Category Archives: Horror

The September House by Carissa Orlando

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Stars: 3 out of 5.

This was excellent until about 3/4 through the book. I honestly thought this would be a solid 5 start book, but then the ending ruined everything, at least for me. But let’s talk about the good parts first.

This was a very unusual haunted house story, because unlike many other stories I read, the inhabitants or said haunted house (well, at least Margaret) aren’t trying to get rid of the ghosts. They learn how to cohabit with them instead. I don’t think I’ve seen that done before, but then I haven’t read a lot of haunted house stories.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t be able to live like that, because despite the matter of fact way Margaret talks about the hauntings, things in this house are pretty horrible. Sure, it’s bearable 11 months out of the year, but the things that happen every September are a little bit too much to coexist with. I mean, walls that leak blood for a whole month? Constant screaming that won’t let you sleep? A ghost that bites if you come to close to him? Visions of horribly mutilated children haunting you all month? Thanks, but no thanks.

I think it’s more a testament to how horrible Margaret’s life has been even before the haunted house that she manages to settle into this and survive, even thrive most of the year in a house of horrors like that. And the more you learn about Margaret’s live with her “loving” husband, the more you understand why she prefers to live with ghosts. Heck, one of them basically does all the house chores and even cooks for her most of the year.

What I liked about this book was the ambiguity of the situation. Especially when Margaret’s daughter arrived and couldn’t see or hear any of the hauntings. I loved that even Margaret started doubting herself. Are the ghosts in this house real or are they simply a figment of her imagination? Especially since there is a history of mental illness in her family. And honestly, who would have blamed her for loosing her mind after everything she’d had to endure from Hal? I was perfectly okay if the story chose to take that direction, because that would have made Margaret even more endearing to me. 

Unfortunately, the author chose to take a different route and ramp up the fear factor in the last third part of the book to rather ridiculous levels. I mean, those deaths at the end were absolutely useless. They didn’t drive the story forward, they didn’t serve any purpose except for shock value. And even then, not much shock value, because the readers didn’t particularly care about those policemen. We literally met them in the previous chapter. 

It also made the ghosts seem extremely overpowered, which… well, I can only suspend my disbelief so much. It also raised a lot of questions as to how that haunting works. How is a ghost able to cook actual meals? How is it able to learn how a cellphone works? Or why the other members of the Vale family aren’t haunting this house, when all the other victims of Master Vale seem to be stuck there? Also, why didn’t Hal appear as a ghost?

Honestly, you shouldn’t think about this book too much after you are done reading, because the more you question this, the more holes you see in the reasoning and the narrative, and the more disappointing the book gets. I would suggest that you just enjoy it for what it is and don’t question it too much. After all, it’s a very good book almost all the way through. Too bad the ending was so disappointing. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

The blurb for this book is what drew me in, and for the first 50% of the book I was a happy camper joyfully following the story and getting creeped out by the excellent descriptions… Then the book started to drag. The descriptions were still excellent, but there was no “meat” to them. There are episodes that didn’t bring anything to the story but took up extra pages, like when Vera drives several towns over to go to a bar… only to leave because the bartender is too chatty. That added nothing to the overall story or Vera’s character that we didn’t’ already know. And of course the ending was a total miss for me. I expected a twist, but what the author choose for a twist simply didn’t work and made no sense, at least for me.

So this leaves me with a sense of frustration and disappointment. I was ready to love this book to pieces and give it my first 5 stars of 2024… then I was so mad I almost 1-stared it. But upon reflection and some cooling down, I will give it 2.5 stars for the excellent first half.

I think the biggest problem is that there are no good people in this story. Vera is an awful person. The more you read about her, the less you want to spend time with her. I mean it’s one thing to have mixed feelings about how you should feel about your father. On one hand, he is a serial killer that literally tortured and murdered people in the basement of his house. On the other hand, he is still your dad, and he loved you when your mother really didn’t. So I understand why Vera still loves him and clings to her memories of him, and why she feels guilty about it.

But as the book progresses and you discover more and more of Vera’s past, things turn very creepy and plain wrong. Just reading about her childhood and her reactions to what her father did made me feel dirty on the inside. Not a feeling I particularly enjoy, thank you very much. Also, not a character I want to root for. And I cared less and less for Vera the more the book progressed, so I quickly lost interest.

All the other characters are just as awful and honestly got everything they deserved, but also, not interesting to follow along with. So this left me with a protagonist I ended up hating and a story I grew more and more disinterested in. So this was a miss for me.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake 1) by Victoria Schwab

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Stars: 4 out of 5.

