Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Review)

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

About the author

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Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.

Blurb

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Review

I have seen so many reviews of this book and it has featured on my instagram account a great deal so I thought it was high time I gave it a read. Thankfully I was not disappointed.

The first few chapters of the book I will be honest had me slightly worried as it seemed to be heading down a predictable route and to a certain extent it was what I was predicting but with a twist and I’m so pleased I read it till the end.

Neomi is a true socialite who is used to getting her own way in the world. She has her father wrapped around her little finger and she knows how to get a man to do anything for her. She is beautiful and stylish but no simpleton, she is highly educated and I love the fact she has so many opportunities to show her knowledge.

Francis is such a sweetie all he wants to do is help Neomi but he is constrained by his family. He’s so shy and has clearly led a very sheltered life, he has never met a woman like Neomi before in his life and it is clear he finds her fascinating. I really loved Francis’ character and loved getting to know his character.

High Place is a mystery and a mouldy one at that, it really sounds like a nightmare to live in but the people who call it home do not seem to mind the state of place but Neomi notices it. The mould on the walls, the lack of reliable electricity and hot water and the fact that the curtains remain closed can not help the situation. It really must be a dismal place to live and seems like something from a gothic novel to Neomi.

The character I did not like was Virgil as he was clearly a bully and a very slimy character. He is described as handsome but his character does not reflect that. Florence, Francis’ mother, is also a nasty lady but at the same time I felt sorry for her. Florence clearly tried to change her future and clearly had a happier past but now she is a different woman left with broken dreams. You see snippets of this through the book.

I really enjoyed reading this book, oh and I love the cover of the book. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but the cover really is eye catching. The storyline for this book is brilliantly written and cleverly thought out. I will definitely be reading Moreno-Garcia’s other books. I give this book 4 out 5 Dragons.

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Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Review)

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

About the author

Anthony Horowitz, OBE is ranked alongside Enid Blyton and Mark A. Cooper as “The most original and best spy-kids authors of the century.” (New York Times). Anthony has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he is also the writer and creator of award winning detective series Foyle’s War, and more recently event drama Collision, among his other television works he has written episodes for Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. Anthony became patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices in 2009.

Blurb

Featuring his famous literary detective Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland, hero of the worldwide bestseller Magpie Murders, a brilliantly complex literary thriller by Anthony Horowitz. The follow-up to Magpie Murders.

Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her longterm boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted – but is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss her old life in London.

And then a couple – the Trehearnes – come to stay, and the story they tell about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married, is such a strange and mysterious one that Susan finds herself increasingly fascinated by it. And when the Trehearnes tell her that their daughter is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to London and find out what really happened …

Review

I was so excited about this book as I love Anthony Horowitz’s books, sadly I was sorely disappointed with this book. I will be honest I haven’t read Magpie Murders but after this I don’t think I will because I just can’t stand Susan Ryeland!

I tried so hard to like Susan Ryeland but she just grated on my nerves endlessly. She came across as a massive pain in the neck with no real skill who just got under everyone’s feet and she also came across as very selfish.

What saved this book for me was the wonderful story within the story. Atticus Pund Takes the Case was a wonderful read. I could not stop reading it. Atticus is a fantastic character and very much a detective from the golden age of detective novels. He could be straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. The story was brilliantly written and I loved how it all came together at the end.

All in all the Susan Ryeland story is just too unbelievable for me and I really did not enjoy reading that part of the story but I’m so pleased I did not give up because otherwise I would have missed out on the Atticus Pund story. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons but those 3 Dragons are for the Atticus Pund story as I wouldn’t have even bothered rating the Susan Ryeland part sadly.

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Too Good To Be True by Ann Cleeves (Review)

Too Good To Be True by Ann Cleeves

About the author

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Ann Cleeves was born in 1954 and is an English crime writer. She has won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger and her Vera and Jimmy Perez novels have been dramatised as TV detective series. She currently resides in Whitley Bay.

Blurb

Too Good To Be True is a gripping Quick Read from Ann Cleeves, featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez from the bestselling Shetland series.

