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review 2017-02-13 21:05
Less Than Expected
Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries - Benjamin Radford,Lisa Jong-Soon Goodlin

Author Benjamin Radford obviously enjoys his work and enjoys telling his success stories. In many ways, he is thorough and scientific, such as when he investigates lake monster sightings or crop circles, and the claims of showman-type psychic who do tricks on TV. He does good detective work on ghosts as well, though I’m not sure he has proven they don’t exist, only that the methods of most investigators are poor and that the ghosts he has investigated don’t exist.

 

He falls short in his investigation of a “psychic detective” who was consulted by police. All the information she came up with was correct, but it was not as specific as she and others said it was when asked about it long after the event. Thus he shows the fallibility of memory over time, but not that she was initially incorrect. Her information given at the time of the crime (less detailed than that which was misremembered years later) was not specific enough that the police could have found the killer using it, but it was detailed enough that claiming she got it right by chance strikes me as a stretch. Radford says that her identification of the killer as an ethnically Eastern European man with hard K sound in his name and having a connection with a mechanic or being one, and having served prison time in the South are all just random guesses with good odds of being right. He didn’t do a statistical analysis of these factors to see if her odds of being right on this combination of traits were in fact as good as her odds of being wrong. The murder took place in New Jersey. He writes that 7% of the population of New Jersey at the time was Eastern European and therefore the odds of an accurate guess were good. But were they? 93% percent of people in New Jersey were not Eastern European. She had a much greater chance of being wrong. Of that Eastern European 7%, one can assume half were male. How many of that 3.5% of the state’s population had worked in a gas station or had relatives who did? Perhaps many. Jersey has a lot of gas stations. I’ll make that 2.5% of the New Jersey population just to lean in Radford’s favor. And of that 2.5% of the population, how many had a hard K sound in their names? It’s common in Eastern European names, so I’ll barely shave anything off and get this down to 2% of the population of New Jersey at the time. And of that 2% how many had served prison time in the South? (I have no idea, but if all of them had it would be remarkable.) Radford’s error in logic is assuming that because he can dispute the accuracy of various people’s memories years after the fact that he can prove she isn’t psychic. In another section, he showed that a performing card-guessing “psychic” was doing a magician’s card tricks, but this case isn’t the same. Nonetheless, he expresses dismay that the woman is still working as a psychic and refers to her customers as “victims.” He doesn’t notice the errors in his reasoning, and yet he critiques others for faulty thinking. A true skeptic has an open mind and looks carefully at what comes into it. Once in a great while, there may be a real psychic even if the majority are frauds.

 

Radford tells readers that he shows respect and compassion for people who believe in paranormal events. He investigated a house in which a couple perceived a scary haunting and he successfully explained the normal nature of the various events that taken together were misinterpreted as a ghost. This was a real service. But he tends to describe the couple in terms that make them look bad to the reader, by emphasizing, for example, that there was no ghostly emanation other than the cloud from the couple’s chain-smoking. The mockery is subtle, but it’s still mockery. He also uses as many disparaging adjectives as he can for other, less skeptical investigators.

 

I’m not sure if he takes himself as seriously as he seems to. Relieving frightened people of the fear their house is haunted is valuable, but most of what he does is merely entertaining. It doesn’t change the quality of lives for the most part. After all, what harm is there in people thinking they saw a Bigfoot? Or doing spooky TV shows hunting for ghosts? Yes, they use unscientific methods, but is entertainment harmful? He shows great concern for the dead who are reputed to be ghosts but less respect for the living who believe in them.

 

The book’s comingling of unrelated paranormal beliefs, ranging from cryptozoology (chupacabras and lake monsters and Bigfoot) to crop circles, to ghost sightings and psychics, and even a non-paranormal investigation into Pokemon cartoon-induced seizures in Japan made it more of a Benjamin Radford trophy case than a how-to book for would-be investigators. Though he does give some basics for how to hunt for ghosts, and also some explanations of how he disproves lake monsters and crop circles, it’s more of a how-I-did-it book than a how-you-can-do-it book.

 

It includes short sections by the same people who blurbed the book. I’m not sure what this means, but I noticed it.

 

The editing and proofreading could have been better. I usually find two or three typos in most books, but this had a few too many, as well as grammatical errors and even oddities like different font sizes on the same page. The title needed better editing. After all, if it’s a mystery, it’s unexplained, and if it’s been explained, it’s not a mystery.

 

Despite all the flaws, I enjoyed reading it. He’s a competent raconteur and I learned some useful material for a novel I’m working on.

