My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: A Shattered Lens

A Shattered Lens – Layton Green, 2019.  4/5

There aren’t a lot of murders in small Creekville, North Carolina, so when star high-school football player and all-around good kid David Stratton is found shot to death in the woods, the case goes to Detective Joe “Preach” Everson.

We first met Preach in Written in Blood. Once a hometown boy, Preach spent years working homicides in Atlanta. Now he’s returned to Creekville, despite knowing intrinsically that you can’t go home again.

Life experiences have changed him: he’s not a complete outsider, but he’s no longer a local. His mindset sets him apart from the other small-town cops. An introspective, intelligent, sensitive badass, Preach is secure in his identity. At least, until this case. The murdered boy’s mother, Claire, is an old high-school flame, and she sparks a new desire. She’s beautiful, alluring, and a prime suspect. She also triggers an emotional rift between Preach and his county-prosecutor girlfriend, Ari.

As Preach digs into the case, interviewing David’s friends and family, memories from his youth threaten to overwhelm him. He, and others, question his objectivity. Complicating things further is a tenuous and connection between David’s murder and Ari’s case involving a ruthlessly brilliant drug lord.

But someone else was in those woods on the night of the murder: Blue, a teenager from the trailer park on the wrong side of town. With big dreams and a stolen camera, she was out filming her breakthrough opus. Now, Blue holds the key to the case, and the murderer knows it.

A Shattered Lens is a crackerjack mystery. We’ve got compelling suspects in Claire’s rich boyfriend, David’s disturbingly sensual teacher, and others. We’re successfully misdirected by some clever red herrings. Thanks to the narrative perspective switching between Preach and Ari and Blue, our tension levels stay pegged. Across the board, the characters come into their own more completely in this book. Even the bad guys have souls, winning a whisper of our empathy.

But A Shattered Lens succeeds as more than a tightly plotted detective novel. Woven beautifully and uncompromisingly into the mystery is a poignant reflection on the nature of relationships. The underlying message is bittersweet: embrace those relationships while you can. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. As Preach observes, only love combats the “transcendental sadness” that resides deep within us all.

A Shattered Lens is an absorbing read that will content your inner detective and leave your inner philosopher solemnly self-reflective. In a good way. I look forward to Preach’s next case.

Full disclosure, here: I received a publisher’s copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

rating system four crows


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Review: Ghosthunting Ohio

Ghosthunting Ohio – John B. Kachuba, 2004.  4.5/5

Ghostly ladies in shades of grey and green and white, invisible soldiers, wispy weeping women, haunting music, disembodied voices, inexplicable fogs, rushes of cold air, hooded apparitions, sorority ghosts: you can find them all here in the great state of Ohio, and John Kachuba tells you exactly where to look.

Part of America’s Haunted Road Trip series, Ghosthunting Ohio is a highly enjoyable tour of thirty-two haunted locations around the state, all of which are open to the public. Kachuba visits each one, accompanied by his trusty camera and often his wife Mary, as well.

Not a sensitive or medium, just a self-described “average guy” with a curiosity about the paranormal, Kachuba maintains an objective and open-minded approach to all things supernatural. In the Introduction, he offers a list of ghosthunting guidelines which boil down to respect & preparation: respect the site, respect the people you meet, respect the spirit world, and take time to learn from people who are serious about ghosthunting—not the thrill seekers.

I love all the spooky stories: from the mist rising above the mummy in the Cincinnati Art Museum, to the ghost of the old brakeman stumbling after the train in the Moonville Tunnel. But what makes these, and all the stories come to life (pun intended, after I thought about it), is Kachuba’s engaging, almost conversational style. He adds just the lightest touch of humor here and there that makes me smile. He also has a deft hand with interviewing folks about their ghostly experiences. Dowsers, concierges, cleaning ladies, librarians, Kachuba quickly characterizes each individual, and humanizes each visit. As he explores haunted sites old and new, Kachuba details his perceptions and occasionally includes one of own photographs which may have captured an orb or shadow that he is at a loss to explain.