When young teacher Anna Blackwell is found dead in her home, the police think her death was suicide or a tragic accident. After all, Stonebridge is a quiet country village in the Scottish Borders, where murders just don’t happen.

But Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez soon arrives from far-away Shetland when his ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to look into the case. The local gossips are saying that her new husband, Tom, was having an affair with Anna. Could Tom have been involved with her death? Sarah refuses to believe it – but needs proof.

Anna had been a teacher. She must have loved kids. Would she kill herself knowing there was nobody to look after her daughter? She had seemed happier than ever before she died. And to Perez, this suggests not suicide, but murder . . .

Review

I love the Quick Reads books and have discovered quite a few authors that I enjoy from reading books from this series and this book is no exception. My parents are massive Ann Cleeves fans but I will be honest I have never read any of her books but looking for a short read for the weekend I came across this book and promptly began reading.

Although this is only a short book and I easily read it in one setting I really liked the character of Jimmy Perez and would love to read more books about this character. He worked out the case brilliantly even though the policeman who was in charge of the case missed some pretty obvious things and really should have had his wrists slapped for his sloppy policing and just jumping to the easiest conclusion. Perez is obviously a deeply caring person who will do anything for family and that was really moving to read about even if it was only hinted at.

The story contains the question of was it a suicide or a murder and Perez is left to work it out but as he is trying to unravel the mystery there is a sinister figure that is clearly watching him.

This story had everything: mystery, suspense, crime and much more. I loved this book and will definitely be reading more by Ann Cleeves, hopefully the parents will allow me to borrow some of their copies. A fantastic short read that I read in one sitting and I highly recommend to all crime fiction fans. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths (ARC Review)

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

About the author

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Elly Griffiths was born in London and began her career in publishing, she then turned to writing full time. In 2016 she won the CWA Dagger in the Library for her work. Griffiths lives in Brighton with her family and the cat Gus.

Blurb

PS: thanks for the murders.

The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death.

But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…

And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…

And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…

Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

Review

This is my first non-Dr Ruth Galloway book from Griffiths and I was so excited when I discovered I had been granted my request to read it on NetGalley.

Peggy Smith has died but has she been murdered? Peggy is also a ‘murder consultant’ who helps authors with the crime writing. As the story goes on more murders happen and the mystery thickens.

I’m not sure why but I struggled to get into this book and it just did not move along as I would have liked it to. I really liked the characters Harbinder and Neil and really liked their working relationship. However I disliked her repeatedly comparing Neil to a type of animal and thought it was unnecessary and rather mean of her. I also enjoyed the fact Harbinder still lived at home with her parents and the family dog Sultan.

The character that really grated on my nerves was Natalka. She really drove me insane. I found her very arrogant and self centred. I didn’t mind Benedict and Edwin and thought that they were both interesting and rather endearing characters, especially Benedict who was once a monk and now owns a coffee shop. But the whole concept of Natalka, Benedict and Edwin running off trying to solve the crime just came across as ridiculous and really they should have been arrested for meddling in a murder case. I think it was the whole storyline of this book that put me off as it did just come across as all a bit fanciful.

I still liked elements of this book and will admit I did not see the conclusion of the book at all. I will read the first book with Harbinder in and give the series another shot but sadly this book was just not for me. I only give the book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quercus Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

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On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons by Laura Cumming (Review)

On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons by Laura Cumming

 

About the author

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Laura Cumming (born July 1961) the art critic for The Observer. In addition to her career in journalism, Cumming has written well-received books on self-portraits in art and the discovery of a lost portrait by Diego Velázquez in 1845.

Blurb

In the autumn of 1929, a small child was kidnapped from a Lincolnshire beach. Five agonising days went by before she was found in a nearby village. The child remembered nothing of these events and nobody ever spoke of them at home. It was another fifty years before she even learned of the kidnap.

