I feel like we need a gothic book party for October. CLASH Books delivered just that with this HELENA book party. A debut novel perfect for a quick gothic read during the spookiest month of the year. Thank you for letting us party with you Clash Books and Claire L. Smith. The Night Worms review team can’t wait to do it again!
Below are mini reviews from our Night Worms review team and photos that were posted to our Instagram & Twitter accounts.
“As thin of a book as it is, I felt HELENA to be a slow-burn in the best way. The story never felt rushed and the characters were pretty decently developed for only 141 pages. Smith’s writing is heavy with macabre imagery—lost spirits grotesque in appearance and corpses missing their innards—which was an excellent addition to a slowly unraveling murder mystery I was itching to see resolved by the final pages.” - @the_wandering_reader
“This is Claire L. Smith's debut and it is haunting, beautiful, and fast-paced! Helena is a force to reckon with and I would love to engage in conversation with her. I imagined myself having all kinds of talks with her about anything and everything - she seems so cool! All the characters in this novella are developed quite well given the amount of pages, but Helena is just something else entirely. This is the kind of book that I can imagine readers enjoying with some Danny Elfman in the background, a warm cup of tea, and a fire crackling beside them. It exudes Gothic goodness with every chapter!” -@findingmontauk1
“I’m not fond of similes in the best of times, but when an author uses them in every sentence it cheapens the story. I know this is Ms. Smith’s first novel, but I wonder if she would be better suited to short stories. A shorter format would force her to abandon the lip/mouth commentary and pare down the similes, allowing the interesting storyline to shine.” -@mrsbeverlygibbs
“Since this book is so short, I don't want to give too much away but I found Helena to be atmospheric, a little spooky, with a lot of mystery. It was fun trying to piece it all together.” -@spookishmommy
“Helena is a gothic tale that mixes ghosts and social drama. I was hooked! You give me ghosts, Victorian gothic, and drama, I’m all over it like spiders to a web. Unlike most gothic tales I’ve read, this one is compact and fast paced. At only 140 pages it’s an enthralling quick read. “ -@shereadshorror
“This atmospheric, haunting story hit all the marks for me. Everything from the ominous tone, to the lush descriptions, to mutilated bodies, to the supernatural. And it has a brilliant protagonist to boot. The character of Helena was a joy to read: she’s bewitching, bold, and smart. And the murder mystery element is aces!” -@shereadswithcats
“Horror fans looking for something atmospheric for their Halloween reading list should consider this, debut novella from Claire L. Smith. Helena Morrigan is a mortician/funeral director in the mid-1800s. She spends copious amounts of time in dark, foggy, London alleys, spooky graveyards, and morgues.” -@mother.horror
“Claire Smith creates an excellent and atmospheric world that drips with gothic imagery. I loved the character of Helena; she's strong, confident, weird, and creepy. With an amazing gothic world and a protagonist to die for, I was primed to love this book, and I did!” -@teamredmon
“Lots of atmosphere, imagery, and terror in such a short amount of pages! I really liked how the ghosts would just pop up out of nowhere and instantly turn any scene into a fright-filled nightmare, keeping me on my toes as I read. The character Helena is also a relatable and engaging protagonist, with a lot of mystery around her that was fun to try and figure out” -@reading.vicariously
“I loved our well built main character and the strong atmospheric horror tones going on through the whole book. There were a few parts of HELENA that lost me due to the pacing, but it was never so much that I broke immersion. I think this book was fun, quick, and easy to read and I would definitely read more from this author. It’s my opinion that this book would work for fans of gothic horror and mystery lovers” -@pageandparlorbooks
“Well, I really didn’t expect these tears streaming down my face just now. Here I was just thinking I was reading a beautifully written gothic novel when the ending punches me dead in the feels!” -@marcyreads
“The story really picked up for me at the end and I wanted to keep reading...when everything just ended, which left me frustrated.
I believe it is a debut, however, so I'm cutting the author some slack because it was promising and I do want to know what happens to Helena!” -@readswithdogs
“This novel is evocative and deliriously mysterious. Helena is a powerhouse with a past and her visions are haunting. Gothic horror is hard to write in modern times and, in my humble opinion, not many authors have the ability to keep you in the era of intent. Smith does this masterfully which is promising in a debut.” -@kamis_korner
“Overall I feel a bit torn with this read. The author builds a wonderful spooky gothic atmosphere and I felt myself really falling in love with Helena as a character. Despite the tiny issues that I had, this is an impressive debut and I do feel a pull to need to know where the story will go from here.” -@wherethereadergrows
"I loved the moody and dark atmosphere. It gave me a lot of Frankenstein vibes (and thus The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein). Helena finds herself encountering a lot of mysteries and paranormal activity which unfortunately left me confused quite often. I had to go back a few times to sort out who was who or why someone was suddenly at Helena's home.
I'm a big fan of Claire's and I'd love to read more from her." @spookishmommy