Sunday, December 3, 2023

Review - Over My Dead Body by Sweeney Boo



Title: Over My Dead Body

Author: Sweeney Boo

Pages: 242

Publisher: Titan

Release Date: 18th November 2022


Blurb from Goodreads:

 Fans of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Dark Academia will love diving into the mysterious and witchy world of award-nominated creator Sweeny Boo. Enchanting full-color illustrations in this graphic novel will be sure to charm readers as they explore the halls of Younwity's Institute of Magic and the forbidden forest that lies beyond. In the days leading up to Samhain, the veil between the world of the dead and the living is at its thinnest. One day, everything was going exactly as it was supposed to be. And the next, the closest thing Abby ever had to a sister, Noreen, was just… gone. Distracted by the annual presentations for the Samhain festival, Abby's classmates are quick to put Noreen's disappearance aside. The Coven will find her, Abby's friends say. They have it under control. But Abby can't let go. Soon a search for answers leads her down a rabbit hole that uncovers more secrets than Abby can handle. As mounting evidence steers her toward the off-limits woods that surround the academy, she begins to see that Noreen's disappearance mysteriously has a lot in common with another girl who went missing all those years ago…

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My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Titan Books and NetGalley*

Abby attends the Younwity's Institute of Magic with her friends.

Preparations for the Samhain festival are underway when Abby's closest friend, Noreen, disappears.

Abby doesn't understand why her other friends aren't more concerned about Noreen, and is determined to find her.

As Abby searches for Noreen, she uncovers long-buried secrets about another student that vanished decades ago.

As a fan of the author's art, I was intrigued to see what their graphic novel would be like, especially as I liked the witch aspect.

The characters were relatable and I really felt for Abby when she struggled so much with Noreen's disappearance.

I liked that the characters all had different kinds of creatures as their familiars, and that they talked.

The plot was enjoyable and held my attention, but I wasn't particularly shocked by anything that happened. However, I really liked the theme of friendship and found the setting interesting.

I really enjoy the author's style of drawing and liked the art throughout the book.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read.



Sunday, November 12, 2023

Review - Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Lin



Title: Portrait of a Thief

Author: Grace D. Li

Pages: 385

Publisher: Coronet

Release Date: 14th April 2022


Blurb from Goodreads:

This was how things began: Boston on the cusp of fall, the Sackler Museum robbed of 23 pieces of priceless Chinese art. Even in this back room, dust catching the slant of golden, late-afternoon light, Will could hear the sirens. They sounded like a promise.

Will Chen, a Chinese American art history student at Harvard, has spent most of his life learning about the West – its art, its culture, all that it has taken and called its own. He believes art belongs with its creators, so when a Chinese corporation offers him a (highly illegal) chance to reclaim five priceless sculptures, it’s surprisingly easy to say yes.

Will’s crew, fellow students chosen out of his boundless optimism for their skills and loyalty, aren’t exactly experienced criminals. Irene is a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything; Daniel is pre-med with steady hands and dreams of being a surgeon. Lily is an engineering student who races cars in her spare time; and Will is relying on Alex, an MIT dropout turned software engineer, to hack her way in and out of each museum they must rob.

Each student has their own complicated relationship with China and the identities they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but one thing soon becomes certain: they won’t say no.

Because if they succeed? They earn an unfathomable ten million each, and a chance to make history. If they fail, they lose everything . . . and the West wins again.

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My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley*

Will Chen is a senior at Harvard studying art history.

When a Chinese corporation offers Will a life-changing amount of money in exchange for stealing five works of art that now reside in museums around the world, Will says yes.

Will puts together a team made up of; Irene, Will's sister, who has a way of always getting what she wants; Lily, Irene's room-mate who drag races cars for fun; Daniel, a childhood friend of both Will and Irene; and Alex, a software engineer friend of Will's.

Each member of the team has their own reason for agreeing to the heists, but can they break into several museums and avoid getting caught by the police?

