The house was his, an unwanted and unwelcome inheritance. As a child, Tyler Torrence spent many miserable hours beneath its roof, hating his grandfather and the man’s housekeeper, Mrs. Waites. His only escape during those visits had been via the impossible bottles created by his granddad; bottles holding miniature worlds in which he could lose himself for hours. Sometimes however, he sensed something else living in the house and in the bottles and when he returned home, he took the nightmares with him.Now an adult, Tyler decides one last visit can do no harm, allow him to finally shake off his nightmares. The bottles however, are waiting—and so is Mrs. Waites. As both house and bottles gradually yield up their secrets, it is made clear to Tyler what is expected of him and what will happen should he fail.Is Tyler master or servant of the house?
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Horror After Dark Review
BOTTLED is the first novella I have read by author Stephanie Ellis. The cover art immediately captured my attention, and the premise seemed to match up. Tyler, a divorced alcoholic, now lives with his mother–who he can barely stand. He has one son, Paul, that his ex-wife uses as leverage to get whatever she can from him.
What she–and his mom–want is the money they believe his grandfather, Julius, left to him after his death. The grandfather, and house, that had haunted and tormented Tyler his entire life.
” . . . he had been a boy in a house of secrets . . . “
The atmosphere and condition of the house in question put me in mind of a Gothic haunted mansion. The housekeeper, Mrs. Waites, was as hated by Tyler as his own grandfather had been. My best explanation of her would be “the house, personified”.
“. . . How could you forget what you had never known? . . . “
The central idea was an interesting one, but I somehow felt that it was “over-explained” (in only slight variations), even though this was a novella.
“. . . something he was coming to understand about the house, you needed permission to roam around otherwise bad things happened to you.”
Perhaps my biggest problem was that I simply didn’t like the main character. His thoughts and actions were so repetitive as to become predictable, and the few unique ideas he had seemed to be quickly forgotten and glossed over.
Overall, the idea was one that had merit. However, aside from a part near the end, much of the story felt like a slight contrast of feelings, comments, and mental images from flashbacks. I think if Tyler had been more engaging and a stronger “presence”, with a few more scenes added to show different aspects (and less repetition) of the house, I would have been much more excited with the end result.
“He had crossed the line of denial and illusions, accepted the reality the house presented to him.”
Still, I enjoyed the concept of the book, and would read something else by this author in the future.
About The Author
About Stephanie Ellis
Stephanie Ellis lives in Hampshire, UK with her mostly adult family and works as a librarian and Learning Support Assistant (literacy) in a secondary school. She is a writer of dark fiction and poetry and has written a novel which she is currently trying to get published. She is also co-editor at small press The Infernal Clock and online at Trembling with Fear (Horror Tree). Her website is https://stephanieellis.org/ where you may occasionally pick up a free story.