Tag Archives: horror

Late to the Party ARC Review – Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep #1) by Mira Grant

Title:  Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep #1)

Author: Mira Grant

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

It feels so good to read a Mira Grant horror story again. I loved herNewsflesh series, and wasn’t as big on her Parasite trilogy. However, the idea of murderous mermaids and a killer ocean swallowing people whole? What a horror show.

Into the Drowning Deep is a captivating story about a voyage gone wrong, a mystery surrounding it, and how people’s lives become at risk when uncovering the secrets of the ocean. This book is uncomfortable to read at times, and you get a large sense of looming dread from the cast of characters. Grant’s writing is descriptive, and her monsters really have the ability to strike fear in a reader. I spent a lot of this novel hoping, begging, and pleading that my favourite characters wouldn’t be killed off, and hilariously, they all were.

What I also love about this story is it plays with the readers perception of others. It’s hard to know which characters are trust worthy because Grant does a great job tricking the reader. I also loved the ASL representation in this novel, as it was great to read about a character who was deaf and used sign language as a means to communicate. I equally loved the attention to detail that was placed on this character, as it shows that she was written with a lot of care. Oh, and the killer mermaids? They are real. They are subtle. They are scary.

Into the Drowning Deep was a fun, terrifying little horror show of a novel. I enjoyed how unpredictable it was and how Grant plays with the reader throughout the story. If you loved Newsflesh, but didn’t care as much for Parasite, try Into the Drowning Deep. It will make you want to avoid the ocean for awhile.

ARC Review – Thornhill by Pam Smy

Title: Thornhill

Author: Pam Smy

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: 1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2016: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Thornhill is easily the creepiest middle grade book I’ve read. Hands down. It’s a book that is spooky, unnerving, and heartbreaking. It’s a story from two perspectives, Mary Baines who is writing a diary in 1982 while living in Thornhill Institute, and in present day we have Ella, who has moved next door to the historical site and becomes entranced by the idea of uncovering the mystery behind the building.

What makes this novel even more interesting is that Mary’s sections are written as a diary, and Ella’s are fully illustrated without dialogue. Mary’s sections are difficult to read given they focus on her lack of friendship, her deeply rooted abandonment problems, and that she has been bullied her whole life. Her diary entries are dark and uncomfortable to read. You really feel for her even though towards the end of the book you see that her sanity and emotions are deteriorating. I really felt for her.

Meanwhile, Ella continues to see Mary from her window, which is why she becomes fascinated by Thornhill. She even breaks in the abandoned building because she is convinced she has seen a young girl from her window. She leaves Mary messages and gifts. She wants to befriend her. What I loved in Ella’s sections is that Smy’s illustrations do a great job of capturing the emotions and intent behind the story. You get a sense that Ella has empathy for Mary and wants to gain a sense of understanding so many years later. The art is mostly great, though it has some awkward moments as well.

Thornhill is a book that is very dark and comes from a deeply emotional place. It’s not for reader’s looking for a whimsy time, and that’s where I’d recommend this to older middle grade readers who can understand concepts such as bullying and death. The ending hurts, and there’s no other way to describe it. Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a unique but difficult read. Reader’s need to be in a particular headspace to really grasp how loaded this story truly is.

ARC Review – And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

28449150Title: And the Trees Crept In

Author: Dawn Kurtagich

Rating: ★

Synopsis: When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?

Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC! This does not influence my review of this book. Spoilers for the book have been shared and you have been warned.

Molly’s Review:

I picked this book up because I wanted a creepy, atmospheric Halloween read. I’d seen a lot of good things about this book, and I generally enjoyed the author’s previous novel, THE DEAD HOUSE. Turns out this book was basically the same premise as THE DEAD HOUSE. Two sisters, a haunted house, one of them thinking that they’re crazy.

AS THE TREES CREPT IN starts off with Silla and her little sister Nori showing up at their “crazy” Aunt Cath’s manor house in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the woods. This book is set in the UK, about four-some hours outside of London. Silla’s appearance is and isn’t shocking to Cath. We get the sense that Sill and Nori fled and abusive father. Nori is mute, she can’t make ANY sound, and she has a deformed arm.

