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: Kill Creek

Kill Creek – Scott Thomas, 2017.

Four wildly different horror writers, each slipping in their popularity, take a lucrative offer to get back in the spotlight: $100,000 for an intimate interview livestreamed from a famously haunted house.

Their destination: the house on Kill Creek. Site of the brutal murder of a mixed-race couple during the Civil War and more recently, the former home of two mysterious, disturbingly reclusive sisters.

Halloween night finds the authors, their interviewer, and one camerawoman alone in the ominous house.  Somewhat to their disappointment, nothing supernatural seems to happen.  No orbs, no rattling chains or wisps of ectoplasm.  But… something does happen. The real horror begins when each author returns home.

Kill Creek is a deliciously creepy tale.  Thomas revitalizes the classic haunted house theme with vividly atmospheric writing and finely-honed tension.  Small, subtle terrors give the reader satisfying shivers and ramp up the suspense.  Top things off with a nail-biting, gory finale and a quiet, sharp little dig at the end, and you’ve got wickedly good novel.

The characters as much as the house make the story great.  Sam, an author of small-town horror struggles with writer’s block.  Moore’s violent, hard-core, sex-laden books are too extreme for mainstream fans. Daniel, who makes his living on Christian teen scare novels, is losing his base.  Sebastian, king of the classic ghost story finds his writing relegated to the older generation.  The house will use each of their weaknesses.

Under all the terror, Thomas conveys a poignancy in each character’s desperate craving for relevance: In the need to balance their drive for self-expression with the desire to maintain personal space outside of their writing. Deep down, Kill Creek is also a story about the bittersweet nature of the creative act of writing.  But mostly, it’s a treat of a horror story. Nicely done, Mr. Thomas.

rating system four crowskill creek.jpg

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Review: A God in the Shed

A God in the Shed – J-F. Dubeau, 2017.

The serial killer who has tormented the outwardly bucolic Canadian village of Saint-Ferdinand has been captured at last.

He is a gentle, mad old man who has been storing the victims’ bodies in old refrigerators and their eyes…elsewhere. More horrifying? He has been protecting the village from something even worse than himself.

Enter young Venus, a village outsider and daughter of hippies (to her mortification), who inadvertently captures and imprisons a god in her backyard garden shed.

The god is not a nice god. It brings to mind Lovecraftian comparisons: its medium of artistic expression, for example, is gore. Many grisly events ensue.

A God in the Shed is hypnotic. You are lured into the narrative with snippets of village secrets, hints of arcane magic, and whispers of greedy, cabalistic societies.

Chapters shift between different characters’ perspectives, intensifying suspense and horror as pieces of the story fall together (in more figurative ways than one). Heroes become obsessed. Teens are trapped by the transgressions of their elders.

Complementing its flashes of darkly impish humor, the book raises deep questions about the nature of free will versus fate. The relationship between magic and science. Secrets of the afterlife and the nature of gods.

One word of caution: this is what I would call a “wet” book: it has a lot of sticky, bloody, imagery. Not to the extent of Nick Cutter’s Little Heaven, but it will leave us sensitive types with a few images we can’t unsee. Do not, however, let this deter you from the story. Fortify yourself and take the risk. A God in the Shed is a strange, compelling book. You won’t regret it.

rating system four crows

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Review: The Rib From Which I Remake The World

The Rib From Which I Remake The World  Ed Kurtz, 2016.

Black magic, a twisted picture show and a fiendish carnival come to town one hot summer evening, bringing madness and torment to tiny Litchfield – and making for a stunner of a story.

It is the early 1940s.  George – call him Jojo – Walker is an ex-cop and town pariah, getting by as a hotel dick.

A ghastly murder on his watch spurs Jojo to investigate the new folks in town, those unsettling hygiene movie people.  Jojo is right, the film and its servants are much more than they seem. In fact, a special invitation-only midnight showing leaves townsfolks acting…unnatural, to say the least.

Jojo teams up with Theodora, the downtrodden theater manager’s wife, to make sense of the growing lunacy and violence. Their discoveries lead them to question the very nature of reality, the existence of god, and meaning of their own lives.

The Rib From Which I Remake The World is flat-out brilliant.  The story unfolds like petals of an exotic and scandalous black flower – each one gently opening to give the reader a distressing revelation. Picture yourself, big-eyed, mentally saying ooooohhh…and eagerly turning the page. Like that.

Scenes are so thoughtfully written they feel almost effortless. Ironically – you’ll find out why later – you feel as if you could step right into Litchfield, in both time and place. In a very meta way, Kurtz has built a reality about building reality.

The sense of pathos is strong.  Jojo’s personal tragedies, Theodora’s isolation, and other townsfolks’ afflictions are deeply affecting. The characters are dealing with same troubling existential questions everyone faces: the significance of life and the lack of control of one’s destiny. But here, they are also trapped in a surreal, macabre proving ground. Then again, maybe we are too…

The Rib From Which I Remake The World is unforgettable. Powerful ideas, wrapped in a dark mantle of horror.  Stunning.

rating system five crows

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Review: Into the Drowning Deep

Into the Drowning Deep  Mira Grant, 2017.

Mermaids are real, and they’re not cute.  They’re repulsive-looking, highly-advanced killers that would treat Disney’s Ariel as an amuse-bouche.

Marine biologist Tory knows that the mermaids are out there: they killed her sister and every other living thing onboard the Atargatis.  As a part of Imagine Entertainment’s tv special, the ship had blithely sailed off to the Mariana Trench searching for – and not expecting to find – the fishy cryptids.  They did, and they died.

Tory dedicates her life to avenging her sister, and years later, Tory’s research earns her passage on Imagine’s new expedition. The company got a bigger boat, as it were, and assembled a widely varied new crew of scientists, security guards and tv people, including sirenologist Jillian Thorn, two borderline-psycho big game hunters, twin deaf marine researchers, and Tory’s arrogant ex-boyfriend.  They’re all supported by a high-tech safety system.

Needless to say, they encounter mermaids.  Violent, intelligent mermaids.  And the safety system turns out not to work so great.

Now, I am a huge fan of this author’s October Daye urban fantasy series: across the board amazing characters, world-building, storylines…awesome.  Go read them, they’re great. I was primed to wholeheartedly enjoy Into the Drowning Deep.

But with this new book, the components just never gel.  The story has a conflicted identity.  Horror fiction?  Science adventure?

The reader is presented with mermaids as monsters, and the book reads like a horror novel, but this doesn’t quite work.  For one thing, we know what the monsters are like from the very beginning, so any suspenseful reveal is already undercut.

We also are not sure how to feel about the mermaids: many of the characters on board want to kill them for various reasons, other characters raise ethical environmental dilemmas.  If these are sentient beings, they argue, mermaids should be studied, not exterminated.

So, we have crafty predators going about slaughtering crew members in a wholesale shipboard bloodbath, and we’re not sure who to root for.  Awkward.

The book also feels long, explanation-heavy, and at times repetitious. All the story build-up does not work towards creating suspense before the inevitable concentrated attack on the vessel.  What it does, is leave you unsatisfied at the book’s abrupt ending.  We’ve followed all these characters’ storylines and we’re left thinking, “Hey, wait – that’s it?”

There are great elements to the book.  First, scary mermaids: that’s a unique and intriguing concept. Grant also succeeds in sharing a deep love of the ocean and its mysteries, as well as its desperate need for our conservation.  Central to the story is the importance of language and communication, and Grant sensitively highlights the perspectives of the deaf characters and their feelings towards non-signing hearing people. The concept of how we communicate meaning – from vocalization to sign language – is nicely intertwined with the idea of the mermaids’ methods of conversing.

Into the Drowning Deep is a thought-provoking read.  It captured and held my interest to the end but left me with a general feeling of disappointment.  It was o.k. at many levels, but super at none.

rating system three crows 

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Review: In the Still of the Night

In the Still of the Night David L. Golemon, 2017.

