Tag Archives: Short Stories

Dreaming of Happily Ever After: A Review of Somewhere in Time

Somewhere in Time by Fizza Younis book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a sun and stars superimposed on an actual photo of the night sky that has a few hazy clouds (or maybe galaxies?) floating through it. Title: Somewhere in Time

Author: Fizza Younis

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 31, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 34 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

It’s a fairy tale retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty, set between the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, the story has a darker paranormal twist, and no happily-ever-after within sight. But what the future holds for our beloved characters, Aurora and Prince Phillip, is yet to be determined.

Review:

Content Warning: mafia, murder, suicide, and a brief mention of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Get ready for a wild ride.

This tale was a delightful mixture of topics I’d never think to include in the same storyline like the mafia, the Covid-19 pandemic, and Sleeping Beauty. I admire authors who are willing to take risks like this with their writing. It makes for an exciting reading experience for those of us who are well-versed in the fantasy genre and who can be difficult to surprise. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what Ms. Younis writes next, although I won’t try to guess where her vivid and playful imagination might wander.

Fairy tales don’t have to explain everything, of course, but I found myself wishing this one had gone into more details about how the magic works in this world. For example, the reason why Aurora fell into her deep sleep never made sense to me. I could accept the magical veil that protected her and her stately home while she slept, but it sure would have been nice to know why this spell existed in the first place and under what conditions she might wake up. There were so many other changes to the classic Sleeping Beauty story in this retelling that I didn’t think I should make any assumptions about who or what might have caused these magical events. If the author had been clearer about this, I would have happily chosen a higher rating.

The ending made me yearn for more. I wanted to know how Aurora adjusted to the world after her long nap and what she was planning to do with the rest of her life. Given that this was a fairy tale, though, it did make sense to stop at that moment. Princesses have nearly always been traditionally been described as living happily ever after, and I’m hoping the same can be said about heiresses who wake up in the modern world. Who knows? Maybe we’ll someday get a sequel and find out for sure.

Somewhere in Time kept me guessing until the final sentence.

 

A Review of Horror Anthology – Wicked Pond Collection

Horror Anthology - Wicked Pond Collection by Jeffrey Legendre book cover. Image on cover shows a purple person with purple hair standing in a pond that’s surrounded by lush green trees. She might be swimming or maybe just standing there?Title: Horror Anthology – Wicked Pond Collection

Author: Jeffrey Legendre

Publisher: Vivid Dreams Books (Self-Published)

Publication Date: March 5, 2021

Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary

Length: 37 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Review:

It is well known that the crust of the earth protects us from the molten inter lava beneath it. Within this lava hides the souls of the underworld and hades. But there are portals through the crust. Portals that were opened long ago and then forgotten or abandoned by the people looking to harness the power of the creatures coming out of them. Because the evil that seeps through these portals cannot be contained woe to any man or beast that should encounter such a portal because their days on this earth are numbered. 7 Stories of Horror and Suspense Following the Wicked Pond series.

Content Warning: Death of an animal (not a pet), sexual assault, and murder.

Not every pond is a peaceful one.

This will be a long review because I wanted to discuss all seven stories in this collection. Do be sure to read them in order as events and characters from the beginning were sometimes referenced later on.

“The Pond” was an excellent place to begin. It followed a Native American man who was attempting to hunt a deer so his future wife would have food while they journeyed back home to his tribe. I can’t go into much detail about his experience with the pond when he briefly washed his hands in its water, but I did appreciate his sensible and cautious reaction to bizarre circumstances. That’s the sort of behaviour I always like to see in a protagonist!

Howard was having trouble finding customers for his new business in “The Book” even though he’d grown up in the community and assumed that this would encourage locals to hire him for their bookkeeping and accounting needs. I must admit that his negative attitude and the chip on his shoulder made it difficult for me to like him until I realized that they may have been clues about what was really going on. Then again, maybe he simply wasn’t a very nice guy. Let’s all decide that for ourselves.

