Author Archives: lydias

The Mysterious Noise: A Review of The Echo in the Valley

Book cover for The Echo in the Valley by Zak Standridge. Image on cover is a black-and-white photo of a woman in a white dress sitting on a horse at the edge of a large forest. The woman’s head is shaped like a ram and has two large horns curling out of it. Title: The Echo in the Valley

Author: Zak Standridge

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 28, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 33 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

“What about you? Long after sunset and way past midnight, when you gaze into that dark forest… have you ever seen a light?”

Review:

Content Warning: Murder. I will not be discussing it in my review.

Some questions are so big even the Internet can’t answer them.

It’s fairly rare to watch characters age from childhood to adulthood in a short story, so I was thrilled to keep meeting the protagonists over and over again beginning with who they were in their preteen and early adolescent years. There were all sorts of wonderful little hints about how they’d grown and changed over time. Kel and Tim always retained those parts of their personalities that made them unique, though, and and I loved seeing how their true selves stuck around no matter how much everything else around them changed.

There was too much foreshadowing in this tale in my opinion. I figured out the twist in it pretty early on due to all of the hints that were provided about it. Since that twist was such a central part of the plot, I would have preferred to either work a little harder at piecing everything together as I read or have some other conflict to occupy my mind for the last two-thirds of the storyline instead. This is something I’m saying as someone who enjoyed this piece quite a bit and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys these genres.

I adored the open-ended final scene. While it included a basic explanation of what was happening in the woods every year on April 22 that so terribly confused everyone in their small, rural community in the Ozarks, it also left plenty of space for the audience to come up with our own interpretations about what this phenomenon meant and why it happened. This was the perfect approach to something that so easily defied any logical explanation. There was room for a sequel if the author ever decides to write one, but I also found myself quite satisfied with how all of the most important things were tied together in the end.

If you like  paranormal stories, The Echo in the Valley might be right up your alley.

 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: What Makes Me LOL

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.

Here are a few of the things that make me laugh. I hadn’t previously realized just how amusing I find dogs. It’s cool to learn new things about yourself, don’t you think?

A dog walking in a grassy meadow.
This isn’t their dog, but this one is of a similar size and colouring.

A True Story:

One of my neighbours has a little dog who loves people. No matter who you are or what you look like, this dog hopes everyone in our area will stop to say hello and pet him for a moment. (Our neighbours are quite friendly guys who don’t mind it if others pet their dog as long as they know you).

This same little dog dislikes every other dog he meets. He barks ferociously at puppies and senior dogs alike.

It’s hilarious to me to see our furry little neighbour switch from wagging his tale at the nice humans to scaring off any dogs who get too close to him in the blink of an eye. Maybe he wants all of the human attention to himself?

 

 

Three Jokes:

Q. What does a dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac do at night?

A. He stays up wondering if there really is a dog.

 

 

A guy spots a sign outside a house that reads “Talking Dog for Sale.” Intrigued, he walks in.

“So what have you done with your life?” he asks the dog.

“I’ve led a very full life,” says the dog. “I lived in the Alps rescuing avalanche victims. Then I served my country in Iraq. And now I spend my days reading to the residents of a retirement home.”

The guy is flabbergasted. He asks the dog’s owner, “Why on earth would you want to get rid of an incredible dog like that?”

The owner says, “Because he’s a liar! He never did any of that!”

 

 

How does NASA organize a party?

They planet.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Fall 2021 To-Read List

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A red pair of glasses sitting on top of an opened book. The book has a red cover and is sitting on a pile of moss and autumn leaves. Here are the books I’m looking forward to reading this autumn.

My TBR is always much longer than my actual reading time, so I’ll remain flexible as always as I wait to see what strikes my fancy and which titles have the shortest wait lists at the Toronto Public Library.

I try to schedule things so I always have at least a few books waiting to be read and some more that will soon be available.

There’s an art and a science to requesting library books in the right order to keep this steady stream of reading material flowing all year long.

Maybe someday I’ll write a full post about how I do that. Ha!

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson book cover. Image on cover shows a young black girl with a gorgeous Afro that is surrounded by purple and white smoke.

1. White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

Why: Ms. Jackson is on the list of authors I always check out when they release new books. The paranormal elements of this storyline only make me more excited for it.

 

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie book cover. Image on cover is a painting of a kid standing in front of a two-story picture window at night. There are yelllow-eyed creatures standing outside leering at her.

2. What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie 

Why: This is exactly the type of playfully scary story I would have loved as a kid!

 

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach book cover. Image on cover shows a patch of a national park ranger’s uniform that has bears, trees, and other nature stuff on it.

3. Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach

Why: I had no idea that wild animals were charged for their “crimes” a few hundred years ago in certain jurisdictions! This is the sort of unusual history book that I love reading. You’d never find this sort of stuff in a traditional history class.

 

The Insiders by Mark Oshiro book cover. image on cover is a drawing of various middle school aged kids sneaking into and out of various rooms.

4. The Insiders  by Mark Oshiro 

Publication Date: Today

Why: I always dreamed of finding a hidden room when I was a kid.

The Days of Afrekete by Asali Solomon book cover. Image on cover is two african women standing facing apart. Their hair has been styles to resemble the continent of Africa.

5. The Days of Afrekete: A Novel  by Asali Solomon

Publication Date: October 19

Why: The comparison to Mrs. Dalloway intrigued me. I couldn’t get into it when I tried to read it as a teenager, but I’m hoping I’ll be old enough to enjoy both The Days of Afrekete and Mrs. Dalloway now that I’m an adult.

