Title: Harrow Lake
Author: Kat Ellis
Published: 9th of July 2020 – Penguin
Format: eARC Netgalley – 320 pages
Hello Hello! How are you today?
Totally not the same subject, but who else is going crazy over the new Twilight book news? No one? Just me? Oh well, I’ll just go fangirl by myself aha!
Back to business! Today I’m so happy to be bringing you the first of the May #UltimateBlogTours organised by Dave from @The_WriteReads that I’m participating in! I’ve been waiting for this for the past month, Dave does such great tours and I’m so happy that he let me be on this one. I was really excited when he told me about this blog tour, I had only seen this book in passing on social media, but as soon as I read the blurb I wanted to read the book too! Keep reading for my thoughts on Harrow Lake.
Welcome to Harrow Lake. Someone’s expecting you.
Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.
And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move. The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her . . .
Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis is a YA horror novel, set in Harrow Lake, a small town in Indiana famous for the film Nightjar made 19 years prior to the events of the book. In this story, we follow Lola Nox, the daughter of Nolan Nox, and the famous creator of Nightjar. After finding her father stabbed in their New York apartment, Lola is sent off to Harrow Lake to stay with her grandmother while her father recuperates.
As soon as Lola gets to the town of Harrow Lake, she discovers that the town still looks exactly like it did in the film and starts to see loads of homages of her mother, the young woman who played Little Bird in the film and who also left her and her dad when Lola was only 5 years old. She also hears about strange stories and the town’s weird traditions as the annual Nightjar festival gets underway and Mister Jitters comes to get her.
This book is set in Harrow Lake. I was expecting a really haunting and gloomy atmosphere, but I actually got more of a nice countryside vibe from this book. The town was described as 1920s and exactly the same as the Nightjar film setting, which is meant to be a horror film, but I felt like it was described more as a type of Texas cowboy town. I did enjoy the different places that Lola described as being from the film and how she visited each place in turn.
I would really have liked to get more of a description of her Grandmother’s home for instance or the fairground, or the church in the caves because it felt like it was lacking a bit and I had to try to visualise it myself instead of reading about it. It could be that I’m used to reading fantasy where the descriptions and world building is a lot more complex.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the characters, because I didn’t feel like we got much of an insight into them, it was mostly Lola and some of her encounters.
Lola: Right from the start, I could tell that there was something off with Lola. She is 17 but a lot of the time she sounds and acts a lot younger. She has an annoying habit of repeating “Optimal” all the time and I just didn’t understand this part of the story, it felt like it was very important, but it was never explained. I think it’s quite clear that she does have a mental health issue, but the way it is handled in the book just bothered me a bit. I can’t really say that I can relate to her because she felt very surreal to me and even now I couldn’t really say much about her. She has a very strange relationship with her father and what she can remember of her mother. She definitely seems like a very misunderstood and lonely child and I would have liked more insight into her personality.
Moira McCabe: She is Lola’s grandmother and Lorelei’s mother (Lola’s mother and the woman who played Little Bird in Nightjar). I think that I got a very contrasting view of this woman, one moment she was wringing her hands in frustration and confusion, and the next she was screaming and swearing. I sort of didn’t get what she thought of anything except that she mixed Lorelei and Lola up a few times. It felt like she was in on something but it doesn’t really make sense.
Cora and Carter: I think these are the only two people that I actually got an insight into in this book. At the start, I didn’t really like Carter and was wary of him, but I immediately liked Cora. She is just an average girl who wants to get out of a horrible town. These two characters are siblings and the only friends that Lola has in Harrow Lake.
I’m not going to go over themes like I normally do in my reviews because I think I would end up spoiling you. However, I will say that I wasn’t really a fan of the way that mental health is handled in this book. Right from the start, you can tell that something isn’t right about Lola, and by the end, she still has no help and nothing actually happens about that. Only Carter at one point starts to doubt what she is saying or how she is acting, but nothing more than him saying “what” happens. I was a bit disappointed about this because I was expecting to get an explanation of the “Optimal” thing and I think it’s a shame we didn’t because it would have tied up some loose ends.
It is a horror book, but I have to admit that it didn’t scare me or spook me out at all. I usually scare very easily, I always have, I can’t watch horror movies because they give me nightmares and the one time I did read The Shining by Stephen King, I couldn’t sleep for 3 nights, so I think I might have immunised myself of scary books. I definitely think that some people will find this book creepy because some things are a bit weird, but I watch so many true crime, murder mystery shows with some really messed up things, that I don’t think it does anything to me anymore. It all depends on what you like and dislike though, but if you have a thing about teeth, you’ve been warned.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Around 60% into this book I started to enjoy it more than I had previously. The start of the book sort of bugged me with the “Optimal” bit and the strange relationship she had with her father. I don’t think this is a bad book, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. There were some really great scenes in the story, and I would have loved them to be more developed but they fell a bit short for me personally, I know that some people have absolutely adored this book and I’m so glad that they did.
Overall, I enjoyed the end of this book, even though I did work out the ending quite a bit before. I gave it 3.5 stars because I was expecting more, but I will say that I really loved the writing style and that is what made me like the story more as well. I think that this book could be enjoyed by a lot of people, but I don’t think it was one for me.
Thank you to Dave, Kat and Penguin for letting me take part in this tour and for sending me the book. All opinions are my own.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review and will check this book out if it sounds like you would enjoy it. See you soon, stay safe,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – KAT ELLIS
Kat Ellis is the author of YA novels Purge, Blackfin Sky and Breaker, and the novella The Twins of Blackfin in the Three Strikes collection. You’ll usually find Kat up to no good on Twitter, trekking through ruins and cemeteries with her camera, or watching scary films with her husband.
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Audible FR (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Kobo