Tag Archives: Short Stories

Seeking Safe Haven: A Review of The Bruised Princess

The Bruised Princess by A.G. Marshall book cover. Image on cover shows an etching of a castle and a woman wearing a long gown and a veil. She is facing to the right, and the castle is facing forward. Title: The Bruised Princess

Author: A.G. Marshall

Publisher: Avanell Publishing

Publication Date: April 7, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 31 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author. If you are not already familiar with The Princess and the Pea, read it for free at this link before reading this short story.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

A desperate girl on a stormy night…

Rachel is searching for sanctuary from her abusive father, but finds herself a guest in the castle instead. Why does everyone assume she is important, and why do they insist that she sleep on an enormous mattress tower?

Can she unravel the mystery and find a happy ending, or will she be trapped in something even worse? See for yourself in this romantic retelling of The Princess and the Pea.

The Bruised Princess is book three in the Once Upon a Short Story collection.
Discover a unique twist on your favorite fairy tales with these standalone adventures!

Review:

Content Warning: Physical and emotional abuse. I will discuss these topics in my review.

Sensitivity is a gift.

One of my favourite aspects of this short story had to do with how it handled the physical and emotional abuse that two of the characters suffered before and during the time that the readers knew them. These are serious topics that have been covered in a myriad of ways in both the fiction and non-fiction genres for good reason. What made Ms. Marshall’s approach to them unique was how much hope she held for her characters. Yes, they were going through awful experiences at the moment, but that didn’t mean their circumstances were going to remain the same forever. Things can begin to change for the better much faster than one can imagine, and there are so many kind people out there who are willing to help.  These are such important messages to send to survivors, and I think it’s wonderful that the romance genre is yet another place to find it.

I would have liked to see a little more plot development in this piece. Everything happened quickly and without a lot of exposition. That worked well for the beginning and middle, but the ending felt a bit rushed to me because of it. If those last few scenes had been given more time to shine, I would have gone with a full five-star rating. Everything else about this was well done and written to appeal to both new and longtime fans of the romance and fantasy genres.

Rachel was an admirable protagonist. She was physically and emotionally bruised from her father’s mistreatment and the frightening threats of the man he was trying to force her to marry, but she never gave up her desire to find a safe place to live. Her tenacity made me smile, especially when the odds seemed more stacked against her than they ever had been before. I also appreciated the fresh perspective she brought to the traditional legend of The Princess and the Pea. She made certain aspects of it make so much more sense than they had been before.

The Bruised Princess was a heartwarming read.

Suburban Sorcery: A Review of My Evil Mother

My Evil Mother by Margaret Atwood book cover. image on cover shows a 1970s style casserole dish that’s yellow, covered in witchy symbolism like moons and a hand, and has a white lid. Title: My Evil Mother

Author: Margaret Atwood

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Publication Date: April 1, 2022

Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary

Length: 32 pages

Source: I bought it.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

A bittersweet short story about mothers, daughters, and the witches’ brew of love—and control—that binds them, by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments.

Life is hard enough for a teenage girl in 1950s suburbia without having a mother who may—or may not—be a witch. A single mother at that. Sure, she fits in with her starched dresses, string of pearls, and floral aprons. Then there are the hushed and mystical consultations with neighborhood women in distress. The unsavory, mysterious plants in the flower beds. The divined warning to steer clear of a boyfriend whose fate is certainly doomed. But as the daughter of this bewitching homemaker comes of age and her mother’s claims become more and more outlandish, she begins to question everything she once took for granted.

Review:

How do you spot a witch in the suburbs, and what do you do with her if you find her?

I adored the playfulness of this short story. When we first met her, the main character was a teenage girl living in a single-parent home in the 1950s and desperately trying to be normal. Sometimes her mother toed the line of what a woman was supposed to be like in that era, and sometimes she subverted those expectations in the most unusual ways. Was the girl’s mother really a witch? I’ll leave other readers to come up with their own theories about the answer to that question, but do solidify your decision before you move forward in the story. No matter what your answer is, it will be important to understanding what happens once the girl reached adulthood.

The plot twists were fabulous, and there were a surprising number of them in thirty-two pages. No sooner was I pretty sure I knew what was going to happen next than Ms. Atwood once again surprised me. This is one of the many reasons why she’s one of my favourite authors. There is definitely something to be said for anticipating the audience’s expectations and then playing around with them while pushing the plot in directions that many storytellers wouldn’t think to explore.

Tucked underneath the inventive storytelling and the humour were some serious messages about motherhood, girlhood, the complexity of family life, and how society slowly evolves over time in ways that older generations may not always fully understand and younger generations may take for granted. It’s difficult to discuss these things without wandering into spoiler territory. All you need to know is that there is plenty of substance beneath the fluffy exterior of certain scenes, and it’s well worth exploring after you’ve enjoyed the silly moments for what they are.

My Evil Mother was the perfect read for anyone who has ever wondered what’s really going on behind the scenes on quiet, unremarkable streets.

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.

