Readers Corner

Best of Ohio Short Stories, volume 1

best_of_ohio_anthology_lgI was fortunate enough to be gifted with a copy of this collection provided I make public my thoughts. Since I’m not particularly shy about sharing my opinions, and I’m all about the free stuff (Especially books… And food… I *never* turn down free food…), I accepted the offer immediately.

For those who don’t know, I temp at the Board of Elections twice a year, helping to train the folks who work at the voting centers processing voters. This year I also spent election day at the BoE in what we call the War Room, aka Mission Control, aka where all problems at the vote centers are reported and sorted out. I brought the Ohio short story collection with me to peruse between panicked phone calls.

At one point, one of the BoE guys wandered past.

“What are you reading? Best HO Stories?” [note: see cover photo]

As one might expect, he said this quite loudly, garnering the attention of everyone in the place. Did I mention I was the only woman in the room?

“Dude. OHIO stories. O-H-I-O” I replied foisting the book into the air and waving it around.

This, not surprisingly, wasn’t nearly as interesting as the prospect of me reading stories about Hos, and the guys went back to work.

Yes, this should make you worry, just as smidge, about our election processors.


A friend and I used to joke about a third friend’s (Let’s call her Lulu here, for the sake of protecting all parties involved) taste in books, which leaned heavily toward those considered “literary” . Our discussions would go something like this:

“How was [insert title here]?”

“Oh, it was a Lulu book; you know how it is.”

‘How it is’ in this context meant death, dying, fear of death, grief, anticipated mourning and depression.

While the “Best of…” anthology is far from morbid, it does have its share of the above. Fortunately it also has alien abductions, Wall Street douchebags, exercises in familial dissonance, ghost hunters, and…

Are you intrigued yet?

Good. Now go pick up a copy:

PS. With all the abuse Ohio and Ohioans take, this anthology is a great reminder that among other great things, Ohio produces really wonderful writers too.

Readers Corner

Reader’s Corner: Breed by Chase Novak

So we’ve got a well-to-do couple, Alex of old money and a powerful law firm, Leslie of youth and beauty (relative to him), living in posh New York City. Perfect lives, except for their inexplicable inability to have a child.

To be fair, I find the whole ‘any-means-necessary’ approach to biological procreation distasteful for a number of reasons. And my pre-existing opinions on the matter might explain why I read the entire book with a certain amount of dread. Not that anticipatory, excited fear that comes with walking through a haunted house, waiting for the monster to leap around the corner but knowing there’s no real danger kind, but the skin-crawling, holy-shit-is-that-huge-guy-following-me-across-the-dark-and-deserted-parking-lot kind. In other words, every page of this novel creeped me the hell out.

That might have been the author’s intent; in which case, Bravo!

The children, of course, were sympathetic, but the parents, whose desperation and sense of entitlement led them to this horrific mess, were much less so. The author attempted to set Leslie apart from her narcissistic brethren by showing an ineffective and last minute disinclination to undergo the treatment, as well as her profound unhappiness and shock at her altered body (and I’m not talking about normal pregnancy changes either). He even tries to make her a hero of sorts at the end by portraying the so-called doctor, whose techniques made all of this possible, as an unrepentant opportunist. Was he? Sure. But that doesn’t absolve the adults who leaped in with both feet and piles of money, all because they had to pass on their genetic material. The victims, of course, are the children, but at least as far as our protagonists are concerned, they got a reasonably happy ending. Even though they’ll still need years of therapy.


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Readers Corner

Reader’s Corner: Amped and side of Male Privilege

I’m always up for a good science fiction ethical quagmire, and I enjoyed Robopocalypse, so Amped by Daniel H. Wilson seemed like a decent bet. It wasn’t until I was 80-some pages in that I recognized something amiss:

Apparently the world of Amped has next to zero women.

I don’t usually spend my time calculating the demographic composition of characters in a novel, but Amped was so egregiously male it was impossible not to notice. Because I expect to be accused of exaggerating, I went back through the book page by page and counted every person whose sex is identified, no matter how insignificant.



90 total sex-identified characters (including groups, such as ‘groups of teens’ and ‘several amps’).

15 female. 16.67%


Of those 15:

– Samantha Blake, who’s dead by the end of the first chapter.

– “girl wearing a short skirt and a pair of sunglasses” noticed in passing.

– Police officer who says “hey” as protagonist flees.

– Tammy Rogers, a name at the top of a faux lawsuit decision

– “a couple” I’ll heteronormatively define as one male, one female, mentioned in passing.

– Bank teller with no dialogue who gives protagonist his money.

– Monica, off-stage wife of protagonist’s friend. Mentioned once.

– Lucy Crosby, the love interest.

– Miranda, identified (but never seen) as one of three trailer park residents.

– “my folks”, never seen, parents of a character that again, I’ll define as one male, one female.

– “…Old lady barfs up her nachos”. Only reported, never seen, so might be hypebole.

– Representative of Homeland Security, identified as ‘she’ in a faux newspaper quote.

– Janet Marino, the name attributed to a faux newspaper article.

– Unidentified “I hear a woman screaming from a trailer”.


In short, we have TWO female characters and one pitches herself from a roof seven pages in. The other, Lucy, is a Mary Sue created solely for the romantic attention of the protagonist. She’s thin and blonde , of course. 


Wilson even manages to commit the ever-annoying trope of a father and son with absolutely no glimmer of a mother. Did the Dr. David Grey’s talents include growing a fully functional human being in a petri dish?


If this had been Wilson’s first novel, he’d have an excuse (even if it was only “I’m a privileged tool, but I’ll do better next time”). But seeing as it’s not, and that Robopocalypse managed to present women as something with substance, I really have to wonder what happened here. Where were his first readers, agent, editors and publisher? Was everyone so drunk off his prior success that they didn’t bother reading the manuscript?

The world of Amped had a lot of potential, but despite some great turns of phrase, Wilson doesn’t deliver. Not just because he’s oblivious to half the population (the half that also makes up the vast majority of book buyers and readers), but because he dodges the deep ethical questions that would’ve made this book required reading in classrooms. Truly unfortunate.

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Readers Corner

Readers Corner: “Pure” by Juliana Baggott

This book is a clear example of why I’ll never vote against a library levy.

That particular day, I wandered into the library to return a book then made my way to the New Fiction shelves to browse. Based solely on the dust jacket, I took “Pure” home, where I was quickly immersed in Baggot’s dystopian post-apocalyptic (sorta) world full of people fused with inanimate objects and other living creatures. The characters and events revealed themselves in short but captivating chapters, reminding the reader in oh-so-gentle ways that while things change, they also remain the same, especially in matters of love and justice.

Early on I realized this was but part one of a trilogy, which annoyed me, but I was already too hooked to put the book down. So now, like all of Pure’s other readers, I wait with a certain impatience for part two.

And part three..


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Readers Corner

Readers Corner: “Feed” by Mira Grant

Unlike a lot of authors of so-called zombie novels, Grant took considerable time contemplating exactly how something like this could occur and how the world would be changed, decades later. Throughout the book, she tackles the alterations to everything from travel to pet ownership to diet and hygiene habits. That’s the kind of follow-through that makes for great book club discussions.

Grant receives extra points from me by creating not one but two flawed, complicated and fantastic female characters, a tradition she carries into her next installment “Deadline”. Without offering spoilers, let’s just say that Grant isn’t afraid to tackle larger issues of religion and politics, and she’s not afraid to kill her babies, figuratively and otherwise.


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