ARC REVIEW: AGAIN, AGAIN by E Lockhart

*We Were Liars is my favourite stand-alone of all-time and the fact that I get to review E Lockhart’s new book before it comes out is completely insane to me, so THANK YOU Hot Key Books for sending me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*

If you saw my most anticipated reads of 2020 post, you’ll know that this was one of the books I was most excited for this year. So I’m really excited that it lived up to my (maybe unfairly high) expectations.

I have never been so captivated by an author’s writing style as I am by E. Lockhart’s. ‘Again Again’ returns to the style of writing- somewhat poetic, metaphorical and at the same time, often very simplistic- that she uses in ‘We Were Liars,’ and it is a style that never fails to impress me.

This story is about Adelaide and a summer spent at Alabaster Prep, navigating through life in a variety of different ways and discovering who she truly is and what she is looking for from life. The different paths that her life takes in this time vary from minutely different to entirely life-altering as she finds herself falling in and out out love, grief and happiness in a variety of scenarios.

The content of this story is incredibly simple and realistic, to the point that it maybe shouldn’t have been as captivating as it was, but I found myself desperately turning the pages to keep going and find out what happened next. I cared about every alternative possibility as much as the first and found that the changes between universes were perfectly timed to keep me interested. I also found that the short chapters and ‘parts’ of this book kept it very fast-paced and easy to read.

In terms of the setting, I was thrilled when I realised that it’s the same school that appears in ‘The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.’ The various subtle references to this book reminded me that this is a setting that has been explored before and that I am now desperate to revisit. And the characters, though obviously entirely different to those in Lockhart’s other book, fitted into this setting very well.

This book is very intelligent in a lot of ways, but I think I was most impressed by the character development, which was certainly one of the most important parts of the story. Although I found the majority of the characters to be fascinating, Toby resonated very strongly with me. His voice is so clear, even in short message threads, and when he speaks about how he feels about his former self, it is raw and believable to the point that it is almost painful to read. Adelaide herself similarly speaks with raw honesty and it makes her one of the most accessible protagonists I’ve ever read. When Adelaide falls in love in this story, you can’t help but believe that it’s real. And when she realises her mistakes, you realise them too. I felt very much in tune with her, as though I was living her story, rather than just reading it.

There are so many words I could use to describe this book that I find it difficult to sum up. ‘Again Again’ is somehow both beautifully poetic and painfully realistic, with poignant, comedic and heart-breaking moments scattered throughout. I can tell that this is a book that I’ll be forcing everyone I know to read and, despite only finishing it an hour ago, I’m already considering picking it up and starting again.

RATING: 5/5

ARC REVIEW: THE RULES by Tracy Darnton

*Thank you to Stripes Publishing for this e-ARC*

I’m super excited to talk about this book because it’s the first of two five-star reviews that I’m posting this week! I’ve read so many amazing books recently and this is definitely one of the best.

‘The Rules’ is described as a a gripping thriller for fans of One of Us is Lying, We Were Liars and A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder so, after giving all three of those books 5 stars, I had really high expectations for this one. After reading the summary, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of how close this book would be to those and whether it would be completely in my comfort zone, but I knew that it had the potential to be a new favourite, and it absolutely didn’t disappoint. 

Amber is a young girl who has spent her teenage years making her way through care homes and foster homes, after running away from her somewhat delusional, prepping-for-the-apocalypse father. When she finds out that he has tracked her down, she makes the immediate decision to run away from the first place she has ever felt settled in order to self-preserve. What follows is a story of intelligence, planning and survival instinct, both on her part and on her father’s, as we get an insight into just how troubled he is and just how much that has scarred Amber.

I enjoyed every aspect of this book. I liked both Amber and Josh as characters and I loved that, despite their very different outlooks on life, they both found themselves at least a little dependent on one another throughout the story. There was no forced romance at all but it was beautiful to watch their relationship develop as they both figured out what they were doing on their journey and how they ended up together on the run.

As well as having strong characters, I found the story to be so compelling that I just couldn’t put the book down. The chapters are very short and abrupt, and I found it incredibly easy to keep going and get through this book without even realising it. The story is fast-paced and permanently exciting, with both the flashbacks and the present day constantly building up tension and setting the reader on edge. I knew throughout this entire book that it was building to a grand conclusion, and I wasn’t at all disappointed with the ending.

