An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman #BookReview

HorrorOct2015

An English Ghost Story ~ Kim Newman

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Format: Paperback, 315 pages
Publication Details: October 7th 2014 by Titan Books
Genre(s): Horror; Supernatural
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads // Purchase

A dysfunctional British nuclear family seek a new life away from the big city in the sleepy Somerset countryside. At first their new home, The Hollow, seems to embrace them, creating a rare peace and harmony within the family. But when the house turns on them, it seems to know just how to hurt them the most—threatening to destroy them from the inside out.

Review

This was the last book I read for Horror October, and I’m so glad because I finished the month on a high.

An English Ghost Story was exactly what I was looking for! It was a book which started with promise. I was absorbed from the beginning even before anything spooky happened and then it built up its suspense and creepiness in a masterful, almost majestic way.

The Naremore family move into a grand old house in the countryside which was previously owned by a famous children’s author whose popular series of books were about a haunted boarding school. It turns out that these books were a lot less fictitious than anyone would have believed.

However, the ghosts, spirits, or presences (however you would like to refer to them) struck the Naremore family as friendly, and they found The Hollow an enchanted place to live. A place where they were finally happy; it had brought the family together in a way they had not felt before.

Unfortunately for them…the family had been lulled into a false sense of security and bit by bit, the ‘others’ in the house start to make life very difficult in The Hollow. The dream home, becomes a nightmare. They are turned against each other, and it looks as if they won’t wake up until there’s no one left.

This book was delicious for a horror fan like me. Ghost stories aren’t usually my favourite because I often find them unbelievable and just not scary enough, but I loved how ‘real’ An English Ghost Story felt. It gradually built up momentum as the house began to turn against them and slowly pulled their family apart. I couldn’t put it down.

It was funny in places, certainly creepy, and had some great gory, gross-out moments, but it felt magical too; it had a whimsical feel about it, like reading through a dream.

I was very impressed by my first delve into Kim Newman’s imagination, and I can’t wait to read more. Maybe I’ll finally get round to Anno Dracula now!

unicorn rating 4

[Out Tomorrow!] A coffin and pleasant pheasant sandwiches: The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce #6) by Alan Bradley

cover35827-mediumBishop’s Lacey is never short of two things: mysteries to solve and pre-adolescent detectives to solve them. In this New York Times bestselling series of cozy mysteries, young chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce once again brings her knowledge of poisons and her indefatigable spirit to solve the most dastardly crimes the English countryside has to offer, and in the process, she comes closer than ever to solving her life’s greatest mystery–her mother’s disappearance. . .

How have I never come across Alan Bradley or the Flavia de Luce books before now? Seriously, I have been missing out.

I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about this book when I requested it. I fell in love with the cover and was intrigued by the synopsis. I didn’t realise it was book 6 in a series, but it turns out that it really didn’t matter. (WIN!)

***Slight Spoiler Ahead***

Flavia de Luce is an 11 year old with an insatiable desire to solve mysteries and the strange going-ons in her picturesque English village of Bishop’s Lacey. I fell in love with her instantly. She’s witty, tenacious and doggedly independent with a fiery, yet caring spirit.

At the beginning of this installment, Flavia and her father are at the train station for the long-awaited return of her mother. Her mother has been missing for over 10 years, which was a mystery in itself. Unfortunately, it’s also a mystery that will remain unsolved for the time being as Harriett de Luce arrives home in a coffin. At the same time, a man is pushed onto the tracks and killed but no one seems to have witnessed anything, and Winston Churchill is whispering about liking pheasant sandwiches! Somehow these things are connected.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches was such a fun read. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book with such great imagery and humour. She may be 11 years old, but Flavia can see the world ‘as a mixture of paints, or fluids, in a spinning centrifuge’, she can describe someone’s expression as ‘a photographic negative of his soul’ and when the shit hits the fan she just wants ‘to curl up like a salted slug and die.’ 😦 I get the feeling that Flavia feels isolated by her own age (or lack there of), and the stiff upper-lip of the middle-class life she was born into.

Despite not finding the actual mystery of the book all that thrilling, I couldn’t help getting swept away with the characters. I loved that Flavia has a chicken called Esmerelda and a bicycle called Gladys but could whip up a fatal poison in a matter of minutes.

Think Young Sherlock Holmes meets Veronica Mars and you’re there. I’m off to find the first 5 books now. Tally ho, jolly good show!

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from the Publisher/Author in exchange for an HONEST review. Many Thanks!
Title: The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce #6)
Author: Alan Bradley
Details: Hardback, 336 pages
Publication Date: January 14th 2014 by Delacorte Press
My Rating: 4/5
If you liked this try: Look into my Eyes by Lauren Child

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it: The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton

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During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world. Image and synopsis from Goodreads (Click the Image to go there).

The Secret Keeper is another winner from Kate Morton. She has found a definitive style that suits her perfectly and creates beautiful, engrossing drama and decade-spanning mysteries. So, if it’s not broke don’t fix it right?

Usually I’m not a huge fan of shifting timelines but Morton does it so well. We start in the 1960’s when our protagonist Laurel is a teenager and witnesses her beloved mother stabbing a random man. We’re then propelled foward to the present where poor mum is approaching her 90th birthday and on her deathbed. With Laurel back to take care of her she aims to find out for once and for all what exactly happened that day. The mystery emerges bit by bit in true Morton style – by following Dolly (Laurel’s mum), through War-time London and beyond.

This is a hard book to review without just relaying the story. So much goes on but so little of it seems important without seeing the bigger picture, so it’s hard to pick out certain elements. One of my favourite things though was the description of London during the raids. The characters weren’t fazed by it because they’d become so accustomed to it. It’s funny how you can just get used to something so awful. They almost seemed immune to death and destruction which definitely helped put Dolly’s story in perspective. I also really enjoyed the family dynamics, especially Gerry, he was a lovely, complicated and quirky character.

I can’t say I was gripped the whole way through, but I certainly was for the most part. On numerous occasions I thought I knew exactly where the story was going and what the secret would be and whilst part of it was easy to guess, the final blow definitely wasn’t which made for an excellent read.

If you’ve never read any Kate Morton, I definitely recommend her work. I haven’t read every single one of her books on account that they sound so similar to each other, but the ones I have read have been really pleasant surprises.

Details:Paperback, 602 pgs. Published May 9th 2013 by Pan Books.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? As much as I enjoyed it, I know I’ll never read it again so no. I have added it to my Book Swap List. (UK only, soz!)
If you liked this try: The House At Riverton