‘The Merging of Shadows’ by the Price Girls – Review (YA Horror)

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

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I was told by an early age, around the time I convinced myself that the silhouette of the witch with the pointy hat who resided in the corner of my room every once in a blue moon – supposedly cast from the merging of shadows from the surrounding of furniture – was definitely going to get me, that I shouldn’t go looking for things that aren’t there, to just ignore it. So I did. I ignored or more or less hid under the covers from the witch who magically reappeared by the closest even after Mama and Papa had rearranged all my bedroom furniture and had announced that there were no such things as witches, monster, or ghosts before having turned off the light and leaving me alone. I didn’t go looking for the thing lurking in the dark. In fact, it came looking for me.

And it all started in that damn house. 

 

Synopsis –

Sixteen-year-old Marimar Utterson has just found herself living in a small southern town’s notoriously haunted house when she meets Sage Sterling. A handsome hazel-green eyed boy who is not only captivated by Marimar’s petite beauty and fiery disposition, but by her home’s mysterious past. Unfortunately, his fascination with her house turns perilous when he manages to infuriate the spirit who in turn lashes out against Marimar.

Together, they must set off to uncover the spirit’s dark secret in hopes of finally laying it to rest. For with each encounter the malicious presence diminishes Marimar’s grasp on her sanity and odds of survival.

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*Minor spoiler alert a ahead*

The Merging of Shadows is apparently a paranormal romance and the individual elements do add up to something close to it. A teenage girl moves to a new town and meets a handsome boy in a park. He’s surprisingly familiar with her new address, as is everyone in town, as it’s the resident haunted house with a dark history. Our MC must battle with her feelings for this new boy while her life and sanity are threatened at home by the ghost that haunts her. Sounds great right?

 

Love

Unfortunately the execution is less than exciting. The budding romance I was hoping to journey through was more ‘manipulative married couple’ than ‘awkward teen infatuation’. I had high hopes for a novel written by three women but was sadly let down by toxic sexist tropes and straight up abuse at times. Mar, our MC, is introduced as a loving sister and daughter but as soon a she meets her love interest, Sage, while they take their respective little siblings to the park, she turns into a conniving and manipulative girl. There’s no ‘will they, won’t they’, it just feels like they’ve started dating from their first meeting. Mar goes out of her way to demean Sage for not meeting her masculine standards and then laments the fact that he isn’t making a move, flying off the handle at every turn and jumping right in with jealousy without even hearing a word about ex-girlfriends or having had a history of relationships herself. It all comes out of the blue with the young couple bickering and pushing each other’s buttons so they can claim ‘she’s so hot when she’s angry’ or ‘he’s so cute when he’s upset’. It was an uncomfortable read.
The manipulation and once even physical hitting was bizarre especially as the readers sympathies are tugged on constantly for Sage having an abusive step-father and a neglectful farm life. The step-father doesn’t show up until the last chapter and what does Mar do? Intentionally starts an argument with him so that Sage has to jump in and get hit. Add this to the fact that her cutesy, loving, joking father turns into a threatening abusive man when boys are mentioned. He meets her boyfriend with a rifle on his knee and all she does is roll her eyes, likes it’s normal for a father to try and control his teenage daughter’s social life. The whole thing was uncomfortable for me and just left me feeling sorry for Sage entirely.

The Ghosts
And then we get to the ghosts. The paranormal activity in The Merging of Shadows starts off pretty tame; cold spots, insects that are there and then not there, disembodied voices. To be honest the paranormal stuff sort of takes a back seat to the relationship between Sage and Mar, which would have been fine if that were in anyway interesting, but as it stands just comes off as ‘Oh yeah! I forgot about the haunted house!” Later on some paranormal investigators state very clearly that ghosts cannot kill you, because they can’t override God or something (?) and yet when they confront this ghosts is starts slamming people’s heads off walls. The ghost is also apparently a small boy yet when he speaks it’s like a middle aged rapist, again not explained.

The Goths
So this is one of the oddest things I’ve ever read in a novel and I was thoroughly confused. It did remind me of the metal heads in Neville’s ‘The Ritual‘ which I wasn’t too fond of either but at least they had character. Over halfway through the book Mar goes shopping with her mother. While there, Mar notices some goths who are following her, to which she alerts her mother and they both get out of there pretty fast. You then learn that this has been happening since she was a baby. (I wish I was kidding) Goths have been following her and menacing her in some way since she was a kid and later she finds a van following her with an AC/DC sticker (THE HORROR!) In the end you find out that she has a positive energy and that people with negative energies, i.e goths, are attracted to her because they want to stamp out her energy. The book makes out that goths are these mindless violent zombies. Some of the happiest people I know wear nothing but black so this was the weakest part of the plot for me. Even if it had been seeded just a little at the beginning or any mention of the MC not liking goths had been made but no – it was a weak afterthought with no development.

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My experience of The Merging of Shadows was partly influenced by my expectation of the authors and the genre, but I still think the themes and tropes could have been handled much better. This paranormal romance/horror didn’t leave me nostalgic for my teenage loves or particularly scared except maybe of evil goth zombies.

