Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Era of Lanterns and Bells

Rate this book
In The Era of Lanterns and Bells, a lighthouse is haunted by the memory of lighthouse keepers, a train operator is forever changed by a subway suicide, a journalist befriends a homeless virtuoso, an orca trainer believes she’s a whale, an aerialist runs away from the circus, and a Golden Gate Bridge jumper saves lives with fortune cookies. These lyrical, quirky, and darkly comic stories entertain and pose essential questions about truth, compassion, and humanity.

196 pages, ebook

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Ann Tinkham

7 books17 followers
Ann Tinkham is a writer based in Boulder, Colorado. She is an anti-social butterfly, pop-culturalist, virtual philosopher, ecstatic dancer, political and java junkie. When she’s not tinkering with words, she’s seeking adventures. Ann has talked her way out of an abduction and talked her way into the halls of the United Nations. She hitchhiked up a mountain in Switzerland and worked her way down the corporate ladder. Ann has flown on a trapeze and traded on the black market in Russia. She cycles up steep canyons, hikes to glacial lakes and mountain peaks, and blazes her own ski trails. As soon as she amasses a fortune, she plans to buy an island and hopes she won’t be voted off her own island.

Her fiction and essays have appeared in All Things Girl, Apt, Denver Syntax, Edifice Wrecked, Foliate Oak, Hiss Quarterly, Lily Literary Review, Short Story Library, Slow Trains, Stone Table Review, Synchronized Chaos, The Adirondack Review, The Battered Suitcase, The Citron Review, The Literary Review, Toasted Cheese, Wild Violet, Word Riot, and others. Ann’s essay, “The Tree of Hearts” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her story, “Afraid of the Rain” was nominated for Sundress’s Best of the Net Anthology.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
26 (59%)
4 stars
9 (20%)
3 stars
7 (15%)
2 stars
1 (2%)
1 star
1 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 30 reviews
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,607 reviews468 followers
November 11, 2018
Every so often (even despite personal reservations) you take a chance on an unknown author and it turns out to be pure magic. Like this. What a lovely collection of short stories. And magic isn’t even that far off as descriptions go, because most of the veer into the magical realism territory. The lighthouse on the cover (haunted in its own way)…it hates the sea, because the sea has made ghosts out of the men who took care of it. See, I love these kinds of stories. Something ordinary made extraordinary through the power of words and imagination. Every one of these is an original and exciting tale of creatures bipedal, quadrupedal and aquatic that not only subvert expectations, but also leave the reader with something akin to, dare I say it, optimism or at the very least quiet awe. This collection has that feeling of looking down at the puddles and finding the reflections of the stars. And charm. It might be the most charming and lovey book I’ve read recently. Beyond mere enjoyment, safe to say I loved this book. It’s brief, maybe 160 minutes for 196 pages, one evening very well spent. For fans of whimsical delights and flights of fancy. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
Profile Image for Richard.
1,822 reviews151 followers
December 3, 2018
I hate it when I have read a book I neither liked sufficiently to rant and rave in pleasure nor disliked passionately to slate and shout.
Yet in originality and concept each story is a potential masterpiece. That they fail to deliver or resonate in a secondary manner is what is so disappointing and leaves me verging on descriptive words like nice and average.
I perhaps expected too much from the blurb and wonderful title but that is a reflection of the project. Great ideas, interesting characters but not compelling nor convincing stories. I think where promise or expectation is not delivered it can deepen the disappointment.

Maybe, Ann Tinkham excels more in a longer format but this collection has not drawn me further into her work.
I can only be honest.
I cannot recommend this book; neither though could I urge you to avoid it and save your mind and money. No one story stands out as anything other than okay; none are terrible. With short story writers I am looking for two basic reactions, two things to hit home to me at the end of the account.

Firstly, wow, brilliantly brought together, a clever story.

Secondly, bother that's the end, I get it, but I could spend time in this world for much longer and I want to learn more about these characters.

Both elements were missing here so not deserving of more than 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Jule.
809 reviews9 followers
December 3, 2018
A short story about a sentient haunted lighthouse - I did not know I needed that, but apparently I do. I would have never expected that, but it was very atmospheric and well-written. That was just the one that stood out in its weirdness, but really all the stories in this collection have something elusive and vague to them, like the meaning is just beyond reach yet unobtainable. However, they are also very human and uplifting, if at times rather dark and serious. The combined message seems to be: be your best quirky self, and expect the unexpected at every corner and just below the surface of what you experience.

