Book review: Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Title: Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 24 September 2019

Genre: Horror | Young Adult

Page extent: 416 pages

Rating:

Goodreads blurb: In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?

It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.

Continuing my exploration into horror, Dahlia at LGBTQReads recommended Rules for Vanishing for my November subscription. It’s probably the first novel I’ve read that really goes into traditional horrory things – terrifying paranormal ghosts and spirits and the like. And I loved it!! It was scary, the format was spectacular, the only thing that let it down was a less than clear ending.

One year ago, Sara’s sister Becca went missing. Everyone thinks she ran off with her boyfriend, but Sara disagrees. She thinks she went to find Lucy Gallows, a girl who vanished 50 years ago. It’s said that in the woods, there is a road, and if you follow the road, you will find Lucy. When a text message floods the town, urging everyone to play ‘the game’ to find Lucy Gallows, Sara knows it’s the only chance she has to find her sister. So she, and a group of friends, go into the woods to find the road and hunt down Lucy and Becca….

My absolute favourite part of Rules for Vanishing was the structure and format. Very similar to another of my recent favourite reads, Into the Drowning Deep, Rules for Vanishing is told through first person POV, alongside interview transcripts, video exercepts, text messages and emails. There’s something about the reader feeling more knowing than the characters that just makes a story infinitely more terrifying to me. The format of Rules for Vanishing really makes this happen. By interspersing the story of the journey with emails, texts and interviews from the future, we learn and see more about the current situation. We’re given the info in these short extracts to make the first person POV more terrifying and it works so well!! There were so many moments I was terrified, particularly in the first half of the novel. The set up of the initial Lucy Gallows myth is really well done, and it really does sound like a traditional small-town legend. I grew up in a small town, and we had a poet who wandered on our local moor and walked through a gateway to the fae.

I enjoyed the death and gore of the first part of the journey as well. To get to Lucy, the group has to travel through seven ‘gates’ on the road to reach her. There are rules to follow, and challenges to pass, and if you don’t….well bad stuff happens. Up until about gate 4, I was loving it. It was very much the Blair Witch, paranormally vibe. After gate 4, it begins to get a bit more fantastical and I found I didn’t quite enjoy that as much. Previously, it had felt very real and I almost thought this could genuinely happen. But, after it left to more fantasy monsters, it lost a bit of the terror.

In addition, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Not only did it go full fantasy with the Dahut storyline, but the ending is very open and I’m still not sure what actually happened?! If anyone has read this book, and has any insights or thoughts, I would love to hear them!

All in all, I really enjoyed Rules for Vanishing. The first half of the book is a terrifyingly creepy paranormal story, with whispers and voices and spirits trying to kill you. The structure and format of the book is so awesome and really helps add to the tension and fear. Whilst I wasn’t happy with the ending, this is still definitely worth a read!

Spooktober: Creatures of the Night

Welcome all to the final stop on the Spooktober express. We have reached Halloween! I wish you all a spooktacular Halloween – to celebrate, here are some popular Halloween creatures and books to go with them!

CATS

The Ninth Life – Taylor Brooke

For the past few months, The Ninth Life was known as The Unforgettable Lives of Austin Price – and its one of my most anticipated 2020 releases! Taylor has described it as:

“🌈queer non-binary MC who lived 8 past lives as CATS!!
✨portland, OR
🐶there’s a talking dog
💜complicated love triangle
🏔austin is such a soft boi
🐯life & love & grief”

The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Akirawa

Contains human owner trying to find a new home for his cat, but the cat doesn’t know why! Beautiful and heartbreaking and so much love!

Other Words for Smoke – Sarah Maria Griffin

Contains strange evil owls, fairytale like setting and a large, fluffy talking cat!

WITCHES

These Witches Don’t Burn – Isabel Sterling

Queer witches, dating and blood rituals!

The Hollow Girl – Hillary Monahan

To repay the boys that attacked her and her friend, Bethan has to collect body parts to complete a spell which will bring her friend Martyn back from the brink of death. Gruesome witchiness!

The Scapegracers – Hannah Abigail Clarke

This book is described on Goodreads as “An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process.” And it sounds epic! I am so hear for queer witches.

The Dark Tide – Alicia Jasinska

Retelling of a Scottish fairytale! YES YES YES! (I’m Scottish so I’m incredibly excited for this!!!) Enemies to lovers, sapphic, Witchy Queen, MC sacrificing herself to save her secret crush….then falls for the enemy?! Everything about this sounds perfect!

SKELETONS/NECROMANCY

Even though necromancy could in theory be considered a part of the above witches section, I am given it it’s whole section! Because necromancy is probably my favourite type of magic and I love love love books which feature it!

Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir

Science fantasy! Sapphic! Enemies to lovers! Skeletons! Oh god so many skeletons!

Reign of the Fallen – Sarah Glenn Marsh

Necromancers who have to bring back the dead by walking into the “Deadlands” to retreive the souls of the dead + bisexual MC + someone starts killing necromancers…Part fantasy, part mystery!

The Bone Witch – Rin Chupeco

MC who accidentally brings her brother back from the dead at his funeral, learning she is a Bone Witch.

