iHunt: Killing Monsters in the Gig Economy by David A. Hill Jr.


iHunt: Killing Monsters in the Gig Economy by David A. Hill Jr.
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Paranormal, Horror
Length: Full Length (269 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe

It’s like Uber, but for slaying monsters!

Lana is a monster hunter. She kills vampires, werewolves, demons and all the other terrifying creatures of the night. She doesn’t do it because she’s the chosen one. She doesn’t do it because it’s her duty. She does it because working one job just doesn’t cut it for a millenial in Southern California.

She takes contracts using iHunt, an app which freelance monster hunters use to find profitable prey. It’s like Supernatural meets Uber, Buffy meets Airbnb, and sadly, Blade meets Fiverr.

Lana’s story is about making ends meet, about economic anxiety, and about what a person’s willing to do to pay the bills. It’s a equal parts horror, dark humor, slice of life, and social commentary on the gig economy.

I’ve reviewed hundreds of books for Long and Short Reviews over the last five years. This is the by far the best one I’ve ever reviewed for them.

The character development was amazing. Lana was an incredibly complex woman whose personality could never be condensed to a few short sentences. Everything I learned about her was doled out gradually between and during her various iHunt assignments, That only made me more curious to find out more about her. I especially loved how much time Mr. Hill spent exploring her many reasons for signing up to be a monster hunter. Every single one of them taught me more about her as a person while they were also pushing the plot forward in all kinds of exciting ways.

Speaking of the plot, the pacing of it was so beautifully relentless that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page. The blurb gave an excellent introduction to this universe, but there were many new conflicts and characters introduced later on in the storyline that were somehow even more fascinating than the original idea of freelancers being hired to kill monsters.

One of the many reasons why I gave this story the highest rating possible is how much attention it paid to real-world issues. The characters dealt with all kinds of frustrating situations when they weren’t actively fighting monsters: dealing with deeply prejudiced people, running out of money well before payday, experiencing truly terrible customer service, and so much more. Some of these scenes made me laugh, while others made me wince. All of them developed this world so thoroughly that I honestly forgot I was reading a piece of fiction. It was like listening to a friend talk about her terrible or wonderful day instead.

The romance was handled perfectly. Not only did the characters involved in it have an unbelievable amount of chemistry, they also genuinely liked each other as human beings. Their strong friendship made me eager to see if they could turn their platonic feelings into romantic ones. This part of the plot was also a refreshing break from the often intense fight scenes.

iHunt: Killing Monsters in the Gig Economy was phenomenal in every single way. If you can only spare the time to read read one more novel this year, make it this one!

The Nights Too Dark by MH Snowy

The Nights Too Dark by MH Snowy
The Twelve Nights of Jeremy Sunson
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Sci-fi
Length: Full (300 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Hidden inside the most unlikely person can be the most extraordinary hero …

Jeremy Sunson is surrounded by crazy. Mrs Abercrombie, upstairs, is widowed because her husband glued feathers to his arms, jumped off the building and tried to fly. His neighbour, Strykland, has gone mad since his wife died in a freak car accident—his only thread to reality the doomsday machine he’s building and his daughter … and, of course, spacemen invade Jeremy’s living room.

Every night, in glorious Technicolour, there’s a battle royal between two high-tech assassins who continually blast Jeremy’s apartment to shreds. Each man has one mission: Red wants to kill Jeremy, Bronze wants to save him!

Though his therapist insists he’s just having bad dreams—Jeremy knows better. It’s time to fight. He’s sick and tired of being sick, scared and tired! Armed with rare confidence and a baseball bat, this night, Jeremy fights like the crazy man he isn’t!

But how can he ever imagine when he’s won the battle, the war is only just beginning … over and over and over again?

The Nights Too Dark—ride a wave of laughter, fun, and sci-fi fantasy all the way to Armageddon!

This book is the first volume of The Twelve Nights of Jeremy Sunson, and includes the first three nights of his adventures and his unwanted job to save the world from Armageddon.

