Book Review

  • Book Review

    Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin | Book Review

    Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin
    Release Date: 22nd February 2022
    Genre: Adult, Dystopia
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Beth and Fran spend their days traveling the ravaged New England coast, hunting feral men and harvesting their organs in a gruesome effort to ensure they’ll never face the same fate.

    Robbie lives by his gun and one hard-learned motto: other people aren’t safe.

    After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics―all while outrunning packs of feral men, and their own demons.

    Look at that cover! It’s the whole reason I picked this book up because it’s just excellent. Unfortunately, the book itself was not. In fact, it was pretty awful. And I’m really sad about it.

    I was really into this book at the start because I was so intrigued by the premise. I think the idea itself was a good one and had a lot of potential, but ultimately I felt like the plotting throughout was very basic and jumpy. I don’t feel like the book flowed very well at all.

    I also found the characters’ dialogue to be very disjointed, which leads me to believe these issues are just down to the author’s writing style being blunt and to the point rather than them being inexperienced as a writer. It just wasn’t the writing style for me.

    This book is super gory, which I didn’t really have a problem with since I was expecting it (again, see the cover!) but I just didn’t like the way it was written.

  • Book Review

    Lights by Brenna Thummler | Book Review

    Lights by Brenna Thummler
    Release Date: 5th September 2023
    Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★★

    Marjorie Glatt’s life was forever changed the day she discovered a group of ghosts hiding in her family’s laundromat. One of those ghosts was Wendell: a lonely phantom turned Marjorie’s best friend. When he and Marjorie are joined by ghost-enthusiast Eliza Duncan, the three friends band together in friendship, bravery, and all things paranormal.

    Wendell died far too young and now must wander the Land of Humans with nothing more than a sheet for a body. He knows how he died—a tragic drowning accident—but lately he’s grown curious about his past life. He wants to know more about why he died, not just how he died. It’s not easy, though, since Wendell’s memory of his human life has grown increasingly blurry. With Marjorie and Eliza’s help, they set out on a journey to find out more. When they hear a rumor about Wendell’s death, they wonder if it might not have been an accident after all. Meanwhile, Marjorie and Eliza’s friendship is tested when Marjorie starts to befriend the very people who used to bully Eliza.

    In the third and final installment of the Sheets trilogy, Wendell will finally uncover the truth of his human life. Marjorie and Eliza will learn that some people really can change. Most of all, they start to see that everything can cast shadows, but if you look hard enough, you can find the light.

    Prior to this year, I had seen the Sheets graphic novels around but I was never really interested in picking them up until a few close friends recommended the first book to me. I was taking part in a reading challenge in February and I needed some graphic novels, so I decided to give these a try, and I absolutely fell in love with Marjorie and Wendell. So much so that I’ve now finished the trilogy in just a couple of months!

    Lights is the perfect ending to this slow and dreamlike trilogy. I’m very pleased that we got to learn about what happened to Wendell, as I feel both he and the readers needed closure to move on.

    The ending to this trilogy is heartfelt and lovely. I even teared up a bit at the end because I had become so invested in the relationships between all these characters.

    I’m very pleased with how everything wrapped up with these characters, and I’m pleased that I discovered this heartwarming story about friendship, loyalty, and love.

  • Book Review

    The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston | Book Review

    I really enjoyed the concept of The Seven Year Slip. I haven’t read Poston’s adult romance debut, but from what I can tell everyone is loving her switch to this genre. I’m definitely keen to pick up The Dead Romantics after reading this one, because I found myself really enjoying Poston’s little twist that she put on the genre.

    I really enjoyed reading about Clementine as she interacted with Iwan, a man who was literally existing in the past. Seeing Clementine deal with her struggles and learn to open herself up again after losing her aunt and her best friend.

    I wasn’t expecting this book to deal so much with grief, but that was one of the major topics. I was very impressed with how Poston handled it, and I even shed some tears towards the end because it was just so lovely.

    I also found myself relating to Clementine in terms of her attitude towards her work and career, so it has given me a lot to thing about in that regard too.

    Overall, I’m really pleased to have read The Seven Year Slip and I’m going to have to go and get my hands on The Dead Romantics now!

  • Book Review

    Will They or Won’t They by Ava Wilder | Book Review

    Will They or Won’t They by Ava Wilder
    Release Date: 27th June 2023
    Genre: Adult, Romance
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★★

    Lilah Hunter and Shane McCarthy are madly in love— at least, their characters are. As the stars of the hit paranormal TV show Intangible, they spent years pining for each other on-screen… until Lilah ditched the show at the end of season five in hopes of becoming a film star. With no such luck, she’s back to film the much-hyped ninth and final season, in which their characters will get together at last.

    But coming back means facing one of the biggest reasons she left: Shane. Ever since their secret behind-the-scenes fling imploded at the end of the first season, the two of them have despised each other.