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text 2014-11-19 03:14
My Favorite Subgenres--And Some I'd Like to Start Reading

Any time I write about genre, I'm always kind of floored by how little I've read in genres I know I quite enjoy! So I'm going to take this opportunity to open myself up to recommendations; if you have an suggestions about what to read in any of the following genres, please let me know in the comments below.

If I'm going to try talking about subgenres I like, let me start by saying that there are four main genres I could consider favorites. Well, perhaps more accurately, I have four genres that my favorite books tend to fall under. Those would be fantasy and horror, which I consider my "actual" favorite genres, and science fiction and mystery, which I enjoy... but not quite as much as fantasy and horror. So I'll be talking about subgenres from within these categories.

First we have Dark Fantasy. This would be a subgenre that I don't have a ton of experience with--I've read A Game of Thrones from the A Song of Ice and Fire and recently fallen in love with Dragon Age: Origins, but I don't recall ever reading, watching, or playing much of anything else in this sub. But I'll definitely be looking for more!

Still in the realm of fantasy, there's the Feminist Fantasy subgenre. I have some reasonable experience here, as I've always been partial to female protagonists over male protagonists. I totally adore stories that involve teams of girls/women, as seen in Sailor Moon's Sailor Scouts, Tokyo Mew Mew's Mew Mews, and Charmed's Halliwell sisters, and I love the action heroine characters exemplified by Song of the Lioness's Alanna of Trebond, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Buffy Summers, The Legend of Korra's Avatar Korra. I am all over this genre... and I'm still totally on the lookout for more.

From fantasy, we move to Horror. I tend to enjoy Horror with fantasy elements, though, and my first example of that would be the Cthulhu Mythos. Technically, it'd make more sense for me to refer to the Cosmic Horror and Lovecraft Lite subgenres here, but honestly, most of my interest in the subgenres manifests as interest in the Mythos and its multitude of stories and fan works. Not that I'm going to avoid exploring more Lovecraftian fiction!

I also have a bit of fondness for Religious Horror, though I can only recall ever reading one book in the subgenre. Of course, it's kind of crazy that this is even something I would enjoy; I'm a fairly antitheistic person, but there's just something about putting a horror spin on religion that amuses the crap out of me. Examples of this would include Supernatural, Paranormal Activity, Rosemary's Baby, which deal with elements of Christian mythology; Children of the Corn, which revolves around a fictitious "religion of evil"; and InuYasha, which deals with elements of Shintoism.

Then there's Ghost Fiction. This is perhaps the earliest subgenre I discovered, and I loved scaring the crap out of myself with it when I was an elementary school kid. Childhood favorites included books like Wait Till Helen Comes, Time Windows, Ghosts Beneath Our Feet, and similar stories, while my more recent experience with ghost stories has been pretty much limited to movies like The Conjuring, Mama, Poltergeist, and Insidious. I definitely plan of reading more of this subgenre as soon as physically possible.

Spinning off from Ghost Fiction would be a related mystery subgenre I enjoy: Paranormal Investigation. I haven't had much experience with this subgenre as an adult beyond the Buffy the Vampire spin-off, Angel, but my childhood featured books like The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, The Haunted Hotel and other installments of the A to Z Mysteries series, The Haunting of Grade Three, and Scooby-Doo. I'd love to get into reading more of this subgenre... but I don't really have any idea where to start!

 

Then there's another of my favorite horror subgenres, the only one that doesn't necessarily have supernatural elements: Psychological Horror. My only real book experience with the genre is House of Leaves (which I admit I enjoyed more for The Navidson Record than anything else), but I love movies like Black Swan and The Shining, so I'd love to find more in this subgenre to get into.

The only science fiction subgenre that I have enough experience with to qualify as a favorite is Dystopia. Favorites here would be Harrison Bergeron and The Hunger Games when it comes to literature and Dollhouse's "Epitaph" episodes when it comes to television.

And like I said, there are also a few subgenres I'd like to get into. Sticking with the science fiction genre, these would include Post-Apocalyptic, which I plan to start my trek through with Ashfall. But beyond that, I'm really interested in getting into Speculative Science. It really sounds like everything I wish science fiction was--you know, actual goddamn science? So, seriously, if you have any speculative science recommendations, give them to me now.

Lastly, the mystery genre's subgenre of Cozy Mysteries has appealed to me for a while, though I've never actually managed to get around to diving headfirst into the many, many books on my TBR lists that qualify as cozies. That's definitely a project I'm going to get around to doing, though!

So, what are your favorite genres and subgenres? Have any opinions of the ones I'm partial to? What about recommendations? I'm all ears, guys!

