The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes is a story about a girl, Aveline, who goes to a seaside town to stay with her aunt while her mom is visiting her grandmother. In this town, Aveline, a firm and eager believer in ghosts, finds an old bookshop with a book of local ghost stories. However, this book unearths a mystery and a haunting past that Aveline is not prepared for.
I absolutely loved this book. It’s the type of story I would have loved at Avenline’s age, and that I love now at 28. It has all the combinations of adventure, ghosts, atmosphere, and folklore that keep me enthralled and on the edge of my seat. It is a short and very simple story, which does appeal to me, though I know many people would want something more complex and involved. I’m a simple gal and this story was perfect for me.
The atmosphere was perfectly spooky. Put aside the ghosts, this book takes place around Halloween in a stormy seaside town with an antique bookshop and some dark, local folklore. Can it get any better than that?
The characters were also very well-written. None of them annoyed me, and I only felt endearment towards even the ones that were supposed to be annoying.
I think one reason I related so much to this book is that Aveline reminds me a lot of myself (and several other girls I knew as a preteen). And, while I haven’t been exactly in her shoes, my love of the paranormal is a complete match. Though now that I am very much a grownup, I think I’m starting to relate more and more to characters like Mr. Lieberman, the owner of the bookshop.
Another reason this book was so good, in my mind, is that it reminds me of a lot of well-known ghost stories (Turn of the Screw/Haunting of Bly Manor, The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton, The Haunted Bookshop, and others), but Hickes makes those ghostly themes entirely his own. And it is no surprise, since Hickes himself grew up the same way and next to a graveyard no less! Hickes is a supremely talented writer and I am looking forward to his next book in this series, which I believe comes out later this year.
The Haunting of Aveline Jones was a wonderful read, and I might just read it again next Halloween! I recommend this book to anyone who loves spooks and a good ghost story.
As promised, here is a more in-depth review of the anthology Weird Woods: Tales from the haunted forests of Britain. Below I briefly discuss each story in this collection, and seeing how the forests are portrayed in each, and whether or not I think they were portrayed well.
The first story, “The Whisper in the Wood” by Anonymous, is really one of the only stories in this collection that gives the atmosphere of a haunted forest. Essentially, a man goes into the woods where he hears strange voices on the wind, and a gnarly tree that holds him there in the forest long enough to find the corpse which the disembodied voice belonged to. I think one reason this is very much more of the haunted woods genre than the others is because it was written in the 19th century, when the sublime and the preternatural took up the minds of such authors.
“Man-Size in Marble” by Edith Nesbit is indeed somewhat of a ghost story, but really has nothing to do with the woods, except maybe to establish where the story takes place. However, the antagonizing powers in this story have nothing to do with woods or trees, rather they are involved with statues and graves, the opposite of trees. To be honest, I am not sure why this story has been included in this anthology all about the woods.
“The Striding Place” by Gertrude Atherton is not about a haunted forest, but it is about the dangers that the woods can possess. Here the danger is a stream in Strid Wood (Yorkshire Dale), which can be treacherous to cross. In this story our protagonist envisions horrors that have taken place in this wood, the deaths caused by the stream. Whether these visions are of his imagination or are real omens are not specified. I am happy this was included in the collection, as stories about dangerous parts of nature are often what end up as a major part of folklore.
E.F. Benson takes a more mythological approach to the forest in his story “The Man Who Went Too Far.” In this story, the central character has decided to become one with nature, taking his desire so far as to come close to meeting the god of nature himself, Pan. However, he realizes that meeting and communing with Pan could mean death. There are so many woodland folktales about goat men, and Benson takes us right to its mythological source. Not so much a haunting of the woods, but a going back to a more primeval version of nature, which is why this story is so apt for this collection.
