Tuesday 29 November 2016

The Dunwich Horror by HP Lovecraft

The Dunwich Horror and Other Stories

In the degenerate, unliked backwater of Dunwich, Wilbur Whately, a most unusual child, is born. Of unnatural parentage, he grows at an uncanny pace to an unsettling height, but the boy's arrival simply precedes that of a true horror: one of the Old Ones, that forces the people of the town to hole up by night.

This is quite a difficult review to write, partly because it's a collection of short stories and partly because I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.

The first story was the longest and also the title story, about a strange boy growing at an unusual rate and with unnatural powers. I really liked the beginning but the ending, with the professors and doctors trying to decipher the messages and stop some sort of alien uprising, got a little weird. Even for Lovecraft. Having said that, they were all enjoyable in their own way, very clever and well written from a master of the genre.

I liked the shorted ones, especially the one about a man having nightmares about an old witch and creepy rat-man; that one was surprising and so atmospherically terrifying. This is definitely one to read if you're a fan of old-school horror.

Published 2nd October 2008 by Penguin. First published April 1929.

Friday 25 November 2016

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

All In ((The Naturals #3))

Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days. 

After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team's unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any security feed. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code-and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes. 

Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there's been a break in her mother's case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds-and impossible choices.

This is the third in The Naturals series, which I adore - like a teenage Criminal Minds. Honestly, it's been a ridiculous amount of time since I read the first two books so details were basically non-existent but it's surprising how easily I slipped back into Cassie's world. Cassie has found her place in the Naturals, her family of like-minded weirdos who understands how difficult life is, how hard it is to stop your brain from over-thinking and analysing.

It was quite an impressive case this time, a serial killer working his or her way through the Las Vegas casinos, with apparently no pattern as to who they are targeting. As always, the threats and the profiling went hand in hand as the team worked on who was doing it and why. It got quite complicated but once a certain detail was discovered, Sloane was in her element. Also, Lia... just, Lia should not be let anywhere near a casino.

The story was a bit more personal as Cassie's mother's body has been found, and her work in Vegas suffers a little because of her, rather obvious, distractions. And as more details were uncovered, it turns out that her mother's case and the Vegas case could be related. It all led up to an incredible and horrible cliffhanger, which makes me desperate for the final book! All in all, another fantastic crime/thriller story from our lovely band of strange geniuses.

Published 1st November 2016 by Disney-Hyperion. 

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Hanna Donnelly is the station captain’s pampered daughter and Nik Malikov is the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. Together they struggle with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, blissfully unaware that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall with news of the Kerenza invasion.

Gemina is the incredible sequel to Illuminae, which rocked my world! It picks up almost exactly where its predecessor finished but on a different ship, this time on the space station Heimdall that the Hypatia is anxiously running towards. Unfortunately, so is Beitech and its assault teams.

Hanna is the captain's daughter, a spoiled little rich girl who also happens to be trained in martial arts and have a mild addiction to party drugs. This is where Nik comes in; the ultimate bad boy and drug dealer in a crime family, Nik is tough as nails but only because he has to be. As shit hits the fan and we get closer to Hanna and Nik, we see that the facade they show the world is very false. 

As with its predecessor, Gemina is told through IM's, emails, transcripts, even Wikipedia-like entries. It adds up to an amazingly detailed and broad display of the characters and the story, especially cutting between Hanna and Nik, and the assault team as they try to track them down. 

I really don't want to say much more about the plot without giving anything away! So I'm going to leave it there, say that it is just as good as Illuminae if not better, and that you won't be disappointed!

Published 20th October 2016 by Rock The Boat.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling

Once upon a time in a crumbling London bookshop, Posy Morland spent her life lost in the pages of her favourite romantic novels.

So when Bookend’s eccentric owner, Lavinia, dies and leaves the shop to Posy, she must put down her books and join the real world. Because Posy hasn’t just inherited an ailing business, but also the unwelcome attentions of Lavinia’s grandson, Sebastian, AKA The Rudest Man In London™.

