This Week in Books 17.01.18 #TWIB

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Happy Wednesday! I hope you’re all having a good week. I’m going to Vegas (I’ll actually be there by the time this publishes), for my mum’s 60th birthday so it should be a good, if not crazy week for me!

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading…

Now:

Veronica’s Bird ~ Veronica Bird & Richard Newman

veronicasbird

Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the Fifties as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. However, a glimmer of hope revealed itself as she, astonishingly to her and her mother, won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.

A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness. That was until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the fire.

He soon began to take control over her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as cheap labour on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away from him and applied to the Prison Service, intuiting that it was the only safe place she could trust.

Accepted into the Prison Service at a time when there were few women working in the industry, Veronica applied herself every day to learning her new craft even training in Holloway Prison where Myra Hindley was an inmate. With no wish to go outside the prison, Veronica remained inside on-duty. While her colleagues went out to the pub, the theatre or to dine she didn’t feel able to join them.

Her dedication was recognised and she rose rapidly in the Service moving from looking after dangerous women prisoners on long-term sentences to violent men and coming up against such infamous names as The Price sisters, Mary Bell and Charles Bronson. The threat of riots was always very close and escapes had to be dealt with quickly.

After becoming a Governor, Veronica was tasked with what was known within the Service as a ‘basket case’ of a prison. However, with her diligence and enthusiasm Veronica managed to turn it around whereupon it became a model example to the country and she was recognised with an honour from the Queen. With this recognition the EU invited her to lead a team to Russia and her time in Ivanovo Prison, north east of Moscow, provides an illuminating and humorous insight into a different prison culture.

Through a series of interviews with Richard Newman —author of the bestselling A Nun’s Story— Veronica’s Bird reveals a deeply poignant story of eventual triumph, is filled with humour and compassion for those inside and will fascinate anyone interested in unique true life stories, social affairs and the prison system.

I’m enjoying this so far, but looking forward to getting to the parts about Venronica’s time in prisons. So far it’s been all about her childhood. But it’s interesting.

Then:

Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha

flatbroke

A charming memoir of one woman’s unexpected journey from country chic to backwoods barnyard.

Just as the Great Recession was easing in some parts of the country, Jennifer McGaha experienced an economic crisis of epic proportions. Her home was in foreclosure; she had $4.57 in the bank; and worst of all, she had recently discovered that she and her accountant husband owed four years of back taxes to the state of North Carolina and the IRS. And then things got really bad…

Flat Broke with Two Goats takes readers on a wild adventure from a Cape Cod-style home in the country to a hundred-year-old, mice-infested, snake-ridden cabin in a North Carolina holler. With self-effacing humor and unflinching honesty, Jennifer chronicles the joys and difficulties of living close to nature, and in the process she comes to discover the true meaning of home.

This really wasn’t for me. My slightly scathing review went up on Monday.

Next:

The Word for Woman is Wilderness ~ Abi Andrews

thewordfor

Erin is 19. She’s never really left England, but she has watched Bear Grylls and wonders why it’s always men who get to go on all the cool wilderness adventures. So Erin sets off on a voyage into the Alaskan wilderness, a one-woman challenge to the archetype of the rugged male explorer.

As Erin’s journey takes her through the Arctic Circle, across the entire breadth of the American continent and finally to a lonely cabin in the wilds of Denali, she explores subjects as diverse as the moon landings, the Gaia hypothesis, loneliness, nuclear war, shamanism and the pill.

Filled with a sense of wonder for the natural world and a fierce love for preserving it, The Word for Woman is Wilderness is a funny, frank and tender account of a young woman in uncharted territory.

Although this is a novel, I’m hoping it will be what I hoped Flat Broke would be. Fingers crossed!

