Saturday, 11 June 2022

Book Review: Drabbledark: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles edited by Eric S. Fomley

Drabbledark II: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles was recently released from Shacklebound Books, featuring my drabble, “Surprises Suck.” I make it a rule not to review anthologies I’m part of so, instead of reviewing at that one, I thought I’d have a look at the first book in the series, Drabbledark: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles instead.

I love writing microfiction because trying to fit an entire story into exactly one hundred words is a great challenge. (And yeah… a lot of times my verbose ass can’t do it and I end up with a much longer story. That’s okay too.) I love reading microfiction because it gives you a quick glance at someone’s writing style without having to devote too much of your time to something you might end up disliking.

Which, of course, is the problem with any anthology, regardless of the length of the stories it contains. There’s a pretty good chance you’re not going to like every single story inside because you’re not going to like every author’s style. You don’t like every person’s voice that you meet, right? So why would you like every author’s “voice?”

When it comes time to review an anthology, you can’t exactly say, “I didn’t like this book because I didn’t love every story in it.” I mean... you could, but you’d be a massive dick.

(Seriously. Don’t do that shit.)

Did I love every story in Drabbledark? Of course not. I didn’t like the flow of some or the tone of others – but that’s fine. It just means those ones weren't for me. Besides, they’re only a hundred words each. These stories go super quickly and you read a lot more that you like than you don’t.

My top 5 stories from Drabbledark are:

1. “Six More Weeks of Winter,” Tianna Grosch 

It's refreshing to have a Persephone retelling that isn't romantic. 

2. “Poor Nathan,” Patrick Winters

Wow, it's not easy to squeeze a surprise ending into  a drabble, but Winters nails it.

3. “Suicide Hotline,” Elizabeth Dearborn 

Ooh, this one's twisted enough to make Lucifer chuckle...

4. “Next Time Look in the Cabbage Patch,” John H. Dromey

Should be silly, but 100% is a childhood nightmare come to life.

5. “Iron Will,” Jillian Bost 

Yes! Two of my favourite things: a sassy mama bear and the fae.

The stories in Drabbledark cover a range of motifs, from deep sea to deep space – and just about every nasty niche in between. This can be a good thing because it offers a little something for everyone, appealing to a wider range of readers.

As a reader, I prefer an anthology when it’s a little more focused than that. ("Dark" is a very broad category.) The constant jump from one theme to the next is a little jarring for me. It seems unfair to lower a book's rating based on personal preference rather than any faults with the book itself, especially when there isn't really anything to complain about as such, but it does bug me a bit. That being said, this anthology was still enjoyable light reading - so much so that I could have done with Drabbledark being twice as long.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5)

Friday, 10 June 2022

Book Review: If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

I don’t know why If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich came up on my Recommend For You list on Kindle since most of what I’ve read lately has included sexy fae (or shifters or vampires,) but it did and the tagline got my attention: Ruben and Zach are in the world's biggest boy band. They’re also secretly in love.

As a diehard Joshler shipper, there was no way I could scroll past that one!

And you know what? If This Gets Out delivers. It's like picking up a really great piece of fanfiction. (And of course it makes me think of certain bands...)

There’s a lot more going on in If This Gets Out than a couple of pretty boys falling in love. (Though there’s plenty of that.) It takes a hard look at the toxicity of the record industry, exposes narcissistic parents, shares the struggles of drug addiction, and begs superfans to maybe tone it down a bit. 

When you’re dealing with a cast of characters as large as this one, it can be too easy to get voices mixed up or fail to separate them at all. We’ve all read books where the characters all “sound” the same, right? You don’t get that problem with If This Gets Out. Each character has their own unique, consistent identities, as well as their own goals, talents, and struggles. Even very minor characters, such as security guards, are so well developed that you care about what happens to them.

If This Gets Out excels at character development but also the interaction between characters. The reason for that is the novel’s co-authors, who each took charge of one of the main characters. The back and forth between Ruben (Gonzales) and Zach (Dietrich) as the novel progresses gives you a view into two very different worlds: the gay boy who’s tired of being locked in the closet by the band’s label and his best friend who’s just starting to understand his own sexuality.

It’s just the most adorable, heart-warming thing ever.

The novel teases at sexual situations but isn’t too graphic, which makes it appropriate for a wide range of ages. The blossoming relationship between Ruben and Zach is well-paced, with just the right amount of steamy mixed with sweetness. They go through struggles – individually, as a couple and as a band – but you’re with them the whole way. You’re rooting for these kids, hoping they get their happily-ever-after.

Reading If This Gets Out felt like a totally indulgent, guilty pleasure and I loved every minute of it. It had me grinning from the start, blushing a bit, tearing up a little, and beaming at the end. Whether you’re a fan of fanfiction or just of boybands, this one should give you the fix you need.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)