Recent Reads #63

As ever, today I will be briefly reviewing all the books I’ve read since my last post in approximately fifty words. 

I want to write a full review of some of these books in the future, so I’ll just have a quick thought with the full review to come.

Q by Christina Dalcher

💙🧠 ⭐️🏳️‍🌈 (mentions of POC and LGBTQ+ characters)

TW: ableism, bullying, holocaust, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, eugenics

This was the case of a book having a really good premise and then the contents not quite matching up. Unfortunately, this book just fell completely flat for me and I found it difficult to engage with any of the characters. That being said, the themes explored are profound and important and Dalcher’s presentation of them was nuanced and impactful.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Murder of Graham Catton by Katie Lowe


TW: death, murder, infidelity, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, gaslighting, physical abuse, anorexia, suicide

This is the whisper in the dark and the snap in the woods. It could be something brutal, dark and dangerous, or it could all just be smoke and mirrors. Lowe perfectly captures the gaslighting and psychological abuse that characterises the book. This is such a monstrous book because it is so grounded in reality. 

On top of that, Hannah is a fascinating and deeply complex character. Her headspace is confused and you can never quite be sure if you can trust her or not. I loved the inclusion of both the past and present storylines that allowed us to get glimpses of exactly what happened. Beware though as every time you think you’ve woven all the pieces together, you have not.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Winter Garden by Alexandra Bell


TW: abuse, death, illness

This book captures that childhood wonderment and emotional pathos of the best fairy tales. It weaves the extraordinary sparks of light and hope into a moving and beautiful meditation on grief, motherhood and the lives that could have been.Bell’s depiction of the magical competition was stunning to read. The magic is so entrancing, vivid and imaginative, giving it this visually spectacular feel that is so easy to picture. I loved how imaginative and unique their magical feats seemed, while they also always had so much heart poured into them. Through their use of magic, both protagonists explore their own individual regrets, dreams and desires. I also loved Bell’s exploration of past regrets and how one action could have changed everything. Interwoven with the competition is this really impactful exploration of family, motherhood and abuse.

Full review here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone


TW: murder, racism, institutionalised racism, physical abuse, wrongful imprisonment, anxiety, PTSD/panic attacks

Dear Martin is an underrated gem for me so I was really excited to read this follow-up novel. This was a truly emotional and impactful read. Its short length really allows for Stone to utilises its scarcity for the maximum emotional devastation. This is a book that speaks the raw truth about the state of institutional racism and the prison system. Quan is an unforgettable narrator and his story demands to be heard.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

TW: blood, death, depression, anxiety, manipulation, murder, incest, animal abuse, abuse, alcoholism, anger issues, loss of a loved one, student/teacher relationship, paedophilia, stalking, starvation, violence

I really, really wanted to love this book. From the start, I liked the atmosphere and Dark Academia influences being explored. The central mystery was compelling and intriguing, as it took darker and darker turns. However, I hated the last third of this book, with gratuitous inclusion of certain themes purely for shock value and in a way that didn’t add up with previous events. Basically, this was a big letdown for me.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

You’re So Dead by Ash Parsons

🧠 ⭐️🏳️‍🌈

TW: death, murder, violence, stalking, online bullying

This was such a campy, fun ride to read. I just sped through the pages, utterly wrapped up in Parsons’ charming and comedic writing style. On top of that, this is a really solid YA murder mystery as well that makes some really smart social commentary on social media and the price of fame. It was like a social media infused version of a classic locked room mystery and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this wild ride.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Holdout by Graham Moore

🧠 ⭐️

TW: rape, murder, child abuse, past PTSD, domestic abuse, suicide

As you may be able to tell, I was on a bit of a thriller binge this time around. The Holdout had been on my radar for ages and so I picked it up from the library. This was a very bingeable story with an intriguing premise. I liked the back and forth Moore established, as you questioned whether Maya made the right call all those years ago. I enjoyed reading this and thought it had some great twists and turns.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino


TW: self-harm, child abuse, parental illness, blood/gore, explicit violence, possession, death, abuse

The writing is so gorgeously evocative and compelling. I hungrily devoured every exquisite sentence. Bovalino has a certain quality to her writing that is just impossible to pin down. It’s delectable and heady, sweeping you up in its atmosphere and making the pages just fly by. There’s this rich and dark glamour to the whole environment, contrasted by the gory moments of horror. 

At its core, this is a story about family, expectations and the desire to not only survive but thrive. This is a deeply creepy and unsettling tale, with that constant sense of terror looming over you and giving you that feeling of something slivering down your spine. I loved how Bovalino slowly builds up the tension and horror, before it all explodes in an extremely bingeable and twisted spectacle. I also loved how this book centres on how ambition and the desire for a legacy can distort you and tempt you into darker paths. 

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez


TW: fire, death, murder, animal death, physical abuse, drunk driving, car crash, hit and run, implied attempted suicide, stalking

Lies Like Wildfire is a shining star amongst YA thrillers, with excellent writing and some amazing twists and turns. Keep your eyes on everyone, because you never know who can truly be trusted.

Alvarez opens with one hell of an impactful opening line. Immediately, it promises a original, very intriguing and dangerous tale is about to unfold. Alvarez’s writing is incredibly bingeable, so much so that I practically read this book in one sitting. You find yourself becoming enmeshed in these characters’ lives and discovering the glimmers of the dark secrets they all hold. These are deeply unlikeable and complex characters who have done awful things and are entangled in so many secrets and family issues.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

⭐️🏳️‍🌈 (side characters)

TW: violence, sexual assault, body horror

This was another case of a fantastic concept and then the book just falling flat for me. I enjoyed the feminist themes and exploration that Young presented, with this kind of dystopian environment exposing how far the male gaze could be pushed. However, this exploration felt a bit too literal and heavy-handed. I also couldn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters and though the ending was left open, I don’t feel like I want to continue this series.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones


TW: sexual assault, trauma, gore, blood, suicide, self harm, violent deaths, child abuse, animal abuse, murder and suicide ideation

Stephen Graham Jones has done it again.

He’s smashed it out of the park once more with a slow-burning horror novel that fully immerses you inside the tangled and foggy mind of Jade before all hell breaks loose. There’s this deep-rooted exploration of childhood trauma that seeps into all the blood and gore which stays with you. Right from the menacing opening scene, Jones proves that he is a master of the genre.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

XOXO by Axie Oh


TW: illness, mentions of parental death

This was such an adorable and heart-warming exploration of the forbidden love trope with a twist of K-Pop stardom and a declaration to follow your dreams. I loved the soft, quiet moments that were the backbone of the book, from tender loving stares, to explorations of family and trying to do your best by the ones you love. I loved the emphasis on friendship and found family as well, with the side characters often stealing the scene. I could read so many more books centring around this band and their various relationships.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Chosen Ones:

4 thoughts on “Recent Reads #63

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