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A Review of An English Heaven

Book cover for An English Heaven by Julie Bozza. Image on cover shows a closeup shot of some beautiful little pink flowers. Their petals are long, thin, and drooping a little. Title: An English Heaven

Author: Julie Bozza

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 15, 2017

Genres: Historical, Paranormal, LGBTQ+

Length: 12 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

A muddy trench in France during the Great War wasn’t the most auspicious place for Tom and Michael to reach an understanding of their own natures. A small, individual tragedy unfolds … But then Tom discovers a place beyond, where he and other men like him are blessed with all that life denied them.

Content Warning: Murder.

Review:

Healing comes in many forms.

This is one of those cases when it honestly doesn’t matter how much a reader knows in advance what is going to happen to the protagonist, so feel free to read the blurb or skip it as you prefer. What truly mattered in my opinion was how Tom reacted to the news that he did not survive World War I and will never again return to those muddy, dangerous trenches to fight another day. That is something I will not be digging into deeply in my review in order to avoid giving away any important spoilers, but it certainly gave me a lot of food for thought as I read this short and charming tale. Everyone reacts to unexpected news differently, and you can tell a lot about someone by what they say in the moments after the truth is revealed.

One of the things I adored about this tale was how it approached the idea of healing. Tom, the main character, was not only dealing with the trauma of war and his recent death, he’d also spent his entire young life hiding his sexual orientation. That, too, was a trauma he carried with him into the afterlife even though keeping such things hidden really was the only option for young queer men in the 1910s.

Obviously, there isn’t a lot of space for world building in only twelve pages, but I was impressed with how much Ms. Bozza was able to include. Tom was finally free to make his own decisions about what his existence might look like after death, and I was curious to see which one he might choose as all of them had their own merits. This would have made a great series, but it also worked really nicely as a quick dip into a world so full of possibility. A small taste of what might happen next was all I needed to imagine many possible endings for this character that would have fit his personality nicely.

An English Heaven was heartwarming and the perfect read for Pride Month!

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A Review of What Love Survives & Other Stories

Book cover for What Love Survives & Other Stories by DB MacInnes. Image on cover is a snapshot of someone in a cheerful yellow sweater walking away from their cozy little stone cottage outdoors next to a lake in the evening. There are mountains in the distance and the sky is overcast. The land where they are walking is grassy, flat, and brown as this appears to be late autumn. It looks a little chilly given how the wind is blowing the grass around and how tightly the person has their weather wrapped around them. This feels a little desolate but also quiet and peaceful. I get the impression this person loves being out in nature alone at this time of day as night approaches and knows exactly how to get back home safely before nightfall as they will have their home in full view and only about a five minute walk away at most once they turn around. Title: What Love Survives & Other Stories

Author: DB MacInnes

Publisher: Balfour & Breck Press

Publication Date: February 15, 2022

Genres: Speculative Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 61 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Lovers in a room overlooking the North Sea, a missing boy on an island in the Hebrides, an itinerant saw-miller’s tragic accident in the forests of Argyle, these short stories–often with a historical and sometimes speculative flavour–offer a glimpse into a Scotland of magic and mystery. First published in literary magazines such as New Writing Scotland and Gutter, they have now been brought together in this haunting anthology.

Review:

Content Warning: Missing children, cancer, child being sent to orphanage, child being raised by a relative after the parents’ death, death of a child, divorce, job loss, disability, accidental injuries and deaths, alcoholism, and an affair.

Even quiet towns are filled with secrets if one listens long enough.

I thought I should give everyone reading this a heads up that these tales dabbled lightly with speculative fiction and paranormal themes. Most of their scenes could easily happen in our world, some could be explained with either supernatural or scientific perspectives depending on how you interpret certain key sentences, and a few were deeply rooted in the speculative fiction with no other rational way to interpret them. This is a writing style I happen to deeply enjoy, but it’s something I think should be shared in advance as not everyone feels the same way about stories that move so fluidly between genres.

The main character and his wife Clare struggled to look after their adult son, Jack, who was severely disabled in “What Loves Survives.” Many stories about children with disabilities focus on the early years, so I was intrigued to get a glimpse of what this can be like once a child grows up and ages out of so many of the governmental support systems that exist for those under the age of eighteen. It’s difficult to talk about the plot twists in this one without giving away spoilers, but I appreciated the protagonist’s realistic assessment of what his life was going to be like as well as the hope he cultivated while trying to do the best he could for his family.

One of the biggest strengths of this collection had to do with how the same themes popped up repeatedly. “The Boy Who Vanished” was the second-to-last instalment, and it reminded me so much of what I’d already read in a good way. Once again there was an innocent person in danger, a town that knew more than you might assume, and an ending that matched the beginning nicely. As the title so strongly alluded to, this was about a boy named Duncan who disappeared one snowy day and the people who still remembered him years later. The flow of the dialogue was especially smooth here as the characters discussed who this child was and what happened to him. It genuinely felt like I was eavesdropping on a real conversation and it made me want to read an entire book written from these characters’ kind and honest perspectives.

“The Sawmillers” began with a child accidentally getting lost in the woods on a chilly night. He was not quite old enough to think clearly in that situation, especially as the sun set and it grew even colder outside. I was intrigued by his predicament and wondered how he was going to get out of it as the adults in his life didn’t know where he was or even that he was in danger yet. While there were no grand plot twists in this tale, that didn’t matter. The journey and how clearly it was described to readers was what mattered, and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew how everything turned out.

What Love Survives & Other Stories was a fantastic introduction to this author’s work. I look forward to reading more.

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A Review of The Fall Of Denver – A Tribute Story to the Original War Of The Worlds

Book cover for The Fall Of Denver - A Tribute Story to the Original War Of The Worlds By H.G. Wells’ by Richard Paolinelli. Image on cover shows a drawing of one of the many-legged alien ships from War of the Worlds crouching over a farmhouse. It is trying to suck up the people living there into its bulbous head. The farmhouse is in a western setting. There are a few tumbleweeds and hardy desert plants growing, but no grass, trees, or animals to be seen. The scene is dusty, dark yellow, and looks ominous, even the otherwise soft and gentle mountains in the far distance. Title: The Fall of Denver – A Tribute Story to the Original War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Author: Richard Paolinelli

Publisher: Tuscany Bay Books

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Genres: Science Fiction, Romance, Historical

Length: 44 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

The Fall of Denver takes place simultaneously with the events unfolding in England during Wells’, War of the Worlds. Doubtless, even as England was being invaded, so were all the other countries around the globe.In this story we will find out how the invasion of the United States plays out in general, and how it affects the men, and their families, stationed at a U.S. Army Fort near Denver, Colorado. For Major Daniel Wayne, an arrow in his knee has ended his career in the U.S. Army. Shortly after he arrives at Fort Logan outside of Denver, Colorado to hand in his retirement papers, word is received of an extra-worldly invasion of England. Before he and the Fort’s commander can begin to process this information, the first Martian cylinder lands to the east of Denver. Wayne is entrusted with the safety of the civilians at the Fort and in the surrounding area, taking them to the safety of the nearby Front Range even as the battle to defend Denver rages behind them. Wayne must keep the trust of his fellow officers to keep their familes safe, and confronts the ghosts of his own past, even as he longs to join the battle.

Review:

Content Warning: Death, disability, and a partial recovery from a painful knee injury. I will be discussing the last two in this post.

Women, children, and people with disabilities must stick together if they’re going to survive this war with aliens.

Some of the most interesting scenes in my opinion were the ones that explored Major Daniel Wayne’s career-threatening knee injury and how he dealt with the relentless pain and mobility issues that resulted from it. Living with any disability isn’t easy, especially at this point in history when there was less social support for people with disabilities and few if any accommodations for someone who found walking to be a struggle, much less anything more vigorous than that.  Regardless of whether you have personal experience with this topic or not, there’s something interesting to mull on here for everyone.

I would have preferred to see more attention paid to the romantic subplot of this tale. Because it happened quickly and under such intense circumstances,  I needed additional details about why the characters involved in it decided to pursue such things with each other while everything around them was falling apart. In no way was I opposed to these two individuals ending up together. They seemed like a great match, in fact. There was simply a lot of space here to expand the scenes that showed their blossoming romance.

