Book Review: The Haunting of the Crowford Hoy (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #5)

Title: The Haunting of the Crowford Hoy (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #5)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror, Ghosts
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

The year is 1984, and Sally Cooper arrives in Crowford with her desperately ill son Tommy. Having secured a job in one of the local pubs, Sally hopes to start a new life, but tragedy soon strikes and she’s left clinging to the hope that her son’s ghost will appear.

As the months roll past, Sally begins to give up hope, until one day a friend makes a shocking suggestion. If the spirits of the Crowford Hoy refuse to show themselves, is it time to do something that might catch their attention? Although she’s reluctant at first, Sally soon comes around to the idea, but she has no idea of the dangers that are waiting to be unleashed in the pub’s darkest shadows.

What happened to Annie Ashton, the girl who disappeared from the pub many years ago? Why is the spirit of Mildred Weaver out for revenge? And once a connection to the undead has been opened, can Sally ever hope to force it shut again?

The Haunting of the Crowford Hoy is the fifth book in the Ghosts of Crowford series. Each book is a standalone story, and there’s no need to read them in any particular order.

My reviews of previous books in the series:

Like the other books in the series, The Haunting of the Crowford Hoy can be read as a stand-alone. It features different characters than the other books, and the only common denominator is that all these books are set in the fictional town of Crowford, where there are more ghosts than people (it seems) and where its inhabitants have already been subjected to every possible terror known to mankind.

Sally moved to Crowford in 1984 along with her son Tommy, who unfortunately is very ill. When Tommy passes away, Sally is desperate to communicate with his spirit, but she seems to be the only person in Crowford who has trouble running into any ghosts whatsoever – even the famous ghosts of the Crowford Hoy refuse to appear. But when Sally makes a foolhardy decision to see the ghosts of the Crowford Hoy, she has no idea what she signed up for.

It’s a good story, with some unexpected twists, and it definitely shows that you shouldn’t interfere with powers you don’t understand. The only downside, like with some of the other books by this author, is that there are sometimes continuity errors. For example, names being mixed-up. I understand it happens and Amy Cross is an indie author who writes a lot of new books each year – and I’m thankful for that, as I insta-buy and read most of them – but it can be a bit confusing when reading. A proofreading session for each book would be a good idea, I think.

Either way, like the other books in this series, it has a solid plot, the characters are flawed, and the pacing is so fast I flew through the pages. On to the next Crowford adventure.

Book Review: Mouse Trap by Caryn Larrinaga

Title: Mouse Trap
Author: Caryn Larrinaga
Genre: Horror, Paranormal
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

Death haunts the Scott family home.

Twenty years ago, Dakota Scott’s baby brother died falling down the back stairs. Twenty-four hours ago, her older brother, Lennox, wasted away into nothing in the same house. Two deaths, just floors apart, yet no one suspects a connection.

Settling Lennox’s affairs lures Dakota back to the family’s old Victorian home overlooking Astoria. It has changed over the years—what was once a happy home is now filled with sadness, strange memories, and lights that won’t stay lit.

In the ever-growing darkness, a sinister force has awakened from a long slumber, and it is far from finished with Dakota. Her life and sanity hang in the balance—alongside everything she holds dear.

Fans of Shirley Jackson, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Elizabeth Engstrom will love the quiet horror in this modern gothic tale.

Mouse Trap is the first book I’ve read by author Caryn Larrinaga, but if it’s up to me, it definitely won’t be my last. This book is a modern gothic, spinning a delicious mix of dread and eeriness right from the first page.

Twenty years ago, Kai, Dakota’s baby brother, died falling down the stairs of their ancestral home. Now, her brother Lennox has also been found dead in the same house, although by all accounts it looks like he died naturally – before his time surely, but naturally.

Dakota and her parents return home to handle Lennox’s affairs and arrange the funeral. But as soon as Dakota sets foot inside her childhood home, the sadness is almost too much to bear. And the more time she spends inside the house, the more memories she recalls of her childhood, and the sinister force that threatened her and her siblings… And that maybe, just maybe, never really let go.

I saw in some other reviews that people complained about the lack of spookiness, but honestly, I thought it was just the right amount of spooky. I don’t like “in-your-face” horror; I prefer my horror to be creepy, unsettling, but subtle enough that it creeps up on you slowly until you find yourself looking over your shoulder while reading. And that’s exactly what happened to me while reading Mouse Trap.

