Wealthy couple drunkenly ditch their car and a strange tow truck driver regales them with off-putting stories, stories relating strangely to their personal lives. With short fiction by Stephen Graham Jones (Mongrels, Mapping the Interior, The Only Good Indians), Philip Fracassi (Behold the Void, Sacculina), and Renee Miller (Cats Like Cream, The One You Feed).
(review request submitted by Eddie Generous, the editor, for an honest critique)
I’ve tried to think of some witty, ingenious way to describe the stories in Midnight Exhibit. Then, I realized I could best sum them up by saying two words… fuck’d up.
Yes, every contribution to the anthology was disturbing.
Stephen Graham Jones – Too Little Too Late: Decomposing, coherent bodies… just eww. Cue the puke bucket!
Renee Miller – Another Pretty Face: This story will have men grabbing their junk for sure!
Philip Fracassi – My Love, Do Not Wake: The story started off reminding me of a scene from Harry Potter. The one where Lord Voldemort’s face is on the back of Professor Quirrell’s head. Anyways, it might’ve started off like HP but then it took a weird-ass turn into the land of fuck’d the hell up.
I’m still shaking my head on this collection. So disturbing it’ll stick in my mind for a long while. 🙂
All’s quiet at 318 White Ash Lane—which is good. Billy could use some quiet. He’s got enough trouble paying off his bills, keeping his cat fed and healing the ribs he bruised in a wreck with a Honda.
But maybe this is just a bump in the road. Maybe all he needs is a few weeks to heal up before he gets his life back on track. Fate, though, has another plan for Billy. That plan’s name is Jenny, and she hits a lot harder than a Honda.
“You know,” Jenny remarked, pausing in front of one the pictures hanging on the wall, “even as a kid you didn’t show your teeth when you smiled.”
“I’ve never liked my smile or my teeth,” Billy answered, not bothering to look back at Jenny. “Besides, it distorts your face.”
“Who says that?”
“I can’t remember. Maybe it was the FBI or DMV. Whoever it was, they encouraged people not to smile,” Billy said entering the kitchen. “It was in the paper.”
He hit the light switch next to the door and the bulb hanging from the ceiling crackled as it exploded in a fiery light. A final tinge of red glowed through the clear glass for a second, then blinked out of existence.
“Is there anything in this house that works or isn’t dead?” Jenny asked as she pulled out a chair from underneath the brown card table that sat in the corner.
She flipped it around and straddled it.
“Hey,” Billy snapped, snatching a chair from the other side of the table, “I’ve done the best I can.” He placed the chair beneath the burnt-out bulb and turned to the pantry. He flung the door open and peered inside.
“You know,” Jenny said, leaning the chair forward on its back legs, “when you’re angry, there’s this vein on your forehead that sorta bulges and pulses. It makes you look like a villain from a comic book, but of course not nearly as menacing.”
Billy turned his head slowly, mechanically, like an animatronic dummy, and glared. In the faint light, his eyes were completely dilated and the edges of his blue irises seemed nonexistent.
“You’re such a smart-ass,” Billy muttered.
“I know,” she replied with a smile, “that’s what your dad always told me.”
The legs of her chair wavered above the tan linoleum floor as she rocked back and forth. Her arms were propped up on the metal backing and her hands rested beneath her chin. She was framed in a moment of innocence, like all those kids you see posing for some excessively happy, underpaid mall associate—except there was no holiday propaganda strategically hung behind her. Instead, there was just a dirty window and a stream of stale sunlight.
“My dad was right,” Billy said. His gaze dropped to the floor, but he quickly regained eye contact. “He was right about a lot of things. Especially about you.”
Gabrielle Olexa was born and raised in the land of the Atlanta Braves but now lives in Charlotte, NC with her perfect husband, Phil, and their son, Ash. Meili, the most expensive and primitive Shiba Inu in the known universe, that they adopted while they lived in Shanghai, China, lives with them, too.
Imagine you are granted three wishes—and your second wish is captured by a television news crew and broadcast across the globe. Now the whole world knows you can wish for absolutely anything, and it will come true. Now imagine you’re fourteen years old…
Jake Parker is about to finish the freshman year of what’s shaping up to be a mediocre high school career. He’s a late bloomer. His family is living hand-to-mouth. And worst of all, he’s a nobody—until he discovers an ancient ship’s lantern. With everyone on the planet watching to see what Jake’s final wish will be, he becomes an instant media darling, and his social status at school skyrockets. That’s the good news.
