"Adventures in Reading" is an anthology of twelve short stories and nonfiction articles by Ricky Sides. There is no single theme or thread linking the stories, but the short stories are mostly fantasy, science fiction, or horror. The nonfiction articles are based on the author's real life experiences, including an outstanding article about his wife's ordeal with breast cancer.
The short stories are a mixed bag. My favorite story was "The Blizzard," a tale of three warriors in a fantasy world who embark on a very difficult quest where failure could doom their city-state of Lakeland. The story had enough tension and suspense to keep a reader rushing to finish it quickly. The three characters are well developed for a short story, and there is enough interesting background revealed about Lakeland that the story could even be expanded into a novella or series of short stories.
Several of the short stories indicate that the author has a great deal of experience in the outdoors and with military operations. One of these, "The Test," will definitely appeal to martial arts fans, with the protagonist going through a grueling series of field challenges to become a master of martial arts. In "The Tank," a military experiment goes badly wrong, with disastrous and gruesome results. "Round Island Massacre" is about a group of hunters who encounter a bizarre creature who's immune to their weapons.
"The Visitor" was a very short but moving story involving religious hypocrisy.
"The North Room" is a documentary-like story about an investigation of apparent paranormal activities in a family's home. Based on TV documentaries that I've seen on this subject, it was a pretty accurate and interesting description of the methods used by paranormal researchers.
All of the short stories were enjoyable, but some were more engaging than others. Also, some of the dialogs seemed a bit stilted to me. Dialogs would have been more natural with greater use of contractions such as "I'm" instead of "I am" and "that's" instead of "that is," to use two examples. It's a minor quibble, but in actual conversation, people tend to use contractions more than the characters in these stories did.
The nonfiction stories, in my opinion, were the real strength of the anthology. "Coping with Breast Cancer" is the author's true account of his wife's battle against breast cancer. It's a very well written, compelling story that documents the long struggle from the initial diagnosis to the agonizing decision on which type of treatment to take to the long months of chemotherapy. It's a remarkable story and particularly notable because it's written from a man's point of view.
"The Forgotten" is a very short thought-provoking piece about an increasingly overlooked problem in society. Only a couple of hundred words, it reads like poetry and is very well done.
"America, Land of Mysteries" is a series of short articles about unusual natural, or possibly paranormal, incidents that the author has observed. These were all interesting and reminded me a bit of Michael Crichton's paranormal investigations in his book "Travels."
The formatting in my Kindle version was very good, but the editing could have been better. I noted a few misspellings and some arguable misuse of commas. These were not enough to affect my enjoyment, but proofreading should have caught these.
I have to note that the cover art of "Adventures in Reading" is remarkably original and is a real eye-catcher. Be sure to zoom in on the cover to really appreciate it.
I had a difficult time deciding how to rate "Adventures in Reading," especially since it includes both fiction and nonfiction. The fictional short stories ranged from okay to very good, and I would give them 3½ stars overall. The nonfiction articles varied from good to superb, and as a group, I would give them 4 stars. "Coping with Breast Cancer" is a solid 5 stars and is a definite "must read." Taken as a whole, I gave the book an honest 4 stars.