Title & Author: Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree
Published by: Tor Trade
Pub Date: November 7, 2023
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 339
Date Read: 2024/05/19
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Spoiler-ish

The ending made me incredibly sad. I was going to read “Legends & Lattes”, but decided I would start with the sequel-prequel. Now that I know I will be leaving most of the characters behind, I have no interest in continuing (at least not for while), with the story-line.

Travis Baldree mentioned a mystery set in this world and I hope he goes back to the idea. I enjoyed the story and the coziness of it all. Just felt like Maylee deserved better.

 

Highlights
Chapter 16– Page: 115
“You know, there’s a lot of people out there. Lot of noise. I love what I do, love it every day, but none of us sees more than a tiny piece of all the world, like we’re lookin’ out a little-bitty window. And I saw you through mine, and somethin’ inside me said, ‘That’s somebody you oughta know.’ Simple as that.
-=-=-=-=-=-
Chapter 35– Page: 231
“Never trust a writer who doesn’t have too many books to read. Or a reader, for that matter,” said Zelia.
-=-=-=-=-=-

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      When Ruby rents a fully furnished apartment, she doesn’t expect it to come with the ghost of the previous tenant too. When her neighbor across the hall winds up dead, and the police dismiss it as a mugging gone wrong rather than a murder, she and her deceased roommate decide to investigate.

      I got this book through Netgalley and requested it primarily because of the cover and I wanted a mystery. It’s a decent mystery that was fun to read. I liked the main characters of Cordelia (my favorite), and Ruby. Ruby I thought at times was annoying, but I can’t explain why exactly. I think it was because she was so outgoing? Example, who in their right mind is gonna go to the murder victim’s work and interrogate his coworkers? What company would even allow this woman to walk on in and conduct an investigation in their break room. This is probably where I should say that this begins what I disliked about the book. Why in the world would all of Jake’s (the dead guy) coworkers answer this woman? She isn’t the police, she has no power or authority. There’s a bit later on when one of Jake’s girlfriends turns up at Cordelia’s and Ruby’s apartment to answer questions. What?! Why? Why would she do that. I can suspend my disbelief for ghosts, but I can not envision a world where a woman who seems to be so full of herself would travel to the apartment of some unknown woman to answer questions to help further along Ruby’s investigation. It doesn’t make sense.

      Also, this book has me wondering if everybody in Boston is obsessed with beer and drinking? Because I would have thought that no, of course not, but this book has every character (besides Ruby) asking for a beer. I’m surprised the author didn’t write in the bus driver as drinking on the job.

      I also liked some of the explanation on the ghost mechanics, like why ghosts don’t want to actually come in contact with a living person. That’s a great idea, make it painful for the ghost too. However, I did not care for the whole “if I believe it to be true, it suddenly is”. Need to make a whole garbage bag disappear, just will it to be so! Yet Cordelia struggles with floating, but can walk through the walls, and sink through the ground. I get that ghosts have magical abilities in a folklore sense, making things appear and disappear. I just thought explaining it away with simply thinking it’s true makes it true was a bit lazy. Furthermore, I would rather have not had it explained. Along with maybe a whole garbage bag disappearing. There has to be rules to this, right? If you can cover it with your ghostly hands it disappears, if you can’t wrap your whole body around an object it’s going to be visible. It’s just the way it is. I have read, watched, and listened to ghost stories, I’m a paranormal expert, 😛 Just kidding. I have no idea. But that’s just what I found annoying.

      Overall, I enjoyed reading it. I liked the story line. I loved Cordelia’s character and look forward to reading the next one in this series.

Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions are mine.
Title & Author: A New Lease on Death by Olivia Blacke
Published by: Minotaur Books
Pub Date: Oct 29 2024
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Pages: 336
Date Read: 2024/05/07
Rating:★★★☆☆

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Tim Shelley / WCBU
This architect’s concept drawing dates to 1895.

