Author Archives: lydias

Restless History: A Review of How Fear Departed the Long Gallery

How Fear Departed the Long Gallery by E.F. Benson book cover. Image on cover is of a drawing of a frightened woman.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 in 2020 and 2021, I will continue reviewing several of them each December until I’ve reached the end of this series. 

Title: How Fear Departed the Long Gallery – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: E.F. Benson

Publisher: Biblioaisis

Publication Dates: 1911 and 2017

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 32 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Biblioasis is thrilled to continue this series of beautifully illustrated, collectible, classic Christmas ghost stories designed and illustrated by world-famous cartoonist Seth.

In How Fear Departed the Long Gallery, for the Peverils, the appearance of a ghost is no more upsetting than the appearance of the mailman at an ordinary house. Except for the twin toddlers in the Long Gallery. No one would dare be caught in the Long Gallery after dark. But on this quiet and cloudy afternoon, Madge Peveril is feeling rather drowsy . . .

Review:

Content warning: death of children. I will not be discussing this in my review.

The past and present can be connected in more ways than you’d think.

One of the things I liked the most about this story had to do with how the Peveril family reacted to the many ghosts who haunted their family estate. Since they were related to all of the spirits, seeing the vast majority of them was more akin to unexpectedly spending time with an eccentric or slightly irritating relative instead of anything spooky. These relaxed relationships were a wonderful contrast to how everyone reacted to the dangerous toddler spirits who occasionally appeared in the Long Gallery.

It would have been nice to have fewer clues about what was going to happen next. As much as I enjoyed this tale, it was a little disappointing to see how quickly and accurately I predicted what was going on with the ghostly children and why they were the only spirits this family feared. I’m the sort of reader who enjoys being challenged, and I would have given this a higher rating if it had expected more of its audience.

With that being said, the ending was an immensely satisfying and uplifting. Some of the other stories in this series could be fairly dark at times. It was nice to see a haunting that turned out to be surprisingly positive despite its grimmer moments earlier on in the plot. I also appreciated the main character’s ability to think quickly in an emergency. Knowing that she was so smart and capable definitely gave this a lighter tone than it would have otherwise had.

How Fear Departed the Long Gallery is something I’d especially recommend reading aloud tonight or sometime soon. It’s perfectly suited for anyone who likes ghost stories during the holiday season.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Share Your Morning (or Bedtime) Rituals

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 white bowl filled with oatmeal and blueberries. My morning ritual is a stable one.

First, I make some oatmeal with almond butter and chia seeds ( or some other healthy source of protein and fat depending on recent grocery store sales), almond milk, and frozen fruit.  I microwave the fruit to warm it up and I weigh myself while everything cooks

While I’m eating breakfast, I log into Duolingo and practice Spanish for about five minutes.

Once breakfast is finished, I do half an hour of some sort of exercise.

Depending on the day, it might be strength training, yoga, dancing, or jogging/ walking in place inside. It’s dark outside in the morning now, and the streets are often slick with snow or ice as well.

I strongly prefer morning workouts because they get my blood pumping and wake up my mind for the day. It’s also nice to check that box off of your to-do list. With sunset happening so early at this time of the year and the cold, slippery conditions popping up outside as autumn turns into winter, it can be really hard to convince myself to exercise after dark when I’m sleepy. So this way I don’t have to exercise again at night if I don’t want to.

Barbells lined up together. A shower is generally necessary after my workout, so that happens along with brushing my teeth, changing clothes, etc.

And then I turn on my light therapy lamp and begin my workday, so what happens after that depends on my schedule for that particular day.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy Reads


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Person wearing red mittens and a a red and white striped shirt holding a red mug filled with hot cocoa and a white star cookie sprinkled with red sprinkles that is sitting in the cocoa. Here’s a confession for you all: I don’t quite understand the difference between comfort reads, which we all discussed last May, and the cozy reads we’re supposed to talk about today.

