Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Name:  The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson
Number of Pages:
246 (Kindle)
October 1st 2013 by Penguin Classics (first published October 16th 1959)
Genre:  Horror


The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting;’ Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Eleanor’s first thought upon seeing the house to which she has been invited to spend the summer as part of a party exploring psychic phenomena is to leave at once, and yet she doesn’t, and so we discover Hill House.
Hill House with its unsettling angles and oddly proportioned rooms, set out in a deliberately distorted way so that rooms are not where they would logically be. The house has a vivid and disquieting and unsettling history of unhappiness and tragedy and the assurance in the very first paragraph that ‘whatever walked there, walked alone’.

The story has an engulfing atmosphere that seeps from each page the further you read, rather as it seeps into the characters, drawn together by the enthusiastic Dr Montague.
It’s a real slow burn, starting out innocently enough as we meet each of the house party before Hill House starts to take a hold.

There’s Eleanor, travelling whilst her daydreams occupy so much of her journey to the house, and Theo with her apparent telepathic talent, who dons a bright yellow top to go exploring the grounds, remaining cheerfully brave in the face of such an unnerving locale. Luke is there as the heir to Hill House, with it’s dark and troubling history of sorrow and misfortune.
This group of strangers intend to observe and record any instances of strange phenomena to add to Dr. Montague’s proposed book on the topic.

For at least the first half, there’s a sense of being lulled into a false security, as the characters pass their first night uneventfully, and come to believe that things will be not as bad as first speculated. Needless to say, this is not the case, and the situation becomes more unsettling as time goes on. There’s a slight break in the tense atmosphere at the arrival of Montague’s wife and her sidekick Arthur, as the pair begin to take over the investigations, but by that point it’s already too late for at least one member of the ill-fated party.

The Haunting of Hill House is a beautifully written tale which leaves so much open to speculation. Is Eleanor ill? Is the house really haunted? And what of the rest of the characters after the events of Hill House? This is definitely a book to savour over the dark nights of autumn and winter.

Booking Ahead: November 2019

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

My TBR pile remains massive, and I’ve just picked up another pile of books from the library, so here’s a small selection that may be keeping me busy throughout the coming month…

New Books

Bone China by Laura Purcell – I’ve enjoyed both of Laura Purcell’s previous novels so I’m really looking forward to another gothic tale, this time set in Cornwall.

Full Throttle by Joe Hill – A short story collection, one of which, Into the Tall Grass, has been adapted into a film. I don’t usually read short stories, but I enjoyed Joe Hill’s Strange Weather and The Fireman so thought I’d give this new collection a try.

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg – That cover!! You shouldn’t choose a book for the cover, I know, but I saw a brand new copy on the shelf at the library and I couldn’t resist picking it up. It sounds like this might have a Westworld type theme? We’ll see…

Books from the Backlist

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – I’m actually reading this one at the moment. I started it during Readers Imbibing Peril but didn’t manage to finish it before the event ended.

What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Name:  A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness #1)
Joe Abercrombie
Number of Pages:
471 (Hardback)
September 17th 2019 by Gollancz
Genre:  Fantasy


The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.
On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specializes in disappointments.
Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.
The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another…

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

A Little Hatred is the first book in The Age of Madness, and what a great beginning. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for these characters, but for now, let’s talk A Little Hatred…

There’s this vividly realised, sprawling epic of a world and a myriad of colourful characters – villainous, scheming, battling, conquering. From the ballroom to the factories, the battlefield to the woodlands, almost every aspect of humanity is richly drawn within these pages.
The battle is brutal, the detail plentiful, but then there are those who go about their scheming in a more subtle yet equally brutal manner. Savine Dan Glokta made her money through business and knowing how to thrive in the changing world. Savine herself muses that if she must be the villain then so be it, but as her story unfolds it’s not that black and white, and I loved the way her narrative developed.

The writing is great. There’s a marvellous scene, just as the trouble around the mills begins, that switches viewpoints through several minor characters, giving their thoughts and feelings at this moment of revolution and change. They’re characters you may not see again, but in that moment it creates the perfect atmosphere, the contrasts of those in power, and those who wielded the power previously finding themselves suddenly brought low by unexpected circumstances and the way this changes them.

