Posted in book reviews

Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrand

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.


Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

Trigger / Content Warnings: animal death, (physical) assault, acephobia (challenged), blood, dismemberment/disembowelment (mentioned, seen briefly on page), emotionally and physically abusive parent (on-page violence), grief, mention of flaying, murder (sometimes described in graphic detail, bloody), shooting (shot in leg), spiders, sick

Sawkill Girls creeped me out so much that I had to fall asleep with the light on, too scared that I might conjure up images of The Collector in the dark. Yes, I am a giant wimp, but also the description was that vivid, the atmosphere so tangible, that it shook me (repeat, I am also just a giant wimp).

description

I really quite enjoyed Sawkill Girls, which says a lot, since I typically stay very far away from anything horror, since, as I mentioned once or twice already, I am a giant wimp… But Legrand was able to keep my eyes trained on the page, invested in the mythology of this monster, captivated by the narrative voice of the Rock, and just wondering what the heck is going on?!

I enjoyed that this had multiple POV’s, however Zoey’s felt the strongest to me – narrative voice, and personality. I feel like her character was more vivid, and her actions and motivations were much clearer than either Val’s or Marion’s. Which, to begin with, I understood that their pov’s might be more unreliable/unclear because they were. For example, Val – she is morally grey, and her pov often reflected that as it was not always clear where she stood. With Marion, her grief, and the supernatural, often confused her and her pov’s were filled with that chaos, with the reader having to sort through the noise with her. But this grew tiresome after the while, and it just begin to feel like it was poorer writing, as Legrand struggled to define who these characters exactly were and show their character ARC – it often just happened quite suddenly (despite the long page count!)

Additionally, I did find myself getting lost in the POV’s as I would lose track of whose chapter it was. I’d be like wait, this is Zoey’s perspective, no Val’s, and then the text would remind me who. It was only for a few seconds, but it was jarring and often took me out of the story, feeling frustrated.

But overall, I rate this novel four stars because it did create a fantastic atmosphere, having the Rock as a personified presence was interesting and well done, and I did genuinely enjoy the message about female empowerment, grief, forgiveness, and anger.

Posted in book reviews

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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10 Things I Hate About Pinky – Sandhya Menon (Dimple and Rishi #3)

The delightful follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something about Sweetie, which follows Ashish’s friends Pinky and Samir as they pretend to date in order to achieve their individual goals, to disastrous and hilarious results.

Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.

Samir Jha might have a few…quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady.

Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions she’s made (a.k.a. boyfriends she’s had), she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer.

When Samir’s internship falls through, leaving him with an unplanned summer, he gets a text from Pinky asking if he’ll be her fake boyfriend in exchange for a new internship. He jumps at the opportunity; Pinky’s a weirdo, but he can survive a summer with her if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky is the third novel in the Dimple and Rishi universe, following on from When Dimple Met Rishi There’s Something About Sweetie. I liked When Dimple Met Rishi, really enjoyed There’s Something About Sweetie . . . and I loved this one.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky is told from the dual perspective of Pinky and Samir, as they both combat personal struggles over the course of a summer holiday. Pinky has a tense relationship with her mother, she feels as if she is never good enough for her parents, a constant disappointment . . . So she lives to that role, until she gets blamed for something she did not do one too many times . . .

This leads Pinky to inviting Samir to her holiday home, to pretend to be her fake boyfriend, to show her parents that she is not as much of a failure or disappointing as they think they are. (AHHH! Fake-dating trope!!!! Yes!!!!) Samir agrees to help Pinky. His internship in a prestigious law firm fell through, and its his hope, that by helping Pinky, he will gain an internship with her mother, who is known as ‘The Shark’. But like Pinky, he also has to confront his own behaviour, and the relationship with his mother…

These two characters were brilliant together! There was so much chemistry in their relationship – in the way they bantered with each other, with how they confront, challenge and support each other. Absolutely brilliant. They are very much opposites that attract – who compliment each other wonderfully – and the Menon has the characters confront whether or not a real relationship between them can withstand their differences . . .

Pinky and Samir learn so much about each other, but also learn so much about themselves. Some scenes incredibly frustrated me – I found I wanted to yell at the characters for how mean they were to each other, or out of order. But I held it in, and continued reading, and these moments were explored and developed upon in a way that I felt satisfied with.

