Book Review – The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Canterville Ghost



The Canterville Ghost is about an American family in the late 19th century that moves into Lord Canterville’s large and old home. However, the large house is haunted by Canterville’s ancestor, who tries to frighten the family away, or even to death! But this family isn’t to be scared away by a ghost, and is even intrigued by the historical mysteries it still carries.

I had known about this story before I read it, as I had watched a cartoon version of it when I was little, which had very minor differences. The Canterville Ghost is my first full Oscar Wilde reading (I’m still in the middle of Dorian Gray) and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Oscar Wilde and a ghost story is the perfect combination. Using his artful language and wit, he is able to humorously tell the tale of an utter failure of a ghost even among the mysterious and beautifully-described gothic atmosphere of the house. The only thing I would wish to be different, at least a little bit, is the ending, which was nice, but I think I would have liked it to be more than just nice. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story, however.

The Canterville Ghost is definitely up there with my favorite ghost stories, and Wilde’s way of telling ghost stories is wonderfully refreshing. I recommend this story to those who want some wit in a gothic setting.
I listened to this book on Audible, and I very much enjoyed it as an audiobook.



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Book Review – Weird Woods, Tales from the Haunted Forests of Britain

Weird Woods: Tales from the Haunted Forests of Britain by John Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Weird Woods by John Miller


I picked up Weird Woods because, if you do not know already, I am a huge fan of folklore and hauntings. From the description, I had expected to find folktales about Britain’s forests, sort of the origins for all the haunting stories we know and love. Basically I expected it to be more like The Book of English Folktales by Sybil Marshall. Instead, this book is an anthology of short stories that are set in haunted British forests or have something to do with trees, and are written by popular authors of this genre from about the early 20th century (some late 19th).

So, while I did enjoy most of the stories generally speaking, I was a bit disappointed at the lack of actual folklore, and that is why I have given this book only three stars.

Nonetheless I loved the dark atmosphere of all the stories, the gnarly roots of the forest, and the trees that seem to be guiding the protagonists to either happiness or misery, depending on their mood and on the attitude of the hero.

I recommend this book to those who want ghost stories, but, to those who prefer more folklore, this may not be the book for you.

I will be discussing the stories in-depth next week on my Patreon, so please do check it out if you want to see my extra analysis!

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I have a Patreon!

Those of you who have seen this blog when it started may know that I had a Patreon page for all my reviews. That was quite a while ago and I haven’t used it much since. But, I have now revamped my Patreon and it is open for business!

You can click here to see my Patreon, called “A Ghostly Reviewer”, and I’ll also have a link at the bottom.

I basically post the same content there that I do on Book Reviews by A. Siegel, except that there will be new bonuses and fun things for my Patrons.

Here is the general breakdown of my Patreon:

Free to the public are my general reviews of the books I have read.

With the lowest patron tier, called the Wharton Tier, patrons at $2 per month get early access to my reviews, so you would see them on my Patreon before I post them here.

With the second tier, called the Poe Tier, patrons at $5 per month get to see longer and more in-depth posts, similar to posts like my favorite genre books posts, my dark academia post, as well as more in-depth reviews with deeper analysis, especially for short stories.

This is the plan for the foreseeable future. I hope you all stay to see my reviews, and if you’d like to support my work further, consider becoming a patron!

And thank you all, I appreciate each and every one of you who reads my reviews.

Cheers!

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My Patreon: A Ghostly Reviewer

Book Review – The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill


Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black really is a classic ghost story. The protagonist, Arthur Kipps, prompted by his family to tell them a ghost story, recounts his experiences performing his duties as a solicitor for the dead Mrs. Drablow at the isolated Eel Marsh House. There he sees what is known there as ‘the woman in black’ and learns of her cruel history, and the cruel revenge her spirit takes in turn.

Of course I started reading this because I saw the movie, but if I had known The Woman In Black was a book first, I would have dived right in. This ghost story is up there with stories by Shirley Jackson, and the gothic works of Edith Wharton and Henry James. However, I think this is one of my favorites so far.

