paranormal

All posts tagged paranormal

The Coffin Path – Katherine Clements

Published February 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’t it all about?:

The Coffin Path is an eerie and compelling seventeenth-century ghost story set on the dark wilds of the Yorkshire moors. For fans of Michelle Paver and Sarah Waters, this gothic tale will weave its way into your imagination and chill you to the bone.

Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.

Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.

When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Headline publishers and Caitlin Raynor for allowing me to read a copy of this eerie, fascinating novel, set on the Yorkshire moors in the seventeenth century via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I love a good ghost story but haven’t read one in quite some time and definitely haven’t read one that gripped me as much as the story of Mercy Booth and her moors filled with sheep did. It’s an incredibly atmospheric novel and I could visualise the moors that Mercy lives on and the sheep that are in her care in full, glorious detail. The house that she lives in with her father and housekeeper becomes almost a character unto itself with the number of secrets it keeps and the strange noises that have started to emanate from a locked bedroom within the house, terrifying residents and visitors alike.

Our story begins with Mercy tearing out into the inclement weather to assist a ewe who is struggling to give birth to her lamb (more on this scene later) and from there we learn about Mercy’s life, an independent young woman who has taken most of the work of looking after her family’s flock from her father as his health, strength and mind begins to fail. She is determined, strong and fiercely loyal to her family’s business and probably knows as much or indeed more about looking after sheep than her head shepherd does. The novel follows her life as they take on a mysterious new worker, stranger to the town Ellis Ferreby, the family start to discover a number of mutilated sheep on the premises, precious things of her father’s go missing and there are aforementioned curious noises from the bedroom where a young boy once died. Meanwhile, all residents at the property are starting to get an odd sense that someone is watching them and wishes them ill. For what purpose? All will be revealed but the journey to get there might make you want to turn the lights back on if you’re reading this just before bed.

This novel has one of the most brutal and graphic beginnings I’ve ever read and although it doesn’t set the tone for what the rest of the book is going to be like (i.e. not so graphic) I’d seriously go into it with your stomach well fortified! Our main character, Mercy is birthing a lamb and in full, gory detail the process is described to the reader as Mercy struggles to save both the newborn and its mother. I’m lucky enough to have quite a strong stomach (must be the huge volume of horror tomes I’ve read in the past?), and as soon as I read this opening chapter I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Not so much for the content I hasten to add, but for the writing style, the setting and how Katherine Clements pulls you into Mercy’s world effortlessly, where not only can you visualise everything around her but you’re fighting her corner completely and hoping that she manages to save the animals from certain death.

The Coffin Path is very much a book that illustrates the sign of the times where poverty, superstition, rumours of witchcraft and fear of religion – that is to say, what would happen if you didn’t attend church are rife. The author portrays these attitudes and worries perfectly and it’s a fine historical account of what it might be like to live in England in these frightening times. Speaking of frightening, there’s passages of this narrative that I think will stay with me for a long time yet, it was incredibly creepy and disconcerting and there’s a particular fire screen that I don’t think I will ever forget! I loved the whole gothic nature of Mercy’s story and not only was her character written to perfection, instantly making me root for her but she was flawed, vulnerable and undeniably human which I adored. I’m not going to talk about the ending too much but let me just say, if you like being shocked you’re in for a treat here. Unfortunately, I kind of guessed parts of the “big reveal,” but luckily, not everything surrounding it and it was a fantastic way to finish off an engrossing and thrilling novel.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements was the eleventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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The Ghost Bride – Yangsze Choo

Published June 20, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

What did I think?:

My sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads recommended and gave this book to me and I was attracted to it immediately. Not only is the cover absolutely stunning but I loved the synopsis – a little bit historical, Asian fiction with a dusting of the paranormal, sounds like my perfect book! And it was, on so many levels. Our main character is a seventeen girl called Li Lan who lives in 19th Century Malaya (now Malaysia) under British rule as a member of the upper class. Sadly, there is nothing upper class about her situation. She has lost her mother under strange circumstances and her father in his grief has become addicted to his opium pipe and is slowly disappearing from her also. They live in a large, beautiful house that is now slowly crumbling away due to lack of maintenance and her prospects, especially for marriage look entirely gloomy. Her only comfort is her old Amah who has been with her since her birth but even she, fiesty though she is, cannot hope to influence her father as he slides further and further into addiction.

