Posted in Anthology, Reviews

Recommended Weekend Reading if you Enjoy Historical Fiction

*****5 stars

I recently finished reading Ernest Lived . . . and other Historical Fiction Short Stories published by Red Penguin Books for their Red Penguin Collection that’s edited by J.K Larkin. These fifteen stories take place during different time periods. The anthology featured a contest for the best story that would be the featured story in the collection. Diane Kane’s “Ernest Lived” won and with good reason. This touching story features a boy who befriends an old World War 1 homeless veteran named Ernest whom he meets by the train tracks and invites to live with him on his farm. Ernest teaches the boy many lessons before he dies. The one he remembers most is “When your days are done, and you meet the Lord, it matters not what day you were born, nor the day you die. All that matters is how you lived.”

David Lange contributed two stories to this anthology. The one I liked most was the last story in the book, “Last Card, First Kiss,” about a boy in 1976 who collected baseball cards and was seeking one special card to complete his collection. Looking for this card, he finds something more valuable when he befriends a girl in his class.

Christina Hoag’s story, “The Night on the Rock,” is another 70’s story but involves teenagers instead of kids and has a very different theme. In this one, a young man learns a lesson the hard way after trying to be cool with the ladies and his friends.

Minoti Vaishnav’s story, “355,” takes place on Long Island during the War of Independence when the Culper Spy Ring existed. I loved the fact this story was local, and the twist at the end was very well written.

“Be Brave” by Valerie Ormond was another excellent story. It involved a young man who lost his family in a fire in 1860 and, after some trials, went on to become a Pony Express rider.

If you like stories with paranormal elements, you’ll enjoy “Snowalkers” by R.J. Erbacher that takes place during World War II and features a soldier who is visited by the ghosts of the people he killed in combat.

All the stories in this collection are excellent reads, but the ones above are the ones I enjoyed most not including my own, “The Pyramid Murder,” which takes the reader back to the building of the Great Pyramids and a murder that occurs there that is solved partly by a cat.

Posted in Anthology, Reviews

Review: The Roaring ’20s: A Decade of Stories edited by JK Larkin

***** 5 stars

The Roaring 20’s: A Decade of Stories is another excellent anthology from the Red Penguin Collection. In this book, eleven authors share tales of various decades. Although I enjoyed every one of these stories and it’s hard to pick favorites, the ones I liked most included David Lange’s “Flapper and the Captain;” “An Act of Senselessness” by Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl; “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Elaine Donadio; and “Time is Here and Gone” by William John Rostron.

Air Force veteran David Lange tells an interesting tale involving a flapper and an air force captain suffering from PTSD after receiving an injury in World War 1. The story’s origin, which is shared by the author at the end, is even more absorbing than this supernatural-type piece. Also with a strong paranormal element is Shevaun Cavanaugh Kastl’s, “An Act of Senselessness” about a couple on Halloween in 1983 that are involved in a car accident with a twist.

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Elaine Donadio is a fun tale featuring wealthy ninety-something Southampton socialite. Miss Ellen, and her younger companion, Patrice. The ladies come to the aid of a girl at a club where they’re dining who is interested in a man but is having trouble gaining his attention. Miss Ellen gives her some old-fashioned pointers that do the trick. Along the way, Ms. Donadio includes interesting tidbits about Long Island history and popular culture of the 1980’s.

“Time is Here and Gone” by William John Rostron, is the last story in this anthology. Last but definitely not least. Mr. Rostron reveals his own family history from 1900-1970 in seven connected short pieces that tell their own stories about his relatives.

The one story I didn’t include among my favorites is my own contribution to this anthology, “Growing Up in the Summer of ’71” which is my own semi-autobiographical tale about an eleven-year-old girl in 1971 with an older sister and how the two deal with relationships during the 1970’s era of Vietnam, hippies, and drugs.

These stories make for a great read any time of year but especially during the holiday season when people often reflect on the past.

Pick up a copy of The Roaring ’20s: A Decade of Stories here:

Posted in Anthology, Reviews

Review: The Moments edited by JK Larkin

***** 5 stars

The Moments is another interesting anthology from the Red Penguin Collection. In this book, nine authors share a special moment in their lives. There are some amazing stories here and others that are everyday events that are still unique to the author.

Air Force veteran David Lange, recounts the birth of each of his children in different places in “Welcoming Life.” Swan Rose, a former musician and current poet, writes about various special moments with his daughters and wife in “The Best Time of My Life.” Retired navy pilot, Jim Tritten, describes a once-in-a-lifetime experience he had on a nine-day warrior expedition to Big Bend National Park in “Touched by Rapture.” Skye Ballantine pens “Christmas Kindness,” a story about sharing gifts with those less fortunate and the true meaning of the holidays in simple pleasures of special moments. “When the Music’s Over” by William John Rostron relates his failed attempts at playing in a band and attending Woodstock and what it taught him about life. Nika Jordan Rose completes the collection with a play called “Lost & Found” which explores the deeply human need for connection in a self-isolated world.

These essays and the others in this anthology make for a great read any time of year but especially during the holiday season when the opportunity to encounter special moments of your own are more likely. I especially enjoyed editor J.K. Larkin’s introduction to this book and how he began the popular Red Penguin Collection during the pandemic.

Pick up a copy of The Moments here: