Tag Archives: Paranormal

A Review of Who’s Haunting Whom

Book cover for Who’s Haunting Whom: A Ghost Story by Kenny Wayne. Image on cover shows two figures standing outdoors at night in front of an eerie blue-green light. The figures are wearing hooded cloaks and appear to be bending over to look at something, but it’s too dark to tell who or what they may be inspecting. Title: Who’s Haunting Whom

Author: Kenny Wayne

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 30, 2020

Genres: Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 20 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Paranormal investigators, with years of experience, are called to the scene of a haunting. That’s their job and they do it well, but this time they’re just not sure Who’s Haunting Whom.

Fred Madison once experienced a life changing event… a haunting. That one event changed the course of his life. He now owns the Madison Paranormal Investigations Agency. His mission in life is to gather irrefutable evidence of the existence of ghosts and to help those that are being tormented by hauntings.

Harley Stinson has been around the block a few times himself. He has had his own experiences with ghosts and has worked with Fred ever since his first sighting.

Experienced as they both are, they have never experienced anything like the case they are about to undertake.

What if the homeowners that hired them aren’t whom they appear to be? What if the ghosts they’re supposed to remove aren’t whom they appear to be?

You’ll enjoy this short ghostly tale as you follow along with the investigators in their attempt to determine exactly what’s going on.

Review:

Content Warning: accidental death

Without trust they’ll have almost nothing at all.

I enjoyed the way this tale played around with the reader’s expectations of what was going on. Anyone who is well-read in the paranormal genre will probably be able to figure out what was happening early on, but putting those clues together was only the first step. Knowing why certain characters behaved the way they did was even more important and it took extra effort to untangle. People are endlessly interesting, and they were what made this worth reading in my opinion.

Linda Morgan, one of Fred and Harley’s clients, had a phobia that overshadowed the first scene but then was never mentioned again. I was confused by why something like this would be included if it wasn’t actually relevant to what was happening in that strange little house. There was a lot of space here to flesh out both her character as well as the storyline itself, so it was disappointing to me as a reader when it fizzled out instead.

The relationships between Fred and his employees was also well worth exploring. He seemed to have subconsciously arranged them in a particular order that did not always line up with how useful I thought they might be as he attempted to figure out what was actually happening with this case. As much as I would have liked to dive more deeply into the assumptions he made about which people would be most helpful, I also thought that leaving those moments the way they were revealed a lot about Fred’s character in both positive and negative ways. On the one hand, he was a decisive person, while on the other he was someone who could be too quick to brush an employee off if they didn’t fit his mental image of who he thought should be exploring that home. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, this would be a great mixture of traits to explore even more deeply.

Who’s Haunting Whom was a fun twist on the paranormal genre.

 

 

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Out of the Shadows: A Review of Apparition

Book cover for Apparition By Jacob Clawson. Image on cover is a black and white photo of a 1940s-style car sitting in an alleyway. Title: Apparition

Author: Jacob Clawson

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 8, 2023

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 18 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Creaks and cracks clattered, shattering the air. Breaking through the darkness; they were trying to say something. Were they a code? Perhaps a message to somewhere or something? If it was a warning, what did it mean?
The city of London danced in laughter, sounds flourished; how alive it was. Though obviously unaware of what lay beyond in the harbor; creeping slowly, a rusty ship waited. Gliding through the murky water it made no waves, no sound. Yellow lights flickered inside with no life.
Three smokestacks rose from a deck of darkness, two broken in half. Shattered glass shimmered inside abandoned dining rooms and hallways in the moonlight. Old collapsed beds slept quietly inside passenger rooms. The ship cried out as it passed under a bridge, lights from the cars and lamps a-top flared as it crawled. The air grew thin and cold around the ship, freezing the top of the water behind it, crunching and popping as it moved.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder, Death

Decay is a necessary stage in the life cycle, but it can also be incredibly dangerous.

