The Witch Bottle~Tom Fletcher

Disturbing, intriguing, boundless, horrific, interesting, scary and gripping! What a story! What an author!

The Witch bottle shows is Daniel, a milk man who carries grief and regret with him like the majority of us carry a face mask and hand gel. Having lost his baby brother at the tender age of five and his mother struggling with catatonic depression, he witnessed the horrifically traumatic birth of his daughter and undiagnosed post natal depression of his wife (this last part isn’t mentioned exactly but an email from his wife in one of the last chapters is why I say this) leading him into further turmoil when his mother passes. We see this lonely and odd milk man become haunted a by the strangest of eery spectrums and see a hidden part of our work along side him.

I’m unsure if the book has a happily ever after, but we are made aware that Daniel saved the world as we know it somehow and to me this is an assumption of a happy ending (just not really for Daniel but give the man his posthumous credit where it’s deserved!) as Katherine dreams of Marriane and all is not well in these dreams and she’s aware of something looming outside in the darkness when she wakes. Very much a cliff hanger of epic proportions!

This book gripped and enthralled me, shocked and saddened me and also sickened me (for the right reasons-a good gore scene in a novel can be hard to interpret and the perception varies from person to person) and the hit that has really stick with me is the part where Ryan has joined the Fallen Stock drivers and Daniel is surrounded by them and forced to the steps of the rear of the truck face down and made to drink (spoiler alert sorry!). Needless to say this novel has made me very glad I’m a vegetarian!

Fletcher’s style of writing was good with exceptionally strong descriptive and narratives, but when narration changed from one character to another, it wasn’t always clear immediately and lead to a few sentences having to be re-read. I feel like the description of life as a milk man and it’s routine was accurate but I feel like maybe I didn’t need to take on board all of the information given, but nice to learn new.

Never having read anything from Fletcher before I am keeping a keen eye on him for future releases.

Lockdown~Peter May

What.A.Book! And such an appropriate read given the current climate in the world. Peter May first started to put together his ideas for a crime novel set amid Bird Flu/H5N1 in 2005. He researched it for many a significant period of time and eventually came up with Lockdown; a murder mystery and crime thriller set in the epicentre of a global pandemic killing millions. No publisher wanted to know; they said it was unrealistic and couldn’t ever happen. Until the smart cookies over at Riverrun decided May had stumbled on to something and his nov published while during the Covid-19 global pandemic which saw the majority of the world going in to lockdown as the international death toll rise higher and higher.

What a clever man Peter May is.

This book is set in London in the middle of a pandemic that’s wiping out millions across the world and emergency field hospitals and mortuaries are being built around the city (sound familiar?) and one night, a team of well paid and well PPE’d builders stumble across a smart, expensive looking hold-all in the ground containing the bones of a young child. And that is where the mystery starts.

Who is this child? Why are the remains stripped bare and stuffed in to a bag in the ground? What part of the puzzle does this unearthing fit in to? It’s up to D.I Jack MacNeil to head the investigation with forensic odontologist Amy and her team to discover the truth. In between times, there’s a ruthless and professional killer out in the city taking down anyone with information and is also forced to face every parents worst nightmare.

Lockdown was an exceedingly well written book and so very worth the time to read. It may feel a bit close to home for many people, and will do for a long time I’ve no doubt, but amidst all relative similarities it still is a fantastic good Murder mystery and crime thriller. The chapters are well paced and written from character perspectives and a good chunk of well explained science is thrown in to the mix the further in to the book you read. And because May did a lot of research in to the H5N1 strain it is really and truly interesting and really piqued my interest in to the mutation of generics and the spread of disease.

For me, this was a book I couldn’t put down and I’m most definitely looking forward to reading previous works of May once my 2020 TBR list has dwindled.

The Woman In Black~Susan Hill

Well what do I say? Where do I begin? I have literally just closed the pages of this book and have taken a complete U-Turn of my thoughts and opinions!

