ARC REVIEW: Tell Me When You Feel Something by Vicki Grant

*Thank you to Penguin Teen for the eARC*

Tell Me When You Feel Something tells the story of somewhat-friends Viv and Davida in the lead-up and aftermath of a tragic event in their lives. When Viv is seen taking a pill that causes a potentially fatal reaction at a party, Davida is desperate to prove that this was some kind of mistake; but as we witness the weeks leading up to the party, it becomes clear that maybe nobody really knows Viv enough to understand what’s going through her mind at all.

This book is very intense and covers some incredibly serious and troubling subjects including addiction, sexual assault and drug use, but this is definitely handled carefully and, sadly, believably. The book is told from Viv, Davida and Davida’s boyfriend Tim’s perspectives, with police interviews with all involved parties mixed in following any big reveals in the plot. This was a really fascinating style for me, as I loved that the police interviews were almost responses to Viv’s chapters, and that the police were discovering things just as the reader was.

I can see from the twists and even the characters why this book is compared to One of Us is Lying and I would absolutely recommend it to fans of Karen McManus’ books, or anyone who likes intense, high-school set thrillers and contemporaries. It was a fast-paced, serious story with a troubled set of characters, an impossibility to determine who to trust, and a page-turning quality that no other book has gripped me with for a while.

Not only was the end surprising, it was also fascinating to see Viv throughout the story in situations that you wouldn’t expect and reacting in ways that were completely unpredictable. She’s a likeable, realistic character who is in no way to blame for anything that happens to her and that really makes this a heart-breaking tale and a saddening warning about society and the struggles that young people go through in the wrong situations.

RATING: 4/5

Tell Me When You Feel Something is publishing in June 2021.

ARC REVIEW: The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a thriller that follows former mean-girl Amb as she is forced to return to her university for her ten-year reunion and, in turn, to face all of the horrible things she did as she tried to fit in. It tells two stories: one of Amb at the reunion, trying to hide her former self from the husband that knows her as a sweet and innocent woman, and one of Amb at university as she finds herself becoming wrapped up in drugs, alcohol, drama, and her toxic best friend, Sully.

It’s so interesting to read the story of a girl who clearly becomes the villain in her own story as she creates nightmares for everyone around her and rapidly unravels. Her relationships are toxic, her friendships are toxic and, of course, there’s a traumatic event from her teenagedom that she is trying desperately to move past, despite the ghosts in her head that refuse to allow it.

I hated Amb but in all the best ways. She was actually quite a terrible human being but a fascinating protagonist, and it was unnerving how many of the toxic behaviours she and her friends exhibited that I’m sure everyone will have come across at some point in their lives. I didn’t like her and I wanted to scream at her to live her life differently, or to choose different friends but somehow, deep down, I was also kind of rooting for her in a terrible way.

The ending was really satisfying and helped resolve some of my struggles with who was really the good guy/bad guy in the situation and, although I didn’t find myself growing attached to many of the characters, I was deeply interested in a few of the side characters and could happily have read much more about them: namely Flora and her boyfriend.

This was an interesting read and an exciting story for anyone who has ever wanted to get inside the head of the mean girls from your past. It was quick and both timelines became equally gripping, to the point that I was completely unable to put it down, and I would definitely recommend to lovers of plot twists and unique thrillers.

RATING 4/5

ARC Review: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

*Thank you so much to Harper Collins for the e-ARC!*

The Shadow in the Glass tells the story of Ella, a young housemaid who dreams of a better life. Having been taken in by a wealthy family for a few years before being cast aside, Ella knows that she can’t live without the wealth and security that the world owes her; so when an empty-eyed woman appears and promises seven wishes, Ella jumps at the chance to start a new and better life. As she begins to twist the world to her liking, however, she quickly realises that this may not be quite the bargain she thought it was.

