I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the last of which was the other week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
Today, I’m focusing on three fantastic books that are all either already released or are upcoming releases and I will organise them in order of publication date. I’m kicking this off by discussing The Guest List by Lucy Foley, which I received an eARC of via NetGalley.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?
Publication Date: 20th February
TW: graphic self harm, attempted suicide, sexual assault, emotional abuse, infidelity, abortion, drowning, disordered eating, bullying, revenge porn, murder, drowning
I really loved how Foley throws you straight into the action and a somewhat mysterious and confusing atmosphere. Information is slowly drip-fed to you, as you piece together what has actually happened and the events leading up to it through multiple perspectives. You become very invested in the story quickly and from then on, you’ll be racing through to discover every seedy little detail.
This was such an engaging thriller, constantly keeping me on my toes. I could not trust anyone I was introduced to and I kept theorising whenever new information was provided. When a thriller immerses you that much, you know it’s a good one. The use of multiple narrators was interesting, with each character having a distinctive voice and being complex, multi-layered individuals. It was really enjoyable to watch layer after layer of secrets be peeled back and this allowed you to get to the core of each character. Their minds were tricksy, dangerous places to inhabit at times but this kept the intrigue up.
Foley’s writing was so entertaining and flowed exceptionally well as the pages just seemed to fly past. She drops tiny breadcrumbs that eventually lead to some explosive reveals. The twists are exceptional, with one in particular causing me to have to put down the book and loudly exclaim. They genuinely will shock and surprise you, adding to that atmosphere of tension and mystery.
The setting was very reminiscent of And Then There Were None for me, with its isolation and the complete power nature had over it. This made it feel primal and terrifying and this beastial nature is one of the key components of the book. It asks who we are at our most basic level and what we will do in order to survive. There’s also a scathing takedown of toxic masculinity and sexism present throughout the book. The Guest List is a brilliant thriller that will make for a chilling, twisty reading experience.
Next up, I want to shout about the rich and wholly original YA fantasy Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. Thank you to Hot Key Books YA for sending me an eARC via NetGalley.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of Eleven. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn – but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
Publication Date: 18th August
TW: rape, child abuse, suicide, murder, death, police violence, sexism, gaslighting, grief
Raybearer is a breath of fresh air in YA. It’s wholly original, with such a vibrant and lush feel to it. Rarely have I been so consumed by a fantasy book.
From the opening line, I knew this was going to be a strong book. That line hooked me in and then Ifueko never really let me go. Even now, I’m imagining the rich world which easily lends itself to a cinematic vision within your mind. The world-building and mythology is so expansive and creatively imagined, but it still feels like it’s only just scratched the surface of this expansive world, as there are so many more places we could explore in the sequel. This depth of detail and geographical ingenuity is a rare reading experience for me.
The attention to detail extends to our brilliant cast of characters, all of whom felt really fleshed out and three-dimensional. They’re often complex in their morality and magical abilities, many of which I hadn’t seen before. In particular, Tarisai’s power was so intriguing to me, as she could take your stories from you with a touch. Memories are inherently emotional beasts and this added another layer into the intricate story. Tarisai was a brilliant protagonist, determined and strong but also vulnerable and suffering trauma from years of relentless abuse. She’s morally complex and deeply intriguing, as are her amazing group of friends. I loved how their friendship was personified by the Ray, which I was thought was a clever and original way to explore the theme of relationships and that indescribable bond of friendship.
Ifueko’s writing was so beautiful and vividly imagined. I flew through the story, completeled enveloped in the gorgeous prose and rich world. It’s a dangerous world, full of magic and secrets, with some brilliantly executed twists. At its core, this is a story of finding yourself and empowerment, staking your claim in a world that will go to any length to deny it. The feminist themes were just so heart-warming to see.
Raybearer is an exceptional, stand-out YA fantasy that will become your new obsession.
Finally, I’d like to discuss the wonderful Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know by Samira Ahmed. Thanks so much to Stephanie Melrose and Atom Books for sending me an eARC.
Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know by Samira Ahmed
It is August in Paris and budding art historian Khayyam should be having the time of her life – but even in the City of Lights she can’t stop worrying about the mess she left back home in Chicago. Only when she meets a dashing young Parisian – who happens to be a distant relative of the novelist Alexandre Dumas – do things start to get interesting.
Two hundred years earlier in the Ottoman empire, Leila is the most favoured woman in the Pasha’s harem. Her position is meant to be a gift; but for her it is a curse, as she fights to keep her true love hidden from her jealous captor.
Echoing across centuries, as Khayyam uncovers the scintillating truth of Leila’s long-forgotten life, her own destiny is transformed forever.
Publication Date: 27th August
TW: violence, death, sexism, racism, cheating
This was a historical mystery unlike any other I’ve read, deftly weaving the past and present in a celebration of art, history and rewriting the narrative.
Ahmed weaves two compelling tales together through distinctive and striking protagonists. Both women are determined and driven indictable, underestimated because of their gender and race. Their voice are so compelling, leaping off the page and drawing you into their respective stories. I found myself falling in love with each of their vivacious personalities and willing them to succeed.
As a bit of a history nerd myself, I loved how Ahmed shows the magic of chasing down a historical mystery. There is so much to be uncovered from the past that we think we know and uncovering new details can be a painstaking but ultimately rewarding process. I particularly loved Ahmed’s discussion around historical erasure, privilege and race. It’s well known that history is written by the victors and this has often lead to the erasure of marginalised groups, silencing them and banishing them forever into the shadows. Ahmed ensures that this is no longer the case here, bringing stories into the light. This was so challenging and thought-provoking, inspiring me to research similar examples. Ahmed excels in exploring the intersection of racism and sexism, challenging both the role of women and people of colour in the historical narrative.
I will hold my hands up and admit that I may not know much about art, but I really wanted to learn more after finishing this book. You get swept up in the character’s wonderment at these marvellous creations. Ahmed utilises her word-weaving skills to create such vivid images of these works. I loved the writing style, as it felt so lyrical and poetic at times, while always keeping an edge of realism and I loved the feminist message that shone through.
Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know is a powerful reclamation of our history and forming our own place in the narrative.
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