It’s a novella, so it’s a quick read, and the author tackles important subjects such as grief, family, going home. One of my favorite reads of the year thus far.

Book Review: A Good House for Children by Kate Collins

Title: A Good House for Children
Author: Kate Collins
Genre: Horror, Ghosts
Rating: 5 stars
Publication Date: March 2, 2023
Purchase: Amazon

The dazzling debut novel from Kate Collins—a feminist gothic mystery spanning decades, in the vein of Mexican Gothic and The Essex Serpent.

Once upon a time Orla was: a woman, a painter, a lover. Now she is a mother and a wife, and when her husband Nick suggests that their city apartment has grown too small for their lives, she agrees, in part because she does agree, and in part because she is too tired to think about what she really does want. She agrees again when Nick announces with pride that he has found an antiquated Georgian house on the Dorset cliffs—a good house for children, he says, tons of space and gorgeous grounds. But as the family settles into the mansion—Nick absent all week, commuting to the city for work—Orla finds herself unsettled. She hears voices when no one is around; doors open and close on their own; and her son Sam, who has not spoken in six months, seems to have made an imaginary friend whose motives Orla does not trust.

Four decades earlier, Lydia moves into the same house as a live-in nanny to a grieving family. Lydia, too, becomes aware of intangible presences in the large house, and she, like Orla four decades later, becomes increasingly fearful for the safety of the children in her care. But no one in either woman’s life believes her: the stories seem fanciful, the stuff of magic and mayhem, sprung from the imaginations of hysterical women who spend too much time in the company of children.

Are both families careening towards tragedy? Are Orla and Lydia seeing things that aren’t there? What secrets is the house hiding? A feminist gothic tale perfectly suited for the current moment, A Good House for Children combines an atmospheric mystery with resonant themes of motherhood, madness, and the value of a woman’s work.

It’s been a long time since I read a book that gripped me the way A Good House for Children did. I still can’t quite get over how amazing I thought this book was.

If you know me, you probably know I’m a huge fan of haunted house stories. It’s literally my favourite type of story. Gothic novels featuring sprawling mansions set in a desolate landscape? I’m in. I never turn down any book that has this kind of premise. Still, after reading dozens, if not hundreds, of books with more-or-less the same premise, it’s difficult to surprise me when presenting me with the haunted-house-trope. But then came along A Good House for Children, and I’m not just surprised; I’m completely blown away.

The Reeve. A haunted house like no other. Standing on the edge of the Dorset cliffs, it looks down upon the village below, upon the unforgiving sea, and upon mankind itself. The sprawling estate, large and (un)welcoming, seems the perfect house to raise kids.

At least, that’s what Orla’s husband Nick, tries to convince her of. But the moment Orla moves into the house, she already feels something is wrong with the bones of the house. The house is wrong. Its atmosphere, but also the way time moves inside the house, sometimes crawling slowly, other times making hours disappear in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t help that Nick is away for most of the week, leaving Orla alone with her young son Sam and her baby daughter Bridie.

The book alternates between Orla’s story and Lydia’s story, set in the 1976s, so a good forty years earlier. Lydia moves into The Reeve as live-in nanny for four young children who have recently lost their father. Offering also emotional support to the mother, Lydia struggles to find a balance between taking care of the children and urging their mother to spend more time with the children.

Loneliness plays a pivotal role in this book. We are all ghosts, as Kate Collins so pointedly writes in her novel. Ghosts of our pasts, ghosts of our what-could-be’s and what-will-never-be’s. Although Lydia is surrounded by another adult and four children, she is at her core, alone. For Orla, the loneliness is even more suffocating as her partner is not hidden in an upstairs room, but commutes to the city for most of the week, leaving her to fend for herself–and her kids–against forces that prey on every weakness.

The book takes it time to set the pace, to picture the characters, allowing you time, as a reader, to get to know the inhabitants of The Reeve. But as you devour page after page, an unsettled feeling starts creeping in. This isn’t in-your-face horror, no. It’s the subtle, atmospheric horror that is a million times more terrifying. It’s the type of horror that makes you wonder if you really did leave that piece of paper out on the kitchen table the next morning, or if you did leave your keys where you found them and not in another location. Is your memory foggy, or is something more troubling going on? That’s how the events in The Reeve start, with small, unsettling tidbits that gradually develop into an all-consuming horror that leaves the reader shaken, long after having finished the tale.