Above all, Kachuba’s respect for the history of each location shines out. In the context of his various visits he describes the importance of Fort Meigs War to the of 1812; the vitality of the canal days of the 1820s-1830s; the tragedy of the confederate POW camp and cemetery in Columbus; the prominence of the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, host to ten US presidents; the powerful memories and emotions at the US Air Force Museum in Dayton; the macabre use of Cincinnati’s Majestic Theater as a spare morgue for the hundreds of Army troops killed when the Spanish influenza decimated their training camp in 1918…the list, and the ghost stories, go on.

An afterword by renown psychic researchers Ed & Lorraine Warren emphasizes the importance for ghosthunters to protect themselves against inhuman and diabolical forces. The Warrens urge would-be paranormal seekers to know their opponents, respect their powers, and to be intelligent, not foolhardy.

Final sections offer all the information you need to follow in Kachuba’s footsteps. Addresses, phone numbers, proprietor names, hours, yearly events, even occasional menu items of each locale are helpfully listed for you. Online contacts for ghosthunting organizations in Ohio, and a short list of “ghostly people”—researchers and psychics—round out the book.

While I was just a little disappointed that Kachuba didn’t visit any sites in my own personal (o.k., pretty rural) wedge of east central Ohio, I’m hoping he’ll remedy that in his second book Ghosthunting Ohio: On the Road Again.

Ghosthunting Ohio is one of the best “true” ghost story books I’ve read in a while, which is saying a lot. You’ll get a few chills here and there, but mostly your curiosity will be piqued and you’ll leave the book with a greater, more thoughtful connection to the past.

rating system four and a half crows


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Review: Closer than You Think

Closer than You Think: A Broken Minds Thriller—Lee Maguire, 2018. 3.5/5

In Maguire’s suspenseful thriller, a vindictive stalker isn’t just out to ruin Bryce Davison’s life: they’re out to end it.

Sensitive psychologist Dr. Bryce Davison is struggling to adjust to separation from his wife of fifteen years. Vicki has had enough of Davison’s recurrent depression and seems anxious to move on – without him. Feeling hopeless and adrift, Davison throws himself into his work as a consulting psychotherapist at a combined outpatient and residential treatment center for adolescent youth.

But when Davison scents a familiar perfume on his pillow and receives an ominous e-mail, “Closer than you think,” his staid life begins to spiral out of control.

Intrusive and violent incidents swiftly escalate, taking a toll on Davison physically and mentally. His anxiety increases. Coworkers seem to be treating him differently. Suspects abound, from Marge the receptionist to Dr. Jones the medical director; Wendy, the young therapist, Scooch the townhome maintenance man, even Vicki herself. Could she be gaslighting him? Or is it all in his mind?

A newly-admitted patient, 16-year old Maegan Mitchell, may have the key to everything—if she’s willing to undergo hypnosis to remember.

With Davison, Maguire has created a relatable, likeable protagonist. It is hard not to care about someone who takes custody-sharing of his beloved basset hound so seriously! Although the book launches into the stalking element almost before we feel like we know Davison well enough to empathize, Maguire remedies that quickly. Davison’s character is deepened through flashbacks to a traumatic childhood memory and memories of what he feels was a past professional failure. These events contribute to the story’s mounting suspense and to our understanding of Davison. Supporting characters don’t have Davison’s depth, but play their roles satisfactorily.

Closer than You Think shines brightest in scenes at the mental health facility and in Davison’s therapeutic interactions with his adolescent patients. Maguire’s knowledge of psychotherapy and mental health adds a unique and fascinating aspect to the novel. The dramatic ending sets us up nicely for a sequel. Closer than You Think is a solid read, and I look forward to seeing more of Dr. Davison.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. The author’s and publisher’s media links are included below.

rating system three and a half crows

Closer than You Think / Lee Maguire’s Facebook / TCK Publishing / TCK Facebook


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Review: The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen – Tosca Lee, 2014.  4/5

Sparks fly in this passionate match of wits between the beautiful, intelligent Queen of Sheba and the wise and wealthy King Solomon.

