A Bit of a Twist – An Anthology of Short Stories

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The second volume in the Read on the Run series by Smoking Pen Press, A Bit of a Twist is a collection of twelve short stories by various authors. Each of the stories presents its own unique spin on what might be considered a twist, with the first story getting extra credit for being a mini anthology inside an anthology.

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David’s Not Herewas actually written in five mini sections by five different people (The Asylum). Considering the difficulty of pulling a story like that off, it actually comes out as a fairly smooth effort. The minor attempt at humor in the middle section, though not a story-killer, did distract slightly from what is otherwise an excellently twisted tale of revenge. While I do, in fact, know who wrote that section, I won’t embarrass that author by naming him here. 3 stars. (Because of the middle 😉 )

Eternal Youthshows what might happen when one’s goals are repeatedly put off due to the various stresses of living from day to day. While the story seems to drag at first, once the twist at the end is revealed, it turns out the story was exactly as detailed as it needed to be. One of my favorites. 4.5 stars.

The Reunionturns out to be a tale of revenge, but not in the way such stories usually go. The twist at the end of this one is sure to give several readers pause as they wonder what they might do if confronted with a similar revelation. 4 stars.

An Air of Authority – is one of two tales in this volume with a fantasy setting. It also happens to be mine, so I won’t review or rate it. I will say that the setting itself distracts from the flow of the rest of the stories since all but one of the others have contemporary, modern settings. (I will also hope that others aren’t as put off by this as it turns out I am.)

Down Home – takes a couple of different turns before it reaches its incredibly surprising and very sad conclusion. I really can’t think of much else to say here without spoiling the story. 3.5 stars.

The Marriage Counselor – has a seemingly effective way of solving relationship issues. In the end, the reader is left wondering how many others used a ruse to achieve their surprise final resolutions. 4 stars.

Blind Date – is actually a feel-good tale that ends up turning from the ending one generally expects for what initially appears to be a self-centered and shallow main character. Some may see the ending coming right from the start (and some may not) but that does not detract at all from this wonderful story. 4.5 stars.

The Chateau de Puyguilhem – is the other tale with a fantasy setting (although it does exist in the ‘real’ world). Aside from my already mentioned complaint about how the setting disrupts the flow of this volume, I’m sad to say that I had a hard time following this one, but that’s on me, I think. (Apologies to Andrew 😦 ) I think maybe it was a twist on the old ‘Beauty and the Beast’ theme, but I’m not 100% sure I got that right. 2.5 stars (mostly because it went way over my head).

River Road – takes readers in a surprising direction in the realm of the paranormal, though the revenge factor is pretty standard. No, the surprising twist in this tale is the way the MC and interacts with his sister, Callie. Overall a nice entry for this volume. 3.5 stars.

Aliens Among Us – takes the reader on a wildly paranoid ride through the mind of a high school junior just on the verge of maturing. While one might assume that the twist is Frank’s sudden and inexplicable assumption that his step-father is an alien, that isn’t where the real twist lies, but I’ll let future readers find that out for themselves. 4 stars.

Happily Ever After – is another feel good story, though anyone reading this is going to see a supernatural/paranormal horror story, at least at first. In fact, it actually is a horror story (a-la ‘The Amityville Horror’) right up until the excellently surprising ending that I’m not going to even hint at, much less reveal. You’ll just have to read it for yourselves. 5 stars.

The Wish – is a convoluted tale of the round-about travels of a possibly magic lamp. I rather like the concept in this one, but I don’t want to give away the twist in this particular tale. I will say that if you find an abandoned lamp on a lonely park bench, leave it alone—and definitely don’t make a wish on it. 4 stars.

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While this volume is significantly longer than SPP’s first ROTR release, ‘A Step Outside of Normal’, it can still be read in one sitting and offers enough variety of style to keep readers interested until the last page, and I’m not saying this just because one of the stories is mine.

As long as Snappy is happy, that’s what counts.”

Available at Amazon Books

4 stars overall.

RSL

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The Ancient – An Anthology by The Seven

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Not all of the stories in this anthology involve actual lamps (Aladdin’s or otherwise) but all do involve wish-granting artifacts of one sort or another, and all of them have their points to make. The themes (and realms) range from sci-fi/fantasy to Lovecraft-esque type horror to everyday normagicity (<<<not a word) and everything in between.

