I know this is not one of my usual days to share a post, but a great author and blogosphere friend, Teagan Geneviene, is having a launch party for her new book A Ghost in the Kitchen. In case you don’t know her yet (where have you been hiding?), she has the most amazing imagination and she loves to create stories with the collaboration of her blog readers. She uses “things” or “ingredients” they leave her in the comments, to keep moving the story on, so she’s never sure exactly where the plot might go next. And, after many of us have been asking her to turn some of these stories into books, she’s decided to do it. And here is the latest one. Oh, and, of course, her book launch parties are also pretty special. So, here it is! (Oh, and it was great to meet Christoph in Savannah, even if the circumstances were a bit scary, and we had to make a quick escape!)
Welcome to the launch party for A Ghost in the Kitchen! It’s a wild ride on a magical trolley through haunted Savannah, Georgia.
Thanks for hosting me for my novel launch and book fair.
Hi everyone. I’m Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, and I’ve brought a bunch of friends for this shindig on a magical 1920s trolley. First let me tell you a little about my new novel.
When my character, Paisley Idelle Peabody (better known as Pip) came along, I started writing a type of fiction that I never expected. Pip is a flapper. Her stories took me to Savannah, Georgia of the 1920s.
It’s only natural that some ghosts got in on the act. After all, many people say that Savannah is the most haunted city in the USA! Here’s the blurb for this novel.
A Ghost in the Kitchen, Three Ingredients-2 continues the flapper adventures of Paisley Idelle Peabody, aka Pip. It’s a 1920s “pantser” story and a culinary mystery. This time Pip’s pal Andy (from The Three Things Serial Story) returns. Granny Phanny is there too. She’s still trying to teach Pip to cook. Granny is in a lather because of the supernatural goings-on in her kitchen. There’s also one pos-i–lutely potent poltergeist!
New adventures abound as Pip and Andy unravel an old mystery. It’s all spontaneously driven by “ingredients” sent by readers of the blog, Teagan’s Books.
Did you hear the bell clang? Our magic trolley is here!
There are links galore, so limber up your clicking finger and jump on the trolley. Here’s a map showing some locations. Friends who promised to participate in my launch will be at some of these haunted places. They’ll get on the magical blog party trolley as we tour haunted Savannah!
I just wish this 1920s trolley could move faster… Oh! A brass lamp just clattered to the ground. There’s purple smoke coming out.
“Your wish is my command!”
Aladin Fazel– my favorite magician! Now the trolley can go anywhere.
At the top of the map is the Moon River Brewing Company. That’s a good place to start incase anyone needs some liquid courage for this ghostly adventure!
There’s Christoph Fischer. Duck! A rowdy, spifflicated ghost just threw a beer bottle. Olga NúñezMiret is helping him Christoph get away from the spirited spirit and onto our trolley. Welcome aboard, Olga and Christoph. You two look darb in your 1920s glad rags.
Magician, those ghosts are going to follow Olga and Christoph all the way to the trolley. Can you please get us to the next stop?
We’ve traveled east, closer to the river. Our trolley is on a bluff above the River Walk. Now we’re at Factor’s Walk. The foundations of some of these buildings date back to the late 1700s. D. L. Finnand Valentina Cirasola should be waiting for us there. Ah, there they are, beside one of the sealed-off tunnel entrances. Love those hats, ladies! Applesauce, hurry to the trolley. There are shadow figures all around us!
Tunnels that originate in this area have been known to send ghastly moans into the still night air. Look out, DyannaWyndesong! A tall shadow was sneaking up behind you. Get back on the trolley, quick!
Yes, that’s one of the many tunnels. They make a labyrinth beneath Savannah. Wow, we’re going into the haunted tunnel.
Magician, why are you slowing the trolley? You must see something ahead in this creepy tunnel… Oh! It’s a poster for Teri Polen’s yearly October event, Bad Moon Rising!
I’ll be there on October, 18th, chatting with Teri about all sorts of Halloween-ish things, as well as my novella, Brother Love — a Crossroad. I hope everyone will join us for the fun.
Since this is a magical trolley the tunnel will take us directly the Sorrel Weed House where we’ll pick up two more guests. Just beware the lady in black! I hope John W. Howell and Dan Antion know about her. Oh-oh! John and Dan, that’s no damsel in distress, it’s a mean ghost. Hurry over here to the trolley, guys!
If you’ll keep the trolley heading south, Magician, we can pick up Michael (from OIKOS Publishing) at the Andrew Low House. I see that Jan Sikesis meeting us there too. Jan don’t go in that room! Through the window I see Juilette Gordon Low lying on the bed – but she died in 1927! Michael, watch out for that butler at the top of the stairs too. His clothes went out of style 150 years ago. Those are ghosts. You two better get on the trolley fast!
Aladin, this is great! You found a magic tunnel to take us north east. Sally Croninand Jacquie Biggar are waiting for us at the Colonial Park Cemetery. Ladies, I realize that handsome young man invited you to follow him. Don’t bother. He’ll just disappear once he goes inside the gate. He died a long, long time ago.
Applesauce! All these spooky apparitions have given me an appetite. Shall we find a haunted restaurant? Ah, the 17Hundred90 Inn & Restaurant is on our way. Robbie Cheadle and Marje Mallonare already there. Robbie, take care. That little boy is really a ghost. Marje, I know you feel sorry for Anna, but she’s been waiting for her lost love since before any of us were born. She’s a specter too.
That ghostly cook, does not seem nearly as friendly as Maestro Martino, the cursed chef in A Ghost in the Kitchen. She’s banging her pots and pans and making a quite ruckus. What’s our next stop, Magician?
Now we’re at The Marshall House. It’s a haunted hotel where we’re picking up Chris Graham, the Story Reading Ape. What’s that dear Ape? You say your “naughty chimp” nephews are in a game of “tag,” chasing the ghosts of children who run up and down the halls there? They’re all having a great time!
Hey, there’s Traci Kenworthtoo, down at the other end of the building. Come on to the trolley, Traci. Those little ghosts are starting to raise a ruckus.
Thanks to Aladin and our magical trolley, we’ve taken another of those hidden tunnels. Now, we’re almost back where we started, between River Street and Factors Walk. We have one more stop. We need to pick up ResaMcConaghy and Jacqui Murrayat the Olde Harbour Inn.
Oh! They’re already running to the trolley. I expect the spirit known as Hank tried to crawl into bed with at least one of them. I also smell his cigar smoke. I think I’d run too!
Alright everyone. Pip and Granny Phanny are waiting for us at the cottage. Granny is eager to start her book fair. She’s a real bearcat, and she won’t like it if we’re late. So let’s get a wiggle on!
Granny Phanny’s Book Fair
Welcome to the book fair. All these authors volunteered to help me by sharing this magic trolley tour of haunted Savannah. Their books are all swell. So I put them in pos-i-lutely random order. Hopefully that will lead you to look at some things you might not typically read. You’ll find purchase links below the cover images.
Sheiks and Shebas, thanks so very much for getting on the magical trolley for this tour. Ya’ll are pos-i-lutely the berries!
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.
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House of Glass by Susan Fletcher A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel about what it means to be whole
June 1914 and a young woman – Clara Waterfield – is summoned to a large stone house in Gloucestershire. Her task: to fill a greenhouse with exotic plants from Kew Gardens, to create a private paradise for the owner of Shadowbrook. Yet, on arrival, Clara hears rumours: something is wrong with this quiet, wisteria-covered house. Its gardens are filled with foxgloves, hydrangea, and roses; it has lily-ponds, a croquet lawn – and the marvellous new glasshouse awaits her. But the house itself feels unloved. Its rooms are shuttered, or empty. The owner is mostly absent; the housekeeper seems afraid. And soon, Clara understands her fear: for something – or someone – is walking through the house at night. In the height of summer, she finds herself drawn deeper into Shadowbrook’s dark interior – and into the secrets that violently haunt this house. Nothing is quite what it seems.
Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier, this is a wonderful, atmospheric Gothic page-turner.
A deeply absorbing, unputdownable ghost story that’s also a love story; for readers who love Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger; Frances Hodges Burnett’s The Secret Garden; Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace; Jane Harris’s The Observations.
Susan Fletcher took her inspiration from the gardens and grounds of Hidcote House, spending time in their archives and library, at different times of the year. One of the country’s great gardens, Hidcote is an Arts and Crafts masterpiece in the north Cotswolds, a stone’s throw from Stratford-upon-Avon. Created by the horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnston. The garden is divided into a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, each with its own character. The formality of the ‘rooms’ fades away as you move through the garden away from the house.
Thanks to NetGalley and to Virago Books for providing me an ARC copy of this book. I was later contacted by Kimberley Nyamhondera suggesting I take part in the blog tour for the launch of the book, and as I knew the author I immediately agreed.
