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Enter the Dark House: Welcome to the Dark House / Return to the Dark House

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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.

Enter to the Dark House in this heart-stopping bind-up of books one and two in the DARK HOUSE series, sure to leave you itching to turn the lights on.

736 pages, Paperback

First published September 25, 2018

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About the author

Laurie Faria Stolarz

38 books3,088 followers
Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston.

Laurie Faria Stolarz is an American author of young adult fiction novels, best known for her Blue is for Nightmares series. Her works, which feature teenage protagonists, blend elements found in mystery and romance novels.

Stolarz found sales success with her first novel, Blue is for Nightmares, and followed it up with three more titles in the series, White is for Magic, Silver is for Secrets, and Red is for Remembrance, as well as a companion graphic novel, Black is for Beginnings. Stolarz is also the author of the Touch series (Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, and Deadly Little Lessons), as well as Bleed and Project 17. With more than two million books sold worldwide, Stolarz's titles have been named on various awards list.

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5 stars
69 (45%)
4 stars
48 (31%)
3 stars
27 (17%)
2 stars
4 (2%)
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3 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Cameron (readsandwritesbyc).
145 reviews4 followers
November 4, 2018
The sequel is EXTRAORDINARY! It tied up all loose ends, gave a nail-biting exchange between the killer and our heroine, and maintained all typical horror tropes while at the same time providing nuances that added twists and turns that you couldn’t see coming!
Altogether, this duology is a triumph in YA Horror and served as a perfect Halloween read!
12 reviews
August 14, 2019
From reading the synopsis of this book, I felt it had a lot of potential to be something great but ultimately I ended up disappointed.

More than half of the first book is wasted on pointless moments that serve little to no purpose in the overarching story. An attempt is made to flesh out the characters but a bunch of them (Frankie especially) still feel very cliche and underdeveloped.

I hate when books are too predictable too, and it was painfully obvious who the first two characters who were going to die would be. It got even worse when the next two characters were killed off so anticlimactically almost immediately afterward without any sort of payoff for their characters being hyped us to be major characters in the story. Garth and Natalie were both made out to be important to the story - Garth as an antagonist and Natalie with her Harris situation - and yet both died almost right after Frankie and Shayla. It was a very disappointing way to kill them both off (even if Natalie survived). It was bad enough that it was so obvious, given each character’s relevance in the story, that Frankie and Shayla would be the first two to die just based off of character cliches and tropes, but even worse that Garth and Natalie seemed to be made out to be cliche important characters only to die right after the two cliche “unimportant” characters. Like they were written the way they were to fit the order of deaths rather than serve an actual purpose in the story. Like they only made it far in the story over minor characters like Frankie and Shayla because they fit the mold of stereotypical horror story survivors, rather than because of any actual qualities they have.

And don’t get me started on Parker and Ivy. Their romance get very rushed and they being the final two survivors also felt very shoehorned in since they’re the male and female leads.

The second book does a better job at fleshing out Ivy’s character and also introduces Taylor, who is written a billion times better than all six other characters in the first book already. Which is why I was really pissed off at how pointlessly she was killed off in the second book. For seemingly no reason at all. It felt like she was killed off more for shock value or because the writer was running out of ideas than to serve any actual purpose.

A lot of the “horror” elements in the story is also more confusing than scary. There’s so much emphasis on holograms and Ivy hallucinating other people, voices and music than any actual scares. Ivy spends at least half the book in a perpetual state of hallucinating, which ends up getting really grating as time goes on. Perhaps this can be excused on her mental issues, but Taylor suffers the same hallucinations at one point so it seems more like the author didn’t know how to make the gothic environment actually scary.

A lot of the things the killer does - being able to renovate the entire amusement park into a death trap, hiring so many people to help him with his plans in the first book and not get caught, escape with the bodies of his victims and tons of video and audio footage/equipment etc - requires a massive leap in logic to believe.

I don’t want to completely bury this book. There were a few good moments. I really enjoyed Ivy and Taylor’s relationship because it actually feels genuine, unlike Ivy and Parker who feel very forced together. But ultimately I just get very disappointed with the frustrating mismanagement of the “horror” element in the story, plot holes and stretch of reality regarding the impossible things the killer does, the predictability of the story and the underdeveloped cliche characters and forced romances. The story has a lot of potential but I was let down in the end.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rory.
11 reviews
April 12, 2023
I like the first book better than the second
Profile Image for A Lib Tech Reads.
79 reviews34 followers
September 19, 2018

Enter the Dark House, by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Rating: 3/5
Release date: September 25, 2018
Note: Special thanks to Hachette Book Groups for sending an ARC for review.

I was a huge Laurie Faria Stolarz fan in high school with her Blue is for Nightmares series, so when I found out about this bind-up of her Dark House series, I had to request it. I have to be honest and say right off the bat that I only read the first part of this bind-up. I did not and won't be reading part two for reasons I'll be mentioning in this review.

