Book Review: S.T.A.G.S, by M A Bennett

Publisher:  Hot Key Books

Publication date: 10th August 2017

Source: Reader’s First website

S.T.A.G.S (St Aiden the Great) is an elite educational establishment with a deep-rooted code of conduct. It’s where ‘old school’ rules and the practice of embracing traditional methods is the most acceptable way to conduct one’s self. The use of smart phones, kindles or even the internet itself is deemed to be ‘Savage’.

Student role play, maybe? A teenage fad, perhaps? Nope. It’s a movement of young folk who have, quite plausibly, adopted the title of the ‘Medievals’. Anything that clashes with the strange ideology of the cultured few will keep you outside their circle, and that’s a very isolated place to be.

What a relief then, to be among the ‘Savages’ who receive the highly-prized invitation to attend a ‘Medieval’s’ manorial estate for a spot of Huntin’, Fishin’ and a Shootin’. Oh my, if ever there was a weekend that should have health and safety crawling all over it was this one!

The location provides the perfect terrain for a spot of macabre recreation. One thing newcomers learn during their stay is: never underestimate your game – its instinct is to survive, it merely depends on who is stronger – the hunter or the prey.

I loved how the privileged hunting party operates in an aristocratic pack, yet successfully creates a distinctly primal atmosphere for their unsuspecting guests. Just how far this traumatic experience will affect them is for you to discover for yourself – all I know is “ Huntin’ Shootin’ Fishin’ ” is an invitation I’m unlikely to RSVP any time soon!

S.T.A.G.S heralds a terrific story line with a cracking pace and shows that moral rivalry is alive and kicking. One unfortunate irritation did arise from the over-indulgence of movie references, which began to resemble a compilation of nominees for best film/theatre production. I’m all for one or two of these casually thrown in for a nostalgia boost, but the overkill (excuse the pun) influenced what could have been a 5/5 rating from me.

Despite the fact that vulnerable creatures are targeted for sport, S.T.A.G.S is an exceptionally good read. The warped logic used to justify certain unethical behaviour was repulsive yet riveting, and I especially enjoyed the devious taunt from the conclusion – to be, or not to be, continued. Now that IS the question…

Rating: 4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher via their Reader’s First website and it’s my pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

A twisting thriller for fans of Looking for Alaska.

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…

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(Courtesy of Reader’s First Website)

M. A. Bennett is half Venetian and was born in Manchester, England, and raised in the Yorkshire Dales. She is a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she specialised in the study of Shakespeare’s plays as a historical source. After university she studied art and has since worked as an illustrator, an actress, and a film reviewer. She also designed tour visuals for rock bands, including U2 and the Rolling Stones. She was married on the Grand Canal in Venice and lives in north London with her husband, son and daughter.

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: Under My Skin, by Zoe Markham

Today, I’m over the moon to be taking part of the Book Tour for Under My Skin, by Zoë Markham. Please read on to discover more about the book, see my review + find an excellent giveaway at the end of this post for a £25.00 Amazon Voucher! (Giveaway now closed)

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Book blurb: What if we’re all monsters, on the inside?

Chloe was once a normal girl. Until the night of the car crash that nearly claimed her life. Now Chloe’s mother is dead, her father is a shell of the man he used to be and the secrets that had so carefully kept their family together are falling apart.

A new start is all Chloe and her father can hope for, but when you think you’re no longer human how can you ever start pretending?

A contemporary reworking of a British horror classic, Under My Skin follows seventeen-year-old Chloe into an isolated world of darkness and pain, as she struggles to understand what it really means to be alive.

Set against the familiar backdrop of everyday, normal teenage worries, Chloe’s world has become anything but…


  My Review 5 out of 5 Zoe Markham

Publisher:  Carina  |  Publication date:  31st March 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Review Copy)

Under My Skin by Zoe Markham

Discover who the real monsters are in Under My Skin…

Take an ordinary teenager. Irritable. Moody. Anxious. Thinking about lads and the general trivialities of life, and yet, one teenager has less in common with others her age. Chloe is a unique individual, one the government would kill to their hands on.

Meet Chloe Jones, a.k.a. Chloe Gardner, who, with not only a change of identity, resembles someone else entirely, from what seems to be another lifetime ago.

Following a fatal car accident in which her mother perished, Chloe and her scientist father are in hiding. He’s constantly striving to keep her alive and to do that he must keep her hidden from the world.

In spite of her unusual circumstances, and chronic mental and physical pain, Chloe, being a typical teenager, has other ideas and craves the world outside the ‘prison’ her father has confined her to – a remote house they rent off the beaten track. Little does she know, the isolation is for her own good in more ways than one. The threat of the world outside could easily become a race to survive.

Her father is constantly looking over his shoulder, whilst trying to make life as ‘normal’ as possible.  But what is normal anymore? And who exactly are the monsters hunting them both?  It’s often difficult to separate a monster from the person standing behind you in a queue – sometimes, they’re much closer than you think, until you just don’t know who to trust anymore.

Under My Skin is an edgy, dark story of how we are perceived to those around us. The possibility of being different and how that affects our relationships is brought stunningly to the fore. It’s a gripping tale of isolation, friendship, and learning to accept yourself for you who really are.  It’s told with honesty, from the point of view of a vulnerable girl who will question her existence every single day. And it raises the question: how do you expect anyone to love you, when you can’t love yourself?

Complete with contemporary dilemmas, the morals of Chloe’s father and the project he’s been working to create provides a whole new spin on a ‘Mary Shelley’ horror.  Feeding just enough detail to keep a hook in you ’til the end, it brews to a rather satisfying conclusion.  Excellent stuff.  Would LOVE to see a sequel…

Rating: 5/5

(My thanks to the publisher, author + tour organiser @jennymarston_xo for providing a copy of this book for review.)


About the author

Zoe MarkhamZoë writes Young Adult fiction, blending dark twistiness with urban Britishness to produce unique, unsettling tales. A full-time editor by day, Zoë writes by night, fueled by endless mugs of tea and an increasingly blurred distinction between fantasy & reality. Zoë lives in the wilds of West Oxfordshire with her husband, son, and the obligatory two cats.

Links:

Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Website

All the links you need to discover more, or buy the book:

Amazon UK  |  Amazon US  |  Goodreads


Giveaway

To celebrate the launch of Under My Skin and the Book Tour you can win a £25.00 Amazon Gift Voucher.

To enter, just follow the link below and you’ll be taken to the Rafflecopter page:

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

GOOD LUCK, EVERYBODY!  And thanks for visiting  x

**** PLEASE NOTE – THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER ***


 Next Blog Stop

On 15th July, your next host on the Under My Skin Book Tour will be:

Laura’s Little Book Blog

The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers  |  Published 2nd July 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Review Copy)

A curse? Or something even more sinister? Welcome to the accident season…

This curious story is narrated by seventeen year old Cara, who takes a moment to introduce us to her seemingly ordinary family: her sister, Alice, her ex-step brother, Sam, and their mother, a purple-haired artist named Melanie, who all live together in County Mayo, Ireland.

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about this family (except for their purple-haired mother), so it’s surprising to learn that they each suffer from the same affliction.

Every year during the entire month of October they fear what they have come to know as ‘the accident season’. During this time, they are prone to knocks, scrapes, bumps and the like – in extreme circumstances, deaths have also occurred.

Under the guidance of Cara’s best friend Bea with her trusted Tarot cards, Bea foretells that this year is not looking good.  It turns out she was right.

Despite their mother taking some ridiculous precautions to protect her children, even bubble-wrapping the kitchen surfaces to prevent any incidents, Alice has already taken a mysterious tumble down the stairs and Cara is wearing a wrist brace, but the mystery grows…in addition to this strange phenomenon, Cara sees something she’s never noticed before – for the last seventeen years a quiet girl named Elsie, who she last remembered from when she was eight years old, seems to have appeared in all their family photos.

accident season tumblr

Mysterious: The friends hold a surreal Masked Ball where certain truths are revealed. (Photo is courtesy of the Accident Season Tumblr site.)

Clearly unnerved by this, Cara embarks on a mission to discover why she’s never noticed Elsie in the pictures before and exactly what she’s doing there. It soon becomes clear that this is a story overflowing with a desperate need for the truth and as a dark family secret bubbles closer to the surface you just can’t help but read on.

Various ‘accidents’ continue to occur throughout the story and I couldn’t help wondering what fate has in store for Cara and Co. Running parallel to these incidences are some tough, real-life issues being tackled head-on.

Though the story does enter odd dreamlike phases, these paranormal/fantasy elements are artfully woven into the pages. For me, this placed more emphasis on just how detached from reality the family have become.

I admit that my heart broke once or twice as they struggled to confront their own relationships, without losing each other along the way. But this quirky read, told in a straightforward uncomplicated way, captivated me right to the end, when the true darkness that shadowed this family finally revealed itself.

The Tumblr page to accompany this story is eerily good too:
http://accidentseason.tumblr.com/    (The images above are all credited to this site.)

Rating: 4/5

(Huge thanks to the publisher for the advanced Kindle copy, via Netgalley.)


Accident Season Author Link Graphic 2

You can follow the author on Twitter: @moirawithatrema

Author’s Tumblr Page:  http://ecritureacreature.tumblr.com/

Buy the Book: Amazon UK