Have you ever walked in the woods and come upon a tree so unusual and captivating that you must know all about it – every root and twig? W.H. Hudson’s “An Old Thorn” focuses on such a tree that captures the interest, and perhaps the lives, of several different people. It stands in its place forever as a godlike being. While a tree is the main focus, the descriptions of said tree were a bit lost on me – I could not really picture it, though perhaps that adds more to the mystery.
“The White Lady” by Elliot O’Donnell is indeed a ghost story, but the portrayal of the woods and trees is not really the main focus. A young man sneaks out in the middle of the night to catch a glimpse of a ghost called “the white lady.” In order to see her, he must hide in a hollow tree, which is really the extent that we see any appearance of a forest or a tree. It’s a fun story, but not really one that I would’ve picked for this collection, simply because the woods are not a focal point.
“Ancient Lights” by Algernon Blackwood is the one story of this collection that feels the most folkloric. In this story, a man on his way to a large house gets lost in the forest on the edge of the property. The thing is, though, this is not a forest one would expect to get lost in: it’s small, and at first glance you can see the house beyond it. But there are powers in the forest, powers of the trees and perhaps of the wee folk, that are determined to turn the man this way and that, making him completely lose his way. Besides tales of the goat man, fairy stories are at the pinnacle of woodland folklore, and I am sad that more of those were not included in this collection.
Mary Webb’s “The Name Tree” doesn’t focus on a forest, but it does focus on a tree, specifically what she calls a “name tree”, which the main character is drawn to. This tree is also a representation of her life, and when a man desires to have this young woman sexually (and indeed beneath her own name tree!), she refuses, as she nor the tree could belong to anyone. But dire circumstances force her hand, and she submits to this man under her tree. During their sexual encounter, he breaks the tree, thus also ending her life. This is a piece of folklore I would very much like to know more about, and if there is such a tradition in history. That a tree could be the vital force of an individual, it is almost a fairy story, but somehow seems to go much deeper than that.
Just like “An Old Thorn,” “The Tree” by Walter De La Mare focuses on a single tree that captures the minds of the main characters. This tree seems to bring its own climate, its own ecology, though it all seems alien, even unalive to the protagonist. And yet, he cannot get the tree and its creatures out of his mind. I think this story would have been more interesting to me if I had understood the philosophy behind it. I like the premise of a sort of alien tree that is its own world, but I need to understand its effects on the characters better.
“He Made A Woman” by Marjorie Bowen is a retelling of a Welsh folktale from the Mabinogion, in which the woman Blodeuwedd is created to be the wife of the Welsh hero Llew Llaw Gyffes. In this retelling, a young man stays at the home of a scholar, who has there also a young woman named Blodeuwedd. The young man falls in love with her, how she connects to the forest, and seems to come from it, like a fairy creature. However, in the end as he tries to embrace her, Blodeuwedd vanishes and all that is left is an oak flower, a twig of broom, and a cluster of meadowsweet, the ingredients used to create her. I am glad this tale was included in Weird Woods as so much of Welsh mythology has to do with and takes place in the woods. I am reminded of when king Pwyll meets Arawn, the god of death, in the woods, and I am tempted to do a retelling of this myself.
“A Neighbor’s Landmark” by M.R. James is indeed about a haunted forest, though the story tells of it more than tells of an experience within it. Betton Wood is a forest that no one will enter, that carries shrieks and cries on the wind. Even at the end of this story, the woods are still a mystery. I think with more of an experienced telling this would have been a better story. However, its themes did remind me of stories like Naomi Novik’s Uprooted.
And the last story, “N” by Arthur Machen, explores the liminality that trees provide in so many folktales. It is reminiscent of a sort of NeverNeverLand, exploring the way forests and trees can represent an eternal childhood. I really only have one comment for this story: needs more trees.
As I said in my initial review of Weird Woods, I was expecting much more folklore than was given. However, as I discussed above, there are individual stories that do exude folklore and the darker aspects of mythology. I don’t know that I would recommend this to anyone for folklore purposes, but to get a sense of how authors, and really everyday people, view nature in Britain.
