Strange, scary rumors are flying about the tiny, snowy town below the mountains. Some say a tiger sprang loose from a circus train and roams the snowy meadows. Some say it stalks in the wintry forests. Some say it’s a monster.
But feisty Maisie Crompton knows that can’t be true. Such things never happen in their sleepy alpine village. Or do they?
For soon, Maisie finds herself crossing the path of a spine-chilling legend. The Yule Cat; a fearsome mythical beast collecting snacks for his winter feast. And should Maisie fail in the cat-and-mouse hunt that follows, she might well become the next morsel on his menu…
From the author of Krampus and The Thief of Christmas, The Yule Cat is a short Christmas story brimming with magic, trolls, spooky mythology, and fun and festive chills for readers of all ages
Be careful what you wish for.
If only I could read that introduction to this review to Maisie! Her envious attitude in the first scene certainly gave me a strong impression of her. I sympathized with her frustration over having to count every last cent so carefully. The holidays are a tough time to be poor, especially for a kid who is watching her best friend show off an expensive new coat. I know the narrator probably wanted us to hope Maisie would learn a valuable lesson about gratitude for what one has. While I had those thoughts as well, I also hoped she’d get a wonderful Christmas gift that matched all of her dreams.
There were a few things about the climax of this story that didn’t quite make sense to me, especially when it came to exactly what Jólakötturinn (The Yule Cat) was capable of. It was never clear to me exactly what the limits of his powers were. Sometimes he seemed capable of things that he hadn’t been a scene before, so I was never sure what to expect from him. It would have been nice to have a firmer understanding of this creature as he was definitely a scary one!
The world building was handled nicely. I appreciated the fact that the author explained a little bit about the backstory of Jólakötturinn for anyone who wasn’t already familiar with that. That attention to detail continued on with the descriptions of the other characters, too. All of their histories were important in order to fully understand how Maisie ended up in such a dangerous predicament on December 23.
Let me end this review with my favourite quote from this tale. It captured the themes of it all nicely.
“He grows when he senses fear, and shrinks when he’s content.”
Title: Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch
Author: Jason H. Abbott
Publisher: Blue Boar Press
Publication Date: October 7, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Holidays
Length: 19 pages
Source: I received a free copy from the author.
Rating: 5 Stars
Equal parts eerie, humorous and heartwarming, Harvest is a short story of down-home fantasy and a fairytale for grown-ups best told in the dark…
With whimsical humor and eccentric fantasy dappled in darkness, fans of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett will enjoy this short tale of kindness found in odd places. If quirky characters with a country twang and a fairytale detoured to the pumpkin patch sound good to you, then Harvest will surely prove an entertaining read!
It’s not every day that horror and humour coexist in the same plot.
Imagine waking up in a pumpkin field and not being able to see or speak. That idea sure made me shudder, especially once Edgar (the protagonist) realized that his head felt like a pumpkin instead of flesh and bone.
What intrigued me even more about it was the fact that this scene was written humorously even more than it was meant to frighten anyone. If horror isn’t a genre you typically read, consider giving this a try anyway. While there was one scary moment near the beginning, the plot has so much else going on in it that I think it will appeal to a lot of different reading demographics.
Sometimes this felt like the opening chapter of a long fantasy novel. There were hints sprinkled here and there to explain what was going on with Edgar’s head and how other folks were dealing with the strange phenomenon on this farm. They quickly coalesced into a surprisingly thorough explanation of how this world worked, especially given the fact that the author had less than twenty pages to work with.
While I was satisfied with what the narrator revealed, I also wanted more. I enjoyed the way the author wrote a short, encapsulated story that also left a lot of room for readers to come up with our own theories about what might happen to the Edgar and Emelia, the woman who helped him, next.
The fairy tale elements of the storyline are best left to new readers to discover for themselves. As much as I want to gush about them, they’re revealed late enough that I don’t want to share any plot twists. Let’s just say that this is a truly magical farm where anything can happen.
Do note that the full blurb for this tale contains spoilers, so reader beware if you’re like me and prefer to be surprised by a book.
If you love Halloween or the fantasy genre, I highly recommend checking out Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch.
A misguided elf curses a baby to die on her sixteenth birthday. Gem elves alter the curse to one of sleep.
But, to break the curse, the elf must die.
Princess Lilyrose seems to have it all, a family who loves her and a betrothed who is also her trusted friend. As the passing years bring the fated birthday closer, as she secretly struggles not to give in to her fear of the curse, she’s determined to live a full life.
She learns to fight. She dares to love. She discovers her true heritage. But when she learns her betrothed’s life is also in danger, she knows she must face the elf and her dark magic to break the curse.
Some legends deserve to be revisited over and over again. This is one of them.
Sleeping Beauty was one of my all-time favourite fairy tales when I was a child, so I was excited to see how Ms. Spicer reinterpreted it. She found so many interesting takes on these familiar plot twists, from why anyone would want to harm Sleeping Beauty to what happened when a spell didn’t exactly turn out the way the magical being who cast it was expecting it to.
