Saturday, 31 October 2015

Review for The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Publisher: Indigo
Release: 6th August 2015
Genre: YA, Horror, Thriller
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?"

Anyone that knows me knows that I love a good thriller be it YA or Adult. This past year I’ve been on a real thriller kick – I can’t get enough of them! So when I first read the synopsis for The Dead House I knew it was a book I just had to have.

The Dead House turned out to be hands down the scariest YA book that I’ve ever read. The book starts with you finding out that two girls exist within the same body. They see themselves as a sort of twin, Carly exists in their body during daylight hours and when night falls its Kaitlyn’s turn. Neither girl knows where they go when it’s not their turn in their body.

Both girls personify the light and dark that they exist in. Carly is very much the “good twin” whilst Kaitlyn’s personality is significantly darker and more troubled. Their doctor believes that Kaitlyn doesn’t really exist and is a side effect of Carly’s mental state brought on by trauma.

I found the whole idea of your body being taken over by someone else for half of your life really freaky to read. It made me not want to put the book down and fall asleep at night, just in case, which I’m sure was Dawn Kurtagich’s plan to keep you up reading!

A lot of mystery surrounds the book from the very beginning and as a reader I had a lot of questions from the start. The biggest one on my mind was if the girls were some sort of paranormal phenomenon? Or is one twin the creation of a troubled young girl? More mysteries get unsurfaced as you read on and the book grows increasingly more disturbing as the character of Kaitlyn does.

I loved the idea of the story being told through diary entries, camera footage and interview recordings but at times I’d find myself getting confused trying to keep up with all the different formats. I also felt that a lot of the answers and explanations were a little rushed. I’d personally have liked more detail at times.

Overall The Dead House is a creepy and original YA Horror story that well and truly messed with my mind.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Review for Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release: 8th October 2015
Genre: YA, Horror, Historical Fiction
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Sometimes I believe the baby will never stop crying.

Sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner fears she is losing her mind. When her family move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, Amanda hopes she can leave her haunting memories behind: of her sickly Ma giving birth to a terribly afflicted baby; of the cabin fever that claimed Amanda's sanity; of the boy who she has been meeting in secret...

But the Verners arrive on the prairie to find their new home soaked in blood. So much blood. And Amanda has heard stories - about men becoming unhinged and killing their families, about the land being tainted by wickedness. With guilty secrets weighing down on her, Amanda can't be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or within her soul..."

YA Horror is growing ever more popular and Daughters Unto Devils is a delightfully creepy new addition to the genre. Although a short book at just over 200 pages it packs in a lot of chills and thrills making it a very quick, satisfying read that’s perfect for curling up in bed with on Halloween night for a good scare!

The book follows sixteen year old Amanda Verner. After barely surviving the harsh winter that stole her sanity Amanda has been sleeping with the post boy to escape the memories of what happened that winter and the dark thoughts she has about her new baby sister.

With the family now too large for their cramped cabin in the mountains they seek a new life in the prairie only to find the walls of their new home soaked in blood. Something sinister lurks in the prairie and with local stories about slaughtered children Amanda must protect her siblings, and her secret unborn baby, whatever the cost.

What I love about Daughters Unto Devils is that it doesn’t read like a YA novel. The creepy, gory parts don’t feel watered down to not scare a younger audience. The horror here is just that - horror making it genuinely scary on a level that would affect most readers despite age. There was one particular scene that really creeped me out – let’s just say that if you weren’t scared of scarecrows before you will be after reading this!

Daughters Unto Devils is a standout debut that I couldn’t put down because I had to know what would happen to Amanda and her family next and I hope for more of the same from Amy Lukavics. Pick this one up, if you dare!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Halloween Book Recommendations 2015

I absolutely love Autumn and Halloween as soon as October 1st hits I make a TBR pile of all of the scary, thrilling reads that I want to read for the season. Every year I love to share some of the amazing books that I've been reading in the hopes that there might be something that interests you that you'd like to check out for Halloween. All books mentioned have been read and loved by me and I think they'd each make a great Halloween read!


