Tag Archives: Self-Published

Sleeping Beauty Retold: A Review of The Spellbound Spindle

Book cover for Joy V. Spicer's The Spell Bound Spindle. The imagery on the cover is of a rose bush growing around the title and author name. 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 sleep.

But, to break the curse, the elf must die.

Princess Lilyrose seems to have it all, a family who loves her and a betrothed who is also her trusted friend. As the passing years bring the fated birthday closer, as she secretly struggles not to give in to her fear of the curse, she’s determined to live a full life.

She learns to fight. She dares to love. She discovers her true heritage. But when she learns her betrothed’s life is also in danger, she knows she must face the elf and her dark magic to break the curse.

Review:

Some legends deserve to be revisited over and over again. This is one of them.

Sleeping Beauty was one of my all-time favourite fairy tales when I was a child, so I was excited to see how Ms. Spicer reinterpreted it. She found so many interesting takes on these familiar plot twists, from why anyone would want to harm Sleeping Beauty to what happened when a spell didn’t exactly turn out the way the magical being who cast it was expecting it to.

There were a few parts of the world building that I did wish had been explored in more detail. For example, the beginning showed how and why a few young characters were welcomed into families who knew nothing about their true origins. This included a child who was adopted by a royal family and chosen as their heir! I can think of so few examples of this happening in the fantasy genre that I did find myself wishing the narrator had spent more time explaining why this rule was changed. Was there something special about that society that made them unconcerned with where heirs came from? Were most people simply unaware that this child was adopted? Since this sort of thing was a pattern, I thought I should mention it in my review. While I loved the plot in general, a few small tweaks to the world building to explain stuff like this would have catapulted it into a five-star review in my opinion.

One of my favourite parts of the storyline had to do with how well-developed the antagonists were. Yes, they did awful things, but the reasons for those decisions were explained so clearly that I understood them even as I wished they would have made better choices. I’m not generally the sort of reader who sympathizes with villains, so it was a delightful surprise to realize just how much I liked them despite the terrible things they were responsible for. There are many tales out there about protagonists who feel real. While this book had plenty of examples of that as well, it was its treatment of the characters we’re not supposed to root for that was one of my biggest reasons for giving it such a high rating.

Be sure to pay close attention to the characters as they’re introduced. There were a lot of them in this book, and many of them popped up one after another in the first few scenes. Everything you need to know about them and how they’re connected to the other characters is explained if you read thoughtfully. I actually ended up jotting down notes about who everyone was and, in certain cases, what other names they went by. That list was amazingly helpful later on, and I’d recommend doing it for anyone else who wants to stay organized while they read.

Anyone who loves fairy tales or retellings of fairy tales should checkThe Spellbound Spindle out.

A Review of Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One)

Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One) book cover. Image on the cover is of two robots facing the viewer and reaching their arms out to us. Title: Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One)

Author: Nicky Drayden

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2011

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: About 20 pages (see note below).

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

This collection of short stories contains 70% of your daily value for weirdness. If you’re still feeling deficient after reading these tales, stay tuned for Nicky Drayden’s forthcoming debut novel, THE PREY OF GODS from Harper Voyager, Summer 2017.

A shifty shapeshifter cons an intergalactic casino, a married robot couple moves to the burbs, punker space rhinos invade a small town in Colorado, and you, yes you, get to see firsthand what goes on in one of the strangest restrooms in the universe. This delightfully twisted collection of four short stories is easily devoured in one sitting and will leave you hungry for more.

Review:

If you love weird science fiction, keep reading.

Normally, I pick a few stories out of an anthology to highlight in my reviews. Since this collection only had four of them, I’ll talk about all of them.

The only other note I’ll make about this book before diving into my review is about the page count. My ebook was divided into shorter pages than usual, so I estimated the total length for this collection based on how long I thought it would be if each page had the usual 250-300 words in it. At any rate, it was a quick read!