The prose is haunting (what a fitting word here), lyrical without being overdone, and it really lifts this book to the next level. I’m actually surprised this is the author’s debut, just because of how solid the prose is. Reading this almost feels like a poem, or a lullaby, where one sentence guides you effortlessly into the next.

I can’t wait for this author’s next book. If you enjoy haunted house stories, or just really well-written stories with a creepy vibe, then don’t hesitate for a second, just read A Good House for Children. You won’t be dissapointed.


Book Review: The Portrait of Sister Elsa (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #4)

Title: The Portrait of Sister Elsa (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #4)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror, Ghosts
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

The year is 1898, and celebrated painter Anthony Toyner is dying. Determined to complete one final masterpiece, he travels to Crowford, a coastal town with a dangerous reputation. Convinced that he’ll find the inspiration for his last painting, Toyner never suspects that he’s about to become embroiled in a battle for hundreds of souls.

Soon after arriving in Crowford, Toyner encounters a mysterious nun who is staying in the same public house. Sister Elsa Farr has a tendency to sneak out in the middle of the night, and one morning she returns with serious injuries. She refuses to say what happened or where she’s been, but Toyner discovers that she’s particularly interested in an abandoned church beyond the outskirts of town. Something deadly lurks in that church, something that one destroyed an entire village.

What really draws Sister Elsa back to the church night after night? Can Anthony Toyner discover what happened to the lost village before tragedy strikes again? And is his final painting, the centerpiece of an exhibition a century later, really cursed?

The Portrait of Sister Elsa is the fourth book in the series. Each book is a standalone story, and there is no need to read them in any particular order.

Reviews of previous books in the series: The Haunting of Nelson Street (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #1), The Revenge of the Mercy Belle (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #2) and The Ghost of Crowford School (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #3).

In 1898, a renowned painter called Anthony Toyner has taken up residence in Crowford, convinced he’ll find inspiration for his final painting in the small coastal town. Soon after his arrival, he encounters a mysterious nun: sister Elsa Farr. The nun seems up to something, as she sneaks out in the middle of the night, and even returns with some serious injuries the next morning.

Elsa refuses to disclose her whereabouts, which makes Toyner even more curious about what is going on, and what connection is between Elsa and the abandoned church on the outskirts of town.

The Portrait of Sister Elsa is one of my favourite books in this series. This was one of the few books that actually managed to scare me a little – and if you take into account that I devour horror novels like sweet candy, then you’ll realize that’s no easy feat.

The characters were intriguing, in particularly Elsa, and the mystery kept me guessing for a while. The twists are fun and surprising. Another great installment in the Ghosts of Crowford series.

Book Review: The Ghost of Crowford School (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #3)

Title: The Ghost of Crowford School (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #3)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror, Ghosts
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon

The year is 1988, and the old Crowford School building is about to be knocked down. Before that happens, however, three schoolchildren are determined to discover the truth about an old legend. Does the ghost of a murdered woman really haunt the old school? And if she does, what does she want from the living?

Eleven-year-old Bradley Firth has a particular reason for wanting to prove that the ghost is real. His own mother is desperately ill, and Bradley wants to believe that she can come back to him if the worst happens. As he and his friends venture into the abandoned school, however, they have no idea that they’re about to get caught up in a fifty-year old tragedy. They might also be about to uncover a disturbing secret about Crowford’s past.

Who really killed Eve Marsh all those years ago? Why does she seek vengeance on all those who enter the school? And can Eve’s soul be put to rest before the school is finally demolished?

Reviews of previous books in the series: The Haunting of Nelson Street (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #1) and The Revenge of the Mercy Belle (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #2).

The Ghost of Crowford School is the third book in a series of ghostly tales focused on the fictional town of Crowford. Each story can be read as a stand-alone, but if you’re reading the entire series, there are some elements that overlap.

In 1988, the old Crowford School building is about to get knocked down. However, before the school is demolished, three school children break and enter into the building, determined to find out the truth about an old legend. As the legend goes, the ghost of a murdered woman – Eve Marsh – is haunting the school. But is Eve’s spirit really roaming the derelict halls? And if so, can her soul be put to rest before the school is demolished?

Like all Amy Cross’s books, this one is fast-paced, with a few surprising twists and an interesting spin on the age-old ghost story. Unfortunately, the book does suffer from some typos, and the characterization could also be improved. I didn’t mind too much because I was engrossed in the story, but it still knocked down at least 1 star off my rating.

Book Review: The Revenge of the Mercy Belle (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #2)

Title: The Revenge of the Mercy Belle (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #2)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror, Ghosts
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon

The year is 1950, and a great tragedy has struck the town of Crowford. Three local men have been killed in a storm, after their fishing boat the Mercy Belle sank. A mysterious fourth man, however, was rescued. Nobody knows who he is, or what he was doing on the Mercy Belle… and the man has lost his memory.

Five years later, messages from the dead warn of impending doom for Crowford. The ghosts of the Mercy Belle’s crew demand revenge, and the whole town is being punished. The fourth man still has no memory of his previous existence, but he’s married now and living under the named Edward Smith. As Crowford’s suffering continues, the locals begin to turn against him.

What really happened on the night the Mercy Belle sank? Did the fourth man cause the tragedy? And will Crowford survive if this man is not sent to meet his fate?

The Revenge of the Mercy Belle is the second book in The Ghosts of Crowford series by Amy Cross, one of my favourite horror authors. You can find my review of the first book, The Haunting of Nelson Street, here.

For this second book, we return back to Crowford, but this time it’s the year 1950 and a horrible tragedy has struck the town. Three local men were killed during a storm that sank their fishing boat, the Mercy Belle. A fourth man was rescued, but nobody has any idea who he is, or what he was doing on the Mercy Belle.

Five years later, the ghosts of the Mercy Belle demand revenge, tormenting the town. The mysterious man, going through life under the name of Edward Smith, still has no idea who he really is. As Crowford is being tormented by the restless spirits, the town’s people turn against Edward. But what really happened the night the Mercy Belle sank? And who in the world is Edward Smith?

I can’t say too much without giving away too much, but let me just say this was one of the books that really surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, even as I kept reading, and ultimately, I was surprised, in a good way, by the turn of events. Unfortunately, this was overshadowed by the fact that I just wasn’t that interested in the plot. I know it sounds contradictory, but while I was surprised by the twists, and it did make me pause for a bit, overall, I didn’t really care that much about the characters or what happened to them. I just didn’t feel invested, and if I had to put the book away for a bit, I didn’t mind either.

Hence the three-star rating. It’s a good book, it has a few nice plot twists, but it wasn’t outstanding and nor the plot nor the characters really urged me to keep reading.

Book Review: The Haunting of Nelson Street (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #1)

Title: The Haunting of Nelson Street (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #1)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror, Ghosts
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon

Crowford, a sleepy coastal town in the south of England, might seem like an oasis of calm and tranquility. Beneath the surface, however, dark secrets are waiting to claim fresh victims, and ghostly figures plot revenge.

Having finally decided to leave the hustle of London, Daisy and Richard Johnson buy two houses on Nelson Street, a picturesque street in the center of Crowford. One house is perfect and ready to move into, while the other is a fire-ravaged wreck that needs a lot of work. They figure they have plenty of time to work on the damaged house while Daisy recovers from a traumatic event.

Soon, they discover that the two houses share a common link to the past. Something awful once happened on Nelson Street, something that shook the town to its core. Before they can face Crowford’s horrors, however, Daisy and Richard have to deal with the ghosts of their own recent history. What is Daisy hiding, and why does Richard feel strangely drawn to one of the town’s oldest inhabitants?

The Haunting of Nelson Street is a ghost story about a young couple fighting for their future, and about a town trying to escape the clutches of its past.

The Haunting of Nelson Street is the first book in The Ghosts of Crowford series by Amy Cross, one of my favourite horror authors. I first read the book when it was released back in 2020 but recently did a re-read for the purpose of this review.

Crowford is a sleepy coastel town in the south of England that seems to be home to more ghosts than living beings. Literally every place in Crowford is haunted: regular houses, the theater, museums, hotels; you name it, it’s haunted.

The first book in this series is about two houses on Nelson Street, a picturesque street in the center of town. One house is ready to move into, requiring little to no work, and the other was heavily damaged by a fire. The houses are bought by unsuspecting couple Daisy and Richard Johnson after they move to Crowford in hopes of getting a new, fresh start. A hint for everyone who decides to move towns looking for a fresh start: there’s about a fifty-fifty chance you’ll run into ghosts.

But the houses are hiding a terrible secret, and soon, Daisy and Richard find themselves trapped in a nightmare.

I found this to be a solid start to The Ghosts of Crowford, and I liked the twist at the end–of course, I won’t reveal what it is, and although I did feel it coming, I still liked how it was executed. With a good mix between scary and intriguing, this is an enjoyable read for cold winter nights spent under blankets.

