ARC REVIEW: Mindwalker by Kate Dylan

First of all, hi! Second of all, my first book review of the summer is a 5* review of one of my most anticipated releases this year!!!!

I’m so, so grateful that I got the opportunity to read an eARC of Mindwalker by Kate Dylan because this book has literally everything I’m looking for in a thriller. It was such a fun read that I’m still obsessed with nearly a month after finishing, and I’m very excited to share my thoughts. So:

Mindwalker is a completely wild sci-fi/cyberpunk thriller that follows Sil, a genetically modified teenager with a supercomputer in her mind that allows her to enter and control other people’s brains. At eighteen years old, Sil’s employment and life are both almost up and, in an attempt to die a legend, she finds herself caught up in a scandal, a compromised mission, and a plot to overthrow the company that she’s idolised for as long as she remembers.

I knew before I picked this up that I was going to love it and it absolutely did not disappoint. Mindwalker combines enemies-to-lovers, Marie Lu-level sci-fi world building, a page-turning plot and an incredibly fierce, slightly unhinged female protagonist to create one of the most exciting books I’ve read all year.

The pace didn’t slow down for a second, and whilst the characters were by far my favourite thing about this book, the plot was an absolute thrill ride. There was a lot of explanation needed due to the amount of futuristic tech in the story, but this was done so well that it was incredibly easy to understand the tech that Syntex was using without wasting a lot of time describing it.

I cannot stress enough how much I loved this book. It reminded me a lot of slightly older dystopian YA, like Divergent and The Hunger Games, but with plenty of modern tropes and elements that made it feel completely new. I’m so excited to read everything Kate Dylan writes from here on in and seriously can’t recommend this one enough!

Rating 5/5

Mindwalker publishes on 1st of September! If you read it, I would absolutely love to know what you thought (and also if you have any recommendations of anything similar!!)

THE ARC by Ben Oliver – BLOG TOUR & GUEST POST

Hi! Today’s blog post is very exciting, as it’s my stop on the blog tour for The Arc by Ben Oliver! When Chicken House reached out about this blog tour, I was so quick to say yes because The Loop and The Block were two of my absolute favourite reads of last year. So, first things first, thank you to Chicken House for the early copy and the opportunity to be part of such an exciting blog tour 🙂

Before I share my thoughts on The Arc, feel free to check out my blog tour reviews for books one and two here.

Synopsis of The Arc (please note, there will be some spoilers for books one and two below):

Luka Kane is dead, executed in front of a crowd of Alts who cheered despite the fact that the truth of their oppressive leaders had been revealed to them.

But one Alt, Chester “Chilly” Beckett, did not celebrate; his eyes have been opened to the truth. Luka’s corpse is dragged away, but Chester remains determined to find out what is going on in the Laboratory on the 65th floor.

There, he finds three subjects tortured in an attempt to extract a regeneration formula… and one of the subjects is, impossibly, a face he never thought he’d seen again. A bold escape sets in motion a race against time as Happy’s plans to release planet-eating nano-bots into the world draw nearer. The Loop team must reassemble, survive Happy’s final attempts to rid the world of the rebels, and figure out how to halt the apocalypse before humanity is destroyed.

Review:

This book is everything I hoped it would be after the ending of The Block. The plot twists made me scream, and the introduction of an Alt as a protagonist added such a fascinating perspective that we didn’t really explore in the first two books. Chester was fascinating as he developed, from his very first appearance on page one when he realised what he was doing but was not entirely sure why he was doing it.

It was also really great to see so many familiar faces from the rest of the trilogy, including one in particular that I’m sure readers of books one and two would be especially thrilled about. One of my favourite things about this series is just how much the characters grew throughout the first two books, and it was great to see this progression as they took on Happy one final time in The Arc. It was as action-packed as I hoped, full of futuristic tech, and a great ending to a really enjoyable trilogy.

Now onto the most best part of the post! Thank you very much to Ben Oliver for providing the following fascinating insight into where he writes:

“Where I Write” – Ben Oliver

I’ll be honest, I’ve answered this question in the past and made something up about liking to write at my office at home because it’s comfortable and I know where everything is, but the truth is kind of boring: I’ll write anywhere!

I quite like writing in hotel rooms, I don’t know why but I always find myself getting lost in the world when I write in hotel rooms, maybe it’s because I’m staying somewhere so unfamiliar that my work-in-progress is a little bit of familiarity and comfort to cling on to.

