ARC Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

There's Someone Inside Your HouseThere’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn’t quite the scary horror story I was hoping for but it’s definitely an enjoyable read.

There’s lots of diversity, a very sweet romance and just enough action and mystery to keep you reading till the very end. It may not wholly work as a horror story but there are plenty of other things that make it a worthwhile read.


The Blurb

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.


Review

I have to confess I had my doubts when Perkins announced that she was writing a horror story. She’s my go to author for light and fluffy contemporary romance, so how could she possibly switch over to dark and scary horror. It was going to be either brilliant or terrible.

Having now devoured it in more or less one sitting, I would say it probably falls somewhere in between. There are more than a few problems with the horror side of the story (so it’s not brilliant) but there is a lot to love about it which goes some way to make up for any shortcomings. There is plenty of diversity, our main character is a POC with a friend who is trans, there are wonderfully real family relationships and none of the characters are perfect.

Main character Makani possibly wasn’t the most likeable character in the beginning but she did grow on me through the story. The romantic interest is probably not making my book boyfriend list but there is something kinda sweet (and also mysterious) about him, and the other characters, while not being particularly well fleshed out, are very believable and after only a few pages you get a real sense of them.

The story itself is very Scream-esque, beginning with the brutal murder of a girl from their school, followed by more sudden and seemingly unconnected slayings of their fellow students. Speculation over who the killer could be is rife and with no pattern in the victims anyone could be next. It’s classic horror and is absolutely packed full of all of the horror tropes and themes, something I absolutely loved.

Unfortunately however it lacks the tension and sense of danger to make it a really scary read. The characters who are bumped off are for the most part pretty minor so it’s difficult to care about them, Makani spends most of her time obsessing over a boy (there’s a LOT of kissing) and worrying the dark secret from her past is going to come out and the killings are a little ridiculous at times. I also think too much is revealed too soon and some of the characters motivations and secrets just don’t make sense or aren’t properly fleshed out. 

Despite these problems however, I did find it quite an addictive and enjoyable read, although I have to confess that was probably more for the romance than anything else.

It is a book that seems to be getting some very mixed reviews at the moment but I would recommend you give it a go, and if horror is not your thing I promise, it’s not that scary.

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Is this a face that would lie?

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

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Review: Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

Charlotte Says (Red Eye)Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Those creepy little dolls are back and they’ve got some new games they want to play.

This, the prequel to the wonderfully chilling Frozen Charlotte, is just as good if not better. The Edwardian setting really brings something to the story and it’s packed with all of the best horror tropes to keep you reading late into the night (with all of the lights on of course).

(Note: While this is the second book in a series there’s very little overlap so no spoilers in the review or syposis)


Synopsis

Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.

Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.


My Review

I’m always on the lookout for a creepy horror story but despite someone recommending Frozen Charlotte to me ages ago it was only after I was approved for an ARC of Charlotte Says that I finally got around to reading it and I’m so sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner. That book is seriously creepy and I literally couldn’t put it down.

Needless to say as soon as I finished it I couldn’t resist getting stuck in to prequel Charlotte Says and do you know what, I think it might be even better. I don’t know whether it was just that by reading them back to back I was more into the author’s writing style or if it was the change in time period that worked better but, while this had possibly fewer chills (I knew what to expect so was prepared), the writing just seemed so much better. There was less bluntness to it and consequently it seemed less forced and more natural, drawing me into the story completely.

It’s predominantly set in a girl’s boarding school in 1910, so we have a much wider cast of characters but there is still this very real sense of isolation and remoteness which brings a chilling atmosphere to the story.

The story is told from the point of view of Jemima Black, a wonderfully complex character who makes for some fascinating reading. She comes across as weak and subservient a lot of the time but there’s a real strength, determination and slight deviousness within her which, combined with the mystery of her past, make her very unpredictable. From the very beginning when she wakes from a nightmare of fire and blood to arrive alone at the boarding school to take up her post you know there is something dark in her past.

Some of the other characters do feel a little bit stereotyped, there’s the tyrannical head teacher, the pretty but mean maid, a pupil who sees things no one else does (and no one believes) and the love interest who’s too good to be true but these are part of what makes it such an enjoyable (and creepy) read.

For those who have read Frozen Charlotte you will know pretty much what to expect when the dolls arrive at the school, strange noises in the middle of the night, odd behavior, violence and death and some of the events of this story are uncovered in the previous book but there are still some surprises and twists in store.

