Tag Archives: short story

Clearing off the short story request shelf

Short stories

Man, I’m a softy. I really am. I keep saying I don’t particularly care for short stories. It’s even in my policies. But people still send them to me as review requests. “Please review my 26 page book,” the request will say and I generally want to scream, “That’s not a freakin’ book.”

Yes, even I’ll admit that if it was in hand in a physical format, with a cover and actual pages, I’d have to begrudgingly accept its existence as a book. But as an e-copy, I don’t consider short stories books I consider them just that—stories—that you could publish several of in a book. All beside the point, obviously, other than that this is my blog and I don’t run a ‘short story review’ but a ‘book review.’

I tell myself to just delete them, but that feels…I don’t know, wasteful. I may not really want to read them, but if I delete them no one will ever be able to read them. It doesn’t really make much sense when discussing a digital format, I know, but that’s still how I feel. So, I keep them and eventually I always seem to give in and read them. I usually end up writing a ‘clearing off the shelf’ post, just like this one. I bet I do it twice a year.

So, in an attempt to get some short stories off my review shelf (because they really do clutter everything up), here are a few short words on some of the stories that have been sent to me by their authors. I know I’ve had a bit of a rant, but despite short stories not being my preference, I gave each one a fair shot.

Reunion of Soulsby Paul Lonardo

Reunion of SoulsOK, I’ll be honest, sappy romance is not my thing and this is super sappy romance and not much else. So, I wasn’t particularly predisposed to enjoy it. I gave it a shot though, sometimes stories surprise you. This one did not. Not only is it super sappy, but it’s hollow. Essentially a girl hasn’t seen a guy since high school and barely knew or noticed him then. But on receiving an invitation to their 5 year reunion she immediately thinks of him and KNOWS, just knows, he is the one. They meet back up and fall instantly in love, just as she knew they would. That’s basically it. There are a few inspired moments in the writing, but it was almost entirely a dud for me.

Little Guide to Enjoy Life: A Simple Path to Self-Confidence, Happiness and Success, by Myriam Chery

To Enjoy LIfeIt’s basically what’s on the tin. It’s a small book that reminds you to be positive, confident and mindful in life. There is a definite “Duh” element here, but I believe it really is meant as a reminder rather than a lesson learned anew. And in that regard it’s a sweet, quick read with some lovely illustrations. I do wonder if the author noticed that she made almost all of the bad examples (the person who keys a car instead of asks for his job back, the person who blackmails someone instead of blames himself, is petty and concerned with a boyfriend instead of a job) female. I suspect a little of America’s underlying sexism slipped in.

I, Corinthius: The Vasterium Saga, by Shae Christi

I, CorenthiousThis novella and I had some serious disagreements. The least egregious of them being that it was largely written as tell and not show and I felt absolutely no connection to any of the characters as a result.

More problematic for me was how very cliché some aspects of it were. The villain is a scorned woman. Seriously, is there really no other reason a woman might turn bad than over a man? It’s a literary device that I am simply bored to tears with (and becoming slightly offended by).

Most troubling however was the fact that it kind of misses its mark as a myth. Ancient gods and goddesses were often depicted as representatives of chaos or destruction or even evil, but they were just that, representations of a recognizable aspect of humanity that usually had a converse somewhere. Their madness or pettiness or jealousies were part of a bigger picture. To me, Belovaya was just an evil, jealous woman with godly powers. There was no sense that she played a part in a pantheon, that there might be a balancing persona (be it hers or in another) anywhere that gave her existence purpose or context.

Meh, this one was a miss for me.

The Afterlife Decision: The Offer, by Michael Smith

The Afterlife Decision

Here is a note I made after reading the 1st page: “Desperately needs some editing, not least to address punctuation (especially around dialogue, periods seem to be used instead of commas and commas seem missing in other places), apostrophe usage and repetition like the fact that prison officer is used 6 times in one ~135 word page (and the word prison once more too boot).” And that was from the 1st page without looking purposefully for errors. And my opinion didn’t change by the time I reached the end. There are a number of repetitions “Steven’s cell mate,” for example and grammar/punctuation is a mess.

The story itself, has potential (the idea) but it’s very rushed and not well set up. What’s more, notice the “Chapter One” in the title. This is LITERALLY the first chapter in a longer work. There is no conclusion or even a suggestion of one.

On a special side note, I find it especially interesting that this author chose to send me this for review. He emailed the proper address, which suggests that he read the policies (yay). But those same policies state, “…with the exception of self-help, Christian fiction and short stories there isn’t much that I’m unwilling to read.” So, sending me a Christian short story is the obvious thing to do if seeking a positive review. Yes? I still gave it a fair shot though.

Penumbra, by  Kat Micari

PenumbraRushed, under developed, cliched and clumsily written. Plus, the title is never explained.

