Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense – Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

40554543Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense is an anthology of lesser-known stories from literary masters, including the likes of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe and many more. Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger have collected these stories and set them in historical context, with an explanation of the significance of ghosts in literary fiction over the past two hundred years,

It should be noted that the stories in this collection are truly classic ghost stories: They are short, atmospheric tales of ghostly and spiritual encounters – definitely NOT modern horror. They aren’t gory or shocking, and in my opinion aren’t exactly scary, but they are creepy and rather spine-tingling.

To be honest, I didn’t enjoy every story. The writing quality of a couple of them was surprisingly questionable considering who the authors are, and one or two (particularly The Family Portraits by Johann August Apel) really dragged on despite being so short. Also, some of them are pretty old, which obviously isn’t a bad thing in itself, but this meant that the language used was sometimes quite difficult to follow.

My favourite stories were definitely The Signalman by Dickens which was the one I found the scariest and probably the best-written, and Sweet William’s Ghost which is actually a classic ballad.

I enjoyed the opening essay on ghost stories in literature, and the contextual description at the beginning of each story. This book is a definite must-read for lovers or ghost stories and classic paranormal fiction.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Imaginary Friend – Stephen Chbosky

46131509._SY475_Determined to improve life for her son, Christopher, Kate Reese flees an abusive relationship and starts over in the town of Mill Grove. It seems like a safe and idyllic town, until Christopher vanishes for six days. When he emerges from the woods at the edge of town, he is unharmed but different. Before, he struggled at school, now he’s one of the brightest kids there. Now, he speaks to an imaginary friend who gives him a mission he must complete by Christmas. Now, Christopher is wrapped up in a war between good and evil where he has a vital role to play.

This book is much more than just a horror. It covers family, friendship, community and good and evil. It is chilling and full of twists, as well as being surprisingly heartwarming. Honestly, how Stephen Chbosky went from Perks of Being a Wallflower to this is beyond me. Imaginary Friend is truly creepy and haunting, with an exciting and atmospheric plot – a far cry from the emotional angst of Perks.

My biggest piece of criticism would be that it is quite a bit longer than it needed to be. Some aspects of the story are very repetitive (Christopher seemed to spend an awful lot of time actively seeking out the Hissing Lady, finding her, and then running away. Like, why are you looking for her if you’re just going to run away?) Although I did love this book, I definitely think it could have benefited from having a few chapters cut. The unnecessary length and repetitiveness unfortunately got in to way of this being a five (or even four) star book.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Wakenhyrst – Michelle Paver

40725252Maud is a lonely child, growing up in a corner of the Fens in Edwardian Suffolk, without a mother and ruled over by her father. When, one day, he finds a medieval painting in a graveyard, unnatural forces are awakened that drive him beyond the point of obsession and into insanity. For Maud, this is the beginning of a battle to survive in a world haunted by devils, protect her beloved Fen, and uncover the demons of her father’s past.

I absolutely loved the atmosphere of this book. It is dark and spooky, with an air of menace from the very first page, which is entirely down to Michelle Paver’s brilliant writing because nothing overtly scary actually happens for the majority of the story.

Maud is one of the best characters I’ve read recently. Considering that she’s a child and a girl in Edwardian times with literally no power to do anything, she’s surprisingly ballsy. Her courage and intelligence made it impossible not to care about her. And the way she gets revenge on her father without ever attracting suspicion to herself or placing blame on anyone else is just brilliant.

I hadn’t read any of Michelle Paver’s books before Wakenhyrst, but I will definitely be correcting that in the future.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Familiars – Stacey Halls

41569416.jpgBased around the real 1612 Pendle Witch Trials, this compelling novel explores the rights of 17th century women and the true fate of those accused of witchcraft. Fleetwood Shuttleworth, noblewoman of Gawthorpe Hall, is pregnant for the fourth time. She has never carried a baby to term. Desperate to deliver an heir for her husband, Richard, Fleetwood enlists the help of a local midwife named Alice Grey. But Alice is soon drawn into the accusations of witchcraft that are sweeping the area, and Fleetwood must risk everything to clear her name.