Darkmere by Helen Maslin 
I read Darkmere when it first came out this summer and it was one of those books that whilst I was reading it I was kicking myself for not saving it until Halloween because it's the perfect gothic horror story for this time of year, but I wasn't too sad because I was enjoying it so much! This is a UKYA ghost story about a curse that hangs over Darkmere castle and is told in alternate chapters between the past and present day as two young girls come to spend time there. I'd recommend this to anyone who loves gritty contemporary YA with a sinister edge!

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich 
The Dead House is by far the scariest YA book that I've ever read and is therefore perfect for Halloween! It's about two girls who exist in the same body Carly gets the day but when night comes Kaitlyn takes over. This is one of those books where you're never really sure what is going on or what to believe and it really keeps you on your toes throughout. The book itself is beautifully made and presented and is well worth checking out if you love YA psychological thrillers.

Monster by C.J. Skuse 
Monster has everything that you could want in a YA thriller, it's set in a modern day boarding school in an isolated snowy landscape with legend of a killer beast prowling in the school’s grounds. It's basically the book that my goosebumps-loving teenage self would have been all over. It builds in intensity as the book goes on as you're not sure what kind of beast has made the characters their target. Just don't make the same mistake that I did and read this before bed!

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle 
The Accident Season is probably the least scary book on this list. It's more atmospherically unsettling than it is thrilling or scary but the gloomy tone of it fits the Halloween season perfectly. The book follows a family who are cursed to be accident prone during the month of October - this can range from anything from bruises and grazes to more serious accidents. This is moody, eerie, magical realism at its best and is perfect for cold October nights. 


The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson 
This is a book that I finished reading just a few hours ago and so has only just made this list! The Kind Worth Killing is an unputdownable game of cat and mouse only you're never sure who is the cat and who is the mouse in this game. This book had some brilliant twists and lots of action throughout. If you're looking for a thriller to lose sleep over this is the one!

The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne 
I read The Ice Twins back in January but even now when I see somebody reading it I get excited for them. The book is about twin girls Lydia and Kirstie one of them died a year ago and one of them survived, but who? If you like books about creepy children then this is one for you. It left me really unsettled and has a very satisfying ending.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 
So I'm pretty sure that everybody and their mother has read The Girl on the Train already or has, at the very least, heard of it but this list would be incomplete without giving this one a mention. It has been the Gone Girl of 2015 and for good reason. I was lucky enough to read this early last year before it came out and have watched the hype build and build for this one knowingly. If for some reason you haven't yet picked up this book Halloween is the perfect time to do so.

How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst 
How I Lost You is possibly the most dark and twisted book on this list. Just when you think this book couldn't get any more twisted it does just that! This is about a woman who has just been released after serving time for the murder of her baby son Dylan only to receive an envelope with a picture of her baby boy now as a toddler. With no memory of the crime she was convicted of she sets out to find out what really happened and to find out if her son could really be alive. The synopsis for this one had me intrigued straight away and the book definitely lived up to it!

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware 
This is another book that I was completely addicted to and could not put down! Although I admittedly figured out the plot twist for this one fairly early on it didn't ruin the enjoyment of the book for me. I loved the dark atmosphere and isolated setting deep in the woods it was like watching a horror movie unfold on the page. If you love those books where the characters are trapped with nowhere to run and you just know something awful is going to happen and it's all going to end very badly then this is the book for you this Halloween.

The Lie by C.L. Taylor 
C.L. Taylor is one of my favourite thriller writers and her latest one this year The Lie didn't let me down! The Lie centers around a girls holiday that goes terribly wrong. It's very mystery driven so I won't give anything more away than that other than that this is a really dark and twisted book that really played on my mind!

 I hope my picks have given you some ideas for what to read this Halloween! I'd love to know what would make your list. 

 Happy Halloween!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Review for Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell 
Publisher: Macmillan
Release: 8th October 2015
Genre: YA, Fantasy, FanFic, LGBT
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Simon Snow just wants to relax and savour his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he'll be safe. Simon can't even enjoy the fact that his room-mate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can't stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you're the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savour anything.

Based on the characters Simon and Baz who featured in Rainbow Rowell's bestselling novel Fangirl, Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell story - but far, far more monsters."

