I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the last of which was quite a while ago now. 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. For today, all three books have a darker edge to them, to match the colder, harsher nature of winter.
Kicking things off is the masterfully crafted The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. Thank you so much to Titan for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
Publication Date: 6th October
TW: drug use, substance abuse, fire, talk of suicide, loss of a loved one, abuse
There can be no doubt that Addie LaRue is a beautiful piece of work from Schwab. You can feel the passion and dedication imbued in every single word.
From the very start, Schwab wastes no time. You’re plunged straight into this mysterious and desperately intriguing atmosphere. She constantly plays with your expectations about the nature of the story and where it is going next. Don’t ever really think you’ve got it nailed down, as you’ll only have everything flipped upside down once again moments later. I mean that concept is just stellar and Schwab executes it so well.
The premise of this book is just so heart-breaking and fascinating at the same time. The inability to make a mark, leave a trace or have anyone remember you really brings into question ideas of legacy and the fallibility of human achievement. Addie finds a loophole through the medium of art, mysteriously appearing in artworks throughout the years. However, she remains a fragment, glimpsed only in small moments and blurred beyond recognition. Her tale spans generations and you can only imagine everything she’s seen in that time. Schwab tells an ode to the beauty and power of art in the way it captures an ever fleeting moment and the essence of human experience. I don’t claim to know much about art, but this book made me want to learn so much more.
Schwab’s writing is just exquisite. You easily get lost in her gorgeous prose, savouring each meticulously chosen word and page. It makes for a stunning reading experience, destined to be reread over and over again. Basically, I now appreciate the hype around her style and want to devour more of her work. Previously I’d loved the Villains series but now I’m tipped over the edge into full adoration.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a book that I will treasure for years to come and it feels like Schwab embracing the pinnacle of her creative, philosophical writing.
Next up, I want to shout about the delectable Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco, which the ever amazing Kate Keehan at Hodder sent me an eARC of in exchange for an honest review.
Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.
Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…
Publication Date: 27th October
TW: gore, death of a sibling, self harm, blood, alcohol, non-consensual touching, gambling, loss, magic used to manipulate thoughts and actions, mutilation, violence
Kerri Maniscalco is back with a bang.
Kingdom of the Wicked is a deliciously dark and decadent fantasy novel packed with intrigue and Maniscalco’s trademark flourish of romance.
Emilia and Wrath are such interesting main characters. Their dynamic is complex and ever-changing over the course of the story, with the shifts being particularly interesting to witness. Their chemistry is sizzling at times, with plenty of flirty, witty banter between them. They’re both fiercely intelligent and driven by personal loyalties and motives that take a while to uncover.
Right from the start, you know you’re in for one hell of a ride. The opening is intensely intriguing, laced with danger and magic. That kind of tantalising hook is always going to ensure me and ensure that I will definitely be continuing. Maniscalco keeps this up throughout with plenty of epic twists and turns. The fantastical elements are secondary to a really engaging mystery at the core of the story. There’s a thought-provoking exploration of vengeance and its cost that I really enjoyed.
I feel in love with the Stalking Jack the Ripper series in part to Maniscalo’s utterly immersive writing and deft mix of history and mystery. Here, she shows no signs of letting up. Her writing casts such a spell over you and completely transports you away into her vastly imaginative world where danger lurks in many guises and around every corner. You never quite know what is going to happen next and that means you’re constantly on the edge of your seat. I also love her attention to detail. A real standout of Kingdom of the Wicked is the motif of food and Emilia’s heritage. Her identity is so entwined with her familial history and cultural elements of that like food take on a far more important role. So the book features plenty of mouth-watering food descriptions and it’s those little touches that really capture all your senses and truly engage you.
Kingdom of the Wicked demands every one of your waking thoughts while reading and if you’re anything like me, it’ll leave you demanding the sequel immediately
Finally, I want to delve into the fascinating YA mystery The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett. I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this title from Kurestin Armada‘s giveaway on Twitter, so a massive thank you to her.
The troublemaker. The overachiever. The cheer captain. The dead girl.
Like every high school in America, Jefferson-Lorne High contains all of the above.
After the shocking murder of senior Emma Baines, three of her classmates are at the top of the suspect list: Claude, the notorious partier; Avery, the head cheerleader; and Gwen, the would-be valedictorian.
Everyone has a label, whether they like it or not–and Emma was always known as a good girl. But appearances are never what they seem. And the truth behind what really happened to Emma may just be lying in plain sight. As long-buried secrets come to light, the clock is ticking to find Emma’s killer–before another good girl goes down.
Publication Date: 1st December
TW: death, murder, grief, cheating, grooming, sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, pedophilia, homophobia, calorie counting, controlling behaviour, emotional abuse, slut-shaming
The Good Girls is a gut-wrenchingly relevant, dark and twisty YA mystery that surgically dissects the patriarchy and rape culture. As may be evident from the list of trigger warnings above, this is a tough read but one that also felt necessary and powerful.
Bartlett utilises multiple narratives perfectly. You can’t shake the feeling that you can’t trust anyone or anything that you’re being told. Indeed, things are nowhere near as simple as they seem. This is the kind of book that you finish and instantly want to reread to catch all the little details you missed. The central mystery is gripping right from the start, with plenty of genuinely shocking twists and turns along the way. Your expectations are undermined from the start, with the initial narration being from an unexpected character’s point of view. From that point on, you can’t shake that sense of tingling uncertainty. Bartlett plays with conventions of the trope expertly.
I really loved how this book tore apart the character archetypes each of our protagonists are forced into. They cannot be so simply defined and polarised as their single word title implies. Instead, they are far more complex and we slowly get to see their emotional depth and growth over the course of the book.
A real highlight of this book for me is the empowering deconstruction of sexism rooted within its pages. Bartlett exposes how damaging the sexism and objectification the girls face truly is in this riveting narrative. It’s done through subtle moments, but these are so incredibly powering and sadly relatable. I also really enjoyed the LGBTQ+ representation and particularly how our bi MC discusses biphobia and the erasure of her identity through her being seen as being in a heteronormative couple.
The Good Girls is a topical, thrilling and thought-provoking addition to YA that is unafraid to tackle difficult topics in a nuanced way that exposes the horrific nature of these abuse.