Recommended Reads: Murder Mystery

Murder mysteries have long been a popular genre. Names such as Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes have made waves in popular culture, and the ‘who-dun-it’ is a well versed trope. This popularity ultimately means it’s increasingly difficult to write an original and exciting murder mystery.

Whether as a result of an original plot, well developed characters or shocking plot twists, these murder mysteries all have something going for them. Maybe you could pick one of these up if you’re looking to give your brain a bit of a challenge.

I am quite new to the murder mystery genre, so this is just a few of the ones I have read and loved so far!


The Seven deaths of evelyn hardcastle

By: Stuart Turton
Quick summary: A whodunnit murder mystery on steroids
Rating: ★★★★☆

I previously reviewed this book (check it out here) after I got it at one of Mr B’s Emporium’s Reading Spas.

Throughout the book 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.

The reason this book is so exciting is that the protagonist has no idea what’s going on, and so you uncover secrets and have realisations at the same time that he does. The structure, undeniably, is confusing at first, but stick with it – the beauty of the book is being confused until the end when everything comes together in a wonderful ‘lightbulb’ moment.

If you’re into Agatha Christie, this is one for you.

one of us is lying

By: Karen McManus
Quick summary: Who knew the psychotic inner workings of a teen mind ran so deep.
Rating: ★★★★★

I read this book as part of a buddy-read with Hanne, and I raced through it way quicker than intended because it really was a can’t-put-down book.

In this YA murder mystery, five students go into detention and only four walk out alive. The four remaining students, Cooper, Addy, Bronwyn and Nate, are catapulted into the limelight as prime suspects in the murder of their fellow student. We follow all four of them throughout the school year as secrets are revealed, and the circumstances of the murder grow murkier and murkier.

The thing I love about this book is that you can’t trust the narrator. 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. This really adds a fantastic dimension to the book, because it means the reader is a participant in the murder mystery as much as the characters are.

This book was such an easy one to get into, and the writing is incredibly easy to read, so if you’re in a reading slump or don’t read much then this one is for you.

A study in charlotte

By: Brittany Cavallaro
Quick summary: The refresh the Holmes legacy needed
Rating: ★★★★☆

Jamie Watson has just received a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. He hates his father, and hates Sherringford. However, it gets more complicated when he meets Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight a Sherlock Holmes story, Jamie and Charlotte can’t afford to keep their distance from each other. They are being framed for murder.

I love a story in which the protagonist is being framed (one of the reasons why I loved One of Us is Lying so much.) This book is full of high stakes, confused teen feelings and real-life legal consequences (something that is sometimes missing in murder mysteries.)

If you love the Holmes stories, or are new to murder mystery, then this is the one for you!

and more…

If you particularly enjoy YA murder mystery, then check these out…

Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson

Shortly after Ellingham Academy opened, the wife and daughter of the founder were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. But then Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

S.T.A.G.S – M.A Bennett

Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S.
To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation to spend the half-term weekend at a country manor with the wealthiest students. Over the three days, they all go hunting, shooting and fishing – but things become increasingly dark and twisted. Soon, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school.

Some lockdown reading

As some semblance of lockdown continues to reign over the planet, a lot of people are still looking to spice up their lockdown activities. While you have absolutely no obligation to be sprucing up your life and having a lockdown soul-makeover, it is a good time to maybe read that book you’ve been putting off for months.

Allow me to recommend something for you!

As inspired by Leena Norms, I have taken the liberty of sorting you all into potential reader categories, so you can happily skip to the genre you think will fit you best.

First we have…

The Non-Reader Readers.

You are the readers who only read for uni assignments. You don’t particularly like reading for enjoyment, but you are looking for something to do while the rest of the world is shut down. Perhaps you’re looking for some easy, lighthearted reads? 

Isla and the Happily Ever After

This is the third book in a companion series by Stephanie Perkins. You don’t have to read the other two first (and this is by far my favourite of the three), but if you have the time on your hands then I do recommend reading them all. 

This lighthearted romance is set in Paris and Barcelona, and follows Isla and Josh while they study at the American School in Paris. Josh’s father is a US Senator, and Isla is the daughter of a French-American family from New York. You follow this pair through the trials and tribulations of falling in love, politics, and the pros and pitfalls of private education. 

