The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane


The Lost Spells is a beautiful book of poems and illustrations. I don’t have an elaborate review to give this book, but I will make these key points:

-The illustrations by Jackie Morris were so beautiful, I want to go back through the book so I can look at them more closely.

-The poems are wonderful works of wordplay, yet seemingly simple, which adds to their charm. I haven’t read Macfarlane’s other works (though I have heard they are also good), but he is a great poet.

-I read this book at the perfect time: it is wonderful to read and peruse on a cold, Winter’s day, cozied up under a blanket.



View all my reviews

Book Review – The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell

The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell



The Faerie Hounds of York is a story about a man, Loxley, who is under a faerie curse. He is found in a faerie ring by Thorncress, a man who is no stranger to faerie himself. They go on a journey to find the lift for the curse, and on the way, develop feelings for one another.

This was such a beautiful book. The way Powell writes the characters, who are so gentle with each other; the way they write the atmosphere, both earthly and unearthly, tethering it to the natural world, and even the weather. Absolutely gorgeous.

I have been searching for a while for a book that was like Emily Tesh’s Silver in the Wood, and The Faerie Hounds of York definitely filled that space for me. This book, however, added more about faerie folklore and about Faerie itself, which makes this book doubly wonderful for me. And the way Powell portrays the powers of Faerie is stunning – they write Faerie as an extension of death, which very much captures the folklore elements that definitely should be in a faerie story. It is cold and harsh, but oh so enticing – this is the atmosphere of The Faerie Hounds of York.

I really have nothing bad to say about this book. It was a lovely, if sad, read, though even the sadness had a loving feel to it. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a tender, desperate love story, and who want to read about a Faerie land that pulls you in sharply.



View all my reviews

Support me on Patreon or buy me a coffee.

Book Review – Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee

Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee



Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee is about Kevin, a teenager living in Southern California, who just wants to be happy and know love. When he makes a wish after crying seven tears into the Sea, he gets more than he bargained for when a selkie named Morgan declares that he is in love with him.

This was such a wholesome and heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching at times too; to say that I cried many times would be putting it mildly. I am happy to say that I don’t have a single negative thing to say about this story. So, I will focus on my favorite aspects of the book.

I loved the way the romance between Kevin and Morgan was written. It was simple, honest, and so tender – that in itself was enough to make me cry, happily of course.

I loved the relationship of the two boys to their families. They were definitely the way children are with their parents, but it felt so healthy and full of love. And the siblings reminded me of how I am with my own sister. The portrayals of siblings were so delightful.

I liked the way Lee wrote about bisexuality and how Kevin dealt with coming out, but also showing how bisexuality looks in normal life, as when Kevin struggles to date like any awkward teen. I don’t see a lot of books with bisexual characters, which is a shame, but this one was done so well.

And finally, I loved the folklore. Selkies are one of my favorite creatures in mythology. I grew up watching The Secret of Roan Inish and reading tales of selkies. I loved this modern portrayal of this mythological creature, how Lee incorporated migratory patterns of seals, the marine biology aspects, the little old wives tales of the sea that people still think of today.

This whole story feels like a tale you’d tell sitting by a fire, or listening to the sea. It’s such a sweet story, and fills my heart with joy. And, being from Southern California myself, it made me long for the sea. I recommend this book to those who long for the sea and want something lovely for their hearts.




View all my reviews

Support me on Patreon or buy me a coffee.

Book Review and Discussion – Horrid by Katrina Leno

Horrid by Katrina Leno

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Horrid



I will be doing a separate discussion of this book after the review.


Horrid was a book I started reading after being told it was like Gilmore Girls, but dark and scary. And honestly? That’s a pretty good assessment of this book. You get the close mother-daughter relationship, with a shady history with the grandparents and other family. There is even a deep, dark, secret that everyone knows, though, as opposed to Gilmore Girls, our main character, Jane, is not as privy to these secrets as she would like to be. Basically take Gilmore Girls and Jane Eyre and you have Horrid.

