‘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 Paper Palace’ – Miranda Cowley Heller

The Paper Palace is a book I’ve heard so much about, with so many positive reviews, and though there were parts of it that I enjoyed I would be hesitant to recommend this to people.

The book opens with us learning that Elle has just had sex with her childhood friend Jonas, though their respective families are inside the holiday home they have visited every summer. We don’t know how this came about or why, and I was expecting the story to focus on trying to explain how this even came to pass. It does, but it takes a very long and winding route to take us there.

With no context to this incident it is hard to feel sympathy for the characters. If they have been such close friends for so long I spent most of the book wondering why they’d never discussed their feelings beforehand. What we come to see – eventually – is that they were dealing with a lot of other things that certainly will have impacted on their behaviour.

Elle’s family background is complicated. While I do not want to bury my head in the sand, I found the focus on child abuse that features throughout the book concerning. We see instances of abuse happening in a number of families, yet nobody seems to recognise that is happening and those perpetuating it don’t ever seem to face any consequences for their repulsive behaviour. The detached way in which some of these instances was recounted felt quite authentic, a coping mechanism, but I really struggled to read about these children developing very unhealthy coping strategies.

The split narrative did not help me to feel engaged by the story. It felt elusive, and I found it hard to warm to any of the main characters. Jonas could have spoken up earlier, as could Elle, about their feelings and it is cruel to be toying with the lives/emotions of others – even if they are unaware of it – as they try to work out what to do. The closing stages of the book were, for me, infuriating. Apparently the author said it was clear who Elle chose…perhaps this is a cue for me to reread it again because I genuinely could not fathom out what was going on.

‘Rebecca’ – Daphne du Maurier

What a read!

The introduction to the edition I read offered valuable insight into the mindset of the author at the time, and this lent a different light to the novel.

The opening firmly establishes the setting of Manderley. We see it ruined and deserted, but with no idea why. I felt this made the ending more poignant as we never find out if this was Danvers’ last shot at the man she’d come to loathe or an unfortunate natural occurrence. Regardless, the descriptions of the home were beautifully atmospheric.

The story focuses on two characters who don’t particularly endear themselves to the reader. Our unnamed narrator who marries after only a few weeks of acquaintance with Max de Winter, a widower. Gauche and painfully self-doubting, our narrator seems ill-equipped to form such a bond. This exacerbates her feelings of inferiority when she returns to Manderley and is faced with the ghost of her predecessor, Rebecca.

From start to finish it was obvious that things were not well in the de Winter home. As our narrator stumbles through married life, hindered by the housekeeper of horrors, she uncovers secrets that could have awful consequences. 

Strangely, the people in this story and the damage they wreak upon each other did not have the impact I expected. None are particularly pleasant, and all bear some culpability for the situations that arise. Though I sympathised with our narrator for finding herself in this scenario, her sacrifice at the end seemed unnecessary. 

There were many similarities to Jane Eyre, high points and low, and it strikes me as strange that one book can be so revered and another – very similar – can be so easily dismissed and overlooked.

‘Chaos Theory’ – Nic Stone

Chaos Theory is the story of two very different young people who randomly meet, and who find themselves irrevocably changed by the encounter.

Andy has a drink problem. As a top student and son of a woman running for Congress, image is everything. But what people don’t know is what is hidden behind closed doors. As the story progresses we learn about Andy and what has led him to be driving drunk and crashing into a tree.

Shelbi knows of Andy but has few friends in school and keeps herself to herself, for good reason. When she lets people close, she gets hurt.

In spite of the barriers between these two, Andy and Shelbi get to know one another. Their friendship is something of a lifeline for each of them, and it was touching to see the way they tried to control things that were hard to control.

I don’t want to say more, as learning about these two and their situations as we progress through the story was instrumental in my enjoyment of the book. There were strands of the story that felt rather limited, though I can see how they filled their purpose. The insight into what both these teens experience is important, and it certainly encourages you to consider your own stance on how we treat people who are having issues with their mental health.

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

‘Imogen, Obviously’ – Becky Albertalli

Due for release in May 2023, thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this in advance of publication.

There’s no doubt that this is a very personal story. Albertalli offers some insight into her own situation before the book opens, but the whole book examines issues around identity and the process of working out your sexual orientation.

