Rolling the Dice: A Review of A Dark Horse


A Dark Horse by Dale Olausen book cover. Image on cover shows silhouette of horse standing on a hill at dusk on an overcast day. Title
: A Dark Horse – A Gothic Tale

Author: Dale Olausen

Publisher: Dodecahedron Books

Publication Date: October 16, 2016

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Mystery, Historical

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Just what might a gambler give up, to go on the winning streak of his life? Even he can’t know for sure. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus legend is given a Damon Runyon spin, in this short story.

Review:

Content warning: Gambling and gambling addiction. I will be discussing them in my review.

Every gambler is bound to run out of luck eventually, right?

By far my favourite type of horror is psychological horror. I was quite pleased with how Mr. Olausen frightened his audience without spilling a single drop of blood or so much as hinting at anything gory. He knew exactly what hints to drop for us that made us deliciously dread the next scene simply by throwing out hints about who or what the dark horse might actually represent. This is the kind of stuff I love getting scared by, especially as Halloween approaches.

It would have been helpful to have more character development in this short story. While I certainly wouldn’t expect to see as much time spent on this as I would for a full-length novel, I did have trouble connecting to the main characters due to how little I knew about them and how much their personalities seemed to remain the same no matter what happened to them. If not for this issue, I would have felt comfortable choosing a much higher rating as the plot itself was well done.

I must admit to not knowing much about gambling at all, so I appreciated the brief explanations the narrator shared about how placing bets works and why some people have so much trouble walking away from a bet. While I will leave it up to experts on these topics to say how accurate everything was, I did enjoy learning more about the main character’s addiction and what he hoped to gain from betting on just one more game or race. It gave me a stronger sense of empathy for folks in his position.

A Dark Horse – A Gothic Tale was a deliciously chilling story for the Halloween season and beyond.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Scariest Books I’ve Ever Read

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.

Drawing of man wearing a business suit and lookign scared
The least scary horror image I could find.

I read a lot of horror before the Covid-19 pandemic began, but that changed as the reality of it sunk in.   Maybe someday I’ll be able to dive back into this genre again?

In the meantime, here are some of the scariest tales I’ve read and my (non-spoiler-y) reasons why I found them so frightening.

Cujo by Stephen King

Why It’s Scary: Rabies is a horribly real disease, and just about everything in this book could actually happen in real life. I was bitten without provocation by a (non-rabid) dog many years ago, so there’s also the added horror of knowing how unpredictable some animals can be.

 

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Why It’s Scary: The link above will direct you to a free pdf of this tale. It started off so gently that I had no idea what was coming, but the ending made me shudder. I actively look for the good in everyone and assume the best of their intentions, but some can be persuaded to do terrible things under certain circumstances.

 

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1) by Jeff VanderMeer

Why It’s Scary: These characters entered area X knowing that communication with the outside world would be severed and that the rules of physics and biology in that area were wildly unpredictable at best. I would be terrified to explore a place like that, but it did make for a fantastic book and film.

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Why It’s Scary: Not only is everything in this book entirely possible, similar things have happened to other school/mass shooters before. There’s something about realistic stories that makes them a thousand times more frightening.

Top Ten Tuesday: Online Resources for Book Lovers

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

I love this week’s topic. Let’s see how many answers I can come up with for it.

None of these sites have compensated me for mentioning them in any way. I simply included ones I’ve used or think sound cool.

1.  DailyLit 

Imagine being emailed a short passage from a book every day. Each instalment can be read in about 15 minutes, and you’ll eventually receive the entire book that way.

2. Project Gutenberg 

This was the first site to ever offer free ebooks! They have a huge selection of titles to choose from.

 

3. Your Local Library

Assuming you live in a country that has a free public library system, you might be surprised at what they have to offer!

Aside from the usual ebooks and audiobooks, mine offers online courses and events in all sorts of bookish topics. It also has digital subscriptions to hundreds of newspapers, literary journals, magazines, and more on just about any topic you can imagine and a few I never would have thought would have such big followings!

 

4. Indie Bookstore Finder 

I don’t know about you all, but I’m all about supporting local businesses as much as possible. This is a fantastic resource for finding that special book you’ve been wanting to buy while helping your local bookstore stay in business.

 

An ereader with it’s cord tucked between the pages of a hardcover book. 5. AddALL 

This site helps visitors compare prices for the books they want to buy among multiple possible sellers. I wish I’d had access to this when I was in college and was scrounging around to afford textbooks! It works for regular types of books, too.

 

6. Book-a-Minute 

Imagine reading a concise but accurate summary of that book you’re thinking about reading but not sure if you want to dive into. I think there’s definitely something to be said for giving people a few spoilers if they need them to decide whether a particular book is the right one for them.

 

7. The Great Canadian Sox Shop

This quirky little shop is located right here in Toronto, Ontario. It caters to those of us who love finding that perfect pair of socks to express ourselves, whether it’s a conservative pair of business socks for an office job or something funky and bookish for less formal events.

 

8. LAMBDA Literary 

A fantastic resource for LGBT+ writers and readers.

 

9. Little Free Library

Want to find a local Little Free Library in your community? Or maybe you want to find out how to build your own? This site has all of the details you need…and then some.

 

10. Leio 

A reading log app to help you keep track of what you’re reading and what you might dive into next.

 

***Bonus*** 11. Literature Map

If you type in the name of your favourite author into this site, it will recommend other authors that are also highly read by fans of the author you first mentioned.

I’ve been playing around with this site a lot and already have a list of new authors to try!

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 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… Read More

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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 Blurb: Angela Slatter’s No Good Deed is a dark fantasy tale of magic, ghosts, and marriage set… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Required Reading in School – Yay! Or Nay?! 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. I enjoyed most of the required reading in school.Then again, I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life! Some of the famous writers, poets, and playwrights… Read More

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl   I generally write short introductions to Top Ten Tuesday posts, but I think this time my list will speak for itself. 1. Film Covers for Books. They often tend to look dated after a few years. I’d also rather not have actors as my point of reference for how… Read More

Autumn Adventures: A Review of The Neighbourhood Squirrel

Title: The Neighbourhood Squirrel Author: Wilfredo Gonzalez Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: March 14, 2021 Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 67 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Every neighborhood has a neighborhood squirrel. This includes your neighborhood too. You have not known this because people don’t need… Read More