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.


Review: The Supernaturals

The Supernaturals David L. Golemon, 2016.

The last time parapsychology professor Gabriel Kennedy set foot in Summer Place, one of his students disappeared.  Kennedy turned from a cocky skeptic into a believer: Something evil lives in Summer Place.

Badgered by a cutthroat television producer – and his conscience – Kennedy agrees to return to investigate Summer Place for the filming of a live Halloween special.

But Kennedy isn’t going back to investigate, he’s going back to fight. And Summer Place plans to win.

Kennedy assembles a team of friends with unusual talents including a psychic, a young computer maven from the ‘hood, a Native American dream walking sheriff and a possessed paleontology professor – trust me, this all works somehow – and together they prepare to face down Summer Place.

Golemon based his story on a personal encounter: after visiting a beautiful three-story mansion for a total of two minutes he fled with the disturbing sense that the house was aware of him, and not thrilled he was there. Golemon vowed never to return. In The Supernaturals, Golemon neatly creates this lurking sentience in Summer Place and crafts a deep mythos for his fictional house of horrors.

The Supernaturals is flat-out a great haunted house story. The tale starts strong and builds suspense to nail-biting levels by the tense climax. Standard ghostly tropes are taken to the extreme and freshened with unexpected twists.

We also get a fascinating, behind-the-scenes perspective of all those popular paranormal investigator shows. For as the story progresses, we see Summer Place through the eyes of Kennedy and his crew as well as through the eye of the tv camera. This cinematographic aspect adds an immediacy to events – putting the reader front and center in the supernatural mix along with the camera people. It also gives a deeply visual facet to our reading experience.

Kennedy’s crew battles deceit, entertainment industry egos, disbelief, and dark secrets in their fight against the malevolence that imbues Summer Place. Can they win? Can they survive? At what cost? Don’t miss this one.

rating system four crows

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Wickedly Delicious Russian Teacakes

I knew it was time to bake when I put on a beloved episode of Hogan’s Heroes and reached for a Russian Teacake. And I didn’t have one. Crushing.

From an early childhood, these two disparate things have gone together and somehow signify the holiday season, taking me back to a comforting time.

I think most people have some version of this cookie in their repertoire under a variety of names – Mexican Wedding Cookies, Pecan Balls – but I’ll share the recipe that my mom passed down. There is a little extra step that makes this one stand out on your cookie tray. Since these are one of my favorite cookies, I always double the recipe. They also freeze beautifully.

I know it is down to the wire for holiday baking, but if you have a little time today, treat yourself to a batch of these. You probably have the ingredients around, and these are a simple cookie to bake. If you don’t get to them for this holiday, don’t worry: you really don’t need an occasion. They’re delicious anytime. Enjoy!

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¼ cup sugar

½ pound butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups finely chopped pecans

Confectioners’ sugar

How to Make them: 

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.

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Add the flour and salt and mix to a soft, smooth dough. Stir in the pecans.

Shape into 1-inch balls by rolling between your hands, and place them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

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Bake for 25 minutes until the cookies are firm and light brown on the bottom.

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This cookie is nicely light brown on the bottom: this batch is done.

Remove from the cookie sheet and gently roll in the confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire racks.

Now, here’s the “something special” step: when the cookies are totally cool, roll them a second time in confectioners’ sugar.

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The cookies to the right and bottom middle have been rolled a second time in the powdered sugar…see how much snowier they are than the single-roll cookies!

This leaves them snowy and beautiful! Store in an airtight container or freeze.  Happy Holidays!

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Review: Jackaby

Jackaby – William Ritter, 2014.

Since she was little, Abigail Rook has longed for the kinds of adventures that thrilled her in stories. Jealously following the exploits of her daring archeologist father, she determines to discover excitement by hook or by crook.

After absconding with her tuition money and ending up in New England, she takes a position as an investigative assistant to the peculiar Mr. R.F. Jackaby. In Jackaby’s employ, Abigail finds everything she’s looking for and then some.

Jackaby is a seer. Whether his ability is a blessing or a curse, he sees the extraordinary creatures of legend and lore that coexist alongside us humans.

In his hideous hat (made from yeti wool), long scarf, and bulky brown coat stuffed with arcane bits and bobs, Jackaby is a kind of Dr. Who of folkloric beasties. Science and magic exist harmoniously in his world view.

He can see the domovoi (Russian house spirit) and Klambautermann (German kobold, helpful to fishermen) that have attached themselves to Abigail.  What Jackaby can’t see as clearly are the mundane details of everyday life, those noticed by regular people. That’s where Abigail is his perfect complement.

As Jackaby and Abigail investigate several mysterious and bloody murders, Abigail’s initial skepticism of Jackaby’s abilities – and his sanity – vanishes. Her world view expands to include both the marvelous…and the horrible.

