Tag Archives: Self-Published

Lost but Not Alone: A Review of Boo and the Boy 

Boo and the Boy - A Ghost Story by Wayne Barrett book cover. Image on cover shows drawing of a large bison skull with a fairy perched on top of it. Inside of the skull is the silhoutte of a young person walking in the desert by a cactus.Title: Boo and the Boy – A Ghost Story

Author: Wayne Barrett

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 23, 2020

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

Length: 24 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author. 

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

In the heart of the Mojave Desert, a little boy wanders, lost and frightened. Coming upon a giant bison skull, he makes a discovery that turns his fear into a night of magic. 

A ghost, fairies, and a talking rattlesnake bring an atmosphere of fantasy to this haunting tale. Boo and the Boy is a ghost story, but it is one that will not only tug at your heartstrings, but will bring a smile to your face as well. 

Join Boo and the Boy at their haunted home, a skull that, in ages past, belonged to the granddaddy of all bison’s.

Review:

Every haunting exists for a reason even if that reason isn’t immediately revealed. 

As soon as I met Boo, I was instantly endeared to him. Since he didn’t remember anything about his life before began haunting the giant bison skull, everything I learned about him was based on his kind, curious personality. He truly cared about others, and he showed his feelings in gestures both grand and small. There was no limit to what he’d do to help someone who seemed to be in trouble even though his powers were limited as a ghost who was firmly bound to such a small area of land. 

The world building was lovely. At first I thought we’d get a better understanding of what the fairies were hoping to accomplish. While some of their motives were eventually explained, I ended up really liking the fact that there were unanswered questions there as well. I had enough hints to form my own hypothesis, and the rest I could chalk up to the unpredictable nature of fairies in general. This struck me as something quite true to their species, especially since they honestly did seem to have good intentions in the end. 

I also appreciated the friendships between Boo, the boy, and Alfred. While I can’t go into much detail about the identities of those last two characters for spoiler reasons, I can say that their personalities complemented each other nicely. They had much more in common than I would have originally guessed. Discovering what those things were was delightful. 

Don’t be frightened by the horror tag if it’s not a genre you typically read. Yes, there is an underbelly to this tale that will gradually be revealed, but nothing about it was gory or gross. In fact, there was something surprisingly sweet about this portion of the storyline in the end. 

Boo and the Boy was a hauntingly beautiful ghost story that I heartily recommend to adult and young adult readers alike. 

Murky Moments: A Review of Fragments

Fragments - A Collection of Short Stories by Jachrys Abel book cover. Image on cover shows a purple fragment of glass drawn on a grey background Title: Fragments – A Collection of Short Stories

Author: Jachrys Abel 

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 21, 2020

Genres: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical, Futuristic 

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Fragments explores various facets of humanity through eight short stories—each of different subject matter, but with a shared undercurrent of what can best be described as honest humanness. 

There’s a gravedigger’s uptake of a small favor for his brother, a young boy teaching his friend how to survive in a haunted house, and a valiant king’s attempt to escape the clutches of death. There’s also the arduous endeavor of a nameless boy to prove his existence, and a young girl’s tortured wait for her partner’s return home. The daughter of a scientist uncovers why exactly the ocean waves, while a defunct human does penance for calculated murder. The collection then ends off with a rework of the author’s first ever published short which first appeared in literary magazine, Catch The Moment: a tale of how an invalid flees when his home is sieged, dragging along with him the village leader and her trusted advisor. 

Fragments is Jachrys’ first self-published collection of short stories. His other works have appeared in numerous literary publications, of which include A Philosopher’s Stone; Humanity Dawns; Catch The Moment; The Writing Cooperative; The Ascent; The Bad Influence; Storymaker; and Literally Literary.

Review:

Content warning: abuse and murder. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Sometimes a single moment in time is all a character needs to reveal their true selves. 

I will briefly discuss a few of the pieces of this collection in my review. If any of them are interesting to you, do check out this book in its entirety. 

The title of “A Gravedigger’s Tale” tells the readers most of what we need to know about it right away. The gravedigger in question had been doing this job for a decade and knew all of the tricks to avoid rousing the dead when digging a new grave or taking care of the grounds. Simple things like name and gender identity were never made clear, and yet I felt like I knew them well because of how much time they spent explaining their life’s work to the audience and giving hints about the latest grave they were digging and why it was such an important one. 

There were a couple of stories in this collection that I thought could use a bit more development. Yes, they were fragments of fiction and therefore not meant to be as well fleshed out as, say, a novella or longer short story, but I would have enjoyed them more if their narrators had gone into a little more description about their plots and meanings. “The King’s Escape from Death” was a good example of this. After the king received word of something terrible that was to happen to him at a specific time, he ran away from home for the evening to avoid it. I was intrigued by his plan and sure would have liked to see him explain how he thought it ought to work in greater detail, especially since the warning he received was such a vague one. 

