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Good Girl, Bad Blood – Holly Jackson (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, #2)

Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time EVERYONE is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?

DISCLAIMER: Mild spoilers for the first novel and for this one. Read at your own discretion!

TW: rape, assault, blood, murder, abuse

Good Girl, Bad Blood is the sequel to Jackson’s 2019 debut novel, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Following on from the first novel, we find Pip dealing with the consequences and trauma from the events of the first novel. The events of book one haunt Pip, causing her to question her identity (who is she? Is she a good person?) and the things she did in book 1 that led her to revealing the truth about what happened to Andie Bell…

And you feel this. You feel how haunted Pip is, in the opening lines of most chapters. They open with Pip being haunted by memories, by sounds, by images; you feel how lost Pip is, how confused, how sad. For example:

“Words spliced, growing across the gaps like vines as her eyes unfocused, until her handwriting was just one writhing blur. Pip was looking at the page, but she wasn’t really there. It was like that now; giant holes in her attention that she slipped right into.”

You see the impact past (and recent) events have had on Pip and her mental health, written in a nuanced, and complex way. They were built in to the story, and it made Pip feel like a real, tangible character. That is why I loved the opening lines of the chapters so much, because they drew your attention and focus back down to the character, and her raw, honest emotions – before launching back in to the drama. It worked really, really well.

This novel also continued to explore the impact of the first novel in other ways, such as the court trials for certain offenders. This acts as a different plot point, that slowly becomes more and more entwined in to the current investigation…

And while it does that, it also opens up a discourse and a sub-plot on rape culture and justice, the latter which is a pre-dominant over-arching theme for both novels.

What is justice? Who can determine it? This novel points out that the law, our government systems (the court, the police), do not always get it right – but does that mean that personal vendettas and vigilantism can be carried out? It is an interesting discourse, questioning whether if there is, or should be, a simple black and white view on things…

And again, this leads Pip to question her own integrity, her own morals, and what is truth. People question her, think she’s a liar, and detest her for what she did to discover the truth about Andie, and the way she presented the facts afterwards. It is a study in justice and character.

So, this novel was able to wonderfully blend the events and consequences of the first novel in to this sequel, while also allowing the sequel to stand alone as it’s own thrilling and entertaining investigative drama. I loved the fact this acted as a direct continuation, while also setting up new stories – I really applaud Jackson for blending and balancing the two well.

But my absolute favourite thing about these novels are the characters and their relationships. I find it really nice and refreshing to read about such a genuine loving, honest and healthy relationship between Pip and Ravi. And I love Pip’s relationships with her friends: Cara, Connor and Zach. Even when things aren’t always perfect, we see them all communicate and work through their issues, and come out on the other side having learnt and growing as people and friends because of it.

Other things I liked about this novel! The podcast format. I loved how that was a way to recap the other plot points. I really liked that we got to see comments, and the theories – this felt even more interactive. (And again, the discussion on whether things like this should even be a podcast. The question is can you get these stories out there, without profiting off of the trauma? and things like that. A very nuanced, complex novel).

I’m really excited to see where Jackson is going to take this series. The way this novel ended had me in chills. It ended angrily, and with a sense of vengeance, and with Pip in a dark place (she seems to be dealing with PTSD, which is likely after the final events of what happened to her) and I am excited to see Jackson explore that further. It was lightly touched on in this novel (identity crisis, her screaming, getting expelled), but things have only gotten bigger..

I haven’t wanted to spoil too much, but yes. The way this novel ended….chills. We had Pip dealing with her darker side, with her trauma, her obsessive habits, but the novel did not end with her solving them…

5/5 Stars!

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The Dazzling Heights – Katharine McGee (The Thousandth Floor, #2)

Thank you to Netgalley / HarperCollins / Edleweiss for this book in an exchange for an honest opinion!

New York City, 2118. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible – if you want it enough.

Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a beacon of futuristic glamour and high-tech luxury… and to millions of people living scandalous, secretive lives.

Leda is haunted by nightmares of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’s afraid the truth will get out – which is why she hires Watt, her very own hacker, to keep an eye on all of the witnesses for her. But what happens when their business relationship turns personal?

When Rylin receives a scholarship to an elite upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being here also means seeing the boy she loves: the one whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is grappling with the reality of her forbidden romance – is there anywhere in the world that’s safe for them to be together?

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who’s arrived in New York with a devious goal in mind – and too many secrets to count.

Here in the Tower, no one is safe – because someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, you’re always only one step away from a devastating fall….

 

What is it with this series that keeps drawing me in???

It’s several things really – I love the mashup of genres this has. It has elements of a mystery/thriller, combined with that classic teen drama, filled with those archetypal characters you’d see on shows such as Gossip Girl. On the surface, it probably sounds a bit of a mess – but somehow it all comes together in a combination that works? Not to sound like a broken record, but yes, like beloved show Gossip Girl.

