Tag Archives: Humorous Books

Too Much Noise in a Empty House: A Review of The Estate Guards

Book cover for The Estate Guards by Kenny Wayne. Image on cover shows a three-story house that has lights shining through nearly every window. It is dark outside and lighting is striking the land behind the house and temporarily illuminating the sky. What a stormy night it is. Title: The Estate Guards

Author: Kenny Wayne

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 1, 2023

Genres: Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 29 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Kenny Wayne’s short ghost story, The Estate Guards, is the humorous tale of two brothers who can’t seem to keep from running afoul of ghosts.

Harley and younger brother James are providing security for an estate company at an eerie, old mansion whose elderly owners recently died in a tragic accident.

For the straightforward, down to earth, older brother Harley, it’s just a job. For younger brother James, who wants to be just like his older brother, it’s not so simple. Even though he would quickly say he doesn’t believe in ghosts, secretly he’s not so sure.

But after this particularly long night, any uncertainty he had about the existence of ghosts will be removed. The weird noises in the attic, and those upstairs bedroom lights that keep turning on and off by themselves are only the beginning. It’s the other strange late night occurrences that strips the last bit of doubt from James’ mind.

This night there will be strange enough occurrences to make even Harley a believer.

Review:

Dealing with ghosts is all in an honest day’s work, right?

The relationship between Harley and James was interesting, and I found myself wishing there had been more attention paid to the differences between them. It’s interesting to me to think about how wildly different siblings can be even though they were born to the same parents and more or less experienced the same sort of events growing up. Genetics are important, but they certainly can’t predict or explain anything as new readers will soon discover in this story.

I struggled to get to know all of the characters in this short story, especially since two of them were given most of the dialogue, but it was important to remain connected to everyone in order to understand the ending. There simply wasn’t enough space to develop everyone well enough for me to feel emotionally invested in what would happen to them. This is something I’m saying as a reader who normally loves both haunted house and humorous tales.

The humour took a little while to show up, but it was well worth the wait. I think this will be most appealing to readers who either come from a working class background or know a lot about such subcultures in some other way as the jokes weren’t always the sort of things generally included in funny tales about, say, doctors or lawyers. This was about salt of the earth sort of folks who quietly keep the world humming along without expecting or generally receiving any recognition of the myriad of things they do that ensure everyone has a safe and healthy life. The characters were hardworking and matter-of-fact which were exactly the traits they needed in order to make the ghosts believable and the twists worth a chuckle.

The Estate Guards made me smile.

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A Review of Wilhelmina Quigley – Monkey See, Monkey Do

Book cover for Wilhelmina Quigley - Monkey See, Monkey Do by Liese Sherwood-Fabre. Image on cover shows a drawing of a blue and green stuffed toy monkey sitting on a jack-o-lantern. The monkey is wearing a black scarf and a black witch’s hat that has a gold buckle on it. Its left arm is raised as if to wave a friendly hello to the audience. Title: Wilhelmina Quigley – Monkey See, Monkey Do

Author: Liese Sherwood-Fabre

Publisher: Little Elm Press (Self-Published)

Publication Date: June 5, 2023

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 32 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A young witch with unpredictable powers. A complex transformation spell. What could possibly go wrong?

Following a magical mishap, Wilhelmina Quigley accidentally transforms her classmate, Fynn, into a monkey. With a frightened Fynn running from those who could help him, Wilhelmina sets off on an extraordinary adventure to recapture and transform the monkey back to a boy. From incantation blunders to misfired spells, each step along the way brings laughter, surprises, and valuable lessons about self-discovery.

“Wilhelmina Quigley: Monkey See, Monkey Do” is a captivating short story that will whisk readers away to a realm where anything is possible and where the most important lessons are learned when you believe in your own abilities. Join Wilhelmina on her extraordinary quest and prepare to be spellbound by the enchantment that unfolds page after page.

If you enjoy humorous fantasy stories about young witches, get this story now.

Review:

Embarrassment is part of life.

Wilhelmina was a well-written and amusing protagonist. She talked and behaved exactly how a kid her age should, and some of the things she did made me shake my head as I remembered my own middle school blunders that were horribly embarrassing at the time but that I can now find the humour in. It can be difficult to capture that awkward, in-between stage of life accurately, so I have to commend Ms. Sherwood-Fabre for pulling it off.

