Review: The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

The Burning GirlsThe Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After a scandal at her church, unconventional vicar, Jack Brooks, and her teenage daughter, Flo, are relocated to the village of Chapel Croft.

This is quite a shift from their life in Nottingham, but they are both determined to make the best of it.

The location is peaceful and remote. It feels a million miles from their old life. Upon arrival, they are a little surprised by the untidy condition of the old chapel and their new residence, but still determined to make it work.

They also discover that Chapel Croft, like many small towns, has a dark past that lies not far from the surface. Five hundred years ago, eight Protestants, including two young girls, were burned at the stake for their beliefs.

This incident has shaped the town in many ways and the descendants of these original martyrs are still held in high regard.

They also have a slightly disturbing tradition of making little stick dolls in memory of The Burning Girls; a few of which Jack and Flo stumble upon shortly after arriving in town.

More recently, the village has been plague by other unfortunate events, like the disappearance of two teen girls thirty-years earlier.

In fact, just two months ago, the previous vicar took his own life. A fact Jack was unaware of when she accepted the position.

The people of the village have been through a lot. Secrets and suspicions abound amongst the residents, and when outsiders move in, it tends to cause quite the stir.

Flo unfortunately runs into the local bullies fairly soon after arriving in town and they latch on to her as their newest target. She also makes a friend, Lucas Wrigley, who because of a neurological disorder, finds himself bullied as well.

For her part, Jack is doing her best to learn what she can about her new congregation and ingratiate herself to its people.

Jack knows establishing strong personal relationships is key. She needs these people to trust her, if this placement is going to last.

However, some folks are easier to appease than others and Jack happens to be hiding a few secrets of her own, including the circumstances surrounding her departure from her former church.

The Burning Girls was such a fun read. It’s a slow burn, but once Jack and Flo are settled in their new home, disturbing occurrences begin happening with more regularity.

From there, the pace continues to increase through the jaw-dropping finale.

There’s some interesting subplots, where I wondered how it was all going to connect. Once the puzzle pieces fell into place, I was absolutely chilled.

I loved how Tudor brought this all together and honestly, didn’t see it coming!

Additionally, I loved the overall atmosphere. Chapel Croft came to life within these pages. It felt ominous; that feeling where you know something is not right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

There was a tremendous cast of characters. It felt like Jack and Flo against the world, which really increased the intensity. I just wanted them to pack their bags and move!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I had an absolute blast with it and can’t wait to pick up more of Tudor’s work!

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Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

The Ghost TreeThe Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

The town of Smith’s Hollow has suffered quite a few tragedies over the years. The eerie part is, no one seems to remember.

When two girls from out of town are found slayed in a backyard, literally cut to pieces, it does grab everyone’s attention. At least momentarily.

Lauren has grown up in Smith’s Hollow and now, just shy of her Freshman year in high school, she begins to sense something is severely wrong with their quiet town.

For one thing, her father was murdered in the woods just last year. His heart cut out of his body.

When she hears about the murdered girls, she doesn’t hold much hope for the police finding the culprit. They never solved her Dad’s murder.

Everyone just seemed to move on, but Lauren remembers and she wants to get to the bottom of it.

The thing I loved the most about this story was the atmosphere. The setting of Smith’s Hollow, that eerie small town vibe where you can instantly tell something is off.

Additionally, I found Lauren to be a likable character and the relationships within her family were interesting.

Since her father passed, her mother has been struggling and seems to take a lot of her frustrations out on Lauren. Nothing she ever does is right, her mom is always nagging at her.

Then there is Lauren’s little brother, Danny, who she loves dearly, but he’s a strange kid. He seems to know things he shouldn’t and he says the oddest things.

When Lauren begins to have visions as well, of a horrible monster and the murdered girls, she starts to investigate.

What is going on in Smith’s Hollow and what is her connection to it? Her first stop is her Grandmother’s house and boy, does she have a tale to tell!

There’s witches, there’s curses, there are sacrifices that need to be made.

Lauren sees it as her job to put an end to the madness. Along with a friendly policeman, a cute next-door neighbor and a roving reporter, Smith’s Hollow had better watch its back.

Throughout this story I was reminded of other stories. I felt Sawkill Girls, Strange Grace, The Devouring Gray and The Wicked Deep all rolled into one.

It was fun, I’m glad I read it. I love how Christina Henry’s mind works, but this isn’t my favorite of her books.

Lauren’s best friend, Miranda, drove me batty. I was hoping she would be the first victim, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Also, there were some subplots I wasn’t as interested in and I found those portions dragging for me. I think I could have enjoyed it a lot more if those had been shaved back a bit, including the racist neighbor.

Overall, this is a solid story. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy a dark atmosphere with some gruesome deaths steeped in mystery.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I adore Christina Henry and will continue to pick up anything else she writes!

