Dianne Gray

All posts tagged Dianne Gray

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Set-Up by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Published June 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s Set-Up all about?:

Set-Up follows a teenage girl who finds herself in precarious circumstances with no parents around to assist or comfort her.

What did I think?:

All the stories in Manslaughter And Other Tears have won awards in some shape or form and this latest tale, Set-Up was the recipient of the Cairns Post Writers Award in Australia. I’ve already waxed lyrical about how much I am adoring this collection but if you haven’t read my previous reviews, this collection has everything I would want from a short story and I love the themes that the author chooses to explore. Many of these stories are rooted in fairy-tales but the most common themes are both the darkness of the writing and the twists and turns that Dianne Gray imposes upon the reader. Set-Up is another one of these tales where you think you have it all figured out and then you realise you really, really don’t.

Dianne Gray, author of the short story collection, Manslaughter And Other Tears.

So as with every novel/short story that I review which has the potential to be spoiled for readers who haven’t encountered it yet, I really can’t say too much about this story without ruining everything. So what can I say? Well, it’s the story of a young girl whom when we meet her is lying at the bottom of her basement stairs having severely injured her ankle. She is railing in her head at her parents whom she blames for everything that has gone wrong in her life, including such banal things as them daring to want to have a second honeymoon in Paris. Alone and a bit afraid, she manages to drag herself up the stairs to find two men in her house who have escaped from the nearby prison. The men are looking for money and food before they go on the run and are not delighted to be faced with an injured young girl who just happens to be the daughter of the head of the police. The narrative follows her interactions with them as they maintain innocence for their crimes, claiming they were “set-up.” As they attempt to escape, the unexpected occurs and things become a whole lot darker and grittier for all parties concerned.

Stairs to a basement – how I imagined the location of our female lead’s accident.

It sounds like quite a simple, run of the mill story about a young girl in a dangerous situation with escaped criminals doesn’t it? Don’t let my vague, non-spoiler description fool you. There is so much more going on in this short story than just that. Our female lead is an interesting and captivating character to read about and as a reader, you want to know what exactly has happened to her i.e. how did she come to fall down the stairs and how she is going to get herself out of this predicament with the absence of her parents and two hardened “baddies,” in her house? Nothing is what it seems in this story and I was shocked and delighted once more by the direction Dianne Gray chose to take things. I would have thought that by a few stories through the collection I would have cottoned on to her wily tricks and the way she manages to turn things around yet every time I’m still surprised and honestly, not expecting it. Dianne Gray is such a wonderful, talented author and I’m always bowled over by how much her stories stay with me, long after I’ve finished reading them.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Some Drolls Are Like That And Some Are Like This by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Part Two

Published April 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the second part of my Short Stories Challenge for 2018. I have to admit, I’m feeling a little disillusioned writing this post and preparing which short stories I’m going to read for the next few months as in Part One earlier this year, I had so many disappointments and very few stellar stories that stood out to me. I think the biggest failures for me would have to be The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe and Books And Roses by Helen Oyeyemi but I could mention a few more. However, let’s end on a positive – there was the wonderful The Apple Tree by Daphne du Maurier and Dibblespin by Angela Slatter which completely restored my faith in short stories. It is because of stories like these that I want to carry on with this challenge and find more great authors like the many, many ones I’ve found so far, purely from their short fiction alone. Let’s do this!

Four Hundred Rabbits by Simon Levack from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Vol 7.

20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Beachworld by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Set-Up by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Some Drolls Are Like That And Some Are Like This by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

The Underhouse by Gerard Woodward from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

My Mother’s Wedding by Tessa Hadley from the collection Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre edited by Tracy Chevalier.

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Unplugged by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Published November 19, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Unplugged all about?:

With references to The Wizard Of Oz, Unplugged follows a young woman who hears voices in her head which leads to dramatic consequences as she chooses to listen.

What did I think?:

It’s purely coincidence that this story rolled around as part of my Short Stories Challenge quite soon after I had posted a review of a novel also compared to The Wizard Of Oz, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw. As a previously bona fide fangirl of The Wizard Of Oz I was delighted to read another piece of contemporary fiction with nods to this classic and brilliant story. Having read a few of the tales in this collection now, I knew to expect the unexpected with Dianne Gray and what I got was yet another powerful piece of writing that remains firmly etched in my memory, for all the best reasons.

