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A Midnight Clear

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Six stories of not-so-merry Yuletide whimsy from the authors of Black Spot Books. A woman so cold she hardens to ice on a winter's eve. Risen from his grave before his time, a winter god alters the balance between seasons. A wolf's holiday season is interrupted by a strange curse. From a murder at the Stanley Hotel to demons of Christmas past, present, and future, and a mad elf and Santa's Candy Court, the authors of Black Spot Books share their love for winter holidays in this collection of dark winter tales, destined to chill your bones and warm your heart for the Yuletide season.

228 pages, Kindle Edition

Published November 5, 2019

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About the author

Lindy Ryan

20 books115 followers
LINDY MILLER RYAN is an award-winning author, editor, director, and professor. Prior to her career in academia, Ryan was the co-founder of Radiant Advisors, a business intelligence research and advisory firm, where she led the company’s research and data enablement practice for clients that included 21st Century Fox Films, Warner Bros., and Disney. Ryan is currently a full-time professor at Rutgers University in the Masters of Professional Science program, She is also guest faculty in Western State Connecticut’s MFA program.

In 2017, Ryan founded Black Spot Books, an award-winning independent small press, specializing in horror and dark fantasy, where she maintains her role as President after the company was acquired in 2019 as an imprint of Vesuvian Media Group. Ryan served from 2020 to 2022 on the Board of Directors for the Independent Book Publishers Association and was named one of Publishers Weekly‘s 2020 Star Watch Honorees. Currently, she is the co-chair of the Horror Writers Association Publishers Council. Ryan is a regular contributor at Rue Morgue, the world’s leading horror culture and entertainment brand, at Booktrib, and at LitReactor. Her guest articles and features include NPR, BBC Culture, Irish Times, Daily Mail, and more. She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), the International Thriller Writers (ITW), and the Brothers Grimm Society of North America. In 2022, she was named one of horror's most masterful anthology curators, alongside Ellen Datlow and Christopher Golden.

Ryan grew up cutting her teeth on Goosebumps and universal monsters. She has published numerous academic texts and also writes clean, seasonal romance under the name ​Lindy Miller, where her books have been adapted for screen. Her debut horror-thriller debut is forthcoming from St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books.

​Lindy is represented by Italia Gandolfo at Gandolfo Helin & Fountain Literary Management.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 59 reviews
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,453 reviews2,319 followers
January 15, 2020
A Midnight Clear by Sam Hooker is a collection of holiday horrors! Some are hilarious horrors, deliciously wicked, and full of the holiday chills! Graves, demons, frozen in ice, and more awesome magical fun! A great imagination in these six stories! They were all five stars! This was a book I requested from NetGalley and the review is voluntary.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,844 reviews470 followers
October 20, 2019
This ain't your mama's holiday short story collection. Not by a long shot. A Midnight Clear gathers six horrifying holiday season tales. Every story is different and adds a delightfully creepy edge to the holiday festivities.

I loved every story in this collection! The tales are wickedly varied and fun. Demons, Werewolves, insane Elves, winter gods, curses and general Yuletide mayhem. My favorite story of the collection is Sam Hooker's The Dauntless. An elf is on trial for murder because he was part of the annual expedition to deliver holiday coal to Cthulhu in R'leyah. The trip did not end well. Other stories in the collection are provided by: Aley Leyva, Laura Morrison, Cassondra Windwalker, Dalena Storm and Seven Jane. This is my first experience with all of these writers, and I am definitely reading more by each and every one of them!

Usually with story anthologies, I find I like most of the tales, but find a few that just aren't for me. This time I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed each story. All are well-written, interesting and incredibly creative. A werewolf bitten by a human? A holiday murder in the Stanley Hotel? I didn't expect fun stuff like that! Dark humor. Creative horror. Madness all around! Happy holidays!

This is the one time I can say I happily read a Christmas theme book before Halloween. It fits right in with the season.

Lovely story collection! Full marks from me!! Not a bad tale in the bunch!

**I voluntarily read an advance review copy of this book from Black Spot Books. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No elder gods, monsters or demons were angered in the writing of this review. I hope.**
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews342 followers
September 9, 2019
Originally posted on The Nerd Daily | Review by Nathalie DeFelice

This book is a delightfully decadent descent into Yuletide madness and horrors that were hilariously imaginative and chilling…in essence, the perfect Christmas tales. Each author in this anthology takes their own twist on a popular Christmas time figure or story and turns it inside out and upside down. You’ll revel in the undeniable moral quandaries that bleed from the pages, and I honestly can’t get enough. My favourite short story was a devilish re-hashing of A Christmas Carol, with added allegorical appeal. These are perfect stocking stuffers for the horror loving eccentrics out there. I felt myself become one with the turn of each page.

