Tag Archives: Book Reviews

The Last Minute Decision: A Review of Clocking Time

Clocking Time A Time Travel Short Story by Mark McClure book cover. Image on cover is a stylized drawing of planets and outer space. Title: Clocking Time

Author: Mark McClure 

Publisher: JFR Publishers 

Publication Date: October 31, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult 

Length: 31 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Two teenagers share a secret superpower: clock jumping.

Confined to his house by the authorities, remote viewer Briann enters into the life and times of a Japanese girl, Nina.

But as Briann’s feelings for Nina grow, he must overcome his fear of this unpredictable power and make one final jump before his time runs out forever.

A time travel short story about first love and tough choices.

Review:

Special powers were meant to be used, right? 

Briann and Nina’s growing relationship made me smile. I’m not generally someone who gravitates towards romantic science fiction plots, but these two made a great couple. I liked the fact that they’d already decided they wanted to be together by the time I met them. That was a refreshing take on the romance angle of it all! They also understood each other in ways that most other people did not, and their unfailing support of one another made me hope they’d get their happy ending. 

There were times when I found the world building a little confusing, especially when it came to Briann’s society. Everything people did there was tightly controlled, from what they ate to who they socialized with, to what forms of entertainment they used. I was intrigued by the many rules that had been created about how lower-class families like his were allowed to behave and wished the plot had gone into greater detail about that. If this portion of the storyline had been written as tightly as the rest of it, I would have felt comfortable giving it the full five star rating. 

Briann and Nina’s abilities themselves were explained well. The first scene went into plenty of detail about the precise steps they took to travel to see each other. It even went so far as to describe the breathing pattern Briann adopted just before the jump happened. This isn’t something that’s always explained well in some time travel stories, so it makes me happy when authors do get specific about how it all works. 

Anyone who loves time travel tales should check out Clocking Time.

A Review of Apeiorn – Tales of an Argonaut 1

Apeiron - Tales of an Argonaut 1 by M.P. Cosmos book cover. Image on cover shows person reading a book in a blue bubble in outer space next to the milky wayTitle: Apeiron – Tales of an Argonaut 1

Author: M.P. Cosmos

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 28, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction 

Length: 25 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author. 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

“It’s the 20th millennium.

Humankind has extended throughout the galaxy fighting against alien species to earn its place.

Millennium after millennium, humans managed to conquer almost all the Milky Way.

Much time has passed since the golden age of humanity; even though some colonies retain their splendour, most live in isolation.

Backward and unaware of having others like them through a galaxy that they once possessed.

I’ve been wandering from planet to planet since the beginning of time;

observing the magnificence and the horrors of this galaxy.

Watching over humanity until the time of action is upon me.”

This is a collection of 4 ten minutes stories.

Review:

Does human nature change? That is the eternal question. 

I’ll briefly review all four of the stories in this collection. The same narrator was present in all of them which provided a nice link between worlds and characters that would otherwise never have reason to be mentioned in the same place. 

In “The Price of Regret,” a scientist name Scaf and his wife worked for years to design robotic bodies for themselves that would never age or grow sick. As soon as Scaf figured out how to get his idea to work, he transferred his consciousness over to his artificial form without delay. This tale was interesting, but the ending puzzled me. I never quite did figure out what was happening with it, much less what the fates of the characters might have been. It would have been helpful to have a clearer understanding of what was going on there. 

The planet Koinon had transitioned into a state of global winter after a global war in “The Rise of the Machines.” As a result, all of the living things that survived that conflict now lived deep underground. The society humans built on this badly damaged planet was a fascinating one, especially when it came to how people handled the practicalities of doing everything they needed to not only survive but thrive so many miles below the surface. This could have easily been expanded into a full-length novel. It certainly had enough conflict for one, and the basic facts I learned about evolution of human society over time in this world only made me yearn for more information about it. 

“The Barrier” took place on a planet called Xatanvi where a man named Andrew had to decide whether to continue donating part of his meagre wages to help update a planet-wide barrier that not every human agreed was cost-effective or even necessary anymore. Humans can be good at minimizing the risks of things they haven’t personally experienced, so I was curious to see what he’d decide to do and how his personal decision might affect the lives of everyone around him. 

