The Girl in the Coffee Shop, by Caedem Marquez, is a short, surprising story about a chubby college student turned journalist.
I received this story as a review copy, via Smashwords. Having read the blurb, I must admit that I approached this story with a bit of trepidation. I am a plus sized woman, so the description of Gertrude as chubby followed quickly by a list of her snack of "strawberry muffins, scones, and three Frappaccinos" seemed to be playing to the stereotypes of fat chick who eats too much junk food. And, yes, there were several description references that made me squirm, but the author at least let the main character handle them with a sense of humor.
Gertrude is sitting in a coffee shop attempting to write her college thesis on "Expanding Christian News in a Modern Internet World." Her Christian sensibilities are shocked when she sees a couple who are obviously having an affair. Gertrude's reaction is believably sophomoric, and she spends perhaps too much time saying "gross," "yuck," and "eww," but she gradually convinces herself that this is her path to news-anchor fame. "I could follow them. I could write my first major news story, I could put it on the web and get a million hits on Youtube. The people at church would applaud me for stopping such evil."
I admit that I wasn't at all comfortable with where this was going, particularly in regard to the main character's religious presumptions, but there really are people out there like that. I kept reading.
Gertrude takes off after the couple. I enjoyed the description that started the chase. "The Moped wheels scream to life as they burn rubber. Okay, okay, they don't scream, rather they sputter and protest but I do smell burnt rubber. I can't tell if the scent stems from my over-worked tires or the tire burning factory.... I prefer the former as the cause of the smell, after all, this is my first real-life chase."
There were a few run-on sentences exacerbated by punctuation choices that left me mentally gasping for breath as I raced through them. Most readers probably won't notice as they get caught up in the author's descriptions. The pacing is good. I was actually almost starting to like Gertrude. I could see some hope for her to grow up a little through the story, and I liked where the plot was going. Then it ended.
I was not prepared for the abrupt conclusion. I was only 57 percent through the Kindle document (Location 266 of 556) when I reached the end of the story. I see now that the Kindle version lists the inclusion of an excerpt from Caedem's upcoming book, but there is no such note on the Smashwords version. I'm trying not to hold that against the The Girl in the Coffee Shop, but I'm still disappointed.
Would I recommend this story? Yes, I think that I would, though with the above-noted reservations. Sometimes it is good to be taken out of your comfort zone. This little nibble of a story was a fun way to pass part of my lunch break. The real reason I liked the story is in the resolution, but I won't spoil that for you. You'll have to read it yourself.
Field Trip, by Jody Wallace, is an entertaining story with all the cute annoyances of a group of children on a museum field trip.
I’ll admit it. I was drawn to this story by the cover. Though not exactly the same, the font reminds me of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Yes, I’m one of those geeks.) I received a copy of the story through an offer on Jody Wallace's blog, Writer and Cat.
Miss James is a third grade teacher escorting her students to the Space Station Freedom Museum and Amusement Park. The trip is not going well. Handsome but inept, the Zhie tour guide, Sergeant Chamblin, “…was obviously not used to holding the attention of twenty Human and Zhie third graders from the Integrated Public School System of Earth on their annual field trip.” The kids are restless, and restless children, whether human or alien, are a recipe for disaster. Miss James uses all of her 12 years of teaching experience to maintain order as she mentally composes an email satisfaction survey complaining of Chamblin’s inept performance. A malfunction in the museum’s shabby shuttle simulator does not help matters.
The tour of the now defunct space station includes a backward look at antiquated technology—actually advanced by today’s standards—that gradually builds a picture of Zhie/Human first contact. The children’s antics are believable. “To make matters worse, [Chamblin] sometimes patted the kids on the shoulder, head or back when he didn’t know the answers to their questions.” This patronizing behavior, among other idiosyncrasies, registers with Miss James. She sometimes tries to give the guide pointers while continuing to compose her growing list of complaints.
Then their field trip takes an unusual turn. I recommend that you grab a copy to find out what happens. The world building is effortless and believable. The story is well told and edited, and the writing is excellent.
Field Trip perfectly illustrates why I prefer books over short stories. I want more, including development of some of the fascinating hints we get about Miss James and Sergeant Chamblin. Unfortunately, Jody Wallace does not have any other published works in this genre, let alone this universe. Jody, please write more
Not with a Bang, by A. Andrew Tantia, is funny, irreverent, and poignant.
Set in an ordinary extraordinary garden, the story is a short comedy featuring John Wayne (no relation) and Robin (who inexplicably has no last name). "This otherwise unremarkable patch of land had perhaps just one distinguishing characteristic: it was the last garden left from what had formerly been the planet Earth and was now instead the loose collection of rocks and debris Earth."
Faced with being the last men alive ("two Adams and no Eve"), they prepare their last words: "The world began with a garden. How appropriate that it should end in one." A thundering voice halts them as they are about to end it all. MAL, their self-aware space ship, offers an alternative, and a confession.
I will stop here at describing the plot. Rest assured, the fun continues all the way to the end.
At first, I paused often to pay picky attention to the over-done dialogue attributions (use of excessive synonyms for "said" is a pet peeve), but as the story progressed I was able to forgive the majority of these distractions.
I recommend this story with the above-noted reservation. This is a fun read for those who enjoy comedy science fiction with an end-of-the world bang.