Fighting off the Winter Blues

Hi Everyone!

I’ve finally finished my winter reads and I hope that you enjoyed them all! Unfortunately, it’s still cold and dreary outside and spring feels a long way away. It’s time to return to business as usual here on Arkham Reviews to help fight off those winter blues. I have a great selection of novels both new and old to share with you over the coming weeks.

At the moment, I’m reading Scott Cawthon’s latest collection of Five Nights at Freddy’s short stories – Into The Pit. After that, here is a sneak peak of what you can expect as we head into spring. I’m trying to alternate a bit more between new releases and things that have been sitting on my to read pile for a while, so hopefully you will find this selection to be nicely varied:

Dreamland by Robert L Anderson

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

The Stone of Kuromori by Jason Rohan

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The Night Country by Melissa Albert

Aiden’s Quest for Apollo by Tanvi Kesari Pasumarthy

The Toll by Neal Shusterman

Final 7 by Kerry Drewery

Shadowsea by Peter Bunzl

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

Crownbreaker by Sebastien de Castell

Naturally, I will also be finishing off my series of retrospective Goosebumps reviews over this time as well. I hope you’re as excited about this little selection as I am!

TTFN!

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge

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

The Polar Bear Explorers Club | Explorers on Witch Mountain

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge was written by Alex Bell and first published in 2019. It follows the continuing adventures of Stella Starflake Pearl as she heads to one of the most dangerous places on the planet in search of a cure for her ailing friend. The novel forms the third part of The Polar Bear Explorers Club series, following on directly from where The Polar Bear Explorers Club (2017) and Explorers on Witch Mountain (2018 – published as The Forbidden Expedition in the US). Due to this, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence if you want to fully appreciate them.

Things do not look good for Stella and her friends. Following their adventure on Witch Mountain, Felix has been stripped of his title and banished from the club. To make matters worse, Gideon has falsely accused Stella of using her magic against him, so there is also now a warrant for her arrest. This could not have come at a worse time, as Shay and Koa are growing sicker by the day. The only possible cure for them lies on the other side of the Black Ice Bridge, in the pages of Stella’s long-lost Book of Frost.

Naturally, friendship comes before everything else and Stella is quick to use her magic to escape. Yet, due to the fact that they no longer have any connections to the club, they are less prepared than ever before. No explorer has ever returned from the Black Ice Bridge, not even Beanie’s father in his ill-fated expedition eight years previously. The Explorers do not know what they will find, especially as rumours state that the bridge may lead to the very edge of the world.

Soon, Stella, Shay, Ethan and Beanie find themselves separated from the adults once again. They now can only use their wits, magic and meagre supplies to survive on the deadly bridge. But can they reach the other side in time when who knows what dangers lie in their way?

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The Girl who Speaks Bear

The Girl Who Speaks Bear was written by Sophie Anderson and first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story that focuses on a young girl who is searching for a way to break a strange curse. Although the novel has ties to The House with Chicken Legs (2018), it does still stand alone and can be thoroughly enjoyed if you haven’t read Anderson’s previous book.

Yanka has never really felt as though she belongs in the village. She was found in the woods by her Mamochka when she was a toddler and the other children are not always kind to her. Due to the fact that she is so big and strong, they have started to call her “Yanka the Bear” and Yanka knows that they laugh behind her back. Yet she also knows that she is not like them. Sometimes, Yanka feels the pull of the forest and she does not know why.

One morning, Yanka wakes up to find that she has grown furry bear legs. Although Mamochka is convinced that it some kind of strange infection, Yanka knows that this is not true. She has grown up listening to stories about a family who were cursed to become bears, and now knows that the same thing is happening to her. To find a way to lift the curse, she knows that she must seek out the legendary Bear Tsarina and ask for her assistance.

Yet the forest is dangerous, even with the protection of Mousetrap the house weasel – the self-proclaimed fiercest hunter. Yanka must face hungry wolves, witches, and even a fire dragon if she wants to find a way to restore herself. Even then, Yanka is not certain that it will make her truly happy. The forest is calling to her louder than ever before. Perhaps Yanka would be better off as a bear…

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Owlcrate Unboxing – January 2020

Hi Everyone! You might have noticed that I’ve gotten a bit hooked on Owlcrate over the last few months and so I thought that I would start to share my unboxings with you.

