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by A J Steiger
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping, dystopian debut, 8 April 2015
This review is from: Mindwalker (Hardcover)
It is the future. There is no war, no social unrest, no painful memories… and no freedom.

This debut novel by A.J Steiger thrusts the reader straight into action from word one. ‘Mindwalker’ is set in a futuristic, utopian society where all traces of war, violence and crime have been eradicated by the totalitarian government. This is new America and the government, aided by the IFEN (Institute for Ethics in Neurotechnoloy), maintains peace and tranquillity by brain-wiping all disturbing experiences from people’s memories. This is the job of Lain, the youngest member of the Institute, and it is whilst attempting to wipe the memories of her troubled classmate, Steven, that she realises something is very, very wrong. As Steven discovers his mind has been altered, and the terrifying flashbacks to his past may not be entirely true, the pair set on a life-threatening adventure to unearth the truth.

This novel is incredibly thought-provoking and a brilliant choice for a Book Club or Read Along. There are so many plot points I want to discuss but, as everyone hates a spoiler, I will have to keep many of my thoughts to myself until I find a fellow Mindwalker fan to compare notes with. A.J Steiger explores the misunderstood, and often stigmatised, issue of mental health from an interesting, futuristic perspective. In a desperate bid to end social unrest, the government are categorising citizens according to their mental state. Anybody found classed as ‘unstable’ is fitted with a collar of which the government can use to control that person’s behaviour and actions. In addition to this, through propaganda, the person is persuaded to purchase a legal suicide pill to end their life and help make society more peaceful.

This dystopian tale is a terrifying view into a not so distant future and it certainly left my mind whirring. Through it’s exploration of surveillance societies, genetics and mental illness, this 5 star debut hints at a future not too far removed from our present time. A. J Steiger has created an entirely believable dystopian world full of wonderful technological advances, some of which I wish existed today. (Because who wouldn’t want a touch-screen table top that opened in the centre to reveal your chosen food.)

Certainly aimed towards older readers, this YA debut is gripping, intelligent and a must read for all fans of dystopian fiction.

Dispatches from the Dating Zone
Dispatches from the Dating Zone
by K T Valentine
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars made me feel as if I was having a girly catch up with a friend as she embarked on bad date after bad date, 21 Sept. 2014
It has been a very long time since I read a chick-lit novel and I have to say that this offering from K.T Valentine was an unexpected surprise. When the author contacted me to request a review I jumped at the chance purely based on the book's title. I myself have been on a number of dates recently, some enjoyable and some disastrous, and I was looking forward to reading about the protagonist Fleur's dating experiences.

From the very start this book is filled with humour and I often found myself laughing out loud. K.T Valentine's writing style is very colloquial and, with the protagonist speaking straight to the reader, made me feel as if I was having a girly catch up with a friend as she embarked on bad date after bad date.

K.T Valentine included enough subplots to keep the reader interested throughout, for example the bitchy mothers in the school playground who Fleur catches taking Class A drugs at a party. The chapters are extremely short making this a quick and easy book to read - perfect for a weekend indoors. However, the chapters flit between different events too quickly and I felt that, particularly at the beginning of the story, the author didn't allow enough time to fully develop the characters.

As predicted, towards the end of the novel, I found myself racing through desperate to find out which man Fleur would end up with and take to her brother's wedding. Surprisingly it wasn't the guy I was rooting for and for me was an unexpected but happy ending.

This is one of those novels that will be stored in my list of guilty pleasures. A laugh out loud easy read which will thoroughly entertain!!

Cold as Ice (Dc Ebony Willis 2)
Cold as Ice (Dc Ebony Willis 2)
by Lee Weeks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A crime triumph!, 24 Jan. 2014
Having recently completed a long run of Young Adult novels I was looking forward to reading another crime thriller, one of my favourite genres thanks to the likes of Linwood Barclay and Sophie Hannah.
This was my first taste of Lee Weeks' writing and I was certainly not let down. 'Cold As Ice' is a page turning thriller that had me gripped from start to finish.

Cold As Ice starts with a bang with the discovery of a young woman's body. As her remains are pulled from the icy canal it becomes clear that this was not an ordinary murder. Wrapped in a plastic bag, the woman's face had been meticulously painted with garish make-up. "Her face looked like something from a waxworks horror museum; bloated and blackened by the water." Lee Weeks includes quite a gruesome postmortem scene which in hindsight was probably not best for me to read on a packed London YouTube train (with an unsuspecting member of the public reading over my shoulder.) However, this scene served it's purpose - to make the reader empathise emphatically with the murderer's victims.

Running alongside this, the reader is introduced to Tracy Collins who gave up her daughter Danielle for adoption twenty years ago. As they try to rekindle their relationship, Danielle mysteriously disappears leaving behind Jackson her young, disabled son. Again, Lee Weeks succeeds in making the reader empathise with the victims, this time through a heart wrenching moment with young Jackson. As Jeanie, a police office working on the case, questions Jackson on what happened the night his mummy disappeared information is slowly drip fed to the reader and suspects begin to form. We are introduced to a mysterious, psychotic character who fantasies about killing, torturing and killing young women. It becomes clear that this is the guy - but who he is?

"That's the sound of your daughter trying to get out of her coffin.
It's my game and my rules and I will prepare for the arrival of another player."

Lee Weeks provides ample red herrings throughout making this a highly successful crime novel. I was suitably shocked when I discovered the identity of the killer and the ending was in a word horrifying!
With it's thrilling, pacy ending that left me on the edge of my seat this is a crime triumph not to be missed!

White Horizon
White Horizon
by Jan Ruth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great characterisation!, 11 Jan. 2014
This review is from: White Horizon (Paperback)
This was the second of Jan Ruth's novels I have read, and having thoroughly enjoyed the first (Wild Water), I was looking forward to reading another of her publications. Although I would describe Jan Ruth's novels as 'women's fiction' it is certainly not 'chick-lit' and she deals with some quite gritty and serious issues within her writing.

White Horizon focuses on the relationships of three couples - Dan and Tina, Linda and Mike and Victoria and Max. The story begins at the wedding of Dan and Tina although it quickly becomes clear that things aren't quite as rosy as they seem. With the other couples being guests at the wedding, the old school friends catch up having not really kept in touch since high-school. Early on in the story it becomes apparent that these relationships will break down, mix and change with some quite tragic consequences.

Jan Ruth is a very skilled writer and was able to interwine the three relationships with great ease and fluidity. However, with so many characters involved from the start I did find myself having to write down who everyone was and how they were linked. The characters are very real and develop in personality as the story progresses. At times, I felt the detailed characterisation took away from the fullness of the plot. However, ultimately this is a novel based on the lives of characters and for the fans of 'soap-opera style character drama' this is a must read!

More Than This
More Than This
by Patrick Ness
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating from start to finish, 13 Dec. 2013
This review is from: More Than This (Hardcover)
I had heard a lot of great things about this new novel from Patrick Ness and, being unfamiliar with his previous work, thought I would give a new author a go. In a nut shell... this book was modern, mesmerising and masterfully written!

Again, as with all my favourite YA novels, this book throws the reader straight into a scene of panic and terror with it's opening chapter:

"Here is the boy, drowning. In these last moments, it's not the water that's finally done for him; it's the cold. Even when he can catch his breath in the few terrified seconds he manages to push his face into the air, he is shaking so badly he can barely get half a lungful before he's under again."

It is not until chapter 5 that we find out the name of this mysterious boy, who thinking he has died, shockingly wakes up in a deserted street. A street in England. A street he recognises from his past but lacking in any human life. Seth finds himself wondering if he has woken up in hell. "Is this what hell is? Trapped forever, alone, in your worst memory?" As Seth tries to come to terms with what has happened he experiences a number of 'flashbacks' to life before he woke up. It is during these flashbacks that the author, Patrick Ness, cleverly draws in the reader as he drip feeds information about Seth and his brother Owen. It is made clear early on that something terrible happened before the accident and it is these subtle hints throughout that had me gripped and desperate to know more.

"He remembers the shock of what awaited him like a punch to the gut, telling him just exactly what the hell he had woken up to."

As the novel progresses, Seth meets two other children by the names of Regine and Tomasz. It becomes clear that all three children are connected in some way and they quickly begin to realise that all is not as it seems. Why can't they remember their life before now? "There was more to your life and you've forgotten it." The second half of Patrick Ness' book moves towards the Sci-Fi genre and, as a reader, you must have a very open mind and not ask too many questions. The ending is undetermined and sets the novel up perfectly for a sequel. (I for one am hoping there is one!)

In this novel, Patrick Ness made very good use of past and present tense and the reader was often taken back to conversations Seth had in the past before he drowned. As with most YA novels, the chapters are very short and with a cliff hanger at the end of almost all 83 chapters it was near on impossible to put down! I would best describe this book as a tense, Sci-Fi thriller and it is thoroughly captivating throughout.

Ten Tiny Breaths: A Novel (The Ten Tiny Breaths Series)
Ten Tiny Breaths: A Novel (The Ten Tiny Breaths Series)
by K.A. Tucker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars With an explosive start, this novel will have you gripped from beginning to end., 30 Nov. 2013
I received this book from Simon & Schuster, through Net Galley, for an open and honest review.

"Just breathe," my mum would say. "Ten, tiny breaths...Seize them. Feel them. Love them."
What the hell does a tiny breath do? Why not a deep breath? Why ten? Why not three or five or twenty?

Ten Tiny Breaths tells the story of Kacey Cleary, a troubled and damaged young woman struggling to cope with life after the harrowing accident that killed both her parents, best friend and boyfriend. The explosive opening chapter was very reminiscent of some of my favourite YA novels such as 'The Memory Game' and 'The Lovely Bones' with the reader being taken straight to the scene of the accident. Told in the first person, through the eyes of Kacey, the reader is thrown slap bang into blind panic. "Dim lights...voices...I see them. I hear them. The smashed windshield. The twisted metal. Dark smears. Liquid pools. Blood. Everywhere."

Sufficiently gripped from the start, the reader is taken on a journey with Kacey to discover how she will ever heal and overcome this terrible tragedy.K.A. Tucker cleverly reveals this process through the use of chapter names. The story is organised into nine stages: Comfortably Numb, Denial, Resistance, Acceptance, Dependence, Withdrawal, Breakdown, Recovery, Forgiveness. These headings set the reader up with an idea of where the plot is going and I found myself racing through to find out what the 'breakdown' was going to entail for Kacey and Livie.

Eager for a new start, Kacey and Livie move to a run-down apartment block in Miami which is where Kacey meets Trent Emerson with his 'smouldering blue eyes and deep dimples.' As with nearly all YA novels, the story wouldn't be complete without a love interest and Kacey very quickly falls deeply in love with her handsome, new neighbour. Trent tries with all his might to make Kacey smile again but it becomes clear that he has his own demons that he needs to resolve first.

As explained in the synopsis,

'Kacey is determined to keep everyone at a distance, but their mutual attraction is undeniable and Trent is determined to find a way into Kacey's guarded heart - even if it means that an explosive secret could shatter both their worlds.'

Where this novel fell down was in the revelation of Trent's secret. I am usually one of those people who doesn't see things coming, who always fails to anticipate the twist ending to a good film. However, I did see Trent's secret coming. Very early on! So when the 'explosive' secret was revealed it was more of a 'meh' moment for me.

However, this is still a great novel packed full of emotional ups and downs. Anyone who has undergone similar traumas in their life will, without a doubt, be able to empathise and resonate with Kacey's story. A recommended read for lovers of YA fiction!

The Next Time You See Me
The Next Time You See Me
by Holly Goddard Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in mystery but a well written crime debut!, 28 Oct. 2013
I received this book from Atlantic publishers for an honest an open review.

Being an avid fan of crime thrillers, I had high expectations of this debut novel from Holly Goddard Jones. Although it didn't completely live up to my expectations, for a first novel, I must applaud this talented new author.

'The Next Time You See Me' tells the story of Emily Houchens, a sad, troubled young teen who is mercilessly bullied at school and is lacking in friends. Very early on in the novel, on a visit to the local woods, Emily stumbles upon a body. A dead body rotting away hidden and unnoticed.

"What she thought she'd seen she didn't quite believe; she focused her eyes to the left of it, squinting and then, still uncertain, she crouched down - and yes, there it was, pale and threaded with fine lines, dimpled in the center with dark soil: a human palm."

As Emily struggles to deal with the secret she has unearthed, the reader is introduced to a number of other characters including that of Wyatt - an old, lonely man who lives to work and works to live. The reader is also introduced to Suzanna Mitchell, a school teacher and mum of one, who is desperately searching for her missing sister Ronnie.

Very early on, it becomes clear that all the characters in the story are linked in some way and Holly Goddard Jones intertwines their story lines with great skill and ease. Everyone in the story is linked to the murder in some form or other and, as the story progresses, plots become neatly woven together.

Where this novel is let down is in it's lack of mystery and twists. Quite early on I had figured out who had committed the murder of Ronnie Mitchell and this, unfortunately, spoiled my enjoyment of the book. Crime fiction fans love a red herring or two and I was disappointed to find the novel lacking in this area. As the novel moved on, I was hoping that maybe I was wrong and that Holly Goddard Jones was going to throw a shock ending my way but unfortunately this wish didn't come true.

However, for the story line and skilled writing alone this debut novel deserves praise and I will certainly be reading Holly's next installment.

Model Misfit (Geek Girl, Book 2)
Model Misfit (Geek Girl, Book 2)
by Holly Smale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Sequel!, 30 Sept. 2013
I was actually in the middle of a different, fairly mediocre, book when this beauty arrived through my letter box courtesy of Harper Collins. Upon arrival I opened it up intending to read a couple of chapters and found that, four hours later, I had finished the whole thing. I enjoyed Harriet Manners the first time round in Holy Smale's debut 'Geek Girl' however this time I found her adventures to be 'unputdownable.'

Again, I need to point out the amazing front cover that is sure to jump out on the shelves and appeal to it's target audience of young girls. The chapters are incredibly short (something I personally love) and make the story a very easy read.

This Geek Girl sequel follows Harriet Manners to Tokyo as she continues on her new-found modelling career. Here she meets some new friends, Poppy and Rin, but are they quite what they seem? On her journey, Harriet faces some new challenges that provide many humorous scenes for the reader but utter humiliation for Harriet herself. Along with new and exciting characters, such as Harriet's grandma Bunty, we are also reacquainted with some much loved old characters including Nick (Harriet's 'boyfriend') and Toby (her crazy stalker). The ending to the book has an enjoyable twist involving some of these characters and left me feeling satisfied.

Sequels are always a brave move and I feel that Holly Smale has surpassed her first installment with Model Misfit. The story is told, through the voice of Harriet Manners, with great ease and humour. Weird and wonderful facts are shared throughout as Harriet shows her 'geek' side. One of my favourites being:

"99.99999999999999999 per cent of every atom consists of empty space."

Harriet goes on to explain, "It means that every single thing in front of you right now - the chair you're sitting on, the shoes on your feet, the glasses on your nose, the chocolate in your mouth - is mostly not there. And that includes you."

I shall now be eagerly awaiting Holly Smale's third installment coming some time in 2014.

The Husband's Secret
The Husband's Secret
by Liane Moriarty
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic new fiction from Liane Moriarty, 24 Sept. 2013
This review is from: The Husband's Secret (Paperback)
I received this book from the publishers for an honest and open review.

Before I start, can we all just take a moment to admire how beautiful this front cover is. Having finished the book (very quickly as I couldn't put it down) the meaning of this image becomes all the more apparent. 'The Husband's Secret' is full of mystery, lies and untold truths that, as the story develops, slowly reveal themselves and the butterfly effect begins. As secrets are released a knock on effect occurs that has devastating consequences for the families involved.

This story is very clever with three intertwining story lines involving three different families. From the very start the reader is made aware that 'the husband's secret' is going to influence the course of events for all the characters in the book and this provided some terrific plot twists.

The narrative begins with Celia (mother of three) rooting around in the attic for an old holiday souvenir to share with her daughter. Accidentally knocking over a box of her husband's work documents, "Celia's eye was caught by her own name on a white business envelope. She picked it up and saw that it was John-Paul's handwriting. It said: For my wife, Celia Fitzpatrick, to be opened only in the event of my death." However, it is not until page 144 that Celia finally opens the letter and the butterfly effect begins.

This story is all about the things we know, the things we don't, and whether or not we ever get to choose. The book explores the consequences of our actions and how, as humans, our insatiable curiosity for knowledge can sometimes have devastating effects. Do we really want to know our loved ones darkest secrets? And once you know, what then?

As Liane Moriarty explains, "Poor, poor Pandora. Nobody tells Pandora a word about the jar. Nobody tells her not to open the jar. Naturally, she opens the jar. How was she to know that all those dreadful ills would go whooshing out to plague mankind forever more, and that the only thing left in the jar would be hope?"

This Moose Belongs to Me
This Moose Belongs to Me
by Oliver Jeffers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking picture book about ownership., 19 Sept. 2013
I received this book from Harper Collins for an honest review.

Being a massive fan of Lost & Found by Oliver Jeffers, I requested this copy from Harper Collins and had very high expectations. Once again, Jeffers has managed to combine a thought-provoking story line with beautiful illustrations that capture children's attention and help to draw them into the plot.

This book explores the concept of ownership and teaches children that belongings should always be returned to their rightful owner. My Year 2 class grasped this concept quite quickly with one child saying that "Wilfred did the right thing. He gave the moose back in the end." Many of the children told me that they enjoyed the story as both Wilfred and the moose made good choices - Wilfred returned Marcel and Marcel became a good pet. In addition to this, my class were highly amused when Wilfred ended up in a 'perilous situation' tangled in a ball of string and hanging from Marcel's antlers.

Whilst discussing our likes and dislikes, one child told me that they didn't like the book as Wilfred's mum would be worried because he didn't come home. This book has many underlying themes that teaches children rights and wrongs in a fun and humorous way. There is some quite sophisticated language included such as 'enraged', 'perilous' and 'compromise' which allowed for some word level discussion and for children to add these to their vocabulary.

A beautifully-illustrated, thought-provoking story!

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