Posts Tagged ‘review


Goodreads Review: How to be a Ghost Hunter

How to Be a Ghost HunterHow to Be a Ghost Hunter by Richard Southall

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Claiming to be any fresh ghost hunter’s essential how-to guide, the book itself reads more like a checklist of basic information; that in itself isn’t necessarily a crime, but when it’s information that could be found nearly anywhere with a quick Google search, it seems superfluous. The use of sometimes-confusing language (when discussing EVPs, for example, we refer frequently to “ghost recording,” which does not reference the act of recording the EVPs, but rather to a type of spirit) and occasional errors in the “recommended gear” section (the one that really jumped out at me was stating that the use of “Microsoft Photoshop” could be helpful) didn’t help much.
Overall, there wasn’t much substance here. Certainly nothing that warranted a whole book. A brief pamphlet or a simple web page could have conveyed the same and not felt padded, plus would have given more opportunity to fix errors or update as times change.

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Goodreads Review: The Priest’s Graveyard

The Priest's GraveyardThe Priest’s Graveyard by Ted Dekker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Priest’s Graveyard is fairly standard Dekker; take one part ritual abuse recovery, one part religious overtones, season with self-doubt and hints of romance, incorporate slight twist towards the end and bake until ready.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you; it’s quite competent and interesting and kept me turning the pages until I reached the end. Once I reached that end, I did not feel any revulsion or any qualms about why I had bothered to read it at all. I was satisfied, but that was all it was.

On the technical level, the book does its job; there are no detectable grammatical, spelling or typesetting errors. The language is clear and concise, though thoroughly sanitized as Dekker is prone to doing. The characters are reasonably well formed, with distinct identities, arcs and mannerisms, with most of them providing enough information for you to get inside their heads and understand them without drowning you in exposition; only one stands out as lacking full treatment, our assumed antagonist, but since we never get a POV chapter from him and he’s meant to be at least a little ambiguous, I can live with that. Overall, nothing spectacular, but nothing that ruins the reading experience.

There are a pair of quibbles that I have with the book, however. Were it not for those, it would have bumped the book up to a solid four-star rating, rather than the 3 (and maybe a quarter) I would give it at this point. First is Renee’s backstory. Her interactions with Lamont are painted with rose-colored glasses – which given the circumstances is understandable and expected – but when you reach the end and discover certain things, it feels incomplete, as though there are things that should have been brought up – if not directly, at least hinted at – earlier. It could have been done without spoiling the twist, and given his performance in other novels (Three comes to mind), Dekker is more than up to the task.

The second is the last two pages. The apparent epilogue and the dialogue between our abuse victim and fallen priest is decent if a little saccharine, and could have closed the book out nicely. Then we’re treated to a post-epilogue scene that just feels out of place and, honestly, stupid. Chop those last two pages out, I think you’d have a better book.

Overall, though, a satisfying thriller, and would certainly recommend it to fans of Dekker’s other works, assuming they haven’t gotten sick of his basic formula.

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Goodreads Review: The Amityville Horror Conspiracy

The Amityville Horror ConspiracyThe Amityville Horror Conspiracy by Stephen Kaplan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s not exactly a secret that I despise the whole Amityville Horror phenomena. Thus it should come as no surprise that I found this utter shredding of the original saga to be very pleasing in the cold, dead corners of my heart.

Kaplan performs the usual (well deserved) hatchet job on the book itself, going point by point through 90% of the factual issues that have been discussed ad nauseum by dozens, if not hundreds, of others – including myself – over the years. That’s not exactly new territory, though having it all in one place and written with reasonable coherency is handy.

What puts it a notch above other, similar materials is the items related to the rise and aftermath of the Horror story. The lead up going over some aspects of the original De Feo murders was interesting, if failing to present anything really new, but the information about articles and interviews related to the Lutzes and their ever-shifting story of demonic possession and slime rivers chasing them up and down staircases features even more contradictions and about-faces than different editions of the book, and when you get into the discussions between George and Kaplan – or the lack thereof, in some cases – showcases even further how utterly batty the whole thing is.

So why only 3 stars? Because Kaplan is just a little bit of an egotist. Every contradiction, every new edge in debunking the mess that is unearthed comes with self-congratulatory pats on the back and portraits of a messianistic crusader for truth who is too often martyred for his cause by the shock-hungry American public who all-too-desperately wants to believe that an innocent suburbia can become host to ghosts, demons, angry Native Americans and evil pig ghost/demons. The discussion of his personal life, including the discussion of his marriage’s dissolution and eventual romance and marriage to his future cowriter and the blow by blow of heath scares and why exactly he didn’t want to work in buildings with stairs are likewise unwelcome visitors. They add nothing to the book’s assumed purpose and frequently interrupt the flow of attempting to piece together something resembling a factual account of the events surrounding the Horror. Were those not present, or were at least scaled back a notch, this would have easily earned 4 stars from me.

Bottom line? If the Amityville Horror fascinates, inspires or aggravates you, there’s things in here worth reading for both those who subscribe to the hogwash camp and those who still desperately seek to defend it. If you have a more generalized interest in true-life ghost stories or investigations, it’s probably still worth a look, being related to arguably one of the most famous American hauntings. If neither topic is of deep interest to you, this book isn’t going to change your mind.