Review of Grown Men (Hard Cell, #1), by Damon Suede

I feel I should give readers of a more sensitive nature a warning that the short story I review at the end of this post is a little on the strange side and if you follow the link provided you’re likely to encounter some unexpected nudity. Just go in knowing that so no one is caught unawares. 🙂 I’m keeping things brief tonight, two short reviews for two shortish stories.

Grown MenI bought a copy of Damon Suede‘s Grown Men.

Description from Goodreads:
Marooned in the galactic backwaters of the HardCell company, colonist Runt struggles to eke out an existence on a newly-terraformed tropical planetoid. Since his clone-wife died on entry, he’s been doing the work of two on his failing protein farm. Overworked and undersized, Runt’s dwindling hope of earning corporate citizenship has turned to fear of violent “retirement.”

When an overdue crate of provisions crashes on his beach, Runt searches frantically for a replacement wife among the tools and food. Instead he gets Ox, a mute hulk who seems more like a corporate assassin than a simple offworld farmer.

Shackwacky and near-starving, Runt has no choice but to work with his silent partner despite his mounting paranoia and the unsettling appeal of Ox’s genetically altered pheromones. Ox plays the part of the gentle giant well, but Runt’s still not convinced he hasn’t arrived with murder in mind.

Between brutal desire and the seeds of a relationship, Runt’s fears and Ox’s inhuman past collide on a fertile world where hope and love just might have room to grow.

I thought that this was surprisingly sweet. Ox is this gentle giant that you can’t help but adore and Runt shows an amazing ability to trust and eventually love. (Though he does seem to do a lot of things “without thinking.”) Plus, the whole thing is set in a wonderfully vivid world with clear imagery made possible by sharp writing.

I was in love with this book for about the first 2/3s. The whole thing fell apart for me in the, frankly, strange sex scene. I knew it was coming. The whole latter half of the book built up to it and I knew, being as Ox is SO much bigger than Runt, something out of the ordinary was going to have to transpire. And I’ll even grant that it was hot in its own way, but it also didn’t particularly rock my boat. Oh well. I’ll forgive it that one flaw and call it much better than expected.

Seedy Business

Seedy Business is a free short story that chronicles the events leading up to Ox’s arrival on Runt’s farm.

Description from Goodreads:
Revenge can get sticky.

This prequel to Grown Men* is a crazy sci-fi short about sperm piracy and sibling rivalry gone seriously wrong.

When corporate mercenary Beirn agrees to a sleazy organ harvest job, he walks straight into his worst nightmare, a trap set by the twin brother he betrayed. Against his better judgment, Beirn teams up with a semen smuggler to save his own skin and hopefully make amends to the only family he has left.

Loathing turns to lust as the two men grapple with their violent impulses and their growing desire. In one terrible night, impossible feelings will force Beirn to understand the brother he betrayed and the mistakes he’s made.

Warning: doublecrosses, dirty sex, and designer testicles

That was…well…interesting. It’s about semen a pirate and a mercenary who happens to have sold his brother’s gonads. That should tell you something about the story. Actually that should tell you a lot about the story, maybe even everything you need to know about it. It’s just this side of gross, the sex is very similar to that in Grown Men, the MC has a whiplash change of heart (though he’s supposed to have had an epiphany as a result of his brother’s lesson) and the whole thing is just a little bit squinky. But if you’re in the mood for a little bizarro sex romp, the writing really is very good, so this one might fit the bill.

Pruning some of the <100 page stories from the review request shelf

Today I set out to read a number of short stories, as opposed to a single book for review. Before I post those reviews though, I’m going to allow myself a small, selfish gripe. It’s really just to make myself feel better. We all need that on occasion.

I say this a lot, but I’m not a huge fan of short stories (or novellas, novelettes, etc). I respect that it takes a lot of talent to cram any amount of punch into a short piece, but I generally find them less than satisfying. And this feeling has only intensified with the recent trend of serialised shorts, in which stories are apparently no longer expected to stand on their own. Rather, they form part of a larger whole. I am not a fan. In fact, I hate this. A lot. I’m of the opinion that if an author wants to write a 100 page work there is no good reason to break it into four 25 page stories. There just isn’t.

But I digress. My initial point was just that I dislike short stories. Somehow, however, my review request list is always cluttered with them. And though I find their presence an annoyance, I can never bring myself to just delete them. I’ve promised to give all books  sent to me consideration (though I don’t honestly consider a short story a book), so eventually I’ve so far always given in and read them…basically just to remove the detritus form my TBR list.

It always feels like homework when I do it, though. With few exceptions, any enjoyment I get out of the experience is of the ‘creating order and neatness’ kind. Not that there aren’t good shorts out there (I always hope to be reading one) and not that I don’t give each a fair crack at a good review. But they really aren’t my thing. OK, now that’s out of the way…

Passion of an AngelDescription from Goordreads:
A captivating, mystical and erotic story about the life before Earth. The first world was ideal, the first humans were immortal, everything was given to them to ensure a happy and endless future and life seemed to be going perfect. But there was a curious angel who changed the course of life.

