Book Review: Illusions of Isolation by Brennan LaFaro


Title: Illusions of Isolation

Author: Brennan LaFaro

Release date: March 1, 2023

Huge thanks to Brennan for sending this e-ARC my way!

Over the last few years, I’ve really enjoyed reading Brennan’s ‘Slattery Falls,’ series, so when he reached out, I said absolutely. As you’ve heard me say a million times – I have been burned out on short-story collections for some time – BUT – I also know the difficulty it has been for many, many people to find reviewers open for reviews, so I gladly took this, wanting to do my best to support Brennan.

To be upfront – I’ve actually only read one previous short story from Brennan (which happens to be in here) and full disclosure – I also had a story in that anthology. Saying that, the story is superb and us appearing together in that book had no bearing on my thoughts towards this collection.

What I liked: This may sound weird, but while I greatly enjoyed the Slattery Falls books so far, I think I enjoyed the short stories even more and I think part of that was the new and fresh approach each story took. While the Slattery Falls stuff is really well done, if something bothers you, it’s there the entire time. Here, not so much. The story ends and you move on and it was that aspect that really elevated how these stories flowed for me. It was like an all you can eat buffet of sliders versus having one deluxe hamburger, if that makes sense?

The highlights for me – and it was tough picking only four (I like to pick four because it’s a number I think is high enough to convince folks to buy a collection or anthology), but I managed are;

Dressed for Success – this one follows a new kid at school who gets bullied. It starts small, but picks up and then all Hell breaks loose.

Piece by Piece – this one was verrrrry close to be my favorite in the collection. A young kid visits the creek by his home and begins to find pieces of a body. It was interesting to see how Brennan framed it but also how the kid responded.

Year of the Black Rainbow – a multi-layered story, this starts out with a teenager getting kicked out of their house by their overzealous, religious, whack-a-doodle parents. With no other options, they decide their only option is to find shelter in an abandoned building in town… one that is supposedly haunted.

A Shine in the Woods – my favorite story (and the story that we shared space with in the Shiver anthology) this should be no surprise to anyone who knows what I love to read and write. This one follows a kid and their parents as they head to their winter cabin over Christmas break. The caretaker warns them that some odd animals have been lurking around, rummaging for food. Brennan doesn’t hold back and we get a really great winter-survival-creature-feature short story.

Additionally, I’m a huge fan of story notes/author notes, but I prefer them directly after the story instead of compiled into one section at the very end. LaFaro gives some quick, fun insight into each story and thankfully these are slotted in directly after each piece.

What I didn’t like: Hey, it’s a collection, some will hit and some will miss. All of the stories are great in here, but there was one that was written back and forth in letter form that was just meh for me, but that’s purely because I’m not a fan of that type of storytelling. Epistolary. Not for me.

Why you should buy this: This collection flows from story to story hitting high point after high point. Each story is relatively short – I think the longest my Kindle told me was twelve minutes – excluding the last one that was a novelette. Brennan is as solid of a writer that you’ll find out there and even when he takes chances he handles it like an old pro.

If you’ve not read any of his work before, this is an excellent place to start. If you’ve already read some of his work, you’re in for a treat. Really well done.


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