WWW Wednesday: 20th May 2020

This Book Tag is hosted by Taking On A World Of Words.

What I’ve read, What I’m reading, What’s next.

What I’ve Read

Title: Orphan Monster Spy

Author: Matt Killeen

Star rating: 5 / 5

Mini review/synopsis:

Talented, artistic, oppressed. Sarah has been learning to survive in a world that has become dangerous for her, her mother, and all other Jewish citizens throughout Europe. So what is a girl to do when she becomes unexpectedly orphaned? That’s right. She becomes a spy in a boarding school for the Nazi elite in 1939.

Sarah is one of my favourite novel protagonists in a long time. She is resourceful, ballsy, BRAVE, and mouthy. I love how she deals with her horrific situation, how she strategises and overcomes.

Matt Killeen expertly weaves Sarah’s backstory and experiences of being Jewish in increasing oppressive Austrian/German societies in the 1930s into the wider plot, which I found very educational. I found myself doing lots of research to fill in the gaps where my own knowledge was sadly lacking in this area of European history (this was further sparked by the Author’s note at the end of the novel). The plot was SO GOOD. Excellently paced and the twists towards the end of the novel were so brilliantly unexpected, I found myself moving the book as far away from me as I could whilst still being able to read.

A thrilling, well researched book that I thoroughly enjoyed. I cannot wait to read book 2 and, hopefully, learn some more about the Captain!

What I’m Currently Reading

Title: The Big Four

Author: Agatha Christie

First Impressions: will be at least a 4 star read

The story so far:

I am loving being back with Poirot, my favourite fictional detective. So far we have had a gentleman climb through Poirot’s apartment window and promptly drop dead. Now Poirot is on the tail of The Big Four, a mysterious criminal organisation. What’s more Hastings, Poirot’s friend, is back to narrate the story for us! I’m enjoying this one so far, but then I always enjoy a Christie.

What I’m Reading Next

Title: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Author: Holly Jackson

This is a re-read before I read the sequel Good Girl, Bad Blood. Click here to read my review and keep your eyes peeled for a review of book 2.

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 . . .

WWW Wednesday 22 April 2020.

This Book Tag is hosted by Taking On A World Of Words.

What I’ve read, What I’m reading, What’s next.

What I’ve Read

Title: Hold Back The Tide

Author: Melinda Salisbury

Star rating: 5 / 5

After attending the book launch for Hold Back the Tide in the middle of March (the last weekend I left the house before lockdown), I read this in two sittings right afterwards.

This book is a punchy, thrilling, and quite frankly terrifying little novel. Set in the wilds of Scotland, we follow 16 year old Alva and her murderer father’s lives on the Loch. Just as Alva is ready to carve her own path, everything she thought she knew flips on its head and she must survive unbelievable horrors past and present.

Hold Back the Tide is Melinda Salisbury’s first stand-alone novel and I loved it. Very unsettling from the beginning, this is an eye-opening spin on the consequences of our abuse of natural resources. I would also happily state that the first chapter is easily the best YA novel opening I have ever read. Alva is also a kick ass protagonist and sports my own horrific brand of gallows humour.

In short, I would highly recommend this book.

What I’m Currently Reading

Title: A Very English Murder

Author: Verity Bright

Star rating prediction: 2.5 – 3.5 / 5

First impressions:

I assumed I was going to adore this book from the offset because it’s set in 1920s England with an amateur female detective sleuthing around. However, so far I’ve found the protagonist mostly irritating at best. The plot concept is great (Lady Swift has witnessed a murder but there is no body, the scene is clean, yet everyone is acting shady and then the victim turns up dead elsewhere in an apparent accident), but so far it’s less ‘getting on with the plot’ and more ‘the author has a bee in her bonnet over 1920s sexism’.

Baring in mind the era this novel is set in, I fully understand the situation with regards to men’s attitudes towards women at the time. Even a little bit of set up to paint that picture is absolutely fine. However, every third paragraph the narrative is side-tracked by Ellie’s social commentary of historical sexism.

‘Oh that man is disregarding my opinion because I’m a woman.’ 3 sentences later: ‘Oh I wish we had female police constables in this village like in some of the northern cities, but even those women are babysat by men on the force.’

It’s the 1920s. We got it the first time you mentioned it. We’re in an era 2 years post some women getting the vote. Society is male-dominated and backwards. Fine. Understood. Get on with the plot.

I’m over half way through and so far not a lot has actually happened. Here’s hoping it improves because I really want to like this book…

What I’m Reading Next

Title: Orphan Monster Spy

Author: Matt Kileen

Blurb:

A teenage spy. A Nazi boarding school. The performance of a lifetime.

Sarah has played many roles – but now she faces her most challenging of all. Because there’s only one way for a Jewish orphan to survive at a school for the Nazi elite. And that is to become a monster like them.

Survive. Deceive. Resist.

They think she is just a little girl. But she is the weapon they never saw coming… with a mission to destroy them all.

January 2020 Wrap-Up

This month I’ve been trying to get back into blogging properly. The last half of 2019 was a bit of a nightmare if I’m honest. I failed an exam, and therefore my degree, so had to re-sit during the summer ahead of my delayed graduation this month. I was busy trying to find a full-time job with no degree classification. I also had my very busy summer job to contend with. With all of this going on I was barely reading, let alone keeping up with my blog or instagram. So far, 2020 has started off pretty well on the reading and blogging front so hopefully the rest of this year will follow suit.

Here’s what I’ve been getting up to in January.


What I’ve Been Reading

I have managed to read

  1. The Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
  2. The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman
  3. The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman
  4. One Of Us Is Lying, Karen M. McManus
  5. One Of Us Is Next, Karen M. McManus
  6. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1), Agatha Christie
  7. The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence #1), Agatha Christie

7 books is a really good reading month for me. I’m finally starting to get back to the numbers I was reading before uni broke me! Here are some of my highlights.


Most Pleasant Surprise: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

2 brilliant 20 somethings running around London and involving themselves in espionage in the 20s?! YES PLEASE. Tuppence is a total bad ass woman! Perfect book to bring a bit of the roaring 20s into the 2020s! Oh, and a little love story on the side! Now a firm favourite and I cannot wait to read the rest of the Tommy and Tuppence novels.

Most Anticipated: One Of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

Holy sh*t, the reigning YA Thriller Queen did NOT disappoint with this sequel. I wondered how on earth a sequel would be written but wow, wow, wow. McManus nailed it. We checked in with the Bayview Four whilst meeting new characters and a new game. This was also a OOUIL switcheroo as this time we were playing catch up and trying to work out who was dead rather than who did it, although we were trying to figure out the mysterious puppet master of the truth or dare game… Already my favourite read of 2020 and it will take a fair amount to knock it off top spot.


Christie 100 – My crazy reading challenge

If you haven’t seen my post already, I’ve decided to read all 66 of Agatha Christie’s novels (written under her own name) this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Agatha’s first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Because apparently my life isn’t already busy enough…

This is also my own personal celebration of one of the only successful people to come out of my hometown and my reminder that I can absolutely ace my life like she did.

Click here to read all about it!


What I’ve Been Watching

The Crown, Season 3. You, Season 2. The Good Place, Season 4. Gavin & Stacey, Christmas Special 2019. Grace & Frankie, Season 6.
NB. I do not own these images. Image rights belong to Netflix, NBC, and the BBC respectively.

Season 3 of The Crown was the most disappointing so far, in my opinion. The only improvement is that Prince Philip hasn’t been painted as a villain in the same way seasons 1 and 2 did. Princess Anne is woefully under-used, which is a shame because her character has some of the best lines in the series. I also feel like there’s lots of important historical events missing that could have been included and far more interesting than the persistent personal speculation the whole series involves itself in.

Writers and producers should be careful with a historical drama like this that concerns living memory because lots of viewers seem to use this programme as a documentary and a gospel of these events. It needs to be made much clearer that this is a dramatisation based on true events where lots of artistic licence has been taken. Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope that will only get steeper as the seasons bring the show more and more up to date.


The next series of You hit Netflix shortly before the New Year and let’s just say it makes for rather uncomfortable viewing. If you’re thinking of watching this I should point out these trigger warnings:

  • Violence. Big time.
  • Child abuse.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Gaslighting.

After a hiatus from the middle of December until the middle of January, season 4 of The Good Place is finally back! I love this show, it’s so damn wholesome and I really don’t want it to end. Chidi and Eleanor 5eva 😉.


I couldn’t mention my viewing habits this month without shouting about the Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special!!! After nearly a decade we finally caught up with the Barry Island and Billericay crews! I have 2 overwhelming thoughts following Christmas Day (and the 15 or more times I’ve re-watched the episode already 😂):

  1. YOU CANNOT LEAVE IT LIKE THAT
  2. WILL WE EVER FIND OUT WHAT THE SH*TTING F*UCK HAPPENED ON THAT FISHING TRIP?!

January 2020 has seen the return of Grace & Frankie on Netflix! Hit, feel-good comedy about 2 women who are forced into friendship (and living together) after their husbands leave them for each other! I devoured this in an afternoon, as I have done with the release of most of the previous series’. I already cannot wait to watch season 7, although I’m very upset that this will be the last…

Next time…

In February I’m planning to finally read Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series, especially with film #2 being released on Netflix on the 12th.

Keep up to date with what I get up to on a daily basis on my Instagram stories @beauteaful.reads

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: 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.