The Supernaturals are back.

This time, we find the ragtag group of paranormal investigators facing prison for their unpopular work debunking haunted house reality shows.

Released by the FBI, Professor Kennedy and the team are tasked with saving the president of the United States.  The unpopular leader is in a coma, tormented by an entity – or entities – far more powerful than even the team’s old nemesis, Summer Place.

To rescue the president before an angry power is released on the world, the team must unravel ties to insidious Nazi experiment and investigate a contaminated California town that died in the 60’s but has been showing…unnatural…signs of life. They must also follow the memories of a young blind girl, whose death long ago is part of the puzzle.

Having just read The Supernaturals – fantastic, see last week’s review – I was thrilled to get this book for the holidays. Unfortunately, it left me a little disappointed.

In the Still of the Night feels rushed: it lacks polish, detail, and depth. It would benefit from a tighter editorial review.

The characters that Golemon built so carefully in The Supernaturals – Leonard, the tech whiz, tough cop Damian, and Jenny, the possessed professor to name a few – all return here, but attain no further development. Golemon relies significantly on what we know of the characters from the previous book, and consequently they feel flat.

We don’t get the same level of nail-biting suspense, either, because In the Still of the Night charges largely down a single path: there aren’t as many diverse story threads coming together for an intense finish.

There are some great bits, however. The plot is uniquely imaginative. Gloria, the blind girl, is a beautifully developed character and the most interesting one in the book. The power of dream walking is expanded in the story – largely for flashbacks – and offers an intriguing shift of perspective. We also get a nostalgic look back at ‘50s and early ‘60s rock music classics, that will leave a few oldies stuck in your head at the end of various chapters.

In the Still of the Night is a good book: fast-paced and entertaining, and I am glad I read it. I enjoyed following Professor Kennedy and his team on this adventure. The Supernaturals is simply better-written. I would very much like a third book featuring these characters. Just, one that’s as masterful as the first.

rating system three crows


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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Review: Under the Overtree

Under the Overtree  James A. Moore, 2000.

Mark is the new kid in the tiny, tight-knit town of Summitville in the remote Colorado Rockies. He’s slightly chubby. Has low-self esteem. No surprise that he becomes the whipping boy of the local high school bullies. A bloody beating in the woods sets disturbing events in motion that will change Mark’s life forever. And may cost him his soul.

Remarkably, after Mark is physically scarred for life from his thrashing, things get better for him. He tentatively finds a girlfriend. Gets a job with the local bookstore owner who is also a popular horror writer. Makes a few friends in town. And makes friends with those odd little creatures in the forest. The people who bother him start to disappear. Get dismembered. Have the marrow sucked out of their bones.

Unbeknownst even to Mark himself, those strange little beings – that look a lot less cute to anyone else who lives long enough to see them – are changing him into something unnatural and very, very evil.

By the time the infamous Mr. Crowley comes to town, things are rapidly deteriorating in Summitville. Crowley is a reoccurring character in some of Moore’s novels: a not-very-nice, feral-smiling fighter of malicious forces. He is a treat of an antihero. It is up to Crowley to see if he can bring things back to normal. Or at least perform a little damage control.

Moore is a masterful writer. He spends time developing his place and his people. His characterization is subtle and nuanced, resulting in a wholly believable cast. The folks in Summitville could be your neighbors; you feel as if you know them and care about them – dark secrets, raw emotions and all. Similarly, Summitville, with its beautiful forest, small town main street, crisp mornings and fall trails through the woods could just as easily be your own little hometown.

Under the Overtree is a longer book with a slow build, which may turn off readers who want a quick fix of jump scares or a rapid series of bloodbaths.  Moore’s gradual increase in tension, however, makes the horror all the more shocking when it does occur because you have become so invested in the world of the book. Moore combines dry humor, a honed sense of the grotesque, and a dose of compassion for the human condition to make a crackerjack horror story.

Want more Mr. Crowley? I always do. Check out Moore’s brilliant Serenity Falls series which begins with Writ in Blood.
rating system four crows