Posted in book reviews

Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1)

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

Kingdom of the Wicked is the new historical-fiction / fantasy about witches and demons (the Wicked) by the author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series.

I entered in to this novel only having read Stalking Jack the Ripper, a novel which I absolutely detested. I put it down for around a year before I picked it back up, having finally found the willpower, to power through into the ending. After that, despite owning the sequel (I was so sure I was going to be a fan) I did not continue on with that series.

So, when this was announced I went ‘hmmm’ because it sounded amazing but so did SJTR, and look where that got me. But the pretty cover and the premise hooked me in, and I decided to give the author another shot.

And for most of the book, I was glad I did. The novel opened with a whooping heap of pathetic fallacy, with the raging storm, wind beating on the windows, loud, angry, scared . . . reflecting part of the mood in the cabin, signaling the lurking danger that the twins are unaware of, as their Nonna begins to tell them a story about the evil Wicked . . . It was incredibly atmospheric, and I was immediately pleased that the prologue was drawing me in further, and hadn’t turned me away.

And so the book continued, showing Vittoria and Emilia ten years later, working in their family restaurant. Their Nonna is still overly superstitious and protective, warning the girls of danger that they refuse to take as seriously as her. And then the worst happens, Vittoria is murdered, found by Emilia herself – who instantly regrets not listening to her Nonna’s warnings, and for not paying closer attention to her sister, and for not believing her when she said she summoned the devil . . .

So, Emilia goes on a mission to avenge her sister – was it the man she found above her sisters body, who fled in to the night? – which leads to her unravelling secrets about her family lineage, her sisters secret and the identity she kept hidden, and the Wicked Prince Wrath.

And my goodness. Wrath was an excellent character. I thought he was hilarious! His dry humour and no nonsense attitude gave me a good giggle. Emilia and him had such good chemistry, and I loved all of their scenes together and was continually yelling at the page whenever they had an angsty interaction that was filled with subtle (not) yearning.

And it was all well and good.

But then it just got messy. I don’t think it’s me, I was reading this book pretty closely, but the ending suddenly appeared and all these answers came tumbling out and I sat there like

Wait, what?

Because it just did not make sense! After the entirety of the book – and this is not a short book by any means – that’s how it ends? And I’m not saying this because I’m bitter it didn’t end in a romantic declaration of love. It just seemed the author forgot to actual show & tell the reader that was going on, but instead sped through it, without realising the audience isn’t in her head and doesn’t have the knowledge of the story as she does. It seemed contradictory, rushed, and just not very cohesive. Like I get it, but I also don’t get it? I don’t want to give spoilers – but AHHH. It is SO frustrating. Seemed like Maniscalco went for the shock factor, leave it on a cliffhanger, we will work through the facts and make it clearer in the sequel ending . . .

And I’m not a fan.

I didn’t expect an entire resolution in this, knowing that it will have a sequel. But I did expect an ending that would draw the threads together, to show a well developed character and plot arc, and this just did not have it. Which is such a shame, because most of this book was brilliant and had the potential to be wholly incredible.

Alas, it was not. 3 stars.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong (These Violent Delights, #1)

Tricia Lin at Simon Pulse has acquired, at auction, Chloe Gong’s debut YA fantasy These Violent Delights, pitched as a Romeo and Juliet retelling by way of The Godfather.

A monster has awakened in 1920s Shanghai, killing off citizens and stirring trouble between two feuding gangs. The rival heirs, Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai, must work together before the monster destroys all they hold dear, even while the Chinese Civil War breaks out around them.

Publication is planned for fall 2020; Laura Crockett at TriadaUS Literary Agency did the two-book deal for North American rights.

This review discusses the story and plot, but does not reveal any major plot reveals. However, I do make wishes about what I would like to see in the next novel, thus that may hint/spoil at some events in this novel.

Trigger Warnings: (Taken from the authors review) This book contains mentions and descriptions of blood, violence, gore, character deaths, explicit description of gouging self (not of their own volition), murder, weapon use, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse.

Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights pitched as a Romeo and Juliet retelling by way of The Godfather, is absolutely phenomenal. Gong adopted elements from both Shakespeare’s tragedy and Puzo’s novel and created something unique, and hers. While some of the elements of the story may seem familiar because of the intertextuality, Gong adapts them into nail-biting reveals, twists, and turns. I particularly loved how Gong used the ‘this will make you appear dead for a time, but you are not’ in to the plot in an unexpected, but no less heartbreaking, manner. I was on the edge of my seat the entire novel to see if she would include that, and if the end of the novel would be similar to that of Shakespeare’s tragedy…

Speaking of the ending – as the title suggests, These Violent Delightsdo have violent ends. I could not believe it when I read the last page, as Juliette read that later, and then chaos was unleashed…and then it was DONE! Over! And I’m left sitting here, yelling, because WHAT? I was already heartbroken and desperate for more over previous events a chapter or two earlier, and I was like “no! Not this too!” But WOW, am I excited for the sequel.

On the topic of heartbreak, oh, the angst and the yearning and the hate and the love between Roma and Juliette had be so emotional. The tension between them with all the hurt, the unspoken words, the hidden – but also obvious – love they still had for each other . . . it was killing me. I love them. The misunderstanding. The way they should just talk. The way they protect each other even if it means heartbreak. The people and politics standing in between them. AHHH. ALL I WANT IS FOR THEM TO BE HAPPY.

Aside from their relationship, I really liked both Roma and Juliette as individuals. I feel like Gong explored their motivations well, and gave a convincing backstory to why both of them are the way they are, and what shaped them. This happened through some analepsis, and anecdotal stories, which made the story feel fleshed out and well rounded despite many of the years that had a big impact on their characters not being shown fully on page (i.e., the relationship between Roma and Juliette before the betrayal and her departure for New York).

I enjoyed the relationships we saw between Juliette and her family, particularly that with Kathleen, who I thought was a wonderful character. I have my suspicions about Rosalind…and I absolutely do not like Tyler (he is a well written antagonist for Juliette). I do wish we got to see more of Juliette and her family, but it’s not something that impacted my enjoyment of the novel. I also loved if when we got to see Juliette interact with Marshall! Can they please be best friends?

I loved the relationship Roma had with his sister, and do wish we got more of that! His relationship with Benedikt and Marshall was also brilliant, and I enjoyed their scenes together. I am really glad we had the dual POV to be able to see both Roma’s and Juliette’s lives and the personal stakes each of them have, and the pressures on them – especially since both of them are not aware of some of the problems they have (Roma/his dad, Juliette/Tyler).

They were not the only characters I found myself invested in, but also Marshall and Benedikt. Oh, the quiet, soft, budding yearning between them . . . please. I love them. Their dynamic was soft and hilarious. And they are both such brilliant characters individually, too.

This novel is filled with political turmoil, with foreign powers trying to assert their influence and control, which unsettles the pre-existing domestic turmoil between the gangs. This impacts the way the characters move through the world, and their identity – particularly Juliette, who finds herself heavily impacted by her life, education and experiences in the West. Thus, opening up a wider discourse on imperalism, white supremacy & racism and not only how it impacts the individual, but the entire country.

Despite loving this book so much, I did have my issues with it. At times I found it to be particularly slower paced, not really moving anywhere which was disappointing. Because when it did pick up with the action, it was brilliant. However, for long build ups, it did seem sometimes as if the reveals just decided to jump up out of no where (because the book was finally coming to a close). Also, I feel like a lot was saved for the next novel, for example, what is going on with Rosalind (I have my suspicions), and Tyler etc… which, you know, is fine because this is a duology but it is disappointing that so much of the book spent time on things just to be like nope, wait for the next! I just wish there was a little more reveal/resolution to it, for the sequel to deal with the fallout (there’s a lot that book is going to have to do, and I just know when reading it I will be full of tension).

So overall, this is a 4/4.5 star read for me! And I am excited for the sequel.

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Maya and the Rising Dark – Rena Barron (Maya and the Rising Dark #1)

Twelve-year-old Maya’s search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world.

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams. Her friends try to find an explanation—perhaps a ghost uprising or a lunchroom experiment gone awry. But to Maya, it sounds like something from one of Papa’s stories or her favorite comics.

When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Maya herself is a godling, half orisha and half human, and her neighborhood is a safe haven. But now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.

Rena Barron’s MAYA AND THE RISING DARK is an excitable and enjoyable read, featuring West African Mythology and a cast of wonderful characters.

