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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 October 2004
The basis of this short-story collection is an original and intriguing one: each story, while entirely independent, follows the life of a charm bracelet, from its creation in Georgia in 1803, through time and across oceans, until it eventually ends up back in Georgia again. In each story, the bracelet plays its part, almost always brining bad luck to the one who has come to possess it. It's a short-story collection that could almost be read as a quirky novel. The only downside to this idea is that the connections of each story, through the life of the charm bracelet, should in some cases be made a lot clearer - once or twice it was hard or impossible to create a logical connection between one story and the next, and the old "so and so bought in an Pawn/Antique Shop" device was greatly overused - then as a whole this collection would be more powerful than it is.
The stories are incredibly varied; set in times and places as different as the American South in the 19th century to wartime Leeds in the 20th. In one, an accusation has dire consequences. In another, a train journey becomes anything but mundane. A sax player ends up getting more than he bargained for when he does a favour for a friend. A school-teacher's outing to London turns altogether more twisted. And a desperate writer makes a fateful purchase in exchange for inspiration...
I am very much a devotee of the short-story; they are perfect for slotting into a dead half-hour, ideal if you want a single-sitting read. Quick pleasure, instant satisfaction - if they're of quality. And, if you pick right - maybe one of Ruth Rendell's beautifully twisted masterpieces, of Ian McEwan's elegant, concise works - then they can be just as good as a novel. While the stories here aren't really of that quality (well, except for one; I'll get to that in a minute) they do align into a very good, entertaining and satisfying collection. Each piece is taut and well-tuned, written with the sharp succinctity and ability to shock that marks out the best of the form. Some of the writers you will have heard of: Peter Robinson, Mark Billingham, and Lee Child, for example. Others maybe not: Emma Donohue, for example, whose story "Vanitas" is an excellent little piece set on a plantation in the South. And Peter Moore Smith, or Jerrilyn Farmer, writer of the penultimate story "The Eastlake School", a twisted piece of brilliance. There are definitely a couple of writers here whose work I will be endeavouring to find out more about after reading this. You may too.
Here, all the stories are good (that is pleasing in itself - in every collection there are normally one or two mis-fires) but some of them are excellent: Robinson's "Cornelius Jubb", for example, or "Plan B" by Kelley Armstrong, to name just two among several. However, one story here does stand far, far above them all, and that is John Connolly's "The Inkpot Monkey". It's the sort of story of which one might say "it alone is worth the price of this book", but for the fact that it would be rather silly to actually contemplate spending $20+ on just 15 pages of text. The sentiment remains the same, though. It is an eerie, slightly surreal tale about a man suffering writer's block who goes to great lengths in order to rediscover his muse. Told with flair and punch, is explores several themes, such as, What does it mean to be a writer? More precisely, What of themselves do writers put into their work? What is required of them, what must they give in order to create and be inspired? And, ultimately, Is it worth it? And, having given it, What then? It is a brilliant, remarkable story, and is the real gem of this pleasing, ingenuitive collection. Despite the fact that the sometimes poor linkage takes away from the concept of this collection, Like A Charm is worth a look for fans of this form.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 February 2004
The basis of this short-story collection is an original and intriguing one: have each story, while entirely independent, follow the life of a charm bracelet, from its creation in Georgia in 1803, through time and across oceans, until it eventually ends up back in Georgia again. In each story, the bracelet plays its part, almost always brining bad luck to the one who has come to possess it. It's a short-story collection that can also be read as a quirky. The only downside to this idea is that the connections of each story, through the life of the charm bracelet, should in some cases be made a lot clearer - once or twice it was hard or impossible to create a logical connection between one story and the next - then as a whole this collection would be more powerful than it is.
The stories are incredibly varied; set in times and places as different as the American South in the 19th century to wartime Leeds in the 20th. In one, an accusation has dire consequences. In another, a train journey becomes anything but mundane. A sax player ends up getting more than he bargained for when he does a favour for a friend. A school-teacher's trip to London turns altogether more twisted. And a desperate writer makes a fateful purchase in exchange for inspiration...
I am very much a devotee of the short-story; they are perfect for slotting into a dead half-hour, ideal if you want a single-sitting read. Quick pleasure, instant satisfaction. And, if you pick right - maybe one of Ruth Rendell's beautifully twisted masterpieces, of Ian McEwan's elegant, concise works - then they can be just as good as a novel. While the stories here aren't quite of that quality (well, except for one; I'll get to that in a minute) they do align into a very good, very entertaining and satisfying collection. Each piece is taut and tuned marvellously, written with the sharp succinctity and ability to shock that marks out the best of the form. Some of the writers you will have heard of: Peter Robinson, Mark Billingham, lee Child, for example. Others maybe not: Emma Donohue, for example, whose story "Vanitas" is an excellent little piece set on a plantation in the South. And Peter Moore Smith, or Jerrilyn Farmer, writer of the penultimate story "The Eastlake School", a twisted piece of brilliance. There are definitely a couple of writers here whose work I will be endeavouring to find out more about after reading this. You may too.
Here, all the stories are good (that is pleasing in itself - in every collection there are normally one or two mis-fires) but some of them are excellent: Robinson's "Cornelius Jubb", for example, or "Plan B" by Kelley Armstrong, to name just two among several. However, one story here does stand above them all, and that is John Connolly's "The Inkpot Monkey". It's the sort of story of which one might say "it alone is worth the price of this book", but for the fact that it would be rather silly to actually contemplate spending $20+ on just 15 pages of text. The sentiment remains the same, though. It is an eerie, slightly surreal tale about a man suffering writer's block who goes to great lengths in order to rediscover his muse. In some ways, it's a perfect compliment to McEwan's "Reflections of A Kept Ape" in his collection, "In Between the Sheets", and is virtually perfect. Told with flair and punch, is explores several themes, such as What does it mean to be a writer? More precisely, What of themselves do writers put into their work? What is required of them, what must they give in order to write and be inspired? And, ultimately, Is it worth it? And, having given it, What then? It is a brilliant, remarkable story, and is the real gem of this pleasing, ingenuitive collection. Like A Charm is definitely worth a look if you're a fan of the short story.
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on 21 July 2004
Not a very pleasant read. 16 very vaguely connected stories about unpleasant deaths. Not what I expected at all and a bit of a disappointment really. Normally love this author's books.
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on 22 September 2004
I was dissappointed with the short stories contained in this book. They were written by a lot of my favourite crime and mystery authors, who generally have me on tender hook while I'm reading, but in this case the short stories just didn't hold my interest.
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on 24 December 2008
I felt really bemused by this collection of short stories. Each featured a Charm Bracelet which brought misfortune to those who came by it but often I failed to see any linkage between the stories. Some were excellent - "The Goblin", "Plan B", "The Eastlake School"; some were poor "Rootbound" and others were down right bizarre "Down and Dirty" "The Inkpot Monkey". In particular the 2 short stories by Karin Slaughter were mediocre and boring. Most of the stories also had serious sexual undertones which was not necessary to make a good read. It seemed to me as if she emailed various crime authors and told them to write a short crime story about a charm bracelet which brought bad luck. Although the majority of the stories were enjoyable in their own right, together they were not cohesive. I'm a fan of Karin Slaughter and although I admire her for trying something new, it didn't really work for me.
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on 25 April 2012
An absoluting fascinating read! Slaughter style keeps you in suspense throughout this book. The reader is left anticipating what is going to happen next, and feeling excited about reaching the end of the book!