If, however, you want something more folkloric, check out English Folktales, or any of those that revolve around the wee folk, and Welsh folklore. These are guaranteed to have woodland folklore.
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The Canterville Ghost is about an American family in the late 19th century that moves into Lord Canterville’s large and old home. However, the large house is haunted by Canterville’s ancestor, who tries to frighten the family away, or even to death! But this family isn’t to be scared away by a ghost, and is even intrigued by the historical mysteries it still carries.
I had known about this story before I read it, as I had watched a cartoon version of it when I was little, which had very minor differences. The Canterville Ghost is my first full Oscar Wilde reading (I’m still in the middle of Dorian Gray) and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Oscar Wilde and a ghost story is the perfect combination. Using his artful language and wit, he is able to humorously tell the tale of an utter failure of a ghost even among the mysterious and beautifully-described gothic atmosphere of the house. The only thing I would wish to be different, at least a little bit, is the ending, which was nice, but I think I would have liked it to be more than just nice. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story, however.
The Canterville Ghost is definitely up there with my favorite ghost stories, and Wilde’s way of telling ghost stories is wonderfully refreshing. I recommend this story to those who want some wit in a gothic setting. I listened to this book on Audible, and I very much enjoyed it as an audiobook.
I picked up Weird Woods because, if you do not know already, I am a huge fan of folklore and hauntings. From the description, I had expected to find folktales about Britain’s forests, sort of the origins for all the haunting stories we know and love. Basically I expected it to be more like The Book of English Folktales by Sybil Marshall. Instead, this book is an anthology of short stories that are set in haunted British forests or have something to do with trees, and are written by popular authors of this genre from about the early 20th century (some late 19th).
So, while I did enjoy most of the stories generally speaking, I was a bit disappointed at the lack of actual folklore, and that is why I have given this book only three stars.
Nonetheless I loved the dark atmosphere of all the stories, the gnarly roots of the forest, and the trees that seem to be guiding the protagonists to either happiness or misery, depending on their mood and on the attitude of the hero.
I recommend this book to those who want ghost stories, but, to those who prefer more folklore, this may not be the book for you.
I will be discussing the stories in-depth next week on my Patreon, so please do check it out if you want to see my extra analysis!
Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black really is a classic ghost story. The protagonist, Arthur Kipps, prompted by his family to tell them a ghost story, recounts his experiences performing his duties as a solicitor for the dead Mrs. Drablow at the isolated Eel Marsh House. There he sees what is known there as ‘the woman in black’ and learns of her cruel history, and the cruel revenge her spirit takes in turn.
Of course I started reading this because I saw the movie, but if I had known The Woman In Black was a book first, I would have dived right in. This ghost story is up there with stories by Shirley Jackson, and the gothic works of Edith Wharton and Henry James. However, I think this is one of my favorites so far.
It’s such an atmospheric novel, I could feel the cold and wet of the marshes surrounding Eel Marsh House, could hear the squelch of the mud as the horse and carriage were heard by Arthur to sink and die in the marsh over and over, repeating that singular moment in time. One gets the sense of looking back into the gothic, stepping through the threshold of the present into a past as grey and grim as death.
There are actually only a few differences between the book and the movie. (Spoilers ahead) Arthur lives past the tragedy of the woman in black and into old age, though still mourning the death of his son. They do not actually find the carriage and dead son of the woman in black, though Arthur was able to figure out the entire mystery based on papers and the apparitions he saw and heard.
I listened to The Woman In Black on audiobook, which was a wonderful experience. The book was read by Paul Ansdell.
I recommend this book to all who want a classic ghost story, to all who want to step into the past, no matter how foreboding it might be.
I started reading – listening to, rather – The Turn of the Screw for a reason that will probably surprise none of you. I recently watched The Haunting of Bly Manor, and, enjoying it so much, of course I had to read the original work. I was happy to find many similarities and differences that make the book and show respectively unique.
