Book Review: Charlotte Says (Alex Bell)

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Pages: 352

Release Date: September 7th 2017

Summary (From Goodreads):

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.

Continue reading “Book Review: Charlotte Says (Alex Bell)”

Book Review: The Haunting (Alex Bell)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Pages: 352

Release Date: February 11th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Some curses grow stronger with time…
People say that all Cornish inns are haunted, but the Waterwitch’s history is particularly chilling. Built from the salvaged timber of a cursed ship, the guest house’s dark secrets go further back than anyone can remember.
Emma is permanently confined to a wheelchair after an accident at the Waterwitch which took place when she was ten. Seven years later, she decides to return to the place where the awful event occurred. But the ancient inn still has its ghosts, and one particular spirit is more vengeful than ever…

Review:

The first book I read in the Red Eye series was Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell and I completely loved it. It’s been by far the best in the series so I was really excited when I found out she was writing another one for them.

I found The Haunting a little slower than Frozen Charlotte, and definitely not as creepy. It’s probably unfair to compare the two so much, as they are different books (plus Frozen Charlotte had me unbelievably spooked) but I suppose it’s inevitable to do so when it’s a book in the same series, and by the same author.

I enjoyed seeing this book from different perspectives – Emma, who has been hurt by the Waterwitch’s curse before, Jem who doesn’t believe in witches or curses, and Shell, a witch herself who sees a lot more than everyone else, even if they don’t always believe her.

Despite the book being fairly evenly split between the three, I thought of Emma as the main protagonist, probably because we started the story with her. I loved her relationship with Bailey, her disability assistance dog, I was kind of dreading something bad happening to him the whole story (I won’t say whether it does or not – not spoilers here!) It was clear how much she loved and relied on him, and how much she would struggle, physically and emotionally if something were to happen to him. I think her being in a wheelchair added a real vulnerability to her character – she couldn’t just go upstairs to investigate strange noises, or run away when something frightened her, and that made for some tense reading.

I think the climax worked really well, but my one gripe was how definite it was – throughout the book I enjoyed Shell as a bit of an unreliable narrator. Sure, she thinks she’s seeing all these creepy things, but if no one else is then how do you know for sure? The ending made it very clear whether what she saw was real or not (again, no spoilers) but I think a bit of ambiguity would have added to the creepiness of the book.

Overall, another good read from Alex Bell and the Red Eye series, and a great way to kick off my 2016 reading (and one to add to my Horror Reading Challenge list)

4

If you enjoyed this, you might like Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Top 10 UKYA Life Affirming Reads – #UKYADAY

Today, April 12th, has been coined UKYA Day by Lucy at Queen of Contemporary. There’s a ton of web-based events happening which anyone can join in with (schedule here) so there’s plenty for everyone to get involved with.
Us bloggers have been asked to do our own posts on UKYA and, after much debate (and a failed acrostic poem – too many As and Ys!) I have decided to do my Top 10 UKYA Life Affirming Reads.
Life Affirming Reads to me, are ones that change you, books that, once you’ve read, you can’t imagine never having read them. Some of mine are recent reads that I think everyone should have a go at, others are old favourites of mine that I don’t want to be forgotten (and would also like to talk to about with people, so if you’ve read them then please chat with me!)
These are numbered 1-10 but they’re not in a particular order. I can’t do that with favourite books, it changes on an almost daily basis!
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Patrick Ness

I could have chosen any number of Ness’ books: he really is one of my favourite authors, but I settled on this one. Partly because it’s really two authors: Ness who wrote it, and Siobhan Dowd, whose idea it was and who sadly died before she could write it. It also has a number of beautiful quotes about stories which I find inspiring.
Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?” 
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Louise O’Neill

Not only was this book the winner of the first ever YA book prize, it was completely unputdownable (yes, that is a word – now at least) and unlike anything I’d ever read. I really think it’s one of those books that everyone needs to read – but especially young girls. The world O’Neill has created may be a more exaggerated version of our future, but it really highlights the way women and girls are treated and mistreated in our society.
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Song Quest
Katherine Roberts


I loved the whole Echorium Sequence but the first was easily my favourite. I think if this was released today it would do so well: it’s such a rich, well developed fantasy world with really strong female characters. I’d love to see people reading it again, because I really think it’s one that stands the test of time (it’s not really old, just published in 1999). I loved that I read this when I was around 10, and when my sister got to that age (9 years later) she read it and loved it too.

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Seed
Lisa Heathfield


I loved the story of Seed and am so excited for it to come out and everyone to read it. But what I loved most about it was the language: it’s just really beautiful. The way Pearl, the narrator, sees and describes the world around her is so evocative and fresh, just thinking about it makes me want to read it all over again.

