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.

 it pennywise it movie devious scary clown GIF
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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ARC Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

An enjoyable and read with a brilliantly diverse and complex cast of characters. I found it quite an addictive read and incredibly difficult to put down.

It’s let down a little by having too many similarities to other books and not moving the story on quickly enough but it’s definitely worth reading.


Synopsis (GoodReads)

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.


My Review

This book seems to get a lot of rave reviews but I have to confess I’m not sure it lives up to the hype.

It’s kind of like a mash up of Enders Game and Divergent with a little bit of Ready Player One thrown into the mix. As a result there isn’t much that’s really original about it. There is a diverse cast of characters and it is an enjoyable read but I doubt I’ll remember it in a month or two and I just don’t have that pressing need to get my hands on the next book in the series.

The author has created a brilliant main character in Emmett. He’s not the type of hero you usually find in these kinds of stories. He’s a POC for a start. He’s not the smartest, the strongest, the fastest or even the one with the most troubled upbringing. He’s actually pretty average and I’m sure relateable to a lot of people.

He’s agreed to compete because his mom’s ill and they have no money for treatment. Similar to most of the others, he’s desperate and this makes for fascinating reading as he tries to decide how far he’s willing to go to win.

The other characters are similarly diverse and complex and many are not what they initially appear to be. What’s especially great is the way that they develop and change over the course of the story. This is a group of teens in exceptional situations and the author does a fantastic job of making their actions seem very real and completely believable.

The story itself is pretty familiar. Bunch of teens have to compete against each other in a series of individual and team challenges. There’s a leader board to track their progress (although I couldn’t follow the scoring) and if by the end you’re below a certain point on the board you get cut. The contest is however run by a massive corporation with highly dubious motives who keep changing the rules.

From the very beginning the whole contest thing and the reasons for it seemed very unconvincing. They’ve discovered another earth like planet that they want to go strip mine but the native aliens aren’t happy about it unless it’s children as they like children and will let them do whatever they want….hmmm. Unfortunately that is not the only unconvincing thing in the story.  There were a few things that just didn’t make sense to me (what the heck is Nyxia?) and I think there could have been a bit more explanation of elements but I suppose you’re supposed to feel as clueless as the competitors.

I did really enjoy the whole competition aspect. I loved the changing dynamics of the group as they form and break alliances and friendships, stab each other in the back and hold grudges. There’s even some romance between competitors. I do think however it was dragged on a little too long (it’s literally all that happens in the story). I wanted some answers and it looks like the only way I’m going to get them is to read the next book in the series. Unfortunately I’m not sure I care enough.

Overall an enjoyable and quite a quick read but just too many similarities to other stories to be a stand out.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC.

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: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Alex and ElizaAlex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The story of the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler is not one I know a lot about but I very much enjoyed this fictional account of their romance. It does seem to borrow quite a bit from Pride and Prejudice but, while it’s not the most original or most exciting read, it’s a very sweet period romance.


Synopsis

Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.


My Review

OK, before I start this review I feel like I should really admit that I know next to nothing about American (or British or now I think about it pretty much any) history so I have pretty much no knowledge of Alexander Hamilton. I know there’s a musical which I’m assuming is about him and that loads of people seem to be raving about but I haven’t seen it. What I’m basically saying (in a pretty long winded way) is that I went into this book pretty much blind, with very little knowledge and next to no expectations. I’d seen quite a bit of buzz around it, recognized the author’s name and was just kinda tempted by a historical romance.

I suspect these facts were all to my favor however as a kinda sweet romance set in the eighteenth century is pretty much what I got. If you’re looking for a ground breaking and historically accurate story (or even just a version of the musical) I suspect you will be disappointed (although I’m basing this pretty much on other reviews).

For those like me who are completely clueless, the story is a fictional account of the romance between Alexander Hamilton, aide de camp (personal assistant) to General Washington, and Elizabeth Schuyler, daughter of a prominant General. To me it seemed kinda like Pride and Prejudice during the American revolution (stick with me and don’t throw things, I’m not saying it’s as good).

Elizabeth’s mother could certainly give Mrs Bennet a run for her money in the match making department. She’s absolutely determined to marry off her three eldest daughters as they’re a bit short on cash despite having a prominent name. She takes every opportunity to throw them in the path of any eligible man and is not above a bit of marriage arranging. Elizabeth (or Eliza), like her namesake, is the second oldest daughter, the favorite of her father and is determined to marry for love. She’s not as beautiful as her sisters Jane Angelica and Peggy but she’s more determined, practical and has a bit more common sense.

