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review 2017-11-14 18:45
Childgrave by Ken Greenhall
Childgrave - Ken Greenhall

 

CHILDGRAVE is a beautifully written quiet horror story, with a sketchy small town lurking in the background. By the time the secrets of the town are revealed, it's too late for the reader to turn back.

 

As I get older, I find myself more and more drawn to quiet horror. I can do without gore and torture and all that if I have a tale that's well written and atmospheric. I also need compelling characters and CHILDGRAVE has that in spades. The main character, Jonathan, is a widowed photographer. He, his daughter Joanne, and his housekeeper Nanny Joy, are so well drawn I feel as if I know them personally.

 

When Jonathan's photos of his daughter seem to show specters in the background, while at the same time Joanne seems to have developed some new invisible friends, Jonathan is intrigued. Are the two events connected? Who is Conlee, the name of Joanne's new invisible friend? Lastly, what is Chilegray and how is connected to Conlee? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I'll get it out of the way now-this is a slow moving story. What kept me interested was the quality of the writing and the characters. Jonathan is a quirky man. He has few friends and little interest in fashion or modern day trends. His housekeeper Nanny Joy loves jazz and Jonathan's daughter, but is concerned about the appearance of Conlee and the specters in the photographs. Jonathan's agent Harry is hilarious and his girlfriend, Lee, is interesting as well. NYC of the 70's is the main setting, and it was fascinating to read about the city during that time of social upheaval and change.

 

I was inexorably drawn to the conclusion which leads the reader to a small town hidden in a valley. "Evil in a small town" is one of my favorite tropes and Greenhall knew how to deliver it in a chilling and shocking- yet believable way. You find yourself wondering what you would do in such a situation and I continued to think about it all night long...hours after finishing the book. I can't say that I blame Jonathan for the choices that he made.

 

While CHILDGRAVE isn't the psychological, fast moving story that both ELIZABETH or HELL HOUND were, it was excellent in its own quiet and compelling way. Slowly drawing the reader down into the valley where secrets are kept for generation after generation, Greenhall deftly brings things to a head and left this reader wishing for more.

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get your copy here: CHILDGRAVE

 

*Thanks to Valancourt Books for providing this e-book free, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-11-03 17:44
Ash Wednesday by Chet Williamson
Ash Wednesday - Chet Williamson

 

A beautifully written and touching story of what happens when the dead of the town of Merridale are suddenly visible and blue. They're visible in the places in which they died or in the places that meant the most to them when they were alive. At first, people are freaked out, (wouldn't you be?), but then they get used to it. Well, some do and some don't.

 

The characters in this story are well drawn and believable. This is a story about guilt, and about making the most of the short time that we have here on earth, among other things.

 

I'd classify this as a quiet horror tale, not too many bloody, ugly scenes and that's the type of horror I prefer these days-the quiet, atmospheric, and psychological kind. This book just hit all the right notes with me. Bravo!

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get a Kindle copy here for only $2.99! 

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review 2017-09-12 19:00
Haven by Tom Deady, narrated by Matt Godfrey
Haven - Greymore Publishing,Matt Godfrey,Tom Deady

 

Haven is a coming of age story, set in a small town in Massachusetts. Narrated beautifully by Matt Godfrey, and set in a such a perfect place, how could the story itself not be fabulous? Truth is though, it's just okay.

 

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it and as I said the narration was excellent. However, I didn't find that this book added anything original to the genre. 80's horror nostalgia is a big thing now and that may have soured my opinion a little. I recently saw the movie of Stephen King's "It" and I just don't think it's possible to compare the two without having Haven come up short. I'm also not sure that it's possible to NOT compare the two- which may be my whole problem.

 

 

There are some differences, but at its heart, this is a very similar story. We have our plucky kids going up against a mysterious monster, while they're getting bullied at every turn, and Denny's mom is in just about the same state as were Bill Denbrough's parents from IT. There's even a chance that the monster will return in the future. Sound familiar? The only thing that's really different is the origin of this creature and I won't spoil that here.

 

(spoiler show)

 

This is an engaging "coming of age"/"evil in a small town story", it's just that I didn't find the writing or the story itself to be outstanding. Good? Yes, definitely! And who knows? You may enjoy it a lot more than I did. So, if this sounds interesting to you, I say give it a shot.

