• Blog Tour,  Book Review

    Five Survive by Holly Jackson | Book Review

    Five Survive by Holly Jackson
    Release Date: 29th November 2022
    Genre: Young Adult Adult, Thriller
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★★
    Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

    Eight hours. Six friends. Five survive. A road trip turns deadly in this addictive YA thriller from the bestselling author of the worldwide phenomenon A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER.

    Red Kenny is on a road trip for spring break with five friends: Her best friend–the older brother–his perfect girlfriend–a secret crush–a classmate–and a killer.

    When their RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, they soon realize this is no accident. They have been trapped by someone out there in the dark, someone who clearly wants one of them dead.

    With eight hours until dawn, the six friends must escape, or figure out which of them is the target. But is there a liar among them? Buried secrets will be forced to light and tensions inside the RV will reach deadly levels. Not all of them will survive the night. . . .

    Content Warning: guns, death threats, mob violence, death, injury

    A plan must have two parts. You have to make sure either way pays out in your favour.

    Did you know that the Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series is one of my favourites ever? No? Why not? I talk about it constantly because I absolutely adore the world that Holly Jackson has created there. The original UK editions are set in my home county of Buckinghamshire and mention places that I’m intimately familiar with, which is probably why I’m so connected to the series. Five Survive is a little different in that the original version is (I think) set in the US. There were no rewrites for this one!

    Due to the setting, Five Survive has a bit of a different vibe to it than AGGGTM. At least, I think so. I’ve not read the US editions of AGGGTM so I can’t say how American readers will feel about the vibe in general. Something about it felt very strange in the beginning and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I was a little disappointed at first because I was expecting to want to devour this book from the start, but instead it took a good fifty pages to grab me.

    Once I was grabbed, however, I was grabbed. I read the entire rest of the book in just one sitting because it was so enthralling and it had me on the edge of my seat. I was racing to find out what was going to happen to Red, the main character, and her friends. I figured one of them would be a bit dodge and I had theories on who it could be, so I had a lot of fun trying to sus out the story and figure out what was happening and why.

    It was love; thorny and complicated and sad and happy. But it was a red feeling too.

    While I was disappointed by the change of setting, I can see why this book is only set in the US in both versions. There is absolutely no way in hell Jackson could have set this book in the UK and pulled it off. Can you imagine snipers shooting at a caravan in Buckinghamshire? I think not.

    Five Survive is certainly not my favourite book by Holly Jackson because there’s no way it could beat her original series. I was very attached to Pip and Red didn’t have the same charm. I was actually a bit confused by Red’s characterisation for most of the book and I do wonder what the edits did to her character. By the end, though, I was quite worried about what was going to happen to her.

    I really enjoyed my experience with Five Survive and I can’t wait to see what Holly Jackson comes out next. I will keep hoping she returns to writing books set in Buckinghamshire because I truly believe that’s what she does best, but this book and setting certainly had its place.

    I received this book from NetGalley as part of the TBR and Beyond blog tour! Check out the rest of the bloggers and Instagrammers on the schedule to read their thoughts.

    About Holly Jackson

    Holly Jackson was born in 1992. She grew up in Buckinghamshire and started writing stories from a young age, completing her first (poor) attempt at a book aged fifteen. ‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’ is a YA Mystery Thriller and her debut novel. She lives in London and aside from reading and writing, she enjoys binge-playing video games and pointing out grammatical errors in street signs.

    Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

  • Book Review

    The Retreat by Sarah Pearse | Book Review

    The Retreat by Sarah Pearse
    Detective Elin Warner #2
    Release Date: 19th July 2022
    Genre: Adult, Thriller
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★.5

    An eco-wellness retreat has opened on an island off the coast of Devon, promising rest and relaxation – but the island itself, known locally as Reaper’s Rock, has a dark past. Once the playground of a serial killer, it’s rumoured to be cursed.

    DS Elin Warner is called to the retreat when a young woman’s body is found on the rocks below the yoga pavilion, in what seems to be a tragic fall. But the victim wasn’t a guest – she wasn’t meant to be on the island at all.

    When a man drowns in a diving incident the following day, Elin starts to suspect that there’s nothing accidental about these deaths. But why would someone target the retreat – and who else is in danger?

    Elin must find the killer – before the island’s history starts to repeat itself . . .

    I read Sarah Pearse’s debut, The Sanatorium, and had a great time with it, mostly due to the snowy setting and the dark and unsettling atmosphere. While I don’t think The Retreat pulled this off as well, I still very much enjoyed the isolated island setting. I do wish the retreat itself had been fleshed out more before the deaths started happening, as the setting was once again very important to the plot.

    Speaking of the deaths, I found everything to be a little too coincidental. Or perhaps a little too convoluted. Not everything had to be connected in this way, and yet…

    The Retreat was certainly as fast paced as the first book and it had some thrilling moments. The reveals were a bit of a let down, as was one unrealistic scene in which a character goes swimming during a storm.

