The Last Beautiful Girl by Nina Laurin #bookreview #YA #horror #gothic

BLACK MIRROR meets Darcy Coates in this exploration of the dangerous, dark side of beauty in the digital age, with a gothic, haunted-house setting.

When Izzy is dragged from Brooklyn to a tiny town for her parents’ new job, she’s not thrilled. The silver lining is the gorgeous old mansion she’s moved into: the former home of an artist’s muse who died tragically in a fire. But the house has its quirks: whole floors are closed off, paintings are covered up, and cell reception is nonexistent.

Izzy throws herself into starting an Instagram fashion account using the gowns and jewelry she finds hidden away in the house. She looks perfect in the photos–almost unnaturally perfect–and they quickly go viral. Soon she’s got a new best friend, a potential boyfriend, and is surrounded by a group of girls who want the photoshoots and fame for themselves. But there’s a darkness in the house, and a darkness growing in Izzy, too. When girls start dying, it’s clear that something–or someone–in the house is growing in power, with deadly intentions. 

I have to admit – I would have passed up this book if it hadn’t mentioned Black Mirror, Darcy Coates, and a gothic, haunted-house setting. The cover didn’t scream horror to me.

The descriptions of the old mansion Izzy and her family relocate to paint a picture of a beautiful home that’s falling into ruin. I could easily imagine the architectural details and understand Izzy’s unexpected delight when seeing it for the first time. This haunted house had the potential to offer those delicious spine-tingling chills horror fans chase after, and I was excited to delve into its darkness. Maybe I’ve read so many books in this genre that I’ve become immune, but I never felt the chills. There are some eerie moments, but when the situation really starts to become intense, the scene never plays out. Something would interrupt it, leaving Izzy to rationalize what happened. Without giving away spoilers, the reader isn’t given much time to get to know Izzy before she moves into the house, and it was difficult for me to emphathize with her – she’s a difficult person to like. The final scene builds up to a tension-filled, creepy climax, but then ends abruptly and leaves several questions unanswered.

Kudos to the author for an admirable job of calling attention to the dark sides of vanity and obsession with social media and the effects both can have on a person. While this is an enjoyable read, I’d recommend it for the younger YA crowd.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

House of Shadows by Darcy Coates #bookreview #horror #TuesdayBookBlog

Sophie’s world is shattered when disaster bankrupts her family. She’s still reeling from the news when she’s offered an unexpected solution: Mr Argenton, a wealthy stranger, asks for her hand in marriage.

Marrying Mr Argenton will restore her family’s fortunes and save them from scandal, but condemns Sophie to a life in Northwood, a vast and unnaturally dark mansion situated hours from civilisation.

Sophie struggles to adjust to her new position as mistress over the desolate house. Mr Argenton’s relatives are cold, and Mr Argenton himself is keeping secrets. Even worse, the house is more than it seems.

Mr Argenton’s young cousin, Elise, draws terrifying images. Doors slam. Inhuman figures slink through the forest surrounding the house. A piano plays in the middle of the night. Blood drips from the ceilings.

Sophie is inevitably pulled towards the terrifying truth: Northwood’s ancient halls are haunted by the family’s long-dead ancestors. The malevolent spirits–produced by grisly deaths–resent her intrusion into their home.

Trapped in Northwood and desperate for an escape, Sophie’s fate is further complicated as she finds herself irrevocably drawn to the tall, dark-eyed man she married. She suspects her feelings are returned, but Mr Argenton is hiding the truth about the house–and his secrets are so dangerous that they might just be unforgivable. 

This is my second Darcy Coates book and I’ve come to learn there are two things I can count on – my enjoyment of her writing style and eerie covers perfect for what’s inside.

Reading The Amityville Horror many years ago made me a fan of haunted house novels.  I seem to gravitate toward them.  House of Shadows has a distinct gothic feel, an aspect which adds to the creep factor in my opinion.  When candles are your only souce of lighting, you never know what that light will fall on when you round a corner.  Or what it might miss in the shadows.

