Tag Archives: Self-Published

Rural Frights: A Review of Cabin for Rent

Book cover for Seth Tucker's Cabin for Rent. Image on cover is of a cabin surrounded by a dark woods and with a muddy lake in the foreground of the shot.

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 boat ride to view this unique property. Despite its dark past and mysterious disappearances, this beautiful secluded get away will take your breath away and you’ll never be able to leave.

Review:

If you love local legends, keep reading.

This is one of those short stories that works best if the reader knows as few details about it in advance, so I’m wording this review carefully.

One of the unique things about it that I can share is that it was framed as one half of a conversation. That is, you read Jimmy’s responses but not the things his companion says that urge him to share the dark history of the property they’re viewing on their boat ride.

Anyone reading this review also knows that local legends also play a role in what Jimmy has to say. He was someone who had deep roots in his small, rural community and knew all sorts of things that outsiders wouldn’t have even thought to ask about. This gave the tales he told an extra layer of fright as I put all of the pieces together.

One of my favourite parts of the storyline was how well I got to know the unnamed visitor even thought he never had a single line of dialogue and the audience only had the faintest clues about his physical appearance. Jimmy’s responses to the questions he asked were so detailed that none of this mattered. I knew the visitor exactly as well as I needed to in order to get sucked into their conversation and the hints about what was going on at that property.

While I did figure the ending out in advance, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for it in any way. There were enough clues along the way that it wasn’t so important for the audience to know what was going on as it was for the visitor to figure it all out.

Yes, this was firmly rooted in the horror genre, but it wasn’t gory for anyone who might be wondering about that. It relied on psychological horror, a slowly growing sense of doom, and some strategically-placed hints to make the audience shudder instead. That’s exactly what I seek out when I wander into this corner of the speculative fiction genre!

Cabin for Rent was an immensely satisfying read that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys horror or dark science fiction.

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

A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories by B.A. Loudon book cover. Image on cover is of a pile of pumpkins.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 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.

A Review of Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Undead 

Friends Don't Let Friends be Undead by Seth Tucker book cover. Image on cover is of a human skull, four glass bottles of beer, a cross, and a few wooden stakes. 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 her home. Calling on the four men he trusted most, Lily relies on them to place Steve back into his eternal rest. Guided by his journal, his friends will find that the man they loved has been replaced by a vicious fiend that will stop at nothing to sate its thirst for blood.

Review:

Content warning: Blood. I will not be discussing it in my review.

Yes, anyone who has read the blurb can probably already guess what sort of monster Steve has become, but I will not spoil it for any readers out there who are still unsure.

Starting a horror story out with something as sad as the funeral of a young adult who died suddenly isn’t something I see too often in this genre. It was nice to have a chance to sit with the characters feelings for a moment before they realized that this was going to be anything but an ordinary mourning period for them.

The cast of characters was of average size, but it felt bigger than I expected because nearly everyone was introduced at once at Steve’s funeral in the first couple of scenes. Do take note of who everyone is then, but don’t worry about it if you’re a little confused at first. I quickly sorted it all out once I realized why the reader needed to meet everyone that way. There was a reason, and it did make sense.

It would have been nice to have more character development. While this was a definitely plot-driven storyline and rightly so, I never felt like I got to know the characters well enough to worry about them when they were in danger. As much as I enjoyed the plot itself, this was a sticking point for me.

One of the things I liked the most about this tale was how quickly everyone accepted the existence of the type of monster that exists here and how much they already knew about what it takes to defeat this creature. This isn’t something I see as often as I’d like to in this genre. It was nice to jump straight to the point and see everyone adapt to their new reality.

If you’re in the mood for an adrenaline rush, this is a good place to start.

Dangerous Amusement: A Review of Summer’s Over

Book cover for Summer's Over by Em Leonard. Image on cover is a collage of various people, dinosaurs, and amusement park rides.

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 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…

Review:

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.

people riding a roller coaster at sunset“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.

