Alone by Cyn Balog: Spotlight Tour, Review & Giveaway!

Welcome to my spot on the Alone blog tour

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About the Book

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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 🙂

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

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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!

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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 

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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.

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30 Days of Horror #25: The Hollow Girl #HO17

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

My choice for day 25 is a book I’ve only just come across, and mannnn it looks pretty creepy. Want!

thehollowgirl

Available in hardback and ebook, 272 pages

Published October 10th 2017 by Delacorte Press

Five boys attacked her.
Now they must repay her with their blood and flesh.

Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.

One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.

She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.

 

Goodreads // NOT My Review

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Already read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

Flash Fiction Battle: The vote opens!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite WEIRD Horror Book Titles #TTT #HO17

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

The topic this week is scary titles, but I’m going one step further and choosing my favourite weird horror titles! You know, the ones where you have to do a double take…

I find all of these titles ridiculous. I’ve always thought that out of context, The Silence of the Lambs is just weird, but perhaps not as strange as ‘Nibbled to Death by Ducks’. My favourite here has to be Phantom of the Soap Opera though. What the hell? Puntastic!

I will leave you with a bonus title, and it’s a book I actually own – don’t ask! I won’t include the cover because it should probably come with a *graphic image* warning but you can check it out by clicking the title if you are intrigued…

The Human Santapede

 

I will be be astonished if anyone has read any of these (other than SOTL), but tell me if you have!

Up Next on Horror October:

Don’t miss the third entry in my Flash Fiction Battle!

This Week in Books 18.10.17 #TWIB #HO17

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Throughout October, I’ll be doing the short version of this post where I will simply share what I’m reading now, then and next. Because quite frankly, there’s enough going on around here.

Wow, we’re over half way through Horror October already! Time flies..

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week…

Now: Alone ~ Cyn Balog

I’m just about to start this, so nothing to report yet.

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…

Then: I Am Behind You  ~ John Ajvide Lindqvist

I wasn’t sure about this one as I’ve seen very mixed reviews, and I didn’t enjoy a few of his book that I picked up in the past. But I was pleasantly surprised. It was so creepy and weird! My review will be up on Monday.

Next: ??? Probably The Passion of Cleopatra by Anne Rice, which is the last of my Horror October ARCs. Whoop!

Ramses the Great, former pharaoh of Egypt, is reawakened by the elixir of life in Edwardian England. Now immortal with his bride-to-be, he is swept up in a fierce and deadly battle of wills and psyches against the once-great Queen Cleopatra.

Ramses has reawakened Cleopatra with the same perilous elixir whose unworldly force brings the dead back to life. But as these ancient rulers defy one another in their quest to understand the powers of the strange elixir, they are haunted by a mysterious presence even older and more powerful than they, a figure drawn forth from the mists of history who possesses spectacular magical potions and tonics eight millennia old.

This is a figure who ruled over an ancient kingdom stretching from the once-fertile earth of the Sahara to the far corners of the world, a queen with a supreme knowledge of the deepest origins of the elixir of life.

She may be the only one who can make known to Ramses and Cleopatra the key to their immortality—and the secrets of the miraculous, unknowable, endless expanse of the universe.

Up Next on Horror October:

Flash Fiction Battle: Entry #2

30 Days of Horror #16: The Merciless #HO17 #30daysofhorror

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book for each day until we reach Halloween!

Day sixteen and I’m choosing another fun but dark YA Horror. I bought this book based solely on the cover, and was so glad that I did! The story itself cheesy as hell, but it’s dark and gory too!

themerciless

Available in all formats (incl Audio), 279 pages

Published June 12th 2014 by Razorbill

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. . . .

 

Goodreads // My Review

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Have you read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

 Flash Fiction Battle: Entry #1

30 Days of Horror #15: Department Zero #HO17 #30daysofhorror

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

Welcome back to another horror highlight. Tonight I’ve chosen a book which was released at the beginning of 2017. I’ve only just discovered this book, and hope to read it soon. A protagonist who cleans up crime scenes for a living and discovers that everything H.P Lovecraft wrote is true? SOLD! It looks wonderfully batshit…

deptzero

Available in paperback & ebook, 32 pages

Published January 24th 2017 by Pyr

THE END OF THE UNIVERSE IS ONLY A HOP, SKIP, AND SLIGHT STUMBLE-THROUGH-A-WORMHOLE AWAY

Harry Priest just wants to make sure his ex-wife doesn’t take away his visitation rights, and his dead-end job cleaning up crime scenes for the past ten years isn’t doing him any favors.

But when Harry attends what he thinks is a routine death, he stumbles onto a secret multiverse of alternate realities all reachable through universe-hopping gates. Policing these worlds is Havelock Graves, the Interstitial Crime Department’s top agent for ten years running (according to him). When Harry accidentally messes with the ICD crime scene, Graves and his team are demoted as low as they can go: Department Zero.

They’re recruiting Harry too—not because he charmed them, but because he just might hold the key to saving the universe…and getting their old jobs back.

To do this, Graves and his team set out to solve the crime that lost them their jobs. A crime that involves a cult planning to hunt down and steal the fabled Spear of Destiny in order to free the Great Old One Cthulhu from his endless sleep in the Dreamlands. (Because that’s another thing Harry soon finds out. Everything H. P. Lovecraft wrote is true. Like, everything.)

The team will have to fight its way through realities filled with Martian technology and evade mad priests (Harry’s favorite kind) in a realm of floating landmasses where magic really exists.

And Harry has to do it all in time to say good night to his daughter.

Goodreads // Not My Review

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Have you read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

Book Review: The Silent Companions

Horror October: Week #2 Wrap-up! #HO17

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Well, that was a busy week! I can’t believe we’re half-way through already!
If you missed anything, do not fret, here is a handy summary of all the goings-on.

Horror October Week 2

Review: Misery by Stephen King

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Top Ten Tuesday: Spooky Autumnal Book Covers

30 Days of Horror:

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Day #7: Some Will Not Sleep

Day #8: Interview with the Vampire

Day #9: Battle Royale

Day #10: You Die When You Die

Day #11: Goth Girl

Day #12: The White Road

Day #13: Universal Harvester

This Week in Books 09.10.17

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This Year in Horror (so far)!

Lazy Saturday Review: Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick

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Posts from around the blogosphere

Review: S.T.A.G.S – A World of Books

Come for a walk through Bram Stoker’s Dublin – Come Here to Me

Review: Hell House – Ruined Head

Top Ten Scariest Towns You Never Want to Visit – Redmangorereviews

October Scary Book Recommendation: The Hallowed Ones – Reading in Winter

Movie Review: The Ritual – One Room with a View

Movie Review: Happy Death Day – Literary Dust

Up Next on Horror October:

Book Review: The Silent Companions

Horror October: Misery by Stephen King #BookReview #HO17

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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.

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Up Next on Horror October:

30 days of Horror: Battle Royale

 

 

30 Days of Horror #6: The Crow Girl #HO17 #30daysofhorror

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book for each day until we reach Halloween!

Day six and I’m choosing an epic Swedish thriller that is dark. I mean, like really, really dark and messed up. Originally published as a trilogy but now in one volume, it’s not a small book, but it certainly packs a punch. It was released in paperback just last year.

I’m not a fan of the latest cover (right) – it doesn’t really reflect the contents like the other two, but I guess that’s mass marketing for you.

Available in all formats
786 pages
Published April 14th 2016 by Harvill Secker

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.

Goodreads // My Review

bookdepo

Have you read this? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

The Flash Fiction Battle Prompt Result!