Tag Archives: Folklore

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.

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

Oli the Old Owl by Lee Keene book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a young boy standing in a forest behind two houses. He’s looking at an owl that’s sitting in a tree whose leaves are gone. It’s winter and snow covers the ground. 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!

A quaint memory that will stay with the little Sanford.

The Winter of 1998.

December.

Manchester, Tennessee.

7-year old Sanford ambles about….

An active imagination that takes him far and wide!

Questions for which physically, he will probably never get answers to……probably.

Could Sanford encounter a woeful creature with thoughts and abilities to share?

His imagination leads him amongst the bucolic grounds of Coffee County…..

Stories of the Old Owl, who woefully wasted his life, while wishing and thinking.

This Old Owl named Oli.

Oli hides high amongst the trees.

His fears have bedeviled him, and crushed his vim and vigor.

Oli wanted something that very few will achieve, but refused to change.

His insecurity enwreathed him mentally, and would not leave him!

How long can Oli hide?

If Sanford and Oli were to meet, what thoughts might transmogrify?

Review:

Winter is the perfect time to reflect on the past.

I admired the author’s willingness to experiment with children’s fiction. Just about every other book I’ve ever seen that was written for this age groups was a picture book, but this one contained no pictures at all other than the one illustrating the cover. It was also fascinating to meet a character who had not achieved the goal he set so many years before. Stories written for this age groups usually show characters succeeding at whatever they put their minds to do even if they have to fail a few times in the process. These were only two of the ways in which the author purposefully broke the rules, and I found his choices intriguing and refreshing. There is definitely something to be said for modelling emotionally healthy ways to fail to such a young audience.

There wasn’t a great deal of plot development or conflict in this tale. Sanford and Oli spent a great deal of time talking about their feelings and comparing Sanford’s plans for his life with Oli’s disappointment at how things had turned out in his own life. As much as I appreciated seeing male characters talk about their feelings so openly and freely, I did find myself feeling restless with how slowly everything was turning out. It would have been helpful if these two characters had faced an obstacle either together or separately that reinforced their earlier conversations. When combined with the lack of pictures, the slow pace would make me reluctant to read this to young children who haven’t recently dealt with a failure of some kind.

The fantasy elements of the plot were subtle and gentle. They made it all feel like a fable at times, although it didn’t actually seem to be based on any pre-existing fables or legends so far as I could tell. This pattern repeated itself with the handful of Christmas references that were thrown into the storyline but never expounded upon. While this wasn’t a Christmas story per se, it also reminded me of the many different types of tales that are told during and about that season. There is definitely something to be said for leaving so much room up for interpretation as this was something I could see myself recommending to people who don’t celebrate Christmas or generally read the fantasy genre. The little hints of those elements were enough to appeal to those of us who enjoy reading about such topics  but not so much as to dissuade other audiences from giving it a try in my opinion.

Oli the Old Owl was a thought-provoking read.

Whispers from the Past: A Review of Ghost of the Mountain

Ghost of the Mountain by Elvira Dahl book cover. Image on cover shows a hazy ghost walking down a black and white path. Title: Ghost of the Mountain

Author: Elvira Dahl

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 65 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

“Some parts of the earth are not meant to be disturbed.”

Oscar Brandt’s career as operating technician at one of Sweden’s biggest IT companies is going exactly as planned. Thanks to a new big-shot client, the company’s rock shelter facilities are to be expanded with a new server hall. And Oscar is up for the promotion of his career. But while blasting away inside the mountain, a tragic accident occurs that open the gates to the underworld. Suddenly, a ghost from Oscar’s past starts haunting him, and he soon finds himself in a familiar, dark place he might not escape from again.

Ghost of the Mountain is a tale of caves, underground server halls and abandoned mines. Of the mythic creatures that guard the deep. And of two kids with Gameboys, bonding in the darkest of places.

Review:

Content Warning: Blood and devil worship. I will not be discussing them in my review.

Quiet places aren’t always peaceful ones.

To be perfectly honest, I was somewhat confused by the flashbacks at first. They didn’t seem to have anything to do with Oscar’s current life, so I was curious to see what the connection there might be. Be patient if you have the same reaction to these scenes because they do pay off in the end. I can’t go into much further detail about them other than to say that the author knew what she was doing here. As soon as I figured out what was going on, I grinned. The payoff was so worth it in the end!

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the folklore in this novella. The characters shared tantalizing hints about what they might be dealing with here, but there wasn’t quite enough of it for me to go for a full five-star rating due to how many unanswered questions I had about the legend they mentioned and how it was related to what happened to Oscar. This was my only criticism of something that was otherwise well-written and fascinating.

The ending was quite satisfactory. I was originally expecting a completely different conclusion to it all, so I once again had the opportunity to rethink my assumptions and pick out the clues that the author had left in earlier scenes about where she was going with this piece. Yes, I know I’m being more vague than usual in this review, but this really is the sort of tale that works best if new readers know as little about certain plot twists as possible in advance. Just know that there are answers coming and they’re well worth the wait!

Ghost of the Mountain made me shudder. It’s a great pick for anyone who loves spooky stories, especially as Halloween season approaches.

A Review of Lux Terra – An Origin Story

Lux Terra an Origin Story by Zachary Hagen book cover. Image on cover shows a young man wearing a letter jacket and jeans staring straight ahead at the audience. Title: Lux Terra – An Origin Story

Author: Zachary Hagen

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 10 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

This is a prequel and origin story for the world of Lux Terra featured in the upcoming novel, Eternity’s Well, set to release August 2021. Please enjoy this look into the lives of Elior, Eliam, and their mother on a rainy morning in their home.

Review:

Rainy days were made for telling folktales.

The warm, positive relationship between the main characters and their mother as they drank tea and listened to her stories was refreshing. Too often parents in the young adult genre are either no longer present in their children’s lives due to death or abandonment or are wildly out-of-touch with what their kids are getting up to. It’s always nice to see authors break these tropes, and I hope Mr. Hagen will continue to do so as Elior and Eliam have further adventures.

While I certainly wouldn’t expect an origin story to contain as much conflict as the books that are meant to come after it, I did have some trouble paying attention as I was reading because of how little conflict was present here. It would have been helpful for this reader if Elior, Eliam, and their mom Emily needed to face some sort of obstacle or disagreement as they decided how to spend their time while the summer storm raged on outside.

I enjoyed the author’s measured writing style. He always seemed to know exactly when to describe something in great detail versus giving the audience the basic gist of it and then expecting us to fill in the rest with our own imaginations. Fantasy is one of those genres that can really benefit from expecting the audience to do some of their own legwork in imagining fantastical places in my opinion, so this was a great choice.

Lux Terra – An Origin Story is a good pick if you’d like a sneak peek at a new fantasy series.

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. 

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