Saturday, 31 October 2015

Monthly Faves - October 2015

Wow, you would think it would be back to back to back spooky reads on this post this month?  Instead, its a pretty ecclectic mix of non-fiction, humor and of course the obligatory spooky read for October.

It’s not too often I use the word “brilliant” in writing a book review, but in the case of “Unfair” I have to say that it is nothing short of that description … brilliant.  There are any numbers of books available on the subjects of false confessions, wrongful convictions and the flaws in both police practices and the court system.  I have read several and, in my opinion, “Unfair” is the cream of the crop.  If you read only one book on the subject this should be the book you choose.  
My complete review HERE

GHOST STORY by Jeff Brackett
I’ll start this review by saying that I started reading this story this morning with my coffee and then was almost late for work.  I did not want to stop reading until the end.  But that’s okay, its “Casual Friday” – who needs to do make-up and hair anyway?
My complete review HERE

SECONDHAND SOULS by Christopher Moore

I don’t even know where to start on a synopsis for this book?  This sequel to “A Dirty Job” is an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of book brilliantly pulled together by the twisted mind of Christopher Moore.  He just makes it work and makes me laugh through the whole thing.
My complete review HERE

Slade House - A Review

SLADE HOUSE by David Mitchell

Slade House is mansion that stands down a narrow, dark alley in a working class part of London.  Those who know of it always think that it is very out of place.  Those who visit it find it’s garden enchanting, it’s hosts charming and the food better than any ever tasted before.  Those few never want to leave … then they do – desperately … none do.

Slade House is a short novel told in five vignettes.  Each part is told from the perspective of a different character.  Each telling gives the reader a little more information about what is actually going on in Slade House.  None of what we learn is good!  When we meet and get know the inhabitants of Slade House, brother and sister twins Norah and Jonah Grayer, things start to fall into place. 

Despite the fact that this book is written in what amounts to five separate stories Mr. Mitchell manages to write so that it all blends together quite seamlessly.  As each story began I foolishly hoped that this time it would be different; this time the visitor would best the twins.  It was not to be.  The author certainly kept me on a roller coaster of belief, hope and then despair for the victims, each consecutive story amplifying that sensation more and more.  That was some excellent writing.  As the final vignette began I was drawn in once more.  I was having that “boy who cried wolf” feeling and swore I would not get my hopes up again.  I needn’t have worried.  Mr. Mitchell did a superb job of keeping me in suspense and not so blissful ignorance.

The final outcome?  Let’s just say I could have screamed – and not only in horror.

As thoroughly as I enjoyed this book one drawback for me was the use of what I can only describe as “mystic psycho-babble”.  I got so bogged down in the names for the various locations and “rites” that I found myself concentrating more on the vocabulary than the narrative.  It resolved itself in the end and didn’t lessen my angst about what was happening but it was distracting.

As my last official “Halloween Read” for this year I’ll call it a very well written and frightening story.  The concept behind the evil was original and despite the “mystic psycho-babble” I “got it”.   Four ghosts for this one. 

* I received this ebook at no charge from Random House
via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Amazon)

David Mitchell is the award-winning and bestselling author of Slade House, The Bone Clocks, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream, and Ghostwritten. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2007. With KA Yoshida, Mitchell translated from the Japanese the internationally bestselling memoir The Reason I Jump. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.

And now Hallowe'en is over for another year.

Happy Hallowe'en!


Here's hoping all your trick or treaters are dressed as literary characters,
All your treats are books,
and all your tricks are plot twists!

Having Hallowe'en candy in the house is always a dangerous thing so just in case I couldn't control myself this year I kept this idea handy ...

Some book themed pumpkins to enjoy ...

As a public service announcement, remember - tonight we "fall back".

Friday, 30 October 2015

Some Hallowe'en Shorts

Just a couple of short story "Halloween Reads" ...

GHOST STORY by Jeff Brackett
I’ll start this review by saying that I started reading this story this morning with my coffee and then was almost late for work.  I did not want to stop reading until the end.  But that’s okay, its “Casual Friday” – who needs to do make-up and hair anyway?

