‘I Found You’ – Lisa Jewell

Alice looks out of her window one morning and sees a man sitting on the beach. It’s raining, but he has no coat. Later that day he’s still there. Most of us would turn away, but Alice invites him into her home-even though he has no memory of who he is.

At the same time we see young bride Lily going crazy because her husband has not come home. They are recently married and life is idyllic. So where is he? Nobody knows, and Lily realises she knows little about the man she’s married-made worse when the police tell her that her husband doesn’t actually exist.

Alongside these two stories we are taken back to 1993, where we follow Graham and his family on their summer holiday. They encounter Mark Tate, an older teen who attaches himself to the fifteen year-old sister of Graham. Something is seriously wrong, and we watch in anticipation of working out exactly what this is.

We follow the story as the two women come to learn how their stories link.
I liked the jumping around time frames and slowly piecing together exactly what happened. However, I felt that this was character driven and the characters weren’t ones I particularly cared for.

‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ – Jay Asher

Strangely, this is one of those ‘classic’ reads that has passed me by. I had heard students talking about the Netflix version of it recently, and was curious to see to what extent this show had altered the text. Before I go any further, I must point out I’ve not watched the series yet-but it’s come in for some criticism.

Before I started reading I was wondering why Asher decided to have Hannah, his main character, tell her story through tapes. It was a dated mode in 2007, and I can’t see it coming close to making sense to today’s teenagers. That aside, I think most will read this for the idea behind it – and the exploration of character.

The opening part of the book introduces us to Clay. He’s just received a mysterious package with thirteen tapes inside. When he starts listening to the tapes he learns they’re from Hannah, a girl in his school, who recently killed herself. On the tapes she pledges to reveal how thirteen individuals played their part in her decision.

Clay himself was a good guy. He obviously felt deeply affected by what he was hearing, and we were left with the view of him as a boy who tried to do right but who, on the main event, didn’t quite push far enough.

Other characters were far less appealing. Whether it’s one-time friend who puts her down; the boy who objectifies her; the first kiss who laughs with his mates and exaggerates just what they got up to; the peeping tom who pretends to be her friend or the teacher who doesn’t quite get it, there’s an awful lot of characters who play their part in helping feed Hannah’s low self-esteem.

Reading the transcript of the tapes puts us in Clay’s shoes. There’s a morbid curiosity about just what circumstances created the feeling in Hannah (who seems quite a strong character on the surface) that this was her only option. What stuck with me was a comment from the start of the book where Hannah says ‘it’s not about what you did…it’s about the repercussions of what you did’. Given the pressures on teenagers now, I think this message is more pertinent than ever-and if readers take nothing else from it than to consider how their action/inaction might affect someone else, then it’s a good thing.

I found it hard that Hannah reaches out on a couple of occasions (but not in a way that really indicates she’s feeling anything beyond frustration with her peers) and we do get given a number of ‘check-list’ features that more vulnerable teenagers might be tempted by. I can’t imagine how desperate someone must be feeling to actually go through with suicide, but I think there may have been other characters closer to Hannah that could have offered a different perspective on the events they hear.

‘Dorothy Must Die’ series – Danielle Paige


Book one – ‘Dorothy Must Die’ (read 24/04/17)

An unexpected treat for me.

We all know the story of Dorothy and her companions, and their adventures in Oz. What we’re encouraged to believe here is that Dorothy grew to like the power and attention and has gone slightly crazy. Now surrounded by sycophants and very odd characters, Dorothy is slowly draining Oz of its magic.

Into this world steps Amy Gumm, another girl from Kansas who is dropped into the world via a tornado. She is taken under the wings of the Order, and her mission is to kill Dorothy.

Though Amy was a little irritating, and I disliked the obvious focus on physical perfection, this was a great read. I don’t think you can take it too seriously, but it was an intriguing idea.

‘King’s Cage’ – Victoria Aveyard

I admit to having mixed feelings about this third in the series. It was slow to get going and did, too frequently, feel like a bit of a filler, but it really picked up the pace just over halfway through. By the end I was feeling more than a little wrung out – and now I’m desperate to see where Aveyard takes things in the final instalment.

Our story begins with Mare having been taken prisoner by the new King. She is kept bound in manacles, Maven desperate to take away her lightning power. Though Mare and Cal have been desperate to see the best in Maven – laying the blame for his personality at the hands of his mother – it becomes increasingly clear that he is just as dangerous as she ever hoped he would be.

The initial chapters focus on establishing the stifling atmosphere in which Mare is kept. She is a powerful trophy prisoner, Maven using her to manipulate others within his kingdom. However, alongside this we see the planning and training that the Scarlet Guard/Reds and their supporters are putting in place.

Switching views as we do can, on occasion, mean a frustrating wait to pull together the pieces. However, as we put things together it is clear that we are about to get a humdinger of a story as everything comes together.

There was so much to love about this: some cracking battle scenes; graphic descriptions of the battles and training; a wonderful reconciliation between the characters of Cal and Mare; a hint that sometimes help comes from unexpected quarters, and the most heart-wrenching ending ever (though we kind of know to expect it, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept).

With part four expected in February 2018 we’re in for a tense wait. Personally, I’m torn between hoping Cal and Mare get their happy ending and waiting for chinks in the Maven-bad-guy persona. Whichever way it goes, I have a feeling I’m going to like this!


‘Sometimes I Lie’ – Alice Feeney

A lot of reviewers have drawn parallels between this debut and Gone Girl which is annoying – if you didn’t particularly enjoy that novel you might overlook this one and it would be a shame.

Of course there are similarities – we have a female narrator who we mistrust from the off; there are secrets aplenty; lots of characters give us reason to mistrust them/their motives and there are some great twists. However, there is something different about this – though we don’t get to see this until the author chooses to reveal it to us.

The jumps from past to present and the switching focus from character to character meant that it was very difficult to predict just where this was going. I enjoyed trying to spot plausible lies and to predict just which details were designed to throw us off the scent. Some elements of this were quite clear to see, but as a whole we only had our suspicions confirmed fully at the close of the novel.

With a character who spends most of the novel in a coma we had a distorted view of what was happening. It was genuinely creepy to overhear some of the conversations taking place in Amber’s room, but I could never quite trust myself to fully believe everything she was telling us. Eventually I reconciled myself to having to place my trust in someone who did not seem to merit it.

Deliberately we are led to dislike Amber’s husband, Paul, and though he doesn’t come out of it particularly well he is much higher up the chart than the vile character of Edward. From our first encounter with him there is something off-kilter about him. Little details that are given further support our mistrust of him. However, the details surrounding him and his role in Amber’s life did – if I’m being honest – feel rather gratuitous, and didn’t necessarily add much to the story.

Some elements aside, this was a well-plotted thriller. I feel the elements of the past that were brought in really meant this was operating on a whole new level. I was rather surprised at some of the revelations, and the ending was something of a shock.

All in all, a great read.

‘The Doll Funeral’ – Kate Hamer

I haven’t yet read The Girl in the Red Coat, but based on my reaction to this I might be tempted to obtain a copy.

This novel is set in two different time periods, the 1970s and 1983. Initially, the switch between narratives and times is confusing – but as we learn of the link between the two characters, it becomes easier to follow.

The character of Ruby – our main character of 1983 – was an interesting one. Rather precocious in some ways, but desperately unhappy in others, Ruby is a thirteen year old caught on the cusp of maturity. She inhabits a strange shadow-land in-between childhood and adulthood. When she receives the news that her adoptive parents, Barbara and Mick, are not her parents she is desperate to find her roots and family. However, things are not that straightforward. Much as you want her to get her happy ending, you get the feeling that it’s not going to be so easy.

Our second character, Anna, was less well-defined for me. She is a somewhat naive seventeen year old who finds herself pregnant. Against social conventions she decides to keep her child, but her relationship with the father is not an easy one and neither is in the best position to act as parents to their young daughter.

The two narratives are linked, and we can see how quite easily. However, the main appeal for me of this novel as in the atmospheric description of the woods around the Forest of Dean and exploring the characters’ emotions. The boundaries between the living and the dead are blurred throughout this narrative. Ruby has been friends with ‘Shadow Boy’ since she was a child, and she can definitely sense things that nobody else can see. The descriptions of Ruby’s forays into the woods are creepy, but I couldn’t wait to see what happened.

This was eminently readable, and though elements were not totally successful for me it worked as a whole to create a much more optimistic read than I was expecting.

Thank you to publishers Faber and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in advance of publication.

‘But Then I Came Back’ – Estelle Laure

A companion guide to This Raging Light, this story focuses on Eden. She nearly drowns in an accident and is in a coma for a month. When she wakes up she remembers her family visiting her, but is convinced that she also met the young girl in the room opposite her (who remains in a coma).

Eden was a talented dancer, but it is evident that she set herself very high standards and is struggling to adjust to life after a coma.

There was a lot of mystical/supernatural detail, some of which was interesting but it all felt rather like watching someone explore their philosophical beliefs from a distance.

We watch Eden fall in love with Joe, the best friend of the girl in the room opposite her, and there is some passing reference to Lucille and Digby. There is no need to have read Laure’s debut of this to make sense, but it was good to return to the characters.

A little like my response to This Raging Light, this was a book that was easy to read but which didn’t really appeal as much as I hoped it would. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in advance of publication.

‘See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan’ – Jack Cheng

Published in March 2017, I was lucky to receive an advance copy to review. Though it’s being marketed to younger readers, this is a book that will appeal to older readers who are more likely to pick up on the nuances of the text.

Eleven year old Alex is obsessed with space. His dog is named after his favourite scientist, Carl Sagan, and when we first meet him he is preparing to travel across America to visit a Space Show and launch his rocket. Now that might sound great, but notice what is missing…any form of authority-figure.

