Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

Escape from Witchwood HollowEscape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this story from the beginning. The author is clear, imaginative and gives life to her characters early on so the reader is able to get a good image of them mentally and identify with them easily.

The author did a good job of telling a multi-generational tale with a lot of unexpected twists. Some of this story reminded me a bit of Moll Dyer, especially early on in the book.

I’ve read a lot of books that fall into this genre in the last year, and many of them have been disappointing, but this one, filled with mystery and a bit of terror was really worth the time to read.

The ending chapters sealed the opinion that this is a stand out book. I liked the way the author made the reader think and do some solving of their own rather than just explaining everything to death.

Overall, I thought this was a great book, and would be perfect for a Halloween night read.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

View all my reviews

First Impression: A Shadow Maven Paranormal by Pauline Creeden

First Impression: A Shadow Maven ParanormalFirst Impression: A Shadow Maven Paranormal by Pauline Creeden

Chira Kelly thought she didn’t need anyone…until she met Ben.

Because of one ugly rumor, Chira lives as an outcast at her school. Which is fine with her, because she works better alone. Always has, always will. And at least she has her one and only true friend, Tasha. When Tasha insists that they join a group to visit a possibly haunted abandoned old schoolhouse, she’s wary, but joins her friend. Because of that decision, their lives are in jeopardy as a malevolent spirit targets the group. Tragedies and accidents pick them off one by one, and Chira finds herself drawn to the one person who can see the truth. But can he protect her?

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fun and entertaining book!

I wasn’t sure what I would think about this title when I first stumbled across it. There have been so many YA books with similar themes that I sort of expected “just another one,” but this book was truly a standout.

The story is a quick read and easy to follow, but has quite a bit of depth to the plot and the characters. I liked the main characters a lot and for once, agreed that they should actually be together. So many times I wonder why an author will force chemistry when there is none.

Ben is a very solid character with an interesting past and a lot of things left to reveal about himself in the coming books. I like the way the author writes her dialogue. It is age appropriate for the group of teens she was representing, and never sounded false or pushed.

I would have liked to know more about Chira’s past, but perhaps that will come forth in future books. She was a likeable character that was easy to support.

The story did not go as I expected it to after a quick reveal of the paranormal aspects, and this made me happy. I loved that the characters were consistent and reliable but the story was not predictable.

I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series, and encourage you all to check it out.

This review is based on a digital ARC from Netgalley and the publisher.

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Vaughn Entwhistle

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan DoyleThe Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Vaughn Entwistle

Arthur Conan Doyle has just killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem,” and he immediately becomes one of the most hated men in London. So when he is contacted by a medium “of some renown” and asked to investigate a murder, he jumps at the chance to get out of the city. The only thing is that the murder hasn’t happened yet—the medium, one Hope Thraxton, has foreseen that her death will occur at the third séance of a meeting of the Society for Psychical Research at her manor house in the English countryside. 

Along for the ride is Conan Doyle’s good friend Oscar Wilde, and together they work to narrow down the list of suspects, which includes a mysterious foreign Count, a levitating magician, and an irritable old woman with a “familiar.” Meanwhile, Conan Doyle is enchanted by the plight of the capricious Hope Thraxton, who may or may not have a more complicated back-story than it first appears. As Conan Doyle and Wilde participate in séances and consider the possible motives of the assembled group, the clock ticks ever closer to Hope’s murder, in The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I dare you to read this book and not fall in love with it if you are or have ever been a Sherlock Holmes fan.

This is definitely one of the best books I have read this year. I giggled my way through the wry humour and appreciated the complexity of the mysteries involved in the telling of this tale.

From the very beginning, you can tell that the author put a lot of thought into this work. He managed to not only honour Arthur Conan Doyle and his fantastic career, but to make a new and interesting story of his life and his most infamous character.

The characters in this book are vibrant and alive, and each one has a special role to play in the story. I loved the way he portrayed Oscar Wilde in particular. If you are a fan of the literary greats, you can’t go wrong with this story. The flair that Mr. Wilde was painted with was in keeping with the historical documentation on his charismatic personality. From his concern over his clothing to his determination to make an entrance in every situation, he was written perfectly.

As for the paranormal aspect of the story, it was ever present throughout the entire book. The paranormal theme did not waver as the tale progressed.

I liked the conflicted emotions of the main character and his struggle to honour his wife, whilst still experiencing things that reminded him he was a young man. This made the author seem more important than his character for once, and I enjoyed that aspect very much.

The ending of the story is surprising and left me excited to read the next installment. There have been a lot of books based on famous authors, but this one was by far the best I have read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who truly loves literature, from the past and the present.

