Book Review

Book Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Published 7th September 2017 by Walker Books.

32601841Goodreads Synopsis: Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

My Review: I’ve left it a while between finishing this book and writing a review, yet I still can’t put into words how mind-blowing it was. The Loneliest Girl was incredible.

James’s latest book tells the story of Romy, the first human born in space, travelling alone on a ship to a new planet. Any communication she has with Earth is on a two-year delay, so when she hears of a new ship travelling to join her, Romy is ecstatic – but is the news she’s receiving trustworthy?

I haven’t read a sci-fi book in a while, so I was so excited to read this! This concept is hugely different, but just as breathtaking as the world of James’s last books. The space setting was so eerie, and the idea of one girl travelling alone after some horrifying events, is so scary. I got chills reading parts of this. As unsettling as it could be, this book is so addictive. I ended up racing through it in a day because I had to know what would happen. It reminded me of Harstad’s gripping 172 Hours on the Moon – equal parts creepy and riveting.

I really liked Romy and could imagine her clearly, so alone and deep into a quest that has a dark past. I was completely engrossed in her story, empathising with her loneliness. Her backstory was both fascinating and terrifying – it’s a huge, crazy concept but strangely believeable. I found the dynamic between Romy and J so fascinating to read. They communicate through email with huge time delays; that gap slowly closing as his ship approaches hers. Also, kudos to James for writing a complex timey-wimey story and having all the emails dated. That must have been hard.

I became so engrossed in following their emails, and the delayed news Romy was receiving from Earth. I became completely swept up in their story, even though there are almost no physical dialogue.

The Loneliest Girl is being marketed as a romantic thriller, and I kind of like that! I was led into this story thinking it would be a spacey romance, and therefore not too sure if I’d enjoy it. Then… boom, so many plot twists and unexpected turns. It certainly is more of a thriller, and it’s awesome.

Overall, there’s no doubt: The Loneliest Girl should be at the top of everyone’s TBR piles when it’s released. The story has certainly stayed with me – it took me ages to write this review, and I still don’t think I’m able to do it justice! There’s something to appeal to everyone in here – a riveting sci-fi story, with classic-feeling elements of horror, and an romance with an unexpected twist. Mark your calendars for the release date!

My Rating:

I received a copy of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: Black Cairn Point by Claire McFall

Published 6th August by Hot Key Books.

25326323Goodreads Synopsis: Two survivors, one terrible truth.
Heather agrees to a group camping holiday with Dougie and his friends because she’s desperate to get closer to him. But when the two of them disturb a pagan burial site above the beach, she becomes certain that they have woken a malevolent spirit. Something is alive out there in the pitch-black dark, and it is planning to wreak deadly revenge.
One year later Heather knows that she was very lucky to escape Black Cairn Point but she is still waiting for Dougie to wake from his coma. If he doesn’t, how will she prove her sanity, and her innocence?

My Review: It’s safe to say I am a huge fan of Claire McFall – Ferryman and Bombmaker are undoubtedly two of my favourite UKYA books. I’ve been eager to read even more of McFall’s work (I can’t get enough of her atmospheric writing!) so when I heard about Black Cairn Point, I was ecstatic.

devoured this book. I was hooked from the beginning, up until the last word. Heather and four of her classmates go on a camping trip, for Dougie’s birthday – it’s an abandoned beach, near an ancient Cairn, which is an old Pagan burial area. But when, suddenly, some terrifying things are beginning to happen, Heather’s certain it’s linked to the Cairn.

The characters are fantastic – just as I’d guessed they be, because years after reading Ferryman, I still have Dylan and Tristan in my head! Heather felt so unflinchingly real to me. The chemistry between all of the characters was brilliant; Claire has captured teenage drama really well, the fluctuating relationships  and rising tensions were really fun to read about.

The story spirals from feeling like a cutesy teen holiday to a dark tale of murder and mayhem – it’s gripping, shocking, and gets progressively more terrifying with every page! Chapters alternated between the ‘then’ and ‘now’ – ‘then’ being on the camping trip, and ‘now’ is Heather’s time in an institution one year later with a therapist, trying to get to the bottom of the story before Dougie wakes from his coma. Scary, nightmarish things are revealed from both time periods, and I was racking my brain throughout to work out what the outcome could be on the camping trip, and one year later.

