Tag Archives: 2010s

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.

 

 

Too Old for Santa: A Review of Christmas Presence

Book cover for Christmas Presence by Tony Bertauski. Image on cover is a closeup of a man who has a white beard and moustache and is  wearing a wool hat.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 cookies and tree decorating. Not going to work.

Zay has to stay home. On Christmas. Alone.

Mom said her boss felt real bad about the whole thing so he was sending a nanny. It just keeps getting worse. She’s fourteen years old. She doesn’t need a nanny. But then the nanny shows up. She’s not really a she. Or a he.

More of an it.

The nanny shows her that it’s not really magic that makes Christmas special. It’s the adventure. And when it’s all over, she’ll never forget.

The best Christmas ever.

Review:

Teenagers don’t believe in magic, right?

Fourteen is a tough age. Zay was too old to truly get into many of the Christmas traditions she enjoyed as a little kid, but she was also a bit too young to understand why some adults get so excited to keep them going. Mr. Bertauski did a wonderful job of capturing this confusing stage of life and how it can affect not only the teenagers going through it but also everyone around them as well. I had compassion for Zay as she decided how to respond to her mother’s love of the Christmas holidays.

This short story was marketed as an introduction to a new series about retelling of classic holiday legends. Even though it was the first instalment of this series so far as I could tell, I still struggled to understand what was going on at times. There was never quite enough information about the nanny who showed up to entertain Zay or why he was so different from what she was expecting. While I did understand some parts of this universe, other portions were never quite clear to me.  I would have happily gone with a much higher rating if these things had either been explained in greater detail or if the blurb had been clear that this wasn’t necessarily something that was supposed to be a standalone read.

I was a huge fan of the author’s reinterpretation of Santa Claus as an individual as well as a mythical figure. This was where the science fiction elements of the storyline shone the brightest. They made me perk up and wonder how everything worked, especially once Santa began to reveal a little bit more about himself. There was so much creativity in these passages. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what the author comes up with next based on how much effort he put into rethinking this classic character.

Christmas Presence was a lighthearted read that I’d recommend to anyone who is either currently a teenager or who has a teenaged loved one in their life.

A Review of the Last Photograph of John Buckley

The Last Photograph of John Buckley by T.J. Brown book cover. Image on cover shows a man’s bandaged face as he’s lying down. Only his eyes are visible. Title: The Last Photograph of John Buckley

Author: T.J. Brown

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: August 10, 2016

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 34 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

When a photographic retoucher is commissioned to fix the abnormalities on a Great War portrait, he finds his own past and that of the subject beginning to connect. Are his personal nightmares returning, or is it something more? A short ghost story in the M.R. James tradition, The Last Photograph of John Buckley is a dark tale of past crimes and unfinished business.

Review:

Content Warning: Trauma, mental illness (including mentions of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), murder, and vivid descriptions of the horrors of war. I will be briefly mentioning trauma and mental illness in my review.

Is pushing through the pain a smart idea?

Mr. Brown had a poetic writing style that rapidly pulled me into the storyline. Sometimes I felt as though I were standing beside the main character and discovering new clues with him instead of reading about his experiences. The author included so many small details that made his characters and the eras they lived in come alive in my imagination. This was my first experience with his work. It made me yearn to explore the rest of his oeuvre in good time.

The character development was strong and believable. Even though the protagonist’s name wasn’t revealed until much later on in the storyline, I quickly got to know him for who he truly was as well as who he had been before the traumatic events of World War II reshaped his mind and personality for the worse.  It was exciting to learn so much about someone without having access to such an ordinary piece of information about him. I totally understood why the author wrote it this way and thought it fit the protagonist’s exceedingly cautious and frightened nature perfectly.

Speaking of trauma, this tale had a lot to say on that topic. It was also filled with strong opinions about how the limited understanding of mental health concerns during the first and second World Wars affected not only the soldiers who fought in them but also everyone from their closest loved ones to members of their communities who experienced the echoes of those old wounds without necessarily knowing why they existed. While I cannot go into detail about this without sharing spoilers, it was especially poignant for me as someone who comes from an extended family that included people whose mental health was permanently damaged by these wars. As much attention has already been paid to the war is hell trope, this tale managed to find a fresh way to explore it that never once backed down from all of the terrible ways in which traumatic memories of the battlefield can harm a community for multiple generations.

Don’t be scared off by the horror tag if you’re not generally into that genre. There were a couple of short scary scenes in this book, but it was never gory or gross. Instead, the narrator quietly crafted a thoughtful work about grief, trauma, and the after-effects of war that was as poignant as it was honest. Anyone who is closely acquainted with this sort of tale may be able to spot the plot twists coming in advance, but it always came across to me as something that was intended to mindfully explore each moment in the protagonist’s life rather than shock the audience with a twist we weren’t supposed to see coming. It was something that I liked as a veteran reader in this genre but that also seemed like it  could easily appeal to audiences who don’t have a lot of experience with the horror genre in general.

The Last Photograph of John Buckley was one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. I can’t recommend it enthusiastically enough!

