Tag Archives: Horror

A Review of Tales from Monarch Bay: First Memories

Tales from Monarch Bay - First Memories by J.M. Acosta book cover. Image on cover shows a frozen river of some sort that’s either covered in snow or a large flock of birds. Title: Tales from Monarch Bay – First Memories

Author: J.M. Acosta

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: April 12, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, (mild) Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 55 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

All it took for Rien was to touch his old Rio player and a sudden rush of memories from High School came flooding back. To when he first moved to Monarch Bay and met The Keeper. When he had to stop the faceless man and save the world from an ancient threat. But are these really memories he wants to relive?

Review:

Content Warning: Vomiting and a little blood.  I will not discuss them in my review.

Everything in life has its own rhythm if you pay enough attention to it.

One of the biggest strengths of this novella in my opinion had to do with the way it explored old, half-forgotten memories. I think that just about all of us have had the experience of discovering such a memory after being exposed to something that reminds of us of the past. I was fascinated by how the narrator reacted to everything his mind dredged up, whether they were of happy times or terrible ones. It can be quite a jarring experience, and that aspect of it was captured just as nicely as the many other emotions the narrator felt as he relived that portion of his teenage years.

I had trouble keeping track of the plot and the world building. Some of their most important moments were described so rapidly and in such little detail that I wasn’t always sure what was happening. This was a technique that made sense in the beginning when Rien first discovered the MP3 player and had no idea what it was capable of doing, but I wasn’t quite sure why it was used later on once the stakes were higher. As much as I would have loved to give this a higher rating, I simply couldn’t do it due to these issues.

Beaches are such liminal spaces that it made perfect sense for so much of this tale to happen on and near them. It was interesting to take note of all of the connections the author made between the existence of ordinary beaches in our world and the otherworldly places they described that were every bit as transitory and filled with uncertainty. What made this portion of the storyline even better was how it was even more deeply explored in the ending, but that’s all I can say about that topic. If you want to learn more, you’ll simply have to go read it for yourself.

Tales from Monarch Bay – First Memories was a thought-provoking read.

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

Terror at Deventhier Bay by Eloise Molano book cover. Image on cover shows an old wooden ship sailing on a calm sea at night. The full moon is peeking out behind the clouds behind them. 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 place was precisely the origin of the formation of a thick summer fog that was somewhat mysterious that was found in these partly cold waters that condition the Deventhier weather.
And it is precisely in the bay of this town where its locals talked about old stories of shipwrecks, inclement winter, terrifying fog, accidents of fishing boats and many stories of the dead and ghosts.
In one of these stories, a local named Manfred recounted the events that happened to an acquaintance named Albert on his trip on the ship named Zarpador, commanded by Captain Horace and with several well-known sailors among others, was Sigmur, Jhon and Hendrik.
On one of their fishing trips they had a fatal accident with a small boat caused by intense fog and heavy rains that did not give the sailors vision.
Due to the weather they could not rescue anyone from the small boat but in the following hours some strange phenomena and appearances began to happen on the boat, which drove its occupants to madness and increased the risk around the constant fog and cold. and the rain that lashed them.
Join me as I follow this story full of suspense, terror and dramatic testimonies from the people who suffered all these events.

Review:

Small towns are the perfect place for shocking news to spread.

The horror genre encompasses many different themes and styles. This isn’t something that so much as glances in the direction of anything gory or gross. Instead, it relies on secondhand information and the outer limits of the human imagination to made its audience shudder. That just so happens to be one of my favourite types of horror, and I’m pleased every time I find another author who writes this sort of stuff. Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that tried as many different ways as they could to scare me using these tools and preciousF few others.

This short story had a huge cast of characters that I struggled to keep track of. As much as I liked getting to know the characters, it would have been easier to remember who was who if the cast was smaller given how few pages the author had to work with when introducing everyone and explaining how they were connected to the haunting. Having fewer characters would have also left more space for the scary parts of the storyline, too, which I thought passed by too quickly given how much of the blurb was devoted to them.

With that being said, I did enjoy the conversational tone of this tale. It had been passed around to so many members of the community by the time the main character shared it that it had that wonderfully tattered feeling that sometimes happens when a story is passed through so many different points of view. That is to say, it came out in dribs and drabs instead of being as fresh and sharp as it might have been if those moments were described to the readers from the first person perspective. This was an excellent choice given the subject matter, and it made me curious to see what Ms. Molano might write next.