Years ago the hunting lodge caught fire and since then it has stood neglected and abandoned with rumors swirling about ghosts.  Sima and her team of paranormal investigators begin to set up their equipment and prepare to spend the night investigating this haunted site.  It immediately becomes apparent that someone, or some-THING, doesn’t want them there.

Mr. Brackett knows how to write a short story.  He pulled me in slowly with the first few pages and took the time to tell me just enough about the characters to get me to like them.  How can you not start to care about a couple that makes a co-worker pine for “a love like that”?  Then, BAM, he started the bumps and moans.  The coffee I had in front of me turned cold because I didn’t want to take my eyes off the page.  Did the ghoulies get ‘em?  Sorry, can’t tell.

In his author’s note at the end of the book Mr. Brackett explains that he is not a writer of horror.  He was asked to submit a story to a planned anthology and was reluctant to take on the challenge because, once again emphatically, he is not a writer of horror.  Well, oh boy, you sure could have fooled me.  This is one of the most spine chilling short stories I have read in a good long while.  I have mentioned before that I am on a never-ending quest to find THE excellent ghost story.  Let me tell you – Mr. Brackett’s “Ghost Story” has made the list! 

I don’t always review stand-alone short stories because it seems like a bit of a cheat to add them to my yearly book count, but this one deserves to be reviewed.  I received this at no charge in an Amazon promotion but would not have regretted it one bit if I had had to pay for it.  So, in case I haven’t made myself clear … did I like this novella?  As a Halloween read this year it gets five ghosts all the way!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his Amazon page)

Jeff Brackett is the author of "Half Past Midnight", "The Road to Rejas", and "Streets of Payne". After having lived almost his entire life in and around the Houston, Texas metroplex, circumstances recently brought him to Claremore, Oklahoma, where he, his wife, and two dogs (Bella and Cricket) have settled in to a smaller house, with a much larger yard. They are all adjusting to the new lifestyle quite well, and Jeff has even begun learning to garden.

His writing has won Honorable Mention in the action / adventure category of the "Golden Triangle Unpublished Writer's Contest", first place in the novel category of the "Bay Area Writers League Manuscript Competition", and was a finalist in the science fiction / fantasy / horror category of the "Houston Writer's Conference" manuscript contest.

His proudest achievement, though, is in having fooled his wife into marrying him almost thirty years ago, and helping her to raise three wonderful children. He is now a grandfather twice over.

DARK SCREAMS (VOLUME ONE) edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

I picked up this three-disc audio book at the library off their “Halloween Reads” shelf on the basis that it included short stories by Stephen King and Kelley Armstrong, two members of my favorite authors list.  The library had it right – it was definitely “Halloween-y”.

The stories and authors included were:

WEEDS by Stephen King.  Jordy Verill watches as a meteorite crashes into his property and imagines the money he will make by selling bits and pieces of it.  He should have imagined something much worse.

I know I have read this story in another anthology (possibly with a different title?).  It was good the first time I read it and it was still good as I listened to it this time.  Mr. King always manages to creep me out.

THE PRICE YOU PAY by Kelley Armstrong.  Kara and Ingrid have been friends since preschool.  They have shared a lot of experiences both good and bad … very bad.  Can their friendship be renewed after a years long separation?  Or is the price of some things too high?

Ms. Armstrong does an admirable job with this short story.  She kept my interest from the get go and never let up until the very end.  I had an inkling about where the story was going, but that never detracted from reading every last word.  I enjoyed it. 

MAGIC EYES by Bill Pronzini.  When you know you are the only sane person in an asylum whom can you tell without sounding insane?

The first half of this story didn’t really have me listening all the intently but then came the point when reality and insanity crash head long into each other.  After that it had my undivided attention.

MURDER BY CHAINS by Simon Clark.  Why was he waking up in an underground vault and why was he chained to a “grunting Goliath” of a man that he is fairly certain is a murderous lunatic.

As with the last story this had me less than enthralled through most of it, but did give me a little jolt with the ending.

