Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Saturday, February 29, 2020

Review: THE HOUSE OF MADNESS by Kirk Kilgrave

3.5 Spooky Stars 

This is a 3.5 rating, the best I can muster. I tried valiantly "to really get into" this supernatural novel, but I just couldn't maintain interest. There were segments of the plot and themes that quite intrigued me, but the story "felt" too uneven,  plus I couldn't summon sufficient empathy for the characters to maintain a high level of interest in them or their endangerment.  Actually I found the ancestral characters more intriguing,  more lively,  even though many of them were quite nasty individuals sans moral integrity. That said,  other readers may find the story quite fascinating. 


5 Spooky Stars

Nothing but chills throughout in this super-scary supernatural spooky! If the ongoing chills and thrills don't scare you (they sure scared me), then hold your breath because the ending will blow--you--away. Oh my! I can't stop thinking about it! What a fab debut horror this is. Write faster, please!

Monday, February 24, 2020


4 Stars

I quite enjoyed reading this novel, both for the recurring (and escalating Spooky aspects) and for the protagonist's unfolding character evolution. From good-hearted, devoted, mother and wife, thoughtful and well-intentioned Erin gradually morphs into something else. Whether one attributes her mutation to Supernatural elements, or to a growing undiscovered psychological disorder, her process is realistic as she slowly changes.

Review: FALSE VALUE (Rivers of London 8) by Ben Aaronovitch

4.5 Stars
FALSE VALUE is Book 8 in the fantastic (in multiple categories) Urban Fantasy RIVERS OF LONDON Series by Ben Aaronovitch. I adored Books 7 and 7.5 [LIES SLEEPING  and THE OCTOBER MAN]. FALSE VALUE wasn't quite as fantastic to me, quite possibly because the techno theme went over my head and the corporate maneuvering left me uninterested.  However,  Feckless Hero police officer Peter Grant remains as adorable as ever, and the  Denouement in the Super-Secret server warehouse, especially the open "portal to darkness," was scrumptious reading (with Lovecraftian Cosmic Horror resonances) and definitely might be a springboard to further exploration in the next novel or two. I certainly hope so. My 4 Star rating then is actually 4.5, and I imagine many other readers will consider FALSE VALUE a 5.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Review: THE ROOM UPSTAIRS by Iain Rob Wright

5 Spooky Stars!

Gore-laden horror  but rife with deeply detailed characterization and realistic character evolution,  THE ROOM UPSTAIRS makes me glad to live in a single-story home. A blended family in Birmingham,  England,  is poor but mostly happy. Until a visit to a car boot sale (similar to American flea markets) sees the adolescent daughter bringing home an antique-appearing pendant and the eleven-year-old son a doll replica of a film series' evil clown, and real Evil enters the household,  tempting each member into wishes, ranging from the simple and mundane, to life-changing and life-destroying. Author Iain Rob Wright delivers imaginatively-premised unspeakable,  implacable,  Horror.  Just try to sleep after reading this one. That creaking door will keep you wide awake. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Review: THE SUN DOWN MOTEL by Simone St. James

5+ Stars!

I expected a great novel, as I adored Simone St. James ' BROKEN GIRLS; and THE SUN DOWN MOTEL delivered on that expectation and far beyond it. This is a tremendously frightening novel, both in terms of the Supernatural scares (I thought my hair would turn white) and of the horribly-inhuman human frightener--who makes my blood run even colder. It also carries a tremendous impact in terms of Awareness: specifically awareness of how unsafe women and girls are. Yes in 2020 we are familiar with the #MeToo Movement and with the pervasiveness of "rape culture." But in 1982, one of the timelines in this novel, we weren't,  unless we had personal experiences, or a loved one or dear friend had suffered.  That a tiny little town like St. James' "Fell, New York," tucked off on a lonely highway almost to Canada, has such a HIGH number of murders of women, many of these rape-murders, and many unsolved "disappearances," is both mind-boggling and terrifying, especially that it's tacitly assumed and runs under the radar! Revolting!!

This is not a book to put the reader peacefully to sleep at night.  This is a book to raise questions,  incite pondering,  and inspire activism.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


5 Scary Stars!

In exception to the first eleven volumes in this spooky series, SHORT HORROR STORIES VOLUME 12 contains only two stories:

Home Again by Ron Ripley:

In the early 20th century, literary lion Thomas Wolfe announced, YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN. I'm fairly certain he didn't have in mind the sort of homecoming that protagonist Allen experiences in this story!  As well as this works as a SCARY short story, I could hope that the inimitable Ron Ripley (who has an incredible imagination and a love of history) would decide in future to expand on certain characters and events mentioned--specifically those of three generations earlier.

The Inhabitant of the  Mirror by David Longhorn:  our protagonist, English by birth but long-ensconced in America, inherits the bizarre manor home of his mother's late half-brother, including its Magic Mirror.

Review: GARDEN OF BEWITCHMENT by Catherine Cavendish

5 + Stars!!

I believe author Catherine Cavendish may have lived a past life or two in Victorian Great Britain: she possesses a rare and quite special gift for writing that period "from the inside," and so readers "experience" her stories rather than just peruse a narrative.  I felt I lived with the characters in her newest,  the spectacularly spooky supernatural story GARDEN OF BEWITCHMENT. Evelyn and Claire, twin protagonists,  literally identical twins, their lives, their hauntings. Claire's obsession,  that mysterious and alien concept "toy" referenced so delightfully in the  title: for the duration of reading, all this was a part of me.



This month I'm actively seeking out Women Writers in the Genres of Horror,  Fantasy,  Paranormal/Supernatural, Mystery & Suspense.

2020 February Women In Horror

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review: HOME BEFORE DARK by Riley Sager

3 Stars

I was enamoured of Riley Sager 's first two novels,  FINAL GIRLS and THE LAST TIME I LIED. His third mystery, LOCK EVERY DOOR,  I've not yet read. The description for HOME BEFORE DARK really excited me, because I love a Haunting above all else. 

However: the pre-Prologue,  told from contemporary (adult) Maggie's point of view,  didn't set me up for the story. Now the Prologue, when Maggie was five and the family freshly moved into the unusual, if not quite, unique,  Baneberry House in a significantly rural region of New Hampshire: oh, yes. Bring It On.
Sigh: the author at some point decided to make this a two-era story, interweaving the events of 21 days, 25 years earlier, with the contemporary narrative: Adult all-business nothing-to-see-here Maggie Returns. That could work, might work, has worked.  But not here, and not for me. Think I'll reread this book, but differently,  reading all the  past-tense events as one smooth flowing narrative, then all the "now" sections as a narrative.  This back-forward-back-forward just disjoints my grasp of the narrative (and has cost the novel a Star).

Something else that gripes me about HOME BEFORE DARK is how extensively skeptical adult Maggie is.  Perhaps psychologically  this is a logical result of "slamming the door" on unwanted or terrifying belief. But it's not scientific method: when confronted with the seemingly inexplicable,  one doesn't leap off the opposite deep end trying to explain it away.  Sherlock wouldn't like that. 

Finally,  the Denouement: again, sigh. Maybe I'm simply too old and locked into my preferred patterns.  I want to shake the characters senseless,  screaming bansee-like, "Can't you fools see?"

So in conclusion,  I'm sorry,  but the best I can give is not even 3.5. 3 stars.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Review: POSSESSED by Peter Laws (Matt Hunter #4)

5 Stars

Matt Hunter #4

British Matt Hunter is a former Baptist minister who lost his faith and now serves as a professor of Sociology of Religion.  A very erudite and highly educated individual with deep knowledge of ancient and historical texts, both medieval and arcane, Hunter also exhibits an occasional lowbrow humor which provides comic relief in a very serious novel.

Called in as an "expert" due to the combination of his ministerial background,  his erudition, and his current position as Professor, he becomes involved in a murder case in a small village.  The case is exceptional because the killer "seems" to evidence possession, and his pastor is convinced.  When a widely known American "exorcist " appears on the scene, Matt's scientific rationalism is tested against "blind faith " in widespread demonic possession,  and his own faith in psychology is strenuously taxed.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Review: THE SALEM HORROR by Henry Kuttner

5+ Stars!
5 Stars! Well-written,  horrifying,  realistic consequences. Very Lovecraftian--the resonances with my most favourite HPL, "Dreams In the Witch-House," are immense--but wonderful! Kuttner is a learned and articulate author. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Review: THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS by Stephen Graham Jones

5 Stars

Throughout I repeatedly asked myself why I had waited until now to read Stephen Graham Jones, vowing to read everything in his prolific oeuvre. The simple phrase "new favorite author" is overworked but very true. Stephen Graham Jones is exceptional.

THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS is a painful novel to read. I am ashamed of the Caucasian treatment of indigenous Americans throughout history, and as the case of character Ricky Boss demonstrates (reminding me of the Wyoming Matthew Shepard case), continuing today. Just reading it is painful; living it is unimaginable.

But THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS is not Horror only because of wrong-minded people performing wrong acts, nor the main characters living trapped in a history of sorrow and seeming inescapability. It is also a story of Supernatural Horror: one in which the four main characters make poor choices, driven by their economy, need, and resentment; and all the efforts of one, Lewis, come to no avail for any of them, a decade later, at the anniversary of this event.

This is not a book you read and leave behind. This is a book you live.

Monday, February 3, 2020


5 Stars

"Pictures On The Wall" by Ron Ripley: 
This short story delightfully reminded me both of H. P. Lovecraft's "Picture In The  House," and of characters in Grade B horror films.  You know whom: they consult Ouija boards, hold seances, enter abandoned buildings at night, all because their egotism is even greater than their skepticism. 

Such is the protagonist here: a wealthy, successful,  author, Neil buys a triptych of an early Colonial manor. Once a single painting,  it was divested into three sections.  So naturally Mr. Ego, disregarding the testament he discovers hidden in the frame,  hangs the sections as one unit again.  Oh well. Pride and hubris always precede a fall. What a horrific Avenue to discovery!

"Photography " by Ron Ripley: 

Lindy is a dedicated Spirit Photographer. Convinced that often Spirits are trapped in objects, she searches yard sales, estate sales, and flea markets for whatever objects psychically move her, then photographs them in her home. Finally,  she endeavours to release the Spirits so they may find Peace. 

Unfortunately sometimes good intentions have the road to hell.

"An Artist's Purpose " by Rowan Rook:

This story also reminds me of Lovecraft: of Dreaming Cthulhu calling to the minds of men (primarily artists, writers, poets, and other creatives) with Strange and Arcane dreams.  A Seattle artist planning for an upcoming showcase purchases a too-cheap, damaged, cabin on Mt. Baker, seeking inspiration in the absolute quiet of isolation.  Inspiration results--but the cost is horrifying nightmares, not just for the Artist. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Review: INSIDE by D. M. Siciliano

3 Stars

A tremendous amount of Implacable Horror,  literal and metaphorical convolutions,  inescapable emotions  (grief, shame, rage, terror, guilt), and deeply delineated psychology populates this novel. I'm always in favor of Implacability in Horror: without it, the story is not realistic.  Without it, there's no possibility of a "miraculous" twist: a rescue,  a recovery,  an escape.  What  I am not in favor of is fatalism,  and that is how this story felt: vicarious suffering,  over and over, with not little hope, NO hope of Redemption.  So what's the point?

My other problem here (I'm not addressing the proofreading need because I read only an ARC and not the finished product--other than to say that "thrusted" is not a  viable verb--possibly exists, but thankfully,  rarely. Go with "thrust.") is extending the  story far beyond the point at which it should have died--err, ended. The entire aftermath,  to me, was unnecessary,  unhelpful,  and  pretty much,  just an excuse to "relive" it all again. I wish the book at stopped at the last scene in the House, before the "aftermath. " That would have rendered a much tauter plotline.


5+ Stars

This "Haunted House" story I found exceptional for several reasons. Throughout the book, Thomas and Felix are such a cogent "odd couple," really a perfectly matched set of opposites,  a pair who constantly play riffs off each other.  Next, there's humour: not a fictional aspect I usually seek out, but here it's a welcome leavening, and I can see it working effectively if this novel was a stage play [and oddly,  that would be my choice in preference to: a Horror film--which seques right into my next point], these guys are like horror film memory champions! Like kids of the 50's memorizing Baseball stats, these guys know their B-movies!

But best of all,  there's the SCARES, the tongue-in-cheek reactions of Felix and Thomas; and finally,  That Denouement.  Not in a million years...and my reaction was horror, grief, sorrow, astoundment, horror....and still pondering two days later.  What a story!

Saturday, February 1, 2020


5 Magical Stars

What more magical than a novel of historical fiction whose very prose is steeped in poetic imaginings of the most wondrous sort, whose evocation of Victorian London is so vivid as to be as easy as stepping out my front door, in which magical realism surpasses any disbelief and becomes as real as reading the headlines of today?

THINGS IN JARS is glorious. If you've loved THE NINTH HOUSE, or THE GENERAL THEORY OF HAUNTING, or A SUDDEN LIGHT: don't dawdle! Read a very special novel indeed and watch as your interior world opens to new horizons.