This review is based on a digital ARC from Netgalley and the publisher.

The Room Beyond, By Stephanie Elmas

The Room BeyondThe Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas


When Serena begins a new life working for the Hartreve family at 36 Marguerite Avenue she falls in love, not just with its eccentric and alluring inhabitants and their world, but with the house itself. Number 36 is a beautiful Victorian London mansion that has remained in the family for generations. Serena feels that by being here she has escaped the ghosts of her own sad childhood and found a true home, but she soon discovers that behind its gleaming surfaces Marguerite Avenue is plagued by secrets and mystery. Why does such a beautiful tranquil street seem sometimes to shimmer with menace? Is everyone in the family quite who they appear to be? And just what is it that the family is trying to hide from her?

It is 1892. On a hot summer night scented with jasmine, Miranda Whitestone hosts a dinner party at 34 Marguerite Avenue. Watching helplessly as her husband is seduced by her glamorous neighbour Lucinda Eden, she can have no idea of the consequences the evening will have.

For the history of Marguerite Avenue is more chilling than Serena could have imagined, and the fates of two women – the beautiful renegade Lucinda and the ‘good wife’ Miranda – will reach out from the past to cast a shadow over Serena’s own future.

The Room Beyond is a thriller that delves beneath the romance and grandeur of a London house and finds a family haunted by the legacy of past wrongdoings. As the suspense grows and the fog thickens, will Serena be able to give up all that she has come to love? Will she ever escape?

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is now at the top of my favourite books of the year list. After reading this book, I wanted to accost the first person I saw walking down the street and force them to listen to me whilst I told them all about it (without spoilers, of course.)

It is very hard to write this review without giving away major plot points, as nothing that you see in the first few chapters is what you expect it to be later and the author is a beautiful literary illusionist.

I am now going to do my best to make sense without making too much sense, if that makes any sense.

Reasons I believe you should read this book:

The editing is immaculate. Seriously, there was not so much as a comma in the wrong place, which made for a really smooth and easily flowing reading experience.

The main character was someone that I not only felt I could relate to, but genuinely developed feelings for over the course of the story–although, I have to say, in the end–was still not my favourite character, I will get to that in a moment. Through this author’s writing, you can literally feel the emotions of the characters. You laugh with them, cry with them and hope for them that things will turn out well. On the other hand, Stephanie Elmas has also created villains that are so vile, and so evil that you want to jump into the book and battle them yourself. This does not happen to me very often, where I feel so much dislike for a book character that I actually find my emotions affected by it.

I loved Beth’s character for her precocious nature and her ability to control portions of the story through the actions of the others who surrounded her. I was so impressed with the people in this novel. The dialogue made them seem as if they were friends or relatives that you were in on the secrets of and had known for a long while.

On to that favourite Character. Without giving anything away, Walter was one of the most interesting characters I have ever read. He has mystical and mysterious qualities. He is not attractive physically, but compelling in every other way. I do have to say though, that Gladys was also a rival for my affection.

The plot in this book just keeps taking twists that I could not have expected. This, for me, was one of the most important reasons that I loved it so much. Guess as you may, you will never have it all figured out until the last page.

Pacing is even throughout this story and there was never a time when I had the desire to skim over it or wish it would hurry up. In fact, when I reached the end, I felt saddened that I had to part with it and confused about what I should move onto next. Sometimes it is very difficult to find anything as good as what you just finished, and it may take me a while before I can find anything to compete with this.

If there is a book that I would consider a “you must read this book” novel in the last year, this is it. I am so happy to have found the writing of this author and am very much looking forward to future releases from her.

This review is based on a digital ARC from Netgalley.

*Sorry to the author and other readers that this review is so long, I had a surprising amount to say for trying not to say much:)*

About the author: (I totally lifted this from goodreads:)


Stephanie Elmas was born in Hong Kong to an English father and Czech mother but spent most of her childhood in Bristol. She studied English at university in London. She has worked as a head hunter, taught English in Japan and returned to university to complete a Masters in Victorian fiction. It was here that she developed her interest in the dark dangerous world of Victorian sensation writing. Stephanie now lives in a chaotic house in Surrey with her husband and three highly energetic but wonderful children.

An Interview with Author Michael M. Hughes (Blackwater Lights)

Today, I am very pleased to feature author Michael Hughes from Random House’s Hydra imprint. He is the author of “Blackwater Lights,” which I recently read and fell in love with. You can find my review here in case you missed it. I would like to take a moment and thank Mr. Hughes for agreeing to the interview and providing insight into his creative process. Please welcome him to Readful Things :)


 Tell us a little about you and your writing career.

