These two books are great fodder for the weeks leading up to Halloween! They are both creepy in their own right, though I will say that one worked a bit better for me than the other.Berserker by Emmy Laybourne
Series: Berserker #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends on October 10th 2017
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review
Are Hanne's powers a gift from the old Norse gods, or a curse?
Her brother Stieg swears their powers are a gift from the old gods, but Hanne Hemstad knows she is truly cursed. It's not Stieg's fault that their father is dead, their mother has left, and their brother Knut has been accused of a crime he didn't commit.
No, the fault lies with Hanne and her inability to control her murderous "gift"--she is a Berserker. When someone she loves is threatened, she flies into a killing state. The siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice.
Aided by a young cowboy who agrees to be their guide, Hanne and her siblings use their powers to survive the perilous trail, where blizzards, wild animals, and vicious bounty hunters await.
Will they be able to reach their uncle, the one man Hanne believes may be able to teach her how to control her drive to kill? With Berserker, Emmy Laybourne, the author of Monument 14, presents her vision of an American west studded with Viking glory.
I was very excited to get to this book, because did you read the synopsis? Sounds amazing, right? And yay, it really was! I am quite a fan of historical fiction, and I think you probably need to at least like it to enjoy this book, because it definitely fits that genre. But there’s a lot more to it, of course! So, let’s get to it.
What I Enjoyed:
- Oooh, this book is dark. I really didn’t expect to go to some of the places that it did. It was pretty rough at times, but not unnecessarily so. What I mean is, the harshness was a great parallel to the world around the characters. It made the tension of the book at a constantly heightened state, and made the stakes feel very high.
- The family connections were great. I loved that this group of siblings wanted to keep each other safe no matter what. Admittedly, they had a lot of troubling relationship dynamics throughout the book, but that too seemed quite realistic, especially in the situation.
- I liked the magic aspect. Magic and powers can be very hit or miss for me. But in this case, I thought they worked well. The way they were integrated into the world worked for me, and I liked that it was something they tried to keep under wraps. It just felt, to me, as believable as magic can.
- The settings were amazing! While we didn’t spend a ton of time in Norway, I was happy that we got a glimpse of it. And of course, the uncharted American west was awesome. Not only that, it worked well in the context of the story.
There was only one real thing that was lacking a bit for me, and that was that I didn’t feel quite the emotional connection to the characters that I would have liked. I mean, I cared about the outcome and their fates, but sometimes I just felt a bit distant from them.
Will I Read the Sequel? I’d literally read it this second if someone handed it to me!
Bottom Line: Historical fiction that is often quite dark, and includes elements of magic? Oh so much yes. Need the next book, because obviously.
Plenty of legends surround the infamous Boulder House in Whispering Bluffs, Wisconsin, but nobody takes them seriously. Certainly nobody believes that the original owner, Maxwell Cartwright Jr., cursed its construction—or that a murder of crows died upon its completion, their carcasses turning the land black. If anyone did believe it all, there’s no way River Red High would offer a field trip there for the senior class.
Five very different seniors on the trip—Violet, Paul, Ashley, Dylan, and Gretchen—have reasons beyond school spirit for not ditching the trip. When they’re separated from the group, they discover that what lies within Boulder House is far more horrifying than any local folklore. To survive, they’ll have to band together in ways they never could have imagined and ultimately confront the truths of their darkest selves.
This one sounded quite exciting from the synopsis. And definitely perfect to read for the Halloween season! And while it was creepy, there were certain aspects that fell short for me. Let’s first discuss the things I enjoyed though!
- The plot itself was really quite interesting. This house clearly had a lot of secrets, and weird shenanigans happening at every turn. Really, there was not really a dull moment in the book. It was on the shorter side, but the pages were used well and the story moved quickly.
- The characters definitely act like typical teens. It’s quite refreshing, really. They were all unique personalities for sure, and sometimes it was pretty clear that they weren’t thinking things through. They all also had secrets that I think they were more worried about than the scary ass dolls that were trying to kill them. Which let’s be real, is exactly something we’d feel in our teen years.
- I was definitely invested in the outcome. I wanted to keep reading to see what would happen to the characters, and what the secrets of the house were. The character development also kept me quite interested.
Of course, there were also some things I didn’t really care for, so here we go:
- Some of the language choices and thought processes were… weird. Look, I know I am not a teen, but I have literally never heard a human being of any age say “fuck-a-doodle-doo”. Ever. And I really never hope to again. This gem, along with many others, was delivered by Dylan. Over and over and over. He was probably the most frustrating character, and not just linguistically. A lot of his whiny behavior I could kind of excuse as teenage angst, but then there were times that I just couldn’t anymore with his nonsense. And Paul spends half the time thinking about marrying Violet, a girl he’s spoken to literally once before this. Insta-love is rude enough when the characters aren’t physically fighting for their lives.
- I feel like I didn’t get as many answers as I’d have liked. Not about the house, not about the characters. I just wanted a bit… more from the ending, really. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t enough.
- Even though there were a lot of creepy aspects to the story, I never fully felt them. Of course I understood on a logical level, but it never fully segued into anything that actually made me feel creeped out. And even though the stakes were, again, logically high, I didn’t feel them as such.
Bottom Line: While the plot and characters were quite intriguing, it just missed the mark in a few ways.