Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #ShortStory The Bledbrooke Works by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading The Bledbrooke Works by John F. Leonard

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Donald Hobdike’s title is Manager of Works in the small, somewhat creepy, town of Bledbrooke, and has been for forty years. Over that time his role has become considerably less glamorous than it sounds and now extends to little more than managing the sewage system.

He is also, on occasion, sent community service young offenders to accompany him on his day’s work. Which is why when a blockage is reported in a posh part of town Hobdike has the surly Mikey in tow as they disappear into the depths of the sewers.

But they are not alone.

This story is written from the differing points of view of Hobdike and Mikey and these were my favourite parts. The characterisation of each is excellent, their thoughts about the other right on the nail. But there is a third character. An unknown quantity. Gone to earth.

Like I said, they are not alone, and as if the revolting setting of the claustrophobic sewage system was not enough suspense builds because you know, you just know, something is waiting for them.

I loved the twist, the horror of the finale, and having appreciated Leonard’s writing for a while now I thoroughly enjoyed this short story and highly recommend it to all those seeking something different and interesting to read.

Book description

THE BLEDBROOKE WORKS is a tale of everyday unpleasantness and cosmic horror. A short novella of subterranean terror seen through the eyes of an ageing engineer and a young hoodlum. One a pillar of the local community, the other an outsider who wouldn’t know communal spirit if it ran up and bit him on the bottom.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #shortstory CALL DROPS by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Call Drops by John F Leonard

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I won’t keep you guessing, I loved this story. After reading several longish novels in a similar genre, I fancied a break. And what better break from reading than reading something completely different?

I had read some great reviews of another one of Leonard’s novellas (also from the Dead Boxes Archive series) from members of the review team and knew I was in for a treat.

The story starts innocuously enough. An old man of means, Vincent Preece, (he used to have a business, one of the early businesses in mobile phones, and he sold it making a big profit) who likes to go to second-hand shops and car-boot sales finds something rather unusual and impossible to resist for him. It looks like an old mobile phone, but he does not recognise the model and cannot find any indication of how it works. Still, he has to have it.

If, like me, you loved the old Friday the 13th TV series with its creepy objects, or other similar stories (including some of the films in the Conjuring series), you will have guessed by now that things are going to take a turn for the interesting. And they do.

I don’t want to spoil the read, but let’s say the phone does not keep silent for long, and the atmosphere gets creepier and darker as it progresses. The story, told in the third person but almost totally from Vincent’s point of view, gets deeper and deeper into the protagonist’s psyche. When we meet him, he is a lonely man, somewhat embittered and opinionated (although he keeps those opinions to himself), who has suffered losses in his life, from his business and his cat, to his wife and daughter, but he seems settled and has learned to enjoy the little things in life. He is a keen and witty observer, has a quick mind, and a sharp sense of humour. I am not sure I would say she is the most sympathetic character I’ve read about, but he comes across as a grumpy but amusing old man, and his wit and the plot are more than enough to keep us engaged and turning the pages. If you’re a reader of the genre, you’ve probably guessed that things are not as clear-cut as they seem, but I won’t give you any specific details. You’ll have to read it yourselves.

Is it a horror story? It is not a scary story that will make you jump (or at least I don’t think so), but there are some horrifying scenes in it, graphically so (although no people are involved), and they’ve put some pictures in my mind that will probably remain there for a long time, but it is more in the range of the darker The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents type of stories than something that will have you screaming out loud. If you read the description of the series, you’ll get a good sense of it, and the epilogue and the closing warning to the reader are very well done and reminded me of both these TV programmes.

The writing style is crisp and to the point, and the author manages to create a credible character with recognisable personality traits despite the briefness of the story. There are also moments when the writing reaches beyond functional storytelling, as if the character had dropped his self-protective shell and his stiff attitude and was talking from the heart.

