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: The End of Temperance Dare

The End of Temperance Dare: A Novel – Wendy Webb, 2017.

Alone in the world and suffering PTSD from her years as crime reporter, Eleanor Harper is excited to become the new director of Cliffside, a coveted artists’ retreat overlooking the brooding waters of Lake Superior.

Miss Penny, the exiting director and last of the Dare family who once operated Cliffside as a TB sanatorium, briefs Eleanor on her new role and then promptly kills herself. Eleanor is left with a token staff in an empty house, an ominous suicide note, and a mystery that is soon to become a nightmare.

Eleanor’s anxiety increases as she experiences disturbing unnatural phenomena in the house and on the grounds. When the artistic fellows arrive, the alarming incidents escalate. Eleanor discovers that each of the fellows – some knowingly, some unknowingly – holds a clue to a very dark secret.

The End of Temperance Dare is a nicely-plotted blend of gothic horror and country house mystery woven together with a pleasant thread of romance. All of the characters, from Eleanor to young Dr. Nate and the proper housekeeper Harriet, are well-drawn and relatable and just right for their parts in this small cast supernatural drama.

Webb does a skillful job deepening the reader’s tension as danger increases for the household. Using classic elements of a good haunted house story – storms, washed out roads, disembodied children’s voices, bumps in the night, and creepy dolls to list a few – Webb brings the story to an unexpected and genuinely scary climax. This is a delicious read to curl up with on a stormy evening.


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Review: Pandemic

Pandemic (The Extinction Files, Book 1)   A.G. Riddle.  2017.

When Desmond Hughes, a successful venture capitalist, wakes up in his Berlin hotel room he has no memory of his past, there is a dead body on the floor, and security is knocking at the door.

Across the ocean, Dr. Peyton Shaw, an epidemiologist with CDC, races to Kenya to investigate and contain a virulent Ebola-like outbreak.

The two quickly discover they are both fighting against time to save the world as we know it. The virus spreads, infecting and killing a staggering number of people, and governments begin to crumble. But the pandemic may be just the beginning of a more insidious plot. A covert, elitist group called Citium plans to remake the world into a utopia. This just happens to require an unavoidable few – million – casualties.

On the run from the police and Citium, Desmond slowly regains his past, memory by memory. To his horror, he discovers he has played a pivotal role in the nightmare taking place around him.

Desmond’s and Peyton’s paths – and past – cross and they unite with Avery, a U.S. government operative, to strike at the heart of Citium and find a cure for the virus. But not everyone is who they appear to be. And it may already be too late for the infected.

Riddle has blended medical suspense, shoot-‘em-up military action, spy thriller, and a bit of historical and science fiction into a very satisfying read. Pandemic is a mighty book, pushing 700 pages, but the story flies by, spanning the globe and nearly a century. Memories and diaries are clues to unravelling Citium’s plot and Riddle deftly takes us in place and time to Australia, the arid plains of Oklahoma, WWII London during the blitz, Nairobi, the Arctic Ocean, and beyond.

Although Pandemic could have had more of an edge, Riddle’s time was well-spent developing his compelling characters and their surprisingly entangled histories.  Pandemic is a fast-paced, imaginative thriller with all around good storytelling.  A cliffhanger ending leaves us eagerly looking forward to the sequel, Genome, due out in November.


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Review: Ghosthunting Colorado

Ghosthunting Colorado – Kailyn Lamb, 2016.

I was extremely excited to find this book in our local bookstore. I read paranormal nonfiction like some people eat chocolate: voraciously. I have a boundless curiosity and interest in the subject, and a large personal collection of books in the genre. Having lived in Colorado for thirty-odd years, I have also visited over a dozen of the locations featured in the book.

I’m getting personal and stating all this because I’m about to give a disappointing review when I had been predisposed to absolutely love this book.

Ghosthunting Colorado suffers from a bit from an identity crisis. It is the first I have read (and will probably be the last) in the series America’s Haunted Road Trip. The introduction states that the book’s goal is to provide readers with actual resources to help them visit places that may be haunted.

Sadly, the result is an unexciting book heavy on Colorado history and light on ghosthunting with a sprinkling of travel advice thrown in. The book is organized into regional sections of the state with a map of the area at the beginning of each section. Unfortunately, the haunted locations featured in the book aren’t listed on the maps. Not so helpful to travelers. The end matter of the book contains more useful information: addresses, phone numbers and websites of each haunted site, along with weather tips, driving info, and little bits visitor information about the area.

Let’s think in terms of “glows” and “grows” as elementary school teachers do. (Really. They do.)

