Every Halloween Read

If the few books I’ve read this year weren’t enough recs, here are the gothic and horror books I’ve read in previous years.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Where it really began, (for me at least). Shelley’s masterpiece was the first book I reviewed here for my gothic series. Read my review here.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Du Maurier used tight, concise language to weave her masterful tale of gothic suspense. Read my review here.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

“I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt. I fear. I think strange things…” The book that launched a thousand copycats (sort of). Read my review here.

We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down by Rachael Hanel

Not so much gothic or suspenseful, Hanel’s memoir is about her fascination with cemeteries that began with her gravedigger father. Read my review here.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Jackson is known for the creepy atmosphere of her books. This is a definite winner. Read my review here.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Creepy and imaginative, McMahon’s The Winter People is the perfect Halloween read. Read my review here.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

A 400 pager, but there isn’t a single unnecessary word here. So good. Read my review here.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Again, Jackson’s reputation proceeds her, and this is a great Halloween read. Read my review here.



What’s your favorite Halloween read?



Halloween Reads: Quick Reviews of Suspense & Gothic Books

Keeping with tradition, I read a few gothic books this month. However, breaking with tradition, I don’t plan to write separate reviews of every book I read. So, here’s a compilation of quick reviews of these books.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, gothic, graphic novel

Beautifully illustrated and hauntingly gothic, this graphic novel features stories about people entering the woods…and sometimes returning. The stories are imaginative and spooky. Carroll’s illustrations not only drive the stories forward but also add to the suspense. I highly recommend this for a quick and beautiful read.

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb gothic novel

The gothic manse moves to the North Shore of Lake Superior in this novel. Suspenseful and imaginative,  I enjoyed going along for the ride as the tale twisted and unwove throughout the novel. An interesting concept that yielded a good read with enough surprises. While it emulates the idea of books like Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, it isn’t quite as strong but still very enjoyable and a quicker read than Waters’ works.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Peculiar indeed. Supernatural and gothic, this was an enjoyable read. I didn’t find it as intriguing and suspenseful as I’d hoped, but the visual and literary multimedia experience was well done.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

An unusual haunting tells the story of one mansion in New York through several generations of owners. An interesting novel but not one I’d highly recommend. Oliver’s language could at once be beautiful – I found many passages very quotable – but then it switched to be almost mundane.


This year I didn’t enjoy my books nearly as much as I did last year. I read some great books, but there wasn’t the level of gothic suspense that I’d hoped for. In previous years I spent more time researching and picking my books. This year, I picked them all out last minute. Serves me right not to plan ahead!

Have you read anything great this month?

Fantastically Realistic: Thoughts on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Welcome back to my third Halloween-themed post!

The Haunting of Hill House
By Shirley Jackson

Until last October, my only experience with Shirley Jackson had been listening to The Lottery what felt like a few dozen times in high school. While enjoyable, it wasn’t the same as experiencing her first hand, so I selected We Have Always Lived in the Castle as part of last year’s Halloween series. (Read my review here.) After a positive experience last year, I chose The Haunting of Hill House this year.


No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood my itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

With The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson brought her patented almost-normal-but-still-not-quite-right characters in a realistic setting with paranormal or occult occurrences and influences. Like We Have Always Lived in the Castle’s Merricat Blackwood, Eleanor Vance, who would become a very short-term resident of Hill House, exhibits stunted emotions and thought processes and a paranoid affect. We experience some of her disturbing and insecure inner monologue, which still doesn’t even foreshadow how the book would end.

Perhaps it has us now, this house, perhaps it will not let us go.

Overall, I found The Haunting of Hill House to be an excellent Halloween read. Like my other top-choice Halloween reads, this book isn’t terrifying, but it presents just enough suspense and just enough of the paranormal that it kept my interest and maintained a gradually building sense of dread.


Writing 4 out of 5 stars

I love Jackson’s complex sentences and how she successfully pairs them with simple sentences that pack a strong punch. Overall, though, while technically strong, there were parts of her writing and the story that didn’t quite click for me.

