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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A praise-worthy debut
I've seen THE HARROWING compared to teen horror films, but I'm almost two millennia away from being a young adult and have never seen a teen horror/slasher movie. I avoided them like the plague even when I was reviewing a movie weekly for our daily newspaper.

But I do like ghost stories and once I started reading the book, I couldn't put it down. I thought...
Published on August 24, 2006 by Doris Ann Norris

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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad clichés...and little more.
It's not often I feel the need to openly review books, but I'm shocked at the praise, nominations and positive reviews being lavished on this book. I made sure to finish it in case I was just getting a silly impression from the beginning, in case something suddenly caught on at some point that was original and interesting.

No such luck. The characters are...
Published on December 14, 2007 by FangsFirst


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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A praise-worthy debut, August 24, 2006
By 
Doris Ann Norris (Fostoria, OH United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Harrowing (Hardcover)
I've seen THE HARROWING compared to teen horror films, but I'm almost two millennia away from being a young adult and have never seen a teen horror/slasher movie. I avoided them like the plague even when I was reviewing a movie weekly for our daily newspaper.

But I do like ghost stories and once I started reading the book, I couldn't put it down. I thought the characterizations of the five college students was great. The build-up is superb as the five bored students, staying at Baird College for the Thanksgiving break, find an ouija board and strange things begin to happen.

It someone playing tricks or have these students actually contacted someone from "beyond," specifically a young man who died years before in a fire at the school?

The tension mounts as the "odd" group of students begin to form alliances and try to figure out what is happening to them. Did they "release" a tortured soul trying to affect some kind of closure, or has a more malevolent force been unleashed?

I found myself really caring about these young people and being pulled into their struggle. The information on the Kabbalah

and other Jewish folklore is fascinating.

The plot moves at a great pace and I certainly can see this as a movie, which isn't surprising since the author, Ms. Sokoloff, is a long-time screenwriter.

I bought a few copies, after reading the ARC, for some lucky people on my Christmas list. Highly recommended
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad clichés...and little more., December 14, 2007
By 
FangsFirst "FangsFirst" (Hickory, North Carolina United States) - See all my reviews
It's not often I feel the need to openly review books, but I'm shocked at the praise, nominations and positive reviews being lavished on this book. I made sure to finish it in case I was just getting a silly impression from the beginning, in case something suddenly caught on at some point that was original and interesting.

No such luck. The characters are blatant stereotypes--the "jock," the "slut," the "nerd," the "bad boy/rocker," and our homely heroine Robin who is depressed.

The back of the book proudly proclaims that Sokoloff built the "psychological undercurrents" from her experience dealing with "emotionally disturbed and incarcerated teenagers." I kept waiting for an "undercurrent" behind the blatant pop-psychology and complete lack of understanding applied to all of these characters, and it never came. I had to wonder if she ever really listened to these teenagers, or asked them anything. I've known my fair share of "emotionally disturbed teenagers"--and they don't act like this.

Robin is a stereotypically depressed teen/college student, but doesn't act much like a real one (I've known my fair share). Martin, the "nerd," is written like someone trying to sound smart, rather than the smug, self-assured legitimate intelligence that comes from the type of character Sokoloff seems to be trying to write. It's clunky, awkward and feels like it was carefully but ignorantly constructed.

The plotting, while I applaud the interesting and unusual inclusion of Kabbalistic mythology (I even learned a few things), is standard at best, which offends me far more in horror than something unusual that misfires.

I knew as soon as the five of them pulled out a Ouija board that it was going to take a lot to restore my faith in anything "original" coming out of this book. Unfortunately that "lot" never came either. They play with a Ouija board, it seems benevolent, then seems threatening, spiritual forces stronger than them appear, blah blah blah--if you've read or seen any story involving the supernatural and seances or Ouija boards, move along, there's nothing new here except that peculiar Kabbalistic bit, which is nice, but surrounded by so much stereotypical characterization, poor description and general feelings of "haven't I seen this all before?" that it just can't be saved.

When even the horrid cliché of "Eek! A stranger!...oh gosh, silly me, it was just a coatrack!" was reeled out, I nearly gave up. Of course, first, I thought, "What dorm has coatracks in the hall? How many students these days wear hats? Who would leave their hat on a hatrack over break? Did she even think about any of this or just jump at a cliché and move on?" I say this as someone who did in fact wear a hat in college, just to be clear, but I was one of very few, and I don't think any of us had hatracks--certainly none in dorm hallways.

A shame. If "The Breakfast Club meets Poltergeist" sounds intriguing and like it's not a nightmarish collision of two pretty fun things that shouldn't really collide to you--have fun! You might enjoy this. If you've read about Ouija boards and seemingly clique-separated kids before and find them tired--stay away. Stay far, far away.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Delicious!, August 26, 2006
By 
Amy Aldrich (Scottsdale, AZ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Harrowing (Hardcover)
Delicious....this book was something I desperately needed...a good light fiction read that also was interesting, scary and troubling at the same time. Oh...what's that, Baird college students leave en masse for Thanksgiving and we are left with five lone students, one creepy gothic dorm and a dark and story night...who doesn't smell supernatural thrills???!! The Harrowing is somewhat typical in it's depiction of college students (jock, loner musician, nerd, slut, invisible chick) and reminiscent of a teen horror flick made into a book, but still, I really enjoyed the flawed characters, the Freudian psychology, and the overall tense, heavy feel of the book. It was sad and depressing, desperate and hopeful all at the same time and best of all...it races along, no dead spots, no lulls...it's a nonstop front to back spine tingling tale that weaves it's way from the present day, back to the 1920's and then back to creation and the kabala.I recommend it for ghost story and horror freaks like me...though it does purport to be a ghost story, it's really not, kinda, sorta, but not totally...read it and you'll see what I mean! It even managed to creep me out, reading it home alone, foolishly enough, during thunder storm...at night...I'll leave my rating at...simply delicious, you'll want to curl up with this on a chilly night with a blanket and a good cup of tea!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Debut Horror Novel, August 27, 2006
This review is from: The Harrowing (Hardcover)
Alexandra Sokoloff's debut novel The Harrowing is simply jam-packed with all the things that make for a good horror story. Baird College's creepy Mendenhall dormitory, known to its residents as The Hall, (Hell?) is the feature location, with wings that become distressingly similar once the place empties out for Thanksgiving and all the doors are closed. A stormy Thanksgiving break leaves the five main characters together in The Hall, where they quickly come to recognize the broken, empty, or lonely places in each other. Unfortunately, a malevolent spirit also recognizes those frailties, and manipulates them into releasing it from its dark realm of nothingness. The story is fast paced, but also plenty intellectual: It is filled from cover to cover with references to psychology, spiritualism, and religion that would seem out of place if the characters were not all college students. The action is not confined to The Hall, either, as the students move about over a landscape which includes a Stonehenge-like portion of the campus known as The Columns and a graveyard which holds the remains of a 1920s Baird student who had a fatal run-in with the same entity. Despite the dark nature of the conflict, Alexandra Sokoloff injects plenty of humor as well, from the main character's wry observations about her detestable prom queen roommate to the hilarious appearance of two teen slackers at a moment of high tension. The characters are well drawn, with voices and personalities of their own, and the ending is far from predictable. Don't wait for Hallowe'en to pick this up.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NOT a book you want to read when you go to bed unless you plan on sleeping with your eyes open and listening fo, January 30, 2009
By 
Bookaholics Reviewer (Bay Area, California) - See all my reviews
The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff
Mass Market Paperback - October 30, 2007
4 Stars

Robin Stone is a troubled young woman. Her means of escape from her unbalanced mother was by running away to college paid with guilt money from her absentee father.

Still, she remains unhappy and depressed in the academic arena and feels like a shadow nobody will miss if she's gone. When Thanksgiving comes, she stays in the echoing Mendenhall dormitories rather than going home to her mother for the long holiday weekend.

She finds that she's not alone and on the first night with the help of drugs and alcohol she makes friends with the unlikely mixture of remaining students: Martin, Patrick, Cain and Lisa.

Lisa finds a Ouija board. Its uncanny responses freak everybody. Have they really contacted the spirit of Zackary Prince or is she the blunt of a practical joke? And then it gets stranger.

The Harrowing is not a book you want to read when you go to bed unless you plan on sleeping with your eyes open and listening for the bump in the night. Especially when you read Chapter Twenty-One!

Ms. Sokoloff is a talented writer. She drew characters with personal insecurities, placed them in a recognizable setting, and then threw in paranormal elements, causing me to become quickly caught into the story. I accepted that stretch when reality told a step away. I look forward to reading her next book.

