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 Favorite Dark Academia Books

Dark academia is an aesthetic that has taken over the media of the internet, from books to movies to fashion. And, I must say, it has slightly affected me too. I am a classicist, and that just completely puts me in the realm of dark academia (those who have read The Secret History know what I’m talking about). I am also a huge supporter of the pursuit of knowledge, which is really what dark and all other academia is all about.

And that is what makes all the books on this list dark academia, at least in my opinion. Many of these books are dark in vibe and aesthetic and so just fit the genre much more. So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my favorite dark academia books.

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

This book does what The Secret History tried to do but better. It is about a Latin teacher at an all-girls boarding school in a remote location in the northeastern United States. As she struggles to have a life at this school, the teacher is forced to reckon with the darker portions of her past when she attended that same school as a student.
This book is full of academics, but also the staple of the dark academia Classics genre: a bacchanale that doesn’t go as planned.

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

This book is so much about the pursuit of knowledge and the possibilities it gives us. Picture a young Einstein working at his desk in a dimly lit room having just finished his theory of time, when he starts imagining all the different ways that time can manifest itself. Each short chapter of this book is a different look at time, and the utter possibility that these things could be possible is another staple of dark academia.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

This is a short novel that centers around a family who goes with a professor and his college students to live as Brits did in the Iron Age. That description alone is enough for the dark academia aesthetic, but when you add the darker aspects, it really kicks off.

Warning for this book, however: there are themes of child abuse and attempted murder.

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

This book is about Margaret Cavendish, who was an English aristocrat in the 17th century. Dutton tells a fictionalized biographical tale of how Margaret started her pursuit of philosophy and literature, and the struggles she had as a woman trying to be an intellectual in a time when women were really not supposed to be doing that in the view of her male counterparts.

Set in a time when the pursuit of knowledge that filled the Renaissance was still high and mighty, it is the perfect setting for the dark academia, period drama aesthetic.

Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne

In this more obscure tale of science fiction, Verne imagines what the world will be like in the late 20th century, focusing on a young man in Paris. This young man has just graduated from college with a degree in the almost obsolete field of Latin and Classical Studies. We see the young man struggle to survive in a world that is moving far beyond him, where art and humanities are dwindling out of the public interest.

Almost the complete opposite of Margaret the First, we see what the world could be like when the pursuit of knowledge is no longer useful in such a capitalistic era.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This rather chunky novel combines the pursuit of knowledge with the compulsion to solve a dark mystery. Set during and just after WWII in Spain, our protagonist finds a book called The Shadow of the Wind in a secret library, and becomes enthralled with the book and its author. But when he realizes that all of the other works by this author have been lost or destroyed, our protagonist goes on a quest for knowledge about this mysterious man.

The aspects of dark academia here include: period drama; the dark and dim aesthetics of the library and the dark places that our protagonist must search for clues; the war and post war setting; and the interest in a single book and its author.

Those are my favorites from the dark academia genre. Some are more obscure than others, and I highly recommend you check them out if you haven’t already! And I am open to any and all recommendations of dark academia books that you all might have!

Happy reading!

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Results of the Reading Rush and a short reading wrap-up

So the Reading Rush didn’t go as well as I hoped it would for me, as I had a bit of a slump on Saturday, but I did get quite a bit of reading done otherwise! I finished three books and read halfway through a fourth.

The Changeling Sea

The first book I finished was The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip (137 pages). I won’t say too much about it here because I made another post all about it, but I will say it was so amazing, and I need MORE of McKillip’s work!!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)

The second book I finished was Down Among The Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire (187 pages). This is the second book of McGuire’s Wayward Children series, but a prequel to Every Heart A Doorway. I made a whole post reviewing this one as well, but I did not like it as much as the first book. That being said, I still enjoyed it, and the books in this series are great for listening on audiobook, which I did!

And the Ocean Was Our Sky

The third book I finished was And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness (160 pages). Again, I did make a whole review of it, but I will say that this retelling of Moby Dick is so much more than that. The illustrations by Rovina Cai are gorgeous.

Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)

After these three I got halfway through the audiobook of Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire, the fifth book of her Wayward Children series. Yes I do realize I skipped books 3 and 4, but upon reading the synopses I realized that they were more prequels, whereas Come Tumbling Down continues (kind of) where Every Heart A Doorway left off. I will make a review post as soon as I finish this one too.

If any of you have recs for books that are like Wayward Children, do let me know! I love listening to them.

