ARC REVIEW: Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:
“The much-anticipated prequel to the bestselling FROZEN CHARLOTTE, a Zoella Book Club title in Autumn 2016.
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.”

Review:

Creepy dolls, ghost children and needles in eyeballs, what else would you want from a horror novel?

I read the first book Frozen Charlotte earlier this year and I was left dying for a prequel. I needed to know more about these creepy dolls. Where did they come from? Why did they want to kill people? Did I get what I wanted? Yes and no.

I got my prequel and it was just as creepy as I expected, but at the same time it was just a more detailed writing of events that were mentioned in passing in the first book. I enjoyed that but I would have liked a few more new things thrown in. That is the only negative thing I found about it. Other than that it was a brilliant read.

Even if a lot of it was a rehash of events mentioned in the last novel the book did have one new thing that made it stand out: A scary ghost. Yes the dolls are frightening but in this book there is also a ghost who visually is frightening. I am not easily scared but I wouldn’t want to see this ghost in person. I am not going to give spoilers, but ghosts who have their expression frozen like a death mask, especially when their death was horrible, are chilling. Imagine choking to death and your face being stuck like that forever. A pleasant image? No. Stuff of nightmares.

Also unlike the original book this novel contained a very realistic romance. I am not normally one for romance in novels but when it is realistic and isn’t getting in the way of the plot I can happily enjoy it. It was kept very to the side and was rather mature for the main romance in a teen novel and those traits made it rather sweet. If you aren’t big on romance you can enjoy this one without the annoying YA style love tropes being shoved in your face the whole time.

Warnings:

Will frighten younger readers, horror, threat, gore, animal cruelty and abuse.

Rating:

4 out of 5

I LOVED this book almost as much as I loved the first one. I would happily say that an adult would enjoy this simple horror read if they wanted something quick to fill an upcoming October night with. The perfect addition to anyone’s Halloween to-read list, but I would say, read the first book first, but that is just common sense.

REVIEW: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Synopsis:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:
“A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.”

Review:

This book had so much potential. I was excited for it, I enjoyed the writer’s previous work and it had no shortage of good ideas. In the end I was left disappointed. I was so disappointed that I got three quarters of the way through it and decided to just skip ahead to read the big “who done it?” reveal you get at the end of every mystery novel, because I can’t leave a mystery unsolved even if the book is disappointing.

The main downfall I found was the characters. It was hard to care about any of them. That makes it hard to get into a book if everyone is your cardboard cut out, mystery novel trope character. Girl on the Train had those elements but it did them well and you ended up caring about the characters and what happened to them. This wasn’t the case with this book.

Another issue I had was the narration. This book was written in the same format as Girl on the Train: a mystery novel told from different perspectives. This can work well. It adds layers to the story and you can see the same mystery from different perspectives. It might have been done well in that novel but in Into the Water that style fell short for one big reason: There were too many point of view characters! We heard EVERYONE’S perspective. I am surprised there wasn’t a chapter dedicated to what a random cat’s thoughts on the whole thing. That and the fact that few of the characters were memorable made for a confusing read. I am normally perfectly fine with books that change character perspective but the fact that some of the characters were boring and non memorable made it hard to remember who was who in the story.

I doubt I will rush to read a Hawkins book again after this one. It might not have been the worst book in the world but it was such a default, dull mystery novel that it just left me disappointed and bored. I had to force myself to read it every day.

Warnings:

Strong language at times. Sexual references.


Rating:

2 our of 5

There was nothing overtly offensive about this book but overall it was just a snooze fest.

Dark Reads of the Month: May


This is a series that I started on Goth Amino in December and decided to add to my proper blog. It isn’t really a wrap up, I just read a pile of books (9 this month) and then pick out 3 of the darkest and most interesting. It gives me the chance to discuss and recommend classics or older books which might not get full reviews.

This month I had an accidental reading theme. I read a lot of books about people being kept locked up against their will or in situations they can’t escape. I don’t know what caused that theme, my to read pile just lined up that way. It was an intense month of reading.

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

This is a fiction novel based on the real life torture and murder of Sylvia Likens. A young girl and her sister are left in the care of a woman who locks her in the basement, beats her and tells neighbourhood children to abuse her.

