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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AND WE'LL BE JOLLY FRIENDS, FOREVERMORE ---
The Tale of Halcyon Crane

What a creepy feeling it would be to enter a beautiful and lovely mansion that you have just inherited from your long-dead/just recently passed mother and to hear somebody singing an old childhood song to you -- but nobody is there! Ewwwww -- things that go bump in the night, truths that are false, living a lie, more things that go...
Published on April 9, 2010 by Pamela A. Poddany

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but needed some work
This is the kind of story I enjoyed reading as a teenager, but which seems to insist that it be taken seriously as adult fiction. Unfortunately, it's far too predictable and has too many plot holes to make the transition.

The story begins with a classic setup: An unexpected inheritance from an unknown relative that requires the central figure to travel to a...
Published on June 15, 2010 by Aderyn


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AND WE'LL BE JOLLY FRIENDS, FOREVERMORE ---, April 9, 2010
This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
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The Tale of Halcyon Crane

What a creepy feeling it would be to enter a beautiful and lovely mansion that you have just inherited from your long-dead/just recently passed mother and to hear somebody singing an old childhood song to you -- but nobody is there! Ewwwww -- things that go bump in the night, truths that are false, living a lie, more things that go bump in the night -- such a great premise for a good first book!

Hallie James is living in Washington state when she receives a letter that her mother has just passed away. Hallie is being summoned to Grand Manitou Island in the Great Lakes to have her mother's will read to her and to settle her estate. Wow! This is certainly news to Hallie as she thought her mother died years and years ago and now this?

This is just one of the many, many mysteries that await Hallie and YOU as you read this excellent first endeavor from Wendy Webb. Things are never what they seem as Hallie arrives at Grand Manitou Island. Suddenly, Hallie is worth millions and has an awesome mansion that is all hers. Suddenly, Hallie James is really Halcyon Crane. Suddenly, nothing Hallie has known to be the truth is the truth. Her life, it seems, has been based on lies, lies, and nothing but lies.

Hallie/Halcyon decides to remain on the island and find out a few things for herself. Why was her entire life full of deceit and falsehood -- all of them told to her by people she loved? Why do the islanders treat her as if she has the plague? Why does she 'feel' she is not alone in her lovely new home? Who really killed a small child some thirty years beforehand and what part did Hallie/Halcyon and her family have in that murder?

This is a good book, full of suspense, chills, spooky situations, and romance. It is written well. Ms. Webb has a gift for descriptive writing. When Hallie arrived at her new home this reader felt as if she were taking a virtual tour, seeing every sight of the beauty of the home through Hallie's eyes. I could see the stark landscape and feel that rain and fog on my face. Detailed writing at its best.

If you like romance, being just a little scared, ghosts galore, and a story full of twists and turns, this is for you. Check it out!

Thanks!

Pam
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but needed some work, June 15, 2010
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Aderyn (Small-Town Michigan, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
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This is the kind of story I enjoyed reading as a teenager, but which seems to insist that it be taken seriously as adult fiction. Unfortunately, it's far too predictable and has too many plot holes to make the transition.

The story begins with a classic setup: An unexpected inheritance from an unknown relative that requires the central figure to travel to a mysterious location in order to claim it. In this case, it's Halcyon Crane's mother, presumed dead long before it actually happened, and Grand Manitou Island, clearly patterned after Mackinac Island with its rejection of motorized travel and grand old homes.

The first point where I stumbled was when the author described the picnics and sweater-weather days Halcyon and her childhood friend, Will, enjoy long into November. I was surprised to learn that the author was from Minnesota, as I assumed this was due to a lack of familiarity with "up north" weather. Having lived in northern Michigan, I can assure you no one is attending picnics with only sweaters for outerwear in November. It's highly likely no one is attending picnics without snowshoes by then.

Meeting Will was stumbling block number two, as Halcyon reminisces about their many childhood adventures, although she was only 5 when she left the island. It works well to set up the close relationship between the two, but poorly in terms of suspending disbelief enough to enjoy the story. If you're suspecting that Will and Halcyon become romantically involved, you not only guessed right, but demonstrated how predictable the story is.

Since Halcyon was too young to really remember the tragedy that drove her and her father from the island, and Will was too peripherally involved, enter the character of the old family retainer, who was Halcyon's grandfather's nanny in the early 1900s and has stayed on as the housekeeper, walking miles to and from work, keeping the big old house spotless, the shopping done, the meals cooked, and her memory sharp enough to fill in all the gaps in Halcyon's family's story - despite being more than 100 years old, if the timeline is to be believed. Yes, my toes were stubbed again at this point.

The ghost story itself, which was the tragedy that drove Halcyon's father to take her and hide all those years ago, is equally predictable, although wonderfully set up and terrifically told. I hope that we hear more from this author, who really is a skilled writer. I just hope that she digs a little deeper next time.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok but something missing...., April 19, 2010
This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
Halcyon Crane is notified that her mother, whom she does not remember, has passed away and left her the family home. Halcyon has always thought that her mother died many years ago but she is unable to ask her father since her father now suffers from Alzheimers.

This is a story about some malevolant ghosts and I ususally like ghost stories but this one was not as good as some I have read. I liked the House on Tradd Street much better. The characters in the Tale of Halcyon Crane never seem true or real to me. They are very much caricatures and just rather dull to me. For example, Halcyon returns to the home that her mother has left her, the Hill House, and meets the young lawyer who is in charge of her mother's estate. They subsequently meet two times after this and are madly in love with little or no interaction between the two. It just wasn't realistic enough for me.

Most of the book is told by a mystical woman named Iris who would have been over 100 years old at the time of her meeting with Halcyon. Although this is explained at the end of the story, it never rang true for me.

The bad ghosts in the story are told at the end of the story "Your leaving now" and with very little fanfare, they leave.

I have just read better ghost stories. This isn't bad but it does not wrap the reader up in the story and characters all that well in my opinion. It was so so.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, March 25, 2011
By 
Tigger "kkegley" (Little Elm, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
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Hallie James is a young woman leading a fairly normal, even humdrum life, when she receives a letter that turns her world upside down. Her mother, whom she has been told all of her life had died in a fire when Hallie was a baby, had actually been alive and well until her recent death that prompted the communication Hallie received. Needless to say, Hallie's shock, confusion and grief are almost overwhelming. Why had her father lied to her all these years? Why would he have deprived her of the chance to have a relationship with her own mother? Unfortunately she cannot question him about it now, as he suffers from dementia and is nearing the end of his own life.

Hallie decides to visit her mother's home, located on a wonderfully remote and picturesque island that is, naturally, a perfect setting for such a mystery. Add to that a lovely old Victorian house, a smattering of mysterious characters, and the recipe for a cozy ghost story / mystery is set.

Sadly, there is no delivery on this initial potential. Firstly, just to get it out of the way because it's merely a personal prejudice of mine, I loathe the formulaic, token romance that has to take place. I literally skimmed over every one of those scenes just so I could get through the book. That's a mild irritant, though, compared to just how disappointing the story itself was. The "mystery" is completely unrealistic, the haunting just silly. As another reviewer wrote, none of it had the ring of truth. It was as if the author had two or three different ideas in mind and couldn't decide how she wanted it to go, so it seemed disconnected and ultimately half-hearted in the end, as if she just wanted to wrap it up and be done with it.

That said, I would give Webb another shot because if she can pull her storyline together she may have real skill. I had high hopes for Halcyon Crane because the synopsis was total book candy for me, and I'm familiar with Webb from some of the horror and gothic anthologies she's edited and that I've really enjoyed. If she gives it another go, I hope there is some improvement on form and consistency and please, PLEASE lose the juvenile romance element.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ghostly potboiler, March 2, 2010
By 
Jody (Northwest Ohio) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
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OK. Let me ask this question:

If you found yourself staying alone in a huge old house on an isolated island in the Great Lakes in November, heard ghostly laughter and childish voices, and a creepy Mrs. Danvers-like housekeeper you think of as a frightening old crow kept telling you macabre stories about supernaturally aided deaths in your own family in that house until you actually start seeing them, how long would you remain?

I'm asking, because Hallie James, the heroine of The Tale of Halcyon Crane, stuck it out long after I would have hired an exorcist and/or fled to the nearest hotel and/or got rid of the housekeeper. As the book progressed, I found it unbelievable that Hallie would say she 'loved' Iris' stories. Ee[...] Those stories make up a lot of the plot of Halcyon Crane, so if you don't buy the relationship, the rest of the book is a bit thin, though it does contain a nice romance and enough twists and turns in the final pages to satisfy the most jaded reader.