With that being said, this was still a wonderful addition to this universe that I was thrilled to read. Learning about the alien attack from a different point of view showed me just how slowly information spread back then and how much folks had to rely on their own common sense and various life skills in order to survive when the military was being overrun and the federal goverment so far away that it could provide no realistic support for ordinary citizens at this time.

If you’re not already familiar with War of the Worlds, I’d recommend reading it before diving into this expansion of that universe.

The Fall of Denver – A Tribute Story to the Original War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells made me smile.

 

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Small Town Woes: A Review of The Curse of Three

Book cover for Makepeace and Grimes: The Curse of Three: A Gaslamp Gothic Mystery of Victorian England by Kevin Partner. Image on cover shows a photograph of a middle-aged white man who has salt and pepper hair standing in a graveyard at night. He’s looking straight at the viewer with a serious expression on his face as if he just heard something strange there and wants to see if you heard it, too. He’s wearing a late 1900s-style hat that had a wide brim and is raised a little over his head. Title: The Curse of Three (Makepeace & Grimes Book 1)

Author: Kevin Partner

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 4, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Historical

Length: 49 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Who would you choose to investigate the disappearance of three children?

A man and a vampire. Of course

It’s 1872.

Ichabod Grimes, mysterious defender of humanity, and his vampire friend Valentina, travel to a quiet village in Essex to find the missing children.

They uncover a sinister three hundred year plot that will see the return of a long forgotten evil.

Who is Ichabod Grimes? Find out now.

Review:

Content Warning: Kidnapping, a few mildly racist remarks,  and a few references to blood.

Rural doesn’t always mean peaceful.

One of the best things about this tale was how it explored life in a small village in 1872 and allowed readers to quietly compare it to how people behave in contemporary times. Obviously, there have been a lot of societal changes between then and now, but human nature has more or less remained the same. I smiled and shook my head as certain villagers showed fear and distrust of outsiders as the same thing continues to happen in many communities to this day. This pattern repeated itself a few times more and I continued to take note of how similar small towns – and people in general – often are to the way things were more than a hundred and fifty years ago.

I would have liked to see more clues included given the fact that it was a mystery (among other genres). While it’s certainly tougher to do so in the short story format given the limited amount of space an author has to work with, there weren’t enough hints about what was going on for me to come up with theories about who might have kidnapped the children or what they were planning to do with them. This meant that I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the ending as I could have been, although I did still enjoy seeing how Ichabod went about interviewing everyone and trying to piece things together. There is a sequel to this, so my hope is that it and any future instalments will dive much more deeply into the mystery storylines as I liked everything else about this universe.

This was my first introduction to Mr. Partner’s work, and I immediately liked his straightforward and sensible writing style. He seems to be the sort of writer who only describes people and things in detail if those descriptions push the plot forward in some way or if they’re otherwise necessary in order to understand what’s going on. While I do appreciate more flowery writing styles on occasion as well, this minimalist choice suited this particular tale nicely. Something tells me that Ichabod would have approved of a no-nonsense account of his first mystery as well. Perhaps this is one thing that the protagonist and the author share in common? At any rate, it worked and I’m glad it was written this way.

The Curse of Three was a quick, fun read.

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A Review of Darkest Dean: Animal Short Stories

Book cover for Darkest Dean - Animal Short Stories by Dean Jarvis. Image on cover is a black and white sketch of a lion who is wearing an ornate crown that has a tiny cross at the top of it. The background of the cover is a very light yellow. Title: Darkest Dean – Animal Short Stories

Author: Dean Jarvis

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 16, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 96 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A collection of beautiful handcrafted stories with animals set as their themes.

Contains a mixture of Fantasy, fable, and personal stories. Humor, twists, and strange storytelling within.

Review:

Content Warning: animal abuse.

Once Upon a Time is a lovely place to begin.

Some of my favorite stories were the ones that written as fables. I’m specifically thinking of red-breasted robins here and how Mr. Jarvis imagined they might have ended up with such bright chests. Other readers should have the opportunity to be delighted by that turn of events just like I was, so I won’t share any further details about how it might have worked. All I ask is that you keep an eye out for this reference and enjoy it as much as I did once you find it.

