Sadie By Courtney Summers

Title: Sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

Publisher: Wednesday Books

First Published: 4th September 2018

Audiobook Narrator: Full Cast

Blurb:

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page. (From Goodreads, 11th March 2019)

Review:

First things first – GET the audiobook of this novel! It is fantastic! One of the best audiobooks I have listened to – this is due to the full cast and the novel being told through podcasts, the audiobook just brings this novel to life!

Sadie is a story told in multiple perspectives. We have Sadie herself who has left her home to find the man who killed her sister. We see her work through clues to find the man responsible for her sisters death. In doing so Sadie comes across multiple situations blocking her from achieving her goal.

The next perspective comes from West McCray, who develops a podcast about disappearances and unsolved crimes. West undertakes interviews with MayBeth, Sadie’s for all intents and purposes, foster grandmother. We hear about Sadie as a child and her relationships with her mother and sister. West tried to get clues to where Sadie might have gone, and soon begins to follow the trail Sadie has left behind. It is interesting because we hear the story through interviews and also see what Sadie leaves behind from her encounters.

This is a novel that draws you into the mystery, it is not a complex mystery but it would be a good novel for those wanting to try a young adult crime novel for the first time. It takes a look at human relationships and the need to find justice in the world. This is a novel that deals with some hard topics and therefore I will highlight the triggers of abuse, drug abuse and violence here. It is not graphic but it could be a trigger for some. Sadie also has a stutter, but the author does a fantastic job of making this just one attribute of Sadie and not a focus. Sadie is definitely a multi-dimensional character and has dealt with a lot in her young life. Sadie may not always do the right things but you are rooting for her throughout this novel.

I think what I most enjoyed about this novel is the unique way it was told, and this was, as I have already said, brought to life by the audiobook. Sadie is a flawed character, she does things that are not always right but they are done for the right reasons. Trouble seems to always come her way but she keeps going despite this.

Sadie is a novel that will keep you wanting more and is a fast read, but if you take anything from this review it is that you should give the audiobook a try. It is worth it, I promise.

4 out of 5 stars.

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A Danger to Herself and Others By Alyssa B. Sheinmel


Title: A Danger to Herself and Others

Author: Alyssa Sheinmel

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

First Published: February 5th 2019

Audiobook Narrator: Devon Sorvari

Blurb:

Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape… 

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place. (From Goodreads, 19th February 2019)

Review:

We meet Hannah in a locked room of a psychiatric hospital, but we do not know what has brought her there. We are drawn into her mind, seeing everything from her point of view. To begin with, she only has short interactions with her psychiatrist who she names Lightfoot. Our only knowledge of why she is there is written on her file, Hannah is deemed “a danger to herself and others”. We begin to learn more about Hannah when she gains a roommate, Lucy. When Lucy arrives Hannah begins to reveal her more manipulative side and we start to feel the undertones of why Hannah may be in the hospital.

A Danger to Herself and Others is a difficult book to review as I do not want to give any spoilers. For the first third to half of the book, I was questioning a lot of the reality of the setting and treatment given which gave me an inkling about the progression of the novel. I felt uneasy about the novel but I think this was intentional. Once we learn more about Hannah and what brought her to the hospital things begin to make sense and the book became more comfortable to read.

This novel has a very constrained list of characters and focuses almost solely on Hannah and her view of things and this means we have an unreliable narrator. For some people, this novel may feel quite slow as there isn’t too much action, especially in the beginning, but it is a good insight into someone’s mind. This is what I found interesting, was the slow build-up of character. A Danger to Herself and Others is different from most books set in a psychiatric hospital that I have read as this novel does not focus too heavily on the interactions between patients, other than between Hannah and Lucy. Things begin to progress a bit faster in the second half of the book as we begin to learn more about what transpired leading Hannah to be placed in the hospital. This is when I began to enjoy the book more.

An issue I had, however, was the ending, it was sudden and although realistic it did not really highlight the potential for recovery, it focused mainly on the negatives like recurrent relapses. This I felt was a negative way to end a book, which I feel could have done more to inspire hope towards readers.