THE WATCHED by Ramsey Cambell.  From the blurb on the back of the book … “Little Jimmy gets a glimpse of the cold truth when he finds out that it’s not always what you see that can get you into trouble; it’s who knows what you see.” 
This one did absolutely nothing for me other than make me glad it was the last story in the anthology.

Overall I was a little underwhelmed by this one.  Yes, it had a King story but it was a repeat.  In my opinion Ms. Armstrong’s story was the strongest of the five and the other three left me with nary a goose bump.  As a Halloween Read I give it three ghosts.

Two More Ghost Stories (sort of)

Two more additions to this year's list of "Halloween Reads".  While neither of these is definitively a "ghost story" they both have cringe-worthy moments and they both have "ghost" in the title so I am including them.

HUNGRY GHOSTS by Peggi Blair
Ricardo Ramirez is a homicide investigator in Havana.  It’s not a popular profession to have in Cuba nor does it come with much government support in the way of state of the art labs, DNA testing or even pencils.  However, Detective Ramirez has his own secret weapon … the ghosts of the victims he will be investigating.  Whenever Ricardo sees a new apparition he knows that a new case is about to come his way.  Unfortunately, these ghosts cannot speak to him, but somehow, they manage to help.

The latest victim appears when the body of a dead prostitute is found with nylon stockings tied in a bow around her neck … the same MO as his one and only unsolved murder.

Quick switch of locations where Charlie Pike finds a similar victim, also with stockings tied into a bow around her neck, on a First Nations Reserve in Northern Ontario.  Can these cases possibly be related?  Is there really an international serial killer on the loose?

For me this book was interesting on so many levels and, surprisingly, the ghost story was the least of them.  While the ghost added color and some comic relief to a rather grisly murder mystery, had the book been written without the inclusion of the apparitions it would have worked just as well.  I enjoyed the glimpse into the life of the local inhabitants of Havana that is a far cry from the tourist experience.  Contrasting and comparing Detective Ramirez in Cuba to Detective Pike on the First Nations Reserve was eye-opening … so many of the same issues face the population in both areas.  Ms. Blair incorporates the comparison so smoothly into her narrative that it never detracts from the story, yet makes a strong statement never the less.  It thoroughly added to my enjoyment of this well written book.  There were enough plot twists and red herrings to keep me turning the pages at a pretty brisk pace and the ending was a revelation I didn’t really see coming until Ms. Blair places her reader in the midst of the action.

I enjoyed all of the characters but have to give a special shout-out to the portrayal of Hector Apiro, the coroner.  He is one of the most original characters I’ve read in a long time and were I casting this as a movie Peter Dinklage would be my first and only choice.  If that’s not teaser enough to tempt you to pick up the book I don’t know what is.

This is the third in the Inspector Ramirez series and the first I have read.  It held up well as a stand-alone book and despite my protest of not wanting to get involved with another series I will be picking up book one and two somewhere along the way. 

There were specters, so I am including this in my Halloween reads and giving it 4 ghosts … not as a Halloween read but as a very good book overall.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her blog)

I am a lawyer, realtor, and author living in Ottawa, Canada. I was a defence lawyer and prosecutor, but most of my legal career was spent in Aboriginal law. But my Inspector Ramirez mysteries series is set in Havana.

Why Cuba?

I spent  Christmas in Old Havana in 2006. I saw how bored the young police officers were, slouched against lamp posts, waiting for a crime, any crime to occur. I went to astonishing art museums, the book market (hundreds of thousands of used books), cigar and rum factories, artists’ stalls, and, of course, the Malecon.
I visited most of Hemingway’s favourite bars (no easy task — they’re all over the place) and learned how to make the perfect mojito.

Havana is colourful mimes on stilts, elderly cigar ladies, child beggars, feral cats and homeless dogs. It’s gorgeous, collapsing Spanish colonial architecture, crazy anti-George Bush billboards, one of the most educated populations in the world, and everywhere, music. Cuba is communism, extreme shortages and incredible generosity, corruption, inane bureaucracy and genuine kindness.

It is quite possibly the most interesting place I’ve ever been. How could I resist writing about it?