In case you haven’t see the adverts for this online, Owlcrate is a monthly subscription box for fans of Young Adult books. These boxes aren’t the cheapest to buy in the UK (with postage, it costs about $50.00 / £38.00), but I have been absolutely blown away by the quality of the collectables that they contain. Each box is guaranteed to include at least one new release, which is always a hard-backed book and is usually signed by the author and with an exclusive cover. It also contains 3-5 other items, all tied to a monthly theme.

Owlcrates tend to sell out very quickly, thought if you continue paying your monthly subscription they do guarantee that you will receive each box. The January theme was ‘Vengeance Will Be Mine’. Please read on to find out what I thought about the items that it contained, though be warned that this post does contain pictures and lots of spoilers if you’re still waiting for your box to arrive…

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Frostheart

Frostheart was written by Jamie Littler and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy novel which focuses on a young boy with an incredible power, as he is whisked away on an adventure with the eccentric crew of a land-ship. The novel forms the first part of a planned series and its sequel – Frostheart 2: Escape From Aurora – is due for release in October 2020.

For as long as anyone can remember, the Snow Sea has been the domain of the Leviathans. The huge monsters hide beneath the ice, attacking anyone who ventures too far away from the safety of their stronghold. At one time, Song Weavers were able to use their powers to quell the rage of the beasts. Unfortunately, these people have now largely been driven away. After all, the Leviathans could also seize control of the Song Weavers and command them to do terrible things.

Ash has never fit in amongst the Fira. Although he has always struggled to keep his urge to Sing a secret, the Leviathans still call to him and people are starting to get suspicious. Since his parents disappeared, he has been passed from guardian to guardian and now only Tobu – an exiled Yeti – is willing to take care of him. Tobu seems to be intent on pointing out Ash’s flaws as a warrior and trying to prevent him from Singing, but Ash does not really understand why. How can being a Song Weaver be so wrong when the Leviathans sound so beautiful?

When Ash uses his power to save the crew of the Frostheart from the Leviathans, he finds himself exiled from the Fira Stronghold. Fortunately, Captain Nuk is more that happy to welcome Ash aboard her ship. While life on the Snow Sea is dangerous, Ash soon discovers that this comes with freedom that he could never have imagined. Finally he has the chance to follow clues left by his parents in the form of a lullaby – a riddle that could possibly lead him back to them!

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Goosebumps 51-54

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

1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30 | 31-35 | 36-40 | 41-45 | 46-50

Hello everyone! I think it’s time for another trip down memory lane as I take another look back at one of my childhood favourites. In case you’re unfamiliar with R.L. Stine’s most popular work, Goosebumps is a horror anthology series which is aimed at middle grade readers. Although there have been a number of recent spin-offs, movies and video games, the original series ran for sixty-two novels. For the purpose of today’s review, I’m going to be looking at books fifty-one to fifty-four. Oh, and there will be massive spoilers. You have been warned.

In Beware, the Snowman, Jaclyn is annoyed that her Aunt has moved to Sherpia. The tiny village is in the middle of nowhere! Yet it’s not long before she learns that the frozen village has some terrifying local customs. Every house has a scar-faced snowman in its front yard, and the local kids warn her that something terrifying lurks on top of a nearby mountain. Jaclyn is determined to discover if the legends are true, but in doing so learns secrets about her family that she never could have imagined…

In How I Learned to Fly, Jack is rapidly growing to detest Wilson. No matter what he does, Wilson is always determined to prove that he can do better and it is driving him insane! However, when Jack discovers a strange book that claims to contain the secrets of human flight, he realises he has a chance to finally do something better than his rival. After all, there is no way that Wilson can possibly be able to fly, is there?

In Chicken, Chicken, Crystal has always been sceptical of the rumours about Vanessa. Just because someone wears all black, it does not mean that they are a witch. Unfortunately, when Crystal and her brother, Cole, accidentally spill Vanessa’s shopping, they discover that Vanessa just might be magical after all. After all, Crystal and Cole are now changing. If they can’t find a way to stop it, it’s not going to be long before they stop being human altogether…

In Don’t Go To Sleep!, Matt can’t understand why he is forced to sleep in a tiny room when a much larger guest room is going spare. To prove a point, he sneaks into the guest room once night and sleeps in there. Unfortunately, when Matt wakes up, he finds that everything has changed. His two siblings are now little kids and he has suddenly become a teenager! As each day becomes stranger than the one before, Matt starts to regret ever complaining about his old life. Will he ever find a way back to his reality?