What have you been reading this week? Leave a comment/link and I’ll do my best to take a look 🙂

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Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha #BookReview #Memoir

flatbrokeTitle: Flat Broke with Two Goats
Author: Jennifer McGaha
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details: January 23rd 2018 by Sourcebooks
Genre(s): Memoir
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

A charming memoir of one woman’s unexpected journey from country chic to backwoods barnyard

Just as the Great Recession was easing in some parts of the country, Jennifer McGaha experienced an economic crisis of epic proportions. Her home was in foreclosure; she had $4.57 in the bank; and worst of all, she had recently discovered that she and her accountant husband owed four years of back taxes to the state of North Carolina and the IRS. And then things got really bad…

Flat Broke with Two Goats takes readers on a wild adventure from a Cape Cod-style home in the country to a hundred-year-old, mice-infested, snake-ridden cabin in a North Carolina holler. With self-effacing humor and unflinching honesty, Jennifer chronicles the joys and difficulties of living close to nature, and in the process she comes to discover the true meaning of home.

Review

This book was not at all what I was expecting and I think that hindered my enjoyment of it. I had read the synopsis but for some reason I had it in my mind that it would be more about becoming self-sufficient in the wilderness than about a family’s fall from grace.

I don’t read that many memoirs (but I’m trying to branch out more this year), and I feel quite awkward about reviewing this one truthfully because it seems akin to slagging off someone’s life and actions. It’s much easier to slag off a made up story.

So, I really hope I don’t cause any offence with my opinion, but this book made me quite angry! I found Jennifer infuriating. How could she be so clueless about her family’s finances? I understand that her husband was an accountant so she left the money side to him, but when she listed all the ‘signs’ that they were in difficulties, the list didn’t read as signs so much as glaringly obvious incidents (such as their power and water being frequently turned off and having bailiffs at the door on more than one occasion). I mean really?

There were lots of other things I didn’t understand too. Such as how a family whose main breadwinner was on ‘six figures a year’ can get into such a terrible financial situation. The decision he made to stop paying taxes (without telling his wife, I should add), but to carry on paying for a very expensive private school for their children. I was also confused as to why they thought it was OK to break into their old house to collect their things, instead of calling the police…

Jennifer details how the house was legally still theirs during the foreclosure but that the owners, previously thought of as life-long friends, had boxed up all their belongings, stored them in the garage, and changed all the locks. The options as Jennifer believes were 1. to contact their now ex-friends 2. contact the police or 3. break in. And they broke in. Why? It was at points like this in the story in which I lost all faith in the narrator. I realise you don’t know how you would react in any given situation until it happens to you, but I simply could not fathom Jennifer’s behaviour and attitude.

The main thing that annoyed me however, was that Jennifer was never able to look on the bright side. They are offered a run-down cabin to rent for peanuts. Sure, it needs a LOT of work, but it comes with land, and is in a beautiful location surrounded by waterfalls; so beautiful that tourists travel there from all around the world. No matter how run-down the cabin is, you’d think just a little part of them would be thrilled to be in such a beautiful place, I know I would. I couldn’t help thinking that they didn’t deserve it.

I did appreciate Jennifer’s ability to keep calm and carry on though, and I guess I was a little inspired by that, and the fact that she stuck with her husband despite all of his misdemeanors, but essentially this wasn’t the book I wanted to read.

The one thing I couldn’t fault about Flat Broke however, was the writing. It was written so well I wanted to keep reading even though I wasn’t enjoying the story, and that is as high a praise I can muster I’m afraid.

unicorn rating 2

 

 

This Week in Books 10.01.18 #TWIB

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Happy Wednesday everyone, I hope you’re all having a good week! Here’s what I’ve been reading…

Now:

Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha

flatbroke

I’m about 1/3 through this and it so wasn’t what I was expecting…but it’s really interesting.

A charming memoir of one woman’s unexpected journey from country chic to backwoods barnyard.

