3 Recommended Creepy Reads

3 Recommended Creepy Reads

I enjoy novels with a bit (or a lot) of the occult and ghost-y elements. As you know, I am a fan of the creepy, so those elements fit the bill perfectly. I've recently read three that I enjoyed and thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

•Portland, Oregon–––––October 14, 1918•
The day before my father's arrest, I read an article about a mother who cured her daughter of the Spanish flu by burying her in raw onions for three days. 

Thus begins a truly fine fantastic debut novel about sixteen-year old Mary Shelley Black. Her father’s been arrested for treason, her boyfriend’s fighting overseas, influenza threatens to deplete the population–it’s a fearsome world, a bleak reality for Mary.

Cat Winters captivated me with her unusual historical novel, In The Shadow of Blackbirds.

Interspersed throughout the book are photographs of the era. Images of this bleak period in American history bring stark life to the words skillfully woven into a story of a young girl who sees the spirit of her lost love crying out to her as she struggles to maintain her own balance in a world twisted with fear and injustice.

Winters captures and presents this dark period with historical details that kept me fascinated with 1918, a frightening and deeply-shaded year when all that once was safe is now precarious and insecure.

... [I] tried to get comfortable, despite my surrounding and the nausea that had been haunting me ever since my father’s arrest. Images of government officials punching Dad in the gut and calling him a traitor flickered through my head like grotesque scenes on a movie screen. 

Mary leaves Portland to live with her aunt, but there’s no escaping the pain she carries within. Memories of her father, fear of neighbors who spy upon one another, the fog of seances she witnessed for those hoping to connect with their lost ones, spirit photography and the fear of Spanish influenza hang upon her soul like moss upon a tree. 

Mary’s strong. She needs fortitude and faith in the goodness of humanity triumphing over darkness and evil. The world of 1918 where men climbed into trenches only to die painfully or gassed as they clung together thinking of the loved ones they would never hold again was a tense and tragic time.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is disturbing, historically accurate and beautifully written.

After reading it, I understood the fears and lives of those who lived and died during The War to End All Wars. Winters does not gloss over the fear, the pain or the injustices that defiled a young woman’s life. She writes with skill, sensitivity, historical accuracy and beauty. The characters will stay with you for their humanity. Some for their lack of humanity. All for their stark reality.

Amazon | Goodreads

Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison

Olivia Tithe fears for herself, for her sanity. Her mother is a woman whose musical expertise brought pride to her daughter and whose kindness and love gave her much joy and security; but a dark side, schizophrenia, overshadows their lives. Mainly controlled until chaos took over, her disease brought darkness into their lives.

Controlled schizophrenia made life good for both Olivia and her mother. But, pile the pain of divorce and trying to make ends meet while living on the salary of a piano teacher (and sometime-composer), and the end result could be a sudden snap.

The snap meant murdering Olivia’s boyfriend who had come for his piano lesson.

Olivia cannot believe or accept that her mother could commit murder but a confession leads to an impending trial and likely sentencing. With that comes Olivia’s own fear for her sanity when the ghost of the murdered victim becomes her companion.

Lucas Stern, Olivia’s first love, returns to leave images and clues about his death. Olivia, with Lucas guiding her, embarks on a mission to uncover the truth and save her mother. She follows her heart and a mysterious trail to ferret out the truth--a truth that can set her mother free.

Olivia finds the literal truth as well as a deep understanding of love, chaos and control. 

On the other side of chaos is order.
Order is what we make happen––an instinct hammered into our lizard brains to help us stay upright, even when everything  around us is chaotic, tilting, trying to buck us off its back, back into bottomless Nowhere, back into the Gray Space.
People die. They die too early, sometimes. And there is grief that almost crushes everything. 

Kate Ellison has written a lovely novel. Arching over a tale of chaos, sorrow, murder and betrayal, love becomes the solid footing that leads Olivia to follow her instincts to solve a mystery that will bring her mother back from the precipice of chaos. 

Notes from Ghost Town is a novel about a daughter’s love and her willingness to follow her instincts, to believe in her mother who she knows for her goodness and gentle touch.

Amazon | Goodreads

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Colette Iselin’s on a trip she has always dreamed of.  Her best friends, who unlike her are wealthy and pampered, join her on a trip with the French class to the beautiful city of Paris.

Colette revels in the cityscape with is meandering streets and lovely river flowing through the city.She looks upon its beauty and thinks about her ancestors who lived in Paris during The French Revolution.

She wonders about their lives, especially after she begins seeing a strange woman dressed in beautiful gowns with elaborately styled hair who seems to be watching her. This apparition looks like Marie Antoinette. And, no one but Colette can see her. Then Colette begins seeing another image when she looks in the mirror, an image who appears in the same style and dress as the Queen, who looks back at her with an enigmatic expression.

I’d figured that a bunch of dead people had nothing to do with me. Now it was starting to look like my week in France was all about dead people. 

Things get weirder and weirder. A serial killer whose preferred mode of killing is beheading is loose in Paris.

Colette finds herself compelled to delve into the mystery of the deaths. She visits  historical sights often with the ghostly Marie Antoinette appearing in odd moments and places. Colette’s on a mission to uncover the past, to find clues as to why she sees visions, for knowledge of her ancestors and their ties to the beautiful Queen.

Learning from history and delving into the present she unearths understanding of anger, hatred, friendship and love in this timeless and beautiful setting. She also discovers that Marie Antoinette’s looking for revenge.

Although the plot sounds difficult to accept, it surprisingly isn't.

The queen’s quest for retribution takes a backseat to the beauty of the city, the history of France’s revolution, the strength of Colette’s character and what she learns about herself, her friends and her family, past and present. 

Colette looks closer at what she admired and envied in her rich and selfish friends and learns that what she values goes far beyond the exterior.

But up closer, I wondered if the shiny exteriors were just that--shiny shells, concealing not-so-awesome personalities.

This novel intrigued me with glimpses into the past and with characters who had surprising depth and whose knowledge grew.

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is definitely one to give to teens to pique their interest in history, as Alender cleverly melds the past and present with a fresh and fun style.

Release date: Sept. 24, 2013

Amazon | Goodreads

Disclosure: Review copies of each were provided by the publisher.

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Recommendation Roundup: August 2013

Recommendation Roundup: August 2013

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