Zeroes

Zeroes was written by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti and first published in 2015. It is a science fiction story follows a group of teenagers who all possess supernatural abilities, thought don’t have much of a grasp on how to use them. The novel forms the first part of a trilogy and is followed by Swarm (2016) and Nexus (2017).

Ethan Cooper – otherwise known as Scam – has a voice inside him that has the ability to give him whatever he wants. Unfortunately, the voice is not one to consider the long-term consequences of its actions. When Ethan wants a lift home, the voice is more than happy to assist him. However, this soon results in the theft of a drug dealer’s money and his inadvertent involvement in a bank heist that goes horribly wrong.

When he is taken into police custody, Ethan quickly learns that the whole series of events has been caught on film. Now, the police want to an explanation as to how he came to know personal details of a bank robber and not even the voice can get him out of this one. Luckily for Ethan, there are others who can. He once belonged to a group of “Zeroes” – teenagers with powers. Trouble is, he burned his bridges with them a year previously when he allowed the voice to reveal their darkest secrets.

Fortunately, Nate Saldana – or Bellwether – has been looking for a reason to get his team back together. Utilising their skills, the teens manage to rescue Ethan but find themselves in more trouble than they could ever have imagined. It’s not just drug dealers and gangsters that are now out to get Scam. He is also being hunted by the daughter of one of the bank robbers – a girl who has a powerful gift of her own…

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The Secret Commonwealth

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:

His Dark Materials:  Northern Lights | The Subtle Knife | The Amber Spyglass | Short Stories

The Book of Dust:  La Belle Sauvage

The Secret Commonwealth was written by Phillip Pullman and first published in 2019. The novel is the second part of The Book of Dust series, set 20 years after the events of La Belle Sauvage and seven years after The Amber Spyglass. The novel tells the continuing story of Lyra Silvertongue – heroine of the critically acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy – and so I would strongly advise that you read all four of the previous novels to have any idea of what is going on.

Lyra Silvertongue is now twenty years old and has a problem. She no longer likes her dæmon. Ever since Lyra began reading the work of two philosophers who deny the existence of dæmons, she and Pantalaimon have been arguing more and more. Lyra feels that Pan is too critical of things that he does not understand, while Pan feels that Lyra has lost the creativity that he admired in her as a child. The rift between them has led to Pan spending more time wandering alone at night. This is how he comes to witness a murder.

Pan is shocked to see two men savagely ambush another, but is drawn into a larger mystery as he and Lyra uncover the missing man’s belongings. The botanical samples and notes that he carried seem innocent enough at first, but as Lyra reads the man’s journal she uncovers an incredible story about a rose with mystical properties and the Blue Hotel – a place were only dæmons can go. When her room is overturned by others who are desperate to find this research, she learns that she has an unexpected friend in her former tutor, Malcolm Polstead – a man who she is connected to in ways she could never have imagined.

When a particularly vicious argument causes Pan to run away, Lyra is convinced that he must have gone in search of the Blue Hotel. Desperate to find him, she sets out on an epic journey across Europe and beyond. However, danger follows in her footsteps. People are naturally fearful of those who do not have dæmons, and villains from Lyra’s past are desperate to get hold of her in order to have their revenge…

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Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures

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:

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball | Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords | Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief | Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday

Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures was written by Laura Ellen Anderson and first published in 2019. It is a middle-grade fantasy story about the adventures of a young vampire and her monstrous friends. The novel forms the fifth instalment of the Amelia Fang series, following Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball (2017), Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords (2018), Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief (2018) and Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday (2019). Because of this, I would recommend reading the books in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Amelia, Florence, Grimaldi, Tangine and Squashy have been invited to stay in the Ancient Yeti Pits to celebrate the 350th birthday of Florence’s Grand-Yeti. It’s not long before the party is in full swing, with plenty of dancing, presents and bumping bums. However, due to the excitement, Amelia is struggling to find time to break some bad news to Florence. The Pumpkineers’ Club is also having a party, and so Amelia will have to leave early if she wants to go.

Yet, it’s not long before strange things start happening in the Yeti pits. First, someone uses all of Tangine’s Everyking Sparkles cream. Then, the precious treasures belonging to the Yeti’s also start to vanish. Worse still, something goes wrong within the pits and the homes of the Yetis all begin to collapse.

If the mountain is declared unsafe, Amelia knows that it will mean that Florence and her family will potentially need to move away. Due to this, it’s up to the group to solve the mystery of just what is happening in the mountain and ensure that it can’t happen again. Yet, with the mountain falling apart around them, Amelia knows that they need to be fast and careful. One wrong step could mean that they are trapped underground forever…  More

Bendy and the Ink Machine: Dreams Come to Life

Bendy and the Ink Machine: Dreams Come to Life was written by Adrienne Kress and first published in 2019. It is a prequel story to the popular video game of the same name, focusing on a teenager in 1940s New York as he uncovers a sinister mystery at the animation studio where he works. The novel stands alone, though I would recommend playing the game first if you want to fully appreciate it.