One day, her father calls Li Lan in and mentions that he has had an interesting offer from the rich Lim family concerning a match for her. The unfortunate thing is that the bridegroom to be is their dead son, Lim Tiang Ching. Yes, you read right. Dead. Her father says that he instantly refused the proposal but he worries as at least it would have meant that Li Lan would have been provided for for the rest of her life. Li Lan is horrified but agrees to just pay a visit to the Lim household as a courtesy. On arriving, she is stunned by the magnificence of the house, the surroundings, the food she is offered and the servants who cater to her every whim. She also finds something she was not expecting – to fall in love. No, not with the dead son, with a very much alive cousin and heir-to-be, Tian Bei. After meeting him, albeit briefly, she decides there is no way that she could ever become the wife of a dead man, especially one so repulsive as Lim Tiang Ching who begins to invade her nightly dreams, insisting that she should be his wife.

Li Lan continues to refuse him – it’s just a dream, right? However, he becomes angrier and more harassing on each visit and soon she becomes drawn into the spirit world, leaving her shell of a body behind as a living ghost. Stuck between two worlds Li Lan meets with a kindly and enigmatic guide, Er Lang who sends her to The Plains Of The Dead, a hideous place where spirits wander before being judged. This harks back to Chinese mythology where after death, spirits must go to the Courts of Hell to atone and be punished for any sins committed. After an indeterminate amount of time, depending on the severity of the sin, they then enter the reincarnation stage where they are born again to a life of comfort or poverty depending on how they behaved in their past life.

“I had seen some of the painted hell scrolls that depicted the gruesome fates awaiting sinners. There were people being boiled in oil or sawed in half by horse and ox-headed demons. Others were forced to climb mountains of knives or were pounded into powder by enormous mallets. Gossips had their tongues ripped out, hypocrites and tomb robbers were disemboweled. Unfilial children were frozen in ice. The worst was the lake of blood into which suicides and women who had died in childbirth or aborted their children were consigned.”

When I read up a bit further on this superstition, I also found that one could be punished for the sin of “misusing books,” which I found amusing and fascinating! See guys, I told you dog-earing was wrong! Anyway, Li Lan must carry out various tasks in the spirit world whilst trying to avoid demons with ox for heads and corrupt Hell officials who are baying for her blood. Li Lan learns so much about herself and the mystery of her family as she navigates her way through the dangerous Plains but she must hurry. If she does not complete her tasks within a timely fashion, the fragile link between her body and the spirit world will be severed and she will be trapped there forever.

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Diyu – a version of hell in traditional Chinese culture, during the Tang dynasty this increased to 134 hells with 18 different levels of pain and torture with Levels known as the Chamber of Tongue Ripping, The Chamber of Scissors, The Chamber of Iron Cycads, the Chamber of Mirror, Chamber of Steamer, Forest of Copper Column, Mountain of Knives, the Hill of Ice, Cauldron of Boiling Oil, Chamber of Ox, Chamber of Rock, Chamber of Pounding, Pool of Blood, Town of Suicide, Chamber of Dismemberment, Mountain of Flames, Yard of Stone Mill, and Chamber of Saw.

Source: http://listverse.com/2013/09/04/10-fascinating-descriptions-of-hell/

Hmm, not a place I fancy visiting any time soon.

I began this book with such high expectations and I’m delighted to report that what I read exceeded those. Yangsze Choo has woven a mesmerising tale which is beautifully descriptive in its historical detail and brilliant in plot execution. I love learning new things about different cultures and this was one of those books which explains everything so simply to the reader without ever feeling patronising. I found all the superstitions and folklores fascinating, especially the burning of offerings to appease the “hungry ghosts.” I can’t believe that this is the authors debut novel, the writing is so accomplished and in no way amateur. The whole book is fresh, exciting and like nothing I have ever read before, even the ending (although surprising) is totally unexpected and original. I can’t wait to see what she does next, I know I’ll be snapping it up immediately.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Blog Tour – Close To Home by Lisa Jackson

Published April 7, 2015 by bibliobeth

9781444793277 (1)

What’s it all about?:

Sarah McAdams needs a fresh start. So she’s come home to the shores of Oregon’s wild

Columbia river, to renovate the old Victorian mansion where she grew up. Her daughters, Jade and Gracie, aren’t impressed by the rundown property, and as soon as they pull up the isolated drive, Sarah too is beset by uneasy memories – of her cold, distant mother, of the half-sister who vanished without a trace, and of a long-ago night when Sarah was found outside, feverish and delirious.

