Reviews

Book Review: The Pact by Amy Heydenrych

Thank you to Readers First for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This hasn’t in anyway affected my opinion of the book.

What if a prank leads to murder?

When Freya arrives at her dream job with the city’s hottest start-up, she can’t wait to begin a new and exciting life, including dating her new colleague Jay. However, Nicole, Jay’s ex and fellow employee, seems intent on making her life a misery.

After a big deadline, where Nicole continually picks on her, Freya snaps and tells Jay about the bullying and together they concoct a revenge prank. The next morning, Nicole is found dead in her apartment . . .

Is this just a prank gone wrong? Or does Freya know someone who is capable of murder – and could she be next?

‘But later, beneath her begging and protestations, one fact remained: while she never meant for her to die, she did want to hurt her, just a little.’

Deciding on a rating for ‘The Pact’ was harder than it generally is for me. Summing up my feelings was simple enough but picking a fair rating for them gave me pause. Why? Because when I was hooked this book felt amazing which makes me want to give it a high score. Yet I can only give it an average one because of the issues that I had with it which is rather frustrating.

Straight away I was interested in ‘The Pact’. It had a gripping opening and left me incredibly curious as to how the scene described could possibly have started out as a prank. The chapters were short but this added to the pace of the story, especially as most ended in such a way that left you wanting more. The writing was impressive, on the whole, and tackled some difficult topics quite well. The central characters mostly felt well developed, with snippets of their past getting shared over the course of the story. And the timeline was interesting with the investigation into Nicole’s death intertwining with scenes from Freya’s previous experiences of her at work. The bullying felt real and left me frustrated on the victim’s behalf due to the difficult position that she was in.

Despite the writing generally being very immersive and fast moving with well painted scenes I did find the dialogue a little awkward at times. Some of the conversations felt slightly unrealistic; especially when it came to Freya’s first meeting her housemates. Each of these encounters started with some rather personal subjects being shared and instant bonding which just didn’t feel real to me. In one case, sure, but not for all three. I think maybe I’d have gotten passed this a little better if we’d maybe got to see a few more scenes of these friendships developing but instead they just felt instant and unrealistic as a result.

These issues did lessen my enjoyment of the earlier half of the book but then something changed and I found myself gripped once more. I was convinced that, despite my earlier misgivings, I was going to end up loving the second half of the book. And I did… mostly. Up until the very end in fact which is why it pains me so much to give this book only three stars. The issues that I had concerning the ending, when paired with my earlier struggles, are too much to justify any higher a rating though.

A lot of the resolution to the story I was happy with. Most of the outcome felt believable and the characters convincing too. The epilogue ruined this feeling for me though. It’s not that I’m completely against what happened there; I’m not. I got the point of the revelation but it didn’t flow with the earlier events. Maybe I’d change my mind if I went back and re-read everything (which I am tempted to do at some point) but as it stands some earlier reactions to Nicole’s death didn’t add up once I’d reached the end.

Plus there were a few other things that are bothering me from slightly before the epilogue too. Such as how the killer was finally caught; it doesn’t feel right to me. Another character’s ending didn’t feel natural either; not when I think back and consider how different individuals reacted to them and when they appeared in the book. There are also two smaller things that I thought would be revealed at some point but weren’t. Firstly something that was never shared from a conversation between Freya and Jay; I’d assumed the actual context of his revelation was left vague for a later reveal, yet it never came. And then there’s Jess; what happened to her? You may not have met her but considering what was said I really felt that some answers were needed concerning her fate.

Anyway overall I did enjoy reading ‘The Pact’. There was a time in the first half when I started to feel a little fed up but then it quickly became incredibly gripping and left me wanting more. My issues concerning the ending are too much to overlook however. So on balance this turned out to be a fairly average read for me – something that is so frustrating considering how well written and gripping certain parts of the book were. I’d still be interested in reading more by the author however; her writing showed real promise and she did have a talent for throwing in a lot of unexpected twists.

Check out The Pact on Goodreads here.

Trigger Warnings:Sexual Harassment & Assault.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (I seriously feel the need to discuss some things about this one!) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.

