This Year in Horror (thus far): Part 2 #HorrorOctober #BookReviews

horroroctofficial2016

I’ve enjoyed some great books that fall under the vast umbrella that is horror this year. Here are the rest of my 2016 ‘horror tag’ reviews. If you missed the first part, click here.

Can You Keep a Secret?

Original review posted: April 13th 2016

canyouTitle: Can You Keep a Secret?
Author: R.L Stine
Series: Fear Street Relaunch #4
Format: Digital ARC, 784 pages
Publication Details: April 12th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): Horror, YA
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

R.L. Stine has built his legacy on scaring children and teenagers. Now he’s back with another spine-tingling tale of horror in this new Fear Street book about temptation, betrayal, and fear.

Eddie and Emma are high school sweethearts from the wrong side of the tracks. Looking for an escape their dreary lives, they embark on an overnight camping trip in the Fear Street Woods with four friends. As Eddie is carving a heart into a tree, he and Emma discover a bag hidden in the trunk. A bag filled with hundred-dollar bills. Thousands of them. Should they take it? Should they leave the money there? The six teens agree to leave the bag where it is until it’s safe to use it. But when tragedy strikes Emma’s family, the temptation to skim some money off of the top becomes impossible to fight. There’s only one problem. When Emma returns to the woods, the bag of money is gone, and with it, the trust of six friends with a big secret.

Review

This is the second of the new Fear Street books I’ve read and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them both. Can you Keep a Secret? was a bit on the tamer side as far as the horror element is concerned, but it made up for it with an intriguing mystery. 

Emma, her boyfriend Eddie and four friends find a briefcase full of money in the woods and they agree to keep it hidden and then share it when they feel any danger or chance of exposure may have passed. But can they trust each other?

When the inevitable happens and the money goes missing Emma and Eddie don’t know who to believe, and to make it worse they’re pretty sure the people who hid it in the woods in the first place are on their tails. It’s not long until they realise just how out of their depths they really are. 

I enjoyed the thriller-aspects of this story, and as a result the pages flew by. The scarier elements that you would expect from a Fear Street novel came from nice touches like Eddie working in a Pet Cemetery, and Emma’s debilitating nightmares about wolves which get worse as the tension mounts.

As always, R.L Stine’s writing feels effortless and is easily relateable. Like his other books they have just enough violence, suspense and and horror to keep you interested whilst remaining suitable for all ages. I would have liked Can you Keep a Secret? to have been a little darker, however.

horroctrating-4

 

Fellside

Original review posted: 25th May 2016

fellsideTitle: Fellside
Author: M.R Carey
Series: N/A
Format: Hardback, 496 pages
Publication Details: April 5th 2016 by Orbit
Genre(s): Horror (Supernatural); Mystery
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It’s not the kind of place you’d want to end up. But it’s where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.

It’s a place where even the walls whisper.

And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess.

Will she listen?

Review

Not only did I really enjoy The Girl With All the Gifts, but Mike Carey visited the prison I work in to help us celebrate World Book Night so I was hoping I would LOVE this book. Unfortunately, I can’t quite say that, but I definitely didn’t hate it!

Fellside started off great. Jess is a heroin addict who burnt down her flat, killing a little boy in the process and in turn is sent to Fellside prison. The prison – a scary enough prospect as it is – also appears to be haunted, and the little boy Alex is never far from Jess’ side. 

This was one of those books that I had no idea where it was going – which I love. It never felt like it was just about Jess’ time in prison, or about it being haunted, it was something different altogether. But as exciting as that was, I felt I was being constantly let down by the direction it took.

I loved the eerie parts of the story, such as Alex taking Jess through the other prisoner’s dreams; the dreamscape thing on the whole was a really interesting concept and described perfectly by Carey.

But then there was this whole prison drug dealing storyline with corrupt officers and scared doctors working with the prisoners for profit or sex and it just bored me. I don’t know if it’s because I work in a prison (and I’m sure to some extent these things do go on), but I didn’t find it interesting at all and didn’t think the story needed it. 

Also, Carey refers to prison officers as guards throughout which put me off slightly. I don’t know anywhere in the UK that uses that term. 

Overall, I think my main problem with this is that I didn’t like any of the characters. I did grow to like Jess more as it went on but it was too little too late.

I did enjoy the mystery though, and that’s what kept me reading. I needed to know who Alex was and whether Jess would get her appeal. 

