First off: This book is gorgeous in every way. It's small but surprisingly hefty thanks to the wonderfully heavy, glossy, richly-painted pages. You're holding a small work of art when you pick it up.
Read this at night if you can. Preferably in the winter. It's a good old-fashioned spooky read. If you're lucky enough to have a fireplace, set something ablaze and curl up as close as you can get. If that's your only source of light, all the better -- Emily Carroll's dark art will be all the eerier when viewed in flickering glances.
I read this through (not by firelight, sadly) in one shivery sitting. The writing and art are a hypnotic combination. I'm sure a video of my face as I read would be hilarious -- my eyes widening as I turn a page, and then narrowing as I squint to read the scribblings of a mad character; my mouth opening in a gasp as I read a terrifying twist on the Bluebeard story, or pursing as I suddenly realize a narrator is at least unsympathetic and possibly unreliable.
The only reason I hold back a star on this beautiful collection is that the endings of a few of the stories are too enigmatic. The first two are perfect; the third and fourth prompted a "Hmm;" the fifth and longest made me say, "Wait -- what?"
Just to make sure I wasn't guilty of Reading While Stupid, I had a smart friend take a look. (This book is a regrettably quick read.) He confessed to being baffled in the same places I was. So I do think a few of the stories should have been a little clearer.
The reason this collection still gets a solid four stars (possibly 4.5) is that even when you're not quite sure what's going on, these stories grab you and will NOT let go.
Do yourself a favor and read this book -- and grab a copy for a friend the next time you need to give a gift.