Bucket List Entry #2: The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, USA @StanleyHotelCO @VisitTheUSA @StephenKing #StanleyHotel #VisitTheUSA #bucketlist #travel #wanderlust #StephenKing #TheShining

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My second bucket list entry may again seem like an odd choice, but I think I have been inspired by the approach of Halloween and the fact I am currently reading a book set in another creepy hotel. Bucket List Entry #2 is The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The hotel, with 142 rooms, opened in 1909 and has been popular ever since as it stands only five miles from the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park and has beautiful views over Lake Estes and the Rocky Mountains. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

That all sounds very lovely, Julie, I hear you say, but what is so special about this hotel to make it worth flying thousands of miles to see? Well, I am sure most you will already know – it is because this hotel was the inspiration for The Overlook Hotel in one of the most famous books by one of my favourite authors, The Shining by Stephen King.

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Any Stephen King fans are probably already familiar with the story behind the inspiration for The Shining. In the autumn of 1974, Stephen and his wife, Tabby spent one night at The Stanley Hotel. The hotel was just about to close down for the winter and, on check-in, King and his wife found they were the only guests and had this huge hotel to themselves. They wandered the long, echoing empty corridors and ate dinner alone in the vast dining room, where all the other tables had the chairs put up on them. Their dinner was accompanied by recorded orchestral music. That night, King had a dream in which his three-year-old son was running through the corridors of the hotel screaming. He was being chased by a fire hose. The dream woke him with a jerk, in a sweat, and he sat in a chair looking out at the Rockies and smoking. “By the time the cigarette was done,” King says, “I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind.”

The Shining was published in 1977 and was a huge success, being made into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1980. Room 217, the room occupied by King that night, features heavily in the book and is now the most requested room at the hotel.

So, The Stanley Hotel has become a place of pilgrimage for Stephen King fans, as well as standing in a US State that I have yet to visit and is high on my bucket list. Then, earlier this year something else happened at The Stanley which made me want to visit even more. To see what that was, check out the video below:

Imagine being in a place where you have wildlife that close to the doorstep! The opportunity to possibly see wildlife so up close and personal adds even more to the lure of the area. I’m not sure I can sell ghosts and black bears to my other half as appealing holiday attractions so this one may need a little more work, but I’ll get there one day!

Is there any destination that has inspired a novel that you would like to visit? I’d love to hear your literary destination bucket lists.

For more details about The Stanley Hotel, please check out the hotel website.

Purgatory Hotel by Anne-Marie Ormsby #BookReview (@AMOrmsby) @crookedcatbooks #HalloweenReading #booklove #PurgatoryHotel

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“Dakota Crow has been murdered, her body dumped in a lonely part of the woods, and nobody knows but her and her killer.

Stranded in Purgatory, a rotting hotel on the edge of forever, with no memory of her death, Dakota knows she must have done something bad to be stranded among murderers and rapists. To get to somewhere safer, she must hide from the shadowy stranger stalking her through the corridors of the hotel, and find out how to repent for her sins.

But first she must re-live her life.

Soon she will learn about her double life, a damaging love affair, terrible secrets, and lies that led to her violent death.

Dakota must face her own demons, and make amends for her own crimes before she can solve her murder and move on.

But when she finds out what she did wrong, will she be truly sorry?”

Having been offered the chance to review this book, I decided it would be a good one to read around this time of year when we are all looking for something spooky or scary to get our pulses racing as the nights draw in and, having read it, I can confirm it will definitely do that, but it also offers so much more than simple scares.

This is an intelligent book, which explores a lot of fairly existential questions in a really innovative storyline and I was very drawn in to the story and the questions raised, to the extent that I am still thinking about some of them today. The story is quite disturbing, as you would expect from the cover image and the blurb, and it does not pull back from giving you uncomfortable and graphic detail, but it is not sensationalist for the sake of it. There is a point to everything in the story, and a very provocative and inciting point which I really enjoyed about the book.

The setting is a hotel in the Afterlife where people who have done bad things in their life on Earth are stranded, trying to work out what they did wrong and how to atone for their crimes so they can get to Heaven, so this place is full of the worst people who lived on Earth and many of them are really not interested in atoning at all. Dakota is stranded amongst these terrifying people, unaware of what has happened to her and desperate to find out what happened so she can get out. But sometimes the truth hurts.

The author manages to build a very disturbing and sinister world in this hotel that will work its way under your skin and into your subconscious and give you the creeps. I was reminded strongly of the Hotel Cortez in Season 5 of American Horror Story. But more than that, the process that Dakota has to go through after death was ever more chilling and raised the hairs on the back of my neck as I read this under the covers.

One minor issue I had was that the book possibly started to drag in places three-quarters of the way in when I would have liked more drama and less of the reading, and I think the author could have gone even further with some of the interactions with the other patrons of the hotel, to really bring the horror of this place to life. I also felt that the storyline regarding Danny was slightly too much of a coincidence and could have been omitted without affecting the book at all. However, this did not really detract from the overall power of the book for me and I was gripped from start to finish.

