Review: A Very English Murder by Verity Bright

A Very English Murder, by Verity Bright

Format: e-Arc

Published date: 7th April 2020

⭐️ 2 / 5

Thank you to NetGalley who kindly provided this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’d like to apologise for this long overdue review. I was sent this e-ARC a while before lockdown began. A busy few weeks at work pre-lockdown and the initial lockdown blues of being unable to concentrate enough to read have prevented me from reading and reviewing this book. I did manage to read this in its publication week and I’m happy to be finally sharing my thoughts.

Plot

Our protagonist, Lady Eleanor, witnesses a murder. Except the body vanishes, and the police seem to have no desire to investigate. So Ellie begins sleuthing around the village to solve the murder herself. On the surface this is my perfect book. This concept is so intriguing and I thought this would be a real brain teaser of a novel. Unfortunately not.

The plot began painfully slowly and didn’t really start getting anywhere until around half way through. Honestly I thought the whole first half of the novel could have been cut and it wouldn’t have impacted the story. There was one small side character introduced in the first few chapters that popped up again later in the novel to be useful in ultimately solving the crime, but otherwise there was nothing remotely useful or entertaining in the first half of the novel. Once the plot finally got a move on, everything was very predictable. I felt like there were a lot of missed opportunities for real red herrings and twists to really get the reader going. Unfortunately, I felt the plot was severely lacking in this area.

There was a lot of effort made to drip feed Eleanor’s backstory into the novel. This was the main thing that kept me interested in the book. All I wanted to know was what happened to Ellie’s parents and more about her global travels. *Spoiler alert* we don’t find out what happened to Ellie’s parents. I can only assume this is planting seeds for later books in the series however the mystery element of this mystery novel was not executed well enough for me to read another book in this series.

Characters

Ellie is a confusing character. She spends the first 20 chapters doing absolutely nothing except despising other characters in the book for not taking her seriously because she’s a woman. Bright uses Ellie’s every line of thought or dialogue to express that the police in the little village Ellie now lives in is backwards as there are no female officers. She constantly provides social commentary that the men around her are underestimating her before she even opens her mouth based on the fact she’s a woman. She even goes as far as to suspect characters of murder based on how they treated her as a woman and not a shred of motive or anything remotely relevant. The first couple of times it’s brought up, fine, that’s setting the scene. But after that? Honestly, Jesus Christ I get it. The novel is set in 1920s England. We know the social position of women in this time. I felt it was irrelevant to the plot or the character development, especially considering no semblance of a plot was taking place. The second the plot began heading somewhere, the ridiculous commentary stopped clearly showing it served no purpose.

So Ellie was set up as being very pro-women’s rights and very forward thinking for her era, so I thought ‘great’! Surely this means Bright is going to use her protagonist to shut down irritating tropes of women in the 1920s right? HAHAHAHA WRONG. Every time an attractive man enters her field of view she suddenly can’t function and goes weak at the knees. It’s all blushing and feeling faint when an attractive man strays too close. Very cliché.

So which is it? Fainting flapper girl and a hopeless romantic, or trailblazing modern roaring 20s woman (who FYI could have romance without the stereotypical weak, woozy, fainting cr*p).

Clifford, the butler, is a pain in the rear. One of his personality quirks is he is very pedantic. Fine, that’s established early on. But sometimes it feels like this gets in the way of meaningful dialogue and it SERVES NO PURPOSE. Honestly so infuriating.

I did however love the rest of the cast of household staff who each had distinct personalities, really contributed to Ellie’s character development and felt like tangible people.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately this book just left me feeling kind of meh. For the most part it felt like I was reading FanFiction of something, and I’d like to point out I’ve read novel-quality FanFic, but this is more an inexperienced author who hasn’t found a voice. The voice is confused, the third person narrative doesn’t work when Eleanor spends so much time inside her own head and voices dialogue to the dog instead of having the novel written in first person…but maybe that’s just me?

I’m really upset that I didn’t enjoy this book as the blurb sounds like everything I adore in a novel. I really expected so much more from this book…

I’d like to thank NetGalley again for sending this e-Arc to me in exchange for an honest review.


Blurb:

Move over Miss Marple, there’s a new sleuth in town! Meet Eleanor Swift: distinguished adventurer, dog lover, dignified lady… daring detective?

