Posts Tagged ‘YA Horror’

Sleepless by Lou Morgan

October 8, 2016 - 7:51 am No Comments
SLEEPLESS by Lou Morgan.
Red Eye, London, UK. £6.99 paperback.
334 pages. ISBN: 978-1-84715-455-2
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.
51zkvqyguzl-_sx324_bo1204203200_ Authors are often exhorted to write about what they know. All of us have been teenagers, sat exams and done things that we ultimately recognise as being stupid. Teenagers in books are often inflicted with the same issues. Not all of them are quite as idiotic as the ones in Sleepless.
This book is aimed at the 13-16 age group and as such involves a group of youngsters about to sit GCSE exams. Many readers will be familiar with the Barbican Arts Centre complex, with its theatres, restaurants and galleries. Visitors will notice the elegant surroundings and the ranges of flats that add to the warren of buildings. As might be expected, these are expensive being in the heart of London. Izzy and the group of friends she is part off, all live in the Barbican. They are expected to excel in their exams; their school is not one that takes failure lightly. So there is pressure on them to succeed. At the start of their study leave, they congregate in Tigs flat. Tigs has a scheme to help them all. She has acquired some tablets that are supposed to help them concentrate on revision. It seems a good idea at the time.
Once the exams are over, the trouble starts. They start to experience hallucinations. And they find one of their number dead. They discover that the drug, originally designed for American combat troops, changes the chemistry of the brain. There is only one way to counteract the effects and that is to stay awake for forty-eight hours. For all of them, this is a hard task and the situation is weirder and nastier.
In certain respects, this has all the aspects expected of a novel for this age group, particularly the lack of evidence of adults. Izzy’s father has had to go away on business, Tigs mother is in rehab and the other adults are hardly mentioned. This is a relatively enclosed environment and for some reason, these teenagers are trusted not to be stupid. They compound their idiocy in taking what they thought was a harmless food supplement by not talking to adults as things begin to go badly askew. When Dom dies, they leave his body in the pond where they found it and pretend that it isn’t there. They are running scared and they make wrong decisions, yet there isn’t one of them who is prepared to get the help they need. It would mean confessing to taking a, probably illegal, drug and cheating to pass their exams.
This is a horror novel, and the cover has a warning that the book is not for younger readers. Too many youngsters take pills for kicks without considering the consequences. These are no different but it would be nice to think that readers in the age group it is aimed at would take on board the lesson it tries to teach. I doubt it.
Lou Morgan writes well and her teenage characters are convincing. Older readers of horror will enjoy the writing even if they can see the actions of these youngsters as something more than foolish.

The Flame Never Dies (Book 2) by Rachel Vincent

September 8, 2016 - 7:10 pm No Comments

The Flame Never Dies (Book 2)

Author: Rachel Vincent

Publisher: Harlequin Mira Ink (Harper Collins) Release date: 16th Aug 2016 Page count: 343pp

Reviewer: Theresa Derwin


I never read book one in this series, and have a feeling I missed a real treasure, but in terms of understanding what’s happening, it didn’t matter.

Talk about a way to grab your reader; this YA genre novel starts with young narrator, Nina Kane, public enemy number one, training with Maddock in the derelict remains of a high school gym. She is in Ashland, reminiscing about a demonic uprising a century before. Nina is an exorcist. In a world of demons and things that go bump in the night, Nina has grown up under the thumb of the Unified Church in New Temperance. It came as shock to her world to realise society was in fact being governed by demons raising humans as cattle fodder; a demonic farmer’s market. The group of young rebels, of which she is a part, branded militia, had been surviving for five months, if you could call it that, outside the Church’s walled-in cities, in the badlands. When the group is cast out by the Church, claiming they are possessed, they take the label, Anathema, and make it their own.

Each day is a struggle to survive for the motley crew in the demon post-apocalypse environment. But amidst the ongoing narrative from Nina’s point-of-view, are the subplots of her pregnant sister Melanie and the group’s struggle to ensure she is fed well as they forage and raid for supplies, and the romance between Nina and Finn (who doesn’t actually have a body of his own and has stolen a body, that is weaker, to inhabit). And Nina loves him warts and all.

On a routine raid, Nina is shocked to see the demons enrobed in Church police garb are armed, not with guns, but with stun guns; they are there to capture, not to kill. So, what are their motives?

There’s some really interesting world building here; infant mortality rates have soared resulting in licensed pregnancies, teenagers come into their exorcist skills at age 17, the elderly are sacrificed at the birth of a new baby to provide that baby with a soul. And souls are held by the Church.

There’s plenty of action, blood and violence in the book, which came as a welcome surprise for a YA novel, pitching it at a cinematic ’15’ rather than a ’12’. However, the gore is offset by humour, with Devi remaining sarcastic and Finn, possessing the ex guard, enjoyably witty.

There are some cracking surprises and twists in store, particularly when you hit chapter five. That one’s a doozy.

