The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black was written by Emily Barr and first published in 2017. It is a contemporary thriller that focuses on a teenage girl who discovers that her parents are hiding a dark secret. The novel stands alone, so you do not have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Although Ella Black feels smothered by her mother, she knows that she has it good. She lives in a nice area, goes to a posh school and has two wonderful friends – Lily and Jack. Yet she knows, deep down, that there is something wrong with her. Ella has a dark side that she calls “Bella” – a voice in her head that encourages her to do bad things and hurt people – and she is finding it hard to keep control.

Then comes the day that her mother suddenly pulls her out of school. Her parents explain that they have to go to Brazil for a while, but will not tell her why. They take her phone and politely encourage her not to contact her friends. Although Ella has always wanted to visit Rio, she can’t help but worry. She wonders if her parents have done some terrible, and her fear makes Bella even harder to control.

When Ella finally learns the secret that they are hiding, she is horrified. Her parents have been lying to her for her entire life, hiding the truth of who she is. And then Bella makes her do something unforgivable. Certain that her parents and the police are in pursuit, Ella runs away. Yet, unable to speak the language and with little money to her name, how can she hope to survive on the streets of Rio?

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The X-Files: Goblins

Now that I’m all finished with Animorphs, I think it’s time to take a look at another series that really struck a chord with me as a teenager. In celebration of its 25th anniversary, I think it’s appropriate to dedicate a few posts to The X-Files. As with the Animorphs reviews, these are retrospective posts and so may contain spoilers for the books in question.

The X-Files was a massively popular television series and so a lot of novels that tied into it were produced over its run. Although these were usually just novelisations of popular episodes, six original stories were published between 1994 and 1998. These books were penned by three different authors and were technically aimed at adult readers, but were generally light enough to be enjoyed by older teens as well. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at Goblins by Charles Grant.

A quiet town near Fort Dix is rocked by a pair of brutal murders. Two military personnel are found dead in public places, their throats viciously slit. However, an eye witness account paints a strange picture of the crimes. The killer has the power to blend into their surroundings, invisible to its victims before it strikes.

A case of an invisible man isn’t generally enough to entice Special Agent Fox Mulder, but he has no choice but to investigate when a senator calls in a favour from his current director, Arlen Douglas. However, it will not just be his partner, Dana Scully, assisting him this time. Douglas insists that they be accompanied by two rookie agents – Hank Webber and Licia Andrews – who desperately need some time in the field.

Although Mulder is initially sceptical that the case is an X-File, he soon encounters a local woman who believes that goblins stalk the woods and realises that there is something strange going on. The local military hide a terrible secret – one with deadly applications. However, as Mulder and Scully get closer to the truth, they also risk becoming the killer’s next targets…

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A Series of Unfortunate Events 13

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

1-3 | 4-6 | 7-9 | 10-12 | Extras

A Series of Unfortunate Events was a series of novels written by Lemony Snicket and published between 1999 and 2006. The main series consisted of thirteen novels: The Bad Beginning (1999), The Reptile Room (1999), The Wide Window (2000), The Miserable Mill (2000), The Austere Academy (2000), The Ersatz Elevator (2001), The Vile Village (2001), The Hostile Hospital (2001), The Carnivorous Carnival (2002), The Slippery Slope (2003), The Grim Grotto (2004), The Penultimate Peril (2005) and The End (2006). The series also has a couple of supplementary novels that further flesh out the world and has been adapted into both a film and Netflix series. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at the final instalment only.

Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire managed to escape the burning of the Hotel Denoument but had to do some pretty villainous things in order to do so. Now, they have found themselves stranded at sea aboard the Carmelita. To make matters worse, they are also sharing the boat with their hated enemy, Count Olaf. Although he seems less threatening without his henchpeople, he still has the diving helmet full of the medusoid mycelium at his disposal and so can easily kill everyone aboard the ship.