Just as the Great Recession was easing in some parts of the country, Jennifer McGaha experienced an economic crisis of epic proportions. Her home was in foreclosure; she had $4.57 in the bank; and worst of all, she had recently discovered that she and her accountant husband owed four years of back taxes to the state of North Carolina and the IRS. And then things got really bad…

Flat Broke with Two Goats takes readers on a wild adventure from a Cape Cod-style home in the country to a hundred-year-old, mice-infested, snake-ridden cabin in a North Carolina holler. With self-effacing humor and unflinching honesty, Jennifer chronicles the joys and difficulties of living close to nature, and in the process she comes to discover the true meaning of home.

Then:

Renegades ~ Marissa Meyer

renegades

I’m so pleased that I liked this! Meyer is back on form. Review to follow!

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

Next:

 Veronica’s Bird ~ Veronica Bird & Richard Newman

veronicasbird

I will be part of this book tour at the end of the month, so I must start it ASAP. I’m intrigued to see what stories Veronica tells about prison as I also work in one. Should be interesting!

Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the Fifties as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. However, a glimmer of hope revealed itself as she, astonishingly to her and her mother, won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.

A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness. That was until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the fire.

He soon began to take control over her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as cheap labour on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away from him and applied to the Prison Service, intuiting that it was the only safe place she could trust.

Accepted into the Prison Service at a time when there were few women working in the industry, Veronica applied herself every day to learning her new craft even training in Holloway Prison where Myra Hindley was an inmate. With no wish to go outside the prison, Veronica remained inside on-duty. While her colleagues went out to the pub, the theatre or to dine she didn’t feel able to join them.

Her dedication was recognised and she rose rapidly in the Service moving from looking after dangerous women prisoners on long-term sentences to violent men and coming up against such infamous names as The Price sisters, Mary Bell and Charles Bronson. The threat of riots was always very close and escapes had to be dealt with quickly.

After becoming a Governor, Veronica was tasked with what was known within the Service as a ‘basket case’ of a prison. However, with her diligence and enthusiasm Veronica managed to turn it around whereupon it became a model example to the country and she was recognised with an honour from the Queen. With this recognition the EU invited her to lead a team to Russia and her time in Ivanovo Prison, north east of Moscow, provides an illuminating and humorous insight into a different prison culture.

Through a series of interviews with Richard Newman —author of the bestselling A Nun’s Story— Veronica’s Bird reveals a deeply poignant story of eventual triumph, is filled with humour and compassion for those inside and will fascinate anyone interested in unique true life stories, social affairs and the prison system.

What have you been reading this week? Leave a comment/link and I’ll do my best to take a look 🙂

Yuletide Homicide by Jennifer David Hesse #BookReview

yuletidehomicideTitle: Yuletide Homicide
Author: Jennifer David Hesse
Series: Wiccan Wheel Mysteries #3
Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: September 26th 2017 by Kensington
Genre(s): Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

It’s Christmas in Edindale, Illinois, and family law attorney Keli Milanni is preparing to celebrate the Wiccan holiday Yuletide, a celebration of rebirth. But this Yuletide someone else is focused on dying . . .
 
After years of practicing in secret, Keli has come out as a Wiccan to her boyfriend, and she feels like this Yuletide she’s the one who’s being reborn. But the Solstice is the longest night of the year, and Keli is about to stumble on a mystery so dangerous, she’ll be lucky to make it to morning.
 
Paired with her unbearably stuffy colleague Crenshaw Davenport III, Keli goes undercover at a real estate company owned by mayoral candidate Edgar Harrison. An old friend of Keli’s boss, Harrison, is being blackmailed, and it’s up to her to find the culprit. But the morning after the company holiday party, Harrison is found dead underneath the hotel Christmas tree. The police rule the death an accident, but Keli knows better—and she’ll risk her own rebirth to nab a missing killer.

 

Review

Yuletide Homicide is the third in a series of cozy mysteries with a fun, witchy twist. I hadn’t read the previous books in the series but it stood-alone pretty well, so I wouldn’t let that put you off.

