Tag Archives: Historical

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

Fragments - A Collection of Short Stories by Jachrys Abel book cover. Image on cover shows a purple fragment of glass drawn on a grey background 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 subject matter, but with a shared undercurrent of what can best be described as honest humanness. 

There’s a gravedigger’s uptake of a small favor for his brother, a young boy teaching his friend how to survive in a haunted house, and a valiant king’s attempt to escape the clutches of death. There’s also the arduous endeavor of a nameless boy to prove his existence, and a young girl’s tortured wait for her partner’s return home. The daughter of a scientist uncovers why exactly the ocean waves, while a defunct human does penance for calculated murder. The collection then ends off with a rework of the author’s first ever published short which first appeared in literary magazine, Catch The Moment: a tale of how an invalid flees when his home is sieged, dragging along with him the village leader and her trusted advisor. 

Fragments is Jachrys’ first self-published collection of short stories. His other works have appeared in numerous literary publications, of which include A Philosopher’s Stone; Humanity Dawns; Catch The Moment; The Writing Cooperative; The Ascent; The Bad Influence; Storymaker; and Literally Literary.

Review:

Content warning: abuse and murder. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Sometimes a single moment in time is all a character needs to reveal their true selves. 

I will briefly discuss a few of the pieces of this collection in my review. If any of them are interesting to you, do check out this book in its entirety. 

The title of “A Gravedigger’s Tale” tells the readers most of what we need to know about it right away. The gravedigger in question had been doing this job for a decade and knew all of the tricks to avoid rousing the dead when digging a new grave or taking care of the grounds. Simple things like name and gender identity were never made clear, and yet I felt like I knew them well because of how much time they spent explaining their life’s work to the audience and giving hints about the latest grave they were digging and why it was such an important one. 

There were a couple of stories in this collection that I thought could use a bit more development. Yes, they were fragments of fiction and therefore not meant to be as well fleshed out as, say, a novella or longer short story, but I would have enjoyed them more if their narrators had gone into a little more description about their plots and meanings. “The King’s Escape from Death” was a good example of this. After the king received word of something terrible that was to happen to him at a specific time, he ran away from home for the evening to avoid it. I was intrigued by his plan and sure would have liked to see him explain how he thought it ought to work in greater detail, especially since the warning he received was such a vague one. 

“Why the Ocean Waves” made me smile. It followed a conversation between a young girl named Aleandra and her father about why waves exist. After hearing his scientific explanation for it and finding it unsatisfying, she shared her own theories about why waves exist and what they mean for humans. It was heartwarming to see how he paid attention to her as she thought through her answer carefully .

Fragments gently drifted between literary and speculative fiction. It should be read by anyone who appreciated the numerous grey areas between genres.

A Review of A Fictional Fable of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch

Book cover for A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch by Berenice Corney-Thompkins. Image on cover is a drawing of a frog-like creature wearing pants and a suit jacket, sitting on a stump, and looking at a butterfly.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 Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch will delight children of all ages, and please their guardians too! With absorbing artwork, charismatic and crafty characters, palaverous and periphrastic pleonastic narrative and dialogue, the Fictional Fables series will appeal to fans of Victorian-era compositions as well as contemporary retroists!

Review:

Subtle is the name of the game here. 

I appreciated the way the narrator gently shared the message of Ptolemy’s adventure. He learned an important lesson along the way, but it was shared in such a way that the reader gradually realized what was happening at the same time he did. The storyline revealed certain facts along the way, but there never so much of a whiff of moralizing about it. Rather, the characters naturally grew and changed as a result of their experiences. That is a breath of fresh air in this genre, and I can only hope it becomes a much more common way to show readers the possible positive effects of their actions if they make certain choices in life. 

While I completely understand that this tale was written in a Victorian style that is rarely used in modern picture books, the vocabulary in it made it difficult for me to determine who the audience was and who I should be recommending it to. There were multiple words that many contemporary adults don’t know the definitions of, much less the early grade school audience I believe this was written for based on the content of the plot itself. If the target audience was clearer, I would have chosen a higher rating. 

With that being said, the subtext of this story was marvellous. Ptolemy might have appeared to be a fairly straightforward character at first, but there were more layers to his personality and understanding of social nuance than I first assumed. My favourite scene happened at the end when the audience finally gets a peek behind his happy-go-lucky persona. This was one of the major reasons why I assumed this was actually meant for adults and confused by how it was marketed. 

