Short Story Saturday: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

short story saturday meme book review

Welcome to Short Story Saturday, a celebration of short stories and anthologies, which means you’ll only see mini-reviews of 3 stars and up on this feature!

If you know of an awesome short story (can be your own), send me an email.  If I like it, then I’ll post it on Short Story Saturday.


the whisper jar

he Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

Published:  May 31st, 2012

Publisher:  Morrigan Books

Retail Price: $2.99 ebook, $8.99/$9.99 paperback

Links:  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Pages: 196  

“I do not know what you have done, but put your mouth right here. Confess your crime to this fruit jar as though it were God’s ear.”
 ~ from The Whisper Jar
Some secrets are kept in jars — others, in books.
Some are left forgotten in musty rooms — others, created in old barns.
Some are brought about by destiny — others, born in blood.

Secrets — they are the hidden heart of this collection. In these pages, you will encounter a Blood Digger who bonds two children irrevocably together; a young woman who learns of her destiny through the random selection of a Bible verse; and a boy whose life begins to reflect the stories he reads…

Most importantly, though, if someone should ever happen to offer you a Jilly Jally Butter Mint, just say “No!”

Review:

The stories in THE WHISPER JAR were perfect bit size pieces for a disturbingly delicious anthology.  I was surprised how connected to each story, which is a difficult feat to accomplish in so little words.  After reading a couple of the stories, I had to stop and nurse my book hangover, since I was not quite ready to let go of the characters.  One of the stories,  THE READING LESSONS, is due to become a full-length novel next year, though I’d think that almost all of these stories would make fantastic full-length books.

Besides the gothic elements, this anthology also dabbles in some controversial topics like incest, pedeophiliacs, underage sex, racial tension, and religious tyrony.  Most of these topics are implied, though I must warn that anyone who is easily offended should not read this book.

Stories that were amazing:

  • Keepity Keep – a love triangle between two brothers and a fairy.  The ending of this story crushed me!
  • The Blue Word – an orphan prepares for graduation.  I wish that this was made into a full-length novel.  I could not believe the ending.
  • The Forgotten Orphan – a boy who discovers the creature upstairs.  Amazing story from start to end.
  • Friar Garden, Mister Samuel, and the Jilly Jally Butter Mints – I’m not quite sure what this story was about.  I’m thinking that the mints were some kind of hallucinogen, but it’s hard to say.
  • The Reading Lessons – reading lessons that can kill you.  I think this story had a slow start, yet and amazing finish.

Stories that were okay:

  • The Whisper Jar – poem about a jar that holds the town’s secrets
  • The Good Part – a brother who will do anything for his sister
  • Maxwell Treat’s Museum of Torture for Young Girls and Boys – a boy collects torture devices.  I didn’t care for this story much.
  • The Adventures of Velvet Honeybone, Girl Werewuff – poem about…umm I don’t actually know.  It’s too poetic for me.

 

about author

 

Housewife 3copyIn addition to The Whisper Jar, Carole Lanham is the author of the upcoming novel The Reading Lessons (Immortal Ink Publishing/May 2013), and twenty-four short stories.  Her work has twice appeared on the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award and her short story Friar Garden, Mister Samuel, and the Jilly Jally Butter Mints was shortlisted for The Million Writers Prize in 2009.  Please visit her at carolelanham.comhorrorhomemaker.com, or on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/TheWhisperJar

Coming in 2013 from Immortal Ink Publishing –

THE READING LESSONS.  

Based on the award-winning short story from The Whisper Jar…  

 

thereadinglessons-1-200x300

Mississippi 1920: Nine year old servant, Hadley Crump, finds himself drawn into a secret world when he is invited to join wealthy Lucinda Browning’s dirty book club. No one suspects that the bi-racial son of the cook is anything more to Lucinda than a charitable obligation, but behind closed doors, O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright. What begins as a breathless investigation into the more juicy parts of literature quickly becomes a consuming and life-long habit for two people who would not otherwise be left alone together. As lynchings erupt across the South and the serving staff is slowly cut to make way for new mechanical household conveniences, Hadley begins to understand how dangerous and precarious his situation is.