A combination of likeable, strong characters, an intense plot, and an enjoyable amount of twists and turns made this book one of the best YA thrillers I’ve read in years, and I will absolutely be grabbing every Tracy Darnton book I can get my hands on from now on.

RATING: 5/5

If you’d like to read this book, you can pre-order a copy here.

BOOK REVIEW: MEET ME AT MIDNIGHT by Jessica Pennington

*Thank you to TorTeen for the e-arc*

I only just realised that I wrote this review months ago and never posted it so… here you go.

‘Meet Me at Midnight’ is the story of Asher and Sidney, family friends who spend every summer together in neighbouring lake-houses. From the offset, we learn that they ‘hate’ each other, in a friendly sort of way, pranking each other at every opportunity and basically making each other’s lives miserable. The reader, along with the other characters, is perfectly aware that there is some kind of romantic interest underlying these pranks, but for the first part of the book, we simply watch them competing to outdo the other person’.

They’ve been doing this for years, but when they finally take the pranks a step too far in the summer before college, they decide to make a truce and work together against a whole new target. Of course, this truce then turns into a summer fling, and the two re-evaluate their friendship completely, facing a new set of challenges along the way.

I did enjoy this book, but I had a couple of problems with it. In terms of the characters, I really loved Asher’s character and how consistent he stayed throughout the book. It became obvious to me early on that he wasn’t as on-board with the hate-relationship between himself and Sidney and that he had other intentions all along. His humour was amusing, his motives were believable and some of his romantic gestures were really adorable. Sidney, on the other hand, wasn’t so likeable for me. I found her to be irritating and irrational, jumping to conclusions without giving others a chance to explain themselves and generally struggling to manoeuvre other people’s feelings. The redeeming factor for this is that multiple people in the novel, including Sidney herself, appear completely aware of how dislikable she is, and many times she is called out for her behaviour.

I found the story to be sweet and I did like seeing their relationship develop, but I also feel as though some moments were a little unnecessary. There are some parts of this book that I loved and raced through, but these were interspersed with moments that I feel the book could have done without. This wasn’t really an issue because I still happily made it through the entire novel, but I do think that the book was dragged out a little more than it could have been.

The writing itself was really impressive and I loved how well Jessica Pennington differentiated between Asher and Sidney’s voices. Her style of writing was extremely easy to read and I feel as though this is one of the reasons why the book is so quick to get through. I will definitely have a look at the author’s other work because I feel that her ideas and writing are very enjoyable, even though parts of this book specifically just weren’t for me.

Overall, despite the issues I had with this book, I loved the premise and think that this would be a good, easy summer read. Some of the romantic moments really warmed my heart and parts of this book did leave me laughing out loud so, if you’re looking for a sweet YA contemporary, you might really enjoy this.

RATING: 3/5

ARC REVIEW: PRIVATE LESSONS by Cynthia Salaysay

Thank you, Candlewick Press, for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

‘Private Lessons is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who confuses idolisation with affection when she starts to attend lessons with a charismatic, male piano teacher, Paul Avon. She has always loved playing but things become exponentially more serious when she realises that she’s desperate for even a hint of Paul’s approval and her feelings begin to spiral out of hand.

This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of a girl who becomes so obsessed with being loved that she is taken advantage of, and how she makes it through this. With a devastatingly, heartbreakingly vulnerable protagonist, this is a painful and necessary story in light of the #MeToo movement.

I think that this book is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever read. The writing style is easy and readable, jumping between harshly realistic whilst Claire is in the real world and beautifully poetic whilst she’s playing the piano, but this book contains a lot of difficult content that is not for the faint of heart. It’s the kind of thing that you don’t want to read but you know you have to, and I found myself crying more than once at what Claire was going through. A lot of what happens is stuff that, as someone who has gone through my teenage years already, was so believable for me and that really hit me hard. I have thankfully never been through anything at all like what Claire has in this novel, but I know how easy it is to be swept up in trying to impress people and how quickly you can lose yourself to please others, and that made this story especially poignant.