Last but not least, “The Thing Lurking” was about a man named Clotho lived on a feudal planet called Zoi. He was a simple farmer who dreamed of a more exciting life. When a mysterious stranger offered him a deal too good to be true, he decided to take it without a second thought. While I did find the plot twists in this one to be pretty predictable, I still enjoyed finding out what happened to Clotho. 

If you’ve ever wondered what humanity’s distant future might look like, Apeiorn – Tales of an Argonaut 1 could be right up your alley. 

Lost but Not Alone: A Review of Boo and the Boy 

Boo and the Boy - A Ghost Story by Wayne Barrett book cover. Image on cover shows drawing of a large bison skull with a fairy perched on top of it. Inside of the skull is the silhoutte of a young person walking in the desert by a cactus.Title: Boo and the Boy – A Ghost Story

Author: Wayne Barrett

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 23, 2020

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary 

Length: 24 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author. 

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

In the heart of the Mojave Desert, a little boy wanders, lost and frightened. Coming upon a giant bison skull, he makes a discovery that turns his fear into a night of magic. 

A ghost, fairies, and a talking rattlesnake bring an atmosphere of fantasy to this haunting tale. Boo and the Boy is a ghost story, but it is one that will not only tug at your heartstrings, but will bring a smile to your face as well. 

Join Boo and the Boy at their haunted home, a skull that, in ages past, belonged to the granddaddy of all bison’s.

Review:

Every haunting exists for a reason even if that reason isn’t immediately revealed. 

As soon as I met Boo, I was instantly endeared to him. Since he didn’t remember anything about his life before began haunting the giant bison skull, everything I learned about him was based on his kind, curious personality. He truly cared about others, and he showed his feelings in gestures both grand and small. There was no limit to what he’d do to help someone who seemed to be in trouble even though his powers were limited as a ghost who was firmly bound to such a small area of land. 

The world building was lovely. At first I thought we’d get a better understanding of what the fairies were hoping to accomplish. While some of their motives were eventually explained, I ended up really liking the fact that there were unanswered questions there as well. I had enough hints to form my own hypothesis, and the rest I could chalk up to the unpredictable nature of fairies in general. This struck me as something quite true to their species, especially since they honestly did seem to have good intentions in the end. 

I also appreciated the friendships between Boo, the boy, and Alfred. While I can’t go into much detail about the identities of those last two characters for spoiler reasons, I can say that their personalities complemented each other nicely. They had much more in common than I would have originally guessed. Discovering what those things were was delightful. 

Don’t be frightened by the horror tag if it’s not a genre you typically read. Yes, there is an underbelly to this tale that will gradually be revealed, but nothing about it was gory or gross. In fact, there was something surprisingly sweet about this portion of the storyline in the end. 

Boo and the Boy was a hauntingly beautiful ghost story that I heartily recommend to adult and young adult readers alike. 

Murky Moments: A Review of Fragments

Fragments - A Collection of Short Stories by Jachrys Abel book cover. Image on cover shows a purple fragment of glass drawn on a grey background Title: Fragments – A Collection of Short Stories

Author: Jachrys Abel 

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 21, 2020

Genres: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical, Futuristic 

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Fragments explores various facets of humanity through eight short stories—each of different subject matter, but with a shared undercurrent of what can best be described as honest humanness. 

There’s a gravedigger’s uptake of a small favor for his brother, a young boy teaching his friend how to survive in a haunted house, and a valiant king’s attempt to escape the clutches of death. There’s also the arduous endeavor of a nameless boy to prove his existence, and a young girl’s tortured wait for her partner’s return home. The daughter of a scientist uncovers why exactly the ocean waves, while a defunct human does penance for calculated murder. The collection then ends off with a rework of the author’s first ever published short which first appeared in literary magazine, Catch The Moment: a tale of how an invalid flees when his home is sieged, dragging along with him the village leader and her trusted advisor. 

Fragments is Jachrys’ first self-published collection of short stories. His other works have appeared in numerous literary publications, of which include A Philosopher’s Stone; Humanity Dawns; Catch The Moment; The Writing Cooperative; The Ascent; The Bad Influence; Storymaker; and Literally Literary.

Review:

Content warning: abuse and murder. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Sometimes a single moment in time is all a character needs to reveal their true selves. 

I will briefly discuss a few of the pieces of this collection in my review. If any of them are interesting to you, do check out this book in its entirety. 