I love books about witches, especially ones based on real-life events, and The Familiars really hit the mark. I know next to nothing about the Pendle Witch Trials (although I do now want to learn more), but I do know that Fleetwood, Alice and all the other characters in this book are based on real people affected by these trials. The author has used the real names of the women accused and tried for witchcraft, and built a fictional story out of the mystery of what really happened, which is truly fascinating.

The story is wonderfully well-written. The author builds a mysterious, slightly haunting atmosphere without any inclusion of actual magic. The plot is quite simple and develops slowly, but this only adds to the atmosphere and realism.

Fleetwood was a slightly annoying character (though I adore her name), but she fitted well into the story and was bearable enough to read about. Her complete powerlessness against the men around her was frustrating but, considering that the story is based on truth, realistic and frightening. I kind of hated her husband but, for the time, his actions were to be expected.

Also, how beautiful is that cover?

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Crescendo – Becca Fitzpatrick

8900616.jpgIn the sequel to Hush, Hush, things are not going well between Nora and Patch, who is now her guardian angel. A few too many fights and secrets lead to them breaking up, and Nora becomes determined to find out the truth behind her father’s disappearance. Relying on the knowledge that she has a guardian angel, Nora puts herself in increasingly dangerous situations, but can she really count on Patch?

Honestly, this book is basically nonsense. I admit it’s been a while since I read Hush, Hush, but I didn’t expect to have absolutely no clue what was going on from the very first page. We’re sort of launched into the story, with Nora and Patch fighting and breaking up without any build-up, and then the rest of the story unfolding without ever recovering from its abrupt beginning.

Nora is the absolute worst. She’s needy and annoying and makes decisions that don’t fit with her character. She is a confusing and frustrating character, and not a good role model for young girls (even worse than Bella from Twilight). Patch and the other characters that fill out the book aren’t much better.

Yet, somehow, paranormal teen books are so completely ADDICTIVE. As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to buy the next one. I keep having to remind myself that I actually didn’t enjoy this one at all, but I’ll probably still pick up book #3 at some point.

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Slender Man – Anonymous

30653976Lauren Bailey has gone missing. Desperate to find her, Matt Barker logs into her iCloud and finds a hidden file containing photos of a mysterious figure in the shadows. And then the nightmares start…

The style of this book made it a very quick and engaging read, because the story is told through a variety of narrative devices, including journal entries, text messages, audio transcripts and newspaper reports – not your usual, straightforward narration. The unorthodox style was refreshing and made the book very easy to read.

My other favourite aspect of this book is the anonymous nature. Thanks to the style and the lack of author (and what actually happens in the plot) the story becomes very real and very possible in real life. Especially because it does take into account the fact that Slender Man was an online phenomenon, known to be invented and developed through fan sites and photoshop. The fakeness of Slender Man is commented on and pushed aside by the events that unfold in this story.

I haven’t read a horror this good in a very long time.

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Black Dog – Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Daniel Egneus

31199023In a quiet English village, legend tells of a black dog that appears in the darkness. If you see him, you die. Shadow Moon has been on the road for a long time so, when he meets a nice couple at the pub in this village, he gratefully accepts their offer of a room to stay in. However, when the man collapses on the way home, Shadow realises that this village is harbouring a dark secret.

Black Dog follows Shadow Moon, the main character from American Gods, so although it does work as a standalone novella and doesn’t follow on directly, it would be helpful to read American Gods first for context.

The book is very short but you can really tell what a remarkable writer Neil Gaiman is because it’s incredibly atmospheric and tells a complete and engaging story with barely any scene-setting, character development, or build-up.

I read the version illustrated by Daniel Egneus and the illustrations really made the reading experience special. The pictures are dark and abstract and complement the story beautifully.

