Tag Archives: 2010s

Gently Combing the Sea: A Review of Hildie at the Ghost Shore


Hildie at the Ghost Shore by Paula Cappa book cover. Image on cover his a painting of a very foggy shore by a body of water. You can see almost nothing but the tiniest glimmer of blue water in the distance. Title
: Hildie at the Ghost Shore

Author: Paula Cappa

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 17, 2015

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Historical

Length: 22 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

We are in Old Belgium. Hildie the lace maker, Mistress of Runecraft, knows the secret spells of the runes from the wind-god Odin. When a mysterious old sailor visits her attic workroom, he requests a reading. Hildie agrees. During the casting of the runes, Hildie conjures the Ship of the Dead, Loki the trickster, and flame-eyed ravens. Who will survive this adventure in a land beyond the ghost shore? Hildie at the Ghost Shore is a quiet little mystery (Kindle Single) with a dash of Norse mythology evoking the magic of the Runes. This story was originally published at Fiction365.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder.

Danish mysteries abound on this quiet shore.

The poetic and etherial style of this short story made it impossible for me to stop reading. It was my first experience with Ms. Cappa’s work, and I was immediately impressed by how smooth and beautiful her writing style was. She excelled at drawing this reader into the storyline and making me never want to leave it. Reading this felt like the literary equivalent of stepping into a light, airy fog on a mostly-deserted beach on a chilly late winter or early spring day. That is to say, I felt as if I’d stepped into another world or some alternative version of our own world whose rules of physics were just different enough to make it impossible for me to guess what remarkable things I might discover a few moments in the future. It was a truly delightful experience that made me eager to discover what else the author has written.

I would have loved to see more plot and character development. There was very little of the former and almost none of the latter which struck me as unusual for something that went on for twenty-two pages.  It would have made sense for flash fiction, and the premise could have been shrunken down to accommodate a much shorter interpretation of it. Unfortunately, it felt out of place for a longer work that did seem to have more than enough room to include both of these elements.

By far my favourite portion of this tale was the final scene. This was when the plot grew as thick and substantial as it ever would, and it explained some things that keen readers might have kept tucked in the back of their minds as half-formed questions since they first began reading it. I should note that I’m not very familiar with Norse Mythology, so I also appreciated the quick explanations of certain key terms and figures from it. Perhaps readers who are already well-versed on that topic could expound upon it in greater detail, but I was perfectly satisfied with it as is. Yes, I know I’m being vague here! Why share spoilers when you can allow other readers the thrill of surprise instead?

Hildie at the Ghost Shore was a dreamy, wistful reading experience that I cheerfully recommend saving for the next time the weather outside is too foggy, snowy, or drizzly to venture forth outdoors.

Small Town Secrets: A Review of Haunted Love

Book cover for “Haunted Love” by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Image on cover shows a ticket with the words “Admit One” printed on it. The ticket is bathed in blood-red light. Title: Haunted Love

Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: December 13, 2011

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 33 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Spirit, Texas, is a town of secrets, and as the new owner of the local haunted movie theater, Cody Stryker is juggling more than his fair share. When a mysterious new girl comes to town and runs afoul of the ghost that lives in his theater, Cody’s caught in the middle and needs to figure out exactly who he can trust. HAUNTED LOVE is a short story by New York Times Bestseller Cynthia Leitich Smith— set in the same dark universe as her novels TANTALIZE, ETERNAL, and BLESSED. This story includes a sneak preview of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s latest novel, DIABOLICAL, which unites characters from the previous three novels in the Tantalize Series along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.

Review:

Content Warning: Child abuse and murder. I will not be discussing these topics in my review.

Honestly, who wouldn’t want a beautiful old movie theatre to be revived by a new owner?

This tale was filled with creative plot twists. One of the things I liked the most about it was seeing how the author played around with the audience’s expectations as well as the tropes of paranormal vampiric romances. She was clearly well-versed in this genre and knew exactly how to acknowledge the reader’s expectations without necessarily giving us what we were expecting. That’s definitely something to take note of as I haven’t found a lot of authors who are willing to bend things quite as far as she does. Her flexibility made me curious to see what else she has up her sleeves.

There was very little character development in this story. Not only would I struggle to describe how the protagonist changed as a result of his experiences, it would also be difficult for me to talk about what his personality was like in general. I couldn’t even say if he were a shy or outgoing guy, much less anything deeper about who he was or what made him tick. This made it hard to connect with him and even more difficult to get to know the secondary characters who had even fewer opportunities to display their personalities and interests. Figuring these things out was crucial for understanding certain surprises later on, so this truly was a missed opportunity to help the audience bond with the characters and notice when certain individuals didn’t seem like themselves.

I was intrigued by the world building. Spirit, Texas was described as a place that seemed to have a lot of secrets. It was fascinating to begin to piece together who was aware of which secret, and there was still so much work left to be done here by the time I finished the final scene. Still, I was satisfied with what I’d learned about this little town while also intrigued by all of the hints that had been dropped but never pieced together in a way that made sense for all of them.

Haunted Love was an inventive pick for anyone who doesn’t mind a little spookiness in their romance.

