Tag Archives: Romance

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.

Small Town Secrets: A Review of Haunted Love

Book cover for “Haunted Love” by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Image on cover shows a ticket with the words “Admit One” printed on it. The ticket is bathed in blood-red light. Title: Haunted Love

Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: December 13, 2011

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 33 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Spirit, Texas, is a town of secrets, and as the new owner of the local haunted movie theater, Cody Stryker is juggling more than his fair share. When a mysterious new girl comes to town and runs afoul of the ghost that lives in his theater, Cody’s caught in the middle and needs to figure out exactly who he can trust. HAUNTED LOVE is a short story by New York Times Bestseller Cynthia Leitich Smith— set in the same dark universe as her novels TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, and BLESSED. This story includes a sneak preview of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s latest novel, DIABOLICAL, which unites characters from the previous three novels in the Tantalize Series along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.

Review:

Content Warning: Child abuse and murder. I will not be discussing these topics in my review.

Honestly, who wouldn’t want a beautiful old movie theatre to be revived by a new owner?

This tale was filled with creative plot twists. One of the things I liked the most about it was seeing how the author played around with the audience’s expectations as well as the tropes of paranormal vampiric romances. She was clearly well-versed in this genre and knew exactly how to acknowledge the reader’s expectations without necessarily giving us what we were expecting. That’s definitely something to take note of as I haven’t found a lot of authors who are willing to bend things quite as far as she does. Her flexibility made me curious to see what else she has up her sleeves.

There was very little character development in this story. Not only would I struggle to describe how the protagonist changed as a result of his experiences, it would also be difficult for me to talk about what his personality was like in general. I couldn’t even say if he were a shy or outgoing guy, much less anything deeper about who he was or what made him tick. This made it hard to connect with him and even more difficult to get to know the secondary characters who had even fewer opportunities to display their personalities and interests. Figuring these things out was crucial for understanding certain surprises later on, so this truly was a missed opportunity to help the audience bond with the characters and notice when certain individuals didn’t seem like themselves.

I was intrigued by the world building. Spirit, Texas was described as a place that seemed to have a lot of secrets. It was fascinating to begin to piece together who was aware of which secret, and there was still so much work left to be done here by the time I finished the final scene. Still, I was satisfied with what I’d learned about this little town while also intrigued by all of the hints that had been dropped but never pieced together in a way that made sense for all of them.

Haunted Love was an inventive pick for anyone who doesn’t mind a little spookiness in their romance.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Ways to Show Someone You Love Them

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

A red heart that’s been affixed to the other side of a windowpane that’s foggy and covered with rain. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

My comments on certain blogs do not seem to be going through for reasons I haven’t been able to ascertain. If you don’t see reciprocal comments on your site, that is why. I am doing my best each week to say hello to everyone! 

There are so many different ways to show someone you love them!

Here are a a few of my personal favourites. All of them are assuming that the person in question actually enjoys these things, so do tweak them as needed if, say, the people in your life prefer going to a basketball game to taking a hike or would be embarrassed if you praised them in front of other people!

 

  • Stop and truly listen to what they’re saying.
  • Cook or bake something you know they love.
  • Fix their broken cell phone (or leaky faucet, or squeaky door, or anything else you might know how to fix).
  • Change the oil in their vehicle for them.
  • Take them on a nature walk and picnic.
  • Compliment them on something you generally don’t think to mention.
  • Give them a big, warm hug.
  • Send them a funny Internet meme, article, or video about a topic they love.
  • Surprise them with a few uninterrupted hours of your time, and let them decide how you’ll spend those hours together.
  • Tell a heartwarming story about something wonderful they said or did.
  • Invite them out for coffee and a donut.

As an added bonus, most of these ideas are either very inexpensive or won’t cost you a single penny.

The Last Minute Decision: A Review of Clocking Time

Clocking Time A Time Travel Short Story by Mark McClure book cover. Image on cover is a stylized drawing of planets and outer space. Title: Clocking Time

Author: Mark McClure 

Publisher: JFR Publishers 

Publication Date: October 31, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult 

Length: 31 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Two teenagers share a secret superpower: clock jumping.

Confined to his house by the authorities, remote viewer Briann enters into the life and times of a Japanese girl, Nina.

But as Briann’s feelings for Nina grow, he must overcome his fear of this unpredictable power and make one final jump before his time runs out forever.

A time travel short story about first love and tough choices.

Review:

Special powers were meant to be used, right? 

