ARC Review: The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky

THANK YOU to Electric Monkey for this ARC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5

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

ARC REVIEW: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RATING: 5/5

ARC REVIEW: The Spiral by Iain Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5

My Top 10 Books of 2020

It’s December! And, having finally met my Goodreads goal (52/45!), I’m feeling nostalgic about my year in books. The change in my reading since starting this blog in November 2019 has been insane, and I’m so lucky to have discovered so, so many incredible, diverse authors and novels over the course of the year.

Picking my top 10 books for 2020 was way too difficult, so I’ve narrowed it down to only books that released this year in an attempt to make it easier (spoiler: it didn’t) and, after a lot of internal debate, I finally think I’ve got it. So, without further ado… my top 10 books of 2020:

TEN. Again, Again by E. Lockhart – I LOVED this book, but I think my rating is at least partially biased. We Were Liars is my favourite stand-alone of all time, but I’ve never really clicked with a lot of E. Lockhart’s books, so finding one in the same style with a cute story line and a lot of trippy parallel timezones was really all it took for this book to make the list.

Check out my review here.

NINE. The Rules by Tracy Darnton – This book is one of those books where you read the ending and can’t get over it for at least a few days. It’s a gripping, twisty thriller in the exact style that I one day hope to write and I adored it.

Check out my review here.

EIGHT. The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg – I bought this entirely as a cover-buy but ended up reading the whole thing in one night (finishing at 2am when I had to get up at 7am, oops). It was a really fun thriller with androids, romance, mystery, suspense and way too many parallels between the setting and Disneyland to be accidental.

(I didn’t review this, oops, but more information can be found here.)

SEVEN. Shine by Jessica Jung – I have never been as excited to receive an ARC as I was to receive this one. Electric Monkey literally only publishes books that I know I’ll adore, and this one tied my loves of Kpop and YA together so well. It was realistic, exciting and really well written.

Check out my review here.

SIX. Foreshadow by Nova Ren Suma and Emily XR Pan – This is the only short-story anthology I’ve read this year because it isn’t really my go-to form, but I’m so, so glad I read this. The combination of stories, writing prompts and essays provided me with so much insight and motivation for my own writing that I couldn’t not include it.

Check out my review here.

FIVE. Skyhunter by Marie Lu – MARIE LU. DYSTOPIA. That is all.

Check out my review here.

FOUR. Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco – I was blessed to get this on Netgalley and I’m still mad about how long it took me to start it. It had a strong protagonist, an exciting romance and so much fantasy. It gave me major 2014/2015 YA vibes and I’m completely here for it.

Check out my review here.

THREE. The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant – THIS. I’m in love with Les Mis and have developed a newfound appreciation for Enjolras in the months since reading this book. It was so beautifully written that I swear I highlighted something on every other page and I’m beyond excited for the sequel.

Check out my review here.

TWO. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo – I’ve since read Poet X as well and I can’t get over how beautiful Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing is. This book was a poetic masterpiece, and is another that I read in a single sitting.

Check out my review here.

ONE. The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu – oh look, more Marie Lu (how she managed to release two completely contrasting works-of-art in the space of a year, I will never know). I’m surprised that I enjoyed The Kingdom of Back more than Skyhunter but this book just feels so special to me. The order of my top 10 has shifted a lot in the last few minutes, but there is no doubt in my mind that this book deserves to be number 1.

Check out my review here.

And that’s it! Thank you so much to the publishers that gifted me books on this list (namely: Hot Key Books, HarperVoyager, James Patterson Presents, Electric Monkey, Algonquin and Little Tiger).

I would love to hear what your favourite books were this year, so comment below which books wowed you in 2020!

ARC REVIEW: The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

I’ve found myself, quite unintentionally, reading a fair few crime thrillers lately, and this is definitely one of the best ones of that bunch. It’s not my normal genre and I’m finding it a little more difficult than usual to review, so please bear with me on this…

The Whole Truth is a crime thriller about DI Adam Fawley’s latest case: a sexual assault claim, where a promising, male postgraduate student is filing charges against the university’s most successful female professor. This case is anything but straightforward and, as it goes on, more and more complications throw themselves into the case until it’s impossible to figure out what truly happened that night.

Meanwhile, Fawley’s caught up in a personal case of his own. His heavily pregnant wife believes she’s being stalked and, when someone close to her is found dead, everything gets just a little more complicated.

