The Rating System

The Rating System
Five Stars
- Brilliant; absolutely must read
Four Stars - Strongly recommended
Three Stars - Has its shining, stellar moments; a good, solid read
Two Stars - May have its strong points, but fairly weak overall
One Star - Yeah, I wouldn't even bother with this one

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blog Hopping

The time is coming very, very soon for the new Haunted Times Magazine to come out.... *squeals with joy* .... But in the mean tiime, here's a little blog hop I'm joining. Feel free to hop along with us!

Step 1: Put this link in your post -

Step 2: Fill out the form below (*runs off to do this... please hold*)

Step 3: Return to yoru blog and insert the html code


Please click on the appropriate links below to enter your own blog. It will help kill time until my article is published. I'll also be posting a new critique here very soon.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Some Exciting News!

I'm very proud and excited to announce I will be a featured columnist in the new Haunted Times Magazine. I will be doing monthly book reviews, with the first one appearing in the October Issue. You can get a sneak peek for free at

Once the review has been published in Haunted Times, I'll post it here as well. Between issues, I hope to continue to do at least one other book per month (two reviews per month total). If you would like your book reviewed, please let me know and I'll send you my mailing address for your publisher.

I'm back in the saddle, or maybe I'm back in the Proton Pack... at any rate, I'm here!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Le Ménage à Trois

I was the recent recipient of not just one title, but three. Katie Mullaly saw my humble, little blog here, and got so excited she sent me not just one of her books, but ALL of her books. At first, I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle it: Review each book independently or work them as a group? After reading all three books (yes, I really DO read them from cover to cover), I thought it best to critique them as a grouping.

The authors of the books, Katie Mullaly, J. Patrick Ohlde and photographer, Mikal Mullaly, have created a wonderful ménage à trois in the titles "Scare-Izona," "Tucson's Most Haunted," and "Finding Ghosts in Phoenix."  Not certain where to begin, I randomly chose "Scare-Izona" as the first book to read.

The thing I absolutely love about this book is that it's set up in such a way so that you, the reader, feel as if you are going on actual investigations with Katie and Patrick. And while it's definitely geared toward the novice "ghost hunter" (or paranormal investigator, if you prefer), it's a book that the rest of us "in the field" can enjoy as well. I constantly found myself having one-sided conversations with Katie and Patrick, debating the finer points of definitions and techniques. Hopefully, I kept these conversations in my head, as speaking them out loud would be cause for a visit to a very special doctor.

This book, like the two that follow, are full of sharp wit and dry humor. They are certainly anything but boring and I found myself "LOLing" and snorting a laugh on more than one occasion.

In this book, not only do you get to experience various investigations with them, in what feels like real time, but you learn the ins and outs, the dos and don'ts, and the reality and truth behind what it means to be a paranormal investigator. While I certainly don't agree with everything they believe and adhere to, that is irrelevant. As they point out in all three books, nothing is proven, and nothing, in all likelihood, ever will be proven. But their method for investigation is a solid one, and certainly cannot be faulted.

The one thing I do want to address about "Scare-Izona" in particular is more than likely an editorial decision, and not one that Katie or Patrick had a lot of say in. I would like to take this bit of screen to complain loudly about the use of this particular graphic*:

*note: This is NOT the graphic used in the book. I am awaiting that graphic from the publisher who, after reading this, probably won't send it to me. The above graphic is only a representation of the actual graphic used in "Scare-Izona."

Why? Mostly because, as a small child, my very first paranormal encounter involved THIS VERY GHOST staring in at me through my bedroom window. I kid you not. It was a classic paper cut-out, white-sheeted ghost. I woke up in the middle of the night and had the strongest sensation that I was being watched. As I turned my head to the left, there it was, staring at me through my bedroom window. I will never forget the terror I felt (I was probably five or six years old) as I backed slowly out of the room and into my parents' room directly across the hall. After convincing my mother to get out of bed because "THERE IS A GHOST IN MY ROOM!!!" and anything less than her seeing it for herself and delivering me from it would just not do, we walked the short distance to my room. I remember pointing and saying, "See, right TH...." as she flipped on the light. I was brought up short by the fact that the ghost was gone. I never slept with my shade up again, even as a teen.

So perhaps it's for that reason I found the image, which is on nearly EVERY FRICKIN PAGE to be a bit distracting. Or maybe it's simply because the image is.... well, distracting. But it seemed like a very unnecessary addition to the book. This, however in no way detracts from the actual worth of the content of the manuscript.