Glows:

Lamb’s research into the history of each potentially haunted Colorado location seems solid. Within the text she refers to sources she has contacted for information, and she includes a bibliography at the end.   The research is also extremely detailed. You will get a thorough factual background into each location.  History buffs (like me) will approve of this part. She features a lot of well-known Colorado haunts, like the Stanley Hotel of The Shining fame (read details of my visit to the Stanley).  Lamb also includes Mackey Auditorium on the CU campus, where a young girl was murdered in a room of the west tower. Additionally, she surveys lots of lesser-known haunted locations like Redstone Castle and various sites in Manitou Springs. This is great.

Grows:

The “ghosthunting” part runs a distant second to the history. Some chapters give us the full ghost story behind the haunting (although at times relying heavily on Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society investigations). Unfortunately, several chapters reduce the paranormal occurrences to a few dry sentences in a final paragraph or two.

The biggest obstacle to awesomeness, however, and what really drags this book down, is the writing style. It just isn’t interesting. Reading becomes a struggle. The pervasive use of the passive voice is mind-numbing. (Think: “some people have claimed,” “it was determined,” “photographs were compared,” “the elevator has also been seen moving,” “two casinos were opened,” “psychics were brought…”) It makes the history dry and the ghostly bits bland.

When all is said and done, Ghosthunting Colorado provides detailed backgrounds of famous and not-so-famous allegedly haunted Colorado locations and gives you the information you need to visit them yourselves. In those areas, it is a success. For those of us who want a little more enthusiasm in our history and our ghosthunting, it is a disappointment.


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Review: The Invisible Library

The Invisible Library  Genevieve Cogman, 2016.

Irene is a Librarian with a capital L.

She is careful with her grammar.  (By necessity: the language of the Library is very powerful.)

She is level-headed.  Capable.  Passionate about all books.  (She does harbor a secret fondness for detective fiction.)  And she is highly effective at self-defense.

She needs all of these qualities, because her job is to infiltrate alternate realities and retrieve, that is, steal, books unique to that reality.

Just back from a taxing assignment burgling a book on necromancy from a school of magic – which involved a rather narrow escape from hellhounds and gargoyles – Irene is ordered to a quarantined, chaos-infested alternate.

This is less than optimal.  Natural laws don’t apply so much in chaotic worlds.  Plus, the Fae tend to cause extra disorder there.  Not only that, Irene is saddled with a handsome, mysterious student named Kai who is much more than he appears.

The two arrive in an alternate Victorian-esque London suffused with magic and steam technology: dragons and zeppelins and werewolves and clockwork centipedes.  Their task is to pilfer a special copy of Grimm’s fairy tales.  In the process, they befriend a dashing private investigator but run afoul of almost everyone else: a secret Iron society, one of Irene’s unpleasant colleagues, and a mesmerizing Fae ambassador.  Oh, and a rogue Librarian who has turned to the dark side and become an agent of chaos. Everyone wants the book.  Irene has her work cut out for her.

The Invisible Library is simply a joy.  Cogman deftly blends fantasy and sci-fi to create a version of London so wonderful and immediate that the reader wishes they could hop on the first plane – or dirigible – and go visit.  Irene herself is a plucky heroine whose proper (mostly) and wry inner monologue is just delightful.  This is a splendidly satisfying adventure packed with highly imaginative action sequences, novel characters, fun literary references and a wicked sense of humor.  The Invisible Library is a book to curl up with on a grey day and immerse yourself in the bewitching chaos of a reality where almost anything is possible, and yet be ultimately comforted by the notion that there is a magnificently powerful Library where order does indeed exist.  And, thank goodness, The Invisible Library is the first in a series.


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Review: First Grave on the Right

First Grave on the Right  Darynda Jones, 2011.

Charley Davidson lives up to her tough, sound-alike name.  She’s an ADD, smart-ass private investigator with a tender heart.  And the ability to see dead people.  And help them cross over.  Yep.  She’s a good-looking grim reaper minus the cowl and scythe.  Dead people flock to her shininess and pass through her to the other side.

Charley has helped skyrocket her Uncle Bob’s police career with her inside intel from dead folks, but the rest of the force is a little skeptical – or creeped out – by her abilities. But Charley doesn’t mind: she’s used to keeping a barrier up between herself and…normal people.

When three attorneys are killed in the same night, they come to Charley to help solve their murders and draw Charley into a human trafficking investigation.  If that isn’t enough, a seriously hot entity has been steaming up her dreams – and soon moves into her reality.  This sexy visitor seems to be someone – or something – from Charley’s past.

First Grave on the Right is a fun read.  While the murder-mystery is not super-mysterious, and Charley’s savvy quips can wear a little thin, Jones’ characterization carries the story with good humor, enjoyable supporting characters, and some exciting action.  (Both kinds: police and romantic.)

A funny, spicy, light mystery with an interesting take on the paranormal PI motif.


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Review: The Haunted House Diaries

The Haunted House Diaries: The True Story of a Quiet Connecticut Town in the Center of a Paranormal Mystery. William J. Hall, 2015.

