“It used to be simply noises. The noises were dreadful enough. But now sometimes I think I see it in the shadows.” // Review of “The Dead of Winter” by Chris Priestley

Title: The Dead of Winter
Author: Chris Priestley
Genre:
Horror
Intended audience: Middle-grade
Date Read:
01/10/19 – 03/10/19
Rating: ★★

Review:

Ah man. I was really looking forward to a spooky haunted house story here, and while I knew it was middle-grade, I didn’t think that would affect my enjoyment. How can you go wrong with orphan boy dealing with a haunted house at Christmas?

I want to say that I absolutely think that I would have found this a lot spookier if I had read it when I was ten or eleven, and that I feel this  is one of those books that doesn’t quite transcend its target age group (some MG books don’t, and that’s fine).

As it was, I felt that it was a bit of a checklist of haunted house tropes. We had the ghost of a pale woman in a shift out on the moors, we had banging from within the walls, we had footsteps in the corridor, we had shadowy figures in mirrors… It was all there and yet apart from a couple of scenes, I never really felt like any one haunting was gone into in any depth, nor did it feel like anything particularly new was being done.

The other thing that was while this is ostensibly about a young boy, it is written from the perspective of an older man looking back on something that happened when he was small. I couldn’t help thinking that emulating a Gothic style narration was probably not the way to interest young readers. The last chapter and the epilogue are set years later after Michael has grown up, and I don’t know that MG readers will consider that a satisfactory ending.

But at the end of the day, while this book wasn’t for me, I can’t say what the target audience would think. It’s highly possible that they would find it a lot more enjoyable.


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WWW Wednesday – 09 October 2019

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

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What have you recently finished reading?

I didn’t post last week but this has been a good couple of reading weeks! I can’t believe I’ve already read 5 books in October!

FirstI finished Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle, which examines depictions of women in such things as horror movies and true crime fandom. I thought some of the analysis was reaching a bit to draw the conclusions she wanted to, but overall it was interesting. Haven’t quite worked out if I’ll do a full review of this one yet.

Next, I read Monuments by Will Kostakis, which is a fun YA fantasy. It managed to retain a light-hearted tone even as it deals with some pretty heavy issues… I went to the Canberra launch event on Friday night and have to say, I think it’s one of the best book launches I’ve been to. I then finished the book over the next couple of days. I really enjoyed this one. Here’s my full review.

Next was the audio of Scratchman by Tom Baker and James Goss. I am still a bit confused by some parts of it, and the structure is a bit terrible… but it was fine. I gave it 3 stars.

In the last week I have been participating in The Hocus Pocus Readathon and my first book for this challenge was Evangeline and the Spiritualist by Madeleine D’Este, which filled the prompt “read something with a paranormal or supernatural element”. This is my favourite Evangeline book so far. I only have one more to go.

The next prompt was “read a spooky, atmospheric book”. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a Gothic-style haunted house story like The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley. In the end, it was actually neither spooky nor atmospheric but I think that might be because I was too old for it (it was a MG after all, and sometimes I find they just don’t transcend their target age bracket).

After that, I completed the “read a random book on your TBR” prompt by reading Songbird by Ingrid Laguna. This was a totally sweet story about a refugee girl from Iraq trying to fit in at her new school in Sydney. She finally finds a place when she joins a school choir.

Last but not least, I finished the audio book of Vampire Island by Adele Griffin and I have to admit this was weird? I didn’t even know what to rate it because I couldn’t work out what it was trying to do.  Was it making an environmental statement? Was it just trying to be funny? I have no idea, and so I don’t know how I felt about it.

What are you currently reading?

was really excited to start The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg and so far it is living up to expectations! It’s kind of Westworld meets Disneyland. I was reading on my lunch break today and really didn’t want to go back to my desk.

I am also reading Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin, though it’s on hold while The Kingdom takes priority. I hadn’t heard of it until I signed up for the Hocus Pocus Readathon and this was one of the two group reads to choose from. I am 15% in so far and it is quite well-written so I think I’ll enjoy it.

The readathon ends on Saturday and I’m a bit worried I’m not going to quite finish these last two but I’ll do my darnedest!

What do you think you will read next?

Gosh, I don’t even know! Possibly I will read Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights by Madeleine D’Este and thereby finish the Evangeline series. I have actually written myself a list of things to read to finish my Australian Women Writers Challenge for the year, so those will also be at the top of my list.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

#HocusPocusReadathon – Halfway Point Update

Hey Team Undead! We’re halfway through the Hocus Pocus Readathon so it’s time for a check-in.

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz.

It’s not quite halfway through going by the dates, but I am halfway through the prompts! So here I am!

I have clearly got over my reading slump as I’ve been flying through books this week. With travel and moving house, I was feeling really down about how little reading I’d done, so it’s making me really happy to see these totals building up.

