Review: “The Upstairs Room” by Kate Murray-Browne

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne is a book made up of three distinct stories:

1) The first is the story of family reaching breaking point. As they struggle with young children, a new house, and a young and free new lodger, Elenor and Richard start to face how neither of them have ever been truly happy with their choices, and whether or not this means their marriage is a sham, or simply more real than the idealised image of it they have had.

2) The second is about a young woman trying to work out who she is. Zoe lives in someone else’s house, works in someone else’s shop, and sleeps with someone else’s boyfriend. All around her are people who seem to know what they’re doing, while she struggles to work out if she will ever find what she is “supposed” to do with her life.

3) The third is a ghost story, where a young couple and their new lodger discover their new house is haunted by a presence that doesn’t want them there. As Elenor gets sicker each day she remains but recovers once outside, Richard refuses to accept that his new house can be anything but perfect. But as Zoes starts to encounter inexplicable night terrors, the three of them need to decide whether to face their own prejudices to run away.

All three of these stories would be interesting to read. Mixed together as they are, they just don’t work. I can see what Murray-Brown was going for, but there is just too much going on. Her main problem is focusing on too many characters. Each time the story gets going and starts to engage you, you’re suddenly faced with huge chunks of back story. And you get this for all three main characters; Richard, Elenor, and their lodger Zoe. If Murray-Brown had focuses on either Zoe or Elenor, the book would have have a simpler through line and got bogged down in itself less often. As it is, the story is so diluted all tension is lost.

It’s a shame, as the writing and characters are good. There is a great book in here. Here’s hoping next time she gets a better story editor.

Halloween Countdown: 3 Days

It’s 3 days to go in the Halloween Countdown. It’s also a Saturday, so you should really settle in and devote ten minutes of your day to watching the absolutely beautiful Geist from Giant Animation Studios.

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This is the first fully animated short on this list, but just a couple of minutes into it and I knew it had to be included. Aside from the animation being beautiful, the tragic story it tells is just so well sculpted. Washed up on the shore in a storm after barely surviving the wreck of his ship, a fisherman seeks refuge in a nearby house. While at first, it appears to be deserted, quickly he finds that something appears to be there with him.

The thing about this film is its atmosphere. The use of light and sound is pitch perfect, selling the entire thing with almost no dialogue at all. While there are scares, in Geist these are merely part of the entire thing rather than the punchline or only mechanic.

Oh, but don’t expect a happy ending…

And don’t forget, if you’ve not done so already head over to Amazon to download your free ebook of The Serpent’s Eye. This offer’s only open until Halloween, get make sure you get yours soon.

Halloween Countdown: 12 Days

It’s my birthday! I’m 33 years old today, with all the wisdom of those years settled like a mantle about my shoulders.And it being my birthday means that we’re only 12 days away from Halloween. So, in honour of the season, I thought we should mark the remaining days with a daily taste of horror!

Yes, it’s time for a Halloween Countdown! Each day from now until Halloween itself I will be posting up a link to a short horror movie for you all to enjoy. Something short enough to watch during a lunch break or on your way home. That way, no one will have an excuse not to sample some of the excellent horror creators out there. Come on. Live deliciously.

To start us off we have a short a lot of you will already have seen when it went viral a year or so ago; ‘Lights Out’, by the amazing David F. Sandberg. Be prepared to question whether it’s worth turning off the lights before bed tonight.

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Sandberg is the poster boy for YouTube success stories, as this short led to him being offered a deal to direct a full-length movie based on the premise of his original short. There will definitely be more of his stuff on this countdown, don’t worry.

So, switch out the lights and turn up the volume for… ‘Lights Out’