Book Review – The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman

The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



In The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman, couple Jess and Clare Martin travel from New York City to the New York countryside where Clare grew up, to get away from their troubles and to repair their marriage. Or so Clare is led to believe. They become caretakers of the house of their old, wealthy writing instructor, but are uneasy as ghosts, both real and imagined, start to come out of the house.

This is the second novel I’ve read by Carol Goodman; the first I read was The Lake of Dead Languages. Overall, I very much enjoyed this novel. The atmosphere of Riven House was palpable – you could feel the secrets seeping out of its walls (sometimes literally!). Adding the touch of Winter to the landscape as well made this novel a bona fide ghost story (like in The Children of Green Knowe), even if the ghosts were only in the characters’ minds.

The characters were good, and mostly believable. There were times, however, when their decisions didn’t feel so realistic – though if you are frightened out of your wits, how realistic can you actually be? For Clare, though, Goodman did a fantastic job narrating the mind of someone who is almost certainly paranoid and delusional, but whose delusions are proved to be based in reality more and more over time. By the end of the story, you can’t be certain if Clare has overcome her paranoia or has been more soundly rooted to it. But, after reading her story, you can’t blame her for it, instead you feel empathy, like you feel that you yourself have her wits. And that is why Goodman’s characters are so well-written, even if I very much don’t agree with a lot of their decisions.

These themes, atmosphere, and characters (especially the crazy wife) recall such stories as The Yellow Wallpaper, Dragonwyck, and Jane Eyre, making this book feel wonderfully gothic, and a short version of the Bildungsroman story.

The Widow’s House was a good book to end the Autumn season with. I still like The Lake of Dead Languages much better, I felt it was a more interesting story, but that could just be because I’m biased towards people who study Latin. This story was still very compelling and had me anxious for Clare through to the end.



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Book Review – Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Gallant by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Gallant by V.E. Schwab is about Olivia, who cannot speak, but who can see ghosts. One day, she receives a letter at her orphanage/school from her uncle, asking her to come home to her family estate, Gallant. When she gets there, however, she finds that her uncle did not in fact write her that letter. So what brought her to Gallant? And why had her mother warned Olivia, in the journal she left behind, to stay away?

V.E. Schwab has written the perfect haunted house/gothic tale in Gallant. It has hints of The Haunting of Hill House and Crimson Peak mixed in with Coraline. I loved the juxtaposition of life versus death, of mirrored worlds where the reflection is lifeless. To me, this is true horror, the true fear of what lies on the other side of the threshold – it’s what we see when we think of the Faerie realm, of the place over the garden wall, and Schwab captures that terror so wonderfully.

I really don’t have anything I disliked about this book, so I will talk more about the things I did like. I liked the atmosphere of Gallant, how it was definitely spooky, but also definitely alive with something.
I loved the way Schwab portrayed the ghosts (or ghouls in this book), and the system within which they worked – seen by Olivia, and even able to be manipulated to an extent that made a lot of sense for this story. A lot of ghost stories I’ve read fall short on their representation of ghosts, but this one joins the ranks of Shirley Jackson, and even Edgar Allen Poe.
I liked the characters, too. How Schwab portrayed their pain and grief so well, how she portrayed Olivia’s lack of understanding of this grief in the beginning, and led her to understand it later. The characters (the ones on our side) are warm, are a family, are what you want for the hero who must (very literally) face death.

I don’t want to say any more because that would spoil the story. But this book was nothing short of perfection, and I really want V.E. Schwab to write more ghost stories in this style.



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Book Review – The Drifter by Richie Tankersley Cusick

The Drifter by Richie Tankersley Cusick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



The Drifter by Richie Tankersley Cusick is about Carolyn and her mother, who, after the death of Carolyn’s father, find out that they’ve inherited an old house from their old aunt. Carolyn’s mother desires to turn the old house into a bed and breakfast. But Carolyn doesn’t like the idea, especially considering its location – right on the cliffs over the sea in dense fog – and considering is grisly history. Soon, the history of the old house comes out to haunt Carolyn.

This book was wonderfully atmospheric and spooky. I love haunted stories that take place by the sea, spooky or no (see The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Haunting of Aveline Jones), and I am adding this book to that list of mine. Cusick has such a talent for making a location – haunted house, haunted school, haunted seaside cliffs – the most frightening place you could ever go. I was on the edge of my seat worried for Carolyn in that old house; I am sure I started hyperventilating at some point.

There were points in the plot and aspects of the characters, however, that I didn’t like as much. For one thing, Cusick really knows how to make a character annoying. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it makes sense for her stories. But I think I would like to have more chill, reasonable characters sometimes (like the brother in Trick or Treat). Carolyn also seems to trust or distrust other characters way too quickly: she doesn’t take enough time to process anything, but especially people she’s just met. Also, she really, really needs to stand up to her mother more.

The plot felt like things happened too quickly towards the end. I usually prefer very gradual revealings of different elements of a mystery, which is what I liked more about Trick or Treat. In this book, the beginning is slow with lots of atmosphere – this I liked. The end, though, hits you with a bunch of necessary plot points all at once. I would have liked to have gotten to know more in the beginning so that things would connect better later.