 

The Reading Lessons follows the lives of two people born into a world that is unforgiving as a Hangman’s knot. Divided by skin color and joined by books, Hadley and Lucinda are forced to come together in the only place that will allow it, a land of printed words and dark secrets.

 

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Awards and Acknowledgements 

The Good Part
Trunk Stories 2005
Tales of Moreauvia 2009
Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballot 2005 for Outstanding Achievement
in a Short Story
Honorable Mention 21st Annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror

Keepity Keep
Fantasy Magazine December 2008
Voted One of the Five Best Stories in Fantasy Magazine for 2008
Honorable Mention Best Horror of the Year Volume One
CATE Award for Best Stories of 2008 at Poison Apple

The Blue Word
The World is Dead 2009
Honorable Mention Best Horror of the Year Volume Two

Maxwell Treat’s Museum of Torture for Young Girls and Boys
First Place Winner at On The Premises 2008
Notable Story of 2008 in the Million Writer’s AwardFriar Garden, Mister Samuel, and the Jilly Jally Butter Mints
Thought Crime Experiments 2009
Short-Listed for the Million Writer’s Award 2009The Reading Lessons
Son and Foe Issue 1 2005
Presented as a pod cast at Parade of Phantoms 2008
Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballot 2005 for Outstanding Achievement
in a Short StoryThe Forgotten Orphan
Midnight Lullabies 2007
Honorable Mention 21st Annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror
Voted Top 25 in Short Story Horror – Editors and Predators Reader’s Poll
2007

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Book Review: Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch (3 stars)

magisterium jeff hirsch

Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Genre: YA Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Pages: 310

Published: October 12th, 2012

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.

Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn’s only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn’t for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn’s mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father’s work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run—with only one place to go.
With MAGISTERIUM, Jeff Hirsch brings us the story of a complex, captivating world that will leave readers breathless until the very last page.

MAGISTERIUM dived from a solid five star book, the moment Kevin chopped off his mohawk.

When I initially started the book, I was pleasantly surprised that it was sci-fi.  I thought by the cover that it was a fantasy.  My favorite character was Kevin, because I adored his puppy dog crush on Glenn, although I despised how she treated him (like shit).  And my favorite part of the book was the first couple of chapters.  I thought that Glenn had a good future/adventure on planet 813.

And then it all changed.

Glenn’s father kept a terrible secret and the bracelet on Glenn’s wrist held the key.  Through a series of unfortunate events, Glenn discovered herself fleeing towards the borderlands…to the wasteland that she’s learned to avoid her whole life.

When Glenn learns that the borderlands are actually a dark fantasyland, not only does her perception of reality change, but so does the narration.  The writing becomes less scientific and more poetic.  The writing is beautiful, yet I think the action scenes are so filled with fluff and descriptions that I lose exactly track of what happens.  Glenn might be going insane, but it’s me ripping out my hair as I try to figure out if a certain character is dead, dying, or just injured.

I loved Kevin in the beginning, but due to an incident, his personality completely changes, and all chemistry between him and Glenn is lost.  He even chopped off his beautiful blue mohawk and stopped being so chatty.  /crushed.  Aamon’s character is essential to the story, but he seems forced into situations for plot purposes.

In fact, there are a lot of characters that disappear for a few pages or chapters and then just spontaneously show up when they have to save/foil Glenn.  I wish there was more foreshadowing for several of the major scenes.  And when the Magistar finally makes an appearance, (to quote the Mad Hatter) she’s “lost her muchness”.  It was very anti-climatic.  The ending was also anti-climatic for the buildup.  But I think most of my disappointment was because the Kevin I fell in love with on page one never came back.

MAGISTERIUM wasn’t a bad book, but when it killed the old Kevin, I just lost my attachment to the story.

rating C

(I received a copy of this book from the ARCycling Program.)

