Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Dead House by Dawn KurtagichThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 15, 2015
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: the publisher
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Debut author Dawn Kurtagich is dead on in this terrifying psychological thriller!

Over two decades have passed since the fire at Elmbridge High, an inferno that took the lives of three teenagers. Not much was known about the events leading up to the tragedy - only that one student, Carly Johnson, vanished without a trace...

...until a diary is found hidden in the ruins.

But the diary, badly scorched, does not belong to Carly Johnson. It belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, a girl who shouldn't exist Who was Kaitlyn? Why did she come out only at night? What is her connection to Carly?

The case has been reopened. Police records are being reexamined: psychiatric reports, video footage, text messages, e-mails. And the diary.

The diary that paints a much more sinister version of events than was ever made publicly known.

Pardon my language, but… This book was a complete mind*ck!!! And I mean that in the most epic way possible!

The Dead House was my #1 most anticipated book that I learned about and received from BEA 2015. While attending the NOVL Brunch, we were given a preview of some titles the NOVL team were especially excited for and The Dead House was one of them. From the second I saw the cover and title, I was intrigued. And then when they explained the premise? Heart-eye emoji! I loved everything about this book – the characters, the format (it’s written in journal entries, reports, newspaper clippings, emails, transcribed video, etc), the plot, everything.

The characters in this book were epic and felt like real people. Maybe the format had something to do with that, because it wasn’t just standard dialogue and description. It felt like I was really reading someone’s diary, really snooping on private emails, really reading the transcription of a video that had actually been filmed. This is also a testament to Dawn Kurtagich’s writing style – it really sucked me in and kept me hooked.

Kaitlyn and Carly were intriguing characters for so many reasons. First of all, I love psychology. If I could, I’d go back to school and get a degree in psychology. So the whole Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis was intriguing. The whole book gave me major “John Carpenter’s The Ward” feels.

I actually liked Kaitlyn more than Carly, but that might be because we saw more of Kaitlyn and got to know her more. I loved the Kaitlyn and Ari dynamic, but didn’t trust it to end well at all. Also, totally pictured Munro Chambers as Ari!

I didn’t like Naida, mostly because I didn’t trust her at all, especially after we discovered something about her. She creeped me out a bit and I was always waiting for her to do something horrible – which I guess she did, if I really think about it.. Also, The Naida/Kaitlyn dynamic is creepy. I didn’t trust either of them when they were together (and I never trusted Naida, as I mentioned). It was also highly suspicious that Naida was filming their lives just for a class. It feels too convenient, like maybe she just said that so the others wouldn’t question her.

Dr. Lansing is a hard character to discuss. Since I’m not a doctor myself, just really into psychology, it’s hard to say whether she did the right thing or not. According to the book, the medicine she had Carly on could have actually caused a LOT of Carly’s problems. And some of her treatments were.. well, less than ethical. But she firmly insisted she did what was right by Carly. So it’s really hard for me to say whether she was a good person who honestly tried everything or if she was blinded by her desire to “fix” this girl who was sick, who seemed like she couldn’t be cured, and she went overboard and actually ended up being the cause of Carly’s break. Considering how the story ended, I’m going to guess she was somewhere in between the two.

I wasn’t a fan of John. Like most of the characters in this book, I was suspicious of him and didn’t fully trust him. His talk of “seeds” made me think of drugs. But the way his story ended… Wow. I didn’t expect that and it came as a big shock!

There were a lot of secondary characters in this book, but I’m not going to go into too much detail about them. Though they were integral to the story and (again, because of the format of the book) felt like real people, not just characters, they really weren’t stand-out characters for me and I don’t have much to say about them. I didn’t dislike them, necessarily, I just wasn’t focused on them throughout the story – I was more focused on Kaitlyn, Carly, Naida and Ari.

Roughly halfway through the book, the pacing slowed down. It didn’t necessarily get boring, but it was a little bit repetitive and I think it could have been shorter. But the pacing didn’t effect my enjoyment of the book because it quickly picked back up again.

The only thing that disappointed me a bit was that everyone told me this book was super creepy – like, sleep with the lights on creepy. And I was only very slightly creeped out. Now, in the book’s defense, I’m a horror buff and not easily scared. I will say, though, that the second-to-last page gave me a creepy chill, so there’s that!

And speaking of the ending, holy crap, that ending! The book didn’t end on a cliffhanger, per se, but the reader is left to decide whether the book was simply about a young girl with a very severe mental disorder or whether there were actually paranormal elements at work. Honestly, I’m still not completely sure which I think it is, though I do know which one I’m kind of leaning towards. But I’m going to keep that thought to myself and let you read it and decide for yourself!

Overall, this book was beyond epic and – though it didn’t creep me out – everything I could have hoped for! I’m already anticipating the next book this author writes – The Dead House hasn’t even released yet and I already can’t wait to find out what Kurtagich is working on next and when it’ll be out in the world! *Grabby hands!!!*

So yeah… Obviously, I HIGHLY recommend this book! It’s epic and intense and amazing and a bit creeptastic! If you love horror and psychological thrillers, then you’re in for a real thrill ride! And if you’re easily scared? Well, keep the lights on….


Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia BoeckerThe Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
Series: The Witch Hunter #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on June 2, 2015
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
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The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

I’ve been a fan of stories about witches ever since I started watching Charmed in 1998 and I love that witches have been making a strong comeback – both in YA books and on TV – in the last few years! So, as I’m sure you can imagine, when I first heard about this book, I was beyond excited to read it! The cover and title alone had me drooling! As awesome as the synopsis made the book sound, it ended up being even more awesome than I expected!

It’s a bit hard to like Elizabeth in the beginning, because of who she is and what she does. But despite that – and knowing, from the synopsis, what was going to happen to her – I tried to look past the whole witch hunter thing and I really liked her character, overall. She fights hard to survive and stay under the radar of those who wish her harm. She believes fiercely in Caleb and his ability to protect her – until he can’t. Or doesn’t. I’m still not convinced of which it is.

I really liked Elizabeth’s character development, too. It was a bit obvious/predictable that she would end up caring for the witches and wizards she was supposed to hunt. But I still liked what it meant for her and the way she grew from her experiences with Nicholas and his group. I loved their interactions and the slow build-up to them all trusting each other.

I was never a fan of Caleb. I don’t know if that puts me in the minority or majority with this book. But honestly, I had a horrible feeling about him right from the start. Elizabeth’s feelings for him really clouded her judgement and I think the times she worshipped Caleb were the only times I really wanted to smack her.

I really liked George, even though I didn’t trust him at all when we first met him. I loved the banter between him and Elizabeth and I’m still not sure if he’s the third part of the love triangle or not. But as much as I loved him and his banter with Elizabeth, I loved the connection Elizabeth had with John even more. There was just something about them.. Whenever they got together, it just felt right.

Fifer was an epic character, definitely one of my favorites. She’s horrible and nasty in the beginning, but her character growth rivals Elizabeth’s. She’s smart and sassy and completely owns her attitude. She’s loyal to her group and Nicholas and incredibly, incredibly protective of those she loves.

There are so many more amazing secondary characters, but to try and mention them all would make this review thousands of words long! Virginia Boecker is such an amazing writer. I felt so immersed in this story and I felt so much for the characters. I loved them all, even the ones I was supposed to hate! They were so real and amazing.

There were a ton of “OMFG!!!!” moments in this book, most of which completely caught me off guard. I had a few suspicions, but for the most part, the twists and turns were completely unexpected. There was one moment, near the end of the book, where a huge twist was revealed and I was completely thrown and speechless!! Seriously, this book looked amazing and then it ended up being even better than I imagined! It kept me guessing. I was completely invested in this story and these characters. There were a few moments where the pacing slowed down, but it always sped right back up.

Overall, if you couldn’t tell, I absolutely adored this book. It was everything I hoped it would be and then some! I’m beyond excited for the sequel, even though it’s going to be an agonizing wait!!! I highly recommend this book for fans of epic plots, killer writing and kick-ass characters! Also, if you loved Charmed and/or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I think you’ll love this book!