A short and not-so-sweet treat from one of my favourite writers, The Grownup from Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn was one of my Halloween reads this year, and for scary thrills, rollercoaster twists and a spine-chilling ending that left me craving more, it certainly didn’t disappoint.
As with all of Flynn’s protagonists, the unnamed narrator of The Grownup is written in shades of grey. This one is an opportunist who uses skills honed during an underprivileged childhood to make her way in life by whatever means possible. She’s working in a shady establishment as a faux-psychic reader of auras when she meets a troubled woman by the name of Susan Burke. Susan is at her wits end: she lives in a creepy – and possibly possessed –Victorian house where she’s being tormented by a definitely disturbed child. It soon becomes clear that our girl may have bitten off more than she can chew.
This is Gillian Flynn, so you have to remember that nothing is as it first appears –and everything is dark and twisted to the extreme. This one kept me guessing, for sure. The ending is abrupt – and I definitely wished that this was a novel instead of the very concise short story that it is. Still, it was a spooky read, perfect for Halloween, and it’s made me even more excited for Flynn’s next as-yet-untitled novel, whatever that may be.
Published November 5th 2015 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
From one creepy old house to another in gothic-toned Sweet Damage by Rebecca James. I picked some pretty good Halloween reads this year, I have to say: This one, The Grownup and Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics were the books on my Halloween reading list, and each one was a hit.
Laidback surfer Tim likes to coast through life with nothing too taxing on his mind, so much so that instead of finding his own place he’s been sleeping on his ex-girlfriends couch for the past while. That’s all getting a bit awkward, as these things tend to, so when Tim happens on a cheap room for rent in an amazing house in an exclusive Sydney suburb, he goes for it. It all seems almost too good to be true – but the only catch seems to be that Tim will have to help out the owner of the house, the mysterious Anna London, with groceries and such. Anna never ever leaves the house, which might set off alarm bells for some people, but not Tim.
Soon, though, creepy things start happening in the house at night – and everything leads back to Anna. Could it be that this sweet, fragile girl is the cause of Tim’s unrest? Or is there something far more sinister – and more ghostly – at play?
A riveting read from the author of Beautiful Malice, this one is a true page-turner with some really great twists!
Published April 1st 2013 by Allen & Unwin.
Best friends Josephine and Freya rule the roost at their exclusive boarding school where excelling academically means everything. They are the girls with whom everybody wants to be friends, but they keep their distance, a clique of two that can’t be penetrated by outside forces. Jo and Freya share everything – until one night- after which things are never the same between them again. Eighteen years on, after years of no contact, Freya gets in touch. She wants to talk to Josephine. Josephine, however, is determined to avoid her old friend by whatever means possible. The last thing she wants to do is revisit the past – no matter how insistent Freya might be on her doing just that.
The Exclusives is an absorbing debut from Rebecca Thornton with a slowly unfolding mystery that will keep you guessing throughout. Thornton explores the theme of mental illness via Josephine and her mother, and to that effect I was hoping for a bigger twist than this tale turns out to be. However, the story of Jo and Freya and how their live spiral out of control after one fateful night is as dark as it is compelling, and I remained invested in the story throughout.
If you love books about boarding schools and toxic friendships, then check out The Exclusives – it may just be the book you’ve been waiting for.
Published December 10 2015 by Twenty7 Books.
Received for review | Netgalley.
A found-footage movie in novel form, Dawn Kurtagich’s The Dead House explores an unsolved mystery via the discovery of a diary twenty-five years after a fire in which a school burned down, three people were killed, and one girl, Carly Johnson, disappeared. The diary of the piece belongs to Carly’s twin, Kaitlyn. The catch: Carly doesn’t have a twin. Kaitlyn Johnson doesn’t exist. Instead, we come to learn that Carly and Kaitlyn are two girls with one soul – Carly get the day, while Kaitlyn gets the night…
The Dead House was one of my most-anticipated reads of 2015. A mystery that is described as part psychological thriller, part urban legend, I was sure that this book would be perfect for me. I was wrong. Hey, sometimes that’s the way it goes. I think, in part, The Dead House didn’t work for me due to its non-traditional format. This book is presented as a series of diary entries, videos, interviews and transcripts. The book constantly flips between formats, culminating in a book that is both frenzied and incoherent, with a series of underdeveloped plot-points throughout and an ambiguous ending that did nothing for my reading experience.
For me The Dead House was a case of great idea, not so great execution.
Note: I read an early ARC of The Dead House. Some details may have changed in the final copy.
Published August 6th 2015 by Orion Children's Books.
Received for review.