Friend Or Foe by Samantha Bryant is a collection of 4 short stories that bridges the gaps in the menopausal superhero novel series. In comics they sometimes have story arcs that last several issues but sometimes they will have a one shot between stories. This book is all about giving you little details that you didn’t get in the novels.
The first story set before book 1 is “Intervention” and it goes back in time to when Patricia and Cindy Lu were friends. You could say it’s an orgin story for Cindy as we see what made her decide to be a mad scientist. In this one you feel sympathy for her but in the future you see her as caring more about science and progress than people. The theme here could be that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. You also see Patricia already acting like a hero.
The second story takes place between the first and second novel. Its called “Friend of Foe” and gets into what happened with Cindy and the other characters right after the battle that ended book one. I liked that this story focused on Cindy and her reactions to all the changes that the characters have gone through. I found myself debating if I should feel sympathy for Cindy or not, while she shows that she is working for a greater good, she also shows that she doesn’t mind using people to get to where she wants to be. You also get a good glimpse of the rift that is forming between the other characters.
Story three is “O’ Scaly Night” and it follows Patricia on a Christmas Day adventure. If you want a good and simple superhero story this one fits the bill. This tale gets into what goes on in Patricia’s mind and you get to follow her as she puts her skills to use. One thing that I took away from this story is that out of all the menopausal superheroes, Patricia has done the best job of accepting who she is and playing the hero role.
The Final story takes place after the third book in the series and is called “The Right Thing.” I don’t want to give any spoilers away on this one because if you haven’t read the three novels in the series you would be lost. What I will say though is that it’s about a damaged friendship and what happens when someone’s former friend needs to be rescued. The main idea is if you’re a hero would you still be willing to help a former friend that you don’t care for anymore? Friend Or Foe is a good read if you are a fan of the menopausal superhero series. The stories are short and give you info that you won’t know from the novels. It also could be a good way to get to know the characters if you are new to the series and don’t mind a few spoilers.
The Gate Theory by Kaaron Warren contains five stories having to do with gates opening in our lives. We try to hide the pain with various things but what happens when we can’t hide the pain anymore and the gates to our true selves open? This book also contains an introduction by Amanda J. Spedding who talks about learning how to write from Kaaron. Since I wasn’t familiar with Kaaron’s work I enjoyed the intro and it got me excited to read the stories that followed.
The first story in this collection is Purity which is about a girl named Therese who lives with her mother and brother and leads a depressing life. Her mother has a food addiction and the house is always a mess but Therese works hard at a grocery store and dreams of a better life. One day a preacher and his grandson come to the store to by fruit for purification and invite Therese to join the ceremony. She does and gets drawn into a religious cult that thinks laughter is the best medicine. This was an interesting story that gets into how people get brainwashed by cults and how sometimes anything can be better than what you have.
The next story is a supernatural tale called That Girl, it gets into a woman’s quest to improve conditions in a psychiatric institution and she stumbles across an urban legend. I liked how this story describes the island of Fiji and gets into its superstitions. The third story is called Dead Sea Fruit and also touches on the supernatural with the legend of the ash mouth man. The story here follows a female dentist as she visits girls hospitalized in an anorexic’s ward. This was an odd story that was entertaining and different.
The fourth story was the longest in the collection and my favorite called The History Thief. It follows a man named Alvin who has died and now lives as a ghost. He finds that if he touches someone he can become solid and people can see him but he causes the people that he touches to lose their minds and Alvin gets their memories in return. I loved how this story is told, you see that Alvin never had much of a life but now in death he has one but at the sacrifice of everyone he touches. I was wondering if the author was making a social commentary that most people live shallow lives and prefer to live vicariously through other people such as celebrities. This story also has a mystery to it that I enjoyed.
The last story is called The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfalls about a woman who finds rare dogs. The woman is given the task of heading to Fiji to find a rare vampire dog. Once again the author makes Fiji come to life and I loved how the main character is looked down at because she is doing a job that most of her clients think a man should be doing. She doesn’t let this stop her and shows a woman can do as well as a man. Several of the stories here get into the bizarre and at the same time have a good social commentary on such things as women’s roles in society. The Gate Theory is a good taste of Kaaron Warren’s work and shows that she is an excellent writer that can take an odd subject and make it interesting.
Rich and Roulo Volume 2: Ruins is the second short collection of poems and stories from authors Emerian Rich and Heather Roulo. This isn’t your ordinary book, in the editor’s note, Heather Roulo states that this series is set up for the two authors to break away from their past patterns and stay consistent with their ever-changing artistic ideals. This series is all about experimentation and gets proven quickly by the opening act which is a vaudeville style comedy routine between the two authors. If this doesn’t prove that this is not your average 99 cent book on Amazon I don’t know what does.
The stories here are set in exotic locations and ancient times and the characters are dealing with life and relationships in the face of death. First up was a short work by Heather Roulo called Uncovered which is about a man with an exotic fever who reads some ancient hieroglyphs that are about to change his world. This was a nice set up for what was to come in the book and really set the mood. Next up was a poem by Emerian Rich called Goddess which on the surface is about a Goddess looking down upon the people who worship her but there is a deeper meaning here that you will have to find for yourself. I have never been big on poetry but this one was good.
After the poem is a story called The Mummy by Emerian Rich. This is about a young girl in ancient Egypt who was cursed to be a mummy. One man has the ability to help her but he has his own agenda and breaking the curse may not be that easy. I liked how the girl in this one prays to her gods for help and realizes that no help is coming, through her pain she finds strength and becomes a stronger person. The ending to this one was excellent.
The next story is Great Asp by Heather Roulo. This tale combines fantasy and horror and starts on a battlefield where a husband and wife team is about to lead a volunteer battle force against a group of supernatural creatures created by a sorceress. This is not your run of the mill story. It starts with a battle scene, goes into a little love story and then you get psychological horror in the end. This series is about experimentation and it shows in this one because it seems to start in the middle goes back to the beginning and then its like a completely different story by the end. This is a great tale that fans of horror and fantasy will enjoy. Most of all I enjoyed how the wife chooses to honor her husband but sadly things never work out the way you want.
Rich & Roulo: Ruins is a fun, quick read and a nice introduction to two talented authors. To me this book was like a mini literary magazine where the idea was to show the strengths of two authors and how they can use short stories, poems and comedy dialogues to entertain their audiences. I’m hoping to see more volumes in this series and I hope other authors decide to use this same format to introduce themselves to new fans. It’s only 99 cents, take a chance and buy it, you won’t be disappointed.
The Carvings Collection by Drake Vaughn is a mixed bag of stories that covers true crime, paranormal and psychological horror. The first story was one of my favorites called Dolls. It’s about a girl who has a doll that talks and doesn’t act like other dolls. I liked how the relationship the girl has with her dolls closely mirrors her parents relationship. I thought the end was a little confusing but it was a good creepy story to start the anthology. The next story was called Drivers Seat and is about a woman who is afraid to drive. I liked how the story was told, it had a great idea behind it but the ending was disappointing.
The third story is Master Key which is a creepy tale where some kids enter a secret passage in a school and learn about the school’s dark history. The next one is In The Chair which is about a man who killed his mother and then gets kidnapped and held prisoner by someone who believes he is doing gods will. I liked how the author shows who the real villain is. The descriptions of the man trying to escape from the chair were gruesome and really made you feel empathy for the character. He made a decision to end his mother’s suffering but had to suffer himself. I thought where the man was being held seemed a little far-fetched but it was still an entertaining story.
Another good story in this collection is called Sales. it’s about a man named Conner who is hired by a firm to harass a female singer in order for her to hire more bodyguards. The singer is much more than she appears, men who go to her apartment come out changed and it may take more than an ability to talk to save Conner.My favorite part of this story was hearing all of Conner’s observations about the people he meets. He is good at reading people but still doesn’t see the situation that he is walking into, great ending.
The Garden is another supernatural story which is about two boys who steal some vegetables from an old man’s garden and find out about a horrifying secret in the man’s basement. I liked how one of the boys shows his loyalty to his friend despite his fear. Next up is The Test. It’s about a man who tells his wife how a friend of his died. This story was one of the longer ones and had a lot of depth to it. There was a scene in a restaurant that was funny and sad at the same time. I also liked how its shown that a past relationship effected the man’s present relationship.
One story in The Carving Collection that I would like to see expanded on is Trip to V-Town. The story gets into a group of men’s journey into the vampire side of town to have sex in a vampire whorehouse. This was a really short one that managed to say a lot. I liked how one character is changed at the end from what he has seen and I felt the author was making a good point on how one group of people looks down on another group from the wrong side of the tracks. The Carvings Collection is an anthology for anyone who likes a good story and I hope to see more from Drake Vaughn.