Vengeance: A Review of Ceremony of Ashes

Ceremony of Ashes - A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance by Jayson Robert Ducharme book cover. Image on the cover is of a silhoutte of someone holding a large staffTitle: Ceremony of Ashes – A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance

Author: Jayson Robert Ducharme

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 1, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 135 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 stars

Blurb:

Something wicked descends upon Leinster Village
Adrian Holloway’s life is turned upside down after receiving a disquieting phone call. His sister and niece have gone missing, and his mother is in shambles.
Something malicious is lurking in his old hometown. Children are going missing and their mothers are turning up dead. People are afraid to go out. Rumors spread from house to house. Blood. Ritual murder. Sacrifice and mutilation.
Sins of the past become unearthed. A woman, whose powers are beyond imagination, is soon to extract her vengeance on the entire town. She can make the dead talk, breathe fire, and turn a man into an animal.
Only Adrian and a young female constable know the truth. Only they can stop her.
CEREMONY OF ASHES is a 135 page novella about witchcraft, vengeance, and how our destinies are sometimes forged before we are even born.
Fans of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Nikolai Gogol are in for a treat with this fast-faced, violent and uncompromising novella of terror.

Review:

Content warning: blood, ritual murder, sacrifice, and mutilation. I will briefly discuss these things in my next paragraph but will not go into detail about them.

Many of the items in that list happened before or after new scenes occurred. While this was firmly rooted in the horror genre for sure and did include some gory scenes, I was glad that so much of the rest of it was left up to the reader’s imagination.Filling in those moments for yourself can be so much scarier than having them all spelled out.

There’s more to Halloween than costumes and trick-or-treating in Leinster Village village this year.

Reading this novella was like eating a chocolate bar in the very best sense of that metaphor. I digested it quickly and enjoyed it for what it was without searching for a deeper meaning to it or anything like that. This was something that didn’t require analyzation or interpretation. It was simply a nice, scary distraction from everything going on the real world. Sometimes that’s exactly what a reader needs!

There were times when I had trouble keeping the dozens of characters straight. Some of them played pretty minor roles in the plot, so when they popped up again it often took me a while to remember who they were and how they might have been connected to the characters who were featured more prominently.

Small town life was captured nicely here. The characters I was able to keep good track of were connected to each other in multiple ways in many cases. I liked the way the many ways their lives overlapped was slowly revealed. It reminded me a lot of my own experiences living in small towns and how closely everyone’s lives end up intersecting regardless of whether they’re relatives of some sort or genetically unrelated to each other.

I would have liked to see more time spent on character development. While this was a heavily plot-driven tale and I certainly wouldn’t have expected it to be as introspective as something character-driven, it still would have been nice to get to know the main characters on a deeper level. They tended to be boxed into specific roles. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in moderation, it happened so much in this particular story that I didn’t get to know the characters as individuals like I wanted to.

The witchcraft aspect was handled well. One thing I look for in speculative fiction books that include this topic is a sense that the author has put some thought into why they chose a witch as their antagonist. Rest assured there were excellent reasons for this decision that will be revealed later on in the storyline.

I’d recommend Ceremony of Ashes – A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance to anyone who loves the dark side of the horror genre.

A Review of Dollar Tales from the Morbid Museum: Creatures

Title: Dollar Tales from the Morbid Museum: Creatures Author: James Pack Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: April 23, 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Mystery, Contemporary Length: 49 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: Welcome to the Creatures Exhibit. Visitors to the Morbid Museum seek the dark and twisted… Read More

Happily Ever After: A Review of A Tale of Two Princes

Title: A Tale of Two Princes Author: Victoria Pearson Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 1, 2014 Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary Length: 36 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Sleeping Beauty meets The Frog Prince in this short but perfectly formed modern fairytale re-telling. Doctor Prinze is happy… Read More

Military Science: A Review of 1NG4

Title: 1NG4: A Long Short Story Author: Berthold Gambrel Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 11, 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult Length: 51 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Gunnar is part of a team studying a powerful new energy source aboard the seaborne platform Ryojin.… Read More

A Review of Beyond Death – Tales of the Macabre

Title: Beyond Death – Tales of the Macabre Author: Natasha Duncan-Drake & Sophie Duncan Publisher: Wittegen Press (Self-Published) Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal Length: 27 pages Source: I received a free copy from the authors. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: Two tales that look past death into the terror beyond. The Cup Runneth Over by… 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