The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

With Netflix releasing its adaptation of ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, I decided it was time that I tried to read some of Jackson’s work.

I am usually not one for spooky novels but, as I have started to want to read books that fit seasons this year, I made a change. I could not put this book down once I started it. Shirley Jackson writes in a wonderfully accessible style which sucks you in – and also adds to how much she manages to spook her readers. Although it was clear that the TV adaptation was only really inspired by, rather than fully based, on the book both are wonderful in their own way.

Again, I do not want to spoil the novel for anyone who may want to read it. However, if you do, you will be as drawn into the mystery of Hill House as its inhabitants. I did not find it a terrifying read but it certainly can play on your mind as the story unfolds. What is real in the house and what isn’t? Is everyone having the same experience or is there more to it?

I am certainly glad that I chose to read this book in October, as it is idea for autumn. I am also glad that I did not assume I knew the story from the Netflix series – well, for me anyway. So, I have now discovered another author whose books I would like to read more.

Have you read any Shirley Jackson novels? What are your thoughts?

The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

So, I spotted that this was considered a must-read for autumn, which was the final little piece of encouragement I needed to pick up a copy – as, basically, I wanted to read it anyway – haha!

This is a brilliant thriller and I was genuinely surprised it was a debut novel. It is a clever and sophisticated plot with a twist on what seemed like every page. The tale is told in the past as well as the present – giving us the context around the strange events playing out, or almost, repeated in Eddie’s life. I genuinely can not say much about this book but I do not want to even hint at a spoiler for anyone who would want to pick it up. However, I would have liked a little bit more of the ‘spooky’ side of the tale – but this does not negatively impact the tale at all merely a personal preference.

I also could not believe the final chapter – it was not what I was expecting at all – maybe some of you would have spotted it, but I didn’t, so it was an excellent twist.

The Chalk Man – which works on more than one level in the story – is correctly identified as an excellent autumn/winter read. It is ideal for those dark nights when many of us like to be a little bit spooked.

Really excited to see what C J Tudor’s next book brings…

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I had spotted this book in the Bookstagram world, so when it was a bargain then I had to pick up a copy. Now, I had no idea what this novel was about, just that it was by the same author as ‘Gone Girl’.

When I started reading I was instantly hooked as there were so many strands to this novel that you simply wanted to know ‘Who, What, Where, When, Why, How’. There is a clever study of human nature and psychological throughout. The interactions between the characters are absolutely fascinating. Especially, when you realise the impact that someone’s actions and attitudes can have on someone else. Camille and her mother have a very strange and strained relationship but as secrets are uncovered there are even more surprises ahead for all. As well as the solution to the mystery gripping Wind Gap.

This book is not a comfortable read, as it deals with some very difficult issues, but it is compelling. I am glad I have read it and it will certainly stay with me for a long time to come – a good autumnal choice.

Have you read any Gillian Flynn novels?

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

My reading habits have changed slightly since becoming a book blogger. Never before did I consider which month to read certain books, but now it seems to be one of the key considerations when deciding what to read. Therefore, I was really excited when it was revealed that this month’s ‘Maidens of Murder’ book was ‘The Pale Horse’, one I knew had a slightly spooky undercurrent.

Again, we were not taken on this adventure by Poirot or Miss Marple but Mark Easterbrook is our narrative provider. (Even the most recent ITV adaptation did add Miss Marple to the tale). A number of mysterious deaths have taken place, but when a priest is murdered after visiting one of the ‘victims’ it seems that there could be more to this than meets the eye. Mark Easterbrook becomes intrigued by this mystery, which seems to lead to a slightly strange public house called ‘The Pale Horse’. It appears that the ladies who inhabit it may have some connections to practicing the ‘dark arts’.

I really enjoyed this novel. If you read this little blog on a regular basis, you will know that I am an Agatha Christie fan but there are still a few novels that do not quite hit the spot, but this was not one of them. I just wanted to know what was happening next; there is a well-built-up tension – and the twist – well I did not spot that coming! (Although, as always, it seems so obvious when it is fully revealed).

