Tag Archives: Historical

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!

Suburban Gothic: A Review of The House on Abigail Lane

Book cover for The House on Abigail Lane by Kealan Patrick Burke. Image on cover is of a house that has all of its windows illuminated by light on a dark night. It is sitting next to a garden filled with sunflowers, one of which has a human-like eye in the centre of it staring straight ahead at the reader. Title: The House on Abigail Lane

Author: Kealan Patrick Burke

Publisher: Elderlemon Press (Self-Published)

Publication Date: June 17, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary

Length: 68 pages

Source: I bought it.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

From the outside, it looks like an ordinary American home, but since its construction in 1956, people have vanished as soon as they go upstairs, the only clues the things they leave behind: a wedding ring, a phone…an eye.

In its sixty-year history, a record number of strange events have been attributed to the house, from the neighbors waking up to find themselves standing in the yard outside, to the grieving man who vanished before a police officer’s eyes. The animals gathering in the yard as if summoned. The people who speak in reverse. The lights and sounds. The music. The grass dying overnight…and the ten-foot clown on the second floor.

And as long as there are mysteries, people will be compelled to solve them.

Here, then, is the most comprehensive account of the Abigail House phenomenon, the result of sixty years of eyewitness accounts, news reports, scientific research, and parapsychological investigations, all in an attempt to decode the enduring mystery that is…

…THE HOUSE ON ABIGAIL LANE.

Review:

Evil comes in many forms.

This short story was heavily plot driven. The mystery of why people from many different walks of life kept disappearing at Abigail House permeated every scene, and it didn’t give away any hints about what the answer may be at first. I liked the fact that the audience was left in the dark in the beginning. It made the last few scenes even more exciting.

While I definitely wasn’t expecting the characters to have quiet, introspective moments, I do wish I’d gotten to know them better. There were times when it was hard for me to emotionally connect with the latest poor soul who found themselves working, visiting, or living at this location because of how quickly the house cycled through its victims. No sooner were they introduced than many of them met their fates.

I’m saying that as someone who was deliciously terrified of this setting. Few things are more frightening to me than a place where horrible things happen for reasons that none of the characters have yet to figure out nd therefore have no way to predict or prevent. Had I been able to bond with at least some of the victims, this would have been the perfect read for this horror fan.

If there’s anything about the suburbs that gives you a gnawing sense of discomfort, The House on Abigail Lane might help to explain why.

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.

 

Love and Regret: A Review of The Curse of La Llorona

Film post for The Curse of La Llorona. Image on cover show La Llorona holding the hands of the main character's two children in a candlelit room Content warning: deaths of children. I will be discussing this in my review. 

The Curse of La Llorona is an American 2019 supernatural horror film set in 1973 about a mother who tries to save her children from a malevolent spirit who is trying to keep them for herself.

La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman, is a famous spirit in Mexican and Latin American folklore.

She was a spurned wife who got revenge on her philandering husband by drowning their two young sons. After she died, she was refused entry to heaven because of this act.

I will make no comment about the rest of her story or any similarities or differences between it and this film. Feel free to read more about the legend of La Llorona ahead of time or start watching this with no additional knowledge of her tale at all. The plot works nicely either way.

The Curse of la Llorona is also part of The Conjuring universe, but it is a standalone tale in that series.

Characters

Linda Cardellini as Anna Tate-Garcia

 

Anna was a young widow who was raising two children as a single parent. A social worker by trade, she was well-versed in normal child development and how children react to frightening experiences.

Roman Christou as Chris Garcia
Roman Christou as Chris Garcia

 

Chris was Anna’s imaginative and impressionable son. He loved pretending to chase away bad guys.

 

Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Samantha Garcia
Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Samantha Garcia

 

Samantha was Anna’s independent daughter. She loved dolls.

Patricia Velásquez as Patricia Alvarez

Patricia Velásquez as Patricia Alvarez

Patricia was the mother of two of the children Anna had on her caseload. When Patricia was accused of abusing her children, Anna attempted to figure out what had really happened.

 

Raymond Cruz as Rafael Olvera
Raymond Cruz as Rafael Olvera

 

Rafael, a former member of the clergy, was the person Anna turned to for help when all of her other attempts to figure out what really happened to Patricia’s children and why her own children were in danger had failed.

 

Marisol Ramirez as La Llorona
Marisol Ramirez as La Llorona

La Llorona was the spirit who had killed her own children in a fit of rage.

Her identifying features are obscured for spoiler reasons.

Sean Patrick Thomas as Detective Cooper
Sean Patrick Thomas as Detective Cooper

 

Detective Cooper was a police officer who sometimes worked on cases with Anna. He had also struck up a friendship with her and her children over the years.

