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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Amelia Fang and the Naughty Caticorns

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

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

Amelia Fang and the Naughty Caticorns was written by Laura Ellen Anderson and first published in 2020. It tells the continuing adventures of a young vampire, as she this time tries to prove that she is responsible enough to care for a new baby. The novel follows Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball (2017), Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords (2018), Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief (2018), Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday (2019) and Amelia Fang and the Lost Yeti Treasures (2019). Although the novels do stand alone fairly well, I would certainly recommend reading them in sequence to fully appreciate them.

Everyone in the Fang household is excited that Countess Frivoleeta will soon be having her second child. Amelia can’t wait to meet her little brother or sister and introduce her to everyone she cares about – especially Florence the Yeti, Grimaldi Reaperton, Prince Tangine and Squashy, her pet pumpkin. Yet there is so much that still needs to be done around the house, and things have been made more complicated by the fact that they have agreed to look after three caticorns while the Countess’s sister is away.

When the baby makes an unexpected arrival, Amelia agrees to take responsibility over the caticorns so that her mother can rush to hospital. It shouldn’t be a problem for her. Gerrard, Butler and Mo are all so well-behaved and Amelia is keen to prove that she will be a responsible older sister. However, as soon as the adults leave, the caticorns prove to be more than a handful. Even with the help of her friends, Amelia soon finds that she is in over her head.

While Amelia was excited to take care of the adorable creatures, she suddenly begins to have her doubts. Why do they seem to hate her so much, and what will she do if the new baby feels the same? However, she knows that she’s got to get to the bottom of why the caticorns are behaving so badly. If she doesn’t, they will completely destroy the house before her parents get home!

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Crownbreaker

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

Spellslinger | Shadowblack | Charmcaster | Soulbinder | Queenslayer

Crownbreaker was written by Sebastien de Castell and first published in 2019. It is the final part of the Spellslinger series, following Kellen and Reichis in their most dangerous adventure yet. As this novel follows on from where Spellslinger (2017), Shadowblack (2017), Charmcaster (2018), Soulbinder (2018) and Queenslayer (2019) left off, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence in order to fully appreciate them.

Kellen has spent a year in the Daroman Court as Queen Ginevra’s Tutor of Cards, but has still found many ways to get into trouble. Even though his profession offers him a degree of protection, the Mage Lords of the Jan’Tep are still keen to see him dead. However, he is forced to return to his ancestral home after he makes a shocking discovery. His mother, Bene’maat, has been killed while on a secret mission to Berabesq.

Returning home for the funeral, Kellen is forced to confront his past and reconcile with the family members that permanently removed his magic. However, as he formally meets with both Ke’heops and Ginevra, he starts to realise that the political situation across Eldrasia is at a perilous turning point. In the capital of Berabesq, a figure has emerged who claims to be their God. This deity has begun to unify the warring factions of devouts, and it’s not long before he will have an army powerful enough to take over the other kingdoms.

As an unaligned outlaw, both Ke’heops and Ginevra believe that Kellen should be the one to infiltrate the city of Makhan Mebab and assassinate God. Kellen is understandably reluctant, especially as he knows that God is only a child and his actions will certainly put a price on his head. However, when it becomes clear that Ferius is suffering from the same affliction that killed his mother, he realises that his only chance to save her is potentially in this god’s hands…

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Gargantis

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

Gargantis was written by Thomas Taylor and first published in 2020. It forms the second part of The Legends of Eerie-on-Sea series, detailing the continuing adventures of Herbert Lemon in his occupation as the town’s “Lost-and-Founder”. As the novel continues on from shortly after Malamander (2019) left off, I would really recommend reading them in sequence in order to fully appreciate them.

A fierce storm has gripped Eerie-on-Sea and the local fishermen seem to be worried. Their oldest legends tell tale of tempests whipped up by a colossal beast called the Gargantis – one that will surely destroy all of Eerie-on-Sea if it wakes. Yet Herbert Lemon has more to worry about than the weather. A hooded stranger has arrived at the Nautilus Hotel and has left an odd clockwork shell in his possession. Now it is up to him to discover who the device belongs to.

