A Cauldron of Uncanny Dreams

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3 Stars

This collection of stories started off well. Even with the general predictability they were still interesting reads. However, as I got further into the collection I started to like the stories less.

The collector

This one was good. At first you couldn’t really be sure where it was going. There was talk about collecting but there were no dolls so which route was it going to go? What I liked about it to start is I didn’t like the main character. There was something decidedly fake about her that made the ending that much more enjoyable. The only problem with this story is It followed the wrong-obvious plot choice. It’s hard to believe that a woman who has lived a full life including having children, sharing her love of collecting with friends, just recently losing her husband and is as basic a human as they come, would jump to vandalism and crime. If there was some set-up in her youth to suggest this or had she done something shady to get a piece for her collection before, then great. But it was just too big of a leap to get on board with especially when readers know how this story will end. The shop owner giving the collectable to her instead and a few more pages of horror leading to the same ending would’ve still been following a used formula but at least this one would’ve fit in with what I’d expect the character to do. Still, it tied up quickly and swiftly and didn’t feel forced and the pacing was just right so overall this was a good read.

Grandma Buford’s Birthday

This one was fun to read. Just like the previous one the pacing was fine. The set-up was good, and the main character was believable. Somewhere in the middle I knew something was off. The wording shifted somehow or maybe I just pieced it together but halfway was bout when I knew whatever I had read up until then was suspect. The ending confirmed this, and it didn’t quite go the way I thought which was good. Again, with this one it ended as should be expected from short stories. Once the message has been given to the readers, essentially, the story is over which is as it should be. I enjoyed this one as well.

The Farmers Daughter

This one was the first where I saw the ending coming and it was problematic versus something I could ignore. There’s an accident and a man gets stranded. He finds a farm and gets snowed in for a day. I knew how this was going to end the moment the young lady opened up the door. It was still an okay read but it went on too long. This is a short story and I skimmed through it. The farmer getting frantic instead of just coming out with it and then running away without saying even a simple ‘that’s impossible’ was odd. If he had said it, naturally the main character would ask the waiter what it was all about and she would say what happened to the farm and, in most stories, the main character would make the necessary connections. As it is written the crazy guy runs away and the waiter doesn’t mention the Farmer’s daughter’s name, and the lead is just dismissive about the connections when it was so obvious readers know it long before he dismisses it. Then it takes the deniability bit on too long with the hunting for the farm. This story read like it was a full-length story trying to be a slow burn and, unlike the first two, didn’t go through the motions fast enough and the ending felt like it went beyond the needed end. I actually had to reread it to type this cause I skimmed through it. It was hard to get on board with the way this one panned out. Especially when weighed in with the fact most readers would know how this would end so how it gets there is the important thing. Couldn’t get into this one.

The Haunting of The Ederescu House

This one was okay. In theory, it was alright. It started off good like the previous stories, but the middle section just dragged. The information overload about the history of the house really slowed the story down. A lot. Then there was the fact the main character went to take pictures of the house, then said he had to meet a scholar for information about the house before entering, but after all this exposition he goes back to the house to take pictures and set up the ghost equipment. Why not just go straight for the information then to the house for everything after? The massive history lesson in this book could’ve been condensed, and it probably would’ve transferred a lot better in a back-and-forth dialogue than exposition. Then the end was, odd. Something about calling the ghost the way I’d call an animal towards the food placed in a trap, had me shaking my head. I had to read it twice to be sure I hadn’t missed something. This story took a lot of time to read because I was trying to make sure I got the history right so it was more work than read. Definitely not my favourite story here.

Madam Kaldunya’s Dolls

This one was almost fun. It started off well. The main characters were easy to get on board with. The fortune teller was entertaining. The set-up, though obvious again, was well played. Things were going well until the plot reached its climax. The author wanted to prolong it or turn it into something bigger but the whole police part of this tale was a hard sell. Also, if my friend just fell dead to the floor the last thing I’m doing is mentioning voodoo. You’re just going to have to arrest me. The ending of this one, much like The Farmer’s Daughter, was trying to be way more than it needed to be. A last paragraph with either the friend in jail for the murders or going to confront the fortune teller about the outcome, would’ve been shorter more compact and given closure. The other problem was no matter how many times I reread it nothing in the wording makes me think the outcome for the main character would happen and wording is key when it comes to spells gone wrong. Also when the police officer suggested at the speed the car was going to create the damage caused by the crash, that a killer somehow managed to get into the damaged car and make multiple stabs to both victims after the crash? Without disrupting the positions of the body so they don’t look staged and not trailing the huge amounts of blood those stabs would create outside the car. How, how and how, without either being in the car and magically surviving the crash or causing the crash, or somehow knowing this exact spot would be where the crash would be. Way too many questions for a short story. It was information overload like ‘The Haunting of The Ederescu House’ with the addition of not being believable. Finding the car and simply stating what was seen at the crime would’ve been enough. This one also felt like it was trying to be much bigger than what’s needed for a short story.

Billy The Arsonist

This one was fun. Boy plays with fire; boy grows to become a full-fledge arsonist; boy runs from police and meets a fate worse than death. Seriously, this was a lot of fun. The only thing about this one was, unlike the previous bits of information overload, this one could’ve used a few more paragraphs of torture, and maybe more torment in the end. Like being trapped in the room with unlimited matches that never lit but gave of scentless smoke for less than a second, torturing him with the lack of release from fire. If we’re going to hell might as well go hard. Not much to say about this one as it was good like the first two stories. It’s probably the best working story of the bunch though the two scenes of torture at the end were brief.

The Vow

Poetry. This one was simple. Easy to understand. Nothing profound but not bad either. It was okay as far as poems go. The only thing was when reading it out loud the second line is the only one that seems out of pace (yes pace). The rhythm made me stall and I had to reread the line to get back in flow. I read it with the ‘he’ repeated at the beginning of that line which solved this. Other than that, nothing much to say here.

Conclusion

I only enjoyed half of these. In those, the things that you would expect from a short story are there from pacing to nice quick yet resolved endings. The other three weren’t quite as clean and felt overdone like they were trying to be more than a short story. It gets three stars for being interesting reading and a recommendation to anyone looking for a short, 2 hour or less read. Unfortunately, three of these stories left the impression of trying too hard and it didn’t pay off as well as the other half of the collection.

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