Although it covers some interesting topics, this book really is a fun, romantic travel book. You go to Paris, Barcelona and New York, and who wouldn’t love a little glimpse into something other than the walls of our house at this time? 

The Escapism Hunters 

All you want right now is to disappear into some other world and time, and not hear the daily death tolls and political blunders. 

Daisy Jones and the Six (audiobook)

This novel follows a rock band in the 70’s as they rise to fame in rock and roll LA. The story chronicles the hedonistic partying, the friendships and the fall-outs, and a sudden earth-rocking split that was never quite explained. The story-telling in this novel is so visceral that it feels very real, and it truly transports you. 

I would definitely recommend listening to the audiobook for this one, because it is read by a cast of narrators. This makes it feel like a podcast more than a novel, which makes it very easy to listen to and even more of an escapist novel. 

Also, this is getting made into an Amazon series – and so, this is your chance to get in and actually read the book first. Just imagine, when the series comes out you will have that haughty ‘I-read-the-book-first’ status! 

The Artsy Types 

Netflix new releases aren’t quite cutting the mustard. You go crazy for the artsy, aesthetic shots in Normal People. You are desperate for some real high-brow, artsy stuff. Poetry and the like. 

The Essential Neruda

If you’re an Artsy Type then you may have already heard of Pablo Neruda and his work. Whether you have or haven’t, now is the perfect time to read his poignant and steamy poetry. 

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is known for his political discourse and romantic poetry about love and death. The Essential Neruda takes you through some of Neruda’s most famous works. There are poems about the pains of love, the beauty of love, the tumult of death, accepting our fates, our relationships with family… Neruda digs deep into human relationship with itself. 

This poetry was originally written in Spanish, and so it is very interesting to think what has been lost in translation here, and what these political snippets mean against the backdrop of Chile’s tumultuous political history. 

Romance Novel and Chill 

Maybe you love a good old romance novel where you can sit and dream about your ideal gal/guy. Maybe you’re a sucker for a slow-burn. Maybe you’re missing your S.O and want to read about the good old times where you could go on dates and stuff. Maybe you don’t have a S.O and you want to read about the good old times where you could go on dates and stuff.

You get the gist.

The Kiss Quotient 

This is the first book in a series by Helen Hoang which explores neurodiversity in relationships. It is hilarious, unconventional, steamy, and so incredibly readable.

The main character, thirty-year-old Stella works in algorithms, has Asperger’s and has very little dating experience. The premise of this feels like a painfully dated representation of women with autism, but once I got reading I realised it was almost the opposite. In order to become more comfortable dating, Stella hires escort Michael Phan, and so the romantic drama begins.

This is a wonderful exploration of the sensuality of people with autism and of millennial relationships in general. With a no-nonsense female lead, and a probing look at intimacy and why it’s important, you absolutely have to read this book. 

The Book-stagrammers 

You’re into Young Adult fiction, and love a can’t-put-down YA Fantasy. Well… 

Throne of Glass 

At this point, it can’t come as a shock that I am recommending Sarah J Maas. 

This seven book series will keep you going for a while. Full of discovery, bad-assery and heart-wrenching romance, Maas’ epic really does have everything you need from YA Fantasy. The series revolves around the infamous assassin Celaena Sardothian, who has just spent time as a slave in a labour camp, having been arrested by the tyrant King of Adarlan. We join her as she enters into a high-stake competition for her freedom, and (as always) chaos and romance ensues. 

And if you’ve read it before? Re-read! I promise you’ll find little snippets and quotes that you didn’t notice before – the foreshadowing in this is something else!


So there we have some recommendations. If you love or hate these books, let me know! If you are in another category of reader and you feel left out… let me know!


SUMMER READING PREVIEW

This summer we are once again taking on the challenge of trying to read one book every week! There is nothing better for expanding your imagination and challenging your mind than reading, and to celebrate this, here is a preview of some of the exciting books we are reading over the summer.

Catwoman Soulstealer – Sarah J Maas

When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play.

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. Batman is off on a vital mission and Gotham is at the mercy of the new thief on the prowl. Joined by the cunning Poison Ivy and the notorious Harley Quinn, she wreaks havoc across the city.

Selina is playing a desperate game of cat and mouse. But with a dangerous threat from the past on her tail, will she be able to pull of the ultimate heist.

What’s the deal?