    Overall though I enjoyed The Retreat and I would pick up more from this author in the future. I particularly want to see where this main character goes!

  • Book Review

    Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid | Book Review

    Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
    Release Date: 30th August 2022
    Genre: Adult, Historical
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★★.5

    By the time Carrie retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Slam titles. And if you ask her, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father as her coach.

    But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning, British player named Nicki Chan.

    At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked the ‘Battle-Axe’ anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

    In spite of it all: Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells a story about the cost of greatness and a legendary athlete attempting a comeback.

    I hate sports in books. Hate it! But I also don’t like reading about musicians and I gave Daisy Jones five stars. So. Here we are. Here I am, giving a book about a tennis (of all sports!) champion an almost flawless rating. Carrie Soto is Back deserves all the praise and the hype, and I’m so happy to have read it.

    I simply adore Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new era. I’ve heard rumours that it’s ending and that Carrie Soto is the final book in the Evelyn Hugo universe. I really hope that’s not the case. This universe has come to mean a lot to me, and I look forward to each new release.

    Taylor Jenkins Reid has a real knack for writing unlikeable and successful women and making you love them. She writes them in such a way that you know you would hate them in real life, but when you get to know them over the course of a book you realise they’re actually kind of brilliant. I want more.

    I imagine Carrie will be the least likeable of the bunch for many readers. She has no filter, she knows her own skill and talent, and her advice to her opponents is simply “Get better at tennis.” I love that. and I can’t explain how hard I can relate.

    One thing I was not expecting from this book was a SLOWBURN ROMANCE!!! It was so lovely and it had my heart swelling. I won’t talk about it in case you don’t want to be spoiled about who the romance is with, but it was wonderful.

    I also cried a lot and that’s how you know it’s a great book. Carrie had me crying, Javier was wonderful and made me sob, and Bowe was just so cute! The only thing I probably didn’t cry over was the mention of Mick Riva </3

    I love Carrie Soto is Back so much! In my ranking I would put it fairly near the top, probably something like this:

    1. Daisy Jones and the Six
    2. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
    3. Carrie Soto is Back
    4. Malibu Rising
    5. Everything else

    If you want to check out my previous ranking for all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books, you can watch my video in which I read her entire backlist and decide which Taylor Jenkins Reid book is best.

    Also, I think I understand tennis now? Maybe.

  • Book Review

    I Shot the Devil by Ruth McIver | Book Review

    I Shot the Devil by Ruth McIver
    Release Date: 9th July 2020
    Genre: Adult, Thriller
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★★

    Twenty years ago, the devil visited the woods around Southport, Long Island, claiming the lives of two boys. A local youth was charged with murder. Case closed.

    Now journalist Erin Sloane has been commissioned to dig deeper into the story and is sent notes from someone long forgotten. But can she trust what she unearths? And how can she unravel what happened when she has her own secrets to hide?

    Rich with the sense of a community imploding, buried secrets, corruption and racism, I SHOT THE DEVIL is a stunning portrayal of teenage hysteria and sexuality.

    I requested I Shot the Devil from NetGalley as the title and the cover drew me in. I later learned that it follows a true crime reporter, and then I was hooked. I am very intrigued by true crime (I don’t want to call myself a “true crime fan”… we really need a better name for this hobby) and I always love it when books include some kind of true crime aspect.

    I Shot the Devil has a low rating on Goodreads, and most of the reviews from what I can see are complaining about the main character. I can’t argue that Erin does some silly things that get her into trouble, however I personally didn’t mind that because I’m of the opinion that characters have to sometimes do stupid things, otherwise there’s not going to be a good plot.

    I found I Shot the Devil to be very fast paced. I enjoyed uncovering the mystery of what happened in the past – the main events – and how various characters were either misunderstanding the thing that happened, or were spinning the incorrect story on purpose.

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    There were a lot of character names and relationships to remember, which I think slowed down the plot a little and caused some confusion. I really enjoy small town drama, though, so the varied cast was a plus for me.

    I Shot the Devil was a very dark story, and I found it super enjoyable. I’d be interested in checking out more of the author’s books, particularly if they have a true crime link or focus.

  • Book Review

    The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake | Book Review

    The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
    Release Date: 1st March 2022
    Genre: Adult, Fantasy
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★.5

    The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few…

    When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.

    Obviously, I have seen all the hype for The Atlas Six. I no longer let hype suck me in nowadays as I’ve been burnt before, but nevertheless I was curious about reading this one. I don’t read much dark academia as it’s really not my genre, and I don’t understand the enthusiasm for it (unless it’s boarding school vibes, in which case YES).