I had read and reviewed another one of Susan Fletcher’s books (Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew, you can read my review here) a couple of years ago and loved it. When I checked my review, to remind myself what I had thought about it in more detail, I realised I could use almost word by word the same title for my review, although the subject of the novel is quite different. “A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel.” Yes, this definitely applies to House of Glass as well. This time the story is set in the UK right before the breaking of the First World War, and in fact, there are rumours spreading about its likelihood already when the novel starts. It is a fascinating time, and the life of the protagonist, Clara Waterfield, is deeply affected by the historical period she has to live in, from her birth in very late Victorian times, to what would be a very changed world after the Great War, with the social upheaval, the rapid spread of industrialization, the changing role of women, and the all-too-brief peace.
Clara, who tells the story in the first person, is a great creation, who becomes dearer and dearer to us as we read the book. This is not a novel about a protagonist who is fully-formed, recognisable and unchanging, and runs across the pages from one action scene to the next hardly pausing to take a breather. Clara reflects upon her past (although she is very young, she has suffered greatly, but not lived much), her condition (she suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bones, and that meant that she was kept indoors and not exposed to the risks and dangers of the outside world, the London streets in her case throughout her childhood), her family, and life experiences or her lack of them. No matter what she looks like, her short stature, her difficulty walking, her limitations in physical activity, this is a determined woman, make no mistake. She has learned most of what she knows through books (non-fiction mostly, although she enjoyed the Indian tales her mother used to read her), she has experienced not only pain, but other kinds of loses, and there are secrets and mysteries surrounding her, but despite all that, she is all practical and logical when we meet her. Her lack of exposure to the real world makes her a fascinating narrator, one who looks at everything with the eyes of a new-born or an alien suddenly landed in our society, who might have theoretical knowledge but knows nothing of how things truly work, while her personality, determined and stubborn, and her enquiring nature make her perfect to probe into the mystery at the heart of Shadowbrook.
Readers might not find Clara particularly warm and engaging to begin with (despite the sympathy they might feel for her suffering, something she would hate), as she dispenses with the niceties of the period, is headstrong and can be seen as rude and unsympathetic. At some point, I wondered if there might have been more to her peculiar personality than the way she was brought up (she can be obsessive with the things she likes, as proven by her continuous visits to Kew Gardens once she discovers them, and her lack of understanding of social mores and her difficulty in reading people’s motivations and feelings seemed extreme), but she quickly adapts to the new environment, she thrives on change and challenges, she shows a great, if somewhat twisted, sense of humour at times, and she evolves and grows into her own self during the novel, so please, readers, stick with the book even if you don’t connect with her straightaway or find her weird and annoying at times. It will be worth your while.
Her point of view might be peculiar, but Clara is a great observer of people and of the natural world. She loves her work and she is careful and meticulous, feeling an affinity for the exotic plants of the glass house, that, like her until recently, also have to live enclosed in an artificial environment for their own safety. That is partly what enhances their beauty and their rarity in our eyes. By contrast, Clara knows that she is seen as weird, lacking, less-able, and hates it. She is a deep thinker and reflects upon what she sees, other people’s behaviours, she imagines what others might be talking about, and dreams of her dead mother and soon also of the mystery behind the strange happenings at the house.
The novel has been described as gothic, and that is a very apt description, even though it is not always dark and claustrophobic. There are plenty of scenes that take place in the garden, in the fields, and in the open air, but we do have the required strange happenings, creaks and noises, scratches on doors, objects and flowers behaving in unpredictable fashion, previous owners of the house with a troublesome and tragic past, a mysterious current owner who hides something, violence, murder, and plenty of rumours. We have a priest who is conflicted by something, a loyal gardener who knows more than he says, a neighbouring farmer who has plenty of skeletons in his closet, and a housekeeper who can’t sleep and is terrified. But there is much more to the novel than the usual tropes we have come to expect and love in the genre. There is social commentary; there are issues of diversity and physical disability, discussions about religious belief and spirituality, and also about mental health, women’s rights, and the destructive nature of rumours and gossip, and some others that I won’t go into to avoid spoilers.
I don’t want to give anything away, and although the story moves at a steady and contemplative pace, this in no way makes it less gripping. If anything, the beauty of the language and the slow build up work in its favour, giving us a chance to get fully immersed in the mood and the atmosphere of the place.
I marked a lot of passages, and I don’t think any of them make it full justice, but I’ve decided to share some, nonetheless:
She’d also said that there was no human perfection; that if the flaw could not be seen physically, then the person carried it inside them, which made it far worse, and I’d believed this part, at least.
For my mother had never spoken well of the Church. Patrick had said nothing at all of it. And my own understanding had been that imperfect bodies were forms of godly punishment; that imperfect meant I was worth less somehow. I’d disliked this notion intensely. Also, I was not a spare rib.
I could not taste fruit from studying a sketch of it, cut in half. What use was only reading of acts and not doing them? Knowing the route of the Ganges was not the same as standing in it.
The ending… We find the solution to the mystery, (which I enjoyed, and at the time I wondered why the book did not finish at that point) but the novel does not end there, and we get to hear what happened in the aftermath of the story. And yes, although at first, I wasn’t sure that part was necessary, by the end of the book proper I was crying and felt as if I was leaving a close friend in Clara, one that I was convinced would go on to lead a happy life.
Another fantastic novel by Susan Fletcher, one I recommend to fans of gothic novels, of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and her other novels, of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, and of inspiringly gorgeous writing. I do not recommend it to readers who prefer an action-laden plot with little space for thought or reflexion, although why not check a sample of the book and see for yourselves? I must catch up on the rest of the author’s novels and I hope there will be many more to come.
Thanks to NetGalley, to Virago, and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, please give it a like, share, comment, clik, review, and remember to keep smiling and reading!
Miriam has one year to uncover Heachley Hall’s unimaginable past and a secret that only women can discover.
The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight-year-old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.
But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.
The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.
After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.
But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?
Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.
Does she dare keep searching, and if she does, what if she finds something she wasn’t seeking?
Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?
Born in the Midlands, I grew up in East Anglia and am now firmly lodged in the North West of England. My first writing achievement was my Brownie badge and after that, I’ve never let go of the dream of becoming an author. Once a librarian and caretaker of books, I’m now a teller of tales and want to share with you the secrets that hide in the pages of my books.
Please stop by my website – rachelwalkley.com and find out more about my books in the making.
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you are looking for reviews) and thank her and the author for the ARC copy of the book, which I freely chose to review.
I love old mansions, old houses, and antiques, and that was one of the things that attracted me to this book, together with the mystery aspect of it. As I’m in the process of moving, and I’m dealing with a house sale, the topic felt timely, and I am pleased I decided to go with my gut feeling.
This book manages to combine quite a few elements that I love in stories. There is a lone female protagonist, Miriam, that has to face challenges (OK, she is not fighting with a sword, but she has to confront difficulties she has never had to deal with before) and she gets to learn plenty about herself in the process. There is an old mansion (there is more than a touch of the gothic novel) that hides mysteries and tragedies of old (there are rumours that it is haunted and… well, I’m trying not to include any spoilers in this review, so I’ll keep my peace). There are family secrets, both Miriam’s and those of previous occupants of the Hall, that Miriam feels compelled to investigate, to fully understand her legacy and her feelings about Heachley Hall. There is a small town with friendly folks (and some not so friendly) that help give the place a genuine feel. The struggles of Miriam to make a living as a self-employed illustrator of children’s stories made me feel particularly connected to the character. I also enjoyed the way her relationship with Ruth, an older woman, a client and now a friend, is portrayed. There is also an element of historical fiction, as later in the book Miriam has access to a document that covers past events in the house (again, I’m trying not to give too much away), and we get to experience the way time transforms the mansion and also see how much society has changed since the XIX century. Ah, and let’s not forget, there is also a very romantic love story. (And a paranormal element…)
Imagine getting stuck, alone, in a huge old house that is falling to bits, with hardly any money to make any renovations or even make it liveable, and having to stay there for one year and one day to receive your inheritance. Although money is initially a big draw for Miriam (she is not in a particularly good place and feels she should show people she can rise to the challenge), she is also intrigued about her aunt Felicity’s reasons for setting up such strange condition. She only remembers having visited her aunt a few times as a very young child, and it makes no sense. Like so many amateur detectives, she is like a dog with a bone and has to keep making enquiries, no matter how many times she seems to have hit a dead end.
I liked Miriam. Although she has suffered tragedy and losses as a young child, she has reached adulthood as a well-balanced individual. She does have insecurities and issues, but she does not allow any drawbacks to bring her down and keeps going. She becomes stronger and more determined as the book progresses, but she does not waste much time feeling sorry for herself (only a little bit). I enjoyed the rest of the female characters as well, and although we only learn about some in the retelling of their stories, the author manages to bring them to live and make us connect emotionally with them.
