A Haunting Tale by Bill Stokes

StokesAHauntingTaleNarrator: Jeff Hays

Publisher: Paul Stokes (2016)

Length: 11 minutes

Author’s Page

The house has stood empty for some time. It’s fallen into a disreputable state. Some say it’s haunted. The rational say that’s not possible, that it’s only silly ghost stories. Our main character takes the dare. Will his mind be changed about ghosts?

This story was deliciously spooky. It is told in both a quaint and lyrical manner, being a straight-forward ghost story peppered with plenty of appropriately creepy imagery. Our main character isn’t convinced this old, rundown house is haunted. On a very cold, snowy night, he ends up stuck at the house with a sleeping bag.

Suspense builds as the character becomes aware of the oddities of the house, the strange sounds (or lack of the expected ones), and, eventually, something more. I really loved that this story didn’t rely of shock and gore; rather, the tale titillated with hints of something just beyond our accepted norm. Plus, there’s bats. Stories always get a bonus point if there’s bats.

In my opinion, this tale is fit for kids and adults alike. I can see reading it at a campfire during Scary Story time or having it available for kids at sleep overs. It’s a well-wrought story that I found very delightful.

Narration: Jeff Hays gave a wonderful performance, as always. His voice contained just a hint of creepy when describing the house. I also liked how he was able to contain a hint of skepticism at the beginning of the story, as the main character, and how that changed as the tale went on.

What I Liked: The suspense; the descriptions; skepticism turned into believe by a ghostly experience; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a great tale!

What Others Think:

Iron Canuck

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

ButcherGhostStoryWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2015)

Length: 17 hours 36 minutes

Series: Book 13 The Dresden Files

Author’s Page

Note: I feel that Death Masks, Book 5, is where reading this series out of order starts to do you an injustice. This book does work as a stand alone to some extent, but you will get major spoilers for the previous books in the series and it also pulls in characters we have met before. So I recommend reading the previous books before you jump into this one.

In the previous book, Changes, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s finest (and only) wizard, lost everything in the gambit to save his daughter.  He lost his office, his apartment, his car, and broke his back. So he had to make a deal with the lesser of three evils. His ability to walk restored, he soldiered on and while he saved his daughter from the Red Court vampires he also lost his life at the end of Changes. So this story opens with ghost Harry in a train station. There he meets a familiar face, Karrin Murphy’s old partner who died in one of the earliest books. He gives Harry some info but mostly evades questions as he ushers Harry over to Captain Murphy’s office –  Karrin’s long deceased father. There Harry is given a choice – he can continue on his ghostly journey (and, no, they don’t know what waits outside of their ghostly city) or he can go back as a ghost to prevent harm from coming to three of his friends.

Of course, we all know what Harry decides. So he’s dropped off outside Mortimer’s because he’s the only guy Harry knows that has the ability to reliably communicate with ghosts. There we meet one of Mortimer’s protectors, Sir Steward. Sir Steward explains more about who the ghost world works and Harry has to be rather careful to not think too loudly less he attract ghosts who want to devour his essence. I really liked Sir Steward. He had a dry sense of humor and a strong sense of honor and a very solid idea of who and what he is, which has allowed his ghost to live on as long as it has.

Harry had an uphill battle the entire time in this book. It was crazy. He’s been dead for 6 months and while no one retrieved his body, there was far too much blood left at the scene. So lots of folks have trouble believing that either Harry is dead (Karrin) or that he is a ghost zipping around trying to rescue folks (nearly everyone). Even Mortimer, who accepts that Harry’s dead, doesn’t want anything to do with his ghost. But Harry saves his life and Mortimer gives him a small amount of his time, initially. Harry has to keep on hacking away (pleading, bargaining, threatening) at Mortimer to get more of his time.

Things have gone to rubble while Harry was away. Molly has become unpredictable and homeless. Karrin lost her job. The streets are dangerous now in nearly every neighborhood. Things that had stayed away from Chicago because Harry protected it have come creeping in. But not all is doom and gloom. Mister, Harry’s cat, made it out of the fire in the last book and found a decent home. Mouse, his dog, is happily guarding his daughter who also landed in a loving home. There’s plenty more along those lines, some of which jerked some emotions out of me. Harry, in classic ghost story form, gets a good look at what his presence meant to those that cared for him.