I really enjoyed the supporting characters, as well. It would have been nice to have more time spent with them. For example, a large part of Pinky’s characterisation and struggle was to do with her relationship with her mother. Most of the novel concerned Pinky’s feelings of distance, anger, and upset with her mother, yet there was not much time spent on the resolution. I was not unhappy with how the novel resolved their relationship, but I do wish we could have seen more of that. Similar with Samir. We saw him make a decision about how he wants to move forward, yet we never got to see that dynamic with his mother play out. I understand, because the novel was set in a singular place and his mother was in another, but I do wish there was more of his relationships explored.

Overall, I loved this book! I was in the midst of writing my final university assignments at this point, and it provided much needed escapism. And when I put it down to continue on, it provided motivation to hurry up and finish so I could get back to reading it.

For that, I give this 5 stars.

Thank you Netgalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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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 Love Hypothesis – Laura Steven

An LGBT romantic comedy with a twist from the Comedy Women in Print prize winner Laura Steven, author of The Exact Opposite of Okay. A hilarious love story with bite, for fans of Sex Education, Booksmart, Becky Albertalli’s Love, Simon and Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Physics genius Caro Kerber-Murphy knows she’s smart. With straight As and a college scholarship already in the bag, she’s meeting her two dads’ colossal expectations and then some. But there’s one test she’s never quite been able to ace: love. And when, in a particularly desperate moment, Caro discovers a (definitely questionable) scientific breakthrough that promises to make you irresistible to everyone around you, she wonders if this could be the key.

What happens next will change everything Caro thought she knew about chemistry – in the lab and in love. Is hot guy Haruki with her of his own free will? Are her feelings for her best friend some sort of side-effect? Will her dog, Sirius, ever stop humping her leg?

The Love Hypothesis by Laura Steven is a heartfelt, funny, and entertaining read. I really, really enjoyed reading this one, and I’m glad I decided to pick it up, after having Laura Steven on my radar for a while now. After reading this, I am definitely interested in reading more of her work.

I loved the parental relationship in this! The relationship Caro had with her two dads was beautiful, and they both had outstanding, quirky, personalities. (Dad reminded me so much of Captain Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

I really enjoyed the friendships Caro had. I don’t want to go in to too much detail with them, since I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it felt like a very real, and honest portrayal of friendship. Their relationship was good. And then it was rocky. And then it was somewhere in between. Ultimately, this was a story of how friendships (and relationships) change – and that’s okay. People can grow apart, other people can grow closer, and that is fine.

It was a story about self-acceptance, in all walks off life: friendships, romantic relationships, familial. And it was really good to read. Caro went on an amazing journey of self-realisation. Again, it’s hard to say much without spoiling but I loved how she was able to self-reflect on her own behaviour. The journey she want on made her more mindful, more accepting, more empathetic, and more honest. I love her. She had such a fantastic narrative voice, and I was invested in her story.

Also, this story was incredibly funny. I have a bunch of favourite LOL moments highlighted. And a bunch that made me cry, too.

What a great book.

4 Shining Stars!

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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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A River of Royal Blood – Amanda Joy

An enthralling debut perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone set in a North African-inspired fantasy world where two sisters must fight to the death to win the crown.

Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of marrow and blood–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa’s death or her own.

A River of Royal Blood is an enthralling debut set in a lush North African inspired fantasy world that subtly but powerfully challenges our notions of power, history, and identity.

A River of Royal Blood is a fabulous and exciting read. The premise reminded me of Three Dark Crowns, a novel I was so excited to read because of the premise, but was disappointed by. So, picking up A River of Royal Blood, I hoped it would do more for me with it’s similar premise than Three Dark Crowns did…and it did. I read it all in a few short hours of receiving it. The writing immediately captured me, and the characters, and the plot, kept me enthralled.

This book had great world building, with the information / backstory (which led to the books climax) slowly being weaved throughout the book, in the form of being told as a story by Eva’s tutor, Baccha. I admit, I did get confused at times with all the different places, etc. But the mythology and stories behind how all these places came to be, were well thought out, and interesting.

