Book Review: House of Hunger – Alexis Henderson

Book Review: House of Hunger – Alexis Henderson


Release Date:
September 27th 2022
Publisher: Bantam Press
Pages: 292
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was gifted a copy of this book for Christmas
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation are all she knows. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a strange advertisement in the newspaper, seeking a ‘bloodmaid’.

Though she knows little about the far north – where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service – Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery – and there, at the centre of it all is her.

Her name is Countess Lisavet. Loved and feared in equal measure, she presides over this hedonistic court. And she takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, charismatic, seductive – and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when her fellow bloodmaids begin to go missing in the night, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She’ll need to learn the rules of her new home – and fast – or its halls will soon become her grave.

Review

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson was one of my favourite reads of 2021 so I was incredibly excited for her newest release, House of Hunger. This dark horror story follows a young woman named Marion, who lives in the slums of Prane. She hates her job as a maid and struggles to make ends meet with her sick brother living at home. When she happens upon an advert for a bloodmaid she decides to apply for the position – a life of luxury in exchange for the noble lords of the north drinking her blood. Marion finds herself indentured to Lisavet, the Countess of the House of Hunger. Lisavet is quickly taken with Marion, and Marion finds herself quickly falling for her new mistress. As Marion attempts to find her way in this new elite world, she soon discovers that the secrets of the house of hunger might be even more disturbing than she could possibly have imagined.

I must admit that prior to picking up House of Hunger I was in a bit of a reading slump and struggling to find something that would keep my attention, but this book hooked me in almost instantly. I really enjoyed Henderson’s writing style, it was full of vivid descriptions and there was so much atmosphere. The story is pretty quick paced and that had me turning pages quicker and quicker because I was so captivated I just had to know what was coming next. The chapters in the book were often quite short so I found myself saying ‘oh just one more’ and ended up reading for much longer than expected.

The story is a dark one, with a few twists I didn’t see coming. The characters in the story are particularly intriguing and I really liked our main protagonist Marion. It was fascinating to see her adapt to this new world of opulence and luxury as well as watching the relationship unfold between her and Lisavet. The one thing I wish was that the story was a little longer – I would have liked to see the friendships between Marion and the other bloodmaids explored a bit more, especially towards the second half of the book as tensions begin to arise.

House of Hunger is my first read of 2023 and it was the absolutely perfect book to kick off the year. It’s gothic, dark, and utterly unforgettable. If you’re looking for a tense, claustrophobic horror to keep you captivated, look no further than House of Hunger.

Book Review: Extasia – Clare Legrand

Book Review: Extasia – Clare Legrand


Release Date:
February 22nd 2022
Publisher: Harper 360
Pages: 496
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.25/5 stars

Synopsis

Her name is unimportant.

All you must know is that today she will become one of the four saints of Haven. The elders will mark her and place the red hood on her head. With her sisters, she will stand against the evil power that lives beneath the black mountain–an evil which has already killed nine of her village’s men.

She will tell no one of the white-eyed beasts that follow her. Or the faceless gray women tall as houses. Or the girls she saw kissing in the elm grove.

Today she will be a saint of Haven. She will rid her family of her mother’s shame at last and save her people from destruction. She is not afraid. Are you?

This searing and lyrically written novel by the critically acclaimed author of Sawkill Girls beckons readers to follow its fierce heroine into a world filled with secrets and blood–where the truth is buried in lies and a devastating power waits, seething, for someone brave enough to use it.

Review

Extasia is a YA horror novel sent in a dystopian future. The story follows Amity a young woman who is about to become a saint of Haven – the last town on Earth. Amity wants nothing more than to become a saint and help protect her village from the evil that lies beneath the mountain. An evil that has been spreading and killing the men of Haven. As tensions begin to grow in Haven Amity must uncover the truth behind the killings and save the townspeople from destruction.

