What’s Ashley Reading?: The Haunting of Maddy Clare

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

First line: The day I met Mr. Gellis, I had been walking in the rain.

Summary: Sarah Piper is a poor young woman working for a temp agency in London when an unusual job becomes available. She is hired on as an assistant for a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis, a WWI veteran and ghost enthusiast, is determined to prove the existence of ghosts. He wants Sarah’s help with the ghost of Maddy Clare. Maddy was a servant for the Clare family until she took her own life in their barn. Now her spirit is wreaking havoc on the occupants. With the help of Matthew Ryder, a former soldier and friend of Alistair’s they search for a way to help Maddy move on and solve the mystery behind her destructive behavior.

My Thoughts: Absolutely chilling! Simone St. James is by far one of the best writers, in my opinion, of the Gothic ghost story. She can weave the historical fiction, romance and spookiness together seamlessly. I have been meaning to read this for some time now. It took me just a few days to read because it was that good!

I loved the mystery behind Maddy. No one knew who she was or where she came from. She had no memory and rarely spoke. Then one day she hangs herself in the barn of her employer. That’s when the trouble really begins. Maddy’s vengeful spirit is set to attack any man who sets foot on the Clare property. What happened in her past? Sarah’s first interactions with Maddy were a little terrifying. It literally gets your blood pumping as you read it. When you pick this up be prepared to finish it. Maybe even the same day. Just saying.

FYI: If you like this then try Wendy Webb and Amanda Stevens.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

October is here!  The fall weather is arriving and Halloween is approaching.  That means bring on all the scary movies and books.  We have a great selection of horror movies and Halloween classics.  I recently watched the previous season of American Horror Story and really enjoyed it.  I always watch Hocus Pocus several times during the month of October and pick up several spooky books to get me into the holiday spirit!

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

First line: Washington Irving got it wrong.

Summary: When schoolteacher, Ichabod Crane, comes to the village of Sleepy Hollow he meets the daughter of a wealthy farmer. Their friendship and shared loved of books and music lead to a love affair that will sweep them both off their feet. Katrina’s admirer, Brom Van Brunt, is determined to win her and scare off the newcomer. Then on All Hallow’s Eve Ichabod disappears without a trace. Katrina enlists the help of her friend and rumored witch, Charlotte Jansen, to assist in finding Ichabod using any means necessary.

Highlights: I really enjoyed this book. It was fun twist on the original classic. I have seen the movies and loved the TV series. However, this was just different enough from them that it made it fresh and new. The book is a mix between historical fiction, romance and ghost story. There were lots of interesting details about the time and culture of the Dutch settlement in Sleepy Hollow. The romance was a main theme but it was not a bodice ripper by any means. I loved the dark undertones of the Headless Horseman haunting her dreams and roaming the village on All Hallow’s Eve. This is a great read for October!

Lowlights: The story seemed to drag on a little bit in the middle. In addition, I think that title is a little misleading. I expected more witchcraft and magic. Katrina and her friend, Charlotte, do seem to have some sort of second sight but it was not what I had expected.

FYI: If you like this then try the author’s other book, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

Book Review: One for Sorrow

One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn

First Line: Although I didn’t realize it, my troubles began when we moved to Portman Street, and I became a student in the Pearce Academy for Girls, the finest school in the town of Mount Pleasant, according to Father.

Summary: Annie is a young girl in 1918.  World War I is still raging in Europe and the Spanish flu is spreading across the United States.  When Annie starts at a new school she meets a strange girl, Elsie, who instantly claims her as her friend.  Annie discovers that Elsie is not liked by the other girls in the class.  She is picked on and teased by others, which make Annie a target now too.  But when Annie befriends the other girls in the school and drops Elsie things get worse.  The flu finally hits Mount Pleasant. Annie’s new friends decide to pretend to be mourners and attend funerals in order to receive free treats.  When they attend one funeral they are shocked to see that it is Elsie’s.  She had succumbed to the flu after the girls had teased her and taken away her flu mask.  All the girls feel terrible about what happened but when Annie receives a concussion from a sled ride she starts to see Elsie’s ghost.  And she is not happy.

Highlights: This is spooky.  I read Mary Downing Hahn’s books when I was younger and remember them being scary.  Even now as an adult I was a little creeped out by the character of Elsie.  It was also a history lesson.  I have read and seen many shows that depict the time of Spanish flu but this makes it more real and scary too.  To think how many people died and how quickly it happened can be a little terrifying.

Lowlights: I got really annoyed with Elsie.  The repetition of her obsession with Annie kept dragging on.  This I am sure is what the author intended since she is the villain of the story.

FYI: May be too scary for younger readers.

Book review: The Family Plot

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

Cover of The Family Plot by Cherie Priest
“The Family Plot” by Cherie Priest is a great Gothic ghost story.

First line: “Yeah, send her on back. She has an appointment.”

Summary: Music City Salvage in Tennessee is on the cusp of going broke, and then Augusta Withrow comes in with an offer Chuck Dutton can’t refuse. Augusta just wants to be rid of her family’s more-than-a-century-old home and all the property. Chuck sees a goldmine in the house and property, so he sends a four-person crew headed by his daughter Dahlia on the project. Super creepy things start happening, and when the members of the crew start comparing notes, they know something is definitely up. Something angry still lives in the vacant house, and it seems bent on making one member of the crew its permanent company.

Highlights: This book has all the atmosphere, creepiness, and strangeness a really excellent Gothic ghost story needs to be interesting. It’s a page-turner and you probably don’t want to read it late at night when you are all alone in your house and start hearing strange noises. Oh, and that ending. DO NOT READ THE LAST PAGE FIRST! If you do, you will ruin the whole book!

Lowlights (or what could have been better): I felt like this book was just a little bit slow to get started, but I’m glad I stuck with it (and it really didn’t take that long) because it builds to a can’t-put-it-down-but-I-have-to-stop-reading-or-I’ll-have-scary-dreams pitch.

FYI: There is some cursing and references to violence, but nothing gory, gross or descriptive.