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26060369What’s it all about?

From the blurb:

Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It’s not the kind of place you’d want to end up. But it’s where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life. It’s a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess. Will she listen?

Why did I want to read it?

I really enjoyed the author’s previous novel The Girl With All The Gifts (my review is here if you’re interested) and as that had a real impact on my I was intrigued to see what he was going o do next. And in many ways it couldn’t have been more different – a psychological thriller set in a women’s prison.

What did I think of it?

I took a little bit of time to get into this novel, but once it got moving I was totally gripped. Jess is a fascinating character, a woman who has been convicted of causing the death of a young boy and who resolves to punish herself by starving herself to death but is spoken to by the voice of a young boy which gives her a purpose to live.

But what a life – a prison where violence and drugs and corruption are rife and Jess resolves to keep her head down. You can imagine how that might work out, especially when she decides to go ahead with .

There are supernatural elements obviously but this is as much about guilt and redemption; I found the characters believable and the story gripping and moving. Very much worth reading.

Last of the Spirits frontWhat’s it all about?

Sam and his sister Lizzie live on the streets of Victorian London, and on a freezing Christmas Eve beg for money from a wealthy Ebenezer Scrooge who rebuffs them nastily, filling Sam with anger and a desire for revenge.

Later that night they are huddling together for warmth in a cemetery when they see a ghost rising from a grave and heading towards Scrooge’s home. And in that way they become witnesses to the events of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

Why did I want to read it?

I am a great fan of Chris Priestley’s works which I’ve been reading over a number of years. This is the latest in his re-tellings of well-known stores for younger readers (the others are Mister Creecher and The Dead Men Stood Together). And as I’ve said on my Screen God blog I love A Christmas Carol, so reading The Last of the Spirits was a no-brainer.

What did I think about it?

I just loved this beautifully written short book. I have always enjoyed stories that are written from the perspective of an onlooker to major events (the two that spring most easily to mind are Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Hamlet)) and although Sam and Lizzie become direct participants in Scrooge’s story they fit into that trend very well, of an observer illuminating a well-known story by presenting it from a different point of view. And of course given the story we’re watching here it has a happy ending.

Just lovely and will become a regular read for Christmas in the future.

18374017What’s it all about?

The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales is a collection of ghostly and supernatural stories by Kate Mosse, set mostly in France or Sussex, area of the world that she knows very well and which have featured in her other works.

Why did I want to read it?

Creepy stories are ideal for this time of year. Plus I have a number of her books (not read) and had previously picked up and enjoyed The Winter Ghosts.

What did I think of it?

I really enjoyed this collection of quite gentle stories. They aren’t particularly gruesome and not really frightening, but they are very traditional, often about premonitions or the settling of old scores before a departed person can find peace or slippage into the past when visiting a historical setting (as in the title story). My favourite is probably The Revenant, set in the Fishbourne Marshes in 1955; a mysterious female figure appears to our heroine in the marshes seeking a form of justice for a crime which took place during the war. Very atmospheric.

I particularly enjoyed the stories set in Sussex as that’s the county where the Book God was born and I know enough of it for some of the places to be recognisable. One of the particular pleasures of the book is the author’s note for each story, giving some background on place or inspiration, especially interesting for those stories based on folklore.

I had planned to read a story a day and pace the book out over the run up to Christmas but got through them much more quickly than that, which should say something about the pleasures of reading these well-written tales.

IMG_0193What’s it all about?

Christmas Tales of Terror is exactly what it says, a collection of scary stories for the younger reader all based around Christmas from the author of the Takes of Terror series (which started with Uncle Montague ages ago)

Why did I want to read it?

I really like Chris Priestly’s work, his love of the traditional MR James type story and his re-tellings of some famous tales for a young audience (a particular favourite being Mister Creecher) make him an author always worth seeking out.

What did I think of it?