I immediately loved Horrid when I started reading it (actually listened to it on audiobook, which was pretty amazing). The writing is gorgeous, and I fell in love with the characters. Leno wrote the supporting characters so well, I almost want a book with just them in it. And the atmosphere of the old house that Jane and her mother move into was perfectly spooky and haunting.

I really did love this book, up until I reached the end, which, I feel was very much ruined by the direction the author decided to take with Jane. I won’t spoil that – that will be in my lengthier discussion on my blog – but I am disappointed because it was such a good book, right up until the disappointing last scene. And this is why I can only give it three stars. That and the fact that the story needed more ghosts (but I always believe stories need more ghosts).

I can honestly recommend most of this book, just be aware that the ending is not what you would expect.

Discussion (for those who have read the book or don’t mind spoilers)

As I said above, I really liked this story, up until the last scene, where Jane gives in to the ghost of her dead sister. The story was going so well, and Jane was actually having a pretty good life: good relationship with her mother, new friends (I loved Suzy and Will, favorite characters hands down), new job at a bookstore (which is totally my dream). The only thing that’s weird in her life is that her family has a shady past and there’s a secret the town knows.

And when she finds out the secret, all of a sudden she decides her life is terrible? I don’t think so. I hate that Leno wrote Jane’s character this way in the end. It was like she changed her whole personality for no reason. And so abruptly too!! Jane is a very nice person, and not bad at making friends. She has no idea about her dead sister, but when her dead sister just suddenly appears and tells her that everyone is terrible, Jane believes it? That’s not at all believable to me. To say I was absolutely shocked that Leno ended Janes character that way is an understatement. And when Ruth, her mother, tells her the truth about her sister, Jane is so uncharacteristically unfeeling.

I really loved this book before the ending. I even liked the subtle haunting, but honestly the ghost of Jemima Rose ruined the whole thing. So it was a disappointment, though I still like the first half of the book. I guess if you did want to compare it to Gilmore Girls again, Jane and Rory having character changes aren’t that far off? Though I would argue that Rory was kind of insufferable the whole time, while Jane abruptly became insufferable.

Sorry, I do know that was a bit rambly, but I have strong feelings about this book! I welcome any and all messages/comments about my discussion and opinions. Did you agree with me, or did you like the ending? Did it make sense to you?

Cheers!


View all my reviews

Support me on Patreon or buy me a coffee.

Book Review – The Ghost of Mackey House by R.A. Johnson

The Ghost of Mackey House by R. A. Johnson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Ghost of Mackey House by R. A. Johnson



I received an early copy of this book as a Reedsy Reviewer. This review was originally posted on Reedsy (link below)

I started The Ghost of Mackey House thinking this story was going to center around this B&B, Mackey House, and the ghost that was in it, with the history surrounding it as its dark and mysterious backdrop. Unfortunately, for me personally, this was not the case.

Books with a haunted house are usually very heavy with atmosphere. The Ghost of Mackey House feels like it has very little atmosphere, likely because the story is so character-driven. The characters spend so little time actually experiencing Mackey House that the haunting atmosphere just isn’t there. I like in-depth characters a lot, but not when the integrity of the plot is put aside for character exposition and backstory. This sort of exposition takes up most of the book – we don’t get much of the ghostly atmosphere and plotline until two-thirds into the story, and so I was very uninvested for that much of the book.

I won’t get too into the characters themselves – overall, they weren’t bad, and I think if I was more prepared for an almost entirely character-based story, I would have enjoyed it more. I do wish, however, that I was able to empathize with the characters more. I think if they were written in such a way that I truly felt for them, they could have been excellent characters.