    I flew through the beginning of The Atlas Six, even though one could argue that the start of the book is the most boring. You follow Atlas as he goes around collecting the main characters to introduce them to this mysterious society, and it’s all very monotonous and repetitive. That said, I liked getting to know the characters in advance, even though it was done in the least subtle way possible.

    I read the first two hundred pages or so in good time. Then the book started to drag in the middle because nothing of note was happening. The characters spent a lot of time talking to one another, theorising about their powers, but at the same time other characters were completely absent. Nico and Reina, for example, were often conveniently off-page sparring because the author didn’t want them in a scene.

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    I didn’t like any of the ships – or potential ships – that were going on, apart from perhaps Libby and Nico. But even with their bickering, I really do see the two of them as friends more than anything else. I didn’t care for the relationships between anyone.

    I have a bit of a gripe with how Parisa, the only confirmed bisexual main character, was portrayed. I have noticed that in a lot of media that bisexual woman are often shown to be cheaters or overly sexual. Parisa in this book uses this to her advantage, yes, but it still felt like a stereotype and was very disappointing.

    All that said, I did enjoy my time with The Atlas Six, and I was intrigued by the ending. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel when it comes out later this month, and it’ll be particularly interesting to see how Blake’s writing has evolved since writing this first book.

  • Book Review

    This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada | Book Review

    This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
    Release Date: 7th November 2017
    Genre: YA, Science Fiction
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★★

    When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta’s death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world’s leading geneticist, and humanity’s best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole’s genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.

    Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world’s genetic tech. But it’s too late to turn back.

    There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.

    This Mortal Coil was a fun, action-packed YA story about a virus that makes people literally explode. It’s all a bit grim, and I don’t think the story would be for everyone following the Covid pandemic, but I had a lot of fun reading it. 

    I really liked the main character, Catarina. She was science-y and nerdy, but in a cool, sophisticated, l-knowwhat-I’m-doing kind of way. Not that nerds aren’t cool, but she was one of the coolest ones. 

    I found the concept to be very interesting, especially all the stuff about the virus. I get that it’s not for everyone right now, but I still really enjoy reading about viral outbreaks and how people could possibly deal with them. This virus was a little different as it was a bit of zombie, a bit exploding organs. Fun! 

    I think this is such a solid YA book, and while I’m personally not going to continue on with the trilogy – I didn’t quite care enough – I think younger readers would love it and get a lot out of it. There’s even a not-so-terrible love triangle too! 

  • Book Review

    The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones | Book Review

    The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
    Release Date: 14th July 2020
    Genre: Adult, Horror
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★

    The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.

    Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

    Jesus Christ this book is badly written.

    I was intrigued initially by the concept of a slaughtered elk seeking revenge – I am a vegetarian after all – but nothing about this turned out well.

    My main issue with The Only Good Indians was the choppy writing style. It might have worked in first person or in a diary format, but in this context it just came across as unedited.

    The pacing was so off, too. It was incredibly unbalanced, with the first chapter acting as an intriguing prologue, the following chapters building up to something, and then dropping back down to a slower pace than last time.

    Historically, I don’t enjoy reading about sport in books. I hated it even more in this one given the context. What was with that basketball match? Was there some symbolism I was missing?!

    Honestly, I don’t think weird horror is for me. I am definitely the most picky about this fenre. Nothing about this book worked, from the revenge story to the sloppily written female characters. The female elk wasn’t even written well.

    I would give this one a miss, although it does work for some people so perhaps read some other more positive reviews before you decide.

    I’ve been intrigued by Stephen Graham Jones’s other books but if they’re all written like this I don’t think I will bother.

  • Book Review

    The Cove by Alice Clark-Platts | Book Review

    The Cove by Alice Clark-Platts
    Release Date: 1st March 2022
    Genre: Adult, Thriller
    Source: Publisher, NetGalley
    Rating: ★★

    Welcome to Turtle Cove.

    A luxury resort surrounded by pristine sea and the dense beauty of the jungle, it is the perfect escape from the stresses of life and work. For couples Lou and Adam, Eliza and Noah, a few days spent relaxing on the beach, while their kids are happily distracted, is exactly what they need.

    But appearances can be deceiving.

    There’s a strange tension brewing at the resort, with relations between the hotel and the locals threatening to spill over into violence. This is nothing though compared to the strained atmosphere between the two families. They haven’t been friends for long and they are starting to realise they don’t really know each other at all.

    Except for one of them. One of them knows another very well.

    And they have a score to settle.

    The Cove is told from four points of view, and every single one of them is pretentious and annoying. I’m not much of a fan of multiple POV thrillers because chances are if the author can’t make one character likeable, all the POV characters are going to be insufferable.

    I loved the idea behind The Cove, as I’m really getting into the trend of holiday thrillers – where have they been all my life? – but as a thriller this book fell massively flat. It splattered on the floor.

