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: 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: 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.


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Review: Ararat

Ararat. Christopher Golden. 2017.

Golden’s new genre-bending novel combines elements of adventure, thriller, and horror with mixed success.

Fiancés Adam and Meryam are known world-wide for their sensational adventure documentaries. When their friend and mountain guide, Feyiz, alerts them to a potential archaeological scoop the two race to Turkey to be first on site at a remarkable discovery.

In a cave exposed by a recent avalanche high on Mount Ararat, the adventurers find the remains of a giant wooden ship filled with animal stalls and both human and animal remains: what can only be the lost ark of Noah.  But there is something else amidst the ancient debris.  In a coffin-like box sealed with bitumen they uncover a humanoid corpse sporting curved horns.  A mutated human? Or… a demon?

Ben Walker, an undercover DARPA agent is helicoptered in along with UN observer Kim Seong, and Father Cornelius Hughes, an expert on ancient civilizations.  Walker’s job is to see if the unknown creature poses any threat, and if so, how the US can utilize it.

Their arrival on the site adds to the already growing tensions among the assembled team of archaeologists, mountain guides and Turkish government monitors.  Is it the remote location and close quarters bringing out the worst in people?  Or could the creature in the box be exerting some strange influence?  As project members start to disappear and unexplained violence ramps up, Walker has his hands full trying to find these answers.

Ararat is a solid read.  The premise is great.  All the right elements are here: an isolated and treacherous location, a rising storm, a collection of disparate characters holding secrets, a supernatural element…yet it could have been so much deeper.  The story feels formulaic and the reader is left wishing it had been more fleshed out all the way around: the history, the ancient languages, the potential religious conflicts and ramifications.  The characters have backstories, but not enough for one to care much about them.  There is not enough mountain climbing to make it a great action climbing story, and not quite the level of deep, creeping fear for a stunning horror novel.  Suspense builds unevenly, and even the demon ends up a bit of a disappointment, as it focuses more on wanton destruction than insidiousness.

Ararat succeeds as a quick-read adventure thriller, but had the potential to be much more.


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Review: Dark Matter

Dark Matter  Blake Crouch, 2017.

Jason Dessen is an unambitious quantum physics professor at a decent if unremarkable college.   Contentedly if not happily married to his wife.  He could have been brilliant in his field.  In a parallel universe, he is.

On the way home from celebrating his old roommate’s stellar Pavia Prize – a coveted sciences award he himself potentially should have won – Jason is abducted at gunpoint.  Forcibly injected with an unknown substance.

He awakens in a tightly-guarded research facility hospital.  He is decontaminated and lauded by people who know him, but whom he has no memory of.

Is he losing his mind? Which is his real world?

The Jason Dessen he is in this universe is colder.  Ruthless.  Driven.  As he learns about the powerful invention the other Jason created, he knows he must find his way back to his version of Chicago and the love of his life.

What follows is a suspenseful, blistering-fast read.  Jason travels across parallel universes; some heart-achingly close to his old life, some hellishly or marvelously different.  There is a terrible pathos in Jason’s predicament, and readers identify with him on a profound level.  Crouch touches an enduring existential fear in all of us.  Where does one fit?  What is the meaning of one’s life?  Is there, in fact, meaning?

Dark Matter is foremost a thriller, but it resonates deeper; leaving readers contemplating their own paths not taken and the results of their own choices made or not made.

Some plot revelations you’ll see coming.  Some you won’t.  Guaranteed, you will not want to put this book down.


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Review: Bird Box

Bird Box – Josh Malerman, 2014.

An unusual apocalypse has blinded the world.

The bizarre reports start in Russia and then move to the US.  Something is outside.  If you see it, you go violently mad and kill yourself.  Society has collapsed.  Few if any survivors exist, and those few are trapped inside with their windows tightly covered.

For years, Malorie has lived alone with the children, Boy and Girl, blindfolding herself and going outside only for necessities.  She has trained the children with blindfolds since their birth to hone their sense of hearing.  One morning a masking fog comes, and Malorie risks everything for the faint promise of a better life.  Eyes closed and covered, they make their way to the river and a rowboat, beginning a journey of hope – and terror.  Because something is following them.

Bird Box is simply brilliant.  Malerman has a tight rein on the narrative, keeping the tension almost unbearable for the reader.  He drops plot revelations like little firecrackers that jolt the jumpy reader’s sensibility. This is a book you can’t look away from.

The story follows two timelines:  in the immediate present, we are on the boat with Malorie and the kids, almost viscerally sharing their panic on the open river.  We are as blind as Malorie.  This thread alternates with Malorie’s memories – also in present tense – that fill in the years up to this point.

Malorie discovers she is pregnant just as the first reports of the macabre deaths surface.  As civilization collapses around her, she makes a solitary trip to a safe house where she meets a small group of people who become her roommates.  Personalities mesh well and Malorie bonds with Tom, the optimist who is trying to find a way to live in the changed times and improve the housemates’ situation. Things are as good as they can be until a newcomer, Gary, creates a subtle, increasing divide in loyalties that culminates in the unthinkable.

The reader experiences the same psychological anxiety as the characters.  No one knows what the “creatures” are that must not be seen.  Or could the ensuing madness be self-fulfilling?  Is “man the creature he fears?”  Malerman creates an atmosphere of claustrophobic apprehension.  His writing is spare, but paints a rich picture for the imagination.  Bird Box tears on to powerful finishes in both storylines.   Don’t miss this one.  You will not be disappointed.


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Review: Broken Monsters

Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes, 2014

Broken Monsters initially seems to be a gritty but familiar cop-vs.-disturbed-serial-killer tale.  Which would be a good read in itself. But readers are quickly thrown off-guard when the familiarity of that genre is yanked away and things take a supernatural turn.

The setting is perfect.  Detroit: blasted, crumbling, stricken, yet persevering.  This real wasteland is juxtaposed with the shiny, removed world of social media and the idea that maybe, art and writing can transcend this reality.  But in a good way?

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Review: Panacea

Panacea by F. Paul Wilson, 2016

What if there was a cure for every ailment?  Cancer.  Leukemia.  MS.  Diabetes.  AIDS.  A cure that reset your body back to its maximum health.  You would make it available to everyone in the world, right?  But, if everyone had access to it, people would live longer, and that could lead to social and economic chaos…Or, would you make sure that your country’s government controlled it?  To make sure it didn’t fall into the wrong hands, of course. Like to those who would release a bioweapon and then sell the panacea to the highest bidder?  That is the central ethical dilemma in F. Paul Wilson’s new book.  There is such a panacea.  Thoughtfully and secretly doled out by a benevolent organization.  And it is being sought after by those with murky motives and deadly means.

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