I would have loved to see more world building in this short story. For example, Wilhelmina‘s teacher struck me as a rather exasperated and impatient person. Was this because the teacher was having a bad day, the magical society they lived in was not very forgiving of honest mistakes due to the high stakes of misused magic, or that bad moods were a side effect of spells going horribly wrong? I could see arguments for any of these explanations and a few more besides them, but the text never explained what was going on here. Having that answer could have helped fill in some holes for me about how their culture was different from all of the non-magical ones out there.

With that being said, the humor and low stakes here were delightful. So many of the fantasy and Halloween stories I review have high stakes and bloody battles that it was refreshing to sit back and see how a young witch learned from her mistakes and tried to make them right again. Not everything has to be about saving the world, after all! Sometimes trying to turn a classmate back into a kid again before the school day ends  is all the tension one needs to enjoy a plot.

Wilhelmina Quigley – Monkey See, Monkey Do was a gentle little Halloween-themed tale that both kids and adults can enjoy.

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A Review of All the Nothing We’ve Done

Book cover for All the Nothing We've Done: A Short Story” Christina McMullen. Image on cover shows fog spreading through a rocky terrain. Title: All the Nothing We’ve Done

Author: Christina McMullen

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 8, 2017

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Humour, Contemporary

Length: 24 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Chevelle Falsetto has died, struck down by the Number 48 bus. The very bus she should have been riding to work. Now, instead of explaining to her boss why she’s late, Chevelle finds herself explaining to Saint Peter why she’s early.

Review:

Content Warning: Bus accident, alcohol use

Everyone deserves a second chance, right?

Chevelle was a witty, opinionated, and confident protagonist. I kept shaking my head as I read all of her rebuttals to what Saint Peter was saying. She certainly had thought her arguments through well, and I was curious to see if the heavenly realm would actually listen to what she had to say.  There is definitely something to be said for characters who know their worth and who aren’t shy about pushing back against unfair judgements even if those judgements come from a saint himself.

I would have liked to see more time spent developing the ending. There were some important rules established in earlier scenes that were not taken into account in the final scene. As much as I enjoyed the rest of it, seeing the characters ignore the prior plot development dampened my enthusiasm for this tale.  If only there had been a better explanation for why this happened!

With that being said, I enjoyed having a protagonist who worked in the service industry. This is just uncommon enough that it makes me perk up every time I find another book that talks about what it’s like to work a low-paid, stressful, and low-status job without any hope of finding a better position. The hopelessness of her work life endeared me to Chevelle even more than I already was. More than anything, I wanted her to finally get her happily ever after.

While there are references to Christian religious beliefs here, this cheeky tale isn’t something I’d slot into the inspirational genre by any means. It’s meant for readers of any (or no) belief system without advocating for any particular perspective , so don’t let the references to saints and heaven dissuade you from checking it out if you don’t generally read about such things.

All the Nothing We’ve Done made me smile.

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A Review of Vespasian Moon’s Fabulous Autumn Carnival

Vespasian Moon’s Fabulous Autumn Carnival - A Long Short Story by Berthold Gambrel book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a large yellow full moon with a black bat flying near the top of it in the sky. There are two jack o lanterns at the bottom of the cover near the title. Title: Vespasian Moon’s Fabulous Autumn Carnival – A Long Short Story

Author: Berthold Gambrel

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 18, 2019

Genres: Paranormal, Mystery, Romance, Holiday, Humour

Length: 54 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Federal Agent Jane Raczyck is tired of her job. So is Sheriff Sixtus Davis, the head law enforcement officer in the town of Turpin’s Gulch. But when Raczyck’s agency sends her to work with Davis on combating the drug epidemic in the small Appalachian hamlet, the two are compelled to investigate the local carnival and its mysterious impresario… even though they’d much rather be doing other things together.

Review:

Content Warning: References to drug abuse, multi-generational poverty, and some of the negative consequences of living in an insular community like prejudice against and a deep distrust of outsiders. I won’t discuss these subjects in my review, and they were a minor part of an otherwise pretty lighthearted plot.