Terror at Deventhier Bay should be read by anyone who is looking for something spooky on a rainy or foggy night.

The Tumultuous Lake: A Review of Dark Waters

Dark Waters by Katherine Arden book cover .Image on cover shows a gigantic fish swimming up to the surface of a lake as boats peacefully float on top of the water. Title: Dark Waters

Author: Katherine Arden

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: August 10, 2021

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 256 pages

Source: I borrowed it from my local library.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

An Indie Bestseller!

Filled with chills and spooks galore, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Arden’s latest installment in the creep-tastic Small Spaces Quartet is sure to haunt.

Until next time. That was chilling promise made to Ollie, Coco and Brian after they outsmarted the smiling man at Mount Hemlock Resort. And as the trio knows, the smiling man always keeps his promises. So when the lights flicker on and off at Brian’s family’s inn and a boom sounds at the door, there’s just one visitor it could be. Only, there’s no one there, just a cryptic note left outside signed simply as —S.

The smiling man loves his games and it seems a new one is afoot. But first, the three friends will have to survive a group trip to Lake Champlain where it’s said Vermont’s very own Loch Ness monster lives. When they’re left shipwrecked on an island haunted by a monster on both land and sea, Brian’s survival instincts kick in and it’s up to him to help everyone work together and find a way to escape.

One thing is for sure, the smiling man is back and he wants a rematch. And this time Brian is ready to play.

Review:

Content Warning: Snakes, shipwreck, snake bite, and death of a parent. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

It was only supposed to be a short boat tour, but anything can happen out on the water.

In my review of the second story in this series, I mentioned yearning to read one of these adventures from Brian’s perspective. It was exciting to crack open this one and realize my wish had been granted. Brian’s parents were more protective of their son in certain ways than could be said for Ollie or Coco, so it was interesting to see how he balanced his parents’ expectations that he would be a studious kid who socialized most often with his family with his own desire to spend so much of his free time with his two best friends. This tension between him and his parents went a long way in explaining some of his personality quirks that I’d noticed earlier in the series. It was wonderful to get to know him better.

The abrupt ending caught me by surprise. It happened exactly when the storyline picked up speed and had reached its most exciting portion. While I think I understand what the author was trying to do here and hope it does pay off in the final instalment, it was jarring as a reader to transition from an adrenaline-surging scene to turning a page and realizing this book had suddenly ended. I was disappointed by the lack of closure for the conflicts that the characters were dealing with.

With that being said, there was a minor conflict involving bullying from Small Spaces that was finally resolved here. It wasn’t something I was expecting to see the characters bring up again, so it was nice to watch them work it out and come to an agreeable conclusion. This did give me hope that the author will do the same thing for the many conflicts that were introduced here but left hanging at the end. I will be reading the fourth and final book with high hopes that it will earn a much higher rating from me than this one did.

This is the third instalment in the Small Spaces Quartet. Be sure to read Small Spaces and Dead Voices first as there were references to those tales here that will only make sense to people who have read this series in order.

Dark Waters was an exciting nautical adventure.

A Review of Dare vs. The Doll

Dare vs the Doll: A not-actually-scary horror short story Kindle Edition by Si Clarke author. Image on cover is a photo of a scruffy little dog looking up with alarm at someone standing next it in rain boots. Title: Dare vs. The Doll – A not-actually-scary horror short story

Author: Si Clarke

Publisher: White Hart Fiction

Publication Date: March 30, 2021

Genres:  Horror, Parody, Humour, Romance, Contemporary

Length: 31 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Who expects a haunted doll to be such a nuisance?

When Dare’s dog discovers an abandoned doll on their doorstep, Dare assumes it’s nothing more than a lost toy… until it begins to talk.

After the doll offers up a string of bad suggestions and unhelpful advice, Dare is left wondering if the isolation of lockdown has finally proved too much.

Struggling to get rid of the bed-tempered toy, Dare has no idea that this not-quite-scary fiend will accidentally change everything.

With a dash of humour, this queer cosy-horror short story is a fun, quirky tale – perfect for readers who like the idea of being scared more than the reality of it.

Review:

Content Warning: One haunted doll. This was also technically set during a Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 or early 2021, but none of the characters were sick or anything during it.

Some problems are much easier to solve than you might think!

