Throwback Thursday: Halloween Special

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With it being Halloween shortly, I have decided to do a special spooky edition of Throwback Thursday … OOoOoOOoooOOOOooooooghost-03 Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renée at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

Here is a selection of books I have read over the years and their spooky ratingsghost-03ghost-03ghost-03ghost-03ghost-03

 

Halloween Party by Agatha Christie ghost-03

halloween partyI have read this book so many times and I never fail to enjoy it. It was one of the first Agatha Christie’s I read as a teenager when I went through a phase of devouring everything I could get my hands on. Even though I have read it so many times now, it has never lost its appeal to me. Spooky? No, not at all. Fun? Yes, absolutely!

The story starts with a famous author, Ariadne   Oliver, who is attending a children’s Halloween party in a pretty little English village. She is recognised by some of the children who start to quiz her about her books and complain that there isn’t enough murder in them. One of the group, a rather unpopular 13-year-old called Joyce, then pipes up “I saw a murder once” before being shouted down and laughed at by those around her. Trying to explain herself she then adds “but I didn’t realise that it was a murder at the time.” The party gets into full swing but before the night is out, Joyce has been found murdered face down in a bucket of bobbing apples…

Ariadne sets off to see her old friend Hercule Poirot for help as she has become convinced that someone who overheard Joyce’s claim to have seen a murder had wanted to shut her up. Poirot then sets about busy-bodying his way around the village, in true Poirot style, asking questions to anyone and everyone about what Joyce may have seen. And as in true Christie style, expect the unexpected!

I’m so glad I read this book again – picking up an Agatha Christie is like meeting up with an old friend; it’s a real tonic.

Spooky rating:

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A great mystery book set at Halloween. Will it scare you? Not a chance. Will you love it? Absolutely!

 

Dark Matter: A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver ghost-03

dark matterThis book is written in the form of a journal by Jack Miller, a London misfit with a dead-end job and no friends who joins an expedition to the Arctic Circle in 1937. Jack is desperate to go and has looked forward to this adventure for six months before setting off so his spirits are high as soon as he steps onto the boat to take them to the bay of Gruhuken in northern Norway.

However, Jack’s joy soon takes a downward turn as one by one, members of the expedition drop like flies and he is left alone, with just a pack of huskies and a self-built hut in one of the remotest parts of the world. Not only that, but Jack begins to see and hear things that aren’t really there. Or are they?

I found this book incredibly well written and what I found was that the way the isolation and deprivation were played out over the pages was far more spooky than the ghost that was inhabiting the bay with Jack. The sense of fear as Jack slowly began to lose his mind imagining things that had moved or appeared was palpable and made for very chilly reading.

Jack’s relationship with one of the dogs, Isaak, was the only warming part of this icy tale but it was a welcome relief in such a desolate text.

Although I enjoyed this book immensely and would recommend it as a great read, I am disappointed to report that it didn’t scare me in the least (and I am a complete wimp when it comes to scary things).

Spooky rating:

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Definitely eerie and atmospheric and a great ending to the book, but alas it did not actually scare me.

Those of a nervous disposition may want to avoid or read with the light on though.

 

Comes The Blind Fury by John Saul ghost-03

comes the blind furyI first read this book as a young teenager (so just a few years ago then…). I remember one half-term shutting myself away in my bedroom with a stack of John Saul novels and scaring myself silly. I had completely forgotten all about John Saul until I stumbled across this book many years later and decided to see if I still felt the same.

Fast forward a few (!) years, it didn’t have the same impact on me as it did as a teenager in terms of reading it from behind a cushion, but I still loved it and remembered just why I was such as fan of Sauls books back then.

The book starts with the death of a twelve-year-old blind girl, Amanda, in 1886. She is a kind and gentle girl who has been routinely teased and tormented by her classmates, and one day that they go too far and put an object in her way on the cliff path, sending her free-falling into the sea. Amanda may be dead but she is not done yet…

One hundred years later, twelve-year-old Michelle moves with her family from Boston to Paradise Point to live in a big old Victorian house on the edge of the cliffs. When she picks her room, she finds an ancient doll at the back of the closet and names her Amanda.

