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.

The Hate U Give Chapters 19 – end. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. On Monday we posted our first thoughts on chapters 1 – 9. The second instalment came on Wednesday, and this is our final post for this novel.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Please have a look at my previous posts and go to Kerrie’s blog too for her instalments. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in!

Chapters 19 – the end of the book is where the action really ramps up. Riots, protests, social movement all accelerate. Starr is waiting to hear the outcome of her interview with the Grand Jury, and the social pressures in her neighbourhood are reaching fever pitch. There’s a lot to reflect on in this last section including our overall ideas of the book. So let’s get into it.

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

Yes. I think this makes the story real and conveys the point the rest of the book had been putting across. The narrative would not have held as much weight if we got the desired outcome of the officer being prosecuted. The reality is, the officer was not prosecuted because this is what usually happens ‘in real life’. It’s important to that I read this as a white reader knowing that the risk of police brutality to myself is basically non-existent. It’s important for me to read these narratives and learn about the struggles outside my own so I can use my voice to be an ally.

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?

I’d like to think my emotional reactions to this book were that of a rational human being. Anyone with a reaction other than shock, horror, or anger to the main issues in this book should take a look at themselves. However, I think there certainly was an added shock factor that comes from the cultural differences between British and American cultures. As a British reader it is still madness to me that people can simply be running around neighbourhoods with guns. The idea that Starr was very aware she could have been shot by a police officer for essentially no reason at all is insanity to me as our regular police aren’t just wondering around with guns. When I first moved to London I was shocked to see police officers carrying guns because that is not a standard feature of police uniform here. The idea that students could simply stage a mass walkout at school is also massively different to the way our secondary schools are run. Riots are not a common feature of UK society. In fact they make national news on the rare occasion that they do happen. However this book has helped me to understand why riots happen and are the way people raise their voices. This has also made me think a lot about how racism punctuates British society too and I really need to work on learning more about the systemic problems present in my own country.

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

This book has made me think about what I actually do to use my voice. I do voluntary work with Girl Guiding UK so I guess I use my voice to empower and lead young girls. However this left me thinking, is that enough? We should be aware of the power of our voice and not choose to refrain from using it.

As a white woman, my voice automatically carries more weight that some of my peers. Which is wrong. I need to ensure I am using my voice to amplify others who are less heard.

I think there is always a way to do more and it’s good that I am more aware of this now.

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

For me it was definitely the learning curve that this book gave me. It allowed me to check my own privilege, and learn about different American societies and cultural experiences to the ones I ordinarily see on television and in films. The insight I will carry will be most is a renewed sense of self-awareness and that I really need to work on learning more about experiences outside of my own. This book has been a very valuable read for me.

Thank you for reading along with us! We’ve really enjoyed this read-along and will definitely be doing some more soon. Keep an eye out on my blog next week for my full review of The Hate U Give.

The Hate U Give Chapters 10 – 18. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. On Monday we posted our first thoughts on chapters 1 – 9.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Please have a look at my previous post and go to Kerrie’s blog too for her instalments. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in!

Chapters 10 – 18 are where Starr settles into her new normal. With the help of her parents she is processing her grief and dealing with the backlash that is beginning as a result of Khalil’s death. Starr must deal with police and press interviews and the injustice of the police officer murderer remaining free and simply on reduced duties. We learn further details about the night of the murder, and the tension in Starr’s family and community really begin to spiral. Starr also starts to realise who she can trust and who is not a genuine friend, which I think is a really difficult part of growing up. Here are my thoughts.

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

I think this is a really important character arc for Angie Thomas to tackle. I’m not sure that I’ve read any books dealing with this before. The long and short of it is that Starr and Hailey have been friends since middle school (from what I understand of the US school system I’m estimating that’s early secondary school for us Brits – maybe aged 11 or 12). As the girls have grown into themselves, into young women, Starr is realising that Hailey has started to become a person she doesn’t like. Somewhere along the line their moral compasses diverged and it became an incompatible relationship. Starr doesn’t want to put up with Hailey’s selfish and prejudiced behaviours any more. Hailey cannot see that her words are racist. She’s not a nice person and it takes the trauma of Khalil’s murder for Starr to be jolted towards that realisation.

As I said in the last read-along piece, I can relate to Starr in the way that I very much remember what it was like to be a teenage girl, and therefore this subplot hit home for me. I have had personal experience of being frozen out of my friendship group and realising that the people who were supposed to be my friends were anything but. Angie Thomas approach to this with racism as the cause of the broken friendship was heartbreaking. Starr’s strength to accept that her friend was simply a vile person, that there was nothing wrong with herself, and that she could move on to a better situation with healthier friendships, was a huge part of the character arc. It also highlighted to me that this is something I have never had to experience. Being a teenager is hard enough without having to deal with this BS and I don’t think I previously realised that this was something my Black peers are having to face.

We’ve both (Kerrie and I) 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?   

Honestly Kerrie and I had a little fangirl about Starr’s parents when we Skyped to speak about this book. Lisa, Starr’s mother, is a fierce woman. She’s excellent. Fiercely protective, she knows exactly what to do to help Starr through the aftermath of witnessing Khalil’s murder. She’s got everyone checked in their place, which led to some amusing scenes giving some excellently placed comic relief to the story. Her capacity to love is immense. She can forgive her husband for his mistakes, she loves him unconditionally as she does with their kids. She loves Starr’s older brother Seven as though he’s her own. Honestly she is a FORCE of a woman and she’s absolutely one of my favourite characters in the book. Starr’s father Maverick is also an absolute gem. He always puts his family first whilst having to wrestle with right and wrong, his past life and his current life. He is flawed but the more we learn about him as the story progresses, the more we learn of his heart. He really is just trying to do his best with the circumstances society has constructed around him. I love the scenes where Lisa and Maverick interact. They are funny, totally in love, a little bit messy (which makes them so real), an excellent support system, they’re so much of the heart of this book. I also appreciate that Lisa and Maverick are another cultural example that I need to learn from. They are the adults that characters like Starr will grow into. What the novel teaches us of them is how society shapes these communities and it is a starting place for my understanding.

It’s really refreshing to see a relationship like Lisa and Maverick’s in a young adult novel. I often find the trend in these novels is that there’s usually an absent parent or some sort of ‘broken home’ as the family background. So it’s really nice that Starr comes from a place of relative stability. I’d love to see more of this is ya. Maybe I’m just not reading enough of the correct books?

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

Family is portrayed in so many different levels and it really made me consider what makes a family. Starr has a blended family. Her older brother, Seven, is her father’s child and therefore her half sibling. Seven’s siblings are like family extensions through loyalty to their mutual brother. Her uncle is like a second father to her, which causes conflict between some of the adults in her family. Outside of biological family, Starr also has her Garden Heights family, because her community is very much a family. I think Angie Thomas shows more than anything that love and loyalty make families of all different shapes and sizes. I think that was the really important takeaway from this element of the novel.

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

What struck me most was that this story really deals with exactly what teenagers can do. It shows us that teenagers have strength beyond their years, they can use their brains, they’re principled, and they’re brilliant. It also shows that despite this, and despite the way society may view them, they are just kids. Kids trying to make it through and work life out. One of my favourite scenes of the book is when Starr does the television interview. The answers she gave were just mic drops all over the place. I really appreciate that she was shown with this level of strength in the face of extreme injustice. It’s also clear that she is being strong when that is not easy for her. She doesn’t see her actions as strong, rather what she has to do for Khalil and for her community. She is strong despite being terrified, which is what real strength is. Angie Thomas has created a character who is strong, real, and raw and she is absolutely great. I am also coming to understand that this kind of strength is a necessity, rather than a choice, from Starr and real life Black teens. This is a check on my own privilege in the fact that I would never have to protest to ensure the police murderer of a white friend would be brought to justice, it would simply be an expected result if that kind of thing had happened. What is also becoming clear is that I still have a hell of a lot to learn.

The final instalment of The Hate U Give read-along will go live on Friday, followed by a full book review. Make sure you’re checking back here and over at Wheelie Stagey for full bookish content!

The Hate U Give Chapters 1 – 9. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Our first section, chapters 1 – 9, follow Starr after she has witnessed her best friend Khalil shot dead by a police officer. Star and Khalil were on their way home from a party when they were pulled over. Khalil was eventually dragged from the car by the officer and shot, despite being unarmed and posing no threat. In fact, he was checking to see if Starr was okay during the ordeal. Starr attempts to continue as normal, hiding this traumatic experience from her school friends who live in a completely different world to the one she is from. She also has to hide this from her community as it quickly becomes clear that local loyalties and gangs come into play in this situation. Starr is terrified and struggling to cope with what has happened to her friend, and witnessing a death for the second time in her life.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Read on to find out my thoughts on the first third of the book. Please go to Kerrie’s blog too and don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in.

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?

This part of the book really struck me. It was very upsetting. For a start being cautious around the police is not something I have ever considered or needed to consider. Growing up, I was always told by my parents that if I was in any trouble (i.e. was in any danger), the police were people I could go to for help. Even during my driving lessons no one ever mentioned what it looks like when a police car signals for you to pull over. I have never been pulled over or witnessed anyone else be pulled over. It’s an upsetting realisation that this is not true for everyone, and this is definitely a privilege check for me. This is just one example of many that I learnt something new about cultures other than my own when reading this book. I’ve been left wondering if parents in some communities in the UK are having these sorts of conversations with their children as are undoubtedly happening in the States. It’s completely different from my 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?

I think all of us can relate to something similar, especially growing up. I certainly know I had a hard time adjusting to fit in to the different circles I found myself in. For me I had a ‘secret’ internet life where I could fangirl in peace away from school bullies. Of course this is different to what Starr is going through, feeling the need to adjust herself because of society’s impressions of her background. I can definitely relate to being a teenage girl and trying to fit in with people I thought were my friends, but I can’t relate to adding cultural differences on top of all that. Starr goes through an impressive transformation in the way she views her own identity. Angie Thomas is able to show this from so many different perspectives due to Starr’s unique position. She goes to a predominantly white private school, and she grows up in a different neighbourhood that is seen by those people as ‘rough’. She is the daughter of a medical professional and an ex-gang member, and she is the niece of a police officer. This allows Starr to provide social commentary on both sides of the debate she finds herself at the centre of; relating to police brutality and race relations. This really helps in teaching me plenty about my own culture too as well as Starr’s situation and navigating her teen years in America.

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?

This is a kind of double edged sword. On the one hand, hashtag culture is the primary method I had of hearing about these sorts of topics growing up. I’m from a small town in the south west of the UK so until I moved to London I had a very limited knowledge of cultures beyond my own with only the media and internet portrayals as exposure. Hashtag culture can be great in raising awareness and spreading a message. With things such as the Me Too movement it’s clear that momentum can be built by a hashtag spreading around the various social media channels. It’s an interesting new age we’re living in when social media can have that kind of influence.

However the other side to that is people simply jumping on a bandwagon, which I think is handled really well in The Hate U Give. Some of the kids at Starr’s school use Khalil’s murder as a reason to skip class. Their reasons for protesting what happened to him are not genuine. This is the danger with internet activism where people are happy to jump on board with the issue for a short amount of time without doing anything productive in real time. Change can’t be made by people with the wrong intentions adding noise from behind a keyboard. Whilst social media is a platform to use your voice, it’s also a way to spread misinformation and hatred.

Starr is deeply affected by this as people who didn’t know Khalil, or know what happened that night, felt able to spread their vicious opinions based on lies and assumptions. Angie Thomas created a very important dialogue about this within her story of deep injustices in society.

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

Angie Thomas’s Garden Heights Community was so well established and fleshed out with very real and whole secondary characters. I think this is especially important for readers such as myself to learn the stories of these communities that are sometimes governed by gangs. Issues of addiction, domestic violence, gang culture, and community rules are all covered in this story. These issues are often connected and create a vicious cycle that leads into further involvement and often spirals through generations. This book has taught me that it’s not as cut and dry to simply make a choice. Sometimes our decisions are controlled by the situation we find ourselves in and, for the most part, people are just trying to do the best they can for themselves and their families. I also loved how this book showed the beauty of communities outside my very limited white experience. Starr’s family are wonderful. They truly look out for each other and have each others backs. They go to the ends of the earth for each other. They give the kind of support to their immediate family and the family that is their community in ways that I could only hope to experience. These stories are able to be told through the extensive cast of important secondary characters, all of whom are somehow completely fully fleshed out. As I’ve already said this novel is an important learning curve for me.

Let me know your thoughts about this first section of The Hate U Give and come back on Wednesday to read the second part.

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: 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.