Tag Archives: horror

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.

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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.

ARC Review – Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

22718736Title: Sweet

Author: Emmy Laybourne

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The luxurious celebrity cruise launching the trendy new diet sweetener Solu should be the vacation of a lifetime. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting her friend Viv’s invitation. She’s already completely embarrassed herself in front of celebrity host Tom Forelli—the hottest guy ever!—and she’s too sick to even try the sweetener. And that’s before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.

Tom knows that he should be grateful for this job and the chance to shed his former-child-star image. His publicists have even set up a ‘romance’ with a sexy reality star. But as things on the ship start to get wild, he finds himself drawn to a different girl. And when the hosting gig turns into an expose on the shocking side effects of Solu, it’s Laurel that he’s determined to save.

Huge thank you to Macmillan and Netgalley for this ARC!

River’s Review:

Holy wow omg this book was insane. And I loved it! I looooove Laybourne’s books! She hooked me with the can’t-look-away-train-wreck-wtf-is-happening-horror amazingness that was Monument 14 and when I found out she was writing a new book I HAD to have it. And I am SO happy I was able to read this because damn. It was good. And crazy. And I loved it.

Laurel and her BFF Vivika get to go on this historical cruise where people are promised that they’ll get an exclusive taste of the new diet supplement SOLU. It’s guaranteed to help people lose weight while basically doing nothing. Viv’s father pays for them to go on the cruise a long with a bunch of other rich people and celebs: movie stars, reality show stars, and “Baby Tom-Tom” a washed up kid actor trying to reinvent himself by hosting the cruise. Both Viv and Laurel are a little overweight, but they aren’t obese or anything. Laurel actually doesn’t have a problem with her weight, but Vivika grew up with a father who is always harping on her mother’s weight and Vivika feels a lot of pressure to be a certain way.

The cruise is basically a Jay-Z music video come to life. Parties, champagne, sexy women, sexy men. Everyone starts to use SOLU in their meals and they DO start to lose weight. Laurel doesn’t eat it because her first few days on the ship she’s sea sick and then by the time she is able to eat she’s starting to get worried about what SOLU is doing to people…

The story is told in alternating POV with Laurel and Tom speaking. This didn’t bother me that much because Laybourne’s other books are like this and she’s able to create clear enough voices that I don’t get confused about who’s doing what. We learn that Tom used to be a fat kid and that he now trains hard and eats clean to maintain his new, healthy, body shape. So he also is unaffected by the SOLU.

And what does the SOLU do to people? Besides make them lose weight?

It makes them crazy. Insane. Cannibals.

This book was such an interesting take on dieting, body image, and healthy living. I loved that Laurel was viewed as a “big” girl but really she’s just a normal girl, and that she was comfortable with herself. I loved that Tom was so healthy. I think both of those are important topics when it comes to body image because so often focus on just getting thin, and not actually being healthy. I’m a naturally thin person and I get a lot of shit for it. I’ve been accused of having eating disorders, asked if I have cancer, and called a ‘skinny bitch’ more times than I can count. I don’t gain weight. I also have no bust and look like I’m 12. I’ve always HATED it when people would tell me that I’m lucky or that they wish they could be my size. Thanks but I don’t try to be this way. I just try to be healthy. My mother is much bigger than me, but she’s healthy. I think that size does NOT matter and I’m so sick of everyone caring about their size when they should be caring if they’re HEALTHY or not. So I really, really liked that health was an important topic in this.

Annnnnnd last but not least, the romance in this was cute. What, romance on a ship full of crazy people jacked up on this weird diet supplement? Yes. And it was cute!

If you are a fan of Laybourne’s earlier books, definitely check this out!

ARC Review – Compulsion (The Heirs of Watson Island #1) by Martina Boone

20759498Title: Compulsion (The Heirs of Watson Island #1)

Author: Martina Boone

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead–a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

This book exceeded my expectations. I didn’t really know much about it when I requested it, but I loved the cover. The writing was beautiful, the paranormal aspects (the ‘curse’) was so smoothly woven into this that it didn’t feel like there was anything out of the ordinary at all. Everything just felt so right.

This book is super emotional too. Everybody is dealing with loss, betrayal, heartache… I teared up quite a few times and had my heart strings more than pulled at. There’s also some very swoon-worthy romance that flows so well and feels again just so right. Nothing in this felt forced, over the top, or unnatural. And I loved that.

It’s just a rich, beautiful, southern gothic with a lot of atmosphere. I’m really looking forward to the next one.

