Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review of The House of Dead Maids by Clare Dunkle

Title: The House of Dead Maids
Author: Clare Dunkle
Pages: 146 pages, hardcover
Genre: Gothic ghost story
Standalone/Series: standalone (written as a prequel to Wuthering Heights)
Release:  Sept. 14, 2010
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Received from Blue Slip Media
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: In the clear
GoodReads Blurb: Young Tabby Aykroyd has been brought to the dusty mansion of Seldom House to be nursemaid to a foundling boy. He is a savage little creature, but the Yorkshire moors harbor far worse, as Tabby soon discovers. The ghost of the last maid will not leave Tabby in peace, yet this spirit is only one of many. Why do scores of dead maids and masters haunt Seldom House with a jealous devotion that extends beyond the grave?

As Tabby struggles to escape the evil forces rising out of the land, she watches her young charge choose a different path. He is determined to keep Seldom House as his own. Though Tabby tries to befriend the uncouth urchin, her kindness cannot alter his fate. Long before he reaches the old farmhouse of Wuthering Heights, the boy who will become Heathcliff has doomed himself and any who try to befriend him.

This is definitely an atmospheric book from the creepy cover to the dust covered and haunted Seldom House you learn about inside. Though The House of Dead Maids is not the typical type of book I read, I really enjoyed the gothic feel of the book and the stark and dreary ghost story. We start the book with Tabby's journey to Seldom House and the crossroads she takes and a mysterious boat journey which all leads her to a house that seems sinister and uninviting. Little hints are dropped thoughout the beginning of the book that something is not right with her companions or the house she is going to but the truth of what is going on is all the more spine-chilling.

Tabby, the main protagonist in the story, has a no-nonsense way about her and faces her challenges well for an eleven year old. Tabby is based on the Brontë sisters housekeeper whose ghost stories might have inspired the sisters future tales, such as Wuthering Heights. I highly recommend this book for those looking for a good ghost story to read during Halloween.

4 out of 5 stars, a great and goose-bump raising gothic tale.

Don't miss the author's guest post and your chance to win the book here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Post and Giveaway with Author Clare Dunkle - Author of The House of Dead Maids

Today we have Clare Dunkle visiting - the author of The House of Dead Maids - a sufficiently creepy gothic ghost story that is perfect to read on a cold fall night. Stay tuned to the end of the post to find out how to win The House of Dead Maids and check back later today for my review of the book. Enjoy! Also are there places you have visited in your life that fill you with a sense of dread or give you the creeps?

When I wrote my new novel, The House of Dead Maids, I wanted to create an atmosphere that would disturb my readers. I didn’t just want to scare them because scares are temporary, and they often end in a laugh. No, I wanted to make my readers uneasy. I wanted them to feel unsafe. So I thought about places where we humans feel unsafe, and why they make us feel this way.

One of my earliest memories has no words or data attached to it. In essence, it’s nothing more than a snapshot. I see in my memory a small room brightened by a single grimy window. Flyspecks and dirt obscure the window so that I can’t make out a view beyond it. A spindly table stands in the center of the room, but it is cheap, old, and gray with dust and time. I notice a rug on the floor beneath the table, but its pattern is obliterated by dust.

In my memory, I feel wonder. This room is so like other rooms I know but so completely different. I am afraid of who—or what—might be living here.

I have no idea now where this place was, but when I went to college, I learned its name and why it frightened me. My dusty room was a liminal place, and such places awaken in us a feeling verging on instinctive dread. Liminality is a transitional state, emptied of one thing but not yet another, and the deepest, oldest layers of our brains warn us of its danger. Twilight, for instance, is neither day nor night. So is an eclipse. Caves, springs, volcanoes, mountaintops, and shorelines mark places where things change from one state to another. Our ancestors worshiped such places and peopled them with dangerous sprites. Magic rituals focus on liminal places and objects in liminal states. The corpse is such an object—it is, temporarily, neither the loved one we knew, nor is it dust, a part of nature. And the abandoned house is neither a place to live nor a place with another use.  It is a “corpse” house—a place to avoid.

Liminal places seem supercharged with possibility. The normal rules don’t apply there. Anything can happen. These possibilities frighten us because they threaten to overturn our orderly world. The devil waits for us at the crossroads. Closets—small uninhabited rooms—make us uneasy. Monsters hide in the empty darkness under our beds. We feel nervous about long, dark hallways.

My book is a prequel to Emily Brontë’s Victorian novel, Wuthering Heights, and that classic story is all about intruding upon liminal places. Over and over, the text mentions doors, windows, fences, and stairways. Over and over, characters force their way into places where they are unwelcome. The focus of the novel is a woman who has been dead for seventeen years—a liminal figure. The story ends at her grave—a liminal place.