Following a huge storm, the Baudelaires and Olaf find themselves marooned on a coast shelf, regarded to be the place where everything washes up eventually. They soon meet the nearby islanders and discover that they also once underwent a schism. A large number left the island but those that remain now live under the rule of Ishmael – a man who seems to have the power to control their actions and beliefs through not-so-subtle suggestion.

When a familiar face also washes up on the island, the Baudelaires slowly start to learn that chance has brought them to a place that has connections to their past. Although they thought they had left the VFD far behind them, their parents had once visited the island and may have been instrumental in the schism. However, the Baudelaires do not have long to explore this connection. Olaf is determined to seize control away from Ishmael and would not be averse to using the medusoid mycelium to do it…  More

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Supplementary Material

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

1-3 | 4-6 | 7-9 | 10-12

A Series of Unfortunate Events was a massively successful series for middle grade readers. The thirteen instalments were written by Lemony Snicket and published between 1999 and 2006. They follow the tragic and often dangerous adventures of the orphaned Baudelaire siblings as they attempt to discover more about a mysterious organisation known as the VFD and avoid the evil Count Olaf, who is determined to kill them and steal their fortune. But that is not what I intend to talk about in this review.

As I only have one book left to review in the main series, today I’m going to be looking at some of the supplementary material. The Unauthorized Autobiography (2002) and The Beatrice Letters (2006) were published alongside the main series and contain hints, codes and answers that help to further flesh out Snicket’s world.

The Unauthorized Autobiography is a collection of materials that were unearthed following the reported “death” of Lemony Snicket. Its aim is to answer some of the questions that plague those who have been following the mystery of the Baudelaire children, though those questions may not be quite what they thought to ask. The Beatrice Letters collects two sets of correspondence. The first of these are letters written by a young Lemony Snicket to the love of his life, Beatrice Baudelaire. The second are a series of letters written to Snicket long after Beatrice’s death, desperately trying to arrange a meeting with him. The strange thing is that these letters are also signed with Beatrice’s name…

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A Series of Unfortunate Events 10-12

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

1-3 | 4-6 | 7-9

Once again, I regret to inform you that I have been forced to delve into the misfortunes and murders that follow in the wake of the Baudelaire siblings…

A Series of Unfortunate Events was written by Lemony Snicket and focuses on the adventures of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire – three orphans who are struggling to uncover the secret behind their parents’ death whilst avoiding the cunning and ruthless Count Olaf. The series consists of thirteen main novels – The Bad Beginning (1999), The Reptile Room (1999), The Wide Window (2000), The Austere Academy (2000), The Ersatz Elevator (2001), The Vile Village (2001), The Hostile Hospital (2001), The Carnivorous Carnival (2002), The Slippery Slope (2003), The Grim Grotto (2004), The Penultimate Peril (2005) and The End (2006). Snicket has also published a few spin-off stories and the series has been recently adapted into a fantastic Netflix series. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at books 10 to 12 only.

Although the Baudelaire siblings have outwitted Count Olaf time and time again, it seems that this time he has gotten the better of them. Violet and Klaus have found themselves trapped inside a caravan as it winds down a precarious mountain path, helpless to watch as the villain drives away with their little sister. However, help comes to the Baudelaires from an unexpected source. They are soon contacted by someone long presumed dead; someone who is able to finally explain the nature of the VFD.

Yet it is not long before tragedy and misery find the orphans once again. Although they are reunited with Sunny, they find themselves swept away down a raging stream. It is here that they meet another member of the VFD and begin a frantic hunt for the elusive sugar bowl. However, their investigations turn up something far more terrifying. In the depths of the Gorgonian Grotto, a deadly fungus grows. The Medusoid Mycelium is able to kill a person within an hour and Olaf will stop at nothing to get it.