I haven’t read any of the First Law books but I was drawn in by the cover of this new book, and finding it was the beginning of a new series, well, I couldn’t resist. For the most part I didn’t mind it being my introduction to this world, but there were times when no doubt there were references to events and characters of bygone times that didn’t resonate with me as they would for a long-time reader. Past characters/events were mentioned, especially with the young warriors as they recalled former heroes/villains and epic victories to which this new generation aspires and I found myself wondering whether these things had happened on-page or were just passing references.
Still, I can always go back and start at the beginning, can’t I, and overall that didn’t take anything away from my absolute enjoyment of every scenario, character and development in A Little Hatred. I’m already looking forward to the next book in this series!


Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King

Name:  The Institute
Stephen King
Number of Pages:
485 (Hardback)
September 10th 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre:  Thriller, Horror


Deep in the woods of Maine, there is a dark state facility where kids, abducted from across the United States, are incarcerated. In the Institute they are subjected to a series of tests and procedures meant to combine their exceptional gifts – telepathy, telekinesis – for concentrated effect.
Luke Ellis is the latest recruit. He’s just a regular 12-year-old, except he’s not just smart, he’s super-smart. And he has another gift which the Institute wants to use…
Far away in a small town in South Carolina, former cop Tim Jamieson has taken a job working for the local Sheriff. He’s basically just walking the beat. But he’s about to take on the biggest case of his career.
Back in the Institute’s downtrodden playground and corridors where posters advertise ‘just another day in paradise’, Luke, his friend Kalisha and the other kids are in no doubt that they are prisoners, not guests. And there is no hope of escape.
But great events can turn on small hinges and Luke is about to team up with a new, even younger recruit, Avery Dixon, whose ability to read minds is off the scale. While the Institute may want to harness their powers for covert ends, the combined intelligence of Luke and Avery is beyond anything that even those who run the experiments – even the infamous Mrs Sigsby – suspect.
Thrilling, suspenseful, heartbreaking, The Institute is a stunning novel of childhood betrayed and hope regained.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Stephen King’s latest novel proved to be a real page-turner.  The novel centres around a group of children, strangers until they’re drawn together in the Institute after being kidnapped from their everyday lives. There are no lengths the Institute staff will not go to in pursuit of their aims, and you’d think the odds were stacked against these kids from the outset, isolated in this strange place out in the woods, subjected to all manner of horrors, and yet… they’re not average kids. They’ve been selected because they have varying levels of power, either in telepathy or telekinesis.

It starts out with another character, former policeman Tim Jamieson, newly arrived in the small town of DuPray. This intro is engrossing and we come to know Tim and the residents of this small town fairly well before the story moves on. I mention this because once you leave Tim behind, getting settled into a new routine, the story won’t go back to him for a long time. I’d read this in a review beforehand, so never went into the rest of the tale wondering what was happening back in DuPray, but becoming fully immersed in the awful situation that Luke and his new friends are involved in.

The characters are so well realised, from Luke with his vast intelligence to Kalisha, one of the first people Luke meets at the Institute, to Nicky, the boy with enough attitude to always answer back, and Avery, who acts younger than his years and yet has great potential power.
The group draws strength from each other, and even when some of them are taken to the mysterious Back Half, they’re still thinking of each other and what best to do.
Luke and his group are smart and incredibly brave in a terrifying situation, and their friendship and determination not to be beaten by this system gave hope throughout that despite all the horrible things they would win through in the end. I’m saying nothing about whether this actually proves to be the case though!

And of course, there are the villains of the piece too, from the director of the Institute Mrs. Sigsby, to the doctors who go along with the requirements of the place, and those who oversee the kids on a day to day basis and ensure there is order – they’re mostly awful, yet even in such a place there‘s at least one decent person.

Faced with the prospect of being moved to Back Half and whatever new trials that entails, Luke sets his mind to the impossible – escaping the Institute and exposing the place and those working there to the wider world. Will he manage it, or is it just too great a task? What is the Institute and why are they doing the things they do? There’s only one way to find out…


Booking Ahead: October 2019

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

It’s time to take another look at my TBR pile and select some reads for October.  Readers Imbibing Peril (#RIPXIV) is ongoing through the coming month so once again I’ll be selecting at least some potential reads for the reading challenge. A couple of last month’s selections will no doubt appear again this time around!

Here’s a selection of what I’m hoping to read over the next month…

New Books

The Institute by Stephen King – My current read. It’s really good and I can’t wait to get back to it.

Bone China by Laura Purcell – I’m looking forward to this one having enjoyed both of Laura Purcell’s other books.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Books from the Backlist

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – I’ve had this book my my TBR list for so long, and Readers Imbibing Peril is the perfect opportunity to finally read it (hopefully!).

