Scared Shirtless: Thirteen Spooky Tales by R. M. Sebastian (2014)
I found this one in the Local Authors section of my public library. The author behind the initials is Renee Sebastian, an Florida Panhandle art teacher by day and (perhaps not now) author by night. This from her blog, dated April 6, 2016: "It is with a heavy heart that I wanted to tell you...that the current science fiction book I'm working on will be my last book. It has become obvious to me that people don't really enjoy my books and that I don't want to torture them with poor plot, stilted dialogue, and badly-edited prose."
That's a bummer and I don't know enough to say her self-assessment is valid. With the book mentioned in the quote above, Ms. Sebastian has published eight novels and the collection under discussion today, all which appear to be self-published under the name Seance Press.
So what about this book?
Well, there are some flaws. Although it is packaged fairly handsomely there are a couple of glaring typos and one very poorly designed page. And the title Scared Shirtless does not seem to be suitable for the intended age group of 8-12-year-olds, at least certainly not for the lower end of that spectrum. (My library conveniently placed their bar code over part of the title.) The first story in the book, "French Kiss," is also poorly titled for eight year olds. (The story ends just where the gross titular kiss is about to take place.) And some of the tales are trite, stale (in one, a family of secret witches meet their doom when they unsuspectingly prey on a family of secret werewolves), and -- at times -- plotless. Much of this, my friends is grand guignol for the younger set. One story, set by Fort Pickens on the Gulf Coast, has people ice skating and ice fishing. Yeah, there are some flaws.
The stories themselves wander into R. L. Stine's Goosebump territory. And they are told just as well for the most part. Logic and finesse do not need to enter into these stories. These are campfire stories intended to give a bit of a shudder. Taken as such, this is a perfectly and entertaining acceptable book for 11 and 12-year-olds and up. The protagonists, many of whom meet a grisly and unfair end, are both male and female, most seeming to belong in junior high school. If the stories are unfair to the characters, life often seems unfair to an 11 or 12-year-old who might be reading these.
Scared Shirtless is a quick read -- thirteen stories over 98 pages. Some interesting illustrations. Recommended, as I said, for the upper end of the age range the book tries to target.
Me? I enjoyed the book despite the flaws, but, at heart, I'm a twelve-year-old.