Short Stories to read on Bank Holidays

banks holiday short stories

Hurray for the long weekend! But the most important thing to think about is what are you going to read?

These are my suggestions if you’re looking for something quick and fun that you can read when you get the chance for a sit-down and a nice cup of tea.

Please share your own favourites in the comments!

Zombie Novellas – David Moody and others

If you like Zombie stories, Infected Books published one short story a month last year. That’s 12 to choose from!

Find a full listing at Infected Books – Year of the Zombie, and choose your favourites.

Kim & Kim

Bright, loud and fun, Graphic Novel Kim & Kim follows two unlucky bounty hunters on their journeys across space.

It has two badass female main characters with realistic personalities and a strong friendship between them.

One of my favourites.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Elma York was an astronaut in her youth and led the way to colonise Mars.  Still living on Mars as she nears the end of her career she is given one last chance to go back into Space.

Beautiful and sweet, The Lady Astronaut of Mars is free to read online at Tor.com

Sing by Karin Tidbeck

Petr is a biologist studying a village of people living on a backwater planet. Aino’s physical disabilities have made her an outcast from that village,  but her singing voice captivates Petr from the moment he hears it.

A short, beautifully written and poignant story that will make you think.

Read for free at Tor.com

Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okora

In Hello, Moto, technology and magic merge into one very interesting story. It’s a lovely mix of sci-fi and fantasy, and it’s very short so good if you only have 10 minutes to spare.

You can read Hello, Moto for free at Tor.com

Tanglefoot (The Clockwork Century, #1.2) by Cherie Priest

Free to read online, Tanglefoot is a short steampunk story set in The Clockwork Century universe.

Edwin is a young boy living in hiding in the basement lab of an old inventor. As the inventor slowly slides into dementia, Edwin becomes more and more lonely, eventually building himself a robot friend he names Ted.

But robot Ted isn’t as friendly as Edwin hoped it would be.

I love Cherie Priest’s books, and this is a good starting point for the Clockwork Century series.

You can read Tanglefoot online for free at Subterranean Press

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Everyone should read this balanced, insightful, and very sensible short essay on feminism.

Please, someone, make it required reading in schools!

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

A short treat from Neil Gainman, this is a young adult tale about Odd who has to save Asgard from the Frost Giants. It was released for World Book Day nearly 10 years ago and has been a favourite of mine since.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

The inspiration for Dracula, I think this is better. It might seem cliched and obvious now, but this is the book that invented the cliches and provided the foundation for all the vampire stories that have followed it.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss

Don’t be put off by this little book being part of a series. It’s a standalone book that follows Auri, a mysterious girl that is one of the secondary characters in the main books.

Auri is a young woman that lives in the Underthing, forgotten passageways and lost rooms underneath a university. It’s a slow book, not much happens really, but it’s odd and bittersweet and I love it.

Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Two soldiers on opposite sides of a war fall in love and try to find a safe place to raise their child. A sci-fi graphic novel that’s original and thought-provoking, with unique and diverse characters.

It’s very popular, and definitely deserves all the praise it gets.

All Good Things (The Split Worlds #5) by Emma Newman

All Good Things Cover

When the mysterious sorceress, Bea, offers her a chance to earn true freedom, Cathy makes a deal with her. But can she and Sam work out the best way to navigate Bea’s plans for the future without becoming another of her victims?

Amidst death, deceit, and the struggle for freedom, friendships are tested, families are destroyed and heroes are forged as the battle to control the Split Worlds rages on to its climatic conclusion.

All Good Things (The Split Worlds, #5)All Good Things by Emma Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so happy to get my hands on an ARC of All Good Things! I’m a big fan of this series, I’ve been avidly following Cathy’s journey through the first four books and I was excited to see how the story would conclude.

Cathy has been on a massive journey. From the scared young woman in the first book to the Duchess of Londinium trying to effect social change, she has now grown into a true leader, Princess Leia rebel style.

For the first few books, Cathy was mainly ineffective, complaining but not actually doing anything. In the last two books she has made grown in confidence, started caring about other people, and made some real changes, but what she does here is just brilliant. I love the way this book ended.

The side stories were neatly wrapped up too. Though I do feel like there was a lot of wrapping up in this book, and at times a lot of the stories felt rushed. Will and the Fae princess, for example, seemed to be a bit crammed in.

I’m not happy about what happened with Lucy. She has been such a strong character through the series and very supportive of Cathy, and I don’t like the way she was treated at the end.

Max and the gargoyle have been my favourite characters by far. I’d love to see some more of them, I feel like Cathy’s story might be done but those two have a lot of work to do now.

This has been one of my favourite series and I’m sad to see it end, but I’m also excited to see what Emma Newman does next.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

All Good Things
The Split Worlds
Emma Newman
Fantasy
June 6th 2017
350

The Great Passage by Shion Miura

The Great Passage Cover

The Great Passage Blurb

A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura’s novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, dishevelled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.

Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words.

My Review of The Great Passage

The Great PassageThe Great Passage by Shion Miura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How can a book about a small department at a publishing house creating a dictionary be so wonderful?

Wrapped up in the main story about the creation of the dictionary there are three different stories about the people in the dictionary department. One is about a man who learns to connect with people, one is a woman who learns not to judge others, and the other is about a man who learns that it’s ok to show that you care about things.

The translator has done a great job. There is a lot of discussion about the meaning and origin of words and I’m impressed by how these have been translated from the original Japanese to still make sense in English. A couple of times I had to re-read paragraphs a few times to follow the meanings, but the majority of them were easy to follow.

The geeky side of me enjoyed the bits about describing words and the look at how a dictionary is created. The three stories with their quirky characters provide a warm, human element that I could connect with.

I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. It made me smile while I was reading it and even though the ending has some sad moments it left me happier and I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Also, I love the cover!

The Great Passage
Shion Miura, Juliet Winters Carpenter (Translation)
Fiction
June 1st 2017
222

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the birds in the sky

All the Birds in the Sky Blurb

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever growing ailments. Little do they realise that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world or plunge it into a new dark age.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the Apocalypse.

My Review of All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an unusual book! All the Birds in the Sky mixes magic, sci-fi, climate change, other universes and the end of the world.

There’s a bit of Jonas Jonasson style farce in, especially at the start (2-second time machine!). When it jumps to Patricia and Laurence as grown ups the setting reminds me of the world in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, with added hipster style.

It feels to me like a lot of thought has gone into the near future setting and the technology they have. It felt realistic and vibrant and I loved the mix of magic and science.

There’s a strong sense of humour running through it and I really liked the writing style, but some parts were a little confusing. Nothing is explained at the start, I felt a little like I was thrown into the middle of a story. Most of it slowly started to make sense, but some bits felt unfinished. I’m not sure really what the point of Mr Rose was.

I liked Patricia and Laurence, they seem warm, mostly kind, and very human. They are both outcasts but see the world differently, and they have some very funny observations on life. I liked the diversity of the other characters and they all had distinct personalities.

Five-star rating from me because all the good bits far outweigh the few flaws in it. It’s odd and unusual and truly is a wonderful gem of a book. Normally I like finishing books so I can start the next one and I rush through them, but with this one, I wish it were twice as long.

All the Birds in the Sky
Charlie Jane Anders
Sci-Fi
January 26th 2016
432

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes Blurb

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realise that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My review of An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An Ember in the Ashes is a very dark story that doesn’t shy away from the dark side of human nature. It’s a very harsh world and there’s a lot of death, killing and torture.

I found it easy to get into despite the writing being very dry, the world around the characters isn’t described much. At one point Laia goes to a moon festival at night and it’s all lit up with lanterns. This should have been vibrant and full of life but it felt flat. I couldn’t picture it in my mind.

The speech and behaviour are very modern, which sounds odd in the historical setting.

I do like the way the two different viewpoints of Laia and Elias were written though and I like how it takes a while for them to start being aware of each other. Laia I really enjoyed reading. She starts off quite timid and scared and we get to see how she grows and gets braver.

There’s not much romance, which I liked. There’s a bit too much worrying about who fancies who (and seriously, these people have bigger things to be worrying about), but no proper romance, and definitely no insta-love!

I found it strange how the characters have gone through some very traumatic things but still act like normal teenagers (even though Elias is supposed to 20). Their life experiences don’t seem to have had much emotional impact on them.

The trials Elias goes through are physically and emotionally difficult. They’re aimed at choosing a new Emperor and removing the old one and people die in the process, but somehow it feels like they’re not that big a deal, they’re no more important than a big exam or a job interview. Elias is more worried about if his friend fancies him or not, and does he fancy her back.

The whole thing seems unrealistic, but I would say suspend disbelief if you can because the story is good. It’s full of twists and turns and I didn’t want to stop reading and go to work or to bed. I know I like a book when my other half has to forcibly remove it from my hands.

An Ember in the Ashes
An Ember in the Ashes
Sabaa Tahir
Young Adult Fantasy

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun Blurb

With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene. Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.

My review of Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Half a Yellow Sun tells the story of Biafra, a State that existed for three years in the sixties during a civil war in Nigeria.

Three different narrators show us the human side of war and the effects it has on ordinary people.

It took me a long time to warm up to the characters and to start to care what happened to them. They do things that aren’t nice, or kind a lot of the time. We see their weaknesses and their selfish behaviour is made very obvious. Basically, they are very human and very realistic, and it was hard for me to remember that they are made up characters and not actually real people.

In the Q&A in the back of the copy I have the author says that she does not like omniscient narrators, that she does not want to bore us with their every thought. What we get then is almost fragments out of the lives of the narrators, and they do things that they don’t seem to fully understand themselves. It reminds me of the way Doris Lessing writes, just with more of an actual story in there too.

