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None of the Regular Rules - Erin Downing (Note: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

Just before senior year starts, Sophie, Ella and Grace find a list of dares written by Sophie's aunt Suzy. Suzy died a decade ago and has barely been spoken of since by Sophie's family. To pay tribute to her, the trio make up their mind to complete every dare on the list. But as much fun as ticking off items like "change a tyre", "go to a party" and "sneak into the planetarium" is, nothing can prepare Sophie for a revelation about her family.

None Of The Regular Rules does everything at least pretty well - Downing has an easy to read writing style, her dialogue is good, and she captures the fraught relationships between teenagers and their mothers with particular skill. However the stand-out part, which lifts it far above 'readable' and into 'go read now' territory, is the chemistry between narrator Sophie and Johnny Rush, the guy with the porn star name. (Her words, not mine!) The heat between the pair of them is so great that if it wasn't an e-book, I'd be expecting the pages to catch fire. Sophie is a wonderful main character but Johnny is seriously swoon-worthy, and gets more so every time he's on the page.

It's also a much darker book than I was expecting, in many ways. It starts off as a fairly light read, apart from the shadow of Suzy's death a decade in the past, but as the book goes on Downing weaves in some far grittier topics, which she handles well. I did think that one particular subplot was perhaps a tad rushed, though, but on the other hand it's quite interesting to see the topic involved there crop up in a book without being the main subject of the novel. (Apologies if that sentence is even more incomprehensible than usual, as always, fear of spoilers trumps clarity in my revews.)

Additionally, Downing captures the atmosphere of the end of school brilliantly. In fact, I'd say the only other book I can think of which really brings down the curtains on its characters' high-school experience as well as this one does is John Green's superb Paper Towns (which is set over a much shorter period of time.) Oh, one last thing - Trever German may be my new favourite minor character ever, or certainly my favourite of 2012. He's utterly wonderful every time he appears!

Definite recommendations to fans of YA contemporary books as an absolute bargain at just £1.94, I really want to get my hand on some of Erin Downing's others now!
The Boo Hag - David  Morgan Note: Received from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Lenny Petrakas is worried about her skin. That doesn't make her unique amongst teenage girls, obviously. But while they're concerned about spots, she has something more urgent to take care of. An evil creature called a boo hag wants to take every inch of skin from her body - unless she can stop it. Can the sixteen-year-old girl, along with a ragtag bunch of helpers, protect herself and get rid of the boo hag? And when the hag can take control of the bodies of those it's killed - just how does she know who to trust?

I think I've probably read too many paranormal books over the last few years, because it's been getting to the stage when I feel like I've read every possible idea and nothing stands out as unique. Until recently, at least. Firstly, there was Slide by Jill Hathaway, which I had a couple of issues with but was a great concept and handled pretty well for the most part. Now David Morgan gives us a supernatural story with a creature taken from South Carolina's Gullah culture. Full marks for originality here, as it's the first time I've even heard of a boo hag, which makes a chilling nemesis. As well, the rest of the book lives up to the villain, with a great atmosphere and some really fun interaction between the characters, particularly the central three of Lenny, her best friend Anna, and the hot guy they drag in to help protect them. Anna, who's clearly worried about Lenny but is also loving the chance to get closer to her crush Brian, is particularly wonderful, and is one of my favourite supporting characters of the year so far.

There are a few flaws - Morgan's prose gets overblown at times, with "But fear would not be her paralytic; it would be her catalyst." being perhaps the worst offender. The ending is one that I can see being somewhat divisive, as it finishes off the main part of the plot but leaves a major cliffhanger in place. This kind of thing can irritate me, but in this case I didn't mind - partly because the main bit was resolved well and partly because there's no way on earth I'm missing the second book, as I want to find out what happens with Anna and Brian, apart from anything else!

