‘Wildcard’ – Marie Lu

Second in the Warcross series this returns to some familiar themes while developing the story in a quite intriguing way.

Emika is not in a great place following the Warcross Championships. She feels she’s messed up some of the things that were good for her, but she is determined to do what she can to put things right.

Appalled by Hideo’s plans for his Neurolink, Emika finds herself caught up in a dangerous game to try to put things right. Though she takes huge risks to do this, it’s not always clear who’s acting out of the best of intentions and this makes for a tense and exciting read.

There’s a bit more focus on the technical stuff here, and we get some answers to the parts of book one that didn’t quite make sense. Emika surprised me with how far she was prepared to take things, but it built up to a cracking finale.

I couldn’t help but feel that the ending was slightly murky. Definitely shades of grey here, which makes me wonder if we’ll get more to this. I do hope so!

‘The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein’ – Kiersten White

This won’t be to everyone’s tastes as it tells a story, but one we assume to be familiar with. Here we get the Frankenstein story told through the eyes of Elizabeth.

From her mistreated childhood to the moments the story focuses on we can see Elizabeth is a character forced into the roles dictated to her. She is at her fiercest/bravest when challenging these roles, and I liked the way this illuminates aspects of Shelley’s text while telling its own story.

We can see the role Elizabeth played in Victor Frankenstein and his experiments. We watch as she learns what he’s been doing and how she deals with the effects of these experiments.

A substantial part of the tale is like reading Frankenstein through another character’s eyes, but then we deviate from the expected. It doesn’t work fully, but it would certainly be a highly recommended read for anyone wanting to examine Shelley’s work with new eyes.

‘What If It’s Us?’ – Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

I wanted to wait for my physical copy, but NetGalley gave me an ARC and I couldn’t resist…so now I’ll get to read it again, soon.

This did not go where I wanted to, it didn’t do a lot of the things I hoped it would but I still fell for it hook, line and sinker.

When Arthur and Ben meet one day in New York, the chances of them seeing each other again are pretty slim. But where would the fun be in that?

Through a varied range of ingenious actions they find each other and have a date. It doesn’t work brilliantly, so they try again…and again. There’s lots of other factors impacting on their attempt to have a relationship, but they keep trying. Even when things are clearly heading into car-crash territory these two come out of things smelling of roses.

Every character in the story sparkles on the page, and this was a gooey lovely thing. For the most part. Not always – because nobody’s life could be that amazing – but it came fairly close.

Even the ending – which totally goes against what part of me really wanted to happen – was perfect.

‘The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy’ – Mackenzi Lee

Felicity Montague…wish she’d been around when I was a teenager. Think I’m a little in love with this young woman!

Having survived some pretty risky situations she’s back, and throwing herself with gusto into things that nobody in their right mind would attempt.

When Felicity realises marriage to Callum the baker is not going to be for her she runs to London to stay with her brother, Monty. Determined to pursue her dreams she tries – again – to convince gentlemen in the medical establishment to permit her to study. Given the time she’s in, this doesn’t go well.

But a young woman, daughter of a pirate commander, offers to help her find her way to the home of old friend Johanna Hoffman who is about to marry Dr Alexander Platt.

Without giving away important plot details there’s more to the offer of help than we first think. Felicity gets herself embroiled in a risky chase to reclaim property belonging to Johanna’s late mother. She ends up closer to some of her dreams than she ever thought possible and things end in such a way that have me convinced there’s more to come.

‘The Rule of One’ – Ashley and Leslie Saunders

In the near-future United States, a one-child policy is ruthlessly enforced. Everyone follows the Rule of One. But Ava Goodwin, daughter of the head of the Texas Family Planning Division, has a secret—one her mother died to keep and her father has helped to hide for her entire life.

She has an identical twin sister, Mira.

Mira and Ava are the twin daughters of a high-ranking government official. Though they break the law daily, nothing about their behaviour suggests why this should be a problem. They play by their father’s rules and yet, very early on in the story, their secret is discovered.

With their father imprisoned and tortured for breaking the law the girls are forced to go on the run and rely on a network of sympathisers to support their attempts to challenge the status quo.

Told from alternating viewpoints we see the girls develop a very clear sense of their own identity and we observe how such a law might affect the world. Things aren’t perfectly resolved, but there’s a definite step in the right direction.

‘Sawkill Girls’ – Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls is something of a puzzling book. Touted as horror, when I got granted access to the opening chapters on NetGalley I was struck by what seemed to be a dark fairytale quality to the writing. Having just finished the book I am torn between being genuinely unnerved by the creature unleashed on Sawkill and fascinated by the tales told and the events depicted here.