While I normally love seeing a wide variety of genres being mixed together, I found some of the combinations to be a little jarring in this particular case. The tone of one tale might be somber and realistic while the next one could be lighthearted and obviously set in a fantasy universe. It was hard for me as a reader to leap around like that so often, especially since certain portions were written from a first-person perspective about characters who had concerning personality flaws that neither they nor the people around them ever acknowledged. It would have been easier for me to adjust if the writing style had remained more consistent throughout this collection.

With that being said, it was interesting to see how the characters thought about the world. Most of the human ones lived in rural communities or in otherwise rather quiet and isolated circumstances. It takes a specific sort of personality to thrive in such places, and the author did a good job of exploring what sort of person is often drawn to either spending a lot of time on their own or only seeing the same small number of folks over and over again.

I’d recommend Darkest Dean – Animal Short Stories to anyone who wants a little of everything in their next read.

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A Review of The Girls in Red

Book cover for The Girls in Red by BB Wrenne. There is no image on the cover. It’s simply bright red with the title written in a wavy yellow font and the author’s name in a smaller black font. Title: The Girls in Red

Author: BB Wrenne

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 3, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Historical

Length: 21 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Two girls enter the woods on a journey to visit their fiances – a short story, also available as part of the collection Fabulas Part 2

Review:

Content Warning: Arranged marriages, an animal attack, and a small amount of blood.

Danger lurks everywhere in the forest.

While astute readers may have already guessed which famous fairy tale this was based on, I’m going to do my best not to give too many clues about it for anyone who prefers to be pleasantly surprised. I honestly haven’t seen this chosen for many retellings over the years, so I was excited to see how the author would reimagine what was a rather straightforward and short tale in its original form. Despite the many changes over the centuries, errands are still part of everyday life today. This includes trips to see places or visit people you might really rather not be visiting, and that mild but persistent sense of dread is as relevant now as it was many generations ago.

The ending was what lead me to choosing a three star review. After a fast-paced and atmospheric beginning and middle to this story, it suddenly ended without resolving the main conflict. There was so much more the author could have done with this, especially given the source material and how common it is for women who didn’t conform to the cultural expectations of women in the past or of this genre as a whole to still find places to thrive in the centuries and the forests in which they happen to live. If the final scene had been developed more thoroughly, I would have happily gone for a full five-star rating as I was thrilled with what I was reading up until that point.

I adored the romantic subplot. Yes, it moved forward rapidly, but the author was careful to explain why Ru and Thalia, who had known each other a very long time, were only now beginning to realize the depth of their feelings for each other. Given the era in which they lived, it made perfect sense for them to take as long as they did to talk about their feelings, much less entertain even the slightest notions of pursuing them. Slow-burn romances make perfect sense in circumstances such as these.

The Girls in Red was a thoughtful twist on a famous fairy tale.

 

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Out of the Shadows: A Review of Apparition

Book cover for Apparition By Jacob Clawson. Image on cover is a black and white photo of a 1940s-style car sitting in an alleyway. Title: Apparition

Author: Jacob Clawson

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 8, 2023

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 18 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Creaks and cracks clattered, shattering the air. Breaking through the darkness; they were trying to say something. Were they a code? Perhaps a message to somewhere or something? If it was a warning, what did it mean?
The city of London danced in laughter, sounds flourished; how alive it was. Though obviously unaware of what lay beyond in the harbor; creeping slowly, a rusty ship waited. Gliding through the murky water it made no waves, no sound. Yellow lights flickered inside with no life.
Three smokestacks rose from a deck of darkness, two broken in half. Shattered glass shimmered inside abandoned dining rooms and hallways in the moonlight. Old collapsed beds slept quietly inside passenger rooms. The ship cried out as it passed under a bridge, lights from the cars and lamps a-top flared as it crawled. The air grew thin and cold around the ship, freezing the top of the water behind it, crunching and popping as it moved.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder, Death

Decay is a necessary stage in the life cycle, but it can also be incredibly dangerous.