The story is mostly narrated in the first person by Miriam (apart from the document I mentioned before), and she is excellent at describing, not only people and places (she is an artist after all), but also her own feelings, doubts, and mental processes. Although I know not all readers are keen on first-person narratives, I think the author does an excellent job of creating an engaging and genuine character. She is no superheroine who can do everything as soon as she steps into the property (she gets some help with her project), and she gets distracted, forgets things, gets scared, but does not give up. The story ebbs and flows as the time passes and the mystery aspects kept me reading on, although this is not a fast-paced action novel. The writing is beautifully descriptive without going over the top, and although there are sad moments, there are also light and joyful moments its readers can enjoy.
The mystery aspect of the novel is well integrated into the narrative, and although I had my suspicions about what was going on, the story is beautifully constructed and precious, and it is very satisfying. If you are one of those readers who hate cliff-hangers and always feel that there is some explanation missing and you’d like to know a bit more, you’ll be over the moon when you read this novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which combines so many of my favourite things, and I’d recommend it to people who enjoy gothic stories (it is not scary but it has some eerie moments), who love old mansions, mysteries without blood and guts (no explicit violence), who like to read a romance with a difference (no explicit sex either), and who like to make friends with the characters of a novel and feel at home with them. Although it does remind me of some books (Rebecca, Jane Eyre…) and movies, I don’t want to go into any detail to avoid spoiling the story for you. But do check it out if any of the things I’ve mentioned appeals. It’s a winner.
Thanks to Rosie Amber and to her whole team for their continued support, thanks to the author for her book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!
I read this book a little while back but I waited until it was published (it was due for publication on the 11th January 2018, so I hope it’s now available) to share it, so you wouldn’t have to wait to read it if you felt as intrigued by it as I was. Well, I won’t make you wait any longer:
A riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut that weaves a mystery about a childhood game gone dangerously awry, and will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending
In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.
That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.
Preorder THE book of 2018. The Chalk Man is coming . . .
None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.
Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?
Was it the terrible accident?
Or when they found the first body?
What authors are saying about The Chalk Man
‘[I] haven’t had a sleepless night due to a book for a long time. The Chalk Man changed that. Many congrats C. J. Tudor’ Fiona Barton, bestselling author of The Widow
‘What a great book. A twisty thriller and downright creepy ending. 5 stars’ Sarah Pinborough, the bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes
‘Tense, skillful storytelling’ Ali Land, bestselling author of Good Me Bad Me
‘Absolutely brilliant. I was expecting a creepy horror story that I’d have to read with all the lights on but this book is so much more than that – it’s witty, insightful, clever, thoughtful, mysterious, gripping, nostalgic and utterly compelling. Publishers often talk about “an exciting new voice in fiction” and I genuinely think C. J. Tudor is going to be huge. This book has bestseller written all over it and if it doesn’t go to number one I will eat my crime writing hat’ C. L. Taylor, bestselling author ofThe Missing
‘With its driving plot and sensitive evocation of friendship and loneliness, The Chalk Man is an utterly gripping read, with an ending that will make the hairs on the back of your neck bristle’ Karen Perry, bestselling author of Can You Keep a Secret?
‘What an amazing debut! Such an ingenious, original idea. I was engrossed from the very first page. I loved how the 1986 and present day storylines weaved so skilfully together to create that unforgettable and unexpected ending. Compelling, taut and so very, very chilling. This book will haunt you!’ Claire Douglas, bestselling author of Last Seen Alive
‘It’s been a while since I’ve read such an impressive debut.The pace was perfectly judged, the characters superbly drawn and there’s a creeping sense of unease that starts with the prologue and grows throughout the book. And then that ending! It feels so fresh and deserves to be a huge success’ James Oswald, bestselling author of theInspector McLean series
‘Impossible to put down, cleverly constructed and executed’ Ragnar Jonasson, author of the bestselling DarkIceland series
‘Finished reading The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor last night. What a book! Enjoyed every minute of it.A total banger!’ Amy Lloyd, author of The Innocent Wife
‘Kept me up until five in the morning. Wonderfully written. I loved it!’ Kimberley Chambers, bestselling author of Backstabber
“The grip the past has on the present reveals itself in ever more sinister and macabre ways in this utterly original and relentlessly compelling psychological thriller. The Chalk Man kept me guessing all the way to the end” Fiona Neil, bestselling author of The Betrayals
C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.
She left school at sixteen and has had a variety of jobs over the years, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, ad agency copywriter and voiceover.
In the early nineties, she fell into a job as a television presenter for a show on Channel 4 called Moviewatch. Although a terrible presenter, she got to interview acting legends such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas, Emma Thompson and Robin Williams. She also annoyed Tim Robbins by asking a question about Susan Sarandon’s breasts and was extremely flattered when Robert Downey Junior showed her his chest.
While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.
She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’
The Chalk Man was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday. One afternoon they drew chalk figures all over the driveway. Later that night she opened the back door to be confronted by weird stick men everywhere. In the dark, they looked incredibly sinister. She called to her partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark . . .’
She is never knowingly over-dressed. She has never owned a handbag and the last time she wore heels (twelve years ago) she broke a tooth.
She loves The Killers, Foo Fighters and Frank Turner. Her favourite venue is Rock City.
Her favourite films are Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys. Her favourite authors are Stephen King, Michael Marshall and Harlan Coben.
She is SO glad she was a teenager in the eighties.
She firmly believes that there are no finer meals than takeaway pizza and champagne, or chips with curry sauce after a night out.
Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.
This story, told in two different time frames by Eddie Adams (known as Eddie Munster as a child, because all the friends had nicknames and somehow the Munsters and the Adams became conflated into one…), has all the elements fans of mysteries and thrillers love. Strange characters, plenty of secrets, red herrings and false clues, lies, many suspects, a slightly odd setting, bizarre murders, strange relationships… A murder involving bizarre circumstances (a chopped-up body with a missing head, strange chalk drawings…) took place in a small and picturesque UK city (it sounds small enough to be a town, but as it has a cathedral, it is a city) in 1986 (although there were other strange things that happened at the time too, coincidental or not), and became known as the Chalk-Man murder. Thirty years later someone starts asking questions and stirring things up. Eddie narrates, in the first-person, the events, including his memories of what happened when he was a teenager and also telling us what is happening now. Those of you who read my blog know I have a thing for unreliable narrators, and, well, Eddie is a pretty good one. He is an English high school teacher and seems fairly reliable and factual in his account, and he does a great job of making us feel the emotions and showing us (rather than telling us) the events; although slowly he starts revealing things about himself that make him less standard and boring, and slightly more intriguing. Eddie does not have all the information (it seems that the friends kept plenty of things from each other as children), and sometimes he is unreliable because of the effect of alcohol, and possibly his mental state (his father suffered early dementia and he is concerned that he might be going down the same path). But there are other things at play, although we don’t fully get to know them until the very end.
The story reminded me of Stephen King’s It, most of all because of the two time-frames and of the story of the children’s friendship, although the horror element is not quite as strong (but there are possible ghosts and other mysterious things at play), and the friends and their friendship is more suspect and less open. In some ways, the depiction of the friend’s relationship, and how it changes over time, is more realistic. Of course, here the story is told from Eddie’s point of view, and we share in his likes and dislikes, that are strongly coloured by the events and his personal opinions. The main characters are realistically portrayed (both from a child’s perspective and later from an adult one), complex, and none of them are totally good, or 100% likeable, but they are sympathetic and not intentionally bad or mean (apart from a couple of secondary characters but then… there is a murderer at work). Morality is ambiguous at best, and people do questionable things for reasons that seem fully justified to them at the time, or act without thinking of the consequences with tragic results. I am not sure I felt personally engaged with any of the characters (perhaps because of Eddie’s own doubts), but I liked the dubious nature of the narration, and the fact that there were so many unknowns, so many gaps, and that we follow the process of discovery up-close, although there are things the main character knows that are only revealed very late in the game (although some he seems to have buried and tried hard to forget). The parents, and secondary characters, even when only briefly mentioned, serve the purpose well, add a layer of complexity to the story and are consistent throughout the narration.
The mystery had me engaged, and the pieces fit all together well, even when some of them are not truly part of the puzzle. I can’t say I guessed what had happened, although I was suspicious of everyone and, let’s say I had good reason to be. I liked the ending, not only the resolution of the mystery but what happens to Eddie. If you read it, you’ll know what I mean.
The writing is fluid, it gives the narrator a credible voice, it gets the reader under the character’s skin, and it creates a great sense of place and an eerie atmosphere that will keep readers on alert. The story deals with serious subjects, including child abuse, bullying (and sexual abuse), dementia, and although it is not the most graphically violent story I have read, it does contain vivid descriptions of bodies and crime scenes, and it definitely not a cozy mystery and not for the squeamish reader.
A great new writer, with a very strong voice and great ability to write psychological thrillers, and one I hope to read many more novels by.
Thanks very much to Penguin, NetGalley and the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and of course, REVIEW!
I hope 2018 is treating you well and although at first, it might appear to be a strange choice, I suspect many of you will be overloaded with Christmas and sugar and, what better than a ghost story to get your heart racing?
Edmund and Mary Wilder are very much in love. But the death of their young son, Tommy, has shattered their family. Edmund is determined to bring them back together, drawing on the only bit of strength he has left—his love for Mary and their daughter, Stephanie. But Mary sinks deeper into depression while little Stephanie’s anger grows. Edmund flounders in his attempts to rescue his family from the brink of collapse and doesn’t know where to turn.
Then Mary receives an invitation for the family to become guests at Manor House, a seemingly quaint Bed and Breakfast. This, she assures her husband, is the answer to all their troubles.
Edmund arrives ahead of his family to spend a couple days working on his long-delayed novel. But his growing curiosity about the old house leads Edmund to an encounter that will change him forever.
What will you sacrifice for love?
An old fashioned psychological thriller with a nod to Stephen King, Manor House will keep you guessing and compel you to turn the page to the very end.
A mother will sacrifice anything for her children. A husband will risk everything to save his wife. Manor House will take them all.
Matt is the author and creator of Ghosts of Manor House and Senior Producer at Zynga. Computers and video games have been a part of his life since he was young. As a child, he always played video games and when he was ten, his Dad told him that he should try making his own. And so he taught himself to program and create games on the computer. He majored in Computer Science and enjoys working with a team of creative people. Matt has a passion for books and finds writing to be a great way to release his inner creativity.
Matt lives and works in the busy and vibrant metropolis of San Francisco where he is surrounded by extraordinary views of the ocean. He loves how the city is filled with a variety of people and activities – there is always something to do and new to see. In addition to San Francisco, Matt spends a lot of time in Grass Valley with friends and family where he can escape the concrete jungle for the relative calm of this gold mining sierra town. This is where the characters and story of Ghosts came to life.
I write this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors check here if you want to get your book reviewed) and thank Rosie Amber and the author for providing me a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.
The description of the book provides us with a good gist of what the book is about (and it is accurate) but the title itself will stir readers in the right direction. Yes, this is a book about ghosts and it centres on a house. Manor House is a house with plenty of history behind. And Mr. Travels, the old oak tree in its vicinity, has seen its share of events, mostly dark ones.
The book is a ghost story in the best tradition of psychological horror. The clever way in which the story is designed made me think of magicians and sleight of hand artists who misdirect the spectators and create an atmosphere where the most bizarre or magical things can come true. The story is told in the third person and although it mostly tells of the events that happen to the family Wilder, it also has a prologue and an epilogue that beautifully bring the story full circle and incorporate it into the mythology of the house, turning it into a representative of what the house stands for, and of the stories of the rest of its inhabitants. The story is set in the recent past, before social media and mobile phones were the norm, and it is told in the third person, in its majority from the point of view of Edmund Wilder, (although later there are some chapters told from the point of view of his brother-in-law, Charlie), who was a happy husband and father until tragedy stroke and he lost his son, Tommy. His wife is depressed and when she suggests spending a few days at Manor House to have a break and strengthen their family ties, he agrees. The plan is for him to take the opportunity to write the book he has been talking about for ages. The narration is not straightforward. Although the book is pretty short, the reader needs to remain attentive, as Edmund experiences strange events, and his story is interspersed with his writing, that includes stories about the house, a diary where he narrates dreams (sometimes experienced whilst awake and sometimes asleep), and the time frame is not as evident as it might seem at times. Edmund is not a reliable narrator. He interacts with a number of mysterious characters that keep reassuring him that everything is all right, but he is not totally convinced of that. There are moments when he feels that he is not in control of what is happening or what he is writing, but that he is rather a conduit for somebody or something else (Manor House?).
These mysterious characters who work in the house (Lucas, the housekeeper, and the groundskeeper) give him some clues as to what might be really going on, but we experience events through Edmund’s eyes and senses, and although we might be as convinced as he is that things are not right, and we have some extra information (the prologue and later the chapters from Charlie’s point of view), we still feel as lost and puzzled as him.
Matt Powers does a great job of enveloping the story in suggestion and creating intrigue, without using gore descriptions or openly violent scenes. He manages to make the readers autosuggest themselves and creates a psychological atmosphere of disquiet and dread. The fact that we only know some basic facts about the family and the protagonist rather than having a very personalised and detailed portrayal of the individuals and their characteristics helps us immerse ourselves in the story and we can easily identify with the role of observer and writer Edmund takes on (more or less willingly).
The style of the writing is atmospheric and it alternates with stream of consciousness and with descriptive writing of historical events and lore, but as mentioned, due to the state of mind of the character whose point of view we share in, it needs to be followed closely and it is not a light and easy read.
The author explains that he intended to pay homage and create his own version of the horror stories about ghosts and haunted houses he loves, and in my opinion, he is successful. Fans of horror stories will find plenty of nods to stories and authors who have written in the genre and will enjoy that aspect as much as the story itself. Although I did not find the novel scary or the ending surprising per se, it is eerie and it does a good job of exploring the psychology of anxiety and fear, while at the same time touching on the themes of loss, grief, guilt, and the toll losing a child can have on family relationships.
A short read recommended for those who prefer their frights more psychological and less gory in nature. And I agree with the author’s chosen quote by Dean Koontz:
Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.
Another author to keep a close eye on.
Thanks to Rosie and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you dear readers for being here another year, and for reading my ramblings, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!
Today I’m sharing the review of a book that is not yet available in the UK but I hope you’ll keep it in mind. I’m sorry for including so many editorials reviews, but it’s received a lot of attention in the US and I’m not surprised.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmnyn Ward
‘This wrenching new novel by Jesmyn Ward digs deep into the not-buried heart of the American nightmare. A must’ Margaret Atwood
‘A powerfully alive novel haunted by ghosts; a road trip where people can go but they can never leave; a visceral and intimate drama that plays out like a grand epic, Sing, Unburied, Sing is staggering’ Marlon James, Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015
An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.
When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America. It is a majestic new work from an extraordinary and singular author.
An Amazon Best Book of September 2017: A slamming, heartbreaker of a novel that is rendered with such stinging beauty and restrained emotion that despite the anguish taking place on the page, you won’t want it to end. For her third novel, National Book Award winning Jesmyn Ward, tells the story of Jojo, a young black Mississippi boy raised by his grandparents, who is forced to become a man far before he should because his mother is a drug addict, his father is in jail, and his baby sister needs a guardian. When Jojo’s dad is released from prison, Leonie packs Jojo and Kayla in the car, picks up her meth addled friend and drives north. What transpires is a nightmarish journey that weaves in and out of the present – Leonie’s meth induced highs, when she dreams of her dead brother who was killed by white hands decades ago, and the past — when a man named Ritchie served time alongside Jojo’s grandfather. Sing, Unburied, Sing shimmers with mythic southern memories to tell a story of the drugged and the damned and the fluttering promise of youth. –Al Woodworth
“Ghosts, literal and literary, haunt nearly every page of Sing, Unburied, Sing — a novel whose boundaries between the living and the dead shift constantly, like smoke or sand. Set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi (a place rich in oil rigs and atmosphere, if almost nothing else), the book’s Southern gothic aura recalls the dense, head-spinning prose of William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor. But the voice is entirely Ward’s own, a voluptuous magical realism that takes root in the darkest corners of human behavior … Ward, whose Salvage the Bones won a National Book Award, has emerged as one of the most searing and singularly gifted writers working today. Grade: A.”
“However eternal its concerns, Sing, Unburied, Sing, Ward’s new book, is perfectly poised for the moment. It combines aspects of the American road novel and the ghost story with a timely treatment of the long aftershocks of a hurricane and the opioid epidemic devouring rural America.”
—The New York Times
“Staggering … even more expansive and layered [than Salvage the Bones]. A furious brew with hints of Toni Morrison and Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Ward’s novel hits full stride when Leonie takes her children and a friend and hits the road to pick up her children’s father, Michael, from prison. On a real and metaphorical road of secrets and sorrows, the story shifts narrators — from Jojo to Leonie to Richie, a doomed boy from his grandfather’s fractured past — as they crash into both the ghosts that stalk them, as well as the disquieting ways these characters haunt themselves.”
“Sing, Unburied, Sing is many things: a road novel, a slender epic of three generations and the ghosts that haunt them, and a portrait of what ordinary folk in dire circumstances cleave to as well as what they — and perhaps we all — are trying to outrun.”
—New York Times Book Review
“While the magical element is new in Ward’s fiction, her allusiveness, anchored in her interest in the politics of race, has been pointing in this direction all along. It takes a touch of the spiritual to speak across chasms of age, class, and color … The signal characteristic of Ward’s prose is its lyricism. “I’m a failed poet,” she has said. The length and music of Ward’s sentences owe much to her love of catalogues, extended similes, imagistic fragments, and emphasis by way of repetition … The effect, intensified by use of the present tense, can be hypnotic. Some chapters sound like fairy tales. This, and her ease with vernacular language, puts Ward in fellowship with such forebears as Zora Neale Hurston and William Faulkner.”