Reviews

Book Review: Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard

PLAY
Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages, watches his only guest via a hidden camera in her room. One night the unthinkable happens: a shadowy figure emerges onscreen, kills her and destroys the camera. But who is the murderer? How did they know about the camera? And how will Andrew live with himself?

PAUSE
Natalie wishes she’d stayed at home as soon as she arrives in the wintry isolation of Shanamore. There’s something creepy about the manager. She wants to leave, but she can’t – not until she’s found what she’s looking for…

REWIND
This is an explosive story about a murder caught on camera. You’ve already missed the start. To get the full picture you must rewind the tape and play it through to the end, no matter how shocking…

‘Then Natalie saw the very last thing she was expecting to see here, in The Kiln, in Shanamore.
     A picture of her own face smiling up at her.’

‘Rewind’ is my second Catherine Ryan Howard book but it certainly won’t be my last based on my experience with her work so far. This book was tremendously well written and pretty hard to put down due to its twisty, compelling plot. What really stood out to me in this book though was the characters.

There was quite a variety of people in this book – more than I’d expected, in fact, before picking the novel up – and each and every one of them felt real. In some of these cases this was actually pretty disturbing considering what the people in question were like. There were a number of creepy and unsettling characters in this book and that, in itself, was enough to keep me guessing. Several people had the potential to be the killer who’d been captured on tape and each of them had some sort of motive too. It honestly was a little bit unnerving how realistically written some of these people were but it wasn’t just the more disturbing individuals who felt fleshed out and believable, everybody in this book did. The central character was well written with an interesting backstory and the same applies to the reporter involved too. I honestly didn’t feel like there was a weak character in the book which definitely added to the story.

Considering the unusual way that ‘Rewind’ is written I’m not sure if some people would struggle slightly although if this is the case, and you do feel a little lost when starting the book, I honestly would urge you to carry on. There are a fair few points of view to follow, in varying timelines, but each of them is vital to the story and just incredibly well written. The odd timeline involved really works for the story that is told and I really enjoyed it. It allowed for twists and turns from several points in time to be revealed at various places throughout the story. The way that social media is portrayed in this book was also quite unsettling at times. It felt spot on, considering Natalie’s background, but it really highlighted some of the dangers of sharing too much of yourself online.

As a whole everything came together really well and was tied up wonderfully. I did guess who the killer was but at the same time I wasn’t entirely confident in my guess. I had several theories and there were quite a few big reveals along the way so this didn’t particularly take away from the overall enjoyment of the novel for me. The one thing that did lessen my enjoyment slightly however is a slight continuity error towards the end. There were two, technically, but one was pretty minor and I would have overlooked. The second of these, though, didn’t really impact upon the overall story or change the fact that everything came together well but it did grate on me slightly. It basically comes down to someone claiming not to have a phone and then, several pages later, stating that they do have one. In the circumstances of the conversation it did irritate me that this wasn’t picked up on; especially as, to avoid such an error, all that had to be said instead in the first conversation was that they didn’t have their phone with them (and I did go back to check that I wasn’t mistaken about this not being the case). Still as I said this didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story too much, hence the still high rating.

Overall I’d definitely recommend this book for its compelling storyline and incredibly well written characters. It was a very hard book to put down pretty much from page one and I can’t wait to see what the author writes next; whatever it is I’m sure I’ll be reading it.

Check out Rewind on Goodreads here.

Trigger Warnings:Violent/Graphic Murder Scene, Pedophilia and Stalking.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (or just give me an excuse to gush about it) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.

Reviews

Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

If she’d been a social butterfly, they would have said she liked to drink away her pain. If she’d been a straight-A student, they would have said she’d been eaten alive by her perfectionism. There were always excuses for why girls died.

Before starting Ninth House I wasn’t sure how much magic to expect from the novel. I knew that it mentioned secret societies and occult activities but I wasn’t entirely sure where these would go; whether the magic would be something that you could see or ritualistic; whether the main character would believe in such things or not. So to pick up this book and receive a world where there were many different societies, each specializing in different types of magic, and where ghosts walked the earth was a rather pleasant surprise. The magical and mystical worked superbly within the pages of Ninth House and I absolutely adored the world that Leigh Bardugo created. Academia blended with the supernatural so seamlessly that it felt like a world that truly could exist. The writing was brilliant too although I will admit that at the start of the novel there were quite a lot of references that I couldn’t place and as a result it did take me a little while to get into the flow of the story. Once I was hooked it was hard to put this book down though.

The characters in this book were wonderfully well thought out and developed. Alex was a bit hard to relate to at times, perhaps due to how she hid her true self away, but I definitely felt for her given everything that she’d endured over the years. I loved the way that she wanted to stand up for ‘girls like her’. All of her past – everything that made her the person that she is today – was just terrifically well thought out and detailed too. My favourite character was definitely Darlington; somehow over the course of the novel I came to love his character so much. And with time I came to enjoy Dawes character too, along with several other surprising individuals. The villains from this book deserve a mention too because they were just superb. Like the other characters they were well written with fleshed out motivations and, when shared, interesting back stories.

The story itself was incredibly well plotted and thought out. Everything came together in a way that I wouldn’t have seen coming and kept me guessing from page one. As stated above once I was hooked it was hard to put this book down and that’s so true – once the story got going this book was utterly compelling. The plot, the characters, the magic… everything just came together so wonderfully. I loved learning about Lethe and the other houses; I love reading snippets of their history too. This book is incredibly dark at times though too so please bare that in mind and, if you have any triggers, I’d definitely recommend checking out the trigger warnings.

Altogether I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ninth House and found myself glued to its pages, wanting to unravel exactly what was going on. After the ending I definitely can’t wait for book two to come out, I have a feeling that with it’s possible setting it’ll be even more addictive than the first book in the series. So yes I recommend this book if you’re looking for a dark, atmospheric mystery with a surprisingly varied cast of characters.

Check out Ninth House on Goodreads here.

I’m aware that some people may find these warnings potentially spoiling so click the link below if you want to know them in advance. Also sorry if I missed any; I have tried to at least include the ones that majorly stood out to me.

Trigger Warnings:Sexual Assault, Rape (including of a minor), Drug Use, Overdoses, Consumption Of Bodily Fluids, Death, Murder, Drowning & Extreme Violence/Gore.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (or just give me an excuse to gush about it) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.

Reviews

Book Review: Hex Life by Various Authors

These are tales of wickedness… stories of evil and cunning, written by today’s women you should fear. Includes tales from Kelley Armstong, Rachel Caine and Sherrilyn Kenyon, writing in their own bestselling universes.

Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery will take the classic tropes of tales of witchcraft and infuse them with fresh, feminist perspective and present-day concerns–even if they’re set in the past. These witches might be monstrous, or they might be heroes, depending on their own definitions. Even the kind hostess with the candy cottage thought of herself as the hero of her own story. After all, a woman’s gotta eat.

Bring out your dread.

‘They remember their own fathers warning them to stay out of the woods or the witch would eat them up, build herself a bed with the bones.
She has killed those who cross her.
She has scared men to death.
If you’re out in the woods at night and you hear her song, it’ll be the last sound you ever know.
But the stories, they’re all half-truths.’

Although a little different than I originally expected it to be (a lot more of the stories in this collection were chilling than I’d anticipated) Hex Life is probably the best anthology that I’ve picked up so far. To be fair I do generally enjoy short story collections but this one really stood out to me as a particularly good one. Normally with these sorts of collections it’s easy to pick out the tales that you loved best and the ones that underwhelmed you but in this one every story stood surprisingly strongly. I honestly don’t think there was a bad one within the whole bunch. There were naturally some that I liked better than others still but picking out favourites in this collection is incredibly hard.

Firstly each and every one of the stories in Hex Life are incredibly well written; most of them creating spectacular atmospheres that easily reel the reader in. The settings and types of stories vary greatly – something that makes them quite hard to compare – and all of them left me wanting to check out more of the various author’s works. The range of characters and events in this collection is fantastic. And, as stated above, the chills were a lot greater than I’d initially anticipated. Some of the stories in this collection crept under my skin and deeply unsettled me, playing on my mind hours after finishing them. One had the sort of fierce, feminist heroine that I’d been expecting; another left me quite pleased overall with the warmer route that it took yet still managed to send slight shivers down my spine at times. Others tackled important issues superbly such as racism and homophobia.

