Thursday, September 22, 2016

In Brief by Shelley Lee Riley

(pb; 2015: story anthology)

Overall review:

This seventeen-story and -poem anthology is a sampler of various genres, from light-hearted slice-of-life joy to nightmarish journeys. The theme that links them together (for the most part) is a black-and-white morality -- most of these tales or, in some cases, would-be tales, are about punishing those who transgress or rewarding those who do not. If black-and-white morality puts you off, you might want to skip this collection.

For those who appreciate mixed-genre morality works, there is a lot in Brief to entertain you: concise writing, well-developed characters, (mostly) relatable situations and overall good writing.

Some of the works in Brief feel like warm-up exercises to better, more fully-realized stories or poems. With re-writing, time and a different pair of editorial eyes, these pieces could easily become publishable works, butterflies to their Brief-current cocoons.

The pieces that work are polished and microfiction-excellent. Short fiction can be a hard art to master, and Riley is close to doing so. Brief is a worthwhile purchase, not only for the pieces that work, but for the author's willingness to risk experimentation with the aforementioned warm-up exercises and occasional harsh characters.

Riley is a promising, on-the-cusp-of-greatness talent worth reading and supporting, with your time and your cash, if you can appreciate a firm ever-present morality and mostly-effective brevity.

Standout works:

1.)  "Brown Shoe": The physical journey of a shoe takes on more personal significance for a woman observing it.

2.)  "Ageless":  A woman in a store learns another lesson from her mother, now an old woman.

3.)  "Vanquished":  Vivid tale about an abusive father(Jack), his wife (Sophie) and his son (Jamie), whose lives are wildly altered by the events of one night.

4.)  "Night Changes": Avery, a teen rebelling against her mother's rules, has an unexpected encounter while sneaking out.

5.)  "Mother's Recluse": A woman takes care of her dead mother's cats.

6.) "Rouge": A terrible dog's arrival in a woman's life kicks off a series of significant life changes for her.

7.)  "#17": Twilight Zone-esque tale about a woman on a beach.

8.) "Images":  A meeting in a sleazy bar leads to unexpected developments. Fast-moving, entertaining stuff.

9.)  "Details": This television-themed vignette is light in tone, a promising start for a full-fledged story.

10.)  "Face in the Wall": Good use of symbolism in this fairy tale-esque, nightmare-toned tale about a grandmother and her grandchildren.

11.) "Sam's Stories": Fond, nostalgic story about an old horse trainer who humbles his critics with his independent attitude and actions.

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