Great fun. Set in an indeterminate but possibly Edwardian era they are nicely creepy and usually with a moral (though never in a heavy handed way). As I said, these are very much for younger readers so I didn’t find them scary but I think I would really have enjoyed them when I was about 10 (though I was reading HP Lovecraft at 11 so maybe not).

I will definitely be very careful where I pick my Christmas greenery this year…..

IMG_0140What’s it all about?

As per the blurb:

The Book of Whispering Spirits is a haunting collection of 18 ghost stories, ranging from Gothic horror to modern tales of terror. These tales of the supernatural will haunt your dreams and trouble your sleep, making you believe once more in the ghostly phantoms that wait for you in the shadows. In the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, M.R. James and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, young spiritual medium Violet Winterbrook guides us through this collection of ghost stories, as told to her by the spirits who lived and died in them.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ll admit that although I’m a sucker for a decent ghost story what really drew me to this collection was the cover art by Abigail Larson, whom I just love (and a piece of whose work I treated myself to earlier in the year.)

What did I think of it?

It’s a nice collection of stories, none of them terribly memorable if I’m honest but fun to read at the time. The interesting thing for me is that the conceit that the medium Violet is sharing these tales is set up at the beginning and then disappears, without even a little epilogue at the end to round things off, which seems a shame. So absolutely fine but unlike the work of MR James (mentioned above and a regular re-read) I can’t see myself returning to this volume again.

This was my fifth read for RIP IX.

Scan 28What’s it all about?

The Dead Men Stood Together is a re-telling of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, from the perspective of a young boy serving on the voyage, whose uncle is instrumental in the terrible events that befall the ship and its crew.

Why did I want to read it?

I love Chris Priestley. I think I now have all of his published novels and short story collections, whether in hard copy or as e-books. He has a wonderful way with the ghostly and the ghoulish and the downright creepy. And of course who can resist the Ancient Mariner, an iconic tale.

What did I think of it?

Thoroughly enjoyed it. As well as the traditional elements of the tale it gives a both a back story to the events and a resolution which is really moving (well I thought so anyway). The prose is simple but the story is totally compelling even though it is entirely familiar (to anyone who has read the poem of course; and if you haven’t then go and do so now. I’ll wait). dewey-300x300

It is dark and atmospheric and another good book to read in the dark in the middle of the night. Recommended.

Though someone does really need to start thinking about the poor old albatross.

This was my sixth Readathon book.

 

Scan 27What’s it all about?

The House of Dead Maids is set in an unidentified part of (presumably) the British Isles and tells the story of Tabby, who is taken from the orphanage where she lives and brought to Seldom House, a decaying mansion in the middle of nowhere, as she understands it to take up a position as a maid. When she is joined by a young boy it becomes clear that there is something rather more sinister going and, reinforced by the number of ghostly maids and masters that haunt the house, she fears for her life.

Why did I want to read it?

As happens far too often these days I have no recollection of where I found out about this book, but it went onto my Christmas wish list and duly turned up under the tree. I liked the premise and found the cover compelling. Of course I entirely missed the obvious (i.e. it’s mentioned on the front cover) reference to the sort being “a chilling prelude to Wuthering Heights”, duh!

What did I think of it?

This is definitely a good book to read in the middle of the night if you want to be creeped out. It’s dark and Gothic and has a strong atmosphere, and I felt worried for the fate of Tabitha and the little unnamed boy and the rather unpleasant adults that surround them. Well, at least one adult was kind to them  but she was of the determined not to interfere variety of servant. A short book, very enjoyable and the author’s epilogue gives some good links to the real Bronte world.dewey-300x300

This was my fifth Readathon book.

 

Scan 42What’s it all about?

Alex is a teenager who has been badly affected by his parents’ divorce and after trouble at school goes on a business trip to Amsterdam with his father; he is left in the company of the much older daughter of his father’s publisher who takes him around the city and shares some of her historical research with him. He is drawn to a Japanese mask which seems to be haunted. Creepiness ensues.

Why did I want to read it?

I love Chris Priestley. I’ve read all his Tales of Terror and adored both The Dead of Winter and Mister Creecher. Always look forward to his books.

What did I think?

I really liked Through Dead Eyes. I sympathised with Alex a great deal, with his sulkiness and confused feelings and hating his Mum while missing her and resenting the bits of his Dad’s life that were going on as normal. The supernatural elements of the story work well, with enough tension between “is it real?” and “is it just his imagination?” to keep you hooked. I always associate Amsterdam with sunny days and bustling tourists but it comes across as dark and cold and sinister in this story.

Conclusion

Aimed at young adults like most of Priestley’s books yet this old girl enjoyed it very much. I had to read it over a couple of days but it could easily be gobbled up in one sitting (and would be all the more effective for that).

Scan 2I enjoy a good story, never more than at this time of year, when Hallowe’en has come and gone and the nights are drawing in and Christmas is on its way. I particularly enjoy a good Susan Hill ghost story – The Woman in Black has rightly become a classic, and earlier this year I had a thoroughly good time with The Small Hand as I explained here. So when her new story, Dolly, was released it was  no-brainer that I would buy it and devour it in one sitting, as I did.

It’s a short tale, narrated to us by Edward Caley about his lonely orphaned childhood and especially one summer, the first that he spent with his Aunt Kestrel in her forbidding house in the Fens. They are joined by his extraordinarily spoiled cousin Leonora, a wilful child with serious anger management issues, effectively abandoned by her mother and uncontrollable. During her stay she becomes fixated on being given a doll for her birthday, and when she doesn’t get exactly what she wants she becomes enraged and lashes out, an action which has appalling repercussions for them both down the years.

This is nicely creepy in many ways and I enjoyed the experience of reading it at the time, but  didn’t get quite the sense of foreboding or the air of melancholy that you get from a really good ghost story. I couldn’t quite get it to make sense for me in terms of actions and consequences. So a bit unsatisfying compared to her other work in the genre but still better than most of the ghost stories out there.

WhispersUndergroundBenAar67930_fSo there’s a bit of a story to this one. I am a huge fan of Mr Aaronovitch after being introduced to his books by Silvery Dude; in fact the very first one, Rivers of London, helped get me through a particularly nasty cold back in the day. So when I realised that the man himself would be talking and signing books at the Waterstones in Piccadilly, well, I just had to go along, didn’t I? And because I’m a good friend * cough * I got a ticket for the Silvery One as well.

The evening dawned and after numerous “it’ll be fine” exchanges poor old SD couldn’t attend because of domestic (poorly small boy) circumstances so I had to go along by myself, a bit reluctantly I must admit because these things are often more enjoyable when you have someone to chatter with, but it turned out to be huge fun. Mr A is extremely entertaining and a pleasant hour passed as he talked about what bits of the London that appear in his books aren’t real (although it hasn’t stopped me looking for a particular building every time I go through Russell Square), the usual ‘where he gets his ideas from’ stuff and most importantly a hint about how many more volumes there will be in the series (very much a ‘keep going until I run out of stories’ vibe). And as you can see I got my book signed (and got one for SD as well to make up for his missing a night out – and his little boy is OK so smiles all round)

IMG_0192

Whispers Underground itself is well up to standard; starts off with a bit of ghost-hunting on the London underground, followed swiftly by the murder of the son of a US Senator which has something whiffy about it and attracts the attention of the FBI and off we go on a really enjoyable story which as always takes in lots of interesting stuff about London and has a nice arc building up in the background.

It’s always tempting to compare this series with the Bryant and May books by Christopher Fowler (which I also adore) but despite the superficial similarities (police investigating odd things, London as a character in the books, lots of interesting facts) they are very different, the supernatural element being the most obvious, but most people I know who enjoy one author also enjoy the other.

So a series that is going from strength to strength and I can’t wait for the next one.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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