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2021 Clearing Off the Short Story Shelf

As a personal shorthand I called anything under 100 pages a short story, even if that isn’t technically the correct term. And during my Christmas Reading Challenge I made a point of collecting all of the Christmas-themed short stories I owned, reading them, and reviewing them in a single post. I’ve done this sort of thing in the past. It’s always satisfying to sweep a large swath of my TBR away. (Especially since some of the short stories I own have been hanging out on my TBR for a LONG time, a few since 2012! That has to be around the time I got my first Kindle.)

2012!

I felt so accomplished reviewing all my Christmas short stories, that I thought I might as well do the same for non-holiday themed ones and clear away some of the clutter on my TBR; start fresh(ish) next year.

I literally just went to my Goodreads shelves, ordered the ‘books’ by length, started at the shortest one, and moved forward from there. I started around Christmas and gave myself until the New Years Eve. Anything I read during that time…or anything under 100 pages that I read during that time, I would review here with a mini-review.

I had 198 of them when I started. I swear that I think short stories breed in my Kindle. I never know how I come to own so many! Of course, not all of them can or should be read as stand-alones. Several are part of series that I intend to read all together. But I planned to read as many of the stand-alone stories and ones in series I’ve caught up with as I could between Christmas (when I started) and New years Eve. I thought it would feel like an end-of-year TBR clean up.

I started with the shortest stories (some of those being 12, 13, 14 pages). But then I focused on those that had been on the TBR the longest (2012!), and stories/novellas that had been featured on Sadie’s Spotlight. Then I just read whatever I felt like from the short story shelf.

For order’s sake, I’ve alphabetized them for you. Here are the 48 stories that I read, in alphabetical order (by author’s last name) and, below them, are the reviews:

2021 cleaning off the short story shelf

***

Fangs, by Sarah Andersen
This was simply super cute. There’s no progressive story, as such. It’s more a series of vignettes that show what a relationship between a vampire and werewolf couple is like. It’s irreverent and silly, but I wanted more. (Not technically under 100 pages, like the rest. But it’s a 112 page graphic novel. Short enough to include, I decided.)

A Tale of (Two) 3 Witches, by Barbra Annino & Christiana Miller
I’ve not read the rest of this series yet, but I was told I could read this as a stand-alone. So, I gave it a go. It was rushed; definitely would have been better if developed into a longer piece. But the characters seem likeable and the world seems interesting.

The Forester, by Blaine D. Arden
I really liked this. I think it builds just enough world for the shortness of it and I liked the characters a lot. I did think Ianys was forgiven far too easily for the amount of hurt he was supposed to have caused and all of his excuses felt after-the-fact.

Yurine’s Pot, by Richard Auffrey
Meh. The writing was fine, but there was nothing new or particularly exciting here.

Loose Cannons, by Kasia Bacon
Another short but satisfying vignette of life with Ervyn and Lochan.

Playtime in Vella Dera, by Benzon Ray Barbin
This was a fine short story. It tries to do a lot in its 54 pages, maybe a little too much. I definitely felt like there was a lot of history and context lacking. But it was never quite enough that I didn’t understand what was happening, just why. But it was worth the read.

Beast, by Erin Bedford 
Super short. This is labeled as 34 pages. But the story ends at the 50% mark; the rest being a teaser for book one. So, it’s basically 17 pages long. I didn’t particularly care for the characters and there isn’t enough world to know if I might like anything else about the series. Plus, the editing is a bit dodgy, especially around punctuation.

Deliverance, by Hunter Blain
This starts out really bad—like someone trying to textually write a comic book. It just does not work…or didn’t here. But that faded out by the halfway mark (thank god). The problem is that John is just too much of a Joss Whedon-esque douche-bag to enjoy. Yes, all his assholery is put on, but it all feels like someone trying far too hard to garner a laugh or two.

The Peace of Elias, by Martin Bolton
A fine tale of horror, but I wouldn’t say there was anything exceptional about it.

