Tag Archives: Historical

Second Chances: A Review of The Ghost of Beth’s Mother

The Ghost of Beth's Mother by Twylla Johnson book cover. Image on cover shows ghostly female apparition with a silk sheet blowing against her body. Title: The Ghost of Beth’s Mother

Author: Twylla Johnson

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 20, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 12 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Beth was a homely little misfit girl who lived at the Maudlin Mary Magdeline Orphanage. She claimed her mother, who had passed away a year before, was constantly with her. A wealthy widow named Mrs. Stone decided to adopt her. Does Mrs. Stone get more than she bargained for? Is Beth and her mother a package deal?

Review:

Content warning: car accident, adoption, and references to the death of a parent. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Every child deserves a loving home.

It’s rare for me to read a ghost story that genuinely makes me shudder, but this one accomplished that. I really enjoyed Ms. Johnson’s take on why spirits decide to haunt the living, what they’re capable of, and what happens if the living don’t take the wishes of the dead seriously. She put such a creative spin on these topics, and I’m saying that as someone who has read this genre regularly for many years.

There was very little character development in this tale. While the main characters were all briefly described to the audience, I didn’t get to know them well and never really saw many indications of them growing and changing as a result of their experiences. That’s obviously not easy to do in only a dozen pages, but I would have happily gone with a higher rating if the author had put as much work into this as she did with the unique plot itself.

The final scene was nicely written. It tied up all of the most important conflicts of the plot, but it also left plenty of space for the reader to imagine what might happen to Beth and the widow who adopted her next. My hope is that the author will someday write a sequel to it. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll also be perfectly content to return to this world through rereads and quietly thinking about these characters’ possible futures.

If you’ve been missing truly scary paranormal fiction, The Ghost of Beth’s Mother may be right up your alley.

A Muddy Quest: A Review of The Storm

The Storm by Alex Cross book cover. Image on cover shows lightning and wind near a grove a trees during a violent thunderstorms.

Title: The Storm

Author: Alex Cross

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 2, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 10 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

A storm rages in the night. A dark and perilous journey through the southern forest. Doran races against time. Will he make it or will he be too late? The night is filled with danger, but Doran must drive on in order to succeed. He must succeed. If he doesn’t, then who would he really be?

Review:

Content warning: kidnapping, murder, theft, and blood. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

A forest isn’t generally the best place to be during a heavy thunderstorm, but there’s an exception to every rule.

Doran’s character development was excellent. Due to his profession, my first impression of him was of someone who was incredibly skilled at what he did but whose personality was a little flat. While it took a little while to get to know him better, I couldn’t have been more wrong about that! There were so many layers to his personality that weren’t apparent at first. I’m glad I kept reading and got to know him better.

Intellectually, I knew that wandering around in a forest during a thunderstorm is dangerous, but I’d never spent much time thinking of the many reasons why this is true. It was fascinating to read the long list of reasons why Doran’s travelling through this rough terrain so carefully even though he was at the peak of his physical and mental fitness. These facts were shared in so much detail for reasons I’ll leave up to other readers to discover for themselves.

This was the second story I’ve read from this author so far, and I’m just as impressed with his work as I was the first time around. Mr. Cross has a knack for coming up with plot twists that are as exciting as they are clever. He has a marvellous imagination and knows exactly how to use it to surprise his audience. Based on how much I’ve enjoyed Mr. Cross’ work, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of his stuff in the future.

If you haven’t read any of Mr. Cross’ work yet, The Storm is the perfect place to start.

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. 

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.

Murky Moments: A Review of Fragments

Title: Fragments – A Collection of Short Stories Author: Jachrys Abel  Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: November 21, 2020 Genres: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical, Futuristic  Length: 40 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author  Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Fragments explores various facets of humanity through eight short stories—each of different… 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

A Review of Fangs & Fairy Dust

Title: Fangs & Fairy Dust Author: Melissa Monroe Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 14, 2020 Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Contemporary, Historical Length: 63 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: A vampire baker —before she opened shop — sinks her teeth into a local mystery. If you love paranormal… Read More

Vintage Science Fiction Month: A Trip to the Moon

Vintage SciFi Month was created by Little Red Reviewer and is moderated by Red Star Reviews. Any science fiction film, short story, play, or book released before 1979 is eligible for this celebration of classic science fiction.  A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage Dans la Lun) was a short silent film released in 1902 by French film… Read More

Solitary Fear: A Review of Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk

The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project.  Title: Christmas… Read More