Mini Review Monday #69

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 Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed. Thank you to Atom Books for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. One thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s job is to find the facts and not let personal bias affect the story: but that changes the day she discovers Jawad.

Jawad Ali was just fourteen when a teacher saw him wearing a cosplay jetpack and mistook it for a bomb. A mistake that got Jawad arrested, labelled a terrorist – ‘Bomb Boy’ – and eventually killed. But who was the young boy behind the headlines? 

With Jawad’s haunting voice guiding her throughout her investigation, Safiya seeks to tell the whole truth about the murdered boy and those who killed him.

A powerful story of our times, Hollow Fires exposes the evil that hides in plain sight and the silent complicity of privileged bystanders who use alternative facts to bend the truth to their liking.

Publication Date: 10th May

TW: racism, white supremacy, neo-Nazi, xenophobia, racial profiling, police brutality, Islamophobia, threat of massacre

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

Hollow Fires truly is a book that burns bright. 

This is a book that reflects the horrific realities of our time and really interrogates privilege, bystanderism and structural racism. It also delves into online radicalisation and invokes some of the worst events surrounding white supremacy in recent memory. Ahmed blends these doses of real life with a claustrophobic and tense narrative. It speaks to the ‘ideal victim’, racial bias and way in which certain events are skewed by the media and wider society. This is not a book you can put down or look away. Ahmed’s writing is fierce and commanding, making you listen and confront this insidious monstrosity. It trembles with rage against these hatreds hiding beneath a veneer of societal acceptability. Ahmed questions the way in which the white supremacy and racist ideologies presented are allowed and encouraged to continue. 

Personally, I loved the mixed media narrative structure and the way Ahmed blended the voices of Safiya and Jawad. She combines transcripts, newspaper articles and statements to create an overarching view and thread in real statistics and information. This approach is layered and again allows for reality to enter the book, reminding you that this is not a book divorced from the world. Instead this is a book that holds up an unrelenting mirror. Safiya’s journalism reflects this, with her passion and drive to advocate for the truth driving much of her work. That integrity is commendable and generally, she is a character you cannot help but fall in love with. Her tenacity is incredible, but Ahmed also highlights her vulnerabilities and the way this racist society impacts up on her everyday life. Jawad’s experiences mirror this and depicts a story we unfortunately know all too well. His voice was surprisingly hopeful and emotionally fraught, again making you love him and wish for Safiya to discover the truth. 

Hollow Fires is a book that demands you listen and actively be the change you wish to see in the world. Being a passive bystander is to ignore the violent reality of racism, white supremacy and hatred.

Next up, I’d like to talk about Ready or Not by Tracy Darnton. Thank you to Little Tiger Group for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Shared family holidays at Creek House have been the backdrop to Millie’s summers since forever. Hanging out with the other kids – Matt, Charlie, Jem and her best friend Kat – has made it her favourite time of the year. But this holiday things are different – the childhood games that once filled their days have lost their appeal to everyone except Millie. It’s not until the final night that the others agree to a game of hide and seek. But in the time it takes Millie to count to twenty, Kat vanishes.

One year on, and struggling to come to terms with the events of last summer, Millie persuades the others to return to Creek House. It’s meant to give them closure, but it could be a chance to find out what happened. After all, people don’t just disappear, do they?

A tightly plotted thriller, perfect for fans of Karen McManus, Holly Jackson, THE GREAT GODDEN and WE WERE LIARS.

Publication Date: 12th May

TW: disappearance, violence, cheating

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

Ready or Not is a book designed for you to fly through on those balmy summer days full of sun and secrets. This is a tightly plotted and fast-paced book that constantly keep you on your toes. 

Darnton is one devilish writer. This is a book that thrives in ambiguity and underlying secrets. There are no easy answers, though the reader can draw their own conclusions. I love that ability to let the book thrive in the reader’s imagination and how we can spiral down our own rabbit holes, giving a unique spin on the mystery. 

From that intriguing opening, Darnton had me hooked. It was short and sharp, giving you just enough to pull you in but also staying concise and mysterious. You are aware of the hotbed of secrets and tangled relationships here, as well as the central mystery. Darnton keeps that slick pacing and tension throughout the book. The writing style is so addictive and easy to devour. The twists and turns are excellently executed and almost always rooted in the characters we’ve come to know. 

These are fractured and flawed people, who grew up together but have started to drift apart. Darnton blends the quintessential coming of age experience with a thrilling and speedy plotline. It is only through the tragic events of the last summer, shrouded in mystery and emotional entanglements, that have drawn them back together once more. In particular, Millie’s narrative voice is so layered and fascinating, particularly the mix of letters, past and present day narration. You get to see so many more facets to Millie as the book develops and I loved the subtle changes in the letters. 

 Go into this book knowing as little as you can and be prepared for Darnton to lead you on a wild exploration of deception, coming of age and friendship. 

Finally, I’d like to delve into The Game by Scott Kershaw. Thank you to HQ for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Across the globe, five strangers receive a horrifying message from an unknown number.


To save them, each must play The Game – a sinister unknown entity that has a single rule: there can only be one winner.


But what is The Game – and why have they been chosen?

There’s only one thing each of them knows for sure: they’ll do anything to win…


Publication Date: 12th May

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

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

The Game is the type of thriller that sits with you long after you have finished reading it. It is incredibly thought-provoking and ethically dubious. 

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. Of course, this only works if you care about your cast of characters. I loved how many different narrative voices we got, which really complicated the plot and made you realise tiny details evolving amongst them all. It adds to the scale of events and that sheer freefall feeling of everything collapsing around them. Through their perspectives, you get the sense of their three-dimensional and complex interior lives. They feel like fleshed out people and that is precisely how Kershaw makes you emotionally complicit. The subject matter is highly charged from the start, which makes some later reveals that much more devastating. 

Right from that opening, Kershaw does not let you stop. The writing is so gripping and engaging that you do not want to tear yourself away. This is a book that constantly makes you evaluate your morals and how far you would go in order to seek justice. Kershaw’s pacing is relentless, making this an adrenaline fuelled, highly binegable read. Every page is like walking a tightrope, with the tension building even more. I loved how clear the motivations for actions were and the overall reveal behind it all is genuinely jaw-dropping. It is the type of reveal that makes you take a sharp breath and re-evaluate everything you thought you knew. For me, it was a gut-wrenching and unfortunately timely call out to despicable behaviours and cultures that seem impervious to justice. 

 The Game was a brutal, bloody and brilliant book that I ripped through in one sitting. This is such an incredibly strong debut and I’m keen to see what Kershaw does next.

5 thoughts on “Mini Review Monday #69

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