The Haunting of Barry’s Lodge – Annie Walters

34997487When Alfred’s father-in-law offers him the chance to go on a writing retreat in an isolated motel, he jumps at the opportunity to finish his upcoming book. However, everything at the motel is not as it seems, and soon the complete isolation turns from a blessing to a nightmare.

Honestly, if this book had been longer, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. It has potential: the story is intriguing and has some decent, unexpected twists, but it is hugely underdeveloped and not brilliantly written. There were a number of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (which I really struggle to overlook in a published book) and the general style is very simple, which made it not particularly engaging. There are also some pretty abrupt changes in narrative angle which made parts of the plot quite difficult to follow. Lastly, there wasn’t enough description or scene-setting, so it isn’t very atmospheric which is very important in horror stories.

Overall, it could have been worse but definitely could have been better. As it is, this is not a very scary horror story.

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The Feast of All Souls – Simon Bestwick

29430530Alice is trying to start over. Having lost her daughter and husband, she has bought and new house and is trying to move on. However, it would appear that her new house stands on a sort of gateway between worlds, and things are trying to drag her to the other side. After some terrifying attacks by ghostly children and a horrible ogre, Alice enlists the help of her paranormal-investigator-ex-boyfriend, and together they uncover the secrets 378 Collarmill Road and it’s evil previous owner.

First things first, this is a paranormal horror story with genuine horror in it. The ghosts are scary, and some characters are truly evil. There are themes of murder, abuse, and the story behind the death of Alice’s child is tragic – if this sounds like too much for you then I recommend you steer clear of this book.

However, it is a very well-written and atmospheric story. There are a lot of different elements, which did sometimes get a bit muddled and confusing (the author was maybe a little overambitious) but it was otherwise a very smooth and interesting read. As is the case with most typical British horror, it is based on local legend and has a well thought-out background. The characters themselves have strong backstories, which makes them feel much more genuine than in a lot of horror I’ve read. I found parts of The Feast of All Souls appropriately spooky , and other parts plain disturbing – but after all, that’s what horror is meant to be.

My only criticism would be that there was too much going on. The paranormal elements could have been stripped back a tad. Two or three supernatural beings would have been enough.

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Nurse – Amy Cross

51ycadeqoqlThis was not as scary as I expected! Dark, super twisted and pretty creepy, but not actually scary. Rachel (who is blind) moves into a new house with her mother, who works away from home every night. When she’s home alone, Rachel starts to hear strange noises and, being that she can’t see, she is unable to discover their source. At the same time, we follow the story of Alice: a nurse who lived in the same house 20 years ago, caring for her dying father. Alice was involved in an incident at work which lead to the tragic death of an 8-year-old boy, who is haunting her while her father mocks and abuses her, slowing driving her insane. When strange things keep happening at home, Rachel starts digging into the past to learn more about the ‘crazy’ nurse who lived there before her, until eventually she discovers much more than she bargained for.

Alice’s story is truly tragic. I think this is what stopped the book being really scary – instead I was just really sad for Alice the whole time. Her father is truly horrible to her, why does she keep caring for him?! And the whole time she’s dealing with her guilt over accidentally killing a child. Poor woman.

The Nurse is violent creepy but not OTT on gore (which is good because ew, blood and stuff). The plot is genuinely interesting, not just horror for the sake of horror. And the plot twist is INSANELY GOOD. I did not see it coming AT ALL. Amy Cross is the queen of horror (seriously, she has so, so many books) and it’s easy to see why. I will definitely be reading more of her work.

Wicked Children: Murderous Tales From History – Karen Maitland

31122419This short book is essentially an advertisement for Karen Maitland’s other works. She is known for medieval thrillers, a lot of which contain really evil children.

Wicked Children is made up of three parts: one explores some of the real-life cases of children abusing their power and committing acts of murder, which inspire her own characters. The information about these cases is interesting (provided you have at least some interest in evil children and murder) and really quite shocking. The stories of children getting people hung or burned at the stake for witchcraft by pretending to have been cursed or possessed are truly intriguing. But sadly, that’s about as good as Wicked Children gets.

The second section is also quite interesting – a brief list and description of some medieval poisons and cures. However, the final part is simply sample chapters from two of Maitland’s novel (hence, an advert).

What’s there is interesting, but it’s very short. I wouldn’t pay for it.

Necroville – Daniel Parsons

Necroville3-1In this short story, a group of friends visit Necroville – a kind of theme park where the aim is to survive the night while actors dressed as zombies try to ‘kill’ you. All is well, until an actual zombie outbreak happens and the game turns into a real fight to the death.

Daniel Parsons has a nice writing style and the premise is great. It’s a shame the story is so short because it would be nice to have more development of the plot, characters and reasons behind the zombie outbreak. A fun quick read.

The Lavender Witch – Elizabeth Andrews

51ToJBSR4xL__SX352_BO1,204,203,200_I love all things spooky, yet this is the first ghost book I’ve read and I must say I enjoyed it. Based around the true events surrounding the strange death of Devon ‘witch’ Hannah Beamish, the story follows Kitty and Gordon who move into a new house they’ve just had built and begin to experience some unusual occurrences. It turns out they’ve moved onto land belonging to the malevolent spirit of Robert Beamish, who just happens to have a vendetta against Kitty’s great granny and, consequently, Kitty herself. After a few visits from the spirits of Robert (trying to hurt them) and Hannah (trying to help them), Gordon and Kitty seek help from a pair of elderly sisters from the village in order to battle and banish the ghost and reclaim their house.

To begin with I didn’t think The Lavender Witch was going to impress – it had a very slow start. Gordon and Kitty’s relationship is confusing because they’ve clearly been married for a long time, but they seem to hate each other (I still don’t know if that was intentional or just poor writing). The flow is very stilted for the first couple of chapters, with little atmosphere. However, with the development of the storyline, Andrews’ writing seemed to improve rapidly (along with Gordon and Kitty’s feelings toward each other) and she managed to pull off a very engaging ghost story.

I wouldn’t recommend reading this at night if you have a good imagination. I did on a few occasions become convinced that the ghost of Robert Beamish was in my room, and I cope very well with horror so that should be considered quite high praise.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

mWPdBnv10I_Xx0KkH_pFMfAI just finished The Road and I am an emotional wreck. This is the harrowing story of a man and his son travelling across post-apocalyptic America, just trying to survive. There are some horrifying moments involving cannibals and corpses, alongside the truly moving relationship between a father and son.

This book has a unique style, beautifully written in a continuous stream following the journey of the man and the boy. The Road shows instances of humanity at its best and at its worst, in a disturbingly possible future. It is recommended that this book is read in one sitting, but I had no trouble putting it down and coming back to it later. The writing style is very easy to get back into and the story itself is gripping (putting it down was much harder than picking it back up).

This is not in any way a light read but, despite the utter devastation and misery, there is always a thread of hope for the characters and for humanity as a whole which you’ll find yourself clinging to while you read. Prepare to be traumatised in the best way possible.