So, October has got off to a suitably spooky start – A classic Christie!

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey

This is not a book I would ever read if I was faced with a choice. A strange statement, I realise, as I have clearly read it, but that is thanks to it arriving in a little bookish parcel from Hayley of Hayley From Home. I also actually enjoyed it – my first step into real zombie fiction.

Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. I was intrigued at every page and chapter about what was going to happen next. Melanie, the girl with all the gifts, appears to be living a monotonous life of routine and confinement. It does not seem to make sense and nor does the ‘fear’ people express around her and her ‘friends’. When an attack breaks the ‘life’ she is used to, and she finds herself on the run with four adults, she finally realises the uncomfortable truth, forges some unusual friendship and understands exactly what it is that makes her different.

The tale was a little bit slow in the middle but it did seem to reflect the development of the story and experiences of the characters. There are brilliantly jumpy moments, emotional moments and even moments of real humour. Although, the thing that really appealed to me was that this was a story with a heart. There is a real human side to this zombie book. And the twist was not one I expected, but was very well done.

This was an ideal book for the dark autumn nights – I am glad that Hayley sharing it with me pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to try something new.

Has a friend ever helped you find a surprising new read?

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Less than a month ago I read ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and it left such an impression on me that I was keen to read ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’. The thing that always strikes me is that Haig is so honest in his writing. His willingness to share personal experiences and his successes (and flaws) makes it such a relatable read.

The irony of this book is that I was introduced to Matt Haig through social media. Yet he makes a very good point about the impact, sometimes negative, that such things can have on our lives. Having felt anxiety levels rise over the years (and working with the young people of the 21st Century) this book certainly encouraged me to re-evaluate my use and potential reliance on social media.

This book also reminds you that the simple things in life are worth enjoying. After all, do we really need a 24-hour life? Our bodies are made for sleep, so let them sleep. Give yourself the chance to recover from whatever the day has thrown at you.

Follow some, if not all, of the guidance Matt Haig offers and you will start to realise that we can not control everything around us, but we can support ourselves to reduce our nervousness. You will also learn some history as you go and it will spark some other paths of interest that you may wish to follow.

So, slow down, pick up a book and take a little break from the Nervous Planet.

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

This months ‘Maidens of Murder’ book club choice is ‘The Seven Dials Mystery’. This was not a title that I was aware of but, as regular readers of the blog will know, I am always happy to give a Christie novel a go. It also seems fitting that I finished it on Agatha Christie’s birthday, which is a fitting tribute to the ‘Queen of Crime’s’ memory.

I found this novel an absolute joy to read. It really reminded me of the novels of PG Wodehouse, as there was a humour and charm to this novel that resonated with me from the first page.

This is not a novel that involves Poirot or Miss Marple, but instead Superintendent Battle (who appears in five of Christie’s novels). However, for me, other than his part in the big reveal that we  all associate with Christie’s work, he is not the star of the story. This novel in fact has a wonderfully strong female lead in ‘Bundle’. A young (and fairly wealthy) lady who sees herself as a little bit of an amateur sleuth and ends up embroiled in the ‘Seven Dials Mystery’ when two young men from her social circle wind up dead.

It is a beautifully crafted novel, as you would expect, but does read in a slightly different style to the Marples and Poirots I am used to. This made it even more appealing to me as it demonstrated that Christie is a consistently skilled writer but can make small adjustments to her style to keep the stories fresh.

I absolutely can not wait to see what next month’s offering is as so far each title has reignited my love of Agatha Christie’s work.

The Magic of Christmas Tree Farm by Erin Green

I am unbelievably lucky to call the lovely author Erin Green a friend. She is one of the most inspirational ladies I know and I have followed her writing career with great excitement and pride. So, imagine my surprise one grey day (pretty sure it was grey but that could be artistic licence) when I got a little message asking me which name I would like my character to have in her latest novel. As an avid reader and huge fan of Erin’s work, this was one of the most fabulous things to ever happen.

