Thrilled to be able to tell you about Cyn Balog’s latest release…Alone.
By Cyn Balog
November 7, 2017
Advance Praise for Alone
“Even careful readers will be caught off guard by twists and unexpected but divine surprises. This first-rate thriller delivers everything a thriller should, and adds more. With a wink and a nod to Stephen King’s The Shining, Balog provides a shocker for the young adult crowd.” –VOYA Magazine, VOYA Perfect 10 Review
“This is the perfect premise for a chilling tale, and Balog fills every inch with classic horror references, red herrings, and uncertain motivations. As Balog gradually builds tension and paranoia, she manipulates reader expectations to set up several possible endings, yet still manages to end with a shocker. This is fantastically creepy psychological horror.” –Booklist
"A bloody, wonderfully creepy scare ride." –Kirkus Reviews
This must-read for lovers of Stephen King's The Shining will leave readers breathless as Seda and her family find themselves at the mercy of a murderer in an isolated and snowbound hotel.
When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda's almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it's fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they're not going back to the city...or Seda's friends and school.
As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They're about to be cut off from the outside world, and she's not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.
Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality...
Cyn Balog is the author of a number of young adult novels. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at www.cynbalog.com.
Sometimes I dream I am drowning.
Sometimes I dream of bloated faces, bobbing on the surface of misty waters.
And then I wake up, often screaming, heart racing, hands clenching fistfuls of my sheets.
I’m in my bed at the top of Bug House. The murky daylight casts dull prisms from my snow globes onto the attic floor. My mom started collecting those pretty winter scenes for me when I was a baby. I gaze at them, lined neatly on the shelf in front of my window. My first order of business every day is hoping they’ll give me a trace of the joy they did when I was a kid.
But either they don’t work that way anymore, or I don’t.
Who am I kidding? It’s definitely me.
I’m insane. Batshit. Nuttier than a fruitcake. Of course, that’s not an official diagnosis. The official word from Dr. Batton, whose swank Copley Square office I visited only once when I was ten, was that I was bright and intelligent and a wonderful young person. He said it’s normal for kids to have imaginary playmates.
But it gets a little sketchy when that young person grows up, and her imaginary friend decides to move in and make himself comfortable.
Not that anyone knows about that. No, these days, I’m good about keeping up appearances.
My second order of business each day is hoping that he won’t leak into my head. That maybe I can go back to being a normal sixteen--year--old girl.
But he always comes.
He’s a part of me, after all. And he’s been coming more and more, invading my thoughts. Of course I’m here, stupid.
Sawyer. His voice in my mind is so loud that it drowns out the moaning and creaking of the walls around me.
“Seda, honey?” my mother calls cheerily. She shifts her weight on the bottom step, making the house creak more. “Up and at ’em, buckaroo!”
I force my brother’s taunts away and call down the spiral staircase, “I am up.” My short temper is because of him, but it ends up directed at her.
She doesn’t notice though. My mother has only one mood now: ecstatically happy. She says it’s the air up here, which always has her taking big, deep, monster breaths as if she’s trying to inhale the entire world into her lungs. But maybe it’s because this is her element; after all, she made a profession out of her love for all things horror. Or maybe she really is better off without my dad, as she always claims she is.
I hear her whistling “My Darlin’ Clementine” as her slippered feet happily scuffle off toward the kitchen. I put on the first clothing I find in my drawer—-sweatpants and my mom’s old Boston College sweatshirt—-then scrape my hair into a ponytail on the top of my head as I look around the room. Mannequin body parts and other macabre props are stored up here. It’s been my bedroom for only a month. I slept in the nursery with the A and Z twins when we first got here because they were afraid of ghosts and our creepy old house. But maybe they—-like Mom—-are getting used to this place?
The thought makes me shudder. I like my attic room because of the privacy. Plus, it’s the only room that isn’t ice cold, since all the heat rises up to me. But I don’t like much else about this old prison of a mansion.
One of the props, Silly Sally, is sitting in the rocker by the door as I leave. She’d be perfect for the ladies’ department at Macy’s if it weren’t for the gaping chest wound in her frilly pink blouse. “I hate you,” I tell her, batting at the other mannequin body parts descending from the rafters like some odd canopy. She smiles as if the feeling is mutual. I give her a kick on the way out.
Despite the morbid stories about this place, I don’t ever worry about ghosts. After all, I have Sawyer, and he is worse.
As I climb down the stairs, listening to the kids chattering in the nursery, I notice the money, accompanied by a slip of paper, on the banister’s square newel post. The car keys sit atop the pile. Before I can ask, Mom calls, “I need you to go to the store for us. OK, Seda, my little kumquat?”
I blink, startled, and it’s not because of the stupid nickname. I don’t have a license, just a learner’s permit. My mom had me driving all over the place when we first came here, but that was back then. Back when this was a simple two--week jaunt to get an old house she’d inherited ready for sale. There wasn’t another car in sight, so she figured, why not? She’s all about giving us kids experiences, about making sure we aren’t slaves to our iPhones, like so many of my friends back home. My mother’s always marching to her own drummer, general consensus be damned, usually to my horror. But back then, I had that thrilling, invincible, first--days--of--summer--vacation feeling that made anything seemed possible. Too bad that was short lived.
We’ve been nestled at Bug House like hermits for months. Well, that’s not totally true. Mom has made weekly trips down the mountain, alone, to get the mail and a gallon of milk and make phone calls to civilization. We were supposed to go back to Boston before school started, but that time came and went, and there’s no way we’re getting off this mountain before the first snow.
I peer out the window. The first dainty flakes are falling from the sky.
Snow. Oh God. Snow.
Set in a perfectly creepy and completely isolated old mansion, Cyn Balog’s Alone is a spooky and entertaining story filled with some of my favorite things about horror stories and movies.
Seda Helm’s mother has moved the entire family to a creepy mansion in the middle of nowhere that was once a murder mystery hotel but that has fallen into disrepair. While Seda’s mother dreams of selling the falling apart & strange home she inherited to someone who will again open it up as a mystery hotel, Seda dreams of returning to her former home in Boston where she had friends…and wifi…and her dad.
Now Seda spends her days looking after and entertaining her younger brothers and sisters as they slowly become accustomed to their unusual and isolated surroundings. When a blizzard strands a group of teenagers at the mansion with the Helm family, things start taking a strange and unexpected turn as the small group embarks on a murder mystery scavenger hunt of their own courtesy of Seda’s mom. But what starts out as a fun, spooky way to pass time and entertain Seda’s siblings soon turns to something a bit more sinister.
Alone is an entertaining and atmospheric horror story that reminded me of some of my favorite horror stories and movies. Isolated location, spooky house, creepy kids, family secrets, unsuspecting guests...it's got all of the makings of a great horror story. And while it gets off to a bit of a slow start, things begin to pick up and the tension soon builds with each page. Seda, our narrator who is just the right amount of strange, seems to be keeping some secrets that aren't all obvious to readers, but you just know they are there. And you know something is going to happen, but you're not sure what or when, so you're constantly on edge waiting to see and wondering what Seda or the house will reveal. I forced myself not to skip ahead or read the ending first as I sometimes do and was so happy that I didn't. As events slowly unraveled and things took a deadly turn toward the unusual, the story became something I wasn't expecting, but I truly enjoyed it right down to the very last page. As I said, it was all reminiscent of some of my favorite classic horror films…but I don't want to say too much...even though I'm dying to (no pun intended).
But I will say that I absolutely love the idea of a murder mystery hotel. I love mysteries, scavenger hunts, and solving puzzles and it seems like such a fun idea. I really enjoyed how the author incorporated it into the plot allowing readers to explore the creepy and fascinating house that Seda’s family inhabits. The details, twists, and descriptions were such a treat, as were the characters and overall story. Although, Seda's murder mystery might have been a little too real for some.
And “Bug House,” as Seda calls it, it is almost a character itself. Balog really brought it to life with her detailed descriptions. Seda’s great aunt and uncle set it up perfectly as a sort of haunted mansion from its spooky decor with scratched wallpaper and fake blood and body parts scattered throughout the place. There are even scary stories and legends associated with each room. You never know what is real and what is not when it comes to the estate's history. It sounds like an amazingly perfect and entertaining place to visit…briefly. Not sure I could live there. But Seda and her unusual family are fans of all things horror so it almost sounds like it was fate they ended up there.
Overall, Alone is the type of book perfect for fans of creepy YA horror stories set in spooky, isolated locales.
*I received a free digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*