Mini Review Monday #25

I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the last of which was quite a while ago. 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. Kicking things off is the spooky, haunting The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry; thank you so much to Titan Books for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in her hometown, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won’t find the killer. After all, the year before her father’s body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids. So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can’t just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realises that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the centre. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.

Publication Date: 8th September

TW: racism, body horror, death, gore, blood, sexism, alcoholism, body shaming

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

This is the perfect book for spooky season. Henry expertly plays with your nerves, surprising and enthralling you at every turn. It’s incredibly reminiscent of a spooky tale being told around the fire in the dead of winter, one that’s been passed down through generations. 

Straight away, Henry sets the spooky tone of proceedings, along with an exploration of grief, family and friendship, all coated with an 80s gloss. She sets the scene perfectly, with every detail placed just so to draw you in that much further. Pretty soon you can envision all of . This small town hits that sweet spot between suburbia and that underlying current of horror. This is so well executed and it helps the action feel that more terrifying, as it’s blended with reality. There’s always this sense of doom hanging over proceedings, like it’s just a moment away from horror unfolding. 

Henry continues the foreboding tone throughout, hinting at supernatural events and powers that make you question what you’ve witnessed over and over again. The ominous atmosphere is cranked right up, making that creeping chill down your spine slowly grow more intense. All this makes for a completely immersive and unsettling reading experience, as any good Gothic tale should do. You can’t help but want to unravel the mystery and unmask the monster. Henry also draws on the long Gothic history of including social commentary and making politically relevant points hit home that much more. This gives it that much power, particularly in its discussion of attitudes to those who are considered outsiders and gendered expectations. It toys with the damsel in distress and virgin sacrifice tropes that so often crop up in horror, constantly upending your expectations. The use of multiple perspectives also allows you to access various viewpoints, many of which are quietly monstrous in their own beliefs and that hidden, seething rage that underpins it is so eerily reminiscent of present day attitudes. Of course, we are also reminded just how monstrous humans can be, with small towns breeding some small minds.

The Ghost Tree is a properly spooky tale, tipping its hat to the long and plentiful history of the Gothic, while also ensuring that it provides a fresh batch of horrors for modern day readers.

Next up is the equally thrilling pick I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan, which also makes for perfect autumnal reading. Thank you so much to Albert Whitman & Company for granting my request for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

In her small town, seventeen year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner is known as the girl who wasn’t taken. Ten years ago, she witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby. And though she told the police everything she remembered, it wasn’t enough. Sibby was never seen again.At night, Dee deals with her guilt by becoming someone else: the Seeker, the voice behind the popular true crime podcast Radio Silent, which features missing persons cases and works with online sleuths to solve them. Nobody knows Dee’s the Seeker, and she plans to keep it that way.When another little girl goes missing, and the case is linked to Sibby’s disappearance, Dee has a chance to get answers, with the help of her virtual detectives and the intriguing new girl at school. But how much is she willing to reveal about herself in order to uncover the truth? Dee’s about to find out what’s really at stake in unraveling the mystery of the little girls who vanished. 

Publication Date: 6th October

TW: children disappearing, drug use, homophobia, violence


My Thoughts:

I was instantly sold by the intriguing premise of this YA mystery and its comparison to one of my favourite books of all time certainly didn’t hurt its chances. Luckily, this wild ride of a book was even better than my ridiculously high expectations, serving a fantastic story that I’m looking forward to retreading and pulling apart all its intricate details. 

A central part of the story is the podcast that underpins events and which we are frequently treated to transcripts of. The mysteries it features and the various stories are so well thought out and feel like real cases. It’s this attention to detail that really makes this book stand out. The podcast feels like it truly would be a very popular, well-researched show that I would definitely be loyally tuning into. Behind it though is Dee, our host and protagonist whose voice is so distinctive and easy to engage with. She’s emotionally complex and haunted by the events of that fateful night ten years ago, so her world is rocked when it all begins to resurface and she starts to remember glimmers of what exactly happened. You really get suckered into this journey with her, rooting for her to uncover the truth at every turn. 

Like any good podcast host, Ryan ensures that you’re hooked in from the start. The opening perfectly preps you for the tumultuous journey you are about to embark on. I found the story to be so tightly, practically impeccably plotted, with loads of amazing twists and turns to be discovered. You will be utterly consumed by the story. Personally, I flew through huge chunks of it in just a few hours and became so obsessed. I was theorising like crazy, pouring over tiny details to try and get a glimpse at the bigger picture. Ryan manages to balances multiple plot threads, interweaving them spectacularly. Once the full picture is revealed, everything suddenly slots into place and I was left agasp. The ending was just perfectly hopeful and beautiful, leaving you with a glow in your heart. 

I Hope You’re Listening will keep you constantly guessing until you reach the shocking truth, while also showcasing the brilliance and power of true-crime podcasts and the communities that often surround them.

Last but certainly not least, I’m going to delve into Shine by Jessica Jung, which the lovely team at Electric Monkey sent me an ARC of in exchange for an honest review.

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Publication Date: 15th October

TW: drugging, bullying, online shaming, weight shaming, sexism, misogyny, calorie counting

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

Shine pulls back the curtain on one of the biggest phenomenons of our time: the booming success of the K-Pop industry and truly questions the price of success. Of course, Jung’s biography adds an extra layer to this, promising an enthralling deep-dive into the industry from someone who has actually been there. 

Jung does not hold back in her takedown of DB Entertainment and all that they may represent. The veneer of celebrity and stardom is quickly torn apart as you glimpse into the incredibly tough training regime that pits talented women against one another. They are held to impossibly high, indeed constantly shifting and unattainable standards. Often, Jung highlights the way that these standards differ depending on gender, showing the underlying sexism and focus on physical appearance. They’re constantly chasing this perfect figure that doesn’t really exist. This sort of toxic environment inevitably leads to pressure and intense rivalries, which Shine focuses on. At times, it’s a feminist call-out of the industry and how it forces women into competition with each other, rather than promoting solidarity and support. It feels like a constant battle of survival for Rachel where she can’t trust anyone around her. 

That’s why the few female friendships and particularly Rachel’s relationship with her sister really stand out, with her bond with Leah being a highlight of the book. Leah is such a funny character, endlessly supportive and the biggest fangirl. However, the star of the book has to be Rachel. Her drive and passion to pursue her dream is often challenged and marred by the ridiculous standards of the industry. While this affects her deeply and often causes her internal turmoil, she never allows it to fully consume her. Throughout the course of Shine, Rachel learns the power of her own voice and how she can survive on her own. That being said, another heart-warming part of the book has to be the highly shippable romance between Rachel and Jason. It’s a super cute relationship, with plenty of tender moments, extravagant dates and vulnerable moments. The chemistry between them fizzles over from the page, but I really loved how the relationship wasn’t the main focus of the book. That honour distinctly goes to Rachel and rightly so. This is her story and, by a little extension, you can tell that Jung has drawn on personal experience to inform some of the emotional atmosphere and events of the book. 

Shine is a dazzling deep dive behind the curtain of the sparkle of K-Pop and divulges the tough truth through a brilliant protagonist. I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Here are links to Carrds talking about many of the world’s current events and how you can help. Also, I’ve linked here the Black Lives Matter Carrd to support, but also here is a list of resources to aid Anti-Racism work in the UK, as well as UK specific places to donate to. I will be doing this on every post. If you have the funds to donate, please do but if not, please support and uplift Black voices and sign the petitions. 

6 thoughts on “Mini Review Monday #25

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