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review 2020-06-03 12:37
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Illustrated) and Other Tales By Washington Irving - Washington Irving

by Washington Irving

 

This is one of those classics I've meant to read for years. It's written in an older English dialect that adds atmosphere to the narrative and brings the Dutch communities of New England to life with all their customs and superstitions.

 

Icabod Crane is a schoolmaster who has cast his eye on a local girl, just eighteen. She comes from a family that is as well-off as is to be found in the small community and is also a beauty. While there wasn't as much about witchcraft in the original story as was in the most recent movie version with Johnny Depp, it is mentioned along with goblins and ghosts and especially the tale of the headless horseman who legends say rises from the grave to seek his missing head.

 

The story was a lot more basic than I expected, with the whole ghostly phenomenon more a matter of superstition and practical joking than the tale has grown into with retellings, but it was enjoyable nonetheless to finally read the original material.

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review 2020-06-01 14:33
The House by the Cemetery
The House by the Cemetery (Fiction Without Frontiers) - John Everson

by John Everson

 

Let me start by saying that I'm not a fan of slasher fiction. I am, however, a big fan of haunted house stories and that's what led me to this story, innocently unaware of the author's other novels and prevalence of violence therein.

 

It's a great premise; a house located next to a cemetery is the local 'haunted house' that every small town has, only this one was owned by a witch who actually does still haunt the place. An entrepreneur gets a bright idea to convert the old house into a Halloween amusement and a collection of Horror enthusiast decorators and make-up people get involved creating themes based on popular Horror movies.

 

While it isn't what I would call great literature, I have to give credit to the author for creating the right atmosphere despite the fact that I haven't seen most of the Horror films referred to, though I did go look up the Goblin soundtrack to Suspiria on YouTube.

 

The story kept my attention all the way through and despite the main protagonist, Mike, being the poster boy for stupidity by way of being led my his genitals and too much beer, the variety and distinctiveness of characters was really well done. It wasn't until the last few chapters that things got messy and I did have to stop between chapters to decide if I could continue, but by then I needed to know what would happen and who might survive.

 

The descriptions were well done, though graphic, in a way that didn't feel gratuitous. Considering the level of violence it reached, that's a pretty good trick. People who like slasher Horror will love this. Personally I'm too squeamish to ever want to go there again.

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review 2020-06-01 14:22
The Haunted Hardware Store
The Haunted Hardware Store (The David Morgan series Book 1) - Frank Roberts

by Frank Roberts

 

This story started with a long, drawn out description of small town life that gave me thoughts of slitting my wrist, both from the writing style and the thought of having to spend a life in that environment. Eventually some ghostly happenings did enter the story.

 

There's nothing wrong with the writing in this per se, it's just a voice I don't get on with. Very much like someone's great uncle Horace sitting on the front porch in a small southern town telling a story of something that happened and digressing into irrelevant details about people you don't know for hours at a time. Some readers might love this style, I don't.

 

The most likeable characters in my opinion are the ghosts. They do get their story told. The main character would be okay if he would stick to the story. The actual central plot is fairly good once it finally takes form. I just found the digressions terminally boring.

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review 2020-05-30 15:01
The Ghost Pirates
The Ghost Pirates and Others: The Best of William Hope Hodgson - William Hope Hodgson,Jeremy Lassen

by William Hope Hodson

 

This is an old sea story with the tone of the nineteenth century style of relating such tales. It tells of a ship reported to be haunted and the protagonist's experience of seeing shades on deck that seems to prove the tales are true.

 

Nineteeth century writers often put in a lot of detail and the story can drag a bit, but at the same time it's an interesting ghost story and the sort of thing that has a lot of atmosphere. Fans of traditional ghost stories won't be disappointed!

 

The story is relatively short, under 200 pages, and plenty happens to keep the reader interested despite the apparently slow pace. The characters are especially well defined and readers should not miss the Appendix at the back!

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review 2020-05-29 21:26
The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost, Johnny Dixon #4 by John Bellairs
The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost - John Bellairs

This is the first, and only?, direct sequel in the 'Johnny Dixon' series, and it may be why I remembered not liking this one as a kid. Most of Bellairs' work can be read independently, but 'Revenge' jumps right into one of Johnny's patented freaky dreams. An old man threatens Johnny, saying he's done his family a wrong, and that the ghost of Warren Windrow still roams. Warren Windrow is the 'Sorcerer' whose bespelled skull caused so much trouble last time.

 

Of course, Johnny doesn't tell anyone about the dream. This series. They either keep supernatural events a secret because they're embarrassed, or they disbelieve each other. Johnny starts sleep-walking and acting ornery, and has strong visions of saloons and gambling dens. Eventually, he becomes comatose and even an impromptu exorcism attempt by Father Higgins doesn't help.

 

As a kid, this one left me a little confused. I didn't read these in order so the abrupt revenge-plot left me in the dark. Also, with Johnny out of the picture we have the Professor and Fergie on a multi-day expedition to the Windrow estate to find ancient magical talismans (straight out of the Bible) that may be Johnny's last hope. 

 

The saving grace of this book, as with many others of Bellairs, are some genuine horror elements out of nowhere that keep a reader off guard, and the period details that evoke midcentury American boyhood and, in this case, Gold Rush-era California. 

 

Johnny Dixon

 

Next: 'The Eyes of the Killer Robot'

 

Previous: 'The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull'

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