From its creepy town mascot to the story of its cursed waterfall, Burden Falls is a small town dripping with superstition. Ava Thorn knows this well - since the horrific accident she witnessed a year ago, she's been plagued by nightmares. But when someone close to her is brutally murdered and Ava is the primary suspect, she starts to wonder if the legends surrounding the town are more fact than fiction.

Whatever secrets Burden Falls is hiding, there's a killer on the loose, and they have a vendetta against the Thorns…

Kat Ellis is rapidly gaining a reputation of the teen horror queen for her novels. After reading her latest work, Wicked Little Deeds (Burden Falls in the US), I can say it's completely justified. Wicked Little Deeds is an excellent teen horror book with a plot that Stephen King would be jealous of.

Set in the US the book focusses on Ava and the small town of Burden Falls. Ava is a 'bloody Thorn', once owners of the manor house along with its distillery. However, when Ava's mortal enemy moves into her former home things start to get weird. The myth of 'Dead-eyed Sadie takes on a whole new significance. Like all good horror tales, it starts to go downhill real fast.

Wicked Little Deeds is an excellent read. I devoured the pages inside a day. As the day went through its cycle, from light to dark, so the story did as well. A breathless read that grabs you from the start and takes you literally over the falls. It's a book destined to please teenagers that like their horror. Every book I read of Kat's seems to be more intense than the first. At first I thought this book was set in Wales. It set me in mind of a location I'd seen on TV of a bridge in a gorge with a waterfall below. My mistake though as the setting soon settled into one of those weird small towns so beloved by horror writers.

A real 5 star read. You must read this book.

Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour, the sunlit world above the mine a distant memory. Reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker. Newt accepts everything - that is, until the mysterious Devlin arrives. Suddenly, Newt starts to look at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective, questioning the system, and setting in motion a chain of events that could destroy their entire world. In this powerful and brilliantly original debut novel, friendship creates strength, courage is hard-won and hope is the path to freedom.

Bearmouth is an enthralling read that is dark to the core. Liz Hyder has invented her own pidgin English for this book. At first, it's difficult to read and understand, so used was I to be reading our language. However, it gets much easier and makes this book stand out as a genuine gem.

Bearmouth is a mine set in an alternative reality, or maybe Victorian mine practices. It's a dark ruthless place where the interests of the owners are put way before the workers. Miners in Bearmouth don't live on the surface, they live deep down in these huge mines. Children are virtually born into the caves, never seeing the surface. Beneath all this darkness though is an organised world where the old look after the young and help educate and protect them.

I admit to struggling at first with this book due to the phonic style of conversation. Yet you're soon drawn into the world of Newt and though it's a dark world you soon warm to the various workers. The story is brilliantly told through the narration of Newt. There's plenty of twists to the tale to keep you reading and a great ending.

A five star book that's unique. Read it, you won't regret it.

Inspired by a true story. It's 1940, and Joseph has been packed off to stay with Mrs F, a gruff woman with no great fondness for children. To Joseph's amazement, she owns the rundown city zoo where Joseph meets Adonis, a huge silverback gorilla. Adonis is ferociously strong and dangerous, but Joseph finds he has an affinity with the lonely beast. But when the bombs begin to fall, it is up to Joseph to guard Adonis's cage should it be damaged by a blast. Will Joseph be ready to pull the trigger if it comes to it?

When the Sky Falls is a thriller from start to finish. The first lines set the mood for the story. It's a dark tale about survival in the most difficult of circumstances. How we make connections with people we don't get along with and how even when all seems lost there is something to cling on to. It's also a fantastic story, one of the best set in World War Two.

Phil Earle is already a brilliant storyteller, but this raises the bar. Touches of Robert Westall (Machine Gunners) add up to push this story screaming through the blitz. Joseph, whose mother is killed in an air raid in the north is sent to the south to live with a woman he has never met. A woman whose distain for children is deep. Mrs F runs a battered zoo with scraggy animals and little cheer. It also has a prize gorilla, one that Joseph creates a bond with.

I can imagine this book will be on the shelf of primary schools throughout the UK. It deserves to be read to open mouthed children for entertainment. A chilling story that had me in tears at the end, yet at the same time feeling hope.

This book ticks so many boxes to me. One of the standout releases this year and one you'll go back to again and again. Five stars all the way.

Harrow Lake is a YA thriller that wouldn't be out of place as an 80's slash movie. The book told from the point of view of Lola Nox, the daughter of an 80's film producer. When he gets injured, she's sent to live with her maternal grandparents in Harrow Lake. The story picks up here...