This was a refreshingly good YA ghost story. And no romance of any kind in sight, so thank god. 

Can you imagine being a kid and being able to see ghosts? Not only see ghosts, but be able to cross the Veil into that strange in-between world where they reside? And also to be compelled to do that even when you don’t really want to? And not being able to talk about it to anyone, because even though your parents are famous ghost researchers, they don’t actually believe that ghosts exist. Kinda ironic, when their daughter knows for a fact that they do, and her best friend is one. 

I really loved our protagonist Cassidy. She is smart and capable, but also flawed and a typical teenager in some ways. But when she is faced with hard choices and horrible things, she does everything she can to make things right and to fight for her own freedom and her life. I also liked her relationship with Jacob and how they always have each other’s back. I’m glad that she has at least one friend that she can confide in, even though nobody else can see him. 

The story itself was sufficiently creepy and atmospheric. I lived for a year in Edinburgh, so I can attest that the author managed to capture the essence of the old city perfectly. Made me nostalgic in fact. Well, for the sights and ambiance of Edinburgh, not for the weather.  

I would have loved to have a little more interaction between Cass and the other girl who has the same gift. Their time together was very short, and I feel like they never got a chance to really talk. 

I am looking forward to picking up the next book in the series and discovering more about Cass’ gift and what it means to her relationship with Jacob. Oh, and visiting another haunted city.

Paradise-1 (Red Space) by David Wellington

Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

I was fully onboard with this book for the first 50% or so of the story. Granted, one of the main characters was too stupid to exist, and some of her choices were that of a braindead child. But the story moved along at a good pace, things were happening, there was a big mystery about, so was happy to overlook an annoying character or two. But then the book kept going… and going… and going with no end in sight. Episodes started repeating themselves without bringing anything new to the story, and I was quickly losing interest. 

As I had mentioned, the characterizations in this book are… rather lacking. And forget about character growth. I think the only character that has any is Rapscallion, and he is a sentient robot. Which tells you everything you need to know about the other characters. So if you are looking for a character driven story, move along. This ain’t for you.

But the mystery of what the heck is happening around Paradise-1 and why all ships sent there stop responding was compelling enough to have me turning the pages for about half of the book. And I admit that the idea of an alien contract that can invade our minds by planting a destructive idea is rather horrifying, because our bodies have no defense against a virus that isn’t biological in nature. I also really wanted to discover what was on Paradise-1 that needed to be guarded so fiercely, and why was it worth so many human lives and so many ships to try and get it.

Unfortunately, this book is at least 300 pages too long, so the story started repeating itself. We get to yet another ship that’s infected with different version of the Basilisk. We encounter yet another crazy AI and see the horrors that happened to the human crew. We don’t learn anything that we didn’t know by reading the first half of the book. The characters flee the ship, or are saved, or take the ship over… then the action switches to yet another encounter with another infected ship. Honestly, I think the story should have ended after their attempt to run the blockade to land on the planet. The 200 pages after that were just filler, with a few exception, like actually encountering the Basilisk, and even that could have been incorporated into the story differently. 

Oh, did I mention that the book ends on a cliffhanger? No? Well, it does. 700 + pages end with no emotional payoff whatsoever. We still don’t know what happened on Paradise-1 and why it was so important to get there. The story ends mid-action.

I guess the reader would have to pick up the next book in the series to find out what happened to the colony on Paradise-1, but guess what?  I won’t be along for the ride. I am not willing to sit through another overlong book and follow annoying characters just to find out that the story isn’t finished and there is another cliffhanger. No thanks, I’m out.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Solitary (Escape from Furnace 2) by Alexander Gordon Smith

Stars: 5 out of 5.

If you thought the first book was terrifying, wait until you read this one. The level of terror and claustrophobic horror is turned up a notch in Solitary. I was physically uncomfortable a few time reading this book and just imagining what the protagonist was going through. It goes to prove that psychological horrors are sometimes more terrifying than even physical violence.

This book begins moments after the end of the fist book with Alex and his comrades jumping into the underground river to escape furnace. Unfortunately, their escape doesn’t last long. They are recaptured and put into solitary, well the two of them that survive. And solitary is full of its own horrors that make you wonder what’s worse – to dies at the claws of the Rats, or to go completely mad confronted by your own mind in the dark silence of a solitary cell?

I could feel the cloying despair and hopelessness that Alex was starting to feel the longer he stayed in that cell. I honestly think that if it wasn’t for the Lost Boys, Alex would have given up and given in to his fears right there. As it stands, I was rooting for all of them throughout this book, wishing that they would finally find a way out. So the ending came like a slap in the face both for the characters and for the reader. The author slowly built our hopes up, bit by tiny bit, then smashed them into dust with one decisive strike. 

