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on 24 March 2013
I do love Priestley's style and he has an unrivalled touch with ghost stories and I expected a lot from Dead Eyes.
The descriptions of Amsterdam are vivid and real and set the scene for depressed and confused Alex to be drawn into a ghostly mystery.
I did enjoy the book but really wished it was a lot longer. I so wanted to know what happened next!
I won't drop in spoilers here, but after reading this you will -
a) want to visit or return to Amsterdam and b) avoid masks at all costs.
A good atmospheric ghost story in a modern setting but with a classic feel.
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on 6 October 2014
Ok, so I was unsure whether to even review this book, and here is why....

Basically, I picked this up from the YA section of my local bookshop (my frequent haunt), and having heard nothing at all about it, I was intrigued enough to take it home and give it a go. After finishing it, it became clear that this book is aimed more towards the 'young' in young adult...and definitely not towards a 20-something like me who does happen to enjoy YA fiction.

For that reason, I had to think more about my judgements of Through Dead Eyes by Chris Priestley. If, I am not indeed the target audience - then maybe my opinion of the book doesn't matter as much. Maybe someone else who is more fitted to who the author wrote this book for - would get alot more from it? Does that make sense? I didn't want to unfairly judge this book, when I think that I was just the wrong person to read it.

That being said, I HAVE decided to review it on here. I am going to keep objective about it. I will be stating a few things I wasn't so keen on, but for the most part I will be keeping my big opinionated nose out of the process, and forwarding some gentle advice about who I think should read this book, and who I think may be disappointed in it.

Okay...so what is this book? Through Dead Eyes is a story about a boy named Alex. Moving away from a troubled home and school life, Alex and his father are taking a trip to Amsterdam for one of his father's business ventures. When they arrive, Alex finds himself settling into a creepy old hotel...and he can't shake the feeling that someone is watching him in his room. With Alex's father tied up in business meetings, Alex is left in the somewhat unstable hands of Angelien - the daughter of Saskia, a business friend of Alex's father (or maybe more?). Angelien spends her days showing Alex around the beautiful city of Amsterdam. It is on one of these visits that Alex finds, and is instantly drawn to an antique mask. Investigation leads him to find that the mask has strange and unusual ties to the hotel where Alex is staying, and nothing can prepare him for the horrific past he discovers when he looks through the mask....through dead eyes.

I will talk first about the writing style - which I think is great. Priestley does a fantastic job of pulling you in to a story. He creates suspense and mystery without giving too much away, and I felt like the characters were interesting and pretty well fleshed out for quite a small book. The fact that this is set in Amsterdam was definitely my favourite aspect of the book. The writing is beautifully descriptive in all the right places, and I adored exploring the city with Alex and Angelien. In our life, we hear alot about the party scene in Amsterdam, but less about the beauty that lies in the place...this was something I really enjoyed throughout the book.

Speaking of characters, these are an interesting bunch who are very well developed even though the story is only just over 200 pages. Angelien was really intriguing, I would've loved to know more about her, the same goes for Alex and his backstory. We get glimpses...but I felt like we needed more to understand him properly. I really enjoyed the relationship between Alex and his father - a mixture of genuine love and comfort mixed with the frustration of a parent and his petulant teenager. I will talk about the ending more in a moment (no spoilers I promise), but I felt as though the ending didn't really do the characters much justice and kind of just threw them away.

The mystery behind the mask was definitely interesting. The idea that you can look through something and see the world through the eyes of the previous owner is pretty cool (and terrifying!). I enjoyed learning more about the history behind the hotel, it's previous occupants and the creepy story of Hanna - the girl who wore the mask.

However, by the end of the book I was left disappointed. I felt as though things were rushed. We kind of get an answer to the mystery - but lots of things are left unexplained. The build-up of characters feels irrelevant as we are suddenly expected to drop some of them without much of a goodbye or any closure....I didn't like it. For me, the end of this book just wasn't enough. Not enough explanations, too many loose ends - and I'm not talking about the twist/cliffhangar ending (which I found predictable and not enough to save the story for me).

