Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

Oh my stars, this was the perfect October read for me. Gruesome murders in the woods? Ghosts? Witches? Creepy small town with some serious secrets? Yes, thank you!

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in the town of Smiths Hollow, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won’t find the killer. After all, the year before her father’s body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids.

So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can’t just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realizes that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the center. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.

Doesn’t that sound fantastically October-ish?

My thoughts

Last year, I read and enjoyed my first book by Christina Henry: Lost Boy was a delightfully dark take on the (already dark) Peter Pan story. Pretty confident at this point that she’s just the kind of author I like. The Ghost Tree is well-written and completely engaging—once I started I didn’t want to stop.

The book is set in the early 1980s in a sleepy little town where all is definitely not what it seems. Fifteen-year-old Lauren’s father was brutally murdered recently in the woods, and she’s experiencing all sorts of weirdness herself while also navigating the confusion that is growing from girl to young woman. When her headache leads to a vivid vision of a monster savagely killing two girls in the woods, Lauren is upset enough… but then the bodies of the girls are found and Lauren has to figure out quickly what’s going on.

I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say, I enjoyed the plot and characters very much. The story is told from multiple POVs, and as much as I adored Lauren, I also loved Alejandro’s chapters. The town’s lore is laid out in a wonderfully witchy fairy tale-like story. Fun 80s references throughout, gory horror, a curse, witches and monsters, and I honestly didn’t figure out who the killer was until the end. There’s a lot to love here for horror fans.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my free copy in exchange for this honest review.


Review: House of Secrets by Darcy Coates

I’m still enjoying my October of #screamathon reads—this one a NetGalley copy of the sequel to Coates’ House of Shadows that has been waiting for me far too long.

What it’s about

From the (perhaps too descriptive) Goodreads blurb:

Sophie and Joseph’s escape from Northwood is short-lived. The beast survived, and attached itself to Joseph’s young cousin, Elise. Garrett writes to beg for their help. Joseph and Sophie travel to meet him at Kensington, a long-abandoned mansion that overlooks a dead town. The house offers a small hope: its original owner had dedicated her life to researching the monster that possesses Elise. Garrett hopes to find a way to kill the creature without harming his daughter. But Kensington is a dangerous building. Once the carriage leaves, they’re trapped inside the collapsing walls and forced to confront the horrors within.

Shrouded figures stalk them. Whispers echo through the night. Unmarked graves dot the property. And the dead are not as restful as they seem…

My thoughts

If you’re going to read this, you should probably read House of Shadows first. House of Secrets quite literally picks up exactly where book one ended, and the plot and characters aren’t going to make a lot of sense if you haven’t read the first story. If I’m honest, the first book is the stronger of the two, as well.

I had not read anything by Coates prior to this duology. While I think the author does a great job setting establishing the gothic, atmospheric settings in these books, the plot for this one was fairly predictable and I really wish the characters were more fleshed-out.

Our heroine Sophie, who ended the first book having confidently overcome her quiet insecurities and shown herself to be a badass, is once again wracked with fears that her brooding (and rather one-dimensional) husband Joseph doesn’t really love her and is keeping secrets. Joseph’s inconsistency and secretive behavior is annoying, but Sophie’s reactions are disappointing after we saw her growth near the end of book one.

Since creepy, gothic Northwood house is no more, our characters must make do with an even creepier, more run-down, literally collapsing gothic mansion in Kensington house. This is the part that Coates does so well—setting the scene in a remote, dismal, perfectly haunted house. I love the descriptions of the house, the grounds, the abandoned ghost town nearby… it reminds me of the fun ghost stories I read when I was young and impressionable.

Speaking of ghosts, I really enjoyed the mysterious haunting happening at Kensington—way more than I liked the reappearance of the lame Grimlock. The main characters conducting their research in the dead of the night in the crumbling house, the veiled lady, the old painting coming alive… this is the kind of stuff I’m here for.

Overall, this was a quick, seasonally-appropriate read, not without its flaws, but also not without fun. Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for my copy in exchange for this honest review.