Currently Reading

Currently reading: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis [Review]

Written by: Kat Ellis.
Published by: Penguin.
Format: Paperback.
Released: 9th July 2020.
Rating: 4/5.

Official synopsis: "Welcome to Harrow Lake. Someone's expecting you . . . Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker - she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she's swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she's never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father's most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map - and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away. And there's someone - or something - stalking her every move. The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola's got secrets of her own. And if she can't find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her..."

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I will preface this review by saying I do not like scary things as a general rule. Normally books are okay as you can use your imagination to dampen it down a bit, but scary movies, no thank you... No. Thank. You. And you only have to look at the (albeit stunning) creepy cover for Harrow Lake to know that things aren't going to be all sunshine and kittens...

Lola is sent to live with her grandmother when her father (who is a successful film director...) is attacked in their own home. She has never met her grandmother, knows very little about her mother and has a strange relationship with her father who she only ever refers to by his first name. When she arrives, her bag has gone missing and so she must wear her mums old clothes something that seems to both please and annoy her grandmother. As Lola begins to explore the little town which was the setting for one of her fathers most successful films, which coincidentally starred her mother, strange things begin to happen. People look at her strange, they whisper and she begins to see that she isn't welcome. And then she learns about the urban legend of Mister Jitters and how her mother may somehow be involved...

Honestly, Harrow Lake surprised me. I went into it with an open mind, almost expecting to have to shut it and say I couldn't go any further, but I kept going and I am so glad that I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it from the very first page. It's engaging, wonderfully written and has a thriller feel to it, keeping you glued to the page wondering what on earth is going to happen next. There were a few moments that made me jump, moments that made me smile and laugh, moments that made me feel for the characters and the situation they have found themselves in. Harrow Lake has it all. I loved all the little twists and turns. 

I loved the feel of it all. The setting that seemed to be stuck in time, never evolving from the moment the cameras finished rolling whilst the film was being made. Everyone dresses old fashioned. It's classic old-school horror aesthetic. Small town. Seemingly cut off from the outside world. Secrets around every corner.

I would highly recommend you read this, even if you aren't a horror fan. It was chilling and fun at the same time and it'll have you jumping at something moving in the corner of your eye for a while after reading it too!

My thanks to Simon at Penguin for my review copy in exchange for an honest review!

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini [Review]

Written by:
Christopher Paolini.
Published by: Tor.
Released: 15th September 2020.
Format: Hardback.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: Kira Nav├írez dreamed of life on new worlds. Now she’s awakened a nightmare... During a routine survey mission on an uncolonised planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move. As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human. While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . . 

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I have been a long time fan of Paolini, since around the time that Eldest came out and I followed the Inheritance Cycle all the way to its thrilling conclusion and have been waiting to see what he would do next. Now, nine years after the release of the last book in the series, Inheritance, we finally have our answer in To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. A book that Paolini has been talking about and teasing for several years as he went through the process of drafting and re-drafting the novel several times, often posting pictures on social media of the manuscript growing chapter by chapter.

I will admit, I am not normally a massive sci-fi fan, particularly that aimed at an adult audience, but I knew the moment that this was announced it would be a must-read for me as I had been anticipating a new Paolini book for a very long time, and from the very first page I was hooked and was well and truly along for the ride. And what a ride! For a book that clocks in at just under 900 pages I cannot explain just how much it flew by. The pacing ebbs and flows. When the book begins it doesn't really take long for the action to begin and then it kind of settles for a little while just building everything up, getting all the key players into place and then BAMN. This bad boy exploded. Quite literally. There were times where I felt like I couldn't keep up - it was relentless and I loved it. The last two parts of the book itself where simply mind-blowing. Every page would bring a new "WOW WTF THIS IS CRAZY!!!!" moment and just when you thought it was going to climax it would reach a new high and just keep going. Breathtaking.

It's difficult to really say much without spoiling the book. What I loved about it more than anything was that it wasn't what I had expected at all. I had in my head what I thought it was going to be and it just completely surprised me from the word go. I liked this as no one likes a predictable read, there's no fun in it! The book itself is quite dark in places (not just because it's in space...) but there is some humour interspersed in there too which I really liked, helped break up some of the more hard-hitting moments.

As for the characters, we obviously spend the most time with Kira, a xenobiologist who has been on a mission to help determine whether or not human colonies can be set up on a planet many, many lightyears away from the home planet, Earth. She's firey, determined, doesn't take anyones crap. I loved her. There is also a great supporting cast too. A large one at that! I did sometimes find it a little complicated to keep track of who was who and who and said what and who had done what but soon found myself getting into the rhythm. One character I particularly loved was a ship mind called Gregorovich who was a particular highlight.

I really feel like Paolini's writing has improved a lot as well. It's been several years since I read the Inheritance books (re-read, anyone?) but it just flew like in the years that he's been working on it he has really honed his craft. The action scenes were tight and so much fun to read. The quieter, more emotional moments were soft and equally enjoyable.

Overall this book was well and truly worth the wait. Breathtaking. Exhilarating. With more planned in this universe and a prequel novel already completed (according to his own live stream I watched a few weeks ago) it looks like there'll be plenty more Paolini to enjoy! I'll be here waiting!

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman [Review]

Written by: Neal Shusterman.
Published by: Walker.
Released: 6th August 2020.
Format: Hardback.
Rating: 4/5.

Official synopsis: "Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behaviour. Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence to document the journey with images. Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head. Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. Caden Bosch is torn."

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I haven't read many of Shusterman's books in all honestly. I have read Scythe, the first book in the Arc of the Scythe trilogy and I absolutely adored it and have been meaning to get around to the rest of the trilogy, I just haven't had the chance yet. But then I saw this pop up on Netgalley and the premise really drew me in and I just knew I had to read it.

I can't lie, when I first started it I was a little thrown. Mostly the book is made up of very, very short chapters that flit about from one place to another very quickly. One moment, Caden is at school, trying hard but failing to keep up with his friends conversations. The next he is aboard a ship and trying to keep up with the captains demands. I found the complete flips sometimes quite hard to wrap my head around, but once I got used to it it was okay. Once I got into it the book itself was such an intense and all consuming read that you just cannot put down. The fact that the chapters are so short only adds to this as the old "ooh, just one more chapter before bed" leaves you a little unsatisfied as they're so short it actually turned into another ten or fifteen chapters before bed... Following Caden as he struggles with his mental health is a real journey and one that I really enjoyed being along for the ride. It's a weird book because some of it makes little to no sense at all... the chapters on the pirate ship for example... Sometimes I read a few of them a couple of times thinking I'd read it so quick I had missed it, but they literally make no sense at all and I think this is intentional, as sometimes these thoughts that invade our minds make no sense either. 

It is an incredibly thought provoking read, dealing with a rage of hard hitting topics, suicide included and there are some really hard hitting moments that actually made me have to put the book down for a few moments just to compose myself to carry on. I don't profess to be a mental health expert, but there were certain aspects of this book that really hit home with me from when I was younger and some of the thoughts I had after my mum passed away. This book felt like the most realistic depiction of mental health that I have read for a while and for that I must commend Mr. Shushterman.

It was also a very poetic read, just the way it was written, the structure of some of the chapters. Once you really got into it it was very easy to get carried away.

I also saw when googling the book that Disney are making it into a film for their Disney+ service so think it will be interesting to see how they interpret and make it for a wider audience. 

Overall I really enjoyed this and would highly recommend it to others! It is out right now so do go and check it out!

My thanks to Walker/Netgalley for my review copy!