MERMAIDS/SEA CREATURES

Into the Drowning Deep – Mira Grant

Absolutely terrifying! Mermaids have been discovered, after they were caught on camera devouring the crew of a ship. Now a new research vessel is setting off to find them. Cue unimaginable horrors. If you missed my review of this spooktacular book yesterday, check it out here!

The Abyss Surrounds Us – Emily Skrutskie

Sea monsters! Women fighting sea monsters! Pirates! Pirates trying to use a sea monster to control the seas!

Ice Massacre – Tiana Warner

Every year, a warriers are sent to fight the mermaids. Every year, no one returns. So this year, a group of women are sent, in the hope that the mermaids luring siren power won’t work on them.

GHOSTS AND OTHER HAUNTINGS

Missing, Presumed Dead – Emma Berquist

Lexi can see ghosts. When Jane is brutally murdered, she returns as a ghost and enlists Lexi’s help to hunt down her murderer. This book is so so amazing, it’s dark and gritty and really tense, I absolutely flew through it!

The Dark In-Between – Elizabeth Hrib

When Casey reutrns from the dead, its to discover her best friend has died. When an angel falls from the sky, Casey follows the angel to a place called Limbo, which she must learn to walk between, in order to save her friend.

Unbroken – Brooklyn Ray

Okay so this is why I had to add “And other hauntings”, because I wanted to mention this book. When Michael moves into his new home, he doens’t expect it to be haunted – by a witch turned demon who likes to bake…. Cue falling in love!!!! Please give me all the queer, demon romance.

WEREWOLVES

A Curse so Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer

A retelling of Beauty and the Beast! Harper is kidnapped and wakes up in a strange land, where Prince Rhen is trying to make her fall in love with him. He’s been cursed to repeat Autumn, turning into a mindless beast at the end of every season and slaughtering his kingdom. If someone can fall in love with him, the curse will be broken.

Red Hood – Elana K. Arnold

When Bisou runs into the woods on the night of homecoming, she encounters a wolf, and somehow, manages to kill it. The next day, one of her classmates has been found in the woods. Dead. She doesn’t know if it’s her fault. Loose Red Riding Hood retelling, dark and gorey, female empowerment!

VAMPIRES

Blood Countess – Lana Popović

Okay not technically vampires, but instead “A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula”. This inspiration is Elizabeth Báthory, who has the title of most prolific female serial killer ever….I have chills just thinking about this book!

The Beautiful РRen̩e Ahdieh

The glitz and glamour of vampires in New Orleans! Serial killings, murder mystery and falling in love with a monster.

The Deathless Girls – Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Vampire brides of Dracula is all I’ll say!

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Happy Halloween! With this post I have reached the last of my Spooktober posts. I hope you have enjoyed this spooktacular last week of October! I’ll be a little less around during November, as I’m aiming to do NaNoWriMo, and get some of my angsty bisexual pirate book written! If you’d like to keep up with my writing progress, follow me on Twitter, that’s probably where I will be most! Might even tweet a line or two from the book as I go (pending I have any lines I like enough…)

Finally, what’s your favourite Halloweeny book? Let me know in the comments below!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Spooktober: Magically mysterious fantasies

Hi everyone,

Spooktober is back for Day 3, and this time I’m delving into my favourite fantasies of 2019 so far! I always associate fantasies with this time of year – with Halloween just around the corner, we are filled with magic and creatures and dark magical mysteries. So, I thought it the perfect time to talk about my five favourite fantasies I’ve read this year!

The Fever King/The Electric Heir – Victoria Lee

To the shock of literally no one, The Fever King, and its sequel The Electric Heir, are on the list of my favourite fantasies I’ve read this year. I first read TFK back in March, reread a few months later, and then was lucky enough to get an eARC from NetGalley of TEH just a few weeks ago. These books are just the most incredible story, from the characters to the plot to the villain to the magic system, I just love everything about them. To find out more about my love of The Fever King, check out the full review (here) I did to celebrate the start of Pride month back in June!

An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

This was a book I randomly picked up in the library, and holy shit IT IS AMAZING?!?! How had I not already read it?!?! This was so intense and action packed, so much death and darkness and literally just everything I love about fantasy was packed into the novel. I loved that there isn’t really any character I can say is truly “good” – everyone is so morally grey (or just pure evil). I have the sequel waiting on my shelf to read, so I’m pretty sure before the end of year, I’ll have another of this series on my favourite fantasy list. To see me rave about this title more, you can read my full review here!

The City of Brass – S.K Chakraborty

What an absolute powerhouse of a political fantasy. This book just killed me – so much so, I still haven’t been able to work up the courage to read the sequel because I’m so scared my heart will continue to be broken. This book has so much detail, one of the most spectacular worldbuildings I’ve read – the detail that has gone into the religion, the history, the political system is just incredible. Add to that these amazing and unique characters who just keep making the wrong decisions and breaking my heart, this book has of course got to be on this list! Following from its chonky chonky size, I think my full review of this book is the longest one I’ve written? Read my adoration for The City of Brass here!

