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Haunted in Quarantine: A Review of Safer at Home

Safer at Home a Ghost Story by Zoe Cannon book cover. Image on cover is an eerie photo of an abandoned home taken at night while the sickly green-yellow moon shines down upon it. Title: Safer at Home – a Ghost Story

Author: Zoe Cannon

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: July 4, 2020

Genres: Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 41 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

 

Quarantined in a haunted house…​

March 2020. With the world in the grip of a deadly pandemic, Ben is locked down in his brand-new house, with nothing to keep him company but his chessboard and the boxes he still hasn’t unpacked. Or so he thinks.

But he’s not alone. Before this was Ben’s house, it was hers. And the dark spirit will do whatever it takes to keep him inside. If he doesn’t find a way out, Ben will stay locked down… forever.

But which is more dangerous? The ghost in the house… or the virus outside?

This short story is 14,000 words long, or approximately 40 pages. It is a companion story to Second Wave. These stories stand alone and can be read in any order.

Review:

Content Warning: Covid-19, domestic violence, murder, and blood. I will be discussing these things briefly in my review.

Sometimes the only thing scarier than Covid-19 is staying home to avoid it.

One of the benefits of setting this story during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 had to do with how it affected Ben’s reaction when he realized that others had been telling the truth when they warned him about his new home being haunted. This is a typical weak spot in the average paranormal tale in my experience. Most characters should have a reasonable chance of finding other accommodations upon learning something like this, but Ben genuinely had no where else to go due to the lockdown order as well as some other excellent reasons that I’ll allow other readers to discover for themselves. I appreciated seeing how his options were logically whittled down as he worked through all of the possible means of escape.

Some of my favourite scenes involved Ben’s reactions to common tropes in the paranormal and horror genres. His self awareness was a breath of fresh air, especially when he took the time to puzzle out why certain actions were so dangerous and what alternatives, if any, he might have while battling a violent ghost alone in a mostly-empty house. He was an intelligent and resourceful character whose decisions generally made a great deal of sense. That’s something I always like to see in this genre.

The domestic violence subplot was well done. It pushed this tale much further into the horror genre than it probably would have otherwise gone, but I totally understood the author’s reasons for going there and going into as much detail about the physical and emotional damage that abusers do to their victims. I liked the fact that the author made his point subtly on this topic. He definitely had a strong message to send about this topic, but he did so in a way that fit the tone of his tale smoothly and gave the audience plenty of opportunities to put the pieces of what he had to say together for ourselves. There was no sermonizing here or anything like that which was refreshing.

Safer at Home – a Ghost Story is the perfect paranormal read for anyone who loves spooky fiction.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: An Odd or Useless Talent

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Photo of mug near flat screen tv that has the word Netflix on it. Watching TV is one of my spouse’s favourite things to do. Over the years, I’ve cultivated the ability to (accidentally) look away from the screen at the exact moment that something important happens that is not noted in the dialogue.

I can’t tell you how many times my spouse has needed to rewind thirty seconds so I can see a mysterious shadowy figure in the background or the note written on a sheet of paper the main character is holding that are important clues for future plot twists.

If there were any way to earn a living from this ability, I’d be a millionaire at bare minimum!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Book Settings

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A cozy stone fireplace in a wooden house. I could talk about this topic for ages! Let’s see if I can keep my list down to a reasonable 10 or so answers.

I will expound on some, but not all, of my responses.

1. Anywhere that has a cozy fireplace.

Yes, I know it isn’t healthy to breathe in the particulates from wood smoke over the long term, but I still find the crackle of a fireplace to be so relaxing. It’s also sometimes the beginning of wonderful adventures in certain stories!

2. Libraries.

3. Cemeteries.

4. Old buildings, haunted or otherwise. 

5. Boarding schools.

I’d never want to attend one or send my (totally hypothetical) children to one, but I do like reading about them.

6. Mostly quiet beaches.

Completely deserted beaches frighten me a little, and loud, crowded beaches aren’t much fun at all. The mostly quiet ones are where it’s at!

7. Museums, especially after hours. 

8. Funerals.

One of the benefits of being a preacher’s kid is that I got to spend a lot of time attending funerals for people who weren’t related to me. There are memorable and even occasionally beautiful moments to be found within all of that grief.

9. Kitchens.

They’re a very underrated setting if you ask me! Not only are kitchens (hopefully) filled with amazing food for everyone to share, they’re often the part of the house where the most intimate and memorable conversations happen.

I can think of a few different relatives of mine who announced exciting news like a new pregnancy in someone’s kitchen. Reading about characters cooking meals or cleaning up after them always makes me hope someone in that scene is about to share thrilling news.

10. Cold, snowy woods.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe taught me that all sorts of wonderful things can happen in them.

11. Any forest where the seasons are changing.

The first subtle announcements of an impending spring or autumn are probably the most striking, but there’s something memorable to be found every time we begin to say goodbye to one season and hello to the next.

I think 11 answers is a pretty decent number, so I’ll stop writing here.

 

 

A Review of No Good Deed: A Sourdough Tale

Book cover for No Good Deed by Angela Slatter. Image on cover is a drawing of a white skull wearing a flower wreath on the top of it’s skull.Title: No Good Deed – A Sourdough Tale

Author: Angela Slatter

Publisher: Brain Jar Press

Publication Date: February 17, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 35 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

BlurbAngela Slatter’s No Good Deed is a dark fantasy tale of magic, ghosts, and marriage set in her World Fantasy Award-winning Sourdough universe.

Isobel assumed her wedding would be the grandest day of her life, but when she wakes in a ghost-filled tomb still wearing her bridal veil, it’s clear events have taken an unexpected turn.

With the assistance of a vengeful spirit Isobel escapes her imprisonment, but her new husband Adolphus will not be pleased to discover his wife is alive. As Isobel comes to understand her husband’s darkest secret, the newlyweds begin a deadly dance that only one will survive.  

This chapbook presents a stand-alone Sourdough story that does not appear in any of the three mosaic collections devoted to Slatter’s world of myth and magic, plus a chronology for all the publications that have appeared thus far.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder and revenge. I will be briefly discussing these things in my review.

Sometimes justice is a battle cry.

Isobel was a delightfully contradictory character. Sometimes I shook my head at the foolish choices she made because I could think of several safer options for her that would have taken the exact same amount of brain power to come up with and time to accomplish. In other scenes, I felt a wave of sympathy for how scary it must have been for such a young and vulnerable woman to wake up in her own grave. Getting to know her was a real treat, and I appreciated how many different facets of her personality were displayed here.

It would have been helpful to have more world building in this short story. I understand that it was a prequel to a series, and I certainly wouldn’t expect something of this length to be as well-developed as I’d hope to see in a full-length novel. With that being said, there were many aspects of this world and how magic worked in it that I struggled to figure out. It was frustrating for me at times to see how often the narrator took these details for granted instead of giving the audience a quick explanation of what was going on, especially since the blurb described it as a stand-alone work.

I valued what this book had to say about how women and other vulnerable people are so often mistreated by people who are in positions of power over them. Isobel lived in a time when women had few social and legal protections from those who wished to harm them, so her predicament was even more dire than it would otherwise be. While I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover exactly what the narrator thinks of cultures and families who turn a blind eye to suffering for the sake of tradition or social convention, I was quite pleased with the message myself. It was subtle enough to fit the storyline perfectly but also blunt enough to get its point across for anyone who might think they have a good reason for participating in such things.

No Good Deed – A Sourdough Tale was a satisfying read I’d recommend to anyone who like dark fantasy.