Peek by Paul Beckman
When I find an author I love to read, I will follow their writing from their first release to their latest. I recently reviewed Paul Beckman's most recent collection of short stories, Kiss Kiss, and it had me laughing out loud.
His earlier collection of short stories, Peek, is also well worth the read. It's funny and dark, literary and absurd, full of vignettes as well as touching flash fiction stories. It's full of the taboo and what people tend not to say - not out loud, at least.
For a full review of the book, check it out here at Bewildering Stories. While the stories are probably not for the faint of heart or readers who find themselves easily offended, it's a great read for the rest of us. I'd definitely recommend it!
Now I Accuse by Gary Beck
I had the pleasure recently to return to the work of Gary Beck. I've read a number of his collections of poetry, and I was happy to dive into his recently released book of short stories, Now I Accuse.
The stories in this collection contain the same breadth of theme and tone as his poetry, and also a wide variety of topics and characters. The descriptions arelovely and often heartbreaking, with a few lighter, humorous stories thrown in to balance out the tone.
For a full review of the book, including a detailed look at some of my favorite stories from the collection, please feel free to visit the latest issue of Bewildering Stories and read my review here.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Kiss Kiss by Paul Beckman
I recently read Paul Beckman’s flash fiction collection Kiss Kiss. Many of his stories are written in a literary style, although most of them also contain comedic elements, with one or two chuckle-out-loud moments of humor. Very serious problems are at the heart of almost every story, and it’s interesting how Mr. Beckman can turn these situations on their head.
Flash fiction has always been one of my favorite forms to write, and the difficulty in creating effective flash stories is that so much has to be left out to meet that word count goal. It’s what’s not said, more than what is. And Paul Beckman is a master at making silence speak loudly.
For a full review of Kiss Kiss, check it out here at Bewildering Stories. I hope you enjoy reading it!
Mithila Review is a beautiful journal that celebrates international speculative fiction. Printed quarterly, it's based in Asia, and it has quickly gained a reputation as a leading voice in Asian science fiction and fantasy. It has been noticed by such publications as Wired, Strange Horizons and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, including one of its published poems being nominated for a Rhysling Award.
This latest issue of Mithila features women of color in science fiction, so it's definitely a great issue to check out. While you can subscribe, it's also free to read online.
I am thrilled to have a book review included in Issue # 9 of Mithila Review. I reviewed Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal. This one was near and dear to me, as I have been a lifelong fan of Ms. Butler and it was wonderful to read how many others have been touched by her work and continue to be to this day.
So please check out this wonderful magazine, read my review of a work honoring Ms. Butler if you feel so inclined, and take a look at Luminescent Threads, a truly inspiring book.
I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the first issue of Occult Detective Quarterly, edited by Sam Gafford and John Linwood Grant. It's a great magazine, and I would recommend it - a full review is available at TOUGH blogazine.
An Unexpected Valentine by RJ Steele
Next up on my review list is another romance – An Unexpected Valentine by RJ Steele. The story starts out with Kelly. She's single, so when her friend Jessica asks her about her plans for February fourteenth, her automatic response at the start of the story is to say: "Well, Jess, I plan to spend Valentine's Day the same way I've spent it for the last three years! I 'm going to bundle myself in a Snuggie, watch Keira Knightley movies, sob into a pint of ice cream, and lament my poor, loveless life."
Actually, she doesn't say this – she just thinks it, despite her friend probably hoping for a response like that. Jessica is in a sickingly sweet romance with the perfect guy and is insufferable about it.
After her friend leaves, Kelly is trying to find a single girlfriend to spend the holiday with when she gets a text from someone named J asking her to be his Valentine. When she texts back asking who her secret admirer is, the answer is: "A stranger."
The story continues from there – she meets Josh and they have a great time together – until he takes her to meet a friend of his and she finds out that the person she was actually supposed to meet was Jared, her "real" secret admirer and a friend of Josh's. But which J will she choose?
I thought this was a cute story with plenty of humor and only a few awkward lines of dialogue. It's pretty short - not long enough to be a book - but it's a long short story that takes about a half hour to read. If you're looking for a short dose of romantic humor, this would hit the spot.
Melt My Heart Anthology
I decided to go on a romance kick in the few days leading up to Valentine's Day. The only premise of the books I chose is that they had to center around the holiday and, of course, be a romance. Since I'm a short story writer, I decided to start out with a collection of shorts called Melt My Heart. It features four stories by authors Rachel Cross, Debra Kayn, Nicole Flockton and Holley Trent.
"Bloom" by Rachel Cross leads off the pack. Ava Bennett is on a Californian farm in the middle of nowhere and her car has broken down. Why is she there? As a favor to Asher Lowe, a rock star whose contributions to Ava's events over the years have made her business a success. She can't say no to him, no matter how outlandish his request – such as sending her out to the boonies to look in on his farmer friend, Nate.
She meets a farmer, all right – a large man whose two dogs accidentally ingest some of the antifreeze leaking from her broken car. After calling a vet to help the poisoned dogs, Ava realizes the farmer not only is the man whom she's been sent to check in on, but he's also the legendary guitarist Nathaniel Robbins. Suddenly, his connection to a rock star makes sense.
