Tag Archives: 2020s

A Review of A Creak in the Night

Book cover for A Creak In The Night by by BL Maxwell. image on the cover shows a ghostly white mist floating through the dusty hall of an old house. The floors are made of pretty little tiles and there is a skylight in the ceiling. The mist looks like it is beginning to coagulate into a ghostly-shape, but it is still pretty formless and ethereal at the moment. Title: A Creak in the Night (Valley Ghosts Series)

Author: B.L. Maxwell

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: April 29, 2024

Genres: Paranormal, LGBTQ, Romance, Contemporary

Length: 41 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Dean surprises Jimbo with a weekend way to the exotic location of—Virginia. Since the two of them got married Dean has become more curious about the paranormal, while Jimbo prefers to distance himself from it. As soon as they arrive at the hotel Jimbo knows something isn’t quite right, and one ride in the elevator confirms it. What was supposed to be a romantic vacation soon turns into a ghost hunting mission, but this time Jimbo and Dean are on their own without the rest of the Running Scared Paranormal Research guys. Dean is thrilled, but Jimbo knows, it’s never as simple as a creaky elevator.

Review:

Content Warning: Characters getting stuck in an elevator.

It’s hard to find time for romance when ghosts are getting into mischief.

One of the interesting things about this short story was that I was never quite sure where it fit into the rest of this series. It gave me the impression that it was written a decent amount of time after the first book as it discussed some characters and events without going into them in great detail. On the other hand, this also felt a little too lighthearted to have taken place in the most serious phases of a series when tensions are running high. I enjoyed my attempt to figure out where this should be placed and didn’t mind one bit that it was never made clear. To the best of my knowledge, this was written to be an easy introduction to these characters and the exciting sorts of adventures they have while trying to clear disruptive spirits from all sorts of different buildings. There is definitely something to be said for releasing such a tale!

The communication between Dean and Jimbo was inconsistent. In some scenes, they wordlessly anticipated what each other needed before being asked, but there was also a moment when Dean purposefully withheld an important piece of information about this romantic trip from Jimbo. Obviously, there are times in just about any relationship when one might not communicate as clearly as they should for a wide variety of reasons, but I was still surprised by this oversight and didn’t think it fit in very well with what I’d learned about Dean’s meticulous and safety-conscious personality thus far.

I thought the paranormal storyline was handled nicely, especially given how short this piece was. Not every haunting needs a drawn-out  conclusion, so keeping things moving was a good choice for both the plot and the characters. It whetted my appetite for more and reminded me that, just like in life, it’s best not to assume in advance how easy or difficult something will be. Worrying doesn’t do any good, and just because one haunting was a tough case doesn’t mean that the next spirit will behave the same way.

A Creak in the Night was intriguing and made me curious to check out the rest of the Valley Ghosts adventures.

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Dream Logic: A Review of Strange New World

Book cover for Strange New World by A.R. Grosjean. Image on cover is a digitally-created painting of a castle sitting on a large and very rocky mountain that has no visible vegetation growing on it. The perspective of this scene was painted from inside of a cave, so you can see the black walls and watery floor of the cave in about the first 60% of the painting. The castle and the clouds behind the castle are visible due to the sunlight pouring over them and rapidly approaching the cave. This is such a pretty and calming image. Title: Strange New World

Author: A.R. Grosjean

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: April 1, 2024

Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Humour, Contemporary

Length: 41 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

When a peculiar man steals Kevin’s most valuable watch, he takes chase, jumping into a rabbit hole without thinking about the consequences. Now Kevin is in a strange new world where nothing makes sense. A room filling with water, voices coming from mysterious places, walking fish, and teatime. How do it all connect? Kevin’s about to find out. The deeper he goes into this new world, the more confused he is, and he still hasn’t gotten his watch back. Will Kevin find the man and retrieve what was taken from him? Will he be able to find his way back home? Could this get any stranger?

Review:

White rabbits know more than you might think.

I loved the zany dream logic of this tale. Kevin accepted almost everything that happened to him immediately, but he was also struck by the cognitive dissonance the moment he tried to make logical sense of anything. This reminded me  of lucid dreaming as well as of how funny it can be to try to describe a wild dream to someone the next morning after you’ve woken up and realized that half of it is rather nonsensical. What made sense while one slept is now confusing, and what was mildly confusing in the moment can feel like mashing six different genres together without any care given to continuity or plot development. It seemed complicated to put together despite being an homage to such a famous story, so I must tip my cap to the author for doing it so well.

