BOOK REVIEW | And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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5/5 stars

From the publisher:
First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

My thoughts:
This won’t be so much of a review, rather a reflection on how incredibly fun this book was to read! This was my first Agatha Christie, and I can’t wait to dig further into her collection.

And Then There Were None is a classic whodunit murder mystery with some interesting psychological twists thrown in. This is the story of 10 individuals who have been invited out to Soldier Island as private guests for the weekend. We quickly discover that whoever has summoned them to the island has a sinister plan in mind; following along with the eerie poem “Ten Little Soldiers”, the guests begin to die, one by one. The guests naturally begin to suspect each other, and tension builds as their numbers dwindle. Before long there are only two left, and the reader is left to make assumptions about who the killer is. The final revelations at the denouement had me flipping back to see what I had missed! This is a book I will definitely re-read over and over again in the future.

Christie’s narration is fast-paced and provides only the necessary amount of backstory to move the the plot along. She’s witty and straight to the point, and I can see how greatly she influenced the mystery genre. I’m currently reading Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin, so I’ve got Shirley on the brain these days! While Reading ATTWN, I immediately drew comparisons to Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House: in each work, a group of individuals are sent letters and invited somewhere a bit mysterious, and – mild spoiler alert – they are both essentially works concerned with psychology. I’d love to go deeper into these topics, but that might be something for a future blog post.

In short – I absolutely loved this book. If you’re a fan mystery or crime fiction do yourself a favor and pick this up right away!

BOOK REVIEW | Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

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3.5/5 stars

From the publisher:
Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked – but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London’s underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate’s true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household’s strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him – body, soul and secrets – and what if he discovers her murderous past?

My thoughts:
I warn the tempted: secrets decay, as corpses do, growing ranker over time.

I’ve wanted to pick up Jane Steele since it’s release, and finally decided to jump in. Jane Eyre is one of my all time favourite books and as a fan of the macabre, this had my name all over it. This is a fun read, especially for fans of it’s inspiration. This book works really well if you haven’t read the original – however, there are a lot of great moments in there for those who have.

The first half of Jane Steele had me sold and I was loving every second. The story begins with Jane as a young girl, living at Highgate House with her mother. Family drama ensues, leaving Jane and her mother to live in a guest house on the property. Shortly before her death, Jane’s mother reveals to her that she is will inherit Highgate House one day. Jane is sent to boarding school, events unfold, and let’s just say more murder takes place. In the second half of the book, Jane returns to Highgate House as a governess hired by it’s new master, Charles Thornfield. A bit of momentum was lost for me during this part of the story but there were enough twist, turns, revelations, and gore to satisfy. Oh, and the love story between Jane and Charles is fantastic.

Jane Steele is well written and engaging, and I enjoyed that Jane was a Dexter-style killer – she only takes down bad guys. I have a copy of The Gods of Gotham sitting on my bookshelf unread, and I think I’ll pick it up soon as I’d definitely like to read Faye’s 100% original work.

BOOK REVIEW | ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

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4.5/5 stars

From the publisher:
‘Salem’s Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in ‘Salem’s Lot was a summer of home-coming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to ‘Salem’s Lot hoping to cast out his own devils… and found instead a new unspeakable horror.

A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved.

All would be changed forever—Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of ‘Salem’s Lot.

My thoughts:
I have loved vampire stories for as long as I can remember (please tell me someone remembers the Are You Afraid of the Dark? vampire episode), but somehow I had yet to read ‘Salem’s Lot.

I absolutely loved reading one of King’s early works – this book is so distinctly his. His style is already in place early on, and it’s no wonder that he has become one of the greatest writers (not just a horror writer!) of our time. Simple moments like this are classic Stephen King to me:

<i>He was sitting on the rocker next to her, and without stopping it’s slow movement forth and back, he leaned over and pressed his mouth on hers…She began to rock also, and the movement made the kiss into something new. It waxed and waned, light and firm.</i>

King brings classic horror to the table with awesome tension building and just enough gore to satisfy fans of the macabre. I highly recommend Stephen King’s introduction on the audiobook – it’s an awesome listen and does not spoil the book!

BOOK REVIEW | We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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5/5 stars

From the publisher:
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

My thoughts:
I can’t help it when people are frightened; I always want to frighten them more. 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is my second Shirley Jackson read, the first being The Haunting of Hill House, and I am completely sold. Jackson is an absolute master of atmosphere – her books are creepy, and I mean that as a huge compliment. I felt incredibly uneasy while reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle; I love the slow burning tension and the look into Merricat’s thoughts. Reading this book has made me that much more interested in Jackson herself – she writes about women who are descending into madness, and I have to wonder where that inspiration came from. I may pick up Ruth Franklin’s new biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life to learn more about the woman behind the books.

If you’re looking for an atmospheric and unsettling read for October do not hesitate to pick this up!