Story Time Reviews “The Night Librarian”

Story Time Reviews is a blog series that reviews short stories both read and read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews “The Night Librarian” by Jane Jago, read by Chris Herron on TallTaleTV. 

Working as the night librarian in a library full of magical books comes with its perks, but also its heaping spoonful of issues.

Duration: 22:51

The Story

This is definitely a story for adult ears. Some commenters complained about the lack of a content warning and wished there had been a hint of the content within the title or story description.

“The Night Librarian” is a complete short story (approx. 6000 words in length). The protagonist is the title character described as a dumpy girl with a determined chin. Her job is to re-shelve the magical books that don’t always want to stay in their places. It’s a tricky job, but she brooks no disorder.

After she re-shelves the last trolley full of books to the erotica stack, a multi-species band of magical creatures appeal to her for help. Something scary has slipped out of the pages of a book and hidden itself in the stacks. Scary enough that magical creatures who don’t normally get along huddle in the group asking for help.

Her first attempt puts an evil-sounding reptilian presence back in his place. But the magical creatures let her know he wasn’t the one they fear. She must banish the creature before sunrise or it will live in the librarian forever.

The Author

Jane Jago is a self-described genre-hopping maniac, who could no more stop reading than she could stop breathing.

She lives in “the beautiful west country with my big, silly dog and my big sensible husband.”

A self-published indie author, she is also a co-author of the Dia and Julia Mysteries. A complete list of Jago’s published stories is on Amazon.

Her brief bio at the end of the video is delightful. Be sure to listen to it.

A complete list of Jago’s published stories is on Amazon.

You also can find Jane Jago on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Voice Talent

The voice talent reading “The Night Librarian” is Chris Herron creator of TallTaleTV a podcast and YouTube channel.

In his bio, Herron tells us that his poorly controlled diabetes caused legal blindness in 2015. His doctors said he had an 80% chance of never seeing again.

It was a tough time for him. His wife took him to the library and read audiobook titles to him. He listened to books he had read and loved. Audiobooks helped him in ways he hadn’t imagined they would. 

Herron changed his lifestyle and beat the odds. His love of audiobooks led to a new goal: to become a narrator and help writers showcase their work. 

Tall Tale TV features sci-fi and fantasy short stories. He reads a new story every Monday and Friday.

My Opinion

The Story

“The Night Librarian” is interesting, with plenty of pleasing alliteration and interesting word choices. The first sentence places us solidly in the library.

It was very quiet in this area of the stacks.

“The Night Librarian” by Jane Jago
Photograph of a view of library stacks perhaps like the one where the night librarian works.

The second sentence hints that this library will not be like most.

So quiet that if you listened carefully enough you could hear the books breathing.

“The Night Librarian” by Jane Jago

Appearances by notable familiar fantasy creatures and persons were delightful. And there’s nice increasing tension in the build up to confrontations with the evil creatures.

The story voice is more distant than I prefer. It’s almost but not quite an omniscient viewpoint. That is a minor, personal preference.

However, the story was not quite satisfying. My dissatisfaction comes from the fact that the protagonist barely struggled and ultimately it was not her actions that defeated the villain.

The Narrator

While I didn’t care for the voice of the librarian, the rest of the narration was pleasing. I deeply enjoyed the voices of the evil creatures.

I’m guessing Herron is self-trained. His reading is not of a professional actor level, but he is consistent and has a unique voice for each character. Not of a professional actor level isn’t a criticism. It’s simply a statement that either production or voice or both have room to grow.

Professional or not, his almost 4K subscribers enjoy listening to him.

About Content Warnings

I want to add one more note. While there are reading and viewing topics that will trigger me, this story did not. My preference is to not give or read content warnings. The story title, description, and the first page or paragraphs should give a hint if the story includes sensitive issues. The erotica element was first mentioned in this story at 3:31 minutes. For me, the 15% mark is acceptable.

Was the erotica necessary to the story? Not entirely, but it added to the setting, character development, and the tone of the story. Therefore, I believe its inclusion is the author’s prerogative.

Conclusion

Story Time reviews “The Night Librarian” by Jane Jago as read by Chris Herron on TallTaleTV. The story held my interest and much of it delighted me. I give it four stars. If it had a more satisfying ending, I would have given it five. As always, your mileage may differ. Give it a listen and let me know what you think. Better yet, give the author and YouTube channel a review.

Story Time Reviews “Valedictorian” by N. K. Jemisin

Story Time Reviews remembers the joy of listening to bedtime stories. Today Story Time Reviews “Valedictorian” by N. K. Jemisin read by LeVar Burton. For those who prefer the print version, you can find it in the December 2014 (Issue 55) of Lightspeed Magazine.