There’s nothing like chuckling one’s way through a short story. This was my introduction to Ms. Grosjean’s work, and I already think I’m going to love her sense of humour if I’m lucky enough to read more from her in the future. It was tricky for me to figure out which examples of what she finds funny to include in my review that would give a small hint of what to expect without sharing too many spoilers. Let’s just say that tree huggers have an entirely different connotation in this universe than they do in our own, and I laughed out loud once I figured out what the sentient creatures who lived there thought of them.

The conversations were some of my favourite sections. Sometimes it felt as though Kevin and the various creatures he met on his adventure were speaking two completely different languages due to their different interpretations of the same word and expectations of what might happen next. This is where the author’s writing abilities really shone through the brightest in my opinion. There is nothing like using wordplay to make the audience giggle and nudge the plot forward despite all attempts to grind it to a halt so a caterpillar can pontificate a little longer.

Strange New World was a creative romp through a world many readers already know and love.

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Spring Surprises: A Review of The Red Tree

Book cover for The Red Tree by Dave Williams. Image on cover shows a photo of a leafless deciduous tree whose branches are oddly red. This looks like a photo taken with one of those cameras that plays around with which sorts of lights on the light spectrum to reveal. That is, they take snapshots of items without using the visible light spectrum and instead show infrared or what have you. Title: The Red Tree

Author: Dave Williams

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 25, 2020

Genres: Speculative Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 32 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

While rain falls for weeks, the Engler family invites friends over for an evening of dealing with cabin fever together. And when the spring sun arrives, the Englers celebrate by walking in a wooded park, where they encounter a red tree away from the trail. Guesses abound as to why the tree is red when none of the other trees are. Life returns to normal for most of the Englers. The father, Calvin, decides the red tree was a sign for him to make changes in his life and property. Changes the family and neighbors don’t quite understand. But some family members can be eccentric, and others learn to roll with it. A novelette about family, experiencing the mysterious, and letting your imagination loose.

Review:

April showers can bring so many things as the weeks march into May. The old rhyme about them barely scratches the surface.

Calvin was an interesting and memorable protagonist. As the father of two kids who sounded like they were just beginning to reach the preteen stage of life, he wanted to soak up the last moments of childhood with them while also encouraging his sons to pursue more mature interests like camping or hiking that adults also commonly enjoy. Transitions aren’t always easy for kids or parents, but this also provided a nice parallel to Calvin’s own transformation after his experience discovering the red tree in the forest he was walking through with a group of friends in one of the earliest scenes.

I had mixed feelings about how to rate this book. The writing was thoughtful and beautiful for the first ninety percent of it, but the ending was so vague that I didn’t feel justified going for the four or five-star rating I would have given it up until that point. It sadly fizzled out instead of clearly pursuing the themes that it did so well exploring in the beginning and middle. That was a disappointing experience for me as a reader, and I wish I’d known to expect it from the very first sentence so I could have tempered my expectations.

With that being said, I am still glad I gave Mr. Williams a try. This was my first taste of his work. His gentle but vivid descriptions and high expectations of his audience have whetted my appetite for more of his stories. He is a talented storyteller who is especially adept at creating a world that feels just like our own ninety-nine percent of the time only to fill me with a sense of wonder as I discover that small sliver of something unexplainable that ties everything together.

The Red Tree surprised me.

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Too Much Noise in a Empty House: A Review of The Estate Guards

Book cover for The Estate Guards by Kenny Wayne. Image on cover shows a three-story house that has lights shining through nearly every window. It is dark outside and lighting is striking the land behind the house and temporarily illuminating the sky. What a stormy night it is. Title: The Estate Guards

Author: Kenny Wayne

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 1, 2023

Genres: Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 29 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Kenny Wayne’s short ghost story, The Estate Guards, is the humorous tale of two brothers who can’t seem to keep from running afoul of ghosts.

Harley and younger brother James are providing security for an estate company at an eerie, old mansion whose elderly owners recently died in a tragic accident.

For the straightforward, down to earth, older brother Harley, it’s just a job. For younger brother James, who wants to be just like his older brother, it’s not so simple. Even though he would quickly say he doesn’t believe in ghosts, secretly he’s not so sure.

But after this particularly long night, any uncertainty he had about the existence of ghosts will be removed. The weird noises in the attic, and those upstairs bedroom lights that keep turning on and off by themselves are only the beginning. It’s the other strange late night occurrences that strips the last bit of doubt from James’ mind.

This night there will be strange enough occurrences to make even Harley a believer.

