I get early reviewer lists every month from LibraryThing, and I got the chance to read and review The Portal & The Experiment: Two Novellas of Suspense by Lynn L. Clark. I was provided this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
Our main character Emily has inherited an antique shop from her mother, who recently passed away. In searching for more stock for the shop, she acquires a tiger-stripe desk with a mirror. Once back in the shop, she thinks she sees a figure other than her own in the mirror. Spooky. There seems to be another, more menacing presence in the mirror as well. But the man and the presence aren’t strictly staying in the mirror anymore.
The ideas are good here, but I feel like they and the writing could be developed a bit more. There is a section of dialogue toward the beginning that would have come across better as a letter rather than spoken word. Writing styles can be more flowery and deliberate than dialogue. Most people don’t use the word “obstinacy” in conversation.
The chapters are also very short, and some of them feel journal-like. I wonder if the story could have been told in that format?
When the narrator has an unsettling experience, it doesn’t seem to come across as strongly as it could have. For some reason, I feel like the narrator is talking in a bit of a monotone. Things that should be exciting, well, aren’t. It just feels like it’s droning. I’m wondering if it’s just me, though. I mean, there’s freaky stuff happening, but there seems to be an element missing somewhere.
The author also has a chapter where she recounts a visit to a grief counselor, and the conversation as written would have lasted maybe five minutes. If I were paying for a visit, I would hope it would last longer than that!
We have three stories here kind of mushed together. We have a woman mourning the death of her mother, a haunted mirror, and a kind of a romance? It gets kind of weird at the end, and not even an exciting weird. It’s more of an awkward weird. I think the story could have been better off without the romance aspect, or if it was handled a bit differently.
I give this 2 stars.
I liked this one a lot better. It seemed to flow more organically. Maybe I was just in a different mindset when I read it, but there were fewer plot points that stood out as awkward. There are still some story aspects that could be developed more, but overall it is a more compelling story and an easier read. The one awkward point was when one character got political during a rant, and I’m not sure how well that passage will age with time. This story is also easier to summarize. A group of college students who have advanced mental powers (empathy, telepathy, farsight, and telekinesis) get involved in an experiment/trial to further develop their powers, and it does not turn out to be what they were expecting. The reactions of the characters seem to be more realistic and true. It is more linear with fewer side-plots. I feel like the first story was the one the author wanted to write, but the second is more suited to her writing style.
I give this one 3 stars.