Anne Bonny #YA #BookReview I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter #NewRelease YA @simonschusterUK ‘Dark themes, haunting characters and beautiful writing’

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I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter
My own copy from TBR pile
Synopsis:

“Caleb led me into the party. He’d invited me because he could. He’d kissed me because he could. Just like his dad, Caleb lived in a world of could and we drifted from room to room on the privilege of it.”

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, she begins her freshman year with new clothes, new hair, and a plan: she doesn’t need to be popular, she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

It’s a lonely existence, but at least no one’s tripping her in the halls. In fact, no one notices her at all. Until Caleb Breward, tells her she’s beautiful and makes her believe it.

Ellie loves Caleb, but sometimes she doesn’t like him that much – his awkward smile, the possessive way he touches her, the tone he uses, how he ignores her one minute and can’t get enough the next. And on one black night, she discovers the monster her boyfriend really is. Ellie wasn’t the first victim, but now, trapped, she has to watch it happen again and again. She tries to hold onto her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

But no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

My Review:

This is very much a Lovely Bones for the YA generation. There is some extremely beautiful writing, despite the dark subject matter. The protagonist Ellie Frias is unusual in that Ellie is a murdered teen, watching over the aftermath of her brutal rape and murder. She is from a small town named Hollow Oaks in New York, which she describes rather poetically.

‘I suppose this is a fitting place for a girl like me. I disappeared before I actually did. And now, I’m trapped here. Forgotten.’
‘This whole town is full of ghosts’ – Ellie

We Later learn that Hollow Oaks is a town facing economical destabilisation. With most of the factories closed. Families have lost everything including their homes. The downturn enables one wealthy family to buy up all the real estate and effectively own the town. Hollow Oaks sounds like a miserable place to live and an even worse place to die.

‘I hate the way these unseen things damage us in secret’ – Ellie

The novel opens with Ellie in ghost form witnessing an assault on a new victim. This is taking place at the same run-down house where Ellie’s assault took place. The current victim is pleading to be let go. Ellie remarks on how there has been seven victims, since she was brought to the abandoned house.

‘He looks for the young ones, the pretty ones.
The weak ones’ – Ellie

We learn Ellie’s background, raised by a single father, she is a social outcast as school. Having recently transferred schools, she wasn’t struggling to fit in, she simply didn’t exist. The novel also reflects quite deeply on the power of words and in particular the word ‘pretty’. As Beyonce says ‘Pretty Hurts’. The term pretty and to be defined as or as not pretty can have a huge impact on a young girls psychology. Their self-esteem can be exceptionally fragile in an Instagram society, where we are judged by out snaps alone. Ellie words this so much better than I ever could. But as the mother to a teenage daughter, it gave me much food for thought.

Eventually someone shows an interest in Ellie, a young boy by the name of Caleb. Only what Ellie doesn’t know, is the meeting of Caleb will be the very undoing of her. But still he persists to ask her out on Friday night. . .
“Why not? What’s the worst that can happen? I’m a nice guy – Caleb

“You can’t imagine the things I think about doing with you” – Caleb

Reading on, as Ellie reflects upon meeting Caleb and the clever way in which he groomed her and broken her down slowly by building her up with words, brought tears to my eyes.

‘It takes a lot of things to make a girl, but breaking her? it only takes a few pretty words and a crooked smile’ – Ellie

Ellie is forced to witness victim after victim, be brought to the abandoned property. To witness their assaults. Until one victim named Gretchen decides to fight back! It is Gretchen’s refusal to be a victim and determination to find Ellie that unravels the entire plot.

The chapters are reflective and cover previously to the attack, after the attack itself on Ellie and subsequent attacks on other young girls. Ellie is able to watch over not only her killer but the police dealing with her case and her grieving father. The novel has some powerful writing as mentioned and quoted above. It really is written from the soul.

There are various topics that would make for great debate among book groups and young people. The arrogance and sexual entitlement of some young males and their disregard for the women they abuse and manipulate.
But also when we think of grooming itself, we don’t necessarily think of teenage boys. I know I didn’t, yet when I thought back that is exactly what Caleb did. I guess this novel serves as a stark reminder that teenage boys can groom their victims too.

‘Nobody every wants to be inconvenienced by all the things that happen to girls’

The theme of victimhood amongst teenage girls is also explored, as more and more young women eventually come forward. It concerns me that now we seem to see cases where a rapist needs multiple victims for the victims to be believed.

Dark themes, haunting characters and beautiful writing 4*

T.E. Carter
Website

Anne Bonny #YA #BookReview Children Of Blood And Bone by @tomi_adeyemi 5* Genius #LegacyOfOrisha @MacmillanKidsUK #Zelie #Magic #Diviner

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Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Synopsis:

Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut Children of Blood and Bone.

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.

My Review:

I have never been so concerned with the future of magic, in my entire life! I am a huge YA fan, but will admit I don’t read many novels with the theme of magic. I decided to change that and bought my copy of Children Of Blood And Bone.
I am so glad that I did.

There is powerful writing before you even get to the first page. The writing is absolutely beautiful, and I instantly developed a huge respect for the author.

‘The incantations that spewed from her mouth like lava. The magic of dead that led her astray’

The writing is emotionally charged and if you read between the lines, you can see reflections to American black history.

‘I think about the way her corpse hung from that tree. I think about the king who took her away’

The novel is fiction/fantasy. Yet the historical and modern-day references are there. The theme of those whom wield all the power and their abuses over those who do not. Diverse literature is important in EVERY genre of fiction. But I would say most definitely in the YA genre. The younger generation want to read literature that represents the world they live in. Culture and race play a huge part of that world.

The story opens with our heroine and protagonist Zelie, she is a diviner. She is taking part in a sparing session with Mama Agba. When the guards arrive to collect ‘diviner tax’. A tax that is hugely inflated and used to oppress and enslave the diviner members of society. This is enforced by King Saran, who led the genocide against the diviners.

‘It’s not bad enough for the king to keep the diviners down. He has to break anyone who tries to help us’

Zelie notices the guard’s sword, which is a black blade made of majacite, created to weaken magic and burn the flesh. Zelie is also exposed to sexual threats and unwanted advances. Which she must tolerate against her will. . .

‘Keep my mouth shut, swallow my rage – Live to see another day’

Zelie despises the way she is treated, and she riles against this oppressive regime. But those around her, warn her such rage risks her own life and that of those she loves.

‘They don’t hate you my child. They hate what you were meant to become’ – Mama Agba

As the novel unfolds we learn the history of the diviners. The differing ten clans and their unique abilities. How the chosen children have the mark of white hair. The history of the diviners is incredibly moving, with Zelie having experienced the loss of her own mother at such a young age.

Love – Fear – Hate – Violence

11yrs previously the Maji People used their powers in defence and their magic disappeared. The power of the magic is in direct relation to their gods and the Maji people have no idea why they have been forsaken.

‘The gods died with our magic’

Zelie is surrounded by people that have no magic (kosidan). This includes her father Baba and brother Tzain. Which also means they do not experience the same level of hate/violence that she is herself at risk from. Zelie is surrounded by people yet feels alone in the world.

‘One look at my white hair, and people avoid me like I’m an infectious plaque’

Nailah is a lionaire that Zelie has raised from a cub,
at times she feels Nailah is her only friend.

With taxes being raised to levels of extortion. Zelie and Tzain must leave and head to Lagos to raise some money. Money that will ensure Zelie stays free from the ‘stocks’. The stocks being the Maji forced labour camp, where death is highly likely. On the journey, she reflects upon her memories, from when she was just a little girl of 6yrs old.

‘That was the night things got bad. The night King Saran hung my people for the world to see, declaring war against the Maji or today and tomorrow. The night magic died’

The novel jumps between various points of view, with the most prominent being Zelie. But the other two narratives, give you an insight into life on the other side of this divided society. Amari and Inan are King Saran’s children.

Amari is a royal princess, who tires of her role and constant attention and appeasing in a male dominated society. Her only friend is Binta, her diviner chambermaid and confidante. When Binta is summoned by the king, Amari is consumed by fear. Why would her father summon Binta? What use for a diviner, can her father have?

‘Our female nobility paste on smiles, though I know they whisper about us behind our backs’

Amari sneaks into her father’s offices and becomes aware of a secret not meant for her ears. . .

‘Your highness. The diviners became Maji’ – Commander Kaea

Inan is the youngest captain in history. He is loyal to his father and aware that he is next in line to the throne. He has the same devout beliefs about the Maji people and diviners and like his father would like to see their eradication.
But fate has a surprise for Inan.

‘Gods are nothing without fools to believe in them’ – King saran

After witnessing the spoken secret and death of Binta. Amari becomes enraged. She flees the palace taking with her the scroll.
A scroll that can bring back the magic!

In the city of Lagos the lives of Zelie, Amari and Inan will collide and their futures will change forever. Their core beliefs are challenged in ways they’ve never known before.
Zelie must find her inner strength and on this journey, she becomes an instant hero of mine.

‘We don’t need to fear magic we only need each other’

There are so many powerful themes within this novel. But to include all the details is to simply spoil the magic for others. It is one of the most powerful books, I have read this year and I urge you to buy it. Buy it for the young people, children and teens that you love. Or simply buy it for yourself, for some pure escapism.
5* Genius

‘You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back’ – Zelie

TA
Tomi Adeyemi
Website
Twitter

#Review See How They Lie by Sue Wallman @SWallman #YA #Thriller 4.5*

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See How They Lie by Sue Wallman

Synopsis:

Mae believes that the reason she’s lived all her life in a psychiatric hospital is because her father is a psychiatrist. Everyone says she’s lucky to be there. With its high-end facilities and 24-hour surveillance, no one could be safer. But why is she being watched too? And how come she can never leave?

My review:

Every so often, I absolutely love a good YA novel. My teenage daughter got me into reading them and I in turn introduced her to some of my favourite adult fiction authors. So sharing YA titles has fast become a very positive experience and an open chance for lengthy mum/daughter book chats!

This novel opens up in Hummingbird creek, within the confines of an elite wellness retreat. This gated community monitors every aspect of patient’s and the staff’s children’s lives. Mae is the daughter of Louelle and Hunter Ballard, the retreats founders. Mae and the patients are teenagers, experiencing life and effectively growing up in an environment that promises to nurture their every need mentally, physically and spiritually. However, everything is not as it seems……

The retreat operates under a token system. Tokens are rewarded for good behaviour and are available to spend on a wide range of treats such as spa visits. It is paramount to all the teenagers that they must conform with the creeks ethos (rules). With the ‘tranquillity manifesto’ giving specific details of what’s allowed and what is not tolerated. But like all teens, Mae becomes rebellious against the controlling nature of the retreat and a mystery develops……

The relationship between the mother and daughter Mae is one of complexity and almost silence. But like all the characters within this novel, it is what helps maintain its grip on your attention. The characterisation is massively on point and I was fascinated by all of them and their behaviours etc. Noah, Thet, Greta, Zach, Raoul, Austin, Jenna and Ms ray all make for a wide variety of personality’s. When Mae finds herself on zero privileges due to her rule breaking, the pace really picks up!

A gripping, edgy mystery in the YA genre 4.5*

SW Book
Sue WallMan
Authors links
Web: suewallman.co.uk
Twitter: @SWallman