Tag Archives: 2010s

Stained Property: A Review of The Red Lodge

Book cover for H.R. Wakefield's The Red Lodge. Image on cover shows a lodge on a hill. The sky behind it is red and either sun or moon is half-behind the house.

The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: The Red Lodge – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: H.R. Wakefield

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1928 and 2018

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 32 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Reading a ghost story on Christmas eve was once as much a part of traditional Christmas celebrations as turkey, eggnog, and Santa Claus.

The Red Lodge is a magnificent Queen Anne house, the ideal rental for a young family on a much-needed holiday. But something is wrong at the Red Lodge. What caused the drownings of so many previous occupants? What dark presence lurks in the river? Why has the son grown sullen and afraid?

Review:

Some places are too evil for human occupancy.

One of the most fascinating things about living in or visiting an old house is researching the former owners and what their lives were like. Generally, this sort of search yields pretty mundane results, but as you’ve probably already gathered this isn’t one of those occasions. I won’t go into details about how and why The Red Lodge became such a restless and malevolent place, but that backstory really made the plight of the newest occupants even more poignant.

The narrator of this tale deeply loved wife and his young son, so it struck me as odd to see how quickly he brushed away their anxiety about living at The Red Lodge. Change is hard for everyone, so I would have understood if he hadn’t listened the first couple of times. It did feel weird to have a six-year-old and a cherished wife talk about odd things happening in their home and change their habits as a result of them without the father and husband taking note of that. sure would have liked to have a clearer explanation for whether this was a common occurrence in their family or if the spirit had already begun to warp the main character’s perspective so early on.

While this wasn’t a gory story, there were definitely some awful things that happened at the lodge. I appreciated the way the author hinted at how folks died there instead of describing it in elaborate detail. This was definitely one of those cases where less was more, especially given how reluctant folks would have been to discuss this sort of thing in the 1920s in general.

If you think a property can be stained beyond all hope of repair from the awful things that happened on it, I’d recommend checking out The Red Lodge.

In Pursuit of Justice: A Review of The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale

Book cover for The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale by T J Therien. Image on cover is of an arrow with a green background. Title:The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale

Author: T J Therien

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 30, 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical

Length: 83 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

The story as you know it is a lie. Discover the true origins of the Robin Hood legend in this fast paced Novella that takes our titular character back to the roots of the early ballads.

Review:

Content warning: violence, murder, and attempted rape. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Everyone deserves justice.

I appreciated how courageous many of the characters were, especially when it came to fourteen-year-old Robyn and Wilma, the woman who saved her from a pretty dangerous situation in one of the earliest chapters. The era they lived in definitely wasn’t a kind one for women or anyone living on the margins of society for reasons I’ll leave up to other readers to discover for themselves. It was cool to see them look out for one another in an environment where drawing attention to oneself could have so many negative repercussions.

This story had a large cast of characters that I had trouble keeping track of. There simply wasn’t enough room for me to get to know everyone well enough to immediately know who they were and how they were connected to everyone else when they popped up again after not being part of the plot for a while. It would have been nice to focus on a smaller number of folks and maybe save the rest for a sequel, if such a thing is in the works.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones showing how Robyn, Wilma, and the other people who met up with them worked together to solve problems that seemed insurmountable. These weren’t the types of folks who the money or social connections to pull strings behind the scenes. Every bit of justice they hoped to seek would only come about through cooperation, a ton of hard work, and maybe a little luck as well. Those are exactly the sort of heroes I enjoy reading about.

Anyone who loves the original Robin Hood tales should check out The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale.

Flickering Hope: A Review of Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Book cover for Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel by Seth Tucker. Black and white image on cover is of a large house on an overcast, winter day. Title: Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Author: Seth Tucker

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 25, 2013

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 27 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

A murder in Whitechapel is not uncommon, but the state of the body requires someone more adept at unusual crime than Scotland Yard. Richard Rex, agent of the Queen, must track down this supernatural killer. Can he find it before it claims more victims?

Review:

How would you fight a monster whose speciality was hunting down folks just like you?

