Book Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House (Stephanie Perkins)

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

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Pages: 320

Release Date: October 5th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

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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)”

Guest Post: Ambiguous Characters by Sharon Gosling

Today on the blog I am excited to welcome Sharon Gosling, author of the latest chilling book in the Red Eye series, Fir. She’s talking about ambiguous characters, something I found really interesting and different in her book.

So without further ado, welcome Sharon!


What’s in a Name?

 

I’ve always been fascinated by ambiguous characters in literature, especially when it comes to narrators. Reading a book as told by one character requires trust, doesn’t it? The reader knows nothing at all about the person telling the story – the first time we’ve ever meet them is when we turn to the first page of that book. So who’s to say that what they choose to tell us is the absolute truth? Even if they’re trying to tell us the truth, can they? A first-person perspective can’t but be subjective, can it? It’s not even necessarily that the narrator is deliberately setting out to lie to the reader. But we all know how the same events can seem vastly different when seen from a different perspective. One of my favourite episodes of The X Files is ‘Bad Blood’, in which we see the same events twice, from Scully’s point of view and also from Mulder’s. They’re seeing the same things, but the way they experience them is so completely different, not through an attempt at subterfuge, but just because their own personalities and expectations make them see things differently.

That goes for readers too, of course. One person’s response to a book can be vastly different to another’s for exactly the same reason – we all see things from a different angle, there are always different moments that strike us as significant or themes that stand out to one person that may not even occur to another.  

One of my favourite poems is Dialogue, by Adrienne Rich. The first time I read it, it was as part of a lecture about the role an author plays in the way a reader experiences a text. Is it necessary to know anything about the author, or is the author a surplus component once the text is written? I first read the poem without knowing who the writer was. Finding out that the writer was a woman and not a man as I had originally assumed not only made me think differently about the poem itself, but it also made me question my approach and how my own assumptions and preconceptions had altered my understanding of the text.

When I set out to write FIR, I thought it would be interesting to do something that might similarly challenge the reader. I decided to write the book from a first-person perspective, but never stipulate either a name or a gender for the narrator. The absence plays with larger themes of identity – if we don’t have a name, what permanence do we have in the world? If there comes a time when no one remembers our name, how would anyone know we had ever existed? – but it also makes the reader think about why they choose to think of the narrator as either female or male. What is it about the character’s actions and personality that leads the reader towards one or the other? Is it more about the reader’s perspective than it is about the character as written? It’s been interesting to talk to people who have read the book about whether they think the narrator is a boy or a girl. There seems to be a pretty equal split between readers who experience the narrator as female and those who think of the narrator as male. When I ask the reader why they’ve made their decision, though, most don’t seem to be absolutely sure as to the reason. Some point out that the narrator is a skateboarder and listens death metal, which they think of as being more of a boy’s interests than a girl’s, but then with more thought – often unprompted – the same readers observe that they also know girls who share those interests. Others who think of the reader as a girl cite the narrator’s relationship with the mother in the story. Others who are friends of mine say they think of it as a girl because they know me, they know I wrote it and they know I’m female, and without something to definitively tell them otherwise they think of me as they are reading.

So how do I, as the writer, think of the narrator? Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?


Thanks so much to Sharon for being on my blog today.

Check out my review of Fir here.

You can by Fir from Waterstones, Wordery, Amazon or your local bookstore

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Fir Blog Tour

Book Review: Fir (Sharon Gosling)

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

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Pages: 384

Release Date: February 9th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

We are the trees. We are the snow.

We are the winter.

We are the peace. We are the rage.

Cut off from civilization by the harsh winter of northern Sweden, the Stromberg family shelter in their old plantation house. There are figures lurking in the ancient pine forests and they’re closing in. With nothing but four walls between the Strombergs and the evil that’s outside, they watch and wait for the snows to melt.

But in the face of signs that there’s an even greater danger waiting to strike, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish reality from illusion. All they’ve got to do is stay sane and survive the winter…

Review:

I love the Red Eye series of young adult horror books – when I first started reading these they were something really different for me and I loved it. 2 years on and I still get excited when a new one comes out – with this one I was lucky enough to get an invite only download on NetGalley, so thank you so much to Stripes for the copy!

The setting for this book is very creepy. Isolation is a big thing in horror and Fir does it perfectly: the Stromberg family move to an old plantation house in  a forest, cut off from civilization by distance, no internet, and harsh winter weather. The group of children studying the trees there leave for winter after a tragic accident and the family are left with just the creepy old maid Dorothea for company.

The novel built atmosphere well, not only with the isolation but the heavy presence of the trees and the unease as the family grows distant and starts to fall apart. The dad is determined to stay put and make things work, the mum is increasingly depressed and the child keeps seeing wolves and children outside in the snow. Dorothea tells them about the varulv, a forest spirit fused between a human and a wolf.

My main gripe with the book was that I didn’t connect with the main character. They were snarky and moody and quite typically teenage, but I didn’t feel they had much in the way of redeeming qualities. While I liked the story, I didn’t like their story, if that made sense. I got part way book and realised I didn’t know if they were a boy or girl, I couldn’t even remember their name. I thought that was me not reading it properly, but the more I read the more I realised this was on purpose. I won’t say why because I don’t want to spoil it, but this was one of my favourite parts of the book once I understood what was going on.

The ending was a bit frustrating in its ambiguity. After all the tension and fear, I wanted a bit more from the climax. I’m usually a fan of ambiguous endings but this was one I wanted to see more of. Still, I suppose it’s better to be left wanting more!

This was a really creepy book to read during winter – I only wish England had more snow to really match the atmosphere!

4

Book Review: The Call (Peadar Ó Guilín)

Publisher: David Fickling Books

Pages: 336

Release Date: September 1st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

What if you only had 3 minutes to save your own life and the clock is already counting down…

Three minutes.
Nessa, Megan and Anto know that any day now they wake up alone in a horrible land and realise they’ve been Called.

Two minutes.
Like all teenagers they know that they’ll be hunted down and despite all their training only 1 in 10 will survive.

One minute.
And Nessa can’t run, her polio twisted legs mean she’ll never survive her Call will she?

Time’s up.

Review:

Oh my god, where to start with this one.

I heard a bit about this around Twitter last year, thought it sounded interesting and stuck it on my wishlist. When the in laws bought it for me for Christmas I decided it was going to be the first of my new books that I read. On reading the blurb, I thought it sounded kind of Hunger Games-esque, which is great as I loved that series.

I adored this book. I read it in two days, balancing the book when breastfeeding, taking extended lunch breaks at work so I could squeeze in another chapter. I moaned to Nathan when we got home that I didn’t want to make dinner or do adult things: I just wanted to finish it.

Ireland has been cut off from the rest of the world and are being punished for something their ancestors did years ago: banishing the Sidhe to the Grey Land. Now, all teenagers in Ireland will get the Call: they’ll vanish for 3 minutes and 4 seconds, and they’ll probably come back dead. Only 1 in 10 survive. Irish children are trained in special schools from the age of 10 to survive their call, but the Irish are still dying out. With odds like that, what chance does Nessa, with her polio twisted legs, have?

There’s been a lot of books that pit teenagers against certain death in the last few years, but this is easily one of the best in my opinion. I think that Ó Guilín really captured one of the most important elements in horror stories to me: inevitability. The chances of survival are so small. The Call can happen at any time and you’ll never be prepared for it, no matter how hard you train. So many times when characters were Called I just felt this sense of hoplessness because I was pretty sure they were about to die.

The Sidhe themselves are formidable villains. They’re beautiful creatures who take pleasure in the pain and fear they cause, and even when it’s caused to them: when the teenagers fight back they’re often applauded for good tactics or killing a Sidhe, which is just creepy. And then there’s what they do to the children. They all know not to let the Sidhe touch them, because the Sidhe take pleasure into morphing the children into what they call ‘beautiful’ creations. I won’t spoil any here but it’s really twisted and grim. Even those that survive don’t get a happily ever after: often they’ve been twisted by the Sidhe, or scarred by what they’ve seen in the Grey Land.

While we’re really following Nessa’s story, the book switches view point a lot, which is great as it means you get to see each characters Call and their time in the Grey Land. I loved Nessa as a protagonist: she has even worse odds than the rest of them, but she’s so determined to survive. I admired her spirit and I believed she could do it, not just because she was the main character and would probably survive, but because she was smart and wanted to live so much. I also liked the image she’d created for herself: cold and a bit aloof, because she didn’t want to get close to anyone who she knew would probably die. Despite this, she has a close friend in Megan, who breaks all the rules that Nessa keeps, and Anto, who worms his way into her thoughts even when she tries to keep him at bay.

I also loved the human villain of the book, Connor and his Knights. It was interesting to see him try and keep control of his group of elites when they started being Called and realised they were not the group of survivors they thought they were.

I can’t sing this books praises enough. It was everything I wanted it to be and even though I’ve just finished it, I want to read it again. I’m lending it to my sister and have a list of people to pass it on to next. If you’re looking for something twisted and grim, with unforgettable characters, then this is your book.

Copy of an art exhibit

Book Review: Horns (Joe Hill)

Publisher: Gollancz

Pages: 437

Release Date: June 2nd 2011

Summary (from Goodreads):

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty.

Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power – with just a touch he can see peoples’ darkest desires – to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

Review:

I originally wanted to read this book as part of my Horroctober reads, but I’ve had a slow time reading lately and ended up starting it at the beginning of November, and taking most of the month to read it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, I’ve just struggled to read while doing NaNoWriMo, going back to work and having a poorly baby.

I wanted to read this because I watched the film, although I usually prefer to do things the other way round. But we watched it on Netflix and I really enjoyed it and knew the book would probably be even better – and I was right.

The book really captured me right away as Ig wakes up hung over and with horns growing from his head. When other people see the horns they start spilling their deepest, darkest secrets to him, and don’t remember what they’ve said or seeing the horns afterwards. I loved these interactions with people, seeing what would normally be passing characters suddenly blossom into real people with dark secrets.

What’s worse is when Ig sees close friends and family members and learns what they really think of him. Although he wasn’t tried for his girlfriend Merrin’s rape and murder, everyone believes he did it. He thinks that at least his parents believe him, but even they can’t stand the sight of him. It’s a horrible situation to be in and I felt nervous every time he met a new person ready to say what they really thought of him.

My favourite part of the book is the villain. He’s exceptionally well crafted in a way I can’t quite put into words; he’s real and believable and creepy and unlike any other villain I’ve read before. I enjoyed the different parts of the book and thought they worked better than the way it was told in the film. In the film, there were flashbacks showing  parts of the characters past which just felt jarring and kind of pointless. In the book, these sections were longer and really showed the motivations and relationships of the characters. I especially liked the bits from Lee’s point of view.

I don’t think my review really does this book justice. I’d just say read it, it’s definitely worth it. Hill’s writing is spectacular and I’ll be reading more of his books in future.

4

Book Review: Outcast – A Darkness Surrounds Him (Robert Kirkman)

Publisher: Image Comics

Pages: 152

Release Date: January 5th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kyle Barnes has been plagued by demonic possession all his life and now he needs answers. Unfortunately, what he uncovers along the way could bring about the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Review:

Nathan has raved about this book for a while so I promised to read it as one of my Horroctober reads. I’m also really looking forward to starting the TV show too, which looks awesome!

Outcast tells the story of Kyle, a man who has been plagued by demonic possession all his life and is finally starting to get some answers. But the more he learns, the more things spiral out of control, threatening all life on Earth.

I did enjoy this but now I’m looking back to review it I don’t feel like I have a lot to say. It felt like this was very much a set up book: we meet some characters, learn Kyle’s background, see a few possessions, but it doesn’t feel like the story has really started yet. Still, it’s made me interested in the story and I want to see what Volume 2 has to offer, so it’s done its job!

The thing that really got me was some of the gore in the artwork – some pages were a real shocker when you turned them over, and I loved that. It really used the format of the graphic novel to shock you, which is great. While not the most exciting read, I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next.

3

Book Review: Mister B. Gone (Clive Barker)

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Pages: 248

Release Date: October 21st 2008

Summary (from Goodreads):

You hold in your hands not a book at all, but a terrifying embodiment of purest evil. Can you feel the electric tingle in your fingers as you are absorbed by the demon Jakabok’s tale of his unintentional ascent from the depths of the Inferno? Do you sense the cold dread worming its way into your bloodstream, your sinews, the marrow of your bones as you read more deeply into his earthly education and unspeakable acts? The filth you now grasp has been waiting patiently for you for nearly six hundred years. And now, before you are completely in its thrall, you would do well to follow the foul creature’s admonition and destroy this abomination of ink and paper before you turn a single leaf and are lost forever.

You have been warned.

Review:

This book starts with our narrator, a demon named Mister B, asking you as the reader, to burn the book. He repeats his plea, but as you read on he realises it’s to no avail and agrees to share some of his story if you promise to burn the book when he is done. This bargaining continues until he eventually tells you all his story, including how he ended up trapped in the book in the first place. The story is told in a conversational way, as Mister B talks directly to you, acknowledging the relationship between you as narrator and reader, even playing with it as times (trying to make you stop reading by omitting every other word, etc).

Mister B. Gone tells the story of Jakabok Botch (Mister B) as he is burned in a horrific fire, evades death at his father’s hands, is brought up from hell by a group of inept demon catchers and then meets another demon, Quitoon, who he travels Earth tormenting the locals with, until the book reaches a climax in a small German town with a man named Gutenburg.

As a publishing student I had a good guess at where the book was going when they mentioned Gutenburg and some world changing machine he had made. I liked the idea that his printing press was so incredible that both heaven and hell get involved.

This book was well written, with some really gruesome descriptions of what Jakabok and Quitoon do to humans – lots of the baby stuff made me cringe as a new mum! I didn’t feel this was really my kind of book though – it moved a little slow for my liking and I found it wordy and dull at some times. Still, I can see why others would like it and I’d recommend it if you like something a little dark and twisted.