Here, talking about his wife and daughter:

Their departure had left Vincent mystified and empty. As if the marrow had been sucked out of him. Hard to stand with hollow bones.

But also:

However liberal you tried to be, some folk were simply a waste of good organs. There was no denying it.

I won’t talk about the ending in detail. There is a twist, and although some readers might have their suspicions, I think it works well, and I enjoyed it.

I recommend this book to people who like dark and creepy reads, have a twisted sense of humour, and don’t mind some horrifying scenes. If you love The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents and are looking for a short and quick-paced read, give it a try. Perhaps we don’t need Dead Boxes’ objects in our lives, but we definitely need more of their stories.

Book description

Vincent likes nothing more than rootling round second-hand shops in search of the interesting and unusual. Items that are lost and forgotten.
Why not? He needs the diversion. Time on his hands and money to burn. His life is affluent and empty. Little on the horizon and memories tinged bittersweet.
That’s all about to change. He’s about to find something that is perhaps better left unfound.

CALL DROPS is a darkly swirling mix of horror and mystery that will stay with you long after the reading is done. It’ll maybe make you think twice about impulse buying, those moments when you simply must have something, even though you don’t need it.
It might cause you to look again at the apparently mundane and everyday …and possibly, just possibly, wonder at what twisted marvels lurk within your mobile phone.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Call Drops: A Horror Story by [Leonard, John F]

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #shortstories The Sea Was A Fair Master by @CalvinDemmer

Today’s team review is from Sean, she blogs here https://ebookwormssite.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading The Sea Was A Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

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Summary:

23 short stories, or flash fiction as the style is known, the main themes of which are the darker sides of humanity, and dealing with the places where the visible and otherworld connect, and things break through.

Plot:

There are 23 short stories, some very short, and mainly in the horror genre. Given that the author has so short a time to build the tension, I found the writing to be terse, intense, and very well-crafted to bring about the desired atmosphere.

There is definitely an echo of the short-lived “Hammer House of Horrors” in these stories (A classic TV show at a time when people had recently purchased colour TV’s!). The stories draw you in immediately, the scene is quickly set, and each tale has a twist or two. Some highlights:

“On The Seventh Day” has a biblical-sounding title, and the tale bears out a sense of being Justice being meted out, an eye for an eye vengeance.

“Trashcan Sam” was a grisly peek into an underworld, and one I felt has depth enough that could be enlarged into a novella.

“The Snakes or the Humans” – a man has the power over every species of life – what decision will be made when priorities change?

“Hangman” was a dark look at a security man’s night-time rounds, and the things that go on in school after hours!

The eponymous story offers a cure for when you find yourself becalmed at sea with your Navy comrades.

There are some touching stories as well, the most shining example of this being “Yara”. Love is shown as a powerful emotion, more powerful than death, but so is revenge! However, most stories featuring the heart tends to have it being carved out of someone!!

What I Liked:

  • The writing was excellently paced.
  • The characterisation is classic short-story, with the barest outline. However, the author really created a memorable cast of characters.
  • There are no contrived endings – the author shows the horror genre real respect and, while short, every story delivers a superb punch.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Some (very few) of the stories reminded me of others that I had read before (e.g. Restrooms ending was a little like the Stephen King short Popsy, but I’m sure it this is only in my mind, and not intentional).
  • Some of the stories were too short!

Overall:

This is an excellent short story collection for the horror fan, and an intriguing entertaining read for the more mainstream reader. Unfortunately, you can read this over a couple of hours, and you are left wanting more! I really loved it, I felt the writing was crisp and succinct, and the author’s ability to generate compelling atmosphere with such an economy of words is deeply impressive.

Book description

The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him.

The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.

For the sea was a fair master.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #Shortstory DOGGEM by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading Doggem by John F. Leonard

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Doggem, is a short story from John F Leonard and is a tale of a toy dog and dark deeds. I chose to read this as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and received a copy from the author but that has not effected my review in any way.

