The Girl in White by Lindsay Currie


Description

For fans of Small Spaces and the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine comes a chilling story about a twelve-year old girl who must face down the most notorious ghost in her haunted East coast town to stop a centuries-old curse that threatens to destroy everything.

Mallory hasn’t quite adapted to life in her new town of Eastport yet. Maybe it’s because everyone is obsessed with keeping the town’s reputation as the most cursed town in the US. And thanks to the nightmares she’s had since arriving, Mallory hardly sleeps. Combined with the unsettling sensation of being watched, she’s quickly becoming convinced there’s more to her town. Something darker.

When Mallory has a terrifying encounter with the same old woman from her dreams, she knows she has to do something—but what? With Eastport gearing up to celebrate the anniversary of their first recorded legend Mallory is forced to investigate the one legend she’s always secretly been afraid of . . . Sweet Molly.

My Thoughts

There’s always one spooky middle grade book published every autumn that completely blows me away. The Girl in White is that book for Fall 2022. Currie spins a riveting and eerie story that will make even the bravest reader shiver and check their closet.

The ghost of Sweet Molly is at once scary and sad. Her connection to Mallory and Joshua is visceral and very frightening at times. Currie does an excellent job of developing her characters, building tension with floor creaks, lost time spent digging holes, and lots of unexplained and disturbing incidents that all come together in a wild, apocalyptic ending.

In addition to the terrifying elements of the story, Currie also builds some nice relationships between Mallory and her new friends, and also between Mallory and her parents. It’s the power of friendship, though, that really shines here

Those readers who revel in the crisp air and strange stories of autumn will surely enjoy this one. Recommended!

Publication Date: September 6, 2022
Published By: Sourcebooks KIDS
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

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Description

Alice Feeney, the New York Times bestselling Queen of Twists returns…with a family reunion that leads to murder.

After years of avoiding each other, Daisy Darker’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party in Nana’s crumbling gothic house on a tiny tidal island. Finally back together one last time, when the tide comes in, they will be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours.

The family arrives, each of them harboring secrets. Then at the stroke of midnight, as a storm rages, Nana is found dead. And an hour later, the next family member follows…

Trapped on an island where someone is killing them one by one, the Darkers must reckon with their present mystery as well as their past secrets, before the tide comes in and all is revealed.

My Thoughts

While the dysfunctional family with the terrible secret is a familiar trope, Feeney turns it on its ear here by pairing it with an atmospheric, creepy setting reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s masterwork, And Then There Were None. She does a fantastic job of creating a serious claustrophobic tension that puts every single character on edge. The pre-pub comparisons to Christie’s work helped me guess one of the two big twists, but that did not disrupt my enjoyment of the story. Feeney explores the lifelong consequences of bad decisions and mixes karma with gleeful revenge.

Feeney has a way of peeling back the layers of her characters to reveal the worst. She writes some pretty horrible humans into her books, and gives us a couple of doozies here. (Daisy’s sisters are the worst.) Daisy’s relationship with her sisters reminded me a bit of the Flavia De Luce series by Alan Bradley, except Daisy’s relationship with her sisters is far darker. There’s a lot that’s been written about “unlikable characters” in books, but I think Feeney *wants* us to dislike these characters and, in the end, it doesn’t matter if we like them or not. It’s their actions that started the story and it’s there actions that will end it. None of the action would have been possible if the characters were likable!

Fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins will enjoy this dark and twisty mystery. I’ll be recommending this one a lot.

“Wow! Echoes of Christie’s And Then There Were None but turned into something wonderfully original and wrapped in a genuinely creepy dysfunctional family fairy-tale of a novel, this takes Feeney to the next level. I LOVED IT!”
—Sarah Pinborough, bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes and Insomnia

Publication Date: August 30, 2022
Published By: Flatiron Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott


Description

In the tradition of modern fairy tales like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver comes a sweeping epic rich in Eastern European folklore—a debut novel about the ancestral hauntings that stalk us, and the uncanny power of story.

