Book Review: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

Delia’s estranged aunt has died and left her a huge old house. ¬†Long before it was a private residence, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females. ¬†Essentially an insane asylum for troubled women, the house earned the nickname “Hysteria Hall” from local townsfolk. ¬†Rumored to be haunted, Delia and her family embark on what is supposed to be a summer spent readying the house for sale. ¬†But the house likes to trap strong-willed girls inside its walls. ¬†And it traps Delia. ¬†After that, Delia starts to learn all about the house’s sinister secrets, and realizes that she’s not the only soul stuck in limbo.

Katie Alender’s innovative ghost story takes all the expected tropes and twists them around into something completely fresh and captivating. ¬†Truly suspenseful and often smartly funny, this is a standout ghost story that will keep readers engaged from start to finish and is a great addition to any horror collection. ¬†Perfect Halloween season reading, this is not to be missed.

It helps that Alender has come up with a better-than-average ghost story to start with. ¬†Although the story starts in a fairly predictable way, it soon takes a sharp and unexpected turn, which is guaranteed to surprise readers and keep them completely glued to the page. ¬†The high creep factor and the fact that none of the book’s characters are necessarily what they seem to be also keeps things interesting and the stakes high. ¬†There’s an eerie feel to the novel throughout, and the gothic-style scares will keep readers on their toes.

Scary, original, and full of twists and turns, Alender knows her way around a creepy story.  This is perfect horror for readers who like their stories original and their gore on the very light side.  Wholly engrossing, this is a delight from start to finish.  Highly recommended.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender. Point: 2015. Library copy.

Book Review: Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

A collection of horror stories from some well-known YA authors working today, this anthology is full of chills, thrills, and bloody resolutions.  Each story draws inspiration from other parts of pop culture, including movies, books, TV, and even songs, and each one interprets these inspirations in various creepy ways.  The stories run the gamut from the fantastical to the all-too-real.

This anthology of horror is the perfect read for the Halloween season.  Full of stories that offer different things for different readers, there are standout tales as well as a couple of convoluted stories that never quite make it off the ground.  Like most anthologies, this is a mixed bag that has a great deal of successes and a few missteps.

The diversity of the anthology’s offerings make this a must-purchase for fans of horror and supernatural tales. ¬†There’s something for every reader of the horror genre, including truly chilling takes on a zombie apocalypse, ghost stories, new takes on urban legends and classic fairy tales, and more. ¬†One standout is Carrie Ryan’s “In the Forest Dark and Deep,” a truly terrifying take on the Alice in Wonderland story.

On the whole, this collection of stories is a lot of fun and offers such a wide variety of stories and writing styles that it’s likely to attract a wide range of readers. ¬†The stories are bloody and actually scary, making this a read best suited for readers who can handle a bit of gore. ¬†Best read in small doses but easily consumed all at once, this is a solid entry into the YA horror genre.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke, et al. Dial Books: 2015. Library copy.

Waiting on Wednesday: Dead Upon a Time by Elizabeth Paulson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Dead Upon a Time by Elizabeth Paulson

Expected Release Date: August 25, 2015

It’s a fairy-tale nightmare . . .

One girl is kept in a room where every day the only food she’s given is a poisoned apple. Another is kept in a room covered in needles — and if she pricks her finger, she’ll die. Then there are the brother and sister kept in a cell that keeps getting hotter and hotter. . .

A sinister kidnapper is on the loose in Kate’s world. She’s not involved until one day she heads to her grandmother’s house in the woods — and finds her grandmother has also been taken. Already an outcast, Kate can’t get any help from the villagers who hate her. Only Jack, another outsider, will listen to what’s happened.

Then a princess is taken, and suddenly the king is paying attention — even though the girl’s stepmother would rather he didn’t. It’s up to Kate and Jack to track down the victims before an ever after arrives that’s far from happy.

(summary via Goodreads)

The past few weeks have been pretty horror-book heavy, and this week is no different. ¬†I’m excited about the Halloween season and can’t wait to read some good fun horror. ¬†This looks like it might fit the bill, in a fantastical sort of way. ¬†I can’t wait to see what the book has in store.

What are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

Expected Release Date:  August 24, 2015

Asylum meets Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, in this riveting tale of ghosts, secrets, and family, from master of suspense Katie Alender.

Delia’s new house isn’t just a house. It used to be an insane asylum, a place to lock up “troubled” young women lof?ng ago. And a restless, wicked spirit is still at play–and it doesn’t want defiant girls like Delia to go anywhere.

So the house kills her.

Now Delia is a ghost, trapped in her creepy home forever. As she meets the other ghost girls who haunt the narrow hallways, as well as the handsome ghost boy on the grounds, she learns shocking truths about the house’s history. Delia also realizes that her alive and grieving sister might be the house’s next target. Can Delia unlock the mystery of the old asylum, save her sister, and free herself?