Jeremy is the world’s most unlikely savior of the world and at first believes he is having unusually vivid dreams. He already has anxiety issues, so in his daily visits to his therapist, he shares everything that is happening. He comes to finally realize though… it’s all true.

This book is chockfull of fun… all of the characters are wonderful, and it’s great to see Jeremy interact with them as his days are reset (end of the world meets Groundhog Day). I love his neighbors Mrs. Abercrombie, Stryckland, and Anna and how they just kind of go along with him–the whole neighborhood is full of the crazies (in a good way). Even the bad-guys who keep showing up are well-drawn, and it’s almost a pleasure to see them night after night.

Each night is short enough you could read it in one sitting– I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing the other ways Jeremy manages to save the world. I could so see this as a TV show– stay tuned … Same Jeremy time… Same Jeremy channel.

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Invisible Love by Amanda Steiger


Invisible Love by Amanda Steiger
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (64 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Gregory, an ambitious sorcerer, tried to become immortal…but the spell went wrong and transformed him into a bodiless spirit. For five hundred years, he’s roamed the world trapped between life and death, cut off from all human contact. Then he meets Linda, a young psychic who can feel his presence.

Shy, lonely Linda hasn’t felt a man’s touch for a long time. Then one night, a gorgeous man appears to her in a vivid, erotic dream…and the next day, she hears his voice in her mind. At first, Linda thinks she’s going crazy, but she can’t ignore the man’s desperation, his hunger for human contact. When he asks her to open her mind to him, she can’t refuse.

By inhabiting Linda’s body, Gregory discovers, he is able to feel again. After five hundred years without pleasure, he is overwhelmed by the sensations. Linda, meanwhile, discovers that having Gregory’s spirit inside her is surprisingly erotic. Though she can’t see him, she can sense his essence moving through her, even feel his hands on her body. Before long, she finds herself falling in love with this strange, lonely, passionate man. As her feelings grow, Linda vows to help Gregory escape the empty half-life of a wandering soul and become human again…but to save him, she must make a terrible sacrifice.

How many centuries could you wait to meet your soulmate?

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this story were its vivid descriptions of Linda’s ordinary daily routines. She wasn’t at all happy with the way she was living when she first met Gregory, and her frustration shone through brightly in the beginning. Seeing those scenes in such detail made the rest of their adventures even more appealing than it would have otherwise been.

The chemistry between Gregory and Linda never felt quite right to me. Their relationship heated up so incredibly fast that I wasn’t quite sure what they saw in each other or why they were suddenly all over each other. While I liked both of these characters as individuals and thought they had real potential as a couple, I would have liked to see more examples of what they found attractive about each other in the beginning since they didn’t know each other at all when the sparks first began to fly.

With that being said, the sex scenes were nicely written. I was intrigued by what it might be like for someone to sleep with a spirit when I first read the blurb, and I couldn’t wait to see how everything from foreplay to afterplay and everything in-between would work when only one of the characters actually had a body. Ms. Steiger’s take on the topic was fresh and well done.

Invisible Love was a short, satisfying tale that I’d recommend to anyone who is in the mood for something steamy.

Trust in Axion by Bruce Meyer


Trust in Axion by Bruce Meyer
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (79 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Aidan Scelestus never meant to change reality. But when he, together with his girlfriend Emma Drommel, focused too much energy on too small a physical space, that’s what they did. Together, they hijacked the stellar laboratory of Atraville College for a glimpse of another dimension. In this science fantasy novella, the multiple containment walls and magnetic protection of the lab can’t contain the damage to the fabric of space. The worst wasn’t what it did to themselves. The worst wasn’t even that it spread and nobody knew how to stop it; or that it affected people and buildings and landscaping alike. No, the worst was the fix devised by the professor of physics, Aubrey Probo.

This is what happens when science goes terribly wrong.