Ice Cracker II and Other Short Stories, by Lindsay Buroker
It’s been several years since I read the rest of The Emperor’s Edge series. I remember little about it, but that I enjoyed the heck out of it. This collection of 3 short stories reminded me of the sarcastic characters, fun action, and why I liked the series so much.

A Note Below,  by Andrew Butcher
This was a fine short story. But there were no surprises here, nothing unexpected or exceptional.

Introducing Mr. Winterbourne, by Joanna Chambers
I enjoyed the heck out of this one. I liked both characters and really felt for the difficulties both were facing, Winterbourne especially. I’ve had this on my TBR for a while, but now look forward to finding the rest of the series.

A Case Of Spirits, K.J. Charles
This turned out to be a reread. But, since I’d never written a review, I wasn’t sure if I’d read it previously or not. As with the rest of the A Charm of Magpies series, I enjoyed this.

Remnant, by K.J. Charles & Jordan L. Hawk
A fun pairing of four characters I’ve enjoyed elsewhere. I read The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal relatively recently, but it’s been several years since I read Widdershins and I never finished the series. This reminds me to pick it back up.

Jago’s Journey: A Gryphon’s Walkabout, by Chrys Cymri
It’s been several years since I read any of the Penny White series. So, I wasn’t up to date on a lot of what was referenced in this short story and I felt the absence of that knowledge. But it stood alone tolerably well. This is a sweet little (younger) YA story of self discover.

Wraith’s Awakening, by Virna DePaul
Ends on a cliffhanger, but seems like a fun start to a series. There are hints of an interesting world and characters.

Spell Weaver,  by Megan Derr
This was a cute little Cinderella-like (Cinderfella?) story. There was enough world-building to give it all context, but not so much that the story or characters felt lost in it. I did think the villains a bit thin. But the writing was sharp and I enjoyed it.

Unfortunate Decrees and Iced Coffees, by Laura Greenwood
This was a cute little short. I’d not read the Cauldron Coffee Shop series. So, I wasn’t familiar with the characters. But it stood alone well enough and I enjoyed it.

Glass, by Alexis Hall
Beautiful, though I would expect nothing less from Hall.

Rise For Me, by Kristal Dawn Harris
Meh, it’s not bad, but it tried to do too much in too few pages. The characters gave me whiplash with their changing agendas and emotions and the happy-ending felt forced. But the writing is pretty good and it had an interesting idea.

Sammy, by Dianne Hartsock
Pretty much exactly what it says in the blurb. It’s sweet, but a little bland.

Corrupting Chris, by Santino Hassell
Basically just a sex scene, a hot one to be fair, but that’s it and it’s been too long since I’ve read any of Hassell’s work to particularly remember the characters. (I stopped after the whole hoo-ha a couple years ago.)

The Taming of a Wicked Rogue, by Samantha Holt
This was a fairly standard historical novella. Nothing stands out about it, but nothing was horrid either. The cover makes it look a lot steamier than it actually is though. It’s really quite sweet.

Resurrection Man, by Laylah Hunter
I liked the story, but it’s WAY shorter than it’s labeled. (MOST of the file being a preview for something else.) Outside of that complaint, I was intrigued enough to want more.

Tow Trucks & New Year’s Kisses, by Lila Leigh Hunter
Meh, might have been OK if it hadn’t been SO very rushed. Nothing is given time to develop and the come-ons start too suddenly to feel anything but forced.

Out in the Blue, by Kelly Jensen
I liked this a lot more than I expected. Maybe because I’m 44 and just starting to feel my age, so I can relate. But I liked both characters, that they had emotionally intelligent conversations, and I thought this was sweet.

Jacinto’s Voyage, by Daniel A. Kaine
This was OK; would have been significantly better if it had been longer and allowed to develop more. My main issue was that Dane was so obsessed with bedding Jace (from the moment they met), and thought about it or tried so many times, in so many questionable ways and situations, that he felt predatory to me. I sense that wasn’t how Kaine meant him to come across, but it was. So, in the end, when he finally did get Jace in his bed, it didn’t feel like the culmination of a romance, so much as a groomer finally getting his victim. Ick.

