I’ve enjoyed some great books that fall under the vast umbrella that is horror this year. Here are some of my ‘horror tag’ reviews.
Title: Sanctuary Bay
Author: Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz
Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: January 19th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin (USA) // February 13th (UK)
Genre(s): YA; Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.
When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing.
Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.
I fell in love with the cover of this book instantly, and when I read that co-author Melinda Metz was one of the writers of Roswell (one of my favourite TV shows of all time – no shame!), I knew I had to read it.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the premise though. The elite prep school part appealed to me, and I assumed the story would follow the mystery of the missing room-mate, but Sanctuary Bay was SO much more than that.
Protagonist Sarah is really interesting character. She witnessed her parents getting killed when she was just three, and she remembers it vividly. Everyone tells her that it’s impossible to remember at such an early age, but Sarah knows that her brain works differently to other people’s.
Sarah has grown-up in foster homes, some good, some terrible. She considers herself pretty poor, and she’s determined to make something of herself. When she’s offered a scholarship out of the blue to the most elite prep school in the country, it’s practically a miracle. But Sarah wants to believe her luck has changed, and feels that she deserves this great opportunity, so she’s determined not to mess it up.
But of course, if something’s too good to be true, there’s usually a reason. And Sanctuary Bay is definitely not your average school.
Marketed as a ‘full-immersion’ school, in which pupils can never leave (it’s on an island so they really, really, can’t), or have any contact with the outside world including family, apart from being allowed monthly care packages to arrive through the post.
The students are therefore quick to form bonds. At first Sarah is blindsided by how friendly everyone is, and she soon feels like part a family – something she has longed for her whole life. But it’s not long until things start getting weird. She’s initiated into a secret society whose ‘missions’ get weirder and weirder. And then her room-mate goes missing and Sarah is stuck between loyalty to her brothers and sisters, her own sanity, and the truth.
There is so much more to this story as well. I absolutely loved Sanctuary Bay and couldn’t put it down! I liked the contrast between the futuristic-type technology at the school and that part of it was built on a POW camp, and how all of this is woven into a great mystery.
The setting was awesome, I couldn’t fault the writing, and it was a fast-paced, thrill-ride.
I’m extremely happy and impressed at how the YA genre has evolved over the last ten years, and it’s all down to diverse, unique, and exciting books like this one. Success all round.
If Sanctuary Bay is anything to go by, 2016 is going to be another great year for YA…have ALL the
unicorns! Witches Hats!
Angel of Vengeance
Title: Angel of Vengeance
Author: Trevor Munson
Format: paperback, 239 pages
Publication Details: February 1st 2011 by Titan Books
Genre(s): Fantasy; Crime; Vampires
Disclosure? Nope, it was a gift.
“NO WOMEN. NO CHILDREN. NO INNOCENTS. THOSE ARE THE RULES…IT’S HOW I LIVE WITH MYSELF, SO TO SPEAK”
L.A.-based Private Eye and vampire Mick Angel has been hired by a beautiful red-headed burlesque dancer to find her missing sister. But the apparently simple case of a teenage runaway is soon complicated by drug dealers, persistent cops, murder, and Mick’s own past.
Mick must learn the hard way what every vampire should know – nothing stays buried forever. Especially not the past.
THE NOVEL THAT INSPIRED THE TV SERIES MOONLIGHT.
I didn’t even know this novel existed until I received it as a gift. I fell in love with the TV show Moonlight the moment I saw it, I mean Alex O’Loughlin…hello! I was so sad that they cancelled it after the first season. 😦
This book was published after the series, but was the inspiration behind it. There are a lot of differences of course, but it has the same dark humour and noir, old school detective vibe, which I loved.
The main difference however, was the lack of the Beth character. I really enjoyed the author’s notes (who also penned the series) in which he explained the changes they made for the screen and I totally agree with them. This book did need a romantic element. And it did need a female lead in Beth that the protagonist’s evil ex-wife just couldn’t fill.
Without this, what we’re left with is an interesting vampire story mixed with an average crime story. I enjoyed it, but I wanted more. So much more! It definitely felt like the introduction to something bigger…it was all a bit brief.
I’m really glad this book exists though, if not just to remind me how much I loved the series. It’s made me want to watch it again RIGHT NOW. Well, it has been a while….
