This Summer on Arkham Reviews

Hi-diddly-hi Neighbour-inos!

I hope that you’re all having as good of a summer as you can under current circumstances. Now that my little season of middle grade reviews is done and dusted, it’s time to return to business as usual here on Arkham Reviews. Over the coming week, I plan to take a look at the fourth Fazbear Frights collection of short stories and also write up the next part of my Point Horror retrospective. After that, here’s an idea of what you can look forward to over the next couple of months:

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

F.O.X.E.S by M.A. Bennett

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

Apley Towers: The Lost Kodas by Myra King

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

The Haven by Simon Lelic

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

Deception by Teri Terry

The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Uki and the Outcasts

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:

Podkin One-Ear | The Gift of Dark Hollow | The Beasts of Grimheart

Uki and the Outcasts was written by Kieran Larwood and first published in 2019. It is a middle grade fantasy story, set in our far future when humans are extinct and rabbits are the dominant species on the planet. The novel is the fourth instalment of The Five Realms series and follows Podkin One-Ear (2016), The Gift of Dark Hollow (2017) and The Beasts of Grimheart (2018).

As the Bard continues his journey north, his is approached by another figure from his past and Rue starts to learn that there is more about his mentor than he ever could have imagined. The Bard is a member of a secret society called the Foxguard who exist to protect the world from a sinister cult who are known as the Endwatch. As rumours of cultist activity emerge, the Bard and Rue are forced to head across the icy wastes to investigate.

As they travel, the Bard begins a new tale about a hero who once also had to face the Endwatch. Uki was mistreated by his clan due to the fact that he was born with half-black, half-white fur. When an incident within the tribe leads to his injury, Uki and his mother are forced to flee into the wilds where they will surely die. Luckily, Uki’s life is saved by a mysterious spirit from a different time. Iffrit binds himself to Uki, giving him new powers, but needs something in return.

Iffrit was once a gaoler, but the four evil spirits that were imprisoned with him have now escaped. Uki needs to travel the world in order to recapture them, before they can spread war, plague, famine and death across the lands. He soon gains help from Jori, an assassin exiled from her clan because she will not kill, and Kree, an abnormally small rabbit who rides a tailless jerboa. But will three outcast rabbits be enough to take down an ancient evil?

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OwlCrate Unboxing – July 2020

Wow, my OwlCrate arrived a lot earlier than expected this month. It doesn’t seem five minutes since I told you all about the June crate! Anyhow, in case this is the first of my unboxings that you’ve read, let me tell you a bit about where all my goodies came from.

OwlCrate is a subscription service for fans of Young Adult novels. Each month, they send out a carefully curated box which contains 3-5 items, all selected to match a specific theme. In addition to this, each box is guaranteed to contain a hard-backed book, usually signed by the author and with a unique cover. The boxes are priced at around £38, which seems very reasonable due to the high quality goodies that they contain. So long as your subscription remains active, you are guaranteed to receive every box. Be wary of cancelling though – they do have a long waiting list and it can be a pain to get back on again!

Anyhow, this month’s theme is “Date With Destiny”. Be warned – there are lots of photos and massive spoilers beyond this point…

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School for Nobodies

School for Nobodies was first published in 2020 and is Susie Bower’s debut novel. It is a fantasy story for young readers which focuses on a girl who travels to a mysterious boarding school in search of her missing twin. The novel stands alone, so you don’t need to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

It was not until her tenth birthday that Flynn finally learned her real name. After a fire killed her parents and left her scarred, she was forced to live with Sonia and Claude – two well-off adults who only adopted her to look generous. Things change when she receives the note on her birthday, revealing that she actually has a twin who is attending an nearby affluent boarding school.

Flynn orchestrates a way to force her adoptive parents to send her to that same school, but things go horribly wrong when they instead send her to the run-down school next door. The Cruet Establishment for Lost and Wayward Children is a reform school for children who prove difficult to handle. Students are stripped of their names and belongings until they earn the right to have them back. They also are forbidden to make any kind of contact with the neigbouring school children.

Flynn is determined to find a way to get to her twin, yet things seem to be impossible. However, that’s before she encounters the crow. The crow seems sinister but promises that it can unite the two of them on a special day, when a gateway between the two schools opens. Yet can she trust the crow, and will she possibly be able to get away from her horrible classmates?

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The Impossible Boy

The Impossible Boy was written by Ben Brooks and first published in 2019. It is a fantasy story aimed at middle grade readers, focusing on two children who find themselves in trouble when something they created comes to life. The novel stands alone, so you do not need to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Oleg Duchownik and Emma Morley have felt a bit lonely since their other friend moved away. This is part of the reason why they invent Sebastian Cole to fool a new teacher. Sebastian is another student at the school, but one who lives a fantastical life. He has his own personal spaceship, a bag that can make anything, and is always off on wonderful (and unlikely) adventures. It comes as a shock to both of them when Sebastian suddenly appears in their den. Not only is he real, but he is able to make the impossible possible.

