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 Survive The Night by Riley Sager. Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Charlie Jordan is being driven across the country by a serial killer. Maybe.
Behind the wheel is Josh Baxter, a stranger Charlie met by the college ride share board, who also has a good reason for leaving university in the middle of term. On the road they share their stories, carefully avoiding the subject dominating the news – the Campus Killer, who’s tied up and stabbed three students in the span of a year, has just struck again.
Travelling the lengthy journey between university and their final destination, Charlie begins to notice discrepancies in Josh’s story.
As she begins to plan her escape from the man she is becoming certain is the killer, she starts to suspect that Josh knows exactly what she’s thinking.
Meaning that she could very well end up as his next victim.
A game of cat and mouse is about to play out. In order to win, Charlie must do only one thing . . . survive the night.
Publication Date: 23rd December 2021
TW: assault, cancer, suicide attempt, violence, torture, serial killer, car accident, death, murder, kidnapping, hallucinations, tooth extraction, gaslighting, parental death
Survive The Night is a thrillingly fast-paced ride that will devour your night and leave you gripped to the page. This is an excellent lesson in suspense and terror, keeping you on a knife edge the whole way through.
I’ve previously read and enjoyed Sager’s work, so was intrigued enough by the premise and that synopsis to request this title. Luckily Sager pulls through on every aspect and offers so much more. This is the type of book you do not want to go into alone in the depths of the night.
Right from the start, Sager grabs you by the throat and never truly releases you. This is a sharp, unsettling book that keeps you guessing. The opening was so well-executed and enticing, with that epic scale and touch to it. From then on, the pacing is relentlessly fast as you try to uncover the exact truth of this twisted situation. Sager has plenty of tricks waiting in store for you. I really enjoyed the many amazing twists and turns, all of which genuinely upend the story and challenge your expectations.
The entire book has this sleek, dark and classically noir feel to it. For me, this really enriched the atmosphere of the book and turned Charlie into more of a complex protagonist. Her escapism, shown through the ‘movies in her mind’, added that extra layer of untrustworthiness to the narrative and the inclusion of other narrative voices further complicates this. This was a cleverly used plot device, but it also served to explore the power of cinema. Indeed, the entire book is a sort of love letter to the horror and thriller genres of entertainment. This infuses the book with that quintessentially cinematic tone, with all the drama and the gloss of the films.
Survive The Night is a well-rounded thriller that combines elements of the psychological, suspense and a good old-fashioned unreliable narrator to create a chilling new tale.
Next up, I’d like to talk about The Gifts That Bind Us by Caroline O’Donoghue. Thank you so much to Walker Books for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Maeve and her friends have revealed their powers and banded together as a coven: Roe can pick locks, Lily sends sparks flying, Maeve can read minds and Fiona can heal any injury.
And even better than their newfound talents? Roe and Maeve are officially an item.
But with strange things happening at school, and old enemies appearing in new places, it soon becomes clear their powers are attracting all the wrong attention. It’s not long before Maeve’s gift start to wane, drained by someone – or something – that’s hiding even from her second sight…
Publication Date: 3rd February 2022
TW: self-harm, homophobia, misgendering, transphobia, ableism
I really enjoyed All Our Hidden Gifts and knew I had to have the sequel in my life, especially after O’Donoghue left us with that ending. The Gifts That Bind Us feels like the sleeker older sibling of the first book, with more darkness and exploration of the coming of age narrative.
This continuation is incredibly enjoyable.Everything I loved about the first book was just built upon and made even stronger. A huge draw of All Our Hidden Gifts for me was the dynamics between the characters. Here, they become even more developed and three-dimensional. They all have their own issues to deal with and I liked how dysfunctional and unlikable they could be at times. Their messiness and human fallibility made them all the more relatable and realistic teenagers.
This also allows room for growth and development of both them and their powers. I loved O’Donoghue’s enrichment of both the magic system and wider mythology associated with the powers. These are genuinely unique and fascinating, only getting richer and more complex.They’ve faced unspeakable horrors, often monstrously human. I appreciated how much the narrative allows them to deal with their experiences, while also exploring coming of age and going off to further paths. The discussion around anxieties about friendship and the future was so heartfelt. I also really enjoy the way O’Donoghue pulls on contemporary political strands to emphasise the very real dangers embedded within the narrative and within our wider society.
All of this builds to an incredibly dramatic and suspenseful ending, where the stakes have been seriously raised. This leaves me desperately needing to know what happens to our beloved characters next.
The Gifts That Binds Us is a worthy sequel to an underrated and unique YA series that I hope more people fall in love with.
Finally, I’d like to delve into The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea by Axie Oh. Thank you so much to Kate Keehan at Hodderscape for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
For generations, deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curse them with death and despair. To appease him, each year a maiden is thrown into the sea, in the hopes that one day the ‘true bride’ will be chosen and end the suffering.
Many believe Shim Cheong – Mina’s brother’s beloved – to be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is sacrificed, Mina’s brother follows her, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.
Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina finds the Sea God, trapped in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man and a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits, Mina sets out to wake him and bring an end to the storms once and for all. But she doesn’t have much time: a human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…
Publication Date: 22nd February 2022
TW: death, grief, death of a child
The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea is an ethereally beautiful story of sacrifice, survival and family.
Oh wastes no time with an incredible opening. Within a few lines, you have a clear sense of character dynamics, the wider society and Mina herself. This is a dramatic, magical opening, but it is also full of pathos. Oh’s writing has this brilliant ability to create so much emotion within the reader in a very short space. This crosses over to the characters and how quickly they steal your heart. In particular, Mina’s bravery and determination to set things right captured my mind instantly. Here was a girl torn between worlds and family, just trying to survive in this new environment. I loved her growth in confidence and ability throughout the book, with a special shoutout to her storytelling ability. This allowed for even more little titbits of other stories to be threaded in. From then on, Oh gets more space to play around with this creative, inspired world and character. There is a underlying darkness in the discussion of female sacrifice, a woman’s place in the world and familial duty that was fascinating to follow along.
I particularly loved how Oh captures the essence of The Tale of Shim Ch’ŏng and pays homage to the myth in such a respectful and gorgeous way. However, it also shifts the focus to characters who did not have the spotlight originally, ensuring that it is both open to those who love the myth and those unfamiliar with the source material. This gives it a fresh focus but also widens the story to include a new audience. Of course, this is helped by the balance of dramatic and whimsy Oh infuses into the story. Her writing style is effortlessly transportive and evocative, easily whipping up these rich fantastical worlds that you just sit and revel in.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea is a beautiful, romantic and gorgeous retelling.