“Winning Streak” followed a shapeshifter named Traleel Az who aroused the suspicions of the casino owners after winning far more money from a slot machine than anyone was supposed to get from playing that game. I was mesmerized by all of the fantasy creatures who worked at and visited that establishment. It sounds like an incredible, if also possibly dangerous, place to visit, and I wanted to know more with every passing scene. This is a world I’d love to visit again sometime if the author ever decides to revisit it.

As mentioned in the blurb, “Memories and All That” was about newlywed robots who moved to the suburbs. Kath-090 and Bit-722 were so excited to make this change in their lives that I was curious to see how their organic neighbours would respond to them. The pacing for this tale felt a little off to me, especially in the beginning when the characters were talking about which possessions they’d brought with them on their move. This momentary slowdown of the plot was more than made up for by the final scene, though. I couldn’t stop giggling at it.

The thought of sharing a town with space rhinos was more than enough to make me want to read “The Pudding Master and I.” Rynoss was the name of this species. Since they acted quite a bit like Earth rhinoceroses, just imagine all of the chaos they caused when they moved into human neighbourhoods. Their understanding of Earth culture was yet another reason why I was fascinated by these creature. Let’s just say that there were plenty of misunderstandings along the way and that some of them were pretty funny. The only thing better than this part of the storyline were all of the plot twists that happened after it.

“Wrath of the Porcelain Gods” was one of the best short story titles I’ve seen in ages. The main character in it was an amateur anthropologist living onboard a space ship who was attempting to figure out how an alien species called the Asiphants used the washroom. I would have liked to see more attention spent on explaining why the protagonist was so fascinated by this topic. It seemed odd to me, especially since they’d described themselves as someone who had spent plenty of time working and living alongside other humanoid species. Surely they would have gotten used to things like this by now? While I still enjoyed reading it, having more information about that part of the plot would have made it a better experience for this reader.

This was the first book I’ve read from Nicky Drayden. Based on how much I enjoyed it, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more from her!

Glimpses of Horror: A Review of Regretfully Invited

Book cover for Regretfully Invited by Jan L. Mayes. There is a skull, books, candles, a quill pen, and a page filled with writing on the cover.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 micro-stories and flash fiction.

No zombies, vampires, or werewolves.

Delve into disturbingly haunting quick tales of murder, madness, and mayhem. Contained in a menacing atmosphere where all is not right in the world.

Included in this bundle:

Double Vision
Based on real events, where midnight visitors could be sinister or a quirk of vision.

Tubsy & The Trauma of Oz
Based on real life hideously shocking consequences of letting a girl’s favourite dolly perform in the school play.

The Grave of Gelert
Based on a visit to the real Gelert’s Grave in Wales, a tribute to the memory of when hasty deadly action brought sorrow.

Mary Annette
Based on the most terrifying teleporting real life marionette ever rejected by a child.

Tinnitus Study 421: Rotary
A 50 word flash fiction experiment that inspired the optimistic psychopath Doctor Bell.

Regretfully Invited
When an audiologist knows too much about Doctor Bell’s tinnitus cure experiments, he takes an unorthodox approach to eliminating them as a witness.

Disembodied
Inspired by real events where left feet keep washing ashore in the Pacific Northwest, but police have no idea who they belong to or where they came from.

Dreams of Debbie
Based on real events after the death of a sister, when a dream may be more than a dream.

Eye Eclipse
A father uses a rare solar eclipse for revenge, inspired by real events when a bystander videos a fatal accident instead of trying to save the child.

Ladykiller
Based on nightmares of an alien apocalypse, where oversleeping has deadly consequences.

Dad’s Death Bells
Based on real events after the death of a father, who might have ghosted back to give a murderous message or last good-bye.

Cofveve Pie
A Mom’s desperate plan to prevent her daughter’s wedding by serving the fiancé a “special dessert”, inspired by real events and the mystery of what cofveve means.