The bad news is pressure is bearing down on Jake from family, public opinion, the media, government agents, and crooked politicians as he struggles to come up with a final wish that will truly help mankind. But if he’s going to pull that off, he has to outsmart them all.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
At a very young age, we all start making wishes. Whether we are sitting behind a birthday cake’s candle or looking up at the night sky, we think of what we want most and hope our wish or wishes come true.
In You Wish, Jake finds an old ship’s lantern and discoveries it has the power to grant wishes. The catch: You can’t say the wish out loud or disclose your wish. If you do, the wish is recanted.
Like Jake, I think many of us would accidentally wish for something ridiculous. This magical blunder could really happen…if magic really existed.
As for Jake’s other wishes: The second one was caught on camera, viewed by onlookers and broadcasted around the globe. The repercussions were instant. Jake’s life was turned upside down. All eyes were on him to see what he’d wish for next. Many people had insights what he should wish for and the consequences of said wish(es).
End world hunger, cure cancer, world peace, wealth… Jake had so many suggestions thrown at him including one from the President of the United States. The POTUS’ wish was absolutely something I could see our current President asking for because he’s… well, I won’t tarnish this review by stating my feelings on the current White House resident.
When the world is watching your every move, the level of stress to make the right choice must be astronomical. I wouldn’t want to be in Jake’s shoes. I must reiterate, Jake’s life wasn’t his own anymore. Even his family was impacted by Jake’s sudden fame.
It’s nice to think about what if I had three wishes, but in actuality, I wouldn’t want three wishes because it’s too much pressure. However, it was NO pressure getting through this story. This book is worth reading whether you are a teenager, an older individual, or somewhere in between. So, pick it up and start reading it today!
Mark Scott Piper has been writing professionally his entire adult life. He is a longtime freelance writer and video director/producer. Mark holds an MA and a PhD in English from the University of Oregon, and he has taught literature and writing at the college level for several years.
Mark’s bookshelves are overflowing. Among his favorites are Christopher Moore, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen Crane, William Faulkner, Tony Hillerman, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Anne Lamott–all of whom successfully conspire to keep him humble.
Mark has written four novels, three screenplays and more than 16 short stories. You Wish is his debut novel.
His stories have appeared in Short Story America, The California Writers Club Literary Review, and online literary magazines, including, Scrutiny, Writing Raw, Animal, Slurve, and others. In addition, two of his short stories have been Honorable Mention selections in Short Story America Prize for Short Fiction contests.
Raza, a poor orphan trapped in the slums of Pakistan, is sent to a strict madrassah where he meets and falls in love with Perveen. They attempt to flee the city to escape their respective fates but fail. Perveen, pregnant, is sent back to her family, and Raza is sent to Afghanistan to fight as a Taliban solider. American journalist, Rachael Brown, travels to Afghanistan to cover the political unrest. When she meets Raza for a brief interview, she sees for the first time the true face of the Taliban: poor and desperate young men with nowhere else to go. As the war unfolds, their paths cross again, and each must decide what they owe the other.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
I want to begin this review by stating that when Imran Omer contacted me to read Entangled Lives I was very upfront about my initial thoughts based off the book summary. I said the following to him…. “It’s not my typical read but I am willing to give it a chance.”
As you read my review below, I think you’ll see I was fair and honest. I may not like the subject matter but he did give more insight into a world I’m not overly familiar with.
War has always been a part of human existence. People fight for money, for power, or to be the dominant force over mankind. Yes, most individuals join the fight out of their own free will. However, some people are forced to pick up a weapon because they either kill or be killed for their defiance.
In Entangled Lives, Imran Omer (the author) allowed readers to see the harsh reality many men, women, and children face in their war-torn country. They are beaten, maimed, killed, and left without many options. They witness death. They live in constant fear for their lives. No place is safe…. not even their homes.
I live in the United States. While we have violence and mass shootings, we still have many freedoms where the people of Afghanistan seem to have none.