Rolling the Dice: A Review of A Dark Horse


A Dark Horse by Dale Olausen book cover. Image on cover shows silhouette of horse standing on a hill at dusk on an overcast day. Title
: A Dark Horse – A Gothic Tale

Author: Dale Olausen

Publisher: Dodecahedron Books

Publication Date: October 16, 2016

Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Mystery, Historical

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Just what might a gambler give up, to go on the winning streak of his life? Even he can’t know for sure. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus legend is given a Damon Runyon spin, in this short story.

Review:

Content warning: Gambling and gambling addiction. I will be discussing them in my review.

Every gambler is bound to run out of luck eventually, right?

By far my favourite type of horror is psychological horror. I was quite pleased with how Mr. Olausen frightened his audience without spilling a single drop of blood or so much as hinting at anything gory. He knew exactly what hints to drop for us that made us deliciously dread the next scene simply by throwing out hints about who or what the dark horse might actually represent. This is the kind of stuff I love getting scared by, especially as Halloween approaches.

It would have been helpful to have more character development in this short story. While I certainly wouldn’t expect to see as much time spent on this as I would for a full-length novel, I did have trouble connecting to the main characters due to how little I knew about them and how much their personalities seemed to remain the same no matter what happened to them. If not for this issue, I would have felt comfortable choosing a much higher rating as the plot itself was well done.

I must admit to not knowing much about gambling at all, so I appreciated the brief explanations the narrator shared about how placing bets works and why some people have so much trouble walking away from a bet. While I will leave it up to experts on these topics to say how accurate everything was, I did enjoy learning more about the main character’s addiction and what he hoped to gain from betting on just one more game or race. It gave me a stronger sense of empathy for folks in his position.

A Dark Horse – A Gothic Tale was a deliciously chilling story for the Halloween season and beyond.

Whispers from the Past: A Review of Ghost of the Mountain

Ghost of the Mountain by Elvira Dahl book cover. Image on cover shows a hazy ghost walking down a black and white path. Title: Ghost of the Mountain

Author: Elvira Dahl

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 65 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

“Some parts of the earth are not meant to be disturbed.”

Oscar Brandt’s career as operating technician at one of Sweden’s biggest IT companies is going exactly as planned. Thanks to a new big-shot client, the company’s rock shelter facilities are to be expanded with a new server hall. And Oscar is up for the promotion of his career. But while blasting away inside the mountain, a tragic accident occurs that open the gates to the underworld. Suddenly, a ghost from Oscar’s past starts haunting him, and he soon finds himself in a familiar, dark place he might not escape from again.

Ghost of the Mountain is a tale of caves, underground server halls and abandoned mines. Of the mythic creatures that guard the deep. And of two kids with Gameboys, bonding in the darkest of places.

Review:

Content Warning: Blood and devil worship. I will not be discussing them in my review.

Quiet places aren’t always peaceful ones.

To be perfectly honest, I was somewhat confused by the flashbacks at first. They didn’t seem to have anything to do with Oscar’s current life, so I was curious to see what the connection there might be. Be patient if you have the same reaction to these scenes because they do pay off in the end. I can’t go into much further detail about them other than to say that the author knew what she was doing here. As soon as I figured out what was going on, I grinned. The payoff was so worth it in the end!

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the folklore in this novella. The characters shared tantalizing hints about what they might be dealing with here, but there wasn’t quite enough of it for me to go for a full five-star rating due to how many unanswered questions I had about the legend they mentioned and how it was related to what happened to Oscar. This was my only criticism of something that was otherwise well-written and fascinating.

The ending was quite satisfactory. I was originally expecting a completely different conclusion to it all, so I once again had the opportunity to rethink my assumptions and pick out the clues that the author had left in earlier scenes about where she was going with this piece. Yes, I know I’m being more vague than usual in this review, but this really is the sort of tale that works best if new readers know as little about certain plot twists as possible in advance. Just know that there are answers coming and they’re well worth the wait!

Ghost of the Mountain made me shudder. It’s a great pick for anyone who loves spooky stories, especially as Halloween season approaches.

The Loyal Companion: A Review of The Origins of Constantine

Title: The Origins of Constantine Author: D.C. Gomez Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: February 27, 2019 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 87 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: When the god Anubis needed a friend, the universe sent him the most unlikely companion: a feisty little cat.… Read More

Corporate Space Race: A Review of Loss Leader

Title: Loss Leader Author: Simon Haynes Publisher: Bowman Press Publication Date: May 1, 2010 Genres: Science Fiction Length: 45 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 2 Stars Blurb: After many delays and last-minute setbacks, the first colony ship leaves planet Earth for a distant star. Join the crew as they… Read More

Sweet Sleuthing: A Review of Junkyard

Title: Junkyard (a Fractured Stars Novella)  Author: Lindsay Buroker  Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 5, 2019 Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery Length: 81 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: McCall Richter works as a skip tracer, tracking down criminals, con men, and people who stop making payments on… Read More

A Review of This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story 

Title: This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story Author: Mark Leslie Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: February 16, 2013 Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 70 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author  Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Caught Between the Moon and New York City  Being a werewolf isn’t all about howling at the… Read More

One Look Back: A Review of During the Dance

  Title: During the Dance Author: Mark Lawrence Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: July 4, 2014 Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical Length: 9 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 2.5 Stars Blurb: A story of love, loss, and the dance in between. Absolutely not a romance. A short story about a… Read More