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

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

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

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

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

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

RATING 4/5

ARC Review: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5

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

BLOG TOUR STOP: The Wing Thief by Samantha Atkins

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

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

The synopsis:

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

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

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

This book is such a fun read.

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

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

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

Rating: 4.5/5

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

ARC REVIEW: 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

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

ARC Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Happy Halloween! My plan to spend an entire night reading has fallen through and, honestly, I think I’m going to nap my way through the rest of the evening, so I figured I’d get in the spooky spirit with a very Halloween-y review instead!

If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably already aware of how I feel about this book, but here’s my review of Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco (thank you so much to James Patterson Presents for the e-ARC!)…

Emilia has been brushing off stories about the princes of Hell for her entire life, chalking her grandmother’s fear up to superstition and folk tales. She was born and raised a witch so it isn’t that she doesn’t believe; it’s just that she and her sister know that these creatures of nightmares are too stuck in hell to be any kind of a threat.

At least, that’s what she believes, until one dark night in the monastery, her twin sister is found dead, missing a heart and being observed by a beautiful stranger with a devilish aura and a golden knife.

Not long after, as her motivation to find and punish her sister’s killer devours her, Emilia finds herself face to face with enough princes of Hell to see exactly why her grandmother has been warning her all along. And what’s worse is that working alongside one of them might be the only way to find out what truly happened to her sister, and why.

Words cannot express how much I loved Emilia as a protagonist. She was the most strong-willed, fearless character I have read all year and, despite wanting to scream at her in the beginning to stop and think before running into danger, I admired her commitment and believed within a few pages that she could handle anything that was thrown at her (and there was a lot!). Her dedication to her sister never faltered and Emilia didn’t come across as weak even once on her journey to hunting down what she needed to know.

Wrapped up in this story of vengeance was a wonderfully built world of wickedness that I could read about forever. The summonings, the demons and the spellbinding magic were effortlessly written and completely believable. If anyone ever tries to tell me that it’s possible to outgrow YA fantasy, this is the book I will recommend to convince them otherwise.

This story was beautifully crafted, grippingly fast-paced and devilishly creepy, with just the right amount of ethereally beautiful princes of Hell. I ordered a hardback copy before I was even halfway through the ebook because I knew that this would be a book I needed on my shelf and I can guarantee I will be recommending this to anyone who will listen, especially if they’re looking for an wicked tale to add to their Halloween TBR.

Rating: 5/5

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

BOOK REVIEW: THE QUEEN OF NOTHING by Holly Black

I finished this book seconds ago so please bear with me if my thoughts are a little incomprehensible. Also, bear with me if they seem a little vague. I’ll attempt to give a full review but am aware of just how much expectation there is for this book and how much I don’t want to accidentally spoil it for anyone. It’s so hard to say anything about this without giving too much away but I’m really going to give it my best shot.

If you’re reading this book, I assume you’ve already read The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. If not, the plot would make very little sense to you and I fully recommend you go and read them now (I’ve linked them at the bottom of this page!)

The Queen of Nothing is the gripping finale to Holly Black’s most-anticipated trilogy and, although my thoughts are still jumbled, I’m certain that it doesn’t disappoint. Parts of it get a little weird and overly-fantasy compared to the first two but, as a book series about Faerieland, that’s completely to be expected. Holly Black really uses her creative license and ability to use magic a lot more in this book than I noticed in the other two books and, honestly, I’m mostly just impressed with the scope of her imagination and how realistic she can make everything seem.

The general premise of this book is that Jude has been exiled from Faerie by her husband, and the High King, Cardan. Jude’s twin sister, Taryn, arrives early on in the story with a desperate request for Jude to help her by returning shortly to Faerie. When that ‘short trip’ doesn’t go exactly to plan, Jude finds herself rapidly invested in the conflicts of the throne once again.

The characters remain much the same throughout this book as the other two, with Jude really, finally getting the chance to show what she is capable of in terms of telling people what to do. My favourite development in the whole story, though, is definitely Vivi. Although many of her storylines are side-lined, she really develops as a character in this much more than in the last two books. We also get a lot more insight into each character’s personal lives, which I really loved.

The one part of this book that I take some issue with is the ending, so I’m going to be purposely vague. I appreciate the ending and believe that Holly Black tied the series together well, but parts of it just seemed a little less complex than the rest of the trilogy. Overall, though, I was generally very impressed and think that she brought everything impressively to a close, with very few unanswered questions left and a lot of emotions running high.

As always with Holly Black’s books, the writing itself is stunning. The imagery of Faerie and, even to some extent, the human world is incredibly descriptive and she paints a fantasy image in a way that very few authors can. Alongside her interesting characters, this makes for a book that you can’t help saying ‘just one more chapter’ to. It’s so easy to ignore the outside world with this series and I’m delighted to have had one more chance to do that.

I would recommend this series so much. If you’ve read the first two, obviously this is a must-read, but if you haven’t, you really, really should (the other two are 5-star in my opinion). I’m not disappointed at all and, honestly, I’m so sad to say goodbye to these characters after only discovering them six months ago.

MY RATING: 4/5

If you haven’t bought this book already, you can get it here.

You can also buy The Cruel Prince here and The Wicked King here.

(Disclaimer: I get a small commission if you use these links!)