The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

All posts tagged The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Two

Published April 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

I’ve read some terrific stories in Part One of my Short Stories Challenge for 2017 so far! However stand out stories have to be The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew and The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Two!

The Reader by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

The Birds by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories

The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe

Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

The Drowned Village by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Alice Through The Plastic Sheet by Robert Shearman from the collection A Book Of Horrors

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Fruits by Steve Mosby from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Stations Of The Cross by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Short Stories Challenge – Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Published October 10, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Red Letter Day all about?:

Red Letter Day tells the story of a grief-stricken mother who decides to go on a special journey to try and find peace.

What did I think?:

There are a few things I am really enjoying about this short story collection by Kate Mosse. The first one is the author notes she pops in after each story which lets the reader know what inspired her to write it, where the idea for the story first came from and why she chose to set it where she did. Occasionally I do like my stories to have a bit of mystique and decide things about it for myself but for some reason with this collection, the author notes really work and didn’t spoil the magic by any means.

Red Letter Day is quite a sad little tale, focusing on a grieving young mother who lost her young son three years ago when he was a baby and has never recovered from the tragedy, despite the usual cliches she is being subjected to by well-meaning friends i.e. “time is a great healer.” She feels a great connection to a village near the Pyrenees in France which has a horrific history that involved a lot of violence and bloodshed in medieval times. The decision for her is an easy one. She resolves to go to the castle where many years ago, hundreds of men and women walked into a fire rather than renounce their faith. After considering it for a while, and coming upon the knowledge that she had an ancestor there at that particular time, she is certain that this is the only way she will find peace. I think we can perhaps guess what she is planning to do?

I quite enjoyed this story for the most part and although I felt terribly sorry for our lead female character, I didn’t feel like I connected with her as much as I would have liked. Perhaps finding out more of her back story would have helped but I felt a strange detachment to her and what she was planning to do. What about her family – parents, husband/partner, friends? Were they even a factor in her deciding to take this path? I did however love the historical fiction part of the story and it reminded me very much of the author’s novels Labyrinth and Citadel, told with as much passion and knowledge as I have come to expect from the writings of Kate Mosse. She is also a wonder at setting a scene and although this story isn’t super-creepy in any way, there is something vastly unsettling and tragic about it, especially when you consider the subject matter and I certainly wanted to know what was going to happen at the end, even if it was slightly predictable.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

 

 

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Published February 26, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Duet all about?:

In the second story in this collection, Kate Mosse draws the reader into what appears to be a conversation between two men about some suspicious goings-on in a rented building in the 1960’s.

What did I think?:

There are a couple of things that I love about this short story collection so far. First, a lovely black and white photo/illustration which captures the setting is provided at the beginning of each tale – for Duet it appears to be a dark set of cellar stairs with some objects lying haphazardly at the bottom which lead away from a door which is itself slightly ajar. It is entitled Pinewalk Heights, Bournemouth, October 1965 and sets the mood beautifully before we even start reading. Secondly, the author provides a little note at the end of each story which describes her reasoning and inspiration behind writing the narrative. Unfortunately, I can’t talk too much about this particular author note as it would immediately give away all the story’s secrets and I believe some magic has to be found by reading this specific story yourself!

It did take me a bit longer than usual to get into the swing of things with Duet but once I realised what the author had been doing, (luckily I didn’t see it coming until the end, I love to be surprised) I was pleasantly stunned and admired both the writing style and the build-up of tension that was present from the beginning right through to the end. As the reader, we are witnessing a conversation between two men, one of them appearing to be the superior or the “questioner,” who is trying to get some information from a previous tenant of a boarding house owned by a Mrs Nash. From the very first line, I decided that something decidedly unsavoury had been going on – “It was the smell,” is a bit of a giveaway and he appears to be a very shifty character that is definitely withholding some vital information.

Our questioner is being both gentle and at times, harsh with the man he is quizzing. They appear to have had this conversation or “duet,” as he calls it a few times now and each time he attempts to extract more and more information so he can solve what turns out to be quite a grisly little mystery. So, the landlady of a building, Mrs Nash has been quite concerned as one of her other tenants (known only to us as Turner) has upped and left without warning. She has removed his effects to a cardboard box and placed it out in the hall and she wants our shifty man’s help to remove the box from the hall into the cellar. He seems to be a bit reluctant to help out with this task though – wonder why?