So my novel, too, lingers on liminal places and liminal states. My main character, Tabby, comes to her new house over the ancient pathways of fire, water, earth and air—driven down dirt roads, ferried upriver like a lost soul entering the underworld, and carried in, at the end, with a lighted lantern before her. She finds herself in a place that is not really lived in but not abandoned, a dusty maze of a house where she is the Young Maid, neither a servant nor a person in charge. She discovers that the furthest point inside Seldom House is an empty courtyard, neither inside nor outside. This empty courtyard contains an empty grave. And it isn’t long before she meets the last Young Maid: that most liminal of figures, neither alive nor dead—an empty-eyed, gray-faced ghost.

Special Brontë-themed giveaway!
One Grand Prize winner will receive The House of Dead Maids, a gorgeous Brontë sisters pocket mirror, and the HarperTeen edition of Wuthering Heights! Two lucky runners-up will receive the two books. To enter, send an email to with your name, email address, and shipping address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and email address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on October 31. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on November 1 and notified via email.

The next stop on the tour is Adventures in Children's Publishing at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review of Healer's Choice by Jory Strong

Title: Healer's Choice
Author: Jory Strong
Pages: 384 pages
Genre: Post-apocalyptic paranormal romance
Standalone/Series: Series (Ghostland World #3)
Release:  September 7th, 2010
Publisher: Berkeley
Received from author for review
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: Some spoilers for previous books
GoodReads Blurb: In a post-Apocalyptic world where supernaturals have emerged from hiding, ancient, unseen enemies play a game that began at the dawn of human civilization. War is coming and neutrality isn’t an option. For Were shapeshifters, a healer’s gift holds the key to their survival…
Born into a world of violence and paid-for-sex, Rebekka longs for a family of her own and dreams of freeing those trapped in the shapeshifter brothels of the red zone. A witch’s prophecy claims she’ll one day use her gift to heal the Weres made outcast by their mixed human-animal forms. But Rebekka knows all too well that everything comes at a cost. Made a pawn in a game she can barely glimpse, by beings whose motives she can only guess, she must navigate a dangerous course that might well cost her life. With her gift changed in terrifying ways, a plea to save five children sends her into the arms of Aryck, a Jaguar enforcer—and into territory controlled by pure Weres. It’s a place where humans and outcasts aren’t welcomed. Where dead ancestors watch from the shadowlands and have the power to judge and punish the living. It’s a place where plague threatens and the fate of the Weres hangs in the balance. And where the choices Rebekka and Aryck make are paid for with their hearts…if not their souls.

REVIEW: This post-apocalyptic paranormal romance (say that three times fast) takes you on a dark journey into a world that has been ravaged by catastrophic wars and now is run by Vice lords who deal in human and were (shifter) flesh.  The protagonist of this story, Rebekka, uses her powers of healing to help these abused sex workers and carve a niche for herself in her dark world. This is the third book in the Ghostland series and the first of the series I have read, though I was lost at a few parts, particularly in the beginning, you don’t need to read the previous books to delve into this story. Rebekka really draws you into the story as you try to comprehend the cruel world she lives in and really I don’t know if I could be as strong and compassionate as she is given all she faces. Quickly in the story, Rebekka gets caught up in another dangerous situation when she is called on to go the aid of the Jaguar clan that lives in the hills outside Oakland, her home. Some cubs have become gravely ill and Rebekka is seen as these kids last hope. It turns out that the disease these kids suffer in is a lot more ominous than first believed and hints at someone wanting to unleash germ warfare to systematically destroy all weres. The bad guys in this story are seriously sinister and creepy and once again drive home the brutality of this world. This is definitely a dark book and even though the story is good and engaging after reading I had to medicate with some lighter paranormal romance afterward. 

Rebekka also gets entangled with an enforcer for the Jaguar clan, Aryck. Aryck’s animal soul instantly is attracted to Rebekka but his rational human half knows that nothing good can come of them being together. Aryck is constantly fighting a battle between his animal instincts and his better sense when it comes Rebekka – while ratcheting up the sexual tension it also gets frustrating. Aryck is dark and sensual while Rebekka has remained untouched for fear of what giving herself to someone will do to her magic. She has plenty of reason to stay away from the sexy jaguar enforcer, including her fear of how Aryck will judge her once he finds out more about her upbringing, her mother was a prostitute, and the marks it has put on her body. 

Overall 3 out of 5 stars for me, an interesting tale of a strong and loving healer in a dark and sinister world.