After marrying someone she barely knows and moving far away from her family, Sophie is immediately thrust into an unwelcoming sitation with Joseph’s relatives.  It’s also clear the staff are terrified of something and barely speak.  Sophie initially gives off the damsel-in-distress vibe, but when her back is against the wall, she comes through when it counts.

This is a quick read, but I wouldn’t have minded it being longer.  Once the climax is reached, pacing moves at break-neck speed, but the ending nicely sets up the second book.

If you’re looking for aggressive horror, this may not be the book for you, but if you enjoy some creepy-crawly moments that send chills down your spine with a touch of romance, you’ll settle in quite well with House of Shadows.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Eventide (Hode’s Hill #3) by Mae Clair #bookreview #supernatural #suspense

The darkness is coming . . . 

The old house near Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania is a place for Madison Hewitt to start over—to put the trauma of her husband’s murder, and her subsequent breakdown, behind her. She isn’t bothered by a burial plot on the property, or the mysterious, sealed cistern in the basement. Not at first. Even the presence of cold spots and strange odors could be fabrications of her still troubled mind. But how to explain her slashed tires, or the ominous messages that grow ever more threatening?
 
Convinced the answer lies in the past, Madison delves into the history of the home’s original owners, only to discover the origin of a powerful evil. An entity that may be connected to a series of gruesome attacks that have left police baffled. No matter where she turns—past or present—terror lingers just a step away, spurred on by a twisted obsession that can only be satisfied through death…

I’ve been riveted by every book in this series, but this one is probably my favorite.  Probably my favorite cover, too.

Mention a book featuring a haunted house, and I’ll snatch it up every time.  Madison’s house is most definitely haunted, and it’s pretty clear she’s not welcome.  Most people would tell her to leave, but after using nearly all her resources purchasing the new home, her options are limited and she chooses to find a way to exorcise the ghosts.  I was thrilled to see my favorite character from book two make another appearance.  With his extensive experience in dealing with spirits as a medium, Dante is brought into the house to determine exactly what Madison is dealing with and learns some frightening things.

As with the other books in this series, Eventide alternates between past and present, allowing the reader to learn the history of the house and the heartbreaking reason it’s haunted.  The jumps between timelines are seamless, and that story is just as compelling as Madison’s.  Be prepared for some spine-tingling, chill-your-bones scenes – this author is an expert at making you feel unnerved.

I’m sad to see this series end, and I’ll miss these characters who feel like friends.  Each of these books can be read as a standalone, so starting at the beginning isn’t required.  If you’re a fan of small town suspense with a supernatural twist, Hode’s Hill certainly delivers.  Highly recommended!

This House Is Haunted by John Boyne

173071621867. Eliza Caine arrives in Norfolk to take up her position as governess at Gaudlin Hall on a dark and chilling night. As she makes her way across the station platform, a pair of invisible hands push her from behind into the path of an approaching train. She is only saved by the vigilance of a passing doctor.

When she finally arrives, shaken, at the hall she is greeted by the two children in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There are no parents, no adults at all, and no one to represent her mysterious employer. The children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, a second terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong.

From the moment she rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence which lives within Gaudlin’s walls. Eliza realises that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall’s long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past.Goodreads.com

This was a great book – a true 19th century classic ghost story with a wonderful setting of a sinister old family mansion full of secrets in a small English town.  It’s not an in-your-face horror novel, but an elaborately written tale that is chilling and suspenseful.

Eliza’s character was very well-developed and easy to like and she was such a strong woman for the time period.  Not exactly a “modern”, as they said in the book, but a woman who wasn’t afraid to be a little more assertive and determined than most of that period.

The children were a little creepy – not Children of the Corn creepy – just a little off, although Eliza grows to care for them and doesn’t go screaming into the night and abandon them when strange things begin to happen.  The ending offered a twist I never saw coming, but it seemed appropriate.

I could easily have read this book in one sitting due to the pacing and suspense and would have preferred a dark, rainy night to do so – an ideal time to read ghost stories – but unfortunately wasn’t able to do that.  With Halloween coming, this is the perfect time to read a ghost story and if you prefer foggy, eerie, and ominous over blood, guts, and gore, this is the book for you.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.