The prompts I’ve managed so far are:

  1. Not all Undead are monsters. Read a book with paranormal or supernatural elements. (5pts)
    Evangeline and the Spiritualist by Madeleine D’Este. The spiritualist was a fake but there was obviously a real ghost in the room, and she knew a lot about Evangeline. This is the third book in the Antics of Evangeline series of novellas, and my favourite so far!
    .
    I was actually going to read a different book for this prompt, but I realised pretty early on that Dreaming Anastasia wasn’t for me. I haven’t returned it to the library yet, and I may still read it after the readathon, but I didn’t want to waste precious time.
    .
  2. The Graveyard is especially spooky on Halloween night. Read a spooky atmospheric book. (5pts)
    .
    .
    I’ve got to admit I was a bit disappointed in  The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley. I think maybe I was too old for it? I think I would have found it a lot spookier if I read it when I was ten. As it was, it felt more like the author was checking off various haunted house tropes without really giving them much depth. And the skull on the cover has nothing to do with the story at all. :\
    .
    Since it was short, I used this book to cover the Team Undead weakness, which required us  to read a book all in one spot. I read it only when I was travelling on the bus this week.
  3. Catch those kids, but don’t lose your head! Read a random book from your TBR. (5pts)
    .

    I was going to read Briar Rose by Jana Oliver for this prompt, but I only got to page 47 before it irritated me too much to keep going. I hadn’t even really got the Sleeping Beauty aspects yet. As I said on GoodReads, maybe at another time I might have perservered, but I didn’t have the patience for it this week.
    .
    Instead, I read Songbird by Ingrid Laguna, about  a young refugee girl from Iraq who is struggling to fit in at her new school in Melbourne and worries about her father, who is still in Iraq. She finds a place for herself when she joins the school choir. This was such a sweet book! It’s really short and I read it all in one sitting and I loved it! This books kills two birds with one stone as it will also count towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge.
    .
  4. Currently reading:
    .

    For the group read, I’m reading Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I’m at about 15% at the moment and enjoying it so far. It feels a bit like what I hoped The Gilded Wolves would be (I didn’t manage to finish that one). I’m not the biggest fan of having multiple first-person narrators, but these ones are distinct enough for it to be okay.

Well, that’s it from me for now, but I’ll be back next Saturday with a wrap-up post.

#HocusPocusReadathon – TBR List

I’ve signed up for my first readathon! I hope I’m doing this right! I generally don’t do these because I’ve got too much going on or I find them a bit too confusing or they’re 24 or 48-hour ones and I am a boring grown-up who has to do things like work and sleep.

But the Hocus Pocus Readathon goes for 13 days and only requires us to read six books (plus watch the movie) and I can do that! I’ve just emerged from a reading slump so I’m feeling energised, and besides, who doesn’t love Hocus Pocus?

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz. If you’re interested in signing up last minute, here is the official Twitter with links to the prompts and the sign-up spreadsheet.

Here are the Team Undead prompts and the books I intend to read for them.

  1. Zombies, Graveyards and Cats. Oh my! Read a book with a non-human main character. (5pts)
    I just heard about The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg yesterday and I love it already! (Don’t develop unrealistic expectations, she tells herself, already hyping this to beyond in her head). It’ a bit of a cross between Westworld and Disneyland, with courtroom drama thrown in.I’m pretty certain that the main character is a robot, given the references to her programming and the fact that she has never experienced love before.
  2. The Graveyard is especially spooky on Halloween night. Read a spooky atmospheric book. (5pts)
    I don’t actually know that The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley will be spooky and atmospheric, but considering it’s about a child alone in a haunted house at Christmas, it definitely sounds like it! I was looking through the library shelves this morning with this readathon in mind and thought this sounded perfect.
  3. Winifred Sanderson raises you from the dead. Read a book that brings someone back from the dead. (5pts)I’m going to swap this one out with one of the prompts from the other teams. See below.
  4. Catch those kids, but don’t lose your head! Read a random book from your TBR. (5pts) 


    Briar Rose by Jana Oliver has been on my TBR for a little while now and I spotted it at the library today. Love a good fairytale retelling.

  5. Not all Undead are monsters. Read a book with paranormal or supernatural elements. (5pts)
    I have a feeling that I have avoided Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble before due to the  mixed reviews, but I couldn’t resist an Anastasia Romanov-inspired story when I walked past it at the library.  In this book, Anastasia and another character are linked through their dreams. There might be other magic stuff going on, too. Not sure.
  6. Help your team stand up to Winifred Sanderson. Read the Group Read. (10pts)


    There are two group reads to choose from for this challenge and I’ve decided to read Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I know nothing about this one so I’ll be going in blind. Sounds good from the synopsis, though!
  7. Celebrate by watching the movie. (15pts)
    Well, okay! That’s easy enough. 😀

Team Strengths: You can switch your prompt with another team’s prompt.

I’m going to swap out the “book that brings someone back from the grave” prompt with “Don’t get caught by the Sanderson Sisters. Study magical foes by reading a fantasy novel” from Team Trick or Treaters.

For this prompt I’m going to read Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, which I picked up at a second-hand book fair a couple of weeks ago. I’ve heard really good things about it so I have high hopes!

Team Weakness: you are trapped in the cemetery. Read one book all in the same spot.

The Dead of Winter is under 250 pages so I’m pretty sure a couple of sessions on my couch of an evening should see this one done!

Team Goal: Help defeat the Sanderson Sisters and enjoy your eternal rest (50pts)

And that’s it! I’ll post an update at the halfway point and a conclusion post at the end. See you on the other side!