It’s such an atmospheric novel, I could feel the cold and wet of the marshes surrounding Eel Marsh House, could hear the squelch of the mud as the horse and carriage were heard by Arthur to sink and die in the marsh over and over, repeating that singular moment in time.
One gets the sense of looking back into the gothic, stepping through the threshold of the present into a past as grey and grim as death.

There are actually only a few differences between the book and the movie. (Spoilers ahead)
Arthur lives past the tragedy of the woman in black and into old age, though still mourning the death of his son.
They do not actually find the carriage and dead son of the woman in black, though Arthur was able to figure out the entire mystery based on papers and the apparitions he saw and heard.

I listened to The Woman In Black on audiobook, which was a wonderful experience. The book was read by Paul Ansdell.

I recommend this book to all who want a classic ghost story, to all who want to step into the past, no matter how foreboding it might be.



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Book Review – The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James


I started reading – listening to, rather – The Turn of the Screw for a reason that will probably surprise none of you. I recently watched The Haunting of Bly Manor, and, enjoying it so much, of course I had to read the original work. I was happy to find many similarities and differences that make the book and show respectively unique.

I’m sure you all know this is a ghost story. However, we do not know if the house, Bly Manor, is haunted by the ghosts of Peter Quint and Ms. Jessel, or if the ones haunting are actually the people who live there, Flora, Miles, Ms. Grose, or our protagonist herself. It is this unknowing that makes The Turn of the Screw such a compelling story. I do wish more of this ignorance took place in the show, as there is nothing more terrifying than the unknown.

Right now for me, The Turn of the Screw is right up there with other ghost stories such as The Haunting of Hill House, and the ghost stories of Edith Wharton. There’s something so simple in the telling of the story that makes the reader pay attention to the wonderfully creepy atmosphere of the haunted houses.

I will almost certainly have to read this book again because, while it is a well-written story, a lot of the language is, not unexpectedly, old-fashioned, and so I will just need a second look.

I listened to the audiobook on Scribd, which I recommend everyone gets; it is a thousand times better than Audible, and has much more content (no this is not an ad, but I would certainly not mind working with them!). The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Flo Gibson, but there are many other narrators to choose from.

I recommend this book to all of you who want the creeps and spooks this Halloween!



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Book Review – What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What the Dead Want by Norah Olson


What the Dead Want is the story of Gretchen, who, still mourning the mysterious loss of her mother, is asked by her great aunt to come help her sort out her old house. When Gretchen gets there, however, she is introduced to a world where history and the dead rule.

I was very much interested in the concept of this novel before I started reading it. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of ghosts, ghost stories, and ghost lore. So, when a book gets recommended to me about someone who can capture spirits with a camera, I thought I had met my dream book. It sounded like a Victorian gothic dream come to life.

Unfortunately, however, What the Dead Want did not meet my standards. For one thing, the letters featured in the book that were meant to be written by someone from the 1860s read more like someone writing today. I think the historical additions to this novel needed more research.

The writing and the plot also did not meet expectations. The plot seemed very random, and the use of photographs to see ghosts and solve the mystery really weren’t used until the very end of the story. In fact, most of the plot did not pick up until almost near the end of the book, leaving the structure of the rest of the book feeling randomly written and way too introspective. While I liked the fact that this book includes lots of diversity in its characters, the characters, except for Gretchen, felt very much as only accessories, and the perspective of the book was trying to be like Eleanor’s in The Haunting of Hill House and not at all succeeding in it.

While this book has good representation and covers some of the heaviest topics known (i.e. slavery, war, etc.), the writing was sub-par, and the plot not well-executed. I am sure that there is quite an audience for this book, but sadly I am not part of it.



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Book Review – Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston

Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston

Those Who Run in the Sky is a middle grade, fantasy novel about a young Inuk man, Pitu, who learns that not only is he to be the next leader of his igluit, his village, but also is to become a powerful shaman. But when he is swept into the spirit world, he has to struggle with more than he bargained for.

