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If I Die Before I Wake: Tales of Deadly Women and Retribution (The Better Off Dead Series Book 3) Kindle Edition
★Nominated for Best Anthology for the 2021 Splatterpunk awards★
Go ahead, run. Hide, even. No matter. There’s no place you can go that she won’t find you.
A woman scorned. The sanctity of her sanctuary threatened. The betrayal of trust…even loyalty. Don’t ever tell her not to take it personally, because that’s exactly what it is. Personal. Your first blunder was mistaking her kindness for weakness. Your second was betraying her. The third? Underestimating her. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Take the plunge into these tales of deadly women who will stop at nothing until vengeance is theirs.
The Better Off Dead series delves into the farthest corners of your mind, where your deepest, darkest fears lurk. These masters of horror will haunt your dreams and stalk your nightmares, taking you to the edge of sanity before pushing you to the brink of madness!
With stories by Steven Pajak, Cara Fox, Chris Contreras Bahnsen, Scotty Milder, J.H. Moncrieff, Scott Harper, Bridgett Nelson, Spencer Richard, Mark Young, Claire Brown, Nikkolas James, Lee Rozelle, Natalie Sierra, R.E. Sargent, Red Lagoe and Renee M.P.T. Kray.
Foreword by award winning author J.H. Moncrieff.
- ASIN : B084HFF6KC
- Publisher : Sinister Smile Press (October 26, 2020)
- Publication date : October 26, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 3501 KB
- Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 426 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #836,527 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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If I Die Before I Wake: Tales of Deadly Women and Retribution is a top to bottom collection of amazing stories, many of which are penned by people I had never encountered before, but from whom I hope to see more in the future. I liked every one of them. Some I liked better, but that is only natural. It had a few standouts in my mind, from Bridgett Nelson, Mark Young, and Renee M.P.T. Kray. Honestly, they were all really amazing and well worth the time.
Here’s what this volume offers:
The Long December by Steven Pajak tells a tale of revenge for anyone who’s been wronged and deep down feels the need to get back at those in power when they hurt your family.
Cara Fox created a brutal dystopian world in Take Heart my Child, where a mother makes a deep, and noble sacrifice for her daughters. This one stuck with me a good long while and I am not embarrassed to say, really emotional when I finished it. I’ll be looking for more work by Cara Fox.
Then this compilation gives you something completely different in Sign Followers by Chris Contreras Bahnsen. This one is an interesting story about a family that works with snakes. To me, it really captured the tone and voice of the MC very, very well. Nicely done.
Scotty Milder's The Door, relates to us a young daughter’s hero worship of her rock star dad as she continues to grow up. It affects her a lot when she learns about the huge price extracted from the band members for their lives. The ending kind of left me scratching my head, but I enjoyed the narrative a lot.
Predator by J.H. Moncrief had some dark, brutal, dark, brutal, dark, brutal stuff. Off. But very satisfying because the POS antagonist gets what's coming to him in the best possible way, that’s for damn sure. Very well told tale in the modern information age. (Did I mention that it was dark and brutal? I did? Thought so.)
Scott Harper's Chained tells us a remarkable tale of how love can overcome any obstacle within ourselves and those that opposes it when a vampire fights her own dark impulses and those who threaten the wife she loves.
Bridgett Nelson's Political Suicide blew me away. Damn. This is one is in the top two best short stories I have EVER read in my whole life. And I am not just saying that. It has a good, sympathetic protagonist, a despicable antagonist, lots of suspense, and plenty of thriller/horror emotions it evokes. I wish this could be required reading for politicians. This one to me had the best suspense. I didn’t know how it was going to develop or if the character was really going to go through with what I thought she would or if she would do something different that the antagonist also deserved. This one will stay with me for a long time. Damn... Special kudos in my mind goes out to Bridgett Nelson. She’ll be another writer from whom I can’t wait to see more.
When I finished reading Spencer Richard's Anika I wasn’t sure what I felt about the MC. Yes, it was well done. Don’t get me wrong. This one has a different type of protagonist and as I sit here typing this, that made for a nice change of pace. Thinking about it more reminded me that not every protagonist is going to be a clear-cut “good-guy” stereotype. So that one makes me happy that I ended up thinking a lot. Never a bad thing.
