Catching up on Book Reviews – Prentiss & Janz

Man, I’m behind on my book reviews. Life has really gotten in the way lately of … well, I guess … living. In the next day or two I’ll be trying to catch up here so stay tuned as there have been some fantastic reads.

Here are two to start with: “Life in a Haunted House” by Norman Prentiss, and “Children of the Dark” by Johnathan Janz, two coming of age stories that are both brilliant, yet couldn’t be more different from each other.


Life In A Haunted House – Norman Prentiss

 

Haunted House“We all want magic of some kind.”

Life in a Haunted House is a multi-layered marvel, as intricate a novel as one could hope to conjure, and yet despite its carefully constructed narrative it reads as a simple coming-of-age story, something Prentiss has long mastered. Paying tribute to B-horror movies and the nostalgia that children these days will never fully appreciate, Prentiss plays a quite clever sleight-of-hand, keeping our attention focused where he wants it while the real story develops around us, engulfing the reader before they’re aware of what’s occurred.

Beautifully drawn characters, full of heart and courage but also flawed in a way that make them real, combined with an unconventional telling and unreliable narrator. It all adds up to an experience you won’t soon forget. This is a story you won’t want to end.

Norman has several tie-in stories as well available on Amazon that capture the movies discussed throughout this book – just one more layer to add to make this experience so unique.

 

 


 

Children of the Dark – Johnathan Janz

childrenMy first trip down Janz halls. Children of the Dark starts as a coming-of-age tale that is masterfully spun. If you don’t come to care about these characters in the first half of this novel, there’s something wrong with you. (But don’t worry, there’s something wrong with me too).

One of my biggest gripes with the horror genre is that gore and scares often tend to overshadow character development, and yet without giving us a reason to care about the characters it’s impossible for us to feel afraid for them. Janz takes his time setting up a great cast that feel remarkably real, so that when the horror begins you have a reason to sit up and take notice.

The second half of this novel was a completely different beast from the first, and while this is where the payoff comes for us horror junkies, there were moments where it felt a little too much and dipped into familiar tropes that could have been avoided. Still a quite stellar experience, and a book I would definitely recommend. Looking forward to revisiting more of the Janz hallways soon.

Advertisements

Book Review: “The Red Church” by Scott Nicholson

Haven’t been posting as many of my reviews here on the blog, but here’s one for a novel I thought was quite unique. Definitely worth checking out.

red church.jpgThe Red Church is a book that’s been on my radar for years, finally had the chance to dig into it, and glad I did. Instead of just uncovering a quick treasure that’s been buried underground and has maybe lost some of it’s shine, this was like unearthing a fossil only to realize that you’re standing not over a single specimen but an entire burial ground that could fill museums. Reminiscent of early King, Nicholson is a master wordsmith, and his imagery is as haunting as it is poignant. At times the religious aspects of the book felt a little heavy handed, but the final picture painted is worth every stroke of the artist’s brush.

Far from your run-of-the-mill supernatural horror story, this is one that will sit with you long after you’ve digested it. Will be looking into more of Nicholson’s work for sure.

“When you have one of those waking nightmares, when you think bad things in the dark and can’t go to sleep, you think happy thoughts. Cartoon dogs, fat clowns, things like that. Except sometimes the cartoon dogs bite and the fat clowns grow sharp smiles.”

 

When the Police Show Up at YOUR House

It’s always a little disconcerting when you’re driving up your neighborhood to five patrol cars parked haphazardly in the streets and a helicopter circling overhead. Even more concerning when you realize the cops are coming out of your home.

I arrived home after work today to the aftermath of what could have been one of the most frightening scenarios for a father. My wife had taken one of our daughters to a dance class, leaving my oldest to watch her brother for an hour. On her way home she got a call from my daughter saying, “Someone’s in the house.”

 

Evil clown Santa covered in blood.
What I imagine this “home invader” looked like ….

Allegedly they heard the front door slam and someone walking through the house. My wife, being the good mother she is, told them to immediately run to the neighbors, then promptly dialed 911. Fortunately nothing was taken, no one was hurt, except maybe my wife’s pride for making a call when she wasn’t 100% certain of the situation. But the police were amazingly understanding and told her again and again she made the right call. Better to be safe, in a situation like that, than sorry.

The false alarm — if indeed it was — got me thinking about how quickly our lives can change. We think we’re running down a stream, steering clear of the sides or any obstacle in our path, but no matter how safe you play it you can’t predict the potential disasters that can strike at any second. Physical or mental illness; the death of a loved one; the loss of employment, or faith, or love; utterly freak accidents … They come when they want, never arriving according to our schedules or desires. It’s all part of this experience we call life, and it’s how we pick ourselves up afterward that’s what makes humanity so great.

