Kidnap on the California Comet

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

Kidnap on the California Comet was written by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman and first published in 2020. It is a mystery novel that follows the continuing adventures of Harrison Beck as, this time, he and his Uncle Nat journey across America. The book forms the second part of the Adventures on Trains series, following The Highland Falcon Thief (2020). A third instalment – Murder on the Safari Star – is planned for release early next year.

Harrison “Hal” Beck had such a great time with his Uncle Nat on the Highland Falcon that he’s overjoyed to be invited on another train ride. This time, Uncle Nat is going to spend three days aboard the California Comet as it travels from Chicago to San Francisco. While aboard, he is going to be reporting on a press conference staged by August Reza – a billionaire entrepreneur who is believed to be working on some kind of rocket.

Although Hal is jet lagged and bit nervous to be so far from home, he is really excited to be on the train. He quickly makes friends with Hadley and Mason – a pair of kids his age who dream of creating their own magical stage act. He also meets Marianne – daughter of August Reza – who does not seem to like her father as much as everyone else does.

While the first leg of their journey is uneventful, things change after the press conference when a figure in black snatches Marianne away. As Hal comes to suspect that Marianne might still be hidden on the train, he finds himself in the middle of another mystery. Can his keen sense of observation help him to uncover the kidnapper’s identity before they reach San Francisco?

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F.O.X.E.S

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:

S.T.A.G.S | D.O.G.S

F.O.X.E.S was written by M.A. Bennett and first published in 2020. It is a young adult thriller which follows the continuing adventures Greer MacDonald as she tries to save her fried Ty from the machinations of the Dark Order of the Grand Stag. The novel follows on directly from where S.T.A.G.S (2017) and D.O.G.S (2019) left off, so I would strongly recommend reading these novels in sequence in order to fully appreciate them.

Following her trial and near-execution at the hands of the Grand Stag, Greer is more certain than ever that she needs to do something to put an end to the Order. When she receives a message from Ty suggesting that she should investigate Cumberland Place in London, she heads off with Shafeen and Nel to find out why.

Cumberland Place is another residence belonging to the de Warlencourts, but nothing can prepare them for what they find there. Henry’s father – Rollo de Warlencourt – embodies everything that Greer hates about STAGS and his mother, Caro, seems convinced that her son is still alive. Yet the most surprising thing is the way that the de Warlencourts welcome Greer into their home. More than that, they seem to be pleased to see her.

As Greer and her friends investigate further, they find some unsettling connections that further link STAGS to the work of Ben Jonson and, more surprising still, the Gunpower Plot. They also learn that Rollo is planning a hunt at Longcross for Boxing Day. Yet, with fox hunting illegal, Greer worries exactly what the STAGS are planning to hunt. She knows that she only has a few days to learn the truth, or Ty’s life could very well be in danger…

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Harrow Lake

Harrow Lake was written by Kat Ellis and first published in 2020. It is a dark mystery novel for older teens containing some horror elements, focusing on a girl who is forced to stay in her mother’s sinister home town. The novel stands alone, so you do not need to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Lola Nox is the daughter of the famous Nolan Nox – a filmmaker who shot to success with his critically acclaimed horror film, Nightjar. Although Lola loves her father deeply, she is also aware that something has been missing. Her mother abandoned them when she was only small and her father has never shown any interest in letting her visit Harrow Lake – her mother’s hometown and Nightjar’s filming location. That is, until the attack.

When Nolan is stabbed during an break in at his home, Lola is sent to stay in Harrow Lake with her grandmother. Although she is initially excited, she soon learns that the town is not quite what she expected. The locals have a love/hate relationship with Nightjar and a tendency to ignore the many strange disappearances of people connected to the film.

