My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares

A series of deadly bombings and sightings of a terrifying, futuristic creature stalking the streets of London have the city on edge. Holmes and Watson must hurry to foil a dastardly plot that could plunge England into anarchy.

Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares—James Lovegrove, 2013.  Rating: 4/5

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With London reeling from the latest bloody terrorist attack on Waterloo Station, Mycroft Holmes entreats his brother, Sherlock, to investigate. Sherlock reluctantly agrees but is more interested in pursuing an apparently unrelated phenomena: Baron Cauchemar, an otherworldly vigilante who is wreaking havoc on London’s criminal enterprise. Thieves and pickpockets live in terror of the figure with its glowing eyes, insectile carapace, and advanced weaponry. When Watson and Holmes encounter the mechanical avenger, Watson also leans towards a supernatural explanation—but Holmes knows better.

As the bombings circle closer to Buckingham Palace, endangering the Queen, Sherlock and Watson add names to their growing list of suspects: malevolent Professor Moriarty; the wealthy French emissary, De Villegrand; and “One-arm” Torrance, former sailor turned human trafficker. Together, Holmes and Watson discover the connection between Baron Cauchemar and the evilly ambitious individual behind the attacks.

I am a die-hard Sherlockian. I am not so much into steampunk. I was hesitant to pick up this book, thinking two would combine about as well as orange juice and toothpaste. Happily, I was wrong! The combination is as satisfactory as bacon and eggs. (I mean that as a good thing. If you’re not into bacon and eggs, substitute your own copacetic combo.)

Lovegrove stays true to tradition while breathing new life into beloved characters. We are treated to Holmes’s brilliant deductions (though a little too fallible in spots for me), disguises, pursuits, pitched battles, Watson’s engaging and drily humorous narration, lovely period detail, and an enjoyable if not particularly twisty mystery. Holmes fans will find all their boxes ticked (and we’re picky fans). The sci-fi element—using Victorian steam technology for then-radical inventions, a la Jules Verne—teeters on the edge of fantastical, especially in grand finale, but adds an imaginative, future-forward layer that meshes with Holmes’ own practices. The Stuff of Nightmares is a fun addition to Sherlock Holmes pastiches. I look forward to reading the second in series, Gods of War.


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Review: The Girl with All the Gifts

A brilliant monster child, a teacher, a doctor, a seasoned soldier, and a green recruit brave packs of zombie-like hungries and lawless Junkers in an attempt to reach safety…if it exists.

The Girl with All the Gifts – M.R. Carey, 2014. Rating 5/5


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Melanie loves attending school: She has a genius IQ and especially enjoys stories from Greek mythology. She is devoted to her favorite teacher, the empathetic Miss Justineau. What Melanie does not understand is why she and the other kids are shackled to their wheelchairs every time they leave their cells, in full head, arm, and leg restrains. It turns out, Melanie is a hungry: one of the fungal-controlled zombies that have destroyed civilization outside of their small military base. Melanie and the other kids are the only hungries who still maintain a human awareness. Or do they?

Dr. Caldwell believes Melanie is inhuman, a mere host to the mind-controlling fungus, but she is also the key to the future. Caldwell cannot wait to dissect Melanie’s brain, find a cure, save the world, and wallow in the accolades that follow. Gruff Sergeant Parks sees Melanie as a monster, pure and simple. Miss Justineau views Melanie as a sensitive, human child. They’re all right, to an extent. And young Private Gallagher, who never knew the world “before,” shares Melanie’s awe as they observe the wrecked marvels of human ingenuity for the first time.

When the base is overrun by a horde of hungries, the five make a dangerous journey across the countryside and through London, seeking shelter in one of the last surviving communities.  

The Girl with All the Gifts is magnificent, and I don’t wax hyperbolic lightly. The novel is simply stunning. I don’t know how I have not read this book until now, but I am richer for finding it. The story hits you hard on two fronts. On one level, it is a consummate post-apocalyptic tale of horror. Fans of this genre will find the story frighteningly plausible and filled with gripping, knuckle-biting scenes. Action-packed. Intense. But The Girl with All the Gifts is also a journey of self-awareness for the characters—and you, the reader. Each character explores and re-evaluates their beliefs, achieving knowledge that both frees and dooms.

The story is deeply affecting. Melanie is sensitive and self-reflective, struggling to reconcile her gentle and intelligent personality with the lurking monster inside herself. Her efforts reflect something each of us must do to in a more abstract way. Carey gives us scenes of stark brutality and great beauty, leaving us to consider, on a visceral level, the future of the human race. The Girl with All the Gifts is a story of endings and beginnings: like life. Read this one.