Every story within this book is worth a read and, as I’ve already said, picking favourites is incredibly hard but here’s my best attempt at choosing exactly that. Widows’ Walk was a fantastic short story that warmed my heart at places and left me with chills in others. Black Magic Momma is set within Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld and I seriously need to get on and read those books! I adored her take on witches and can’t wait to read more within the world. The Night Nurse is probably the story that disturbed me the most; seriously it was creepy and definitely lingered on my mind afterwards. The Deer Wife was strangely haunting and beautifully written. Bless Your Heart merged baking, magic and vengeance wonderfully and had a wonderfully compelling tone. This Skin, despite being just ten pages long, disturbed me deeply and left me guessing. I honestly can not believe what the author accomplished in so few pages! And The Nekrolog covered events that I don’t know that much about but left a fantastic supernatural twist on them and was just wonderfully written once again.

Those are only some of my favourites though as the collection contained so much more. I enjoyed visiting Morganville once again for instance and there were two other chilling tales that particularly stood out to me. One set in the woods with some majorly disturbing vibes and another involving a figure that I’ve heard of elsewhere which once more was wonderfully written with an incredibly haunting vibe.

Overall I definitely recommend this anthology and will hopefully be checking out more of the various authors’ works in the future. Just as a warning though this collection is a fairly creepy one; there are stories here that truly unnerved me. Several of the stories also involved a bit of gore and others had some very strong language included.  So please do take that into account although I do still recommend this book; it’s just such a fantastic mix of haunting tales by some incredible writers.

Check out Hex Life on Goodreads here.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (or just give me an excuse to gush about it) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.

Reviews

Book Review: The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh

Imagine you meet a man, spend six glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything.

So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him.
But he doesn’t call.

Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there must be a reason for his silence.

What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason — and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other?

‘That we would see each other again was never in doubt, was it? It was a question of when, not if. In fact, it wasn’t even a question. The future might have seemed as insubstantial as the curled edge of a dream, but it unequivocally contained us both. Together.’

‘The Man Who Didn’t Call’ was a totally unexpected gem of a book for me. It’s not the sort of book that I’d usually pick up– although if it were a film then it’s one that I wouldn’t have hesitated about watching – but I’m so happy that I decided to take a chance on it and it just goes to show that picking up different books from usual can be a pure delight sometimes.

The story told within the pages of this book was absolutely fantastic. I know that some people would probably look at the blurb of this book and be wary of ‘insta-love’ but I had no issues whatsoever with the romance involved. It felt real to me and true; the characters themselves acknowledged that seven days was too short to feel like they did and yet… when you know, you know. The aftermath of this whirlwind love affair was well written and incredibly well thought out. Did Sarah act a bit bizarrely sometimes? Yes but then, as this book points out, with social media at your fingertips it can be all too easy to compulsively try and contact someone who’d promised they would call. And why wouldn’t they call? That’s one question that you’ll most likely find yourself asking too whilst reading this story.

There’s more to this book than the romance elements involved though. I don’t want to say too much and spoil things for anyone but there’s a whole array of emotions contained in this story. There’s family relationships, grief, friendships, the struggles of caring for an unwell loved one and it’s just all conveyed incredibly well. There were things that I didn’t see coming and moments that brought me (as a reader who doesn’t really cry at books) close to tears. The characters are hard not to grow attached to and the level of emotion involved in this book is immense.

It goes without saying, considering how deeply this book made me feel, that it’s incredibly well written and just delightful to read. Not only is the writing itself beautiful but the way that the story is told is wonderful too. At first you get a mixture of scenes from both before and during those seven days together then it switches simply to the after portion but it’s so addictive to read. There are also letters scattered throughout this book and they’re just perfect. They capture the emotions perfectly; they made me melt to read them and just… just read this book.

Overall I definitely recommend this book and regret having not picked up others from the genre sooner. I’ll certainly be making more of an effort to read books like this in the future and I’ll be on the lookout for Rosie Walsh’s next book.

Two things that some people may want to be aware of: Sarah created a charity of Clowndoctors who visit sick children in hospital so there is mention of poorly children in this book. It also details the loss of a loved one.

Check out The Man Who Didn’t Call on Goodreads here.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (or just give me an excuse to gush about it) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.

Reviews

Book Review: The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Aster. Violet. Tansy. Mallow. Clementine.

Sold as children. Branded by cursed markings. Trapped in a life they never would have chosen.

When Aster’s sister Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge – in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by the land’s most vicious and powerful forces – both living and dead – their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

‘She hasn’t become a woman. She’d become a shade with bile for blood and a well of shame in her heart.

’From the very first page ‘The Good Luck Girls’ had me hooked with its wonderfully written, action packed beginning. This is a book that gets straight into the story and there’s pretty much always something going on. It’s a book with a mix of interesting characters and a setting that I ended up falling in love with. I honestly don’t know where to start with this review as there are so many elements to this book that I cherished.

Firstly though I guess I should mention the writing which I fell for pretty much immediately. There’s some truly stunning descriptions, comparisons and quotes within this book. Sometimes it was the message that the words painted that haunted me and sometimes simply the beauty of the writing itself. This is definitely an author’s whose future work I’d pick up based on the writing alone although that certainly wasn’t the only element of the story that I loved.

Another aspect of the book that I found wonderful was the world that Charlotte Nicole Davis created. I’m not sure exactly what I expected from this book in terms of setting but I was definitely delighted with what I received. There was a ‘wild west’ vibe to the surroundings and some of the antics within these pages but with glimmers of magic thrown in. There’s the ingenious cursed markings that brand all Good Luck Girls; the chilling Raveners who are beings that a person would be mad to cross and, what I possibly loved most of the three, various forms of the dead roaming the land. Even without these fantastical aspects I’m pretty sure I’d have devoured this book ravenously but they certainly added to the intrigue for me; I love exploring magical settings and loved how splendidly this book merged these aspects with its wild west setting.

The characters were ones that I felt drawn to, too. I loved each of the main characters of this novel and enjoyed getting to know them. Aster, as the point of view you receive, was the most developed but I felt that I got a sense of everyone’s character and learnt some fascinating history to everyone involved. My favourite character probably was Aster (I loved her fiery attitude) but I was fond of all the central characters regardless. I guess, looking back, that it would have been nice to have seen a little more of Mother Fleur, even if it was in the form of flashbacks. Still that’s simply due to my personal interest in learning more about villainous characters.

Altogether I certainly enjoyed this book and could quite happily pick it up again right now. I’m definitely eager for the second and can’t wait to see what happens next. There are questions that I have but not from lose ends as such; this story was tied up nicely, I’d just love to learn more. So overall I definitely recommend this book and am eagerly anticipating the next one.

Check out The Good Luck Girls on Goodreads here.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (or just give me an excuse to gush about it) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.

Reviews

Book Review: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

‘Mamam wielded shame like an assassin wields a dagger, driving it straight into her victim’s heart. She would win; she always won. Isabelle knew that. How many times had she cut away parts of herself at her mother’s demand? The part that laughed too loudly. That rode too fast and jumped too high. The part that wished for a second helping, more gravy, a bigger slice of cake.
If I marry the prince, I will be a princess, Isabelle thought. And one day, a queen. And no one will dare call me ugly ever again.’

Stepsister is an absolute treasure of a book and I’m immensely happy to have read an advanced copy of it. This is my first time reading a book by Jennifer Donnelly (although I’ve been meaning to read her Tea Rose series for a while) but after this delightful novel I can say that it certainly won’t be my last.

The writing of this book is absolutely beautiful and all too easy to get lost within. The scenes are painted wonderfully and vividly although in this book the writing goes further than simply painting a picture; it captures the entire unique feel of a fairy tale perfectly. There are dark moments, heart-warming ones and, perhaps most importantly, ones that share a message with the reader. In general I don’t look too much for the messages that a book tries to share – I tend to simply get lost in the story – but in this case it’s hard not to pick up on the morals that it’s trying to share which, being a fairy tale retelling, is quite fitting. The messages that it tries to get across to the reader are important, inspiring and so beautifully written that a couple of times they left me speechless. Honestly the writing in this book was absolutely enthralling and so perfectly fitted to a fairy tale retelling.

