ARC Review: Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach

*Thank you to Usborne for the e-ARC*

It’s taken me almost a month to get my thoughts in order about this book and, even now, I admit that this review is pretty much just a stream of consciousness about how much I ADORED it. It’s not uncommon for me to get obsessed with books, but it is actually pretty rare for me to love a contemporary as much as this one, and I’m so excited to finally share my thoughts on it!

Not Here to Be Liked tells the story of Eliza, editor-in-chief candidate for her school newspaper and all round academic perfectionist.

What she lacks in people skills, she makes up for with her desperation to be the best journalist their school has ever seen, and she’s obviously the ideal candidate to run the paper in her senior year…

Eliza’s plan to become editor-in-chief is completely foolproof – that is, until former footballer and reforming jock, Len, shows up and decides that he can steal her spotlight. Eliza is outraged that Len is running against her, and even more outraged that his popularity and masculinity seem to be ensuring he gets the position that she was always destined for.

The story that ensues is angry, feminist, and all too real, as Eliza fights for the position that is rightfully hers – against a boy who may have a little more to him than meets the eye.

This is easily the best contemporary I’ve read this year, and I haven’t stopped raving about it since I put it down. Eliza was sold as an unlikeable, angry protagonist and, whilst this would probably be true if she was in your class at school, she’s a really, really great character. She was very relatable, very real and completely honest with herself, which was so refreshing to read about. So many contemporary protagonists are unaware of their flaws or striving to be perfect, likeable individuals, but Eliza is a conflicted young woman with strong opinions, who is not afraid to admit her shortcomings, and I wish I’d read more protagonists like her when I was growing up.

Eliza wasn’t the only character I loved in this book, though. Len was the perfect love interest too. Not too ‘woke’ and perfect to be real (he definitely made his fair share of mistakes too…), he was still a completely likeable character that was easy to fall for. Serena was a prime example of taking the mean girl trope and flipping it on its head, and Winona was honest, tough, and incredibly relatable in her ambitions, so I found the entire cast to be entertaining and very well-developed.

This book tackles a lot of real life sociopolitical issues and, whilst feminism is becoming more and more prominent in YA, this book is definitely the best I’ve read so far that so openly explored the issue. It’s a masterclass in how to teach young readers about feminism in the real world and how to be an activist about it, without reading like a spoon-fed guide to gender politics and I (a woman who is possibly older than the intended target audience) came away with a refreshed outlook on the topic.

In case it isn’t already obvious, I’m completely obsessed with this book. It’s fun, easy, informative, important, and so entertaining to read, and I will definitely be recommending it to anyone who wants to listen.

Rating: 5/5

PS. If you’ve read it and loved it as much as I did, please let me know, I’d love to hype with you😂

ARC REVIEW: This is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore

Thank you! To Harper 360 YA for sending me an ARC of this very exciting new YA mystery. I’ve had my eye on it for a while and was SO excited for the opportunity to read and review 🙂

When Jenna Dallas, a high school student in a small coastal town, and Adam Cole, a student from Rockwood – a local boarding school – find the body of one of Jenna’s classmates on a local beach, the entire town is completely taken by surprise.

With every student at Rockwood a reformed teenage boy with plenty of secrets, and a whole lot of drama between the girls in Jenna’s class, everybody is suddenly a suspect – and the more time we spend uncovering their secrets, the more obvious it becomes that literally everyone has something to hide.

This was such a fun and easy read. The story was told from Jenna and Adam’s perspectives, as well as through various text chains and interviews, so it had short chapters and stayed really fast-paced all the way through. Even as I read their views and their sides of events, I couldn’t figure out whether I trusted anyone at all, so I read desperately to the end in order to could get the answers I needed without waiting. It only took me one afternoon to read the entire thing, and I’d definitely recommend if you’re in a reading slump and looking for something easy to get you out of it.

