‘The Hollow Boy’ – Jonathan Stroud

the hollow boy

 

What can I say? Another great adventure in the Lockwood & Co. series.

This time, there is a supernatural outbreak that is taxing all the agencies in London. Old rivalries are put aside as the agents have to work together to keep alive.

Glamorous new assistant, Holly Munro, causes some upset and the skull in the jar is becoming more and more vocal.

The ending hints at a dark and terrible future. I personally can’t wait for the next in the series!

‘Need’ – Joelle Charbonneau

need

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WANT AND A NEED. WHAT DO YOU NEED?
One by one, the teens in Nottawa, Wisconsin join the newest, hottest networking site and answer one question: What do you need? A new iPhone? Backstage tickets to a concert? In exchange for a seemingly minor task, the NEED site will fulfill your request. Everyone is doing it. So why shouldn’t you?

Kaylee Dunham knows what she needs –a kidney for her sick brother. She doesn’t believe a social networking site can help, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

Or could it?

After making her request, Kaylee starts to realize the price that will have to be paid for her need to be met. The demands the site makes on users in exchange for their desires are escalating and so is the body count. Will Kaylee be able to unravel the mystery of who created the NEED network—and pull the plug before it destroys them all?

As soon as I read this description I really wanted to read this book. I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, prior to publication in November.

The first thing I will say is that this is a great concept – and it doesn’t surprise me that the novel is already being optioned for a movie. Initially, the demands placed on the students are fairly trivial, but things quickly take a far more sinister turn. The consequences of what people are being asked to do are far-reaching, but if nobody knows who’s done it, does it matter?

This certainly encourages readers to question their own sense of morals. Unfortunately, I felt the ending of the book became less secure and with so many characters involved in telling us their stories I became less interested as it went on. This is a shame as I really wanted to love this novel.

‘Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

asking for it

I decided to read this after reading ‘Only Ever Yours’ and having a colleague – who has passed on some humdingers – recommend it.

First, I have to stress that this is a book that I really do believe EVERYONE should read. Teens, parents, anyone who works with young adults…they should be made to read this and then sit down and talk about their response to the ideas it raises. This is not a comfortable read, and it is not one I could say I enjoyed reading, but I could not put it down!

Emma, as is so often the case in real-life as teens work out who they are, is not a particularly likeable character. She is rude to her friends and family, makes some quite unwise decisions and has such a barbed tongue on her that you can understand why some of the characters within the novel take the view towards what happens to her that they do. That doesn’t mean they are right.

If you are going to pick up this book, it’s likely to be because you are already aware of the areas covered within its pages. Emma goes to a party, drinks, takes drugs and consents to sex with one man. What she doesn’t consent to, however, is what happens later at the party.

When we see her waking up the next morning, half-undressed, on her porch she has extreme sunburn and very little memory of what took place at the party. Like Emma, the details of what happened are drip-fed to us. Learning bit by bit about how she was gang-raped and her violation was revealed on social media was painful to read. What was even more painful was the reaction of others who feel that the boys – local heroes – involved shouldn’t be punished for their crime, and that Emma was responsible in some way for what happened to her.

This is a book that has, since I read it, generated huge amounts of publicity. It was a book that made me so angry when I first put it down, and it is certainly the kind of book that you have to talk about. Having had a number of conversations with teenagers I teach where they eerily mirrored some of the ideas expressed in the novel, it is clearly a much-needed novel.

For Emma, and all the other girls who seem to think that they do ‘ask for it’, I feel desperately sad. I also feel that this is a book that will generate discussion and – if we’re really lucky – change behaviour and attitudes. I certainly hope so.

‘Night Music’ – John Connolly

night music

A collection of deliciously creepy short stories inspired by the horror genre.

Grotesque and macabre in places, but beautifully crafted and I raced through this.

This book was worth loaning from the local library just to have read the story ‘The Caxton Public Lending Library’. A wonderful idea, and so well-executed.

‘A Spool of Blue Thread’ – Anne Tyler

a spool of blue thread

This was a book received as a digital copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and part of my attempt to make a conscious decision this year to not just focus on YA fiction.

On the Man Booker shortlist, this is Tyler’s 20th novel and yet she is a writer that I’ve never read anything by before. I loved the idea of a novel that focused on a family that, in Tyler’s own words, are unremarkable.

This tells us the story of the Whitshank family and the home they live in. Nothing out of the ordinary really takes place, but I found this a really warming story. It felt familiar, even comforting, and I enjoyed getting to see the family over time and seeing how their relationships are affected by the events of their daily lives.

It felt a strange novel to be on the Man Booker shortlist, but it was certainly a book that I enjoyed…a lot.

‘Satin Island’ -Tom McCarthy

satinisland

I received a copy of this from NetGalley as part of their shadowing of the Man Booker Prize process.

This wasn’t an author I was familiar with, so I went into this book somewhat blind. I can see it’s very clever, and I was expecting a book that explored concepts and was very different to those I would normally read. On that score, it delivered.

