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
Pages: 352
Format:ARC
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.

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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.

The Devils You Know by M.C. Atwood
Published by Soho Teen on October 3rd 2017
Pages: 288
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

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.

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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.

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Do you like books of the creepy sort? If so, do you have any favorites to share with the class? Are either of these on your radar?

Posted October 17, 2017 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Dual, Review / 11 Comments


11 responses to “Dual Review: These Books are Creepy

  1. I totally agree with you about The Devils You Know! The language drove me nuts too! And also not a teen but yeah, no one ever talked like that! Seriously, as I mentioned in my review, I have expected Dylan to say “that’s wiggedy wiggedy whack” because it was so freaking weird! I mean really? But like you said other parts were still very interesting and pretty creepy! But yeah, where are the answers, what was the point? Where was everyone else while this was happening?!

  2. I actually am never creeped out by books. 😂It’s a huge shame, because I’d like to be?!? But IDK I think I have no emotions but oh well.😂 I like the sound of Beskerer and haven’t even heard of it before so EXCITED. (Also that’s super cool that some of it is set in Norway!! I adore when books have different settings, even if it’s not like the whole book. Still excited!!)

    And the cons on your The Devil You Know list had me laughing.😂Omg to that first one and the Dylan chap. That would be a solid no. And I always struggle with romance in like thriller books?!? I read one recently and like the ex-girlfriend is missing and I GET IT…ex. But then you’re hooking up with someone while looking for her and being traumatised by the fact she might be murdered??? Wait. This feels so so off. 😭

  3. I have both of these on my list. Can’t wait to read them. About The Devils You Know. A few friends mentioned the same thing you did. I figure sometimes a first book in a series doesn’t always give us what we want. If I like the writing, I go for the next one. Often it’s great! Thanks for sharing your reviews.

  4. Norse mythology and the wild west seem so incongruous, and maybe that’s partly why it works? I don’t know but I like the Norse angle, may have to read it for that alone. And because it’s good apparently. 🙂

    Glad you liked this one, I’ve seen it around a few times now and I think I want to get it… plus Laybourne, who I’ve never read yet.

  5. Berserker does sound interesting, AND it’s the first time I have heard of it. But I’m not TOO big of a horror fan, so uh, I will pass on these creepy reads 😛

  6. L

    Gah, October really does bring out the creepy books! I’m not a big fan of scary, so is this a book (Berserker) I would need to read during the day? I have a very vivid imagination that carries over into my dreams, and what I read right before bed usually makes an appearance. I’m totally okay with it when I’ve just read a romance, but not as thrilled when it’s something scary. It sounds like there is a good story there, so I’m torn.

  7. I just started Berserker today. The blood red endpapers and splatter on the cover are a good setup of what to expect but I’m a little worried it’s going to be too gory for me. Time will tell.

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