Unplugged follows our female protagonist, who was adopted at four years of age and had her name changed from Elmira Gulch to Dorothy Gale. Anyone remember who Elmira Gulch was in The Wizard Of Oz? Go to the top of the class if you said The Wicked Witch Of The West. Dorothy has been struggling her whole life with the voice of a witch in her head telling her incredible things about the world and causing her to lose her job at Toto Cut Price Deli. For example, God doesn’t exist and humans were created by viruses and germs purely as a means of transport. She also tells her that cameras are everywhere, watching her every move, making her paranoid and frustrated. Things only get worse when Hickory at the second hand shop refuses to sell her a pair of ruby slippers that the witch in her brain assures her she has to have if she has a chance of returning home to her birth parents:

“I decided it was time for the truth and told Hickory that my real name was Dorothy. I had a witch flying around in my head, I had been adopted at four years of age and I needed the slippers to find my way home. He told me he was the Tin Man and called the police.”

The rest of the story follows Dorothy as she struggles, in vain with the things the witch is telling her to to leading to a run in with the local police and a life-changing incident. It is filled with the most beautiful, poetical language that at times, took my breath away. For example, she talks about the time she visited her Grandpa Gale in hospital:

“He was a big man who had wasted away to a leaf. Death was building a birdcage out of his ribs.”

Simply gorgeous and so evocative! However, this is nothing compared to the poignancy of the ending. Now I’ve mentioned that I know what to expect from Dianne Gray, so you would think I’d be prepared for the way she tends to end her stories? No. Each time I’m astounded by the way she manages to turn things and pull on your emotions so that you see things from a whole new light and this particular ending was horrid, bitter-sweet and unforgettable. Manslaughter And Other Tears is fast becoming one of my favourite short story collections for sure. There’s only been one story so far that I haven’t found quite as fantastic as the others – that was Still Life (although the bar for her work has been set extraordinarily high I have to say!). The author’s use of fairy-tale imagery and the atmosphere she creates when setting her scenes is second to none and I cannot praise her work highly enough.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Wisht by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Five

Published November 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from: http://www.creativindie.com/how-to-make-money-by-publishing-and-selling-short-stories-and-short-books-on-amazon/

Hello everyone and welcome to the fifth part of my Short Stories Challenge in 2017. My fourth part was quite like the third, up and down. I had a huge disappointment with a short story by Daphne du Maurier which was Monte Verità but I also got some lovely surprises in the form of The House On The Hill by Kate Mosse and The Man In The Ditch by Lisa Tuttle. Here’s what I’ll be reading in the next few months:

Best New Horror by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

The Moons Of Jupiter by Alice Munro from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Unplugged by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Wisht by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

The Man From Mars by Margaret Atwood from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

Freaks: A Rizzoli & Isles Short Story by Tess Gerritsen (stand-alone).

High House by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Hot Dog Stand by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Published July 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Hot Dog Stand all about?:

Hot Dog Stand is about a woman whom after witnessing a horrific accident earlier in the day ends up precipitating her own worst possible day ever.

What did I think?:

I came to this story with HUGE expectations after reading and adoring the previous story in the collection, The Butcher Of Meena Creek. Hot Dog Stand is still a great read and a very quick little story to devour but it didn’t quite grab my attention as much as Butcher Of Meena Creek did. However, it’s still a damn fine piece of fiction and I can definitely appreciate the talent of Dianne Gray as a short story writer and, like before, can clearly see why these stories are described as “award winning.” They certainly have something extra to recommend them and you can really see the difference from when you read another short story that is sadly lacking this extra little bite.

Okay, so our protagonist is an unnamed woman who witnesses a terrible hit and run where a stranger is killed by a maniacal driver in a blue van. The poor man happens to be holding a hot dog at the time and it appears to be the only thing our narrator can focus on. She was propelled into a shop window and suffered a bleeding nose but she was standing right next to the victim when it happened and it could have quite easily been her. The accident traumatises her considerably and she is looking forward to getting home and getting some much needed sympathy from her husband Phil.

Unfortunately, Phil is not a good egg at all. Our narrator realises that she should have listened to her mother when she tried to warn her about men like Phil and isn’t it always the case that our mum is always right about things like that? Our narrator is about to find out the hard way that Phil doesn’t care for her, her feelings or indeed anyone else in the way he should but it is the way she reacts that is very surprising. Maybe it is the accident that morning that has messed with her head, perhaps it is because she has suspected something is not quite right for a while now – who knows? Absolute bedlam ensues in the most chaotic and crazy way you could never imagine and was certainly an unexpected turn in the narrative for me personally. And the ending? Well, I just had to smile.

This is one of those short stories where you really can’t give too much away so I’m hoping I’ve been annoyingly vague enough! From where it first started, as a witness to a fatal car accident to where it ends up…. the turn of events in just a few pages was amazing and thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling. You really feel for our slightly naive narrator who has had possibly one of the worst days ever that it’s possible for a person to have but it’s the way she reacts to her situation that completely blows your mind. Loving this collection so far!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Blue Moon by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Three

Published July 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from https://www.standoutbooks.com/how-publish-short-story/

Hello everyone and welcome to Part Three of my Short Stories Challenge this year. Part Two was again, very interesting with some really memorable stories read, namely The Birds by Daphne du Maurier and Gallowberries by Angela Slatter which were both fantastic and HIGHLY recommended. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Three!

