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Allusionary Assembly

The Writing of Kerry E.B. Black

Book Review: “Forgotten Ones: Drabbles of Myth and Legend” from Eerie River Publishing

In “Forgotten Ones: Drabbles of Myth and Legend,” Eerie River Publishing brings together over 90 authors from around the world to present their 100 word takes on myths, ancient beliefs, and modern legends. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of the 90 authors, and I added two pieces to this fine anthology. However, since that amounts to only two pages from the 271, I didn’t think my participation should exclude my review of the other fine works in this interesting book. Of course, if you disagree, I quite understand. 

This anthology invites quick bites of world-wide lore. In it, readers find ancient gods and grisly rituals. Some stories are light-hearted, while others offer a shudder. Many of these tales remind readers not to forget the old knowledge, lest they fall afoul of Forgotten Ones. With over two hundred drabbles in this collection, there are too many to discuss individually. However, I wanted to mention some that stood out to me. 

“Hunger” by Regina Kenney, “Chosen” by Joshua E. Borgmann, “The Warning” by Callum Pearce, and “Mary had a Little Lamb” by Joel R. Hunt had much to say in their chilling voices. You’ve got to love the good dog in “Not Tonight” by Kimberly Rei. Drew Starling , Callum Pearce, and Tor-Anders Ulven had multiple good entries, and K.T. Tate presented an obvious admiration for H.P. Lovecraft’s Cosmic Horror. The holidays were represented, too, with a visit from The Yule Cat, Gryla and her Lads, and of course Krampus. I appreciated Galina Trefoil’s feminist “Not to be Underestimated.” “Demeter’s Anguish” by DeBickel was my favorite re-imagining of a Greek myth, and Sarah Matthew’s “Sleep Tight” and Joel R. Hunt’s “Lucy’s Friend” turned childhood upside down, Melody Grace’s “Beaten to the Punch” delivered a chuckle. 

In all, there’s much to admire when a writer can encapsulate a story using so few words. The joy of reading such a collection is admiring the writers who deliver so much using so little. It’s a great way to learn some new writers’ names and perhaps become acquainted with different myths and legends. Although the paperback is sizable (271 pages), reading goes fast. 

I do hope you’ll give “The Forgotten Ones” a read and enjoy some endangered knowledge – before it’s too late!

Book Review: “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” by Karen Russell

As a fan of unique and well-crafted stories, I recommend “Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” It is a collection of nine short stories by the talented writer Karen Russell. Her fresh outlook and graceful word choice make this a Twilight Zone-worthy treasure. There’s a touch of Kafka, some fate alteration, and a spell in the Dust Bowl, light-hearted pieces and some heavier-hitting stories. The title story offers a new approach to vampires, marriage, and tourism, and it is charming. “Proving Up” and “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis” explore the real horror of children left to fend for themselves. “The Barn at the End of Our Term” offers at a comedic alternative afterlife for US presidents. One story in particular, “The New Veterans” touches on PTSD and the healing powers of human touch, tugged at my heartstrings. “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis” ends this collection with a creepy and thought-provoking story of bullying and responsibility. This varied collection will appeal to fans of mild horror, light humor, and speculative fiction.

Book Reviews: “The Ninth Hour” and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

In “The Ninth Hour,” Alice McDermott explores Brooklyn of the early 20th century, a place of Catholic intercessions and mental desperation, of compassion and dedication. This is not a fast paced book, but it is a moving tribute to the nuns who helped and the people who lived then. The world of our grandparents is brought to vivid life and made almost tangible in McDermott’s book.

This book’s setting put me in mind of a favorite book, one I hope everyone gets the chance to read.

Book Review: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

This character-driven look at life in the poor section of Brooklyn early in the 20th century holds a special place in many readers’ hearts, including mine. Francie and her family are unforgettable. Their experiences tug at the heart. Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is a treasured  coming-of-age classic.

Book Review: “The Four Winds” by Kristen Hannah

Have you read Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath?” Do you know of the desperation of the Dust Bowl, the deprivation of the Great Depression in the United States? “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah explores the strength of character needed to survive such desperate times. 

The lead character, Elsa, was born into some privilege, a moneyed, merchant house. However, her family never embraces her, finds her lacking. This lonely young woman dares to seek love and a family. When bad times strike, they threaten her family. Elsa crosses the United States to find work, to feed her starving family. She forged friendships which she fiercely protected. She labored, housed in deplorable conditions, and eventually became the unwitting symbol and rallying cry for a revolution.

