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Reviews: The Ghost Tree and You are Invited

 

Happy Thursday!  For those who read my 2021 goals post a couple of weeks ago, you may remember that I mentioned wanting to bring in a guest blogger.  Well, today is the day that goal is becoming a reality.  Sharon is one of my long-time best friends and she also happens to be an avid reader, particularly in the mystery/thriller genre.  Since I don’t review many thrillers, I thought it would be fun to have Sharon share some of the thrillers she has been reading and, in the process, start a new feature on the blog, Thriller Thursday.  We’re aiming for her to share reviews every other Thursday, but we’ll play it by ear depending on how busy her schedule is.  Anyway, please give Sharon a warm welcome and I hope you’ll find some new reads to add to your TBRs. 🙂

 

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Hi everyone! My name is Sharon and I would like to thank Suzanne for the opportunity to share some of my reviews on her blog. I like to read a bunch of different genres, thrillers, mysteries, YA, fantasy. But my go to are the mystery/thriller type books. And today I would like to share a couple of thriller/supernatural books I have just read. The Ghost Tree and You Are Invited.

 

Reviews: The Ghost Tree and You are InvitedThe Ghost Tree Goodreads

Author: Christina Henry

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Publisher: Berkley Books

 

I really cannot say too much about The Ghost Tree because pretty much anything I say will spoil it. But I will say this was awesome. It is filled with witches, curses and haunted woods. It is a bit graphic at times when describing the murder scenes, so be forewarned.

Smiths Hollow is a small town and something evil lives in the woods and only comes out once a year. Or so everyone thought… But then Lauren’s father was found murdered in the woods and his heart was torn out. And then 6 months later the mutilated bodies of 2 girls were found. What is the evil that lives in the woods and why the sudden change in its pattern?

Even though her father was murdered in the woods, Lauren has never been afraid to go there. She has been going there with her BFF Miranda since they were little. Lauren also knows that the police won’t find the killer of the girls because they never found out who killed her father. In fact, they surprisingly never really did much of an investigation and everyone has seemed to moved on. Then Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging those girls through the woods and killing them. She knows that she cannot let it go and have them forgotten (as all the others before them have been), so she goes into the woods to find evidence to help the police find the killer. But she finds more than that, Lauren discovers that their small town is cursed, and it is up to her to fix it.

The book is told from many POV’s and has a lot of things going on besides the murders, but it never got confusing. Everything just flowed so well and all the characters meshed so well together. While the book had multiple POV’s, Lauren was the main focal character and I just loved her. I loved how she cared about her younger brother David (who is such a little sweetie). Even though she is 14 and he is only 4 she took the time to spend time with him, be it playing a board game or going to the local fair. I also loved the growth Lauren had. She goes from a 14 ½ year old who is still a child, to a teenager on the edge of womanhood. She learns a lot about the town’s history as well as her own and she faces them both head on.

The book takes place in 1985 and I loved all the 80’s references (it was like going down memory lane)

And even though we find out early on in the book what is wrong with the town, it does not take anything away from the story; in fact, it actually adds to the tension. And boy does the tension ramp up as the book goes on! By the end I was on the edge of my seat.    4 Stars

 

Reviews: The Ghost Tree and You are InvitedYou Are Invited Goodreads

Author: Sarah A. Denzil

Publication Date: September 11, 2020

Publisher: Self Published

 

Cath Fenwick is an author of fantasy books. She has a large following on social media, but Cath has always been a loner. She has no real friends, except from her social media followers and she suffers from schizophrenia but can keep the voices at bay with the help of her medication. When Cath gets an invitation from Irene Jobert to take part in The Event, a retreat of sorts for social media influencers, she jumps at the chance. Irene is the most famous influencer in the world and Cath will get to spend a month with her and 3 others (Jules, a famous blogger; Nathan, a gamer; and Daniel, a fitness guru) in an old Transylvanian Monastery. They will be live streamed to millions of people around the world and the subscribers can donate money to their favorite influencer.

On her way to The Event, Cath’s taxi driver tells her the story of the nuns that were murdered at the monastery years ago “There are those who claim the ghosts walking the corridors of Sfântul Mihail are not ghosts at all.”  And that may be true.  As the group is roaming around parts of the Monastery, their viewers notice a dark shape lurking in a corner.  Strange things start happening too.  There are wolves in the woods, there is a snowstorm coming, and one of the viewers keeps offering them one million dollars to kill one of the group.  Cath’s inner voices are also back.  Add all of that up and you have a group that is beginning to crack and become paranoid, all while being live streamed.

The book is told from the POV of Cath and she was not a very reliable narrator, which just added to the mystery and suspense of the book.

I loved the eerie gothic setting. I think the author did a great job of making the scenery jump off the pages. The beginning of the book had the most eerie/supernatural feel to it, gave me chills a few times. The eerie feel tapered off midway through the book when a couple of twists were added that took the book in a new direction.

The ending did feel a bit rushed to me, and there were a few things that were left unanswered.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the supernatural/mystery feel of the book. And also the live stream and followers interaction aspect of the book.   3 ½ stars

 

Review: THE MERMAID by Christina Henry

Review:  THE MERMAID by Christina HenryThe Mermaid by Christina Henry
Also by this author: The Girl in Red
four-half-stars
Published by BERKLEY on June 19, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 325
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

MY REVIEW:

 

Christina Henry’s The Mermaid is a captivating reimaging of the FeeJee Mermaid, one of P.T. Barnum’s infamous hoaxes from the 1840’s. In Henry’s version of the tale, the Mermaid is not a hoax at all.  Amelia is a real, live mermaid who lives in the sea until one day when a fisherman catches her in his net.  When their eyes meet, Amelia instantly knows that she wants to spend her life with this man, and so when he cuts her free from his net, instead of fleeing to safety, Amelia chooses to come ashore, find the fisherman, and live as his wife.  They live together in a cabin overlooking the ocean until the fisherman is lost at sea and Amelia is left all alone.

Rumors about the existence of a mermaid reach the ears of P.T. Barnum, who is always on the lookout for new attractions for his museum.  When he hears about Amelia, he knows she is sure to be a money maker for him if he can convince her to join him.  He sends an associate to find her and after meeting Barnum, Amelia agrees to play the mermaid in one of Barnum’s attractions.  She sets her own terms – a 6 month contract and enough money to be able travel anywhere in the world she wishes to go – and they sign a contract.

At first Amelia is somewhat intrigued by the idea of showing the world what a real mermaid looks like, but the more she sees of humanity and how people behave, the less enamored she is with the idea and the more determined she is to leave the show as soon as her contract is up.

Will Amelia ultimately be free to leave Barnum when her contract is up or will Barnum’s determination to hold on to his moneymaker lead him to try and stand in her way?

 

Appealing main character.  I was drawn to Amelia from the first moment we meet her.  First of all, I loved that Henry chose not to give Amelia the half woman half fish appearance that typically comes to mind when we think of mermaids.  Instead, she gives Amelia the appearance of being something truly born from the sea.  Her body is completely covered in silvery scales and she doesn’t really resemble a human in any way.  In addition to giving her this unexpected appearance, Henry also makes Amelia’s transformation from mermaid to human and vice versa sound so beautiful.  I loved the idea that it was solely Amelia’s choice which form she took and that all she needed was sand to become human and ocean water to turn back into a mermaid.  I thought Henry just did such a beautiful job of bringing this mythology to life.

What really captivated me about Amelia, however, wasn’t really the way she looked.  It had more to do with the feminist twist that Henry gives her.  Amelia is a force to be reckoned with, a woman ahead of her time, and it’s mainly because coming from the sea, she really has no idea how society expects women to behave.  The more she learns about society’s expectations for women, the more she begins to dislike the whole idea of society.  She values her own freedom and independence above all else, and she has no use for anyone who tries to stand in her way and hold her back.  Because of this, she stands up to Barnum and challenges him in ways that he never expects to be challenged.  Barnum is portrayed as kind of a jerk as well so it makes it very easy to cheer Amelia on.

 Atmospheric writing:  The Mermaid is not what I would consider to be a fast paced novel.  Instead, it’s one of those novels where the storytelling is just so exquisite I felt as if a spell was being cast over me drawing me deeper and deeper into the tale with each page that I read.

Henry’s use of vivid descriptions made me feel like I had stepped back in time to 1840’s America.  I could feel my nose wrinkling in disgust at some of the less savory smells that were present on the streets of a less than sanitary New York City.  In contrast, Henry’s attention to detail also made me feel like I was at the ocean with Amelia.  I could practically hear the waves slapping the shore and smell the salt in the air.  Henry’s writing reminds me very much of Alice Hoffman’s, which is a good thing since Hoffman is one of my favorites.

Social commentary:  For the most part, The Mermaid reads like part fairy tale/part historical fiction.  It’s whimsical and almost otherworldly at times because of the mermaid’s presence and the mythology surrounding her, but at the same time, the story also contains a powerful social commentary on the lack of women’s rights and about how restricting societal expectations for women were during this time period.  It becomes especially evident in scenes between Amelia and Barnum’s wife, Charity.  There are many times when Charity is the one who seems like she’s living in a cage rather than Amelia.  Amelia even begins to pity Charity because she has so little freedom.

Amelia not only sees and speaks out against the fundamental wrongness of this lack of rights for women, but she also exposes how inhumane humans can actually be.  She is appalled by the idea that Barnum thinks he has a right to own people or animals, and she is also dismayed when the mermaid tour travels south and she sees slaves working the fields and being mistreated.  Through Amelia’s eyes, Henry delivers a pretty clear message that humans could use a little more humanity.

 

The only issue I really had with the novel was the character of Levi Lyman.  He is the associate of Barnum’s who is sent to find the Mermaid in the first place.  I liked him well enough, especially in the sense that he clearly had Amelia’s best interests at the forefront of his mind at all times.  My only issue was that it felt like I didn’t really get to know nearly as much about him as I would have liked.  Same thing with Barnum’s wife, Charity.  They both intrigued me and while there were hints of what they were like, I just wanted a little more.

 

The Mermaid is a beautifully written story that is sure to captivate fans of both historical fiction and mythology.  One caveat I’ll add is that Henry admits she has written the version of Barnum that she needed for this story, so I’d recommend taking this portrayal of him with a grain of salt since this isn’t meant to be a biography.  It is an exquisite work of fiction though and I fully expect it to land of my list of favorite 2018 reads.

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From the author of Lost Boy comes a historical fairy tale about a mermaid who leaves the sea for love and later finds herself in P.T. Barnum’s American Museum as the real Fiji mermaid. However, leaving the museum may be harder than leaving the sea ever was.

Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn’t bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.\

P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he’d heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he’s determined to hold on to his mermaid.

four-half-stars

About Christina Henry

CHRISTINA HENRY is the author of the CHRONICLES OF ALICE duology, ALICE and RED QUEEN, a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as LOST BOY: THE TRUE STORY OF CAPTAIN HOOK, an origin story of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.

She is also the author of the national bestselling BLACK WINGS series (BLACK WINGS, BLACK NIGHT, BLACK HOWL, BLACK LAMENT, BLACK CITY, BLACK HEART and BLACK SPRING) featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle.

ALICE was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2015. It was also a Goodreads Choice Award nominee in Horror and one of Barnes & Noble’s Bestselling Science Fiction and Fantasy novels of 2015.

She enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with samurai, zombies and/or subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.