Short Story Review: Norfolk Twilight by M.L. Eaton

Summary (from Goodreads)

A short, but magical, haunting tale of country ways, adventure, loss and love.Two friends are sitting, amicably silent, in the dusk of a winter’s day, when the atmosphere around them changes. Soon a story of love, loss and adventure unfolds, with unexpected consequences for them both.

Favourite Quote

Dusk crept in early from beneath the lowering brow of a winter sky.

Review

An enjoyable read that cleverly weaves tales of the past and the present together.  I liked how the stories seamlessly flowed from one to the other.

This is not a ghost story; there are no tense spooky passages that will make you jump.  However, it is a story of ghosts, where memories of what has gone before are remembered by the fabric of the building in which they were made.

The story is rich in evocative description that gently pulls you into the story. My favourite quote (see above) is the opening line of the tale, and illustrates this perfectly.

Norfolk Twilight is an intelligent, beautifully written short story. I would happily read more from this author.

Rating

I found Norfolk Twilight by M. L. Eaton available for Free on Smashwords

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Short Story Review: The Shrine by Ben Kane

The Shrine is the short story prequel to Eagles at War, the first book in the Eagles of Rome trilogy by Ben Kane.

Summary

The story is set in Mogontiacum, Gallia Belgica in 6BC, and Lucius Cominius Tullus, a Roman soldier, has just accepted a promotion.  The new post involves a transfer, moving from the Twenty-First legion to become a centurion in the Eighteenth, stationed in Vetera.  En route, he pauses on the way, to watch the famous footrace in Mogontiacum after which he decides to visit the local shrine.  The shrine in question is the temple to Magna Mater (the Great Mother) and Isis.

But his stay there is not to be a quiet one.  Neither will it be easy to forget…

Favourite Quote

“Piss off,” hissed Tullus.  He had no woman.  The army was work enough.

Review

I really enjoyed this short story.  It served as a great introduction to the character of Tullus and to the location: the German frontier. This period in Roman’s history fascinates me, and so I found the not-too-heavy, yet still rich detail of the setting a rewarding read.  One of my interests is in ancient religion so the part of the story set in the temple held me captivated.

I especially enjoyed reading the “note from the author” at the end of the story, as it explained how and why the story came about.

I’ve already gone out and bought a copy of Eagles at War, and am looking forward to begin reading it.  Tullus sounds like an interesting character and I want to see how his story unfolds, as I am aware of the events that happen round this time in this part of the empire.

If you’ve yet to read any of Ben Kane’s books, why not pop over to Wattpad and give this short story a read for free? (Here’s the link if you’re interested.)

Rating

 

Short Story Review: The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen

Summary

A widowed king remarries, but his new queen turns out to be a witch who doesn’t like her twelve step-children. So she schemes to get rid of them by casting a spell to turn them into swans. And she succeeds in the case of the eleven princes, but her efforts are hampered when it comes to the princess Elisa.

However, Elisa doesn’t forget her brothers.  In fact, she takes it upon herself to save them, no matter the personal cost to herself, which turns out to be quite high…

Favourite Quote

You have the powers to set your brothers free, but have you the courage and determination?

Review

I came across this Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale while researching some of the less well-known fairy tales that he had written.  Everyone’s heard of The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen, but I was looking for something a little different. The purpose: to write a short fairy tale re-telling about an evil queen / step-mother character from a fairy tale for a call for submissions I had seen.  To boost my chances of acceptance, I thought it best to try and find one of the less popular stories. (On a side note, the story was accepted and will be released as part of an anthology later this year – yay!)

One thing that really struck me as I read The Wild Swans was the strong religious aspect to it.  Modern retellings tend to ignore religion / religious themes in these stories as they aren’t necessarily what a modern audience wants to read.  This most of all, I found hardest to read as in places it was laid on fairly thick.  There was a lot of praying, piety and self-sacrifice going on – heavy stuff for a children’s story.  And, I think reading the original made me aware of how old the story is (it was first published in 1838), and how it’s a product of its time.

Apart from that, the story-telling and imagination of the author really shone through, allowing me to enjoy the rest of the fairy tale.  Elisa is a strong character, a young woman with a determined attitude, who puts the well-being of her brothers above her own.  And of course, all the usual fairy tale elements are present too – a prince, the fairy godmother and the triumph over evil.

I’m pleased I found this, pleased that I read, but reminded of the fact there is a reason why many fairy tales are being retold for a modern audience.

Rating

I downloaded a copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales Volume 2, containing The Wild Swans, for free from Project Gutenberg

Short Story Review: Death in the Kitchen by Milward Kennedy

great-crime-stories-front-cover

Summary:

Rupert Morrison is fed up with being blackmailed by George Manning so sets out to put a stop to it once and for all.  The only problem is, when consumed with plotting the perfect murder, in the hope you might get away with it, there is always one thing that has been overlooked…

Favourite Quote:

He glanced round the little kitchen, deliberately looking at the figure which lay huddled on the floor; huddled but yet in an attitude which Morrison hoped was as natural as its unnatural circumstances would permit.  For the head was inside the oven of the rusty-looking gas-stove.

Review:

This is the first work by Milward Kennedy that I have read, and I really enjoyed it.  At only four pages long, this short story is a very short story.  However, it does manage to pack a lot into it and the twist at the end – which I did not see coming at all – was fantastic.

I would recommend this story to those who enjoy their crime stories set during the first half of the twentieth century, as well as to those who are learning how to write a convincing, concise crime story.

Rating:

three-stars

I found Death in the Kitchen by Milward Kennedy in Great Crime Stories by Chancellor Press.

Short Story Review: The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a visitor, Jabez Wilson, a man with a shock of red hair.  He explains that his assistant encouraged him to respond to advert in the paper offering very well-paid work to red-headed male applicants.  He wasn’t sure, thinking it was too good to be true, but acquiesced.  The following morning, he followed the directions from the advert and joined a long line of red-heads applying for the job.  However, it is only a very specific shade of red hair they are looking for, and Wilson is the only one offered the position.

When Wilson learns of the very simple work he must undertake in order to earn his high wage, he is eager to begin.  But after only four weeks the office mysteriously closes, and no-one has heard of the Red-Headed League, nor the man Wilson was interviewed / managed by.  So, he gets Sherlock Holmes on the case…

Favourite quote:

“It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.”

Review:

The second short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle that I have been reading on Wattpad, is The Red-Headed League.  This is a very clever short story, but I enjoyed it less than A Scandal in Bohemia.

The misdirection is clever, the plot extremely well thought out and it is always great to see how Sherlock Holmes thinks and interprets the clues he has been given.  The idea of The Red-Headed League makes this an unusual story and for that reason, memorable, for it is so strange.  I think that it is that strangeness though, which is the reason why I liked this less than A Scandal in Bohemia.

Next up in the series is A Case of Identity, the review for which I hope to post within the next couple of weeks…

Rating:

three-stars

Short Story Review: A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary:

While Dr Watson is visiting his friend, Sherlock Holmes, the latter receives a visitor, one who gives a false name.  True to form, Holmes quickly determines his true identity: the heir to the Kingdom of Bohemia, who is soon to be married to a princess from a strict family.  Only a past lover is in possession of a some letters and a photograph of them together, which could be used for blackmail and ultimately ruin his chances of marrying the princess.

The woman in question is Irene Adler…

Favourite quote:

To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman.  I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.  In his eyes, she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.

Review:

I have been working my way through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle on Wattpad, the first instalment of which is A Scandal in Bohemia.  It’s been too long since I have read a Sherlock Holmes story, and this, the first of 56 short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle staring the “consulting detective”, was a great way to reconnect with them.

Of course, I loved it.  What I did find interesting was that Arthur Conan Doyle decided to begin the run of short stories by depicting that it is possible to outsmart Sherlock Holmes.  And Irene Adler is such an iconic character, possibly rivalling Sherlock in popularity.  All-in-all, a short, entertaining read and an enjoyable way to pass an evening.

Next up in the series is The Red-Headed League, the review for which I will probably post next week…

Rating:

four-stars

Sammi Loves Books – Year in Review 2016

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2016 has been a great year for books.  The over-riding theme for the year was “read, review and recycle,” (by recycle, I mean donating to charity or giving away to friends and family).  The reason for this: I have finally realised I have an addiction to books; when you have bookshelves in front of bookshelves and piles of books on each step of the stairs, you know you have a problem…That’s not to say that every book I read and review was removed from the house, only the books I couldn’t imagine reading again.  It’s a start at least, and something I will carry with me into 2017.

I’m once again surprised that I only read and reviewed 56 stories / books this year, exactly the same as last year, which I am more than a little disappointed with.  Next year I am determined to have written at least 57 reviews.  However, my Goodreads reading challenge only reckons I’ve read 8, but then my goal was 72.  One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get to grips with updating Goodreads on a regularly basis, something I have failed to do since I signed up there years ago…

A Few Highlights

  • Getting a signed paperback copy of Vastian Lore by S.C. Gregory from the author via a giveaway on her blog.
  • Receiving a paperback copy of The Devil’s Chalice by D.K. Wilson from the publisher.

Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2016

This is how my top ten list stands at the end of the year:

  1. The Ambassadors’ Mission (Trudi Canavan)
  2. One Corpse Too Many (Ellis Peters)
  3. The Devil’s Chalice (D.K. Wilson)
  4. Venus in Copper (Lindsey Davis)
  5. The Raven’s Head (Karen Maitland)
  6. A Clash of Kings (George R. R. Martin)
  7. Just Breathe (Sarah Doughty)
  8. Glass Houses (Rachel Caine)
  9. The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)
  10. Death of a Cad (M.C. Beaton)

Reading Challenges

Indie Only Month 2016:

My favourites were “Just Breathe” and “Vastian Lore” – I adored them both.

Historical Fiction Month 2016:

My favourites were “The Devil’s Chalice” and “Venus in Copper”, closely followed by “The Raven’s Head” and “Dissolution”.

Festive Reads Fortnight 2016:

So that is my year in books summarised.  I hope you all had a great 2016, and wishing you a 2017 filled with good books!