The Dark Stalkers by Henry Bassett

I: The Dark Stalkers (The Dead Chronicles of Martha Railer Book #1)In a town not too dissimilar to yours lived Martha Railer; a solitary individual who lived by herself, yet enjoyed the company of her close friends whom she spent time with on days out. In a realm outside of human perception, something sinister had been put into motion, and inhuman dark figures arrived in her town. They stalked Martha on her day to day activities, but was she chosen or was it chance or, perhaps, even fate? However, a simple choice of a short cut home would change everything for her…& them. (taken from Amazon)

                               Have you ever seen one of those artsy films? You know, the ones where the story-telling is so different, and the camera shots are so distinct, that you know there will never be another movie like that made, no matter how many other people try to mimic the style? This felt a bit like that.

The story itself is a simple one, but the execution is so unique that the story-line in and of itself really doesn’t matter. I’m used to books that attempt to make the reader a part of the world. This one deliberately keeps the reader at arms’ length, allowing a glimpse into what’s happening, but never opening the door all the way. It lent the book a sinister vibe, like there was a secret being held which added a sense of urgency.

The point of view switches back and forth from that of Martha and the stalkers. Martha never really reveals much personality at all. Because of that, certain things that happened in the book didn’t hit me the way I think they were supposed to. This is one of six novellas and I wonder if possibly combining them all into one full-length novel might help the characters come to life a bit more.

I can’t sum up my opinion of this book in a neat “I liked it” or “I didn’t”. I’ll settle for this: the book is intriguing and will stick with me for quite a while.

If…Then: In Which You Get a Terrifying Glimpse Into How I Come Up With Book Suggestions

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed that my train of thought often jumps its tracks. Usually (but not always) these random jumps make perfect sense, but only if you’ve had a rather terrifying look into my thought process. Seeing as that can get a bit hairy, I suggest you proceed carefully, as I’m about to give suggestions of books to read next, based on books recently enjoyed. I will try my hardest to explain why, but…yeah.

If you enjoyed: The Starless Sea

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Find my review here

Then read: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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Find my review here

The reason I suggest The Ten Thousand Doors of January is that both Alix E. Harrow and Erin Morgenstern have an incredible way with words. Their prose is so gorgeous, it’s like enjoying a decadent treat. If you enjoy one of these two books, definitely read the other. Of course, other than that, the books are completely different. They make sense together to me, though. In fact, I seem to think that Alix and Erin went on a book tour together? All I know, is they didn’t come to a bookstore near me. Sad, sad, sad.

If you enjoyed: The Wheel of Time series

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Then read: The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

Find my review here

The reason behind this recommendation is that they have a similar feel. Both are high fantasy, both have complicated characters, both take you on epic adventures. Both will keep you guessing. If you enjoy one, then you’ll like the other. Actually, this thought process kind of makes sense.

If you enjoy: The Invisible Library

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Then read: Jackaby

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Find my review here

Here’s where my brain goes a little wonky. I have no idea why The Invisible Library series makes me think of the Jackaby series. Jackaby himself channels a Doctor Who-meets- Sherlock type of vibe. At any rate, it’s really good and I think readers who enjoy The Invisible Library need to check this one out. Incidentally, readers who enjoy Jackaby should absolutely read The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters! Both Jackaby and The Crocodile on the Sandbank feature intelligent, incorrigibly curious female characters.

If you enjoy: City of Ghosts

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Find my review here

Then read: Anna Dressed in Blood

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The thing with both of these books is that they have a bit of a “fun ghost story” feel to them. Neither of them is actually spooky (although both of them would scare the living daylights out of my middle-grade reader), but they come across as Supernatural light.

If you enjoy: The Name of the Wind

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Then read: Master of Sorrows

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Find my review here

Justin T. Call is a wordsmith, the kind that only comes around once in a while. Just like Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind, Master of Sorrows drew me in immediately. This book is excellent, and definitely needs to be read by everyone.