If you enjoy high-school mysteries, there’s a high chance you’ll enjoy this book. It definitely had some predictable tropes and some clichéd bad-boy/mean-girl characters, but they were unique and interesting enough that they didn’t feel completely overdone. The plot as well felt a little familiar in places, as can be expected when you’ve read as many high school thrillers as I have…, but it was overall surprising enough that I didn’t guess the majority of the plot twists or the final whodunnit!

This book is a great addition to a popular genre, and I’m fully here for it. With its creepy small town setting, its suspicious cast of characters and its fun and easy format, it made for a really exciting afternoon of reading.

Rating: 4/5

ARC Review: Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

Thank you! to Bloomsbury for the e-ARC of this wonderful book. I feel like every review I’ve done recently has been five-stars and this is no exception, but it fully. deserves. it.

Defy the Night is the dual-perspective story of the cruel Prince Corrick, brother of the King, and Tessa, an outlaw, smuggler and local people’s hero, as their paths converge on the brink of civil unrest. The two find themselves in very difficult but equally conflicting situations as they try to ultimately reach the same goal of preventing a civil war.

This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I didn’t want to put it down for even a second and, the few times I had to, I found myself itching to pick it back up. Multiple times I found that my heart was actually racing or that I was holding back tears, and I definitely became far too emotionally attached to Tessa, Corrick, and even Palace Master Quint, or Corrick’s brother King Harristan. It was gripping from the first page and I found myself hooked instantly.

The story is of civil unrest, so there are a lot of political undertones, but I found learning the politics of Kandala much more exciting and necessary than I expected to. It was fascinating to learn about the inner workings of all sides, and have these all be tied together with violence, action and romance. I likewise loved watching the characters’ romances building with dangerous intensity as the story went on, and found myself very invested in my ship from far too early in the story.

It’s hard to talk about this book without spoilers, but I absolutely urge any YA lover to read this. It has a gripping storyline, wonderful characters and so many climactic points that it’s impossible to put down, and I’ll absolutely be reading Brigit Kemmerer’s other books now to see if they’re all as truly incredible.

Rating: 5/5

ARC Review: Gilded by Marissa Meyer

First of all, THANK YOU to Faber for the eARC of this incredible book. I dropped my entire TBR to read it and regret absolutely nothing.

Also may have *accidentally* preordered the stunning Fairyloot edition the second I finished reading it… Anyway –

Gilded follows Serilda, a miller’s daughter who has been blessed by the God of Lies with an ability to spin stories, as she catches the attention of an evil undead ruler and lies her way into his favour.

Convinced that Serilda has the ability to spin gold from straw, the Erlking draws her back at every opportunity and Serilda finds herself trapped between the dead and the living, trying her hardest both to escape the web of lies she’s found herself in and find a way to ensure nobody she cares about gets harmed in the crossfire.

I’ve never read any of Marissa Meyer’s other retellings, but I’ll absolutely be reading them all after this one. Gilded is in part beautiful and magical, and in part grotesque and gothic, as every good Grimm-inspired fairytale should be. The descriptions were so beautifully written that I found myself fully immersed in the villages, castles and forests as Serilda was, and the plot twists were so dark and often unexpected that the amount of scene-setting didn’t slow the pace for even a page. It became obvious early on where the general direction of this story was going, but the twists and turns weren’t predictable and I found myself excitedly awaiting each new section of the story.

Serilda is a bold, impressive protagonist with an unexpectedly solid moral compass for someone so adept at lying, and the cast of characters she surrounds herself with are equally fascinating, from the schoolchildren, to the forest folk, to the dark king himself. Gild (the castle’s mysterious resident poltergeist) was, unsurprisingly, my absolute favourite character, with his intricate and beautifully-told backstory and his adorably charming personality.

I knew halfway through this book that it was going to be one of my favourite reads of this year, and the second half fully lived up to my expectations. Gilded is a dark, magical, twisty tale, and I’m seriously begging for a sequel.

Rating: 5/5 !

Gilded publishes in the UK on 2nd November 🙂

Book Review: Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria

*Thank you to Hodder for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review*

Fire With Fire tells the story of Dani and Eden Rivera, who could almost be your average competitive sisters if not for one added complication: they come from a family of well-renowned and highly dedicated dragon slayers. Eden is the responsible older sister and Dani is the reckless teenager with little interest in the family’s business but, so as to be as unfair of possible, Dani is of course the young dragon-slaying prodigy that excels in every aspect of her training.

As if life isn’t complicated enough for the Rivera sisters, everything becomes a little more confusing and a lot more dangerous when Dani stumbles across a dragon one night and finds that they may not be the lethal, heartless creatures that she’s always been taught that they are. With dragons, slayers, high school romances, sorcerers and rivalries, Fire With Fire is an exciting story about sibling rivalries gone too far, loyalties, and how it isn’t always easy to know who you can trust.

Although I enjoyed it from the beginning, it took me quite a while to get into this book. When I did get hooked though, around 40% in, it became completely impossible to put down. The plot was exciting and the action scenes were well-written, but my favourite thing about this book by far was the wonderful cast of characters. The lengths that her anxiety and pride take Eden to make her a fascinating character, and Dani’s growth was possibly even more gripping to read about. The entire set of side characters – Nox, Tomas, Sadie, Kieran – were also really likeable, and the strength of their trust and friendships was so pure and refreshing to read about.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Its combination of intense and detailed fight scenes, teen angst, magic, sibling rivalry and great representation made it a fun, unique read that I would absolutely recommend.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

First things first: THANK YOU to Hodder for sending me an eARC of this amazing book in exchange for a review. I spent half a day screaming when my request got accepted, and then spent the rest of the day reading it so… thank you!

Evangeline has always believed in true love, fairytales and happily ever afters, but her world is turned completely upside down when she discovers that Luc, the love of her life, is engaged to someone else. Convinced that her love’s betrayal is the result of a curse or magic, she runs to the Prince of Hearts – the mysterious Jacks – and begs him to stop the wedding.

But Evangeline soon realises that you should never make a deal with a Fate, as one small agreement with Jacks sets her life on a whole new path, full of danger, betrayal and dark magic.

Caraval is one of my favourite series’ and I’ve had Once Upon a Broken Heart preordered since last year so my hopes were incredibly high, but it lived up to all of my expectations and more. Evangeline was a great protagonist, with a great combination of selflessness, determination and intelligence, without being needlessly reckless like a lot of YA fantasy protagonists are. She was so easy to root for all the way through and I really think she’s one of the most entertaining protagonists I’ve read this year. Jacks was, as expected, the fascinating character that I remember him being, although I definitely loved him more this time around. He was unpredictable all the time and so consistent with his character in Caraval that it was easy to get sucked back into his story almost immediately.

Stephanie Garber’s world-building is incredible, and her writing never fails to impress me. Every setting felt both real and magical, from the little trinket shop to Wolf Hall, and the story that combined them all was a fast-paced quest with elements of romance, fantasy and adventure that kept me hooked from the very first page. I read this entire book in one sitting because I genuinely couldn’t put it down, and even though I finished it over a month ago now, it’s still completely stuck in my head, in the same way that all of her books so far have been.

I genuinely loved every aspect of this book, from the protagonists, to the story, to the setting, and I’m already desperate to read the next book in the series. Once Upon a Broken Heart is absolutely a new favourite for me, and I’ll definitely be telling every fantasy-lover I know to read it.

Rating: 5/5

ARC REVIEW: As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

First of all, the biggest thank you in the world to Electric Monkey for the eARC. Words cannot express how excited I was when my request got accepted, and how excited I was while reading it, and how excited I was when reviewing it. So… thank you!

As Good As Dead follows Pip, Little Kilton’s resident teenage detective-slash-genius, as her life descends into chaos once again following the events of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Good Girl, Bad Blood.

