the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘ghosts

last-days-jack-sparksThe Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp

published: September 2016

where I got it: received review copy (Thanks Orbit!!)

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The Last Days of Jack Sparks was the perfect brain candy book to be reading just before and just after the recent election. What I mean by “brain candy” is that this is the kind of book that gallops along at a breakneck pace and the reader is just along for the ride. You’re gonna have a lot of fun, you’re gonna laugh, you’re gonna cringe, you might have a few deep thoughts right there at the end, but generally speaking this is not a think-y book. It’s a hand-to-mouth candy book. And it was exactly what I needed in those middle weeks of November when my facebook and twitter feeds were a shitshow.

Journalist and author Jack Sparks will do just about anything for attention. And the only thing bigger than his ego is his need to disprove the paranormal once and for all.  After a FastFood Nation-esque experiential documentary book called “Jack Sparks on Drugs”, he spent a few weeks in rehab and then decided his next project would be Jack Sparks disproves the supernatural. Ghosts, poltergeists, exorcisms, hauntings, spirits, and more,  Jack will prove they are all a sham. For the first half of this book, every time Jack talked (which was a LOT), I heard Anthony Bourdain’s voice.

Most of The Last Days of Jack Sparks are Jack’s drafts and notes for his novel. Recorded in his snarky and often disrespectful voice, Jack makes light of exorcisms, hauntings,  mediums, and basically everything he encounters.  The rest of this novel are e-mails between Jack’s estranged brother Alistair,  Jack’s roommate Rebecca, and a few other people.  Because, you see, the stories of what happened that fateful November don’t match up. Someone has their story either somewhat wrong, or very horribly wrong.

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blue aliceLast Night at the Blue Alice, by Mehitobel Wilson

published Oct 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the author (thanks!)

 

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You can thank the Glymjacks for the fact that you’re not surrounded by haunted houses and angry, vengeful ghosts.

 

Tonight is the night of Mollie’s final test to enter the ranks of the Glymjacks. If she passes the test, she can say goodbye to everything she’s ever known and loved. If she doesn’t pass, she can only hope for  a fast death.   Her test involves clearing the Blue Alice, a famous haunted house, of its resident ghosts.  Mollie isn’t interested in why these people died, and she doesn’t care that they died. Her mission to learn what they were going through when they died, and ensure that they die in a more peaceful manner. She’s auditioning to be their psychopomp, someone who will help them to the other side, help them go somewhere away from the Blue Alice.

 

There is a whole ton of gorgeous poetic prose in this short novel, almost functioning as textural and musical bridges between scenes and towards set pieces. Here’s an example that comes right at the beginning, and was one of my favorites:

 

“You would expect it to be a blue house, but it is not. It’s an exhausted color that warps with the changing of the light, beige at dawn, bone at noon, grey at night. But at dusk, just as the sun falls far enough below the horizon to withdraw all its gold from the landscape, the Alice turns blue.”

 

A sprawling manse that became a boarding house in the 1920s and then apartments by the 1960s, the Blue Alice has seen it’s share of happiness and misery. Urban legends tell of a woman dressed in white who haunts the building, music playing where there shouldn’t be any, and judgemental demons.  Barely a year has gone by in the history of this famous house where a tenant hasn’t fled in terror of something or someone haunting the rooms and halls. It’s time to clean house.

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break the demon gateYamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate, by Richard Parks

published in 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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Historical fiction about a time and place I don’t know much about combined with mystery, ghosts, demons, and political intrigue? Sign me up. As much as I love my space opera and low fantasy, I grew up reading historical fiction, and historical works have a very special place in my heart. I’ve read and enjoyed a few of Richard Parks’ short stories, so I was curious to read one of his novels.

 

Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate by Richard Parks takes place in 11th century Japan.  Yamada no Goji is a minor nobleman, lately welcomed at the palace compound, but since the loss of Princess Teiko, he has avoided crossing paths with the nobility.  What was the secret she was willing to die for? Was someone blackmailing her? And the larger concern is the safety of her son, Emperor Takahito. The power of the Fujiwara clan is rising, how far will they go to ensure one of their own sits upon the throne?

 

(quick language lesson: Monogatari translates to story, tale, or narrative)

 

The opening chapters of To Break the Demon Gate are just beautiful. Characters send metaphor laden poetry back and forth to each other, and this art of courtly poetry was a real thing in the court of the Heian period. Inflection, rhythm, symbology, and how it all came together in a very short verse was just as important as the information carried therein.  Many of the poems are explained, but I enjoyed trying to figure out the symbology before Yamada explained it to me. Colorful poetry aside, this was a very formal environment, with no room for public displays of affection. In these early chapters, it is implied that Yamada and Princess Teiko have a history, but exactly what that history is is never spe Read the rest of this entry »

Ayelsford Skull Main 2_1.jpg.size-230The Aylesford Skull, by James P. Blaylock

published January 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Langdon St. Ives had plans.  Those plans involved spending as much time as possible in the country, enjoying the company of his wife, and raising his children in peace. His most recent case ended badly, and St. Ives needs time to reassess, to recover, to figure out what went wrong.

So much for having plans.

In short order, a grave robberry is discovered near his country home, a woman is murdered, his wife is nearly poisoned, and his son Eddie is kidnapped. All these crimes were perpetrated by Dr. Narbondo, with whom St. Ives has had previous dealings. The Aylesford Skull is just the most recent in Blaylock’s Langdon St Ives adventures, but thanks to some concise yet very well presented character introductions, the readers knows everything they need to know to enjoy the story without having read previous tales involving Professor St. Ives.

Narbondo didn’t just dig up a random grave, he chose one involving a particularly horrid family secret, and took the skull of the child’s corpse.  Using tiny machinery and photos of the deceased, Narbondo makes creeptastic ghost trapping lamps out of the skulls he has stolen over the years.  It’s believed his final goal is to open a pathway between the world of the living and that of the dead.

And that’s the just the beginning! Once the action gets started in this steampunk thriller, it doesn’t stop! While St. Ives and his trusted friends set out to rescue Eddie, the medium Mother Laswell endeavors to save the soul of her own son, and even side characters have their own missions and goals. From the tunnels and alehouses of London to the marshes and rivers of the surrounding countryside, Blaylock whisks the reader along through an all immersive and atmospheric adventure.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.