To begin with, angels hadn’t any feelings, they were cold, emotionless creatures wandering around the new world and examining the surroundings. But one of them learned to feel and to see the beauty of God’s creation and for that life, even the angel is surely ready to leave even Heaven.

This is essentially the exodus of Adam and Eve. It just starts a little earlier in the timeline. I’ll confess that I don’t gravitate toward religious stories at all. But even if I did, I’m still not sure I would think well of this one. There is a lot that is assumed…or rather, presumed. For example, Eve and the Angel hide their actions from Adam. However, two such innocent creatures wouldn’t have even had the moral understanding necessary to perceive those same actions as anything but natural in the circumstances. So, there is no reason they would think to hide them.  It requires the reader to impose modern western morality (or rules God doesn’t set out until far later in the Bible) to circumstances that would essentially be wholly without need for them in order for this story to make any sense at all.

Plus, the passionate ‘Love’ referred to in the title is 100% based on sex. There isn’t a single conversation between the characters prior to ‘the love.’ Guess even in Eden a woman’s worth still boiled down to her willingness to open her knees.

I also thought that the writing was rough and overly dramatic. I don’t think it was originally in English. Too many adjectives are used in the dialogue tags. As and example, in about a page I found “answered shortly,” “confessed honestly,” “sighed desperately,” “responded abruptly” and “cried out maliciously.” As well as “sneered the man smugly,” which isn’t a dialogue tag, but just felt like one more of the same. The dialogue itself was also really stiff, the POV was inconsistent and the whole thing felt as if it moved ahead in jolts instead of a smooth progression.

I’ll admit that a devoutly Christian reader might really enjoy this. But I’m not that reader and was less than impressed.

Blood for GoldDescription from Goodreads:
It all begins when fate starts to play a twisted game with a young female thief, Ulian, destroying her calm life in the capital and sending her to the island of Vrisiok – the most dangerous place in the kingdom of Remmiak, where human and orks are in constant war for its rich gold mines. 

While Srevtiur and Ulian cannot read this book and unveil their uncertain future and each other’s past, you have the Arasak blessing to do so!

This could have been a good story, if it was a complete anything. It’s not. It is, in fact, apparently the first five chapters of a much larger work. Why do authors do this, publish part of a book? A full quarter of it is a flashback and nothing in it concludes. What’s the point of reading it then?

The writing itself is fine, if a bit stiff. It suffers from a painful dearth of contractions, as is common in a certain sort of sword and sorcery book. The story seems really interesting and I was falling in love with the characters. Too bad I didn’t get to see them accomplish anything. All in all, disappointing, but only in it’s incompleteness.

Veritas Liberabit Vos Description from Goodreads:
A Skydive goes wrong and the participants share an experience that on the one hand gives them a definitive explanation for a controversial phenomenon, but on the other, sets before them a myriad of questions they decide to investigate. They go their separate ways and back to their normal lives, yet things aren’t quite the same and for some, life seems to have taken a twist towards the surreal.

Um….um….I’m sure something interesting was going on in this story somewhere. Unfortunately, I have no idea what it is…something about crop circles and a convoluted interweaving series of events. But it was all so confusing I never did catch on. What’s worse, by about 75% I was so bored with all the telling and not being sure what the point was and some of the painfully mundane events that I started skimming instead of reading. (That couldn’t have been helping my understanding any.) I gave serious thought to just not finishing it. It’s also another short story that doesn’t actually conclude. I seriously don’t understand the point of short stories that don’t end! Wouldn’t it be better just to write a novella that does?

The Loving Husband and the Faithful WifeDescription from Goodreads:
The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife
A cutesy tale of romance and domestic bliss? Step inside this suburban home to find out what happens when the couple decide to have an extension added. What could possibly go wrong?

The Debt
Meet Del. Meet Tel. Two men from the wrong side of the tracks. Del stayed straight. Tel, well, he didn’t. Now Del is in debt up to his eyeballs, facing ruin. Only Tel can help. Will he though? And if he does, can Del afford the terms? 

Two dark tales of fear, paranoia, and good intentions, set in situations where grey bleeds into black, and where there are no easy answers. Kit Power invites you to see the world through the eyes of the faces that pass you every day. Discover how it feels to really know someone.

The first story started out well and then tapered off into mundane predictability. It was well written and all, but after a certain point you just knew where it was going to go. Though, I do have to admit that the final dénouement pulled everything together nicely. The second was better and I really appreciated the interpretable ending. Both stories show a real talent for placing the reader in the characters’ heads and they all felt real to me. I’d be well up for reading more of Power’s books.