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Paper Tigers

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  44 reviews
In this haunting and hypnotizing novel, a young woman loses everything—half of her body, her fiancé, and possibly her unborn child—to a terrible apartment fire. While recovering from the trauma, she discovers a photo album inhabited by a predatory ghost who promises to make her whole again, all while slowly consuming her from the inside out.
Paperback, 286 pages
Published February 29th 2016 by Dark House Press (first published January 12th 2016)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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The description of this novel had me hooked at "photo album inhabited by a predatory ghost" - I needed no further convincing. And it is indeed weird and scary and great. I saw it described on Goodreads as "a psychedelic, classically gothic fever dream" and I have to agree. This is a story about scars, both physical and metaphorical. Alison is recovering from a horrible apartment fire, which claimed her fiancé and left her horribly burned. When she comes across a ghost in a haunted photo album, h ...more
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
With only one novel and one collection to her name before this, Damien Angelica Walters has nonetheless garnered quite the following in genre circles, and with good reason.

In Paper Tigers we meet Alison, a young woman bearing the scars – physically and emotionally – of a fire that stopped her former life in its tracks. Once well on her way to becoming a teacher, she now lives a life of isolation, afraid to set foot outside of the house. Her body is unrecognizable, her fiance is gone, her hopes a
Jul 11, 2019 added it
Shelves: unfinished, ghosts
I'm a fan of subdued horror, but this is that sort that's so subdued that it isn't horrifying at all. Not even mildly creepy, even, because the supernatural element was so obvious. I felt slightly sorry for the heroine's tragic accident and her depression, but beyond those she didn't seem to have much personality, and if a person chooses to keep a haunted photograph they're pretty much asking for trouble. And some of the "ominous" elements were laughably tired, like the evil book falling on its ...more
I was extremely hesitant to request this book from the publisher, yet I couldn't ignore the book-club appeal because holy-cow-would-you-look-at-all-the-stars-people-are-throwing-at-it. Though it sounded likes something I could absolutely sink my teeth into it, it was setting off every one of my warning bells before I even cracked it open, and for good reason. Hindsight. What a bitch, eh?

Sadly disappointing, Paper Tigers was neither haunting nor hypnotizing. I was expecting a chilling and spine t
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it

The nitty-gritty: An atmospheric and eerie ghost story with psychological undertones that make this a satisfying horror story on several levels.

The house held only broken dreams, shattered screams, and secret little dirty things. It was a liar’s playground, a dead man’s last stand.

I was pleasantly surprised by Damian Angelica Walters’ short story collection Sing Me Your Scars, full of visceral and at times hard to read horror stories about pain and loss, and so I jumped at th

Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Dark, moody, and disturbing novel about living with scars, living with damage. An impressive debut novel!
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love ghost stories. This story by Damien Angelica Walters is the best ghost story I have read in recent years. It is terrifying, poignant, and satisfying within the same story. Alison has seemingly lost everything that was important to her in a terrible accident. She is engulfed in pain and self pity. Upon purchasing an old photo album in a rare venture out of doors, she is presented with what appears to be a promise of resurrection. There are ghosts at work here, but not just the ghosts trapp ...more
Benoit Lelièvre
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Some people just "get" it. Damien Angelica Walters just knows what's terrifying about the human condition. In her novel PAPER TIGERS, Walters draws a line between living and existing which her character is caught on the wrong side of after a devastating apartment fire and her struggle for survival leads her not only to the edge of sanity, but to the tipping point between two worlds: a universe of pain and a universe of loss.

Walters also puts her gorgeous writing skills on display in that novel.
Audra (ouija.reads)
(Please check out the full review on my blog:

“I am like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, she thought, and the monster feels my tiny movements inside.”

​This line comes from Shirley Jackson’s beautiful, haunting, classic masterpiece The Haunting of Hill House and it’s an epigraph to PAPER TIGERS—one that couldn't be more apt.

This is the story of Alison, a girl who is disfigured by an accident and left alone with only occasional visits from he
Zakk Madness
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Paper Tigers is a wonderful piece of intimate horror. Thoughtful and thought provoking. It is a quiet, melancholy read, a ballad strumming away on your heartstrings. Damien Angelica Walters' prose is syrupy sweet and infectious, leading you through mysterious landscapes.

The narrative of Paper Tigers unravels at a methodical pace, giving up pieces of the puzzle that don't from pictures just yet. We are living vicariously through Alison, a woman who's damaged on the outside, fractured on the insid
David Bridges
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Read
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a poignant story about wounds and loss and healing, and not healing. How we hold on to past images instead of growing with ourselves. There are all kinds of hauntings in this story, and each layer gives us another look into Alison's heart. You'll never look at old photographs the same way again, after this. ...more
Andy Weston
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror, ghost-story
Stripped to the bare bones ghost stories can seem ridiculous. A woman looks at a picture in her living room. Each day the man in the painting gets larger or nearer. How ridiculous does that sound? Yet Susan Hill makes it full of tension, totally captivating and scary even. Within her writing style is a sense of the gothic, a tinge towards every small aspect of the story.

I begin this review talking about another book, because that isn't what happens here. Hill carries it off, making what might s
A.C. Wise
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Paper Tigers is a novel about healing, about feeling broken, and what people will do to feel whole again. Years ago, Alison was caught in a terrible fire. Roughly half her body is covered in scars. She lost an eye, two fingers, and sees a physiotherapist regularly to manage her pain. She rarely goes out, and when she does, it’s at night, when no one else is around. She covers herself with a scarf and glasses, and hardly speaks to anyone except her doctors and her mother, and even then, they are ...more
D. Ward
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“Tell me, when you burned, did the flames kiss your skin like a lover?”

