I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was a little while ago. 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 Extasia by Claire Legrand. Thank you so much to Harper 360 YA for allowing me to read an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Her name is unimportant.
All you must know is that today she will become one of the four saints of Haven. The elders will mark her and place the red hood on her head. With her sisters, she will stand against the evil power that lives beneath the black mountain-an evil which has already killed nine of her village’s men.
She will tell no one of the white-eyed beasts that follow her. Or the faceless gray women tall as houses. Or the girls she saw kissing in the elm grove.
Today she will be a saint of Haven. She will rid her family of her mother’s shame at last and save her people from destruction. She is not afraid. Are you?
Publication Date: 3rd March
TW: violence, death, murder, sexual assault, torture, religious trauma
Like its intriguing synopsis, Extasia is a book that gives little away. This is a book that you really have to work at to understand the full scale and scope of the horror intertwined with its narrative.
It is just so immersive and captivating, fully entangling you with the speaker’s headspace. To start with, you just want to shout at her to wake up and realise what is happening around her. Legrand really pushes you into her messed-up belief system and the society surrounding her that upholds it. There’s a real blend of body horror and the intrinsic horror of these corrupt systems that allow rampant violence and misogyny. The level of violence is raw and bloody, both physically, emotionally and mentally. For me, it was sickening how these girls are meant to be grateful for enduring the abuse thrown at them. Every time you think it cannot be more messed up, Legrand throws you another narrative curveball that adds an extra dimension of cruelty.
Initially, you read through the lines for the true tragedy beneath the surface and this makes for edge of your seat reading. You are never entirely sure how safe our speaker is. Something I particularly enjoyed was the exploration of language and its power. The reclamation of language and naming is a core theme Legrand explores really well. It signifies something so much deeper than a name, it is an identity and a community coming together. Similarly, the exploration of the pursuit of vengeance and justice is really nuanced and thought-provoking. It raises so many ethical and moral questions, adding another element to this horrifically enticing concoction.
Extasia is the type of book that completely takes over your mind and soul until the final page. Legrand has crafted such an intense, atmospheric and thrilling book that you genuinely cannot tear yourself away from.
Next up, I’d like to talk about The Night Shift by Alex Finlay. Thank you to Head of Zeus for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
What connects a massacre at a Blockbuster video store in 1999 with the murder of four teenagers fifteen years later?
It’s New Year’s Eve of 1999 when four teenagers working late are attacked at a Blockbuster video store in New Jersey. Only one survives. Police quickly identify a suspect, the boyfriend of one of the victims, who flees and is never seen again.
Fifteen years later, four more teenagers are attacked at an ice cream store in the same town, and again only one makes it out alive.
In the aftermath of the latest crime, three lives intersect: the lone survivor of the Blockbuster massacre, who is forced to relive the horrors of her tragedy; the brother of the fugitive accused, who is convinced the police have the wrong suspect; and FBI agent Sarah Keller, who must delve into the secrets of both nights to uncover the truth about the Night Shift Murders…
Publication Date: 3rd March
TW: death, murder, blood, violence, sexual assault, parental abuse, physical abuse, cyber bullying, trafficking, grief and death
The Night Shift is a riveting, slick and sharp thriller that will keep you constantly guessing.
I don’t think I ever completely thought I was right in trying to unpick the central mystery, as Finlay leads you down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. This is not a book that plays around. From the opening page, the mundanity of a late night retail shift spirals into a horrific massacre. Finlay only ever rampets the tension up from there, making for a breathless and entertaining thrill ride.
You never feel entirely comfortable with any of the characters, all of whom have plenty of secrets to hide. This, combined with the razor-sharp pacing, makes for a pretty tight read. I loved how complex and untrustworthy our entire cast of characters is, with entangled relationships and fractured presentations of the truth. This is exacerbated by the inclusion of past timelines intersecting with the present, with chapters feeling almost like they’re overflowing into one another. For me, this made for a twisty, maze-like reading experience. You become the detective, trying to put together every subtle clue.
On top of all this, Finlay has some pretty damn good twists and turns hidden up his sleeve. The entire third act is shocking revelation after shocking revelation, as finally all the puzzle pieces slot together. It always feels high stakes but here you genuinely do not know what to expect next. This all culminates in an action-packed final showdown, where I was racing through the pages.
The Night Shift is a shocking, thrill-packed and immaculately paced thriller reminiscent of the best true crime podcasts.
Finally, I’d like to delve into Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May. Thank you to Orbit for allowing me to read an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
In the aftermath of the First World War, a young woman gets swept into a glittering world filled with illicit magic, romance, blood debts and murder in this lush and decadent debut novel.
On Crow Island, people whispered, real magic lurked just below the surface. But Annie Mason never expected her enigmatic new neighbour to be a witch.
When she witnesses a confrontation between her best friend Bea and the infamous Emmeline Delacroix at one of Emmeline’s extravagantly illicit parties, Annie is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where magic can buy what money cannot; a world where the consequence of a forbidden blood bargain might be death.
Publication Date: 31st March
TW: death, murder, abuse, violence, self-harm for magic, domestic violence, child abuse, blood, rape
Wild and Wicked Things casts a spell over you as a reader, staying true to the blood-drenched glamour of the period. It sells you the dream, while also revealing the horrifying truth to you.
Honestly I was sold as soon as I heard sapphic, witchy retelling to The Great Gatsby. This book really takes the best elements of the original and weaves them into something entirely new. It is a heady mix of fantasy, historical fiction, mystery and a touch of horror. May really does not hold back at times, showing us the gory mess of human failings and the dark price of success. The magic system here is fascinating but brutally unrelenting. It will take everything from you and still want more. This brings in a whole new ethical debate that is so thought-provoking and genuinely chilling.
For me, this book epitomises the feel of the period. You can practically hear the low hum of jazz, taste the alcohol and smell that slightly feral, dangerous feel of when the party comes to an end. The entire book feels like that liminal space between day and night, with plenty of wonder and horror equally waiting in the wings. May infuses this book with so much style and bewitchingly dark threads, to the extent that it just oozes glamour and something much more terrifying. I loved May’s writing endlessly. It was so succulent, seductive and descriptive. At once, it bewitched and terrified me, creating such a thick atmosphere and compelling characters.
Wild and Wicked Things is a bloody, dark and enticing book that lives up to the hype of its fantastic premise.