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  • An enjoyable short story collection.

    I lean more towards fantasy than sci-fi in my reading preferences, and it showed in the stories that I seemed to enjoy more. I wanted to read this because of the short story by Patricia Briggs (love her series!) and I was not disappointed. I also wanted to see what the characters in Laurell K. Hamilton’s world are up to, even though I stopped reading the Anita Blake series awhile back. Loved the series, but there didn’t seem to be much of a story advancement in the books with all the sex scenes (and I read erotica and romance, so it’s not like I don’t like reading about sex!!!) I enjoyed Zombie Dearest, and since there was no sex in it to keep it clean for the anthology, there was actually a story there. Some of the other fantasy stories that I really enjoyed and want to read more from the authors because of their writing were; Not in this Lifetime by Sharon Shinn, Mr. Positive the Eternal Optimist by Larry Correia, Heart of Clay by Kevin J. Anderson, and Reprise by John G. Hartness. And the sci-fi stories that I really liked were Broken Son by Griffin Barber, Last Contact by M.C. Sumner, and Bonds of Love and Duty by Monalisa Foster. All the other ones were enjoyable, except I really couldn’t get into Fallen by L.E. Modesitt Jr. A very good short story collection that makes reading a story or two before bed an enjoyable thing to do, and perhaps you’ll find a new author… or five!

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  • Fun anthology, dark content with a positive spin!

    'Fantastic Hope' is a new anthology filled with various sci-fi and fantasy tales that has been edited by authors Laurell K. Hamilton and William McCaskey. I knew I had to read this because it contained a brand new Anita Blake story.. and I'm a huge fan of Jean-Claude and the other great males from the series. Touted as being a collection deigning to focus on the positive sides of life, while still mixing things up with the darker aspects I typically enjoy, I was eager to try it out. At first though, I wasn't sure happy endings were for me. As I slogged my way through the stories at the beginning of the collection, I found myself frequently putting the book aside to do anything. It just made me tired. I was bored, but wanted to persist.. in the hopes they would improve and it did have some great quotes. "He had the kind of face you wanted to throw a coffee cup at. Even if you like coffee as much as I do." -('Twilight Falls' by Jonathan Maberry) "My father always used to say you can't beat the stupid from people, but it sure beats listening to their stupidity." -('Broken Son' by Griffin Barber) Just over a third of the way through the book, suddenly that's exactly what happened. 'Heart of Clay: A Dan Shamble, Zombie PI Adventure' by Kevin J. Anderson was a wonderful play on some old ideas. A combination of a pseudo-retelling of a classic and a humorous zombie detective novel, it was warm, inspired, and full of humor. Likewise, 'Reprise: A Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter Short Story' by John G. Hartness really warmed me to the collection. It's obvious, I'm sure.. that Harker name most of us recognize, is indeed Dracula related. But what a sweet story, despite the awfulness of the topic within. I really enjoyed the intermingling of demonic/angelic mythos as well. Now, for many years I've been intending to read a Patricia Briggs book and it just hasn't happened. But as luck would have it, there was a short story included by her as well and I couldn't have been happier. 'Asil and the Not-Date' had me off balance from the start. It has such a strange, yet interesting opening. I wasn't entirely sure what was going on and it took me a few pages to get my bearings, but her writing is so smooth. Basically, the main character is being set-up on 'dates' with by an anonymous group. All the information is being exchanged only by emails coming from someone marked 'Concerned Friends. At the point where we pick up, he's already two dates down out of five and they have been more than interesting, to say the least. From here though, the next one definitely takes it up a few notches and I absolutely loved the story. Other's included that deserve mention are McCaskey's 'Ronin' - which is a truly unique guardian tale, 'Skjoldmodir' by Michael Z. Williamson and Jessica Schlenker - a heartwrenching retelling of Beowulf, 'Bonds of Love and Duty' by Monalisa Foster, and of course.. 'Zombie Dearest' by Laurell K. Hamilton, which was unfortunately the last title in the book.. but well worth the wait. ​After all, I did get to see Jean-Claude and Nicky was there too. I've always been conflicted about the Anita character and the whole center of everyone's universe angle, but the boys and the unique stories drive me to continue reading the series. When it comes down to it, that's a personal preference issue and does nothing to take away from Hamilton's ability as a writer. If you're looking for a good collection of stories that you can easily read in chunks around quarantine home-schooling, with positive endings to brighten your days indoors.. look no further. Give this one a try. (I received this title as an ARC. All opinions are mine and freely given.)

