Book Review: The Girl from the Well

18509623Title: The Girl From The Well

Author: Rin Chupeco

Genre: Young Adult, Horror

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.
A dead girl walks the streets.
She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.
Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.
The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

The Girl from the Well has been on my wishlist for over a year. Figuring out I’d never get my hands on it if I didn’t help destiny a little, I finally purchased it from Amazon a few weeks ago. From the mmoent it arrived in my mailbox, I finished it in a few days. The story is just so good, the characters so intriguing, and the use of Japanese folklore and legends gives it an unique, creepy vibe.

I’m a huge horror buff, but Japanese horror is usually so creepy I can’t always stomach it. But reading about it? Sure thing.

Okiku is a centuries’ old spirit. After getting murdered, she’s determined to find child murderers and punish them, and setting the children’s spirits free. But then she sees Tarquin, Tark as his family calls him, a fifteen-year-old boy covered in strange tattoos. Okiku senses another presence lingering near Tarquin, and it’s not a benevolent one. The tattoos are strange and eerie, and everyone seems to avoid the boy. Okiku’s interest is triggered, and she starts following him.

The best parts of the book were the ones focusing on Japanese culture, and the ones actually happening in Japan. I loved reading about the country, the ancient legends, the mikos and how they perform exorcisms, and so on. The book is creepy (what did you expect), but it’s also original, has great writing, and is overall, a very enjoyable book, and certainly different from most other YA horror books.

If you’re in the mood for some genuinely creepy horror, I recommend this book. I already ordered the sequel.

Mini-Reviews: Haunted by the Abyss, The Haunting of Tenth Avenue Theater, The Mirror Chronicles

minireview

Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

Haunted by the Abyss

Tite: Haunted by the Abyss

Author: Sarah Soderlund

Genre: Non-Fiction, True Haunting

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Journey into the terrifying abyss, where malevolent spirits and otherworldly beasts lurk. From childhood experiences with demons and aliens to a Missouri cemetery filled with phantom drums and territorial ghosts, these first-hand accounts of paranormal phenomena will chill your bones and thrill your mind.

Sarah Soderlund, also known as Paranormal Sarah, has been psychically gifted since childhood. Her intuitive abilities, coupled with her education and extensive astral world investigative skills, provide a unique and fascinating perspective into the supernatural. She describes not only what happened in her haunted childhood home, but also why some houses are “alive” and how ghost energy can slam doors, whisper your name, or even manifest as a full-blown or partial apparition. Haunted by the Abyss takes you deep into Sarah’s investigations, where you’ll discover that these stories aren’t just scary . . . they’re real.

Review: An interesting account of Sarah Soderlund, Paranormal Sarah as she’s nicknamed, her gift to see spirits and her experience with the supernatural. She talks about the things she went through growing up in a haunted home, and then her experiences afterward – and she sure has a lot of experience. The book was an easy, quik read, but entertaining nevertheless.

The Haunting of the Tenth Avenue Theater

Title: The Haunting of the Tenth Avenue Theater

Author: Alex Matsuo

Genre: Non-Fiction, True Haunting

Rating: 2,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Is San Diego’s renowned Tenth Avenue Theater home to an unlikely cast of ghosts—and if so, what has kept the spirits of the dead bound to this venue of entertainment and illusion? From reports of a child’s tragic death on the premises to a suicide stemming from overwhelming guilt, there is grief, turmoil, and unfinished business lingering within these walls.

Alex Matsuo, an actress by day and a ghost hunter by night, was granted unlimited access to the haunted property where she has performed as an actor and staged professional readings of her plays. Investigating the popular and thriving theater she has always considered home, Alex must unravel the turbulent history of the building in order to find out why the ghosts of the Tenth never want to leave.

Review: Having never heard of this theater or the ghosts that haunt it, I was intrigued to learn more. However, the story involved a lot more around the author and her thoughts, feelings and perceptions than it did around the ghost stories. The actual history and research of the ghost sightings was also not extensive enough, as if the author just briefly glanced over it. The writing wasn’t stellar either.

The Bell Between Worlds

Title: The Bell Between Worlds

Author: Ian Johnstone

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Half of your soul is missing.
The lost part is in the mirror.
And unless Sylas Tate can save you, you will never be whole again.

Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for the nature-influenced magic of the Fourth Way, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place.
Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas as to the true nature of the Other. As violence looms and the stakes get ever higher, Sylas must seek out a girl called Naeo who might just be the other half of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall…
Review: Sylas felt like a real person, so alive and realistic that I could just picture him being an actual person. He was flawed too, and those flaws made him more realistic. The writing was haunting and imaginative, and the story unique and original, with excellent world-building. The only downside I’d say would be the author’s tendency to use long descriptions sometimes, derailing the narrative.

Mini-Reviews: Freaks of Nature, She’s Not There, Dead Investigation

minireview

Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

Freaks of Nature

Tite: Freaks of Nature

Author: Wendy Brotherlin

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

The global Ebola-X pandemic of 2022 lasted five months, two weeks, and six days before a cure could be found. In its wake, it left a generation of psionic freaks, who can turn a single thought into a weapon…or worse. Fifteen-year-old Devon McWilliams is one of those freaks, but Devon rates a big fat zero on the scale of cool psychic abilities. Days after escaping from his psionic detainment facility, the military intercepts him. Regaining consciousness, Devon finds himself restrained aboard a military airship headed toward certain death. Aboard this one-way flight to doom are six other psions. One of them, a telepath named Bai Lee Chen, claims to have the means to escape. All the others have to do is convince her that they’re worthy of freedom by allowing her to telepathically replay their memories. The last thing Devon wants to do is reveal his useless plant-talking prowess to this destroy-you-with-a-thought crew. To complicate matters further, he’s crushing hard on Alya, the group’s lovely healer. Devon knows he must keep his wits about him if he’s going to survive this wild ride. And that’s going to be a tricky thing to do around a telepath who seems to have a diabolical agenda all her own.

Review: A great YA superhero / scifi novel. Devon was my favorite of all the characters, and I loved his quirky sense of humor. The plot was unique and entertaining, and not predictable at all. I’d like to read another psion adventure soon, so I’m looking forward to the next book.

She’s Not There

Title: She’s Not There

Author: P.J. Parrish

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

They say it’s better to battle the devil you know. But what if you don’t recognize him before it’s too late?

She knows her name is Amelia, but after waking up in a hospital battered and bruised with just the clothes on her back, it’s all she knows. Unable to piece together her shattered memory, she’s haunted by a vision: menacing faces and voices implying her nightmare is far from over.

Relying only on her wits and her will to live, Amelia becomes a fugitive from a mysterious man, and a life she can’t even remember. But the past she’s fleeing has no intention of letting her go.

Review: Amelia doesn’t remember anything, after she wakes up in the hospital. She barely remembers her name. But she does recall being afraid of her husband. She goes on the run while Alex hires a PI to look for her. The good: Amelia’s amnesia added an additional angle to this book, and made the story more original. Amelia’s memory slowly returning and pieces of her past being exposed was the most intense part of this book for me. I had to change my opinion about the characters a couple of times. The bad: rushed ending, and some parts of the book were unbelievable.

Dead Investigation

Title: Dead Investigation

Author: Charlie Price

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Rating: 2,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Dead Investigation is a mesmerizing stand-alone companion to Charlie Price’s acclaimed debut mystery, Dead Connection.

Murray Kiefer—friend to the dead—is happy to be living in an old shed on the grounds of the local cemetery. It’s a better home than the one he ran away from. Yes, he’d rather no one knew he can communicate with those buried beneath the tombstones, but word got out last fall when he unearthed the solution to a fellow student’s murder. Now people think he’s some kind of freak show, or want to use his ability for their own ends, or don’t care that he might not want to get tangled up with another investigation. But there’s been a brutal killing—maybe more than one. And Murray can’t pretend he isn’t hearing strange things beyond the graveyard that may help police unravel the crime. Yet even he doesn’t know that getting involved will ensnare him and the two people he cares about most in a deadly scenario that could bury them all.

Review: The plot of speaking to the dead has been done over and over again, but not often as bad as here. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t read the first book (although I doubt it) but I had trouble connecting to the characters. All of them were bland and boring, and Pearl was just a drama queen. The dialogue made me cringe a few times, and didn’t seem appropriate for teens at all, it just wasn’t very realistic.

Mini-Review: Ghost Camera, The Betrayed

minireview

Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

Ghost Camera

Tite: Ghost Camera

Author: Darcy Coates

Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Paranormal

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

A small number of cameras have the ability to capture ghosts on film. This gift comes at a steep price; the ghosts are resentful and hungry, and the cameras offer them a rare chance to reach their favourite prey… humans.

Jenine didn’t know any of this when she found an abandoned Polaroid camera in a lighthouse. At first she assumes the ghostly shapes in the photos are a glitch or a prank – but then the spirits begin to hunt her down, and she’s forced into a deadly race to free herself from the camera’s curse.

Review: Main character Jenine lacks personality – she’s about as interesting as a cardboard figure. Everything happens to her, and she doesn’tset anything in motion herself. Her best friend Bree is far more interesting and should’ve been the main character. The story is all right but a little predictable.

The Betrayed

Title: The Betrayed

Author: Heather Graham

Genre: Paranormal Mystery, Ghosts

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Sleepy Hollow isn’t so sleepy anymore…

One night, New York FBI agent Aiden Mahoney receives a visitor in a dream–an old friend named Richard Highsmith. The very next day he’s sent to Sleepy Hollow because Richard’s gone missing there.

Maureen–Mo–Deauville now lives in the historic town and works with her dog, Rollo, to search for missing people. She’s actually the one to find Richard?or more precisely his head, stuck on a statue of the legendary Headless Horseman.

Mo and Aiden, a new member of the Krewe of Hunters, the FBI’s unit of paranormal investigators, explore both past and present events to figure out who betrayed Richard, who killed him and now wants to kill them, too. As they work together, they discover that they share an unusual trait: the ability to communicate with the dead. They also share an attraction that’s as intense as it is unexpected, if they live long enough to enjoy it!

Review: Aiden and Mo make an interesting pair, but unfortunately it takes a long time for the two of them to connect. Aiden struggles with his abilities, and as thus he makes an intriguing character. The murder mysteries are good too, and as usual, Graham crafts an engaging paranormal mystery. Unfortunately I found it difficult to connect with Aiden and Mo – although interesting, they were also somewhat obnoxious and I doubt I’d like them if they were real people.

The Way of All Flesh

Title: The Way of All Flesh

Author: Tim Waggoner

Genre: Horror, Zombies

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

In a world where zombies battle the living, which is more terrifying?

David is trapped in a nightmarish version of his hometown, pursued by crimson-eyed demons and insane cannibals, with no idea how he got there. At every turn he’s taunted by a mysterious youth named Simon who knows far more than he lets on.

David’s sister, Kate, fights for survival in a word decimated by flesh-eating zombies – and her brother’s one of them. She’s determined to put a bullet in David’s brain to set him free.

Nicholas Kemp is a human monster, a born killer. But in a world ruled by the living dead, he’s no longer the most feared predator, and he’ll do whatever it takes to become that again. He plans to start by killing Kate.

Review: A cool concept with a vivid, refreshing take on zombies. David is a zombie, and most of the book is told from his POV. Then there’s also Kate, his sister, who is still a human. I liked the zombie perspective, which was original and interesting at the same time. The book ranges from hilarious to gross to all-out horrifying.

Mini-Reviews: A Place for Sinners, Must Love Ghosts, The Doll Collection

minireview

Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

Title: A Place for Sinners

Author: Aaron Dries

Genre: Horror

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Sometimes, survival is a sin.

Amity Collins has been deaf since she was seven. That was the day the wild dogs attacked, fighting for her bones. The day her father died. This trip to Thailand is exactly what Amity and her brother, Caleb, need—freedom.

As their boat slits through saltwater, Amity, Caleb and the other passengers are having the time of their lives. They watch the island emerge on the horizon. Its trees twitch, as though impatient or hungry. Within its shadows, secrets best kept hidden will be unearthed. Sacrifices will be made. Terror will reach out to grasp Amity, as real and frightening as what’s lurking in the dark.

A perfect example of a book that starts out strong but ends on a bit of a sour note. The first part was magnificent, and I felt like I was in Thailand too, along with the main characters. However, the second part of the book, while disturbing and holding a lot of potential, fell a little flat because it was TOO complex. Some of the twists and character reveals made little to no sense either. I don’t mind a little complexity but it needs to stay within the realms of the possible.

Title: Must Love Ghosts

Author: Jennifer Savalli

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Ghosts

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Haunted? Call 1-800-GHOST-HUNK.

Tia McGarry believes love is nothing more than a biochemical cocktail, and she’ll have the research to prove it—as soon as she and her calm, stable, almost-fiancé land a research grant.

Her biggest mistake, bad boy ex-boyfriend Dec Mancini, is firmly in her past. But when the ghost of her long-dead great-uncle moves into her living room, Dec is the only paranormal investigator with the skills to get rid of him.

Dec is used to scorn and ridicule, but he never quite got over Tia’s refusal to believe. With irrefutable proof that ghosts exist manifesting in her house, he can finally earn respect for his profession—and maybe find common ground for himself and Tia to rebuild on.

Tia can’t deny their crazy, chaotic chemistry is strong as ever, but as the ghost’s pranks threaten to put her grant out of reach, she must decide which is the greater risk: letting a ghost jeopardize her career, or falling in love with the man who could destroy her safe, stable life.

Tia doesn’t believe in ghosts, but when her dead uncle shows up, she might be forced to change her opinion. And when on top of that her ex-boyfriend, a paranormal investigator, makes a reapparance in her life and it seems like things are about to turn hot and heavy between them again, she’s in for a fun and quirky adventure. Despite that, the plot is pretty basic and the characters are a little flat too. Not a bad read,but not that great either.

Title: The Doll Collection

Author: Ellen Datlow (Editor)

Genre: Horror, Short Stories, Anthologies

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

The Doll Collection is exactly what it sounds like: a treasured toy box of all-original dark stories about dolls of all types, including everything from puppets and poppets to mannequins and baby dolls. Featuring everything from life-sized clockwork dolls to all-too-human Betsy Wetsy-type baby dolls, these stories play into the true creepiness of the doll trope, but avoid the clichés that often show up in stories of this type.Master anthologist Ellen Datlow has assembled a list of beautiful and terrifying stories from bestselling and critically acclaimed authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Pat Cadigan, Tim Lebbon, Richard Kadrey, Genevieve Valentine, and Jeffrey Ford. The collection is illustrated with photographs of dolls taken by Datlow and other devoted doll collectors from the science fiction and fantasy field. The result is a star-studded collection exploring one of the most primal fears of readers of dark fiction everywhere, and one that every reader will want to add to their own collection.
At the publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied

Dolls are creepy. Enough said. Now, in this collection, which packs a bunch of the most original stories I’ve ever read in the genre, the authors explore the trope of creepy dolls. A range of haunted dolls, mad doll owners, creepy doctors and ventriloquists pass by, and each story is unique and strong in its own way. One of the best horror anthologies I’ve read.

Book Review: Little Girls by Ronald Malfi

22891406Title: Little Girls

Author: Ronald Malfi

Genre: Horror, Suspense, Ghosts

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From Bram Stoker Award nominee Ronald Malfi comes a brilliantly chilling novel of childhood revisited, memories resurrected, and fears reborn…When Laurie was a little girl, she was forbidden to enter the room at the top of the stairs. It was one of many rules imposed by her cold, distant father. Now, in a final act of desperation, her father has exorcised his demons. But when Laurie returns to claim the estate with her husband and ten-year-old daughter, it’s as if the past refuses to die. She feels it lurking in the broken moldings, sees it staring from an empty picture frame, hears it laughing in the moldy greenhouse deep in the woods…
At first, Laurie thinks she’s imagining things. But when she meets her daughter’s new playmate, Abigail, she can’t help but notice her uncanny resemblance to another little girl who used to live next door. Who died next door. With each passing day, Laurie’s uneasiness grows stronger, her thoughts more disturbing. Like her father, is she slowly losing her mind? Or is something truly unspeakable happening to those sweet little girls?

In Little Girls, Laurie moves back to her parental home after her father commits suicide. The old man suffered from dementia for years, and as his estranged daughter, Laurie barely has any emotions toward him passing away. But when she goes back to the place she used to call home, before she and her mom moved out, memories of her childhood start to resurface. She starts questioning her father’s suicide – did he really jump through the window at the top floor of the house, in the belvedere? Was his paranoia during the last few months of his life real? Was something trying to get into the house, as he suspected?

The more time Laurie spends in her old childhood home, the more secrets she uncovers. She starts hearing noises form the belvedere too, like something trying to crawl its way in. On top of that, her daughter Susan’s new playmate, Abigail, bears a striking resemblance to Sadie, a girl Laurie used to be friends with before she changed and became wicked and started scaring Laurie.

While Laurie’s husband Ted isn’t convinced something sinister is going on, it’s up to Laurie to put the pieces of her past back together. Why is Sadie here? To get vengeance? And if so, how can she escape? Are the noises from the belvedere real, or are they all in her mind? Is she going insane, or being haunted by things from the past?

At first glance, this might not sound like the most original horrorr story out there – a man committing suicide, a dead girl from the past, noises in the middle of the night – but trust me, it is. It takes these well-known tropes and completely turns them around, mixing them with a few surprises I never saw coming, and which results in a story that is highly entertaining and scary at the same time. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but if you expect you’re usual ghost story, you might be in for a surprise.

The book focuses on family secrets, on the dark things of our past we’re sometimes too afraid to face. Laurie is a believable character, a woman suffering from the secrets she was forced to hide, who is hurt by her husband’s affair and afraid her daughter might change into a person she barely recognizes. She’s easy to relate to because her fears sound genuine. She’s flawed, questions her sanity, and doesn’t always do the right thing for her family, but she tries. God, she tries so hard. You have to give her credit for that. Rather than just telling a ghost story, a lot of the creepiness of the book comes from Laurie’s past, from the dark side of human nature, and as such it works remarkably well.

The ending…God, the ending. It’s magnificent in its simplicity. I had to reread it because the punch was given so swift my mind couldn’t wrap around it. A fitting ending for this book, delightful and creepy.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys haunted-house books, who likes a slow build up and who doesn’t mind getting scared. Because this book genuinely scared me, and that’s not an easy feat.

Mini-Review: The Originals: The Rise, The Dagger in the Desk, Soul Crossed

minireview

Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

The Originals: The Rise

Tite: The Originals: The Rise

Author: Julie Plec

Genre: Vampires, Paranormal, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Family is power. The Original vampire family swore it to each other a thousand years ago. They pledged to remain together always and forever. But even when you’re immortal, promises are hard to keep.