Extasia is a really interesting standalone novel and it felt completely unlike anything I’d read before. I really enjoyed the first half of the story, which felt a bit similar to The Year of the Witching. It was dark and I was fascinated with Amity uncovering the mysteries of Haven and learning how to control her powers. The story had a fantastic setting and was full of atmosphere but I felt towards the end that the story unraveled a little bit, there was a bit too much going on and the ending felt a bit rushed. Extasia feels like a brilliant novel in concept but missed the mark a little bit in terms of execution.

Despite enjoying the second half of the book less it was still overall an enjoyable read. The story is really fast-paced and I ended up reading it really quickly. I also liked Legrand’s writing style and it was easy to get absorbed in the story. I did also like the characters and while I’m not particularly a romance fan, I did think it was well done in this book. The story is a dark one and there are plenty of gory moments in this story. While this one was a little bit of a disappointment, I am definitely going to try more books from Claire Legrand. I have no doubt that fantasy/horror fans looking for a dark feminist tale will absolutely fall in love with this book.

Book Review: Horseman – Christina Henry

Book Review: Horseman – Christina Henry


Release Date:
September 28th 2021
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.

Twenty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play “Sleepy Hollow boys,” reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the sinister discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?

Review

Christina Henry is well known for her retellings and when I heard her newest release was a retelling of Sleepy Hollow, I was desperate to get my hands on it. The story follows Ben Van Brunt a resident of sleepy hollow. Everyone in the village knows the legend of the horseman, but no one actually believes it happened. When Ben and a friend are out playing in the woods, they discover the headless body of one of the village children. Ben soon becomes entangled in a web of secrets and is determined to uncover the truth – is the Horseman real or is the evil thing in the woods even more sinister?

Just like every other Christina Henry book I’ve read, I absolutely raced through this one. It’s the perfect Autumn/Winter read and is full of atmosphere. I loved the tense, eerie feeling in the story and there are plenty of creepy moments. The story was actually a little gorier than I was expecting but it worked really well with the story. There were also a few moments that I found genuinely quite scary, which is always the mark of a good horror tale.

The pacing in the story was excellent and Horseman is a book you will find hard to put down. Henry has created some truly wonderful characters in this book and I absolutely adored Ben, Brom, and Katrina. Horseman is a well-executed story and one that I still found myself thinking about after I’d finished reading. If you’re looking for a dark and spine-tingling story to keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning, Horseman is a brilliant choice.

Book Review: The Devil Makes Three – Tori Bovalino

Book Review: The Devil Makes Three – Tori Bovalino


Release Date:
September 14th 2021
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 400
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

When Tess and Eliot stumble upon an ancient book hidden in a secret tunnel beneath their school library, they accidentally release a devil from his book-bound prison, and he’ll stop at nothing to stay free. He’ll manipulate all the ink in the library books to do his bidding, he’ll murder in the stacks, and he’ll bleed into every inch of Tess’s life until his freedom is permanent. Forced to work together, Tess and Eliot have to find a way to re-trap the devil before he kills everyone they know and love, including, increasingly, each other. And compared to what the devil has in store for them, school stress suddenly doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Review

The Devil Makes Three is one of those books that I read at the absolute perfect time and I got completely wrapped up in the story. This YA fantasy/horror follows Tess, an assistant at the Jessop Library – home to a large collection of ancient (and dangerous) grimoires. Eliot is the headmaster’s son is desperate to get his hands on some of the most restricted texts in the library. When Tess and Eliot accidentally stumble upon a secret tunnel in the library, they find a strange book that releases an ancient devil from his prison. This leaves Tess and Eliot no choice but to work together to find a way to put the devil back before it destroys everything they know and love.

This book had me hooked from the very first page. I’m a big fan of dark academia and this book felt so well crafted. The story had tons of atmosphere and the writing was so vivid and beautiful that I could not put the book down. I loved the library setting and I was so fascinated by the magic in this book. I loved the way Bovalino blended both fantasy and horror – it meant I was never quite sure what to expect. The story was pretty quick paced and I ended up glued to the book long into the night.