With the large cast of characters in this book, it's easy to forget who is who and with what trauma they have experienced. Some of these characters are flat and are unsurprisingly described as the goth, outcast, or prep. I could have done without the cliched side characters like Garth Vader (really? even if this was ironic, I had to cringe at all his dialogues), Shayla, and Frankie. If this book wasn't bogged down with the interchanging POV of these three, I think I would have rated this higher. I was relieved to be able to pick out a few recognizable characters that were a little more fleshed out than others and they held my attention. Ivy was the only person I was truly interested in and cared whether she made it out alive or not.

Another let down from this book is the number of plot holes that were left unexplained. Without giving the "surprise" ending away, there were some scenes at the start of the book that made me question how much power and connections this Justin Blake truly has. Not to mention that he doesn't make much of an appearance in this book and none of the characters noticed or cared much.

If you've read my reviews before, you'll know that there's nothing I hate more than unnecessary romance blossoming out of the blue between characters.

There are scenes dedicated to certain characters suddenly falling for each other. It was during these chapters where I really wanted to give up on the book. I skimmed these parts and moved on as quickly as I could.

Despite these annoyances, I still ended up enjoying the book and Stolarz writing made me reminisce about my high school days where I agonizingly anticipated the next Blue is for Nightmares book. I thought Justin Blake's Nightmare Elf film series was well thought out and a tongue in cheek play of notable horror film franchises. The author also created a very interesting main character with Ivy and her grim past; I still wish the story had focused entirely on her experience though. Although I didn't read the second book to this bind-up, I would still recommend it to students who want a quick horror that's entertaining. In the end, I recognize this book for what it is, and that's a really fun read.
Profile Image for Megan Leprich.
462 reviews13 followers
October 22, 2018
If you're a fan of Halloween Resurrection or House on Haunting Hill this book is definitely for you. I picked this up mainly for that reason and I could not put it down, it was so good.

Ivy is trying to recover from the murder of her parents and has assumed a new identity while living in foster care waiting for her parent's killer to come back for her. She receives an email one day inviting her to a contest where the winner gets to stay in the Dark House, all she has to do is submit an essay detailing her worst nightmare. Much to her surprise, she's selected for the show with the other contestants. Once they all arrive, things start to get scary and they soon realize they are playing to their death. Ivy ends up escaping but can't forget the people she's left behind. She returns to the Dark House with her newfound friend to try and defeat the killer and save the others.

This book was full of suspense and spookiness. I love anything horror related and this book didn't disappoint. You will never be able to guess what happens next. I love how detailed the whole book was instead of rushing through everything it gave you great details and gave you an excellent picture of what was going on.
Profile Image for G Daniels.
286 reviews5 followers
April 17, 2021
Enter the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz is the combination of Welcome to the Dark House and Return to the Dark House in one volume. If I was not a fan of Ms. Stolarz prior, I would be after reading this duology. I have read the Touch series and the Blue is for Nightmare series, and enjoyed them, but I REALLY liked the Dark House series. In this series, MS. Stolarz, in my opinion, outdid herself and I give the series a strong 4.5 rating.
The story is about Ivy, a broken teenager suffering from PTSD. Seven years earlier her parents were murdered by a serial killer while Ivy was in the next room and heard the entire thing and saw the killer who was never caught. Afterwards, he, the killer, continues to taunt her by sending her “gifts” to remind her he is still there. Counselling does not help, partly because she is not believed when she states the gifts she receives are from the killer even though she has no definitive proof. To face her fears, she enters a contest that is supposedly being sponsored by the famous slasher movie director known for his “Deadly Elf” series of movies which have a cult following. The premise behind the movies and the contest is the victims are killed by their worst nightmare. Entering the contest consists of sending an essay of the individuals worst nightmare. The winners get to spend a weekend at a “Deadly Elf” themed weekend party with the possibility of meeting the director and viewing a prescreening of his latest venture. Ivy, of course “wins”, along with six others. They end up at an abandoned amusement park where they must face their biggest fears as they described in their essays. Problem is, if they fail, they truly die. Welcome to the Dark House is Ivy and the others trying to survive the weekend.
In Return to the Dark House, Ivy is still dealing with the horrors of her past which now includes her weekend at the Dark House. She has become obsessed with the identity of the tormentor behind the weekend and also to prove it is the same person responsible for her parents’ murder; believing the entire contest was designed in an attempt by the killer to get to her. After being teased and taunted, she is invited to the “sequel” at an old abandoned private prep school with the hopes that the others were not killed but only being held captive. She must sift through clues and figure out the “puzzle” behind the killer’s motive for the game without getting killed in the process and hopefully rescuing the others who survived the Dark House.
It is tense throughout both books and there are enough twists to keep it interesting. It has a slasher movie vibe but does not have the cliché outcome and tidy ending. In the slasher movies the survivor can be predicted within the first five minutes of the movie and the motive of the killer is, if not realistic, quite obvious, not so with this series. Nor are the characters the cliché slasher-movie type characters, the characters are flawed, they are nerdy and have issues, each dealing with their own “ghosts”.
Using a slasher movie premise as a backdrop, it is what a true slasher type movie should be. It is a genuine horror story that keeps the reader unbalanced and does not “cheap out” on the ending with the predictable slasher movie “it’s not over yet” conclusion showing with the killer still lurking and taunting. Nor does it end with the survivors sitting around singing their “kumbayas”, or even the ever-irritating sell-out ending where none of it was real but was just a nightmare itself. And then at the very end she gets the ominous invitation to go to the Dark House for real. The ending does leave it open for continuation of the story if desired. Ivy is still broke, she is not miraculously “cured”; she doesn’t become some heroine helping other victims of trauma; the killer is not brought to justice, and she doesn’t ride off into the sunset with the boy. It ends with more reality; with loose ends, but no cheap tease. And that is one of the things that made this story so much better than your average run of the mill horror stories. It was strong throughout from the beginning to the end. Ms. Stolarz avoided cliches and falling into predictable situations or outcomes.
I would not hesitate to recommend the Dark House series to anyone who enjoys a good suspenseful horror story. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading more of Ms. Stolarz’s work, namely Jane Anonymous and The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep.
Profile Image for Allie.
242 reviews14 followers
October 21, 2020
TW: suicide, trichotillomania, catoptrophobia, stillbirth

Pages 1-357
𝐖𝐞𝐥𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐫𝐤 𝐇𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 was such a great book. Once I got the time to sit down and read, I flew through it. Also, whatever happened to Midge?

Garth was a jerk, up until the very last of his chapters; I did not like him. AT ALL.

Shayla. She was okay sometimes, better others, and completely horrible the rest. She was an up and down character for me.

Taylor. Well, we don’t get to know her. I wish we did, but we don’t.

Frankie. He seemed like a pretty decent character, but we honestly don’t get a lot of story time with him.

Natalie. Well, talking to your dead-since-birth-stillborn-twin-brother is a little bit weird. My jaw dropped when we found out that Harris was dead.

Parker. OH MY GOODNESS I LOVED PARKER. He seemed like such a sweetheart, and I hope we get to find out if he’s okay.

Ivy (or April) is also amazing. I love her and Parker so much. She did not deserve to go through what she did.

Pages 360-718
𝐑𝐞𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐫𝐤 𝐇𝐨𝐮𝐬𝐞 was a good book as well, but it was left on kind of a cliffhanger?
We don’t find out who the killer is, we also don’t find out about Shayla, Frankie, Garth, or Taylor.

I am glad that we got to know/meet Taylor, but like I said earlier, we don’t know what happened to her.

I don’t have much to say about the book other than it was good, but I am disappointed that we don’t find out who the killer is or about the others.
I’m only giving 4 stars since I am a little disappointed with the ending, but overall enjoyed my experience reading the book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Crystal.
712 reviews88 followers
September 24, 2022
Are you ready to face your fears? Then Enter the Dark House.

In these books, we're introduced to the fictitious horror director Justin Blake and his Nightmare Elf horror series. The premise of the movies involve an elf that can manifest your worst nightmares and use them against you. Creepy! Even creepier...Justin Blake has invited seven contestants to participate in his immersive Nightmare Elf experience. The lodging and sets are based on his famous horror series, with plenty of thrills and scares along the way. Every contestant will be forced to face their deepest darkest fear. Will they be able to conquer the darkness? Or will the Nightmare Elf claim more victims before the night is over?

Welcome to the Dark House was such a fantastic read! The world of the Nightmare Elf movies was well established and made me want to binge watch them. (In fact, I'm kind of mad that they don't exist because I'm desperate to watch them now!) The premise had a very A Nightmare on Elm Street feeling to it, and it was creepy. I loved the setting. I loved the contestants, especially the moment they faced down their fears. It also had that really great horror movie ending where you're left unsettled and feeling like things aren't over and scared of what might come next.

And what came next was, unfortunately, the sequel. Return to the Dark House was blah. As much as I loved the first books, that's how much I hated the sequel. The MC, Ivy, was so annoying in this one. She whines and complained the whole time, which made the actually story take forever to get going. And there were storylines that went absolutely nowhere. I liked the ominous ending of the first and didn't think it needed a sequel to begin with. And, honestly, Dark House was scarier before reading this one.

If you're a fan of those long-running slasher series, I think you'll get a real kick out of reading these books. Although, personally, I'd suggest only reading Welcome to the Dark House and pretending Return to the Dark House doesn't exist. Just my opinion though. Others in the review seem to like the sequel.