Conflict is added in the form of the religious differences between the group of nomads, or ‘The Lord’s Army’ which the Anathema meet, and in Nina’s desperation to find a soul for the impending birth of Melamie’s child, and the secrets various members of the rebels refuse to share; Nina and Maddock in particular. Add into the mix, the hidden truth about the Unified Church and what they’re really up to, and you have multiple gripping story strands. Exposition is also handled really well, especially the scene in the van with Nina and Meshara. The narrative is delightfully dark, and Vincent doesn’t shy away from details such as violent death and childbirth.

This book is gripping from start to finish; visceral, emotional and punchy with a climactic ending. I can’t wait for book three.

Mad Max meets Supernatural



Red Eye Halloween Tour

October 23, 2015 - 4:44 am No Comments


Welcome to the Red Eye Halloween Tour, where I interview five authors from Stripes Book’s YA Horror imprint Red Eye. To find out more visit


Alex Bell

Frozen Charlotte cover

1a) Short bio from the author including what their book is about

Frozen Charlotte is about a girl called Sophie whose best friend mysteriously dies after they fool around with a Ouija app one night. Sophie believes they accidentally released the spirit of her dead cousin, Rebecca, and decides to go and stay with her family on the Isle of Skye to try to find out what happened to her. There she finds a room full of antique Frozen Charlotte dolls that seem to have a mysterious influence over the household.

1b) What is the scariest book you’ve ever read? And why?
I think probably The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I love the country house setting, Gothic tone and unreliable narrator. I also really like the ambiguity of the whole thing. You can never be completely sure whether the governess is just imagining it all or whether there really is something seriously wrong with the children she’s looking after. Florence and Giles by John Harding is a great re-imagining of the story too.

2) What is the scariest film you’ve ever seen and why?
The Fourth Kind. This is a mockumentary style film about alien abduction and it completely scared the crap out of me. This is partly because, to begin with, I was gullible enough to think that the “real footage” parts were actually real footage, but also the fact that I guess I think alien abduction seems like such a terrifying thing that could theoretically happen to you at any time – i.e. you don’t have to be staying alone in a haunted house over night or anything like that – you could just be driving to work, or asleep in your bed. I also recently enjoyed scaring myself watching Oculus, which focuses on a haunted mirror and had some very creepy and original scenes I hadn’t come across anywhere else before.


Lou Morgan

Sleepless cover

1a) Short bio from the author including what their book is about

SLEEPLESS is the story of a group of friends at an exclusive,
high-pressure school who – desperate to pass their exams – take a
mysterious study drug they find on the internet. But there are
unexpected side effects, and it isn’t long before they realise that
the exams were only just the start of the nightmare.

Having sat a fair amount of exams in my time, I wanted to write a book
that was about stress, and exams and the amount of pressure put on
students – and the desperation that comes from that, as well as where
it could take you. And as someone who used to live in the Barbican in
central London, with all its twisty corridors and dead-ends, I
couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather set a horror story.

1b) What is the scariest book you’ve ever read? And why?

I’ve read scary stories ever since I *could* read, but I think for the
sheer impact of it, the one I remember as being the scariest was
Stephen King’s IT. A friend lent it to me when I was fairly young –
maybe eleven or so? – and I think I got about four pages in before I
had to get out of bed and put it in a drawer, just to make sure it
wasn’t going to… do anything during the night. I just didn’t trust
it. The memory of that is strong enough that I’ve never been able to
face reading it again!

Out of books I’ve actually managed to read, though, it’s almost
certainly another Stephen King: THE SHINING. I’m very, very late to
this – I only read it three or four years ago – but it still managed
to scare me. Those topiary animals. Oof.

2) What is the scariest film you’ve ever seen and why?

The funny thing is that I’m a notorious wimp when it comes to films:
it’s a source of never-ending amusement to my friends. So THE WOMAN IN
BLACK might be averagely-scary to some people, but I was already
whimpering my way through the dvd when my husband thought it would be
funny to go outside and bang suddenly on the window, in the pitch
dark. (I should add that I’m still married, but only just. It was
touch and go for a while after that stunt.)

Otherwise, both THE BABADOOK and THE EXORCIST are really interesting
and definitely some of the scariest films I’ve ever seen. Neither of
them rely on the jump-scare (although there’s a few of those) but draw
you into an oppressive atmosphere, making you more and more tense – so
when the real scares come along, they’re incredibly effective. The
setting is a part of the story, and you realise it could only be
taking place there – but that also, it could have happened anywhere.
It’s weirdly contradictory, but it’s true. The other thing about both
those films, of course, is that they’re not just about monsters or
demons or what have you: there’s a lot more going on in the stories if
you want to look for it. Or rather, if you dare to…



flesh and blood cover

My first book was published in 1997, and since then there have been just over seventy others. Many of my books have been aimed at 8-12 year olds – including the Saxby Smart detective stories and the SWARM spy series – but I’ve also written for teenagers and for younger children.

I started writing stories when I was in my teens, and now write in a tiny room crammed with books, coffee cups and empty chocolate bar wrappers. I live in Warwick, not far from the famous castle, but I spend most of my time in a world of my own.

Flesh And Blood is the first all-out horror story I’ve ever written. It’s about a teenager called Sam who moves to a new town and a new school. He feels like a fish out of water, and soon starts to feel a hell of a lot worse when some disturbing events lead him to investigate the powerful Greenhill family. He uncovers something very, very nasty indeed…

What is the scariest book you’ve ever read? And why?
I think the one that’s haunted me most, over the years, is Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Not a horror story, of course, but a book with some of the all-time scariest concepts in it, and that ending remains the most chilling I’ve ever read.

What is the scariest film you’ve ever seen and why?
Ooooh, so many possibilities! I’ll never forget the first time I saw Alien, in about 1981/2, whenever it was first shown on TV, on a little portable up in my room with the lights off. The Fly – the original, not the ’80s remake – is a firm favourite (another terrifying ending!), as are John Carpenter’s Halloween and The Thing. Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is something I can’t watch without covering my eyes at some point, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first of the Paranormal Activity films, too.

Graham Marks – BAD BONES

Graham Marks Pic

Bad Bones cover

1a) Short bio from the author including what their book is about
I have spent my whole career in children’s publishing, firstly as a designer and Creative Director and then, after a major change of mind as to what I wanted to do, as a journalist and author. My first published work was a book of poetry, Seeing is Touching, published by Paul Piech, one of the visiting tutors we had while I was studying Information Graphics at Harrow School of Art.
I have worked for Marvel Comics, and various other comics companies writing scripts, I did an eight year stint as a copywriter in an advertising agency and was the trade paper Publishing News’ Children’s Editor until it’s closure in 2008.
Bloomsbury have published my critically acclaimed YA fiction, including Radio Radio, How It Works – the South Lanarkshire Book Award winner, 2005 ­- Zoo, Tokyo – the Catalan Young Adult Fiction Award winner in 2009 – and Omega Place. 
Usborne have published my 10+ thrillers, including Snatched!, Kaï-ro, I Spy and its sequel Mean Streets.
Catnip have republished revised editions of the books I wrote in the mid-90s: Strange Hiding Place, Faultline, Takedown (previously called Skitzo) and Playing with Phyre (previously called Haden’s Quest). I have also written for Barrington Stoke (Bad Day) and Franklin Watts recently published Payback, in their ‘Edge’ series.
I currently live and work in Portland, Oregon.

1b) What is the scariest book you’ve ever read? And why?
The book that terrified me as a child – I’m not sure exactly how old, but between 10 and 12 – was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I read it one summer and, even though the language was sometimes arcane and quite old-fashioned, it scared me witless, especially the Bloofer Lady. It was a hot summer, but I slept every night of it with my bedroom windows shut tight so she couldn’t get in, bite my throat, drink my blood and turn me into a vampire.

I did have, and still do, an over-active imagination and remember reading one book a few years later – I can’t remember which – that involved leprosy; I spent weeks afterwards convinced that, at a school in the middle of suburban Hertfordshire, I had caught the disease was doomed to be cast out.

2) What is the scariest film you’ve ever seen and why?

Poltergeist was pretty scary, and so was Rosemary’s Baby and Carrie (especially the very end…), but the scariest probably has to be Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho; the pre-release publicity was incredible, cinemas advertising that a doctor would always be available in case anyone had a heart attack while watching it, and it does deliver the screaming and the shocks even now.

Find out more about Graham Marks and Bad Bones which will be featured on

Tom Becker – DARK ROOM

Dark Room cover

Short author bio including what the book is about.

Originally from the northwest of England, Tom Becker grew up a tortured and maladjusted child who spent hours plotting the best way to inflict revenge upon society. In the end, he decided upon writing. His first novel, Darkside, won the Waterstone’s Childrens’ Book Prize and he has gone on to write a series of dark adventures and spine-chilling horrors. His new book, Dark Room, is set in an ultra-wealthy and secretive small town in America, where a vicious killer known as the Angel Taker preys upon a group of wealthy, narcissistic teens known as the Picture Perfects.

What is the scariest book you’ve ever read, and why?
I think the first real horror book I read was Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, which is a satisfying unpleasant and unsettling book composed by a truly great writer. In my reading I tend to gravitate towards the macabre rather than the outright horrific – particularly short story writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft and Robert Aickman.

What is the scariest film you’ve ever seen, and why?
I’ve had moments of real unhappiness watching The Exorcist, The Shining, and The Ring, but the winner for me has to be a Korean film called Ju-On: The Grudge. I made the rash decision to watch it on my own and lasted about 15 minutes before hurriedly turning off the DVD. It’s about a house suffering a terrible curse – the atmosphere of dread is instantaneous, and the depiction of possession simply terrifying.