Xenofiction is one of my favourite little corners of the speculative fiction universe, so this tale caught my attention quickly. It takes imagination and courage to write non-human characters that do not think or behave anything like a person would under the same circumstances. I’d like to tip my cap to the author for taking risks with is writing and imagining what it might be like to be the city of London, a rotting ship in a pier, and a mysterious creature that stumbled out of the ship to see what it could find in the wider world. All three of these characters were creative and compelling.

The author warned that this was his first short story and that readers might find this story confusing in his preface. I agree that this was a confusing read, and I did find myself wishing that the paranormal themes had been explained better. For example, was the creature a ghost who suddenly found him or herself feeling restless and wanting revenge for being forgotten? Or maybe it was created out of the raw loneliness and decay of the abandoned ship? There were so many possibilities here, and I wish Mr. Clawson had spent more time giving his readers hints about how he’d interpret it.

With that being said, I really liked this tale’s message about the danger of possessing one small sliver of the truth but believing you know it all. None of the characters were aware of everything that was going on, and that put all of them in danger of either being harmed or of harming someone else. Humility isn’t something that’s explored as often in modern fiction as it was at certain points of the past, but it’s just as important now as it ever was. No one is omniscient (unless some gods happen to read this review), and everyone has blind spots that could make their lives difficult under the right circumstances.

Apparition made me curious to read more from this author. I’d like to welcome him to the experience of being an author and hope he’ll keep honing his skills for many years to come!

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Looking for Monsters: A Review of Forest of Bones

Book cover for Forest of Bones: A Short Winter Horror Story by Jessie Thomas. Image on cover is a close-up photo of someone wearing a black dress and holding the skull of an animal that has two long, mostly straight antlers protruding from its head. Title: Forest of Bones – A Short Winter Horror Story

Author: Jessie Thomas

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 17, 2019

Genres: Horror, Holiday, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 53 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Armed with her well-worn Field Guide to Cryptids of North America and a macabre sense of enthusiasm, Ana’s mission to visit and capture evidence of every known cryptid in the United States puts her on the trail of the elusive Covey Devil. Not many people are willing to spend their winter break looking for monsters, but Ana’s trio of friends seem up for whatever the adventure entails.

Review:

Content Warning: Blood and death.

Cold, dark forests are nothing to fool around with.

I loved the fact that the author chose Christmas time as a setting for this tale. The cold weather and long nights of that time of year in certain climates definitely sets the mood for scary things to lurk in the shadows. No matter how you personally feel about this holiday, there’s something to be said for acknowledging that it isn’t a shiny, happy season for everyone for a wide variety of reasons. I also appreciate the juxtaposition between the audience’s expectations for a Christmas story versus what was actually waiting for the characters in the Forest of Bones.

It was difficult for me to understand why four teenagers who had  only limited camping experience and no self-defence or first aid training so far as I could tell would head into a forest with such a frightening reputation in the middle of the night in December. While the storyline did eventually explain why this happened, I would have appreciated far more details about how this was supposed to look and how all four young women, one of whom was extremely nervous about the trip, were convinced to take such serious risks with their health and safety when they could have just as easily gone on a warm June afternoon with a much larger group of explorers instead.

Speaking of the ending, it was exactly what I thought it might be. It was nice that the author trusted the audience so much to connect the few clues about what was going on. Not everything always needs to be spelled out directly, and in this case it was much more fun to be a little confused at first than to have everything explained before it strictly needed to be.

Forest of Bones – A Short Winter Horror Story made me shudder.

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A Review of A Winter’s Night

Book cover for A Winter’s Night by Theodore Brun. Image on cover is of an old-fashioned mansion that has a blizzard forming around it on a cold winter’s evening. Title: A Winter’s Night

Author: Theodore Brun

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 1, 2018

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 51 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Enter if you dare…
A man driving through a remote part of Denmark is forced to take shelter from a snowstorm in a lonely castle. Inside, he encounters the Count who lives there, a strange old man who begins to talk. And as the Count does, the visitor learns of an ancient legend, of the noble family’s mysterious secret, and of the curse that overshadows them…

Review:

Content Warning: Childbirth and curses.