Xenofiction is one of my favourite little corners of the speculative fiction universe, so this tale caught my attention quickly. It takes imagination and courage to write non-human characters that do not think or behave anything like a person would under the same circumstances. I’d like to tip my cap to the author for taking risks with is writing and imagining what it might be like to be the city of London, a rotting ship in a pier, and a mysterious creature that stumbled out of the ship to see what it could find in the wider world. All three of these characters were creative and compelling.

The author warned that this was his first short story and that readers might find this story confusing in his preface. I agree that this was a confusing read, and I did find myself wishing that the paranormal themes had been explained better. For example, was the creature a ghost who suddenly found him or herself feeling restless and wanting revenge for being forgotten? Or maybe it was created out of the raw loneliness and decay of the abandoned ship? There were so many possibilities here, and I wish Mr. Clawson had spent more time giving his readers hints about how he’d interpret it.

With that being said, I really liked this tale’s message about the danger of possessing one small sliver of the truth but believing you know it all. None of the characters were aware of everything that was going on, and that put all of them in danger of either being harmed or of harming someone else. Humility isn’t something that’s explored as often in modern fiction as it was at certain points of the past, but it’s just as important now as it ever was. No one is omniscient (unless some gods happen to read this review), and everyone has blind spots that could make their lives difficult under the right circumstances.

Apparition made me curious to read more from this author. I’d like to welcome him to the experience of being an author and hope he’ll keep honing his skills for many years to come!

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A Review of Ravine of Death

Book cover for Ravine of Death by Hiago Furtado. Image on cover shows an abstract drawing of thick, curvy black lines against a white and grey background. I can’t tell if they’re supposed to be tentacles, veins from the body of a person or animal, or lines in boulders that show where various types of minerals were deposited millions of years ago, or something else entirely. It’s quite vague and open to interpretation, so I’m sorry this alt text can’t be more helpful there. Title: Ravine of Death

Author: Hiago Furtado

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: August 4, 2023

Genres: Young Adult,  Horror, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 9 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A thief steals a crown of sapphires and is pursued by knights, so to escape, he decides to enter an abandoned forest. Cornered, he must decide whether to jump or not into a gorge called “The Ravine of Death,” where it is said that those who fall are devoured by demons. What does he decide? To jump, of course!

Review:

Content Warning: Murder and theft.

A little horror goes a long way.

The pacing was strong and exciting. I appreciated the fact that the author decided to drop his audience directly into the middle of a tense chase scene while only explaining the basics about what was going on. That was a good choice for the storyline, and it kept me guessing what might happen next until the very end.

Plot holes prevented me from giving this a higher rating. While I certainly wouldn’t expect a short story to have as much character or plot development as a full-length novel, there were many things I struggled to understand about the thief and why he ended up in this predicament. For example, why did he choose to run into the forest? Why didn’t he pick a direction other than the one that lead to something called the Ravine of Death that any sensible person would avoid? While I don’t have a problem reading about characters who have terrible judgment, I do like to know why they lack the common sense that keeps most of us out of trouble most of the time.  There was a lot of promise here, but I thought it needed more development in order to fully realize its potential.

Then again, it was interesting to see the protagonist enter the forbidden gorge and see what all the fuss was about. I knew he wasn’t going to have a pleasant time with it, but I couldn’t have guessed what he was about to experience there. The horror elements of the plot really shone here, so keep reading if the first page or so doesn’t immediately grab your attention and you love that genre. It was inventive and it made me wish for a sequel.

Ravine of Death was full of frights.

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The Past Remembers: A Review of A Ghostly Assignment

Book cover for A Ghostly Assignment by Rosalind Minnet. Image on cover shows an old-fashioned, small stone cottage near a large, still lake on a foggy autumn day. The trees are bare and you can’t see the sun because of how thick the fog and clouds are. Title: A Ghostly Assignment

Author: Rosalind Minett

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 31, 2014

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 35 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

When journalism students, Jake and Sara, investigate reports of a ghost, they’re cynical. They assume a village myth and fanciful gossip. In the dark of night near the local lake they begin their watch. They are standing together yet their weird experiences are separate, even in time. Shocked to the core, they return to normal life only to discover the lasting effect of their first assignment, one no-one could have predicted.

Review:

Content Warning: A witch trial, murder, and children being orphaned.

