Category Archives: Reviews

Wilder Girls, Rory Power; Review

Wild is in the name and it is certainly fitting for this book about friendship, humanity, but ultimately survival. I was absolutely engrossed in each and every twisting page of Rory Power’s novel about a quarantined Boarding School that has been struck by an unnerving virus.

The book opens from the first person perspective of Hetty, and begins with everything already in motion; in that the virus, named The Tox, is already established and has already wrecked havoc within the school causing major illnesses and death. It becomes clear that the island that is home to the Boarding School has been abandoned and the girls are instructed to wait for a cure and must remain in quarantine. What I really loved about this was how matter of fact it seemed for the characters and how they just laid everything bare for the reader to see. Usually when there is a storyline about a virus; the outbreak is the big shocking event that the plot leads up to, whereas here it had already happened. The fact that Hetty spoke so offhandedly about it really vocalised how much the character’s have had to adapt to survive. The rest of the book really solidifies this and it really tests the girl’s to their limits to see how far they are willing to go in order to live.

That’s what really struck home about this book for me personally. It felt like the farther I got into the book the more wild I became; as if I truly were on this journey with them. The brutal imagery and even weirdly gross descriptions were shocking and unexpected for a YA but made it all the more intriguing. I could feel the need to survive, and to adapt. There were some moments where I felt like I didn’t get all the answers I craved (especially in regard to The Tox itself) but in retrospect I don’t think I needed them. I was left in the same boat as Hetty, Reese, and Byatt; uncertain and reeling. Hetty came to the conclusion that she didn’t really need to know how it had happened to them; just that it did and in some weird ways it brought them closer together. Similarly with Byatt who at times acted as though she didn’t want a cure, knew that this event had changed the girls not just physically. I was really intrigued by her and as it emerged she was more morally grey of a character I enjoyed her even more. I think its very easy to make characters seem nice and angelic when something bad happens to them so that the event seems undeserving, but in Byatt’s case it was all the more affirming that it could be anyone and despite her questionable attributes; Hetty and Reese would have done anything for her proving that friendship, and loyalty really drives this novel.

Another aspect of this novel that I truly loved was the fact that it was LGBTQ+ but also that it was done naturally. Having Reese as a queer character didn’t feel as though it was done to add diversity for the sake of diversity but to further the dynamics and layers created what this story aimed to tell; what people would or wouldn’t do for those they truly care for. I didn’t once feel like the romance was detracting from the narrative or the plot in any way, but that it just so happened to be a side plot that felt natural, empathetic, and truly representative. I think there are some key scenes that showcase this which include Reese’s father, boatshift, and the ending as a whole because it also demonstrates that YA romance isn’t always fluffy and easy but that its hard and that actions have consequences; especially in a world were survival is your priority.

Wilder Girls was truly unique. I particularly loved the descriptions (although sometimes quite graphic) about how the Tox changed these girls; the bloody sores, the second spine, the sealed eye, and the silver hand, were all nontypical and refreshingly different to read about. They weren’t pretty; they were brutal and honest. The only real issue I had with this book was sometimes the writing style, although done purposefully to reflect the characters not being coherent, was slightly stunting and awkward to read. I think this was primarily down to the fact that it was first person but once I got into the story I didn’t notice it all that much and was able to get past it.

This book was actually a buddy read with my wonderful friend Lauren, who you can find on Bookstragram as LittleBookishFairy. We actually demolished this book reading over half of it in one sitting while frantically messaging each other at 1am. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it with her and talking through all our theories together because it is a book that keeps you wondering why in the back of your mind. I would definitely recommend Wilder Girls for a feminist, well represented, and interesting read that is different to the norm. Its intriguing, fast paced, and really makes you think about survival and friendship.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides; Review

See no evil, hear no evil, but most definitely speak no evil. This psychological thriller explores the aftermath of a murder when the killer decides to never speak again and is institutionalised in a medial facility.

