Review of Hauntings: Three Haunted House Novellas

hauntingsSomewhere out there in Facebook land, in one of the many groups to which I belong, I came across a post that was advertising a free book!  We indie authors are forced to give away books from time to time order to gain exposure. The title grabbed me right away: Hauntings: Three Haunted House Novellas.  Now how can a haunted house guy like me pass on this? I couldn’t.  So I downloaded it, read it, overall I liked it, and now I’m reviewing it.  Thus, the authors’ giveaway campaign has bared some fruit.  Not that my review equates to an orchard of apples or anything.  At least, put me down as one single peach!

As with other anthologies, there are some stories that I prefer over others. But I’m not going to delve into the nitty-gritties of my individual preferences. They are purely subjective and would negate from the fact that all these stories have their strengths. Like the three legs of a tripod, they have a solid-enough structure to support the novel as a whole.  And it doesn’t matter so much that these legs aren’t examples of the most innovative feats in engineering!  They are standard legs, standard stories – but they do their job.  Perhaps they can use a bit of polishing here and there (another round of editing). But as an indie author myself; I know how difficult editing can be (especially when you can’t afford a professional).

What I would like to do is: very briefly, I will summarize each story and then itemize the elements that stand out; the story components that have made a lasting impression on my memory.

First there is The Haunting of Monroe House by Olivia Harlowe.  A pregnant couple rents a house in the country. Is it haunted, or is there something about Sam’s pregnancy that is making everything so – strange? Here are the things that stand out – the peacocks, that scary closet, those wall-scratching noises, the farmer and his wife; an interesting couple indeed; characters well written.

Second there is The Haunting of Briarwood Lodge by Violet Archer. Colin inherits a lodge house that is the taboo of the town. No one will go near it. Except a young woman named Juno.  Together, Colin and Juno explore the strange happenings that are going on at Briarwood Lodge.  Here are the things that stand out – The attic window,  the corridors, that circle of chairs, the poltergeist-style activity. Oh, and how the house can, at will, lock its inhabitants inside!

Third, there is The Haunting of Briarwood Lodge by Mason Graves. Tom and Rebecca move into a new home. Tom is spooked by the stories surrounding the history of the house. Rebecca dismisses them as myths.  Who is correct?  Here are the things that stand out – Tom’s journey into the crawlspace, the mystery surrounding the original owners of the house, and the weird old lady that stalks the house.

All in all, this is a fun read.  Perhaps there will be more haunted house tales to come from this trio?   There is a website that hints at this, although it is a bit empty at the moment.

Also, Violet Archer has many creepy short stories (each several paragraphs long) at her blog


Review of Haunted: Houses: A Collection of 12 Ghost Stories

haunted-houses-twelveTwelve stories. Twelve authors – Twelve tiptoeing excursions through the haunted houses of their minds’ creations. Twelve haunted house tales; of course I would want to read this.  I bought it the moment I saw the ad. And then I read it. Funny how that works out!

This is the fourth time that I am reviewing an anthology. Authors and editors often take different approaches when compiling a collection of stories. It is interesting to take note of the unique perspectives and varying methods that go into this undertaking.  The first anthology I reviewed is called The Mammoth Book of Haunted Houses by editor Peter Haining. It is a tome of cherished haunted house tales from gothic to modern. Each tale begins with a page that is meant to resemble log entries in a real-estate transaction book and the stories themselves are divided into themed sections, such as “restless spirits”, “ghost children” and even “sex and the supernatural”. Gathering and compiling such classic tales, while organizing them so creatively, had to be a Herculean task.  Therefore, I shall call this method the Mammoth method (I might have borrowed a word from the title!) The second anthology I examined is the David Morgan Ghost Series.  In this collection there are five novellas that are also sold separately. Author Frank Roberts has kindly compiled them into one book for convenience sake. It is a saga told in sequences, so I shall call this the series method.  The third anthology, The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel (edited and compiled by Nathan Hystad) is an exercise in story collaboration. Hysted creates a scenario – a haunted hotel that rests on the shores of a mysterious lake, and authors write stories that playout within the framework of his backstory. I shall call this the collaboration method.

To what method should I attribute Haunted: Houses: A Collection of 12 Ghost Stories? Before I answer this question, let me describe the book. It is a sampler – it introduces various authors to readers with samples of their work. One story, “The Promise” by Shannon Eckrich, is a short prequel to a larger series. The books in this series are sold separately, of course. Another story, L. Sydney Fisher’s The Haunted Prophecy of Natalie Bradford, is actually one chapter from her novel of the same name.  Sarah by Rebecca-Patrick Howard is but one of several stories that are companions to her series Taryn’s Camera.  In short, these tales, and perhaps some of the others, are contingent upon a larger, more episodic, story.

As with all anthologies, I prefer some stories to others. Together, they average out to a rating that might be articulated as “enjoyable; a fun way to pass the time.” Only a few are what I would call “filling”, which I define as “the ability to remain; something that sticks with me.”  Therefore, because these are story bits that are pleasing and pedestrian, I shall call this anthologizing process the “appetizer sampler method.

Imagine a seafood sampler at Red Lobster – a decent sized platter of various entrees adding up to a hearty meal. This is NOT what this book represents. Rather, it is more like a taster plate of small portions of shrimp and calamari, this and that; everything’s tasty but not too filling.

I hope that readers of this review are not assuming that I am panning this book on account of my contrasting-menu-item analogy. First of all, I do recommend it, but I am calling it what I perceive it to be. It would be wrong to call a shrimp cocktail a lobster plate. A shrimp cocktail is a shrimp cocktail. Second, I would like to point out the stories that did make a lasting impression on me. A.P. Killian does an excellent job creating a house and environment filled with mystery and intrigue in Through the Doorway.  I was filled with suspense and sympathy as a family drags their father’s haunting past into the present in Rebecca J Powell’s The Ghosts of Past Are Present. The prequel and sample chapter stories (The Promise by Shannon Eckrich and The Haunted Prophecy of Natalie Bradford by L. Sydney Fisher, respectively), the teasers that they are, had me itching for more.

Twelve chilling tales, twelve samples from up and coming authors. If you’re in the mood for a literary appetizer, seek out this book.