Since the death of his father, Daniel “Buddy” Lewek has been the primary breadwinner for his family and struggles to make ends meet. However, his luck seems to change when he impresses Joey Drew – the owner of a local animation studio – and is offered a well-paid job as a go-fer. Buddy is eager to impress his new colleagues with his artistic talent as he dreams of one day becoming an animator himself.

However, something seems to be strange at the studios. Pipes full of ink run through the walls, some of the staff are behaving strangely and Mister Drew is developing something in secret – something that he believes will restore the failing studio to greatness. Although Buddy wants to believe in his new employer, he is starting to have his doubts. When he befriends a young scriptwriter called Dot, he slowly starts to uncover the unbelievable truth hidden in the depths of the studio.

When one of Buddy’s co-workers suddenly vanishes, Buddy realises that he is the only one that can save the studio. However, as he descends into its depths, he realises that Joey Drew Studios are not a place where dreams are made. It is a place of nightmares…

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The Bone Houses

The Bone Houses was written by Emily Lloyd-Jones and was first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story with horror elements, focusing on two teenagers who team up in order to stop an undead army. The novel stands alone, so you don’t need to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it. It’s also currently only available to buy as an eBook in the UK, though the hardback is due to be released at the end of the month.

Ryn has struggled to keep her family together following her mother’s death and father’s disappearance. There is not a lot of work for a gravedigger in a village where the dead do not tend to stay buried. The forests beyond the village of Colbren are the domain of the Bone Houses – corpses that have been doomed to wander as the result of a faerie curse. Although the Bone Houses can be very dangerous, they have always been held back by the iron fence that surrounds Colbren. Unfortunately, this does not last.

Ellis has arrived in Colbren for a different reason. The young mapmaker has grown up in the lap of luxury, but has never known his true parents. Using his skills, money and influence, he has made the long journey in the hope of discovering his roots. However, when his arrival coincides with a particularly brutal attack, he finds himself teaming up with Ryn to find a way to stop the Bone Houses.

Their journey takes them deep into the forest and the mountains beyond, tracing the Bone Houses back to their birth place on lands once occupied by a ruthless fae king. Along the way, they also learn more about themselves and discover that their destinies are entwined with the restless dead in ways that they could never have imagined…

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Flame and Fury

Flame and Fury was written by Lisa Gail Green and first published in 2017. It is an urban fantasy story which is loosely inspired by Arthurian legends. The novel forms the first part of the Merlin’s Legacy series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Aedan has a secret. For his whole life, he has struggled to control terrible fire magic and it has already cost him three people that he cared about. In order to prevent any further deaths, he distances himself from others and keeps himself to himself. That is, until his adoptive mother arranges for him to tutor Maya in mathematics. It’s not long before Aedan finds himself falling for Maya and she makes it clear that the feeling is mutual.

However, Maya is also hiding a secret. She is a member of an ancient order known as the Circle and has been groomed her whole life to seek out and destroy “elementals”. These soulless beings are born once every two hundred years and, if left to their own devices, will unite to destroy the world. Maya has narrowed down the identity of the fire elemental to five teenagers, and one of those is Aedan.

It’s not long before Aedan is approached by another elemental – Kari – and starts to learn the truth about his powers. Kari belongs to another cult – Scimitar – which plans to bring the four elementals together on the coming Equinox. Although Kari has been long prepared for the role that she will play in apocalypse, Aedan is unconvinced. He loves his family and does not want any harm to come to them. Yet will this be enough to overcome the reason for his birth and the tantalising draw of dark magic…

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Goosebumps 31-35

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30

It’s time for another trip down memory lane! In case you haven’t read any of my previous retrospectives, this is where I take a look at some of my childhood favourite series. Please note that these reviews will contain massive spoilers for the books in question. You have been warned.

Goosebumps is a hugely successful anthology of middle grade horror stories. It was written by R.L. Stine and the original series ran for sixty-two novels, all of which were published between 1992 and 1997. The series remains incredibly popular today, spawning numerous spin-offs, movies and video games. For the purpose of this review, I’m going to look at books 31 to 35 only. I’m also basing this on the order that they were released in the UK, as this does differ slightly to its US release order.

In Night of the Living Dummy II, Amy finds herself in trouble after her parents buy her a new ventriloquist dummy. As soon as Slappy arrives in her home, bad things start happening. Her sister’s paintings are ruined and her reputation as a ventriloquist is destroyed when a child is hurt during her act. Everyone thinks that Amy is responsible but she knows the truth. Slappy has a mind of his own and is determined to turn Amy into his slave…

In The Barking Ghost, Cooper often finds himself as the butt of his brother’s practical jokes due to the fact that he is afraid of everything. These fears turn out to be justified when he moves into a new house and is attacked by a pair of huge black dogs. Although his family claim to not see the dogs, it’s not long before they seem to be everywhere Cooper goes – even in his own home. It’s up to Cooper and his new friend, Fergie, to determine what they want before anyone gets hurt.

