Tag Archives: Fantasy

Unsettling Art: A Review of 300 Down

300 Down by Keith Minnion book cover. Image on cover is a black and white photo of a narrow strip of grass.Title: 300 Down

Author: Keith Minnion

Publisher: White Noise Press

Publication Date: January 21, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 11 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Arthur Hubbard just purchased another painting for his NYC art gallery: an Expressionist portrait of a red-headed woman in a lurid green dress. He already owns two others, all different paintings, all by different artists, but the subject, the redhead in a green dress, is the same. Why is Arthur so compelled to seek out more paintings, more portraits, of her? The most important question, however, is: why is she haunting him?

Review:

Content warning: Infidelity and suicide. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

If you love unsettling art, keep reading.

There’s nothing like staring at a painting of what appears to be ordinary scene only to feel a chill run down your spine as you gaze upon it. Arthur’s obsession with the paintings of the red-haired woman wearing a green dress he kept finding only intensified over time. The more it bothered him, the stronger my curiosity grew to find out what it was about this woman that made it impossible for him to ignore her.

This is a minor criticism of something I otherwise enjoyed reading quite a bit, but I did wonder why Arthur kept collecting paintings that were clearly causing him emotional distress. Given his employment in the art industry, it seemed like it would have been pretty easy for him to sell them and therefore not have to see them every day. There were a few tantalizing hints about why he decided not to go this route. I do wish he’d been more straightforward about his reasoning there.

The ending was perfect. Without giving away spoilers, I loved the way the audience was expected to come up with some of our own theories about what happened next while still providing enough resolution for the conflict that I felt satisfied by how it was all wrapped up. Arthur struck me as the sort of man who expected those around him to do their own fair share of mental work like analyzing clues, so I was glad to see this pattern continue until the final scene. I will keep hoping for a sequel, though!

300 Down made me shudder in a good way.

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.

A Review of Curse of the Nain Rouge: The Legend of Detroit’s Red Devil

Curse of the Nain Rouge: The Legend of Detroit’s Red Devil by Michelle Nunley book cover. Image on cover is of a red, black, and white drawing of a devilish character. Title: Curse of the Nain Rouge: The Legend of Detroit’s Red Devil

Author: Michelle Nunley

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 20, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade 

Length: 5 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author. 

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

There are many urban legends of hauntings throughout Michigan. Some tell of an ominous white ghost, others of mysterious dog-headed creatures. But none is quite as haunting as that of the curse placed on the city of Detroit by a small red devilish-looking creature . . .  The Nain Rouge.

A short 1200 word story that tells the tale of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founder of Detroit, and a curse placed on the city by a small red, sharp toothed devilish looking creature. Detroiter’s call him the Nain Rouge. Based on encounters and sightings throughout history, it is said the creature appears before every disaster throughout the city’s history and long list of misfortunes.

Review:

Some curses exist for good reasons. 

I was surprised in a good way by fact that Antoine was such an unlikeable protagonist. There’s something interesting about seeing how such a selfish, egotistical man reacted to a threat to his city that he didn’t believe in or think should be taken seriously. We all have our own blind spots, of course, but Antoine’s blind spots much bigger and more dangerous than most. 

This story could have used a little more character development. I had trouble empathizing with Antoine because nearly everything I learned about him was negative. Yes, he was a villain, and arguably even more so than the Nain Rouge itself, but even the worst person in the world is bound to have some good in him or herself. While I understand that this isn’t the strong suite of most folktales, there was definitely room here to humanize him a tad before he met up with his nemesis. 

My favorite part of this tale was the ending. It tied up the most important plot strings but also explained why this legend continues to be shared three hundred years after it was said to begin. I couldn’t help but the turn the unresolved portions of the storyline over and over in my mind to see if I could think of a good way to resolve them. There’s something to be said for a legend that could still yet have more chapters added to it!

 Curse of the Nain Rouge was a thought-provoking tale that I enjoyed reading. 

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.

Hidden in Plain Sight: A Review of The Fact of the Matter

The Fact of the Matter by Madeleine L'Engle book cover. Image on cover is a stylized design of a plant that is just about to bloom.

Title: The Fact of the Matter

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: April 21, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Historical

Length: 21 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Enjoy this free short story from award-winning author Madeleine L’Engle’s newest book, The Moment of Tenderness, a collection of 18 short stories, some never before published.

It was a frigid winter day when Old Mrs. Campbell stormed into the Franklins’ general store, decrying the devilish nature of her daughter-in-law-a sentiment that deeply disturbed Mrs. Franklin, considering the woman in question, Alicia, was oft described as “saintly” by everyone around her.

When she leaves the store in a huff, Mrs. Franklin thinks she’s done with Mrs. Campbell’s ravings for the day-until the woman calls her late in the night, urgently demanding to see her.

Blending elements of fantasy and horror, what transpires between the two women over the course of the evening will test the boundaries of reason, faith, and family-and prove that, in times of great danger, even strangers can come together to help one another in need.

For more stories by Madeleine L’Engle, read The Moment of Tenderness, available now.

Review:

Is Mrs. Campbell telling the truth or is she making up stories?

My first impression of this tale was that it might have been a character study of Mrs. Campbell. She had a strong personality that tended to command a great deal of attention from everyone around her. While she was definitely the most memorable character in this cast, what she believed was happening to her at home quickly became even more interesting than she herself was.

I was confused by the ending. Some parts of it were foreshadowed earlier on, but one of the most important aspects of it suddenly appeared out of nowhere. I can’t go into more detail about it than that without giving away spoilers, but I do wish it had been developed better. The parts I understood were delightful.

To be perfectly honest, the word in the blurb that grabbed my attention first was devilish. Was Mrs. Campbell using this term figuratively or literally? What was her daughter-in-law really like? There were so many different ways to interpret that one little word that I immediately needed to find out which one the narrator might discover as she got to know Mrs. Campbell better. I was completely satisfied with how this part of the plot was written.

Anyone who enjoys it when an author mixes several genres together should check out The Fact of the Matter.

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

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… 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 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

What Bears Do in the Woods: A Review of The Ursus Verses

Title: The Ursus Versus Author: Nathan Waddell Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 29, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult Length: 66 pages Source: I purchased it. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Do you like bears and black holes and squid monsters and dragons and cowboy dragon slayers and riding your bike all around town looking… Read More