The author was very skilled in her use of imagery and language to bring this original world to frightful life and the characters were really well-developed and authentic, despite being deeply flawed. I really believed in them, even though they were in a largely fantastical environment. The story development is skilful and the overall book works really well. I can highly recommend it. It would particularly appeal to fans of Stephen King, I think; someone who is looking for a horror story with a little bit more to it.

Purgatory Hotel is out now. To get it in time for Halloween, order it here.

About the Author

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On a warm day in July 1978, a mother was admitted to hospital, awaiting the arrival of her new baby. She was reading Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie and the midwives thought it a gruesome choice for an expectant mother. A story of a long forgotten murder and repressed memories. As it turned out her new baby, Anne-Marie would grow up and find herself drawn to all things macabre, and would one day herself turn out a story of murder and memories lost.

Anne Marie grew up on the Essex coast with her parents and six siblings in a house that was full of books and movies and set the scene for her lifelong love of both.

She began writing short stories when she was still at primary school after reading the book The October Country by Ray Bradbury. He was and still is her favourite author and the reason she decided at age 9 that she too would be a writer someday.

In her teens she continued to write short stories and branched out into poetry, publishing a few in her late teens. In her early twenties she began committing herself to writing a novel and wrote one by the age of 20 that she then put away, fearing it was too weird for publication.

She wrote Purgatory Hotel over several years, but again kept it aside after several rejections from publishers. Luckily for her, she found a home for her twisted tale with Crooked Cat Books.

Her favourite authors include Ray Bradbury, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, Denis Lehane and Douglas Coupland. She also takes great inspiration from music and movies, her favourite artists being Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Johnny Cash, Interpol, David Lynch and David Fincher.

Anne-Marie moved to London in 2008 where she lives to this day, amidst books and DVDs, with her husband and daughter.

Connect with Anne-Marie:

Website: https://www.annemarieormsby.com

Facebook: Anne-Marie Ormsby

Twitter: @amormsby

Instagram: @pirateburlesque

Goodreads: Anne-Marie Ormsby

Ravens Gathering by Graeme Cumming #BookReview (@GraemeCumming63) @matadorbooks @LoveBooksGroup @JgoodukJill #RavensGathering #Blogtober18

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“As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”

A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family, in particular, it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.

And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.”

Wow. I’ve been left a little adrift as to know where to start reviewing this book. It is an impossible book to categorise and has taken me to places that were totally unexpected before I read it. It has slightly blown my mind and I am considering best how to convey my thoughts about it adequately in this post.

Firstly, I have to take a minute to apologise to Graeme, and to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours, for the delay in posting this review. I was supposed to be part of Graeme’s tour but somehow some confusion happened in my addled brain and I missed my spot. It has never happened before and it won’t happen again. I blame hormones, as my diary system is normally failsafe, but I am mortified by my lapse. Sorry again, Graeme and Kelly.

On to the book, and what can I say. This novel was unlike anything I’ve read before, although it had elements of other books and movies I have loved in the past. At the beginning it made me think of The Wicker Man, then there was a part that brought to mind The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (one of my favourite authors ever). There was another scene later that gave me a flashback to Straw Dogs, but at the same time this book is something completely unique.

I was totally gripped from the beginning, with intrigue, interest, but mostly a creeping and unsettling tension that bloomed to full on horror as the book progressed, but for most of the book I could not tell you why I was so very unsettled. The  tension was insidious and all encompassing, but there was nothing overtly horrifying about the story to begin. This was why it reminded me of The Wicker Man, I think.

The plot was very twisty and confusing, but this was obviously deliberately done. I had no idea what was happening or who was trustworthy and who wasn’t, which made certain events in the book all the more unexpected and shocking when they came. A couple of times I had to go back and reread a couple of chapters after happenings further on had totally spun previous events on their head in the light of the new information. In fact, I think I need to reread the whole book now I know how it ends, so I can hoover up all the clues that I clearly missed the first time around. It is really cleverly structured; it’s not often I am so completely bamboozled by a book as I was by this one. I bet Graeme is really good at crosswords, although I think his brain might be a slightly scary place to be sometimes!

This book has elements of crime, horror, fantasy and the supernatural. In places it is very twisted and explicitly violent, but everything was done in support of the story and not gratuitously. The writing reminded me in a positive way of some of Stephen King’s work, and there can’t really be higher praise than that, since I believe King is pretty much a genius.

This book isn’t going to be for everyone, but for anyone who likes a creepy, Gothic horror of a novel with a supernatural twist, this is a must read. I think my friend, Jill Goodwin of Double Stacked Shelves would love it, maybe you will too.

Ravens Gathering is out now and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Graeme Cumming - Author

Graeme Cumming has spent most of his life immersed in fiction – books, TV and movies – turning to writing his own stories during his early teens.