Doctor Clarendon first appeared earlier, but he had his heyday in “Fairies” while treating a patient named Walter who insisted he had just seen a nude blue-skinned woman swimming in the pond who made it impossible for him to think of anything else. The ending of this tale disturbed me due to how Walter’s behavior changed after this encounter. I could never tell if his versions of events were genuine or if he was making them up to get out of trouble.

In “The Dogs of Dunncraft,” a monk named Brother Craig was called to a local cottage by a horrified woman who wanted him to dispose of the contents of a basket that was covered in a red cloth. When he found two puppies sleeping there, he decided to try to find a family to adopt them. I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover where the plot goes from there, but I was amused by his determination to do right by these puppies and by how reluctant the folks were around him to have anything to do with them.

I struggled to understand “Like Father…”.  It showed what happened when a young couple named Ron and Jenny hired a local man to build a deck for them that was never completed. Their reaction to this frustrating event defied logic. If only the narrator had given us more clues about what was going on in Ron’s mind when he realized all work on his deck had ceased. This would have been a solid read with more context and character development.

A distracted pilot named Amanda accidentally crashed her plane in “Flying High.” This was something that happened only a few paragraphs into her adventure, so I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to include it here. I found myself wondering why she agreed to fly when her mind was so filled with other troubles, but I’m sure that’s something that happens to pilots just like it can to the rest of us at times. What I did wish was better explained was why she didn’t try to eject herself from the plane once she realized it was going to crash. Yes, it was dangerous, but it sure seemed safer than crashing straight onto the ground!

After reading about the many different ways the pond had harmed other people, ”Fishing” made me shake my head. Who would ever try to go fishing in a magical body of water that seemed to have a grudge against humanity in general? I kept following Chet and Darrel’s story as I tried to figure out the answer to that question. Surely they should have known better! Other readers can decide for themselves what they think, but I was satisfied with what I eventually came up with.

In general, I noticed quite a few grammatical errors, misspellings, and other typos in this collection. With another round of editing and some further plot and character development, I would have been comfortable picking a higher rating than the one I ultimately chose.

Horror Anthology – Wicked Pond Collection was a spooky summer read.

Hidden in Plain Sight: A Review of A Terrifying Fact About Ants

A Terrifying Fact About Ants - Science Fiction Short Story by Adam Leon book cover. Image on cover shows a colony of ants crawling on each other and on some red soil. Title: A Terrifying Fact About Ants – Science Fiction Short Story

Author: Adam Leon

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 11, 2022

Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 24 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Review:

“I discovered a strange relation between ants and another fascinating insect; spiders. Specifically, the Myrmarachne formicaria; the spider that looks exactly like an ant that was discovered by researchers back in 2001.

How strange it must have been to be the researcher suddenly noticing their colony of ants becoming cannibalistic. The Myrmarachne formicaria’s evolutionary convergence had the primary purpose of mimicking their prey to allow the creature to invade anthills without being attacked, allowing the creature to burrow deep into their homes and devour the larvae of their undeveloped children, and then walking away as if nothing ever happened. Terrifying, yet unbelievably fascinating.

Not only would the spider have to evolve to look exactly like the ant, but the species would also have to understand the simple psychology of ants, matching pheromones, behaviors, antennae communication etc. just to pull off this horrifying heist. How could random evolution be responsible for such deliberate manipulative complex action?

Of course, in recent years, it’s been understood that the Myrmarachne formicaria is not alone in its formation, countless other spider species have mimicked ants so well that researchers were only able to recently discover their existence through the use of DNA testing.

I started to wonder if a similar case could be applicable to human beings. Are there people among us who are not people? Are there psychological manipulators camouflaged as their prey so expertly, for the sole purpose of devouring our young and bleeding the public dry as if we were nothing more than livestock? And I’m not just talking about politicians here.

Be careful who you trust.