There were a few parts of the world building that I did wish had been explored in more detail. For example, the beginning showed how and why a few young characters were welcomed into families who knew nothing about their true origins. This included a child who was adopted by a royal family and chosen as their heir! I can think of so few examples of this happening in the fantasy genre that I did find myself wishing the narrator had spent more time explaining why this rule was changed. Was there something special about that society that made them unconcerned with where heirs came from? Were most people simply unaware that this child was adopted? Since this sort of thing was a pattern, I thought I should mention it in my review. While I loved the plot in general, a few small tweaks to the world building to explain stuff like this would have catapulted it into a five-star review in my opinion.
One of my favourite parts of the storyline had to do with how well-developed the antagonists were. Yes, they did awful things, but the reasons for those decisions were explained so clearly that I understood them even as I wished they would have made better choices. I’m not generally the sort of reader who sympathizes with villains, so it was a delightful surprise to realize just how much I liked them despite the terrible things they were responsible for. There are many tales out there about protagonists who feel real. While this book had plenty of examples of that as well, it was its treatment of the characters we’re not supposed to root for that was one of my biggest reasons for giving it such a high rating.
Be sure to pay close attention to the characters as they’re introduced. There were a lot of them in this book, and many of them popped up one after another in the first few scenes. Everything you need to know about them and how they’re connected to the other characters is explained if you read thoughtfully. I actually ended up jotting down notes about who everyone was and, in certain cases, what other names they went by. That list was amazingly helpful later on, and I’d recommend doing it for anyone else who wants to stay organized while they read.
Anyone who loves fairy tales or retellings of fairy tales should checkThe Spellbound Spindle out.
Blurb: A raven appears on a cold winter’s night. An old woman helps a stranger find his way home. A young girl encounters a bad-tempered dwarf. Enter within, where magic is found alongside the ordinary, and things aren’t always what they seem. Where curiosity leads to a nightmare. Where ashes have the power to transform. And where stolen mortals are doomed to be forever lost in the forest.
This is a collection of ten short stories that are all firmly rooted in the fantasy genre. One of the coolest things Joy did with them was to briefly explain where her ideas for them came from after the conclusion of each story. I always enjoy learning where writers find inspiration for their work, so I was excited to have a sentence or two of explanation before beginning the next tale.
The most effective way I’ve found to review anthologies like this one is to pick about three of the stories in them that most accurately represent the over-arching themes and writing style in my opinion, describe their plots in a spoiler-free sentence or two, and then share my impressions of them. If any of these mini-reviews grab your attention, I’d heartily recommend checking out the whole book.
The Forest of the Others
Grace’s father and younger brother had wandered into a mysterious, forbidden forest and never come home again in “The Forest of the Others.” Three years after their disappearances, Grace ignored her mother’s warning to stay away from those trees and went into the forest to see if she could find out what happen to them.
I sure would have liked to see better communication between Grace and her mom. These woods were such an irresistible place in this universe that I think Grace would have still gone into them even if her mother had been more clear about how dangerous they were. It felt a little odd to me for someone who had already lost two relatives to what should have been an innocuous patch of land to be so vague about what she thought happened to them or why Grace should never break this rule.
This is something I’m saying as someone who loved everything else about this story. The dialogue was fresh and crisp. Grace’s character development was handled wonderfully. Her experiences in the woods made me shudder, although I’ll leave it up to future readers to discover why. The world-building was really nicely done, too, especially when it came to the mixture of emotions Grace had about the forest she wasn’t supposed to visit. All I needed was for Grace to know exactly why that area was forbidden before she decided to break that rule anyway.
Stranger at the Crossroads
Some of the tales in this collection were so short and filled with plot twists that I need to be pretty careful what I say about them for fear of wandering into spoiler territory. “Stranger at the Crossroads” was one of them. In it, a woman who was walking down the road with her donkey met a stranger who wasn’t at all what he appeared to be.
Does this sound like a mystery or possibly something from the horror genre? Well, it wasn’t. The main character was such a brave and kind soul that her reaction to the unnerving stranger at the crossroads was as pleasantly surprising as it was creative. I enjoyed this entire anthology, but I must say that she was my favourite character of them all. I couldn’t have asked for a better protagonist on that particular day and in that specific time and place.
An Unlikely Friendship
In “An Unlikely Friendship,” a young girl named Meg met a grumpy dwarf in the middle of the woods one day while she was out searching for edible plants to feed her family. Meg’s friendship with Nev, the dwarf, was unexpected but a nice distraction from the grinding poverty she, her widowed mother, and two older sisters had struggled with for years. Yes, this story was one of the ones mentioned in the blurb!
