Review: How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

How to Sell a Haunted HouseHow to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can’t recall when Grady Hendrix and I had a conversation about everything I would love to see in a Horror novel, but the man must have been taking notes!!!

This story follows Louise Joyner and her brother, Mark. Louise lives in California, while her brother, Mark, still lives in their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.

The two siblings are not close. They basically only see each other, or talk really, when they are doing things with the rest of the family, like with their Mom, Dad, cousins, Aunts, etc. Otherwise, it’s a bit like cats and dogs.

So, when Louise receives a random call from Mark, she knows the news can’t be good and it’s not. It’s like the rug has been ripped out from under her.

Their parents were killed in an accident. Louise needs to come home right away. It’s devastating. She leaves Poppy with her ex, packs her things and boards a plane.

There’s so much to do, the funeral, the estate, but she doesn’t want to be dealing with any of it. She just wants to be alone, but unfortunately, when people die they leave things behind that have to be dealt with.

Her parents left a lot behind. Of course they did, they weren’t expecting to go anytime soon. They built an entire life in Charleston. They lived in the same house that Louise and Mark’s Mom grew-up in; decades and decades of stuff, memories, accumulating.

How can they get rid of all of that? Stressful! Adding fuel to the fire, there are unexpected turns, mainly involving the wills, that leave Louise and Mark even more at odds.

This sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It is. It is for regular people with regular items that need to be dealt with, but what is kept within the walls of Louise and Mark’s childhood home isn’t exactly what you would call regular.

Their Mom was a puppeteer. She hand-made all of her own puppets; hundreds and hundreds of puppets. But even puppets need more friends, so there are dolls and odd taxidermy craft projects as well. Every room seems to have dozens of little eyes watching your every move.

From the moment Louise sets foot in the house, she feels like something is off. It’s giving her the creeps, she can hardly stand to be in there anymore. Memories overwhelm her. Disturbing incidents from her childhood. Was it just her imagination? Is it now?

Regardless of the vibe of the house, her and Mark want to prep it for sale. Both of them need the money. They need this done quick. They’ll have to work together.

I won’t say anything more about the plot of this novel, as I definitely recommend going into it knowing as little as possible. I didn’t really know what it involved when I started and I’m so glad.

I knew Haunted House, siblings and the fact that their parents had passed away. From that I expected to really enjoy this as I love Horror that explores grief, complicated family dynamics and of course, haunted houses.

This story does have all of that, but also much more. The surface level story is so engaging, yet this one runs deep. If you want to unpack it all, there’s a lot to explore.

Louise and Mark. Their relationship is so complicated. At first, I hated Mark. Not going to lie. I thought he was the biggest jerk to his sister and for no reason. He seemed spoiled to me and jealous of her.

As the story builds, you do get back story of their childhood and a lot of interesting things had happened to them; between them. I felt like after reading that stuff, Mark’s personality started to make a lot more sense.

I loved watching the evolution of their relationship as well. As they began to open up with one another and tried to understand the other’s perspective. I thought that was such a nicely done progression. I felt bad that it took the death of their parents for them to have those needed conversations.

It was dramatic. I also started to feel a certain way towards their parents and it wasn’t very charitable. I felt like they had sort of plagued their own children to grow up with certain issues because of the choices they had made.

This won’t make sense until you read the novel, but just trust, if you become as invested in this as I did, your emotions will run the full range before you are done. With emotional range in mind, I loved the clever section titles. Well played by Hendrix.

I can acknowledge that this book won’t be for everyone. I know that. It plays on certain tropes not everyone is going to love, but for me, this was a top-tier Horror story.

It was incredibly well-told with compelling characters, deep family issues and themes explored, as well as toe-curling imagery. This played off all of my childhood fears and let’s be frank, things I am still afraid of today, even as an adult.

I had moments where I had to walk away from it. It was scary to me. Seriously, there were nights when I had to put it down and read a palate cleansing book before I could even attempt to go to sleep. That’s a sign of a great story!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

This was absolutely one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint. In fact, I’ve found a new one to add to my ‘Favorites’ shelf!!

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Review: Malice House by Megan Shepherd

Malice HouseMalice House by Megan Shepherd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a very successful start, Malice House dropped off a cliff for me around 75% of the way in. It’s unfortunate, I hate to say it, but it happens…

This story follows an artist named Haven Marbury. Haven’s father, a very famous author, has recently passed away. Because of this, Haven travels from her home in New York City to his property on the West Coast. She has inherited his possibly haunted house and everything in it.