At the beginning of Silla and Nori’s time with their Aunt things are good. They eat delicious food, tend the garden and play around. But Cath starts to slowly lose her mind, and when Nori almost goes into the surrounding woods, Cath snaps. Apparently Cath and her younger sisters know that something sinister is in the woods, waiting for them, watching them…

Sounds freaky right? Well… it wasn’t. There was NOTHING scary about this book. I did enjoy the creepiness: the house was rotting, sinking into the earth, the girls were growing mold on their bodies, the food was falling to pieces, the trees were DEF creeping in… but then the “villain” in the book was… get ready… named… The CREEPER MAN. What. The Fuck. That name is NOT scary at all. Like. Idk. Every time I would read that name I would just roll my eyes. I get it, the names of our terrors aren’t that frightening: Slender Man, The Boogey Man, etc. But for me, “creeper” isn’t really a scary thing, just a weird or kinda off thing. People that are described as creepers are usually gross or perverted, not really terrifying.

So Aunt Cath loses her mind after Nori almost goes into the woods and locks herself in the attick… FOR THREE YEARS. Like at this point of the book I was starting to really lose interest. It wasn’t scary, nothing was happening, the writing IS AWUFL, and then the Aunt leaves these two girls (ages 14 and 4) ALONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS FOR THREE YEARS. Like how is that even POSSIBLE?! And she left them with a warning to NOT go into the woods because ~The Creeper Man~ will get them.

At this point Nori and Silla are starving and there’s only a little food left and the garden is dying and there’s no rain (despite it raining and storming almost EVERY OTHER PAGE) and the village across the way (through the woods) is abandoned (because apparently world war III is coming??? This was another super random thing that was tossed in here and there that had NOTHING to do with the story) and Silla went a few times (even though she was told not to go into the woods and later on REFUSES to leave because she can’t go into the woods… uh, okay…) and then this boy who used to live at the manor (when it was an orphanage) just shows up out of nowhere and Nori loves him and Silla hates him and then they have this brief love-hate relationship where Silla doesn’t want him around but does and then she FORCES him to leave and they run out of food and Silla’s teeth and hair start to fall out and then she GETS MAD at the boy (Gowan) for leaving. WHAT IS EVEN GOING ON AT THIS POINT.
Gowen FINALLY comes back and is so sorry that he left (even though Silla had forced him to) and Gowan declares his love for Silla even though they’ve never shared ANYTHING significant, and they spend a lot of time in the library while Nori is off playing games in the basement with The Creeper Man. When Silla finally realizes that Nori has been playing with the Creeper Man she freaks out and then Nori LEAVES with the Creeper man. At this point the trees have SUPER crept in and the house is not only surrounded but the trees are INSIDE the house. Crazy Cath is still in the attic and the trees basically eat her and then Silla and Gowen have to go find Nori, which means going into the woods which is THE WORST THING EVER (even though Silla has gone into them a few times and Gowen had to have come from somewhere). So Silla and Gowen are running around searching for Nori and in the middle of it all, in the middle of this haunted wood, THEY DECIDE TO HAVE SEX. I kid you not. They are so in love that they have to pause their hunt for Nori WHO COULD BE IN SUPER DANGER and have sex.

They finally find Nori and she’s dead and Silla loses her mind and then she FINALLY realizes that… THEY ARE ALL DEAD AND THE PAST 300 PAGES OF BOOK HAVE BEEN ABOUT SILLA BEING IN HER OWN PURGATORY. I was SO MAD when I got to that point. Apparently all of the suffering that they had been through had been “clues” that the book was throwing at me to lead me to knowing that they were all dead. Only nope, those clues only made sense if they were REVELED IN THAT CONTEXT. Other than that Silla being hungry all of the time (because she was starving to death next to her dead sister’s body) Cath’s creaking sounds in the attic (because she had hung herself, not because she was pacing), Gowan’s disappearance (because he went to find supplies for them before Silla died) and reappearance (because he had finally died as an old man and was able to find Silla again in ~the afterlife~) none of this was pointing to the fact that they were DEAD.