    Now back on set together for the first time in years, with the world’s eyes on them and their post-show careers on the line, they’ll have to grit their teeth and play nice. But under pressure to give Intangible’s fans the happy ending they’ve been waiting for, Lilah and Shane are forced to get closer than ever. And if they’re not careful, they just might get blindsided by one final twist: a real-life happy ending of their own.

    I hadn’t read anything by Ava Wilder before, but I had to pick Will They or Won’t They up when I read the description and realised it’s basically Nian fanfiction. I won’t be elaborating on that particular interest of mine any further, but if you know you know.

    I had such a blast with this though! The pacing of the romance was absolutely perfect for me. Shane and Lilah start off meeting in the prologue, and then by the time chapter one rolls around you’re alreayd rooting for them. Unfortunately, their relationship had already crashed and burned by then. I was so invested in the two of them getting back together immediately!

    Thankfully, none of it was rushed. I loved that the pair had to go to couple’s therapy despite not being a couple. Wilder touched upon how helpful therapy can be here in a subtle way. I really enjoyed being in both Lilah and Shane’s heads and figuring out what was going on with them.

    I always love stories about famous actors in Hollywood, so that combined with a little bit of fandom history (unofficially, because I don’t think anything has been confirmed or even mentioned) made this a complete hit for me. I’m going to have to pick up Wilder’s first book now!

  • Book Review

    Drowning by T. J. Newman | Book Review

    Drowning by T J Newman
    Release Date: 30th May 2023
    Genre: Adult, Thriller
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★★

    Flight attendant turned New York Times bestselling author T. J. Newman—whose first book Falling was an instant #1 national bestseller and the biggest thriller debut of 2021—returns for her second book, an edge-of-your-seat thriller about a commercial jetliner that crashes into the ocean, and sinks to the bottom with passengers trapped inside, and the extraordinary rescue operation to save them.

    Six minutes after takeoff, Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean. During the evacuation, an engine explodes and the plane is flooded. Those still alive are forced to close the doors—but it’s too late. The plane sinks to the bottom with twelve passengers trapped inside.

    More than two hundred feet below the surface, engineer Will Kent and his eleven-year-old daughter Shannon are waist-deep in water and fighting for their lives.

    Their only chance at survival is an elite rescue team on the surface led by professional diver Chris Kent—Shannon’s mother and Will’s soon-to-be ex-wife—who must work together with Will to find a way to save their daughter and rescue the passengers from the sealed airplane, which is now teetering on the edge of an undersea cliff.

    There’s not much time.

    There’s even less air.

    With devastating emotional power and heart-stopping suspense, Drowning is an unforgettable thriller about a family’s desperate fight to save themselves and the people trapped with them—against impossible odds.

    When I saw that T J Newman was releasing another thriller book based on a plane, I knew I had to pick it up. I read Falling by her last year and very much enjoyed the anxiety it gave me – I’m not the best with flights – so I wanted to have those same feelings again with this one. Because I don’t read synopses for thriller books to avoid being potentially spoiled, I didn’t actually know this was about a plane that sank to the bottom of the ocean. Guess what? I’M TERRIFIED OF OPEN WATER.

    I felt such tension throughout this entire book. From the very first page you know there’s no hope for the plane and that it’s going to crash into the water, and you know the rescue teams are going to struggle to reach the survivors. I was holding my breath the entire time as I tried to conserve air alongside the trapped passengers.

    I liked how Newman utilised various points of view in this one. If she had only focused on the one main character, I think it would have been a very, very short book because this character, Will, only had about five hours of air left before he suffocated. Newman also chose to focus on Will’s wife, Chris, as she tried to help in any way she could from the surface.

    There are some truly horrific moments in this book, which is exactly what I seek out in survival thrillers. A couple of these scenes in particular will stick with me for years to come. Did I mention I hate the ocean?

    Overall, I highly recommend Drowning by T. J. Newman to anyone looking for a heart-pumping thriller that will keep you up late into the night. I literally stayed awake until 4am reading this, partly because I couldn’t sleep during the UK heatwave but also because I was so concerned about the characters.

  • Book Review

    The Hike by Lucy Clarke | Book Review

    The Hike by Lucy Clarke
    Release Date: 27th April 2023
    Genre: Adult, Thriller
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★

    Maggie, Liz, Helena & Joni. Old friends bound by history, adventures, old secrets.

    And now, bound by murder.

    They lace up their hiking boots for the adventure of a lifetime in the Norwegian wilderness: a place of towering mountains, glass-like lakes, log cabins and forests stolen from a fairytale.

    It’s the perfect place to lose yourself – until a broken body is found at the bottom of a ravine.