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Review: The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

The Last Final GirlThe Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

I am really torn on the rating for this. My heart says give it a 5, while my brain says, 4-stars is more accurate.

After contemplation, I’ve decided to slice it right down the middle for this ode to Teen Slashers.

I grew up watching all things Horror. I had two older siblings, who both enjoyed the genre, so I was exposed to it at such a young age. Honestly, I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t watching Horror movies.

From the years of being so freaked out by Poltergeist I couldn’t sleep in my own bedroom for 3-months, to watching The Gate on repeat because I had an 8-year old’s crush on Stephen Dorff, Horror movies have always been a positive part of my life.

In The Last Final Girl, Stephen Graham Jones brings the spirit of all that is great in Slasher Horror to the page.

The format of this story is unconventional, to say the least. It’s written in the style of a screenplay, with the narrator setting our scenes and describing characters actions, the POVs switch quickly and often, and there is a lot of rapid fire dialogue.

You really need to pay attention if you want to catch it all!

I listened to the audiobook and thought the narrator did a phenomenal job. I had a huge grin on my face the entire time.

I loved what SGJ did here. It was like he made a list of all things important to that genre, including movie names, characters, actors within those movies, fictional towns, tropes, themes, the well-known rules of Horror and then connected them all with an actual coherent story.

It was amazing and so fun. I could picture every scene because it was like I had seen it all before. The river, the discarded Halloween masks, the mysterious figure standing in the corn, characters like Lindsay, Izzy and Crystal, the scenes at the high school, the final showdown; I loved it all!

I would definitely recommend the audiobook if you are interested in this one. Having read some other reviews, it doesn’t sound like people who read the hard copy had quite the same experience with this that I did.

SGJ definitely took a risk with this one; it’s really for a niche market of die hard fans of this type of movie. If you are, as it appears SGJ is, a student, if you will, of the genre, this is an absolute delight.

Every reference had me giddy and there are a lot. I love SGJ’s edgy style and always appreciate his nods to the classics. I will continue to pick up his work. This was certainly a fun ride for me!

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Review: The Haunted by Danielle Vega

The Haunted (The Haunted, #1)The Haunted by Danielle Vega
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up **

Hendricks and her family move to Drearford to escape a dark chapter in her young life.

Her parents purchase a dilapidated old house to renovate and for her part, Hendricks is hoping to lay low and heal her scarred heart.

Unfortunately, Steel House, their new home, has other things in mind.

Unbeknownst to them, they have inadvertently moved into the most infamous house in Drearford, with a frighteningly violent history.

While at school, Hendricks is quickly accepted into the popular crowd, even catching the eye of a local heartthrob, at home she is harassed and terrified.

It doesn’t take long for the house, and the spirits trapped there, to express their deep-seeded need for vengeance.

This is a classic haunted house story, with a well-executed Teen Scream element.

I enjoyed Hendricks as a character, as well as her new friends. They were all fun to get to know, especially Eddie, but we’ll get to him later.

I was pleasantly surprised, and impressed, by the imagery of the horror elements. I was seeing everything Hendricks was seeing and I’ll tell you, some of it really creeped me out.

Even though it seems initially that the major site of the paranormal activity is located in the cellar, eventually it permeates through the entire house. Nowhere Hendricks goes is safe. I was genuinely afraid along with her.

Hendricks knows she has to get to the bottom of the haunting, or else risk the lives of everyone in her family.

Along with her brooding neighbor, Eddie, who has his own dark ties to Steel House, the two band together to try to exorcise it of its demons.

It all builds up to an epic showdown that kept me glued to the pages.

There were a couple of details towards the end that I wish hadn’t been included. They sort of pushed it pass the line of solid paranormal into eyeroll territory.

With this being said, however, I did enjoy this enough that as soon as I finished it, I ordered the second book.

I need to know what happens to Hendricks next. I want so much more time with her character. Well played, Danielle Vega. Well played.

Original:

Synopsis:
YA’s answer to Stephen King…

That’s a fairly lofty statement, but I’ll bite.
Plus, my 80s-loving heart feels the vibe of this cover.

Let’s do this.

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Review: The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn

The ShudderingThe Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What’s not to enjoy about a classically-constructed gore fest with horrifying monsters!?

The Shuddering follows a group of friends on a snowboarding holiday in the unforgiving Colorado mountains.

The Adler twins, Ryan and Jane, spent a lot of their childhood at their parent’s posh ski cabin. Now that their parents are no longer together, their father has decided to sell the memorable property.

Ryan, who has just accepted a job overseas, decides to plan one final weekend at the home with his twin and his best friend, Sawyer.

Jane, recently divorced, decides to bring along her best friend, Lauren and Sawyer brings his gloomy girlfriend, April. Jane, who dated Sawyer in high school and really never got over him, isn’t exactly excited about April’s presence.

