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
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.
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.
The Marsh King’s Daughter ~ Karen Dionne
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.
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.
Broken Branches ~ M. Jonathan Lee
‘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.
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…
Charlotte Says ~ Alex Bell
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.
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!
Have you enjoyed any of these yet?
Up next on Horror October:
30 Days of Horror – what will day 13 bring us?