31 January 2015

NETBA Review: Say Her Name by James Dawson

Roberta 'Bobbie' Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of 'Bloody Mary': say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear... But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it?

Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror... five days... but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before...

5 Words: Horror, boarding-school, British, Bloody Mary.

Ok, so that was terrifying. 

Let's start with the cover. Look at it. Feel a shiver of fear. Now show it to your younger sister who is living alone and easily scared and duck when she throws things at you because "I bloody live alone and that's f**king terrifying and now I'll have nightmares!".

Say Her Name was a very British horror. It's one that makes you think, it's subtle and builds slowly, the little things that you barely even acknowledge are the things that build the tension and crowd the atmosphere... And it was written beautifully.

Now, I'm usually not a fan of horror. All that doom-and-gloom and usually a dose of pure gore and violence... Not my cup of tea. And although this book made my toes curl and make me "Eeek!" plenty of times and made sure that I haven't looked in a mirror since I started it, I was definitely a fan of this one.

The best part about this book was the humour throughout. Bobbie is quite a cynical, wry character and I loved her observations. They were a bit of relief from the whole going-to-die theme. And they stopped it being too much.

That ending had me going. I was honestly convinced about how it would end and then in those last pages it just got a helluva lot freakier. I also love how it wasn't a completely closed ending either.

In short, this book is definitely worth a read. It was freak you out and make you super paranoid around any reflective surface, and you'll probably cover up every mirror for a week or so, but it was excellent.

30 January 2015

NETBA Review: Salvage by Keren David

Aidan Jones was my brother. But I couldn't remember his face.

Cass was adopted at an early age and life's been comfortable ever since - too comfortable, some might say.

I glance at the paper. There's a picture on the front page. I sit down and stare at Cass. It's her. My stolen sister.

Aidan's disrupted childhood has been spent shuttling between foster care and children's homes, with a brief disastrous return to his birth mother.

Their experiences couldn't be more different, but their paths are about to converge. Aidan manages to track down his lost sister, and they arrange a secret meeting. But neither of them have really thought this through.

Can a broken family be salvaged?

5 Words: Family, relationships, love, achievements, growing-up.

Salvage is one of those hard-hitting books that really makes you think and challenges your own beliefs.

It's about two people who came from the same place but have ended up in two very different places. And at times it's pretty heart-breaking.

I really loved the whole Nature vs Nurture idea that lurked in the background, how it was subtly explored without becoming the main focus of the story.

The cast of characters in this story is pretty diverse. You get someone to love, someone to hate, someone to root for, someone to hope for. And it's fantastic. You could really get invested in the characters, get deeper into the plot of the story, the lives of Cass and Aidan.

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29 January 2015

NETBA Review: My Second Life by Faye Bird

The first time I was born, I was Emma. 
I was beautiful. I had everything to live for. 

But I died.

Now I have been born a second time, and my previous life haunts me. Because in it I think I did something very wrong. I must find out what I did to Catherine. I must uncover the truth about Emma...

Intriguing, compelling, heartbreaking. 

What if your past life could shatter your future?

5 Words: Life, death, moving-on, family, guilt.

I thought that this book was great, it was fantastic.

But it was missing that special something that could have made it absolutely amazing. And that annoyed me a little because the idea, the concept behind this storyline, means that it could have so easily been breathtaking.

Saying that, I did enjoy this an awful lot.

I loved how twisted some of the relationships were and I loved the internal conflict with Ana/Emma, the exploration of identity.

This isn't a light, fluffy, happy read. It's dark and it's a little brooding and it really makes you stop and think. At the same time it also explores family relationships and what it is to be a daughter/mother.

It reminded me a little of Looking for JJ even though it's very VERY different. I think it was something about the style, how the narrator was almost reminiscing about the past but still slightly unsure about everything and absolutely terrified of it.

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28 January 2015

NETBA Review: In Bloom by Matthew Crow

Francis Wootton's first memory is of Kurt Cobain's death and there have since been other hardships much closer to home.

At fifteen, he knows all about loss and rejection, and if he's honest, Francis - would-be poet, possible intellectual - feels he is wasted in Tyne and Wear.

Lower Fifth is supposed to be his time: but when he is diagnosed with leukaemia, a whole new world of worry presents itself. There's the horror of being held back a year at school, the threat of imminent baldness. But he hadn't reckoned on meeting Amber and finding a reason to tackle it all - the good the bad and everything in-between - head on.

5 Words: Young-love, drugs, love, family, hope.

This was my first read of 2015 and it was amazing. And heart breaking. And it made me cry.

From the very first page, I knew this book would be special. I mean, it doesn't get more powerful that that first short page. That first page kind of stuns you, leaves you slightly breathless.

When I finished this book, I had tears streaming down my face. And I couldn't think straight. I still can't think straight, can't get my thoughts sorted into some sort of coherence for this review. So you're going to have to wait a little while for the full review.

Francis is a fantastic character. And his mum was awesome, I really loved her. The interactions between the two of them just made me smile, reminded me how awesome my own mum is.

This is not a book about cancer. And don't you dare go comparing it to The Fault in Our Stars as so many people have done.

There is something very British about In Bloom. The way it's written, the characters... And being set locally to me, I was very much at home reading it.

Read this book with a box of tissues and a huge cup of tea and then run around and recommend it to everyone.

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27 January 2015

NETBA Review: Allies & Assassins by Justin Somper

They killed his brother. Now they're coming for him...

As the second prince of Archenfield, Jared never asked to be more than the spare.

But behind the walls of the castle is a dark and dangerous court where murder and intrigue are never far below the surface.

Now his older brother is dead. The kingdom is his. And the target is on his back. Can he find the assassin before the assassin finds him?

5 Words: Fantasy, mystery, intrigue, murder, royalty.

It's fair to say that this book got off to a shaky start. A very shaky start. In fact, I almost put it down. But I decided to persevere and by the end I found that I'd quite enjoyed it.

I think my favourite character was one that we didn't see very much of. There was something fascinating about Koel and I hope very much that she's featured more in the next book. There was something about her, the way she was so guarded and definitely hiding something, that made her absolutely intriguing. And I loved her sneaky ways too.

This book is very much a world-builder for the rest of the series, which did make for some slightly boring reading at times, but I'm a huge fan of mysteries and the mystery aspect of this book certainly made up for it.

The thread of mystery in this story is very cleverly written. First you're rushing in one direction, then another and then you start doubting yourself. And I never seriously considered the actual culprit even if it did cross my mind a few times.

I quite liked the almost flowery descriptions. But this is a case of personal preference, because the more flowery, extravagant and over the top the descriptions, the more I tend to like the book. The better the descriptions, the easier to get lost.

Overall this was a great read, quite absorbing and with some great characters. But you have to stick with it, and get past those first few chapters, before you can truly enjoy it.

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