Book Review – ‘Short Sips’

 Short Sips – Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection 2, edited by Jessica A. Weiss was the first book of flash fiction I have read. And, it must be said, I enjoyed it in the main.

What I thought I’d do, therefore, was give my opinion on the stories out of the 99 in this book that I really liked.

The book was put out by Wicked East Press, where Ms Weiss is the main, if not the sole, editor.  She has so many many books on the go, and manages to deliver wonderful pieces of work. And, as usual, here she has gathered a fine, eclectic collection of weird and wonderful stories. Wicked East press has definitely become one of my preferred selling markets (along with Pill Hill Press).

But I’ll start with the negatives. You see, when I grew up, if you wanted to be a professional anything, you learnt the tools of your trade. As a writer that involves three dominant things: spelling, grammar and punctuation. Those are your tools. If you want to be taken seriously, then you have to use them. As such, a book like this, when you submit, you should submit your work so an editor does not have a job to do. And with Ms Weiss having so many books on the go, she should not be forced to sit down and correct everyone like a school teacher.

A number of the stories did not use these tools of the trade well at all. Missing punctuation (especially apostrophes), wrong homophones, and tense confusion dotted a few of the tales. And what made it all the more glaring was the fact that it stood out all the more when compared to the polished works that made up the majority of the collection. Sorry, but if you want to be a writer in an English language market, no matter how much today’s society laughs at such things, learn your goddammed rules of English.

Next, a number of stories felt like they were the start of something larger, truncated to fit the flash fiction requirements of the anthology. And a few felt like they were synopses of longer works again written to satisfy the anthology’s theme. And then there were some stories that did not feel like stories, just anecdotes without a definite structure.

Okay, still with me? Good. Because I recommend you buy this book, and not just because I feature in it. I get no royalties from its sale – but as a collection of flash fiction the following stories are worth the price of admission alone. These are presented here in the order in which they appear in the book, that’s all.

‘Another Day In The Park’ by Ken Goldman is a sad time shift tale, with the supernatural elements underplayed nicely.

‘In The Crosshairs’ by Steve Hagood is a tense story of a sniper and the humanity that overcomes him. I did not pick the ending of this one. Done well.

‘The Loan’ by C. Douglas Birkhead is a good piece of science fiction with that nice denouement worthy of all good morality plays.

‘Dead Men’s Shoes’ by Iain Pattison is another morality play, done brilliantly. A story with no real good guys, but in the end, it just makes you think.

‘Time’ by Emma Kerry is very short, and I think the reason I like this one is because I can see my own grandmother in Ethel’s shoes. Sweet.

‘High Hopes Deli’ by Heidi Mannan is another time shift story, which attempts to answer the question: What would I do if I met a younger me? And answer it well, she does.

‘Someone Else’s Grave’ by Ryan Spier is short, sharp and shiny, with the twisted ending I like so much.

‘Library Quest’ by Christian Belz is not spec-fic, but romance in flash fiction, and, damn, if it isn’t done well. Believable, too, which must be hard in such a limited word count.

‘Coffeehouse Confession’ by Chad Case is a strange revenge story where dreams and reality mix nicely. The way it was written got me as much as the story, I must say.

‘The Passing Of Camel’ by C.S. Nelson is a sad story of a toy. It’s almost the second half of Toy Story 3 condensed into 3 and a half pages, but with an emotional punch.

‘The Thing In The Woods’ by Matt Kurtz turns the creature story on its head. It made me smile; what more can I ask for?

‘Harmony’ by Dan Larnerd is, essentially, Cthulu meets Classical. One of my favourites in this book. And making the mime the bad guy was just perfect. I dislike mimes…

‘The Devil You Know’ by Reina Sobin is a strong tale of good vs evil, but with evil being rather resourceful to get a measure of an edge. This is one of my very favourites.

‘Bon Appetite’ by Mark Taylor is a gross culinary experience with a twist I saw coming, but that did not diminish its disgusting – and well done – impact.

‘Lazarus Rising’ by Steven Gepp – me. Now, normally I don’t consider my own works that highly. In The Trigger Reflex, for example, my story is one of the least in an otherwise awesome book. But here, I like this tale, and it fits in well.

‘Abduction’ by Charles Day is another of my very favourites, a great tale where I did not see the means of taking the victims. And his writing style is very readable. Just great.

‘The Men Of Salem County’ by Lawrence Falcets is about witch-hunting, and, again, I did not see the end. Where I thought it was going, it didn’t. Can’t ask for more than that in 2 pages.

‘The Kitterun Five Tourist Trap’ by C.D. Reimer is a slice of science fiction which breaks the twin taboos of toileting and alien sex. Another of my favourites.

‘Sky God’ by Shane Rhinewald is a great piece of fantasy with another ending I did not see coming, but which I like.

19 excellent works out of 99. Another 30 or so were very good. Another two dozen were good but probably not my cup of tea (or coffee in this case). But that is the joy of flash fiction. If you don’t like one story, it will be over soon enough, and you can go on to the next one. And there’s more than enough good stuff here to keep everyone happy and entertained. Thoroughly recommended.

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  1. #1 by Robert Cristante on May 18, 2012 - 10:03 am

    I enjoyed this review and I would recommend Short Sips (even though my story is in it).

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