Overall, I'd certainly recommend this - especially if you're a fan of paranormal books and wants a break from the usual vampires, werewolves, angels, zombies and fairies!
The Things We Did for Love - Natasha Farrant In a small village in South-West France in the final years of World War II, the Resistance fight against the occupying Germans. Against this backdrop, Arianne falls madly in love with Luc, who has returned to the village after a long time away. They seem perfect for each other – but Luc has a dark secret in his past, and is desperate to make up for it, leading him to become involved with the fight against the Nazis. When someone else becomes jealous of Arianne’s feelings for him, tragedy seems inevitable.

It was, in retrospect, a mistake reading this straight after Code Name Verity, my favourite book of the year so far. Not for the reason I half-expected, though. I nearly left it for a while because I was worried that no other World War II novel could compare to the fabulous CNV - but this one holds its own. The reason reading them in succession was a mistake is that I ended up crying so much over a period of a couple of days that my eyes took ages to recover.

It’s truly heart-rending, it has a wonderfully drawn cast of characters – I fell completely in love with about six different people at various points in the book – and Farrant’s writing style is utterly beautiful. Massive recommendation as one of my top few of the year so far. I appreciate this is a rather short review – as always, with the books I really loved I find it very difficult to say too much because I’m always petrified of spoiling them – but it really is one you should rush out and buy.
Night of the Purple Moon (Toucan, #1) - Scott Cramer (I was given an electronic copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

Virtually everyone on Earth is looking forward to seeing the purple moon they’ve been promised for months. The planet will pass through the tail of a comet, creating weeks of colourful sunsets and sunrises for them to enjoy. What they’re not expecting, though, is the space dust which has a devastating effect, killing off older teens and adults in just hours. Abby Leigh, her brother Jordan, and their neighbours Kevin and Emily are left frantically trying to look after the other children on their small island. Can they survive until a cure is found? As well as the problems in feeding and caring for themselves and a bunch of smaller children, they’re all too aware that it’s a race against time – because Abby, and some of the others, are getting close to puberty themselves.

This is a fairly strange way to start a review of a sci-fi book, but what really got me about Night of the Purple Moon was how realistic it felt. Everything after the initial deaths due to the dust seems to be incredibly well thought out, both in the way in which characters act and the effects their actions have. Similarly, the characters – especially Abby and Emily – are very well-developed and this makes it gut-wrenching when bad things happen to them. (And believe me, some very bad things happen to some of them – I was stunned by how dark it got at points.) I also had a soft spot for Abby’s two-year-old sister Toucan, an incredibly cute toddler.

Given how easy it is to fall for these characters, I found it to be a gripping book because I was desperate to find out what happened to them. I read the last two-thirds while sitting in a dentist’s waiting room about to have a filling, and it completely took the thought of the upcoming procedure out of my head – no mean feat given my general dread of dental visits!

Strong recommendation as a really impressive novel. I’m hoping Scott Cramer releases something else in the near future!
Pieces of Us - Margie Gelbwasser Every summer Katie and her sister Julie meet up with Alex and his brother Kyle at a lakeside community in New York. They leave behind their problems - which are legion - and find comfort in each other. But when a dark secret of one of them leaks out, the four are all left reeling by the far-reaching consequences.

This one goes straight into my five most disturbing reads of all time, with subject matter including rape, blackmail, cyberbullying, and emotional abuse. Margie Gelbwasser is clearly a very brave author - not only does she tackle these issues head on, she does it without providing us with any pleasant characters to root for. As if that isn't enough of a handicap to a novel's success, younger boy Kyle's parts are narrated in the second person, which is almost always thought to be a major mistake. Despite all this, Gelbwasser somehow just about pulls everything together to create a novel which is never less than compelling.

The two brothers in this quartet are Alex, an abusive playboy who practically forces his younger brother to take part in sex acts with various girls, and Kyle, the nearest thing we get to a likeable character and a born victim. From the other family, we get cheerleader Katie, who starts off the novel seeming to have the world - or at least her school - at her feet, and falls from grace spectacularly, and her younger sister Julie, constantly berated by their mother for being in Katie's shadow. Their mother is one of the most horrendously vile characters I've ever read about - I have rarely felt so utterly repulsed by a fictional person.