As the weekend gets underway, it’s clear tension is going to be the name of the game. Unfortunately, for the Adler party, that’s soon to be the least of their worries.

There’s something lurking in the woods, observing them, coming closer and closer to the cabin and it’s hungry.

Oona, Ryan’s beloved husky, is the first to notice something is amiss.

Her strange behavior leads Ryan to believe that a wolf pack may be hunting in the area.

When a blizzard hits, they become snowed in and the agitation reaches a new peak. The group ends up separating as April and Sawyer try to depart the property.

It doesn’t end well.

From there the intensity and action never stops. As you learn the truth of what pursues the group of weekend travelers, the desperation of their circumstances becomes more and more clear.

I love how Ahlborn built this out. It’s a classic set-up for a horror story and that was exactly the vibe that I was looking for when I picked it up.

I was stressed about the dog, of course. If you have ever read any of my reviews, you probably could have guessed that was coming, so that did have a slight effect on my enjoyment level.

Also, some the decisions made by the characters were questionable, but at the same time, I think that is half the fun. I mean, is a Horror movie even enjoyable if you aren’t yelling at the screen half the time?

The gore and violence were very well done. It was disgusting, it was bloody, it was stomach-churning and it was unrelenting.

I would definitely recommend this to any fan of the horror genre; particularly, if you, like me, enjoy horror stories set in Winter. This is the perfect book for that vibe!

I was a fan of Ahlborn’s work prior to this, but this definitely seals the deal. I will read anything she writes!

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Review: Eventide by Sarah Goodman

EventideEventide by Sarah Goodman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In 1907, Verity Pruitt and her little sister, Lilah, arrive in Wheeler, Arkansas, aboard an orphan train.

The girl’s mother has passed away and their father, apparently suffering from overwhelming grief, has been committed to an asylum.

With no family to take them in, the girls become wards of the state, in spite of the fact that Verity is close to turning eighteen.

When they arrive in Arkansas, it is clear that a family is already waiting for Lilah, but poor Verity will not be going with them.

She does still luck out though, as an amazing family is willing to take her in and they live only a couple of miles from Lilah’s new home.

Of course, Verity’s position is more as a farmhand initially, than an adopted child. She’s okay with that though, a little hard work never hurt anybody.

As Verity settles in at her new home, enjoying her work on the farm and her new friendships, she discovers that something lurks in the woods surrounding the town.

It’s unsettling the things she sees as she accidentally ventures into the woods one night.

As she works to uncover the truth behind the strange things she has seen and experienced, Verity begins to uncover some truths about her own family instead.

Goodman definitely succeeded at bringing a fun, creepy atmosphere to this historical fiction tale.

I really enjoyed the setting and the cast of characters.

Some of the plot was a bit too simple for my tastes, as well as slightly campy towards the end, but it was still a quick, enjoyable read!

I definitely recommend this to readers who like the idea of a creepy read, but they don’t actually want to be scared.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

As a debut, this is impressive. I look forward to reading more from Sarah Goodman. I hope she stays in this lane. It works for her!

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Review: Camp Murderface by Josh Berk and Saundra Mitchell

Camp MurderfaceCamp Murderface by Josh Berk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

It’s 1983 and Camp Sweetwater is ready for its grand reopening.

A summer camp in rural Ohio, Sweetwater mysteriously closed its doors 30-years ago, but now it’s refreshed and ready to take campers again.

Corryn Quinn and Tez Jones are two such lucky campers.

As frightening as the prospect of summer camp is, being shipped away from home, alone, with no contact with your family, Corryn and Tez are both ready to leave their regular lives behind for a while.

They meet on the bus trip there and its pretty much decided. They will be best camp friends. It’s at least decided for Tez.

Once at the camp and divided into their respective cabins, the kids go about starting the most epic summer ever. They hope.

It doesn’t take long however, before very spooky, scary things start occurring.

There’s a mystery afoot. One Corryn and Tez vow to get to the bottom of.

This story is hilarious. I listened to the audiobook, which I highly recommend. From the very beginning, I was giggling aloud.

The story alternates between Corryn and Tez’s perspectives. The narrators did such an incredible job bringing this to life. The timing of the jokes, the intonation, it was all superb!

As this is Middle Grade, the story itself isn’t super complicated, or overly dark, but I think it is wildly creative and definitely channels all the spooky vibes that are perfect for young readers.

I loved this, as it gave me such nostalgia for the spooky content I used to enjoy as a kid. I was feeling Scooby-Doo, I was feeling R.L. Stine; it’s just a ton of fun.

Camp Murderface leaves off at a great spot for a continuation of the story. I will definitely pick it up if one is published.

I loved Corryn and Tez both so much! They are just the best. Super clever and sincere. I will go on any adventure with them; no matter how scary.

