REVIEW: “How to Sell a Haunted House” by Grady Hendrix

What is a haunted house story if not a story about grief? Ghosts serve as stand-ins for anything from unresolved family trauma to untold horrors from past generations. And that’s what makes ghost stories so much fun. It’s not about the ghosts, themselves, but about what they represent for those being haunted. Grady Hendrix’s How to Sell a Haunted House understands that idea perfectly. One-part traditional haunted house story, one-part rumination on inherited grief and trauma, and one-part campy horror delight, How to Sell a Haunted House is a bombastically confident, deeply emotional, and wholly unpredictable joyride. It doesn’t necessarily give you what the synopsis implies, but it’s an undeniably wild ride from start to finish. (4.5 out of 5 wands)

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REVIEW: “They Set the Fire” by Daniel Kraus

Both of the previous entries in Daniel Kraus’s The Teddies Saga have easily ranked among my favorite reads of the past few years. They’ve consistently delivered a great mixture of adventure, mystique, and horror. But as any reader knows, an ending can often make or break a story. So, there was a lot riding on They Set the Fire, the final entry in The Teddies Saga. But I’m happy to say that They Set the Fire is as perfect an ending as you can hope for. By far the most horrific entry in the series, They Set the Fire pushes the boundaries of what’s appropriate for middle-grade novels about as far as it can, but it never strays too far from what makes the genre work. It’s a scary, action-packed, and deeply emotional read. But it’s also one that brings the series’ overarching storyline to a very satisfying conclusion.

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REVIEW: “Three Miles Down” by Harry Turtledove

There’s a saying that often gets trotted out anytime a movie, TV show, or book spends all its time laying the groundwork for a sequel it never gets – never save your best ideas for the sequel. If you’ve got a good idea, use it now. It’s a saying that could easily apply to any number of recent projects. And it’s one that definitely applies to Harry Turtledove’s new novel, Three Miles Down. Set during the 1970s, Three Miles Down is one-part political thriller and one-part First-Contact science fiction romp. Unfortunately, the book features very little political intrigue and even less “First Contact”. Instead, Three Miles Down reads like the prelude to an as-yet-unannounced sequel. And that’s a pretty big bummer considering how solid the premise is.

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REVIEW: “Upgrade” by Blake Crouch

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A dystopian future wrecked by climate change and other semi-apocalyptic events. An overreaching police force enforcing questionable laws. And an officer who quickly finds himself turning into the very thing he’s been hunting. If you immediately thought of a dozen different sci-fi books and movies, that’s completely understandable. Despite how fun a read Blake Crouch’s new novel, Upgrade, is, I wouldn’t call it very original. However, what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for with intricately plotted twists and turns and plenty of thrilling action sequences. Upgrade reads like the literary equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie in the best way possible. It’s a compulsive read from start to finish and a perfect book for a summer vacation.

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REVIEW: “Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Express Train to Nowhere”

To be frank, I nearly quit reading Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Express Train to Nowhere several times. Having read the first book when it came out, I knew that the whole gimmick was that it’s not supposed to be good. But there’s only so long a book can rest on those laurels before it needs to try something else. And to the book’s credit, it does come close to doing just that, crafting a meta-narrative that almost takes things in an intriguing direction. But it doesn’t quite pull it off. To be honest, the only reason I ended up finishing the book was that it moved at such a breakneck pace that it was fairly easy to just get caught up in the story and let it wash over me. But that’s definitely not a ringing endorsement.

NOTE: A review copy of Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Express Train to Nowhere was provided by Permuted Press. All opinions in this review are my honest reactions.

Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Express Train to Nowhere”
Written by Cecil H.H. Mills
This is a story about three idiot wannabe detectives: J.J. and Valentine Watts and their new friend Trudi de la Rosa. Again, they’re idiots, but in a fun way where they go on adventures and occasionally use swear words. In this book, they’re riding a train on official Ghost Hunters Adventure Club business when an old friend from the past shows up to ruin everything. It’s up to our three young adventurers to solve the mystery of the Express Train to Nowhere before they’re locked away forever for a crime they didn’t even commit.

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REVIEW: Keeping Company with Sondheim

Patti LuPone and Katrina-Lenk in Broadway’s “Company.” (Courtesy of Matthew Murphy/PBS.)

