Contagion

Contagion was written by Teri Terry and first published in 2017. It is a science fiction thriller that focuses on two teenagers as they investigate a deadly disease that is sweeping across the United Kingdom. The book forms the first part of the Dark Matter series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Callie barely remembers anything about her life before she was taken to the laboratory. She doesn’t remember her parents or where she lived. The pain that the mysterious Dr 1 inflicted on her has erased everything but her name. They told her that she was sick and they were trying to help her, yet their “cure” proved to be fatal.

Yet Callie didn’t die. At least, not entirely. Freed from her physical form, she drifts around the complex. She witnesses the first outbreak of the disease and sees it spread amongst the scientists and nurses, rapidly causing organ failure and death. Yet she can’t seem to find Dr 1 anywhere and so she sets out on a mission to locate him and learn the truth of who she once was.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, a teenage girl called Shay meets with Callie’s older brother, Kai. Shay is pretty sure that she witnessed the disappearance of Callie the previous summer, remembering seeing the little girl being taken away by two men in a black car. She offers to help Kai investigate her disappearance, but they have made little headway before the disease begins to spread. Soon, Scottish cities begin to go into lock-down and the death count steadily rises. Yet Shay and Kai are still determined to discover what happened. However, to do so they will now have to cross quarantine zones and even risk becoming infected themselves…

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Wanted

Wanted was first published in 2016 and is screenwriter Jo Ho’s first novel for younger readers. It’s a science fiction thriller, focusing on a teenage girl and a dog on the run from a sinister organisation. The book forms the first part of the Chase Ryder series and its sequel – Haunted – is due for release later this year.

Life on the streets is hard for fifteen-year-old Chase Ryder. She came to Greenwich hoping for a better life, yet has found only hunger and loneliness. Yet everything changes when she comes across a starving dog. Chase quickly realises that there is something odd about the creature. He’s smarter than he should be, more than able to understand everything that she says. It’s not long before the two of them become firm friends and Chase gives him a name – Bandit.

Things are starting to look up for Chase until Bandit is hurt. Badly. This brings her to the doorstep of local vet, Jake Sullivan. Sully is passionate about animals yet lives a half-life, unable to get over the tragic death of his wife. As he examines Bandit, he discovers a medical tattoo in the dog’s ear and calls the lost pet hotline to report that he has been found. This turns out to be a huge mistake.

Suddenly, the clinic is surrounded by armed thugs and Chase, Sully and Bandit are forced to flee into the night. It’s clear that Bandit has a sinister history and someone is desperate to get him back. The trio flee across America, desperately trying to learn more about Bandit’s origins. Yet doing so will not be easy. How can they keep ahead of someone with endless resources at their disposal?

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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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Bone Gap

bone-gap

Bone Gap was written by Laura Ruby and is due for release in the UK later this month. It’s a modern faerie tale, set in a town where everything is not quite as it first appears. The novel won the 2016 Michael L. Printz Award and is a stand-alone story. I’d like to thank Faber & Faber for providing me with an advance copy for review.

There is something strange about Bone Gap. The small farming town has always been full of gaps, as though the bones of the world a just a little looser there. Some of those gaps are so big that a person can fall into them and disappear. Perhaps that’s why no one takes Finn seriously when he claims that Roza has been kidnapped. The fact that Finn O’Sullivan can’t even describe the man who supposedly took her doesn’t help matters. Roza was young and beautiful. No one really expected her to stay on the farm with Finn and his older brother Sean for long.

Besides, everyone knows that Finn isn’t normal. People call him Moonface or Sidetrack due to the trouble he has concentrating. It seems typical that he’d make up the kidnapping. After all, his mother also just slipped away and abandoned him. Only Petey, the beekeeper’s daughter, takes him seriously. Yet Petey has troubles of her own. She knows that she’s ugly and is concerned that Finn only likes her because she seems easy to get.

Roza, on the other hand, faces discrimination of another kind. She finds herself in a strange world, guarded by a savage hound and kept prisoner by a man who cares only for her beauty – one who patiently waits for the day that Roza loves him back. Escape seems impossible, but she knows that she must find a way. Roza dreams of returning to her native Poland and can’t allow a manipulative stranger to keep that from her…

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Point Blanc

Point Blanc

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Stormbreaker. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Point Blanc was written by Anthony Horowitz and first published in 2001. It’s the second book in the massively popular Alex Rider series, preceded by Stormbreaker (2000) and followed by Skeleton Key (2002), Eagle Strike (2004), Scorpia (2004), Ark Angel (2005), Snakehead (2007), Crocodile Tears (2009), Scorpia Rising (2011) and Russian Roulette (2013). The series follows Alex Rider, a fourteen year old boy who is recruited by the MI6 to undertake missions that would be impossible for adult operatives.

Following the defeat of Herod Sayle, Alex wanted nothing more than to return to his normal life. However, Blunt has other ideas. Two billionaires have died in mysterious accidents and the only link between them is that their children attended the same school. Point Blanc is an elite academy hidden deep in the French Alps that claims to be able to reform even the most troubled of teenager. The MI6 fear that this might be the front for something more sinister.

Alex assumes the identity of Alex Friend – the delinquent son of a wealthy supermarket tycoon – and enrols at the academy. Once there, he’s surprised to find just how strange the school is. It’s run by two mysterious people – the creepy Professor Grief and his weightlifting assistant Mrs Stellenbosch – and all the boys exhibit the same weird body language. Only one boy – James Sprintz – seems to have the same concerns as Alex and is determined to escape but this seems impossible – Point Blanc is at the top of a dangerous mountain and Professor Grief has confiscated every set of skis.

As James starts to behave more like the other boys, Alex realises that the MI6 were right to suspect that something is wrong. He’s tempted to abort the mission and get himself to safety but he knows that he can’t abandon the other boys. He needs to find evidence of what Grief is up to before it’s too late and he becomes like all the rest…

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Guilt Trip

Guilt Trip

Guilt Trip was first published in 2014 and is Maggy Farrell’s debut novel. It’s a paranormal mystery story about a teenage girl who starts to have strange visions following her mother’s death. The novel stands alone and does not form part of a longer series.

Sixteen year old Melissa was riding with her mother on the day of the accident. Their car skidded on black ice and plunged into a river. Since that day, Mel has been haunted by dreams of the crash. She knows that she could have saved her mother, however in her panic she could only think about her own escape.

A year has passed since then and Melissa has spent a lot of time bonding with her father over his interest in geology. To spend some quality time together, her Dad arranges a holiday to coincide with his business trip. The rural town where they stay is quaint and boasts a number of distinct natural features, including the famous Hellsgate Caverns.

Yet the trip only serves to make Melissa’s dreams worse. Auditory hallucinations begin to haunt her waking hours and she is plagued by an unmistakable sense of déjà vu. While she fears that her survivor’s guilt is worsening, she quickly begins to feel that something more is afoot. How else can she explain the reaction of Luke, the landlord of the hotel, who acts as though he recognises her…

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The Graces

The Graces

After months of hints and teasers, I’m proud to be able to bring you a review of The Graces by Laure Eve. Many thanks to Faber & Faber for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel! The Graces the first part of a planned duology and is due to be released in September. It is a paranormal thriller about a teenage girl who grows obsessed with a family who may be witches. As I’m reviewing this novel based on an unedited proof, please bear in mind that some small details may change prior to publication.

All the locals spoke about the Graces with a mixture of fear and awe. Everyone knew that they were witches. They were beautiful, successful and sinister events always followed the birthday of their eldest children. In school, the Grace siblings were treated like celebrities. Everyone was desperate to get into Thalia, Fenrin and Summer’s inner circle as doing so assured instant popularity. To be shunned by the Graces was a fate worse than death.