It’s not long before other strange things happen around town. A goat invades their school and Emma witnesses a horde of snowwomen on the hunt for colder climates. It seems fun at first, but things rapidly become more sinister when mirrored vans and people in crow masks appear on street corners. The Institute of Unreality have been tasked with maintaining world order. They want to capture and erase Sebastian before his existence destabilises the whole world.

It’s not long before Oleg and Emma find themselves on a dangerous adventure to save their friend. Their quest takes them deep into a government facility where all the strangest things on the planet are stored. Will they manage to find a way to save their new friend? Or will his continued existence actually end up destroying the world?

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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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The Strangeworlds Travel Agency

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency was written by L.D. Lapinski and first published in 2020. It is a middle grade fantasy story that focuses on a 12-year-old girl who discovers a way to travel to parallel dimensions. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, but at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Felicity “Flick” Hudson is deeply unhappy. Her parents have just moved from the city to the small town of Little Wyverns and do not seem to have much time for her. All Flick wants to do is travel and see the world, but she’s stuck spending most of her time looking after her baby brother while her parents are working. Luckily for Flick, she soon stumbles across a mysterious travel agency which could give her everything that she has ever dreamed of.

Jonathan Mercator is only eighteen but has been single-handedly running The Strangeworlds Travel Agency since his father’s disappearance. Unlike regular travel agents, he curates a vast collection of suitcases which each contain a portal to another world. Magically gifted individuals are free to borrow a suitcase, so long as they report back on what they have discovered. Jonathan quickly realises that Flick is more than eligible to join their ranks.

While Flick and Jonathan’s early adventures seem harmless enough, they soon realise that something is wrong with the multiverse. The balance between worlds has been disrupted and all issues seem to be stemming from Five Lights – a city at the centre of it all. If they can’t find a way to fix Five Lights soon, the entire multiverse could collapse and destroy everything, including Flick’s world!

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OwlCrate Unboxing – June 2020

As predicted, the June OwlCrate finally graced my doorstep this week. Hooray! At least that gave me plenty of time to sample all of its contents before writing up this review.

For those of you who haven’t seen any of my previous posts, OwlCrate is a monthly subscription service for fans of Young Adult novels. The boxes are usually dispatched around the 20th of each month and contain 3-5 items which are carefully selected to match a theme. Each box is also guaranteed to contain one brand new hardback, which is usually autographed and with an exclusive cover. Each box costs around £38 to ship to the United Kingdom and, so far, I do feel that they have all been great value for money.

OwlCrate guarantees that you will receive each box so long as your subscription remains active. I would strongly recommend thinking very carefully before you cancel, as the service is very popular and boxes tend to sell out quickly. I made this mistake last summer and it took me a few months to get back on the list again…

Anyhow, the theme this month is “All the World’s a Stage”. Be warned – there are a lot of photos and major spoilers for the box’s contents beyond this point…

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The Vanishing Trick

The Vanishing Trick was written by Jenni Spangler and first published in 2020. It is a fantasy story set in Victorian England, focusing on three young children who are cursed by a cruel and mysterious woman. The novel stands alone, so you do not have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

When Leander first encounters Madame Pinchbeck, he thinks that it might be an opportunity to make a bit of money. He has been living hand-to-mouth ever since his mother died, and the strange woman seems oddly eager to buy his locket. What Leander does not realise is that Madame Pinchbeck possesses a sinister power. She has the ability to transform any lidded object into a cabinet – and bind a child to that cabinet forever.

Through this trade, Leander gains the power to travel in and out of his locket at will but it comes at a terrible price. He is forced to remain close to Madame Pinchbeck at all times. If he wanders too far away – or anything if anything was to happen to her – he would fade away into nothing. Along with two other trapped children – Charlotte and Felix – Leander is put to work for his new master. Madame Pinchbeck is a spirit medium and her peculiar magic is perfect for tricking people into believing that their deceased loved ones have returned.

However, it is not long before the children notice that Pinchbeck is starting to weaken. The strain of having three cabinets is too much for her to take and it won’t be long before she is forced choose which children she wishes to keep. Leander and his new friends realise that they must find a way to break her spell before one of them is forced to vanish forever…

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The Summer of Middle Grade 2020

Hi everyone! I hope that you’re keeping safe and well!

As I’m taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo over this month, I found myself hankering to read something a little lighter. Due to this, it’s the perfect time to announce this year’s Summer of Middle Grade event! As I had a great time reviewing a selection of great summer reads for young readers last year, I thought it would be fun to do the same again!

Here is what to look forward to over the next few weeks. There will probably be another Owlcrate unboxing as well, if my June box turns up promptly!

The Vanishing Trick by Jenni Spangler

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

The Highland Falcon Thief by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman

The Impossible Boy by Ben Brooks

School for Nobodies by Susie Bower

Uki and the Outcasts by Kieran Larwood

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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