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review 2016-11-12 00:47
The Witches - Roald Dahl,Quentin Blake

The Witches is a book about a little boy vacationing with his grandma.  While on vacation, he encounters witches, and gets himself into quite a predicament.  This books is appropriate for grades 4-6.  While reading this book with the class, plot structure can be deeply analyzed.

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review 2015-10-30 19:03
Two More Ghost Stories (sort of)

Two more additions to this year's list of "Halloween Reads".  While neither of these is definitively a "ghost story" they both have cringe-worthy moments and they both have "ghost" in the title so I am including them.

HUNGRY GHOSTS by Peggi Blair 
Ricardo Ramirez is a homicide investigator in Havana.  It’s not a popular profession to have in Cuba nor does it come with much government support in the way of state of the art labs, DNA testing or even pencils.  However, Detective Ramirez has his own secret weapon … the ghosts of the victims he will be investigating.  Whenever Ricardo sees a new apparition he knows that a new case is about to come his way.  Unfortunately, these ghosts cannot speak to him, but somehow, they manage to help.
The latest victim appears when the body of a dead prostitute is found with nylon stockings tied in a bow around her neck … the same MO as his one and only unsolved murder.
Quick switch of locations where Charlie Pike finds a similar victim, also with stockings tied into a bow around her neck, on a First Nations Reserve in Northern Ontario.  Can these cases possibly be related?  Is there really an international serial killer on the loose?
For me this book was interesting on so many levels and, surprisingly, the ghost story was the least of them.  While the ghost added color and some comic relief to a rather grisly murder mystery, had the book been written without the inclusion of the apparitions it would have worked just as well.  I enjoyed the glimpse into the life of the local inhabitants of Havana that is a far cry from the tourist experience.  Contrasting and comparing Detective Ramirez in Cuba to Detective Pike on the First Nations Reserve was eye-opening … so many of the same issues face the population in both areas.  Ms. Blair incorporates the comparison so smoothly into her narrative that it never detracts from the story, yet makes a strong statement never the less.  It thoroughly added to my enjoyment of this well written book.  There were enough plot twists and red herrings to keep me turning the pages at a pretty brisk pace and the ending was a revelation I didn’t really see coming until Ms. Blair places her reader in the midst of the action.
I enjoyed all of the characters but have to give a special shout-out to the portrayal of Hector Apiro, the coroner.  He is one of the most original characters I’ve read in a long time and were I casting this as a movie Peter Dinklage would be my first and only choice.  If that’s not teaser enough to tempt you to pick up the book I don’t know what is.
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This is the third in the Inspector Ramirez series and the first I have read.  It held up well as a stand-alone book and despite my protest of not wanting to get involved with another series I will be picking up book one and two somewhere along the way. 