Slaughter's approach to this novel really leaves you feeling that you know the characters, and can empathise with them.

Couldn't put this down! I love reading slaughter's series of books! many thanks for a throughly enjoyable and entertaining read! reading this really makes you have an appreciation for the wonders of reading.

Thank you

John
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on 13 February 2004
A clever concept accomplished with impressive skills by some of the best modern-day writers in the crime/thriller genre.
Editor Karin Slaughter, who opens and closes this short story compilation, deserves much credit but all the authors must take a bow.
Each of the 16 tales is an entity but, thanks to superb linking covering the 'life' of the fateful bracelet, the result is an impressive whole. It's not a whodunnit but, better than that, each tale left me eager to find out what happens next - and then mentally applauding the manner in which each author maintained the link, keeping the pot boiling and bubbling.
The short story has been in dwindling supply in recent years and, perhaps, Like a Charm - which deserves to be a best-selling success - will encourage other publishers to review their lists.
Well done, Random House - and, of course, Karin Slaughter and Co-authors with special mention for Peter Robinson, Lynda la Plante, John Harvey and Lee Child.
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on 18 August 2014
I was looking forward to reading this book because of the style of writing. It is a novel with different authors writing different chapters, and I was interested in seeing how this worked. Karin Slaughter edited the book and also wrote the first and last chapters.

The title, Like a Charm, should have been a hint. It turns out that the tying thread throughout the book and chapters is a charm bracelet. Each chapter relates in some way to a charm found on the same bracelet. The novel spans a period of time in which the bracelet is lost in a cab, found in building rubble, found on the shore, etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed each chapter's story except for the one written by Peter Smith, which seemed less inspired and less of a story. I wonder why it was included in this book which otherwise was really great and creative. An interesting read somewhere between a collection of stories and a true novel
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on 5 September 2013
Some of the short stories in the book caught my attention, but others soon had me drifting. But with each of these short stories written by a different author I suppose it is to be expected that some would resonate with me more then others. some I forgot even as I read, yet others I took note of and went back to see who wrote them and make a point of looking up their other works

Overall I liked the tie in using the bracelet to make it feel near to a novel but with more individuality, so you could pick and choose what you read next if you wished. I felt the supposedly cursed bracelet made it overly predictable by the end though, once you knew who had it you usually had a good idea of who would die or what would happen.

Not the most attention grabbing collection, but there are some god pints and even one or two great one
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on 30 November 2010
I like the idea behind this book, a string of short stories all connected by the same charm bracelet. One author writes their story, the bracelet is left somewhere or given to someone, then the next author takes that as a starting point for their story and so on.

I enjoyed all these tales but some were more satisfying than others. The two stories by Lee Child are good and the one by Linda La Plante starts well, but then seems to lose its way. Apart from murder and gruesome deaths two other common themes are wife beating and lesbian sex (for some reason) which means that some of the stories are a little samey. Good, but not great.
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