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!


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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…



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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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Book Review – Threshold by Jordan L. Hawk

Threshold by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Threshold by Jordan L. Hawk



In this sequel to Widdershins, Whyborne and Griffin are hired to look into another case, this time by Whyborne’s father. So, the two men and their friend, Christine, head to the town of Threshold to investigate supposedly paranormal disturbances in the town’s mine. However, even this investigation has its twists and turns.

Once again, Jordan L. Hawk does not disappoint. I absolutely loved the second book of this series – either as much or maybe more than the first! As I said for the first one, the characters are brilliant, and the story is compelling. Actually, I might argue that the story is more compelling this time around! The writing, of course, is excellent.

I think my favorite part about this particular story is that it feels like the original Star Trek meets the Twilight Zone meets Sherlock Holmes (three of my favorite pieces of literature and media!). All that was missing was Rod Serling narrating the twists, but Whyborne filled that role very well.

And, of course, the romance between Whyborne and Griffin was just to die for. I am so excited to keep reading this series, and I’m so happy there are many more books in it to come!



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Book Review – Twelve Nights at Rotter House by J.W. Ocker

Twelve Nights at Rotter House by J.W. Ocker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Twelve Nights at Rotter House



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.



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Book Review – Bulwark by Brit Lunden

Bulwark by Brit Lunden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bulwark by Brit Lunden



Bulwark is about a sheriff of a town in Georgia of the same name, named Clay, whose daughter was recently kidnapped, leaving his marriage and psyche in shambles. When a car accident leaves two people rambling about witches and stolen children, Clay starts to wonder if there is a connection to the kidnapping of his child.

As any of you know, I’m a sucker for a good ghost story, and for witches, so you can understand why I was drawn in by this book. I also love me a good novella.
I would say this book started off very strong. It set a tragic scene, introduced a creepy, mysterious atmosphere that may or may not exist. The characters weren’t the strongest, but they played well in the atmosphere of the place. There was a good bit of folklore as well.

It’s a good, solid story, but I did have some issues:

I do think that the book might have been better if it was longer. Lunden tried to fit a lot into such a little book, and some of the lore and the exposition got a bit jumbled or lost. I know that there is an anthology that follows this novella, so maybe I will check that out and see if Lunden fleshed out any more of the story there.

There were also some tropes and themes in this story that were not bad by any means, but were possibly a little over-used. For example: the father whose child is either dead or missing and the marriage is failing; a witch that kidnaps children (although this I don’t mind, it was a pretty good Hansel and Gretel retelling).

The book has multiple endings, which, while different, both seemed to have been a bit rushed at the end, and the execution wasn’t the best. Again, I think if they had been written longer they would have been better.

All this said, it was a fun thriller, and I did have the creeps when I read it at night. It reminded me of the VVitch a little bit, though, unfortunately (spoilers) the witches don’t win in the end of this one.



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Book Review – The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill


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.



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Book Review – What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What the Dead Want by Norah Olson


What the Dead Want is the story of Gretchen, who, still mourning the mysterious loss of her mother, is asked by her great aunt to come help her sort out her old house. When Gretchen gets there, however, she is introduced to a world where history and the dead rule.

I was very much interested in the concept of this novel before I started reading it. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of ghosts, ghost stories, and ghost lore. So, when a book gets recommended to me about someone who can capture spirits with a camera, I thought I had met my dream book. It sounded like a Victorian gothic dream come to life.

Unfortunately, however, What the Dead Want did not meet my standards. For one thing, the letters featured in the book that were meant to be written by someone from the 1860s read more like someone writing today. I think the historical additions to this novel needed more research.

The writing and the plot also did not meet expectations. The plot seemed very random, and the use of photographs to see ghosts and solve the mystery really weren’t used until the very end of the story. In fact, most of the plot did not pick up until almost near the end of the book, leaving the structure of the rest of the book feeling randomly written and way too introspective. While I liked the fact that this book includes lots of diversity in its characters, the characters, except for Gretchen, felt very much as only accessories, and the perspective of the book was trying to be like Eleanor’s in The Haunting of Hill House and not at all succeeding in it.

While this book has good representation and covers some of the heaviest topics known (i.e. slavery, war, etc.), the writing was sub-par, and the plot not well-executed. I am sure that there is quite an audience for this book, but sadly I am not part of it.



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Book Review – There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There’s Someone Inside Your House has been the most compelling read for me so far this year.
It is full of suspense, romance, and friendship, and I was kept on the edge of my seat the whole time.

The following are what I did and didn’t like about the book – warning: may contain some spoilers.

What I liked:
-Representation: the main character, Makani, is a teenager who is both Hawaiian and black; her grandmother is black; and one of her two best friends, Darby, is a transgender man. There was also a lot of balance gender-wise: good, deep female characters, and male characters that exhibit their own deep feelings.
-The suspense: the serial killer of this novel likes to mess with his victims, so it sent my heart a’thumping whenever someone seemed to be going out of their mind.
-Perkins really tried to make the characters help each other, and I think she did a very good job. One thing I was a bit nervous about at first was that some of the friendships got a bit rocky when the killings started to happen – thankfully friendship wins over murder.
-The romance: I really loved the protagonist and her romantic interest together – I kind of wish we would have seen more of them exploring their romance, but honestly, who could with a serial killer on the loose?

What I didn’t like:
-The ending: honestly even though everything pretty much got wrapped up in the end, we did not get to see the characters go back to some kind of normalcy. While I realize that they can really never lead a normal life again, I would have wanted the characters to get a chance to go back home.
-Friends dropping each other just like that: there is that one part in the story when Makani’s friends don’t support her. Now they do end up friends again shortly after, but it was the reason for such a sudden withdrawal that didn’t sit too well with me.

As you can see, there are more positives than negatives. I truly loved this novel, and I recommend it to everyone!



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Book Review – Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I tend to very much love Stephen King’s shorter works, and Gwendy’s Button Box is no exception. Set in King’s favorite setting of Castle Rock, Maine, this is a story about Gwendy, a young girl who is given a box covered in buttons by a man in a black coat and black bowler hat. The box improves her life drastically, but, as she learns soon after receiving it, the box comes with a price.

What I love about this story is that it is about making mistakes in youth, and making choices as an adult. Through our mistakes and choices, we all find out what is important in life; what we love and what we want to avoid; what we know is best for ourselves. Through Gwendy, King and co-author Richard Chizmar show how such mistakes and choices can affect life, albeit with help from a box bent on destruction. It is definitely a coming-of-age story; a horrific one.

The only thing I would criticize would be the illustrations by Keith Minnion included in this edition. There were not enough of them, and, to be honest, I wasn’t too fond of them. If there had been more I might have appreciated them more.

While this book didn’t scare me, I can tell you right now that if a man in a black coat and black bowler hat came up to me offering a box covered in colorful buttons, I would refuse to take it.



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