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text 2018-11-05 02:12
Have you heard of Stepp Cemetery?

 

There is a place in my town called “Stepp Cemetery” and local legends talks of a sad, lonely ghost of a Woman in Black who wanders the graveyard. There are many different versions of why this ghost is there, but in all versions she remains behind, mourning over a lost family member. Some say she sits on an old tree stump, protecting the graves of loved ones and if you listen you can hear her cry. Growing up we always heard about the stories, so of course, it was common for people to go ghost hunting and exploring. A lot of dark stuff is rumored to take place there as well.

 

It was after Halloween, around 2am of the next morning. I was a teenager. My family and some of my neighbors randomly decided to load up and go to the graveyard. We had the idea that we would go and find the Woman in Black, but what we found proves that the living are far more scarier than the dead.

 

Stepp Cemetery felt eerie, but that was to be expected. The wind was howling and you could imagine the sounds of a crying female and dark, fleeting shadows were always just around the corner. It is safe to say that we thoroughly spooked ourselves. I don't know if anything ghostly we saw or heard was real or imagined, but at the time it all felt real.

 

Some of us took the experience seriously, but most of us were just being silly and goofing off, though I don't think in an overly disrespectful manner. Just kids and kids at heart being kids, I guess.

 

After exploring for a while, we came across a grave of what looked like a young child. It had an Angel headstone. There was a melted candle on top of it. Our first thoughts went to devil worshiping; it just felt wrong. The sound of the wind suddenly seemed louder, the cries that may or may not have been the ghost, sounded more desperate. We were more unsure and nobody was joking around anymore.

 

 

That frightened us enough that the adults decided we should probably head back to the cars. As we were heading back, we noticed two people far in the distance. They also felt so-so wrong. Nobody spoke. We all felt this. One by one we got behind a huge tree, hiding from view. Luckily, the men hadn’t noticed us. As the men came near us, we moved around the tree to stay out of view. It would have been comical, like something from an old cartoon had it not been so scary.

 

The men got to the gravestone with the melted candle. One bent down and started digging. “Where is it?” He sounded gruff and furious. There was a glint at his side. He was armed.

 

A fight or flight moment happened and without speaking again, we all bolted and ran back for our cars. The men saw and started to chase us. The wind seemed to be chanting go, go, go!

 

“Give it back!” Whatever the men were looking for, they thought we took it. Was the burning candle a marker for something? What could these men possibly want to find in this old forgotten cemetery? What was so important that they would come armed? Was it drug related or something darker?

 

Somehow we made it to the cars. It was now around 3am, I noticed as we pulled out.

 

As if the men weren't bad enough, as we left a van full of men in white masks and black robes pulled into the graveyard. They stared at us and it felt like they were burning our image into their memory. I will never forget the fear I felt and I am sure everyone else felt the same terror. A couple more minutes and we would have been caught by whoever these men in masks were.

 

 

Were they devil worshipers? Were they just college kids doing a fraternity initiation? We will never know, but they felt bad.

 

As for the Woman in Black? I think she is real and a protecting spirit. We have family buried at Stepp Cemetery, so was she protecting us as well and whenever we did things unspoken as a whole, I wonder if it was because of her influence.

.

 

 

The moral of this story is be careful when you go to a place where you only expect the dead. The living are far worse

 

[Images are free for personal and commercial use: www.pexels.com]

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review 2018-09-19 12:26
A magical visit to Barcelona and to the world of books and stories. Unmissable!
The Labyrinth of the Spirits - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Thanks to NetGalley and to Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Orion Publishing Group) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I enthusiastically and freely chose to review.

I read the first two novels of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books series years back, in Spanish. I have recommended The Shadow of the Wind to anybody who would bother to listen to me (probably multiple times, sorry) and was enthralled by the complex tale of creation and mental unravelling span by The Angel’s Game. In the maelstrom of the last few years, somehow I lost track of the series and missed the publication of The Prisoner of Heaven (although I have been trying to locate a copy since I started reading this volume), but when I saw the last novel in the series was being published in English and offered on NetGalley, I knew it was my chance to catch up. As I also do translations and had read two of the novels in their original Spanish version, I had the added interest of scrutinising what the translation into English would look like. Well, I must say I thought it was superb, in case I forget to mention it later. Lucia Graves manages to capture the style of the author, the complexity and beauty of his language, and translates the local peculiarities of the dialogue, helping readers feel the joy and the intoxicating and magical experience of reading the original. Hats off!

If you’ve read up to this point, you’ll likely have guessed that I loved this novel. To get it out of the way, I’ll clarify that I think it can be read by itself, or as a starting point to a reader’s visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and although perhaps somebody who starts by reading this book will feel s/he knows already the whole story, I suspect they’ll feel curious and intrigued and will want to learn the full details of the stories that come to fruition here (this is my case as well). Here, the author of the story inside the book, Julián, (yes, the story is full of books and writers) explains how the series works better than I can:

The way I dreamed of it, the narrative would be divided into four interconnected volumes that would work like entrance doors into a labyrinth of stories. As the reader advanced into its pages, he would feel that the story was piecing itself together like a game of Russian dolls in which each plot and each character led to the next, and that, in turn, to yet another, and so on and so forth. The saga would contain villains and heroes, and a thousand tunnels through which the reader would be able to explore a kaleidoscopic plot resembling that mirage of perspectives I’d discovered with my father in the heart of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books.

This is a long novel, and a complex one, although not one difficult to read or follow (I don’t think). As the quoted paragraph says, there are many stories here, and many memorable characters, some dead, some alive, and some… (among them, Alicia Gris, femme-fatale, spy, little girl, seductress, avenging angel, long-suffering survivor of a terrible war; Daniel Sampere, bookshop owner extraordinaire searching for answers; Fermín Romero de Torres, whimsical, fun, full of life and common-sense, witty, heroic, down-to-earth;  Julián Sempere, the stand-in for the author and heir to a long tradition; Isabella, a mysterious figure much of the action revolves around; authors David Martín, Julian Carax, Víctor Mataix; the fabulous Vargas, a hard-working an old-fashioned honest policeman with some secrets of his own; the complex Leandro; the horrifying Hendaya; the intriguing Rovira…). The story moves back and forth in time, from the time of the Civil War in Spain (1938) to its aftermath during the Franco regime, and into 1992. We visit Madrid, Paris —however briefly— although the main setting, and the main character, is Barcelona, in all its glory and horror.

In the darkest corner of her heart, Barcelona, mother of labyrinths, holds of mesh of narrow streets knotted together to form a reef of present and future ruins.

I kept thinking what genre one would fit this book into. Amazon has it listed in the categories of literary fiction, historical fiction, and mysteries. All true, I guess. There are secrets, mysteries, action, revenge, intrigues, crimes, murders, torture… The novel reminds me, in some ways, of the big adventures and narratives of old, novels by Victor Hugo (whose pen, possibly?, makes an appearance in the novel), Jules Verne, the Dumas (father and son), with its sprawling narrative, its wondrous descriptions of people and events, its historical background (the Spanish Civil War and the postwar years, accurately reflected through a fantasy lens), and even its gothic setting (we have mysterious mansions, dungeons, cells, castles, underground passages, true labyrinths…). This book bears homage to literature, to books, to authors, to the power of imagination, and to the magic of reading.

The book talks about books and writing and contains plenty of advice on writing, some of it contradictory, and there are many different types of writers contained in its pages. It is metafictional at its best, and I was not surprised when I read that the author also composes music. There are variations on a theme in evidence (stories are told and retold: sometimes different versions, sometimes from different perspectives, and in different formats). There is plenty of showing, there is telling from direct witnesses, or third-hand, there are documents that bring us missing pieces from the pens of those who are no longer able to tell their own stories, and everybody gets a chance to tell his or her own story, be it in the first person or the third, be it directly or through a narrator. The author has explained that he writes his novels in a similar way to how movies are conceived and designed, and that is evident when one reads the story, as it is impossible not to visualise it. Carlos Ruíz Zafón professes his admiration for Orson Welles and that comes across loud and clear in this book. But, however much he loves movies, he believes books can conjure up worlds that no filmmaker would be able to bring to life, and that is his stated reason for not selling the rights for the film adaptation of the series. Part of me would like to watch it, but I am convinced I’d be disappointed, so incredible is the world the author has built.

I have mentioned the style of writing when I talked about the translation and I have shared some quotes. I kept highlighting and highlighting text while I was reading it and I found it very difficult to select some to share, but I hope the few fragments I have included will pique your curiosity and make you check a sample if you are not sure if you would like it (you would!). One of the tips on writing contained in the book highlights the importance of the way the story is written, above and beyond the plot, but in this case, the two mix perfectly.

I have mentioned some of the themes, the historical background, and the mystery elements included in the story, with some gore and violent scenes, but there are plenty of magical, lighter, and funny moments as well, and I wanted to share a couple of sentences from Isabella’s notebook that I particularly enjoyed, to illustrate the sense of humour (sometimes a bit dark) also present:

We were three sisters, but my father used to say he had two daughters and one mule.

I didn’t like playing with the other girls: my specialty was decapitating dolls with a catapult.

I’m not sure what else I can tell you to try and convince you to read this book. I am from Barcelona and love the city, even if some of the places mentioned in the novel no longer exist (or not in their original form). You could use the book as a guide for a visit (and I know there were tours visiting some of the streets and settings of The Shadow of the Wind), or you could lose yourself in the labyrinth of your imagination. You could imagine the movie, cast the characters, or put yourself in their place (I’d happily be Alicia Gris, pain and all). If you need to live some adventures and take a break from your life, go on, enter the labyrinth and visit the cemetery of the forgotten books. You might never want to find the way out. I am rearing for another visit soon.

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review 2018-09-15 02:29
The House By The Cemetery
The House by the Cemetery (Fiction Without Frontiers) - John Everson

Mike didn't want to take the job remodeling the old haunted house by the cemetery  but his back was against the wall. His friend wanted to turn the house into a haunted attraction and not only was he unemployed but his wife left him and he needed something to get him out of the dumps. His luck was changing as a mysterious young woman and her odd friend started showing up at the house and helping him with his work. Soon enough set decorators start to put the attraction together but is the blood on the walls real or fake.People start to disappear, some of the dead bodies look too realistic and a local ghost hunter thinks the ghosts of the graveyard are angry.  Mike may not know it but he's started a ritual that will kill dozens before its all done.

 

The House By The Cemetery by John Everson was an odd read for me. I got this book because  I loved the concept of turning a real haunted house by a graveyard into a haunted attraction. You already know where this story will go from the first paragraph and That's the type of story I love to read. The weird thing is that I ended up not liking this book for the horror aspect. What I liked was that there is a bizarre love story in this book and I loved Mike's story.

 

You feel sympathy for Mike from the beginning, the way he looks at his friend as he gets offered a job and how he sees himself in the mirror and how he is getting older and running out of chances to make a good life for himself. You then watch Mike and see what he is willing to do to get what he wants and you see how he is being manipulated  and you wonder how far is this going to go. This is a book you don't need to be a horror fan to enjoy, in fact the story could have worked in a non horror setting. John Everson is awesome at creating tragic characters that are easy to relate to. He also writes stories that are hard to put down.

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text 2018-09-14 14:40
BOORING
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

alright, my edition has over 1000 pages. It is sooo long! For some reason, these people are amazed at how much money they have, which is pretty ridiculous. I hope the mini series from the BBC is better. The potential fell flat. 

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text 2018-09-13 18:12
My story on wattpad

This is a story I wrote on Wattpad

 

https://www.wattpad.com/630581832-the-fairy-ring

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