Claire McFall takes her books in completely unpredictable directions, and this one is possibly the best of hers. It is so hard to talk about the best bit of the book without spoiling it, and I want to keep this review spoiler-free, so I’m not even going to mention what I thought about the last pages as everything clicked into place. All I’ll do is give you this accurate depiction of me in GIF form:

Trust me, everyone is gonna look like this when they read the end.

Overall, just, ahem, please go and buy Black Cairn Point as soon as possible. It’s a thriller with an unbelievable twist that will render you completely speechless. Even before I’d finished it, it became one of my favourites of this year!

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of Black Cairn Point from the publisher. In no way at did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: BOO by Neil Smith

Published 21st May 2015 by Windmill Books.

24702495Goodreads Synopsis: When Oliver ‘Boo’ Dalrymple wakes up in heaven, the eighth-grade science geek thinks he died of a heart defect at his school. But soon after arriving in this hereafter reserved for dead thirteen-year-olds, Boo discovers he’s a ‘gommer’, a kid who was murdered. What’s more, his killer may also be in heaven. With help from the volatile Johnny, a classmate killed at the same school, Boo sets out to track down the mysterious Gunboy who cut short both their lives.
In a heartrending story written to his beloved parents, the odd but endearing Boo relates his astonishing heavenly adventures as he tests the limits of friendship, learns about forgiveness and, finally, makes peace with the boy he once was and the boy he can now be.

My Review: As soon as I’d read the synopsis for Boo I knew it would be my kind of book – it reminded me of an old favourite anime series, Angel Beatswhich is about a high school that deceased teenagers find themselves at. The ‘heaven’ in this book is quite different, though shares similar themes, so I was really interested in reading Boo.

Boo is the nickname of the protagonist, Oliver – who wakes up in an afterlife consisting only of American 13 year-olds like himself. He thinks he’s died of a heart problem in school – but when he finds his sort-of friend there with him, Boo has to track down who killed them.

The story is very dark and unnerving at points – but is also unexpectedly a heart-warming story about the bonds people make. I couldn’t predict a single thing about the plot – it turns in ways impossible to imagine. The ‘reveal’ was abrupt and shocking. There’s no way I could’ve guessed it, but as soon as I finished the book I was wondering how I’d missed it! It definitely sent a chills through me, though.

Neil Smith’s imaginative ability is admirable. His version of heaven in Boo felt completely individual and was the perfect backdrop for the mystery plot. As fantastical as it was, it seemed so real: Each uniquely crafted character of the strangely bound community seemed to jump from the page, brimming with personality.

The main protagonists were incredibly memorable. Oliver is a slightly awkward thirteen year-old, who is more engrossed in his science fascination than anything else. I saw a little of my thirteen year-old (and current…) self in him and his voice grabbed me from page one. I’m sure I say that the voice stood out about a lot of books I read, but Boo was just different. The narrative was flawless to me and I felt Boo’s vulnerability and curiosity shine through.

Overall, I’d without a doubt recommend Boo. It’s certainly not for everyone, given its disturbing subject – but it’s hard to fault Neil Smith’s writing. His characterisation and narrative were brilliant – as was the plot, which unravelled cleverly. Boo didn’t turn out the simple ghost murder mystery I thought it would be: It was addictive, ingenious and the kind of book that breaks your heart then sticks it back together again. Multiple times. I can see Boo getting a lot of attention!

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of Boo from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire

Published 12th March 2015 by RED EYE (Stripes Publishing).

Goodreads Synopsis: I must record the facts that have led me to where I am now. So that, when someone reads this, they understand. Sam Hunter’s neighbours are pillars of the community, the most influential people in town. But they’re liars too. The Greenhills are hiding something and Sam’s determined to find out what it is. As his investigation unfolds, he realizes the lies reach further than he ever imagined – is there anyone he can trust? Uncovering the horror is one thing …escaping is another. A chilling new story in the Red Eye series.

My Review: No exaggeration, I jumped up and down for a while when I heard about Stripes Publishing’s new imprint – RED EYE – a series of new horror YA novels, starting this year. I haven’t gotten around to reading the first two in the series yet, but was very excited when I was able to read this instalment!

Flesh and Blood centres around Sam Hunter, who moves to a nicer and seemingly perfect neighbourhood after his dad’s success. Everything seems dreamily brilliant until he stumbles across the first horror, and then notices some strange traits in his neighbours… Then begins to search for the horrifying, shocking truth behind the Greenhills.