Like everyone else, River is obsessed with the Graces. She longs to be noticed by Fenrin, the golden boy who seemed to have a different girl on his arm every week. Yet it is Summer, the youngest Grace, that finally notices her. The two quickly became friends, bonded over their shared weirdness and fascination with magic. Yet the closer they grow, the more River begins to realise just how strange the Graces are.

Hidden behind the glamour and strange family rituals, River starts to see that the Graces are not what they seem. Their freedom is just an illusion and they are bound by something may not be easily broken. Yet Summer believes that, as an outsider, she may just be the one who can free them. Yet in her eagerness to please, she overlooks the danger. Everyone has secrets and some of them might be deadly…

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The Recruit / Class A

CHERUB 1+2

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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Public Enemy Number Two

Public Enemy Number Two

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, The Falcon’s Malteser. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Public Enemy Number Two is the second novel in Anthony Horowitz’s The Diamond Brothers series and was first published in 1987. It was preceded by The Falcon’s Malteser (1986) and followed by South by South East (1991), Three of Diamonds (2004 – consisting of the short stories The Blurred Man, The French Confection and I Know What You Did Last Wednesday), How the Greek Stole Christmas (2008) and The Double Eagle Has Landed (2011). The stories follow the cases of Tim Diamond (real name: Herbert Simple), a London-based private detective, and his younger brother Nick who is infinitely more competent.

Six months have passed since the case of the Falcon’s Malteser and Nick and Herbert have long since spent all of their reward. Just as the brothers are run out of baked beans and prepare for starvation, their luck finally changes when Herbert finally finds a new case. A Ming vase called the Purple Peacock has been stolen from the British Museum and his client is paying generously for its safe recovery.

At the same time, Nick is approached by Chief Inspector Snape and offered a job of his own. Snape wants him to go undercover in a young offenders institute and befriend Johnny Powers – Public Enemy Number One. Although Powers is only fifteen his has already become the leader of a London gang and Snape needs to know the name of the person who is fencing all of the goods that Powers has stolen.

Although Nick initially refuses, he quickly discovers that he has no choice. On a school trip to a stately home he is framed for having stolen a priceless ruby. Nick is condemned to spend eighteen months in prison and naturally finds himself as the cellmate of Powers. The choice that he has is obvious. He either needs to survive his sentence or find out the identity of the Fence. However, things become more complicated as he discovers that Powers is planning a gaol break…

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Young Bond: SilverFin

Young Bond SilverFin

I’ve already taken a look at Charlie Higson’s horror novels in my reviews of The Enemy and The Dead but for today’s post I’m going to be talking about some of his earlier work. The Young Bond series tells the story of James Bond’s teenage years, while he was an Eton student in the 1930s. Although Ian Fleming Publications originally wanted each novel in the series to be penned by a different author, Charlie Higson ended up writing the initial run of five novels – SilverFin (2005), Blood Fever (2006), Double or Die (2007), Hurricane Gold (2007) and By Royal Command (2008). The first book of the second series, authored by Steve Cole, was released in 2014 and titled Shoot to Kill. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at SilverFin only.

After spending a couple of years being home schooled, James Bond finds it difficult to get used to life at Eton. The uniform is itchy and uncomfortable and the strict rules just seem to beg to be broken. Worst of all, he finds himself singled out by a group of older students – lead by the handsome American George Hellebore – who are intent on making his life a living Hell.

During the holidays, James heads to Scotland to stay with his Aunt and Uncle. On the way, he befriends a cockney rogue called Red Kelly who is heading north in search of his cousin Alfie who has recently disappeared. As Bond gets used to life in the country, he learns that Alfie’s disappearance is not the only strange occurrence to happen in the area.

George’s father – Lord Randolph Hellebore – has taken up residence in a castle on Loch Silverfin and erected fences around the whole area, threatening death to all those who trespass. As James and Red explore, they learn that Hellebore is under investigation from the Pinkerton Detective Agency and observe his men feeding fresh meat to something living in the Loch. James knows that he needs to get inside the castle if he is to learn the truth of what has happened to Alfie, however what he discovers could be deadly…

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