 

Tony Amendola as Father Perez
Tony Amendola as Father Perez

 

Father Perez was a local priest who had experience with La Llorona.

My Review

I had mixed feelings about this film.

The foreshadowing was strong and easy to spot. If not for the grim subject matter, this is something I’d play for young film buffs who wanted to learn how to pick out clues about future plot twists early on in a storyline. There were plenty of examples of this scattered throughout the early scenes.

Obviously, La Llorona’s story must involve the deaths of children given the legend that inspired this film. The backstory of why La Llorona began killing other people’s children after she died was shared with the audience clearly. I’m being a little opaque on the topic for spoiler reasons, but know that much of it was implied instead of outright shown. Honestly, murdered children is a grim enough topic that I’m glad the filmmakers stopped where they did.

I wasn’t a big fan of the way the plot ignored previous character development and rules that had been set up earlier on about how this haunting worked.  For example, one of the minor characters developed a grudge against someone else in the storyline. This conflict built up for a large part of the storytelling process only to be suddenly abandoned for reasons that were never explained. It lead to plot holes that I found unhelpful.

There was also  contradictory information about what the living could and couldn’t do when interacting with La Llorona. Sometimes she was written as a spirit so consumed by rage and regret that every shred of rational thought had been torn out of her centuries ago. In other scenes, she behaved in ways that directly contradicted that character development. Either interpretation of her could have worked, but it was confusing for me as a viewer to never know which Llorona we were going to get.

With that being said, this was a wonderfully scary and atmospheric tale. There was never any doubt in my mind that La Llorona was a malevolent spirit. Her intentions were straightforward and easy to understand even if her cognitive abilities were not. This was refreshing, especially in a genre that sometimes veers too far in the direction of romanticizing ghosts.

It would have been nice to have stronger character development in general. No, I wasn’t expecting the characters to spend the first half hour talking about their hobbies or dreams. This was a heavily plot-based story, and I respect that. But knowing about who the characters were as individuals would have made the storyline more memorable.

If you really love ghost stories and can overlook a few plot holes, I would recommend The Curse of La Llorona.

The Curse of La Llorona is available on Crave and Apple TV.

House of Secrets: A Review of The Others

Film poster for The Others. Image on poster is of Nicole Kidman holding a lantern and looking frightened

The Others is a 2001 gothic paranormal suspense film written, directed, and scored by Alejandro Amenábar about a woman named Grace who was raising her two young children alone in a crumbling, old mansion in Jersey while her husband was away fighting in World War II.

After all of her servants mysteriously disappeared, she slowly realized that their beloved home may be haunted by something truly dangerous.

Both Anne and Nicholas suffered from a rare inherited illness called xeroderma pigmentosum that caused severe photosensitivity. That is to say, neither of them were medically able to be exposed to any amount of sunlight without suffering serious and possibly permanent side effects from it.

This family lived in a house shrouded in darkness not only emotionally but physically as well. Grace covered all of the windows with thick, light blocking curtains to ensure that not a single ray of sunlight damaged their small, fragile bodies.

I strongly recommend sticking to spoiler-free content like this before watching this film. There are major spoilers about it floating elsewhere on the web that can ruin the ending if you’re not careful.

The one exception to this is for viewers who are sensitive to sad stories about children. If this is you, please research this thoroughly or ask me about it privately before diving into it. That’s all I can say publicly without wandering into spoiler territory.

One final note in this introduction: I decided to review The Others now because as of a few months ago there is a remake of it currently in production that is slated for release in 2022. My hope is to review the remake a few years from now and compare it to the original.

Characters

Nicole Kidman as Grace
Nicole Kidman as Grace

Grace was an overwhelmed mother who was raising two medically fragile children alone during wartime. She was a devout Catholic whose desire to protect her children was only surpassed by her determination to raise them to share her beliefs no matter what.

Alakina Mann as Anne
Alakina Mann as Anne

Anne was Grace’s oldest child, an inquisitive and bright little girl. At approximately eight years old when this story occurred, she has just begun to reach the age when she was beginning to question her mother’s point of view.

James Bentley as Nicholas
James Bentley as Nicholas

Nicholas was Grace’s youngest child. He loved fairy tales and legends of all sorts, the more imaginative the better. At approximately five years old, he still had a concrete understanding of how the world worked and what his place in it should be. He believed everything his mother said without question and sometimes clashed with Anne when she talked back.

Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs. Mills
Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs. Mills

Mrs. Bertha Mills was the nanny and housekeeper hired by Grace after all of the previous servants in their home mysteriously and simultaneously disappeared. While she had a few old-fashioned notions about child rearing, she deeply cared about her charges and did everything she could to make their lives easier.