The novel follows the titular character Maya, and her best friends Frankie and Eli as they venture in to the Dark to face the villainous Lord of Shadows and to save her Papa. The friendship between Maya, Frankie and Eli was the best part of the novel for me. I loved each of their characters individually, and the dynamic between them. I loved that each of them had their own striking personality. They had some delightfully hilarious scenes, and I really enjoyed the unconditional support that they had for each other.

Another highlight of the novel for me – bouncing off of the last one – was the feeling of community in the novel. I loved how the neighbourhood felt like a family. I do wish that we got to see more of the people in the neighbourhood and the relationships between them (I would’ve liked more than just them arguing). I hope this is something we see more in the sequel.

I enjoyed the aspects of West African Mythology, learning about Orisha’s and the other creatures. Again, I do hope we get more of them in the sequel.

I enjoyed the quest aspect of this novel, as Maya and her friends were faced with Darkbringers who are determined to stop Maya from rescuing her Papa and securing the Veil between their two worlds. While the quests were interesting, something was missing for me. The novel just jumped from quest-to-quest, and then it ended, and I was like hm. Wish there was a bit more too it than jumping from action-to-action. While Maya – and her friends – did go on a character ARC of learning more about themselves, and the world around them, ultimately I felt like the overall ARC was lackluster. I don’t want to say too much because I do not want to spoil, but I feel like there could have been more development to Maya’s realisation of her powers & more exploration of the past etc. I feel like Barron may be saving a lot of the information/reveals for further novels in the series.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to seeing where the series goes.

3/5 stars!

Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group for giving me access to this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

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Court of Lions – Somaiya Daud (Mirage, #2)

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris? 

Court of Lions is the exciting and incredibly well written sequel and finale to the Mirage duology.

I really enjoyed reading Mirage and the ending of the novel had me on the edge of my seat, yelling because I desperately wanted to read the sequel and find out what was going to happen next with Amani. What followed was a breathtaking and tense story about fighting for justice, family and friends.

My favourite thing about both Mirage and Court of Lions has to be Amani & Maram, and how both of them are equally as important to the telling of the story. I am a sucker for the chosen one trope, and I really liked how Daud made all of her female characters ‘chosen ones’.

I also enjoyed getting to see more of the various places, and meeting people from different courts! The only thing I think I would have to *complain* about is that we didn’t get more!

Overall, I would highly recommend this trilogy if you’re looking for a thrilling fantasy and sci-fi novel filled with political intrigue, an interesting setting, and brilliantly written characters and relationships.

4/5 stars!

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It Came From the Sky – Chelsea Sedoti

From the author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett and As You Wish comes the unforgettable story of the one small town’s biggest hoax and the two brothers who started it all.

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town―it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

Told in a report format and comprised of interviews, blog posts, text conversations, found documents, and so much more, It Came from the Sky is a hysterical and resonant novel about what it means to be human in the face of the unknown.

Trigger Warnings: on-page branding and discussion of cow mutilation, pedophilia/underage relationship/statutory rape (no graphic scenes).

I discuss these tw’s in this review.

This review contains spoilers.

It Came From the Sky follows the story of Gideon, an aspiring MIT student and NASA engineer, who conspires with his prankster brother, Ishmael, to invent and carry out a hoax that aliens have visited their small town . . .

And it all started with what was meant to be a small explosion, to test out the ability of the seismograph. Except Ishmael does not listen to his brother, and was curious to see how much more of a big bang they could create . . . and bam. A crater is formed & the lie begins.

Throughout the novel – and especially in the beginning – I found it hard to connect with Gideon. While I related to his awkwardness, introverted nature, and his curiosity about space, I often struggled with the way he talked. While part of his characterisation was being closed of to those around him for fear of rejection, failure and humiliation, it extended from the page and to the reader. I don’t feel like I ever truly connected to Gideon. While he went on a character arc and journey, I think a lot of the emotional weight was missed by not letting the reader in to his thoughts more & allowing us to connect with him & his struggle to connect with people on a social and intimate level. The scenes where he did finally open up to Ishmael, Owen, Cass, Arden and his dad were good (I shed a tear with the latter), I feel they missed the emotional weight. Especially since once it was shared, it was like ‘right! On to the next!’

Sedoti combines ‘normal’ narrative prose with various mixed media formats such as interview transcripts (Gideon’s interviews he conducted, and the police), newspaper articles, and posters (some of these were incredibly pretty and felt very authentic with the horrible, but common, comic sans type).