~ I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book and all opinions expressed above are my own.
Profile Image for Malvika Jaswal.
163 reviews23 followers
January 2, 2019
Contrary to what the title suggests, this is not a book about the era of lanterns and bells. This is a collection of extremely contemporary and very quirky stories that make you smile and sometimes scratch your head at the author's wonderful thought process.

I enjoyed all the stories in this collection, especially the one from which the book takes its title. All the stories are quick reads and just when you think that the author as turned a random everyday meeting or observation into an admittedly fine story, she throws in a bit of magic and ghosts to liven things up. As someone who does not live by the sea, it is hard for me to imagine that someone would encounter a ghostly lighthouse and then tell its story from the perspective of the lighthouse itself.

More than once the words quirky and eccentric popped into my mind as I moved through the tales that Tinkham has woven for us. Even her titles for all her stories have that characteristic dash - seemingly self explanatory but with such a take on the story that the title seems to be completely misleading in its simplicity.

A heart never broken may be a story that has been told many times before but it was still told in a way that made it unique to this author. Cookies of Fortune was a bit too symbolic in its approach to the point that the author was trying to make and could do with a rewrite but the idea behind it was certainly solid. Hole in the wall is another idea that has been seen many times on television and sitcoms but it just turns that image around as you are taken inside the room looking out instead of looking in from the 'hole in the wall'.

All eight stories are completely different from each other and it is difficult to categorize this collection as specifically one type. it is a fast and fun read for certain and I liked more than half of the stories which makes this collection a hit with me.
Profile Image for Catherine Haynes.
173 reviews5 followers
April 17, 2019
The Era of Lanterns and Bells
by Ann Tinkham

The extraordinary creativity of author, Ms. Ann Tinkham, has for sharing her stories; are a delight to read. Stories that explore the exceptional yet distinctive ways that people find; meaning in life and victories over the ridiculous. With a surprising point of view, that is convincing and ultimately moving; there is something about these characters' personalities, that cause a grin of recognition on the readers face.

Ann Tinkham knows how to whirl a story and has an eye for seeing the gaps in our everyday world and this is where she has built this collection of her short stories around with original characters that the reader can get a feel for and an understanding of. Rarely have I found a writer; who can write a story and make the reader feel as if they are standing there experiencing everything, just in the way that it is written. I was attracted to this by the title, of this collection of short stories and have enjoyed reading the book.

I would recommend this book to all readers; looking for something beautiful and unexpected. I could not put the book down until I was done with it; worth multiple reads (as I have done), catching somethings that were missed. Thank you, Ms. Ann for sharing your writing skill and taking us on such wonderful journeys of this amazing variety of stories. I look forward to more of your work, I received a free copy of this book and therefore I am giving a review of my own thought of her work and a 4-star rating.
1 review
January 2, 2023
Ann Tinkham writes beautifully, wittily, and poignantly from the circumference inward, from irony to inspiration. With unrelenting underlying optimism that we will find the answers one day, this collection of stories is at once stimulation and reflection – paradox one sentence to serenity the next. From subway suicides to a bedridden “circumstantial psychopath” (a personal favorite character) to a woman whose inner self is not child, but orca, Ann plays with the fringes on the circumference of personality and culture not to remain, but to start playing with the wonder and danger of interiority. My personal favorite of these vibrant and mystical stories is “Treemail.” A woman devoted to caring for and knowing trees explores the use of new modes of communication, email, to go on an inner journey to find a lost mother. Ann combines hints of archetype and timeless mythmaking with new adventures in technology, font, and instant and anonymous messaging to craft an excellent story. It is an altogether fitting and proper concluding story to a collection of well-penned and interesting journeys into the psyche from the circumference. Two enthusiastic thumbs up for this excellent write and her collection: “The Era of Lanterns and Bells.”
August 9, 2023
With a diminishing attention span, I’ve struggled to read as much as I used to. I read The Era of Lanterns and Bells with the intention of reviving my reading habit. It worked! Entering the incredibly detailed worlds of these short stories enabled me to connect to colorful characters and follow full arcs to their conclusions in brief stretches. Each story drew me in and reminded me of the power of well crafted prose. The author sure knows how to string words together beautifully. I’m an admirer of her craft from the micro to macro details. The stories are as evocative as they are interesting — I felt deep empathy for the characters and also learned fascinating details about violins, whales, acrobats, arborists, and more. I believe the greatest feat accomplished by this collection is the common moral thread that flows without heavy handed-ness. We are invited to experience our own gentle catharses as we journey through worlds wherein better natures prevail.
Profile Image for Mark Hein.
2 reviews1 follower
February 6, 2023
Ann Tinkham is a world maker.
Her worlds aren't the glittering realms of fantasy and sci-fi - they're more quiet, more like our own. And she doesn't so much discover them as notice them, and give them a voice.
In each of these dozen stories, we're invited into the world lived by someone on the planet with us right now. A subway driver who loses his nerve, an orca trainer who's secretly a whale, an aerialist who flees the circus. And it's not always "someone": The title story is told by a lighthouse that mourns its lost keepers.
Time after time, Tinkham takes us gently into a way of being and seeing that's different from ours, and maybe a bit off kilter. Yet even the oddness soon feels so familiar that we accept it as our own. Thus does a master storyteller widen our perception of humanity (even to include a building), and widen our hearts to embrace it.
Profile Image for Michael  Berquist .
243 reviews6 followers
November 30, 2018
I received a copy of this book from netgalley in return for an honest review.

