Tag Archives: Short Stories

Restless History: A Review of How Fear Departed the Long Gallery

How Fear Departed the Long Gallery by E.F. Benson book cover. Image on cover is of a drawing of a frightened woman.The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. As I did in 2020 and 2021, I will continue reviewing several of them each December until I’ve reached the end of this series. 

Title: How Fear Departed the Long Gallery – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: E.F. Benson

Publisher: Biblioaisis

Publication Dates: 1911 and 2017

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 32 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Biblioasis is thrilled to continue this series of beautifully illustrated, collectible, classic Christmas ghost stories designed and illustrated by world-famous cartoonist Seth.

In How Fear Departed the Long Gallery, for the Peverils, the appearance of a ghost is no more upsetting than the appearance of the mailman at an ordinary house. Except for the twin toddlers in the Long Gallery. No one would dare be caught in the Long Gallery after dark. But on this quiet and cloudy afternoon, Madge Peveril is feeling rather drowsy . . .

Review:

Content warning: death of children. I will not be discussing this in my review.

The past and present can be connected in more ways than you’d think.

One of the things I liked the most about this story had to do with how the Peveril family reacted to the many ghosts who haunted their family estate. Since they were related to all of the spirits, seeing the vast majority of them was more akin to unexpectedly spending time with an eccentric or slightly irritating relative instead of anything spooky. These relaxed relationships were a wonderful contrast to how everyone reacted to the dangerous toddler spirits who occasionally appeared in the Long Gallery.

It would have been nice to have fewer clues about what was going to happen next. As much as I enjoyed this tale, it was a little disappointing to see how quickly and accurately I predicted what was going on with the ghostly children and why they were the only spirits this family feared. I’m the sort of reader who enjoys being challenged, and I would have given this a higher rating if it had expected more of its audience.

With that being said, the ending was an immensely satisfying and uplifting. Some of the other stories in this series could be fairly dark at times. It was nice to see a haunting that turned out to be surprisingly positive despite its grimmer moments earlier on in the plot. I also appreciated the main character’s ability to think quickly in an emergency. Knowing that she was so smart and capable definitely gave this a lighter tone than it would have otherwise had.

How Fear Departed the Long Gallery is something I’d especially recommend reading aloud tonight or sometime soon. It’s perfectly suited for anyone who likes ghost stories during the holiday season.

Better Days to Come: A Review of The Merry Christmas Ghost

The Merry Christmas Ghost - a Happy Holidays Horror Story by Dennis Warren book cover. Image on cover shows a closeup of a Christmas tree covered in tinsel and various Christmas ornaments. Title: The Merry Christmas Ghost

Author: Dennis Warren

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 22, 2019

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Holiday

Length: 10 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A haunted apartment. A very lonely woman. A violent criminal. All three have one thing in common: The Merry Christmas Ghost! Get into the Christmas spirit with this haunting tale of holiday cheer!

Review:

Content Warning: robbery, assault, battery, and loneliness.

Even horror can be wholesome during the Christmas season.

The holidays can be difficult for all sorts of different reasons, so I wasn’t surprised to see things begin on such a dour note. The protagonist had recently found permanent housing after being homeless, but it wasn’t a particularly safe or welcoming place for a single, vulnerable woman to live in. She had no money, friends, family, or hope for a cheerful Christmas. These details alone were enough for me to wish that her luck would turn around very soon, especially once she began showing the audience glimpses of her kind and gentle personality. I think it’s important to take note of why some people struggle even more than usual during the holiday season, and Mr. Warren certainly accomplished that with this character.

This story would have benefited from including more details in it. For example, I would have loved to know the main character’s name and more details about why she’d been homeless before she moved into her shabby apartment. Sharing information like this would have also made it easier on me when the narrators were switched as all of the pronouns that weren’t attached to specific names were confusing at times. With another round of editing and more clarification, I would have happily added at least another star to my final rating.

I loved the messages this tale had to share about the importance of families of all shapes and sizes and of remaining hopeful no matter what one’s circumstances may be. This family was no doubt a little unusual, but the love that shone through it made me smile. These aren’t themes one typically finds in the horror genre, so it was refreshing to be surprised by them here. It’s always nice to see an author take risks with what they write about, especially when they seem to understand why they’re doing so and how it will affect their characters. Good job to the author for doing just that. I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

The Merry Christmas Ghost was a creative take on holiday horror.

 

Changing His Destiny: A Review of Well of Fate


Well of Fate - A When Ravens Fall Short Story by Savannah Jezowski book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a squirrel crawling through a dark corridor with a tiny bit of light streaming through the tree branches above. Title
: Well of Fate – A When Ravens Fall Short Story

Author: Savannah Jezowski

Publisher: Dragonpen Press (Self-Published)

Publication Date: July 31, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Historical

Length: 39 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Discontent with his life as a tale-spinner, Ratatosk the squirrel goes searching for the Well of Fate hoping he can change his destiny. But what he finds at Yggdrasil will test the very core of his resolve. When he faces the unexpected dangers beneath the great tree, Tosk will have to choose between saving himself or risking all to do the right thing. Changing his destiny proves harder than he ever imagined.For fans of “When Ravens Fall” and Norse mythology, reunite with old friends and meet new ones in this compelling short story about destiny and hard choices.

Review:

Courage comes in many forms…including small, fuzzy ones!

Ratatosk was a brave and assertive squirrel who refused to take no for an answer. I haven’t read many books that have squirrels as protagonists and so had no preconceptions of what he would be like. It was delightful to get to know him, especially once I realized why he was so eager to find the Well of Fate and what he hoped to accomplish there.  I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover for themselves what he was looking for and if he found it, but his adventurous spirit was perfect for this setting. He might be a little miffed at this comparison since they’re not the same species, but fellow fans of C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader might also be quickly reminded of a character in that book that acts a lot like Ratatosk and would happily go on adventures with him if they lived in the same universe.

It would have been nice to see more attention paid to the conclusion. While I know this was meant to be a teaser for a full-length series, the writing in that scene felt a bit abrupt to me, especially for those of us who were being introduced to the characters and setting for the first time in this short story.  I wanted to give this a full five-star rating and would have done so if this tale had been given a chance to wrap everything up more satisfactorily. Everything else about it was well done!

The world building was handled nicely. Obviously, there wasn’t a lot of space here to explain how everything worked or what was going on with certain backstories, but I received enough information to understand why Ratatosk’s quest was so important to him and what dangers he may face along the way. An air of mystery about the rest of it is a good thing in my opinion. It kept this reader feeling intrigued and asked questions that I can only assume will be fully answered later on.

You do not need to have an in-depth understanding of Norse mythology in order to appreciate this short story, but knowing a few basic facts like the names of their most important gods would be helpful.

Well of Fate – A When Ravens Fall Short Story was a wild ride. 

A Review of Vespasian Moon’s Fabulous Autumn Carnival

Vespasian Moon’s Fabulous Autumn Carnival - A Long Short Story by Berthold Gambrel book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a large yellow full moon with a black bat flying near the top of it in the sky. There are two jack o lanterns at the bottom of the cover near the title. Title: Vespasian Moon’s Fabulous Autumn Carnival – A Long Short Story

Author: Berthold Gambrel

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 18, 2019

Genres: Paranormal, Mystery, Romance, Holiday, Humour

Length: 54 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Federal Agent Jane Raczyck is tired of her job. So is Sheriff Sixtus Davis, the head law enforcement officer in the town of Turpin’s Gulch. But when Raczyck’s agency sends her to work with Davis on combating the drug epidemic in the small Appalachian hamlet, the two are compelled to investigate the local carnival and its mysterious impresario… even though they’d much rather be doing other things together.

Review:

Content Warning: References to drug abuse, multi-generational poverty, and some of the negative consequences of living in an insular community like prejudice against and a deep distrust of outsiders. I won’t discuss these subjects in my review, and they were a minor part of an otherwise pretty lighthearted plot.

Small towns are supposed to be sleepy, peaceful little places where nothing weird ever happens….right?

The main characters were a hoot. Neither of them seemed all that emotionally invested in carrying out the roles in society that they were supposed to be fulfilling. Even when Jane behaved like a federal agent and Davis took his job as head law enforcement officer in Turpin’s Gulch seriously, there was still always an faint undercurrent of restlessness and snark in their personalities that always made me wonder how they’d break the unwritten rules of how they were supposed to act next based on their occupations and gender identities. This was exactly what the setting needed in order to thrive, and it made me wish I’d ignored my overflowing to be read list and jumped ahead to this tale when it first came out.

I loved seeing how the narrator broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience when necessary. For example, this was how Jane was described: “Now, because standards of beauty vary greatly, let me simply say that she had whatever you consider to be the most attractive hair color and style, atop whatever you think is the ideal face shape, with skin colored in the precise shade of pigment you like the best,” and it made me laugh out loud when I read it. Of course the audience’s preconceptions and tastes matter when describing a beautiful woman, and it tickled my funny bone to see that addressed so openly.  Do keep an eye out for other unexpected moments like this while reading because i can’t possibly list them all in this review.

The paranormal elements of the plot were beautifully understated. Many of these scenes that included them could be explained away with rational alternatives to what some characters assumed was happening there. I love ambigious stuff like that, especially when it’s followed up with scenes that gently nudge the reader in the particular direction the author wants you go while still leaving room for other interpretations for those who wish to hang onto their own ideas about the origins of previous spooky moments. Yes, I’m being vague in this paragraph on purpose. If you want to know more, you’ll have to read this book!

While no prior knowledge of Appalachian culture is required to understand the storyline, readers who are from that culture or who have knowledge of it in other ways will find some gems here. I nodded and chuckled as I read certain passages because of how much they reminded me of certain people I knew when I was a kid or of cultural references that I rarely see mentioned in fiction.

Vespasian Moon’s Fabulous Autumn Carnival was everything I was hoping it would be and more.

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

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… Read More

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

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… Read More

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

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… Read More

The Healer: A Review of Sweet Basil

Title: Sweet 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… Read More

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