Help Wanted by Richie Tankersley Cusick is about (fyi, the Goodreads description is incorrect) a high schooler named Robin, who answers an ad to work in the old, enormous house of Mr. Swanson, cataloguing books belonging to his late daughter-in-law. Robin goes to work, despite her annoyance at Mr. Swanson’s dashing grandson, and the warnings he made to her about his apparently insane sister, Claudia. Soon, Robin gets pulled into the family’s sordid history, which is rearing its ugly head in the present.
This is my third book by Richie Tankersley Cusick, and I am still having fun with them. I love that they are all about a girl going up against a mystery, and having to learn who to trust along the way or pay. Also the gothic atmospheres are absolutely wonderful. Cusick always provides the spookiest houses.
I thought this particular book was fun, but, again, the plotlines came together way too quickly. There were no little clues that you could follow to unravel the plot, or even to be tricked into predict a totally incorrect plotline. I do realize that because this is basically a murder mystery that Robin gets pulled into, there’s not much time for gradual revealing of the plot; however, how abrupt it all is is not my cup of tea. I like a bit more intrigue.
I wish we had gotten to know the characters a bit more in-depth. I feel like in Trick or Treat we really had an inside look into all of the relevant characters. In this book, it was very minimal – just enough so you know how they fit in with the mystery. It all felt a bit too shallow for me, personally. However, I know a lot of people like more of a crazy plot than spending too much time with characters, and I am sure that’s why many have loved this book.
Overall, a super fun, creepy read. I will be delving into more of Cusick’s books in the future, though, after three in a row, it may be time for a short break.
In Trick or Treat, Martha, a sixteen-year-old high school student, moves into a new house with her dad, new step-mom and step-brother. She hates the situation, having been torn from her happy life in Chicago. Matters get worse, however, when she realizes that the house they’ve moved into, with its long hallways and secret passages, has a dark history she must soon contend with. Even worse, she might have to just get along with her new brother to survive.
You all know I love my spooky stories, my haunted houses, and this book had everything I wanted and more. Here is what I loved about the book:
I loved the way the house is portrayed. You can imagine it as a house like Hill House or Hell House or Bly Manor, not just because the house is imagined so detailed and labyrinthine, but because you can feel the heaviness of its history (whether embodied by a ghost or not). I felt actual fear for the protagonists when they became trapped in the house’s winding passages, stuck in the dark with the evil of that house. I also loved the imagery of the woods surrounding the house, as if not only the house were trapping Martha, but the land as well.
I loved the way the history of the house was written, and how it was reflected in all the important characters of this story. For Martha and Conor, her new brother, it is walking into something dark, evil, and unknown; for Martha’s new friends, Blake and Wynn, it is reopening old wounds, but trying to move on the best they can (or so it would seem). For Martha and Conor’s parents, well, they couldn’t be more thrilled with a haunted house – I could get Martha’s frustration with them as she had her experiences.
There were few things I didn’t get on with in this book, but even these didn’t really affect my enjoyment of it. I didn’t really like how bratty Martha was (and even Conor, though he didn’t seem it). I understand why she was – moving to a new house with a whole new family – but it felt a bit much at times. I also wished that the book’s ending went beyond just the end of the mystery. Lots of horror/thriller books do this, but I do wish we could see their lives getting back to normal, or that we could see them coming to terms with their new life. Again, though, this was not bad enough to ruin my enjoyment.
This is the perfect book to read during the spooky season and Halloween. I know Cusick wrote many other books like this, and I will be checking out more, especially during this coming October!
Twelve Nights at Rotter House is about Felix, a travel writer who writes about haunted places. His goal is to stay in the purportedly haunted Rotter House, or Rotterdam Mansion, for thirteen nights. He doesn’t believe in ghosts. But when he’s joined by his estranged best friend, and believer in ghosts, Thomas, strange things start to happen in the house that even Felix can’t explain.
This was a very enjoyable read, or I guess listen, as I listened to the audiobook on Scribd. It was really good on audiobook, and I recommend reading the book in that way if you can! Definitely a suspenseful thriller, playing on my favorite ghostly authors like Shirley Jackson, and other haunted media like Vincent Price films and The Twilight Zone.
Here is what I liked about the book (these definitely outweigh the things I didn’t like):
Really suspenseful, and compelling, I sometimes had to stop what I was doing while listening and just listen, eyes wide and waiting for the other shoe to drop in the story.
I love me a good haunted house, and J.W. Ocker really knows how to write a good and spooky haunted house. Filled with creaks and footsteps, disembodied screams, even a severed arm that seemingly came from nowhere. It’s such a classic haunted house story, but with its own horrifying twist at the end.
I liked Felix, the main character. He was not necessarily likeable, but he is relatable, and you do feel for him, you want him to succeed, and you feel so bad if and when he doesn’t. What Ocker also does well is write the characters that we don’t see: Thomas and Felix’s wives; the ghostly inhabitants of the house. You felt like you wanted to get to know them, but at the same time keep them in the shadows.
Here is what I didn’t like so much, or what I was confused by (warning: some spoilers ahead):
In the end we aren’t sure if there are ghosts in the house or not. While it was a good plot device to make that ambiguous, I do kind of wish, for myself alone, that there were definitive ghosts present. I am just going to believe that the ghosts were in fact there.
The twist in the end was good, but the way it was executed was a bit confusing. SPOILERS BEGIN HERE: Felix finds out that Thomas was sleeping with his wife, and kills them both at Rotter House. But, why would Thomas and Felix’s wife be there having an affair when they know that Felix is there writing a book? To me that could have been explained better. Actually, I think it might have also been fun if Thomas’ own wife was the murderer. But, I do understand why Ocker ends the story this way. It was definitely thrilling. SPOILERS END.
All in all, it was a good haunted house story, perfect for this coming autumn, if you are looking for something thrilling and spooky.
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!