Thursday, 10 June 2021

Review of 'One of Us is Next' by Karen M. McManus


Grey background with black writing that reads: "I don’t understand why the world insists on stuffing kids into boxes we never asked for, and then gets mad when we won’t stay there" - 'One of Us is Next' by Karen M. McManus

Karen McManus is fast becoming one of my favourite YA authors. I've now read all of her books she's got out so far and cannot wait to sink my teeth into the next few. This however is probably my least favourite I've read. It was partly because it's been such a long time since I read One of Us is Lying that I kept losing sense of the links between the characters, and partly just because it didn't grip me as much as her other more recent books.

One of Us is Next takes place at Bayview High, a school that's still reeling after the death of a student and a gossip site that ruined a lot of lives. After the site was taken down, a few copycats had emerged and none of them had very good gossip, which is what everyone thought was happening when group texts start going out, starting an elaborate game of truth or dare. When the first person challenged refused to interact with the texter, and has her biggest secret spilled to the entire school, everyone starts to take this much more seriously.

This was a good read - I enjoyed it and I did get gripped into wanting to know who was behind everything. I found the plot did get interesting, but it was a bit of a tricky read to get into if you haven't read the first book recently. I was also a bit disappointed in the ending: it felt a bit meh and I wasn't convinced by who did it and why. I'm still glad I read it - it was a good YA mystery, but just not as good as the others I've read by the author.

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Sunday, 30 May 2021

Review of 'An Unwanted Guest' by Shari Lapena


Grey background with black writing that reads: "One may smile and smile and be a villain" - 'An Unwanted Guest' by Shari Lapena

Shari Lapena is fast becoming my favourite thriller writer. She's never written anything I haven't enjoyed and been gripped by, so much so that I put off reading this just in case I didn't enjoy it as much as the others I've read. I shouldn't have been worried - this one was great too. 

An Unwanted Guest takes place in an out of the way B&B that becomes isolated due to a snow storm. The phone lines are down and the roads are closed, so there's no way in or out. This takes a turn for the sinister when the guests wake up to find one of them dead at the bottom of the stairs. When a second guest is found murdered, the rest of them start to get scared about who might be picking them off, and why. 

This book was gripping from the start. I found the multi character perspective a little difficult at the start, but as the book went on this was great for showing us different things that were happening in different parts of the hotel, adding to the tension. The characters were interesting and didn't feel 2D, like they often can in a book with so many perspectives, particularly a thriller. I didn't guess the killer, but they weren't unrealistic, which was great. 

I gave this 5 stars and would recommend if you're a thriller fan, especially of authors like Liane Moriarty.

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Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Review of 'The Manifesto on how to be Interesting' by Holly Bourne


Grey background with black writing that reads: "Being interesting isn't important. But being happy is. As well as being a person you're proud of" - 'The Manifesto on How to be Interesting' by Holly Bourne

Sometimes YA fiction borders a little too much into teen fiction, and whilst this book came with a warning that it wasn't for younger readers because of some of the topics included, it really felt like more of a teen read. I definitely started off really not enjoying the book, but as it went on I warmed to the style of writing, plot and main character a lot more. 

Bree desperately wants to be an author, but after her second novel is rejected by every publisher out there, she decides that she needs to become interesting to write something with more of a kick. So Bree sets out to do just that. She gets a makeover, buys a whole new wardrobe and sets out on a mission to become popular, seek her revenge on the popular kids at school, lose her virginity and blog everything along the way. However, things don't quite go to plan and Bree's forced to reckon with the consequences of who she's become.

I thought the book did a great job at discussing self harm. It was sensitive, realistic and showed how important it is to seek help before things get out of control. I also think it ultimately did a good job at exploring a student-teacher relationship. At the start I felt a bit like 'here we go again with the romanticisation of this', but I think Bourne did a really great job at showing how swept up Bree was in the relationship and how romantic she thought it was, before showing the realities behind it and knocking down this image.

I just struggled to like the main character, which meant I struggled to like the book. Though I do realise that she was a realistic portrayal of a teen who makes a few mistakes, and I think it's important to include these kinds of characters in YA fiction. I struggled to get on with the writing style, but it was a good book.

I would recommend this if you're a fan of Sara Barnard's books, or YA fiction that's not centred around relationships.

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Saturday, 15 May 2021

Review of 'Get a Life, Chloe Brown' by Talia Hibbert


Review of 'Get a Life, Chloe Brown' by Talia Hibbert

It's been a while since I've read a straight up romance book, and this has made me want to read more. It was a bit smuttier than I was expecting just because the name and cover didn't hint at it, so if that's not your thing then I'd maybe give this one a miss. 