Posy has a cunning plan and six months to transform Bookends into the bookshop of her dreams – if only Sebastian would leave her alone to get on with it. As Posy and her friends fight to save their beloved bookshop, Posy’s drawn into a battle of wills with Sebastian, about whom she’s started to have some rather feverish fantasies…

Like her favourite romantic heroines, will she get her happy ever after too?

This was actually recommended to me by Sarra Manning at YALC (you know, as you do!) and I am a bit of a sucker for sweet romantic contemporaries like this, especially ones centred around books. 

On the surface, this is a proper cutesy story, and it was a brilliant love story, but it had surprisingly deep undertones, specifically grief. Posy inherits the bookshop after her boss and friend dies, and Lavinia bought it after Posy's parents, who ran it and its neighbouring tea room, died. Did that make sense? Basically Posy and her younger brother has dealt with a lot of loss and keeping the bookshop in the family, so to speak, meant a lot to them all. And even though Posy had no clue on how to run a successful business, she had a great team around her and a real passion for books. That, I could immediately support!

Sebastian was a great antagonist/love interest. He was gorgeous but unfortunately knew it - we all know the type. He was a fantastic character for Posy to cross swords with, having practically grown up together they shared a history with Lavinia and the bookshop. Speaking of, it was a surprisingly brilliant idea to turn it into a specialised romance bookshop but of course Sebastian can't have that - the nerves and cringe of him trying to turn into a crime shop was equal parts awful and hilarious!

I totally flew through this, it was just a light-hearted and heart-warming love story, set in a bookshop - who could ask for more!

Published 16th May 2016 by Harper.

Friday 11 November 2016

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is also a StarNatasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

This story.... ah, this story was amazing! Set over the course of a day, we see Daniel and Natasha meet, fall in love and get cruelly torn apart by fate. While reading it, you know they are going to have to separate, Natasha is being deported after all, but you hope for an happy ending against the odds. It was completely perfect for a sappy romantic, like me. 

I fell hard for both characters, even though they are total opposites. Daniel believes in fate and even though he is doing what his parents want of him and going to Yale to become a doctor, he desperately wants more out of life. So he looks for a sign from the Universe and finds Natasha. Natasha was amazingly cynical but in a way that has developed through tough-skin and disappointment. She believes in science, things that can be seen and labelled and just laughs at Daniel's assurances that they were meant to be. But the scientific test of asking personal questions and getting to know someone so different from her gives Natasha pause. I'd actually heard of this test before, it featured on an episode of The Big Bang Theory so it was interesting to see it unfold with new characters.

It was also so very diverse, between Daniel the Korean-American, and Natasha the undocumented immigrant from Jamaica, and the huge incredible city of New York. The main story was interspersed with little side stories that illustrated how we touch lives without realising and all the people we come into contact with aren't just side characters in our story but their own protagonists. It took a bit of getting used to but it was clever and emotive and pulled together this overarching power of fate. Also, the ending totally made me cry. In fact, so did the epilogue. Just... tears. Like I said, sappy romantic. 

Published 3rd November 2016 by Corgi. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Fixer (The Fixer, #1)

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather's ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess's classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Tess's grandfather is ill with Alzheimer's. He raised Tess after her parents died and her sister left her with him, so when Ivy puts Gramps in an assisted living facility and uproots her to Washington, Tess blames her for everything. With 17 years between Tess and her sister, they are worlds apart in terms of feeling like a family, even without the brooding and the secrets.

So new school, new territory and new problems, but Tess finds herself trying to live up to her sister's mysterious reputation as the best fixer in DC. And it wouldn't be a great story if Tess didn't end up caught up in her sister's drama!

Very much like the TV show Scandal if it were set in a high school, Tess is dragged into a power play like no other when her friend discovers a secret worth killing for. It took a little while to get all the names straight in my head, political dramas can be so blinking complicated, but really got into it. The delicate balance of power, the lengths some will go to in order to gain it, the magnitude of the secrets that people keep, all of it was incredibly gripping and Tess was an amazing heroine to be dealing with it all. She also had a suberb supporting cast, from her first friend Vivie, the one with the secret, to Henry who had a part to play as it was his grandfather's death that had started this whole thing. Then there's Asher. Just... Asher. The brilliantly insane comic relief that he is, but also a sharp mind and as on the political pulse as the rest of them.