If you’re reading this review before you have picked up this book, I would strongly recommend reading Cara Hunter’s other books first, as this one is apparently the fifth book in her DI Fawley series (a fact that I didn’t discover until possibly too late). I haven’t read the other books and I think that would account for some of the confusion I felt regarding Fawley’s personal life and the sheer amount of police officers that you need to keep track of in this book. I’m also being intentionally vague about the latter case, as I presume this is a huge spoiler for one of the earlier books.

All of that being said, I enjoyed this book hugely as a stand-alone. The sexual assault case was for this book alone and the rest is easy enough to figure out that accidentally starting the series at book five didn’t detract from the plot at all.

This book was completely enthralling. Everything seemed so clear-cut at first with the student’s claim against the professor, but there seemed to be a new- not entirely unbelievable- twist with every new page. Similarly with Fawley’s personal case, some parts were guessable, but this is the kind of story where, if you do guess it, you convince yourself you’re wrong and change your mind before it gets revealed. At least, that’s what I did.

This story is told in an interesting way, with the majority of characters having short chapters told in third person, one chapter being told in second, and Fawley’s chapters being told in first. There were also interviews, text messages and emails thrown in to keep things interesting. This was difficult to keep track of at first but, I’m assuming, if you’ve read the other books in the series, this format would be much more familiar to you. It did an excellent job of keeping up the pace, making sure we knew exactly who we were dealing with at all times, and adding dimension to characters that I originally disregarded a little.

Anyway, the takeaway is that I really enjoyed this book. It was fairly short, very pacey and full of twists and turns. It hooked me within the first few pages and I found that every new side-story that was added as we went through only added to the characters and the tension. I would of course recommend this to lovers of crime and twisty thrillers, though perhaps you may want to check out the others first.

A trigger warning: this book discusses, in detail, various cases of sexual assault.


RATING: 4/5

Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

I wasn’t sure whether or not to review this because I completely gave up on being impartial about Marie Lu’s books about 6 years ago- but in the end, I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. Surprise, surprise, this is not going to be a balanced review. It is instead going to be a short summary, followed by a post full of fangirling. You’ve been warned.

Skyhunter is the story of Talin, a specially-trained soldier, or Striker, for her struggling nation, Mara. Set far, far into the future, after the collapse of the world as we know it, Mara is the only land that remains un-colonised by the ever-growing Federation, and Talin is one of many, fighting on the front lines to defend from the oncoming attack, from humans, technological human experiments and ghosts, which are monstrous beings trained to obey the Federation’s every command.

When a presumed Federation soldier wanders into their territory, all but Talin are happy to watch him suffer for their actions, but Talin feels a strange connection that forces her to risk her own life for him. When he is later paired up as her partner, she discovers that there is more to him than meets the eye, and that he may become the key to their survival and a vital look into the Federation’s plans.

There are elements of Legend and Warcross in this book that were impossible for me to ignore. Marie Lu is incredible at writing dystopia, especially dystopia surrounding technology and world domination, and this book was really no different. The characters were as instantly fascinating as any of her books and I found myself loving and hating exactly who I was supposed to. Talin is a fierce, incredibly well-developed protagonist, suffering from a lot of internal struggle about her duties, her heart and her sense of belonging, and Red is an intriguing, unique and equally powerful character to read. Jeran as well, a close friend, a fierce soldier and a very useful translator for Red and Talin, was a particular favourite character of mine. I loved seeing him develop as the story went on, after finding myself particularly invested in him from the very beginning.

This story is fast-paced, exciting and completely immersive. I got sucked in so quickly to the world of Mara and the Federation that I completely forgot the outside world, caring only about their story and their survival. The technology Marie Lu invents is believable, the world is so detailed that it’s impossible not to find yourself in the story with them, and the characters are the kind that you want to keep in your mind forever.

Rather than recommending this book, I urge you to read it. Or read Warcross, or The Young Elites, or Legend, or The Kingdom of Back (which I also *cough* reviewed, here). Marie Lu’s books are incomparable: inclusive, diverse, thrilling, immersive and incredibly original. This book has further solidified her status as my favourite author of all time, and I can only hope that, if you take my advice and read it, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Rating: 5/5 (obviously…)

Book Review: Kpop Confidential by Stephen Lee

And… here we have another kpop/YA book review! At the same time as I received my ARC of Shine by Jessica Jung, I also received a finished copy of Kpop Confidential, so I am adoring the theme of my autumn reading so far.