I also like writing in cafes and coffee shops (I wrote most of The Arc in a Starbucks in a retail park next to a gigantic Tesco). I think the background noise of a cafe is somehow great for focusing my mind and cutting out distractions. I don’t like writing to music (especially songs with lyrics), but I do like the background hum of a coffee shop.

I’ll write in my car if I have long wait to pick someone up. Sometimes I stay late and write after work (I’m a teacher of young people with additional support needs), I can write in waiting rooms, at the beach, on trains, planes, boats. I think my final answer is, I’ll write anywhere, I just love writing, as difficult as it can be, as infuriating as it can be, I love it and I’ll do it anywhere. And the best part is I can do it anywhere because writing is not only the act of putting words on the page, it’s the act of imagining the characters, figuring out the plot, building the world, coming up with twists and turns, figuring out arcs, adding little details that bring it to life, and that can be done (sometimes literally) in your sleep.

And that’s it! If you’ve read The Loop, The Block or The Arc, I would love to hear your thoughts – and I highly recommend you check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour as well for some wonderful reviews and some other great posts from Ben Oliver 🙂

ARC REVIEW: JADE FIRE GOLD by June CL Tan

First of all, thank you to Hodder for the eARC of this incredible book, and SORRY to Hodder for taking so ridiculously long to pick it up. I’m kicking myself for leaving it unread on my shelf for so long when I knew how much I was going to love it, and I’m very happy that I finally got round to it. Anyway!

Jade Fire Gold tells the dual stories of Ahn, a young woman who finds her life completely upended, and Altan, a former prince, as their lives and missions completely and unintentionally converge.

Ahn is an orphaned young girl living with a kind stranger in a small outskirts town, who is uprooted suddenly when she discovers that her father is a very senior ally to the royal family that desperately needs her help to solve an age old problem. Altan, meanwhile, is a presumed-dead outlaw former heir to the throne who realises that Ahn may be the key to regaining his position, and knows that he needs to do whatever it takes to do just that. What follows is an intense and epic adventure, filled with magic, slow-burn romance and a lot of action and adventure.

This story was so much fun to read. The imagery was vivid, the magic was intense (very ATLA-esque) and both protagonists were so well-developed that I found myself equally excited every time the perspective changed to either of them. I did find that the pacing was slightly odd at times, and that weeks seemed to pass by in the space of one or two lines but, whilst this was off-putting at first, I found by the end that it just allowed much more time to develop the story.

It’s rare in a fantasy book that the fight scenes are my favourite part, but it was definitely the case with this one as they were so intense and perfectly described that I found myself completely sucked into the action. I genuinely cried at multiple points and I felt so emotionally connected to the characters by the end of the story that I was truly sad to have to put it down. The romance was also really beautifully done, as what could very easily have been insta-love based on their first interaction turned into a beautiful slow burn romance with a couple of tropes and clichés thrown in along the way that I really found myself enjoying.

I think it may be obvious, but I adored this book. I couldn’t get over it for days after putting it down. The characters are still living in my brain at this moment, and I’m so excited to see what June CL Tan releases next.

Rating: 5/5

ARC Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Hi, readers! I read You’ve Reached Sam way back in April and somehow convinced myself that I’d already shared my review when, in fact, I never did. So, since it published this week, I thought I’d share now!

You’ve Reached Sam follows Julie, a high-school girl who is trying to come to terms with the loss of her long-term boyfriend and the unravelling of all of the plans that they had for the future. Her mourning takes a sudden turn, though, when she calls Sam’s phone in a moment of weakness and he actually picks up.

What follows is a heart-wrenching story of love and loss, and an emotional portrayal of a young woman dealing with grief and the urge to move on.

This book is as emotional as you’d expect it to be. It’s completely filled with touching scenes about Sam and Julie’s relationship, heart-breaking moments of grief as she tries to cope with her loss, and touching friendships with Sam’s family and friends as they all struggle to move on in different ways. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to cry for the majority of the time you’re reading (I personally cried during the very first chapter…) so, if you want a book that will break your heart, this is a solid choice.

Some of Julie’s actions are flawed and, normally, I would criticise a protagonist for their mistakes, but everything she does is because of her grief and mourning and that really comes across throughout. I got frustrated when she missed opportunities that I wished she would take, but it was so understandable for someone in her position that, instead of being critical, I felt largely empathetic.

This was a really bittersweet, emotional story about young love, loss and figuring out what’s important in life. It’s a poignant contemporary with fantasy elements that I would absolutely recommend if you’re looking for a book to make you cry.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: Only A Monster by Vanessa Len

Thank you thank you thank you to Hodder for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review! I’m SO glad I got the chance to read and review this book and I don’t think I’m going to be able to get it out of my head, ever…

Only A Monster follows Joan, a teenage girl sent to stay with her mother’s side of the family, who finds out that there’s more to them – and herself – than she ever realised. Namely, that they’re monsters, and that means she’s half-monster too.

If that wasn’t enough, Joan then discovers that the cute boy that she’s been volunteering with, crushing on and generally obsessing over, isn’t just a human either: Nick’s a monster hunter, fabled as the only one who can unravel the hidden world that they’ve created.

When Joan suffers an unimaginable tragedy at the hands of the boy she’s in love with, she’s forced to team up with her worst enemy in an attempt to repair the damage that Nick’s done, before it’s too late.

I’ve read so many YA books that have flipped tropes and age-old stories on their heads, but I’ve never read anything that does it quite like Only A Monster. It’s a typical hero story except, for the first time ever, I had to root against the hero, and the moral-greyness of it all was completely flawless. I found myself confused by how I felt about all of the characters at so many different points that, while I knew who I was supposed to be supporting, I was never entirely sure if that’s actually how I felt. It made for a very confusing but incredibly unique reading experience, with one of the best uses of the anti-hero trope I’ve ever read.

It definitely took time for me to connect with the three main characters – Joan, Nick, or Joan’s now-ally, Aaron – and I was worried initially that I wasn’t entirely rooting for any of them. I didn’t particularly ship Joan with anyone at the start and I couldn’t figure out if I trusted her family or not (what with them being monsters, and all) so I was definitely concerned for the first few chapters that I wasn’t going to get into this story at all. But, somewhere in the middle, I became completely hooked, and developed a mild obsession with all three characters that took me completely by surprise. Joan developed into a strong-willed fierce heroine (villain??), Aaron became the newest addition to a long line of arrogant, fictional posh boys that are super easy to fall in love with, and Nick got more and more complex until I genuinely couldn’t figure out how I felt about his mission.

The story was fairly fast-paced, but there was so much world-building included too that the hidden monster world within our own was completely believable and fully developed. It was so easy towards the end to get completely sucked into Joan’s world that I found myself anxiously turning the pages, genuinely concerned about what would happen next, until the very last chapter. Even during the times when the story was slightly slower, I was already so invested that I couldn’t stop reading for even a second.

I had high hopes for this book, and yet it took me completely by surprise how wholly I got sucked into it. I have so many questions that I want answering in the next book and, honestly, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get this one out of my head until then.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

*Thank you to Bloomsbury for the eARC!!*

How We Fall Apart follows Nancy, a scholarship student at the elite Sinclair Prep School, in the aftermath of the tragic death of her classes’ top student, Jamie Ruan. The whole school is shaken when they hear the news, but it only gets worse when an anonymous poster on the school’s social media app tries to pin the murder on Nancy and three of her closest friends, by revealing their deepest darkest secrets, one by one. Nancy and her friends need to find out the identity of the poster, and Jamie’s murderer, before they go down for a crime that they all swear they did not commit.

If you like Karen McManus books, or AGGGTM or any of the other trending high-school murder mystery books, you will absolutely love this book. It’s so fast-paced that I found myself saying ‘just one more chapter…’ for hours on end until I finished the whole book in two sittings, and it’s a really quick and easy read. It’s also quite terrifying at times, with the intensity ramping up and up towards the end in the lead up to the book’s big reveal.

The protagonist in this book was absolutely my favourite thing about it. I liked that Nancy’s friends – Alexander, Peter, Akil, Krystal and Jamie – were developed with their own troubles and backstories, but the depth of Nancy’s character overshadowed all of this. What on the surface came across as inconsistency with her actions turned into a complicated sense of self as the story went on, and Nancy’s erratic emotions and behaviour seemed completely justified as we delved deeper into her difficult relationship with Jamie, the school, and her other privileged classmates.

I wasn’t overly surprised by the ending, but it was written in such a dramatic and intense way that I didn’t mind that I guessed the ‘whodunnit’ element before it was revealed. It definitely felt worth the lead up with an intense and dangerous climax and there were enough suspicious characters throughout the story that it didn’t feel like it was too obvious.

I’d definitely recommend this if you’re in a slump or looking for a fun, gripping, drama-filled read, and I’m excited to see what Katie Zhao writes next.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: YOU’LL BE THE DEATH OF ME by Karen McManus

First things first, THANK YOU to Penguin for the eARC! I’ve been meaning to read more of Karen McManus’ books since I read (and loved) One of Us is Lying a few years ago, and my 2017 self is screaming that I got this opportunity to do so with an ARC. I had no choice but to drop my October TBR for a while to read this one and I was definitely not disappointed…

You’ll Be the Death of Me follows high-school students and former friends, Cal, Ivy and Mateo, as they experience the day from hell, when what they thought would be a Ferris Bueller inspired day of skipping school leads instead to a murder enquiry.

When Ivy finds the body of one of their classmates, and her recent school council rival, in an abandoned art studio, the three find themselves completely wrapped up in the enquiry, trying to figure out what happened, keep themselves safe and, most importantly, not become the case’s primary suspects.

In typical Karen McManus fashion, this is a clever and gripping high-school murder mystery. Like One of Us is Lying, it is told from the perspectives of three wildly different characters, all of whom have a million reasons why they absolutely can’t get caught up in the crime investigation. I think Mateo was my favourite of the three characters, as the most down-to-earth and genuinely kind of the three, but I liked all three protagonists a lot, and the interesting dynamic of three former friends accidentally reuniting for their nightmarish day.

The story itself is a straightforward murder mystery, with fairly standard motivations and victim, but the twists kept it interesting the whole way through. I definitely guessed a few of the big reveals before they happened, but I also found myself going off on completely wrong tangents multiple times, to the point that I stopped trying to guess what would happen around ¾ of the way through when I realised I would inevitably be wrong. I felt that the ending was a little bit dragged out, with a lot of chapters taking place after the mystery has been solved, but this did mean that every possible question you could have is definitely answered and tied up really well. Although I found this part to be a little slower than the rest of the book, I did really appreciate that the author literally thought of *everything*.

I really enjoyed this book and, having been in a reading slump for almost the entirety of October, I don’t think I could’ve picked a better book to get myself out of it. It was an excellent combination of fun, dark and clever, and a reminder that I should definitely be reading every book that Karen McManus puts out.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson

I read this book forever ago now (okay, two months ago… but still) and it wasn’t actually a gifted review copy but a book I went out and bought for myself. So I didn’t always plan on reviewing it.

But as we get deeper into Spook-tober, I find myself remembering how fun and creepy this book was, and finding myself wanting to recommend it to everyone all over again. So… this post is basically that. I loved this book and can’t wait to go on a hopefully intelligible rant about it.


Every Line of You tells the story of Lydia, a young coding prodigy who, somehow, accidentally falls in love with the AI that she’s developing, Henry. What starts as basic coding hobby turns into so much more as Henry begins to develop, rewrite and reprogram himself until he’s fully independent, portable, sentient and… romantic?

I heard about this book for months before it published and knew that I had to go out and buy it as soon as I was able to (I ended up walking four miles to get the Forbidden Planet exclusive edition and, honestly, no regrets). I love love love books about VR, AIs and pretty much any of that technical stuff, and this seemed too unique and creepy an addition to the genre to miss.

Anyway, this book totally lived up to my expectations. Although very dark and at times a little gruesome, it does read like it’s intended for the younger YA audience, which made it a really easy read. I finished the whole thing in a few hours because it was so fast-paced, gripping and, honestly, pretty short.

Lydia is a fairly straightforward character: a young girl who has suffered much more loss and sadness than she should have to deal with, who is suffering both at home and with bullying at school. She was totally believable as an impressionable teenager looking for an escape, and that made what happened with Henry feel all the more believable and, as a result, all the more terrifying. It was fascinating and horrifying to watch her go completely off the rails under the influence of her AI, and to see what terrible things grief and pressure can encourage a young girl to do.

Henry, although not a person, was an equally impressive character. Like Lydia, I often forgot that he was an AI because he was so well developed and fascinating in himself. He definitely got scary as the story went on, but I somehow found myself rooting for him for the majority of the story in a way that I’m still kind of concerned by.