This book was so upsetting that I had to take a break from reading for two days, and that is impressive because I’m not normally bothered by things I read. It was just so intense. It is hard to say you enjoyed a book about someone being tortured to death but this is a great book. Well written and atmospheric. I will warn you though, this book has ALL of the trigger warnings. Rape, torture, abuse, general very adult content, it is all there. So if you are easily upset maybe this isn’t the book for you. Maybe read the wiki page on the real crime so you know what you are in for.

Read my full review here

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

If you don’t know what this book is about I am going to do you a favour and not tell you. Rosemary’s Baby is pretty famous so I already knew everything about it when I started reading and  I feel like it ruined the ending for me, so that is why I am not telling you anything. Don’t even read the blurb because that contains spoilers too. If you know what this book is about please don’t be a twat and write spoilers in the comments.
I have read a few of Levin’s books now and  I think this one is my favourite. Since I refuse to give out spoilers I can’t say why. Levin just does a brilliant job with writing horror that takes place in a normal every day situation. It makes you wonder if things are real or not. This is the worst review because I refuse to spoil things. Just read Rosemary’s Baby and enjoy it. A bit of a warning, this book is very much a product of its time so some of the attitudes to things like marital rape are a bit worrying by today’s standards.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C Andrews


This is an American gothic horror novel about 4 children who are told to stay in the attic of a grand mansion for a few days so their mother can claim an inheritance, but 3 years later they are still there.

I discovered this book through Tea with Mermaids blog. She has great taste, go check her out. We disagree on this book though because I enjoyed it and she didn’t. I read a lot of upsetting literature so I was a bit more immune to this novel and its upsetting plot twists.

This is a book that has been banned in several places due to its content, and banned books are always fun to read. I have read a few books about people in this situation but this book stands out because I have never seen one set in a large mansion where the captives get nice clothes and gifts when they are not being horribly abused. It also packs plenty of plot twists and mystery which is just the cherry on top of an already great novel. This book contains incest, abuse and sexual themes. The incest is the reason why it has been banned.

A King Hater Reads King: ‘Salem’s Lot

If you are unfamiliar with ‘Salem’s Lot, this book is about a writer who returns to his home town to write a book and the locals start turning into vampires.

This is going to be a very mixed review. I know a lot of people love this novel and say it is their favourite Stephen King book, but it isn’t mine. I will admit it is a pretty decent vampire novel. I like my vampires evil and behaving like actual monsters, which this book certainly delivers on. I know that King was inspired by Dracula when he wrote this novel and that certainly shows in the plot and the writing. He wanted to show what would happen if Dracula came to small town America, and the book did just that. It even reminded me of zombie survival fiction at points. The problem is, Stephen King wrote it.

Now, I know I am not a fan a King. That is the point of this whole series, and I will admit to enjoying  some of his other books like Carrie or It, but ‘Salem’s Lot is let down by its overall King-ness. This is one of his first novels so his tropes are not as obvious and silly, but it is the birth of them all. Parts of the book are cartoonish, like the dead baby scene. They are scenes that are trying so hard to be scary that they just end up just being silly and overdramatic. No one acts like that in real life.

I also had an issue with the sexual thought tracks in the novel. I am in no way a prude, but again, this was just over the top and ridiculous. A question for parents, when your kid brings home a boyfriend/girlfriend do you think about their genitals every time you see them? Well, that is apparently normal in Stephen King world. There was also several grown men who have sexual thoughts about the same teenage girl. I understand one creep having those thoughts, but most male characters? That is just creepy.

I did enjoy that this book didn’t have the King trope of pointless scenes. Everything tied together very well and scenes that seemed mundane actually added to future plot points. The narration changed character perspective which added to the story because it showed you the vampire outbreak throughout the town. It let you get to know everyone and it allowed for plenty of creepy scenes. It even had more than one likeable character, which is nice for King novel. I wonder when he started making all of his characters awful people, I will let you know when I find out.

Will I be reading this book again? Probably not. Was it terrible? No. I can see why people enjoy it but personally it was the writing style and the scenes that tried too hard that let it down. If you want a vampire novel where your monsters are actual monsters maybe give this book a read.

If you have read ‘Salem’s Lot tell me what you liked or disliked about it. What King book will I read next?