The Devil Makes Three is an incredibly impressive debut and one I think fans of V. E. Schwab and Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House will absolutely adore. Bovalino has some really well-crafted characters and it was so compelling seeing Eliot and Tess work together to put the devil back. I really liked both characters and they both dealing with complex pasts and complicated family lives. This spooky book is an absolute must-read and is perfect for getting lost in on a dark winter night. I have no doubts that The Devil Makes Three is going to be a high contender for one of my favourite books of the year.

Book Review: The Final Girls Support Group – Grady Hendrix

Book Review: The Final Girls Support Group – Grady Hendrix


Release Date:
July 13th 2021
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 384
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

Review

Grady Hendrix is fast becoming one of my favourite horror writers and I was incredibly intrigued about The Final Girls Support Group. The story follows Lynnette Tarkington – the survivor of a massacre twenty-two years ago. Being a final girl has defined her, but he’s not the only one. Over the last ten years, Lynette has been meeting with five other final girls and a therapist to discuss the horrific things that happened to them. When one of the girls doesn’t show up at the meeting, Lynette knows the worst has occurred and is knows only she can figure out what’s going on and save the other girls.

Much like the other Grady Hendrix books I’ve read, this is a fast-paced story that kicks off right from the very first chapter. I thought the premise of this book was really intrigued and the story well-executed. I didn’t want to put the book down and ended up racing through the last half of the book in one sitting. There were twists and turns I didn’t expect. I really liked the articles and reports at the end of each chapter that gave the reader more information about the murders or the horror movie franchises that were created off the back of them.

Lynette is a fascinating protagonist, she’s a very unreliable narrator and at times quite unlikeable but she felt like such a real person who had struggled through this awful event only to have it take over every moment of her life. The Final Girl Support Group is a gripping, page-turner of a book and another must-read from Grady Hendrix.

Book Review: Vampires Never Get Old – Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. Parker

Book Review: Vampires Never Get Old – Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. Parker


Release Date:
May 25th 2021
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 293
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

Eleven fresh vampire stories from young adult fiction’s leading voices!

In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out―and going out for their first kill―and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.

Welcome to the evolution of the vampire―and a revolution on the page.

Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley.

Review

Vampires Never Get Old is a fun anthology containing eleven stories that all put a fresh spin on the vampire story. I’m a big fan of vampire novels so I was really intrigued by this, particularly as it contained stories from writers I’m a big fan of. It’s a relatively short book and I ended up racing through most of them in a single day. I loved the way these authors took the vampire story and turned it on its head, coming up with stories that felt unique and engaging.

As with all anthologies, there were some stories I really loved and some that I was less interested in. The one that stuck out most for me was the final one in the book – First Kill by V. E. Schwab. It’s a quick story and one that completely captured my attention. I turned the final page and couldn’t believe that was the end. I absolutely want more and I cannot wait to see what happens with the TV adaption.

I similarly really enjoyed The Boys From Blood River by Rebecca Roanhorse which was eerie and gave me serious Lost Boys vibes. The House of Black Sapphires was my other favourite and I definitely felt like I wanted more from both of them. If you’re a fan of vampire stories or you’re looking for a fun, quick anthology to dive into, Vampires Never Get Old is one to check out.

Book Review: Such Pretty Things – Lisa Heathfield

Book Review: Such Pretty Things – Lisa Heathfield


Release Date:
April 13th 2021
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 304
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.25/5 stars

Synopsis

A terrifying story of ghosts and grief, perfect for fans of Shirley Jackon’s The Haunting of Hill House and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, in award-winning author Lisa Heathfield’s first adult novel.

Clara and her younger brother Stephen are taken by their father to stay with their aunt and uncle in a remote house in the hills as their mother recovers from an accident. At first, they see it as a summer to explore. There’s the train set in the basement, the walled garden with its secret graves and beyond it all the silent loch, steady and waiting.