Image of a royal blue mortar-board with yellow trim and yellow tassel representing Story Time Reviews "Valedictorian"

Where to Find the Story

“Valedictorian” © 2012 by N. K. Jemisin. After: Nineteen Stories of Apocolapse and Dystopia, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. It also appears in N. K. Jemisin’s collection How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?

The February 3, 2020 episode of the reading lasts 56:21 minutes. It is available on the LeVar Burton podcast, Apple podcasts, and Stitcher.

The Story

A brief description: A smart, stubborn high school student sets her own rules in a near-future dystopia. 

This short story (5939 words) takes place in a complex future many years after a devastating war. Spare and powerful words describe a layered society and characters with conflicting desires.

Zinhle, a senior in high school, lives inside a “Firewall” with people like her. She excels in school and despairs that none of her classmates or teachers challenge her. Everyone strives to be mediocre because when graduation comes, there will be change. Her desire to be herself, to never do less than her best, drives the story. 

The characters in this story are recognizable and intriguing. Even the ones who only appear for a paragraph. 

The antagonist is strong and presents a compelling argument. So compelling that Zinhle and the reader have a lot to think about.

The Author 

Photograph of N. K. Jemisin taken by Laura Hanifin 2015.
Portrait of N. K. Jemisin by Laura Hanifin, 2015

N. K. Jemisin is a N.Y. Times best-selling, multiple award-winning author and recipient of a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship. She began writing at 8 years of age, but didn’t write for publication until after she turned thirty.

Sadly, readers weren’t ready for her first published book, an inclusive fantasy, The Killing Moon

In 2016, her novel, The Fifth Season, won the Hugo. That made N. K. Jemisin the first black person in history to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel. (Well-deserved, but shameful that the genre and the world had waited so long to honor black authors.) The next two novels in The Broken Earth trilogy, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky, won the Hugo for Best Novel in 2017 and 2018 (respectively). She is the first person ever to win the that award in three consecutive years.

Read what N. K. Jemisin has to say about how this story came about.

The Voice Talent

LeVar Burton is an Actor, Director, Educator & Cofounder of the award-winning Skybrary App, host and Executive Producer of PBS’s Reading Rainbow and lifelong children’s literacy advocate.

What can I add? Most of you are familiar with LeVar through his roles on Roots or Star Trek or on Reading Rainbow. He’s an exceptional ad entertaining reader. 

He doesn’t always read the story how I would, but his voice talent always compels me to stay with him to the end. He never disappoints. 

My Opinion

Wow. Burton’s intro to the story is spot on. The story makes you think. And I love that. 

It speaks to me about oppression—on a personal level, on a diversity level, and on an admiring writer level. 

The story has a depth that N. K. Jemisin reveals in the slow peeling back of layers. Then, as a thinking reader, there are more layers to explore once you’ve finished the story. 

It’s a story you can read many times and glean deeper insights each time.

I love stories that entertain me and challenge me to think. 

Conclusion

Do you read short stories? Where do you find them? Did you listen to or read this story? Story Time Reviews “Valedictorian” by N. K. Jemisin as read by LeVar Burton. Story and voice talent get 5 out of 5 stars. Let us know if you agree or disagree by commenting below.

Story Time Reviews “Lost Girls” by Jane Yolen

Story Time Reviews is a blog series that offers reviews of stories both read and read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews “The Lost Girls” by Jane Yolen is a 1999 winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a retelling of Peter Pan—with a twist. It originally appeared in the short story collection titled, Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

The colorful, multi-image cover of Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast by Jane Yolen is the original book in which Lost Girls by Jane Yolen appeared

I read it in the short story collection, Sister Emily’s Lightship and Other Stories.

The Story

In this story, Peter Pan has spent years since the original Wendy recruiting more and young girls. These girls are then pressed into a life of service to Peter Pan and the Lost Boys in Neverland. They serve the boys food and do all the cleaning while the boys get to fight the pirates.

And life in Neverland would have continued this way forever, but Peter recruited Darla. And Darla teaches the Wendy’s they can demand equality.

The Author

Photograph of Jane Yolen

Do I really need to tell you who Jane Yolen is? If you’re not into children’s books or Science Fiction and Fantasy, probably no. For the rest of you, here’s a brief summary of who Jane Yolen is.

Born on February 11, 1939 in New York City, Jane Hyatt Yolen was the first born of Will and Isabel Yolen. 

Her mother, a social worker, quit working jobs outside of her home after Jane was born. But she did volunteer work, wrote short stories that didn’t sell and crossword puzzles and acrostics that did.