An Anxious Man by James Lasdun from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Word Processor Of The Gods by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Hot Dog Stand by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Blue Moon by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Master by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives of Women.

Possum by Matthew Holness from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Noble Bachelor by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

The Heart Goes Last: Positron, Episode Four by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone).

The White Doe by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

The Light Through The Window by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Published February 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Butcher Of Meena Creek all about?:

The Butcher Of Meena Creek follows the story of Maggie who is cooking some food at a town gathering and preparing to leave her abusive husband.

What did I think?: 

I’ve enjoyed the stories I’ve read in Manslaughter And Other Tears so far but The Butcher Of Meena Creek has to be my favourite by a mile. It really reminded me of a Roald Dahl short story in the way it was written and the little sting in the tail (or should that be tale?) by the exciting final lines. I can certainly see why it won a award, I finished it absolutely enthralled and immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and start all over again.

I don’t really want to talk too much about the plot for fear of spoilers. In fact, it’s best to go into this story knowing as little as possible but I’ll tell you the bare bones of the story. The story is told from the perspective of our main character, Maggie who is making some lasagne for a town gathering. The people in the town, including a hideous woman called Loretta treat Maggie with scorn and derision and like to make fun of the fact that she is in an abusive relationship. We soon learn that the last time Maggie made lasagne, her husband went crazy and she took the brunt of his anger, physically speaking. Larry is due to arrive at the gathering any minute and the townspeople are almost hugging themselves in glee so that they can all witness the fallout they are certain is going to occur.

Immediately, I felt sorry for Maggie who bears the evidence of physical abuse by her husband, clear for everyone to see. Despite the cruelty of the people in the town, she holds her head up high and continues to make the lasagne for everyone to enjoy. She is aware that her husband doesn’t look on lasagne as “real” food but she has a plan for getting away from him for good and I admired her determination to separate herself from him. Oh my goodness though, I was not expecting the turn that the story ended up taking and I was delighted (and shocked) with the end result. If you read one short story this year, please make it this one and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

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

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

Short Stories Challenge – Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Published May 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Still Life all about?:

Still Life is the story of two sisters who when discussing a horrific event in their past, appear to each have completely different memories of it.

What did I think?:

This review has taken me so long to write as, to be honest, I’m struggling a bit with what to say about it! I’m very aware of keeping my reviews as spoiler-free as possible as I’m not a fan of having any read ruined for me before I’ve had a chance to experience it myself. This is one of those stories where I’m finding it difficult to write about for fear of unleashing a major spoiler and I believe the less you know about it the better.

So what can I say about it? Well, it’s the story of two sisters, Di and Sam who are sitting by the sea and talking about a major traumatic event in their lives. They promised each other that they wouldn’t discuss it again but it’s one of those terrible things that cannot be easily forgotten and they both find a therapeutic way to let their feelings out about it. Di chooses to write about what happened and Sam decides to paint a picture. However, they are both having trouble with the other’s artistic talent – both girls believing that the other has got the sequence of events wrong and is telling an inaccurate version of what actually happened.

What I wasn’t expecting with this story was how dark it actually was. When it begins, the author lulls you into a false sense of security, believing that this is a “nice” story of two sisters having fun on a beach. It is far from that and the action kicks in surprisingly quickly. By the second page, when Sam prompts her sister Di on the exact words she should be saying (what really happened on that night according to Sam) it was certainly an unexpected shock to the system. The story immediately morphs into something else, something a lot darker and more sinister than your average memory shared between loved ones.

I’ve read this story a total of four times now in my fight to decide what to say about it and I find something new to analyse every time I read it. I think readers who enjoy a little bit of the macabre will definitely appreciate it but be warned, it’s not for the faint-hearted. At times, I did feel that I wanted more information from the author as it seems like a hell of a lot is left unsaid but I also believe that’s part of the magic of this particular story – much is left up to your own imagination, and mine is particularly vivid!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

 

 

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – January to March

Published January 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/ali-smith/short-stories-consume-you-faster-theyre-connected/

Hooray for a new year and more short stories! This is what I’ll be reading for the first three months of 2016.

Week beginning 4th January 2016

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

Week beginning 11th January 2016

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 18th January 2016

Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 25th January 2016

Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 1st February 2016

Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 8th February 2016

Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 15th February 2016

Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 22nd February 2016

Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 29th February 2016

Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 7th March 2016

How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Week beginning 14th March 2016

The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st March 2016

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th March 2016

Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)