Sunday, November 26, 2023

Today's read... House of Ash and Bone by Joel A Sutherland

I loved the cover on today's read. Plus, I was in the mood for a thrilling tale...which is hard for me, since I'm actually a chicken if they get to tense. But something tells me that this one might be worth a go, even for a scaredy-cat like me.

by Joel A. Sutherland
Tundra Books
Young Adult Thriller
336 pages

The Haunted meets House of Salt and Sorrows in this young adult debut horror by acclaimed Canadian master of the macabre Joel A. Sutherland.

Seventeen-year-old Josephine Jagger is a talented writer with special abilities she doesn't fully understand. Over the years she has developed methods to cope with the voices she hears in her head, but the old house her family has inherited in Vermont makes Josephine question what's real and what's not more than anything she's ever encountered before. It's filled with shadows, and whispers, and the unshakable feeling of being watched. Josephine then catches her first glimpse of a shadowy woman with long hair, pale skin, an impossibly wide smile and hollow pits for eyes. Her name is Dorcas, the ghost of a witch who died three hundred years ago. She has summoned the family to Vermont to ensnare them — then consume them — in order to rise from the grave and live again . . .


Tension builds from page to page in this fast-paced thriller, where ghosts can do more than scare. They mess with the mind.

Josephine's family declares a sudden week vacation the day after Christmas and heads off to Vermont and a house some dead aunt left them. The troubles begin when her earbuds brake. Josephine hears others' thoughts and can't protect her mind...or that of others...when she sleeps. But that soon becomes the least of her concerns as everything about the house takes an odd twist. Sure, the pantry is stocked full of the most delicious foods and each bedroom seems made for each person. Even the corresponding closet holds a vast array of each individuals desires. Yet, there's something in the shadows. Something cruel and hungry, and it's playing with their minds.

During the first pages, I became convinced that this is a twist on Hansel and Gretel, and a clever one at that. The family is lead to the house only to find everything they desire. There are rumors about past residents, which flow in the Hansel/Gretel direction, and even an evil ghost/witch. There are many wonderful twists and turns in this read as the plot thickens, and the tension builds. It flows nicely and is chucked full of surprises with just the right amount of chills. The quick-pace keeps boredom away and the pages turning, while the dialogue draws in.

While I enjoyed reading this, I'm not sure which audience it fits with age wise. The story line, vocabulary, and details do make this a solid young adult read, since it's definitely not meant for middle graders. And yet, Josephine comes across as a 11/12-year-old in her thoughts, actions, speech, and concerns. The weaker character depth of the side characters as well as the pure acceptance of odd events (even with the mind-play) also slides this more toward the younger age category. Yet, this isn't a middle grade read by any stretch of the imagination.

I did enjoy this story quite a bit. It's original, well-woven, and grippingly written. Those who enjoy thrillers, which may seem lighter at times while still packing punch, should take a peek at this one.

And here he is...

JOEL A. SUTHERLAND is the Silver Birch, Diamond Willow and Hackmatack Award-winning author of Be a Writing Superstar, numerous volumes of Haunted Canada (a series that now has more than 500,000 copies in print) and Summer’s End (a Red Maple Award Honour Book currently in development for television by Scholastic Entertainment, Mainframe Studios and Man of Action Entertainment). His new series, Haunted, has been praised by Goosebumps author R.L. Stine. He has a Masters of Information and Library Studies from Aberystwyth University in Wales and lives in southeastern Ontario with his family, where he is always on the lookout for ghosts.

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I enjoy thrillers so I might check this out. Though I'm not sure I'd like a YA character whose thoughts are more middle grade. Thanks for sharing it this week.