The Dazzling Heights is a fantastic sequel. It continues on the story of the Thousandth Floor not to long after it left, and we’re thrown back into the mess of things. We are dumped in the middle of the drama and the characters – some new – and how they’re coping and using what happened at the end of the first novel in living their lives.

The characters develop – like Leda – and you get to see a more humane side of them. You see others being given opportunities they’ve never had before and it’s interesting in seeing them cope. Others cross dangerous boundaries and it’s so dramatic waiting for them to be caught.

This novel started off with a very strong sense of direction and plot that then unfortunately died out after that first chapter. It’s hinted at about three more times all the way through, before it’s dramatic climax at about 87% into the book. This was disappointing and I feel like we should have had more of this throughout the whole novel, and not just towards the end. It was too quick to end when it had only just started and that was disappointing. And although this quick ending will no doubt have consequences in the third novel, I feel like it was wasted and this books sense of purpose was ultimately lost.

Having said that – this book did deal with the aftermath of events in book one. While, like I said, the overarching plot wasn’t well-developed and ended before it even began, each character had their own subplot. This was good – it was nice seeing how everyone dealt and the actions of each character, and seeing how they now interacted after everything had passed. It made it tense – with all these deep dark secrets between them – and who would snap first. But some relationships took a turn for the unexpected.

I wish other characters – such as Cord – had larger parts in this book and were developed more. Cord, even though he’s not a main character, is my favourite. I love him and Avery’s relationship, and I liked having more of that. Others like Leda and Watt . . . so much dodgy history between them, but seeing their relationship come to develop was interesting.

So yes, I did really enjoy this one – it was a good sequel. I think it’s up to par with the first one, which in a way, disappoints me because I was hoping for this one to blow me away. But still – with the quality matching the first, which was very good, I can’t complain too much because at least it’s consistent.

My only other problem with this is adding in another point of view character whose only objective, for the subplot of another character, was to come between them. I didn’t care for this new character. They were just there to stir the pot, and while, with how this book ended I have no doubt they’ll be stirring up trouble in the third book this still didn’t make me care about this person. Their point of view should’ve been given to a character already established. Also – while the first had problematic elements of characters being drugged and taking advantage of, this one dealt with a student/teacher thing. While it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, I was still unhappy with the way it was ultimately dealt with. I’m just happy all the characters weren’t happy with this relationship and that it was condemned – just not enough.

So while there was a lot explored in this – there is still a lot more to come out and be explored that I can only hope will happen in the third. For example, all the drama between Brice, Rylin and Cord to come to light. But overall, this was very pleasing second novel, and if anything it seems to have paved the way for a really exciting third, and what I can only hope will be the novel that will ultimately blow me away with the shock / wow / drama factor.

Three very good stars

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Dark Places – Gillian Flynn (A Review)

HOME IS WHERE THE LIES ARE…

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who did massacre the Day family?

I’d heard a lot about Gillian Flynn prior to reading Dark Places, mainly from all the hype surrounding Gone Girl (both film and book). Despite all this hype, I backed away from it, not really interested once it was spoiled for me. Still, I was curious. So when I stumbled across Dark Places, at a low price, dying for something new to read, I couldn’t resist. I picked it up, and I began reading as soon as I got him.

I just – this book was so screwed up in the best way possible. The characters were flawed, dark, troublesome, and it was great. They were really interesting to read about, with so many layers to each character.

For example, Ben. We hear other characters opinions of him, that he’s a creep, a paedophile, a devil worshipper, and an all around bad kid, and then when we meet him we get explanations for why people think he’s the way he is, and all it comes down to is that Ben really was in the wrong place at the wrong time. With Diondra putting the dead parts in his locker, it wasn’t Ben, but that was still him that got the blame for it. Ben was the scape goat for a lot of things.

Diondra’s and Ben’s relationship…nope, didn’t like it one bit. I don’t like Diondra one bit, she’s a horrible person.

Now, the good old mystery of who murdered the Day family. I can’t say I was surprised by who done it, but it was still interesting to see Libby go through the motions of figuring out how it happened and who did it. Libby and Ben’s relationship too, that had my heart beating out my chest. It was so suspenseful and so tense for them to finally be reunited.

Some parts of this book were so horrific (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER : when they were slaughtering the cows, I just couldn’t even, I skimmed most of the chapter, it was horrific).

This book is worthy of a 5 star rating of goodreads, and I highly recommend that everyone reads this book. Even if it’s not your genre (it’s not really mine either) you’ll most likely enjoy it. I’m not going to have any doubts about picking about another book by Gillian Flynn again.

You can also view this review on Goodreads!