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review 2018-09-16 12:04
Unsettled Spirits
Unsettled Spirits - J. Matthew Saunders

by J. Matthew Saunders

 

Workers at a tractor and farm supply company play a common prank on Bobby, a new guy, by having him go into the factory after hours on a ruse, but things go wrong. There is genuine gossip about the factory being haunted and when Bobby hears a child laughing just before the lights go out, he is terrified. A subsequent unfortunate accident brings the incident under investigation.

 

Zed & Penelope make such investigations their business and are called in. They also consult an associate, Charles, who is an adept magician. The company owner brings in a magician of his own, but won't say who.

 

The story is fairly short, yet has a lot of strands. I thought it had too much description of minor characters and sometimes seemed unclear what was going on.

 

Apart from the beginning, I can't say there were a lot of scares and the story falls more into a detective story than chilling Horror, until near the end. There is even some doubt cast on the legitimacy of the hauntings.

 

Some interesting supernatural shenanigans happen towards the end, but then the story just stops. No explanation, no resolution. Presumably it's a serial, but there is no warning in the description to say so. There were some interesting ideas involved and the writing was fairly good, but the plot didn't have me riveted enough to compel me to read another book to tie up all the loose ends left hanging.

 

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review 2018-09-15 13:27
Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab
Barnabas Tew and The Case Of The Missing Scarab - Columbkill Noonan

by Columbkill Noonan

 

There's something about Victorian era book settings that brings out the use of language to fit within that setting and gives the story a certain flavour.

 

Barnabas Tew wants to be like his hero, Sherlock Holmes, but so far it's not going too well. He isn't nearly as clever and pretending to understand things when his assistant, Wildred, gets a reference that he doesn't does him no favours.

 

They've been given a case by Anubis to find a missing god. The trouble is, searching for clues in the underworld requires being dead! Traversing a landscape where they have to learn the rules as they go along leads to a constant state of confusion for the detectives.

 

This is a light, fun story. The journey through the realms of Egyptian gods added an interesting touch, although purists will wonder how the author assigned personalities to some of them, especially Maat and Hathor, who seemed way out of character.

 

It was a little slow moving in parts and had a sort of comic feel to it, but was overall enjoyable. The obvious set up at the end for a next book in series was actually rather well done, but the story works fine as a stand alone.

 

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review 2018-09-10 11:14
Trapped in Room 217
Trapped in Room 217 - Thomas Kingsley Troupe

by Thomas Kingsley Troupe

 

This is a children's Horror story, targeted at age 8 - 12. I'd say it's appropriate for that level, yet the writing is very good! It's part of a series of real life ghost stories, set in places where ghost sightings have actually been reported.

 

Jayla and Dion have to accompany their father, a landscaper, for a job in Colorado. It turns out that the hotel they stay in has a reputation for being haunted. Jayla is in seventh grade, her brother is a little younger.

 

As it turns out, the room they stay in has a resident ghost. When the children experience a sighting of the ghost, they set out to investigate.

 

I'm no expert on children's literature, but I think this was extremely good for the age group. The writing doesn't 'talk down' to the children's level so I was able to appreciate Jayla and Dion's adventure and concerns about getting into trouble for various things.

 

While the fear factor would be considered tame for the adult Horror reader, I think it pushed the scary parameters just enough to keep a child interested while not giving them nightmares, unless they're overly sensitive. It's still a ghost story and the dark can be frightening!

 

This would be an excellent choice for the sort of kid who enjoys Goosebumps or children's adventure stories.

 

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review 2018-09-08 11:25
Pieces of Her
Pieces of Her - Karin Slaughter

by Karin Slaughter

 

This started out sounding like something you would find under 'Womens Fiction' and I wondered if I had made a mistake. Andrea had chased her glamorous dreams to New York City and failed, winding up waiting tables. When her mother telephoned her with disturbing news, she leaves New York without looking back to go home to small town Georgia and help her mother through a fight with breast cancer.

 

After taking a job fielding 911 calls for the emergency services, her life looks very ordinary and at a dead end. However, when a crisis situation arises, some real drama enters the story and by the end of the first chapter, Andrea finds out there are aspects of her mother that she's never known and the story becomes very interesting indeed!

 

This is a Mystery story. I didn't like Andrea because she just freezes up in situations when a stronger person would react and she makes some seriously stupid decisions, like just kill her now and put her out of all of our misery stupid. The other female characters were also either pathetic or psychotic, yet for the most part it worked in the story. Paula got on my nerves pretty quick, not least of all because she reminds me of someone I met once, and Jane was too much like Andrea. To be fair, the male characters were mostly unpleasant as well, apart from Gordon, her step-father.

 

All this adds up to a pretty twisted situation that begins to get explained about a third through. There's a time flashback that takes us out of Andrea's story and gives us the background behind her mother's actions. Then it moves forward again to resolve the situation she manages to get herself into.

 

The characters do develop and the reason they had to be so weak becomes essential to the plot, so they're forgiven. I actually enjoyed the story quite a lot, despite the weaknesses in the main characters. I would read something else by this author.

 

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review 2018-09-05 11:56
Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinn
Fire Dragons, Demons & Djinn - Rhonda Parrish

edited by Rhonda Parrish

 

I like the idea of theme anthologies and the concept of this one really appealed to me. All the stories involve some sort of creatures of fire.

 

I hadn't heard of any of the authors so it was a bit of a gamble, and like most anthologies with a collection of unfamiliar authors, some stories appealed to me more than others.

 

We had an Ifrit, a fire sprite, demons, including one who fought an Angel, dragons, gryphons, genies, an elemental magician, a tribute to Jim Morrison (though the author didn't seem aware that he didn't write Light My Fire), a host of mythological fire gods, Phoenixes and an Aitvara.

 

Unfortunately five and a half of the twenty-one stories were written in present tense, which I detest and find difficult to read (one kept switching between past and present tense).

 

Four of the stories stood out as particularly good. These were:

 

The Second Great Fire by Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Breath of the Caldera by Wendy Nikel, The Midwife and the Phoenix by J.G. Formato and especially Double or Nothing by Mara Malins, which involved a game of cards that brought to mind Magic the Gathering, but with real creatures. This one made the book worthwhile on its own.

 

While I can only give the collection as a whole three stars, these authors I'll be looking to see what else they've written.

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