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Book Review: Lizzie Speare and the Cursed Tomb by Ally Malinenko

Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb by Ally Malinenko

Lizzie Speare and the Cursed Tomb by Ally Malinenko

Genre: MG Fantasy

Publisher: Antenna Books

Pages: 352

Published: September 12th, 2012

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

MEET LIZZY SPEARE…

…a normal twelve year old girl with a talent for writing, who has a very not normal family secret. And when Lizzy’s father vanishes, that secret will change her life in ways unimagined. (Spoiler Alert! It turns out that Lizzy, or Elizabeth S. Speare, is the last living descendant of William Shakespeare. Shhh! Don’t tell anybody!)

Then Lizzy and her best friend Sammy are kidnapped, awakening in the faraway land of Manhattan. Their host is Jonathan Muse, whose job is to protect Lizzy from becoming the latest victim in a family feud nearly five hundred years old. Could that be why the mysterious, eye patch-wearing Dmitri Marlowe is after her? (Spoiler Alert 2—he’s the last living descendant of Christopher Marlowe, a friend and rival of Shakespeare’s. But keep it to yourself!) Is Marlowe after Lizzy’s family fortune rumored to be kept in Shakespeare’s tomb? Does he seek artistic immortality? Or Revenge (with a capital R) for a death long, long ago?

In a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, Lizzy and Sammy are thrust into the realm of the mythical and fantastic—from satyrs and Cyclopses to Middle Eastern cab drivers and Brooklyn hipsters—in what is truly “an improbable fiction” as the Bard himself once wrote.

LIZZIE SPEARE AND THE CURSED TOMB is an excellent introduction for MG students to Shakespeare, while still being mystical enough to appeal to fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.  The story begins with the kidnapping of Rupert, Lizzie’s father.  With the help of her best friend Sammy, she must find a way to find him.  I like how the quest is a person, not an object.  The riddles for the quest are taken directly out of Shakespeare’s work, which will help kids to understand and appreciate the Elizabethan style of writing.  The solution requires real-world problem solving skills instead of a magical potion or item.

The story gives a personality to the historical mastermind, William Shakespeare, and makes him relateable to kids and young teens.  The adults in the story (Marlowe, Jonathan, and Rupert) all make human mistakes and have very defined motives for their actions and beliefs.  It’s hard to figure out who to trust and Lizzie doesn’t trust blindly.  Lizzie is a good problem solver, though she does make rash decisions when her emotions are triggered.

The essence of New York City is captured perfectly.  New York is laid out with the precision of a local.  Both landmarks features and cultural centers influence how Lizzie solves her next piece of the quest. Although there are similarities for way magic functions in New York in this book compared to the way London functions in Harry Potter, this book has too unique of a story and characters to be considered a fan fiction.

At first I was confused as to how Sammy was able to go alone on the adventures with Lizzie without his parents caring about his absence, but when I realized the relations between his parents and the other adults in the story, it made sense.  Also, there is no romance in the book, so LIZZIE SPEARE definitely is directed towards the younger audience.

There are only two parts of the book that I don’t like.  The prologue is revisited almost word per word in a later chapter, so I do recommend skipping the prologue completely.  The second thing is that I really don’t like the title.  This book has both classroom and entertainment value for MG readers.  Fans of YA and Adult novels, this book might be too young for you.

rating A

(I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.  I also enjoyed this book so much that I purchased it for my mother’s school kids with my own money.)

 

about author

 

biophotoAlly Malinenko, a self-proclaimed Bardolator, took her first pilgrimage to Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2009 and hasn’t been the same since. Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb is her first children’s book. Her poetry book,  The Wanting Bone, was published by Six Gallery Press. She blogs at allymalinenko.com. Ally lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

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Review: Captive of the Orcs by Benjamin Epstein (4 stars)

Check out Benjamin Epstein’s hilarious answers to my Author Interview – 10 Things You’re  Too Scared to Ask.

benjamin epstein captive of the orcs book review

Captive of the Orcs by Benjamin Epstein

Publisher: Center One Publishing

Published: November 13th, 2012

Pages: 302

Genre: Fantasy

Links: Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Facebook

 

Dallet departed on a long journey, leaving behind his family, home, and his love. He planned to travel to the City of Brass Gates, and enter the priesthood of the Divine, the deity of the Luminean Exiles.