Eric Sykes as Mr. Tuttle. Elaine Cassidy as Lydia
Eric Sykes (left) as Mr. Tuttle and Elaine Cassidy (centre) as Lydia.

Mr. Edmund Tuttle was the no-nonsense gardener and handyman who was hired by Grace. He preferred solving physical problems like repairing broken household items to tackling emotional issues.

Lydia was the hard-working, stoic maid. She was mute and unusually socially withdrawn. Mrs. Mills knew her best and would sometimes interpret what Lydia was attempting to communicate with her body language.

My Review

This is one of those timeless films that gets better with every rewatch. I have nothing but complimentary things to say about it!

Grace, her children, and Mrs. Mills were the characters who took up most of the screen time. I was initially surprised to see such a small cast, especially since two of them were children who knew little out of the outside world and weren’t old enough to do too much investigating on their own.

While this was a little unusual for the paranormal genre, it turned out to work perfectly for a plot about a family that was quite socially and physically isolated from the surrounding community for reasons that can only be partially explained in this review.

Given the current pandemic and all of the lockdowns it has prompted, I don’t think I need to explain to any of my readers how difficult it is to be cut off from other people for a long period of time. We all know that feeling far too well even if the vast majority of us aren’t actually living in haunted estates in rural France at the moment.

Anne was my favourite character. She was old enough to realize something had seriously gone wrong in her home, but she was still young enough to talk about things that the adults in her life were desperately trying to hush up. I loved seeing how her strong sense of justice was developing and how she reacted to the thought of shying away from the truth that was slowly being unveiled in her home no matter how many attempts there were to run away from it!

The relationships between all of the characters were complex. I must be careful about how I talk about them to avoid spoiler territory, but I had a wonderful time seeing the various sides of their personalities that were drawn out of every character depending on who they were interacting with at the time. These ever-changing circumstances made Grace and Anne feel especially well-rounded because of how often the audience was able to get to know them in completely new ways as their story was revealed.

Without diving too deeply into the plot, it was also thrilling to meet characters who elicited so many different emotions in me. Sometimes Grace’s behaviour enraged me. In other scenes, I had an overwhelming sense of compassion for this emotionally fragile woman who had been thrown into circumstances that were far beyond her capabilities to handle.

This pattern was repeated with every main character. Just like us, they were complicated individuals whose personalities and characters were filled with every shade of grey imaginable. What not to like about that?

Finally, one of the things I adored the most about this film in general involved how many clues were given about what was really going on. Honestly, I missed many of them the first time I watched The Others, but they were sitting in plain sight during my next viewing. Yes, many of them were subtle, so I won’t blame any of you for overlooking them as well. The fact that they existed only made me love this story even more. There’s something amazing about thinking you’ve figured out a plot only to truly grok it the second or third time around.

I could gush about The Others for another thousand words. Do yourselves a favour and give this film a try if even a single sentence of this review piqued your interest!

The Others is available on Apple TV.

Safe Haven: A Review of Everfair

Title: Everfair Author: Nisi Shawl Publisher: Tor Books Publication Date: 2016 Genres: Fantasy, Alternate History, Steampunk Length: 384 pages Source: I borrowed it from the library. Rating: 3 stars Blurb: From noted short story writer Nisi Shawl comes a brilliant alternate-history novel set in the Belgian Congo. What if the African natives developed steam power… Read More

Unexpected Love: A Review of The Shape of Water

Content warning: racism, sexism, a few brief scenes involving blood, death of a pet, and sexual harassment. I will only mention the first three items in this list in my review. The Shape of Water is a dark fantasy romance about a lonely janitor who falls in love with an amphibious humanoid creature who is being… Read More

Endless Memories: A Review of The Deep

Title: The Deep Author: Rivers Solomon Publisher: Saga Press Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Afrofuturism, Contemporary, Historical Length: 175 pages Source: I borrowed it from the library. Rating: 4 Stars Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep.… Read More

Haunting Secrets: A Review of The Lost Ones

Title: The Lost Ones Author: Anita Frank Publisher: HQ (Harper Collins) Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Gothic, Horror, Paranormal, Historical Length: 400 pages Source: I borrowed it from the library Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Some houses are never at peace. England, 1917   Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the… Read More

Sleeping Beauty Retold: A Review of The Spellbound Spindle

Title: The Spellbound Spindle Author: Joy V. Spicer Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: 2018 Genres: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Retelling, Historical Length: 345 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4.5 Stars Blurb: A misguided elf curses a baby to die on her sixteenth birthday. Gem elves alter the curse to one of… Read More