book reviews, spoiler free

A Good Girls Guide To Murder…

cover145858-medium.pngA Good Girls Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson

Rating; XXXXX

Published: May 2nd 2019 by Electric Monkey

“This project is no longer the hopeful conjecture is started life as…An innocent life was taken and everyone in this town turned it ugly in their mouths…”

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. Almost everyone. Having grown up in the small town that was consumed by the crime, Pippa Fitz-Amobi chooses the case as the topic for her final project. But when Pip starts uncovering secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden, what starts out as a project begins to become Pip’s dangerous reality . . .

I want to start by saying thank you. Thank you to Electronic Monkey who gave me the opportunity to win an advanced copy of this book at YALC (which I won on the last day), even if you monsters did tear out the last few chapters from the ARCs (I actually thought this was a fun and clever way to get more people talking about this debut book as well as being able to tell just how many people read the arcs). Thank you to Charlotte and Hannah for telling me all about this book and introducing me to Holly! Thank you to Holly Jackson for many things! For taking the time to talk to me and my friends at YALC, for meticulously signing my book etc and for writing said absolute rollercoaster ride of a book.

A Good Girls Guide to Murder is set up fantastically as part narrative, part school report where main character Pippa talks to us directly about her findings and theories giving the reader a real sense of closeness and inclusion into what’s happening and where Pips train of thought is going. Not only is the format well chosen but the writing style chosen to accompany it feels spot on, it drips with mystery and unanswered questions. Holly is very good at feeding us just the right amount of information so that it feels like we a good level of understanding without being bogged down with too many uninteresting info dumps. Of course, then she artfully pulls the floor out from under you leaving you to wonder which way is up and question everything you think you know while you piece together every single scrap of evidence you can get your hands on.

As Pip investigates the narrative is pleasingly organic, nothing feels especially twee or too much of a coincidence, I love that Pippa is resourceful, determined, loves to study and sticks up for what she believes in. I also realised while waiting for the last few chapters to arrive (as mentioned previously, they had been ripped out and a ransom note of sorts left with a contact email for the publisher to receive access to the last few chapters), that none of the things Pip does are particularly out of the realms of possibility for an ordinary teenager which I really liked.

One of my favourite things about this twisty book is that everyone feels untrustworthy at one point or another as things change and different pieces of information and evidence come to light, I think throughout this book I’ve suspected almost everyone at least once. A Good Girls Guide to Murder as a brilliantly realised, deliciously tense tale of whodunnit wrapped in danger and betrayal.

 

 

book reviews, spoiler free, Uncategorized

The Devouring Gray

Devouring Gray.pngThe Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

Rating: XXXXX

“Being invisible when you used to be seen…it’s like being dead, but no one mourns you.” 

Branches and stones, daggers and bones,
They locked the Beast away.

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.

Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.

Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.

The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.

After hearing about this book going around Twitter I became quickly intrigued by the creepy aesthetic and almost political intrigue based in a small town where four founding families are primarily in power, respected and revered. A lot of people referred to it as a mix of Riverdale and Stranger things, of which I have seen neither but had heard good things about. I was gifted this book by Titan in exchange for an honest review and I was so excited when it arrived, the UK paperback as a chilling cover design alongside hot pink sprayed edge pages! Not to mention as an extra spooky treat there were four tarot cards including at important parts to do with each card already placed inside the book which I kept in place and collected as I read through to give the book an extra dimension.

The Devouring Gray is aptly named because I absolutely devoured this book. I was slowed down a little by the fact I didn’t read it much at night because it was mega spooky in places but I found any spare time I could to read it during the day. There were just so many great aspects to this book I had trouble putting it down.

One thing I got excited about early on is all the fantastic rep in this book. There were not one but two bisexual characters who both mention attractions to same and different genders with one such character not having even experienced an actual relationship with anyone before and all of this is an absolute breath of fresh air in my queer lungs because both happen so rarely in books, let alone together and it is a GIFT. Speaking of gifts, arguably my favourite character, Harper Carlisle is also representing with some disability rep by being amazing with a sword and still managing to kick butt all while being her awesome self and missing one arm from the elbow down. I could honestly talk about her forever.