The premise for this book really intrigued me, so I was looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my hopes.

Will is the main protagonist, but we get chapters from the points of view of all members of the heist team. Out of all of them, I liked Alex and Daniel the most. I struggled a little with Will, and his chapters were probably the ones I looked forward to the least.

The themes and ideas were interesting and thought-provoking. I definitely found myself thinking about museums in a new light.

The plot was interesting for the most part, but the pacing was a little off for me and I did get a bit bored once or twice. There wasn't anything that happened that particularly shocked me, and I wasn't very invested in what happened to the characters.

The writing style was enjoyable, and easy to follow.

I am disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more.

Whilst there were some important topics covered in this book, which were well done I thought, this ended up being a mixed read for me.

Overall, this was a mixed read.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Review - Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May



Title: Wild and Wicked Things

Author: Francesca May

Pages: 466

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Release Date: 29th March 2022


Blurb from Goodreads:

 In the aftermath of the First World War, a young woman gets swept into a glittering world filled with illicit magic, romance, blood debts and murder in this lush and decadent debut novel.

On Crow Island, people whispered, real magic lurked just below the surface. But Annie Mason never expected her enigmatic new neighbour to be a witch.

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My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK*

When Annie's estranged father dies, she finds herself travelling to the notorious Crow Island to sort through his things.

On the mainland, magic is prohibited after the events of the First World War. However, on Crow Island, the use of magic is less controlled and Annie soon discovers that her new neighbour is a witch.

As Annie spends time on the island, she is reunited with her best friend from home, Bea, who now lives there. Annie also discovers more about her father, and is drawn to her bewitching neighbour Emmeline.

As Annie is sucked into the world of magic, she discovers that it can be as dangerous as it is seductive.

The pitch for this book intrigued me - The Great Gatsby with witches - but, unfortunately, it didn't live up to my hopes.

Annie was an OK protagonist. I liked her, and I felt sorry for her at times, but didn't feel that I fully connected with her.

Bea and Emmeline were mixed characters for me - there were times when I liked them and times when I didn't.

My favourite characters were probably Nathan and Isobel, whose relationship I liked.

The setting of the island and being just after World War I was interesting. As Crow Island was a separate entity from the mainland, there didn't seem to be any after-effects from the war, such as rationing, and I wasn't sure how realistic that was - surely there would have been some foods they couldn't get? - but given that this book has magic and witches, it's not exactly realistic.

There was some world-building, which was interesting, but it did seem a little vague and was a little confusing.

The plot was mixed - while it did go in a direction that I wasn't expecting, I was never gripped, and didn't feel immersed or invested in what was happening.

I am disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more.

Overall, this was a mixed read.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Review - The Shadow of the Gods (Bloodsworn Saga, #1) by John Gwynne



Title: The Shadow of the Gods (Bloodsworn Saga, #1)

Author: John Gwynne

Pages: 500

Publisher: Orbit

 Release Date: 4th May 2021

Blurb from Goodreads:

This is the age of storm and murder.

After the old gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrio.

Now, power-hungry jarls carve out petty kingdoms, and monsters stalk the shadow-haunted woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power, promising fame and fortune for those brave - or desperate - enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo over the plains and across the fjords, fate follows the footsteps of three people: a huntress searching for her missing son, a jarl's daughter who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who has cast off his chains and now fights alongside the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world, as it once more teeters on the edge of chaos.

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My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley*

Gods once ruled the land of Vigrio, but their war led to nearly all of them dying and monsters being released.

Now humans rule and fight for power, and those deemed Tainted, who have the blood of the Gods in their veins, are hunted or enslaved.

There is unease spreading throughout the land, and many lives will be forever changed by what comes next - including a former warrior who has left violence behind for a family life, a slave seeking vengeance, and a woman thirsting for a life of battle fame over a life of being a pawn living in luxury.

Going into this book, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I am glad that I gave it a try.

