Tag Archives: Short Stories

A Review of A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories 

A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories by B.A. Loudon book cover. Image on cover is of a pile of pumpkins.Title: A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories

Author: B.A. Loudon

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 12, 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 45 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Review:

In this collection of stories, all is not what it seems…Broken promises have unexpected consequences.Going to space should be a day of celebration.A sunny disposition conceals a dark family secret.And why does a bit of pickled pumpkin have an entire neighbourhood on edge?

Content warning: mental illness, domestic abuse, cannibalism, postpartum depression, and murder. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

It’s never too early to start thinking about Halloween.

There were a surprisingly amount of short stories and flash fiction in this collection, so I’l only talk about a few of them in my review. Do check out the whole thing if any of this intrigues you.

The narrator in “Promises” was someone who grew up in a small town and desperately wanted to leave it. When they were finally given a chance to do just that, the person who took them far away from home wasn’t exactly what they were expecting. This was such a quick little tale that I can’t say much else about it, but I did find it interesting to learn what happened to the narrator after they left home.

In “A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin,” a grieving spouse must decide what to do with their wife’s massive collection of pickled foods after she died. The spouse had never learned to like the taste of pickled things and didn’t want all of her hard work to go to waste. This wasn’t a topic I was expecting to read about, but I liked reading the main character’s thoughts about how to tie up all of the loose ends of this part of their life.

“The Performance of a Lifetime” reminded me of how much stage fright I’ve had in the past much like the protagonist of this piece. As much as I enjoyed the beginning of this tale, the middle and ending of it seemed to come out of nowhere. It would have been nice to have more clues about what was about to happen and how the beginning was tied to what came after that. This was something that was repeated with many of the stories in this anthology. Their endings were well worth reading, but I wasn’t always entirely sure how they arrived there.

“Clean” was quite the read. At first it seemed like it was written for adults instead of teenagers because most teens aren’t permanently put in charge of cleaning their entire homes the way the mother is in many families. Yes, I wrote mother on purpose. The gendered aspects of who cleans and who keeps track of what should be cleaned next was written well. It actually turned out to be my favourite part of this tale as well as one of the best stories in this anthology.

If you’re counting down the days to Halloween and want to get into the spirit of it early this year, A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories is a good place to start.

A Review of Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Undead 

Friends Don't Let Friends be Undead by Seth Tucker book cover. Image on cover is of a human skull, four glass bottles of beer, a cross, and a few wooden stakes. Title: Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Undead

Author: Seth Tucker

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 17, 2014

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 62 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Three days after her husband dies, Lily is shocked to see him staring at her from outside her home. Calling on the four men he trusted most, Lily relies on them to place Steve back into his eternal rest. Guided by his journal, his friends will find that the man they loved has been replaced by a vicious fiend that will stop at nothing to sate its thirst for blood.

Review:

Content warning: Blood. I will not be discussing it in my review.

Yes, anyone who has read the blurb can probably already guess what sort of monster Steve has become, but I will not spoil it for any readers out there who are still unsure.

Starting a horror story out with something as sad as the funeral of a young adult who died suddenly isn’t something I see too often in this genre. It was nice to have a chance to sit with the characters feelings for a moment before they realized that this was going to be anything but an ordinary mourning period for them.

The cast of characters was of average size, but it felt bigger than I expected because nearly everyone was introduced at once at Steve’s funeral in the first couple of scenes. Do take note of who everyone is then, but don’t worry about it if you’re a little confused at first. I quickly sorted it all out once I realized why the reader needed to meet everyone that way. There was a reason, and it did make sense.

It would have been nice to have more character development. While this was a definitely plot-driven storyline and rightly so, I never felt like I got to know the characters well enough to worry about them when they were in danger. As much as I enjoyed the plot itself, this was a sticking point for me.

One of the things I liked the most about this tale was how quickly everyone accepted the existence of the type of monster that exists here and how much they already knew about what it takes to defeat this creature. This isn’t something I see as often as I’d like to in this genre. It was nice to jump straight to the point and see everyone adapt to their new reality.

If you’re in the mood for an adrenaline rush, this is a good place to start.

A Review of Terror Beneath Cactus Flats

Book cover for Seth Tucker's Terror Beneath Cactus Flats. Image on cover is of a desert with mountains in the backgroundTitle: Terror Beneath Cactus Flats (A Weird Western)

Author: Seth Tucker

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 25, 2013

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Western

Length: 43 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Jed, the fresh faced deputy Marshall of Cactus Flats, finds himself put to the test as an unknown evil besieges the small town. In order to save the townsfolk, Jed will have to venture into the old abandoned mines and confront the evil awaiting within.

Content warning: Blood. I will not be discussing this in my review.

Some tags were left off of this post for spoiler reasons.

The west isn’t always as simple as it may seem to be.

There are so many things I want to say about the evil lurking in the abandoned mines, but I really need to leave those details up to you to discover for yourselves as brand new readers of this tale. This device works best when someone has no idea what Jed’s about to find or why it’s so dangerous. Honestly, that’s one of my favourite types of horror. There’s something even scarier than usual about wandering into a storyline with no idea of what is to come in it.