I saw quite a bit of buzz surrounding this novel and finally decided to take the plunge this October to read it. I did the typical bookworm thing where I envisioned spooky chapters but I’d still be safe with my lamp on and firmly snuggled within the cosy depths of my blanket. The premise really intrigued me because I adore a good mystery which is all the more tantalising when the character involved won’t tell what happened; the tension alone wants to drive you to the end. Alicia Berenson, despite having an idealistic life, comes home one evening to shoot her husband in the face five times and hasn’t uttered a word since. The novel follows two perspectives; mainly the voice of her psychotherapist Theo as he tries to uncover her mystery, and Alicia’s diary entries leading up to the bloody event.

At first I wasn’t particularly keen on the narrative presented by Theo. In all honesty, I found him to be a little stiff and overly explanative in the beginning. A lot of the first chapters were heavy description which involved too much focus on the study of psychology to the point where it felt a little redundant. He was explaining things that I could have easily realised myself and because of the emphasis of description over plot or dialogue, it felt very much like the author was making sure the reader understood rather than it being a part of the story naturally. With that being said, it did start to ease off during the middle of the book when I was hooked by the story, not necessarily the characters.

I did really like the chapters that were of Alicia’s diary entries because it really enhanced the tension whilst adding just enough small clues to make me question everyone. I particularly liked the dynamic presented between Max (Alicia’s brother in law) and Alicia and thought that was an interesting exploration into sibling rivalry; but I would have loved to have further input from Max’s wife Tanya as I felt she could have introduced another layer with more complicated emotions and therefore intrigue. Similarly, I really enjoyed the small insight into Alicia’s cousin Paul and how he felt trapped to look after his mother. Although again, I feel as though this could have been explored further without the predicable gambling subplot. In all honesty, I had a few issues with the secondary characters not being explored thoroughly because they felt secondary. Plus, not to mention the blatant stereotypes, such as; the gossiping and materialist neighbour named Barbie, the Greek psychologist, and of course the French gallery owner, that all added to the sense that they were an afterthought.

The true star of this book however, is the ending. I can see why it had so many people talking, because the twist actually lives up to the shock that the premise promises. I will say that I didn’t expect it to go the way that it did and I was thoroughly thrown off my game as I had pointed my finger of blame in the completely wrong direction. The anticipation of waiting for Alicia to speak, in combination with the theories that the reader collects on the way make this a very intriguing read that can only be described as a page turner! I would like to explore this ending further so the next paragraph will include spoilers so here is your warning folks! If you do not want the twist to be revealed please stop here; but if you’re as nosy as I am, or you have read the book yourself then please continue.

Firstly and obviously, I was shocked to find that Theo himself was the driving character in implementing the murder, however unintended. When I had that revelation moment my jaw truly did hang open. I loved the way that Michaelides interweaves the past and the present based on the readers assumptions to only completely subvert them later. What a master of misdirection because I truly did not connect Alicia’s stalker to Theo. I remember reading those last few passages thinking that Theo was heading down a dark path and questioning how this was going to end for him only to find out it had already happened. The other thing that completely shocked me about this twist was Gabriel himself. During Alicia’s entries I was so sure that he adored her that I didn’t even question his infidelity; which was exactly what Michaelides wanted. I won’t lie to you either, it hurt me. The bit that sticks in my mind is when Gabriel asks Alicia if they could have children together because I truly believed he cared; so this really contributed to me being blind-sighted during the actual reveal. Alicia is the character that I empathised and connected with the most. I really felt for her and despite being confused with the Greek tragedy analogies at the beginning I learnt to appreciate its brilliance at the end. The final piece that connected it all when Theo made Gabriel choose between Alicia and himself and how it reverts back to her childhood was a remarkable plot point that was the perfect jigsaw piece to finish the puzzle.