ReReading Goosebumps: Say Cheese and Die!

“Greg thinks there is something wrong with the old camera he found. The photos keep turning out . . . different.

When Greg takes a picture of his father’s brand-new car, it’s wrecked in the photo. And then his dad crashes the car.

It’s like the camera can tell the future–or worse. Maybe it makes the future!”

More like Say Cheese and Be Inconvenienced.

This is another Goosebumps book that I remember reading as a child. It didn’t come with the horror filled memories that Welcome to Dead House did, but I still remember enjoying it and having all of the merchandise with that camera, and its creepy photos, plastered all over it. I didn’t find it scary as a child and I certainly didn’t find it scary now. It was more of an interesting idea that morbid little me found fun.

That is what this book is, an interesting idea. Does the camera make the future happen or does it simply predict the future? That is brilliant because it makes the reader think, something that I like to see in children’s literature. It would have been easy to just make it a cursed camera without questioning anything about it but raising the question about what comes first, the camera or the future is very clever. Of course, true to Goosebumps fashion, it is just an evil camera.

The only real flaw I found in this enjoyable book is that it isn’t scary. No one dies because of the camera which makes the title a bit over dramatic. At the most it predicts a broken arm and someone disappearing, and of course they just pop back at the end. I understand that it is a children’s novel but Welcome to Dead House delivered more on the creepy and dangerous side of things. It had ghosts and characters in actual danger. This didn’t have that.

I think this book dates a little easier than other Goosebumps books due to the technology featured in it. Polaroid cameras are not as popular now so it might make some kids, who are used to our modern world of camera phones, a little confused. But then again, polaroids are still around due to hipsters and our current phase of 80s-90s nostalgia. So maybe it hasn’t dated too much. A child would still pick up a creepy looking camera and take photos with it.

This book would be suitable for any kid at the book’s reading level. It isn’t terrifying and only contains the minor threat. It could be a great book for the most cowardly child to dip their toes into the world of Goosebumps, or for an adult who wanted to relive their childhood if they remember loving this book.


Did you read the Goosebumps series when you were a child? Tell me about it. Which book gave you sleepless nights?

REVIEW: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Summary:

Synopsis from GoodReads.com:
“Suburbia. Shady, tree-lined streets, well-tended lawns and cozy homes. A nice, quiet place to grow up. Unless you are teenage Meg or her crippled sister, Susan. On a dead-end street, in the dark, damp basement of the Chandler house, Meg and Susan are left captive to the savage whims and rages of a distant aunt who is rapidly descending into madness. It is a madness that infects all three of her sons and finally the entire neighborhood. Only one troubled boy stands hesitantly between Meg and Susan and their cruel, torturous deaths. A boy with a very adult decision to make.”

Review:

Have you ever read a book so upsetting that all you can do afterward is just sit there and stare into space? One that fills you with the urge to read the happiest novel you can find afterward in an attempt to counteract what you just read? Well….This book is that bad.

Now dont get me wrong, the writing itself is amazing. It is detailed without being pornographic or too crude for the sake of it, it makes you feel all of the emotions and drags you along for a rollercoaster ride of horror. This book is amazing in that sense, the subject matter is just horrific.

Before I started this book I read some interesting reviews. The vast majority of them were from people saying they had to stop reading or simply asking “what the hell is wrong with this book?!” Others labelled it “gore porn”. I think the latter is going a bit too far. I would consider books like Clockwork Orange or American Psycho more pornographic than this. They are entirely fictional, sexual, novels written about some sort of fantasy. This book avoids that title because it is not entirely fictional. It is based on something that happened in real life, and even though some scenes are added in or exaggerated for dramatic effect, it really happened to a real person, Sylvia Likens. I think this puts the book more in line with other upsetting abuse novels like A Child Called IT, than gore porn.

Did I enjoy it? It is hard to say. The writing was brilliant, like I said earlier, and I enjoyed it enough to finish it. But I also had an advantage going into this novel because I had read about the real life events before.  I am a bit of a crime junkie so I knew what I was going into. It is just hard to say you “enjoyed” a novel that is about a teenage girl being abused and tortured. It was upsetting but that is a good thing because it made you get upset. It takes a good writer to make you feel that way.