Each in its own way, is also a thought provoking tale of danger-spiced adventure with dire consequences for those who make a wrong decision. And some of those decisions require desperate soul-searching before finally making them (Lily and the Lamp, for one) but who among us might not make the same decisions under the same circumstances?

Horror is not my cup of tea, so to speak, as far as favorite reading genres go, but The Golden Pen was surprisingly compelling given that I had no idea of the type of story that was coming.

All of the tales in this anthology have their recommendations going for them—and I now add mine to the list. You should too.

RSL

The Ancient is available in both e-publishing and paperback formats at Amazon –

Amazon Books

The Weatherman – Laurie Axinn Gienapp

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Intentional or not, this turns out to be a cautionary tale about how easily public opinion can be manipulated, an especially relevant message in these times. There is intrigue, suspense, danger, and maybe a little bit of fear at how this might become a real thing.

The characters are interesting and believable, as is the plot line and concept behind the tale. Weird as it sounds to say this, readers are taken on a fast and furious ride through the world of weather forecasting. Compelling enough that I read this in one sitting.

There needs to be a sequel. Soon.

RSL

ps: Not every story has to have raging hormones, ravening beasts, or overly heroic heroes. For certain Hollywood types who might be looking for something a little different, this could be it.

Available at these sites:

Google Books

Amazon

Barnes&Noble/Nook

Book Depository

A Step Outside of Normal

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A collection of seven short stories by five different authors, A Step Outside of Normal can easily be read during any cross country or other extended flight. I’m not going to write extended reviews of each story since, in some cases, such a review would challenge the story itself in length. Below are short blurbs about each story (except my own) that hopefully will make them sound interesting enough to check them out.

Hell of a Day by Laurie Axinn Gienapp: A very short tale – about four pages – that shows it’s sometimes a very bad idea to take your work home with you. Especially when your job is in Hell.

Sunnybrook Acres by Catherine Valenti: A ten page and rather fun tale about the antics of various aging and eccentric super heroes at a certain retirement home.

Pirates by Kathleen Terrell: This one is a cute little tale about a young girl who spends a lot of time daydreaming about all of the men (pirates) who try to date her mother and wishing the father who left when she was five would return.

Always by Theresa Thompson: A heartbroken woman contemplates the end while attending her cheating husband’s funeral. About ten pages.

The Book of Xyxyx by R.S. Leergaard: This one is mine so I’m not going to try to describe or review it. I’ll only say this is a weird idea that came to me during a midnight to eight am shift as a security guard. About nine pages.

The Double by Laurie Axinn Gienapp: A flower shop owner comes to believe she’s being stalked by her doppelganger double, who thinks she’s being stalked by her doppelganger double. Eight pages

Rage by Catherine Valenti: At seventeen pages, this is by far the longest story in the book. It’s a violent tale of anger, murder and betrayal. It only goes to show that sometimes a little vengeance is good for the soul.

All-in-all this is an interesting and unusual set of stories that should capture and hold the readers attention during an otherwise boring trip. Best of all, you should be able to finish it in that one sitting. 3.5 stars 🙂

RSL

 

 

New Realm Vol. 04 No. 08 – Various Authors

New Realm is one of several monthly magazines published by FictionMagazines.com, usually featuring five short fantasy stories from five different authors.

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Story #1 – The One by R. S. Leergaard

For fairly obvious reasons, at least to me, I won’t be reviewing/critiquing the first story because it is mine. I will say that the story called “The One’ was written in June of 2013 for a monthly challenge at a fantasy writers’ site. The challenge was as follows:

Your challenge is to write a story based on a cliché that’s in some way reversed. For instance, the the heroine rescuing a beautiful prince from an enchanted tower. It doesn’t have to be a gender issue, though, just a cliché turned on its head.

That’s what I did with ‘The One.’. More accurately, I took several fantasy clichés and exaggerated them to the point of cartoonish silliness, and maybe turned one or two of them a little sideways.

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Story #2 – Wurm by Jill Hand

Wurm is an ancient dragon who has survived to modern times and is being less than capably – and honestly – represented by his current servant, Dennis Twombey. And then the lawyers get involved and things go from bad to worse as Dennis has to juggle several problems – including his daughter, her mother and a RenFair owner (Sir Richard Blott) – at once while keeping Wurm happy.

