Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

Winter Wonderland Stories

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Right after New Year I stumbled across Prolific Works Winter Giveaway and picked up a bunch of free ebooks. Since many were short stories, I decided to only do individual reviews if the ebook was a novel or novella and if I really liked it.

I haven’t read all the stories yet, but I have read the ones I was most interested in, so here is a review of the stories I have read (but not reviewed) so far.

Also, one story made me really REALLY angry, so you’ve got that here as well.

cookies and collusion“Cookies and Collusion” (2020) Sara York
Brandon likes running his coffee shop and bakery. Except that his ex keeps coming in and bragging about all his conquests. And the Yoga ladies are just mean to everyone. And there aren’t a lot of guys to date on the island. But aside from all that, he’s happy.

The plot had some potential. Unfortunately, the story itself read like a barely padded outline where the author was trying to check all the cozy mystery checkboxes—whether they fit the action on the page or not. Such as when the deputy tells him to “stay away from my investigation” when he found Brandon at his friend’s house. I’m pretty sure a cops first assumption would be that Brandon was going to gossip with his friends, rather than “hindering” his investigation.

In summary: disappointing and I will not look for something else by this author any time soon. (36 pages)
Rating: 4/10

uncut wood“The Uncut Wood: A Bear Camp Short” (2020) Slade James
I find the title of this story both silly. I mean, it’s a story about lumberjacks at a gay camp. The story, however, isn’t silly, and is in fact quite sweet.

Hank has had a crush on his cabinmate, Gunnar, since they first met. But two-and-a-half years later, he is finally going to act on his crush. He is going to ask Gunnar out—as a bet.

I admit I was unsure what a gay lumberjack story would be. But as I read that one of the guys wore a kilt and eyeliner, I felt a little better—even though that did feel a little bit Monty Python.

For two guys who had a bedpost notching contest, their interactions were really sweet, especially as they discussed their pasts, the present, and what they might want for the future.

I would definitely read another story or book by this author.

Sexual content. (47 pages)
Rating: 8/10

incidental magic“Incidental Magic” (2021) Jordan Castillo Price

Casey is a Junior Magical Inspector, and although he’s been at the Agency for twelve years, he still hasn’t been promoted, he hopes the upcoming Jubilee will make his career.

I’ve read several stories by this author, and I seem to always feel conflicted by them. The writing is good, so perhaps it’s the world building that falls flat for me.

This was fine, but I wasn’t ever quite sure about the difference between the characters or how the magic worked, or even how the situation was actually resolved in the end.

Sexual content (67 pages)
Rating: 6/10

winter term“Winter Term” (2020) Neil S. Plakcy

I had a lot of issues with this story, but I’m not sure which of them were mine and which belonged to the story.

It has been months, but Will is still mourning his partner. However, when he meets a handsome ski instructor, he wonders if he’s ready to move on.

First issue is entirely mine: Will’s partner was killed when he fell into a ravine off a mountain. As I lost a cousin in a mountain climbing accident, this was going to be an issue for me, no matter what.

On top of that, Will’s partner—of eight years—was unlikable, at least in retrospect. He wouldn’t come out of the closet, which sort of forced Will into the closet. He didn’t have Will as an emergency contact—even though they had been together for EIGHT YEARS—and it reads like he didn’t have a will or any other papers, which is ALSO NOT OK when you spend your life doing dangerous activities. But that also ties into my primary issue.

He had kept our relationship secret from all those he climbed with, so I didn’t even hear that he’d had an accident until the rest of his team returned to the US and someone messaged me that Rafe wouldn’t be coming home.

The more I think about that, the madder I get. Even if people believed they were only friends, why the hell wouldn’t someone think tell Will what had happened? What kind of jerk would tell someone’s long-term roommate and friend of their death in passing?

Then Will jumps into a relationship with Jeremy, even though he’s not sure about it, and then jumps to conclusions of all kinds from there. I mean, from their conversations, they aren’t really dating, just hanging out and having sex. So I’m not sure what right he has to get mad about anything.

OK, yes, he can be unhappy about the unreturned texts, but they are not officially dating! They may have feelings, but they don’t talk about those feelings, so what the hell?

Another problem I had (and this is a big one) was his so-called friend ME.

“It will get better, Will,” she said. “I promise you that. I told you how badly I reacted when my father passed away.”

“You weren’t exactly generous to your mother.”

“No, I agree. And I was so caught up in managing her grief that when I finally came back to Vermont from Madrid I was almost immobilized. Fortunately, it was during the summer or Richard would have had to drag me to classes.”

She sipped her coffee. “Don’t put that burden on me. You have to start living your life again. You love to read, I know that. So find yourself a book, a self-help book, and read it. “

I am mad all over reading this again. This is NOT how you help someone with grief. You don’t tell them to read a self-help book and GET OVER IT.

And you REALLY don’t tell your grieving friend they are a fucking BURDEN.

There are so very many better ways that could have been handled, first and foremost, helping them to seek grief counseling or therapy. Grief has no expiration. ESPECIALLY complicated grief which would come from losing a partner who kept their feelings for you secret. If you—as a human—are unable to help your friend bear their grief, that is understandable. It really is. But in that instance you push them to seek counseling. You don’t tell them they are a damned burden.

UGH. The more I think about this, the madder I get. In fact, I’ve dropped the story two points since I started writing this, I’m so mad about it.

Sexual content (67 pages)
Rating: 2/10

daydream“Daydream” (2020) A.M. Rose

Ben is taking an unexpected work trip—some place called Daydream needs an electrician to come fix the town’s bakery.

Initially Ben was disappointed he wouldn’t be staying an a hotel with a pool, but when he meets Sage, the baker in question, he decides Daydream might not be too bad.

This is a cute story. Nothing amazing, but a fun little escape.

I will note that the sex scenes did seem excessive for the amount of story here, but to each their own.

I’m not sure if Ben really would have taken the existence of magic quite so calmly, even after two weeks of seeing things out of the corner of his eye.

Something about the ending felt a bit off. I think I would have preferred it to be less dramatic—after all, it’s a short story set in a magical town. The world building is the draw here, not the dramatic tension in the final pages when you know Ben is going to come back, because this is—after all—a romance.

Sexual content (99 pages)
Rating: 6/10

The Trouble with Snow Angels“The Trouble with Snow Angels” (2021) Kayleigh Sky

Noah has decided he wants to win the Christmas tree farm where he went with his mom—those are some of the happiest memories he has with her before her death. But there are others in the contest who want to win as well—including Noah’s first love, Cal.
The characters were cute and entertaining. The story, however, was all over the place. OK. Fine someone wants to give away a Christmas tree farm. That’s possibly reasonable.

The problem had with to do with the excitement added into the story. How did yellow truck guy even know he had correct answers aside from the ones he picked up from Noah and Cal? And the “race” to the finish line? That was ridiculous enough to actually irritate me.

Sexual content (148 pages)
Rating: 5/10


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