A Midnight Clear is composed of six short stories by Black Spot Books authors. Featured within its pages are Sam Hooker, Alcy Leyva, Laura Morrison Cassondra Windwalker, Dalena Storm, and Seven Jane. You’ll start with a story of the North Pole’s Candy Court, venture into the tale of a cursed wolf, wander into the paths of the devil ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, stumble into a murder with a Rocky Mountain setting, run from the tale of a winter god awoken from his sleep before his time, and crash head-first into the tale of a woman who’s cold spirit turns her very self into ice. Who knows who, or what, will be left alive at the end of these stories, but rest assured, you won’t see any of these endings coming.

Okay, so for 220 pages, this book moved really fast for me. Or maybe that’s just how quickly I was devouring these stories. Each one has its own unique voice and personality, and starting with The Dauntless, with Santa’s Candy Court was genius. I didn’t see any of the twists in this story coming, and man did I laugh, and fight a chill when I found out what was coming. I mentioned it at the beginning, but my favourite story was Movin’ On Up, a creatively re-imagined A Christmas Carol. Of course, I won’t get into it too much because I’d be spoiling the story, but the devil’s in the details. Tidings of the Moon and Sleep, Sweet Khors were gripping tales of the things that we fear, but with a fresh perspective on both.

The Poetry of Snow and Stars was a fun murder mystery with an added romance element that I feel would be accompanied by a hauntingly sad melody if it were projected on a movie screen. I loved the names in this story, I felt that they held a certain symbolism that added a mystical element to an anguished tale. This anthology ends with Snow Angel, where a woman wrapped in her own belief of the Christmas learns the true meaning of Christmas when she freezes solid (think Anna from Frozen). It reminds us of how easily people get trapped into the details of what is intended to be a moment to make memories with family. It was poignant, and an excellent end to this book.

Now, there’s heart-warming bits, and there are scary bits, and there are also little bits of carnage sprinkled throughout like confetti. I would say this may not be for the faint of heart, because these authors are great descriptors, and boy do they know how to describe the tearing of limbs, bodies, and other horrors I hadn’t quite thought of. You’ll be left with more questions than answers in some stories, which in traditional horror fashion, just makes you want to open the next door at your own peril.

There wasn’t anything that I found particularly difficult to get through, although I did get a little lost while reading The Dauntless story. I just had a moment where the flow of the story felt disjointed, but overall, still a wonderful read. The other stories flowed well, and I especially loved how Sleep, Sweet Khors flowed. Not only that, but it was followed by the lyrics to the carol that is sung in the story, and I loved having that.

Overall, I would highly recommend picking up this book. I rate it a 9/10, just for the little bit of disjointedness at the beginning, however, the rest of them more than make up for it. It will definitely be just what Santa didn’t want to deliver on Christmas Day.
Profile Image for Samantha.
1,587 reviews71 followers
August 21, 2019
As with all story collections that employ multiple authors, this was a mixed bag and difficult to rate. I had mostly positive feelings toward the collection as a whole and was also swayed by two truly standout stories in my ultimate verdict on the collection.

The first two stories in the book were absolutely outstanding. Sam Hooker’s The Dauntless was a clever, creative look-in at the judicial process at the North Pole. Alcy Leyva’s Tidings of the New Moon was an excellent original take on the werewolf legend.

Movin’ on Up is a fun reimagining of A Christmas Carol, and Snow Angel was a well written, sort of Grinch-adjacent cautionary tale.

The other two stories included in the book were lesser animals. Sleep, Sweet Khors is beautifully written but drags and doesn’t really have much to do with Christmas. And while the atmosphere in The Poetry of Snow and Stars had great potential, it’s a blatant Murder on the Orient Express rip-off.

Though there are a few stories worth skipping, this collection was a fun read that I will likely come back to during the holiday season.

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Katie Gallagher.
Author 5 books215 followers
November 7, 2019
For more fun, bookish stuff, check out my blog!
Thank you to NetGalley and Black Spot Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. A Midnight Clear debuted November 5th.


I’ve made a concerted effort this year to read more short fiction; the vast majority of my weekly Short Tuesday series focuses on dark genre fiction. So I was intrigued by this short story collection from Black Spot Books, which has a dark holiday focus. Like a lot of short story collections, this one was kind of all over the place. I’m going to give each story a mini review, since there’s only six of them.