—The New Yorker
“[A] tour de force … Ward is an attentive and precise writer who dazzles with natural and supernatural observations and lyrical details … she continues telling stories we need to hear with rare clarity and power.” —O, the Oprah Magazine
“Gorgeous … Always clear-eyed, Ward knows history is a nightmare. But she insists all the same that we might yet awaken and sing.” —Chicago Tribune
“The novel is built around an arduous car trip: A black woman and her two children drive to a prison to pick up their white father. Ward cleverly uses that itinerant structure to move this family across the land while keeping them pressed together, hot and irritated. As soon as they leave the relative safety of their backwoods farm, the snares and temptations of the outside world crowd in, threatening to derail their trip or cast them into some fresh ordeal …. The plight of this one family is now tied to intersecting crimes and failings that stretch over decades. Looking out to the yard, Jojo thinks, ‘The branches are full. They are full with ghosts, two or three, all the way up to the top, to the feathered leaves.’ Such is the tree of liberty in this haunted nation.”
“In this lush and lonely novel, Ward lets the dead sing. It’s a kind of burial.”
“Ward unearths layers of history in gorgeous textured language, ending with an unearthly chord.”
“The heart of Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is story — the yearning for a narrative to help us understand ourselves, the pain of the gaps we’ll never fill, the truths that are failed by words and must be translated through ritual and song …. Ward’s writing throbs with life, grief, and love, and this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it.” —Buzzfeed
“Jesmyn Ward’s new novel is like a modern Beloved, with the cruelty of the criminal justice system swapped in for the torments of slavery … Sing marks Ward as the sharpest voice in the contemporary conversation around the past’s relationship to the present … Sing is an expansive endeavor.”
“Very beautiful.” —Vox
“Macabre and musical. [Ward] has a knack for capturing vivid details from contemporary poverty: skeletal houses covered in insulation paper, laborers on the prison farm ‘bent and scuttling along like hermit crabs.’ Her lyrical language elevates desperation into poetic reverie … a gripping and melodious indictment of modern racial injustices.”
“If William Faulkner mined the South for gothic, stream-of-consciousness tragedy, and Toni Morrison conjured magical realism from the corroding power of the region’s race hatred, then Ward is a worthy heir to both. This is not praise to be taken lightly. Ward has the command of language and the sense of place, the empathy and the imagination, to carve out her own place among the literary giants.”
—The Dallas Morning News
“After winning the National Book Award for Salvage the Bones, Ward is back, with an epic family saga, an odyssey through rural Mississippi’s past and present.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“In her first novel since the National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward immerses the reader in a mesmerizing, cathartic family story … Ward’s spellbinding prose has a fervid physicality, teeming with the sights, smells, tastes and textures of her native Gulf town of DeLisle, Mississippi, rechristened here as Bois Sauvage. Her images pulse with stunning intensity, seeming to peer into the hidden nature of things, while laying bare the hearts of her characters. More powerful still is the seemingly boundless compassion that Ward demonstrates toward even the least lovable of her creations, expressed through lines that course with pain and love.” —Seattle Times
“Ms. Ward has mastered a lyrical and urgent blend of past and present here, conjuring the unrestful spirits of black men murdered by white men, and never shying away from the blatant brutality of white supremacy … Ms. Ward’s musical language is the stuff of formidable novelists, and never has it been more finely tuned.” —The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“As long as America has novelists such as Jesmyn Ward, it will not lose its soul. “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” the story of a few days in the lives of a tumultuous Mississippi Gulf Coast family and the histories and ghosts that haunt it, is nothing short of magnificent. Combining stark circumstances with magical realism, it illuminates America’s love-hate tug between the races in a way that we seem incapable of doing anywhere else but in occasional blessed works of art.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[As] in everything she writes, Ward’s gorgeous evocation of the burden of history reminds me of Mississippi’s most famous writer, in a novel with more than a trace of As I Lay Dying … Always clear-eyed, Ward knows history is a nightmare. But she insists all the same that we might yet awake and sing.” —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal
“[Sing, Unburied, Sing has] a fresh, visceral resonance … [its] story of grief, racism and poverty isn’t only Mississippi’s story but our country’s. So, too, let us hope, is its story of resilience and grace. —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“This book is so good that after you read it, you will want to read it again.”
“If you’ve already encountered Jesmyn Ward, you need know nothing more than that she has a new book out. If you haven’t, put Sing, Unburied, Sing at the top of your must-read list. [Ward’s] writing is page-turning. In Sing, Unburied, Sing, she puts the reader in the car, palpably rendering the oppressive heat, Kayla’s misery, Jojo’s anxiety, the crustiness of their clothing, their unquenchable thirst and the whole electrified atmosphere. Perhaps the most memorable book I’ve read this year, Sing, Unburied, Sing would be an outstanding book club choice.”
“[Jesmyn Ward is] one of the most powerfully poetic writers in the country … Readers may be reminded of the trapped spirits in George Saunders’ recent novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, but Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a more direct antecedent.” —Albany Times Union
“Ward is a visceral writer, her sentences often hitting the reader like a slap across the face … Ward tells a sweeping tale about atonement and forgetting, shame and responsibility, and failure, sorrow, hatred and acceptance. She does not offer answers. And maybe there are none. But her vital novel shows that we must heed the singing of the past, and raise our voices to help those wounds to heal.” —amNew York
“From the opening pages of Sing, Unburied, Sing, you know you’re in for a unique experience among the pecan trees and dusty roads of rural Mississippi. This intricately layered story combines mystical elements with a brutal view of racial tensions in the modern-day American South…Visitations from dead people, tales of snakes that turn into “scaly birds’ whose feathers allow recipients to fly—this material would have felt mannered in the hands of a lesser writer. But Ward skillfully weaves realistic and supernatural elements into a powerful narrative. The writing, though matter-of-fact in its depiction of prejudice, is poetic throughout…an important work from an astute observer of race relations in 21st-century America.”
“No reason to delay this spell-bound verdict: With Sing, Unburied, Sing, her third novel, Jesmyn Ward becomes the standard-bearer for contemporary Southern fiction, its fullest, most forceful, most vibrant, and most electrifying voice … While Ward, born and raised in a small coastal community near Pass Christian, Mississippi, is operating within the contours of the Southern literary tradition—in the swampy lilt of her prose, in the scope of her concerns, in the way she entangles setting and character—she is also expanding it, heaving it forward, and revitalizing it in ways that no writer has done in more than a decade.” —Garden & Gun
“Ward tells the story of three generations of a struggling Mississippi family in this astonishing novel … Their stories are deeply affecting, in no small part because of Ward’s brilliant writing and compassionate eye.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“In her follow-up to the National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, Ward ambitiously fractures the extended family she portrays along race lines and moves her narrative from the tense realism of Southern rural poverty and prejudice to an African American-rooted magic realism … The narrative … sails through to an otherworldly, vividly rendered ending. Lyrical yet tough, Ward’s distilled language effectively captures the hard lives, fraught relationships, and spiritual depth of her characters.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“In her first novel since the National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones (2011), Ward renders richly drawn characters, a strong sense of place, and a distinctive style that is at once down-to-earth and magical.” —Booklist
“If Sing, Unburied, Sing is proof of anything, it’s that when it comes to spinning poetic tales of love and family, and the social metastasis that often takes place but goes unspoken of in marginalized communities—let alone the black American South—Jesmyn Ward is, by far, the best doing it today. Another masterpiece.” —Jason Reynolds, author of Ghost
“The connection between the injustices of the past and the desperation of present are clearly drawn in Sing, Unburied, Sing, a book that charts the lines between the living and the dead, the loving and the broken. I am a huge fan of Jesmyn Ward’s work, and this book proves that she is one of the most important writers in America today.” —Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth
“Sing, Unburied, Sing is a road novel turned on its head, and a family story with its feet to the fire. Lyric and devastating, Ward’s unforgettable characters straddle past and present in this spellbinding return to the rural Mississippi of her first book. You’ll never read anything like it.” —Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
“Read Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing and you’ll feel the immense weight of history—and the immense strength it takes to persevere in the face of it. This novel is a searing, urgent read for anyone who thinks the shadows of slavery and Jim Crow have passed, and anyone who assumes the ghosts of the past are easy to placate. It’s hard to imagine a more necessary book for this political era.” —Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
About the author:
Jesmyn Ward is a former Stegner fellow at Stanford and Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her novels, Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, are both set on the Mississippi coast where she grew up. Bloomsbury will publish her memoir about an epidemic of deaths of young black men in her community. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Alabama.
Thanks to NetGalley and to Scribner for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
Sometimes, I’d try to write them down, but they were just bad poems, limping down the page: Training a horse. The next line. Cut with the knees.
It stays with me, a bruise in the memory that hurts when I touch it.
