Wednesday 30 September 2015

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

This book was a little bit daunting; 600 pages and solely made up of random transcripts and images, I thought it would take me ages to read it and even worried if I would be able to enjoy it. Luckily, I very quickly got into it. I have never read anything like it, not just in the way it was set up, which was incredible and unique, but also the plot. It had everything from a love story to spaceship fights!

It starts with Kady and Ezra's home being attacked. They and other refugees are taken aboard the Alexander, the only official space ship in the area, where they are forced to run from BioTech's advancing warship. We follow Kady as she hacks her way into the ship's data to try and understand what is happening and Ezra as he finds his way into the army and learns to fly a fighter space-jet. Put together with interview transcripts, IM conversations, schematics of the ships and the AI's code, we discover alongside Kady the truth behind the attack and what exactly is going on aboard one of the UTA ships. It turns out the ship's AI was severely damaged and is a danger to the ship and the crew's safety. 

Of course it becomes a lot worse than that, as AIDAN has twisted it's understanding of protection and safety. Reading from its code was beyond creepy; the level of complexity and nearly human feeling was unnerving and its self-assurance that it knows what its doing is for the best... urgh, so scary! Then of course there's the fact that BioTech, the evil corporation behind the attack, released a bio-weapon that is making its way through the crew and turning them into space zombies. Let's just say that Kady has her hands full!

Considering this was nearly 600 pages, it really didn't take me that long to utterly devour it. Yeah, some pages were just pictures or a couple of lines but everything was put together so well, and surprisingly succinctly, that it just worked going from AIDAN's core code to a voice-over of Kady's movements back to a hacked email. Putting the pieces together was really easy, seeing everything laid out like this. All in all, this was an incredibly unique and adventurous story and I can't wait for book two!

Published 22nd October 2015 by OneWorld Publishing. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday 28 September 2015

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um... 

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait...what?

This was a classic, light hearted summer romance, least of all because it actually took place over the summer holiday! Mostly it was a tale of friendship; Emily and Sloane have been attached to each other's hips for going on two years but suddenly Sloane has disappeared and Emily is helpless. I don't think she had realised how dependant she was on Sloane until she went away and was at ends without Sloane to guide her. 

The narrative had a balanced before and after so we see how Emily and Sloane's friendship started and grew alongside Emily dealing with a Sloane-free summer. But Sloane has sent her a random list, something to do, something that will make Sloane's disappearance make sense. I really liked this concept, made it into a strange little adventure and it gave Emily a sense of purpose to get her friend back.

What I loved most was the real character development with Emily. She is used to being compared (and comparing herself) to Sloane so by forcing her to move on, do things she wouldn't normally do, Emily breaks out of her comfort zone, makes surprising new friends, new relationships, understands her family and one best friend a little better. Plus there was an adorable romance and Emily became braver, expanded her friend circle, grew in confidence. It was funny and sweet and built on the importance of friendship rather than needing a guy to feel better about yourself. A quick and lovely read for summer love. 

Published 3rd July 2014 by Simon and Schuster. 

Friday 25 September 2015

Queen Of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

In the fourth instalment of this incredible series, just about everything I wanted to happen did - the bad guys got beat (kind of), Aelin once again proved her superior strategic mind powers, the good guys were freed and new allies were made.

Once back in Rifthold, Aelin has a lot of stuff to do and not a lot of time to do it in before she gets killed. A couple of deaths are on her to-do list and as we deal with the Arobynn thing and its aftermath, the tension and the anticipation start to build for the big finale start. It isn't really revealed until near the end - or at least most of it isn't - but it becomes clear that Aelin has been planning things down to the last detail for her court's future. She used a certain death to raise funds for an army, she uses an enemy to kill the Wyrdhounds for her, it's all so very clever, I'm annoyed I didn't think of it!

Ok, so a few random thoughts while I was reading: Chaol is so old news! As much as I still adore him, it's clear - in fact it was clear in the last book - that they've both moved on. What I did especially love was that he finally forgave her for lying, for hurting, for everything that occurs in this book and before. And on from that: Rowan returned! What a great relationship he and Aelin has; still the banter and the flirting but now with some real heart behind it. Next up is Dorian. Can I mention Dorian? As it's clear quite early in the book what has happened to him in terms of his magic and the collar, I immediately wanted to rescue him. What he has to go through is more than anyone that cute should bear and it made my heart ache knowing he was stuck inside while all these horrible things were happening to him and his kingdom.

We've still got alternate chapters from Manon and her Thirteen but things have escalated quite a bit since we last saw them and things really progressed during this book. With everything going on and the introduction of a new character, I started to really like hearing from their side. Not only did it give us balance and insight into the enemy camp, Manon and the witches had some serious stuff to deal with! And then Manon and Aelin finally meet and fight and it was bad-ass! Everything seems to be coming together - Manon and Aelin meeting and fighting, Elide the daughter of the woman who gave her life to free Aelin all those years ago, freeing Aedion and getting to know each other as adults. 