Unfortunately (or as you’re probably thinking, thank goodness) this is where the similarities to Pride and Prejudice end (well more or less). This does have a little of the social commentary, particularly around the role of women (to marry a wealthy man and have lots of babies), but it lacks a lot of the wit and humor (I know no one can compare to Austen but what the heck I’m comparing them).

It is quite a sweet romance but other than a couple of scandalous incidents, some ungentlemanly behavior and the occasional reference to historical events going on round about them that’s pretty much it.

Eliza wasn’t the most likeable of characters to me. Yes, she’s principled, intelligent and practical but she’s just a little too fanatical about the cause for me and I found myself rolling my eyes when she started preaching to those around her.

Hamilton thankfully makes up for things however and is a very swoon worthy hero (can I say that about a historical figure?). He’s a self made man, a charmer and a bit of a flirt so it was wonderful to see him become so flustered and tongue tied around Eliza (I should add that I have since been on Wikipedia and discovered where his flirting led but let’s not go there).

It didn’t feel like there was a huge amount of story (it’s mostly a ball, a few social occasions, riding around the countryside on horses and Eliza’s efforts to aid the war effort) and it’s not exactly an exciting read but I did enjoy it.

I don’t think there was anything particularly stand out about it and I suspect if you’re a big Hamilton fan you’ll be disappointed but if you like a bit of history and a period romance you’ll probably enjoy this.

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

ARC Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brilliant and cleverly plotted story makes this a truly addictive read. It’s packed full of mystery and questions making it frustrating as hell but impossible to put down.

The characters may not be the most likeable but they are definitely some of the most intriguing. You definitely need your wits about you if you want to figure out what’s real and what’s not.


Synopsis

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.


My Review

Hmm how to review a book where you can’t really talk about the story, you can’t really talk about the characters and you definitely can’t talk about the ending, or should that be the beginning? I think this is going to be quite a short review.

This is a story that begins at the end, yep literally. The first chapter is number 18 and from there it goes back in time to chapter 1 the beginning. Our main character Jule is a bit of a mystery. As the story begins (or ends as it were) she seems to be on the run and pretending to be someone else. The big question is why but this is only the first of many questions.

This is a story that’s absolutely packed full of mystery and secrets and it raises far more questions than it ever answers. As you travel back in time the answers are gradually revealed but every discovery seems to raise a hundred more questions so that you have to read that little bit more. Needless to say I read the whole book from cover to cover in an afternoon and immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and read it again to try and figure out what I’d missed.

It’s a a very intricately and cleverly plotted story that’s full of detail and little hints and clues scattered throughout. The back to front format of the story works incredibly well as you’re always trying to guess how they got to a specific place or moment and why they behave or act in a certain way. You really have to pay very close attention or you’re sure to miss something.

Main character Jule is the definitive anti hero and a bit of an enigma. She’s not particularly likeable, how can you like someone who’s always pretending to be someone else, but she’s definitely intriguing. I did on occasion find myself feeling sorry for her but when you never know what’s real and what’s fake, you never really know if you’re just being played.

This is an absolutely brilliant book but it’s frustrating as hell which means I can’t say it was an enjoyable reading experience. It is however one I’d definitely recommend. Just set aside plenty of time because you won’t be able to put it down.

I received an advance copy of this book free from Readers First. This has in no way influenced my review.

ARC Review: The Border by Steve Schafer

The BorderThe Border by Steve Schafer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very timely look at illegal immigration from the point of view of those who risk it all for a better life. It’s a fast paced and engaging read that’s both harrowing and heartbreaking at times but I’m so glad I read it.

It’s a brilliant debut and one I’d recommend even if it’s not your usual kind of read.


The Blurb

One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families’ murders have put out a reward for the teens’ capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape…


My Review

This is not the kind of book I probably would have picked up on my own but when the publisher contacted me via NetGalley and offered me the chance to read it I thought why not. Despite a NetGalley shelf that’s starting to creak, I’m so glad I added this to it.

Illegal immigration seems to be a hot topic at the moment no matter where you live in the world so this book about four teens trying to cross the border into the US from Northern Mexico couldn’t be more relevant. It provides a truly fascinating insight into just how desperate many of those trying to find a new life are and challenges the view that many have that they’re all bad or dangerous people who have to be stopped.

The story is told from the point of view of 16 year old Pato who, after witnessing all of his family and most of his friends being killed by a local gang while at a party, has a price put on his head and is forced to go on the run with his best friend Arbo and Marcus and Gladys a brother and sister who also narrowly avoided being killed at the party. With Mexico no longer safe and no one they can turn to the only option open to them is to attempt to cross into America and make a new life for themselves.