Napkins
Inspired by a big brother who decides to take things into his own hands to protect his sister from Mother’s abuse, but things don’t turn out exactly as planned.

Review:

Book content warning: Murder, torture, cancer, and death of a pet. 

Sometimes it only takes a moment for someone’s destiny to change.

Since I wasn’t familiar with the legend that “The Grave of Gelert” was based on, I went into it with no pre-conceived ideas of what might happen next. This was one of the shortest tales in this collection, and yet it was also the most satisfying. It had a clear beginning, middle, and ending. The fact that the dog, Gelert, was the only character whose named was mentioned only made me more interested in finding out what happened after the king who owned him noticed that the infant prince was missing.

One of the things I noticed happening over and over again in this anthology were that many stories spent precious little time explaining what was happening in them. While I do understand that flash fiction and very short stories in general need to get straight to the point in order to stick to its word counts, there were several times when I had trouble understanding what happened in a scene or what an ending was supposed to mean because of how briefly everything was described. I loved the concepts behind all of them, but this confusion was what ultimately lead me to choose a lower rating than I would have otherwise gone with. This was something that was most noticeable with “Tinnutitus Study 421: Rotary” and “Tubsy & The Trauma of Oz.”

My favourite tale in this collection was “Dreams of Debbie.” It happened shortly after a woman named Debbie died from an aggressive form of breast cancer. Her grieving relatives were struggling to come to terms with her untimely death, and their healing process was not going well. I deeply enjoyed seeing how the plot developed from this point. It was simultaneously satisfying as well as something that made me desperately wish for a sequel.

If you love being scared senseless, Regretfully Invited: 13 Short Horror Stories may be the perfect book for you.

 

Surviving the Apocalypse: A Review of Patient Zero

Patient Zero Post Apocalyptic Short Stories book cover. There is a biohazard sign on the cover as well.Title: Patient Zero: Post-Apocalyptic Short Stories (Project Renova #0.5)

Author: Terry Tyler

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2017

Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

Length: 120 pages

Source: I received a free copy from Terry

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

The year is 2024.
A mysterious virus rages around the UK.
Within days, ‘bat fever’ is out of control.
Patient Zero is a collection of nine short stories featuring characters from the post apocalyptic Project Renova series. All stories are completely ‘stand alone’.

1. Jared: The Spare Vial
Jared has two vaccinations against the deadly virus: one for him, one for a friend…

2. Flora: Princess Snowflake
The girl with the perfect life, who believes in her father, the government, Christian charity and happy endings.

3. Jeff: The Prepper
What does a doomsday ‘prepper’ do when there is nothing left to prepare for?

4. Karen: Atonement
She ruined her sister’s last day on earth, and for this she must do penance.

5. Aaron: #NewWorldProblems
Aaron can’t believe his luck; he appears to be immune. But his problems are far from over.

6. Ruby: Money To Burn
Eager to escape from her drug dealer boyfriend’s lifestyle, Ruby sets off with a bag filled with cash.

7. Meg: The Prison Guard’s Wife
Meg waits for her husband to arrive home from work. And waits…

8. Evie: Patient Zero
Boyfriend Nick neglects her. This Sunday will be the last time she puts up with it. The very last time.

9. Martin: This Life
Life after life has taught the sixty year old journalist to see the bigger picture.

Review

Review:

Content warning: death. This will otherwise be a spoiler-free post.

It’s impossible to get away from an invisible foe that has spread everywhere.

Normally, I pick about three short stories in an anthology and do mini-review for all of them. This time I decided to shake things up since everything in this collection has the same setting. The characters change, but the effects of the Kerivoula Lanosa (bat fever) virus are felt by everyone in this world.

The character development was well done across the board. Each character had a limited amount of time to show the audience who he or she was due to how everything was formatted, so I was impressed by how well I got to know everyone. Their unique personalities shone through no matter how many or how few pages they had to share their experiences. While I can’t say that I’d necessarily want to be buddies with everyone in this universe, I did want to learn more about all of them. They were all genuinely interesting folks, and that’s something I always love discovering in a book.