    Somewhere out there, someone knows exactly why a woman has died. And in this deep, dark wilderness, there’s a killer on the trail…

    I’ve only ever read one book by Lucy Clarke – The Castaways – and I very much enjoyed it. Clarke seems to often write books set in places that I’m curious about, and The Hike was the same. I have been starting research holidays in Norway recently because I love the idea of hiking around the fjords, so I snapped up this book when I saw it was available for review!

    As always, Clarke writes about complicated relationships and friendships amongst a vivid setting. I really enjoyed reading about this group of friends as they commenced their completely unprepared hike through the mountains. There were lots of secrets involved, and I loved digging into them.

    Other than the setting, though, I don’t think much about The Hike really stood out. It was a fun thriller, but certainly very average and not an all time favourite of mine. It also included a twist that I really don’t enjoy reading about, so the ending was a little bit of a let down for me!

  • Book Review

    River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer | Book Review

    River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
    Release Date: 31st January 2023
    Genre: Adult, Historical
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★.5

    The master of the Providence plantation in Barbados gathers his slaves and announces the king has decreed an end to slavery. As of the following day, the Emancipation Act of 1834 will come into effect. The cries of joy fall silent when he announces that they are no longer his slaves; they are now his apprentices. No one can leave. They must work for him for another six years. Freedom is just another name for the life they have always lived. So Rachel runs.

    Away from Providence, she begins a desperate search to find her children–the five who survived birth and were sold. Are any of them still alive? Rachel has to know. The grueling, dangerous journey takes her from Barbados then, by river, deep into the forest of British Guiana and finally across the sea to Trinidad. She is driven on by the certainty that a mother cannot be truly free without knowing what has become of her children, even if the answer is more than she can bear. These are the stories of Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy. But above all this is the story of Rachel and the extraordinary lengths to which a mother will go to find her children…and her freedom.

    I love supporting debut authors and I love exploring different countries through books, so when River Sing Me Home popped up on my feed I knew I had to try it.

    River Sing Me Home is set in the Caribbean in the 1800’s, just after Britain put the Emancipation Act into law. Unfortunately, there were loopholes that the plantation owners took advantage of, and so it wasn’t necessarily the breakthrough that we thought.

    This book doesn’t really focus on what happened due to this Act going into effect, though, as the main character immediately runs away when she realises what it could mean. Rachel is determined to find her missing children, and she will travel around the Caribbean in order to do so.

    I really liked the concept of this book and the history that was written into it. It is clear that Shearer has done a tonne of research, and I enjoyed reading her author’s note which talks a bit more about what went into this.

    Unfortunately, where I think this book fell short was the pacing. Every time Rachel arrived in a new place, she found out what happened to one of her children. Really easily, and quickly, before she was on to the next one. We didn’t really get a chance to get into Rachel’s head and see what she was feeling each time.

    I feel like River Sing Me Home was lacking a bit of emotional connection to the main character and her thoughts and feelings. It was still an emotional book, but I feel like the author was trying to do too much with this book with not enough practice or pages. I think it could have been bulked out with an extra 50 or 100 pages to really dig in to what the author was trying to do.

    Overall though River Sing Me Home is a solid and heartbreaking debut. I really enjoyed reading it, and it was a good look into this particular point in history. I’m really looking forward to reading this author’s next book, and I hope she tackles more historical fiction as you can tell this is a subject that she really cares about!

  • Book Review

    All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham | Book Review

    All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham
    Release Date: 2nd February 2023
    Genre: Adult, Thriller
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★★

    One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

    Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

    Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.

    It took me forever to read Stacy Willingham’s debut novel, A Flicker in the Dark, but as soon as I got my hands on All the Dangerous Things I knew that I needed to eat it right up. Willingham has such a way of drawing you into a story and getting you to care about her characters – which I think is a rare gift for a lot of thriller books!

    The missing child storyline is what really drew me to this book, and then when I also saw this features a podcaster I wanted to know more. I’ve been really enjoying that trope lately, as someone who listens to a lot of podcasts!

    All the Dangerous Things drew me in immediately and the pacing kept up the entire way through. I really enjoyed the darker ending, which I only started to expect partway through. I love it when thrillers throw in a dark twist!

    This story proves that I get on really well with Willingham’s writing and I’m pleased that her sophomore book was just as good as her debut. I don’t think the characters are as memorable, but their actions certainly were. I’m really looking forward to seeing what she comes out with next!

  • Book Review

    The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai | Book Review

    The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai
    Release Date: 12th January 2023
    Genre: Adult, Fantasy
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★.5

    As a waterweaver, Nehal can move and shape any water to her will, but she’s limited by her lack of formal education. She desires nothing more than to attend the newly opened Weaving Academy, take complete control of her powers, and pursue a glorious future on the battlefield with the first all-female military regiment. But her family cannot afford to let her go–crushed under her father’s gambling debt, Nehal is forcibly married into a wealthy merchant family. Her new spouse, Nico, is indifferent and distant and in love with another woman, a bookseller named Giorgina.