Overall, The plot of this book was good enough for me to get past my dislike of the narrative Theo was written in. The twist was excellently thought out and made me pause to reevaluate everything I had previously believed and read. The psychology moments, despite sometimes feeling excessive, was an interesting exploration into the motivations of the characters and contributed to all my theories throughout the reading experience. It was a quick read as the novel is fairly short, and so it makes for very easy reading especially with the desire to know what truly happened. The twist is definitely one of those that sticks with you long after finishing the story and I would highly recommend for others to give this one a try. It wasn’t a scary read by any means (like I thought it may be prior to reading) but it is indeed a psychological thriller.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Story of Babushka, Catherine Flores: Review

It’s been a while since I have done a review and if I’m completely honest; I didn’t expect to be doing one on a children’s book any time soon. And yet here we are. When Catherine first messaged me about her book I knew I wanted in because of my affinity with Russian Nesting Dolls. I have loved them since I was a child after my Nana gifted me her very own. As Catherine describes;

“The doll has come to symbolise Russian folk culture, as well as the complex and beautiful layers of women.”

Her story really does solidify this meaning and truly showcases the depth of women and I’m very happy to have had the chance to read it. This book may primarily be a children’s book but by no means is it only for children. The flowing words, beautiful imagery, and insightful meaning will strike true for any reader.

Babushka is the name of the complete doll and each of the five bodies have their own name, traits, and decorations. The story follows each of these bodies as they leave the nest (pun intended) and go on their solo adventures. However, they each come to realise that they need to work and live together to be truly happy and complete. I love this story wholeheartedly as in my mind, it creates a simple discourse surrounding the societal ideas of women that is easily comprehensible. For instance, in the case of Antonia (the most beautiful doll) she is only known for her beauty; Antonia needs the other bodies of the doll to be recognised as more. This simply isn’t the case for women. We want to be beautiful, wealthy, talented, wise, and give love.

The bodies of Babushka

Another thing I love about this story is the fact that each of the bodies go on their own journeys. I think it’s very telling about humans and their desire to be perfect at something; but the way this story presents itself reminds you that you don’t have to be just one thing. I can imagine this book being read to younger children in a way to encourage all of their passions and different aspects of their personalities. The Story of Babushka really is a celebration of the complexity of individuals.

I also have to mention here the illustrations that accompany this book. They are beautifully crafted to add to the fairytale setting and create a sense of whimsy that is just lovely. The only thing I would say that I doubted within this book was the similarity of the names for the talented and wise dolls. I think any parent who reads this aloud would have to really enunciate Paula and Viola; however the imagery does help distinguish the two and they have separate colours for readers to follow along. Overall, this book was a super quick but an absolute delight to read.

Here’s me with my very own Babushka

The Near Witch, V.E. Schwab: Review

Hello readers and writers alike! On this fine Sunday morning I have decided to bask in the afterglow I am left in after reading V.E. Schwab’s The Near Witch; and of course I have to share this with you.

In the town of Near the children sing about the witches old and new and then one by one the children are taken from their beds. This coincides with the arrival of the stranger whom the suspicions are directed towards. Lexi decides to trust her gut instincts and give the stranger the benefit of the doubt; and together they search for the children and the one responsible.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book primarily for the writing style of Schwab. In all honesty, this is my first dive into her works so I couldn’t tell you if all her writings exist within this whimsical poetry-like style, but regardless it suits this story tremendously and it has stayed with me. It felt moody, atmospheric, and has amazing flow.

“She spoke to the earth and the earth cracked

Spoke to the wind and it whistled back

Spoke to the river and the river whirled

Spoke to the fire and the fire curled

But little boy Jack he stayed too long

Listened too closely to the witch’s song”

page 21

Another factor of this book that I truly enjoyed was the setting. Again this was amplified by the writing style and the descriptions that heightened all of my senses. But, the allure of the moor (Schwab has got me rhyming now) was reminiscent of the gothic literature found in Wuthering Heights. I loved reading the witches (not a spoiler as this is revealed rather early on and is common knowledge within the book) Magda and Dreska hobble around their small cottage and attending to their garden with hints of their craft showing through their knobbly fingers. I loved the songs the children sing and the stories Lexi reads.