If you want to know the answer to that, you’ll have to find it in the pages of this remarkable novel by Damien Angelica Walters. As for my experience, this book consumed me. Slowly. All the way through the last page. I was enthralled by it and, although I wanted to know how things worked out, I was reluctant for it to end. For the spell to be broken.

But that's not really how it works, is it? The books we love—the ones that ha
Carina Bissett
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've been waiting a while to write a review after savoring this luxurious piece of prose, but I still can't quite find the words to describe Paper Tigers. As always, Damien's deft hand at turning a story and her evocative language leaves readers hungry for more. This story is one of loss and loneliness, but it explores the themes in a way that keeps the characters fully-fleshed despite their desires to present themselves in the shiny and bright masks they wear. Alison, the main character of Pape ...more
Gisele Siegmund
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
A really good find! I loved Walters' descriptive writing; it captured the essence of a young woman's suffering after horribly being disfigured in a fire. Her turmoil is exacerbated by her discovery of a haunted album which pulls her into a macabre world that may initially appear to be the solution to her problem. Will she rediscover herself or will she fall like others before her ... tempted to live a life of illusion? I highly recommend it to anyone that loves dark literature! ...more
Paul Magnan
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a novel that takes its time to grab the reader, but once it does, watch out!

Alison is a young woman who bears terrible scars, both externally and internally, from a fire. When she needs to go out, she does so only at night, and only for a certain distance. Still, she is fiercely independent, and endures rather than accepts the help given by her mother and physical therapist. On one nighttime walk Alison encounters what appears to be a new antiques shop. On display is an old photo album.
William M.
May 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror, supernatural

There is no denying this author has talent and can write quite beautifully. However, brilliant technical writing does not necessarily make a good story. Honestly, Paper Tigers only has enough plot to fill a short story, or a novelette at best. The repetitiveness and overkill of details was truly a test of my willpower to finish reading it. It does have some atmosphere, but other than the last ten or fifteen pages, there are no real scares or any sense of danger for the protagonist
Chloe Natasha
Think of how utterly tempting the scent of freshly baked cupcakes can be, when your stomach growls like a tiger, that hollowness; the emptiness desperate to be filled by the very sweetness that lures you like a siren song. Delightfully sweet, but underneath that lies the threat of sickness. Temptation leads to overindulgence, and sweetness becomes sickly. How fitting that we describe both a freshly baked cupcake and the overwhelming stench of rotting meat as sweet. Sickly sweet, but sweet all t ...more
Jonathan Reitan
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"With Paper Tigers Walters gives us a truly unique look at the haunted house story. This slim novel can be read in just a few sittings for it will consume you. Damien Angelica Walters shows off her talents to scratch at our nerves while providing a story so deeply emotional and beautifully poetic."

-Jonathan Reitan, Cemetery Dance magazine

Full review here:
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating twist on the classic haunted house story. Mixing traditional creepy elements with a story about coming to terms with a terrible accident.
I really did end up rooting for the main character despite also finding myself yelling at her quite often.
There was a great atmosphere to the book - almost gothic horror and some really creepy moments. I very much enjoyed this one.
Jill Hamilton-Krawczyk
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Paper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters is a beautifully written, but tragic tale of a tormented woman, a long gone house, and a haunted photo album. As I read, the plot and characters were so interesting and engaging that it was like a movie playing in my head! If you love the horror genre, hauntings, and creatively written stories then read this book! Wow! 5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mystery, haunting, disturbing- this book has it all. I was really surprised by how quickly it pulled me into the plot. A deformed girl burned in a fire is fascinated with old photographs. She buys one in an antique store, and the photo seems to be communicating with her....

Very, Very good!
Stacy Wright
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a strange book. It caught my attention bc it sounded different. It wasn’t bad but I probably wouldn’t be one I would ever recommend.
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Awesome piece of modern Gothic novel. Uses an urban setting to tell an interesting, scary, fun, original tale about a woman being haunted.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
I was really enjoying this book, Allison's pain and the mystery of the álbum were really engaging but the ending was so bleak so utterly sad that it kind of ruined the whole thing for me. ...more
Mar 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I picked this up because a review I stumbled onto made it sound creepy and compelling and honestly I'm sort of looking for a horror novel that is actually scary. I've been a horror fan for a very long time and I'm beginning to fear that I've burnt myself out on being actually afraid of anything I read or watch.

This is a really excellent book. It's very easy to fall into this world and feel it. You can feel Alison's pain and loneliness and there's a good bit of body horror, I guess, for people t
April Taylor
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Paper Tigers is a wonderfully layered, beautifully written Gothic horror novel that deserves way more attention than it has gotten.

By far one of the most compelling examples of literary modern Gothic storytelling, readers are pulled into a world with all the classic Gothic themes: high emotions, an ancient evil, a main character who has suffered an unimaginable tragedy, and symbolism that weaves the entire thing together.

The author’s usage of colors is especially noteworthy and seems to nod to
Dec 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-won-this-book
What do you do when you want your life back, but it's just impossible? What do you do when your life transforms in the blinking of an eye, leaving you half the person you used to be, even fearing to go outside your home unless it's dark? Well, you find someone who can complete you, who can make you whole again. Even if it's a ghost...

Paper Tigers is a tale of isolation and desperateness. The story tells of a woman lost in her current situation. She was deformed in an accident that left her wit
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Damien Angelica Walters is the author of The Dead Girls Club, Cry Your Way Home, Paper Tigers, and Sing Me Your Scars, winner of the 2015 This is Horror Award for Short Story Collection of the Year. Her short fiction has been nominated twice for a Bram Stoker Award, reprinted in The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and The Year's Best Weird Fiction, and published in various anthologies and magazi ...more

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