REVIEW: One of Us Is Lying

Quick summary: Who knew teenagers could be so psychotic?!
Rating★★★★★

Try this if you like: Agatha Christie, Riverdale & true-crime documentaries.


In this YA crime thriller we follow the lives of 4 teens whose lives are completely changed when their classmate dies in detention. Through the book we follow Cooper, Addy, Bronwyn and Nate as they try to clear their names of Simon Kelleher’s murder. As the case evolves and relationships deepen, one thing is clear – they all have something to hide, and one of them is definitely lying. But who did it?

The reason this book is stellar is because of the way McManus constructs characters. We switch between the POV’s of the four teenagers throughout, and the secrets they keep run so deep that they don’t even let the reader know them. The fact that you can’t trust everything the narrator is saying really adds a fantastic dimension to the book – the reader is as much a participant in solving the crime as the characters are!

McManus’ fantastic writing doesn’t stop here. The way she slowly builds the lives and personalities of the characters is also highly impressive. At first, the characters cling to the stereotypes in which they belong in a painfully one-dimensional manner. Cooper is the jock, Addy is the princess, Nate is the criminal and Bronwyn is the nerd. Then, suddenly you’re halfway through the book and realising that Cooper is struggling with his identity, Addy is being emotionally abused, Nate is a young carer and Bronwyn is cracking under pressure and systemic racism. As we watch all of these characters struggle, and learn more about Simon’s dark activities, we are poignantly reminded of the flaws in the pastoral support of the education system.

As far as the murder mystery aspect of this book goes – if you are a murder-mystery aficionado, you may well figure out ‘whodunnit’ reasonably early on. The clues are there. However, having not read loads and loads of murder mysteries, I was kept on tenterhooks until the big AHA reveal moment. The way in which McManus constructs the plot, and dripfeeds small secrets and pieces of information is ingenious, and really keeps you guessing the whole way through.


REVIEW: Catwoman Soulstealer

Quick summary: Giving ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ a whole new meaning.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Try this series if you like: DC Comics (obvs), Cassandra Clare, Daniel José Older, Richelle Mead


In this rewrite of DC’s Catwoman, we are re-introduced to the badass anti-hero Selina Kyle, and her ‘band of merry men’, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. We also meet Luke Fox as the ex-military do-gooder, Batwing. Full to the brim with high-stake heists, romance, allies and enemies, this stand-alone book is good for hard-core fans and comic book rookies alike.

The world-building in this story happens quickly. Within the first few pages we are introduced to the teeming, corrupt underworld where Selina Kyle spends most of her life. We learn about the social hierarchies and some of the basic politics of Gotham City but are expected to fill in the gaps ourselves as far as societal culture goes. When it comes to feeding the reader information about the world, it is more ‘tell’ than ‘show’; for example, we find out that Selina’s sister Maggie is very ill, but instead of finding this out through clues such as her coughing, or taking medicine, Maas writes “with her mother gone and her sister sick, no legit job could pay as much or as quickly.” This does the job, but I would have liked a teeny bit more subtlety.

As far as the characters go, they are interesting and reasonably well-developed. Selina Kyle has an interesting storyline; a female anti-heroine who is interested in protecting the people she loves, but ultimately has no qualms over committing high-level crimes. She is cunning, wily, an excellent fighter and adept at having secret plans that aren’t revealed until late in the novel – Maas’ forte, it seems! Her secretive personality complements the brash insanity of Harley Quinn and the stoic, green-fiend Poison Ivy well, and overall I found her character to be an enjoyable and pleasing read.

Some reviews make the comment that Luke Fox is only present in the book to give Selina a love interest, and, as a black character, to add diversity to the cast. I did not find this at all. I read him as a man struggling to keep control over his PTSD, Gotham City while Batman is away, and his growing feelings for someone he really should not be feeling things for. He frequently commented on police brutality against the black community, and this did add a good dimension to the book as there was the antithesis of him being targeted by law enforcement for his skin colour and yet he is the one protecting the city from criminals. I found it ever so slightly basic in its delivery; it was similarly more ‘tell’ than ‘show.’ This is not, however, a criticism of Luke Fox as a character – I liked him, I saw his good intentions, and although he was a bit vanilla, he complemented Selina’s character well.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I got through it quickly. The plot, world-building, eand characterisation were arguably not anything jaw-droppingly special, but they held my interest, and I was invested in what happened. For both A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass (Maas’ series,) I found that while I enjoyed the first book, the later books in the series were where I became truly captivated. Perhaps Maas’ writing is like cheese or wine – it is good at first, but it gets really good over time. If we were to have a series made out of this, then I might fall head over heels in love with it, but as it stands, I love it as you might love a close-ish friend. You’re not my family, you’re not my soulmate, but I get on with you and I’d hang out with you again.