The world first met and fell in love with Simon and Baz in Fangirl, another book by Rainbow Rowell about a girl called Cath who writes fanfiction based on her favourite book series which features Simon and Baz. After reading Fangirl I was desperate to know more about the world of Simon Snow and so was thrilled when Carry On was announced.

Carry On is Rainbow Rowell’s take on these characters separate from Cath’s fanfic and the fictional story that Cath reads in Fangirl. It’s a hilarious, quirky and moving love story about coming out, coming of age and, despite the monsters in the world, carrying on.

As you’d expect if you’ve read Fangirl Carry On has more than a few clever and well-timed nods to the Harry Potter series which – not gonna lie- this reader was all over. However what really impressed me about Carry On is that it also stands on its own two feet with a cool and unique magic system that plays with the idea of the importance and meaning behind words. There’s also a mysterious villain in the insidious Humdrum that is sucking the world dry of magic and Simon Snow, the worst chosen one who has ever been chosen, who is supposed to save the world but, in all honesty, seems to only be making the situation worse.

The book feels properly British with British pop culture references delivered with a good dose of English humour and British swears to boot. Credit has to be given to American author Rainbow Rowell whose research was so thorough that national treasures Ant and Dec even got a mention.

At the heart of all Rainbow Rowell books is a swoon-worthy, heart-melting romance and despite straying from contemporary fiction Simon and Baz’s relationship is still central to Carry On showing that there really is a thin line between love and hate. I loved this slow burning romance, the chemistry and sexual tension had me shouting “For the love of God, just KISS!” at my book. Always a good sign.

Carry On was like nothing else I’ve read and is probably like nothing else that I am going to read. It’s a one-of-a-kind homage to fanfiction, the books we love and those crackpot ships that are clearly OTP.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Reading Outside of My Comfort Zone

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know that the main pool of books that I like to luxuriate in is YA but in 2015 I’ve found myself dipping my toes into new to me genres. Because I mainly talk about YA on here I thought that I’d share with you some of the gems I’ve been finding in other genres and how my reading tastes have evolved over the past year.

Middle Grade
I re-discovered Middle Grade as an adult when I won a copy of Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens from the lovely Michelle’s twitter giveaway. A lot of my blog friends who enjoy Middle Grade as well as YA had been raving about this book and so I wanted to see what the fuss was about before the second book Arsenic for Tea came out.

Sadly my dog died shortly after the book arrived on my birthday and I needed something to sweep me away to a time when life was simpler, I craved that childhood oblivion again and so I reached for Murder Most Unladylike. I fell in love with the friendship between Hazel and Daisy as the book swept me away to a boarding school set in the 1930s. I feel like I owe my sanity at that time to this series and it has even gone on to inspire me to write my own Middle Grade story.

Graphic Novels 
Graphic Novels have never been something that interested me before this year. I used to think that it was all Marvel and DC Comics – which I am a fan of when it comes to the movies and TV shows but didn’t necessarily want to read about.

Then I noticed more and more people hauling graphic novels that weren’t all about superheroes, no, they covered pretty much every topic imaginable. I was sucked in by glossy artwork and intriguing synopses and decided to check out a little series called Saga which so many people were reading and loving. To my surprise I was swept away to an epic space opera and devoured the series pretty much back to back. I’ve now become a little bit obsessed with graphic novels and am enjoying trying out different art styles and stories to figure out what works for me.

I tried listening to my first audiobook a year ago but didn’t get through it because, my poor logic at the time, was that I’d rather be reading a physical book. Then when I got a free trial for Audible I decided to try audiobooks again but this time listen to them during the times when I couldn’t be physically reading. I listened when I was getting ready in the mornings, washing up, and on car rides and loved the fact that I could listen to a book at a time when I couldn’t otherwise be reading.

I started to get through more books a month because of the bonus non-reading time spent listening to a book. Audiobooks can be hit and miss for me based on how I get on with the narrator but for the most part I’ve been enjoying what I’ve listened to. My best find has been The Song of Achilles which has gone on to become one of my favourite books and is probably not something I would have picked up otherwise if the audiobook version was not recommended to me by my blogger friend Sophie.

High Fantasy 
While I am a massive YA fantasy fan I’ve always been intimidated by those big chunky epic fantasy books mainly because of the sheer size and number of books that can belong to a series. Being a book blogger I always have a massive TBR pile to get through so can never justify dedicating a lot of time to a big series.