Ever since the original mistress of the house plunged to her death almost a century ago, there have been rumours that the place is haunted. As a girl, Sarah sensed a presence there, and soon Gracie claims to see a lady in white running up the stairs. Still, Sarah has little time to dwell on ghost stories, between overseeing construction and dealing with the return of a man from her past.

But there’s a new, more urgent menace in the small town. One by one, teenage girls are disappearing and her rebellious daughters are prime targets. Frantic for her daughters’ safety, Sarah feels her veneer cracking and the house’s walls closing in on her again.

Somewhere deep in her memory is the key to a very real and terrifying danger. And as the secrets of her past begin to unravel, the dream Sarah expected to find in her hometown quickly turns into every mother’s worst nightmare.

What did I think?:

Before this novel, I was not familiar with any of Lisa Jackson’s previous work but when I was offered the chance to read, review and be part of a blog tour by the publishers Mulholland Books, on the strength of the synopsis I jumped at the chance. In my late adolescence I devoured books like these, the entire crime/thriller genre actually formed part of my staple “book” diet and I read little else before I expanded my horizons slightly. The book starts with a bang, introducing some of the previous inhabitants of a Victorian mansion known by the locals as Blue Peacock Manor. Our narrator for the time being is Angelique who is being chased through the house by a crazed man with an axe, while she desperately tries to find a way to keep her children safe who are present in the house at this time and hiding. It is certainly one of the creepiest prologues to a novel I have ever read and I gleefully anticipated the ride the author was about to take me on.

Fast forward several hundred years into the present time and we meet our main character Sarah McAdams who is returning to her childhood home (the previously mentioned Blue Peacock Manor) to try and escape a difficult situation she found herself in with her boss Ethan, to give her daughters Jade and Gracie a new start and to lay rest a couple of ghosts of her own. Unfortunately, the house does not bring back happy memories for Sarah and she is aware that something terrible had happened to her as a child there, although her mind seems to have blocked the event out. Now her youngest daughter Gracie is seeing the spirit of a woman, presumed to be her ancestor whose untimely death at the hands of a psychopathic murderer is still shrouded in mystery of what exactly happened on that fateful night. Despite her mother’s reluctance, Gracie is determined to solve the puzzle of Angelique’s death as she believes that this will allow her spirit to move on.

As if this wasn’t enough for Sarah to deal with, teenage girls in the town are disappearing without a trace and Sarah is terrified for both of her children but especially for her teenager Jade who is finding it difficult to fit in at her new school and bitterly resents her mother for putting them through this upheaval. There is definitely a lot going on in this novel with a number of different strands that come together almost seamlessly in a dramatic finale. I’m also glad that I didn’t figure out who the perp was (although I thought I did!) and I love the excitement of being proved wrong in these cases. Sarah was incredibly likeable as a character but more memorable for me were the characters of sweet and strong Gracie, your stereotypical sulky teenager Jade and, probably my favourite – Rosario who was fiesty and independent. This novel has something for everyone in my opinion, a slice of the paranormal mixed with some good old fashioned dark family secrets and criminals I was just itching to analyse. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good  white-knuckle thriller and I’m eager to discover some more of Lisa Jackson’s work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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More about the author….

LISA JACKSON is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than seventy-five novels, including Ready to Die, Afraid to Die, You Don’t Want to Know, Running Scared, Without Mercy, Malice and Shiver. She has over twenty million copies of her books in print in nineteen languages. She lives with her family and a rambunctious pug in the Pacific Northwest. Readers can visit her website at http://www.lisajackson.com, become her friend on Facebook, and check out her blog at http://lisajacksonauthor.blogspot.com.

For publicity enquiries and interview requests please contact Rebecca Mundy on 020 7873 6179 or rebecca.mundy@hodder.co.uk

Close To Home is available to buy from all good retailers NOW!