There were specters, so I am including this in my Halloween reads and giving it 4 ghosts … not as a Halloween read but as a very good book overall.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her blog)
I am a lawyer, realtor, and author living in Ottawa, Canada. I was a defence lawyer and prosecutor, but most of my legal career was spent in Aboriginal law. But my Inspector Ramirez mysteries series is set in Havana.
Why Cuba?
I spent  Christmas in Old Havana in 2006. I saw how bored the young police officers were, slouched against lamp posts, waiting for a crime, any crime to occur. I went to astonishing art museums, the book market (hundreds of thousands of used books), cigar and rum factories, artists’ stalls, and, of course, the Malecon.
I visited most of Hemingway’s favourite bars (no easy task — they’re all over the place) and learned how to make the perfect mojito.
Havana is colourful mimes on stilts, elderly cigar ladies, child beggars, feral cats and homeless dogs. It’s gorgeous, collapsing Spanish colonial architecture, crazy anti-George Bush billboards, one of the most educated populations in the world, and everywhere, music. Cuba is communism, extreme shortages and incredible generosity, corruption, inane bureaucracy and genuine kindness.
It is quite possibly the most interesting place I’ve ever been. How could I resist writing about it?
A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay
We meet Merry as an adult just as she is about to lead a journalist/author into her childhood home, a home that became a house of horrors for Merry.  When she was 8 years old her beloved older sister Marjorie began to show signs of instability – the nighttime stories she had always invented for Merry took on a dark cast and Marjorie herself became withdrawn, dark and moody.  Well, Marjorie was a teenager and these things were par for the course.  Or were they?  While Marjorie’s mother insisted that it was something visiting a counselor could take care of her father was not so sure and as his descent into unemployment and malaise deepened his religious convictions increased so he decided an exorcism was more along the line of what Marjorie needed.
Somehow the Barrett family and their troubles came to the attention of the media and before they knew it, they were the stars of a reality television show, “The Possession”, centered around Marjorie’s “affliction” and upcoming exorcism.
All of the events that unfolded in the Barrett household are told in alternating narratives of Merry discussing her past with the journalist/author, snippets of a blog Merry wrote (which were the parts of the book I enjoyed the most) and recounting the filming of the reality show as Merry rewatches episodes.
Was it possession, mental illness or playing to the media?  Who was the ill member of the family?  Marjorie?  Mr. Barrett?  Or, quite possibly someone else altogether?
I can’t honestly admit that I enjoyed this book as much as I expected to.  The writing is excellent.  I think Mr. Tremblay did an admirable job of capturing Merry’s young voice and then carrying that through to the present and an equally good job with Marjorie as the “possession” overtakes her.  And yes, there were those creepy unexplainable moments and yes, the “demonic possession” of Marjorie did seem like it was a real possibility.  I’ll even admit to a bit of angst about the actual exorcism (flashbacks to “The Exorcist” I think) but overall this book didn’t wow me even as a psychological thriller.
Overall, as one of my Hallowe’en reads gets 3 ghosts.  Just not my cup of tea, I guess.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his blog)
Paul Tremblay is the author of the novel A Head Full of Ghosts. His other novels include The Little SleepNo Sleep till WonderlandSwallowing a Donkey’s Eye, and Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly (co-written with Stephen Graham Jones).
Paul is very truthful and declarative in his bios. He once gained three inches of height in a single twelve hour period, and he does not have a uvula. His second toe is longer than his big toe, and yes, on both feet. He has a master’s degree in mathematics, teaches AP Calculus, and once made twenty-seven three pointers in a row. He enjoys reading The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher aloud in a faux-British accent to children. He is also reading this bio aloud, now, with the same accent. He lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts and he is represented by Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management.
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review 2015-10-28 19:51
Two Ghost Stories

So I'm finally catching up on posting some of the reviews for my "Halloween Reads".  Although told in very different styles these books had some similarities such as time period (1930's), female ghosts with an agenda and female protagonists, which I always enjoy. 


Alice, a shy and inexperienced young woman working her first job in London, falls prey to a scoundrel (married, no less) and soon finds herself pregnant.  It’s 1933 and this situation is simply not acceptable.  To avoid the disgrace the news would bring down upon the family her mother concocts a story about tragic widowhood and makes arrangements to have Alice shipped off to an old school friend who is the housekeeper at Fiercombe Manor.  The manor is in a remote area of Gloucestershire so no one need know of Alice’s unfortunate circumstance.  Once the child is given up for adoption Alice can return to the loving embrace (at least that of her father – her mother is a bit of cold fish) family and her life in London.
The manor has quite a sad history and as Alice serves out her confinement of shame she begins to uncover the story of Lady Elizabeth Stanton, herself pregnant, when she was lady of the manor more than thirty years ago.  With the discovery of a long forgotten photograph and a hidden diary Alice begins to piece together Elizabeth’s tragic story … and begins to believe that Elizabeth is quite possibly haunting the manor.  Alice begins to fear that the same fate that befell Elizabeth’s baby might happen to hers as well.
Seamlessly told in two time lines, thirty years apart, Ms. Riordan gives the reader a many-layered story.  The reader experiences what life is like for a young women living in 1930’s London and then compares that cleverly with life at a isolated, virtually unwanted and mostly forgotten manor in the country.  The reader is also allowed to experience the life of the upper crust at the turn of the century through Elizabeth’s journal.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  As a book read around Halloween I give it four little ghosts. Only four because of the ending – while I enjoyed the big pink bow wrapping it all up neatly – it was, even for me, a little pat.  That being said this story does have a little bit of everything that, in my opinion, makes a good gothic mystery/horror.  Secrets, lies, love affairs, nosey servants, hidden rooms and long forgotten personal effects all tossed together with the perfect combination of angst, spookiness, atmosphere, mystery, drama and a love match thrown in for good measure.
Interestingly, the North American book was titled “Fiercombe Manor” while in the UK it was released under the title “The Girl in the Photograph”.  I'm not sure which is the title I prefer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from www.kateriordan.com)
Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist who was born in London and grew up in

Warwickshire. She spent her first years in journalism as a staffer, first at The Guardian as an editorial assistant and later at Time Out London, where she went on to become deputy editor for the lifestyle section, covering everything from travel to property to beauty. After seven fantastic years of weird and wonderful assignments, she decided to go freelance in order to concentrate on writing fiction, which had for a long time been an ambition (not least when she was interviewing authors for Time Out).

