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

 

 

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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

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

 

 

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.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

 

If you’d like me to promote your book, please get in touch via the email on my contacts page 🙂

Horror October: I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist #BookReview #HO17

HorrorOct2017

iambehind

Title: I Am Behind You
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Series: Platserna #1
Format: Digital ARC, 416 pages
Publication Details: September 7th 2017 by riverrun
Genre(s): Horror
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in.

Review

 

I’ve had a hit and miss (but mostly miss), relationship with Lindqvist so far to be honest, but I loved the sound of this book. And I’m pleased to report that this has been my favourite of his so far!

I Am Behind You, is hands down one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, and thus a perfect read for a dark October evening.

It’s about a myriad of different families who wake up in their holiday caravans to find that the caravan park is gone. They’ve been moved, or have they? There is nothing around, and when they drive, they don’t get anywhere. The ground is strange and smells like blood.

Not only that, but there are these white human-like creatures stalking around. Before long, the families realise that they all see these creatures as different things; a tiger, a salesman, John Wayne characters… what does it all mean?

And then it starts to rain acid.

Out of all of the Lindqvist books I’ve read, I Am Behind You was definitely the most readable. I don’t know whether the translation was just better this time, but the pages flew by. I was totally submerged in this strange, creepy place and had to keep reading to get to the bottom of it.

But here lies the problem. We don’t get to the bottom of it, of anything really. Which was really frustrating. There’s only so many crazy things that can happen without even an iota of an explanation before you stop caring. But read on I did!

Apparently this is the first in a series, so maybe it will be addressed in the next book, but I wish he would have given us something more concrete as to what the hell was going on, you know!?

The star of the show were the characters for me. Each of the families bring something different, and alarming to the story. A few of them are loveable, but mainly they’re all troubled in some way, especially Molly, the token creepy child who was once left in a tunnel and has never been the same since.

I hate to liken every horror writer to Stephen King, but parts of this really did remind me of him and his great characterisation. If you liked Under the Dome, I think you’d enjoy this too.

horroctrating-4

Don’t forget to vote in the Flash Fiction Battle!

Voting ends at 19:00 tonight.

Lazy Saturday Review: Under My Skin by Juno Dawson #HO17 #BookReview

icon7

I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

undermyskin

Title: Under My Skin
Author: Juno Dawson
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 302 pages
Publication Details: March 5th 2015 by Hot Key Books
Genre(s): YA; Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Meet Molly Sue. Once she’s under your skin there’s no getting rid of her…

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change.

Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling.

Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.

But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’.

Review

This was such a fun book. Juno, (previously known as James in case you’re confused) has a great ability to make unrealistic scenarios (such as a possessed tattoo – kind of), plausible. She also manages to portray teenagers in a very real, and often edgy way.

This book flew by. The main character Sally was just the right amount of innocent school girl and teen angst time-bomb waiting to happen. Sometimes I find these types of characters annoying but I didn’t here.

Granted, the moving, talking tattoo was a bit far-fetched but there was a decent back-story to it, and as always, Juno threw in a swoon-worthy guy or two to distract us.

If you’re a fan of high school reads with a slightly darker edge, you should definitely give this one a try.

horroctrating-4

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell #BookReview #HO17

HorrorOct2017

 

ThesilentcompanionTitle: The Silent Companions
Author: Laura Purcell
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 384 pages
Publication Details: October 5th 2017 by Raven Books
Genre(s): Horror; Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself.

Review

 

 

The premise of this book had me at ‘Susan Hill’ and ‘crumbling mansion’, and although it wasn’t without its flaws, I ended up really enjoying it.

In The Silent Companions, we first meet Elsie in an institution. She can’t talk and the doctors seem very wary of her; she’s mad; a lost cause. But there is one doctor who tries to help her to communicate, to hear her story.

Elsie tells the story of how she came to The Bridge, an old mansion with incompetent staff, pregnant and husbandless. Now a Lady of the House, Elsie tries to adjust to her new life, but the mansion is strange, cold, and unwelcoming. Her only friend is Sarah her late husband’s sister, who she finds dull, but beggars can’t be choosers as they say.

When Elsie and Sarah come across a locked attic room whilst exploring the house, they wonder what could possibly be up there. Then, all of a sudden, the door isn’t locked anymore. In the room is something that will propel a series of bizarre and dangerous events – a silent companion.

