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Posts Tagged ‘ghosts’

Book Review: The Girl from the Well (Series, #1)

Book Review: The Girl from the Well (Series, #1)Summary:
A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just killto get out.

Review:
The official pitch on this one is that it’s Dexter meets The Grudge but what I heard about it was it’s another version of the Japanese myth that The Ring is based on. (After reading it, I can tell you that this is true). I was absolutely batshit terrified of The Ring when I first watched it. I must admit that I read this description and expected the book to me meh compared to the movie based on the same myth. This low expectation is what kept the book from being a disappointing read for me.

I found the writing to be overwrought and trying too hard for the actual genre and plot. Like when the small town seamstress thinks she’s a haute couture fashion designer. For instance:

His mind tastes like sour wine, a dram of sake left out in the dark for too long. (location 63)

Bear in mind that this passage is about a ghost girl who murders child killers/rapists. It’s a pretty passage; it just doesn’t fit.

As far as the plot goes, while I really liked the ghost, the tattooed boy’s plot rubbed me the wrong way. His mother is deemed mentally ill, partially for trying to kill him and tattooing him when he was a child. We later find out that rather than being mentally ill she was battling literal evil spirits, one in particular who wanted to go out and wreak havoc on the world. To try to bind the spirit, she decides to sacrifice her own child to the evil spirit by using him as an anchor, basically, to bind him. So after a bunch of the book basically saying hey the kid should forgive his mother because she’s ill we find out she did this act. I feel like the book wants me to think it’s heroic, but I thought it was sick. The way I felt the book wanted me to feel and the way I actually felt about the situation made me uncomfortable with the rest of the book and struggling with who to root for. Others may feel less conflicted than me over this part of the plot.

Overall, it’s a unique plot that other readers may enjoy more than myself.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Book Review: A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

September 16, 2014 11 comments

A bone hand holds chopsticks.Summary:
According to Chinese tradition, those who die hungry or wrongfully come back to haunt the living.  Compestine presents here eight different ghost stories, each correlated along with a course in a banquet and richly steeped in Chinese culture and history.

Review:
I picked this up because I had previously read Compestine’s book Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party (review) and when I looked up what else she had written, I was deeply intrigued by the premise.  This is a strong short story collection, featuring diverse yet related short stories, each beautifully written.

The eight short stories are organized into appetizers, main courses, and desserts.  The titles are for the food being served that course, such as “Tea Eggs” or “Long-life Noodles.”  The food mentioned in the title also appears somewhere in the story as a key part of the plot.  It’s a gorgeous way to organize the short stories and makes them also feel like diverse parts of a whole.

The short stories are mostly set in 20th century China, but a couple feature 20th century characters investigating something from the more distant past or being haunted by more ancient ghosts.  One story is set in New York City and features a Chinese-American family.

The stories, universally, quickly establish the setting and characters.  They all subtly teach some aspect of Chinese culture or history.  For instance, one story looks at medicine under Communism in China, while another features preying mantis fights.  At the end of each story, a brief blurb gives further details about two to three aspects of Chinese culture or history featured in the story.  Most surprising, and incredibly welcome, at the end of each short story, Compestine gives a recipe for the featured food!  It reminded me of how cozy mysteries often feature patterns or recipes at the end of the book, only this time the recipes are found in a shorty story horror collection.  Brilliant!

What about the horror aspect of the short stories?  I found them simultaneously plausible and sufficiently scary.  I was a bit on the edge of my seat without being scared out of my wits, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Overall, I immensely enjoyed each of these short stories, from the touch of horror to the settings to the amount I learned about Chinese culture and history to the wonderful recipes.  Highly recommended to anyone with even a moderate interest in China, Chinese culture, or Chinese food.  Even if horror isn’t usually your genre, give these ghosts a chance.  You’ll be glad you did.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Better World Books

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Banner for the RIP IX challenge.

Book Review: Beyond the Misty Shore by Vicki Hinze (Series, #1)

Red headed woman near a house on the seashore.Summary:
Maggie Wright comes to the cozy Maine bed and breakfast, Seascape, not for a vacation, but to investigate the mysterious death of her cousin, Carolyn.  Carolyn’s artist fiancee, TJ MacGregor, just so happens to be staying at Seascape, but a mysterious force is preventing him from leaving.  Despite the tragedy standing between them, they start to fall for each other.

Review:
This is obviously a romance with a dash of mystery and a touch of ghosts.  Maine is a wonderful setting, particularly for a paranormal romance.  This one just didn’t work for me, although I can clearly see how it will be able to find an audience.

I found the writing, particularly the romance, to ring a bit….old-fashioned and conservative.  The characters all seem to speak in the same speaking style as the elderly woman who manages the inn.  That works for her, and she is definitely my favorite character in the book, but it doesn’t work so well for TJ and Maggie who are both young and from New Orleans.  I’m sure some readers would find the clean, conservative manner in which they talk a bit of fresh air, but to me it was dull and felt like a book my grandma gave me to get started out in romances when I was in middle school.

Similarly, the way the entire town is willing to appease the local pastor when it comes to things like alcohol and condoms kind of enraged me.  For instance, the convenience store will only sell condoms to married couples upon the request of the pastor. I mean WHAT?! That is just not even LEGAL.  But.  As a book reviewer, I can definitely see that a more conservative crowd would appreciate the idea of a town where that sort of understanding could exist.

So, ignoring the fact that this book is far too conservative for me, there is one other issue that bothered me.  I found the mystery of Carolyn’s death entirely confusing.  At first I thought that Maggie came to Seascape to investigate the death because Carolyn died up there, but toward the end of the book, it sounds like she died in New Orleans.  Which was it?  And if she did die in New Orleans, then why did Maggie go to Seascape in the first place?  Also, people think the car crash was mysterious because the painting she had with her was undamaged, but then toward the end of the book they say no the undamaged painting wasn’t found at the car, it’s just that it had disappeared and reappeared.  Or something.  I’m still very confused about everything about Carolyn, which is problematic given that this is the central conflict keeping our romantic couple apart.  The mystery should be mysterious but not illogical.

Overall, this is a romance novel that was not for me, but will appeal to more conservative romance readers.  People looking for an old-timey style romance with a touch of ghosts will appreciate it.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Book Review: Haunted by Glen Cadigan

June 11, 2012 4 comments

Spooky black and white picture.Summary:
Mark is an Iraq War vet with PTSD, so he counts himself lucky when a Gulf War vet gives him the chance to be a security guard at an office tower.  Unfortunately, he’s the night watchman, and he doesn’t seem to be alone in the tower.

Review:
This is a unique, sympathetic story idea that is not as well-executed as it deserves.

Mark is ultimately a well-rounded character, but it takes too long to get to know him in this novella.  Since it is in first-person narrative, he has the option of holding off on telling us about his PTSD symptoms and how they affect him.  While a soldier would certainly most likely be more stoic in a traditionally masculine way, it gets in the way of the reader understanding where Mark is coming from and empathizing with him.  He *tells* us that his PTSD makes his life difficult, but we don’t really ever see it.

Because this is a first person novella, this problem with the characterization gets in the way of the strengths of the scifi/fantasy plot, which is honestly fairly unique.  I was glad I got to the end and saw the surprise reveal, but I certainly wasn’t expecting such a good twist from the rest of the book.

Essentially, the scifi/fantasy element of the book is strong, but the characterization at the center of the first person narrative is weak.  Although Mark is a soldier, Cadigan shouldn’t be afraid to let us see the vulnerability of his PTSD.  Recommended to fans of a unique ghost story looking for a quick read.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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