Book Review: The Trees Grew Because I Bled There by Eric LaRocca

Title: The Trees Grew Bexcause I Bled There
Author: Eric LaRocca
Genre: Horror, Anthology, Dark Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

A beautifully crafted, devastating short fiction collection from the Bram-Stoker finalist and author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes. Includes an introduction from acclaimed bestselling author Chuck Wendig.

Eight stories of dark fiction from a master storyteller. Exploring the shadow side of love, these are tales of grief, obsession, control. Intricate examinations of trauma and tragedy in raw, poetic prose. A woman imagines horrific scenarios whilst caring for her infant niece; on-line posts chronicle a cancer diagnosis; a couple in the park with their small child encounter a stranger with horrific consequences; a toxic relationship reaches a terrifying resolution…

A beautifully crafted, devastating short fiction collection from the Bram Stoker Awards® finalist and author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes.

The Trees Grew Because I Bled There is a collection of dark fiction / horror stories by Eric LaRocca, the author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We First Spoke. I enjoyed Things Have Gotten Worse Since We First Spoke, so when I saw Eric LaRocca had another upcoming collection, I jumped at the chance.

The book is quite short, or maybe it just felt that way because it’s just so enthralling to read LaRocca’s lyrical prose sketching horrors on the pages. He manages to describe the most horrific scenes in such exquisite detail, using such luxurious prose that the reader can’t help but feel fascinated and disgusted at the same time–and that’s a real skill, as an author.

The stories are also unique, each offering a fresh perspective or an interesting twist I didn’t see coming. Some stories start out familiar – or you think you’re in a familiar tale, a classic trope you’ve come to know quite well after devouring countless horror books – only to find yourself in an altogether different story. The characters breathe life on the pages, each of them complete, three-dimensional beings with desires, aspirations and most importantly: flaws.

For me personally, the most unsettling story of the collection was Bodies Are for Burning. Mostly because I’ve recently become a mother (my sweetie just four months old now), and the thoughts the main character has toward children here, are just plain disturbing. Very well written, though, and an excellent investigation of what thoughts can do to a person, and how we’re sometimes forced to fight our own most disturbing thoughts.

One of my favorite stories was The Trees Grew Because I Bled There – gods, that was disturbing but for whole other reasons. Relationships should be balanced, but here, eh, not so much. In fact, if you really picture what is happening in this story, it’s quite sickening.

If you enjoy dark fiction, then don’t hesitate. Read this collection. The prose is haunting, the stories offer twists that will leave you surprised even after you’ve finished reading them, and well, it’s just downright brilliant. Recommended to just about everyone who enjoys darker stories.

Book Review: The Horror of the Crowford Empire (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #6)

Title: The Horror of the Crowford Empire (The Ghosts of Crowford Book #6)
Author: Amy Cross
Genre: Horror, Ghosts
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon

The year is 1965, and Susan Jones is desperate to get out of Crowford. First, though, she needs to make enough money to finance a fresh start. She takes a series of dead-end jobs, until finally she gets hired to work at the town’s faded old cinema.

The Crowford Empire is a building with history. Before it was a cinema, the Empire was the site of a terrible tragedy. While the building has been thoroughly renovated, some elements of the past remain. Some locals even whisper the name of a woman who still walks the halls and corridors of the cinema.

Susan soon discovers that the cinema’s past is determined to bubble back to the surface. What does Winifred Thorpe’s ghost really want? How is her eternal suffering connected to the local golf club? And what happens to any poor soul who accidentally meets her face to face?

The Horror of the Crowford Empire is the sixth 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:

In The Horror of the Crowford Empire, the sixth book in the Ghosts of Crowford series, in which each book can be read as a stand-alone, it’s the year 1965. Susan Jones finds herself working at the faded old cinema in town – the Crowford Empire.

Before the building was a cinema, it was the site of a horrible tragedy and it is said that the ghost of Winifred Thorpe still roams the halls. When Susan finds signs of hauntings and a connection to the building’s past, she’s in more danger than she realizes.

This book unfortunately wasn’t my favorite in the Crowford series. I simply disliked most of the characters. There’s no other way to put it: most characters were either bland, or off-putting, or just simply annoying. Except for Harry. Him I liked. Anyway, the story is also not that original, it’s just a rehearsal of the stereotypical classical ghost story: vengeful ghost trapped due to the horrific ending they suffered, and now out for revenge. There weren’t many twists or parts that kept me guessing, and all in all, it was rather straightforward.

If you’re interested in giving this series a shot, don’t start with this one, but if you plan to read the entire series, you shouldn’t skip it either. It’s not as great as some of the other Crowford books, but it’s definitely worth a read.


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?