(summary via Goodreads)

Here’s to hoping the book is a lot less like the two books it gets compared to in the opening part of the book’s blurb and is a lot more compelling. ¬†Early buzz for this one is great and it’s supposed to be much more gothic than gore, which I appreciate. ¬†I love how many horror novels are being published this late summer/early fall, and I can’t wait to start digging into some of these titles to get me in the Halloween mood.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

Joe Goldberg meets a beautiful wannabe writer when she comes into the bookstore where he works. ¬†Her name is Guinevere Beck, and he becomes instantly obsessed. ¬†He’s able to find out all sorts of things by stalking her social media and then stalking her real life, and he knows that she will be his. ¬†He just has to take care of some of the complications masquerading as people in her life. ¬†As he controls more and more of Beck’s life, he also works to be the perfect man for her so that their life together can finally begin.

One of my favorite library instruction sessions is all about social media and privacy, and I’m tempted to bring up a book like this when I discuss social media with students. ¬†It’s a perfectly ridiculous example of a worst-case scenario: a man uses social media to find out absolutely everything about his victim and uses the information to his advantage in every way possible.

That’s what’s so brilliant about Kepnes’s fantastically creepy thriller: it has a hint of the wholly unlikely, but readers can’t shake the feeling that it could be all too real. ¬†It’s deeply unsettling, extremely compelling, and oftentimes darkly funny. ¬†Readers who like their narrators unreliable, their stories dark, and the morals murky at best will find a lot to love here.

In her narrator Joe, Kepnes has crafted a man completely unhinged but unaware of it.  He is able to exude charm to the outside world while keeping a running commentary of snarky comments and pop culture observations inside his head.  The result is a man who is both abhorrent and kind of awesome.

Beck is also complicated, but because readers are never treated to time inside her head and view her only through Joe’s eyes and thoughts, she remains something of an enigma. ¬†She’s spoiled and kind of a brat, and has a tendency to treat people badly (though pretty much every character in this novel is the literal worst), but readers can tell that she has issues with intimate relationships just by how she engages with the world. ¬†Because of this, they also know that her relationship with Joe is doomed. ¬†I mean, he’s also a sociopathic murderer, but Kepnes writes her characters so well that readers will have to actively remind themselves that they aren’t rooting for Joe.

Perhaps the only true criticism is that the novel goes on for a bit too long, and some heavier editing could have cut a bit of the flab that keeps the story from being as tight as it wants to be.  It starts to drag about two-thirds of the way through, just ever so slightly.  Still, readers will race through this one to see what happens in the shocking conclusion.


You by Caroline Kepnes. Atria Books: 2014.  Library copy.



Waiting on Wednesday: The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy

Expected Release Date: August 18, 2015

Twelve years ago Stella and Jeanie vanished while picking strawberries. Stella returned minutes later, with no memory of what happened. Jeanie was never seen or heard from again.

Now Stella is seventeen, and she’s over it. She’s the lucky one who survived, and sure, the case is still cloaked in mystery‚ÄĒand it’s her small town’s ugly legacy‚ÄĒbut Stella is focused on the coming summer. She’s got a great best friend, a hookup with an irresistibly crooked smile, and two months of beach days stretching out before her.

Then along comes a corpse, a little girl who washes up in an ancient cemetery after a mudslide, and who has red hair just like Jeanie did. Suddenly memories of that haunting day begin to return, and when Stella discovers that other red-headed girls have gone missing as well, she begins to suspect that something sinister is at work.

And before the summer ends, Stella will learn the hard way that if you hunt for monsters, you will find them.

(summary via Goodreads)

This looks deliciously creepy. ¬†I love a good horror story, and I never feel like there are enough of them to keep me satiated. ¬†So this is coming at a great time, and I can’t wait to see what happens in this book.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. (goodreads)

M.R. Carey’s post-apocalyptic novel has readers a lot to offer, and it doesn’t just come from the big names who blurbed the book. ¬†A fresh take on the zombie-trope, Carey’s novel stands out with its unique premise and fascinating story. ¬†A few missteps mar what is otherwise a very entertaining novel (and soon to be a super-whitewashed movie).

The characters of Melanie and Miss Justineau are the standouts here, and their bond helps drive much of the story’s narrative. ¬†Melanie is a character unlike any readers have ever encountered: a second-generation “hungry,” a zombie who is capable of intelligent thought, empathy, and speech. ¬†Miss Justineau is her teacher, a woman who believes that hungries like Melanie can serve a greater purpose than being specimens dissected in a lab.

But because these two characters work so well, it helps illustrate how thin the development of the other characters are.  The rest of the main cast fall into pretty common stereotypes and cliches, and their sections of narration suffer as a result.  However, readers who are invested in the rising action will be able to look the other way on this.

On the whole, the book is well-plotted.  The first third of the book is the richest in terms of story development, but the action kicks in shortly after and will keep readers turning the pages.  The novel combines several different tropes, and the road-trip feel of the middle section will work for some readers more than others.  A strong ending with an unusual twist makes for a satisfying conclusion.  This novel is remarkable for its re-imagining of the zombie tale.

The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey. Orbit: 2014. Library copy.