The girl became an artist and had a daughter, art writer Laura Cumming. Cumming grew up enthralled by her mother’s strange tales of life in a seaside hamlet of the 1930s, and of the secrets and lies perpetuated by a whole community. So many puzzles remained to be solved. Cumming began with a few criss-crossing lives in this fraction of English coast – the postman, the grocer, the elusive baker – but soon her search spread right out across the globe as she discovered just how many lives were affected by what happened that day on the beach – including her own.

Review

I had such high hopes for this book and I was so excited when I bought it because I loved the sound of the book and thought it sounded like a fantastic read. Sadly, I was very disappointed, although I know that this is probably a controversial opinion looking at other reviews on Goodreads and on book blogs. I do however think the hype and advertising for this book has been very misleading in just how gripping the story is.

I enjoyed the beginning of this book but quickly guessed the outcome as it was just an age old story that has happened many times in history.

This to me was a book of meandering thoughts and it drove me mad, Cumming clearly knows her stuff about art and history but this book really needed to be more to the point. Cumming just kept going off course and it was infuriating, this also meant that there was far too much book for the main thread of the story. It really could have been half the length and for me would have been a lot more enjoyable if it had been shorter and more to the point. It was like Cumming was worried it was going to be too short so she padded it out with other random thoughts.

I can see that this story is written for the love of her mother and I can imagine that Cumming’s mother must be very touched by her daughter’s book but to the casual reader it is too much. It is also very repetitive at times. I was grinding my teeth in frustration. It really could have done with someone just gently removing the repetition from the book for Cumming.

Overall I’m amazed I stuck this book out because some days I could have quite easily chucked it through the window but I did finish it in the end just to see the outcome. I give this book 2 out of 5 Dragons because only books that I do not finish get 1 Dragon.

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A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Various Authors (Review)

A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Various Authors and edited by Cecily Gayford

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Blurb

The Christmas season is one of comfort and joy, sparkling lights and steam rising from cups of mulled wine at frosty carol services. A season of goodwill to all men, as families and friends come together to forget their differences and celebrate the year together.

Unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring a grudge. Or hiding a guilty secret. Or you want something so much you just have to have it – whatever the cost. In A Very Murderous Christmas, ten of the best classic crime writers come together to unleash festive havoc, with murder, mayhem and twists aplenty.

Following Murder on Christmas Eve and Murder under the Christmas Tree, this is the perfect accompaniment to a mince pie and a roaring fire. Just make sure you’re really, truly alone …

Review

I bought this book last year just after Christmas so I never read it and thought I would save if for Christmas 2019. I’ve been desperate to start my Christmas reading and so kicked it off by reading this book. I read a short story a night and loved it.

The book has a range of short stories but sadly they are not all murder mysteries and some are just merely mysteries. My favourite story was Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz, it really made me giggle.

The first story in the book The Man with the Sack by Margery Allingham set the scene of a wonderful Christmas in the old days where the village children would come and visit the big house and someone would dress as Father Christmas and give out presents. I really enjoyed the beginning of this story but must admit I found the ending rather a disappointment and it was all a bit too predictable for me.

The Adventure of the Red Widow by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr was very amusing and it was a nice Sherlock Holmes mystery and I enjoyed the murder mystery immensely but I must admit I found the ending rather sad, not something I wanted from a Christmas book, even a murder mystery Christmas book.

Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz my absolute favourite of the book and made me giggle. A proper little Christmas story.

The Flying Stars by G. K. Chesterton I must admit I found this story rather annoying in places and rather predictable. Just could not get on with characters in this story and rather pleased it was only short.

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake this story I did enjoy and loved how it unfurled, a real mystery and set on a train with snow. A perfect Christmas tale with more than one crime to solve.

Loopy by Ruth Rendell now this story I found disturbing and rather worrying. The main character had clearly been over protected by his mother his entire life and also did not live in the real world or cope well when made to deal with it.

Morse’s Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter. Oh I love a Morse story and this one was excellent. Morse is so eccentric in this story and his usual grumpy self, it did make me laugh.

The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell. An odd Christmas story and I’m not entirely sure I would have included it in a Christmas book if I had been choosing the stories but the plot was good and overall an interesting concept.

Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces by John Mortimer. This is another wonderful story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It had all the Christmas requirements: a pantomime, snow, a cold vicarage, Christmas parties and festive spirit. A perfect little Christmas story.

The Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse by Edward Hook. The last story of the book was a great mystery and rather Johnathan Creek in style and not just because of the windmill!

Overall I loved this book and would highly recommend it, especially as you can just dip into it over the festive season. The only reason it didn’t get the full 5/5 Dragons and only 4 was because it did not have a full set of murder mystery stories and because The Flying Stars just annoyed me.

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The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths (Review)

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

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About the author

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Elly Griffiths was born in London and began her career in publishing, she then turned to writing full time. In 2016 she won the CWA Dagger in the Library for her work. Griffiths lives in Brighton with her family and the cat Gus.

Blurb

Forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway is called in to advise when builders, demolishing a Victorian house in Norwich, uncover the skeleton of a child – minus the skull. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain murder?

The house was once a children’s home. DCI Harry Nelson meets the priest who used to run it, who tells him two children did go missing forty years before – a boy and a girl. They were never found.

But someone is trying hard to put both Ruth and Nelson off the scent – and a seemingly forgotten crime becomes terrifyingly real, with deadly consequences.

Review

Firstly, Elly Griffiths is fast becoming an absolute favourite of mine, every book of hers I read I can not put down and look forward to reading the next one.

I loved this story and loved the connections with Roman history and the God Janus. When I was younger I absolutely loved the history of the Roman Gods and Janus was a personal favourite, I became obsessed with closing gates so I didn’t anger him.

It was really nice to be reading about Dr Ruth Galloway again, she is such a wonderful character, she is down to earth, intelligent and not glamorous or hung up on her appearance. DCI Nelson is rough around the edges and does not pull his punches and quite funny.

The character that I really enjoyed in this book is Cathbad, he is so free and funny and really does not care what people think of him. I wish he would feature more in the stories to be honest.

The book was fast paced and kept me hooked from the beginning. I must admit I did work out the culprit but it did not ruin the story for me and it was a nice surprise that the story did not go down the predictable line I thought it was looking like.

The other element I loved was the personal dramas of the characters unfolding and I enjoyed that as much as the actual crime investigation unfolding. Overall I loved this book and have given it 5 out 5 Dragons. I highly recommend it to everyone but especially people who love a good crime drama.

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The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs (Review)

The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

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About the author

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John Belliars (1938-1991) was an award-winning American author of many gothic mystery novels for children and young adults.

Blurb

When orphaned Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his Uncle Jonathan, he is amazed to find out there is a wizard in his family.

Lewis experiments with Uncle Jonathan’s spells and uncovers the mystery behind the ticking that he can hear throughout the house, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. It’s an evil clock and it could destroy humankind.

It is up to the Barnavelt’s to find where the clock is hidden in the walls – and stop it.

Review

I bought this book ages ago and it has just been sat in a pile gathering dust but I spotted it the other day and thought that looks like a fun quick read and thankfully I was correct. As I have mentioned previously I do enjoy reading children’s books and especially enjoy reading them when I’m very busy or stressed. I can truthfully say I loved this book and could not put it down.

The three main characters Lewis, Uncle Jonathan and Mrs Zimmermann were fantastic. I especially loved the character of Mrs Zimmermann who isn’t afraid of anything and speaks her mind and has an unhealthy obsession with the colour purple. She just seems to be the ultimate cool aunt figure.

Uncle Jonathan is the ultimate cool uncle, teaching Lewis to play poker and letting him stay up late and basically doing what he likes within reason. Lewis is the typical child who doesn’t quite fit in at school but has found his happy place living with his Uncle because as the story develops you can see that Uncle and nephew are rather alike.

Overall I loved the storyline and it kept me hooked from the start, the idea of magic being in a house and its walls was fantastic and in places it was rather spooky although that part was rather rushed through but that was probably because it is a children’s book. The only issue I had with the story was the lack of story about the actual clock, considering the book is about the clock in the walls it hardly features and it just feels like a very rushed ending.