“The Dauntless” by Sam Hooker was a strong start to the collection. Great prose, fun details, and a gripping premise: the ensuing legal fallout when a ship of Santa’s elves is sent to deliver Christmas joy to one of Lovecraft’s monsters. If you’re a Lovecraft fan, I could see picking up A Midnight Clear just for this story. 4 stars.

“Tidings of the New Moon” by Alcy Leyva was well-written, but didn’t grip me–more a me thing, I think, than anything else. I’m generally a fan of werewolves in fiction, but this story was maybe a bit too on-the-nose for me in terms of some of the details. Nevertheless, Leyva is clearly a talented writer. 3 stars.

“Movin’ On Up” by Laura Morrison was a fun one for me, since I’m letting a Hell-themed project percolate in my mind right now, and that’s what this was: a trio of three inhabitants of Hell trying to persuade a woman destined for Heaven to venture downstairs instead. I wish this story had been given more room for growth, by at least a few thousand more words; it felt rushed. Yet it was tons of fun overall. 4 stars.

“The Poetry of Snow and Stars” by Cassondra Windwalker was a story that I unfortunately did not get along with. It has an adverb-soaked voice and tons of backstory that put me in mind of those romances you read where the author is trying to catch you up on all the previous characters in the series–I’ve never been a fan of that myself, and that sentiment counts doubly for a short story, where no word should be wasted. The maybe-murder-maybe-not plot didn’t catch me, and the Stanley Hotel setting felt wasted. 2 stars.

“Sleep, Sweet Khors” by Dalena Storm is actually the second work I’ve read by this author in 2019; I was introduced to her by her debut novel, The Hungry Ghost. Like Ghost, this story has a strong mythological spine, this time from the Slavic tradition. I didn’t like the mythology infodump in the middle of the story; I always prefer these kinds of details to get threaded through the narrative. As with Ghost, this author feels like she is currently developing her voice; she has some great ideas, and I’m digging the mythology threads she interweaves with her stories, but I’d like to see a bit more lyricism to her prose. 3 stars.

“Snow Angel” by Seven Jane was a weaker end to the collection, sadly. The prose felt overworked, and much of the narrative was spent in the main character’s head, which got tiresome for me as a reader because the MC was just bemoaning the holiday season the entire time–I didn’t want to spend any more time with her than need be! When we got to the big magical climax, I had a difficult time believing that all this was happening to the main character; was she really special enough to have all this magical attention lavished upon her? So this story and I sadly didn’t mesh. 2 stars.

In sum, this collection was a bit of a bumpy ride, but there were some fun, bright moments. If you’re looking for some Christmas-themed stories and you like your fiction with a dose of darkness, consider giving this a go.
Profile Image for WS_BOOKCLUB.
320 reviews17 followers
July 25, 2019
This book was provided by Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on November fifth.

This collection of stories was full of dark humor, and more than a bit of creepiness, taking the usual Christmas cheer and turning it upside down. This collection would be as easily at home during Halloween as Christmas. Some of the stories hit the mark better than others, in my opinion. It’s a solid collection, but nothing to write home about.

There were two that stood out to me: The Dauntless, in which Snickerdoodle the elf has to defend Gumdrop (another elf) from murder charges. Yep, you read that right. It was odd and funny, and I couldn’t stop snickering every time I thought of a lawyer named “Snickerdoodle”.

My favorite story was The Poetry of Snow and Stars. I thought it highly entertaining that it takes place at the hotel from The Shining. The writing in this one was strong, and it was quite evident that the author, Cassondra Windwalker, was fully confident in her writing ability. There wasn’t a false step in her writing.

While obviously not written for everyone, this book would be a great Christmas gift for anyone who likes their holiday with a hint of the macabre.
Profile Image for Robin.
271 reviews
December 8, 2021
Highly entertaining and some thought-provoking stories for the holidays (nothing too serious). These are quick reads perfect for this busy season. The authors are very creative, weaving traditional holiday elements into the stories and using them in new ways. A great choice!
December 18, 2019
A Midnight Clear is a collection of six varied stories of dark yuletide cheer. This was a very diverse mix of holiday-themed stories perfect for the season. While they varied in personal ratings, each was well written and matched my desire for a great wintery read. Short story collections are so much fun because the tones and themes can vary greatly from author to author. This perfectly fantastical group of stories did not disappoint!