Given how relentlessly bleak this book is and the subject matter I've seen a fair few suggestions that it should be for over 18's only. As tempting as it is to agree with them, though, I think people saying this are missing the point. Yes, the events of the novel are truly horrific. Yes, it's thankfully rare for things like this to happen. But at the end of the day, sadly, this sort of stuff actually does happen to teens, and a book like this is important because it shows those suffering that they're not alone, and opens other eyes to some of the problems teens endure. What I would say to parents, though, is that if your child is reading this book, then you should find the time to read through yourself and discuss the issues with them. It will definitely provoke some serious conversation. With that proviso, I think I'm probably putting it in 'recommendation' territory because it is exceptionally powerful.

Gelbwasser's writing style is superb and I look forward to reading more from a very talented author - I can't help but hope, though, that the next book she tackles is a lighter read than this!
Putting Boys on the Ledge (A Girlfriend's Guide to Boys Book #1) - Stephanie Rowe Blueberry Walker is desperate to get to know hunky Heath Cavendish better, and acting in a play with the senior she has a crush on seems to be the perfect opportunity. Her friends warn her, though, that she needs to avoid showing her interest too strongly and put him on the Ledge to keep him interested. Also willing to help her learn more about boys is new friend Colin - but is he just being helpful, or does he want more?

This is predictable fluff, but with engaging enough characters to be really enjoyable reading. I loved Blue, I found her friends really fun as well, and while I could tell what was going to happen fairly early on I still enjoyed the short journey to get there. Given the length of this novella it's actually one I'd recommend really highly to teens who don't normally read much - I think the compactness of it, along with the realistic characters and breezy writing style would definitely give them a good experience. Plus, there's three more in the series to move on to after this one - I know I'll be checking out the others, I'm sure most people who read this will be keen to see what happens next to Blue's friends, who get a book each devoted to them.

Anywhere between a mild and strong recommendation depending on your feelings on short reads with a light touch.
The Clever One - Helena Close Sixteen year old Maeve is the clever one in her family. So clever that she can't believe how stupid the others can be - especially her slightly older sister Fiona, a 'pramface' now after falling pregnant to her no good boyfriend Big. After the news broke of Fiona's pregnancy, Maeve told her best friend Mark that she wanted nothing to do with the baby. But she didn't count on loving baby Harvey so much that she'd do anything to protect him - so she sets a plan in motion to rid their family of Big and the rest of the scumbags he associates with.

Author Helena Close has created a memorable, if not necessarily likeable, heroine in Maeve, and depicts Limerick in a realistic and gritty manner. It's definitely not one for younger teens - one of the very first scenes sees Maeve throw up over a boy who's trying to force her to go further than she wants with him, and that quickly seems incredibly tame compared to some of the later events in the novel. That said, none of the events seem to be there just to shock - they're believable consequences of Maeve’s actions, and we can see how quickly events can spiral out of control.

I found parts of the book to be rather predictable – particularly the romantic subplot between Maeve and Mark – while others, especially the ending, took me completely by surprise. I’d hesitate to call this a particularly enjoyable read; the bleakness of the subject matter makes that description rather inappropriate. It is, though, a very powerful novel and definitely worth reading if you want a gritty and realistic drama. I’ll just repeat once more my warning that this is for more mature teens only!

Overall, this is a well-written tale with some excellent characters, and I look forward to reading more from Helena Close in the future.
Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground - Mark Mason I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review, by the way.

Mark Mason, lover of all things London, sets himself a mission. To walk the length of EVERY one of the capital’s eleven Underground lines – but to do so overground. Travelling 403 miles, learning more facts about London than you could ever imagine, and meeting a variety of people – including the Krays’ biographer – and find out that the legendary Circle Line pub crawl (drinks in 27 pubs, one for each station) may not be as much fun as it’s cracked up to be.

