One Flesh, One End: Reviewing Gideon the Ninth (Book One in the Locked Tomb Trilogy) by Tamsyn Muir

Hello everyone! I hope you are doing well under the worst heat arguably ever. I’ve had some positive life changes in the last week, so I’m in a good mood right now. Though we are still little ways out from spooky season, that won’t stop me from delving into the creepy and macabre. Without further pretense, let’s get into Gideon the Ninth, the first novel in the Locked Tomb trilogy.

Gideon Nav grew up in the Ninth House, a place known for its dreary atmosphere, ossifying nobility, and strict religious conduct. Her only dream is to be free and enlist as a soldier. Her plans for her escape are thwarted by her childhood nemesis and the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth house, Harrowhark Nonagesimus. Harrow is called upon by the Emperor to join the necromancers of the other eight houses to be tested in deadly trials. The remaining heir will become a Lyctor, the immortal right hand to the Emperor. Harrow offers Gideon an ultimatum: serve as her cavalier and she will be free from her servitude. With Harrow’s advanced magic and Gideon’s sword, the two find themselves facing a challenge far greater than imagined and death isn’t even the worst outcome if they fail.

Content warning: body horror, gore, violence, language

With that warning out the way, I may have found my new favorite sci-fi horror novel. Granted, it isn’t necessarily scary, but Gideon the Ninth was certainly a thrilling read. Gideon herself was a great protagonist and I loved her playful banter and sarcasm. The novel itself was a rather cinematic one with an interesting magic system, fleshed-out characters, and big action set pieces. It is also a fairly classic whodunnit mystery at the heart of the novel. I do enjoy those types of mysteries so I might be a little biased. I am going to go ahead and give Gideon the Ninth my personal seal of approval and encourage you to try this one if you want a book that’s equally creepy and fantastical.

Treat that place as a thing unto itself: Reviewing House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Hello everyone! I hope you are all dealing with this heat in the best way you know how. Remember to drink water and take care of yourself. So, this is the longest it has ever taken me to read a book. I was determined not to DNF this and I am actually kind of proud for making it through such an interesting and challenging novel. I have a lot to say about this one. Let’s get into House of Leaves.

Award-winning photojournalist, Will “Navy” Navidson and his wife, Karen Green, had a simple desire to move into a nice house on Ash Tree Lane to raise their family. One day, their two young children stumble across something strange. In the house is an impossible door that leads to an impossible room that defies all laws of nature. Navidson takes it upon himself to explore and record his impossible house. Soon, the house takes on a life of its own, both literally and figuratively. Navidson and Karen’s fight to survive in their house becomes the subject of many scholars who can only speculate on what truly happened on Ash Tree Lane.

First of all, I am going to give a major content warning on this book as it does contain strong language, graphic violence, graphic sexual content, death, mental health discussions, drug abuse, and self-harm. With that being said, wow. Never before has a book genuinely made me feel anxious. That is a compliment, though. This was one of my most difficult reads and that is very much on purpose. Danielewski layers and layers different narrative styles onto this already bizarre story. I don’t think I could do this novel justice by just describing it. It is truly something that needs to be experienced. I love novels that go outside the box and House of Leaves does nothing to contain itself to one narrative. If you want a challenging and immersive reading experience, then I would certainly recommend House of Leaves.

To be a woman is to be a sacrifice: Reviewing The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Hello and Happy New Year everyone! Here’s hoping we have a year full of pleasant surprises and better fortune. But now, I am coming to you with my first review of the year. I wanted to review this book back in October because it seemed more appropriate for the spooky season but I decided that spooky season can be all year long if you don’t care about anyone else’s opinions. Let’s kick off 2022 with The Year of the Witching.

Immanuelle Moore has struggled all her life to fit into Bethel, a strict religious society where the Prophet rules with an iron fist. Immanuelle was born of a relationship between her Bethelan mother and a father of a different race, which makes her very existence a sin. Because of this, Immanuelle does her best to remain faithful to the Father and follow the Holy Scriptures so that she might be accepted. That is until she stumbles into the Darkwood and finds her mother’s journal, which she learns that she is connected to the witches that live in the Darkwood. With this knowledge, Immanuelle sets out to uncover the corruption of the Church and the Prophet before Bethel is destroyed by its own secrets.

The Year of the Witching sets out to make a statement and a statement it makes. Henderson creates a chilling atmosphere with horrifying revelations about the society of Bethel. You certainly feel for Immanuelle’s struggle and root for her as she uncovers the horrific truth of the male – dominated religion that she is surrounded by. I could write an entire essay about the themes of this book. It gives a lot to think about, particularly if you know anything about cults or cult – like organizations. If you are interested in the Salem Witch Trials, then this book is right up your alley as it delves in to the relationship between women and religions. I don’t want to go on for too long or spoil anything so I will end this with saying that I ended up loving this book and I definitely recommend this for all of you witchy types out there.

All Desperate and Dark Things…: Reviewing The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Hi everybody! So here’s the thing: I can either finish a book in a day or it takes me several months to read a book. There is no in-between. I am sure a good majority of you can relate. This is not because I don’t like the book or anything, but it is simply because my brain is just weird like that. I am always, however, a sucker for a good mystery novel. They rarely fail me. If you want to, you can check out my review of Stuart Turton’s first novel, The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Now, I shall review Turton’s sophomore novel, The Devil and the Dark Sea.

It’s 1643 and Arent Hayes, former mercenary and soldier turned bodyguard, is about to board a ship that may or may not be leading to his friend, Samuel Pipps’ execution. Arent is determined to prove his friend’s innocence and save Pipps’ reputation as the world’s greatest detective. Among the other passengers is Sara Wessel, a noblewoman determined to escape her cruel husband. As soon as the ship sets sail, strange events begin to occur. A demonic symbol begins to appear all over the ship, a leper stalks the crew, and passengers claim to hear an evil voice. Once people begin to die mysteriously, it is up to Arent and Sara to unravel the mystery themselves and come face to face with evil, from both past and the present.

I love mystery and I love historical fiction, so this book was a perfect combo for me. Though the novel is rather long, the pace is fast. The writing is atmospheric and every chapter leaves you wondering what the heck could possibly happen next. I love the way Turton endears you to the characters so quickly. The stakes are high right from the beginning, which only makes the read that much more satisfying when you get to the end. The book, fortunately, did not become too convoluted as some mystery novels tend to do. If you need a good mystery to hunker down with as the weather gets chilly, I would definitely recommend this one as it is very difficult to put down.

‘…Men are Only Another Kind of Primate…’: Reviewing Devolution by Max Brooks

Hello everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your summer so far. It is still pretty overcast where I live so I’m just waiting to see the sun again. All weather is good reading weather, though, and I have been itching to finish this novel. I did read Brooks’ most notable novel, World War Z, a while ago in the height of the “zombie craze” and did thoroughly enjoy it. I personally love novels that are told through letters, interviews, etc. because I find them to be the most immersive. It has taken me far longer to finish this novel than I care to admit but I am more than happy to talk about Devolution, or its full title: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre.

The unthinkable only leads to the horrifying after Mount Rainier erupts, decimating the newly founded, environmentally friendly community of Greenloop. In the aftermath of the explosion, the journals of resident Kate Holland are discovered and reveal a horrifying encounter with giant, ape-like creatures. Max Brooks inserts himself into this story in order to make sure Kate’s harrowing tale is told, while also confronting the horrifying truth that the creature known as Bigfoot is very real and very dangerous.

Max Brooks has a real talent for making these stories about the ridiculous seem the most realistic. While Bigfoot plays a huge part in this book, the focus of the book is the people and how they react to this situation. We all like to think that we could pull ourselves together during the worst case scenario, but that is rarely the case and Brooks does an excellent job demonstrating the range of ways a person could react to such an extreme situation. It did remind me quite a bit of Jurassic Park in the best way The novel challenges the idea of people thinking that they could truly live in harmony with nature, which is always an interesting topic. I should add that the novel does begin rather slowly but when it gets going, it gets good. Devolution is an interesting read for Bigfoot believers and non-believers alike. If you want a violent tale of survival, then this is the book for you.

Soon, you’ll hear the whispers spoken…” Reviewing The Whisper Man by Alex North

Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing well and feeling better as we move into summer. I have a huge stack of books to read that I am so looking forward to. It’s nice not having to deal with school for the first time in such a long time. In the meanwhile, let’s talk about Alex North’s The Whisper Man.

Tom Kennedy was looking for a fresh start for him and his son, Jake, after his wife dies. He decides to move them to the small town of Featherbank to begin to heal. Their new life is disturbed when a young boy goes missing and rumors begin to spread that the infamous killer known as The Whisper Man has returned. Detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must rush against the clock to find the missing boy. Tom soon finds himself caught up in the case when Jake begins to hear the whispers.

First and foremost, I’m going to issue a warning if you don’t want to read about violence against children. I’m going to start including content warnings if the books I review include sensitive or graphic material. The Whisper Man very much reminded me of an episode of Criminal Minds and I do not mean that in a bad way as I love the show. I went into this book thinking it would be a bit more supernatural but it is very light on those elements. It certainly wasn’t a mind – blowing read as it was fairly predictable but I did genuinely enjoy the writing style as it switched from first to third person with ease. I would say this is a good book to pick up for traveling if you want a solid crime thriller to enjoy on the plane or in the car.

The world must bow before the strong ones: Reviewing Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

Hello everyone! I hope you all are doing well and staying healthy during this time. My university is moving to online classes at least until the end of March. While it is scary, I prefer caution over anything else. The only bright side I am finding is that I can do some catching up on my TBR pile. Why not combat scary with something scarier? I have mentioned previously that Dracula is one of my all time favorite novels so I was very excited to find this gem amongst the other spin-offs. Let’s talk about Dracul.

As a child, Bram Stoker was bedridden with a mysterious illness and his only company was his nanny, Ellen Crone. Ellen Crone, though, is not what she seems. When mysterious deaths begin to happen around town, Bram and his sister Matilda begin to put together a pattern but their nanny disappears. Years later, Matilda reveals her ongoing investigation into Ellen to Bram. Now, as an adult, Bram must confront the mystery of his childhood and the deeper, darker secrets that put everything he knows and loves in dangers.

I was mostly drawn to this novel as it was co-written by Bram Stoker’s great-great-grand nephew. I am normally hesitant with spin-off novels like these but I was thoroughly impressed with this one. It is equal parts creepy, gory, and suspenseful. The writing is great as it hops back and forth through time, increasing the mystery. The first part of the book does drag on a bit, if you ask me but the ending makes it worth the wait. The novel definitely harkens back to the classic horror I love so dearly. Dracul was thrilling and enjoyable for me and any fan of horror literature. I would definitely recommend giving this one a chance, if you are unsure like me. (Just a heads up, though: There is some serious gore in this book so be wary).

This Is My Design: Reviewing Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Hi everyone! I hope you forgive my absences. I am bogged down with academic reading now that (obviously) has to be a priority. Thank you all so much for 400 subscribers! Wow, I still can’t believe any of you are interested in what I have to say. Since I have your attention, I will be giving you my review of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, which is the novel that first introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter. I am a huge fan of the television show, “Hannibal,” so I had to read one of these novels. Also, since we are creeping towards October, it felt appropriate to do a horror/thriller novel.

Will Graham risked everything in order catch the ingenious and dangerous Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Graham was ready to start a normal life when he was called upon to catch a killer called the Tooth Fairy, who has murdered entire families. In order to find him, Graham must first understand him. Only Hannibal can help him enter the killer’s mind. Will Graham must risk it all, once again, in order to catch this new monster

I had read this novel previously and, upon revisiting it, forgot how genuinely uncomfortable it made me. I mean that in the best way, though. Any good murder mystery novel should give the reader visceral feelings and Harris succeeds at that. Even though Lecter isn’t technically a threat, he still looms over every page of this novel. It feels as though we are watching Will Graham outrun him while still trying to catch the “Tooth Fairy.” Graham and the other “good guys” are relatable and sympathetic while still being morally grey. The novel is wonderfully suspenseful. It is not afraid to reveal the gruesome details. Even in a clinical language, the descriptions of the crimes still give you chills. The cat-and-mouse game keeps you hanging on until the end. I would then recommend Red Dragon as a good fall read for anyone looking for a thrilling and complex mystery.

If you want me to talk more about “Hannibal,” the television show, I will happily create a post about that where we can have a discussion.

The Masks We Wear Betray Us: Reviewing The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Hi everyone! I hope you all missed me. I have finally had some time to read and I am so happy to be talking to you all about this book. This is one of those novels that I picked up, read the back, and said “This is mine.” I have grown up on murder mysteries so I was drawn to this like a magnet. Needless to say, I’m excited to talk about Stuart Turton’s debut novel, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Evelyn Hardcastle is a young and beautiful heiress who is returning home after nineteen years. She doesn’t know that she will be murdered again and again. Aiden Bishop must solve her murder in order to break this loop. Every time the loop begins, however, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Aiden must fight to save Evelyn and himself before time runs out.

Before I begin, I just want to say I’m going to be pretty vague as I really don’t want to spoil this book. I was absolutely enthralled from page one. I had such a hard time putting this book down. Turton does an amazing job inserting twists and turns that will make you stop in order to put together the puzzle he presents. It’s also very interesting to have a main character who has to rely on the character traits of others. Aiden Bishop is somehow personable protagonist with no discernible personality traits. It’s a wild ride, needless to say. If I were to best describe this novel, it would be a combination of Groundhogs Day, Freaky Friday, and an Agatha Christie novel. The novel is so full of surprises that I’m afraid to talk about it anymore. I highly recommend reading The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle as you will get whiplash from the plot. I absolutely love this novel and, as a huge murder mystery fan, this was definitely an exciting new take on the genre.

Yield to It or Fight It: Reviewing The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Hi everyone! In case you haven’t been able to tell, I am sucker for books that have been adapted to television and/or movies. I have watched some of the Netflix adaptation of this book, but I haven’t watched enough to properly compare the two. I just wanted to give you a heads up about that. Shirley Jackson has been on my radar for some time now. I did read her short story, “The Lottery,” in high school and I absolutely loved it. Since this novel has arisen in pop culture once again, I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review of The Haunting of Hill House.

Four strangers arrive to the infamous Hill House in order to find out the truth about the paranormal. First, Dr. Montague and his assistant, Theodora arrive to find the truth behind the mystery of Hill House. Eleanor, affectionately called Nellie, must use her knowledge of poltergeists to help them. Lastly, Luke, the heir to Hill House, is trying to clear the mystery behind his odd inheritance. Soon, the four realize that Hill House isn’t simply full of death. It is full of life that is growing stronger and stronger.

The Haunting of Hill House is the quintessential haunted house story. I have always loved classic haunted house tales and Jackson has an interesting take on this tale. The book is atmospheric in every way. The characters and setting are well-defined but also have an air of mystery that morphs throughout the novel. You feel unsettled throughout the novel as Jackson adds unsettling detail after unsettling detail. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this novel scary, I did certainly find it creepy. It is a relatively quick read also. I think all horror fans and non-horror fans can find enjoyment in this novel. I would definitely recommend The Haunting of Hill House. If you don’t feel like reading it, then at least read “The Lottery” as it is just as chilling.