The scientific explanation for what was happening in this story was explained perfectly. The author went into just enough detail to show what was happening and why it was happening without slowing down the pacing of the plot. I don’t know very much about physics, but I didn’t have any trouble at all understanding what went wrong with Aidan and Emma’s experiment or why they were so concerned about the dark energy spreading.

I would have liked to see more time spent developing Aidan and Emma’s personalities. While the plot itself was really well done, I finished it without ever getting a strong impression of what Aidan and Emma were like as individuals. Were they shy or outgoing? Did they generally have a serious or lighthearted approach to life? Had I known more about them, I would have given this book a much higher rating as I enjoyed everything else about it.

The pacing was strong. Every scene had something interesting happening in it, and many of them had more than one discovery, battle, or action sequence that made it impossible for me to stop reading. I also appreciated the fact that the author included so many different subplots. They brought a lot of depth to this universe and made the question of what was going to happen to the characters even more pressing than it already was.

Trust in Axion is a great choice for anyone who likes hard science fiction.

The Ghost and Mrs Miller by Sandra Tilley


The Ghost and Mrs Miller by Sandra Tilley
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (359 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Libby Miller is a good Southern girl, and good Southern girls know the rules. But fate has no rules. On her nineteenth wedding anniversary, fate whips up a tornado of turmoil when Libby finds her husband Neil in the arms of his assistant. But the storm’s not over. Neil flips his BMW, and Libby comes home to find his ghost in the dining room. How is Libby supposed to grieve and move on with Neil’s ever-present, meddling ethereal presence in her life?

With her twentieth high school reunion looming, Libby finds herself torn between two men from her past. One man promises passion and a new beginning, and the other wants to pick up where they left off. Neil stirs up a maelstrom of mischief, making it almost impossible for Libby to sort through the rubble. Libby anticipates a confrontation between her two suitors–not a shadowy stalker who chooses the reunion as his setting for a showdown.

In Libby’s quest for independence, she rejects the one man who can save her. Can she compromise the price of her freedom, or will it cost her a second chance at love and put her life in danger?

On the night of her nineteenth wedding anniversary Libby discovers her husband has been cheating on her. After ramming his shiny white BMW with her tatty old car, she drives home with her mind in turmoil. Her children are away so she is able to give in to her emotions, but a knock on the door brings her more bad news. It’s Eli, a police captain who is also a a childhood friend. He has come to tell her her husband, Neil has been in a crash and has not survived the accident.

With most stories this would be the end of the matter, Libby would move forward and find a new love who her kids would adore and all would be well. This story is different as Neil refuses to move on to the other side. He haunts Libby who can’t help herself taunting him about his indiscretion. This leads to many humorous moments when friends look at her weirdly as she talks to Neil, who they cannot see.

There’s also the stalker who keeps driving past her house which is in a gated community. Eli tries to help and also helps with various tasks around the property, but another childhood friend is also interested in Libby. For a believer in ghosts this is a very apt story about what could happen when a husband dies at what he considers the wrong moment in his life. There’s also the question, does Neil approve of her moving on, or would he like her to remain true to him? Good read with a nice twist to the story.

A Little Fang Never Hurt Anybody by J R Pearson


A Little Fang Never Hurt Anybody by J R Pearson
Monster Haven 1
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (128 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Werewolf Wild Child.
Taco Enthusiast.
Drunk Table Dancing Expert.
Queen of Shitty Relationships.
Me.
Kokoa Lovell. (Pronounced as cocoa)

I’m an honest-to-goodness, denial wearing- f*ck-up. My love life contains themes of extreme complication, washboard abs and mind-blowing romps in the sack. It’s okay though. I swallow the crazy sh*t life is bringing in buckets because I really don’t want to deal with what’s important… like finally facing my scarier than split ends great grandfather — the head honcho himself and why his decades long absence has come to an end in time for my birthday. And wondering why I collected lust cards from three different guys.

The next few days I face is sure to be a cluster–f*ck of epic proportions, during which, I will learn the following: It’s cute to cuddle with a lion but dangerous when he’s keeping secrets… Flirting and making hubba-hubba eyes at a vampire is just asking to get your neck chomped on. And sending Polaroid pictures of your ass to a dragon is all fun and games till he decides to kidnap you.

My solution: Eat a ton of birthday cake then run like hell.

It was the title that grabbed me but the story is what kept me. This book was a pleasant surprise because it was like nothing I’ve ever read before. Yes, it’s first person point of view but the heroine, Kokoa, with her internal dialogue, her turns of phrases and her unapologetic kookiness charmed me, engaged my interest and gave me so many reasons to smile or chortle that I lost count. She is not my typical heroine, her location isn’t like Mayberry and her relationships are mind bogglingly complex.

I guess I’m going to have to label this one as a happy for now because I think J.R. Pearson is just getting started in showing me that Kokoa isn’t the simple pancake-eating, taco devouring lover of food and family. She has three love interests but only one who she’s accepted into her bed. She’s lusting after all of them and she’s kind of happy-go-lucky about her friendship with them because for the heroine, being friends is key. She truly loves them all but … not enough to have indiscriminant sex with all of them. There’s just something about Gavin that does it for her, but Jon is the only one that is closest to touching her heart. Then there’s Adrian Galzra . Wow. Adrian is a loose cannon. He’s not a friend per se, but he’s not her enemy. The heroine kind of instigated his interest in her but from the sounds of the final chapter I’d say Kokoa may have bitten off more than she handle – if she handles the situation like she did that drink, boy is she in trouble!

A Little Fang Never Hurt Anybody has the potential to be a powerhouse of a series if this first book is any indication. In the beginning the heroine seems like she has a bit of a potty mouth but readers are going to be in for a bit of an eye-opening experience with her character. Kokoa has depth and it sounds like the revealing of her complexity is just getting started. J.R. Pearson is world building in this novelette and I am thoroughly fascinated with its history, its population, its secrets and how the heroine is going to fit within it.

Jon featured strongly in this story but the next one is going to focus on someone else, and I can’t tell if it’s going to be Gavin or Adrian – both men have something to recommend them and both perhaps are not all as they seem. I feel like I’ve been teased with a hint of intrigue and after her last interaction with Adrian, I’m hooked. And I mean seriously hooked. This story isn’t a short shot of an excuse just for having sex. No, this one has meat, intent, a rich community to work within and secrets to uncover. While I was reading I had the feeling that I was experiencing a quality of writing that I’m used to seeing from the bigger names in the industry. I’m duly impressed and feel fortunate that I chose this book to read. Thank goodness for the catchy title!

Keep your eye on the Monster Haven series because if it continues as it’s started, this is going to be one powerful ride. I can guarantee I won’t want to get off of anytime soon if the following books are as well done and surprising as this one was.

A Little Fang Never Hurt Anybody is an unexpected gem and I look forward to seeing it shine as the story arc unfolds. I think the adventure is just beginning and I’m glad I discovered this series early on. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Forever Wicked by Nina Bangs


Forever Wicked by Nina Bangs
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Sparkle Stardust wishes she could take back the angry words she threw at Ganymede. Now the man she loves has left her and is on a collision course with death if she can’t stop him. When she finally tracks him down, Sparkle discovers he has stirred up more trouble than both of them can handle.

Ganymede storms from the Castle of Dark Dreams determined never to return. He vents his anger by creating chaos around the world, certain that the mayhem will drive Sparkle from his mind and from his heart. It doesn’t work.

But when a powerful enemy from their past threatens Ganymede and Sparkle, they stand side by side to protect their lives, their castle, and their love.

