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: The Book of Koli

Deadly molesnakes, killer trees, and fearsome faceless men are nothing compared to the chilling secrets that Koli learns about his post-apocalyptic world.

The Book of Koli—M.R. Carey, 2020. Rating 5/5

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Fifteen-year-old Koli desperately wants to be a Rampart: one of the privileged few in his village who control the old tech that keeps them all safe. And decades after humankind played fast and loose with science, there are lots and lots of things in the woods that want to hurt people, like rogue drones, choker seeds, and tree-cats. When Koli fails to become a Rampart and must settle for life as Koli Woodsmith, he is overcome with jealousy of his friend Haijon, who not only became Haijon Rampart, but won the girl Koli fancied. When Koli learns a shocking truth from a traveling doctor, he grows even more determined to “wake” the old tech. The result is both marvelous and devastating, and changes Koli’s life forever.

I could not put this book down.

Carey’s worldbuilding is superlative. We are tantalized, recognizing remnants of our own world; fascinated by tech even we don’t have yet; and sobered by this vision of things gone wrong, propelling humankind back to a pre-industrial society. We experience a poignant awarenes of things lost, a feeling shared by Koli and other characters. Carey brings his world to life with distinctive speech patterns, cultural traditions, and even conflicting religious doctrines, all unique, yet all with recognizable ties to our contemporary society. The result is brilliant: We feel a close connection to Koli’s world but remain just off-kilter enough to feel a sense of wonder and uncertainty.

Koli bridges the gap for us. He is both deeply wise and heartbreakingly naïve: fundamentally human. Sensitive, kind, and self-aware, Koli knows the pitfalls of his choices but is subject to his youthful emotions. I don’t want to give too much away about this incredible book. It is a journey of discovery for reader as much as it is for Koli: An apocalyptic Bildungsroman filled with harrowing adventures, humor, and hope. Highly recommended.


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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.


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Review: The Turn: The Hollows Begins with Death

How exactly did a tomato decimate humankind and cause vampires, witches, werewolves come out of hiding? Find out in this prequel to Harrison’s bestselling Hollows series.

The Turn: The Hollows Begins with Death—Kim Harrison, 2017. Rating 3/5

Trisk, a dark elf, is a top-notch geneticist but the glass ceiling keeps her from getting a plum job. Her bitter nemesis, elf Trent Kalamack—“Kal”—has had his way smoothed by his parents’ name and money. Trisk lands a position in a human lab as part researcher and part elven corporate spy. While keeping an eye on fellow scientist, Dr. Plank, who is working on a tactical virus, Trisk develops a genetically modified tomato that promises to end world hunger. Kal, out to discredit Trisk’s research and steal her ideas for himself, links the tomato to the weaponized virus and unleashes a killing plague that rips through the human population.

Trisk and Dr. Plank hop trains, avoid weres, escape the police, and race pell-mell towards Washington, DC to warn humans not to eat tomatoes. But the Inderlander species who have been in hiding for years (witches, pixies, werewolves, vampires, and elves) aren’t so sure they want humans to survive. Political infighting ensues.

I am an enthusiastic fan of Harrison’s Hollows series. While The Turn offers interesting detail on the backstory of series heroes and villains like Kalamack, the demon Algaliarept, and security guard extraordinaire, Quen, the novel is a disappointment. It runs long, takes a while to get going, feels repetitive, and would have worked better as a novella. Believe it or not, even those issues didn’t irritate me too much: The characters are the major turn off. Trisk and Kal are egoistic, selfish, petty, and prideful. I know that’s Harrison’s point, but it makes for a downer read. You don’t care about either of them. The two throw fits of pique, worry about each other stealing their thunder, loathe each other, deceive each other, lead each other on (while totally aware they’re being led on)—and then have sex. Please. I also realize that Harrison is making a stand for women’s rights in the male workplace: Trisk is more competent than Kal, yet her skills are dismissed. Trisk longs for geneticist glory, but it is hard to relate to her struggle when she is as self-serving as Kal—to the point of summoning a demon to thwart him. Fortunately, Trisk has a modicum more empathy than Kal and genuinely wants to warn people about her tomato. But on the whole, The Turn is just meh.

If you’re new to the Hollows, don’t start with this book. Pick up Dead Witch Walking (2004), the first in the series and you’ll enter a beautifully realized world where the supernatural exists alongside the mundane; one that is filled with well-rounded characters and great stories. Save The Turn for last.

rating system three crows


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Review: A Single Light

A Single Light – Tosca Lee, 2020. Rating 4/5

In this fast-paced sequel to The Line Between, Wynter and Chase emerge from their underground bunker to find America in shambles. Somewhere in this lawless wasteland they must find antibiotics to save the life of Wynter’s friend.

Months earlier, Wynter escaped a doomsday cult, met and fell for an ex-Marine named Chase, delivered a suitcase of bio samples which could save the world from the early onset dementia pandemic, and ended up in a time-locked silo with her last remaining loved ones and about 50 other folks for six months. There. You’re caught up.

Now, the silo residents anxiously await Open Day—when they can return to the world. The gentle Doomsday prepper, Noah, gives the group daily video updates from the farm on top, until one day the messages stop. Tensions mount, suspicions grow, and things get violent down below. Wynter and Chase have a falling out. Chase takes a team topside and discovers that the farm has been looted and ransacked and everyone is gone. Unfortunately, the group also finds out that America has not recovered—the opposite in fact. There is no vaccine, the virus is still rampant, and the existing survivors are not the nicest folks. Chase and Wynter go on a dangerous quest for the medicine that will save Julie.

Calling A Single Light “action-packed” would be a bit of an understatement. In fact, the book feels like an extended, breakneck A-Team episode (though a lot grittier). We’ve got a bad boss-man and his henchmen, a car chase, explosions, fires, a helicopter crash, and urban shootouts. Now, I love a good thriller (and the A-Team), but what I miss in this novel is the character development that made Lee’s first title shine and inspired me to put it on my Best of 2019 list. The best parts of A Single Light take place in the silo. Lee skillfully portrays the simmering tensions of the silo occupants, their descent into mistrust, and their readiness to relinquish cultural norms. That is the good stuff.

Don’t get me wrong: The rest of the book flies. It is exciting, suspenseful, and totally engaging. I had a hard time putting it down—but I did have trouble suspending my disbelief. There are moments of sadness with a few character losses, but the book careens along towards a happy ending. Comparatively happy. There is a pandemic on, after all.

rating system four crows


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Review: The Line Between

The Line Between – Tosca Lee, 2019. 4.5/5

An apocalyptic pandemic. A religious doomsday cult. A naïve heroine with the key to earth’s salvation. Lee hits all the right buttons in this breakneck page-turner.

Wynter Roth is seven years old when her mom, fleeing her abusive husband, brings Wynter and her sister Jackie to the isolated New Earth compound. The cult is led by the handsome, charismatic, and shady ex-entrepreneur, Magnus Theisen. Despite being the New Adam to his flock and preaching of end times, he maintains his worldly business influences and illicit desires.

Initially, Wynter and her family find safety and acceptance in the community—at the expense of their freedom of thought and individuality. Things deteriorate when Magnus takes Jackie as his new wife and plans to add Wynter as a second. Wynter is disgusted with Magnus’ hypocrisy and loses faith in his divine vision. At twenty-two, Wynter is cast out and taken in by an old friend of her mom’s.

The world is hard to navigate. Information is overwhelming, and Magnus’s dire prophecies and condemnation echo in Wynter’s head.

But it’s more than that. People are going crazy. Forgetting things. Killing themselves and others in graphic, violent ways. The CDC calls it early onset dementia—and it’s contagious and spreading like wildfire. The U.S. descends into chaos. Gas and supplies run out. Power grids go down.

Wynter is the only hope. Jackie escapes New Earth, bringing Wynter a case of medical samples acquired by Magnus that may hold the key for a vaccine—but not a cure. Wynter must race the specimens across the ravaged Midwest and deliver them to a researcher in Colorado.

The Line Between keeps tensions high, alternating between Wynter’s gripping memories of emotional abuse in the cult, and the mounting present-day horrors as society disintegrates around her. Everything is distressingly, immediately believable: from the nature of the disease laying waste to humanity, to the country’s nosedive into anarchy.

The thriller aspect alone makes this a standout novel, but Lee elevates the story further with layered, convincing characters, both good and bad. Wynter is beautifully drawn: she wrestles with self-doubt and her ignorance of the modern world but nurses a spark of independence and determination that even Magnus can’t destroy. On her quest, Wynter experiences tragedy and cruelty and selfishness, but also kindness, generosity, and…potential romance. The ending resolves major plot threads and sets us up nicely for a sequel. Which I want immediately, please.

rating system four and a half crows