REVIEW: Truthwitch

Quick summary: Sisters before misters, *KAPOW*!
Rating: ★★★★★
Try this series if you like: Sara Raasch, Renée Ahdieh, Kendare Blake and Laini Taylor.


This book is 479 pages of brilliant, completely enjoyable writing. You have to take this opening novel of The Witchlands series as it is – a light fantasy with sparks of romance, high-octane adventure and a sister-bond between two female witches. It is fun, easy to read, and puts friendship above all else, which is a nice angle that you don’t always see in YA Fantasy.

Character-wise, we have some interesting ones in this mixed bag. Safi and Iseult are the two main female characters and they are Threadsisters, a bond stronger than those between families. Trouble seems to follow them wherever they go, and the fact that the twenty-year treaty keeping the peace between the countries in Susan Dennard‘s world is swiftly coming to an end leads us to the conclusion that these girls will somehow be heavily involved in what’s to come. Both Safi and Iseult bring something completely different to the table. They are individuals, but both work together, and this is what catapults them from arguably run-of-the-mill YA characters to something vastly more interesting.

They are joined in the ensemble cast by Merik, Safi’s steamy love interest and Prince of Nubrevna, who is desperate to ensure his country doesn’t collapse into poverty and starvation after the costly wars. Merik is earnest and has good intentions at heart, but there were many times where I did want to reach into the book and throttle him.
We also have Aeduan, who threatens to fall into the brooding-bad-boy trope, but deftly swerves away into a well thought out character with emotional complexity and multi-layered villainy. He is definitely a key one to watch for character development, and also for potential romances… (I’m looking at you, Iseult!)

I got on with the writing of relationships in a similar way to how I got on with Laini Taylor – there were similarities in the dynamics between relationships, both romantic and platonic. This was an aspect of Taylor’s writing I really enjoyed, and this enjoyment translated into Dennard’s writing as well.

Dennard’s world-building has had mixed reviews from what I can see, as others think while there is some vague background information, we don’t get to deeply dive into the Witchlands with elongated descriptive writing. We are asked to grasp the geography, culture and politics pretty quickly, and sometimes you do have to reread sections to fully grasp the implication it has on your understanding of the world. From this angle, I did find it a slow start and if you want world building to have a stronger presence than action or plot, then this isn’t the book for you. While detailed world-building is usually something I really enjoy, I didn’t find I needed any more than Dennard gave. Her writing is full to the brim with fast-paced action and “dynamic storytelling” (Publishers Weekly), so to slow the pace down with too much descriptive writing would take away from what Dennard’s writing is all about.

We want kick-assery, magic, deep-rooted friendships and some “tense (tense!) romance(s)” (Susan Dennard), and that is what we get! What’s not to love?! I say give this book a read.

Susan Dennard also has a really good blog/newsletter, and for any potential writers/enjoyers of literature, I recommend giving it a follow here!

Rosie x

REVIEW: Three Dark Crowns

Quick summary: Dark, savage and mesmerising. 
Rating: ★★★★★
Try this series if you like: V.E Schwab, Neal Shusterman and Susan Dennard.


Read the full synopsis here

I bought and finished this book in two evenings worth of reading. The transitions between the points of view of the three sisters keeps you flipping the pages because you want to see what happens to the character after you’ve left them, and the more Blake unfurls tiny nuggets of information about each character, the more you are desperate to get to the next big reveal. I loved this book, and can’t wait to get into the next books in the series! I would also like to note at this point that I think Kendare Blake is exceedingly awesome, not least because her pets are called Tyrion Cattister, Obi-Dog Kenobi, Agent Scully and Armpit McGee. 