Future generations may mostly forget an atrocity, but the land remembers every detail.

Don’t worry if horror isn’t a genre you generally like. This was quite scary, but it wasn’t gory or gross in any way. It’s one of those transcendent horror stories that I’d recommend to anyone who loves history, mysteries, folklore, ghosts, or justice. I smiled and nodded along as I took note of the ways the current residents of this rural area dealt with a shameful and terrible chapter of their history. That’s a problem that many communities have, after all, and it can be great fodder for fiction. I enjoyed the way the author revealed what happened while still grounding the first section in scenes that felt true to life. It was important to establish that realism before jumping into the frightening paranormal events that were soon to follow.

This tale either involved some possible time travel or the main character’s mind being so overwhelmed with someone else’s memories that she thought she was the person performing those actions.  I loved both of these possibilities, but I wished the author had been more clear about which interpretation we were supposed to think was probably the right one. While I generally don’t mind ambiguity in what I read, this was one of those cases when the audience really needs to know how trustworthy a character’s memory is of a specific incident because of how important it is to everything that comes before and after it. If this had been made more clear, I would have happily gone with a full five-star rating.

It was interesting to see how Ms. Minett connected the actions of superstitious villagers from a few hundred years ago to the lives of people living in this universe today. I can’t go into much detail about that without giving away spoilers, but I appreciated what she was doing there and thought there was something to be said for showing how much someone can be affected by the past even if they don’t know anything about it.

A Ghostly Assignment made me shudder.

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Graveyard Romance: A Review of The Ghost and the Real Girl

Book cover for The Ghost and the Real Girl by Avery Carter. Image on cover shows a black and white drawing of the profile of a woman’s face. Her hair has been piled on top of her head in a Victorian-style puffy bun, and she has a scarf with a few sprigs of flowers tired around her neck. There is also an oval border around this drawing that has roses, vines, and leaves sprouting around it. Title: The Ghost and the Real Girl

Author: Avery Carter

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 31, 2022

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQ+, Romance, Historical

Length: 124 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

“There was never a good night to rob a grave, but the night of a full moon was certainly the worst…”

When Sera is hired to rob a 200 year old grave, the last thing she expects is the ghost of Lady Clementine de Quill rising up to scold her for it. Though her world is full of magical echoes from a not-so-distant past, a ghost is completely unheard of. What’s more, no one else can see or hear Clem. Sera tries everything to get rid of her– selling the items she took from her grave, bathing in saltwater, even putting herself through a religious smoke cleansing from the Church of the Wheel. Nothing works, and Sera finally resigns herself to having a ghost follow her around for the rest of her life.

Despite their differences, a partnership begins to bloom between the streetwise gravedigger and the cultured noblewoman. Just as they realize that maybe they aren’t so different after all, Clem starts to fade, flickering in and out for longer and longer stretches of time. Sera begins to realize that with each time Clem vanishes, there’s a chance that she won’t come back. There’s only one problem: she can’t imagine life without her anymore.

Review:

Who says cemeteries have to be scary places?

The romantic storyline was handled perfectly. This is something I’m saying as someone who usually steers clear of that genre, so don’t let that label dissuade you from reading this if you’re the same way. The author did an excellent job of creating two unique, realistically flawed characters and giving them a ton of time to pursue other goals in life before the slightest hint of romance filled the air. Having all of those things established ahead of time made it much easier for me to understand why these characters ended up becoming romantically interested in each other.  I loved this portion of the plot just as much as the rest of it.

There were a few spots where the pacing sagged a little due to how much character development and  world-building the author needed to do. While I appreciated it later on, I did find myself feeling a little restless in that moment when the storyline slowed down and I wasn’t sure why. Keep the slow moments in mind as you read.  I wish certain scenes had been sped up a little, but there is a payoff coming if you persevere!

I was impressed with the world building, though. It’s hard to create a complex society in a shorter work like a novella, but I was immersed in Sera and Clementine’s world by the end of the first scene. More details were released over time, of course, and I relished the opportunity to expand my understanding of where they came from and how their society had evolved in the few hundred years between Clementine’s death and Sera deciding to dig up Clementine’s grave.

The Ghost and the Real Girl made me yearn for more.

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