      A little dive into the history of Peoria Public Library. Most of this comes from the book “Tomes of Terror“. I tried finding out more on the people themselves, but some of what is written in “Tomes of Terror” is just wrong and or I couldn’t find any information to support what was written. In those cases, I wrote out what I found and the source. Otherwise, take this story for what it is, a good legend.

      Peoria Public Library doesn’t look like a place that is cursed, nor does it look to be haunted. Something that looks fairly modern, it’s hard to imagine a place so juxtaposed from one that is typically imagined when it is reported to have as many as thirteen ghosts in residence.

      To start off our story, we go to the 1830s, when Andrew and Mary Stevenson Gray lived in a two-story home in Peoria, IL. Life was seemingly well for them until Mary’s brother died, and her nephew came to live with them. He brought with him grief and little else, for he tended to associate with criminals and be of no use as a drunkard. He spent a good deal of time in jail and accrued a lot of fines and fees for lawyers.

      Eventually, the Gray’s were unable to pay the debts for their nephew and had used their mortgage as a means to pay their lawyer, David Davis (no wonder he turned out to be a crap lawyer with a name like that). And as this story goes on, Mr. Davis wanted his money and brought a lawsuit against them to foreclose on the mortgage.

      Mary kicks her nephew out and when his body is found later floating in the Illinois River she curses the land with “thorns and thistles, ill luck, sickness and death to its every owner and occupant.” 1

      The land gained a quick reputation for being haunted. Stories began that Mary’s nephew could be heard crying and begging at the front door. Caretaker’s for the property refused to work there. Because the public opinion was so against David Davis, he never actually lived there and the home abandoned. What a waste!

      It’s unclear what or how Mary and Andrew spent the rest of their lives, however there is a legend that states that on the night the house caught fire, the local’s saw the ghost of Mary in the flames, dancing and laughing as the house burned.

Gov. Thomas Ford

      The property then becomes the home of Gov. Thomas Ford, who was thought to already have been cursed prior to moving in.2 (Side note: dude went to Transylvania University… I’m being superficial here, but again, what a name.)3

      Within quick succession he lost his wife to stomach cancer, then died a few weeks after. Mrs. Ford died of cancer of the stomach October 12th, 1850, aged 38 years; and the Governor, then removed to the residence of Mr. Andrew Gray, already in the last stages of consumption, breathed his last on Sunday, November the 3d of the same year… 4

      According to “Tomes of Terror“, the property is then given to an ex-slave, Tom Lindsay. Lindsay had recently been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, and the son of his ex-master purchased a portion of the property and allowed him to live there.5 However, he wasn’t a slave and bought property himself, though I can find nothing on what property he bought.6

      The book “Tomes of Terror“, makes claims that Tom had a lot of issues living there, had to rebuild the home, and employing superstitious methods to live on the land peacefully. But again… the beginning of this section got it all wrong, so maybe there is no truth to this.

      Next up “Tomes of Terror” claims that many more property owners and their children died, but without any names I again couldn’t look it up, so I’ll just add it here, cause it makes for a spooky story.

      However, in the decades following Lindsay’s departure, several more residents of the property suffered a series of eerie fates. The first was a local businessman whose wife died tragically within the first year of the couple obtaining ownership of the property. The next was a banker whose wife died shortly after giving birth to a baby boy; the child died soon after. That same banker remarried and he and his new wife also had a boy. That boy, who suffered a bizarre affliction wherein he avoided warmth, was often found sleeping in the cold front hallway of the home in the depths of winter. He too, died. His mother’s grief and despair was so deep that she was sent off to Minneapolis in an attempt to recover her sanity. The next resident of the cursed site was a boarding room housekeeper whose son plunged to his death from a hot-air balloon, and whose daughter drowned in the nearby river.

      After the property was purchased to use as a library, Fred J. Soldan was appointed as head librarian. He was taken ill after a ride to Washington and returned with other members of the Peoria Bicycle Club in late October 1891 and died of pneumonia on November 5th at age 39.7

      E.S. Willcox was appointed next and twenty years later on April 6, 1915, died after being struck by a car.8

  1. Patterson Prowse died of a heart attack in the library, 1921.9

      Lastly in curious sudden deaths is Dr. Edwin Wiley. It is said he died in 1925 from ingesting arsenic, though that seems to be another legend.