The finale was Made. Of. Awesome! I'm really glad we saw these things happen, I wasn't sure if Aelin was going to manage it or if we'd see it in this book, but finally bringing down the last barrier was epic and nicely set things up for the future of the kingdom, although it's clear there is still a ways to go.

Published 1st September 2015 by Bloomsbury.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.

In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar... but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.

Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life - and soon both heretics and books will burn...

This is set in an alternate world where the Alexandria Library wasn't destroyed and the written word is the most powerful thing. Knowing me and my love of books added with one of my favourite authors and I was all over this!

First off, I thought it has cool and very interesting world building; with excerpts from various diaries and time periods that builds up the history and background. For example, how the Curators of the Great Library stopped Gutenburg from inventing the printing press, thus not letting the public have access to books. The way that books and the written word was so powerful and special had morphed the way the world had developed. At first I thought it was just incredible the way that people appreciated the written word but without the printing press, it still had that air of entitlement around it. This linked into Jess's home life and the family business of dealing books on the black market. 

Set in London then the Great Library, we follow Jess and his journey to escape his family's black market business and become a Librarian, to expand his knowledge and be a mole and get rarer, more expensive books. Part classroom, part deadly field trips, Jess and his fellow postulants learn a lot from their teacher, Scholar Wolfe. I loved learning about the history and the technical stuff behind the Great Library and having such a mixed lot of postulants we learned so much from each of them; they all had a rich history and bought loads to the Library and its teachings. 

All in all, this was very different from Caine's other books but still had her imaginative style and great story telling with a very interesting subject. An awesome start to what I'm sure will be a fantastic series.

Published 7th July 2015 by Allison and Busby. 

Sunday 20 September 2015

Weekly Highlights: the 'Cold' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things!

Unfortunately, I've been absent from the blog and most of online this week. I caught a cold and came down with it hard on Tuesday and that pretty much rendered me bed ridden until Friday. I'm back at work this weekend, albeit slowly and with a fair amount of coughing, and I need to catch up on reading and reviewing on Monday - don't worry, I have a plan!

On The Blog
Review of All Of The Above by James Dawson (5 stars)
Review of This Is Not A Love Story by Keren David (4 stars)
Review of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (4 stars)
Blog Tour: How Do You Like Your Romance? 

Currently Reading
Opal and Illuminae - things are a bit confusing in Opal and I'm not really enjoying it at much as the first two books. Illuminae however is the most brilliant and fantastic thing and I love it!

On My Bookshelf
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The poverty-stricken Reds are commoners, living in the shadow of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from the Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Then Mare finds herself working at the Silver palace, in the midst of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

This is partly 'I wanted them and they were on offer' and partly 'everyone else has read them and I'm so behind!' So yeah, really looking forward to these two!

Monday 14 September 2015

How Do You Like Your Romance: Darkmere and Crow Mountain

Today we have a blog tour post celebrating one of Chicken House's recent and incredible publications, Darkmere by Helen Maslin. My review of Darkmere can be read here. And alongside, we are also highlighting another epic romance by Chicken House, Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis (review here). Take it away Helen and tell us who inspired you to write!

       Authors Who Inspire Me
by Helen Maslin

In the spring of 2012, I was browsing the blogs of my favourite writers and trying to convince myself it could happen to me too. The phone-call that would change everything. I’d sent my manuscript off to several agents and now I had to wait. I read the latest post on Laini Taylor’s blog – which is always crammed with writing tips and pretty pictures, and one of the links took me to Stephanie Perkins’ blog – which is funny and has photos of attractive men. After that I clicked on Sally Gardner’s website and realised...they all had brighter hair than me!

That weekend, I bought a gallon of Crazy Colour and spent hours making my hair redder than a can of Coca-Cola. And then scrubbing dye off the bath. And the shower. And the sink. And all the towels...sigh.

Because if I couldn’t be a published writer, I was damn well going to look like one!
Then of course, I got my phone-call. An agent invited me to meet her for a cup of coffee because she liked my writing. ‘It’s the hair,’ whispered a voice in my head. ‘The hair-thing worked!’

Later, I had a meeting with a publisher, who also told me he liked my writing. Definitely the writing. But I’ve never let my hair colour fade. You know...just in case.

Hair epiphanies aside, Laini Taylor is one of my favourite writers because her imagination seems to stretch so much further than anyone else’s. It’s limitless. And it makes me want to be braver too. One of her stories – Hatchling – is so startling that I genuinely couldn’t tell whether I liked it or not until I’d read it several times.