In a bid to encourage literacy Mrs Snady encourages the pupils in her primary class to take the class toy dog, uninspiringly called Doggem, home for a week at a time. The child who has him in their possession is meant to document his time in their care. George Gould, age 5, is chosen to take him home for the whole of the summer holidays.

George’s parents, Cath and Tom, are taking him, and Doggem, to stay with his grandmother in her cottage in Jordemain Wood. However, it is clear that all is not well with the relationship between his parents and the grandmother, but she has asked to see her grandchild so the trip is on.

And this is where the story takes a darker turn as while Cath and Tom cook up a plan, a level of perception has been brought to Doggem by George’s abilities which, while hidden from his parents, have been spotted from afar by his grandmother.

Doggem gets to see and hear things he probably shouldn’t because no one suspects a toy dog and after what happens in the holidays things take an even more sinister turn when Doggem returns to school and life gets creepy for Mrs Snady as his powers increase.

This short story is very well written, thoroughly enjoyable and I’d highly recommend it to everyone who wants a fairly quick read. Excellent!

Book description

All the kids adore Doggem, the class cuddly toy.
They each get to take him home. Hug him and love him and show him their world outside of school.
All they have to do in return is write his diary.
It’s George Gould’s turn and he’s going to introduce Doggem to a rather unusual family.
Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that both the stuffed toy and little boy are far from ordinary.
Doggem is no longer your run-of-the-mill snuggle doggy. Designed to fall apart after a few years. Perfect for squishing and squashing into a comfort blanket.
He’s a million miles from that now. Doggem has just become a living creature. Thinking and reasoning. Trying to make sense of an unexpected existence.
Strange places and scary experiences are in store during this sojourn with his latest custodian. Things no respectable fluffy dog should ever have to witness. It might end up in deadly territory.
Make no mistake, there is magic here. Some of it as black as a starless night.
And George?
Well, George is descended from decidedly dicey stock. There are folk in delightful George’s lineage who have indulged in practices of a somewhat shadowy nature. The ramifications of which aren’t ready to be consigned to history. They want to spill out of the past and have their say in the future.

DOGGEM is a spooky little tale about toy dogs and dark doings. A gently disturbing horror story. But beware, this charming cocktail of witchcraft, imagined folklore and paranormal fantasy might just bewitch you.
Not easy to pin down genre. Without doubt it has a certain heart-breaking beauty to it. Maybe it’s a modern fairytale. A scary one, flavoured with a dash of the occult, written for an adult audience. After all, fairy tales feature the supernatural and have a magical aspect to them.
They often have old cottages and eerie, unnerving woodland settings.
Wickedly enchanting women and innocent children.
Ancient evil and everyday greed.

Doggem is a short story, one in a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive.
The Dead Boxes?
Some objects are frightening things and the Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category.
They can be easily overlooked. Ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway. A mobile phone, a piece of art …a child’s plaything.
Take a closer look. You’ll see something unique.
You could very easily have one and not know it.
Exercise caution.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one.
You might think you do, but you really don’t.
Believe me.

A Short Story.
From the Dead Boxes Archive.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Mild #Horror #Shortstory DOGGEM by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Doggem by John F Leonard


My Review: 4.5 stars out of 5 for

Doggem: A Tale of Toy Dogs and Dark Deeds by John F. Leonard

The Velveteen Rabbit meets Rosemary’s Baby.

John F. Leonard’s little story of Doggem is a sweet tale of a little boy, a favorite toy, murder, horror, and (possibly) the end of the world. Narrated by the toy dog Doggem—whose job is to go home with the five-year-olds in Mrs. Snady’s class and inspire them to practice their fledgling writing skills by writing up Doggem’s diary—we soon realize that the recently sentient toy is an unreliable narrator at best. His vocabulary and observations are far removed from those of his tiny guardians’ abilities, while he himself freely admits to ‘many failings’:

I’m already digressing. I fear that will be one of my many failings. Acquiring a voice when muteness was your original condition tends to engender a certain garrulous quality.