There is brutality and the promise of violence dripping off every page of this book – the very premise of it is that these three sisters have to attempt to kill each other to win the crown. Kendare Blake presents romantic, platonic and familial relationships, all while asking how much a person has to do before you can’t forgive them anymore, and questioning what truly makes a family. This exploration of human relationships is a real highlight of the book. 

The character development in Three Dark Crowns was also interesting and well thought out. At first, admittedly, it is confusing because there are lots of characters, and as it hops between the three queens, you don’t really get time to sit and figure it out as the plot unfolds. I also worried that there wouldn’t be enough development of the queens because it hopped between them so much. In the end, I didn’t see this as much of a problem, because the key characters came up often enough that you recognised them and the queens did get enough air time to give us an insight into their characters. As the book progresses, Blake cleverly weaves the personalities of the three sisters into your heart, and you soon realise you would be devastated for any of the three to die.

One thing I would have liked to have seen more of in the book would be a bit more world development. I am a sucker for knowing all of the little cultural details about the world I’m reading about, and I feel that this was the only element lacking ever so slightly from this book. Of course, this is only the first book and as I progress through the series I may get more insight into the world. There were some details, such as the Naturalist hunt, which were lovely, and ultimately it just comes down to personal preference. In my opinion, it does not take away from the overall success of the book at all. 

To summarise, I thought this book was great! Blake’s plot and character writing are fantastic, and she really keeps you on your toes the whole time. For anyone tempted to put the book down and not finish it (I see you, DNF’s…) I definitely say even if you struggle at the start of book, definitely push on because the final third is particularly good – the plot twists are spectacular and the character writing starts to really come to fruition. Three Dark Crowns is dark, savage and mesmerising. Give it a read. 

 

Rosie x 

REVIEW: The Remnant Chronicles (Series)

Quick summary: Marmite series. I loved it, some people hate it, everyone should try it. 
Rating: ★★★★☆
Try this series if you like: Laini Taylor, Veronica Roth & Holly Black


Check out the full synopsis here

We have three main points of view in this series; Lia, Rafe and Kaden, and the transitions between the POV’s are pretty seamless. The thing that really drew me to the series in the first place is that for a substantial part of the first novel, we know that Lia is being hunted by an Assassin and a Prince, but we don’t know which of the two men is which. There is a big sense of intrigue throughout the series, and I personally think this makes up for the fact that there is less magic present throughout than you might expect for a fantasy series. 

As far as the character of Lia goes, it is a nice touch that her true skills come in language and social interaction. In an almost feministic statement, Lia wants to change her fate, and show the men around her that she should be allowed to make her own choices. She is a headstrong dreamer, with a capability to lead and change the world for the better.  All of these qualities are a fantastic combination for the protagonist of a YA Fantasy series. 

There is a love triangle in these books. Now, I know many people who hate love triangles with a fervent passion, and all I can say to these people is that you will probably not enjoy this love triangle any more than other love triangles. It is pretty subtle and non-intrusive as triangles go, but if we’re honest it doesn’t have anything on the Mark-Kieran-Cristina steamy triangle of The Dark Artifices. I was reasonably satisfied with the ending, because I felt it did reflect the state of the characters in the books, and wasn’t too abrupt. 

The plot of the first book of this series, The Kiss of Deception, gets very mixed reviews, especially in the Goodreads comments. Some readers loved the slow-paced, gentle dreams of Lia, our main protagonist. Others, however, felt that for a series described as high fantasy, there was not enough action, adventure or plot interest. For me, I stand with the lovers of Lia’s quiet dreams. She is a princess who spent her whole life surrounded by the promise of magic, war and kingdom, and when old enough faced the threat of being married off to a man she didn’t know or love as a political pawn. I think it is very plausible that she would want a quiet, understated life after that. Although I understand the argument that the sleepy seaside town scene goes on for potentially too long, I didn’t find myself bored, and by the second and third books the scene wildly changes. 

To summarise my views of this series; I liked it. It had some interesting plot points, I loved the inclusion of language, I didn’t hate the love triangle, and I really enjoyed Pearson’s treatment of magic. I feel some people will love it, some people will hate it, and that’s ok, but I do recommend reading it! 

