Born Scared

born-scared

Born Scared was written by Kevin Brooks and first published in 2016. It’s a thriller that focuses on a teenage boy who is afraid of everything. As it’s a stand-alone story, you don’t have to have read any of Brooks’s other novels to fully appreciate it. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy for me to review.

From the moment that he was born, Elliot has known nothing but terror. Although experts have been unable to put a name to his condition, his whole life is governed by acute fear. Every sight and sound, from sheep to the colour red, cause his mind to spiral into uncontrollable panic and so he rarely leaves the safety of his “fear-proofed” bedroom.

The one thing that takes the edge off his panic are the little yellow pills that his doctor prescribes. However, due to mix up at the pharmacy, it’s Christmas Eve and he’s running out. His mother leaves in a blizzard to get more. The trip should only take half an hour but as the minutes tick by and she doesn’t return, Elliot realises that something must have gone horribly wrong.

With his last pill beginning to wear off, Elliot is forced to do something terrifying – to head out into the snow to find her. His journey should take him less than a mile away from his home, but the outdoors are unpredictable and his fear is rapidly returning. Will he be able to conqueror it for long enough to find her?

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The Recruit / Class A

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The CHERUB series was written by Robert Muchamore and focuses on a branch of the English secret service that specialises in training orphans into undercover agents. The original series ran for thirteen books – The Recruit (2004), Class A (2004 – also published as The Dealer and The Mission), Maximum Security (2005), The Killing (2005), Divine Madness (2006), Man vs Beast (2006), The Fall (2007), Mad Dogs (2007), The Sleepwalker (2008), Dark Sun (2008 – novella published for World Book Day), The General (2008), Brigands M.C. (2009) and Shadow Wave (2010). Muchamore has also written Henderson’s Boys – a spin off series about how CHERUB was founded – and a sequel series called Aramov.

Eleven year old James Choke knows that his life will go nowhere. He lives in a council flat in a rough area of London, his mother runs a shoplifting ring and he’s already been expelled from school for hurting a girl in his class. When his mother dies suddenly in the night, he is separated from his sister and sent to a care home. He knows that nothing could get any worse.

However, when a prank played by some older kids ends with James in police custody he finds himself given a second chance. A branch of the MI5 known as CHERUB has become aware of him and is willing to offer him a place at their institute. Here, James will be offered a comfortable home and the best schooling but only so long as he also if he acts as a spy. Criminals are always wary of adults in case they are undercover agents but children are able to easily slip beneath the radar, getting close to low-lives and stealing their secrets in ways that full-fledged agents cannot.

The Recruit focuses on James’s early life at CHERUB, including his grueling 100 days spent in Basic Training and his first ever mission. In Class A, James embarks on an even tougher mission – to infiltrate a London drug gang and find evidence that links wealthy family man Keith Moore to the cocaine trade. Although his job seems simple, it is wrought with difficulties. One false move could easily reveal CHERUB’s existence to the world…or lead to his death.

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Squeal

Squeal

In my FAQ, I state that I only give out praise where I think that it is deserved. I’m not one of those reviewers who give out nothing but glowing praise because I believe that is unfair to you as a reader. Why do I bring that up now? Well, today’s novel was given to me by its author in exchange for a fair review and I note that it’s gained a measure of positive feedback on Amazon and Goodreads, yet it unfortunately was not the novel for me. Let me tell you why.

Squeal was first published in 2014 and is the debut novel of Enoch St. John. It is a horror thriller which focuses on a group of six teenagers who are forced to survive in a remote jungle while being tirelessly pursued by a ferocious beast.

The WISH program is designed to be a way to rehabilitate troubled teenagers. Seven teens – Joe, David, Narine, Bluto, Ralph, Luz and Melanie – are taken into the Hoh Rainforest by an experienced guide in order to learn social skills in the hope that they will soon see the error of their ways. The program has had nothing but success in the past and its coordinator, Jake Huntsman, is convinced that this time will be no different, even though this group contains a violent thug, an arsonist and a pathological liar.

Yet what Jake does not know is that a horrible threat lurks deep within the forest. A razorback boar – huge, feral and bred for savagery – has gotten loose and has a taste for human blood. It is not long until the teenagers find themselves fighting for survival against the beast. However, the hog is not necessarily the most dangerous thing in the woods. Even if they manage to escape the boar, can they ever escape the monsters within?

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Elixir

Elixir

Before I begin this review, I should note that I am basing my observations on an advanced reader copy that I obtained from NetGalley. In light of this, I note that the quality of this copy may not match that of the final product that is now for sale on Amazon. Please bear that in mind as you read this review.

Elixir was first published in 2014 and is the debut novel of Ted Galdi. It is a thriller that follows a teenage genius as he does battle against corrupt officials within the US Government and a shady pharmaceutical company.