Arriving in New Orleans in 1722, Original vampire siblings Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah Mikaelson believe they’ve escaped their dangerous past. But the city is lawless, a haven for witches and werewolves unwilling to share territory. The siblings are at their mercy…especially after Klaus meets the beautiful and mysterious Vivianne. Her impending marriage is key to ending the war between the supernatural factions—and Klaus’s attraction to her could destroy the uneasy alliance. As Elijah works toward securing a piece of the city for his family, and Rebekah fights her unexpected feelings for a French captain, will Klaus’s volatile desires bring their world crashing down—and tear them apart for good?

Review: Whereas the TV-series for “The Originals” focuses on the present life of our Originals family, in particularly Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah, this spin-off book series focuses much more on the past, on their history of the first time when they came to New Orleans in 1722. The book is an enjoyable read, much more so than the Vampire Diaries books that inspired the series to begin with (although, since they’re written by a different author, that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise). The characters are a little different than in the show though: Klaus is in love, for example, and he could destroy an alliance by falling for her. Klaus in love is a different kind of beast. Overall, the Originals seem a lot more hopeful and less angry and bitter than they do in the TV series. An interesting start to the new series.

The Dagger in the Desk (Lockwood & Co #1.5)

Tite: The Dagger in the Desk (Lockwood & Co #1.5)

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult, Fantasy, Ghosts

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

A thrilling new case for London’s most talented psychic detection agency—from the global bestselling author of the Bartimaeus Sequence.

In London, a mysterious and potentially deadly ghost is stalking the halls of St Simeon’s Academy for Talented Youngsters. It lurks in the shadows, spreading fear and icy cold – and it carries a sharp and very solid dagger…

The headmaster wastes no time in enlisting the help of ghost-hunters Anthony Lockwood, Lucy Carlyle and George Cubbins.

Can Lockwood & Co. survive the night and save the day?

Review: After solving the puzzle of The Screaming Staircase, our three favorite ghost hunters, Lockwood, Lucy and George, get handed a particularly interesting but potentially deadly case by the headmaster of St. Simeon’s Academy for Talented Youngsters. As usually, the plot is original, has so many surprising twists I can’t count them on two hands, and it holds true to the lore and atmosphere I’ve come to live in the Lockwood & Co books. I’d read anything just to be able to spend some time with this adorable characters and their dark, twisted and entertaining world. The only thing I can say is that it was too short, and that I want the third book soon. Like, now.

Soul Crossed (Of Demons and Angels, Book 1)

Tite: Soul Crossed (Of Demons and Angels, Book 1)

Author: Lisa Gail Green

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

One Demon.

One Angel.

One Soul.

Josh lived a reckless, selfish life, so upon his death, escaping the eternal torments of Hell by assuming the role of a powerful, soul-corrupting demon is an easy choice. His first soul assignment doesn’t seem too hard: the mortal Camden is already obsessed with weapons, pain, and torture. If only Josh wasn’t distracted by Cam’s beautiful friend, Grace.

Grace never expected to die violently at age sixteen, but now she’s an Angel, responsible for saving a soul. She can already see past Camden’s earthly flaws, so the job should be be easy. If only that handsome, playboy Josh would stop getting in the way.

It’s forbidden for an Angel to be with a Demon, so if Josh and Grace stop resisting each other, the results would be disastrous.

And only one can claim Cam’s soul.

Review: I loved the cover – seriously, how gorgeous is it – and so I wanted to give this book a shot. Uhm. Well, it didn’t turn out the way I expected at all. There’s insta-love (I hate insta-love), the main character is a total Mary Sue, the ending is predictable, the characters are mostly egocentric and their “love” isn’t real love at all, and the first few chapters consist of several time jumps, which makes it impossible to connect to the characters. Wouldn’t recommend.