England, 1920Eleanor Swift has spent the last few years travelling the world: taking tea in China, tasting alligators in Peru, escaping bandits in Persia and she has just arrived in England after a chaotic forty-five-day flight from South Africa. Chipstone is about the sleepiest town you could have the misfortune to meet. And to add to these indignities – she’s now a Lady

Lady Eleanor, as she would prefer not to be known, reluctantly returns to her uncle’s home, Henley Hall. Now Lord Henley is gone, she is the owner of the cold and musty manor. What’s a girl to do? Well, befriend the household dog, Gladstone, for a start, and head straight out for a walk in the English countryside, even though a storm is brewing… 

But then, from the edge of a quarry, through the driving rain, Eleanor is shocked to see a man shot and killed in the distance. Before she can climb down to the spot, the villain is gone and the body has vanished. With no victim and the local police convinced she’s stirring up trouble, Eleanor vows to solve this affair by herself. And when her brakes are mysteriously cut, one thing seems sure: someone in this quiet country town has Lady Eleanor Swift in their murderous sights… 

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 2)

Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 435

Published: 4th June 2013

⭐️ 3.5 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Whilst I really enjoyed book 1, Siege and Storm actually had me rolling my eyes quite a lot. Here’s what I thought.

Plot

Just when you think Mal and Alina might have it a bit easier, at least for a little while, they get caught again. Guess who? Shock horror, yes that’s right, The Darkling is back – and only a handful of pages after they shook him off. That’s a theme of this book to be honest, escaping and then being caught again almost immediately by someone or another. The Darkling initially drags Alina with him whilst looking for the sea whip, AKA yet another Grisha amplifier, which he can use to further control her. Naturally they succeed because tracker extraordinaire Mal is on the case. He and Alina kill the sea whip themselves and then escape…

I couldn’t resist 😂 – I apologise to the non-Brits who probably won’t catch this reference.

The new band of escapees drop themselves straight into more trouble in the last place that Mal and Alina want to be in. It is capture disguised as freedom as they can’t really freely leave. Alina essentially doesn’t escape for the whole novel as The Darkling keeps appearing to her and causing problems. It’s exhausting and doesn’t seem to serve a purpose except to irritate the reader. Yes it causes conflict between certain characters but I don’t think it actually adds anything of value to the novel.

There’s lots more questing, when Alina discovers there is actually a third amplifier, which allows for a fair amount of world building. I loved that we were able to learn more about Mal and Alina’s childhood which gave us some adorable fluffy moments (yes I ship it please don’t judge). However the similarities in embarking on a quest where so strong for me that it made this feel like a carbon copy of Shadow and Bone, and makes it difficult to judge this book on its own. For me, the characters really made this novel as there were some excellent additions to the series.

Characters

I love lots of the new cast of this book. One is notorious privateer, Sturmhond. What a sassy, wonderful, pain in the ass he is. I adored him, his particular brand of humour, and his cutting remarks. His interactions with the characters we already love are brilliant.

Twins Tolya and Tamar are also standout characters of this book who should be protected at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mal becomes even more whiney in this book. I mean honestly, he needs to get a grip. He starts fighting Grisha and just generally being an angsty, miserable, moaning idiot who puts other people in danger as a result of his actions.

To top it all off The Darkling gains some interesting and horrific new powers that just keep growing and developing into greater horrors…

Lots of the newer cast are from other regions in the world this series is set. As such we are able to learn more about nations such as Shu Han. This is definitely a strength of this book and I loved how this added depths to certain characters’ actions.

Final Thoughts

I did enjoy this book for the most part however I did find the repetitious plot frustrating. I also feel like the conclusion of the novel was such a horrific low that I can’t see how this is going to be resolved in the final book. It left me very despondent and seemed like a ridiculous conclusion after everything that Mal and Alina had worked for. I can understand the final fight, a common fantasy trope but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go from here…

I guess I’ll have to work that out in Ruin and Rising.

Blurb:

Soldier, Summoner, Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner – hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long. The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army. But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice – and only she can face the oncoming storm.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along: The Hate U Give.

Announcement!

My good friend Kerrie (Wheelie Stagey) and I are hosting a read-along! In the absence of theatre trips for either of us for the foreseeable future, we have decided to do some buddy reads to push ourselves to create new and exciting content.

Our first read-along is Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give.

We have both recently seen the film on Netflix and wanted to read the book so this was the perfect place to start.

We want you to join us!

We’ve split the book into 3 manageable sections of 9 chapters or so. For each section we are going to share our thoughts with you all so you can follow along. We’ve put together some questions of things we are going to think about in each section.

Feel free to join in any post your own thoughts! Below is what you can expect to see on our blog and when.

Schedule:

Chapters 1 – 9. Monday 6 April.

At the beginning of the book Starr flashes back to her parents having two talks with her as a child. One is about the birds and the bees. The second is about what precautions to take when encountering a police officer. Reflect on that. How is that different from your own childhood experiences?

Starr describes the idea that there are two versions of herself. How do her different experiences enhance the story? Can you relate to something similar?

The success and pitfalls of media and social media is an underlying theme of the book. Baring this in mind, how do you think hashtag culture and internet activism has played a role in our understanding of topics such as police brutality and racism? Is this always helpful?

What did you learn from the portrayal of societal pressures such as poverty and communities?

Chapters 10 – 18. Wednesday 8 April.

Starr and Hailey have a very turbulent relationship that changes throughout the novel. What are your thoughts on friendships changing as we grow?

We’ve both decided Starr’s parents are excellent characters. Is this something we usually see in the YA books we read? Why do we love them as much as we do?   

Family is very important to Starr. How do you think this is handled in the book? What jumped out at you particularly?

The way Starr handles what is happening throughout the novel is powerful. What struck you the most?

Chapters 19 – end of the book. Friday 10 April.

Was it important that the book didn’t have a typical ‘happily ever after?’

Do we think our reactions were affected as we are British readers and there are cultural differences between our own experiences and, for example, the school systems and legal systems we have read about in this book?

This book gives a very strong message to use our voice. Do we use our own voices enough to contribute to society?

After reading The Hate U Give, what part of the book resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?


Follow along and tag us if you are participating!

So now you know what we’re posting, we’d love you to follow along and let us know if you’re joining in.

We will be using the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong so make sure you add this if you’re reading THUG too!

You can follow my posts here on my blog. I will also be posting updates on my Twitter and Instagram. We will see you for our next post on Monday!

Follow Kerrie on her blog, Twitter and Instagram accounts too.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent?”

Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Find this book at Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops and libraries.

Review: Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Only Love Can Break Your Heart, by Katherine Webber

Pages: 400

Published: 2 August 2018

⭐️ 5 / 5

This review is LONG overdue considering I got an early copy at YA Prom and read this book 2 weeks before its publication… What can I say? Life just got away from me.

This novel was, at the time, one of the first contemporary YA novels I had read and was a large part of the reason I have continued to enjoy the genre. Only Love Can Break Your Heart was beautiful and heart breaking and I adored it.

Plot

I laughed, I cried, I screamed at the actions of the characters. This book had a bit of everything. This is a love letter to the Californian desert and a reminder of how important self-care is. It was really interesting to read a book written from the point of view of the popular girl at school. Usually, the YA novels I read follow the misfit finding their way in the world, but I liked this new angle.

Reiko’s struggle with grief is complex and Katherine Webber portrays this wonderfully. It was so real and tangible and heartbreaking. This book really showed how easy it is for life to get on top of you and for everything to unravel. This was the most honest portrayal of the sort of thing I went through during my ALevels and I would really have appreciated having this book at the time. Webber really illustrates the importance of having good friends and family around you to help build yourself up when you’ve reached a complete rock bottom.

I did find the plot a little slow to begin with however once I realised the direction we were heading in and things began to happen, the pace picked up and the novel was excellent.

Characters

For large parts of the novel I found Reiko and Seth to both be extremely unlikeable characters. However this allowed for some excellent character development and I experienced a complete turn around in my feelings towards the characters. The plot was so character driven it’s really hard to say more than I already have. I loved that about the book though.

Final Thoughts

This book was so much about the people and a gorgeous coming of age story I really wish that I’d had when I was 17 or 18. I’d highly recommend everyone to read it. With each novel Katherine Webber writes, she gets better and better so I cannot wait to read whatever she publishes next!

Blurb:

From the author of the acclaimed Wing Jones comes a ‘break-up’ book about a Japanese-American teenager, set in the Palm Springs desert, California.  Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert.

It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, by Holly Jackson

Pages: 448

Published: 2 May 2019

⭐️ 5 / 5

I LOVED THIS BOOK. One of my favourites of 2019 and possibly my favourite YA thriller ever – so far anyway. Twists and turns galore, a very likeable protagonist, set in the UK school system(!!-instead of an American high school which as a Brit I still don’t fully understand)…this is a very clever novel and an enjoyable read. It’s also a big beefy paperback at roughly 450 pages which I really appreciated.

I’d highly recommend anyone who is enjoying YA crime/thriller/mysteries at the moment and schedule a (re)read before Pip is back in book 2 in April 2020!

Plot

A teenaged girl creating a school project to re-evaluate a local murder case? YES PLEASE. I was a bit apprehensive going in as it looked like a massive book for what is a fairly straightforward premise. I was expecting parts of the novel to drag but I was so wrong. The novel is structured around Pip’s school project which means there’s some really fun CSI-style fact presentation interspersed throughout the book. This meant I could keep up with all of the different plot threads, lines of investigation, and the many different characters. Interviews were often written in transcripts which, although I wasn’t too sure about at the beginning, I really enjoyed towards the end of the book and found it fit really well with the way the rest of the story was constructed. I felt that the novel was paced really well and that there was a great balance between investigation, school project, and tense drama. Tension and suspense was also built really well, especially towards the end. I loved that Pip was able to fit things together with her knowledge of school gossip and social hierarchies – the sort of techniques I used at school to figure out the gossip.

I was able to guess at a part of the outcome. I predicted it about halfway through (well, one half – a second half jumped out of nowhere and caught me unawares). However, just as I was revealed to be right, BAM. Sh*t hit the fan and it got SO. GOOD. I know plenty of people probably wouldn’t have seen the twists coming

Characters

Pip and Ravi are the main characters and they are both so damn likeable. Pippa is tenacious, intelligent, and utterly brilliant. Ravi is an excellent addition to the novel because he brings a whole new take to a murder mystery. He embodies the human element and reminds the reader that a murder isn’t just something to be solved for entertainment purposes. I love the relationship between Pip and Ravi because they are like two sides of the same coin: complete polar opposites, yet they work together as a dream team.

The rest of the characters, you can’t really call them ‘side characters’ because they’re all integral to the plot, are also really interesting and excellently 3-dimensional. Each of them became a possible chief suspect for me at some point of the book and Holly Jackson uses each of them very well to fulfill their full literary potential.

Final Thoughts

This was a very enjoyable read that really made me think and I can’t really say too much more without spoiling. To be honest, that’s a good thing as this is definitely a book you’re better off going in knowing next to nothing about and enjoying it with no preconceptions. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK.

Keep an eye out here on my blog as I’m planning a re-read or read-along feature in April on A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder ahead of the publication of the sequel.

Good Girl, Bad Blood will be published on 30 April 2020

Blurb:

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the crime, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth . . .

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Review: One Of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

One Of Us Is Next, by Karen M. McManus

Pages: 382

Published: 9 January 2020

⭐️ 5 / 5

YEESSSS. I’ve been waiting (very impatiently) for this book ever since it was announced. This is the sequel to Karen M. McManus’s debut novel, One Of Us Is Lying. This, as McManus writes in her acknowledgements, is the ‘Maeve book’, and I adored it! This is definitely my favourite out of the two One Of Us novels and I devoured it in 2 days. Here is my non-spoilery review – and I apologise in advance for the amount of shouty capitals I’m probably going to use. Grab a cup of tea and read on.

Plot

I was mildly concerned about how this book was going to pan out, mainly I didn’t think there was anything left to say after the conclusion to the first book. How on earth is a book like that supposed to be followed. I didn’t want a rehash with new characters – like the nightmare that is Grease 2…I had absolutely nothing to worry about! The mix of new characters is balanced perfectly with checking in on the Bayview Four and co. This allows us to catch up with our favourites to see how their life has moved on after the Simon drama, whilst also allowing One Of Us Is Next to stand on its own. This also builds Bayview more as we move away from the high school and further into the society and local community, which was really great.

We follow 3 point of view characters who start off as friends and/or loose acquaintances, and steadily become a firm friendship group with all the peaks and pitfalls that come with that. Maeve (Rojas! Yes, Bronwyn’s little sis), Phoebe, and Knox feel different to the Bayview Four as these 3 consciously choose to be friends whereas the Bayview Four were total strangers simply thrown together. (I promise I’ll try to stop the comparisons soon but it’s so difficult when the story doesn’t follow straight on). Their friendships really are at the heart of the plot as there’s a lot more ‘downtime’ for the characters in this sequel. Another thing that shines through and really sculpts the plot is sibling relationships in all of their forms. We see every spectrum of what that looks like from joined at the hip, to suffocated, overwhelmed, intimidated and feeling like you’ve got a tough act to follow, and siblings who cannot stand to be in the same room with one another. This book also radiates love. Sibling and family love, platonic friend love, and of course the mushy kind of love which made me CATCH ALL THE FEELINGS.

I really liked the premise of the school-wide truth and dare game, although I do question how on earth everyone’s phone numbers were retrieved and compiled – unless we assume everyone is able to access the school register as was used in One Of Us Is Lying. American readers, tell me: is this a normal thing?? In UK schools there’s no way anyone could gain access to student phone numbers except the school office and data prevention stops that kind of information from being shared. Honestly this is my one niggle with One Of Us Is Next because this isn’t answered even when we eventually find out the culprit. The truth or dare game builds suspense well in the first quarter of the novel, then the pace and tension fizzles out until all of a sudden it rears its ugly head and bites back. The London commuters who witnessed me finishing this book on the bus can attest to that following my very audible reactions…

The plot is very cleverly done and I don’t think I fully appreciated it until all the threads suddenly started dropping into place. At the end of chapter 28 I had it all figured out (still squealed my way through it despite heavily suspecting what was going on. Holy sh*t it was TENSE). And I almost got it completely right. Until one final twist. Damn Karen M. McManus and her genius. SO GOOD. Honestly this book is a masterclass in YA thriller/mystery and I NEED ANOTHER BOOK RIGHT NOW PLEASE.

Characters

I really enjoyed our trio of POVs equally. They all had such different lives, personalities, and personal struggles and I loved exploring all of it. Maeve was a stand out favourite for me, but there was a reappearance from a minor One Of Us Is Lying character who steps up to not only become an almost key player but he’s shot straight up my list of fictional boyfriends 😂. It never fails to impress me how many of the side characters are complete, tangible, 3-dimensional characters. Even the parents of the new characters, who may only get a couple of scenes. We have a very good idea of their lives and what sort of people they are. The only exception would be one boy’s father who drops off the page for no apparent reason after stirring a hint of trouble, but I’m probably just being picky now.

I’ll also say it again: SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS. Love, love, love all of it. It’s wholesome and emotional and raw and it’s glorious.

Final Thoughts

PLEASE. READ. THIS. BOOK.

That is all.

Back to your cup of tea. ❤️

Blurb:

Welcome back to Bayview High… It’s been a year since the events of One Of Us Is Lying.But nothing has settled for the residents of Bayview. Not now someone has started playing a sinister game of Truth or Dare. Choose truth? You must reveal your darkest secret. Choose dare? Well, that could be even more dangerous. Even deadly. When the game takes an even darker turn, suddenly no one at Bayview High knows who to trust. But they need to find out who is behind the game, before it’s too late.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop

The ‘Maeve book’, the sibling book, the ‘YOU MUST READ THIS’ book! #OneOfUsIsNext

Review: The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

The Paper & Hearts Society, by Lucy Powrie

Pages: 400

Published: 13 June 2019

⭐️ 4 / 5

I do not mind admitting that I was very apprehensive before reading this book. I was concerned that yet another YouTube star had managed to infiltrate the book industry purely because an audience virtually guarantees sales. I was wrong. Very wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. More so than I think I’ve ever been about any book ever.

This book was my biggest surprise of 2019 and I will certainly be re-reading it in the run up to the release of book 2, Read With Pride, in the spring. Lucy Powrie is a refreshing new YA voice and has written a relatable book I desperately needed as a teenager (and it certainly hasn’t done me any harm as an adult either).

