Tag Archives: Fantasy

Keeping an Open Mind: A Review of The Watch

The Watch by P.A. Western-Pittard book cover. Image on cover shows a watch face that’s glowing yellow and green. It’s superimposed over a photo of some furniture draped in white sheets. Title: The Watch – An Upfallers Story

Author: P.A. Western-Pittard

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: August 27, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Humour, Contemporary

Length: 55 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A Hilarious longish-short story adventure for fans of Terry Pratchett and lovers of quirky fantasy scifi.

In the Temple City of Tarn, no one and nothing is who they seem…

When Julian, a down-on-his-luck acolyte, comes across an ancient watch, he thinks this is exactly what he needs to solve his money problems. But Julian always was an optimistic dreamer. What begins as a seemingly simple stroke of luck soon turns into an adventure where he must find the impossible, or literally die trying.

But considering Julian isn’t much a fan of either dying or trying, this is going to turn out to be harder than he thought.

A longish-short story involving Soap-Bubble-Temples, a quest for ancient warbots and the meanest gunrunner in town, The Watch is a riotous introduction to the world of the Upfallers series.

Review:

The fewer assumptions you make about this novella, the better.

I appreciated the way the narrator repeatedly broke or reimagined many of the most popular tropes of the fantasy genre. Yes, the plot included a quest, but even there the author was discerning about what happened to his character and how they reacted to it. There were multiple times when I was fairly certain I knew what might happen next due to how long I’ve been reading this genre. In most cases, I was completely wrong in a pleasant way. This was my first time reading Mr. Western-Pittard‘s work, so I don’t have anything else to compare it to yet. What I can say is that I was impressed with how he approached the concept of contemporary fantasy, and I’m curious to see if his other works might do the same thing.

Even though the blurb interested me quite a bit, I struggled to remain engaged with the slow pacing of this novella. It spent so much time setting up Julian’s backstory and strengthening the world building that I wished for more action and conflict. This was a pattern that repeated itself after Julian’s adventures with the talking watch began. It read more like the first chapter of a book instead of a self-contained story. I don’t want to make any assumptions about why it was written this way, but the style did interfere with my desire to learn more.

What saved the storyline for me was the wry personality of the watch. If I had to assign a personality to such an item, I would have gone with something much more serious and academic because for some reason my brain assumes that something that was created to keep track of time would probably be staid in general. This is only loosely related to what the author actually came up with, of course, but it was delightful to see how creatively Mr. Western-Pittard approached character development. Playing around with the audience’s assumptions and expectations always grabs my attention, and this is even more true when it’s done as joyfully as it was done here.

This seems to be the introduction to a series, and I believe it is where readers are supposed to begin meeting the characters. I can’t say if the later instalments can be read out of order as I haven’t picked them up yet.

The Watch – An Upfallers Story is a good pick if you’re in the mood for something humorous.

Gently Combing the Sea: A Review of Hildie at the Ghost Shore


Hildie at the Ghost Shore by Paula Cappa book cover. Image on cover his a painting of a very foggy shore by a body of water. You can see almost nothing but the tiniest glimmer of blue water in the distance. Title
: Hildie at the Ghost Shore

Author: Paula Cappa

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 17, 2015

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Historical

Length: 22 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

We are in Old Belgium. Hildie the lace maker, Mistress of Runecraft, knows the secret spells of the runes from the wind-god Odin. When a mysterious old sailor visits her attic workroom, he requests a reading. Hildie agrees. During the casting of the runes, Hildie conjures the Ship of the Dead, Loki the trickster, and flame-eyed ravens. Who will survive this adventure in a land beyond the ghost shore? Hildie at the Ghost Shore is a quiet little mystery (Kindle Single) with a dash of Norse mythology evoking the magic of the Runes. This story was originally published at Fiction365.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder.

Danish mysteries abound on this quiet shore.

The poetic and etherial style of this short story made it impossible for me to stop reading. It was my first experience with Ms. Cappa’s work, and I was immediately impressed by how smooth and beautiful her writing style was. She excelled at drawing this reader into the storyline and making me never want to leave it. Reading this felt like the literary equivalent of stepping into a light, airy fog on a mostly-deserted beach on a chilly late winter or early spring day. That is to say, I felt as if I’d stepped into another world or some alternative version of our own world whose rules of physics were just different enough to make it impossible for me to guess what remarkable things I might discover a few moments in the future. It was a truly delightful experience that made me eager to discover what else the author has written.

