Book Reviews

Book Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Berkley – Penguin Random House,  via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Horror/Mystery/Fantasy

Plot: When people go missing in the sleepy town of Smith’s Hollow, the only clue to their fate comes when a teenager starts having terrifying visions, in a chilling horror novel from national bestselling author Christina Henry.

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.

Opinion:

 

“It’s Mrs. Schneider. She won’t stop screaming. There’s so much blood.”

“Help me.”

“Find them. All the girls, girls like us. Find them.”

“We aren’t the only ones.”

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Set in the mid 80’s in a small and seemingly perfect town, Smiths Hollow is far from a dreamland. Each year a girl is taken, killed and found dismembered in the woods. What would surely cause most residents and towns to rise up in anger and cry in fury, the people of Smiths Hollow do none of that. Somehow, these yearly horrors slip from their minds. Friends are forgotten. Sisters are no longer thought about. Daughters begin to be erased from existence. But Lauren can’t seem to forget. Not after her father was found with his heart ripped out one year prior, and the police refuse to do anything about it. But when the bodies of two girls are found in an elderly woman’s backyard, Lauren takes it upon herself to find the truth. Because something is happening in Smiths Hollow…and something is happening to Lauren.

“Meet me by the old ghost tree.”

The Ghost Tree is Sleepy Hollow on murdery crack, and there is truly nothing better.

As we all know, Christina Henry is the Queen of bloodbaths.

She is the High Priestess of YA Horror, the Goddess of fairy-tales gone dark, and the Villainous Hero of atmospheric tales of all that is sinister and poetic.

This book was everything my dark little soul has been craving! I felt transported to a town that feels jarring, creepy, strange and off, while also seeming vibrant, homey and alluring. It being set in the 80’s gave it the perfect vintage creepiness that one would find in Halloween, and an innocent yet rough depiction of teenage femininity that mirrors Carrie. It leaves you sweating in shivers and wanting to enter the trees. You can almost smell the iron scent coating dried leaves, or hear the warnings on the wind.

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It is truly the perfect Autumn horror.

“There’s something wrong here.”

“There is something wrong with this town…”

Smiths Hollow is almost like any other town. A small town where everyone knows everyone, you shop at the small grocery store in town, gossip with neighbors, and seemingly forget that girls are dying left and right.

You know, normal.

The story is told in many different perspectives of various residents of the town, each giving a different form of insight into what is really happening in the shadows. At first, I was so confused with the memory aspect of this story. Because in some ways the characters seemed to realize girls were being killed and could remember, but in every other situation…it was as if they didn’t. This type of mystery lends a hand to the truly bizarre and disorienting tale that this book is, and allows the reader to feel completely in the dark for most of the book. Just like the MC, Lauren.

“I don’t want to be alone. Please don’t leave me alone.”

Though this is told through many different eyes, Lauren is the main focus and who we find to be the most reliable narrator. Though only fourteen, she is a fairly mature and levelheaded young girl who seems to really know who she is (I give credit to the era she grows up in). Our story starts with Lauren meeting her best friend Miranda by the Ghost Tree in the woods, a place that scares most residents of Smiths Hollow, but also a place the girls have gone to since they were small. Lauren feels comfort and peace when she is in the woods, which is surprising given all that’s…happened…

Lauren is a little more on the quiet side and very methodical. She harbors deep pain from the gruesome and brutal death that her father suffered a year before, and deep confusion as to why so many have brushed it aside. Not only have the police done nothing to investigate his murder, but even her mother seems to harbor ill-will and resentment towards her late husband.

“You’d think they’d remember a man who’d been found with his heart torn out more clearly.”

But as the story goes on, and the murders of two new girls seem to again be brushed under the rug, Lauren can’t help but yearn for answers. Especially when a violent vision of the girls being killed attacks her one day in the woods.

“There was something inside her brain trying to get out, something with a chainsaw howling, but the howling wasn’t pain – it was the kind of howling that meant laughter, and the laughter wasn’t the kind that invited others to laugh but the kind that you ran from while your heart slammed against your ribs and your legs moved of their own volition.”

But let’s really talk about the weirdness of Smiths Hollow.