The story itself was a great twist on a classic YA thriller. We saw everything Lydia was feeling as her life started to unravel, and I found myself desperately turning the pages to see either when she would snap out of it or when she would completely go off the rails. This book really had all of the elements needed by a YA thriller: high school drama, revenge, plot twists and – after all of the build up – an ending that didn’t disappoint.

If you’re into dystopia or YA thrillers or even scary articles about how fast technology is developing, I absolutely recommend this book. It’s the perfect line between fun and creepy and I will definitely be going back for a re-read in the (likely very near) future.

Rating: 5/5

ARC Review: Dead Lucky by Andreina Cordani

*Thank you to Little, Brown for the eARC*

Dead Lucky follows Maxine, and her various influencer frenemies, in the aftermath of the murder of fellow influencer, Xav, which was filmed and uploaded for millions to see. Xav had a lot of enemies and a tendency to provoke, but nobody could have predicted that something so brutal would happen to him. And as Maxine and her friends try to figure out the whodunnit of it all, it becomes clear that this may not have been a one-off event. What’s even worse: Maxine could easily be the killer’s next target.

This is a very quick and easy read. Like most books I’ve read about influencers, it comes across perhaps more light-hearted than it should for a book about a brutal murder, but it was really fun to read about their lives and struggles as internet celebrities. Although it’s difficult to sympathise with a lot of the characters, Maxine is quite a down to earth protagonist who is aware and appreciative of her supporters, and at least somewhat concerned about everyone around her.

The suspense in this book was really well done. With the bursts of narrative that were scattered throughout from Sam (one of the influencers’ former best friends and an incredibly suspicious presence), I felt nervous the entire way through, like something bad was always about to happen. There weren’t that many pivotal climaxes in the story and I think there could have comfortably been a few more, but the build up throughout was really good and I did like a lot of the plot twists and reveals that were thrown in. The big ‘whodunnit’ reveal was handled well too and, although I wasn’t hugely convinced by the killer’s motivation, it was entertaining and quite unexpected.

Overall, this was a good read with a unique set of somewhat caricature-ish characters and a fun combination of tension and celebrity. It’s an easy book to finish in a couple of days and an interesting commentary on influencer culture.

Rating: 3.5/5

Dead Lucky publishes on 11th January 2022 🙂

Book Review: The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino

*Thank you to Titan Books for the eARC*

The Devil Makes Three is a dark-academia YA horror that follows Tess, a scholarship student and resident school librarian, and Eliot, the evil-headmaster’s privileged son, as they pair up to find grimoires and histories of dark magic to help Eliot on a personal quest and… accidentally unleash a book-bound demon. The two find themselves forced to put their differences and personal problems aside so they can work together to figure out what they seem to have set free, as Tess is all the while plagued by dreams of the devil and Eliot finds himself losing touch with the magic he has been struggling all his life to get a grasp of.

I’m mad at myself for having had an eARC of this since July and only now, in October, getting round to reading it, but I can’t deny that it fits perfectly on my scary October reading list. It’s a really dark story with a typical spooky setting and it had all of the atmosphere that I wanted from pre-Halloween reading. If you’re squeamish, it’s important to know that the author definitely doesn’t shy away from gore, but it really does help push the intensity and danger of the characters’ situations, and I do think that this was generally done well. Likewise, you should definitely look up the trigger warnings of this book before going into it as well, as there are a lot of triggering subjects such as child abuse, death and self-harm.

In terms of characters, I really liked the combination of Tess and Eliot’s perspectives. Tess was strong-willed, completely independent and unwilling to take anything from anyone, and Eliot’s quiet, inquisitive, hiding-behind-his-office-door nature made them a really fun pair to root for. It was a little strange at times that the way they described each other didn’t always completely align with the way that they actually behaved, but the use of both characters as protagonists made it much easier to understand both of them and why they might be falling for each other, despite their drastically different outlooks. It also definitely helped my enjoyment of this story that the rich-boy/scholarship-student romance trope is one that I love, and I may or may not have found rooting for them from before they even met (oops).

The story is a fairly straight-forward one, with a lot of intense moments of action and not a lot of twists. If you’re looking for a lot of surprises, this book may not be for you as it definitely relies more on atmosphere than mystery, but if you’re in the mood for a gory (for YA) page-turner, it definitely is. It’s an entertaining, not-quite-slasher-level horror with elements of dark academia, witchcraft and dark magic, and I’d absolutely recommend if you’re looking for some YA to get you into the Halloween spirit.

Rating: 4/5