I’ve probably chosen too many books here, but I’ll give it a go and see now I get on.

What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall 2019 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:  Books On My Fall 2019 TBR

The Institute by Stephen King – I’ve actually already started this latest read from Stephen King.  I have a feeling it’s going to be really good.

Bone China by Laura Purcell – I really enjoyed both The Silent Companions and The Corset, and Bone China sounds like another read I’ll enjoy so I’m looking forward to getting my copy from the library.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – I’ve seen so many good reviews for this one that it certainly has to have a place on my Fall TBR list!

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – It’s a long time since I first read The Handmaid’s Tale, but I’ve been watching the tv series and am looking forward to reading this sequel.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie – I spotted this one on the library catalogue and decided it might be worth a request as I’d like to read another Fantasy novel over the coming months.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – I hope to get around to reading this as part of Readers Imbibing Peril.  I know there’s a tv series based on the book but haven’t had chance to check it out yet.

Halloween Party by Agatha Christie – I haven’t read any Christie for a while but am still very slowly working my through her works, especially the Poirot stories, so this one seems a good choice for Fall.  Another #RIPXIV read perhaps?

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – Can’t wait to see what this book is like after enjoying The Night Circus.

Something by Terry Pratchett – After reading Good Omens I’d like to check out another book by Terry Pratchett.  I just have to decide where to begin!

? – Am open to suggestions for other titles I should be looking out for this Fall!

So, have you read any of the books that made my list this week?  If so, what did you think of them? See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Book Review: The Sword Saint (Empire of Salt #3) by C. F. Iggulden

Name:  The Sword Saint (Empire of Salt #3)
C. F. Iggulden
Number of Pages:
384 (Hardback)
August 8th 2019 by Michael Joseph
Genre:  Fantasy


Cities have been broken. Empires have fallen. And darkness is coming.
Success has drawn a cold gaze. A false king seeks dominion. His soldiers will bring desolation and despair to Darien. With treachery on all sides, the ancient capital looks set to fall.
Yet within the walls of that great city, a small team gathers. Tellius knows each one: a hunter, a gambler, a dead man, a wielder of threads – and the sword saint of Shiang. When Darien herself is threatened, Tellius will ask them to stand.
A city is worth more than the lives of those within. Darien’s streets and courts and homes and taverns are a bonfire on the hill, a beacon of life and light in the world.
That is why they will die to save her.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The Sword Saint takes us back for the final time to the Empire of Salt and the city of Darien, a place that has experienced much turmoil over the preceding books yet still stands, protected by the young King Arthur and the Twelve Families with their magical stones and powerful artefacts.
Into the city comes a young prince, the son of the King of Féal. Tellius suspects from the outset there is something not quite right about the newcomer, and questions whether he is who he claims to be, and who this so-called king is.
When one of the Darien family heads is murdered, it swings the council decision to form an alliance with this prince, yet there is much plotting and scheming and of course, Tellius was right in his suspicions and when the prince himself comes under attack it isn’t long before there is talk of war and Darien is threatened once again.

I picked up The Sword Saint straight after finishing Shiang so there was a certain similarity in plot that I wonder if I’d have noticed having had the actual gap between the two novels being published. I was hoping to find out more about the Twelve Families and their magical stones and artefacts. I liked the supporting characters of Regis and de Guise last time around, and the way they played off each other whilst battling together, and Lady Sallet was a good character too so I’d have loved more of them to round off this trilogy. These are minor things really and didn’t take anything away from enjoying this final chapter in the Empire of Salt.

It was nice to visit this world again and for familiar characters from previous novels to feature once more. Old faces return for the final showdown, called back to defend Darien with various magical abilities, or ‘knacks’ as they are known. Elias Post, who can see a short way into the future, Nancy, the woman who draws in power, Vic Deeds the gunfighter and the Shiang swordsmen Hondo and Bosin form a team to try and act as first defence for Darien, taking on this new enemy out on the road before they have chance to reach the city.
Watching these very different people drawn together, learning how to work to defend the city they call their own was good and provided some individuals characters to follow during the battle.

The fight scenes are exciting and fast-paced, with the inclusion of all kinds of magic lighting up the darkness, quite literally at one point. There’s a darker magic at play on the side of this new king of Féal, which makes for a formidable enemy.

The Sword Saint combines magic, battles and schemes and throws characters we’ve come to know over the trilogy right into the middle of it all to bring the tales of the Empire of Salt to an eventful conclusion.