Tag Archives: Mystery

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


Hildie at the Ghost Shore by Paula Cappa book cover. Image on cover his a painting of a very foggy shore by a body of water. You can see almost nothing but the tiniest glimmer of blue water in the distance. 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 runes from the wind-god Odin. When a mysterious old sailor visits her attic workroom, he requests a reading. Hildie agrees. During the casting of the runes, Hildie conjures the Ship of the Dead, Loki the trickster, and flame-eyed ravens. Who will survive this adventure in a land beyond the ghost shore? Hildie at the Ghost Shore is a quiet little mystery (Kindle Single) with a dash of Norse mythology evoking the magic of the Runes. This story was originally published at Fiction365.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder.

Danish mysteries abound on this quiet shore.

The poetic and etherial style of this short story made it impossible for me to stop reading. It was my first experience with Ms. Cappa’s work, and I was immediately impressed by how smooth and beautiful her writing style was. She excelled at drawing this reader into the storyline and making me never want to leave it. Reading this felt like the literary equivalent of stepping into a light, airy fog on a mostly-deserted beach on a chilly late winter or early spring day. That is to say, I felt as if I’d stepped into another world or some alternative version of our own world whose rules of physics were just different enough to make it impossible for me to guess what remarkable things I might discover a few moments in the future. It was a truly delightful experience that made me eager to discover what else the author has written.

I would have loved to see more plot and character development. There was very little of the former and almost none of the latter which struck me as unusual for something that went on for twenty-two pages.  It would have made sense for flash fiction, and the premise could have been shrunken down to accommodate a much shorter interpretation of it. Unfortunately, it felt out of place for a longer work that did seem to have more than enough room to include both of these elements.

By far my favourite portion of this tale was the final scene. This was when the plot grew as thick and substantial as it ever would, and it explained some things that keen readers might have kept tucked in the back of their minds as half-formed questions since they first began reading it. I should note that I’m not very familiar with Norse Mythology, so I also appreciated the quick explanations of certain key terms and figures from it. Perhaps readers who are already well-versed on that topic could expound upon it in greater detail, but I was perfectly satisfied with it as is. Yes, I know I’m being vague here! Why share spoilers when you can allow other readers the thrill of surprise instead?

Hildie at the Ghost Shore was a dreamy, wistful reading experience that I cheerfully recommend saving for the next time the weather outside is too foggy, snowy, or drizzly to venture forth outdoors.

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

Book cover for Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. Image on cover shows a silhouette of a scarecrow and a sign that says “Small Spaces” in front of a yellow school bus that’s parked at dusk. 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 a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man”—a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
     Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
     Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods—bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them—the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”
     And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

Review:

Content Warning: Bullying, grief, depression, and death of a parent. I will briefly mention mental health and the death of a parent in my review.

It’s never too late to try again.

One of my favourite things about this tale was how it played around with certain stereotypes about gender roles and race. All of the characters were well-rounded people whose interests were not necessarily constrained by what others assumed someone of their sex or race would be into. Even characters who seemed to fit the mould at first glance were filled with wonderful surprises once I got to know them better. What made this even better was how natural it felt for them and their storylines. They simply were who they were without pretence. That’s exactly the sort of stuff I want to read about!

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the ending. The author was working with so many different plot points that she unfortunately didn’t seem to have quite enough time to wrap everything up satisfactorily for this reader. I know this is the beginning of a series, so I’m hoping that the sequels will dive much more deeply into the sudden death of Ollie’s mother and how Ollie’s mental health has fared since that tragedy. Her grief was explored thoroughly. If everything else had been given the same treatment, I would have gone with a five star rating as I deeply enjoyed it in general.

The storyline was filled with twists and turns that made me smile. I especially appreciated how the author included the horror genre without making anything gory or gross. The mere thought of being chased by scarecrows for reasons still unknown to the audience until much later in the plot was enough to make me shudder! This is the sort of psychological horror I’m irresistibly drawn to,  and it’s a fantastic introduction to the genre for anyone who might not have given it a try before.

Small Spaces was a delightfully spooky book to read on a dark, chilly night.

 

 

 

The Mysterious Noise: A Review of The Echo in the Valley

Book cover for The Echo in the Valley by Zak Standridge. Image on cover is a black-and-white photo of a woman in a white dress sitting on a horse at the edge of a large forest. The woman’s head is shaped like a ram and has two large horns curling out of it. Title: The Echo in the Valley

Author: Zak Standridge

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 28, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 33 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

“What about you? Long after sunset and way past midnight, when you gaze into that dark forest… have you ever seen a light?”