Review:

Dealing with ghosts is all in an honest day’s work, right?

The relationship between Harley and James was interesting, and I found myself wishing there had been more attention paid to the differences between them. It’s interesting to me to think about how wildly different siblings can be even though they were born to the same parents and more or less experienced the same sort of events growing up. Genetics are important, but they certainly can’t predict or explain anything as new readers will soon discover in this story.

I struggled to get to know all of the characters in this short story, especially since two of them were given most of the dialogue, but it was important to remain connected to everyone in order to understand the ending. There simply wasn’t enough space to develop everyone well enough for me to feel emotionally invested in what would happen to them. This is something I’m saying as a reader who normally loves both haunted house and humorous tales.

The humour took a little while to show up, but it was well worth the wait. I think this will be most appealing to readers who either come from a working class background or know a lot about such subcultures in some other way as the jokes weren’t always the sort of things generally included in funny tales about, say, doctors or lawyers. This was about salt of the earth sort of folks who quietly keep the world humming along without expecting or generally receiving any recognition of the myriad of things they do that ensure everyone has a safe and healthy life. The characters were hardworking and matter-of-fact which were exactly the traits they needed in order to make the ghosts believable and the twists worth a chuckle.

The Estate Guards made me smile.

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A Review of What Love Survives & Other Stories

Book cover for What Love Survives & Other Stories by DB MacInnes. Image on cover is a snapshot of someone in a cheerful yellow sweater walking away from their cozy little stone cottage outdoors next to a lake in the evening. There are mountains in the distance and the sky is overcast. The land where they are walking is grassy, flat, and brown as this appears to be late autumn. It looks a little chilly given how the wind is blowing the grass around and how tightly the person has their weather wrapped around them. This feels a little desolate but also quiet and peaceful. I get the impression this person loves being out in nature alone at this time of day as night approaches and knows exactly how to get back home safely before nightfall as they will have their home in full view and only about a five minute walk away at most once they turn around. Title: What Love Survives & Other Stories

Author: DB MacInnes

Publisher: Balfour & Breck Press

Publication Date: February 15, 2022

Genres: Speculative Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 61 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Lovers in a room overlooking the North Sea, a missing boy on an island in the Hebrides, an itinerant saw-miller’s tragic accident in the forests of Argyle, these short stories–often with a historical and sometimes speculative flavour–offer a glimpse into a Scotland of magic and mystery. First published in literary magazines such as New Writing Scotland and Gutter, they have now been brought together in this haunting anthology.

Review:

Content Warning: Missing children, cancer, child being sent to orphanage, child being raised by a relative after the parents’ death, death of a child, divorce, job loss, disability, accidental injuries and deaths, alcoholism, and an affair.

Even quiet towns are filled with secrets if one listens long enough.

I thought I should give everyone reading this a heads up that these tales dabbled lightly with speculative fiction and paranormal themes. Most of their scenes could easily happen in our world, some could be explained with either supernatural or scientific perspectives depending on how you interpret certain key sentences, and a few were deeply rooted in the speculative fiction with no other rational way to interpret them. This is a writing style I happen to deeply enjoy, but it’s something I think should be shared in advance as not everyone feels the same way about stories that move so fluidly between genres.

The main character and his wife Clare struggled to look after their adult son, Jack, who was severely disabled in “What Loves Survives.” Many stories about children with disabilities focus on the early years, so I was intrigued to get a glimpse of what this can be like once a child grows up and ages out of so many of the governmental support systems that exist for those under the age of eighteen. It’s difficult to talk about the plot twists in this one without giving away spoilers, but I appreciated the protagonist’s realistic assessment of what his life was going to be like as well as the hope he cultivated while trying to do the best he could for his family.

One of the biggest strengths of this collection had to do with how the same themes popped up repeatedly. “The Boy Who Vanished” was the second-to-last instalment, and it reminded me so much of what I’d already read in a good way. Once again there was an innocent person in danger, a town that knew more than you might assume, and an ending that matched the beginning nicely. As the title so strongly alluded to, this was about a boy named Duncan who disappeared one snowy day and the people who still remembered him years later. The flow of the dialogue was especially smooth here as the characters discussed who this child was and what happened to him. It genuinely felt like I was eavesdropping on a real conversation and it made me want to read an entire book written from these characters’ kind and honest perspectives.

“The Sawmillers” began with a child accidentally getting lost in the woods on a chilly night. He was not quite old enough to think clearly in that situation, especially as the sun set and it grew even colder outside. I was intrigued by his predicament and wondered how he was going to get out of it as the adults in his life didn’t know where he was or even that he was in danger yet. While there were no grand plot twists in this tale, that didn’t matter. The journey and how clearly it was described to readers was what mattered, and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew how everything turned out.