There are three protagonists: Orka, a former warrior who had set down her axe to settle down and have a family; Varg, a slave seeking vengeance for his sister's death; and Elvar, who left behind a life of luxury to chase glory in battle.

While Orka was my favourite character, I did very much like all three of the protagonists and enjoyed reading their interactions with others, and the bonds/friendships they formed with other characters. I particularly found Elvar and Grend's relationship intriguing.

The setting of Vigrio was interesting and I thought the world-building was very good. I could definitely tell it was Norse-inspired.

The plot was enjoyable and held my attention throughout, although it did feel maybe a little bit too long for me. However, once things started to come together towards the end, it did feel satisfying after all the build-up and the ending was very good. I am intrigued to see what happens next.

I would definitely read another book by the author.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, solid read.


Saturday, September 9, 2023

Review - Hide by Kiersten White



Title: Hide

Author: Kiersten White

Pages: 240

Publisher: Del Rey

Release Date: 24th May 2022

Blurb from Goodreads:

The challenge: spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don't get caught.

The prize: enough money to change everything.

Even though everyone is desperate to win--to seize their dream futures or escape their haunting pasts--Mack feels sure that she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she's an expert at that.

It's the reason she's alive, and her family isn't.

But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes this competition is more sinister than even she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive.

Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

A high-stakes hide-and-seek competition turns deadly in this dark supernatural thriller from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White.


My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Random House UK and NetGalley*

When Mack is offered a place in a competition where fourteen competitors hide in an old amusement park, with a life-changing amount of money as the prize, she says yes.

Everyone is determined to win, but as the days goes on and people begin to go missing, Mack starts to realise that there is a darker side to the competition.

As the only living member of her family, Mack is a survivor, but this might be something not even she can escape.

Can Mack figure out what is really going on at the amusement park before it's too late?

Going into this book, I was intrigued by the thriller/mystery element, and in that aspect I thought it did quite well.

Mack was a likeable and relatable protagonist. She had been through something extremely traumatic that affected her deeply and influenced her interactions with the other competitors.

There were a lot of different points of view in this book, and I felt they switched abruptly at times. I also struggled to differentiate between them at the beginning.

Other than Mack, my favourite characters were Ava, Brandon and Legrand.

I would have liked some of the characters to have been more fleshed out, as there are some that I don't remember anything about and that were very flat and two-dimensional.

The setting of the abandoned amusement park was very secluded and I thought the author did a good job of making a creepy, and at times, chilling atmosphere.

The plot was interesting and held my attention, but the pacing felt off and there were times when the book fell flat for me.

Overall, this was a mixed read.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Review - The Spanish Love Deception (Spanish Love Deception, #1) by Elena Armas



Title: The Spanish Love Deception (Spanish Love Deception, #1)

Author: Elena Armas

Pages: 497

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK

Release Date: 25th November 2021


Blurb from Goodreads:

 A wedding in Spain. The most infuriating man. Three days to convince your family you're actually in love. . .

Catalina Martín desperately needs a date to her sister's wedding. Especially when her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiralled out of control. Now everyone she knows – including her ex-boyfriend and his fiancée – will be there.

She only has four weeks to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic for her and aid in her deception. NYC to Spain is no short flight and her family won't be easy to fool. . . But even then, when Aaron Blackford – the 6'4", blue-eyed pain in the arse – offers to step in, she's not tempted even for a second. Never has there been a more aggravating, blood-boiling and insufferable man.

But Catalina is desperate and as the wedding gets closer the more desirable an option Aaron Blackford becomes. . .

The Spanish Love Deception is an enemies-to-lovers, fake-dating romance. Perfect for those looking for a steamy slow-burn with the promise of a sweet happy-ever-after.

"Everything you could want in a romance is right here."
Helen Hoang, author of The Kiss Quotient

Goodreads | Storygraph | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop

My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Simon & Schuster UK and NetGalley*

Catalina Martin lives in New York, but will be returning home to Spain for her sister's wedding in four weeks. After finding out that her ex-boyfriend will be at the wedding and that he is engaged, Catalina is determined to take a date with her and even lies to her family, telling them that she has an American boyfriend that is coming with her.