The queen is a woman of many name: she begins life as Bilqis, the Daughter of the Moon, heir to her father’s kingdom. She becomes Makeda, Woman of Fire in her teen years, happily removed from court intrigue. She becomes Saba, High Priestess of the Moon and unifier of tribes when she regains her rightful throne. To the Israelites, she becomes the exotic seductress Sheba, queen of the spice lands.

After the tragic death of her lover, Maqar, in the battle to regain Saba, Sheba throws herself into building trade, making pacts of federation, and learning everything about her kingdom, becoming a thoughtful and intelligent ruler. Over the course of several years, Sheba and the distant Israeli king, Solomon, exchange written communication filled with taunts and tantalizing innuendo. One day, however, the trader Tamrin brings news that Solomon is building a merchant navy, and suddenly holds the future of the spice route in his hands. Sheba is alarmed for the future of Saba and makes the dangerous journey to meet Solomon herself. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Sheba uses all her wit and wiles to win a treaty, but comes to love the poetic King who, like her, just wants to be known.

Sheba tells her story in the first person, and the result is a lush, intimate depiction of her life and legendary romance. Rich sensory detail brings the desert palaces vibrantly alive, gleaming in gold and alabaster and purple, tasting of wine. Solomon and Sheba’s courtship is a razor edge dance of repartee and desire as the rulers juggle conflicts with their gods and ambitions, as well as the growing unrest of the Israeli people and their disapproval of Sheba the whore. Lee is a master storyteller, exquisitely building suspense up to a satisfying, if bittersweet denouement. In an informative Afterword and Author’s Note, Lee explains more of Sheba’s historical background, including the fact that she appears in three historic texts: the Bible, the Quran, and the Kebra Nagast, the story of the Solomonic kings of Ethiopia.

Historical fiction and romance fans, rejoice! The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen is a treat.

rating system four crows


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Too Many Eggs! Egg Salad

Spring is here and our five chickens have kicked into overdrive: we’re averaging three eggs a day. We’re giving eggs away. We’re eating eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We’re rather desperately making angel food cakes. Lemon curd. Crustless quiches. And, of course, egg salad. Fast, easy, and delicious, egg salad is great because it is a tasty base to which you can add whatever you like. Purists can keep it simple. Everyone else can go crazy. It is hard to go wrong with egg salad. Use it for sandwiches, salad topping, a nice snack on crackers. Use up those eggs and enjoy!

2019-05-03 10.20.33

Thanks Babs (blue eggs), Agatha (dark brown speckled egg), Bubbles, Jinx, and Fran (lighter brown eggs). And Roo, for his aggressive protective services.

Ingredients:

6 hardboiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped

3 Tablespoons mayonnaise of your choice

1 teaspoon mustard

¼ teaspoon paprika

1 Tablespoon sweet onion, minced

1 Tablespoon celery, minced

1-2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish

Salt & pepper to taste

Consider: fresh dill or fresh parsley; chopped pickled jalapenos; Tabasco

How to Make It:

Well, it doesn’t get much easier than this: gently combine all your ingredients. That’s it. Remember: this is all about what you enjoy. Not a pickle relish fan? Leave it out! Want more or less mayo? Go for it! Today I’ve also added minced pickled jalapenos and Tabasco.

Check your seasoning. If you’re using Tabasco, remember that’s adding some extra salt, so taste before you liberally add an extra pinch.

I like to let my egg salad rest in the fridge for a few hours, so all those flavors combine.

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Review: Suicide Forest

Suicide Forest – Jeremy Bates, 2014.  3/5

Aokigahara forest, Japan’s infamous “Sea of Trees,” is the setting for Suicide Forest, Bates’ first installment in his World’s Scariest Places series.

English teachers Ethan and his girlfriend Mel have weekend plans to climb Mt. Fuji. They’ve brought along fellow teacher, Neil, their friend Tomo, and Mel’s former high school friend and macho military guy, John Scott. But when the weather turns dicey, they’re left searching for other ways to spend the night. Two other would-be climbers, Ben and Nina, suggest camping in nearby Aokigahara, then starting up Fuji the next day. Japan is notorious for its high suicide rate, and Aokigahara is notorious as the place where many people go to kill themselves.