Ann Tinkham’s The Era of Lanterns and Bells is a vivid short story collection that is as captivating and calming as an ocean wave. This reviewer was especially entranced by the title story where a lighthouse narrates the lives of the people that look after her. This story was a unique point of view that I look forward to using in my secondary English classroom. I also found the stories about the colorful pools, fortune cookies and the Golden Gate Bridge and the arborist’s love letters to be entrancing. Great short stories to use in the classroom!
1 review22 followers
June 11, 2021
In today's vast and ever-changing, often electronic, American literary landscape, it's all too easy for a indie writer's work to get lost, to not get the attention it deserves. Don't let that be the case with Ann Tinkham! This is a tenacious collection that grabs you from the first paragraph, yet manages somehow to be wry and often darkly funny at the same time. Unfettered imagination and empathy have a new champion. These are stories I wish I had written (my acid test) and I was happy to have found them.
2 reviews
August 26, 2017
I have been reading Ann's short stories over the last 5 years.
Ann has an incredible imagination and it shows in all of her short stories. You become immersed in the stories right away and the endings are fantastic. She is wonderful at creating conflict and developing characters. I highly recommend The Era of Lanterns and Bells.
Profile Image for Jantine.
679 reviews44 followers
November 19, 2018
I loved the short stories in this book. Although they were short (and I would have loved to delve deeper into them, they would have been great if they had been longer too), they contained all that I look for in a story. The plot lines are good, the characters are fully fleshed out, and there are some interesting twists.

I received a free copy through Netgalley in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Pat Eroh.
2,597 reviews27 followers
December 18, 2018
This is one of my favorite types of books! This collection of stories offers weird but fantastic looks at some really wonderful characters. Some tragic, some inspirational, all are engrossing. I loved every single story in this book and am hoping that more will appear!

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for Rebecca Hill.
Author 1 book50 followers
December 20, 2018
If you are looking for some inspirational stories of a different kind, then this is a book you need to check out. Terrible things happen everywhere, but these cute little stories can restore just a little faith in humanity, as well as give you a smile or two!

Loved this book, and I look forward to more works from this author!
June 7, 2019
Creative mind.

I very much enjoyed this collection of so
D c

I very much enjoyed this collection of creative and weird stories. Ann is obviously very in tune with nature, and I am sure living in the beauty of Colorado inspired her writing. I look forward to reading her other existing book and anything else she puts out.

Profile Image for Elizabeth Grieve.
Author 2 books7 followers
October 5, 2019
Now, this was something different. The stories were interesting, some a bit more than others, but I am going to pay this writer a great compliment and say that the writing reminded me of Ray Bradbury (the highest of compliments!). Other writers have claimed to be like him, but fall far short.
Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
224 reviews35 followers
August 30, 2023
Sometimes we do judge a book by its cover and it turns out to be a magical and unexpected journey between 2 covers (or swipes on a kindle :) This book is so captivating and beautifully written that I wanted to keep carrying it with me. It manages without being chaotic to fit a ton of content and emotion into a short amount of pages. It is an absolute must read!
Profile Image for Christine.
Author 22 books243 followers
August 13, 2017
Ann Tinkham has a rare combination as a writer: she is both funny and profound. This collection has so many fine stories in it - whether or not you usually read short stories, don't pass this one up.
25 reviews12 followers
October 17, 2017
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. Each story was unique with well-drawn characters and lyrical prose. The author’s sense of humor and compassionate worldview are evident throughout the collection. I can’t wait to read the rest of her work!
21 reviews
October 25, 2018
Joyous Essays