Read more at Cats Luv Coffee
Profile Image for Julie.
507 reviews9 followers
October 3, 2019
Okay so this book had six very original Horror/Christmas stories. Each with its own theme and own feeling to it.
honestly, not all stories were that good but the overall was pretty great.
It had some fun and very interesting plots, and probably also something for very different tastes, which mean I can share this book with my husband and he will enjoy some of them too.
The book was a perfect start for the upcoming Holiday season, since it contains some Horror aspects that makes it perfect for Halloween. honestly only one of the stories had a true Christmas feeling to it - which I guess is great since there is a lot of people wanting Christmas books that aren't all romance and too ''Christmasy'' if that makes sense.
Profile Image for Maxine.
1,222 reviews40 followers
December 15, 2019
A Midnight Clear is a collection of six ‘not-so-merry’ Christmas short stories by various writers. As in any collection, I liked some better than others. My favourite is the title story by Sam Hooker which combines a cute portrait of Santa’s North Pole, a mad elf facing an elf court, and the horror of HP Lovecraft’s R’yleh. But all the stories are entertaining a whole lot of fun to read. If books are part of your Christmas traditions and you’re looking for something a little different or if you have a horror fan on your list, I highly recommend this anthology.

Thanks to Netgalley and Black Spot Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Dorie.
675 reviews
October 16, 2019
A Midnight Clear
by Sam Hooker, et.al
due 11-5-2019
Black Spot Books
4.0 /5.0

#netgalley #AMidnightClear
Thanks to netgalley for sharing this e-book ARC for review.

Six yuletide tales that are dark as well as whimsical. The madness, humor and craziness of the season are represented here. These are all unique and imaginative, and share some of the not-so-jolly spirit of the season.
These stories by authors of Black Spot Books are fun to read, creepy, macabre and I enjoyed them all.
Profile Image for Dorie.
675 reviews
October 16, 2019
A Midnight Clear
by Sam Hooker, et.al
due 11-5-2019
Black Spot Books
4.0 /5.0

#netgalley #AMidnightClear
Thanks to netgalley for sharing this e-book ARC for review.

Six yuletide tales that are dark as well as whimsical. The madness, humor and craziness of the season are represented here. These are all unique and imaginative, and share some of the not-so-jolly spirit of the season.
These stories by authors of Black Spot Books are fun to read, creepy, macabre and I enjoyed them all.
Profile Image for Layla.
464 reviews4 followers
November 1, 2019
I received a copy of this through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

2.5/3 stars.

Unfortunately, none of these stories really gripped me. They are all well written, I just didn't connect with most of them, they didn't draw me in or leave me on the edge of my seat.

I think the only one I truly enjoyed was Movin' On Up by Laura Morrison which I found to be quirky, witty and fun. I enjoyed the dynamic's between the characters and the underlying moral story.
Profile Image for Ivy.
1,433 reviews76 followers
December 4, 2019
This book is an anthology of Christmas themed stories that are perfect to read around Christmas. They are darker than most Christmas stories though.

I enjoyed all the stories. I liked the one with the elves at court and the story with the dark take of A Christmas Carol. All in all, all the stories were good.

Would recommend to read around Christmas time if you want something darker to read.

I received an ARC copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Layla.
464 reviews4 followers
November 1, 2019
2.5/3 stars.

Unfortunately, none of these stories really gripped me. They are all well written, I just didn't connect with most of them, they didn't draw me in or leave me on the edge of my seat.

I think the only one I truly enjoyed was Movin' On Up by Laura Morrison which I found to be quirky, witty and fun. I enjoyed the dynamic's between the characters and the underlying moral story.
Profile Image for Julie.
507 reviews9 followers
September 30, 2019
The book was full of very original, sassy and creepy Christmas books.
The stories each had their own spirit to them and each gave something very different.
I am a huge fan of Christmas, but I also really like everything with a twist and books that borderline to the abnormal, this book was definitely that.
Not all short stories was equally good, but an overall good book.
Profile Image for Bin Blogs Books.
413 reviews21 followers
November 5, 2019
Darkly entertaining holiday themed stories to entertain with a twisted play on classic themes. Get into the Halloween and Holiday spirit all at once.

Thanks NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
119 reviews2 followers
July 2, 2019
A Midnight Clear is a collection of 6 Christmases short stories that are not your typical festive read. From hell's demons, the hotel that inspired Steven King to write The Shining and Santa's elves arguing over mass murder in a Candy Court of Law, if you are a fan of speculative fiction or want something out of the box, this is the stocking filler for you.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Black Stop Books, for an advanced electronic readers copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Annarella.
10.1k reviews94 followers
July 4, 2019
I liked this unusual Christmas stories. They're well written, original and engrossing.
Recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Profile Image for Malvika Jaswal.
163 reviews23 followers
December 4, 2019
3.5 stars

Whimsy! Whimsy! Whimsy!