Finally, the Baudelaires find themselves at the Hotel Denouement – last safe-house of the VFD. Disguised as concierges, they spy on the guests in the hope of finding out the identity of the mysterious “JS”. It’s not long before the orphans begin to recognise many faces from their previous adventures and realise that the VFD has been following them for a long time. Unfortunately, this means that they have to come to terms with how badly adults have failed them in the past. With no one left to turn to, the Baudelaires are forced to make allies in unexpected places, and start a few fires of their own…

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Cell 7

Cell 7 was written by Kerry Drewery and first published in 2016. It is a dystopian thriller set in the not too distant future, where the court system has been abolished at all crimes are judged by the general public in the form of a reality TV show. The novel forms the first part of the Cell 7 Trilogy and is followed by Day 7 (2017) and Final 7 (2018).

Almost everyone agreed that the court system didn’t work. How else could you explain why so many high-profile killers seemed to get off scot-free? Everyone could see that the new system was an improvement. Each convict was placed into the Cells, moving each day until they were placed in Cell 7 – the execution chamber. Over this time, their story was broadcasted to the public on Death is Justice – a reality TV show that allowed them to vote on whether they thought that the accused was innocent or guilty. It’s clear that the new system works much better than the old. In over two thousand cases, only fifty have ever been found innocent.

When Jackson Paige is murdered, the whole country is shocked. Jackson is one of the most beloved celebrities, known for his charity work and the fact that he even adopted his son from the High Rises, England’s poorest area. His killer – Martha Honeydew – was born in the Rises and was found holding the gun, declaring her guilt. There is no need to review any evidence. As Martha is placed in Cell 1 the polls start out at 97% guilty and there’s no reason why they would ever shift.

However, Eve Stanton has her doubts. As Martha’s councillor, she is the only person who is allowed to speak with the accused and she has reason to believe that Martha is lying to protect someone. As Eve investigates Martha’s past, she learns that there is more to the case than meets the eye. Jackson Paige is not who he seemed and has some surprising ties to Martha. The only trouble is proving it. How can Eve save Martha from the wrath of the public, when Martha insists that she is guilty?

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13 Minutes

13 Minutes was written by Sarah Pinborough and first published in 2016. It is a mystery novel that focuses on two teenagers investigating the events that lead up to a tragic accident. The novel is a stand-alone story, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Natasha was dead for thirteen minutes when a passing dogwalker pulled her out of the river. Although she was quickly revived, her memories of the previous day were muddled and she could not recall why she had left her home and wandered into the woods at night. The only clue was a text message telling her to meet someone, yet Tasha has no idea who sent this message or where they expected her to meet them.

Becca was once Tasha’s best friend but over the last few years, the two of them grew apart. While Tasha was the most popular girl in school, Becca had embraced her individuality and moved away from the spotlight. However, as Tasha notices that her closest friends are acting strangely, she rekindles her old friendship to be able to talk to someone that she trusts.

The two girls slowly begin to grow suspicious that Tasha’s inner circle had something to do with her accident. As they investigate, it becomes clear that all of the girls have secrets that they do not want to come to light – ones that they may take extreme measures to protect. However, as Becca starts to put the pieces together, she soon comes to discover that the truth of what happened on that night is more disturbing than she could ever have imagined…

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A Series of Unfortunate Events 7-9

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here] and [here].

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of darkly humorous novels which focus on the miserable and dangerous lives of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire – three orphans who are relentlessly hunted by the greedy Count Olaf who will stop at nothing to get their inherited fortune. The series was written by Lemony Snicket and consists of thirteen novels – The Bad Beginning (1999), The Reptile Room (1999), The Wide Window (2000), The Miserable Mill (2000), The Austere Academy (2000), The Ersatz Elevator (2001), The Vile Village (2001), The Hostile Hospital (2001), The Carnivorous Carnival (2002), The Slippery Slope (2003), The Grim Grotto (2004), The Penultimate Peril (2005) and The End (2006). For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at books 7 to 9 only.

In The Vile Village, the Baudelaires this time find themselves adopted by the strange village of VFD. They are initially convinced that this must have some connection to the deaths of their parents, but it quickly becomes apparent that it’s just a town of strange, elderly people who stick rigidly to their contradictory rules. However, when the children receive a message from the Quagmire Triplets, it becomes clear that something more is afoot. It’s not long before the villagers capture a man that they believe to be Olaf. The Baudelaires immediately realise that the man – Jacques Snicket – is innocent, but can they prove it before the villagers have him executed?

In The Hostile Hospital, the Baudelaires find themselves accused of the death of Count Olaf and are forced to flee. They arrive at a half-built hospital and discover that the building’s Hall of Records may contain a file about their parents. However, when Olaf and his crew manage to capture Violet, the children find themselves in greater danger than ever before. Olaf plans to murder Violet during a public medical procedure. How will Klaus and Sunny manage to get her to safety, when the entire hospital is watching?

In The Carnivorous Carnival, the Baudelaires hide in Olaf’s car and find themselves at a sideshow in the desert. Disguising themselves as freaks, they accept jobs in the carnival while they look for a way to escape from Olaf and his henchpeople. However, they soon learn that Madam Lulu, the carnival fortune teller, has been feeding Olaf information about their whereabouts. If the woman really is psychic, it can’t be long before she realises who the new freaks really are. The children know they need to find a way to escape, but not before they find out exact what Madam Lulu can tell them about the VFD…  More

The Hanging Girl

The Hanging Girl was written by Eileen Cook and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel which follows a teenage girl who becomes entangled in the disappearance of one of her schoolmates. The story stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Skye Thorn is in trouble. Her friend Drew has been busy planning a future which involves the two girls moving to New York to study together. Skye knows that she could never hope to afford the rent, but has been too embarrassed to bring this to Drew’s attention. Trouble is, now graduation day is looming closer and Skye knows that she has left it far too long to tell the truth.

Her desperation pushes her to take drastic measures to raise the money. Skye has always had a talent for reading people, playing this to great advantage while doing tarot readings for her schoolmates. However, she takes this a step further when she becomes involved in shady Pluto and his kidnapping scheme. The plan is simple. Pluto kidnaps Skye’s classmate, Paige, and sends the ransom demand to her wealthy father. Skye uses her insider information to fake psychic visions that lead the police to where Paige is being kept. Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong.

Skye’s mother is quick to cash in on the tragedy, claiming that she has also had psychic visions that cause the police to start to doubt the validity Skye’s. As Skye struggles to retain control of the situation, things take a sudden dark turn and she realises that all of the blame for the kidnapping could be easily pinned on her. Skye needs to gain the upper hand and quickly. The true perpetrators are dangerous, and Skye must use all of her cunning if she is to keep her neck out of the noose…

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Ultimate Sacrifice

This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for Ultimate Sacrifice, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours.

Ultimate Sacrifice was written by S.E. Green and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel with horror elements, focusing on a family whose lives are turned upside down when there is a grisly murder on their property. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s previous work to fully appreciate it.

Vickie fears the worst when she sees her twin brother Travis stumble out of the woods, covered in blood. However, she could never have imagined the horrible scene that he discovered. Their neighbour’s four-year-old daughter has been brutally murdered in what looks unmistakably like a Satanic ritual. To make things even worse, the murder took place only a short distance from her home and the killer could very well still be lurking in the forest.

As the police and media descend on her home, Vickie starts to realise that they are the number one suspects. Yet, how can that possibly be? Her family are all valued members of the community. Her parents are happily married and they all attend church every Sunday. Yet it’s not long before a mysterious stranger posts a blog that contains all sorts of sordid imagines of her parents, uncle and brothers. Suddenly, Vickie’s family don’t seem very squeaky clean after all and seem to come under even closer scrutiny.

Not content to let her family’s reputation be dragged through the mud, Vickie begins to investigate for herself and starts to uncover some sordid facts about the history between her parents and the victim’s mother. It seems that nobody is quite who Vickie believed them to be, but would that give them motive to kill a helpless child?

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