I’ve been writing fiction and poetry ever since I was a kid, and I first attempted a novel when I was seven (about a modern day vampire) but only got through three chapters. I distinctly remember sitting on my bedroom floor pecking at the keys on my typewriter and being startled (and a little freaked out) at how the words I was putting on paper were actually creeping me out. I was scaring myself! That was my first taste of the magic of storytelling. As I got older I drifted into acting and was a theater major in college, and it wasn’t until I was almost forty that I decided to get serious and write a novel. I have to credit Stephen King’s excellent On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft with lighting the fire that made me decide I could, and should, do it. So I gave myself a deadline of my daughter’s birth to finish my first draft. I made it by a few days and celebrated with a glass of champagne. I had actually done it!

But I was all alone when it came to the formidable world of publishing, and didn’t know anyone who had written a book, much less published one. By a lovely stroke of luck, the Borderlands Boot Camp—an intensive writing workshop focused on horror and dark fantasy—was taking place that winter, and was located about fifteen minutes from my home. One of the instructors, bestselling author Thomas F. Monteleone, read my first three chapters and asked me, “What have you published?” “Nothing,” I said. He looked surprised. “Who’s your agent?” he then asked. I told him I didn’t have one. “Well, this is really good stuff. It should be published. Let me introduce you to my agent.” I was in shock. It wasn’t supposed to be that easy.

His agent liked the story (which at that point was titled Cabal), but decided to pass. But Tom hooked me up with another agent, and he immediately loved it and decided to represent me. We revised the hell out of the book, maybe a total of five or six major revisions over the course of a year. A film agent expressed his interest, but wanted to wait for print publication before securing rights. At that point I was fantasizing about quitting my day job and building my lake house writing retreat where I could spend my life cranking out bestsellers. Good thing I didn’t, because soon the rejections started coming. One after another, almost all along the lines of “Great story, very suspenseful, but just not for us.” I got depressed. Then I submitted to tiny publishers, and even tinier publishers, but no one wanted the damn novel. Even my short stories were getting rejected from magazines with horrible names along the lines of Rotting Corpse Review. My agent finally said, “Just write your next book.” Which I started to do, but my heart was still with my firstborn novel. I couldn’t just shove it into a drawer, so I kept sending it out whenever a faint possibility arose.

Then I saw that Random House was starting a new sf/f/h digital imprint. I’d become a massive reader of ebooks after getting one of the very first iPads off the assembly line, so I knew that digital books were going to become more and more important to the industry. So I sent off my first few chapters, expecting the usual rejection. About a month later an email popped up. The editor wanted to read the whole thing. A couple weeks later I got an offer, and to say I was elated would be an incredibly understatement. And my first novel, Blackwater Lights, is now a real book, albeit made of electrons and not paper. And I’m working on two more books in the series.

When did you first know that you were going to write?

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to read, and ever since I could read I knew I wanted to write stories for other people. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone who loves fiction not wanting to create it. I was one of those kids who would always carry a book with me, and when visiting with my relatives I’d find a quiet corner and plop myself down and get lost in the world of my book. Some of my aunts and uncles thought I was being antisocial or rude, but my parents always supported me. They realized that reading is not passive—it’s active engagement, not mindless escape like watching TV. My imagination was always cranking out stories, so I knew at a very early age that I was lucky to have that gift and I should make use of it. My first “published” story appeared in my high school literary magazine. It was a horror short story called “The Catalyst” and I recently found a copy of it and posted it on my blog. And it’s not that bad!

What inspired you to write Blackwater Lights?

A lot of things inspired the book. I’ve always been fascinated by the capital-M Mystery—the big questions about life, death, consciousness, and the often-ignored data that bedevils scientists (and that most of them would rather ignore). Stuff like psychic phenomena, UFOs, near-death experiences, shamanic states of consciousness, psychedelics, and the like. I’ve also been a fan of horror and the macabre since I can remember, and was lucky enough to read Poe, Lovecraft, Stoker, Shelley, and other classics before I got bowled over by Stephen King in the 70s and discovered that horror can be modern and realistic, and wasn’t relegated to gloomy moors and creaky old mansions. So it only made sense that these subjects would become integral parts of my fiction.

And in 1990 I had a sighting of two extremely fast-moving orange lights in the night sky over the Atlantic Ocean. They were doing things that are impossible for conventional aircraft, and I am still trying to understand what they were. I know what they weren’t but I have no idea what they were. So that incident became the genesis for the mystery lights of Blackwater, West Virginia, where the novel takes place.

Sometimes people neglect to review a book they have read. How important do you find it as an author, for people to share their opinions about your work? Do you take their comments into consideration when planning your next novel?