Having recently suffered through a very traumatic break-up, with barely two pennies to rub together, the idea of having a place of her own, far from her ex, is actually a blessing.

Once at the house, Haven meets with her father’s 0ld-caregiver, a rather disturbing woman in her own right. A woman that in the past has refused to spend one single night at the property.

Unusual happenings begin pretty much right away. It’s a big house and definitely spooky. Additionally, it’s bringing up a lot of mixed feelings for Haven.

Sifting through her father’s belongings, Haven discovers an unpublished manuscript called Bedtime Stories for Monsters, which is quite different from his previous works.

It’s dark and twisted, right up Haven’s alley. She has an epiphany. She needs money. Her father’s name on a cover will sell any book. She’s an artist. She’ll illustrate this book and pitch it to publishers as a father-daughter posthumous collaboration.

Unfortunately, a local group of bibliophiles that her father was a part of, the Ink Drinkers, start continuously trying to insert themselves into the process of deciding what to do with the unpublished manuscript. Haven probably should have kept that discovery to herself.

After that, things start to get really weird. Haven feels like they’re crazy, she wants them to stay the heck away from her. It’s her father’s work. They have no say over what she does with it, or do they?

There’s an attractive, though suspicious, neighbor. There’s potential poltergeist activity at the house. There are monsters coming to life and attacking. There are crazy locals and a dark, ill-feeling atmosphere.

As mentioned above, I was super intrigued by this in the beginning. I love the idea of fictional stories pulling through into real life. Monsters jumping off the pages and wrecking havoc. Are you kidding?! That’s amazing!

There were a few fun twists and as it began to come together as to what was happening, I lifted an eyebrow. Okay, Megan Shepherd. I see you. You are a Horror Gurlie. Me too!

At some point though, it kept going and went too far. It got so convoluted that it was hard to follow. I’m not sure what could have improved, I’m not claiming to be an author here, but it completely lost me by the conclusion.

I liked Haven as a character and enjoyed watching her discover some fairly significant family secrets. I just wish the pace could have been more even. The monstrous elements did build steadily, but they didn’t stop at a coherent point. It just devolved into chaos.

The more I think about this, as I am writing this review, the more disappointed I get. I am serious when I say, I really enjoyed the beginning. There are so many elements in this to love, especially if you are a fan of darker fiction. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t pulled through to a solid conclusion in my opinion.

With this being said, just because I wasn’t crazy about the ending doesn’t mean you won’t be. If the synopsis sounds intriguing to you, absolutely give it a shot. You could find a new favorite read within these pages.

Thank you to the publisher, Hyperion Avenue, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Even though this one didn’t blow me away, I would definitely pick up more Megan Shepherd novels.

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Review: Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

Tell Me I'm WorthlessTell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tell Me I’m Worthless, originally publisher by Cipher Press in 2021, was rereleased on January 17, 2023 by Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio.

This story mainly follows Alice and Ila, close friends and part-time lovers, who have been estranged after a hallucinatory night spent in a haunted house. Their friend Hannah was there that night too, but she never made it out.

The Reader gets both Alice and Ila’s perspectives, as well as a third perspective that I will let you discover for yourself.

I went into this story expecting it to be a new take on a haunted house story and it is, but I wouldn’t classify it as a haunted house story per se. Rumfitt does creatively use that beloved Horror trope to bring something completely new to the table within these pages.

As a piece of Transgressive Horror, this story definitely gets high marks. For me, although I can appreciate the creativity and gut-punching social commentary, I can’t say this was a highly enjoyable reading experience for me.

Please note, I am not remarking on the skill or creativity of the author when I say that, I just feel like this story wasn’t particularly suited to my reading tastes.

I could have used a bit more of a linear plot and a stronger atmosphere, as that is one of the main things I look for. There was a lot of great character work here and topical commentary, but there were also a lot of fever dream-type, internal monologue rants that sort of lost me.

Additionally, I found some of it a little hard to track. With this being said, I still appreciate all that Rumfitt poured into this story and the stark, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners feel of it all.

I would definitely pick up more of Rumfitt’s work.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me copies to read and review. I would recommend the audiobook as a medium for this.

