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review 2017-02-24 17:48
Review: Ghostland: No Man's Land
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey
Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead - Christine Wicker

  I was quite excited to spend my monthly Audible credit on this book; what a fascinating idea--reframing American history by examining our relationship with our landmark haunted locales.

 

I, unfortunately, have returned it to Audible.

 

Each house is well-chosen: the Lemp mansion, for example, as a haunted touchstone in American history and culture...

and then debunked as an actual, or at least a full as-known haunting by the author. Chapter after chapter.

 

I hung on through the underlayer of smugness until the author stated repeatedly that Spiritualism didn't last, it was dead, it was no longer a thriving practice in the United States. Then I stopped reading. Why? I had reached the intolerable level of poor scholarship and research. There is an entire town of Spiritualists who live and work as such, in plain sight, and have done so for years: Lily Dale. Both a documentary and a book are available about Lily Dale, New York, and both are easy to find:

 

Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead * Christine Wicker

 

HBO Documentaries: No One Dies in Lily Dale

 

Side note: The author was also treated well by the Lemp Mansion's hosts, taken on their Haunted Tour, and given the choice room--one that is on the tour because it is reported to exhibit so much phenomena. His entire account of his Lemp tour and stay was mocking, in my opinion, disdainful of staff, location's history, and even his fellow tour group members! I feel as if I have been subjected to a history book written by a hipster: "Look, we're supposed to be enjoying this. OMG, all these people are really enjoying this! I cannot wait 'til I return to my cocktail and typewriter." Combined with the shoddy research, and some debunking claims without citations, this book is disappointedly unprofessional.

 

Also posted at The Dollop: American History Podcast

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review 2017-02-13 16:11
The Emperor in Shadow
Yamada Monogatori: The Emperor in Shadow - Richard Parks

[I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley.]

First, please note this is not a standalone novel, contrary to what I thought when I requested it, but part of a series (and very likely the last volume). However, I didn't find it difficult to follow the story and understand the characters: when the narrator alludes to events of the past or people he had previously met, he always adds a couple of sentences, nothing too long, just enough for a reader to understand the context. So this was good with me.

The setting here is that of feudal Japan (the Emperor and his court, bushi, military governors, geisha and courtesans) with a dash of supernatural: ghosts and youkai are common knowledge, and onmyôji and priestesses have actual power. In this world, Yamada and his faithful friend Kenji are confronted to attempted murder and political intrigue, from the Ise temple to the capital and the Emperor's court; I found the mystery decent enough, not too complicated (my guesses about a few things turned out to be right) yet not too easy either for the characters to understand, without convenient deus ex machina bringing the answers (Yamada deducted those).

It took me a couple of weeks to read, but it definitely wasn't boring (that was much more a matter of having lots of things to do and needing to prioritise other books in the meantime). The events made sense, the characters were likeable, and even though it's not my favourite novel ever, it was entertaining and believable.

On the downside, there were instances of Yamada 'hiding' things from the reader, which I don't particularly appreciate in mystery novels, and the female characters, while attaching, didn't have much to do apart from conveniently be here when a specific piece of information was needed, or wait in their palace for the men to do all the work. Granted, the setting itself doesn't lend itself to a lot of female freedom (aristocratic constraints, expectations placed on princesses, and so on), but it didn't help.

Conclusion: Still enjoyable in spite of these flaws.

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review 2017-02-05 15:18
Audio Book Review: Dead Lucky
Dead Lucky (A Ghosts & Magic Novella) - M.R. Forbes

*This audiobook was a gift.

Going through plans of a break in and snag of an ancient coin, Conor hears voices that call to him, telling him to find them. He has one week before the job to get the coin and he feels the insane desire to go to New Orleans, that what he's to find is there. There's a job for him here, find a set of dice that only a necromancer can find in a casino run by a voodoo lord.

It's always a pleasure to listen to Jeff narrate a story. Not only do we get different voices, but we get a few added effects with the characters (like Conor coughing). And, always what we are looking for, heart of the character. Jeff becomes who he voices. One of my favorites to listen to as he's so entertaining with his voice and the recording is seamless.

This novella is before Dead of Night in Conor's life time line. I'm listening to it after the second book. You can listen to this one at any time, before the series or during it. You get a great feel for Conor and the world.

This novella is one that would be very good to sample the world and Conor. We learn about the movement of the fields returning magic to the world. We see the touch it's had on the world, the changes in people and land.

