A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

source: purchased
title: A Head Full of Ghosts
author: Paul Tremblay
published: May 2016
genre: horror
pages: 285
first line: This must be so difficult for you, Meredith.
rated: 5 out of 5 stars

Blurb:
A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror, reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

My thoughts:
I purchased A Head Full of Ghosts because I wanted to dive into something scary. This was my first time reading Paul Tremblay and the premise looked good. Plus, this is what Stephen King said about this book: “A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare”. If that’s not a horror recommendation I don’t know what is.

The book centers around twenty-something Merry Barrett as she tells a writer named Rachel the story of what happened to her family when she was just eight years old. Rachel is going to write a book on the Barretts. When Merry was eight her fourteen year old sister Marjorie started exhibiting symptoms of demonic possession. The Barrett family was having financial difficulties at the time because the dad John Barrett lost his job. When Marjorie begins acting strange it puts a strain on the entire family. She was talking in bizarre and weird voices, cursing and having erratic outbursts.

After treatments from the doctor didn’t work, the family obtained help from the Catholic church. After observing Marjorie, Father Wanderly got permission to perform an exorcism. On top of all this, the Barrett’s got a tv documentary deal so there was a film crew living in their home for a few weeks filming the family daily. The Barrett’s agreed to the documentary which aired weekly and made them somewhat infamous because they needed the money. The exorcism is aired on tv.

I enjoyed how the author pulled me in here, Merry tells a terrifying story and I was on the edge of my seat while reading. She’s an endearing character and you want her to be okay but she is an unreliable narrator so you never truly know what happened.
I wondered where Paul Tremblay would go with the story because halfway through I started thinking this book could easily start to resemble a retelling of The Exorcist which is of my favorite horror novels. I was not disappointed. This one does throw nods to The Exorcist but manages to remain original.

The book culminates into a nice cringeworthy twist at the end that left me speechless. The twist is what seals the deal. I also enjoyed how the book plays with you a little as you read, you never really know what is truly going on. I wondered whether Marjorie was really possessed or mentally ill or maybe both. I feared for Merry and her interactions with her older sister in that state were scary but also sad. Merry idolized her older sister like most little sisters do. I also really enjoyed the whole reality tv twist to the story due to the documentary about the family being filmed.

A Head Full of Ghosts was fantastic horror and I recommend it to fans of the genre. This one is not for the faint of heart some of the scenes are shocking. Ugh, the basement scenes. I wanted to hide under the covers.


“In a way, my personal history not being my own, being literally and figuratively haunted by outside forces, is almost as horrible as what actually happened. Almost.”- A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

I sneak into your room when you are asleep, Merry-monkey. I’ve been doing it for weeks now, since the end of summer. You’re so pretty when you’re asleep. Last night, I pinched your nose shut until you opened your little mouth and gasped.”- A Head Full of Ghosts



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Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
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Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

dolores

source: purchased
title: Dolores Claiborne
author: Stephen King
pages: 305
genre: psychological thriller
published: November 1992
first line: What did you ask, Andy Bisette?
rated: 4 out of 5 stars
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blurb:
“Everything I did, I did for love…”

When Vera Donovan, one of the wealthiest and most ill-natured residents of Maine’s Little Tall Island, dies suddenly in her home, suspicion is immediately cast on her housekeeper and caretaker, Dolores Claiborne. Dolores herself is no stranger to such mistrust, thanks to the local chatter and mysterious circumstances surrounding her abusive husband’s death twenty-nine years earlier. But if this is truly to be the day of Dolores Claiborne’s reckoning, she has a few things of her own that she’d like to get off her chest…and begins to confess a spirited, intimate, and harrowing tale of the darkest secrest hidden within her hardscrabble existence, revealing above all one woman’s unwavering determination to weather the storm of her life with grace and protect the one she loves, no matter what the cost….

my thoughts:

I found my copy of Dolores Claiborne at a local used book and record shop while I was out Christmas shopping last year. I figured it was time to read this one, I saw the film version many years ago.

As the book starts off, Dolores is a 65 year old widow from Maine who is suspected of killing her employer, a woman named Vera Donovan. Vera was a rich and miserable widow and tough on her staff. She would fire people for any minor thing like stopping to chat. Dolores worked as her live in housekeeper for decades. Towards the end of her life Vera had dementia and Dolores especially struggled to care for her because of Vera’s sadistic mean streak.

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Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

thenshesource: personal copy
title: Then She Was Gone
author:Lisa Jewell
genre: crime thriller/mystery
published: April 17th 2018
pages: 359
first line: Laurel let herself into her daughter’s flat.
rated: 4 out of 5 stars
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blurb:
Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?

my thoughts:
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell is my first read of 2020. I happily kicked off my new reading year with a great crime thriller. This is my first foray into this author’s work and it won’t be my last.

The book centers around Laurel Mack whose daughter Ellie disappeared ten years ago. Since then Laurel’s marriage has ended, her other two children have moved out and she lives in a small apartment alone and works part time. When a few more clues are found concerning the case, Laurel finally tries to move on with her life. She meets a single dad named Floyd. He lives with his daughter Poppy.

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Dark Blossom by Neel Mullick

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source: free review copy courtesy of FSB Associates
title: Dark Blossom
author: Neel Mullick
genre: fiction
published: Rupa Publications (December 21, 2018)
pages: 214
first line: When Sam had called to schedule a session for the first time, his anger had been palpable.
rated: 3 1/2 out of 5
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blurb:
What happens when doctor and patient find themselves in the same sinking boat, yet rowing in opposite directions—one clinging to the past, and the other unable to move beyond it?

Sam returns home from a business trip a day before his son’s thirteenth birthday to find his world cruelly shattered in one fell swoop. Initially thinking he can cope on his own, Sam finally seeks the help of Cynthia, an experienced therapist. What he doesn’t know is that Cynthia herself is trying to recover from a debilitating divorce and the sinister shadow of her ex-husband. In the midst of it all is Lily, Cynthia’s daughter, who harbors a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.

Taut with tension and intensity, Dark Blossom explores what lies beneath the surface of the lives of apparently “normal” people.

my thoughts:
Dark Blossom is a story that is full of secrets and centers on a therapist named Cynthia, her daughter Lily and her newest patient Sam. Sam has recently suffered a tremendous loss. His wife and teenage son were killed in a car crash and Sam is still seeking the truth about the cause of the accident.

The story is told through Cynthia’s eyes and we see that she struggles with her own personal issues just like everyone else. She is a single mom struggling to connect with her daughter Lily. As the story unfolds Cynthia finds out the truth about the accident that took Sam’s family from him and she also finds out some truths about her daughter Lily. It all culminates to plot twist at the end that I did not see coming.

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone

source: purchased
title: Gone Girl
author: Gillian Flynn  / Twitter
genre: crime thriller/mystery/suspense
pages: 422
published: June 2012
first line: When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.
rated: 4 out of 5 stars
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Blurb:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

My Thoughts:
Oh Gillian Flynn, how you love to mess with people’s emotions while reading.
Gone Girl is my third Gillian Flynn book and I am eagerly awaiting for her to pen another novel. This author easily became an instant favorite after I read Sharp Objects then Dark Places. I went into this one pretty much blindly, I have not seen the film version and I did not know much about the story-line except that the wife went missing.

While I enjoyed reading Gone Girl overall I did have one qualm. The slow pace from the beginning to the middle of the novel. I kept wanting something to happen. Once the latter half of the book picked up I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The story is narrated in alternating chapters by married couple Nick and Amy. We get Nick’s side of the story then we get Amy’s diary entries and her side of the story.

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