The Yaga siblings—Bellatine, a young woodworker, and Isaac, a wayfaring street performer and con artist—have been estranged since childhood, separated both by resentment and by wide miles of American highway. But when they learn that they are to receive a mysterious inheritance, the siblings are reunited—only to discover that their bequest isn’t land or money, but something far stranger: a sentient house on chicken legs. 

Thistlefoot, as the house is called, has arrived from the Yagas’ ancestral home in Russia—but not alone. A sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has tracked it to American shores, bearing with him violent secrets from the past: fiery memories that have hidden in Isaac and Bellatine’s blood for generations. As the Yaga siblings embark with Thistlefoot on a final cross-country tour of their family’s traveling theater show, the Longshadow Man follows in relentless pursuit, seeding destruction in his wake. Ultimately, time, magic, and legacy must collide—erupting in a powerful conflagration to determine who gets to remember the past and craft a new future.  

An enchanted adventure illuminated by Jewish myth and adorned with lyrical prose as tantalizing and sweet as briar berries, Thistlefoot is an immersive modern fantasy saga by a bold new talent.

My Thoughts

This is a remarkable story. Loosely based on the old Russian tale of Baba Yaga and full of symbolism, this tale will haunt you. Nethercott’s protagonists – brother & sister Isaac and Bellatine – are challenged to resolve trauma through generational memory as they inherit the infamous Baba’s house on chicken legs along with an age-old enemy out to destroy the house and those connected to it.

There are so many layers to unfold here – lots of references to Jewish history, family trauma across generations, magic and mayhem, and ultimately the power of story and the bond between family members.

Lately, I find my attention often wanders when I read, and there are few books that I’m unable to put down. This is one. The story is so intricate and beautifully rendered. IMHO, Nethercott immediately joins the ranks of Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden with her glorious and deadly prose and an absolutely stunning story.

Publication Date: September 13, 2022
Published By: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group: Anchor
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

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Description

“A wild and wonderful debut, teeming with music, family and art…This book is gorgeously written, with prose I wanted to eat off the page.” New York Times

Music is magic in this vibrant and imaginative debut novel set in a fantastical version of New Orleans where a battle for the city’s soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song. Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women help keep the order. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.

In a world of everyday miracles, Perry might not have a talent for magic, but he does know Nola’s rhythm as intimately as his own heartbeat. So when the city’s Great Magician starts appearing in odd places and essential songs are forgotten, Perry realizes trouble is afoot.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the piano that maintains the city’s beat, and without them, Nola will fail. Unwilling to watch his home be destroyed, Perry will sacrifice everything to save it. But a storm is brewing, and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Nola’s time might be coming to an end.

Put on your dancing shoes and enjoythis song for New Orleans, the city of music, magic, and dreams.

My Thoughts

This is one weird and wonderful book! I was reminded of Terry Pratchett‘s work – audacious characters and a multi-level plot that is pretty much impossible to follow so you just have to enjoy the ride. I admit it took me some time to accept this was not going to be a linear plot, but once I let go of that rigid expectation the prose just swept me away. The characters are poppin’ with siblings Perry and Brendy, each with their own special talents, but especially with Peaches, the totally badass girl who saves the day. I am hope, hope, hoping for a sequel where Peaches, Perry, and Brendy go after Peaches’ Daddy and free him from his chains.

“A hallucinatory wonder of a debut. Brimming with language and music, this phantasmagoric novel taps the deep root of multi-cultural, multi-racial life in, and beyond, New Orleans.” ―Walter Mosley

“Funny, wild, witty, and profound. The Ballad of Perilous Graves is the debut of a cosmic storm of talent.”―Victor LaValle

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean


Description

Truth is found between the stories we’re fed and the stories we hunger for.

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.

My Thoughts

So many great debuts this year, but this one STANDS OUT!