A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay

We meet Merry as an adult just as she is about to lead a journalist/author into her childhood home, a home that became a house of horrors for Merry.  When she was 8 years old her beloved older sister Marjorie began to show signs of instability – the nighttime stories she had always invented for Merry took on a dark cast and Marjorie herself became withdrawn, dark and moody.  Well, Marjorie was a teenager and these things were par for the course.  Or were they?  While Marjorie’s mother insisted that it was something visiting a counselor could take care of her father was not so sure and as his descent into unemployment and malaise deepened his religious convictions increased so he decided an exorcism was more along the line of what Marjorie needed.

Somehow the Barrett family and their troubles came to the attention of the media and before they knew it, they were the stars of a reality television show, “The Possession”, centered around Marjorie’s “affliction” and upcoming exorcism.

All of the events that unfolded in the Barrett household are told in alternating narratives of Merry discussing her past with the journalist/author, snippets of a blog Merry wrote (which were the parts of the book I enjoyed the most) and recounting the filming of the reality show as Merry rewatches episodes.

Was it possession, mental illness or playing to the media?  Who was the ill member of the family?  Marjorie?  Mr. Barrett?  Or, quite possibly someone else altogether?

I can’t honestly admit that I enjoyed this book as much as I expected to.  The writing is excellent.  I think Mr. Tremblay did an admirable job of capturing Merry’s young voice and then carrying that through to the present and an equally good job with Marjorie as the “possession” overtakes her.  And yes, there were those creepy unexplainable moments and yes, the “demonic possession” of Marjorie did seem like it was a real possibility.  I’ll even admit to a bit of angst about the actual exorcism (flashbacks to “The Exorcist” I think) but overall this book didn’t wow me even as a psychological thriller.

Overall, as one of my Hallowe’en reads gets 3 ghosts.  Just not my cup of tea, I guess.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his blog)

Paul Tremblay is the author of the novel A Head Full of Ghosts. His other novels include The Little SleepNo Sleep till WonderlandSwallowing a Donkey’s Eye, and Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly (co-written with Stephen Graham Jones).

Paul is very truthful and declarative in his bios. He once gained three inches of height in a single twelve hour period, and he does not have a uvula. His second toe is longer than his big toe, and yes, on both feet. He has a master’s degree in mathematics, teaches AP Calculus, and once made twenty-seven three pointers in a row. He enjoys reading The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher aloud in a faux-British accent to children. He is also reading this bio aloud, now, with the same accent. He lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts and he is represented by Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Mail Call

I got a nice surprise in the mail today.  I knew it was on its way, but had honestly forgotten about it until the brown paper wrapped parcel arrived today.

I don't usually publish my reviews on Amazon, but when I posted my review of "Dogtology: Live Bark, Believe" recently I received an email from Green Leaf Book group asking if I would be so kind as to put the review up on Amazon as well.  Not a problem, I was happy to do it.  In exchange for the "favor" they offered to send me a hard copy, signed edition of the book.  I felt a little greedy since I had already received the ebook at no charge from Netgalley, but how could I turn down getting a signed hard cover edition.  Since the author's dog received an honorable mention in the credits for coming up with the idea for the book I thought the additional paw print signature is a really cute, fun added bonus.  Definitely made me smile!

So a great big THANK YOU to Green Leaf Book Group for the book and for a second opportunity to gush about how much I did enjoy this book.

A special shout out to Green Leaf as well because they are part of the Tree Neutral program which according to the book blurb means "they offset the number of trees consumed in the production and printing of this book by taking proactive steps, such as planting trees in direct proportion to the number of trees used".  EXCELLENT IDEA!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Two Ghost Stories

So I'm finally catching up on posting some of the reviews for my "Halloween Reads".  Although told in very different styles these books had some similarities such as time period (1930's), female ghosts with an agenda and female protagonists, which I always enjoy. 


