Category Archives: Books

The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts

The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts by Owen Davies was first published in England in 2007. A paperback was released in the United States in 2009. The Haunted is not a traditional or linear history. Davies looks at trends spanning several centuries, from the Reformation to the present day. By exploring these trends, he hopes to explain how and why England has become so “haunted.”

Debates over ghost belief reveal much about England’s social and intellectual history. Davies makes a compelling argument that being haunted by the dead is part of the human condition, at least for a significant portion of the population, as all attempts to eradicate ghost belief over the past 500 years have failed.

Davies divides his book into three parts: Experience (what did ghosts look like, where were they found, and how have people tried to find them?), Explanation (how have people made sense of ghost sightings?), and Representation (how have people sought to replicate or reproduce ghosts and ghostly phenomenon?). The Haunted runs the gamut of English (and some Continental) cultural and intellectual experience, but its organization opens these topics to the reader in an easy to digest format. Every chapter explains the key players, arguments, and trends, while offering plenty of primary examples.

Most studies of ghosts from 1700 on primarily rely on four authors who collected hundreds of accounts, but these accounts were collected from the middle and upper classes. They say little about the beliefs of rural and urban working classes, who made up the majority of the population. Davies scours a grab bag of sources to add these voices to the discussion, while never losing sight of the dominant intellectual trends.

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Marley Parker Takes on Urban Legend Killers in Redletter

Squeezing Jagger tighter against my chest, I read the words “Bloody Marley” written in bright red lipstick across the bathroom mirror. The tube of lipstick was laying haphazardly in the bathroom sink, broken and mushed.

Marley Parker, feisty college journalist turned amateur sleuth, is back in her third and final book: Redletter by Maria Sigle. Released in May, Redletter follows Marley Parker as she tries to move beyond the traumatic events of the past and start a career at WKLP News. Her first breaking news story, however, ominously foretells a tough road ahead. When the Candyman Killer appears in Greenbriar, Marley will face her biggest challenge yet.

Halloween is usually a time to celebrate in the small Midwestern town of Greenbriar, a week-long event bringing family and friends together. This Halloween, however, someone begins reenacting urban legends with gruesome results. First, a high school student dies after eating Halloween candy. Then, a woman’s body is discovered floating near a bridge with the letters “OCC” written on her back. Can Marley decipher this clue in time to prevent another murder–perhaps her own?

In Marley Parker and A Rumor of Ghosts, Marley often acted selflessly, even at great personal risk, but also relied on others for help–her sister, Jade; her father, Sheriff Tony Parker; her best friend, Fuchsia Darling; Granny Annie; and even her love interest, wealthy playboy Rob Cummings. This time, she’ll be forced to go it alone as a duo of anonymous killers target the ones she cares about the most.

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Marley Parker: A Rumor of Ghosts

Marley Parker is at it again in the second installment of her young adult mystery series, A Rumor of Ghosts (2015) by Maria Sigle. Marley is a journalism student at Greenbriar University and daughter of the county sheriff. Still recovering from solving her last case, she has become something of a local celebrity after uncovering that the town’s mayor had been responsible for the death of her mother more than a decade earlier.

This time, she matches wits with a psychopath attacking girls around the campus of Greenbriar University. With a friend caught in the crossfire, can she stop this maniac before he returns to finish the job? Will a mysterious stranger prove to be her best ally, or the maniac himself?

Marley Parker: A Rumor of Ghosts is full of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing. Just when you think the plot is heading in a certain direction, something will happen that turns everything on its head. In a novella filled with ghosts and larger than life characters and situations, this element adds a touch of realism.

The characters are fallible. They can, and often do, make mistakes and let their emotions cloud their judgement. Marley Parker is led by her emotions, whether it is out of loyalty to friends and family, anger at an injustice, or her fatal attractions. She acts impulsively, sometimes getting the better of a situation, and sometimes getting herself into hot water.

