Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

By Kate Racculia

Tuesday_MooneyThis book deserves a better reader than I am right now. I absolutely loved Racculia’s previous novel Bellweather Rhapsody and tore through it in a few days. I loved Tuesday Mooney, too, but it took me two weeks to read because my attention span is a fruitfly at this point.

It starts a little slow with introductions of all the characters, and Racculia really excels at characters – they were all interesting, distinct, and sympathetic but also clearly flawed in their own ways that kept them from being too likeable. Five of our central protagonists are at a Boston hospital fundraiser – the titular Tuesday Mooney being a researcher for the donor relations department– when an older gentleman keels over while bidding $50k for a meet-and-greet with New Kids on the Block. (I feel like this level of detail is characteristic of Racculia, and the book continues to be a love letter to all things Boston, as well as the adventure, murder, romance, ghost story it is.)

Even though he dies in the first chapter, I count the older gentleman as one of the protagonists, because it is his post-mortem scavenger hunt that leads the rest of the story, and his own (interesting, distinct) personality is threaded through it all as well. Through the scavenger hunt, the cast of characters expands to family and friends of the deceased as well as more random hunters, and we get lovely peaks into many of their lives. It was here that I would happily sit down for an hour or so to read and feel satisfied with the story, but then turn blank-eyed to the TV afterwards, which is very much a criticism of my own coping skills and not the novel itself.

However, when the villain is revealed to both the protagonists and the reader, that’s when I really got hooked, and stayed up far too late a couple of nights. In retrospect, I realize that I like a story to have more darkness to it than the first half had, focusing on the riddle and puzzle solving. It is quite a race to the end, and in retrospect has a well-crafted pace that exponentially speeds up over the course of the book. The finale is incredibly satisfying, tying up more loose ends than I’d even quite realized Racculia had threaded (though not all of them, keeping it a bit realistic), and I plan to read this again when I’m no longer quite so hollow eyed and empty headed.

A House of Ghosts

W.C. Ryan

House_of_GhostsThis novel is a murder mystery, spy thriller, and ghost story all in one, and manages to be laugh-out-loud funny, uneasily creepy when reading late at night, and solemnly poignant about the horrors of war. Any of these is a rare achievement, but combining all together make this something really unique. Set in England during the first world war, spiritualism is on the rise, as so many young men are missing/presumed dead on the front.

The Highmount patriarch made his fortune in weapons manufacturing during the war, but has since lost both his sons. In their grief, he and his wife have retreated to their remote island estate, which is converted from an old abbey and rumored to be haunted. They plan a house party over the holidays, inviting several spiritualists to attempt to make contact with their sons.

There are the charlatans, of course, like Madam Frey, with all sorts of tricks up her sleeves. But there are also the real deal, like Kate, friend of the family and ex-fiancé to one of the Highmount boys, who can actually see ghosts, but finds it so socially embarrassing that she hides it as well as she can. And there’s spiritualist Count Orlov, who can perhaps see ghosts but may find it more convenient to fake the séances?

Add to all that, some confidential weapons designs have been discovered in the wrong hands, and three undercover personnel, who have complicated relationships to each other, are suborned into attending the house party, under a variety of subterfuges, causing even more confusion.

Of course, there is also a light romance, which is so deftly done that I had to double check that the author is male. The two protagonists have a slow growing attraction toward each other, built on mutual respect and good communication, which is also awfully rare and a very pleasant surprise in novels.

As I Descended

517Jbn75RULThis isn’t a full review, but I wanted to pop in and say that readers who enjoyed Anna’s post in the spring about seeing Sleep No More, the immersive theater take on Macbeth, might like As I Descended by Robin Talley. It’s a YA version of the story, set in a Virginia boarding school, with two teenage girls positioned as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. I really enjoyed seeing how the grand story of kings and battles scaled down to the stakes of high school–theoretically smaller, but still life and death to the characters. And if every version of this story has to decide which of the more fantastical elements are happening in the characters’ heads versus which are real, this one leans heavily towards the spirits and ghosts side of things. Which makes it a great, creepy read for this time of year, as we edge into the dark of fall and winter.

The Devil You Know

By Mike Carey

Book CoverThis book is chock full of pretty much every popular supernatural creature (okay, no vampires have shown up, but I wouldn’t bet against them appearing later in the series), but they are all treated in very unusual ways. The were-beasts are sort of dim, while the zombies are snarky, and the succubae are downright vicious. The story starts off kind of slow, and reminded me quite a bit of an adult version of Anna Dressed in Blood, which I only moderately liked. (Also, just about every reviewer on GoodReads compares it favorably to the Dresden Files, which I concur with.) Once it really gets going, introducing a whole new supernatural being pretty much ever other chapter, I had trouble putting it down again.

The world-building premise is both basic and clever: what if suddenly and inexplicably the dead began to return, like a reverse apocalypse? Our reluctant hero has a natural talent for sending them back again, and works as an exorcist-for-hire when money gets tight. If all this hasn’t already sold you on this summer escapism, let me just tell you that I reserved the second book of the series at my library as soon as I finished the first one.

—Anna

Girl of Nightmares

By Kendare Blake

Book Cover: Girl of NightmaresGirl of Nightmares is the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood, which I enjoyed as my palette cleanser after a brutal few months with Atlas Shrugged. Anna Dressed in Blood was an awesome way to recover from Ayn Rand, but wasn’t so engaging that I was intending to read the sequel. However, I was looking for casual reading over the holidays, so I picked it up on a whim at the library, figuring it would be a fun distraction.

And it was! It was actually even better than the first book! My one complaint about Anna Dressed in Blood was awfully vague, just that the pace of the plotting seemed odd to me in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Well, I’ve figured out what the plotting issue was because Girl of Nightmares doesn’t have it at all. So, here’s the thing, I like a very linear storyline: protagonist has a problem, works towards a solutions, and finally succeeds. It is a little simple, perhaps, but that’s how I like it. Anna Dressed in Blood had a lot of red herrings as the protagonist and supporting characters tried to figure out what challenge they were facing and then how to solve it, but this book is more straight-forward.

Girl of Nightmares starts just a couple of months after the end of Anna Dressed in Blood, and picks up the same story, so is definitely not a standalone. I can’t really describe the plot at all without spoiling Anna Dressed in Blood, so I’m not going to do that, beyond saying that the other thing I really like is that this book is sort of the flipside of the first book. The first book follows the protagonist Cas as he hunts murderous ghosts and sends them to the afterlife; in Girl of Nightmares, Cas is trying to bring a ghost back from the afterlife. I just love that kind of mirror-image reversal treatment in sequels!

Cas also travels to London to meet with a group that sounds very similar to the Watcher Council, and any similarity to Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a-okay with me!

—Anna