I was absorbed in the story straight away and loved the format it was written in: Sam’s narration felt really honest and I liked how it was written as a report, stating the facts with occasional present-tense comments about what had happened. Sam is a very three-dimensional feeling character. The decisions he makes in this book are bound to drive people crazy… But in a weird way, I understood him because it was just realistic.

Despite the suggestive cover image and the title Flesh and Blood, it was a lot gorier and freaky than I’d assumed – and it got freaky and gory very quickly. I’d read on the press release that this book wasn’t for the “faint hearted” and… Well, I can’t emphasise that enough… I got pretty squeamish at a lot of points! The story is pretty brutal. The plot was really great and felt like a classic horror story, yet refreshing – but the themes were just unnerving.

I don’t even know how to talk about the ending. No words will do it justice! It’s twisted, horrific, and makes you question everything you knew about the main character – though I think it gave him more depth. It’s safe to say the last pages will be stuck in your head for days. I’m still wishing I knew what happened next – but in a good way. The cliffhanger-feeling is pretty epic in this.

Overall, I was really blown away by my firs RED EYE read, and I will definitely be seeking out the other books from the imprint as they’re released. It was riveting: The story is definitely one of the most grim things I’ve come across – some points I got real chills. Definitely recommended, though only if you can handle its creepy contents. I’m now apprehensive about going to the doctor’s.

My Rating:

four

I received a copy of Flesh and Blood from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

Published 26th February 2015 by Orion Books.

24597331Goodreads Synopsis: Toby’s life was perfectly normal . . . until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.

My Review: I hadn’t heard of The Death House until I received a proof copy, but after reading the blurb I was sure I would enjoy it! The concept sounded very chilling and dark, and it definitely was – it’s very unsettling at points.

The concept of the story is that if you get a certain result on a blood test as a child, you are sent to the Death House – here you stay with the other infected kids, similar to a boarding school, but there’s seemingly no way out… Unless you start to show symptoms and you’re taken to the sanatorium. Which nobody ever returns from.

I liked the mysterious concept, as Sarah leaves much to the imagination of the reader. I tried to come up with possibilities and answers, my mind running away with all sorts of scenarios of the outside world. The whole book is very eerie, because nothing about this illness, and not much about the outside world, is fully explained. However it did get to the point where I just needed to know how and what and why. I was a little sad the ending didn’t completely wrap it up – the last few pages were incredibly tragic but I felt at the end that there was something missing.

I’m quite mixed on the characters. They are incredibly well fleshed-out, real-feeling teenagers, and yet I just didn’t… Attach to them very much… Oh god I have no heart. I really don’t know why, but I know I’m in the minority of people who are mixed on this book – There have been so many five star reviews, and I can completely see why so many people have found this book, particularly the characters, truly astounding. Of course, there were a couple of bits I got quite choked up at but I just never felt like I was 100% into the story.

Overall, The Death House was a very evocative, quick read – I really recommend it if you’re looking for a very chilling, mysterious standalone novel. It’s hard to place it into a category, because it felt almost like a zombie novel, and it looks and feels like a dark horror, but it reads like a YA contemporary romance – quite bizarre sounding, but it’s incredibly memorable. I know I’m one of a small number of people who hasn’t enjoyed this just as much of others – for some reason, something just didn’t click with me – but I’m confident most people will be rendered completely awestruck by Pinborough’s inventive plot.

My Rating: 

three and a half

I received a copy of The Death House from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: Shiver The Whole Night Through by Darragh McManus

Published 6th November 2014 by Hot Key Books.

22554125Goodreads Synopsis: After months of bullying and romantic heartbreak, seventeen-year-old Aidan Flood feels just about ready to end it all. But when he wakes up one morning to find that local beauty and town sweetheart Sláine McAuley actually has, he discovers a new sense of purpose, and becomes determined to find out what happened to her. The town is happy to put it down to suicide, but then one night Aidan gets a message, scratched in ice on his bedroom window: ‘I didn’t kill myself.’ Who is contacting him? And if Sláine didn’t end her own life… who did?

(First things first, let’s just stare at the cover for Shiver for a while. Whoa. That is the coolest thing.)

My Review: I dived into Shiver The Whole Night Through as soon as I could after receiving it, as there’s been a lot of hype around this book, and of course, I’m always eager to read new début YA titles!

From the first page, I was completely absorbed the story, with the shocking event it opens with. I was also a little surprised by the narration of the book: I’ve tried to collect my thoughts about it properly but I honestly don’t know how I feel about it! I think Darragh McManus has captured a very unique and real-feeling voice, though I felt at quite a few points that the narration sounded too cocky, which bugged me a little.

