Dreaming The Bear – Mimi Thebo

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This is a quick, enjoyable read. Darcy is the main narrator but there are some sections in italics, not sure who is narrating these, maybe the bear! Anyway, Darcy lives with her mum and dad and her brother Jem in Yellowstone National Park where her dad is working on a research project. They used to live in a proper town but her dad has  been offered a position working in the park and has moved them all there, Darcy is not very happy with this. Her mum is also working on some research thing and her brother Jem is older than her and goes to the local high school. She is supposed to be going there too but has been really ill with pneumonia and is off sick. She is recovering and must do a certain amount of exercise every day to build up the strength in her lungs. She goes out one day and starts walking through the snow. She is taken ill and has an encounter with a bear who looks after her. The bear also has something wrong with it and she has a kind of out of body experience.

Darcy is also a little bit in love with a boy in her brothers class called Tony Infante. As Darcy struggles with her illness she builds a connection with the bear and she starts to feed her. The bear has an injury in her shoulder and is stuck in a cave up an incline that she can’t get down  from. She is also really annoyed with her dad and her mum has gone away to a conference  and left them to it. Then a storm hits.

Darcy, Jem, Tony and their dad are stuck in their house and all confined to one room. This is a little intimate for Darcy but it means that she can get closer to Tony. After the storm Darcy and her dad go down to town and after a few more  trips they realize that when she is down in town she is much better. Eventually one of the research assistants works out the connection.

This  book is a nice easy read and, although it doesn’t look like much, it is quite enjoyable. It is also on the Carnegie longlist for this year and I can see why. It won’t take you long and that’s quite satisfying!

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As I Descended – Robin Talley

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This is the third Robin Talley book that I have read now; I loved The Lies We Tell Ourselves but really wasn’t keen on What We Left Behind so I went into this with a bit of trepidation.

The premise of the book is thus: Maria and Lily are room mates and lovers at a creepy boarding school in America called Archeron Academy. The school is built on an old slave plantation and there are more than a few ghost stories attached. There is a big lake in the middle of the campus where, allegedly, three students  drowned and current students are now forbidden to swim in it. The lake is also supposed to be haunted by the students who died.

Maria is kind of the second best. They are in their senior year and students are competing to win the coveted Cawdor Kingsley Prize, which gives them a free pass to college. When the book opens, Lily and Maria, and Maria’s best friend Brandon are playing with an Ouija board in the old plantation dining room. They ask it a series of questions and open up a link to the spirit world. Before they can close it again, the ancient chandelier falls on the board and smashes it. Maria is haunted by her memories of Altagracia, her maid from when she was a child, who spoke to spirits and was interested in the occult.

The only thing standing in the way of Maria winning the prize, and being valedictorian (top student in the year) and football captain is a girl called Delilah. Lily wants Maria to win the prize so that they can go to the same college and be together forever. She encourages Maria to go out with Delilah ( a known drug user) the night before a random drugs test (Brandon gives her the info) and slip a drug that she uses into her drink. Then Delilah will be caught, she uses all the time anyway and the girls don’t think it’s fair that she always gets away with it; Maria will win the prize, get captain of the team and valedictorian and life will be perfect. Except something goes wrong.

After a tragic accident the situation spirals out of control and Maria and Lily get more and more paranoid. Shove in the ghosts as well and this book gets more exciting. I’m going to give you a final clue and tell you that the book ends on the sports field which was originally called Dunsanane and you will obviously guess that the book is based on the play Macbeth.

Very loosely based I might add! Maria and Lily are obviously meant to be the Macbeths and Lily does a good job of winding Maria up. Eventually though it’s a little unclear whether either did anything because they wanted to or because they were possessed by evil spirits.  Mateo is the hero, Brandon’s boyfriend becomes suspicious of the two girls and decides to do some investigating.

I enjoyed this book a lot more that What We Left behind, although I didn’t think the characters were as deeply constructed as they could have been. There wasn’t much of a back story on any of them and I felt I would have liked them more if there had been. I didn’t really care if Maria succeeded or not, or was consumed by the evil spirits and went mad! The other aspect to the  story was obviously the  ghosts and whether they were real or just the figment of the teenager’s troubled minds. You’ll have to read it to decide that one; I’m still not sure. I’ll tell you one thing though, I am so glad I never to went to boarding school!

All in all, a good read. I would recommend to anyone who is studying Shakespeare as it gives the story a modern twist and it will help you to see the psychological aspect of the story. Was Maria so blinded by what she felt she deserved that she would do anything to get it? Did Macbeth want to be King so badly that he was willing to kill or did Lady Macbeth talk him in to it with clever words and some magical trickery?

The Morphant: Gabriel Grant and the Ringmaster – Cornelius Fuel

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This book is an ebook only and you can get it on Amazon or Ibooks. The author came to do an author talk at the school so I thought I would read it for background!

I started off by thinking that, if you have an ebook what does that mean? Does it mean it hasn’t been picked up by a publisher? Do you decide to publish it yourself and see what happens? How does it work? Well, I still have no idea but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless!

Gabriel Grant is a bit of a school loner. He is bullied by a pretty nasty group of boys and one day, in a bid to escape them, he runs into a factory place and is electrocuted by a power service station and ends up in hospital. When he wakes up he is confronted by a hells angel type bloke called the Searcher who tells him that he is a Morphant. A Morphant is a person that change shape at will; not like a shapeshifter though. The Searcher is also a Morphant and his favourite shape is an owl, which teaches Gabriel (in the shape of an angel) to fly.

Gabriel has special powers that enables  him to change into any number of characters that he has thought of. Like a stretchy man or a giant bubble man. He basically has a bit of fun with this until his parents are kidnapped by evil clowns and he needs to go and rescue them. He takes his feisty sister Ariel with him and they investigate. Ariel is a fun character that you will identify with and she is always giving Gabriel a hard time! Especially when he borrows money from her.

The book is a good romp; it has all the key elements that you want; adventure, excitement, baddies and killer clowns! The book is nicely set up for a sequel as well and the author was great at passing over his enthusiasm about the book to his audience. A quick and easy read that you will enjoy.

Bad Apple – Matt Whyman

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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

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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

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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

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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!)