Reviews have become critical to a book’s success, particularly if the book is digital-only (like mine). So I encourage everyone who reads Blackwater Lights to leave a review—even if they don’t like it. I even send personalized postcards to those who review it online, as a thank you (and as an alternative to signing a book since I don’t have physical copies to sign). But although I love it when a reader posts a positive review—especially when he or she really gets what I was aiming for—I expect there are plenty of people who will not like the book. It’s inevitable. But I would never change my vision or my style to appease a reader based on reviews. I have to go with the stuff the muses offer me. I trust them, and my judgment from years of reading and writing, more than some anonymous person on Amazon or B&N.

Can we expect further works form you in the near future and can you give us any hints about what we might see?

I’m already deep into the as-yet-untitled followup to Blackwater Lights, which should satisfy the many people who have been clamoring for a sequel. I left the book open-ended because it felt like the story should continue, and I’m glad I can watch the characters and their world come alive again. In the sequel, the main characters are on the run in Central America, so the setting has gotten bigger, as have the stakes. And Lily, who everyone loves to hate, is back and nastier than ever. The central elements from the first book—the global conspiracy, battling secret societies, ritual magic, and otherworldly entities—are there in book two, only in a much bigger way. And Ray and Ellen, and Ellen’s son, William are still fighting for their lives against malevolent forces that want to destroy them. This book is much more Ellen’s story, so readers who wanted more of her will get it. The book will arrive, again in digital form, in the summer of 2014.

Has publishing and marketing been different than you expected it to be?

I really didn’t know what to expect from Hydra, my publisher, since the digital imprint was a new concept for one of the Big Five. There was a lot of negativity when the imprint launched because people found the initial contracts too restrictive on authors and too “grabby” when it came to rights. To Random House’s credit they made a number of changes and I found the contract and their new business model (a profit-sharing partnership with authors) to be satisfactory and, in some ways, quite progressive.

One of the reasons I resisted self-publishing was the power a traditional publisher wields in not just name-recognition but in sales and marketing savvy. The team at Hydra have confirmed my choice to wait for a contract from a major publisher, in spite of all the suggestions to go it alone. While every author always wants more PR and marketing than a publisher can or will deliver, I have been impressed with the team’s dedication to my book, and at its peak Blackwater Lights was in the top 25 bestselling books in the Nook store and the top 10 in Kindle horror. I couldn’t have done that myself. I would rather spend my time writing than marketing, so I’m happy to have the professionals doing what they do best.

That said, it is critical for every writer, especially a newly published one, to do as much as possible to boost sales. That means Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and taking every opportunity to get your book and your name circulating online and in the real world. If you’re already established and have sold hundreds of thousands of books, you might, like Jonathan Franzen, be able to avoid pimping your work on social media. But if you’re a new commodity, and you don’t have a base of fans waiting to buy your work, you need to find those fans. And that means tooting your own horn, even if you find it distasteful. You may not like it, but it’s the reality of the world we live in.

Where can we find and your work?

My blog ( has a list of all my writing, including my nonfiction. Blackwater Lights is available now from all the major online retailers of ebooks, and the sequel will out in July of 2014. I have a short story coming out in the anthology Canopic Jars: Tales of Mummies and Mummification from Great Old Ones Publishing (, and some other projects in the works. So stop by my blog and sign up for the newsletter if you want to stay updated (and get some exclusive extras like deleted chapters, previews, and more).

Any final thoughts for fans/audience?

I love when readers connect with my vision. It’s dark, and disturbing at times, and it’s certainly not for everyone. But I am a hopeful, optimistic person, and I think that comes through in my writing, even when the stories go to some very creepy places. I’ve been overjoyed that many people who don’t consider themselves horror readers/fans have loved Blackwater Lights. And that’s what I was hoping for. Because I don’t define myself as a horror writer. I am a writer of stories that contain horror and the supernatural, certainly, but they’re also about human beings and their loves, their fears, their quirks, and their triumphs. I don’t like being contained in a genre—genres can become ghettos, and I’m always trying to stretch my boundaries. I think the people who like my books the most are those who don’t want by-the-numbers stories about zombies or vampires and the like, but enjoy supernatural thrills based in a very real and believable world with complex, interesting characters. That’s the stuff I find the most deliciously creepy, and I hope others do, too.


Michael M. Hughes writes both fiction and nonfiction. His debut novel, BLACKWATER LIGHTS, is published by Hydra, an imprint of Random House. When he’s not writing, he lectures on paranormal and fortean topics and performs as a mentalist (psychic entertainer). He lives in Baltimore with his wife and two daughters.

