The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

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

The Hunger Games | Catching Fire | Mockingjay

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was written by Suzanne Collins and first published in 2020. It is a prequel to the popular The Hunger Games Trilogy and focuses on a young Coriolanus Snow as he mentors a tribute in the 10th Annual Hunger Games. Although it is set 64 years before the original trilogy, I would strongly recommend reading The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010) first to fully appreciate what is going on.

Coriolanus Snow is the heir of the Snow family, but since the war his family have sunk into poverty. In order to provide for his Grandmother and cousin, Tigris, he needs to win a grant to study at the Capitol’s university. Failure to do so will mean that they will certainly lose their apartment. Luckily, an opportunity has arisen. Coriolanus has been selected to mentor the District 12 tribute in the upcoming Hunger Games. If he makes a good impression, he will certainly secure the funding that he needs.

While Coriolanus does not expect that his tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, will win the games, he is pleased when her talent for singing makes her a star in the Capitol. Desperately, he seeks a way to use this to his advantage and come out on top with popularity alone. However, as Coriolanus spends more time with Lucy Gray, he comes to realise that he actually wants to her to win. Although Lucy Gray does not look like much when compared to some of the stronger tributes, he begins to plan a strategy that will allow her to defeat them by any means necessary.

Yet his victory will not be easy. Hampered by the psychotic Gamesmaster and his association with Sejanus Plinth, a classmate who is oddly sympathetic with the Districts, Coriolanus must use all of his wits and cunning to succeed. If he cannot win a place at University, how will he ever succeed in his ambition of one day ruling Panem…

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Fazbear Frights: 1:35AM

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

Into the Pit | Fetch

Fazbear Frights: 1:35AM was written by Scott Cawthon, Elley Cooper and Andrea Waggener and was first published in 2020. It is a collection of three short stories, all set within the incredibly loose canon of the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series. Although the stories largely stand alone, this collection does follow on from Into the Pit (2020) and Fetch (2020). A further two collections are planned to be released over the next few months.

In 1:35AM, Delilah’s irregular hours working at the diner have cause her to develop trouble sleeping. To help solve the problem, she purchases Ella – a doll with a built-in clock – from a garage sale. When Ella proves to be faulty, Delilah quickly throws her in the trash. However, this soon proves to be a big mistake. Delilah finds herself woken at 1:35AM every morning by the sound of something scuttling around her house. Each night, Ella seems to be getting closer. What can Delilah possibly do to make her stop?

In Room for One More, Stanley has been feeling isolated ever since his girlfriend left him and he started a new job as a night watchman. He does not even know what is produced at the factory where he works. He merely sits at his desk and sleeps all night, but no one seems to care. Then Stanley starts to get sick, showing a wide range of bizarre symptoms. Yet they can’t have anything to do with that weird ballerina doll that appears in his office every night, can they?

In The New Kid, Devon is obsessed with trying to get Heather to notice him, even though his attempts are ruining his friendship with Mick. He’s sure he’s getting close too, until Kelsey starts at their school. Kelsey is handsome and popular, having no trouble with making friends with everyone. Devon is sick with jealousy and knows he has to have his revenge. When he finds an abandoned restaurant in the woods, still stocked with broken animatronic mascots, it seems to be the perfect way to scare Kelsey. However, Devon could never have imagined how quickly everything could go wrong…

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Point Horror 6-10

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

I was not expecting to post another retrospective so soon, yet I’m bored of lockdown and certainly getting a lot of reading done!

Let’s take another look at Point Horror – a young adult anthology series that was published between 1991 and 2014. Please note that I’ve selected the reviewing order of these books based on a list that I pulled off Wikipedia, as there seems to be some debate regarding the publication order of these novels. This review is also intended to be more of a retrospective, and therefore contains massive spoilers for the novels in question.

In My Secret Admirer (written by Carol Ellis), Jenny has only just moved to town and her parents have already left her home alone. Luckily, some of the locals invite her to take part in a scavenger hunt in the mountain foothills. Jenny is nervous, but things go from bad to worse when Diana Benson has a terrible accident and falls off a cliff. The next day, Jenny starts to get calls and gifts from a secret admirer. Is someone really interested in her, or does some one think that she knows something about the accident. Someone who wants to be sure that Jenny keeps her mouth shut…

