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.

Ghost

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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Spooky Reads Blogger Campaign: I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson

Happy November 1st my Witchy readers!
Today I have a very special post for you! I have teamed with with Penguin Random House for their Spooky Reads Blogger Campaign, where each blogger picked a candy that corresponded with a surprise spooky book!
My candy was Kit Kat (yum!) and my book turned out to be I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson!!
I was beyond excited to receive this book and put this post together, so be sure you read my review below, take a look at my Dream Casting and maybe even head over to my Bookstagram to check out my photo of the book!
@Jenacidebybibliophile
(You can also see my unboxing of this book and some amazing extra goodies in my highlights under “Bookmail“)

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~* Book Review *~

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I Know You Remember

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

Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

Plot: Zahra Gaines is missing.

After three long years away, Ruthie Hayden arrives in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to this devastating news. Zahra was Ruthie’s best friend–the only person who ever really understood her–and she vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Zahra vanished from a party just days before Ruthie’s return, but the more people she talks to, the more she realizes that the Zahra she knew disappeared long before that fateful night. Gone is the whimsical, artistic girl who loved books and knew Ruthie’s every secret. In her place is an athlete, a partier, a girl with secrets of her own. Darker still are the rumors that something happened to Zahra while Ruthie was gone, something that changed her forever…

As Ruthie desperately tries to piece together the truth, she falls deeper and deeper into her friend’s new world, circling closer to a dangerous revelation about what Zahra experienced in the days before her disappearance–one that might be better off buried.

In her stunning follow-up to Lies You Never Told Me, Jennifer Donaldson once again delivers a propulsive thriller with a masterful twist, skillfully creating a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

Opinion:

If this book doesn’t leave you feeling a little unhinged, I don’t know what will.

Oh.

My.

Days.

That was twisted.

It has been three years since Ruthie and her mother left their hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to escape Ruthie’s alcoholic father. But following the sudden death of her mother, Ruthie is being sent back to Anchorage to live with her now sober dad and his new family. Things aren’t all bad though, because Ruthie will finally get to see her best friend Zahra again. Except when Ruthie arrives at her new school, news that Zahra has gone missing is announced, and all signs point to Zahra’s boyfriend. Now, Ruthie puts all her energy into finding Zahra and uncovering what really happened the night she disappeared. But along the way, Ruthie realizes that Zahra isn’t the same girl she knew. Once a thoughtful, creative and timid girl, Zahra’s friends describe her as secretive, sometimes moody, and a big partier. As Ruthie comes closer to finding out the truth, buried secrets are dug up and the horrifying realities are uncovered.

I love nothing more than a story that gives me a physical reaction while reading.

And to say my mouth dropped open, would be a vast understatement to the reality of what shape my face contorted into after this ending.

Though I had a strong suspicion of how this story would turn out, and I was more or less correct in my assumption, I am still SO impressed with how the author kept me questioning my opinion until the very end. I have read one or two books that have a similar twist in them, and the clues as to where the story was shifting was really subtle, but it was all in the characters!

This story is told in the point of view of Ruthie as she comes back to Anchorage and begins searching for Zahra. Though, in the three years that Ruthie has been away, their interactions have been limited. Ruthie reminisces on their time together in the summer before she moved, and how they spent their days devouring books and creating stories where they were the heroines who triumphed over evil. She describes their friendship of one of imagination and creativity, and portrays Zahra as a beautiful and special girl that she was more than lucky to call her best friend. But as Ruthie begins to learn more about who Zahra is now, she begins to discover that she may not be the same girl she once knew.

“Part of me, of course, just wanted to find her. But part of me wanted to find her here. Because that would mean it still matters. That the world we created together is still meaningful to her.”

For most of this book, the reader is learning who Zahra is by how she is described by her friends and family. There are little snippets and trails of information that you can pick up to form a vague portrayal of who she is, but the reader never truly gets an in depth look at her until the end of the book. Because the author chose to keep her shrouded in secrecy, my imagination was going wild the entire time I was reading. Ruthie begins to discover that Zahra has episodes where she will shutdown and not talk to anyone, or where she falls into deep depressions ranting about how she wants to die and that she is a horrible person. Which instantly makes you think, did she run away?

Each of these characters has the right amount of detail to make you feel like you know them, but just enough mystery to make you question each expression and action. One of my favorite things about thrillers is that it makes me pause my reading to decipher what is going on, where I think the clues will lead, and who I think is guilty of what. But the clues in I Know You Remember are so faint and expertly entwined into the words and mannerisms of these beautiful characters, that you’ll miss it all if you blink even once.

