Entries in ghosts (16)


The Family Plot

I used to primarily read horror when I was younger, but moved away from it as I discovered fantasy (mostly through King's Dark Tower series which is more weird epic fantasy than horror). I have continued to read things that fall under "spooky" but are primarily another genre, like dark thrillers and urban fantasy and... whatever Chuck Wendig's books are.

And I used to watch a lot of horror too. But in the recent past, I lost whatever shielding I had against the scares and no longer find it enjoyable. Back in the day, The Grudge creeped me out a bit, but I didn't lose any sleep. And then I recently watched Annihilation and that godsdamn screaming bear kept me awake for a literal week. And I wanted to watch the Haunting of Hill House but couldn't even look at stills from the show without getting creeped out.

And not in the good way. Not in the rollercoaster, this is scary but fun kind of way. I stopped being able to enjoy watching horror. But since reading and watching engage different parts of the brain, I decided to give reading horror another try.

I picked this particular book because I like Cherie Priest, she's got cute and hilarious dogs, and this sounded like everything I love about horror. But holy shit, it's scary! No nightmares, didn't keep me awake, but it got to the point I had to read the second half of the book during daylight hours. But it was SO GOOD.

So this is your basic haunted house story, with creepy as fuck ghosts. But it's about so much more than that. And I liked seeing the family dynamics play out, because I've been part of a family business and hell yes I know what that nonsense is like. The family politics. The bullshit. And I very do love old houses, just like the main character does. I live in a relatively old house, built in '39 with all the charm and surprises of an old house.

And I have been in a very old, moderately haunted house and experienced things I could not explain.

Anyway, this story was fun and spooky and endearing and terrifying. It's so atmospheric. When I think back to the things that actually happen, very few of them seem that scary out of context, particularly before the last third of the book. But the atmosphere? So spooky!

As much as this book freaked me out, I still loved every last bit of it. I read it in three days, which is about my top speed for novels. And it answered my question about whether I can still read horror. Haunted house fiction is about as scary as it gets for me, and I survived! Yay!

Highly recommend if you love ghosts and old houses.


Dragonbreath series

This is a middle grade book (for 7-12 year olds) that's basically Dennis the Menace but with dragons and other mythical beings.

The series follows Danny Dragonbreath, a real actual dragon who often has difficulties breathing fire, but whose loyalty knows no bounds. He's always accompanied by his best friend Wendell the iguana, and in later books, Christiana the crested lizard.

Danny's adventures are fun and whimsical and full of jokes, but also packed full of educational tidbits. There's also a really great bus system that can bring Danny anywhere. And if the bus doesn't go there, the portal in his great-granddad's fridge does.

Danny's adventures include evil clowns, giant bats, the deep sea, mythical Japan, fairies, phoenixes, and some very devious (but totally cute) pack rats. And the sentient potato salad.

This is a "for boys" series but me and my daughter absolutely loved it. We binge-read all 11 books in a couple of months. The author also has an excellent "for girls" series that I'll blog about later. Anyway, this series has fun illustrations and was an utter hoot to read. I highly recommend it, even if you haven't got a kiddo to read it with.


Ninefox Gambit

This book has some really outstanding world-building, but the first half of the book was just so confusing. And none of the characters really grabbed me until toward the end. To be honest, if the second book in this series wasn't on the current Hugo ballot, I probably would have stopped reading.

The book had an ending interesting enough to have me looking forward to the next book. And now that the world-building isn't as confusing, I hope it will be easier to get through.

I'm not even sure if I can adequately describe the plot without giving things away... But basically, the main character, Cheris, is a soldier and brilliant mathematician who has run afoul of her government. Her punishment is an impossible assault on an impenetrable fortress, with the ghost of their government's best-ever general, Jedao, lodged in her mind.

Cheris never really knows who to trust, especially not Jedao who is an infamous traitor. Even with the book over, I have no idea whose intentions to trust and whether Cheris and Jedao will end up doing the right thing in the next book.

This book is worth a try, at least, but if you're finding the world-building to be a slog AND you don't like the characters, you probably won't miss out if you set the book aside.


Shadowhouse Fall

This is the second book in Older's Shadowshaper series, and I highly recommend checking out the first book if you haven't already. This is a YA series about friendship, family, heritage and race, following a group of magical teenagers on an epic urban adventure to save everything they love.

The fight continues in the second book, with the stakes raised and fascinating new characters introduced. Some of the last book's side characters have been given deeper roles in this book. There's a lot more romance in this book too, even a dreaded love triangle. Sort of. It slows the pace down a little, but it's still interesting and well done. Exceptionally high praise from someone who hates love triangles as much as I do.

For me, the most horrifying thing about this book isn't the ghosts and monsters, but the things people do to each other and all that the teens in this book go through on a daily basis. From being searched and abused at school to the high risk of being gunned down by police, Older doesn't pull any punches. It's a worthwhile look inside the lives of kids of colour growing up in America right now.

It's a fun story too, full of lots of what one reviewer dubbed "zippy teenage banter" and great, complex and complicated relationships between the many characters. I love some good banter, and it doesn't get much better than this.

While the voice isn't as strong in this series and in his adult novels, the Bone Street Rumba series, it still stands out. Especially once MC Sierra's friend Izzy gets going. There is some really interesting crossover, just little intersections here and there, between this series and Bone Street Rumba. I'm really curious to see if there's more, if there's a full out crossover in the future. That would please me beyond words.

Anyway, check out the first book if you haven't. If you've read Shadowshaper and enjoyed it, this book will not disappoint you.


Shadowshaper Novellas

Daniel Jose Older has two novellas in his Shadowshaper series, both of them taking place between the first and second book. The first of those novellas in Ghost Girl in the Corner. I loved it!

Ghost Girl is about, well, the ghost of a girl who shows up in the basement of a community newspaper run by teenagers. Ghost Girl is there to help solve a mystery/crime, one the characters aren't aware of until a good way through the story.

The second, Deadlight Marches, is a little more rambling and less focused. It sets the stage for the next book in the series, Shadowhouse Falls, but doesn't do a whole lot more. While I liked it well enough, it just left me wanting. Wanting the next book, but also wanting more out of that story. It didn't feel complete the way Ghost Girl did.

These stories are an excellent look into the shadowshaper world and a deeper glimpse into the novel's side characters. I also really loved how both novellas had little intersections with Older's Bone Street Rumba series. I would love to see a novel or series that combines both worlds.

If you're a fan of Shadowshaper, I definitely recommend picking up these novellas.