Wednesday, July 23, 2008

39...and Still Holding by assorted authors

TITLE: 39…and Still Holding
AUTHOR: Donna George Storey, Barbara Foster, Melinda Carroll, Greg Boose, N.L. Belardes, chingpea, Carmel Lockyer, L.A. Mistral, Ansley Vaughan, Erin Gordon, Kate Burns, Santana Smith, Patricia Parkinson, Jennifer Mueller
PUBLISHER: Phaze
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 60k)
GENRE: Erotica
COST: $6.00

A collection of 14 stories, each telling a story about life after 39…

One of my requirements before I buy a book is I need to read an excerpt. The excerpt isn’t always a great indication of what the writing is going to be like – I’ve been caught out too many times for that to be always true – but it’s better than going into a story completely blind, especially if it’s a new author. I’ve gone back and forth with Phaze. When I first started buying books online, they didn’t have them, then they did, then the excerpts disappeared, and now it looks like they’re back again. I stumbled upon this quite by accident because I bought this Phaze title at Fictionwise on one of my weekly Monday haunts there. So I’m putting them back on my publishers to look at, but honestly, I really wish they’d do something about their editing.

This anthology suffers from the same lack of care I’ve found in other Phaze works when it comes to technical aspects. Half the stories are riddled with spelling mistakes, and one even manages to switch person – from 3rd to 1st and back to 3rd again – all within the same sentence. Then there are the non-technical things, like laughable dialogue – This tent reminds me of a womb and makes me feel safe. – and the unwieldy exposition – Juan was struck by her salt and pepper, auburn hair and her olive, almost milk-chocolate skin. Her eyes were so green, the jungle seemed rest there inside her irises and her complexion was like mint ice cream. Mercifully, not all the stories were like this, otherwise I very likely wouldn’t have finished it.

My favorite story of the bunch is a short offering called “Two Letters to Francine, the Cashier at Check-Out Counter Five at Jewel,” by Greg Boose. It’s exactly what the title says, two letters written by an enamored 43-year-old to the cashier at his grocery store he’s too nervous or shy to approach. The first letter is misleading. It describes what Brian is feeling and how he would like to be with her. The pay-off doesn’t come until the second letter, which I’ll admit had me chortling in embarrassed amusement for the narrator. Is the story perfect? No, but honestly, when I finished the anthology, this was the only one I could remember in detail with a positive response. While there were others I liked, this one was unique enough, and provoked the strongest, most genuine response, to stand out from the crowd. (As a small aside, when trying to find out more about the author, I happened across his site/blog that he writes with his now-wife. Just as funny if not more than the story.)

Other standouts include “A Rabbit Hole for Emily” by Melinda Carroll, a hot little romp about a divorced woman and the punk rocker musician on the rise she’s got a thing for, “Age Limits” by Kate Burns, a story about a woman trying to rediscover the man she married, and “What If” by Jennifer Mueller, a story of two young lovers reconnecting after forty years.

Readability

5/10 – Far too many stories in this needed some serious editing, like the one that switched from 3rd to 1st and back to 3rd person, all talking about the same character, in the same sentence.

Plot

6/10 – Some interesting ideas with a few of them, though execution almost always falls short.

Characterization

5/10 – I remember characters from only half of these, which doesn’t bode well when there are so many stories crammed into the anthology

Entertainment value

4/10 – A couple stand out as genuinely entertaining, while too many just make me wish I hadn’t bothered buying it in the first place

World building

6/10 – Better than other aspects in the book, even stories I hated had a sense of atmosphere

TOTAL:

26/50

3 comments:

Kat Lively / Leigh Ellwood said...

http://phazebookexcerpts.blogspot.com

We are in the process of including all book excerpts at the above address. Thank for the feedback.

Kat Lively
Publisher, Phaze Books

Book Utopia Mom said...

That's really good to know. Thank you so much for telling me. :)

Greg said...

Hey! Glad you liked my story and other writings, Book Utopia Mom. That was my first crack at "erotica."

- Greg Boose