    Giorgina has her own secret, however: she is an earthweaver with dangerously uncontrollable powers. She has no money and no prospects. Her only solace comes from her activities with the Daughters of Izdihar, a radical women’s rights group at the forefront of a movement with a simple goal: to attain recognition for women to have a say in their own lives. They live very different lives and come from very different means, yet Nehal and Giorgina have more in common than they think. The cause–and Nico–brings them into each other’s orbit, drawn in by the group’s enigmatic leader, Malak Mamdouh, and the urge to do what is right.

    But their problems may seem small in the broader context of their world, as tensions are rising with a neighboring nation that desires an end to weaving and weavers. As Nehal and Giorgina fight for their rights, the threat of war looms in the background, and the two women find themselves struggling to earn–and keep–a lasting freedom.

    The Daughters of Izdihar is a solid debut full of surprises. I really enjoyed my time with it, although I did have a few grievances to air later on in the review.

    Starting with the positives, I really enjoyed the elemental magic. True, it’s mostly ATLA magic, even down to the more niche weaving powers. I think it could have been more present in this book, as the politics were more up front and centre than the magic itself. I think this will change in the sequel due to the themes that the author was clearly working towards. I love elemental powers though, and I do try not to compare everything to ATLA but it really set the standard for me.

    I also really liked Giorgina’s storyline, starting off with her being in love with a rich man but coming from a poor family. I look forward to seeing more of Giorgina in the second book as she comes to terms with her powers and learns to weave them properly.

    I liked the focus on women’s suffrage as well, and I wasn’t expecting it to be such a huge part of the book. It overwhelmed the fantasy side of things a little, and I think it affecting the pacing a lot, but that wasn’t necessarily bad. It just wasn’t what I was expecting.

    Now, for the negatives. Nehal, the second main character, got on my nerves more and more as the book went on. Nehal grew up very rich and was thrown into a bad situation, and she acted like a complete brat the entire time. She had no subtlty, and I’m sure some readers will love that, but after the tenth time of her barging in and shouting at another character and demanding she got her own way, without thinking of the consequences of her actions on the other women involved, I had honestly had enough.

    I hope to see a lot of character growth for Nehal in the future. I’m sure the author was going for a “badass, take no shit” kind of character but due to her background Nehal moreso came off as a snobby brat who didn’t understand anything that was going on.

    I’m really looking forward to the sequel because I think a lot of the elements (ha) that I thought were missing from this one will have to surface. I can’t wait to see what happens to all the characters next!

  • Book Review

    Red Dirt Road by S R White | Book Review

    Red Dirt Road by S R White
    Release Date: 16th February 2023
    Genre: Adult, Crime
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★

    One outback town. Two puzzling murders. Fifty suspects.

    In Unamurra, a drought-scarred, one-pub town deep in the outback, two men are savagely murdered a month apart – their bodies elaborately arranged like angels.

    With no witnesses, no obvious motives and no apparent connections between the killings, how can lone police officer Detective Dana Russo – flown in from hundreds of kilometres away – possibly solve such a baffling, brutal case?

    Met with silence and suspicion from locals who live by their own set of rules, Dana must take over a stalled investigation with only a week to make progress.

    But with a murderer hiding in plain sight, and the parched days rapidly passing, Dana is determined to uncover the shocking secrets of this forgotten town – a place where anyone could be a killer.

    I have to admit, I picked up Red Dirt Road because I looove The Dry and other novels by Jane Harper and I’ve been craving a similar setting. I really enjoy thrillers set in the outback because I feel like the climate adds an extra element to the isolation of the characters and the murder or mystery that has taken place.

    Red Dirt Road was just okay. The mystery itself was intriguing to begin with, but I felt like it all felt very surface level and it was easy to predict what was going on.

    I didn’t feel a connection with the main character Dana at all. She seemed to have little personality, and at the end she went all Poirot and her explanation to the killer about how she figured it out went on for what felt like forever. Seriously, it was pages and pages of “I know how you did this and this is how I reached this conclusion and these are all the ways in which you messed up”. It became tedious and wasn’t really a “gotcha” vibe.

    I might have cared more about Dana if I had read the first two books in this series, but I doubt it. All I knew about her in this one was she was good at maths and she had a plastic kneecap, which never really came up again after the first quarter of the book.

    The setting was also a bit of a letdown because I felt like the author could have described it more and really made the reader feel as though they’re stuck in a drought in the desert. Nothing was really described other than the characters saying they were in a drought. It’s something that I felt was really lacking.

    All that said, Red Dirt Road isn’t a bad book, it was just very mediocre. It entertained me for a few hours but I won’t be reaching for this author’s other books because nothing really drew me in.