      Sources:
1: Leslie, Mark. Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries. Dundurn, 2014.
2:https://www.pjstar.com/story/entertainment/local/2015/05/19/101-things-that-play-in/34529649007/
3:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Ford_(politician)#Death_and_legacy
4:https://www.jstor.org/stable/40193411?seq=4
5: Leslie, Mark. Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries. Dundurn, 2014.
6:https://www.peorian.com/history/history-news/local-history/2374-molly-thomas-lindsay
7:https://peoriapubliclibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ppl-history-book.pdf
8:https://www.jstor.org/stable/40188815
9:https://peoriapubliclibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ppl-history-book.pdf

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      Welcome to the series of Haunted Libraries (and Bookshops) Around the World. In which I will highlight a library (or bookshop) and its stories of ghostly apparitions, and maybe suggest a book along with it.

      Moravian Book Shop is currently located in Bethlehem, PA and boasts the title of being the oldest and possibly first bookstore opened in America. I’ll spare you most of the history, but to say that the bookstore itself has changed its location and name many times. So this little ghost tale probably doesn’t have anything to do with the original owners.

      The staff have felt like they were being watched in the basement and just generally don’t like being there1, but more spectacular was when the ghost led the store manager back to the kitchens, where she had discovered the stove was still on.

      Jane Clugston, who sells children’s books and has been with the store for almost 30 years, can corroborate. She told me that one night, while closing the store with a fellow employee, she saw a dark figure in a back hallway of the store, going into the kitchen. She and the coworker followed the figure back. Then, she says she realized the back kitchen stove was on, as well as the fan.

      “I don’t know why this person, ghost, spirit drew us back there, but I guess to turn off those appliances,” says Clugston. “I’d never thought of it until I told someone else and they said a ghost led you back there. But in that back hallway a lot of people have said that they’ve felt things and they’ve seen things.” It’s like something out of a book.2

      Besides then general sightings of thinking there may be patrons waiting is a story of how another manager saw a woman sprinting from one room to the other and had assumed that she was a shoplifter. He went to go investigate and discovered that he was the only person to have seen her.1

1:Haunted Places
2:The Guardian

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And yet for one reason or another these volumes were banished to the silted depths of obscurity. But these books breathe. They hold thoughts, knowledge and humour otherwise long gone. Their stories – and to a degree, their authors – are alive upon opening them, undiminished by the violence of time.

The Madman’s Library: The Greatest Curiosities of Literature by Edward Brooke-Hitching
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      They decided to go camping near the lake instead of the woods, where the trees canopy wasn’t so thick overhead that you couldn’t see the stars. Though now that it was getting darker, she wished she hadn’t ignored the niggling fear that was now quickly building to dread.

      She thought it had something to do with the water and how black the surface was. You wouldn’t be able to see your hand just below the surface.

      The ghost stories they shared earlier around the campfire hadn’t helped her nerves either. Her imagination was turning every snap of a twig into some terrible being coming to get her.

      She lay there in her sleeping bag, alone in her tent, unable to sleep. There were footsteps outside her tent shuffling past, then a splash in the water. She unzipped her tent, and although she didn’t know how to swim herself, thought she would sit on the dock and join whoever from her party was out in the water now. The moonlight was bright and in the water she could see her friend bobbing just above the surface. Then in the next moment it looked as if her friend were pulled under.

      She waited a few heartbeats, wanting to see if her friend would resurface, and when she didn’t, started to cry for help. Their other friends, bleary-eyed, came running from their own tents, one tripping over their fire pit. She explained what happened, and they both went running into the water.

      After several minutes, they pulled her friend onto the shore and began CPR. Her friend began to cough up water, and with a speediness surely not normal, stood up and started to walk away. She caught up to her and grabbed her arm.