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Lauren’s best friend Miranda is less of a best friend and more of a bully who puts Lauren down, all while attempting to seduce boys so she can lose her virginity. An elderly woman, Mrs. Schneider, has a very unwarranted hatred for her Hispanic neighbors and thinks that they’re killing people. The mayor of the town has an oddly obsessive fascination with bringing a fair to the town, the police force seems fine with not investigating any crimes, an eighteen-year-old boy stares at Lauren a lot, and her four-year-old brother acts like more of an adult than I do.

And better yet, he seems to see and hear things no one else can.

“Everyone knows, but they don’t know they do.”

From the very beginning, the story grabs you into a feverish hunger to know what is causing these people to act so flippant and why girls are getting killed. It is a slow-burn mystery that I binged in a day, and one I was just wishing I could transport into. But the best aspect of all, is that I had zero idea where this story would lead. Even at the 75% mark, I had no idea who or what was behind these killings. Sure, we get a little morsel here and a crumb there to keep us feeling satisfied, but just enough to make us crave more.

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My favorite part, by far, is when the “legend” is told. I LOVE that the story went into a fantastical direction, even if I wasn’t expecting it or seeing it as a plausible trope that could work with this plot. But alas, it made it SO much better! I love a legend and a dark fairy-tale even more, so naturally I was drooling at the mouth over the secrets and history that it revealed. And though I can’t give anything away without ruining the story, I will say that this trope being woven into the story was done flawlessly and didn’t take away from any of the eerie horror.

“And all the while, the hill and the house upon it watched.

And all the while, the tree waited for the signal from the hill.”

By far my favorite book that I have read in a while. It is PERFECT for those Autumn TBRs that so many of you readers have been crafting since January, and one that I HIGHLY recommend. For those who are afraid of Horror, don’t worry. It really isn’t as scary as my gifs and mood boards would lead you to believe. Christina Henry has a knack for setting a scene of foggy depths and bloody secrets, and that is exactly what The Ghost Tree is.

“And in time we’ll forget.”

4.5 Stars

 

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Book Promo

Binding of Bindings #50: My Top 10 Anticipated September 2020 Book Releases

It’s September
…which is almost October.

Guess we can start coming out of hiding now, huh?

 

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~* My Top 10 Anticipated September 2020 Book Releases *~

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1. Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove, Book 2) by Shelby Mahurin
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Romance

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It’s HEREEEEE!

Happy Release day to Blood & Honey…from…Tuesday!

We’ve been waiting a YEAR for this beautiful babe, and she is finally here!

I have my copy sitting with my other stack of books from a recent book shopping trip, but I’m holding off on starting it until I get a physical copy of Serpent & Dove (I only had a digital ARC of it).

So hopefully I don’t get spoilers, and hopefully I can control my impulses to know wtf happens until then.

If you DON’T know about S&D

Getch yo shit togetha hunny.

Serpent & Dove is basically a Church vs. Magic story. It follows a witch, the gorg Louise le Blanc who has SERIOUS Aelin vibes, who escaped her coven two years prior and now spends her time stealing, eating sticky cinnamon buns and pretending she isn’t a witch.

Vibe.

Reid Diggory is a Chasseur sworn to the Church. He has vowed to rid the world of all witches to make it “pure” again. But when these two opposing forces are found bound together in matrimony…well…shit gets amazing

(See my review for Serpent & Dove here)

 

 

2. Throwaway Girls by Andrea Contos
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller/LGBT

The second release from Tuesday was for another book that I was/am super stoked for, which is also my current read.

Throwaway Girls is about a girl named Caroline whose best friend disappears without a trace. But in true “best friend of missing teen begins to realize that said best friend was keeping secrets” fashion, Caroline quickly realizes that there may be more to her friend’s absence, especially when other girls begin to go missing.

Of course I love a good mystery and trope of best friends not really knowing each other, but what really pulled me in to this story is that Caroline goes to a prep school (you know I’m a slut for prep schools) and her parents are attempting to convert her to being straight.

 

 

3. Nobody Knows but You by Anica Mrose Rissi
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller/Contemporary

Another mystery, and more murder.

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Okay. Check it.

One thing I love more than prep school settings (which I REALLY love) is a trope where there’s two best friends and one may or may not be a psycho.

HUHKNEE.

Nobody Knows but You centers on best friends Lainie and Kayla, and how their Summer ends in murder.

The story is set at a summer camp that ends in literal bloodshed, and Lainie being put on trial for mayyyybee murdering her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But Kayla is devoted to keeping Lainie’s secrets, as best friends should, and refuses to let anything come between them…even a silly murder charge.

 

 

4. The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Genre: Horror/Mystery

The Queen of turning fairy tales into horror shitshows is back, and with a sweet and fluffy tale that starts with the bodies of two dead girls being found shredded.

Christina Henry bring us The Ghost Tree – a paranormal horror set in a town called Smith Hollow (HUH-KNEE, yes) where its inhabitats all seem to forget the grotesque and monstrous happenings that occur in their town over the years. But Lauren, our darling MC, is the one person who can’t seem to forget. And when she starts having visions of a monster dragging bodies, the truth she uncovers about her town is…

 

5. Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Genre: Adult/Mystery/Psychological Thriller

Don’t Look For Me is promising to be a jaw-dropping thriller with epic twists and turns.

It focuses on a tragic accident that happened years prior that rocked Molly Clarke’s family forever. But even though time has passed, Molly finds it impossible to forgive herself for what happened, and her children can’t either.

One night she contemplates leaving her family to escape the horrors of their past, but then…

…she disappears.

Her daughter Nicole is the only one who believes her mother wouldn’t just leave, and that there is more to what happened.

The story is a split narration between Molly and Nicole, and the reviews for it are ranting and raving about how much it sucks you in.

 

6. Horrid by Katrina Leno
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller/Horror/Mental Health

Can we just…take a minute?

THAT. COVER. THOUGH.

This tale is set in Maine.

And if that doesn’t set the tone for the entire story, I don’t know what will.

Horrid is a haunted house/psychological mind game of a story that centers on Jane and her mother as they move from California for a fresh start. While both women are trying to work through the heartache and despair that comes with the death of Jane’s father, Jane discovers that a room in their creepy new house used to be the room of a little girl…and her mother was keeping the door locked.

Hmmmm…

SUSPISH.

 

7. Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Paranormal

I CAN’T WITH THESE COVERS!

I’m expecting a deep, cutthroat, not-going-to-release-me-until-I-finish, weepy style of book here, so let’s go.

Dear Madam LaCour,

Emotionally ruin me like one of your french girls.

If there is anything I love more that ghosts, spirits and a haunting…it’s being gut-punched and ravaged by emotional trauma disguised in paranormal YA. Knowing Nina LaCour, this is going to be a delicately brutal spotlight on mental health, self-love and acceptance.

Watch Over Me follows Mila, who has just graduated high school and found herself on the coast of Northern California on a farm. The farm is haunted by the trauma and woes of its past inhabitants, and is also a place where Mila finds herself confronting her own darkness.

Is anyone getting intense Midsommar vibes?

I am ready to be weep into these pages like the emotionally damaged beauty that I am.

 

8. Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller/Horror/LGBT

OoOoOoOo a role-playing game of secrets in a cabin in the woods?!

GIMMMMEEEE!

Even If We Break is about five teens who come together to role-play and act out a sort of murder mystery. Some are harboring secrets and regrets, while others have long pasts and tensions pulling them apart.

To be honest, this description on this puppy is vague AF and the Goodreads reviews aren’t giving me much to go on either.

I just hope someone gets cut.

…like, literally though.

 

9. Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Genre: YA/Contemporary/LGBT/Thriller/Mystery

Surrender Your Sons has been at the top of my list for a few months now, and I am so excited to finally start it in anticipation for the release!

It’s about a young man named Connor who is shipped off to a conversion camp by his mother, after coming out to her. The camp is located on a secluded island, and it quickly becomes clear that things aren’t right at Nightlight Ministries. Connor plans to escape, and the other teens plan to join him. Because the truth of this camp is rotten to the core.

 

10. Crownchasers (Book 1) by Rebecca Coffindaffer
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Genre: YA/Sci-fi/Fantasy/LGBT

A YA sci-fi space tale of royalty and a game that stretches across the galaxy in order to prove oneself and become emperor?

Crownchasers follows Alyssa Farshot, niece to the emperor and explorer extraordinaire. Since she was a child, Alyssa has always seen herself choosing adventures over sitting on a throne. And when the emperor suddenly dies, instead of choosing Alyssa as his successor, it is written that there will be a crownchase:

Where one representative from each empire’s prime family compete in a race to to find the royal seal that has been hidden. The first to uncover the seal is given the throne.

And now Alyssa is forced between duty and her desires, and the high stakes of the game only make her task harder.