Anyway- thank you so much to Chicken House for sending me a copy of this book!

Kpop Confidential follows a fifteen year-old Korean-American girl named Candace who, on a whim, enters a global competition to become a trainee at S.A.Y Entertainment in Korea, and suddenly finds herself being swept up into the not-so-glamorous lifestyle of a celebrity-in-training.

After a begrudging acceptance from her parents, Candace leaves behind her life in the United States for a summer, with the ultimatum that she will either end the summer as a debuted kpop idol or back as a high school student in New Jersey. She is rapidly inducted into a world of no social media, brutal dieting, dating bans and torturous hours of training.

As she faces the struggles of falling in love when dating is strictly prohibited, living in a dorm with the meanest girl in training, and not being able to dance when trying to debut in a dancing idol group, Candace has to commit wholeheartedly to her new trainee lifestyle and forget that there is anything at all outside the walls of her training HQ.

This book has a protagonist who, somewhat unwillingly, finds herself stepping on some toes to get to the top, an entertaining love triangle (with, in my opinion, an obvious favourite…) and some very strong friendships that were incredibly refreshing to read about against the backdrop of all the trainee backstabbing and blackmail.

I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps because of the fifteen year old protagonist, it seemed a little younger than a lot of the YA I’ve read lately, but it was still a cute, easy read with enough drama to keep me turning the pages throughout. Without spoiling anything, I loved the direction that the story ended up going in and found myself satisfied with this book from start to finish. I would definitely recommend to kpop lovers, YA lovers and anyone looking for a whirlwind of a story about dedication, passion, drama and friendship.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: FORESHADOW by Nova Ren Suma, Emily X.R. Pan, et al.

This is my first time reviewing a short story anthology, and only my fifth time reading one (my former favourite being Slasher Girls and Monster Boys), so I’m honestly not entirely sure how to go about this! BUT I know that I loved the collection and wanted to share my thoughts with you, so here we go:

*Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for the e-ARC of this wonderful collection*

Foreshadow is an anthology of short stories by thirteen incredible, diverse and lesser-known Young Adult authors, introduced by a variety of famous names. Each story is followed by a short essay by Nova Ren Suma or Emily X. R. Pan about a theme, motif or technique used within, and each essay is followed by a writing prompt on a similar theme.

I adored this collection. When I first heard about it, I was instantly obsessed, and when I started reading, that didn’t change at all. The range in these stories means that there is at least one in the collection that everyone will love, and I found myself constantly surprised by the genre variance from one tale to the next. It’s consistent in the way that each story resonates with the reader, but uses an incredible array of settings, genres and voices to achieve this. It is easy to see how every single author used their own personality to shape their contribution to this collection and it was fascinating to become so invested in thirteen different plots in such a short space of time.

I do have to admit that a couple of the stories weren’t my favourite, but the entire concept of this collection completely made up for it. I found that, even if a specific story wasn’t for me, I connected with the characters anyway and looked forward to the analysis that followed. Plus, whether I loved them all or not, I can easily say that every story in this book is edited to perfection. A few of my favourites (that were 5/5 reads easily) were ESCAPE, SOLACE, GLOW and BREAK, all of which have inspired me to check out the authors in the hope that they have something else I can read immediately.

This beautiful collection showcases the diversity that Young Adult Fiction has to offer, as well as the depth that can be achieved in a short story, which is interesting for all readers, but especially for aspiring authors. This collection made me want to open up a new document and start writing after every single story, and I haven’t read anything powerful enough to inspire me like that in a long time.  I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a diverse and thought-provoking collection of stories by up-and-coming new authors, but would argue that it’s essential reading for anyone who wants to be inspired to begin (or continue) their own writing journey.

RATING: 5/5

Side note: this collection was originally a digital anthology, published at foreshadowya.com, where there are additional stories and content warnings for everything included in this collection!

Foreshadow comes out on October 20th 2020.

BOOK REVIEW: SEA WIFE by Amity Gaige (BLOG TOUR STOP)

Hi, welcome to my first ever blog tour review! Firstly, thank you so much to Grace Vincent at Fleet for the advance copy of this book, and HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY to Amity Gaige! This was such a fascinating read and I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour.

