My poor TBR. It feels so unloved. Lately, I've only had time to chip away at it in small chunks, reading the shortest titles it has to offer – hence my not posting a book review in so long.
On the bright side, however, these short works I've been reading over the past couple weeks are really, really good. Today, I'll go over three of them, two by fellow Phoenix Fiction Writer J.E. Purrazzi, and one by brilliant new indie author Mollie E. Reeder.
Warning: Some spoilers if you haven't read Malfunction.
It's difficult, but sometimes necessary, to write a story without a happy ending. When I learned that J.E. Purrazzi had crafted a novella around the doomed character of Starke Coven from her excellent novel Malfunction, I had every confidence that she could pull off this feat. I was not disappointed. The story is both thrilling and heartbreaking, yet with a welcome glimmer of hope to balance out the darkness. The characters are all distinctive, and Purrazzi's world-building, as always, is brilliant. This story helps to flesh out the dire circumstances underpinning the main conflict of Malfunction. It also provides additional insight into the motivations of tertiary protagonist Cowl Coven from that novel. Cowl is probably my favorite character in the series, so I welcomed the opportunity to find out more about his past. And even though he plays a supporting role in this particular story, with the main focus remaining on Starke, I felt that I had an even better impression of who Cowl is as a character once I finished Infraction. As I said, the ending is most definitely not a happy one, yet Purrazzi still finds a way to make it beautiful. I won't spoil precisely how she manages it, but if you've enjoyed the stories she's published so far in the Malfunction series, then I highly recommend you add this one to your shelf. You won't be sorry.
The Raventree Society continues to be one of my favorite things in indie publishing right now, with its smart and scary tales of supernatural horror. “The Haven” maintains the high standard of quality set by the first episode, while kicking the dark suspense up to a new level. Main character Kyle Hanson, still desperately searching for his missing brother Tyler, is forced to work with his estranged step-family to chase down a lead. The ghost story they unearth in this installment is even spookier than the centerpiece of Episode One. The episode draws the reader in with gradually increasing menace, then rapidly builds to a pulse-pounding climax. The thrills never come at the expense of strong character development and crisp dialogue, however. If well-written scares are your cup of tea, and you haven't yet caught up with this series, you're really missing out. Raventree is well worth your time.
This novelette is one of the most delightful things I've read in a long time. For one thing, it's a brilliantly-written piece of short fiction. Reeder has a unique, cinematic skill for fitting all the pieces of a story together in a way that flows perfectly and never loses the reader's interest. Also, the steampunk world of The Celestial Isles series is breathtaking – a Discworld-like, geocentric realm of flat, “island” planets and mysterious stars unlike anything in our universe. (The in-universe mythology surrounding these stars plays into the novelette in a very clever way.) In addition to all of that, though, this story is just hilarious. The humor, akin to that of Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse, made me laugh out loud more than once. I won't quote the story or delve too deeply into its specifics so as to avoid spoilers – you really should experience this for yourself. And don't forget to look out for Ms. Reeder's first full-length novel in the Celestial Isles series, coming soon! (Full disclosure: I beta-read the book and it is absolutely amazing. I can't wait for all my spec-fiction-loving friends to experience it for themselves.) For now, Arbrook Huxley and the Star-Crossed Lovers is available for free to Mollie Reeder's email-list subscribers. Sign up today to enjoy this wonderful story and to keep up to date with the rest of her amazing work!
That's all for now! Stay tuned for more news, reviews, and podcasts in the coming weeks.