Oh and this book is weirdly dated. It takes place in 2013 apparently and they live in the woods for three years without any TV or internet, and yet Silla is throwing around phrases like “first world problems” and apparently watched a lot of Japanese and Korean horror movies… when she was a kid? At age 14 and younger? While living in this horrific abusive household with a father that was super controlling and wouldn’t let them do anything? Just some of the very “current” things that Silla would say really hit me as weird because… where did she learn that?! HOW?!

And my BIGGEST MOST RAGE-IEST issue with this book was when Silla couldn’t eat (because she was malnourished, had no food, was trying to save food for her sister, was taking care of her sister, was only 17 and living in an abandoned haunted house, had none to care for her ect) at one point thought that the reason she wasn’t able to eat was because she “was anorexic or had a stomach bug”. At the end after she found out that the reason she was always starving in her purgatory was due to starving to death she even commented again that she “thought she was anorexic”.

PEOPLE. FUCKING HELL. WHAT EVEN IS THIS. Anorexia isn’t just “I can’t eat”. It is a fucking EATING DISORDER WHERE YOU DON’T EAT BECAUSE YOU HAVE A FEAR OF GAINING WEIGHT AND WANT TO BE THIN. IT IS AN ACTUAL DISEASE THAT IS SERIOUS AND NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU JUST “GET”. IT IS NOT JUST “I CAN’T EAT AND I DON’T KNOW WHY”. OH MY GOD. This part of the book made me RAGEFUL and at the point that I had read it I was thinking about DNFing but then I just kept on rage reading because I knew that I had to write this rage review.

DO NOT BOTHER WITH THIS BOOK. The characters are one dimensional, it’s not scary at all. Nothing makes sense until you get to the stupid ‘big reveal” and then you’ll just be angry because ~it was all a dream~. Just no with this book.

ARC Review – Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

25647300Title: Down With the Shine

Author: Kate Karyus Quinn

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 / ★★★★★

Synopsis: There’s a reason they say “be careful what you wish for.” Just ask the girl who wished to be thinner and ended up smaller than Thumbelina, or the boy who asked for “balls of steel” and got them-literally. And never wish for your party to go on forever. Not unless you want your guests to be struck down by debilitating pain if they try to leave.

These are things Lennie only learns when it’s too late-after she brings some of her uncles’ moonshine to a party and toasts to dozens of wishes, including a big wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was abducted and murdered six months ago.

Lennie didn’t mean to cause so much chaos. She always thought her uncles’ moonshine toast was just a tradition. And when they talked about carrying on their “important family legacy,” she thought they meant good old-fashioned bootlegging.

As it turns out, they meant granting wishes. And Lennie has just granted more in one night than her uncles would grant in a year.

Now she has to find a way to undo the damage. But once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I wonder if I read this book at the wrong time. My co-blogger swears by Kate Karyus Quinn novels, and I own all of them, but decided apparently to start here. Down With the Shine is a fun book, but it’s also very ridiculous in a way that plays with the reader’s senses. Haunted moonshine is a great concept — haunted moonshine that can grant wishes? Even greater.

And yet, it didn’t entirely work for me. I’m not sure why that is either, given that a lot of the wishes in the novel were pretty fantastical or outright morbid, but it’s almost as if the novel wasn’t sure which it wanted to go, and I got a large sense of that. I thought the characters were really entertaining, if a bit flat, I thought the story was cheeky, if a bit corny at times too. It’s like reading certain Stephen King novels — they are so much fun, but at the same time you want a bit more than the novel is providing.

Like I said, perhaps it was me reading it at the wrong time (my mother was in the hospital and sadly passed way). While it was so fun and silly, it didn’t hit the notes that perhaps I was looking for in a spooky read. Perhaps down the road when I have a clearer head I may give this one a reread because the potential is totally there and I’m wondering if it was more me than the book. Still, Down With the Shine is A LOT of fun, and I do look forward to trying some more of Kate Karyus Quinn’s other novels.