 

The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu book cover. Image on cover shows a young opposite sex couple sitting on top of a large pink donut.

6 .The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu

Publication Date: November 2

Why: The blurb mentions that this is similar to Kim’s Convenience, one of my favourite sitcoms. Romance novels are usually out of character for my reading habits, but I’m totally happy to make exceptions to that general rule of thumb when something catches my fancy like this.

 

Everything else I’m looking forward to was already mentioned in the Most Anticipated Books of the Second Half of 2021 prompt back in June. I don’t know about all of you, but I like to leave plenty of space for last-minute additions and mood reading when I’m thinking about what to read in any given season. May we all have a wonderful autumn filled with books that are perfect for us.

Whispers from the Past: A Review of Ghost of the Mountain

Ghost of the Mountain by Elvira Dahl book cover. Image on cover shows a hazy ghost walking down a black and white path. Title: Ghost of the Mountain

Author: Elvira Dahl

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 65 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

“Some parts of the earth are not meant to be disturbed.”

Oscar Brandt’s career as operating technician at one of Sweden’s biggest IT companies is going exactly as planned. Thanks to a new big-shot client, the company’s rock shelter facilities are to be expanded with a new server hall. And Oscar is up for the promotion of his career. But while blasting away inside the mountain, a tragic accident occurs that open the gates to the underworld. Suddenly, a ghost from Oscar’s past starts haunting him, and he soon finds himself in a familiar, dark place he might not escape from again.

Ghost of the Mountain is a tale of caves, underground server halls and abandoned mines. Of the mythic creatures that guard the deep. And of two kids with Gameboys, bonding in the darkest of places.

Review:

Content Warning: Blood and devil worship. I will not be discussing them in my review.

Quiet places aren’t always peaceful ones.

To be perfectly honest, I was somewhat confused by the flashbacks at first. They didn’t seem to have anything to do with Oscar’s current life, so I was curious to see what the connection there might be. Be patient if you have the same reaction to these scenes because they do pay off in the end. I can’t go into much further detail about them other than to say that the author knew what she was doing here. As soon as I figured out what was going on, I grinned. The payoff was so worth it in the end!

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the folklore in this novella. The characters shared tantalizing hints about what they might be dealing with here, but there wasn’t quite enough of it for me to go for a full five-star rating due to how many unanswered questions I had about the legend they mentioned and how it was related to what happened to Oscar. This was my only criticism of something that was otherwise well-written and fascinating.

The ending was quite satisfactory. I was originally expecting a completely different conclusion to it all, so I once again had the opportunity to rethink my assumptions and pick out the clues that the author had left in earlier scenes about where she was going with this piece. Yes, I know I’m being more vague than usual in this review, but this really is the sort of tale that works best if new readers know as little about certain plot twists as possible in advance. Just know that there are answers coming and they’re well worth the wait!

Ghost of the Mountain made me shudder. It’s a great pick for anyone who loves spooky stories, especially as Halloween season approaches.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books to Include in a Time Capsule and Why

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.

A small, locked blue door in the side of a large blue building. My first question when I read this prompt was, how long will the time capsule be sealed up?

If it’s something like 50 or 100 years, I’ll bet we’ll still have a great deal of knowledge about the books that were around now.

If it’s 1000 years from now, future generations might have forgotten a lot of what we know today.

Then again, we still have books in print now that were written thousands of years ago. I’d want this time capsule to be as historically useful as possible, so my answers will be a little off the beaten path as I try to come up with things that future historians would be excited to receive.

A Book of Covid-19 Memories by Ordinary Folks. That is to say, let’s include the stories of teachers, healthcare workers, morticians, people who were homeless, grocery store clerks and other frontline workers, people who caught Covid-19, people who were diagnosed with Long Covid after their original infection ended, and others who aren’t always included in history books.

A Photo Essay Book About Life in the 2020s. They’d include photos and brief descriptions of the people in them from as many different cultures and countries as possible.

A Book or Booklet of Predictions About the Future. Wouldn’t it be interesting for future generations to see what we thought their lives might be like in X number of years? I know I love reading predictions of life in 2020 that previous generations compiled.

A Book of Descriptions of the Daily Lives of Ordinary People. For example, they could talk about what they ate, wore, did, read, watched, and thought about. The more details, the better.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Numbers In the Title

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl All of these books share three things in common: they have numbers in their titles, I’ve read them, and I’d recommend them to anyone who finds their blurbs interesting. 1. The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien 2. 1984 by George Orwell 3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray… Read More

The Loyal Companion: A Review of The Origins of Constantine

Title: The Origins of Constantine Author: D.C. Gomez Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: February 27, 2019 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 87 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: When the god Anubis needed a friend, the universe sent him the most unlikely companion: a feisty little cat.… Read More

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl This week’s prompt was a little ambiguous. Should I be mentioning lighthearted stories in general even if they touch on sad topics at times? What about collections of true humorous stories? Will some people share joke books? How will everyone else interpret it? Will Canada ever sell Jolly Jammers… Read More

A Hard Day’s Work: A Review of Bounty Hunter Stex

Every Thursday I share a list of free spectulative fiction books on Twitter. Last April, My friend Berthold Gambrel reviewed one of the books I mentioned, and now I’m reviewing it as well! Thank you for reviewing this book and nudging it closer to the top of my to-read list, Berthold!  Title: Bounty Hunter Stex… Read More