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Breathe: A Ghost Story by Cliff McNish

Teen Picks: Breathe by Cliff McNish

You know those book fairs that your school hosted back when you were a kid? That’s where my little sister and I stumbled upon a book called Breathe. We were suckers for ghost stories like books by Mary Downing Hahn, and this seemed like it was right up our alley. We stole it away into our bedrooms and read it under the blankets late, late into the night using flashlights. I still have the original copy we shared. I can honestly say that it is one of my favorite ghost stories. Not only is it easy to read, it is fantastically vivid and well written.

It follows the story of Jack and his mother, Sarah, a mother and son who move into a haunted farmhouse where the souls of four children are being held hostage by what is known as the Ghost Mother, a spirit that feeds off of other souls to prevent being taken away by the Nightmare Passage. The Nightmare Passage is an Inferno-esque plain of ice where a constant wind beats and batters its residents. It is where the souls of those who refuse to go (or are kept from going) to the Other Side eventually are taken.

The book is full of metaphors for abusive behavior, rape and sacrifice. The Ghost Mother tortures these poor children’s souls, feeds off of them, and even forces one of them to try to behave like a daughter. It is disgusting. Disturbing. And it’s not hard at all to hate her. The children, who are put through so much pain and suffering, do eventually find redemption and get a happy ending, thank goodness. As does Jack and Sarah. For most of the book the Ghost Mother possesses Sarah and actively abuses Jack, emotionally and physically. It’s gut wrenching to read as Jack desperately tries to save his own mother.

All in all, it is an incredible story about loyalty, fighting for the one’s we love, about the acceptance of death, and how death is not the end. I reread this book every once and a while, because boy-howdy is it a doozy. Talk about heavy. And reading it as a twelve year old? You can bet that my sister and I had some nightmares after the first time. Sheesh. But we still love it, and in fact, it still comes up in conversations sometimes. The deep and complex issues of abuse and consent, as well as life after death, the different afterlife planes, the inspiration from Dante’s nine circles of Hell inspiring the landscape for the Nightmare Passage. It is a really fascinating read. I highly recommend it. I give it a 4/5, just because it does have some pretty sensitive topics it covers.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Book Review: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill | The Book SmugglersThe ...

I first saw The Woman in Black in theaters, when it first came out. I own it and watch it on a regular (at least once or twice a year) now. It is a very, very, very creepy movie. And I purchased the book not long after I saw the movie for the first time. Say what you will about the movie OR the book, but one thing is very true about both: they are very, very creepy. There is just such an eerie way that the story is told and presented. Its just anxiety-inducing and frankly, a little jarring. I reread the book for what I think is the third of fourth time to do this review, so it would be fresh in my memory, and I had forgotten how many differences there were to the movie.

First of all, Arthur Kipps is a VERY different man in the book than he is in the movie. He isn’t struggling, and hasn’t lost his wife. In fact, he is not even married yet and he’s practically a partner at the law firm he works at. He starts the book off telling the story from his perspective as an older man, not ‘old’ persay, but older than the events of the movie. Before the whole ordeal at the Eel Marsh House, he is a cheerful and happy person. Another key difference is that the innkeeper, the coach driver and Mr. Jerome are all very kind and polite to him in the book, whereas in the movie they are all…well…rude and cold. I think this made a pretty big difference. And while Mr. Jerome’s attitude towards Arthur does change, the others don’t. Also, Mr. Daily is actually kind of distant and cold in the beginning and then they slowly become friends.

One of the biggest things that is downplayed in the movie that is actually really important in the book is Spider, Mr. Daily’s dog that becomes Arthur’s companion in surviving the horrors of the Eel Marsh house. He becomes very, very attached to her (not in a weird way. like in a cute loyal way) and actually risks his life to save her. In fact, Mr. Daily says that he will give Arthur one of her puppies as soon as she has a litter. It is not until after Arthur leaves Crythin Grifford that he gets married and has a son (and makes Samuel Daily the godfather. Awwwww.) that tragedy strikes and his wife and son are killed due to the Woman in Black returning for revenge. Arthur, however, lives to remarry and be a father to several step children. Unlike in the movie, where Arthur dies with his son.