Claire makes mistakes in this book, and normally I’d call a character out on such problematic thoughts, actions and feelings, but I can’t bring myself to with her. The mistakes that she makes are not mistakes made by the author in writing the story, but very intentional reminders that Claire is only seventeen-years old and trying to fit in. She’s an incredibly vulnerable, innocent young girl who is desperate to be loved and found beautiful, and that’s something that both the reader and the other characters can tell about her. It’s painfully believable the way others take advantage of her and, in terms of emotional connection, she is probably the character I’ve cared about the most so far this year.

Many of the characters in this story are bad for Claire, at least at certain points, but all of them are completely believable. Every single character in this story is going through something that is affecting their emotional or mental health, and it’s so impressive to see such three-dimensional characters that aren’t completely over-exaggerated. It’s heartbreaking that Paul is so realistic, rather than a caricature villain, and that Claire’s friends so quickly swept her into lifestyles that she wasn’t comfortable with. Rather than getting annoyed at Claire for her mistakes, I wanted to protect her.

The final part of this book is, thankfully, a little easier to read. Seeing the character growth in Claire and her mother particularly, and the way they are able to leave others behind, is so important to tie this story together and Cynthia Salaysay handled this incredible well. I literally couldn’t put this book down until I finished the entire thing and I’m so glad that I powered through such an uncomfortable but hopeful tale of growth and recovery.

RATING: 4.5/5

If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, it publishes on May 12th and you can get it here.*

*I get a small commission if you use any of my links.

BOOK REVIEW: LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI by Abigail Hing Wen

I don’t know what’s happened in the past few days, but it actually seems like I’ve remembered how to read! Which is super exciting and is something I’m absolutely going to be taking advantage of. But instead of continuing to work my way through my Netgalley shelf (as I should be doing), I saw that Loveboat, Taipei was 99p on Kindle and could not resist picking it up. In less than 24 hours, I’ve gone on a whole emotional rollercoaster with this story. And… now I’m going to talk about it.

Loveboat, Taipei is the story of a girl named Ever Wong, who has always been the only Asian-American in her class and has lived a lifetime under her parents’ heavy expectations. When she decides to spend her final summer before college getting her passion for dancing out of her system, ready to follow in her father’s footsteps of going to med-school, her plans are rapidly derailed- by a trip to a summer school in Taipei.

What Ever sees initially as a punishment, however, turns rapidly into the trip of a lifetime and a chance to live without parental restrictions, breaking every Wong family rule and getting in years’ worth of teenage rebellion before college begins.

This book is so much like Anna and the French Kiss that I’m finding it difficult not to draw excessive comparisons. Studying abroad, a love interest in a long-term relationship, insta-friendships, first-time clubbing experiences, rich kids with political connections and very teenage betrayals appear in both, and I saw so much in common that I guessed multiple times at what would happen next.

That being said, I’m going to try not to compare the two any further.

So. I found that I had a complicated relationship with Ever throughout this book. It seems that teenage rebellion was the entire purpose of the majority of the story and I loved seeing her journey to discovering the difference between purposely going against her parents to deciding what she truly wanted. Her character growth was huge and it was amazing to see how she developed and, likewise, how other characters including Xavier and Sophie particularly grew as well. My main issue was with just how stupid some of her rebellious decisions were. The book acknowledges this, which I appreciate, so I don’t fault Abigail Hing Wen at all for adding these elements to the story, but multiple times I wanted to scream at Ever to stop and think before doing anything.

What I really did love about Ever, though, was how strong her voice is throughout the entire book. Even when her decisions are wrong, she knows exactly what she wants and goes for it. A few times, she’s led astray, but I really appreciated that her passion, particularly for dance, never faltered throughout the entire plot. Her ability to own up to her mistakes was also very impressive.

The love triangle in this book was entertaining in a frustrating kind of way. Both boys were equally viable as love interests (though I, I’m sure like anyone else who reads this book, found myself developing some clear favouritism) and I found myself rooting for different couples at different times. In the end, I think(?) I was happy with the result on that front, but I definitely enjoyed the romantic ups and downs as the story went on.