With the help of his best friend – Violet Parma – Herbert sets off to try and solve this new mystery. However, their investigation is cut short as a mysterious bottle washes up on the shore. The bottle contains a strange glowing light and everyone in town seems to think that it should belong to them. It’s Herbert’s job as the Lost-and-Founder to determine who does truly deserve to keep this bizarre find.

As Herbert and Violet continue their investigation, they soon learn that the storm, the hooded figure and the bottle are all connected in strange and unexpected ways. The truth behind the storm lies hidden in the history of Eerie-on-Sea. But can Herbert uncover it before the entire town slips into the sea?

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Bone Crier’s Moon

Bone Crier’s Moon was written by Kathryn Purdie and first published in 2020. It is a fantasy novel which focuses on a group of women whose duty is to ferry the souls of the dead to the afterlife. The novel forms the first part of the Bone Graces series and its planned sequel, Bone Crier’s Dawn, is expected to be released next year.

Ailesse is desperate to become a Leuress and will soon collect her final Grace – a bone imbued with the power of the animal that it was taken from. Once she has all three, she is eager to perform her final ritual as soon as possible. To prove her loyalty to the gods, she must lure her soulmate to a specific ritual site. Then, she must make her choice to spend one whole year with him, or kill him where he stands.

Sabine is less sure of her destiny. Although the other Leuress are keen for her to embrace her calling, Sabine only holds one Grace and knows that she does not want any more. If the act of killing a fire salamander for its power hurt her so, she knows that she would never be able to take the life of a human being. However, Queen Odiva has instructed Sabine to bear witness to Ailesse’s final ritual. She hopes that it will inspire Sabine to also finish her training and truly join their sisterhood.

Yet it is at Ailesse’s ritual that everything goes wrong. Although Ailesse does lure her soulmate, he is not who she expects. Bastien is a young thief who desires revenge against the Leuress for taking his father. Without the strength of her Graces to save her, Bastien and his friends quickly overpower Ailesse and take her hostage, hoping to lure Odiva to their lair. Trouble is, they also manage to steal the sacred bone flute that the Leuress use to ferry the souls of the dead. Sabine knows that if she cannot retrieve the flute and her friend by the next new moon, the souls of the dead will run free. If that happens, everyone in South Galle will be in danger…

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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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Breaking Dawn

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

Twilight | New Moon | Eclipse | The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Breaking Dawn was written by Stephenie Meyer and first published in 2008. It is the fourth and final part of The Twilight Saga, focusing on Bella and Edward’s early life as a married couple. The novel follows on directly from where Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006) and Eclipse (2007) left off, so I would recommend reading them in sequence to fully appreciate them. The series also includes a couple of spin-off stories – The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (2009), which told the tragic tale of a minor character from Eclipse, and Life & Death (2015), a gender-flipped retelling of Twilight. A prequel novel titled Midnight Sun is due for release later this year.

Bella Swan has almost got everything that she ever dreamed of. She has graduated from High School and is engaged to be wed to her soul mate, the vampire Edward Cullen. A date has also been set for her transformation, meaning that soon she will also leave her humanity behind and truly become a member of the Cullen family. Bella could not be happier, but that is until the honeymoon.

After Bella and Edward final risk becoming intimate, she is shocked to find herself pregnant. This is not something that anyone ever imagined could be possible, as no human had ever survived mating with a vampire before. Worse still, her pregnancy is progressing rapidly and Carlisle fears that it could cost her life. Still, Bella is determined to see it through and bear their child. She strongly believes that her beloved’s venom could save her from death in childbirth.

Yet, Bella and Edward’s biggest problems arise after their daughter is born. When another vampire catches sight of her and assumes that she is an Immortal Child – an illegal child vampire – she is quick to inform the Volturi of the Cullens’ crimes. Knowing that the penalty for creating an Immortal Child is death, the Cullens gather their friends from around the world to prove Bella’s innocence. But will that be enough to convince the ancient vampire royalty if they are determined to start a war against the Cullen clan?

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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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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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