He cooks her dinner, and they talk, realizing how much they have in common. After eating, she wants to get going, but no one works weekends out in this rural area. She is stuck there until Monday at the earliest, when she can get a tow truck out. Nate offers for her to stay with him. In a second, they are all over each other. They spend the weekend together, but as Sunday draws to a close, she realizes her impromptu vacation must come to an end. And Nate has a secret so big that it could ruin the two of them before their relationship even gets off the ground.
I found the story entertaining and the characters relatable. Some heavier issues are brought up in the story, such as mental illness and addiction, but they are never explored to any depth, as there isn't much room in a short story. I thought there was a nice mixture of ideas, issues and character development.
Next is "Laying Down His Colors" by Debra Kayn. Kristen is drinking whiskey in a bar, waiting for Bruce Grennan to stop bartending. The next day is Valentine's Day, the anniversary of when they first hooked up. But the day after they hooked up, he was gone and he's refused to talk to her since. He belongs to the Bantorus motorcycle club with her dad, which has specific rules about the daughter of a member – namely, that she's off limits.
Kristen thinks that she's struck out again, since Bruce is ignoring her while she's drinking. She decides to go home to her cabin behind the bar. But maybe she hasn't struck out, for Bruce follows her there. After a year of silence on Bruce's part, Kristen might finally get the truth about what happened a year ago between them and what it means for their future.
I found the motorcycle gang part of the story interesting, although I thought sometimes the pacing of the story wasn't as smooth as it could be in terms of the actions and reactions of the characters. Perhaps this story would have been done more justice as a full novel by itself, as there was a lot of background that needed to be explained. But overall, I thought it was an enjoyable romance with a good ending.
"Trapped by Cupid" by Nicole Flockton starts out with Lisa Wheeler, a nurse stuck on the night shift at the hospital on Valentine's Day. She is single and wishes to be anywhere but at her job on such a holiday. Sexy, but arrogant, Dr. Noah Collins starts to talk to her, asking her if she's received any special deliveries for the day. She wonders why he would even bother talking to her, and feels lower than ever.
Later on, she is riding the elevator when Noah gets on. They get trapped in the elevator and it turns out Noah is claustrophobic. Although help is on the way, they have to wait for the repair service to come. They start to chat, and the chatting leads to something more. Noah has a secret that he wants to tell her, and it might forever change the way Lisa thinks about him.
I thought this was a cute, very straightforward story with little of the angst that is so common in contemporary romances. It was a refreshing to have a simple boy likes girl, girl likes boy plotline.
The final story of the collection is "A Demoness Matched" by Holley Trent, and it is completely different from the other romances in that it has very strong paranormal elements. Julia Tate and her brothers are half-demons. Julia doesn't want to serve Hell, so she escapes with her brothers' help. They find a man who's supposed to be her soulmate and tell her she needs to hide on his property. The only drawback is the man doesn't know her and she doesn't know him, and she's supposed to convince him to let her stay.
Switch to Calvin Wolff's perspective. He wants to be left alone, and he purchased this middle-of-nowhere cabin to accomplish that. He's an ex-ballplayer, and tired of the fame. When the doorbell rings, he's prepared to ignore it – until he gets a look at the beautiful woman outside. When it starts to rain, he lets her in.
His problem is he's a werewolf. Neither one of them know the other's secret, but with so much baggage between them, will they ever get close enough to find out?
The premise of this last story was interesting, and it was a good change of pace, being completely different from the other stories in the collection. However, I feel it could also have benefited from being a longer story, maybe book length, in order to give the reader more of a lead-in to the alternate reality of the world. With more room to maneuver, it would've been easier to connect with the characters and expand the plot line so that the motivations of the characters' actions were clearer. Also, unlike the other stories, there weren't any steamy scenes in this story – it was more action-driven than romance-driven, I felt. The romance, while central to the story, didn't have as much time to develop because of the complexity of the backstory and plot.
All in all, I thought this was an entertaining collection of romance stories and a good way to start off my countdown to Valentine's Day.
Writer's Retweet by Piers Anthony
I was interested in reading Piers Anthony’s new book, Writer’s Retweet, for several reasons. He was one of the authors I grew up with, and I’m always curious to come back to a writer that I’ve read years ago and see if my understanding of their work offers anything new. I’m also always looking for work that expands my understanding of the creative form, and the concept of this book was intriguing. Every author hears over and over that social media is a key component of today’s writer’s platform, and Mr. Anthony came up with the idea of doing a story in tweets, which would run over the course of many months. Writer's Retweet is a compilation of five of these Twitter stories.
There's a full review over at Bewildering Stories - I hope you find it informative!
Lethal Kisses, edited by Ellen Datlow
I'm a bit behind in posting this, but I recently read a very intruiging collection of short stories called Lethal Kisses. Edited by Ellen Datlow, it contains a number of big names, such as Joyce Carol Oates, Pat Cadigan and Michael Swanwick, to name a few. As you can probably guess from the title, it's a collection of stories about revenge. I would recommend it - there were some great and unexpected stories, and all were enjoyable to read. You can catch my full review at Bewildering Stories magazine here.
I read a lot - depending on my writing schedule, I can usually read about a book a day. Some of the books are fantastic and I would love to recommend to everyone - some, not so much. Either way, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I'm reading at the moment.