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  • A Fantastic Collection!

    I really enjoyed this collection of stories. I am sometimes a little hesitant to pick up short story collections since I have had mixed luck with them in the past. When I saw the group of authors that contributed to this collection, I knew that I had to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this group of wildly varied stories. I loved the fact that there was a little bit of everything in this book and had a great time reading all of the stories. Twilight Falls by Jonathan Maberry - 3.5 stars This was entertaining. This story was about a group of three men on a mission. There is a group that believes that in order to save the world 90% of its population needs to be exterminated. The trio goes to investigate a wiped-out village and stumble upon something they didn't expect. There was a lot of action and some pretty big surprises in this story. Not in this Lifetime by Sharon Shinn - 4 stars I really enjoyed this story. Sasha remembers all of her past lives and her past friends which she seems to keep finding in each life. She also remembers how she dies in each life. There is one thing that she doesn't seem to remember though. Mr. Positive, the Eternal Optimist by Larry Correia - 4 stars This was a fun little story. Someone is trying to kill Stanley and he isn't just going to let it happen regardless of how polite his assassin might be. There was a lot of action and the twist at the end was well done. No Greater Love by Kaey Ezell - 4 stars Jennilee stays behind with one of her mother's who is in labor while her family continues on their dangerous journey. Jennilee is just a teenager but it is up to her to help her mother deliver her baby and keep them safe. When things go horribly wrong, she makes the only decision she can and is still able to protect her family. Broken Son by Griffin Barber - 3 stars This is a futuristic story where prisoners are sent out into space to work. A scientist has a theory that could change everything and goes along with a crew to investigate. It was interesting to see exactly what their discovery was able to do. Heart of Clay by Kevin J. Anderson - 4 stars I have read the first book in this series so I was familiar with the characters. It was nice to see Dan and his crew solve the case of the murdered golems and find a missing sword. The Renaissance Faire was filled with interesting characters and it was fun to see how everything fit together. Reprise by John G. Hartness - 4 stars This is a Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter short story. I haven't read any of the books from that series but would definitely give them a try after reading this story. This story follows Quincy Harker as he tries to stop what is going on in the local park while coming to terms with seeing a ghost from his past. I liked the characters a lot and found the story very interesting. Asil and the Not-Date by Patricia Briggs - 5 stars This was a great story! I love Asil and the idea of him going out on these not-dates brought a smile to my face. Tami was an interesting character. There were some pretty big surprises in this story and I loved that in the end, Asil was a hero. There was even a hint of humor to go around. In the Dust by Robert E. Hampson - 4 stars I thought that this story was very well done. We see Winnie and Jenny at key points in their life starting in their childhood. Winnie likes to tinker in the old museum while Jenny seems to have more going on in her life but they have a wonderful connection. There is a pretty big surprise in this story which I thought was very well done. Fallen by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. - 2 stars This one was kind of confusing. The story jumps around a lot and I had a hard time keeping up. We see the main character, Estafen, in a lot of different situations but things often switched abruptly. Working Conditions by Patrick M. Tracy - 4 stars This was a really quick story about a young man that never misses a day of work. Now that he is a vampire, it changes a few things in his working environment. I enjoyed this one quite a bit and really liked the twist. Last Contact by M.C. Sumner - 4 stars This was a very interesting alien story. The main character is faced with a very difficult decision that can change his life forever. I really liked the descriptions and how everything played out. Ronin by William McCaskey - 3.5 stars This was a fun little story about a warrior that I never expected. The story did go in a direction that I didn't expect which was a big plus. I did enjoy this one quite a bit. Skjoldmodir by Michael Z. Williamson and Jessica Schlenker - 4 stars I really liked this story. I hate to admit that I have not read Beowulf but it seems that this is a Beowulf story from another point of view. I felt for this mother and everything that she has been through. Her love for her son was very evident. This was very well done. Bonds of Love and Duty by Monalisa Foster - 4 stars This was a really big story. I loved the idea of these crea