You’d Better Run Faster – A Review of Small Spaces

Book cover for Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. Image on cover shows a silhouette of a scarecrow and a sign that says “Small Spaces” in front of a yellow school bus that’s parked at dusk. Title: Small Spaces

Author: Katherine Arden

Publisher:  Puffin Books

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 256 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man”—a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
     Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
     Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods—bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them—the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”
     And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

Review:

Content Warning: Bullying, grief, depression, and death of a parent. I will briefly mention mental health and the death of a parent in my review.

It’s never too late to try again.

One of my favourite things about this tale was how it played around with certain stereotypes about gender roles and race. All of the characters were well-rounded people whose interests were not necessarily constrained by what others assumed someone of their sex or race would be into. Even characters who seemed to fit the mould at first glance were filled with wonderful surprises once I got to know them better. What made this even better was how natural it felt for them and their storylines. They simply were who they were without pretence. That’s exactly the sort of stuff I want to read about!

I would have liked to see more attention paid to the ending. The author was working with so many different plot points that she unfortunately didn’t seem to have quite enough time to wrap everything up satisfactorily for this reader. I know this is the beginning of a series, so I’m hoping that the sequels will dive much more deeply into the sudden death of Ollie’s mother and how Ollie’s mental health has fared since that tragedy. Her grief was explored thoroughly. If everything else had been given the same treatment, I would have gone with a five star rating as I deeply enjoyed it in general.

The storyline was filled with twists and turns that made me smile. I especially appreciated how the author included the horror genre without making anything gory or gross. The mere thought of being chased by scarecrows for reasons still unknown to the audience until much later in the plot was enough to make me shudder! This is the sort of psychological horror I’m irresistibly drawn to,  and it’s a fantastic introduction to the genre for anyone who might not have given it a try before.

Small Spaces was a delightfully spooky book to read on a dark, chilly night.

 

 

 

Dire Warnings: A Review of The Signalman

The Signalman by Charles Dickens book cover. Image on cover is of a signalman holding a lantern and sending near a train station.

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 Signalman – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Charles Dickens

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Dates: and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 28 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Blurb:

A gentleman discovers the black mouth of a railway tunnel. To his amazement, deep in the gorge before the tunnel, he sees an ancient signal-man, who invites him down to a lonely shack. It’s there that we learn the signal-man’s horrifying secret: he’s haunted by a figure who foretells a catastrophe soon to befall that very stretch of the tracks.

Review:

Not every accident can be prevented. Or can they?

This story didn’t waste any time in getting things started, and I loved that. Literally the first scene was about the main character being flagged down by the mysterious signalman. Given the short length of it, this was a great way to grab the audience’s attention and immediately pull me into the plot.

I wish the plot had been developed more thoroughly. The bare bones of it were there, but it was all so skimpy on the details that I had some problems remaining interested in what might happen next. I simply didn’t feel an emotional connection to any of the characters despite the danger they were in.

It wasn’t until I started researching Dickens’ life while working on this post that I realized he was once a passenger on a train that crashed. After the accident, Dickens was one of the people who looked after injured and dying passengers while waiting for help. There was a strong sense of urgency and foreboding in this tale that I can only assume came from his personal experiences on that day. This made for quite the harrowing read even though I would have liked to see more time spent working on the storytelling itself.

I’d recommend The Signalman to anyone who likes trains.

A Wanted Haunting: A Review of Afterward

Book cover for Afterward by Edith Wharton. Image on cover shows a man and a woman peering out of their upstairs window at a man staring at them and standing on the ground below. 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: Afterward – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Edith Wharton

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1910 and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 53 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb:

A newly rich American couple buy an ancient manor house in England, where they hope to live out their days in solitude. One day, when the couple are gazing out at their grounds, they spy a mysterious stranger. When her husband disappears shortly after this eerie encounter, the wife learns the truth about the legend that haunts the ancient estate.

Review:

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

Sometimes the presence of at least one ghost is the biggest selling point of them all for a crumbling estate that’s for sale.

The thought of purposefully seeking out a haunted house to live in made me laugh out loud when I read the first scene of this story. Mary and Edward Boyne didn’t want to buy any old house. It had to be haunted! I was so amused by their approach to this that I couldn’t wait to find out why they wanted to live with a ghost and what they hoped to get out of the arrangement.

There were times when I found the pacing slow, especially in the beginning when the main characters first moved into their new home. With that being said, Ms. Wharton had excellent reasons for writing her tale this way. While I did still wish for a snappier beginning, the twist ending more than made up for that.

The character development was well done. Mary and Edward were both restless, creative souls who honestly seemed to have more time and energy on their hands that was good for them. I shook my head at some of their attempts to get enough mental stimulation out of life, but I was also fascinated by the fact that neither member of this couple was at all satisfied by what seemed to me to be a pretty stable place for the creative endeavours (painting and writing) they were hoping to pursue.

I’d heartily recommend this short story to anyone who doesn’t mind a dark plot.

Bad Decisions: A Review of The Diary of Mr. Poynter

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 Diary of Mr. Poynter – A Ghost… Read More

Making Things Right: A Review of The Green Room

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… 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

A Review of the Last Photograph of John Buckley

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… Read More

Rolling the Dice: A Review of A Dark Horse

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… Read More