OwlCrate Unboxing – August 2020

Hi everyone. First up, I would like to apologise for the lack of posts. I was starting to burn out last month so decided that it was in my best interest to take a few weeks off the blog in order to rest up and get my head back in the right place. Somewhat foolishly, I did not stop reading over this time and so now do have a fair few reviews to type up over the next couple of weeks! I will be taking things at a bit slower pace though, so might not be keeping up the two-posts-a-week that I have managed throughout lock-down.

Anyhow, that’s certainly enough about me. Today, I think it would be best to finally show you what I received in my August OwlCrate. For those of you who are new to my blog, OwlCrate is a monthly subscription service for fans of young adult books. Each box contains a hard-backed book (usually signed and with an exclusive cover) as well as 3-5 other items that have been selected to match a specific theme. The boxes are approximately £38 per month, which has so far seemed to be good value for money when you take into account the quality of the contents and the substantial weight of the box. OwlCrate guarantees that you will receive each box so long as your subscription remains active. Be wary of cancelling – they do have a long waiting list and it can take a few months to get back on it again!

The August theme was “Written in the Stars”. Be warned – there are lots of photos and massive spoilers beyond this point…

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Point Horror 21-25

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

1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20

Now that I’ve finished reviewing all of those summer reads for young readers, it’s probably a good time to take look back at the Point Horror series. In case you haven’t read any of my previous posts, Point Horror was an anthology series for young adult readers that was at its peak in the 1990s. As there are a lot of novels in this series, I’m reading them in the order that they are listed on Wikipedia. This is also a retrospective post, so be warned that there will be massive spoilers for the novels in question.

Anyhow, without further ado, let’s take a look at the next five books.

In Fatal Secrets (written by Ritchie Tankersley Cuisick), Ryan is left plagued by guilt when her sister drowns during a walk in the woods. Although Ryan feels that she could have saved her, Melissa ultimately succumbed to the frozen water. However, three weeks later, Ryan starts to see her sister everywhere. Although her family and friends think that she is crazy, Ryan is sure that her sister’s death was no accident and she hides a secret. But does it connect to the mysterious stranger who claims to be Melissa’s college friend and has asked to spend Christmas with them?

In Freeze Tag (written by Caroline B. Cooney), Meghan has always been in love with her neighbour, West. However, when they were children, their sinister neighbour Lannie made West promise he would only ever love her. Now, several years later, Lannie has claimed her prize. Meghan now must find a way to free West from her evil clutches, yet it will not be easy to do so. Lannie holds a terrible power – the ability to freeze a person with a touch. The only way to save West might be to do away with Lannie permanently…

In Hit and Run (written by R.L. Stine), Cassie has always been friends with three boys – Eddie, Winks and Scott. With their driving tests fast approaching, the group decide to sneak out at night and go for a joy ride to practice. On remote stretch of road, Eddie gets in a terrible accident and kills a man. In a panic, the group drive away and swear never to talk about it again. Yet, it’s not long until they start to receive threatening notes. Did someone witness the accident, or could their victim possibly still be alive?

In The Cemetery (written by D.E. Athkins), it’s Halloween and Cyndi gathers a group of friends at a remote cemetery to have a secret party. Although Char is not convinced it is a good idea, she is keen to use the time to get closer to mysterious newcomer, Jones. Everything seems to be going well until someone suggests a game of hide and seek, and one of the party-goers winds up dead. Everyone flees to safety, but for some reason the game does not end there. Someone is still playing and won’t stop until everyone who went to the party is dead…

In The Dead Game (written by A. Bates), Linnie, Ming and Jackson hate cheaters. All of them would be in a better position at school if they had not been sabotaged by their cheating classmates. In order to get revenge, Linnie proposes that they start playing an assassination game. Each of them would be assigned a target and have to find a way to publicly humiliate them. Yet something goes wrong and one of the targets winds up dead. Although Linnie, Ming and Jackson agree to stop playing, the hits continue to happen. Someone is still playing the game, but what will happen when they run out of names?

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Fazbear Frights: Step Closer

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

Into the Pit | Fetch | 1:35AM

Fazbear Frights: Step Closer was written by Scott Cawthon, Elley Cooper, Kelly Parra and Andrea Waggener. It is a collection of three short stories which are all set within the vague canon of the Five Nights at Freddy’s game series. Although these stories do largely stand alone, they would certainly be better enjoyed if you are familiar with the games or have already read the earlier instalments of this series – Into the Pit (2020), Fetch (2020) and 1:35AM (2020).

In Step Closer, Pete deeply resents his entire family. Since his father has left them, his mother expects him to spend all of his time looking after his younger brother, Chuck. To get his revenge, Pete plans to give his brother a scare using Foxy the Pirate Fox, the mascot of a local pizzeria. Yet something goes wrong and the Foxy animatronic gets stuck repeating a sinister line of his song. Afterwards, Pete falls victim of a series of weird accidents. Is it a coincidence, or has Foxy somehow managed to curse him?

In Dance with Me, Kasey is starting to have doubts about her life as a street thief, but things come to a head when she literally steals candy for a child. Yet, as she rummages through the kid’s goody bag, she also finds a pair of novelty glasses which cause her to see the image of a robotic ballerina. As Kasey continues to steal to survive, she plays with the glasses and can’t help but notice that the dancer is getting closer. Is it too late to change her ways before Ballora gets close enough to catch her?

In Coming Home, Susie cannot understand why her sister, Samantha, seems to have grown so distant. They were never the best of friends but now Samantha just ignores her. To make matters worse, every night a creepy robotic chicken appears at their home and takes Susie away. Susie knows that it won’t be long before Chica won’t allow her to return home but is not ready to leave. It’s up to Samantha to find out what is binding her sister’s spirit to the house before it is too late…

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This Summer on Arkham Reviews

Hi-diddly-hi Neighbour-inos!

I hope that you’re all having as good of a summer as you can under current circumstances. Now that my little season of middle grade reviews is done and dusted, it’s time to return to business as usual here on Arkham Reviews. Over the coming week, I plan to take a look at the fourth Fazbear Frights collection of short stories and also write up the next part of my Point Horror retrospective. After that, here’s an idea of what you can look forward to over the next couple of months:

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

F.O.X.E.S by M.A. Bennett

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas by Myra King

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

The Haven by Simon Lelic

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

Deception by Teri Terry

The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Uki and the Outcasts

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

Podkin One-Ear | The Gift of Dark Hollow | The Beasts of Grimheart

Uki and the Outcasts was written by Kieran Larwood and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy story, set in our far future when humans are extinct and rabbits are the dominant species on the planet. The novel is the fourth instalment of The Five Realms series and follows Podkin One-Ear (2016), The Gift of Dark Hollow (2017) and The Beasts of Grimheart (2018).

As the Bard continues his journey north, his is approached by another figure from his past and Rue starts to learn that there is more about his mentor than he ever could have imagined. The Bard is a member of a secret society called the Foxguard who exist to protect the world from a sinister cult who are known as the Endwatch. As rumours of cultist activity emerge, the Bard and Rue are forced to head across the icy wastes to investigate.

As they travel, the Bard begins a new tale about a hero who once also had to face the Endwatch. Uki was mistreated by his clan due to the fact that he was born with half-black, half-white fur. When an incident within the tribe leads to his injury, Uki and his mother are forced to flee into the wilds where they will surely die. Luckily, Uki’s life is saved by a mysterious spirit from a different time. Iffrit binds himself to Uki, giving him new powers, but needs something in return.

Iffrit was once a gaoler, but the four evil spirits that were imprisoned with him have now escaped. Uki needs to travel the world in order to recapture them, before they can spread war, plague, famine and death across the lands. He soon gains help from Jori, an assassin exiled from her clan because she will not kill, and Kree, an abnormally small rabbit who rides a tailless jerboa. But will three outcast rabbits be enough to take down an ancient evil?

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OwlCrate Unboxing – July 2020

Wow, my OwlCrate arrived a lot earlier than expected this month. It doesn’t seem five minutes since I told you all about the June crate! Anyhow, in case this is the first of my unboxings that you’ve read, let me tell you a bit about where all my goodies came from.

OwlCrate is a subscription service for fans of Young Adult novels. Each month, they send out a carefully curated box which contains 3-5 items, all selected to match a specific theme. In addition to this, each box is guaranteed to contain a hard-backed book, usually signed by the author and with a unique cover. The boxes are priced at around £38, which seems very reasonable due to the high quality goodies that they contain. So long as your subscription remains active, you are guaranteed to receive every box. Be wary of cancelling though – they do have a long waiting list and it can be a pain to get back on again!

Anyhow, this month’s theme is “Date With Destiny”. Be warned – there are lots of photos and massive spoilers beyond this point…

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School for Nobodies

School for Nobodies was first published in 2020 and is Susie Bower’s debut novel. It is a fantasy story for young readers which focuses on a girl who travels to a mysterious boarding school in search of her missing twin. The novel stands alone, so you don’t need to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

It was not until her tenth birthday that Flynn finally learned her real name. After a fire killed her parents and left her scarred, she was forced to live with Sonia and Claude – two well-off adults who only adopted her to look generous. Things change when she receives the note on her birthday, revealing that she actually has a twin who is attending an nearby affluent boarding school.