The techniques that the questioner uses vary throughout the tale depending on whether he has previously heard the information or not. At times, he sympathises with the man by repeating his words and imitating his movements. Then he might shake things up a bit by changing the tone of his voice or surprising him with a question he hasn’t asked previously. Clearly, his impatience is waning and he wants to get to the bottom of what went on with the landlady, the former tenant Turner and this curious smell… which might be coming from the disappearing tenant Turner’s personal effects – it smells quite sweet, like oranges. Just when there appears to be a break-through however, the two are interrupted and the reader is brought crashing down to earth with a shocking revelation.

I loved the way in which Kate Mosse used a conversation between two quite odd characters which slowly dribbled out small details about a mystery/crime to immediately attract my attention and piqued my curiosity as to what on earth was going on. The build-up is done very well and I certainly was not expecting the ending. Once you understand what has happened, the clues are left quite cleverly within the narrative if you decide to go back for a re-read, like I did. I was surprised not only with the ending but how much I enjoyed the story as a whole and as a work of short fiction, it does exactly what it should to hook you at the start and keep you reading until the end.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

 

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – January to March

Published January 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/ali-smith/short-stories-consume-you-faster-theyre-connected/

Hooray for a new year and more short stories! This is what I’ll be reading for the first three months of 2016.

Week beginning 4th January 2016

Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 11th January 2016

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 18th January 2016

Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 25th January 2016

Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 1st February 2016

Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 8th February 2016

Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 15th February 2016

Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 22nd February 2016

Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 29th February 2016

Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 7th March 2016

How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Week beginning 14th March 2016

The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st March 2016

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th March 2016

Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Published September 21, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Mistletoe Bride all about?:

The Mistletoe Bride is the first story in this collection and is told from the point of view of the spirit of a young woman as she recalls her wedding day and a game of hide and seek that went tragically wrong.

What did I think?:

If you hadn’t already twigged from the title that the stories in this collection offer a hint of the macabre the first sentence in this tale might give you another clue: “I hear someone coming.” Of course, this may be a fairly innocent line but the reader has already been primed for something unsettling with the inclusion of lyrics from an old song:

“At length an old chest that had long lain hid, was found in the castle; they raised the lid, And a skeleton form lay mouldering there, in the bridal wreath of that lady fair.”

This was certainly enough to send a shiver down my spine, more so when I reached the afterword written by the author where she explained that this is a very old story (possibly related to a real life event?) although the origins of the specific site of the wedding are slightly murky. Our story is narrated by the unnamed lady in question who tells of her marriage one Christmas time to a man called Lovell whom her parents believe is a great match for her. We sense her anxiety through their wedding feast and her first dances with her husband although she reminds herself that their alliance will be good for their families and that Lovell is a gentle man. These are clearly the worries of a very young woman perhaps not long into adulthood in an arranged marriage where she is not entirely sure how everything works.

Tired and feeling slightly bored of the monotony of the day she suggests a game of hide and seek which is greeted with much enthusiasm. Exploring the many rooms and stairways of what is to be her new home she comes upon a room which looks to have been forgotten holding nothing but a large chest. There she hides herself and waits in anticipation of Lovell coming to find her and being charmed by her maidenly ways. As you might have guessed, she isn’t found but continues to lie there while they search the house shouting her name and then begin dredging the nearby rivers. She sees her husband growing older, dying then successive generations inhabiting the house, none of which open the chest to find her body. She begins to give up hope that somebody will find her and set her spirit free where she can finally lay at rest alongside her husband.

This story had a really cracking beginning and was so deliciously eerie I found it easy to picture a restless spirit forced to re-imagine what should have been the happiest day of her life but instead ended in her untimely death. I was hoping that it might continue in this way but although I did enjoy the description of the events immediately prior to her death I felt that the story lost some of its initial power. Some of its strength returned in the afterword by Kate Mosse (nice touch there, I think I’m going to enjoy these) where she explained how she first came to write The Mistletoe Bride but I was still a teensy bit disappointed overall. That’s not to say it isn’t a good story, it most definitely is and I would recommend it but I would have preferred if it had continued in the same vein as the first page or so.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – July to September

Published July 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months of short stories! This little lot should see me through into the autumn.

Week beginning 6th July

Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 13th July

Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 20th July

The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 27th July

Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 3rd August

Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The

Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 10th August

Necessary Women by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 17th August

The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 24th August

Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Week beginning 31st August

The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 7th September

The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Week beginning 14th September

Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st September

The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th September

The Wedding Gig by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew