Baker’s Dozen Edited by Candace Nola

I had the immense pleasure of reading Baker’s Dozen in advance to write a blurb for the anthology. It seemed only natural that I would also be writing a review of the collection now that the release date is looming on the near horizon. Rarely has a themed anthology come together so perfectly in capturing a motif and carrying it through all of the component pieces included. There is no question that Baker’s Dozen is overall one of the best anthologies I’ll have the pleasure of reading. Paraphrasing what I said in my blurb, this is a delicious concoction, albeit neither safe nor healthy. If you’re looking for those qualities, you’re in the wrong place.
It would have been a challenge, bringing this assortment of spectacularly imaginative authors together and compiling an anthology that wasn’t worth reading; there’s no doubt that Candace Nola deserves a great deal of credit for editing this volume, though. Anthologies are only as good as the editor who brings them together, and there’s no question that this collection was in excellent hands from the beginning.
Christine Morgan kicks it all off with the period piece, Pretzels of God, spinning a tale of jealousy and bitterness, of sacred vows broken most violently and unpredictably.
Apple Pie & Diamond Eyes by Chris Miller tells the story of an aptly-named Karen being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, Karen has a passel of teenage girls in tow, as a trio of criminals gets their just desserts in a truly literal sense.
Ruthann Jagge’s The Piebird introduces us to Flora Corolla, so desperate to bring pride to her family’s bakery that she’ll accept guidance from the most unlikely and untrustworthy source.
Next Best Baker by Jeff Strand is perversely hilarious. A man after my own heart, I feel like he watches cooking and baking competitions the same way I do, imagining the worst conceivable surprise ingredients being tossed into the mix and laughing as he envisions it all playing out. I assure you that this is no baking competition for the faint of heart.
Aron Beauregard hits us with A Muffin In The Oven, and he hits us hard. The announcement of a friend’s pregnancy–an event that should be full of warmth and cheer–turns sour and horrific as the facts surrounding the paternity come to light.
Carver Pike’s Blueberry Hill is a tale of bullying, teenage cruelty, revenge, and witchcraft. This one is, without a doubt, the hardest story to read, in my opinion. Hillary Hightower doesn’t deserve any of the terrible things that happen to her, but when seeking retribution, one should probably be careful what they wish for. This story has the “dig two graves” adage on full display.
They Are Always Watching is equal parts sad and terrifying, and Patrick C. Harrison, III leans into both qualities heavily. A daughter struggling with her mother’s declining mental capacity is forced to face the truth of what seems like little more than her debilitated mother’s fevered mind.
My Lil’ Cupcake by Lee Franklin floats us through a dysfunctional marriage and one woman’s desire to find freedom from the domineering, cruel, and awful men in her life. The method by which Lindsey seeks her emancipation is something visceral to behold.
Kenzie Jennings provides us with the worst Florida has to offer in Just A Local Thing. A family on vacation finds themselves at the mercy of the perverse whims of a seemingly prescient baker.
Of Dough And Cinnamon brings us heartbreak and satisfying vengeance as Daniel Volpe tells the story of a widower who experiences one more loss than he can handle.
Rowland Bercy Jr. introduces us to the most unlikely cryptid in Homegrown Comeuppance. A fierce rivalry between two bakers reaches a horrific conclusion that just might spell the end for not only those involved but also the innocent residents of a Brazilian town.
Candace Nola showcases not only her editorial skills with Baker’s Dozen but her skill as a writer as well. County Contest provides us with a glimpse of a small business still struggling to recapture the success once known when Horace’s wife was still around. As a new librarian arrives in town, it seems like her sole purpose in life is to tear down everyone around her with sarcasm and bitterness. But maybe that bitterness is just what the recipe calls for when it’s time to unveil a new flavor.
Death, And A Donut by Michael Ennenbach is a most peculiar yet beautiful love story, built on a substrate of random, wanton bloodshed and disorder. A cacophony of disaster paves the way through this narrative, leading us to a surprisingly touching conclusion.
You can’t go wrong with a single piece in this collection, and I recommend dedicating some time to taking in the fantastic illustrations that accompany the text. This whole volume was painstakingly assembled with obvious love and care like the best recipes always are.

https://www.uncomfortablydark.com

Red Station by Kenzie Jennings

While Red Station by Kenzie Jennings lacks something of the authentic tone of pulp westerns Christine Morgan’s The Night Silver River Run Red captured with such surprising grace, it never feels inauthentic in its period depiction.
We join four travelers in a stagecoach, crossing countless miles of prairie as they arrive to find shelter and sustenance for the night in an isolated manor serving as a waystation. Unfortunately for the passengers, the family residing in this waystation is more sinister and unsettling than they seem, harboring awful, bloody secrets. They aren’t the only ones with a secret, however. As these various mysteries unfold within the story, we bear witness to increasingly violent confrontations and satisfying moments of surprising action.
To call Red Station a thrilling read is a bit of an understatement. It’s suspenseful, action-packed, and populated with fascinating characters…a must-read for anyone looking for bloodshed and cruelty in the untamed American West, with a delightful dose of vengeance.