Flynn orchestrates a way to force her adoptive parents to send her to that same school, but things go horribly wrong when they instead send her to the run-down school next door. The Cruet Establishment for Lost and Wayward Children is a reform school for children who prove difficult to handle. Students are stripped of their names and belongings until they earn the right to have them back. They also are forbidden to make any kind of contact with the neigbouring school children.

Flynn is determined to find a way to get to her twin, yet things seem to be impossible. However, that’s before she encounters the crow. The crow seems sinister but promises that it can unite the two of them on a special day, when a gateway between the two schools opens. Yet can she trust the crow, and will she possibly be able to get away from her horrible classmates?

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The Impossible Boy

The Impossible Boy was written by Ben Brooks and first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story aimed at middle grade readers, focusing on two children who find themselves in trouble when something they created comes to life. The novel stands alone, so you do not need to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Oleg Duchownik and Emma Morley have felt a bit lonely since their other friend moved away. This is part of the reason why they invent Sebastian Cole to fool a new teacher. Sebastian is another student at the school, but one who lives a fantastical life. He has his own personal spaceship, a bag that can make anything, and is always off on wonderful (and unlikely) adventures. It comes as a shock to both of them when Sebastian suddenly appears in their den. Not only is he real, but he is able to make the impossible possible.

It’s not long before other strange things happen around town. A goat invades their school and Emma witnesses a horde of snowwomen on the hunt for colder climates. It seems fun at first, but things rapidly become more sinister when mirrored vans and people in crow masks appear on street corners. The Institute of Unreality have been tasked with maintaining world order. They want to capture and erase Sebastian before his existence destabilises the whole world.

It’s not long before Oleg and Emma find themselves on a dangerous adventure to save their friend. Their quest takes them deep into a government facility where all the strangest things on the planet are stored. Will they manage to find a way to save their new friend? Or will his continued existence actually end up destroying the world?

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The Highland Falcon Thief

The Highland Falcon Thief was written by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman and first published in 2020. It is a mystery story aimed at middle grade readers, focusing on two youths who set out to capture a jewel thief. The novel forms the first part of the Adventures on Trains series and its sequel, Kidnap on the California Comet, is due for release later this year.

Harrison “Hal” Beck isn’t overly happy to stay with his Uncle Nathaniel, a famous travel writer. He wants to be there for his mother while she gives birth and has no interest in spending four days cooped up on a train. However, the train in question is the legendary Highland Falcon and Hal quickly learns that there is nothing quite like it. He will be travelling all around the country as part of a very special group of guests, celebrating the train’s final journey.

While Hal’s first impressions of the train are not great, he gains a newfound appreciation as he befriends Marlene “Lenny” Singh, a stowaway and daughter of the train driver. The journey grows more interesting still as a couple of guests report that their jewels have gone missing. Industrialist Steven Pickle is quick to blame Hal, and the boy starts to investigate to clear his name. Hal and Lenny suspect that it may be a famous thief who has recently made the papers, and that they could have their sights set on a huge diamond that belongs to a princess who will be boarding at Balmoral.

Using Hal’s keen observations and Lenny’s knowledge of the train, the two team up to try and uncover which of the guests is the culprit and learn that everyone is hiding secrets. When Lenny is captured and accused of the crime, Hal enters a race against time to prove her innocence before the train arrives back in London and the thief can make their getaway.

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The Strangeworlds Travel Agency

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency was written by L.D. Lapinski and first published in 2020. It is a middle grade fantasy story that focuses on a 12-year-old girl who discovers a way to travel to parallel dimensions. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, but at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Felicity “Flick” Hudson is deeply unhappy. Her parents have just moved from the city to the small town of Little Wyverns and do not seem to have much time for her. All Flick wants to do is travel and see the world, but she’s stuck spending most of her time looking after her baby brother while her parents are working. Luckily for Flick, she soon stumbles across a mysterious travel agency which could give her everything that she has ever dreamed of.

Jonathan Mercator is only eighteen but has been single-handedly running The Strangeworlds Travel Agency since his father’s disappearance. Unlike regular travel agents, he curates a vast collection of suitcases which each contain a portal to another world. Magically gifted individuals are free to borrow a suitcase, so long as they report back on what they have discovered. Jonathan quickly realises that Flick is more than eligible to join their ranks.

While Flick and Jonathan’s early adventures seem harmless enough, they soon realise that something is wrong with the multiverse. The balance between worlds has been disrupted and all issues seem to be stemming from Five Lights – a city at the centre of it all. If they can’t find a way to fix Five Lights soon, the entire multiverse could collapse and destroy everything, including Flick’s world!

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