This is one of those books that will, if you’re anything like me, take a ridiculous amount of time to read, because it conjures up so many visions of London with Mason’s vivid descriptions of the city that I spent half my time in pleasant daydreams of doing the same thing as the author. Sadly – or perhaps thankfully – I don’t have the time, or the energy, to walk over four hundred miles myself, but I certainly felt as though I was accompanying him on his journey as he made his way to hundreds of stations. It’s also a wonderful book to dip into and read a line at a time, prolonging the enjoyment.

Mason’s style is an extremely easy one to read and he raises a smile not just with his descriptions of the areas he walks through and their history, but also with the people who accompany him on occasions – especially his friend Richard, far keener than the author to plan things out to the nth degree. A massive amount of footnotes adds to the information without breaking up the main narrative, providing plenty of extra facts – did you know how big the Square Mile is now? I’ll give you a clue, it’s not exactly a square mile anymore – but to find out the actual area, you’ll need to buy the book. Or I suppose you could look it up on the internet; but then you’d miss out on dozens, if not hundreds, of similar bits of trivia. (Seriously, you can’t tell me you don’t want to know why City police call the Met the Bantams, can you?)

High recommendation, particularly to London lovers like myself.
Bloodstone - Gillian Philip Please note, I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Usual spoiler warning for book 1, Firebrand, applies here.

Seth and Conal MacGregor have spent so long hunting for the Bloodstone for Kate NicNiven, their queen, that they're reached the present day in our world (after Firebrand took place in sixteenth century Scotland.) They still haven't found it, though, but they have got themselves involved with some wonderful new characters, notably sullen teenager Finn, who's unaware of her Sithe heritage but about to find out with far-reaching consequences. Returning to the realm of the fairies with her in tow, and two others, the MacGregor boys are about to find even more trouble.

Seth burst onto the scene in Firebrand as an incredible narrator, full of youthful rebellion and fury, and while four centuries or so have passed, he's still the same flawed but lovable hero. Add to that Conal, calmer but just as wonderful, and great new characters like the surly Finn, and this is a surefire winner. The narration is mainly by Seth but parts are done by Jed, the human son of a woman Seth has a relationship with, and his voice brings an interesting new twist to things.

It's an epic, sprawling, plot, as befits a series which has so far spanned four hundred plus years over just two books, and similarly to its predecessor sees betrayal and revenge as major topics. It's incredibly difficult to know who to trust and that makes the book a really tense read.

Special praise for the ending, which was incredibly striking and felt, in many ways, nearly unbearably final. However, with two books to go in the Rebel Angels series, it's clearly not. I have no idea where Gillian Philip will take us from here - but I have every confidence that it will be an incredible journey finding out!

High recommendation, and this series is definitely one which adults will enjoy just as much as teens.

Further reading suggestion: Another excellent book about humans interacting with strange creatures from another realm is Cold Tom by Sally Prue, a fantastic retelling of the folk tale Tam Lin.
The Unreliable Life of Harry the Valet: The Great Victorian Jewel Thief - Duncan Hamilton Note: This book was received from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The story of Harry the Valet may not be particularly familiar to modern readers, but he was something of a celebrity in the Victorian age. He achieved notoriety by stealing thousands of pounds worth of jewels from the Dowager Duchess of Sutherland - much to the delight of many people who disliked the lady, which appears to have been pretty much everyone who ever met her. Having pulled off this audacious theft, Harry seemed to be invincible - but he was brought down by his love for a Gaiety Girl, and ended up facing a trial which the papers fell over themselves to report on.

Author Duncan Hamilton takes an impressive list of sources - chiefly the Valet's own autobiography, which he admits is not necessarily the most accurate of documents, but also hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and another two hundred or so books about the era - and weaves a compelling tale out of this fascinating character. The Valet himself is portrayed fairly sympathetically; far more so than the Dowager Duchess, the girl he falls for, or some of the other criminals mentioned in passing. That's not to say his crimes and the effect they had on others are completely glossed over - just that it's made clear that he was something of a Robin Hood figure, robbing from the rich and giving to a rather small section of the poor (namely, himself.)