The story centers around Keli, who is exploring her Wiccan faith, mainly in solitude, but as the novel unfolds she becomes more open about her religion and practices. The Wiccan element is just one small part of Keli’s life however – she’s a busy lady!

Keli is an attorney who seems to spend her time as more of an amateur sleuth than an actual attorney. Along with her eccentric colleague Crenshaw, Keli is thrust straight into a murder mystery when her boss asks her to find out who is blackmailing him. Not only does she discover who the blackmailer is, but she also finds his body.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a little bit silly in parts, and felt like one of those books that you have to take with a pinch of salt, but it was paced-well, written nicely, and entertaining. I love a good murder mystery, and this reminded me of the likes of Midsomer Murders, which I love.

I enjoyed the dynamic between Keli and Crenshaw, and think it’s great to have a regular, down to earth, Wiccan, protagonist. The only thing that annoyed me was that she wasn’t more ‘out’ and proud as a Wiccan, like it’s something to be ashamed of. It felt a little old-fashioned in its approach in that respect. Hopefully though, that’s all part of the overall series arc.

Yuletide Homicide was a nice alternative to all the festive romances out at the time that I read it. I hope I get to read more in the series in the future.

unicorn rating 4

This Week in Books 02.01.18 #TWIB

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Happy new year to you all! I hope you had a lovely Christmas holiday and a great New Year.

I had a great time but didn’t manage to get any blogging or even much reading done despite having two weeks off work! It’s nice to be back, but I’ve decided that I’ll be taking a step back for the foreseeable future (after I get my backlog of reviews out).

I’m not quitting completely and hope to post at least once a week (as opposed to 3 or 4 like I used to). I just feel burnt out and want to enjoy reading again.

I hope you’ll enjoy being kept up to date on what I’m reading in this post.

Now

renegades

 

Renegades ~ Marissa Meyer

This has got off to an excellent start and I’m so relieved. The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favourite series, but I was pretty disappointed by Meyer’s last book, Heartless. This definitely seems like a return to form!

Then

 

The Polar Bear’s Explorer Club ~ Alex Bell // Little Women ~ Louisa May Alcott

These were the last two books I finished before Christmas. I absolutely loved The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club, it was such a fun, magical read that’s perfect for winter. I was also really surprised by how much I enjoyed Little Women. I tried reading it as a child but never got through it – I’ve never been very good with the classics – but I liked it. Hurrah!

Next

Probably Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha. I’m not a huge one for memoirs but love the sound of this one 🙂

flatbroke

A charming memoir of one woman’s unexpected journey from country chic to backwoods barnyard

Just as the Great Recession was easing in some parts of the country, Jennifer McGaha experienced an economic crisis of epic proportions. Her home was in foreclosure; she had $4.57 in the bank; and worst of all, she had recently discovered that she and her accountant husband owed four years of back taxes to the state of North Carolina and the IRS. And then things got really bad…

Flat Broke with Two Goats takes readers on a wild adventure from a Cape Cod-style home in the country to a hundred-year-old, mice-infested, snake-ridden cabin in a North Carolina holler. With self-effacing humor and unflinching honesty, Jennifer chronicles the joys and difficulties of living close to nature, and in the process she comes to discover the true meaning of home.

 

What have you been reading this week? Leave a comment/link and I’ll do my best to take a look 🙂

 

 

Picture Book Review: The Santa Thief by Alane Adams #ChildrensBooks #Review

santathiefTitle: The Santa Thief
Author: Alane Adams
Series: N/a
Format: Digital ARC, 32 pages
Publication Details: November 7th 2017 by Sparkpress
Genre(s): Children’s Picture Book
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

It’s winter in Girard, Pennsylvania and the pond is completely frozen over–ready for a young boy to go skating!–but Georgie’s ice skates are too small. All Georgie wants for Christmas is a new pair of skates. But times are tough in 1920s Pennsylvania, and he gets the disappointing news Santa might not come this year.