I liked this book. It isn’t perfect, but it turned out to be a very moving story of how a young girl realises her true self and re-evaluates her relationship with life and her family. It was a very easy book to get through in a day and, if you’re looking for something that is somehow both incredibly light and still poignant, it could be just what you’re looking for.

RATING: 4/5

If you want to read this book, you can grab a copy here.*

*I get a small commission if you use my links 🙂

ARC REVIEW: TO LAHORE WITH LOVE by Hina Belitz

Hi! I’m back with a review of a book I was actually supposed to review for the first time in like two months! It’s been an interesting few weeks especially and I’ve really been struggling to read, but I think I might be getting back into it.

My Netgalley TBR is terrifying right now but, after weeks of trying and failing to read, I finally got through one of my anticipated reads! This was a super quick and easy read, and I actually found it great as a short escape from being locked in the house…

So thank you, Headline Review, for an e-arc of ‘To Lahore, With Love.’

‘To Lahore, With Love’ is the story of Addy, a British woman with an infectious love of cooking, and her journey to discovering her true self when her life in London is turned upside down. We learn that she has been raised as British, aware of both her Irish and Pakistani heritage, and that she’s perfectly content with little knowledge of the side of her family from Pakistan- namely, the now-deceased father who left when she was younger- until a secret about her marriage sends her spiralling into depression and, very suddenly, on a healing trip to Lahore.

For the first half of this book, I thought it was good. The writing style throughout is easy and very readable, and the recipes at the start of each chapter provided such refreshing mini-commentaries on the story as a whole that I found myself to be as excited about what she would be cooking next as I was about the progression of the story. I liked Addy as a character and I loved how passionate she was about cooking, which was and will always be her truest passion.

It was the second half of the book that made me fall in love with it, though. As soon as Addy reached Lahore, her character development increased exponentially. The way she connected with the city and her newfound family was beautiful to read and her changed perspective was drastic and yet completely believable. I found myself seriously rooting for her towards the end of the novel, grinning like an idiot when she did something I was proud of. It’s a feeling I haven’t felt about a book for a while and it was an absolute pleasure to experience. I must say that Addy makes a lot of discoveries that I didn’t always find to be quite as believable or developed as other aspects of the book towards the end, but the growth visible in her responses alone to these made them completely necessary, in my opinion.

As well as the characters, two things that can’t be ignored about this book are the recipes and the scene setting. Both of these elements were huge parts of the story and I found them to be so beautifully done that I was, at times, starving for some of the delicious meals that Addy described, tasting them from the descriptions alone, and craving a trip to Lahore. The portrayal of Pakistan was not always idyllic, but the overall description was stunning, with the vibrant sounds, atmospheres and (specifically for Addy) flavours being so incredibly believable. This book contains the kinds of descriptions that make you desperate to go and see the featured places for yourself and I certainly find that, now I’ve finished it, I’ve got serious wanderlust.

This book is perfect if you’re looking for escapism through a funny, reassuring, and easy read. With the current incapacity to leave the house, I found the ability to escape to Lahore in this story incredibly calming and refreshing. It made me forget my surroundings for hours whilst I kept turning the pages and I’m sure that it would have the same effect on anyone else who picks it up.

RATING: 4.5/5

If you want to read this book, you can grab a copy right here.*

I get a small commission if you use any of my links 🙂

NOTORIOUS MINDS BOXSET BLOG TOUR- Q&A with Adam Alexander

I’m super excited to be part of the Notorious Minds blog tour this week! Today’s post is a Q&A with Adam Alexander, author of Masters of the City, in which he shares some of his best tips and some fun facts about his own writing. Hope you enjoy!

HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER? I think I’ve always been a writer, but I spent a long time listening to the wrong voices, and not believing enough in myself. If I’d listened to my own inner voice instead of the people in my life who told me I couldn’t, or I shouldn’t, I would have published my first book years before I did. What made me finally finish my first novel wasn’t a change in my abilities, or some magical formula that I suddenly discovered. I simply found someone who believed in me more than I did, and I started listening to that voice. Once I finished my first novel, writing the next one became easier and easier.

YOUR JOURNEY TO FINISHING THAT FIRST NOVEL. There are about a dozen half-finished and abandoned attempts at writing books on my computer hard drives, and even one written on paper before I even had my first computer. That’s going back a long time. What finally made me start and finish my first novel was a dream, oddly enough. I had a dream of a girl in a forest in the darkness, burying something. I woke up and this dream was still vividly implanted in my mind, and I figured it would make a great opening scene for a book. A girl is burying something in the forest because she has to hide it. But what’s she burying and who wants it so badly? Then I came up with the idea for Lost Soul: Immortality. She’s burying her soul because she can’t let the evil wizards get it, because she has this gift that only comes around once every thousand years, and if they get it, it will give them immortality. But if you’re an aspiring writer, you’re well aware that having an idea is not the same thing as writing a book. The writing part takes hard work. Lots of it. Up until that point, I’d never shared my writing or my ideas with anyone because I was afraid of the reaction. Would people like it? Would they hate it? What if they did hate it? They’d think I was dumb. I only had that state of mind because of people in my life up until that point who had done exactly that. Anyway, heart in my mouth I shared the idea with my wife and she loved the idea, and demanded the first chapter. And so began my journey to the end of my first novel. I’d write a chapter, give it to my wife to read, and she’d love it and ask for the next one. At that point in my life writing was a dream. I remember clearly sitting in my study writing those last words, throwing my hands up in the air with a sense of triumph having done something that I’d literally waited half my life to do.

DETAILED ADVICE FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS. Start early and don’t give up. If you believe you’re good enough, and if you have a story you want to tell, write it and don’t look back. If you feel like your writing sucks, get better. Get into a habit of writing, whether it be a target number of words every day, or every week – set a goal for yourself and break it down to a daily goal and write. Join author groups online an get involved in a writing community. Contrary to what you might think, communities of authors are amazing places to find help and encouragement.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THE NOVEL IN THIS BOXSET? In the Notorious Minds Boxset, you’re getting Episode 2 in the Matt Porter Series. I created Matt Porter because I had always wanted to write a thriller, in the genre of the Bourne Identity, where the hero is out there on his own, and all the odds are stacked against him.
Episode 1, Slave to the City, introduces you to Matt Porter, a cop in a big city doing his best to bring in the bad guys, but his only weakness is his constant downfall. As long as he stays away from women, he’s fine. But every time he gets involved, things don’t end well. I won’t spoil Slave to the City by telling you too much here, but what you get from the blurb of the book is that Matt Porter steps in to help Grace when he sees her in the diner surrounded by the guys in dark suits, and from everything falls apart for him. He crosses so many lines and ends up on the wrong side of the law with people trying to kill him, the police after him, and he has to figure out why fast before he ends up dead.

Matt Porter returns in Masters of the City for an even more nail biting adventure. The opening scene sees him positioned on the roof, aiming his rifle and he’s about to pull the trigger. He’s supposed to be one of the good guys – how the hell did he end up here? I wanted to put Matt Porter in an even more impossible situation in the sequel to Slave to the City, and the opening scene does just that. Matt Porter takes on a new client, but things fall apart again right from the start, and it all goes back to his golden rule. Rule #2 – all women are trouble. No exception. I think the very character of Porter lends itself to the situations he finds himself in. He’ll never walk away from a woman in trouble, yet stepping in to help always gets in in trouble.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALISE YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR? I started writing a book about a homeless guy who gets hit by a car late one night and ends up in hospital, and the book was going to be about how the guy ends up winning Wimbledon. That was the idea anyway. I think I was about eighteen, and that’s when I got the writing bug. I won the Editor’s Prize for English at school, and I figured I had some writing talent and I saw myself penning this amazing novel, getting published and making millions. It didn’t pan out that way. I soon realized that having a beginning and an ending for a story is not the same as writing a novel. The bits in between are what make a good story.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK? It takes me anything from 6 to 9 weeks to write a book. I used to write whenever, and finish a book when I felt like it with no deadline. When that was my approach, I finished one book a year, maybe. Then I set myself an impossible target to finish a book in 90 days. I made it with 4 days to spare. Now I try to bring that down by writing a little more each day. I wrote my latest book in six weeks.

WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE LIKE WHEN YOU’RE WRITING? I’m not a full-time writer. I run a growing IT business so my days are pretty busy, and my mind is usually preoccupied with work when I get home in the evenings, so I can’t just switch off from work and flip over to writing. I do a lot of my writing on weekends. First thing in the mornings is best for me. A good start to my writing sets a good pace for the rest of the day. If I procrastinate and let fear of the blank page get inside my head, my day’s
writing is doomed.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INFORMATION OR IDEAS FOR YOUR BOOKS? Right now I’ve written two series and three standalones. That gives me established characters to work with, and worlds I’ve created to explore. It makes it easier to find new ideas for books. For example, I wrote Garage Band as a standalone, and I got the idea for that one when I went shopping one Saturday morning in Sandton City. My wife commented on how ridiculous it was that we like to drive our fancy expensive cars, and looking around the parking garage I said that the cars in the parking garage must be worth more than the building. Then as a joke, I said that if you wanted to do some damage, you didn’t have to blow up a whole building, just blow up the cars in the garage. That got me thinking, and I started developing the plot for Garage Band. You take a complete anti-hero, the kind of guy you want to smack upside the head and say, “get a life!” and you make him the hero of the story, give him a reason to want to blow up all the cars in Sandton City, and so began the best comedy thriller I’ve ever written. That gave rise to the sequel (the book I wrote in my first 90 day challenge). And the world I created gave rise to a prequel based on one of the characters that I mentioned in a one-liner in Garage Band, and now I’m writing another prequel based on one of the other supporting characters in Garage Band. If you let your imagination flow, there’s no shortage ideas. Just don’t make the mistake of sitting with a blank page in front of you stressing that you’re not coming up with ideas. You don’t find them that way.

WHEN DID YOU WRITE YOUR FIRST BOOK AND HOW OLD WERE YOU? I wrote Lost soul: Immortality in 2013. I was 42 when I finished my first novel.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT WRITING? I think about writing.

WHAT DOES YOUR FAMILY THINK OF YOUR WRITING? My wife is my biggest fan. She reads all my books first, and she was in the inspiration behind getting my first book on paper and making me finish the book. Family have to love your books, that’s their job. The real test is putting your books in the hands of total strangers.

HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN? WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE? I’ve written 9 fiction and 1 non-fiction books. My favourite is probably Garage Band – it was a comical thriller, and I had great fun creating some of those moments. My wife’s favourite is Lips of an Angel, without a doubt. I can tell by the amount of time it takes her to read the manuscript. Normally it can take three to four weeks for her to read one of my books. She’s always up before anyone else in the house, and she reads in the early mornings while she creates amazing pictures with her canvasses and brushes. I used to hear her laugh out loud with Garage Band, and I really enjoyed that. But when I wrote Lips of an Angel, she devoured it in three days, and she literally couldn’t speak when she finished it.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS TO HELP ME BECOME A BETTER WRITER? Write lots, and write often. You get better the more you write. Read lots too. Find a great team of editors. Editors are gold. Join writing groups and mix with writers you aspire to be.

DO YOU HEAR FROM YOUR READERS MUCH? WHAT DO THEY SAY? I get to hear from my readers in the reviews they write. Obviously I have a close circle of friends who interact with me more than my regular readers. The best comment I ever had was from a friend who was beta-listening to the Garage Band audio book. He was supposed to be driving to a meeting and became so wrapped up in the story that his mind went into autopilot and he ended up driving home and totally missed his meeting.

DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE BOOKS FOR ADULTS? All my books are for adults, but not the naughty kind.

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A GOOD STORY? Characters with depth and a well-crafted plot.

If you’re interested in the Notorious Minds Boxset, here’s a little more information about it from the publisher, Fire Quill Publishers:

What does it take to commit the perfect crime?

Delve into these dark and twisted tales by twenty USA Today and International Bestselling Authors. No matter what kind of crime story typically catches your imagination, there’s sure to be something for everyone. 

Conspiracies, political plots, and yes, even murder, are just a few of the crimes waiting inside this box set. Discover a narcissistic grandmother running an underground syndicate, or a support group bent on murder…and even a serial killer who turns his victims into fairytale creatures. 