Alice, a shy and inexperienced young woman working her first job in London, falls prey to a scoundrel (married, no less) and soon finds herself pregnant.  It’s 1933 and this situation is simply not acceptable.  To avoid the disgrace the news would bring down upon the family her mother concocts a story about tragic widowhood and makes arrangements to have Alice shipped off to an old school friend who is the housekeeper at Fiercombe Manor.  The manor is in a remote area of Gloucestershire so no one need know of Alice’s unfortunate circumstance.  Once the child is given up for adoption Alice can return to the loving embrace (at least that of her father – her mother is a bit of cold fish) family and her life in London.

The manor has quite a sad history and as Alice serves out her confinement of shame she begins to uncover the story of Lady Elizabeth Stanton, herself pregnant, when she was lady of the manor more than thirty years ago.  With the discovery of a long forgotten photograph and a hidden diary Alice begins to piece together Elizabeth’s tragic story … and begins to believe that Elizabeth is quite possibly haunting the manor.  Alice begins to fear that the same fate that befell Elizabeth’s baby might happen to hers as well.

Seamlessly told in two time lines, thirty years apart, Ms. Riordan gives the reader a many-layered story.  The reader experiences what life is like for a young women living in 1930’s London and then compares that cleverly with life at a isolated, virtually unwanted and mostly forgotten manor in the country.  The reader is also allowed to experience the life of the upper crust at the turn of the century through Elizabeth’s journal.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  As a book read around Halloween I give it four little ghosts. Only four because of the ending – while I enjoyed the big pink bow wrapping it all up neatly – it was, even for me, a little pat.  That being said this story does have a little bit of everything that, in my opinion, makes a good gothic mystery/horror.  Secrets, lies, love affairs, nosey servants, hidden rooms and long forgotten personal effects all tossed together with the perfect combination of angst, spookiness, atmosphere, mystery, drama and a love match thrown in for good measure.

Interestingly, the North American book was titled “Fiercombe Manor” while in the UK it was released under the title “The Girl in the Photograph”.  I'm not sure which is the title I prefer.


Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist who was born in London and grew up in
Warwickshire. She spent her first years in journalism as a staffer, first at The Guardian as an editorial assistant and later at Time Out London, where she went on to become deputy editor for the lifestyle section, covering everything from travel to property to beauty. After seven fantastic years of weird and wonderful assignments, she decided to go freelance in order to concentrate on writing fiction, which had for a long time been an ambition (not least when she was interviewing authors for Time Out).

After moving to Cheltenham in the Cotswolds, she wrote Birdcage Walk, which was published by Diversion as an ebook in 2012. Her second novel sold to Penguin in the UK and HarperCollins in the US and Canada, and was published in early 2015 – as The Girl in the Photograph and Fiercombe Manor respectively. A German edition will follow in the autumn of 2015. She is now hard at work on her next novel, a dual narrative story full of secrets and intrigue and moving between the years 1877, 1910 and 1922.

Kate lives in the Gloucestershire countryside with her husband and their dog Morris, a Staffordshire bull terrier they adopted from a shelter in 2013.


Sarah Piper lives a pretty hand to mouth existence.  Going from one temporary job to the next, usually alone and not very social she doesn’t have a lot going for her.  She often wishes that her life was just as tad more adventurous.  Be careful what you wish for Sarah!  Enter Alistair Gellis, WWII survivor, independently wealthy ghost hunter, who as fate would have it needs an assistant – specifically a female assistant – to help him on his next “hunt”.  Not exactly the kind employment you expect to receive when you work for a temp agency.  Sarah has her trepidations but jumps at the money to be earned AND the chance to do something exciting.

The investigation is in a haunting involving a 19-year old Maddy Clare who apparently committed suicide.  She is a very angry spirit who hates men (hence the need for a female assistant).  Maddy is very vengeful and soon wreaks chaos on anyone involved with the investigation.  Sarah, for some reason, feels empathy for Maddy and refuses to give up despite the horrific events that occur and when the truth comes out about the suicide both women are allowed relief from the nightmare that has become their reality.

Ms. St. James has given her readers an excellent story of a frightening haunting, atmospheric, tense and tingly with quite a few unexpected scares along the way.  She has also given her readers a mystery to solve and that, all in all, makes for a pretty good ghost story.

