Author Archives: lydias

Making Things Right: A Review of The Green Room

The Green Room A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories) by Walter De La Mare book cover. Image on cover is a black and green drawing of a woman wearing spectacles. The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. As I did last year, I will continue reviewing several of them each December until I’ve reached the end of this series. 

Title: The Green Room – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Walter de la Mare

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1925 and 2018

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 98 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Reading a ghost story on Christmas Eve was once as much a part of traditional Christmas celebrations as turkey, eggnog, and Santa Claus.

Behind the run-down bookstore is a private room for favoured customers, a strange little annex with a stranger atmosphere. The young man feels a wistful presence vying got his attention as he browses, and when he leaves, he knows he will return. Something has been asked of him, and he will answer.

Review:

Content warning: suicide. I will not be discussing this in my review.

Who says ghosts have to be scary?

Alan, the customer who saw the strange woman in the private book room, was someone I liked immediately. His strong sense of compassion for someone he knew virtually nothing about made me hope he’d find out what happened to her and then go on to live happily ever after himself. Most folks would have been frightened of her. The fact that he wasn’t speaks volumes about his character, and it encouraged me to keep reading.

I did have a minor quibble with the ending. It was well written, but it was also strangely abrupt. This reader would have appreciated a little more time spent developing it and explaining how it was meant to tie into the previous scenes. While I did figure it out, having more details about this sure would have been helpful.

Unlike many of the other stories in this series, this wasn’t intended to be frightening. The spirit remained restless for a specific reason that was mentioned later on in the plot, but she was never dangerous. This isn’t so common in modern ghost stories, and it was something I found refreshing. There are plenty of interesting things to do with ghosts that don’t involve them saying boo to anyone.

The Green Room made me smile.

 

 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: What Sparks My Creativity

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

A lightbulb with little metal arms that's plugging itself into the wall How has this year passed by so quickly? It seems like 2021 just began.

Here are some of the things that spark my creativity.

Quiet Time Alone. That is to say, I must be alone and in a quiet environment. Just one of these two things is nice and can go some of the way to refilling my introverted needs, but I need both for my creative juices to really start flowing.

No Pressure. The more freedom I give myself to write whatever I want, the more I can get written.

Amusing News Stories. Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes. Why not use it as the basis of a new story?

Kernels of Truth. A lot of what I write is inspired by true events. Someone who has known me for years might pick out a scene, a setting, or a snippet of  a conversation from something that actually happened, but all of the scenes before and after it will be pure fiction.

Justice. Real life isn’t always a fair or just place by any means, so I find comfort in generally making things turn out all right in the end in the worlds I create. What makes this interesting is that some of the books I read do not follow this same pattern at all! I think there’s plenty of room for all sorts of tales in our world.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Memories

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

I don’t know if I’ll be able to come up with a full ten answers for this week’s prompt, but I do have some fun bookish memories to share with you all.

 


Bookish Memory #1
: Falling asleep while waiting for my dad to come home from a late night at work. I always wanted him to tell me stories about his childhood again. He had a marvellous way of turning his childhood into something just as exciting as any novel! I especially loved his story about accidentally setting his bed on fire when he was pretending to be big and powerful like Superman. He threw one lit match on it and then tried to blow it out just like Superman would do. (The fire was soon put out, and he never tried anything like that again. It was truly an innocent mistake). Sometimes I’d quietly retell his stories to myself as I waited to see ifPerson holding an annotated paperback book open. The book has a sticky note in it that says remember. he’d be home soon!

Bookish Memory #2: My mother reading the first few Little House on the Prairie books to me. I took over reading them as soon as my reading skills were strong enough because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next and she needed to look after my younger siblings.

Bookish Memory #3: Being so bored in church that I read portions of the Bible that weren’t being discussed during that week’s sermon. I was a preacher’s kid, so I had plenty of opportunities to “read ahead” so to speak.

Bookish Memory #4: Occasionally getting away with reading secular books during long church services. Shh, don’t tell my parents. 😉

Bookish Memory #5: Discovering a fairy tale my aunt had started writing but not finished when she was a little girl. So far as I can recall, it was about a princess and a magic necklace.  I added a few more scenes to it and then tucked it away where I found it. Maybe someday another little girl in our family will find it in that cupboard and finish it!

Bookish Memory #6: Being excited to start high school and later on college because of the wonderful new school libraries I was about to gain access to! I remember staring into the dark windows of those still-empty libraries just before the school year began and wishing they’d open early for me. I would have promised to leave everything exactly how I’d found if I could only browse the shelves for an hour and take note of which books I’d hope to check out first.

Bookish Memory #7: Memorizing the summer hours of our local public library and timing my walks there so I could arrive first thing in the morning or later in the evening depending on my work schedule. I knew exactly how long that walk took and was often the first (or last) patron of the day.  Let’s just say that July and August are quite hot and humid in the Midwestern portion of the United States. You do not want to be walking around in the full heat of the day for too long. Sunburns and heat strokes can happen terribly quickly if you’re not careful.

Bookish Memory #8: Attending the annual book sale and book/art festival in support of that same local library. I’d often find a few secondhand books that piqued my interest after I’d bought a slice or pie or some other treat.  We lived in a small, sleepy town, so events like this were a big deal for everyone who loved the local library!

 

No Space of Regret: A Review of A Covid Christmas Carol

Book cover for A Covid Christmas Carol by Evan Sykes. image on cover shows a Christmas tree wearing a mask and some googly eyes. Title: A Covid Christmas Carol

Author: Evan Sykes

Publisher: Junco Books (Self-Published)

Publication Date: December 19, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Holiday, Paranormal, Retelling, Contemporary

Length: 88 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

 

The 2020 Holiday Season might have been cancelled by this year’s super-villain, Covid-19, but fear not! Good cheer is at hand in this hilarious, satirical retelling of one of the season’s most loved stories: A Covid Christmas Carol.