Small towns are supposed to be sleepy, peaceful little places where nothing weird ever happens….right?

The main characters were a hoot. Neither of them seemed all that emotionally invested in carrying out the roles in society that they were supposed to be fulfilling. Even when Jane behaved like a federal agent and Davis took his job as head law enforcement officer in Turpin’s Gulch seriously, there was still always an faint undercurrent of restlessness and snark in their personalities that always made me wonder how they’d break the unwritten rules of how they were supposed to act next based on their occupations and gender identities. This was exactly what the setting needed in order to thrive, and it made me wish I’d ignored my overflowing to be read list and jumped ahead to this tale when it first came out.

I loved seeing how the narrator broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience when necessary. For example, this was how Jane was described: “Now, because standards of beauty vary greatly, let me simply say that she had whatever you consider to be the most attractive hair color and style, atop whatever you think is the ideal face shape, with skin colored in the precise shade of pigment you like the best,” and it made me laugh out loud when I read it. Of course the audience’s preconceptions and tastes matter when describing a beautiful woman, and it tickled my funny bone to see that addressed so openly.  Do keep an eye out for other unexpected moments like this while reading because i can’t possibly list them all in this review.

The paranormal elements of the plot were beautifully understated. Many of these scenes that included them could be explained away with rational alternatives to what some characters assumed was happening there. I love ambigious stuff like that, especially when it’s followed up with scenes that gently nudge the reader in the particular direction the author wants you go while still leaving room for other interpretations for those who wish to hang onto their own ideas about the origins of previous spooky moments. Yes, I’m being vague in this paragraph on purpose. If you want to know more, you’ll have to read this book!

While no prior knowledge of Appalachian culture is required to understand the storyline, readers who are from that culture or who have knowledge of it in other ways will find some gems here. I nodded and chuckled as I read certain passages because of how much they reminded me of certain people I knew when I was a kid or of cultural references that I rarely see mentioned in fiction.

Vespasian Moon’s Fabulous Autumn Carnival was everything I was hoping it would be and more.

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Keeping an Open Mind: A Review of The Watch

The Watch by P.A. Western-Pittard book cover. Image on cover shows a watch face that’s glowing yellow and green. It’s superimposed over a photo of some furniture draped in white sheets. Title: The Watch – An Upfallers Story

Author: P.A. Western-Pittard

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: August 27, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Humour, Contemporary

Length: 55 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A Hilarious longish-short story adventure for fans of Terry Pratchett and lovers of quirky fantasy scifi.

In the Temple City of Tarn, no one and nothing is who they seem…

When Julian, a down-on-his-luck acolyte, comes across an ancient watch, he thinks this is exactly what he needs to solve his money problems. But Julian always was an optimistic dreamer. What begins as a seemingly simple stroke of luck soon turns into an adventure where he must find the impossible, or literally die trying.

But considering Julian isn’t much a fan of either dying or trying, this is going to turn out to be harder than he thought.

A longish-short story involving Soap-Bubble-Temples, a quest for ancient warbots and the meanest gunrunner in town, The Watch is a riotous introduction to the world of the Upfallers series.

Review:

The fewer assumptions you make about this novella, the better.

I appreciated the way the narrator repeatedly broke or reimagined many of the most popular tropes of the fantasy genre. Yes, the plot included a quest, but even there the author was discerning about what happened to his character and how they reacted to it. There were multiple times when I was fairly certain I knew what might happen next due to how long I’ve been reading this genre. In most cases, I was completely wrong in a pleasant way. This was my first time reading Mr. Western-Pittard‘s work, so I don’t have anything else to compare it to yet. What I can say is that I was impressed with how he approached the concept of contemporary fantasy, and I’m curious to see if his other works might do the same thing.

Even though the blurb interested me quite a bit, I struggled to remain engaged with the slow pacing of this novella. It spent so much time setting up Julian’s backstory and strengthening the world building that I wished for more action and conflict. This was a pattern that repeated itself after Julian’s adventures with the talking watch began. It read more like the first chapter of a book instead of a self-contained story. I don’t want to make any assumptions about why it was written this way, but the style did interfere with my desire to learn more.