I did love the setting, loosely based on Mackinac Island which has its own kind of haunted magic. I'm afraid I found the writing to be rather leaden, though Ms. Webb has a wonderful imagination, and I'll certainly read whatever she writes next. Especially if it's set on Grand Manitou.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Silliest book ever, June 30, 2010
This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
When a woman inherits a big spooky house from the mother she never knew on an isolated island, what compells her to stay and create a life there? The coffee house and wine bar conveniently open in the off season? The handsome lawyer who handles her legal affairs, then handles her? The fluffy towels and the brand of shampoo she finds waiting in the bathroom? The creepy old housekeeper who conveniently shows up to cook just the right meal at just the right time and feeds her tantalizing tidbits of her family history in annoyingly short bites?

The heroine of this story, Halcyon Crane, has an IQ of about 5. How else could she blithely sit through her visions of the past and the spooky little girl without wondering if she's going crazy? Why else would she never question the age, living situation or the comings and goings of Iris, her housekeeper? Why would Hallie not find it odd that no one else on the island knows Iris? Why would she not look for Iris when she goes missing in a blinding snowstorm or doesn't call the police when Iris doesn't show up again until spring? Why doesn't she ponder the wildflowers she discovers growing in the middle of winter?

There are holes in this not particularly scary story that you could drive a horse-drawn carriage through. It is incredibly contrived and doesn't offer one single twist that a careful reader can't see coming 20 pages ahead.

If you want a truly well-handled ghost story, read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too predictable, without enough suspense, June 14, 2010
This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
"Was this nothing but a shadow of what never was, a memory deliberately implanted by years of storytelling? That's how powerful stories are. They can actually create the past if told often enough."
So it is with Hallie James, a young woman in Seattle, mourning the loss of her mother who died when she was just a child. Memories of her mother are vague, but she grasps upon any connection with her. Her father raises her alone, and shortly before his death she receives a shocking letter. Her mother never died at all, and up until very recently, had been alive. It soon becomes apparent to Hallie that her father had kidnapped her as a child, taking her away from her mother and their home near the Great Lakes. The memories she had were all fairy-tales.
Why would he do this? As Hallie returns to her birthplace, mourning the loss of both her father and the mother she never knew, she has to unravel the mystery of why he stole her away. Solving the mystery means making new connections with people from her childhood and discovering that in abducting her, he had staged their own deaths. The townspeople are convinced her father was evading a murder conviction, and now she has to evaluate the father she loved and the evidence she finds. She can't harmonize her own memories with the accounts of him by others, and the mysterious activities on Grand Manitou Island that occur after she arrives.
This is an old-fashioned gothic story mixing past and present, with an easy pace of action that makes it very readable. The voice of Hallie, whose real name turns out to be Halcyon Crane, is witty, self-deprecating, and warm. She appears to be an intelligent woman trying to solve an especially personal mystery.
That said, I found the story a bit too predictable, and as it unfolds the mysteries are solved a bit too easily to be believable. Hallie, despite her intelligence, appears to trust everyone on sight, despite the curious events that go on around her. The characters on the island are stereotypical: the charming barista, the shrewish innkeeper, the creepy housekeeper, and the wonderfully dependable male lead all fill their expected roles. As a young adult novel, this could work. For an adult, it came off childish. Its attempts to be scary and suspenseful ended up being downright silly. I could actually see this being a pretty interesting teen movie if there was a way to amp up the suspense and create a bit more realistic complexities.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Hill House, another haunting, December 26, 2010
This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
Hallie James is living and working near Seattle, where she was raised by her single father, now in a nursing home. During the course of one fateful week, everything she thought she knew about her life turns out to be a fabrication. Hallie travels to the Lake Superior Island of Manitou, where she was born, and very, very gradually, she learns the history of the family, the Hills, that she never knew she had. There seems to be only one person on this quaint island, where no motor vehicles are allowed, who is interested in helping Hallie; as it turns out, he was a friend during her unremembered childhood, and is now the local attorney. The rest of the islanders treat her with thinly veiled hostility. No sooner does Hallie disembark on Manitou than she begins to experience unsettling occurrences. Within a few days, she's moved into the Hill mansion (her legacy from her unknown mother) and she's positive she's seeing ghosts, who throw up some serious interference with her attempts to come to terms with who she is. It isn't long before it seems her very life is in danger. Thankfully, she learns that she can trust Will, and it's this blooming relationship that gives her the courage to persevere.

Wendy Webb spins a convincing tale for Hallie, in which the island, which appears frozen in time, is as important a character as she is. Apparitions, poltergeist activity, auditory manifestations, creepy family folklore, a spooky wise woman, and three generations of unexplained deaths all combine to create a deliciously uncanny atmosphere that pervades Hallie's every move. The Tale of Halcyon Crane is a praiseworthy first novel, recommended to readers who enjoy the paranormal without all the gore. Brava, Wendy Webb!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Throbs with the threat of menace, March 30, 2010
This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
Hallie receives a posthumous letter from a mother she thought had perished in a fire when she was a toddler. She is devastated to find out that her mother had been alive until recently and that all this time she thought Hallie and her father had drowned years ago. Hallie also finds out that she is now the heiress to a fortune and an old mansion in the Great Lakes area.

When Hallie goes back to claim her inheritance and find out what caused her beloved father to fake their deaths and run away with her, she finds a community that is suspicious and openly hostile. It turns out that before their disappearance, her father had been suspected of committing a horrific crime. Hallie has inherited not only a house and a fortune, but a strange history of family tragedy as well.

"'I don't want you to go back there, Hallie,' my father said to me. 'It's not safe for you... Look,' he said, pointing across the water. I turned my head toward the island, which was coming closer and closer. What I saw horrified me: hundreds, maybe thousands, of writhing beings, some in water, some on land. I believed they were ghosts or spirits of some kind, moving in slow motion, all of them looking at me with empty eyes. They were trying to speak, but their mouths were dark, empty shells.

"My father spoke. 'You see now, Hallie. That's why I took you away.'"

Hallie decides to stay at the old family mansion she inherited to clear her dead father's name and discover what really happened all those years ago. In a taut and spinetingling narrative, Webb expertly weaves a story of malicious ghosts, a witch, black magic, murder, and a legacy of hauntings that have troubled generations of her mother's family. Will Hallie succumb to the curse that has befallen her ancestors or will she be the one to finally break it?

The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb throbs with the threat of menace; this is an atmospheric, gothic story reminiscent of Turn of the Screw and had me racing to the finish late into the night to find out what happens next. Read this book - but do not do so when you're alone in the house at night and there's a storm outside, like I did. Big mistake. Creeped me out so much that I avoided going downstairs to get the laundry till morning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating ghost story..., March 2, 2010
This review is from: The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel (Paperback)
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I haven't read a good ghost story in awhile until, "The Tale of Halcyon Crane"! I absolutely adored this novel and the spine-tingling goosebump feeling that it provided. Beginning the novel last night, I didn't plan on staying up until the early morning reading... but that is what happened. I couldn't put it down and I refused to walk around my dark apartment which tells me that this was a worthy ghost story (atleast in my book).

Without being able to get into the specifics of the novel it is very difficult to really convey what I loved. One shouldn't go into the specifics of the characters and the backstory because it will ruin the "ghost" aspect of it. The location, details and characters just sang to me. This is the author's debut novel and I have found her writing to be very compelling and romantically gothic. This isn't a romance... this is a ghost story that weaves in an out and eventually you will find yourself caught in the web along with the characters that you are reading about. Within the books pages, you will be intrigued by the mystery, ghosts, witchcraft, character interactions, locale and most importantly your protagonist Miss Hallie James and the piece of the puzzle that she possesses and we are seeking.

Highly recommend to all lovers of ghost stories and locations that build and culminate at the very end of the story. As you are reading, you will have figured out a bit or two; but I feel that the author allows us these little tidbits because she further takes you to another place that you didn't see coming. I was wonderfully surprised after feeling so "smart" in having solved a piece of the puzzle and then shocked back into the realization that I was Ms. Webb's personal plaything and I had just been taken along for a wonderfully creepy ride! In the right hands, this story would be wonderfully creepy on the big screen.
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The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel
The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel by Wendy Webb (Paperback - March 30, 2010)
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