Book Review: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

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Title: A Head Full of Ghosts

Author: Paul Tremblay

Release date: June 2, 2015

** 2015 Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel **

Look, I know a lot of you think I’m only reading Paul Tremblay so I can keep the upper hand over George aka Book Monster aka Sshh_ImReading on Twitter in our ongoing battle of who is a bigger super fan. George for Tremblay – Steve for Andrew Pyper. I think at this point, I hold the upper hand (Sorry, George!) because I’ve now read two of Paul’s releases, the first being the excellent ‘The Cabin At the End of the World’ and now this one – and George will have to correct me here… but I don’t think he’s read a single Pyper release yet. Wow. I know.

But, the truth is – ‘The Cabin…’ was outstanding and George suggested my next Tremblay book should be ‘A Head Full of Ghosts,’ so here we are.

Now, this book was released back in 2015 and won a number of awards and was nominated for a number of awards. This is a book that even if you’ve not read it, you’ve heard of it. Saying all of that – I still had no idea what to expect going in.

What I liked: ‘A Head Full of Ghosts’ follows a family as their daughter, Marjorie either becomes possessed or has a psychotic breakdown. Much like ‘Come Closer’ by Sara Gran, that aspect will be wholly left in the hands of the reader. Depending on how you read the novel and how you want to perceive what’s happening, you’ll fall into one of those two categories and for that Tremblay really did craft a spellbinding gem.

I loved the ambiguity of what is actually happening to Marjorie. The book itself follows Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry and how she’s coping with the incident 15 years later. We get bits and pieces through an informative blog, Merry herself sharing the events, as well as through bits and spurts of what Merry filmed herself. The ‘possession’ was chronicled in a TV show that was part fiction/part dramatization called aptly ‘The Possession’ and what I absolutely adored was how Tremblay also adds in the real world aspects. What occurs when the show begins to air and the community and neighbors see what’s happening behind the closed doors of the house. This was a fascinating aspect and one that I’ve not come across too much in other releases.

There are some truly frightening moments in this, which I think really increased the reader’s experience, no matter which side of the fence you fell on.

Lastly – the ending moments of the show, the aftermath (which we find out in broken down detail in the blog) and the final interview between Merry and Rachel, the woman writing a retrospective on the events, was stunning and will rock even the hardest of readers.

I actually spent a lot of the first 25% wondering if Marjorie herself didn’t exist and this was purely a multiple personality type story, but once I got off that train and accepted her existence (I know, I know), the puzzle pieces Paul gave to us, one piece at a time, was superb.

What I didn’t like: I did find the dad’s abrupt acceptance of religion a bit jarring. It felt like just suddenly he started to pray and wanted a priest to be involved. Maybe I missed something, but that felt like it was a quick character turn.

Also, I hated how poorly Merry was treated throughout. It was necessary to the story but I felt so bad for this character – which was exactly what Tremblay wanted.

Lastly, and this is incredibly minor, but two real life authors are mentioned as fictional characters, with one of those authors books being named as a movie, and that was a bit off for me. It took me a bit out of this “fictional” world. Very minor and I chuckled at it, but I found it strange none-the-less.

Why you should buy this: One incredibly spot on thing that Tremblay did was use the blog within the book to actually compare the book to previous possession/exorcism based novels, which allowed for any similarities to actually be used as part of the confusion around the possessed versus psychotic story line. It was genius. Where you may be a bit put off if you purely read this and thought it was too much based around ‘The Exorcist,’ well, it wasn’t and here’s why. Genius.

Overall, this book was incredibly creepy and unsettling in every aspect. The ending left me with a hole and an ache in my heart with how Merry was used and manipulated. This was such a great character study on trauma and even PTSD, but it wasn’t until I was finished that I fully understood that.

Tremblay delivers a stunning look at a family falling apart in ‘A Head Full of Ghosts.’ I’m certainly glad to have read this and I’m looking forward to diving into ‘Disappearance at Devil’s Rock’ next.


PS – George (insert tongue sticking out emoji here!). I’m up 2-0!

Book Review: Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie

Title: Suffer the Children

Author: Craig DiLouie

Release date: May 20, 2014

Wow. Just wow. What did I just read. Seriously.