Auntie has wanted them for so long—real children with hair to brush and arms to slip into the clothes made just for them. All those hours washing, polishing, preparing beds and pickling fruit and now Clara and Stephen are here, like a miracle, on her doorstep.

But the reality of two children—their noise, their mess, their casual cruelties–begins to overwhelm Auntie. The children begin to uncover things Auntie had thought left buried, and Clara can feel her brother slipping away from her. This hastily created new family finds itself falling apart, with terrifying consequences for them all.

Such Pretty Things is a deeply chilling and haunting story about the slow shattering nature of grief, displacement, jealousy and an overwhelming desire to love and be loved.

Review

Such Pretty Things is the dark and chilling story of Clara and Stephen, two young children taken to stay with their aunt and uncle following their mother’s accident. Their aunt and uncle stay in a remote house and the children believe this will be a summer of exploration and play. Their Auntie has been hoping for children as long as she can remember, but when the children arrive with all their mess and bad behaviour, Auntie struggles to cope. As the children uncover secrets Auntie had long kept hidden it will rip apart their family forever.

Such Pretty Things caught my eye because of that brilliant, eerie cover and it fits so well with this creepy tale. It’s the sort of story that sends a shiver up your spine, full to the brim with tension and unease. Such Pretty Things will absolutely appeal to fans of Shirley Jackson and the story felt very reminiscent of The Turn of the Screw. I ended up reading the book pretty quickly as the strong sense of atmosphere kept me wanting to know more.

Such Pretty Things is quite a slow-paced tale and in some parts I found the story dragged a little. I kept expecting something more horrifying to occur, but it never really happened. There are plenty of sinister moments and Heathfield has a really vivid writing style, but I found myself waiting for something more to happen. Despite this I still really enjoyed the story, it was well executed and a really inventive read. If you’re in the mood for a sinister, creeping horror tale, Such Pretty Things is one for your wishlist.

Book Review: Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix

Book Review: Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix


Release Date:
September 23rd 2014
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 248
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I ordered a copy of this from Book Depository.
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör is designed to retain its luster and natural appearance for a lifetime of use. Pleasingly proportioned with generous French flaps and a softcover binding, Horrorstör delivers the psychological terror you need in the elegant package you deserve.

Review

Horrorstör is a book that caught my eye online and as soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to order a copy. A haunted house story set in an Ikea type store? Where do I sign up? I expected this to be a fun, entertaining read but what I didn’t expect was for it to be genuinely quite creepy and spine tingling. Horrorstör is a gripping and compelling read, and one I absolutely did not want to look away from.

I absolutely love the concept of this book. It’s laid out like an Ikea catalogue, with a map of the store and diagrams of the furniture on sale – that became increasingly more menacing as the story progresses. It’s clever and well executed and definitely made me intrigued to read more from Grady Hendrix.

The story itself is quite a straight forward one. Amy is an employee of Orsk, a cheap knock off of Ikea. The store has been getting vandalised at night and when her boss Basil asks Amy and another employee to work an overnight shift in attempt to find out who’s causing the trouble, Amy needs the money desperately enough that she agrees. What they find in the store is a lot darker than they expected and not everyone will survive the night.

The story is a really addictive one and I absolutely raced through it. It’s fast paced and full of atmosphere and I really liked the characters Hendrix has created. We don’t get to learn too much about them apart from Amy but I liked them all. Parts of the story are pretty funny, particularly as Amy goes through her day as a retail employee. Overall I really enjoyed this one, it was plenty of fun and incredibly creepy. If you’re looking for a unique and engaging book to devour in a weekend, this is definitely it.