I’m sure you all know this is a ghost story. However, we do not know if the house, Bly Manor, is haunted by the ghosts of Peter Quint and Ms. Jessel, or if the ones haunting are actually the people who live there, Flora, Miles, Ms. Grose, or our protagonist herself. It is this unknowing that makes The Turn of the Screw such a compelling story. I do wish more of this ignorance took place in the show, as there is nothing more terrifying than the unknown.
Right now for me, The Turn of the Screw is right up there with other ghost stories such as The Haunting of Hill House, and the ghost stories of Edith Wharton. There’s something so simple in the telling of the story that makes the reader pay attention to the wonderfully creepy atmosphere of the haunted houses.
I will almost certainly have to read this book again because, while it is a well-written story, a lot of the language is, not unexpectedly, old-fashioned, and so I will just need a second look.
I listened to the audiobook on Scribd, which I recommend everyone gets; it is a thousand times better than Audible, and has much more content (no this is not an ad, but I would certainly not mind working with them!). The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Flo Gibson, but there are many other narrators to choose from.
I recommend this book to all of you who want the creeps and spooks this Halloween!
As most of you probably know by now, I am a HUGE fan of ghosts and ghost stories and folklore concerning ghosts. I had heard about this book from YouTuber and author Jen Campbell, who recommended this book about Japanese ghost stories highly. I must say that I was hardly disappointed when I did read this book.
Not only did I get to read about ghosts, but in doing so I got to learn more about Japanese culture and folklore, a subject I wasn’t, and still am not, very familiar with. There were ghost stories regarding samurai, Buddhist ghost legends, and quite a few stories about death and ghosts regarding love and marriage, which I did not even consider could be a category in and of itself!
There are two main reasons I gave this book 3 stars instead of 4 or 5. The layout of this particular edition was only okay – I would have preferred it to be more organized in terms of style and layout. At the end of this book, we get a few essays about insects from Hearn, our early 20th century scholar and translator. I am fine with these sections, but Hearn didn’t relate them to Japanese ghost folklore as much as I would have liked.
In any case, this book of Japanese ghost stories was informative and intriguing. I recommend to all who want to learn more about ghosts in non-western settings.
I was inspired by Lauren Wade’s video on Youtube, where she talks about her own favorite classics. Some of my favorite classics are a bit more modern or a bit more unusual, but I think that’s what makes them classics to me! These are in no particular order, though based on my other posts I think you can tell which one’s are going to be more favorite than others.
Also doing this because I’m in a bit of a reading slump, but hopefully writing and thinking about books will inspire me to read more!
The Haunting of Hill House This is the hauntingly atmospheric novel by Shirley Jackson about a group of people who stay at Hill House, a supposedly haunted house. Told through the perspective of Eleanor, we see a shaky view of the people she meets and becomes more intimate with, and her unreliable narration amplifies the uneasiness felt in the house.
I love how uneasy this book makes me, both because I get a bit embarrassed for Eleanor, but also because you KNOW there’s something strange going on in and because of that house. Jackson really knows how to give chilling vibes.
Rebecca As you might be able to tell, I do love my haunted house stories, and I count Rebecca as one of those stories. In this book a young woman meets and then marries the mysterious Max deWinter, whose wife, Rebecca, died a year before. As the new Mrs. deWinter tries to get used to her new role, she realizes that the grand manor, Manderley, holds more secrets and ghosts of Rebecca.
This book is so dark and sends the shivers up the spine. Like Eleanor in Hill House, the new Mrs. deWinter is unsure and uninformed enough to make the narrative shaky, unreliable, and eerie, at least until she is able to be in on things.
I, Claudius This historical fiction recounts the life of the Julio-Claudians in the early days of the Roman Empire, through the perspective of the emperor Claudius. The narration takes us from the rule of Augustus and ends when Claudius becomes emperor (the sequel Claudius The God tells of what happens after this).