These are terms for what is essentially the same experience in my opinion. Both comfort and cozy reads describe books that feel like the literary version of a warm hug or a kind word from someone who loves you. I’d say that they both describe books where characters might get into embarrassing situations sometimes but where the reader knows that nothing terrible will happen to them and that everything will turn out well for them by the final scene.

If you interpreted these terms in other ways, please let me know.

Since I discussed specific books in my comfort reads prompt, I’ll focus on types of literature and storytelling in this post.

To me, a cozy read might be:

1. A Reread

For example, I’ve reread C.S. Lewis‘ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe every winter for the past few years. I experience seasonal depression due to the lower levels of light in Ontario over the winter, so it makes me happy to read about a world where winter ended so abruptly and beautifully.

 

2. Something Humorous

There’s nothing like reading something uproariously funny when you least expect it. I have been known to wander into genres I don’t normally visit like romance novels simply based on how humorous other people have said they are.

 

3. A Cozy Mystery

I enjoy the lighthearted writing style and often pun-filled titles that occur in this genre.

 

4. Something Exciting and Genre-Bending

Look, I’ve been an avid reader since I was a small child. It takes a lot for an author to surprise me, but that only makes it only more delightful when they steer their story in a direction I’d never expect from that genre.

 

5. A Poem

I loved poetry as a kid and teenager but wandered away from the genre in college. A well-written poem can be such a wonderful gift when you need a quick read.

 

6. Something Hopeful 

Yes, I read and review plenty of stories with dark themes, but I’m always on the lookout for hopeful speculative fiction, too. That is a big part of the reason why I spent so much time chatting about Becky Chambers’ last couple of books here earlier this year, and i still think the Monk and Robot series is one of the coziest things I’ve ever read.

Better Days to Come: A Review of The Merry Christmas Ghost

The Merry Christmas Ghost - a Happy Holidays Horror Story by Dennis Warren book cover. Image on cover shows a closeup of a Christmas tree covered in tinsel and various Christmas ornaments. Title: The Merry Christmas Ghost

Author: Dennis Warren

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 22, 2019

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Holiday

Length: 10 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A haunted apartment. A very lonely woman. A violent criminal. All three have one thing in common: The Merry Christmas Ghost! Get into the Christmas spirit with this haunting tale of holiday cheer!

Review:

Content Warning: robbery, assault, battery, and loneliness.

Even horror can be wholesome during the Christmas season.

The holidays can be difficult for all sorts of different reasons, so I wasn’t surprised to see things begin on such a dour note. The protagonist had recently found permanent housing after being homeless, but it wasn’t a particularly safe or welcoming place for a single, vulnerable woman to live in. She had no money, friends, family, or hope for a cheerful Christmas. These details alone were enough for me to wish that her luck would turn around very soon, especially once she began showing the audience glimpses of her kind and gentle personality. I think it’s important to take note of why some people struggle even more than usual during the holiday season, and Mr. Warren certainly accomplished that with this character.

This story would have benefited from including more details in it. For example, I would have loved to know the main character’s name and more details about why she’d been homeless before she moved into her shabby apartment. Sharing information like this would have also made it easier on me when the narrators were switched as all of the pronouns that weren’t attached to specific names were confusing at times. With another round of editing and more clarification, I would have happily added at least another star to my final rating.

I loved the messages this tale had to share about the importance of families of all shapes and sizes and of remaining hopeful no matter what one’s circumstances may be. This family was no doubt a little unusual, but the love that shone through it made me smile. These aren’t themes one typically finds in the horror genre, so it was refreshing to be surprised by them here. It’s always nice to see an author take risks with what they write about, especially when they seem to understand why they’re doing so and how it will affect their characters. Good job to the author for doing just that. I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

The Merry Christmas Ghost was a creative take on holiday horror.

 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Overused Character Stereotypes

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.