Book Review: The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor by Amy M. Reade

23450152Title: The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor

Author: Amy M. Reade

Genre: Romance, Mystery, Suspense

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Do you know what stories Sarah could tell you about the things that happened in these little cabins? They’d curl that pretty red hair of yours.”
Outside of Charleston, South Carolina, beyond hanging curtains of Spanish moss, at the end of a shaded tunnel of overarching oaks, stands the antebellum mansion of Peppernell Manor in all its faded grandeur. At the request of her friend Evie Peppernell, recently divorced Carleigh Warner and her young daughter Lucy have come to the plantation house to refurbish the interior. But the tall white columns and black shutters hide a dark history of slavery, violence, and greed. The ghost of a former slave is said to haunt the home, and Carleigh is told she disapproves of her restoration efforts. And beneath the polite hospitality of the Peppernell family lie simmering resentments and poisonous secrets that culminate in murder—and place Carleigh and her child in grave danger…

All right, so for some reason, I expected The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor to be a ghost story. Jeez, could it be… I don’t know, the title? Or the synopsis that focuses so much on ghosts!  And with ghost story, I mean remotely creepy. It’s not. It’s a romantic mystery (with not even that much of a mystery), and only a limited amount of suspense. There is a ghost, yes, but she’s mentioned so scarcely she may as well not be mentioned at all.

We do meet the ghost, Sarah, in the prologue and sporadically throughout the novel (although we don’t see her, we just hear about her from another one of the characters) but rather than scary, she just comes across as tragic. Then we focus on the main character, Carleigh, and from that point on, the book stays stuck on her POV. Carleigh and her young daughter Lucy have come to the plantation house, Peppernell Manor, to refurbish the interior. Carleigh is glad to escape her ex and to spend some time with her college friend, Evie. The renovation is not entirely approved by all the members of Evie’s family though – some of them seem keen on selling the property to investors, while Evie’s grandmother wants to keep it in the family. With all these lies and secrets buried underneath, Carleigh finds herself in the middle of a family drama, that may end in a bad turn…

So, when leaving out the ghosts, the book is actually not all that bad. But the synopsis is so misleading! It keeps on focusing on the ghost, and then the murders, as if they’re connected somehow, which they aren’t. A lot of time is spent dealing with the renovation – seriously, I almost feel like I know how to start renovating a house now! And I wouldn’t have minded that, had the plot not been so dull and straightforward. Even the characters lack complexity. Carleigh makes some weird choices sometimes, and she’s not always likeable either.

The problem is: the plot, the writing, the characters, none of it is bad. But it’s not good either. There’s no excitement, no tension, no suspense. I’d only recommend this one if you don’t mind a slow plot, or if you want a story about house renovation.

 

Book Review: Portraits of Celina by Sue Withing

17261579Title: Portraits of Celina
Author: Sue Withing
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Ghosts
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Make him pay, Bayley. Make him pay.

“It’s as if the wooden chest is luring me, urging me to open it – daring me almost. Open me up. Look inside. Come on, just for a second; it won’t hurt.”
Celina O’Malley was sixteen years old when she disappeared. Now, almost forty years later, Bayley is sleeping in Celina’s room, wearing her clothes, hearing her voice. What does Celina want? And who will suffer because of it?
A ghost story. A love story. A story of revenge.

In Portraits of Celina, Bayley and her family move into the old O’Malley estate on the countryside after her father dies, to try and make a fresh start. But a fresh start might be the last thing they’ll ever get. Bayley moves into a room who used to belong to Celina O’Malley, a girl who disappeared when she was sixteen years old. It’s now forty years later, but it seems like the past won’t be put to rest. Bayley looks exactly like Celina – at least so do people tell her – and she starts wearing Celina’s old clothes, and eventually even hearing Celina’s voice. What’s going on? What does Celina’s ghost want from Bayley, and what happened that made her disappear forty years ago?

I’m a sucker for these kind of stories – YA paranormal mystery with ghosts. And Portraits of Celina is a good one at that: the mystery, while not overly-complicated isn’t too easy either (I only figured it out past the halfway mark), the ghost is genuinely chilling at times, and the title is given a whole new meaning throughout the book – which I loved. The quarrels between Bayley and her siblings were awesome too. They sounded like a real family, and although they argued often, they did have each other’s back. This made Bayley seem like a more realistic character. Her emotions seemed real too, especially her pain over losing her Dad.

Then, on to the bad stuff. The romance was too cliché. Oliver and Bayley have literally nothing in common, and Bayley acts like a weirdo for most of the book, which is no surprise considering she’s being haunted by the ghost of her deceased cousin. Yet, Oliver isn’t in the least deterred by all this weird behavior, which doesn’t sound very plausible. Their dialogue seemed childish too, and honestly, I could’ve done without the romance. The story and characters are intriguing enough without.

I enjoyed this YA paranormal mystery, some of the scenes where chilling, but for the most part, it wasn’t too scary. Fans of ghost stories will probably like it too.

Book Review: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa B. Sheinmel

24997279Title: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One

Author: Paige McKenzie and Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Sunshine Griffith and her mother Kat move from sunny Austin, Texas, to the rain-drenched town of Ridgemont, Washington. Though Sunshine is adopted, she and her mother have always been close, sharing a special bond filled with laughter and inside jokes. But from the moment they arrive, Sunshine feels her world darken with an eeriness she cannot place. And even if Kat doesn’t recognize it, Sunshine knows that something about their new house is just … creepy.
In the days that follow, things only get stranger. Sunshine is followed around the house by an icy breeze, phantom wind slams her bedroom door shut, and eventually, the laughter Sunshine hears on her first night evolves into sobs. She can hardly believe it, but as the spirits haunting her house become more frightening, and it becomes clear that Kat is in danger, Sunshine must accept what she is, pass the test before her, and save her mother from a fate worse than death.

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is a fun paranormal read. It’s apparently based on a popular YouTube channel, but I’ve never seen it – although I might be tempted to check it out now – so my review is based on the book alone, and I have nothing to compare it with.

Sunshine and her mom moved halfway across the country to the small town of Ridgemont, Washington. They changed the sun for the clouds, and Sunshine’s mood seems to have plummeted along with the weather. They moved because her mom, Kat, got a new job at a local hospital. All seems to go well, right until they arrive at their new home. Sunshine tries to look on the bright side, but has trouble finding anything bright about her new home, which seems infested with a creepy, eerie feeling.

And the longer they spend in the house, the more Sunshine grows convinced it’s haunted. Her mom doesn’t believe it, being a practical person, so Sunshine starts to gather evidence. While the ghost grows more powerful, slamming doors, sobbing in the bathroom, and even playing games with Sunshine, her mom still won’t believe her. Up until something frightening happens, and afterward, Kat doesn’t even remember.

Sunshine realizes it’s up to her to solve the mystery of the ghost’s identity before her mom gets hurt.

I loved the relationship Sunshine and Kat have. Sunshine is adopted, but they still have a real bond, a real connection. They’re very much like a real mother and daughter. Sometimes they bicker, but they’re there for each other, and they’re best friends. You don’t often see that in YA, and it’s great when it happens. Unfortunately their bond deteriorates when Kat doesn’t believe her daughter, which drives a wedge between them. But even though, it was still interesting to see what this did to their relationship, and how it estranged them.

The second POV that pops in occassionally was confusing at first, and I could’ve done without. I wanted to read the story of Sunshine and Kat, and the second POV didn’t add to the tension, but instead diminished it.

Sunshine was a loveable character, quirky and fun. Unfortunately she doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends, not even at her new school, and I found it a little hard to believe that even after being there for longer than a month, she only ever mentioned one person from school, one friend.

The ghost part worked well, and the suspense is high from start till end. There’s some build up, but from the moment Sunshine first hears the ghost, the suspense just keeps on going. The writing was spot on, with Sunshine sounding like a teenager without jumping to clichés. Some of the descriptions were plain beautiful.

This is a promising start to a new series, with a few exciting twists to the usual ghost story. It left me pleasantly surprised, and I look forward to reading more about Sunshine and her adventures in the sequel. Can’t wait.