 

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Stay Witchy

Book Reviews · New Releases

Book Review: Dalton Highway by Freddie Åhlin

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, Freddie Åhlin, for an honest review.

Genre: Adult/Psychological Thriller/Horror

Plot: Forty-five-year-old truck driver Tom Richards is on the verge of losing everything. To save his marriage, and find a way out of crippling debt, he takes on the dangerous job of trucking across Dalton Highway, a 414-mile (666 km) long isolated passage through the Alaskan wilderness. By his side is his beloved five-year-old German Shepherd, Presley. It doesn’t take long before Tom realizes something isn’t right out on the road. First, he discovers a bulletin board filled with missing person posters, and later, he meets an elderly man who warns him about the powers of darkness. But desperate for the money, he refuses to turn back. When a storm erupts, Tom loses control of the truck and crashes in the middle of nowhere. Presley escapes into the deep forest, and Tom is forced to follow, only to discover the place is haunted by something more sinister than he could ever imagine. In a tense struggle against the clock and the wild nature of Alaska, Tom is forced to find his dog and a way out, before whatever is out there finds them.

Opinion:

“The fiery tongue licked after them.

The lights on the road were now in front of them.

Tom’s body collapsed, and all sounds faded to darkness.

The world silenced.”

“You’re going to die, Trucker.”

Tom Richards is hard-pressed for money and about to lose everything he holds dear. His wife is fed up and ready to leave him, and their money woes aren’t the only reason for the strain on their marriage. But Tom hopes that his job across the Dalton Highway will bring back enough money to invest in their happiness…so long as he makes it back alive. 414 miles is nothing for a trucker, but this highway that borders the vast and dangerous wilderness of Alaska can be daunting for any traveler. While Tom and his German Shepherd Presley start their journey, they quickly discover the abundance of disappearances that surrounds this vast and haunting area. But when they crash in the woods, they realize something else might be out there besides your standard predator.

Something is coming for them…

…and it might not be what it seems.

 

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“He slapped away the flies. They fell to the ground and made the piles of discarded bones shake with false hope.”

Dalton Highway was a quick read and a great debut novel by author Freddie Åhlin. It’s a chaotic tale of a man and his dog trying to escape the horrors and predators of the Alaskan wilderness. One where reality quickly begins to morph into a conflicting state of paranoia and horror, causing the reader to question fact from fiction even after the story fades to black.

What the F just happened?

This psychological thriller is perfectly categorized, in that my brain is positively reeling from the cluster of wild and disorienting events I found myself engulfed in. If there’s one thing I love in any type of mystery/thriller, it’s a completely unassuming and totally unreliable narrator. These mysterious characters are always presented in a way that feels so genuine, so authentic. And by the time things start to shift around them, the reader is drowned in the slight thought of “is this character crazy…or did we just step into the Twilight Zone?”.

Tom Richards is your typical driven and hardworking middle-aged man who only wants to provide for his family. Throughout the story we are given more detail and looks into his personality, home life and even a bit of his childhood. As pieces start to unfold about who he is and his experiences, the reader can easily find themselves gravitating towards him. In most instances, Tom seems to be totally naive and easily worked up about missing persons posters or his slight isolation within just an hour of driving. He comes across as a good guy, but one that is easily rattled and who has an overactive imagination. I quickly found myself deciding that Tom was a bit of a drama queen. That he was reading far too into every tiny instance and trying to make little details into epic signs of impending doom.

Well…color me shocked when I reached the end.

But EVEN with this ending, I am still wondering what the actual truth is! WHO IS TOM?! How much of this was real? Was it all real?

Did this REALLY happen?

Or is this another one of those ‘Lost‘ situations?

Because the reader never really finds out. Even after you read that last sentence and close the book, you are still caught between an even line of plausible reality and solid fiction. The line doesn’t even blur. It is cut right down the middle, and this book rests smack dab in the middle. And though I love not knowing the truth of what really happened, I still find myself wishing I had gotten more than just one flashback into Tom’s childhood and a bigger sense of what that entire situation entailed. Because I LOVED it. But of course, every time I find myself wishing for more information on this book, I find myself preferring to be left in the dark.

In the end, all I can really express is what a feverish and chaotic blend of reality and psychosis this story is. It has an unhinging sense of time that is practically nonexistent, and characters that may not even be real.

To be honest, this book might not even be real.

I really can’t be sure.

But what I do know?

Dalton Highway is a fever dream.

4 Stars

 

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