Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Conjuring: A Movie Review

The Perron’s feel they’ve struck it rich when they find a beautiful old farmhouse, nestled in the privacy of a beautiful wilderness, for a bargain price.  They, along with their five daughters, move into the house and begin simple renovations.  

All is well and happy…that is, until the unwanted, unseen guests begin to show themselves in frightening ways.  After the ghosts begin attacking the mother (mostly) and preying upon the daughters in the night, the couple calls upon two renowned paranormal investigators (Ed and Lorraine Warren).  But can they uncover the evil mysteries of the house and it’s tormented souls before the family falls victim, indefinitely?

Gothic romance readers will love this movie, it’s chocked full of gothic-romance-makings:  haunted toys, a creepy old haunted doll, restless spirits, an isolated old farmhouse, the curse of a witch, and a strong female lead (plus many, many more frightening scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat)!

This movie is not for the faint of heart, as the MPAA gave it an R rating particularly because they felt the movie was ‘too frightening for children.’
I watched The Conjuring at my local theatre and was satisfied with this thrill of a movie and highly recommend it.  

My personal rating:  5+ stars

Friday, August 23, 2013

"The Crying Winds" by J.H. Rhodes

Published:  1980
Setting:  Modern Day, USA

In an attempt to prove her independence and ability to take care of herself, spoiled college sophomore Lori Hudson agrees to spend her summer break as an employee to her Aunt Hannah.  The only catch is that Lori has never met her Aunt Hannah, nor does she look forward to spending a whole summer in an old Hotel in the middle of the New Mexico desert.  

Upon arrival, Lori finds Aunt Hannah a bit unwelcoming and the guests all seem a bit odd and out of place at the hotel.  The terror begins that night as Lori unpacks and a ghastly, otherworldly face appears in her bedroom window.  With her aunt Hannah behaving so rudely and with the unfriendliness and theatrics she finds in the guests and their talk of buried treasure at the nearby abandoned Indian pueblos, the mystery only deepens.

Soon Annie finds herself face to face with old legends come alive, lies, and deadly imposters in the darkness.  Her only ally in this mess is a photographer, Rex, who seems to be distracted by his own personal affairs.

Overall, this was a pretty good read.  The setting was eerily set with the abandoned Indian pueblos and the mysterious guests.  The main character finds herself barely escaping many perilous situations.  The storyline was full of suspense and quickly moving with a plot that is hard to untangle until the final pages.  I definitely was left guessing until the author revealed the culprits and the main character finally resolved the mystery. 

Enjoyed this book and recommend to those who enjoy the old vintage gothics!
Rating:  4.5 Stars

'Secrets of Harbor House' by Norma Seely

Published:  2000
Setting:  Modern Day, USA

After mystery writer Annie Kirk confides to her best friend Cara North that she’s been all but stalked by a prowler who seems to have made a habit of looking through her windows in the early morning hours, Cara is quick to offer Annie to stay at an old house she’s inherited from her famous father, mystery writer Hadrian Coyle.  At first Annie is hesitant, but eventually takes her friends’ generous offer.  The only thing Cara asks in return is that Annie try to find the last manuscript of Hadrian Coyle, which is said to be hidden somewhere in the old house.  The manuscript would be worth a fortune by now and Cara is desperate for the money.  

The house is nestled deep in the woods with a magnificent ocean view, and with its own ghosts and mysteries, it seems.  Far from civilization and alone at the house, aside from caretaker Brendan Marshall who lives in the guest house, Annie finds the old house unsettling.  Then strange things begin to happen.  First there is an intruder that seems to disappear into thin hair.  Then an ailing old man stands outside her window in the early morning hours calling her by the name of the long-missing daughter of Hadrian Coyle.  Soon, Annie is consumed by uncovering the secrets of the creepy old house, and of it’s past, but with each clue she reveals she finds herself being drawn tighter and tighter into a web of deceit.  

