Bad Apple – Matt Whyman


I haven’t read anything by Matt Whyman before but you may have done. He wrote The Savages and The American Savages and they have been on the my ‘to read’ list for ages. This one I had to read for the Hounslow Teen Read and the other librarians were raving about it.

So, the basics. Trolls. Yes, Trolls. They live under ground and haven’t really had any contact with humans, except that they swap their babies  for human babies so that they can have a better opportunity in life. Their troll-ness, doesn’t manifest itself until the child turns into a teenager and starts to show troll like tendencies. These will be things like excessive violence, a complete disregard for rules and authority, they litter, swear and vandalise stuff. In fact, it’s fairly difficult to tell them apart from normal teenager which is why they have lived amongst humans for so long undetected.  But one day, someone’s house collapses down a troll hole and all hell breaks lose. DNA is taken from suspected trolls and all the ones that test positive are taken to holding facilities, like ghettos and left. There is a person in charge of the facility who is basically like a prison warder and the trolls are living in segregated communities and left to rot.

So far, so horrible. The book begins with a sixth form trip. The kids are all on a coach driving through one of the trolls ghettos staring out at the inmates and making fun of them.  The only one who isn’t is a boy called Maurice. He isn’t really sure how to feel about them but doesn’t think that they should be made fun of. Next thing you know, the trolls land on the roof of the coach make a hole in the ceiling and grab the teacher. Maurice jumps up to intervene and gets taken himself. Thus begins a roller coaster ride where essentially Maurice and his kidnapper, the lovable Wretch and a social worker with a conscience (Candy) race against capture to try and return Wretch to the underground home he was born in and make a bid to change society in the process. they are pursued by the hapless Governor and his horrible daughter Bonnie who always seem to be one step behind (nice twist there but you can guess what it is about half way though!)

Interestingly, I can think of a few kids that I have met over the years who could be trolls!  It’s kind of a tongue in cheek comment about teenage society and how horrible teenagers can be (you know you can so don’t be all offended!) and the humour in it is really well written. It’s not a book I would ordinarily have picked up but I’m glad I did. If you want to read something that will make you laugh then have a go at this.

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch


Peter Grant #1

I read this book ages ago but was debating about whether to review it on here because I’m not sure exactly what genre it sits in. I read books 3 & 4 over half term and concluded that, although there is some sex and violence, it’s no worse than some other YA novels and the writer Ben Aaronovitch also writes Doctor Who episodes. Can you get much cooler than that?!

The book begins with PC Peter Grant. His mum is from Sierra Leone and his dad is a white jazz musician who probably takes a bit too much coke; which Peter has to ignore in his professional capacity. He is securing a crime scene in Convent Garden when he bumps into a ghost. He was previously unaware that he could talk to ghosts so it was a bit of a surprise. His partner is the switched on (and gorgeous) Lesley May and when he isn’t trying to get her in to bed she is giving him her sage advice about how to get on in policing. Peter is a born and bred Londoner and I suspect that the author is too because the wealth of information about London is amazing. Peter is absorbed into a section of the Met run by the enigmatic (look it up people!) Nightingale who seems to have been alive for a very long time. He drives a lovely jag and lives in a place off Russell Square called the Folly with his dog Toby and a very strange servant type lady called Molly.

As Peter starts investigating a murder and other magical goings on in London, Nightingale explains to him that all the previous magicians were killed in an offensive during WW2 and he is the only one left. Peter is the first apprentice magician for 50 years and magic takes an awfully long time to learn.

This book is witty, entertaining, funny, a little bit rude – and brilliant. If you love Doctor Who you will love this. The series is currently five books and The Hanging Tree is being published in the next couple of days. Aaronovitch is so knowledgeable about London, police procedure and rivers (this will become clear when you read the  books!) that you become absorbed in his world. The Faceless Man is a little like ‘he who shall not be named…’ and there is a lot of tongue in cheek references to HP but, if you enjoyed them and are looking for a new series to become obsessed with, look no further.

Tamzin Clarke v Jack the Ripper – Lauren Stock


This a pre release copy from Netgalley, but was published in January 2016.

All I am going to say about this book, and I will be brief, is please do not read this book! It is terrible! I am going to explain to you why I picked it to read though….

The premise of the book is this: Tamzin Clarke lives in New York with her mum and dad. Her dad runs an antique store and her mum is a policewoman. she has a boyfriend (pick generic American boys name, I can’t remember it) who is in a band and plays loads of instruments, and runs some dance group thing with a girl called Macy (who is horrible). oh, and there’s a ghost called Daniel who she instantly falls in love with even though she’s had a boyfriend for ever….

At the beginning of the book someone called Vicki is working as an undercover cop in the red light district. she is attacked by a man with an English accent who kills her. Vicki, it turns out, is the adopted (sort of) sister of Tamzin.

It all goes downhill from there. The writing is atrocious, and I mean really bad; fifty shades of grey bad! The characters are stilted and one dimensional, the main character is so annoying, all the other characters are generic ‘nice boyfriend’, ‘horrible friend’ and ‘cute kid’. The end bit (yes I did make it that far but I skipped a lot!) is the most unbelievable bit of the whole book. It also ties in the main character (who thinks he is Jack the Ripper and makes pies from peoples organs!) to Roanoke, the first settlers in America who disappeared; You see? It could have been so much better!

What is so annoying is that the story line could have been good if the book was edited better and the characters more fleshed out. It may be that the version I read was written before the final edit and that’s why it was quite disjointed, but that could just be me being generous. It does give me hope that I can get a book published though if this is a benchmark!

SO BAD words cannot express it! And, on Goodreads the majority of people give it five stars!! unbelievable!!


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs


Thanks to Jodie Lee for recommending this one; it was a little weird! This is also, coincidentally, the second book I have read this summer that has a story and random photos in it. Both books use photographs that the authors have found and  intertwined them with the story. At first the technique is a bit strange because how could the author have found photographs that exactly match the story?! But, I read an interview with Ransom Riggs and he explained that he had hunted through thousands of photos to find the ones that would exactly fit the story: clever huh?

So, Jacob lives in America with his mum and dad. His mum is part of a family that have a chain of stores and are incredibly rich. His dad is a part time author and all round not very successful person. He also lives near his Grandad, Abe. When Jacob was little his Grandad used to tell him stories about when he was young. His family were Polish and Abe was sent from Poland to a small island in Wales as an evacuee. He goes to a ‘children’s’ home run by Miss Peregrine. He has some photos of the friends that he made in the children’s home who all have special abilities. Some of the photos are pretty strange but Jacob believes his Grandad and thinks its pretty cool. But as he gets older he starts to realise that the stories Abe told him can’t possibly be true and starts to distance himself from his Grandad and everyone else. He is not exactly Mr Popular and, although he has a job in one of the family stores, his life is not going too well. One day he gets a call from Abe saying that he is being attacked and, thinking that Abe is going crazy but not wanting to be at work, he calls his one and only friend Ricky and they head over to Abe’s house. They find Abe dying in the woods behind the house, and Jacob sees a creature that he cannot explain.

Several trips to the psychiatrist later and Jacob convinces his parents to let him go to the island to investigate the children’s home and get some closure (as the Americans like to call it!). His dad insists on accompanying him and off they go. At first it all seems pretty crazy but the further he investigates to more he finds, including a matching set of photos in an old trunk in the now derelict Home. Then he hears whispering voices and running feet and his adventure begins…

I really liked this book. I made the mistake of watching the trailer for the film and they trying to compare the storyline but I think the film will be really different. Jacob is a bit of a lost soul, which kind of influences his decision making process at the end of the book, but I loved the characters. Emma can create fire, Olive can fly, Enoch can bring things back to life and Bronwyn is the strongest girl at the fair. And Miss Peregrine? Well she’s a shapeshifter of course! The clue is in the name!

This is the first in a series and I will get round to reading the next one at some point. The trick with the photographs really made the story come alive and I’m guessing the film will be spectacular. This also a debut novel and the author works in films so really gets the connection between visual and words spot on. I’d hate to see what his attic is like though, what with all those photographs just waiting to be written about!

Further reading: Sweet Caress by William Boyd (This is the other book and although anything by William Boyd is good, this is really good!)

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows – V E Schwab

a darker shade of magica gathering of shadows

This is a series and I have read the first two, so for the sake of ease I will review them both in the same section.

Most people only know one London, in this book there are four and Kell who is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons – goes between them as a messenger.

There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to a girl who is scrapping a living together by thieving but who dreams of being the captain of her own pirate ship and ruled by the mad king George III.

There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered and people live under the watchful eyes of the Red King and Queen.

Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne; in this book the evil twins.

But once upon a time, there was Black London… so powerful and deadly that is has been sealed off and not even Kell and Holland, the other Traveler can go there. They are the most powerful magicians left and each has a grudge with the other.

Kell is owned/ adopted by the King and Queen of Red London and is brother to Rhy, a self absorbed prince who always gets his own way. Kell’s two main jobs are to take letters to the rulers of the other Londons and look after Rhy. He is also not allowed to take anything between the worlds, a rule he often breaks. White London is ruled by a sadistic pair of twins who are controlling Holland, who is also their messenger and just as powerful in magic as Kell.

When Kell collides with Lila Bard in Grey London and Rhy is given a gift by Holland, all hell breaks lose. The first book introduces all the main characters and, at some points I was on the edge of my seat because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Kell and Lila are likeable characters and the sadistic twins in White London made me wince. The elements are also really interesting, and how magic controls each one.

The second book leads directly on from the first so it would be good to read them back to back (I didn’t and I forgot some of the key things that happened!) and is a little reminiscent of the Hunger Games. Red London is hosting the Elemental Games where competitors from all the other lands can compete by showing off their magical skills.

Lila is off on her travels and meets Alucard Emery; who has a connection to the royal family and one in particular which I wasn’t expecting! They are called back to London for the games and Lila reconnects with Kell. The plot has some great twists and Kell and Lila (and their relationship) grows a little more. A character that you think has gone also makes a surprising reappearance with devastating consequences.

Get in to this series, it’s excellent. The author’s knowledge of London is amazing considering she is American, some of the language let’s it down because of this but in general it’s really well written. If you are a fan of fantasy fiction that is a little less soppy then some of the others then this is for you, and by you I mean you Jodie Lee!

Further Reading: The Peter Grant Series by Ben Aaronovitch – these books are fantastic, if a little wacky. The first one is called Rivers of London.

Further further Reading:  Department 19 Series by Will Hill – also fantastic (see review of Dept 19 and a review of The Rising    to come)


The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

This is the second book that I have read in the Carnegie Shortlist for 2016. Hmmm, what to say about this book? It has been heavily publicised by Waterstones and I was looking forward to reading it. It has a suitably spooky cover and the blurb describes a murder mystery with a little bit of weirdness thrown in in the guise of this strange tree that feeds on lies. The main character is a young girl called Faith who is traveling to the island of Vane with her father, the eminent Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, her mother Myrtle, her brother Howard and her Uncle Miles. Her father seems to be some sort of archaeologist as well as a Reverend and they are travelling to Vane to be involved in a dig, which is being led by a man called Lambent. It soon becomes clear that Uncle Miles has persuaded the Sunderly’s to come to Vane to escape a growing scandal involving the Reverend and a fossil that he had discovered.  It’s not really clear what time the book is set in but from the way that the women are treated and the general feel of it, I assume it is set in Victorian England. Women are treated quite badly in this book, as if we have limited intelligence and can’t really understand what’s going on; flirty Myrtle is a little cringey. Faith is very interested in her fathers work but is not allowed to know anything about it; he also seems to be extremely grumpy and is obsessed with a specimen that he has brought with him and then asks Faith to help him hide in a cave. To me, this felt like the most important part of the book but it took ages to get there.

The Reverend, as you might guess, comes to a sticky end and Myrtle (the flirty mother) tries to get him buried ASAP so that there is no hint of a suicide rumour (he is found hanging from a tree). There is a big scene at the graveyard and the burial is stopped, so Faith decides the only thing to do is investigate her father’s death, try and figure out what this tree thing is all about and get some revenge at the same time. She pretends that her father is haunting the house and scares the bejesus out of one of the housemaids (who isn’t very nice anyway so that’s ok) and starts studying the tree. She then persuades a boy who takes pictures of dead people (it was a thing in Victorian times…) to help her.

It is a well written and well put together book but I found it really difficult to get in to. I didn’t really warm to any of the characters and I wasn’t really bothered if she found who her father’s murderer was because I didn’t really like him. He was horrible to her and had obviously become obsessed with the tree to the point where nothing else mattered; including his reputation, which then a big knock on effect on his family. I was also expecting some romance between Faith and Paul Clay which didn’t really happen. Some great prose though especially descriptive passages – ‘she felt like the murderess of time’ when she stopped the clocks after her father has died, is a great example.

It also made me glad that I didn’t live in Victorian times because women had no rights whatsoever and were basically just burden on their family. The Reverend is telling Faith off about sneaking through his papers and tells her ‘all that a daughter can do….. in recompense for the debt she cannot pay, is to hold steadfastly to the path of duty, gratitude and humility. That is the very least a father can expect’ because all women could do was marry to relieve the financial burden on their family. Nice eh?