The magic system was also great, and I liked that we got to see Eva go on her journey of learning how to use it and be comfortable with herself. I feel like the book nicely weighed up her internal struggles surrounding her identity and her magick.

The wide range of characters was great. In particular, I loved Baccha, and I low-key ship Eva and him together…Sorry Aketo, you are great too…

I loved the way this book held adventure, action, and mystery. It all comes together at the end in a brilliant, shocking way (I feel silly for not seeing it coming. I mean, I had a slight suspicion which was along the lines of what happened, but I didn’t guess it all).

My one ‘issue’ with this book would be that I wish we got to see more of the Queen and Isadore, and flesh out their characters more. For a lot of the book, they felt like sort of stock-holder antagonists. We did have some moments with the Queen/Eva, and Eva/Isadore, that touched upon the deep complexities of their relationship, but they felt too fleeting. This didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book much, as I still felt all of Eva’s pain at their betrayal and abandonment, but I think the book would have benefited from exploring these relationships further.

Beware! SPOILERS are contained in the section underneath.

[spoiler] I was a bit sad that the ‘duel’ between Eva and Isadore was so short, when that was the whole premise the book was built upon and the whole book was spent building to this moment. It happened very, very close to the end, and spurred the revelation of Eva’s true heritage and essentially set in to motion the plot for the next book. So, I can’t help but feel like the ending felt a bit too quick, with reveal after reveal happening and the BAM! ending.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t awfully done. But the whole book was built on the premise of the duel between sisters….and it barely even happened.

I had a feeling from the beginning that Eva wasn’t going to kill Isadore, because she’s all about changing the traditions of the past and undoing the injustice done against people. (I did have another thought of Isadore actually winning, in a surprise twist, and the sequel being from her POV. With Isadore’s characterisation, I’m glad it didn’t. I like Eva). So, that certainly makes things interesting for their relationship in the sequel, especially with the binding between them still being present, meaning Isadore is still the only one who can kill Eva…

END OF THE SPOILER-Y SECTION

I am very excited and looking forward to the sequel and where it will go.

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Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy


Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.

With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant–along with several other unlikely candidates–to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.

Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City–and maybe herself most of all.

I am so incredibly underwhelmed by this. I remember the hype surrounding this book when it first came out: all I heard was incredible 5 stars reviews, THIS was the book to read. And I wanted too. BUT IT WAS SO EXPENSIVE! And eventually, as the hype died down and the price lowered, I was so apprehensive to read it and my hype for it faded…

And then the film came out and THAT LOOKS SO GOOD AND I STILL WANT TO WATCH IT, so I decided to FINALLY read this.

And yeah…Underwhelmed af. It’s not that this book isn’t good. It is. It’s just not GREAT!!!! capital letters, exclamation marks. Where was the plot, really? I’m a person that quite likes a good plot but this just meandered through her everyday small-town life and that’s not something I’m really interested in, especially when I’m not that in love with any of the characters.

And the pageant was so hyped up???? And then it happened in like 50 pages and just ended? DID IT EVEN SAY WHO WON? I remember it saying who came in second place, but not who won (I read this book today. . . I can’t remember things. . . does that say something about me or the book?)

And then the BOOK ENDED. I literally turned the page, ready to start the next chapter, excited because oooo the pageant is over and what’s going to happen now with Bo, etc, but no. . . I came face to face with ‘Acknowledgments’ and I was like. . . wait, what? That’s it???? You built the book up to this AND THIS IS ALL THAT YOU GIVE ME? WHAT?

Also. I feel like this book was a love story between Willowdean and Ellen. Their relationship was the greatest. Seeing them grow up and grow apart and then try and find ways back to each other I LIKED IT. I WISH I HAD MORE OF THIS. The friendships between the girls was good.

Then we have the romance element…and let me tell you, I am a SHIPPER. But WHERE WAS THE CHEMISTRY? I swear Mitch and Bo could’ve been interchangeable. I’m not MAAAAAAD about it but it was such a let down…pretty much the whole book was a let down…

So 3 stars. Wasn’t terrible and had a lot of bits I did like but I don’t like it enough to give it any higher.

Posted in book reviews

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.

THIS BOOK MADE ME CRY A LOT.
(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)

Also. WE NEED TO FREE OCTAVIA AND THE GOLDFISH.

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

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.