Top positive review
A blow you away collection of awesomeness
Reviewed in the United States on December 14, 2020
I have had the privilege of reading a ton of awesome short stories this year. Sometimes a short story is just what you need as a reader.
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.