Collections of short stories can be hard to review. Some of these seemed a bit long to be properly called short stories and were novella length. As usCollections of short stories can be hard to review. Some of these seemed a bit long to be properly called short stories and were novella length. As usual I will rate the stories individually, then sum up the rating for the whole book.
They Came to Gordium: A bit of an overdone story about revenge from the grave. Not too bad but I've seen it done better before.
Immolate: I honestly have no idea what the author was going for in this story. Three different things happen which are connected...somehow. If you can connect ISIS, possible alien abduction and suicides you're one step ahead of me. This story is also where the typos begin.
I can't help but wonder whether the name Sunnydale is either a reference (or jab) at the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. It starts out with a sexy scene which takes a swift turn to Urban Legend territory. A little crude, a little meh, and a little boring. Also, because of an awkwardly worded sentence, I'm honestly not sure what the end sentence is supposed to mean.
The Hobbsburg Horror:
This is one of the novella-length stories. It is a bit overly long with far too many "If only I had knowns"and "If I knew then what I know nows" at the chapter ends. The typos and grammar issues get worse from here on out. For instance: We're told a man is wearing jogging pants and a tank top. A page or two later he's wiping his face with the cuff of his shirt. That's just one example. Also, just as the explanation is about to be told what in the world is going on, the story slams the door in our faces. Quite literally. Then it skips ahead to an abbreviated non-answer. Since the story is told in first-person PoV (and is not an unreliable narrator) we should be privy to everything he knows.
This story was a bit better (typo-wise) although it started off a little weird. At first the main character is presented as being one of the 'evil' rich, then gets a quick turn-around to a fairly normal (if affluent) woman. It feels like the author was trying to go for some sort of message but it's lost a bit under the story. If you like a bit of torture porn then you'll most likely enjoy this story.
Are You Hungry, Dear?:
Awkwardly written with no explanation for what happens or what, exactly, the parasite is. It also had an ending that was as stale as three day old pizza. I didn't mind the ick factor of the ending half as much as the triteness.
From the Sea:
A bit better than some of the others. It had a nice air of mystery to it, in this case the vagueness worked in it's favor. It had a very Lovecraftian feel to it.
Neon Fortune Teller:
Certainly the best of the lot. I liked the story. It was well-written and interesting.
Nostos started out strong. It also had the tone of the weird tale to it. Again, though, not much is explained and it ends a bit abruptly. This is one story that could have profited from being lengthened.
All in all the stories are a little on the weak side and the typos and odd word choices really bring it down quite a lot. I did like the cover art and the introduction is very good.
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A very nice cover. The art work is excellent. It fits the Embers title well and is creepy looking. The Table of Contents is linked very nicely.
The ChaA very nice cover. The art work is excellent. It fits the Embers title well and is creepy looking. The Table of Contents is linked very nicely.
The Chamber - 3 Stars Started well with a nice blending of past and present. I had a little trouble with the realism of the ending but it was well-written.
Valerie's Window - 5 Stars Started out in a typical way but as the story progresses and more and more of Valerie's life is revealed it takes strange and disturbing twists that I did not see coming. It was also realistic in her thoughts and actions.
A Window to Dream By - 3 Stars A solid story but it felt like it needed more. Just something a bit more to understand what exactly is going on with that particular hotel and why. It's very Lovecraftian in tone, for the most part.
Each New Day Unknown - 3 Stars Summons up the horror of recurring nightmares. But are they really nightmares. It's well-written but lacks much punch, at least in my opinion.
Gone - 3 Stars Another solid tale and every parent's worst nightmare. You can definitely see the Twilight Zone influence at work here as it reminds me greatly of the episode 'Little Girl Lost' but slanted more toward horror than science fiction.
Under the Drift of Snow - 2 Stars leaning toward 3 It starts out excellently and is very emotionally moving. The end, however, isn't really set-up at all so it just turns into a big "Huh. That came out of nowhere." It also has an implication that I thought was a little...manipulative. (view spoiler)[The husband grieving his wife's death feels doubly guilty as he was unfaithful. However, while going through some of her things he finds letters to another man. She had an affair and since hers was first then he's off the hook! (hide spoiler)] At least that's the impression I got from it.
Blackbird's Breath - 2 Stars I'm not sure what the blackbird is supposed to represent, exactly. It reminds me a bit of Poe's celebrated Raven (although this bird doesn't speak, just chirps). If it's a punishment of some sort there doesn't seem to be much cause for it.
Desolate - 4 Stars A creepy story about a particularly nasty form of addiction.
Lost in the Woods - 3 Stars The emotional parts are very successful. They felt so real and touching. I also liked the idea of it. Lost in the Woods had a very 'Orpheus' feel to it. At the end it devolves into a rather disappointing typical horror tale. It could have been so much more.