I think Imran Omer’s intent with this book was to make us feel empathy for the people of Afghanistan. I think he wanted us to see not all the soldiers want to fight; that some soldiers do have a merciful heart.
While I can appreciate his effort, it’s hard for me to associate the Taliban with anything but violence, death, and destruction. I did feel compassion for all the innocent people in the line of fire or those affected by the ongoing war.
Now that I spoke upon the contents of the story, I will address the way it was delivered. At times, Imran transitioned from event to event smoothly. Case in point, the diary entries were integrated nicely. On the other hand, the transitions from Raza’s story to Rachel’s didn’t always blend well. As the story progressed, the flow became choppy and sections felt rushed. I did knock some points off for how the book was laid out but not on the contents. I may not like the subject matter but Imran did a good job relaying how harsh the conditions are over in Afghanistan.
Imran was born in Karachi and studied in Karachi and Chicago. A graduate of the University of Illinois and American College of Education, Imran teaches Art and English as a Second Language (ESL). He has taught in the United States, Oman and Saudi Arabia. He loves teaching but his passion lies in painting and writing. His artwork and some of his articles can be seen at www.imranomerart.com He resides in Homewood, Illinois.
Summer is getting hotter in Juniper Junction, Colorado.
There’s a firebug on the loose, the townspeople are nervous, and Lilly Carlsen, single mom to two teenagers, has even more to worry about. She’s in charge of the Independence Day celebration, her mother’s mental health is declining, and her son is getting ready to leave for college.
But things are about to get even hotter: when a bistro owner dies at the celebration and Lilly’s best friend is charged with murder, events start hitting close to home. It’s up to Lilly to help clear her friend’s name while at the same time dealing her mom’s worsening forgetfulness as well as a coming-of-age issue under her own roof.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
Dead, White, and Blue was jam-packed with relatable scenarios and characters. I’ve touched on a few of them below.
1.) Secretive children: The older your children become the less you are aware of what they are doing. They say they are going one place but actually end up in another. And underage drinking….. it happens everyday and children should be punished for it. I respect how Lilly handled the situation. You just can’t let things like that slide.
2.) Dementia:According to alz.org, it affects your memory, communication and language, ability to pay attention and focus, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception. Amy addressed all the symptoms. Plus, she gave realistic reactions and thoughts regarding Dementia. In fact, Tighe delivered the most powerful response when him and his mom, Lilly, were discussing Bev (Dementia sufferer). Below is a condensed version of that conversation.
Lilly regarding Bev, her mother: “She’s strong and healthy, with the exception of her mind.”
Tighe: “That’s the worst part, don’t you think? Her body will keep living while her mind dies.”
I can’t fathom anyone not be affected by his words…….
3.) Wrongfully accused of a crime: The news is littered with cases of people arrested for crimes they didn’t commit. The accused swears they are innocent. Friends and family stand firm the accused couldn’t have done it. But, the police arrest them anyways. Sometimes the accused is guilty BUT everyday we discover innocent people are behind bars and guilty of nothing. In Dead, White, and Blue, Noley is accused of using cyanide to murder Cerise and Lilly vows to clear Noley’s name. Again, I can’t personally relate to this predicament but I know others can. Cases like these are always in the news, and most times the innocent don’t walk away free.
Now onto my thoughts regarding the two investigations: the arsonist and the real murderer.
Murder mystery: I figured out who the murderer was but I was only partly right on the why.
Firebug mystery: The arsonist’s identity escaped me. I knew certain people were too obvious of a choice and was pleased to see I was right about their innocence. As for who actually started the fires and why, I will say the perp’s reasoning for setting the fires was totally plausible. Actually, I’m pretty sure if I do an Internet search I’d find a news report on such a similar situation.
If reading a good mystery wasn’t enough for you, Amy included THREE recipes in the back of the book. I can’t wait to try Noley’s Blueberry Studmuffins. Simple ingredients. Simple directions. Sounds perfect and I bet they will taste heavenly too!
Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, community volunteer, and recovering attorney.
She’s also a writer. She is the author of Trudy’s Diary, A Libraries of the World Mystery (Book One: Library of Congress), The Worst Noel (Book One in the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery series), The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross), and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.
Her days are split between writing and marketing her books, but uppermost in her mind is the adage that the best way to market a book is to write another great book.