In The Horror at Camp Jellyjam, Wendy and Elliot find themselves stranded at a summer camp after a road accident separates them from their parents. Everything about the camp is weird – from the councillors’ obsession with winning at sports to their blobby purple mascot, King Jellyjam. As Elliot gets sucked in to the competitive atmosphere, Wendy desperately tries to find out what is going on. Because kids are disappearing from the camp every night, and if Wendy doesn’t hurry she knows that Elliot might be next…

In Revenge of the Garden Gnomes, Joe’s dad is obsessed with two things – growing better plants than his neighbour and collecting lawn ornaments. However, there is something strange about his latest two acquisitions. Every night, something is ransacking the two gardens and Joe soon finds himself blamed for the damage. Joe knows that it has something to do with the gnomes but, as he tries to catch them in the act, he soon finds that the creatures are a lot more malicious than it first seemed…

In A Shocker on Shock Street, Erin and Marty are excited to be the first two people to go on a tour of the set of their beloved “Shock Street” horror films. However, when the tram breaks down half way through the ride, they quickly realise that something is not quite right. The monsters seem to be more than just robots – they look and act as though they are real. Can Erin and Marty find their way off the tour or will they become prey for zombies and werewolves?

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Lumberjanes: Ghost Cabin

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

Unicorn Power! | The Moon is Up | The Good Egg

Ghost Cabin was written by Mariko Tamaki and first published in 2019. It forms the fourth instalment of the Lumberjanes series of novels, which in turn is based on the comic book series of the same name. The novel follows on from where Unicorn Power! (2017), The Moon is Up (2018) and The Good Egg (2018) left off, so you really need to read the books in sequence to fully appreciate them.

When Molly receives a care package from her mother that consists of nothing more than enormous stack of homework, Mal knows that she needs to do something to raise her girlfriend’s spirits. Taking inspiration from a ghost story about a haunted cabin and her own missing socks, she weaves a great mystery that is sure to take Molly’s mind off things. After all, no Lumberjane can resist a quest.

Their investigation soon takes them to a long-deserted cabin on the edge of Lake Specter and it is there that they meet Deborah, Maggie, Heddie and Claudia – the spirits of four former Lumberjanes. The girls have been spirits for as long as they can remember and stole Mal’s socks for a reason. They have been watching the Roanoke scouts in their adventures and want their help to earn some badges of their own.

Yet, as the Lumberjanes get closer to the ghosts, Mal and Molly start to notice that something is a amiss. Claudia does not seem to be as enthusiastic as her friends and Molly is quick to empathise with her plight. As Claudia shares with them the truth about her past and her dreams for the future, Molly realises that it is her duty to help the ghost to find happiness. However, Claudia’s cabin mates are not quite so understanding…

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In the Way of All Flesh

In the Way of All Flesh was written by Caitlin Alise Donovan and first published in 2019. It is an urban fantasy story that focuses on a teenage girl as she tries to cope with a frightening and isolating power. The novel stands alone, although does have the potential to form the first instalment of a longer series.

Manee Srikwan has a good reason to avoid her classmates. She wears gloves and long-sleeved clothing at all times as it is the only way to control her horrifying power. Whenever Manee makes physical contact with a person, even if it is just for a second, she has a vision of the way that person will eventually die. She also has a terrible fear that perhaps she is somehow the one that causes these messy and inescapable fates.

However, things start to change when she makes friends with Stephanie Pierce. Stephanie is confident, beautiful and out-going, and Manee quickly grows attracted to her. She also starts to grow more comfortable with her abilities as the two work together to prevent the death of one of her classmates. However, Manee’s happiness unfortunately can’t last.

When Manee accidentally touches Stephanie, she learns that her beloved will soon be murdered. Worse still, Manee sees that she will be the killer. Desperate to prevent this terrible fate, she breaks off their friendship and puts as much distance between her and Stephanie as she can. However, she has not counted on the fact that Stephanie also has skeletons in her closet, and will stop at nothing to get Manee back…

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The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds was written by Alexandra Bracken and first published in 2012. The novel follows the story of a group of teenagers with strange powers, who are forced to flee across America in search of a safe haven. The book forms the first part of The Darkest Minds series and is followed by Never Fade (2013), In the Afterlight (2014) and The Darkest Legacy (2018).

When Ruby was ten, a mysterious disease swept across America. Parents were forced to watch helplessly as a majority of their children died of Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration. However, the fate of the survivors was far worse. The children were left with terrible powers, ranging from hyper intelligence to pyrokinesis. Terrified by the implications of this, the government quickly set up rehabilitation camps, spinning them as places where the children could be cured. The truth was that they were little more than prisons.

Ruby has lived in Thurmond since she was ten years old and hides a terrible secret. On the day that she was sorted, she saw into the doctor’s mind and realised the danger of seeming two powerful. Using her powers, she made him believe that she was just a Green – someone who possessed a photographic memory. She is now forced to be super careful to ensure that no one realises that she is actually an Orange – someone with the power to change memories and control minds.

Yet all of that is about to change. When Ruby’s secret is revealed, she is forced to accept the help of a mysterious doctor in order to escape the camp. Yet, once outside, she soon learns that her rescuer’s motives may not be that altruistic. As she runs away, she soon finds herself in the company of a small group of teenagers who are in search of the “Slip Kid” – someone with the power to protect them. Yet could this all be too good to be true and, in this dangerous world, is there anywhere that is truly safe?

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