Tag Archives: 2010s

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 Diary of Mr. Poynter - A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories) by M.R. James. Image on cover is of a furry monster. 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 Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: M.R. James

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1919 and 2016.

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 38 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 2 stars

Blurb:

While engrossed in an ancient account of the sinister death of a student obsessed with his own hair, a man leans down to absently pet his dog — oblivious of the true nature of the creature crouching beside him. Seth’s newly illustrated version of M.R. James’ classic Christmas ghost story is a spooky holiday delight.

Review:

It turns out there is such a thing as being too engrossed in a book.

Out of all of the things in the world one could get excited about, a fabric sample is honestly pretty far down on my list. The fact that something as ordinary as this could change the lives of the people who found it in ways they never would have imagined made for a creative read.

The pacing of this story was slow and included many rambling details and asides that didn’t seem that relevant to pushing the plot forward. As interested as I was in the premise, I struggled to remain interested in the storyline because of these issues.

I’m not normally a fan of tales that include morality lessons, but this one was nice and subtle which is something I appreciate in that genre. The reader is mostly left to their own devices when it comes to deciding what the mistakes of the characters might have been and how they could have made better choices.

If you don’t mind a little sermonizing in your ghost stories, this is an interesting read.

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

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

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

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… Read More

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