There are several others that I’m not including because the way I’ve likened them will make absolutely no sense to anyone sober. Hopefully, the connections for these make pretty decent sense. Enjoy!

Blood of the Fae by Tom Mohan

Image result for blood of the fae by tom mohan                                Liza McCarthy has never known the love she so desperately craves. The illegitimate child of a broken marriage, the identity of her father and her heritage are a well-kept secret. When she receives a call from a mysterious woman claiming her life is in danger, she manages to flee just before two men break into her home.

She soon finds herself in the tiny midwestern town of Halden’s Mill. There she is taken in by the Finns, a mysterious family who claim to guard the entrance to the fabled land of the faerie.

Liza is slowly drawn into a world of monsters, dark magic and a host of peculiar townsfolk. Now she must rethink everything she’s ever known and seek her destiny before two worlds collide with a force that could mean the end of the human race. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

I’m rather apathetic about this book, to be honest. The description immediately interested me: weird doings in a weird town? Talk of the fae? I’m down. However, the book didn’t really go anywhere.

I spent this first third of the book really confused. Things seemed very choppy to me. I couldn’t connect with Liza at all. For example: at the beginning she gets a call to an unplugged landline phone where a stranger predicts a break-in and leads her out of the house safely. It’s all very Matrix. But Liza spends much less time being completely weirded out than I could believe. Another thing that felt odd, is that there didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency at all. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters or what happened to them.

That’s not to say the book didn’t have its strengths. I liked the darker tones throughout the book, and it seemed that the storyline was always on the verge of going somewhere really cool. Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem to get there.

Ultimately, this book wasn’t for me.

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Image result for thornhill by pam smyParallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines—Mary’s through intimate diary entries and Ella’s in bold, striking art—Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, filled with suspense. (taken from Amazon)

I am so proud of myself! I struggle with reading anything that could be even remotely considered a graphic novel. I think it’s because of my epilepsy; my brain just doesn’t process that setup well. However, I was able to read this book no problem. Yay!

This book was interesting in that two stories were being melded into each other. One was told through a diary; the other, in pictures. The story told through diary entries is that of Mary, a lonely orphan who lives in Thornhill Institute in the early 80’s, right as it is closing its doors. She doesn’t speak, and has no friends, but she is extremely talented in making dolls and puppets. Because of her quirks, she’s horribly bullied by the other residents in the institute, and by one girl in particular.

As her story continues, we see illustrated pages scattered throughout. The illustrations tell the story of Ella, who has moved in next door. Ella’s story takes place in 2017, and seeing the two tales meet was pretty cool. They begin to merge slowly, as Ella finds some damaged dolls that belonged to Mary years ago. From there, a mystery unfolds: what happened to Mary? And how will it relate to Ella?

The prose was striking in its simplicity, and the illustrations were evocative of isolation and the need for human connection. While at its heart this short story is eerie, it’s also very sad.

This book is very short and I was able to read it in about an hour. That doesn’t lessen its effect though; this one will stay with me. It’s very thought-provoking (plus-those dolls are creepy!)

I recommend this book to those who like their (light) horror stories with a bit of mystery thrown in.

The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James- ARC Review

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For more than two centuries, Winterbourne Hall has stood atop a bluff overseeing the English countryside of Cornwall and the sea beyond.

In 1947, Londoner Alice Miller accepts a post as governess at Winterbourne, looking after Captain Jonathan de Grey’s twin children. Falling under the de Greys’ spell, Alice believes the family will heal her own past sorrows. But then the twins’ adoration becomes deceitful and taunting. Their father, ever distant, turns spiteful and cruel. The manor itself seems to lash out. Alice finds her surroundings subtly altered, her air slightly chilled. Something malicious resents her presence, something clouding her senses and threatening her very sanity.