I have to also say, it's very refreshing to read a ghostie book and have an actual beginning, middle and end. You know, an actual summary at the end of the book. Something that rounds it all up for you and gives you closure. I will confess that with my first couple of reviews, I walked softly. I stand by those reviews, absolutely, but I was still getting a feel for how this all was going to flow. Not every book I've read has had that nice, rounded feel to it. I appreciate the fact that Katie and Patrick care enough about their writing and the reader to give them a sense of, "And this is The End!" Thank you.

The next book I chose is actually their third book written, but since I read them in this order, I will review in this order.

The first paragraph of the first chapter starts out, "Since paranormal investigating is more esoteric than anything, it's important to throw out credentials just to make sure that we are not trying to sell you a bill of goods including certification as a triple tarot master graduate of Jim and Skippy's School of Paranormal Mayhem and HVAC Repair." Anyone who begins their book this way has my heart. Though I was secretly hoping to get that triple Master's in Tarot. Damn.

Again, this book has excellent advice for the "newbs" while the "old pros" in this field will find themselves shouting, "Hear! Hear!" with the random "Amen!" thrown in for good measure. I couldn't help but notice a line here and there that seemed to be a sideways jab and certain and particular "trouble makers" in the paranormal world, and I appreciated the smile it brought to my face. For those of you not embroiled knee-deep in the know, thank your lucky stars and enjoy this book for what it is: A great learning tool woven in with more great investigations and ghost stories. You definitely feel like you get to know both Katie and Patrick as you work your way through their books. Katie has the dry wit, while Patrick appears to have a touch of ADD (and I mean that in the best way possible..if such a thing is possible). "Finding Ghosts in Phoenix" is rich in history and good story-telling. I know it's one you'll enjoy.

And rounding out our ménage à trois, "Tuscon's Most Haunted."

By this point in my reading, I had gotten quite comfortable with who Katie and Patrick are as authors and investigators. I'm only now realizing I didn't take a single note as I read this book. What I did do is settle in comfortably and simply enjoy it. Here you can find more amazing ghost stories and fascinating history on a bit of the Old West. They give many examples of various types of ghosts and hauntings, and made me wish, just a little, that I lived on the other side of the Sierras again.

As with the other two books, this one is well-written, credible and fun.

Overall, the three books together belong on your bookshelf. I don't care if you are an investigator or simply someone who likes to live vicariously through the myriad of ghost shows on T.V., these books make for an enjoyable read.

Overall, I give the trio a rating of four out of five stars.

Authors: Katie Mullaly & J. Patrick Ohlde
Photographer: Mikal Mullaly
Publisher: Schiffer (
ISBN:  978-0-7643-2844-2 (Scare-Izona) 978-0-7643-3583-9 (Finding Ghosts in Phoenix) and 978-0-7643-3153-4 (Tucson's Most Haunted)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Understanding The Tarot Court

How may ways can you slice a pie? Not nearly as many ways as you can "slice" a tarot deck, apparently. For those of us who enjoy tarot, this book is an invaluable addition to our libraries. Whether you are new to reading tarot, or are a seasoned pro, you will find something wonderful and useful within the pages of this book.

The authors, Mary K. Greer and Tom Little, have an intimate relationship with the cards, and show us how to have that same relationship. They show us that the court cards especially, have personalities that can be discovered and learned. This is not your average, basic "how-to read tarot" book. They take the basics of tarot and expound on them, broadening the reader's horizon. What I love about this book is that it covers many different decks, those decks nuances, and gives us a good, intuitive feel for how they should be interpreted. Allowing for, and encouraging the reader to work with their own intuitive interpretation builds confidence in the new tarot enthusiast, while the nuances deepen the "professional" reader's understanding.

Tarot, in and of itself, is a very visual art. "Understanding the Tarot Court" is full of wonderful illustrations of various court cards, charts and sample readings and spreads. This is more than just a nice aid added as an afterthought to the book, it's an imperative and integral aspect of the various lessons given. And make no mistake, this book is full of lessons, exercises and various techniques on how to dissect the cards for a reading. There is no need to ever be intimidated or overwhelmed by trying to interpret the tarot (specifically, the court cards) again. While this isn't a quick read, it's one that will help take the fear out of interpretation.

The tone of the book as a whole is straight-forward, yet engaging. It's not just a book about how to interpret the court cards, but an inner journey to revealing our own hidden qualities, both positive and negative. The authors have a deep understanding of people and personalities traits, and show us how our own personalities, those of the people we are doing the reading for, and the court card personalities all intertwine and come together. Philosophy, history and mysticism are all brought together in a way that makes sense and helps clarify not just the court cards, but as a happy consequence, the entire tarot deck.

And in case you are just not quite ready to use your own intuition in interpretation, there is a comprehensive section in the back of the book, just for that purpose. "Understanding the Tarot Court" is an invaluable tool and definitely a "must read" for every student of the cards.

I give the book a strong five out of five stars.