 

Recommended!

 

*I received this audiobook free from the narrator, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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review 2017-02-17 23:56
Politics, drama, and horses...not necessarily in that order
South Riding - Shirley Williams,Marion Shaw,Winifred Holtby

I decided to tackle a rather formidable bit of fiction pretty much on a whim in the form of South Riding by Winifred Holtby. It took me much longer to read than I had anticipated but that's just a good lesson that sometimes you need to take your time with a book. :-) Apparently this book is a literary classic although I had only heard about it recently through a YouTube channel (Mercy's Bookish Musings if you're curious). What drew my interest (besides the gorgeous cover art) was the setting which is a small area of Yorkshire. (As some of you may know, I'm kinda obsessed with the English countryside and I had the very good luck to visit Yorkshire in 2015 and fell a lot in love with it. THE MOORS, YA'LL.) South Riding is a fictional area of Yorkshire where city councilmen (and a councilwoman) pretty much run the show. If you've ever lived in a small town, particularly a rural one, then you'll recognize the intricate balance between government "officials" and their fellow townspeople. This was set in 1933-35 right at the start of WWII when the country was still harboring hope that the war could be avoided. Our main character, Sarah Burton, is a headmistress who is a revolutionary (at least to the people in South Riding) and ready to shake things up. The lone female on the City Council, Mrs. Beddowes, sees in Sarah a chance to improve the reputation of the school but she also feels that she can muster some amount of control over her (spoiler alert: this is doomed to fail). There are quite a few side stories such as that of Lydia Holly who lives in poverty but aspires to be an academic success the likes of which South Riding has never before seen. Not to mention the rather despicable men who like Mrs. Beddowes are on the City Council. One of them really turned my stomach. *shudder* I went into this book thinking that it was likely to be a romantic tale but if anything the romance was between the characters and their town. It's quite plain that Holtby harbors a nostalgic love of the Yorkshire where she grew up and it's palpable on nearly every single page of this book. If for nothing else, I enjoyed South Riding because of this. Otherwise, it wasn't exactly a life changing read (read Dickens for that). I'd give it a solid 6/10.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-12-28 00:33
#CBR8 Book 128: Wild at Whiskey Creek by Julie Anne Long
Wild at Whiskey Creek: A Hellcat Canyon Novel (Hot in Hellcat Canyon) - Julie Anne Long

Glory Hallelujah (yup, that's actually her name) Greenleaf is the only one in her family who's never broken the law or deviated from the straight and narrow. Unlike most of her other family members, who only seem to leave Hellcat Canyon to go to prison or when they die, Glory was going to become a star, using her songwriting and singing talent to make it big. Of course, then her brother Jonah was arrested for meth dealing and she had to use all her savings to help pay her mother's mortgage, and now she's still impatiently cooling her heels, trying to make ends meet by waitressing badly.

 

Deputy sheriff Eli Barlow has loved Glory since he was twelve years old, but any chance he had of winning her heart was crushed when he had to arrest her brother, his best friends, for meth dealing. He can't entirely understand what she's still doing in town, considering she had several demo tapes recorded and was all set to leave to get herself a music career. He hates that he had to break her heart (and his own) by arresting Jonah, and desperately wants to make things right between them. When Hollywood talent comes to town and takes notice of Glory's talent, Eli realises that the best way to win this woman's heart is to make sure she can leave Hellcat Canyon forever. 

 

Julie Anne Long will always have some leeway with me, having written one of my favourite romances of all time, What I Did for a Duke. I can respect that she wants to try new things, having written historical novels for most of her career. I thought Wild at Whiskey Creek worked moderately better than her first attempt at contemporary romance, Hot in Hellcat Canyon, although she still has quite a way to go to reach the levels of quality or entertainment value of her best historicals. In her biographical information for this book, Long reveals that she herself wanted to become a rock star and did both singing and guitar playing, but writing became her career choice instead. She certainly seems to know what she's talking about with regards to songwriting and composing (I know nothing about guitar playing, and only barely learned to strum a few chords during whatever basic lessons they gave us in music class in secondary school). I will also give her this, the earworm indie hit that is referenced throughout the story ended up getting stuck in my head as I read the book, despite the fact that it was a fictional song, that I'd never heard. I still ended up reciting the catchy chorus in my head. So kudos to you for that, Ms. Long.