Alex’s father is long-dead, his brother is busy pursuing his career and his mother is frequently missing. Alex describes her as having quiet days, but it is clear that something is amiss.

Watching Alex make his journey and bump into all manner of people along the way was quite incredible. Heart-breaking, but it also filled me with joy to see such a young boy maintain his optimism and innocence in spite of such awful home circumstances.

I don’t want to give away plot details, but this is a captivating read about a young boy’s search for what family and home means.

Thanks to NetGalley and Puffin for the advance copy for review.

‘Letters to the Lost’ – Brigid Kemmerer

Juliet Young has always written letters to her photo-journalist mother. When she is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Juliet continues this tradition – leaving letters at her mother’s grave. Declan Murphy is not the kind of student you want to cross. He is stuck at the local cemetery carrying out community service after crashing his father’s car after he’d been drinking. When he finds a letter at the cemetery he is struck by the content and decides to write back.

The opening chapters of the novel are a little confusing as we try to establish who the two characters are, and how they are linked. However, it is evident that both these characters are struggling to deal with grief. Though Juliet and Declan have this shared grief, they don’t seem to have anything else in common.

In real life you might be tempted to ignore a note written on a letter left at a grave. However, Juliet is angered by someone reading her innermost thoughts and decides to respond. Thus begins a rather quirky exchange, which allows us to learn an awful lot more about Juliet and Declan than we would if they were constantly censoring what they were telling us.

I really liked the alternating style of this novel. We were able to see beyond the surface of the two characters, and it was refreshing to see them bond without actually meeting.

Inevitably, the two start to work out who each other is. They trust each other to reveal their true feelings about the events that have happened in their lives, and we get to see their shifting relationship as they start to think about how to move on and take control of what happens to them a little more.

The ending is, perhaps, more resolved than might reasonably be expected to occur but I liked the fact that the writer allows us to see the potential for change, and shows how sometimes taking a risk can pay off.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this in advance of publication.

‘The Caster Chronicles’ – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl



Book One – Beautiful Creatures – finished 13/04/17

Intriguingly this novel is told from the perspective of a young male, Ethan Wate. He has been having strange dreams, and they seem to be linked to the new girl to arrive in the town of Gatlin, Lena Duchannes. We can tell, immediately, that there is something unusual about these two…the question is, just how unusual.

In this first in the series we are introduced to the hidden people of Gatlin, the Casters. On their sixteenth birthday we are told that each female descendant of Guinevere Duchannes must be claimed. It is an age-old event, and nobody knows whether they will be claimed as Light or Dark. Lena is desperate to avoid this fate, and the novel focuses on her attempts – with help from Ethan – to work out what steps she can take to control her destiny.

Ethan is the kind of character who seems quite content to live his life on the sidelines. He’s fairly popular, but nothing too special. He does what he can to avoid confrontation – until Lena’s arrival, which seems to wake him up and force him to start questioning just what and who is important to him.

There wasn’t anything particularly unexpected in this, but I did enjoy watching Ethan and Lena start to unravel the mysteries surrounding their respective families. A powerful ending, which nicely prepares us for something big in book two.

Book Two – Beautiful Darkness – finished 26/04/17

Book Two in the series was, for me, possibly better than the first but it did seem to take a long time to get going. We pick up after the unfortunate events of Lena’s birthday and we expect everything to be positive…but it’s very far from alright. Lena and Ethan are drifting apart, and Ethan has no clue why.

The struggles in the relationship between Ethan and Lena form the backdrop to this story, but the real interest lies in the developments in the Caster world. There are hints that what people believed might not be quite the truth, and there are some rather shocking revelations.

I enjoyed the journey to try and help Lena, though I am amazed that Liv – who seemed to have her head screwed on right – found much to like about Ethan. He learns a little more about himself, but he is clueless to say the least. I wonder whether he’ll come into his own in the rest of the books, but I’m hoping to see a little more of Link who is definitely not having the best of times by the end of this!

Book Three – Beautiful Chaos – finished 30/04/17

There’s a horrible sense of inevitability to this third in the series. We suspect that things are not going to end well for Ethan and Lena, and there’s a lot to suggest that this is the case. Nothing is, however, certain by the close of the novel so I am hoping that we’ll get proper answers in the final book.

Abraham is becoming more of a threat, though nobody is entirely certain what he is planning. What is clear is that Lena’s earlier actions have upset the order of things, and there will be a price to pay.

I loved the development for Link, who is rather a goofy character but one you cannot help but like. I was also pleasantly surprised to see some of the other characters in a new light here.

Book Four – Beautiful Redemption – finished 30/04/17

A shorter read in the series, and thankfully everything panned out nicely.

I wouldn’t say this was as good as the others in the series, but you definitely could see the story progressing and were able to get a sense of how matters might be resolved.

Ethan and Lena share the telling of this story – and this makes sense once we know what’s going on – but it did lead to a more disjointed feel.

If you’ve read the first three, you’ll not want to miss this.