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Moira Ashe: Kindred Spirits – Brendon Bertram

40898924.jpgHaving been exposed as a werewolf and forced to abandon her life in Quinn, Moira Ashe flees to Trident Bay in the hope of finding transport across the sea. Denied by every ship in the port, she turns to Caspian, the chieftain of Trident Bay, who enlists her help in defeating the legendary Terror of Trident Bay. Caught up in an uprising and a surprising romance, Moira’s plans to escape go awry and the risk of her identity being discovered increases.

I enjoyed this book immensely, as I did the first. It is short and sweet with an action-packed and fast story. As this is the second book in the Moira Ashe series, I would say it is important to read the first book: Enemy Within. They flow directly into each other and a lot of the plot and character development would be missed if you dove straight into book #2.

Surprisingly, in this one, there was somehow time for there to be a couple of dull parts. In such a short book, I didn’t know this was possible, but the parts where Moira was learning how to fight with an axe and, frankly, the romantic and sexual aspects were pretty boring.

Although I didn’t love the romantic angle of the story, I very much enjoyed the political plotline, with the peasant uprising and the secret committee meetings. They added an extra layer to the story on top of Moira’s general escape plan and fight against the Terror.

This is a great series, very fast-paced and quick to get through.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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A House of Ghosts – W. C. Ryan

40789530It’s 1914, and Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering on his island off the coast of Devon in order to try to contact his two sons who were lost in the war. However, his guests each have their own agendas and, with the arrival of a storm, find themselves trapped on the island with the ghosts, their own secrets, and a killer.

The surface appearance of this book is that it is a ghost story. The title and cover are a little but misleading, because it is, in reality, it’s a murder mystery novel with themes of espionage, most easily compared to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It is a bunch of different characters, bought together for a weekend of seances and spiritual contact, trapped on an isolated island when a murder takes place. With the exception of Donovan and Kate – our two detectives sent to the island on a mission by the military – every character has a motive, so every character is a suspect. There’s plenty of tension and red-herrings to keep the story interesting.

I liked Kate and Donovan and their budding romance. They made a good team and I would be interested in more books following them on future missions. I also really liked Count Orlov, but some of the other characters were a bit weaker and not so well developed throughout the book (Madame Feda and Captain Miller-White, in particular).

Despite not exactly being a key feature of the story, the ghostly elements do add a lot of atmosphere and really pad out the plot which was, at times, quite weak. I enjoyed this book, but I found it a bit too long and I did get lost occasionally trying to work out the point of every direction the plot went in.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Narrows – Travis M. Riddle

42348486Oliver, Sophie and Davontae have returned to their home town of Shumard, Texas for the funeral of their friend, Noah. Each are dealing with the shock and loss in their own way, but things take an unexpected turn when Oliver gets a glimpse of a world parallel to their own. Visited by a dark being known as the Knave, Oliver soon finds himself dragged into a chilling adventure and questioning what really happened to Noah.

First things first, I have to say I adore the cover of this book. It’s a beautiful piece of artwork and it represents the story very well. I also adore Travis’ writing, and this one certainly did not disappoint. The Narrows bears some close similarities to Stranger Things with it’s dark, mysterious ‘other’ world (and I have to admit, I was a little bit sceptical about this shared theme when I started reading) but it’s such a different story and actually very original.

Although it is, essentially, a horror story, this book also contains a lovely story of friendship, with fantastic and realistic relationships between the group. It also deals – very sensitively, I thought – with the aftermath of suicide and the way people process the loss of a friend to suicide. The Narrows is a book filled with heart, alongside the creepiness and gore.

Oliver was a great character. He, of course, does the typical lead-character thing of heading off into the danger alone, which is usually something that really frustrates me, but his reasons for not including his friends are properly explained and completely understandable. Plus, he does go to them for help eventually. My personal favourite character, however, was the Knave. He’s super creepy and evil, and just generally fabulous.

One of the characters, Sophie, is transgender and this element was pulled of incredibly well. It was great to see the representation, and it wasn’t forced at all (as these things can often be). The fact that Sophie used to be a boy is mentioned only for context and fitted in perfectly without becoming a focal point for the story.

I actually can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this book. Read it.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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