Friday, 28 October 2016

Word Nerd, Susin Nielsen

Pages: 256
Publisher: Andersen Press
Release Date: 6th October 2016
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Ambrose Bukowski is a twelve-year-old with a talent for mismatching his clothes, for saying the wrong thing at the worst possible thing, and for words. In short, he’s a self-described nerd. Making friends is especially hard because he and his overprotective mother, Irene, have had to move so often. And when bullies at his latest school almost kill him by deliberately slipping a peanut into his sandwich to set off his allergy, it’s his mother who has the extreme reaction. From now on, Ambrose has to be home-schooled.

Then Ambrose strikes up an unlikely friendship with the landlord’s son, Cosmo, an ex-con who’s been in prison. They have nothing in common except for Scrabble. But a small deception grows out of control when Ambrose convinces a reluctant Cosmo to take him to Scrabble club. Could this spell disaster for Ambrose?

I’m a big fan of Susin Nielsen’s books, but I didn’t completely click with Word Nerd; I found Ambrose really quite annoying. I mean, I get that his lack of a filter and tendency to be a big smug and over-dramatise everything is his personality, but it grated. Although he was irritating, I did find him weirdly charming and I felt very protective over him.

As ever, Susin Nielsen tackles some big issues in a subtle and sensitive way. Word Nerd talks about grief, loneliness, PTSD, bullying, addiction and more in only 250 pages and that’s not a mean feat! I loved watching Ambrose, his mum and Cosmo come face to face with those issues and work through them, coming out stronger on the other end because of their connections with each other. It made my heart smile.

Though Word Nerd wasn’t my favourite book from Susin Nielsen so far, it was fun, easy and enjoyable and I’m looking forward to whatever’s next from Nielsen.

Thanks to Andersen Press for the review copy.


Thursday, 27 October 2016

Spooky classics you need on your Halloween TBR

If you’ve been reading this blog much at all this year you’ll have noticed my growing obsession with classics and there’s nothing like settling down with a Gothic read or two as the nights start drawing in.

Here are a few perfect Halloween reads that I've read, and some I can’t wait to get stuck into.


‘The Turn of the Screw’ by Henry James
When a young governess moves away from home to look after two young children at a country house, she spots a figure of a man she doesn’t know on the tower. The other staff quickly identify the man, but he’s dead.

This novella is often heralded as one of the finest ghost stories ever written. I listened to the audiobook performed by Emma Thompson and it was delightfully unsettling.

‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen
Catherine Moorland is obsessed with sensational Gothic novels so when she goes to stay at Northanger Abbey with the Tilneys, her imagination runs away with her and she starts to envisage horrible things happening in the house.

This short little Austen is bursting with satire, fun and an affectionate mocking of lots of the novels that feature here!

‘Carmilla’ by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
I LOVE this novella about a mysterious young woman who comes to the home of a teenage girl and her father and the girls start to experience unusual desires for each other.

This story pre-dates ‘Dracula’ by over 25 years and inspired Stoker substantially, yet it’s still lesser known, but I actually like ‘Carmilla’ a whole lot more than I do its successor.

‘The Castle of Otranto’ by Horace Walpole
I find came across this ridiculous Gothic novel in my second year of uni during a module on Gothic fiction. It's widely acknowledged as the first Gothic novel.

Manfred’s fear of an ancient prophecy sets him on a destructive course when he marries the bride-to-be of his freshly dead son and proceeds to hunt her through the castle as she flees. It’s a very amusing read, if very weird…

To Read

‘The Haunted Hotel’ by Wilkie Collins
Two mysteries: an English Lord sickens and dies in a festering room by Venice’s Grand Canal and a London wife stops abruptly stops receiving letters from her Italian servant husband and becomes convinced he’s been murdered. How are they connected?

This just sounds like such a lot of fun. And a much shorter read from Collins than ‘The Moonstone’ or ‘The Woman in White’!

‘The Vampyre’ by John Polidori
This short story was produced by the same ghost story competition with Shelley and Byron that gifted the world with ‘Frankenstein’ and is heralded as the story that catapulted vampires into English fiction.

Under Polidori’s hand, the vampire becomes a force of sensuality and glamour as an aristocrat who haunts a young man, turning sharply away from the grotesque, deathly beings of mythology that they’d been previously.

‘The Monk’ by Matthew Lewis
This was another title that featured on my Gothic module reading list, but it’s one I never got to. I'm really hoping this will change soon!

This is the story of Ambrosio, a monk whose downfall starts with a seduction in an abbey and leads to damnation; thwarted young lovers; bandits; and imprisoned spectres of nuns. Sounds so much fun, right?

‘The Mysteries of Udulpho’ by Ann Radcliffe
This chunkster was another that I failed to read at uni. My second year wasn’t really that productive…

Emily is an orphan who finds herself imprisoned in a fortress by her evil uncle and has to battle against her uncle’s schemes and her mental disintegration. I think that if this was shorter than its 700 pages, I definitely would have read this by now.

What are your favourite spooky classics?


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

#2016ClassicsChallenge: The Canterville Ghost and Other Stories

Originally published individually in 1887.

My edition: the brand spanking new edition from Alma Classics.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I don’t remember discovering Oscar Wilde – he’s another staple in English literature – but I first read him at university when I studied both The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest and loved them. These stories are pretty new to me; I knew they existed, but not what they were about!

WHY I Chose to Read It
Alma offered me a copy for review and it sounded like the perfect read for October. What could be better than ghost stories during Halloween month?

WHAT Makes It a Classic
Oscar Wilde is a legend. His explorations of aestheticism introduced the movement and his wit and cleverness is his trademark.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
It’s been years since I read Wilde – not since studying him at university – so it was such a pleasure to come back to him. I’d forgotten how ridiculously good he is.

This collection features four stories: ‘The Canterville Ghost’, ‘Lord Arthur Saville’s Crimes’, ‘The Model Millionaire’ and ‘The Sphinx without a Secret’. I’d heard of the first two, but had no idea what they were actually about. I loved ‘The Canterville Ghost’ so, so much – it was my clear favourite of the four. I wasn’t expecting it to be so funny – I'd forgotten that about Wilde’s writing. Even the stories that weren’t as obviously funny, were definitely sprinkled with wit and sarcasm. It was so much fun to read and really blew out the cobwebs after a few DNFs and disappointing reads.

I really don’t want to say much about the stories themselves. Going into them blind was wonderful and as a book blogger, not something I get to do very often. I honestly recommend this collection to anyone wanting an introduction to Wilde or to classics as a whole – you can’t go wrong by starting here.  

I liked this short collection so much that I immediately ordered myself a complete collection of his short stories and I can't wait to dive back into Wilde’s writing again.

WILL It Stay a Classic
I can't see Wilde losing traction anytime soon. His body of work is too good across all formats (novel, plays, short stories) to lose its place on reading lists across schools and universities any time soon.

WHO I’d Recommend it To
- People wanting an easy, fun introduction to classics.
- Fans of short stories.
- Pretty much everyone, really.

Thanks to Alma for the review copy.


Monday, 24 October 2016

The Deviants, CJ Skuse

Pages: 320
Publisher: Mira Ink/HQ Stories
Release Date:
22nd September 2016
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Pretty Bad Things, Rockaholic, Dead Romantic, Monster

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves

Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane.

The Fearless Five, inseparable as children growing up in a sleepy English seaside town. But when Max’s older sister is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.

Only Max and Ella are in touch, still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. But Ella is hiding things- like why she's afraid to take things to the next level. And when underdog Corey is bullied, the Fearless Five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them.

But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

I’m a big fan of CJ Skuse’s books. I love the dark humour, the grit, the sass and basically everything really. The Deviants is all of these things and more – her best yet.

Within only a few pages I was completely sucked in. Ella is a fascinating heroine and there were so many mysteries and questions surrounding her and the secret she’s hiding. I was on her side from the get go. But that’s not to say she’s a flawless character. She isn’t, and no one in this book is. It’s always a breath of fresh air to read about flawed, teenage teenagers in YA and the Fearless Five are definitely that. They make mistakes, keep secrets they shouldn’t, lie and hurt those they love.

CJ tackles lots of important, serious topics in The Deviants, but always with grace and sensitivity, but more importantly – total YA realness. The Fearless Five come face to face with grief, disability, bullying and more and it never felt like too much. For me, one of the most important things discussed in the novel was sex and consent. It was frank and honest in a way that I think lots of YA should be but often skirts around. Teens, YAs and even those in adulthood need to know what consent is and how to talk about sex with someone you want to do it with. I was cheering as these characters were having these conversations, and getting angry when the wrong approach to sex and consent was clearly, obviously shown. Go CJ!

There are no punches pulled throughout The Deviants. The final third of the novel is shock after shock and I could not put it down. I'd only planned to read about 50 pages but raced through just over 100 in one go – I had to know how it was all going to play out. And the ending broke my heart a little. It was clever, emotional and completely unexpected. I loved it.

The Deviants is a shocking, powerful and compelling page-turner from CJ Skuse and I want to press it into everyone’s hands. Completely brilliant.

Thanks to Mira Ink/HQ Stories for the review copy.


Thursday, 13 October 2016

Re-visit Your Childhood Scares this Halloween

Halloween is the perfect season to re-visit those old favourites that had you reading by torchlight under the duvet and then having to leg it from your bed to the bathroom and back.

Suze has only just moved to California and she already has to put her ghost hunting skills to the test after a vicious spirit starts making life at her new school miserable. Oh, and she’s also totally head over heels with Jesse. A ghost.

I never actually finished this series, but I have seriously fond memories of devouring the first few books. It’s so much fun!

I'm a complete wuss so the ‘Goosebumps’ titles I read were very carefully picked and I never binge read them, but when I did pick one up I'd be reading all night. Quick, easy, fun and so many people’s introduction to a love of reading, RL Stine is a total legend.

Ah, Darren Shan. I haven’t actually read this series yet – it’s on my never-ending TBR! – but most people I've spoken to that have devour all 12 books in one go and re-read them until they’re falling apart - the perfect mix of a racing plot, gore and spook. 

I have read Darren Shan’s ‘Zom-B’ series though and that’s a perfect Halloween read. In fact, I reckon everything with Darran Shan’s touch was made for this time of year.

My love friend Chelley has been running a Point Horror book club in an effort to re-read childhood favourites from the collection and introduce those who missed it. She leads wonderful reviews and discussions on a different book each month so it’s the perfect time to jump in and join for October.

What childhood scares do you love to revisit around Halloween?