Category Archives: short stories

Death Wears a Beauty Mask and Other Stories by Mary Higgins Clark

cover artSeveral of these stories are laughably dated, but the acknowledgment warns the reader up front that the first writing was in the early 1970s. Murder mysteries aren’t all that different, even decades later, though the way the story is told certainly has changed (for the better, IMHO). And the rest of the stories are modern and enjoyable reads, as I always expect from Mary Higgins Clark. Surely a beach read that you can feel good about leaving for someone else to pick up.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Jane Kostenko
Rating: Recommended

Low Chicago ed. by George R. R. Martin

low chicago cover

Low Chicago edited by George R.R. Martin is a collection of short stories tied together in an overall plot – I don’t think they can really be enjoyed individually. This is not the first wild card book In the series, but it is the first that I have read; I’m not sure if someone more familiar with the series would have been less overwhelmed in the beginning. Low Chicago is a type of poker, and the book starts out with a poker game and turns into a time travel adventure (much more interesting than poker).

I did enjoy the book, and I plan to try the first book in the series. I liked “Meathooks on Ice” the best … and I now know how the great Chicago fire started (the cow was innocent). There was a surprising amount of politics in the stories.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2018

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

I read the first book of the Red Rising series, Red Rising, by Pierce Brown. It is young adult, dystopian, science fiction. It is about Darrow, a miner in the Red caste who was proud to be sacrificing for the good of humanity, but eventually realizes that Reds are really just slaves.

It starts out a little slow, but at about 1/3 in, it became very captivating. I enjoyed the world, caste system, and the characters. Although I enjoyed the story and wondered “what next,” I was never worried about Darrow – I did worry about other characters. I was willing to suspend belief on the results from his medical transformation, but some may not be able to.

I also really enjoyed the references to other books:

  •  “So this kid is what? A predestined Alexander? A Caesar? A Genghis? A Wiggin? I ask.” (I assume this is an Ender’s Game reference)
  • In the third book one of the ship names is Dejah Thoris (I assume this is from the princess in the Warlord of Mars books)

Availability: COSMOS,
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Highly Recommended (with the caveat that it is YA, so not for everyone)
Challenge: A book with a color in the title

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

From the Dust ReturnedRay Bradbury is a man of many gifts. If you like sci-fi or horror fiction with a dash of fantasy, chances are Bradbury has something for you. From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury is one of his later books, and collects a few stories published elsewhere throughout Bradbury’s career, as well as some new ones. Everything is tied up around one family of sorts in Illinois that is made up of all sorts of strange creatures, from a kindly uncle with wings to a sleeping Egyptian princess whose mind explores the world and minds around her. The main conflict that is explored throughout the book is the threat of an increasingly unfazed and secular world against creatures who rely on their fear to thrive and exist.

If you read one story in this book and find it isn’t for you, there’s a good chance that you will find some character and story to hold close to your heart. There’s mortal Timothy’s preparations for the family Homecoming and his inner conflict over whether or not to join his mysterious family in immortality. There’s Cecy and her journey to experience mortal love. There’s Uncle Einer’s adventures into the world, and the life he finds out there. Uncle Einer’s marriage is particularly touching to me, but it may be different for you depending on what you like. I wouldn’t call this my favorite Bradbury book, but it’s still well worth a read.

Availability: USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kimberly Boenig
Rating: Highly Recommended

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

You Think it I'll Say it cover

I think Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the sharpest and most casually incisive fiction writers at work today. I appreciate her midwestern perspective, her treatment of relationships and gender, and her cool refraction of Trump-era society. With that said, I was a little disappointed in her debut collection of stories. Although there are some standout pieces here, such as “Gender Studies,” others feel like warmed-over Alice Munro, attempting to cram a novel’s worth of life and time into a few pages. I thought back to some of my favorite works of Sittenfeld’s: Prep, her debut novel of a young woman’s experience in boarding school, American Wife, a fictional treatment of Laura Bush’s life, and Eligible, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and found myself wondering if Sittenfeld operates best within a larger, clearly-defined conceit or framework. These were enjoyable stories, with moments of genuine insight, but I don’t think they’re a true reflection of the author’s abilities.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Michael Dunn
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2018

Buy Jupiter by Isaac Asimov

Buy Jupiter cover

Buy Jupiter is a collection of some of Asimov’s earlier short stories, with commentary by the author himself. In the introduction, he claims that the book is sort of an autobiography; he says there’s no interesting aspect about his life “except [his] typewriter, and therefore no need to write a full autobiography, so the commentary and timelines in this book accompanying each story will have to do (this edition was published in 1975; Asimov would later go on to write actual autobiographies).

The stories themselves are a mix of thought-provoking, funny, and just interesting to read. Some of my favorites from the book are “Does a Bee Care?”, “A Statue for Father”, and “Each an Explorer”. Having read two other collections of Asimov’s later short stories, I personally think that his later works are a little bit better and more involving than these earlier works. However, Asimov is a renowned sci-fi writer, and these stories are still a reflection of that talent. Buy Jupiter is a fun read and good introduction to his work. I do wish that there would be diversity in his characters –  almost all stories focus on scientists, astronauts, and politicians who are unfailingly male – but that is a reflection of the time in which Asimov wrote his stories.

Availability:  COSMOS and USMAI
Review Submitted by: Hannah Yeager
Rating: Highly Recommended

To Cut a Long Story Short by Jeffrey Archer

to cut a long story short cover


This was an enjoyable series of crime stories (some very short, some longish), with many based on true incidents (those were the most fun, IMHO). None of the stories were too deep, all were enjoyable, and it was the type of book you could put down and pick back up without worrying where the story was going!

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating:  Highly Recommended