Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee #BookReview #JulyReleases

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brokenbranches

Title: Broken Branches
Author: M. Jonathan Lee
Series: n/a
Format: Paperback ARC, 294 pages
Publication Details: July 27th 2017 by Hideaway Fall
Genre(s): Thriller/Mystery; Horror
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

‘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…

unicorn rating 4

#Horror October: From Point Horror to Fear Street, The Lost Girl by R.L Stine

HorrorOct2015

thelostgirlTitle: The Lost Girl
Author: R.L Stine
Series: Fear Street Relaunch #3
Edition: Digital Review Copy, 272 pages
Publication Details: September 29th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): Horror; YA
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads

Generations of children and teens have grown up on R.L. Stine’s bestselling and hugely popular horror series, Fear Street and Goosebumps. Now, the Fear Street series is back with a chilling new installment, packed with pure nightmare fodder that will scare Stine’s avid fan base of teen readers and adults.

New student Lizzy Palmer is the talk of Shadyside High. Michael and his girlfriend Pepper befriend her, but the closer they get to her, the stranger she seems… and the more attractive she is to Michael. He invites her to join him on a snowmobile race that ends in a tragic accident. Soon, Michael’s friends start being murdered, and Pepper becomes convinced that Lizzy is behind the killings. But to her total shock, she and Michael are drawn into a tragic story of an unthinkable betrayal committed over 60 years ago. Frightening and tense in the way that only this master of horror can deliver, The Lost Girl is another terrifying Fear Street novel by the king of juvenile horror.

Review

Most people around my age will know the name R.L Stine, and either avoided his books like the plague, or loved them. He’s most famous for the Goosebumps books (and TV Series) and various Point Horror titles, all aimed at scaring or creeping out the teen and pre-teen market.

I was a huge fan of Point Horror, in fact, they are the first books I can remember going out to buy with my pocket money.

I remember being so excited whenever a new book came out, and I would go to W.H Smith on a Saturday morning to buy them. The first time I brought one of them home, my mum took one look at it and said that she didn’t think I should be reading them because they were too grown up, but I just laughed and told her that it clearly says Children’s books on the back. It’s funny the little moments you remember like that. But that’s why I’ll always be fond of the Point Horror books- the nostalgia!

The Fear Street books were a series that passed me by, however. I think I had progressed to adult horror by the time they became popular (Point Horrors were clearly a gateway drug for me), but I imagine that they were more of the same. Either way, I was thrilled to see that they were relaunching the series last year, with none other than R.L Stine back in the teen scares business.

The Lost Girl, is the third relaunched Fear Street novel, and whereas I was looking forward to reading it, I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it, and it would ruin my fond memories of Stine’s writing.

The Lost Girl is set in two different time zones. We start in the 1950’s where the protagonist is attacked and almost raped, but thankfully for her, she has some witchy powers and is able to force him off.

Terrible things happen to this girl and her family…like, really, really terrible things involving some honey and oats..(seriously), and I was hooked straight way.

Fast forward to the present day and we meet Michael, a high-school senior who has an already tempestuous relationship with his firey girlfriend when a new girl who seems to be perpetually lost starts to make life even more difficult for him.

One of the main things that I thought could go wrong with this series was if it hadn’t have moved with the times as far as the scares, the gore, and the violence are concerned. But thankfully, The Lost Girl felt thoroughly modern in that respect. The violence packed a punch, and the gore…well there was one scene that even had me squirming slightly. Loved it.

The only down-side to this book – and it was quite a major one- was just how predictable the plot was. I pretty much knew where it was going the whole way through, and there were very little surprises. I also wanted it to be longer. I felt like the last part of the book was rushed through.

Overall though, I’m so glad this series has been relaunched, giving a whole new generation the same gloriously gory scares that I remember.