Character Development  5 out of 5 stars

Despite the brief week they spent together, Jackson’s characters developed a unique relationship. Their unusual dialogue added to the overall impact of the book—it almost seemed that as a reader I was somehow a member of the group in Hill House due to an initiation of sorts with the dialogue.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

While the book only spanned one week of time, it seemed that the group had been at Hill House for much longer—quite possibly what Jackson wanted the reader to feel. The plot was well structured; however, it seemed to squeeze the main action points too close to the end of the book. They almost felt rushed.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Again, Jackson tells a fantastic, suspenseful tale using her trademark realistic setting, slightly offbeat if not cognitively and emotionally stunted characters.

Total  4.5 out of 5 stars

Have you read The Haunting of Hill House? What did you think?

Richly Suspenseful: Thoughts on Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger

Welcome back to my second Halloween-themed post!

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

With her new book The Paying Guests receiving acclaim by reviewers, it seemed fortuitous that I had just picked up one of Sarah Waters’ previous books to feature in my Halloween series. Like The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, I discovered The Little Stranger using my library’s new-to-me online recommendation feature. Again, like The Winter People, it was recommended to me because of my interest in The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

In elegant, mannered prose, the narrators of these psychologically suspenseful ghost stories describe their encounters with possible supernatural phenomena at declining English country estates. Both leisurely paced yet intricately plotted novels boast an atmospheric historical setting imbued with menace.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters: A Review at The 1000th Voice

The Little Stranger
By Sarah Waters

In Waters’ The Little Stranger, British country doctor Faraday recounts the downfall of the Ayres family and Hundreds Hall in the years between the wars.


As I read The Little Stranger, I wasn’t sure if it would fit the bill for a Halloween read, but about halfway through, I determined that it fit the type of suspenseful gothic novels I enjoy reading, particularly this time of year.

George & Amal's country manor

George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin purchased this 17th-century English manor shortly after their wedding.

An English country estate may be one of the most romantic places in the world, but it’s certainly also one of the creepiest. Waters has skillfully created the setting at Hundreds Hall and the surrounding country side between the great wars. England, along with its young men and their families, are still trying to recover or just trying to survive in the new world created in those years leading up to WWII.

And somehow the loss of her made me want her, plainly and physically, more than the nearness of her had done: I stepped to the door and stood against it, frustrated, willing her to return.

I found this novel hard to put down. If it weren’t, there’s no way I would have finished it with a newborn at home. The pacing of the story and the writing are so superb I just craved the next sentence and the next little turn in the book. The richly detailed Hundreds Hall, which served as the main setting, was so realistic I felt as if I were walking down its dark, dusty halls and into its stale, closed-off rooms.

In any other setting, such a story would have struck me as farcical. But the Hall, by now, had a disconcertingly palpable air of stress and tension: the women in it were tired and nervous, and I could see that Mrs. Bazely’s fear, at least, was very real. When she’d finished speaking, I left her side, and went across the kitchen to look at the speaking-tube myself. Lifting the tea-cloth I found a bland ivory cup and whistle, fixed to the wall at head height on a shallow wooden mount. A less sinister looking thing it would have been hard to imagine—and yet, when I thought of the disquiet it had managed to inspire, the very quaintness of the object before me began to seem slightly grotesque. I was reminded uneasily of Roderick. I remembered those ‘ordinary things’—the collar, the cufflinks, the shaving mirror—which had seemed, in his delusion, to come to crafty, malevolent life.


Writing 5 out of 5 stars

Waters is known for writing richly detailed stories, and this is no exception. The setting is realistic and the suspense builds palpably.

Character Development  5 out of 5 stars

Narrators are generally not considered reliable, but, in using Faraday to tell the entire story, Waters developed a number of strong characters.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

Waters has written a measured, successfully-plotted story.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

With a general sense of suspense and dread building throughout, Waters has told a very successful story with The Little Stranger. 

Total 5 out of 5 stars

I enthusiastically endorse reading The Little Stranger no matter what time of year it is!

Have you read any of Waters’ novels? What did you think?