I don’t say this a lot but, I LOVED all of the romance spread throughout the book too. It’s not super obvious and although it’s threaded through the plot in places it doesn’t take it over and I find all the different dynamics interesting enough that I’m always interested in more and I enjoy the little moments we get here and there whereas often in a lot of books I can’t wait for said moments to end. I’m fully invested enough now that I would read a sequel to find out what happens with who for that alone at this point (although I am looking forward to the second book for other reasons as well of course).

The plot is twisty and I found myself constantly second-guessing myself and being unsure who to trust and/or believe thanks to four different POV’s not all of which are clued up on events or what I could call, particularly reliable narrators and that all just adds a whole other twisty angle to it that really got me turning pages like my life depended on it. The Devouring Gray is a familiar kind of story but author Christine makes it her own. This will be a book I don’t think I’ll be shutting up about for a while and now desperately await its sequel!

 

 

 

 

spoiler free, tbr thursday

April TBR

After March taking forever I’m somehow still in denial we’re now into April, it’s crazy. This was meant to go up yesterday on the first Thursday of the month like usual but it didn’t occur to me what day it was until it was over half gone so although a TBR Friday doesn’t have quite the same ring to it you get the idea!

Some people on Twitter etc have dubbed this month ARC April and although I’m not officially taking part in anything for that I am using April to try and get through my ever growing backlog or ARCs and early finished copies to help give me a nice clean slate, clear some physical shelf space and hopefully improve my currently terrible NetGalley rating! So these are the books I’m planning to read!

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
This is my current read and feels very Vikings meets Game of Thrones so far, I’m enjoying it but it does feel a little predictable at this point, not quite done yet though so we shall see. Gifted to me by Titan books in exchange for an honest review.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
It may look gorgeous with it’s pink sprayed edges but this book sounds seriously spooky and I’m kind of looking forward to it freaking me out a little.  Gifted to me by Titan books in exchange for an honest review.

No Way by SJ Morden
I read and reviewed One Way last year and the ending was left wide open but I had no idea until about two weeks before publication last month when my review schedule was already full to the brim so I’m so glad to finally be able to get around to it at last. Gifted to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton
Much like the situation with No Way, I read the first book The Belles last year and was swamped during its publication date this year. Although I’ve been a little reserved about reviewing the second one I definitely want to get it read and see how the sequel pans out. Gifted to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.

Empress of all Seasons by Emiko Jean
One of the problems of being a mood reader is when you get books like this one that sound totally up your street, look gorgeous etc but when you get them you just can’t get yourself into the right frame of mind to read them and that can really ruin the experience so I’m hoping that now the time is finally right. Gifted to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds
A bit of an older book but with the sequel, Shadow Captain having recently been released I was sent a finished copy of this first book in the series to try out as it sounds like a great fit for me and would love to get in the sci-fi mood ready for Aurora Rising in early May. Gifted to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been a bit behind with my reading of late so I’m really hoping April is a good reading month! What are you reading right now and how are you enjoying it?

book reviews, spoiler free

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine

38486256Firefly: The Magnificent Nine

Rating: XXXX

Published: March 19th by Titan Books

“This was without a doubt the dumbest, insanest, reckless-est plan he had come up with, in a life marked by no lack of such plans.”

An old flame of Jayne Cobb’s, Temperance McCloud, sends a message to Serenity, begging him for help. She lives on the arid, far-flung world of Tethys, and bandits are trying to overrun her town to gain control of their water supply: the only thing standing between its people and dustbowl ruin. Jayne tries to persuade the Serenity crew to join the fight, but it is only when he offers Vera, his favourite gun, as collateral that Mal realises he’s serious.

When the Serenity crew land at a hardscrabble desert outpost called Coogan’s Bluff, they discover two things: an outlaw gang with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that Temperance is singlehandedly raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne broke up. A daughter by the name of Jane McCloud…

I was gifted an early finished copy from the lovely team at Titan books in exchange for an honest review, as a big Firefly fan, I absolutely jumped at the chance. This is the second tie in novel to the Firefly franchise but acts easily as a stand-alone.

