It is a rare thing to find a series of books for Young Adult readers that ticks all your favourite boxes: mystery and magic underscored with macabre and gothic elements, strong female characters, quirky twists, and themes and ideas that are universally compelling and interesting for teen and adult readers alike.
Just as it exists in the world-famous Harry Potter series, it exists in The Network Series by Katie Cross. This first book in The Network Series delivers a well-paced, expertly constructed story that ticks all of those boxes and more.
Make no mistake, though: This is no mere imitation. ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ is original and unique, and the story is thoroughly engaging. The book ends with sufficient resolution to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion while dangling enough magical carrots to leave the reader wanting to just keep reading.
The writing is excellent, creating an environment and atmosphere that is vivid and almost tangible, and propelling the reader into a story full of mystery, suspense and foreboding.
Readers of all ages will find this book hard to put down, and should expect to be left wanting more. Thankfully, there is an entire nine book series, and another fantasy series featuring dragons by the same author, to look forward to.
‘Kennedy Awakens’ is a quick-paced urban fantasy that blurs the lines between truth and lies, good and evil, magic and non-magic, while pitching them against one another to measure their integrity.
The action unfolds dramatically and Kennedy is forced to form unlikely alliances in her quest for peace and for the truth, all the while doubting if either one is actually achievable.
A story that celebrates friendship and truth, this is a most entertaining read that will be appreciated not only by readers of urban fantasy, but also by anyone who enjoys paranormal suspense, magical adventure and regular fantasy books.
Suspenseful, dark, mysterious and occasionally macabre, ‘Dead Lake’ is a supernatural thriller set in and around a remote lake cabin.
The anticipation with which the story starts soon turns to foreboding which grows steadily more profound as the tale progresses.
Coates’ writing is enriched with vivid imagery that stimulates the reader’s senses and imagination, immersing them in the curiosity, and then the terror, experienced by Sam, the protagonist of the story. By the two-thirds point of the story, the fear and adrenaline is palpable and the suspense creates a strong sense of dread that is both compelling and distinctly uncomfortable.
Because of its suspense and brooding darkness, this is an excellent read that will appeal to readers of mystery, thrillers, and horror alike.
In ‘The Bone Witch’, there are two narratives which seem at first to be separate, but eventually reveal themselves to be interwoven to create a vast, rich tapestry of storytelling that binds the listener in its magic.
This magical dark fantasy is a spellbinding story in which fate and magic balance one another as Tea discovers her destiny and learns to use her powers and make important choices wisely.
The narrators tell the story fluently and engagingly, with clear diction and good expression. Both are pleasant to listen to, and the two complement each other as effectively as their stories do.
’The Bone Witch’ is a brilliant fantasy coming of age story, whether enjoyed as a novel or an audiobook.
‘A Dark Covenant’ is a Gothic horror short story filled with foreboding and dramatic tension, embellished with macabre scenes that cause the reader to hold their breath and open their eyes just that little bit wider as they read.
The writing is evocative, subtly appealing to the reader’s senses while appearing to tell the story in a quite straightforward fashion. The terror of the climax is heightened by the profound contrast with the main character’s indifference toward his situation, and with the pathos of his childhood experiences.
This outstanding short read demonstrates not only the author’s versatility, but also her ability to draw extraordinary horror stories out of the most ordinary of circumstances.
Teen peer pressure reaches terrifying new levels in this YA paranormal thriller, in which the protagonist Luna Ketz appears to be a most unlikely heroine: she’s not popular, she’s Muslim in a predominantly white community, and she hates Chance, the boy who is determined to get her attention.
The tension between Luna and Chance continues to escalate as the story progresses and Luna finds herself caught in a web of conspiracy, secrecy and deceit. In a highly original blend of YA paranormal, mystery and horror, the gripping storyline is evidence of author’s ability to blend reality and fantasy in an intriguing way that engages the reader and causes them to invest emotionally in Luna’s fate.
‘Dead By Morning’ is easy to read and hard to put down once started.
Readers of horror who want a top quality short read will be well pleased by this dark and twisted short story, which can easily be enjoyed during a coffee or lunch break.
Doyle’s writing is always easy to read and her characters realistic and relatable. That dreadful things can happen to ordinary people is an underlying premise that enables a great horror story to evoke shock and fear in its readers, who are invariably aware of the fact that such things could happen to anyone. When the story takes an unexpected turn, it heightens the anticipation of what is to come and the fear of the unknown.
It is in these elements of the story that Doyle successfully manages to immerse her readers in a situation, turn it around, and leave them gasping, all within the space of just a few minutes.
This book held definite appeal to me as I have long admired the work of Harriet Tubman and all those who worked to liberate slaves and help them to freedom. ‘The Day I Saw The Hummingbird’ immerses the reader in the life and experiences of Oscar Mercer, born into slavery in a sugar plantation in Louisiana in the years preceding the American Civil War.
Oscar’s story is heartbreaking, terrifying and inspiring as the author positions the reader as an eyewitness to the tragedies, but also the courage and kindness, experienced by Oscar as he grows to understand that compassion is as powerful as hatred, and that wisdom and loyalty are qualities that should be as highly prized as one’s own freedom.
This story is beautifully told, with evocative language and vivid imagery that causes the reader to develop deep empathy not only for Oscar but also for all others in similar positions. The story also highlights a truth that is often overlooked: even in the deep south, there were many white people opposed to slavery or, at the very least, opposed to the cruelty with which so many were treated. Indeed, a broad range of human responses to slavery are depicted in the actions of different characters in this book, showing that it is one’s individual choices and personal ethics that set one person apart from another in terms of character and integrity, and that it is both possible and imperative to stand up for what is right rather than settle for convenient wrongs.
This is an important story that everyone should read in their lifetime, and which should be in personal bookshelves and library collections alongside ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’.
Echo Navarri thought she was exchanging an unusual life with her parents for a more settled life with her aunt in Port Royal. She also thought that paranormal creatures were fictional. She was wrong on both counts.
Echo is a teenager with whom the reader quickly develops empathy, developing the understanding that one can be flawed and ideal, weak and strong, and perfectly imperfect all at the same time. Her experiences of family, love, loss, friendship and self-esteem are relatable for readers, while her determination, confidence, loyalty and honesty about herself and others make her a character that readers can admire and respect. Her introversion, awkwardness and bookishness make a refreshing change from the ‘social butterfly’ or ‘fairy tale princess’ style heroines who seem so popular.
Supported by her friends and her aunt, Echo navigates her way through a story that is engaging and interesting, full of challenges and change, punctuated by failures and victories along the way.
The story is well crafted and well-written, with some great surprises and unpredictable twists. The characters, settings, and plot combine to deliver a book that holds strong appeal to Young Adult and paranormal romance readers.
13 Ways to Midnight’ is an excellent opening to a four book series which this reader is keen to enjoy.
Macabre and unsettling, this psychological thriller seems disjointed and strangely sequenced until the strands of the story start to pull together.
That which at first appears to be gratuitous splatter for spaltter’s sake turns out to be far more complex psychological horror brought about by a deadly combination of individual volition and a dark power that cannot be explained.
The reader is shocked and disoriented by the twists and turns, just as the characters are, feeling as though the story lurches from one disturbing and not-quite-fully developed scene to the next without sufficient resolution. As the story begins to gel, and the seemingly unrelated events all start to lead to the climax of the story, the reader begins to realise that this was an entirely deliberate and quite complex strategy, designed to emotionally immerse the reader in the confusion and fear evoked by both the actions of the antagonists and the experiences of the victims.
Gory and unpredictable, this is a dark and disturbing read.