I first heard of Kat Ellis after reading Blackfin Sky. It was different from the usual run of the mill teenage thrillers and made me want to read more. I loved the way the initial reader copies had been wrapped as if they were a Blockbuster rental video. (would have liked one of those). It added to the theme of the book, pity retail copies didn't come like that. This book reads like a homage to those 80's slash fests. Think RL Stine but a hundred times better and you have what this book is like.

Cleverly written, we find out about Lola's past at the same time as she does. Something isn't quite right about the town of Harrow Lake. The tension builds up slowly as she wanders around the town finding out about the back story. It's a town that celebrates her father's masterpiece, Nightjar with an annual festival. When Lola's clothes go missing on the first night, she's forced to wear her mother's old clothes, clothes that make her look exactly her disappeared mother. Then she finds out about Mr Jitters...

This is an extremely well written book. It draws you in slowly, giving small snippets that keeps you hooked into the story. As the plot reveals itself, you feel the horror as she wanders through the forest, finds the horrific tooth tree, and delves deep into the mountainside. Excellent writing makes you feel the emotions of the protagonist. Horror is never far from Lola as she starts to realise what the true story is behind her mother's disappearance. There in the background, and in my dreams, was Mr Jitters.

So, this is a five-star book, no doubts. A wickedly delightful horror romp by a very accomplished author. Warning though - don't read at night on your own or you'll be hearing Mr Jitters crawling up to you.

The Source is a journey back in time to the very creation of life on Earth. A hunt for the fabled Garden of Eden. The book follows Ross Kelly as he tries to find this mythical garden, hidden deep in the Amazonian forest in Peru. His motive? To find something that will save his wife and unborn children's life.

I love books of this kind, but some of them aren't well written or have such fanciful plotlines that you end up frustrated in reading them. As with all writing there's an art to writing them. They get dismissed as 'Dan Brown' rip offs by readers who sneer at the content. That's a real shame because there's lots to love in this genre. So which side of the divide did this book fall?

The Source is an unmitigated success. The storyline is tight and the tension and writing doesn't let up from the beginning. I always know when a book has my full attention when I spend more time devouring the facts than usual. Michael Cordy has written a plot that whilst might appear farfetched, you want to be true. You really want Ross to find this garden that's been hidden away before the inscrutable priest.

There's a lot of real world objects, like the Voynich Book, in the storyline that add and excite the reader. I personally really enjoyed this book. It's a cut above the usual books in the genre. It was a real joy to read.

D - A Tale of Two Worlds is a book it's hard to pigeonhole. Is it a teenage/children's book or is it meant for adults? Well after reading this wonderful book I still can't make up my mind. Instead I'll say the both adults and young adults will enjoy this highly unusual story.

Dhilkilo is a thirteen year old girl from Somaliland now living in Kent. Her adoptive parents are typical middle class and Dhilkilo is happy. Her life is fairly straight forward. That is until the day she wakes up and finds all the D's in the world have disappeared. Yet she seems to be the only one who has noticed.

There are no more ogs, olphins swim in the seas. Arts in the pub are cancelled as they are mistaken for art. Her friends now call her Hilkilo and talk with all their missing D's. The death of a former teacher Professor Dodderfield (or oerfiel as he is now known) dies. This starts her on a quest to find where all the D's have gone and to a strange world.

This book is simply brilliant. It borrows from so many sources, yet manages to integrate them well into a unique story in its own right. There are the obvious Dickensian references. Yet there's a smattering of CS Lewis and others buried within the story line.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. It's a light hearted read, not demanding yet it manages to weave a great story together. There's a great friendship story, coupled with an epic quest. Another story that would be great read out loud to a rapturous audience.

Wow, The Night Bus Hero is a stunning book that entertains and educates, all at the same time. This is a book that demands to be read out loud to children, or sneakingly read by the child before the reader has finished.

The Night Bus Hero isn’t an easy book to read at times. The protagonist, Hector, is one of the worst sort of person, a bully. The way at times, his actions are brushed over, even celebrated by those of his friends makes the first few chapters uncomfortable. It’s only when he starts to realise the direction he’s been going that you sew him in a better light.

The story really has two parts, the bullying and the way he terrorises the entire school and then his caring side which is brought slowly to the surface by his interactions with Meilei, the teacher’s pet. After attacking Thomas, the homeless man in the park, pushing his trolley into the water, his character improves.

With homeless people being blamed for the theft of statues across London, Hector witnesses the theft of a statue. The perpetrator he recognises as Thomas, but is he right?

This book is a triumph, a brilliant story that I’m sure will be enjoyed by 7 to 11 year olds, as well as parents and grandparents. There are many heartbreaking moments, as well as guffaw laughs. The issues it raises are important today and fiction, especially this book, helps raise them in a rewarding way. It doesn’t lecture, just places the facts and the story at your eyes.

Now to start and read a few more of Onjali’s books…

There's a storm brewing over Eerie-on-Sea, and the fisherfolk say a monster is the cause. Someone has woken the ancient Gargantis, who sleeps in the watery caves beneath this spooky seaside town where legends have a habit of coming to life. It seems the Gargantis is looking for something: a treasure stolen from her underwater lair. And it just might be in the Lost-and-Foundery at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, in the care of one Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder. With the help of the daring Violet Parma, ever-reliable Herbie will do his best to figure out what the Gargantis wants and who stole her treasure in the first place. In a town full of suspicious, secretive characters, it could be anyone! 

I have to say that Malamander was my favourite children's book of last year. I recommended it to everyone who'd be interested. I was eagerly looking forward to the release therefore of the sequel, Gargantis. There's a freshness about Thomas Taylor's writing yet it mingles with the past. I guess it's the sort of adventure book that was common years ago, but now given a new life in the modern world.

Gargantis is a wonderfully written. Like a storm, it sucks the reader in at the beginning and spits them out at the end, exhausted and wanting more. The adventure is permeated with humour and cultural references. The Star Wars one had me cackling aloud, as did the flux, sorry flow capacity and reversing the polarity. Eighties cult classic films being placed within the magical weird world of Eerie on Sea.

Eerie on Sea is just the place I'd love to holiday in. To me the Nautilus hotel conjures up the Grand Hotel in Scarborough. It's a wacky, yet magical world that any self-respecting tourist would be happy to visit. No trip of course to Eerie would be complete without visiting the mermonkey and getting him to dispense a book or two.

The story isn't predictable as well. There's enough in here to keep any adventure, fantasy fan happy. Not one but two maps, yes two! Each of them drawn in beautiful detail, they enhance the experience of this book. For someone who's found life a little tough at this moment, it really made me feel happy reading this wonderful book.

So, if you're aged over about eight, then you should buy this book (as well as Malamander). If you have a child, then it's an ideal book to read to them. Gargantis is one hell of a ride.

Rarely there comes a book that makes you go wow. When it does you want to treasure every word, savour the book, never let it end. Feathertide is that book. It’s a wonderful story accompanied by the most wonderful vocabulary that makes you feel you’re experiencing the journey of Marea.

Marea is born into a brothel, a girl different from all the rest. She’s kept away from the world and brought up by her mother, who obviously love her. Marea is different from everyone else as she has feathers on her back. She learns that her father had feathers and sets out to find him.

This is a tale of discovery, of wonderment, of fables. Mermaids live in the oceans, birdmen fill the skies. It mixes Japanese culture with Italian style. Marea’s journey is not an easy one as she heads for the City of Murmurs. It’s a coming of age tale told with the most exquisite language possible.

Each page is full of what I would call prose-poetry. Each scene carefully constructed so that at times you live and breath Marea’s journey. The story is excellent, the world seems far from the one we know, yet it’s rooted in real places that keeps the book from being too fanciful.

As you can see I really enjoyed the book. It had everything I love woven into a story that is timeless. The writer has produced something very rare, a literary work that’s worth the re-read.

Ever since I read VOX, I’ve been waiting in anticipation for the next Christina Dalcher novel, Q. With a debut so strong, could the follow up live up to its former. Well the wait is over, I managed to get hold of a copy through Netgallery and leapt into it with gusto and a little trepidation.

The new novel is another dystopia set in the near future. This time it centres on education. Everyone has their ‘Q’ measured. They get ID cards assigned to the value they attain. Gold is the top level and means that they get preferential treatment in every area of life. Score down in yellow and you’ll have to queue everywhere. It’s the same in schools where tests get you into the gold, silver, green or worse yellow state schools.

Elena is one of the elite, able to jump queues and gain better service by showing her gold card. Her husband is one of the ruling party, pushing always new policies that enforce these levels. Their two daughters, Alice and Freddie, are different. Alice is sixteen, secure and bright. Freddie is anxious and worries about tests all the time. When Freddie fails a test, their world is turned upsides down.

At first I had the nagging feeling that the book would follow the actions of the first and was a little disappointed. Reading on though the feeling left me, and I was sucked into the new world. The book never drops pace and the story keeps giving more.

I have to say whilst it may not be as earth shattering as VOX, it still had me thinking about if this was possible. Looking at the current leadership in the USA, then I could readily believe the ideas that bring the horror in both her books are very real and plausible. This books looks at the shady world of eugenics and the way they could be used today to split society.

Books like Christina Dalcher writes are so important as they show consequences of our actions or the actions of others. I look forward to the next book.

Brompton Sawdon

Brompton Sawdon is an aspiring writer who lives in the foothills of the Pennines in the UK. He has various works in progress at this moment of time and hopes to publish some of his stories in the near future.
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