Book Review: Spooky Ambiguous

spooky ambiguous

“Nothing is ever as it seems”

With spooky season approaching it is time to select this year’s Halloween reads. First up for me was Spooky Ambiguous, straplined Ghost stories and poetry, fangs and fairy tales. This latest offering from the tiny but fierce Crumps Barn Studio includes: short stories, poetry, and artwork that perfectly complements the varied gothic tales. Its shades and shadows offer images that, while recognisable, remain somewhat opaque. Draw up a seat by the fire and listen carefully. Those strange creaks and muffled voices you tell yourself is likely the wind may truly be something to be feared.

As with any collection, there are favourites.

Mirror Mirror, by Michael Bartlett, was such a sad story, featuring a lonely philatelist who wishes he could tell a colleague how he feels for her.

Naming, by Harriet Hitchen, gets across wonderfully the conceit of humans in believing they can control that which they do not understand.

Who’s Haunting Who? by Daphne Denley proves that a fine story may be told in an impressively succinct poem.

Relocation, by Angela Reddaway, is an imaginative take on how it can matter where you are buried – and that may not be next to the old man you were required to marry as a teenager.

Within these stories and poems, witches are both feared and befriended. The latter is not always welcomed spellcaster given how some will try to use other’s gifts for their own advantage.

Message Delivery, by Angela Reddaway, employs a clever use of repetition.

The Flooding, by Amaris Chase, contains a clever twist I didn’t see coming.

Some of the stories are notably weird. Several are a tad raw. There are ghostly beings that are seriously disturbing, creatures buried alive that should probably remain so. What comes across is the potential loneliness in an afterlife, and how this can affect those who died leaving unfinished business. There is both good and evil, just as in the before.

Diabetes X, by J.J. Drover, ended ambiguously – or maybe I just wanted laid out what I had guessed would happen.

Penance, by Joe Robson, completed the collection with a quiet menace, eerily understated.

Whatever my reaction to each individual entry, the authors may take credit for eliciting a reaction. This collection serves as a delicious reminder that, however determinedly pragmatic and logical one may be, inexplicable malignancy can still exist in the shadows.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Crumps Barn Studio.


Book Review: Moments

Moments, by Daphne Denley, is a poetry collection that recounts how the author dealt with difficult times and emotions following her husband’s cancer diagnosis. Writing became her therapy, a way to vent as she struggled to cope, especially with the need to retain a stable routine for their young daughter.

The early poems express an appreciation of quiet moments and the importance of making memories, of stepping back from the daily hustle before that time has passed and the opportunity gone.

In Cards Apart Denley writes of those she sends birthday and Christmas cards to but no longer meets.

“Truth be known, we’d rather leave
The past behind, just memories keep

Good times we had, but that was then”

Whilst aware of the need to treasure her daughter’s childhood there is exhaustion as she taxis the child to her many activities or simply struggles to get her ready for school each day. Parents will recognise the frustration of misplaced keys and offspring who won’t comply with simple requests and instruction.

The poems do not shy away from the difficulties of dealing with the expectation that parents remain calm and positive whatever they may be feeling or personally dealing with at the time.

The stress of the ongoing situation is obvious and at times false fixes are sought – shopping, alcohol, gambling. The guilt and regret that follow add to the relentless load carried, and yet some form of diversion is required.

There are repeated mentions of bullying but also the importance of friendship. There is concern over the damage inflicted from the consumption of ‘bad’ food and subsequent weight gain. Alongside the negative are positives including an appreciation of nature. Daydreams take time from a busy day but are a necessary distraction.

The poems read as song lyrics more than poetry. The author is a singer in a local band and writes in the introduction that she is ‘happy with rhyme’. The word order is often Yoda like to achieve this.

I suspect Moments will be valued most by those who have gone through a similar experience. If they provide any sort of comfort in such difficult circumstances, to author or reader, they are worthwhile.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Crumps Barn Studio.