Before I read this book, I was convinced that every possible Cinderella retelling had been done, but The Shadow in the Glass completely proved me wrong. It was a new, dark twist on the tale that would be perfect for readers who prefer their fairytales a little more Grimm and a little less Disney. The overlap between the two stories was expertly done and, although I definitely have a few unanswered questions, so much of the story was answered either by aspects of the original tale or by inventions from JJA Harwood’s imagination that I was completely satisfied.

Ella was a fascinating protagonist. I’m still unsure how I feel about a number of her decisions and her moral position, but it was interesting trying to justify her actions and wondering what I’d do in the same position. I loved her transition too, from indecisive and doubtful in the first part of the story, to committed, serious and downright dangerous when she realised what she wanted.

This book took the darkest parts of Cinderella and made them darker, twisting this into a gothic and grim tale of dangerous magic. A number of incredibly serious themes are tackled from the very beginning and these hinted at how dark this book might get, but I was completely taken aback by how gothic it ended up being.

What started out slow and descriptive with only a hint of magic turned quickly into a gripping page-turner that had my mind wandering back to it every time I managed to put it down. I would recommend this book for adult readers, young adult readers, lovers of fantasy, fairytales and historical fiction. I don’t have too many to compare it to, but this was possibly the most compelling fairytale retelling I’ve ever read, and I’m excited to see what JJA Harwood will write next.

Rating: 4/5

The Shadow in the Glass is publishing on March 18th 2021.

BLOG TOUR STOP: The Wing Thief by Samantha Atkins

I’m forever looking for an excuse to read middle-grade, and books about fairies have been my favourites for a long time, so when I heard about this book, I was so excited – and being part of the blog tour is even more exciting than that! My contribution is an honest review, and I can’t wait to share it 🙂

Thank you to Smashbear Publishing for sending me an e-ARC of this book!

The synopsis:

Let me ask you a question. It’s a pretty straight forward question, but one that you shouldn’t rush to answer. Do you believe in magic?

Vista wanted two things: adventure and freedom. But nothing could prepare her for the fall that would change everything. In a single moment, Vista’s comfortable life in the Home Tree is over and she must find a way to survive in the forest alone. She soon learns that not everyone can be trusted and now she must race to save the family she left behind.

In a forest filled with magic and trickery, just how far can a flightless fairy go?

This book is such a fun read.

It’s been a long time since I read about fairies that weren’t inherently cruel tricksters (a curse of reading predominantly YA: Holly Black, I’m looking at you) and it was such a nice burst of nostalgia to read about an adventurous, kind-hearted and strong-willed fairy without a cruel bone in her tiny body. Vista is an inspirational, excellently role-modelling character with impressive ambitions and dreams, as well as a natural disposition to do what’s right. She surrounds herself with pure, helpful companions that remind you of the good in even the most fictitious worlds. Grecko the Gnome is the obvious favourite, with his kind heart, innocence and very strong sense of trust, and I found myself growing as attached to him as I was to Vista.

The plot of this book was really entertaining, and I especially loved that we got to see both the villain’s side and the hero’s side as they went on their very different quests. The contrast of seeing the villain preparing cruelly for his plan and seeing Vista initially just trying to create a new life for herself on the forest floor was fascinating, and seeing Vista’s mission reveal itself as the story went on kept this book exciting all the way through. To top it off, the world-building was great as well and I was sucked into the magical forest in no time too, with Samantha making it so easy to picture the Home Tree, and the entirety of the woodland.

Obviously, I’m a little (or a lot) older than the intended audience of this book, but I felt like a child again as I shared in Vista’s wonder and fear and adventure. I can imagine Vista becoming a favourite character for so many young girls and honestly wish that I had more people to recommend this book to. It’s a sweet and easy read, even if you’re traditionally too old for it, and it’s an action-packed and readable adventure if you’re not.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Wing Thief is out on 31st January 2021! And if you’re looking for more reasons to read it, keep an eye out for the rest of the blog tour 🙂

ARC REVIEW: The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme

THANK YOU to Tor Teen for sending me an eARC of this wonderful book 🙂

Maralyth Graylaern, the daughter of her country’s most well-renowned vintner, has spent a lifetime hiding the magical power that she’s been assured she shouldn’t possess. And Prince Alac Thungrave, the forgotten second-born of the King of a stolen throne and possessor of stolen dark magic, has spent his life trying to avoid the power at all costs.

