Recent Reads #73

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 share my full thoughts on some of these books in the future, so I’ll share a brief idea today with the full review to come.


The Night Shift by Alex Finlay

⭐️🧠

TW: death, murder, blood, violence, sexual assault,  parental abuse, physical abuse, cyber bullying, trafficking, grief and death

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.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gallant by V.E. Schwab

🧠💙

TW: ableism, suicide, child abuse, child death, animal death, murder, blood, death, grief, self-harm, alcoholism, strangulation, bullying

I loved how fantastically Gothic this book is. Familiar beats are hit, but with a renewed focus on found family and intergenerational trauma. This is a book with so much heart at its centre and you can feel the sensitivity and nuance poured into its pages. I loved the stylistic flourishes and the way Schwab wastes no time in creating a claustrophobic, ominous atmosphere. Schwab really digs into the standard tropes of the genre and subtly undercuts them, inverting your expectations at every turn with something that little bit more fresh and original. Of course, it helps that their writing is so beautifully crafted and spell-binding.

Full review here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

⭐️🏳️‍🌈

TW: racism, past parent illness, hospitalisation, colonialism 

I loved the exploration of the intersection of colonialism, art and theft. Li wastes no time getting into it. I am a sucker for a good secret society and the inclusion of that note adds that vibe, as well as the exclusive heist club. A central theme of the book is dealing with diasporic identity, particularly micro aggressions, racism and Chinese-American identity. Li’s writing style has this innate beauty and style to it that adds an extra dimension to the story. While it is fast-paced and utterly captivating, I also really appreciated these moments of discussion and pulling apart the intricacies of these topics. 

Full review here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

An Arrow To The Moon by Emily X. R. Pan

⭐️🧠

TW: violence, abuse, death, child illness

I loved the way this book really blends fantasy and romance in a way that feels effortless and natural. From the very first page, Pan begins with a romantic note but it still has a fantastical edge to it. I initially was drawn to this book because of how deeply I loved The Astonishing Colour of After. In particular, I fell in love with her fantastic characterization and  the way Pan manipulated language to create these beautiful images that were just sublime and so entrancing. Here, Pan proves that it was no fluke. The prose is once more effortlessly gorgeous, in a way that you just get lost inside. It felt like a cocoon of beauty and danger was being created around me and utterly swept me off into another world. 

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Blood To Poison by Mary Watson

⭐️🧠

TW: murder, violence, death, racism, slavery, segregation, references to rape and sexual assault, self-harm

First things first, this is a phenomenal concept. I was utterly sold on Watson’s vision of a family curse born of anger in a South African urban fantasy with veilwitches and prophecies. In fact, I really enjoyed Watson’s exploration of anger. A lot of this book sits with the idea of anger, its righteousness and the way it bubbles up and over into fury. This is a book that unlocks the power of anger when channelled through the correct sources. It is a book writhing with righteous fury and sadness at the historical and institutional injustices confronted by this book. 

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You Can Trust Me by Gina Blaxill

🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: drugging, attempted sexual assault, murder, violence, death, sexism, rape

This is the type of book you cannot disentangle yourself from. It just burrows under your skin and into your heart with its intense, timely and emotive power. Blaxill is unrelenting in her portrayal of darkness and guilt festering in this claustrophobic atmosphere. The true horror of this book is on full display in its searing takedown of rape culture, privlege and toxic masculinity. This is a nuanced and layered book that really gives voice to the victims and interrogates our own complicity in this insidious culture. The way this intersects with her examination of privilege and toxic masculinity is masterful to watch and will hopefully ignite some conversations and change. 