The conclusion of a story arc is always a joyously sad event. I mean, you finally get the satisfaction of seeing how everything comes together, usually in a big, dramatic event and it’s joyous and exciting because you’ve waited for it for what feels like forever. The sad part is because it’s concluded. The good thing about Forever Wicked is the happily ever after is one fans have been waiting for, for years upon years and it seems Ms. Bangs decided all hands should be on deck, so to speak. It was really awesome to see the ‘plants’ are still doing well. *grin*

The most fascinating revelation about Sparkle and Ganymede is their origins. That was something I never, ever saw coming. In the Castle of Dark Dreamsseries the two protagonists were always Cosmic Troublemakers – they wrought various forms of destruction and misery on worlds and on Earth. It’s what they did and what they were. However, throughout the series I saw them slowly morph into something else besides destroyers and troublemakers and this novel explains why. It was very cool. Actually, it was kind of sad too, and shocking. It’s that element that leads the plot into twists and turns that does Ms. Bangs justice.

As far as the romance goes between Sparkle and Ganymede, it starts off bumpy because they kind of broke up with each other in the previous novel. I say ‘kind of’ because it was more a matter of hurt feelings than either one not being in love with the other, so there was a lot of healing and attempts at reconciling in the first part of the story. It’s the threat they face and the realization that they are stronger together than apart when faced with the biggest fight in their long lives that brings them back together.

In fact, all of my favorite characters where brought back to play important parts in the final, dramatic and exciting conclusion. Seeing them again sparked an interest to read the whole series from beginning to end and relive why I enjoyed this series so much. The variety of personalities always kept the story arc fresh and interesting.

Anyone who has read Ms. Bangs’ works knows that humor is a big part in the lives of her characters and that remains true in Forever Wicked. Yes, there are sexy times to show that Sparkle and Ganymede are still hot for each other but it’s lightly sprinkled throughout the book. The main focus is on the plot, the characters and their personalities, and how they suddenly understand the meaning of ‘family’ – of which is an incredibly important component to the conclusion of the story arc.

I suppose this book could be considered a standalone story because the focus is on the two main characters but I strongly believe that the potential impact is greatly enhanced for fans of the series. With that in mind, I’d lean towards it not being truly a standalone read. Ultimately, it’s reader’s choice.

Forever Wicked was a tale worth waiting for. I am satisfied with their happily ever after and the story told to get there. It was pure Sparkle and Ganymede just as I’ve known them to be, but with more depth and surprises. I’m a happy reader.

August Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ The Rose in the Wheel by S.K. Rizzolo


The Rose in the Wheel by S.K. Rizzolo
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full (310 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

This well imagined, carefully detailed, and cleverly plotted debut draws on actual historical events of 1811 London.

Regency London knows Constance Tyrone as the conspicuously celibate founder of the St. Catherine Society, dedicated to helping poor women. One wet November evening a carriage mows down Constance outside her office. Why was a gentlewoman abroad in the night? And if she died under the wheel, whose hands bruised her neck and stole her monogrammed crucifix?

Dismissing the idea of an accident, Bow Street Runner John Chase forms an unlikely alliance with Penelope Wolfe, wife of the chief suspect. A young mother paying the price for an imprudent marriage, Penelope is eager to clear her husband Jeremy, a feckless portrait painter whose salacious drawings of the victim suggest an erotic interest. Barrister Edward Buckler, drawn despite himself to Penelope, shakes off his habitual lethargy to join the investigation.

As horrifying murders on the Ratcliffe Highway claim all London’s attention, the trio discovers that it won’t be easy to unravel the enigma of Constance Tyrone, a woman who revives the legend of martyred St. Catherine.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Knights of Stone: Calum by Lisa Carlisle


Knights of Stone: Calum by Lisa Carlisle
Highland Gargoyles Book 5
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (188 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

When a short-term mission turns into a battle between love and duty…

Calum lives for thrills both on and off stage as lead singer of the Knights of Stone. During a night flight, he witnesses a dragon chasing a pegasus and his gargoyle instincts kick in. When the rescued pegasus turns out to be a beautiful shifter named Arielle, he sets off on a dangerous mission to help her.