The first 173 pages of this book are absolutely riveting.  We are treated to perhaps the most well-documented, pervasive haunting across time of a 1793 New England home: The Fillie home in Litchfield, CT.

Starting in 1966 when she was sixteen years old, Donna Fillie recorded her observations of strange and paranormal events in her home on any scrap of paper she could find: from the backs of envelopes, to her kids’ school papers.  She continued her documentation all the way through the winter of 2015.

Fillie’s verbatim notes are straightforward, honest and intelligent.  She and her family take experiences in stride that would send others scrambling for a new home.

For instance, the Fillies have witnessed strange, elongated figures; jewelry gone missing and returned in different places; orbs; toys moving on their own; clocks that shouldn’t work ticking away; weirdly shaped creatures; voices laughing, groaning, and even talking; footsteps following family members throughout the house; even UFOs.  Fillie emphasizes that the family is not afraid, but desperately looking for answers.

Fillie’s integrity shines through her writing, as does her frustration with all the bizarre events taking place around her family.  She simply wants to know.  What does it all mean?  If spirits or entities can do all these things – from levitating glassware to raining money – why can’t they communicate more clearly?

It is the latter part of the book that is a letdown.  It struggles with organization and almost undermines Fillie’s heartfelt and carefully documented account.

Author William J. Hall, a performing magician and paranormal investigator, begins by cautioning us to be aware of our preconceived beliefs regarding paranormal.  How we interpret things is dependent on our life context and our own belief systems.  Yet Hall himself offers some potentially controversial beliefs from his own perspective as givens for us.  The existence of a multiverse. Possessions, and extending that, evil, are in the eye of the human-centered beholder and “can always dispelled without the use of any religion.”

We are then offered opinions on select elements of the hauntings in Fillie’s diary by two experts in the field, Paul Eno and Shane Sirios.  If you have not heard of them before reading this book, you are not given much of a background introduction to their work here.  Eno is known for his radio show, Behind the Paranormal, and Sirois is the founder of trueghost.com.  According to Hall, Sirios’ near-death experience has made him sensitive to otherworldly things and he has a 100% success rate “resolving” paranormal problems and parasites for people without using religion.

The investigation section covers a scant sixteen pages and is mostly impressions of things that Sirios senses in and around the home, such as someone running outside, a sensation of non-human entities, the perception of a protecting entity Native American spirit in backyard, and the feeling that the land is a portal to the multiverse.

It seems this investigation has taken place across multiple visits to the home, but the reader doesn’t get a good sense of its chronology or how it took place.  What methods were followed, what experiments were tried, what evidence was accumulated?  There are a few photographs, and references to EVP recording data that seems to validate the presence of a “Harry” who might have originally helped build the house.  But after reading Fillie’s methodical documentation, the investigation and analysis part of the book seems like a hodgepodge.

What begins as a fascinating account of one family’s dissolves into a mixed bag of opinions and snippets of investigation.  The Haunted House Diaries is definitely worth reading for the first half, and is frustratingly interesting for the second.


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Review: Infinite

Infinite.  Jeremy Robinson.  2017.

Jeremy Robinson is best known for his over-the-top action-adventure and kaiju monster novels.  In Infinite, he branches successfully into science fiction.

Our protagonist, William Chanokh, been in cryosleep – but with his mind awake – for the last ten years of a long journey.  He is a tech-jock, and along with fellow scientists and engineers, he is part of humanity’s last hope of survival.  Will and his teammates are on a mission to colonize Kepler 452b, the nearest – relatively – habitable planet to earth.

Unfortunately, there is a snafu: Will is pulled from his cryochamber, murdered by Tom, one of his fellow tech-jocks, and dies.  And then comes back to life.  And discovers that Tom has assassinated all the remaining crew but one: Will’s secret crush, Capria.

Things deteriorate further when Will realizes that Tom has drastically altered the programming of Galahad, their spaceship, in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  What follows is an almost boyish romp through outer and inner space.  There is a sexy and dangerous Artificial Intelligence, cool robot battles, planetary adventures with weird creatures, and virtual reality thrills – all at faster-than-light travel through the universe.

Infinite is more introspective than Robinson’s usual straightforward action stories.  He focuses a bit more on character development – which is a welcome plus – and entertains meditations on the nature of existence.  Could we all just be a simulation?   Just a piece of programming?  And what if we are?  Will debates the pointlessness of immortality versus the need to find joy in every day.  Robinson himself faced some personal issues that altered his own life perspective while writing this book, and they certainly come through in Will’s existential questions.

Action prevails, however, and Infinite is a fun, fast read. Toss in a nice dose of humor – including a nod to Star Trek – some light romance, and of course, all that action, and you get a great summer escape.