For The Glory Set Before Them, by Matt Karlov
I found this story thought provoking and emotive. I’ll be checking out more of Karlov’s work.

Kogitsune, by Xia Xia Lake
I thought this was very sweet. I liked the characters and the writing style.

The Forest God’s Favor, by A.T. Lander
Meh, mostly just not my thing. This is flat out erotic romance. So, sex is the point. The little bit of plot is basically just there to give the sex context. Which is fine. Erotica is what erotica is. But I’m not a huge fan of one party being made out to be especially sexy because of how small, youthful, child-like they are. That is just SO not my kink. But mostly I just thought this was predictable and pedestrian.

Creation, by Bjørn Larssen
Interesting and thought provoking, with a dry wit. But it also eventually got tedious.

Prisoner 374215, by Angel Martinez
Really lovely—as odd as it may seem to call a story of torture lovely. Martinez pack a whole wallop into a few short pages.

A Real Boy, by J.L. Merrow
I didn’t care for the story itself, but I thought all the fairy-tale cameos clever.

Good Breeding, by J.L. Merrow
I didn’t much care for it in the beginning, but Merrow brought me around by the end.

Hawthorn, by Stephanie Mirro
Amusing—I appreciated Emily’s sarcasm—but it’s just a taste of something. There’s enough world-building to feel like there should have been more to the story. Maybe there’s more to come.

Wolf’s Heart, by Lynn Nodima
Meh. It was fine, but contributes nothing new to the genre. We’ve all read similar things before. Oh, and so steeped in the patriarchy. If not told, I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell which was father and which was mate/husband. Basically the troublesome girls is passed from father to husband and acts the same towards both and is treated the same by both (like a stubborn child).

I Left the Room Burning, by Beth O’Brien
I don’t consider myself to have any skill at reviewing poetry. So I’m reduced to ‘did I like it or not.’ But I’ll say I liked the juddering, staggering story the poems told when strung together and my favorite one was the title poem I Left the Room Burning.

Fire Thief, by Jordan Castillo Price
Basically just a brief hookup in a bar, but a surprisingly interesting one.

Baehrly Beginning, by Elizabeth A. Reeves
This was cute, but barely the beginning of anything (pun intended). Editing is a little rough.

How (Not) to Play With Magic, by Elizabeth A. Reeves
Meh. Cute, but just a taste of something, not really enough to decide on the series as a whole. I liked Cindy fine, but really disliked the twins. I didn’t find them impish and cute, just selfish and arrogant.

Tea and Sympathetic Magic, by Tansy Rayner Roberts
This was a completely mad cap and ridiculous adventure, but in the most endearing way. I’d be well up for reading more.

The Lost Weekend, by Andrea Speed
It’s been years since I read the beginning of the Infected series. So, I don’t remember much beyond crying my eyes out. But I liked this little short.

Pretty Monsters, by Andrea Speed
Super cute and enjoyable. At only 15 pages there isn’t much to it. But I enjoyed all 15 of them.

Guardian, by Jordan Taylor
Just marvelous. Romantic, but not a romance in the standard sense—really hits you in the feels.

The Fourth Law of Kanaloa, by Johan Twiss
I enjoyed the character and the story. However, I thought some of the dialogue got cheesy and the romance felt artificial. Plus, the ‘come be my magical queen’ was super cliched. But mostly I liked the story.

We See You, by Miki & Garrett Ward
This was an OK story, though I wasn’t blown away. I liked the characters and the idea. But I was confused about some things that were unexplained or just confusing. How did five kids with powers gather? Was this common in the world, or an aberration? Did I understand that they had divine assistance or not? That sort of thing. Also, I thought the sexual aspects felt out of place. Both because the characters were 17 (I’m not much bothered by this, but I know some will be) and because it just didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the story. All in all, this was pretty middle of the road for me.

Man In the Mirror, by A.E. Wasp
A cute story about a husband dealing with some body issues. Very clearly part of another series, as there is some very clear history mentioned but not delved into. The tense gets shaky the farther into the story one gets, but its still a nice read.


 

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