What Love Survives & Other Stories was a fantastic introduction to this author’s work. I look forward to reading more.

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A Review of Giving Up the Ghost

Book cover for Giving Up the Ghost by Dean Rasmussen. Image on cover shows a drawing of a ramshackle old house just after sunset. The sky above is cloudy and quickly turning black as the sun slips beyond view. One of the windows in the house has a red light glowing menacingly in it. Title: Giving Up the Ghost

Author: Dean Rasmussen

Publisher: Dark Venture Press

Publication Date: June 28, 2021

Genres: Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 26 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A gripping paranormal thriller to rattle your nerves…

A protective nurse pays a visit to an elderly dementia patient as a hurricane arrives, but discovers she can’t leave after getting caught up in the patient’s delusions.

Hanging House: An Emmie Rose Haunted Mystery thriller author Dean Rasmussen presents a terrifying new supernatural suspense tale.

His books will leave you gasping for breath and craving for more!

Review:

Content Warning: A character who has dementia and is on hospice care. Brief references to trauma. A small amount of blood. A stabbing. Murder. Suicide. Hurricane. I will only discuss the trauma in my review, and I will not share any details about what caused it.

Time can’t heal all wounds.

We all have pieces of our pasts that we’d rather not think about too much for a wide variety of reasons. One of the strengths of this short story had to do with how it framed Edith’s past and explained the many quiet ways it continued to shape her personality even now that was at the end of her lifespan. Trauma can haunt someone for decades.  While I will leave it up to other readers to discover what it is about this character’s past that she has never been able to forget, these scenes were interestingly written and made me wish for a sequel that could dive into this topic even more deeply.

I struggled with many of the decisions Jennifer made, especially given that she was a nurse who presumably had a lot of experience working with patients who have dementia and reacting quickly in emergency situations. She did not seem to know how to stay calm or to think critically about the facts in a crisis. Yes, she was going through something frightening,  and I am not saying I’d expect anyone to always make the right choices when under so much stress. This would have made more sense to me as a reader if her occupation had been something that should not have been an asset under these circumstances.

With that being said, I enjoyed Edith’s character development quite a bit. It’s rare to find books about frail, elderly, dementia patients, so I was incredibly curious to see how she responded to what was happening during the hurricane as Jennifer continued to make poor decisions. Not only was she in a completely different stage of life than her nurse was, her emotional and intellectual responses were equally refreshing and surprising. I don’t want to give away any spoilers about what happened to Edith, but I will say that this portion of the storyline played around with many audience expectations and made me curious to read more from this author soon.

Giving Up the Ghost was thought provoking.

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Enough Time to Think: A Review of Sands of Time

Book cover for Sands of Time: A collection of thought-provoking stories by Beatrice C. Snipp. Image on cover shows a patchwork assortment of squares in all seven colours of the rainbow. The colours are arranged randomly, and a few squares have exclamation points or question marks written on them. Title: Sands of Time – A Collection of Thought-Provoking Stories

Author: Beatrice C. Snipp

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 21, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

To anyone who might read this book. These few short stories are not written to entertain or pass away a short train journey. They are written to make your little grey cells work (Hercule Poirot). Hopefully they might make you think a little longer after reading. On time, space and human companionship to name but a few.

Review:

Content Warning: An accident resulting in blindness, secondary infertility, death, and murder. I will not discuss any of these topics in my review.

If you love stories that have morals attached to them, keep reading.

The blind protagonist in “The Smell of Death” discovered that they could smell death and predict in advance when someone was going to die. Just when I thought I had the entire storyline figured out, Ms. Snipp added a plot twist that made everything even better. While I can’t go into detail about it without sharing spoilers, I can say that it involved the main character discovering a new facet of their power and trying to decide what to do with it. What a wild ride this was, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

While I appreciated the brevity of them all, some of these tales were confusing to me due to how little time the author had to explain what was happening in them and what lessons she hoped the readers would take away from them. “Death So Near But So Far,” which followed four friends who reunited after the funeral of a fifth friend, was one such example of this. I would have loved to have more information about what was going on in their lives and how they had all lived to such ripe old ages.