 3

Book Review: The Ruins (Scott B. Smith)

Publisher: Corgi

Pages: 528

Release Date: August 1st 2007

Summary (from Goodreads):

Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror unlike anything they could ever imagine.Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.

Review:

The Ruins follows four American friends on a holiday in Mexico as they travel to an ancient ruin site to find the brother of fellow tourist Mathias. Along with Pablo, a Greek tourist, they are trapped on the ruins with no explanation and very little food and water. The Mayans will shoot them if they leave and they’ll die of thirst if they don’t. But there’s something more sinister up there with them.

The book is fairly similar to the film, but there were enough differences for it to still feel new to me, even though I knew the general gist of the plot. The story is told in alternating third person view points between the four friends: Amy, the uptight one, Jeff, the boy scout, Stacey, the ditzy slut, and Eric, the funny guy. That’s a pretty simplified way of describing characters but that’s pretty much how they came across in the book. The characters were pretty 2D and the way it was written felt quite passive at times: there was lots of telling how the characters felt about things and recounting things from the past, so it didn’t often feel like the story was in the present.

I thought it was a shame the story only came from the Americans’ point of view. It would have been good to hear from Mathias, who has led them all up there to find his brother, or from Pablo, who can’t speak the same language as anyone else and also has a pretty crappy time of it – seriously, all the worst things happen to him, poor guy. It was also a shame that the two female characters felt pretty weak: they completely relied upon the men for everything and that was really frustrating.

Despite feeling the book was a little passive, I did really enjoy it. I was just fascinated by the vine and how it was able to manipulate and torment them. I’ve seen a lot of complaints that the book doesn’t explain where the plant came from and everything isn’t tied up neatly at the end, but that’s actually one of the things I liked about it. I was happy to see how it trapped them up there and wore them down until it got what it wanted. If it had tried to shoehorn an explanation in I think it would have made the book weaker.

There’s some really gruesome things in this and I got chills reading it sometimes. It may not be the kind of horror that appeals to everyone, it’s almost a character study, setting them up in a horrible situation and seeing how they all react. There’s so much working against them: the Mayans and their guns, their hunger and their thirst, and the vine that wants to pick them off one by one. It’s interesting to see what happens to these different characters in that situation.

The ending might be frustrating but it worked for me, as I don’t like happy endings and this one felt more realistic to me. I feel like I’ve said a lot of negative things but I did really enjoy this one and would recommend it as a creepy read. Also watch the film as it’s awesome too!

4

Book Review: Under My SKin (Zoe Markham)

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

Publisher: Carina UK

Release Date: March 31st 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Inside we are all monsters…

Chloe was once a normal girl. Until the night of the car crash that nearly claimed her life. Now Chloe’s mother is dead, her father is a shell of the man he used to be and the secrets that had so carefully kept their family together are falling apart.

A new start is all Chloe and her father can hope for, but when you think you’re no longer human how can you ever start pretending?

A contemporary reworking of a British horror classic, Under My Skin follows seventeen-year-old Chloe into an isolated world of darkness and pain, as she struggles to understand what it really means to be alive.

Set against the familiar backdrop of everyday, normal teenage worries, Chloe’s world has become anything but…

Review:

I read and enjoyed White Lies by Zoe Markham earlier this year so was really excited when she offered me this review copy. I’m a big horror fan and couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

Under My Skin is like a modern version of Frankenstein, which I have to admit, I haven’t read, but I know the story generally (who doesn’t?!) It’s quite a slow burner and not really the make you jump or afraid to sleep at night kind of horror either. This is more of a body horror, with a big focus on how Chloe feels about her new predicament and the effects on her body – eating copious amounts of meat to fuel her, worrying that she must smell like death etc.

I loved that a lot of the focus was really on every day life and Chloe trying to fit in and regain what she had lost. It may be hard to understand at first, and in the beginning I was on her dad’s side: when there’s so much at stake and you’ve risked so much, why would you throw it away by being careless or for little whims like going to the library. But the more the book went on, the more I agreed with Chloe as she tried to get back to normal. Her dad may have bought her back to life, but what’s the point of being alive if you’re not living a life? With her stuck in the house, miserable and isolated, it felt like it would have been a waste of the second chance she’d been given.

The science stuff was played nicely too. There’s was enough detail to explain the events, without going into it so much that it got too technical or unbelievable. I also loved that for a lot of the beginning, Chloe didn’t overtly say what had happened to her; there were just lots of clues. As I’d gone into it not really knowing what it was about, I liked being able to work it out from the hints she dropped.

When I was sent this, Zoe mentioned it ‘never made the grade for paperback’ and I think that’s such a shame. I really enjoyed it, and it has some fantastic reviews on Goodreads too. I hope this book can find the audience it deserves.

4