I don’t think this book needed to be as long as it was. I think a lot of the story relied on characters’ backstories to fill the wordcount, and thus made the story feel slightly incoherent and muddled. I think this book could have been great if it was shorter, almost a novella, and if it took place more inside the titular Mackey House. However, I do think the story, as written, could make a very cool videogame. In terms of the characters and the history, it really reminded me of games like Silent Hill or Resident Evil (if you were to make it more horror-based).

While The Ghost of Mackey House was not for me, I do want to end this review with some positives. When the story does pick up, in the later half of the book, the plot was a lot more compelling and I became really eager to find out what happened in the end. And, if you are someone who likes more character-focused storytelling, I will say the background characters are very fun, and I would read the book again just for them.

*Link to the Reedsy Review: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/the…



View all my reviews

Support me on Patreon or buy me a coffee.

Book Review – The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs


The House with a Clock in it’s Walls is about Lewis, who goes to stay with his uncle Jonathan in his big and mysterious house. There, Lewis finds that there are magical mysteries hiding in the shadows, and that his uncle, and others he meets, are also of a magical and mysterious nature.

I thought it was a fun story! I liked the characters a lot, and the atmosphere was properly spooky. At first I was a bit skeptical of the plot point where the dead come back to life – I was hoping it would just be ghosts! But it ended up working pretty well. The mystery of the clock was very intriguing, though it ended up being a bit less mysterious than I had hoped.

The ending felt very anticlimactic, though I think I probably would have thought so less ten or more years ago. I think, though, that Lewis deserved an anticlimactic, peaceful ending. However, I know that he will have more adventures in the John Bellairs books I plan to read next.



View all my reviews

Support me on Patreon or buy me a coffee.

Book Review – Drowned Country by Emily Tesh

Drowned Country by Emily Tesh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Drowned Country by Emily Tesh



Drowned Country is Emily Tesh’s sequel to the wonderful Silver in the Wood. This book takes place two years after the first book, and Silver and Tobias are no longer together (but they want to be). Silver, the new Green Man of the Wood, is asked by his mother and Tobias to help find a missing girl. Silver is forced to contend with himself when not only put into supernatural danger, but also when in close proximity once again to his love.

This sequel was just as wonderful as the first book. The imagery in Tesh’s writing continues to make me feel a sense of wonder and magic that lies in the world itself. All of the nature imagery is so beautifully written, I can’t get enough! And the imagery in the fairy realm that they go to is so stark, I could feel the loneliness that the characters project onto the place and vice versa. So poignant and keen.

We get the story in Silver’s perspective this time (the first book was mostly in Tobias’). I like that you’re not supposed to like Silver all that much, especially in the beginning. But he learns and grows as he realizes not only the extent of his powers, but also where he stands in relation to the rest of the world. Tobias is just as stoic as before, though we do get to see more glimpses of his humanity than in the first, as he is now simply a man.

I really wish there were more books in this series, as I would devour them all! The book takes place in Spring, but I think it was the perfect read for a day in early Autumn.
I recommend this duology to those who want to marvel at the world, to those who see more than most in the woods.




View all my reviews

Support me on Patreon or buy me a coffee.

Book Review – The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll

The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll


The Ghost Garden takes place just before the start of WWI. Fran is a young girl working with her father in the garden on the estate where they live. One day, Fran finds a bone in the garden. She thinks this is odd and mysterious, until more odd and mysterious things start to happen around the estate.

I wouldn’t call this a ghost story; rather, it is a coming-of-age story with ghosts in it. I really like how Emma Carroll portrays the mystery and childhood wonder in Fran’s explorations of the gardens and the mysteries they bring to her. There is a sense of whimsy, but also of fear as the mysteries turn into predictions of terrible things to come.

The writing is very beautiful. This is my first book by Carroll, but I am eager to read her other works (of which, I am happy to say, she seems to have many!). In this particular story, I get a lot of Secret Garden vibes, and, especially with the exploration of tombs and ghosts, I have ended up feeling very nostalgic for my own childhood. I usually don’t like war stories, but this one dealt with the impending war in a very healthy and subtle way.