During his lifetime, Her father was a police reporter, a café journalist, a publicity flack for Hollywood movies, and a Second Lieutenant who was wounded in WWII. It’s no wonder that Jane was “writing up a fury” by the time she was thirteen.

Jane received her BA from Smith College in 1960 and her Masters in Education from the University of Massachusetts in1976.

She is a celebrated author of more than 375 books and stories. No, celebrated isn’t the right word…she has rightfully won more awards than I knew existed. Jane describes herself as a poet and a journalist/nonfiction writer who, to her surprise, became a children’s book writer. Jane also writes fantasy novels, many of which could be considered for children, but adults enjoy them as much as children do.

If you want to know more about Jane, I encourage readers and writers to visit her website. I love one piece of advice that Jane offers at the end of her list of the many successes of a writer: “Selling the piece is only an explanation point, a spot of punctuation.” Read about Jane’s life.

My Opinion

Full disclosure, I am a Jane Yolen fan. I love her lyrical, poetic style of writing. I’m fascinated by the way she can take old fairy tales and fables and present them in a new and interesting way. And if I’m honest, am envious of her writing craft.

The story begins with Darla’s complaint, “It isn’t fair!” She’s upset that Wendy does all Peter Pan’s housework and doesn’t get to fight the pirates. And instantly, I am on Darla’s side.

As the story progresses, I cheer Darla for confronting the inequities in Neverland.

The story’s mid-point crisis is perfect as is the plot twist and the final confrontation. The ending is appropriate, if a bit rushed. 

Conclusion

Cover image of Sister Emily's Lightship and Other Stories the book where  I read the story Lost Girls by Jane Yolen

If you enjoyed story time reviews “Lost Girls” by Jane Yolen, read other story time review posts.

Overall I give the “Lost Girls” a strong 4.5 for craft, characters, plot twist, and author voice. With a stronger or less rushed feel to the ending it would easily be a 5 star read. The collection of stories, Sister Emily’s Lightship and Other Stories, is a delightful collection of re-told tales. Some very short. I highly recommend it.

Story Time Reviews “Kin”

Story Time Reviews remembers that special time when an adult reads to a child and recognizes that as a grown-up, we need to reward ourselves with a story time now and then. I’m reviving this blog series that offers reviews of stories read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews “Kin” by Bruce McAllister read on “LeVar Burton Reads.” This podcast originally posted on June 13, 2017. It runs 36:46 minutes in length.

The Amazon cover is a close up of an alien eye. It is the cover for the story Kin by Bruce McAllister.

The Story

“Kin” by Bruce McAllister appeared in the February 2006 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It received a nomination for the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. The story appears in multiple anthologies and is an Amazon “short read.

The story is about a meeting between a young boy who has a need and an alien assassin. Their meeting yields unexpected results.

The principal character, a twelve-year-old boy, is convincing. The author’s words paint the alien assassin in scary otherworldly details.

The story starts in a third person omniscient viewpoint that quickly switches to a closer third-person viewpoint and shatters conventions by relaying the story from three different viewpoints.

One might think three viewpoints would make the story flabby and difficult to follow. Yet, the story, the boy’s need, grabs you and sweeps you forward relentlessly to the end.

The Voice Talent

Photo portrait of LeVar Burton
Image by Super Festivals from Ft. Lauderdale, USA –
Photo_Ops-LeVar_Burton_20181202_0024, CC BY 2.0,

LeVar Burton is an actor, presenter, and author know by many of us. He is best known for his role as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and his role as Kunta Kinte in the ABC miniseries Roots.

Mr. Burton has long been an advocate of reading. He hosted the long-running PBS show for children, Reading Rainbow (1983-2001 and 2002-2006). He started his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads in 2017. (Read his Wikipedia bio.)

In every episode of his podcast, he reads a short story aloud. He says the only thing these stories have in common is that he loves them.

The Author

Bruce McAllister, author of literary and genre fiction, was born October 17, 1946, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Worlds of If magazine published McAllister’s first short story, “The Faces Outside,” in the July 1963 issue. He was sixteen. The story appeared in Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 25 (1963) and The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best SF, 1964.

Known for his short stories, he has published novels, poetry, short stories and articles, been a consultant to writers on film and TV projects for studios and production companies. He taught literature and writing. Currently he’s a writing coach in Southern California where he lives with his wife. He has three children.

My Opinion

In the Air is a blog post about recent podcasts, livestreaming, and YouTube videos Lynette M Burrows enjoyed recently.

I love listening to Mr. Burton. I think he could entertain me by reading the dictionary. In this story, his delivery of a unique voice for each character worked perfectly for me. But this story is as satisfying to read silently as to listen to it.

You know why this story appealed to me if you’ve read My Soul to Keep. Specific details and an emotional resonance make this story a satisfying read, and Mr. Burton’s wonderful voice makes it an enthralling listen.

