Category Archives: Reviews

CRYPT: The Gallows Curse by Andrew Hammond

When a crime is committed and the police are at a loss, CRYPT is called in to figure out whether something paranormal is at work. Jud is their star agent.
Jud, unwillingly paired with new recruit Bex, has just landed his biggest case yet … people have been disappearing in mysterious circumstances while others are viciously attacked – yet there are no suspects and a complete lack of hard evidence. The only thing that links each attack is the fact that survivors all claim that the culprits were 17th century highwaymen.

This book scared me…

But then that is what you want from a horror novel. In my defence I was on the Central Line when I started reading!

The last time this happened I was about 13 and reading a book called The Fear of Samuel Walton by Roger J. Green, about a standing stone on a farm and a boy called Samuel Walton that was touched by its evil. Good book – if you can still find it!
Anyway, on to CRYPT; they are a secret branch of MI5 tasked with combatting paranormal menaces when everything else has been tried, including closing your eyes and wishing very hard that whatever it is would go away.

Following the tried and tested format of uniting loner (and bit of a loose cannon) Jud, 16 years old, he is bitter and twisted by tragic events in his past that continue to affect his present and Bex (Rebecca) fresh out of training and ready to face whatever the job throws at her. The writing is fantastic, with the players being fully formed with no two dimensional characterisation but the horror scenes are where this book really shines, the writing is visceral and actions of the antagonists brutal and bloody. Every twisted scene is meticulously described in vivid detail.
That said, this is not just a standard slasher gore-fest, this book contains history and true facts – if you pay attention you will learn as you are being traumatised. The nuggets of history and London geography form an integral part of the story and made me want to research some of the history in more detail (I will not mention it as it may spoil the enjoyment of the book).

The Gallows Curse left me wanting to read the follow up Traitor’s Revenge now!

In closing if you enjoy past-paced reads, brimming with science, action, adventure and a massive amount of horror then read this book, share it and remember do not start reading in the Underground!

I have chosen The Gallows Curse to be one of the main titles in the All Hallows Read event that I will be running in my school at the end of October.

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Rosalinda Fitzroy had been asleep for 62 years when she was woken by a kiss.

Locked away in the chemically-induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten sub-basement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long dead, and Rose – hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire – is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat.

Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardise her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes – or be left without any future at all.

This book… just wow! I utterly adored it!

Rosalinda (Rose) is literally a girl out of time, discovered locked in a stasis chamber in a hidden room she is awakened by a kiss – so far so sleeping beauty I thought but then I was taken on a tour through a future not far removed from our own present. A world ravaged by catastrophe in the not too distant past, but still an event that lay between Rose’s past and the present (future) that she finds herself in.

A Long, Long Sleep is an epic multi-layered tale about a girl who is as much an outsider in the time she finds herself in as she was when she was in the past. At its heart, the book is about a journey of discovery and self-realisation, as well as love, loss adventure and coming to terms with abuse. I was blown away – I love science-fiction, and this book like all the best sci-fi novels I have read over the years has the science-y parts round the edges of the story just visible to the naked eye but not intruding enough to take over the tale. I found the story of Rose’s childhood as heart-breaking and compelling as her story in her future was thrilling! Her developing friendship and infatuation with the gorgeous Bren as well as meeting Otto, someone else who was as much an outsider as her was fantastically captured. The lack of a love triangle was also appreciated as these seem to have become a staple of a large number YA titles of late.

Rose may have needed rescuing in the beginning but she grows through the tale from a frightened, confused girl into a young woman with a purpose and deeper understanding of who she is and what she needs to accomplish.

Anna Sheehan knows how to drop hints and leave plot-points trailing for future novels I want to see more of this world and travel to the colonies in the solar system, learn more about the blue-skinned human/alien hybrids, hear more of the slang and just find out what happens next!

I want my hat back by Jon Klassen

A bear has lost his hat; this story is about his journey to find his beloved chapeau. It is also a lesson about life in the wild and that nature is indeed red in tooth and claw.

Each time I read this story I hear the bear’s voice as a slow, heavy southern (as in American South) drawl.

As he travels, he comes across several creatures, and to each of these animals he asks one question:

Have you seen my hat?

They all answer in the negative

No. I haven’t seen your hat.