After moving to Cheltenham in the Cotswolds, she wrote Birdcage Walk, which was published by Diversion as an ebook in 2012. Her second novel sold to Penguin in the UK and HarperCollins in the US and Canada, and was published in early 2015 – as The Girl in the Photograph and Fiercombe Manor respectively. A German edition will follow in the autumn of 2015. She is now hard at work on her next novel, a dual narrative story full of secrets and intrigue and moving between the years 1877, 1910 and 1922.
Kate lives in the Gloucestershire countryside with her husband and their dog Morris, a Staffordshire bull terrier they adopted from a shelter in 2013.
Sarah Piper lives a pretty hand to mouth existence.  Going from one temporary job to the next, usually alone and not very social she doesn’t have a lot going for her.  She often wishes that her life was just as tad more adventurous.  Be careful what you wish for Sarah!  Enter Alistair Gellis, WWII survivor, independently wealthy ghost hunter, who as fate would have it needs an assistant – specifically a female assistant – to help him on his next “hunt”.  Not exactly the kind employment you expect to receive when you work for a temp agency.  Sarah has her trepidations but jumps at the money to be earned AND the chance to do something exciting.
The investigation is in a haunting involving a 19-year old Maddy Clare who apparently committed suicide.  She is a very angry spirit who hates men (hence the need for a female assistant).  Maddy is very vengeful and soon wreaks chaos on anyone involved with the investigation.  Sarah, for some reason, feels empathy for Maddy and refuses to give up despite the horrific events that occur and when the truth comes out about the suicide both women are allowed relief from the nightmare that has become their reality.
Ms. St. James has given her readers an excellent story of a frightening haunting, atmospheric, tense and tingly with quite a few unexpected scares along the way.  She has also given her readers a mystery to solve and that, all in all, makes for a pretty good ghost story.
My complaint with this book is not at all about the story but rests on the shoulders of the characters actions.  I understand Sarah and her background, because it is very well written, but in her relationship with both Alistair and his original assistant she seems to step out of character.  Her actions just did not seem to fit in with her character.  I don’t want this review to include any spoilers, so suffice it to say that it bothered me enough to be an ever so slight hindrance to my complete enjoyment of the story.
So it’s three ghosts for this one.
I listened to this book on audio and the narrator, Pamelia Garelick, who is an excellent narrator did an superb job with the reading.  However, her voice is very similar to that of actress Penelope Wilton who plays Isobel Crawley on Downton Abbey … so very similar that I could not get Ms. Wilton’s image out of my head the whole time I was listening to the book.  I felt as if Isobel were telling me a story.  I found this so distracting at times that I feel the need to mention it here, but it does not reflect (I don’t think) on my overall rating of the book, just on my enjoyment of this book on audio.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from http://www.simonestjames.com/about/)

Simone St. James is a lifelong reader of ghost stories and other spooky reads, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she discovered two wonderful genres: romances and old, classic gothics.
Wishing she could read something that combined the three, with a 1920’s setting thrown in as well (and having written two full novels that were rightfully rejected everywhere and will forever live under the bed), she wrote THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, which was the book she really wished to read. An agent’s representation and a publishing contract soon followed, and she has been happily writing in her chosen, made-up genre ever since. THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE won two of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® awards, as well as Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Book.
Simone spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to become a full-time writer. She lives just outside Toronto with her husband and an elderly cat who is probably sleeping as we speak. When not writing, Simone can be found traveling, cooking, staying active and healthy, gardening badly, and reading, reading, reading. Among her favorite authors (besides the geeky history and research books she loves) are Mary Stewart, Daphne duMaurier, Deanna Raybourn, Susanna Kearsley, Jacqueline Winspear, Victoria Holt, Kate Morton, George R. R. Martin, and Stephen King. How’s that for a mix? She is also rather addicted to Sherlock on the BBC.
Simone loves to chat with readers on Facebook and Twitter, or through her contact page. You can also see her reading lists on Goodreads and the latest behind the scenes pictures she’s pinned on Pinterest.
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text 2015-10-28 01:35
Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Horror Books I Really Enjoyed
It - Stephen King
I Am Not A Serial Killer - Dan Wells
Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer - Van Jensen,Dusty Higgins
Batman/Dracula: Red Rain - Doug Moench,Dennis O'Neil,Malcolm Jones III,Kelley Jones,Les Dorscheid,Eric Van Lustbader
Unwind - Neal Shusterman
Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake
Frenzy - Robert Lettrick
The Birds & Other Stories - Daphne du Maurier
Feed - Mira Grant

