The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud. ★★★1/2
While I found The Screaming Staircase a tad predictable, I enjoyed it nonetheless.
For the last fifty years, England has been beset by a plague of supernatural spirits referred to as The Problem. Only children and teens are capable of seeing ghosts, so all agencies for dealing with hauntings rely on minors as their agents. After an investigation gone wrong, Lucy Carlyle has fled to London and taken up a position with Lockwood & Co., which is essentially three teenagers in a house investigating ghosts. The Screaming Staircase begins right in the middle of the action, with Lockwood and Lucy spending the night in a house where their client’s husband died. They soon encounter a ghost much more powerful than they expected. The result is one part ghost story, one part murder mystery, and a pretty entertaining ride.
Final Girls by Mira Grant. ★★★
I’ve read some of this author’s work under the name Seanan McGuire, but I’d never read one of the stories she wrote as Mira Grant. I had very little idea of what to expect going into Final Girls. I knew that it involved a virtual reality program being used for therapy, that it focused on sisterly bond between two women, and that it may involve horror aspects. All of those were true, but it also turned out to be a novella. So I read this one a lot quicker than I expected!
Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented the method and technology for using virtual reality for therapy. To heal her clients of old wounds, she’ll send them through a virtual reality horror simulation, where they’ll feel completely immersed in the narrative. This therapy is usually used to rebuild strained family bonds, but she’s giving journalist Esther Hoffman an exclusive look at her techniques, which include Esther taking a trip via Dr. Webb’s proprietary VR tech. Esther has built her career debunking fraudulent therapy techniques, and she just can’t wait to disprove Dr. Webb. However, as she and Dr. Webb undertake a VR journey, events in the outside world influence them in ways they could never have expected.
Brimstone by Cherie Priest. ★★★
I’ve been following Cherie Priest’s work for years, so it was with not a little anticipation I picked up this newest outing from her. Unfortunately, I was expecting and desiring a historical fantasy story, but I found Brimstone to be more horror with a Southern Gothic twist.
Alice Dartle is descended from a long line of witches, but she has no idea how to use her clairvoyant abilities. The town of Cassadaga, Florida, a community of similarly gifted people seems to hold the answer. But as she draws closer to the town, she keeps having dreams of fire and trenches. She knows that these are not her own dreams, and she believes that she can help the dreamer.
Tomas Cordero came back from World War I to find his wife dead of influenza. He continues to operate his tailoring business, but he’s haunted by the memories of his wife. Since his return, inexplicable fires have hounded him. Could they be messages from the beyond?
As I Descended by Robin Talley. ★★★1/2
As I Descended is a queer, paranormal, YA retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Basically I saw that description and thought I had to read this. While I don’t think it’s a novel that I’d revisit in the future, it did make a good spooky read for right around Halloween.
Acheron Academy is a prestigious private boarding school in modern day Virginia, and Delilah Dufrey is the unofficial queen of the senior class. She’s lied, cheated, and manipulated her way to the top, and now she’s the sure winner of the Cawdor Kingsley Prize. But Maria and Lily, roommates and secret girlfriends, have their eye on the prize. If Maria wins, it will lock in her acceptance to Stanford, and guarentee that Maria and Lily will be together for the next two years. Maria and Lily will do whatever’s necessary to make that happen. And the only person in the way of their dreams is Delilah.
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich. ★★1/2
This was a let down. I was hoping I’d get something with a creepy atmosphere that would keep me turning the pages. Turns out I got a shambling mess of a book.
Years ago, Elmbridge High School burned to the ground. Three people were killed and one went missing. Told through documents compiled after the incident, The Dead House tells the story of the alleged arsonist, Kaitlyn Johnson, the twin sister of student Carly Johnson. However, Kaitlyn Johnson did not technically exist – she was a separate personality that only came out at night. During the day, Carly. During the night, Kaitlyn.
Authority by Jeff Vandermeer. ★★★1/2
Authority is the sequel to Annihilation, which you should read first. This second installment of the Southern Reach trilogy focuses on the Southern Reach itself, the government organization that studies the mysterious and dangerous Area X. John Rodriguez, who prefers to be called by the name Control, is appointed as a the new director of the Southern Reach, likely due to the influence of his powerful mother. He soon learns some members of the previous expedition have returned, and he begins interviewing the biologist.
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake. ★★★
Girl of Nightmares is a YA paranormal horror novel that’s not quite as good as its predecessor, Anna Dressed in Blood, but does the necessary job of tying up loose plot threads. You absolutely need to have read Anna Dressed in Blood before picking up Girl of Nightmares.