I give this book 4 out of 5 dragons because of the lack of clock in the story. I highly recommend it to children and adults alike. A really good read that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.

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Girl in Trouble by Stacy Claflin (Review)

Girl in Trouble by Stacy Claflin

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About the author

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Stacy Claflin is a USA Today bestselling author who writes about complex women overcoming incredible odds. Whether it’s her Gone saga of psychological thrillers, her various paranormal romance tales, or her sweet romance series, Stacy’s three-dimensional characters shine through.

Decades after she wrote her first stories on construction paper and years after typing on an inherited green screen computer that weighed half a ton, Stacy realized her dream of becoming a full-time bestselling author.

When she’s not busy writing or educating her kids from home, Stacy enjoys watching TV shows like Supernatural, Pretty Little Liars, and Once Upon a Time.

Blurb

He gave up his daughter years ago, but now he’ll risk his life to save hers.

Alex Mercer is no stranger to kidnappings. The emotional scars still run deep from his sister’s disappearance years earlier. His daughter Ariana remains safe long after her adoption, and he cherishes the few times a year he gets to see her. The joy is palpable when he takes her on their first one-on-one outing. At least until he pauses to answer a text and Ariana disappears…

Wracked with guilt and determined to find answers, Alex teams up with an unlikely ally at the police department. As the clues reveal a pattern of missing girls, the kidnapping case becomes a race against time to save Ariana. What cost is Alex willing to pay to keep his daughter alive?

Review

I got this book as a freebie on Apple Books and I must admit it did not take me long to read and was nice to pick up and read when I had a few minutes spare. This was an easy read and I enjoyed the story but for me it lacked the wow factor and the ending was rather predictable.

I really liked the characters in this book especially Alex and Nick the police captain. I also liked how the character of Alex developed from a dead beat man who had little to do with his daughter but as the story went along Alex turned into a dad determined to get his little girl back and become a better dad and person in general.

The character that I did not like very much was Zoey, Alex’s ex and Ariana’s mother. She drove me slightly mad and I would be happy to not have her feature greatly in the following books in the series if I decide to continue reading the series. I’m not sure what it was that caused me to dislike the character but for some reason she grated against my nerves.

I will be honest it took me a while to get used to Claflin’s writing style and the sheer number of chapters was a bit mind numbing at times but I did enjoy the story. I personally think this book would make a great holiday read or read on a long flight and I will happily read the rest of the series. I have only given this book 3 out of 5 Dragons because it just did not have the wow factor for me.

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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Review)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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About the author

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Henry James, born 15th April 1843, was an American-British author. He is best known for his novels dealing with social and marital interplay, in his later years his novels became more experimental. He passed away in February 1916.

Blurb

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

Review

This was the last book I completed on holiday and to be honest it was a massive disappointment. I just could not get on with James’ writing style and found the whole story to be extremely boring.

The story centres around a young woman who is hired to be the governess of two young orphans. The uncle of these children does not want to know anything of their upbringing or of any problems, he wants to live his life to the full unhindered by these children. The governess goes off to a large country estate to look after these children and she immediately starts to hear and see strange things.

Now my first reaction was that this governess is very young for such responsibility and inexperienced. Her imagination could easily be running wild, and turning the sounds of an old house into something more. The housekeeper does not help instead of giving the girl a good shake she just blindly accepts what the governess is saying.

Then the two ghosts start to appear that only the governess has seen but she is convinced the children have seen them too but the children are not afraid of the ghosts.

At times I did wonder and still do whether all of this was in the governess’ head because it just was not a very convincing gothic horror story. It just felt forced and sloppily written, and there were certain things that got on my nerves, for instance why did she just ignore that the boy was expelled from boarding school, why did she not found out why he was expelled or find him another school? The only good point was the description and setting the scene of the gothic style manor house.

The final straw was the ending which just annoyed me no end and just confirmed to me that the book had been a massive waste of my time, I was just thankful it was rather short. I gave this book 1 out 5 Dragons.

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Details of book I read

Page count: 124

Format: Kindle

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