Michelle quickly makes friends at school, and enjoys her new life, until one day at a picnic on the beach, things take an ugly turn when one of the group begins teasing her and Michelle runs off and tumbles down the side of the cliff. From then on she must use a cane to walk with the teasing becomes worse…until the fog comes out of nowhere and Michelle meets the ghost of Amanda who vows to help her get revenge…

This is a great book to keep you on the edge of your seat. I had forgotten just how great John Saul is able to do that. While not actually scary, it certainly had an eerie feel to it and it kept me on my toes.

Spooky rating:

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A great Halloween read. Eerie and creepy. Read on a dark, cold night…but watch out for the fog drawing in….

 

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters ghost-03

little strangerThis story is narrated by Dr. Faraday, a local village Doctor, in 1940′s rural England. He is called to Hundreds Hall, a huge mansion with acres of land where his Mother was a nursery nurse when he was a boy and he remembers, fondly, the extravagant tea parties and fetes that the Ayres family used to throw for the village. When Dr. Farady arrives at the house after not having seen it for decades he is shocked at the crumbling and dilapidated state that it’s in. The owners of the property are now Mrs. Ayres and her two children, Caroline and Roderick (both in their twenties); her eldest child, Susan, died 30 years ago aged nine. Faraday has been called to see the maid, Betty, who is complaining of stomach problems and saying that she wants to go home, but when Faraday delves deeper he finds out that it is because she is hearing strange things in the house and she is scared. Farady is invited to have tea with the family and this is the start of a friendship with the family just at a time when things start going bump in the night……

Despite casualties of the spooky goings on a-plenty, Faraday managed to find an explanation for everything: the fires, the writing on the walls, the tapping etc. What frustrated me was that while this was going on I was expecting things to start falling into place and make sense, but it never did. I am no more clued up now that I was when I started it. What I think Waters has done is left readers to make up their own minds about what was going on in the house. Where there really ghosts or was the family in melt-down as well as the house? The book is set in post WWII England, on the eve of the NHS, when class is becoming less important and the upstanding members of the community aren’t necessarily only those with wealth anymore: Mrs. Ayres still likes Betty the maid to dress in full black and white and courtesy etc which is even starting to be amusing to members of her own circle. With the going’s on in the house, we are left to wonder whether there really is the pitter-patter of little ghosty feet or whether the demise of the house is mirroring the demise of its occupants?

I would definitely recommend this book as a really good read. I was reading late one night and put the book down just after an episode of tapping on the walls and was drifting to sleep when I swear I was woken up by tapping on my bedroom window! It could have been a dream, but hey……..you never know!

Spooky Rating:

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Although this book wasn’t actually scary per se, the ghostly goings on in the middle gave me the chills while I was up reading late one night.

Good spooky parts but the book won’t turn your hair grey with fright.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger ghost-03

TImage result for her fearful symmetryhrow a huge cemetery, a cold & wintery London, bizarre mirror twins, a feral kitten and a recently dead Aunt into a pot together and the result is a wonderfully quirky, melancholy, spooky book.

The story is set around Highgate Cemetery in London where a recently dead Elspeth has left her apartment to her twenty-year-old American nieces, Julia and Valentina, who are mirror twins. When the twins arrive in their new home they soon learn that they are not alone as it appears their Aunt Elspeth has never left. While it’s sometimes difficult to know who to root for in this book, there is a wonderful cast of both primary and secondary characters that kept me glued to the story and there is a sense of such powerful emotions that they almost feel tangible: The twins new neighbour, Robert, was their Aunt’s lover and his feelings of loss for Elspeth are painful to read at times. I felt completely absorbed in this book and I have to admit that I never saw what happened in the last 50 pages coming at all!

It is ultimately a book about love, loss and betrayal with a gothic backdrop of ghosts, cemeteries and enough twists and turns that you never feel completely comfortable. With the Cemetery itself a character and echoes of Henry James and Charles Dickens, “Her Fearful Symmetry” is a delicious and deadly twenty-first-century ghost story.

Spooky rating:

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Mild spookiness. Unless you have a particularly weak heart, you should be OK with this one.

 

Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe ghost-03

naomi's roomThe really weird thing about this book is that I picked it up for a few pence in a second-hand bookshop a few years ago; I had no desire to read any horror books at the time and when I got home I remember wondering what had possessed me to get it as I thought I might find it too scary to read. On a whim a while later, I took it off my shelf and dusted it down – and I swear I kept getting déjà vu while I read it (just little snippets that would make me shiver and convinced I’d read it before but I really don’t think I have). Spooooooky!

