Battle Lines (Dept. 19 #3) – Will Hill







Read them?

Ok, so Larissa is in America with SP9, Kate has joined a special unit that is investigating all the operators to try and find out who the leak is, Jamie is still angry and Matt is still working on the Lazarus Project and fancying a Russian girl. They are all still friends though. Jamie’s Dad is still locked up in the base in America and Larissa starts to get curious about who the mystery man is that’s in the cell, she starts to do some investigating of her own, while fending off the advances of a chap called Tim who wants to go out with her (never mind the fact that already has a boyfriend). She is, however enjoying being in America where people are a little more accepting of the fact that she is a vampire. She has also made some great friends as well and is in two minds about whether she wants to return to the UK, despite the Jamie situation.

In the meantime, Kate and Matt’s dads have made friends and have started to investigate the possibility that Dept. 19 actually exists. Several high security facilities have been attacked and all the patients have been turned into vampires. The problem is that they are much more powerful then normal newborns and Matt has some ideas as to why that is.

Lots of things happen in this book, despite the fact that they are all only about 17 the four main characters have all been promoted to Lieutenant and take on loads of responsibility. The interesting thing about this one is that one of them is starting to question the need to just goes out and kill vampires because they’re vampires. It’s likened to ethnic cleansing, which I suppose in a way it is. The team are starting to struggle a little bit with the concept of what they are doing. This is setting the last book up to be really explosive.

This is also a big book. At 701 pages it took me a week to read. I love the way they are written and really like the characters but, time doesn’t seem to move on very much and you kind of get the feeling that a lot is happening in a really short space of time, which in turn becomes a little unbelievable. It’s also a bit unrealistic to accept that grown up people with years of battle hardened experience listen to a bunch of kids. There is also the relationship between Jamie and Larissa, which is all a bit intense but at the same time, not.

That said, this is a great series and I really like it. I think it appeals to both boys and girls and has the right amount of horror to not make it too gory and the right amount of romance to make it not too gushy.

Another great book by Will Hill and I cannot wait to read the last one. The conclusion should be fantastic and I really hope that Dracula gets his comeuppance. He really, really deserves it.

The French Impressionist – Rebecca Bischoff

the french impressionist

The release date for this book is 6th December 2016 and I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of it through Netgalley (get me eh?) I will be reading and reviewing some more advanced copies so look out for recommendations.

Rosemary is a 15 year old American girl who has some issues. The biggest of which is that she suffers from a form of anxiety which means that she is physically unable to speak in the presence of strangers, it’s like a crippling social phobia that means she can’t work her mouth properly. She lives with her mum (the term helicopter parent was invented for this woman), and her mum’s boyfriend Zander. She has a best friend called Jada who is also physically disabled and her life is controlled to the nth degree by her mum. Somehow (and this is never fully explained) Rosemary has managed to convince her mum that she is on an art retreat in Arizona where she is learning to paint like her favourite artists (The Impressionists). She is in fact in Nice, France where she has pitched up at the home of Sylvie and Emile. They run a shop and live above it where they paint and run a painters exchange type programme. Rosemary, so they think, is there because she loves painting and wants to improve.

But the thing is, Rosemary doesn’t like painting or The Impressionists, in fact she cannot paint at all. She faked the paintings that she sent Sylvie because she wants to be adopted by them and stay in France forever, basically to escape her crazy mum who locks her in her room. She has found Sylvie and Emile on the internet through Sylvie’s blog and has decided that they are the ones. She also thinks that they have lost their son, Ansel in a road accident in Paris and so will want to share the love with another child ie. her.

The other part of the story is that there is a secret apartment walled up next to Sylvie and Emile’s that has been locked up since the war. Rosemary finds a secret door to it in her bedroom and explores. She runs into her horrible neighbours (The Thackerays – they’re English so obviously they are the baddies) and thinks that they are trying to steal whatever is inside the apartment. She also meets another American family with a boy of her age called Gavin who she develops some weird relationship with. Even though she can’t speak….

You may be able to tell from my tone that I wasn’t too keen on this book! It started off ok but a little unbelievable and then got a bit worse. To be fair I did read it all the way to the end and did quite enjoy the sheer silliness of it but don’t think that that means that I thought it was a great book. Firstly, if this girl has this thing then how on earth did she manage to negotiate a trip all the way from America to Nice? Zander books the thing but he thinks she is just going to Paris so, she basically lies to everyone in the book. Sylvie and Emile are lovely but a little bit too trusting and how do they understand each other if Rosemary can’t even order a sandwich in French? She has done some lessons but is no way fluent. I just found Rosemary thoroughly unpleasant. and manipulative and, even though I guess I was supposed to feel sorry for her because of her disability and her horrible home life, I just couldn’t.  There is no way her mum would let her organise a trip to Arizona without researching it all so how does she get away with it all? I wanted the author to develop the story about the locked up apartment but that was almost an aside. A whole book about that would be good.

It does give you a really nice impression of the French though, and the descriptions of Nice and the French way of life is good. Having spent a lot of time in France I thought it was pretty accurate. The book just had too many lose ends and plot holes for me to really enjoy it. You might though, especially if you like art….. or cats.

The Big Lie – Julie Mayhew

the big lie

This book is long listed for the Hounslow Teen Read 2017 and is well worth a read.

Jessika Keller lives in England after the second world war. Except we didn’t win the war, we won a negotiated peace with the Germans and now live under their rule like the rest of Europe. Jessika lives in a quiet street with her parents and her sister, except her sister is slightly different to her and her father seems to have a very important job that makes everyone scared of him. She also has an older sister who has already started her training and lives away from home. They don’t get on and she only appears briefly in the book. When Jessika is young, new neighbours move in next door and her father encourages her to make friends with the girl who is the same age; her name is Clementine and she is beautiful.

As they grow older Clem seems to have different ideas about the way the world works. She isn’t an obedient servant of the Reich and decides not to attend Deutsch Madel meetings anymore, and the two girls begin to lose touch after an awkward incident where Jess tries to kiss Clem. Jess then becomes friends with another girl in the group who she initially didn’t like and they begin a secret relationship. Both are aware that they are strictly forbidden from having a love affair as men and women must do their duty to the Fuhrer and produce children (you get a medal if you have five! that was an actual thing in Nazi Germany) and Jess tries to encourage a boy at the youth group to cover it up. In the meantime things are not going well for Clem and Jess needs to make some harsh decisions. She is an accomplished Ice Skater and trains every day; when the girls reach 18 they go away to finish off their skills (not sure where Jess is supposed to be going – some kind of training camp I think) and she only has a few days to save Clem before she goes.

This book is an interesting take on what it may have been like for young people living in Germany between the wars and why so many of them were sucked into the Hitler ideal. The idea that we have a path mapped out for us by the state is pretty scary but, if you are so indoctrinated you may just go along with it like Jess does. She’s not a very strong character and she irritated me, I wanted to shake her sometimes! But, having said that, she is going against everything she has been brought up to believe. The book has a menacing quality about it which, I suppose is what it must have been like then. Who do you trust not to betray you; and Jess suffers the worst betrayal of all. It has some similarities to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in that, if you didn’t know a bit of the history some bits might pass you by.


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!)

Five Children on the Western Front – Kate Saunders

five children


This book is one of the Carnegie shortlist books and was probably one of the easiest to read. It is a kind of sequel to Five Children and It by E Nesbit which was first published in 1902. The original book follows five children (Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and their baby brother, known as the Lamb) and their adventures with a sand fairy or Psammead who they discover in a gravel pit at the bottom of their garden. He allows them to make one wish a day that will only last until midnight. Unfortunately they keep making mistakes with their wishes and end up in silly situations. Finally, because the wishes were so disastrous, the Psammead agrees to correct the last wish under the condition that they will not make any more wishes. They agree, but Anthea wishes that they will meet the Psammead again one day and then he disappears. End of book.

Five Children on the Western Front starts with the five original children waking up the Psammead two years later in their old nanny’s home in London and wishing to see the future. Not too far but far enough. The Psammead takes them to 1930 where they meet their old friend the Professor. Jane notices that the professor has photographs of the girls when they are older, but realises there are no photos of the boys. After they have left, the professor starts to weep; a portent of what is to come. The story then jumps forward nine years to October 1914 and England is on the brink of war with Germany. Anthea is now at Art School, Robert at Oxford, Cyril has joined the army and is hoping to be posted to India and the Lamb is at school with his best friend and neighbour Winterbum. They also have a new sister (not in the original book )  called Edie. Edie and the Lamb discover the Psammead one day when they are playing outside and realise immediately that he is the sand fairy of their older brothers and sisters stories. Edie falls in love with the Psammead and treats him like a pet – while the professor is doing some research about the Psammead and realises that he is more powerful then they thought. He has lost his powers and, after a visitation from a skeleton, they realise that to get his power back he needs to make amends for his past mistakes. Meanwhile the war is going on around them. Cyril has joined up and is on the Western Front, Robert is just finishing at Oxford and is then going to join the army and Anthea and Jane both help nursing the wounded. The Lamb and Edie help the Psammead to finish his quest and regain his powers and their last wish is the most heart breaking – I will admit I shed a tear.

I liked this book but I wasn’t really sure why the author decided to make the connection with the original. The book could have just been about the children’s experiences of the war and what happened to them without adding the quest to save the Psammead’s powers. Although if you had read the original it would be nice to reconnect with the characters and see what happened to them, it was a well written book about the consequences of war, and a most brutal war, and how it affected a nice middle class family. I enjoyed the relationship with the children and their reactions to the glimpses of the future – it was clever the way the author made them witness scenes so that we all knew what was going on. On the whole, if you have read the original book or seen the film then this is a nice book to read, or even if you haven’t you will still enjoy it.