It’s not long before Lola starts to realise that Harrow Lake hides some terrifying secrets in the old mines that run beneath the town, particularly ones that relate to a legendary monster known as Mr Jitters. As she explores the famous locations featured in Nightjar she comes to realise certain uncomfortable truths. Mr Jitters may well be real and have a connection with her mother…

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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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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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One of Us Is Next

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for One of Us Is Lying. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Tonight’s review actually serves two purposes. Firstly, this post is the 550th review on this site. Yay for us and thank-you, as always, for your continuing support. This post is also to raise awareness for World Book Night, which is tomorrow. More information on that shortly…

One of Us Is Next was written by Karen M. McManus and first published in 2020. It is a mystery story which focuses on a group of students who are forcibly engaged in a deadly game of Truth or Dare. The novel is a direct sequel to One of Us Is Lying (2017), so I would strongly recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate what is going on.

A year has passed since Simon’s death, yet the students of Bayview High have never forgotten the horrible game he played. Copycat sites have popped up every now and then, but the school’s strict anti-cyber bullying policy has quickly had them shut down. At last, the “Bayview Four” – Bronwyn, Addy, Cooper and Nate – have been allowed to get on with their lives and graduate. However, it soon becomes clear that the game is not over for those that they have left behind.

It starts as a harmless text from an unknown sender, targeting every student in Maeve’s year. The messenger says that he will be contacting one student with a Truth or Dare. If they forfeit, one of their secrets will be sent directly to everyone they know. No one truly believes it until the sender reveals Phoebe’s dark shame to everyone – a secret that no one else should have been able to find out.

The students quickly become hooked on the game, with everyone keen to choose “Dare” to avoid their secrets being leaked. However, when one of the dares goes horribly wrong and a student is killed, Maeve and her friends realise that the game hides some sinister purpose. Was the death planned and, if so, how does the mastermind seem to know everything about them?

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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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The Guinevere Deception

The Guinevere Deception was written by Kiersten White and first published in 2019. It is a fantastical mystery which retells the story of Camelot from the perspective of Queen Guinevere. The novel is the first part of a planned series and the sequel – The Camelot Betrayal – is planned for release in November 2020.

Guinevere has travelled to Camelot for the first time to wed King Arthur – a man that she has never met. At least, that is how it appears from the outside. The truth is that the true Guinevere is dead and this one is an impostor, her identity concealed by Merlin’s magic. It is her duty to infiltrate all levels of Camelot’s society and defend the young king against an unknown threat.

The problem is that Guinevere does not know what form this magical attack will take. While she can sense some kind of witchcraft afoot in in the great city, she does not know what direction an attack will come from. Arthur is also not the easiest man to protect as his duties take him all over the kingdom, frequently leaving him exposed to an assassination attempt.

Guinevere immediately comes to suspect that the Patchwork Knight – an aspirant knight – has some connection to a woman who has been recently exiled for witchcraft, but her investigation into this is hampered by her expected duties as a lady of the court. Guinevere knows that she needs to find a balance and quickly. The woods are starting to awaken and the legendary Dark Queen may be moving against Camelot once again…

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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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I Know You Remember

I Know You Remember was written by Jennifer Donaldson and first published in 2019. It is a mystery novel which focuses on a teenage girl’s search for her missing best friend. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Following the death of her mother, Ruthie Hayden is forced to move to Alaska to live with her estranged father and his new family. Although she is not happy about this, the one thing that she is looking forward to is seeing her childhood best friend, Zahra Gaines, again. Although Zahra and Ruthie have grown apart over the years, Ruthie has nothing but fond memories of their childhood and the fantasy stories that they wrote together.

However, Ruthie arrives in Anchorage to learn something terrible. Zahra had a fight with her boyfriend and stormed out of a party three days previously, and no one has seen her since. As Ruthie tries to find out the truth about what happened that night from the people who were there, she starts to learn disquieting things about Zahra. Her friend is no longer the creative artist that she once was, instead having become an athletic, party girl with no interest in books.

Yet Ruthie’s investigation uncovers uncomfortable truths about her friend and it’s not long before she realises that Zahra hides a dark secret. Something has happened to her over the time that Ruthie has been gone, and that thing changed her forever. As Ruthie delves deeply into her best friend’s past, she finds that nothing is quite as it seems and learns that some truths are better left buried…

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