A Read-it-if Review for lovers of Spookiness: Shiverton Hall #2 The Creeper…

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Morning horror-lovers! Today I have a particularly creepy and fun read for you.  I’m pretty excited to be bringing it to you, because this second installment in the Shiverton Hall series by (the intriguingly named) Emerald Fennell has cemented the series as one of my new favourites.  Today I will present to you book two in the series, subtitled The Creeper.  I stumbled upon this series a few months back and was immediately drawn into the thrillingly chilling exploits of Arthur Bannister and his friends at the boarding school Shiverton Hall. Obviously then, when this one popped up on Netgalley, it was a no-brainer to request it – and I’m so happy I was approved because it is possibly even better than the first book and ensured that my heebies were thoroughly jeebied!

shiverton hallFor those unfamiliar with the series, I’ll give you a little overview before jumping into reviewing this new installment.  In Shiverton Hall, we meet Arthur Bannister, a young lad who experienced some trouble at his previous school and finds himself the recipient of a mysterious scholarship to the (slightly run down) boarding school, Shiverton Hall.  When an ex-pupil bursts into the principal’s welcome address, screaming at the students to beware their imaginary friends, Arthur begins to realise that Shiverton Hall is not all midnight feasts and play up, play up and play the game.  As a number of students begin to succumb to some strange behaviour, Arthur, along with his friends, ghost-story loving George and voice of reason Penny, attempt to figure out the mystery of the imaginary friends before anyone else is subjected to some supernatural and not-so-friendly behaviour.

You can read my (5 star!) review of the first book at Goodreads, here.

In book two, Arthur is all set to return to Shiverton Hall armed with some new knowledge about the hall itself and how he fits into it.  But before he leaves, Arthur is accosted by a horribly burned man in a hood who warns him not to return to school.  Arthur, though shaken, ignores the warning and is soon reunited with George, Penny, Jake, Xanthe and (unfortunately) the Forge triplets.  With an eccentric new art teacher and compulsory Wednesday afternoon activities assigned by principal Long-Pitt, Arthur has plenty on his plate without having to think about crazy warnings from creepy strangers.  After a few lessons with Mr Cornwall however, the students uncover the legend of the Creeper – a mysterious painted figure, whose absence from his painting usually indicates that a child is about to go missing.  The story sounds easy to discount – except when you consider that a young boy has recently gone missing from Grimstone without trace.  Through his Wednesday afternoon visits to an elderly lady in Grimstone, Arthur finds out more about the strange and violent history of the town and Shiverton Hall.  On investigating the missing boy himself, Arthur also finds out about an old book that may have played a part in the disappearance.  With danger closing in all around, and more encounters with the burned man, it looks like Arthur’s second year at Shiverton Hall will be just as eventful as his first!

shiverton creeper

Read it if:

* you’ve ever thought that returning to school for another year might be a bad idea (with or without assistance from a horribly burned stranger)

* you (like me), can’t go past a book that has stories within stories…particularly if the stories within are even scarier than the story without

* you believe that a psychic medium must be real if he goes by the name Alan

Right, so as I mentioned, I really like this series and I will be buying the first two very soon to be placed reverently on my “special” shelf, so clearly I will be singing its praises in this review.  Allow me to get a few little niggles out of the way first.  The main problem I had with the book was the fact that this installment seemed to have a number of similarities to the second book of the Harry Potter series.  There’s the warning to the main character not to return to school, there’s a sinister book involved in the plot and there’s the sudden appearance of a vain, eccentric new teacher with very little teaching talent.  Admittedly, these are all resolved in very different ways to the Potter series, but those few commonalities (especially as they happen fairly early on in the book) may be enough for some people to put this down as a rip-off of that more famous set of books.  They would be foolish to do so, in my opinion, but I felt I should put the warning out there, because even I was having a few qualms as I was reading.

But onto the good (awesome!) stuff.  One of the reasons I love this series so, is that Fennell has deftly woven a bunch of original short horror tales into the main plot of the story.  In the first book it is mainly George who is the narrator of these tales, and in this book they mostly come from Arthur’s elderly friend Mrs Todd, but much like Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror series, these stories add immensely to the pacing and creepiness and spine-tingly-dingliness of the main plot.  They’re like little islands of terror dotted off the mainland of Arthur’s adventures.  I would never consider myself to be a lover of horror stories, but I must be of the closet variety, because I LOVE these scary snippets – being chilled to the stone by the likes of Skinless Tom and Grey Mary just adds to the reading experience of this series.  My favourite of these mini-stories was Husband and Wife – what a ripper! – that features some utterly strange strangers that you would be well advised to avoid, should you bump into them in the (shadow) street.

Another thing I love about the series is the banter between George, Penny and Arthur.  George has some classic one-liners thoughout both books and Fennell has a wonderful, dry sense of humour (the best kind!) that includes unexpected and hilarious interjections and extremely colourful and giggle-worthy descriptions.  One of my favourites of this book was the description of George’s self-portrait, in which we are told that while George attempts to paint himself in a suit of armour, the end result turns out looking more like a potato draped in ferrets.  Oh, the imagery!

Overall, the characters are strong and believable, the tales and back-story surrounding Arthur and Shiverton Hall are thorough and detailed, and the writing is highly engaging and filled with humour, as well as creepiness.

