Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

The ReturnThe Return by Rachel Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elise, Julie, Mae and Molly have been best friends since college. But as with many such relationships, as time goes by and circumstances change, friends can sometimes see each other less and less.

For this fabulous foursome, that is definitely the case. They all live pretty far apart geographically and it can be tough to stay close over such distances.

Two years ago, the unimaginable happened. Julie disappeared while on a solo hike in Acadia National Park, a 47,000-acre belt of wilderness on the rustic coast of Maine.

Understandably, the women are devastated to have lost one of the their own. Although they have a funeral after a significant amount of time has passed with no sign of Julie, Elise genuinely doesn’t believe she is gone.

Lo and behold, it seems Elise was right, at some point after the funeral, Julie reemerges. She just shows up at home one day with no memory of where she has been or what has happened to her.

Everyone is stunned. How can this be?

After Julie has had some time to acclimate to being home, the women decide to gather for a reunion weekend at an up-and-coming boutique hotel in upstate New York.

All traveling separately, Elise, the narrator of our tale, is the first to arrive. She immediately feels disturbed by the eccentric hotel. The whole atmosphere is just so bizarre.

Once all the women have arrived, they joke and laugh and try to make the best of their surroundings.

Luckily for them, they are the type of friends that no matter how much time has passed, they can pick right up like they were never apart.

The more time that goes by however, the more they begin to notice that Julie is different.

There’s something very wrong with her. It seems she is falling apart minute by minute. Her odd behavior and appearance; let’s not even get into the smell, but who’s going to talk to her about it?

They’re scared, even though mostly, they won’t admit it.

Well, I’ll tell you, they weren’t the only ones that were scared. This book had moments that legit creeped me out. I’m talking contemplated putting it in the freezer.

There was so much to enjoy about this. I loved, loved, loved the setting. Reminiscent of a locked room mystery as it was slowly revealed to the reader what was going on with Julie.

I also enjoyed the dynamic among the women. I found it to be very relatable as far as relationships go post-college.

The horror element was unique to me. I have never read anything that went in the direction this ultimately went in.

It did give me heavy Jennifer’s Body vibes and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out this author had watched that movie more than once.

Although I can see where some people may be let down by the ending, for me it worked. That is how I would have wanted it to end.

At it’s heart, this is really a lovely examination of friendship, if you can believe that from a horror novel, but those friendship aspects tugged at my heartstrings.

I have no aspirations to ever write a novel, but if I did, it would pretty much be this book. Take from that what you will.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me a copy of this to read and review. It was a fantastic time!

I am really looking forward to reading more from Rachel Harrison.

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Review: The Moor by Sam Haysom

The MoorThe Moor by Sam Haysom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

This creepy, campy tale incorporates many things I love: chilling stories around a campfire, multiple POVs, the use of mixed media sources and a delightful, ‘is it supernatural, is it not supernatural’ feel.

Once I started, I couldn’t put it down and ended up completing it in under 24-hours.

I was drawn in right away, thanks to the lore of the Moors, and the clever use of newspaper articles of missing persons and bodies found in the area.

Haysom has definitely created a compulsively readable story here. However, as intrigued as I was, it still felt very surface level.

I wanted MORE…

All puns aside, it felt like an abridged version of what the story should have been.

With this being said, I know not everyone enjoys 500-page tomes as much as I do, so for a lot of people this book will tickle that horror spot just as they want it to. If you like creepy, outdoorsy stories you should check this one out.

This did remind me a lot of Nick Cutter’s, The Troop, mixed with a creature feature of the 1980s.

In case it’s not clear, those are both great things!

Overall, I think this is a good horror novella. I see a lot of potential in his writing and would definitely pick up more works by Sam Haysom!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Unbound Digital, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it very much.

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Review: The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Berube

The Dark Beneath the IceThe Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Marianne’s world is falling apart. She has quit dance, which once seemed her life’s purpose, her best friend has moved away and ghosted her, her parents are separated, again, and it seems like this time it’s for good, and her mother has checked herself into a mental health facility after a breakdown.

Now staying with her Aunt, Marianne notices other things going on with herself. She is losing time and objects are moving and breaking around her, seemingly on their own.

She feels afraid, like a dark spirit is constantly around her, messing with her head and her world.

Her fear is so strong, she’s not sleeping well and soon begins to feel like she is coming apart at the seams. She seeks help from a girl at school whose mother is purported to be a psychic of some sort.

Marianne believes the presence after her is some sort of ghost and her hope is that Rhiannon’s mom will be able to get rid of it.

As Marianne and Rhiannon, who goes by Ron, begin to get to know one another, a really precious friendship forms. Both ostracized by their peers, the girls find acceptance within one another.

This friendship was one of my favorite aspects of the story, made stronger once you begin to see that the girls have developed feelings for each other deeper than friendship.

Once it is clear that’s Ron mom won’t be as much help as they would have thought, the girls strike out on their own to try to banish the spirit. Unfortunately, their actions make it worse. A lot worse.