I've now read several true crime stories set in this era and on balance I think this probably stands out as the best - Harry is a really interesting central figure, and the pacing is perfect, giving us lots of information about the trial and his many crimes without ever overloading us. It's also really atmospheric, capturing the flavour of the Valet's times, in locations ranging from London clubs to country estates to the Continent.

Overall this is a strong recommendation to fans of true crime or the Victorian era in particular, and thrilling non-fiction in general.
42: Douglas Adams' Amazingly Accurate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything - Peter   Gill A common question about Douglas Adams’ famous Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is just why Adams chose the number 42 as the answer to life, the universe and everything. In a charming trivia book, author Peter Gill takes 50 pages or so to look into the story of the book and the author and another 250 to find occurrences of 42 in the worlds of sport, crime, science and a wide range of other fields.

Everyone will have their own personal favourite facts and figures from this excellent collection – my vote for the most interesting just about goes to the bit about the alumni of Chicago’s Forty-Two Gang and former leader Sam Giancana’s links to JFK and Fidel Castro. Intrigued? You should be…

There are several points at which Gill plays rather fast and loose with the number – notably when talking about cricket, with the quote ‘’The first law prevents the use of 42 fielders, or less specifically all numbers over eleven.’’ Thanks to a bright and breezy writing style, he gets away with this – if he’d been more ruthless about cutting it down to actual 42’s, we’d have lost out on learning about the Polynesian game of kirikiti so I can forgive him for it. Similarly, 4.2 and the football score 4-2 are considered fair game and when it’s used as an excuse to inform us that Geoff Hurst unveiled a statue in Baku to Tofic Bahkramov, the Azerbaijani – NOT Russian! – linesman who gave the goal in that famous World Cup Final, that’s fine by me. Especially since I’ve managed to get at least three pub quiz questions written from that fact.

While the majority of the book is equally likely to appeal to you whether you’re a fanatical fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide or a total novice, the last 50 pages and the appendix ‘’The 42 explanations’’ can be enjoyed by everyone but are likely to be the part which pushes this into ‘must-read’ territory for fervent fans of Douglas Adams. We have here plenty on the author and the book, most notably the thank you letter he wrote to the author of the book which inspired him, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe, which is absolutely fascinating to read, and a list of possible explanations for the choice, my favourite of which I will resist spoiling for you (but it relates to a classic song featured in a Doris Day musical…)

Very high recommendation.
Yesterday's Treasures (Hourglass Institute, #2) - Richard Denning Set shortly after the events of Tomorrow's Guardian which saw young hero Tom accept his mantle as a Walker who could travel through time, and rescue several others with similar gifts, Yesterday's Treasures sees Tom and his friends searching for the legendary Crown of Knossos. Up against them are their old enemies from the Twisted Reality, and even the Directorate may have their own reasons for wanting the Crown...

That paragraph above probably makes very little sense if you haven't read TG, so if you haven't, go get that book first! Then come back here...

Like the first in the series, I really enjoyed Yesterday's Treasures. Denning's writing is very accessible to readers, he fleshes out his characters well - there's certainly more `shades of grey' here than could be found in the first book which was far more of a straightforward goodies/baddies kind of novel - and he does a great job of capturing the voices of people from different time periods. (I particularly like the interaction between modern schoolboy Tom and former 17th century servant girl Mary, who continually calls him `Master' despite his efforts to get her to stop.)

That said there were a couple of things which I thought let the book down at times - the tagline ``Former friends make the deadliest of foes'' commits the cardinal sin of giving too much away as we're waiting for one of Tom's allies to betray him. Denning does, to be fair, do a pretty good job of building up several characters as the possible traitor but it still felt like we were finding out too much about the novel before reading it.

I will also cheerfully admit to having problems following complicated time travel at times and one reason I enjoyed Tomorrow's Guardian so much was that it was blissfully UNcomplicated - concentrating strongly on the action parts and much less on the mechanics of time travel and the usual `'what if I meet myself'' questions was a great decision by Denning in my opinion. This is noticeably more complicated and that lessened my enjoyment at times (but to be fair I'm sure most older primary-school kids will be better at keeping up to speed than I am, as I've said, I struggle with complex stuff!)

With those slight concerns I would happily give this a good recommendation - it's exciting, it's got a great cast, it tells an interesting story and the character development shows a lot of progression from the first in the series.

If you like the sound of the book but aren't 100% sure whether to try it or not I'd strongly encourage checking out Richard's superb website where you can read the first five chapters for free! http://www.richarddenning.co.uk/yesterdays.html

There's also a long extract from the start of the first in the series, Tomorrow's Guardian available http://www.richarddenning.co.uk/tomguard.html - great to see an author with so much confidence in his work that he's willing to let people have a decent sized chunk as a taster.
You Against Me - Jenny Downham
Karyn liked Tom. So much so that she went round to his house looking sexy. But no-one really knows what that led to. Now she’s claiming he raped her, Karyn’s brother Mikey wants to kill him, and Tom’s sister Ellie’s world’s falling apart over the allegation. And then Mikey and Ellie meet and things get REALLY complicated…

I picked this up because Downham’s Before I Die is one of my favourite books of the past decade. While this didn’t hit me quite as hard as that superb novel did, she’s an author I’d definitely consider to be one of the very best of today’s many excellent YA writers. She builds suspense really well here as it takes a long time until we find out the truth about the night of the possible rape, causing me to race through a fairly long book in less than a day because I was so desperate to find out what happened. There’s also some marvelous characterisation – I really like both Ellie and Mikey who are very realistic, both doing some stupid but understandable things, as Ellie’s faced with a father who’s refusal to even imagine Tom could be guilty is quite scary, while Mikey has to try and look after Karyn, who won’t go outside, their mother who’s turned to drink, and kid sister Holly. Karyn and Tom themselves were rather more mysterious but in many ways had to be to keep the mystery up, while minor character Gillian – a policewoman assigned to Karyn – stood out for me as a fairly rare sympathetic authority figure in modern YA. Dialogue is another really strong point, with all of the characters having distinctive voices which suited them perfectly.

It’s not perfect as a novel – the writing is, perhaps because of the difference in subjects, far less lyrical than Before I Die was, and without wanting to give anything away about the ending I felt it was a little bit underwhelming. Also, the themes mean I’d be slightly uncomfortable recommending it to younger teens to be honest. However, it’s a very good read.which confirms Downham’s place as a fantastic author.
Everything I Was - Corinne Demas Note: I read this via NetGalley - thanks to the publishers for making it available to me for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Irene's family have always been well off. Living in an Upper West Side Penthouse, she's used to attending an all-girls prep school and taking lavish family vacations. So when her father suddenly loses her job and they have to move to the countryside to live with her grandfather, how will she cope?

I spent most of the time when I was reading Everything I Was waiting for something big to happen and being slightly surprised when nothing incredibly major did. Eventually, I realised I was approaching it the wrong way. It's a slice of life, a rather charming coming of age novel, which reads much more like something that would have been published 20 or 30 years ago than the majority of today's books do. Irene is a sweet main character, her new friends Meg and Jim and her grandfather are lovely, and there's just enough conflict with her parents to keep things interesting without even getting away from the realistic feel. There's a little bit of sweet, gentle romance, some beautiful scenes between Meg and her grandfather as she gets to know him better, and I love the book's setting in the countryside and the descriptions of the area. One small criticism - the cover REALLY doesn't fit in with the rest of the book, the girl looks far older and more mature than thirteen year old Irene and it was partly responsible for me expecting more to be happening in the book than I actually got.