This novella is neat because we get to see Danelle in action. If you've read the series, you'll understand what I mean. If you've not read the series, it's okay, you'll understand when you get to the series. But the cool thing here, we get to see how Conor came to possess the dice. This was something that was in the back of my mind, curious about.

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review 2017-01-26 02:11
The Winter Spirit by Indra Vaughn
The Winter Spirit - Indra Vaughn
I absolutely love the story, love the fairy-tale setting of "I love you" conquers death and evil evil relatives. Love the snowed-in isolated dwellings, love googly-eyed couples. Love characters damaged and hurt by former lovers/spouses.

The problem for me here is the length of the book. Not enough Owen. Not enough of the lovey-dovey couple (there were adorbs!), not enough Nate's history, not enough Nate/Gabriel interaction prior to the events. I hope some day the author will expand and build upon this story. But right now I have to take a star (maybe even a star and then some) for missed opportunities.

In the end it still mounts up to 4 stars.
Thank you for a cozy winter/holiday miracle read, Indra! :)

PS Oh, and I love the cover, too! :D

===========

Found Gabriel and Heath :D

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text 2017-01-25 12:16
7 Great Short Fiction Collections
Strange Wine - Harlan Ellison
The Shawshank Redemption - Stephen King
Tales from Nightside - Charles L. Grant
Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman
Night Music: Nocturnes Volume Two - John Connolly
Owls Hoot in the Daytime & Other Omens: Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman (Volume 5) - Manly Wade Wellman
20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill,Christopher Golden

I am a big short fiction reader, and have always been. I love being able to hop in, geta full experience, and move on in a single sitting. Or take a long, hot bath and read an entire novella. That kind of thing.

These are all single author collections, as opposed to multi-author anthologies. I prefer collections, in general, because, while they may vary wildly in terms of content and quality, they tend to be more cohesive, less jarring. Not to say there aren't some amazing anthos (this is what foreshadowing looks like)...

You'll also notice that these are mostly horror. I feel horror is often best at shorter lengths, giving short, sharp shocks before disbelief can set in. Novellas please me because you have just enough space to flesh out a few characters and give your story depth, but not enough to wander too far off  course.

Anyway, a few faves...

 

1. Strange Wine - Harlan Ellison  Strange Wine - Harlan Ellison  

 

    My first Ellison, recommended by Stephen King in Danse Macabre. Contains some of his best, weirdest works, but any Ellison is worth picking up. Still, this has a story about a nice Jewish boy whose dead mom is still trying to run his life. For his own good, of course. How can you resist?

 

2. Different Seasons - Stephen King  Different Seasons - Stephen King  

 

    Four novellas, all amazing. Yes, my favorite is "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," but"The Breathing Method" is a close second. I love club stories, and this is one of King's rare forays into that sub-genre. 

This is, to my  mind, King's most consistent collection. All of the others have at least one dud. Not this one. There's a reason three of these four tales have been made into great movies.

 

3. Tales from Nightside - Charles L. Grant  Tales from Nightside - Charles L. Grant  

 

    Another one highly recommended by King (he wrote the intro), and another that introduced me to one of my favorite authors. One  of the masters of "quiet horror," Grant wasn't much one for gore, preferring to imply some truly terrifying things. Dark and disturbing, with a few weird turns here and there.

 

4. Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman  Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders - Neil Gaiman  

 

    I love almost everything I've read of Gaiman's, but this is my favorite of his collections. Not much more to say about it, really, it's just great.

 

5. Night Music: Nocturnes Volume Two - John Connolly  Night Music: Nocturnes Volume Two - John Connolly  

 

    Read this last year, and loved it. Everything from literary fantasy to Ligotti-esque horror to true-life hauntings, all in one beautifully written package. Still need to read more Connolly.

 

6. Owls Hoot in the Daytime & Other Omens: Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman (Volume 5) - Manly Wade Wellman  Owls Hoot in the Daytime & Other Omens: Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman (Volume 5) - Manly Wade Wellman  

 

    All of the Silver John stories in one place. One of my favorite series characters, John is an itinerant balladeer who confronts various bizarre happenings during his wanderings through Appalachia. There's nothing quite like this out there.

 

7. 20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill,Christopher Golden  20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill,Christopher Golden  

 

    If this only had the title story and "Pop Art," it would still make the list, but there's so much more, too. Those two are sweet and sad, but the rest gets pretty damn dark while still keeping a bit of wonder.

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