Nominated for nine Tony Awards, Marianne Elliott’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical, Company, is the talk of the town. Elliott’s production reimagines the show’s main character, Bobby, as a 35-year-old woman (Bobbie, played by Katrina Lenk), bringing an entirely new dynamic to this beloved show. And PBS’s new documentary, Keeping Company with Sondheim, takes viewers behind the scenes of this innovative revival. Featuring loads of footage from various productions of the musical and a host of interviews with the cast and creative team of the current revival, Keeping Company with Sondheim delivers an intriguing glimpse at the creation of this production as well as an emotional love letter to the late, great Stephen Sondheim. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be wowed by all the talent on display.

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REVIEW: “Rosebud” by Paul Cornell

If you’re a fan of weird, creative, deeply original science fiction, then Paul Cornell’s new novella, Rosebud, is worth checking out. A quick, dense read, Rosebud is unlike anything I’ve read in ages. Featuring a group of immediately captivating characters and an absolutely mind-blowing plot, Rosebud isn’t always an easy read and it could benefit from being expanded into a full-length novel. But when it works, it works very well.

NOTE: I received a review copy of Rosebud from Macmillan/Tor and NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Rosebud
Written by Paul Cornell
When five sentient digital beings―condemned for over three hundred years to crew the small survey ship by the all-powerful Company―encounter a mysterious black sphere, their course of action is clear: obtain the object, inform the Company, earn lots of praise. But the ship malfunctions, and the crew has no choice but to approach the sphere and survey it themselves. They have no idea that this object―and the transcendent truth hidden within―will change the fate of all existence, the Company, and themselves.

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REVIEW: “Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry” adapted and illustrated by Colleen Doran

Some comics just blow you away the moment you start reading them. Whether it’s a mind-blowing story or a collection of gorgeous artwork, there’s no feeling like reading a brilliant graphic novel. And Colleen Doran’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story, Chivalry, is a perfect example of this. While the original story is a sweet little tale about an elderly woman who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop, Doran’s adaptation raises things to a whole new level. With artwork that bounces back and forth between warm and comfy watercolors and pages that look like an intricately illustrated manuscript, every page of Chivalry is a work of art all in itself.

NOTE: I received a review copy of Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry from Dark Horse Comics and Edelweiss+. All thoughts are my own.

Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry
Adapted and illustrated by Colleen Doran
An elderly British widow buys what turns out to be the Holy Grail from a second-hand shop, setting her off on an epic visit from an ancient knight who lures her with ancient relics in hope for winning the cup.

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REVIEW: Dark Horse Comics’ “Norse Mythology Volume 2”

Dark Horse Comics continues its adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology with Norse Mythology Volume 2. Collecting four more retellings of Norse myths, Norse Mythology Volume 2 features artwork from Matt Horak, Mark Buckingham, Gabriel Hernández Walta, and Sandy Jarrell. And, much like the first volume, adaptor P. Craig Russell and the various artists deliver a faithful, entertaining retelling of these stories. If you’ve read Gaiman’s original book, you’ll enjoy seeing these tales brought to life like this. And if you haven’t, then Norse Mythology Volume 2 is a great place to start.

NOTE: I received a review copy of Norse Mythology Volume 2 from Dark Horse Comics and Edelweiss+. All thoughts are my own.

Norse Mythology Volume 2
Adapted by P. Craig Russell
Illustrated by Matt Horak, Mark Buckingham, Gabriel Hernández Walta, and Sandy Jarrell
In this second volume, Gaiman and Russell once more team with a legendary collection of artists to bring more Norse myths to life, including the origins of poetry and a mead that many will die for, Thor and Loki’s eventful trip into the land of giants, the gods’ woeful bargain that might lose them eternal life, and the beloved god Frey’s journey to Valhalla and beyond to find a certain missing something.

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REVIEW: “The Kaiju Preservation Society” by John Scalzi

I think it’s safe to say that nobody’s been watching the most recent Godzilla movies for their stunning human characters. No, we’re all just there for the cool world-building and the big Kaiju vs Kaiju action scenes. But imagine a book that combines cool world-building, bombastic action scenes, and compelling characters, and you might end up with something like John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society. Featuring a breezy plot, well-rounded characters, and blockbuster-worthy thrills, The Kaiju Preservation Society is as good as the best Kaiju movies. A fun read from start to finish, The Kaiju Preservation Society might just be the pick-me-up we all need right now.

NOTE: I received a review copy of The Kaiju Preservation Society from Macmillan/Tor and NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

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