So, yeah, in short the movie is really good, AND the book is really good but there are definitely some huge differences between the two, to the point to where the kind of paint a different story. I think that the book had more of a slow-creepy-eerie-unsettling feeling to it, while the movie was definitely more jump-scary. I definitely recommend the book to any horror fans out there, however, especially those who like British Period Horror pieces. It’s very well written, and while it does have some slow parts, its still a fairly enjoyable and easy read. Overall, I give it a 4/5.

Radiance by Alyson Noel

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A few months ago I had the privilege of reading Alyson Noel’s masterpiece Evermore, a book following the life of Ever, the sole survivor of a family car crash. Radiance, on the other hand, focuses on Riley, Ever’s twelve year old sister as she tries to figure out how un-living works in the Here & Now. In Evermore, Riley stays on the ‘earth plane’ as a ghost to help Ever move on from her grief involving the loss of their family, and to also come to terms with her own recent death.

The events of Radiance take place after Riley has crossed the bridge into the afterlife, and her and her dog, Buttercup, are assigned as Soul Catchers, which is kind of like a Grim Reaper. Her guide, Bodhi, is a ‘dorky’ older boy who is a rank ahead of her and is assigned to be her teacher. She, however, has no respect for him and only does what he says out of spite for him saying ‘I told you so’ if she fails. The book follows their first mission and is kind of her ‘coming of age’ as she learns to convince souls to cross over, respect Bodhi, to fly and how to teach Buttercup to fly.

Noel’s writing is easy to read and flows nicely. Her characters are complex, relatable and very well written, and her descriptions of her setting are vivid and realistic. It’s not hard to find yourself pulled into the story and emotionally involved in Riley’s situation. I give it a 4/5 and recommend it to anyone who likes YA and Fantasy.

Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin

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I am such a huge fan of the first book, Rosemary’s Baby, that when I stumbled upon a copy of the sequel, my curiosity forced me to buy it and read it straight away. Judging from the first chapter, I thought that I would be really disappointed, as it starts out with Rosemary waking up from a coma in 1999, about 28 years after the events of the first book. But, that’s only really the first chapter, and you should never judge a book just by the first chapter, and the writing was fantastic, so I continued on.

Son of Rosemary focuses on Rosemary Reilly (yes, she divorced Guy back in 1966) as she wakes up from the coma and reunites with her son, Andy, who is now running for president. Throughout the book, we really get into Rosemary’s head, and she still thinks like a 31 year old. There’s a wonderful sense of  ‘something isn’t right’ over the course of the middle of the book and in the end, we find out why. The last two pages have a gigantic twist that I honestly did not see coming at all, and it was oddly satisfying. I really liked that it ended the way it did.

Ira Levin, as always, is an amazing writer and his depiction of Rosemary’s charming inner dialogue in the first book carries over flawlessly into the sequel. She is such a good, well written, relatable character that I had no problems whatsoever becoming emotionally invested in her and her story. The book, overall, is amazing. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the first one because Minnie and Roman and Guy were such wonderful characters and they are dead in the second book, but I would still give it an overall rating of 4/5.

The Murmurings by Carly Anne West

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After reading Carly Anne West’s incredibly unnerving novel, The Bargaining, I decided that I definitely wanted to read the book she had released prior to that one, which is The Murmurings. The back of the book summarizes it as the main character’s sister is institutionalized for hearing voices and then is later found dead, presumably from suicide, but then the main character starts to hear the voices herself. I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to like the book from this summary, just because I have a lot of history with suicide and such and it’s kind of a touchy subject. However, after finishing the book I realized that that summary is incredibly misleading. It makes the book out to be kind of like a  psychological thriller, when it reality it falls more into the same category as Stranger Things, as a Sci Fi Horror.

The main character is Sophie, a girl grieving for the loss of her sister, Nell. She begins to hear and see the same things that her sister did and ends up being hunted and tormented throughout the whole book, and eventually checked into the same mental institution as her sister was. That’s probably about the time that I realized that the back of the book did not do justice to just how incredibly tense and nail-biting this novel was. I chew my nails chronically, but nothing could prepare my more fingers for this book. Ouch. I was so anxious through the second half of the book that I found myself having to take breaks just to give myself a breather. That’s how well it is written. You get very attached to Sophie as she goes on this amazing and terrifying adventure to unravel the conspiracy around her sister’s, and many others like her and her sister, wrongful death.