I would throw up everything. All of it: food and bile and stomach and intestines and esophagus, organs all, bones and muscle, until all that was left was skin. And then maybe that could turn inside out, and I wouldn’t be nothing no more. Not this…
“Because we don’t walk no straight lines. It’s all happening at once. All of it. We are all here at once. My mama and daddy and they mamas and daddies.” Mam looks to the wall, closes her eyes. “My son.”
Both of us bow together as Richie goes darker and darker, until he’s a black hole in the middle of the yard, like he done sucked all the light and darkness over them miles, over them years, into him, until he’s burning black, and then he isn’t. There…
“Let’s go,” I say. Knowing that tree is there makes the skin on my back burn, like hundreds of ants are crawling up my spine, seeking tenderness between the bones to bit. I know the boy is there, watching, waving like grass in water.
I decided to start with some quotes (and I would happily quote the whole book, but there would be no point) because I know I could not make its language justice. This is a book about a family, three generations of an African-American family in the South and it has been compared to works by Morrison and Faulkner, and that was what made me request the book as they are among my favourite authors. And then, I kept reading about it and, well, in my opinion, they are not wrong. We have incredible descriptions of life in the South for this rural family (smells, touch, sound, sight, taste, and even the sixth sense too), we have a nightmarish road trip to a prison, with some detours, we have characters that we get to know intimately in their beauty and ugliness, and we have their story and that of many others whose lives have been touched by them.
There are two main narrators, Leonie, a young woman, mother of two children, whose life seems to be on a downward spiral. Her white partner is in prison for cooking Amphetamines, she does drugs as often as she can and lives with her parents, who look after her children, and seems to live denying her true nature and her feelings. Her son, Jojo, is a teenager who has become the main support of the family, looking after his kid sister, Michaela, or Kayla, helping his grandfather and grandmother, rebellious and more grown-up and responsible than his mother and father. Oh, and he hears and understands what animals say, and later on, can also see and communicate with ghosts. His grandmother is also a healer and knows things, although she is riddled with cancer, and his baby sister also seems to have the gift. The third narrator is one of the ghosts, Richie, who before he makes his physical (ghostly?) appearance has been the subject of a story Jojo’s grandfather has been telling him, without ever quite finishing it, seemingly waiting for the right moment to tell him what really happened. When we get to that point, the story is devastating, but so are most of the stories in the novel. Fathers who physically fight with their sons because they love an African-American woman, young men killed because it was not right that a black man win a bet, men imprisoned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and for being the wrong race… The stories pile up and even the ghosts fight with each other to try and gain a sense of self, to try to belong.
This is magic realism at its best. As I said, the descriptions of the characters, the locations, and the family relationships are compelling and detailed. But there are elements that break the boundaries of realism (yes, the ghosts, and the style of the narration, where we follow interrupted stories, stream of consciousness, and where the living and those who are not really there are given equal weight), and that might make the novel not suitable for everybody. As beautiful as the language is, it is also harsh and raw at times, and incredibly moving.
Although it is short and, for me at least, a page turner, this is not a light read and I’d recommend approaching it with caution if you are particularly sensitive to abuse, violence, drug use, or if you prefer your stories straight, with no otherworldly interferences. Otherwise, check a sample, and do yourselves a favour. Read it. I hadn’t read any of this author’s books before, but I’ll be on the lookout and I’ll try and catch up on her previous work. She is going places.
Thanks very much to NetGalley, Scribner and the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!
I don’t know if you’ll remember that a while back (it was July) I participated in tour of a cover reveal of the short-story Her by Danielle Rose. Well, today I have the review of the story, and in case you didn’t remember the original post, here it is:
Kemper Academy is over a hundred years old, but it has only recently reopened after a series of murders and stories of hauntings shut it down. Avlynn, a new student, refuses to let the rumors scare her, chalking them up to a bit of friendly freshman hazing. But when night falls and screams draw her from her room, she finds the truth is much more horrifying than any ghost story.
Danielle Rose holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. Currently residing in the Midwest, where she spends her days dreaming of warmer temperatures, when she’s not writing, she enjoys pretending she lives in California, spending an embarrassing amount of time at Hobby Lobby, and binge-watching Netflix. Visit Danielle on the Web: www.Danielle-Rose.com.
It is a bit difficult to write this review without sharing any spoilers, as the story is very short indeed. Blink and you’ve missed it. Despite that, it is atmospheric, intriguing, and fairly dark (although there’s no gore involved at all, so don’t worry if you’re squeamish).
The author uses many of the tropes of horror novels and films (an old gothic-looking property, a ghost story, night, cold, a daring young girl who refuses to show others she is scared) and puts them to good use.
The story is not long enough for us to get a great insight into the characters, although we easily identify with Avlynn, as we see all that happens from her point of view, we hear the screams, we realise our roommate is not there, we wonder which way we should go and we face… (No, I’m not telling you what). The twist at the end is perhaps not totally unexpected but it works very well and makes the story all the more chilling. Yes, we should remember that we ignore some warnings at our peril.
A solid short-story, scary and chilling, and a great introduction to the author’s writing. Recommended to anybody who enjoys ghost stories, especially to those who like short reads and don’t want to get bogged down in too much backstory.
I was given an e-copy of the story as part of a blog tour organised by Lady Amber’s Reviews & PR and I freely chose to review it.
Thanks to Lady Amber and the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!
If art can capture a soul, what happens when one of those souls escapes?
When art appraiser Anita Cassatt is sent to catalogue the extensive collection of reclusive artist Leo Kubin, it isn’t the chilly atmosphere of the secluded house making her shiver, it’s the silent audience of portraits clustered on every wall watching her.
Kubin’s lawyer didn’t share the detailed instructions regarding the handling of the art, and Anita and her team start work in ignorance of the very instructions designed to keep them safe. Safe from the art.
In the dark, a portrait stirs as the subject eases themselves out of the portrait and stretches, free at last from the confines of a canvas which they have no intention of ever returning to. They have a painting to finish and the people in the house will only be in the way…
Buy Painted now and you’ll never look at the art on your walls the same way again.
Perfect for lovers of early Stephen King and Rachel Caine
What readers are saying about PAINTED:
“Refreshing to encounter this subtle, delicate narrative where horror peeps slyly out…”
“Painted is an effective haunted house book, favoring tension and subtlety over outright violence and kills.”
“McKenzie does an incredible job in the characterization of the people in her novel. With each and every one, I came away with the feeling that I knew them–down to even the secrets they kept hidden from each other.”
“This novel literally took my breath away in places.”
“The plot is sensationally addictive and the creepy factor kept me alert page after page.”
“No gore or cheap scares here, this is a subtle and delicate chiller written in the spirit of a Shirley Jackson novel.”
For many years Kirsten McKenzie worked in her family’s antique store, where she went from being allowed to sell the 50c postcards in the corner of Antique Alley as a child, to selling $5,000 Worcester vases and seventeenth century silverware, providing a unique insight into the world of antiques which touches every aspect of her writing.
Her historical fiction novels ‘Fifteen Postcards’ and its sequel ‘The Last Letter’ have been described as ‘Time Travellers Wife meets Far Pavilions’, and ‘Antiques Roadshow gone viral’.
Her first horror novel, ‘Painted’, was released in June 2017.
She lives in New Zealand with her husband, daughters, and her SPCA rescue cat, and can be found procrastinating on Twitter under the handle @Kiwimrsmac.
Thanks to Rosie Amber (from Rosie’s Book Review Team, check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, that I freely chose to review.
When I read the description of Painted I knew I had to read it, as it was a horror novel (and despite how much I like the genre, I don’t seem to read many of them), and it had to do with art. When I read that the author had worked in the antiques family business; that sealed the deal for me. I had not read any work by this author before (and I understand this is the first time she writes horror) but I am pleased to have discovered her.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let’s say we have a dead painter who left very specific instructions in his will as to how to deal with the artwork he left behind. Unfortunately, there had been changes at his lawyer’s and his instructions were ignored. And we all know what happens when we ignore warnings, don’t we?
There are authors who are better at building characters than at creating a plot, and there are also authors who excel at describing places and objects but are not so good at providing psychological insights. McKenzie manages to create a great gothic atmosphere (some reviewers have said that the novel is more gothic than pure horror, but both things do not exclude each other), with a fantastically eerie and creepy house, full of even creepier portraits, and a variety of objects, furniture, and even plants that all combine to create a fabulous setting for the novel. In fact, the house becomes another character, one that hides many secrets, and of course, many ghosts.
But the author also creates fully-fledged characters, with their passions, foibles, secrets (some darker than others), and stories. Even when we do not get to share much time with them, we get flashes of their personality (be it because of their fastidiousness about their personal appearance, or because of the way they hang on to mementos from the past, or the way they present a false and harmless persona to the world when they are anything but). She manages to do this by using a variety of techniques, especially by her particular use of point of view. The story is written in the third person, but it shares the points of views of different characters. There is a certain degree of head-hopping, although I did not find it confusing and it is very smoothly done. We do see things from the perspective of all the characters. We mostly follow Anita, the young woman sent by the auctioneer’s to catalogue the paintings, because she is the first one to arrive and she spends the most time at the house, but we even get an insight into the thoughts of the lawyer’s secretary and of the farmer’s dog. And of course, the baddies (although it is not easy to decide who is good and bad in the story). There are also moments when we are told something that none of the characters could know (a great way of creating suspense and forecasting future events), like references to shadows, sounds nobody has heard yet, and things that happen behind characters’ backs or when they are asleep.