Similarly, the author who inspired me earliest – Daphne du Maurier – was also noted for her imagination. Throughout Rebecca, the unnamed heroine spends a great deal of time thinking about what might happen in the future or what might’ve happened in the past – entire conversations, dramatic scenes, years passing – everything. Du Maurier was imagining an imaginary character’s imaginings. I love that! Norman Collins (a senior editor at Gollancz) said, ‘I don't know another author who imagines so hard all the time.’

The same could be said of JK Rowling. I think the wizarding world of Harry Potter is more richly imagined than any other fictional setting. Schools, shops, spells, food, fairytales, animals – the details are fascinating and endless. I can’t read this series without wondering which house I’d be sorted into, or what my wand would be made of and so on. These are books that readers can climb inside and live in. 

While it’s imagination that inspires me most of all, I think it’s humour that makes me enjoy the writing process. Neil Gaiman’s stories read as if they were fun to write. In reality, they must have taken time and work, but they’re so full of mischief and subtle jokes and playful asides to the reader, they could’ve been written simply to amuse himself. Even his most dreadful villains are funny and whimsical and brilliantly entertaining – I love Croup and Vandemar, Prince Septimus and the Lilim, and the Jacks of All Trades.

My favourite books of all are the ones in which I can sense the writer’s desire to draw me into an imaginary world, to entertain me or make me laugh. Even when I’m too caught up in the story to know that I’m aware of anything beyond, it’s the author’s imagination and sense of humour that will prompt me to read their books over and over again.

Darkmere by Helen Maslin is out now, published by Chicken House

Friday 11 September 2015

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.

Stuck in her little world, Maddie is allergic to everything outside her home. To occupy her time, she reads, makes projects, writes, and tries not to feel like she's missing out. Until new neighbours move in and Maddie has new things to observe but also a new reminder of the life she cannot have.

Maddie was really sweet and her situation completely sucked but I didn't really connect with her until after she meet Olly. Despite her unique situation, I didn't really feel like she had much depth until she had someone different to interact with. But once she gets to know someone outside her little circle, she realises a dangerous new world view, one that mum and nurse really don't want her to risk. Something about Maddie and Olly tugged painfully on my heartstrings. It was the ultimate "want what you can't have" and I held my breath for most of this love story, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

She was cared for by her mother, who is a doctor, and a full time nurse Carla. It was clear that Maddie and Carla had a very close friendship; I thought it was really sweet how Maddie had another motherly figure in her life, someone who was willing to protect her and show her the way, especially when her mum didn't. We also got cool little extras, like screen shots of her Tumblr book reviews, text conversations, letters, online shopping confirmation; all these made Maddie's secluded existence come to life. 

I don't really know what I expected from this but what I got was an exceptional love story with a surprising mother/daughter relationship and a young woman who had to risk everything for a better life. It was sweet and gripping and completely romantic. Definitely an author to watch.

Published 3rd September 2015 by Corgi.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

This Is Not A Love Story by Keren David

Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that's impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father's unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn't take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect? 

In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time. 

But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone's heart survive?

I wanted to read this because A- Amsterdam and B- romance. And I did get a cutsy romance set in a great city but I also got some great friendships, a bit of mystery and a cool exploration of self.

It followed Kitty and Theo, both Londoners, recently moved to Amsterdam for different reasons but instantly connected, and Ethan, a nearly-native Dutch. Through alternate perspectives, we saw them both explore the city and rediscover themselves as new people. For Kitty, it was a chance to reinvent herself, and Theo, semi-banished there as punishment for inappropriately dating his teacher, was brooding and angry. But as they came together, it became a possibility to be seen as new individuals. 

David had an interesting way of pacing it, after, then before and back again - really kept the tension, made things interesting and really highlighted how much the three of them had changed. We saw the city from new eyes and old as Ethan, her almost step-brother, shows Kitty around. Being in a new city changed all of them and changed the way they saw each other. Ethan was another case like this; he was awkward and stand-offish but inside, really quite insecure. It took a lot for him to open up and a lot of drama to get anywhere near a happy ending but I warmed to him and am really glad he ended up happy.

As well as the typical sexuality explored, there was also religion; Jewish traditions were a big part of this book which was fascinating, as I know next to nothing about them. Overall, I got much more than I expected out of this book and it was a exceptional read. 

Published 7th May 2015 by Atom.

Monday 7 September 2015

All Of The Above by James Dawson

When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who's the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the 'alternative' kids take Toria under their wing. And that's when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band - and it's instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there's Polly ... love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

Dawson's latest was not his usual genre but still had his distinctive voice and authentic teenage characters that made it a thoroughly enjoyable read.

It was so adorable and romantic while tackling coming of age questions, the typical teenage-y troubles that come from moving house and finding your place in already-formed friendship groups. Lucky for Toria, she falls in the assorted group of misfits that are all so unique, so sweet and mesh so well together. This amazing set of friends that Dawson created were so varied and wild, just a brilliant portrayal of the masks we hide behind, especially when we're struggling through everything from first boyfriends to exams.