I adored this collection of six short stories and they are a perfect read for the cold December months. I must be honest, I went into this book purely on its cover and the name and the fact that it was a collection of short stories which is always my favorite genre to read. And once I started the first story by Sam Hooker, I found myself genuinely surprised because it was so unlike any other type of fantasy I have ever read. It is story about the law and order situation in the Elf settlement at the North Pole. It surprised me further when instead of continuing in the fluffy and adorable manner that it started, it managed to take quite a dramatic turn into the sinister. That is the perfect kind of short story I think, which manages to pack in so much in such a compact form and yet manages to leave an impression on the person who is reading it.

The last story about a cynical wife wishing to get rid of Christmas because she no longer enjoys the season was a teeny bit of a letdown, but not by much. Would it be appropriate to say that it felt a bit too fantastical for a fantasy story? And the Christmas reminiscences continued a tad bit too long before we got to the actual meat of the story. Sounds ruthless, doesn’t it? But considering the holiday theme of the book, one mustn't really complain.

And Tidings of a new Moon was bizarre at another level altogether. Its about werewolves. Who live in cities. Who have jobs. Who are essentially humans of our world.

Sleep, Sweet Khors was a sweet story of a young child finding about loss and dealing with it in a way that ends of causing a lot of chaos all around her. Another story reaffirming what I have learnt over and over ever since I had a kid of my own – be careful what you say to your kids, cause you have no idea how they will interpret it and then, worse, act on their misguided beliefs. But I didn’t blame the kid in this story at all – she did what she thought she had to do.

Movin’ on Up is another kind of crazy and certainly a bit too morbid for a Christmas anthology. It makes sense in its execution but I could not understand why the editors chose this volume to include this story. Halloween may have had a better target audience for this little gem. My ratings for this book went down for this book thanks to this one story that shook me up a bit – not to say that the story isn’t well-written because it is.

The poetry of Snow and stars is a mystery. It was alright, although certainly atmospheric.

This book will make a lovely Christmas gift for young adults as well as old adults who like a bit of fantasy and do not mind a bit of morbid humor. I certainly enjoyed it.
23 reviews
September 27, 2019

4 stars. The stories are not as creepy as I had hoped (based on the advertising), but are nonetheless quite good; the first four are excellent. It’s kind of like expecting coffee (horror) with milk (humor) but getting milk with coffee. Still a lot of fun. A bonus: the stories are pretty clean. There is some gore, and occasional coarse language (including at least one instance of the F-word). Not for kids, but overall a much more comfortable read than some.

1. The Dauntless
Murder, Cthulhu and marshmallows! This was (probably) my favorite. I recently graduated from law school, and without giving spoilers, I can say I would LOVE to be an officer of this story’s court. The dualist moral system gave me pause, but the effective blend of creepy and lighthearted made The Dauntless great.

2. Tidings of the New Moon
An adorable twist on a familiar trope, this wonderful story was really not creepy at all (although the main character was terrified, and with good reason! From a human perspective, though, it was howl-arious [sorry, couldn’t resist]).

3. Movin’ On Up
The Screwtape Letters meets A Christmas Carol. The beginning and middle of the story were fantastic (and actually touched on some meatier issues than the first two). However, the ending was anti-climactic, failing to resolve some components of the story.

4. The Poetry of Snow and Stars
This was the first story to give us rich human characterization (and a super-sweet brother/sister relationship, to boot). Sam is a well-written character (except for one thing: it was quite difficult for me to believe that a pastor would encourage his kid nephew to investigate hauntings for fun!) Unlike the rest of the anthology, this story had relatively few “magical” or “supernatural” elements. Instead, it’s a bittersweet mystery.

5. Sleep, Sweet Khors
Stories 5 and 6 are not the best. Sleep, Sweet Khors had its good points: its thoughtful characterization of a grieving little girl, its terrifying portrayal of nature gone wrong, and its use of lesser-known Slavic myth. However, several aspects of the story feel forced. The plotting, especially in the little girl’s journey to fix her mistake, feel like paint-by-numbers. And slapping Christmas customs onto a pagan ritual was simply distracting.

6. Snow Angel
First of all, let me start by saying the prose was beautiful. The prose, and some of the imagery, were the chief good points of the story. In the anthology’s second take on A Christmas Carol, a major cliche leaves the plot limping. In addition, the main character’s motivations and character changes seem unbelievable.