What saved the storyline for me was the wry personality of the watch. If I had to assign a personality to such an item, I would have gone with something much more serious and academic because for some reason my brain assumes that something that was created to keep track of time would probably be staid in general. This is only loosely related to what the author actually came up with, of course, but it was delightful to see how creatively Mr. Western-Pittard approached character development. Playing around with the audience’s assumptions and expectations always grabs my attention, and this is even more true when it’s done as joyfully as it was done here.

This seems to be the introduction to a series, and I believe it is where readers are supposed to begin meeting the characters. I can’t say if the later instalments can be read out of order as I haven’t picked them up yet.

The Watch – An Upfallers Story is a good pick if you’re in the mood for something humorous.

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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.

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A Review of The Reluctant Familiar’s Guide to Christmas Tree Defence 

Book cover for The Reluctant Familiar’s Guide to Christmas Tree Defence by Bethany Hoeflich. Image on cover is a photoshopped picture of a cat wearing a Santa hat and sitting next to a Christmas treeTitle: The Reluctant Familiar’s Guide to Christmas Tree Defence

Author: Bethany Hoeflich

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 20, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

After a traumatizing pumpkin spice candle accident, Mr. Fluffykins is looking forward to a quiet night curled up under his Christmas tree.

Unfortunately, life has other plans . . .

Review:

What could be better than a cat spending time with his beloved Christmas tree?

The world building was excellent. At one point I paused and tried to figure out if this was part of a series because of how intricately everything was explained to the reader during the fast-paced and exciting plot. While I didn’t find evidence of other books set in this world, I was delighted by how much effort the author put into layering everything together. She couldn’t have done a better job of placing her characters in a setting that was filled with tantalizing details about how it worked that were all filtered through the discerning mind of a cat who loved his humans but was only occasionally interested in the minutia of their magical abilities.

I adored this book’s sense of humour. It was slightly irreverent at times in exactly the way anyone might expect to find from a feline narrator who had strong opinions about how the world should work. I couldn’t stop chuckling as I read it, especially once Mr. Fluffykins was left at home to his own devices and realized his evening wasn’t going to be the restful one he’d been hoping for. His reaction to that scene was as perfectly cat-like as it was just plain hilarious.

Mr. Fluffykins was a relatable and amusing protagonist who I began rooting for immediately. The worse his predicament became, the more I hoped  he’d figure out a way to resolve his conflict peacefully and get back to the catnap he’d been looking forward to all day. Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that made perfect sense in his mind as they were unfolding but that I knew his humans were going to be completely confused about once they returned home. The author did a wonderful job of showing how the same event can be interpreted so differently depending on which point of view one takes. This is even more true during the holidays when many folks are busier than usual!

The Reluctant Familiar’s Guide to Christmas Tree Defence was utterly delightful from the first scene to the final one.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Jolly Jammers (biscuits) lying on a white surface. This week’s prompt was a little ambiguous.

Should I be mentioning lighthearted stories in general even if they touch on sad topics at times?

What about collections of true humorous stories?

Will some people share joke books?

How will everyone else interpret it?

Will Canada ever sell Jolly Jammers and, if so, would they be dairy-free and would I like them? I didn’t even know such a thing existed until I went searching for stock photos of happy faces. These cookies definitely do have happy little faces for sure.

I wish we could all have a quick meeting to see what everyone’s responses would be like. Since that isn’t possible, I went with a mixture of books that I found uplifting and amusing.

1. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

2. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett

3. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

4. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

5. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

7.Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)  by Mindy Kaling

8. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

9. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

10. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

I will be blogging a review of The Canterville Ghost in January for Vintage Science Fiction Month, so stay tuned!

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What Bears Do in the Woods: A Review of The Ursus Verses

The Ursus Versus by Nathan Waddell book cover. Image on cover is of a cartoon bear standing behind a tree stump, peeking out, and waving. Title: The Ursus Versus

Author: Nathan Waddell

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 29, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Length: 66 pages

Source: I purchased it.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Do you like bears and black holes and squid monsters and dragons and cowboy dragon slayers and riding your bike all around town looking for something to do? Because that’s what I like and this is my chapbook which captures that spirit of fun and terror and the comfort of a good fun book.
This is the first in a series of chapbooks containing poetry and flash fiction and short stories with themes ranging from those mentioned above to deeper explorations of humanity. But honestly the themes mentioned already are all about that too.