A collection of his short horror stories, Invocation of the Incisor and Other Dark Tales, can be found at Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Nook, iBooks, and other ebook vendors.

The Cheesemaker’s House by Jane Cable

The Cheesemaker's HouseThe Cheesemaker’s House by Jane Cable

Inspired by a framed will found in her dream Yorkshire house, which had been built at the request of the village cheesemaker in 1726, Jane Cable discovered the historical aspect of her novel. Set near Northallerton in North Yorkshire, The Cheesemaker’s House is a page-turner that will have readers hooked instantly.

The novel follows the life of Alice Hart, who escapes to the North Yorkshire countryside to recover after her husband runs off with his secretary. Battling with loneliness but trying to make the best of her new start, she soon meets her neighbours, including handsome builder Richard Wainwright and kind café owner Owen Maltby. As Alice employs Richard to start renovating the barn next to her house, all is not what it seems. Why does she start seeing Owen when he clearly isn’t there? Where – or when – does the strange crying come from? And if Owen is the village ‘charmer’, what exactly does that mean?

Cable’s characters are shrouded in mystery, particularly Owen, who had been in her head from the summer of 2008. Her father had an interest in folklore and she discovered ‘charmers’ in a book from his extensive library. Around the same time she created Alice through a short piece of fiction which became the original opening of the novel, and the rest of the story simply fell into place.

The Cheesemaker’s House won the Suspense & Crime category of The Alan Titchmarsh Show’s People’s Novelist competition, reaching the last four out of over a thousand entries.–from Goodreads

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yay for the good old-fashioned ghost story with a great romance as well. I really enjoyed this book. The pace is slower at the beginning as the author sets up the story and introduces her characters and their situations, but I promise you it is worth it to stick around.

This book is haunting and beautiful at the same time. The main character is easy to get to know and she reveals enough about her current life, past and personality so that by the end of the novel, you feel as though she has become your friend and you genuinely care what happens to her.

One of the things that I liked about this book so much, was the way the author revealed the past history of the house and lives of the characters while still progressing forward with their current lives. In this story, the tales of the past and the present collide in a most shocking and interesting manner.

This is a book that kept me turning pages long into the night after I should have long been asleep. I would certainly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a well told paranormal story with a strong romantic angle.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher and Netgalley.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

This House is HauntedThis House is Haunted by John Boyne

Written in Dickensian prose, This House Is Haunted is a striking homage to the classic nineteenth century ghost story. Set in Norfolk in 1867, Eliza Caine responds to an ad for a governess position at Gaudlin Hall. When she arrives at the hall, shaken by an unsettling disturbance that occurred during her travels, she is greeted by the two children now in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There is no adult present to represent her mysterious employer, and the children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, another terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong.

From the moment Eliza rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence that lives within Gaudlin’s walls. Eliza realizes that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall’s long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past. Clever, captivating, and witty, This House Is Haunted is pure entertainment with a catch.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


My Thoughts:

Didn’t take me very long to decide that this book and I were going to have a great love affair. What did I love about it? There really wasn’t anything that I didn’t love about it. When the blurb described it as the classic nineteenth century ghost story, I was skeptical. There have been a lot of other books that made similar claims, and they have been a disappointment. I doubt anyone would be disappointed with this one.

I will not spend a lot of time going over events in this story as the blurb has taken care of that already. What made me love this book more than anything was that it was creepy and chilling rather than disgusting and horrifying. I have always enjoyed literature that revolves around a good mystery and this novel does. There was no need for gore and blood when the story itself was so well written. This is a book that the imagination of the reader can have fun with.

The way the plot twists and events unfold in this story is handled with grace. You may think you have things figured out, but along the way somewhere, Mr. Boyne will surprise you with something you weren’t expecting, thus changing your outlook on what is to happen next.

I was particularly enthralled with the strange dynamic between Isabella and her Brother Eustace. She was a curiosity throughout the entire story, as I was never sure if she was what she claimed to be. This made the story far more interesting.

The main character is introduced to the story in such a manner that you feel you have come to know her and much about her life before the rest of the book begins. This was lovely. I was concerned for her safety and stayed right with her throughout the entirety of the tale. She is a likable main character, strong, intelligent and able to command the attention of the reader. There is a hint of romance, but it does not consume the book.

The climax of this tale is worthy of being called a ghost story. Where many other books have failed at giving the reader a believable basis for why paranormal events would happen, this one succeeded. The plot is tight, makes sense and leaves you in anticipation of the final events. Even through the last word of the book I was hooked.

I definitely recommend this book. In fact, you should be reading this book instead of my review. Go…read. You will be happy you did.

Dickens would be proud, I believe.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher and provided in agreement with Netgalley.