The character easiest to empathise and later sympathise with is Anita. It is clear from the beginning that she is battling with something that happened to her in the past and is bravely trying to get on with her life (despite still experiencing symptoms of PTSD). Her story is terrible in its own right, and it makes her reactions to what happens more justified. Some characters are nasty and difficult to like (like the lawyer), but most of them are given interesting backgrounds and scenes that make them memorable, and some are much more twisted than we realise.
I loved the details of the process of cataloguing the house contents (as I love antiques and TV programmes about antiques. Yes, I could watch The Antiques Roadshow forever and never get bored), the descriptions of the painting process, and the pace of the novel. The atmosphere is created slowly and we follow the characters’ commonsensical approach to the events to begin with and share with them their descent into paranoia and utter horror. The step-by-step reveal, the twists and turns, and the ghosts (it reminded me of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James) are also masterly rendered. And the ending… No, I did not see it coming, and as a fan of unhappy endings in horror books, this manages to satisfy, to surprise and to leave us wondering.
This is psychological horror, with ghosts and haunted house, at its best, and it does not contain gore or extreme violence (there is more menace and imagining than there is anything explicit), so I would recommend it to lovers of the genre, and to those who love atmospheric readings and don’t mind a scare or two. I cannot comment on the author’s previous writing, but she definitely has a talent for this genre, and based on the quality of her writing, I’m sure we’ll hear more from her.
Thanks again to the author and to Rosie for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!
Today I bring you a novel whose description drew me in even if the topic was totally unknown. The author was kind enough to send me a sample of his writing so you can get a taster and see what you think…
The Last Gods of Indochine by Samuel Ferrer
The Last Gods of Indochine (422 pages, excerpt below)was nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize (“The Booker of Asia”), making me the only non-Asian to have been nominated for Asia’s most prestigious literary award. It was also designated an “Editors’ Choice” in the current issue of the quarterly magazine, Historical Novels Review. From the novel’s back-cover summary: “Jacquie Mouhot and Paaku the Lotus-Born are divided by six centuries but linked by a common curse. In medieval Cambodia, Paaku is an orphan whose community believes he may be a reluctant incarnation of a god, causing sectarian turmoil for the kingdom’s leaders. Meanwhile, in 1921, Jacquie follows the footsteps of her grandfather, a famous explorer, to Indochina, where she becomes immersed in the tragedy of Paaku’s history: a story simultaneously unfolding in the intertwined present and past, a story in which she still has a vital role to play.” The protagonist is female and the story includes romance.
Ferrer is a professional double bassist and member of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the band-leader and songwriter for Hong Kong’s largest original band, Shaolin Fez. He holds degrees from Yale and the University of Southern California, and as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, spent a year in Paris in between degrees. With the “The Last Gods of Indochine”, Ferrer became the only non-Asian to have ever been nominated for Asia’s most prestigious literary award, The Man Asian Literary Prize (“The Booker of Asia”).
Further bio info on the Amazon author page: “Born in California, Samuel Ferrer has lived in South East Asia since 2002, writing The Last Gods of Indochine in the bars of Bangkok, Saigon, Hanoi, the cafes of Laos, in the mountains of Sapa, and on location throughout Cambodia. Inspired by the real life of explorer, Henri Mouhot (1826-1881), this historical fiction novel centers around Mouhot’s fictitious granddaughter and uses excerpts from the journal that made Mouhot famous after his death in the jungles of Laos, published posthumously in 1863.”
It was hard to believe the human body could contain so much water, and yet, there it all was. Phrai twisted the cloth and watched it plop in dull patters on the ground, the pocked earth sponging up sound as well. Sweat had been seeping out his employer for weeks, and he had been at the dying man’s side all the while, pouring fresh water back into his mouth with the devotion of a nun. Phrai imagined nearly half the man had been absorbed and squeezed from these rags, creating small pools just outside the hut. In another part of the world, that half of him would evaporate out of existence, but here it could not; the thick air held eternity at bay.
Phrai returned and closed the flimsy door after himself. The explorer looked like a rag doll tossed upon a bed. He regained consciousness and requested a mirror; even in dying, he didn’t want to be denied the role of observer. Perhaps he wanted to put that in his book as well. Phrai resisted, thinking it best not to show him the thinly veiled skeleton who would have stared back. Instead, he wiped the fermenting body clean with a soapy rag. There was no dirt to wash off, just the fetid odor.
It was no wonder the white-ghost had succumbed to this condition whilst exploring here. They couldn’t take the heat; they gagged on the thick air. And this white-ghost was no exception. He had worked too hard and traveled too far. He had been away from home too long. Going up one river, he had hastened his young guides to lead him even farther up the next, and after that, yet another. But the jungle was too deep here, in Farther India, and he should have turned back long ago.
The door of the shaky hut popped open and Nion, the other guide, looked in, a bag under his arm. At the grey horizon, lightning flickered quietly, like the tongue of a lizard. Anxiety pulled long-wise on Nion’s face. He grimaced at the sight, approached and sat upon the edge of the bed. The explorer opened his eyes, straining to see. Nion opened the bag and pulled out a small packet.
“Monsieur, I’m back from Vientiane,” he said. “I made the trip as fast as I could. We have more quinine now.”
The man’s torso heaved, his eyelids closed again. Nion continued with the hopeless plan, unwrapping a packet and mixing the white powder with a glass of water. The man opened his eyes and watched, tongue peeping out the side of his mouth. As Phrai put his hands under his head and lifted, Nion poured the mixture in. With effort, he swallowed.
“Phrai, Nion,” he said, “my journal and drawings. That’s what’s most important. Get them to… Raymond Schomburgh. The British Consul in Bangkok. Also—the insects and shells.”
“We will. We promise,” Phrai replied, knowing firsthand all the effort put into them. The three went silent, solemn. When Phrai decided it was time to wipe down his body again, for the first time in several weeks the dying man gave a smile. His mouth twitched before he spoke.
“I have seen amazing things.”
“You have, monsieur.”
The words struggled off his tongue: “No one knows. I don’t believe anyone else has seen. How could a civilization so grand—so magnificent—become entirely lost? It must be the greatest the world has ever seen.”
“Monsieur,” Phrai said with a sad smile, “the ruins have never been lost. Our people avoid them. And never underestimate the will of the jungle. She simply reclaimed what was always hers.” Phrai thought, She is reclaiming you too.
The curtain of unconsciousness closed back over the explorer’s face. An hour passed before he opened his eyes again, half-mast. Phrai was sitting on a stool, fanning him. Nion had gone outside. Scrunching his brow, the man asked, “Are my children still playing in the forest?”
Phrai reflected, the fan stopping beside the explorer’s face. “No, they are in London, with your wife.”
“London?” he murmured. “All four of them?”
“No, monsieur,” Phrai said. “You only have two small children, a boy and a girl.”
“No, there are four. And what of the monkey-healer? Is he still here?”
The door nudged open and Nion entered. He approached and looked over Phrai’s shoulder.
The explorer asked, “Where did he go?”
“Who?” Nion asked.
“The Lotus-Born. The monkey-healer.”
Phrai whispered to Nion, “He keeps talking about a boy who heals monkeys.”
Groaning, the explorer began rocking from side to side. Phrai tried to pour more water into his mouth, but he turned and it dribbled off his face. Nion sat down on the bed. The man’s eyes, bolted with red, stretched wider.
“Do you see that?” he asked, eyes flitting across the roof.
“No,” answered Nion, not looking up.
“It’s so beautiful. Yet so dangerous to me. The Sea of Milk.”
The explorer’s face suddenly went limp, his chest sank, and wind sighed out of his mouth. Phrai quickly grabbed his flaccid wrist. There was still a pulse. Nion wiped his face off again, begging him not to go to sleep. Eventually, the man’s lips quivered again with life.
From the bottom of his lungs, he gurgled, “I have—I have seen it a number of times now. I have seen him a number of times now. Many lives. Many centuries.”
Phrai and Nion didn’t recognize this ancient voice; it came not from the pipes of his throat, but rather, a place much deeper.
His eyes rolled upwards, leaving two slits of white in their place. Phrai grabbed both of his hands and squeezed. “Don’t go to sleep, monsieur!”
“The Sea of Milk awaits me again. So beautiful to others, but so tragic to me!” he said. “And my poor, poor children—I’m sure I heard them in the forest!”
He lurched onto his side and Nion braced him from falling off the bed where he convulsed and gagged on air. A gurgle from the bottom of his throat rose, popped, and he vomited pure white fluid onto the floor. The puddle had the brackish smell of the sea.