 

About the Authors –

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(Bio taken  from Goodreads) PRICE GIRLS is the collective pen name of three sisters Marité, Sheníe, and Taís Price. The three of them live in the urban city of Olympia, Washington, where they are hard at work writing during the day and conjuring scary ideas during the night. The Merging of Shadows is their first novel.

For more information about their upcoming novels, visit them online at threepricegirls.blogspot.com

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

What do you think about books written by siblings? Would you ever start a project with your adult siblings? Should YA romance depict abusive relationships?

‘A Step Away’ By G Randy Kasten – Review

Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Three friends, Brianna, Sean, and Robert, happen across a body buried in their neighborhood. Because a police investigation might reveal that the trio is connected to a stolen motor, and that Sean’s mother was having a relationship with a neighbor, the three friends decide they must solve the apparent murder before contacting authorities. In the process, they sneak into a house, befriend a vigilant neighbor with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and develop a friendship with a kind, older man. Brianna becomes convinced that clues point to Sean’s father and realizes their detective work is doing more harm than good. She makes tough choices that affect families and friendships.a step away cover

Book Extract:


Right below the pipe, a human hand and wrist poked out from the dirt, its flesh partly rotted away. The fingers pointed at us.

I let out a panicked yell identical to Robert’s but stood frozen. A hot, prickly feeling crawled up my back as Sean shouted to Robert. “You okay, Robber?” When Robert murmured a response, Sean scrambled down to the creek. “Cover it up!” he demanded as he went, pointing at me. “Cover it back up!”

“We can’t just…” I started.

“Cover it up!” Sean was bending over, one hand on Robert’s shoulder. “Just do it!” I shoveled dirt and leaves at the void, breathing as little as possible and only glancing occasionally at the rotted appendage sticking out at me. Each scoop of crumbly soil slid back down, so finally I started stomping on it to get it to stay, right on top of the hand. I felt as if I was pressing down on something evil. Trying to keep it back. After a minute, Sean stood next to me working with Robert’s abandoned shovel. With his head turned away from the hole, he didn’t help much. Robert sat where he was, letting out little wails every now and then. It wasn’t a sound like the pain of a sprained ankle or something. It was more like the desperate moans of someone who’d forgotten how to talk.

Once we managed to get the hand covered, we scrambled down the bank, grabbed Robert by his arms, then half carried him and the tools back to the workshop we’d taken over from Sean’s dad. After breathing the rotten stench of the creek, I barely noticed Robert’s smell and couldn’t get that image of the decaying hand out of my mind. We set Robert down in one of the beaten-up old armchairs we’d dragged in there, then sank down ourselves, panting. The hot prickly feeling was still crawling all over me. Sean and I looked at each other for a few seconds, then away. Robert stared at the floor. I’d never seen a real skeleton — or a dead body – before. The tuna sandwich I’d eaten an hour earlier seemed to be on a climb back up. I imagined the scene once we called the sheriff; Sean’s parents would arrive home to a flock of cop cars in the driveway. Maybe there’d be a coroner’s van. They’d love driving into that mess.

Then things went from bad to worse. Sean leaned forward and pointed one finger at me and one at Robert. “We can’t tell anyone about this.” Robert peered out from under the layer of the coarse black hair fallen in front of his eyes.

“But Sean, somebody buried a body.”

“We know that, Robert,” Sean snapped. His nasty scowl reminded me of his father. “But nobody else is going to know that.”

“Why not?” that high voice again.

“That body where it is, it’s not by accident.” Sean turned to me, “Brianna, you know why we can’t tell anyone.” Like he was pleading with me. “You know.”A Step Away


 

‘A Step Away’ is a YA Thriller about a group of friends finding a body in their neighbourhood and the unraveling threads of deception, family ties, and the disillusion of youth.

 

Following the thoughtful Brianna, you’re pulled onto an average street in an average town – there just happens to be a body slowly rotting by the creek with no clues as to who buried it or why. The trio face obstacles with their closed off families – Brianna struggling to connect with her selfish and greedy father, Robert still struggling with the tragic of his dad whichwis connected to Brianna’s father and his mother’s new boyfriend, and Sean is burdened with the knowledge of his mother’s affair and the need to protect her secrets. But did she have something to do with the dead body in the dirt? Or was it the man she cheated with?

‘A Step Away’ has mystery, plenty of depth, and the camaraderie you want from kids. I was expecting much more darkness to the story as we are dealing with a dead body here, but the darkness is kept at bay by the hijinks the kids get up to in order to bargain their way through the strange question they’ve set for themselves. Other than the body clawing at the back of their minds every few chapters, this would be much more of your average coming of age story. Brianna realising that her father is not the inspiring man she wanted him to be, and Sean struggling with his family’s secrets and silence, there’s a lot more underneath that isn’t explored that could have added much more colour to the plot.

But that’s coming at it from an adult point of view, from a teenager’s perspective I think ‘A Step Away‘ is a great YA Thriller with the right mix of darkness, mystery and adolescent hangups. Brianna is a the perfect character to have the point of view from as she’s the only girl in the group and sees things that the boys don’t. I have a theory that she may even have a ‘not so strictly’ heterosexual angle there as well, and if that is the case it’s a nod without being explicit which in this case is fine as the kids romantic interests are not central to the plot.