Although the first two-thirds of the anthology are much stronger than the last third, the book as a whole is a quick, fun read, perfect for a snowy afternoon (or a blistering hot afternoon. Imaginary snow is better than no snow!).

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Malvika Jaswal.
163 reviews23 followers
December 4, 2019
Whimsy! Whimsy! Whimsy!

I adored this collection of six short stories and they are a perfect read for the cold December months. I must be honest, I went into this book purely on its cover and the name and the fact that it was a collection of short stories which is always my favorite genre to read. And once I started the first story by Sam Hooker, I found myself genuinely surprised because it was so unlike any other type of fantasy I have ever read. It is story about the law and order situation in the Elf settlement at the North Pole. It surprised me further when instead of continuing in the fluffy and adorable manner that it started, it managed to take quite a dramatic turn into the sinister. That is the perfect kind of short story I think, which manages to pack in so much in such a compact form and yet manages to leave an impression on the person who is reading it.

The last story about a cynical wife wishing to get rid of Christmas because she no longer enjoys the season was a teeny bit of a letdown, but not by much. Would it be appropriate to say that it felt a bit too fantastical for a fantasy story? And the Christmas reminiscences continued a tad bit too long before we got to the actual meat of the story. Sounds ruthless, doesn’t it? But considering the holiday theme of the book, one mustn't really complain.

And Tidings of a new Moon was bizarre at another level altogether. Its about werewolves. Who live in cities. Who have jobs. Who are essentially humans of our world.

Sleep, Sweet Khors was a sweet story of a young child finding about loss and dealing with it in a way that ends of causing a lot of chaos all around her. Another story reaffirming what I have learnt over and over ever since I had a kid of my own – be careful what you say to your kids, cause you have no idea how they will interpret it and then, worse, act on their misguided beliefs. But I didn’t blame the kid in this story at all – she did what she thought she had to do.

Movin’ on Up is another kind of crazy and certainly a bit too morbid for a Christmas anthology. It makes sense in its execution but I could not understand why the editors chose this volume to include this story. Halloween may have had a better target audience for this little gem. My ratings for this book went down for this book thanks to this one story that shook me up a bit – not to say that the story isn’t well-written because it is.

The poetry of Snow and stars is a mystery. It was alright, although certainly atmospheric.

This book will make a lovely Christmas gift for young adults as well as old adults who like a bit of fantasy and do not mind a bit of morbid humor. I certainly enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Jule.
809 reviews9 followers
November 3, 2019
Six stories that combine two things I never knew could work so well together: Christmas time and horror. It is the perfect read for November, for all of those torn between their love for Halloween and Christmas, or still caught in their memories about the former and their yearning for the latter.

An elf-society on North Pole has to go through its first ever murder trial when one of their own goes crazy. As the opening story, it sets a nice tone between sweet, wholesome, smiley candy-land and gory crime story. However, it manages to still be more amusing and nice than truly grizzly. But the contrast works well. The second story introduces us to a wolfish society with many parallels to our own, in which one of the wolfs is struck by a mysterious illness. This I found to be a nice twist on the usual and well-known stories. The third story plays on the ideas of heaven and hell, good and bad deeds, and death and the afterlife in general. It was an obvious, but nicely done spin on A Christmas Carol. I found it a tad bit too long, but otherwise enjoyable. The fourth story was the only one that did not quite fit, as it was not really supernatural, just a crime story with a difficult moral question. Still, that too was well done (overall, I was surprised by this collection as it undermined my usual saying that collections / anthologies always have a few gems next to a few bad apples - here, it was all good apples). The fifth story was a nice exploration of old Gods and myths, as well as children's imagination and dealing with death or grief. It set the inevitability of death analogous to the changing of the seasons in a thrilling tale. And the last story rounded everything up nicely, when a Christmas-hater who may or may not control the weather with her frosty mood is moved from her realistic, hectic, chore-filled, stressful Christmas to be reminded about what Christmas time is actually about.

A nice collection overall, with very different interpretations of a shared theme, more or less spooky, more or less in a Christmas spirit. Certainly recommendable and something you can pick up time and time again.

~ 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 BookwormishMe.
311 reviews14 followers
August 17, 2019
A Midnight Clear is a book of six short stories, all themed around the winter holidays. But these aren’t your “Hallmark” style of holiday stories. These are more likely to end up on Twilight Zone or Scary Stories.

