Mini Review Monday #52

I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was last week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.

First up, I’d like to talk about The Trial by Laura Bates. Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster for sending me a finished copy in exchange for an honest review.

No matter how you try to hide it, the truth will always come out . . .

After a plane crash sees a group of seven teens washed up on a desert island, their first thought is survival. But a terrible secret from a party the night before has followed them ashore. Facing deadly threats and the fear of being stranded forever, they quickly discover that being the most popular kid in High School doesn’t help when you’re fighting to stay alive. As the island deals each of them a dangerous blow, it’s clear that someone is looking for justice. Now survival depends on facing the truth about that party: who was hurt that night, and who let it happen?

From multi-award-winning author and gender equality activist, Laura Bates, this thought-provoking drama will start an important conversation and keep you guessing to the end. 

Publication Date: 29th September

TW: plane accident, death, blood, details of injury, homophobia, fetishisation, sexual assault, controlling behaviour, manipulation, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, rape

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

The Trial is a book with a hell of a bite. This is a vivid, vicarious thrill ride that delves into important societal issues in a way that is so pertinent and leaves an impression on you. 

I was blown away by that impactful opening, with the plane accident leading to the traumatic crash. This is a book that never relents with Bates constantly driving forward. The tension and suspense are constantly built up and the atmosphere hums with hidden dangers and fears to yet unfold. Therefore, I absolutely just flew through the pages of this thought-provoking story. 

Also, it really helps that these characters are so three-dimensional and nuanced. I liked being in Harley’s headspace; she was this academic, driven and wanting to succeed figure that is also wrestling with her place in the social sphere. Both on the team and on the island, she feels like an outsider looking in but her hidden skills and intelligence serve her well. That stands for all the characters in that they all contain hidden depths. For some of them, these are surprisingly positive attributes hidden behind a facade of mean behaviour, but for others, it’s a disgustingly vile cesspool of hatred and violence. 

On this note, I have been a big fan of Bates’ work both on and off page for a while now. Therefore, I thoroughly enjoyed the feminist threads of this story. Bates isn’t afraid to get dark, primarily by delving into the topic of rape culture. She creates this hostile, claustrophobic atmosphere of manipulation and awful behaviour. It makes you almost feel complicit as a reader, mimicking the ultimate reasoning behind that title for the story. 

The Trial is a compelling mix of a heart-pounding mystery, sharp social commentary and survival against the odds.

Next up, I’d like to talk about The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl. Thank you so much to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled it a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.

When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events they couldn’t have imagined. As the girls retrace their friend’s last steps, they uncover dark secrets about themselves and their destinies, discovering they’re all cursed to repeat the brutal and gruesome endings to their stories until they can break the cycle.

Publication Date: 2nd November

TW: suicide, parental emotional and physical abuse, self-harm, parental death, OCD, anxiety, light gore

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

The Grimrose Girls is a blooming rose amongst its dark and dangerous thorns. This is a story that captures the essence of its original tales and weaves something entirely new and wonderful out of it. 

I adored that dramatic and emotional opening. It just pulled me into the heart of the story straight away and from there Pohl did not let me go. The pacing of this book is superb, with plenty of juicy twists and turns in store. There is no shortage of suspense and drama, with real stakes driving the pace faster and faster. I liked how Pohl really dug into the fairytales to create these Grimm inspired deaths, with a touch of Final Destination to the occasionally outlandish stylings. It’s that mismash of whimsical and horrendously brutal that really sets a chill on your spine. 

As you may have gathered, I adored the way Pohl blended murder mystery and fairytales. She just taps into the darkly beating heart of the originals and harnesses it into a new story fit for our generation. Similarly, she ensures that both the mythology and world building gradually layer up into this rich, cohesive world. It has this timeless feel to it, being both modern and old at the same time. The plot and pacing perfectly matches this tone, creating a cohesive and incredibly bingeable book. 

I cannot review this book without mentioning the fantastic characters. Even though we follow them from a slightly removed third person voice, I still found myself falling in love with each of them. For lack of a better phrase, they just jumped off the page. They’re all on their own journeys of self-discovery and acceptance in various forms that felt so empowering to read. It also was interesting to see how they dealt with their own issues through Pohl’s modern reinterpretation of the original tales. 

The Grimrose Girls flips the script on what you may expect from fairy tale retellings with a dash of murder, mystery and the power of female friendships.

Finally, I’d like to delve into Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan. Thank you so much to Hodder for granting my request for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Her destiny. His revenge.

In an empire on the brink of war . . .

Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.

Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.

When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her lethal magical abilities.

But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

Publication Date: 4th November

TW: self-harm, child abuse, parent death, death, blood, war, political violence – full list here

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

Right from that gorgeous synopsis, I knew Tan had me in the palm of her hand. Every single part of that description is right up my street. Luckily for me, I think Jade Fire Gold lived up to the hype for me. 

From the first page, you are thrust into the thick stench of betrayal and an enclosing atmosphere. You can feel the terror running through the characters and just like that, you are completely gripped and unable to escape Tan’s clutches. Tan is relentless in the fast pacing of this book, as we race from place to place and the tension builds as we learn the true motivations behind every action. At the same time, Tan always allows room for characters to breathe and readers to get more of an insight into their minds. Those are treacherous places however to tread, with plenty of betrayal and dark secrets being held by various people. I loved the way the political machinations and schemes played out, with the stakes only ever getting more intense and life-threatening. 

This is a gorgeously rich fantasy packed full of twists and turns that blends historical and magical fiction in a way that captures your mind. Tan’s writing style is so descriptive and vivid that you cannot help but imagine every page coming to life before you. There’s glimpses of beauty amongst the sheer hardship and brutality of life in this realm. Those flashes of brilliance are exquisite to see and this is such a strong debut story. I felt completely wrapped up in Tan’s imagination and want more. Speaking of which, that ending left my mouth hanging open and needing to know what happens beyond that tantalising final page. 

Jade Fire Gold is a stunning addition to YA fantasy shelves that combines beauty with brutality in a dance of revenge, family and destiny.

5 thoughts on “Mini Review Monday #52

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