Follow Georgie as he decides to take matters into his own hands and steals Santa’s identity–and discovers what Christmas is all about. The Santa Thief is a heartwarming tale of boyhood set in 1920s Pennsylvania for children ages 4-8.

 

Review

 

The Santa Thief was a nice little story about a boy who is told that Santa won’t be coming this year. It’s set in the 1920s, and times are hard for Georgie’s family who would like nothing more than to buy him a new pair of ice skates, but they just can’t afford it, so Georgie decides that he’ll just have to be Santa himself!

I thought this book was written well and the illustrations were lovely, and I’m sure it will capture the heart of very young children, but I was a little disappointed by it. I didn’t find it that heartwarming or imaginative which is something I look for in festive stories.

However, The Santa Thief has a nice moral which I’m sure will be a hit with parents over the Christmas period. Worth a read.

unicorn rating 3

 

 

Blog Tour: The Twelve Days of Elfin by Melanie Chambers

Welcome to my spot on the ‘Twelve Days of Elfin’ blog tour!

Twelve DaysElfin_Banner.jpg

About the Book

Twelve Days of Elfin Cover

Publication date:  November 21st 2017 by Clink Street Publishing
Genre(s): Children’s; Christmas

This is the story of a little boy who becomes friends with an elf; soon they are best friends!

The elf and the boy go on adventures together, creating wonderful magical things that every child would love to experience.

Keep the magic of Christmas alive for your little ones with this delightfully festive story by author and mum Melanie Chambers, to help create magical times together, with lots of fun and happy memories, for parents and children everywhere.

 

Goodreads // Amazon

Excerpt

Lipsy -1Lipsy -2

My Thoughts

The Twelve Days of Elfin is a charming little book that’s on a big mission – to bring parents and children together this Christmas by sharing quality time reading, baking and crafting.

I love the idea and the structure of this book which you can read over twelve nights during December. It follows Ruben and his new best friend Elfin who encourages him to get well and truly into the spirit of Christmas. Each section is followed by a simple recipe, or instructions on how to make whatever Elfin and Ruben have that day. What a great idea!

The only small criticism I have is that it felt a little bit amateurish to me, with regards to the storytelling and the illustrations, but saying that, I think it just added to the simple charm of it.

Twelve Days of Elfin is a lovely little book will without doubt bring parents and children even closer at Christmastime, encouraging wholesome family interaction and festive cheer.

 

 

Meet the Author

Tweelve Days - Melanie Chambers Author Pic

Melanie Chambers was born in Bristol, and had a troubled childhood. She was only diagnosed with dyslexia a few years ago on a British Sign Language course.

Melanie has been inspired by her own children to write books for that age group, due to their limitless imaginations. With her younger daughter also being an arts and crafts fan, and with Christmas being a favourite holiday it made sense to combine them into a her first book – The Twelve Days of Elfin.

 

 

You can follow Melanie on:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/melanie.chambers.948

Twitter – https://twitter.com/rjchambers2009

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/teacup18/

Thanks to Rachel at Authoright for arranging this tour. If you’d like me to promote your book, please get in touch via the email on my contacts page 🙂

This Week in Books 06.12.17 #TWIB

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Hi Everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying your December. I’m sorry I’ve not been interacting much of late, I’m finding it a bit hard to get back into the swing of things after having November off and I’m trying not to force myself to do it, you know!? I’m sure the motivation will come back eventually, but at the moment I’m just enjoying reading lots and spending time with friends.

I only have a week and a half left at work THIS YEAR (squeeeeeal), so I’m looking forward to having some time off, and hopefully I’ll feel like catching up on reviews and things then. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading…

Now

 

polarbearex

The Polar Bear’s Explorer Club ~ Alex Bell

I’ve barely started this so not much to report so far. I’m very excited about it though!

Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .

When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?

Then

 

Carnivalesque ~ Neil Jordan

Norse Mythology ~ Neil Gaiman

I enjoyed both of these, but the Neil Jordan book slightly less so.