OK, so besides all the feels in this book, there’s plenty of action too. Harry has been tasked with finding his own killer, which is no easy feat. Then this bully and low-level magic user makes his presence known by ordering a drive-by shooting. Through him, Harry learns that one of his old enemies is in town, but this enemy has a new and powerful sidekick. So Harry is floating  around (or sometimes zipping around) Chicago learning to use his ghostly skills and fighting crime. Yay! He’s also learned to make use of that grave that the Black Court vampire lady bought for him several books back. A ghost has to rest sometimes.

Since memories have power in ghostland, and can also be used to trade for favors, we get to learn more of Harry’s past. I was particularly intrigued by the memories of his time with Justin DuMorn. Harry keeps getting more and more complicated – and I like it!

The ending was fantastic! I loved the final fight scenes and how folks came together to do what they could. It was a lot of fun but also filled with tension and since Butcher killed off Harry I have this fear that he might start bumping off favorite characters. Lots of good stuff went down in that final fight scene.

Afterwards, we learn a few more tidbits. The mystery of Harry’s killer has been revealed. Harry has a chance to see his family members, such as Thomas. I have to say that I felt Butcher bent the rules just a little on the Thomas/Justine love but don’t touch thing. It was sweet but I also felt it was a cheat. Anyway, it’s such a minor thing. The ending did have one last surprise, so I hope you have the next book handy. This was another excellent addition to one of my favorite series.

Narration: This book was originally narrated by John Glover but fans had become accustomed to James Marsters’s performances and didn’t want a switch in narrators this late in the series. So Penguin Audio re-recorded it with James Marsters. Hooray! His performance was spot on, as always. Harry has some really complex emotions in this book, usually about his daughter, and Marsters did an excellent job of getting those across to the listener. I also loved his voices for Molly as she impersonates various characters from the original Star Trek crew.

What I Liked: Harry has a whole new set of rules to figure out; the key to the mystery of who killed Harry; what became of his friends and pets after his death; Mortimer’s continued resistance to become entangled in Harry’s ghostly affairs; the big final fight scene; the warp up; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: There is this teensy criticism about Thomas and Justine and their work around.

What Others Think:

Knite Writes

Love Vampires

The Ranting Dragon

iO9

Fantasy Book Critic

Dastardly Bastard by Edward Lorn

LornDastardlyBastardWhy I Read It: Having read other Edward Lorn novels, Hope for the Wicked and Life After Dane, I couldn’t wait to delve into Dastardly Bastard.

Where I Got It: A won a copy in a giveaway by the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: This is for the paranormal ghost story fans who like an outdoor setting.

Narrator: Glenn Marcum

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing (2013)

Length: 6 hours 38 minutes

Author’s Page

The story starts off tame enough. We get to know each of the characters a bit and why they all end up at Waverly Chasm, near Bay’s End, on the same day. Justine and Trevor camped over night and plan to join the guided hike. Justine isn’t really the outdoor type, but she’s making an effort for Trevor.  Mark, a professional photographer, is tasked with doing a piece on the Chasm which is a step down from his war correspondence he recently wrapped up. He’s an obese guy and a 6 hour hike isn’t really something he is looking forward to. Marsha, recently widowed, takes her fancy-phone addicted kid, Lyle, out to the woods because it is something her dead husband would do. Donald is a world-famous author, but he as chosen a pen name and a full size model to play him in public as he is dwarf and doesn’t want to make his books about his size. Finally, Jaleel is stuck with all of them, being the guide for the hike. As they get warmed up, they talk of one of the main features of the hike – Scooter’s Drop (or was it Plunge?). It’s where this kid fell off into the Chasm, never to be recovered. As they near it, shit starts happening. And the real personalities come out.

Rainbow rug, cotton rayon blend, 28inX89in.

Rainbow rug, cotton rayon blend, 28inX89in.

Edward Lorn’s writing does strange things to me. This is a horror story. Bad things happen to good people. Lots of suspense, a bit of blood, a touch of innards, a swirl of scary. What did I do while listening to this book? I wove a rug. Not just any rug. A rainbow rug. Yep. And when I was done with that, I had over an hour left of the audiobook. So what did I do while finishing out the book? I baked a cake. From scratch. And not just any cake, but a 3 layer chocolate cake. It weighed perhaps 7 pounds when I was done. 6 eggs, a pound of butter, sugar, cocoa, and love. I shared with the volunteer fire department.

Three layers of home made cake.

Three layers of home made cake.

Yeah, his books do odd things to me.

Now you probably want to hear about the book. In short, I loved it. It was fast-paced, full of wit and suspense. Each character came with their own baggage, their own horrors, that they had to face. Justine was my favorite. She was a real hero in this story, pulling folks together, leading the way when the path was not clear. At first I didn’t care for Donald the writer. He was a bit of a dick. But then we get a peek at his deepest horror and shame and I think my heart cracked a little for him. After that, I liked him quite a bit. Mark was also a favorite as he faced a professional quandary as a war correspondent – what to publish and what to delete, how much truth to tell?

I liked that not everyone survived (because I do find it unrealistic when all the good guys survive a paranormal attack of some sort). The pacing was good (never a dull moment). And the mix of people was great – various sizes, various skin tones, single, paired up, widowed, etc. The ending was more upbeat than the other two Lorn books I have read, so that was unexpected for me (but I liked it!). I really enjoyed that the characters had to go through some tough crap, face it, makes friends with it, and then they could attempt to come out the other side. Nothing was just given to the good guys.

I’ve now read three Lord books and quite enjoyed each one. This one did not disappoint and may have been even more enjoyable because it was an audiobook and I could listen as I worked.

Narration: Glen Marcum was an excellent fit for this audiobook. He infused the story with tension, tenderness, pissed-offness, etc. as needed. Edward Lorn writes well, and Glen Marcum did a great job of giving those characters a voice. I especially like his voices for Lyle and for Justine. Oh, and Trevor (who sounded stoned throughout the book).

What I Liked:  Lots of suspense; outdoor setting; such a variety of characters for so many different backgrounds; the fears the characters faced (real shit, nothing half-assed); the ending.

What I Disliked:  I too wondered why the police didn’t ask about Trevor’s lack of pants.

What Others Think:

Zigzag Timeline

Books, Books, & More Books

J. Marie Ravenshaw

Big Al’s Books & Pals

Life After Dane by Edward Lorn

LornLifeAfterDaneWhy I Read It: Having read one other Edward Lorn novel, Hope for the Wicked, and found it compelling, I wanted to see what his latest work was like.

Where I Got It: A review copy via a blog tour hosted by the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Like twisted endings? Serial killer fiction that explores human psychology? This is a gripping book.

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing (2013)

Length: 227 pages

Ella May Peters recently buried her grown son. Having used up her life’s savings and her husband’s death benefits, she took out a second mortgage on her house in order to give him a decent, if simple, funeral. Perhaps he didn’t deserve it, being the serial killer nick-named The Rest Stop Dentist by the media, but he was once her little boy and she could not do otherwise. Dane Peters survived an abusive father and a caring yet ineffectual mother to go one to become a disturbed individual. His spirit is even more disturbed, forcing Ella to face the realities of her past shortcomings. In a cross-country trip from Well Being, CO to Roanoke, VA, Ella and crime reporter Sven Godel will have some hardships, too much diner food, and be witness to a continuation of Dane’s murder spree.

I rarely read horror novels, and even rarer for me to read a contemporary one. Yet there is something about Edward Lorn‘s novels resembling peanut butter cups, fizzy drinks, or crack cocaine (the quality stuff, not the cheap stuff); I simply don’t want to put his book down once I have started one. It’s that simple. The prose is elegant in it’s simplicity, taking the reader easily from page to page, one plot point to the next, and in this case, bouncing back and forth between Ella’s memories and her present predicament.

Often a story is told through the eyes of the abused, or sympathetic friend or future lover, perhaps a neighbor. I have not read too many books where the point of view is the mother of the abused. I often wavered back and forth in sympathy for Ella, who suffered verbal and emotional abuse by her husband Phil just as surely as her son Dane suffered verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. Yet she had more than one opportunity to either remove Phil from their lives or them from his life and did not take it. Lorn reveals these two sides through memories like little crackly nuggets throughout the tale of Ella’s current plight, starting with the funeral.

Once Dane’s body is in the ground, the hauntings begin and just become more unpleasant with time. Add to that her frustration with being hounded by a certain reporter, Sven Godel, and some local hooligans spray painting her house. But with each haunting, Dane gain more and more strength until finally he is able to manifest enough to kill again and collect a few more teeth. “The teeth shall lead you home,” is an eery phrase that is used to a good effect throughout the book, young Dane having lost several to his dad’s fists.

The book often felt like it took place more east than Colorado, though this could just be my perceptions. I sometimes felt that the syntax didn’t match desert Southwest, but this was partially explained by Phil Peters being from Georgia. While I initially found Ella’s religious nature and her mild homophobia off-putting, I soon saw that these things were part of her character and not a judgement or preaching from the author.