Mr. Anatole Gasper and Dickens’ Scrooge have a lot in common: Both their business partners are dead; both are curmudgeonly, solitary and mean; and both get their wake-up call in a series of wild, haunted dreams on Christmas Eve. For Gasper—as the year is 2020—these dreams include a huge, orange, Covid-spreading turkey that tweets, a doddering phantom riding a decrepit blue donkey without direction, and Santa, of course, whose red-nosed reindeers for once shed an unwelcome light over the festivities.

There’s nothing more heartening than seeing a dyed-in-the-wool grouch change into a merry, old soul, and Gasper’s ghostly dreams promise to do just that.

So, while this Holiday Season might be like no other, spend an hour in the company of this modern Scrooge and let the festive cheer flow!

Review:

Content Warning: Heart attack and Covid-19.

Don’t let the cover of this book fool you. This is just as much a Thanksgiving tale as it is a Christmas one, and the lessons in it can be applied to many other winter holidays as well!

I appreciated the author’s light touch on the social messages he included in this tale. Mr. Dickens writing style worked well for the nineteenth century, but the modern approach to gently nudging readers in certain directions in this retelling was perfect for the twenty-first century. Mr. Sykes’ decision to write it this way was an excellent one. While this wasn’t my only reason for choosing a five-star rating, it certainly influenced it heavily.

It’s rare for me to come across speculative fiction stories that occur during Thanksgiving, so I was excited to read this one. Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that showed what Thanksgiving was like for Gasper when he was a child. They went a long way in explaining how and why he’d become such a greedy and socially isolated man as an adult. I simultaneously wanted to hug the person he was as a child and encourage his adult self to seek professional help for his often dysfunctional behaviour. The mixture of emotions he stirred up in me made me want to learn more about him, too. He was a complex and interesting character for sure.

I loved the way the author included Covid-19 in the storyline as well. While I can’t go into much detail about that without giving away spoilers, it felt perfectly natural. The foreshadowing for it was subtle and well done. It had a timeless feeling to it as well. This could have been set at nearly any time during the pandemic due to how carefully it was written, and I think it will also age nicely over the next few years at bare minimum, too.

The writing style was descriptive but never flowery. It gave me the exact right amount of details about the characters and settings. I could picture all of them clearly in my mind, but the formation of them never interrupted the fast-paced storyline. Once again, the author’s homage to Mr. Dickens style was undeniable, and his attempt to modernize such a familiar old tale couldn’t have been done any better. I was quite impressed by all of the work Mr. Sykes put into this and will be keeping an eye out for more of his stories in the future.

A Covid Christmas Carol was a thought-provoking read that is as relevant today as it was in 2020. I will end this review with a quote from both the original Christmas Carol as well as this retelling of it: “no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity missed.”

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Traditional Thanksgiving Foods I Like (or Dislike)

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Three butter tarts on a white serving platter
Butter tarts.

Canada celebrates Thanksgiving about six weeks before the United States does, but the types of food typically served at both of these Thanksgivings are pretty similar with one exception which I will take note of in my next paragraph.

Some Canadian families serve butter tarts for or as part of their dessert at Thanksgiving. I can’t eat them due to my milk allergy, but I keep hoping one of our local vegan bakeries will make a version of them I can try someday. They do look good.

I always enjoy eating pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes with gravy, dinner rolls, ham, fresh salads, and roasted vegetables. (My family would switch between serving ham and turkey depending on which one was on sale before Thanksgiving, so they’re both Thanksgiving foods to me).

I have neutral feelings about sweet potato casserole (generally too sweet for my tastes), canned cranberry sauce (sometimes too sour) and roasted turkey (often too dry). These are foods I’ll take a small, polite serving of but generally skip over when it’s time for another round of food.

Close-up photo of a slice of pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream on it. The pie is sitting on a white dinner plate. I dislike fresh cranberry sauce because of how sour it is, so this is something I quietly leave for others to enjoy.

My grandparents tend to serve apple or other types of fruit pie at Thanksgiving as well. This seems to be a fairly common thing in the Midwest, although I don’t know if the same can be said for other parts of the United States. Maybe one of my fellow Americans can say?

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a pie I disliked, fruit-filled or otherwise. They’re all delicious to me!

Top Ten Tuesday: Tropes I’d Love an Update On

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl The original topic for this week was “characters I’d love an update on.” It’s a good topic, but I’ve had some disappointing experiences with sequels that either ignore the previous world building and character development or veer off into storylines that don’t fit the original trajectories of those worlds… Read More

Too Old for Santa: A Review of Christmas Presence

Title: Christmas Presence Author: Tony Bertauski Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 31, 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Holiday Length: 25 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Worst Christmas ever. Christmas was about traditions. Currently, Zay and her mom had about five traditions, things like gingerbread… Read More

Free Author Promo Event at Long and Short Reviews

Hey authors, you’ll want to read this! Long and Short Reviews has just opened their submission box for their annual Winter Blogfest. Who can participate: Anyone who has a book to promote and who follows the instructions. What you will get: Free promotion of your book on a busy, well-respected bookish site. What you‘ll need… Read More

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Read if You Love Hard Science Fiction

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl I’m the sort of reader who can find something to enjoy in many different genres and subgenres. To be perfectly honest with you, I was a little intimidated by hard science fiction when I first encountered it because I didn’t know how much the authors who wrote it would… Read More