Next???

 

I still might give Little Women a go, and I also have Artemis by Andy Weir. But Renegades (see below) also arrived and ahhh need to read nowww!

New on the Shelves

There’s too many to mention since the last time I did this feature (which was back in September!) so I’ll just share what arrived this week, and do a separate post for the others at some point.

I’m so excited about this new Marissa Meyer book. I hope it’s better than Heartless was. Eeeeek.

renegades

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

What have you been reading this week? Let me know in the comments or leave your link.

This Week in Books 29.11.17 #TWIB

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

I’ve finally got back into reading after enjoying some time off and lots of TV bingeing. I also missed last week’s post, so I have more books than usual to share, which is nice!

Now:

Carnivalesque ~ Neil Jordan

Norse Mythology ~ Neil Gaiman

Then:

Heir of Locksley ~ N.B Dixon

The Santa Thief ~ Alane Adams

Christmas Under a Starlit Sky ~ Holly Martin

Yuletide Homicide ~ Jennifer David Hesse

I loved Heir Of Locksley and look forward to the next book, The Santa Thief was a cute little picture book set in the 1920s, Christmas Under a Starlit Sky was nice enough, but not as good as I was expecting (or the first book), and Yuletide Homicide was a fun, unique little mystery.

I better get working on some reviews ASAP.

Next???

 

I’m tempted to read Little Women which I’ve actually bought for my Nan for Christmas. Shhhhhh! I’ve never been huge on classics, and tried to read it when I was a kid but didn’t stick it out. Maybe I should give it another go? I also have Artemis by Andy Weir to read but I have a feeling I’ll be in the mood for more Christmassy reads…

What have you been reading this week? Let me know in the comments or leave your link.

 

 

Alone by Cyn Balog: Spotlight Tour, Review & Giveaway!

Welcome to my spot on the Alone blog tour

Alone tour1.jpg

About the Book

alone

Publication date:  November 7th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre(s): YA, Horror

When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda’s almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it’s fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they’re not going back to the city…or Seda’s friends and school.

As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They’re about to be cut off from the outside world, and she’s not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.

Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality…

Goodreads // Amazon

Excerpt

Sometimes I dream I am drowning.

Sometimes I dream of bloated faces, bobbing on the surface of misty waters.

And then I wake up, often screaming, heart racing, hands clenching fistfuls of my sheets.

I’m in my bed at the top of Bug House. The murky daylight casts dull prisms from my snow globes onto the attic floor. My mom started collecting those pretty winter scenes for me when I was a baby. I gaze at them, lined neatly on the shelf in front of my window. My first order of business every day is hoping they’ll give me a trace of the joy they did when I was a kid.

But either they don’t work that way anymore, or I don’t.

Who am I kidding? It’s definitely me.

I’m insane. Batshit. Nuttier than a fruitcake. Of course, that’s not an official diagnosis. The official word from Dr. Batton, whose swank Copley Square office I visited only once when I was ten, was that I was bright and intelligent and a wonderful young person. He said it’s normal for kids to have imaginary playmates.

But it gets a little sketchy when that young person grows up, and her imaginary friend decides to move in and make himself comfortable.

Not that anyone knows about that. No, these days, I’m good about keeping up appearances.

My second order of business each day is hoping that he won’t leak into my head. That maybe I can go back to being a normal sixteen–year–old girl.

But he always comes.

He’s a part of me, after all. And he’s been coming more and more, invading my thoughts. Of course I’m here, stupid.

Sawyer. His voice in my mind is so loud that it drowns out the moaning and creaking of the walls around me.

Seda, honey?” my mother calls cheerily. She shifts her weight on the bottom step, making the house creak more. “Up and at ’em, buckaroo!”

I force my brother’s taunts away and call down the spiral staircase, “I am up.” My short temper is because of him, but it ends up directed at her.