Authors: Mary K. Greer & Tom Little
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide (
ISBN: 978-0-7387-0286-5

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Haunted Closets

Many children, indeed, many of us as children, slept with the light on. Real or imagined, we often feared the monster in our closets or the invisible hand reaching out from under our beds (and who hasn't made the leap from the light-switch to the bed, a la Superman style?). For Katie Boyd, her fears were more than just fears. Her fears were actual experiences she endured as a child. 

"Haunted Closets" takes the reader on a journey, neatly segmented into three legs. The first leg discusses the history of various "boogeyman" personae. We learn why parents of different cultures often scare their children into submission with threats of "The Bag Man" or "Tommy Rawhead" coming to take them away if they don't behave. I found this to be quite informative as well as entertaining. Ms. Boyd has obviously done her homework, and she truly makes the history come alive. She also does a wonderful job of balancing the supernatural with the natural, an effort which is not lost on this reader.

The second section of the book deals with personal experiences, and is by far, my favorite section. Katie delves into her past, her fear, and how she finally escaped the torment. She also discusses various paranormal cases she has been a part of in the past and again, who doesn't like a good ghost story? Each of these are, indeed, good ghost stories.

The final section of the book covers "Flesh and Bone Boogeymen." This is where the book becomes a bit disjointed for me. We learn about real-life serial killers as well as various movie "monsters" (such as Freddie Kruger and Michael Myers). While the stories, in and of themselves, are interesting, it was a bit of an emotional lurch and leap for me to go from personal experiences to movie characters. That said, I did especially enjoy the "history" of Sweeney Todd, and could only picture Johnny Depp as I read that segment. As twisted and messed up as the story is, I caught myself swooning a bit on the inside.

All in all, I do recommend this book. It is well-worth your time and energy. Just make certain that if you are at all timid, you read it with the lights on.

I give the first two-thirds of the book four stars; the final third, three stars.

Author: Katie Boyd
Publisher: Schiffer (
ISBN: 978-0-7643-3474-0

The Déjà vu Enigma

If you are expecting a light, fluffy, “ching-a-lingy” read in the book, “The Deja Vu Enigma” by Marie D. Jones and Larry Flaxman, think again. This book is anything but an easy read and not meant for the casual, passing interest in matters of the mind. The subtitle reads, “A Journey Through the Anomalies of Mind, Memory, and Time” and this is very true. The book itself would probably be better titled, “The Mind Enigma.” It does begin and end with déjà vu, however the entire middle portion is a smorgassboard of learning about the various anomalies of our minds.

Ms. Jones and Mr. Flaxman get to the meat of our brains (pun intended) in this book. While not comprehensive, it is nothing if not thorough. After reading only the introduction, I was deeply impressed, and held high hopes that the remainder of my read would be a perfect marriage of the scientific and the paranormal. And it was, almost.

I’m sure we all have our own déjà vu stories to tell. The most significant one for me was when I watched the movie, “Red October” for the first time. I knew what was going to happen, what lines were about to be spoken, and anticipated the actors’ entrances and exits before they happened. The problem was, I was completely freaked out the entire movie, as I had never seen it before. Never have I had a déjà vu experience last for so long or be so strong, though they do happen quite frequently, hence my deep interest in reading this particular book and my high hopes for getting some answers.

As far as déjà vu itself goes, the authors offer several theories and hypothoses on what may cause it; everything from a sort of optical illusion to quantum physics and parallel universes. The book also covers a very large gamut of other unexplained phenomenon. We learn possible scientific explanations for such things as ghosts and UFOs, as well as deep discussions on various brain/mind topics such as amnesia, dreams, mass hysteria and the like.

The book is definitely written from a skeptic’s point of view, however they still manage to tantalize and tease the reader with the possibilities that “it may be true.” Even so, I feel it could be a bit more balanced toward the supernatural end, while still maintaining their scientific heart. For example, there was a double-blind study done in 1968 wherein some plants were watered with distilled water that had been given “healing thoughts,” while others only had ordinary distilled water. All other factors were identical. The plants given the “healing” water grew larger and stronger than the plants who received only the regular distilled water. It would be interesting to hear the authors’ interpretation of this and similar experiments.

“The Déjà vu Enigma” is a solid, studied and well-thought out read for the person who seriously wants to learn about various mind anomalies. It would make an excellent college-level book for the average lay-person, and I can easily visualize a professor making it required reading for his psychology or para-psychology class. Overall, Ms. Jones and Mr. Flaxman did an excellent job of objectively delving into a very subjective subject. 

I give the book four out of five stars.

Authors: Marie D. Jones and Larry Flaxman
Publisher: Career Press ( and New Page Books (
ISBN-13: 978-1-60163-104-6