Tag Archives: hot key books

Book Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

Published 9th June 2016 by Hot Key Books.

29604253Goodreads Synopsis: When Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast, the last six weeks of her life are a complete blank. All she has been told is that she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy and had to be jetted home to receive intensive care. Care that involves a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…. wasn’t just an accident.

With no memory of what happened or what she did, can Jill prove her innocence? And can she really be sure that she isn’t the one to blame?

My Review: With Malice arrived in the post by surprise, but I was was desperate to start reading it after looking into what it was about. Psychological thrillers are right up my street, so I was really sure I’d find this great!

The plot is centered around Jill, who wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the last six weeks. She discovers that she was involved in an accident that the press is not obsessed with – but was the accident her fault? Is she to blame for the tragic outcome?

I’ll get the slightly negative part of this review out of the way – I couldn’t like Jill. She had many likeable traits, but there were so many reasons why I just couldn’t feel for her. It meant I felt a little distanced from the story – though not entirely, it was incredibly addictive. Maybe it’s because of the way she was portrayed by the media excerpts in the book, maybe it was because she didn’t seem to mourn after the accident – she just seemed a little two dimensional to me, though that’s not to say everyone else will think that. I’m sure many readers will engage with her.

I really did enjoy the story, because it’s full of many unexpected twists, especially towards the end. It feels like a very classic mystery, with modern elements. Whenever I wasn’t reading, I was coming up with theories as to what could have caused the accident!

I really enjoyed the way in which the story is told. It isn’t told in modern day extracts and then flashbacks, like I’d expected. Instead, we follow Jill in the present day, and between chapters are extracts from various news channels, witness interviews, and blogs, which allow the reader to see into the mystery from multiple perspectives – characters close to Jill, hateful media perspectives, and anonymous blog trolls. It was really interesting to see the story told from lots of different perspectives – it also revealed lots of little hints and different theories, which kept me hooked.

Overall, With Malice was a really brilliant and addictive read. It’s the perfect book if you’re looking for a thrilling read for this summer. I really enjoyed the story, and although I had a couple of problems with the characters, I’m sure many people will love it.

My Rating:

three and a half

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

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Book Review: London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

Published 1st June 2016 by Hot Key Books.

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Goodreads Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

My Review: I was sent this book by surprise, and although I wasn’t entirely sure if it would be something I’d enjoy, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sarra Manning’s other books, so I was eager to give it a go!

London Belongs to Us is a brilliant tribute to London. It’s set over one crazy, eventful night, and roughly each chapter is set within a different iconic place – from Crystal Palace to Chelsea – and with each new change in scenery brings a little chapter introduction with facts about the place. It’s written almost like a love letter to London; all of the research, and attention to detail that’s gone into describing the locations. I really enjoyed reading it, as there is so much emphasis on the setting, and being a Londoner (or near enough) I adored the familiarity and how easily I could envision so much of the book.

The story is hectic, as it starts in Crystal Palace Park on a late evening, and finishes the next morning – with so much happening in between. Sunny unexpectedly receives a photo of her boyfriend with another girl, and a wild chase across London ensues to solve the story – along the way, there’s all sorts of craziness, from mopeds to nightclubs and concerts to The Ritz. It was fast paced and adventurous; so much fun to read, and it’s short enough to enjoy in a day. It’s a silly thing to pick up on, but I did question the plausibility of some of the wild things that happened… To think that some people roughly my age did some of those things, and all in one night, is crazy 😀

One thing I noticed about the story, and really appreciated, was that the topic of racism was brought up. Sunny, the main character, is mixed race, and over the course of the book multiple comments are made by other characters about her colour of her skin, making snap judgements and rude stereotypical statements. I think the way the author wrote about these was incredibly realistic and I like the way the topic was treated; it’s something I’d love to see a lot more in books.

Overall, London Belongs to Us was a fun book, and one that’s perfect for you if you’re looking for a short but enjoyable summer story… Or an ideal London train read! I really enjoyed reading about Sunny and Emmeline, and the ridiculous things they did all in one night. It’s very quirky and very random – a great tribute to an equally quirky and random city.