Although Ethan has reservations about overnighting in the “perfect place to die,” he goes along with the crowd, the majority of whom are morbidly excited at the possibility of seeing a body or a ghost. Berated by local hikers as being disrespectful thrill seekers (which they are) the group promptly ignores warning signs and leaves the main trail, following paths marked by colored ribbons.

Things go to hell quickly. They get lost. Ben vanishes, only to be discovered hanging from a tree, dead. Nina believes ghosts are the culprit. The group’s cell phones go missing. Neil contracts food poisoning and is down for the count. They begin to see movements in the trees. Hear screams in the night. Something – or someone is in the forest with them. Make that someones.

Okay. First off, Suicide Forest is better-written than Helltown. Although the action takes a while to get going, Bates does a respectable job building suspense. He succeeds in making us feel as if we were trapped in the oppressive, still silence of the strange forest. The characters have a bit more going for them in this book as well, in that I didn’t out-right hate most of them. But I did tire of the head-butting between Ethan and John Scott over Mel. Guys, grow up. That said, I also didn’t get what Ethan sees in Mel, who seems even more jealous than Ethan.

I think what troubles me with Suicide Forest is the way the issue of suicide is handled. I do believe Bates is trying to be respectful and empathetic about the subject through the dialogue and thoughts of the most sensitive character, Ethan. But Ethan’s a minority. The others show an indifference to suffering: to Neil, for example, who is in dire straits, and to those who have committed suicide or would consider committing suicide. There’s a lack of understanding. But then again, this is a horror/thriller novel, and Ethan is the voice of reason, so maybe this level of compassion is okay.

*Spoilers ahead*

The next wildly problematic parts involve ‘capturing-and raping-the-women,’ and ‘a-raped-woman’s-violent revenge.’ Um. Lots of gender stereotypes and issues to unpack around this. In a profoundly frustrating short epilogue, Ethan also declares that Mel has unexpectedly “fallen pregnant.” What? Wait! By…whom, exactly? And, really? “Fallen pregnant?” (!) The book crashes to an abrupt, heavy end with another suicide and narrowly averted suicide attempt.Sigh.

Pros: The setting is nicely realized, the plot is suspenseful and intriguing, and the baddies in the forest are definitely unique. Cons: The treatment of suicide and rape lacks sensitivity.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1 800 273 8255
rating system three crows


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Review: Monster Hunter: Nemesis

Monster Hunter: Nemesis – Larry Correia, 2014. 4/5

Agent Franks is the Monster Control Bureau’s secret weapon against all manner of demons, shoggoths, renegade werewolves, etc. If it threatens humanity, Franks will terminate it with extreme prejudice. Protect and serve: that’s the agreement he made with the U.S. government—Ben Franklin and George Washington, specifically. In Nemesis, we discover that Franks’ pledge and his life story go even farther back. Like, to the war in Heaven back.

Franks is a badass enigma in previous books, so an entire volume in the Monster Hunter International series devoted to Franks? Just, cool.

But Franks is in trouble. Stricken, an underhanded advisor to the president, is using his Project Nemesis to secretly build his own harder-better-faster-stronger versions of Franks. Stricken doesn’t really care that they’re turning out to be vessels for demons who are excited to get into—and lay waste to—our world. Stricken pins a slaughter on Franks, claiming he’s gone rogue. Now Franks is on the run from Nemesis, the MCB, and a bunch of international monster hunter groups all out for his bounty. But only Franks can stop Stricken and the arch demon Kurst from taking over the world.

Nemesis is a little heavier on the political side than previous titles, which is my only quibble with the book. There are fewer monsters that need routing, but they make up for it in toughness. Correia keeps the action going with plenty of brilliant fight scenes. Franks’ flashbacks fill out his life story across history and are fascinating, fun, and thought-provoking. Old friends like Earl Harbinger, Julie, and Owen Pitt from MHI make appearances, and, awesomely, so do the gnomes. Not only that, but Franks quite possibly experiences an emotion or two: earth-shattering character development! (Really!) Great book in a fantastic series. Read ‘em.

rating system four crows