My complaint with this book is not at all about the story but rests on the shoulders of the characters actions.  I understand Sarah and her background, because it is very well written, but in her relationship with both Alistair and his original assistant she seems to step out of character.  Her actions just did not seem to fit in with her character.  I don’t want this review to include any spoilers, so suffice it to say that it bothered me enough to be an ever so slight hindrance to my complete enjoyment of the story.

So it’s three ghosts for this one.

I listened to this book on audio and the narrator, Pamelia Garelick, who is an excellent narrator did an superb job with the reading.  However, her voice is very similar to that of actress Penelope Wilton who plays Isobel Crawley on Downton Abbey … so very similar that I could not get Ms. Wilton’s image out of my head the whole time I was listening to the book.  I felt as if Isobel were telling me a story.  I found this so distracting at times that I feel the need to mention it here, but it does not reflect (I don’t think) on my overall rating of the book, just on my enjoyment of this book on audio.


Simone St. James is a lifelong reader of ghost stories and other spooky reads, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she discovered two wonderful genres: romances and old, classic gothics.

Wishing she could read something that combined the three, with a 1920’s setting thrown in as well (and having written two full novels that were rightfully rejected everywhere and will forever live under the bed), she wrote THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, which was the book she really wished to read. An agent’s representation and a publishing contract soon followed, and she has been happily writing in her chosen, made-up genre ever since. THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE won two of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® awards, as well as Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Book.

Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to become a full-time writer. She lives just outside Toronto with her husband and an elderly cat who is probably sleeping as we speak. When not writing, Simone can be found traveling, cooking, staying active and healthy, gardening badly, and reading, reading, reading. Among her favorite authors (besides the geeky history and research books she loves) are Mary Stewart, Daphne duMaurier, Deanna Raybourn, Susanna Kearsley, Jacqueline Winspear, Victoria Holt, Kate Morton, George R. R. Martin, and Stephen King. How’s that for a mix? She is also rather addicted to Sherlock on the BBC.

Simone loves to chat with readers on Facebook and Twitter, or through her contact page. You can also see her reading lists on Goodreads and the latest behind the scenes pictures she’s pinned on Pinterest.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Keeping a Promise to Myself

It's been crazy hectic in my life over the past week ... functions to attend, changes at work, family stuff ... which left not a lot of time "me time".  I get a little squirrely if I don't have time to sit down read and decompress.

But I did manage to keep one promise to myself.  For weeks and weeks I have been driving by this sign for a Friends of the Library Giant Used Book Sale that was happening this past weekend (of course!).  I told myself that no matter what I was going!  So on Friday I drove in the parking lot and allowed myself one hour.  I had no agenda, I just wanted to go in and see if anything caught my eye.

Now this is the first of such sales that I have attended and I was overwhelmed at the size of the space, the volume of books and the throng of people.  One fellow was walking around with a shopping cart that he had no doubt "borrowed" from the parking lot of the grocery store down the street.  Now THAT is a SERIOUS book shopper!  I zeroed in on the sections that held the most appeal for me, browsed a little and (much to my surprise) found myself carrying books.

I did keep my promise to myself ... I attended the sale AND was in and out in one hour.

This is what I took home...

These three will be going to live at a friend's house.
(If anyone has read them let me know if I should read them before passing them along)

These will eventually be passed on but I want to look at them first.

These caught my eye and will find a home on my shelf.

This one I picked up because I have it's sisters ("Ghosts" and "Witches") on my shelf already.

And this one because it's less than two months until Christmas, I love Christopher Moore and although I listened to the audio book I do not have a hard cover among my Moore books.

My total output ... $23.00

Forgot your Book? Here's a Solution!

Okay … I really LIKE this idea.

Imagine being without your paperback or ereader (because who would need it when you are going to do dinner and a movie with a friend?) and all of a sudden you have an unexpected fifteen-minute wait for said friend who is stuck in traffic.

What to do?  What to do?

At the push of a button you can have a short story in your hands to occupy your time.  You can choose a one, three or even five minute read. Best of all it’s free!

