Happy Tuesday, Reading Nook readers!
Today, we're also reviewing Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz.
I'm normally not a big fan of horror books, but I loved this book. It's delightfully scary, and I can't wait to read the sequel!
Also, please note: I'm trying REALLY hard to be spoiler free in this review, so I will definitely be a lot more vague than I normally am!
Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: July 22nd 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Format read: ARC via publisher
Synopsis via publisher:
For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.
And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.
Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.
Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.
By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.
However, I was so intrigued by the synopsis for Welcome to Dark House, I decided to request the book anyway. I'm now totally glad that I did, because I've never had this much fun reading such a creepy book.
Things that worked:
The first thing you need to know is that Stolarz incorporates five - yes, five - POVs into Welcome to Dark House. While most of the book's attention is focused on Ivy Jensen - a girl with an exceptionally scary, tragic story - Stolarz does a fantastic job of giving each of these characters personalities, quirks and fears that make them come alive during each of their respective chapters.
I was especially struck by the fact that at face value, the characters essentially fall into the categories that you often in typical high school flicks - e.g. the goth; the odd girl; the preppy girl. However, Stolarz makes it clear from very early on, that they are each also haunted by their own past horrors, and it's those horrors that drive their actions and reactions to each other and the situation, accordingly.
This is my first time reading one of Stolarz's books, but it definitely won't be the last. She's a master plotter, and it's evident from the very first page of the book.
Without giving any spoilers away, there's a certain omnipresent sense of creepiness that follows Ivy and each of the characters, as they go from applying for the Justin Blake contest, to actually ending up at the Dark House. Stolarz basically perfects that creepy feeling that a person gets when it feels like there's someone watching them, and applies that to every plot and subplot of this book.
I was especially impressed with how Stolarz lets the story carefully unwind as the characters begin settling in at the house, and prepping for their trip to the amusement park. She drops in enough clues and hints that perhaps, just perhaps, things aren't necessarily as innocent or harmless as they may seem at the house, but no one is necessarily picking up on it.
That feeling of willful ignorance helps creates a feeling of a slow-motion car crash where readers can see doom coming, but can't stop the characters from meeting their fate. This only amps up the feeling of panic and creepiness as the characters begin their trip to the amusement park, and helps to drive the story to the very end.
The horror factor:
This is a horror novel, so obviously there's going to be a bit of gore. However, I really liked the fact that outside of the physically bloody aspects, Stolarz also makes it a point to always show that sometimes, the genuine horror is in a person's own mind.
The nightmares that the characters begin to face when they enter the amusement park show that Stolarz really understands what it is that drives a person to act, what makes them tick, and how it impacts their decisions in moments of desperation.
THAT ENDING. Seriously. Stolarz writes a masterful ending which basically makes you question everything, and also makes you want the sequel as soon as possible.
(Seriously, when does it come out again?)
Things to consider:
*Slight spoilers ahead*
Not only does it set up the second book nicely, the abruptness also really emphasizes the genuine horror of the situation. There's a definite sense of hopelessness, coupled with dread and anticipation, which I think will make the readers really think about the magnitude of what the characters have gone through.
I strongly recommend this book for fans of light horror or more psychologically-based horror. I think that this is the type of book that will appeal more to fans of an R.L. Stine-type of a read, verses a Saw type of reader.
As for me, I'm definitely counting down the days until the sequel to this book comes out - I need to know what happens, darn it!
About the author:
Laurie Faria Stolarz (www.LaurieStolarz.com) is the author of Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, and Deadly Little Lessons, as well as Project 17; Bleed; and the highly popular Blue Is for Nightmares; White Is for Magic; Silver Is for Secrets; Red Is for Remembrance; and Black Is for Beginnings. Born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts, Stolarz attended Merrimack College and received an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College in Boston. Laurie lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts.