NOTICE! I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review which reads as follows:
Title: Pacific Cover: Haunted Visions
Author: J.E. Grace
Published: August 13, 2016
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 90 (eBook)
Naomi and Jason Sanders move to Pacific Cove Ranch shortly after their wedding. Prior to her graduation from college, Naomi’s younger sister is killed in a hit and run accident. Naomi is having a hard time accepting her loss, and the isolation of her new surroundings bring a new type of terror: haunted visions that keep her on edge, terrifying her.
Is Naomi being tormented by her own inner demons or some new type of ghostly visions that haunt the Pacific Cove Ranch? Can she survive or will they drive her mad?
Can she convince her family that she isn’t just grieving for her sister, but that these ghosts are trying to tell her about a secret she is supposed to discover? Will she figure it out and prove to her family she isn’t imagining things?
What I First Thought:
J.E Grace emailed me asking to review two of her short stories. I accepted her request because I don’t have many short stories and I want to review more of them. And this book Haunted Visions, seemed like it would fit perfectly with the mood and atmosphere October usually brings.
My Overall Opinion:
Overall, I didn’t really care for this story. I really wanted to enjoy it, because the synopsis described a really good idea for a story. However, the flow was so choppy that I felt like I was constantly shoved out of the book between scenes.
The author’s biggest problem was falling victim to the imbalance of show and tell. I understand that it can be a hard concept to grasp, and it really depends on the author and the reader. However, I felt like the author spent 90% of the book telling me what happened, telling me what her characters were like, and telling me how every one and thing felt about every event. I was told about the characteristics of all the characters, but wasn’t given the opportunity to see them for myself in the story. I was told how Naomi felt about everything, but wasn’t given the chance to visualize her reactions. I was told that she was angry and not shown how her faced changed with the emotion, how her voice sounded as she was screaming.
Bottom line, this story read like a play script. There was normally more description at the start of each scene, spending a few paragraphs describing the scenery and set up. Then the author would rely on dialogue to tell her story with a few brief lines of actions between each conversation. For some readers this may be enough for them, but I didn’t really care for it because I couldn’t grasp the concept of time for this story. I was told how long each action took, how long it took to get from point A to B, or how much time passed between two scenes, but it didn’t read like it in the story. I would stop several times in one page to sit and think about how the author was treating time, and it just felt so flimsy to me. I want to read about the path a character takes to get from one place to another, I want to be able to see if I can glean anything of their personalities from that simple action.
Sure the idea, events, and the dialogue are like the bones of the story, but I always felt like descriptions served to be the meat, the muscle. To me, this story was very anorexic. In fact, I believe this story would have been much better as a normal length novel and not a short story. If there was more description, which could help with the flow between the scenes, and not a bunch of random events than this story could have been easily 180 pages or more and much stronger than it was. I’m not saying that short stories aren’t strong, but this book didn’t read like a short story.
Another problem that I had with this story was the dialogue itself. Most of the time it felt rather unnatural or robotic. I wasn’t alive during the setting in the book, 60s-70s I believe, but the dialogue felt out of place and not of the time period. And the characters didn’t seem to have natural conversations, they were too quick but often felt like they were supposed to be longer and more drawn out. Sometimes the characters’ reactions felt out of place as well. For instance, when Naomi’s husband tells her happy birthday her response was “I guess it is”, no thank you or affection, just state up acknowledgement of the statement. Another it he got her an early gift for her birthday, and she had a similar response and showed no love or gratitude for the gift. Little things like this really bug me, especially since I know of several authors who pride themselves in understanding human behavior and making realistic characters.
I would recommend this novella to anyone who wants a short read between longer stories. This story is pretty straight forward, nothing to really confuse the readers, making it a quick read for those who may enjoy it.
I would not recommend this short story to any teen or young adult trying to read more ‘adult’ fiction, because this is vastly different and may be a turn off. The lack of descriptions and choppy flow may not sit well with those used to reading current, popular YA novels. However, if there are readers who want a story that is straight to the point with little details, this story may be up your alley.
This story is written a lot like a play. In fact, I believe that this story would work wonderfully as a play, if the author wanted. Seeing this story on the stage with props and actors would probably be a more enjoyable experience for me than reading it. And it would serve as an interesting play to see around Halloween, getting viewers in the mood for the occasion.
I feel like this story has a lot of promise, but fell a bit short of the desired mark. From experience, I know that writing short stories can be hard; you have to go through all the stages a longer story has but in a fewer pages. However, you have to have an idea that works best for a short story rather than a novel. Grace’s idea for Haunted Visions is best suited as a novel and not a novella, and I believe that’s where this story suffered the most. If she expanded the story with more details, and not just description, but things to connect all the various and seemingly random events together she would have easy had a longer and stronger narrative. Instead, this short story is a string of random events that kind of fit together in the long run but are too choppy to tell in the moment of reading them. The story is driven by unnatural and robotic sounding dialogue, which may put some readers to sleep or make them angry. The characters don’t seem to progress any as individuals, they’re static by appearance but at the end the author tells us of their growth that isn’t actually supported by the reading. The relationship between the characters aren’t really shown, but we’re told how they feel about each other. And the elements to the story (paranormal, romance, mystery, etc.) are barely tapped into, making the tone of the story rather flat and boring.
With all that said, the story concept is still interesting but suffered by the number of pages it was written in. If the author were to go back and expand the novella and turn it into a novel, then the story would be stronger and the narrative would be more compelling and interesting.