Each author shares a darker tale centered around Christmas, or in one case, the Winter Solstice. Sam Hooker brings us The Dauntless, a twisted tale about the North Pole’s justice system. How does one try and punish a murderer, when that murderer is an elf? In Alcy Leyva’s Tidings of the New Moon, we get a look at the flip side of becoming a werewolf, when wolves rule, not humans, and human bites are to be feared.

Next up is Laura Morrison’s visit to the seven circles of hell in Movin’ on Up, where a woman set to die gets a chance at redemption. Or something more twisted. The Poetry of Snow and Stars is Cassondra Windwalker’s contribution, sharing a Sam Geisler short mystery set at the epic Stanley Hotel over the Christmas holiday. Dalena Storm’s Sleep, Sweet Khors is a tale of the winter solstice holiday for one family, and one little girl that simply doesn’t want to let Khors have his winter rest. Lastly Seven Jane gives us Snow Angel, which reminds us all to slow down and savor the holiday season. Don’t get wrapped up in the commercialism.

Each one of these stories was a fun, sometimes frightening, look at the holiday season. Some were definitely more lighthearted (even though a bit dark) than others, but all brought that good old Stephen King type of holiday magic. Just getting a taste of some of these writers was enough to make me want to read more of their work. Plus, the short story format is a nice way to get a little bit of reading in between wrapping gifts. If you’re looking for something unusual for the holiday season that doesn’t drip with sugar, this book is right on target.

This review will be posted at BookwormishMe.com close to publication date.
Profile Image for Kira.
208 reviews7 followers
October 25, 2019
Dark short stories are my jam lately. I enjoy short story collections as an introduction to new to me writers, as well as in this case to set the mood for the changing season and holidays to come. The challenging part of reviewing a collection of stories is always that some are going to resonate more so than others, Thankfully this was a strong collection of 6 stories full of decidedly not merry seasons greetings.

We start off in candy court, where Santa's elves are tasked with a case of horror they have never seen before. Used to typically trying elves for not being up to their usual cheer, it's a challenge when they have to face a murder charge. Then we move to a twist on a werewolf story with some incredible nightmare visions before we get a demons instead of ghosts version of A Christmas Carol.

For the latter half of the book we get a story set in the Stanley Hotel. Most famous for being the setting for Stephen King's 'The Shining'. There was a lot of mystery and suspense in this tale. It's one of my favorites from the book. Up next was a story of a little girl that didn't want to allow the sun god to take his rest. The big finale was my favorite of the whole book. It was a good reminder to slow down and enjoy each season as it comes as it followed each of the seasons.

I really liked reading one story at a time, then sitting with it for a moment or a day before moving on to the next. To me it felt like a better way to adsorb the differences in each dark twisted tale. It was an unusual take on the usual Christmas cheer which is something I adore. I don't want happy cheesy perfect endings, there's a certain channel I will watch when that's what I'm in the mood for. When you want something to take you out of the usual stories of the season, this is just the book for you.

I received a free copy of this book in advance from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for a review. The review is fully my own opinion.
Profile Image for Annie.
3,272 reviews60 followers
November 5, 2019
Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader.

A Midnight Clear is a new anthology of 6 winter holiday short stories. Released 5th Nov 2019 by Black Spot Books, it's 250 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats. (For the release, the ebook format is on sale at a scandalously low price).

This is a varied and dark collection of (as far as I can ascertain) previously unpublished fiction. They are all very well written and poignant, humorously scary (Cthulu meets Santa's elves), and all around good stuff. I've always had a particular fondness for collections/anthologies because short fiction is spare and technically challenging, so you get a better feel for an author's expertise with the form. Short fiction is less of a time commitment as well, so if one story is not working for you, there's another piece readily available in a few pages. Anthologies are also a rich source for finding new authors so you can search out their other works. Most of the authors included here were familiar, but there were a couple who were new (to me).

It's unclear from the publishing info available online, but the eARC I received has a handy interactive table of contents. I hope the ebook release version does also. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. Presumably that feature will carry through to the final release version.

The stories varied between 3.5 and 5 stars for me with the average weighted toward the 4 star range. All were high quality and worth a read; nary a clunker in the lot.

Four solid stars. It would make a great holiday gift for your Christmas Book Flood recipients.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
Profile Image for Steph Warren.
1,153 reviews17 followers
December 16, 2019
*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to the author, Black Spot Books – Vesuvian Books and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

This collection contains six fantasy stories with a seasonal theme – perfect for a little light reading as the cold nights draw in.