I feel like Carey is turning into a new Stephen King for me. I enjoy his books a lot but something always lets them down, usually the ending. The same can be said here. I felt like the book should have ended much earlier than it did. No stone was left unturned, it just went on and on until everything was wrapped up a little too perfectly. I’m pretty sure I felt the same about TGWATG too. 

That said, I’m still really interested to see what he comes up with next, and it was lovely to meet him. I even got him to sign my copy.🙂

horroctrating-3

 

The Last Days of Jack Sparks

Original review posted: May 30th 2016

jacksparksTitle: The Last Days of Jack Sparks
Author: Jason Arnopp
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 336 pages
Publication Details: July 28th 2016 by Orbit (first published March 3rd)
Genre(s): Horror; Supernatural
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days.

In 2014, Jack Sparks – the controversial pop culture journalist – died in mysterious circumstances.

To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors, he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone.

It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy.

Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed – until now. This book, compiled from the files found after his death, reveals the chilling details of Jack’s final hours.
.

Review

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is a book of many things. It’s part horror, part mystery, part thriller, and it’s hilarious in a deliciously, dark manner. 

Jack Sparks is a famous (or perhaps more infamous than anything) journalist. His ego is as huge as his reputation and he’s the perfect anti-hero.

Jack has a lot of crazed followers but even more haters. When he announces on Twitter that his new book will be ‘Jack Sparks on the Supernatural’, the reaction goes viral. His fellow atheists and believers in science are outraged…because what does a devout atheist have to say about something so ridiculous? And the believers out there are outraged because who is he to investigate something he can’t even let himself believe. 

Of course, being an egotistical glory-hunter and fame-seeker, this only spurs Jack on. His first big mistake is attending an exorcism in the middle of which he breaks into laughter. Then a mysterious video appears on his own YouTube channel which he has no idea how it got there. The video is hella eerie and appears to show a genuine, very pissed off ghost. This time Jack can’t ignore it, but investigating it will be his ultimate downfall.

I absolutely loved this book. Jack reminded me a lot of Mystery Man from Colin Bateman’s novels of the same name. He is a lovable rogue. He is completely hopeless but you can’t help but root for him. It made me laugh how he rationalised everything he saw. No matter how bad the ghost/poltergeist/possession -whatever you want to call it- got, he always had an answer. But deep down, Jack Sparks knows differently. 

I’m loathed to give more of the plot away as I don’t want to ruin it, but believe me when I say that Jack Sparks… is about a lot more than an atheist exposing supernatural phenomenon.

For the most part, I found this book riveting. It made me LOL in one breath and recoil from creepiness in the next. I also adored the relationship between Jack and his room-mate Bex, and finally realising how unreliable Jack is as a narrator. 

Most of all, I think the way this story was written is genius. The majority of it is made up of Jack’s manuscript which he was typing as he went, up to moments before he died. It even includes notes to his editor which are also hilarious. He’s such a dick!😉

The rest, which is where we can compare ‘truths’ is made up of Jack’s brother’s commentary, email exchanges and Jack’s confession at the end. This style had the potential to go so wrong, and I’ve hated the use of emails and texts in books before, but here I thought it extremely clever.

I originally rated this as 4/5, but in writing this review I can’t think of one negative thing to say about it. So have ALL THE UNICORNS WITCHES HATS, JACK SPARKS. 

horroctrating-5

 

Have you read any of these? 

This Year in Horror (thus far): Part 1 #HorrorOctober #BookReviews

horroroctofficial2016

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. 

Sanctuary Bay

Original review posted: Jan 18th 2016

sanctuarybay
5/5

Title: Sanctuary Bay
Author: Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz
Series: N/A
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.

Goodreads // Purchase

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.

Review

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!

horroctrating-5

 

Angel of Vengeance

Original review posted: Feb 8th 2016

angelTitle: Angel of Vengeance
Author: Trevor Munson
Series: N/a
Format: paperback, 239 pages
Publication Details: February 1st 2011 by Titan Books
Genre(s): Fantasy; Crime; Vampires
Disclosure? Nope, it was a gift.

Goodreads // Purchase

“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.

Review

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….

horroctrating-3

 

The Merciless

Original review posted: Feb 15th 2016

themerciless
4/5

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.

Goodreads // Purchase

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?

Review

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. 

horroctrating-4

 

The Crow Girl

Original review posted: April 7th 2016

crowgirlTitle: The Crow Girl
Author: Erik Axl Sund
Series: N/A
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. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

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.

Review

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.

horroctrating-4

 

Did you read any of these this year?

NEXT ON HORROR OCTOBER: Top Ten Highly Recommended Horror Reads