Tag Archives: thriller

Book Review: Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy

Publisher January 7th 2016 by Hot Key Books.

27766357Goodreads Synopsis: Helplessly drawn like moths to the light, two girls go missing in an evocative and gripping tale . . .
They called them the Moth Girls because they were attracted to the house. They were drawn to it. Or at least that is what is written in the newspapers that Mandy reads on the anniversary of when her two best friends went missing. Five years have passed since Petra and Tina were determined to explore the dilapidated house on Princess Street. But what started off as a dare ended with the two girls vanishing. As Mandy’s memories of the disappearance of her two friends are ignited once again, disturbing details will resurface in her mind.

My Review: I really enjoyed Anne Cassidy’s Looking for JJ and Finding Jennifer Jones quite recently – so when I heard of her latest book, I was really looking forward to reading it!

Cassidy is a master of YA crime books – a genre I feel is a little neglected. Her writing is fantastic, her stories always suspenseful and addictive to read. This one was no different – I was sucked into the story straight away, eager to know what happened to Tina and Petra, the two girls who went missing after entering an almost-abandoned house. The pages were pretty much turning themselves – I read this over a day, I was so engrossed in it!

I really liked the angle of the book; it heavily focuses on how Mandy, the girl who didn’t go to the house, is affected by the events half a decade later. The emphasis on Mandy’s psychological state, and how she was affected by her relationships with the two girls, was really interesting – I would have loved to see more scenes of her counselling sessions, as the way Mandy unravels how she feels is so well written.

The book isn’t just centered around the main crime story – I found the back-story of Petra, one of the missing girls, to be my favourite part of the book. Cassidy tackles a lot of very sensitive themes well, I think, and some scenes between Petra and her father felt quite unnervingly real.

The story is told in various parts, switching between before the vanishings, and five years after them. The mystery unravels slowly throughout the book, and as soon as you think you’ve figured out what happened, there’s another plot twist. The ending did feel a little disjointed to me, as the final elements of the puzzle seemed to be put together a bit too fast. Although it did leave quite an adept cliffhanger, I would have liked to know one tiny bit! [The next sentence is a spoiler – highlight to read] I think the story with Mr Merchant and his money could’ve been solved a little better – what was it all about?

Overall, I think Moth Girls is a perfect, relatively short read for fans of crime, or those who want a brilliant book to get into the genre with. The plot is inventive, unexpected and hard to stop thinking about once you’ve started reading! Anne Cassidy’s characters are always so well-developed and enjoyable to read about. Recommended!

 

My Rating:

four

I received a copy of Moth Girls 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.

The Hive Construct Blog Tour: Guest Post from Alexander Maskill

The Hive Construct is Maskill’s début novel and I’m delighted to be a part of the blog tour! Today I’m sharing a guest post from the author, about what influenced him to write the book. Find more about The Hive Construct here!


The Hive Construct’s biggest influence was the year I’d spend prior to writing it studying politics at the University of Leicester. My degree required that I study political systems and social structures and the like, and so it was what was on my mind when I sat down to work out what the story would be. The story is a political story, it’s a story of political strife. The best thing you can do as a creative person is to not just draw on other creative works, but to combine outside interests of yours with your creative inclinations to create something less derivative than it otherwise might be.

18395027Getting more into other creative influences, the book was, in many ways, inspired by The Wire. I was really interested in exploring a society’s systems from multiple points of view, examining how the institutions of that society inexorably draw them into conflict – and The Wire is maybe the best ever telling of that particular story. The original title for The Hive Construct, which was just “The Hive”, is literally two letters away from “The Wire”, that’s how influential it was on me. At the same time, I wasn’t bound by journalistic experiences in the same way David Simon was, which allowed me to extend the themes into the details of the world-building. It made sense to me to parallel the ways people integrate themselves into the systems around them with people literally integrating themselves into information systems, and extending that metaphor wherever I could. Obviously this drew to mind other stories about transhumanism – Ghost In The Shell, Deus Ex and The Matrix being the most obvious ones in my mind.

The Mass Effect series of video games also ended up playing a significant role in a lot of my approach to world-building. My big dirty secret is that I don’t actually read that much science fiction, so the Mass Effect universe is probably the most developed science fiction universe I’ve ever been invested in. This is obvious everywhere from the way I describe the novel’s portable computers to some of the thematic concerns later on in the story.

Something else I realised a little while later was precisely how subconsciously influenced by the show Legend of Korra my Serious, Adult Political Novel ended up being. Talented young woman goes to a huge city in the middle of a major social upheaval, has often-contentious relationship with both sides and things escalate from there. I mean, I spent less time on fictional sports and love triangles, so maybe I missed a trick there.


 

Alexander Maskill grew up in East Sussex. He has just completed a Politics degree at the University of Leicester and hopes to follow this with an MSc in Computer Science. The Hive Construct is his first novel and won the 2013 Terry Pratchett Prize.

 

Book Review: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

Published 16th July by Pan Macmillan.

The Bones of YouGoodreads Synopsis: When eighteen-year-old Rosie Anderson disappears, the idyllic village where she lived will never be the same again. Local gardener Kate is struck with guilt. She’d come to know Rosie well, and thought she understood her – perhaps better even than Rosie’s own mother.
A family torn apart: Rosie was beautiful, kind and gentle. She came from a loving family and she had her whole life ahead of her. Who could possibly want to harm her? And why?
A keeper of secrets: Kate is convinced the police are missing something. She’s certain that someone in the village knows more than they’re letting on. As the investigation deepens, so does Kate’s obsession with solving the mystery of what happened to Rosie.

My Review: This book looked and sounded amazing, so I was very excited to start it! I had to read the first half in short snatches between the last-week-of-school-rush-to-finish-coursework, but on the last day of school I sat and devoured the last half of the book in one reading. I wish I could’ve read the whole book like that. It’s fast paced and definitely one of my most gripping reads this year!

Rosie, teenage daughter of the famous TV presenter Neal Anderson, has disappeared. Kate, the local gardener who had a connection to Rosie, is shocked and saddened by the truths that are slowly coming to light. She decides to investigate on her own as to what happened – delving into the murky and mysterious background of Rosie’s famed family. The outcome of the story is absolutely terrifying.

The story felt so real at points it was scary – I especially really liked the psychological aspects and the heavy focus on media representation. It was very chilling to read about how the national papers exaggerated Rosie’s disappearance story – and made me think of how so many papers do this in real life.

The Bones of You is a very dark tale and certainly not for the faint-hearted – there are lots of grim scenes. However I raced through the story, utterly engrossed, desperate to unravel all of the answers. The Bones of You is an absolutely stunning début novel. The plot was so intricate and complex and I came up with countless theories, but none of them were anything like the outcome. I had to read over the revealing lines to make sure I wasn’t seeing things!

I became really attached to the characters, especially Kate. She felt very realistic and her actions were so believeable. Her daughter has just left for university, and on top of adjusting to that change, she becomes tangled up in the mystery of what happened to Rosie, a local friend’s daughter. I don’t read from adult perspectives very much as I mainly read YA but, unexpectedly, I came to love Kate as much as I would love a YA protagonist.

Overall, I was really impressed with this début novel – I went in with not very many expectations and was met with a truly unique, dark thriller. I would jump at the chance to read more from Howells in the future! She has a great talent for writing very realistic thriller stories. The plot was so well crafted, as were the unforgettable characters. I definitely recommend this to people who love crime books.

My Rating:

four and a half

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

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.

Book Review: If You Were Me by Sam Hepburn

Published 2nd April 2015 by Chicken House.

22892748Goodreads Synopsis: From the author of CHASING THE DARK comes a thrilling young teen crime mystery, guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very end.

Not long after Aliya’s family escapes Afghanistan for Britain, her brother is accused of a bomb attack. Aliya is sure of his innocence, but when plumber’s son Dan finds a gun in their bathroom, what’s she to think?
Dan has his own reasons for staying silent: he’s worried the gun might have something to do with his dad. Thrown together by chance, they set out to uncover a tangled and twisted truth.

My Review: Recently, I’ve read quite a few books based around religion, intolerance and terrorism – so I was very excited about getting to Sam Hepburn’s latest title, which is along the same lines. I really enjoyed it!

Aliya is an instantly loveable character; from the moments we see her forced to leave her home, to the closing pages. Her chemistry with Dan was great. I was a bit nervous watching them develop as I was certain it would end up in a love story, but I’m really glad it didn’t. The story is focused on finding the truth about Aliya’s brother – and told through Aliya and Dan’s switching perspectives, which were really insightful.

I am so glad that so many books are being written on similar themes lately (see also: You’re Not Proper and One Of Us) as terrorism and victimisation are things happening every single day. If You Were Me tackles stereotypes and the way the media portrays events expertly and brutally honestly – within a tense and gripping plot.

The plot was incredibly well paced and engrossing. Solving the mystery was such a thrill ride – I guessed some elements, but there were a lot of surprises. I think the only problem I had was that I lost track of characters at points: There’s an intricate web of antagonists and allies in If You Were Me and I got a little mixed up sometimes (partially blaming that on reading distractions though…:P).

Overall, If You Were Me was a lot more than I’d expected. It’s a totally gripping read with some unbelievable twists and turns that kept me hooked. With prominent themes of media portrayal, and terrorist attacks, I hope this gets a lot of attention as it’s a very relevant book. Definitely recommended if you’re looking for a nail-biting thriller, or something that’s very relatable.

My Rating:

four

 

I received a copy of If You Were Me 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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