My Rating:

three and a half

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

Book Review: Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

Published 16th January 2016 by Hot Key Books.

27799078Goodreads Synopsis: We all have a mind, so we all need to take care of our mental health as much as we need to take care of our physical health. And the first step is being able to talk about our mental health. Juno Dawson leads the way with this frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people’s mental health – whether fleeting or long-term – and how to manage them, with real-life stories from young people around the world. With witty illustrations from Gemma Correll.

My Review: It’s been fantastic to see that, over recent years, YA fiction has been increasingly representative of different mental health issues – and it was even more fantastic to see that a new, non-fiction book about it was coming out. Not only that, but Juno Dawson was writing it – arguably one of the best, versatile voices in YA fiction and non-fiction right now. I was over the moon when I received a copy!

Much like This Book is Gay, Mind Your Head is written equal part serious and witty. Juno is so great at making really important topics so easy to read for many audiences. Mind Your Head is a book you could devour in a night or so – I found all of the information in there incredibly useful and informative. It’s so brilliant that, despite not being an incredibly long book, Mind Your Head takes time to explore many different types of mental health issues and causes.

I can never fault Juno’s writing – she’s just perfect at writing anything for teenagers, no matter the genre or topic. With any similar sorts of books to this, I’d expect the information to be quite bombarding or written in a very straight-to-the-point detached style – but this book is nothing like that! The topics covered in this book are very serious and are rightly treated so – but Juno is so good at making reading about these things so engaging and accessible.

I think the input from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt was really great! Her writing can be found in small extracts across the book, describing some details in a more in-depth style.

And, of course, I can’t not mention Gemma Correll. I adore her illustrations, as they’re all over the internet and are a fantastic addition to Being a Girl, another Hot Key non-fiction title. They’re just so funny and are a great addition to the book.

Overall, Mind Your Head is awesome – it’s a really well written, much needed book for all ages, and an important, informative book whether you are experiencing and mental health issues, or want to learn more. The book and its contents are presented in an engaign, visual way, with varied formats, visuals and illustrations. Definitely recommended. What can’t Juno write?! 🙂

My Rating:

four

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

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.

Book Review: Paperweight by Meg Haston

Published 2nd July 2015 by Hot Key Books.

24917415Goodreads Synopsis: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Struggling to deal with her brother’s death and a past she refuses to confront, Stevie knows she has problems. But she’s still furious about the fact that she’s been packed off to a health clinic, in the middle of nowhere, where mobile phones are banned and communication with the outside world is strictly by permission only. The regimented and obtrusive nature of the clinic and its staff is torture to the deeply private, obstinate Stevie – and don’t even get her started on the other ‘inmates’. All she wants is to be left alone…
But as Stevie is about to find out, life is full of surprises. And she will prove herself stronger than she knows – even when her past finally catches her up in the most shocking and brutal way possible.

My Review: I’ll have to admit that I didn’t know much about the plot of this one – I quite largely was interested in it because of that beauuutifullll cover – but once I’d started Paperweight, I couldn’t put it down. I meant for it to be a quick read for a train journey – and it turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year so far!

Paperweight starts with Stevie’s induction at a clinic for people with eating disorders. As the story progresses, with every day spent there, we get to look inside Stevie’s head to see her memories of what’s ultimately brought her there, and how she is dealing with it – because it’s a heartbreaking and harrowing story of love, loss, rivalry and secrecy.

The plot was unpredictable, a little hard to read at points because it became so sad – but, in all, a truly unique story. It was paced well and I raced through the book, as there was never a dull moment or a point in which I didn’t feel invested in the story. The realistic themes of anorexia, bulimia and death are treated well in the novel I think – though I’m not sure this is everyone’s cup of tea.