Plot

Two words: ROAD. TRIP. This book has given me so many ideas for literary trips this summer. Clearly a lot of thought had been put into this and we were able to see each of the characters completely nerd-out with such a range of literary interests that every reader could be catered for. This was very cleverly woven around each of the characters’ own personal plots and provided a joyous backdrop to what were some important life lessons. The heart of this story lies with friendship, and this beams out of every page. This is also a story about the dangers of online bullying and how difficult it is to grow up in this new digital age where moving towns isn’t enough to escape your school tormentor. I really enjoyed this novel and would highly recommend it to teens, young adults, and all book lovers of any age.

Characters

These characters are the perfect fictional besties (for the reader and each other)! Olivia is a total bae. She has everyones best interests at heart and has always got everyone’s backs. She’s a ray of sunshine. She’s intelligent and tries to make everybody feel like part of the crowd and honestly we all need someone like that in our life. Cassie is guarded and dealing with a whole host of life mess but once she can trust someone they are a friend for life. I really appreciated that Lucy was able to portray a character like this because I think it’s far too much of a stereotype that people who are guarded do not have friends and this simply isn’t true. The boys are the sort of characters I wish existed in real life because I am yet to come across any guy as decent as them 😂. Tabby is a very likeable protagonist. She’s flawed, and struggling, and brilliant, and strong. Each of the characters are so different yet what brings them together is their love for the written world, no matter how different their tastes are, and that is really beautiful.

The dynamic of the friendship group and all the joy and pitfalls that come with it, is done really well. Lucy easily tackles complicated teen issues that I think many of her readers will be experiencing, or have experienced during their teen years. She has also ensured that her characters are diverse, including a demi-sexual character making this this first book I have read which represents this section of the LGBTQ+ community. This representation is done without the bells and whistles and box-ticking I have seen in other novels (looking at you specifically, Miss Fletcher). Instead, Lucy includes this in the way it should be; like its the most normal thing in the world and therefore doesn’t warrant a song and dance to prove its existence in the book. There are several authors I can think of that could do with taking a leaf out of her book in making novels inclusive in such a thoughtful, common-sense fashion, without shoehorning elements into a narrative just ‘because’.

Final Thoughts

This book was joyous, thought provoking, and a celebration of books and reading and friendship. It’s the love song to awkwardness and never changing yourself to fit in. It’s a warning of the dangers of online bullying. It’s golden.

GIVE ME THE NEXT ONE PLEASE AND THANK YOU.


Read With Pride will be published on 28 May 2020.


Blurb:

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn’t want to go to parties – in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book. It’s like she hasn’t found her people …Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING – especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body. But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it’s the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed’s fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself … Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 1)

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 352

Published: 5 June 2012

⭐️ 4 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Warning: technically there is a small plot spoiler below in the form of a relationship but honestly if you don’t see it coming from the first page, I don’t know what to tell you…

Plot

This is a novel about discovering yourself and carving your own path. When Alina discovers a magic (and by extension, a strength) she didn’t know she had, she’s whisked away with people she doesn’t know to a place she doesn’t know where she doesn’t fit in and is not accepted. She is forced to leave behind the only person she knows, her best friend Mal, and it’s like she’s orphaned all over again. The fact that Alina has to learn about herself as one of the Grisha is really effective in terms of worldbuilding. The reader is able to learn as Alina is forced to learn. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that has a magic system, which I really enjoyed. It’s been very well constructed considering in theory the Grisha can only control one of 3 different things but their own grasp of their power dictates just how much they can do. Another thing I really enjoyed about the worldbuilding is that there was mention of other countries meaning the world extends beyond Alina’s immediate environment. It feels like we are going to explore some of this later in the series, which I really hope is the case.

The description of the Fold is really striking and I love that the metaphorical darkness seen in most fantasies is a literal threat in this series. It’s interesting to explore this concept and the reason the Fold exists. I think it gives the opportunity to remind ourselves of the child-like vulnerability that comes with being afraid of the dark, only this time there really are monsters lurking beyond your vision.

