Tag Archives: Holidays

Solitary Fear: A Review of Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk

Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk by Frank Cowper. Image on cover is of a sinking ship and a ominous skull in the sky watching it. 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. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Frank Cowper

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1925 and 2018

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 64 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 5 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.

When he finds an abandoned duck punt on Christmas Eve, a hunter rows out into the marsh and comes across a shipwreck. He climbs aboard to explore—and finds himself trapped when a surge snaps the mooring line and his punt floats away. Sleep eludes him, and soon he discovers that he’s not the only one trapped on the derelict ship.

Review:

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

This tale was set in an era when the social classes were much more divided than they are these days. That is to say, it was a terrible faux pas to befriend people from lower or upper classes. Since the lonely, financially secure main characters lived in an economically depressed area, this essentially meant that they could hire their neighbours to work for them but could never invite them over for something sociable like dinner.

I love being near all sorts of bodies of water, but they can be melancholy places in disagreeable weather. The thought of purposefully going out exploring in a chilly, watery environment on Christmas Eve made me shake my head and wonder what on Earth the protagonist was thinking.

With that being said, the protagonist’s impulsivity and willingness to take unnecessary risks was exactly what this plot needed to push it forward. He was someone I soon grew to like quite a bit even while shaking my head at his total disregard for his own safety.

The eerie thing about this haunting was that it happened in total darkness after the main character accidentally got trapped on the abandoned ship. Imagine hearing frightening sounds, having no way to discover what was making them, and not being able to move out of fear of walking the wrong way and falling through rotten, gap-filled lumber into a freezing sea!

That imagery alone was what earned this story a horror rating. It wasn’t gory at all, but it sure was horrifying.

 

The Day Before Christmas Eve: A Review of The Yule Cat

The Yule Cat - a Christmas Short Story by Eldritch Black book cover. Image on coer shows drawing of a blue cat sitting in the snow outside of a village at night. The cat is staring ahead at the reader. Title: The Yule Cat – a Christmas Short Story

Author: Eldritch Black

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 25, 2020

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Holidays

Length: 46 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Strange, scary rumors are flying about the tiny, snowy town below the mountains. Some say a tiger sprang loose from a circus train and roams the snowy meadows. Some say it stalks in the wintry forests. Some say it’s a monster. 

But feisty Maisie Crompton knows that can’t be true. Such things never happen in their sleepy alpine village. 
Or do they?

For soon, Maisie finds herself crossing the path of a spine-chilling legend. The Yule Cat; a fearsome mythical beast collecting snacks for his winter feast. And should Maisie fail in the cat-and-mouse hunt that follows, she might well become the next morsel on his menu…

From the author of Krampus and The Thief of Christmas, The Yule Cat is a short Christmas story brimming with magic, trolls, spooky mythology, and fun and festive chills for readers of all ages

Review:

Be careful what you wish for.

If only I could read that introduction to this review to Maisie! Her envious attitude in the first scene certainly gave me a strong impression of her. I sympathized with her frustration over having to count every last cent so carefully. The holidays are a tough time to be poor, especially for a kid who is watching her best friend show off an expensive new coat. I know the narrator probably wanted us to hope Maisie would learn a valuable lesson about gratitude for what one has. While I had those thoughts as well, I also hoped she’d get a wonderful Christmas gift that matched all of her dreams.

There were a few things about the climax of this story that didn’t quite make sense to me, especially when it came to exactly what Jólakötturinn (The Yule Cat) was capable of. It was never clear to me exactly what the limits of his powers were. Sometimes he seemed capable of things that he hadn’t been a scene before, so I was never sure what to expect from him. It would have been nice to have a firmer understanding of this creature as he was definitely a scary one!

The world building was handled nicely. I appreciated the fact that the author explained a little bit about the backstory of Jólakötturinn for anyone who wasn’t already familiar with that. That attention to detail continued on with the descriptions of the other characters, too. All of their histories were important in order to fully understand how Maisie ended up in such a dangerous predicament on December 23.

Let me end this review with my favourite quote from this tale. It captured the themes of it all nicely.

“He grows when he senses fear, and shrinks when he’s content.”

Completing the Set: A Review of The Crown Derby Plate

Book cover for Marjorie Bowen's "The Crown Derby Plate- A Ghost Story for Christmas." Image on cover is of a ghost, tombstone, and house.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. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: The Crown Derby Plate – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Marjorie Bowen

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1931 and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Holiday, Historical

Length: 56 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: An antique collector hears of an ancient woman with a large collection of china. Hoping to complete a particular set, the collector pays a visit to the woman’s ramshackle house, where she makes a terrifying, ghostly discovery.

Review:

One of the first things that intrigued me about this short story was that was written about a single woman who was a senior citizen. The speculative fiction genre is sadly pretty short on protagonists who fit that demographic, so I’m always in the market for writers who buck that trend.

Martha, the antique collector, was the character who greedily went off in search of a Crown Derby Plate that was the only piece missing from her prized collection. She struck me as the sort of person who has memorized all of the etiquette rules and social niceties while also having a deep understanding of how to use them to quietly get exactly what she wants. While I’d never want to befriend her, I did find the combination of her impeccable manners and selfish motives to be fascinating.