I am quickly learning I will read anything by Barnes, she is that good! A sharp, funny and witty story that combines the big drama of the White House with the family troubles of sisterly love. An amazing story and a great start to what I believe is a series - definitely something to keep an eye out for!

Published 7th July 2015 by Bloomsbury.

Friday 4 November 2016

Dracula by Bram Stoker


When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and his castle. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘Master’. In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count Dracula and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing deeply into questions of human identity and sanity, and illuminating dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire. 

My October classic is a re-read from university, and I'm glad I did because I'd forgotten a lot of the details, especially Dr Seward and his patient Renfield - the inspiration for Igor if I ever saw one. Mostly told with journal entries, a few newspaper articles and letters, Stoker paints a wide picture of traditional Gothic horror, from Jonathan's treacherous journey into rural Romania to Mina and Lucy's inexpiable troubles in England and their final encounter with the formidable Count Dracula. It was very interesting to read it after having had lectures on the subject - brought back memories of discussions on femininity, sexuality, Victorian history and religion, all of which Stoker brings into the story. 

Mina and Lucy are total opposites in terms of womanhood: Mina is a modern woman, wanting to better herself, wanting to be part of the team fighting the Count, she's soft and brave and clever. Lucy on the other hand is naive and gullible and oh so sweet, it's no wonder Dracula was able to manipulate her! She is also used as the epitome of "evil feminism" when she changes, as she physically and mentally becomes a monster. In the 1890's, there's only so much a good woman should be able to do!

The men were mostly all typical Victorian men: smart and brave and typically masculine in their strategies and professions. Van Helsing comes to rescue them with his vast knowledge of apparently everything, but it isn't until they see what has become of Lucy that they even consider the supernatural. The way it is built up until only the impossible exists is very typical of a Victorian sensation novel and Stoker definitely knew what horror story he was creating. 

I adore this story. I admit, I did struggle, the Victorian novel is very dense and takes a lot of concentration, but the short chapters, the gripping plot and the variety of characters makes this the incredible story that it is. 

Published May 12th 1986 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published May 26th 1897)

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the UniverseEveryone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed 'America's Fattest Teen'. But no one's taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum's death, she's been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby's ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world - theirs and yours.

I love a good romantic contemporary with a twist, and this one had that twist and did it wonderfully. Here are two people that could not be more different on the surface but both have hidden depths, fears and hopes that they can't share with anyone else. And all it took was a punch in the face to bring them together! 

First off, it was really interesting to see a different perspective with Jack's prosopagnosia - something that isn't seen very often in a lot of media but is apparently more common than autism. Jack's narrative was all kinds of adorable and nervous; he had this innate confidence about him but he couldn't recognise anyone. Even in his own home, it was 'the woman who is probably my mum'. Which is daft because I can tell who is coming up the stairs with my eyes closed (my dad has particularly heavy footsteps) but I can see his point: he doesn't see people for their faces but their characteristics, their attitudes, even their hair styles, and that must be very difficult. 

Libby, I immediately loved - I could completely understand her grief and how her hurt warped her relationship with food. It all just sucked but she had managed to turn it around and had come so far, she was just incredibly brave for facing her demons. 

Jack I took a bit longer to warm to - he had a swagger about him that was proper cool but also a a distraction and defensive mechanism. That brave face he put on did nothing to warm me to him, as that was its purpose: to prove to the outside world he was normal, really, but all it did was distract from his insecurities. With Libby, her insecurities were obvious and her brave face was different, she almost played up to them, to show her bullies that they couldn't hurt her.

Even though I had my little issues with it, Niven has once again knocked it out of the park and given a greatly realistic love story while bridging the gap between obvious differences.

Published 6th October 2016 by Penguin. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.