I had never heard of silent companions, and this book compelled me to look them up. They are strange wooden paintings made to look like people with shading and the like. They’re pretty creepy by all accounts, especially when they start multiplying and moving of their own accord!

It took me a while to get into this book- I wasn’t a fan of the beginning- but by the time Elsie and Sarah found the first companion I was already starting to get intrigued, and from then on I was hooked.

What I struggled with was the structure. Now, I don’t know whether it was down to the digital proof (which could be resolved now it’s published) but there was no indication of when we shifted in time which was really off putting. It threw me off on a lot of occasions. It also took me a while to realise that a second storyline came from a diary that Sarah found – also in the attic – and gave us an origin story as to the original ghost/companions. It would have certainly benefited from a dinkus or *** each time, so the reader doesn’t have to work too hard in figuring out where they are in the story, and whose storyline we are following.

However, this was a great read overall. As the premise suggests, it is a return to a traditional ghost story in the style of the likes of Susan Hill & Shirley Jackson, and it’s an impressive diversion from Purcell’s usual historical fictions.

horroctrating-4

Up Next on Horror October:

30 days of Horror: What will day 16 bring?

Lazy Saturday Review: Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick #HO17 #MiniBookReview

icon7

I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

killingthedeadTitle: Killing the Dead
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 112 pages
Publication Details: March 5th 2015 by Indigo
Genre(s): YA; Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Set in a girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts a haunting and sinister story YA story for World Book Day from prize-winning author Marcus Sedgwick.

1963. Foxgrove School near Stockbridge, Massachusetts. One of the oldest and finest academies in the country – but what really goes on behind closed doors? Nathaniel Drake, the new young English teacher, Isobel Milewski, the quiet girl who loved to draw spirals, her fingers stained with green ink, Jack Lewis, who lent Isobel books – just words, just ink on paper, Margot Leya, the girl with those eyes – who are they, what part have they played in killing the dead?

Follow the dark, dark path
Into the dark, dark woods
To the dark, dark bridge
By the dark, dark water.
Linger.
Let the ghosts of heaven tell their story.

A stylish and creepy story for World Book Day from prize-winning author Marcus Sedgwick.

Review

It’s been a while since I finished this short read, and I’m not too sure how I felt about it. I thought it was an odd choice for a World Book Day book as they are usually aimed at younger readers, but I think it’s great they are now including books for older children, especially ones as dark as this.

Marcus Sedgwick was my favourite author for a time, and don’t get me wrong, I still think he’s amazing, but a few of his latest books have disappointed me. Killing the Dead feels like vintage (darker) Sedgwick, but it also ties in with some things in The Ghosts of Heaven, which is his only book that I have actively disliked.

In this story, I loved the setting, but not so much the characters, making it hard for me to get invested in their well-being. I loved the idea that the school has this tragic accident in its past that has become a dark and sinister legend, but I wanted it to be explored more instead of focusing on a perverted teacher.

So the jury’s still out on this one. If you want a good, dark, read by Sedgwick there are lots of others I would start with, such as The Book of Dead Days or The Foreshadowing.

horroctrating-3

Up Next on Horror October:

30 Days of Horror: Cruel Summer

This Year in Horror (so far!) #HO17 #BookReviews

HorrorOct2017

Looking back through my 2016 reviews, I’m astonished at how little horror I’ve actually read so far this year! But, here they are in one handy post. And yes, I use the term ‘horror’ pretty loosely sometimes.

The Haunting ~ Alex Bell

thehaunting

Some curses grow stronger with time…

People say that all Cornish inns are haunted, but the Waterwitch’s history is particularly chilling. Built from the salvaged timber of a cursed ship, the guest house’s dark secrets go further back than anyone can remember.


Emma is permanently confined to a wheelchair after an accident at the Waterwitch which took place when she was ten. Seven years later, she decides to return to the place where the awful event occurred. But the ancient inn still has its ghosts, and one particular spirit is more vengeful than ever…

A chilling new title in the Red Eye horror series from the author of Frozen Charlotte. 