Get a Life, Chloe Brown is all about a woman who wants to turn her life around. She moves out of her family home, determined to live independently in her new flat, and is even more determined to avoid the help of Red, the maintenance man. After ending up in a sticky situation involving a cat-tree-rescue, Chloe's forced to get Red's help and realises that he might be able to help her out with her bucket list.

This is the first romance (or even just general book?) that I've read where the main character love interest has a disability. Chloe has fibromyalgia, and the ways it affects her life are hinted at, or even explicitly discussed throughout the book. Chloe's also a fat Black woman, and occupies this sexy love interest space at the heart of the novel that I think is so important. The love story is gripping and realistic and Chloe was a character I just really liked. I enjoyed the relationship between Chloe and her sisters, which added something needed to the novel to make it less 100% relationship focused. The one thing I struggled with in the book were the sex scenes. I felt like they were written very bluntly, and with little description to help set the scene, which isn't my fave, but is definitely a personal preference issue.

I gave this four stars and would recommend it if you're looking for a romance that's a little steamy.

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Saturday, 8 May 2021

Review of 'A Gathering Light' by Jennifer Donnelly


Review of 'A Gathering Light' by Jennifer Donnelly

I'm a sucker for a good cover, and the edition I have of this has one has allowed me to ignore this book on my shelves for far too long. I wasn't convinced of how much I would like it, but it totally surpassed my expectations. The book's got that rural American drawly writing style, with a lot of drama to boot.

A Gathering Light's main character is Mattie Gokey, a 16-year-old girl living on a farm with her family whose been forced into the role of matriarch after her mother died. There are her siblings to look after and endless farm work to do, but what Mattie really wants to do is go to school so that she can get the grades she needs to get into college. Interspersed with the chapters about her life at home are ones from the future where she's working at a hotel and trying to work out what happened to the girl who was murdered on hotel land. 

I liked the slow style of this book. Mattie and her family are connected to the land and their rural community in such strong ways that it felt important that the pace of writing matched their pace of life. This isn't to say the book wasn't without tension: between the murder case, working out whether Mattie would be able to pursue her dreams, violence and sexual assault, there was a LOT going on. The book really looked at the idea of family duty vs the privilege of being able to go after what you really want, and this was so well done.

I gave the book 4 stars and would recommend it if you enjoyed things like Where the Crawdads Sing and The Color Purple. 

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Monday, 3 May 2021

Review of 'Into the Water' by Paula Hawkins


grey background with black writing that reads: "She used to think that only parents can understand the sort of love that swallows you up, but now she wondered whether it was only mothers who did" - 'Into the Water' by Paula Hawkins

After really enjoying The Girl on the Train, I was so excited for Paula Hawkins to release a new book. But after hearing a host of negative reviews I put off reading it for years. I'm quite glad I did because it really didn't live up to my expectations as a thriller.

Into the Water is set in a small town in Oxfordshire that has a large body of water that several women have drowned in. Most recently Nel was found there, and when detectives seek to find out what happened, it's ruled as a suicide, but her sister can't quite believe it. There's a whole lot of suspicions and mysteries in the small town that all seem to lead to one place: the drowning pool.

The main thing I struggled with in this book is that Nel's death was obviously not a suicide because the book's a thriller. The author tried to keep the suspense up about that for most of the book, which made the book a bit slow and dry for that part of the plot. I enjoyed the book to some extent - there were parts that did keep me interested, but it was definitely a 3 star read.

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Saturday, 1 May 2021

Review of 'Ten Days' by Gillian Slovo


Review of 'Ten Days' by Gillian Slovo

It's weird reading a book all about riots in the UK whilst there are so many going on. I'm usually not a fan of books set over a short time period, but this one worked pretty well I think. 

Inspired by the 2011 riots in London, this book follows a ten day trajectory of riots after a vulnerable man is killed by police whilst trying to restrain him. The book follows the reactions of several key people involved in this: the Prime Minister, Home Secretary, Met police commissioner and a woman at the heart of the riots. It's an interesting insight into the politics and decision making behind how to react to riots from both sides.

I found parts of this book really gripping, especially when things started heating up towards the end to find someone who went missing during the riots. However, I struggled to find some of the characters distinctive from one another at the start, especially the police commissioner and the Home Secretary. The first few 'days' of the book dragged quite a lot for me, and whilst I enjoyed the tension later on, it sort of fizzled away to nothing.

I gave this three stars because it was totally different to anything I've read before, yet failed to grip me at the start.

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