Marion and her family arrive on the island and strange things are immediately obvious. There’s a connection to Val Mortimer and her family, and girls are regularly disappearing from the town. Nobody is sure what’s happening but there’s a dark energy to the place, and lots of very unusual occurrences.

The book was one that sucked me in. It had a few moments that got me uneasy, and the key relationship makes a lot more sense once we get to the end. It’s a genuinely tricky book to pin down but it is definitely one to recommend.

‘Sadie’ – Courtney Summers

It starts with a dead girl. Mattie, aged 11. Found in a field after being missing for days. Her sister, Sadie, then goes missing.

This felt quite different to the other books by Summers that I’ve read. There was an unusual style of writing, with excerpts from a radio podcast interspersed with the story of Sadie. The podcast lent an air of interest to the story – watching someone else uncover the events that we were already familiar with, but also piecing together the strands just that little bit after we had been told certain details. 

We follow Sadie as she tries to find the man she blames for her sister’s death. Along the way Sadie makes some deeply unpleasant discoveries, and it makes us think a little more about how easy it is for people to hide their true feelings/behaviours if they choose to.

Throughout, there was an ominous tone to the story. The threads surrounding Sadie pulled tighter and tighter, and it felt like the resolution was not quite what we hoped for.

Personally I found the ending to be frustrating as Sadie’s story was not clearly resolved. I liked the way this was left open to a positive possibility, but with what we know I can’t help but feel it wasn’t on the cards.

‘The Towering Sky’ – Katharine McGee

Welcome back to New York, 2119. A skyscraper city, fueled by impossible dreams, where the lives of five teenagers have become intertwined in ways that no one could have imagined.

So, last part in the trilogy and I really didn’t know what to expect.

The opening sets up an idea very clearly and had me wondering what on earth might lead to that conclusion. Then our action switches to three months earlier and we are shown some of the details that bring us to the end-point.

I found myself trying to recall some details from the previous two books, but here we see how the teens have been affected by Mariel’s death and the way they’ve been coping with events since then.

Avery has herself a new boyfriend, Max, and is toying with the idea of moving to study in Oxford. But her love for Atlas is not going to die easily, and their father’s election leads to some awkward situations.

Watt and Leda – possibly my favourites of the group – drift together and we see them piecing together the events of the last few months. Rylin and Cord are very different, but we learn sometimes the differences aren’t such a barrier. Calliope, stuck in her con for the first time ever, is struggling to stay true to herself. Thankfully, some matters aren’t left in her hands.

While the ‘ending’ was dramatic, I was pleased that not everything was as clear cut as we expected. I was surprised by one or two revelations, but it felt this could have been tightened up.

‘Children of Blood and Bone’ – Tomi Adeyemi

Is it possible to be scared of reading a book because you’re worried about being disappointed?

It’s sat on my bookshelf for months, I’ve picked it up a couple of times and each time not felt I’m up for it. All around me I’ve seen people raving about it, and felt I should be reading it but not wanted to start. More fool me.

Though some of the plot details lag, as we learn more about Zelie and Tzain we realise that their quest to restore magic to their world will be fraught with danger.

From Zelie’s training to the final moments when she claims her place, this was a fantasy story like no other. Zelie is a strong character, not without her flaws, but she faces her challenge with true grit. She is up against it, faces her fears and even continues when many would have crumbled.

Alongside Zelie, we have Inan and Amari- the prince and princess who have been raised to fight, to fear magic and who sense that things don’t have to be the way they’ve been led to believe. Each of them has to fight prejudice – both their own, and that of others.

It wasn’t until I got to the end and read the author’s note that I read about the symbolic role of this book. Fighting for your spirit, fighting against prejudice and the reckless slaughter of innocents…how did I not get that as well as a great fantasy story this was also a book about race?

Amongst the final lines of the novel are the words: We are all children of blood and bone. All instruments of vengeance and virtue. It sent shivers down my spine and I am excited to see where book 2 goes.

‘It Ends With You’ – S.K. Wright

YA thriller that really packs a punch.

Told from multiple perspectives it could be a mess, but these different voices keep us waiting for information and all shed new light on what happened.
Eve is one of the popular crowd. Beautiful, wealthy and destined for great things people are surprised when she falls for bad boy Luke. Luke is not from a wealthy family, and he has a temper – so he’s the perfect suspect when Eve’s body is discovered in the woods.

It seems from the beginning that Luke is innocent, but there are hints that keep us guessing throughout. We learn Eve is not quite as innocent as people thought, and the details of what she’s been up to were pretty shocking.

When Luke is imprisoned and put on trial for Eve’s murder there’s hints that we might not have everything as neatly wrapped up as we thought. However, the end was chilling and really made me rethink some of my earlier ideas.

This is certainly one I’ll recommend, and I must thank NetGalley for providing me with the opportunity to read this prior to publication.