A perfect holiday read — stories you can chip away at during the margins of your day. Most are very sweet, heart warming romances. A few cross the border into syrupy and are almost offensive in their use of teenage romance tropes, but they’re easy to skip past in favor of the next. There’s a nice mix of contemporary realistic fiction, mystical realism and pure fantasy, and while they are holiday-themed, they do not focus exclusively in Christmas (though it does dominate). The authors, a veritable who’s who of YA fiction, seemed to genuinely enjoy crafting their contributions to this delightful collection. ~ Ms Dimmick
Category Archives: Short Stories
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Cyberiad, by Stanislaw Lem, is a collection of science-fiction stories revolving around two inventors named Trurl and Klapaucius. While Trurl and Klapaucius are quite amiable towards one another most of the time, they are also rivals. They create complex pieces of machinery that can perform strange tasks, such as only creating things that begin with the letter N, or writing poetry. The environment in which they exist is a place where humans are not of the norm and where futuristic technology is merged together with medieval concepts of princes, princesses, knights, and dragons. This book contains stories of mystery, treachery, love, and mathematics, with dynamic characters and suspenseful plots. In addition to its scientific aspects, this book is quite philosophical. It deals with the concepts of utopias, society-building, and the quests for happiness and knowledge. People should read this book because of the way it is formatted and because of the unique themes and stories it is comprised of. Anyone that is interested in the science-fiction genre would enjoy The Cyberiad, as well as someone who is looking for a fantasy storybook with an extraterrestrial twist! Since this book is broken up into stories, it can be read over a long period of time in almost any order. Its unique characters and eccentric plotlines should keep the reader interested throughout the duration of the stories.~ Student: Vera G.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Along with a unique and trademark writing style, a collection of short stories is what Kurt Vonnegut offers readers with his very enjoyable Welcome to the Monkey House. As I previously stated, Welcome to the Monkey House is an assortment of short stories that thematically range from wartime shorts to futuristic, utopian, science-fiction stories like my personal favorite of the book, “Harrison Bergeron.” All citizens in this short story are created equal in this society, where Harrison is considered to be a boy genius as well as extremely handsome. Due to this, he is taken from his family who does not understand because they have modified intelligences to make all equal. When Harrison refuses to conform to this dystopian lifestyle, he is executed on television with his parents watching, yet not being able to comprehend what had happened. What stands out most from the book and all his other writings is Vonnegut’s trademark writing style. Vonnegut’s writing offers a look at how he views certain topics through his characters. Vonnegut’s voice reveals some cynical views and often bouncing thoughts. Vonnegut is probably the first writer I have ever read who truly reveals some of his true feelings in his writing. I found his writing to be highly enjoyable since it makes it easier to connect and compare your opinions and views to his. Vonnegut’s writing also contains a dry, and often ironic humor which can often come at random. Overall, I would recommend this book to all readers, especially those who enjoy the themes that Vonnegut is known for writing about. ~ Student: Michael P.
Student Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie (reviewed by Nick M.)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie, the reader is brought into the world of the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington State. Through a compilation of short stories, Alexie shows the reader the hardships of the forgotten, neglected tribes that used to populate the United States. This collection illustrates the struggle faced by Native Americans accurately, but its change in narration and inconsistent timeline make it very hard to follow. At many points in this book, it is very unclear as to who is narrating and when the event took place in relation to the other stories. In addition to the narration and timeline being unclear, the text in general can be quite confusing. Sherman Alexie’s collection focuses on the guised meaning rather than the literal meaning of the text. These subtleties and lack of storyline deterred me and made it highly difficult for me to relate to the main characters, Junior and Victor. Themes also play an immense role in shaping the various storylines written throughout the book. Two of the main themes include alcoholism and identity, each represented within the two main characters, Victor and Junior. The world surrounding Victor becomes so bleak that he reverts to alcohol, as a way of escaping reservation life. Even as a child, Victor struggles to fit in, wearing “horn rimmed” “U.S. Government glasses”(171) and having the “other Indian boys [chase] [him] from one corner of the playground to the other.” (171) Junior also experiences similar struggles, finding his identity, and breaking an awful drinking habit. Both Victor and Junior fall in love with white women, and are both left by these women. Both try to embrace the world outside the Indian Reservation and fail, exemplifying the struggle Native Americans have in finding an identity. Ultimately, I do not recommend to book to anyone. The lack of plot and storyline make the stories very difficult to follow and comprehend. If you enjoy over analyzing ambiguous text and spending more time interpreting rather than reading, this book is for you. ~ Student: Nick M.
Student Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie (reviewed by Matthew M.)
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
In this compilation of short fiction stories, Sherman Alexie shows the sempiternal hardships and difficulties that Native Americans endure. The Native Americans in this book are located on Spokane Reservation, Washington State. Through the book’s depiction of this multi tribal society, the reader is presented with the conflicts and strife the Spokane people face. Alcoholism and discrimination run rampant in the lives of these Native Americans, who endlessly try to find their identity amidst a nation that wants to take it away. While The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven thoroughly illustrates the difficult lives of those living on the reservation, I did not enjoy the book. The narration is neither clear nor systematic, and the stories are not placed in chronological order. This makes it difficult to follow each character’s sequence of events. Alexie also focuses more on themes and symbols than building a storyline, which sometimes left me wondering about the specificity of each character’s events and actions. While Alexie’s style grants an ample opportunity for profound analysis, it does not yield to an emotional connection with Alexie’s two central characters, Victor and Junior. From beginning to end, these two characters battle with identity, a profound theme in the story. Toward the beginning of the book, Victor moves into Seattle to try and adapt to American society. In the end, he moves back to Spokane Indian Reservation after constantly being judged through stereotypes of a typical Native American. Junior also experiences problems fitting in with society. After having a child out of wedlock with a caucasian in college and being discriminated against by his teacher, he does not know where he belongs. When choosing between school and the reservation, he states, “It’s a matter of choosing my own grave” (242). Victor and Junior struggle to find their identity because they do not fit any societal norm. As a result, they live in perpetual exile. While this book effectively uses these two characters to convey the theme of identity, the lack of plot, action, and structure is my reason for giving it two stars out of five. Unless you want to deeply examine and analyze a book with profuse, opaque content, I suggest you leave this one on the library’s bookshelf. ~ Student: Matthew M.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, focuses on the issues contemporary Indians face in today’s world as they adapt to life between cultures.
Bridging the gap between traditional Indian culture and that of the lands they have emigrated to, Lahiri follows the lives of immigrants as they adapt to life in the first-world, and their journeys returning as foreigners to the very land they once called their own.
“The family looked Indian but dressed as foreigners did, the children in stiff, brightly colored clothing and caps with translucent visors.” (p. 44)
As she explores the value of marriage and fidelity as a concept that differs in meaning in various regions of the world, Lahiri questions how a woman from a traditional Indian family knowing nothing other than the service of her husband, is permitted to react to his engagement in an extramarital relationship.
“He sat next to her on a plane, on a flight from Delhi to Montreal, and instead of flying home to his wife and son, he got off with the woman at Heathrow. … ‘Imagine. An English girl, half his age.’” (p. 83)
Lahiri’s frank discussion of taboo issues in the lives of men and women from strictly conservative backgrounds creates a striking contradiction within her prose which will compel you to question these characters’ obligations to a culture they know little of but are irreversibly tied to for eternity.
“‘That’s what my father did…He sat next to someone he didn’t know, someone sexy, and now he loves her instead of my mother.’” (p. 108)
Where does your loyalty lie — with your country, your family, or yourself? How, as a first or second generation American, can you be expected to live up to the expectations of a culture, a country, and a lifestyle completely foreign to you?
Interpreter of Maladies delves into the secrets, dreams, and realities of individuals facing the dilemma that is life between cultures. ~ Student: Astha A.