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 Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Susan journeys to the big city to find her father and learns that Old World magic is very real—and very dangerous—In Nix’s enchanting new fantasy.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London—Garth Nix, 2020. Rating 4.5/5

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When she turns eighteen, Susan begins a quest for the father she never knew, leaving her country home and vague, artist mother for bustling London. It is 1983, and Susan only has a few meager clues about her father’s identity. One of these clues leads her into a sticky supernatural situation. Enter Merlin St. Jacques, a left-handed bookseller. Flamboyant, dashing, and currently a ladies’ man—though he is “somewhat…shape-shiftery” and is contemplating changing gender—Merlin is one of the fighting booksellers. Right-handed booksellers, of course, are their cerebral counterparts, excelling at mental feats of power.

Merlin introduces Susan to the extended booksellers’ family organization. Their mission is to maintain a peaceful balance between creatures of magic and the clueless human world. And sell books. Merlin realizes that Susan is being targeted by beings from the Old World when goblins dance them into an other-worldly May Fair. He and his sister Vivien (a right-handed bookseller) also begin to suspect that Susan’s father is a rather important Old World figure, and they intuit a connection with the murder of their mother. With outside help from long-suffering police liaison Inspector Greene, the trio battle Cauldron-born; encounter water-fay, a Fenris and a host of other magical beings; and face betrayal and human corruption.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is a magical hug. Funny, bright, and brilliant; packed with magic dark and light. I couldn’t put it down. Nix’s unique London is the world we fantasy-lovers wish we lived in—hazardous though it may be—where creatures of myth and legend live (mostly) seamlessly alongside our ‘real’ existence. Though there is gunplay and assassination-by-hatpin and plenty of genuine gruesomeness (Merlin is left-handed, after all), Nix takes time to explore themes of identity and heritage as Susan comes to terms with her unique family background, and Merlin learns more about himself. A fantastical, cozy, satisfying gem.


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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 Fog

The Fog—James Herbert, 1975.  Rating: 4/5

A menacing yellow fog drifts across the British countryside, leaving everyone it touches violently insane in James Herbert’s 1975 classic.

John Holman is conducting a solo mission for the Department of the Environment. This time, Holman’s investigating what exactly the Ministry of Defense is doing with a very securely guarded swath of land near a little village in Wiltshire. But concerns about his mission take a backseat when an unnatural earthquake swallows half the village and Holman’s car. As he and a little girl struggle to escape the giant hole, a peculiar-smelling yellow mist rises from the depths. Holman and the girl emerge: he’s a raving lunatic, and the girl is comatose.

Miraculously, Holman recovers his sanity—which is fortunate for us readers because he’s our hero. Holman thinks (correctly) there is something suspicious about this yellow fog, which is growing denser and moving around almost as if it has its own agenda (which it does). When Holman’s boss goes insane and kills himself, and Holman’s girlfriend, Casey, tries to butcher him, Holman learns (painfully) that he’s on the right track. Bizarre, savage murders and barbarically aberrant behaviors spread like wildfire in the wake of the fog. The British government rallies medical researchers and the army to stop the malevolent mist, but it is up to Holman, the only person with immunity to its effects, to carry out the final plan.

This is not John Carpenter’s The Fog. No relation at all. Herbert’s novel is uniquely and immediately terrifying. He grabs you within the first three pages and you’re on board for the duration: The pace is unrelenting. As quickly as the authorities catch on and scramble to discover the origin of the fog, and how to stop it, London dissolves into a shadowy, nightmare dystopia. Holman must make his way through this murky killing zone, facing everything from murderous cultists to a psychotic bus driver. I was reminded—in a good way— of some of my favorites: Matheson’s I Am Legend, and the films 28 Days Later and The Warriors. A warning to the sensitive: There is a lot of graphic violence, a bit of it sexual in nature, and a massive bloody, body count. That said, the story is gripping and the characters— although many of them are short-lived—are well-drawn and their plights affecting. This my first James Herbert novel, and I can’t believe I haven’t read him before this. I’ve already added three of his other titles to my queue.

rating system four crows