DC superheroes are being brought to life by well-loved authors in the DC Icons Series. Sarah J MaasCatwoman is the third release in this series, and is preceded by Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman and Marie Lu’s Batman. Most recently, Matt de la Peña’s Superman was released in March 2019.

What’s the hype?

Many of the reviews for this book are positive. People are loving the DC/Maas crossover, and most are liking the level of human emotion Maas brings to the character of Selina Kyle. Some want more strength and sassiness in the character, but by the same token some “think there is room for the exciting villainous Selinas of the past and for this more sensitive, emotionally-complex version.” (Emily May on Goodreads)

What are we expecting?                                                                                                                 

We know Maas can write action. We know Maas can write romance. We know Maas can write fantasy. We can probably confidently say that her action writing, character development and world-building skills will translate into her contribution to the DC Icons series, and therefore this book is probably very good.

However, what is particularly exciting about the prospect of this novel is that it is very different from Maas’ previous output; whereas A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Throne of Glass is set in a very clear fantasy world, with high magic and royalty, Catwoman is closer to urban fantasy, and is already established as part of a very famous, loved world created by a large franchise. It will be interesting to see how Maas’ fares in this style of writing, especially ahead of her urban fantasy series Crescent City in late 2019.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

They killed my mother.

They took our magic.

They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

What’s the deal?

Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi debuts with Children of Blood and Bone, which has already got a movie deal with Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions. Adeyemi describes it as an “allegory for the modern black experience,” and in this West African YA-Fantasy magic, epic adventure and racial tensions all collide.

What’s the hype?

There is a HELL OF A LOT of hype surrounding this book, which is both a good and bad thing for the book. The more hype, the more exposure, but conversely, the more hype the higher the expectations of the reader. YA Fantasy readers have been wanting more diversity in what they read for a really long time, and Adeyemi more than delivers with this novel exploring race and issues in a world based on Nigeria and its mythology. Some readers have found issues with the book, saying the pace was very slow and they did not feel invested in the characters. Others, however, love the construction of both the world and characters, and feel it perfectly hits exactly what the YA market needs.

What are we expecting?                                                                                                                 

From reading some reviews, we are expecting the world building to be a particular highlight, with characters that you gradually warm up to the more the book progresses. We’re hoping there will be some good action and plot writing. Some of the more negative reviews have mentioned that they think the plot and characters are too trope-y, so it will be interesting to see what we think regarding that. Ultimately, this is Adeyemi’s debut novel, and we can’t wait to be introduced to her writing and finally catch up with reading this massively hyped book.

Once and Future – Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

What’s the deal?

Entangled author Amy Rose Capetta joins forces with The Color of Rain’s Cori McCarthy in this gender-bending, space-crossing retelling of the King Arthur legend. On the surface, this novel seems to have everything that’s hot in YA right now; a badass female lead, adventure, and a “sizzling, bold exploration of gender, power and revolution” (Jessica Khoury.)  We received this book in a subscription box from Illumicrate.

What’s the hype?

In reviews, this book has been described as “that strange blend of sci-fi and quirky comedy that some people seem to love” (Emily May on Goodreads) The hype around this book, however, is not huge. In fact, it seems almost non-existent. The majority of the reviews rate the book a happy average, with little to no outstanding or awful ratings. Many reviews positively comment on the inclusivity and humour in the book, but are a bit more critical of the pacing and intention.

What are we expecting?

This seems to be a good, creative idea for a novel, and the premise is something we are likely to enjoy, and so the success of this book will all be in the execution. How are we introduced to the world which is seemingly quite different from our own? How are we introduced to the characters and how are their relationships built and developed? What is the pacing of the novel like? Are we getting bored? These questions are all challenges we expect to have to put to this book.

City of Thieves – David Benioff

Four months into the siege of Leningrad, the city is starving. Seventeen-year-old Lev fears for his life when he is arrested for looting the body of a dead German paratrooper, while his charismatic cellmate, Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested for desertion, seems bizarrely unafraid.

Dawn brings, instead of an execution squad, an impossible challenge. Lev and Kolya can find a dozen eggs for an NKVD colonel to use for his daughter’s wedding cake, and live. Or fail, and die.

In the depths of the coldest winter in history, through a city cut off from all supplies and suffering appalling deprivation, man and boy embark on an absurd hunt. Their search will take them through desolate, lawless Leningrad and the devastated countryside surrounding it, in the captivating journey of two men trying to survive against desperate odds.