We do get to see a fair amount of Ravka in Shadow and Bone as Alina (and eventually Mal) head out on a nation-wide quest. One strength of this being done is that the reader was able to see ‘normal’ life in this world as opposed to the military or magic lives we’d experienced before. This also meant the reader was able to get to know these characters fairly well as, for the most part, they were alone. I did feel that some of the difficulties they faced on this journey were unnecessary though. Each of them should have been for a specific character-building or story arc purpose however a couple of instances felt like they were just included to give them something to do and to distract them from the slow-burn realisation of their feelings towards each other.

Characters

I found Alina, our protagonist, to be very relatable. She really struggles with wanting to fit in despite being literally born to stand out. She desperately wants to cling on to anything familiar and can’t handle how much her life is changing. She feels crushed by the pressure of failure and letting others down, which is mostly her own exacerbated impression of what her role in Ravka’s future could be. Mal flits between irritating me and being the character I enjoy most on the page. He’s a moody sod and an utter gem. Part of me thinks he is unfair to Alina, part of me understands because she is not exactly the model character in her behaviour either. I love that they’re both so messy and both trying so hard. Bardugo writes them both beautifully and I love that she has created two characters that I can absolutely root for.

I really enjoyed The Darkling as a character. He is so complex and layered. I loved to love him and I loved to hate him too. He has far more potential than we saw in this book so I am really excited to see where he goes in the rest of the series.

I also have to give a special mention to Baghra. What a babe. She has so much more depth to her that just the grumpy old woman she is on the surface. Her wisdom runs deep and I have to say she really surprised me. I hope we see more of her as the series progresses.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a great start to a series. The ending left me desperate to read the sequel straight away which leaves me thankful that I waited so long to start this series. There’s nothing better than a book binge if you have the patience to wait years for a series to end before you start.

Let me know what you thought of this book/series below! Keep an eye out for my review of Siege and Storm soon.

Blurb:

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold – a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed. Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite – and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation. Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Review: Finale by Stephanie Garber

Finale, by Stephanie Garber

Pages: 480

Published: 9th May 2019

⭐️ 3 / 5

Here we are with book 3. The finale of the Caraval series, titled Finale. As you may have seen from my reviews of the first 2 instalments I haven’t been overly impressed with what has been a very hyped, very popular series. Hasn’t stopped me from finishing the series though or collecting a UK first edition with a hidden cover for each book. 😂

Plot

The real strength of Finale is the world building. With the Fates running around Trisda this allowed Garber to delve into the faith and mythology of the world which feels like a bottomless pit at times. However I use the term ‘bottomless pit’ because there are some loose plot threads left at the end. There seems to be so much going on that things were brought up and then forgotten about. There was far too much focus on the metaphors and writing techniques used to define the two sisters rather than getting on with a workable plot. As well as the world building, I did really did enjoy the magic system. Everything was very fleshed out, tangible and well developed. Garber was able to showcase her almost lyrical writing style here. I truly believe she is an excellent author but this book, and the wider series isn’t the kind of excellence I think we could expect from her in the future.

Characters

With the release of the Fates, naturally that means these characters have been introduced which certainly added an exciting new element. Jacks and Paloma were particular favourites for me because they were so brilliantly unpredictable. This installment of the book was written with the point of view shifting between Scarlett and Tella which meant the story felt more complete than the previous two books, which only followed one sister each and I felt that half of the story was missing as a result. I still found Scarlett to be a wet paper towel of a character, but it was nice to see both sisters fighting for each other in their own ways. Garber has always framed this story as one about sisters and it was nice to see it end that way.

Final Thoughts

I feel like this has been quite a vague review but I honestly don’t know what to say except it really didn’t ‘land’ with me. This was an appropriate conclusion to this fantasy series but I found it very predictable and as disappointing as the rest of the series considering the hype around the books. The most frustrating thing is that Stephanie Garber is clearly a good author but there is just so much unspent potential in her writing that is not seen in this series, in my opinion. I will definitely be reading whatever she publishes next but I doubt I will re-read Caraval at any point.