I have two quick notes to share about this short story before I jump into my review. First, be sure to read the introduction. It contains some important information that readers will need in order to understand what’s happening. Second, I also wanted to mention that the original Spanish version of this story is happily included in this version, too, for readers who understand that language.

Antonio, the protagonist, and John, the gringo who had recently moved to the area, had a relationship that made me chuckle. Both of these individuals made assumptions about each other that may not have been as accurate as they assumed. I was also amused by how Antonio’s gentle and trusting personality was matched by John’s fierce independence and unwillingness to trust anyone with even the smallest scraps of information about his life until he’d known them for a long time.

The implications of what John had to say about why he left the Anglo world for such a remote Hispanic community were chilling, but I found myself wishing he’d shared more details about what his life had been like before the events that drove him so far away from his original home. I’m saying this as someone who loves analogies and solving the riddles authors sometimes share in their works. It simply would have been easier for me to emotionally connect with John if I knew some basic details about his past like the names of his loved ones or the precise location of English-speaking country he’d left behind.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that explored the cultural differences between Antonio and John. For example, John thought he should pay for help by the hour while Antonio thought it made more sense to pay by the task so that workers would finish the job as soon as they could. These sorts of cultural misunderstandings can lead to all sorts of amusing miscommunications that work so well in otherwise serious works like this one. The fact that their personalities were also so different from each other as I mentioned earlier only made this aspect of it even more memorable. They had so little in common, and yet I loved seeing how both of them worked together as John built up the courage to share a small sliver of his past.

A Terrifying Fact About Ants made me shudder.

In the Deep Depths of the Ocean: A Review of Aegan and the Sunken City

Aegan and the Sunken City by D.G. Redd book cover. Image on cover shows an anchor falling through the ocean and about to touch the ocean floor. Title: Aegan and the Sunken City

Author: D.G. Redd

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 26, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Futuristic

Length: 17 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

The Cartographers have announced that the Triton will drift over an old city. Aegan finds himself lucky enough to be ready to drop in his deep-dive submersible, the Argo, and scavenge for riches. If he can collect enough salvage, he can buy his way into the upper-decks, to the levels of peace and quiet. For now though, he’ll need to make do with the solitude of his boat as he slowly descends to the sunken city.

Review:

Content Warning: sea monster. I will discuss it in this review.

The ocean is only as trustworthy as who or what is swimming around in it.

Morally ambiguous characters are so interesting to read about, especially when they’re as personable as Aegan was. Would I trust him with my credit card? No, but I would love to sit down to dinner with him and hear some of the stories he could tell about the slippery and sometimes downright illegal things he’s done in order to survive. There is no doubt in my mind that he’d have a few acts of heroism to throw in there as well. He excelled at bending and even breaking the law, but he never struck me as a cruel man. He was simply someone who was trying to game an unfair system in order to make his own life easier.

I would have liked to see more time spent describing the sea monster and it’s intentions. Yes, Aegan was used to such distractions, but this reader was not! It was hard for me to picture what it looked like or why it was so interested in Aegean’s vessel in the first scene. I was also surprised by how the plot veered away after that moment, so having a more detailed description of why the author went in that direction would have been helpful as well. This is a minor criticism of something I otherwise enjoyed quite a bit.

The world building was nicely handled. While the author didn’t have a great deal of time to go into detail, he shared enough information about how global warming changed the sea levels and human society to keep me interested and eager to find out what else had changed between our present and this nebulous time in the future. This is the sort of thing I’m happy to wait around for so long as I have a basic understanding of how e everything works, and that was definitely provided here.

This is part of a series but works perfectly well as a standalone work.

Aegan and the Sunken City piqued my curiosity for more.