A lot of little but interconnected things happen that lead up to a final confrontation between Wurm the dragon and Sir Blott. Although it’s not your typical happy ending, the story does end happily as Dennis learns a valuable lesson about honesty and fairness … and that, as far as I’m concerned, is a good thing.

Far too many stories, movies and tv shows these days seem to think that a story isn’t any good unless it contains blood, guts and “gritty realism” and that gets to be a little draining at times—at least to me. I can see that sort of thing any time by simply turning on the cable news channels or almost any drama series.

It’s kind of nice to read a feel-good story with a happy ending once in a while. 🙂

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Story #3 – A Trail of Breadcrumbs by Alice Loweecey

An interesting little tale that takes a bit of a turn when the bounty hunter, Jade, discovers the criminals she’s hunting are her own brothers. Also complicating matters is the constant danger of Alternate World collisions and changes those events sometimes cause. In the middle of the hunt for the rest of her brothers – she’s already captured one – another Alt-World collision occurs, sending Jade back in time five years where she learns of a different history where her brothers aren’t the criminals she believed them to be. Or maybe it’s not that simple.

This tale has several twists and turns in it, and it leaves everyone – including the reader – wondering which reality is actually real.

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Story #4 – Godswap Apocalypse by Terry Ibele

Who knew there was so much red tape involved in the transferring of God’s power? Certainly George didn’t. And what good is it when the only thing one has figured out how to do is end the world? These and others are questions George had never received an answer to until his latest universe scenario landed him in an office building where such things are decided.

This story is an often amusing account of how even the universe and the transfer of power from God to God is governed by certain bureaucratic rules and regulations.

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Story #5 – The Shadow Ward by Brian Barr

One of the nine necromancer flutes, the flute of Saturn and Mercury, has been stolen and the Shadow Ward, Ludwig has been sent to retrieve it. His search takes him from stable hand to pirate to the former slave and current possessor of the Babylonian flute, Mawuli, aka Sarah. She and her common-law husband, Patrick Goodfellow, almost destroy Ludwig before re-enforcements arrive to save him and return the flute.

There’s a lot of back story and other details told, of course, but in the end, the twist here is that the bad guy wins, though one is left to wonder if there is such a thing as a ‘good’ necromancer.

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The common theme for all five stories, as far as I can see that there is one, is that all of them have some sort of plot and/or character twist that turns the story away from the usual and expected conclusions. All-in-all this could be a fun and interesting addition to anyone’s collection of anthologies.

RSL

Mr. 8

Mr. 8

Mr. 8 – David J. Thirteen

Mr. 8, the initial offering by author David J. Thirteen, is a mystery, couched in a horror, wrapped in a paranormal thriller.

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When Professor Denton Reed is drawn into a police investigation by friend, neighbor and detective, Bill Stahl, he had no idea what kind of wild ride he would be taking. After all, what would a psychology professor whose claim to fame was his doctoral thesis Object Transference and Diagnostic Observations know about murder, even if said thesis was later, and more famously republished under the title What Your Stuff says about You?

Quite a lot, it turns out, when there are multiple victims and the only thing they all have in common is that they began drawing or otherwise creating 8s all over their homes and apartments shortly before they were murdered. Things rapidly deteriorate for Professor Reed, though, when he becomes as obsessed with the investigation as the victims were with the number eight.

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As much as the story’s plot entertains, and it does, it’s the character development that stands out. The author [Thirteen] delves quite deeply into the professor’s motivations behind his chosen field and his own reflections on why the case becomes such an obsession for him. There are also numerous and touching scenes between Professor Reed and his wife, Linda. And the story is filled with mundane details that stand out all the more for being in the midst of such horrible events.

The details stand out elsewhere in the story as well . . . in the plot line, in the descriptions of the small town college where Professor Reed teaches, and in the secondary characters peppered throughout the tale.

While this review is for the beta version I had the privilege of reading at Wattpad, I have no doubt the more polished and extended version will be just as compelling, and I look forward to adding it to my collection. 4 out of 5 stars, did I have them to give. 😀

The full version is available here.

RSL