The frog is the same,as is the snake but the rabbit, the rabbit acts like he has something to hide.

The bear is unfailingly polite, thanking each animal as he goes along, until he collapses in despair and lies there crushed by his sense of loss until he is approached by a wise moose.

The moose speaks to him soothingly and kindles a memory of where he may have seen his hat.

No violence is shown through the entirety of the book, although it is telling that none of the animals look at him as they answer his question. Until he faces the villain of the piece, and then the cardinal rule of never making eye contact with a predator

is broken…

The ending is cunningly drawn (and written) and one is capable of drawing multiple conclusions as to what may have happened.

The illustrations are beautiful and elegant in their simplicity. The lack of background allow one to focus on the characters and the bear’s search.

It can also be read as a lovely children’s story (which it is) but I love it because it is a picture book as I imagine the Coen Brothers would have made! Jon Klassen is a talented storyteller and artist. I want my hat back is a book that can be read time and time again with no lessening of enjoyment, it is a beautiful, entertaining book!

Angel's Fury by Bryony Pearce

Every atrocity. Every war. Every act of vengeance. Will come back to haunt her.

One fallen angel walks the earth to bring mankind to its destruction…Turning love into hate, forgiveness into blame, hope into despair. Through the fires of hell he will come to haunt one girl’s dreams.

But what if everything she ever dreamed was true?

Every time Cassie Smith tries to sleep, she is plagued by visions of a death: A little girl called Zillah. A victim of the holocaust. In desperation Cassie is sent for treatment in an old manor house. There she meets other children just like her. Including Seth…Seth who looks so familiar. Her dream becomes nightmare. And then reality.

A word of warning: this book is like no other YA paranormal fantasy I have read recently in that it has no grand love triangle, rectangle or rhombus.

Cassie’s nightmares are destroying her life, every night Zilalh’s short life haunts her dreams, and when she discovers that her dreams are more than just nightmares things get really scary. Brave and resourceful, Cassie is also totally out of her depth she is also in denial about what may be happening to her and wants nothing more than to return to a quiet life free of her night terrors.

Angel’s fury is rich in paranoia, fear and runs along at a frantic pace. From the beginning we get the picture of Cassie as an outsider in her school preferring to be alone rather than to face the pity and scorn of her classmates to a closed environment where she is cloistered with others who know what she is going through her mind, but even her memories may not be as accurate as she remembers!

I was kept guessing at what was going on with the story until the final third of the book when everything started to fall into place. Reading Angel’s Fury was like falling into a fast current in a river and being dragged along.

Angel’s Fury is confusing, creepy and utterly compelling! It may well be the best YA paranormal fantasy book I read this year!

The Shadowing: Hunted by Adam Slater

Every hundred years the gateway opens between this world and ours.

The hunt is on. No one is safe.

The Shadowing is coming…

Callum Scott can see ghosts, it is not something that he talks about, but lately he has been seeing them everywhere. It is not just ghosts, there is also the massive black dog that lurks in the woods near his grandmothers house and the bad dreams, warning him of something coming, something evil.

Callum is a chime child, he lives alone with his grandmother outside the town in a small cottage in the woods, a loner by preference he is nonetheless a good rugby-player and well-liked at his school, but becomes a target of the local bullies after a flash of precognition ruins their plans for one of his classmates. Add to this the brutal murders of chime children across the country, the monstrous dog and its master lurking in the woods, a demon that is wearing his face and Callum’s life expectancy starts to look a bit limited, but he is not alone, his school-friend Melissa has an interest in the supernatural and the two of them begin to try to find out why he can see the things he can see.

I started reading The Shadowing: Hunted with music playing in the background as I like a bit of background noise when I am reading. I had just started reading chapter two when Creeping Death
by Metallica started playing – I don’t usually compile a sound-track for books I read, but this track would be the theme-song for this book! Adam captures teenagers incredibly well and the tone and timing of the horror is superb! His descriptions of the attacks is incredibly bloody but never becomes gratuitous and the sense of disquiet that grows throughout the book is brilliant!

I love horror and am not ashamed to say that I am a fan of gore! Hunted fed my hunger for monsters and the macabre but left me wanting more and going by the preview of Skinned I will not be disappointed!

