Book Review: In the House of In Between by J.D. Buffington

in the house of inbetween

Title: In the House of In Between

Author: J.D. Buffington

Release date: Originally published March 18, 2018. Re-released June 16th, 2020.

Huge thanks to J.D. for sending me a digital review copy of his novel!

I was really intrigued to see what I’d find in Buffington’s haunted house tale. As we all know, the haunted house story has been around for pretty much as long as people resided in dwellings and shared stories. I personally really love reading haunted house books. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s an inherited home, a purchased home, or a derelict/abandoned house that is explored, if there’s the potential for spooks and scares, sign me up! What I really want to see is what can the writer do with that opening? Will it be exciting and exhilarating OR will it be more of the same and a let down.

I’m happy to report that Buffington will keep you on the edge of your seat!

What I liked: ‘In the House of In Between’ is an ambitious undertaking. It essentially follows 3.5 sub plots to tell the story of this crazy house.

You might be wondering about the 3.5. Well, 1.5 is from the past, where we see two people start off with separate storylines, but they soon converge. The house was built by Patricia Backlund, but unfortunately, before the house is even completed, strange sounds and odd occurrences begin.

From there, she ends up connecting with Harry Houdini, who is himself skeptical of what is happening, and begins his own investigation.

Meanwhile, we also get two nearer to present day storylines. This one is from a few years back. The first is a husband and wife who move into the house. Of course, they’re new to town and are given an amazing deal to move in. The second is from present present day, where we follow a paranormal investigator and a local news crew examining the house.

Now, I know this may sound confusing and jumbled, rest assured, Buffington handles it really well and the chapters flow and bounce around seamlessly. It was great to get this back and forth and to learn more about the history, as well as why it is currently empty for the news crew.

I really enjoyed the mix of characters here, and while Noah seemed a bit wishy-washy at first, he does come around and is really a solid aspect to that particular storyline.

I will also add, that having that many different aspects, it allows the book to have numerous creepy and genuinely unnerving moments. Buffington uses that to his advantage and packs this full of building dread and jump scares a plenty.

What I didn’t like: I actually don’t know if I liked the inclusion of Houdini. It was odd, because his chapters and storyline are exciting and there are a number of phenomenal moments with him, but it almost took me out of the story whenever his chapters arrived because of his name. It became a case of borderline “is this non-fiction in a fiction book?” if that makes sense.

Why you should buy this: If you’re a fan of the haunted house novel, this one will give you reason to stay up late to finish it and immediately regret that decision. You won’t be sleeping after!

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, well plotted book filled with great moments and characters that you’ll want to follow along, look no further. This was a fun one.


Book Review: Dollhouse by Andrew McManaman


Title: Dollhouse

Author: Andrew McManaman

Release date: October 30, 2021

I’m not sure what it is, but there’s a certain extra kick to connecting with fellow Canadian authors. Maybe it’s the perceived “northern isolation,” or that growing up the majority of Bestselling Dark Fiction writers were from the US or the UK, but us Canadian’s love to band together and root for each other. This isn’t just in writing. It’s in sports and film and industry. It’s why, when you watch a hockey game the announcers will typically wax poetically about how the young Canuck began his hockey career skating on the frozen pond that his dad had cleaned off. It’s that “hey, look where I came from and now I’m here” stubbornness. And I’m all for it.

Not long after the novel ‘The Navajo Nightmare’ came out, that David Sodergren and I co-authored, Andrew McManaman reached out on IG to say he really enjoyed the book and it was great to connect with another Canadian author. And – as we all appreciate and respect – he didn’t immediately advertise his book to me. No, instead, we chatted over the course of a few months, and then one day he asked if I’d ever be interested in checking out ‘Dollhouse.’

And here we are!

What I liked: Waaaay back in 1997 (not even that long ago, but it feels forever at the same time, doesn’t it?) an Independent Science-Fiction movie came out. Made in Canada (and proudly Canadian made), ‘Cube’ was a modest hit when it was released, it grew to have a cult following and several sequels followed.