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but just wished for more. More backstory, more development, more depth - something was lacking - which is a shame because the writing was good and the story had promise. This isn't a bad book by any means, but I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone over the age of around 13, as it just doesn't pack enough punch. I was going to rate this 2 stars, but wanted to be a little more fair, as I feel like a younger reader will probably enjoy this alot more than I did, and take much more away from it. It definitely has a Goosebumps-esque feel to it (which is in no way a bad thing!), but bear that in mind if you decide to pick this up.
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on 7 April 2013
We begin Through Dead Eyes with Alex and his father Jeremy arriving at Schiphol Airport on a rainy day in March. Jeremy is an expert on WW2 and his recent book is a best seller in England and Holland. He's in Amsterdam to meet with publishers and negotiate a TV deal.

On arrival at the hotel, Alex looks up and is drawn to a face at a window. This is the beginning of coincidences that pull Alex into another era.

Family friend Angelien is studying history for a doctorate and she has journals from an artist who lived across from what is now the hotel (although then it was the home of a wealthy merchant Van Kempen and his daughter Hanna). It is at the antiques market on one of their trips out that Alex is drawn to the Japanese mask. Each time he wears the mask, adjusting to a parallel world gets easier and easier.

Through Dead Eyes is not just about the mask. Running alongside the paranormal is Alex' pain from his parents breakup and his crush on Angelien. Conflict comes from Angelien's boyfriend. Amsterdam and the culture is portrayed really well and for me, learning a little about its history gave the story an added edge. My 3 x gt grandfather was a British citizen born in Holland in 1810 and this has given me added impetus to find out more!

On the flight on the way home from Amsterdam, Alex finds out the truth of Hanna and her family. This brings home that sometimes what we see is not the truth but our own interpretation of events! The journey in the car and the ending gave me shivers ...

This is definitely a story that YA's will love. They will identify with the parenting and confused emotions. The horror will engross and the ending will provoke thoughts of what could happen next ...

I would like to thank the publishers for accepting my request to review on Netgalley.
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on 13 March 2013
There was a lot to like about this creepy little yarn, but it never quite hit enough right notes to elevate it from a light read to something really engrossing.

The good, then.

It was creepy. Priestly does fear well, which he should do by now, having penned many very successful books within the YA horror genre. This is the first I've read, but I've heard many good things about his Tales of Terror series. And if this is anything to go by, I can see why he's so popular. I was reading it in bed at night, with the Boyfriend sat next to me, and yet I still felt myself getting freaked out. (I am a total wuss.)

The characters were well drawn - and viewing them through Alex's eyes allowed for lots of the audience seeing more of the characters than the protagonist is able to, which I love. I just think it's so very clever when done successfully, which Priestly does.

On the not so good, there were lots of bits where I felt like the story wasn't really going anywhere. There was lots of wandering around Amsterdam, which was all very nice, but didn't really keep the pace up. And as the book was only very short, a lot of the time it felt like padding. It felt like it should have been a short story in a collection, rather than a short novel. I think it could have been very intense and scary as a short story, but fleshed out it just sagged a little between the frightening moments. Which does give wimps like me a chance to recover somewhat, but doesn't do the overall tension many favours.

I'd definitely pick up another book by Chris Priestly if I saw one, but I won't be rushing out to hunt one down. Through Dead Eyes was lots of promise that didn't quite deliver, but overall was enjoyable.

Rating: 3.5/5
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I love a ghost story that brings in for me, the chance to travel to somewhere I’ve never been and whilst for some Holland (and in particular Amsterdam) isn’t exotic, it’s a place that I’ve heard about from people who have been and told me that it can be quite an eerie place to visit at times.

That really gets my imagination going, so when I have an author basing a story there, I love the chance to explore (if only in my imagination.) What Chris does well is bring the city to life and works the format around it pretty well. I loved the journey that the book took me on, I enjoyed the characters exploration but for all that, for me the characters felt a little flat against a bustling breathing environment.

All round it’s a solid enough story and the concept was ideal, however when the characters feel flat, that really takes me longer to get through a title as I don’t have that emotional attachment.
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on 21 August 2013
I thought this book was really good because it kept you on the edge of your seat and it was impossible to put down! Although it was a great book, the author could of made the story a bit longer.(I wanted to know more!)
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on 12 May 2014
Loved the gothic atmosphere throughout!
Fabulously eerie mixture of modern day and past.
Creepy and dark, with truly believable characters *****
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on 28 December 2015
All the books ordered were brilliant. All pristine and well packaged. Thank you.
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