Pato is an immensely likeable and surprisingly relateable character. I didn’t expect to have much in common with a 16 year old Mexican boy but there’s something about him that I could definitely empathize with. He seems to have had a relatively sheltered and comparatively privileged life so his life is truly turned upside down and he struggles to cope. The author does a truly wonderful job in making him a very real and completely believable character.

The other three that make up the group were also incredibly well defined. Arbo the best friend is the emotional and soft one who struggles the most, Marco is the tough guy and self imposed leader of the group and Gladys brings balance and a little bit of love to the group. It’s absolutely wonderful how the dynamic between the four changes and develops over the course of the story and I found myself really routing for them to make it despite the odds stacked against them.

The story itself is fast paced and pretty harrowing at times (although I do feel like the author held back a little for the YA audience). The group have more than a few close calls and with gangs chasing them, an inhospitable environment, limited resources and no one to rely on but themselves there’s a big question mark over who if any of them will make it across the desert alive.

Thankfully it’s not all death, violence and struggle however as the author also weaves in some moment of lightness and humor and also a little bit of romance. There’s a lot of struggle but there’s also a lot of hope and that’s what carries the group and the reader through (although I’m not telling you if they make it).

I did have a couple of niggles which I can’t mention due to spoilers but overall I’d say this was a worthwhile read and one I’d definitely recommend.

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

The Border is published on the 5th September.

ARC Review: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody


Daughter of the Burning CityDaughter of the Burning City
by Amanda Foody

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dark and twisty story with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters. The world the author has created is incredibly detailed and I loved the combination of fantasy and murder mystery. There are a few pacing issues and I thought there was a little too much crammed in but it’s definitely an enjoyable read.


Synopsis

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Review

I’m a little bit torn on this one. There were parts that I absolutely loved and it’s wonderfully original and dark but there was something about it that didn’t quite work.

I loved the idea of this traveling carnival that’s as big as a city. I loved the diversity of those that live and work there, the different types of magic, the performers, vendors, guards and the thieves and assassins who all consider themselves equal. Most of all I loved the mystery and just how dark and twisted it was.

It’s called Gomorrah for a reason. There are prettymen and prettywomen (prostitutes), con artists, thieves and assassins. All visitors to the carnival do so at their own risk and literally within the first few pages one person is robbed and a seemingly central character murdered.

Sorina made for an interesting main character. The only illusion worker in Gomorrah she’s considered a bit of a freak and outsider in a city of freaks and outsiders. She has no eyes but can see via her illusions (something I still don’t quite understand). She has however used her illusion work to create a family of “freaks” and together they have quite a happy life until one of them is suddenly murdered. So begins the mystery of who is behind the murder but also how do you kill an illusion.

In many ways I did like Sorina. She’s quite a lonely character and just wants to be accepted. She wants the fairytale romance but doesn’t believe anyone will be interested in her. She does get a little annoying with the woe is me all of the time and being so easily influenced by others but she is only 16 so it’s largely forgivable.

I have to confess I found her family/illusions confusing in the beginning. I have a goldfish like memory and was extremely tired at the time so I suspect it may just have been me who couldn’t remember who was who and what they did (I think the physical book has drawings so that will make it easier). I also didn’t feel the connection between them. One is the baby of the family, the other like a grandpa, one the best friend/sister but while I knew this it didn’t feel real to me. Maybe because they are illusions but I suspect it was because there was more telling than showing, something I think the book was guilty of in quite a few places.

The author has created this big and complicated world with a whole city/carnival that moves from place to place across the continent. I think it was perhaps overly complicated particularly for one book. We have the city of Gomorrah to try and understand with its very distinct areas and layout and all of its people/magics. There are the different places they visit, the world as a whole, politics and religion. It’s a lot to cram into around 380 pages and led to a bit of info dumping, something I struggle with.

There are some wonderful descriptions of the carnival and times when you are in the moment but these were a little too fleeting. I wish it had been kept simpler allowing more time for character development and relationships to develop. I didn’t feel any of the connection between the characters and consequently a lot of the events had less of an impact (the murders for example).

The storyline is good and I loved the idea of a YA fantasy with a murder mystery. There were however some issues on timing and it felt a little disjointed at times. There were certain events that felt unnecessary and others that were rushed over and didn’t make sense.

There are plenty of twists and turns as you try to work out who is behind the murders and I did for the most part enjoy it. I just wish it had been a little simpler with a little less tell and a little more show.

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