So in light of all the political upheavals and daily struggles we all entertain, be grateful today that the police didn’t show up at your house with news that your life will never again be the same.

I know I am.


 

 

Book Review: Happiness is a Commodity by The Behrg

Always appreciate those who take the time to review my work. Much appreciated Mike –

Lurking In The Shadows

51afjwl2+RL

Description:

In the future, Happiness can no longer be achieved through natural means, but must be purchased from the government for brief 20-minute increments.

And the price is going up.

One man documents his experience as he uncovers a conspiracy by the governing elite. Those who are ALWAYS happy. But he will soon discover that the cost of real Happiness may be far worse than living perpetually in the dark.

Told through blog-post entries, this non-traditional novella explores a world where darkness and misery are the norm. An allegory for living with depression, this story will open your eyes to the millions lost in darkness around you, and may prepare you for a future that is all too likely to come.

Review:

Brilliant!

And I have no idea what I just read.  Happiness is a Commodity is one of those books you just have to read for yourself.  I can’t…

View original post 122 more words

Book Review: “Fingerprints of the Gods” by Graham Hancock

I’m pretty behind w/ my book reviews folks, and sort of wondering if I’ll continue to review the books I read quite as regularly. Time is sadly a commodity that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find, and I’ve got to make some hard choices here with where my investments are spent.

That being said, here’s my thoughts on one I finished last month, Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods:

fingerprints.jpgAlternate histories … lost civilizations … ancient prophecies and doomsday predictions … what’s not to love about a man’s journey researching possibilities?

What I enjoyed most about this book was that it’s focus wasn’t on convincing you of Hancock’s theories but rather encouraging people to ask questions. To consider new ideas. To expand our thoughts and beliefs of what we think we might know. Some of his findings and conclusions were admittedly far-reaching, but that’s not the point of the book.

Are there mysteries in our past that we still, in our age, are unable to solve or answer or even begin to understand? Absolutely. And Hancock’s conversationally-toned exploration is a great place to discover some of those provocations. It’s the mysteries of life, the unanswered questions, that keep a sense of magic moving through this world, opening our eyes to look beyond ourselves. The most powerful question anyone has ever asked is: What if?

Book Review: “The Halloween Children” by Brian James Freeman & Norman Prentiss

“The Halloween Children are watching me. They’re watching us all …”

halloween childrenThis novella reminded me a bit of a Jack Ketchum story. The first 2/3 of the book is spent exploring the characters – in this case a quite dysfunctional family. A constant sense of dread continues to build as questions are strung throughout the narrative like carefully placed decorations, until you reach the end which comes screaming at you like a freight train lifted from its tracks.

The narrative point of views, in flipping from Lynn and Harris’s perspectives, worked extremely well as you couldn’t fully trust either of the two narrators. The savvy reader begins to get the real picture of what’s going on by what’s NOT being said. I’ve always enjoyed the unreliable narrator motif, and it’s used here in quite a unique way that’s not fully understood until you reach the end.

But the ending — I’ll admit, a few times I grew a little weary of the bickering between the two parents, but this has one of the best endings for a book I’ve ever read. The thematic metaphors woven throughout one of the most tragic and shocking finales you’ll find … as I was reading I felt as if my jaw kept dropping lower and lower. Beautifully crafted, this is horror that will affect even the most jaded of horror fans.

A fantastic collaboration between two amazing authors, this is a book that will stay with you long after you close the final page.

“You’re all guilty. You’re all the Halloween Children.”

NOTE: This book will be released June 7th, by Random House and their Hydra imprint. You can pre-order a copy here.

** I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. **

Book Review: “Hex” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

hex.jpgA present-day witch story that cleverly combines new horror with old-school horror, Hex is a novel that is quite unique. Part “Cabin in the Woods,” part “Under the Dome,” the reader is brought into a town under self-quarantine, and the slow-burn suspense builds like watching a spark travel down the wick towards a stick of dynamite. In this instance, that wick may be a little long, but when it reaches the blasting cap, you better believe it explodes.

The last quarter of this novel is incredible, and the way Heuvelt underscores the action and horror with underlying thematic elements only adds to its mastery. Definitely a novel deserving of the praise its received and a great example of how to cull from the horror greats who have come before you while simultaneously cementing your own unique vision on a work. One of my favorite reads so far from this year.

See you in Doodle Town.