Tag Archives: Contemporary

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.

Bedroom Battle: A Review of The Teddy Bear’s War

The Teddy Bear's War by Alex Cross book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a teddy bear holding a sword. Title: The Teddy Bear’s War

Author: Alex Cross

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 17, 2021

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 9 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Every little kid is afraid of the dark in some way. The unknown scares us all to some extent. John is no exception. Is there a monster under the bed? A ghost in the closet? Or something else…something we don’t even have a name for? Luckily for John, he has someone looking out for him. When the thing in John’s closet goes bump in the night, it has to go through a Teddy Bear first.

Review:

Bedtime is anything but restful for this bear.

Teddy Bear was an incredibly brave toy. While John slept, he was responsible for protecting the boy from anything that might cause him harm. The reasons why Teddy Bear had taken on this role and what would happen if he failed were fascinating and well developed. I can’t go into more detail about them than that for spoiler reasons, but I was thrilled with how the author explained it all.

I also adored this story’s explanations for where nightmares come from and why they can be so terrifying, especially for kids. Not only did they make perfect sense for the plot, they made me wish that our world worked this way as well.

While I enjoyed every word of this story, the ending was particularly meaningful. It resolved all of the most important plot points while also leaving plenty of room for a sequel if the author ever decides to write one. I loved getting to know these characters and would be first in line to revisit them if we ever get a chance to see what John and Teddy Bear get up to as John grows older and Teddy Bear grows even wiser than he already is.

I can’t recommend The Teddy Bear’s War highly enough! It made my heart sing.

A Quiet Life: A Review of The Retirement

The Retirement by Keith Minnion book cover. Image on cover is of multiple gravestones crowded into a graveyard together. Title: The Retirement

Author: Keith Minnion

Publisher: White Noise Press

Publication Date: January 4, 2021

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 9 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Charles Midwich, a recent retiree, decides to move to a new state, a new town, an entirely new life and lifestyle. What he finds once he gets there, and settles in, is nothing like what he ever expected.

Review:

What is your idea of the perfect retirement plan?

Mr. Minnion’s beautiful writing style sucked me into the plot immediately. He knew exactly when to describe one moment in detail and when to leave other details up to the reader’s imagination. I enjoyed switching between his descriptions of the scenes and characters and coming up with my own theories about the things he only mentioned briefly.

Unfortunately, the author gave far too many clues about what was happening to Charles as this character adjusted to retirement. I had a hunch about the ending from reading the blurb, and I was certain I was right by the time I finished the first scene. It would have been nice to be challenged more here.

With that being said, there was something about Charles I really liked. He was a conscientious man who thought through every decision he made carefully. I also appreciated how calm and polite he was no matter if he was ordering honey fig scones at the local bakery or taking a quiet stroll through the cemetery. This was one character I’d love to eat scones with, so don’t be frightened off by the horror tag if this isn’t a genre you normally read.

The Retirement was short, thoughtful, and worth checking out.

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

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… Read More

Risky Wanderings: A Review of Leprechaun Luck

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… 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

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

Suburban Gothic: A Review of The House on Abigail Lane

Title: The House on Abigail Lane Author: Kealan Patrick Burke Publisher: Elderlemon Press (Self-Published) Publication Date: June 17, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary Length: 68 pages Source: I bought it. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: From the outside, it looks like an ordinary American home, but since its construction in 1956, people… Read More