(I think the only thing I did not enjoy was the footnotes, and that’s because I have not long finished writing my dissertation and degree, so I am feeling sensitive to them lmao. Stop haunting me).

My favourite element of this novel though was the relationship between Gideon and Ishmael. I really enjoyed seeing them become closer and more understanding of each other, and the support they provided the other. They had an enjoyable dynamic.

Again, I liked the relationship between Gideon and Owen, but the novel failed to invest time in to developing them and exploring that dynamic that it felt lackluster. As stated, Gideon has his reservations about everyone, and this leads him to making some really!! silly!! decisions!! that have not only an impact on him, but Owen. While the author gave this a resolution in the end, I felt incredibly frustrated that the entire novel spent time showing Gideon treating Owen badly for it to end in a conversation. I really liked that Owen did not just immediately accept or forgave Gideon, and was like this is something we need to work on. Before that, it was just text messages of leave me alone, Gideon moping before he finally realises that, despite his feelings, he was a massive jerk and needs to make things better. I don’t know. I think I would have liked a few more conversations and investment in the relationship other than Gideon being rude and Owen just sighing at him, for it to then end like this.

As for the hoax, it was incredibly wild – and fun – to see how one small lie about the crater being formed by a meteorite then snowballed in to seeing lights, shapes . . . and then seeing how it got picked up on by conspiracy theorists, and how others then began saying they had ‘close encounters’ as well. I think the only thing I didn’t like about this whole hoax storyline is that in the end, they essentially just got away with all the destruction that they caused?? And there was no concern for their mental state (I mean Ismael literally had Gideon BRAND him with a crop circle design to sell the story. Gideon states at the end that he is going in to theory, but that’s more to work on his social skills and those feelings, which is GREAT, but also what about Ishmael?!).

Another thing I did not like was the relationship between Oz and Arden & how the author handled it. It was thrown in for shock factor – and another reason to show how much Oz is the absolute worst – and to push Gideon/Arden closer together, and that was . . . it. The whole thing was mostly brushed over, everyone being more concerned with the fact that Oz is a scam artist as opposed to the fact that he is a pedophile. In the end, he is arrested as Gideon asks Arden to come forward, seeming as the police/FBI do not think they have sufficient evidence to arrest him for scamming (Gideon compares this to Al Capone being arrested for tax evasion). So, while it was good that Oz got arrested for that & will hopefully face the consequences . . . I do not feel it was handled well at all. It was thrown in for the shock, and then dismissed, and then in the end it only became relevant again for Gideon to use to get himself out of trouble.

Overall, It Came From the Sky is not an awful book, but it misses many of it’s emotional punches and fails to treat topics with the seriousness and care that they deserve. It would have benefitted from cutting down on these storylines/characters, to give more focus and attention to the main dynamics and topics.

Thank you to Netgalley and SOURCEBOOKS Fire for providing me with this e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.

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Pretending – Holly Bourne

‘Perceptive. Hilarious. Reassuring. Brilliant.’ Laura Jane Williams
The highly-anticipated new novel from Holly Bourne, bestselling author of HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?

He said he was looking for a ‘partner in crime’ which everyone knows is shorthand for ‘a woman who isn’t real’.

April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal – yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry.

If only April could be more like Gretel.

Gretel is exactly what men want – she’s a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.

The problem is, Gretel isn’t real. And April is now claiming to be her.

As soon as April starts ‘being’ Gretel, dating becomes much more fun – especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua.

Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?

Pretending isn’t a bad book, but it’s not the greatest either.

Bourne’s novels always discuss important subjects, such as different forms of assault, toxic relationships, mental health struggles, and, to put broadly, feminism. And this is so important. Her novels have opened a wider discourse and conversations with people, offering a new perspective, and has provided an accessible and new space to discuss the trauma, and advise on how to seek help/recognise negative behaviour.

And this novel did that. This novel follows the protagonist April, who works as part of a charity on the front-lines, helping people with their struggles. This can range from helping them dealing with their rape, alcohol abuse, or suicidal thoughts, etc. And while April is working there, she finds herself dealing with the trauma and the effects of when she was raped a few years beforehand.