I do feel like I should add a little warning here that as you would expect from a horror there are some violent scenes and abuse. Some of the descriptions are pretty graphic, particularly around violence towards animals (I don’t consider myself to be squeamish and I found a couple of scenes difficult). It might be better avoided if this is likely to be a trigger (or go read Frozen Charlotte which isn’t quite as bad)

You can get away with reading this if you haven’t read Frozen Charlotte as while there is some overlap between the two stories they are set in completely different time periods with minimal crossover. I would still recommend Frozen Charlotte first though as Charlotte Says explains away a lot of the mystery (and it’s a great read too).

Overall a wonderfully creepy read and definitely one I’d recommend if you’re a fan of the genre and not too squeamish.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.

Review: The Devil’s Colony by Bill Schweigart

The Devil's ColonyThe Devil’s Colony by Bill Schweigart

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Bigger, better (maybe?) and even more gruesome (definitely), the third and final book in Bill Schweigart’s Fatal Folklore Trilogy is a brilliant conclusion to what has become one of my favorite horror series. I’m really going to miss Ben and Lindsay but I honestly don’t know how Schweigart could possibly top that.

Note: as this is the third book in the series this review contains spoilers for the previous stories. If you haven’t read them go get them now (honestly they are a bargain) or go read my review of the first book The Beast of Barcroft here.


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Book Review: Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

SweetpeaSweetpea by C.J. Skuse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Liked this a lot. It’s a cross between Bridget Jones Diary and Dexter. Hilariously funny at one moment and rather gruesome the next. I am slightly concerned with how often I agreed with main character Rhiannon’s thoughts but so far I haven’t actually killed anyone so I’m not quite at psychopath yet.

Definitely a story I’d recommend to anyone with a black sense of humor.

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Book Review: The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Warning: mild spoilers after the synopsis

This is one of those books that I saw a lot of hype around but for some reason didn’t really know what it was about. A quick read of the synopsis doesn’t give much away but I thought what the heck I’ll add it to the TBR and get to it eventually. Now I’m asking myself why on earth did I wait so long.

This book is incredible and in my opinion deserves all of the hype and the praise around it. The author creates such a real and vivid world and characters that you feel like you’re there with them. It’s a beautiful, gruesome, gripping and absolutely heartbreaking story and like nothing I expected it to be. If you haven’t read it you need to right now (mostly so I have someone to rave over it with).


Synopsis (from GoodReads)

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

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Book Review: Northwoods by Bill Schweigart

NorthwoodsNorthwoods by Bill Schweigart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first came across Bill Schweigart a few months ago when I spotted the Beast of Barcroft on NetGalley and couldn’t resist. That was the book that restored my love of horror and that love continues in Northwoods, the second in the series. Bill Schweigart really knows how to write an exciting and surprising narrative and this book takes horror to a whole new level.

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Some borders should never be crossed. From the author of The Beast of Barcroft comes a waking nightmare of a horror novel that’s sure to thrill readers of Stephen King and Bentley Little.

Ex–Delta Force Davis Holland, now an agent for the Customs and Border Protection, has seen it all. But nothing in his experience has prepared him for what he and the local sheriff find one freezing night in the Minnesota woods.

Investigating reports of an illegal border crossing, the two men stumble across a blood-drenched scene of mass murder, barely escaping with their lives . . . and a single clue to the mayhem: a small wooden chest placed at the heart of the massacre. Something deadly has entered Holland’s territory, crossing the border from nightmare into reality.

When news of the atrocity reaches wealthy cryptozoologist Richard Severance, he sends a three-person team north to investigate. Not long ago, the members of that team—Ben McKelvie, Lindsay Clark, and Alex Standingcloud—were nearly killed by a vengeful shapeshifter. Now they are walking wounded, haunted by gruesome memories that make normal life impossible. But there is nothing normal about the horror that awaits in the Northwoods.

Thoughts

One of the things I love most about Bill Schweigart is that for me he is a bit of an unknown quantity. Having read only one of his books I don’t have a feel yet for how far he’ll go or what he will do. No character is safe and pretty much anything can and will happen.

Northwoods starts in a similar way to the previous book in the series The Beast of Barcroft with the introduction of a new character, Davis Holland, and something mysterious lurking in the woods.

However while the Best of Barcroft was more of a creature feature with a lot of mystery over what if anything is in the woods it’s clear from the start that this time it’s something from myth and legend.  No real creature could be responsible for the level of carnage, so it’s more of a case of working out what creature is responsible and how to stop it.

There are a lot of local legends in the area and tales of missing persons going back years. A lot of these legends and stories are set out in this story and that makes for some fascinating reading. I have no idea if any of these stories are based on real legends but I imagine that they are.

