“Hold Up” by Lucille P. Robinson – 4 stars
A serial rapist gets more than he bargains for at his local Wal-Mart.
This story is thoughtful and well-written. I liked the premise a lot, but would have liked to have read more. The ending was justifiably abrupt, but it did leave the story feeling somehow incomplete. Nonetheless, it's a good, short read.
A young woman jumps at the chance at revenge after an attack sends her to the hospital with a miscarriage.
This story has some great moments to it, but needs a few kinks smoothed before it might live to its full potential. The premise is very good and the twist fun; however, following the story is frustrating at times because believability of many of the character motivations is shaky in many places. The erotica was well-written.
“For Art’s Sake” by Elizabeth Coldwell – 4.5 stars
A move and career change can be a pain in the rear. . . .
I don’t claim spanking as one of my turn-ons, but I enjoyed this erotic piece all the same. The story is well-written and cohesive and moves to a satisfying ending.
“Simon Seeks” by Nathan L. Yocum – 4.75 stars
A psychic finds his own life on the line when sent on a search for a missing girl.
This story is executed beautifully, offering creative visuals and awesome depth to details other authors might leave mundane. The only disappointing part is the ending, which seems far too abrupt for such an otherwise meticulously laid out story. I wanted to read more.
“The Barefoot Hero” by Timothy Fleming – 5 stars
A man looks back to the past after the tragic death of an old friend.
“The Barefoot Hero” brought tears to my eyes. The story is bittersweet, tragic, and brilliantly written. The characterization is deep and thoughtful, leading to a conclusion that is as painful as it is gratifying. A lovely story.
“The Cenotaph” by Casey Wolf – 4.25 stars
Past and present collide when a camper stumbles upon a long-forgotten memorial.
A thoughtful commentary on perspective and war, this story does a great job at showing the fears and expectations that arise when one considers leaving for war. Some of the shifts are a little jarring, but may be intentional in an attempt to pull the reader into the protagonist’s confused state of mind. Overall, this is a very good story.
“Take Two” by Kit St. Germain – 4.5 stars
An interesting post-apocalyptic future history, this story speculates the effects of religious take-over and genetically modified food.
Very well-written and creative, “Take Two” paints a very interesting future picture, moving at a fast pace and growing in intrigue as the story progresses. The ending is anticlimactic however, offering a good twist, but not executing quite powerfully enough to hit with the five-star punch it could have.
“The Journey” by Megan Johns – 4.5 stars
A housewife on a train ride contemplates her life while eavesdropping on a group of nearby passengers.
“The Journey” cleverly explores human insecurity and interpersonal dynamics, while offering a twist ending that is sure to delight.
“Triona’s Beans” by Casey Wolf and Paivi Kuosmanen – 2 stars
A young girl goes on an intergalactic adventure with little people that look like feathered beans.
I had great difficulty getting through this story, which reads like a very young children’s fantasy. This story does not belong in a dark speculative fiction anthology.
“The Meal” by Mike Brecon – 4 stars
Two couples come together for the taping of a reality television show.
The concept behind this story is great and I enjoyed the writer’s style, although I would have liked to have seen some of the scenes hashed out a little more.
“Seven Deadly Sins” by Karen Coté – 3 stars
A man snaps after his past catchers up with him and unravels his life.
This story is creative, sick, and bleeding with potential. Sadly, the prose needs tightening, as do the structure and story development. As is, the story depends too much on shock value, leaving the reader with flat characters in a tense but static environment.
“The Smile in Her Eyes” by John B Rosenman – 4.75 stars
A man sees what he believes to be the essence of his deceased wife in a teenage girl.
Very well-written and creepy on many subtle fronts, “The Smile in her Eyes” reads like Lolita in The Twilight Zone. Pay attention to every little detail when you read this story or you’ll miss out on its full brilliance.
“Slumfairy” by Tonya R. Moore – 3 stars
Factions fight over the pilot—and therefore the future—of a super-massive space ship.
This story is difficult to follow, with plot holes and vague spots that leave too many questions throughout the work. There is too much going on, too many aliens to keep track of, and not nearly enough time taken to paint a good, cohesive picture of it all.
“A New Leaf” by Megan Johns – 4 stars
A divorce finds solace in her garden after starting over in a new home.
Sweet and well-written, this story would have been even more enjoyable if it had not ended so hastily. Even so, this is a satisfying story.
“Man Slaughter” by Lucille P. Robinson – 5 stars
An alleged murderer recalls each of the deaths she has been accused of while giving her official statement of confession.
The characters and plotline of this story are developed and executed masterfully. The characters are believable and the story creepy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.
“Pronghorns” by Casey Wolf – 5 stars
A double suicide goes to “Plan B” when initial plans go awry.
“Pronghorns” is a darkly brilliant commentary on life and death. It is well-written, gripping, and has a shockingly profound ending. This is one of those stories that resets the bar.
“Frame of Reference” by Mike Brecon – 4 stars
Story and reality collide in the mind of a young, insecure writer who finds himself unsure how to proceed with a scene.
Any type of artist will appreciate the twist to this quick, fun read.
Malpas by Marion Webb-De Sisto – 2 stars
A woman falls victim to, then in love with, an incubus.
The premise is decent, but the story is thoroughly unpolished. The prose is simplistic, the vast majority of the dialog recaps previous scenes, and the erotic scenes seem forced and filled with unnecessary, moment-jarring dialog. This story is a disappointing end to a very good anthology.