The world building was so well done in this story that after a few scenes I assumed I’d accidentally wandered into the middle of a series. While this didn’t seem to be the case after all, I was still impressed with how much detail the author packed into what this supernatural version of London was like as well as what his characters had been up to months and even years before the first scene began. It was thrilling to learn about this world. At times I forgot I was reading altogether because of how absorbed I was in what might happen next!

My first impression of Richard also turned out to be incorrect.  He felt a little too good to be true when I first met him, and I briefly wondered if he was exaggerating his kind deeds to the audience a bit to win us over. I soon realized that his wholesome image was legitimate. While he was a certainly a man of his time, especially when it came to how he interacted with people who didn’t share his station in life, those scenes only endeared me to him more. He wasn’t a perfect man by any means, but he was an admirable one.

The ending was everything I hoped it would be and more. I enjoyed the way Mr. Tucker tied up all of the important loose ends in this case while also leaving room for a sequel. Based on how much work he put into creating Richard and the other characters, my fingers are crossed that someday I’ll get to read more about them. There certainly seemed to be plenty of material to work with when it came to the lives they’d built so far as well as the hopefully wonderful things that might await them in the future.

Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel was a rollocking good time. If anything in this review tickled your fancy, do give it a try!

Never the Same Again: A Review of The Cured

Film poster for The Cured. There are three characters on the poster. Two are former zombies, and one is the sister-in-law of one of them.Content warning: Blood, violence, the death of a child, mental illness, and trauma. I will be mentioning these topics in my review.

The Cured is a 2017 Irish horror drama about former zombies being reintegrated into society after being cured of their disease.

While there are some violent scenes in it, this film is much more about how society stitches itself back together after a pandemic has ripped everything apart.

In short, this wasn’t about watching characters get hurt. It was about how everyone dealt with the traumatic aftermath of this sort of event several years after order was restored and everyone went back to work and school.

I’ve never seen a zombie film focus on this part of that story arc before. It was so unique that I had to watch this despite rarely being into zombies or post-apocalyptic fiction these days.

The character list is quite small this time because the vast majority of the scenes centred on this one family and how they coped.

Characters

Sam Keeley (right) as Senan Browne
Sam Keeley (right) as Senan Browne

Senan Browne was a former zombie who was cured. He was deeply traumatized by his experiences and struggled to find any sense of normality even after he was deemed to no longer be a threat to society.

After his release from the treatment centre, he was sent to live with his sister-in-law, Abbie, and young nephew, Cillian, who can be partially seen in Senan’s arms in the above photo.

Senan’s social worker assigned him to work as a porter at the same treatment centre that cured him. He was such a quiet, withdrawn man that I really wondered how he’d respond to this work environment.

Ellen Page as Abbie
Ellen Page as Abbie (Abigail) Reynolds

 

Abbie was Senan’s sister-in-law. Cillian is her son. Her husband, Luke, died early on in the zombie outbreak, so she raised her son alone in a violent and unpredictable environment.

She was just as traumatized as her brother-in-law, but she expressed it in completely different ways. Abbie was hyper-aware of everything going on around her and insisted on always knowing where her loved ones were for obvious reasons.

My Review

This is one of those rare zombie films that I’d wholeheartedly recommend to people who hate that genre. The zombies could easily have been substituted for real-world issues like pandemics or war and come to almost the same conclusion. It was the characters’ reactions to them that pushed the plot forward in the vast majority of cases.

Actually living through a zombie attack would be traumatizing for anyone, and the plot did an excellent job of showing how the two main characters reacted both in the moment and several years later when they were safe and together again.  Both of them showed clear signs of mental illness as a result of these experiences, including flashbacks, panic attacks, guilt, rage, anxiety, mood swings, serious trouble focusing, and avoidance of things that reminded them of those terrible days. All of these scenes were handled sensitively.

Senan’s experiences had been unique ones. Without giving too much information away, life for people in his position was extremely difficult. Not only did he have to deal with prejudice and mistreatment from people who’d survived the initial outbreak without being turned, he also had to come to terms with what he’d done while he was a zombie. The social commentary on how we treat people whose choices have disgusted and terrified us was filled with food for thought. It almost reminded me of how some folks responded to people who had AIDS in the 1980s or to people who abuse drugs in the present day.