R.L Stine still has the knack of hooking you in and severely creeping you out. Even if it’s nothing new, I enjoyed the ride, and my fond memories of his earlier books are well and truly intact. Hurrah!

unicorn rating 3

Get Ready to Shudder: Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

frozencharlotte
Title: Frozen Charlotte
Author: Alex Bell
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details: January 5th 2015 by Stripes Publishing
Genre(s): Horror; YA
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

We’re waiting for you to come and play….Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind…Sophie arrives at the old schoolhouse to spend the summer with her cousins. Brooding Cameron with his scarred hand, strange Lilias with a fear of bones and Piper, who seems just a bit too good to be true. And then there’s her other cousin. The girl with a room full of antique dolls. The girl that shouldn’t be there. The girl that died.

Review

This book actually gave me nightmares (well, it gave me one – it was pretty awesome).

For starters, creepy-ass miniture porcelain dolls with their hands outstretched like they died reaching for you. Dolls that are everywhere, even in the walls. Dolls that whisper. Dolls with needles… But more about them later…I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the purpose of context, I’m a huge horror fan, especially as far as films are concerned, and I’m constantly disappointed that I never find any of them scary any more. I must be desensitised or something. To a certain extent, it’s the same for books, but I do find it easier to get creeped out by a good horror book than a film…and oh my, this book creeped me the hell out, so major props for that!

And it wasn’t just the creep-factor that was good about this book, I literally could not put it down. I was sneakily reading it at work and stayed up wayyy past my bed time to finish it off!

Frozen Charlotte is centred around Sophie and the events which follow her best friend Jay’s sudden death (it’s right at the beginning so hardly a spoiler). Jay downloaded a Ouiji Board app on his phone and he and Sophie play around with it, mocking it, like you do. But when Sophie calls on the only person she knows who has passed away – her cousin Rebecca – things go a bit weird to say the least.

To cut a long (not that long to be fair) story short, the app tells Jay he will die that very night…and of course, he actually does. Cue devastated Sophie trying to make sense of it all through the grief. And what better place to go than to an old converted schoolhouse on the blustering and foggy Isle of Skye.

It is her Uncle James’ home, and the whole family are clearly still suffering the loss of Rebecca. Everything about the place is wrong. From a parrot called Dark Tom who literally screams bloody murder all night long and young Lilias who has a phobia of bones (even her own), who once tried to cut out her collar bone, to Cameron, the musical protégé who got burned during the death of his sister and has never been the same again, and Piper who is trying to hold the whole thing together but is strangely obsessed with the Frozen Charlotte dolls.

I really wish I’d read this book for Horror October instead of Doll Bones. This was exactly the thing I was looking for. It was so good, and so creepy, at one point I had to put it down because I was shuddering so much internally. I couldn’t keep away for long though, I HAD to find out what the hell was going on!

The only tiny grumble I had with it, was that I couldn’t decide how old the characters were. It seemed inconsistent a lot of the time. Sometimes they seemed older than they should be, and then I’d get thrown by talk of first kisses and such, and visa versa. In the same way I couldn’t decide if Frozen Charlotte was aimed at the YA market or just had young characters. But you know what, who cares! It was great!

unicorn rating 4

Frozen Charlotte is available in paperback from Waterstones now.

Guest Post: When the 90s come back to haunt you

HorrorOct2014The lovely Kimberley G. Giarratano, author of Grunge, Gods, and Graveyards was nice enough to make us a spooky playlist to while away these dark, october evenings. In the words of my favourite Kevin, ‘don’t get scared now’.

When the 90s Come Back to Haunt You by Kimberly G. Giarratano

My debut novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards, is a YA paranormal mystery set in 1996. It stars 17-year-old Lainey Bloom, an outcast who is given the impossible task of finding her crush’s killer. It’s atmospheric and twisty and full of references to awesome 90s music.

So I thought in honor of October, the creepiest month of the year, I would put together a 90s playlist celebrating both Halloween and the angstiest decade there ever was. Some of these tunes are creepy and some are flat-out haunting. And most of them are on this list because they had wicked videos that I wouldn’t watch home alone.

In fact, so much music in the 90s was intense and crazy. And it was mainstream. I remember all these song being played on the radio or MTV. You can’t find angst like this now.