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Review: The Ritual by Adam Nevill

The RitualThe Ritual by Adam Nevill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Luke, Dom, Phil and Hutch have been friends since college. Over the years, however, they have drifted apart a bit; particularly Luke, who is the only one among them still single and without a stable career.

The men decide to travel from their homes in the UK, to the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle for a backpacking adventure. A reunion of sorts.

Unfortunately, the camaraderie of the group isn’t very strong. Dom and Phil seem condescending to Luke. Treating him like a child, or worse.

Hutch is the happy one. The bond that seems to tie them all together. His positive energy is half the reason they decided to take this trip in the first place.

Adding additional stress for the group is the fact that Dom and Phil are ill-prepared for this type of holiday. As in, they’re out of shape AF.

The group is not making the mileage they need to be making per day to reach their goals. Because of this, Hutch suggests they take an off piste short cut.

As a frequent hiker of the rugged mountains of Maine, this is a nightmare scenario for me.

Just the thought…

The men agree to Hutch’s plan, although they are definitely nervous and skeptical; particularly Luke.

The forest is so dark and thick, the rain not giving them a moment’s break. They are exhausted, they are physically no match for the rough terrain. They see things. Everything starts to go really badly.

Forced to take shelter for a night in what clearly is a haunted cabin, the men are finally pushed to their breaking points by what lay inside.

Y’all, these hiking scenes chilled me to the bone. I loved Nevill’s descriptions of being in the forest. How it swallows you, completely cutting you off from the modern world and returning your senses to their more primal nature.

I thought he captured that fear that the wilderness can evoke in us so freaking well. I absolutely loved the first half of this.

The second half does take a twist that shifts the feeling more from fear to anger, as the narrative directs focus from the devil we don’t know, to the devil we do.

I had jaw dropping, stomach-turning moments right up to the very end. The final scene was so intense. Overall, I think this is an extremely well done survival Horror story; especially depending on what your fears are.

My only negative would be that I felt certain sections dragged on a bit. Particularly some of the interactions between the men, although I do understand the author’s choice with those moments.

I definitely will be thinking of this one for a long time to come, especially on my next hiking trip!

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Review: Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke

Sour CandySour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved reading this book, which feels weird to say because of the content.

It is horrifying, grisly, stomach-churning, haunting, and I loved every minute of it.

I mean, what can I say, it’s what I like.

Sour Candy was my Halloween night read. I lit a pumpkin scented candle, grabbed an adult beverage, snuggled into my bed and read it from start to finish.

Coming in under 100-pages, this novella packs a lot in.

Phil Pendleton has his head in the clouds, straight off a hot night with his lady, as he enters his local Wal-Mart looking to buy them chocolates.

As he stands in the candy aisle making his choices, he hears a blood-curdling scream.

Glancing over he notices an ill-behaved child, pitching a fit, as often occurs in Wal-Mart, and a bedraggled mother who looks to be at the end of her rope.

When a manager intervenes, the situation, if anything, escalates.

Phil tries to assist, but as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished. That’s the last moment of normalcy Phil will have.

Certain aspects of that moment, and the debilitating health effects that followed, reminded me a bit of Thinner. I love Thinner, so comparing these is absolutely a compliment from me.

I also loved how Burke built the intensity in this. The story gets more strange as it goes along, and with that, the horrific nature builds and builds.

Playing off the classic creepy kid trope, this story took that to the next level. I was horrified for Phil.

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a quick and memorable horror story!

You know who you are.

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Review: I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I'm Thinking of Ending ThingsI’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Wow. WOW. Wooooow. Wwwoooowww. Wow. WOW. Wow. Wow. Wooooowwww. Woooow. Wow. wOW. WOW.

I first heard of this book when Kayla, from BooksandLala, read it and mentioned it on her YouTube channel. From her reaction to her experience reading it, I knew I wanted to pick it up.

Since that time, I have successfully avoided all spoilers, reviews and honestly, even the synopsis.

On a whim, I decided to start the audiobook on Saturday.

First, let me just say, the audiobook was amazing, and in my estimation, absolutely the best way to experience this story.

I am not going to say a thing about the content of this book. I wouldn’t want to spoil one single sentence for anyone who hasn’t read it, but wants to.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is unconventional, it’s weird, it’s dark and it shook me. When the reveal happens in audio, I was out walking my dog and was so chilled, I had to stop walking.

I genuinely thought this was brilliant.

Regardless of the final outcome of this novel, throughout the entire story I was creeped out.

It’s such an odd experience, because there is nothing overtly scary happening, but the feeling of dread that I had the entire time I was listening to it was pretty epic.

Overall, I think this audiobook is an amazing experience. If you are looking to be played and have everything you thought you knew flipped on its head, pick it up.

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