Saturday, September 10, 2016

An Honest Review of Shadows Over Main Street (and) Abstract Jam #3

Amazon does not allow authors to review anthologies if they have contributed a story to that anthology. With that in mind, I wanted to post some honest reviews here on my blog for books to which I contributed.

This week, I'll review two more titles.

Title: Shadows Over Main Street
Publisher: Cutting Block Books
Editors: Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward
Number of stories: 20
Pages: 211
Price: $13.95 paperback, $4.99 Kindle
Theme: Small-town Lovecraftian terror
My story included: Estranged. A young woman who grew up in Innsmouth reminisces about her childhood and reflects upon her estrangement from her father, who came to look upon her as a freak.

This title was available for a short time in 2015 but the publisher closed their doors. What a relief to have Cutting Block pick this title up! The cover is slightly altered, as is the interior layout (the font is a little bit on the hard-to-read side for these eyes), but otherwise the stories are the same. This anthology is great. I read it cover to cover twice. In reading the reviews posted on Amazon, one story that gets mentioned repeatedly as one of the reviewers' favorites happens to be one of the stories I enjoyed the least. Just goes to show how subjective fiction can be. Very evocative cover art by Luke Spooner.

My favorites stories came from Nick Mamatas (with a story I believe is called "Octopus Salad", but the title is in Greek). This story has one of the best closing lines I've read in years. More favorites: Brian Hodge ("The Stagnant Breath of Change"), Mary Sangiovanni ("The Floodgates at Willowhill")--liked it even more upon a second reading, Cameron Suey ("The Crisis")--breathtaking action in this one, and Jay Wilburn ("Boss Cthulhu")--funny and creepy. Even narrowing it down to five was a struggle. I also applaud the editors for going the extra mile and commissioning interior artwork from five different artists.

Overall: I enjoyed 16 of 20 stories, which rarely happens. I give it an A.
Here's a link to order.

Title: Abstract Jam (Issue #3, June 2016)
Publisher: none listed
Editor: Samantha Leng
Number of stories: 15
Pages: 179
Price: $7.58 paperback, $1.45 Kindle
Theme: quirky short stories
My story included: Sprat

I admit I was not familiar with this market before selling "Sprat" to appear in their third issue. I was missing out! This is not a genre magazine, nor is it literary. The story selection is eclectic and unique. The stories are something quirky, sometimes gritty. Some are hilarious, some are heartbreaking. Some are very down to earth while others are speculative/imaginative fiction.

My favorites were "Fishbowl" by A. Katherine Black, "Somewhere East of Santa Fe" by Christian Riley, and "An Absent Member" by Charles Wilkinson. That story is nearly worth the price alone. Ever read those Rudyard Kipling stories that begin with a group of men sitting fireside at an exclusive club, cigars and scotch in hand, and then one old fellow begins to relate a shocking story of adventure? Wilkinson takes that familiar trope, stands it on its head, and punches it right in the junk. It leads off the issue, and with good reason.

I give Abstract Jam a B+.
You can order a copy here.

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