Dare was an amazing main character. I will leave it up to readers who have autism to comment on those aspects of this character, but I really enjoyed their matter-of-fact approach to any number of problems, from the sudden appearance of a rainstorm to the probably evil doll that they couldn’t seem to get rid of no matter what they tried. Honestly, Dare was exactly the sort of person I’d hope to have around in an emergency. If only all characters in Horror stories were this sensible and practical!

I would have liked to see the author spend more time on the parody elements of the plot, especially when it came to making fun of how many characters behave at the beginning of horror stories. Those were the best scenes in this short story in my opinion, and I would have loved to have more of them. The author did an excellent job of acknowledging the expectations of that genre while also showing a much more realistic reaction to learning that one’s dog has accidentally brought home a haunted doll. I simply needed more of these elements in order to give this a higher rating due to how important those themes were to the storyline.

The romantic plot twist was as unexpected as it was delightful. I rarely find stories that mix romance and horror together, especially if they’re about Queer characters. This is even more true when I narrow that list down to authors who have done so successfully for me as a reader. They are such wildly different genres that it’s pretty difficult to find the right balance between the lightheartedness of most romance and the heavier themes of most horror, so it was a great deal of fun to see how it happened here.

Dare vs. The Doll made me chuckle.

Be Careful: A Review of Dead Voices

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a car driving up to a ski lodge at night. One large cloud above the lodge looks like the ghostly face of a person. Title: Dead Voices

Author: Katherine Arden

Publisher: Puffin Books

Publication Date: June 30, 2020

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Adventure, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 272 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

With Mr. Voland’s help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.

Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.

Review:

Content Warning: Orphanages and child abuse. I will be briefly referencing these topics in my review.

Not everyone is trustworthy.

Once again, the author played around with the audience’s expectations about how characters should behave. I can’t go into a lot of detail about this without giving away spoilers, but I was pleasantly surprised by how some of the plot twists revealed themselves once I realized that my assumptions about certain characters was completely off base. Some of them genuinely surprised me, and even the ones I saw coming were still a great deal of fun to observe as they fully unfolded and once again changed the courses of these characters’ lives. This was my second experience reading Ms. Arden’s work, and it was even better than my first. I can’t wait to see what else she’s written!

One of the biggest changes in the second instalment of this series was that both Ollie and Coco narrated it. That wasn’t something I was expecting to see happen, and it was wonderful to get to know Coco a little better. She was an intelligent and brave girl who went above and beyond all of my expectations of what it would be like to see the world from her perspective. Having two narrators was more than enough for this fast-paced adventure, but I’m hoping that Brian will have a chance to be a narrator later on in this series. While I totally understood why there wasn’t space for a third narrator here, he should have a chance to shine like his two best friends already have. My fingers are crossed that this will happen in for them.

I liked the way Ms. Arden approached the backstories of the ghosts these characters encountered, especially when it came to the orphaned girls who had been mistreated when they were alive and the Hemlock Lodge had operated as an orphanage. The plot didn’t dwell on their pasts, but it did share enough details about their lives and deaths to pique my interest. Given how quickly the storyline was moving, it made perfect sense to me for the narrators to learn the basics about the ghosts they were trying to help. Readers can always fill in the blanks for ourselves if we wish by making some educated guesses, although I was content to accept what we were told and move onto the action.

This is the second book in the Small Spaces Quartet. I strongly recommend reading Small Spaces first as the sequel assumes the reader remembers certain facts about the beginning of this series. Some key scenes in Dead Voices will only make sense if you’re already familiar with these characters and the world they live in.

Dead Voices was a delightfully spooky paranormal mystery.

You’d Better Run Faster – A Review of Small Spaces

Title: Small Spaces Author: Katherine Arden Publisher:  Puffin Books Publication Date: July 9, 2019 Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Horror, Contemporary Length: 256 pages Source: I borrowed it from the library. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about… Read More

Suspicious Town: A Review of The Dunwich Horror

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

Following the Old Ways: A Review of The White People

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

A Review of the Last Photograph of John Buckley

Title: The Last Photograph of John Buckley Author: T.J. Brown Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: August 10, 2016 Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Historical Length: 34 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: When a photographic retoucher is commissioned to fix the abnormalities on a Great War portrait, he finds his… Read More

Rolling the Dice: A Review of A Dark Horse

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… Read More