Seawife tells the story of a woman named Juliet, whose husband convinces her to join him on a year-long trip around the Caribbean, living almost entirely on the ocean. When their voyage is over, and tragedy has struck, Juliet must adjust back into life on land and to parenting their two children in a more conventional way.

All the while, though, her mind is still on their journey across the ocean and her husband’s sailing obsession, and we learn the specifics of their trips through a combination of Juliet’s story, Michael’s logbook and, occasionally, their daughter Sybil’s thoughts and prayers.

It might just be because this isn’t a genre that I’ve really looked into, but I have never read a book like Seawife. The style and subject matter were both so completely new to me that I found myself getting quickly sucked in, and I ended up so glad that I gave this book a go! I was definitely intimidated by all of Michael’s technical terminology at the beginning, but the story is written in such a compelling and accessible way that I was genuinely interested in the technicalities of sailing by the time I finished (something I really never thought I’d say!)

Juliet speaks of the sceptics of her voyage in this book and, I admit, I also didn’t understand the allure of a life on the ocean until the story really got into it. I never would have considered the possibility of abandoning life, school, work, etc, to live in a 44 square-foot floating home, but I was very quickly hooked on learning about their new lifestyle. Their life story is beautiful, fascinating and completely believable, and it definitely made me re-evaluate my initial thoughts. By the end, it seemed strange when the characters were on land, and I wanted to hear more and more about their life on the water.

The characters in this book- primarily Juliet, her husband Michael, their daughter Sybil and their son George- were all really interesting, both in terms of their personalities and their relationships with each other, and I found myself deeply invested in the lives of each of them. I think Sybil may be my favourite character, overall. She was believable as a young child, funny and enthusiastic, but also grown-up in a way that her lifestyle would make her. George was adorable as well. Michael and Juliet were both strong-willed, firm in their beliefs and completely genuine and seeing the complexities of their marriage was fascinating.

Overall, I found this story to be a compelling depiction of the dangers and the allures of a life at sea. It’s thought-provoking, gripping and completely absorbing and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who has ever wondered about life on the ocean, or even just anyone who wants some good, old-fashioned escapism.

RATING: 4.5/5

You can find out more about this book on the Little, Brown site, and I would definitely recommend you pick up a copy from The Hive (support your local indie!) or Waterstones.

BOOK REVIEW: CLAP WHEN YOU LAND by Elizabeth Acevedo

*Thank you to Hot Key Books for the e-arc*

I don’t throw the term ‘one of the best books I’ve ever read’ around often, but it’s impossible not to consider this one of the most beautiful, poignant stories I’ve ever read, both in terms of the writing style and the dual stories.

‘Clap When You Land’ follows Yahaira and Camino, two half-siblings who don’t know that the other exists, and who find this out quite drastically following the death of their father. When they each find out that their father had two families and, effectively, two lives, they are heartbroken and confused, and having to deal with that in addition to their loss is a pain that they both face very differently and very beautifully.

I couldn’t choose a favourite character of the two. Both are strong and independent, and I think it makes the book all the more heartbreaking that they both try to be strong throughout it all. It made me more emotional to think about how much they were trying to hold it together than I think it would be to see them both fall apart. Both Yahaira and Camino are two of the most emotionally mature, and yet still believable, teenagers I’ve ever read. The other characters in the story also had an incredible amount of depth to them that I was certainly impressed by, and I found myself becoming invested in the plots of all of the characters, rather than just Yahaira and Camino.

The writing style in this book is something that totally blew me away. I have never read a book in verse before and, when I first started, I was a little sceptical about whether I would be able to read an entirely (relatively long) novel that is written this way. Within pages, though, I was completely hooked. It was so easy to get pulled through the book and I was halfway through before it even felt like I’d started. It’s such an easy book to read, despite the intense and meaningful plot.

The lives that are portrayed in this story are extremely contrasting, but both were equally captivating, and I finished this book in a day because I literally couldn’t put it down. The combination of Yahaira’s determination, Camino’s strength and an incredibly beautiful verse writing style definitely made this my most memorable book of the year so far, and I know for a fact that I will be picking up everything I can by Elizabeth Acevedo.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear if you were as completely gripped as I was. Also, if you have any similar recommendations, I would love to hear them! This is a style that I think I might be quickly falling in love with….

RATING: 5/5