When Maralyth discovers that her magical abilities actually prove she could be the rightful heir to Alac’s father’s stolen throne, she rapidly finds herself being manipulated into a coup that will have her on the throne, at the expense of the Thungrave family and their cursed abilities. But the deeper Maralyth finds herself in this plot, the more she starts to worry that the plan to get her on the throne may cause more harm than good.

With a taste of the power she could possess, for the greater good, she wants the throne; but she absolutely does not want Prince Alac, or any other innocents, to die.

I am obsessed this book. It’s a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat story from start to finish, and I found myself desperately turning the pages as one climactic scene built into another. The world-building is impressive, and the magical abilities felt so real that I could feel the tendrils of dark magic and the bursts of life from Maralyth every time she could.

The joint narrators, Maralyth and Alac, were fascinating characters, and I loved both of their stories; Maralyth in her guilt and selfless desperation to do what’s right, and Alac in his quest for knowledge to end the curse that magic has held over his family for generations. Their feelings for each other were equally enjoyable to read about, and I loved how they warred with their emotions constantly as they tried to juggle romantic feelings, as well as their- perhaps slightly more important- goals of saving the entire country.

With its forbidden romance, dark magic and high-tension fights for a long-since stolen throne, this book is a unique addition to a very much loved genre of YA, and I enjoyed every second of it. It’s exciting, unputdownable fantasy, and I’m so caught up in the land of Perin Faye that I’m not sure I’m fully ready to leave.

Rating: 5/5

ARC Review: The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky

THANK YOU to Electric Monkey for this ARC.

Okay, so I made an observation a while ago that I’ve never disliked a book published by Electric Monkey and, as a result, I have ridiculously high expectations for every single one of their books that I read. The Last Girl– a high-school-set, YA thriller about horror addicts- is really no exception.

And yet, I still found myself taken aback by how completely hooked I was by this book. I started it at 11:30pm with the promise of ‘just one chapter’ and, by the time I went downstairs for breakfast, I’d finished the whole thing and was raving about it to anyone who would listen.

So… you can probably guess how my review is about to go 🙂

The Last Girl (publishing in the US as The Mary Shelley Club) is about a girl named Rachel who moves to a new city and a new school after a break-in at her former home scars her for life. In an attempt to forget the nightmares from that terrible night, she develops a coping mechanism of immersing herself in horror movies and gore, which has her completely shunned by her new classmates. That is, until she meets the rest of the Mary Shelley Club: a secret group of misfits, dedicated to arguing over horror tropes and terrifying their classmates.

Rachel finds herself rapidly becoming wrapped up in the twisted club, beginning to fall for the mystery of it, as well as the allure of its members, and finding it to be her only source of peace as trouble picks up for her at the new school. But the Mary Shelley Club is not as perfect for her as it seems, and what started as a simple game suddenly seems a lot more lethal the more they play it.

This book was the most unputdownable book I read last year. Rachel, as a result of her trauma, is an innocent and likeable character who develops a warped sense of what is right, along with some mildly disturbing coping mechanisms that help her fit right in with the Mary Shelley Club. Each character plays an entirely different role and it was really fun figuring out who I should and shouldn’t trust as the game turned deadly. The horror movie references (there are a lot) largely went over my head, but I love the way they are included throughout as a reminder of just how sinister the characters’ minds are and how deeply captivated they are with all things truly gruesome.

I would definitely consider this much closer to the thriller genre than the horror genre despite this, but if you like any form of exciting, twisty YA, I would absolutely recommend this book.

Rating: 5/5

The Last Girl is publishing in the UK in April 2021!