This book was an enjoyable, quick read.  There was enough suspense to keep things moving smoothly, but the writer dropped some not-so-subtle hints throughout the book that pretty much gave the mystery away.  There were also parts here and there that trailed away from the story, it seemed a bit purposeless and perhaps a way to fill a few extra pages.  Towards the end it was easy to figure out exactly what was going to happen.

This book is a fun, fast read.  Would recommend only if you’re a fan of the series or for light reading.
Rating:  3 Stars

Thursday, August 15, 2013

'She Walks the Shore' by Lisa Greer

Published:  2012
Setting:  Canada, Modern Day


Marisol Huff is already at her wits end with an abusive ex boyfriend who insists on stalking her so when the father she's never known shows up at her front door (literally) she can't help but agree when he offers her to visit his estate in Canada.

100 Mile house is nestled deep in the Canadian woods, and Marisol feels there would definitely be enough peace and quiet, and perhaps some inspiration, for her writing.  However, she may end up with more mysterious motivation than she'd bargained for!  Not only is the closest neighboring house rumored to be filled with a dangerous cult of new age hippies, but the surrounding woods are haunted by their own mysterious disappearance of a woman in white.

Soon, Marisol is seeing visions of the ghostly woman in white and is involved with a cult leader Sylvan Hill as well as the quiet, troubled Tom Fraser whose wife recently ran out on him for another man...or did she?  Sooner or later, Marisol will find her way to the bottom of the mysterious ghost in white, and may also find her own untimely death!

I really enjoyed this book.  Although it is a short novella (I read it on my kindle app for ipod touch), it was engrossing and really held my attention.  I read it in one setting.

Light, enjoyable reading and highly recommend!

Rating:  5 stars

Monday, August 12, 2013

Harlequin to release new Gothic Romance 'Shivers' Series!

Long ago and far away (in the mid 1980's) harlequin tried their hand at a gothic romance genre.  Although I'm sure the gothic fan base was quite regular, the publishing of these books was sporadic, with a set of two or three being published per year.  After a couple of years, the whole series seemed to be scrapped, as we no longer received any further gothic books from the harlequin line.  And, although they may not have been as great as the original vintage gothics, they were reminiscent of the style, they were gothic romances and at least someone, somwhere was trying to keep the spirit of the genre alive before it slipped into literary abyss.

Harlequin tried their hand at another small gothic romance series back in 2010, a promotional series titled 'shivers.'  The Shivers series was released under the "Intrigue" line as modern-day romantic suspense books with gothic overtones (think isolated old houses, ghosts and a bit of paranormal mystery wrapped up with some romance). However, the series only included a handful of books.

Now, according to Denise Zaza (senior editor of harlequin books), fans of the gothic romance genre who have feared it's a dying art have much to be excited for, as harlequin recently called for gothic romance submissions for a Harlequin E Shivers series that is to be released very soon!  According to the Paranormal Romance Blog, the first book of the series Darkening Around Me by Barbara Hancock will be the first e shivers book available and it is 'coming soon!'

There's not much clarification yet if the Shiver books are to have consistent monthly releases (as many of the other harlequin lines do) or if it will merely be another short series.  Though the fact that it's being referred to as the 'e shivers' series might suggest the books will only be available in ebook format. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

'Shadowplay' by Marvin Werlin

Published:  1977
Setting:  California, Modern Day


Christine Glenville is desperate to flee a troubled past in San Francisco so she readily accepts a job as  at the rambling Deveraux mansion as assistant editor to classic film fanatic and director Max Deveraux.

At first glance, Christine notices that Deveraux house is the exact replica of the Manderley house in Rebecca.  However, the illusions don't stop there, each and every room in the house (even foyers and dining areas) are replicas of rooms from famous, classic movies and everyone seems to have their own particular role. 