What’s the deal?

In City of Thieves, Benioff retells the story told to him by his grandfather of two boys in WWII Leningrad on an insane mission. The horrendous and the comical are interwoven in every aspect of this book. We have two young boys about to face the firing squad in desolate, bleak wartime Leningrad, and all of the horrors that war has wreaked on their city. At the same time, we have a Soviet sending them across the destitute city to find some eggs, and if they return empty-handed then they will face their deaths. Described as an “intimate coming-of-age story”, this book seems to transcend all normal expectations of a war novel, finding the humanity in the inhumane.

What’s the hype?

Described as cinematic in its style, with writing that transports you, reviews are loving this deft combination of fiction and biography that provides an insight into a city that was devastatingly affected by the war. Many say that Benioff successfully manages to write a historical novel that both puts characters at its heart and also provides a harrowingly accurate picture of war-stricken Russia. In fact, it is very difficult to find negative reviews of this book. The vast majority of reviews rate it 4 or 5 stars, and even those that are lower are very complimentary, and the reason for the low rating is that they weren’t particularly interested in the subject matter. The consensus among reviewers is that Benioff’s writing is exquisite; indeed, J. Kent Messum says “it’s a modern textbook example of how to write a great story.”  

What are we expecting?

We’re expecting it to be really good! Benioff is co-creater of the TV phenomenon Game of Thrones, and so the cinematic writing that everyone is raving about is something we really hope comes across. We are interested to see if it has the same sort of pace and tone as The Book Thief, as this is what a fair few of the reviews seem to imply. The characters seem to be of central importance in this book, and so it will be interesting to see how attached we get to them, and how they are developed throughout. As is it historical fiction, we expect that the world-building will be good, and we want to get a real feel for what life was like in wartime Leningrad.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

What’s the deal?

In Uprooted, Novik presents a high-fantasy world saturated with folklore and magic. The anti-hero of the novel seems to be the evil Wood, and clumsy, average Agnieszka finds herself at the centre of the battle against this “malevolent power.” “One part Polish folk tale, one part coming-of-age magical fantasy, and one part horror,” (Tadiana on Goodreads) and with a purposefully vague blurb, before even picking the book up, we are expecting big things.

What’s the hype?

This book has a lot of hype from some really big hitters in YA Fantasy; for example, Cassandra Clare, Lev Grossman, Maggie Stiefvater and Robin Hobb. If that doesn’t hype the novel up, I don’t know what does. With words such as “enchanting”, “thrilling” and “a delight” being regularly thrown around, Uprooted is being reviewed as both “otherworldly and planted in the real”; the seemingly perfect combination for a fantasy novel! On the other hand, some reviews are not so positive, with readers wanting much more character development, particularly for the anti-heroes, and describing the story as “nothing new.”

What are we expecting?

Described as “a charming and inviting story that looks unflinchingly at the strangling roots of hurt and revenge” (Robin Hobb), we expect this novel to be an easy read, but one with some dark tension interweaved in with the enchanting magical world. This is exactly the sort of book a YA Fantasy fan should hope to love; satisfying plot lines, adventure, perhaps a hint of romance and some epic magic. After the build-up from all of those authors, we’re really, really hoping it’s amazing – – please don’t let us down, Uprooted!

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 

MR B’S EMPORIUM OF READING DELIGHTS: READING SPA EXPERIENCE

In the beautiful city of Bath, there is this gemstone of a bookstore that celebrates everything about books and literature. Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights encapsulates everything good about the world of books, and their Reading Spa Experience is the absolute best present imaginable for a bibliophile. I was gifted this experience for my birthday, and I wish I could go back and have a Reading Spa every week!
WHAT IS MR B’S?

Once you enter Mr B’s Emporium, you are immediately in a bookish person’s dreamland. There are books stuffed everywhere, and the staff are smiley and friendly. In this cute little shop tucked away on the cobbled roads of Bath, you can really feel the literary heritage of the city. 

The whole vibe of Mr B’s is that bookselling is a personalised experience. When you walk in, you can ask for recommendations, you can have a chat. All around the store, there are little cards recommending certain books, or you could peruse the shelf with all the staff’s top reads. The process of choosing and buying the books is an experience in itself, and I love this!