The title of “A Gravedigger’s Tale” tells the readers most of what we need to know about it right away. The gravedigger in question had been doing this job for a decade and knew all of the tricks to avoid rousing the dead when digging a new grave or taking care of the grounds. Simple things like name and gender identity were never made clear, and yet I felt like I knew them well because of how much time they spent explaining their life’s work to the audience and giving hints about the latest grave they were digging and why it was such an important one. 

There were a couple of stories in this collection that I thought could use a bit more development. Yes, they were fragments of fiction and therefore not meant to be as well fleshed out as, say, a novella or longer short story, but I would have enjoyed them more if their narrators had gone into a little more description about their plots and meanings. “The King’s Escape from Death” was a good example of this. After the king received word of something terrible that was to happen to him at a specific time, he ran away from home for the evening to avoid it. I was intrigued by his plan and sure would have liked to see him explain how he thought it ought to work in greater detail, especially since the warning he received was such a vague one. 

“Why the Ocean Waves” made me smile. It followed a conversation between a young girl named Aleandra and her father about why waves exist. After hearing his scientific explanation for it and finding it unsatisfying, she shared her own theories about why waves exist and what they mean for humans. It was heartwarming to see how he paid attention to her as she thought through her answer carefully .

Fragments gently drifted between literary and speculative fiction. It should be read by anyone who appreciated the numerous grey areas between genres.

Risky Wanderings: A Review of Leprechaun Luck

Leprechaun Luck: A Witch of Mintwood Short Story by Addison Creek book cover. Image on cover shows silhouette of a witch holding a broom over her head. She's standing outside by a village and the moon is shining down on her at night. Title: Leprechaun Luck – A Witch of Mintwood Short Story

Author:Addison Creek

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 1, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 48 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and Lemmi, Charlie, and Liam are determined to have some fun before going to watch the guys play baseball. What happens next is unexpected, to say the least, but Lemmi and Charlie are determined not to miss the baseball game. Now if only the leprechaun would tell them where Liam is . . .

Review:

It’s always a smart idea to beware of deals that seem too good to be true.

Lemmi had wonderful conflict resolution skills. It was refreshing to see how she responded to challenging moments and how hard she worked to find solutions that were agreeable to everyone. This is something I’m always pleased to find in stories, especially mysteries. We need more characters like her around to set good examples of how to solve problems that can quickly escalate if they’re not handled swiftly.

There were some things about the character development in this story that never quite made sense to me. Lemmi and her friends were described as people who appeared to have a good deal of experience with magic and the supernatural world. It came as a surprise to me to see how trusting they were in unfamiliar situations that clearly had magical or supernatural origins. While they did mention the danger they might face briefly, they didn’t seem to take them seriously or think critically about the decisions they were about to make. I really wish more time had been spent exploring why this was the case as it didn’t make sense to me.

The dialogue made me chuckle. Not only did all of the main characters have great senses of humour, they were also skilled at using a comment a friend made as a jumping-off point for more jokes. It’s always delightful to see that level of banter among a group of characters who clearly appear to know each other well and genuinely enjoy everyone’s company.

This short story was part of a series, but I had no problem at all jumping into it as someone who wasn’t at all familiar with this universe. All of the necessary backstories were provided for us new readers.

Leprechaun Luck is a good pick for a lighthearted St. Patrick’s Day read.

A Review of A Fictional Fable of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch

Title: A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch (Fictional Fables Book 1) Author: Berenice Corney-Thompkins Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 17, 2020 Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Length: 20 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: A charming tale of two frenemies and their one-upmanship, A Fictional Fable… Read More

Searching for Answers: A Review of Remote Control

Title: Remote Control Author: Nnedi Okorafor Publisher: Tor Books Publication Date: January 19, 2021 Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary Length: 156 pages Source: I borrowed it from the library. Rating: 4.5 Stars Blurb: The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From here on in she would be known as Sankofa­­—a name that meant… Read More

A Review of Fangs & Fairy Dust

Title: Fangs & Fairy Dust Author: Melissa Monroe Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 14, 2020 Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Contemporary, Historical Length: 63 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: A vampire baker —before she opened shop — sinks her teeth into a local mystery. If you love paranormal… Read More

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

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… Read More

The Day Before Christmas Eve: A Review of The Yule Cat

Title: The Yule Cat – a Christmas Short Story Author: Eldritch Black Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 25, 2020 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Holidays Length: 46 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Strange, scary rumors are flying about the tiny, snowy town below the mountains. Some say… Read More