River’s Review:


Also apparently all of her books take place in the same world because the characters from her previous books are referenced in this!!!! Now I want to go back and re-read the others to see if there are any connections omgggggggggg.

I loved this book so much. I loved everything about it. I loved the characters, the craziness, the writing, the magic, EVERY.THING.

This is one of those reviews where I loved the book so much I don’t even have words.


ARC Review – Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

22663629Title: Shallow Graves

Author: Kali Wallace

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

River’s Review:

Honestly, I had no idea what this book was going to be about. Zombies? I went into it with low expectations and thought I’d just get through it and review it but I ended up REALLY enjoying it! I started reading it in the middle of the night and didn’t want to put it down before going to sleep.

My only complaint about this book is that it felt like it could have been about 100 pages longer. I WANTED MORE! Especially when it came to the monster department. A lot of the monsters weren’t really explained and I feel like if you’re proficient in monster lore then you’ll Get It. But I only vaguely know stuff about ghouls and banshees and this book either expects you to know a lot more or it also only knows vague things.

Aside from wanting more explanations about the monsters, this book was very good. Breezy wakes up in a shallow grave, a year after her death. A man is digging her up (okay another thing that is never really fully explained… why was he digging her up? Did I miss the reason?) and she kills him. She spends a couple weeks trying to figure out what she is and what her limits are. Does she need to breathe? No. Does she die if she tries to kill herself? Nope. Have people stopped looking for her? Yup.

Unsure of what to do with herself Breezy starts to just… wander. She hitchhikes and gets picked up by random strangers who take her with them. She makes up stories about why she’s wandering around and ends up at a gas station where she meets a boy who gives her a flyer for a church that “helps people like her” and then she gets into the car with a murder (Breezy can “see” when people have killed before).

Eventually Breezy finds her way to the church on the flier only to find out that it’s really a place that takes monsters and “fixes” them. Breezy, not wanting to be “fixed” (which from what she’s seen from the people at the church, means killing them or basically taking away their faculties) and tries to make a run for it. Along the way she gets capture, meets other monsters, escapes, and faces her own demons and the questions of what is she and who killed her.

Aside from some details being glossed over and vague, I really enjoyed Breezy as a character and I loved her voice. I also enjoyed ALL of the side characters. The creepy church and religious aspects were wonderful, and I really loved how dark this could get.

I honestly can’t pin down what I loved about this book so much other than I just DID.

ARC Review – The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus

24885832Title:  The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire

Author: Daniel Kraus

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: May 7, 1896. Dusk. A swaggering seventeen-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is gunned down on the shores of Lake Michigan. But after mere minutes in the void, he is mysteriously resurrected.
His second life will be nothing like his first.

Zebulon’s new existence begins as a sideshow attraction in a traveling medicine show. From there, he will be poked and prodded by a scientist obsessed with mastering the secrets of death. He will fight in the trenches of World War I. He will run from his nightmares—and from poverty—in Depression-era New York City. And he will become the companion of the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.
Love, hate, hope, and horror—Zebulon finds them. But will he ever find redemption?

Ambitious and heartbreaking, The Death & Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At the Edge of Empire is the epic saga of what it means to be human in a world so often lacking in humanity.

Huge Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

If I’m being frank, I had no idea what to expect from The Life and Death of Zebulon Finch. When I started reading it, it was one of those books I couldn’t powerthrough, and I’m a fast reader. I found myself completely absorbed into Zebulon’s narrative, as though he was enticing me word by word, enriching me with his long lasting history of what it means to be a living man who cannot die.

Part of what makes Zebulon Finch such an enchanting read is the character of Zebulon himself. There’s something about reading through his life and understanding where he’s been throughout the course of history. It’s interesting to see how Zebulon discusses the various folks whom he’s passed in his travels, as well as how he perhaps has influenced them. My personal favourite was Mary and Leather, and I loved that they stayed as an integral part of his story. Especially Mary, she was just downright fabulous and easily my favourite character.

Plus there’s so much genre bending in this story. While the book behaves like historical fiction, it is as much a horror and science fiction novel. It also has a very unique writing style that at times talks at the reader, which is something I think readers would have to get used to. I personally loved the style, but I could see it being something some readers may have trouble with, because it does make for such a different kind of storytelling.

Then there’s the world building — it’s an alternate history starting in 1896, right until the Depression. However, since he is a man who cannot die, it makes for such an interesting aspect considering he’s also completely on the run. Plus he’s in love with Mary Pickford! MARY PICKFORD! Canada’s Girl! Kraus has done a lot to stay true to historical events while also infusing it with his own style, and I just loved it.

I haven’t read too many novels like The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, and while this took me a long time to read, it’s a book I savoured. Once I finished it, I was bitter I didn’t have Volume Two in my hands because I wanted to just keep going and see how Kraus would continue to alter history after that ending. If you love horror, or alternative history, then Zebulon Finchreally is worth tracking down. It has amazing characters, a rich word, and a protagonist who just keeps you guessing throughout. What more could you ask for?

ARC Review – A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

24376529Title: A Madness So Discreet

Author:  Mindy McGinnis

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Grace Mae knows madness. She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of going to an event at the Harper Collins Canada offices. Although I had already received an ARC of this book before the event, I learned a lot more aboutA Madness so Discreet than I realized through the discussion of the publisher. The book takes place in an asylum, it questions who is truly mad, and it also has a Sherlock-esque style mystery afoot. All these little aspect made me realize that I was going to have a fun, if disturbing read on my hands.

And it was everything I had hoped it to be!

I’ve never read Mindy McGinnis before, but she’s an author a lot of my friends absolutely adore. After reading this book, I totally understand the Mindy McGinnis love fest — A Madness So Discreet has wonderful and rich world building, ripe with gorgeous description, detailing the chronicles of Grace’s madness, who she wants revenge on, and why mental illness is such a tough topic to tackle, especially given that this is a period piece as well.

I loved Grace as a protagonist, and I loved the way in which she is developed throughout. A lot of this book asks the reader to question who is truly insane, and it’s done exceptionally well with how the characters in the asylum are developed. I was a huge fan of Nell, and I found her to be quite creepy and humourous at the same time. Falsteed was just such a great and misleading character, and Thronhollow is just… he’s insane. If there is anyone truly insane at times in this story, it’s him all the way through. And I adore him for it.

The cast in this book is stellar, and they are all such wonderfully developed individuals. They keep the mystery and murder elements in the story fresh and engaging, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t find this book predictable in the slightest. I found myself constantly wanting more information, more deductions on the case at hand, and the final forty pages of this book are so mind blowing, that I found myself gasping aloud because while I had a hunch that this event would happen, I didn’t think it would happen in the way that McGinnis took it. Seriously, the ending is brilliant.

A Madness So Discreet is complex, intense, and delightfully creepy. It’s a book that will keep you on your toes and ask you to ponder some tougher issues, while also presenting a fast-paced adventure in a true Sherlock style manner. If you loved Mindy McGinnis’ previous books, or you want a wonderful, creepy historical novel, then look no further.

ARC Review – Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson

23245337Title: Dreamland

Author: Robert L. Anderson

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Odea Donahue has been able to travel through people’s dreams since she was six years old. Her mother taught her the three rules of walking: Never interfere. Never be seen. Never walk the same person’s dream more than once. Dea has never questioned her mother, not about the rules, not about the clocks or the mirrors, not about moving from place to place to be one step ahead of the unseen monsters that Dea’s mother is certain are right behind them.

Then a mysterious new boy, Connor, comes to town and Dea finally starts to feel normal. As Connor breaks down the walls that she’s had up for so long, he gets closer to learning her secret. For the first time she wonders if that’s so bad. But when Dea breaks the rules, the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate. How can she know what’s real and what’s not?

