This anthology intrigued me -- partly because it was a contest, with winning entries published along with stories from veteran writers, and partly because its "theme" was many themes: science fiction, suspense, fantasy, mystery, basically pulp-style or speculative fiction genres. It's fun to read such a mix of styles and subjects. If one story doesn't move you, the next one likely will.
The best story in here by far is the grand prize winner, "If I Should Die," by Amanda Papenfus, which is not really a genre story at all, other than that the story is about death. The first line hooks you: "Does this coffin make me look fat?" This morbid teaser suggests any manner of horror or black humor or speculative fiction premise, but after this hook, you discover a beautifully-written, touching story about a young girl facing her own death. This was a well-deserved grand prize winner, and I hope to find more stories by this young author.
My other favorites included "Courage Through Fear," by Ruby Standing Deer, a whiskey-soaked, desperate tale of unfortunate drifters, con men, and sinners, yet also about love, the sort of love that can almost ruin you if you don't find the courage to take control of your life, and "A Boy and His Monster," by Matt Mok, an unusual and tender story set in 1940 London during the Blitz about a terrified little boy trying to survive with the aid of an invisible, magical bear at his side. "Timothy" by Anjuli Bowen grew on me after a second reading; reminding me a little of the Benjamin Button movie and a few Twilight Zone episodes, the story had a quiet, firm tone, with a sad but fitting ending to it.
This anthology is "Volume 1" (and "Volume 2" just came out in late summer 2012), so it looks like this may be the beginning of a series, hopefully all contests like this one, which will showcase new talent. All the stories are a fun read, with varying moods, emphases, and talents -- for the Kindle price, it's a fantastic beach read!