The most important thing in this book was that Toria made mistakes and learned that as long as you stay true to yourself, it's ok. Although with hormones and conflicting emotions, that isn't easy! But her struggle with her sexuality and falling for someone you wouldn't expect, that was difficult. It's a tough thing to come to terms with, especially if you're worried about perception from friends and family. But I thought it was incredibly sweet and open-minded that Toria does realise that it doesn't change who you are if you fall in love with someone surprising.

Published 3rd September 2015 by Hot Key Books. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday 6 September 2015

Weekly Highlights: the 'No Spoilers Please' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things!

Work, lots of reading, so very tired! You know, the usual. 

On The Blog
Review of Counting Stars by Keris Stainton (5 stars)
Review of Monster by CJ Skuse (5 stars)
Review of Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (4 stars)

Currently Reading
Queen of Shadows. No one talk to me until I've finished, ok?

On My Bookshelf
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas
Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

Ahhh! Need I say more?

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O'Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to "read" objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, "America's Sweetheart Seer." But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners' abilities...

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Ordered alongside Queen of Shadows, this was my other anticipated release although as it's another huge one, I might need a break before reading it so soon after QoS!

Opal by Jennifer L Armentrout
No one is like Daemon Black.

When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well... There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on.

But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love.

After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different... And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable of. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever.

Together we’re stronger... and they know it.

I read the first two of this series last year.. or the year before.... ages ago so details are foggy but I know I loved them and when I found book 3 on kindle sale, I went for it!

Friday 4 September 2015

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

This is the story of a girl, her gay best friend, and the boy in love with both of them.

Ten months after her recurring depression landed her in the hospital, Mira is starting over as a new student at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to act like a normal, functioning human this time around, not a girl who sometimes can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby. 

Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with a mischievous glint in his eye. 

Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him like a backlit halo. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and secret road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives. 

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

Very much like Eleanor and Park or I'll Give You The Sun, this novel explored lots of teenage weirdness, from depression to sexuality. So Mira is the new girl at Jeremy's school, and as Jeremy comes out of his shell, he quickly grows close to her and Sebby and their way of protecting themselves from the boring and ordinary.

Let's start with Sebby. He's is a foster kid, growing up in a group home. He's also mostly gay and poor and has sticky fingers and hands out sexual favours in the toilets of a mall. Despite that shocking revelation, he was really sweet and complicated; it was obvious he had plenty of issues but for the most part, really wanted to get better, get a better life. Best friend Mira has serious depression issues; after an attempt to take her life landed her in the hospital and the psych ward, she takes refuge in the magical, the almost-impossible, the wishes for extraordinary.

Jeremy has been horrible bullied for having two dads and for being gay. Not that is a truth he's admitted to himself but it was gratified on his locker and he suffered many a hurtful comment. So when Mira and Sebby welcome him into their magical world of escapism, he is happy for the change, for some true friends. Told from all three perspectives, you see inside their heads, attempt to make sense of their actions and feelings. It was brutally honest; as I've already mentioned, it talks about sex, sexuality, self-harm, alcoholism to name but a few, but sometimes I thought it was trying to be so out there, there was no normal left, nothing recognisable. All in all, a great commentary on the truly tough issues for teens alongside the fairly normal stuff of finding yourself and real friendship. 

Published 10th September 2015 by Macmillan Childrens. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Monster by CJ Skuse

At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits. As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild. Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.

First off, this is a typical thriller; reading it, you never know what's around the corner. Which, coupled with Skuse's trademark clever prose, means that I read this breathlessly, gripping the edge of the pages in fear! It also had the perfect setting for it, a Hogwarts-type boarding school over the Christmas holidays, cut off from the rest of civilization by snow and downed power lines. 

It follows Nash, stuck at school over the holidays with a few misfits, as she tries to keep her head clear after news of her brother's disappearance. Nash was pretty cool; determined and smart, she's a long term boarder and has always wanted to be Head Girl. But Dianna has been nipping at her heels, wanting to be the best, and now she's at school until the New Year too; there's also notorious trouble maker Maggie, creepy Regan, heavily made-up Clarice and little first year Tabby. Under the watchful eye of Matron, they all try to make the best of being abandoned at Christmas until things start to go horrible wrong.

Of course there was an actual monster hiding in the woods! A big cat or some sort of creepy killer-hybrid, something is hunting hikers and tourists and now the girls. The whole novel was fast paced and exciting, there was always something going on, from the mysterious Beast and finding a killer on the loose, to a possible date and news of Sebastian's disappearance. Overall, it felt very different to Skuse's other novels, bit more adult and scary, but in a good way. It was terrifying and incredibly gripping in a 'heart in your throat, don't read it before bed' way.

Published 24th September 2015 by Mira Ink. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.