Blog Tour: The Searching Dead – Ramsey Campbell

Blog Tour: The Searching Dead – Ramsey Campbell


Series:
The Three Births of Daoloth #1
Release Date: February 16th 2021
Publisher: Flame Tree Press
Pages: 256
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

1952. On a school trip to France teenager Dominic Sheldrake begins to suspect his teacher Christian Noble has reasons to be there as secret as they’re strange. Meanwhile a widowed neighbour joins a church that puts you in touch with your dead relatives, who prove much harder to get rid of. As Dominic and his friends Roberta and Jim investigate, they can’t suspect how much larger and more terrible the link between these mysteries will become. A monstrous discovery beneath a church only hints at terrors that are poised to engulf the world as the trilogy brings us to the present day…

Review

Ramsey Campbell is an author I have always wanted to try so when I was offered the chance to read The Searching Dead I jumped at it. The story follows young Dominic Sheldrake as he begins to have suspicions about his history teacher Mr Noble. He learns that his widowed neighbour is part of a church that allows you to contact your dead loved ones and as Dominic and his friend Jim explore France on a school trip he learns that Mr Noble might have other reasons for being there. As Dominic and his friends attempt to uncover the mysteries surrounding them, they uncover much more than they bargained for.

This was such a fun and fascinating read. The story is set in 1950’s Liverpool and Campbell has put an incredible amount of detail into bringing the city to life. All the sights and sounds of post-war Britain leap from the page and it made for a really compelling read. The story has a slightly sinister atmosphere throughout, and this continues to build as we get further and further into the mysteries surrounding Dominic.

I loved that this was also a coming of age story, as Dominic and his friends grow up and begin to question the things around them. I really liked Dominic, Jim and Bobbie, they made for a really great group of friends to follow. All the characters are well fleshed out in the story, from the eerie Mr Noble to the grieving widow next door. While the story is quite quick paced this is a slow building horror but I read the last half of the book in one sitting because I couldn’t look away. It’s a compelling read and I’m really eager to see what book two has in store.

The Searching Dead is a tense and gripping read and if you’re a fan of Lovecraftian horror stories, this is absolutely one to check out. Whilst this is my first book from Ramsey Campbell, it definitely will not be my last.

Book Review: The Crooked Mask – Rachel Burge

Book Review: The Crooked Mask – Rachel Burge


Series:
The Twisted Tree #2
Release Date: September 17th 2020
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages:  278
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Deep in a forest in Northern Norway lies the Circus of Myth & Mayhem.

Martha is certain that unsolved mysteries are hidden there – and talks her way into getting a job as a psychic.

She soon learns there’s something very strange about the circus. Costumed performers re-enact stories of the Norse gods wearing masks, which move and change expression, yet no one notices but her. And then there’s the creepy jester who invites her to ‘play’.

When an old friend shows up at the circus Martha is thrown into turmoil. Is he there because he misses her or because he wants to stop her discovering the truth? And he isn’t the only liar she has to worry about. Loki has taken an interest in the circus and Martha finds herself drawn into a dangerous game of the gods. She must look behind the mask and see what’s really happening . . . before it’s too late.

Review

The Crooked Mask is the sequel to Rachel Burge’s The Twisted Tree. Following on from the events of book one the story follows Martha as she ends up working at the Circus of Myth and Mayhem in an attempt to uncover the truth behind Nina’s death. When she discovers there is much more going on in the circus than she first thought, she is drawn into a dangerous game with the trickster god Loki, but can she uncover the truth before it’s too late?

I really loved The Twisted Tree so I was super excited to dive into this second instalment. The story is just as beautifully written and Burge’s writing really brings to life the wintry landscape and the magical setting of the circus. Burge writes really great scary moments and there were definitely some scenes where I felt a shiver up my spine. Like the first book the story is pretty fast paced and I found myself racing through The Crooked Mask just as quickly as I did The Twisted Tree.

I really liked Martha as a main protagonist in book one so I enjoyed following her again in book two as she continued to learn more about her powers and her family history. Burge has created a really fascinating world in this book and I loved the way she weaved this ghost story with Norse mythology. There were quite a few twists I didn’t see coming in this one and I loved how it all ended.

If you’re a fan of creepy stories and Norse mythology this is definitely a series to get reading. I enjoyed every second of this one and really hope there will be a third book in the series!