The novel does a deep dive in to April’s trauma, her coping mechanisms. Part of this is her deep distrust and hatred of men. So April forms the stereotypical, satirical alter ego of ‘Gretel’ who is basically – what she thinks, and what we often see in various forms of media – the mans perfect woman. April thinks if she becomes Gretel, she will be free from being harmed by men: she has the control.

But this isn’t as easy as April thinks it is, and this all pans out throughout the course of the novel. In conversations with herself, her friend, her therapist, her newly met friends at a boxing class for other survivors. While that is all very in-depth, I found the novel to be lacking something…

Originality. I think if this was the first novel of Bourne’s I read, it would get a much higher rating. But to me, this feels like the adult version (or the finalised draft) of Bourne’s YA novel before this, The Places I’ve Cried in Public mixed in with her first adult book (which I dislike), How Do You Like Me Now? They all just feel interchangeable. The characters, the plots, the narrative style and their discourse.

April feels like the same character as the other protagonists in Bourne’s other novels. Very cut-and-paste like. And while this a novel about the female experience, I don’t think it does it justice when every male character in Bourne’s novels are also the same cut and paste dry cardboard characters.

I don’t know how I feel judging this based on her other work, but at the same time, having read the majority of the catalogue I am familiar with Bourne’s writing style and thus have a critical eye and opinion on the development of her writing. That I can’t ignore. Bourne, the more and more I read, just seems like she knows how to write the same characters and stories over and over. . . and that doesn’t insinuate good writing to me. (Basically just copying herself).

So it’s a really hard one, because the message of this book is important, and it has some really great moments that explore issues that all women can (sadly) relate to. But then, I find it lacks putting across the emotion it could have done, due to the not-so-greatly written characters (this novel could’ve had a wonderful supporting ensemble, but Bourne gives them a moment of screen time, tries to make them look *layered* and then moves on) and plot.

So this one is a 3 stars for me. I don’t entirely hate it. It’s decent. But I’m not head over heels for it. Nice idea, poor execution.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for kindly giving me a copy of this novel  in exchange for an honest review. 

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The Court of Miracles – Kester Grant (Court of Miracles, #1)

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

Let me start off by saying that this had potential. Truly, it did. It might not immediately come across as such, with the typical YA fantasy name, and being compared to the current most popular books in that genre. But it had the potential to take those well loved things, and make it it’s own. The Court of Miracles tried to do this by drawing allusion to other popular literary texts (Les Mis, The Jungle Book) and by telling an alternate history. Exciting, right? Sadly not.

This probably makes me a terrible literature student, but I have never read Les Misérables, or seen any adaption, nor do I intend to. I am also only vaguely familiar with The Jungle Book, my familiarity stemming from seeing the film as a child (I have never read the book, or watched any recent adaptations).

Thus, the many allusions that this book utilised were lost on me. The characters, whose backstories I imagined where drawn from the original canon, were not familiar to me. I wondered, while reading, that if I was aware would I enjoy this more?

And there lies the issue. Should I have to be familiar with those texts to get the full possible enjoyment out of this? Should I have to be familiar with the canon it is influenced by, to understand what is going on? No, I don’t think so.

Sure, for fans of the originals – or at least those more familiar than me – it should give them something extra, like the feeling of picking up on a clue the author dropped, but the novel should not rely on it – those allusions to the canon – to make the novel for it.

Thus, that was my first issue, which stemmed in to my others.

The plot jumped around so, so much! From narrative, to the narrative structure, to characterisation! It was hard to keep up, and thus hard to care.

The book opens with Nina being forced to leave her sister, having to join the world of The Miracle Courts that was foreign to her, yet so familiar. It happened so quickly, without any development. Even though there was so much action, which should have been promising me a fast, quick paced read, it felt weak. I told myself that it was just the beginning, and it would get better.

And then there was a time jump. Three months I think? And we are now introduced to a Nina, different to the one we first met in that small instant. We had barely gotten to know her then; and we definitely don’t know her now. But she want from being initiated, to bragging about how amazing she is as a thief, and all these dark plans she had.

Which, fine. But no characterisation. No development.

The book goes through several time jumps like this. The next, three years (I think?). And again, Nina has grown in to this character, and has all these plans she vaguely refers to, and all these deep relationships with people…yet you don’t feel them. Because everytime one of the sections of the book gets started, and you start to connect, it jump starts again.

And while its dealing with romance, and death, and sisterhood, and coming-of-age, and parental relationships, it hardly holds any gravitas. All these big, emotional reveals mean nothing. The plot was out of touch, the MC achieving goals, to then have them ripped away, to then do something else, to then have to restart – and even though it remained the same (save her sister(s)) it never actually felt consistent. (Probably because at one stage she basically did her goal, and I was like oh. Well, that was quick, BUT WHERE WILL THIS GO? and then yeah. That didn’t work out and it just carried on).

This just felt like a very, very, very, very rough draft. It wasn’t cohesive in terms of narrative, the plot was poorly paced and not developed, as well as the characters. It’s a shame, really, because I felt like this could have been a great book, if only the author stopped to pause and tell her story – rather than race through it.

I have read an ARC copy, and it is my hope that by the time of publication the novel has been better edited, and changes made, to help it reach it’s full potential. Because this has it in it to be an entertaining, thrilling read. But right now, it has not reached that point.

2 Stars.

Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollinsUK for this advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Serious Moonlight – Jenn Bennett

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

SOMEBODY PINCH ME, IS THIS BOOK REAL? I’ll count my fingers to make sure this wasn’t some dream…

I loved this. Before I would’ve said oh thats unsurprising, as I loved both [book:Night Owls|25327818] and [book:Alex, Approximately|34927042]. But after reading [book:Starry Eyes|35297469] with my book group, A Book Nirvana a few months ago, I had apprehensions about this. (I’ve also been debating if I’d have liked Starry Eyes if I wasn’t fast to a) lead a discussion and b) avoid awkward spoilers!! Sometimes people make mistakes. It happens).

Ultimately, everything Starry Eyes got wrong, Serious Moonlight got right. The parents in this aren’t always present – there’s a mixture of different family structures. Single parents, to being raised by grandparents and ‘aunt’s’. And it was beautiful. Where as in Starry Eyes it all felt very cheap and eh, in this it felt real. Authentic. Seeing that people aren’t always there but forming new connections with others and learn working to build bonds. Honestly, I cried.

(Also I’m reviewing this as an ARC so I can’t use quotations BUT WOOW!).
So yes. The parental/family aspect was great. It showed blended families and how people work to build their bonds and dealing with guilt and grief and anxiety and it was wonderful and felt real and JUST GREAT.

Also the mental health aspect was very well done. I cried (again). The way they made it clear that this was a process, and that they don’t believe in the ‘love heals all’ mantra, but that it certainly can’t hurt, I liked it. I did. It was just two people coming to terms and understanding themselves. They were getting better for them. And they encouraged and supported each other and it was honestly beautiful.

THEY WERE JUST GREAT COMPLEX CHARACTERS. With Daniel’s partial deafness and other life issues, and Birdies sleep issues and life issues, there was some greatly done representation. The characters weren’t always PC in their thoughts but it was done in an inoffensive way that just showed an ingrained bias that people have and how to healthily challenge those thoughts and overcome a prejudice in a calm, respectable manner. I loved it.

As always, this is something Bennett seems to always do well in her books, is the positive representation of sex.

Anyways this book is great for so many reasons and I really liked it. It was cute, while a bit out there, but it managed to stay grounded in an authentic representation of reality – not just for those who are teens, but for everyone. While it embarked on ‘heavy’ subject manner, it did not patronise the reader or feel like it was pushing an agenda on you, but it was able to communicate the importance of listening and it demythologised the stigma and addressed many modern day fears we have surrounding public image/mental health/invisible diseases. These kids weren’t made out to be special snowflakes because of their illnesses, but at the same time it didn’t dismiss them in the fact that the way they experience some things in life are different from the ‘normal’ person & how they work around these obstacles.

The plot was well done. Usually in YA’S I can predict the plot twists etc but I DID NOT. I audibly gasped and was like NO. And then I immediately messaged Emer whose also read this, and promptly was like !!!! SHOOK. (She was too)


I am just very happy with this book.
It doesn’t quite reach the four stars because sometimes I got fed up with the stalker-y aspects of it, and sometimes it felt a bit disjoined on where exactly this book was aiming to go and the point of it.

Anyways this is not an eloquent review at all but basically I have the FEEEEEELS for this and therefore !!!!! READ IT. It’s great.