Meg’s personality was nicely written. She’d been taught to be kind to everyone she met. That’s a common trope in the fantasy and fairy tale genres, so I won’t go into much detail about it here. What was refreshing about this particular take on that lesson was how Meg reacted when it appeared that her kindness was not only going to be taken for granted but could very well lead her into a worse predicament than she’d been in when she was only poor and hungry.
This is the sort of twist to a genre that makes me want to come back for more.
My reading habits have evolved a lot over the years. In today’s post, I’m going to start with my earliest memories and share some stories about how my interests and habits have changed over time.
Most of these genres are still things I like to read at least occasionally. With that being said, I do not read the older ones as often as I once did.
Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales
The first genres I ever fell in love with were nursery rhymes and fairy tales.
My uncle had a book of fairy tales that he left behind when he went off to college. I read that collection every time I visited my grandmother’s house, and it made me yearn for more stories about dragons, royalty, and people who were rewarded for the good things they did when they thought no one was paying attention.
The tales in my uncle’s collection were the sorts of things you’d see in a Disney movie. They were missing the dark endings that they’d often originally had.
A few years later, I began stumbling across fairy tales that didn’t always end happily ever after. For example, the original version of “The Little Mermaid” ended with the main character’s death instead of her wedding.
I did go back to preferring the more cheerful spins on these stories after a while, but I appreciated having those glimpses into what had happened to them before they were cleaned up for modern audiences.
30 Books in a Month
As I’ve mentioned here before, I was homeschooled for the first several years of my education. One of the best parts of that experience was being able to read after my lessons were finished. There were times when Wyoming was far too snowy and cold of a place for a child to be wandering around outside in, so I read the entire afternoon and evening away on some of those wintry days.
All of this reading time had an interesting effect on me once I started public school and people who weren’t my parents or siblings began noticing my habits.
My fourth grade teacher once gave us an assignment to read three books a month. We were supposed to turn in little slips of paper with the title and author of what we read to her so she could keep track of them for us.
Reader, I didn’t finish three books that month. I read thirty of them.
Those three slips of paper we’d been given were almost immediately replaced by notes from my mother listing everything else I’d read after I fulfilled the original requirements.
When our teacher announced the number of books each student had read that month a few weeks later, most of my classmates were in the single digits. It was pretty funny to see how they gasped when they realized I’d quietly blown everyone out of the water.
A Passion for Poetry
I no longer remember which genres I read during that thirty-book month, but I do remember the genre I became obsessed with shortly after that: poetry.
My fifth grade teacher did a unit on the many different types of poems out there, and I took to this topic immediately. A lot of the stuff she had us read reminded me of the nursery rhymes I’d loved a few years earlier.
Shel Silverstein was the first poet I loved, but I quickly moved on to poets who wrote for adult audiences like Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes.
The thought of compressing what could be an entire story into a few short lines impressed me. I was always excited to find poets who could create strong imagery of what they were describing to the audience while using as few words as possible.
There was about a decade there when poetry was regularly part of what I read for fun. For a long period of time after that, I still returned to it regularly when I needed a break from other genres.
I’m slowly losing interest in this genre, and that makes me a little sad. I wish I could find the same thrill in it I did twenty years ago.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
My interest in the science fiction and fantasy genres has always been intertwined with the other things I’ve read. Long before I entered high school they became genres I returned to over and over again.
While I do take breaks from science fiction and fantasy to recharge sometimes, those feelings have remained constant to this day. No other genre has managed to keep me coming back for more for as long or as consistently as these two have.
There is something so interesting about taking a modern trend and extrapolating it to some distant future where robots really do run the world or when climate change has altered our planet so much that future generations can no longer imagine what life was like in a cooler, more stable climate.
I’ve come to prefer hopeful speculative fiction over the darker, apocalyptic stuff, but I think I’ll continue reading some sort of sci-fi or fantasy for many years to come.
Leaning Towards Nonfiction
Over the last decade or so, I’ve found myself gradually becoming more interested in nonfiction than I ever was before. My favourite high school English teacher used to talk about how much she enjoyed reading about things that really happened.
I didn’t understand why she’d say that at the time, but now I relish the opportunity to read books about history, astronomy, archeology, ecology, medicine, the biographies or autobiographies of people who have accomplished all sorts of things, and many other topics.
We live in a world that is filled with more information than any one person can digest in a lifetime. I accept the fact that I can’t learn everything, but I also want to be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in this lifetime.
How have your reading habits evolved over time? If anyone decides to borrow this topic and blog about it, I’ll edit this post to include a link to your response if you’re interested in that.
Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl My list this week is going to include several characters from TV shows. All of these shows have had books or graphic novels written about them, though, so they still fit the criteria for Top Ten Tuesday. 1. Biff from Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s… Read More
This past weekend I tried to remember the first science fiction or fantasy book I ever read. After a lot of deliberation, I believe that traditional fairy tales were what originally drew me into this genre. Some of my earliest memories about books in general involve borrowing fairy tale collections from my local library. After… Read More