Book Review – The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes


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.



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Book Review – The Pine Barrens’ Devil by Leigh Paynter

I also reviewed this book for Reedsy Discovery.

The Pine Barrens’ Devil by Leigh Paynter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Pine Barrens' Devil by Leigh Paynter


As a lover of folklore, I thought The Pine Barrens’ Devil would be right up my alley. In a way, it was.
Leigh Paynter tells four short stories that take place each in different historical periods, in which the Jersey Devil makes an appearance either as an instigator or one who passes judgment.

The first story, “Where Darkness Lives”, is Paynter’s own version of how the Jersey Devil came to be. Like most other origin stories, this one takes place in colonial New Jersey, and involves an unwanted or transformed child.

The second story, “A Long Walk”, takes place during the Revolutionary War. The protagonist, Whippany, not only gets lost in the Pine Barrens, but in the throes of his own desires.

The third story, “The Game”, very much illustrates the character of both the Pine Barrens and the Jersey Devil. They like to toy with travelers to the forest, especially those who deserve punishment. In this story, that person who deserves punishment is an antisemitic hustler looking after his girlfriend’s son, a chess genius. This story takes place soon after the end of WWII.

The fourth and final story is “Reflection in the Lake”, almost a reverse retelling of The Little Mermaid, though instead of a sea-witch, it is the Jersey Devil that causes the transformations. The protagonist, Emily, does get more than she bargained for when trying to impress her classmates on a camping trip, losing herself to Lake Absegami in the end.


All of these stories have to do with characters wanting more than they have bargained for, and the Jersey Devil is more than happy to comply with their wishes. I was familiar with some of the Jersey Devil folklore before reading this book, though it never occurred to me that the Jersey Devil would act more like the biblical devil, rather than a weird-looking cryptid that eats livestock and frightens travelers. I like this different take on the Jersey Devil, though it does make its character a bit less mysterious. I am eager to do more research about the Jersey Devil and the many versions of its folklore.

Now I want to discuss the aspects of this book that I liked.

Generally the stories are good and entertaining, and Paynter’s use of different historical eras really emphasizes that the Jersey Devil is a constant and frightening force of folklore.

I like that the stories were not too long, and did feel very much like campfire stories, as I believe Paynter had intended. Perhaps she will publish another collection of stories about the Jersey Devil, which I would be eager to read.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few aspects of this book that did not make it a 5-star read.

While the stories were good, the writing style could be improved upon. Paynter tells too much and shows too little, using statement after statement after statement. However, I am happy to say that this got better with each story. I think the stories’ writing style would have been more coherent if she had gone over each story again. Overall, I think Paynter just needs to practice her storytelling, and find the writing style that suits her best.
Grammar and spelling were off here and there, which further reinforces my statement that Paynter should have gone over her stories and writing more before publishing.

Overall, I did enjoy the stories, and I would recommend The Pine Barrens’ Devil to those who love folklore and the many aspects of this American cryptid.



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Book Review – The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James


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!



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The Cozy Fall Book Tag!

Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash

It is Autumn! The air is crisp and full of golden leaves, and it is time to snuggle up with a book and a hot drink. To get more into the cozy mood, I thought I would do the Cozy Fall Book Tag that all my favorite Booktubers are doingg, originally created by The Book Belle on Youtube. So, without further ado, let’s get cozy!

1. What book always reminds you of fall/autumn?

Oh man, I have wayyyy too many. I would say any book that has ghosts or haunted houses. But to be more specific, I would pick Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. It is so autumnal not only because it takes place during Halloween, but it has one of my favorite Autumn quotes:

“For some, autumn comes early, stays late through life where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ’s birth, there is no Bethlehem Star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles–breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them.”

2. What is your favourite autumnal book cover?

Definitely the one on the awesome edition of The Haunting of Hill House!

The Haunting of Hill House
Not only is this color full of Halloween colors, but the pages are sprayed black!!