This is the final read of the Read By Spooktober challenge over on Instagram and it was one epic ending! I picked up this book thinking it’s far too short to really hold much detail or much of a story (160 pages) but as I began to read it, I thought it was about 100 pages too long- I was bored and waiting for the scares.

I had seen the film starring Daniel Radcliffe in 2012 (so long ago!) and although it was rated a 12, I distinctly remember the character of Arthur Kipps looking out into the night at Eel Marsh House and the face of the Woman in Black leaping out at him through the window (both my mum and I literally jumped a mile and screamed! I was a youngster back then and not ashamed to admit it scared the life out of me!) so I had high hopes of major jumps and scared for this read, but it seems Hollywood used its artistic licensing to add more to the story than what was originally there.

Susan Hill gives you the most amazing descriptions of Crythin, it’s village and residents, as well as the vastly changing Nine Lives Causeway and unsettling Eel Marsh House, but it isn’t until that very last chapter that the scare comes.

When Spider almost lost her life I was in pieces! I had sudden flashbacks to watching THAT scene in The Never Ending Story (if you don’t know it, a horse is swallowed by marshland leaving his human companion, and viewers of all ages, utterly broken, devastated and a tearful mess) and thought I couldn’t read on, couldn’t bare witness to the Marsh taking a life, but then Arthur rescues her and literally becomes Man of the Hour and all round hero. So I read on feeling less bored and watched as the puzzle was put together and all the pieces fell in to place, leading to the devastation and horror of an innocent pony and trap ride. And that was when I closed the book and though “woah” and couldn’t think of anything else until I re-read that chapter again.

For 160 pages, Hill has gifted the world with a short but exceedingly detailed novella full of a hauntingly devastating love and the lengths of revenge and retribution that a soul will seek out in order to feel justice. The Woman in Black is well and truly worth the short amount of time to read and makes for a better book than film (in my opinion) and Hill did a fantastic job of submerging the reader without them even k owing it.

The Shadow Friend~Alex North

This was the second read for Read By Spooktober over on Instagram and The Shadow Friend is Alex North’s second book (The Whisper Man being his first nearly twelve months ago-two books in less than a year? Must be an avid writer!) and is the first of his titles I have read.

After feeling somewhat dissatisfied with my previous Spooktober read (Pet Semetary by Stephen King) I wasn’t sure how I would take to The Shadow Friend and how I would find it, so opened up the first pages with little to no expectations and I was pleasantly blown away!

The Shadow Friend is set in the village of Gritten where 25years ago, a horrific murder took place and a bit vanished. Paul, a friend of the one boy who committed the crime, returns for the first time when his mother falls ill during the turbulent time of copycat murders taking place elsewhere. As part of her investigations, Detective Amanda Beck comes to Gritten in search of answers, which she mostly finds.

I was gripped! And without giving away too much, I was saddened when Paul’s first love was revealed as the subject of harm and I really felt my heart break for Paul at that key moment during his adult life. I honestly couldn’t read further that evening because I was so cross with North for his decision in that particular chapter! That’s how invested I was in this story and it’s characters!

The ending wrapped up a lot of loose ends and left the reader feeling settled with the answers they had been presented with. All in all, this was an excellent read and I’m certainly adding North’s previously published novel to my online shopping cart and I eagerly await his next title! This is well worth a read! Not frightening but chilling and very eery in places.

The Shadow Friend~Alex North

This was the second read for Read By Spooktober over on Instagram and The Shadow Friend is Alex North’s second book (The Whisper Man being his first nearly twelve months ago-two books in less than a year? Must be an avid writer!) and is the first of his titles I have read.

After feeling somewhat dissatisfied with my previous Spooktober read (Pet Semetary by Stephen King) I wasn’t sure how I would take to The Shadow Friend and how I would find it, so opened up the first pages with little to no expectations and I was pleasantly blown away!

The Shadow Friend is set in the village of Gritten where 25years ago, a horrific murder took place and a bit vanished. Paul, a friend of the one boy who committed the crime, returns for the first time when his mother falls ill during the turbulent time of copycat murders taking place elsewhere. As part of her investigations, Detective Amanda Beck comes to Gritten in search of answers, which she mostly finds.

