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
Title: 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.
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.
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.
Original review posted: 25th May 2016
Author: M.R Carey
Format: Hardback, 496 pages
Publication Details: April 5th 2016 by Orbit
Genre(s): Horror (Supernatural); Mystery
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!
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?
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.
The Last Days of Jack Sparks
Original review posted: May 30th 2016
Title: The Last Days of Jack Sparks
Author: Jason Arnopp
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.
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.
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.
Have you read any of these?