The backdrop for this mystery is really what seals the deal for me and brings in the creep factor. Anchorage, Alaska with its beautiful scenery and huge wooded areas make it the perfect location for a young girl to go missing and/or the possibilities of a deranged killer being on the loose. But my favorite aspect of all, was the abandoned playground that Zahra and Ruthie had claimed as their territory for that magical summer three years prior. Rusted play structures, a lonely swing-set and a place they could create their magical stories and let their imaginations run wild.

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Of course…it gets much creepier toward the end of the book…*cough cough*.

I REALLY wish I could say more and give out every spoiler this is, because it is killing me keeping it all bottled up! This story is twisted, manipulative, secretive, and will make you question more than just where Zahra went. And best yet, I just found out that this is a follow-up to Jennifer Donaldson’s other novel Lies You Never Told Me. Obviously I Know You Remember can be read as a standalone (since I just did that) but now I must get my hands on “Lies”, because I need more!

I highly recommend this for readers who are still looking for some spooky reads, because Halloween season is year-round and we aren’t done being weird yet, are we? For those of you who get scared easily, don’t you worry your pretty little heads. This isn’t horror, it’s thriller! You’ll be juuustttttt fine.

4-5-stars

 

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~* Dream Casting *~

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Ruthie

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Ruthie was pretty hard to pinpoint as far as looks, because there isn’t a whole lot of detail surrounding her appearance. I mostly had to go off the cover which only shows the back of her, and I just let my imagination do the rest.

My top pick is the beautiful Taissa Farmiga.

Taissa

If you’re like me and love American Horror Story, then you would have fallen in love with Taissa in the first season. She is aloof and slightly mysterious, but has just the right amount of innocence and allure to pull you in – Just like Ruthie.

My other two picks for Ruthie were Kaitlyn Dever and Maude Apatow.

Kaitlyn Dever has proven her wide range of acting skills over the years, and there is something about her that makes me think she can switch her personality from sweet to horrific in .02 seconds.

Maude Apatow is a newer to the acting scene, but the little I have seen from her – I LOVE! I would be so interested to see how she’d make Ruthie come to life, and to be honest, I think she would absolutely kill it.

 

Zahra

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Zahra is also another tough character to pinpoint on looks, because her description is also on the more vague side. So again, this is my going off of the cover and the very little information I was given while reading.

I had a few picks for Zahra, but it always came back to Riele Downs.

Rielle downs

I just can’t get over how stunning this girl is! Zahra is described as a girl that people seem to be drawn to. Someone that is easy to confide in and trust, and who is beautiful inside and out. Riele Downs exudes that perfect amount of confidence and friendliness that I think would be perfect for Zahra.

 

Tabitha

Tabitha’s character is an interesting mix of bitchy mean girl and really devoted friend, so it was a challenge finding the right person to portray here. So, I’ve narrowed it down to two raidant reheads!

Ellie Bamber and Rosie Day are not only stunning with that red hair, but they also have a sharp edge to their looks that make you want to be careful around them. Tabitha comes off as a snippy, bitchy and fierce character most of the time, but when it comes down to itgirl is a little gem

 

Ben Peavy

Ben is described as having Native heritage, dark eyes, a full mouth, and black hair that is short on the sides and longer on top. For some reason though, there is a very small pool of young Native actors to choose from.

So I had to get creative for this one…

I give you, Vito Basso.

Some Guy

Pretty sure this beautiful specimen is a model and not an actor, but c’mon…we could convince him to switch careers, couldn’t we?

 

Seb Collins

Immediately, and I mean immediately after Seb was described, two people popped into my head. First was the majorly talented Timothée Chalamet, who I just adore to pieces.

Timothée ticks off every box there is for the pale, skinny, sharp feature description..but he is also a little too clean-cut for this character.

But you know who would have been perfect?!

The late, amazing, wonderful Anton Yelchin.

Anton

Seb is described as a little shaggy and scruffy, and Anton Yelchin was definitely able to play this part. Unfortunately he passed away a few years ago, which is positively tragic, because he was an immensely talented actor.

 

Bailey Sellers

Bailey is one of the youngest pivotal characters in this book, and is described as being a poor and skinny fourteen-year-old girl who is physically abused at home. She is fast and has a bit of a temper, but at the end of the day, she is just a lonely little girl looking for a friend.

My pick for Bailey is the oober talented Mckenna Grace.

Mckenna

This girl astounds me every time I see her in a movie. She is versatile and immediately grabs your attention! Her as Bailey is a no-brainer!!

 

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As always, thanks for reading and stay Witchy! ❤

 

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