A lot of the characters in this novel bewitched me almost as much as the writing. I warmed to Isabelle pretty much immediately and loved her fiery character immensely. Truthfully she’s the sort of central character that I love reading about – fierce, brave and not what she’s expected to be. I also liked the portrayal of her bookish sister and childhood friend, Felix. The version of the ‘fairy godmother’ in this story was interesting and suited the story perfectly. I think my favourite character though was the rather unexpected Chance whose scenes I was always delighted to read. Events around him could get a little far-fetched at times but given who – and what – he is that seemed utterly fitting in my opinion and I absolutely adored seeing what he and his travelling companions were up to. Chance stole my heart, just like this novel did in general.

The story itself was fascinating and a pure delight to get lost within. It felt like everything that a fairy tale should be and Isabelle’s ‘quest’ was exciting to follow her on. I loved the ingenuity of her gifts from Tanaquill and her efforts to regain the pieces of her heart. There were a couple of flashbacks to her past – which I was admittedly hoping for as this story’s set after Cinderella – and each of them was painted so perfectly and quite vital to understanding Isabelle and how she came to be how she was. As I said earlier I also greatly enjoyed each and every one of Chance’s scenes. Fate’s were interesting to read too and I felt that including her and Chance added a rather unique spin to the story.

Altogether I would definitely recommend this book and look forward to reading it again sometime in the future. I’ll definitely pick up some more of Jennifer Donnelly’s books soon too. I’m also deeply hoping that the Epilogue to this book means that some of these characters could get seen again in the future as I’d absolutely adore the opportunity to follow in their footsteps again. Here’s hoping that I’ll get my desire but even if I don’t I’ll be sure to pick up whatever Jennifer Donnelly writes next.

Check Stepsister out on Goodreads here.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (or just give me an excuse to gush about it) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.

Reviews

Book Review: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but in fact, she’s one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. Varin runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

‘They were there. Everywhere – the images. The crowns. Faces. Faces I knew all too well. Faces I’d seen many times on the Queenly Reports. They were there. All of them. All four queens – dead. Behind my lids. Inside my head.
How do you hide from your own mind?
Get out, get out, get out!’

Lately I’ve been struggling with my reading a little; despite desperately wanting to do it I somehow convinced myself that I couldn’t concentrate. Then, when I finally got going, I ended up not enjoying another book as much as I’d been expecting to which made me rather wary about picking up another of my most anticipated books of the year in case the same thing happened. I’m glad that I still went ahead and picked up Four Dead Queens however as I think that was exactly what I needed. This book managed to capture my attention, draw me into its world and push aside my worries that reading had somehow become mechanical for me. It’s such an easy story to get lost inside of with lots of drama, secrets, twists and turns to keep a reader glued to its pages.

I think my favourite aspect of ‘Four Dead Queens’ was probably the world that it was set within. I found each of the four quadrants fascinating to learn about and felt that they each contrasted one another greatly. Admittedly some of the quadrants I’d have liked to see a little more of but the ideas behind them all were intriguing. One of the quadrants in particular haunted me with its rules, teachings and customs (it could have had an entire dystopian novel set within its borders). Much of the ‘Queenly Law’ that you learn at the start of the novel was also quite chilling in some ways, painting a world where it’s rulers were trapped in gilded cages by tradition.

Many of the characters within the novel captured my attention and drew me into their stories. I loved getting to see a little bit of the Queens’ thoughts and feelings, although personally would have liked to have seen a little more of Queen Iris. The main two characters – Keralie and Varin- were both interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each of them over the course of the story. Keralie had a compelling attitude and well painted past to her character which was deeply intriguing to delve into whilst learning about Varin was almost heartbreaking at times. Mackiel was another character that greatly interested me and I was quite excited to see what would happen next whenever he appeared on the pages. I think the character whose thoughts I was most enthralled with learning about was Arebella’s however; her way of thinking was quite unusual and I’d have loved a couple more scenes with her.

I also quite enjoyed the somewhat unusual way that the story was told with its odd feeling timeline and focus on several points of view. I know that there are some people that aren’t fond of books with multiple points of view but I generally quite enjoy them and, in this case, thought it worked wonderfully. Uncovering some of the truths as to what was happening within the palace from the Queens’ points of views gave the story a lot more emotional depth than I think it would have achieved if the Inspector had simply uncovered everyone’s secrets without seeing the thoughts, emotions and perspectives of those involved. Thanks to the way that the story was written I actually found it incredibly heartbreaking at times.

There were also a lot of different twists and turns throughout this story, many of which caught me off guard. I did, frustratingly, figure out who the assassin was before it was revealed but that didn’t particularly detract from the story for me, mostly because although I thought of the possibility I was hoping I was wrong and did find myself questioning whether I was right at times.

The only reason that I’m giving this book four and a half stars rather than five is because I felt that certain things happened too easily/were accepted too swiftly towards the end of the novel. I felt that one of the revelations could have used a bit more emotional turmoil and probably also a little more conflict initially; both of which probably could have been achieved if it had been written over a few more chapters than it was. I also felt that Mackiel lost his edge a little bit at the same time. The ending did tie things up fairly nicely however on the whole and the entire novel was still a pleasure to read.

Overall I recommend this novel and look forward to picking up Astrid Scholte’s next book, whatever that will be. Honestly I’d absolutely love it if she ever decided to write a few short stories set within this world, giving readers a chance to see more of each and every one of the quadrants, especially if some of those stories showed a bit more of the Queens and the various secrets that were revealed over the course of this novel. Quadara was a joy to explore.

Check Four Dead Queens out on Goodreads here.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (or just give me an excuse to gush about it) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.

Reviews

Book Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

‘That’s why it’s so important that the Watchers remain. In a world remade again and again, where the rules keep changing, where a Chosen One becomes Chosen Many, where magic disappears, where the old ways are broken, we are the one constant.
We still keep watch.’

There are a lot of novels that I’m deeply looking forward to this year but Slayer was definitely one of the top ones and giving it anything less than five stars is actually quite difficult to do. I honestly thought that this was going to be one of my top books of the year – not only is it new Buffy but it’s also by Kiersten White, after all – but for me something was missing, as much as it pains me to say so.

Starting with the positive however, I can quite easily and honestly say that this book managed to capture the overall feel and humour of Buffy quite spectacularly. If there was anything that worried me about this novel, it was that it wouldn’t have that ‘Buffy feel’ to it, but somehow it did. Right from the start it emulated the feel of the show with its mention of prophecies and the rather snide remarks about demons and their love of Latin.

‘Of all the awful things demons do, keeping Latin alive when it deserves to be a dead language might be the worst.’

That right there is a quote that wouldn’t feel out of place being spoken by one of members of the ‘Scooby Gang’ and similar comments with that same Buffy feel followed throughout. There were also ties to the show and mentions of past events to further help paint the picture of the universe that this novel is set within. Reading this novel it seemed fairly obvious to me that the author must have loved the show greatly and I’m glad that she was chosen to write it. I honestly can’t believe how spot on the tone of some of the dialogue was.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people seemed to have an issue with Artemis’s hatred of Buffy, but considering what her family had been through I found it perfectly understandable. She lost her father, and the organisation that she grew up in, to Buffy in some ways so her feelings seemed spot on to me. What I did find, towards the end, was that her feelings switched to the positive a little too quickly. I understand how being a Slayer herself would change things but it just seemed too instantaneous for me. Although, that being said, the scene where that happened was incredibly touching for me and quite splendidly written. I just loved the heart to heart that she had with Buffy and can’t believe how wonderfully the author managed to capture such an iconic character’s personality. That scene with Buffy really made me melt inside; I just wish that there had been a bit more of a build up of her feelings softening towards her before then.

I loved reading the points of view of the Hunter that were dotted throughout the novel and can quite honestly say that I didn’t see the reveal of who she was coming. These, again, I thought were splendidly written and I was always eager to see what the next scene from their point of view would bring.

There were several characters that I quite liked although a few others that I wasn’t really a fan of. One of the things that I loved was that Artemis was a Slayer who wanted to heal things, not hurt them; I really felt that it bought a different perspective to things. I found her friend Cillian quite interesting too, as well as several of her other companions. Her relationship with her mother and sister were also both interesting to learn about. I did feel that Athena turned against her a bit too quickly at times however.