The only thing I wished differently about this book was the repetitiveness; because of this I was quick to pick up on what was to come to the point where when Schwab had finally revealed it I was already well aware. It sometimes left the character Lexi looking slightly naive, but despite this she still has a lot of gumption and charm as a character that made her really likeable. I also really adored the easiness of her being with the stranger and how they seemed to fit so effortlessly. (I do wish he wasn’t as broody as he is in the beginning though- like c’mon Schwab he can still be thoughtful and mysterious and still have something to say)!

Overall, this book has charm and delights in all the right ways. It has that old sense about it with the town’s council and the folktales the townspeople cling to (think slight The Crucible vibes). The Near Witch is a stand alone novel and wraps up in a satisfactory way where I am not left wanting for anything. For any magic and witch lovers out there; this is a fairly simple story that just has that extra something about it that makes it oh so delicious.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson: Review

I’m back with another suspenseful thriller to review! And just like my previous one I shall be separating this piece into two parts (one half without spoilers and the other half with) so just like a restaurant with vegan options I am catering for you all!

So let’s get started! A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows the character Pippa as she uses a closed case murder, from her town years previously, as the topic for an extended project. The case involved the supposed murder of Andie Bell by her boyfriend Sal Singh who committed suicide out of guilt. However, during her research she begins to uncover secrets that suggest the case is not what it seems, and consequently becomes an amateur detective Nancy Drew style as she investigates it for herself. Now, I absolutely adore this premise because as a true crime nut myself I feel like if given the opportunity I would attempt (probably really badly) to investigate as well. My love for this premise is solidified more so by Pippa herself; her stubborn and determined character was a breath of fresh air in that she was self assured in herself and her ability to be good at this. I really did connect with her and her unashamedly nosy self; and ultimately it was just really nice to read from a character’s perspective where she was confident, witty, and passionate.

Initially I did have reservations when picking this book up as I was worried that it would present itself as a rather young and naive read; especially as a huge part of this story involved the fact that Pippa was doing this project for school. My reservations were stupid. Her age fell into that category that is often ignored in the young adult genre – Pippa is very much a young adult in the way that she carries herself and the writing style is written in a mature way that fits an eighteen year old rather than a younger teen. That’s not to say that you cannot enjoy this book if you are older or slightly younger as the school factor is not as prominent as you might think. Pippa’s project is independent led and when the focus shifts to this it is written in production logs from a first person perspective; you as the reader still feel as though you are following Pip’s investigation rather than her school journey.

Around mid way through this book I remember having an increasing feeling of tension and frustration because there were so many leads to follow in this ‘who done it’ tale. I know this may not be for everyone but for me this was actually a welcomed feeling because I was so invested in getting to the end. I had zero clue about the direction this book was going and I needed to know who the murderer was – this book is the definition of a page-turner and I finished it in just two sittings!

I feel like there isn’t anything in this book that resembles a dud; the whole thing is just thought out and executed so well (Holly Jackson consider me sold i’m delving into your other works now too)! As already mentioned, I couldn’t predict the outcome because of the way the suspicion shifts from character to character and each one is presented to be morally grey. It’s definitely not a black and white tale and each character gave me their doubts; including Andie Bell herself (the girl who was murdered). I really liked the take that Jackson underwent in questioning why in a tragedy there is a tendency to make the victim into some angelic type of character and how sometimes that shouldn’t be the case. Like I said, this book has depth! To continue this, the book also touches on the representation of race in criminal cases, with the initial alleged killer being of Indian decent and why that may have contributed to the town’s easy acceptance of his guilt.

Ok, this is your warning folks! I’m about to go into detail so if you want off the spoiler train this is your stop. In all honesty, I don’t have many spoilers to talk about as I’ve already covered a lot of what I wanted to say about the book except for a few specific characters (one of which is the killer so I guess that’s the biggest spoiler of all).

When the book revealed the killer I was shocked! It was the father of Pippa’s best friend who we as the reader discounted so early on. I think this is the true beauty and cleverness of the book in that he was initially a person of interest so I never jumped on a character that seemed innocent so that I could preempt the unexpected. Jackson acted as a sleight of hand magician here in that whenever the focus could have been on Elliot (the murderer) it was instead on Naomi (his elder daughter). Naomi as a character was so interesting as she presented so many reasons to be guilty that I was betting she was in on it somehow, but she also gave me so many places to doubt myself. Her nervous energy and overall sweet nature was enough for me to question if she was even capable of murder. But in the wonderful words of Jackson there was always another character to switch the suspicion on that wasn’t Elliot; namely Max Hastings who just screamed ‘icky’.

Then came the second reveal; that there were TWO murderers; Elliot who killed Sal (the alleged murder that closed the case in the first place) and Becca, the sister of the original victim Andie Bell. In order, for this reveal to take place it was established that Elliot didn’t know whether he had killed Andie or not and that is why he killed Sal in the first place; to cover his tracks and pass the blame. It was Becca who found her sister hurt and left her to die.

Unfortunately, there was a section that during the reveal of Elliot that suggested Andie Bell was still alive and kept captive by Elliot. Obviously this is not the case as we find out Becca left her to die, which meant that Elliot actually had another girl captive to pretend to be Andie. I’m still processing how I feel about this Norman Bates move as I think it felt a little rushed to be accepted so easily by the reader. However, having said this I much prefer this idea than the alternative of Andie actually still being alive which would have been way too convenient for the story.

Overall, this book had developed characters with motives that made me question everything! There was a likeable protagonist to follow and connect with and a promise of a little romance without it subtracting any focus from the actual investigation and plot of the book. It wasn’t predictable in any way shape or form with a cleverly written and mature writing style from Jackson. Although I didn’t expand on this detail in the review, I still think it is worthy to note how well Jackson captured a British setting and tone. I very much felt like I was in my home country of England and I believe this contributed to how believable the overall story is because it fits so well. To say I was happy with this book is an understatement! I thoroughly enjoyed it and devoured each and every page.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Lies They Tell, Gillian French: Review

I have heard very little about The Lies They Tell, and after reading it I realised I have a lot of thoughts I needed to process. So here I am having raced to my laptop fuelled only by lots of cups of tea this morning and words at my fingertips raring to go.

I shall inform you now that there will be spoilers within this review. But because I’m a lovely reviewer who caters for both those who can’t wait to know, and those who want to find out themselves, I am going to split this review in two. The first being a general overview and the second half having all those juicy bits – in the words of Hannah Montana it is the best of both worlds.

So, The Lies They Tell by Gillian French centralises around Pearl – a quick witted girl working at the Country Club of her town, where during the summer months is overrun by the upper class visiting their holiday homes on “millionaire’s row”. However, this summer comes with its added challenges for Pearl as her father is ruined after one of the elite families die in an arson attack during his shift as a caretaker.

It was the initial premise of this book that drew me in. I love a story that keeps me guessing and I am an absolute sucker for an enemies to more plot (all hail the original star crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet) which the class divides in this story promised. Unfortunately, that promise fell flat.

Firstly, there was three potential love interests for our leading lady. Three! Personally, it felt a little like ‘this is my main character and I need to show she’s likeable after all’. Despite this, I actually did like Pearl – she felt honest and real and she has a very unexpected type of humour about her. I feel like this could have been explored further through her rather than the amount of males that was present in this book (honestly even none romantic it was extremely male dominated). One of the reasons I believe this was stunted was through the narrative choice. Despite the novel clearly being focused on Pearl’s perspective it was written in third person which halted some of the personal insights I was looking for. Furthermore, the dialogue was few and far between so the description felt like it was being drawn out.

This leads me to another issue I had with the book – the pacing. I don’t think anything actually happened? I don’t wish to sound overly negative but despite finishing this book in one sitting I think it was more me trying to find some type of action rather than being so enthralled I couldn’t put it down. I suppose if you like an easy read that you don’t necessarily have to think too hard about then this could be an excellent ‘filler’ book so to speak.