I was gripped! And without giving away too much, I was saddened when Paul’s first love was revealed as the subject of harm and I really felt my heart break for Paul at that key moment during his adult life. I honestly couldn’t read further that evening because I was so cross with North for his decision in that particular chapter! That’s how invested I was in this story and it’s characters!

The ending wrapped up a lot of loose ends and left the reader feeling settled with the answers they had been presented with. All in all, this was an excellent read and I’m certainly adding North’s previously published novel to my online shopping cart and I eagerly await his next title! This is well worth a read! Not frightening but chilling and very eery in places.

The Haunting of Hill House~Shirley Jackson

I’m not sure where to start with this one! Back in the 90’s I watched the film The Haunting (with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson) and at the time it really spooked me (I was barely a teenager and afraid of my own shadow so dumb move watching it really!) then many years later, Netflix release their series in time for Halloween and my colleague at work was enthralled by it- so I just had to give it a go and I was riveted! I jumped, squealed and even fell off the sofa at one point? But loved the series!

But how did I get on with the book? Well, I think I expected it to be different somehow. As soon as I started reading it, it clicked that The Haunting was based on the book (excuse me for being slow, but I didn’t know about that until this point) and I was really interested to see where it went. The book is written with a fairly “old style” of speech; I don’t know how to put it, but in my head some of the sentences didn’t quite seem to flow or make much sense, BUT that’ll likely be because Jackson was born in 1916 and the use of language was far different back then.

I did find the book was riveting and interesting with the descriptions being really good, however it wasn’t as scary a read as I anticipated (thanks for that Netflix!) although it was enjoyable and I wasn’t able to put it down (I read it in less than a week) and I’m so interested to read Jackson’s earlier works (mostly her first printed piece “The Lottery” which was met with utter disdain- makes me want to read it all the more!)

But honestly, what an imagination! It’s great to discover a horror writer from the much earlier generation of authors!

Pet Semetary~Stephen King

As part of the Read By Spooktober hashtag that’s going around Instagram among the book lovers and horror fans, Pet Sematary is the first of three spooky reads for the month of October. Having never seen either the original film or remake, I quite excited to read the novel, especially as Stephen King has inspired so many wonderful works of the horror genre. And with this particular title, I’m stuck on the fence with a verdict. I liked it, then I was bored by it, and then I was scared by it.

My first thought was that the book has a fair few pages (466 to be exact) but isn’t one of King’s longest (The Dark Tower series are exceptionally hefty in page number) nor is it one of his shorter novels (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is what you would call a “general size”) so was looking forward to having a book that would last a little longer than my favourite (Misery) and meant being caught up in the terror a little longer.

My second thought was about how this novel would end-I have found in previous works that it’s as if King has invested so much of his creativity and imagination in to his characters and the atmosphere that he gets tired or simply bored and decides to end the book abruptly and without much of a process (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon being the main one that springs to mind without giving away too much). So I did become a little concerned that I would invest myself in to the story and be left disappointed.

Reading Pet Sematary gave me a third thought that really stuck in my head the further in to the book I went (no need to panic just yet at the sudden influx of thoughts! I promise!) and this is a thought I’m sure not a great many King fans will agree with and that is this- when does it get scary?

Stephen King is known for being the most iconic master of terror and horror, yet this book is more of a thought-provoking-scare than an all out I’ll-have-nightmares-forever type (still not having seen the films I can’t compare them, but with the horror film genre in general I personally do believe that it’s mainly what you don’t see that’s the scariest bit as your brain picks up the sounds and clever musical score and allows your imagination to run further and further in to those dark and frightening places). Don’t get me wrong, I have had nightmares after reading a book (The Shining being one of two so far) but this won’t be one of them.