As I said earlier there was something missing for me in this novel however, although I really am struggling to put my finger on exactly what it was. I think part of it was that at times I thought there was a little bit too much conversation happening between Artemis and the demons that she encountered during this novel. Yes I liked that she wanted to heal others, not harm them in general but I felt that some of the demons that she encountered surely wouldn’t have just happily discussed things with her; more of them would have tried to fight. I know that in Buffy she was always making witty remarks with demons but that was usually whilst she was kicking their arse. I also feel like maybe the overall tone of the novel was a little too light and younger than I was expecting. Although it caught the feel of Buffy really well, particularly the humour, I felt that it needed a bit more grit.

Overall if it was any other novel I’d probably have given it three stars, not four, as something just didn’t click for me. If it was a little darker and more grown up then maybe it would have been perfect – as I think that’s what felt off to me – but as it stood I found the story fairly interesting but the overall effect somewhat average. Slayer got an extra star for how superbly it captured most of the Buffy feel however, as well as for the Hunter scenes which were a pleasure to read and the beautiful heart to heart with Buffy. I’m still looking forward to reading the next novel, I just really hope it clicks better for me as I love Buffy and some of Kiersten White’s other work so much.

Check Slayer out on Goodreads here.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (or in this case also BTVS) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.

Reviews

Book Review: Spellbook Of The Lost And Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hair clips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger; something she won’t talk about.

Then Olive meets three wild, mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel and Rowan. Like Rose, they’re mourning losses – and holding tight to secrets.

When they discover the ancient spellbook, full of hand-inked charms to conjure back lost things, they realise it might be their chance to set everything right. Unless it’s leading them towards secrets that were never meant to be found . . 

‘That night, everybody lost something.
                Not everybody noticed.’


When I first picked up ‘The Spellbook Of The Lost And Found’, I was drawn into the story pretty much immediately; the writing was beautiful and the mood so perfectly set within it’s opening that I was deeply intrigued and longed to learn more. Throughout I continued to want to learn exactly what was happening but, at the same time, I increasingly found myself thinking that things were getting much, much too strange and ultimately went from loving the book to finding it fairly average, which frustrated me.

The writing of this novel stayed beautiful and somewhat haunting throughout. It painted things so lyrically and for the most part I loved the author’s actual writing. The diary extracts that were dotted throughout were fascinating to read, as were all of the points of view. The one fault I had with it was that at times I thought certain metaphors were pushed just a bit too far although other than that the writing was divine.

Although I enjoyed reading everyone’s point of view I didn’t feel particularly connected to any of the characters within this novel. Some of them intrigued me – especially the mysterious Jude – and I did feel sorry for others at times but I didn’t find myself caring for them as deeply as I often do when reading a book. I think the instant fascination with the unusual trio living in the woods felt a little strange to me, which didn’t particularly help.

I honestly thought I’d really enjoy a story where things are mysteriously being lost and found; I knew to expect strange events that defied logic and usually love magical stories. Instead of feeling magical this story just felt increasingly bizarre to me though. There were quite a few scenes that I read and came away from thinking ‘well that was odd’ rather than being hooked and intrigued as I’d have expected. There was just something very strange feeling to the entire story for me, which I find really frustrating as I honestly thought I’d find it wonderful. There seemed to be a lot of elements within this book for a fascinating story – especially with the mysterious and hypnotic Jude and the girls who were enthralled by him – but for me something just didn’t click. Although it needs to be said that there were also a few heart wrenching scenes involved which are worthy of note.

Altogether I started out by loving ‘The Spellbook Of The Lost And Found’ but quickly found myself losing interest as I instead increasingly found myself remarking upon the weirdness of certain scenes. I didn’t end up getting particularly fed up of it but I gradually lost my desire to find out what was going on so I ultimately found it to be a fairly average book despite the wonderful writing. I’m still looking forward to checking out The Accident Season sometime; I’m just not in quite as great a rush to do so.

Check Spellbook Of The Lost And Found out on Goodreads here.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail or share their opinions of it then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.