can’t ask for help or they forfeit the prize, and as far as the network is concerned—the fewer survivors the better.

The opening prologue to Show Time does not disappoint, delivering a grisly gut wrenching moment that aims to set the whole tone of the book. Although the rest of the novel fell a little flat for me, the true horror was that Show Time depicts a world that one day could be our future.

From 28th October till 3rd November, Show Time by Phil Harvey will be 0.99 FOR THIS LIMITED TIME ONLY. Get your copy at:

Amazon – iBooks Barnes and Noble

Additionally, Gumroad are selling electronic copies of Show Time and an exclusive short story Across the Water: Tales of the Human Heart for only $1.99. Get your copy here: https://gumroad.com/l/ShowTime

Phil Harvey is an award-winning author, philanthropist and libertarian whose stories won a prize from Antietam Review and were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Find out more about Phil Harvey and his upcoming releases at: http://philharveylit.org/ 

Praise for Show Time

“Show Time is erotic and chilling in its portrayal of human survival. Entertainment serves government by dishing up the ultimate reality program to sate a nation of voyeurs and ensure the continuance of our most civilized of societies. Check your calendar—the future is already here.”Sal Glynn, scriptwriter, and author of The Dog Walked Down the Street

“Show Time is a gripping page-turner. Reality TV has never been more frighteningly real.”John Fremont, author, Sins of the Fathers

“A vision of the future that is laugh-out-loud, until we realize how much it looks like the world we live in now.”Frank S. Joseph, award-winning author of To Love Mercy

“A thrilling immersion in the emotional, physical, and sexual reality of characters who thought they were playing a game but find they must fight to survive.”Linda Morefield, senior review editor, The Washington Independent Review of Books

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