Max Deveraux and his wife love theatrics and often social gatherings are turned into eloquently played-out acting skits, for which several end in blood and murder.  However, the macabre only deepens.  Christine soon learns that danger lurks in the darkened corners of lonesome foyers and the caves of Deveraux beach still echo of the mysterious death of a young girl who played the role of previous assistant to Max Deveraux.  Then there's the shy, mysterious beauty who conceals her mental illness while playing the role of Max's niece.

Eventually Christine realizes she's in over her head with a scheme of characters that include a jittery housekeeper who is anyone but who she appears to be, a violent ballet dancer who makes an attempt to silence her, then she witnesses cold blooded murder in a theatrical skit that went awry.  Before she knows it, shes tangled in a game of wits and is fighting for her life as the final curtain closes and at last Deveraux mansion is brought to it's fiery end.

Very engrossing read and definitely recommend!

5 Stars

'Heiress to Crag Castle' by Minerva Rossetti

Published:  1973
Setting:  England, Modern Day


Helen Craig hasn’t seen Crag Castle since her early childhood, in fact, she doesn’t remember the castle or her relatives at all.  When her father died twenty some years prior, her mother cut all contact between Helen and her father’s family.  The reason behind this mystery and the gap in communication was never quite explained.  However, upon the death of her mother, Helen receives an invitation to meet a frail and dying aunt at Crag Castle.  Aside from almost being run off the road by a relative of the castle, her homecoming was rather uneventful.  Yet, upon the second day of her arrival, Helen is informed that she is to be the new heiress to Crag Castle as soon as possible and her aunt wished to relinquish all responsibility of the estate to Helen.

Then there is talk of an evil devil dwarf who roams the castle heard but always unseen.  In fact, his laughter echoes into the tower where Helen resides in her wing of the castle.  Her relatives, the hired help, and her aunt’s lawyer seem eager to over-indulge her in the old family secrets, the legends that no woman heiress of the castle shall ever marry, lest she be haunted by the devil dwarf.  But after Helen is visited by this dwarf one night and death roams the halls of the castle, claiming a victim, Helen is hell-bent on proving the dwarf is merely an imposter in costume.

Sadly, this is where the novel goes downhill.  A great portion of the novel depicts Helen roaming the secret passages, first alone, and then with her love interest (Kirk).  The culprits are quite obvious as well, so one really isn’t left with much of a mystery at all.  The romance never really blooms, only on the very last page when we are informed that ‘months later’ the couple are engaged to be married. 

I was disappointed with this read.  I guess if you’re bored on a rainy night, it would be a quick light read to cuddle up with, however, I can think of much better books on my ‘to-be-read’ shelf than this one!

Rating:  2.5 Stars

'The Secret of Castle Ferrara' by Caroline Farr

Published:  1970
Setting:  Spain, Modern Day


Amanda comes to Castle Ferrara as a novelist whose novel is being adapted onto the silver screen.  Arriving several days before the rest of the movie cast, Amanda is pressed for time to complete the manuscript that will transform her story into a movie.  From the beginning, she is in search of a secret passage to assist in the relevancy of parts of the story in her novel.  The first night there, she has the good fortune to work alongside the handsome Don Juan of the castle, as well as receive a rare map that foretells of a secret passage right inside her room!

With rotating leopard heads, underground passages, abandoned mills, movie stars, war criminals, and a story tracing back for decades, this book will most definitely have you guessing the culprit…and, most likely, the point at all.

Although the mystery of the book kept me turning the pages, I felt that the underlying story (mystery) was not well developed.  A huge portion of the book is wasted on the main characters traveling in an underground passage, wondering over and over again where they are going.  Way too much time and writing is allotted to this, rather than the romance, the mystery, the primary ‘meat’ to the story.

The story was quite flat until the last 30 pages or so, when we finally get a glimpse into what’s going on, by then I was bored already and merely kept reading just to finish the book and move on to the next.

This definitely was not one of the authors’ stronger works.

Rating:  3 Stars