The paranormal elements of the plot were ridiculously easy to figure out in advance. I’d suspect that anyone who has read more than one ghost story in their life would know where this piece was going as soon as Martha set off to visit her neighbour’s dilapidated estate.  It would have been nice to have fewer clues about what was happening there.

With that being said, I loved the spooky atmosphere of the Hartley’s house. This is one of those things that can quickly make or break a ghost story, and it was done well in this case. Miss Lefain, the frail old woman who lived there, was not well enough to do even simple tasks like dusting, so Martha was in for quite a surprise when she saw how run-down the property was.

While it wasn’t specifically written for these groups, this is something that could be a fun story to read to kids or people learning English as a second language who are in the market for something short, simple, and scary.

An Alluring Trap: A Review of One Who Saw

Book cover for A.M. Burrage's One Who Saw. Image on cover is of a pair of green eyes with long eyelashes. 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. Beginning this year, I hope to review all of them during the month of December for as many years as it takes to finish this project. 

Title: One Who Saw – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: A.M. Burrage

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Date: 1931 and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 64 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

A sensitive writer flees the clatter of London for a sleepy French city. After settling in at quiet hotel, he spies a ghostly, solitary young woman weeping in a walled garden, her features hidden from view. Compelled to see the woman’s face, he ventures forward…. Originally published on Christmas in 1931, “One Who Saw” is regarded as A.M. Burrage’s masterpiece.

Review:

Secondhand stories aren’t always correct, but in this case they just might be!

I was expecting Simon Crutchley to tell his tale to the audience directly. The fact that we learned about it through a group of his neighbours gossiping at a dinner party beginning with the opening scene came as a surprise to me, but it somehow made his experiences even more harrowing than they might have already been.

Humans are good at filling in the gaps when they have some information but not necessarily all of it. Simon’s reaction to his paranormal experience was so life-changing that it made sense his neighbours would speculate about it. While I would have loved to read this from his perspective, it did make sense that he wasn’t up for that given what his neighbours described happening to him.

Gardens aren’t supposed to be scary places, so I was intrigued by how much effort the author put into showing how a lack of sunlight can make what should be a cheerful place to sit and write into a spot that anyone looking for some peace and quiet would best avoid.

By far my favourite part of this story had to do with what happened to people who attempted to see the face of the ghost who was sitting in the sunless garden. This wasn’t something that hauntings typically include, and it added a twist to the plot that I appreciated.

One Who Saw was deliciously chilling. I’d recommend it to everyone who loves ghost stories.

Thankful for What We Have: A Review of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Poster for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Image shows Charlie Brown and Snoopy standing next to table with a turkey and pie on it.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a 1973 animated Thanksgiving film about Charlie Brown, the famous animated character from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, throwing an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner for all of his friends.

The other films in this holiday trilogy in it include A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965 and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown from 1966.

They all work as standalone stories. There is no need to watch them in a specific order.

I decided to review A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving because it’s the least well known part of this trilogy. It wasn’t something I was aware of growing up even though I knew about and liked the other films.

This review won’t contain a list of characters for spoiler reasons. The run time was only 25 minutes for this film, so I don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to discussing the plot without giving away what happens in it.

My Review

The premise was one of the other reasons why I wanted to review this film. I can’t imagine throwing together a Thanksgiving dinner on the same day I discovered such a thing was expected of me. Ugh!

Charlie Brown (who is pictured in the film poster above) didn’t even have the advantage of knowing how to roast a turkey or make all of the traditional side dishes for this holiday. He was a child who was just beginning to learn to make simple dishes like toast and popcorn, so his predicament was even worse than I originally assumed it would be.

I was intrigued by what a Thanksgiving dinner cooked by a kid his age would be like and if he’d figure out how to get everything warm and on the table at the same time. Seeing what that process was like for him was a great deal of fun.

One of the other unexpected twists in this film had to do with what happens when Thanksgiving doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. That message is just as relevant now as it was nearly fifty years ago. Honestly, it’s even more relevant now in some ways than it was when it first came out!

I loved the way the filmmakers approached the concept of feeling disappointment about the holiday festivities you’d planned and how to handle that emotion.

There are so many more things I want to say about the expectation of having a “perfect” Thanksgiving…but they’ll quickly wander into spoiler territory if I’m not careful.

It was also interesting to note how the culture of Thanksgiving has evolved since 1973. The ways the characters talked about the first Thanksgiving and this holiday in general weren’t exactly the same as they’re often discussed these days, although they did remind me of how these topics were handled when I was a kid.

I wonder what kids today would think of this tale?

Do note that the preview I included below for this short film is an original one from 1973 and does include some spoilers.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is available on Apple TV.

Unlikely Gleaning: A Review of Harvest

I’d like to thank Berthold Gambrel for reviewing this book and bringing it to my attention. Title: Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch Author: Jason H. Abbott Publisher: Blue Boar Press Publication Date: October 7, 2019 Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Holidays Length: 19 pages Source: I received a free copy from the… Read More

Creepy Christmas: A Review of Krampus

Content Warning: Blood and a dysfunctional family. I will be briefly mentioning these things in my review. Krampus is a 2015 dark fantasy horror comedy film about a young boy named Max who has a disappointing Christmas with his argumentative, dysfunctional relatives and accidentally summons a festive demon to his home as a result of it.… Read More