I am definitely picking up book 3, because I am invested in these characters now and I want to know what happens next. And I honestly hope that by the end of this series good with triumph over bad, and the Warden and his cronies get their just desserts.

The Killing Floor Blues (Daniel Faust 5) by Craig Schaefer

Stars: 5 out of 5.

This is the best book of the series so far, at least in my opinion!

It starts off strong with Daniel Faust waking up on a prison bus in transfer to a prison, when last time we left him at the end of book 4, he’d just been framed for a murder and arrested… Only it seems that four months have passed, he’d already been put on trial (and lost), and he is being transferred to a maximum security prison to serve a life sentence. Confused yet? Add to that the fact that Daniel doesn’t remember anything about those four months. To him, he was arrested, and next time he woke up, he was on this bus. 

I loved that the reader gets to experience that state of confusion and disbelief with the character. I even went back to the end of book 4 and re-read the ending just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. This confusion helps empathize with the character. Makes the reader root for him even more than before.

And Daniel will need all the support he can get in this book, because for once, he doesn’t have his friends and family to help him. He doesn’t even have access to his magic tricks. He is utterly alone in a hostile environment where people get shanked for just looking at the wrong person at the wrong time. Oh, and somebody really wants him dead to boot. And not only dead, but he needs to suffer horribly before he dies.

This was a very fast-paced story with constant tension, because not only is Daniel like a fish out of water here (although he does the best he can with the cards he is given), but also because so many different things are wrong with this prison. And the more wrong you discover, the more worried you become about the protagonist.

I also loved that when he finally manages to get help, the issuing fight is awesome and spectacular. And I’m not even a little bit irritated with Caitlyn in this book, which is rare. I think her almost total absence from the story is what made this book so great.

All in all, I love the direction in which this series is progressing. I want to know who the man with the Cheshire smile is and what his end game is. Something tells me Daniel and team are going to mess his plans so bad, he won’t realize what hit him. And I will be happily along for the ride.

The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood and Co 4) by Jonathan Stroud

Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

This series continues to deliver, and we finally get some answers (and a lot more questions).

It’s wonderful to have the team back together by the end of this book. I understand why Lucy thought she needed to leave at the end of the previous book, but I think that she also learned a couple valuable lessons. First that you need a team you can count on and companions you can trust. Second, that there are situations that you simply cannot deal with on your own. And finally, that Lockwood will always be Lockwood, and he will always play with death with abandon, like he has a death wish (pun intended).

The world in this series is getting bleaker by the book. It almost seems like the whole of the UK is permeated by some kind of despair. The Problem is getting worse. More and more Visitors are manifesting almost everywhere, people are dying, so everyone just goes about their day with a sort of resigned pessimism. 

It is also rather disheartening to see that the two agencies that are supposed to be the last defense against the Problem are, in fact, using said problem for their own gains. I mean there were already hints that things were not as they seemed in previous books, but here the message comes across as loud and clear. I even wonder if Fittes and Rotwell didn’t cause the Problem in the first place, especially considering the revelation we get at the end of the book.

So it is with a certain amount of trepidation that I look forward towards reading the next and last book in the series. The lines have been drawn, and some not so subtle threats have been voiced. Will our friends from Lockwood and Co survive the confrontation with a giant like the Fittes agency? And more importantly, will they finally uncover the cause of the Problem and save England? 

Ask for Andrea by Noelle W Ihli

Stars: 4 out of 5

This packs a surprising emotional punch for a ghost story and serial killer story. I hadn’t expected to get this emotionally attached to the characters, but the author did an excellent job making them unique, human, and lovable. Which makes this story even more tragic because all three main characters are ghosts haunting the man that killed them.

The first three chapters in the book describe how each of the three women was killed, and it’s visceral and horrible. I could really feel their fear and pain, and then confusion and hurt when the realization came that they were dead, but still stuck here. And it goes to showcase how different these women are because they choose to do different things when they realize that they are dead. Brecia immediately tries to follow her killer, to do something about it, to try to reach out into the world of the living and exact her revenge. Meghan is paralyzed by fear and spends months by her corpse, watching it decay and praying that she will be found. And Skye goes home and tries to let her mother know that she is still here.

And despite the fact that these three women area already dead, the tension in this book only keeps growing with each page, as they watch, helpless, as their killer prepares to kill again. I was especially heartbroken for Brecia, because she had to watch him kill Meghan, and realize that no matter what she tried to do, she couldn’t save her. She also had to live with the killer and discover that there are three more innocent lives that could be in danger – his wife and two daughters. 

In fact, the last part of the book, when the women follow them into the forest, had me at the edge of my seat and biting my nails.

This is definitely a very good book, and I recommend it.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co 3) by Jonathan Stroud

Stars: 5 out of 5.

This series keeps getting better and better. The intrigue behind the Orpheus Society is getting a bit more development, and we have some interpersonal drama between the three members of Lockwood & Co. 

All in all, it was a fast-paced and gripping story. The plot thickens. Now we have a (yet) unknown group of people who discovered how to weaponize ghosts. A ghost bomb, anyone? And we have another (or same group) of people who were performing some kind of ritual in a plague pit that served as a focus point for a massive haunting in the whole of Chelsea. The reasons behind these events are unknown, and that’s intriguing. I’m pretty sure a confrontation between Lockwood and Co and these people (whether they are the Orpheus Society or not) will be the endgame of the series. I am excited to see how that unfolds.

On the interpersonal front, a wrench is thrown into the relationships between the trio in the person of Holly Munro. I found it rather hilarious to watch Lucy get all bent over the axel over the presence of another girl in what she considers her domain. This brings home the fact that even though they deal with horrible things that even adults would have nightmares about, Lockwood, Lucy and George are still basically children. They are teenagers with raging hormones, unbridled emotions, and rampant insecurities. 

Lucy especially has a huge chip on her shoulder, so she tends to be very judgmental of anyone she feels threatened by. Which means all females she comes across, unless they are absolutely ugly. So seeing how efficient, organized, and put together Holly is would rub her the wrong way. It was a bit funny to see Lucy assume so many things about Holly and then be an absolute snotty b… to her because of those assumptions. Hopefully, the events of this book showed her the dangers of assumptions, lack of honest communication, and what happens when you let your feelings fester. Maybe she will be nicer to other people now. 

We also learned what happened to Lockwood’s sister, and why he behaves the way he does most of the time. We still don’t know what happened to his parents, but the insinuations thrown in book 2 point towards the fact that it was nothing good and that it wasn’t an accident. 

I will definitely be continuing with this series and learning more about the Problem, the mysterious groups trying to weaponize it, and how our trio of friends can survive the aftermath.

Malice House by Megan Shepherd

Stars: 2 out of 5.

This book started so well. I was engaged and a little creeped out for the first 25% of the book. Then I was bored for the next 50% of so, because the book dragged its feet and bogged down in little insignificant things. Then it took a swan dive off the cliff and lost any goodwill I had left for the story.

 And now I’m sitting here, looking at raving 5 and 4 star reviews, and don’t understand what other people found so great about it. The story is convoluted and full of plot holes, some of which I can’t ignore no matter how much I suspend my disbelief.

First of all, I don’t think the author ever had to try and survive with almost no money. I mean Haven gets paid maybe 300 dollars per movie summary she does. And as the story progresses, she does less and less of them. She mentions a couple times that her bank account is very close to the red. So how can she afford gas, electric, wi-fi when she install is, food, etc.? Why is her first impulse, when she gets 900 bucks for the typewriter, to go order expensive cameras from Amazon? She doesn’t know what the meaning of frugal is to save her life.

Haven herself is an extremely unlikeable character who is so full of herself that assumes everything revolves around her. By the end of the book I seriously was rooting for the monsters. She is very judgmental and suspicious of other people for no particular reason. Her over the top reaction to the Ink Drinker’s comment on her art was very telling in that regard. 

She also makes decisions that make no sense. Why the heck would you go digging in the woods behind your property in the middle of the night? When to do that you have to climb up a ladder and jump on the other side of the fence… with a hurt ankle? Why don’t you take your cellphone with you? Why would you basically commit breaking and entering when you go check on Kylie? AND steal her laptop? AND steal a weapon from the neighbors? Why won’t you report the disappearance to the police??? 

Why do you decide that going into an isolated house to confront a possible murderer alone is a good idea? Yes, you have a stolen hunting riffle. Do you even know how to use it? The author told us several times how Haven never was an outdoorsy type. That she never went camping, yet alone hunting. How can she be sure she’ll be able to load and fire that riffle? I an assure you it’s not as easy as they show it in the movies. 

Also, who gives a total stranger her spare key just because she is attracted to him and he smells nice? Girl, you don’t know anything about him or his past. You saw him burn something big in his backyard in the middle of the night, but sure, give him access to your home.

The only reason I gave this 2 stars instead of 1 is because the little snippets from Bedtime Stories for Monsters before each chapter are amazing. I would have gladly read a whole book just about that. They were weird and mesmerizing, and much better written than the rest of the book. 

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.