Thank you Netgalley and the Publisher for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in book reviews

Light Years – Kass Morgan

Light Years is the first book in a thrilling new sci-fi series from the bestselling author of The 100.
Reeling from the latest attack by a mysterious enemy, the Quatra Fleet Academy is finally admitting students from every planet in the solar system after centuries of exclusivity.
Hotshot pilot Vesper, an ambitious Tridian citizen, dreams of becoming a captain – but when she loses her spot to a brilliant, wisecracking boy from the wrong side of the asteroid belt, it makes her question everything she thought she knew. Growing up on the toxic planet Deva, Cormak will take any chance he can get to escape his dead-end life and join the Academy – even if he has to steal someone’s identity to do it. Arran was always considered an outsider on icy Chetire, always dreaming of something more than a life working in the mines. Now an incoming cadet, Arran is looking for a place to belong – he just never thought that place would be in the arms of a Tridian boy. And Orelia is hiding a dark secret – she’s infiltrated the Academy to complete a mission, one that threatens the security of everyone there. But if anyone finds out who she really is, it’ll be her life on the line.
These cadets will have to put their differences aside and become a team to defend their world from a cunning enemy – but the danger might be lurking closer to home than they think…

OOOO I really liked this.

At first, I thought the multiple POV’s would get annoying and too much for me, but I enjoyed each and every one of them. I think they were all nicely paced, but my favourites probably have to be Cormack/Arran. Followed then by Orelia and Vesper. I liked the cast of all the characters – the mix of different planets and social classes they came from made it very interesting to see them interact, connect, and grow with each other.

The world building was pretty decent in this too. Usually I find in Sci-Fi’s that they info-dump and I find it hard to keep track, but this one was fairly easy to understand. I might not remember all the names of the planets etc . . . or if Earth was ever a thing in this one . . . but I appreciated that it wasn’t that complicated. People settled on different planets: the rich rip off and use the poor. There’s discrimination between the social classes, etc, etc.

I loved the whole crew dynamic with their banter and encouragement with each other, but also the conflict and the weariness. It was just really nice to read and watch them develop.

OH MY GOD THE ENDING!! I was for sure the ending was going to go a certain way and I was like 85% right. But I am H Y P E D. I’d very much appreciate having a book two to read right about now.

So yes, I did really enjoy this one. I read it all in one day because I liked the characters, the plot, and the writing. It was just very quick and easy to flick through – before I knew it I was 63% in and it felt like I’d only just started reading. I appreciated that. I can imagine that if I wasn’t in the mood for something like this then I might find it a bit more slower-paced, not a lot happening in plot wise for a while, but eh.

I just found it enjoyable.

CW, particularly Jason Rothenberg, keep your hands off this. I will not allow you to screw up another one of my ships.

I am expecting a lot from book two!!

3 (or maybe 4) stars!

Posted in book reviews

From Twinkle, With Love – Sandhya Menon

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

Thank you NetGalley for providing me an e-arc to read!

YOU GUYS. THIS BOOK IS ABOUT FILMMAKERS – MAINLY FEMALE DIRECTORS AND I AM LIVING. If you know me, you know sometimes I go off on tangents, and one of those tangents is about how unequal the ration of male to female directors in big screen Hollywood films are. Like I think this year there’s only something like 3?? The director of the Darkest Minds, that wrinkle in time and blockers?? (This is in studio films – not counting Netflix films or indies). And that’s crazy. It’s like 3.3% are women. So I LOVED seeing this book highlight that women can and are great film makers.

I loved that Twinkle constantly wrote to her favourite female directors instead of “dear Journal” I think that added a cool, more personal touch to her diary entries. I thought I’d get annoyed with the fact that this story was mainly told through Twinkle’s diary entries, but after a while I forgot about it, and just really enjoyed the structure of diary entries, e-mails, note passing and text messages. I thought it was a nice way to tell the story and it flowed well.

I really enjoyed the female friendships in this, and how they weren’t always smooth, but no one person was demonised. In the end they all hashed it out and jumped over these stereotypes of what it is to be rich / pretty etc. I do think this could’ve been worked on better regarding more of how Dimple viewed herself (a groundling) but towards the end it was certainly hinted to.

I did just really enjoy this book – the filmmaking aspects, the characters, the romance, the plot. Definitely an improvement from When Dimple Met Rishi.