‘The Ones that Disappeared’ – Zana Fraillon

I first came across Fraillon when I read The Bone Sparrow for the 2017 Carnegie Awards. Here we have another novel where the author takes on the voice of the dispossessed: three street kids-Miran, Esra and Isa.

We don’t know the exact details of their home lives, but these three could be any child kept in poverty and forced to work for criminal gangs. The children are kept in a locked-up home, forced to tend the marijuana plants and harvest the drug ready for sale. They are beaten, slowly being poisoned by the chemicals used in the process and under constant threat that they might be used elsewhere or turned onto the streets when they outlive their usefulness. One can only imagine the heartache their families might endure as they believe their child has been taken abroad to be educated, and they’re not heard of again. And they’re the lucky ones, as many of these kids will come from war or other terrible experiences and have no family.

These three have to run after an accident ruins the crop they were tending. Miran is taken by the police – the police they have been trained not to trust – and their life on the run means Esra and Isa are in constant fear of being found by their ‘owner’. Determined to find Miran, the children never lose hope.

This is a bleak read. The story behind what we’re being told is truly upsetting, and told through the childrens’ eyes their story becomes even more touching. They should not be facing these experiences.

Perhaps to offset the bleakness of a story about human trafficking we get the character of Skeet, a young boy who’s as lost as they are but who does have potential to help. There’s also the David Almond-esque magical character of Riverman who looks out for the kids and helps them on their quest.

Not an enjoyable read in terms of content, but beautifully told and very very necessary.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

‘Indigo Donut’ – Patrice Lawrence

Indigo and Bailey…very different, with totally different backgrounds, but this story focuses on what they have in common.

Indigo is fed up of everyone thinking they know her. Sent from foster carer to foster carer, Indigo knows most people who meet her will immediately google her and discover she was found as a toddler by her mother’s dead body and her father was imprisoned for the murder.

When the mean girls at yet another new school pick up on this and start giving her grief, Indigo expects to go it alone. But then we have Bailey. A mixed-race kid known for his ginger Afro and his ‘cool’ social worker dad, Bailey can’t stand by and say nothing. After sticking up for Indigo on the bus one day Bailey starts to draw closer to her, and we’re left wondering about the identity of the mysterious homeless man who seems to be following her (and who knows more about her than he probably should) .

A moving tale that explores family and identity. I haven’t yet got round to reading  Lawrence’s debut Orangeboy, but after this it’s a definite addition to the TBR pile.

Thoroughly recommended, and a huge thank you to Hodder Childrens’ Books and NetGalley for the ARC.

‘The Hazel Wood’ – Melissa Albert

Due for publication in January 2018, I am DESPERATE to get my hands on a copy of this.

I’ve heard lots of people talking about it, the phrase ‘creepily captivating’ has been bandied around and I have just had my request to read an ARC on NetGalley rejected (nothing personal, I’m not in the US but it was worth a shot!)

I’ve found a link to the opening chapter:


and now I am destined to wait, forlornly, until my copy arrives in the post.
To those of you who are fortunate enough to get your hands on it in advance, enjoy it. This is going to be a long few months!

‘Bloods Sisters’ – Jane Corry

I was intrigued by the idea of this one: Three girls set off for school. Within an hour one of them is dead. People are hiding secrets, and someone is determined to ensure these secrets are revealed.

Initially, I was rather taken aback by the decision to tell the story in split narrative. We follow sisters, Alison and Kitty, now they are older and see how they are affected by the impact of that day. Kitty is in a care home, brain damage affecting her ability to communicate with the world – but she’s a shrewd cookie inside. Alison, her older sister, seems fine on the surface but there are signs that not all is as it seems.

Throughout the novel there’s a lot of hints about what might have happened, and a few red herrings are thrown our way to put us off the scent. We’re given plenty of clues, but never quite enough to help us completely crack it.

A review such as this could, all too easily, give details away. For this reason, I’ll keep it brief.

I did enjoy this, but I felt the first part of the story was a little slow. I never really engaged with either character, which meant I was quite dispassionate about the revelation. There were quite a lot of details that were thrown our way to muddy the water which, actually were more interesting than the main story.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

‘The Chemist’ – Stephanie Meyer

This is one of those books that is not badly written, and there are some cracking scenes, but it seems to have attracted its fair share of hate from online reviewers.

We begin in very different territory to Twilight (thank goodness) with an adult main character who is very good at what she does, even if she is socially inept. She has come under threat on a number of occasions and her paranoia is justified when we learn more of her life.

The story focuses on the attempts by her ex bosses to get Julia (known for most of the novel as Alex) to find a suspect and torture him for information. The target, Daniel, is a teacher who seems to know nothing about the situations Alex wants information about. Okay, so no prizes for originality in how this scenario came about, but Meyer does deliver a pretty well-paced story. At least, initially.

There’s a patch during the novel where not much happens. While Alex and Daniel are left in the dark, we sit and wait…and wait some more…and then get another attempt at something action-packed.

You’ll spot the clunky moments, and the romance is just verging on cheesy, but I still found myself carried along by this. I also admit to being quite satisfied by the peek into their lives after these events (though it was not remotely necessary).

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

‘Moxie’ – Jennifer Mathieu

An unlikely teenager starts a feminist revolution at a small-town Texan high school…Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!

Whatever your take on this, it’s an important book that should be read – by boys and girls – and then discussed. It’s not perfect, but it is realistic…and definitely something that I can see teen readers relating to (sadly).

Seeing the school day through the eyes of the girls it was evident that this particular environment had more than its fair share of problems. The Principal was a somewhat exaggerated creation, solely to fit the purposes of the story, but the sexist slogans on shirts, the silly corridor games and the lack of discussion about these attitudes is quite a common issue. It’s the kind of thing that will never be challenged if we don’t talk about it.

This is one of those books that I think should be read, because even if there’s not an obvious problem it raises questions about our assumptions and beliefs. It will, I think, get readers fired up.

‘Into the Water’ – Paula Hawkins

This is one of those books that will, I’m sure, divide opinion. I liked elements of it but, ultimately, it fell somewhat short for me.

We start our story with the discovery of Nel Abbott’s body in the local beauty spot, known as the Drowning Pool, where a young teenage girl was recently discovered – and where a number of women have been found over time. A local suicide spot, or is something more sinister going on?

From the outset we know we’re dealing with a whodunnit, but you also want some ideas about why. In this, Hawkins sets up so many possibilities that we have an untold number of suspects, a range of suspicious stories and so many things going on that it all becomes a bit of a mess.

We get answers that aren’t really answers, and we are offered a number of things to focus on. For me, this meant we were always second-guessing people’s actions.
It was always quite high up on my ‘red-herring’ list that the person who did it wasn’t the one we were led to believe had done it. What I don’t think we got a credible explanation for was why they did it, or why the fall-guy allowed it to happen.

‘The Disappearances’ – Emily Bain Murphy


Due for publication in July 2017, I was provided with an advance copy of this by the publishers via NetGalley. This might not be to everyone’s taste, but I found it a mesmerising read.

Aila and her brother, Miles, are sent to their mother’s home town of Sterling after her death. Sterling is a place like no other. For reasons unknown to its inhabitants, every seven years something disappears. Colour, the sense of smell, stars…every time, something different and nobody knows why. For many of those who live in Sterling it is logical to blame Juliet, the children’ mother, as she is the only one who has been able to leave Sterling and break the curse.

We watch as Aila and Miles try to settle into their new environment. We see the impact of the disappearances on the inhabitants of Sterling, and we watch with curiosity as at least one person has found ways to reverse the effects (in time). There were passages featuring characters that we don’t see in the story – and it is only when the links between those characters and those whose fortunes we follow become clearer that we start to get the answers we crave.

The style of this debut was remarkable assured. There was a poetic quality to parts of the writing, and I fell a little in love with the characters – even the less pleasant ones. While I, personally, found the Shakespeare links intriguing I can see that it might be a tenuous step too far for some readers.

‘Neverwhere’ – Neil Gaiman

There was just something about this edition that screamed ‘read me’ and I, like Alice, ventured headlong into this crazy world of London Below…and, while the journey won’t appeal to everyone, it definitely has a little something for most readers.

I’ll start with the hero, Richard Mayhew. A more unlikely hero it would be difficult to find. He’s a bit nondescript, people can’t remember who he is and the existence of his terrifying fiancee suggests that he is something of a pushover. However, when he comes across a bleeding girl he is compelled to help…and so begins his weird and wonderful adventure into a place he never knew existed.

Door, the girl in question, is on the run from two vile villains. These two crop up with alarming regularity and have a wonderful penchant for gruesome behaviour – which is rather funny from the pages of a book, but they are the kind of stuff I think I’d have had nightmares about as a child.

The two, along with a few extra hands, then journey through London Below to discover who killed Door’s family; to find the Angel Islington and to try to help Richard get his normal and boring life back.

Gaiman creates a wonderful fantasy world, and he has an obvious love of language. There’s lots of humour in this, and we meet some truly grotesque characters. While the text was wonderful, the illustrations really brought these characters to life for me and added an extra dimension to my reading pleasure.

There was more than a hint of Wonderland about this, and I loved the potential in the ending.

‘The Regulars’ – Georgia Clark

What would you sacrifice to be pretty? Friends, your job…your life? That’s the decision that three twenty-somethings have to make in this novel.

I fell for the cover, totally. So, like most of the characters in this book I am superficial and rather focused on first impressions.

The premise behind this book was fascinating. Three friends in their early twenties, suffering the usual angst and body issues, are given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. An old friend passes on something called Pretty. Curiosity gets the better of them and they take it. After some Inbetweeners-style bathroom reaction to it, the girls learn it has changed them.

Glossy, beautiful and like Photoshopped versions of themselves, the three girls get to play. They see just how good life can be for the beautiful people…but their angst and issues remain, and life on the other side isn’t actually much greener.

This reminded me a little of Limitless, but focusing on three characters meant things were always rather superficial. The scenarios the girls get into were, possibly, meant to be humorous but I found them rather depressing. If only they’d had the chance to do something better.

Ultimately, the girls come to realise there’s positives to who they really are. We leave the book none the wiser about what the drug was, how it worked or whether others were on it. Do we need to know? Probably not, but the message that beauty is only skin deep and we should learn to love who we are is rather obvious.

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read this, but I feel it could have been so much better.