Review:

Content Warning: Murder. I will not be discussing it in my review.

Some questions are so big even the Internet can’t answer them.

It’s fairly rare to watch characters age from childhood to adulthood in a short story, so I was thrilled to keep meeting the protagonists over and over again beginning with who they were in their preteen and early adolescent years. There were all sorts of wonderful little hints about how they’d grown and changed over time. Kel and Tim always retained those parts of their personalities that made them unique, though, and and I loved seeing how their true selves stuck around no matter how much everything else around them changed.

There was too much foreshadowing in this tale in my opinion. I figured out the twist in it pretty early on due to all of the hints that were provided about it. Since that twist was such a central part of the plot, I would have preferred to either work a little harder at piecing everything together as I read or have some other conflict to occupy my mind for the last two-thirds of the storyline instead. This is something I’m saying as someone who enjoyed this piece quite a bit and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys these genres.

I adored the open-ended final scene. While it included a basic explanation of what was happening in the woods every year on April 22 that so terribly confused everyone in their small, rural community in the Ozarks, it also left plenty of space for the audience to come up with our own interpretations about what this phenomenon meant and why it happened. This was the perfect approach to something that so easily defied any logical explanation. There was room for a sequel if the author ever decides to write one, but I also found myself quite satisfied with how all of the most important things were tied together in the end.

If you like  paranormal stories, The Echo in the Valley might be right up your alley.

 

Overdue Consequences: A Review of The Swell

The Swell by Adam Vine book cover. Image on cover shows reflection of child standing on a pier and looking into a mostly-still body of water. There are a few ripples of water around the wooden columns holding the pier up. Title: The Swell

Author: Adam Vine

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 1, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Contemporary

Length: 11 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 2 Stars

Blurb:

Ana Barrington’s son is missing – and so is everyone else’s child. Every kid in Santa Cruz has vanished, leaving no trace but a single, cryptic message directing their parents to the sea…

Review:

Content warning: Death of children. I will not discuss this in my otherwise spoiler-free review.

Even the brightest day at the beach can hide some dark secrets.

One of the most interesting scenes happened in the beginning when Ana first realized her son Dana was missing. She briefly argued with her next-door neighbours about which of their missing children was a worse influence on the other one. I thought that moment was a great chance to get to know her better and a realistic look at the sorts of things a worried parent would bicker about while frantically looking for their child.

The narrator discovered hints here and there, but the brief explanations for how those things were connected only made my confusion about this storyline stronger. This is something I’m saying as a reader who prefers stories that expect their audiences to put work into figuring out a tricky mystery or subtle plot development. I have no problem with open-ended final scenes or not having all of my questions answered, but I really struggled to figure this one out or connect to it despite my strong interest in the beginning.

I enjoyed the way the message of this story was shared with the audience. Normally, I’m not a big fan of tales that are written as a warning for their readers, but I thought this one struck a good balance between pushing the plot forward and making its point. It was short and matter-of-fact on the issue it wanted to bring our attention which is always a good thing in my opinion.

If you love dark fantasy, The Swell might be right up your alley.

Sweet Sleuthing: A Review of Junkyard

Title: Junkyard (a Fractured Stars Novella)  Author: Lindsay Buroker  Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 5, 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery Length: 81 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: McCall Richter works as a skip tracer, tracking down criminals, con men, and people who stop making payments on… Read More

The Last-Chance Mission: A Review of Project Hail Mary

Title: Project Hail Mary Author: Andy Weir Publisher:  Ballantine Books Publication Date: May 4, 2021 Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery Length:476 pages Source: I borrowed it from my local library. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that… Read More

Risky Wanderings: A Review of Leprechaun Luck

Title: Leprechaun Luck – A Witch of Mintwood Short Story Author:Addison Creek Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: March 1, 2021 Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary Length: 48 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: It’s St. Patrick’s Day and Lemmi, Charlie, and Liam are determined to have some fun… Read More

A Review of Fangs & Fairy Dust

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… Read More

Suburban Gothic: A Review of The House on Abigail Lane

Title: The House on Abigail Lane Author: Kealan Patrick Burke Publisher: Elderlemon Press (Self-Published) Publication Date: June 17, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary Length: 68 pages Source: I bought it. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: From the outside, it looks like an ordinary American home, but since its construction in 1956, people… Read More