Final Breaths - 4 Stars Another parent's worst nightmare. If you have a hard time reading about prolonged hospital scenes this story will cut you to the heart. Again the emotions and realism are done so well that the supernatural elements almost seem out of place. I actually think the story would work just as well without them, if not better.
Closer - 2 Stars I could see where it was going very early on. That's not exactly a flaw but so much of it just doesn't make sense. The character's inner monologue is very realistic and again, the emotions, thoughts and feelings of the character are well done. My issues with it are the total 180 flip in the character's inner morals which seems a bit extreme to be believable. The end is also a bit confusing. It seems throughout that they're in the woods, then it's revealed they're in a city or perhaps suburb ad it destroys the credibility the story had.
Flocking Birds - 3 1/2 Stars Again, the family drama takes center stage to the rest of the plot. I was really torn whether to give this a 3 or a 4. I did like it. It's very realism was horrific but the end was abrupt and incomplete. It left me feeling dissatisfied because again, it could have been so much more and I think the author has the talent to bring it to a satisfactory end.
Pirouette - 4 Stars Another excellently portrayed glimpse of a fractured family unit and not marred by any forced supernatural trappings. It is what it is and it is a great story.
To Save One Life - 4 Stars I really liked the story. It had an interesting point of view on a serial killer. I would have given it 5 stars but for one flaw. It may seem harsh but it's huge to me. (view spoiler)[At one point the murderer is attacking a woman who has a gun. But rather than use it she's 'too terrified' and it sits uselessly in her lap. It gives our Hero of the story opportunity to act but it makes no sense. The absence of the gun would still have given the Hero a chance to act and at the same time not make it look like the woman has no self-preservation whatsoever. As a side note, I loved who the Hero turned out to be and actually makes me feel a little bad for squishing all of the spiders who have met their untimely end under my shoe. (hide spoiler)] At least this Boris ends up a little better off than the one in the song. Yes, you sneaky little author, I caught it.
Of Both Worlds - 5 Stars Very Lovecraftian in tone, quite intentionally I presume. A very good story and also a little sad.
Breathing Cave - 4 Stars I almost get the feeling that perhaps this started out as a different story and evolved into what it became. Which is still a very good horror tale. There is one small blooper that I can't help but mention because the author may want to fix it. I'm not going to hide it because it's not integral to the plot. The lead female character's boyfriend is using his phone for light. He says it's barely charged and shortly after blacks out, going dead. Yet, somehow, a moment later she finds it in the dark...and turns it on. If I somehow misunderstood the author's intentions there I will gladly correct my interpretation of it.
Soul Tapped - 2 Stars I really wanted to like it as I love a good ghost story. However, the entity was easy to guess and there were quite a few things that just seemed improbable in the real world.
The Water People - 3 Stars Could have been much better if it were a shade longer. It would give a bit more background on the creatures and their motivations.
Water Snake - 4 Stars Water Snake had a SyFy Monster Movie feel to it and it was great. There was also a nice bit of snake physiology in there that a lot of authors overlook.
Evolved - 3 Stars It was a good story but again, a bit more detail would have been helpful. It reminded me a bit of a Lovecraft story mixed with a Robert E. Howard story.
Buried Beneath the Old Chicago Swamps - 2 1/2 - 3 Stars I liked it and the premise was good but at the same time I had no clue what exactly was going on. Not in the larger story, that was pretty clear but with the 'witch' and her house. It reminded me a bit of a more evil Howl's Moving Castle.
The Bad Men - 4 Stars This one had a very dark Twilight Zone feel to it. Intrepid space explorers run into non-alien lifeforms n another planet.
Parasite - 3 Stars (4 Stars for those of you that like bugs in the body) It was well-written and gross. Gross in a good way for those people that like creatures in the body stories.
Strip Poker, Crabs and Blue Women - 2 Stars I didn't really care for this story. It tried a bit too hard for the humor and was just blah.
The Benefit of Being Weighty - 2 Stars I really did not get this one. What did the ring have to do with anything? Would everyone really be such jerks about the guy's weight? Also, I think an easier way to take a ring off would be to get a jeweler to cut it off, but that's just me.
It also has an afterword at the end by the author about how he got the ideas. I didn't want to read it until I had done the reviews. I didn't want them to color my opinions. The comments on 'Final Breaths' and 'Lost in the Woods' were very touching. From the emotional depth in those stories I wondered if the author was drawing on personal experience. I would also like to say that his original idea for Soul Tapped sounds like it would be a funny idea for a story, please, please make it!
The book had no typos or grammar issues. I thought it was a great collection. The stories I thought were excellent more than made up for the few I didn't like. And other people might like those more than I do.
Received from the author for an honest review...more