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The Art of Being Normal
Lisa Williamson


This is the first book I’ve read where the two P.O.V characters are transgender, and I hope it’s the first of many. The need for diverse books is higher than ever right now, and it’s so important that this happens in our YA: young people need to see all sides of society, not just the ones they grow up in, and where better to do this in a book?

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Noughts and Crosses
Malorie Blackman


Malorie Blackman is just the Queen of YA to me. I saw her talk at the Birmingham Literature Festival last year and she was an absolute inspiration. Listening to her talk was just like a dream. She’s so open and honest and talked a lot about racism which she faced when she was younger, which I found really shocking. Her Noughts and Crosses book was an obsession of mine when I was younger, and another book I just think everyone needs to read. 

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A Hat Full of Sky
Terry Pratchett


Terry Pratchett is another where I could choose any number of his books. I’ve chosen this one because it was the first I read, and the one that introduced me to his writing and to Discworld. I aim to read a lot more of his work this year and know that, even though he’s not with us any more his work will live on for much longer.

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Frozen Charlotte
Alex Bell

This book was the first I read in the Red Eye and it opened my eyes to a whole new world: that of YA horror. I’d read the usual Goosebumps and Point Horror when I was younger, but hadn’t found anything I could enjoy as an older reader. The series has been of a high quality so far, but this was by far the best for me, and it started a new hunger in me for YA horror.

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His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman.
His Dark Materials
Philip Pullman


I don’t think you can talk about UKYA without mentioning Philip Pullman and this incredible trilogy. It celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, with some beautiful new editions released and some great readalongs and giveaways in the blogging world. Lyra was such an inspiration to me growing up, I think she’s a character everyone needs to experience.

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The Borrible Trilogy
Michael de Larrabeiti


This is one of those books that no one I know has read, and it’s one of my all time favourites (if you’ve read it please tell me!) The second book in this trilogy was removed from my auntie’s school’s library for being ‘inappropriate’ (minor swearing) and she passed it on to me. I fell in love with it instantly, but I think the life changing moment for me was when I found out now only was there a book before it, but a sequel too. It’s an oldish book but one I think anyone could still enjoy today, and I’d love to see people reading it.

Wishing everyone a very happy UKYA DAY!

Book Review: Flesh and Blood (Simon Cheshire)

 

Publisher: Stripes

Pages: 336

Release Date: March 2nd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

I must record the facts that have led me to where I am now. So that, when someone reads this, they understand. Sam Hunter’s neighbours are pillars of the community, the most influential people in town. But they’re liars too. The Greenhills are hiding something and Sam’s determined to find out what it is. As his investigation unfolds, he realizes the lies reach further than he ever imagined – is there anyone he can trust? Uncovering the horror is one thing …escaping is another.

Review:

I am just adoring all the books in the Red Eye series. I’ve read two so far and gave them 4 and 5 stars, and this book did not disappoint. I’ve wanted to read it for a while, and finally received it as an early birthday/cheering up present from my partner. It got bumped straight to the top of my TBR pile.

I’d say it started a little slow for me, with more of a mystery feel to it than a horror at first. I had no idea where it was going to go, and was guessing constantly – vampires? zombies? insane murderers? – but never guessed right!

The story is told in first person through Sam’s eyes, almost like a report of events, and he occasionally foreshadows events with comments along the lines of “If only we’d known…perhaps I could have stopped it…” etc. While I did enjoy his perspective of events and the honesty with which it was told, there was a part of me that thought, “well, things can’t be that bad if he’s been able to survive everything and write it all down.” How wrong I was.

The story really turns into horror when Sam and his friends enter Bierce Priory and discover the secret the Greenhills are hiding. I won’t ruin it here, but some of it was truly horrific and I think I read faster so I didn’t have to dwell on some of the awful things. It was truly grim.

I really felt a sense of hopelessness towards the end: every time I thought of something Sam could do to get out of the mess, that path was blocked and it became more and more obvious that the Greenhill’s influence was too wide to escape. The ending (again, trying not to spoil anything) was oddly numbing. When I finally realised why Sam was able to write down his account of events, and what was in store for him, it was his calm acceptance of it that creeped me out more than anything else. He was resigned to his fate, his senses dulled a little by drugs, but he knew there was no chance now of escape. This felt more awful than if the author had gone on to describe what the Greenhill’s had in store for him.

This is another horror hit from the Red Eye series and I really can’t wait to read another from them. Anyone looking for a creepy, spine chilling read should check out this book and the others in the series.

 

My Verdict:

 
 
Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!