The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson had been on my must read list for such a long time and I finally decided to read it when Lucy at The Book Belle hosted Mistborn Mondays and I’m so, so glad that I finally picked it up! Reading a big series such as Mistborn feels so much less intimidating when you’re reading it alongside other people and the deadlines to read each book by made me stick to it because I am awful at not completing series. I haven’t read anything quite on the same epic scope as Mistborn since Harry Potter and I loved discovering a new all-time favourite series and an author who I’ve become such a fangirl over and who I will now read anything they write.

This year I have been more diverse and open with my reading choices and it has certainly paid off! The books that I have mentioned in this post have gone on to become some of my favourites of this year. I’m looking forward to delving further into all of these genres and discovering more books to love. In the future I’ll not be so hesitant to pick something up that is a little outside my comfort zone. 

I’d love to know which books outside of your comfort zone did you pick up and end up loving?

Monday, 5 October 2015

Review for Monster by C.J. Skuse

Monster by C.J. Skuse 
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Release: 24th September 2015
Genre: UKYA, Thriller
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits.

As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild.

Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive."

Monster is a gripping mystery driven YA thriller that builds in ferocity with the turn of each page. The book starts off with a slower pace as C.J. Skuse sets the scene with a contemporary Hogwarts- esque type boarding school, an isolated snowy landscape and legend of a killer beast prowling in the school’s grounds.

There is so much intrigue and mystery surrounding the Beast of Bathory that as a reader I was never sure what to believe. I mainly read this at night before bed which was a poor life choice on my part! This book properly freaked me out and played on my mind at times. It’s perfect for fans of James Dawson or anyone looking for a good Halloween read.

The book follows Nash and a group of other girls, some who she’s friendly with and others who she’s not, as they stay behind at boarding school over the Christmas break and things start to go very, very wrong. Once again C.J has created a group of characters who read like real teenagers which is one of the many things that I love about her as a writer. In true C.J fashion there is buckets of hilarious banter between the group – even when things are looking ominous. My personal favourite of the girls was Maggie, an absolute cracker of a character who delivers the best one-liners at the most inappropriate times.

Monster is on point with its plotting - all too often with thrillers I find myself left with loose ends and questions but everything has a place here that is revealed throughout the book rather than with a rushed explanation at the end which I really liked.

Overall Monster was a wickedly scary read with a dash of C.J’s trademark humour that takes a look at the different types of monsters in the world and shows that sometimes a monster isn’t born, sometimes a monster is made.

Friday, 2 October 2015

September Round Up and Book of the Month

September's Book of the Month is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

September was SUCH a good reading month for me - I read so many 4.5 and 5 star reads that could totally deserve the spotlight for my book of the month and so it was really tough deciding. In the end I went for the book that, even when I think about it now, I get so emotional over and is so epic that I'd recommend it to anybody who enjoys a good story regardless of their usual genre preference. I was recommended this book by my lovely friend Sophie over at So Many Books, So Little Time, it's not my usual thing at all but I'm so glad that I trusted her and tried it because it's now an all time favourite book of mine. I could go on about this book all day but I'll leave you with the comment that this is one of the greatest love stories I've ever read and I'd highly recommend it if you're taking part in the LGBT Readathon this month.

Basically me throughout The Song of Achilles

Read in September 
72.) Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (4.5*)
73.) Summer at Shell Cottage by Lucy Diamond (4*)
74.) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (5*)
75.) The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara (3.5*)
76.) Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4*)
77.) Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4.5*)
78.) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (4.5*)
79.) The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (5*)
80.) Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4*)
81.) The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (3.5*)
82.) Saga Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4.5*)
83.) After You by Jojo Moyes (5*)
84.) Saga Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4*)

Monthly Book Awards 
Best Plot: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Best Writing: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Best Cover: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Best Characters: After You by Jojo Moyes
Best Ending: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Best Romance: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Most un-put-down-able: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Most Memorable: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Best Moral: After You by Jojo Moyes

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: The Song of Achilles, After You, The Well of Ascension

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in October 
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

 What did you read and love in September? 
 And what are you looking forward to reading in October?

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