Anyone who loves to read will be captivated by this wholly original story centered on the concept of books as actual food, overlaid with what turns out to be a pretty harrowing and fairly dark tale.

This is one the librarians will struggle to genrify – is it fantasy? Horror? Dystopian? Women’s Lit? This spectacular, original story is all that and more. Dean’s writing is some of the best I’ve read this year – tight and descriptive then flowing and expansive – all coming together in a whopper of a story.

Highly recommended.

“A darkly sweet pastry of a book about family, betrayal, and the lengths we go to for the ones we love. A delicious modern fairy tale.”— Christopher Buehlman, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author

Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Published By: Macmillan Tor/Forge
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Gravebooks by J.A. White


Description

Return to the world of Nightbooks . . . if you dare. Dead stories—and dead witches—are back to haunt Alex and Yasmin. To find a happy ending, Alex will have to write it, in this sequel to Nightbooks from acclaimed author J. A. White.

Alex thought he was done with witches. But when Natacha, the witch who held him captive for scary stories, appears again one night, Alex realizes he’s trapped in a nightmare—literally. She’s found a way to enter his dreams with a new, terrifying familiar named Simeon. And they once again want Alex to write. Transported to a story graveyard with best friend Yasmin, Alex will have to complete an original scary story each night.

But what does Natacha plan to do with his finished stories? And what makes a story good enough? While Natacha might have control of the beginnings, only Alex has the power to write the ending.

Readers can delight in a spooky story while also exploring the craft of writing alongside Alex. As he writes his own scary tales, he learns about plot twists, active characters, identifying originality, and accepting feedback, as well as dealing with writer’s block—making this an ideal book to read for fun or use in classrooms.

My Thoughts

J.A. White’s sophomore effort finds aspiring writer Alex back in a nightmare world where his life once again depends on his ability to tell a tale. This 21st century version of Scheherazade has a decidedly macabre twist as Alex struggles with writers block and lack of confidence while trying to figure out how to best the bad folks.

An old enemy appears and plunges Alex and friend Yasmin right back to where they were at the end of Book 1. But, is everything as it seems? Of course not! There are plenty of twists and scary situations here to satisfy the budding horror fan.

Recommended for confident middle grade readers.

Publication Date: August 16, 2022
Published By: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne


Description

“YA horror has found a new standard-bearer.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Dark, gripping, and gorgeous, Wake the Bones will lead you into the woods and keep you up late. As lush and sweltering as a Kentucky summer… Elizabeth Kilcoyne is a force.” – Gwenda Bond, New York Times bestselling author


The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.

“Seething with shadows, summer, and uniquely southern magic, Wake the Bones is a powerful debut that captures the ache of home being a place you simultaneously love and loathe.” – Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For the Wolf

My Thoughts

Holy Hell! I felt like I was reading Stephen King for the first time as I raced through this amazing story. Elizabeth Kilcoyne spins a story so full of terror that your nails will be bitten to the quick before you’re done.

Everything is here – the small group of ordinary humans battling great evil, an outcast with the sight, a small-minded small town, and the greatest evil of all – the Devil himself.

Everything written about this incredible debut is true. This would make an amazing movie. The special effects alone would be incredible.

Highly recommended for horror fans.

Publication Date: July 12, 2022
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Clackity by Lora Senf


Description

Reminiscent of Doll Bones, this deliciously eerie middle grade novel tells the story of a girl who must enter a world of ghosts, witches, and monsters to play a game with deadly consequences and rescue her aunt.

Evie Von Rathe lives in Blight Harbor—the seventh-most haunted town in America—with her Aunt Desdemona, the local paranormal expert. Des doesn’t have many rules except one: Stay out of the abandoned slaughterhouse at the edge of town. But when her aunt disappears into the building, Evie goes searching for her.