Rosie x

REVIEW: The Dark Artifices (series)

Quick Summary: Did someone say romance, demons and battle scenes?
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Try this series if you like: J.K Rowling, Sarah J Maas, Holly Black


Check out the full synopsis here

Demons, faeries, Shadowhunters, and a little bit of sizzle in the romance department – this would be an apt summary for most of Cassandra Clares writing. Indeed, The Dark Artifices series does not differ greatly from The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices. There are obviously developments in the plot and the world-building, but overall if you like the Shadowhunter world, you will like this series. If you don’t, then you probably won’t.

The plot of this series is very good, with lots of twists and some interesting surprises. It begins at the of The Mortal Instruments and takes us through the lives of Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, friends of Jace and Clary and fellow Shadowhunters. We see more drama unfold for Shadowhunters, and once again the world as these young people know it threatens to come undone. This is a common theme for Clare’s plots, but I suppose if “it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it!”

Now, one thing I do really like about this series is the character building. One of my favourite parts is how Clare flips traditional male and female roles within the family. The clear example of this is Julian looks after the children, paints, and is very emotionally intelligent and available. Emma, however, loves fighting and is hell-bent on avenging her parents deaths. While these are not the only qualities these characters have, I do like how Clare reworks male and female stereotypes.

Another interesting talking point is the diversity within the characters in this series, and indeed in all of Clare’s writing. We have a bi-sexual couple, a transgender woman, a polyamorous relationship, hints at a gay relationship, a character on the autism spectrum, and the reversal of traditional masculine and feminine roles within a family. She gets it all in there. However, it does not feel like Clare is cramming in diversity for diversity’s sake. There is a wide range of people in these novels because there is a wide range of people in life. Clare is capturing a slice of humanity in her writing, and so of course there will be a whole range of different people. Being gay or Autistic is not the primary reason for the character’s existence; it is just a facet of their personality, and this makes these novels refreshing!

Overall, I find these books a bit of a slow read, but still enjoyable. If you are already into the Shadowhunters world, or like urban fantasy, then this is a good series for you. The character building is good, there are some fun and more devastating plot twists, and Clare is a great romance writer.

I would say that although you can be introduced to the Shadowhunters world for the first time with this series, I would recommend starting with either The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices. 

Have you read any of Cassandra Clare’s books. Let us know what you think in the comments or on our Instagram!

Rosie x

REVIEW: DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE

Quick Summary: Be right back, off to dye my hair blue.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Check out the full synopsis here

Laini Taylor scores a home run with this trilogy. It has everything a YA Fantasy novel should have. Thrilling adventure, friends who would cross worlds for each other, spine-tingling romance and epic writing.

The trilogy begins in Prague, and it is safe to say that I have never wanted to go to Prague more than I do now. The essence of the city leaps off the page, which is undoubtedly a testament to Taylor’s clever imagery and personification of the city. It goes to the next level from just describing the physical city itself to really encapsulating its soul and hidden gems. The fantastic writing, however, does not stop at world-building. Interactions between characters, whether it be a conversation or a sideways glance, is full to the brim with intrigue and foreboding, daring you to remember every hidden detail in case it reappears later.

The characters themselves are also well developed, and Taylor does not by any means neglect any of the characters in favour of developing the main protagonist alone. Karou, the blue-haired, enterprising protagonist lives a complicated life on the fringes of Earth and Elsewhere, at the beck and call of a mysterious creature. She is bold and artistic, but has to hide half of her true self from the human world, including her best friend Zuzana (my all time favourite, by the way.)

A significant premise of the novels is observing how the characters deal with pain. Every single main character has a setback which they have to overcome, whether it be grief, loss, madness. Despite being a fantasy novel, with many of the characters being fantastical creatures, the way Taylor writes them is so realistic. We admire and dislike different aspects of their characters, just as we would humans. They feel loneliness and react to difficulty as a human would. They are sometimes selfish, they have flaws.

Another star element of these novels is that while Taylor’s female characters have strength, they are not necessarily strong because they can kick ass. Strength in the female characters in these novels means many things – being able to be vulnerable, being able to stand up and take responsibility when needed, keeping going when their world is falling apart. Sometimes in YA novels, it feels as if authors are scared of portraying women as weak, and so the answer is to show them as physically strong, with no flaws. Taylor does not shy away from showcasing the weaknesses of her characters and uses their fear or loneliness as a catalyst for personal improvements and character arcs.

The plot is strong, with elements of duty, adventure, and some good twists. I would argue that there are stronger plot lines with better and more exciting twists out there, but that actually really didn’t matter in this series. It is almost the case that any denser of a plot would have taken away too much time and space for Taylor to really come into her own on the descriptive side.

Overall, this is a fantasy series you need to read. It is very readable, with interesting and well-developed characters, an intriguing parallel-world setup and beautiful, beautiful writing.

One question which you can answer once you’ve read the series: would you say there is a small case of fridging in here…? Does it count? Let me know what you think! As always, if you’ve read this series, leave any thoughts down in the comments or on our Instagram or Facebook pages!

Rosie x

I would recommend this series for lovers of Cassandra Clare, Sarah J Maas, and Leigh Bardugo. Also, if you’re into epic fantasy and want to make the switch to a more urban or YA fantasy, then this would be a good one to start with!

REVIEW: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Quick summary: A whodunnit murder mystery on steroids

Rating: ★★★★☆

Full synopsis
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

I got recommended this book in a book spa experience at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights (review of this experience coming up soon!), and I’ve been excited to read it ever since – I was very much not disappointed!

A brief summary of the synopsis is that you follow the main character Aiden Bishop through 8 bodies over 8 days as he tries to uncover who murdered a woman called Evelyn Hardcastle at a party in her family home. Every day he wakes up and at the end of every day the same thing happens: Evelyn Hardcastle dies. The only way to end this fatal cycle is for Aiden to figure out who killed her.

Reading this book is like reading a highly complex, body-hopping game of Cluedo. Stuart Turton’s writing is full to the brim of imagery, and the character’s emotions become really tangible to you as you read. I found I genuinely didn’t know who had committed the murder (though that could just be my lack of skill in murder solving!) and the twists and turns continued to be interesting and surprising through the whole novel.

The structure, undeniably, is confusing at first, but as the book continued I understood it more, and part of the beauty of the book is being confused until the end when everything comes together in a wonderful ‘lightbulb’ moment.

Turton keeps the book rich, and his characters are not simply 2 dimensional. With every new revelation about the characters you are questioning their motives and their consciences. The story is located in an old mansion, and the mansion and its surrounding scenery almost become a character in themselves, with their menace.

I would definitely recommend this book for any Agatha Christie fans, or murder mystery fans – not only is it good for these people, but any crime or urban-fantasy lovers, this one might be for you!

Rosie x

 

Have you read The Seven Death’s of Evelyn Hardcastle? Leave your thoughts in the comments or on The Rosie Word Instagram page!

REVIEW: Anna, Lola and Isla

Quick summary: Romantic, relaxing and bloody cute!

Rating: ★★★★★

Full synopsis of
Anna and the French Kiss
Lola and the Boy Next Door
Isla and the Happily Ever After

Also, Stephanie Perkins’ website is the prettiest thing ever, and I would recommend reading her books based solely on her aesthetic, no shame.



This is a series of three standalone books – it doesn’t really matter which order you read them in. I read them in the order listed above, and I think this makes the most sense because Anna and Etienne are mentioned in Lola’s book and Lola is mentioned in Isla’s etc.

These books were really refreshing to me because it came after I had a bit of a reading slump and struggled through a couple of series (yep, after reading ACOTAR which left me with a month and a half long book hangover…) I felt a little disheartened about my reading and needed a nice relaxing series to ease me back in – this was the perfect book for that. It was contemporary, fun, fresh and I wanted to be a part of their world so badly! As I’ve said before, I’m part hopeless romantic, part skeptic. This series threw me RIGHT off the deep end into romance land.

I loved the speed of development of the story between Anna and Etienne, and the subtle touches of knowledge about France and Europe in general, as a European, was so lovely. It fuelled my wanderlust to an unbelievable level and I found myself underlining places in France that I wanted to visit and books they mentioned I wanted to read.