It would have been nice to see more time spent on the backstories of Abbie and of the doctor who cured Senan. Both of these women gave small hints about their experiences during the zombiepocalypse, but there was so much more room there for development. Yes, Senan had a unique tale to tell, but so did a woman who kept her baby alive for four years as a single parent in such a harrowing environment as well as a doctor who bravely treated and eventually cured many of the zombies while paying a terrible price for her courage.

I liked the way this film explored how Senan’s life  had been forever altered by their pasts. Finally having a cure is by no means the same as an outbreak never occurring at all. While he had found a new sense of normalcy, he’d never be able to forget the events that set his story into motion in the first place.

I’d recommend The Cured to anyone who likes dramas.

(If you decide to watch the trailer below before watching this film, do keep in mind that it gives away some big plot twists. Someday I should write a post about why trailers shouldn’t do that!)

The Cured is available on Netflix.

Unlikely Gleaning: A Review of Harvest

Harvest - A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch book cover. Image on cover is of silhoutte of man with a pumpkin for a head walking in a pumpkin field while a full moon glows behind him. I’d like to thank Berthold Gambrel for reviewing this book and bringing it to my attention.

Title: Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch

Author: Jason H. Abbott

Publisher: Blue Boar Press

Publication Date: October 7, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Holidays

Length: 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Equal parts eerie, humorous and heartwarming, Harvest is a short story of down-home fantasy and a fairytale for grown-ups best told in the dark…

With whimsical humor and eccentric fantasy dappled in darkness, fans of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett will enjoy this short tale of kindness found in odd places. If quirky characters with a country twang and a fairytale detoured to the pumpkin patch sound good to you, then Harvest will surely prove an entertaining read!

Review:

It’s not every day that horror and humour coexist in the same plot.

Imagine waking up in a pumpkin field and not being able to see or speak. That idea sure made me shudder, especially once Edgar (the protagonist) realized that his head felt like a pumpkin instead of flesh and bone.

What intrigued me even more about it was the fact that this scene was written humorously even more than it was meant to frighten anyone. If horror isn’t a genre you typically read, consider giving this a try anyway. While there was one scary moment near the beginning, the plot has so much else going on in it that I think it will appeal to a lot of different reading demographics.

Sometimes this felt like the opening chapter of a long fantasy novel. There were hints sprinkled here and there to explain what was going on with Edgar’s head and how other folks were dealing with the strange phenomenon on this farm. They quickly coalesced into a surprisingly thorough explanation of how this world worked, especially given the fact that the author had less than twenty pages to work with.

While I was satisfied with what the narrator revealed, I also wanted more. I enjoyed the way the author wrote a short, encapsulated story that also left a lot of room for readers to come up with our own theories about what might happen to the Edgar and Emelia, the woman who helped him, next.

The fairy tale elements of the storyline are best left to new readers to discover for themselves. As much as I want to gush about them, they’re revealed late enough that I don’t want to share any plot twists. Let’s just say that this is a truly magical farm where anything can happen.

Do note that the full blurb for this tale contains spoilers, so reader beware if you’re like me and prefer to be surprised by a book.

If you love Halloween or the fantasy genre, I highly recommend checking out Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch.

 

Rural Frights: A Review of Cabin for Rent

Title: Cabin for Rent – A Short Horror Story Author: Seth Tucker Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: February 19, 2018 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary Length: 19 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Learn about the macabre history of the cabin on the lake, as you take a… Read More

A Review of A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories 

Title: A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories Author: B.A. Loudon Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: September 12, 2019 Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary Length: 45 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Review: In this collection of stories, all is not what it seems…Broken… Read More

A Review of Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Undead 

Title: Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Undead Author: Seth Tucker Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: November 17, 2014 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary Length: 62 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Three days after her husband dies, Lily is shocked to see him staring at her from outside… Read More

Dangerous Amusement: A Review of Summer’s Over

Title: Summer’s Over Author: Em Leonard Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: August 25, 2018 Genres: Horror, Paranormal Length: 106 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: The lure and curiosity of cheap amusements have always been a part of our psyche. We go to theme parks to explore worlds different… Read More