The Creeper – A.M. Shine

They were just meant to be stories.

Doctor Sparling’s email couldn’t have come at a better time. Stuck in a retail job since completing his masters in history, Ben is both bored and broke. Doctor Sparling wants to pay Ben and Chloe, an archaeologist, to visit a village where time has stood still. Of particular interest to Doctor Sparling is the legend of the creeper.

Confident in his interviewing abilities, Ben expects this job to be easy money but the locals aren’t exactly welcoming.

‘You shouldn’t have come here. There are some things that you shouldn’t know. Nobody should.’

The Watchers made me want to read more books by this author. The Creeper has confirmed that I need to read everything they ever write. Both books major in atmosphere, with a practically tangible dread and claustrophobic feel to them.

You see him three times.

This is a book that takes on superstition and the fear that accompanies it, but it’s not immediately clear if the threat is human or supernatural. The body horror in this book was cringeworthy in the best possible way.

As was my experience with The Watchers, I was conflicted as I read The Creeper, unsure if I was hoping everyone would die so I could witness the horror firsthand or if I wanted the characters to find a loophole that could possibly spare them.

Sometimes hope fades with the light.

Some beliefs are dangerous.

‘Don’t forget about the uh-oh,’ he said

‘Oh, the uh-oh is the best part.’

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Superstitions only survive if people believe in them…

Renowned academic Dr Sparling seeks help with his project on a remote Irish village. Historical researchers Ben and Chloe are thrilled to be chosen – until they arrive.

The village is isolated and forgotten. There is no record of its history, its stories. There is no friendliness from the locals, only wary looks and whispers. The villagers lock down their homes at sundown.

It seems a nameless fear stalks the streets, but nobody will talk – nobody except one little girl. Her words strike dread into the hearts of the newcomers. Three times you see him. Each night he comes closer…

That night, Ben and Chloe see a sinister figure watching them. He is the Creeper. He is the nameless fear in the night. Stories keep him alive. And nothing will keep him away…

The Watchers – A.M. Shine

‘All paths lead somewhere’ 

Mina had planned on making some easy money when she agreed to deliver a parrot to a collector in Connemara. Mina’s car breaking down in the middle of nowhere was not part of the plan. Neither was winding up in a “prison of concrete and glass” in the depths of the forest.

There Mina meets Madeline, Daniel and Ciara. But they’re not alone. They’re being watched. 

Nothing should have to live in captivity 

At various times, A Quiet Place and Peadar Ó Guilín’s The Call popped into my mind as I was reading but I don’t think it’s fair to make comparisons as this story is its own monster. Or should I say, it contains its own monsters.

The watchers were an ever present threat, made all the more creepy by the fact that I got to know them by their shrieks. The fear of the unknown is almost always scarier than fears you can identify. Not knowing what the watchers were or even what they looked like for much of the story added to my unease.

I wondered if this story would have packed more of a punch if it was a novella, but it was a quick, compulsive read. I had some trouble for the longest time trying to figure out why it was so difficult for the characters to escape the forest when they were able to make their way into its depths in the first place, but ultimately decided that I didn’t care. I was having too much fun flip flopping between hoping for a bloodbath and wanting everyone to survive. I’m keen to see what horrors the author will introduce me to next. 

Stay in the light 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Aries, an imprint of Head of Zeus, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

You can’t see them. But they can see you.This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.

Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.

Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move?

Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. – Malcolm Duffy

It’s always been just Danny and his Mam, Kim. When Kim begins dating Callum, everything seems fine. Callum’s nice to Danny and Kim. But things quickly change. Soon, Callum begins hitting Danny’s Mam, as well as verbally and emotionally abusing her.

Never quite knew what would come out of his mouth. Or what he’d do next.

Danny discovers that what’s happening is called domestic violence and when he reads about it online he becomes scared that Callum will eventually kill his Mam. Danny doesn’t know what to do so he asks his friends what they’d do if someone was hitting their Mam. Almost all of them say they’d tell their Dad, who’d sort it out.

Danny has never met his Dad and doesn’t know anything about him, not even his name. He’s determined to find him, though. Danny will do anything to try to protect his Mam.

Danny speaks Geordie. It didn’t take me as long as I expected it would to get used to his voice, although there are some words he used that I still don’t know the meaning of. Danny is thirteen at the beginning of this book and fifteen at the end. A lot of the time it felt like he was younger.

This book tackles a difficult topic but, for the most part, it was done well. Danny initially doesn’t have words to describe what’s happening at home but once he does he learns about domestic violence. The helplessness of a child in that situation was explored well, with Danny desperate to help his Mam but at the same time he’s powerless to intervene.

I didn’t really buy the resolution of this story. There were a number of scenarios I would have found more likely than what actually happened but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Content warnings include bullying, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Humorous and heartbreaking debut novel with the fresh, funny, honest voice of a 14-year-old Geordie lad recounting the trials and tribulations of family life and finding first love. 

Danny’s mam has a new boyfriend. Initially, all is good – Callum seems nice enough, and Danny can’t deny he’s got a cool set up; big house, fast car, massive TV, and Mam seems to really like him. 

But cracks begin to show, and they’re not the sort that can be easily repaired. As Danny witnesses Mam suffer and Callum spiral out of control he goes in search of his dad. 

The Dad he’s never met. 

Set in Newcastle and Edinburgh, this supremely readable coming-of-age drama tackles domestic violence head on, but finds humour and hope in the most unlikely of­ places.