Tag Archives: Historical

Dreaming of Happily Ever After: A Review of Somewhere in Time

Somewhere in Time by Fizza Younis book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a sun and stars superimposed on an actual photo of the night sky that has a few hazy clouds (or maybe galaxies?) floating through it. Title: Somewhere in Time

Author: Fizza Younis

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 31, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 34 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

It’s a fairy tale retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty, set between the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, the story has a darker paranormal twist, and no happily-ever-after within sight. But what the future holds for our beloved characters, Aurora and Prince Phillip, is yet to be determined.

Review:

Content Warning: mafia, murder, suicide, and a brief mention of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Get ready for a wild ride.

This tale was a delightful mixture of topics I’d never think to include in the same storyline like the mafia, the Covid-19 pandemic, and Sleeping Beauty. I admire authors who are willing to take risks like this with their writing. It makes for an exciting reading experience for those of us who are well-versed in the fantasy genre and who can be difficult to surprise. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what Ms. Younis writes next, although I won’t try to guess where her vivid and playful imagination might wander.

Fairy tales don’t have to explain everything, of course, but I found myself wishing this one had gone into more details about how the magic works in this world. For example, the reason why Aurora fell into her deep sleep never made sense to me. I could accept the magical veil that protected her and her stately home while she slept, but it sure would have been nice to know why this spell existed in the first place and under what conditions she might wake up. There were so many other changes to the classic Sleeping Beauty story in this retelling that I didn’t think I should make any assumptions about who or what might have caused these magical events. If the author had been clearer about this, I would have happily chosen a higher rating.

The ending made me yearn for more. I wanted to know how Aurora adjusted to the world after her long nap and what she was planning to do with the rest of her life. Given that this was a fairy tale, though, it did make sense to stop at that moment. Princesses have nearly always been traditionally been described as living happily ever after, and I’m hoping the same can be said about heiresses who wake up in the modern world. Who knows? Maybe we’ll someday get a sequel and find out for sure.

Somewhere in Time kept me guessing until the final sentence.

 

A Review of Horror Anthology – Wicked Pond Collection

Horror Anthology - Wicked Pond Collection by Jeffrey Legendre book cover. Image on cover shows a purple person with purple hair standing in a pond that’s surrounded by lush green trees. She might be swimming or maybe just standing there?Title: Horror Anthology – Wicked Pond Collection

Author: Jeffrey Legendre

Publisher: Vivid Dreams Books (Self-Published)

Publication Date: March 5, 2021

Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary

Length: 37 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Review:

It is well known that the crust of the earth protects us from the molten inter lava beneath it. Within this lava hides the souls of the underworld and hades. But there are portals through the crust. Portals that were opened long ago and then forgotten or abandoned by the people looking to harness the power of the creatures coming out of them. Because the evil that seeps through these portals cannot be contained woe to any man or beast that should encounter such a portal because their days on this earth are numbered. 7 Stories of Horror and Suspense Following the Wicked Pond series.

Content Warning: Death of an animal (not a pet), sexual assault, and murder.

Not every pond is a peaceful one.

This will be a long review because I wanted to discuss all seven stories in this collection. Do be sure to read them in order as events and characters from the beginning were sometimes referenced later on.

“The Pond” was an excellent place to begin. It followed a Native American man who was attempting to hunt a deer so his future wife would have food while they journeyed back home to his tribe. I can’t go into much detail about his experience with the pond when he briefly washed his hands in its water, but I did appreciate his sensible and cautious reaction to bizarre circumstances. That’s the sort of behaviour I always like to see in a protagonist!

Howard was having trouble finding customers for his new business in “The Book” even though he’d grown up in the community and assumed that this would encourage locals to hire him for their bookkeeping and accounting needs. I must admit that his negative attitude and the chip on his shoulder made it difficult for me to like him until I realized that they may have been clues about what was really going on. Then again, maybe he simply wasn’t a very nice guy. Let’s all decide that for ourselves.