ARC Review – The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter

22388931Title:  The Swallow: A Ghost Story

Author: Charis Cotter

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: In 1960s Toronto, two girls retreat to their attics to escape the loneliness and isolation of their lives. Polly lives in a house bursting at the seams with people, while Rose is often left alone by her busy parents. Polly is a down-to-earth dreamer with a wild imagination and an obsession with ghosts; Rose is a quiet, ethereal waif with a sharp tongue. Despite their differences, both girls spend their days feeling invisible and seek solace in books and the cozy confines of their respective attics. But soon they discover they aren’t alone–they’re actually neighbors, sharing a wall. They develop an unlikely friendship, and Polly is ecstatic to learn that Rose can actually see and talk to ghosts. Maybe she will finally see one too! But is there more to Rose than it seems? Why does no one ever talk to her? And why does she look so… ghostly? When the girls find a tombstone with Rose’s name on it in the cemetery and encounter an angry spirit in her house who seems intent on hurting Polly, they have to unravel the mystery of Rose and her strange family… before it’s too late.

Huge thank you to Tundra Books and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I love ghost stories, and the more authentic they feel, the more I find myself connecting to it. The Swallow is beautiful in every sense of the word — gorgeous prose, strong, well developed characters, and the power to keep the reader guessing from start to finish. It has a very classic feel to it, so all the suspense keeps building, building, building until you hit the surprise and it’s a good one, I must say!

What initial drew me to this book was that it was a ghost story set in Toronto in the 60s. Toronto has a very rich paranormal history (lots of haunted buildings and mysteries afoot), so to read about Toronto and know where every location was mentioned in the story made me really happy. I admit, I love reading about the city I live in and being able to visualize it crystal clear. I feel like Cotter did an amazing job accurately describing the city and making it so recognizable.

Then comes Polly and Rose who are the heroines of this story, and they were magical. They have such a beautiful friendship and meet on such similar terms, but have enough differences that each girl is her own entity. The narrative voice does often make them a bit similar, so I wish the voices had been more distinctive and not just their personalities. Furthermore as the mystery is unravelled other characters, as well as the girls do a really good job of tricking the reader to throw them off course as to who the ghost is. It’s so well done, and I flew this book because I just loved the characters and the mystery was so engaging throughout.

Although this novel is classified as middle grade, I think there’s enough complexity and intrigue to keep even young adults entertained. Although the point of view change happens fast and frequently, I don’t feel like it’s too difficult to follow, though that really will depend on the kind of reader you are. This is a perfect fall or Halloween read, and I know for me personally, is one that’ll stick with me a good, long while.

ARC Review – Feral by Holly Schindler

15782742Title:  Feral

Author: Holly Schindler

Rating: ★ 1/2

Synopsis: It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley…

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I went into Feral with the wrong expectations. I ADORED Holly Schindler’s The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, and even though I knew this was of a different genre, I was anticipating to like this more than I did. My biggest issue with Feral is simple: it did nothing to make me care about the story, characters and even its genre.

First off, I don’t feel like I can pin-point what genre this book was attempting to be. Is it horror? Thriller? Mystery? Paranormal? It seems like it is trying to mash all these genres together, but it never succeeds at any of them on any degree. In one sense it’s almost as though the book had several incarnations, but none of them felt like they were the star of the show.

Second, the book is boring and it’s so easy to forget what’s going on. I felt like there was no hook in the narrative, and all the characters felt vapid and one dimensional, except for Serena, who gets a ton of development in her own sections. Too bad, however, she isn’t even the main character — Claire is, and she’s devoid of any personality what so ever. I recognize the two characters are supposed to be connected in some way, but it never felt organic in any way, and if anything it was really shoehorned in to the point where it annoyed me.

Also the writing is so drawn out half the time. In many situations there’s a lot of pointless descriptions that feels unnecessary to the actual story. I think this book actually could have been a lot stronger had a lot of the pointless description been removed, because seriously, there’s so many long and drawn passages, meanwhile the author then gets right to the point! Just, no, no no.

At the end of the day Feral annoyed me because it was all over the map and it never gave me the solid connections I was craving. I should have cared about what was happening, and instead I found myself bored to tears because none of the characters stood out (also, so many pointless secondary characters who serve no purpose!), and it was just hard to care about what was going on because the good parts of the story were bogged down but tons of pointless information. I still think Schindler’s writing is great, but this book just didn’t cut it a lot of the time for me.