Chime Children are an accepted part of British folklore too!

Chime hours were commonly accepted to be three, six, nine, or twelve o’clock. In the old monastic tradition these were the hours of required prayer and were frequently marked by church bells chiming the hour. In some locales, however, particularly in Somerset and East Anglia, the hours were recognized as eight o’clock in the evening, midnight, and four o’clock in the morning. A chime child is anyone who was born exactly on one of the accepted chime hours, although there was quite a bit of variance in that as well; some locales recognized those born within that hour and some recognized only the night-time hours of nine o’clock, midnight, and three and six o’clock in the morning. Some other traditions even limited the hours to specifically those who were born between midnight and dawn, Friday to Saturday.

The Ring of Water by Chris Bradford

Jack Fletcher has been left for dead…

Bruised and battered, Jack Fletcher wakes up in a roadside inn, wrapped only in a dirty kimono. He has lost everything, including his memory.

Determined to discover the truth, Jack goes n a quest to retrieve his belongings – his precious swords, his friend Akiko’s black pearl and, most important of all, his father’s prize possession.

Relying on his samurai and ninja training, Jack realises the Ring of Water is the key to his survival.

But with only a washed-up ronin – a masterless samurai – for help, what will Jack manage to find? What will he lose?

And what will he have to sacrifice?

In picking up and reading The Ring of Water I broke one of my reading rules – the one that says ‘do not start reading half-way through a series’. Okay, so not really a rule, more of a guideline. It is a good thing that I did as let me just say wow! If ever there was a book that was perfect for jumping in to a series, then Ring of Water is it!

The protagonist Jack, wakes up after a vicious beating knowing as much about his life as I did, his back story is released in flashes of memory and brief points of exposition as he tells his new companions what he can remember about his life. The Young Samurai series is set during the beginning of the Edo period in Japan, after the suppression of Christianity and the limiting of foreigners to the cities of Hirado and Nagasaki. This background makes Jack’s story all the more complicated, not to mention exciting for the reader, as he is trying to make his way to Nagasaki whilst trying to avoid the enemies he has made all the while keeping his identity as a westerner hidden.

The inclusion of snippets of Japanese belief and history maker this book all the more real for me, I loved the inclusion of the Tanuki, and the ronin being a master of Drunken Fist kung fu, actually I enjoyed the entire book but those two snippets stuck in my mind! I am a major fan of Japanese culture and history, I also enjoy a thrilling read and since reading The Ring of Water I have become a fan of Chris Bradford, and have ordered all the preceding titles in the series.

The Ring of Water was a thoroughly enjoyable read on its own but, like most books in series, enjoyment will be enhanced by reading the books that come before it. I will read the entire series and post more thoughts once that has beendone.

In the Bag by Jim Carrington

Jim Carrington’s In The Bag tells the story of best mates devil-may-care Ash and worrier Joe who find £20,000 in used notes dumped in a holdall in their local woods. Rather than hand it in to the police Ash and Joe keep the money, and as it becomes clear to them that the cash is part of something much larger and more dangerous than either of them could have imagined, their lack of sense and maturity leads them into serious danger.

In The Bag is Jim Carrington’s second novel for young adults. Like his first book Inside My Head, the characters are teenagers living in run-down market-town communities with nothing to do and no cash in their pockets to do it with anyway. Ash and Joe are both frustrated with their lack of freedom and independence with the highlight their week being getting smashed on cheap cider on the local rec ground.

In the Bag is a gritty, real story and the choices that Ash and Joe make although extreme, are sadly all too possible, as they feel they cannot trust any of the adults around them and must take matters into their own hands. ‘In the Bag’ is a gripping, challenging read and perhaps an all too real exploration of life in the UK for young people today.

0.4 by Mike Lancaster

When Danny Birnie told us that he had hypnotised his sister we all thought he was mad.

Or lying.

Or both.

The first word that came to mind once I had finished reading was: Wyndhamesque.

It is creepy British sci-fi that belongs on a shelf with Chocky, The Midwich Cuckoos and my Quatermass DVDs.

It’s a brave new world. Not for Kyle Straker though, he no longer exists, or never did, or does he?

0.4 is a meta-tale, made up of two stories the first story begins with an excellent definition of “reading” and the forward that explains why the story is transmitted in such an old-fashioned manner (via printed word). Kyle’s story is the second (and main) tale and is told via the transcripts of cassette tapes found in an old house. The tapes convey an eye-witness account of how and when the world changed, only no-one remembers the world ever being different.

The editors notes explaining archaic terms and concepts scattered throughout the story are brilliant! I particularly enjoyed the Coldplay and Teletubies definitions!

Note – ‘Coldplay’
O’Brien makes a persuasive case for a ‘Coldplay’ referring t a kind of dramatic or musical presentation characterised by being utterly bereft of any signs of genuine emotion.

Kyle, Lilly, Mr Peterson and Mrs Peebles are all hypnotised during a talent show by Kyle’s friend Danny. Out of a village of 2000 souls they make up 0.4 % but that is not it, not all of it. Is it an invasion? Drugs? Mind control? Or something worse – something more insidious?

0.4 is a relatively quick read, gripping and tautly told. The endings are both chilling, leaving more questions than answers, if I did not know that a sequel has already been planned I would have been very upset as this book has left me wanting more!

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

This moving account of one boy’s escape from the Sudanese war and subsequent survival begins in 1985 and is based on a true story. Intertwined with a second story set in 2008-9 where young Nya is unable to attend school as it is her daily task to collect water for the family, Salva’s story begins in 1985 and ends with meeting and helping Nya and her whole community.

An incredible 11 year journey of survival ensues as Salva flees from both rebels and government forces waging war on the largest African country. Frightened and alone, will Salva ever see his family again? Crossing three countries on foot, Salva’s resilience and strength grows as he does, from a frightened 11 year old boy, to a man who becomes a leader and a visionary.

Although simply told, A long walk to water is a powerful book: a high interest but easy to read story that will resonate with readers and stay with them long after the last page has been turned.

Although recommended for ages 9+, A long walk to water is a harrowing but engaging read that I believe would be more fruitful for readers aged 12-13. What readers will find most amazing is that Salva’s story is true. Their empathy for someone of their own age facing such a disaster will assure engagement with the text.

Author Linda Sue Park is a Newbery medalist. Her website is

See also:


Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of A long walk to water by Linda Sue Park free of charge by the publishers.

Prom and prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Prom and prejudice is a contemporary take on the classic Jane Austen  romance.


The updated story is clever, funny and a real pageturner. The action takes place at, you guessed it, Longbourn. But this time Longbourn is a private girls’ school in New York.  Scholarship student Lizzie Bennet and sweet Jane Netherfield have lately met a certain Charles Bingley and his friend Will Darcy, students at the neighbouring elite Pemberley Academy.

The focus of much of the story is the upcoming school prom and will Jane be asked to go by Charles Bingley? Jane’s younger sister Lydia is a totally modern reinvention of the original, but with the added aid of YouTube to record some of her more embarrassing moments.

As per Pride and prejudice, Lizzie and Darcy come to verbal blows over money and position in society while teen Caroline Bingley is quite as vile as the original. Once again, Lydia brings the family name into disrepute with George Wickham (it appears that getting drunk is the worst of it) and yes, it’s Darcy to the rescue again, but this time he couldn’t do without Lizzie’s assistance.

Although advertised to be a romance and yes, the story is generally a love story with a happy ending, there is much more to Prom and prejudice than just romance. Lizzie is a talented pianist and performs a challenging piece,  Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini at the spring recital. She is a hard working and likeable student who, unlike the original Lizzie Bennet, has the opportunity to remain financially independent in the future. There is much to discuss for the reader as the decidedly strong, independent females characters who feature in Prom and prejudice are the authors of their own future, unlike the original story where young ladies had to rely on husbands, fathers or brothers for survival.

Prom and prejudice has a number of themes including bullying, superficial social lives, consumerism, prejudices, wealth, the GFC and of course, friendship and love.

This is a charming version of the classic and popular love story. Elizabeth Bennet, Will Darcy and Jane Netherfield are well drawn and strong characters and the way the author has reinterpreted the characters, circumstances, events and setting of Pride and prejudice is quite inspired.

An appealing book for girls aged 12+, I wouldn’t be surprised if once finished Prom and prejudice, they seek out Austen’s Pride and prejudice.