Tag Archives: Historical

Rolling the Dice: A Review of A Dark Horse


A Dark Horse by Dale Olausen book cover. Image on cover shows silhouette of horse standing on a hill at dusk on an overcast day. Title
: A Dark Horse – A Gothic Tale

Author: Dale Olausen

Publisher: Dodecahedron Books

Publication Date: October 16, 2016

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Mystery, Historical

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Just what might a gambler give up, to go on the winning streak of his life? Even he can’t know for sure. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus legend is given a Damon Runyon spin, in this short story.

Review:

Content warning: Gambling and gambling addiction. I will be discussing them in my review.

Every gambler is bound to run out of luck eventually, right?

By far my favourite type of horror is psychological horror. I was quite pleased with how Mr. Olausen frightened his audience without spilling a single drop of blood or so much as hinting at anything gory. He knew exactly what hints to drop for us that made us deliciously dread the next scene simply by throwing out hints about who or what the dark horse might actually represent. This is the kind of stuff I love getting scared by, especially as Halloween approaches.

It would have been helpful to have more character development in this short story. While I certainly wouldn’t expect to see as much time spent on this as I would for a full-length novel, I did have trouble connecting to the main characters due to how little I knew about them and how much their personalities seemed to remain the same no matter what happened to them. If not for this issue, I would have felt comfortable choosing a much higher rating as the plot itself was well done.

I must admit to not knowing much about gambling at all, so I appreciated the brief explanations the narrator shared about how placing bets works and why some people have so much trouble walking away from a bet. While I will leave it up to experts on these topics to say how accurate everything was, I did enjoy learning more about the main character’s addiction and what he hoped to gain from betting on just one more game or race. It gave me a stronger sense of empathy for folks in his position.

A Dark Horse – A Gothic Tale was a deliciously chilling story for the Halloween season and beyond.

A Review of No Good Deed: A Sourdough Tale

Book cover for No Good Deed by Angela Slatter. Image on cover is a drawing of a white skull wearing a flower wreath on the top of it’s skull.Title: No Good Deed – A Sourdough Tale

Author: Angela Slatter

Publisher: Brain Jar Press

Publication Date: February 17, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 35 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

BlurbAngela Slatter’s No Good Deed is a dark fantasy tale of magic, ghosts, and marriage set in her World Fantasy Award-winning Sourdough universe.

Isobel assumed her wedding would be the grandest day of her life, but when she wakes in a ghost-filled tomb still wearing her bridal veil, it’s clear events have taken an unexpected turn.

With the assistance of a vengeful spirit Isobel escapes her imprisonment, but her new husband Adolphus will not be pleased to discover his wife is alive. As Isobel comes to understand her husband’s darkest secret, the newlyweds begin a deadly dance that only one will survive.  

This chapbook presents a stand-alone Sourdough story that does not appear in any of the three mosaic collections devoted to Slatter’s world of myth and magic, plus a chronology for all the publications that have appeared thus far.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder and revenge. I will be briefly discussing these things in my review.

Sometimes justice is a battle cry.

Isobel was a delightfully contradictory character. Sometimes I shook my head at the foolish choices she made because I could think of several safer options for her that would have taken the exact same amount of brain power to come up with and time to accomplish. In other scenes, I felt a wave of sympathy for how scary it must have been for such a young and vulnerable woman to wake up in her own grave. Getting to know her was a real treat, and I appreciated how many different facets of her personality were displayed here.

It would have been helpful to have more world building in this short story. I understand that it was a prequel to a series, and I certainly wouldn’t expect something of this length to be as well-developed as I’d hope to see in a full-length novel. With that being said, there were many aspects of this world and how magic worked in it that I struggled to figure out. It was frustrating for me at times to see how often the narrator took these details for granted instead of giving the audience a quick explanation of what was going on, especially since the blurb described it as a stand-alone work.

I valued what this book had to say about how women and other vulnerable people are so often mistreated by people who are in positions of power over them. Isobel lived in a time when women had few social and legal protections from those who wished to harm them, so her predicament was even more dire than it would otherwise be. While I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover exactly what the narrator thinks of cultures and families who turn a blind eye to suffering for the sake of tradition or social convention, I was quite pleased with the message myself. It was subtle enough to fit the storyline perfectly but also blunt enough to get its point across for anyone who might think they have a good reason for participating in such things.

No Good Deed – A Sourdough Tale was a satisfying read I’d recommend to anyone who like dark fantasy.

Chasing Victory: A Review of The Sea Witch

Title: The Sea Witch

Author: Bethany Hoeflich

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 21, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 30 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

For years, Ula has been content to hide behind her reputation as the sea queen’s quirky, loner sister.

Isolation and mistrust are her shields, protecting the secrets of her past from resurfacing.

When the sea king offers her the position of court sorcerer, Ula sees an opportunity to reclaim what had been stolen from her.

How could she anticipate it would cost her everything?

The Sea Witch is a villainous short story inspired by The Little Mermaid.

Review:

Content Warning: Blood and death of a parent. I will not be discussing these topics in my review.

Villains come in all shapes and sizes.

I enjoyed seeing how the world building unfolded. There was just enough of it in this tale for me to develop a good sense of what this mermaid society was like and why Ula was so frustrated with her lot in life. The smallest changes in a mermaid’s life could lead to radically different outcomes years later, so it was important to put all of these pieces together during the short time I had with her. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d sure like to take a deeper dive into this society and the unique mermaids who are part of it.

It would have been helpful to have more character development, especially when it concerned Ula. She was such an intelligent and resourceful individual that I found it difficult to understand some of her choices. I could think of so many other ways for her to resolve the conflicts in her life and achieve her goals. It puzzled me to see how often she skipped ahead to more drastic measures when she had so many other options to choose from. I would have liked to get to know her better so that these decisions and her thought processes behind them would make more sense.

Magic was both an art and a science in this universe. It’s effects could generally be predicted in advance, but any mermaid worth his or her fins knew that it was impossible to predict every possible outcome if one ventured down this path. It was amusing to see how Ula had learned to cope with the unpredictable elements of her occupation while also doing everything she could to get the desired results when she cast a spell. The author struck a nice balance between describing how all of this worked and allowing readers to fill in other pieces of puzzle for ourselves.

The Sea Witch was a fun summer read.

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

  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… Read More

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

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… Read More

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

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,… Read More

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