As soon as I read the title of “Xenolith,” I knew I was in for a treat. That term refers to fragments of other types of rock that find themselves embedded in igneous rocks to which they should not be part of. I must be careful about how much information I share about the plot twists as this was a short piece, but seeing how the storyline quickly shifted to a talkative man named Eric who kept sharing nature facts with people who were terribly bored by that monologue made me curious to see what would happen next. The connection between the opening paragraph and the rest of it was as interesting as it was unexpected.

Sands of Time – A Collection of Thought-Provoking Stories was interesting.

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A Review of Confirm Humanity and Other Stories

Title: Confirm Humanity and Other Stories Book cover for Confirm Humanity and Other Stories by Ren Ellis. Image on over shows a drawing of a person with long, straight hair sitting on a banister and looking out at the cloudy, stormy red and yellow sky before them. You can see the bones in the person’s left arm and leg glowing through their black frame. Perhaps the bones are actually cybernetic? Or perhaps we’re looking at a sophisticated x-ray of this characters? It is unclear.

Author: Ren Ellis

Publisher: Port of Planets Publishing

Publication Date: March 27, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 44 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

“Ren Ellis’s Confirm Humanity and Other Stories is a collection…filled with questions, intrigue, tears, and hope. Ranging from familiar to fantastical, the settings and the characters are diverse. Readers will definitely enjoy the eclectic and fantastical stories in Ren Ellis’s Confirm Humanity and Other Stories , and the collection’s element of humanity will hit home, reminding us of the pivotal moments that define us.” – Readers’ Favorite ★★★★★ Confirm Humanity and Other Stories is a collection of twelve short stories by Ren Ellis. Primarily comprised of speculative fiction stories, this collection ranges from slice-of-life to the supernatural and beyond. Genres
This collection uses imaginary tales as a lens through which to see the very real threats and struggles of our time. Extreme flooding and Venice-like canals reshape the famous city of Paris in “Deluge.” The fairytale stepmother casts new light on old tales in “The Stepmother’s Story.” Monsters meet the Marie Kondo method in “Monsters Welcome.” Other stories explore the paranormal world of “Red Rain”; the cosmic courses of “The Time Garden”, “The Welkin Tree” and “Winter’s Last Breath”; the dystopian worlds of “Life” and “Recycled”; and cycles of hardship and hope that will resonate with adults of all ages.

Review:

Content Warning: Miscarriage, climate change, and unjust imprisonment. I will not be discussing these topics in my review.

This was like a sample platter of speculative fiction that included a little bit of everything to go around.

The tired stepmother of Rapunzel, Cindy, and Snow had a lot to say in “The Stepmother’s Story,” a modern-day twist on a few classic fairy tales. I appreciated the hard work she’d put into look after her stepchildren and thought it was only fair that her perspective of their relationships be given a chance to shine. This was a short piece that took advantage of every single word in it to paint a vivid picture of modern family life. It made me chuckle and was a good thing to read as I settled into this collection. I only wish the father had been given a chance to speak up, too.

There were times when I felt like these tales didn’t have enough in common with each other to be included in the same collection. They were all over the place as far as themes, writing styles, and messages go. While I certainly wouldn’t expect all or even most of them to repeat one another, it was a little disconcerting for me as a reader to leap from something lighthearted to much more serious and sometimes difficult themes just a few pages later.  This is something I’m saying as someone who has read, written, and reviewed speculative fiction for many years. Either approach is a valid one, but I would have preferred to have a better idea of what to expect next each time I flipped the page.

Many paranormal stories are – or at least try to be – frightening, so I enjoyed the humorous slant of the unnamed protagonist of “Dancing on Graves” finding amusement in watching her dead neighbours dance on their own graves after dark. This was another very short piece, but the power in it came from the single moment in time it captured and how the main character reacted to such a surprising and lighthearted event. The imagery in it was lovely, too, and I would happily read an entire book about these characters if one ever were to be written.

Confirm Humanity and Other Stories was a fun assortment of various types of speculative fiction.

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A Review of When Stars Move and Other Stories

Book cover for When Stars Move and Other Stories by Shannon Rampe. Image on cover is a photo taken of the night sky just after dusk. You see a thin strip of mountains and plain dirt at the bottom of the cover and then above it an expansive stretch of night sky, black on top and then slowly lighting up to a blue colour near the horizon where a little sunlight still remains but is quickly slipping out of sight for the evening. Title: When Stars Move and Other Stories

Author: Shannon Rampe

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 11, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 63 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

A princess outside of time and history puts her trust in a rusty artifact instead of her treacherous family. The captain of a disintegrating war ship rushes toward a resolution for both human guilt and extreme augmentation. A young woman who has been “reignited” confronts a system that does not work at all in the way she has been conditioned to believe. In these three stories of death and rebirth, Shannon Rampe invites readers to immerse themselves in fantastic worlds and accompany their memorable characters on journeys of discovery and re-creation. Shannon Rampe’s work has appeared in Speculative City, Abyss & Apex, and on The Gallery of Curiosities podcast, amongst others. His hobbies include yoga and craft cocktail-making, though not (usually) at the same time.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder, sexism, religion, mental illness (post traumatic stress disorder), and genocide. I will not discuss any of these topics in my review.