In April Fools (written by Ritchie Tankersley Cusick), Belinda is driving home from a party when she is involved in a terrible accident. The other car swerves off a cliff, but Belinda’s friends force her to leave it and run away. Two weeks later, the pranks start. Someone seems to know that Belinda was involved and is intent on making her suffer. Yet things get worse still when Belinda is asked to mentor a sick teenager named Adam. Especially when she learns that Adam was injured in a car accident two weeks prior…

In Final Exam (written by A Bates), Kelly’s biggest fear is of exams. No matter how hard she studies, she always freezes under pressure. Finals week gets off to a strange start when she discovers another student’s journal – one filled with intense self-help messages about being a “winner”. With other things on her mind, Kelly pockets the journal and goes on with her business. Yet it’s not long before things get strange. What start out as harmless pranks against Kelly grow more sinister, almost as though someone does not want her to graduate. What secrets could possibly hidden within the journal, and why would someone be prepared to kill to get it back?

In Funhouse (written by Diane Hoh), the Santa Luisa Boardwalk is a popular meeting place for teenagers. That is, until the day that the Devil’s Elbow roller coaster flies off the rails, leaving one dead and two seriously injured. Although everyone thinks that it was a tragic accident, Tess is sure that she saw a dark figure hanging around beneath the tracks just before the incident occurred. Now, it seems that someone is targeting her. Someone wants Tess silenced, and will hurt anyone who gets in their way.

In Beach Party (written by R.L. Stine), Karen’s father has let her stay alone in his beach-front apartment for the whole summer. What better chance for her and her best friend Ann-Marie to soak up the sun and party the night away? It’s not long before Karen meets two cute guys – handsome Jerry and bad-boy Vince – and struggles to pick who she likes best. But then the messages start. Someone is desperate to keep Karen away from Jerry at all costs. Although Karen dismisses this as being from a jealous ex-girlfriend at first, she soon starts to have her doubts when it becomes clear that the stranger is prepared to kill if she doesn’t obey…

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Shadowsea

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

Cogheart | Moonlocket | Skycircus

Shadowsea was written by Peter Bunzl and first published in 2020. It is a middle grade steampunk science-fiction novel, focusing on the continuing adventures of Lily Townsend – a young girl with a perpetual motion machine for a heart. The novel carries on from where Cogheart (2016), Moonlocket (2017) and Skycircus (2018) left off, so I would recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Lily, Robert, John and Malkin are excited to travel to New York City. Not only will they be able to visit Selena and Caddy once again, but they will also get to ring in the New Year in one of the biggest and busiest cities on the planet. Yet Lily can’t help but also feel a little nervous. Now that the secrets of the Cogheart have been revealed to the world, she feels that everyone is watching her. No one seems to be interested in the wonderful things that she has achieved. They are only interested in her heart and the accident that took the life of her mother.

Yet it is not long before Lily finds herself swept up in a new adventure. The hotel room next door is occupied by the stern Professor Milksop and her young nephew, Dane. Professor Milksop advises them that Dane is seriously ill and needs his rest, but Lily is not convinced. It’s not long before Dane confirms her suspicions are correct. He has lost all of his memories but knows that something terrible has happened – something to do with Professor Milksop. He needs Lily’s help to find out who he is and what happened to his parents.

As Lily investigates, she uncovers a mystery that is beyond her wildest dreams, involving diamond thefts and a machine that can potentially reanimate the dead. Yet, when Caddy has a vision that Dane will soon be used to perform an unspeakable act and the young boy is suddenly kidnapped, Lily realises that they don’t have a lot of time. If they can’t save Dane before New Years Day, it could be too late to stop Professor Milksop’s terrible brand of science from being unleashed on the world…

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Final 7

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

Cell 7 | Day 7

Final 7 was written by Kerry Drewery and first published in 2018. It is a dystopian science fiction novel, set in a world where all executions in the United Kingdom are publicly aired as part of a reality television show. The novel forms the final part of a trilogy and follows on directly from where Cell 7 (2016) and Day 7 (2017) left off, so I would strongly recommend reading the novels in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

Although Martha and Isaac have both escaped from Cell 7, things could not be worse for them. Now known as the Rises 7, Martha and her allies have been branded as terrorists due to the explosion at the Cells. Eve has been imprisoned and is awaiting her trial by media, while the Government has used the chaos as an excuse to erect a wall to separate the Rises from the more affluent areas of London.

As Martha waits to see if Isaac will survive his injuries, she begins to put a new plan in motion. With the assistance of an investigative journalist and the Prime Minister’s aide, she searches for a way to reveal Reynard’s deceit to the country. Only by proving Death is Justice is corrupt – and that this corruption stems from the Prime Minister himself – can Martha find a way to destabilise the system before Eve meets her end.