There are two plot strains running through the book: in one, Marley Parker tracks down a psycho stalker, and in the other, she helps uncover the cause of a haunting at a local hotel called the Brass Lantern Inn. Neither is necessarily linked, but the characters intertwine and one case pulls her attention away from the other.

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Marley Parker – A Compelling Mystery for Young Adults

“There’s simply no way of putting this delicately, Marley. I believe that you are in eminent danger.”

Marley Parker, a stunning young woman with a passion for uncovering the truth, is a journalism student at Greenbriar University. Her mother mysteriously disappeared when she was a young girl, leaving her sister and her to be raised by their father, Sheriff Tony Parker. As the novella opens, Marley is about to receive an award for Excellence in Journalism for a video report on a local girl’s disappearance. At the award banquet, wealthy financier Dean Cummings drops dead—the victim of poisoning. Suspects are many, but Marley Parker is on the case.

Marley Parker was Maria Sigle’s first young adult novel. Released in July 2014, the book is 208 pages, is available in print and digital formats, and retails for $9.89. It is a mystery with some supernatural elements. The second book in the series, A Rumor of Ghosts, promises to delve deeper into that theme. “I just love the idea of a series centered around a young, strong, beautiful female who seemingly has it all,” she told MysteriousHeartland. “Then once you dig deeper, you discover that what you see on the surface is a completely different story than what that girl actually consists of.”

In the beginning, Marley Parker seems to have overcome her childhood trauma and has it all—good looks, an influential father, a home on the lake, a promising future career, and a wealthy love interest. Over the course of the book, all these things will be tested, and Marley will have to fight for her life to hold onto everything she has, all while unraveling a mystery with connections to her past.

The author relied heavily on her own experiences to craft this tale. “Much like Marley, when I was 19 years old, I wanted to be an investigative reporter. When I was at Sophomore in college, I began working for a local FOX Television affiliate full time, as the sole on-air talent. It was difficult at the time, juggling full time school and a full time job but it was well worth it.”

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The Great Cat Massacre and other Episodes in French Cultural History

In The Great Cat Massacre: and other Episodes in French Cultural History (1984), historian Robert Darton attempted to reconstruct and understand the mental world of early modern French peasants through their folktales. He began with the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” as told around firesides in peasant cottages during long winter evenings in eighteenth-century France. It’s a little different than the version you may have been told. The story went as follows:

A young girl was instructed to bring some milk and bread to her grandmother’s house. While walking down a path through the woods, a wolf stopped her and asked her where she was going. She told him, and the wolf took off down a second path. The wolf, “arrived first at the house. He killed grandmother, poured her blood into a bottle, and sliced her flesh onto a platter. Then he got into her nightclothes and waited in bed…”

When the young girl arrived, the wolf (disguised as her grandmother) offered her meat and wine from the pantry. “So the little girl ate what she was offered; and as she did, a little cat said, ‘Slut! To eat the flesh and drink the blood of your grandmother!’ Then the wolf said, ‘Undress and get into bed with me.’”

After a prolonged scene in which the young girl is instructed to undress and toss her clothes into the fire, the conclusion proceeds in the now familiar manner until, at the very end, the wolf eats the girl. No hunter comes to her rescue in the original version.

The version as we know it today, according to Darton, was taken by the Grimm brothers from Charles Perrault, a popular writer at the turn of the seventeenth century, who changed the stories to suit the tastes of the Paris elites. The ending we are familiar with, in which the hunter rescues Little Red and kills the wolf, was added by Jeannette Hassenpflug, the Grimm’s neighbor, from a popular German story “The Wolf and the Kids.”

Through an examination of folktales like “Little Red Riding Hood”, Darton hoped to unlock the mentalité of the French peasant during that time period. “Folktales are historical documents,” he argued. “They have evolved over many centuries and have taken different turns in different cultural traditions… they suggest that mentalités themselves have changed. We can appreciate the distance between our mental world and that of our ancestors if we imagine lulling a child of our own to sleep with the primitive peasant version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’”

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New on my Bookshelf 

I picked up these books on my latest road trip. They look interesting! Don’t expect reviews anytime soon though, I have a long backlog!