All of this said, I really did love the atmosphere of this book. I will definitely be reading more of Cusick’s work, and I am so happy there is a giant backlog of books of hers to read!

I read this book on Scribd



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Book Review – Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



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!


I read this book on Scribd.



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Book Review – Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Dark Matter is a story about a broke young man in 1937, who joins a group going on an expedition to the Arctic. The trip north is fine, but once they get to their destination, the young man realizes that there are dark forces present there that wish them harm.

As most of you know, I LOVE ghost stories. But what I liked about this one, that I like in other stories like The Haunting of Hill House and The Turn of the Screw, was that we don’t always know what part of the haunting is real or is just in the head of the protagonist. In Dark Matter, there are elements of both. There is definitely some malevolent spirit haunting the shores of the Arctic campsite. However, the polar night and increasing cold do nothing to help the paranoia of our protagonist. And I love this. I love that the protagonist is being haunted by both spirits and himself, and has to contend with the long darkness of winter. And as he says about the darkness:

“Fear of the dark. Until I came here, I thought that was for children; that you grew out of it. But it never really goes away. It’s always there underneath. The oldest fear of all.”

This is a very ruminating book, where the protagonist, writing in a journal, analyzes everything around him, including the behaviors of his companions and of himself. There isn’t a whole lot of action, but neither is the book particularly slow. There’s always something happening, though usually via the perceptions of the protagonist. I love that. I love a ruminating ghost story. It lets you know why there must be a ghost present for the protagonist to perceive. Michelle Paver writes this characterization and atmosphere so well.

I really want to read Paver’s other books now – I love the way she writes horror: it feels very much like the ghost stories written in the early 20th century (which are often my favorites). I recommend this book to those who want a chilling (literally) ghost story. I also recommend listening to the audiobook. Ghost stories were meant to be told aloud, and Dark Matter is great as an oral story. I listened to the fantastic narration by Jeremy Northam.



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Book Review – Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House by David Mitchell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Slade House is a chilling, paranormal story – actually series of short, related stories – about a house and a set of twins who defy the laws of time and decay.

This book is like Coraline for adults, but without any inkling of warmth. Not to say that that’s a bad thing – this book is meant to feel cold, to feel fake and empty, to feel like a void, and it does it well.
I think, however, it was a little too empty and cold for me personally. But it was still a compelling read.

Here’s what I liked:

I liked that each character who gets lured to Slade House is already facing the brink of their own void. They come into this haunting already fragile, and that is why they are lost. I do wish that some of the characters had better qualities about them (I think Sally was the only one I actually empathized with), but that would mean they might not have been ripe for the picking.

I liked the atmosphere. This book is so wonderfully atmospheric, and David Mitchell makes each guest’s experience of Slade House different enough that you feel like you are yourself in a dream with them. The atmosphere of Slade House and its many forms is oppressive, in a way that sucks you in and refuses to let you go.

The biggest complaint that I have is that the book doesn’t go into the hauntings enough. Not of the house or the twins, but of the guests lost to Slade House. In the beginning, we get images of ghosts and their “residue,” but by the last couple of guests, the story has very little mention of these hauntings. I do wish we had seen more involvement from the ghostly inhabitants, maybe find out what happens to them in the end.

Overall, Slade House is a compelling book with a chilling and heavy atmosphere that will leave you wondering if it had all been a dream. I recommend it to those who liked books like Coraline, and other chilling haunts.



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Book Review – The Bewitching of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

The Bewitching of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Bewitching of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes


I am so, so happy that the first book I finished for 2022 was The Bewitching of Aveline Jones! I have been waiting to read this book after I read The Haunting of Aveline Jones last year, and just like that first book, this wonderful sequel did not disappoint.

In this book, Hickes brings back Aveline and her friend Harold into another dark and haunting mystery. However, instead of just an angry ghost to contend with, they have to deal with witches too. Now that was a great combination of paranormal plots!

As usual, I loved the haunting and paranormal elements that Hickes wrote. I also loved the folklore elements that he brought into this sequel – about the witches of England and the ways people used to ward against them (some of which I had only heard about recently from the Lore Podcast!). There are other elements of folklore that are included that I cannot mention (spoilers), but every single bit of folklore adds wonderful things to the story.

As always, I loved Aveline as a character. She reminds me so much of myself when I was around her age – always eager for the supernatural and the macabre. But The Bewitching of Aveline Jones also shows her ability to be the best of friends, and to be compassionate to those who are in need. She is a wonderful character, and I wish I had known about her when I was her age.

I do wish we had seen a bit more of Mr. Lieberman and Aveline’s aunt, I really enjoyed them in the first book. But this book featured Harold a lot, and I quite enjoyed his part in the story. What a knowledgeable lad!

I can predict that this is already going to be my top book for 2022, it was so good. This book and the first are easily two of my favorite books of all time. What a way to start the year!



