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review 2017-08-21 18:56
Wrath of the Ancients - Catherine Cavendish
Wrath of the Ancients - Catherine Cavendish

Adeline Ogilvy, a young widow from Wimbledon, has accepted a job in Vienna. Her assignment is to employ her skills as a typist and transcribe the memoirs of the late Dr. Emeryk Quintillus, an archeologist with a most peculiar hidden history. When she begins her recording the doctor's notes, she learns that, five years earlier, he claims to discover the tomb of Cleopatra. Even more astonishing, it seems that he has brought more than secrets back from Egypt. Strange occurrences begin to happen at the mansion. Is what Adeline seeing before her eyes real or a hallucination?



This is my first read of Cavendish and I love the slow burn in this Gothic chiller. I also like how blends an archelogical curiosity and characters with her own original take on what happened all those thousands of years ago. As the story unfurls, I can't help be reminded of the quiet horror writing style of Charles L. Grant. The characters are interesting and I'm drawn to keep turning the pages to see where they go in the story. If I have any criticism it's that there are parts where the pacing seems off. In one instance, things are doing a nice slow burn and then it closes in way too much of a flurry. But, it's a small blemish in an overall fun story. If you haven't had the pleasure to stumble upon Cavendish, Wrath of the Ancients is a great one to introduce yourself.




4 1/2 Green Glowing Apparations out of 5


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text 2017-08-21 18:47
Ghosts of my own, and the omens I believe in

No, seriously, I don't believe in omens.  I don't.


But . . . .


Halloween Bingo is but ten days away, and the moon is in the process of blotting out the sun as I write this, and August is a month of momentous events in my life (even though I was born in October).  Ever notice that "omen" is at the heart of "momentous"?


One Sunday morning in August of 1963, I hopped on my bike and rode the few blocks to the nearby shopping center, where I bought an inexpensive spiral notebook with a blue cover.  Pencil in hand, I sat down on the front porch and began writing a diary.


Sunday, August 11, 1963 (Morning entry)


I kept at it, though I didn't write every day and sometimes skipped even weeks or months.  At one point my life was so chaotic that I went for a couple of years without writing.  But the journals were always there, in a growing succession of spiral notebooks.


Several years ago, I started the laborious process of transcribing them.  In some the graphite from my pencils had smeared and become faint; in others the actual ink -- because I have always loved fountain pens -- was fading.  I've always had decent handwriting, so there was no problem deciphering what I had written, but the sheer mass of words was daunting.


Because I continued to journal, the notebooks continued to pile up.  And some of the notebooks were thicker than others, with several whole sections of 50 or 100 pages.


At one point around 2014 or so, I was actually caught up.  Then I made the mistake of letting the transcription slide, but not the writing.  When I realized a few months ago that the project was getting away from me again, I picked up where I had left off with Volume 25; before I had finished transcribing that one, I had already begun making entries in Volume 28.


This past week-end, I put the completion of Volume 25 at the top of my priorities, and I came very close.  This morning I have but eight and a half pages to enter and I can file that notebook away. . . and start on Volume 26.  Of course, I've already added a page and a half to Volume 28 today!


It's both amusing and frightening to go back and read my thoughts from 1963; I was silly, of course, at the age of not-quite-fifteen, but I was also me.  Much has changed; much has not.  (Part of that first Sunday morning entry concerned the boyfriend of the time, and he still is.)


But that summer of 1963 I was also writing a book, a novel of sorts, my first adult novel after early teen years of outrageous horse stories modeled on Walter Farley's Black Stallion series and other . . . stuff.  This new novel was dark, very dark, with a gruesome unsolved murder, a wealthy young man who lived in a fabulous but empty house, a young woman with a tragic past, and a small town that never forgot nor forgave.


That's a more dramatic and better written description than I would have given it then, or the following summer when I finally finished it, but that is the outline of the story.  As a sophomore in high school, I banged it out on an ancient Remington typewriter in spare moments, single-spaced because I couldn't afford to waste paper.  And I wasn't the world's best typist either, so the original pages are littered with corrections and changes.


Yes, dear reader, I still have the original manuscript.  Or most of it, anyway.  A few pages are missing, though I'm not sure which ones or how many.  It ran to something around 125,000 words, I think.  Not bad for a fifteen-year-old.


Not a bad accomplishment, but as a novel it's not very good. 


However. . . it's August.


And the moon is blotting out the sun.


And there are elements of that first novel, as bad as it was, that are stirring in my brain right now -- I originally typed that as "writing now" -- as the spirits of Halloween Bingo also rise.


For the title of the book was A Party of Ghosts.


But I don't believe in omens.  Not really.

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review 2017-08-12 23:01
The Silent Companions: A Novel - Laura Purcell

After the untimely (and mysterious )death of her husband, Elsie is sent to her husband's ramshackle country manor. The manor is surrounded by a bleak scenery, an hostile village and a decrepit church.That should be enough to make one feel a bit tense but there is more:a 17th century diary, strange wooden figures and many,many secrets .This is in every sense a classic ghost story (haunted house, forbidden rooms,noises in the night...)but what makes this special is the fact that the ghostly part is very good but there is also an excellent mystery story underneath. 

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review 2017-08-07 18:14
Gothic psychological horror, with haunted house and ghosts for art and lovers of antiques.
PAINTED: A Horror Novel - Kirsten McKenzie

Thanks to Rosie Amber (from Rosie’s Book Review Team, check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, that I freely chose to review.

When I read the description of Painted I knew I had to read it, as it was a horror novel (and despite how much I like the genre, I don’t seem to read many of them), and it had to do with art. When I read that the author had worked in the antiques family business; that sealed the deal for me.  I had not read any work by this author before (and I understand this is the first time she writes horror) but I am pleased to have discovered her.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let’s say we have a dead painter who left very specific instructions in his will as to how to deal with the artwork he left behind. Unfortunately, there had been changes at his lawyer’s and his instructions were ignored. And we all know what happens when we ignore warnings, don’t we?

There are authors who are better at building characters than at creating a plot, and there are also authors who excel at describing places and objects but are not so good at providing psychological insights. McKenzie manages to create a great gothic atmosphere (some reviewers have said that the novel is more gothic than pure horror, but both things do not exclude each other), with a fantastically eerie and creepy house, full of even creepier portraits, and a variety of objects, furniture, and even plants that all combine to create a fabulous setting for the novel. In fact, the house becomes another character, one that hides many secrets, and of course, many ghosts.

But the author also creates fully-fledged characters, with their passions, foibles, secrets (some darker than others), and stories. Even when we do not get to share much time with them, we get flashes of their personality (be it because of their fastidiousness about their personal appearance, or because of the way they hang on to mementos from the past, or the way they present a false and harmless persona to the world when they are anything but). She manages to do this by using a variety of techniques, especially by her particular use of point of view. The story is written in the third person, but it shares the points of views of different characters. There is a certain degree of head-hopping, although I did not find it confusing and it is very smoothly done. We do see things from the perspective of all the characters. We mostly follow Anita, the young woman sent by the auctioneer’s to catalogue the paintings, because she is the first one to arrive and she spends the most time at the house, but we even get an insight into the thoughts of the lawyer’s secretary and of the farmer’s dog. And of course, the baddies (although it is not easy to decide who is good and bad in the story). There are also moments when we are told something that none of the characters could know (a great way of creating suspense and forecasting future events), like references to shadows, sounds nobody has heard yet, and things that happen behind character’s back or when they are asleep.

The character easiest to empathise and later sympathise with is Anita. It is clear from the beginning that she is battling with something that happened to her in the past and is bravely trying to get on with her life (despite still experiencing symptoms of PTSD). Her story is terrible in its own right, and it makes her reactions to what happens more justified. Some characters are nasty and difficult to like (like the lawyer), but most of them are given interesting backgrounds and scenes that make them memorable, and some are much more twisted than we realise.

I loved the details of the process of cataloguing the house contents (as I love antiques and TV programmes about antiques. Yes, I could watch The Antiques Roadshow forever and never get bored), the descriptions of the painting process, and the pace of the novel. The atmosphere is created slowly and we follow the characters’ commonsensical approach to the events to begin with and share with them their descent into paranoia and utter horror. The step-by-step reveal, the twists and turns, and the ghosts (it reminded me of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James) are also masterly rendered. And the ending… No, I did not see it coming, and as a fan of unhappy endings in horror books, this manages to satisfy, to surprise and to leave us wondering.

This is psychological horror, with ghosts and haunted house, at its best, and it does not contain gore or extreme violence (there is more menace and imagining than there is anything explicit), so I would recommend it to lovers of the genre, and to those who love atmospheric readings and don’t mind a scare or two. I cannot comment on the author’s previous writing, but she definitely has a talent for this genre, and based on the quality of her writing, I’m sure we’ll hear more from her.

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review 2017-08-05 10:32
Black Amber
Black Amber - Phyllis A. Whitney

Oh, Ms. Whitney, you had me.  You had me for the first 265 pages and then it all fell apart in what should have been the best scene, amidst a ruined palace in the middle of a thunderstorm.  To add insult to injury, the romantic entanglement's conclusion was really... unsatisfactory.


I don't care if the book was written in 1965 - Tracy spent the entire book being independent, wilful and unwilling to put up with being treated disrespectfully, only to completely turn into a mindless noodle in the last two pages.  He doesn't even ask her to marry him, he just tells her and she just simpers.

(spoiler show)


But for those first 265 pages the story is great - a slow building of suspense, a sort of creepy house, lots of creepy residents.  Tracy isn't the only person who has no clue what is going on around her; she has the reader for company.  The story builds for both reader and Tracy at the same time and it goes in completely unexpected directions.  


There are many readers out there that won't find page 266 so ruinous (trigger warning: animal cruelty) and they'll likely find the story to be a delightful surprise considering its romantic suspense category.  It's a good story overall, but Whitney wrote an even better one with Window on the Square, and she didn't have to resort to such a cheap device to elicit the same thrill of horror.


Black Amber is definitely one of her better crafted novels, with evidence throughout of the even better stories she was capable of writing.  It's definitely worth a read for anyone who can handle depictions of animal violence.  Me - I ultimately didn't like it.  I'll keep reading Whitney, but I'll definitely research her other books a hell of a lot more closely first from here on out.

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