They did some really unique sound work for a few of the intense horror scenes. It’s definitely worth checking out.

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Review: Ragman by J.G. Faherty

RagmanRagman by J.G. Faherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Ragman is a fun-filled, brutally-descriptive Horror romp through the streets of modern-day New York City, following multiple perspectives, all trying to survive the wrath of an ancient mummy’s curse.

I’ve actually never read a book featuring a mummy before and ended up having a ton of fun with this one. It was a bit like a SyFy channel movie come to the page and frankly, that hit the spot for my current reading mood.

In this story our main characters include Dan, a current NYPD officer, his ex-partner, disgraced NYPD officer, Tom, Dan’s wife, Joanna, a forensic lab tech, and Stacy, Tom’s ex-girlfriend, who works at an Egyptian Museum in the city. We do get a couple of other perspectives, but these four were really the stars of the show.

The gist of this is that in the 1800s, a group of very rich young men traveled to Egypt, raided a temple, killed the priest of the temple and robbed a bunch of ancient artifacts to increase their own wealth and prestige.

A mummy from this theft ends up at a museum of Egyptology in New York City, where present day it is awakened. Said mummy rises from his slumber with a deep yearning for revenge against those who’d wronged him and his temple.

As luck would have it, the descendants of these tomb raiders, now mostly live in NYC, convenient yes, but not surprising. They’re all still incredibly wealthy families and New York City is a known haven for the ultra-rich.

And when very rich men begin to be brutally murdered, literally torn limb-from-limb, it draws attention. When people, including our protagonists, witness the being doing the murdering, they can hardly believe their eyes.

A giant mummy erupting out of thin air with a clear vengeance against particular people. It’s unclear how they’ll ever be able to stop it. Bullets have zero effect.

How will they stop it?

I’ll be honest, I started to feel a little hopeless here. This ancient killing machine seemed unstoppable. How could our protagonists ever survive its wrath?!

As mentioned above, I had a lot of fun with this. It wasn’t perfect, but it definitely kept me entertained and wanting to read more.

The killing scenes were wild, brutal, descriptive and cringe-worthy. That’s basically everything I’m looking for in a supernatural creature feature.

This is the second novel that I have read from Faherty and both had very engaging horror imagery. He has quite the knack for creatively killing people off.

Additionally, in this one, I enjoyed all of the ancient Egyptian lore and concepts included. It gave the narrative a little something extra that was just so interesting. I loved the premise and how it followed through to the end.

Finally, I will mention that I really enjoyed Tom and Dan. I liked the women as well, especially Joanna, but the relationship between Tom and Dan was very well done.

They were partners and best friends at one point, but had a falling out, so a lot of this focused on them rebuilding trust and friendship.

I liked watching that play-out amidst a backdrop of brutal murders. It sounds insane, but it’s true. I really felt for Tom, he got the short-end of the stick quite a bit, so I loved seeing him gain some confidence back over the course of this story.

I’m hoping there is a sequel to this following these main characters. Faherty definitely set-up that possibility and I would absolutely be here for it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flame Tree Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was a damn good time!

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Review: The Face That Must Die by Ramsey Campbell

The Face That Must DieThe Face That Must Die by Ramsey Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first stumbled across The Face That Must Die in Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction, where Grady Hendrix discusses it on pages 122 – 123.

There was something about the way Hendrix described Campbell’s distinct brand of Urban Horror that called to me. I needed to experience it for myself, so I found this pristine edition and immediately gave it a go.

This story mainly follows John Horridge, a man who you can tell fairly quickly struggles with life. His thoughts are despicable in many respects, but it does set the stage nicely for the ultimate events that play out.

You also get the perspectives of two young women, Fanny and Cathy, who live in flats in the same building, along with a few other young folks mentioned.

The residents of this building, unfortunately, become involved with John Horridge after he becomes obsessed with another man living in the building, we’ll just call him by his surname, Craig.

Murders have been plaguing Liverpool and Horridge suspects that Craig is the culprit, mainly because he is homosexual, Horridge’s word choice, not mine. It’s clear to Horridge that Craig and his sexuality are a threat to the city and Horridge can’t rest until he has flushed him out.

We’re in Horridge’s mind as he considers how vulnerable he is and how he needs to protect himself, all while he is literally stalking and harassing Mr. Craig.