She doesn’t notice though. My mother has only one mood now: ecstatically happy. She says it’s the air up here, which always has her taking big, deep, monster breaths as if she’s trying to inhale the entire world into her lungs. But maybe it’s because this is her element; after all, she made a profession out of her love for all things horror. Or maybe she really is better off without my dad, as she always claims she is.

I hear her whistling “My Darlin’ Clementine” as her slippered feet happily scuffle off toward the kitchen. I put on the first clothing I find in my drawer—-sweatpants and my mom’s old Boston College sweatshirt—-then scrape my hair into a ponytail on the top of my head as I look around the room. Mannequin body parts and other macabre props are stored up here. It’s been my bedroom for only a month. I slept in the nursery with the A and Z twins when we first got here because they were afraid of ghosts and our creepy old house. But maybe they—-like Mom—-are getting used to this place?

The thought makes me shudder. I like my attic room because of the privacy. Plus, it’s the only room that isn’t ice cold, since all the heat rises up to me. But I don’t like much else about this old prison of a mansion.

One of the props, Silly Sally, is sitting in the rocker by the door as I leave. She’d be perfect for the ladies’ department at Macy’s if it weren’t for the gaping chest wound in her frilly pink blouse. “I hate you,” I tell her, batting at the other mannequin body parts descending from the rafters like some odd canopy. She smiles as if the feeling is mutual. I give her a kick on the way out.

Despite the morbid stories about this place, I don’t ever worry about ghosts. After all, I have Sawyer, and he is worse.

As I climb down the stairs, listening to the kids chattering in the nursery, I notice the money, accompanied by a slip of paper, on the banister’s square newel post. The car keys sit atop the pile. Before I can ask, Mom calls, “I need you to go to the store for us. OK, Seda, my little kumquat?”

I blink, startled, and it’s not because of the stupid nickname. I don’t have a license, just a learner’s permit. My mom had me driving all over the place when we first came here, but that was back then. Back when this was a simple two–week jaunt to get an old house she’d inherited ready for sale. There wasn’t another car in sight, so she figured, why not? She’s all about giving us kids experiences, about making sure we aren’t slaves to our iPhones, like so many of my friends back home. My mother’s always marching to her own drummer, general consensus be damned, usually to my horror. But back then, I had that thrilling, invincible, first–days–of–summer–vacation feeling that made anything seemed possible. Too bad that was short lived.

We’ve been nestled at Bug House like hermits for months. Well, that’s not totally true. Mom has made weekly trips down the mountain, alone, to get the mail and a gallon of milk and make phone calls to civilization. We were supposed to go back to Boston before school started, but that time came and went, and there’s no way we’re getting off this mountain before the first snow.

Snow.

I peer out the window. The first dainty flakes are falling from the sky.

Snow. Oh God. Snow.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book. I’m a huge fan of YA Horror , as regular readers will already know, and I wish there was more of it. So when a new one comes along it makes me happy. And Alone wasn’t a disappointment.

The success of Alone for me was all about the creepy old hotel that had been used as murder mystery venue. It provided such a perfect setting, with lots of red herrings. There were also lots of twists and turns, and I definitely didn’t see a few of them coming.

I wasn’t completely won over by Seda, the protagonist (and less so by her mother!) but it didn’t bother me as much as it has done in the past. I was still invested in the story, and although I never quite trusted her as a character, I still wanted Seda to come out of it alive!

Alone also struck me as a story that would make a great teen horror film. I don’t often think that when reading because I enjoy the medium of novels so much (obviously), but I couldn’t help but picture it as a horror movie on this occasion.

Overall, Alone is a fast-paced, compelling read which I couldn’t put down. There were some great twists and unique elements, and now all I want to do is go on a murder mystery weekend. Maybe not one quite so realistic though…

 

Meet the Author

Cyn Balog photo

Cyn Balog is the author of a number of young adult novels. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at http://www.cynbalog.com.

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