Today’s book review of a novella is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
Spirits of Christmas by Nicky Wells
Synopsis: At one time, up-and-coming rock singer Jude had it all: a great band, a platinum record, a loving girlfriend. This Christmas, however, he is well down the road towards spontaneous self-destruction. Unwitting at first, Jude has progressively alienated his band and driven away the love of his life. Tonight, the night before Christmas Eve, he has broken the final taboo during a disastrous gig. Yet Jude doesn’t see how badly his life has derailed, not until a ghostly procession of legends passes through his bedroom with a series of vivid and powerful wake-up calls. Will the Spirits help Jude put the friendship, love, and rock music back into his Christmas? Curl up with this festive novella to get yourself into the mood for Christmas…
Review (of the Kindle’s text-to-speech function)
The story starts with our main character, Jude, falling out with his band mates then returning home to find his girlfriend has moved out. He doesn’t appear to be bothered and we soon learn that he’s a very unpleasant person. As with Dickens’ tale, Jude receives visits from various ghosts and during the story, he realises what he has become.
Once the ghosts have gone, Jude has to work out how to make it up to the people he loves and who at one time loved him. Although in Dickens’ version we know Scrooge makes amends, it didn’t necessarily mean it would happen in this case so I followed Jude wondering whether his plan would work and enjoyed the ups and downs as the other characters reacted to him.
After the story, there is an explanation by the author entitled ‘No Rock Legends Were Harmed In The Writing of This Novella’ and then Nicky’s acknowledgements which includes that it took a week to write the first draft but “many people helped me tweak, fine-tune and polish it over the following months”. My apologies now go to those people for what I’m about to do (this is a review for writers as well as readers)…
With my editor’s hat on, there were quite a few adverbs I would have chopped (including ‘rain was lashing down incessantly’, ‘the road was completely deserted’, ‘completely obscured’, ‘completely forgotten’, ‘laughed excitedly’, ‘exuberantly, he popped the cork’ – because the words they accompany are sufficient or we know of the context), clichés killed (‘soaked through to the skin’, ‘pitch dark’, ‘Jude was rooted to the spot’, ‘believe you me’, ‘tears sprang to his eyes’, ‘halted him in his tracks’, and ‘miracles of miracles’ closely followed by ‘miraculously’, the character being described by him looking in the mirror, ‘rock bottom’, ‘frighten you to death’, ‘jump out of his skin’, ‘skidded to a halt’, ‘stopped in his tracks’, ‘Dan furrowed his brow’, ‘Darren did a double take’, ‘remained frozen to the spot’) and most of the ‘Well’s at the beginning of speech by more than one character and in narration.
Other phrases that leapt out include ‘he shook his head from side to side’ (at least twice), ‘but first of all we need to…’, ‘retorted laughingly’, ‘a hoarse whisper… rendered his voice hoarse…’, the lack of spaces after ellipses (e.g. ‘that…it hurts’ which Mrs Kindle read as “that dot it hurts”) and I’d also recommend not having similar names (Dan, Darren).
All that said, Nicky explains in the introduction that English is not her mother tongue (she was taught British English in Germany then used American English for her first three published novels but reverted back to British English for this story) so she can easily be forgiven for using the above ‘pick’s. My German’s pretty good but I couldn’t write like this in anything another than English.
The fact that I was listening to Mrs Kindle dictating Nicky’s story highlighted ‘errors’ easier than may have been picked up visually (although I like to think I’m thorough) and it just goes to show how important it is to read your work out loud.
There were some great descriptions including the charm bracelet, and the creation of the Ghost of Christmas Past, and despite knowing what to expect in the story before I started reading (listing to) it, it was a modern (and more amusing) take on it. The overused adverbs and clichés were only a mild distraction and I’d recommend this story to fans of Christmas and all things rock and roll.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.