Arielle never should have wandered from her pegasi herd. Not only did she attract the attention of a dragon who wants to steal her magic, but they’ve ended up lost in another realm. If she even makes it through the night, how will she ever return home?

Calum and Arielle’s chance encounter in the Scottish Highlands turns into something more. Can Calum help Arielle return to her realm, when he wants to convince her to stay?

For a hot Highland shifter series set on a mystical isle shared by gargoyles, tree witches, and wolf shifters, meet the brothers in the Knights of Stone today!

Calum swore he’d never fall in love.

Calum relishes being the lead singer in this brothers’ rock band, and all the female adoration that comes with it. However, it no longer seems to be enough. Lately, he’s been feeling increasingly restless. One night while Calum is out flying seeking peace, he comes across a deadly dragon chasing Arielle, a pegasus shifter. Despite Calum’s bravado and swagger, he is a protective and caring man. He doesn’t hesitate at all before intervening. I admire his bravery. Calum and Arielle survive the encounter, but Arielle is far from being safe. Pegasi are highly sought after for their magic, and there are those who would use Arielle for personal gain. Can Calum keep Arielle safe and help her find a way back to her own realm?

Calum and Arielle have the makings of a great couple. They are both adventurous spirits and have excellent chemistry. I enjoyed watching them get to know each other. Even though their relationship progresses at lightning speed, Ms. Carlisle makes it seem completely plausible. The sexual tension between Arielle and Calum is intense, especially when he’s on stage singing. It is always great seeing the brothers rock, but it is clear Calum is performing just for Arielle. Before he knows it, Calum has fallen in love with Arielle, but they are literally from two different worlds. Will he be able to let her go when the time comes?

I’m glad I had the opportunity to return to the world of the Highland Gargoyles. It gets better with each book as Ms. Carlisle introduces more interesting characters and creatures. I can honestly say that Arielle is the first pegasus shifter I’ve ever encountered! I can’t wait to see what Ms. Carlisle has in store for the next installment of this series.

Knights of Stone: Calum is a thoroughly enjoyable read. It is the fifth book in the series, but it can be read alone without difficulty as Ms. Carlisle makes everything clear. Fans of steamy paranormal romance should definitely give this book, as well as the others in the series, a try.

Don’t Dream It’s Rover by Misty Simon


Don’t Dream It’s Rover by Misty Simon
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (77 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Things at the ghostly junkyard have calmed down since Mel Hargrove and her boyfriend, Becker, destroyed a nasty ghost bent on mischief and mayhem. So when Becker brings a stray dog to her house, one that seems to understand far more than it should and might have brought along a ghostly friend, she is not exactly happy. A junkyard full of ghosts is no place for a pet — or for ghosts she can’t see or talk to.

She tries everything she has in her arsenal to get answers, but time is running out when she finally realizes what they’re up against. No amount of hairspray, jelly shoes, or lace gloves is going to get her out of a confrontation that threatens not only her home but possibly her very life.

There’s something about being dead that makes some folks refuse to play by the rules.

Mel was a likeable and interesting main character. Her compassionate reaction to Mumford, the stray dog who had recently wandered into her life, only made me like her more than I already did. I was also amused by how she responded once she realized that he was different than most dogs.

There were some pacing issues. This book started off with a lot of stuff happening at once, so I was surprised by how much it slowed down after the first scene or two. It would have been nice to spread some of those plot twists out more. I had trouble staying focused on the plot during the slower sections of it.

The world building was well done. I started imagining the people and places who were part of it in vivid detail as soon as I finished the first page. It was especially interesting to find out what the author’s ideas were about why some folks become ghosts after death while others go straight on to the afterlife. Her explanation made perfect sense for the tone of the storyline, and it was also downright emotionally satisfying for me as a reader.

This is the second part in a series, but it can be read on its own or out of order. I hadn’t read part one yet, and I didn’t have any issues keeping up with what was going on.

Don’t Dream It’s Rover was a spooky, fun tale that I’d recommend to anyone who likes a little humour in their ghost stories.