So, this is my first "request for review". I did like the magazine overall, but need a few caveats. First, I am not a short story gal (as evidenced by my reviews for short story collections). I tend to avoid lit mags because I do not prefer short literature. I am also not really a poetry gal. I am left with a 3 star rating on this; there were a few stories that were clearly a 1 or 2 star, but there was a 5 star story and a couple that were deserving of a 4 star...so I had to just average the issue into a 3 star. I have comments on each of the pieces below:
"Memento Mori" by Stefanie Demas has a great creepy tone. I loved the originality (I for one, have not ever run into a necropheliac female character) and the humor throughout.
"No Sleep Since 1903" by Nick Mecikalski (poetry) wasn't very good. I did not like his verbing of adjectives ("saddening" and "blackening", "yellowing" and 'reddening" and "purpling") and the whole thing just felt too repetive.
"Monolith" by Petros Karagianis (poetry) was better than No Sleep, but (despite having spent 5 years in IA and knowing that cold) wasn't very sensical to me.
"Yes, Officer" by John Woods was one of the worst of the short stories. The writing felt heavy handed (so what if Hastings went to college, do we need to have it shoved in the reader's face every three minutes?) and it was not always believable (really, his primary reason for choosing town rather than presumably better paying state force is the COLOR OF THE UNIFORM?).
"Not Giving to the Alumni Fund" by David Blanton was also poor. It was plot driven, but not very entertaining. I liked that it was sort of anti-climatic; Josh is never actually hurt and presumably John doesn't encounter any real trouble, he just ditches Josh because of Gina's threat.
"Putting in the Work" by Steve Russo was mediocre. Again, the narrator is a novice to his criminal activity. I wasn't sure why the narrator would kill his "partners" and then kill the kid anyway. I get that it all happened rather quickly and without thought, but it seemed odd that ultimately the best choice was just to shoot the kid anyway. The redeeming point here is, of course, that ultimately the narrator is not only comfortable but "talented" at this kind of work.
"Karl's Last Night" by Laura Andrews was almost too short to even consider. It held together well, but was basically just a blip of a story.
"The Observer Effect" by Matthew Meade started well. I liked the built up of the tension between Lyla and Travis. I liked that she was trying to leave and he wanted to keep her there. I even liked the fantasy of killing her husband, but I thought the ending was just too cheesy and it felt like Meade was giggling and saying "got ya", but the whole time I just was thinking, "ugh." I also thought it was ridiculous that she would have to pay to replace the key card...those things are free. If Meade needed some silly topic over which they could fight, he should have come up with something better; maybe Travis could spill his wine on Lyla's smokes; we already know the gas station is closed (and yeah, that's another thing, what gas station closes EVER?), so she wouldn't be able to get replacements.
"The Man Who Wouldn't Jump" by Isaac Savage was second only to Zeke Stargazing. I liked the build up here; I loved that we don't really have resolution as to whether Charles heard Hadley being murdered and ignored it (along with the great usage of the Kitty Genovese problem) or if she just got tired of his lack of interest. And, of course, the title story as a story within the story was quite compelling for parallel reasons.
"The Queue" by Ashley Ahn (poetry) was kind of cute in a brand-name-y way.
"Citizen of Megabus" by Reina Hardy (poetry) is almost as nodescript as the drive through the Midwest (so speaks a girl who grew up in IL, went to college in IA, lives in WI, and frequently drives to KY to visit family). I know the drive, I agree with the bland-acity of it. Poem was spot on, but (alas, therefore) not interesting.
"Passing Through" by Jack Varvill wasn't bad but I found it a bit hard to follow. The jumps in time (really over a 48 hour period we shouldn't have to go back and forth so much) coupled with the pairs of twins with wierd names Trekker and Lux and Finn and April made it hard for me to remember who was whose sister (of course when they paired up at the end it required I double check to see what was occuring) and I was sure why out of all four of them Lux had to keep getting beaten up.
"Zeke Stargazing" by Rachel Kimbrough was the best story of the bunch. I loved this. I laughed out loud (of course) at Zeke's feeding and then I was horrified at the Christams gift. I refuse to say anything detailed about this story because I don't want to ruin it, but I will definitely search out Kimbrough's other writing. Spot on, absolutely 5 stars.
"Vibrancy" by Marcus Emanuel was trite. Of course a 17 year old girl is vibrant and of course the reason her middle aged physics teacher is unhappy is because his vibrancy is stifled. Blech.
"Cats as the Meaning of Life" by Misty Lynn Ellingburg (poetry) is stupid. Absolutely stupid, but funny and metrically and rhymingly (yeah that's not a word, but Mecikalski would get away with using it) sounds so much like Lewis Carroll that she gets kudos for the flow.
"Digital Desert Camouflage" by Isaac Pritzker (poetry) was beyond me. I understand it is about the returning vets and their similarities to Vietnam and I know that it is completely cowardly of me to do this but I really try to just pretend that the US does not have an army and we don't impose on the rest of the world in the ways that we do as a country. And no, I don't think that the individual soliders are to blame for this and yes, I do understand that they get some of that blame. Anyway, I just try to pretend all things military don't exist.
"The Girl with Pretension in Her Hair" by Bill Lytton was boring. Yeah, so a rich girl is slumming it. Lots of rich girls slum it. Repeating the phrase "with pretension in her hair" just makes Lytton sound pretensious.
"Olivia" by Philip Zigman was very good. Not as good as Zeke or Man Who Wouldn't Jump but third best in the collection. It got long and was repetitive, but for god's sake so is plastic surgery. I absolutely loved the tongue in cheek absurdity of "fixing" her entire body to match her nose.
I liked a few of the pics sprinkled throughout (the one of the body falling from the house/box in the sky was my favorite and I thought the animal head ones were trite), but they weren't well labeled and honestly on a kindle paperwhite screen I cannot really see them well enough to comment.
All of that said, the mag was worth reading. The stories held together well (although I was a bit suspicious of the editing since so many of them had repetitive themes: Ohio, Oberlin, domestic abuse, lower class educated folks who think they are superior, restaurants with people's names in titles, novices to crime, and second person narration just to name a few), even if some weren't stellar.