The Uninvited: A Novel by Cat Winters

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Ivy Rowan wakes up one day after being struck with Influenza. An epidemic has taken over the town and before she got sick, her father and brother had committed a terrible crime. Deep in her gut, something is telling her that it’s time for her to leave home and go out on her own in life.

Out in town, everything is in turmoil. In addition to the epidemic, soldiers are being sent to fight in the Great War overseas, dying in battle, coming back wounded, leaving behind widows and wives to fend for themselves. Ivy finds a place to board in town and seeks out a German man who was wronged by her family members-she wants, more than anything, to help him in some way.

Ivy finds herself confused, nothing is as it should be, the world is such an ugly place and she wants desperately to find beauty and warmth in it. She wants desperately to make a difference in someone’s life…But there is one terrible hitch-women in her family have always had a “gift” of seeing spirits after they have passed, right before something terrible happens to someone close to them….And she keeps seeing the spirits of the departed all around her.

What are the spirits trying to tell her? Is someone close to her in danger? Can she help enough to make a difference to someone? Can she form a connection with the German man that will give him comfort in his time of misery?

The Uninvited, by Cat Winters, is a psychological thriller sprinkled with ghosts and set in the time of the Great War. A combination of so many genres makes for an addicting and intriguing read. If you don’t like “ghost stories”, I would steer clear of this one, but if you can handle a touch of the supernatural in your reading, The Uninvited is very strange and interesting. If you like books that twist your perception and reality, The Uninvited is for you!

Starter House by Sonja Condit

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Lacey Miszlak wanted nothing more than a home of her own, where she and her husband would raise their unborn child and make memories to cherish-a home life that she never had, growing up with a mother who could never stay in one place for long. When she first sees the house, she knows it’s the one. Despite the subtle discouragement from her real estate agent, Lacey will not back down, and finally the house is theirs. But Lacey is starting to see a little boy in the yard, in the kitchen, all over the house. And no one else can see him.

When incidents start to frighten Lacey, and she ends up on bed rest, she calls upon her spiritualist mother to help her find out just what is happening in her house, before the worst happens to her, or her child….And events will take place that make any reader’s skin crawl….

Starter House, by Sonja Condit, is a thriller with supernatural elements. If you like haunted house stories, you won’t want to miss this one, which will surprise you with a climax that will blow your mind. If you need a good scare, be sure to check it out!

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

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Li Lan’s family is nearly destitute, thanks to her father’s opium abuse and lack of income. In Chinese culture, there is hope for her father if she can marry well enough that she will be taken care of, and perhaps she can take care of her father, too. But what pedigreed young man will want to marry a poor, unremarkable girl like her? The answer comes soon enough. A proposal comes through that the Lim family is interested in marrying her to their only son, and willing to go to great lengths to make it happen. The catch? The groom is dead, and has been for a while now. The Lim family believe that giving their son a fresh young bride will put his spirit to rest, and she is the lucky lady for the job. Li Lan wants to help her family and she knows that her father will benefit from the act, but can she really marry a dead man? She will never be allowed to marry another man, never have children…And the ghost groom is starting to appear in her nightmares.

The ghost bride must venture into the realm of the dead and find out how to rid herself of the curse that is her imminent marriage to the terrible ghost boy. Ancient and not-so-ancient Chinese curses and ideas about spirits are brought out in this fantastic story of evil spirits, good spirits, purgatory (Chinese style) and much, much more. If you liked What Dreams May Come, by Richard Matheson, which addresses the afterlife, and paying for evil transgressions in life, and finding family memories in the afterlife, etc, you will want to try The Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo, which is one-of-a-kind in every way, and very interesting.  Beware, however, you may find yourself addicted to Chinese superstitions for a brief period following this novel.

I would say that this novel is more “Magical Realism” than any other genre-if you like to delve into fiction that deals with the afterlife or the underworld, The Ghost Bride is a must-read!

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

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Sylvie Mason does not live a normal life. Her parents are in the business of paranormal activity-they offer “Help for the Haunted” to those in need, offering prayer and peace to souls in torment. They call themselves demonologists. This, of course, means that Sylvie has never been able to hold onto friends, and she has a hard time fitting in. Critics constantly attack her and her family wherever they travel, and they travel regularly to do talks about the paranormal at conventions and events. Strange people are always seeking the help of the Masons for loved ones who are “haunted” or “possessed”. Sylvie accepts the life she has been born into, but her sister, Rose, is not only skeptical, but highly rebellious and confrontational. Life is strained in the Mason household, and on a night like many others, the Masons receive a phone call and tell Sylvie she is to load up into the family car, without much explanation. Her parents left that car, but they never returned. When Sylvie wakes up, she finds that her entire world is gone, and the mystery surrounding the deaths of her mother and father hangs over her heavily.

When the man originally cleared for the murder of her parents is suddenly cleared by an alibi, Sylvie goes on a mission to find out what truly happened to her mother and father that night, and what has been kept from her by everyone around her for her entire life. This takes her down a path with a conclusion so shocking, readers will be stunned. If you like the paranormal, you will be enthralled by Help for the Haunted, by John Searles, through to the very last page. Readers who love the mystery of Emily Arsenault (Miss Me When I’m Gone and In Search of the Rose Notes) will also enjoy this wonderfully eerie novel. Top marks from this reviewer.

The Mourning House by Ronald Malfi

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Is the house haunted, or is Dr. Sam Hatch haunted by his past?

He has just lost everything dear to him. His wife and baby are killed in an accident and everything is crumbling around him. Nothing is important anymore. Nothing matters. He walks out of his house, climbs into his car, and begins to drive…Away from his life, away from himself. An old, rundown house in a town where he knows no one beckons to him. He decides to buy it and fix it up…

But things are happening in the house. His things are moving around, disappearing and re-appearing in new places. He hears phantom noises, and as he renovates rooms, he is finding reminders of his old life under the floorboards, in the ceilings, in the closets… Is he losing his mind? Is the house trying to tell him something? If so, what does it mean to communicate? Dr. Hatch is trying to follow the horrific clues, but his sanity seems to be slipping away with each little discovery.

How will the story conclude? If you like haunted house stories like The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Hell House by Richard Matheson, The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom, you will enjoy The Mourning House, by Ronald Malfi, which is creepy and leaves the reader guessing until the end.

Come In and Cover Me by Gin Phillips

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Ren is an Archaeologist with a very serious edge-she can connect to the spirits of the departed, and they guide her towards important finds on archaeological dig sites, bring her perspective, and even offer her comfort in life. Are these spirits real or are they figments of her imagination? Is she insane? She doesn’t share her secret with just anyone, in fact, she tends to keep most of her secrets to herself, including the tragic loss of her brother when she was 12 years old, an experience from which she has never recovered.

One particular dig site is bringing some new challenges for her… Workers have discovered pieces of a bowl that may show a link between two very distant sites, which could be a huge archaeological find, signifying movement of indigenous people that could tell a great deal about the period in time. On top of the archaeological excitement in store for Ren, there is a very handsome colleague on the site who has taken a particular interest in her, both personally and professionally. Can Ren find enough peace to share her truths with Silas, or will her burden remain her own? What do the spirits want from her, and why are they appearing with cryptic messages?

Anyone who likes archaeology will be very interested in Come In and Cover Me, by Gin Phillips. American archaeological studies about indigenous people make up a very interesting and colorful historical journey, mixed with serious soul-searching, and heavy on the spiritual, this novel is unlike any other I have read, and this time, that’s a good thing.