4 out of 4 stars
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Reading books can be like eating. Some books are similar to three-course meals, encompassing several novels in a series. Others are akin to simple one-course meals, lasting for only a few hundred pages in a standalone story. Others still are more reminiscent of trail mix with multiple kinds of snacks in one "bag." And they're all perfect, depending on one's appetite when one sits down to eat or read. I was in the mood for pretzels and peanuts when I chose VD Anthology by various authors, listed on Amazon as Tara Basi, Brian Kelly, Robert Hennebry, Cheryl Baden-Powell, Sophia Haddad, Georgina Hutchinson, J.D. Halcro, Eliot Bryter, Kay Gillard, and Iris Sala. As its name indicates, the book is a collection of miniature stories by different writers.
When I read the synopsis for this collection, I was especially intrigued to find out that the authors had first performed these works live at the Perini & Perini bar as part of Club Verbal Discharge. Some of the writings were complete short stories, while other were excerpts from larger pieces. They were all intriguing, and they each made me wonder just what their author had been drinking or smoking, as most of them were a little bizarre, making them all the more enjoyable to read since I love off-kilter tales. The "voices" of the tales were also quite varied. Some were written in first person, while others were in third person. Sometimes I felt like I was hearing from a distinguished person, while other times found me wondering how the protagonist was able to string two words together. I was also impressed that the authors who included excerpts picked out the perfect scenes, as none of them left me feeling like I was hanging on the edge of a cliff, wondering what happens next, which was the one thing I worried about when I selected the book. While I would like to finish the relevant stories, I don't feel anxious about it.
My favorite piece was Pink Flamingo Soup by Brian Kelly. It was ostensibly about a librarian who was annoyed time and again by a young patron. It actually turned out to be so much more, and the tale-ending revelation had me so psyched that I had to go back and read the story again. I also really liked Frank by Tara Basi. I love Basi, so I wasn't surprised when I very much enjoyed the excerpt from his novella. It followed young Frank as he found out that he won a very helpful 'bot. Since I've exhausted all of Tara's other books, I hope that he releases the full story soon. Just A Perfect Day by Eliot Bryter and poems by Robert Hennebry also stood out. The former was about a family trying to have a perfect day at the beach, but the short story's format was unique. Likewise, it was fun reading Mr. Hennebry's works, as they were the only nonprose writings in the compilation.
I am happy to give VD Anthology 4 out of 4 stars. It's rare for a collection to have all A+ stories, but this one does. I am also delighted to report that the tales all seem to be professionally edited, as I found less than a handful of grammatical errors in the compilation's 64 pages. Some of the writings include profanity, mild violence, and one scene mentioning a sexual situation, so readers wary of those things should stay clear. Otherwise, I highly recommend this anthology to fans of short stories, people who like unusual tales, and readers looking for new authors to love. For my part, I will definitely be looking for some of the authors' other writings.
Earlier, I mentioned that these works all came from Club Verbal Discharge performances. The foreward mentioned that a vocal performance of their pieces, "for your aural enjoyment," can be downloaded online. I haven't purchased the file yet, but having read all of the writings contained in it, I certainly intend to, and I suggest that you do the same. VD Anthology is also volume one, so I'll be keeping my eyes - and ears - open for volume two and beyond. Literary snacks are always a nice break from full meals, don't you think?
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