      “What are you doing? Come back, we will get the fire going.” Her friend, the one she had known since grade school, ignored her. As she watched her friend walk down the dark path towards the main road, she felt as if somehow that wasn’t actually her in there. She walked back to the water’s edge and in the moonlight she could have sworn she saw her friends face just below the surface.     


      There are stories all over the world of ghostly beings that drown those foolish enough to swim in their waters. The story above was inspired by the myth of the Shui Gui. The Shui Gui is a ghost from Chinese folklore. They are the result of a person drowning and will free themselves only when they drown another. The stories I read through vary on what happens. The victim takes the place of the Shui Gui, but the freed spirit either takes over the body or moves on.1


      Another similar story is of a spirit that tries to drag it’s victims to the depths of the pond at House of the Binns, Linlithgow, West Lothian. Though I couldn’t really find any stories regarding these spirits, they were overshadowed by the General who lived there and his card games with the devil.2

      Next we travel to Blackwater, Florida. There is a local legend of a woman who is deathly pale, and smells of rotten flesh. 3

By Tim Ross – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3075595

      As part of the Blackwater River State Park, Blackwater River State Forest is a favorite outdoor recreation spot. But if you’re tubing, swimming, boating or fishing in the river, make sure to leave the water before the sun sets.
Otherwise a woman in the water will drag you to the bottom with her.
      One of the least known ghosts in the area, the woman in the water, has been described as a deathly pale woman with long jet-black hair.
      The few people who managed to escape her clutches first smelled rotten flesh right before she re-surfaced and tried dragging them to their deaths.
      One account says that the ghost of Blackwater River isn’t limited to the river. Apparently, she grabbed a man’s ankle from within a puddle as he ran away from her.
      He was lucky. You may not be. So, stay safe at the Blackwater River State Forest.4

  1. Uncovering Chinese Mythology: A Beginner’s Guide Into the World of Chinese Myths, Enchanting Tales, Folklore, Legendary Heroes, Gods, Divine Beings, and Mythical Creatures by Lucas Russo
  2. This Haunted Isle by Peter Underwood
  3. https://www.rd.com/list/haunted-bodies-of-water/
  4. https://backpackerverse.com/forests-in-florida/#6_Blackwater_River_State_Forest_Milton
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      Omg. How can she scare me, make me comforted, and then break my heart?
Likes:

      Well it’s T. Kingfisher and she is one of my favorite authors. I will love and support her work whenever it comes out.

      The characters, especially Hester. I enjoyed her character and point of view the most. I have a friend that reminded me a lot of Hester, and so was able to envision her. Let me just tell you, it was like having my friend I haven’t seen for years besides me for a few days.

      Penelope Green – ugh! She seems like an old-school cool type person that I know I will never be, but have tried many times to emulate.

      Lady Strauss – just an all around defender of her friends. I love it.

      Willard and Alice. Dependable, good-natured people to be surrounded by.

      Finally, the bad guys! They are actually bad, you know? Like there is no redemption for them, and they were terrifying. For example, being made obedient, and just watching your mother use your body as a puppet… The opening description of being made to sit still in a church pew, unable to move, as a fly walks across your hand. Feeling the individual hairs of the fly’s foot pierce the skin, the idea, makes me feel a little icky. Look, here’s a picture of a fly’s foot. No, thank you.

      Ok, enough about flies. I know they are mostly harmless, but I would definitely have sent that fly flying.

      The amazing thing about T. Kingfisher’s writing here is that all the characters are flawed, but it isn’t portrayed negatively. I have never cared for books where the main character is flawless, beautiful, and perfect. I have never met anyone like that in real life, and it all feels so fake. I mean, I get that fiction is usually a suspension of disbelief, but I want to be able to relate to most of the characters I am reading about.
Dislikes:

      The pacing. I adore novella’s and T. Kingfisher writes the best of them. So when I saw that this was over 300 pages, I was a bit surprised, and this might be why I felt that it got a little slow to the action.