Blurb:

Scarlett and Tella Dragna must fight for their happy endings after a tragedy sends Tella on a treacherous path for revenge… Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun – with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything. Welcome, welcome to the Caraval’s Finale. All games must come to an end…

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Review: Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep A Secret, by Karen M. McManus

Pages: 336

Published: 10th January 2019

⭐️ 5 / 5

After reading One Of Us Is Lying, I was excited to read another Karen M. McManus book as soon as possible. I would go as far to say that she is a contender for one of my favourite authors. I love that crime/thriller/mystery (a genre I LOVE) is starting to appear as a leading sub-genre of young adult and it’s being done SO WELL. McManus is leading the charge with excellently written YA mysteries and I hope she’s publishing books annually for a long time to come. Those of you who have read my review for One Of Us Is Lying will know that I really enjoyed it, and I preferred this novel so get ready for me to blow the trumpets at Two Can Keep A Secret!

Plot

Two Can Keep A Secret is told from two narrative points of view: Ellery, niece of a girl who vanished during her senior prom decades ago; and Malcolm, brother of the prime suspect in the murder of a second prom queen 5 years ago. This worked really well for weaving the plot threads of the two previous unsolved murders into the central action of this novel. I usually struggle with multiple narrators because I tend to favour one and resent having to endure the other POV, however McManus uses this to build tension and set the pacing which drove me mad – a clear indication of a good mystery novel for me. I got the sense of multiple timelines without time jumping (which is another trope I dislike for the most part and was glad it was so expertly worked around) giving me 3 murder mysteries for the price of one. The choice of narrators was also very cleverly calculated as this expanded the world building. Although Ellery and Malcolm were friends, they didn’t cross over too much meaning that we could explore more of the town through each of our narrators. The small-town setting was done really well and used very well too. Coming from a small(ish) town myself, I felt the local drama/curtain twitching/nosey neighbour elements of the plot were very accurate and added to the mystery as you’re left wondering how such a busy-body community could be harbouring so many unsolvable secrets. I got absolutely lost in this novel and easily polished it off in one sitting, which I would happily do again and again. Honestly, I did guess part of the outcome around half way through (far later than I did with One Of Us Is Lying though) however there were plenty of other twists that I didn’t predict. This book was definitely a firm favourite YA Murder Mystery read of 2019 for me.

Characters

I really enjoyed the point of view of both POV characters. Ellery was very relatable for me as a fellow true-crime addict. I love that fictional young women obsessed with true crime and murder mysteries are starting to emerge in novels, especially in this section of YA. It’s nice to see myself in books – and come on, we all secretly adore serial killer documentaries don’t we 😉 ? She’s a feisty, intelligent character and we need more Ellerys in our fiction. Ellery and her twin Ezra have an excellent rapport/banter going on and McManus has written this sibling relationship very well. Malcolm is the second POV character and I honestly just want to give him a hug. Mia finishes off the 4-strong friend squad that’s central to the novel and she is a diamond of a character too. The extended cast include popular Katrin, who happens to be Malcolm’s step sister, work colleague Brooke, and the twins’ gem of a grandmother. Each of the characters are fully realised and flawed and believable. McManus constructs an air of suspicion around each of them too which constantly played with my opinions of them. I really hope she finds a way back to these characters as she has with Bayview High and One Of Us Is Lying.

Final Thoughts

I hope this somewhat lengthy review conveys just how great this book was. One of the easiest 5 stars I’ve given for all of my 2019 reads, and a book I fully intend to re-read this year too. Keep an eye out for my next Karen M. McManus book review this month as I read One Of Us Is Next after its release this week!

Blurb:

A perfect town is hiding secrets. Two teenagers are dead. Two murders unsolved. And a killer who claims to be coming back. Ellery’s never been to Echo Ridge, but she’s heard all about it. It’s where her aunt went missing at age sixteen, never to return. Where a Homecoming Queen’s murder five years ago made national news and where Ellery now has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, after her failed-actress mother lands in rehab. Malcolm grew up in the shadow of the Homecoming Queen’s death. His older brother was the prime suspect and left Echo Ridge in disgrace. His mother’s remarriage vaulted them to Echo Ridge’s upper crust, but it could all change when mysterious threats around town hint that a killer plans to strike again. And the return of Malcolm’s brother doesn’t help matters. But his return is just a coincidence… isn’t it? Ellery and Malcolm both know it’s hard to let go when you don’t have closure. Then another girl disappears. As they race to unravel what happened, they realise every secret has layers in Echo Ridge. The truth might be closer to home than either of them want to believe. And somebody would kill to keep it hidden.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.