It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not; it’s a simple plot line, but fun and romantic, which is sometimes exactly what you need to read. The interaction between characters was cleverly thought through and the web of circumstances never faltered – you could really understand why the characters were interacting in the way they were and you could understand everyone’s thought processes. You fell in love as Anna fell in love, and hated as she hated.

The plot was really nicely constructed because it had just the right balance of tension and pace – we had to wait for at least 2/3 of the book for Etienne and Anna to get together, but this didn’t mean you got bored waiting for it to happen. In reality, it was quite the opposite. The anticipation of when they were going to finally fall hopelessly in love was what made it a page turner. The same can be said for the other two books in the series, Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After. Both of these books had the perfect amount of slow burn, and enough circumstances and situations that it didn’t become a boring, sappy love story with no plot.

One of the best aspects of these books for me was the characters and how they developed; how real they felt. They are love stories you felt could happen to you. None of the characters were perfect, and this was so refreshing because it made them more authentic. The slight discrepancies from the ideal vision of teenagers falling in love (eg Etienne being shorter than Anna, Lola and her costumes, Isla picking fights with Josh) made it so much more enjoyable because it was so much more relatable. Every teenager I know has moments where they think they are just a distraction to someone, or not good enough, and everyone has times where they say things they don’t mean and shouldn’t say. The presence of these universal truths in this series highlighted its enjoyable nature for me, and made me want all of the characters as my friends!

Ultimately, this is definitely going to be a series I reread (over and over again) It was the perfect summer series full of love, fun and travel, and there are now loads of places I want to visit. It was a hopeful collection of characters who inspire you to open your eyes a little bit and see the world differently. I recommend this book from every piece of romantic bibliophile in me.

REVIEW: Delirium (series)

Full synopsis of
Delirium (1), Pandemonium (2), and Requiem (3)

Quick summary: The world the book is set in is interesting, but didn’t fully capture me.

Rating: ★★★

This has spoilers – sorry!



To be fair to this series, I did read it after I had just finished the ACOTAR series, which probably means I didn’t give it enough love and attention as it deserved because I was hung up on everything Sarah J Maas. MAJOR BOOK HANGOVER! The writing itself was good and Lauren Oliver created a believable and interesting world, but it just didn’t grab me and make me fall in love with the characters, plot or writing and for this reason I can’t rate it as highly as other books.

The plot of the series was quite well developed and it did become more interesting as the series progressed. I thought the strengthening of Lena’s character and resolve as she fought back against her repressive society was good because Lauren Oliver could easily have left her as a wet, drippy character but she didn’t. The introduction of new characters (such as Julian) in the sequels was also welcome because it moved the plot along and made Lena a more three dimensional character, as we see how she responds to new characters. However, I think there was definitely room for more psychologically complex insight in a lot of this series and following novels such as Shatter Me and ACOTAR in my reading list, I particularly noticed this. Things such as the development of the relationship between Lena and Julian, the grief she feels when Alex reappears and the panic of needing to find her family could, in my opinion, have been further explored. I found it anticlimactic (spoiler!) that at the end of the series she just easily slipped back into a relationship with Alex even though when he came back at the beginning of the second book he told her he didn’t love her and basically started a relationship with someone else. This was perfectly satisfactory, but it left me feeling a bit disappointed at the end of the series.

Character-wise, these books did have interesting characters with different motives and backstories that ultimately added to the depth and enjoyment of the novels. All of the protagonists had something that had happened to them which ultimately made it more compelling to read about them – this is definitely one of Oliver’s strong points. She is good at fabricating the world and personalities within the novels which does incite you to keep reading because you are genuinely interested in what happens to the characters. This is supported by the writing style, particularly in the 3rd book, where Oliver switches between character’s points of view, or points in time (from the past to the present and vice versa.) I didn’t think I would like this writing style, but I ended up finding it a good way to get insight into all of the characters and their thoughts and emotions, which is something you can’t do from a singular 1st person narration.

Overall, these books are generally good, and someone else might enjoy them way more than I did, but I just found them to be a disappointment following other series I read recently. I think the highlight of the series was probably the writing style which had lovely imagery and structure, but there were some aspects of complexity that were missing for me, which dampened my enjoyment.

Rosie x