      The romance. Reader, it might not even be fair to write this. I was not in the mood for a romantic tale. I found Hester’s reasoning’s to be selfish and frustrating. Also, when I talk about flawed characters, this was the one spot where I was the most disappointed. Every single time she talked about how old she was and how undeserving she was for love, it made me roll my eyes.

      Anyway, this is a 4.5 star book for me. I loved it. I wish T. Kingfisher would actually hire me as a beta reader and email me every day with her newest writings. I think it would be a win-win, really. She would get my undying loyalty (which I mean she already has), and I in turn would get awesome things to read without having to wait.

      Which actually brings me to the last bit of my review. As I don’t have an in with T. Kingfisher, I’d like to give my thanks to the awesome people over at Netgalley and Tor who approve my requests for her books. THANK YOU!


 Chapter 8 — Page: 68
“None whatsoever,” said Hester dryly. “Otherwise people might get on them.” She turned to Doom. “There was a terrible murder in Little Haw, you see, and your daughter was overset by the thought that she might know the victims.”
-=-=-=-=-=-
 Chapter 8 — Page: 69
Doom’s glance was quick and cold. Hester smiled comfortably and adjusted her shawl.
-=-=-=-=-=-
 Chapter 10 — Page: 82
“Walk,” she ordered finally. “To the far wall and back.” Cordelia obeyed, trying not to stumble. She wasn’t used to thinking about how she walked, and suddenly the whole concept of walking seemed completely absurd. You fell forward and put out a foot to catch yourself before you sprawled on the ground. And then you did it again? And this was normal?
It’s like thinking about blinking. The moment you think about it, you start to worry that you aren’t blinking often enough, or too often and now I’m thinking about blinking, oh dear . . .
Still, her feet took care of themselves while she was worried about blinking too much, so that was a small mercy.
-=-=-=-=-=-
 Chapter 17 — Page: 154
“The student has, I think, outshone the master.”
-=-=-=-=-=-
 Chapter 20 — Page: 180
She let her mouth witter on, hoping that her brain would come up with something brilliant in the interim. It declined to do so.
-=-=-=-=-=-
 Chapter 28 — Page: 244
and dogs made of bones.
-=-=-=-=-=-
 Chapter 28 — Page: 247
Willard
-=-=-=-=-=-
 Chapter 29 — Page: 248
Worse than the eyestrain was the fear that she would miss something vital. She would often find herself halfway down a page with no memory of what she had just read, and would be forced to start again.
-=-=-=-=-=-

Published by: Tor Publishing Group
Pub Date: 06 Aug 2024
Genre: Novellas & Short Stories | Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pages: 208
Date Read: 14 Mar 2024
Rating: ★★★★☆

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      Just then another knock, and the priest began to speak to the ghost, but was cut off when the artist yelled, for he had seen the ghost sitting in the fourth pew. He could see him clearly, and later, when the priest told him he imagined it, he would become angry, forgoing any further conversation and retiring to bed. The priest, though, would have his own experience later that night.
      The priest lay in bed. What really was that the artist saw? He wasn’t sure he exactly believed the artist, but he hadn’t meant to upset him either. As he was beginning to fall asleep, he heard three clear knocks close by in his room. They sounded odd—not quite something of this world. As with anything before in his life, he knew there was a dead man in his room. He began to pray. He prayed for the dead man, and as he did so, he began to feel the chill in the air and soon fell asleep. 
The next few nights passed in peace. The priest congratulated himself on freeing the ghost.

      “I really think I scared the ghost.,” laughed the priest. The artist smiled and began to climb up the scaffold.

      Knocks from one corner, then the other.

      The artist felt cold and wanted to leave. He finished the paint he mixed and left. However, the priest grabbed hold of his arm. 

      “Let’s face it.”

      The artist freed himself and looked to see the ghostly form of a man, all in black, glide down the aisle toward the sanctuary light.

      “Father! Do you see him? There! There! He’s just blown out the sanctuary light.”

The priest went to investigate, while the artist left.

      The following weeks passed with a familiar rhythm. The artist and the priest would work, and as soon as the chill became present, the artist would pack up and leave.