This book, like many by Kristin Hannah, illustrates the strength and resourcefulness of a woman invigorated by a worthy cause. Through such desperate times, grace and strength are born.

Helen’s Prospects: A tale of 99 words written for a Carrot Ranch Prompt

It is quite a fun challenge to tell a story in very few words. Below is my tale, and I recommend you check out https://carrotranch.com/2021/03/25/march-25-flash-fiction-challenge-2/comment-page-1/#comment-79628 for more

Helen’s Prospects

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

For her sister Helen’s graduation, Augie bought a huge bundle of helium-filled balloons, each proclaiming pride in the attainment of higher education. Springtime gusts worried them like windchimes, braiding their strings, as she crossed to her car, a storm-blue Prius. Pushing them into the back hatch proved tricky, each poking out like ‘whack-a-mole.’ Driving with the encroaching bunch also presented challenges, as they obscured her rear view. Upon arrival at the celebration, Augie threw open her hatch, but another energetic wind whipped the hard-won strings from her fingers. They soared high, as unstoppable in their escape as Helen’s prospects.

Book Review: “Snow White’s Shattered Coffin” by Cynthia Pelayo

This special release, limited edition novella/short story, “Snow White’s Shattered Coffin” by Cynthia Pelayo is beautifully written and beautifully illustrated by Vheto Gutierrez Vazquez. It’s a quick story of a young woman who was fascinated by an unusual funerary sculpture of a seated little girl surrounded by glass. Soon, the statue leaves her throne to enact a curse, one the young woman hopes to mitigate by facing her fears. 

Cynthia Pelayo dedicated her writing of this story to her beloved city of Chicago, and her adoration for the place is obvious. Through her writing, we are transported to the unusual cemetery with its gluts of lady bugs and famous occupants. 

Vheto Gutierrez Vazquez’s art punctuates and accents the experience. The line drawings are intricate, compelling, and gorgeous. In truth, I’d love to see this relationship expanded further. This duo would make a kick-butt graphic novel!  Still, for those lucky (or insightful) enough to purchase one of the only 200 copies of this second in the “It Came From Beyond” Pulp Illustrated Chapbooks series, it is sure to be a treasure.

Thank you to Mike Phillips for the Advanced Copy.

The book is available here:

 itcamefrombeyondpulp.com/publications

Book Review: “Plain Bad Heroines” by Emily Danforth

“Plain Bad Heroines” by Emily Danforth is perhaps misnamed. The characters may not be the historically portrayed shrinking violets, but they are complicated, daring, and interesting women. Set at a posh, Gothically-atmospheric boarding school, a modern film crew documents unexplained deaths and a rumored curse involving a forbidden red book and some savage and unsavory yellow jackets. This dual time-lined story often breaks the 4th wall, dear reader, which is charming and unique, though it does give the story a bit of a fairy tale feel.   

There are some loose ends that were never tied, but there was plenty of humor laced through the action, and the f/f relationships seemed genuine. As with most Gothic books, the assent to the peak of the story builds slowly to allow readers to grow attached to a fairly large cast of characters. My favorite memorable aspect of this was, indeed, those nasty yellow jackets and their peculiar way of getting into everything.

Audio Book Review: “Unforgettable” by Scott Simon

Some say the Internet-based world has in some ways stunted humanity, made us colder toward one another and reality.

“Unforgettable”  by NPR’s Scott Simon disproves that idea. When his mother faced her mortality in July, 2013, Scott Simon sat by her bedside. Like so many of us, he shared some thoughts using Twitter. He never expected the response these observations and thoughts would garner. 

The audiobook is narrated by the author, and his sincerity is evident in every inflection, tightened throat, and barely concealed chuckle. In short, his presentation brought a lovely reality to the difficult situation. It’s like a love-note from a devoted son to his 

Through the words and lessons of his absolutely charming, captivating, and unerringly kind mother, Scott Simon illustrated the beauty of living – and dying – with grace.

Book Review: “See Me” by Wendy Higgins

Wendy Higgins re-imagined a world with magic, fairies, and leprechauns. In it, a young American girl from a magical family is about to come “of age.” Through a bit of a misstep, her parents found themselves required to betroth this girl to another magical young person, this one in Ireland. With her approaching birthday, Robyn and her family travel to wed the young people. 

Not only do they need to determine if they can make a successful marriage, one necessary for the survival of their magical families. They also have a rival for their affection, one willing to take drastic measures to ensure romantic success.

Light and charming, this breezy ya book leaves itself open for the continuation of the series. With such likable characters, an enchanting setting, and conversational storytelling, this made an excellent story for Shamrock Season.

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