The story soon leaves Well Being, CO as Dane wants his mom to meet his girlfriend, Melissa Dugan in Roanoke, VA. Sven and Ella are forced into close quarters, at first despising one another. Quickly, they must form an uneasy alliance. While I had guessed what reason Dane had for bringing his mom and Melissa together, I did not see the final twist coming. In the end, I like this book because there are truths wrapped up in an engaging narrative and because it made me think and feel. Most authors that I enjoy can elicit one or the other out of me; only a handful can do both.

What I Liked: Quick pace with substance; makes you think about the power of your choices & reverberations of inaction; there was no one clear good guy to root for; unforseen twisted ending.

What I Disliked: Didn’t really have a Colorado feel to it.

If you would like to catch further reviews, interviews, guest posts, even a giveaway, check out The Dane Tour hosted by Red Adept Publishing.

Also, Red Adept Publishing is hosting a giveaway. Follow the link below to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

The Dane Tour Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Graveyard Book Read Along Part III

Heldig doesn’t like to share her napping place.

Once again, let me thank Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting this read along. This is the third and final installment of this event.

Spoilers Range Loose and Unfettered

In case you haven’t read the previous parts:

Part I

Part II

In Chapter 7, a lot of cool, wicked, and important stuff happens. For me, there were two hard things – Miss Lupescu’s death and Bod regains his friend Scarlett only to drive her away. However, there is also the satisfaction of Mr. Jack Frost coming to a deserved end and also learning more about the Sleer.

I have to go on a bit about the society of Every Man Jack: Jack Dandy, Jack Nimble, Jack Ketch, Jack Frost and Jack Tar. Jack Dandy was familiar to me as referring to someone who enjoys garish clothing, hats, and perhaps wigs and canes. Apparently, ‘dandy’ has meant pretty much just this since the 1700s.

Did you know that Jack Nimble use to be a pirate? An English pirate, Black Jack, from the 16th century. Somehow, he went from that to nursery rhymes. I thank Gaiman for pointing back to Jack N.’s original inclinations.

Jack Ketch of the 1600s held the office of Executioner, and on occasion, he botched a job. This would lead to a prolonged execution. It’s amazing the stuff you can find on Wikipedia. I have to wonder how much of this stuff Gaiman had kicking around his head over the years?

Jack Frost is common in American culture as the harbinger of winter. Unfortunately, my society has also made several bad movies about Jack Frost. In particular, there was this very questionable movie I saw  in some hotel room on a forced family expedition that featured Jack Frost as a snowman. If you know this movie, then that particular scene with the carrot in the shower has kept me steering clear of any Frost movies since then.

Our last Jack, Jack Tar, is a little boring, simply being a WWI seaman.

OK. I have gone on long enough about ancient bad guys and nursery rhymes and poor choices in hotel tv. A quick recap of Chapter 7: Bod (~14 yrs. old) is missing Silas and Lupescu, who are off in foreign places with a small pig fighting Jack Badness. Scarlett and her divorced mom have returned to the area and Scarlett comes across a man taking headstone rubbings for a community history project in the old neighborhood. Of course this man, Jack Frost, is hunting Bod. Bod doesn’t know this, but he does eventually recognize Scarlett and they renew their friendship. Frost waits for his opportunity to strike and when he does so, Bod realizes who he is. A merry, twisted chase through the graveyard ensues with the Jacks mentioned above. Scarlett hides in the Sleer hill crypt, where Frost eventually finds her. The Sleer haven’t had so much company since they were buried and I doubt they will be serving tea. Jack Frost is defeated and the Sleer made ecstatically happy, and Scarlett had to have her memory (Bod and all) wiped by the returned Silas.

Chapter 8 finds Bod old enough to leave the graveyard and enter the world of the living. His fading abilities to commune with the ghosts are a huge hint by Fate for him to move on and start living his life. This final chapter was bittersweet. We have to say goodbye to most of the characters we met along the way. Sniffle…

Does anyone else hope that someday Neil Gaiman returns to this world?

What do you think about the Sleer and their coils?

While I get that the Jacks are bad, I still don’t get exactly what all they do? Anything and everything naughty and despicable?

Will you be reading another Gaiman novel soon?

Thanks everyone for stopping by throughout the read along!

The Graveyard Book Read Along Part II

Chupacabra guarding my book.

For the second installment of The Graveyard Book read along, chapters 4-6 (which includes a short interlude) were read. If you are just joining us, Part I can be found HERE.