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Game by Scott Kershaw

⭐️🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: kidnapping, murder, death, suicide, torture, rape, sexual assault

This was a brutal, bloody and brilliant book that I ripped through in one sitting. Kershaw’s pacing, plotting and ability to just unleash chaos is wonderful to witness, as you puzzle through this thought-provoking and ethically dubious thriller around revenge, justice and the consequences of our actions finally catching up with us.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Misrule by Heather Walter

🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: blood, death, violence, murder, torture, manipulation, trauma

It is no secret just how much I adored Malice when I read it last year and I was left desperately craving the sequel. Luckily for me, Walter smashes it out of the park once more with this really creative, original and interesting sequel. Walter builds on every aspect of the first book, creating an even richer and more complex world inhabited by these fascinating characters.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

🏳️‍🌈(side character)

TW: murder, suicide, death, sexual assault, graphic violence, domestic abuse, addiction

This was my first book by Cavanagh, but it certainly will not be my last. I loved how intricately plotted and fast-paced this thriller was with genuinely surprising twists and turns. Getting inside the killer’s headspace added this twisted layer to it and actually complicated your ability to guess his identity even more.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Butterfly Assassin by Finn Longman

🏳️‍🌈🧠💙

TW: physical abuse, emotional abuse, experimenting on a child, torture, blood, death, murder, violence, trauma, PTSD, traumatic flashbacks, medical trauma

The Butterfly Assassin stunned me with its compassionate, brutally honest and dark heart, though there are glimpses of hope woven into this bleak tale. This is going to be a book that everyone talks about. That emotional core and focus provides the shining star of the book for me in the exploration of guilt, trauma and abuse. Longman really goes in deep here with a thoughtful, nuanced and empathetic portrayal. You can feel how much heart and soul has gone into this, as it always feels delicately and carefully presented. The real horror and impact it has on Isabel is unrelenting and truthful. 

Full review here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

🧠

TW: death, murder, violence, blood, domestic abuse, domestic violence, stalking, manipulation 

This was a pretty damn gripping read and a fantastic tribute to one of my favourite writers of all time. I loved the dual narrative and multiple mysteries being set up, with all of these narratives intersecting in a complex and fascinating mystery. This was a twisty little gem of a book.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin

⭐️🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: racism, homophobia, sexism, violence, animal death, goreanxiety/panic attacks, fear of bugs, blood, self harm, hazing, parental abuse, cheating, murder, sexism, sexual assault/harassment, arson, graphic descriptions of dead animals, emetophobia, body shaming

I discovered Julia Lynn Rubin last year, when I read and loved Trouble Girls. That dark and unrelenting exploration of issues is something that appears characteristic of Rubin’s work, with Primal Animals going even further. This is a book that I would recommend going into pretty blind, in order to fully appreciate the unhinged mayhem that ensues. Right from the start, you get a sense of the fragility of the veneer of this idyllic setting. There’s something there that sends a shiver down your spine, something unspeakably sinister and unsettling.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Murder for the Modern Girl by Kendall Kulper ⭐️🏳️‍🌈🧠💙

TW: blood, death, murder, violence, gore, drugging, sexual assault, blackmail

Kulper infuses this book with such life and character, really weaving that atmosphere and style around you. There’s always a touch of seediness and exploitation lurking behind the glitzy facade though and Kulper really delves into this for the basis of her mystery. Ruby epitomises this dualism, with her motivations behind her murders being to protect others and punish those who the law would not. There’s an ongoing dialogue around justice and the types of victims that would be listened to and those who would be silenced. From the very first page, you are thrust into Ruby’s tangled web of death and destruction, which is a fascinating and complex place to sit. 

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Summer’s Edge by Dana Mele

🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: murder, blood, suicidal ideation, involuntary admission to a psychiatric hospital, death, trauma, animal death, drowning, poisoning, fire, fear of sharks, falling

Ok, this has cemented Mele’s status as a must-buy author for me. The way she blends the central mystery with the fraught relationships between characters and those ominous snippets of another narrative in alternating chapters was something so special. I’m still reeling from those twists. This is a book I will not be forgetting any time soon.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Chosen Ones:

2 thoughts on “Recent Reads #73

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