This book is chock full to the brim of twists and surprises, as well as lovable characters and well written dialogue. That’s one thing I really loved in The Bargaining and noticed was also present in The Murmurings, is that West has a very fluid and whimsical writing style. All of her dialogue and descriptions flow so naturally, so realistically, so vividly, that you feel as if you are actually present for the events taking place. If I had to rate it, I think I would give it a 4/5 or a 5/5. The only reason I would give it a 4/5 would be because I, personally, can’t reread more often than once every few months just because it does send my anxiety through the roof, hah. I like my books to have reread value. But other than that, this book is amazing and I can’t find a single thing wrong with it. A+ story telling!

Frail by Joan Frances Turner

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Frail is the second book in an amazing Zombie trilogy by Joan Frances Turner. The first book, Dust, was an incredible new take on zombie-unlife, making zombies emotive, conscious beings. Frail follows up by telling the story of Amy, one of the last surviving humans after the plague that turned both zombies and humans alike into a new undead species called the Exes, invincible creatures that are neither alive nor dead. 

Amy is a very well written character, with a confusing and complex past that haunts her, and her slow descent into madness is told in such a way that we feel what she feels. Turner has always been really good at getting me to relate to her characters. The plot of the book, while at times confusing, is really cool and fascinating. The way everything sort of unfolds near the end but is also never fully explained leaves it very open for another sequel. 

The only complaint I have about this book would be that there were times when it seemed a little repetitive in Amy’s thought process. But I suppose that might just be realistic, since no two nuerodivergent people are the same, and god knows that with what Amy goes through that she is not at all sane. 

I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy, Grave, which I’ll be buying once it comes out in paperback. If you like zombies, then you should definitely check out Dust and Frail. They’re definitely worth the read and as someone who doesn’t normally go for zombie books, I really enjoyed them. I finished Frail in just a few hours. Overall, I give it a 4/5. 

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer by Ridley Pearson

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Imagine, if you will, a young twelve year old chubby native american girl wandering through the twisting, maze-like aisles of the largest used book store in Oklahoma. The smell of old paper hangs heavy in the air. She is allowed to roam freely, unsupervised, in this eden-like paradise for bibliophiles. The girl finds herself lost within the deepest bowels of the warehouse like shop, bookshelves looming over her like watch towers, and she begins to wonder if wandering off alone was a good idea.

‘Nonsense!’ She tells herself with a huff, poofing her chest out defiantly as she continues on, encouraged as she seems to have reached the back wall, the end of the maze. ‘You’re practically an adult!’ The girl muses, looking around for some clue as to her location in the store in order to get her bearings. Finally, after a few tense, silent moments of fervent searching, she sees a sign.

HORROR BOOKS. HARDCOVER 3.00 AND UP. PAPERBACK 1.00 AND UP.

The girl gulps audibly. She’s read mystery books, thrillers, crime novels, sure. But this section of the store had been very clearly labeled as ‘forbidden and off limits’ by her parents. This was uncharted territory.

But, girls will be girls, and those children’s scary stories weren’t going to sustain her forever. In fact, she had already begun to get weird looks from parents of toddlers as she scoured the kid’s section of the story for books about ghosts.

So, mustering her courage, she explored.

Something caught her eye, and she stood on her tip toes to tug it out of it’s place on the dusty shelf. The gargoyle on the cover made her shiver and without even reading the back of it, she ran back through the maze to the front of the store to buy it.

It must have been Fall 2006 or 2007 when I first read this book, on that fateful day when I wandered away from my parents at Gardner’s book store in Tulsa. I still remember those first moments of icy terror that gripped my tiny little heart, and the strange fascination I had with the sexuality of the book. (I had just begun to question my own sexual orientation at the time). This book has been incredibly important to me, and I keep it amongst some of my oldest book-friends. The book is written like it could be true, in fact the actual author’s name is no where to be found in the book itself, so unless you had access to the internet (which, as a 12 year old who lived out in the country and didn’t even own a gameboy yet, I most certainly did not), you had no real way of knowing that this book was actually part of the wonderful marketing plan for Stephen King’s TV miniseries Rose Red, which came out in 2002. The book’s author is Ridley Pearson and it was published in 2001, as the account of real events from the perspective of Ellen Rimbauer, an oil tycoon’s young wife.

Ellen is a strong character. She is, for the most part, frightened and repulsed by her husband. In the early sections of the book she does genuinely love him and is aroused by him, but there are also definite moments where she lusts after other women, and upon meeting Sukeena, her black maid, she very clearly admits to herself that she is bisexual (not using that term, of course), having both a romantic and sexual interest in both men and women. The story is centered around the creation of her grand palace in Seattle, Washington, which she names Rose Red, and the paranormal happenings that occur within the walls of the house. Between the haunting of her home and her romantic and sexual encounters with both her husband and her lover, Sukeena, the book is just full of bewildering situations, especially to the eyes of a twelve year old sheltered christian girl.

I think its safe to say that the book kind of changed my life. I kept it hidden under my bed away from my parents, for sure that if they found it and read its contents that they would throw it away. The scary parts terrified me, and the sexual parts aroused a curiosity in me that later in my life would slowly manifest itself into a full blown identity revelation (I still remember the exact moment I was laying in bed with one of my childhood friends about two years later, and I found myself wanting to kiss her and I realized, well, hell, I must be gay).

The book is very well written and at the very least, entertaining. My rose colored glasses can’t keep me from scrutinizing it’s grammar and writing style as an adult, so I can say without hesitation that it is, as a whole, a phenomenal piece of literature and is highly underrated and little known. It deserves a lot more attention than it got, not only as a fantastic book but also as an incredible marketing tactic. Well done, Stephen King. Well done.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

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This book review is long overdue. I, being raised in an incredibly Christian environment, was obviously never allowed to read or watch Rosemary’s Baby until I was well out of the sheltered roof of my parents. I first saw Rosemary’s Baby, the incredible 1968 movie starring Mia Farrow, on netflix two years ago. Since then, I’ve watched it at least a hundred times, bought my own copy of the DVD and have now read the book through twice, since my eager purchase of it when I found it in a local used book store.

Anyway, on to the actual review. I adore this book. It is, in my opinion, far superior to the movie. The movie pretty much copies the book word for word, especially in the dialogue, but won’t we don’t really get in the movie, despite Mia Farrow’s ridiculously amazing acting, is Rosemary’s thoughts, which play a pretty big role in the book. In the movie, you don’t really know that Rosemary GENUINELY likes Minnie and that Sapirstien is actually much more caring and kind to Rosemary than he is portrayed. And in the book, Rosemary doesn’t suspect a single thing is suspicious with Minnie and Roman and Guy until like the last two or three chapters. Which makes her realization of the betrayal even more jarring than the movie.

All those comparisons aside though, the movie does a really good job of getting the important parts of the book correct. It is set in 1966, in New York City, and the story revolves around the housewife of a struggling actor who gets pregnant under…questionable circumstances, unbeknownst to her. The book is extremely well written, Ira Levin is known for his prose, and he certainly does not disappoint in Rosemary’s Baby. The characters are all very developed and you grow very attached to the main character, Rosemary. I have no complaints about this book, and can without a doubt say it is one of my favorites. My only real qualm might be that it portrays Satanists as being kind of awful and lets-put-people-in-a-coma-and-kill-them-to-get-them-out-of-our-way and very hey-we-just-met-this-chick-lets-set-her-up-to-be-raped-and-bear-satans-child, whereas, in real life, satanists (which are NOT synonymous to witches, by the way) are a lot more chill and a lot of them are actually like environmentalists and very accepting and nice in general. (I know this because I have a few friends who are Satanist and honestly I’ve never met nicer people).

Overall, it gets a solid 5/5 from me. It’s an easy read, not too long and not at all dry, while also being fairly fast paced for being one of the more ‘slow’ horror books (since people aren’t being butchered, it more or less follows the life of a pregnant housewife). If you are a horror fan and haven’t already, you should definitely give this a read.

Buy it here!

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley

Five Nights at Freddy's: The Silver Eyes by Kira Breed-Wrisley, Scott ...

I confess, I am a gigantic fan of the Five Nights at Freddy’s Franchise. I have posters, plush toys, figurines and even fan-made music based on the games. Buying the book Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes only seemed natural, and I was incredibly excited for its release. The recent release of Sister Location prompted me to write a review on Scott’s recent book, his re-imagining of the Five Nights plot as a coherent story. I read the book over a month ago and absolutely loved it. My life has been a little crazy lately, however, so I just haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet.