Another huge standout to me was Mark Young's To Hell and Back. This story gave me an amazingly immersive and enjoyable trip to the underworld and an urban fantasy world with magic and monsters that wasn’t cloying. This was also probably one of the best short stories I have read. Mark Young, if you happen to see this, and you haven’t written other stories with this MC, I would totally suggest you give your growing fan base more of this character and her world.
Claire Brown strapped me into one hell of an emotional roller coaster in her story Forget Me Not. If ever you wonder what your life might look like if you’d made different choice, read this one. Life can be wearisome, but worth it. The people in our live can be challenging. But they are worth it. A true example of you never really know what you have until it’s gone. Nicely done, Claire Brown.
Nikkolas James offered up an interesting tale of PIs, necromancy, and a lake in Fancy Dick McGuffin and the Case of the Recycled Hired Guns. I found this one very creative and enjoyable.
The Returned by Natalie Sierra tells a dark, gruesome cautionary tale of science and ambition leading to the revival of a dead person. Just goes to show you that Mary Shelley had it right! Why do scientists (only in literature – I hope) always want to revive dead people? Does that ever end well? Okay, maybe once in a while it does. Very well done, nicely written and extremely entertaining.
In Foundling by Lee Rozelle, we hear the story of an academic thrown into a high stakes conflict over a new and precious infant creature. Of all possible endings, Rozelle managed to find one I hadn't foreseen. The end left me a bit perplexed. But I liked this one. It was very creative and entertaining.
Lucy by R.E. Sargent was a cool story about some dim bulb guy that managed to get manipulated into doing some really, really, REALLY dumb stuff by a mysterious lady who may or may not be all she seems.
I liked Black Feathered Fury by Red Lagoe a lot too. I really sympathized with the main character, Betty. It tells us that friends can come in the most unlikely of places.
The collection closes out with the fantastic story, Soul Skeeter, by Renee M.P.T. Kray. Very imaginative and very well written story about a young girl who sees a bad guy coming into the family home and no one else does. I LOVED this one. It captures the voice of a young kid and their frustration at not being listened to even when they are right. I was immediately drawn into the mind set of this youngster and her voice with the phrase Kray uses for her narration, I thought that was a small touch that yielded big rewards for fleshing out this character. I hope to read more from Renee M.P.T. Kray in the future.
A perfect way to sum up this anthology of 16 kickass stories. Women will do what it takes to protect those they love, and these stories take that to the extreme. Murder, mystery, and revenge flows throughout this collection. Even though every story is dramatically different, the theme of a strong female ensures that every story is connected in a way.
I tried to compile a top five favorites, but it was tough to choose so I whittled it down to my top six (in no particular order):
1. The Long December by Steven Pajak: A daughter is determined to get revenge on the people responsible for her mother’s suicide. This was an emotional rollercoaster.
2. Predator by J.H. Moncrieff: “Not my son. Not my child.” When a detective finds pictures of her son deep on the Dark Web, she takes on a special mission: protect him at all costs. It was easy to lose myself in the details of this one. The emotions were raw and, as a parent, very easy for me to relate to the MC.
3. Political Suicide by Bridget Nelson: A beautiful story of Karma at its finest. After a politician cuts funding to a much-needed medical program, the MC’s son dies of cancer. In a desperate move to avenge him, she comes up with the perfect plan of an eye for an eye. The plot in this one was very original.
4. To Hell and Back by Mark Young: In order to save her daughter, a woman must make a trip to the underworld. Very cool themes of paranormal, horror, and suspense. Not to mention a kickass MC.
5. Forget Me Not by Claire Brown: When a woman wishes her children away, the wish is granted. Be careful what you wish for! This one was another emotional rollercoaster. Mixed with the suspense of the paranormal, it had me on the edge of my seat. Not to mention that ending.
6. Lucy by R.E. Sargent: A woman enlists help from a stranger to escape her abusive husband. Thing is, her plans go much deeper than that. I always love R.E. Sargent’s stories for his awesome way of writing strong woman with dark plans.
Even though I’m not mentioning every story in my review, I enjoyed them all. Each of them spoke of the depths of human nature and what exactly can happen when a person is pushed too far.
Perfect collection of stories to invoke a range of emotions in readers across the board.
This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review.
You may want to think twice before messing with the women in this book.
They’re out for blood. Literally.
Sixteen imaginative stories cover female empowerment of the murderous kind. Each is unique and arranged in a way that separates and enhances the differences.
I loved the creativity of all but was immediately taken with these three stories:
In Political Suicide by Bridgett Nelson, a sharp protagonist begins her revenge rather innocuously but then ramps it up becoming perhaps the most Mephistophelian character in the book. What a planner! So sinister AND a bonus twist.
The Long December by Steven Pajac features a crafty college student seeking those responsible for her mother’s death and plotting their untimely demise.
...And the wry ending award goes to Foundling. Loved, loved, loved that ending! You’ll have to read it to see why and hopefully you’ll smile too.
I can’t detail every story but wanted to mention Take Heart My Child, a grim dystopian tale about a mother providing for her daughters. Although not normally a genre I seek out, I’m still thinking about this one.
I love a great karma story. Payback is like frosting on the cake and the sweeter the better. Give me that sugar, I’m addicted!
Thank you to Sinister Smile Press for my ARC. I'd ordered a copy and was waiting for publication but jumped on the chance to read it early.
Top reviews from other countries
“If I die before I wake: tales of deadly women and retribution” is a fantastic set of stories with a perfect mix of genres, from horror to supernatural to straight old classic revenge stories. And you know how much I love when someone gets its comeuppance!
Here’s a brief review of every story in this volume:
- “The long December”: after her mother’s suicide, Mandy seeks revenge on those responsible. You already know how much I like a female revenge story! 👌🏻
- “Take heart my child”: as Wham! sang...”I gave you my heart” in this dystopian tale where a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice for her daughters. Not my cup of tea. 🤷🏻♂️💔
- “Sign followers”: religious fanaticism and snakes. This one gave me the creeps! 🐍
- “The door”: Lamashtu has a demon’s name and we all know that “birds of a feather stick together” 😈 This “selling your soul to the devil” story was a bit decaf. 🎸
- “Predator”: Cass McGovern, a detective in the Internet Crimes Against Children taskforce, has a motto: “Not my son. Not my child”, so when she finds her kid pulled into the dark net the story turns into Mama Bear vs Predator. YOU GO GIRL! 🐻
- “Chained”: vampires, the undead, hunters... I’m not the right kind of public for these stories with supernatural elements. Some dialogues felt stilted and a bit cheesy. 🧛🏻♀️🧟♂️
- “Political suicide”: “Oh, karma, you sweet, sweet bitch”. Indeed! Who would have guessed our friend Bridgett had such a devious mind! Classical revenge story in a medical setting = 🔟🔟🔟 across the board! 👩🏻⚕️🐛
- “Anika”: 🇷🇺 vs 🇺🇸. In this “guess the spy” story that reminded me of the tv show “The Americans”, a woman is intent on murdering her sister’s rapist. Fun but left me with so many questions. 🔪
- “To Hell and back”: paranormal is not my genre, so this was a bit boring for me, although the final confrontation was cool. 💀🗡
- “Forget me not”: be careful what you wish for... or you’ll end up needing the Property Brothers! Jokes aside, this one was pretty emotional. 👩👦👦
- “Fancy Dick McGuffin and the case of the recycled hired guns”: Rye County Lake could change its name to Rye County Flea Market! Fancy names + magic + humour = Fun-cy crazy ride! 🧝🏻♀️
- “Foundling”: or the nutty professor 😳 This one was totally bonkers! 🤱🐟
- “The returned”: this modernized take of the Frankenstein story maintains the gothic vibes, showing the dangers of playing God. 👨🏻⚕️🧟♀️
- “Lucy”: a woman enlists some help to try to escape her abusive husband. The help’s brain was not inside his head. 😂💄
- “Black feathered fury”: a murder. A murder of crows. I loved everything in this story: the old lady as a main character, the young boy and their friendship, the living your life out as your true self no matter how old you are... One of my favorites! 👵🏻🦜 (yeah, I know, but that’s the closest to a crow I found. It was that or the chicken 😅)
- “Soul skeeter”: Tallulah Dara Cathmor, can I be your friend? Thankyouverymuch 😍
Although there were some stories I didn’t like that much due to personal tastes (not a big fan of horror and supernatural), the writing was on point on each and every story. The classic earthly revenge ones were definitely my favorite stories.
Whatever your genre preferences make sure to grab this one when it comes out on Oct. 26th as I’m sure you will find some story you will like.
The plots were howlingly bad.
The writing were moderately good. But almost all the authors seemed to have some kind of fetish about dad-issues in rural families.
Actual, action-packed and well-plotted stories, preferably laced with dark humour? Nope! Nothing like that here.
Crushingly disappointing— that's my summation.