Doctor Clarendon first appeared earlier, but he had his heyday in “Fairies” while treating a patient named Walter who insisted he had just seen a nude blue-skinned woman swimming in the pond who made it impossible for him to think of anything else. The ending of this tale disturbed me due to how Walter’s behavior changed after this encounter. I could never tell if his versions of events were genuine or if he was making them up to get out of trouble.

In “The Dogs of Dunncraft,” a monk named Brother Craig was called to a local cottage by a horrified woman who wanted him to dispose of the contents of a basket that was covered in a red cloth. When he found two puppies sleeping there, he decided to try to find a family to adopt them. I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover where the plot goes from there, but I was amused by his determination to do right by these puppies and by how reluctant the folks were around him to have anything to do with them.

I struggled to understand “Like Father…”.  It showed what happened when a young couple named Ron and Jenny hired a local man to build a deck for them that was never completed. Their reaction to this frustrating event defied logic. If only the narrator had given us more clues about what was going on in Ron’s mind when he realized all work on his deck had ceased. This would have been a solid read with more context and character development.

A distracted pilot named Amanda accidentally crashed her plane in “Flying High.” This was something that happened only a few paragraphs into her adventure, so I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to include it here. I found myself wondering why she agreed to fly when her mind was so filled with other troubles, but I’m sure that’s something that happens to pilots just like it can to the rest of us at times. What I did wish was better explained was why she didn’t try to eject herself from the plane once she realized it was going to crash. Yes, it was dangerous, but it sure seemed safer than crashing straight onto the ground!

After reading about the many different ways the pond had harmed other people, ”Fishing” made me shake my head. Who would ever try to go fishing in a magical body of water that seemed to have a grudge against humanity in general? I kept following Chet and Darrel’s story as I tried to figure out the answer to that question. Surely they should have known better! Other readers can decide for themselves what they think, but I was satisfied with what I eventually came up with.

In general, I noticed quite a few grammatical errors, misspellings, and other typos in this collection. With another round of editing and some further plot and character development, I would have been comfortable picking a higher rating than the one I ultimately chose.

Horror Anthology – Wicked Pond Collection was a spooky summer read.

Sensing Something Wrong: A Review of The Wendigo

The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a horned, hairy creature standing on it’s back feet. It looks like a large goat. Title: The Wendigo

Author: Algernon Blackwood

Publisher: Eveleigh Nash

Publication Date: 1910 (and republished on April 21, 2022)

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical

Length: 74 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Algernon Blackwood’s “The Wendigo” tells the story of a camping trip in the Canadian wilderness that goes horribly wrong when the hunters become the hunted. Drawing on the mythical creature known as the Wendigo, this story is regarded by many critics to be one of the best horror tales of all time.

Review:

Content Warning: Racism. I will discuss it in depth in my review.

Forests aren’t friendly to everyone.

Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that explored the various reactions people can have to being in the middle of the woods. What is peaceful and wholesome to one person could be mildly unsettling or even downright terrifying to another based on their previous experiences with nature and how much they know about all of the sounds that occur when one is in the middle of nowhere and can see nothing byt trees stretching out in every direction.

Horror doesn’t have to be gory or gross. There wasn’t single drop of blood in this tale, and yet it made me shudder all the same. I appreciated the slow buildup as the characters walked deeper into the woods and further away from anyone who might help them. That methodical pacing gave me plenty of opportunities to imagine what might happen next and to chew on the clues I’d already discovered. The slower and quieter scenes were exactly what the storyline needed in order to flourish. Some things are much scarier when they’ve been given time to marinate in your thoughts, and this is one of them.

I wanted to make note of the racism mentioned in the content warning. This story was written in 1910, and the author had some truly odd ideas about First Nations people and their mystical connection to nature that many white people of his era believed. In no way am I trying to excuse the offensive nature of those passages or his bizarre beliefs about how one’s race should influence what one does in the woods, only to say that the world has changed for the better since it was written and I think the author was trying to be complimentary with those descriptions based on the historical time in which he lived. While I am generally able to shake my head and ignore ridiculous stuff like this in old books, I did want to let my readers know about them in advance so you can come to your own conclusions about whether this is something you want to read.