I connected with Stevie straight away. She had such a strong and believable voice; a personality driven by her eating habits that felt very painfully real. As the story progresses, Stevie lets the reader in on the reasons why she is where she is now; and it’s a complicated, unexpected tangle of secrets and drama. What I really liked about Stevie was that I never quite knew what direction Meg Haston was going to take her character in – I wasn’t expecting the romance side that became apparent but I loved the fact that Stevie’s identity was never labelled or questioned!

I have never read anything by Haston before (According to Goodreads she has written a few seemingly YA titles before!) but I would jump at the chance to read similar YA from her in the future. Her writing is brilliant; a talent I hope doesn’t go unnoticed when this is released. Writing about topics like she has here can be tough, but she has done so admirably. On top of the heavy themes, she’s written such unforgettable characters, the chemistries between which are well developed and raw-feeling.

Overall, I highly recommend Paperweight – I know that because of a lot of sensitive scenes it won’t be for everyone but it is an incredibly poignant read by a writer I hope to see more from. Stevie’s story has stayed with me long after I closed the pages – it ends on the perfect note. I’m so glad I picked this book up!

My Rating: 

five

 

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

Book Review: Catalyst by S. J. Kincaid

[I have a spoiler-y thing to say about CATALYST but I’ve put the spoiler BELOW my review – under the rating – so you can read this review if you haven’t read the book yet! 🙂 ]

Published 6th November 2014 by Hot Key Books.

23927683Goodreads Synopsis:  Tom Raines is about to break through the impossible…

Tom Raines and his friends return to the Pentagonal Spire for a new year, eager to continue their training for the elite Intrasolar Forces. But they soon discover troubling changes. Strict new regulations, suspicious agents in positions of power and the revelation that the Spire is under military control. The trainees are now cadets.

What begins as an irritating adjustment soon reveals a dangerous shift in reality. Those in control have a ruthless agenda. And when the military academy begins welcoming suspicious new cadets, they reveal a plan with horrifying worldwide ramifications. Tom is desperate to stop it, and it seems he is not alone. But when the enemy comes for Tom, how much can he endure in the battle to save himself?

read my review of INSIGNIA, book one || read my review of VORTEX, book two

My Review: When I received this in the post I was ridiculously excited, because I’ve been a fan of S J Kincaid since I read INSIGNIA, in 2012! I got a little nostalgic feeling, too, because INSIGNIA was the first ever book I reviewed for Hot Key Books. I was very eager to start reading it, as I’ve been waiting for the last book for so long – but also it was pretty sad to realise it was time to let Tom, Wyatt, Vik, Yuri and Medusa go…

It took me a few pages to regain my memory of what had happened at the end of VORTEX, but as soon as I had, I was completely absorbed in Tom’s world. I’d forgotten how much I’d loved it. From Tom’s realistic narration, to the eerily believable future world, to the hilarious banter between Tom’s friends, the supporting characters.

CATALYST was, needless to say, action packed. There was never a dull moment – I think I’ve said that before about the previous books, but it’s true – and CATALYST is without doubt the most intense, eventful novel of the trilogy. It was hard to put down! The events of the book played out really cleverly, and the twists in the story were utterly unpredictable. I did get a bit confused at a few points, as the pace was really fast and there was a lot going on, but it was overall such an enthralling read.

Overall, CATALYST was such a great read, and a compelling end to a memorable trilogy. I really recommend it, as it was a satisfying end to Tom’s story – and also if you haven’t picked up the trilogy at all… whhhyyy not? I wouldn’t have ended the plot on a different point: S J Kincaid did such a good job at tying up all of the loose ends, and creating an unforgettable finale to what’s most definitely the most inventive Sci-Fi tale I’ve ever read.

My Rating:

four and a half

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

*SPOILER KLAXON* Don’t read this bit if you haven’t read CATALYST…

There’s a huge plot twist within the first third of the book that literally had me on the edge of my seat! The meteor was such a tense, thrilling part of the story. It was really well written, but if I could change one thing about CATALYST, I’d love to know the true after-effects of the crash, because it was left unmentioned for the much of the book, and I was really interested to see how the future world could have coped.

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.