Title: The Merciless
Author: Danielle Vega
Series: The Merciless #1
Format: hardback, 279 pages
Publication Details: June 12th 2014 by Razorbill
Genre(s): YA; Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.
Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned…
Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?
As a huge fan of YA (obvs) and horror I’m always excited to see YA horror books (Yorror as I’m now calling it) published, as they’re few and far between. It took me a while but I’m so glad I eventually got round to buying a copy of this- especially the awesome pink leather hardback version, which is pretty epic!
The Merciless isn’t a case of your old-school Goosebumps or Point Horror. It’s actual horror, that I imagine some parents wouldn’t be too happy about their teens (and certainly pre-teens reading. I kind of wish this book existed when I was 15 because man, I would have lapped it up then.
The Merciless is about a group of ‘good’ girls who take it upon themselves to exorcise the demon out of bully Brooklyn. A prank gone wrong? Revenge gone too far? There’s a whole lot of blood, torment and, well, torture, and the whole way through you’re left thinking ‘are they really doing this?’
I can definitely see where they got the whole ‘Mean Girls meets Stephen King’ tagline from. Unlike Stephen King however, this book is severely lacking in the character development department. But you know what? I kind of didn’t care. It would have perhaps made it easier to believe if we knew more about protagonist Sofia before she became friends with the ‘mean girls’ and got involved in the whole Satanic mess, but it wouldn’t make much difference, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment overall.
Like Mean Girls, this book is pretty shallow. But what it lacks in depth it makes up with in relentless action and chaos. It’s also mightily swift in pace. I definitely struggled to put it down, in fact I’m pretty sure I only put it down once.
I also really enjoyed the sort-of-twist, and although most of the book felt predictable, it was quite easy to second guess yourself and end up with a genuine surprise on your hands.
I’m already looking forward to the second book. I just hope Vega can develop the characters a bit more.
The Crow Girl
Title: The Crow Girl
Author: Erik Axl Sund
Format: Digital ARC, 784 pages
Publication Details: April 7th 2016 by Harvill Secker
Genre(s): Crime Fiction; Thriller
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.
It starts with just one body – tortured, mummified and then discarded.
Its discovery reveals a nightmare world of hidden lives. Of lost identities, secret rituals and brutal exploitation, where nobody can be trusted.
This is the darkest, most complex case the police have ever seen.
This is the world of the Crow Girl.
Everything about this book drew me in until I realised that it’s almost 800 pages long! I probably would have been put off if I’d realised that before I requested a copy (because as a ‘in spare-time blogger’, I aint got time for that), but I’m so glad I started reading first. It was totally worth the investment of time.
The Crow Girl is one of the darkest, twisted, deviously woven crime books I’ve ever read. As the synopsis suggests it starts with one dead body, and mannnn does it escalate from there.
We follow protagonist Jeanette Kihlberg, a respected detective who is assigned the case when a mummified boy is discovered. Jeanette is a strong protagonist. She’s clearly dedicated to her work but is also consumed by it, which takes its toll on her private life. As more bodies show up, and the search for a killer intensifies, Jeanette’s life starts to unfurl.
The Crow Girl isn’t a simple whodunnit tale. It’s a complex saga of child abuse, paedophile circles, corrupt officials, false identities, human trafficking and psychological battles. It took me a few chapters to get hooked and adapt to the dark and twisted tone of the story but once I did, it was impossible to not get completely invested the story.
Originally written as a trilogy, and published here as one volume, The Crow Girl has been painstakingly translated from Swedish. Despite the length, I’m really glad I read this all in one go as I think it would have been too confusing in three separate books and I’m not sure I would have appreciated the first part enough to read the second; it’s all about the bigger picture and the pay off at the end! I was also extremely thankful for the short chapters – they really helped in making the book less of a chore.
This is one of those books where I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but what I will say is that The Crow Road is a book that sheds light on child abuse and the damage it can cause. The effects of which ripple throughout all 700+ pages of this disturbing Swedish triumph.
It actually reminded me a lot of the Hannibal TV show with similarities in both content and style/tone, so if you enjoyed that I’d highly recommend giving this one a try.
Did you read any of these this year?
NEXT ON HORROR OCTOBER: Top Ten Highly Recommended Horror Reads