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Nevertell

Nevertell was written by Katharine Orton and first published in 2019. It is a historical fantasy story set in Stalin’s Russia, focusing on a young girl’s escape from a terrible labour camp. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Lina has never known anything beyond the fences of the camp. Although her mother has told her wonderful stories about her Grandmother – a fierce woman who lives in distant Moscow – Lina knows that she is unlikely to ever meet her. However, things change when Lina learns that three dangerous convicts have decided to make an escape. They have agreed to take Lina with them, so long as she can use her job in the camp greenhouse to secure them food for their long journey.

While the escape largely goes to plan, Lina soon realises that she is in big trouble. Not only would her companions kill her without a thought, but the wilds of Siberia are filled with danger. Lack of food and biting cold threatens their every step, and ghostly wolves haunt the darkness. Once these creatures find their scent, Lina soon finds herself separated from the others and imprisoned by a mysterious sorceress who calls herself the Man Hunter.

Lina knows that she needs to find a way to escape, as the only way that she can possibly rescue her mother from the camp is by reaching her Grandmother. She soon manages to befriend Natalya – one of the many once-human “shadows” that the Sorceress keeps as servants. With the help of this mysterious spirit and a little magic of her own, Lina soon discovers that she has the power to achieve the impossible. But will it be enough to get all the way to Moscow?

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The International Yeti Collective

The International Yeti Collective was written by Paul Mason and first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story about a young girl and her discovery of a secretive tribe of yeti. Although this novel is the first part of a planned series, at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Ella is thrilled to be spending her holidays in the Himalayas with her Uncle Jack, a famous adventurer. For his new television series, Jack is determined to prove the existence of the yeti. While the rest of his team is sceptical, Jack is confident that he will be able to use state-of-the-art technology to capture the elusive creatures on film and secure himself fame and fortune.

Tick is a young yeti who knows full well the dangers that humans pose. His own mother was exiled from the tribe for revealing her existence to them. However, Tick’s curiosity soon gets the better of himself as he tries to get a glimpse of Jack’s camp. Unfortunately, this puts his whole tribe in danger. As the yeti try to flee to safety, they are forced to leave behind the stone tablets that contain their whole history. Now that these are in human hands, it can only be a matter of them before humans learn the whereabouts of every yeti tribe on the planet.

It is up to Tick and his two friends, Plumm and Dahl, to track down the humans and reclaim the tablets. To do so, they will need to awaken the International Yeti Collective – a communication network between tribes that has been dormant for decades. Yet the most important help for Tick might come from a very unexpected source. Not all humans are bad, and Ella is eager to prove this…

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New Year, New Reviews

Hi Everyone!

I hope that you enjoyed this year’s picks for The Sobeks and sorry that it’s taken me so long to wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope that you all had a brilliant festive season, however you chose to celebrate it.

I, for one, took a few weeks to just rest and reflect away from this blog. As you’ve probably noticed, I didn’t do a great job of updating the blog over the past year. This is purely because 2019 was a pretty bad year from me. Between sickness, massive vet bills, and even a particularly nasty spell in which I received some unpleasantness from an author who was not very happy with a review that I left, I was left at times with very little motivation to go on.

I am in a much better place right now and am certainly hoping to be able to update the blog with more regularity, but please be mindful that I might still disappear every now and again to preserve my own mental health. This blog is ultimately just a hobby of mine, and I’m happy to continue so long as it remains fun.

With that out of the way, here’s a sneak peak of what is to come in the new year. As I did not take part in any Secret Santa events this year, I instead took myself down to Waterstones for a treat. As I really enjoyed my Summer of Middle Grade, I’ve picked up a few more novels of this sort to tide me through this grim part of the year. Each of these books has a wintery theme, and I’m very excited to share my reviews of them with you over the next few weeks:

The International Yeti Collective by Paul Mason

Nevertell by Katharine Orton

Frostheart by Jamie Littler

The Girl Who Speaks to Bears by Sophie Anderson

Explorers on Black Ice Bridge by Alex Bell

Of course, I will probably also have the next instalment of my Goosebumps retrospective ready to share with you over this time.

TTFN!

The Sobeks 2019 – Part 4

And here it is – the final part of The Sobek Awards for 2019.

Are you feeling the January blues? Well, here are some ideas of things that you can read next to get your spirits back up! The Sobeks are named for my blog’s mascot and are a celebration of all the very best books that I have read over the last twelve months. These are determined based on the ones that I awarded 4+ stars to on Goodreads.

For this final post, I will be looking at the books that I reviewed between October and December. While I was a bit lax in my posting over this time, I was still lucky enough to find some real gems. You should definitely check these authors out!

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