As a fan of ancient history, I love this telling. We get to know fun characters like the murderous Livia, the insane Caligula, and all who seek to impede Claudius’ life. Of course there are elements of this book that are not quite historically accurate, but it is still very, very entertaining.
The Lord of the Rings If you know me even a little, you will know that these are my favorite books in the world. I’m not going to go into the plot too much cause I assume if you haven’t read the book, you’ve at least seen the movie, and they’re pretty similar. The only think I will say that is missing from the films from the book is more of the folklore aspects that Tolkien fills his books with. I LOVE folklore and fairy tale, and reading about the elves, the barrow wights, Tom Bombadil, the mythology behind trees, it’s all just *chef’s kiss*. And the fact that all of this folklore has informed a lot of modern and contemporary folklore is what makes these books classics for me.
Sense and Sensibility One of my favorite romances EVER! I read this after I watched the movie with Emma Thompson and the rest of that all-star cast. I fell in love with Alan Rickman’s Col. Brandon, and so I had to see for myself if he is just as wonderful in the book and HE IS!! Also, a Jane Austen is always a classic, this just happens to be the best and favorite of mine!
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury’s famous novella takes place in a dystopian (deceptively utopian) world where books are outlawed, so people do not have ideas that are non-conforming. Our protagonist, a fireman, is one of the people who burns books when found. But what happens when one day he decides to keep and read one?
This is probably my favorite dystopian fiction because so many times have we almost lived this reality, where knowledge is kept secret and away from those who would learn and have their own ideas. Also, any book about books is for me, and a dystopian book about books? Oh ja.
Paris in the Twentieth Century Another dystopian! This is a more obscure book by Jules Verne, imagining what life might be like in the late 20th century. In this version of modernity, the arts and humanities are considered obsolete, and our main character, a classicist and Latinist, has trouble fitting in this world.
As a classicist myself, it is encouraging to read about those who will love the classics and language and art even in dire times, though it is sad to think about this decline. Even though it was in translation, I love the way Verne tells his stories.
The Last Unicorn I also read this book after I saw the movie, and I am happy to say that they are very similar! The book is so fantastic though, with a diverse and quirky cast of characters. I also love the theme of the disappearing fairy tale represented by the loss of the unicorns in this book. And a wizard named Schmendrick? I want him to be my best friend. Another more modern classic, but a fantasy classic nonetheless!
The Chronicles of Prydain Again, I read this classic fantasy series after watching Disney’s The Black Cauldron, which takes its name from the second book in the series. In this series we follow three heroes, Taran, Princess Eilonwy, and Fflewddur Fflam as they overcome the evil powers that be in the lands of Prydain.
This series is all based on Welsh mythology, much of which can be found in the Mabinogion. I think that’s why I was so drawn to it at all, cause Welsh mythology is so cool!
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton Not really a classic in terms of books, but definitely in terms of the author. Edith Wharton is famous for her novels, but some don’t know that she also wrote ghost stories! Very much in the same vein of horror as Shirley Jackson, Wharton sets many of her stories in houses that have ghosts or secrets, the perfect haunting and eerie atmosphere that I am just in love with!
Those are my top 10! What are some of your favorite classics?
picked up Bierce’s collection of ghost stories because I am a huge fan of reading ghost stories written around the same time and style – think Edith Wharton, E.F. Benson, Shirley Jackson, etc.
While these stories were VERY spooky, and definitely enjoyable, I encountered some rather unfortunate mannerisms of the time; that is, sexism, racism, making men either murderers or gamblers. It is unlike Wharton’s stories, which center around circumstances outside of the protagonist’s control – Bierce’s characters often put the supernatural experiences upon themselves while also being kind of horrible people. I didn’t ignore it as I went, nor did I excuse the behavior of the characters, but I did feel these traits were what made the stories so centered upon the characters’ downfalls.
I don’t know if I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn’t like period ghost stories as much as I do.