Tag Archives: 2010s

One Look Back: A Review of During the Dance

 

During the Dance by Mark Lawrence book cover. Image on cover is a silhoutee of a ballet dancer with two arms and one leg up in the air.Title: During the Dance

Author: Mark Lawrence

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: July 4, 2014

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 9 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Blurb:

A story of love, loss, and the dance in between. Absolutely not a romance.
A short story about a child with a gift for seeing past the world.

Review:

Content warning: Death of a child. I will not be discussing it in my review.

Memories are the gateway to the past.

The writing itself was lovely. Without wandering into spoiler territory as it would be easy to do for something of this length, this was set in the narrator’s past as well as his present. He glided between them effortlessly, and his descriptions of his early childhood memories in a low-income but nurturing family often made me smile. There were some hints about exactly when this was set, but I appreciated the fact that the author left the precise decade up to interpretation. That along with the poetic framing of the scenes made it feel timeless in the best possible interpretation of that word.

Unfortunately, there were several tantalizing and important clues that were never developed. While I’d certainly understand if some of them were left up to the reader’s imagination due to how young the narrator was when the earliest events of this tale took place, it was confusing for me as a reader to not have enough information to put everything together. I spent most of these nine short pages convinced that the things the child was seeing were a warning or threat of some kind because of how often they seemed to appear right before something bad happened. It was perplexing to never get confirmation or denial that this theory might be the right one.  This would be a great jumping-off point if the author ever decides to write a sequel.

I appreciated what this story had to say about grief and loss. While the first pangs do tend to ebb with time, there is no expiration date on those emotions. Sometimes they can pop up again years later when something unexpectedly stirs up an old, half-forgotten memory. Mr. Lawrence did well at showing how suddenly these moments can happen and how they affect someone who wasn’t planning to spend their day reliving the past.

Yes, this review is a bit vaguer than my usual fare, but During the Dance really is something that should be leapt into without any spoilers in advance. If anything I wrote here tickles your fancy, I’d recommend reading it for yourself and coming up with your own conclusions.

Placid Revelations: A Review of The Lake

The Lake by Tananarive Due book cover. Image on cover is of lightning striking a lake in the middle of the night. Title: The Lake

Author: Tananarive Due

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: August 11, 2011

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 21 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

A free short story taken straight from the pages of THE MONSTER’S CORNER, an all original anthology from some of today’s hottest supernatural writers, featuring stories from the monster’s point of view.

In THE LAKE, Abbie LeFleur, a lifetime Bostonian, who hides her scales, webbed feet, and an incredible hunger for people, has relocated to Graceville to start her life anew when she sets her eyes on a young student in her English class.

Review:

Every town has its own unique way of doing things.

Abbie’s character development was well done, especially given the short length of this piece. I loved picking out new clues about how she was changing as she adjusted to her new job and home. Sometimes they were subtle, but they always made sense given who she’d been in the beginning.

There was one small thing I never understood about this story, and it had to do with the way the citizens of Graceville reacted to a new person moving there. In my experience, secrets are nearly always quickly exposed in small towns whether they belong to the newcomer or those who were born there. It didn’t make sense to me that Abbie could have lived there for as long as she did without anyone stopping by to welcome her and give her advice. Whether or not this character would heed their warning was an entirely different manner, but I struggled to understand why it was never given in the first place.

The ending made me shudder. While this was firmly rooted in the horror genre, but it wasn’t bloody or gory at all. Instead, the author relied on hints about what might happen next to frighten her audience. I love this sort of horror and had a wonderful time imagining what a sequel might be like. If the author ever writes it, I’ll read it for sure!

The Lake is a solid summer read for anyone who enjoys psychological horror.

First, Do No Harm: A Review of Restore

Book cover for Restore Stories of Singularity #1 by Susan Kay Quinn. Image on cover is of a white robot staring off into the distance. Title: Restore – Stories of Singularity #1

Author: Susan Kaye Quinn

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 2, 2015

Genre: Science Fiction 

Length: 42 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Blurb:

Restorative Human Medical Care Unit 7435, sentience level fifty, is happiness level five out of ten to serve and heal the human master it loves. But Unit 7435 finds there is a price to be paid for love… and for failing in its primary mission. 

Restore  is a standalone short story that takes place in the world of the Singularity novels. 

Start the novel series with The Legacy Human (Singularity 1).

Review:

Content warning: Terminal illness. I will be not discussing this in my review.

A happy medical care unit is a productive medical care unit.

I liked the fact that Restorative Human Medicine Care Unit 7435 had such a distinct personality. This wasn’t something I was expecting to find, especially based on my first impression of this bot who originally came across as someone who followed strict protocols with no room from deviation. This changed once 7435 decided to identify as female for the day and began receiving commands that were in direct opposition to her programming. (Medical care units in this universe can alter their gender presentation and preferred pronoun based on what makes their patient most comfortable)

With that being said, I struggled with the thin plot. It was difficult to remain interested when so little was happening, especially since 7435 had such a limited understanding of anything other than the various types of psychological and physical medical care she was programmed to provide to her patients. She was an interesting protagonist for sure, but developing a well-rounded storyline from someone whose perspective is naturally so limited is tough.