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

River’s Review:

Sadly I didn’t really enjoy this book as much as I had hoped, which was really upsetting because I was SO looking forward to this! I just spent a lot of time while reading this book thinking “really…?” because there was just a lot of stuff that made me either side eye it or roll my eyes at it. Basically I just can’t believe half the stuff the people in this book believed! And the lack of explanation of anything just frustrated me to no end.

Dea wasn’t a bad character but she didn’t really do anything for me. I thought her friend’s nickname was stupid and her instant connection with Connor was a little too convenient. And the dreamwalking thing, which seemed SO cool, was just so flat and boring and never really made any sense to me.

Other things that bugged me where the “rumors” that the people believed about Dea and her mother. Vampires, zobmies, witches? Really? Maybe like, in elementary school. And this is so stupid, but when she went to the post office and had to get let in to access her PO Box… I kinda thought the whole point of a PO Box was so that you could go anytime to access it (I know the one at my post office is outside of the main lobby so you can still use it after the main lobby has closed). And it drove me INSANE when she was choosing to leave safety and security for someone she’d known for less than a few months! There were just all kinds of bad YA choices happening and I didn’t like it at all.

But the writing wasn’t bad and I was able to finish it, so two stars.

ARC Review – The Suffering (The Girl from the Well #2) by Rin Chupeco

24789796Title: The Suffering (The Girl from the Well #2)

Author: Rin Chupeco

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: It’s been two years since Tark Halloway’s nightmare ended. Free from the evil spirit that haunted him all his life, he now aids the ghostly Okiku and avenges the souls of innocent children by hunting down their murderers. But when Okiku becomes responsible for a death at his high school, Tark begins to wonder if they’re no better than the killers they seek out.

When an old friend disappears in Aokigahara, Japan’s infamous ‘suicide forest’, both must resolve their differences and return to that country of secrets to find her.

Because there is a strange village inside Aokigahara, a village people claim does not exist. A village where strange things lie waiting.

A village with old ghosts and an ancient evil – one that may be stronger than even Okiku…

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Rin Chupeco is one of the few authors that can write an accurate book about Japan. I found only a handful of flaws in her previous book and didn’t have any qualms with this one. She doesn’t stereotype, she doesn’t write assumptions, she doesn’t write from an outsiders perspective. She has facts but she also seems to have experience. And if she doesn’t, then she is very good at making it seem like she does. I enjoy her books set in Japan because they feel authentic, and if you know me, you know this is important to me.

I sadly am not the biggest fan of the writing in this book, or the other book in this series. It’s a bit sloppy and could use a good edit. Possibly the publishers fault? I’m not sure. But once I got past that I was able to enjoy the story. This one takes place 2 years after the first one and features all the same characters. Tark and Okiku are hunting down killers (Okiku is the one taking care of business) and Tark is exorcising ghosts. Tark and his cousin are planning a trip to Japan for their spring vacation.

Only things don’t go as planned due to two ghost hunters from a popular cable TV show, and Tark’s friend, one of the miko’s from the shine in the previous book, goes missing. Tark and Callie pitch in to help find them… in the suicide forest at the base of Mount Fuji.

I loved this setting. Sadly there was a bit less Japan in it than the previous book, but this was more about the horror story than Japan, so I let it slide. The actual story takes place in a village that’s hidden in the suicide forest. Tark and Okiku get sucked into it and learn about a horrible ritual that had taken place… a ritual that was left unfinished so the village was lost and haunted by the vengeful spirits of the girls who were sacrificed.

I really liked the details of the ritual and the way Tark had to go around the village and collect the dolls that he needed to use to exorcise the ghosts. I liked how he pieced together what happened there and eventually figured out how to save them all. And I liked his relationship with Okiku. It bordered on romantic at times and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that so I just kept picturing that they had a REALLY strong bond and that it didn’t go past that.

Overall this was a solid read, and I enjoyed visiting Japan again with Tark and his friends. I would have liked a little more though, because I felt like overall this book was a little too short, and that the time in the village went by a little too fast.