Conclusion

Story Time Reviews “Kin” by Bruce McAllister receives 5 out of 5 stars.

I hope you like the Story Time Reviews posts. They will make occasional appearances on this blog. Did Story Time Reviews “Kin” help you decide you’d like to read or listen to this story? Why or why not?

Story Time Reviews: A Japanese Fairy Tale

Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale told on the Myths and Legends podcast, episode 161 titled Japanese Folk Lore: Karma.  The orginal story, “The Old Woman Who Lost her Dumpling,” may come from Hearn, Lafcadio, translator. Japanese Fairy Tales: The Boy Who Drew Cats. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 1898. This podcast includes two stories. “The Old Woman who lost her dumpling” is the first story told on the podcast. Duration 16 minutes and 14 seconds. 

The Story

Image of a page of from the story "The Old Woman Who Lost Her Dumpling" on lynettemburrows.com for her Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale post.

Making Dumplings Making Dumplings. The old women liked to make dumplings and laugh. One day she drops a dumpling to the floor. It rolls through a small hole in her home’s floor. She reaches into the hole and the dirt beneath her cracks open. She drops. She survives a long drop and though the land is weird, she sees her dumpling rolling away and she runs after it. She stops and catches her breath leaning against a Jizo-san statue. (Weiser gives us an aside at this point explaining the relevance and meaning of a Jizo-san statue in Japanese culture.) The statue warns her not to follow her dumpling because a wicked Oni lives down there, who eats people. But the old woman doesn’t heed his warning. 

True to it’s fairy tale genre there’s a lesson learned. 

The Author

Image of Lafcadio Hearn, translator of Japanese Fairy Tales on lynettemburrows.com for her Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale post.

Unfortunately the podcast does not identify where the story came from nor who the author was. I made an assumption that that the story was from Hearn, Lafcadio’s translation Japanese Fairy Tales: The Boy Who Drew Cats

From  Encyclopaedia Britannica online, “Lafcadio Hearn, also called (from 1895) Koizumi Yakumo, (born June 27, 1850, Levkás, Ionian Islands, Greece—died Sept. 26, 1904, Ōkubo, Japan), writer, translator, and teacher who introduced the culture and literature of Japan to the West.”

Another assumption I make is that Hearn translated this story as told by storytellers and not the original author. 

Hearn did the world a great service by translating many works, particularly those of Japan. However, since he’s not the author of the story it’s not appropriate to give more of his biography here. If you wish to learn more, read this.

The Voice Talent

From the Myth and Legends podcast description: Jason Weiser tells stories from myths, legends, and folklore that have shaped cultures throughout history. Some, like the stories of Aladdin, King Arthur, and Hercules are stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories you might not have heard, but really should. All the stories are sourced from world folklore, but retold for modern ears.

These are stories of wizards, knights, Vikings, dragons, princesses, and kings from the time when the world beyond the map was a dangerous and wonderful place.

Weiser’s short bio includes this line:  “In addition to history and world folklore, he’s a fan of his wife and child, dachshunds, hiking, Batman, and cake (the dessert, but the band’s ok, too).”

Weiser’s voice is pleasant and his story telling engaging. 

My Opinion

I was not prepared for Weiser’s storytelling presentation style. It took me by surprise when he “interrupted” the story for an aside about the Jizo-San statue. Despite needing to adjust my expectations, I enjoyed the story and Weisner’s interpretation of the fairy tale.

He related this rather old story with some modern word choices. For me, that did not enhance the story. Those asides and modern expressions pulled me out of the story. I believe I would have enjoyed the story more if he’d given it a more traditional presentation. YMMV

His style became less intrusive as he got further into the story.

My biggest disappointment is that he did not identify where the story came from, who the author was, or even title the story. This is a major flaw in my opinion.

Conclusion

I’m glad I listened to the story. It’s sweet, engaging, has mystical lands and creatures, and the ending allows the listener to make an interpretation as to the meaning of the story. (Hint, it may be deeper than it appears.)

I am only slightly familiar with the Eastern story telling traditions and this story definitely made me want to learn more. And now that I’m aware of the style of the podcast, Myths and Legends, I will probably listen to more of these tales. However, if the telling of the stories continues to ignore details of the story title, the author’s name, or some indication of the story’s origin–I will recommend the podcast for further listening.

Did you enjoy Story Time Reviews a Japanese Fairy Tale? Have you missed past episodes of Story Time Reviews? Check out Story Time Reviews Operation Haystack or Story Time Reviews The Last Question. Do you listen to stories? I hope you find Story Time Reviews helpful. Please, share your favorite stories in the comments.