Waiting on Wednesday (82)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that was previously hosted by Jill from Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases bloggers are eagerley anticipating. These can be debut novels, sequels, eBooks,…as long as they aren’t released yet. It is currently being continued in Can’t Wait Wednesday over on Wishful Endings.

Click HERE to view all my ‘Waiting on Wednesday‘ posts.

I’m waiting for…

Title: A House with Good Bones

Author: T. Kingfisher

Genre: Horror, Gothic, Fantasy

Release Date: March 28, 2023

A haunting Southern Gothic from an award-winning master of suspense, A House With Good Bones explores the dark, twisted roots lurking just beneath the veneer of a perfect home and family.

“Mom seems off.”

Her brother’s words echo in Sam Montgomery’s ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone.

She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam’s excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out.

But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above.

To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.

What are you waiting for this week?

Book Review: Escape From Hotel Necro (The Blood and Gore Collection) by Amy Cross

Title: Escape from Hotel Necro (The Blood and Gore Collection)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon

It’s supposed to be the perfect vacation. When Katie Johnson and her husband Jason arrive at Hotel Necro, they think they’re going to enjoy a few days of peace, pampering and relaxation.

On the first morning, however, Katie wakes up feeling ill, and she has a strange scratch mark on her waist. She quickly realizes that something’s very wrong, and that dark forces are at work beneath the hotel’s facade. Strange nightmares interrupt her sleep, filling her head with hideous images. Meanwhile, the scratches keep appearing.

Soon, Katie discovers that Hotel Necro is far more than just a luxury hotel. As she ventures into the depths of the building, she realizes that something truly horrific is happening in the shadows. Can she and Jason escape before they become the hotel’s latest victims, or does an even more awful secret lurk behind the one of the heavily-secured doors?

Escape From Hotel Necro is a horror novel about a woman who discovers just how far she’ll go to save herself, and about an organisation that exists to save people from their own darkest fantasies.

If you’ve seen Hostel and its sequels, then you’ll be familiar with the concept of Escape From Hotel Necro. Katie Johnson and her husband arrive at the hotel for a romantic weekend, but already on the first day, she wakes up feeling slightly ill and notices a scratch mark on her waist. This only gets worse as the weekend progresses: horrifying images fill her head as more scratches appear on her body.

What is going on at night in Hotel Necro?

Despite the predictability of some of the plot elements, I still enjoyed this read. In fact, thinking back on it, I think this was probably one of the first Amy Cross books I read, and after reading this one, I decided I just had to read some of Amy’s other books. Fair warning though, some of the characters are quite sadistic in this one, and there’s definitely a lot of gore as well, so it fits well in the “Blood and Gore Collection”.



Book Review: Last Wrong Turn (The Blood and Gore Collection) by Amy Cross

Title: Last Wrong Turn (The Blood and Gore Collection)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon

Lost on a remote English country road, Penny and her husband are involved in a violent car crash. When she wakes up, however, Penny finds that she’s been tied to a metal table in a farmhouse. She’s the latest victim of a strange family, but Penny is different to the other victims in one crucial respect.

She’s pregnant.

As she fights not only for her own life but also for the life of her unborn child, Penny comes face-to-face with the mysterious Enda. As the child of the family, Enda struggles to understand why their latest prisoner has to die. Can Penny find a way to escape, or is she destined to suffer a darker fate? And is her unborn child destined to become not only a victim of the farm, but one of its new occupants?

Penny and her husband are involved in a violent car crash along a deserted country road. When she wakes up after the crash, Penny discovers she’s been tied to a metal table in a farmhouse — the latest victim of a deranged family. Penny has to fight to stay alive, not just for herself but also for her unborn child.

This story is brutal. That’s really the best way I can describe it. Think Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes.  Penny is a strong woman who is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her child, and I greatly admired her for that. As far as the story itself goes, well… It’s fast-paced, relentless, but it’s also familiar. It’s a plot we’ve seen before in countless of slasher movies. There are some small differences, but the jest of it is the same: unsuspecting couple gets a car crash and ends up at the mercy of depraved killers at an abandoned farmhouse. There are probably twenty, if not more, horror movies out there with the exact same story, so if you want to stand out, you need to add a surprising twist to it.

Here, unfortunately, I didn’t really find the twist I was looking for. Still, it was an entertaining story and I enjoyed reading it, but it lacks originality.