Kasten does a great job of writing adolescent kids and the anxieties and contradictory confidence they have. Sean is an apt example of the pushy friend everyone had who always got their way. And poor Robert is the submissive friend who just wants to avoid their bullying brother.  A solid YA novel that explores what it’s like to share a dark secret with your friends and put the morals you’ve been taught on the back burner.

 

One to put on the shelf, and I’d imagine a teen coming back to read this one, peeling back a layer each time.

 

 

About the Author:

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After some childhood acting and living in England for a year, I graduated from Reed College, then attended law school. As a litigator in California and Washington State for thirty years, I learned a great deal about what people really want, and also how humor helps in tough situations. Writing remains my main interest. I am the author of Just Trust Me: Finding the Truth in the World of Spin (Quest Books, 2011), a book about discerning truth from appearances. My young adult novel, A Step Away, will be published by Black Rose in 2019. I have also written a couple of short plays, which were performed at a local theatre in Marin County, CA. The Ribbons Agency is a nearly completed satirical book about the arduous task of securing a literary agent. On a more serious note, I am working on a non fiction book that presents a unique, logical reason to believe that greater international peace is inevitable. A resident of San Francisco’s east bay for most of my life, I have lived along Hood Canal (a fjord and part of Puget Sound) in Washington State for the past three years. I’m still adapting to the weather, though it keeps me inside and productive most of the year. When not writing, I’m enjoying the outdoors or playing improvisational piano. G. Kasten

 

Links to ‘A Step Away’ (ALWAYS LEAVE REVIEWS!):

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

 

Review organized by: R&R Book Tours

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What do you think of YA Thriller? Do you think there should be more dark fiction out there aimed at teens? Let me know down below!

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact! And don’t forget to follow for more reviews and musings on writing. 

‘Fountain Dead’ by Theresa Braun – ARC Review and Blog Tour

Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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The vapor wafting from the stagnant pool smelled like the rancid rot from inside a carcass. Mark felt he breathed in fire. The gooey surface boiled and foamed as if a prehistoric substance. His heart stopped as something emerged. A goopy and gnarled dome became a sickly face. The eyelids still closed, the rest of the form rose, covered in green.

A tattered dress clung to the feminine curves. The cloth slipped from the shoulders, drawing his attention to her skin. The texture made him gag.

A sour taste of bile filled his mouth. His skin contracted as he contemplated her spongy flesh. Her black eyes sprang open like a demonic doll’s. Her inhuman gaze stabbed his very core, and he knew he was facing a soul-less being. The eyes burned like hot stove burners.

A decomposing hand extended toward his throat.

 

Expected Publication: November 20th, 2018
Genre: Mature YA Horror/ Paranormal
Published by: Unnerving Press

 

About ‘Fountain Dead’

Mark isn’t exactly thrilled that him and his younger sister have to follow their parents to the tiny town of Winona and make a fresh start in a creepy house, but he doesn’t have much say in the matter. And his parents don’t seem to notice that strange things are happening in their new home – they just don’t want to see it. 

As the pull of the ancient house drags him in, Mark has much more physical things to think about, romantic things, and this only seems to intensify the supernatural goings on. But he’ll soon realise that the past never really leaves and that everything is connected like bricks in a wall, or hearts that beat as one. The secrets of Fountain Dead are about to be discovered, don’t you want to see?

 

My Review

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Fountain Dead is a novel that will have you gripped from the outset. In the beginning I have to admit I was afraid that the time jump between the 1980’s and the 1860’s would be jumbled and confusing but it wasn’t, it actually kept the story fresh. There are plenty of underlying themes in the story that are often overlooked in a lot of genres, even horror, and the switch between the Emma’s point of view and Mark’s, added another layer to this dissection of gender and sexuality. 

Fountain Dead is a multi-faceted story of past and present, history repeating on itself, and the outliers who break social norms to feel like themselves. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some genuinely scary and creepy scenes in the book either. Mixing historical fiction, haunted house, paranormal romance, and great character building, I thoroughly enjoyed Emma and Mark’s journey and was rooting for them til the very end. I would recommend this book for readers of all ages, but at least 15-16 and up as there are some steamy scenes in there. 

Links to Pre-Order

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Fountain-Dead-Theresa-Braun-ebook

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/Fountain-Dead-Theresa-Braun-ebook

 

About the author

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Theresa Braun is an American author of Horror fiction who, when she isn’t writing her own stories, teaches English and shares her love and passion for literature with her students. In her spare time she also enjoys painting, photography, and even ghost hunting. Theresa has many nooks and stories under her belt and thinks you should totally check them out. 

Website: theresabraun.com

Facebook: Theresa Braun, Author

Twitter: @tbraun_author

 

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Are you looking forward to getting your hands on a copy of Fountain Dead by Theresa Braun? Have you read any of her others works? Or have you already pre-ordered this one? Let me know down below!

 

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!