Reviewed by Jackie from Bookaholics Romance Book Club
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously scary and readable in one night!, November 17, 2008
The story takes place on a college campus. It's Thanksgiving break, and while most students are going to have turkey day with their family, five students choose to stay on campus: the jock, a slut, a bookworm, a musician, and our heroine, the lonely Robin. There's not much friendship between them, but as the hour runs late, illegal substances are passed around and someone finds a Ouija board. Then the students meet Zachary, and the game turns into a nightmare.

The story is truly scary. I had a little trouble sleeping at night. I used to be a horror junkie, and this story definitely has some common elements (the stereotypical characters, the dark, spooky campus, the electrical storm). What makes this story truly unique is that the author takes these common elements and combines them with myths from the Jewish Kabbalah. This provided a fresh twist and kept the plot from getting stale.

This book is not for children or even most teens. The topics included are questionable and frightening. What will appeal to teens and adults are the characters. They face common battles like family issues, rejection, and isolation. Their isolation bonds them together. This is what drives the story and will keep folks reading.

The author has worked as a screenwriter, and this is apparent from her writing style. She paints pictures with her scenes. You could see this being made into a movie.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE HARROWING doesn't let you go, December 13, 2006
By 
John C. Emery (Clifton Park, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Harrowing (Hardcover)
With two young kids and little free time, I have to admit I'm a slow reader. I've been poking at THE THIRTEENTH TALE for about a month and a half and have only gotten through 60 pages. Having said that, I read THE HARROWING in two days! When a book captivates me, I make time. It rarely happens. Well done, Alexandra Sokoloff.

I LOVED THIS BOOK. The author sustains a narrative drive that is intense, yet lets up just enough when the action gets almost unbearable.

She manages to use short paragraphs, which keeps the story hopping, without sacrificing depth.

Although the characters had major flaws and at times did disagreeable things, Alexandra Sokoloff makes them all people the reader can identify with and like. There's even some nice surprises within the relationships.

Not only for the atmospherics and the characters, but the spine of the book--the central "ghost story"-- is quite amazing. It really makes you think.

This book just never let's you go. It's been quite a few years since I started a book that I couldn't stop reading until I finished.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read if you like Ghost Stories, November 19, 2007
This review is from: The Harrowing (Hardcover)
Five "losers" stay on campus during Thanksgiving holiday with individual reasons as to why they don't want to go home. They end up playing with an Ouija Board that they find in the dorm, which happens to have been an old Fraternity house many years before, and conjure up a sixth person while playing this game. The question is, "Is this person real? Is it a spirit? Is it good, bad, or evil, and where does it come from?

I found myself getting into character with each individual and staying on the edge of my seat while traipsing around the campus. I love scary stories and have always had this underlying fear of the dark. Believe me when I say you won't find me going outside in the dark for a while.

This is a must read for those who like stories of the unknown that include a little occult. The book is less than 250 pages and can be read in one night providing you dare burn that midnight oil and don't have a creaky house or things that go bump in the night.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horror has a new face, Alexandra Sokoloff!!!, December 30, 2007
I am a fan of Horror Fiction, and this is a truely amazing book. I will admit that set up takes a bit but it is merely a fuse to an explosive story that I was unable to put down. In my first sitting I got through the set up (approx 6 chapters) in my second I finished the book. Genuinely creepy, fast paced, great imagery. It seems alot of the horror novels of late have moved to the same as film, graphic depictions of violence and sex. This has neither. I am eager to see what this Author will do in the future. It has been years since a book has creeped me out in this way. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great slice of horror!, June 24, 2008
By 
Heather Brewer (St. Louis, MO United States) - See all my reviews
As a lover of the horror genre, I was instantly enticed by the cover copy, and of course, intrigued to see whether or not Sokoloff would deliver what I wanted: real horror, something that would give me goosebumps and make my heart race. She absolutely delivered. The setting, the relationships between a group of misfits, the horrifying journey they unknowingly embark on when they pull out a Ouija board--Alexandra Sokoloff has brought back that old school feeling that horror has been missing. Lovers of the genre will not be disappointed.
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The Harrowing (A Ghost Story)
The Harrowing (A Ghost Story) by Alexandra Sokoloff
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