This novel is, to my unlearned mind, a great first representation of Inuit culture and mythology, told by an author who is herself Inuk. She also uses this story to teach Inuk words, which is part of the reason I enjoyed and plan on keeping this book. The other reason is that the story, while not so plot-oriented, is full of imagery, culture, and tons of character development, making this the ideal coming-of-age story. I could see the Northern Lights in the sky, and imagine the harsh cold of the arctic winter. I could feel the emotion as Pitu becomes lost in many ways.

I have only a few criticisms of this book. The main one is that the writing and language tend to be a bit juvenile, but that is expected in many middle grade books. The other, less prominent criticism is that there are no real turns or climaxes to the plot, making the story feel more like a journey than a singular, linear tale. Which is not a bad thing, just different from what I am used to.

I recommend this book to everyone, even if it’s only to learn some Inuk words.





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Book Review – Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn

Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn



As most of you probably know by now, I am a HUGE fan of ghosts and ghost stories and folklore concerning ghosts. I had heard about this book from YouTuber and author Jen Campbell, who recommended this book about Japanese ghost stories highly. I must say that I was hardly disappointed when I did read this book.

Not only did I get to read about ghosts, but in doing so I got to learn more about Japanese culture and folklore, a subject I wasn’t, and still am not, very familiar with. There were ghost stories regarding samurai, Buddhist ghost legends, and quite a few stories about death and ghosts regarding love and marriage, which I did not even consider could be a category in and of itself!

There are two main reasons I gave this book 3 stars instead of 4 or 5. The layout of this particular edition was only okay – I would have preferred it to be more organized in terms of style and layout. At the end of this book, we get a few essays about insects from Hearn, our early 20th century scholar and translator. I am fine with these sections, but Hearn didn’t relate them to Japanese ghost folklore as much as I would have liked.

In any case, this book of Japanese ghost stories was informative and intriguing. I recommend to all who want to learn more about ghosts in non-western settings.



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My Top 10 Favorite Classics

assorted books on wooden bookcase

I was inspired by Lauren Wade’s video on Youtube, where she talks about her own favorite classics. Some of my favorite classics are a bit more modern or a bit more unusual, but I think that’s what makes them classics to me! These are in no particular order, though based on my other posts I think you can tell which one’s are going to be more favorite than others.

Also doing this because I’m in a bit of a reading slump, but hopefully writing and thinking about books will inspire me to read more!

The Haunting of Hill House
  • The Haunting of Hill House
    This is the hauntingly atmospheric novel by Shirley Jackson about a group of people who stay at Hill House, a supposedly haunted house. Told through the perspective of Eleanor, we see a shaky view of the people she meets and becomes more intimate with, and her unreliable narration amplifies the uneasiness felt in the house.

    I love how uneasy this book makes me, both because I get a bit embarrassed for Eleanor, but also because you KNOW there’s something strange going on in and because of that house. Jackson really knows how to give chilling vibes.

Rebecca
  • Rebecca
    As you might be able to tell, I do love my haunted house stories, and I count Rebecca as one of those stories. In this book a young woman meets and then marries the mysterious Max deWinter, whose wife, Rebecca, died a year before. As the new Mrs. deWinter tries to get used to her new role, she realizes that the grand manor, Manderley, holds more secrets and ghosts of Rebecca.

    This book is so dark and sends the shivers up the spine. Like Eleanor in Hill House, the new Mrs. deWinter is unsure and uninformed enough to make the narrative shaky, unreliable, and eerie, at least until she is able to be in on things.

I, Claudius (Claudius, #1)
  • I, Claudius
    This historical fiction recounts the life of the Julio-Claudians in the early days of the Roman Empire, through the perspective of the emperor Claudius. The narration takes us from the rule of Augustus and ends when Claudius becomes emperor (the sequel Claudius The God tells of what happens after this).

    As a fan of ancient history, I love this telling. We get to know fun characters like the murderous Livia, the insane Caligula, and all who seek to impede Claudius’ life. Of course there are elements of this book that are not quite historically accurate, but it is still very, very entertaining.