This is not the sort of book I normally read, but I’m glad I gave it a go. I was worried it might be a bit dry, but it’s really not. The subject matter means it’s not an easy read, but it is very readable, very interesting, and always stays sensitive.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a gifted storyteller and I’ll be looking out for more of her work.

View all my reviews

Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fiction
January 1st 2007
448

The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One by Christopher Hansen

The Magician's Workshop

The Magician’s Workshop blurb

Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is granted the title of magician and is given fame, power, riches, and glory. This volume of books follows the journey of a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.

My review of The Magician’s Workshop

The Magician's Workshop, Volume OneThe Magician’s Workshop, Volume One by Christopher Hansen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Magician’s Workshop has one of the most unusual magic systems I’ve seen. It’s all based on the idea that everyone can create projections – illusions that work on the senses. So you can make people see, hear, feel and taste things.

There’s also the idea that everyone has a colour inside them. A test at age 16 will show if someone has a colour inside them or if they are void.

I’m not entirely sure what the colours are or what they are used for though. There are no big info dumps here, which is great because I hate those, but also it doesn’t really explain things.

The culture and the world took me a while to get to grips with, the magic system was slowly revealed so I was starting to understand that, but there are so many different ideas and story lines going on that it took me the entire book to start feeling like I had a grip on the world.

I think there are about 5 different viewpoints, and it doesn’t spend very long with any of them so the stories didn’t go anywhere. Not much happened, I think the whole of this book was just setting the scene. Hopefully, the story will get going in the next book.

The characters are supposed to be around 16, which for the world it’s set in appears to be when they start to be considered adults. It didn’t fit with the way they acted though, I was fully convinced I was reading about 11 year-olds until the text mentioned their age.

I liked the writing style, and I liked the ideas and the characters, but I would have been happier with fewer viewpoints and more story.

I received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.

The Magician's Workshop, Volume One
The Magician's Workshop
Christopher Hansen
Young Adult Fantasy
November 8th 2016
247

The Martian Playlist

The Martian

I read the Martian recently, and one thing that stood out in it was the music.

Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, trying to survive, and the only music he has to listen to is the 70’s disco collection one of his teammates left behind.

This is a playlist I put together on Spotify inspired by the music mentioned in the book, and every time I listen to it I can picture Mark on Mars, boogying in the red, dust-covered landscape, eating his potatoes.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

The Martian Blurb

A mission to Mars.

A freak accident.

One man’s struggle to survive.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

My Review of The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a proper sci-fi book, it reminds me of the best of 50’s sci-fi. I loved all the maths and the science and watching Mark Watney work out how to stay alive.

Watney’s voice was funny (very funny!) and compelling. I felt like I was there with him on Mars, and his science explanations were accessible enough that I could follow what he was doing and why.

I loved the insight into all the NASA equipment, and what they would take with them on a trip to Mars. I almost feel now like I know what it would be like to be an astronaut.

I wasn’t keen on the parts set on Earth. I liked the characters, but for me these parts were overdone and tried too hard to play with my emotions. There was a bit too much of how the whole world pulls together to save one man. Whatever. I get why we had to see what they were doing on Earth to try to save him, and I did like the plans they came up with, but I don’t need to be shown so obviously where I should find something moving.

But the rest of it I loved, even the 70’s disco soundtrack!

The Martian
Andy Weir
Sci-Fi
August 18th 2015
435

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Fledgling

Fledgling Blurb

Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted – and still wants – to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

My Review of Fledgling

FledglingFledgling by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shori looks like a normal human child but is actually a 53-year-old Ina, a vampire. The story is told through her eyes after she loses her memory and cannot remember who or what she is.

Shori is found and cared for by a human, but as they slowly realise what she is Shori starts trying to find her Ina family. This gives us as the reader a unique insight into the vampire community, Shori is one of them, but has to relearn everything about them, and we learn with her.

The Ina create strong families and communities. As an Ina Shori needs her human symbionts, she needs their closeness and their support.
I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the communal / shared partner way of living (I don’t like people, and sharing my life with one person is about as much as I can stand) but I like the different approach to vampire stories. It shows vampires as being capable of kindness and love for humans.

Shori has an intelligent, cold, analytical style which I enjoyed reading, and the whole story is quite serious, with no daftness in it.It makes a nice change from the normal over the top emotional vampire silliness!

I loved it at first, and the story built up a lot of momentum but then it kinda petered out towards the conclusion where it became quite slow.

It became what I felt was a discussion of race, prejudice, and moral values, which I found very interesting and thought-provoking, and the slower pace helped to digest it all.

This is one of the best vampire stories I’ve read and I’m excited about reading more of Octavia Butler’s books!

Fledgling
Octavia E. Butler
Fantasy
January 2nd 2007
320