The book is a ghost story that starts off with the abduction of a four-year-old girl, Naomi, from a busy toy shop in London on Christmas Eve in 1970. Her father, Charles Hillenbrand gets separated from her in the shop and she is never seen again. By the afternoon of Christmas Day Naomi’s body has been found – she has been murdered.

While trying to cope with their grief and come to terms without their little girl, back in Cambridge, Charles and Laura find themselves on the receiving end of some very strange events. They are woken one night by a piercing scream coming from Naomi’s room, and they hear footsteps in the attic above their bedroom. The mystery and nightmare only deepen when a photographer who has been camped outside their house waiting for glimpses of the grieving parents has his role of film developed and finds strange faces that appear at the attic window and two little girls dressed in Victorian clothing in the garden where he was sure there was nobody there. Together, Charles and the journalist, David Lewis, try to work out what’s going on……but nobody could predict what more was to come!

This is a really spooky tale of things that go bump in the night, ghosts who have had a particularly gruesome end to their earthly lives and are trying to communicate, and the ending is pretty shocking – and totally unexpected!

This book was out of print for some time but it appears to be back on Amazon (yay!), along with Aycliffe’s other books which I now fully intend to check out.

Spooky Rating:

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A good spooky yarn – scary and shocking.

In the middle of reading this book I was taking a shower (not with the actual book, obviously!) and I swear I saw something brown flash across my mirror just outside the shower door on the bathroom wall – it was only there for a fleeting second – but then I realised it was probably just my arm or something so I started waving my arms around to prove my own point. I couldn’t see them in the mirror – the angle was wrong!……

Recommended for sitting in a dark room with just your reading lamp on and a cup of hot chocolate.

 

Happy Halloween!

So there we have it: a little selection of spooky-themed books for the run-up to Halloween. Have you read any of these? Which other books do you recommend for this time of year?

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Dead Scared by S J Bolton

In three words:

Cambridge, nightmares, scared

 

 

What I thought:

Just over a year ago I discovered S J Bolton’s books, starting with Sacrife which I absolutely loved. Since then I have gone on to read three more of her books and this latest book is every bit as good as all the others.

Dead Scared is the second book featuring Detectives Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury and this time they are in Cambridge investigating an unusually high number of student suicides at the University over the last 5 years. Lacey is sent undercover to live as student Laura Farrow at the Universtity and only days into her “new life” she discovers that the suicides aren’t quite what they first seem. The students, usually female and pretty, are killing themselves in increasingly violent ways after complaing of nightmares and being terrified for weeks  beforehand. Lacey/Laura delves deeper into the lives and histories of the student deaths with the help of University Psychiatrist Evi Oliver (who is apparantly a character from Blood Harvest which is the only obe of Boltons books that I haven’t read yet – to be rectified VERY soon!). Evi is the person who alerted the police to her concerns about the high suicide rate in Cambridge and soon finds that  not only is she suffering from nightmares herself but strange and very scary things are starting to happen to her in her own home too.

Despite this being the second book to star Flint and Joesbury, I don’t think that it is at all necessary to have read the first in the series, Now You See Me. There are a few references to things that happened in that first book but I was really pleased to note that Bolton didn’t give away any of the plot that would spoil it for readers who haven’t picked that one up yet. Also, the way that this book ends means that surely there is a next in the series to come. YES!

Verdict: Highly recommended. I found this book absolutely fantastic and had trouble putting it down. It had me hooked from page one (which has been something pretty rare recently as I have struggled to get into a few books), and it was an intelligent and fast-paced thriller with genuinely creepy moments and if you are of a nervous disposition I would heartily recommend that you don’t read this book alone in the dark….

 

  Have you read any of S J Bolton’s books. If not, are you going to?

 

(Source: I received a copy of this book for review from Netgalley)

The Resurrectionists by Kim Wilkins

In three words:

Spooky, gothic, graveyard

 

What I thought:

I first heard about this book last year when I was doing my Dare You Read It? series over the Halloween period. It was recommended by Helen at She Reads Novels as a spooky / scary book and as I tend to enjoy the a lot of the same books as Helen I decided to hunt down a copy. I managed to find a second hand copy as the book had actually gone out of print, but it is now available on Kindle via Amazon for anyone who wants to give this a read.

This gothic horror starts with Maisie, an Australian musician with a successful career and loving boyfriend, who is disillusioned with life and decides to go to England to see her maternal Grandmother, Sybil, whom she has never met, who lives in a remote cottage in Yorkshire by the coast. Maisie’s mother is dead set against her going and then confesses that her Grandmother actually died 3 months ago which makes Maisie even more determined to go, to find out about where Sybil lived and what she was like.

When she arrives in Solgreve, Yorkshire in the winter, Maisie soon discovers that not only was her Grandmother not at all liked but that, apparently, neither is she. A wall of silence and unfriendlyness greets Maisie in the little village (including a very cold introduction from the village Vicar) so Maisie sets about trying to clear Sybils cottage and discover what she can about her past. The only person that is remotely nice to her is a young man called Sasha (who is part gypsy and used to help Sybil in her garden) whom she meets when he brings Sybils old cat back round.

It’s not long before things begin to go bump in the night in this remote little cottage. Maisie is unnerved by the cat who takes up the same post on top of the washing machine every night to stare out, unblinking into the night, but not so much as when she sees a shadowy figure by the trees at the back of the cottage that is staring straight back at her.

Maisie soon discovers a diary dating back to 1793 that, upon reading it, starts to give her clues to what is going on and what makes the inhabitants of the village of Solgreve behave the way they do.

This book is choc full of chills, thrills and surprises. There was one particular point when Maisie and a friend are alone in the cottage one night when things take a horrifying turn, that literally had me on the edge of my seat. Yes, there were parts of the book where I really had to suspend my disbelief (but then this is horror fiction) but overall it was a great October read and perfect for the RIP challenge.

Verdict: Fans of gothic, horror and suspense are sure to like this book. Don’t expect a literary masterpiece but if it’s thrills and chills you’re after then look no further.

 

I read this book as part of the RIP Challenge

Day 19 – A book that scared me

Boo!

As a teenager I loved scary books and films etc. Then I turned into a wimp.

Now I am on a quest to find the ultimate scary read again (especially now the nights are drawing in and it’s getting colder – the perfect time to snuggle up on the sofa with a book that creeps and chills). Last year I did a “Dare You Read It?” series in an attempt to find that special spine-tingling book and, while I did read some great books, none of them scared me to death. And that is because…..

I already know which book will do that as I attempted to read it about 2/3 years ago and it scare the bejeesus out of me so much that I had to put it down less than half way through. That book is The Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. If you’re not aware of Joe Hill, he is the son of Stephen King (let’s face it, if you grow up with King for your Dad then you’re gonna know how to tell a spooky yarn!). The Heart Shaped Box starts with a man – Jude – who likes to collect macabre things and when he spots an add on ebay from a woman selling the ghost of her step-father, he presses “buy now”. By the time Jude has taken receipt of the suit that the old man used to wear (that comes complete with said ghost), things start to get really chilling. His dogs start barking and going mental and he sees the old man sitting on a chair outside his bedroom and tries to sneak past. I think that’s pretty much where I left it…

Now, since then I have read Hill’s other book Horns which isn’t scary in the same way at all. I have also met the man himself at a book signing of Horns in Waterstones in Leeds and he was very nice, but The Heart Shaped Box still remains firmly shut and at the back of my shelf!

As it’s Autumn and as I am also doing the RIP Challenge again this year, I am contemplating giving it another go. However, I am too chicken to try it on my own (just incase that man is still sat on the chair where I last left him!) so are there any volunteers to read along with me?

                            

 

What is the scariest book you have ever read and why?

RIP VI is here!

Autumn must be here…

OK, to be fair, we haven’t really even had a summer in the UK but that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Autumn is my favourite season and alsways has been. I used to love going back to school after the long holidays (yep, must be a geek!) and it was my birthday, halloween and bonfire night. I love the crisp days and darker evenings when you have to put the fire on a curl up (with a book, naturally) and cup of hot chocolate or glass of red wine. Autumn is a time for classics, gothic reads and spooky tales hence my excitement for this challenge again.

I have successfully managed to avoid all challenges this year so far but this is one that I cannot igone! The Peril Challenge is right up my street and I loved taking part last year t00.

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, Supernatural.

