What’s Ashley Reading?: Ninth House

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

First line: By the time Alex managed to get the blood out of her good wool coat, it was too warm to wear it.

Summary: Galaxy “Alex” stern is a freshman at Yale. She grew up in California but got in with a rough crowd as a teenager. She dropped out of school, took drugs and lived with her drug dealing boyfriend. Until one night everyone in her apartment is found dead except for her. She is approached during her hospital stay with the offer of a lifetime, a full ride scholarship to Yale.

However, when she arrives at the prestigious college she learns that her role here is not just academic. Alex is now a part of a society that is tasked with monitoring the activities of the universities secret societies. With her ability to see ghosts she is charged with helping keep the spirits and the rituals in order.

When a local girl is found murdered around the campus Alex believes that the societies may have something to do with it. As she continues to search for more clues to the mysterious death her she finds herself being attacked by the ghosts the walk the town of New Haven.

My Thoughts: I have been looking forward to reading this book ever since I heard about it. I really enjoyed her young adult series. Bardugo is a master at world building and wit. But as the release day got closer I saw several reviewers I follow giving it low ratings or not finishing the book at all. This started to scare me. Even though there were these negative reviews with lots of trigger warnings I decided to ignore them and judge it for myself. And I am so glad I did!

I started the book as an audio. I liked it and continued listening to it but alternating between it and the physical book. However, I wish that I had read the first few chapters where much of the world building information was. There are eight secret societies with different rituals. There are lots of characters and also time jumps between characters. This got a little confusing. Once I started to read more it smoothed out and got to be quite enjoyable. I found it hard to put down. Alex gives us a glimpse back into her life before Yale and what led her to this point. Darlington shows us what the first few months are like with Alex as the new Virgil.

I believe that my favorite part was when Alex interacted with the ghosts. Some are very listless but others can be very malevolent. I hope that Bardugo gives us more of this in the upcoming books. Even though the main mystery was who killed Tara there is an underlying and more interesting mystery. What happened to Darlington?! Is he alive? Where did he go? Is he coming back? We get left with quite a cliffhanger so I really hope that the next book is not several years in the future!

FYI: This is Bardugo’s adult debut. Her young adult series are The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, The Dregs Duology, and the Nikolai Duology.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

First line: Dear Mr. Wrexham, I know you don’t know me but please, please, please you have to help me

Summary: Rowan Caine stumbles upon an advertisement for what appears to be the perfect nanny job. It is for a family with four children, in a big house in Scotland, and a yearly salary of fifty five thousand pounds. When Rowan arrives for her interview she is blown away and a little intimidated by the house. It is a smart house. Everything is connected to apps that can be managed from a cell phone.

After her initial interview she is offered the job which seems like a dream come true. However, she does not realize that appearances can be deceiving. On her very first day she is left alone with the three younger children while the parents are at a weeklong conference. The adjustment for the girls is not going as smoothly as she had hoped but she is trying her best to befriend them.

When strange happenings start to disturb her nights she begins look into the history of the house and what could be causing these strange noises in the attic. With each new night she gets less and less sleep as the mysterious sounds gradually increase. Will she be able to make it through her first week or will she leave in the middle of the night like the other nannies before her?

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed Ruth Ware’s previous novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, but I think this one blew it out of the water. I seriously considered giving this 5 stars because it was very hard to put down. There was the perfect mixture of spookiness and suspense.

I love how the house appears to be a big old Victorian but inside it is very modern. I love the idea of a smart house but at the same time it is also a little scary. I completely understand Rowan’s unease with the cameras and app enabled features. And the fact that this house is basically out in the middle of nowhere. Anyone could easily be spooked by any sounds in the night.

I enjoyed the way that the novel was laid out. It is done in a series of entries in a letter from Rowan to a solicitor while she is in prison for the death of a child. She eludes to what happens but we do not get the full details until the end.

This is full of twists and turns. When you think you have had the big reveal another one appears. I loved every minute of reading this. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for something that they cannot put down. Trust me. I had to force myself to sleep instead of reading one more chapter.

FYI: Warning: a child does die in the book.

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: Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

First line: On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all.

Summary: Charles Dickens had instant success with his first books but his most recent one was a flop. When the publishing firm begins to lose money, they devise an ultimatum. Write a Christmas story or pay back the advance. With less than six weeks left between the notification and Christmas Eve, Dickens has very little time to figure out his biggest success, A Christmas Carol.

Highlights: This was a very cozy little novel about one of my favorite stories. I have watched many adaptations of Dickens’ novel with my favorites being The Muppet Christmas Carol and Scrooge (with Albert Finney). The fact that this story was written in such a short period is shocking. I liked the Easter eggs in the story that tie in with A Christmas Carol. While reading I wanted it to be Christmas time and have a cup of tea. Very good debut novel!

Lowlights: There was a lot of buildup but not enough bang at the end. It was cozy and not as gripping as I hoped.

FYI: Spoilers! I have not read all of Dickens work but now I know how some of them end. Its okay. I guess after 150+ years everyone should know the stories and their endings.