Title: A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories
Author: B.A. Loudon
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
In this collection of stories, all is not what it seems…Broken promises have unexpected consequences.Going to space should be a day of celebration.A sunny disposition conceals a dark family secret.And why does a bit of pickled pumpkin have an entire neighbourhood on edge?
Content warning: mental illness, domestic abuse, cannibalism, postpartum depression, and murder. I will not be discussing these things in my review.
It’s never too early to start thinking about Halloween.
There were a surprisingly amount of short stories and flash fiction in this collection, so I’l only talk about a few of them in my review. Do check out the whole thing if any of this intrigues you.
The narrator in “Promises” was someone who grew up in a small town and desperately wanted to leave it. When they were finally given a chance to do just that, the person who took them far away from home wasn’t exactly what they were expecting. This was such a quick little tale that I can’t say much else about it, but I did find it interesting to learn what happened to the narrator after they left home.
In “A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin,” a grieving spouse must decide what to do with their wife’s massive collection of pickled foods after she died. The spouse had never learned to like the taste of pickled things and didn’t want all of her hard work to go to waste. This wasn’t a topic I was expecting to read about, but I liked reading the main character’s thoughts about how to tie up all of the loose ends of this part of their life.
“The Performance of a Lifetime” reminded me of how much stage fright I’ve had in the past much like the protagonist of this piece. As much as I enjoyed the beginning of this tale, the middle and ending of it seemed to come out of nowhere. It would have been nice to have more clues about what was about to happen and how the beginning was tied to what came after that. This was something that was repeated with many of the stories in this anthology. Their endings were well worth reading, but I wasn’t always entirely sure how they arrived there.
“Clean” was quite the read. At first it seemed like it was written for adults instead of teenagers because most teens aren’t permanently put in charge of cleaning their entire homes the way the mother is in many families. Yes, I wrote mother on purpose. The gendered aspects of who cleans and who keeps track of what should be cleaned next was written well. It actually turned out to be my favourite part of this tale as well as one of the best stories in this anthology.
If you’re counting down the days to Halloween and want to get into the spirit of it early this year, A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories is a good place to start.
The lure and curiosity of cheap amusements have always been a part of our psyche. We go to theme parks to explore worlds different from our own. They make us feel happy or free, dangerous even. We love them. Spend our money on them. Plan our vacations around them. And sometimes, things go so very wrong inside them.
Summer’s Over are five demented tales that take place within the five major theme parks in Southern California. This book is complete with a custom crafted picture to accompany each story, created by the author Em Leonard. It’s a top down creation from cover to cover… -A deadly religion recruits members from Six Flags Magic Mountain -Creepy stalkers waiting in line at Disneyland -Paranormal activity inside Knott’s Berry Farm -Dark experiments from Sea World -An alternate reality at Universal Studios
This is an ode to the vacationer’s utopia that is Southern California. Please keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times…
Content warning: Cults and stalking. I will be briefly discussing the first item on that list in my review.
There’s something bittersweet about early September, don’t you think? It’s still hot, sunny, and humid where I live, and yet the promise of much colder and darker days is right around the corner.
Religious cults are the absolutely last thing I expect to find at amusements parks, but there was one in “Love and Loss at Six Flags.” I liked the way the author picked out some of the biggest red flags that an organization is a cult in ways that made sense for the setting, too. That must have taken a lot of work, but it sure did a great job of grabbing this reader’s attention.
The main character’s reason for visiting Disneyland so late in the season in “Never Talk to People While Waiting in Line at Disneyland” made me smile. You don’t see a lot of homeschooling families popping up in the horror or science fiction genres, especially as the protagonists. This was such a short tale that I can’t say much else about it without giving away spoilers, but the ending both made me shudder and wish for a sequel.
“My Knott’s Berry Farm Solution” was set during the middle of winter which made the paranormal activity there even spookier. This was the scariest story in this collection for me because of how trusting the main character was. He had no idea how quickly his life was about to change when he convinced his son and daughter to visit Knott’s Berry Farm that day!
“A Sea World Story” was told from the perspective a man reliving his unusual childhood as the only child of a single father who preferred surfing to working. The fact that his father refused to talk about so many topics only made me more curious about what the truth might be about their life. I enjoyed the way the author gave the audience hints but also let us come up with our own theories about what was going on there.
The first day of work can feel overwhelming for man people, especially in “The Other Universal Studios Tour” where the public’s perception of Universal Studios in this universe isn’t necessarily the same as what the employees would say about it. There was a dreamlike quality to this one that made it a great deal of fun to read because I never knew how the main character’s perception of reality was going to shift next.
Picking a rating for this collection was quite difficult. I wanted more details about each story in particular, but I also realized that, like real amusement park rides, they’re really only designed to last a short period of time before you rush off to your next thrill. It’s best to enjoy them for what they are and not put too much thought into figuring out all of their intricacies.
If September makes you feel a little nostalgic for the season we’re leaving behind, Summer’s Over might be right up your alley.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Welcome to the Creatures Exhibit. Visitors to the Morbid Museum seek the dark and twisted corners of the world. They are both terrified and intrigued by the unknown. Tales of killers, monsters, and madmen are curated by the Master of Death, Mr. Siris Grim. Mr. Grim collects the darkness that everyone attempts to hide and displays it within the corridors of his gruesome gallery. Who will be next to purchase a ticket and walk the halls of the Morbid Museum?
Horror fans, I have something special for you today!
As I mentioned in my review of An Imperfect Crime, Mr. Pack excels at taking perfectly ordinary characters and throwing them into situations they never could have anticipated. I love that plot device and was excited to see what he came up with this time.
There were a few tags I left off of this post for spoiler reasons. None of them were things that are commonly known to be sensitive topics, but I’ll happily discuss them privately with anyone who wants to verify if this is the right book for them. There were four stories in this collection, so I’ll give each one it’s own chance to shine in this review.
“The Harpy of Miller Road” began with a 911 call about a naked woman down the middle of a road. The fascinating thing about this emergency was how the 911 operator reacted to it. There’s so much more I want to say about this tale. It really captured the author’s writing strengths beautifully, especially when it comes to expecting his audience to do some of their own legwork to put all of the pieces together.
A man named Peter was questioned by the police after accidentally killing a stranger in “Disengagement.” I’m not normally the sort of reader who sympathizes with murderers, so it came as a bit of a pleasant shock to me to see how much I liked him and hoped the detective in charge of this case would somehow exonerate him. Did the facts seem to be turning against him quickly? Yes! Did that matter? No, not at all. Finding out what really happened and if Peter was as innocent as I hoped he would be made it impossible to stop reading this.
There’s honestly not much I can say about “The Hearing” without giving away the plot twists in it. Obviously, it’s about a hearing that will decide someone’s fate. David, the man in the centre of it all, was one of the friendliest folks you could imagine. The discrepancy between what he was accused of doing and how he behaved reminded me of “Disengagement.” There were so many similarities between the two that I did wish they could have been split into separate collections to keep readers from comparing them, especially since they were right next to each other in the page count. They’re both good stories. I just found it a little tricky to think about them without comparing them.
I’ll admit to being confused by “The Fall of the Foot” at first. There were a ton of characters running around in it and I didn’t immediately catch the cultural reference that was embedded in those scenes because it wasn’t something I knew much about growing up. That quickly changed once I caught up and realized just how cool it was to see these characters in a whole new light. Oh, how I wish I could tell you all who they were. Let’s just say that you’ll probably recognize them much faster than I did and that their adventures were well worth checking out.
If you enjoy this collection, I definitely recommend checking out the rest of the Dollar Tales. Everything that I’ve read so far from this universe works perfectly well as standalone stories, but they’re even better when understood as a group.
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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
Content Warning: Blood and a dysfunctional family. I will be briefly mentioning these things in my review. Krampus is a 2015 dark fantasy horror comedy film about a young boy named Max who has a disappointing Christmas with his argumentative, dysfunctional relatives and accidentally summons a festive demon to his home as a result of it.… Read More
This month I’m participating in the Scifi Month challenge that was created by the bloggers at One More. Click on the link in that last sentence for more information or to sign up yourself. There is still time to pick a few of their prompts and join in if you’re interested. Today’s prompt was “What can… Read More
Title: Regretfully Invited: 13 Short Horror Stories Author: Jan L. Mayes Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: 2018 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary Length: 86 pages Source: I received a free copy from Jan. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Find out the answer to this question and more with this 13 story bundle of creepy, horror… Read More