I recommend this book to those who want some nostalgic feelings, and some sense of whimsy.



View all my reviews

Support me on Patreon or buy me a coffee.

Book Review – Stormhaven by Jordan L. Hawk

Stormhaven by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stormhaven (Whyborne & Griffin, #3)



In Stormhaven, the third installment in the Whyborne & Griffin series, the pair are tasked with solving another mystery back in their hometown of Widdershins. This time, however, the aspects of the case hit far too close to home for either of them.

As usual, Hawk does not disappoint. I love the story, the characters, the setting, all of it! I especially liked the imagery of the sea, as that was quite the theme in this book. The story was wonderfully compelling – though, thankfully, I wasn’t nervous about Whyborne and Griffin possibly getting separated or breaking up; this time, I was worried they’d both go insane (they do not, I am happy to say).

We get to meet Griffin’s parents as well, and that brings its own trials and tribulations. But Whyborne and Griffin are always there for each other, and their love continues to make me so very happy.
Christine is also there, though because of the circumstances, her skillset is not used as much. Hopefully she is doing more in the books to come.

That’s about all I have to say about this book. It was brilliant, and I am looking forward to reading more!



View all my reviews

Support me on Patreon or buy me a coffee.

Why Ghost Stories?

As most of you dear readers know, I love ghost stories. About half of my reviews consist of ghost or paranormal stories. They are probably my favorite things to read in the whole world.

You might be asking, A. Siegel, why ghost stories? I often ask myself this question, and upon thinking of some answers, I thought I would share them with you.

First I’d like to answer “why ghost stories?” for me personally.

Most importantly, I think that they are fun! I love reading these stories, imagining I am the one exploring the haunted house or the haunted woods, trapped in the dark with some unknown presence that could end or change my life forever. And that oh so wonderful creepy feeling! It is my favorite feeling reading a book.

Really, though, I think my love for these stories stems back to my love and interest in ghosts in general. I think I always believed in ghosts in some capacity, but I never was truly intrigued by ghosts until I was around eleven years old. I think it must have been an episode of Ghost Hunters or some such show that triggered my hours and hours of researching reported hauntings of famous sites, of ways to tell when there was a ghost, of the scientific proof that evidenced these spirits. Suffice it to say, it had become an obsession that is with me to this day.
As I’ve gotten older, though, the energy that I had to try to find ghosts has calmed down a little. Now, my energy is spent in finding all the great ghost stories ever told! And believe you me, that is the most fun.

Next I will try very hard to answer the other aspect of “why ghost stories?”

Why are ghost stories important?

For a more academic and well-researched answer to this question, I recommend reading The Ghost by Susan Owens, which talks about the history of ghosts in human minds, art, and literature. However, I want to attempt to answer this from my own observations.
Ghosts have been on the minds of humans even before writing was a thing, and, of course, we know that humans have always had a perfectly understandable obsession with what happens when we die. I think the best answer that we have for why it is such an obsession even now is said very well by Susan Owens: “[Ghosts] remain as elusive as ever, and we still have no more idea now of what they are” than people did thousands, even hundreds of years ago. And I think that’s why humans chase ghosts.
Humans are always searching for what they don’t know – hell, people are still trying to figure out what dark matter is, and that is even farther away from us than ghosts are supposed to be. I think ghosts add one more thing on our own planet, even in our own psyches that we still haven’t figured out yet, and I think that is beautiful. I think it’s important that humans keep striving to figure out the mysteries of the world, and part of me is glad that ghosts are so unattainable. The other part of me, of course, wishes that I could have a conversation with a ghost. Maybe someday!
In any case, this elusive mystery to the human species has left us with so much art and literature and creativity, and I think that is the most important result of the (maybe) existence of ghosts.

With that brief explanation, I would now like to share with you a few of my favorite ghost stories and authors of ghost stories, and why I think they are so successful as ghost stories (I guess the question here would be “why these ghost stories?”).