Unexpected Results: A Review of Untethered

Untethered by Nick Stephenson book cover. Image on cover show outer space. The top half of the stars are in a blue cluster and the bottom half are in a red cluster. Title: Untethered

Author: Nick Stephenson

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 24, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 20 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 2 Stars

Blurb:

When a scientist discovers the secret to teleportation, he struggles to figure out what to do with it.

This short story is a love letter, of sorts, to what is commonly referred to as “The Golden Age” of science fiction – the heady days of the 1930s – 1960s where spaceflight had only just become more than a dream and the possibilities seemed endless. I hope you enjoy my take on it.

Review:

Content Warning: Deaths of lab animals.

Inventing can be tricky business.

Teleportation is one of those topics that used to be covered regularly in the science fiction genre but is rare enough to find these days that I always perk up when I read a blurb that references it. Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that described how the protagonist and his assistant discovered how to transport living creatures across long distances in the blink of an eye. Their original theories about how to do it were solid, but it certainly took them a great deal of time to translate theories into something safe, effective, and profitable. I smiled as I read about the joy they shared when all of their hard work paid off. That scene was somehow by far the most relatable of them all even though teleportation isn’t actually possible in our world yet.

As intrigued as I was by the premise of this short story, were some massive plot holes in it. One of them involved the development of the teleportation machine the main character spent so much time talking about, and the other involved the twist ending. It struck me as odd for such an intelligent and passionate protagonist to gloss over how he expanded a small prototype into something that could be safely used on adult human beings. While I can’t say much about the ending for spoiler reasons, it also contained inconsistencies that seemed quite out of character for a protagonist who had devoted his life to scientific research. I really wish these portions of the storyline had been explained in greater detail as I desperately wanted to give this a higher rating!

Science hasn’t always been used for wholesome purposes, especially when the original creators of a device, drug, or other work are no longer fully in control of who does and doesn’t have access to it. My favourite moment happened when the narrator realized some of the more sinister applications for his invention long after he lost the ability to have a say in how it was used. His reaction to that moment was a tiny slice of the resolution, but it made all of the portions of it I cannot discuss in my review even more poignant. One of the reasons why I enjoy science fiction so much has to do with how it can coax an audience to think about serious, real-world issues like these that we might otherwise not think about, and on that note the author’s message certainly thrived.

Untethered was a wild ride.

Stop That Infernal Racket! A Review of Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy by Nakia Cook book cover. Image on cover shows a series of five different types of drums lined up next to each other. Title: Drummer Boy

Author: Nakia Cook

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 27, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Folklore, Contemporary

Length: 12 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Something besides the drum kit in the attic is creating a disturbance in the house, and it’s driving Nadia and Adam to wit’s end in this rhythmically haunting tale.

Review:

Content Warning: Car accident. I will not discuss it in my review.

Is there anything more irritating than living with a musician who thinks they need to practice all of the time?

I appreciated the simplicity of this tale. Yes, there were the requisite number of plot twists, but the narrator always stuck close to the original dilemma about living with someone who couldn’t stand the sound of drums being played. The storyline chugged along beautifully as it was, so I was glad to see the author give her characters so many opportunities to be their true selves. That was exactly the right decision to make in my opinion!

There was a minor plot hole involving the drums and why they existed in that particular house that I wished had been explained. As much as I want to go into detail about that issue, I’ll need to tread carefully here in order to avoid spoilers. Let’s simply say that I wondered why the characters had chosen such an unusual fate for them when I could think of several other practical solutions for it that seemed more likely than the one that was eventually revealed. This was the only thing holding me back from giving a five-star rating as everything else about it was well written.

This was my first time reading one of Ms. Cook’s stories, and it was a wonderful introduction to her imagination and writing style. She seemed to be the sort of writer who shared enough details for the reader to understand what is happening and then trusted us to fill in everything else for ourselves. For example, the physical appearances of the characters were barely mentioned at all, but their personalities shone through brightly. This pattern was repeated in other areas, too, like the ending that you’re all simply going to need to read for yourselves. I enjoyed coming up with my own explanations for everything she left unsaid and will keep an eye out for more of her work in the future.

Drummer Boy was a particularly good read for musicians or anyone who has ever lived with one.

Visions in the Fog: A Review of Terror at Deventhier Bay

Title: Terror at Deventhier Bay Author: Eloise Molano Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: July 24, 2021 Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Historical Length: 26 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: In a remote region of the north, in a huge bay was the town of Deventhier, the characteristic of this… Read More

Fixing Everything: A Review of Solaria

Title: Solaria  Author: Thomas Volz Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: June 7, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction Length: 42 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: After encouraging his savant daughter to build a theoretical time machine, Eduardo Solmar scrambles to complete the project after Elishia mysteriously vanishes. His tampering… Read More

A Review of Dare vs. The Doll

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?… Read More

Big Dreams to Achieve: A Review of Oli the Old Owl

Title: Oli the Old Owl Author: Lee Keene Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 29, 2021 Genres: Children’s, Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 10 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: A story of loneliness and fantasy. Imagination transmogrifying into Reality! A secret memory that only the little boy will know!… Read More

Small Town Secrets: A Review of Haunted Love

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,… Read More