For those who haven’t heard of Firefly before, (and it’s scary how many people that probably includes nowadays as it was originally broadcast back in 2002, seventeen years ago which feels crazy.) It was a TV show set in 2517 after humans have branched out into a new star system and follows a group of renegades, some of whom fought for the losing side in a system-wide civil war, turned crewmates aboard a Firefly class ship called Serenity. It was originally pitched as “nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.” In Whedon’s vision, “nothing will change in the future: technology will advance, but we will still have the same political, moral, and ethical problems as today.” Although the creator Joss Wheadon had planned for it to run for seven years, it barely lasted one season due to poor ratings but still lived on in the hearts and minds of it’s fans (or Browncoats as they are often referred to) for years to come, going so far as to petition for a continuation of the series which sadly failed. DVD sales of the singular season, however, were strong and the show even won a Primetime Emmy award. Thanks to its late success Wheadon and Universal pictures produced a feature-length film “Serenity” in 2005 to continue the series and it has since continued on via various comic series. The events that occur in this book, “The Magnificent Nine” take place between the end of the TV show and the film.

Whoever works on designing the looks of the books at Titan is amazing, this is another gorgeous book. The fantastic artwork on the front of the dust jacket is textured with the series title “Firefly” and the silhouette of the ship itself in a smooth foiling. The back of the dust jacket is simple but perfect with some Chinese kanji and a beautiful description of the ship Serenity, including the quote “She was the very picture of Serenity. From the outside at least.” The actual book itself is a perfectly matched Brown (a great nod to the Browncoats perhaps?) and an addition that is fast becoming my favourite thing to be included in hardbacks, a built-in ribbon bookmark.

The first thing that really pulled me into The Magnificent nine was the use of language. The original show has such a distinctive language style in many ways that are all brought over brilliantly into the written word with this book, from the phrasing in general, words that are unique to the Firefly ‘verse and the inclusion of the sprinkled Chinese phrases just like in the show. This made it easy to fall back into the already established fictional universe of the Firefly franchise and gave a sense of returning home as soon as I read the first few pages.

I really felt that James has also captured the individual rhythms and voices of the characters in a way that not only pays homage to the way they’re portrayed by the actors on the show but also gives us a unique insight into the inner workings of each character. Jayne, in particular, shone in this book, as a character who can often be misconstrued as selfish, unintelligent and trigger happy we really got a good look inside his head and although he can be a little of all three of those things it was refreshing to see another side of him swallowing his pride, protecting others and acknowledging that at times he can rush into things but when things are important he takes the time to think his actions through, even if they are often still part of a terrible idea, that’s just Jayne and we love him for it.

 

The plot moves at a good pace with a few little lulls here and there but it reads like a two-part episode. The fast-paced action scenes are easy to follow and visualise without being too repetitive, James seems to have a gift for making each altercation feel fresh. There are some great twists and turns throughout and although by the time most of them happened I had them figured out so they weren’t a huge surprise, they were interesting and well thought out with some great foreshadowing, again this is in line with a lot of the episodic storylines from the show. Even with some of the reveals feeling obvious however there are some surprising moments and there are plenty of tension-filled scenes where you’re not quite sure what could happen next. I loved the introduction of new supporting characters and especially River’s interactions with Jane. I’ve always found River to be a remarkably interesting character and this book is no exception, seeing her interact with a girl reasonably close to her age was heartwarming and fun. Not to mention Jane is a firecracker of a character and brilliant in her own right.

James Lovegrove has done an amazing job bringing the Firefly universe to the page with “The Magnificent Nine,” the characters leap off the page and the story pulls you in like a Jen mei nai-shing duh fwo-tzoo (extraordinarily impatient buddha). Keep your eyes peeled for a Q&A with the man himself coming soon!

A third tie in novel by the name of Generations is due in October this year and will be penned by Tim Lebbon.

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Quiet at the End of the World

32716442The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

Rating: XXXXX

Published: March 7th by Walker books

“We live in the quiet at the end of the world. The slow winding-down clockwork motions before life stops completely. Time is slipping through our fingers.

How far would you go to save those you love?
Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking for artefacts from history and looking for treasure in their once-opulent mansion.

Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence. Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide who to save and who to sacrifice . . .