           On the nights that the priest did not join, the artist would make newspaper blinders and do his best to ignore the ghost, even when the ghost began to burn candles.

      This story is quite incredible and is written in detail by Louis Adamic in his article for Harper’s. The artist’s name is Maxo Vanko, and the priest who was the Father of the Croatian Catholic Church of St. Nicholas is Father Zagar. 

      The author wrote that he believed his friend and wrote the article before other publications picked it up.

      What I find amusing is that in his book “Real Hauntings: America’s True Ghost Stories,” Hans Holzer apparently speaks to the priest and is still upset at having never seen the ghost for himself. “Father X. paused. I was impressed by his well-told story, and I knew at once why Father H. wanted no part of us. How could he ever admit having been in the presence of a spirit without having seen it? Impossible.”

  1. The Millvale Apparition
  2. Holzer, Hans. “The Restless Ghost of the Parish Priest.” Real Hauntings: True American Ghost Stories.
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      Eveen the Eviscerator is skilled, discreet, professional, and here for your most pressing needs in the ancient city of Tal Abisi. Her guild is strong, her blades are sharp, and her rules are simple. Those sworn to the Matron of Assassins—resurrected, deadly, wiped of their memories—have only three unbreakable vows.

      First, the contract must be just. That’s above Eveen’s pay grade.

      Second, even the most powerful assassin may only kill the contracted. Eveen’s a professional. She’s never missed her mark.

      The third and the simplest: once you accept a job, you must carry it out. And if you stray? A final death would be a mercy. When the Festival of the Clockwork King turns the city upside down, Eveen’s newest mission brings her face-to-face with a past she isn’t supposed to remember and a vow she can’t forget.

      Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions are mine.

      At this point in the review, I haven’t even finished reading it, and yet I already know I love it. Here’s why: kick butt female main character, Eveen. There truly isn’t anything wrong with her character, Well except maybe that she kills people. But besides that small detail, I love her.

      Eveen wagged a finger. “That’s solid literature! Asheel hunts maniacs—even though he’s a maniac! A maniac who hunts other maniacs? Genius! And Terrors of the Demon Lands is reputedly an eyewitness account.”
      Fennis regarded her skeptically.

      Isn’t this like a lot of anime plots, lol? And speaking of loling, I literally did that a few times, and again I’m not even 60% into this book.

      Also, I just really enjoy books where the main characters are above the age of thirty, or just doesn’t put an age on the characters, either way just another reason Eveen needs to be in more stories. Please, write more stories with her in it.

      Then there’s everyone else in the story. Fennis and Ennis are adorable, and I would want them on my side. Baseema, another kick butt woman, whom I would not want to cross. Sky is super smart, strong, and capable. The quads were funny and scary. The Banari made me chuckle. Really having a hard time here to think of one bad thing. I guess, let me finish reading the story.

      Another thing is the world building is absolutely beautiful. I felt like I was there. The festival sounded neat, and I got Guild Wars vibes from it. The Clockwork King, the Pirate Princess, and the Golden Bounty, magic called shimmer, laboratories with machines to see auras! Speaking of laboratories, that brings me back to this part:

      “You’ve used this before, then?” the girl asked.

      “On myself, yes. And cats. Regrettably, they won’t let me experiment on students.”

      “You shared your aura with a cat?” Eveen asked, half-expecting the man to lick himself.

      “Yes. Remarkable creatures. Half in this world and half . . . who knows.”

      “What is it cats are thinking about?” the girl asked.

      Ennis shrugged. “Mostly fancy themselves predators who hunt and eat us. Delusions of grandeur. Anyway, the principle here should be the same.

      LOL

      I found this while looking up the author:

      But much of his beloved sci-fi and fantasy fiction didn’t pass, or barely passed, his mother’s litmus test: It lacked Black and Latino characters, women, and LGBTQ people at the center of the stories.

      Gabriel had from a young age written fiction as a hobby, loving the idea of world-building, of dystopias, of a kernel of history spinning out into a new alternative reality. And the absence of people like him in those stories colored his writing from day one.