There she meets The Clackity, a creature who lives in the shadows and seams of the slaughterhouse. The Clackity makes a deal with Evie to help get Des back in exchange for the ghost of John Jeffrey Pope, a serial killer who stalked Blight Harbor a hundred years earlier. Evie must embark on a journey into a strange otherworld filled with hungry witches, penny-eyed ghosts, and a memory-thief, all while being pursued by a dead man whose only goal is to add Evie to his collection of lost souls.

My Thoughts

A new nightmare has arrived and it’s name is Clackity. This wholly original story blends elements of horror with a solid dose of folktales. The main element of a folk/fairy tale is here – a hero takes on a seemingly impossible quest to save a loved one and must prevail over a multitude of horrifying challenges. Readers of folktales will recognize some familiar motifs – 3’s and 7’s abound, the hero is gifted with an animal familiar, and salt saves the day. All of that folded into a beautifully scary story.

Senf’s writing is vivid and evocative, with the reader feeling every tendril of fog or greasy bit of iron. The bad folk here are B.A.D. and the good folk are flawed but awesome. With nods to Coraline and even The Frighteners, this one is a solid read for upper middle grades, teens, and adults who enjoy Neil Gaiman and early Stephen King.

Publication Date: June 28, 2022
Published By: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

The Murder Dance by Sarah Rayne


Description

Researching the history of a dilapidated Elizabeth manor house, Phineas Fox uncovers the shocking truth behind a mysterious – and deadly – dance.

Having unexpectedly inherited an Elizabethan manor house in rural Norfolk, new owner Quentin Rivers has asked Phineas Fox to investigate the house’s history. Phin soon becomes immersed in The Tabor’s dark and mysterious past, and in the course of his research uncovers tales of a curious dance, the Cwellan Daunsen: a dance that has not been performed for centuries but whose strange legend still lingers. The dance has a dark side; whenever it took place, children were told to stay indoors – and on no account to look through their windows . . .

As Phin delves further, the terrible secrets of The Tabor and the Rivers family ancestors begin to reveal themselves, secrets stretching back more than six hundred years. But as the past gradually creeps up on the present, is history destined to repeat itself . . . ?

A darkly chilling novel of Gothic suspense which will appeal to fans of DAPHNE DU MAURIER, LAURA PURCELL and PHIL RICKMAN.

My Thoughts

Sarah Rayne offers a new mystery for Phineas Fox and Arabella Tallis, which is just as good as the previous entries in the series. I enjoy Rayne’s template of creating an imaginative mystery tied to a mysterious performance piece buried in the past. Here it is a dance – the Murder Dance, which children were not allowed to witness and which has haunted a family and a village for generations.

Rayne is skilled at blending suspense in the present with the same in the past and weaving a tale that encompasses both. Her present day characters seek to unravel the past while also dealing with trauma, deception, and betrayal in the present. Rayne’s creation of the mystery from the past is always intriguing and seemingly well-researched. The Murder Dance is just as creepy and horrifying as the Executioner’s Song in her last book.

Here, too, we see Phin’s relationship with Arabella progress and we get to know Arabella a bit more intimately. They make a great team, and I particularly like how Rayne writes the couple as intellectual equals. The other present day characters, cousins Quentin and Zillah, are two of the creepiest I’ve read in a while.

I recommend Rayne’s books all the time and this one will be no different. Well done!

Publication Date: January 4, 2022
Published By: Severn House; Canongate Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

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Description

“The buzz…is real. I’ve read it and was blown away. It’s a true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end.” —Stephen King

Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is a shocking and immersive read perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Haunting of Hill House.

“The new face of literary dark fiction.” —Sarah Pinborough, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.

A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.
And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

My Thoughts

This book had me absolutely engrossed from the very first chapter. The author builds nerve-jangling suspense while unrolling an intricate and oh-so-horrifying plot revolving around a man who is living a real nightmare. The blend of horror, fantasy, and mystery creates an atmosphere that I haven’t felt since reading Stephen King’s The Shining or Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House..

Fans of tightly plotted, intricate psychological suspense will thoroughly enjoy this one.

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Published By: Macmillan/Tor/Forge
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy