It’s that time again! My week in books. I’ve not been able to read as often this week as I have the past few weeks because I AM BACK AT WORK. Finally, after six weeks of post-operative recovery. Somehow I managed to read more books than I’ve been reading whilst I was off. I have no idea how! I also managed to have more headaches and less inclination to type up reviews, hence why this week’s round up is so late.
Wunderkids by Jacqueline Silvester
Oh Jacqueline, what are you doing to me with that ending? When is the next book? Is it now? Now is good.
I do love a boarding school story, and Wunderkids is an extraordinary boarding school story. Wildwood only takes the most talented children. There are sinister rumours, outsiders with conspiracy theories that could be true; the rules are strict, the education is strange and there is something not quite right going on in the Medical Centre. The staff are unnerving with a bizarre interest in increasing talent and monitoring memory.
Nikka finds herself at Wildwood surrounded by the most wonderful characters: Sums, who is friendly, funny and insanely clever; Stella who really wants to be popular but never seems to quite fit in; Tristan and Izayah who have this weird hatred of each other but constantly find themselves in each other’s company, fighting for Nikka’s attention, and Amber, who I utterly adored for her uniqueness and the way she cared for others (the healing ritual she performed to help Stella was, for me, one of the most beautiful moments in the book). Nikka herself is a complicated character. She has spent a lot of her life being responsible for her mother, but at Wildwood does some really irresponsible things. She is brave and protective, but also hot-headed and at times, aggressive.
Wunderkids has some really dark moments, which add to the tension and suspense we feel when reading it. The contrast between the rich and poor, scholarship and paid for students is constantly emphasised and adds another dimension to the novel. I just loved this book, so much more than I was expecting to and I am really excited for the sequel!
I’m also going to be on the blog tour for this one, so keep an eye out for my post on Wednesday!
Uncanny by Sarah Fine
I picked this one up second and was so gripped I read it until the early hours of the morning with no respect whatsoever for having to get up early for work. The opening just made me want to know everything, immediately.
The technology in Uncanny is really advanced and intrusive. People have implants that they carry around streaming “feeds” into their eyes, they can record anything they want, and their houses monitor their every move, unless you can override them. The novel is in part a commentary on privacy in a tech-heavy world. There are AI characters, most notably Cora’s therapist Rafiq, but they are also an integral part of society in schools, medical care and the police, and Sarah addresses the concept of free will for AI beings. It is fascinating.
Uncanny opens with us knowing Hannah is dead. Initially the details of this are relayed through reports from the technology, and this is somehow more haunting than it would otherwise be: the technology is more distant, it can’t tell which details are relevant and which aren’t, the information given is cold and clinical. Cora, Hannah’s sister, is implicated in her murder: both girls had their feeds switched off and the house security system, Franka, was disabled. Cora claims to remember nothing, but may not be telling the truth. She is being more closely monitored than normal by her family in the hope that memories resurface or some footage is found.
Uncanny is a fantastic novel that kept me hooked and guessing until the end. And that ending was like a punch to the gut. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in tech or a love of thriller / crime novels.
Mirror, Mirror by Carla Delevigne
Mirror Mirror is the story of four sixteen year old friends and their band, Mirror Mirror, formed as part of a school project. As the novel opens, one of the characters, Naomi, has disappeared. When she is pulled from the river in a coma, the police suspect a suicide attempt, but Rose, Red and Leo don’t believe this: Naomi has been happy lately, and this seems out of character.
For me, the narrative voice took some getting used it. It initially seemed as though the author was trying to hard to sound teenage, and in later parts, the conversation doesn’t read like conversation.
The emotions in this novel are honest and raw: we feel alongside the characters, and they each have their stories and difficulties which we experience with them. Sometimes, this bordered on being too many issues for me, but the story was intriguing, I was invested in the individual stories (particularly Red’s) and the characters were interesting and well developed. I loved the focus on “finding your people and your place” and how, when it came to it, the four friends did whatever they could to help each other in spite of their differences and their own personal problems.
Mirror Mirror takes a really dark turn towards the end. I guessed the culprit before they were revealed, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the end of the novel. This was an interesting read, with a great portrayal of teenage friendships and I think anyone who enjoyed stories with complicated relationships will enjoy this.
Hortense and the Shadow by Natalie O’Hara
I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a picture book on here before, but I do enjoy them on occasion. Hortense and the Shadow is a beautiful picture book.
Hortense is angry that her shadow follows her everywhere, and resolves to get rid of it. One night, bandits surprise her in the woods and she discovers that she needs her shadow to make her bigger and braver. This is a lovely exploration of self and embracing the parts of yourself you might not like.
The pictures in it are gorgeous, but it was difficult to appreciate them fully on my Kindle, so this is one I will have to get in physical copy to fully enjoy it.
There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
As a gory slasher story compared to the likes of Scream, There’s Someone Inside Your House delivers exactly what it says on the cover. It wasn’t as much of a horror as I was expecting, most of the scare-factor for me was in the moving of things around the house: that heightened the tension and spooked me far more than the murders themselves.
The murders are gory though, the descriptions are vivid and the killer clearly takes some pleasure in deciding how to display each of the mutilated bodies, although we never really find out why this was. I’ve seen a lot of reviews complain about finding out who the murderer was so early (it’s about half way through) but I loved this and I found the second half far more tense and fascinating as we tried to work out why this person was killing their classmates and who they were going to attack next.
I found There’s Something Inside Your House to be more of a contemporary romance and story of friendship with a background of slasher-film-style murders, and it’s very successful at this. I don’t think the romance would have happened in the same way if it weren’t for the murders and I loved the way that the murders and the events of the story brought the friends closer together.
The characters are well-written and all interesting in their own ways. Ollie is an outsider, he stands out from others with his pink hair, and this leads to him being suspected at various times by various others in the story. Makani fascinates me: her troubled relationship with her narcissistic mother really struck a chord with me and I wanted her to be happy. We know from the start that she is hiding something and that even her closest friends don’t know what it is. When it is revealed, it is horrifying, but not quite what I was imagining.
Stephanie gives her readers some brilliant surprises as the story goes on, there are some real upsets and the ending is every bit as dramatic as you would hope. There’s Someone Inside Your House is definitely worth a read, just don’t go into it expecting it to be all horror.
That’s my week! What have you been reading? Are any of these on your list?