      “I felt a need for more diverse tales with more diverse characters drawn from more diverse sources,” he says. Link

      This story doesn’t lack. I mean, if I finish this book and all the characters are killed off in insane manners, I might still give this at least three stars. Even while being incredibly saddened and disappointed, because I rarely start writing reviews in the middle of books.

      Ok. I am back from finishing this story. I loved it. I love novella’s because they are short, and I really wouldn’t want to add anymore to this particular story. However, I want to read more stories involving all of them. Most of all, I want more stories with and about Eveen. I started a book that was kind of close to this one in terms of smart, but also kind of goofy leading lady main characters, and had to stop reading it. It wasn’t Eveen, it was similar, but not close enough, because it wasn’t Mr. Clark’s writing. No hate to that other novel, though, I’ll try again later on.

      Anyway, I don’t have anything else to say, and so, this concludes the love letter to this book.

      Please write more about Eveen, pretty please?

Published by: Tor Publishing Group
Pub Date: 06 Aug 2024
Genre: Novellas & Short Stories | Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pages: 208
Date Read: 14 Mar 2024
Rating: ★★★★★

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It is cold and rainy inside the church. Every once in a while a large truck, or is it from the train men joining the cars together that is causing the church to shake? How late is it anyway, the man doesn’t know. Ever since he started working on the murals, he’s stopped taking his watch with him so as not to be tempted or tricked into thinking he’s tired.

      The man has been painting on top of a creaking scaffold now for four days. He is painting the Madonna, a difficult endeavor for him. He really was feeling tired and cold, but he wasn’t ready to quit yet, after all, he was on a short deadline.

He’s sees movement below him. Must be the priest, he reasoned. Why is he gesturing like that? Waving his arms around in that manner? The artist is annoyed, didn’t he ask the priest not to enter the church during this time? Well, he is probably practicing for his sermon. The artist chooses to ignore him, besides what right does he have to keep the priest out of his own church. It is laughable, really. Why too is the priest not saying anything? The artist reasons he really isn’t trying to distract him. “To the devil with him!” He really must work on this and does his best to ignore him.

          That night the man returns to the parish house where he is staying with the priest. The dogs go mad, barking and pawing him. The priest makes no mention of having been in the church during their normal cake and coffee, and the artist doesn’t ask, he only wants to get to bed.

      The next few days pass by with little incident. He works as much as he can and when he is at his most exhausted he joins the priest for their meal in the early hours of the morning. On the eighth night he is back on the scaffold, mixing paint, he happens to look down and see the priest again waving about. He feels strange. He can hear the priest mumbling and assumes the pries is prating. The artist does his best to ignore him, and again feels vexed at the intrusion. Still though, the cold, the weirdness, he decides it’s enough for tonight, and he will finish with the last of the paint he mixed, and retire early.

      The dogs are barking and excited again, and he is surprised that with all the commotion to find the priest asleep on the couch.

      “You must be sleep walker, ‘ he says to the priest when he wakes up a few moments later.

      The priest laughs, says no, then asks the artist to explain himself. And so the artist does, recounting seeing the priest on two nights come in and wave about. His assumptions…

      After the artist is done, the priest takes a moment and then explains that there have been stories of a ghost, though he himself has never encountered it. He goes on to tell the artist how worried he had been for him, high up on the scaffolding, and has been keeping guard outside, in case the artist sees the ghost and injures himself from fleeing.

      From that night on the priest joins the artist, and it is on that first night that he issues a challenge to the ghost. “Come on, ghost, show yourself and see if the gospodine profesor and I are afraid of you.”

      The artist laughed and began to work, when from the back of the church came a tapping or knocking sound. The artist felt a chill then asks “Hear that, father?”
      “What?”
      “That strange knock back there?”
      “Yes; but wasn’t it a creak in the scaffolding??”
      “I don’t know, I don’t think so?”

Note: I will continue this story next week, there you will be able to find my references.

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