It's a leisurely, peaceful read which is a nice change in pace from some of the action-filled stuff I've been reading recently and I'm definitely interested in tracking down more stuff by Corinne Demas. It won't be for everyone, but I'd recommend it to tweens and younger teens, especially fans of authors like Paula Danziger and Ann M Martin.
Populazzi - Elise Allen Note - I read this book via NetGalley. Thanks to the publishers Harcourt children's Books for providing it to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Cara Leonard has always wanted to be one of the in crowd. One of the Populazzi. But when people remember you wetting your pants on the first day of kindergarten, it's hard to reinvent yourself. At least until you move across the city of Philadelphia. With a clean slate, and help from her oldest friend Claudia, Cara sets out to climb to the top of her new school's social ladder. Who cares if it means stepping on some boys' hearts as she moves up? It sounds like it's going to be so easy... but you know that it won't all go according to plan.

Let's face it, if you're reading a book with this premise, you're not expecting great literature. You're expecting bitchy girls, hot boys, and catty cliques. Populazzi absolutely has all of that in spades. The characters are larger than life but generally entertaining - with the exception of Cara's stepfather, who's just TOO horrific for me not to conclude that her mother is a grade A cow for not divorcing him years ago. In fact, when we first got to find out about his nastier side, I was half expecting this to turn into a very different book and was glad it didn't.

But while the parts about Cara's home life didn't ring true to me, everything else - the majority of the book - certainly did. I loved the way she tried to manipulate people even though it clearly wasn't part of her normal personality, I loved the social structure of the school, which author Elise Allen got completely spot on. I loved the way that just when I was thinking it was a predictable read there were a few curveballs thrown in to keep things fresh. And I loved the ending which was sweet but certainly didn't wave away all of Cara's problems.

Despite being reasonably long, this was a quick read for me because it was so pacy, things kept happening and I was glued to finding out how Cara got on in her quest for social success. Oh, and because I kept hoping minor character Robert, a fanatical Star Wars geek, would pop up again - and thankfully I wasn't disappointed!

Sudden Death

Sudden Death - Nick Hale
Jake Bastin, son of famous former footballer Steve, thought his life was difficult enough even before his father enters negotiations to join St Petersburg’s newest football team as manager. But when the agent his dad’s discussing the move with collapses of a suspected heart attack, things get far more complicated – because Jake is convinced he was actually poisoned, and can’t understand why his dad seems happy to go along with a cover up. As the pair move to St Petersburg, the bodies start piling up, and Jake goes from having to fight to control his temper, to fight to save his life. With no way of knowing if he can trust anyone, even his own father, can the youngster stand up to criminals who are happy to kill to get what they want?

From reading the blurb about this book, I was expecting half Alex Rider, half Mark Fox (main character in a Michael Hardcastle series of football books in the late seventies and early eighties.) What we actually get is much more action-orientated than I was expecting, with Jake’s own football prowess taking a definite back seat to his growth as an action hero. Still, that’s certainly not a criticism – just an observation – and this fast moving thriller had me hooked from start to finish! Jake is a brilliant hero, likeable and well-developed, and the other characters are really interestingly drawn. I had no idea, when I was two thirds of the way through, who would turn out to be a good guy and who would turn out to be a criminal, but the eventual explanations made perfect sense and tied things up nicely.

Author Nick Hale has got a clear, crisp, writing style and fits a huge amount of action into the book with lots of cliffhangers – I found it practically impossible to put down and I’m sure most teenage boys, the main target audience, will be equally gripped! I was also impressed that the violence was reasonably restrained in the way it’s described – despite the deaths and fight scenes, there’s nothing much here I’d be hesitant about passing on to a young secondary school pupil. I hope this is the start of a long-running series and would highly recommend it to fans of Anthony Horowitz, Robert Muchamore, and Mal Peet. The second in the series, Close Range, is out now, and I have it on my to be read pile so will try to review it once I get around to it.