Angela Slatter

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Published May 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Gallowberries all about?:

Gallowberries is about a young woman who has recently lost her mother. Both women are witches and this story focuses on how the daughter manages to take care of herself as she learns more about her own powers.

What did I think?:

I can already tell that this short story collection has the potential to be the most fantastic one I’ve ever read and I’m only two stories in. The first story, The Shadow Tree had me falling completely under the author’s spell and Gallowberries was much the same. It encompasses everything I love in a story – a bit of fantasy, a lot of fairy tale, beautiful lyrical writing and the edge of darkness to make something that is so wonderful to read that you are sorry when you reach the final page as you just want it to go on forever. A huge thank you again to the lovely Fiction Fan for recommending this author and this particular collection, I’m one hundred percent bowled over by it.

Gallowberries is almost like a novella in itself. Not length wise, as it’s regular short story length but the amount of time and events it covers is epic in scale and you almost feel you are seeing a large portion of someone’s life, written in Angela Slatter’s inimitable style that gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The story involves a young woman called Patience whom when we meet her is admiring the apples growing on a tree that are managing to flourish with a little help from her magical powers. It is while she is looking at the fruit that she happens to notice a handsome man who speaks to her causing her to fall. This is Gideon Cotton who she ends up getting to know romantically (although sadly for her he is never planning to introduce her to his family or indeed marry her….he has a more “suitable” wife-to-be all lined up!).

However, little does Gideon know but Patience is already very familiar with him and his family. He is desperately seeking a witch that murdered some of his family, poisoned others through the wells, cursed cows to be barren and ensured that fields propagated dead crops. Patience is well aware of this as she is the witch he is seeking. In her mind, she had good reasons for revenge. Her mother was due to be hanged for witchcraft by his family and at the last minute she escaped by using the magical properties of gallowberries. This does mean that Patience is unable to see her anymore as she has passed over to another world where Patience cannot follow. With the help of her new friend, Dowsabel who takes Patience in when she is destitute and has nowhere else to go, Patience begins to use her magic for good and see hope and happiness in her life again. Nevertheless, this is an Angela Slatter fairy tale….a happy ending is not guaranteed and with the threat of Gideon finding out who she really is always a concern, Patience may have to call on her dark powers again to ensure her survival.

Loved, loved, loved this story. As I mentioned before, it is a truly epic narrative with so much content, action, heartbreak and sorrow jammed into a relatively short space of time but the brilliant thing is, it never feels rushed or “too much.” The fairy tale-esque nature of Angela Slatter’s writing is always a bonus but she always chooses such strong and interesting female characters like Patience herself and her friend Dowsabel whom I found fascinating to read about and indeed, ended up fully championing despite the questionable things that Patience had done in the name of revenge. Also, the darkness. Oh, it’s incredibly dark! Some of the things that occur might make you cringe, may make you squirm but it’s such amazing storytelling that you simply cannot look away before you find out how it all ends. So far, the two stories in this collection I’ve read have been incredibly strong and if this is an indicator of how the collection is going to continue, I’ve got many more treats in store. Is Angela Slatter a new favourite author? You’re goddamn right she is!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Two

Published April 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

I’ve read some terrific stories in Part One of my Short Stories Challenge for 2017 so far! However stand out stories have to be The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew and The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Two!

The Reader by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

The Birds by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories

The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe

Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

The Drowned Village by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Alice Through The Plastic Sheet by Robert Shearman from the collection A Book Of Horrors

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Fruits by Steve Mosby from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Stations Of The Cross by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Short Stories Challenge – The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Published September 27, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Shadow Tree all about?:

The Shadow Tree introduces us to Ella, a servant working in a royal household who tells stories to two spoiled children with an ulterior motive of her own.

What did I think?:

I’ve managed to finish a couple of collections since I began my Short Stories Challenge a couple of years ago and when I was recommended Sourdough And Other Stories by a blogger I admire – FictionFan, I knew I had to include it in the challenge, instantly intrigued when she mentioned something along the lines of “dark fairy tales for grown ups.” Now that I’ve read the first story, The Shadow Tree, I want to thank her so much for recommending it, this is a collection I’m sure I’m going to love, exciting both my dark side and my secretly childish one. 🙂

Our main character is Ella, a fascinating woman with a secret past that works as a servant for royalty with no clearly defined role. She uses her skills as a herbalist to concoct potions for both noble men and women and for the Queen herself, when she needs a break from her husbands amorous advances. Although, to be fair, Ella helps her out in that regard by warming the King’s bed herself. This puts her in quite a privileged and protected position in the court and allows her access to the couples children, two of whom, Brunhilde and her brother Baldur are malicious little deviants that enjoy torturing animals and to a lesser extent, their weary mother who cannot understand where their horrible behaviour has come from. Ella is well aware of the characters of the two older children and in fact, there is a reason why she remains so close to them, telling them elaborate myths and legends for their bedtime stories as cover for a rather different plan that she hopes will lead her back to her former life.

I was bowled over by just about everything to do with this story. The style of writing was so beautiful that I instantly felt that I was reading a fairy tale that I had previously never read but at the same time felt startlingly familiar. All classic fairy tales from the past have that little bit of darkness or a twist within that gives you a little shock to your system and The Shadow Tree was a great example of that delicious fright you get when an author pulls you in so far just to take the rug out from under your feet at the end. Step up Angela Slatter – my new favourite author. I’m really excited to read the rest of the stories in this collection!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone).

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter by Angela Slatter from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Published December 4, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter all about?:

The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter tells the story of a young woman who carries on the family business (of making coffins of course!) after her father’s death. However, she is unable to escape a ghostly presence and influence…

What did I think?:

Before reading this story, I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Angela Slatter or her short fiction. Fortunately, this is now not the case and on the strength of this story I have invested in her collection Sourdough And Other Stories which was also recommended to me by my fellow blogger FictionFan. The story opens on a young woman, Hepsibah Ballantyne, visiting a client whose father had recently passed away. Hepsibah is a partner in the family business of making coffins – although Hepsibah notes that as her father never had a son to assist him, instead of naming the company BALLANTYNE & DAUGHTER, he has officiously decided on the charming BALLANTYNE & OTHER. Hepsibah’s father has also recently passed away (or so she hoped) but worst luck for her is that she has to endure his ghostly presence looming over her constantly and suffer endless barbs and criticisms, much as she had to when he was alive. There is one consolidation however, at least now she no longer has to undergo the physical abuse he afflicted on her:

“Nowadays his fists pass through me, causing nothing more than a sense of cold ebbing in my veins. I do not miss the bruises.”

The reader can perhaps see where this is going when her client, the daughter of the dead man, opens the door. Our coffin-maker is almost dumbstruck at the beauty of the wealthy Lucette D’Aguillar and is in awe of her presence, even attempting to hide her hands which unhappily take a bit of a bashing during the process of making a coffin. Hepsibah enters the house and gives them some advice on their mourning procedure, for example covering the mirror in order that the deceased may not enter it and watch over them. In return, she promises them the finest coffin their money can buy, indeed a work of art rather than a corpse holder, with assurances that as long as they have kept the body wrapped there is no change of the deceased walking again. Of course it’s necessary to have not one but three golden locks, he must be kept IN, no expense spared!

These are two very clever young women, and they seem to both have a agenda on their hands which I don’t want to ruin for anybody reading this story for the first time. The author does a brilliant job of gripping the reader for the whole length of the tale although my personal opinion of the characters seemed to shift backwards and forwards quite rapidly! Apart from the father of course, who seems to be the epitome of everything that is rotten and wrong with the world. His continued presence in his daughter’s life makes it pure misery and throws more than one iron into the fire, so as to speak. There are quite a lot of unanswered questions, sure, and the ending seemed to turn everything completely around but it definitely left me craving more and imagining possible scenarios after the final sentence, which is the sign of a good short story and a talented author. I can’t wait to read more from Angela Slatter and hope to incorporate some more of her work into my reviews as soon as I can.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

 

 

Challenge: Short Stories October to December

Published October 9, 2014 by bibliobeth

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It’s that time again short story fans! This is what I’ll be reading short story wise from now until the end of 2014.

Week beginning 6th October

 Looking Up Vagina by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 13th October

The Pool by Daphne Du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 20th October

Partial Eclipse by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 27th October

The Fly And Its Effect Upon Mr Bodley by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 3rd November

Busted by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 10th November

Nocturne by Kazuo Ishiguro from the collection Nocturnes: Five Stories Of Music And Nightfall

Week beginning 17th November

The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter by Angela Slatter from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 24th November

The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 1st December

The Common Enemy by Natasha Cooper from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 8th December

Note To Sixth-Grade Self by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 15th December

A Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 22nd December

Mrs Todd’s Shortcut by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 29th December

Everything I Knew About My Family On My Mother’s Side by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank