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review 2018-04-13 18:30
WINTERBAY ABBEY by John Bladek and Javonna Duroe, narrated by Matt Godfrey
Winterbay Abbey: A Ghost Story - John Bladek,Davonna Juroe,Matt Godfrey

 

WINTERBAY ABBEY is a beautifully written Gothic style ghost story and I adored it, from start to finish!

 

When I saw this being compared to Susan Hill's THE WOMAN IN BLACK, I was a bit hesitant because, to be honest, I did not like that tale AT ALL. It was repetitious and I felt it lacked the Gothic, quiet horror atmosphere that I love so much. I needn't have worried because this book was much better than that one and it had the added advantage of Matt Godfrey's narration.

 

This is the story of a man and his wife, Will & Emily, getting over a recent accident where the wife nearly lost her hand. They've also just discovered that Emily is pregnant. Her damaged hand has affected her ability to contribute to the family's financial resources and times are tight. When Will's boss offers makes him take a job in Maine drawing up architecture plans to turn an abandoned abbey into a resort hotel, he jumps on the chance to secure his family's financial future. At the last minute, he decided to invite Emily to meet him there. Will their plans work out? Will they succeed in having a happy and healthy family? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I do love me a quiet horror story. What does that mean? For me, it means atmospheric, inspiring feelings of dread and fear, without spilling a lot of blood and guts. This must be difficult to write, because, to be honest, I haven't read that many good, quiet horror stories. This one is better than good, it's fantastic! There were a few instances where I thought Will made a bad decision or two, but overall, I also felt that it was realistic in the telling, and I was rooting for our couple to make it through.

 

With the always rich narration of Matt Godfrey, I felt this couple come to life. I hope that you give it a chance and let Will and Emily come alive for you.

 

Highly recommended!

 

Get your copy here: WINTERBAY ABBEY

 

*Thanks to narrator and friend, Matt Godfrey, for the audio copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it!* 

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review 2018-03-04 15:35
Scary House by Sean Thomas Fisher
Scary House - Sean Thomas Fisher

SCARY HOUSE featured genuinely scary scenes that I enjoyed!

 

There's nothing like a good haunted house tale to get my heart pumping. Combine that with a coming of age story and I should have a real winner on my hands. In this case, I did enjoy the story, it's just that I never felt quite connected to the characters.

 

Gavin and his friends are getting ready for Halloween and want to check out a somewhat nearby haunted house. Gavin had his new Polaroid, (this is the early 90's), and used it to take instant photos around the home. The house has a history, so when they find an old photo album still there, they flip through to find out more. It's when they come across a picture of their bikes, parked outside that they start to get the creeps. From there, as you may have guessed, things go downhill. What happens then? You'll have to read SCARY HOUSE to find out!

 

There's a lot of early 90's nostalgia, a Jurassic Park watch is repeatedly mentioned as are some other heavy metal and rock bands, such as Nirvana. (Which is funny to me, because the author used to be a DJ at my local rock radio station and it played a lot of music from that era.)

 

This book was fun and did have a cool premise. Unfortunately, I couldn't help feeling it was somewhat derivative of King's IT. (It must be hard to avoid that comparison, when it's a nostalgic coming of age story which also involves a group of kids coming back to town as adults.) The other issue I had was that I didn't care that much for the characters. For me, that fact took a lot of tension out of the final scenes.

 

Overall, I did have fun with this story and would try more from Sean Thomas Fisher in the future, it's just that SCARY HOUSE didn't turn out to be that scary for me. Your mileage may vary!

 

*I received a free Kindle copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2018-03-01 22:30
Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem, narrated by Matt Godfrey
Deadfall Hotel - Matt Godfrey,Steve Rasnic Tem,Steve Rasnic Tem

THE DEADFALL HOTEL is a beautifully written story, though difficult to describe with any kind of clarity. To vaguely set the scene: a recently widowed man accepts a job as caretaker at a somewhat remote hotel, bringing along his young daughter. The current, elderly caretaker is the one who recruited him, and will be available for on the job training, in the hopes that he will soon be able to retire.

 

Anyone going into this book expecting something like King's THE SHINING, or Matheson's HELL HOUSE, is probably going to be disappointed. While the Deadfall does have some ghosts hanging around, the story isn't really about them. Then again, it's not really about the living people at the hotel either. (Remember when I said this is a difficult story to review with clarity?)

 

Here's how I viewed it, (or tried to view it), and that was by looking at each chapter as its own separate story; connected only by their setting. King of the Cats, for instance. Yes, living people were in the tale, but it was mostly about the cats and the hotel. The Craving-yes the caretaker in training was part of the story, but only incidentally.

 

In these little vignettes, the author really shines, (especially in regards to the werewolf and the vampire), but when it came to the living people, the narrative didn't work as well for me. I enjoyed the characters, but they did a LOT of things that weren't believable. Towards the end, a few of their confusing actions were explained, (like why they went there in the first place), but the father repeatedly putting his daughter into danger was something that was not explained to my satisfaction.

 

Aside from these issues, I truly enjoyed this story. I've long been a fan of Tem's writing, but other than his novel UBO, (which I loved), I've not read any of his longer works. I pulled over in my car, so I could bookmark this quote from the audio:

 

"Fall is but a whisper in these environs. With so much death and decay on display year-round, we hardly notice the autumn and so it truncates, crawling off sullen and insulted by our lack of attention."

 

As I said above, I listened to this story, and I loved the narration-especially the voicing of Jacob, the elderly caretaker. Most chapters started off with quotes from his journals over the years and I think those were my favorite parts.

 

Even though DEADFALL HOTEL wasn't quite what I was expecting, it did grow on me, and I did end up enjoying it. I would go there for a visit...as long as I didn't have to go near that godawful swimming pool. (Trust me, that pool was SCARY.)

 

Highly recommended for fans of dark fantasy, and/or weird tales!

 

*I received the audio of this book free of charge from the narrator with no strings attached. I chose to review it anyway. Furthermore, I consider the narrator to be a friend, even though we've never met in person. That fact did not affect this, my honest review.*

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review 2018-01-06 02:19
The last story strengthened my resolve to never go on a cruise
Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories by Dahl, Roald (2012) Paperback - Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories was a must-have for me for 2 reasons: 1. Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors and I want to read everything he's ever written and 2. I love ghost stories. I have to admit that going into this one I was very much under the impression that this was going to be a book filled with stories written by Dahl himself. I clearly hadn't read the synopsis or book jacket because that is not what this book is about. This is a collection of some of Dahl's favorite ghost stories written by other people. He compiled this list when he was working on a project for American television and his preparation was extensive. He read 749 tales of the supernatural by different authors and from that large number he whittled it down to 14 of his favorites that he felt were not only excellent examples of writing in this genre but that would make for good television. (He also discovered that women are experts in this field and until the 11th hour he thought they would beat out the men with a hard majority.) Since there are 14 different stories in this collection, I will only talk about 2 that I found particularly chilling (and yes they are written by women). 

 

The first is called 'Harry' and was written by Rosemary Timperley. It bore a striking resemblance to The Imaginary in that its primary focus was on a little girl who had a strong friendship with an imaginary boy. The biggest difference here is that the mom tried very hard to squash this relationship because she had a deep and abiding fear...of the name Harry. Yes, I too found this odd. Nevertheless, while it may seem irrational this fear was quite powerful and instead of ignoring the interactions of her child and her invisible playmate she let it consume her until...well you'll have to read the story.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-01-01 04:31
The Ginza Ghost by Keikichi Osaka, translated by Ho-Ling Wong
The Ginza Ghost: and other stories - Ho-Ling Wong,Keikichi Ōsaka

Have I mentioned that I hate reviewing anthologies? Collections of stories by the same author are easier to review than ones with stories by many authors, but I’d still rather review individual novels, novellas, and short stories.

Anyway, this made it onto my TBR after I finished Soji Shimada’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders and went hunting for similar books. The Ginza Ghost starts with an introduction about Osaka and his stories. Like Shimada, Osaka was an author of honkaku (orthodox) mysteries. He was born in 1912 and began prolifically publishing mystery stories starting in 1932. Unfortunately, this was a time when honkaku mysteries were looked at unfavorably in Japan, and so he eventually had to switch to comedy and spy stories. In 1943 he was drafted, and he died of disease sometime in 1945.

The collection includes twelve stories organized semi-chronologically by publication date. I’m not sure why there were a few exceptions mixed in. Perhaps to make sure the volume ended as strongly as possible? “The Phantom Wife” wouldn’t have made for as good a stopping point as “The Ginza Ghost.”

I’d highly advise skipping the portion of the introduction that discusses the individual stories. I made the mistake of reading the first few and, although they didn’t quite include spoilers, they contained enough information to affect the way I interpreted the stories and the evidence.

The first story was a fairly basic mystery. It wasn’t until later in the collection that one of Osaka’s signature elements, the possibility of supernatural involvement, came into play. Although none of his stories contained true supernatural elements, many of them were designed to look like they might. In “The Phantom Wife,” it appeared that a man was killed by his vengeful dead wife. The murder in “The Monster of the Lighthouse” seemed to have been committed by an enormously strong red octopus-like monster. In “The Ginza Ghost,” a young woman seemed to have been murdered by the ghost of a jealous wife. In “The Cold Night’s Clearing,” the murderer looked to be none other than Santa Claus himself.

Another thing that came up a lot in Osaka’s stories was optical illusions. While the way these illusions were uncovered didn’t always work for me, they were certainly interesting. One part, in particular, brought to mind 2015’s “The Dress,” the one that either looked blue and black or white and gold depending on who you asked.

I liked but didn’t necessarily love most of the collection. My particular favorites were “The Mourning Locomotive” (even though it relied heavily on information found in a letter after everything was all over), “The Ginza Ghost,” “The Guardian of the Lighthouse” (tragic and horrific), and “The Demon in the Mine" (wonderful incorporation of the setting). “The Cold Night’s Clearing” was also quite good, as long as you’re okay with your Christmas stories being very depressing. And “The Hungry Letter-Box” was a nice change of pace, the only mystery that didn’t involve a death of some kind. I later learned, after reading the bit about this story in the introduction, that this was the one story in the collection written after Osaka switched to spy stories and comedies.

There were other stories I didn't like quite as much. “The Phantasm of the Stone Wall” was a little boring, and the deductions in “The Mesmerising Light” were largely unnecessary and could have been done away with if one of the characters had come up with better questions. “The Three Madmen” and “The Hangman of the Department Store” were both nice enough mysteries, but not the best or most intriguing mysteries in the collection. “The Monster of the Lighthouse” started off okay but became, for me, the worst story in the collection by the end. Its placement right after “The Mourning Locomotive” probably didn’t help.

Ah, and I feel I should mention really quick that some of the stories have very gory and descriptive crime scenes. The ones that made me cringe the most were “The Mourning Locomotive” and “The Three Madmen.” The first had many grisly deaths by train, including the aftermath of trying to clean up, and the second included a victim whose brain had been removed.

Those with more of a taste for short stories might like this collection more than I did, but it wasn’t bad. “The Demon in the Mine,” the longest story in the book, made me wish that Osaka’s one novel, Yacht of Death, had been translated. The story’s greater number of pages gave him more time to really set up the situation (although the characters still weren’t fleshed out at all), and I loved the way he incorporated the specifics of the mine into the mystery.

The book included a publisher’s note on Japanese weights and measures, as well as a few translator’s notes. I wouldn’t have minded if there had been a few more translator’s notes - there were at least a couple things I was curious about that didn’t get notes.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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