If you enjoyed this, check out the other books in the Red Eye series:
Frozen Charlotte and Sleepless

 

Book Review: Sleepless (Lou Morgan)

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Pages: 352

Release Date: October 1st 2014

Summary (From Goodreads):

Young, rich and good-looking, Izzy and her friends lead seemingly perfect lives. But exams are looming and at a school like Clerkenwell, failure is not an option. Luckily, Tigs has a solution. A small pill that will make revision a breeze and help them get the results they need. Desperate to succeed, the group begin taking the study drug. It doesn’t take long before they realize there are far worse things than failing a few exams.

Review:

I bought this book at the UKYA Extravaganza and got it signed by Lou and had a lovely chat with her about her books and the horror genre.

As a bit of a self confessed horror nerd (I spend most evenings watching horror films and I wrote my Masters dissertation on the subject) I enjoyed seeing a lot of classic horror tropes in the story, as well as references to situations we’re so used to seeing in horror films. Protagonist Izzy’s awareness of this (like me, she’s a horror film fan) somehow made the situation more believable: she knows that if she were watching her life as a film, she’d be screaming at herself not to go off alone, but sometimes the situation calls for it.

The setup of the story was very thorough: the characters and their group dynamic was very easy to grasp and the introduction of the pills seemed natural enough, though knowing what the story is about, you’re already yelling at them not to be so stupid. My gripe would be that the set up went on a little too long. It felt like I was over half way through before everything really started kicking off.

The warning on the back of the book is right: it’s definitely not for younger readers. Some of the descriptions are pretty gruesome and there are some grizzly deaths that made my skin crawl.

As with a lot of horror stories, I found I didn’t connect too well with some of the characters, probably because I knew they were going to be killed off. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because I loved Izzy, Grey and Tigs (great name/nickname there) so I didn’t really mind regarding the others as part of the body count.

I was pretty ill while reading this and not sleeping well myself, so I really felt for Izzy as the tiredness began to take over her. I loved the lapses of memory/consciousness and not knowing what was really happening and what wasn’t. It makes everything feel so much more dangerous when the lines between reality and dreams are blurred.

In my head, I was comparing this constantly to Frozen Charlotte, another Red Eye book, and I found this book didn’t have the same kind of creepy atmosphere: if I compared it to a horror film, Sleepless would be a gory slasher, while Frozen Charlotte would be the psychological horror that stays with you long after it’s finished.

The ending was a little confusing and open ended, but it’s another horror trope I’ve come to expect, especially with modern horror: I think horror can lose its effect if it’s all closed off neatly at the end, and with some ambiguity it means the nightmare is still going on.

This is another modern horror that I would recommend to anyone who loves a good scare, and I’ll definitely be checking out more of Lou’s books.

 My Verdict:
 
4
If you enjoyed this, you might like Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Book Review: Frozen Charlotte (Alex Bell)

 

Details:

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Pages: 368

Release Date: 5th January 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

We’re waiting for you to come and play.

Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind…

Sophie arrives at the old schoolhouse to spend the summer with her cousins. Brooding Cameron with his scarred hand, strange Lilias with a fear of bones and Piper, who seems just a bit too good to be true. And then there’s her other cousin. The girl with a room full of antique dolls. The girl that shouldn’t be there. The girl that died.

Review:

I read this book in two sittings and absolutely loved it. It draws you in with a creepy prologue that sets up the events perfectly and then launches straight into the story: there’s no hanging around here, it’s pretty much suspense and weird happenings all the way through and it’s perfect.Sophie was a perfect narrator to guide you through the story. Her reactions to the events were very realistic, which I think can be hard to do when writing a modern ghost story. It’s so easy to be skeptical of events and a narrator who believed them too quickly would be jarring, but Sophie had just the right amount of denial and then slow realisation of the reality of her situation.

I loved each of the cousins for their unique characterisation and really enjoyed not knowing who to trust. I found Piper a little flat at first: she seemed to be a bit of writer’s convenience at first as she explained a lot of back story and mythology but she soon fleshed out and became one of my favourite characters.

And then the Frozen Charlotte dolls themselves. They are creepy as hell and the fact that they’re real made them all the more spooky. I love the idea of the author turning the old song and Victorian dolls into this wonderfully scary story. They were amazing villains and I actually felt afraid to leave my room when I finished reading late at night. I could almost feel their tiny cold hands on me and I was terrified of what they’d do to me in my sleep.

I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys horror stories or is looking to try something a little different. It’s a thrilling journey with a fast pace and a lot of twists that will keep you guessing right until the end. Just don’t read it in an empty house in the dark as I did!

My Verdict:

Copy of an art exhibit

If you liked this, you might also enjoy The Haunting of Sunshine Girl