Old houses remember everything.

As someone who doesn’t know much about Danish folklore, I was intrigued by the descriptions of trolls and how the people of Denmark related to them in this tale. The author did a good job of making some of those old legends come alive in my imagination as he described why those who remembered those stories were so  afraid of the past. They had good reasons to worry about bringing attention to themselves, and I was curious to find out more about how their beliefs were holding strong in the early twenty-first century.

I struggled to understand the ending because of how it seemed to contradict earlier plot and character development. There were certain details about the lives of the Count’s ancestors that were shared about halfway through the storyline in order to show how much this family line had remained the same over the centuries. It was confusing, then, to reach the end and have all of this information turned on its head. I know I’m being vague here, but it’s difficult to share constructive criticism of how things turned out without giving away spoilers. What I can say is that I wish the last few scenes had been developed more thoroughly so that I could understand why everything the audience had learned earlier was suddenly being tossed aside.

With that being said, the setting was a great one for the topic of generational curses. There is something about looking at antiques in a house that many generations of people have lived and died in that makes all of the dark tidbits of information about the past a little scarier than they might have been. I also liked the fact that the author acknowledged how eerie the world is during a snowstorm. While snow is beautiful to look, it also makes travelling treacherous during the winter and can trap people in places they probably wouldn’t have otherwise stayed overnight.

A Winter’s Night is a good pick for a cold, stormy evening.

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Winter Worries: A Review of Driving in the Dark

Book cover for Driving in the Dark by Jack Harding. Image on cover shows a dark country road from the perspective of someone driving on it at night. You can just barely make out the road, the pine trees on either side of the road, and the starry night sky above. It is all very, very dark as if this is set in a very rural area where few people drive. Title: Driving in the Dark

Author: Jack Harding

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 6, 2021

Genres:  Psychological Horror, Paranormal, Holiday, Mystery, Contemporary

Length: 24 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and 29 year old analyst Riley Coupland has just wrapped-up work for 12 whole days. There’s something in his bag. Something silver, something shiny and glittering with hopes and dreams of a bright and beautiful future. The only thing standing between him and his soon to be fiancée Emma is his arduous, mind-numbing drive home.

But something isn’t right. His phone, his hearing, the music, the traffic, everything just seems out of sync and off, and Riley can’t quite put his finger on it.

All he has to do is keep his eyes on the road…

All he has to do is take it slow…

In this brooding and deeply moving short story by Jack Harding, buckle up and settle down for a journey that will stir your senses and pull on your heart strings, keeping you guessing right until the end of the road.

Review:

Content Warning: Car accident.

There’s no better feeling than finally getting to rest after weeks of hard work.

Riley’s character development was handled nicely. There were times when I connected with him and other scenes when I was irritated by how distractible he could be. Yes, it’s understandable to lose focus on a long drive home after working all day, but as an experienced driver he knew that this was one of his faults and that a cold winter night is not the best time for daydreaming. Characters don’t have to be perfect to be memorable, though, and I’ll certainly remember him for a long time.

I thought there were too many clues about what was going on during Riley’s long, lonely ride home as his Christmas vacation began. Anyone who is already familiar with certain horror tropes will probably figure out the twist pretty early on. As that was a major part of what made this story so interesting, I would have loved to been challenged to figure it out with less foreshadowing. This was especially true near the beginning when there was a throwaway line that all but told the audience exactly what to expect.

With that being said, this was a great example of why psychological horror can be so effective at frightening its audience. Sometimes all you need to feel fear is to imagine driving down a quiet winter road at night when hardly anyone else is out and the night sky looms overhead menacingly. There are plenty of ways such a journey can go wrong without any classic horror antagonists showing up, and I though the author did a good job of showing how sometimes the most ordinary experiences in life can also be the most horrifying ones.