“Why the Ocean Waves” made me smile. It followed a conversation between a young girl named Aleandra and her father about why waves exist. After hearing his scientific explanation for it and finding it unsatisfying, she shared her own theories about why waves exist and what they mean for humans. It was heartwarming to see how he paid attention to her as she thought through her answer carefully .

Fragments gently drifted between literary and speculative fiction. It should be read by anyone who appreciated the numerous grey areas between genres.

Risky Wanderings: A Review of Leprechaun Luck

Leprechaun Luck: A Witch of Mintwood Short Story by Addison Creek book cover. Image on cover shows silhouette of a witch holding a broom over her head. She's standing outside by a village and the moon is shining down on her at night. 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 before going to watch the guys play baseball. What happens next is unexpected, to say the least, but Lemmi and Charlie are determined not to miss the baseball game. Now if only the leprechaun would tell them where Liam is . . .

Review:

It’s always a smart idea to beware of deals that seem too good to be true.

Lemmi had wonderful conflict resolution skills. It was refreshing to see how she responded to challenging moments and how hard she worked to find solutions that were agreeable to everyone. This is something I’m always pleased to find in stories, especially mysteries. We need more characters like her around to set good examples of how to solve problems that can quickly escalate if they’re not handled swiftly.

There were some things about the character development in this story that never quite made sense to me. Lemmi and her friends were described as people who appeared to have a good deal of experience with magic and the supernatural world. It came as a surprise to me to see how trusting they were in unfamiliar situations that clearly had magical or supernatural origins. While they did mention the danger they might face briefly, they didn’t seem to take them seriously or think critically about the decisions they were about to make. I really wish more time had been spent exploring why this was the case as it didn’t make sense to me.

The dialogue made me chuckle. Not only did all of the main characters have great senses of humour, they were also skilled at using a comment a friend made as a jumping-off point for more jokes. It’s always delightful to see that level of banter among a group of characters who clearly appear to know each other well and genuinely enjoy everyone’s company.

This short story was part of a series, but I had no problem at all jumping into it as someone who wasn’t at all familiar with this universe. All of the necessary backstories were provided for us new readers.

Leprechaun Luck is a good pick for a lighthearted St. Patrick’s Day read.

A Review of A Fictional Fable of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch

Book cover for A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch by Berenice Corney-Thompkins. Image on cover is a drawing of a frog-like creature wearing pants and a suit jacket, sitting on a stump, and looking at a butterfly.Title: A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch (Fictional Fables Book 1)

Author: Berenice Corney-Thompkins

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 17, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Length: 20 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A charming tale of two frenemies and their one-upmanship, A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch will delight children of all ages, and please their guardians too! With absorbing artwork, charismatic and crafty characters, palaverous and periphrastic pleonastic narrative and dialogue, the Fictional Fables series will appeal to fans of Victorian-era compositions as well as contemporary retroists!

Review:

Subtle is the name of the game here. 

I appreciated the way the narrator gently shared the message of Ptolemy’s adventure. He learned an important lesson along the way, but it was shared in such a way that the reader gradually realized what was happening at the same time he did. The storyline revealed certain facts along the way, but there never so much of a whiff of moralizing about it. Rather, the characters naturally grew and changed as a result of their experiences. That is a breath of fresh air in this genre, and I can only hope it becomes a much more common way to show readers the possible positive effects of their actions if they make certain choices in life. 

While I completely understand that this tale was written in a Victorian style that is rarely used in modern picture books, the vocabulary in it made it difficult for me to determine who the audience was and who I should be recommending it to. There were multiple words that many contemporary adults don’t know the definitions of, much less the early grade school audience I believe this was written for based on the content of the plot itself. If the target audience was clearer, I would have chosen a higher rating. 

With that being said, the subtext of this story was marvellous. Ptolemy might have appeared to be a fairly straightforward character at first, but there were more layers to his personality and understanding of social nuance than I first assumed. My favourite scene happened at the end when the audience finally gets a peek behind his happy-go-lucky persona. This was one of the major reasons why I assumed this was actually meant for adults and confused by how it was marketed. 

If you enjoy mature picture books with multiple layers of meanings, A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch is a good place to start. 

 

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.

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

The Day Before Christmas Eve: A Review of The Yule Cat

Title: The Yule Cat – a Christmas Short Story Author: Eldritch Black Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 25, 2020 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Holidays Length: 46 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Strange, scary rumors are flying about the tiny, snowy town below the mountains. Some say… Read More

In Pursuit of Justice: A Review of The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale

Title:The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale Author: T J Therien Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: May 30, 2019 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Length: 83 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: The story as you know it is a lie. Discover… Read More

Flickering Hope: A Review of Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Title: Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel Author: Seth Tucker Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 25, 2013 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Historical Length: 27 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: A murder in Whitechapel is not uncommon, but the state of the body requires someone… 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