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  • Optimistic Paranormal Short Stories

    Given today’s current pandemic situation these are paranormal short stories many of us might need right now. The outcome of each story is positive in some way. For many of these authors this is a unique ending as they tend to have things go badly more often than not in their stories. Here’s some comments for each story: Story #1 - Twilight Falls (Joe Ledger): by Jonathan Maberry Everyone by now knows Maberry is a superb writer. His quick paced action, witty characters, and subtle plot twists always amuse. This short story is no different. Great ending that questions who the “bad guys” really are. Story #2 - Not in this Lifetime: by Sharon Shinn Well wow! In such a short story I want to know every characters story and hear about it all. Really well done and established. Story #3 - Mr. Positive, the Eternal Optimist: by Larry Correia Absolutely hilarious! This legit made me smile. So far this set of stories is exactly as advertised and the perfect compilation to help dissipate some of the awfulness of 2020. Story #4 - No Greater Love: by Kacey Ezell Based on a Mormon folktale this story has the heart, courage, and ferocity of the wolves discussed within it. Story #5 - Broken Son: by Griffin Barber This could easily be expanded into a full novel; if not an on-going series. It starts off simple enough with a criminal on trial and by the end we are in space, dealing with neuropsychology, and contemplating other life’s existence. An easy 5 stars. Story #6 - Heart of Clay by Kevin J. Anderson I swear Kevin J. Anderson and I are like the same personality through and through. I always love his writing, his dry-ish humour is like my own, and he comes up with unique, creative, yet relatable stories that I love. This one is no different; a short story set in his Dan Shamble PI series. A great intro to this series or to Anderson's writing. Story #7 - Reprise by John G. Harris This story is set in an existing world, Quincy Harker, that is intriguing (as it’s based on Dracula). Unfortunately the story itself felt too ‘thrown-in’ for me. I didn’t have any connection with the characters and felt like I was reading a personal story I shouldn’t be. It was awkward in the end as I don’t know the characters. Story #8 - Asil and the Not-Date by Patricia Briggs Classic and typical Briggs story. But I don’t mind that at all as you know exactly what you are getting into. I really like this Asil and may need to look up which of her series he stars in. Story #9 - In the Dust by Robert E. Hampson An adorable story about a couple trying to preserve history on their moon colony. Story #10 - Fallen by L. E. Modesittt, Jr. Ugh. A bit much for wording and explanations. Got bored quickly. Story #11 - Working Conditions by Patrick M. Tracy This is a story about something I’ve longer been intrigued by since a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode as a kid. If you had a terminal illness and could be saved by becoming a vampire, would you choose that life over none at all? This is an interesting perspective on that question. Story #12 - Last Contact by M. C. Sumner Brilliant! A great take on aliens visiting earth. Story #13 - Ronin by William McCaskey Oh wow... that may be one of the most moving short stories I have read in a very long time. I actually forgot all these stories were supposed to have happy endings as I was sure it would go another way as I read. A magical teddy bear helps a dad and his daughter in their dreams, and real life. The dad has PTSD from a war and isn’t doing well... *shivers* Story #14 - Skjolfmodir by Michael Z. Williamson and Jessica Schlenker This is a widely known, old story written from the perspective of the mother of ‘the monster’. Poor Grendel whom; in this version of the tale, didn’t deserve what happened. “But if they sing of him for a thousand years, they must also sing of me.” Story #15 - Bonds of Love and Duty by Monalisa Foster I liked this one and really wanted a lot more of it than we got. This is a solid idea that could easily be expanded into a full novel. Story # 16 - Zombie Dreams (Anita Blake) by Laurell K. Hamilton I started to read this and then realized I’m about four books behind in this series and there might be spoilers. So I’ve skipped past it just in case. Overall I highly recommend this set of stories. If not to find some new authors or series to try out; but just to lift your spirits a little in the dark days of early 2021 we are living in.

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