Jackaby is a genre-bending joy to read. Ritter suffuses the narrative with a warm-hearted yet often dry sense of humor that just leaves you smiling. The wintry, small-town Victorian setting is a beautifully realized blend of mundane and magic.

Jackaby and Abigail and the supporting cast – including the supernatural beasties – feel very modern and human in their vulnerabilities and beliefs and hopes. This is a testament to some fine character building.

Jackaby (book and character) is eccentric and clever and great fun. Anticipate a delightful afternoon’s read. I can’t wait to pick up the second volume in the series. And the third. And… You get my drift.

rating system four crows


Review: Mist of Midnight

Mist of Midnight Sandra Boyd, 2015.

Fans of Gothic romance and period mystery will have their desires fulfilled in this alluring tale.

The sole member of her missionary family to survive the Indian Mutiny of 1857, emotionally battered Rebecca Ravenshaw returns home to England to claim her family estate and recover her peace and security.

Unfortunately, Rebecca discovers that she has already claimed her estate. Or rather, someone pretending to be her assumed her place as lady of the house, and then abruptly committed suicide.

Rebecca’s home is now occupied now by Hussar Captain Luke Whitfield, a very distant relation. A tall, dark, handsome, charismatic – and possibly dangerous – distant relation.

The real Rebecca must overcome the cool disbelief of both the staff and dashing Capt. Whitfield and prove her claim to the inheritance, all the while figuring out the identity of her imposter and if the lady really killed herself…or was murdered.

Mist of Midnight is a highly captivating romantic mystery with all the trappings: mysteriously locked rooms, scrawled warnings, a crumbling chapel, whispers of madness, horses and hunts, costume balls and chaperones, social calls and stolen embraces.

Boyd elevates Mist of Midnight beyond the standard, however, by making India as vivid a presence in the book as Hampshire. Lush sensory and historical detail bring India to life and add a level of complexity to Rebecca’s character: she is truly a unique daughter of two disparate yet connected lands.

We root for Rebecca to keep her chin up and rebuild her confidence as she finds her way in the English culture that has become strange to her. And we root for a happy ending, for of course, despite cries for caution, Rebecca has fallen head over heels with the dashing Captain.

Cliché? Maybe a little. Satisfying? Completely.

rating system four crows

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Review: Stalked in the Woods

Stalked in the Woods: True Stories – Stephen (Steph) Young, 2016.

I’m not going to mince words: this book was a sad disappointment.

Having recently moved to a home surrounded by tall, somewhat sinister woods, I was truly looking forward to creeping myself out with this book. Instead it left me irritable.

Stalked in the Woods reads like a leveled book for upper elementary school students. On the plus side (maybe?): There are no hard words for you to worry about.

On the minus side: You are stuck trying to parse your way through so much awkward phrasing and writing mistakes (thanks to crummy – if any – editing), that any potentially spooky content is lost in frustration. This is maddening, because there are a few stories that could have been chilling.

Mistakes abound: eccentric and random capitalization of nouns, wrong choices of homophones (their/they’re), inconsistent use of single and double quotation marks, problems with possessive apostrophes, and a bizarrely hyperbolic use of the ellipsis. You know, those three little periods trailing off to end a sentence in suspense… In this book, they are variably punctuated with sometimes three periods… or four periods…. sometimes there are five periods….. and on one occasion, eight periods…….. Yes, I counted them. It was making me crazy. There are misspellings. One story, for instance, takes place in the “Missouri Oxark’s [sic].” Double whammy, there.

Editing mistakes aside – and trust me, it is hard to put them aside – there is distracting weirdness going on with the typography. Extra spaces between words. Random switches in font size. Line breaks in the middle of sentences. Some text unaccountably appears in italics. Other text is underlined.

The book is divided into categories of stalkings, sort of. They’re not all stalkings. They don’t all take place in the woods. They vary from disappearing hikers, to a story about Oliver Cromwell selling his soul to the devil, to man pursued by a bogart in England. No, not the ghost of Humphrey. I think they meant a traditional “boggart.”

After a section on vanishings, which reads like blandly re-written newspaper articles, Young switches perspective and presents stories from people who have contacted her to share their experiences. This does not – or should not – excuse all the grammar and vocabulary errors. The onus is on Young to produce a professional publication that doesn’t feel cut-and-pasted from her in-box. Additionally, you can’t always easily delineate where Young’s voice comes into the contributor’s retelling. All of this tragically gets in the way of some potentially spooky content.

For well-written books of creepy true accounts, I highly recommend any of Jim Harold’s Campfire series which compiles tales from his podcast contributors. Or try True Ghosts, which contains stories originally published in issues of Fate Magazine. Leslie Rule’s Coast to Coast Ghosts or any of her other well-researched and haunting titles are wonderful. These are all chillingly satisfying reads. None of them will leave you cranky. Hmmpf.

rating system one crow