Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America's Haunted Inns and Hotels
By Frances Kermeen

Readers intrigued by the supernatural and eager to spend some quality time with ghosts may be tempted to pick up Frances Kermeen's Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America's Haunted Inns and Hotels, but this "guide" offers little that hasn't been covered more eloquently elsewhere. From floating, disembodied torsos to menacing, Chucky-like dolls, Kermeen, the former owner of a haunted antebellum mansion, has ostensibly seen and heard it all either firsthand or secondhand through other innkeepers and their guests. However, her clunky, clich,-ridden writing often mars the narration of these "sightings." When relaying one of her earliest encounters, for example, Kermeen writes: "In an instant, the room turned icy cold, and I felt terror in the air." Though this book's timely release and amusing premise will help it appeal to the Halloween crowd, readers would do better to pick up Dennis Hauck's Haunted Places: The National Directory.


Writer Ferrets: Chasing the Muse
By Richard Bach

Bach stumbled in the first two volumes of his new series of fables ("Air Ferrets Aloft" and "Rescue Ferrets at Sea"), but this effort recaptures some of the sense of wonder that made Jonathan Livingston Seagull a runaway bestseller. The protagonists are a pair of aspiring writers, Budgeron Ferret and his mate, Danielle, who are keen to climb the literary ladder. Budgeron, despite bouts of writer's block, has high hopes after selling a few short stories to some low-level magazines, and he hits it big when he publishes a series of novels for young ferrets (called kits). Meanwhile, Danielle pens a controversial romance "for the fun of it," which quickly becomes a bestseller. Much of the second half of the novel deals with the book tour that Danielle and Budgeron undertake together after becoming a successful literary couple. As hackneyed as the plot sounds, Bach's love of animals and reverence for the creative process keep the novel from becoming overly mawkish and sentimental; the icing on the cake is some tongue-in-cheek insight into the publishing process. The book also features crisp plotting, which was missing from the first two volumes of "The Ferret Chronicles," and Bach's decision to avoid dwelling on the differences between the human world and his imagined ferret equivalent helps keep the prose economical. This is a lovable, entertaining story, which will tug at the heartstrings of even the most jaded.

Women's Intuition
By Lisa Samson

Samson, author of "The Church Ladies," stakes out her claim as a novelist of distinction for readers who enjoy evangelical Christian fiction but often choke on the pabulum that passes for it. Larkspur Summerville is a 41-year-old paranoid virtual recluse who for 20 years has kept a secret from her family-a secret that now threatens to become her undoing. Raised Methodist, her sanity is partially tethered to playing the organ for St. Dominic's Catholic Church and experiencing the loving friendship of its priests, although Lark admits, "The whole Mary thing unsettles me." Lark spends most of her free time running a toll-free prayer line, 1-777-IPRAY4U. When Lark's house burns to the ground, she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged mother, Leslie, and Leslie's live-in housekeeper and Internet guru, Prisma Percy. Rounding out the household is Lark's hip, artsy daughter, Flannery, a barista at Starbucks, whose sanity is the glue that holds her strange family together. The finely crafted, first-person narratives alternate among the four women, with a short ending chapter from Lark's brother, Newly. Samson occasionally overwrites and is a little heavy on the dialogue, but her prose is mostly excellent, and the characters appealing and compelling. The centerpiece of the novel is its beautiful depiction of faith and fear that avoids canned Christian gospel presentation scenes but is clear in its message.

The Festering Season: A Tale of Urban Vodou
By Kevin Tinsley

Tinsley and Smith 3's new work concerns a Vodoun priestess in training who finds herself battling an evil sorcerer in downtown Manhattan. Sci-fi, horror and Caribbean-African spirituality are woven into real-life acts of police brutality. Rene DuBoise returns to New York from Haiti after her mother has been killed, much like Amadou Diallo, by two NYPD cops. The city is already on edge with the ongoing trial of several police officers charged with the murder of a drug dealer whose brother, Gangleos, is part of a Cuban Santeria-related cult that worships the dead. Gangleos is also a suspect in Rene's mother's murder. Filled with zombies, spells and supernatural explanations for real events in New York, the book will make readers think twice the next time the city sprays to kill West Nile virus. Tinsley offers a polemical perspective on Gotham life under former Mayor Giuliani, and Smith 3's cartoonish, manga-influenced drawings bring out the grit of lower Manhattan. While the duotone color is impressive throughout, the panels that integrate the drawings with photographic backgrounds really pop. Ambitious, political, pointedly critical of the NYPD and very New York-centric, this is an engaging, fast-paced action-drama that places legitimate religious movements like Vodoun and Santeria in a realistic urban context despite the supernatural plot. Tinsley's script has an urgent subtext commenting on the illegal police brutality endured by many black and Latino New Yorkers.

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