This time, though, instead of the focus of her investigation being on her friends, neighbours and acquaintances, Pip’s latest case is all about her, and it’s proving to be much darker and much more dangerous than anyone could have imagined.

It’s difficult to put into words just how much I adored this book. I loved books one and two and have been recommending them constantly since they came out, but this book is in a whole new league. It’s so, so much darker than I expected it to be and so terrifyingly clever that it was completely impossible to put down.

Pip’s character is fascinating as ever, but she’s so different now than the cheerful wannabe-detective that she was in the first book that exploring her character is even more gripping. Over the course of the series, she’s become stressed, scared and much less strait-laced, as expected from someone with her track record of getting tied up in murder investigations, but she’s still somehow so recognisable that it really felt like I went through the whole dark, terrifying journey right alongside her. After so many books and so much time getting to know them, I was just as captivated by the growth of Ravi’s character, Pip’s friends and fellow victims, and even the villains of the story as well.

I’ve mentioned how clever this book is, but it’s so important to highlight just how scarily intelligent Holly Jackson must be to write this. It’s a long book at 570 pages, but every single page tied together perfectly and all details seemed well-researched and unnervingly believable. Every time I thought I was ahead of the plot twists, I found myself being tricked and pulled into a different story entirely, until I just gave up guessing in an attempt to get through the story even quicker.

I can quite honestly say that this is one of the best thrillers I have ever read, and absolutely the most gripping book I’ve read this year. It’s fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat scary, clever, dark and somehow sprinkled with comedy at the same time. I haven’t been this captivated by a story in such a long time and am certain that I will read absolutely anything that Holly Jackson comes out with next.

Basically, please please please pick up this series! 1) because I need someone to talk to about it!!! and 2) because you absolutely 100% will not regret it.

Rating: 5/5

ARC REVIEW: Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

First of all, a huge thank you to Hodder for the eARC of this beautiful book, and HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY to Elizabeth Lim! I’ve become so obsessed with Spin the Dawn in the last few months that I was desperate to get my hands on a copy of this, and I’m so glad I got the chance to read and review.

Six Crimson Cranes tells the story of the magical princess Shiori as she finds herself thrown out of her palace home on discovering that her stepmother isn’t who she says she is. In a beautiful YA fantasy take on the classic tale ‘The Six Swans,’ Shiori is cursed and forced to live as a voiceless, unknown peasant girl, whilst her six brothers suffer their own kind of curse by being turned into cranes, unable to return home.

As Shiori works to break her curse, she embarks on a dangerous adventure that takes her into the North, where she encounters danger in so many forms that it’s hard to keep track. From cruel royals to magical creatures, Shiori must face numerous challenges as she fights to find her way home and protect her brothers, and the kingdom, from the dangers that they suddenly face.

As I’ve come to expect from Elizabeth Lim’s books in the past few months, Six Crimson Cranes is a beautifully written, magical book. The setting is described in perfect detail and the magic throughout, both in Shiori and in some of the creatures that she encounters, is so believable that it’s really easy to get sucked into their world and find yourself adventuring right alongside Shiori.

Shiori is a fascinating protagonist and her growth throughout the story is really well done. She begins as an entitled, spoiled princess, but as she faces struggle after struggle, the change in her is evident. Character growth is so important to this story and it was amazing to be able to root for Shiori as she fought to become a better person. Other characters that I adored were Takkan (obviously), Megari, Sheryu and, most surprisingly, Kiki, Shiori’s paper bird companion who I was rooting for just as much as Shiori.

I loved this book so much and it’s definitely solidified Elizabeth Lim’s position as one of my new favourite authors. Her writing has a magical quality that I’ve found to be quite rare, and Six Crimson Cranes is a story so beautifully told that I’m already desperately awaiting its sequel.