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Book Review – And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness (day 5 of the 2020 Reading Rush)

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness


And The Ocean Was Our Sky is a retelling of Moby Dick, though the hunters we see are both humans and whales. Whales hunt humans to protect themselves, and humans hunt whales for the same reason. Bathsheba is an apprentice of a ship of whales, whose captain is obsessed with hunting down the almost mythical whale and human-hunting man, Toby Wick. But when Bathsheba has the chance to speak with a human herself, she realizes that the hunts and destinies of whales and men always prophesied to her may not be as fixed in fate as she thought.

First I want to talk about the illustrations by Rovina Cai. They are simply beautiful. Cai uses a palette of greys, blacks, and reds to make the images of the hunts and depths of the sea starkly stand out and draw the eye to the brutality of the story. Her style reminds me very much of the art by Emily Carroll in her book Through The Woods, which I also love.

For those who loved The Deep by Rivers Solomon, this is a logical choice for your next read. Patrick Ness also writes about humanity through the perspective of an endangered sea, and writes about characters going against the destinies that have been thrust upon their unwilling selves. It is interesting that both of these authors chose the sea as the perspective of their respective books. Is it because things are darker in the sea and contrast with the brightness of the air and land in which humanity lives? Is it because the vast sea allows for more room to grow? There are so many possibilities that I cannot answer or choose – only the author can do that – but the setting of the deep see keeps drawing me in, and is why I loved And The Ocean Was Our Sky so much.



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Book Review -Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire


After reading and loving Every Heart A Doorway, I was eager to read more of Seanan McGuire’s other works. So when I saw she had written prequels to that first book, I jumped right in. This prequel is about Jack and Jill, who went through a chest into another world. The former became a scientist’s apprentice, the latter the adopted daughter of a vampire as mysterious and powerful as the legendary Count himself.

I won’t say too much about the plot of Down Among the Sticks and Bones, as a lot of it is explained in Every Heart A Doorway. The reason for this is also because I wasn’t too keen on the story. It explained the background of why Jack and Jill were the way they were in the first book, but other than that it was nothing special. What really had me hooked to this book, though, was McGuire’s writing, which continues to be amazing. It is poetic, full of wonderful imagery, and her characters seem almost alive.

I listened to this book on Scribd for day 3 of this year’s Reading Rush.



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Book Review – The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip

This is the first book I read for the 2020 Reading Rush, happening this week!

The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip

The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Changeling Sea is about Peri, a girl who hates and fears the sea, and yet finds herself entwined in its movements and intentions. She meets a prince who longs for the sea, a sea-dragon that longs for the land, and a wizard that, along with Peri, knows more secrets than they care to tell.

McKillip was inspired by classic changeling stories to write this tale, and she does it magnificently. In this case we meet two changelings, one trapped on land that belongs in the sea, and one trapped in the sea that belongs on land. Peri acts as the liaison between the land and sea, herself almost a changeling, though enchantress is more like it, especially since she follows patterns of enchantresses that McKillip often engages, like Sybel from The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

What I love as well as the changeling themes and the poetic descriptions of the sea, are the fairytale references. Images of Swan Lake and the Seven (sometimes Six) Swans come to mind when looking at the changeling princes, and Peri fits the well-known trope of hermit witch who guides heroes on their journeys. Peri does find love in the end though, through romance, friendship, and the love between a mother and a daughter.

McKillip once again did not disappoint, and I may like this book even better than the last one I read. I recommend to all who love and fear the sea with all its mystery, depth, and magic.



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Book Review – Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway is about a girl named Nancy who gets sent to a boarding school for youths who have been to different worlds and come back. Like all those at this school, Nancy cannot get back through the door that led to her particular world, in this case the underworld, and so must learn to cope and live in the ‘real’ world. She makes friends, and bonds with others like her when a number of grisly murders happen at the school. Together, Nancy and her friends must find out who would commit such crimes.

I had no idea what to expect when I first started listening to this book on audio, but I absolutely fell in love. The way Seanan McGuire writes her characters is so detailed and wonderful, I wanted to know and be friends with all of these people. In addition, McGuire has created characters who represent those who do not receive much attention – Nancy herself is asexual, and there are nonbinary and gay characters as well.

This book made me feel like I did when I was a child, perhaps even how I feel now. I believed I could enter secret worlds that were entirely made for me, and like the young people at Miss Eleanor’s School, I find myself looking back to those days of whimsy and adventure, even if they were only in my head. And, much like the doors of those worlds, Every Heart a Doorway is itself like a door into a world where people can understand you. There’s so much folklore and fairytale in it as well that I now know that it is no wonder I was so enthralled with the story.

This is probably my favorite book this year, and I have read some amazing books. I recommend to anyone who wants a door back to whimsy.



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Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag!