While I didn’t expect to have every question of mine answered neatly, especially since I haven’t read the rest of this series yet, I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to the final story. Martin: This Life had a tone that was nothing like anything else I’d read earlier. It also introduced a plot twist that had not been so much as hinted at in any of the other stories. In fact, it seemed to change the genre classification entirely. I was intrigued by this surprise, but I also wish it had been explained a little better.

With that being said, I still enjoyed this collection and would recommend it to new and longterm fans of Ms. Tyler’s work alike. It left me with so many questions about what happened next in this universe that I can’t wait to read everything else about these characters and the plague they tried to survive.

This anthology is part of the Project Renova series, but it can be read as a standalone work.

Choosing to Survive: A Review of Powdered Souls

Title: Powdered Souls, A Short Story: They Decided to Survive (Snow Sub Series Book 1)

Author: Dixon Reuel

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance

Length: 22 pages

Source: I received a free copy from Dixon

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: People together in close quarters – fraternization naturally follows.

A military VR trainer, wanting to keep her relationship with a fellow scientist hidden, must pass a security inspection in her lab by the vicious Atlas Crusade that has swept to power.

When the leader of the security team demands an unusual VR request in her lab, Prof. Meliss must decide between keeping her lover safe, or secretly undertaking a consciousness swap that could end the Crusade’s five-year long relentless rule. A rule that has co-opted all scientific research to aid their global expansion, rendering Prof. Meliss and Prof. Lauren expendable, as legions of other researches wait to step into their lab if either woman dishonors the great Crusade.

Science and the military aren’t always a good match for each other.

Virtual reality is one of those topics that always makes my ears perk up when I see it mentioned in a science fiction blurb. There are so many different ways to approach this idea that an author can do just about anything with it, and Ms. Reuel came up with a pretty creative take on why the military would be interested in developing a virtual world for their soldiers to explore. Their reason for paying for this research is something best discovered by readers for themselves.

The world building would have benefited from more development. I was confused by how the military seemed to simultaneously know everything that was happening in their research bases and yet also not know simple things about them like what sort of equipment they used or how their experiments were going. It’s totally possibly for a regime to act this way, but it would have been nice to know what the limits of their knowledge was.

Prof. Meliss, the main character, wasn’t given much opportunity to reveal her personality either. I’d struggle to tell you much about her as an individual or explain why she’d gotten into a relationship with her assistant, Dr. Lauren, knowing how dangerous that would be for both of them. A lot of this character development could be coming in future volumes, but it would have been helpful to have a better understanding of who she was and why they were willing to take such huge risks. I always like finding queer couples in science fiction, so I was disappointed with how their arc played out so far.

One of the few things I did learn about Prof. Meliss was that she could think quickly in a crisis. That’s the perfect skill to have when an army has descended onto your base and is breaking down the front door. The most interesting scenes in my opinion were the ones in the beginning that described how she reacted to this invasion.

Since this was both a short story and the first instalment in a series, I was definitely not expecting the character development or world building to be perfectly ironed out. But I would have liked to see at least a few sentences spent explaining how this militaristic society works, why relationships between scientists and their assistants were punished so harshly, and what the military was and wasn’t capable of. Getting thrown into a new world is amusing, but I needed more answers about what was happening before the final scene wrapped up.

With that being said, I saw a lot of promise in this tale. There were hints about how climate change had affected the lives of ordinary people in this futuristic world that I’m incredibly curious to learn more about.

Once Upon a Time: A Review of The Raven and Other Tales

  Title: The Raven and Other Tales Author: Joy V. Spicer Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical Length: 132 pages Source: I received a free copy from Joy Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: A raven appears on a cold winter’s night. An old woman helps a stranger find his way home. A young… Read More