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review 2017-10-05 16:14
Help for the Haunted / John Searles
Help for the Haunted - John Searles

It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family's past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.

 

I read this book to fill the “Haunted Houses” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

As in any good ghost story, there is a lot of ambiguity in this tale of family strife and striving. Can Sylvie’s father see ghosts or not? What are her mother’s capabilities? Are they helping people or just fooling their clients and themselves?

Sylvie is a typical “good kid.” She is co-operative, obedient, studious—even when she doesn’t want to be any of those things. And her sister Rose is the typical “bad kid.” She questions everything, does what she wants to, and makes life as miserable as possible for the rest of the family. Rose and their father clash a lot—probably because they are a lot alike. That’s generally how these things work. My father & I butted heads occasionally because we were both quiet people with strong ideas and more that our share of stubbornness. Other than that, I was pretty much the stereotypical good kid, so I could relate to Sylvie quite well.

I had to wonder about what kind of person would choose a career of helping those with supernatural difficulties. Why would you put your own family into such a situation, where your own children often took a backseat to the children of others? It’s almost a truism that preacher’s kids will get in trouble, often as a way to plead for attention from their parents and that seems to hold true with any of the religious & quasi-religious professions.

In the end, it seemed that it maybe wasn’t the house that was haunted, but the family. Haunted by things left unsaid, paths left untrod, people left behind.

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text 2017-08-30 15:35
Ready for September and Halloween Bingo
Help for the Haunted - John Searles
The Killer Inside Me - Jim Thompson
Witches of Lychford - Paul Cornell
Misery - Stephen King
Bitten - Kelley Armstrong
A Murder Is Announced - Agatha Christie

The hardest part is waiting for September 1st!

 

I've got these books teed up and ready to go.  In the meanwhile, I'll pick away at the rest of my stack of library books.  I'm finishing up my Summer Lovin' reading list and other odds & ends that seem to be lingering in my reading life.

 

I'm ready, y'all.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-06-07 00:38
Do You Believe In Ghosts?
Help for the Haunted - John Searles

This book was a nice follow up after The Demonologist since I started reading it right after I returned the latter. Not saying the characters were based off the Warrens but they were totally based off the Warrens. 

 

In Help for the Haunted, Sylvie Mason, the daughter of renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Sylvester and Rose Mason, is trying to make sense of the world after said parents are murdered in a church. Sylvie herself was almost killed that night, though her memories of the event are lacking. There are so many questions that must be answered, like why did her troubled sister call their parents to the church last night? Did Sylvie really see the father of one of her parents' clients that night or was she just telling the detectives what they wanted to hear? Trying to answer all these questions as well as coming to terms with her own beliefs, Sylvie finds herself facing all sorts of ghosts, both the paranormal and the mental kind. 

 

I really liked this one. It sucked me in and held a grip on me the whole read. It was emotionally difficult to read at times, simply because some of the people and things that happened to the characters was just so awful. Gillian Flynn reviewed this novel for a blurb and I believe that was appropriate. Help for the Haunted is very much in the same vein of Dark Places and Gone Girl. No punches are held when it comes to describing Sylvie's life and it made the book feel eerily realistic. I was so mad when I had to stop reading to get back to work. Fifteen minute breaks are not enough. 

 

For me, my favorite part of the book was Sylvie. I absolutely adored her. She wasn't exactly a reliable narrator, as you come to realize as the story moves along. The fact that she knew what really happened to Abigail (mostly) really surprised me and wasn't something I saw coming. Most of all I just found her endearing. She reminded me a lot of how I was in middle school, since I was concerned about being the "good" daughter too. It made me feel for her. 

 

The other characters were also very realistic, though I didn't always find them endearing. The parents felt a bit like caricatures at times, though they were dimensional. I hated Rose but thought she was a terrific character. It made sense why she was the way she was but that didn't mean I had to like it. I loved Dereck and wished he were in it more but ah well. 

 

There were only a few elements to the book I didn't care for. The non-linear story telling was confusing at first, going back and forth so much. It worked in the end but it made it difficult to get into the story. There were also times where the story became a little slow and I was more interested in my phone than the story. At times the characters were just 

 

I wouldn't really call this one a mystery. I mean, it's classified as one in the library and I think bookstores too, but it's not really mystery. There is A mystery, but the story is more about Sylvie and her question over her beliefs and her relationship with her family. Figuring out who killed the Masons really took a back seat to everything else. That said, the pieces all meshed together in the end and the resolution was satisfying and made sense. 

 

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5. I'd definitely read it again. Great, sad story. 

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text 2015-03-19 05:47
Help for the Haunted - John Searles

I was hoping to get really into this book since the premise is so interesting but it really dragged. It was a bit too slow moving and the ending was just out of left field.

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review 2014-12-28 16:43
Help for the Haunted - John Searles

This book turned up on the office paperback swap shelf and I thought I'd give it a go. It's basically a young-adult novel with some paranormal overtones.

The book begins with 12-year-old Sylvie's parents being murdered in a church. For lack of a better way to put it, her parents are "ghostbusters" who also help possessed people ... and the book focuses on Sylvie as a witness to the murder and which one of her parents' clients did it.

Of course, nothing is quite that easy. And we need to hear about Penny, the creepy rag doll in the basement, quite a lot (shades of the Anabelle legend here), as Sylvie's precious horses are broken, and the doll moves around the house.

Subplots involving Sylvie's troubled teenage sister, Rose, and alcoholic Uncle Howie also keep the story moving.

Nothing is quite as it seems, of course ... and the revelations toward the end of the book did take me by surprise. IMO, it's worth giving this book a try if you like the genre and books for the intended age group.

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