The Silver Eyes is a horrific and twisted story about a child murderer who kills many children over a period of decades. The main character is Charlie, a young girl who returns to her hometown of Hurricane after ten years for a scholarship memorial dedicated to her friend, Michael, who was one of the murdered children. The story follows Charlie and her friends’ journey as they return to the scene of the murder and become involved in a decade long sinister plot.

The setting of this book is inherently creepy-even if you haven’t played the games-you get a very clear picture of this old, dilapidated and abandoned Chucky Cheese-esque pizza place. The haunted, revenge-seeking animatronics are an entirely new concept in horror and lord, do they deliver the scares! The Silver Eyes combines a cute, budding romance, good representations of anxiety and PTSD, as well as the coming of age story of a young girl haunted by her past.

Charlie, the leading female character, is the daughter of one of the co-owners of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, the location where the five children were murdered, five children that Charlie was friends with. Her father committed suicide shortly after, causing the town to belief that he was guilty. Charlie and many of her friends left the town to escape the darkness of what had occurred. Each character has a complex personality and is very well written. I can’t say that I was surprised, because Scott is known for hiding deep story elements behind jumpscares in the video games. This story was a wonderful experience for a Five Nights fangirl such as myself.

My favorite part of the story was definitely near the end, where everything starts falling into place and Charlie remembers her past and uses it to help her and her friends escape the horrors they now face. Charlie is such a dynamic character who uses her tragedy and becomes stronger because of it. For such a dark story, it has a pretty happy ending. I was pleasantly surprised by that.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys horror, but especially people who like Five Nights at Freddy’s and want to know more about the new Sister Location game, as Scott has confirmed that they are both part of the same timeline and canon. It’s a very good story with twists and turns and amazing characters with flushed out personalities and believable traits. Also, it has an adorable underlying romance tale and a good balance of darkness and comedic relief. It’s a very creative and unique work. I give it a 5/5 and it is definitely on my top 3 favorite books of all time list.

Buy it here!

The Bargaining by Carly Anne West

The Secret Writer: 'The Bargaining' by Carly Anne West

The Bargaining is Carly Anne West’s second book I believe, (the first being The Murmuring, which I will probably read very soon) and it follows the tragic life of Penny, a child of divorce who has recently loss someone close to her. She suffers from dissociation and hallucinations, and struggles with depression as well. She constantly blames herself for what happened, even though West does not really give us a clear picture of exactly what that event was until near the end of the story.

The tension in this book is completely fathomable. It is so thick you could cut it with a knife. The characters are well written, each having a unique personality and a story. When Penny is dragged away for the summer to help her step mother renovate a dilapidated old house, you find out more about the step mom, April, as well. She is actually my favorite character and is really likable, dispelling the ‘evil step mother’ stereotype. Her parents, on the other hand, are both pretty awful.

The setting for this is small town Washington in the dense woods of the Pacific Northwest. I actually have family who live in that same environment or area, just south of Seattle. So that was really cool for me to know exactly what the author was describing. It is definitely a creepy setting, so well done, Carly! The personalities in the small town near their summer project are very colorful and spooky. The house itself, located in the middle of the woods, completely isolated from the world, has a certain air about it that makes you heart beat a bit faster, even as a reader. It is actually a place I would love to spend the weekend! I’m a sucker for haunted houses!

West is a master of leaving bread crumbs and holding back, so that the twists and turns are huge and hard to see coming. I picked this book up and two hours later I was finished with it. It was so good that I could not put it down! The introduction is captivating and terrifying. You really feel for these characters, especially if the reader has come from a broken home, lost a loved one, been abused, or dealt with mental illness. It really hits close to home for me, as I have lost many people that I love, some of which I blame myself for not being there enough for them (suicide). I also cope with chronic depression, history of suicide attempts and bouts of suicidal thoughts, and severe social anxiety. I guess that is why I relate so much to Penny, and what she has been through.

Penny also has a love of photography, and it is one of her coping mechanisms throughout the book. This I can also relate to, as I enjoy photography in my spare time with my Nikon. All of these personal ties really made the book easy to ‘get into’ and I enjoyed it a lot.

I will say that the ending left me a bit conflicted and wanting more. I reread the last two chapters over and over, trying to understand them better. I do not know if this is just me being silly or if the author did that on purpose to leave me stumped.

In conclusion, if you like ghost stories that have a lot of depth and are extensively creepy, this is the book for you!
You can search for the book on amazon to support this lovely author!

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have a good day!

Buy it here!