Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: book review

Review: Monsters by Sharon Dogar

Review: Monsters by Sharon Dogar

I was extremely excited to see Monsters by Sharon Dogar on NetGalley, because I’ve been obsessed with Mary Shelley’s life since studying Frankenstein at university in 2017. Expecting a novelisation of her earlier years to bring to life all of the people I’ve studied so […]

Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

“I’m not just happy, Eff, I’m Happy Girl Lucky. People have always said that’s what I am, but I’ve never really understood the expression before… because why can’t boys be it too? But now it truly capsules me perfectly.” Happy Girl Lucky introduces us to […]

Review: Vote For Effie by Laura Wood

Review: Vote For Effie by Laura Wood

Effie Kostas is new at school and she’s struggling to fit in. She’s intelligent and confident, but she feels basically invisible until she gets into an argument with Aaron Davis – Student Council President – when he abuses his lunch pass privilege to buy the last piece of chocolate cake (a slice which was rightfully Effie’s, thank you very much!). Effie decides she can’t stand Aaron Davis, and the only way to defeat her nemesis is to take his presidency… And his lunch pass with it.

I borrowed Vote For Effie from the library on a whim because it had an interesting cover, and I’m so glad I did.

When I was at school I was one of those people who pretended not to care about anything because it wasn’t cool. I acted derisively towards anyone who felt passionate about school issues, and that’s something which I really regret now that I’m older. I shouldn’t have let other people’s attitudes change mine, because it’s cool to care!

Effie Kostas is exactly the kind of strong-minded female character I wish I’d read when I was younger, and Vote For Effie is a book which would have had a really positive impact on me. Effie stands up for herself without hesitation, and her determined approach to the election attracts supporters very quickly. Seeing a character who cares about school getting respect rather than ridicule is refreshing.

Younger readers might find the language in Vote For Effie difficult at points, as she’s a highly intelligent character and uses words that you don’t often find in middle-grade novels. However, that will help readers to expand their vocabulary in a natural way (while expanding their knowledge of feminism, too – icons of the women’s rights movement are name-dropped regularly throughout!).

I wasn’t sure whether to give Vote For Effie four or five stars for most of the book, but the ending tipped it into five star territory for me. I’m not going to tell you whether Aaron or Effie win the election, but I will tell you that the importance of trying – whether you succeed or not – is highly emphasised, and that’s another lesson which I’m glad Laura Wood decided to teach her readers.

Although I haven’t read any of Laura Wood’s other novels yet, I’m planning on picking up A Sky Painted Gold within the next few weeks as it’s just been shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2019. I’m looking forward to seeing whether I enjoy her YA novel as much as this MG.

If you know any young females who need empowering, recommend Vote For Effie to them. You won’t regret it, and they’ll certainly thank you for it.

Alyce

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Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down. Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart […]

Review: This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

Review: This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

After Shane Ferrick dies in suspicious circumstances, rumours point the finger of blame in a few different directions. At the party where Shane was last seen alive, Juniper, Gavin and Brett all did terrible things to him, and everyone knows Parker hated Shane after he […]

Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

A school ski trip turns deadly when a storm springs up out of nowhere, cutting the town where the group are staying off from the rest of the world. The ski lifts are out of action, the townsfolk seem to have evacuated and the teachers have all disappeared, leaving the students to fend for themselves.

But there’s something happening in Kaldgellan, and it’s far worse than just a freak weather incident. When they try to look outside the next morning they’re greeted by the sight of blood. By the end of the day monsters are bursting through the windows, murdering students left, right and centre, leaving an increasingly smaller group teaming up in their quest to make it home alive.

A fight for survival set in the most harrowing of conditions, Whiteout is one of the best teen horror novels I’ve ever read. It’s legitimately chilling (and not just because of the zero temperature setting).

It has been an extremely long time since I’ve read a novel featuring scary, bloodsucking and throat-tearing vampires – especially not featured in a new release – and I’m hoping that this could be the beginning of a trend, because I’d forgotten how horrifying vampires could be. Although it’s not explicitly agreed that they are vampires, all of the traits are present, and for once the characters are actually aware of it. Film buff Nico referencing pop culture vampires and the ways that they’re similar and different is one of my highlights of the novel, because we’re normally expected to suspend belief and accept that the characters have no idea or prior knowledge of what they’re up against, and that makes no sense when vampires are a universal big bad!