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2021 Reading Wrap-Up

I feel like I have not needed books so much in a long time as I have needed them this year. It’s been a tough, though happy, year – I’m in a period of transition, and lots of waiting for things to happen. But reading many of the books I did has gotten me through the time. I wanted to share with all of you the books that helped me, the ones I enjoyed so fully and made my heart feel warm.

This year I read 40 books for the GoodReads yearly reading challenge, which is a little more than my normal average of about 20-30 books. I wanted to share with you the ones I loved the most, my top 5 I think, maybe with a special mention or two. Now, the ones I loved the most do not necessarily have a 5-star rating from me – some of them have 4 or 5 stars.

The first one I want to mention is The Haunting of Aveling Jones by Phil Hickes. This was the perfect ghost story for me this year: it had an inquisitive bookworm for a main character, a haunted house, a stormy sea where ghosts and deaths repeat themselves. So spooky and fun, Hickes really found the perfect style and atmosphere for a great haunting tale.

Next is Widdershins from the Wyborne and Griffin mystery series by Jordan Hawk. First, let me just say, what an author! Hawk has written so, so many books, probably hundreds as far as I can tell! In addition, he is a trans author who writes mostly lgbt fiction, and it’s all GOOD from what I have read so far. But I digress. Widdershins, the first book in the Wyborne and Griffin series, is probably one of my favorite mlm romances ever, and definitely one of my favorite paranormal romances ever. My friend and I, who are both classicists (she is an archaeologist and I am a philologist), joke that I am like Wyborne, who is a philologist of ancient languages, and she is like Christine who is an archaeologist. It’s so up my alley, and up the alleys of any classicist and paranormal lover. It’s so well-written and fun as well. I could gush over this book forever, and I know I’m rambling, but it’s just so good!!

I read so much lgbt fiction this year, especially mlm fantasy, and Widdershins was only one of them. I think I read at least 10, but I will only mention a few.

The next one I want to mention is Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey. Not only is the lgbt representation wonderful in this book, but the world-building and characters are absolutely amazing. I also like that she makes the main character grow so much into himself – he’s very unlikeable in the beginning, but grows to be a compassionate and real person. I’m actually kind of afraid to read the rest of the books in this trilogy for fear that they don’t live up to the standard that this one set for me. I am going to read them at some point though!

The last lgbt book I want to mention that I absolutely loved was Seven Tears At High Tide by C.B. Lee. Not only does this story have folklore, the sea, and good lgbt representation (bi characters!), but it is such a wholesome and sweet story, I found myself tearing up multiple times just because the story was so lovely. I love going back and rereading sections of the book that have our two protagonists together being cute. I really want to check out C.B. Lee’s other books. I know she (pretty sure she) has written an lgbt Treasure Island retelling, which sounds really intriguing.

And last, but not least, is the most recent book I’ve read, In The Company Of Witches by Auralee Wallace. This is just the coziest book ever. It has everything I could want in a book: mystery, cute towns with b&bs, witches and magic, ghosts, and just the most loving, if not totally crazy, family. This is a book you read cozied up under a blanket with a hot drink on a cold evening. I really need more books like this.

I just want to list some honorable mentions for books I really enjoyed this year, without getting into detail about them – just know I loved them a lot, and you all should very much check them out.

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann

The Faerie Hounds of York by Arden Powell

The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (This one actually got me through the beginning of winter in Winnipeg)

The Hobbits of Tolkien by David Day

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

~~~~~~~~~~

And those are all the books I loved this year! I can’t wait to find out what next year will bring, both in terms of books and in terms of where my life is headed. I’m hoping the transitional periods end soon, but until then, I have many books on my tbr to keep me occupied!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, a happy New Year, and a good start to 2022!

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Book Review – In The Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace

In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace



In the Company of Witches is about Brynn, who, after the loss of her husband, feels she can no longer do magic. However, when a murder happens right inside her family’s inn, she goes to try to solve the mystery of who committed the crime to clear her family’s name. During this harrowing experience, she realizes that maybe she can reconnect with her magic.

I loved this book, pure and simple. It has everything I could want in a story: mystery, magic, witches, ghosts, a loving family in a small town. The writing style is simple, but Wallace really brings each character and place to life with those simple words. I could imagine being in the small town and interacting with everyone that Brynn interacted with.

My favorite part, I think, was that even though they were all a little bit crazy in their own ways, Brynn’s family, the Warrens, were so loving to each other and tried to be supportive when they could. Even the animals, Dog the crow and Faustus the cat, lent their support where they could. That plus the witches and ghosts is everything I could ever want in life, and Wallace portrayed this family so, so well. Also, it brought back some nostalgia as it reminded me a bit of Sabrina the Teenaged Witch (from the 90s)!

The mystery was fun as well. You really could not be sure who did what in terms of the crimes committed, and that kept me on the edge of my seat. A whole family is involved, well, technically two families, and secrets are kept everywhere.

I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants a little magic and mystery in their life. What a great book to end my reading challenge on this year!



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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!



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