Survival is about more than continuing to breathe.

I smiled at Anusha’s courage in ”When Stars Move.” As a princess, her freedom was virtually nonexistent, but she still had the urge to explore the world around her and learn as much about it as she could. The world building was handled nicely, especially when it came to how her Imam’s interpretation of how constellations moved across the night sky influenced everyone’s lives. I also enjoyed the conflict between Anusha’s inquisitive and stubborn personality with the pliant and obedient young woman she was expected to be.

Hermes, the dying warship in ”Ghost Parade,” made me curious to see what would become both of the ship itself as well as the heavily augmented protagonist. The most interesting part of this tale for me were the descriptions of how a small number of soldiers had received brain implants that allowed them to share thoughts and plan complicated battle techniques. This is one of the few tropes from militaristic science fiction that I find intriguing to think about. The melding of machines and human flesh was frightening enough, but using the violent result of it in order to better figure out how to wipe out entire civilizations made it even more horrifying for me. I will leave it up to other readers to discover how a soldier might cope with such an experience, but it it was thought provoking and made me think about the brutality of war even for the victors.

As interested as I was in the unique blending of religion and science in ”Reignition,” I struggled to emotionally connect with the characters. There wasn’t a great deal of time dedicated to character development or to describing what made the protagonist so interested in breaking the rules of her religious community, so I had a hard time predicting what Karma might do or say next. This pattern was repeated with everyone around her, too, which meant that I ended up being far more interested in the world building than in who lived in those settings or why certain topics were forbidden.

When Stars Move and Other Stories has piqued my curiosity about Mr. Rampe’s writing.

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Mistimed Meal: A Review of Vampire Fly

Book cover for Vampire Fly: A Samantha Moon Story by J.R. Rain. Image on cover is a closeup photo of a large, green fly sitting on a white surface. Title: Vampire Fly – A Samantha Moon Story

Author: J.R. Rain

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 4, 2022

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 28 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

She’s a horsefly who bit the wrong person—and now something very strange is happening to her.

Something very, very strange.

Not only can she fly faster and see further than ever before, but she has a weird craving for blood.

Her crazy new life has just begun.

That is, until she gets caught in a sticky web and stalked by a massive spider… a spider that’s about to get the surprise of its life…

Review:

Content Warning: A vampiric horsefly, insects eating each other, and an insect pregnancy and birth.

Flies have feelings, too.

Mr. Rain did an excellent job of exploring the logical conclusions of a horsefly accidentally becoming a vampire. Not only was this an imaginative story, it spent a lot of time digging into what horseflies might think and feel as they go about their usual business looking for food and, in this case, a safe place to lay their eggs. The vampiric twist to what should have been a pretty ordinary day only made everything even more interesting as the ecosystem is not exactly set up for a horsefly that is much stronger, faster, and more resilient than any other member of its species has ever been before. This opportunity to get a glimpse into the mind of a creature so unlike humans is one of the many reasons why I adore xenofiction, and this was a very good example of what that micro-genre can do.

I found myself wishing for more details about what happened to the horsefly’s babies. For example, did they inherit her supernatural abilities? Would future generations of this family be little vampires as well, or were her babies sterile like most human versions of this monster are? There was so much more the narrator could have done with this subplot, and I would have gone with a full five-star rating if a few additional paragraphs had been included that explained what their fates might have been.

With that being said, I did enjoy the ending quite a bit. The main character had been hurt by a spider in a previous scene, but many of the assumptions I’d made about what might happen next were turned on their heads in the most marvellous manner.  I must tip my cap to the author for pulling this piece in the direction he did. It has piqued my interest in what else might be going on in this universe and made me wonder if this is only the tip of the creative iceberg. As much as I wish I could go into more detail about the last few scenes, I don’t want to spoil anything for other readers as it was a great deal of fun to be surprised by what happened.

This is part of a series, but no prior knowledge of that world is necessary in order to understand what is happening here.

Vampire Fly was a memorable tale that made me curious to read more.

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