A haunting soundtrack

  1. Sweet Dreams — Marilyn Manson: This remake of the Annie Lennox hit was my introduction to Marilyn Manson’s twisted art. I still shudder when I watch this video. The headgear. His red lips and pale eyes. I think calling this video “freaky” is an understatement.
  2. Living Dead Girl — Zombie: I think the title alone qualifies this song for the list. The tune doesn’t creep me out so much, but Rob Zombie’s voice is villainous. I wouldn’t want him chasing me through an abandoned house.
  3. Shame — Stabbing Westward: I remember this video on MTV. The obsessive, crazy boyfriend and his ex-girlfriend. Listen to how the song picks up as it goes. It starts off quiet, like the boyfriend’s machinations are just rumbling under the surface until he loses control. My pulse quickens when I watch this. It’s like a mini movie.
  4. Heart Shaped Box — Nirvana: I’m rewatching the video as I type this. There’s so much imagery here: the half-naked old man, the cross, the blood red poppies.
  5. Doll Parts — Hole: Courtney Love’s tattered little girl dresses (which she made popular), the vintage doll and the childlike hands, Courtney rolling around in the dirt. With more time, I could get all meta about this song and video.
  6. Blood Roses — Tori Amos: This song is off the Boys for Pele album. The liner notes defy creepy (Tori’s nursing a pig). But this sound stands out because of the harpsicord and the way Tori sings “blood.” I can’t help but picture a zombie minuet.
  7. Joga — Bjork: Whenever I hear the violin in this song, I imagine being lost in the woods and that just creeps me out.
  8. Sober — Tool (Vitamin String Quartet): This instrumental version of Sober is more haunting than the original.

I could include a myriad of other tunes, but I’d run out of space and time. I want to know what songs you’d add to this playlist. I’m dying to know.

Happy hauntings,

KGG

Huge thanks to Kim for putting this together. I LOVE her choices. I think I’d also have to add Northern Star by Hole – that song is so haunting too, Stay by Shakespears Sister (OK so it’s not actually grunge, but it is awesome), and Placebo’s My Sweet Prince.

If you liked this, but sure to check out her novel…

Grunge, Gods and Graveyards


GGGParted by death. Tethered by love.

Lainey Bloom’s high school senior year is a complete disaster. The popular clique, led by mean girl Wynter Woods, bullies her constantly. The principal threatens not to let her graduate with the class of 1997 unless she completes a major research project. And everyone blames her for the death of Wynter’s boyfriend, Danny Obregon.

Danny, a gorgeous musician, stole Lainey’s heart when he stole a kiss at a concert. But a week later, he was run down on a dangerous stretch of road. When he dies in her arms, she fears she’ll never know if he really would have broken up with Wynter to be with her.

Then his ghost shows up, begging her to solve his murder. Horrified by the dismal fate that awaits him if he never crosses over, Lainey seeks the dark truth amidst small town secrets, family strife, and divided loyalties. But every step she takes toward discovering what really happened the night Danny died pulls her further away from the beautiful boy she can never touch again.

Goodreads
Amazon

New Find for Horror October: House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill

I saw this in the review section of The Guardian this morning and thought it sounded like a pretty promising Horror novel from a British author, which is nice. Taxidermy and dolls…ugh. Also, THE COVER! Creep-tastic!

18161866 Catherine’s last job ended badly. Corporate bullying at a top television production company saw her fired and forced to leave London, but she was determined to get her life back. A new job and now things look much brighter. Especially when a challenging new project presents itself — to catalogue the late M H Mason’s wildly eccentric cache of antique dolls and puppets. Rarest of all, she’ll get to examine his elaborate displays of posed, costumed and preserved animals, depicting scenes from World War I. When Mason’s elderly niece invites her to stay at the Red House itself, where she maintains the collection, Catherine can’t believe her luck. Until his niece exposes her to the dark message behind her uncle’s ‘Art’. Catherine tries to concentrate on the job, but M H Mason’s damaged visions raise dark shadows from her own past. Shadows she’d hoped had finally been erased. Soon the barriers between reality, sanity and memory start to merge. And some truths seem too terrible to be real.

Title: House of Small Shadows
Author: Adam Nevill
Details: Hardcover, 320 pages. Published October 10th 2013 by Tor

Read the review here.