Prepare to delve into an elite killing team who made a mistake, an oil rig filled with secrets ready to explode, and a reporter uncovering a treasonous plot.

Uncover how fatal passion, jealousy, and fear can be to a group of royal marines and learn from a detective who is far from home fighting demons from his past in order to stay alive.

Can you figure out how the police solve a killer’s confession to nine murders that haven’t happened yet? or how a girl that got a heart transplant became the FBI’s number one ally in solving crimes?

This box set is packed with thousands of pages that will hold you on the edge of your seat, crying for answers. Definitely a must for fans of Patterson, Lee, and Grisham. One-click it today!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE……

Pre order now and you will receive our amazing pre-order gift – products are digital and printing is at reader’s cost.

You can claim this price here: https://www.subscribepage.com/notoriousmindspreordergiveaway

If you’d like to purchase the Notorious Minds Boxset, you can get it here.

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940163815098

Itunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1502417965

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/za/en/ebook/notorious-minds-boxset-mystery-thriller-crime

BOOK REVIEW: THE KINGDOM OF BACK by Marie Lu

I think, if you’ve ever 1) seen my twitter, 2) met me or 3) read any of my old blog posts, you know that 99% of what I talk about is Marie Lu books and why you should read them. Warcross is my favourite book in the entire world (please read it and talk to me about it!!), and the Legend series is just as impressive. I have never read anything by Marie Lu that I didn’t love and I own every single book she’s ever published so- I’m kind of a major fangirl.

That being said, I was very excited about The Kingdom of Back. I grew up playing piano and this book is about Nannerl Mozart so that was a major plus. Then there’s the fact that it’s a historical fantasy (featuring all manner of beautiful and magical things), and the cover is absolutely stunning.

So I read the entire book today, and I’m now going to review it. This will definitely be biased, but I can assure you that this book deserves all. the. hype. Anyway-

The Kingdom of Back is the untold story of Nannerl Mozart, with a fantastical twist. We begin by learning that Nannerl is a young musical prodigy, playing instruments from a young age and talented enough to wow all of Austria. She’s an ambitious and highly talented child, with dreams of being remembered for her talents and her music. It isn’t until her younger brother, Woferl, reveals his musical talent that she even gets noticed, however. And very quickly, Nannerl gets overshadowed by her younger brother’s extraordinary musical ability.

When a magical boy named Hyacinth appears first in her dreams, and then in her home, with an offer to make her legacy immortal, she is swiftly drawn into the beautiful and backward, magical world of Back. The place seems familiar in a fairytale kind of way, and she’s drawn in instantly by the new world’s whimsical beauty. It doesn’t take long for Nannerl to realise, however, that her dream may come at a cost, and that everything in Back may not be quite what it seems.

Nannerl, like all of Marie Lu’s protagonists, is fascinating to read about. She’s a kind, compassionate and ambitious girl who gets quickly drawn into feelings of jealousy and envy, and I was incredibly impressed by how easily I could feel her resentment and fury. I love how strong her voice remains throughout the entire novel, and how believable her emotional outbursts are. She is truly an eighteenth-century teenager with feelings and dreams that her time period simply won’t allow.

The writing in this book is absolutely stunning. The imagery drew me in within seconds, and I found myself getting sucked into the Kingdom of Back, just as Nannerl was. Similarly to Warcross, a whole world is created in this story that is so unique and unbelievable, and yet still so easy to find yourself getting lost in.

If you’re looking for a historical fiction read, this book is incredible, with just enough factual content that you can consider yourself to be learning whilst reading. And if you’re looking for a fantasy, with faeries and ogres and magical forests, this is also for you. There are so many different elements for different readers and age groups that I would recommend this book to near-enough anyone.

Basically, I love, love, love this book. It has been so long since I got so deeply absorbed in a story that I forgot my own surroundings, and I already wish that I could read this story for the first time all over again.

If you want to buy a copy, you can get it here.

Rating: 5/5

ARC REVIEW – Not Your Idol Vol 1 (Manga)

Thank you to VIZ and Netgalley for providing me with a free e-ARC.