WHAT IS THE READING SPA?

In the Reading Spa, you sit down for a lovely conversation in a little nook upstairs in the store. You chat with one of the specialist staff about all the books you like, don’t like, want to try, and don’t want to try, all while being treated to a slice of cake (I had the brownie and it was beyond ridiculously decadent… and so good!) and a cup of tea or coffee. Then, your staff member pops off for a few minutes, before returning with a staggering tower of books. They then talk through each of the books with you, discussing the plot, the best parts of the book and explaining why they chose it. Then… you have the insurmountable task of narrowing that book pile down (this is by far the hardest bit!) Don’t worry though, because whatever you don’t choose, they will email you in a list so you can pick them up some other time. 

As part of the experience, you get £55 worth of books, a mug, a cloth bag, and a £5 gift card for when you are next buying books from Mr B’s (maybe from the list of books you had to leave behind!) 

Amy Coles did my Reading Spa, and this was the perfect selection for me because we had very similar tastes in books, and she was absolutely lovely! Mr B’s cleverly chooses your staff member to match you up to whoever will best stimulate conversation and choose books to match your interest. Also, as a side note, you can have this experience no matter your age or book taste. 

DO I RECOMMEND? 

Yes! I 100% recommend anyone that likes reading or has a family member or friend that does, to treat yourself or them to this experience! It is a fantastic opportunity to explore what books you like, it challenges you to expand your reading, and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to sit with some cake and tea and talk about books for a couple of hours? Sounds like a perfect day out to me! 

 

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: School of Rock

Rating: ★★★★
Quick Summary: Young or old, Stick It To The Man, and go and see the feel good, uplifting and energetic School of Rock.

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My Dad and I at the end of the show

School of Rock is an adaptation of the 2003 comedy film of the same name starring Jack Black. The musical is written by Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer), Julian Fellowes (playwright) and Glenn Slater (Lyricist), and is currently showing at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in Drury Lane, London. 


T H E   S H O W

I first saw this show earlier this year, and alongside the ingenious fusion of rock, musical theatre and classical music influences, it was the vivacity and youthfulness of the cast that really stood out to me. I got the opportunity to take my Dad to see the show yesterday, and I knew he would love it simply because of the music; the show is saturated with nods to great rock songs such as Smoke on the Water, Satisfaction, as well as the rock concept album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. 

The thought that my Dad actually came away from the show with went beyond noticing the obvious witty and comically written play, and great integration of well-known and loved music into the score. The overriding feeling that you get coming away from this show is one that is relevant at any and every stage of your life: don’t get tied down by other people’s limiting beliefs. This can be from something as small as whether you read Vogue or Sports Illustrated, as Billy has to choose, or as big as whether you compete in Battle of the Bands or not. The positive message of “You Do You” is woven tightly throughout the whole show.

The only reason I gave this show 4 stars as opposed to 5 was that by the end, I did start to feel quite tired. I was sitting 4 rows from the front (I talk about ticket details later on), and so the noise levels were high throughout. HOWEVER, this is a tiny, tiny point and generally did not detract from the experience.


T H E   C A S T

Obviously, if you are going to see School of Rock then you are expecting a bunch of talented kids – and I can tell you, they do not disappoint! With cheesy over-acting thrown out of the window, the child cast of this production provides stellar vocal performances mixed with a convincing awareness of themselves and what they are trying to say. The harmonies in songs such as ‘Horace Green Alma Mater’ and ‘If Only You Would Listen’ highlights their cohesion and commitment.

I could not write a review on School of Rock without mentioning the musical talent of the kids in this production that I feel is unmatched on the rest of the West End. As Andrew Lloyd Webber announces over the loudspeaker at the beginning of the show, the children play all of their own rock instruments. The best moment in the show to demonstrate this is in the final song where the pit musicians all stand up and watch the show alongside the audience, as the children in the show alongside their mentor fake-teacher Dewey Finn rock their way through ‘Stick It To The Man’ and ‘Teacher’s Pet’, full of guitar, keys, drum and bass solos, bringing the audience to its feet. The musicality and finesse in their playing is professional in its standard.