In present day New York, art gallery curator Rachel Wright has learned she is a descendant of the de Greys and heir to Winterbourne. Adopted as an infant, she never knew her birth parents or her lineage. At long last, Rachel will find answers to questions about her identity that have haunted her entire life. But what she finds in Cornwall is a devastating tragic legacy that has afflicted generations of de Greys. A legacy borne from greed and deceit, twisted by madness, and suffused with unrequited love and unequivocal rage. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on March 17th, 2020.

Eerie and compelling, this is a perfect rainy day read. I had a hard time putting this book down; I was so completely immersed in the odd, spooky story of the Winterbourne women.

This book took place in two separate times, with the narrative switching easily back and forth. Alice went to the Winterbourne estate in 1947 to become a governess (why is it always a governess in spooky stories?), the previous governess having vacated the position abruptly. Alice immediately falls in love with everything about Winterbourne, from the two children she nannies to the widower who also lives there. However, all is not idyllic. Something is off, and things start to spiral out of control.

In many ways, this made me think of The Turn of the Screw. At times, I wasn’t sure whether Alice was the most trustworthy of narrators. As she descended into madness (or did she?), it became more and more difficult to discern what was really happening. The changeable nature of both the book and Alice were fascinating.

The other part of the narrative took place in present day and followed a woman named Rachel. She learns that she’s inherited Winterbourne, as well as a host of unanswered questions about who her relatives were. I didn’t connect with her character at all; in fact, she really annoyed me for a good chunk of time. I didn’t like that she was so wishy-washy. The parts with her in it were less interesting to me than the parts about Alice.

The atmosphere of the book was excellent. There was something about the way it was written that conveyed tension and a sense of wrongness, without ever overdoing it. Each word was placed with care and used to great effect.

My big quibble with the book is that the female characters had terrible taste in guys, every last one of them. I really couldn’t understand what the draw was to the widower, in particular. He was a world-class jerk. However, the rest of the book was excellent.

I highly recommend this one.

The Night Country (Hazel Wood #2) by Melissa Albert- ARC Review

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                                            ****Spoilers for Hazel Wood below!***

                   In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on January 7th, 2020.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. Unfortunately, I can only muster a like. The thing that originally drew me to The Hazel Wood was the creepy, dark feel of the fairy tales (I’m still dying to know the story of Twice-Dead Katherine). This book didn’t have that feel for me. The sense of something lurking just outside of view wasn’t there. While there are some messed-up story characters, they were much more straight-forward, which lessened their impact for me.

The plot is interesting, continuing with a new threat to the Hinterland, and the ex-stories who have left the Hinterland behind. Alice is one of the few ex-stories who has managed to eke a normal human life for herself, and many others resent her for that. Also, there’s a small matter of some ritualistic-looking deaths, and no-one knows who is responsible, or who will be next.

If you have read my review of The Hazel Wood (which you can find here), you’ll know that my biggest complaint was that the relationship between Alice and Ellery felt a little one-note. Again, in this book, the relationships fell a little flat. I think that’s just a character development issue that will improve as Melissa Albert continues to write, which I hope she does. Even though I didn’t love this book, Melissa Albert is a creative voice and I look forward to seeing what else she comes up with.

 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Before saying anything about this book, or my thoughts on it, I have to point out the brilliant cover. It’s absolutely perfect! There. I’ve gotten that off my chest. Now to move on to my actual review.

This little book is an eerie delight. It wasn’t at all what I expected, although I really couldn’t say why.  I guess maybe I expected more of a gothic atmosphere. I actually thought the book was more entertaining than creepy.

Mary Katherine lives in the family house with her uncle Julian, and her sister Constance. Everyone else in her family is dead, poisoned during a meal. Because of this, everyone in town understandably views them with suspicion and more than a little fear.

Constance won’t leave the house, and Julian can’t, but a visitor shows up in a see-through attempt to woo Constance and find the fortune everyone thinks is hidden in the house. Things build to a crescendo, which I won’t give away.