Loved this book! A collection of quirky stories--when was the last time you read about a woman who believes she's a whale? While I liked some more than others, each essay was a real treat. This is an author to watch.
410 reviews2 followers
January 9, 2018
I love short stories and this collection did not disappoint. Great variety of characters who convey important messages. Love the author’s sense of humor.
Profile Image for Fran.
756 reviews12 followers
November 25, 2018
A collection of short, lovely stories. While a different “voice” in each tale, the writing is consistently exceptional. Sad, magical, and beautiful.
11.9k reviews53 followers
December 26, 2018
A collection of dark but lovely stories which will take you on so many different journeys. Sit back and enjoy

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for Bonnye Reed.
4,234 reviews74 followers
Currently reading
November 17, 2018
Netgalley and Book Review Buzz
pub date Sept 7, 2017
Napili Press
Profile Image for Fran.
756 reviews12 followers
November 25, 2018
A collection of short, lovely stories. While a different “voice” in each tale, the writing is consistently exceptional. Sad, magical, and beautiful.
Profile Image for Holly Senecal.
293 reviews11 followers
December 4, 2018
Sometimes we do judge a book by its cover and it turns out to be a magical and unexpected journey between 2 covers (or swipes on a kindle :) This book is so captivating and beautifully written that I wanted to keep carrying it with me. It manages without being chaotic to fit a ton of content and emotion into a short amount of pages. It is an absolute must read!
Profile Image for Jypsy .
1,524 reviews57 followers
January 18, 2019
This book is nothing like the title suggests. It's a collection of short stories that are both odd and inspiring. I enjoyed them even though I'm not a fan of short story collections. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
1,265 reviews26 followers
March 7, 2019
Never judge this book by it's cover. This is a collection of short stories that are wonderfully written and it will leave you wanting more stories. I can't wait to read more from this author. I will gladly buy this book and give it to my friend's.
Profile Image for Proforma.
40 reviews1 follower
April 18, 2019
I am never at a loss to review a good book. Or a bad one. Not a loss of words, because words are my job.

But once in a while, I come across a rare treasure, and I find it very difficult to describe a rare treasure. My words fail me.

As they have in this case.

The best I can come up with does not do justice in the least to Ms Tinkham's collection of essays. But I do know a Stradivarius when I see one. So I'll say this:

You. Have. To. Read. This. Book. I don't care if you beg or borrow it, put it on a wish list, click on want to read, do anything, just get the book.

Ann Tinkham is a word poet, a word tinkerer, a wordsmith. No, she is a word warrior.

I hate being right and when it comes to books I'm right 99% of the time. If I bin it and tell you I've binned it, even though there are hymns being written about a book I've binned, you can go look in a year, 5 years, 10 years down the line. The book cannot be found in print or electronically and the author is now teaching English in the Philippines. Or driving a crane.

So here's my stack, I'm all in. Barring an untimely death falling down a mountain or out of a Douglas fir, this author will write again. Within 20 years (and I'm being exceedingly generous with the time span here) Tinkham will write a full length novel and not only will publishers fall over themselves to get at it. Readers will nominate it. She will get a reader's choice award, she will be on the New York Times bestseller list, and she will be nominated for a Pullizer .

Like I said - I hate being right, so check back in 20 years.

I found myself thinking about Truman Capote and Norman Mailer when I read this book.

The best authors take a story and without being too fancy or prosaic, turn it into a human interest fireside-tale that resonates with every single human being. Everyone.

The very best authors inspire us to change our world by pointing out the problems and the beauties in it that make us want to stand for something or against something. They inspire us to take action to destroy or preserve. And she has done exactly that.

Ms Tinkham showed me worlds I have never seen. The worlds within the world we live in. We have all caught a train, given money to the homeless, but we have done so from our world, not theirs.

Nothing interests us as much as other humans, for their victories are our own, their struggles ours too. I'll never look at a lighthouse in the same way again or a captive whale.

A beautifully crafted set of essays that have you feeling as if you've been invited to a twelve course dinner where each course was lovingly prepared just for you.

And you can tell, she took her time with each one. There's nothing rushed about any essay, it's been mulled over and shaped to produce an absolute wonder to read.

I am delighted to rate this book 5 stars. I'd give it ten if I could. I'm definitely getting a hard copy (bugger the tree huggers) and it's going to form part of my personal collection.

Side note: "Now and again thousands of memories
converge, harmonize,
arrange themselves around a central idea
in a coherent form,
and I write a story."

Katherine Anne Porter

I think that's whappened here...
Profile Image for Arja Salafranca.
190 reviews10 followers
May 30, 2019
A quirky, interesting collection of short stories. Recommended. Loved the story of the woman who believes she is a whale. Very original.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 30 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.