2 reviews
May 23, 2021
I genuinely don't understand the people that are saying the sequal tied everything up nicely... it ended in an okay way that didn't leave me want to tear my hair out... but that's about the best I can say for it. There's SO MUCH. So much. Left unanswered. Like, if you think that ending was satisfactory you're clearly living half a life because at least half the details were just left in the open. It felt like a series that was meant to be a trilogy and then the author just got bored.

All and all, the books were good, just very unsatisfactory. If you like your books to have endings, I would stay away from these ones. But if you enjoy an unfinished story with most things left up in the air, then go for this one. It's a decent read up until the end...
Profile Image for Jamie.
232 reviews5 followers
June 6, 2021
This one has a great concept, but there are a lot of plot holes that bother me. I understand teenagers handle things different mentally, but Taylor's resolution to act like a normal college student even while The Nightmare Elf is sending them new invitations, is just not realistic. The whole idea of making Ivy sleep over vs having the urgency that Ivy feels is obnoxious. Further, the police are far too casual about the entire case throughout the book as well as the obvious fact that Ivy is the main target and the killer is the same person. They'd have her guarded day and night in real life. There's also just not quite the wow factor of scare that I'd expect from what truly is a great plot concept for a killer!
October 10, 2022
Enter the Dark House, By Laurie Faria Stolariz (Little Brown Books for Young Readers). This 736-page horror book is about a serial killer murdering people with their worst nightmares. The writer has won several awards including becoming a New England Book Award Finalist, 2021. The book mainly follows 6 teenagers who have written an essay about their worst nightmares and put them into a contest ran by a very popular horror novelist. The story follows the journey that the winners get and the shocking truth of the whole scheme. I also recommend reading the second book (Return to the Dark House). The book is very interesting and takes many twists and turns that are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Profile Image for rue.
4 reviews
March 9, 2023
i thought this book was good. although the first section was a little slow and the second one had a much better pace. i think investing some more time at the bery start to the characters would have saved more time overall in the beginning. really good read though.
4 reviews
March 27, 2023
Honestly..... the best book I've ever freaking read. I love horror and mystery novels but this blew me out of the water. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and read the whole second book in one day! Such genius.
2 reviews1 follower
August 24, 2020
this is an amazing book if you like to be on the edge of your seats.
1 review
January 25, 2021
This book was amazing. when I had gotten to the end of the book I did not want to read the last few pages because it was so much fun to read.
Profile Image for Courtney Gibson.
73 reviews1 follower
September 4, 2022
Read is probably too great a word to associate with the review. More like skimmed. Reminded me of a slasher/ Saw movie but in fiction. Start was promising. I gave it up halfway.
Profile Image for Isabella Flynn.
50 reviews10 followers
February 7, 2023
Conceptually? Very cool. Felt a bit too long at times and truthfully I would’ve been fine without the sequel- still liked it though!
Profile Image for Alisa.
52 reviews23 followers
February 9, 2021
I am going to try to contain my excitement about this book so that I don't start ABSOLUTELY GUSHING about how great this "duology" of sorts this was.
I had previously read the first book of this duo around two years prior when I found myself in a dire reading slump, not knowing that it had a sequel.
Recently, maybe around four months prior to my writing this, I have found myself coming out of my horribly long reading slump and starting consuming books (not literally, I assure you). I came across the first book of this "duo" and read it, along with its sequel.
Might I say, that I was far from disappointed. The characters were all fleshed out brilliantly and you could easily distinguish between each of the characters, which can be difficult when you are reading a book that switches through as many perspectives as this one did. The plot was thrilling and had me turning page after page, unable to stop.
The ending could have a few readers raising their eyebrows but I actually found it to be quite a compelling and satisfying way to end the duology (or I could just be crazy).
Overall, I would definitely recommend this to readers who are looking for a thriller or a light horror. It wasn't quite scary but there are a few scenes that are quite creepy and unsettling to imagine.
Profile Image for Emily.
32 reviews
January 18, 2023
Ooft. I have so many thoughts on this book (books?) that I can’t even think of how many stars this deserves.
“Welcome to the dark house” was good. I enjoyed it. I would give that 4 stars by itself. It introduced a lot of characters and themes and it ended in a way that made you want to jump right into the sequel, right into the answers.
“Return to the dark house” didn’t give me any answers. We don’t find out who the killer really is at all, and how he knew the family he decided to murder. We don’t find out where Taylor’s body is, what happened to Midge or the identity of the girl that Taylor found when she arrived at the Dark house. It really didn’t answer any of the questions I had, and Ivy was getting on my nerves in the sequel.
I’ll think about what I want to rate it over the next few days, but I can’t say it’ll be above 3 stars.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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