Torak was a young Orc, raised to pursue honor and victory. His tribe captured a trading caravan, and Torak enslaves a fleeing Luminean Exile.

Human and Orc, slave and master, bound by fate, must now adventure across the face of Codytha. One seeks revenge, the other freedom. And each is an enigma to his companion.

The dual plots in CAPTIVE OF THE ORCS are expertly intertwined.  Dallet is captured by an orc on the way to begin his training as a Luminean Exile.  Torak tracks down a human for capture only to discover that his entire raiding party has been slain/captured besides him.  Each character has a very solid plot and what one character does in their own plot influences the plot of the other one.

The characters are complete opposites in beliefs and values, yet share a deep respect for one another.   It’s amusing to see the difference of culture between human and orc.  There honestly needs to be more orc books, as they’re one of my favorite fantasy creatures.  I like the politics of the orcs and how tiny details make a ripple later on in the story.

By the very end of the story, I was nervous that it would end in a cliffhanger and nothing would be resolved until a surprise sequel comes out.  But that’s not the case.  I can’t say that I was surprised by the ending, however I do like how the resolution happened.  Both Dallet and Torak reach a satisfying ending by the last few pages.  I’m in awe at the amount of growth both characters exhibited throughout the course of the novel.

There are some minor proofreading errors (quotations) near the end, but nothing that that inhibits your ability to enjoy the story.  At first, I didn’t like the dialogue and the voices seemed too generic, but as the book progressed and I really started connecting with the characters, either the dialogue got better or I was too sucked into the story to notice otherwise.

B rating

(I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion)

 

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Leaping Leprechauns – Giveaway and the House of Cards

lucky 2013

Leaping Leprechauns!

We have a bookmark and a giftcard for you to win!

 

free-amazon-gift-card

 

It’s your lucky, lucky day.  For the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop, we have two prizes.  First, you can win a bookmark featuring the epic short story, House of Cards by Juli D. Revezzo.  Secondly, you can win a $10 giftcard to Amazon.com.  This contest is opened to US residents only due to shipping costs.  SORRY!  Winner has 48 hours to respond by email or another one will be chosen.

Since, Juli D. Revezzo is awesome enough to supply a bookmark for this giveaway and wrote one of the best story stories I’ve read in quite a few months, I want to spotlight her book, House of Cards.  I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review.  Giveaway is on bottom!

 

houseofcardsHouse of Cards by Juli D. Revezzo

Genre:  Dark Fantasy

Publisher:  Raven Queen Publications

Released October 3rd, 2012

Links:  Amazon  |   Barnes and Noble  |   Smashwords  |

 Good Reads

You can’t escape Fate….

A young nobleman escapes the Reign of Terror in 18th century France to find himself dragged into an even worse fate–a hellish underworld wherein he is cajoled and put on trial by a demon tribunal for crimes he never committed. Can he answer thwart his fate, one worse than the guillotine?

My Thoughts – It’s amazing how rare it is to find a short story with a rich atmosphere, three dimensional characters, and  a proper ending.  House of Cards exceeded my expectations for what a short story should offer.  Sinjor is fleeing Paris in a stagecoach (I think that’s the right name for the vehicle) but not fast enough.  He is caught in route by something and he must tread carefully to figure out how to survive this encounter.  Sinjon’s indecision and often inaptitude in figuring out the quests is a refreshing take on the typical fantasy hero, who always figures out the task.  It’s good to see the hero fail, although Sinjon might not have liked the consequences.  House of Cards is borderline horror.  It’s dark fantasy that never quite crosses into scary, although there are several gruesome descriptions and a steady, suspenseful pace.

As far as short stories goes, this one has it all. (A)

rating A

 

Enter the giveaway (opened to US only!)  In the comments, let me know your favorite all time short story/anthology/or picture book!

 

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