As this novel begins and we are introduced to Horridge, you can tell he is on a collision course with those around him. This can’t end well, but never did I expect just how wild it would get.

In the beginning, we get brief glimpses into his childhood through his musings regarding his overbearing father, the accident that left him with a permanent limp and the bullying he sustained at the hands of his peers.

Sometimes, when you get that sort of a background on a character it can maybe evoke sympathy or understanding for their actions. I can say, not really the case here.

I did really enjoy the stark urban landscape as the backdrop. It enhanced the feelings of our characters, those of desperation, loneliness and isolation, not just for Horridge, but for the young people as well.

Cathy and Peter especially, it was difficult for them. Cathy really wanted to get out, but the money just wasn’t there for them to buy a home. It felt like you were trapped with them. I was frustrated for Cathy, particularly because Peter didn’t seem able to get out of his own way.

Also, Miss Fanny, the artist. I liked her character a lot and her storyline really got to me. She has a run in with Horridge outside the building and even though she describes meeting him as making her feel more uncomfortable than she ever felt in her life, she invites him up to her flat!

She believes he is an investigator looking into one of the murders, but even so. She felt it in her gut, but pushed her thoughts aside so as to be polite, or not to seem disagreeable.

This was interesting to me. A perfect example of how women, not so much anymore, were raised to smile, be polite, help out, even if it meant going against their own instincts.

These are just a couple of examples of what I found so interesting about this story. I was glued to the pages. It was uncomfortable to be in Horridge’s mind, that type of paranoia fiction that makes you feel like you need a very hot shower after.

As the plot progresses, Horridge spirals more and more into his paranoid, repetitive thoughts. There were aspects towards the end that reminded me of Raskolnikov’s descent into, shall we say guilt-fueled madness, in Crime and Punishment.

Overall, I was impressed with how immersed I got in this story. Some aspects felt dated, but it was first published in 1979, over 40-years ago, so that makes sense.

I think in spite of that though, the horror of the story remains as impactful today as it would have been then. I was properly disturbed after this one and can’t wait to read some more from Ramsey Campbell!

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Review: Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

Krampus: The Yule LordKrampus: The Yule Lord by Brom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All hail, Krampus, Lord of Yule!

In Krampus: The Yule Lord the Reader is taken on a stunning, horror-fueled holiday journey following Krampus, his Belsnickels, Santa and a low-on-his-luck musician, Jesse Walker, of Boone County, West Virginia.

On Christmas Eve, after Jesse witnesses a battle between Santa Claus and some demon-like entitites, Jesse is left with a lot of questions and Santa’s magical sack. What would seem a boon to many people ends up bringing nothing but bad tidings for poor Jesse.

Krampus wants that sack and now Jesse is in his path, but Jesse has other problems. He’s gotten on the shit list of some seedy men and is dodging threats from every side, including threats to his ex and daughter.

Once he and Krampus are brought together, Jesse can hardly believe what is happening to him. He’s literally been drawn into the quest of the Yule Lord, but is Krampus bad or good?

If you believe the story as Krampus tells it, Santa Claus is an evil fraud who must be stopped. Jesse really could care less, he just wants his estranged-wife, Linda, and daughter, Abigail, to be safe and it seems like Krampus will be able to help him with that.

Y’all, I absolutely adored this story. From the very first chapter, I was completely drawn into this lush, fantastical, emotionally-charged and brutal tale.

I loved getting the opportunity to read from Krampus’s perspective and those scenes were some of my favorite from the entire narrative.

I was blown away by the detailed folkloric elements that Brom included. The idea of Yule, Krampus, Santa and everything surrounding them was fascinating and definitely something I would enjoy reading more about.

We see a bit of the rivalry between Krampus and Santa, which was really fun. At one point, I mentioned in a status update that they felt like an old-bickering couple. We, of course, are treated to Krampus’s side of things, so I was totally behind him.

Another bit I really enjoyed was when Krampus and Jesse were traveling around and Krampus, having been locked up for half a millennium, was seeing the present state of the world for the first time.

It was interesting seeing Krampus be shocked by the horrors that modern man bring about, not just for themselves, but for others and on the Earth. That idea was explored in some detail and I found it sad and beautiful all at the same time. It was so well done.

Lastly, I don’t think I can write a review for this book without mentioning Brom’s illustrations. Are you kidding me? Never have more gorgeous illustrations graced the pages of a book.

Having the stunning depictions of theses characters, and pivotal moments of scenes, laid out in front of me absolutely elevated the reading experience.

I definitely recommend picking up a hard copy if you are planning to read it. I am so happy to have this remarkable book as part of my own collection. I cannot wait to pick up more from Brom.

I now officially have a new favorite go-to Holiday Horror novel!! 10-out-of-10 recommend!! I am kompletely krazy for Krampus!!

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Review: The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert

The Nightmare ManThe Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Ben Bookman is a best-selling Horror novelist in the vein of Stephen King. Ben’s not afraid to get dark and growing up at his family’s spooky estate, known as Blackwood, certainly provided him with plenty of inspiration.

In fact, Ben returned to the estate for a weekend retreat to help him finish his latest book, The Scarecrow.

That weekend is shrouded in mystery. It’s mentioned a few separate times in the narrative, you can tell something fairly serious went down, but it’s unclear what. Even Ben can’t recall what happened there.

Regardless, the freaking book got finished and that’s the most important thing.

Unfortunately, before the book is even officially released, the terrible events from the story begin to occur in real life. It’s as if the story has crawled off the page and taken over Ben’s hometown of New Haven.

New Haven native, Detective Mills and his daughter, Rookie Detective Blue, are tasked with looking into the gruesome murders that become known as the Scarecrow Crimes. Unsurprisingly, Ben is their prime suspect.

How else would anyone know his text that well? It hasn’t even released yet. Perhaps it was a Netgalley Reader…

This story starts out with the first bloody crime scene. An entire family butchered, individually encased in cocoons made of corn husks and hung in their own barn.

Hey, I told you it gets dark. There is oozing blood, flies and let’s not even consider the smell.

Mills and Blue are in for the most startling investigation of their lives. Ben Bloom is just trying to save his family from harm and his reputation. If anyone can get to the bottom of these crimes, it should be the man who wrote them.

The build-up of this had me temporarily fooled. I thought this was going in one direction, a sort of predictable direction, but enjoyably, it was not that. This is actually a unique and twisted tale that definitely kept me engaged.

There are a lot of characters and I’ll admit, at times I lost track a bit. That was sort of a downfall for me. I had to relisten to some parts a few times. It’s the kind of story, if you aren’t 100% paying attention you are going to miss something; particularly towards the end.

Additionally, I felt this was a little drawn out. I think it could have been cut down a bit and it still would have had the same impact.

With this being said, I did really appreciate Markert’s creativity and the Horror imagery was well-presented. This is a big scope kind of story and honestly, I’m not completely sure I picked up on all the different aspects of it.

This was left off nicely though, where I could actually see there being a strong continuation to this story. There are definitely some things that could use further exploration. I’d absolutely be willing to go along for the ride.

I definitely recommend this to Horror fans, or fans of dark, potentially supernatural Thrillers. I think a lot of Readers will really enjoy this one.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review. I am looking forward to more from J.H. Markert!

The Nightmare Man is releasing on Tuesday, January 10th, 2023!! You can preorder now!!

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Review: House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson

House of HungerHouse of Hunger by Alexis Henderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

House of Hunger follows Marion Shaw. Marion has been raised in the slums of the South and her life is pretty bleak.

She works in domestic service for a grumpy old woman. Her parents are dead and she lives on the edge of poverty with her drug-addicted and abusive brother.

She does have a friend though, so that seems to be a highlight. She and this friend frequently get-together on their allotted break from work and read classified ads.

Basically, in their area, men will sometimes advertise when they are looking for a wife. It’s actually a way for some of these girls to climb out of poverty, if they find a man wealthy enough to take care of them.

So, Marion and her friend will sometimes read these ads and joke around about responding to one of them, and the odds of being selected.

On one occasion though, Marion actually sees something that piques her interest; an advert from the notorious House of Hunger, one of the richest houses in the North. It seems they’re in need of a bloodmaid.

Even though she’s practically clueless about life in the wealthy North, she applies for the position. How bad can it be? It certainly has to be better than the meager existence she currently has.

She applies and meets the Taster. A job interviewer of sorts, who tastes her blood and is blown away.

He offers her the position with confidence. The Lady of the House will go batshit-crazy over the delictableness of her blood. It’s a fine vintage, indeed.

The trip North and subsequent introduction to the House of Hunger and their ways is completely off the charts for Marion. It’s all new. She’s like a newborn baby, learning everything from scratch.

The castle is full of debauchery. The Lords and Ladies milling about live hedonistic lives. It’s an odd environment, with Marion and the other bloodmaids simply bearing witness to it all.

One scene, featuring a game called Fox and the Hounds literally gave me chills. These people are nuts. They have no repercussions for the things they do. They can get away with anything. It’s a real precarious position for Marion to be in, but honestly, what are her other options?

Marion discovers the bloodmaids have a bit of a competitive side to them. Apparently, Countess Lisavet, the enthralling Lady of the House, always has a favorite. Her go-to girl, who she’ll spoil with things the other girls don’t get.

As Lisavet begins to show a particular liking for Marion, the old favorite gets ticked. Marion definitely didn’t make a friend there. Additionally, as Marion gets drawn more and more into Lisavet’s inner sanctum, she begins to see that not all is as it appears in the House of Hunger.

This book was absolutely everything I wanted. I fell in love with Henderson’s writing and the vivid Horror imagery, including top-notch Body Horror, she was able to conjure up on the page.

There were some toe-curling scenes, anything involving teeth is gonna get me, soooo, I’m not okay. I was living for this atmosphere.

In fact, I was having so much fun that I gave daily status updates on the plot to my coworkers, and their eyes didn’t even glaze over. That’s how passionate I was about it.

I liked that Marion didn’t know anything about the North, or their customs. It offered up the perfect chance for the Reader to learn about the world through her eyes, without it seeming info dumpy.

I also enjoyed the mystery surrounding the House. As Marion begins to figure out that something is off and then the build-up to the final reveal of what was happening. I thought that was so well done.

Henderson built out the tension perfectly and kept me fully-engaged the entire way through. This narrative is vividly-described and I felt like I could picture everything perfectly. It was dark, gothic, gory and stunning. I loved it!!!

I cannot wait to read more from Henderson. Well done!

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Review: Bad Cree by Jessica Johns

Bad CreeBad Cree by Jessica Johns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After an extremely-vivid dream involving a seemingly-evil murder of crows, Mackenzie wakes with a start to find that she has the severed head of a crow in her hand.

Trying to shake off the fear from the dream, Mackenzie is shocked at what she is seeing. After a few breathless moments, the head is gone. Was it really there, and if so, what does it mean?

Rattled from the dream, Mackenzie is even more shaken the next day when she discovers crows seem to be watching and following her through the city streets. As if the dream itself weren’t disturbing enough.

She confides in her one close friend in the city, hoping they will be able to help her make some sense of what is happening to her. Unfortunately, the nightmares persist. Mackenzie is losing sleep and her health takes a blow. She needs to do something.

She needs to figure this out. She can’t go on like this. She decides she needs to go home. Her gut tells her that the answers are there, but the idea of returning to her rural prairie town fills Mackenzie with apprehension. Having fled home after the death of her beloved kokum, Mackenzie now feels estranged from her close-knit family.

It doesn’t help that when her sister, Sabrina, passed away suddenly, Mackenzie, unable to face it, didn’t even go home for the funeral. She carries a lot of guilt because of that.

Once home, she’s enveloped quickly back into the fray. It’s like a warm, though tentative hug. The reunion goes better than she expected.

Mackenzie finds herself slowly gaining strength from her family, it’s a physical reminder of who she is and where she came from. She has such loving, supportive and wise women in her life. Her Mom and Aunties, even her cousins, surround her with energy.

Her dreams do continue and seem to be escalating, however, she now has someone to share them with. She’s confiding in her family and together it feels like they may be able to actually figure it out.

Mackenzie spends a lot of time with her cousin, Kassidy, and sister, Tracey, trying to decipher the meaning behind the nightmares. It’s clear they’re connected to a night they shared at the lake, where the girls, along with the now deceased, Sabrina, took an ill-fated walk home from a party.

But how can that long-ago night possibly be connected?

‘This is serious. These dreams, the crows. It’s all telling you something. You need to listen.’

Y’all, I fell completely in love with Jessica Johns’ debut novel, Bad Cree. It’s an exceptionally well-constructed, slow burn Supernatural Horror novel, full of inspired imagery and thought-provoking themes.

There’s no way I will be able to adequately explain my love for this, but I’ll give it my best shot.

From the very first pages I was pulled into this story. Johns goes dark and quickly. Mackenzie’s dreams are at the forefront at the start of this novel and I was digging the tone.

I really enjoyed Johns’ style of storytelling. The writing is blunt, to the point and perfectly descriptive without beating it to death. I appreciated how incredible the imagery was without being so flowery that the plot got buried.

I also really enjoyed the mystery at the heart of the story. Trying to find out how the current situation was related to the past was so enthralling.

Additionally, I loved watching Mackenzie’s journey as she reunited with her family and began opening up to them. She really needed to get to a place where she was okay asking for help and that touched me.

I felt everything she was going through. I felt those feelings, hesitations, grief, guilt, etc. It was all so well done. It was super believable and relatable.

Another thing I really appreciated about this story is that there is no romance. This is a story of family and culture, of history and growth, and it didn’t need a pointless romance shoved in to gain popularity points.

It’s also a very female-focused story, which was so refreshing. All the main characters in this story are either female, or nonbinary. To have an entire novel focused on familial relationships, and nothing else, is pretty rare and I loved how it was done here.

I highlighted so many passages in this book. I absolutely adored this from start-to-finish. The family in this story is total life goals. The Indigenous experience and lore weaved throughout made it captivating and eye-opening.

I could seriously go on for many more paragraphs, but at this point, I think you probably get it: I LOVED THIS STORY. 10-out-of-10 recommend!!

Thank you so very much to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I am definitely buying a hard copy of this one for my shelves!! Bad Cree is releasing on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. This should be on every Horror Lovers TBR!!

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Review: These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall

These Fleeting ShadowsThese Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In These Fleeting Shadows we meet Helen Vaughan. Helen is a girl with a murky past and a slightly haunted present.

She knows that when she was very young, she and her Mom fled their ancestral home, Harrowstone Hall, where their extended family still live, but she has no idea why.

They never discuss it. They don’t talk about the family, about why they left, nothing. It’s just a giant black hole of nothingness looming over Helen’s entire life.

Then the notification arrives that her grandfather has passed away. They’re asked to come to Harrow for the funeral and surprisingly, her Mom agrees. They’re actually going.

Once there, Helen is swept up into Harrow immediately. Meeting her strange family, the eerie house and grounds, its a lot to take in.

When she receives the news of the inheritance, it’s even more overwhelming. The grandfather she barely knew left everything to her? Everything? Really? And what’s this clause about her having to stay in the house for one-year in order to receive everything?

She decides to give it a go.

Life at Harrow is disturbing. The people eccentric, the house itself a haunted labyrinth of confusion. It’s hard to tell if there is anyone Helen can trust. Can she even trust herself?

I don’t really know what to say about this novel. There were many things about it that I enjoyed, but I also found it to be convoluted, with certain events being very difficult to track.

The premise is great. We love an inheritance story, particularly ones set at a gothic mansion. Add in bizarre family members and we’re still on the right track.

A protagonist feeling haunted, unsure if her dreams are just that, or repressed memories? I’ll grab the popcorn. I’m still here for it.

I think where it really started losing me was the nature of the house, which really is the essence of the story. The reason behind the family doing what they were doing. It just lost me. It moved from where I thought it was going to something else entirely.

At the heart of the story, this reminded me of Kiersten White’s release, Hide. There’s a similar vein running through here that ran through that novel. Frankly, I didn’t enjoy it in either place.

In the Author’s Note at the end, Kate Alice Marshall writes a bit about being inspired by Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan to write this story. It sounds like this is in fact a modern-reimagining of that tale.

I wish I would have known that before. I think that could have made this story more impactful for me. Also, I would have loved to have read that original source material prior to picking this one up.

Either way, this ended up being a mixed bag for me. I fell in love with the cover, but eventually fell out of love with the content. The beginning was great, with a very promising set-up.

I loved the atmosphere created once they arrived at Harrow. By the mid-way point though, my interest was waning and by the end, I was looking forward to it being over.

While this story wasn’t necessarily to my liking, I still love Kate Alice Marshall’s writing and the risks she is willing to take with her stories.

These Fleeting Shadows may not have been a hit for me, but I’m confident that so many Readers will absolutely love this. I look forward to seeing what Marshall will serve us next!

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