He first realised he genuinely had some talent when he submitted a story to his English teacher, Christine Tubb, who raved about it.  The same story was published in the school magazine and spawned a series that was met with enthusiasm by readers.  Christine was subsequently overheard saying that if Graeme wasn’t a published author by the time he was 25, she’d eat her hat.  Sadly, she probably spent the next 25 years buying her groceries exclusively from milliners.  (Even more sadly, having left school with no clear direction in life, Graeme made no effort to keep in touch with any teachers, so has lost track of this source of great support and encouragement.)

Having allowed himself to be distracted (in no particular order) by girls, alcohol and rock concerts, Graeme spent little of his late teens and twenties writing.  A year-long burst of activity produced a first draft of a futuristic thriller, Beyond Salvage, which has since lain dormant, waiting for a significant edit.

With the onset of family life, opportunities to write became more limited (though it could be argued that he got his priorities wrong), until he reached his early forties, when he realised he hadn’t written anything for several years.  Deciding to become more focused, since then he has written regularly.

With his interests in story-telling sparked by an excessive amount of time sitting in front of a black and white television, his tastes are varied.  Influences ranged from the Irwin Allen shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, etc.) to ITC series (The Saint, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) and so many more), so the common theme was action and adventure, but crossed into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as crime and espionage.

This diverse interest in fiction continued with reading books and his discovery of the magical world of cinema.  As a result, his stories don’t always fall into a specific genre, but are always written as thrillers.

Graeme’s first novel, Ravens Gathering, was published in 2012, and has been warmly received.

When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking.  He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club, although he lives in Robin Hood country.  Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and still loves the cinema.

Connect with Graeme (please do, he is extremely lovely!):
Facebook: Graeme Cumming

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson #BookReview

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The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with the ‘damnable young man’ Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil. The other stories in this volume also testify to Stevenson’s inventiveness within the Gothic tradition.

This was another short story I chose to quick start my Goodreads Challenge for 2018, and also to start my personal challenge to read at least one classic novel a month throughout 2018 that I have never read before. I’m not counting this as January’s effort, as it is not a full length novel, but it was a good warm up.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of those stories that we all know so well, its premise has become so firmly embedded in the lexicon of how we describe people with a split personality, that we feel like we must have read it at some dim and distant point but actually many of us have probably never sat down and actually read the original text. This was certainly the case for me.

The story starts out with the main narrator, a lawyer named Mr. Utterson, taking a walk with a friend who tells him a horrible tale about an assault on a young girl by a sinister figure named Mr Hyde who pays off the girl’s family with money seemingly provided by a respectable acquaintance of theirs named Dr. Jekyll. Later, Utterson is instructed by Dr. Jekyll to rewrite his will, leaving all of his possessions to Mr. Hyde. Utterson takes it upon himself to find out what the connection is between the upstanding Dr. Jekyll and the abominable Mr. Hyde and, by the end of the story, the horrible truth is revealed.

This story is a riveting read on so many levels. Just as a straight-forward horror story it is  gripping in its vivid and terrible descriptions, and how the story moves forward as told through the eyes of the bewildered lawyer Mr. Utterson who cannot understand why the seemingly noble Dr. Jekyll is associating himself with the terrible Mr. Hyde. It also works well as a mystery, in which the clues are unveiled slowly, piece by piece, and this remains true even though we all know the outcome of the tale, which is demonstrative of how cleverly it is written. I let my bathwater go cold as I devoured this story in one sitting. The writing is creepy and atmospheric, bringing to life the horror of the monster stalking the fog-bound streets of Victorian London.

Finally, I think the story is fascinating in pondering exactly what it is the Stevenson is trying to say about human nature in this story and, I have read numerous different theories on what this tale is an allegory of. Is it a religious warning against playing God and straying from the path of virtue and righteousness? Is it a veiled reference to the perils of homosexuality in the Victorian era? Is it a sexual morality tale? Are we to draw the conclusion that Stevenson believed that all men are, at heart, primitive beasts whose base instincts are only suppressed by a thin veneer of civilisation that is just waiting to be scraped aside to let our true natures run amok? Everyone reading the story is going to take something different from it and Stevenson himself said “Everything is true, only the opposite is true too; you must believe both equally or be damned.” It seems that he did not want his story boiled down to a simple, neat explanation. Maybe the mark of a good storyteller is to allow the reader enough room to take from his tale what he will, and it certainly makes for a much more entertaining debate.

You may think you know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but I highly recommend that you read the original text for yourself and see if what you THINK you know, is really the essence of the tale for you. you won’t be disappointed. You can purchase a copy here.

About the Author

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was born in Edinburgh, the son of a prosperous civil engineer. Although he began his career as an essayist and travel writer, the success of Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped (1886) established his reputation as a writer of tales of action and adventure. Stevenson’s Calvinist upbringing lent him a preoccupation with predestination and a fascination with the presence of evil, themes he explored in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), and The Master of Ballantrae (1893).