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

In my opinion, middle grade books do some of the best work with regards to ghost stories nowadays. This book is no exception, and has all the classic ghost story elements you could want from a spooky book: a haunted house in a spooky seaside town, a ghost bent on revenge, and a young hero who must face the ghost and win or be taken forever into whatever ghostly realm awaits her. A lot of more adult ghost stories don’t include as likeable a hero as Hickes does in his book, but I think that having such a character is very important. With this protagonist, you get a stronger dichotomy between the living and the dead, so you know where the protagonist stands, which side she is on (that of the living).

An example of a ghost story with a more ambiguous protagonist is

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This is probably one of the most famous haunted house stories ever told, and it lives up to its reputation. A young woman goes to the purportedly haunted Hill House to help conduct an experiment regarding the existence of ghosts. During her stay, however, her fragile mind traps her on the bring of living and death.
The great thing about this book is what a lot of great ghost stories do: they don’t let you know what’s real and what isn’t. Nor do they let the protagonists know what is real or not, and that is the scariest thing of all. Are there ghosts, or is it just yourself? And if there are ghosts, have you really been one of them all along?
I think these questions that the book poses mirror what we as humans always seek to answer: are we real? Or are we just part of some sordid imagination?

Like The Haunting of Hill House, many ghost stories tend to be very simple and atmospheric, which makes the spooky feeling all the more prominent. Some of my favorite authors that write this way are,

Shirley Jackson

Susan Hill (The Woman in Black)

Henry James (The Turn of the Screw)

Ambrose Bierce (The Moonlit Road)

Edith Wharton (The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton)

Stephen King (The Shining)

Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca)

There are so many others that I haven’t named, and many others that are still waiting for me to read!

Now, when you go back a while in history, the way ghosts are presented changes a bit. For those of you who don’t know, my expertise is in classical literature and folklore, including what the Greeks and Romans thought of the dead. We all know that the majority of spirits in these myths are seen in the Underworld – examples include the shade of Eurydice, Orpheus’ wife; the shades of Ajax, Agamemnon, and others who greet Odysseus and tell him what has happened since he left Troy; in a similar vein, the shade of Anchises who leads his son, Aeneas, through the Underworld and tells him of his destiny. However, there are stories from Roman writers that talk of ghosts in a more realistic setting.

Pliny the Younger, whom I have dubbed the silliest of boys, was a Roman political figure. He wrote many letters to his friends, and even the emperor! In one of these letters, he tells a story. Or, rather, he tells his friend that he heard from his friend that his friend’s friend saw a ghost once (yes he writes letters like this ALL THE TIME and it’s GREAT). One of the stories Pliny tells involves a man who buys a large house, but is warned that the house is haunted. So, the man stays up all night working and waiting for the ghost. Sometime in the night, he hears the clanking of chains, and sees a ghost with those chains pointing him to a spot in the house. In the morning, the man digs up the spot where the ghost pointed, and there finds a skeleton shackled with, you guessed it, chains. If that sounds familiar, you would be right, as we’ve seen the same theme of ghosts with clanking chains in such tales as A Christmas Carol.

These all have been done by Western authors, but one last one I want to mention is from Japanese mythology, called Kwaidan. These short stories, which were compiled by Lafcadio Hearn in the late 19th century, are very atmospheric and are very much tied into Japanese culture (I think the majority of it is Buddhist, but correct me if I am wrong). In many of these stories, ghosts are either helpful to our characters, or they offer some sort of warning or premonition of death.
I very much recommend Kwaidan, for not only are the ghost stories fun and spooky, but it gives an insight into how other cultures view the dead.

Ghost stories are so important, personally and to the human species in general, it is no wonder we keep writing them.

I hope this has answered the question “why ghost stories?” thoroughly, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about one of my favorite topics!
If you’d like to support me and my work, consider subscribing to my Patreon!