One review I read before starting this book said it was “Packed with daring cerebral insights and swashbuckling prose” and that it “could be about the futility of meaning.” Perhaps I’m a little out of practice with more cerebral reads, but this felt like being trapped with the pub bore and unable to escape as they ranted, over and over, about their important insights into the world. Not a pleasurable experience for me, I’m afraid.

‘The Quickening’ – Julie Myerson

the quickening

I understand that famous horror-movie company Hammer joined forces with Arrow books to ask established writers to produce a book in a specific genre, focusing specifically on psychological horror. This is the third in the series, and focuses on a honeymoon couple who visit the Caribbean and end up experiencing some strange and unexplained events.

From the outset I found Rachel an unreliable narrator, and one that I just couldn’t gel with. When she is told by locals that her husband, Dan, is in danger it’s not clear what is real, what she is imagining because of her pregnancy/past events and what is meant to be ‘unexplained’. Dan himself is the kind of character that is controlling and unsympathetically portrayed throughout. At a number of points in the story I found myself hoping he would be next on the list of characters to be murdered so that the book would end!

Suffice to say this is well-written, and keeps you reading, but it is odd and that oddness prevented me from finding this the kind of book I would recommend strongly to others.

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain – John Boyne

boyatthetopofthemountain

While this is not a complex book, it deals confidently with complex issues.

The opening clearly establishes the relationship between Pierrot and his deaf Jewish friend – a relationship that will become highly significant later in the novel. When young Pierrot’s parents both die he is sent to an orphanage and we start to get a sense of what was happening in the background of the time. Slowly, we are immersed in a world where the rights of a group of people were eroded piece by piece.

As with ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, seeing this world through the eyes of a child makes it more horrific. Initially I found the character of Pierrot more likeable than Bruno; this is why what happens subsequently is more chilling.

The discovery that Pierrot has an aunt who is willing to look after him seems a good thing. Following him on his journey we witness snapshots of the changing attitudes in Germany. These do not make for comfortable reading, though I wonder whether the significance of the events will be apparent to younger readers. When Pierrot arrives at the home where his aunt is housekeeper we think he will be safe. Sadly, the master of the house is Adolf Hitler and what we have to witness is the gradual erosion of the moral compass of this young boy.

Pieter (as he becomes known) comes to worship Herr Hitler and we watch helplessly as he is drawn into a world so different to the one his family envisaged for him. His betrayal of his aunt was a truly horrific scene to read, and the actions of Hitler leave us in no doubt that what we are witnessing is the destruction of innocence in one man’s pursuit of glory. Pieter becomes a character that is so twisted by the values/beliefs of those around him that he is quite repellent at stages. Ultimately, he is still a child at the close of the novel and Boyne is careful to make clear that while Pieter has committed some unspeakable acts he is very much a product of his environment, and not beyond salvation.

For me the most poignant moment came after Hitler’s death when Herta leaves and speaks to Pieter of what will happen now: “you have many years ahead of you to come to terms with your complicity in these matters. Just don’t ever tell yourself that you didn’t know…That would be the worst crime of all.”

Reading about such a subject is not, and nor can it be, pleasant, but I feel this is a book that deserves to be read.

The Starblade Chronicles Book 1: A New Darkness – Joseph Delaney

a new darkness

Tom Ward is no longer an apprentice in this new trilogy from Joseph Delaney. Following the death of his master in battle, Tom is a fully-fledged spook – charged with protecting the county from all manner of supernatural creatures.

I couldn’t wait to read more about Tom’s adventures, but I loved the fact that we were given new characters in this series. Jenny, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, is fabulous and I was so thrilled to see Grimalkin play such a part in this story.

While this could stand-alone, I think that those who’ve slogged through the 13 instalments of the Spooks Apprentice series will find more of interest.

The ending came as something of a sucker-punch. What a way to leave us hanging…and guarantee that we’ll read the second book when it’s released!

Slated trilogy – Teri Terry

slated trilogy

Slated set up the premise for the trilogy clearly.

Kayla has had her memory wiped, and yet she finds herself able to recall details from her past that she shouldn’t be able to remember. Her new family are none the wiser that Kayla is different. We see her struggle to find out who she is/was, and, inevitably, who she can trust as her past catches up with her present. Intriguing ending that leads us nicely onto…

Fractured.

The middle book is often the one that gives the back-story or pads out the idea until the final part. This was NOT one of those books. In Fractured we follow Kayla as she learns more about who she was and why she underwent the Slating procedure. Complex and pacy. Loved it, and could not wait to see what happened in…

Shattered.

Wow! If you’ve come this far, you’re invested in the characters and want to see how thing turn out for them. While this happens, there are also new characters that pique your interest. A strong end to the series.

While I loved the series, and cannot wait to read ‘Mind Games’ by the same author, I wish the marketing had not been so heavily female-biased. This is a series that I could see many enjoying, but I think some will overlook it because of the overly-‘girly’ covers.