Not Your Idol is a manga that follows Nina Kamiyami, a former idol who gave up her life in the spotlight after being attacked by a fan. She has cut off her hair, changed her name and thrown out all of the girly fashion staples that she was so well known for. And it’s working for her. She’s finally settling in, realising that she prefers the comments about being the only girl in slacks than being everyone’s property, when everything starts to go wrong once again. There’s a sexual attacker on the loose in the area and, as well as bringing back terrible memories, he brings back the fear for her life that she was so desperate to give up.

This is a tough read in terms of content and an incredibly easy read in terms of format. It only took me a few hours to get through and I found the layout to be very clear and readable. In addition, it really helped that the artwork was so incredibly well-drawn and beautiful to look at. The hard part was dealing with the troubling content. This manga tackles issues of stalking, sexual assault and harassment, all whilst shining a spotlight on the troubling Asian pop music culture that has risen to popularity in the past few years. At the moment, there is a lot of discussion over the mistreatment of idols, and this book provides a fascinating first-person insight into the struggles that real idols are constantly going through.

I liked the characters in this book a lot. Even though she is largely absent, Kamiyami’s best friend, Sara, is a truly supportive character. When Kamiyami is going through tough times, Sara is always there to support her through it. Likewise, I was impressed by how quickly I grew attached to Hikaru’s character too, as I knew so little about him and yet still enjoyed reading the sections that he is in. Kamiyami herself is incredibly strong as a protagonist, with a personality that shines through in both the flashbacks and the present day sections.

The story was very easy to follow and it really makes an interesting change to the light-hearted, sweet manga that I’ve read in the past. It took a surprising turn at the end and I can definitely say that because of that, and the easy-to-read format and important content, I would read the second volume.

RATING: 4/5

*I’m temporarily abandoning my Amazon affiliate links due to the current global situation so, if you would like to order a copy of this book, please get it from your local bookshop*

ARC REVIEW: ANNA K. by Jenny Lee

Thank you to Penguin Books and ReadersFirst for gifting me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Anna K. has easily been one of my most-anticipated reads of 2020 for a long time. I heard so many good things about it and, honestly, the cover is to die for. I tried desperately to get my hands on a copy for so long before I finally got the chance to win one on Readers First and, after all of the effort, this book did not disappoint.

This is sold as the story of Anna K and Count Vronsky, two teenagers in present-day New York, rather than the two identically named teenagers in Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina.’ I have never read ‘Anna Karenina’ and don’t know if the reason this book managed to shock me was because of that, but it turned out to be much more of a story than I expected. It was not just about Anna and Vronsky by any stretch. This tells the story of the elite in New York, and all of the struggles they individually face.

Most of the characters’ behaviour in this book disgusted me, and I disliked all of the cheating and drug-taking, but I couldn’t seem to put it down. Jenny Lee isn’t trying to tell the story of the perfect rich kids of the present day. She’s telling the story of how messed-up they all are and, amongst all their riches, how human too. I personally didn’t find myself forgiving them for the mistakes they made, but I did find them redeeming themselves throughout the story.

The ending was absolutely heartbreaking, in a way that I was not expecting at all but, although some characters suffered terrible fates, others really saw strong personal growth and got the happy endings that could finally put them on the right path.

It’s hard to pick a favourite character, but I found that I really liked Dustin, the state school boy who tutored Anna’s brother (Steven) and Lolly, Steven’s girlfriend. Lolly was a loving girlfriend, confused and hooked by all of the drama going on around her, starting in her own relationship, and Dustin was the Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey, without all of the creeping and spying.

This book is a light-hearted, funny read, until it’s not. I was surprised when I found myself crying at the character’s struggles and desperately turning the pages to make sure everything turned out okay. I strongly disliked the Gossip Girl books but loved Crazy Rich Asians and, based on all of the descriptions online, this book could have been hit-or-miss for me. I’m so glad that Jenny Han’s book ended up being heartfelt, shocking and emotional, and giving what may be a slightly exaggerated but believable view of the young elite.

If you want to read this book, you can get a copy here.

RATING: 4/5

P.S. I have seen three different covers of this book (two ARCs and one final cover) and they are all so pretty, I could cry.