Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

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Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.
To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.
A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör is designed to retain its luster and natural appearance for a lifetime of use. Pleasingly proportioned with generous French flaps and a softcover binding, Horrorstör delivers the psychological terror you need in the elegant package you deserve.
Designed by Andie Reid, cover photography by Christine Ferrara.

I’ve wanted to read a Grady Hendrix book for a very long time, and when I saw the design for Horrorstor, I just knew I had to pick it up. This book is designed to be a copy IKEA catalog, and it makes the whole book incredibly entertaining to read. I think the design of this book is pure genius, and the story itself was pretty good too.

I had no idea what to expect on the horror front – but this turned out to be paranormal style horror, which I enjoyed. It was weird, not too spooky, and not quite real. A good balance of horror for me personally, although I could have stood maybe slightly more creepiness in places.

There are enough people running around in here.

I also related to the main character, Amy. There is a large part of this book that focuses on the difficulty of working in retail. I’m talking the day-in-day-out slog of working with shitty customers all day, every day. I love my job, but I also know what it feels like to be in the kind of retail Amy was constantly sassy about. I loved, and very much related to, that satirical narrative. See this review for a brilliant selection of gifs about working in retail (and a review of the book of course!).

The plot kept me entertained and was super fun in a lot of ways. I read this in two sittings and it kept me interested throughout. I had no idea how it was going to end, but I did quite like the ending we had. The characters banded together in a way that reminded me of my own work family and I can imagine us coming together if we ended up in a crazy situation like this one!

It’s starting to feel like an episode of Scooby-Doo.

Overall, this was a great introduction to Grady Hendrix and I can’t wait to read more by him.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

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Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor in London, is summoned to Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, and to sort through her papers before returning to London. It is here that Kipps first sees the woman in black and begins to gain an impression of the mystery surrounding her. From the funeral he travels to Eel Marsh House and sees the woman again; he also hears the terrifying sounds on the marsh.
Despite Kipps’s experiences he resolves to spend the night at the house and fulfil his professional duty. It is this night at Eel Marsh House that contains the greatest horror for Kipps. Kipps later discovers the reasons behind the hauntings at Eel Marsh House. The book ends with the woman in black exacting a final, terrible revenge.

I’m not a big horror reader, but my boyfriend Mark told me this is one of the only books that has ever scared him and made me want to pick it up as well! I thought it was the perfect time of year to dive into this one and I read the entire book in an evening – I couldn’t put it down. I read it by candlelight in the bath and it just added to the scary atmosphere of this book – I loved it.

The plot of this book was super interesting and honestly made it difficult to put down. We follow Arthur, who at the start of this book is reflecting on an experience he had when he was younger, and decides to write down the story instead of telling it out loud. Around 40 pages in, we start to be told that very story and here, things get spooky…

At the age of 23, Arthur was sent to sort out Eel Marsh House after the woman who owns it passes away. He works as a solicitor and travels away from his home in London to take care of the house. This whole story was so eerie and full of atmosphere, and the writing showed it off beautifully. There is so many aspects of this book that work together to make it spine-chilling – the weather, the isolated location of the house, the Victorian Gothic feel of the writing.

This one did send chills down my spine and I was definitely spooked out in places. Overall, I was just super impressed with this one and it was such an enjoyable read despite the creepiness!

★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

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Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.
Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.
As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.
The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years.

I feel so torn about this one and my feelings towards it are all over the place. On one hand I loved the sisterly bond, family focus and creepy atmosphere. On the other, it just fell really flat. I did expect this one to be different than it ended up being, as it had much more of a fantasy horror focus with a bit of thriller, rather than the other way around. And because of that, I just wasn’t drawn into the story as much as I wanted to be at all. I found the first half of this book quite slow, then it picked up in the middle and lost my interest again at the end.

My favourite part of this book was the lyrical, beautiful writing. It had such creepy, dark undertones but also portrayed the world so well and was heavy on description. It had the perfect feel for the kind of twisted fairytale style this seemed to be going for, and left it a sprawling tale.

Some people go missing because they want to; some go missing because they’re taken. 

I did enjoy the sister and family focus, and it made for an interesting backstory. I also didn’t find the plot predictable, and I liked seeing where the story would go. However, it just failed to really grab me. Towards the end of the story, I started wondering if we would really get all of the answers I was craving. And we kind of just…didn’t? Although I didn’t feel completely unsatisfied by the ending, I also didn’t get everything I was looking for.

The characters were so strange, but I definitely felt Iris was the perfect sister to tell this story. I liked the relationship with her mother and how it was explored, and the same goes for the other Hollow sisters and side characters. I just felt a little underwhelmed by scenes that should have been more emotional for me, and I felt there was a lack of connection between me and some of the characters.

And then there are the others—those who go missing because they fall through a gap somewhere and can’t claw their way back.

Although this was a page turner in places and had a great atmosphere, I just didn’t feel as absorbed or thrilled as I wanted to be. I personally feel like this one left a lot to be desired, but I can also see why some people are loving it at the moment! Be warned that this is very gruesome in places and make sure to look up trigger warnings before reading.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

I’ve been really wanting to read this for a while, but felt like it wasn’t the right time with the current state of the world. However, after falling into a bit of a reading hangover after taking part in a 48 hour readathon last weekend, I was craving a horror book. I’m not sure why, as I tend to not read much horror, and this was the only one on my shelf that could be classed as such. I was hesitant picking this up due to the whole virus theme, but I’m glad I did.

This book was perfect to get me out of my hangover, because it sucked me in and didn’t let me go. I just really wanted to carry on reading as this was so easy to get through over a couple of days. The plot is so compelling and I couldn’t help but carry on reading to see what was going to happen next. I read 220 pages of it in one day, and it felt like I was reading nothing at all because it was so quick to read! However, even though this writing is easy to read, the topics are unbearably heavy, and I will be leaving a lot of content warnings at the bottom of this review.

I think I’d been looking for it all my life

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, and the whole concept of feminist horror draws me in, and I loved that this was set around female friendships and a f/f romance. Although the characters are quite disturbed and in some ways, unlikable, I actually really liked reading about them. Because of the setting of this book, the girls are bound to make decisions that are questionable and that is exactly what happens in this book. But they are going through so much, I couldn’t not feel sympathetic towards them. I also loved the strong, sisterly bonds between the girls and the female strength portrayed throughout this story was brilliant to read.

The horror elements are utterly disturbing, I wouldn’t say this book is necessarily ‘creepy’ or has any jump scares as such, but some of the parts of it are so visceral they are bound to make your skin crawl. I wasn’t sure how I would get on with this, but I did really enjoy the story despite the difficult elements! I also really enjoyed the fact this book is set on an island, and I found it so consuming to read about.

a storm in my body to match the one in my head.

Overall, this wasn’t quite a 5 star read for me but was still super enjoyable and I’m really looking forward to reading Burn Our Bodies Down!

CW (taken from Rory Power’s webiste) Graphic violence and body horror, gore, on the page character death, parental death, and animal death (the animals are not pets), behavior and descriptive language akin to self harm, and references to such, food scarcity and starvation, emesis, scene depicting chemical gassing, suicide and suicidal ideation, non-consensual medical treatment.

I also think it’s worth just re-noting that this book does focus predominately on a virus, which is a whole other trigger warning and issue as we live in a Covid world!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Horrid by Katrina Leno

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Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.
As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiralling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all — it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….
Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more… horrid?

I’m not usually one for horror books, but this one caught my eye and I really wanted to give it a go. When Blue offered to sell me their Owlcrate edition, I decided to try it. I have to say, this one didn’t disappoint and I’m really glad I picked it up. I did want to save this for Halloween season, but I picked this out of my TBR jar and I thought, why not?

This book was utterly enthralling and I struggled to put it down. It is written in large (25-100ish pages each, averaging at about 50 at a guess) sections rather than chapters, which I was originally apprehensive about but it really worked. I flew through this because I just couldn’t stop reading and I really wanted to know what was going to happen.

Jane had recently lost her father, which meant a big move for her and her mother from California to small town Maine where her mother grew up in a spooky old manor house. I absolutely adored the atmosphere, it really encapsulated the feeling of this book. The whole town has a creepy, isolated feel but especially the manor. I was utterly gripped by this book, especially the spooky scenes. It terrified me, but I loved it, because it was so cleverly done.

I think the important thing to realize, to try and remember, is that grief doesn’t have a rule book. 

Throughout the book, the mystery surrounding the house is slowly revealed to Jane, and she realises she does have reason to be scared of the big old house, which is shrouded in darkness. If this book was one thing, it was super dark. It demonstrates the darkest parts of the human mind, and felt so harrowing for it. I really enjoyed the way the mystery was revealed, although the ending did let me down slightly. I just expected it to be a little clearer, and I was left with a lot of questions. It was left very open, which lets the reader decide for themselves how the book really ends, but this just didn’t quite appeal to me personally and did make this not quite 5 stars.

Grief, mental illness and pica (a disorder when people eat things that have no nutritional value) are at the forefront of this book. I thought the depiction of grief was very well done, and I really sympathised with Jane. The quote I’ve included in this review really pinpoints the tone this book took with grief. Mental illness, especially anger issues, were prominent and I really appreciated the way Horrid talked about mental illness passing down between family members.

You’re allowed to feel every emotion under the sun. You’re even allowed to invent new ones. I think I’ve done that a few times

Overall, this was definitely a bit of a pleasant surprise considering I don’t usually drift towards horror. The writing really stood out, and was beautiful yet jarring. I also loved that Jane worked at a bookshop and was a reader herself. I actually really sympathised with her which shows how clever the writing was. The plot was enthralling and thrilling, with some absolutely spine chilling scenes. If you do enjoy a good scare, that has some poignant writing about family, mental illness and grief, I couldn’t recommend this enough.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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