However, things are now more difficult than ever before. As the system starts to crumble, Reynard becomes more dangerous. The police are replaced by his own private guard and any revolutionary activity is given an instant death sentence. Martha will have to work harder than ever if she is to convince Britain that the system – and the man behind it – do not have their best interest at heart.

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Point Horror 1-5

It’s time to begin a new series of my retrospective reviews. Hooray! As I’ve now read through every single Animorphs and classic Goosebumps book, I think it’s time to now turn my attention to some classic horror stories for older teens. That’s right, it’s time to revisit Point Horror.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Point Horror is a anthology series that was published by Scholastic between 1991 and 2014. Early instalments were just re-prints of earlier Scholastic titles, but the series achieved massive popularity in the mid-nineties and was a staple favourite of every teen. The stories are somewhat darker than Goosebumps books, often focusing on older teens as they are targeted by stalkers and psychopaths. Please note that, as per all of my other retrospectives, this post will contain massive spoilers for the novels in question.

In Twisted (written by R.L. Stine), Abby is determined to become a Tri Gam as it is the most exclusive sorority on campus and the only accepts a chosen few each year. The thing that she was not prepared for was the hazing. To become a Tri Gam, the pledges need to commit a crime. However, when something goes horribly wrong and someone winds up dead, Abby and the new pledges are forced to band together to hide their shared secret…

In The Lifeguard (written by Ritchie Tankersley Cusick), Kelsey’s summer holiday on Beverly Island begins in disaster. She was supposed to be staying with her mum’s new boyfriend but his teenage daughter, Beth, has vanished. As Kelsey explores the island, she soon learns that Beth is not the first. A number of young women have mysteriously drowned off the coast of the Island. It’s almost like the local lifeguards aren’t doing a very good job…

In Party Line (written by A Bates), Mark is addicted to calling the Party Line as he finds it so much easier to talk anonymously to girls. It’s not long before he begins to recognise different voices, especially the sleazy and desperate “Ben”. However, when a girl goes missing shortly after agreeing to meet with Ben, Mark starts to realise that perhaps Party Line isn’t as harmless as it seems. But will he be able to track down Ben in real life without becoming one of his victims?

In The Baby-Sitter (written by R.L. Stine), Jenny is thrilled to be offered a regular baby-sitting gig after a chance meeting at the mall. However, when she first visits the Hagen house, she starts to have her doubts. It is really run-down and their neighbour is more than a little sinister, and there have also been those attacks on baby-sitters in the area. Then, the threatening phone calls start, promising her that “Company’s Coming”. Will Jenny manage to keep her wits about her and survive the night, or will she become another victim…

In Trick or Treat (written by Ritchie Tankersley Cusick), Martha isn’t happy to leave Chicago and move to the sticks to live with her new stepmother and her teenage son, Connor. However, she feels worse still when she sees the old, spooky house where they live. Then the practical jokes start, growing more dangerous and malicious by the day. She soon learns that something terrible once happened in the house, and she could very well be next!

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The Night Country

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

The Night Country was written by Melissa Albert and first published in 2020. It is an urban fantasy novel that focuses on a group of refugees from a dying world who are forced to relocate to modern day New York. The novel is a direct sequel to The Hazel Wood (2018), and Albert also plans to release Tales from the Hinterlands – the fictional book of faerie stories featured in this series – in early 2021.

After Alice’s dangerous escape from the Hinterlands, she though that she would be able to build a better life for herself. However, she has slowly come to realise that the Hinterlands never really lets anyone go. Even though Alice has lost her icy powers, she still struggles to fit in. The human world feels unnatural to her, but the other Stories resent her for the roll she played in destroying their world.

While most of the Stories seem to be harmless enough, Alice soon learns that something dark still stalks amongst them. Something is brutally murdering the Stories, stealing a single body part from every one that that it slays. To make matters worse, the killer also seems to be able to freeze people with a touch. The remaining Stories are now starting to believe that Alice is responsible, and she knows that she needs to find out the killer’s true identity if she is to clear her name.

Meanwhile, in the ruins of the Hinterlands, Ellery Finch is trying to find his way home. As the world collapses around him, he strikes a deal with Iolanthe – a girl who knows how to make doors. All he wants is to return to New York and be with Alice once again. Little does he know that his return will not be easy. His journey takes him to a library of worlds where he learns of the existence of a legendary realm called the Night Country, and the terrible price that was paid to create it…

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Fazbear Frights: Fetch

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

Fazbear Frights: Fetch was written by Scott Cawthon, Andrea Waggener and Carly Anne West and was first published in 2020. It is a collection of three short stories, all of which are set within the vague canon of the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series. Although the stories are largely designed to stand alone, this collection does follow on from Into the Pit (2020). A further three collections are planned to be released over the coming months.

In Fetch, Greg and his friends break into an abandoned pizzeria for a laugh but soon find more than they bargained for. Behind the prize counter, Greg discovers Fetch – a robotic toy dog who is designed to sync in with a person’s phone and retrieve data. Not long after, Greg starts to get texts from a mysterious person who claims to be Fetch. Fetch is eager to help him retrieve anything that he desires. Trouble is, Fetch does not always leave these “items” in the best condition…

In Lonely Freddy, Alec is jealous of the attention that his younger sister retrieves. His parents act as though Hazel can do no wrong, while constantly treating him as though he is a bad egg. Alec is determined to prove that Hazel can be as selfish and petulant as any other kid, and what better place to do so than at her birthday pizza party. However, as Alec’s plan goes sour, he finds himself at the mercy of one of the pizzeria’s malevolent mascots…

In Out of Stock, Oscar is desperate to get his hands on a Plushtrap Chaser – this year’s must-have toy. However, when he is held up by his mother, he arrives at the store just in time to see them sell out. When he finds a defective Plushtrap behind the counter, his desperation forces him to steal the toy. Yet he soon discovers that this particular Plushtrap was left for a reason. Its eyes and teeth seem almost human, and it seems to have an irrepressible desire to maim its new owner…

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All the Stars and Teeth

All the Stars and Teeth was written by Adalyn Grace and is due for release in July 2020. It is a fantasy novel that focuses on a sheltered princess who joins forces with a pirate in order to stop a revolution in her kingdom. The novel is the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

In the Kingdom of Visidia, everyone can choose what kind of magic they practice and are permitted to live on one of seven islands depending their decision. The only one who is not permitted to chose is the one who sits on the throne. Only the King or Queen is permitted to practice soul magic – the most dangerous and difficult to control of the magics. This is necessary to keep the balance and ensure that greed does not destroy the kingdom as it did in ancient times.

For her whole life, Amora has trained to take her father’s place and rule over Visidia. However, in order to do so, she must demonstrate that she has flawless control over her powers. Unfortunately, her test does not go as planned and she finds herself thrown in gaol, waiting to see if she will be permitted to try again or executed for her crimes. It is here that she first meets Bastian – a young pirate. Bastian has come from the distant island of Zudoh to seek help. A cruel revolutionary called Kraven is growing in popularity. He has already ravaged Zudoh and has now set his sights on the throne. Trouble is, Zudoh is the forbidden island of curse magic and has been cut off from the rest of Visidia for years.

Escaping aboard Bastian’s ship, the Keel Haul, with her reluctant fiance in tow, Amora sets out on the adventure that she has desired for her entire life. If she is the one to save all of Visidia from Kraven, she knows that her people will eagerly accept her as Queen. However, it’s not long before Amora learns that things may not be quite as clean-cut as she imagined. Her father has been keeping secrets from her for years, and now she is starting to realise that the royal family isn’t quite as beloved as she had been led to believe…

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Dreamland

Dreamland was first published in 2015 and is Robert L Anderson’s debut novel. It is a fantasy story that focuses on a teenage girl who has the power to “walk” into other people’s dreams. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Odea “Dea” Donahue has always been an outsider. Ever since she was little, she has been able to walk into the dreams of others. To her, it is as natural as breathing, however her mother has always made clear that there are rules that she must follow. Never be seen, never change anything, and never walk into the same person’s dream more than once. So long as Dea follows these rules, she will be safe.

Dea follows these rules without question until she meets Connor. Once she has tasted Connor’s dreams, she knows that she needs to go back for more. However, Connor is a troubled youth and his dreams are filled with monsters. It’s not long before these faceless creatures seem to become aware of Dea’s presence. And then, they come for her.

When Dea’s mother suddenly vanishes, the police suspect that she has gone on the run. Only Dea realises the truth – the monsters have captured her. Dea knows that she will need to delve further into the Dreamland than ever before if she wants to save her, and the key to doing so lies in Connor’s mind. However, will Connor even want to be close to Dea once he learns what she is capable of?

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