Life for Sean Malone has never been normal. Blessed (or cursed) with an IQ of 250, he gained national fame when he was 11 years old by winning over a million dollars on Jeopardy. His success netted him a place at a top college when he was only 14 and it was while studying here that he managed to crack a supposedly impossible mathematical puzzle.

The implications of his discovery create a problem for the NSA as knowledge of Sean’s algorithm would enable anything in the world to be hacked. Manipulating Sean’s code, they test it during a sting operation against a drug lord and kill off innocent bystanders in the process. When he is almost driven insane by the guilt, sympathetic agents within the DEA and FBI help him to be build a new life and identity for himself in Rome.

Four years later, Sean (now known as James Crates) is living a happy life as a graffiti artist and has just met Natasha, the girl of his dreams. However, tragedy soon strikes. On a trip to Africa, Natasha contracts the most deadly strain of the Ebola virus. Knowing that she will more than likely die within a couple of weeks, Sam is forced to return to America in order to find her a cure. However, every step he takes puts him in more danger. His research puts him at risk from both a private pharmaceutical company and those who forced him into hiding at the first place. With Natasha growing weaker every day, he must face these challenges head on if he wants to save her life.

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Young Sherlock Holmes: Red Leech

Young Sherlock Holmes Red Leech

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, Death Cloud. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Young Sherlock Holmes series was written by Andrew Lane and authorised by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The novels focus on a fourteen year old Sherlock as he begins to develop the skills that will characterise him as an adult. At the time of writing, six books have been published – Death Cloud (2010), Red Leech (published as Rebel Fire in America) (2010), Black Ice (2011), Fire Storm (2011), Snake Bite (2012) and Knife Edge (2013). For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at Red Leech only.

Following the events of Death Cloud, Sherlock has returned to live with his Uncle in the country and has resumed his studies under the former bounty hunter, Amyus Crowe. However, before he has chance to recover from his previous adventure, he finds himself thrust into another when Mycroft arrives with alarming news. John Wilkes Booth, assassin of Abraham Lincoln, is rumoured to be alive and well and living in the neighbouring town.

Although Amyus tells Sherlock not to get involved, he and his friend Matty swiftly take off to investigate the claim. However, their search backfires when Sherlock is captured and almost shot by Booth’s cohorts. In the ensuing escape, Matty is kidnapped and taken with the Confederates as they flee back to America.

Fearing that they intend to use Booth to rally a new army and restart the Civil War, Amyus swiftly follows them and brings both Sherlock and his daughter, Virginia, with him to help with his investigation. However, their journey is wrought with danger. The Confederates know that Amyus will follow them and have taken steps to ensure that he never reaches America…

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The End of You and Me

The End of You and Me

The End of You and Me was first published in 2014 and is the debut novel of Wendi M Lee. The novel is a contemporary coming-of-age tale that focuses on the relationship between two teenagers as they struggle to overcome the various obstacles that try to keep them apart.

Kate and London have always done everything together. Ever since they were children, they have considered themselves as one being – always thinking and acting alike. Their school friends all think that they are strange, not seeing how two people can be so close and yet not in a relationship, but this has never bothered the young couple. They are just content in each other’s presence.

Everything starts to change when Anastasia breezes into their lives. Although she is the new girl in their class, Anastasia quickly makes a reputation for herself with her tall tales, plucky attitude and seductive behaviour. She quickly latches on to Kate and London, professing a fascination in their relationship while continuing to flirt with both of them. Equally intrigued, the couple begin to spend more time with her.

Following a run in with Kate’s controlling father, she is forever banned from spending time with her soul mate. In order to still be with him, they begin to meet in secret at Anastasia’s home. However, as they spend more time with Anastasia they start to notice a change in her. The mood swings grow increasingly erratic and she begins to show more and more interest in London. How far will she be able to push Kate before she snaps, and is there any way that the lovers can be together forever when everyone keeps trying to drive them apart?

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Stormbreaker

Stormbreaker

I already took a look at the work of Anthony Horowitz a few months ago when I reviewed The Falcon’s Malteser but today I’ve decided to focus on what is arguably his most popular series. The Alex Rider series follows the adventures of a fourteen year old boy as he is recruited into the MI6. At the time of writing spans ten novels – Stormbreaker (2000), Point Blanc (2001), Skeleton Key (2002), Eagle Strike (2004), Scorpia (2004), Ark Angel (2005), Snakehead (2007), Crocodile Tears (2009), Scorpia Rising (2011) and Russian Roulette (2013) – as well as several short stories and supplementary books. For the purpose of this review, I will be focusing on Stormbreaker only.

When Alex Rider is told that his Uncle Ian has been killed in a car accident he immediately releases that something is afoot. His uncle was always safety conscious, especially in regards to wearing seatbelts, and so never would have died in such a way. He knows that the manager of the bank where his uncle worked must be lying to him. He just needs to find out why.

