Daughters Unto Devils
Harlequin Teen, September 2015
Isolation in a small cabin on a mountain during a very harsh winter would make anyone a bit strange, but in the late 1800s it’s worse. When sixteen year old Amanda Verner has to endure the additional stress of watching her pregnant mother thrash and moan for months after getting sick, the birth of her deaf and blind baby sister, Hannah, has her on the edge, alternating between guilt and anger…Anger at how unfair life is and guilt because of her wish that Hannah was dead. When she looks out the window and sees a demon coming toward the cabin, it tilts her over the edge.
As spring comes, Amanda isn’t feeling much better, but has decided to lie, particularly to her younger sister Emily, so she won’t be constantly confronted about her strangeness which hasn’t abated since she saw the demon. When she meets Henry, a boy who makes a living delivering things, it doesn’t take long for her to start having sex with him in the forest. It makes her feel wanted and drives tormenting thoughts away, but when she becomes pregnant herself, things go back to awful as she tries to hide her condition and keep the lies going.
After her father returns from the nearest town and tells his family that another harsh winter is predicted, he also tells them that he heard of empty and larger cabins on the prairie and has decided to move his family there. Amanda, grateful for a temporary reprieve, is hopeful that the move will somehow allow her to find a way to tell the family about her condition.
The cabin they find looks good from the outside, but the interior has a torn up floor and reeks of rotting blood. Even so, the family camps on cut grass outside while working to clean things up. There’s a working water pump behind the house and they soon learn that it’s being used by Zeke, a boy about Amanda’s age and his physician father who live a couple miles away. Zeke tells Amanda, Emily and their two younger siblings, Joanna and Charles, ghost stories that have some eerie similarities with ones Henry told Amanda before the family came to the new home.
From that point on, there’s no break and no peace for Amanda and her family. Horrible things follow one another involving demons and natural disasters, leaving it up to Amanda and Emily to assume responsibility at a level well beyond their years. This is a grand debut novel that’s horror at its best. Teens who love creepy and unexpected will devour this one. The blurb on the cover is completely accurate when author Cat Winters says: “Imaging Stephen King writing Little House on the Prairie.”
Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, October 2015.
Kittens Can Kill
A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir #5
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2015
This is the fifth book in the Pru Marlowe Pet Noir Series. So far, Simon has written about dogs, cats, parrots, panthers and now for #5, we have kittens. If it’s hard for you to turn down a kitten who may be a witness or the cause of death, I think you will enjoy this book.
The animals in this book communicate with Pru, an animal behaviorist who hides her ability, from the kitten to Pru’s own cat, Wallis, and the animals in the animal hospital. Unfortunately for Pru, the animals (not to mention, some of the humans) are very cryptic with what they are willing to share. And Pru gets to put it all together after she finds a kitten next to the wealthy dead lawyer, David Canaday.
A pet peeve of mine (no pun intended, well, maybe) is when several of the character names in a book begin with the same first letter. It only increases the difficulty of keeping them straight in the reader’s mind and I don’t know why an author would want to do that. Yes, I think it’s a little cute if a parent wants to name their children in that fashion – as in Kittens Can Kill, the sisters are: Jackie, Judith and Jill but it probably is misguided and should have been resisted. Don’t parents want to encourage their kids’ individuality? Don’t authors want the same for their characters?
Anyway, since that’s all I found to complain about, I would definitely recommend this book. It was my first in the series and I didn’t feel I was beginning in the middle. It’s an easy, quick, and pleasurable read.
Reviewed by Constance Reader, November 2015.