    In addition to having four boring characters and no one to root for, the mystery of this book took forever to kick in. I had to put myself through one hundred pages of whiny cheaters before there was even a whiff of mystery, and then when something was introduced it was anticlimactic.

    I’m severely disappointed in The Cove and I need to find a good island thriller to make up for it, ASAP.

  • Book Review

    Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood | Book Review

    Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
    Release Date: 23rd August 2022
    Publisher: Sphere
    Genre: Adult, Romance
    Source: Bought
    Rating: ★★★★

    Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project – a literal dream come true – Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

    Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school – archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

    But when her equipment starts to go missing and the staff ignore her, Bee could swear she sees Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas… devouring her with those eyes. The possibilities have all her neurons firing.

    But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?

    I read The Love Hypothesis earlier this year, not really expecting much from it because hyped Booktok books had let me down before. Despite my initial hesitancy, I ended up really enjoying it, and I actually pre-ordered Love on the Brain because I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it (and the publisher declined my review request… it’s fine, it’s FINE). 

    I ended up loving Love on the Brain just as much as I enjoyed The Love Hypothesis. Sure, there were issues. I still don’t think Ali Hazelwood can write sex scenes well. The sex scenes in Love on the Brain weren’t just awkward this time, they were eye roll worthy and almost made me vom. I don’t need to keep hearing about how the love interest is just so big and how the main character is super duper tiny, thank you. 

    So I docked a star for the sex scenes, because Hazelwood can’t be trusted. 

    Otherwise, I thought this book was loads of fun! It was feminist (steminist?), intelligent, silly, and there were cats! | loved that Hazelwood brought a bit of her real European travels into this book, and I loved how she wrote the relationships between all the women. 

    I also really liked the love story, even if it was frustrating in the beginning because you knew exactly where it was going. Levi and Bee were cute, okay, and that’s all I needed. 

    There was also a bit of a twisty mystery in there too, that| wasn’t entirely expecting. The reveal was a bit ridiculous, but given the circumstances I was completely on board. 

    Honestly, I’m glad I read this a fairly long time after The Love Hypothesis because the two books are very, very similar. I get the impression that Hazelwood isn’t an author you necessarily want to marathon, as her characters and subject matters are pretty much the same. That said, the similarities didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all because I thought they were good similarities. Hazelwood hasn’t done a Hoover, for example, and written terrible love interests into every one of her books. 

    I look forward to trying out more of Ali Hazelwood’s books in the future. I might give her novellas a go when I’m in the mood for more romance, because she’s at least a romance author who hasn’t yet let me down. I really enjoyed Love on the Brain and its quirkiness, and I will be picking up whatever Hazelwood brings out in the future. 

  • Book Review

    Nothing More to Tell by Karen M McManus | Book Review

    Nothing More to Tell by Karen M McManus
    Release Date: 30th August 2022
    Publisher: Delacorte Press
    Genre: YA, Thriller
    Source: Publisher
    Rating: ★★★★

    Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favorite teacher—a story that made headlines after the teacher’s body was found by three Saint Ambrose students in the woods behind their school. The case was never solved. Now that Brynn is moving home and starting her dream internship at a true-crime show, she’s determined to find out what really happened.

    The kids who found Mr. Larkin are her way in, and her ex–best friend, Tripp Talbot, was one of them. Without his account of events, the other two kids might have gone down for Mr. Larkin’s murder. They’ve never forgotten what Tripp did for them that day. Just like he hasn’t forgotten that everything he told the police was a lie.

    Digging into the past is bound to shake up the present, and as Brynn begins to investigate what happened in the woods that day, she begins to uncover secrets that might change everything—about Saint Ambrose, about Mr. Larkin, and about her ex-best friend, Tripp Talbot.

    Four years ago someone got away with murder. The most terrifying part is that they never left.

    I was a little disappointed by McManus’s previous book that came out last year as I found it very boring compared to her usual YA thrillers, but I’m pleased to say that she is back on form with Nothing More to Tell! I didn’t find any of the issues that I previously had and I had the best time reading this one.

    I really enjoyed the dual point of view within this book. I think it worked really well with the mystery, as you have Brynn who is returning to town with an interest in true crime, and Tripp, someone who was possibly involved in a mystery. I loved watching the two of them keep things from one another and rekindling their friendship and then slowly opening up again. Their relationship was so cute, and that’s saying a lot as I’m over most YA romance nowadays.

    Tripp does have an issue with alcohol in this book, so I would be cautious if that it one of your triggers as you’re very much in his head as he struggles with that. It’s quite clear that he’s using alcohol to cope with PTSD and is very traumatised by his teacher dying and the lies surrounding it.

    I really enjoyed trying to figure out the mystery of this one, and with so many characters and twists and turns, I didn’t have a clue who really did what. There were layers and layers of mysteries, and I loved it.