Granted, I can see some problems with these ... vandalism, abuse ... but not anything more than normal vending machines or free little libraries face.  What appeals to me is that it could feasibly put some reading materials in the hands of people who may not be able to afford other sources.  It may even introduce some people to the idea of reading in their "spare" time?

The following article found at describes the premise and technology behind this innovative idea.

New Delhi: Technology has truly invaded our lives; from tablets to smartphones, there is no time which could be called a ‘no screen time’. Whether we are travelling, eating, waiting at a public place, the smartphone never leaves our gaze. However, a city in France wants to change that.

Waiting at public places is one thing that we, humans, do not find as an exciting task to do. Just to kill that waiting period, we have enough distractions like a smartphone, an e-book, or a tablet. But Grenoble, capital of the French Alps, wants to help passerby utilise their monotonous waiting time by reading short stories which are ‘dispensed’ from a machine.

Yes, you read it right. Grenoble has come up with an interesting experimental project through which it not only aims at helping people do something better than fiddling with their mini gadgets, but also try to bring back the reading culture that is lost to the technological world.

The ‘short story dispensers’ deliver good quality popular literature to people waiting in public spaces, just like the way chocolates and chips are dispensed. However, the best part about these dispensers is they are free to use.

The initiative is a collaborative effort between the founders of publishing company Short Edition and the green party mayor of Grenoble, Eric Piolle, Konbininotes.  In all, there will be eight machines spread across the town: at the town hall, the tourist office, libraries and in social centers.

Users have the option to choose the length of the literature depending on the time they have to kill. The ‘three minute’ format, for example, takes the form of a piece of paper that’s 8 X 60 cm in size, while the ‘five minute’ version could be double the size.

So the next time you have to wait for your friend to arrive, you would have enough stories to tell when you meet.

The next article from goes into a little bit more detail about the “who and how” of these machines.

The innovation-friendly Green party mayor of Grenoble, Eric Piolle, has ordered eight vending machines to be placed in the heart of the city that will dispense literary short stories to pedestrians for free at the push of a button.

The big orange terminals have three options – stories of 1, 3 or 5 minutes – that are printed out on thin recycled paper reminiscent of a lengthy shopping bill and can be tucked into a wallet.

“The idea came to us in front of a vending machine containing chocolate bars and drinks. We said to ourselves that we could do the same thing with good quality popular literature to occupy these little unproductive moments,” Christophe Sibieude, a digital publisher who pitched the idea to the city council, told AFP.

Sibieude already runs a successful literary smartphone app called Short Edition that has over 140,000 subscribers who will both read and write their own stories for the printouts.

The idea would have been impossible, however, without the input of the mayor – a dashing 42-year-old business-executive-turned-environmentalist. With a population of over 150 thousand, Grenoble is the largest French city to entrust itself to a Green politician.

“We are trying to re-imagine the city center as a place of shared experiences,” Piolle said to AFP. “We are trying to launch a revolution, and the objective is to build a wider and calmer downtown area.”

Piolle has made international headlines several times since his election for controversial decisions, such as ordering that all street advertising be banned from the city center and replaced with trees and hedges. He has also cut the speed limit inside the city to 30 km/h and introduced more pedestrian spaces.

Several initiatives, such as turning popular shopping streets into bike lanes, have met with severe opposition from local traders, who believe his plans could drive business away from the city center.

Although Piolle’s book dispenser plan is innovative, similar stunts to promote reading have already been attempted in other, usually more cosmopolitan, urban centers. Toronto’s Public Library has created pop-up kiosks offering free books at busy train stations, while in California an art collective built a structure out of 50,000 books, which could then be taken away by visitors. By the end of the exhibition, titled Lacuna, almost none remained.

But Short Edition hopes its invention will be more than a one-off.

“We are getting a lot of requests from all over the world for this invention. Once we will sort out our costs, we will ship these machines anywhere – for maybe a month, several months or even for a few years,” Quentin Pleple, one of Short Edition’s founders, told RT.

** On a personal note:  I like how this Green Party Mayor Eric Piolle thinks!