The only real flaw I found in it was the ending. It annoyed me. I don’t believe in giving spoilers in my reviews but I will just say that I feel like justice was not served in the end. If you have read this book you will know what I am talking about.

If you are tempted to read this book and are anyway sensitive prepare for the worst, or even better, just put it in your freezer and forget about it. Bury it under a pile of frozen peas and go read something happier.

Warnings:

EVERYTHING! Strong language, child abuse, torture, sexual abuse, sexual language, sexual scenes, genital mutilation, rape, and emotional abuse.

Rating:

 3 out of 5

This book might have upset me but it kept me hooked and reading. I like when a crime novel gives me all of the nitty gritty details rather than show me things through rose tinted glasses. We might hate it and it might be upsetting but this sort of thing sadly happens in the real world. And sometimes we just need to read a book like this to satisfy morbid curiosity about what that sort of situation is like. If you are up to it, go give this book a read.

…Now I off to pet a bunny or something to cheer myself up.

As always feel free to follow me on GoodReads. What is the most upsetting novel you have ever read?

Rereading Goosebumps: Welcome to Dead House

To kick off my reread of the Goosebumps series I decided to start at the very beginning with Welcome to Dead House. I can’t guarantee that I will be reading these books in order but the very first Goosebumps book seemed like a perfect beginning. These books are easy to sum up but I can’t do better than the original blurbs:

“Amanda and Josh think the old house they have just moved into is weird. Spooky. Possibly haunted. And the town of Dark Falls is pretty strange, too. — But their parents don’t believe them. You’ll get used to it, they say. Go out and make some new friends. — So Amanda and Josh do. But these creepy new friends are not exactly what their parents had in mind.

Because they want to be friends…

…Forever.”

I actually remember Welcome to Dead House from my childhood. I don’t remember every Goosebumps book I read back then but I remember this one because I didn’t read it. That’s right, I intentionally skipped this book. When I was a kid in the 90s the Goosebumps craze was in full swing and everyone in my school was reading the books. We would all take turns in borrowing the different books from the library, usually seeking out ones that our friends recommended. This was the craze before Harry Potter hit big. With Welcome to Dead House though people fell into two camps, those who braved reading it and told others of their sleepless nights afterward, and those who heard those tales and decided they didn’t want to be frightened and liked getting a good nights sleep. I fell into the latter camp. I was too chicken to read Welcome to Dead House. It was hyped up to be the scariest of all the Goosebumps books by everyone I knew who read it. Kids would dare each other to read it because it was so scary. This was the source of nightmares for my class for a year.

Was it as scary as promised?

As an adult it is hard for me to say. It was certainly creepy and if I was a kid I could see myself finding it a little scary. It had its spooky moments and on a few occasions it even tried to create literary jump scares, which were fun. I think my favourite thing about this book was the depiction of the characters. Everyone was realistic. The kids acted like real kids and the adults acted like normal adults. There was none of the Series of Unfortunate Events “adults are dumb and kids are smart” writing. It makes this work brilliantly as a horror novel because it makes it realistic. A kid could read this and see themselves in the story very easily. That is probably what makes it good horror. Good horror makes you believe that it could happen to you. I get the feeling that this will be something I will find throughout the Goosebumps series. RL Stine knows how to see things from a kid’s point of view and uses that perfectly. And there is no use of 90s slang or pop culture references so this novel has aged very well. It could still be scary today.

Plot wise it wasn’t ridiculous. I have actually read and seen adult horror novels and films with a very similar premise. It isn’t too silly and doesn’t dumb things down for the child audience. The only issue I found with it was that the villains were probably a bit too simple. I would have liked a little more depth, but I am an adult reader. A child is not going to care about the backstory of every ghost in a novel.

If you have a kid who wants something scary to read I would recommend giving them this book. Even if it did cause half of my school to have nightmares kids like being scared. It is part of growing up and you get a rush out of it. There is nothing offensive in it, just some well placed ghosts and a mystery that needs to be solved. And if you are an adult who wants to relive some of their 90s favourites, maybe pick this one up for yourself.

Did you read the Goosebumps series when you were a child? Tell me about it. Which book gave you sleepless nights?