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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-06-07 00:38
Do You Believe In Ghosts?
Help for the Haunted - John Searles

This book was a nice follow up after The Demonologist since I started reading it right after I returned the latter. Not saying the characters were based off the Warrens but they were totally based off the Warrens. 

 

In Help for the Haunted, Sylvie Mason, the daughter of renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Sylvester and Rose Mason, is trying to make sense of the world after said parents are murdered in a church. Sylvie herself was almost killed that night, though her memories of the event are lacking. There are so many questions that must be answered, like why did her troubled sister call their parents to the church last night? Did Sylvie really see the father of one of her parents' clients that night or was she just telling the detectives what they wanted to hear? Trying to answer all these questions as well as coming to terms with her own beliefs, Sylvie finds herself facing all sorts of ghosts, both the paranormal and the mental kind. 

 

I really liked this one. It sucked me in and held a grip on me the whole read. It was emotionally difficult to read at times, simply because some of the people and things that happened to the characters was just so awful. Gillian Flynn reviewed this novel for a blurb and I believe that was appropriate. Help for the Haunted is very much in the same vein of Dark Places and Gone Girl. No punches are held when it comes to describing Sylvie's life and it made the book feel eerily realistic. I was so mad when I had to stop reading to get back to work. Fifteen minute breaks are not enough. 

 

For me, my favorite part of the book was Sylvie. I absolutely adored her. She wasn't exactly a reliable narrator, as you come to realize as the story moves along. The fact that she knew what really happened to Abigail (mostly) really surprised me and wasn't something I saw coming. Most of all I just found her endearing. She reminded me a lot of how I was in middle school, since I was concerned about being the "good" daughter too. It made me feel for her. 

 

The other characters were also very realistic, though I didn't always find them endearing. The parents felt a bit like caricatures at times, though they were dimensional. I hated Rose but thought she was a terrific character. It made sense why she was the way she was but that didn't mean I had to like it. I loved Dereck and wished he were in it more but ah well. 

 

There were only a few elements to the book I didn't care for. The non-linear story telling was confusing at first, going back and forth so much. It worked in the end but it made it difficult to get into the story. There were also times where the story became a little slow and I was more interested in my phone than the story. At times the characters were just 

 

I wouldn't really call this one a mystery. I mean, it's classified as one in the library and I think bookstores too, but it's not really mystery. There is A mystery, but the story is more about Sylvie and her question over her beliefs and her relationship with her family. Figuring out who killed the Masons really took a back seat to everything else. That said, the pieces all meshed together in the end and the resolution was satisfying and made sense. 

 

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5. I'd definitely read it again. Great, sad story. 

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review 2017-05-17 22:30
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman, narrated by Mark Bramhall
Those Across the River - Christopher Buehlman

 

Those Across the River is my first Buehlman, but will not be my last. In fact, I downloaded another of his books just now.

 

I recently got a new phone that came with some fancy earbuds, so I decided to head over to Overdrive and check out an audio from my library, so I could try them out. I saw this book available and remembered that my friend Tressa has just recommended to me a book by this author just a few days previous. I downloaded Those Across the River knowing nothing about it, and I think that was the best way to go in to this story.

 

Set mostly in GA in the early 1930's, a damaged WWI veteran moves down from Chicago to a house he has recently inherited. In the letter he received about the inheritance he was warned not to actually live in the house, but of course, he does so anyway-along with his fiance Eudora. What follows is a well told, atmospheric and creepy story that went in a totally different direction than what I expected. There's nothing new or extraordinary here, but a well told and atmospheric story is always welcome on my Kindle, (and now on my phone!), and I enjoyed this immensely.

 

The narrator, Mark Bramhall, was absolutely phenomenal-I loved his Southern accents and voicing-they brought the story alive for me. I will be keeping an eye out for more of his work in the future. As for right now? I'm on to my next Christopher Buehlman book!

 

I highly recommend the audio of this novel!

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review 2017-05-09 18:35
The Well by Jack Cady, (Introduction from Tom Piccirilli)
The Well - Jack Cady,Tom Piccirilli

"There are Things that do not love the sun. They weep and curse their own creation. Sometimes on earth a cruel shift takes place. Time splits. Corpses possessed at the moment of their death rise from tombs. The dark ages of history flow mindless from stagnant wells and lime-dripping cellars. The corpses, those creatures of possession, walk through ancient halls and rooms."

 

So starts Jack Cady's The Well.

 Extremely well written, this is an excellent haunted house story, but it's also much more than that. It's A tale spanning generations, sprinkled throughout with genius and madness alike.

 

"He thought he knew the look of greed, lust, envy; but he realized without question that he was now looking at the force that embodied them all. He was looking at absolute evil."

 

This edition from Valancourt Books features a touching Introduction from Tom Piccirilli, (who has since passed away.) In it, Tom speaks of the kindness Jack Cady showed him when he first started out, which is coincidental-because I recently read a piece by another author who said the very same things about Tom Piccirilli. Tom goes on further to talk about The Well and how it influenced him and his writing, and now having read the book, I can see why. I'm glad that I bought my very own copy, because I'm sure I'll be reading it again in the future.

 

Note to self: Check out more works written by Jack Cady, ASAP.