While there are authors out there who can take the most well-worn character stereotypes and making something new and fresh with them, I still think these stereotypes should be given a long period of rest before being used again.

 

Two Brown wooden bunny figurines. One adult and one child. Dead Parents 

This is something I’ve seen most often in the Young Adult genre. Why must so many young protagonists have dead or dying parents?

It made more sense a century or two ago when it was more common for kids to lose one or both parents to diseases, illnesses, or accidents that modern medicine can now easily treat. These days, it is rare for a parent to die before their child reaches adulthood.

I would love to see more Young Adult books about kids whose parents are still alive and well.

 

A row of yellow smiley face people. There is one grey person among them who isn’t smiling, and the magnifying glass is focused on that person. Not Like Other Girls 

Once again, this is something I see a lot of in the Young Adult genre.  but it can be found in many other places, too. A character might say something like, “I’m not like other girls…I like sports!” or “I’m not like other girls…I hate makeup and fashion!”

I deeply dislike the idea that certain hobbies and interests are inherently better than other ones. It’s also ridiculous to me to perpetuate the idea that being a girl (or a member of any other group) means you must automatically enjoy X and be uninterested in Y.

Why not just let characters enjoy whatever appeals to them?

 

Sweaty female boxer looking ahead at the camera with annoyance as one hand is on her hip. The Dumb Athlete

I am an intelligent person who loves reading, learning about science and history, and visiting as many museums as I can find.

I am also an athletic person who loves lifting weights, going swimming, doing yoga, and taking long, brisk walks.

It irks me to see (some) writers assume someone must belong to just one of these groups or that there must always be animosity between them.

Let your football players also love math or poetry and your scientists run marathons in their free time without anyone batting at eye at it.

Characters should be just as well-rounded as any given person walking down the street in my opinion, and real people generally can’t be sorted into such constrictive little boxes about what they should or shouldn’t enjoy doing.

 

Two people wearing hoodies and facing a brown wall. One person has a black hoodie and one has a white hoodie. Ugly or Deformed Villains

I wish that villains were identified by their behaviour instead of by things like congenital defects or simply not being born beautiful. Some of the people I care about have health conditions that negatively affect their physical appearance. It bothers me to see how often disability and birth defects are used as shorthand for someone the audience should automatically mistrust.

No, this doesn’t mean I want every villain to start being described as the most beautiful or handsome person in the room either.

One’s physical appearance has nothing to do with their character or personality. Let’s stop relying on looks as an indicator of anything.

 

Community Spokesperson 

A prairie dog wearing a hat and holding a microphone. Okay, so this one might take a little bit of explaining.

I find it wearisome when a character who is black, gay, disabled, Buddhist, a woman, or <insert any other minority group here> is assumed to be the spokesperson for their entire community.

Just because I believe hiking is one of the best ways to pass an afternoon if you want to improve your emotional and physical health doesn’t mean that every other woman in the entire world feels the same way or wants me to speak for all 3.99 billion of us.

I like stories that allow their characters to have opinions on everything from the merits of Hawaiian pizza* to much more serious issues without requiring any of them to officially speak for whatever communities they are part of.

*It is delicious, for the record. 😉

Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Review of Ghost Stories for Christmas

Title: Ghost Stories for Christmas Author: Shane Brown Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: December 3, 2021 Genres: Paranormal, Holiday, Historical, Contemporary Length: 105 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: Five ghost stories set during the Christmas period to add an extra chill to the festive season! In “Houses… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Social Media Platform and Why

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. Instagram is my favourite social media platform for the following reasons: 1) My Instagram account is private and cozy.  (I am totally open to accepting new… Read More

A Review of The Story of Sigurd the Dragonslayer

Title: The Story of Sigurd the Dragonslayer (Tales from the Volsunga Saga Book 2) Author: Liam G Martin Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 24, 2022 Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Historical Length: 35 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: The Story of Sigurđ the Dragonslayer is part of The… Read More