Briann and Nina’s growing relationship made me smile. I’m not generally someone who gravitates towards romantic science fiction plots, but these two made a great couple. I liked the fact that they’d already decided they wanted to be together by the time I met them. That was a refreshing take on the romance angle of it all! They also understood each other in ways that most other people did not, and their unfailing support of one another made me hope they’d get their happy ending. 

There were times when I found the world building a little confusing, especially when it came to Briann’s society. Everything people did there was tightly controlled, from what they ate to who they socialized with, to what forms of entertainment they used. I was intrigued by the many rules that had been created about how lower-class families like his were allowed to behave and wished the plot had gone into greater detail about that. If this portion of the storyline had been written as tightly as the rest of it, I would have felt comfortable giving it the full five star rating. 

Briann and Nina’s abilities themselves were explained well. The first scene went into plenty of detail about the precise steps they took to travel to see each other. It even went so far as to describe the breathing pattern Briann adopted just before the jump happened. This isn’t something that’s always explained well in some time travel stories, so it makes me happy when authors do get specific about how it all works. 

Anyone who loves time travel tales should check out Clocking Time.

Happily Ever After: A Review of A Tale of Two Princes

Book cover for A Tale of Two Princes. Image on the cover is of a young woman lying in a bed with a frog sitting on her chest and shoulder.Title: A Tale of Two Princes

Author: Victoria Pearson

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 1, 2014

Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary

Length: 36 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Sleeping Beauty meets The Frog Prince in this short but perfectly formed modern fairytale re-telling.
Doctor Prinze is happy in his secretive job at a very unusual hospital. He takes pride in asking unfussed questions however strange the patient seems when they get wheeled through his door, and he is content going home to his gadgets and uncomplicated quiet.
His simple life is turned upside down when Dr Prinze is asked to make room on his ward for some potentially contagious visitors, and everything changes forever.

Review:

Now is the perfect time for a fairy tale romance.

Both of the narrators had clear, well-defined voices. I could always tell who was speaking which is crucial when you have two narrators sharing limited space in a short story. This is definitely a good example of how to pull that sort of writing off successfully!

One thing I did want to note about this tale had to do with how the adult male characters reacted to a fifteen-year-old girl they found attractive. To be fair, traditional fairy tales are often filled with material like this, there were discussions about the inappropriateness of their interest in her, and she was never harmed. But this is still something I thought I should note in my review in a non-critical manner so that readers who are sensitive to this topic can decide for themselves whether it’s the right choice for their reading lists.

The plot twists were well done. There were references to several different fairy tales in the storyline, and they were all honoured while still giving a modern approach to how their adventures would play out in our era. I especially liked the way the Doctor Prinze and the rest of the hospital staff tried to find scientific explanations for the magical events that changed their patients’ lives. If only I could say more about that without giving away spoilers.

I would have liked to see more attention paid to how this hospital acquired new patients. Yes, Doctor Prinze was under strict confidentiality orders, so I could understand why that would prevent him from sharing certain world building details with the readers. With that being said, it did feel a little odd to me to suddenly hear about new patients coming to his facility without having any idea  how they were discovered or who sent them there. Even a couple of paragraphs explaining how this worked would have been enough for me to bump it up by a star.

The ending was as logical as it was satisfying. I was the sort of kid who always had a million questions about why certain fairy tales ended the way that they did, especially when it came to Sleeping Beauty. The fact that the author seemed to have similar questions about the original only made her version of it better.

A Tale of Two Princes could be a good place to start if you’re looking for something that is simultaneously light and fluffy while also remaining surprisingly true to traditional forms of storytelling for this genre.

Hopeful Science Fiction: St. Juju

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter. A few months ago, I… Read More

Unexpected Love: A Review of The Shape of Water

Content warning: racism, sexism, a few brief scenes involving blood, death of a pet, and sexual harassment. I will only mention the first three items in this list in my review. The Shape of Water is a dark fantasy romance about a lonely janitor who falls in love with an amphibious humanoid creature who is being… Read More

Choosing to Survive: A Review of Powdered Souls

Title: Powdered Souls, A Short Story: They Decided to Survive (Snow Sub Series Book 1) Author: Dixon Reuel Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance Length: 22 pages Source: I received a free copy from Dixon Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: People together in close quarters – fraternization naturally follows. A military VR trainer,… Read More

We Need Less Romance in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genres

I feel a few feathers ruffling already out there in cyberspace, so let me explain. One of the most bizarre and irritating trends I’ve been noticing in this genre over the last few years has been romantic plots being crookedly tacked onto every kind of story you could possibly imagine in this universe for reasons… Read More