I really enjoyed the majority of this book. At first, the writing style threw me off, but I came to really enjoy it.

It is metaphorical in nature, more so than I tend to enjoy, but very dark and beautiful.

I thought the paranormal elements were well done. The intensity kept being amped up and it truly kept me glued to the pages.

The ending made me a little uncomfortable, but I may be reading too much into it. I just wasn’t sold on the conclusion.

Anyway, overall I did really enjoy this. I had a ton of fun reading it and even had moments where I was legitimately creeped out. I think this would make a great movie.

If you enjoy movies with paranormal activity or possession, you should definitely check this one out. Bonus points if you enjoy dark, metaphorical writing.

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The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #2) by Michelle Hodkin

The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2)The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST READ!?!?

First of all, how am I complete trash for this series at this point in my life? It is beyond me.

I have no explanation. I can’t explain it, but I am currently obsessed with this.

I feel like this second installment gave me more questions than answers, but who the f* cares! I have one more book in this trilogy and I plan to devour it. Soon.

Sure, if you contemplate the storyline for too long, it’s definitely problematic, but for some reason, it this case, I couldn’t care less.

My plan is to read the final book this month. Then, sadly, I will have to find a new backlist trilogy to obsess over.

Anyone else who wants to join me on the tragically delayed hype train, you’re welcome.

Mara and Noah are LIFE.

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Review: Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Rules for VanishingRules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A haunted wood, a mysterious road that appears and disappears, the legend of a missing girl; these were the things that first attracted me to this story.

I got so much more than that, parts I am still trying to wrap my brain around.

Told through interviews, written statements and found footage, this story tells the tale of Sara, whose sister, Becca, went missing a year prior.

The mixed media pieces together her quest to find her sister and the people who go along with her.

This book reminded me a lot of Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl, mixed with the Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth.

I did listen to the audiobook for this and unfortunately, I think that had an effect on my overall enjoyment.

Honestly, the audio was a little hard to track all of the characters and keep them all straight.

That paired with the dreamlike quality of all that occurs on the road, I felt confused for the majority of the middle portion of the book.

I think if I had read the physical copy it would have been easier to follow along with the character dialogue of the found footage and interviews.

Overall, I think this is a solid YA Horror novel with a very dark and spooky premise. It definitely solidified my belief that you must always beware of hitchhikers on the road.

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Review: The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams

The Babysitters Coven (The Babysitters Coven, #1)The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We all know babysitting comes with a lot of responsibility. You are literally responsible for maintaining the health and wellness of little humans. But did you also know that some babysitters are responsible for protecting the entire Earth from evil forces?

It’s true and when Esme Pearl formed her Babysitter’s Club, she didn’t know that either. Unfortunately for Esme, she’s about to find out the hard way.

I feel weird sort of giving that away but it’s nothing you won’t read in the synopsis of the book. Part Buffy the Vampire Slayer, part the good ole’ Babysitter’s Club series, this book brings horror comedy to a whole new level.

I was giggling to myself for over half of this novel. Apparently, the author and I share a brain and have exactly the same sense of humor.

Esme was such a fun character to read about and although parts of this were predictable, I had a great time reading it. The culminating scene does occur on Halloween as well, so perfect for the Fall Spooky season.

I loved all the pop culture references, the definite homage to Buffy and that fun teen horror atmosphere. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a fast and funny teen scream.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I look forward to seeing what this author comes up with next!!!

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Review: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

HexHex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

A town cursed by a witch or a woman cursed by a town?

This was an odd book that has certainly provided me with a lot to think about.

Welcome to Black Spring. A charming little village set in the Hudson River Valley. As picturesque as can be, an outsider would have a hard time imagining the horror that this town’s citizens endure every day.

The Black Rock Witch, a 17th-Century woman, murdered by her contemporaries after having her mouth and eyes sewn shut, lurks amidst the townsfolk to this day. Not a hazy apparition that only certainly people sense or see, she’s there, in the flesh. They can touch her and even harm her if they choose.

No one ever does though as they anticipate her vengeance would be swift and brutal. Why don’t they just move away, you wonder?

Well, that’s just it. They can’t. No one can. Once you are settled in the town and privy to its secrets, you can never leave. As in, a supernatural force literally blocks you from escape.

This was a really unique take on a haunting. I really enjoyed that aspect of it. I also really enjoyed the way the town dealt with it. They had developed, as town, a great system for tracking and monitoring the spirit. They used high tech surveillance to make sure all was well with her, but in turn, ending up tracking a lot of the citizen’s actions as well.

When some of the teenagers become frustrated with living under strict regulations they start acting out towards the spirit. Their cruel actions ultimately cause all hell to break loose.

Although, I was never able to fully sink into this one, I still decided to round up to 4-stars due to the unique nature of the overall story. Haunting stories have been done numerous times but this one did offer up something new in my opinion.