I’ve been SO excited about this book! Since Lauren revealed her next book would be about the two youngest people left alive on earth I was already intrigued and then as we got more and more information this easily became one of my most anticipated reads of this year. I was lucky enough to be gifted an early finished copy from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review and I genuinely screamed a little when I opened a package and found this gorgeous book inside. Reader, you will not be shocked I think, to hear that I was certainly not disappointed by any means and I will do my best to keep this review as coherent as possible, I promise.

The Quiet at the end of the World is a stand-alone story, so although I recommend Lauren’s other books (especially the Loneliest Girl in the Universe) you don’t need to have read them to enjoy this book and not connected to each other (at least in anyway that seems apparent at the moment) so don’t worry if this is your first Lauren James book!

The Quiet at the End of the World features a one-page prologue and if I had needed any more persuasion to read this book this would have absolutely tipped me over the edge. It’s simple yet super effective and quintessentially a style I have become to identify as Laurens. The rest of the book itself is paced exceedingly well, moments that might have otherwise been a little quiet and slower paced, like the beginning are sprinkled with great pieces of information to help you create this eerie, mostly abandoned and degraded vision of London that main characters Lowrie and Shen inhabit as what their day to day life consists of and what it means for them and the people around them. The book only continues to up the pace as the story unfolds and let me tell you it is a wild ride!! The plot is so cleverly put together, filled with breadcrumbs and questions and more mysteries but in true Lauren James fashion, even when I thought I knew where everything was going she STILL managed to pull a fast one on me and knock me for six. Unfortunately for me, this happened at one in the morning when I had decided to just read one more chapter, I nearly gave my poor husband a heart attack and didn’t sleep until the sun was already starting to peek through the bedroom curtains.

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Somehow it just manages to get even better from there and although there are some slower moments here and there for you to catch your breath they are, again filled with brilliant and useful information in the form of social media posts from Maya and Riz who I would also consider main characters in this book and to me, every bit as important as Lowrie and Shen. Not going to lie, I’m dreading the thought of anyone ever going back to look at my social media posts, heck I wrote them and even I hate going back over them sometimes!

The characters in Quiet felt so memorable and real, like most of the other information in this book it felt organic as we learnt so much about everyone. Although Lowrie and Shen are probably considered the main characters, as above I would argue that Maya and Riz are equally important and I felt that I knew them almost as well as Lowrie and Shen to some degree. There’s also Mitch the bot who is honestly the loveliest, sweetest thing and I love him to pieces despite his seemingly limited mode of communication which I think is Quiet possibly one of my favourite things in the book, it was done so well and although Mitch cannot communicate with words, Lauren has done a brilliant job at having his personality shine through regardless. There is, as expected a little romance in this book and it didn’t overly bother me as it felt so natural, I enjoyed the relationships that were present with or without the romantic element and although one or two times I did feel that I definitely read those bits faster on occasion to get back to the “main story” I still enjoyed them. Lauren has a gift for creating great connections and wholesome, healthy relationships that I will never get sick of.

This book made me cry, it made me laugh and it made me yell uncontrollably at 1am and I would absolutely do it all over again. I would say I wish it was longer as I read it in under forty-eight hours but I think it was honestly a perfect length, I will definitely have to read it again at least a few times and I cannot wait to do so. Lauren James is both an evil genius and a wizard with the spell she weaves with her newest book, it’s essentially a dystopia but it’s so full of warmth, love and light, a book that sounds like it should make you feel hopeless and impossibly small instead inspires hope and a greater sense of worth and your place in the world and the legacy of the human race. The Quiet at the End of the World is classed as a Young Adult book but I think it could appeal to any age group who feels comfortable with the subject, there is a lot of reflection and contemplation that can be done about the human race and its future as well as what exactly makes us human which I think could lead to some great discussions and certainly makes one reflect on themselves and future generations. The Quiet at the End of the World is out Thursday March 7th and defintley well worth checking out!

Stay tuned for all things Quiet at the end of the World this week, already lined up I have a special Q&A with author Lauren James, coverage of the Quiz at the end of the world event and a book talk video. I’m so excited I’ve even whipped up a mood board below for the occasion.

Are you excited to read The Quiet at the End of the World? Have you checked out any of Lauren’s other books? What would you do if you were one of the yongest people left alive on earth?

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