3. What is your favourite autumnal drink to read with?

Either a hot cup of Earl Grey tea with honey, or a hot chocolate!

4. Do you prefer to read late at night or early in the morning?

Actually neither! I like reading in late afternoon or evening because that is when I get done with work for the day, and my mind is ready to settle down, get cozy, and just escape the world a little bit.

5. Halloween is coming! What is your favourite spooky read?

Anything Shirley Jackson! I’m probably going to reread her Dark Tales this year as that is my favorite of her collections. Though I would recommend anything she has written, she is brilliant and spooky, but at the same time kinda cozy!

6. What is the ultimate comfort read for you?

This is a tough one, but I’d probably pick The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and The Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien. Both of these books have elements of folklore and fairytale that always make me feel happy and cozy. Also, who wouldn’t feel cozy reading about the Shire and all the food they get to eat?

7. What is your favourite autumnal reading snack?

This changes ALL the time, but right now I am enjoying this amazing beef jerky made by my local meat market. Yes I know it’s not the most autumnal snack, but it is delicious.

8. What is your favourite autumnal candle to burn whilst reading?

Anything vanilla! It’s the coziest scent.

9. When you’re not reading, what is your favourite autumnal activity?

Art! Lately I’ve been painting Autumn trees with my watercolors. I want to capture all of the beautiful colors before it snows!

10. What is on your autumn/fall reading list?

So I actually made a blog post about it here! Got lots of ghost stories of course, but I also have a couple cozy mysteries!

And that’s the tag! I tag all of you to share your cozy autumnal routines and joys.

Happy Autumn! And, if you’d like to support me and my work, consider buying me a coffee!

Fall TBR – Spooky, cozy, mysterious!

We are fast approaching the Autumn season – where I am in Winnipeg it seems that Autumn has already arrived! It’s been 6-15 degrees C/45-60 degrees F, and the trees in my neighborhood are changing into golds and oranges.

I am definitely in the Autumn mood which means wearing sweaters, watching spooky movies, and reading Autumnal books! I have a bunch of books I want to read this Fall, some spooky, some cozy, some mysterious!

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories

The first book on my Autumnal TBR is Taaqtumi, a collection of Inuit and Arctic horror stories by authors like Aviaq Johnston, Richard Van Camp, and others. You all know by now that I am a big fan of horror and ghost stories, and I aim to read about ghosts from all cultures. Ghosts found in the Arctic sound absolutely thrilling to me.

Crooked House

Then we have a couple of short Agatha Christie novels: Crooked House and By The Pricking Of My Thumbs. I have only read one other Agatha Christie (Dumb Witness), but Poirot is one of my favorite shows ever and I want to read more of her works and surround myself with all the Agatha Christie murders! By The Pricking Of My Thumbs sounds especially spooky so I am very excited.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs

The Sleeper and the Spindle

Up next is The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell. I have been dying to read this book for so long, not only because it is by one of my favorite authors, but because of the illustrations AND the fact that it is based on fairy tale. I got a really cool library copy from a second hand bookstore (Nerman’s Books, if you are in Winnipeg go check it out!) and I absolutely love it.

A Dark and Twisting Path (A Writer's Apprentice Mystery, #3)

Then we have A Dark and Twisting Path by Julia Buckley, which is the third book in the Writer’s Apprentice Mystery series. These are just very cozy, light and lovely mysteries that make me feel all warm and comfy. I love to read these books in my comfy chair with a hot drink and a fuzzy blanket.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

And finally I need to finish The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I’m about halfway through this book and I must finish! Dorian is just starting his sinister shenanigans and I must find out how far he will take them. Even though I have a super cool Dover Thrift edition of this book, I might actually finish it on audio, via Scribd.

And those are my planned books for the Fall! I may change some or add some new ones, but you will hear all about that when I do my Fall book reviews.

I hope you are all having a wonderful start to your Autumn seasons, or, if it is still very much Summer, enjoy that sun!