Rating: 5/5

BLOG TOUR STOP: THE ISLAND HOME by Libby Page

First of all, a HUGE thank you to Orion for gifting me a beautiful copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and a spot on this blog tour! If you want to hear more about this wonderful book, I fully recommend checking out the rest of the tour 🙂

The Island Home follows two women, Alice and Lorna, as they are thrown together during Lorna’s visit to her childhood home.

Alice, a yoga instructor and farm-owner on the Isle of Kip, has loved island life since the day she first moved, and very voluntarily got wrapped up in its sense of community and the comfort of knowing that all of her neighbours are there to support her. Lorna, meanwhile, is visiting from London out of obligation and wishes nothing more than to get in and out of Kip, the island she grew up on, full of former neighbours and lost family, as soon as possible.

When Lorna reaches the Isle, though, she starts to remember the good as well as the bad, and decides to use the time to make amends with her brother (Alice’s husband) and some old friends that she left behind. What follows is a moving, heart-warming story about community, belonging and friendship.

The majority of books I read have very dark content and themes, so it was so refreshing to get completely sucked into such a moving, heart-warming book. It wasn’t always happy and some quite difficult themes were explored, but Libby Page’s writing is so consistently positive and uplifting that, despite some of the tougher content, the book had an overall really heart-warming and comforting tone. So many characters were just so kind and good that it was hard not to feel like I was part of their lovely community and feel supported as Alice and Lorna did when things got slightly tough.

Alice and Lorna had fairly similar voices, making it difficult at times to differentiate between the two, but this also made it easy to love and root for both of them on their individual journeys. At the beginning, Alice is a welcoming and kind character who embodies community spirit wholly in a way that I rarely read, whilst Lorna is a strong, independent, self-reliant woman who shows just what you can be capable of alone. As the story went on, however, it was lovely to read about how their mindsets started to become more similar and watch as they formed a really sweet bond.

This book is the definition of summer reading and would be so perfect as both a beach read and a book to cheer you up on a miserable day. I certainly found myself getting absorbed in the lifestyle of the characters on the Isle of Kip, and would absolutely recommend you do the same.

Rating: 4/5

The Island Home published in HB and ebook on 24th June, by Orion.

ARC REVIEW: Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey

*Thank you to Harper Voyager for the eARC of this wonderful book*

First of all: that cover!!! I read this book on kindle last week but have already ordered the stunning hardback edition because I just couldn’t resist…

Meet Me in Another Life tells the story of Santi and Thora as they meet again, and again, and again, in the same place, at the same time, across many different lives. In what may be fate or a coincidence, the two are drawn together across so many lifetimes that the question soon changes from ‘what is happening?’ to ‘why?’ and it becomes clear that they must work together, despite their consistently differing outlooks, to figure it all out.

This book is unlike anything I’ve read before. The way that it is structured, almost making each chapter a stand-alone short story about Santi and Thora, makes it a very quick read, but the questions that the characters pose to each other are often quite philosophical and challenging. Despite this, and the constantly shifting scenarios, it was really easy to get completely sucked in and start theorising my own explanations for their constant meetings. I got through this entire book in a day, desperately waiting for them to figure it all out.

Santi and Thora were fascinating characters and the way their many lifetimes took a toll on them and changed them in each chapter was really interesting to see. Thora especially altered so significantly in the story, but also somehow remained believable, that I was really impressed by how strong her character’s personality was. A lot of this story revolved around the characters finding and understanding themselves, and I think this was done really well. I also loved the way we got to see their characters almost stripped down to the recurring elements of their personalities so that we could really understand why they thought what they did, and see if so many lifetimes could possibly change that.

It took me a while to figure out what was happening towards the beginning, and the major differences in certain lifetimes did throw me off, but I enjoyed every chapter all the same and found myself especially invested in the ending (which did not disappoint). It’s definitely sci-fi but this only comes out in occasional parts of the book and I’d consider it a worthwhile read even for sceptics of the sci-fi genre. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone that is looking for something unique, or for a book that really makes you think.

Rating: 4/5

Meet Me in Another Life publishes in the UK on July 8th!