Then Catalina's colleague, Aaron Blackford, offers to be her date. Catalina is hesitant to accept - their relationship is not exactly friendly, and Catalina loathes Aaron.

When no other options are forthcoming, Catalina reluctantly accepts Aaron's help. As they start spending time outside of work together, Catalina finds out that maybe Aaron isn't so bad after all.

Will Catalina's family be fooled?

I can't remember the exact reason I requested this book on NetGalley. I think it must have been a moment of madness, because I usually try to steer clear of 'TikTok sensations', and this book was the perfect example of why that's the case.

Catalina was an OK protagonist, and while I did feel sorry for her given what she had been through in the past, I didn't feel that I particularly connected with her, and wasn't invested in what happened to her.

Aaron was a bit of a meh character for me. Sure, he did nice things for Catalina, but if he had just talked to her and explained his feelings, then this book would pretty much have been redundant - the 'deception' part, anyway. I found Aaron to be quite a flat, two-dimensional character, unfortunately, and did not feel any chemistry between him and Catalina.

The plot was OK, but pretty predictable. Nothing happened that surprised or shocked me and I was pretty bored throughout.

The dialogue was very cringy at times, and I found the wording/writing quite stilted, especially with the first chapter, even the first few opening lines. If I hadn't been reading a review copy (and even then I switched to the audiobook to get through it faster), then I would have stopped reading and DNF'd the book before long.

Unfortunately, this was not for me and I will not be recommending it.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Review - The Revelry by Katherine Webber



 Title: The Revelry

Author: Katherine Webber

Pages: 272

Publisher: Walker Books

Release Date: 6th January 2022


Blurb from Goodreads: 

A story of best friends, bad luck and the consequences of breaking the rules in a town built on secrets and superstitions.

I am girl of Ember Grove, and these are my woods...

Growing up in Ember Grove, Bitsy Clark knows better than to mess with the long-held traditions of her hometown. Until her best friend, Amy, persuades her to sneak into the Revelry - the end of school party in the woods, to which only those leaving are invited.

When she wakes the next day, Bitsy can't remember anything from the night before. Weirder still, whenever she tries to speak about the Revelry, Bitsy chokes on the words. But this is just the beginning, and what starts out as a run of bad luck starts to feel like a curse. As Bitsy's life goes from bad to worse, things only get better and better for her best friend. It's as if there's only so much luck to go round and Amy's getting all of it...


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My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Walker Books and NetGalley*

Bitsy Clark has lived in Ember Grove her entire life and knows not to go against the traditions that have lasted generations. Traditions such as the Revelry - a party held in the woods at the end of the school year where only the graduating classes are invited.

But when Bitsy's best friend, Amy, convinces her to sneak into that year's Revelry - which is not their year to attend - strange things begin to happen. Bitsy can't remember anything from the Revelry, and words get stuck in her throat when she tries to talk about it.

Then bad luck starts to plague Bitsy, meanwhile Amy seems to be getting all the good luck.

What happened at the Revelry?

Will Bitsy be able to change her luck before it's too late?

The mystery element of this book really intrigued me, so I was looking forward to reading it.

Bitsy was a likeable and relatable protagonist most of the time - for while I did feel sorry for her, there were also times when I found her annoying.

I felt the same about Amy, Bitsy's best friend. Although, I did prefer Bitsy to Amy.

The setting of Ember Grove was interesting, and I thought the author did a good job of making Ember Grove feel small, isolated and a bit creepy.

The plot was interesting to begin with, but after a while I did start to lose interest, partly due to finding Bitsy frustrating at times. Unfortunately, I did become less invested as the book went on.

The concept of the Revelry was interesting and I enjoyed finding out more about it.

The writing style was easy to follow.

I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more.

Overall, this was a mixed read.