There’s a huge cast of characters in Whiteout – a cast which rapidly decreases in size – but Gabriel Dylan does a great job of making all of them different from each other. Some only have minor parts to play so aren’t that developed, but the main characters are all fleshed out and easy to get emotionally attached to (a problem, when the death toll marches quickly into the double figures!).

However, I wasn’t too convinced by the epilogue tacked on to the end of the novel, as Whiteout works perfectly as a standalone and seems to have a rather neat resolution until the possibility of a sequel is added on. Honestly, if there is a sequel released I’ll probably read it – this is Gabriel Dylan’s debut novel and I’m already gagging to get my hands on more of his work, because his writing style is so gripping – but it would have been nice for any potential sequels to be more of a surprise, because it cheapens the impact of the last few chapters a little bit.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Stripes, for providing me with a copy of Whiteout in exchange for a fair and honest review, and a huge thank you to Gabriel Dylan for keeping me so entertained throughout this story!

Alyce

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Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on stilled water. A winter that […]

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see. While the other students […]

Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

‘When my sister was eight years old, she disappeared. At the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. And then she came back.’

It’s hard to share my thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne without getting spoilery. I’m warning you now, I’m going to give away EVERYTHING in this review. That’s why I’ve waited until after publication date to post it, because it makes me feel a little less guilty for being unable to resist going on a bit of a tirade.

If you haven’t read The Taking of Annie Thorne and want to retain some element of surprise, look away now.

The rest of you ready? Well, let’s dive right into this then.

The Taking of Annie Thorne focuses on Joe Thorne, Annie’s older brother, who has returned to the town of Arnhill with revenge in mind. Revenge against Stephen Hurst, his old ‘friend’, a man who he has some serious dirt on.

The dirt? That Stephen murdered his sister, Annie.

Everyone thinks Annie disappeared for two days before she came back, covered in dirt and acting differently, but Joe remembers the truth. He knows that the head injury inflicted by Stephen’s crowbar isn’t something that an eight-year-old could have survived, and whatever came back from the mine wasn’t Annie.

So Joe has returned to Arnhill, planning to threaten Stephen into giving him enough money to pay off his gambling debts in return for his continued silence. But Stephen Hurst has always been a powerful man, and Joe’s plan isn’t going to go as smoothly as he was expecting it to.

I was enjoying The Taking of Annie Thorne until it took the turn into the fantastical. Expecting a traditional psychological thriller – child gets kidnapped, returns marked by the events that they’ve experienced and changes their family’s lives for good – I didn’t see the twist of Annie’s death coming. It ruined the entire story for me.

The first half of the novel blew me away. The foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed, but the brutal way that Joe is treated by the people from his past upon his return to the village was shockingly violent. It made the story far darker than I was expecting, making me excited to find out exactly what happened to Annie all those years before.

It was a shame that the reveal caused my enjoyment of the book to plummet so rapidly. Perhaps I would have felt differently if C.J. Tudor had focused on why the events happened, but instead the characters seem to blindly accept the fact that something about Arnhill makes children come back from the dead.

There are some insinuations that the land itself is magical – the tragic events take place a burial ground filled solely with children’s bones – with hints towards the same thing happening to more children after Annie. However, there’s no concrete history that cements it in the story of the village and makes it more believable.

It gives it the impression that C.J. Tudor was halfway through the story, had an idea and decided to turn it on its head, but didn’t completely think things through. This becomes even more apparent during the last couple of chapters, where nonsensical events happen like dominoes falling. It made me feel as though my copy was missing a chapter or two at the end that actually explained things, but unfortunately that was not the case.

I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews for The Taking of Annie Thorne, so I’m definitely in the minority having not enjoyed this novel. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I’d known what I was letting myself in for, but I’ve also never been a huge fan of novels which blur the lines between genres, so perhaps this was never meant to appeal to me.

If you’ve already read The Taking of Annie Thorne, let me know what you thought in the comments down below!

Alyce

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Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Addie is heartbroken, so spending the summer in Ireland watching her Aunt Mel get married (again) is not the one. It’s made even worse by the fact that her and Ian – her brother and her closest friend – are at each other’s throats constantly. […]