If you like a rollicking mystery that also contains true look-over-your-shoulder scariness, this is the series for you.  Shiverton Hall: The Creeper is released on June 5th.  Get on it, my friends.

I’m off to drape a potato in ferrets,

Bruce

*I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review*

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Haiku Review: Hunter and Collector….

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And a Merry Easter season to fleshlings one and all! Mad Martha with you again, and although my review today would probably be better suited to the feast of All Hallow’s Eve, I will soldier on regardless.  Today I’ve got a little ripper of a book, Hunter and Collector, by S. Carey…Please note the fantastically punny word play of the author’s name….it took me a little while to notice it.

This is the first in a brand new Australian series for young readers, titled the Eerie series; obviously these stories are on the macabre side, but are sure to appeal as either read-alouds, or first chapter books for the slightly creepy mini-fleshling.

I was drawn to this series immediately due to the highly appealing cover art, and only later discovered the extra nugget of goodness in the books: an ongoing serial featured as a chapter at the end of each book, so that when all eleven stand-alone books are read in order, one ends up with a bonus story.  Another cute feature in the books is a little flip-picture in the top right-hand corner of each page.

So to the first book.  Hunter and Collector follows the exploits of appropriately named Mrs Hunter who is highly interested in young William for reasons unknown, but undoubtedly nefarious.  As the story progresses however, we find out that Mrs Hunter herself had better watch out, because young William seems perfectly capable of taking care of himself…..And so to the haiku review!

hunter-and-collector

Macabre contest ‘twixt

Alien and Predator

Hunter now hunted

At a mere fifty-four pages, this is a quick but satisfying read for horror-lovers of all ages (and hopefully, will turn out to be super-appealing to reluctant young male readers).  The first four books in the series have just been released in print and e-version, with more to follow later in the year.

Yours in sp-sp-sp-spookiness,

Mad Martha

Ode to an Author: Chris Priestley

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Good evening Possums! Mad Martha here, going just a little bit Dame Edna on you all.  Today I am waxing lyrical on one of the favourite authors amongst the denizens of Bruce’s shelf – Chris Priestley, author of Mister Creecher, The Dead of Winter, The Tom Marlowe Mysteries and our resounding favourite, the Tales of Terror Series!  This series features collections of short stories centred around a young protagonist (or two) who, through accident or design, has become the captive audience of some very odd and colourful storytelling. Starting with a delightfully atmospheric and eerie romp around Uncle Montague’s house and surrounds, this series blossomed into a veritable English country garden of creepy weirdness, with the followup titles Tales of Terror from the Black Ship (my personal favourite so far), Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth, and the limited release The Teacher’s Tales of Terror!  You may notice the differences in the cover art – the titles are available in both the pen and ink illustration covers and the more photographic style….We on the shelf prefer the pen and ink.

tales of terrorTOT black ship

TOT tunnelTeachers TOT

Priestley has an uncanny knack for creating an ambience that has you looking over your shoulder while reading.  Also, as many of the main characters in the short stories are less than endearing, it can be somewhat unsettling to realise that one may be secretly relishing the various sticky ends to which those characters succumb.

We are always keeping our eyes peeled for new titles in this series as they really are the cream of the crop in spine-tingling stories for people aged about 10 years and over. Our vigilance was rewarded recently when Bruce spotted a seasonal release, only available (annoyingly) as an ebook – Christmas Tales of Terror!

TOT christmas

So it was that Bruce attempted to read his first ever e-book – in fact, he read it aloud in one sitting for the benefit of all the shelf-folk, during a brief period in which the house fleshlings were away from the dwelling, leaving their precious electronified tablet unguarded.  While this is certainly not the best offering in the series in our opinion, (the first story, “The Green Man” being particularly weak), it is certainly another feather in the cap of the good Mr Priestley.  And for his services to the field of terror-inducement in minors and others, I present to him this Ode, in the form of a letter from a reader…..

Dear Mr Priestley,chris-priestley

Your tales are so beastly.

Your plotlines increas’dly mean characters cease-to-be.

Terror unceasingly fills my mind feastingly,

I beg for release from thee!

Yours (most dis-ease-dly),

An Appreciative Reader

I must admit, that one was a challenge.  Not many words rhyme with Priestley.  Further suggestions for rhyming words would be welcome.

But please do yourself a favour and explore the work of Creepy Chris….if you dare! Mwuuuhahahahhaaaaaaaa!

Ahem……Until next time lovelies,

Mad Martha

Ode to an Author: Anthony Horowitz

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Mad Martha here – after hearing the joyous news of the publication of the fifth book in the Power of Five series, “Oblivion”, I decided to honour with a poem that master of creepiness – Anthony Horowitz.  Sit back and enjoy the incredible job I have done of rhyming with Horowitz….including having to use a superfluous “s” on more than one occasion.

Enticing tomes in which he fits

some terrifying horror bits,

I crave the thrill, suspense and glitz

of books by ‘T’ony Horowitz.

I grab them with my hairy mitts,

They lift me out of boredom’s pits,

As spellbound and engaged I sits,

And read and read, I just can’t quits!

How I wish I had the wits to write like Mr Horowitz.