ARC REVIEW: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

I’ve decided that my reading of this book was fated. I saw it on Twitter, realised that I would die for a copy, and received an email the following day inviting me to review on Netgalley and giving me an automatic-approval link to it (so thank you so much to HarperVoyager for the e-ARC). I don’t think I’ve ever been so blessed by the book gods in my entire life and obviously, in the midst of my excitement, I had to read this entire book in a day.

That day was a while ago, but I was (for once) organised enough to write my thoughts as soon as I finished. Those thoughts were as follows:

Threadneedle is about a teenage witch named Anna, who has been raised by her aunt to detest and fear her own magic. She has spent her life repressing it, preparing herself for having it cut off by a group called The Binders when she turns sixteen, in order to protect herself from all of its dangers. Having been raised surrounded by ordinary humans and people with no knowledge of the beauty or the danger of magic, this hasn’t been especially difficult for Anna- particularly because her magic is reluctant to show itself in the first place.

But when Selene, an enchanting family friend who flaunts and thrives on magic, comes to visit with her daughter Effie and Effie’s best friend Attis, everything that Anna has been taught begins to blur. Anna is swept into a world of witches who proudly wreak havoc with their magic, a world of underground magical libraries, potions and all-out recklessness. And it quickly becomes unclear who she should believe when it comes to magic.

This book is very long, and yet I didn’t find it even remotely slow. There’s a lot of character building, a lot of scene setting and a lot of high-school drama thrown in amongst the magic and the mystery, but not a word of it was unnecessary. There’s a hugely varied, fascinating cast of characters, and an entertaining mix of romance, YA angst and dark magic, which I absolutely loved.

My favourite thing about this book, though, was how it made me feel. Namely: unsettled, the entire way through. With frequent mentions of a curse, the dangers of dark magic, the characters’ recklessness and Anna’s Aunt’s paranoia, I felt like something could go wrong any second and on every page. I was grappling with my fears of who to trust and what could go wrong the entire way through this book, and it left me feeling unnerved, anxious and completely enthralled.

I really wanted to love this book and I’m so glad that I did. Everything tied together wonderfully, the characters were exciting, and the world was entirely immersive. As someone who has only recently discovered the genre of Witchy YA, this book has only made me more desperate for book two and anything else about dark magic that I can get my hands on.

RATING: 5/5

ARC REVIEW: The Spiral by Iain Ryan

Thank you to Bonnier Zaffre for the e-ARC of The Spiral by Iain Ryan!

The Spiral tells the story of a young woman named Erma as she tries to cope with the aftermath of being shot by a former colleague. Her life takes a bizarre and disturbing turn, and the closer she gets to figuring out her colleague’s motivations and retracing her steps, the more endangered she becomes.

It was fascinating to read a book where the protagonist is so loosely tethered to reality and the consequences of her actions. Erma has faced a lot of trauma and the way she speaks reflects that completely. The writing style, the storyline, Erma’s behaviour and the choose-your-own-adventure elements blend together to create something unsettling, disturbing and desperately addictive.

I’m fairly sure it would be impossible to go into this book knowing what to expect. I knew that it wouldn’t be a standard thriller, but there was no way of knowing just how many strange twists and turns would be taking place throughout. The unique mix of fantasy, thriller and mystery elements is something I haven’t come across before and, if that sounds like something you’re interested in, I would entirely recommend it.

The integration of the fantasy elements definitely threw me off a little at first, and I struggled to grasp the relevance of these random snippets mixed in with Erma’s story, but it all seemed to tie together and begin to make sense towards the end. The short, no-nonsense way that Erma’s parts were written also made it a little difficult to get used to initially, but this turned out to be a very good way of keeping up the break-neck pace and wasting no time. It’s an incredibly fast-paced story as a result, and it’s absolutely the kind of book you can get through in a day.

This book is very far out of my comfort zone, but it was fast-paced, unique, gripping and I would imagine soon-to-become an essential read for lovers of choose-your-own-adventure and fantasy/thriller blends. If you’re looking for something bizarre that you absolutely have never read anything similar to before, this might be the perfect choice.

Rating: 4/5