As I am with the narration, I’m a little mixed on the main character. I really loved the author’s character building skills, as Aidan Flood felt like a very realistic person to me. I liked him as a protagonist, especially at the beginning, but he did seem a little strange, in terms of his actions and feelings… He seemed eerily okay with some terrifying, and grim, things that happened in the book!

I really enjoyed how the plot progressed; there was lots of great foreshadowing and little hints as to what was coming – I thought I had the ending completely correct, but when I got to it, I was just completely wrong! The story begins at a very grim point, but it spirals into an even darker state with each chapter.The horror elements were really great and chilling; I definitely got shivers (no pun intended) up my spine while reading.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Shiver The Whole Night Through, though it wasn’t what I’d expected and I’m a little mixed on some things. I was, well and truly, hooked  – There was never an uneventful chapter. It’s a brilliant read for those who want to curl up this winter with a thrilling and chilly story! I’m probably in the minority though, but there was a few parts I didn’t really enjoy, or thought could have been written differently – though I do applaud Darragh McManus for writing a really creeeeepy début.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Shiver The Whole Night Through from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: BREAKDOWN by Sarah Mussi

Published 2nd October 2014 by Hot Key Books.

22432850Goodreads Synopsis: It is 2084. Nuclear radiation has poisoned the country. Society has fallen apart. Starvation is rampant, and power shortages have resulted in piles of obsolete gadgetry. Necessity has driven those who’ve survived to complete self-reliance, if they have the means to do so. For Melissa and her Nan, survival is just about possible, so long as they can guard the tiny crop of potatoes in their back garden and find enough fuel to cook on – and as long as they are safely barricaded inside their home by curfew.

For after dark, feral dogs hunt, and violent gangs from the old Olympic Stadium (now a miserable ghetto) roam to loot and plunder. If they catch you, they are not merciful; so when Melissa falls into the hands of Careem’s gang, her prospects look bleak. But Careem soon realises that she might just be more valuable alive, as a ransom victim. However, he hasn’t reckoned with Melissa’s resourcefulness. Soon part of his young gang are completely beguiled by Melissa and her story of a hidden valley in Scotland – a place that sounds like a comparative paradise, if they can get there. But apparently only Melissa knows the way, and only she can lead them there. But Melissa is hiding a secret. She has never been to Scotland in her life, let alone a mythically Elysian valley there. Can Melissa’s stories keep her alive long enough to escape – or will they get her killed?

My Review: I enjoyed Sarah Mussi’s RIOT (review here!) earlier this year – so when I discovered that Sarah’s newest tiels would be out so soon, I was eager to read it! I think I may have even enjoyed this more than Sarah Mussi’s last. It’s an edge-of-your-seat, nail-biter of a novel, with some really clever plot elements.

I’m not actually sure if it’s intentional, because I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere – but I found some really bold parallels to Of Mice and Men in BREAKDOWN- a bit coincidental as I’m studying it in class! At first I thought this was some kind of dystopian retelling, because the main character meets a Lenny who she tells stories to about a place they’re headed, away from the hard work… Though the story takes a massive turn of events, I still found similarities to the novel and I’m not sure if they were even intended, if I just over-thought things because I’m studying the Steinbeck novel… but still, pretty awesome. 😀

The dystopian setting was very bold and interesting. England’s completely flipped around – the victim of nuclear destruction, growing slum-like conditions, a controlling army, and mass food shortages. Sarah Mussi gave such great descriptions of the world, building it up so it was a perfectly formed image in the readers head. However, I don’t think it was fully explained how England came to be such a dystopia – I would have loved for the book to delve into the reasons!

Marissa was a likeable main character. I don’t think I ever connected with her on a huge level, but she was a really strong, clever protagonist. I found her relationship with the main characters she meets, especially Lenny, so captivating and memorable. I really enjoyed reading about them!

Overall, BREAKDOWN was a great dystopian read. I really liked the protagonists, and the plot was very clever – there were so many briliant and unexpected twists and developments that made it hard to put the book down! I think Sarah Mussi’s dystopian world in BREAKDOWN is possibly her most unique… and I would happily read another book set there 😀 I think my main issue was that I wanted a more concrete story of the events that lead up to Marissa’s situation at the beginning, and the country’s situation in general too. Definitely recommended!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of BREAKDOWN from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.