As far as the idea goes, it’s very good and was written in the 80’s so King’s writing style has changed and developed since being published, and it was enjoyable but 3/4 of the way through I did get a little bored (don’t shoot me down! Please!) but the last few chapters for me were written in that iconic and well known scary style that we all know and love. The beginning was nice (horror and nice don’t seem to go well together, but it really was!) and the scene was set for Louis and his lovely family to make the move to this whole new town and met Jud and Norma who become like family. I do believe that Jud had good intentions when he took Louis to the MicMac burial ground, but there are things that are unsaid until the end, like the “pull of the place” and left me wondering if Jud felt the continual pull after taking Spot up there in the same way that Louis did when he went up for a third time with Rachel (third time lucky? I really hope so but I do doubt it).

I found that the faster paced chapters were the final ones where Louis goes to the burial grounds alone with Gage and sees and hears the things that were dismissed by Jud and Loons and St Elmo’s Fire, which then take on a sinister and frightening form. Then the attacks on Jud and Rachel as well as Louis was graphic and horrible (in the sense that it was an awful thing and not horribly written) and I know this is the part of the films that would scare the socks right off me! Children in horror are creepy at the best of times but newly un-dead children with the voices of adults is an entirely different ball game and is terror-inducing on every level (the style we know and love right there!) and being a parent myself to a small child who likes to stand in front of the night light on the landing in silence, I can safely say that this is the part of the book that will stay with me!

I really had never given Pet Sematary a second glance because I really thought it was about being haunted by animals and nothing else, and no-I never did ever pick up a copy or ask what it was about because the title told me all I thought I needed to know (lesson learnt), but I am glad it was on the list for Spooktober and I would recommend it as a read for darker evenings or as a though provoker (would you really bring back your most dearly beloved? How far would you truly be prepared to go?) and it’s a good book club choice purely for that reason (in my eyes). If it’s a book on your bucket list then definitely read it ASAP, it is worth the time, but if it’s on your list as one of King’s better reads I would say consider The Shining, It and The Outsider.

Follow Me To Ground~Sue Rainsford

Do you ever finish a book and think “what have I just read?” Because that’s exactly the effect that Follow Me To Ground has had on me! While perusing Goodreads reviews, I noted that many reviews mentioned how spooky and unnerving the book was, but I’m wondering if I’ve missed something?

Ada was not born of this world but was made and born from the Ground, as her father was, and is not quite human in the respect that she ages ever so slowly, has the ability to heal people and actually has to grow her genitalia when she meets her “one”. He father disapproves as he says the young man in question is sick and “sick is sick” but can’t be healed. Also her father turns in to an unspecified beast of an evening and hunts animals.

The descriptions of the healings are intense and vivid, not at all for the faint hearted, which I did enjoy as I do like a bit of gore in my horror novels, however the layout of this book struck me as odd; instead of speech marks when characters are talking, the speech is hyphenated. Something I couldn’t quite figure out, but just went along with it as I thought that was just me being pedantic and picky. The breaks between chapters, I guess you would call them, are from the villagers points of view and are focused on Ada and her father and what they do. You’re able to build up a picture of what the village thinks of these odd two and that is that some villagers believe in them and are appreciative of their healings, while others believe them to be an oddity and a pair to avoid at all costs.

The ending was also an oddity in itself; Ada’s human lover (whom she gave a good old push to and left him to the Ground so he could rise to be more like her) had a child with his sister and years down the line, the sister dies and the baby who is now a grown man comes calling on Ada to learn about the fate of his father. And here the book ends; with the son walking in to the garden where I assume the lover is rising, or has risen, from the Ground and the son’s life is now at risk.

The cover is beautiful and I had high hopes for this short story (195 pages makes it the perfect quick read) but on the whole I just didn’t “get” it. Critics write it’s a book of beauty and horror, and unlike anything else you’ll read, so I really feel like I’m missing the point here. It’s something I think I’ll have to pick up again later down the line and re-read, but I’m sure it would be a wonderful title for a book club as it’s something a set of people can work out together. But in my eyes in the first instance, sadly, it’s a bit of a miss for me, but I’m sure there are plenty who will appreciate it.

The Year of the Witching~Alexis Henderson

I first saw this book while scrolling through Instagram And came across a post by the author showing the UK and the US covers side by side, and then that was it-I was drawn in and hooked on both of the cover pictures and I needed to own this book and to read it.

At first I felt let down and disappointed- the plot felt slow and like there was something missing, but I kept reading thinking “it’ll all be in the next chapter” not really knowing what “it” actually was. And then at chapter 15 there “it” was! That feeling of becoming so invested in the plot that you’ve been sucked in and are watching it play out around you as if you’re there submerged in the story. It became hard to put down and with heavy eyelids I reluctantly went to sleep, clock-watching during those pesky waking hours when I couldn’t just sit and read.

The characters seemed so much stronger from this point in the book, and the thinking and relationships seemed so much more real and worked on (if that makes any sense at all!) that they just seemed to sit so well in support with the plot.

I loved the forces of good and evil, the light and the darkness! At times I often caught myself wondering, and hoping, that the Dark Wood was actually a good place that had been shunned by men wanting to take power from women and run the show themselves (sounds like good old politics to me) and kept waiting for Immanuelle to become at one with the witches and ride in to Bethel on a chariot of clouds and flowers and strike down the Prophet and reign in peace with the Poole loving and working for a better future side by side with the witches BUT obviously a with name like Lilith, one isn’t likely to be a misunderstood malevolent witch spirit who wants to make friends and braid the hair of the village maidens, no matter how much you wish it so. But I was so glad when Immanuele and Ezra fought hard for the peace and enlightenment that their people should have and very much needed, and I’m so glad she decided to take the higher road in the end and not shed more blood.

The author writes that she grew up with stories of good against evil and I can see why she was driven to create this novel. It’s well written, well structured and does actually make you think about how religion and the politics around it actually play a part in our own world and daily living.

This was good read but would make an amazing film adaptation! I can literally imagine the special effects of the end chapters being especially gruesome and wickedly good! I do recommend to anyone who loves a good witch hunt though!

The Binding~Bridget Collins

I think today I will start my review with a question-it feels appropriate somehow to me.

If you could have memories of your choosing taken from you and kept in a book hidden for the rest of your life, would you?

This book has got me thinking about what memories I’d want to “bind” and never have any knowledge of. Certainly there are things I have lived through as a younger person that I would ensure no other young person lives through or with, I feel that’s part of my maternal instinct as well as my experiences of the fall out of a situation, so I would keep those memories as they mould the way I steer my family and life in the future and how I guide them. However, the present day version of myself (who is having a bit of a rollercoaster of an emotional and bad time right now) would rather “bind” the pain that comes with living and learning through these situations; I know if I were to forget one thing it would likely have a knock-in effect on something else, so getting rid of the pain would be of more benefit to me personally.

Now The Binding sees a young lad being taken for an apprenticeship after a spell of severe illness that he believes has frightened his family and made him weak in their eyes. He goes to a strange old woman and is introduced to the trade of binding memories, this woman passes on so he is taken to continue his apprenticeship with her son (so he says) and discovers he himself has been bound.

Once Emmett releases (or unbinds) his memories held within his own book, troubles seem to begin as he pieces together that series of events that were let loose.

Emmett goes on to release the memories (or unbind) of the boy who was the cause of requirement to be bound in the first place (does this make sense?) and then we have the end.

The book starts with the lead-up to the apprenticeship, the recovered memories and the main bulk of the chapters are the bound memories being set free. The latter part of the book is the fall-out, where the second main character, Lucian Darnay, comes in to his own and we follow his life right up until the moments after his memories are returned to him.

Sounds complicated, and does start pretty slow BUT it is a book you need to stick with. It will honestly have you questioning yourself if you were given the option of binding (hence the review starting with a question to myself rather than getting stuck right in!).

What makes this read more accessible is the layout: there are three parts so you feel like you’re able to take a step back and digest what information you’ve been given and can accurately place yourself along the timeline.

Well written for a first adult novel, and well put together. I recommend this read and I look forward to seeing what Collins does next!