‘How to Find a Missing Girl’ – Victoria Wlosok

When cheerleader Stella Blackthorn went missing everyone assumed she had run away. Her younger sister, Iris, was adamant she wouldn’t have run…and gets herself into trouble trying to investigate what happened. Now, a year later, Iris is still searching for answers and another young girl goes missing. This time, it’s Iris’s ex.

From start to finish this is a hard book to put down. For fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder the focus on the two incidents kept me hooked. Iris and her group of detectives are a rather eclectic bunch, but definitely a group of teens you want to listen to.

Mixing the narrative with a podcast, the focus on two crimes really makes for an intriguing read. Iris is prone to reckless decision-making, but it’s difficult not to get swept upon the events described.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this before publication.

‘The Only One Left’ – Riley Sager

A Riley Sager novel appearing on NetGalley always puts me in a flap…just in case I don’t get access to it and have to wait publication. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and this is definitely a thriller you will not want to put down.

Kit is in a difficult position. Since being accused of killing her most recent patient she’s been suspended from work and her father can’t look her in the eye. The people around her think she’s a killer. So when she’s given the chance to work again, she’s desperate to take the job…even after she learns who she’ll be looking after.

Kit’s new patient lives at Hope’s End, a rambling mansion perched on the cliff tops. Her name is Lenora Hope, and when she was seventeen she was accused of murdering the three other members of her family.

The story follows Kit as she spends her days caring for someone she isn’t entirely sure she trusts. Strange noises can regularly be heard from her room, but Lenora can’t walk or talk. When Lenora lets on that she can type, Kit starts to learn more of what happened that night.

Sometimes the truth is stranger than anything you can come up with.
Sager does a good job of drawing us in to this very mixed-up family. The atmosphere of the house is suitably oppressive and the development of the story is well paced. I can’t say more as I’d hate to ruin the surprises for someone.

‘Fourth Wing’ – Rebecca Yarros

A 4.5 rating, and while there are elements that I’d have liked to see developed this definitely did live up to the hype.

The story is fairly straightforward. Violet is the daughter of General Sorrengail. The family are riders, and though Violet has trained to be a Scribe – definitely influenced by her father – her mother is determined that her third child will also learn to ride dragons. Violet is not a likely candidate, and from the reaction every one she meets has it is painfully clear that nobody expects her to survive the experience.

Naturally, Violet surprises them all.

From the opening pages, as we see Violet start her trial, I found myself desperate to see how this would pan out. It reads like a lot of books of the genre and relies heavily on the elements you often expect. There’s the old friend/love interest who’s not quite what we think, the brooding lust interest, the plucky friends and the relentless need to show our main character has reserves hitherto untapped. While this felt like an opportunity missed, it keeps you turning the pages and definitely doesn’t hurt in terms of delivering a cracking story.

With it clearly being the opening of a series we know there’s more going on. There were twists here aplenty, some of which you could predict and others that were more subtle. I don’t mind admitting that I was left stunned by the closing section.
YA or New Adult…it’s categorised as both, and this does seem to suffer from trying to appeal to a very broad range of readers. Some of the dialogue had me cringing, but it didn’t stop me enjoying what was taking place. I loved the dragons and want more of them! The closing twist definitely sets up a very intriguing premise and I’m keen to see exactly how Violet’s father features in this tale.

I’ve already pre-ordered book two and think there’ll be more than one or two recommendations of this book taking place!

‘Mad Honey’ – Jodi Picoult

Mad Honey is a real thing. It’s caused by bees using pollen from specific plants and the honey they make can cause nausea and hallucinations. It has seemingly nothing to do with the story, but bees are a recurring theme – primarily because the mother of one of the characters is a beekeeper, but also because of the things we have learned from bees about gender and how the bee communities work (hard not to see the links when they seem to be mentioned all the time).

This was a book that I meant to read on its release in 2022, and didn’t get round to. I was intrigued by the details we’re given in the synopsis about a mother whose son is accused of the murder of his girlfriend and the introduction to the story certainly got the book off to a good start. I found myself, certainly to start off with, confused by the different timelines to the narratives of Lily and Asher. It does come to make sense – and was an interesting approach – but it did come to feel that this had been done deliberately to make the details that are shared about Lily seem unnecessarily shocking rather than an integral element of the character’s life.

While I understand why some of the seemingly crucial details about the characters are not revealed immediately, it did lead to me feeling rather ambushed. Perhaps this is deliberate, and certainly some of the details we are given should not matter. The fact that they have come to seem so important in the eyes of some reviewers only highlights to me what a long way there is to go in respect to the social issues explored in the book.

The focus on Asher’s mum, how her past has influenced her perception of events/people and the shifting dynamic between her and her son was at the heart of the book. Not an easy read for so many reasons, and much of this made me so so sad.

‘The Last Passenger’ – Will Dean

4.5 stars…Will Dean must be some kind of twisted genius as this was a book that was genuinely hard to put down even though the content was truly psychologically tormenting.

Our main character Caz is headed out on a cruise with her boyfriend. She thinks he might propose while they’re travelling, but nothing prepares her for what happens.
On her first morning she wakes up to find her room empty and no sign of Pete. When she sets foot outside her cabin she notes an eerie silence and all the other cabin doors are propped open. As she wanders the ship the grim reality becomes apparent. She is the only passenger left on board.

Very quickly Caz – and we the reader – are let in on what’s happening. While I’d like to think there’s something fundamentally decent about humanity that would make this impossible, the way it is executed is horribly plausible. Forcing us to watch as the unmanned ship continues its journey meant a number of difficult decisions and some genuinely scary moments as it was hard to tell just how far things would be taken.

It was impossible not to feel for those we encountered along the way, and the revelations during the book built far more nuanced characters than I was expecting. It would be hard not to consider the psychological impact of such manipulation, and there were no real answers given to this. Upon immediately finishing the book I was left open-mouthed at the ending, convinced this was one step beyond, but it certainly offered a different take on those thorny topics raised by the book.