My overall opinion of A Danger to Herself and Others was that it tackled mental health problems that are usually not seen in young adult fiction. But it lacked depth into these illnesses and did not inspire hope in the way that it could have. I understand being realistic but I just felt the ending was drab. I felt a lot more could have been done with this novel.

I listened to the audiobook of A Danger to Herself and Others and felt the narrator did a fantastic job of bringing to life Hannah as a character. I would recommend listening to this audiobook for a more immersive experience.

3.5 out of 5

The Bear and the Nightingale By Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden

Publisher: Del Rey Books

First Published: 12th January 2017

Audiobook Narrator: Katherine Arden

Blurb:

“‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’ 

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…” (From Goodreads, 15th February 2019)

Review:

This is the first novel in the Winternight Trilogy By Katherine Arden. I listened to this novel as an audiobook and enjoyed the narrators take of this book. However, not having read many books set in Russia I struggled with following the characters due to the unfamiliar names. I think that possibly reading this book physically would have made this initial issue less problematic.

The Bear and the Nightingale is an enchanting tale about a strong-willed young girl name Vasilisa who soaks up stories her old nurse-maid tells her and her siblings next to the firelight during the long winter in Russia. These fairytales tell of demons who live in the forest are both enchanting and chilling. However, when Vasilisa’s father brings home a new wife who is a devout follower of the church the talk of demons and house spirits is no longer allowed. This is a bone of contention between Vasilisa and her step-mother. The family are no longer allowed to pay tribute to the house spirits, and this scares Vasilisa as she alone can see the house spirits. Soon crops begin to fail, the fire needs more fuel and, more worryingly, evil in the forest begins to creep towards the house. Soon the stories Vasilisa was once told no longer seem to be stories and she must use her gifts to try and keep her family safe regardless of the consequences.

This is a beautiful story of one girl’s struggle with being different and dealing with forces that others cannot see. This is a novel of folklore and is magical and dark. Books set in Russia are very new to me and so I do not know if the tales in this story are based on Russian folklore, but it feels like it is. I am excited to read the next novel in the trilogy as I feel it will up the ante even more and will bring more magical tales that are deliciously dark and enthralling.

The writing style was beautiful with the right balance of description and action once we got to the main part of the novel. The novel certainly picks up the pace throughout, leading to a dramatic conclusion.

My only drawback is that it took me a while to get into this book, as there were so many characters introduced and I struggled to keep track of their names and character relationships. I felt that maybe there was a bit too much of an information dump at the beginning but this may be important to the following novels, but as it stands after reading the first novel I felt this information was too much too soon.

4 out of 5

The Archived By Victoria Schwab

Title: The Archived

Author: Victoria Schwab

Publisher: Hyperion

First Published: January 22nd 2013

Blurb:

“The dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead, called ‘Histories’, rest in the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper is dangerous and a constant reminder of those she lost, Da and her little brother. Mac wonders about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. Yet someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.” (From Goodreads, 20th January 2015)

Review:

One of the things any book lover enjoys is a book about books, libraries, and drama. The archive however, is a different type of library, the books contain the histories of the dead individuals. However, violent histories break free and Mackenzie must stop them. Moving house, she has found her new home has many more histories waking up, needing to be returned to the Archive. Soon she is pulled in to a deeper mystery within the Archive as not all is as it seems.

This novel is fast paced and a very quick read. It is a book to grab the attention of reluctant readers, young adults, teens and adults alike will enjoy this novel. This book is the first in a series and I am yet to read any further, however, I definitely will be.

5 out of 5

The Madness Underneath By Maureen Johnson

Title: The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2)

Author: Maureen Johnson

First Published: 26th February 2013

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Blurb:

When madness stalks the streets of London, no one is safe…

There’s a creepy new terror haunting modern-day London.
Fresh from defeating a Jack the Ripper killer, Rory must put her new-found hunting skills to the test before all hell breaks loose…

But enemies are not always who you expect them to be and crazy times call for crazy solutions. (From Goodreads, 25th May 2014)

Review:

After enjoying ‘The Name of the Star’ as much as I did I was excited to jump into ‘The Madness Underneath’. I was excited as I thought this second novel was going to be even more enjoyable because it concerned mental health patients…unfortunately such characters did not appear often or really play any central role. The excitement of the chase that was so strong in ‘The Name of the Star’ was lost and we are left reading a teen romance. I was disappointed. I was expecting ‘The Madness Underneath’ to be even more action packed than ‘The Name of the Star’ since it was the second in the series and we know the characters, their gifts, and I expected a fast paced sequel.

However, once I neared the end of the novel we returned to the gripping, thrilling writing by Maureen Johnson that we see in ‘The Name of the Star’. Soon I was at the end, mouth wide, eyes wide and breathless. Frantically I put my computer on and searched for the release date of the third novel in this series…then comes tears. So long to wait. Another book whose release date keeps getting pushed back. My advice – wait until the third book is released and marathon all three novels.

Okay, so by itself ‘The Madness Underneath’ gets 2 out of 5. However, as a series I place this as a 4 out of 5…but that may change once ‘The Shadow Cabinet’ is released and I can see if it rectifies the failings in this second Shades of London book.

The Name of the Star By Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson

First Published: 29th September 2011

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Blurb:

The day that Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school is also the day a series of brutal murders breaks out over the city, killings mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper spree of more than a century ago. Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him–the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target. In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014).

Review:

I absolutely loved this book! First it is set in London. Second it combines history with supernatural elements! And for me this just was wonderful!

Rory is in a new country, at a new school, away from her family and there is murders happening on her schools door step. Soon Rory becomes entangled in the murders after seeing the murderer, and becoming the next target. Life becomes more than high school for Rory as she is thrust into a world she never knew about. Ghost, murders, secret police, and some romance in there as well.

The premise of this novel was fantastic and I was gripped as soon as I started. The novel was fast paced and kept you wanting more. A ‘one more chapter…’ type off book.

‘The Name of the Star’ is a novel I would recommend to individuals who enjoy murder mysteries, combined with some teen angst and supernatural elements. A novel for those who enjoy something a bit different. Although I really enjoyed this novel, I can’t imagine many adults taking to it, however, young adults and teens should love this series. One that I will be recommending to my younger sister.

4.5 out of 5

Pushing the Limits By Katie McGarry

Title: Pushing the Limits

Author: Katie McGarry

First Published: 1st July 2012

Publisher: Mira Ink

Blurb:

“I won’t tell anyone, Echo. I promise.” Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. “You didn’t do that-did you? It was done to you?” No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014).

Review:

Firstly, before I begin this review I have a confession to make…it has been quite a few months since I read this book and although I remember most of what happens I am a little hazy on the details. For that I appologise.

However, I am still going to review this book as I really did enjoy it and know I will be getting the companion novels at some point in the future (maybe when my TBR pile is slightly smaller!) ‘Pushing The Limits’ presents us with two protagonists who are dealing with a lot for their ages, however, sometimes finding another who is going through a rough time is what you need to get through it. Echo is dealing with forgotten memories. Noah is dealing with the death of his parents. Both are dealing with high school…and a persistent school councilor.

This is a novel that deals with difficult issues whilst also being very readable and not too ‘dark’ making it fantastic for teens and young adults…and adults too. We have a little bit of everything in this novel that makes it very real and raw. Katie McGarry captures human emotions impeccably and gives readers an adventure through the eyes of two teenagers lives. A realistic and gripping novel. Highly recommended.

4.5 out of 5

Willow By Julia Hoban

Title: Willow

Author: Julia Hoban

First Published: 2009

Publisher: Speak

Blurb:

Seven months ago on a rainy March night, Willow’s parents drank too much wine at dinner and asked her to drive them home. But they never made it–Willow lost control of the car, and both of her parents were killed.

Now seventeen, Willow is living with her older brother, who can barely speak to her. She has left behind her old home, friends, and school. But Willow has found a way to survive, to numb the new reality of her life: She is secretly cutting herself.

And then she meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is. When Guy discovers Willow’s secret, he pulls her out of the solitary world she’s created for herself, and into a difficult, intense, and potentially life-changing relationship. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014).

Review:

‘Willow’ was one of those novels that helped get me out of a reading slump, however, ‘Willow’ is not the greatest book I have read focusing on self-injury. On the other hand, for a novel aimed at teenagers this deals well with a topic many individuals do not understand whilst also dealing with love, death, loss, stress, friendships and much more ‘life stuff’.

Willow is a girl who blames herself for the death of her parents, whilst also feeling like a burden to her older brother and his wife and baby cousin. Both Willow and her brother have not yet come to terms with the sudden death of their parents or the sudden changes in their living arrangements. Willow cuts herself to help escape the true pain she is feeling inside, it is the only way she manages to cope with life. However, soon her life begins to spiral out of her control when Guy, a boy from school who quickly enters her life, finds out that Willow cuts herself. We soon follow this relationship, through ups-and-downs and watch how life begins to change for both individuals who each carry the knowledge of Willows cutting.

As I said above, I have read other novels regarding the topic of self-injury that I preferred, but this may be due to two things. Firstly, I read a lot of books on this topic when I was in my teenage years, and therefore know the formula. Second, I have also read many books about self-injury aimed at adult audiences, and also researched a lot about self-injury, which includes case examples and memoirs. Therefore, having such a knowledge, and having exhausted (at the time) many of the books focusing on self-injury aimed at teenagers during my teenage years I may be slightly harsh compared to other readers. For that I appologise.

I did enjoy ‘Willow’ as it was fast paced and Julia Hoban successfully incorporated Willows life into the novel with self-injury not being the main focus, which is nice. It reminds you that individuals who self-injure have a life with stresses and why these stresses result in self-injury. We have a teenager who is going through many ‘normal’ teenage stresses, such as a new school, exams, making friends, whilst also dealing with more extreme difficulties, such as her parents death.

‘Willow’ is a novel that tactfully addresses many hard hitting issues and some more run of the mill teenage issues without belittling them or over exaggerating them. It is because of this that makes ‘Willow’ a believable and human novel. It also means I feel able to recommend ‘Willow’ to individuals who self-injure, friends  and family of individuals who self-injure, and also those who are interested in mental health related fiction. This is a novel that as a teenager I would have loved to have found in the school or local library, just simply because it reminds you that you are not alone. Novels that deal with difficult issues specifically aimed at teenagers are so important and valuable, no matter what the topic, just to give someone even a small amount of strength to find the help and advice so many of us need.

However, for me this novel is only a 3.5 out of 5 stars, but I would imagine if I read this novel when I was in my teenage years (and mot my mid twenties) I would have given it 4 to 4.5 stars.

The Reflections of Queen Snow White By David C. Meredith

Title: The Reflections of Queen Snow White

Author: David Meredith

Publisher: Self Published

Publication Date: 2nd October 2013

Blurb:

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White. (From Goodreads, 7th February 2014)

Review:

Okay so I am not going to give an overview as the blub is long enough! So straight into my review!

I was surprised to be contacted by the author asking me to read this book for review, and therefore happily accepted! I had not expected this novel to be as beautifully written and aimed more towards older young adults and adults. For me this was refreshing, having read multiple young adult fairy tales lately it was nice to read one which was written with description rather than simply action. With lyrical prose. Simple wonderful to lay your eyes on. I cannot express what a talented wordsmith David Meredith is. A man I will watch with interest, as it was such a breath of fresh air reading ‘The Reflections of Queen Snow White’.

An interesting novel set long after the typical Snow White novels. However, we learn about Snow White’s younger life along with her older life. Queen Snow White is lost, but by reflecting on her past she begins to view herself with a new perspective. This is a novel of a journey and is a nice book to read in between two larger books because it is short and relaxing.

A book I recommend to everyone, especially if you are looking for a less action packed, more traditional style of fairy tale.

4 out of 5