‘Chimera’ – Vaun Murphrey



This certainly has an interesting premise.

Cassandra, 13, has spent eight years in captivity having witnessed her parents’ murders and then she is rescued by family that she didn’t know she had.

Upon discovering she is a Weaver – which involves having use of some seriously enviable skills – Cassandra comes to realise that she has talents beyond those she is expected to have. It seems there hasn’t been anyone quite like Cassandra beforehand, though there are plenty of hints that some do know about her and have chosen to keep her ignorant for some reason.

Initially, the setting felt a little confusing. The story also began quite slowly but once Cassandra rediscovers her ‘sister’ and we see her emerging talents things get very interesting.

There are elements of the story that I would have liked further details about, but the way this ends does suggest that we’ll get that information…eventually.

‘Our Endless Numbered Days’ – Claire Fuller

Our Endless Numbered Days


As an adult reader, when we are first introduced to Peggy looking at the picture of her father there is a definite sense of things not being quite right. I read in amazement and horror as Peggy recounted the build-up to her father taking her to live in a remote cabin in the woods. I couldn’t believe that nobody did anything to intervene, and I was also surprised at Peggy’s childish acceptance of her situation.

Her naive acceptance of her father’s claim that there has been a storm which has destroyed the rest of the world is so off-kilter that, from that point onwards, I was reading with a sense of waiting for the awful events that I imagined happening to unravel.

There was a lot in the description of Peggy’s daily life that reminded me of Emma Donoghue’s ‘Room’. It was claustrophobic, desperately unsettling and certainly not something that I envisaged would end well.

I did find the switches from the past to the present day a little disconcerting at times. The book also felt a lot stronger in the final section as we see things slowly build to their inevitable climax. Strangely, I felt that the more interesting story was the one that we can sense building up at the end of the novel when Peggy returns to her family home. A powerful read though, which unsettled me more after I had closed the pages for the final time.

‘The Shrunken Head (Curiosity House)’ – Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester

The Shrunken Head


I know people say not to judge a book by its cover, but the artwork is a major part of this novel and it adds another dimension to what is a well-written and exciting mystery. Perhaps this book is not for everyone, but I think it’s perfect for the 9-12 age range as it delivers on adventure, a great cast of characters and it isn’t patronising to the reader.

The blurb promises something a little different and, in my opinion, firmly delivers.

The story is set in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities and Wonders. It focuses on four extraordinary children – Thomas, Sam, Pippa and Max – whose abilities make them quite unique. Just how special these children are isn’t revealed until later.

Our mystery concerns a shrunken head, a rapidly increasing death count and the childrens’ determination to find out the identity of the killer.

There was a real sense of historical interest in this novel, and, while all the characters were interesting, it is the bond between the four children that stands out.

This first in the series sets up a number of strands that you are likely to be enchanted by. I can’t wait to see where the writers go with part two. The test of this book’s appeal for me will be whether my middle child – a rather fussy reader – will want to finish it. He’s already spotted the cover and read the blurb…the signs are good!

‘Speechless’ – Hannah Harrington



Chelsea Knot starts the book as one of the popular crowd at school. Best friends with Kirsten, Chelsea is used to being able to say what she likes without having to think of the consequences. Unfortunately, she is also portrayed as a completely unpleasant superficial character.

The novel opens with a New Year’s Eve party. Something happens that Chelsea just can’t keep quiet about. The tone at the start is gossipy and fairly lightweight, but from the moment Chelsea opens her mouth to tell people what she saw a chain of events is set in place that has serious consequences.

The symbolism of this taking place at New Year isn’t lost on the reader-this book is about starting anew and changing yourself (or at least coming to accept who you really are).

The characters are, for the most part, fairly stock high-school stereotypes and I think this means it will appeal to its target readership. The crowd that Chelsea finds herself drawn to when she takes her pledge to be silent are one big happy family. They are better developed, and there were some great passages as we watch Chelsea get taken into the heart of this new family and come to terms with who she is and what she wants.

A quick read but one with a serious message to convey. I just wish that Chelsea hadn’t been such a manipulated character at the start as it did make it harder for me to accept unquestioningly her transition.

‘The Loose Ends List’ – Carrie Firestone

The Loose Ends List


There’s no getting away from the fact that we’re all going to die some day. However it happens, we leave behind something of ourselves. This is a book that acknowledges the fact that, sometimes, we want to be able to control our last moments-whether it’s to preserve our dignity, or to minimise the suffering of loved ones.

When the novel opens, Maddie is preparing to go off to college. She is called to a family dinner where her beloved grandma announces she has pancreatic cancer and has booked for the family to spend the summer on a cruise. Only this cruise is all about those on board being allowed to choose their moment to die.

This could have been quite morose given the subject matter, but Firestone works hard to create vibrant characters whose joy of life allows them to focus on what positives remain.

While grandma could be seen as very manipulative, it definitely seems that she is engineering situations for those around her to find the strength to come to accept her leaving. The image of Maddie and Enzo surrounded by phosphorescence when they are kayaking will stay with me for some time, and I don’t think I’ll be able to look at a snow globe without thinking of this novel.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for allowing me access to this before publication.

‘The Many Selves of Katherine North’ – Emma Geen

The Many Selves of Katherine North


When we first meet Kit, she’s a fox.

Nineteen-year-old Kit works for the research department of Shen Corporation as a phenomenaut. She’s been “jumping”–projecting her consciousness, through a neurological interface–into the bodies of lab-grown animals made for the purpose of research for seven years, which is longer than anyone else at ShenCorp, and longer than any of the scientists thought possible. She experiences a multitude of other lives–fighting and fleeing as predator and prey, as mammal, bird, and reptile–in the hope that her work will help humans better understand the other species living alongside them.

Her closest friend is Buckley, her Neuro–the computer engineer who guides a phenomenaut through consciousness projection. His is the voice, therefore, that’s always in Kit’s head and is the thread of continuity that connects her to the human world when she’s an animal. But when ShenCorp’s mission takes a more commercial–and ominous–turn, Kit is no longer sure of her safety. Propelling the reader into the bodies of the other creatures that share our world, The Many Selves of Katherine North takes place in the near future but shows us a dazzling world far, far from the realm of our experience.

‘The Many Selves of Katherine North’ by Emma Geen is due for publication in early June 2016. The kinds of scientific advances that are focused on in this novel will, naturally, explore ethical considerations and this is quite a leap into the unknown.

There is just enough of reality to keep the reader engaged and able to see the plausibility of the set-up, but it is quite a leap of faith to accept the reactions of key characters.

There’s a lot of vocabulary linked to the procedure, and I did find myself wondering what was going on at a number of key moments. If I’m being honest, I never felt that connected to the character – possible because we are witness to her jumping in and out of animal bodies and, as such, she doesn’t seem to ever really know herself – and this did make it difficult to settle into the story in the way I hoped I would.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC.

‘Blood Of My Blood (Jasper Dent Trilogy 3)’ – Barry Lyga

Blood of my Blood


The final part of the trilogy picks up where book two left off. We get to see what happens to our trio…although, at times, we might wish we didn’t.

I’ve read some reviews that criticise Lyga for just giving us more of the same here. I would have to disagree with those comments. Yes, there are some unpleasant details –  and elements of the activity go beyond sadistic – but there didn’t seem to be quite the level of detail given simply to shock us. Here, if we’re being given graphic detail, it makes sense. This book focuses far more on the psychological elements again and I found this very difficult to put down.

Some readers criticise Lyga for boring us with Jasper’s fears that he’ll become his father’s son. With the revelations we get in this book I’d be more concerned if Jasper weren’t questioning his upbringing, mental state and ability to make socially acceptable decisions!

There are some great moments in this novel. Howie and Connie get to play pivotal roles, and though they are less involved than in previous books, they’ve got Jasper’s back and provide a semblance of much-needed normality for him.

I do think that, in reality, a lot of what transpires during the hunt would never happen. However, Lyga creates truly creepy characters and this was a chilling read.

I might discourage younger readers from picking this series up, for reasons that become obvious as we work our way through this. Overall, though the subject matter is deeply unpleasant it is a fascinating story, well-handled and resolved in such a way that we can sleep at night (albeit with the light on).

‘The Last Star’ – Rick Yancey

The Last Star


Described by publishers as the final thrilling instalment in The 5th Wave series, but I was left feeling unsatisfied and found it quite a frustrating experience.

I’m so pleased that I had only recently read The Infinite Sea or it would have made even less sense to me.

In this novel, we are told that this is the final push to stop the Others ending humankind. While there were passages that I thought were really well written, and moments of real beauty, there was just so much that seemed to conflict with what had come before or that was simply confusing.

The survivors seemed to spend the novel playing a cat and mouse game that nobody really seemed to know the rules to. Random characters appeared, simply to develop the story, and this was so frustrating.

From some way off I had a feeling about what might happen. Full credit to Rick Yancey for not taking that option – which is where it is clearly signposted as heading – but the actual ending just didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s designed to offer a comment on humanity and our need to trust…but it just was not satisfying.

‘Wrecked’ – Maria Padian



It is so frustrating that this isn’t out until October 2016, as I want to tell so many people I know to read this. A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for granting me access to an ARC.

‘Wrecked’ tells a common enough story. This is a timely novel that explores attitudes to sexuality on American college campuses.

While the story itself might seem to follow a definite publishing theme of the moment – it is skilfully narrated. We are told the story of what happened to Jenny through the eyes of her roommate, Hayley, and Richard, a friend of the boy who raped her.

I found this an absorbing story, which I think should appeal to so many readers. There are one or two stereotypical characters, but the writer plays with these and this means they serve a definite role.

A fuller review to follow closer to publication.

‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ – Holly Bourne

How Hard Can Love Be?


Another hard-hitting novel by Holly Bourne that comes disguised as fluffy fun.

This time around we focus on Amber, starting as she heads off to America to see her mother for the first time in two years. Amber is excited at the prospect of working at a summer camp and spending time with her mother, but she also worries that her mother is not interested in her.

The voice is distinctive. From the moment we see Amber boarding the plane with a hangover to the very dramatic journey she makes out of camp, this is crammed full of conundrums, advice and humour.

Personally I would have liked more Lottie and Evie, but there’s plenty here to keep readers interested.