Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

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

Review: Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria StolarzWelcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Published by Disney Hyperion on July 22nd 2014
Genres: Horror, YA
Source: Disney Book Group
Buy on Amazon

What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run

Welcome to the Dark House is a pretty great horror story, especially for horror-movie loving readers. However it reads just like a horror movie as well – you barely get to know the cast, and when one dies/disappears you’re not going to care all that much.

Ultimately told in multiple viewpoints, we’re first introduced to Ivy, who I consider to be the main character in this story. She’s the only character that we get to know with any amount of depth. We learn of her tragic past and how it haunts her, and her motivation to join Justin Blake’s latest project. Soon enough, we’re joining others inside this Dark House and meeting our other POVs – I never counted, but there must have been 5 or 6. Obviously they’re not so memorable, not helped, I’m sure, by how identical their voices were. It also didn’t help that my eARC was badly formatted and didn’t say which POV we had switched to – though I was told the finished copy would, so you might have a better experience with remembering who’s who than I.

That’s not to say I didn’t like any of the characters. They’re all fairly interesting with an array of personalities and dealing with problems of their own. We see themes from suicide to body image issues to PTSD; it makes for an intriguing cast of people. There’s a bit of romance that blooms between some of them to lighten up the overall darkness of the plot. Though some of it’s a bit silly: getting angry because the girl you met 2 seconds ago and flirted with is now on the couch with another guy. Ooookay! The intro to the characters and the whole Justin Blake premise takes about half of the book. Once the tone of the story is set and you’re made to feel uneasy about this ordeal that feels way suspicious, this is when the real horror begins.

The horror aspect was my favourite part of the book. It has great scare tactics and an awesome eerie vibe throughout. The suspense is well-paced, with just enough dread and anxiety to keep you on the edge of your seat. There are things you do have to ignore, however. The fact that there seems to be a ton of people running this thing makes it a bit unrealistic – one person could not possibly have been all those “dream” characters. And I find it hard to believe so many people would be involved in such a sick and twisted killing spree without being caught. Unless it was meant to be paranormal in nature. The whole Harris ordeal hinted at that too, though I read that as being her subconscious telling her this wasn’t right. You also have to forgive how oblivious they all are to what exactly is happening. Especially Ivy who admits things are definitely off, but still goes through her dream sequence. WHY!!

The ending is what disappointed me the most. We’re left with a slew of questions and not many answers. I didn’t expect to – or want – everything to be tied up with a bow, but we don’t even know what the heck happened to Taylor for instance. Why did she leave? Is she missing too? Why didn’t she get them help (she was on the phone so she obviously knew something).

If you’re looking for a quick scare that’s a whole lot of fun if you don’t think about it too hard, then I would recommend this one. It’s got great horror-movie qualities to it, but in my opinion, what works on screen doesn’t always work in a book without adding more substance and solidifying characters.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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20 Responses to “Review: Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz”

  1. Chyna @ Lite-Rate-Ture

    Hm…I’ve never been fond of horror. I joined your tour for Fractured by Erin Hayes, but I had to cancel since I didn’t enjoy it. I wrote a review for it already and published it on the blog. It doesn’t sound very nice…LOL

    I probably wouldn’t enjoy this book plus I’m kind of in a reading slump-I know. It’s terrible…I just feel so bad for my blog. I haven’t posted anything-UGH!

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I was looking forward to reading this one, Giselle. Despite you not completely loving it, I think I will give it a shot.
    I hate that it’s like watching a horror movie where you don’t give a damn about who gets killed though. I would want to feel a little more emotionally involved in the story. Also, multiple POVs! Ehh! They are the worst for me. Still I like the sound of the horror elements.
    Great review, Giselle.

    P.S She got me into the stupid farm game too…

  3. Leanna

    It’s always really disappointing when the ending to this kind of book doesn’t pay off. Bummer! Still, the frights sound good (and I love horror!) so I’m looking forward to checking this one out in any case.

  4. Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    I’m not a big reader of horror because I prefer HEA’s, and the disappointing ending is definitely a deterrent too. Usually the book is always better than the movie, so the fact that this novel should have actually BEEN a movie instead is kinda weird. Have a great weekend, Giselle!

  5. Alex from Electrifying Reviews

    I recently read a different horror movie-like novel, and had a lot of the same issues with it that you had with this book. Although you didn’t love Welcome to the Dark House, it does have an interesting concept. Thanks for the review!

  6. Kristin@Blood,Sweat and Books

    I love horror but this one reminds me too much of books I’ve read within the past year or two involving a group of people going to a House for either a film, contest or Reality show and then unsurprisingly one by one winding up dead or disappeared. Good review though. I might still read this at some point but I’m not in any rush to now.

  7. Michelle

    I think I’ll read this one because I love horror reads. And since you’ve noted that it’s a good scare, then I’m totally in. I haven’t read anything by this author for a while now, and I think that this is a good place to start! I requested for the ARC of this so hopefully I’ll get it! *squeals* Great review!

  8. Christianna

    This one sounds like it would be a really fun beach read. Fast and not overly detailed, but creepy at the same time. But I totally get what you’re saying, books need a bit more detail than movies. Still I love a good cheesy horror flick. I have to admit that I’m kind of excited about the new Purge movie. The first one was ridiculous, but scary enough.

  9. P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

    I can’t really say I’m that interested. I think horror is fun to watch, but I haven’t enjoyed reading it. I like that the movie ends so quickly and is often quite funny, because I’m usually not scared by any horror. So I guess I’ll pass. Thanks for the review!

  10. Andrea

    The idea behind this one sounds interesting, but I think I’ll pass on reading the book. I’m not a big fan on multiple points of view to start with, and the fact that you don’t even remember how many there were tells me that there might be too much…even if they’ll be labeled in the actual book! I do agree with you that books usually need to get more in-depth than movies do, and the fact that this book should BE a movie instead is really strange. Usually it’s the other way around. All in all, I don’t get too into horror because I usually find it funny instead (not the author’s intended goal). Thanks for the review!

  11. Sarah P.

    I actually thought the characters have distinct voices. Although, my eARC format was adequate enough so I think that helped me distinguish the characters a bit. I totally agree that the book is like a horror movie. It reads like one and I can see myself imagining how it’d turn if it were a movie. I also found it ridiculous that they wouldn’t investigate or research before joining the contest. Well, anyway, I still enjoyed the book. Great review as always, Giselle. 🙂

  12. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    Hmm, a little sad to see that this one isn’t as good as I had hoped–and I do NOT like a quick scare so I might have to pass on this one. It’s a pity that there were so many unanswered questions 😐

    Great review, Giselle! <33

  13. Pili

    I’m not a fan of horror movies at all, so that’s strike one about this one and the Garth Vader, seriously??? I cannot get over that (I’m sure completely intended) Star Wars pun/play with Darth Vader… I’d be rolling my eyes too much!
    Add to that a lot of unanswered questions and lack of depth… and this is one book I’ll be skipping!
    Thanks for your very honest review, Giselle!