An ‘anthology’ read in July

Molewort: a garden invader, strange but welcome. The flowers are unremarkable but those seedheads!!

As some of you know I spent a lot of July trying to get through my tbr list. I had uploaded a lot of short stories and novellas, most of them free or very cheap, to my Kindle. I think it was a kind of insurance when we were travelling frequently and I was afraid of running out of reading matter!.I’d had most of them all ages and no longer had any idea why some had appealed to me in the first place. Others were by favourite authors but had somehow sunk down my list. Anyway, I read them to the exclusion of almost anything else other than newspapers and journals whilst enjoying the garden during our spell of nice weather.

I won’t (mostly) go into great detail but will give you a list, with the usual stars. Some were surprisingly good – I say surprisingly because on the whole I prefer novels. Not because there’s anything wrong with short stories – I’ve written some myself and stories are as long as they want to be – but because I like being able to ‘lose’ myself in a long novel whereas short stories bring me back to earth rather too quickly. The four star ones I would recommend. The three star are pleasant enough but not very memorable. The two and one star were not for me. This was at least partly because some of the plots were thin and seemed to be an excuse to write very explicit sex, something I only enjoy if I’m already invested in the characters and the story. I treated the list as an anthology though nobody apart from me had deliberately put them together.

So – my July anthology!

Recommended:

Foxy Heart: Blade and Dust by Rhys Lawless**** Rhys Lawless is another pen name for Rhys Everly. I loved this short story with magic and mayhem and might even try the series to which it’s the prequel. (This is obviously why authors provide freebies.) A fox shifter finds his soul mate but they are instantly on the run from witch hunters. Loses a star because it needs to go further. And yes, I assume the next book will do that, but I would have liked slightly more in this one.

My Rainy Valentine by Ruby Moone***** Excellent very short story set in my local city. An example of really good storytelling art. The people standing by at a tram stop get involved in a Valentine’s day apology and relationship development,which is both hilarious and romantic.

The Christmas Curse also by Ruby Moone**** Nice shifter story with echoes of The Princess and the Frog.

The Case of the forgetful genius by Charlie Cochrane.**** Not sure if I’d read/reviewed this before. It rang bells but maybe just because of being about her actor amateur detectives, Alasdair and Toby. Worth a re-read if that’s what it was!

A Flirty Dozen by JL Merrow**** An interesting collection. Some appealed to me more than others (even this very good writer can’t make me care about ghouls) but all were intelligent and well written stories. These were mm with some romance and some sex. I have also got A Feminine Flirty Dozen**** (ff stories) I enjoyed it just as much, especially the ones with paranormal elements or that referenced fairy tales.

Two flash fics from newsletters:

Ewe’s Stocking by Charlie Cochrane****Clever spy story set in WW2

Perfect Picture by Clare London****Sweet very brief story featuring an artist and his lover.

Not particularly recommended but well written and readable.

The Machine Stops by EM Forster*** A sci fi curiosity, I suppose. Published in 1909 it’s a kind of echo or pre-echo (?) of Brave New World and 1984, and is surprisingly ‘modern’, relating well to things like our internet usage and the pandemic lockdowns. However, I found the style very stiff, and never really empathised with the characters. I was surprised to find typos but perhaps that’s because it was transcribed from the original magazine publication.

Total Fabrication by Saxon James*** A TV competition story (it’s quite a common trope – they meet, they compete, etc.) which was nicely done but could have been expanded and given greater detail. One of those short stories that reads like a summary of a novel.

My Fake Billionaire by Ana Ashley and Rhys Everly*** A Braxton Boys series short story. A pleasant tale of a billionaire who finds his heart’s desire tending the library on the island he is buying. I gather the series follows a number of ‘old boys’ of the school.

Kilts and Lies by KA Belle*** A typical ‘fake boyfriend’ story that ends up – of course – with real romance. Another one that could have been longer with more detail. The families, all minor characters, were interesting.

Treehouse Whispers by Elouise East***Pleasant but unmemorable story about two guys who have shared a treehouse since childhood.

Faking Familiar by Abigail Kade*** Witches and familiars in a prequel to a series but none of the characters were particularly interesting and I won’t be following it.

Five Fake Dates by DJ Jamison*** Quite a sweet story – friends to lovers.

Ante Up by Charlie Cochet*** A Four Kings Security Short. Dancer gets together with bar manager.

The Second Act by HI Day*** Actor renews relationship.

The Artist’s Model by ZA Maxfield.*** Well written story but I do wish this author would stick to novels or at least novellas – I usually enjoy those but am invariably disappointed by the shorts.

Keep paddling by Charlie Descoteaux*** Two slightly older men with mild physical handicaps. Pleasant but not very memorable.

Just Say When by EM Lindsey*** Blind vlogger Tristian challenges chef Enzo to a blindfold cookery session with predictable results.

Coffee, tea or me? by Elizabeth Silver*** Fairly boring but competent short story about busy bookseller meeting barista.

Not recommended

Boyfriend Emergency by Rheland Richmond** Unlikely fake boyfriend story that seemed to be just an excuse to write sex.

Overnight Stay by Lynn Michaels** Another excuse for explicit sex with no real story.

Anh Sang by Barry Brennessel** Depressing account of doomed mm romance during the French departure from Vietnam. Written a bit like a travelogue.

Definitely not recommended

The Naked Cleaner by Sophia Soames* I hated this, mostly because of the unnecessary amount of foul language used by both the main characters. Weird story about a naturist who goes out cleaning and has an arranged meeting with a hermit-like IT expert. Unlikely and unsatisfying.

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