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review 2018-10-17 22:30
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CHARLES MANSON by Jeff Guinn, narrated by Jim Frangione
Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson - Jeff Guinn

This is a fascinating look inside the head of a monster.

 

I especially liked the observations regarding how Charlie used a little bit of knowledge from all sorts of different subjects and wove them together to manipulate specific people. During his many prison stints, he met and listened to Black Panthers, Scientologists and he even picked up some tips from Dale Carnegie's book, HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE. He melded TOGETHER bits from of all them, depending on his audience. The result was often striking-as a professional actor he might have done well, but as a professional musician he did not. There lies much of the frustration that ended up helping to fuel his attempt at "Helter Skelter."

 

Jeff Guinn writes excellent, detailed biographies, (I especially enjoyed his Bonnie and Clyde and Jim Jones books), which work well as audios. I'm not sure if I would have liked them all as much in print, but audio works perfectly for me. (There is so much detail included that I feel like I may have become bored in actually reading these books.) The narrator here, Jim Frangione, did an excellent job and helped keep me interested, especially when detailing the actions of various family members.

 

A warning for sensitive people-the descriptions of these brutal murders is graphic and unflinching. It's uncomfortable to listen to. Even after reading hundreds of books, (both fictional and non), about murders and horrific happenings, it never fails to bother me and I never fail to try to imagine how someone could do such things. Guinn attempts to tell us in his excellent biographies, but somehow, the answer to the question "Why?" is never fully answered in any of them. But I can't keep myself from continuing to try to understand.

 

Finally, one thing I wouldn't want to forget to mention is the ridiculously random nature and brutality of these crimes. I think that often gets lost in the mysterious aura that surrounds Manson and his "family." It would be an extreme disservice to forget: the very pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and poor Steven Parent, (who was just a young man trying to sell a clock radio), the LaBiancas, Shorty Shea and Gary Hinman. May they all rest in peace.

 

Highly recommended to fans of true crime and detailed biographies.

 

*This fits the "Slasher Stories" category for Halloween Bingo 2018 here at Booklikes.*

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review 2018-10-05 22:30
HEART SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill, narrated by Stephen Lang
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill,Stephen Lang

It was fun taking this ride down the night road again, this time on audio.

 

I was not crazy about the narrator, nor the musical bits in between the chapters, but the story itself is still good, though maybe not quite as good as I remembered, resulting in the deduction of 1 star from my previous 5 star rating.

 

Still, Craddock and his creepy eyes remain scary AF. 

 

The moral of the story is: Never try to buy a ghost.

 

Recommended!

 

I read this book again for the Ghost Stories square in Halloween Bingo! 

 

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review 2018-10-05 18:30
OUT BEHIND THE BARN by Chad Lutzke and John Boden
Out Behind the Barn - Chad Lutzke,John Boden

 

OUT BEHIND THE BARN is totally original, weird and creepy. I loved it!

 

That said, this is not the type of story I've come to expect from either of these authors. I've enjoyed the work of John Boden for years now and what I always expect from him is beautiful writing and poignancy. I expect the same from Chad Lutzke as well, just slightly less poetic, maybe? I'm not sure what I expected from this novella, but it was not this strange story of Maggie, her farm and her boys.

 

Davey and Ronny are watching when Maggie gets home and carefully unloads her burden into the barn. Then an arm drops down from her carefully wrapped package. This has happened before, so they are not surprised or alarmed. Will the package work this time? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I'm finding it very difficult to review this book without giving anything away. It was short, spellbinding, mysterious, creative and suspenseful. Once the mystery is revealed, the problem remains as to how the characters will deal with it, and that's where the poignancy I expect from both of these authors showed up-in a big way.

 

The only issue I had with this story is that I expected to see one more chapter regarding a certain character's reaction to those poignant events. Then again, maybe that would have spoiled how I imagined that reaction went down?

 

OUT BEHIND THE BARN is a powerful piece of work, in spite of, (or perhaps because of of?), its short length. Either way, it affected me, and I'll be thinking about the boys and Maggie's farm for a long time.

 

Highly recommended!

 

*I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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review 2018-10-04 18:45
WORMS by James R. Montague
Worms - Christopher Wood,James R. Montague

 

WORMS! What can I say? This is not your normal B-movie creature feature. It is more well written than most and it contains elements of guilt and psychological horror as well. I enjoyed the heck out of it!

 

Mr. Hildebrand and his harridan of a wife take a badly needed vacation together, in a more quiet destination than his wife would have preferred. She is unhappy about that and never misses a chance to remind him of that fact. In the quiet town, Mr. Hildebrand feels at home, accepted even, while his wife just complains and complains. How will he deal with her? Will they be able to enjoy this vacation together or will this be the final straw in their marriage? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I said above that this is more well written than most creature features for a few reasons. Its pacing is much slower than the James Herbert or Guy N. Smith novels of the time, and it's definitely much slower than the pacing of today's novels by Hunter Shea and the like.

 

Another reason this differs from most other novels of its kind is because of the time we spend inside Mr. Hildebrand's head. Told in the first person, we're right there to see why he does certain things, (and I admit it, I actually agreed with some of them!), and because of that the reader feels a bond with him. We shouldn't, but we do, (or at least I did.) The psychological horror that results from his actions, as well as the guilt he feels over them, adds another layer to this tale not normally found in stories of this type. The first 2/3 of this book I would label as quiet horror and the last third as pure creature feature fun, along with a few real surprises that I didn't see coming. In addition, there were some truly gross-out moments that made me laugh out loud with glee! GLEE, I say!

 

Lastly, as the final portions of the story unfolded a few events occurred that made me look back at clues I had previously overlooked. I realized then how neatly this entire story fit together, like an intricate jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces were perfectly cut. The fact that James Montague is a pseudonym for Christopher Wood, (a writer of screenplays for James Bond movies such as Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me), may play a part in that. There are scenes in WORMS that play out just as a film would, (several of them in fact), and the novel feels like it's built around those scenes and grows outwardly from them.

 

WORMS was originally written back in 1979, the era when I first got into and began to love the horror genre. Somehow this book escaped my attentions back then, and to be honest? I might have been too young at that time to appreciate this intimate look into a man's head. However, I'm sure I would have appreciated the vivid writing style and film-like quality of it. Now I'm old enough to appreciate ALL the wonderful things about this novel and I'm glad that Valancourt Books has brought it back from sure death so it can be enjoyed once again.

 

Highly recommended!

 

*I received an e-ARC from Valancourt Books in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-08-30 18:45
The Siren and the Spectre by Jonathan Janz
The Siren and The Spectre (Fiction Without Frontiers) - Jonathan Janz

 

Alexander House is the most haunted house in the state of Virginia. David Caine is perhaps the most well known debunk-er in the United States and as such, he is called in to stay at the house and write a book about it. The current owners are hoping that David will be persuaded into believing that the haunting is real, and that the resulting book about the matter will draw visitors/tourism to the home. Is David finally persuaded that ghosts and hauntings do exist? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

My brief synopsis above doesn't do this story justice. Unfortunately, that's part of the problem I had with this book. There's a LOT going on-and to be honest? I thought it was too much. I loved the portions about the history of the house, the area where it's situated, and its former inhabitants-specifically Judson Alexander. I would have been happy with a book about him alone.

 

I understand that this story has several layers and I respect what Jonathan Janz tried to do. However, I think the focus of this tale became too wide, what with tons of information about David's old girlfriend, his old friend Chris and Chris' new wife Katherine, the CRAZY neighbors down the way, the local sheriff, and I haven't even mentioned the siren yet! I was fine with all of it through about 2/3 of the novel, but by the last third it just got too busy for me.  Yes, there were thrills aplenty and lots of surprises, but I felt like the denouement went on a bit too long, and tried to cover too much material.

 

The writing itself though, was excellent, as I've come to expect from Mr. Janz. He created  a tense and dense atmosphere-at times I felt I would surely suffocate from it. I also felt the characters were mostly realistic and while David Caine wasn't perfect by any means, I did come to care for him and I wanted him to pull through. This tale was imaginative and to restate, my only problem was that I wished it had been more focused.

 

I seem to be almost the only one who isn't all-out raving about this story, so it's definitely possible that I read it wrong. Even with my complaint, I still enjoyed the heck out of THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER. You probably will too. Jonathan Janz is always worthy of your consideration and if you decide to give this one a go, feel free to come and share your thoughts with me when you're done. You can tell me how wrong I am!

 

Recommended!

 

*I received an e-ARC of this book from FLAME TREE PRESS via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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