If you enjoy mature picture books with multiple layers of meanings, A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch is a good place to start. 

 

A Review of Fangs & Fairy Dust

Fangs & Fairy Dust by Melissa Monroe book cover. Image on cover is a cartoon image of a vampire wearing a maid's uniform and holding a fairy in the palm of her right hand 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 witch cozy mysteries, you’ll love this book!

Review:

Content warning: kidnapping. I will not be discussing it in my review.

Not every vampire is a villain.

Most of the vampire fiction I read is firmly rooted in the horror genre, so it was refreshing to read about a vampire who had a strict code of ethics and stuck to it. I didn’t always agree with the decisions Priscilla, the main character, made, but I knew she’d stick to her deeply-held beliefs about what was right and wrong. She was principled like that, and I admired her for it.

There wasn’t much character development in this tale at all. I understand that this was the beginning of a new series, but I still would have liked to see Priscilla change in some way as a result of her earliest experiences with her fairy godmother. She had plenty of opportunities to do so. Seeing her end up the same person as she was in the beginning dampened my enthusiasm to keep going with her adventures.

It was nice to see a mystery wrapped up so quickly. Priscilla wasted no time in trying to figure out what was really happening with it. No, I can’t go into details about what was going on there without giving away spoilers due to the short length of this story and what a small role it played in the plot, but I can say that I appreciated her determination to get to the truth no matter what.

I also would have liked to see more attention paid to the plot development. Once again, I wouldn’t expect a novella to be as well-developed as something full length, but there was so much more the author could have done with a vampire who remembered life in the 1600s and could tell people about it in the present day.

The punchy dialogue kept making me smile. There were some clever one liners thrown about, and they were pretty evenly distributed among the main characters. It’s nice when the spotlight can be shared among multiple characters like that. No, the dialogue didn’t match the way people actually spoke in 1665, but I assumed Priscilla translated all of the thees and thous into modern, conversational English for the sake of her twenty-first companion who was hearing about the beginning of her relationship with her fairy godmother for the first time.

Fangs & Fairy Dust was a quick, lighthearted read that I’d recommend to anyone who is in the mood for such a thing.

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 maker Georges Méliès who was assisted by his brother Gaston. In other words, don’t turn up your volume when watching it! There is no sound. This was the first science fiction tale ever filmed to the best knowledge of modern film historians. A Trip to the Moon influenced generations of storytellers in this genre.

if you’d like to watch this film before reading my thoughts about it, click on the link below or hit play. It’s just under 13 minutes long.

A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage Dans la Lun)

Everything after this sentence will contain spoilers.

As you have probably surmised from the title, A Trip to the Moon told the story of a group of men who built a space ship and visited the moon.

One of the things that first grabbed my attention about their adventures were the roles women played in them. Women appeared to be part of the planning and construction committees but did not travel with the main characters to the moon. I would have loved to sit in on the meetings that decided who would play what role in this film.

Screenshot from Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902) in which a rocket ship has wedged itself into the eye of the moon.I’d seen this image floating around online for years but never knew the context of it.

It came as a delightful surprise to finally discover why the moon had a face and, more importantly, why that face had a gigantic space ship sticking out of it.

There was also something interesting about seeing what the film makers thought were important things to bring to the moon.

Granted, this was pretty soft science fiction even for the era in which it was created, but I’d never think to prioritize packing pillows of all things. I suppose that everyone needs to feel comfortable when they fall asleep on the surface of the moon!

This pattern continued throughout the thirteen minutes of lighthearted lunar adventures. While this is thought of as science fiction, I saw so many fantasy influences as well. It made me wonder if those two genres were much more tightly entwined in 1902. I’d bet they were given how many scientific advances humanity had yet to make as well as the fact that this appears to be the first speculative fiction film ever made like I mentioned above!

All of you should absolutely watch this short film. It was a whimsical glimpse into how some people thought 119 years ago. Since we can’t sit down with them and pick their minds, seeing what they created is the next best thing.

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

Completing the Set: A Review of The Crown Derby Plate

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: The… Read More

An Alluring Trap: A Review of One Who Saw

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: One… Read More

Stained Property: A Review of The Red Lodge

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: The… Read More

Flickering Hope: A Review of Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Title: Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel Author: Seth Tucker Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 25, 2013 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Historical Length: 27 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: A murder in Whitechapel is not uncommon, but the state of the body requires someone… Read More