If I have any complaint about the story, it’s just that it too short. The genre demands a slow buildup, and I think the questions raised by the unreliable little narrator would have been even more devastating with a little more description behind them. With such a short story, descriptions of people and settings are necessarily pared back to the minimum needed, but are nevertheless razor sharp. Describing George’s mother, for example, Doggem observes, “There was a certain sharpness to Cath Gould’s features that meant her face eluded true beauty. As if God had taken his eye off the ball at the last minute and allowed something snappish to creep into the mix. She was a strikingly attractive woman nonetheless, never more so than when she was charming her way through a difficult subject.”Despite our immediate suspicions, Doggem’s observations and comments convey an intelligence that is both clueless and timelessly jaded. We start to get small hints that George is such an unusual child that he was actually the source of Doggem’s change from toy to sentient being. “Some strange and unknowable energy smeared across the universes and settled behind my glassy eyes.”  But almost immediately we realize that something else is going on as the still innocent toy and child overhear troubling adult comments.

Or as the little family, Doggem in tow, heads for a reluctant and ominous visit to his grandmother, we hear about menace in the surrounding woods. “How heavy the branches sat against the sun. As if they were tears in the fabric of reality rather than vibrant, growing things.”

But as the story swiftly develops into malice, evil, and death, we realize how unreliable Doggem’s observations really are. Is he reporting what actually happened? Is George a strange child or the pivotal result of untold years of plotting with evil? Is Doggem, who owes his awareness and “real” self to George, also part of that growing evil? Or even, is the entire tale something made up by the retired schoolteacher recording the events?

I have my theories, but you’ll have to read this elegantly simple and elaborately confusing little jewel of a cozy horror tale and decide for yourself.

Book description

All the kids adore Doggem, the class cuddly toy.
They each get to take him home. Hug him and love him and show him their world outside of school.
All they have to do in return is write his diary.
It’s George Gould’s turn and he’s going to introduce Doggem to a rather unusual family.
Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out that both the stuffed toy and little boy are far from ordinary.
Doggem is no longer your run-of-the-mill snuggle doggy. Designed to fall apart after a few years. Perfect for squishing and squashing into a comfort blanket.
He’s a million miles from that now. Doggem has just become a living creature. Thinking and reasoning. Trying to make sense of an unexpected existence.
Strange places and scary experiences are in store during this sojourn with his latest custodian. Things no respectable fluffy dog should ever have to witness. It might end up in deadly territory.
Make no mistake, there is magic here. Some of it as black as a starless night.
And George?
Well, George is descended from decidedly dicey stock. There are folk in delightful George’s lineage who have indulged in practices of a somewhat shadowy nature. The ramifications of which aren’t ready to be consigned to history. They want to spill out of the past and have their say in the future.

DOGGEM is a spooky little tale about toy dogs and dark doings. A gently disturbing horror story. But beware, this charming cocktail of witchcraft, imagined folklore and paranormal fantasy might just bewitch you.
Not easy to pin down genre. Without doubt it has a certain heart-breaking beauty to it. Maybe it’s a modern fairytale. A scary one, flavoured with a dash of the occult, written for an adult audience. After all, fairy tales feature the supernatural and have a magical aspect to them.
They often have old cottages and eerie, unnerving woodland settings.
Wickedly enchanting women and innocent children.
Ancient evil and everyday greed.

Doggem is a short story, one in a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive.
The Dead Boxes?
Some objects are frightening things and the Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category.
They can be easily overlooked. Ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway. A mobile phone, a piece of art …a child’s plaything.
Take a closer look. You’ll see something unique.
You could very easily have one and not know it.
Exercise caution.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one.
You might think you do, but you really don’t.
Believe me.

A Short Story.
From the Dead Boxes Archive.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS