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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect summer reading
Review: Leavers’ dance night. Janey Bradshaw commits suicide. One year later. Her old group of friends Ryan, Katie, Alisha, Greg, and Ben, with the addition of Greg’s girlfriend Erin meet for a holiday in Katie’s Spanish villa. Then Roxanne shows up, with claims that Janey was murdered. Then someone else dies, it comes out that someone at that villa...
Published 10 months ago by Nina (Death, Books, and Tea)

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3.0 out of 5 stars It was a good story, but it needs work with its character development.
When it comes to James Dawson's books, I could lie and tell you that I've known about him for a long time but in reality I only really heard about him when he wrote Say Her Name.Though I haven't read it yet I was intrigued by how much everyone was going on about not only the book but the author himself, so I set out to find one to read. I came across Cruel Summer in one...
Published 3 days ago by Stacie @ Beautiful Bookish But...


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5.0 out of 5 stars If you enjoy thrillers and contemporaries, this is required reading., 23 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
It’s not often I can use the adjectives ‘nail-biting’ and ‘spine-tingling’ together with ‘witty’ and ‘sharp’, but this novel definitely merits all of these descriptors. Although regularly recoiling in response to the ever-present doom hanging over the characters, I loved being immersed in the world James Dawson created here (as did my 15-year-old).

Cruel Summer is a contemporary UKYA thriller which follows a group of teens a year after finishing school. The previous year, on the night of the prom, one of their friendship group, Janey, died in a fall from a cliff that was ruled suicide – although at least one of her friends is certain it was murder. A year later, the friends all meet up for a holiday in a remote Spanish villa, but when one of their number turns up dead, they all have to accept that they are, in fact, confined in a remote location with a murderer. What a great premise, right? So you can see where the nail-biting and spine-tingling come in. As with his debut, Hollow Pike, James Dawson ramps up the tension with perfect judgement, while periodically allowing us respite, care of his witty observations on contemporary life.

The opening narrator, Ryan, is hilarious and easy to empathise with. He has a habit of imagining his life as a TV show, allowing for some brilliant commentary on the media and the annoying tendencies of real life to not fit neatly into media tropes. Ryan shares the narrative with Alisha, trying to recover from her ‘party girl’ past. The rest of the gang are also well-crafted as characters and genuinely interesting as people, and it is a mark of Dawson’s genius plotting that I suspected pretty much each and every one of them of murder at some point…

The setting, as with all good thrillers, is crucial and contributes to the fear factor. Although luxurious and initially associated only with fun and relaxation, its remoteness rapidly becomes threatening. Might I suggest a new genre of ‘glamorous gothic’? The confinement, danger and many other critical gothic elements are present and correct, but there is no dusty old castle or broken down cottage – just a bright and shiny holiday villa.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic !, 20 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
After reading James Dawsons Hollow Pike following stumbling upon his website when searching for old point horror books one day I thought nothing could top it... That was until I read this book!

James is such a fantastic writer... He has a way of drawing you into the book, the mood, the atmosphere and it's effortless... Like he was always meant to write these books. The way james introduces the characters to the reader makes you feel like the characters are not only friends in the book but friends of the reader. In this instance, for me, Ryan was instantly my favourite character... His humour and charm won me over and felt like the best friend you would always want by your side but again this is down to james Dawsons writing.

This book is classed as a YA book but I'm in my 30s and it bowled me over completely. I was a fen of point horror when I was younger and I know james was too and this blows all point horror books out of the water!

This book is written and is played out like a tv series and is written in scenes from different characters voices and views with flashback scenes thrown into the mix. It's a murder mystery set in a holiday destination where a group of friends meet up after a year following one of their friends committing suicide...is one of them a murderer? Scream and maybe the holiday setting style of donkey punch would be my film comparisons.

The constant twists and turns and cliffhanger endings after each scene had me hooked and I found myself reading this book in every spare minute I had and in days where my other commitments meant I couldn't read a few scenes I found myself looking forward to the next time I could. As I started to get towards the end I just had to read so ended up giving myself self inflicted tiredness for work the next day!

I have to be honest I didn't guess the killer until about a scene before the reveal but even then I thought no way was I right and james wouldn't do that surely lol. The motive was a revalation and an excellent plot twist which will have you kicking yourself you didn't think of it yourself again a credit to james mind and writing talent!

I also found that I felt attached to these characters james created especially Ryan and Alisha and that drew me so much into the story that for the first time in years I cried like a baby (at a murder mystery book!) at the end for reasons I cannot post as I don't do spoilers! I think this maybe a first for me for this style of book.

Somebody needs to make this into a film or tv series .....

I cannot praise this book and james enough...it's a brilliant read...buy it...read it...lose yourself in it... Laugh...cry...enjoy the twists.. Go buy it now!

Thank you james for writing cruel summer you are an inspiration!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fantastic!, 10 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
I've heard a million wonderful things about this book even before I picked it up so I was pretty sure I was in for a treat, but I would have never predicted how much of a nail-shredder it actually is and how much I fell in love with it by the end. If I had to sum it up in a nutshell, I would say Cruel Summer is like a modern, young adult version of Agatha Christie's timeless classic (and one of my favourite books of all time), And Then There Were None . It's just as twisted, just as gripping as Christie's book and is a definite must-read for adults and younger readers alike.

When I started reading the book it seemed a little slow paced compared to what I was expecting but once you get through the first couple of chapters it all makes sense. Every little detail from the characters' past is relevant to the plot and what they're going through at the moment and - as much as I dreaded it - it never gets dull. Not for one moment. In fact, once you realize that all of these characters all had a lot to lose and could have easily killed Janey you just won't be able to put the book down. I raced through the second half of the story in no time and couldn't get it out of my head ever since.

Cruel Summer is simply brilliant, I literally can't fault it. It could have gone wrong on so many levels. The narration - by a budding gay actor, Ryan, who tells the story as if they were in a horror movie in which he's the main character - could have got terribly cheesy. It could have been too cliché, the romance element too easy to predict. But it wasn't any of these. Not only is Dawson's writing so excellent and effortless that he makes you feel as if you were there with them on the beach but the way the whole story is built up is just brilliant. It's one of my favourite young adult books and I can't recommend it enough. Absolutely fantastic!
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book blew me away!, 12 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
Originally posted on Serendipity Reviews.

Oh my goodness! This book blew me away. It's always a bit hit and miss with me whether I'll enjoy a crime thriller, as it isn't my preferred genre, but this book really knocked me sideways. It had me yearning for my Richard Laymon days.

Within the first chapter, you've made Ryan your new best friend. He is utterly adorable, full of humour and sparkles with energy and enthusiasm. The story continues in alternative viewpoints between Ryan and Alisha as they settle in to Katie's villa. Alisha has come a long way from her drink fuelled days and she really has strength of character oozing out of her pores. The holiday is the first time the group have been together since Janey died and they are all hoping to be able to finally bury the uneasiness that lingered like a shadow over them. But as James Dawson says `Rylan assumed Janey's death was the finale. Turned out, it was only the beginning...' I could not have put it better! I can't tell you what happens as you just need to read it, but I will say it's like being punched in the face regularly when you least expect it. I spent most of the book gasping loudly and screaming `NOOOOOO!' I was on the edge of my seat the whole way through. I didn't have a clue who the killer was and to be honest, I was rather shocked when I found out. I actually want to read it again, so I can spot the evidence that had been so carefully planted throughout the book.

The characters jump off the page, exploring their past, their futures alongside their sexuality. Ryan is probably my favourite as he talks about every situation as though it was a scene from his very own reality show. I kept thinking of The X Factor's Rylan, as I read it, as he is fuelled by flamboyancy and loves to hold the spotlight permanently on himself.

This book could easily be made into a movie. It has all the right ingredients to follow successfully in the footsteps of films such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Also if you grew up reading the Point Horror books then you will love this one.

This seriously was a stunning book and I do hope James Dawson sticks with this winning formula, as he just made the 80's murder mystery / horror style novel so cool again.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I loved it!, 9 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
I had heard so many good things about James Dawson's writing for quite some time now. I haven't read his debut novel, but I'll definitely be purchasing a copy after reading Cruel Summer. Cruel Summer was a gripping, intriguing page-turner that I couldn't put down. There are some amazing twists and James successfully always keeps the reader guessing. I have to admit, I did begin to guess who the killer was, but I had no idea why they would do it. It wasn't until nearer the end of the book, just before the big reveal that I became suspicious.

Cruel Summer is about five school friends on holiday together in a Spanish villa. They are getting over the death of their friend Janey a year ago. There's Ryan and Katie, Greg and his twin sister Alisha, Greg's new girlfriend Erin and Katie's ex-boyfriend Ben. Just as they're beginning to enjoy themselves, Roxanne (the stereotypical bitch) turns up claiming that Janey didn't commit suicide.. she was murdered. It is then that everything spirals out of control with some very severe consequences...

I could easily picture this book as a horror film. It has a `I Know What You Did Last Summer' feel about it. I loved how Ryan narrated the story. He described the events as scenes in a TV show, which actually added some humour into the story as cliché horror film scenes occurred. I loved how the book was told from mainly two perspectives, Ryan and Alisha. They were both such wonderful characters. I particularly liked Alisha, although I loved all the drama from Ryan. The chapters are short but action-packed.

Cruel Summer is so brilliantly paced. I read it so fast, because I just wanted to know what was going on. I felt the second part of the book was incredibly tense, with so many plot twists. I kept thinking I'd put it down for a bit, but then I was drawn to read yet another chapter to see what was going to happen next.

I'm so blown away by James Dawson's writing. As I said, I'll definitely be buying Hollow Pike, just to devour more from Mr Dawson!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cruel Summer, 5 Sept. 2013
By 
Sarah (Feeling Fictional) (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
I loved James Dawson's debut novel Hollow Pike so I've been looking forward to getting my hands on Cruel Summer ever since I first heard about it. I'm happy to say it completely lived up to my expectations and I loved every minute of it! Cruel Summer reminded me of a British version of the movie I know What You Did Last Summer and I could easily picture this being turned into a film in the future (I really would love to see that happen!). It also has a flavour of the old Point Horror books I grew up on which I absolutely loved.

The story is of a group of friends who are reconnecting on holiday together in Spain after spending a year doing their own thing at different universities. Their last summer ended badly when their friend Janey committed suicide but when an old school friend turns up claiming to have proof that Janey was actually murdered their relaxing holiday by the pool takes a sinister turn. When Roxanne's body is found before she is able to show anyone her evidence the friends are forced to face reality. One of them is a murderer, but who is it, what's their motive and who will be their next victim?

Cruel Summer is a fantastic thriller that is full of unexpected twists and supported by a great cast of characters. I did eventually figure out who the murderer was but it wasn't easy and I think I'd suspected pretty much every character at some point during the story. The author has done a great job of creating a group of friends who all have distinctive personalities, some are more likeable than others but all feel like real people. The story is told from a couple of different points of view but I have to admit I loved spending time inside Ryan's head the most. The way he thought of life as a TV show was incredibly amusing and I liked the way he went about adding drama to the story. Alisha was another complex character though and one I enjoyed getting to know.

Another fabulous book from James Dawson and one I'd highly recommend to fans of this kind of teen thriller!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Oh so very clever!, 30 Aug. 2013
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
Right. I'd heard good things about this one so I was dying to get into it and get into it I did...it grabbed me by the throat and led me kicking and screaming through an enthralling tale of Friendship, Murder and Mayhem under the sun and didnt let go until the stunning finale. Then I needed a few hours sleep.....

A group of friends gather at a villa in Spain, one year after the suicide of one of their number, to reconnect and have some fun and frolics. Things don't go according to plan however as it becomes increasingly apparent that one of them hides a dark secret....

I loved this book in the way that I love all twisty turny tales, with a fiery passion - even more so because this really was a movie in a book. I played my favourite game of "Beat the Author" whilst getting completely entangled in the world of Ryan, Katie and co...the snappy writing and a unique chapter style made it a brilliantly page turning glorious read. And I really do hope that there IS a movie...I would love to see these characters come to life on screen in the way they did in my head whilst I was reading.

Ok, so James Dawson did not beat me - My twisty brain had the answer about half way through..but the beauty of this book is that this really won't be the case for most people. Sharing Mr Dawsons love of Horror films probably helped me along the way...I know the "rules" well and yet he manages to put his own twist on things and keep the story intriguing and brain bending throughout. Compelling characterisation made things even more interesting...how many of us had the same grouping of friends personality wise at school and beyond I wonder...probably most. Cleverly realistic and always fascinating this is a must read for anyone who loves a good mystery, backed up by great characters and great writing. Read it. Read it now.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This holiday will be a scream...!, 12 Jun. 2014
By 
Michelle Moore (Dartford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
I've had this one for a while, but kept putting it off.. but when I did pick it up, I devoured it in a day! Cruel Summer starts off as an idyllic holiday in a stunning villa, but as soon it's mentioned that it's far from anyone, and there's no mobile signal, you just know there's going to be problems!

The opening introduces the characters, and let's us get to know them, but the perfect calm soons disappears. This group of friends are trying to reunite after one of their friends killed herself a year ago, but it's soon obvious that the story hasn't ended.

The story is told from differing points of view, and instead of chapters, there are scenes.. this is because Ryan, one of the main narrators, sees his world in the form of an ongoing TV show. To me, this worked well, because James Dawson's vivid writing makes you feel you are watching a film in your head!

I'm not going to go into details, but James doesn't shy away from a bit of violence and murder, and I would recommend this to older teens and up. This is definitely a 'cross-over' book, which I suspect many adults will enjoy just as much! I saw aspects of Scream, which I loved, and I found it impossible to put down until I'd finished every detail. If there's one book I've read this year which needs to be a film, this is it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Twists and turns, 10 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
One summer ago, Janey Bradshaw died on the night of her prom. Was it suicide, or did something darker happen that night? After a year apart, her friends reunite, hoping to put the past behind them and get their friendship back on track. But their secrets follow them and it soon becomes clear that some lies cannot remain buried.

Cruel Summer is a thrilling, clever novel. You are kept guessing throughout - every time you think you might have pinpointed the truth, you are made to question everything you thought you knew. The book is very easy to read, with relatable characters, light comic relief and gripping drama.

What I love most about this novel is it's self-consciousness. Writing a crime mystery has become incredibly difficult, with every reader thinking they know it all already. There are certain established tropes that often mean no story is original, and the audience knows the culprit long before the characters do. But here, Dawson employ a genius technique that keeps you unsure of yourself, questioning even the most traditional Gothic devices.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book is brilliant - go read it now!, 7 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
I spend ages looking at a blank page because I really didn't know where to start with this review. There isn't anything that I can say that hasn't already been said. This book is brilliant - go read it now!

I'll wait and then we can talk about it....
...ok so that won't work.
Better to the `review' part then:

Given Hollow Pike I had high expectations for Cruel Summer and then when I saw all these amazing reviews from blogger friends appearing I knew I needed to read it sooner rather than later.

I love the way the book is set out, Ryan's Teen Reality Show narration is so perfect. It fits, Cruel Summer tells the story of the beautiful teens isolated in sunny Spain. Was Janey's death really a suicide?

Everything about this story works; the setting, the characters, the twist and turns, the pacing, the writing, etc. Could I have tried to work the mystery out? Don't know and don't really care I was having too much fun reading it.

James Dawson welcome to my instant-buy list
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Cruel Summer
Cruel Summer by James Dawson (Paperback - 1 Aug. 2013)
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