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review 2017-05-09 15:27
Out Oct 3
Haunted Nights - Lisa Morton,Ellen Datlow

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

 

                Who doesn’t love Halloween?  Okay, it’s true that in some areas of the country, you will have near adults dressed in nothing more than a cheap mask ringing the doorbell and then being upset that they haven’t received a whole Snickers bar, but, hey, it’s Halloween, and look at those Princess Leias.  Brings a bit of hope about the future generation.

 

                But as most people can tell you, as the Princess Leias illustrate, there is also an attempt to make Halloween less scary.  Some schools have forbidden scary outfits, and most customers in my neighborhood recently have been superheroes and princesses.  (And that is another issue).  While it is understandable not to want to frighten young children, the sexualization of costumes and the move to cute, does tend to be a bit disturbing.  Look at the difference between male and female Iron Man costumes, for instance.

 

                Thankfully Morton and Datlow hew to the original concept of Halloween in this well edited collection.

 

                All the stories are set on Halloween (or on a related festival).  All the tales are spooky and focus on the darker aspect of the holiday.  Thought, it should be noted, that cute can still make an appearance in one or two tales.  But it is cute with a big bite, lots of sharp teeth, and you know, it is going to leave a scar.

 

                Seanan McGuire’s “With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfbane Seeds” starts the collection.  It is, on the surface, a haunted house tale (what better way to celebrate Halloween), as well as makes us of the idea of Mischief Night.  It is a good teen story too, at least in terms of the idea of needing and wanting to belong to a group.  It’s a rather quiet study of it, and while the subject matter and execution are completely different, in many ways it reminds me of Kij Johnson’s “Ponies” – the most chilling story about peer pressure ever.

 

                Which isn’t in this collection, but McGuire’s short story is just as good, so if you liked “Ponies”, read it.

 

                McGuire is followed by “Dirtmouth” by Stephen Graham Jones, a tale about fame, death, and afterlife.  To say much more would be giving a bit too much away, so I won’t.  Let’s just say, it makes a good companion piece to “The Monkey’s Paw”.

 

                Look, if you are over 12, and don’t know “The Monkey’s Paw,” I can’t know you.  Sorry.

 

                Perhaps Jonathan Maberry’s “A Small Taste of the Old Country”.  Considering the Trump’s administrations misstatements, false statements, or missteps (you can pick the word, I prefer lies) in terms of the Holocaust, Maberry’s somber story is a good rebuke to all those statements.  It also, like most good fiction, raises questions about justice, remembrance, and freedom.

 

                Joanna Parupinski’s tale “Wick’s End” makes good use of several folklore and tale motifs as does Kelley Armstrong’s “Nos Galen Gaeaf” (which is set in Cainsville).  Additionally, both stories make excellent use of the idea of storytelling.  Phillip Pullman’s “Seventeen Year Itch” also makes use of this idea and combines with the overuse trope of a madhouse.  Yet, he writes quite a spooky story.

 

                Jeffrey Ford gets bonus points for placing a tale in the New Jersey Pine Barrens but not including the Jersey Devil.  Paul Kane too plays with the sounds of footsteps, and John R. Little sets a Halloween on the moon.  Work by Pat Cadigan, Kate Jonez, S.P. Miskowski, and John Langan round out the collection.

 

                In all, the short stories are strong and contain a good deal of spook and spine tingles.  The emphasis is on fear rather than shock.  This isn’t to say that there is not blood, but the horror is more psychological than shock with blood spurting.  Not there isn’t the odd spurt or so.

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text 2017-05-01 08:10
April Reading in Review
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman
Fast Women - Jennifer Crusie
The Haunted Grange Of Goresthorpe - Arthur Conan Doyle
Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties - Rachel Cooke
Roger, Sausage and Whippet - Christopher Moore
The Delight of Being Ordinary: A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama - Roland Merullo
The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures - Carla D. Hayden,Library of Congress

I had 2 weeks of school holidays and Easter weekend in my favour this month, but unforeseen events put a hitch in my gitalong at the end of April.  Still I had a solid reading month and I'm not complaining at all.

 

28 books  / 7,511 pages read.

 

2 Five-star reads this time, although one of them is a re-read.  Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman  was so good in audio, I went out and bought a print copy for my shelves.  Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie is one of my all-time favourites and it never gets tired.

 

3 out of the 5 4.5 star reads were non-fiction, but one of those, Roger, Sausage and Whippet by Christopher Moore, a glossary of WWI terms, snuck a narrative in that was riveting, if only in its unexpectedness.  Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties by Rachel Cooke was great too, although as I said in my review, I'm not sure some of these women could be called roll models.  The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures by Carla D. Hayden, Library of Congress is one of those books you either appreciate, or you don't.  Obviously, I did.  

 

The Delight of Being Ordinary: A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama by Roland Merullo is the fictional equivalent of The Card Catalog - it's not going to be for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it left me chewing over more than a few things.

 

But by far, the breakout star of my month was The Haunted Grange Of Goresthorpe by Arthur Conan Doyle, a short ghost story that is believed to be one of the first Doyle wrote but was never published in his lifetime.  The only reason I dinged it 1/2 star is because the introduction is 30 pages longer than the story itself, and spends a lot of those 30 pages excusing the weakness of the story itself, which, by the way, isn't weak at all; it's a ripper of a ghost story.  If you like Doyle or ghosts, or both, you should find this story and read it.  

 

May your May be full of extraordinary reads.  And I don't mean maybe.  (sorry.)

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