With that being said, I loved what Mr. Blackwood did with his characters, especially Punk, a First Nations cook and guide for the group, later on in the storyline. Their character arcs were memorable and made a great deal of sense given what they found in the woods and how everyone reacted to that experience. It made me wonder what would have happened if Dr. Cathcart, the protagonist, had been more interested in cultures outside of his own. This was one of those cases where a little communication would have gone a long way, but certain cultural assumptions made that difficult. I found myself wondering how the storyline might have changed if it were instead told from the perspective of Punk after he realized that the white people he was accompanying through the woods had accidentally discovered something horrific.

The Wendigo was a delightfully chilling tale.

Canadian Tidbits: A Review of Northern Gothic Stories

Northern Gothic Stories by Helena Puumala and Dale Olausen book cover. Image on cover shows green and yellow Northern Lights in the sky at night over a flat plain. There are a few mountains in the distance, too. Title: Northern Gothic Stories

Author: Helena Puumala and Dale Olausen

Publisher: Dodecahedron Books

Publication Date: December 19, 2012

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Historical, Contemporary

Length: 123 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the authors.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Do you like stories featuring aliens, legendary monsters, psychic children, mysterious disappearances, gamblers, cheats, murderers and perhaps old Beelzebub himself? Of course you do – who could resist?

Join two story tellers, a husband and wife team, while they spin pairs of yarns with similar themes and premises, but diverging and surprising plots. Which will you prefer? Take the plunge into the icy world of Northern Gothic Stories and find out for yourself.

Our first pair of stories, “The Magnetic Anomaly” and “The Boathouse Christ” involve tranquil northern lakes and the paranormal mysteries lurking below placid surfaces.

Our second set, “Beyond the Blue Door” and “A Dark Horse” feature mysterious disappearances, which might be natural, but more likely supernatural.

Our final set, “Take me out to the Ballgame” and “The Stalkers” deal with decidedly natural horrors – serial killers, their victims, and third parties who might be one or the other.

Though our stories have northern locales, they might happen anywhere; perhaps even in your quiet town.

Please note that these stories may contain scenes that some readers might find disturbing.

The six stories are each about 6000 words, for a total of about 36000 words. Each can be read in about 20 minutes to half an hour.

Review:

Content Warning: murder, blood, stigmata, emotional abuse, rape, incest, and references to the crucifixion of Christ. I will briefly discuss the sexual and emotional abuse in my review but will not go into graphic detail about them. I will not mention the rest of these topics.

Now is the perfect time to dig into Canadian stories.

In “The Magnetic Anomaly,” a geophysicist named Alex was flown to a remote location in the Barren Lands of the Northwest Territories for twelve weeks in order to take a magnetic survey with a small group of fellow experts and investigate something odd that was happening up there. I was surprised by how much foreshadowing was included here, and I wondered why the characters didn’t pay closer attention to it. With that being said, this was still an enjoyable read. The Canadian tundra was an excellent setting for such a mysterious experience.

The title of ”The Boathouse Christ” grabbed my attention immediately. Imagine finding a wooden image of Christ in a boathouse of all places! Terese, the 14-year-old daughter of the couple who had recently purchased the boathouse, prayed to the image which I thought was an intrigued touch given how that scene was used later on. There was a fairly large cast of characters in this tale, but they all played important roles in both the storyline as well as the author’s wholesome point about what a “real” Canadian in Northern Ontario should look and sound like. It was well worth the time I took to get to know all of them even though I was a little overwhelmed at first. I loved seeing so many perspectives on why some Canadian immigrants don’t feel like they fit in here at first, too.

I have previously reviewed ”A Dark Horse“ and so will not repeat my thoughts about it here.

Jenny was a lonely girl growing up in an emotionally and sexually abusive home in “Beyond the Blue Door” who vividly imagined stepping through a blue door to cope with her trauma. I must be honest here and say this was a tough read due to the subject matter. There was nothing I wanted more than to step into her world and help her escape it. Anyone who is able to read about such terrible things will discover a wonderful surprise at the end, though, so don’t give up if the beginning is difficult.

