Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors. His stories are cleverly woven with intricate details and disturbing thoughts. I loved Coraline and The Graveyard Book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was in the same league.
I know this phrase is overused in the reading world but this book was difficult to put down. It was quite a simple story yet its impact was immense. A child’s worst nightmare is to be taken by unknown creatures in the night. For the boy in this book nightmares become reality.
* ‘Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?’
* ‘But they have promised you to me, so I will have something to play with; something to keep me company in the dark.’
* ‘Huge, they were, and sleek, and ancient, and it hurt my eyes to look at them.’
* ‘And people change as much as oceans.’
* ‘I was wearing the right clothes for a hard day.’
I decided to revisit one of my favourite teen horror authors. Lois Duncan is the author of classics such as I know what you did last summerandKilling Mr. Griffin. I remember sitting in my school library during silent reading time in year 7 reading her terrifying tales whilst my peers were doing anything but reading around me.
I recently read Down a Dark Hall, which to my surprise was first published in 1974 and could easily be relevant to modern day teens. It is quite an interesting story with a few creepy scenes that are well written. 4 girls are selected to attend a boarding school where spirits are able to channel talents (e.g. composing music, writing poetry, painting) through their bodies. Emily Bronte & Schubert are amongst the spirits who use the girls to complete unfinished work. It would be amazing if that could actually happen. Imagine what other stories and music would have been created if people lived longer back in those days.
I also read Summer of Fear which was a more typical teen horror story. A strange cousin (Julia) whose parents died in a car crash comes to live with Rachel and her family. Julia begins to take over Rachel’s life (stealing her friends, boyfriend, clothes) until Rachel suspects that Julia is actually a witch up to no good. Although I probably would have appreciated this story a lot more as a teenager it was still engaging and show cased Duncan’s ability to make even the ridiculous of situations seem plausible.
I will be on the look out for more of Lois Duncan books in second hand book stores as I believe that she can teach me a lot about suspense writing. She sold her first story at the age of 13!
This book is now one of my all time favourites and I will enjoy reading it over and over again for years to come. It had everything a great story should have; young love, spiritualism, creepy photographs and fascinating characters.
It also taught me a lot about the Spanish flu influenza pandemic of 1918 that possibly killed 100 million people worldwide. I didn’t know much about it as I presume it is largely overshadowed by World War 1 in history lessons but it was a fascinating insight as to what it must have been like living with such a deadly virus spreading amongst your family and neighbourhood. The flu came as quickly as it went and there are so many theories as to what caused it. Scary!
Favourite Quotes from In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters;
* ‘Footsteps woke me at sunrise.’
* ‘My aunt couldn’t afford electricity, so her face and flu mask glowed in the flickering light of a candle next to my bed.’
* ‘Lightening ignited the air, and I wanted its bolts to shock me out of my nightmare world and send me back into my old reality.’
* ‘That old bully Death breathed down my neck and nipped at my skin, warning, Don’t waste a spare second of time.‘
* ‘Don’t ever worry what the boys who don’t appreciate originality think of you. They’re fools.’
John Boyne tells his ghost story superbly. He introduces the main character, Eliza Caine with enough background information to interest the reader but not bore them with unnecessary details. Eliza’s father passes away and she is left alone in the world. She leaves her position as a school teacher to begin afresh as a governess at Gaudlin Hall.
As soon as she reaches the platform near death experiences begin to follow her. This is when the ghostly part of the story begins. I do not want to spoil the plot for any future readers but I will say that there were some parts of the story that gave me chills, the reason behind the haunting is plausible and the ending was satisfyingly eerie.
I really enjoyed reading the book and have to say that it is one of the better ghost stories that have been released recently.
‘the toes dancing beneath the sheets, a sensation of the most delightful pleasure, until a pair of hands grabbed both my ankles tightly…’
‘And I would never allow it to harm the children, although that did not seem to be its intention anyway.’