The Uncommitted: Book Review

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I was given a PDF edition of The Uncommitted by Margaret Goss for review. The cover art is eye-catching; so are a few inconsistencies. Perhaps I notice them more than others because of my years in publishing. I do have to admit they did little to distract from the story itself…only the overall presentation of the book.

The book opens with Josephine Reilly taking a plane ride to care for her mother who is dying from cancer. I went through this very experience in 2015 and want to mention how well the author portrays the difficulties and emotional turmoil. It was very well done.

Josie Reilly has paranormal experiences since childhood, though they change throughout her life cycle and are inherited through her mother’s bloodline.  After mother’s death, her abilities are heightened. Despite the disapproval of her stuffy husband, she decides to explore her abilities to channel the deceased.

She gets much more than she bargained for.  What follows is an emotional rollercoaster of spiritual bombardment, unpleasant entities threatening her children and questioning of herself as a mother and a wife.  Josie seeks help and finds none in what she believed would be traditional routes.  She, as well as others around her, fear she’s lost her sanity and moral fortitude. Her marriage is also threatened.

Josie faces her fears, renews her faith, resists mortal temptations with supernatural origins and discovers the truth of her past lives and that of a mysterious man with healing powers. She finds strength in the living and the dead.

I did not realize this book is Christian Fiction until I finished reading it. I am a Christian but not Catholic so a few references to Catholic elements of faith were lost on me without having to stop and look them up. Enough was familiar to me to make the story plot and timeline intriguing and interesting. I won’t spoil it for you but the ending certainly took a different turn than I expected. I honestly don’ t know if this story would appeal to someone who is not religious or spiritual. I certainly enjoyed it. I’m interested to see where Ms. Goss takes Josie in future books. I’d love to see what the future holds for a woman with these paranormal gifts.

ISBN: 978-1-59598-428-9
E-ISBN: 978-5-59598-429-6

Marvelry’s Curiosity Shop: Book Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

     The Twilight Zone is one of my favorite shows ever. I’ve watched season after season, over and over, year after year. It never gets old for me. I’m attracted to short, weird tales that manage to enthrall and shock me in 30 minutes or less. Likewise, I also enjoy short story collections for the same reason. Bite-sized stories of suspense and the unexplained will always have a place on my bookshelf.

Marvelry’s Curiosity Shop, by John Brhel and Joseph Sullivan, is one such collection of stories. 12 fantastical tales of terror and mystery await in a retired stage magician’s shop. Dr. Marvelry (pronounced, “Marvel-rye”) has traveled the world and collected scores of curious objects. From the book summary:

“A phonograph that seemingly replays a tragedy. Fertility dolls that are more than decoration. A bedeviled mannequin. These are just some of the relics this eccentric shopkeeper has collected over the years.”

He seems like a nice enough man, but Dr. Marvelry seems to have no problem selling these cursed items to unsuspecting customers, without really giving them proper warning about the objects’ power. Seems kind of messed up, right? I had some trouble trying to figure out Marvelry as a character, whether his intent was malicious or not. In any case, he himself was featured in a couple of the stories, and was largely sympathetic.

As for the stories, they were a load of fun. My favorite tale in particular was “Seams of Consequence”, about a vintage sewing machine that served its purpose a little too well. It could have easily been an episode of The Twilight Zone, right down to the eerie, but fitting, ending. “A Gift Ungiven”, about a professor that purchases an ancient Native Amercian artifact, would have been a favorite had the ending been given more thought. Unfortunately, many of the stories ended sooner than I had hoped, usually with a character giving exposition in the final paragraph to explain the climax. Stories as strong as these deserve to be explored to their full potential, even if it means upping the word count a bit. I’m hoping that, in their next collection, the authors max out the narratives a bit more to let readers feel the full impact of the spectacular climaxes. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more by Brhel and Sullivan.

The stories are told in a narration that takes some getting used to, but still consistent. Think of someone telling you tales by a campfire; there’s going to be much more “tell” than “show”. Once I got past that, I found the stories to be quite enjoyable. The authors took the time to weave the cursed objects, characters, and places within one another’s stories, which really brought the collection together, rather than just slapping together creepypasta-style tales together with a common theme.

I would recommend this book to fans of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, who want some light reading that’s creepy, but won’t give them nightmares. With the exception of one story with sexual themes (“A Made Match”), I think a YA audience would have a good time with the book, as well. Find it on Amazon.

Mailbag: June 6, 2016

Welcome back to the HW Mailbag.  Only one question this week, but it’s a good one.


Current debate that’s going on at work…What’s scarier, ghosts/paranormal or slashers/killers and why?  Your thoughts? – @kcguru23

@kcguru23 works at a hotel and they have these debates during slow moments.  I wouldn’t mind working in a place like that.  Instead, I’ll just sit alone in my office, telling ghost stories to myself.  As it turns out, my scenario is still more interesting than The Innkeepers.

This question comes down to personal preference/beliefs.  I consider myself a believer in the paranormal, with a healthy helping of skepticism.  That is to say that I believe in ghosts, but, I don’t think they’re as prevalent as the wide array of ghost hunting shows would have us believe.

I also believe that there are malevolent spirits.  I’ve heard enough stories from people who have visited Waverly Hills Sanatorium if nothing else.

Still, ghosts/paranormal movies have never really scared me.  Those kinds of movies can be creepy, but they never really stick with me.  Recent installments in this genre seem more intent on hitting the viewer with jump scares more than anything else.  If there’s anything that screams “fleeting scares” more than movies crawling with jump scares, I don’t know about it.  There is such a thing as a well-done jump scare (the sheet flying off the clothesline in The Conjuring is a recent example), but far too many of them just seem cheap and lazy.

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That’s not to say that all paranormal movies are bad, I just tend not to find them very frightening.

So, for this debate, I’ll side with slashers/killers.  I grant you that most things I just said about paranormal movies tend to hold true for slashers: they’re not very scary and like to rely on jump scares.  More recent movies like the “fake jump scare” jump scare, which I’m not a big fan of.

I’m siding with this because well-done movies about killers tend to get under my skin.  When I think of some of the most unnverving movies I’ve ever seen – the ones that really grabbed hold of me and left me looking over my shoulder for weeks – I think of movies about serial killers.  The Poughkeepsie Tapes.  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  Even Zodiac to some degree, and that wasn’t even really that scary.

It’s something real.  Something I feel could actually happen to me.  I don’t necessarily expect a killer will be hiding in my garage, but I could always be wrong.  On the other side, I’ve been living in the same house for almost 10 years and have witnessed exactly zero paranormal events.  No violent deaths have occurred here, and it’s not built on an old burial ground.  I have no fear of ghosts in my day-to-day life.  But killers could be anywhere, man.  Just waiting to strike.  Maybe one of them has been living in my attic for a couple months, just hanging out until the time is right.  I’ll never know until it’s too late, which is why I have various weapons stashed in random places in my house.  YOU HEAR THAT KILLER IN THE ATTIC?  I have weapons that you don’t know about, and they’re EVERYWHERE.  I may not have much training, but I can swing wildly with the best of them.  Find another filthy attic to call your home.

The concept of the home invasion subgenre scares me, but I’ve yet to come across one that has really stuck with me.  The first 45 minutes of The Strangers was pretty cool, but it all just kind of fell apart.  I recently watched Hush – which I really liked – but it didn’t really affect me.  The idea that someone could randomly break into my house and torture/kill me is terrifying, but I’ve yet to see a movie that has really been able to harness that terror.

A quick story about serial killer movies.
As we all know, Zodiac was based on a true story.  The Zodiac Killer was an actual killer who was never caught.  Still, the murders took place in California in the late 60s.  After watching Zodiac – again, not really a scary movie – I checked my garage to make sure he wasn’t hiding out in there.
To repeat: I checked my garage to see if The Zodiac Killer – a man who, if still alive, would likely be well into his seventies – was hiding in there.  I live in Kentucky and have a very loud garage door.  There is no reason he would be in there, but I just had to check.

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A view from my garage

In closing, I’ll roll with slashers/killers over ghosts/paranormal, and it’s not particularly close.


Have something on your mind?  Send us your questions!  Hit us up on Twitter or through email.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven (Or, How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process) by Corey Taylor

book-funnythingwaytoheaven-corey-taylor-500Many people are familiar with Corey Taylor as the masked lead singer in Slipknot, or of the Generation Y’s metal answer to the Cure, Stone Sour.  But he is also a writer with a unique sense of humor and the meaty stories that fill the appetite of any hungry reader. Believe me, they are all thriller and no filler!

In Taylor’s second book, he explores the nature of his paranormal experiences that started haunting him from an early age. Refreshingly, he does not jump to conclusions to pass off everything that he has seen or heard as supernatural; rather he takes the time to look for rational answers as he explains his findings with paranormal research groups.

Apparently Taylor has been “sensitive” to the paranormal species his whole life. Every other chapter in the book refers to an experience with the supernatural that has occurred during his existence on this spec of dirt. In between he plots out his theory (yes, I said “theory”, as in scientific) as to the possibility of the existence of ghosts. I do have to say that he does give remarkable and well thought out rational scientific reasoning for the occurrences.

“The gist of this, if it is in fact plausible, is that if these various laws and theorems can establish reasonable evidence to support Near Death Experiences, the same can be done for ghost and spirits…Let’s look at the properties of light – more importantly, electron magnetic radiation, or EMR.  This is a form of energy that is emitted and absorbed by charged particles. This is a form of energy that is emitted and absorbed by charged particles. Electromagnetic radiation carries radiant energy through space, continuously away from its source. To me, that means that energy can exist autonomously from the body’s source.”

 Who knew that the lead singer of Slipknot could be not only so deep and intellectual, but also such a minstrel of written word? When not trying to validate his scientific research, Taylor writes as if he is having a direct conversation between himself and the reader. (Sounds kind of familiar; who else does that…who else? Oh screw it, I’ll remember when we’re done and then I’ll get back to you. Now where was I? Oh, yeah!)CT1

“I am no Stephen Hawking, but I would say I lean toward a decent side of the fence. Then again, maybe not – I do say fuck a lot, and apparently using coarse language is a sign of a limited intelligence. Well fuck you too, dick breath. “

On the downside, one may get weary of his long drawn out explanation of his disbelief in religion. I think that it is important for him to shine light on how it is possible for him to believe in the existence of ghosts, yet deny the existence of a higher power. However, after reading (or having it drilled into me) this tangent from pages 14-44, I began to get bored of his lecture like I was a senior in high school in my last week of history class at 2:55 PM.  Don’t you believers worry; he attacks Christians as well as Jews, Islam, Mayans, and even the Egyptians.  Taylor, look, you’re an atheist. Cool, we get it. But I bought a book about ghosts, not about soap boxes, so make with the spooky shit.  I just don’t see the why it was so important to drive this home for 30 pages and then with the random tangents for at minimum,  one page every chapter after that until finished. Make your point and move on. Like I’m doing now.

Corey TaylorAnother complaint is that there are no pictures. Who in the hell writes a book about ghosts and haunted houses and doesn’t include any pictures? Well, to be fair there is a total five pictures of the haunted spots, but nothing that doesn’t look like it has been put through Instagram and cropped to show the shadow spaces, and seven pictures of Taylor from cover to cover. (Hmm…imagine that.)

Look, overall this is a really good read, and being that I consider myself a fan of the paranormal phantasmagoric entities that allegedly exist spontaneously into our human dimension that is a mere thin veil of time and space, this now gives me a new perspective that I have never considered before when the debate arises. After all, it alludes to a better rationale that “they’re stuck in the middle”, or “they’ve returned to the place they are most familiar with”, or my favorite “it’s because they had a tragic accident” (yeah, that’s it Egon).  Get it, read it, nourish it for what it is worth, and then pull it out to quote it the next time your drunken friends want to use a Ouija board to contact Elvis.

-R.R.

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Death once had a near-Renfield Rasputin-experience.

Oculus

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From writer/director Mike Flanagan (Absentia) comes a mind bending supernatural horror film.  The story, essentially, boils down to a woman who is hell bent on proving that her father is not guilty of the murder of his wife; it was the antique mirror hanging in his office.  Yup, known as the Lasser Glass, it is held in a single piece of ostentatiously carved Bavarian black cedar and all of it’s previous owners have succumbed to bizarre deaths.

The film flips back and forth between present day and eleven years ago. Eleven years ago, Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) witnessed a horrible sequence of events that sent Tim into an institution and Kaylie on a tour of the foster system. The two have reunited on the day of Tim’s release and, conveniently enough, Kaylie has finally gained possession of the Lasser Glass. The two  of them made a promise to one another that they would kill the evil that lived in the mirror; Kaylie has, seemingly, spent her entire life preparing for this very event. Despite being a child of the foster care system, Kaylie still has ownership of her parent’s home, a university education that seems to cover all subjects and a large disposable income. She has thought of everything; this house is rigged in every possible way to help her entrap and kill the evil entity that lives in the mirror. She is absolutely, singularly focused on proving that her mother and father were driven insane by this mirror. The catch? Her brother does not remember their fateful evening the same way that she does.

From here, Kaylie and Tim debate the true events of eleven years ago all while they are enticing the evil entity to come out of the mirror. The tagline of the film is “you see what you want to see” and that is how the story is told; everything is viewed through the eyes of Kaylie and Tim both in present day and the past. This is what I enjoyed the most about the film. The characters are alternately played by their adult selves and their younger selves; there is no change of hue or any of the other myriad ways films use to let us in on the fact that we are moving between two different time lines. The young actors playing Kaylie (Annalise Basso) and Tim (Garrett Ryan) are absolutely outstanding; no annoying child actor mannerisms here. Truly, these two youngsters played their roles with strength and vulnerability better than a lot of adult actors can.

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At the very beginning of the story, all of the facts are laid out and you are expected to keep up; this is great for moving the story along and keeping the pace up. My biggest complaint is that of all of the information we are given, the one thing we never learn is the exact origin of the mirror. It is called the Lasser Glass because it’s first known location was in the castle of Philip Lasser of London. Maybe it’s just me, but I need the who, what, when, where, why and how; who felt compelled to create this mirror, why did they do it, where did it come from, what is it’s ultimate goal? Perhaps this is being saved for a subsequent film; because you know this movie ended with the possibility of a sequel(s).

 

Every single element of this movie is spot on. All of the actors did a fantastic job, especially Ms. Basso; it looks beautiful, the effects, or rather, lack of, are perfect. Paranormal stories work best when everything is bare bones; it just makes it so much more believable. The way the story builds really is a perfect dance of story and action. So, why did I leave the theatre feeling less than enthused? Maybe I just let what I perceived to be a lack of history make me overthink everything and that took me out of it a little bit? Maybe I wasn’t scared, at all, by the demons that came out of the mirror. Maybe I have paranormal fatigue. I don’t know. I only know that I really enjoyed Flanagan’s first feature quite a bit, and on all levels, this is a superior film, but it just didn’t do it for me.

 

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