Why is this of importance? Much like ‘Cube,’ ‘Dollhouse’ follows a similar premise. A group of strangers wakes up in a house with no idea how they got there. The house is unleavable. The door locked, windows sealed, no way out. Soon, distrust, anger and violence breaks out among the group as they try to figure out how to survive and how to get out.

McManaman does a great job of keeping the tension high and the anxiety growing. We don’t get much description of the house itself, but it works well to keep things claustrophobic.

We learn the backstories of the characters, which allows us to see why they react like they do and as we get something from outside of the house entering the story, we can see the survival instincts kick in.

The ending was good, and interesting, as it had a finality to it while also being slightly ambiguous which I think elevated it from a reveal some may see coming.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t really a single character I connected with or rooted for as things progress and escalate. Some of their attributes come off slightly stereotypic which made for a few annoying moments between them. Saying that – it also works for the reader so that you dislike them all equally and enjoy when certain folks are killed off.

Why you should buy this: This is a fast-paced read, the chapters are short and snappy, which moves us along really well and for the lack of set pieces, the intrigue of what is happening will pull you along really well.

I had a blast with this one and it’ll be exciting to see what Andrew comes up with next.


Book Review: Gwendy’s Final Task by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar


Title: Gwendy’s Final Task

Authors: Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Release date: February 15th, 2022

‘Go then, there are other worlds than these.’

And so we’ve arrived. The third and final entry in the Gwendy Peterson trilogy and her life with the button box. Back in 2017, King and Chizmar launched Gwendy’s story with ‘Gwendy’s Button Box,’ a novella that shared how Gwendy first met Richard Farris when she was twelve and came into possession of the mysterious device.

In 2019, Chizmar returned, with King’s blessing (and a foreword) to show what Gwendy was up to and how the button box still played an active role in her life and its hold it had over her.

Then, in 2022, King returned with Chizmar to tell the ending and boy, let me tell you, this is a definitive ending, but also an emotional rollercoaster.

Before going further – I do need to say thanks to Richard for sending me a physical ARC of this – seriously blown away by that act of kindness.

What I liked: A few decades after the events in ‘Gwendy’s Magic Feather,’ the button box, and Farris return, needing Gwendy’s help one last time. Things have sped up in Farris’ timeline and Gwendy is his only hope.

From there, we follow Gwendy as she heads aboard a spaceship, travelling to the new International Space Station in the grips of early-onset Alzheimer’s and a task to get rid of the button box once and for all.

But, as we’ve always come to expect with dark fiction books, things aren’t what they seem and not everyone is trustworthy.

I know this trilogy has been hit-or-miss for some readers, but I’ve had a blast in this particular world and it was great seeing the Dark Tower come into play, different worlds discussed and shared and ultimately how poignant and soul crushing the ending was. Did I cry? Yes. Not only is the story dripping with emotions but with the state of the world we live in, it was invigorating as well as devastating to see someone go that far above and beyond for the greater good.

The epilogue also got me. The setting, the final note and the last gift. King and Chizmar decided to really make readers blubber and struggle to read through watery eyes.

What I didn’t like: I know a number of King’s readers make a fuss about political stuff being included, so don’t worry, there’s plenty here (Gwendy is a politician after all) as well, there is some Covid-19 inclusion, which may or may not annoy you, depending on where you stand about being vaccinated and wearing a mask.

Lastly, as for the story, I thought the “finale,” or last action sequence was really quick. I would’ve loved to see a bit more of a battle, but what happened still works really well.

Why you should buy this: If you’re a completion-ist, you’ll buy this, simply so you have all of King’s work. If you’ve read book one, and not book two as it wasn’t co-authored by King (insert eye-roll emoji) you’ll want to read that and then snag this.

But, if you’re like me, and have been reading King for 30 years now (and I’m only now 40!) and love the way he tells a story and how his worlds all get intermingled, this will right up your alley. I say this not to disrespect or lesson Chizmar here. In truth, this book most likely wouldn’t exist if Richard hadn’t pushed to continue Gwendy’s story in book two and the two author work and write seamlessly together.

Gwendy is one of those characters that’ll stay with you, no matter where you’ll travel.

Because remember – ‘There are other worlds than these.’