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review 2013-10-24 20:02
The Blood Books, Volume II by Tanya Huff
The Blood Books, Volume II - Tanya Huff

Blood Lines
Dr. Elias Rax the Curator of Egyptology at the Royal Ontario Museum takes home an intact sarcophagus with an intact seal. That means only one thing – the mummy must be still inside. Dr. Rax and his team expectantly open the sarcophagus and find a complete mummy secured with seals and charms. Suddenly mysterious deaths happen at the museum and nobody can seemingly remember that there had been a mummy at all..

Blood Pact
Vicky´s mother dies of a heart attack and Vicky has to go to Kingston where her mother lived. At the funeral she discovers that the coffin is empty and the corpse is stolen. Through her investigations Vicky, Mike and Henry discover a hidden laboratory at the university where horrible experiments with corpses are done…

I liked Vicky in Blood Pact a bit more than in the previous ones. It amazes me over and over why I have such difficulties to like Vicky´s character. It seems I can find no access to her stubborn attitude at all. And her love for Henry is something I still cannot fathom but okay that´s just me and I can live with it. I´m not that enthusiastic about these books that it really bothers me. And I still don´t think Henry is the most charismatic vampire I ever read about…
In Blood Pact she´s dealing with her mother´s death and the feeling of guilt not having been there for her enough, something that can happen to everybody when a beloved family member dies. Thankfully she has the support of both her lovers who join forces to help Vicky to solve the mystery of the stolen corpse. I´m really curious what consequences Henry´s desperate deed at the end of the book will have in the future..

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review 2013-10-18 19:44
The Blood Books Vol. I by Tanya Huff
The Blood Books, Volume I - Tanya Huff

Blood Price

Vicky Nelson, a former police-woman, now private investigator becomes witness of a terrible murder in a Toronto subway station. The victim has severe throat injuries and the body is drained of blood. When other murders happen in the exactly same way the media start to conjure up the picture of a vampire dealing out death and destruction.

Henry Fitzroy is a vampire and not happy at all about the suspicion against his kind. He lives unrecognized between people and he wants it to stay that way. He decides to stop the killer who is threatening to uncover that vampires really exist.

Eventually Vicky and Henry met and after he has convinced Vicky of the existence of vampires they join forces to clear up the murders…

 

Blood Trail

 

In the second book Vicky and Henry are investigating who is killing Henry´s werewolf friends. Mike Celluci, Vicky´s ex-colleague and time and again lover is – driven by jealousy – looking into Henry´s past and comes as well to the werewolves´ farm to confront Vicky with something he thought to have found out about Henry…

 

Both stories were entertaining but not really captivating. Too soon we learn – long before our investigators – who the villain is and for this reason I didn´t follow their investigations with bated breath. I couldn´t really connect with Vicky´s character I admit and although I liked her permanent banter with ex-colleague Mike Celluci it was getting sometimes really too much. The beginning "lovestory" between Henry and Vicky is boring, I never could comprehend the supposed attraction between the two. I´m sorry but Henry isn´t the epitome of a seductive vampire to me, I´ve already read about others who apply much better to my imagination what a "hot" and seductive vampire has to look like. The Mike/Vicky relationship is far more interesting in my opinion. What was annoying me after reading it for twentyfifth time was that Vicky constantly had to "push her glasses up her nose". Girl, go to your optician to get yourself better fitting glasses for heavens sake!

Although I enjoyed reading this book and I will definitely read the next volumes in this series I wasn´t really impressed. It´s a wonderful read for in between but I couldn´t indulge in my hot and sexy vampire attraction, sigh!

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review 2010-01-18 00:00
A Beginner's Guide to Paranormal Investigation
A Beginner's Guide to Paranormal Investigation - Mark Rosney,Rob Bethell,Jebby Robinson The paranormal is a "hot" subject these days and this is one of the better books available to those who would like to start their own paranormal investigations. However it is much more than a handbook for the would-be investigator but will also appeal to anyone with more than a passing interest in the paranormal.

The Forward states that the authors have over 30 years experience investigating the paranormal with a scientific bias and that certainly comes over in the book. In fact the book is deceptive in its breadth and depth.

Individual chapters proceeded with a 'Brief history' of that chapter's subject which, especially armchair, investigators will find fascinating including probably the best overview of UFOs I have ever read.

For me this is what makes this book stand out from others in the genre - the depth of the authors' knowledge.

The book is packed with real-life incidents and actual photos, alongside with helpful checklists, diagrams and instructions for leading your own investigations.The book looks good and is organised well with high quality and well laid out illustrations and images but please can we have an index in the next edition!

I particularly liked the way the authors have pitched this book and the extra detail and gentle humour that comes over in their writing.

As Messieurs Rosney, Bethell & Robinson would say....'Good Hunting' even if it is only from the comfort of your armchair!
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