 

Couples who have loved one another since they were children can be a tricky thing to pull off, but Ms. Long manages pretty well here. Since Eli and Glory's brother Jonah were best friends and grew up inseparably together, it seems natural he would also have spent a lot of time with Glory during that time. It's established that neither Eli nor Glory are silently and celibately pining for the other, they both date and have other relationships, but share one scorching and very memorable kiss when they are both single. Sadly, this is just before the bit where Eli has to arrest Jonah and send him to prison for years, making the fiercely loyal Glory shun him like the plague. Eli hates that he had to hurt her, and hates the reckless Jonah quite a bit as well, for giving the law-abiding Eli no choice but to do his job. 

 

After pretty much rudely telling everyone in town where to stick it before her brother got arrested, because she was getting out and becoming a big singing star, Glory has been forced to apologise to a lot of people and help support her widowed mother and assorted hard-up half-siblings by waitressing. The arrival of Hollywood TV crews, filming new historical prestige show, set during the California Gold Rush, also brings handsome television and movie actor Franco Francone to town. He pisses off Eli by joyriding his Porsche way above the speed limit through town, and making the moves on Glory, who is clearly the most interesting of all the single ladies in Hellcat Canyon. She's amused by his attention, but mainly flirts with him to make Eli jealous. Eli, on the other hand, has been set up with one of the makeup artists on the show, and tries his best to forget his impossible infatuation with Glory, who he's always known is meant for far better than him and the little mountain region they're from, no matter how lawless and hopeless most of her family members are. 

 

Because they've grown up together, there is no need for Eli and Glory to get to know each other. They have a shared past and just need to get past the conflict caused when utterly decent and law-abiding Eli arrested Glory's beloved, but rather careless brother. It's quite clear that Glory has a lot of talent, and needs to get her chance to show the world. So they need to figure out how they can reconcile their romantic feelings for one another, when Eli doesn't really have any plans of leaving Hellcat Canyon, while Glory wants nothing more than to get away.

 

Having written eleven Regency novels set in the little English town of Pennyroyal Green, Julie Anne Long is good at creating a cozy setting for her books. The towns of Hellcat Canyon and Whiskey Creek clearly have their fair share of colourful supporting cast that help populate the stories, many of whom the reader was already introduced to in the first book in the series. You by no means need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one, but it's quite clear that several of the secondary characters here will feature more prominently in future books. 

 

Sadly, while these books are perfectly entertaining as you're reading them, they're not very memorable. I read this at the beginning of December, and already I'm having trouble remembering specific details about the plot, except that Glory's younger half-brother and his clueless selfishness really annoyed me, plus there was a little too much of the romance plot that was Eli or Glory jealous of the other, but not actually talking to each other. Oh, and Ms. Long needs to realise that now that she's writing contemporary romances, she NEEDS to acknowledge that in the modern world, couples use some form of protection and talk about it before they fall into bed with one another. Really, it doesn't need to take up a lot of page space, but the fact that in both this and her previous contemporary, there is no talk of condoms, other contraceptives, the possibility of STDs or pregnancy. It's a minor point, but I saw it referenced in another review of this book as well, and I absolutely agree. 

 

This book was on Kirkus Best of 2016 list of romances. They clearly have very different taste in romance from me, since the excellent The Hating Game wasn't even on the list, while several romances that I found entertaining, but really nothing special were represented. While this was a better contemporary than her previous one, Julie Anne Long will have to do better to truly impress me, and I'm not going to rush out and get her next book.

 

Judging a book by its cover: Woman in a denim miniskirt stands in a meadow with her back to the camera, holding an acoustic guitar over her shoulders. am assuming this is supposed to be Glory, but based on her description in the book, I don't think it fits her at all. She doesn't seem like the sort of person who would wear pink, for one thing. I'm also really annoyed by the askew "k" at the end of "Creek". I'm sure it's supposed to be playful and whimsical, but it just sets my teeth on edge.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/12/cbr8-book-128-wild-at-whiskey-creek-by.html
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