Mini Review

I’m loving this Red Eye series of books which is a YA Horror imprint. I don’t think there’s enough YA Horror out there. The Haunting was a fun, quick read incorporated lots of old Cornish myths and ghost stories which I thought set it apart from other ghost stories I’ve read. It was quite clichéd in places but it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of it. It’s a very traditional horror but the unique characters, especially protagonist Emma who is a wheelchair user, made it more interesting and diverse. A great read.

horroctrating-4

The Marsh King’s Daughter ~ Karen Dionne

marshking

The suspense thriller of the year – The Marsh King’s Daughter will captivate you from the start and chill you to the bone.

‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’

When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

Review

Yes. Just all the yes! It’s been a really long time since I stayed up wayyyy too late because I couldn’t put a book down, but this one forced me too.

The Marsh King’s Daughter is a fast-paced, thrilling, creepy, empowering, brilliant story about a girl who was brought up in the wilderness, taught to hunt and track by her unpredictable father (at a very young age), and who never met another single person other than her father and her parents until she was 12 years old.

She didn’t know it, but Helena was her father’s prisoner, just like her mother was.

Helena, now happily married with two little girls, has made a nice life for herself, but it came at a price. She became a new person and never told anyone who her father is. She wasn’t able to visit him in prison even though sometimes she wanted to.

When she hears on the news that he has escaped from the maximum security prison he was being held, killing two men, Helena is in no doubt that he’ll come for her and her girls, but luckily for her The Marsh King taught her everything he knew.

I loved so much about this story. Helena took to the wild life from an early age. She loved hunting, tracking, shooting, killing. She was a prisoner but she didn’t know it, and ironically the marsh offered her a freedom normal children will never experience. She had many happy times and she often idolised her Native American father. But she also feared him, and knew that his relationship with her mother was strange.

I found it really interesting how Helena viewed her mother. They hadn’t bonded and she wondered if she loved her. She didn’t understand why her mum was so weak and not present. The thought of staying in the cabin and making jam with her mum made her skin crawl. Her mum’s story is the truly harrowing element of this novel.

The whole way through I wondered if Helena’s mum had made the decision to not tell her about the situation out of fear, or because she wanted her to have some normality in her childhood. I wanted to know if she’d ever tried to escape, and if not, why not, but I think it was a much better story not knowing that as we only see through the eyes of Helena – which I thought was really powerful.

The Marsh King’s Daughter was great from the beginning but the second half of the book was outstanding, I really could not put it down. I needed to know if Helena and her lovely family would be OK; what she would say to her father when she saw him; If she could survive once more? I think she has to be one of my favourite protagonists of recent years, and I know her story will stay with me for a long, long time.

horroctrating-5

Broken Branches ~ M. Jonathan Lee

brokenbranches

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

Review

The cover of this book is so perfect it’s hard to put into words. It’s dark, beautiful and mysterious, which is exactly how I’d describe the story within.

Broken Branches is about the Perkins family, in particular Ian and his wife Rachel, who move into the cottage where Ian grew up. The cottage with the huge, ominous looking tree outside; the cottage where bad things happen.

I found the book a little slow to start with but before I knew it couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those stories that never quite gives you the answers you want. You know the type; the type of story that drives you mad in the best possible way.

There had been talk of ‘the curse’ since Ian’s childhood when his uncle died, but he never truly believed it until he inherited the cottage himself. This threw up many questions in itself – why would he move into a house with such a bad history? Other curiosities in the story (and believe me when I say it’s full of them), surrounded Rachel who is extremely distant and aloof from the start – was she depressed? Mentally ill? We’re not quite sure.

Ian delves deeper into his family history, and that of the cottage, in order to learn more about the curse, thinking that proving the existence of it will solve everything including whatever it is that’s wrong with Rachel and his marriage. But of course it only drives them further apart as Ian get more and more obsessed. He loses his job and sinks into a frenzied, isolated existence where the tree is always lurking in the background, and someone keeps moving his research around.

I think Broken Branches’ success comes from the masterfully layered atmosphere that just gets creepier and creepier as the story goes on. M. Jonathan Lee has done a wonderful job in creating suspense and intrigue, and there are some great horror elements in it too. I’m not sure I’d even want to read this on a stormy night…

horroctrating-4

Charlotte Says ~ Alex Bell

charlottesays
The much-anticipated prequel to the bestselling FROZEN CHARLOTTE, a Zoella Book Club title in Autumn 2016.


Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.


Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.

Review

Charlotte Says was a highly-anticipated read for me because I loved Frozen Charlotte, which was my introduction to the Red Eye series of YA Horror books. This one is a prequel to the first book. It’s basically the origin story for the events that occur in Frozen Charlotte, so you definitely don’t have to have read that one to enjoy this.

Here, we go back to Victorian times where we meet Jemima, a girl of sixteen, but of course considered an adult at that time. After an evidently troubled and mysterious past, Jemima accepts a teaching job at a boarding school for the destitute and wayward.

At first things appear to be OK (don’t they always?). Jemima is reunited with an old friend, and the girls seem to warm to her quickly, but the Schoolmistress, Miss Grayson is nothing if not an evil old wench who causes Jemima no end of grief from day one.

And then the dolls arrive. Followed closely by a dolls house. Jemima isn’t too happy to see them as they come from her previous home where, let’s just say, bad things happened, but because the girls have so little Jemima donates them to the school.

Then the madness ensues!

I’m not sure how much I liked this book. It had a lot more depth to it than its predecessor, but it was also a lot less fun, and a lot less scary. There were some great horror elements in there, along with some creepy moments, but I felt like it was lacking something. It didn’t have the impact that FC did, and I found that a bit disappointing.

I can’t fault Alex Bell’s ambition though, or her writing. I loved the setting and the slow reveal of Jemima’s past, but I felt the pace was too slow overall, and it just didn’t have the creep-factor of the first book.

I’m still excited about what this author does next though, she’s one to watch!

horroctrating-3

Have you enjoyed any of these yet?

Up next on Horror October:

30 Days of Horror – what will day 13 bring us?

Horror October: Misery by Stephen King #BookReview #HO17

HorrorOct2017

 

miseryTitle: Misery
Author: Stephen King
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 369 pages
Publication Details: July 7th 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published 1987)
Genre(s): Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Misery Chastain was dead. Paul Sheldon had just killed her – with relief, with joy. Misery had made him rich; she was the heroine of a string of bestsellers. And now he wanted to get on to some real writing.

That’s when the car accident happened, and he woke up in pain in a strange bed. But it wasn’t the hospital. Annie Wilkes had pulled him from the wreck, brought him to her remote mountain home, splinted and set his mangled legs.

The good news was that Annie was a nurse and has pain-killing drugs. The bad news was that she was Paul’s Number One Fan. And when she found out what Paul had done to Misery, she didn’t like it. She didn’t like it at all.

Review

Whether you’ve read the book and/or seen the film, I’m guessing most people are aware of the story of Misery, so I won’t go into detail about the plot.

I have been meaning to read (or reread) this book ever since I got a World Book Night edition of it, but I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d read it before – as a teenager I suspected (yes, my memory really is that bad. I blame all the booze). It also doesn’t help that I’ve seen the film a bunch of times.

It wasn’t until I was about half-way through that it all started to come back to me. The differences between the film and King’s original novel are few, but certainly significant.

I really enjoyed giving this novel another go after what must be about 15 years. Once I got into it I couldn’t stop reading, but I am going to say something that might be a bit controversial…

I don’t think Stephen King should be called ‘a master of horror’.

Woah, I know, he is great, but hear me out.

King’s most successful books, for me, aren’t what I would class as horror, but as suspense. And I certainly think he’s a master of suspense! Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what makes something ‘horror’ is the suspense, but I’d say 90% of Misery is made up of suspense, followed by 10% horror.

He is also a master of characterisation. Everything he does is character-driven, and that’s why his books are so compelling. And why it’s so horrific when it all inevitably goes wrong. In this case, I didn’t find the main character, Paul Sheldon, very likeable at all, which makes it even more impressive at how sorry I felt for him.

The main thing that struck me when comparing the novel to the film, is that what happens to book Paul Sheldon is sooooo much worse than film Paul Sheldon, but I still found the film much scarier. Even after a few watches it still gets to me a bit. The penguin!!!

I’m not sure what that says about the novel, or maybe it just shows what a great film it is, and worthy of its Oscar (I defy anyone to not picture the terrifying Annie Wilkes as Kathy Bates), but essentially both mediums of this story are worth a go, and perfect for this time of year.

horroctrating-4

Up Next on Horror October:

30 days of Horror: Battle Royale