Let me start off by thanking Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting this read along. He has several fun reading events going on this month, so make sure to check out his site.

These few chapters see our main character, Nobody (Bod) Owens, grow from a child to a youngling on the cusp of adulthood. One of the things I truly enjoy about Neil Gaiman‘s writings is his ability to weave mythology and lore into everyday experiences. He does that beautifully in the chapter concerning the Danse Macabre, where the living and the dead enjoy a few hours of unfettered dancing in the streets.

In Chapter 4, The Witch’s Headstone, we meet Liza Hempstock (I love Gaiman’s character names!), who was droned and burned to charcoal and buried and a witch in unconsecrated ground. Turns out she is a little bit of a witch, and it is good that she and Bod get to be friends. Bod finds it a bit sad that she lacks a headstone and so he sets out to get her one, taking many chances and breaking even more rules. He steals from the Sleether (see Part I) and tries to sell the item to a shady type who locks him in a back room while he decides what to do. Bod is eventually saved and returns to the graveyard, where he makes a touching gesture to Liza. Humanity counts whether you are dead or alive. What did you all think about Abanazer Bolger’s connection to Jack?

The Danse Macabre I alluded to above is Chapter 5. I found this chapter to be full of mystery and beauty. I loved the idea of tradition pushing the living into participating, and the simplicity of the not-very-often blooming white flowers. Even though this is my second read through, I still didn’t understand why the ghosts and even Silas at the end of the chapter, after the dance is all said and done, won’t talk about it. We already had plenty of mystery surrounding the dance, like why the flowers, where was the music coming from, and why did the ghosts spiffy up their ghostly habitations if the dance took place in town? Why add the mystery of not talking about it?

Jack, Jack, Jack…..Sigh… what a vicious mystery you are. In the interlude Convocation, we get a few hints about Jack. Perhaps he is well funded. Perhaps he is just one of a group of trained or specialized killers. Reading this little section makes me worry for Bod Owens.

In Chapter 6, Nobody Owens’ School Days, Bod gets to go to class. He wants to learn, not just book learning, but about being alive. Silas, his guardian, warns him to keep a low profile. Unfortunately, Bod has a hard time doing that for very long because there are bullies. Pretty soon he has not only the ill-intention of the bullies focused on him, but also the once-bullied younger kids pointing him out. Things start to get out of hand when the police get involved. However, Bod learns some important skills, like putting on The Fear and Dreamwalking. At this point in the book, Bod is 11 and he is asking questions about why he has to keep a low profile and why his family was killed and who this killer Jack is and why Jack still wants him dead. And Bod receives no answers. I feel Bod’s frustration! I want answers too. But I also feel that Bod deserves the truth of the matter at this point. He’s old enough to ask the question and understand the bulk of the answer. And I believe that Bod is starting to make choices that could endanger him greatly because he is kept ignorant.

So that’s the sum up. What stuck out for you?

Did you get the Danse Macabre chapter?

Do you think Bod’s Haunting of the school bullies was just a teensy vicious?

What is up with Jack and his business card?

The Graveyard Book Read Along

Stainless Steel Droppings has the schedule up! Hooray! This is a fun reading event featuring one of my favorite books. If you want to play along, it is not too late – head over to Stainless Steel Droppings to sign up. This read along is part of the larger event R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril in which readers can pick a variety of levels to challenge one’s self – and I am surprised how much of my reading material fits into the parameters of this reading event! Who knew I read so much dark fantasy, crime, mystery, etc. With this read along, there are two additional mini-events that you can read about at the end of Stainless Steel Droppings’ post.

This will be a re-read for me, having read The Graveyard Book a few years ago. I contemplated doing the audio version (read by Neil Gaiman himself), but I find it difficult to stop at the correct place – I have a tendency to press on and with this book I could see myself finishing it easily in a few sittings (it’s that entertaining). So I will be reading along in my trusty paperbook, bookmark in hand.

In Carl’s words:

Read Chapters 1-3:

How Nobody Came to the Graveyard
The New Friend
The Hounds of God

from October 1st through October 6th. Post your thoughts on these chapters on Sunday, October 7th.

Read Chapters 4-6:

The Witch’s Headstone
Danse Macabre
Interlude: The Convocation
Nobody Owens’ School Days

from October 8th through October 13th. Post your thoughts on these chapters on Sunday, October 14th.

Read Chapters 7-8:

Every Man Jack
Leavings and Partings

from October 14th through October 20th. Post your thoughts on these final chapters/the book on Sunday, October [21st].