Driving in the Dark was chilling.

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A Review of Only the Living Feel Remorse

Book cover for Only the Living Feel Remorse by Ash Deza. Image on cover is a grainy photograph of someone wearing a grey hoodie and walking down an incredibly foggy and dark path. You can see a few possibly leafy tree branches at the top of the cover, but everything else is well obscured by fog.Title: Only the Living Feel Remorse – A Ghost Story

Author: Ash Deza

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 1, 2023

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 136 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Some mistakes will haunt you to the end.

Imagine being haunted by a ghost. In life, he was your best friend. Now he wants you dead.

Who would you turn to for help? How far would you go to escape? How much would you be willing to sacrifice?

This is the gripping story of a flawed man who finds himself in a deep well of misery, haunted by his past, desperate for a way out. Will he be able to save himself? Or will the price prove to be too high?

“Only the Living Feel Remorse” is a suspenseful yet fast-paced horror novella. It tells the story of a friendship gone bad, a vengeful ghost and neo-pagan blood rituals which end up costing you much more than you bargained for.

Review:

Content Warning:Violence, death, (attempted) rape, classism, sexism, suicide attempts, blood, self-harm, alcohol abuse/alcoholism, trauma, and toxic masculinity. I will not discuss any of these topics in my review.

Life isn’t fair…and neither is death.

The main character was a violent, dangerous, and deeply flawed man who I nonetheless still found fascinating due to his creativity and resourcefulness. While many people are able to rise above difficult childhoods, he’d never had the time, money, or social support as an adult to seek the professional help he needed to do the same. This is in no way an excuse of his actions, but it did help to explain why he had such a short temper and often assumed the worst of others. It’s definitely not easy to strike a balance between writing an unlikeable character and giving the audience something about that individual that makes us want to get to know them better , so I tip my cap to Mr. Deza for pulling it off so nicely.

It would have been helpful to develop the supernatural elements of the storyline more thoroughly. I’m specifically thinking here of Father Perry’s reaction when the protagonist went to him for an exorcism and what the priest had to say about his church’s modern approach to the subjects of hauntings and demonic possessions. There was a room there for expansion, and I would have gone for a full five-star rating if all of that had been explained more clearly.

This novella had excellent world building that did not show up immediately. Most stories begin working on it from the opening scene, so it was a pleasant surprise to be about halfway through the plot and suddenly realize just how much I had left to learn about this world. I admire authors who take risks like these, especially when they work so well with what has already unfolded in the storyline. Would I have loved to dive even more deeply into how neo-pagan blood rituals work in this universe? Absolutely, but there was more than enough information provided here for me to understand what was going on and why the main character was tasked with such bloody objectives. Leaving a reader yearning for more is a good thing!

Only the Living Feel Remorse is a great choice for horror fans who are looking for something sobering and well written.

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In Pursuit of Knowledge: A Review of Know Not

Book cover for Know Not by Joshua Scribner. Image on cover shows the numbers 1 and 0 written in binary code in a green font on a black screen. The numbers are fuzzy as if they’re being shaken up. Title: Know Not

Author: Joshua Scribner

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 26, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 10 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A brilliant scientist’s vocabulary is now limited to a few words. His daughter wants to know why. Doctors can’t tell her. Maybe someone else can.

Review:

Content Warning: Religion and brain damage that leaves someone unable to communicate.

Everything happens for a reason…right?

Marie’s relationship with her dad made me smile. Their personalities were incredibly similar, and they clearly loved each other quite a bit. It’s always nice to meet characters who have stable, close families, and that foundation only made her father’s medical emergency more heartbreaking for me as a reader. I held my breath as I waited to see if the doctors could tell them why her intelligent and scholarly dad was suddenly unable to do something as simple as have a conversation about his feelings.

I found myself wishing for more details when the explanation was shared at the end of this short story. Yes, it made some sense given the world building that had happened earlier, but there were plot holes regarding how certain characters had this knowledge and how they knew it to be true that were never filled in. I know I’m being vague here, but it’s hard to give specific examples without sharing spoilers. My reaction to the final scene simply wasn’t what I hoped it would be. If only there had been a few more pages that dove more deeply into the conclusion.

With that being said, I enjoyed the characters’ determination to find an alternative explanation for the health problems Marie’s dad was experiencing once the medical establishment ran out of possibilities. Reaching the end of current medical knowledge is an incredibly frustrating experience, especially for someone who became as disabled as her dad did. I understood why they turned to religious leaders for advice as a last-ditch effort, and I thought it made the storyline stronger to show why some people make that decision under such circumstances.

Know Not was thought provoking.

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A Review of Ravine of Death

Book cover for Ravine of Death by Hiago Furtado. Image on cover shows an abstract drawing of thick, curvy black lines against a white and grey background. I can’t tell if they’re supposed to be tentacles, veins from the body of a person or animal, or lines in boulders that show where various types of minerals were deposited millions of years ago, or something else entirely. It’s quite vague and open to interpretation, so I’m sorry this alt text can’t be more helpful there. Title: Ravine of Death

Author: Hiago Furtado

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: August 4, 2023

Genres: Young Adult,  Horror, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 9 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A thief steals a crown of sapphires and is pursued by knights, so to escape, he decides to enter an abandoned forest. Cornered, he must decide whether to jump or not into a gorge called “The Ravine of Death,” where it is said that those who fall are devoured by demons. What does he decide? To jump, of course!

Review:

Content Warning: Murder and theft.

A little horror goes a long way.

The pacing was strong and exciting. I appreciated the fact that the author decided to drop his audience directly into the middle of a tense chase scene while only explaining the basics about what was going on. That was a good choice for the storyline, and it kept me guessing what might happen next until the very end.

Plot holes prevented me from giving this a higher rating. While I certainly wouldn’t expect a short story to have as much character or plot development as a full-length novel, there were many things I struggled to understand about the thief and why he ended up in this predicament. For example, why did he choose to run into the forest? Why didn’t he pick a direction other than the one that lead to something called the Ravine of Death that any sensible person would avoid? While I don’t have a problem reading about characters who have terrible judgment, I do like to know why they lack the common sense that keeps most of us out of trouble most of the time.  There was a lot of promise here, but I thought it needed more development in order to fully realize its potential.

Then again, it was interesting to see the protagonist enter the forbidden gorge and see what all the fuss was about. I knew he wasn’t going to have a pleasant time with it, but I couldn’t have guessed what he was about to experience there. The horror elements of the plot really shone here, so keep reading if the first page or so doesn’t immediately grab your attention and you love that genre. It was inventive and it made me wish for a sequel.

Ravine of Death was full of frights.

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The Past Remembers: A Review of A Ghostly Assignment

Book cover for A Ghostly Assignment by Rosalind Minnet. Image on cover shows an old-fashioned, small stone cottage near a large, still lake on a foggy autumn day. The trees are bare and you can’t see the sun because of how thick the fog and clouds are. Title: A Ghostly Assignment

Author: Rosalind Minett

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 31, 2014

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 35 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

When journalism students, Jake and Sara, investigate reports of a ghost, they’re cynical. They assume a village myth and fanciful gossip. In the dark of night near the local lake they begin their watch. They are standing together yet their weird experiences are separate, even in time. Shocked to the core, they return to normal life only to discover the lasting effect of their first assignment, one no-one could have predicted.

Review:

Content Warning: A witch trial, murder, and children being orphaned.

Future generations may mostly forget an atrocity, but the land remembers every detail.

Don’t worry if horror isn’t a genre you generally like. This was quite scary, but it wasn’t gory or gross in any way. It’s one of those transcendent horror stories that I’d recommend to anyone who loves history, mysteries, folklore, ghosts, or justice. I smiled and nodded along as I took note of the ways the current residents of this rural area dealt with a shameful and terrible chapter of their history. That’s a problem that many communities have, after all, and it can be great fodder for fiction. I enjoyed the way the author revealed what happened while still grounding the first section in scenes that felt true to life. It was important to establish that realism before jumping into the frightening paranormal events that were soon to follow.

This tale either involved some possible time travel or the main character’s mind being so overwhelmed with someone else’s memories that she thought she was the person performing those actions.  I loved both of these possibilities, but I wished the author had been more clear about which interpretation we were supposed to think was probably the right one. While I generally don’t mind ambiguity in what I read, this was one of those cases when the audience really needs to know how trustworthy a character’s memory is of a specific incident because of how important it is to everything that comes before and after it. If this had been made more clear, I would have happily gone with a full five-star rating.

It was interesting to see how Ms. Minett connected the actions of superstitious villagers from a few hundred years ago to the lives of people living in this universe today. I can’t go into much detail about that without giving away spoilers, but I appreciated what she was doing there and thought there was something to be said for showing how much someone can be affected by the past even if they don’t know anything about it.

A Ghostly Assignment made me shudder.

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Graveyard Romance: A Review of The Ghost and the Real Girl

Book cover for The Ghost and the Real Girl by Avery Carter. Image on cover shows a black and white drawing of the profile of a woman’s face. Her hair has been piled on top of her head in a Victorian-style puffy bun, and she has a scarf with a few sprigs of flowers tired around her neck. There is also an oval border around this drawing that has roses, vines, and leaves sprouting around it. Title: The Ghost and the Real Girl

Author: Avery Carter

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 31, 2022

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQ+, Romance, Historical

Length: 124 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

“There was never a good night to rob a grave, but the night of a full moon was certainly the worst…”

When Sera is hired to rob a 200 year old grave, the last thing she expects is the ghost of Lady Clementine de Quill rising up to scold her for it. Though her world is full of magical echoes from a not-so-distant past, a ghost is completely unheard of. What’s more, no one else can see or hear Clem. Sera tries everything to get rid of her– selling the items she took from her grave, bathing in saltwater, even putting herself through a religious smoke cleansing from the Church of the Wheel. Nothing works, and Sera finally resigns herself to having a ghost follow her around for the rest of her life.

Despite their differences, a partnership begins to bloom between the streetwise gravedigger and the cultured noblewoman. Just as they realize that maybe they aren’t so different after all, Clem starts to fade, flickering in and out for longer and longer stretches of time. Sera begins to realize that with each time Clem vanishes, there’s a chance that she won’t come back. There’s only one problem: she can’t imagine life without her anymore.

Review:

Who says cemeteries have to be scary places?

The romantic storyline was handled perfectly. This is something I’m saying as someone who usually steers clear of that genre, so don’t let that label dissuade you from reading this if you’re the same way. The author did an excellent job of creating two unique, realistically flawed characters and giving them a ton of time to pursue other goals in life before the slightest hint of romance filled the air. Having all of those things established ahead of time made it much easier for me to understand why these characters ended up becoming romantically interested in each other.  I loved this portion of the plot just as much as the rest of it.

There were a few spots where the pacing sagged a little due to how much character development and  world-building the author needed to do. While I appreciated it later on, I did find myself feeling a little restless in that moment when the storyline slowed down and I wasn’t sure why. Keep the slow moments in mind as you read.  I wish certain scenes had been sped up a little, but there is a payoff coming if you persevere!

I was impressed with the world building, though. It’s hard to create a complex society in a shorter work like a novella, but I was immersed in Sera and Clementine’s world by the end of the first scene. More details were released over time, of course, and I relished the opportunity to expand my understanding of where they came from and how their society had evolved in the few hundred years between Clementine’s death and Sera deciding to dig up Clementine’s grave.

The Ghost and the Real Girl made me yearn for more.

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