1) Haunting Muses Doreen Perrine
Lesbian - Anthology / Collection / Fantasy
Paperback: 182 pages
Publisher: Bedazzled Ink Publishing (October 21, 2016)
Amazon: Haunting Muses Doreen Perrine
1) This was also a book where some of the stories were better than others, but as a whole it wasn’t bad. If I had have bought the book I wouldn’t have been mad that I’d wasted my money as I really did enjoy most of the stories.
2) An anthology of provocative, well-curated pieces that stretches the boundaries of what a sapphic ghost story can be while still celebrating the women and specters that helped form the genre. Every piece spoke to me, leaving me haunted and awed (or even going “aww”) in equal turn. This may be a near-perfect score, but upon examination, this is a near-perfect anthology. There are three types of plot at play across this anthology. The first are those styled like a typical ghost story, involving a chance encounter with a stranger and their ghostly nature being the twist. There is nothing detrimental about this; rather, they felt like an homage to the genre while providing their own sapphic spin, the sort of stories one would imagine listening to around a late-night campfire. The second type of plot at play is the observation; most common in the poetic pieces, the focus is musing on the situation at hand through use of form and description. Though a few of these lean toward enigma or purple prose, most of these still evoke a haunted sensation in both the speaker and the reader. The remaining stories played with the concept of ghosts in a less literal sense, and often felt like chapters from a larger piece of work. From memories and time travel to guilt and A.I. recordings, the unique takes these stories took on ghosts made their plots harder to predict. Most of these had more positive endings than the other pieces; I applaud one particular piece for making a zombie-transformation loving and romantic. Despite the similar theme, every short story in this collection has a unique location and mood. There are Victorian-esque seaside manors, the last quiet Sunday before school in suburbia, and marooned spaceships eaten alive by growing desperation, and each place feels equally believable. Real world locations like the graveyard-filled Colma feel well researched and lived-in, while the glimpses we see of fantastical locations like a zombie-friendly moon are enticing and leave me wanting more stories in these settings. The range of moods is impressive as well; plenty of stories are as creepy as one would expect a ghost story to be, while others are more action-packed tales of desperation and survival, and a few even feel sweet. Due to the theme of ghosts, many of the characters involved are either learning to deal with loss, or wish they were as they are haunted by their pasts—though explorations of a loss of self are just as common as the loss of a loved one. Most of them manage to find strength and hope by the end of the story, even if their newfound acceptance has a darker twist to it in some of the tales. There are also quite a few unreliable narrators in this anthology, leading the readers to question how real some of these ghosts (or even our protagonists themselves) may be. As expected from an anthology, there are a wide array of writing styles at play. There are third-person adventures, first person musings with unreliable narrators, even a couple poems and a second-person piece. There are modern voices a-plenty, with a few authors bringing elements of other languages and cultures into play, while others are more reminiscent of classic authors like Jane Austen or Mark Twain. A couple stories lean toward the verbose or even purple prose, but otherwise, the writing is clear, poetic, and typo-free.
2) A Perfect Life and Other Stories Elaine Burnes
Lesbian - Anthology / Collection / Contemporary General Fiction
Paperback: 178 pages
Publisher: Bedazzled Ink Publishing (September 1, 2016)
Amazon: A Perfect Life and Other Stories Elaine Burnes
1) Each location, be it mundane or fantastical, is lovingly described and vividly imagined. The author manages to write two stories about tours through Alaska without the setting feeling rehashed between them, evokes changes in two women’s lives by the state of a car and a single office plant, and even manages to write a Halloween story that feels fresh through the use of weather. While most of these stories are in a contemporary setting, I must give a special shout-out to the one SFF story in this collection, as well as the fantastical visuals included in another otherwise-mundane tale. The author’s worldbuilding is filled with so many intricate details, from how children would survive on a desert planet (and how this fits into an intergalactic war) to how dangerous lasers would actually be in space. Even the story “The Gift,” which takes place in a shopping mall during the holidays, becomes evocative as the protagonist describes the mall as a grotesque insect queen littered with parasitic shoppers, a visual that wouldn’t seem out of place in a bizarre fantasy novel.
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