This entry is brought to you as part of the theme sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish.  I'm pretty sure that since this is Halloween themed, there are going to be many interesting entries for this one.


So, on Halloween, many would think of candy, Halloween goodies, and dressing up in all kinds of costumes (my personal favorite was dressing up as Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Disney version.  The costume I had actually had coins sewn onto the sash of the skirt.)  They would also think of spooky stories.  I wouldn't consider myself the kind of person who scares easily (*knocks on wood in the hopes that she doesn't end up eating her words later on*), but there's something cathartic about being scared in a good book.


So this entry's dedicated to some horror (either themed or genre) reads that I personally enjoyed.  No particular order here, just going with the flow.


It - Stephen King 


1. "It" by Stephen King


Seriously, is anyone surprised I'd put Stephen King on this list?  I could probably list many of his books, but "IT" genuinely scared me while at the same time leaving me not terrified of clowns for life.  (I'm serious - I do not find clowns horrifying. I actually like creepy carnival environments or carnipunk themed stories.  It's the theme to one of the manuscripts I've been working on the past year.  Living animatronics- a la Five Nights at Freddy's, though? That...does terrify me to a certain extent, but depends on how it's done.)  I'm due for a re-read of this book (and basically many of SK's early works), because many of them I haven't read since my teens/early 20s.


I Am Not A Serial Killer - Dan Wells 


2. I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells


Basically, I could put the whole John Cleaver series on this list, but there's something about "I Am Not a Serial Killer" that left its mark on me.  There are genuinely terrifying moments in this YA crossover series, and some of it is a battle of internal and external demons (some literal, some not).  I enjoyed it because John's voice appealed to me with dark, candid humor, blended with harrowing moments the serial killer struck (and yeah, I knew its genre leaning from the get go).


Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury 



3. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury


I thoroughly enjoyed "Something Wicked This Way Comes" - it's part horror, part coming of age, and the writing - to me - was beautifully poetic while having some genuinely creepy tones to it throughout the narrative.  I also probably loved this one given my love for creepy carnival environments (see explanation above for "IT").  The movie adaptation I thought was very well done for this.


Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer - Van Jensen,Dusty Higgins 


4. Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer by Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins


I honestly did not even know this book was a thing until I browsed the first volume of this comic at my local library, then got a galley for the entire series from NetGalley (which I've yet to review).  But OMG, this was dark.  And funny.  Pinocchio breaking off his nose to use as an attack stake to kill vampires?  The concept of it was brilliant, and kudos for the creativity in the backstory.  This was a mashup of a classic story with a horror theme that worked rather well, and I'm glad I read it.


Batman/Dracula: Red Rain - Doug Moench,Dennis O'Neil,Malcolm Jones III,Kelley Jones,Les Dorscheid,Eric Van Lustbader 


5. Batman - Red Rain


While on the subject of comics, I remember Batman - Red Rain rather vividly. The Batman franchise has had a number of holiday themed comics that stood out to me (I think I remember the one called "Haunted Knight" that I liked as well.)  But this was the first where I looked at the story drawn between Batman and Dracula and went "Well...darn.  That's a good parallel."  It had some dated elements to it, but I was drawn into the story and I'll admit it didn't let me go even in this first part of a respective series.


Unwind - Neal Shusterman 


6. "Unwind" by Neal Shusterman


So I know that this is a YA dystopian series, but it counts as horror.  Namely because once you read the process of what "unwinding" is like...it's horrifying.  I loved this book so much.  Shusterman just does description so well.


Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake 


7. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake


I found the first book in this series to be the best and the most successful in creating its creepy and distinctive characters, and it's one of my favorites in terms of establishing a narrative ghost story as well.  It was fun in moments too.


Frenzy - Robert Lettrick 


8. Frenzy by Robert Lettrick


"Frenzy" was middle grade horror done right, especially in the vein of rabid animals attacking and killing off the cast of characters in the midst of a camp site.  I didn't expect to be so emotionally drawn into it.  It was one of those narratives where I'm like "NOOOOOO, PLEASE DON'T DIE! DON'T SAY HE'S/SHE'S DEAD!"  Yeah.  It was like that.


The Birds & Other Stories - Daphne du Maurier 


9. The Birds by Daphne DuMaurier


This story is the reason why I look up to the sky and hope a flock of birds do not come swooping down to peck me to death.   I'm not especially terrified of birds, but I mean, the narrative gives one second thoughts.


Feed - Mira Grant 


 10. Feed by Mira Grant


Because bloggers saving the world from zombies equals...a whole lot of chaos and political turmoil.  The Newsflesh series had many harrowing moments, and the ending of this really got to me on an emotional level (though arguably, with events of the series, one could say it's not the whole story, but it still packed a punch for me).


Until next entry,


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review 2015-10-14 14:59
Ghostly - A Review

GHOSTLY compiled by Audrey Niffenegger

Everyone should have a quest and mine is finding the perfect ghost story.  What better place to find a great ghost story than in a book of just such stories put together by Audrey Niffenegger (Time Traveler’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry)?
Each story has an introduction by Ms. Niffenegger that explains a little bit about the story’s author, some background on the story itself and why she decided to include it in this collection.  It also includes some charming illustrations drawn by Ms. Niffenegger.
The stories are quite diverse both in when they were written (some as early as the 1700’s) and their authors; some very well known as Poe and Bradbury and others unfamiliar to me.  Also included were more contemporary fiction such as the story by Ms. Niffenegger herself.  In my self proclaimed quest for a good, scary ghost story I've read many to it surprised me that the ones I enjoyed the most were the two included by Saki, an author I have not read before.  The stories were very tightly written, had the fright factor yet were on the humorous side.  Click, Clack the Rattlebag” by Neil Gaiman was a definite favorite as well.
Haunted houses, possessed people, ghostly places and strange objects were all given a nod.  While, admittedly, not every story appealed to me – which is expected when reading a collection – overall, Ms. Niffenegger made some good choices.  Spanning many eras of writing I also found it interesting to see how writing and content changed over the years.  It was very clear when seeing stories brought together in one book.  The only drawback in my opinion (and the reason for my rating) was that some of the stories included left me wondering if it was truly a ghost story or a description of someone losing their grip on their own sanity … maybe sometimes it’s the same thing?
So have I found my “perfect” ghost story yet … probably not … but the journey is what makes the quest so much fun!
The stories in this collection are:
'The Black Cat' by Edgar Allen Poe
'Secret Life, With Cats' by Audrey Niffenegger
'Pomegranate Seed' by Edith Wharton
'The Beckoning Fair One' by Oliver Onions
'The Mezzotint' by M.R. James
'Honeysuckle Cottage' by P.G. Wodehouse
'Click Clack the Rattlebag' by Neil Gaiman
• 'They' by Rudyard Kipling
'Playmates' by A.M. Burrage
• 'The July Ghost' by A.S. Byatt
• 'Laura' by Saki
• 'The Open Window' by Saki
• 'The Specialist's Hat' by Kelly Link
• 'Tiny Ghosts' by Amy Giacalone
• 'The Pink House' by Rebecca Curtis
• 'August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains' by Ray Bradbury
*I received this ebook at no charge from Simon and Schuster
via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *
Audrey Niffenegger is a visual artist and a faculty member at Columbia College in Chicago. In addition to her bestselling debut novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, she is the author of two illustrated novels, The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Adventuress.
She lives in Chicago.
Some pretty exciting news from her website  …
Currently, I am working on a sequel to The Time Traveler’s Wife. The working title is The Other Husband. I am also continuing to work on The Chinchilla Girl in Exile and artwork for an exhibition at Printworks Gallery in September 2016.”
My curiosity is piqued and I know I definitely want to read “The Other Husband”.
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