The standout vocal performance came from the shy but brilliant vocalist Tomika, played by Fayth Ifil, who performed a rendition of Amazing Grace full of innocence and killer riffs to prove she can sing, which induced a thunderous applause from the audience. Also highly notable was the bossy and indignant Summer, played by Freya Yates, who was very impressive in her ‘Time To Play’, hitting a belted Db at the end of the song.

Among the adults, both Craig Gallivan (down-and-out amateur rock star, Dewey Finn) and Rosanna Hyland (music lover turned uptight Headmistress, Rosalie Mullins) had fantastic performances. Rosanna Hyland’s ‘Where Did The Rock Go?’ was full of emotion, bite and effortlessly clear top notes. Her rendition of Queen of the Night was unassuming and highly enjoyable. Craig Gallivan’s Dewey Finn was hopeful, uplifting and unfailingly energetic, all matched by his perfect diction and fantastic voice.

Side note, the cast is changing on 22 August. Details can be found here


T H E    T H E A T R E

As far as the theatre itself goes, the Gillian Lynne Theatre is modern, spacious and well designed. No matter what seat you go for, you generally won’t get a bad one as the stage is so wide that you can see from most angles. From the furthest to the side in the front row, you will see the whole width of the stage, albeit with a few missing spots deeper into the set. The seating at the back of the stalls and the upper circle is well rigged so that you can easily see over the people in front of you, and don’t have any of those “back-of-the-head” viewing moments.


T I C K E T S

The prices for this show are fairly reasonable if you are savvy when buying your tickets, and the show is absolutely worth the price. If you buy in advance (and maybe get matinee tickets) then you could easily spend a maximum of £35 a head in the stalls, which for a West End show is pretty good – I was seated 4 rows from the front with excellent views in seat D52, on a Saturday matinee performance for £35 per ticket.

The School of Rock website tells you the best dates with the best prices, so this is a great website to use.  Also don’t be afraid to be seated slightly to the side of the theatre, as the view is very rarely compromised!

Top tip: if you are over 5’4″, then a great cheaper ticket to get is in the front row of the upper circle. It is advertised as ‘restricted view’ because of a barrier and lighting rig that hangs over the front of the upper circle, but for anyone over 5’4, this does not obstruct at all, and the leg room is great!
If you’ve seen School of Rock, share your experience either in the comments or on our Instagram page!

Rosie x

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: A Court of Thorns and Roses (series)

Full synopsis of
A Court of Thorns and Roses(1), A Court of Mist and Fury (2), and A Court of Wings and Ruin (3)

Quick summary: Romantic, unpredictable, unbelievably addictive, and so well constructed!
Rating:
A Court of Thorns and Roses – ★★★★
A Court of Mist and Fury – ★★★★★
A Court of Wings and Ruin – ★★★★★

(This does not include A Court of Frost and Starlight… Future me will do a review for the spinoffs when they’re all out)

As spoiler free as I could!



Prepare for major gushing because I absolutely LOVED this series!

This series is an absolute must-read for anybody who has any remote interest in YA because it has everything YA novels should have. The world of Prythian has been constructed so intricately and believably that it is impossible not to get lost and caught up in it. The relationships that emerge and are developed are heart-wrenching and beautiful. The writing itself is so detailed and full of imagery that you vividly believe the world is real.
This series made me want to linger on every page because I didn’t want it to come to an end, and yet the unpredictability makes you turn the pages as quickly as you can.

The plotline is so well constructed, and so clever; everyone just needs to bow down to Sarah J Maas.  Every character you encounter makes you wonder what their story is, and what part they are going to play. The love story between Tamlin and Feyre in ACOTAR is intriguing and has spark and romance, and the undertones of the Beauty and the Beast retelling is magical.
However, for me the series just improved and improved with every novel. The plot line of the first book becomes merely a seed that Sarah J Maas has sown to set us up for the twists and turns of the rest of the series. A Court of Mist and Fury unravels so many intricacies and personal stories that I would bet the vast majority of EXISTENCE would not have guessed. Everything we thought we knew about the characters in the first novel is flipped on its head, leaving the poor YA reader quaking and reeling (in a totally good way though, I promise). This authorial ability to warp and change our views of characters is so clever and I really loved this development of the plot.

The relationship between Feyre and pretty much any of the other characters is just so captivating because every time a new relationship pops up, it teaches us something new about her depth of personality. The constant reminders throughout the books of the differences between these relationships was key because it jarred the trust and knowledge we thought we had in the characters (side note: this is really hard to explain without giving away spoilers, so just read the books!)  

Basically, the web of characters Sarah J Maas creates is intricately designed and fascinating. Each character is three dimensional and real. They are not all good or all bad; in fact there are only one or two out-and-out evil antagonists. All of the characters reflect human nature, and this absolutely adds to the power of the books because you start to believe the world exists and the characters exist. Maas’s ability to create layers of audience and contradictory impressions of characters is perhaps what makes these books so addictive because I for one wanted to find out the next piece of information, or the next revelation from characters.

These books are like little masterpieces; the language, the plots, the characters all contribute to this. I, however, think the real genius lies in the gentle unraveling of the novels. We find out conversations that have happened without us knowing, and morsels of the character’s stories are revealed at intermittent points. We learn more and more about the history of the world, and we are not sure that good will conquer evil right until the end. This series summarises everything I love about YA fantasy and books in general; they should take you on the journey and keep you hooked, as well as wholly invest you in the lives and emotions of the characters. This is something this series did for me and I would 100% recommend!

Rosie x

REVIEW: Shatter Me (series)

Full synopsis of Shatter Me, Unravel Me and Ignite Me

Quick summary: Slow starter, but once I got into it I did enjoy it.
Rating: Shatter me – 5/10
Unravel me – 7/10
Ignite me – 8.5/10

THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS, SORRY!

Full synopsis of
Shatter Me (1), Unravel Me (2), and Ignite Me (3)

Quick summary: Slow starter, but once I got into it I did enjoy it.
Rating: Shatter me – ★★
Unravel me – ★★★★
Ignite me – ★★★★



THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS, SORRY!

Just before I start, this series review is only for Book 1, 2 and 3 of the series (i.e Shatter Me, Unravel Me, Ignite Me.) All of the other spinoffs and the new Restore Me might come up in a later review, or I might re-edit this one, but for the moment it’s just going to be the original series.

This is a series I was majorly conflicted about when I first started reading it. I really wasn’t sure about the writing style, which was modern, and seemed to ramble slightly. However, I had bought all three books as a set and so wanted to persevere so as to feel like I hadn’t wasted my money, like the tight stingy person I am. I am glad I did this because the books did keep improving and I was hooked by the third book.

I found character development to be the strongest part of Mafi’s writing in these novels. Part of the reason I didn’t like the first book was that the characters were not three dimensional enough for me. Although Juliette and Adam each had interesting back stories, I found their immediate love story cliche and honestly quite boring. However, as the second and third books unfolded, I started to become really invested in the characters, particularly as Juliette began to understand herself more, and her relationships with Warner and Kenji began to develop. I loved the relationship between Juliette and Warner; I really like how Mafi gives us insight into the ‘evil’ character. This development of Warner from a psychopath to a genuine man who had a really difficult childhood was so refreshing and interesting. I think it was the psychology behind Warner’s character that kept me hooked on the books – I’m really glad Mafi took this plot path for the trilogy, or I would not have enjoyed it anywhere near as much.

In terms of the plot, I think that there were fascinating twists and turns which made these books different from other YA novels. The relationship between Warner and Juliette was a particularly strong plot point, as it allowed for character development of Juliette, Warner and Adam. Although I would not describe these novels as having been a page turner for me, I do think that they were interesting and the world in which they were set was well constructed.

The third book, Ignite Me, was, for me, the strongest book of the trilogy. By the time I got to the third book I was invested in the world because it had grown on me as the series progressed. It was somewhat repetitive, as certain phrases (such as “I swallow, hard”) were used lots throughout, and this started to annoy me towards the end. Having said this, I did get used to the writing style and there were captivating aspects. I liked that as Juliette became disenfranchised with Adam, the reader began seeing his flaws and failings, inviting us to make a more weighted judgement on him; equally, as she became more infatuated with Warner, he became kinder and sweeter in our eyes as well.

Ultimately, although I did like these books by the end of the series, I feel like had I not bought them as a trilogy then I might not have gone further than the first book. I do think they are worth reading if you want to read a series, because they are psychologically interesting and there is good character development, but for me they were a slow starter and did not immediately captivate me. It was definitely the character of Warner that made these books.

Also, side note, I really like the covers and the books are that satisfying floppy kind, which is really nice.

Rosie x