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.

Michelle Paver is probably better known to millions as the writer of the amazing Wolf Brother series. She’s also making a name for herself by writing ghost stories and gothic fiction. Wakenhyrst is a historical fiction in a gothic style.

We start the story with a series of letters between an author and Maud Stearne, the daughter of an artist convicted of murder. The story of his crime has always been speculated and never told. Maud, whose house the book gets it’s title from, is in dire need of money to restore the house.

The book is told through both the accounts of Maud and the diary entries of her father Edmund Stearne. Set mostly in the Edwardian period, the story is both compelling and full of suspense.

The book is extremely dark at times. The author manages to take you into Maud’s world and you experience through the prose, the dankness and smells of the fen land that Wakenhyrst is set. You feel the despair of Maud as she tries to fathom out what her father is up to. Maud isn’t perfect, not as pretty as others, yet she has a steel like resolve to protect others, especially her beloved fen.

Wakenhyrst is a brilliant read, full of suspense and heartbreaking moments. The way the author has used different ways to tell the story keeps you on the hook, just like the eels Edmund hates. You feel empathy for Maud as her father gets dragged every day into witchcraft and finally madness. Highly recommended.

Big Sky is Jackson Brodie’s fifth outing in a Kate Atkinson novel. not that I’ve read any of the previous incarnations. I must admit I was attracted by the cover and the blurb. A novel set on the east coast of Yorkshire (my favourite place) and a huge seagull on the cover… sold. It was when i got the book home I realised it was part of a series. Then the dilemma started. Should I get the others and read them first? Being a completist, I put it on the shelf and vowed to get the first when I went to the bookshop again. Lockdown came and I never did get back, so the other day coming towards the end of my TBR pile, I picked it up to read. What did I have to lose?

It turns out Jackson Brodie is a private detective with a complicated past life. Once a policeman, he’s now living near Whitby and doing private detective work. Juggling this with looking after his thirteen-year-old son and an old dog, he’s constantly faced with his past. With a story rooted in historical sex cases, the story follows investigation of ‘the magic circle’ with a newer, but no less shocking, people trafficking.

Most crime novels come out blasting with both barrels between the eyes. I quite like this approach, get me hooked and draw me through the book on the end of a fishing line. Kate Atkinson does it differently. It’s like she’s laying a table for a posh dinner (not one that you eat in the front of the TV on your knees. The story unwinds slowly as she introduces the various and vast cast that will fill the book. Slow pace or not, I was soon halfway through the book without noticing. A very clever ploy 😉

So how did the book work as a standalone, without reading the previous books? Had I made a big mistake? Not on your nelly. it didn’t seem to matter this was the first-time meeting Jackson Brodie. It’s a stunner of a book. The characters are so well drawn, the back stories carefully unfold. Like a fine wine, it gives you diverse levels throughout the book. The humorous touches like detectives Ronnie and Reggie add up. Crystal, the mother who’ll stop at nothing to protect her children is the strongest character. At first, she seems light weight, but the more the flesh is applied to the skeleton, the more you will her to succeed.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book Another five-star award, the second in a row. I will be revisiting the previous Jackson Brodie novels by Kate Atkinson.

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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