In July of last year, I came across a complete paperback set of The Dark Tower series on Facebook Marketplace. I immediately went to pick it up and while chatting with the man (aka capitalbookreview on Instagram) we shared some books we’d read that were page turners. He asked if I’d read ‘Suffer the Children’ by DiLouie and I was pretty sure I had. Turns out – I hadn’t. Turns out – I didn’t even own it. So, I snagged the Kindle version. I was going to dive into it asap, but lo and behold, I was approved for DiLouie’s ‘The Children of Red Peak.’ I read that and reviewed it in November of 2020 and you know what – as I said then, I repeat now – I loved that book and hated that book. It gave me such a visceral response to it that I wanted to both throw my Kindle across the room (I WOULD NEVER DO THAT! MY PRECIOUSSSS) and drive to DiLouie and shake his hand.

As things go, my TBR is packed, so it took me a bit to get to ‘Suffer the Children.’ When the book came up as the next to read on my list, I didn’t even hesitate. At worst, DiLouie would do it again, craft a story that had me engaged yet furious with reading it, at best – it would be a stunning read. As luck would have it, this one delivered in spades. I didn’t even read the synopsis, I couldn’t recall what it was even about, all I knew was that capitalbookreview had raved about it and at one point the synopsis had left me stunned.

What I liked: DiLouie. What a jerk. You know why? If I would’ve re-read the synopsis, the air from the room wouldn’t have been sucked from it when the hammer drops.

The story opens up simply enough. Regular folks doing regular things. Living life and going about their routines. Then all of the children in the world suddenly die. In the case of one of our main couples, Doug and Joan, Joan has managed to find a time to go see a movie with her friend. Doug takes the two kids to a birthday skating party. While the kids skate around, something starts to happen. The kids drop one by one. And so it begins.

The entire opening of this book was horrific. I was reading it with tears in my eyes and my mouth open. The world came to a stand still. Now, what? What was next? As the world began to comprehend the new reality, DiLouie decides to take it one step further. As the characters begin to say their goodbyes and bury them in mass graves, the kids all come back. Returned to “life.” Herod. A strange, mysterious disease that brings them all back, but only for brief periods of time. I really enjoyed the layered science that Craig uses within, explaining how this disease has infected the kids.

By the time the parents all realize the ‘how’ of getting more time with their kids, changes have begun.

I’ve said it before, I’ve kind of lost all interest in the vampire trope. I’ve never found them scary or all that interesting, but DiLouie does something unique here and reinvents it. Interesting to read this during a Global Pandemic, though. The riffs on society and how people change and became so selfish, so fast really resonate, even though this book came out seven years ago.

While, this book is a ‘vampire’ story, that’s such a minor part of it. You won’t find kids growing fangs or the sun coming up and garlic everywhere. Instead, what you’ll find are doctors struggling to make sense of what’s happened, parents deciding to do whatever it takes to get one more pint of ‘medicine’ and kids losing themselves and transforming. Just a harrowing descent from everyday life to the acceptance that mankind is running out of time.

What I didn’t like: Two things. The first is a specific character. Ramona. She really ground my gears from her introduction until the very end. She was done really well, but if I met her in real life I’d make sure to never talk to her ever again. The second was just how accurate some of the book was. I know that sounds odd, and I loved this book, but the similarities to the world right now and a few things made me angry, remembering how things were with toilet paper shortages and people becoming more selfish and more entitles.

Why you should read this: I’m always a fan of a book when it completely reinvents a popular/common theme and DiLouie’s take on the vampire lore was fantastic. It made me remember how much I loved the show ‘The Strain’ with dealing with real people and real decisions. This wasn’t a secret society battling blood suckers who are super powerful. These were parents struggling with the sudden deaths of their kids and trying to figure out how to keep bringing them back. Very emotional, heart wrenching story and I can see why this was nominated for a Stoker.

Outstanding book and one I’ll not soon forget.


Book Review: Vaudeville by Greg Chapman


Title: Vaudeville

Author: Greg Chapman

Release date: May 19, 2021

It’d be fair if you were seeing this review and found yourself confused.