Merricat (as Mary Katherine is called) has a hateful, spoiled personality, which makes her a fun narrator. Constance is fearful and Julian is a blast to read. His odd quirks make for fun interactions.

I enjoyed this book. It’s a short one; pick it up if you’ve got a few hours to fill.

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

It wouldn’t be October if I didn’t talk about Bunnicula. This was one of my favorites growing up, and I’ve passed the enjoyment down to my oldest. I’m looking forward to the day when my youngest reads them too.

Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery is an easy chapter book. It’s told from the point of view of Harold, a pet dog. He’s shaggy, lovable, and rather gullible. He lives with his family, the Monroes, and a well-read cat named Chester. One night the Monroes go to a late-night showing of Dracula and bring home a surprise: a rabbit they name Bunnicula. Chester is convinced that Bunnicula is a vampire, sucking the juice from vegetables, and that only he can save the world from the evil machinations of the vampire bunny.

This series, of which Bunnicula is the first, is very special to me. I read it with my sister when we were younger and it was a wonderful way for us to bond. We’re still very close to this day, and we talk about those Bunnicula books from time to time.

This book is hilarious. I have no idea how the authors managed to come up with so many funny situations, but it had me in stitches when I read it, and my son reacted the same way when he read it. He’s reread the entire series several times, and will probably read them again this month.

This book is perfect for reading aloud (maybe a chapter or two a day?), or for readers just gaining confidence in their skills. My oldest and I took turns reading pages aloud the first time he experienced Bunnicula. It is one of my favorite memories. There are illustrations every few pages, but they are few enough that children are required to paint the pictures in their minds. I highly recommend this book, and October is the perfect time for a not-spooky “spooky” read. Enjoy!

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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This is the story of a governess who, upon taking charge of two young children, finds herself worrying that something malevolent is after them. She begins to fear that two deceased former employees are haunting the house.

I’ve read this creepy little story before, but it’s been quite a while, so I figured the time was ripe for a reread. I’m pleased to report that it’s just as eerie the second time around as it was the first.

While the pacing is excellent, building tension slowly, it’s the uncertainty of everything that stands out to me. Are the children really haunted, or is it all the product of the governess’ imagination? I love that it’s up to the reader to decide.

The characters are surprisingly well-developed, considering the shortness of the story. At barely over a hundred pages, this is easily read in a day. It’ll take a lot longer to mull over, though.

I quite enjoyed this spooky tale. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth giving a go. Henry James is a fantastic author, and this story is engaging and thought-provoking.

If you’ve read this book, what was your takeaway? Were the hauntings really there? Was the governess hallucinating?

Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories edited by Ellen Datlow- ARC Review

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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.

This collection is good, spooky fun! The fact that no one story felt like another is incredibly impressive in and of itself. From feeling like eating s’mores while reading, to getting a shivery feeling, this book has it all. A few stories even came across as Scary Stories to Read in the Dark for adults (Must Be This Tall to Ride by Seanan McGuire comes to mind) , which was awesome.

This book contains so much that I’m going to just mention a few of the stories that stood out to me.

* A Hinterlands Haunting by Richard Kadrey was one of the shorter stories in this collection. It was also one of the most fun ones. Not in the least bit spooky, it was funny and absolutely unique. Maybe funny isn’t the right word to use when discussing things that go bump in the night, but I laughed.

*The Surviving Child by Joyce Carol Oates: Sad and introspective, this was undoubtedly one of the most well-written in the collection. I loved it.

*Must Be This Tall to Ride by Seanan McGuire definitely had a “scary stories around a campfire” vibe to it. Short and fun, this one stood out to me.

*His Haunting by Brian Evenson was the one that felt the most eerie to me. It was something in the way it was told, I think. While none of the stories actually scared me, this one came the closest.

This is a good collection, especially with Halloween in a couple of months. Pick it up and tell me what you think!