I’m a little late to this, but I’ve been seeing book bloggers and booktubers doing this tag, and I figured I would join them! So this is my Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag. Unfortunately, because I’ve been working on finishing my Masters, I haven’t read as many books as I would like this year (only 13), but I have read some great ones. And I’m in the middle of some others which I will tell you about at the end!

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2019

This question is really hard to answer because all of the books I’ve read so far are amazing. I am going to cheat and pick 2: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman and The Deep by Rivers Solomon.

Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman

Einstein’s Dreams is just so creative in the ways it portrays time and perspective in the world.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The Deep turns historical trauma into a deep fantasy, dealing with memory and identity experienced with and without such trauma.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019

So I’ve only read one sequel this year, but I really did enjoy it, and that is Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley, part of her Writer’s Apprentice mystery novels.

Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley

It’s not the best written book, but it gave me what I needed at the time: a fun mystery, drama and suspense, romance, and the main character is a writer! Overall a fun book to read, and I have the third book in the series waiting for me.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

It’s not coming out until the end of the month, but I really want to read The Miraculous by Jess Redman. This is a middle grade novel that deals with death, healing, and childhood in the whimsy of magic. The darkness of it sounds right up my alley, but also the longing to go back to childhood and knowing that magic exists.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

This would definitely have to be the upcoming sequel to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I don’t know when it’s coming out yet, and it’s probably not going to be this year, but I have my eyes peeled for it and I can’t wait to see what happens to Ari and Dante!

5. Biggest disappointment

Honestly none of the books I’ve read this year were bad, but if I had to pick a disappointment that would probably be The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

It was a very good book, but I think it would have been better if Hoff had compared more of Tao with Winnie the Pooh in a more direct way – his comments on the more ancient Tao and Pooh’s Tao seemed a bit too separate.

6. Biggest surprise

That would be There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins. I had heard good things about this book, and I was looking for a new thriller.

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

But I didn’t expect to be so invested and emotional about this book! There’s so much that goes on with love and friendship, which made me want to cry, but also the fear of the person who is inside those character’s houses, threatening their lives and livelihood. I did not expect to be on the edge of my seat the whole time!

7. Favorite new author (debut or new to you)

Hands down, this has got to be Patricia A. McKillip. I had heard of her before on lists of fantasy authors and novels, but when I read The Forgotten Beasts of Eld I was enthralled with her writing and world-building.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

McKillip is definitely my new favorite fantasy author. Right now I am reading her book of short stories, Wonders of the Invisible World, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. McKillip can write hidden worlds and magical creatures like no other.

8. Newest fictional crush

Honestly, this is going to have to be Sybel from The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. She is a beautiful, powerful woman who can use magic, communicate with all creatures mythical or not, and puts fear into the hearts of the mightiest of men. I would not at all mind if she called me with magic to live on her mountain with all those fantastic creatures.

9. Newest favorite character

This is probably Yetu from The Deep. I really felt like I related to her in terms of growing up and figuring out who I am and what I want to do with my life. While her journey is much more dramatic, traumatic, and magical than mine, she shows great strength and vulnerability when trying to reconcile who she was and who she could be. Not to mention that she is basically a fearsome, siren-like mermaid who can hold the entire history of a people inside her person. That is badass.

10. Book that made you cry

Only one book made me cry a little bit this year, and that was Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Not much to say except that this book was so funny, it made me cry with laughter at times.

11. Book that made you happy

So many of the books I’ve read have made me happy, but I will narrow it down to three. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll not only took me to my favorite genre, fairytale and folklore retellings, but also her art and illustration is just so beautiful. Of course The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was so fantastic I can’t help smiling when thinking about it. And lastly is Hyperbole and a Half again because it made me roar with laughter.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

This would have to be Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, as not only is the cover beautiful, but Carrolls art and illustrations are gorgeous, dark, creepy, and mesmerizing.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

13.What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Here’s the thing, I don’t NEED to read any books by the end of the year. However, I have many that I want to read, and many that I want to finish. I’ll just talk about the latter for now, as there are so many on my TBR shelf. Right now I’m in the middle of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde,

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip,

Wonders of the Invisible World

and Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire.

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

I will probably finish the last of these first as it is a rather short book and I am listening to it via Scribd.

14. Favorite book community member

I watch quite a bit of BookTube, and so here are my favorites:

The Book Leo

Jen Campbell

A Case for Books

booksandquills

Fictional Fates

Paperback Dreams

Peruse Project

Slytherin-bookworm-guy

Please feel free to give me recs of other bookish peoples!

And that’s the end of the tag! I tag all readers who want to do this.

Happy reading!