Our main character is Imogen, someone who has always thought of herself as an ally. Her sister is gay, her best friend is gay and they’ve always been so certain of their identity. Imogen has always thought of herself as straight – and her friend Gretchen is quick to affirm this – so is somewhat taken aback when she goes to visit her best friend Lili at college and finds herself falling for another girl.

From start to finish this felt rather earnest. There’s no doubt that Imogen is prone to overthinking and while those around her are generally supportive, it’s also easy to see how sometimes those around us can also be part of the problem. I found Gretchen infuriating, and spent the majority of the time feeling hopeful that Imogen would get the space to work things out for herself.

‘Last Night at the Telegraph Club’ – Malinda Lo

Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a story of forbidden love, set at a time fraught with danger for numerous reasons. It tells the story of Lily, a young Chinese American, and her growing understanding of what it will take for her to be happy.

Set in 1950’s America, the attention to detail seems thorough. Against a backdrop of fear at the threat of Communism, acknowledging a difference such as being homosexual would seem subversive. Set against this rigid and conventional background we watch Lily gradually realise she has feelings for girls, find a safe space and love interest but then be placed in a situation that forces her to consider her duty to her family.

As a love story, this had appeal. However, Kath was a vague character who only really seemed to be there as a catalyst for Lily to figure out her feelings. The side characters we meet at The Telegraph Club were intriguing, but also only there to offer hope for Lily and to highlight the bigotry surrounding her. The pacing of the book was frustrating, with things taking a long time to get established and then feeling glossed over at the end. However, I’m sure this will still win its fans.

‘Friday I’m in Love’ – Camryn Garrett

Mahalia is used to trying to do things herself. Being the only child of a single mother, she’s accustomed to having to watch the pennies and to plan ahead. After her best friend’s Sweet Sixteen party Mahalia is determined to have her own party, to celebrate her coming out.
We follow Mahalia as she struggles through work and school, trying to save enough to have her party. Things conspire against her, but she tries her hardest to continue to plan. Though this is the main focal point of the plot, the real focus was on how Mahalia grows as she tries to develop her understanding of herself.
When Mahalia develops a crush on a girl she spots at a party the story shifts into focusing on her developing awareness of herself and her feelings. The girl, Siobhan, is an Irish student who also happens to be dating Danny, the one boy Mahalia seems immune to (with some reason we learn).
Over the course of the story the friendship develops. This puts Mahalia’s existing friendship under a little strain, but you just know that these characters have each others’ backs…whatever it might look like.
I felt, on occasion, that some of the characters were presented rather superficially but I liked the positivity surrounding her relationship with Siobhan.


‘The Davenports’ – Krystal Marquis

The Davenports is a historical romance, exploring the demands placed on our key characters by their families and wider society. It examines attitudes to race and developing social agitation while offering a somewhat light-hearted look at relationships.

Our key focus is the Davenport family. Wealthy, and black, the Davenport children – Olivia, John and Helen – are accustomed to living a relatively charmed life. Their race is not often an issue as their wealth protects them from some of the more common experiences many faced at this time. However, as the family try to secure a match for Olivia and maintain their business fortune, eyes are opened and the children start to develop their own understanding of the world around them.

From start to finish this was both entertaining and informative. As you might expect, the characters often behaved foolishly but there was a sense of them growing as characters. I found the ending a little frustrating, but it reads as if there might be more to come.

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


‘Austenland’ – Shannon Hale

I’m really not sure what to make of this. I picked up Austenland as it fulfilled a prompt for the 2023 PopSugar challenge, and I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have read it otherwise.

Much as I like Austen, the thought of people being so obsessed with her works that they will pay to take part in an immersive Regency experience seems odd. Jane is a successful woman, living in New York, but she is presented as lacking something because of her infatuation with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. When a relative dies, the one thing she leaves in her will is a paid trip for Jane to Austenland.

What follows is just bizarre. Jane and other paying guests spend their days living as the kind of characters Austen would focus on. There are many rules, and Jane finds this hard to manage. Determined to not be a cliché she ends up acting in a way that marks her as the very character she’s determined not to be.

There is a love interest, but it felt a little contrived (perhaps because it wasn’t clear what was performance and what was real). So, not quite what I expected but an entertaining enough read.