As you know, I am likely to change my mind on a whim (I’m incredibly fickle when it comes to shiny new books attracting my attention) and side-tracking me from the best laid plans. However, here are some of the books that are on my list (for the moment):

Pet Sematary by Stephen King (currently reading)

The Retribution by Val McDermid (currently reading)

Suffer the Children by John Saul (read this as a teenager and want to read it again as I remember nothing about it except it spooked me)

Florence and Giles by John Harding (I hadn’t heard of this until Helen of She Reads Novels added it to her list and I looked it up – only 99p on my Kindle too…bargain!)

Cuckoo by Julia Couch (sent to me for review and looks like a great pyschological thriller)

Needful Things by Stephen King (after reading Carrie recently and now on to Pet Sematary I am on a bit of a SK kick)

The Remains by Vincent Zandri (recommended by a fellow blogger taking part in Thrill Week and again only 86p on my Kindle!)

Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheriden le Fanu (has been on my shelf for a few years and is supposed to be Victorian gothic at its creepiest – delicious!!!)

Blood Harvest by S J Bolton (the only one of her 4 books I haven’t read yet and it’s a sort of crime ghost story so should be perfect!)

The Resurrectionists by Julia Wilkins (another one recommended as really creepy by Helen at She Reads Novels last year during my Dare You Read It? series in October and I have since  found a second hand copy)

 

I think that little lot should keep me going for a while, but like I say, by the time I have finished the challenge it is probably unlikely to resemble the above list at all (oh the perils of shiny, new things……)

 

I will be doing the Peril the First challenge which is to read at least 4 books from the above categories (shouldn’t be too hard as they are my favourite genre at the moment).

 

Have you got any plans to join in? If so, what will you be reading?

 

Carrie by Stephen King

In three words:

Telekenesis, bullying, atonement

What I thought:

I hadn’t been planning on reading this book; I was merely spending a lovely hour or so browsing the hundreds of titles on my Kindle (courtesy of a disc my brother-in-law gave me) and before I knew it I had read a quarter of the book. Another strange fact: despite being a HUGE crime/thriller fan this is only the second book I have ever read by Stephen King, the first being Firestarter when I was about thriteen (of which I have no memory whatsoever).

Carrie was one of King’s earlier books (in fact I think it may be his first writing under his own name rather than Richard Bachman) so perhaps it isn’t as polished as I hear his later works are but, let me tell you, this man can tell a story! Despite the fact that I know the story of Carrie (who doesn’t?) I found myself still as intrigued with the storyline and how Carrie ended up doing what she did. I loved the way that, between the main storyline, the book was made up of excerpts from other books, newspapers, AP Tickers and court transcripts.

 Imagine that this book has first come out (before the film and the noterioty) and you are reading the narrative of a teenage girl who is a school misfit, horribly bullied and humiliated and has a mother so religiously zealous that she locks her daughter in the closet over and over to punish her and pray. Right from the start, the book hints that something big and catastrophic is on its way and that it is imminent. The post-event transcripts and articles tell the reader that something is going to happen where people will end up dead and King drip-feeds us snippets of what is to come leading up to the moment itself. I know, you know, but imagine when it first came out….what a gripping read this must have been! Despite being familiar with the story, I found myself flipping those pages (or in this case, pressing that button) at an alarming rate.

Poor Carrie. She is unpopular, chunky, pimply and plain with no real understanding of the world around her (courtesy of her mother who calls her breasts dirtypillows and hasn’t forwarned her about menstruating because that is the devils work and she will need to be punished for it).  What better target for a group of hormone-crazy school girls who make her life a living misery (and that’s before she goes home). After a particularly nasty incident in the showers, Carrie first discovers (or re-discovers as it turns out) her powers of telekenesis which she proceeds to work on and hone in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Sue Snell – one of the surviving members of Carries year group after Prom Night – decides to try and atone for the humiliation they all put Carrie through by asking her boyfriend Tommy (popular and good-looking straight A student) to ask Carrie to the prom. As Carrie prepares for the night of her life, someone else is plotting her downfall. When the town of Chamberlain wakes up on 27th May 1979, all is well. By nighttime, over 400 of them are dead!

Verdict: I really enjoyed this book. Despite falling into the horror genre, scary it isn’t. What you get instead is an intriguing and well-written plot which looks as if it may be a great foray into his later, scarier works (of which I have every intention of reading now).

Has anyone else read this? Which one do you think I should read next? And which one is the absolute scariest?

 

(source: I read this book on my Kindle)