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.


Leave a comment

Review: Viking Tomorrow

Viking Tomorrow – Jeremy Robinson & Kane Gilmour, 2017. Rating 4/5

In this violent post-apocalyptic world technology is dead, but Vikings are very much alive.

A few wise men with knowledge of the old ways, however, realize that their berserker future is doomed. Unless…

When Val, a brilliant young female fighter with a mysterious background, bests a mountainous challenger she becomes the leader of a fateful mission.

Her task? Travel across the wildly altered and dangerous European landscape to bring back vital genetic material. Val and her small but fierce team of warriors is the only hope for the future of the human race.

Along the way, the group battles everything from mutant horrors to twisted human gangs. Val not only faces threats to her leadership, but also recognizes that their nonstop violent encounters reveal a pattern of betrayal. Val must watch her back to ensure the mission succeeds.

Viking Tomorrow is good fun. It vaguely reminded me – in a good way – of the classic ‘79 film The Warriors – in which a NYC gang fights its way through series of hostile territories. Viking Tomorrow goes balls out (that’s a steam engine reference) from beginning to end.

Robinson and Gilmour offer us a fresh vision of a post-catastrophic future, with uniquely disturbing inhabitants.

There is lots of fighting. Lots. With big axes and flails and many other pointy weapons. Choreographed battles with all kinds of creatures. Humans. Sort-of humans. Monsters. Did I mention lots of fighting? Battles on ATVs. On motorcycles. On speedboats. (O.k., some technology survived.)

The narrative is definitely story-driven. While the authors do try for some character growth with occasional fleeting moments of gruff individual introspection, there’s just not a ton of time for development between all the extremely bloody battles. That’s alright. Viking Tomorrow is unabashedly full-blast action adventure. I’ll look forward to the second in the series.

rating system four crows


Leave a comment

Review: A Head Full of Ghosts

A Head Full of Ghosts – Paul Tremblay, 2015. 5/5

An exquisitely disturbing tale of demonic possession, A Head Full of Ghosts will slink under your skin and itch there like a bite on your brain, for a long, long time. It’s that good.

The story’s premise is very of the moment: a small 80’s working-class family is struggling to make ends meet. The father has lost his job. The teenage daughter is suddenly acting…strangely. The anxious parents futilely try doctors and meds, quickly exhausting their funds. The youngest daughter, energetic and imaginative, doesn’t quite understand what’s happening. The father turns to religion. The mother turns to drink. The answer to all their woes seems to arrive in the form of reality tv: a multi-part series documenting the possession and exorcism of the troubled teen.

This is a flat-out mundane synopsis on purpose. I’m trying to avoid even atmospheric spoilers. Truth is, the story is a stunner. Tremblay has created a powerfully unnerving tale that questions the process of making memories. We’re given one narrator who tells her story as an adult remembering her childhood, while a second perspective offers a blistering analysis of the old television show. We’re left chilled, wondering. Which memories are truly ours? Which are “real” and which have we fabricated? Which early memories have been colored for us, or even created for us, by all the media we’ve absorbed?

As the exorcism approaches, tension builds inexorably to a false summit (think the Manitou Incline, if you’ve ever hiked that beast), then almost impossibly, peaks again. Brilliant.

Tremblay knows and owns his ‘80s culture and uses it to great effect: who would have ever thought the beloved children’s author/illustrator Richard Scarry could be made, well, scary? Tremblay also has a downright encyclopedic knowledge of the horror pantheon, subtly infusing his story with film and lit references.

A Head Full of Ghosts leaves you with chills and deep, troubled thoughts. I immediately had to share these chilly, deep, troubled thoughts with my brother, and sent him a copy of the book for his birthday. Basically, “Have a great day! Here’s a deeply unsettling story set during our childhoods that will freak you out! Love you!” Fortunately, he was excited. The horror gene runs in the family.

rating system five crows


Leave a comment

Strangeography: Gravity Hill

For my birthday I had a typically strange request. I wanted to visit Gravity Hill in western Pennsylvania. We filled the tank and took off on our unusual day trip.

You may be wondering. What is a gravity hill?

I’ll tell you. When you stop on a gravity hill and put your car in neutral, the inexplicable happens: your car slowly and creepily rolls uphill, supernaturally defying physics and the laws of gravity.

Or, maybe it isn’t so supernatural. Maybe it is just an optical illusion caused by the fact that the horizon is obscured or curved. Debunkers of the gravity hill magic explain that when we can’t see a true horizon, we have a really hard time judging the slope of a surface. Objects in the landscape, like trees, which we assume are perpendicular, may actually be leaning, and this conspires to trick our eyes. It appears that the slope we’re looking at goes up when it really goes down.

Or, maybe it is ghost children pushing your car up the hill, like they push stopped cars over the railroad tracks in my favorite San Antonio ghost story. Supposedly, if you put baby powder over the back of your car, you can catch the fingerprints of these little helpful ghosts. This legend made it into movie form in 2006 as well – check out Fingerprints. Low-budget. Not horrible! (There’s a ringing endorsement). One plus: it does have Lou Diamond Phillips in it.

Anyway. I digress.

Also called magnetic hills or mystery spots, you can find gravity hills all over the country.

Our destination: Gravity Hill in North Park. This is in the Wexford area north of Pittsburgh.

North Park is huge! At over 3,000 acres it is the largest in Allegheny County. “This park has everything,” we riffed off The Blues Brothers as we cruised the chilly roads. Massive lake. Golf course. Trails. Nature Center. Skating rink. Abandoned water tower (cool).

But Gravity Hill! Most awesome of all.

North Park’s Gravity Hill is in the middle section of the park at the intersection of Kummer and McKinney roads. Here’s a park map showing those roads.

Stop at the stop sign at the intersection. Put your car in neutral. Take your foot off the brake. Your car will almost immediately start rolling backwards, seemingly uphill. Be careful, because it speeds up quickly! Of course, make sure there’s no traffic coming – you’re on a public road, after all. We visited on a raw March day and there was zero traffic. So, my husband and I both tried it out. O.k., multiple times. It was really fun!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Car rolling uphill in neutral.

Clearly, the photos show the hill behind the stop sign. The hill that your car rolls up. In hindsight, video may have helped, here.

After enjoying the magic and mystery of Gravity Hill, we took a short (it was really cold) hike around the Latodami Nature Center.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Latodomi Nature Center

Then we went to check out the old North Park Water Tower.  Built in 1937, the tower is 101.6 feet tall.  It has an observation deck that was renovated in 2010 for the movie I Am Number Four.  But it is closed to us regular fans of abandoned things – and has been since the ‘70s.  Posted warnings plaster the base of the tower and the stairs are chained and padlocked closed. Disappointing.  But still neat to see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

North Park Water Tower

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’re in the area, definitely take a side trip to visit Gravity Hill.  If you have a few hours, North Park is simply beautiful and filled with things to do.  Take a picnic, and make a day of it.  You won’t be disappointed.


Leave a comment

Review: A Magical Match

A Magical Match – Juliet Blackwell, 2018.  Rating 4/5

Doppelgangers and dresses dominate the latest installment of this adorable cozy mystery series.

Lily Ivory runs a successful vintage clothing store in San Francisco’s famous Haight District. She’s also a witch with a lot on her plate.

Just weeks before the handfasting ceremony with her handsome fiancé, Sailor, Lily seems to be losing her magical abilities. Sailor lands in jail on a murder charge. The tour bus carrying her grandmother’s coven and her estranged mother is taking wildly random detours. Her familiar, a pig named Oscar, is acting strangely. To top it all off, Lily is apparently destined for a supernatural showdown, and the fate of all San Francisco depends on her.

Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mysteries series is simply delightful. She lands all the elements that cozy readers expect. Lots of retro fashion. Lots of food. Vibrant and detailed descriptions of the San Francisco community. Warm, inclusive friendships that have grown over the course of the series. Endearing characters. Harmoniously integrated use of the supernatural. A sweet but strong heroine.

A Magical Match is book nine in the series. While I wished for a little more of an edge to the supernatural threat in this episode, Blackwell makes up for it by furthering the development of her characters. Although A Magical Match does stand on its own, I highly recommend starting at the beginning of the series with Secondhand Spirits.

The Witchcraft Mysteries are simply lovely comfy books. Undemanding but emotionally satisfying. (They’re not called cozies for nothing!) Heck, clearly I’m a fan if I’ve followed through book nine…and I’d been anticipating the release of this title for a while.

If you need a warm-hearted, good-humored story with a dash of romance, fashion and witchcraft, look no farther: you’ll find your cozy Nirvana with this series.

rating system four crows