The Healer: A Review of Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil by Lea Doué book cover. Image on cover shows a young woman wearing a black cloak and touching her Hans as she walks through a deserted forest on a slightly foggy day. TitleSweet Basil – A Firethorn Chronicles Short Story

Author: Lea Doué

Publisher: Butterwing Publishing (Self-Published)

Publication Date: August 30, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 24 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Hiding from sorcerer hunters, Marisol travels in search of those she can help with her dangerous gift of healing. With every life she saves comes the risk of being discovered, but only if her secret doesn’t destroy her first.

Sweet Basil is a stand-alone short story set in the world of The Firethorn Chronicles, a series drawn from The Twelve Dancing Princesses and other fairytales.

Review:

Content Warning: Pain and  life-threatening illnesses. I will not mention them in my review.

Would you continue using your powers for good even if doing so put you in terrible danger?

I’d never read a tale about a magical tattoo, and the idea excited me as soon as it was introduced in one of the very first scenes. The person who had that tattoo knew that it was something incredibly special that not everyone around them would understand, so they had to take measures to prevent others from noticing that their tattoo could do things like move around of its own accord. I’m dancing around this subject a little to avoid spoilers, but I was impressed by how creatively the author explained this portion of the plot. It made me think about tattoos in an entirely new light, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much this item affected the course of the storyline.

It would have been helpful to have more world building. No, I didn’t expect the author to explain everything, especially since it was a prequel that was primarily meant to whet the appetites of new readers for more. With that being said, there were a few scenes I found confusing because of how little time was spent explaining what the rules of magic are in this universe and how someone can reasonably expect a magical object to behave when it is used. I simply didn’t know enough about those matters to tell if items like the tattoo were acting out of the ordinary or not.

One of my favorite things about this story was how it depicted Marisol and Renzo’s friendship. Many storytellers, especially in the fantasy genre,  immediately assume that any two characters who are single and who share compatible sexual orientations must end up in a relationship together no matter how much this may or may not make sense for their individual character arcs or for the plot as a whole. Given this trope, it was refreshing to see how the author handled their friendship and where she took it. Her decisions made sense for for what I know thus far about the characters and the plot. Obviously, I can’t say how the rest of the series will develop from here as I haven’t read it yet, but I appreciated what’s been done with it up until this point.

This is a prequel to a series. It can be read as a standalone work.

Sweet Basil – A Firethorn Chronicles Short Story made me smile. 

Canadian Tidbits: A Review of Northern Gothic Stories

Title: Northern Gothic Stories Author: Helena Puumala and Dale Olausen Publisher: Dodecahedron Books Publication Date: December 19, 2012 Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Historical, Contemporary Length: 123 pages Source: I received a free copy from the authors. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Do you like stories featuring aliens, legendary monsters, psychic children, mysterious disappearances, gamblers, cheats,… Read More

A Review of Sail away, sail away, sail away: Nautical Ghost Stories

Title: Sail Away, sail away, sail away – Nautical Ghost Stories Author: William Macmillan Jones Publisher: Red Kite Publishing Ltd Publication Date: March 21, 2022 Genres: Paranormal, Contemporary Length: 32 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: The sea has always fascinated me, and I grew up with a… Read More

Changing Luck: A Review of Foreign Objects

Title: Foreign Objects Author: Joshua Scribner Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: February 24, 2015 Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 7 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: A young outcast, his struggles to survive, and the crucial objects that come into his life. Review: Content Warning: Bullying, physical abuse of… Read More

A Review of Not Eligible for Rehire – A Cruise Ship Story

Title: Not Eligible for Rehire – A Cruise Ship Story Author: Glenn McGoldrick Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 25, 2018 Genres: Speculative Fiction, Contemporary Length: 19 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 2 Stars Blurb: A day in the life of a Casino Manager, working on a cruise ship in… Read More

Sounding Like a Train: A Review of Voices in the Wind

Title: Voices in the Wind Author: Joshua Scribner Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: December 15, 2017 Genres: Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary Length: 6 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: A paranormal flash fiction story. Review: Content Warning: death and a tornado. I will discuss the tornado in my review.… Read More