As soon as Reggie spotted Alison jogging past him in ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” he was intrigued by her. I could see where this story was headed early on. Due to how easy it was to predict what would happen next and how disturbed I was by the content, I did not enjoy this piece. It was also hard for me to understand why certain characters did not pick up on red flag behaviour much earlier on in the storyline. This did not seem to fit their previous patterns of behaviour and so it confused me.

It was a dark and stormy night when Steve, a Toronto security guard, began planning his next murder in “The Stalkers.” I was wary of where this tale was going due to my dissatisfaction with the previous one that shared a similar theme. While this storyline included more plot twists, I still found myself wishing that more attention had been paid to how some of the characters reacted to unexpected events. The earlier descriptions of them once again didn’t match their later behaviour. Just like with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” it  would have been helpful to have more character development so that I could tell if they were behaving in ways that were out of the ordinary for them or if these were simply parts of their personalities that hadn’t been revealed yet.

Northern Gothic Stories was an interesting mixture of Canadian fiction.

Seeking Safe Haven: A Review of The Bruised Princess

The Bruised Princess by A.G. Marshall book cover. Image on cover shows an etching of a castle and a woman wearing a long gown and a veil. She is facing to the right, and the castle is facing forward. Title: The Bruised Princess

Author: A.G. Marshall

Publisher: Avanell Publishing

Publication Date: April 7, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 31 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author. If you are not already familiar with The Princess and the Pea, read it for free at this link before reading this short story.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

A desperate girl on a stormy night…

Rachel is searching for sanctuary from her abusive father, but finds herself a guest in the castle instead. Why does everyone assume she is important, and why do they insist that she sleep on an enormous mattress tower?

Can she unravel the mystery and find a happy ending, or will she be trapped in something even worse? See for yourself in this romantic retelling of The Princess and the Pea.

The Bruised Princess is book three in the Once Upon a Short Story collection.
Discover a unique twist on your favorite fairy tales with these standalone adventures!

Review:

Content Warning: Physical and emotional abuse. I will discuss these topics in my review.

Sensitivity is a gift.

One of my favourite aspects of this short story had to do with how it handled the physical and emotional abuse that two of the characters suffered before and during the time that the readers knew them. These are serious topics that have been covered in a myriad of ways in both the fiction and non-fiction genres for good reason. What made Ms. Marshall’s approach to them unique was how much hope she held for her characters. Yes, they were going through awful experiences at the moment, but that didn’t mean their circumstances were going to remain the same forever. Things can begin to change for the better much faster than one can imagine, and there are so many kind people out there who are willing to help.  These are such important messages to send to survivors, and I think it’s wonderful that the romance genre is yet another place to find it.

I would have liked to see a little more plot development in this piece. Everything happened quickly and without a lot of exposition. That worked well for the beginning and middle, but the ending felt a bit rushed to me because of it. If those last few scenes had been given more time to shine, I would have gone with a full five-star rating. Everything else about this was well done and written to appeal to both new and longtime fans of the romance and fantasy genres.

Rachel was an admirable protagonist. She was physically and emotionally bruised from her father’s mistreatment and the frightening threats of the man he was trying to force her to marry, but she never gave up her desire to find a safe place to live. Her tenacity made me smile, especially when the odds seemed more stacked against her than they ever had been before. I also appreciated the fresh perspective she brought to the traditional legend of The Princess and the Pea. She made certain aspects of it make so much more sense than they had been before.

The Bruised Princess was a heartwarming read.

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

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… Read More

Visions in the Fog: A Review of Terror at Deventhier Bay

Title: Terror at Deventhier Bay Author: Eloise Molano Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: July 24, 2021 Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Historical Length: 26 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: In a remote region of the north, in a huge bay was the town of Deventhier, the characteristic of this… Read More

Stay Home, Stay Safe: A Review of The Machine Stops

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

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

Dire Warnings: A Review of The Signalman

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. As I did last year, I will continue reviewing several of them each December until I’ve reached the end of this series.  Title: The Signalman – A Ghost Story for Christmas… Read More