I would have loved to see more plot and character development. There was very little of the former and almost none of the latter which struck me as unusual for something that went on for twenty-two pages.  It would have made sense for flash fiction, and the premise could have been shrunken down to accommodate a much shorter interpretation of it. Unfortunately, it felt out of place for a longer work that did seem to have more than enough room to include both of these elements.

By far my favourite portion of this tale was the final scene. This was when the plot grew as thick and substantial as it ever would, and it explained some things that keen readers might have kept tucked in the back of their minds as half-formed questions since they first began reading it. I should note that I’m not very familiar with Norse Mythology, so I also appreciated the quick explanations of certain key terms and figures from it. Perhaps readers who are already well-versed on that topic could expound upon it in greater detail, but I was perfectly satisfied with it as is. Yes, I know I’m being vague here! Why share spoilers when you can allow other readers the thrill of surprise instead?

Hildie at the Ghost Shore was a dreamy, wistful reading experience that I cheerfully recommend saving for the next time the weather outside is too foggy, snowy, or drizzly to venture forth outdoors.

A Review of Tales from Monarch Bay: First Memories

Tales from Monarch Bay - First Memories by J.M. Acosta book cover. Image on cover shows a frozen river of some sort that’s either covered in snow or a large flock of birds. Title: Tales from Monarch Bay – First Memories

Author: J.M. Acosta

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: April 12, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, (mild) Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 55 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

All it took for Rien was to touch his old Rio player and a sudden rush of memories from High School came flooding back. To when he first moved to Monarch Bay and met The Keeper. When he had to stop the faceless man and save the world from an ancient threat. But are these really memories he wants to relive?

Review:

Content Warning: Vomiting and a little blood.  I will not discuss them in my review.

Everything in life has its own rhythm if you pay enough attention to it.

One of the biggest strengths of this novella in my opinion had to do with the way it explored old, half-forgotten memories. I think that just about all of us have had the experience of discovering such a memory after being exposed to something that reminds of us of the past. I was fascinated by how the narrator reacted to everything his mind dredged up, whether they were of happy times or terrible ones. It can be quite a jarring experience, and that aspect of it was captured just as nicely as the many other emotions the narrator felt as he relived that portion of his teenage years.

I had trouble keeping track of the plot and the world building. Some of their most important moments were described so rapidly and in such little detail that I wasn’t always sure what was happening. This was a technique that made sense in the beginning when Rien first discovered the MP3 player and had no idea what it was capable of doing, but I wasn’t quite sure why it was used later on once the stakes were higher. As much as I would have loved to give this a higher rating, I simply couldn’t do it due to these issues.

Beaches are such liminal spaces that it made perfect sense for so much of this tale to happen on and near them. It was interesting to take note of all of the connections the author made between the existence of ordinary beaches in our world and the otherworldly places they described that were every bit as transitory and filled with uncertainty. What made this portion of the storyline even better was how it was even more deeply explored in the ending, but that’s all I can say about that topic. If you want to learn more, you’ll simply have to go read it for yourself.

Tales from Monarch Bay – First Memories was a thought-provoking read.

Stop That Infernal Racket! A Review of Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy by Nakia Cook book cover. Image on cover shows a series of five different types of drums lined up next to each other. Title: Drummer Boy

Author: Nakia Cook

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 27, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Folklore, Contemporary

Length: 12 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Something besides the drum kit in the attic is creating a disturbance in the house, and it’s driving Nadia and Adam to wit’s end in this rhythmically haunting tale.

Review:

Content Warning: Car accident. I will not discuss it in my review.

Is there anything more irritating than living with a musician who thinks they need to practice all of the time?

I appreciated the simplicity of this tale. Yes, there were the requisite number of plot twists, but the narrator always stuck close to the original dilemma about living with someone who couldn’t stand the sound of drums being played. The storyline chugged along beautifully as it was, so I was glad to see the author give her characters so many opportunities to be their true selves. That was exactly the right decision to make in my opinion!

There was a minor plot hole involving the drums and why they existed in that particular house that I wished had been explained. As much as I want to go into detail about that issue, I’ll need to tread carefully here in order to avoid spoilers. Let’s simply say that I wondered why the characters had chosen such an unusual fate for them when I could think of several other practical solutions for it that seemed more likely than the one that was eventually revealed. This was the only thing holding me back from giving a five-star rating as everything else about it was well written.