Review:

Now is the perfect time for lighthearted science fiction.

Ordinarily, I’ll pick out a few short stories, poems, or essays from collections like these and share my thoughts about them. There were so many funny themes covered here that I thought it was best to allow other readers to discover them for yourselves without spoilers, especially since the later entries often referenced earlier ones.  All you need to know is that this is heavily based on science, science fiction, fantasy, and mythology. Start at the beginning, relax, and enjoy.

This is the sort of young adult science fiction that easily crosses over into adult audiences. The humour in it is tongue-in-cheek and does rely on a certain amount of understanding of the types of scientific concepts generally taught in high school, but it explains most of them well enough to appeal to preteens who haven’t taken Biology yet or older adults who might have last thought about the Paleozoic era half a century ago. In other words, don’t spend too much time thinking about whether you’re “Young Adult” enough for this collection. If you’re interested, there will almost certainly be something here that appeals to you.

Some of my favourite sections were the ones that relied on puns and jokes. Yes, there were the usual quips about what bears do in the woods, but that was the only the beginning of the many reasons to laugh while reading this collection. Honestly, what could be better than finding the humour in speculative fiction no matter which branch of it the narrator happens to be visiting at the moment? I sure can’t think of many things.

Be sure to read the author’s explanations of why he wrote select pieces of this collection. The explanations are all located at the very end, and it was really interesting to read their backstories.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series. Everything published here was first written about twenty years ago, and Mr. Waddell’s writing style has evolved quite a bit since then. If you want to follow along as he shares that journey, The Ursus Versus the perfect place to start.

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Unlikely Gleaning: A Review of Harvest

Harvest - A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch book cover. Image on cover is of silhoutte of man with a pumpkin for a head walking in a pumpkin field while a full moon glows behind him. I’d like to thank Berthold Gambrel for reviewing this book and bringing it to my attention.

Title: Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch

Author: Jason H. Abbott

Publisher: Blue Boar Press

Publication Date: October 7, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Holidays

Length: 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Equal parts eerie, humorous and heartwarming, Harvest is a short story of down-home fantasy and a fairytale for grown-ups best told in the dark…

With whimsical humor and eccentric fantasy dappled in darkness, fans of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett will enjoy this short tale of kindness found in odd places. If quirky characters with a country twang and a fairytale detoured to the pumpkin patch sound good to you, then Harvest will surely prove an entertaining read!

Review:

It’s not every day that horror and humour coexist in the same plot.

Imagine waking up in a pumpkin field and not being able to see or speak. That idea sure made me shudder, especially once Edgar (the protagonist) realized that his head felt like a pumpkin instead of flesh and bone.

What intrigued me even more about it was the fact that this scene was written humorously even more than it was meant to frighten anyone. If horror isn’t a genre you typically read, consider giving this a try anyway. While there was one scary moment near the beginning, the plot has so much else going on in it that I think it will appeal to a lot of different reading demographics.

Sometimes this felt like the opening chapter of a long fantasy novel. There were hints sprinkled here and there to explain what was going on with Edgar’s head and how other folks were dealing with the strange phenomenon on this farm. They quickly coalesced into a surprisingly thorough explanation of how this world worked, especially given the fact that the author had less than twenty pages to work with.

While I was satisfied with what the narrator revealed, I also wanted more. I enjoyed the way the author wrote a short, encapsulated story that also left a lot of room for readers to come up with our own theories about what might happen to the Edgar and Emelia, the woman who helped him, next.

The fairy tale elements of the storyline are best left to new readers to discover for themselves. As much as I want to gush about them, they’re revealed late enough that I don’t want to share any plot twists. Let’s just say that this is a truly magical farm where anything can happen.

Do note that the full blurb for this tale contains spoilers, so reader beware if you’re like me and prefer to be surprised by a book.

If you love Halloween or the fantasy genre, I highly recommend checking out Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch.

 

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