I would have liked to see more time spent on the world building. Mr. Tucker introduced some fascinating concepts, but they weren’t fleshed out like they could have been. Obviously, I wouldn’t expect a short story to include as much world building as a full-length novel, but there was a lot of room here to explain everything more clearly.

Jed was such a likeable guy. He was from a time and place that had strict rules governing everyone’s roles in society. Sometimes those roles poked through the plot in ways that were important to the plot but might also go against the sensibilities of some readers. Seeing how he reacted to them made a great deal of sense. Of course the culture he grew up in affected the way he thought about others, but I also sensed a great deal of compassion and courage in him that had a big impact on how I interpreted those scenes.

If you love big plot twists, Terror Beneath Cactus Flats might be right up your alley!

Hopeful Science Fiction: Overlay

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.

Last winter I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge two years ago. This is the eleventh and final story from this anthology that I’ll cover here.

Overlay

silhouette of a group of people rescuing someone who fell down the side of a mountainIn Elizabeth Bonesteel’s Overlay, two parents undertook a dangerous mission to save their captured son.

I know you all probably want more details than that, but this was one of those tales that’s so fast-paced and filled with twists that I have to mind what I say about it in order to avoid spoiler territory.

Setting the opening scene in sewer drains of all places was a good choice. It showed off Ray and Cass’ personalities nicely, especially when it came to just how far they’d go to rescue their kid.

I did have trouble putting all of the pieces of this story together due to how non-linearly they were arranged. The characters jumped from past to present to future and back again. While this is a storytelling device I’ve enjoyed in the past, I found it confusing for these particular characters because of how wildly different the various periods of their lives were from one another.

There was also something included in the story that I can’t mention specifically that made it even more confusing due to how little time was spent explaining what it was supposed to mean and how many different interpretations of it I came up with.

I’ll refrain from going into detail about it, but anyone who reads the first few paragraphs will spot it immediately. It was quite creative, but I sure did wish it had been explained more thoroughly. All of the interpretations I came up with were fascinating, and I’m sure there were other ways to understand it that other readers could have added as well.

All of these issues together made this story feel rough around the edges to me. I loved the initial concept of it and thought the opening scene couldn’t have been written better. It had such an urgent tone that I had to remind myself to keep breathing as I waited to find out if Ray and Cass would be able to save their son.

There were other moments like this later on in the plot. When they happened, they reminded me why I was so drawn to it to begin with. I only wish that the scenes between them had been better able to tie them all together in ways that pushed the storyline forward and kept up the high energy of the beginning. This tale had a lot of promise and I really wanted to like it more than I did.

With that being said, it definitely still does belong in the Hopeful Science Fiction sub-genre. The ending was satisfying and I’m glad I stuck around to find out what happened to everyone before, during, and after the daring rescue attempt.

Hopeful Science Fiction: Machine of Loving Grace

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.

Last winter I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge two years ago. This is the tenth story from this anthology I’ve covered here, and I will eventually blog about all of them.

Machine of Loving Grace

Content warning: sexual harassment, cyber bullying, and sexism. I will be discussing these things in my review.

A close-up photo of a circuit board. Katherine Cross’ Machine of Loving Grace showed what happened when an AI designed to moderate video games took on a life of its own.

The content warning for this short story might make some potential readers pause. These are some pretty heavy topics, and they’re things that women, non-binary people, and members of the LGBT+ community can often be inundated with online.

With that being said, I encourage everyone who has the emotional bandwidth for it to dive into this tale. Ami, the AI mentioned earlier, was created to permanently end this abusive behaviour in video games. Imagine being able to play any video game you wish without ever needing to worry about other players mistreating you in these ways!

That idea was so remarkable that I had to find out how Ami’s reaction to these interactions evolved over time. She was programmed to be highly empathetic, so reading abusive chat logs was as disturbing for her as it would be for you or I to read them.

The cool thing about the world building in general was how realistic it felt. While we don’t yet live in a world where AI is capable of moderating video games so precisely, this sure seemed like something that we could all live to see happen. The explanations of how she was created and why Phoebe, the programmer in charge of her, was so surprised by Ami’s actions were well done.

So, too, were the reactions of the higher-ups at Rhombus, the company that employed Phoebe, when they realized how Ami was reacting to a problem that has been around since the Internet was in its infancy.

There are so many things I want to say about later plot twists in relation to the differences between how they reacted to online harassment and what Ami thought should be done about it. This truly is something that all of you should experience for yourselves, especially if you’ve ever been in a situation where someone told you to be patient or to not overreact to something that you knew was wrong and never should have been permitted.

Sometimes hope thrives in places you might be least likely to expect it, and that’s beautiful.

A Review of Dollar Tales from the Morbid Museum: Creatures

Title: Dollar Tales from the Morbid Museum: Creatures Author: James Pack Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: April 23, 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Mystery, Contemporary Length: 49 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: Welcome to the Creatures Exhibit. Visitors to the Morbid Museum seek the dark and twisted… Read More

Hopeful Science Fiction: Move the World

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. Last winter I discovered the… Read More

Hopeful Science Fiction: Skin City

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. Earlier this year I discovered… Read More

Hopeful Science Fiction: A Sun Will Always Sing

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. Earlier this year I discovered… Read More

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

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… Read More