ARC Review – The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

24396858Title:  The Dead House

Author: Dawn Kurtagich

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Over two decades have passed since the fire at Elmbridge High, an inferno that took the lives of three teenagers. Not much was known about the events leading up to the tragedy – only that one student, Carly Johnson, vanished without a trace…

…until a diary is found hidden in the ruins.

But the diary, badly scorched, does not belong to Carly Johnson. It belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, a girl who shouldn’t exist Who was Kaitlyn? Why did she come out only at night? What is her connection to Carly? The case has been reopened. Police records are being reexamined: psychiatric reports, video footage, text messages, e-mails. And the diary. The diary that paints a much more sinister version of events than was ever made publicly known.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review!

River’s Review:

Sooooo two major issue with this book. First issue… it wasn’t scary. At all. Creepy OH YES. Scary, not even close. I… do not do horror anything. I can’t even watch the trailers on TV for horror movies. ON TV! That’s bad guys. I got to the burning lady on the ceiling part of the first episode of Supernatural and now I wont be able to sleep tonight because I reminded myself of it. SO when this book was all IT IS SO SCARY YOU CAN’T KEEP IT IN YOUR HOUSE I thought I was going to have to put it in the freezer. But nope. Not scary.

Second… was it paranormal? Did she have an actual mental disorder? I really feel like the line between the two was way too close and I just couldn’t get a grip on what exactly it SHOULD have been! And that bothered me. Half the time I wanted to think that it WAS all in her head and then the other half of the time there was stuff about demons and I guess it’s supposed to be ambiguous but I would have liked a little more leaning one way or the other. And OMG the part about the parents. You CANNOT just throw out a tiny little tidbit like that and NOT elaborate! Ugh, I really needed more on that.

So this is the story of two girls in one body. But are the two souls or a case of dissociative identity disorder? In the day Carly comes out. Carly is quiet, timid, shy, and anorexic. At night Kaitlyn comes out. She’s wild, daring, loud and loves to have fun. The two share a body, their parents knew about this and just told them to hide it, even their little sister grew up believing that there were two girls sharing a body. So is this real? A mental disorder? It’s never clear.

The parents die in an accident (we later get details that make you go WTF!!!!) and doctors believe that the DID that Carly is suffering from was caused by the accident. But Carly knows that it’s been going on long before then. She spends time in a hospital with a pretty incompetent doctor and then goes to a boarding school where she makes friends with a girl who’s basically a witch. Sadly we don’t learn too much about the craft that Naida practices and deals with and a lot of it’s just glossed over. So I would have liked more depth in that because I thought that if we’d gotten more info it might have made all of the demon stuff more realistic. But the mystic and paranormal start to crash into the girls and suddenly Carly stops appearing in the day and Kaitlyn takes over.

In the meantime Kaitlyn meets a boy named Ari and they fall in love. This romance did not work for me. I liked Ari as her friend but it just never felt like they’d really fallen in love. I liked how they bonded in the night and would email, but love? It just didn’t really seem like it was there. There were a couple of other boys in this who were never really fully developed, which was sad because the Viking character had a lot of potential. And when we found out more about him, we, sadly, never got the full backstory.

I guess the problem with how loose and underdeveloped this felt was because of how it’s written. It’s told from Kaitlyn’s POV through her diary entries along with police reports, video and voice transcriptions and post-it-notes written between Kaitlyn and Carly. I do enjoy things written in this style (it reminded me of Illuminae a lot) but it’s very hard to develop a lot of things in this style as well. So that’s where a lot was lost.

Aside from the problems I had I liked the exploration of what was going on with Carly and Kaitlyn. I liked how Naida tried to help. I really enjoyed the creepiness of this, and it kept me up late and kept me flipping the pages. It’s just the more I think back on it the more I find issue with it. I was expecting a physiological horror story and when all of the paranormal got mixed in it just didn’t feel like it had mixed in as seemlessly as it should have.