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)
  • The Lord of the Rings
    If you know me even a little, you will know that these are my favorite books in the world. I’m not going to go into the plot too much cause I assume if you haven’t read the book, you’ve at least seen the movie, and they’re pretty similar. The only think I will say that is missing from the films from the book is more of the folklore aspects that Tolkien fills his books with. I LOVE folklore and fairy tale, and reading about the elves, the barrow wights, Tom Bombadil, the mythology behind trees, it’s all just *chef’s kiss*. And the fact that all of this folklore has informed a lot of modern and contemporary folklore is what makes these books classics for me.

Sense and Sensibility
  • Sense and Sensibility
    One of my favorite romances EVER! I read this after I watched the movie with Emma Thompson and the rest of that all-star cast. I fell in love with Alan Rickman’s Col. Brandon, and so I had to see for myself if he is just as wonderful in the book and HE IS!! Also, a Jane Austen is always a classic, this just happens to be the best and favorite of mine!

Fahrenheit 451
  • Fahrenheit 451
    Ray Bradbury’s famous novella takes place in a dystopian (deceptively utopian) world where books are outlawed, so people do not have ideas that are non-conforming. Our protagonist, a fireman, is one of the people who burns books when found. But what happens when one day he decides to keep and read one?

    This is probably my favorite dystopian fiction because so many times have we almost lived this reality, where knowledge is kept secret and away from those who would learn and have their own ideas. Also, any book about books is for me, and a dystopian book about books? Oh ja.

Paris in the Twentieth Century
  • Paris in the Twentieth Century
    Another dystopian! This is a more obscure book by Jules Verne, imagining what life might be like in the late 20th century. In this version of modernity, the arts and humanities are considered obsolete, and our main character, a classicist and Latinist, has trouble fitting in this world.

    As a classicist myself, it is encouraging to read about those who will love the classics and language and art even in dire times, though it is sad to think about this decline. Even though it was in translation, I love the way Verne tells his stories.

The Last Unicorn (The Last Unicorn, #1)
  • The Last Unicorn
    I also read this book after I saw the movie, and I am happy to say that they are very similar! The book is so fantastic though, with a diverse and quirky cast of characters. I also love the theme of the disappearing fairy tale represented by the loss of the unicorns in this book. And a wizard named Schmendrick? I want him to be my best friend.
    Another more modern classic, but a fantasy classic nonetheless!

The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain, #2)
  • The Chronicles of Prydain
    Again, I read this classic fantasy series after watching Disney’s The Black Cauldron, which takes its name from the second book in the series. In this series we follow three heroes, Taran, Princess Eilonwy, and Fflewddur Fflam as they overcome the evil powers that be in the lands of Prydain.

    This series is all based on Welsh mythology, much of which can be found in the Mabinogion. I think that’s why I was so drawn to it at all, cause Welsh mythology is so cool!

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
  • The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
    Not really a classic in terms of books, but definitely in terms of the author. Edith Wharton is famous for her novels, but some don’t know that she also wrote ghost stories! Very much in the same vein of horror as Shirley Jackson, Wharton sets many of her stories in houses that have ghosts or secrets, the perfect haunting and eerie atmosphere that I am just in love with!


    Those are my top 10! What are some of your favorite classics?

Book Review – The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories by Ambrose Bierce

The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories by Ambrose Bierce

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories by Ambrose Bierce

picked up Bierce’s collection of ghost stories because I am a huge fan of reading ghost stories written around the same time and style – think Edith Wharton, E.F. Benson, Shirley Jackson, etc.

While these stories were VERY spooky, and definitely enjoyable, I encountered some rather unfortunate mannerisms of the time; that is, sexism, racism, making men either murderers or gamblers. It is unlike Wharton’s stories, which center around circumstances outside of the protagonist’s control – Bierce’s characters often put the supernatural experiences upon themselves while also being kind of horrible people. I didn’t ignore it as I went, nor did I excuse the behavior of the characters, but I did feel these traits were what made the stories so centered upon the characters’ downfalls.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t like period ghost stories as much as I do.



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