Yes, I did recently read and review Chapman’s collection ‘Vaudeville and Other Nightmares.’ And yes, the title story is in that collection. But, now, the title story – a novella – is getting a stand alone release and fans of Chapman know just how fantastic that is, that more people will get their eyes on Greg’s work.

Greg kindly sent me both to read and review and I devoured the main novella and the collection over the course of a few sittings.

What I liked: ‘Vaudeville’ itself is a tense, tight read that is only about 50 pages or so. The story follows a young boy, Anthony, struggling to continue on after his father took his own life in the woods near the family home. His mother has stopped paying attention to him and high school hasn’t been so kind. So, one day, Anthony goes to the woods, searching for answers and finds Mr. Crispin, the leader of the ghoulish gang that inhabits the forest.

Chapman really has created a creepy story, but it’s the truly creepy characters within this that I found most unsettling. Crispin has two other ‘pals’ in his act and everything about this trio was unnerving. The entire time I wished I could yell for Anthony to run home, to stay away, but you know a bargain will be made and consequences will occur.

Greg did a stunning job of bringing the forest and these characters to life and Anthony may be one of the best young characters I’ve ever read. The depth giving to him is amazing and his hurt is palpable.

The ending, or finale, was spot on and as much as it hurt, it was exactly what the story required.

What I didn’t like: The story itself follows a plot line that’s been done before, but that doesn’t hurt it at the end of the day. You know how this will end, but you won’t be able to look away. For me this isn’t a criticism, but for some you may feel like you’ve read similar before.

Why you should buy this: I’ve said it so many times, but Greg Chapman is an author you NEED to be reading. His stories are so amazing and he can flip a switch between emotional depth and blood curdling carnage. Greg is one of my favorite authors and time and time again he delivers dark stories that stay with the reader long after you’re done.

‘Vaudeville’ is a fantastic novella and if you’re someone who loves dark stories that surround circus/carnival themes, you’ll absolutely love this.

Up for pre-order now!



Book Review: Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells


Title: Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)

Author: Martha Wells

Release date: August 7th, 2018

At this point in sci-fi/action literature, Martha Wells has established herself as one of the greatest living authors and you can reserve a place on each award ballot for whatever her latest Murderbot entry is.

I, of course, am playing catch up in the series. Book 5 has just came out a few weeks back and Tor announced Wells has signed on for three more books in the series. It was originally Patrick Rothfuss who turned me onto this series with his review of book one, but seeing so many folks loving this series, I’ve been excited to dive in.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect with book three, and after book one I’ve stopped reading the synopsis’, so I dove in, wondering what our sarcastic Murderbot would get up to.

What I liked: Book three continues the story of Murderbot trying to get to the bottom of what happened to them many years ago. This is explained in more detail in book one and discussed in book two, but in book three they decide to try and help out the Doc who aided them in book one by trying to find more clues about those events.

Wells has created an iconic character with Murderbot (they even have their own active Twitter feed!) and as always we find them struggling with their desire to get their own answers and ultimately be able to watch tv programs while knowing they ultimately want to help those who’re in danger or following directions that’ll get them killed.

In this one, we get another story line where Murderbot has to tolerate another robot/machine character and it’s here where Wells really excels with the internal workings of Murderbot and how much they despise pleasantries and inside jokes.

The story has a ton of action and acts as a fine stand alone but also pushes the over-arcing plot of the series, which sets up book four really nicely.

What I didn’t like: Ultimately, this was a bit ‘more of the same,’ where we know Murderbot is going to have to protect the humans as they do have a conscious and as much as Wells keeps trying to show us that Murderbot doesn’t care about humans, three books deep tells us otherwise. I’m hoping book four reduces that aspect a bit and we see Murderbot make bigger bounds towards embracing their empathetic side, but I doubt it, ha!

Why you should buy this: If you’re invested in book one and two, you’ll want to keep following along and while this wasn’t the highlight so far of the three books I’ve read, this was a really great follow up and a fun read.

Murderbot is a unique character in that they are, at their base, a killing machine, but it’s a bit like watching Robocop have parts of his human identity burst through and aid in overriding their directives. Book three was a fun time and I’ve excited to jump into book four shortly.