Erin’s third offering is a truly beautiful tale with a heart. Set at the most wonderful time of the year, it tells the tale of three lovely ladies who are at three very different stages of their lives but who all want the same thing – that very special stomach flip and the future happiness we all deserve. The tale centres around the delightful Christmas Tree Farm, a place that offers festive magic for all.

The real beauty of Erin’s writing is that you can relate to the characters and their experiences. We will all have felt Holly’s teenage fears, we all know that life can not always be all we imagined but it can still be our best life like Angie, and Nina’s loss will strike a note with anyone who has experienced something similar. This book certainly should come with a mascara warning because the story will catch you out unexpectedly with its beautiful sensitivity.

It was also a complete joy to recognise the little tributes to people that Erin (and in some cases, I) know. The inspirations were clear and wonderful. The little observations Erin has made of people are delightful. So, I can not thank Erin enough for such a lovely reading experience and opportunity (she even described my wedding dress perfectly).

So, whatever your usual reading pleasure, you will enjoy this novel. It does have romance, it has humour but most importantly for me it has some key messages about life. After a difficult year at points for me, this book was quite a support.

And, this year, I think I might wrap a couple of extra presents in memory of loved ones – and pass them on to people I know could really love them…

P.S Kitty is an awesome character!

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

I have been a fan of Anthony Horowitz since I was a child. My sister discovered his comic children’s novels and I used to read them too. Also, being a huge fan of murder mysteries, I have watched many episodes of ‘Foyle’s War’ and ‘Midsomer Murders’ with Horowitz’s screenplays.

I am ashamed to say that ‘Magpie Murders’ has been on my ‘to be read’ pile for a long time, but I finally picked it up this month. It just seemed like a great novel for autumn, as it has so many hints of classic crime fiction.

This novel is a clever concept, like a novel within a novel. You start off reading the final Atticus Pund story by the author Alan Conway. You are reading it as his editor reads it, realising alongside her that the novel is not completed. However, the problem is Alan Conway appears to have killed himself and nobody seems to know where the end of the novel is. There also seems to be something odd about the death of its author. So, Susan Ryeland, a fan of crime fiction, finds herself not only on the hunt for the final chapter of ‘Magpie Murders’ but also for the truth about Conway’s death.

It is incredibly clever how Horowitz intertwines the two stories, as well as all the little nods to so many of the fictional detectives we know and love. It is certainly a book for crime fiction lovers, especially fans of Agatha Christie classics.

For me, the setting of Suffolk, especially little towns like Woodbridge, was an added joy, as I have so many happy memories of spending time with my extended family there.

This is quite a long read but it is certainly an enjoyable one especially as the nights draw in.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

If you visit my blog regularly you will know that I have read a few of Matt Haig’s children’s fiction books and I adore the the novel ‘How to Stop Time’. However, despite this, I had never read ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and now I really wish I had read it before.

I was aware of Matt Haig’s struggles with mental health and have always admired what an advocate he is for talking about mental health. Yet I was still so struck by the complete honesty in this book. I knew that this book chronicled the struggles Haig had faced when he had to bring himself back from the brink – an incredibly brave move in itself – but I did not expect that he would be so willing to be so ‘warts and all’ about the decision. This book taught me so much about mental health and even caused me to evaluate my life and how I live day by day.

However you see your life, this book is an inspiration. You will come away considering all the reasons there really are to stay alive and greet a new day, as well as giving you the chance to understand and evaluate the interactions you have with so many people every single day.

I have come away with a desire to learn more about mental health (you are provided with some further reading ideas), to really take care of my own mental health, to support other people and always be willing to listen as much as I talk and vice versa.

And…I am going to ensure I appreciate all those reasons I have to stay alive.