One other consideration is the price point; I had a hard time hunting down a copy, and generally it goes for $30 or more. Whether that’s due to rarity or popularity, I’m not certain. But that may put off more casual students of the subject, so be forewarned.

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Goodreads Review: All Good Stories

All Good StoriesAll Good Stories by Linda G. Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, that was different…

I came into this book not quite knowing what to expect. I knew it would involve “mushy stuff,” and that it was liable to be more lighthearted than my usual fare, but beyond that I didn’t have much to go on.

Let me say that I am glad I took the trip. Sometimes whim and chance lead us to things that we would not otherwise have come across, and in those moments we should be thankful.

The technical portion of the program is well done, and while in the first few chapters you might be prone to thinking it childish or a little over-the-top, it becomes clearer towards the end and you start to see how it all fits together. The final whammy – and the opportunity to read the central story that forms the third layer of the work – cap things off nicely and offer an explanation for the apparent oddity of certain turns of phrase elsewhere.

It’s not your standard romance, and gives this particular book-lover and writer a warm fuzzy feeling that there may yet be hope after all. If you’re even slightly on the fence about it, take the plunge. You’ll enjoy it.

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Goodreads Review: Fire Burn

Fire Burn: Tales of Witchery, a collection of true accounts of witchcraft and demonologyFire Burn: Tales of Witchery, a collection of true accounts of witchcraft and demonology by Ken Radford

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Might seem a little harsh, but overall I found this book lacking in substance, fairly repetitive and boring.

There’s roughly 50 “tales of witchery” to be found here, each one averaging around a page and a half. Given the short format – alongside the age of most of the cases and the general disregard for silly things like “evidence” in cases of witchcraft – it’s understandable that there isn’t a lot of detail to be had; still, it could have used some improvements in that regard, and when I finished, I was left sitting with the book in my lap and eyebrow raised, asking “What, that’s it?”

Add in that several of the stories seem to basically be the same story with the names shuffled around a bit, and it doesn’t really feel like this was worth reading. And that’s before you get to the ones that I’d read before in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark or in other (better) collections of paranormal blurbs.

It’s not terribly written, and that’s probably the best I can say for it; would give it a pass unless you’re absolutely desperate for this sort of material.

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Goodreads Review: A Home For Rose

A Home for Rose: A Dark Desert TaleA Home for Rose: A Dark Desert Tale by Ingrid Foster

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An amusing bit of creepiness.

Not a whole lot to say about this one; it’s quick, cheap and dirty. I’ll give you a shudder, though any veteran of horror is not going to be surprised.

One original bit that I did quite enjoy was the image of Rose mangling Mary. Like watching Child’s Play, at first the image is silly, but the more you think about it, the more it lodges in your head and the more disturbing it becomes.

On the downside, the flashback-followed-by-flash-forward was a little messy, and the constant POV hops made this harder to read than it should have been. They’re not deal breakers, and it’s still fun for all that… Just felt like it could have been a little more streamlined.

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Goodreads Review: The Harlot by the Side of the Road

The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the BibleThe Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible by Jonathan Kirsch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title sounds quite provocative, doesn’t it? Harlots!? In the Bible!? Why, yes. Plenty of them, in fact. Most people probably aren’t aware just how much sin, iniquity, vice and general delinquency is in their favorite book of judgement and good news, I’d wager.

Those are the people this book is for. At least, those among that group who have a willingness to listen to some of the weirder and less “Christian” behaviors that some of those Biblical characters got up to. Unfortunately, that may be too small of a target audience.

The prose is well formed, the ideas reasonably well thought out, and there’s plenty of footnotes to chase down if you’re the fact-checking sort. But if you’re like me, someone who is already aware of the devilry going on in the Holiest of Holy Books, you probably won’t find anything new or shocking. There’s unlikely to be any enticing new hooks to hang your hat on if you’re seeking sick thrills in the Bible or want more ammunition to start throwing when people put on their judgy faces.

Now, is that all bad? Probably not. As noted, there is an audience for this information… I was just not that audience, for which I am a little saddened.

The one actual negative that I can levy against the book – or perhaps, more accurately, the author – is that sometimes it goes a little far afield, as though seeking ways to connect favorite pet theories or conspiracies to situations where they really have no bearing; the “I shall sacrifice what first comes to meet me” tale is the worst offender in this respect, somehow taking a screwy story about a soldier who makes a bad vow and thus is expected to sacrifice his only child and turning it into a secret parable about lesbians and goddess worship, but the idea peeks its head around corners in most of the stories, especially as it applies to those two topics. Sometimes it feels as though the author has an axe to grind about the Sacred Feminine and just won’t come right out and say so. But still, entertaining stuff, and sure to send any DaVinci Code theorists over the moon with the possibilities.

All in all, a decent enough read for the would-be Biblical scholar, or the devout person looking for a reason to get mad about another attack on their religion, but overall not something I’d suggest specifically seeking out.

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