Each story is by a different author and has a completely different tone and content. ‘The Dauntless’ crosses Santa’s elves – all candycanes and sprinkles – with Lovecraftian eldritch horrors. ‘Tidings of New Moon’ turns the werewolf legend upside down, as man-wolf Glenn gets bitten by a human and begins… changing. ‘Movin’ On Up’ explores negotiations in Hell, as a group of damned souls fight to drag Cindi down with them. ‘The Poetry of Snow and Stars’ features an unusual death among a group of tourists at a certain ‘Shining’ hotel. ‘Sleep, Sweet Khors’ goes old-school and old gods, as an innocent child attempts to halt death but accidentally halts the changing season instead. Finally, cold-hearted, bitter Crystal is reminded of the true meaning of Christmas in ‘Snow Angel’, as she experiences a lesson that would make Scrooge shiver.

With the variety of stories here, there is a little something for every festive-fantasy taste: some funny moments, some scary moments, some touching moments and even some teaching moments. Each story is well-written and brings something entertaining and creative to the Yuletide table.

So, curl up with a mulled wine, a mince pie and a warm blanket, and enjoy a selection of short, winter-dark treats!


Review by Steph Warren for Bookshine and Readbows blog
https://bookshineandreadbows.wordpres...
Profile Image for Keith Chawgo.
467 reviews15 followers
January 8, 2020
A Midnight Clear has that dark holiday spirit that adds just a little bit extra with its unique take on the holiday season.

We have six fantastic stories that take a nod from Holiday traditions and adds a special twist. We have a Winter solstice tradition that teaches a little girl the meaning of passing over, a North Pole Lovecraftian Christmas, a housewife/mother finding the true spirit of Christmas, a holiday at the Stanley Hotel, a twisted Christmas Carol and a twist on a wolf legend. Five individual stories that totally knock the socks off of anyone reading them and a few extra nods and surprises to keep the reader entertained.

This book is a bit of a rarity when it comes to anthologies. What you normally get is a mixed bag which you have a few bum notes hit within a collection but this is not what A Midnight Clear stays away from. Every story a winner, every writer is so very much respected and we have a Christmas anthology that should become an eternal holiday treat each and every year which should find its rightful place between Twas The Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol.

Each story is done in a delicious bite size story full of depth, emotion and nuisance and you are left more satisfied than a Christmas dinner. I am personally will be buying my own copy and I am looking forward to re-reading every holiday season. When there is something as magic as this book put together lovingly with excellent stories and writers, there is no way any holiday season can go wrong. Pure satisfied winner.
Profile Image for Joel Mitchell.
702 reviews4 followers
September 27, 2019
Black Spot Books tapped six of their authors to pull together this short story anthology under the overarching theme of “not-so-merry Yuletide whimsy.” The result is truly a mixed bag [insert lame Santa’s sack joke].

The Good: The opening story by Sam Hooker is far and away the best of the lot. Who knew you could combine a sugary cute version of the North pole (reminiscent of what it’s like in the movie Elf) with a visit to R’lyeh? Laura Morrison’s hellish (yet humorous) riff on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is imaginative and entertaining as well, and Dalena Storm’s dive into Slavic mythology wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t take my theology from any of these stories, but they were a lot of fun to read.

The “Meh”: The other three stories left me cold. In a couple, the Christmas element felt shoehorned in, and they all had the kind of pacing that I associate with lousy Christian fiction: the majority of the page count taken up with the protagonist moping, sulking, or mooning around followed by a burst of action at the very end that may or may not connect well with all the repetitive morbid introspection that came before it. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

Overall, the oft repeated descriptor for short story anthologies is “mixed bag,” and that holds very much true here. If nothing else, you need to read Sam Hooker’s cutesy elf/Cthulhu mythos mashup.
Profile Image for Kriti | Armed with A Book.
332 reviews130 followers
November 27, 2019
Check out my takeaways from each of the stories in this collection at Armed with A Book.

I don’t often read short story collections, but once in a while, a book catches my eye and I can’t resist. I found A Midnight Clear through NetGalley and though I am little late in posting about it (it was published early November 2019), this collection is perfect to read anytime October-January! Spooky, moving, and thoughtful, find the meaning behind the holidays here.

Centered around the holiday season, in the heart of winter, with soft snow falling to the ground, A Midnight Clear brings together unique perspectives about the holidays, addressing the good and the bad. Through their stories, the authors transport us to a world with characters that we can relate to and learn from.

The collection brought so many lessons to my mind’s forefront, while at the same time, taking me to magical places. I was enchanted, a little terrified but warmed by the company that I had in each of the protagonists.

You can read the stories in any order but I would recommend reading them all. Special thanks to the authors, publisher and NetGalley for providing me the advanced reader copy.
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