This was my first time reading one of Ms. Cook’s stories, and it was a wonderful introduction to her imagination and writing style. She seemed to be the sort of writer who shared enough details for the reader to understand what is happening and then trusted us to fill in everything else for ourselves. For example, the physical appearances of the characters were barely mentioned at all, but their personalities shone through brightly. This pattern was repeated in other areas, too, like the ending that you’re all simply going to need to read for yourselves. I enjoyed coming up with my own explanations for everything she left unsaid and will keep an eye out for more of her work in the future.

Drummer Boy was a particularly good read for musicians or anyone who has ever lived with one.

The Tumultuous Lake: A Review of Dark Waters

Dark Waters by Katherine Arden book cover .Image on cover shows a gigantic fish swimming up to the surface of a lake as boats peacefully float on top of the water. Title: Dark Waters

Author: Katherine Arden

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: August 10, 2021

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

Length: 256 pages

Source: I borrowed it from my local library.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

An Indie Bestseller!

Filled with chills and spooks galore, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Arden’s latest installment in the creep-tastic Small Spaces Quartet is sure to haunt.

Until next time. That was chilling promise made to Ollie, Coco and Brian after they outsmarted the smiling man at Mount Hemlock Resort. And as the trio knows, the smiling man always keeps his promises. So when the lights flicker on and off at Brian’s family’s inn and a boom sounds at the door, there’s just one visitor it could be. Only, there’s no one there, just a cryptic note left outside signed simply as —S.

The smiling man loves his games and it seems a new one is afoot. But first, the three friends will have to survive a group trip to Lake Champlain where it’s said Vermont’s very own Loch Ness monster lives. When they’re left shipwrecked on an island haunted by a monster on both land and sea, Brian’s survival instincts kick in and it’s up to him to help everyone work together and find a way to escape.

One thing is for sure, the smiling man is back and he wants a rematch. And this time Brian is ready to play.

Review:

Content Warning: Snakes, shipwreck, snake bite, and death of a parent. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

It was only supposed to be a short boat tour, but anything can happen out on the water.

In my review of the second story in this series, I mentioned yearning to read one of these adventures from Brian’s perspective. It was exciting to crack open this one and realize my wish had been granted. Brian’s parents were more protective of their son in certain ways than could be said for Ollie or Coco, so it was interesting to see how he balanced his parents’ expectations that he would be a studious kid who socialized most often with his family with his own desire to spend so much of his free time with his two best friends. This tension between him and his parents went a long way in explaining some of his personality quirks that I’d noticed earlier in the series. It was wonderful to get to know him better.

The abrupt ending caught me by surprise. It happened exactly when the storyline picked up speed and had reached its most exciting portion. While I think I understand what the author was trying to do here and hope it does pay off in the final instalment, it was jarring as a reader to transition from an adrenaline-surging scene to turning a page and realizing this book had suddenly ended. I was disappointed by the lack of closure for the conflicts that the characters were dealing with.

With that being said, there was a minor conflict involving bullying from Small Spaces that was finally resolved here. It wasn’t something I was expecting to see the characters bring up again, so it was nice to watch them work it out and come to an agreeable conclusion. This did give me hope that the author will do the same thing for the many conflicts that were introduced here but left hanging at the end. I will be reading the fourth and final book with high hopes that it will earn a much higher rating from me than this one did.

This is the third instalment in the Small Spaces Quartet. Be sure to read Small Spaces and Dead Voices first as there were references to those tales here that will only make sense to people who have read this series in order.

Dark Waters was an exciting nautical adventure.

Be Careful: A Review of Dead Voices

Title: Dead Voices Author: Katherine Arden Publisher: Puffin Books Publication Date: June 30, 2020 Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Adventure, Horror, Contemporary Length: 272 pages Source: I borrowed it from the library. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco,… Read More

Big Dreams to Achieve: A Review of Oli the Old Owl

Title: Oli the Old Owl Author: Lee Keene Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 29, 2021 Genres: Children’s, Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 10 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: A story of loneliness and fantasy. Imagination transmogrifying into Reality! A secret memory that only the little boy will know!… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Book Genre and Why

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. The best I could do was to narrow my answer to this week’s prompt down to two different answers. I’ve loved the speculative fiction genre since… Read More

You’d Better Run Faster – A Review of Small Spaces

Title: Small Spaces Author: Katherine Arden Publisher:  Puffin Books Publication Date: July 9, 2019 Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Horror, Contemporary Length: 256 pages Source: I borrowed it from the library. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about… Read More

Making Things Right: A Review of The Canterville Ghost

Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:  – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier  – talk about it online sometime in January  – have fun If any of my readers are also interested in participating this month,… Read More