He rolled onto his back, chin now lacquered. Breathing heavily, he looked past the two young men and declared, “He is here!” His eyes widened further, his breathing shortened, and he asked the last questions he would ever ask, directed at that empty space in the room: “Do not consider the suffering of others? What of the two children I still have left?”
The glassy surface of the Seine River flowed with civility, sundering in two at the Ile de la Cité. Like a citadel, tall walls rose from the water to join with its residential part. A quaint reading park, tucked away at the base of the islet where the water parted, contained a small garden and a pair of trees. With their autumn leaves blending, the willow and plane tree held each other like an elderly couple. Golden leaves butterflied between them.
Jacquie couldn’t help but feel she was saying goodbye to autumn as well. This was, after all, a goodbye to most everything familiar to her. Her focus came back to the glass, noticing the ghost of Great Aunt Adèle upon its surface, this woman who was both family and nearly a stranger. She studied Adèle studying her. Holding her bowl of coffee, Adèle’s hands had a slight tremble. Yet again, Jacquie was having to justify her decision.
“I want to feel as if I knew him,” she said to the window, fingers settling on the porcelain cameo at the base of her throat. She knew that would not be enough to satisfy her great aunt, just as it had failed to do with all the others.
My review: A beautifully written historical fiction novel about the Khmer Empire exploring fate, colonialism, spirituality and trauma.
I do not know much about Indochine or present day Cambodia, where this story is set, other than vague information gathered from movies, mostly about the war. Recently, I have discovered that reading historical fiction is a great way to learn (or at least wet one’s appetite) about places and historical periods one is not familiar with but feels curious about, in an engaging and entertaining way. This novel is a good example of this, even though the author clarifies at the end that he has taken many liberties with the historical figures and also with the period reflected. (I recommend that readers don’t skip the notes as they are helpful in sorting fancy from fact and also offer up-to-date information on current knowledge about the Khmer Empire and the reasons for its demise).
The story is narrated in the third person and, after an introduction describing the last moments of Henry Mouhot, a French explorer known for ‘discovering’ the lost civilisation of Angkor Wat (that was never lost and had already been known to Westerners, but he popularised with his journals), alternates chapters from the point of view of Jacqueline Mouhot, Henry’s granddaughter and Paaku, the Lotus Born. Jacquie is a fictional character and we meet her in 1921, shortly after WWI. She had helped at a field hospital in the Somme and we realise she is severely traumatised by an incident that took place while she was there. She clearly shows signs of PTSD but we get to learn more details of what happened and how it relates to the story later, although we know it was bad enough for her to be removed from her posting.
Her story is interspersed with that of Paaku the Lotus Born, another fictional character, a young man living in XIIIc Khmer Empire, whose identity and story seem to be the stuff of myths and legend. He does not know his true origin, as he is an orphan brought up by a Vishnu monk, and he seems to have been chosen (although by whom and what for is not immediately evident) and might have special healing powers.
At first, I felt it easier to identify with Jacquie’s story, as her point of view as a woman trying to get by in a man’s world at such a time, and her state of mind were more familiar to me (even if she is not always the most sympathetic of characters, complaining about minor things, like the lack of comfort of some parts of the trip, and she appears quite naïve as to what her experience travelling to Asia might mean). But Paaku’s story is so beautifully told and shares such unique world-views and experiences that it’s impossible not to become enchanted at first, and later increasingly worried as to what his fate might be. The more we read, the more we’re struck by the links and connections between the two characters, and a number of possible explanations are offered during the novel as to why this should be so, although the final twist is not easy to guess (I only realised what might be behind the story very close to the ending but I won’t spoil it). The story is complex and the changes in historical period, language style (fragments of Mouhot’s true diaries are included in the novel as his fictional granddaughter reads them) and character’s point of view demand attention and close reading, but the results are very rewarding. At first, the changes in point of view might be somewhat frustrating if the readers identify more with one of the stories than with the other but the reason for the choice of writing form becomes evident and in the end and it suits the subject perfectly.
The language and descriptions of places, historical and social periods and lifestyles of both eras are poetic and evocative, and despite the third person narrative we get inside the characters’ heads and body and, thanks to the vivid writing style, experience their lives fully with our five senses. The novel explores many themes: mysticism, spiritual questions, colonialism, the different roles of men and women, family legacy, PTSD, fate and destiny, romance and there is much to keep us thinking, while our brains try to connect the stories at the same time as engaging with the language at a sensual level.
It might be something purely personal, but for me, one of the only things I wasn’t truly convinced about was the love story. Other than being there, having similar interests regarding the story of the area, and being a man and a woman, there seems to be little that connects them other than a romantic subplot in the novel, although it works as a way to humanise Jacquie, make her more vulnerable and it also facilitates the ending.
Both of the stories narrated in this novel are stories of discovery of spiritual truths, fate, friendship, love, the price to pay for one’s beliefs, fear and eventual peace. I am not at all surprised by the book’s nomination for the Man Asia Literary Prize. This is a beautifully written book about places and historical periods that captures readers’ imaginations and allow the mind to fly.
Thanks to the author and to Rosie Amber, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!
Today I bring you another one of my reviews for Rosie’s Book Review Team. I advise you to check her blog and follow the other reviewers if you’re interested in books.
And without further ado…
Blood of the Sixth by K. R. Rowe A gothic Southern tale that will scare and delight
In the quaint Southern town of Port Bella Rosa, something sinister lurks beneath the cobblestones. When hunger stirs a centuries-old evil, a demon awakens, releasing its hunters in search of prey. Jackals swarm from the mist, seeking out quarry, sating their master with offerings of human flesh.
Allie Kent catches a glimpse of the first victim: a corpse with its organs, muscle and bone all consumed, leaving nothing more than skin behind. While police work to solve the unexplained murder, more bodies are found mutilated. Finally convinced the killer isn’t human, Detective Phillip Chambers is desperate to shield Allie from harm.
But something haunts Allie: shadows spill through her darkened window; nightmares invade her sleep while visions confuse her waking thoughts. With Phillip her only protection, Allie struggles to keep her independence in check while treading a thin line between reality and insanity. But is the evil dwelling beneath the stones her only true threat—or will the demons in Allie’s head have the strength to destroy them both?
Here, my review:
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided with an ARC copy of the book that I freely chose to review.
I enjoy horror books (and movies) although I don’t read exclusively in that genre. I must admit that perhaps I’m more lenient with horror books than I’d be with others. If they manage to scare me, I’m usually happy. As happens with comedy, where it’s very difficult to make people laugh, it’s not that easy to scare people (or at least people who enjoy being scared. I know people who wouldn’t read horror or watch movies). If the book can scare me, the story is good and the characters are solid and interesting, we have a winner.
And, we have a winner! As I mention above I am reviewing this book as a member of Rosie’s Books Review Team, and I noticed it in the catalogue of books available a while back, but I had so many other books to read that I didn’t dare to take it on. And there it was, teasing me. Eventually, I had to read it.
The story, told in the third person, alternating between the points of view of Allie Kent, the main protagonist of the story, and some of the other characters, including Phillip Chambers, a detective who falls for her from the very beginning.
The opening of the novel (and as I said I’ve read a few in the genre) is very strong. I won’t mention anything, although I dare you to check the beginning of the novel in the look inside feature. You’ll see what I mean.
The main characters have difficult and traumatic experiences behind (Allie’s we discover slowly, and they are much worse than we imagine), and Allie and Phillip cling to each other. But the bizarre crimes have also much history behind them, and soon the ghosts of the past become more vivid and alive than the present for Allie, causing all kinds of terrible things.
The crimes are not only gory and scary, beautifully (if you know what I mean) and eerily rendered but also relate to a tragic love story. The baddies… well, supernatural doesn’t quite cover it. If you’re or have ever been scared of the dark, you’ll jump at shadows after reading this.
The author cleverly creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, where Allie’s apartment, her building, and the neighbourhood become part of the story, giving it a gothic feel. I can honestly say that I felt as if the town was shrinking and only the areas where the crimes were committed existed.
As I mentioned above, the writing is superb, with excellent descriptions, not only of settings and of the gory details but also of the psychological experiences of the characters, that although written in the third person feel very close. The novel fits in well in the tradition of the Southern gothic novel, with complex family relationships, oppressive atmosphere and the weight of traditions.
So, here you have a pretty scary story, with sympathetic characters you care for, a well-developed and intriguing story, and a gothic atmosphere. There are many aspects of the story that readers of other genres would also enjoy, but I hesitate to recommend it to people who don’t enjoy horror, because… well, it’s horrific and more. I’m looking forward to exploring more of the author’s novels and I strongly recommend it.
Thanks so much to Rosie for coordinating the team and for helping us discover such great reads, thanks to the author for a fantastic novel, and thanks to you all for reading, and you know what to do, like, share, comment and CLICK!
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