While new character Davis Holland brings a different dimension to the team with his military experience I have to admit I still really love returning characters Ben and Lindsay. Ben is the everyman character with no special skills or knowledge who is thrown into exceptional circumstances. He’s probably more lucky a lot of the time than skilled and seems to have a natural talent for saying the wrong thing which brings a lot of humour to the story.

He also has the most incredible crush on Lindsay which considering he’s the wrong sex to be her type makes for an interesting dynamic between the two. Lindsay is definitely the more knowledgeable and practical of the two so has the upper hand as far as the relationship goes. They flirt a bit, argue a lot, he’s overprotective and she get’s frustrated with him but they do depend on each other. Their relationship changes and develops over the course of this book and it comes under threat a few times which was kind of worrying as they are definitely one of my favourite partnerships.

This story is a lot bigger and a lot more gruesome and violent than the Beast of Barcroft. The author has definitely stepped it up in terms of carnage and while I prefer slightly subtler horror story rather than a lot of blood and gore there are still some very creepy moments. What makes it even better is the unpredictability. No character is safe in this series and anyone could be lost at the most unexpected moment. There was one moment in particular which came out of nowhere and left me completely stunned. One of those “oh my god, he can’t do that can he?” type moments.

For the most part the pacing is spot on and while there are a couple of bits which are a little slow, the author does a fantastic job of building up the tension to a truly immense conclusion.

It’s not a perfect book but I would definitely rate Bill Schweigart as one of my favourite horror authors at the moment. I’m looking forward to more in the series to see where it goes next.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden

Dead RingersDead Ringers by Christopher Golden

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was really excited to get a copy of this book. I love a good scary story and based on all of the great reviews I had high hopes.

Unfortunately it was not at all what I was expecting so I found it a bit disappointing. It’s actually one of those books where I feel like I’ve been reading something different from everyone else. I don’t know, maybe I was just in the wrong frame of mind when I started it and that influenced my reading but I found the whole thing a bit of a struggle.

Synopsis

When Tess bumps into ex husband Nick on the street she gets angry when it seems he’s pretending not to know her. She phones to give him hell but when she finally speaks to him she realises the guy she bumped into wasn’t him but his double. Chatting to friend Lili she finds out that people have reported her friend has a double. Tess and Lili decide there’s something sinister about these doubles and start investigating.

Meanwhile Frank, an old colleague of Tess, Lili and Nick, is confronted in his home by an intruder who has his face. Fake Frank holds him hostage in the basement and starts to take over his life.

As Tess and Lili step up their investigation they discover a connection to events in their past and have to face their fears and their doppelgangers if they hope to survive.

Thoughts

I’ve been going through a bit of a horror phase at the moment and was drawn to this story by both the blurb and the fantastic reviews. It’s described as a haunted house story with a twist which I have to say I don’t think it is. I was expecting the majority of the story to be set in a house with the danger coming from the mirrors. I had this idea of the reflections not imitating but seeking to escape and replace the originals.

In fact there is very little of the story set within a house. I would probably describe it more as a type of invasion of the body snatchers than haunted house tale. The idea of doppelgangers seeking to replace their doubles, while not original, is an interesting one. It has the potential to be creepy and menacing however I felt like that didn’t come across.

For me there were just too many things that didn’t work. I didn’t feel any real tension or emotion and I never really connected with any of the characters. To be perfectly honest I wasn’t too fussed who lived or died.

Every single character had some issue or past trauma that was almost constantly referred to and over analysed. I’m all for diverse characters but there were just too many issues among a small number of people for it to be realistic and it just wasn’t that relevant to the story. I’m of the view that you shouldn’t have to keep telling the reader about a character’s issues or personality traits. It should be obvious from their actions and their dialogue

I also thought they kind of over reacted to some of the early incidents. OK it’s a bit funny to bump into someone who looks exactly like someone you know but I wouldn’t think it would be as terrifying as it’s made out to be. It’s possible my stress levels at the moment are leading to a lack of empathy but I just didn’t find a lot of the supposed terrifying incidents that scary.

The dialogue between characters seemed a little clunky to me at times and I think the story suffered from a lack of description of both people and places. Some of the action sequences in particular were a little confusing and unclear and I would have liked a little more scene setting to help me imagine where they were and what was happening. I don’t know, maybe I just missed it or wasn’t paying attention.

There are a lot of 5 star reviews so it obviously hit the right spot for others  but sorry it wasn’t for me.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.