Overall, I liked the idea of this book more than its actual execution. I really enjoyed the rich vs working class dynamic and the setting of the Country Club was actually rather interesting. It was relieving to read a character that felt so relatable in her work environment and it really helped ground the novel. However, as already said, the pacing and narrative distracted from the plot and wasn’t the one for me.

Ok, overview over! If you’re like me (the neighbour peering over the garden fence if you will) you’ll be ready for the spoiler section.

As hinted at above – there was three love interests for Pearl. She loves her best friend Reece who doesn’t feel the same way (honestly loved their dynamic as friends and so wish authors actually wrote platonic friendships as it would have suited them better in my opinion). One of the elite family’s and posh boy Bridges (seriously that’s his name) takes a fancy to her indifference, and then there’s Tristan who’s family died in the fire (Gillian French actually hints that they have a deeper understanding that could blossom and I was SO here for it. That ‘we’re different but get each other’ vibe).

Now Bridges it turns out is rather bloody lack lustre and a bit of a sleaze (choosing her to get over his previous girlfriend – the dead sister of Tristan who actually he was having an affair with). Now that sounds juicy and interesting when put like that but French’s delivery of this takes out all the excitement and revelry of it.

But it is Tristan I have the main issue with. He has a few vulnerable moments with Pearl that hinted he was going to be a more three dimensional character with layers I could really get my teeth stuck into. But no. Turns out he organised the arson on his family anyway despite being the main suspect but with no real reason or motive and suddenly all previous emotion from him has disappeared. This reveal was so utterly disappointing – not necessarily because I expected it but because I wanted more. I really thought the big reveal was going to be some twist I never saw coming but this was just me holding onto hope that was not to be.

Seriously! Tristan’s reason for killing his entire family was that his rich father was mean to him (shocker) and his sister was protecting their younger brother who accidentally has video evidence of his plans (like that’s it). The actual details feel far fetched and slightly unbelievable but again, it was the delivery of all this information that made it expected and dare I say it – slightly dull. Ultimately my hopes for this book were higher than it could deliver which is a shame as again, the premise was there… the execution wasn’t.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Caraval, Stephanie Garber: Review

I am no stranger to a fantasy novel, in fact I would go as far as saying that its my go to genre. So, its no surprising that Caraval found its way onto my ‘to be read’ pile. And it didn’t stay there long. Once I picked this book up I found it hard to put down and was racing through the chapters.

“It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .”

The beginning of the novel I found particularly enticing as Stephanie Garber is a true mastermind in backstory. I instantly knew the main characters; Scarlett and Tella, and their personalities came through brightly. Scarlett was a character that I found much more appealing and someone I could root for. Whereas Tella was a little lacklustre for my personal taste and a character I found even annoying at times. However, it was Scarlett that took centre focus.

The action really begins when Scarlett arrives at Caraval; a spectacular treasure hunt style performance where the winner is granted a wish. This is where the questions really begin. Where’s Tella? Who’s a player? and most importantly is it real? The game no longer felt like a game, especially with her sister missing, and I was utterly invested. This is what I really liked about the novel. I enjoyed the suspense and mystery the game gave me, especially when it led to the darker aspects that I really wasn’t expecting. The seedy underground tunnels, the tortured past of experienced players and the reveal of a murder really made this novel stand out.

The ending to this book, although it was a real twist disappointed me. I was interested in the art of trickery that the plot presented and the understated magic than ran through it. I wanted more of a presence from the enigmatic Legend who created Caraval.

Overall however, this book was a true fantastical YA hit. It teased me with a budding romance, it warmed me with a sisterly relationship and it captured me with its magic. I would definitely recommend Garber’s Caraval, especially to those that perhaps wouldn’t pick it up because of its fantasy elements. This book is first and foremost a mystery and it is absolutely compelling.

Rating: 3 out of 5.