The world building was otherwise well done. My curiosity was piqued by the differences between legacy and ascender humans in this universe. The narrator knew just enough about this topic to keep me wondering why humanity decided to branch off in these ways and what other ways the two groups might be distinct from each other that a medical bot wouldn’t necessarily be aware of.

I’d recommend Restore to anyone who is a big fan of stories about artificial intelligence. 

Solitary Fear: A Review of Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk

Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk by Frank Cowper. Image on cover is of a sinking ship and a ominous skull in the sky watching it. The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Frank Cowper

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1925 and 2018

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 64 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Reading a ghost story on Christmas Eve was once as much a part of traditional Christmas celebrations as turkey, eggnog, and Santa Claus.

When he finds an abandoned duck punt on Christmas Eve, a hunter rows out into the marsh and comes across a shipwreck. He climbs aboard to explore—and finds himself trapped when a surge snaps the mooring line and his punt floats away. Sleep eludes him, and soon he discovers that he’s not the only one trapped on the derelict ship.

Review:

Content warning: claustrophobic setting. I will not be discussing this in my review.

This tale was set in an era when the social classes were much more divided than they are these days. That is to say, it was a terrible faux pas to befriend people from lower or upper classes. Since the lonely, financially secure main characters lived in an economically depressed area, this essentially meant that they could hire their neighbours to work for them but could never invite them over for something sociable like dinner.

I love being near all sorts of bodies of water, but they can be melancholy places in disagreeable weather. The thought of purposefully going out exploring in a chilly, watery environment on Christmas Eve made me shake my head and wonder what on Earth the protagonist was thinking.

With that being said, the protagonist’s impulsivity and willingness to take unnecessary risks was exactly what this plot needed to push it forward. He was someone I soon grew to like quite a bit even while shaking my head at his total disregard for his own safety.

The eerie thing about this haunting was that it happened in total darkness after the main character accidentally got trapped on the abandoned ship. Imagine hearing frightening sounds, having no way to discover what was making them, and not being able to move out of fear of walking the wrong way and falling through rotten, gap-filled lumber into a freezing sea!

That imagery alone was what earned this story a horror rating. It wasn’t gory at all, but it sure was horrifying.

 

Completing the Set: A Review of The Crown Derby Plate

Book cover for Marjorie Bowen's "The Crown Derby Plate- A Ghost Story for Christmas." Image on cover is of a ghost, tombstone, and house.The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: The Crown Derby Plate – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Marjorie Bowen

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1931 and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Holiday, Historical

Length: 56 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: An antique collector hears of an ancient woman with a large collection of china. Hoping to complete a particular set, the collector pays a visit to the woman’s ramshackle house, where she makes a terrifying, ghostly discovery.

Review:

One of the first things that intrigued me about this short story was that was written about a single woman who was a senior citizen. The speculative fiction genre is sadly pretty short on protagonists who fit that demographic, so I’m always in the market for writers who buck that trend.

Martha, the antique collector, was the character who greedily went off in search of a Crown Derby Plate that was the only piece missing from her prized collection. She struck me as the sort of person who has memorized all of the etiquette rules and social niceties while also having a deep understanding of how to use them to quietly get exactly what she wants. While I’d never want to befriend her, I did find the combination of her impeccable manners and selfish motives to be fascinating.

The paranormal elements of the plot were ridiculously easy to figure out in advance. I’d suspect that anyone who has read more than one ghost story in their life would know where this piece was going as soon as Martha set off to visit her neighbour’s dilapidated estate.  It would have been nice to have fewer clues about what was happening there.

With that being said, I loved the spooky atmosphere of the Hartley’s house. This is one of those things that can quickly make or break a ghost story, and it was done well in this case. Miss Lefain, the frail old woman who lived there, was not well enough to do even simple tasks like dusting, so Martha was in for quite a surprise when she saw how run-down the property was.

While it wasn’t specifically written for these groups, this is something that could be a fun story to read to kids or people learning English as a second language who are in the market for something short, simple, and scary.

An Alluring Trap: A Review of One Who Saw

The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project.  Title: One… Read More

Stained Property: A Review of The Red Lodge

The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project.  Title: The… Read More

In Pursuit of Justice: A Review of The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale

Title:The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale Author: T J Therien Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: May 30, 2019 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Length: 83 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: The story as you know it is a lie. Discover… Read More

Flickering Hope: A Review of Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Title: Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel Author: Seth Tucker Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 25, 2013 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Historical Length: 27 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: A murder in Whitechapel is not uncommon, but the state of the body requires someone… Read More

Never the Same Again: A Review of The Cured

Content warning: Blood, violence, the death of a child, mental illness, and trauma. I will be mentioning these topics in my review. The Cured is a 2017 Irish horror drama about former zombies being reintegrated into society after being cured of their disease. While there are some violent scenes in it, this film is much more… Read More