As he investigates into Ian’s death, Alex soon discovers that his suspicions were correct. His uncle was actually a spy for the MI6 and was gunned down while investigating a billionaire named Herod Sayle. Sayle has made his fortune by creating a powerful and cheap desktop computer called the Stormbreaker and has recently become popular across the nation by promising to gift one of the machines to every secondary school. The MI6 were suspicious of his generosity before, but Ian’s death has lead them to realise that Sayle must be up to something dangerous.

Realising that Sayle would now be suspicious of another adult operative, the MI6 recruit Alex into their ranks and pass him off as a boy who has won a contest to be the first person to try out a Stormbreaker in order to gain him access to Sayle’s headquarters. Once inside, Alex is placed in more danger that he has ever been in his life. The fate of every school child in England may hinge on his success but if he is caught he knows that he is likely to meet the same fate as his uncle…

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Graham’s Charlotte

Graham's Charlotte

This review is going to be a little different from the previous ones that I have posted on this site.  Graham’s Charlotte is the first solo novel by Drew Farnsworth and is due for release on 17 April 2014. As it is not yet available for purchase, I am writing this entry based on an advanced reader copy and, because of this, I am aware that what I have read may not be indicative of the quality of the final product. Please bear that in mind as you continue with this review.

While on a trip to Costa Rica, Madison Riley is suddenly approached by a stranger who seems to know a worrying amount about her life. He claims that in two weeks’ time she will break into the headquarters of National Security Agency in order to delete a file. The stranger, calling himself Graham, claims that if she does not she will be putting her mother’s life in danger.

Madison is not inclined to believe him, but he gives her a mobile phone which he claims has the ability to predict future events. This proves to be true moments later when an earthquake rocks the airport and the phone helps Madison to escape death and rescue her trapped friends. Graham leaves her, warning her to never show the phone to anyone. There are dangerous people who would kill her in order to possess such advanced technology.

Now more inclined to trust Graham, Madison returns home and begins to experiment with the phone. It proves to be able to do virtually anything, giving accurate answers to any question that she asks of it. However, when she questions it about how she is going to break into the NSA, all it does is provide her with a complex explanation that seems near impossible for her to achieve. Yet she knows that failure is not an option, not when her mother’s life is in danger.

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The Bone Dragon

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The Bone Dragon boasts a rather impressive array of accreditations. It was named as a Book of the Year in 2013 for both the Financial Times and the Independent, as well as being shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize and long listed for the Branford Boase Award. It was first published in 2013 and is the debut novel of Alexia Casale.

The novel is told from the perspective of Evie, a fourteen year old girl who has been adopted by a loving couple after years of terrible abuse at the hands of her maternal grandparents. At first, she is unable to open up to her new family but eventually plucks up the confidence to reveal to them the horrible extent of her injuries – she has never told anyone her ribs are broken and has been suffering in silence for years.

During her surgery, a piece of Evie’s rib is removed and the doctor gives it to her as a souvenir. Although her mother finds this morbid, her Uncle Ben helps her to carve the rib into a dragon as part of her therapy.

While Evie struggles to come to terms with her dark past by day, in her dreams the dragon comes to life and guides her on moonlit walks across the fens, allowing her to find peace in the night. At first this is therapeutic for her but gradually the dragon dreams begin to grow more sinister. Although cryptic, the dragon seems to be urging for her to take revenge on the people who have wronged her and begins to  fixate on the fact that it will soon be the time of their ‘dark moon’…

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Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud

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Following the success of Charlie Higson’s Young James Bond series, the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle authorised a run of novels to introduce the adventures of Sherlock Holmes to teenage readers. This series, written by Andrew Lane, tells the story of a fourteen year old Sherlock as he begins to develop the deductive skills that will serve him well in later life. The first novel is titled Death Cloud and was published in 2010. It has been subsequently followed by Red Leech (2010 – published in America under the name Rebel Heart), Black Ice (2011), Fire Storm (2011), Snake Bite (2012) and Knife Edge (2013).

Due to his father’s military service and his mother’s illness, Sherlock Holmes is forced to spend his summer holiday staying with his eccentric uncle in the British countryside. At first, Sherlock is annoyed by this decision. The town where he has been forced to stay is boring, the house keeper seems to hate him and he wishes that he had been allowed to stay in London with his brother, Mycroft. However, everything changes when he discovers a dead body.

His uncle’s gardener is found in the forest, his body covered in horrible boils. The only clue is a plume of smoke that is seen rising from the corpse. This is the second death of this kind within a matter of days and it causes panic to spread as the townsfolk fear that the cause is the bubonic plague.

Sherlock is less convinced by this and, as he investigates, quickly becomes certain that the deaths were both murders. However, the further he digs; the more danger he places himself in. Trusting only in his friends, Matty and Virginia, and his tutor, Amyus Crowe, Sherlock rushes to get to the root of the conspiracy before his enemies succeed in silencing him forever.

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