Also, I am wondering if the difficulty I had connecting to the story was more due to the fact that it is translated from the original Dutch than the actual story itself. The writing style seemed very blunt. I was always aware I was reading a book instead of being told a story, if that makes sense.

Overall though, I would definitely recommend this to horror lovers. Especially people who are looking for something out of the ordinary. This story is definitely worth giving a shot!

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Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

CampfireCampfire by Shawn Sarles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up because I feel this book deserves a higher overall rating**

((How’s that for honesty?))

When Maddie Davenport heads on a friends and family camping trip she has no idea that it is a trip that will change her life. But we all know what happens when teens go camping.

Y’all, this book is a teen slasher flick come to the page. If you enjoy the campy, bloody, sometimes ridiculous movies like Cabin Fever, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Friday the 13th, House of Wax or Wrong Turn, I think you could enjoy this.

It’s all about the mindset you go into a book with. I was looking for a campy, silly slasher that would make me nostalgic for my Junior High years, devouring every Fear Street book I could get my hands on. This did that. It gave me exactly that.

This does definitely read on the younger side of YA so if you aren’t into Tween reads, I would steer clear. I would put this at a target audience of 7th through 10th grade, which is completely fine. People in that age group deserve to have books too and for a fun, Spooktober read, this is great.

The writing is simplistic and the storyline was easy to follow. There are a ton of flawed characters to hate on so when bodies start dropping, you probably won’t shed too many tears.

If you are looking for a quick read, something to remind you of your younger years, when you first started to learn that scaring yourself was fun, you should probably check this one out. I was laughing out loud to the cheesy lines at the end. It was a good time. Glad I picked it up and I feel like you should too!

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Review: All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

All the Bad ApplesAll the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Break the stigma, break the curse.

An absolutely enchanting feminist tale!

I was so enthralled by this story, I could not put it down. As Deena begins to unravel the mysteries of her family tree whilst on a search to find her sister, Mandy, assumed dead, I was completely swept up in their family lore. I wanted to know everything about the Rys family.

Fowley-Doyle seamlessly blended past and present together as the narrative unfolds. The reader takes a front seat as history repeats itself again and again. Women and girls are stripped of their power and choice, made to live false lives. It was heart-wrenching and felt extremely genuine.

At the beginning of the novel, Deena, our teenage protagonist comes out to her family with a mixed reaction. She is a student at a Catholic school and has been raised within a conservative household. She is struggling with her identity and being able to live her truth.

I thought this aspect of the story was so well done, as were all aspects really, but the feelings evoked as Deena questions whether or not she is a ‘nice, normal girl’, were just so powerful. That’s how the story kicks off and as far as gut-punching, hard-hitting topic choices, never lets up.

I loved the format the author chose to slowly reveal the truth at the heart of this tale. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time to come. I am not going to say anything else in regards to the plot because I think it would best serve the story, and your reading experience, to go into this with as little information as possible.

A story of family, identity, secrets, truth and power, I am still reeling by how much this story has impacted me. Truly stunning.

While this is a fully fictional story, the topics explored within were well researched by the author and are based on true events that happened throughout the course of Ireland’s history. As the author lives in Ireland and is Irish herself, that is where the story is focused, however the issues the girls and women faced are universal.

Please read this book. Please read this book. Please read this book and as always, this includes the Author’s Note at the end. Read that too!!

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Review: One By One by D.W. Gillespie

One by OneOne by One by D.W. Gillespie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When the Easton family moves into a decrepit old house they are divided as to whether it is a good thing. Alice, the youngest, and her father, Frank, are excited to learn the secrets of the old house, while older brother, Dean, and mother, Debra, are less enthused.

Frank insists the fixer-upper is exactly what the family needs. A project to draw them closer together. As they start to settle in, Alice, discovers a child’s drawing under some tattered wallpaper. She calls the rest of the family to look and after the entirety of the drawing is revealed it becomes clear it is a drawing of a family. A family exactly like theirs.

When the family pet in the drawing is mysteriously drawn over with a giant black X and their aloof cat, Baxter, disappears, you are hit with the reality that something is very wrong with this house.

As with any horror story, the Easton family doesn’t initially react to this as you would expect them too. They each suspect that someone in the family has done it as a sort of misguided trick. However when the X appears over Dean, they start to take things a little more seriously.

This story has a nice, eerie intensity running throughout, making it a perfect read for Spooktober. There is a found diary element to this that I also really enjoyed. You learn a bit about the mysterious family that lived in the house prior to the Eastons. As that is filled it, the horrific truth is finally revealed to the reader and it was pretty disturbing!

The Epilogue really tied everything together and I loved that the author chose to include that portion of the story. It was a really satisfying conclusion. This was my first Gillespie book and I definitely look forward to reading more from him in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flame Tree Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. If you are looking for a quick spine-chiller to round out your October TBR, you should definitely check this one out!

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