Descendant of the Crane – Joan He

This book cemented in my mind that political fantasy is one of my favourite subsets of the genre. Between The City of Brass, and Descendant of the Crane, my heart is just IN LOVE with political fantasy. The book has so many twists and turns, so many emotional punches, and a murder mystery to end all murder mysteries. Check out my thoughts here!

Missing, Presumed Dead – Emma Berquist

The final fantasy I’m going to talk about is Missing, Presumed Dead which I think might almost rival The Fever King for the amount of times it has been mentioned on this blog. This book follows Lexi, a woman who knows when and how a person can die after touching them. When she fails to save Jane, Jane returns as a ghost and gets Lexi’s help to hunt down her murderer. This book is so dark and gritty and totally unexpected! I absolutely adored that magic wasn’t portrayed as something good and brilliant to have – Lexi’s power is seriously damaging to her mental health, and I loved the portrayal of mental illness in a fantasy setting. For more info, check out my review here!

***

Fantasy is my favourite genre to read, so whilst all these books are amazing, I still have so many sitting on my shelf waiting to read that might come in and knock these off the top in the last few months of the year! Here’s a few I have waiting for me:

Did you also love any of these books? Let me know your favourite fantasy you’ve read this year in the comments below!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

SPOOKTOBER: My favourite creepy books

Hi everyone!

I’ve been a little slow on the blog recently because I’ve recently added a million things to my already hectic life…including writing a novel! This year I am going to be doing NaNoWriMo and starting writing a book! My angsty bisexual pirate fantasy is going to be taking up a lot of my time, and so for the month of November I will be going on a semi blog hiatus, to concentrate on writing as close to 50,000 words as possible!

So to celebrate my renewed desire to write my novel, I decided to tag along for the last week of Blogtober, with 7 spooky (mostly) posts for you! Today we’re starting with my favourite creepy books…

Wilder Girls – Rory Power

This was definitely going to be top of this list, as one of the creepiest books I’ve read all year! Wilder Girls is a psychological horror, with deadly forests, a virus outbreak, and shockingly distubring body horror. I always find myself loving virus outbreak books and I think it’s because they’re always so realistic – it could literally happen to us tomorrow. And so I always find these books even more creepy because its so easy to imagine it happening in real life. Full review here!

Other Words for Smoke – Sarah Maria Griffin

Other Words for Smoke is just as creepy but in a very different way to Wilder Girls. The setting is really what makes this book so creepy to me – set in a small Irish town, there is such a sense of disturbing fairytale in the prose. The way Sweet James can control and twist the minds of those around them just adds to this creepy atmosphere. Full review here!

Missing, Presumed Dead – Emma Berquist

Missing, Presumed Dead was a book that really surprised me this year! It had such an interesting premise, but I didn’t expect to be quite so blown away by this book as I was. IT IS AMAZING! It is so dark (way way more dark than I thought it would be!), so gritty, and there is such a haunting depiction of how magic could impact mental health, it’s just stunning. Also it has terrifying revenge driven ghosts – definitely fits my favourite creepy books… Full review here!

The Grace Year – Kim Liggett

This book only released a few weeks ago, and brings its own unique perspective to feminist dystopia, in the style of books like The Handmaids Tale, or The Natural Way of Things. Set in another creepy forest, where masked killers wait to pick off girls if they escape, a group of girls must live out a year. The insidious way the girls slowly turn on each other is just incredible, and perfectly matches the creepy atmosphere of the forest. Full review here!

Sealed – Naomi Booth

This was probably one of first body horror reads and it is TERRIFYING!! Rumours of an epidemic have started to appear, one in which skin seals over holes…like your mouth….nose….eyes…. This book is so atmospheric, the fear of the main character is so evident on every page as she tries to escape the epidemic. She’s also pregnant which gives everything such a different take as she tries to survive motherhood, and dreams of her baby being sealed inside her. It’s just horrifying and terrifying and so so creepy.

The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood

I mentioned this book above, and like The Grace Year, its another take on that feminist dystopia story, with themes very similar to The Handmaid’s Tale. Set in Australia, a group of women wake up drugged and trapped in the middle of the Australian outback. There they are watched over by three captors, and made to work, and slowly try to discover why they’re there… Again it’s the setting which really makes this so creepy – the Australian outback can be such a terrifying place, as it is for these women, and the emptiness and lonliness of this setting is so fantastic.

All the Things We Never Said – Yasmin Rahman

To turn this list on its head, I’m ending with this brilliant book I read very recently. The creepy, horror aspect doesn’t come from the setting – instead it’s from the terrifying plot. Mehreen, Cara and Olivia want to die. But they need someone’s help to do it. So they join a suicide pact website, which matches you with partners to commit suicide Mehreen, Cara and Olivia are matched, but as they become friends, they begin to regret their decision. But, the website is deadly, and doesn’t want to let them go…. This book was so fantastic, so gutwrenchingly, heartbreakingly emotional and personal. It’s so scary and just a beautiful story. Though, as a note of warning, I wouldn’t advise reading this when going through a rough mental health patch (which is what I did – and I strongly regret it). Absolutely brilliant book – but keep yourselves safe and well first!

That’s it for today’s Spooktober! Check back in tomorrow for another post!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco