I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was a couple of weeks 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 Such a Good Mother by Helen Monks Takhar. Thank you to HQ for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Rose O’Connell aspires to be the perfect mother.
And when she receives an unexpected invitation into The Circle, an elite clique of beautiful, wealthy and connected mums at her son’s exclusive school, it seems her dreams are about to come true. Every mother would kill for an invitation, and once she joins, Rose’s social status soars.
But what is each woman hiding beneath her immaculate exterior?
Why did a previous member take their own life?
And why have they singled out unassuming Rose to take her place?
Rose is about to find out that darkness lies at the heart of The Circle. And it’s far too late to run…
From the author of That Woman comes a razor-sharp, dark and nail-bitingly gripping new thriller. Dare you enter The Circle?
Publication Date: 4th August
TW: TW: violence, death, murder, cheating, blackmailing, death of a child, parental abuse, neglect
Such a Good Mother was such a nasty, twisted little story centring around obsession, privilege and manipulation.
This is a book that is rotten to the core. Every single page is infused with manipulation and ulterior motives. This is a deeply human, flawed and complex book pushing the boundaries of morality in the pursuit of revenge and motherhood. Monks Takhar has a really interesting riff on the theme of family, presenting one aspect while holding a knife behind her back. The book also really delves into trauma and the effect our upbringings can have on shaping our present.
I loved the style of the book and how the narrative was framed around a certain plot device from Rose’s past. Be aware that in every scene, there are several chess pieces and machinations moving that you are totally unaware of. At the same time, I loved the rawness and vulnerability that seeped through the pages. I loved the characterisation and how deeply we dove into these flawed women playing a despicable game. There is a real nuance and fleshed out feel to these women. They are fractured and imperfect, but some part of you still roots for them.
You get pulled right into this claustrophobic circle full of sharks, only for the twists to hit you thick and fast. Those twists were so well-executed and really raised the stakes every time. They peel back layer upon layer of deceit, extortion and blackmail that lies at the heart of this glittering elite. All of this is perfectly paired with the super pacing and tension. You know something is off, but you do not truly know the extent until the very last chapters.
Such a Good Mother is a book that slowly encloses on you until you are unable to escape its nefarious grasp.
Next up, I’d like to talk about The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean. Thank you to HarperVoyager for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
A gorgeous new fantasy horror – a book about stories and fairytales with family and love at its dark heart…
Hidden across England and Scotland live six old Book Eater families. The last of their lines, they exist on the fringes of society and subsist on a diet of stories and legends. Children are rare and their numbers have dwindled, so when Devon Fairweather’s second child is born a dreaded Mind Eater – a perversion of her own kind, who consumes not stories but the minds and souls of humans – she flees before he can be turned into a weapon for the family… or worse.
Living among humans and finding prey for her son, Devon seeks a cure for his hunger. But time is running out – for her family want her back, and with every soul her son consumes he loses a little more of himself…
Publication Date: 18th August
TW: rape, child abuse, death, violence, murder, sexual assault, drugging, trafficking, mutilation, parental abuse, body horror, gore, violence against children
The Book Eaters is a book that has totally consumed me.
This is a book that demands your very mind and soul. From those first few pages, Dean had me entirely in her grasp. I could not stop reading this incredibly inventive, original and all-consuming story. That plot shift at the end of the first chapter was like an anvil hitting you. Right from then, you know that you are in for a murderous, gory treat, with an all too human heart. Dean’s writing style was gorgeous, feeling very literary and descriptive but also super intriguing and with a real spark of ingenuity to it. For me, this book was a dark, Gothic and bloody fairytale. That supernatural element was so creative and unlike anything I have ever read before. The different abilities and social structure of this world was something I loved reading about. As a book lover, it really sparks your imagination and Dean really digs into the minute flourishes of this world.
That central exploration of motherhood and family ties was done in such an innovative and intriguing way. The way Dean balances superbly crafted worldbuilding and fascinating details with a hard-hitting emotional core is just phenomenal. Her characters are crafted with such delicacy and nuance, deeply affected by the traumas of their past but driven to keep going. Devon was a character I instantly connected to and my heart ached for the abhorrent things she endured. This is a book that is unafraid to really go there at times and that makes for tough reading, but it speaks to real life events and abuses.
The Book Eaters lives up to its name, with a delectable, inspired and truly unorthodox story designed to be devoured.
Finally, I’d like to delve into Belladonna by Adalyn Grace. Thank you so much to Kate Keehan for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Orphaned as a baby, nineteen-year-old Signa has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her well-being – and each has met an untimely end. Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy.
Its patriarch mourns his late wife through wild parties, while his son grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and his daughter suffers from a mysterious illness. But when their mother’s restless spirit appears claiming she was poisoned, Signa realizes that the family she depends on could be in grave danger, and enlists the help of a surly stable boy to hunt down the killer.
Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer, though, is an alliance with Death himself, a fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side. Though he’s made her life a living hell, Death shows Signa that their growing connection may be more powerful – and more irresistible – than she ever dared imagine.
TW: death, murder, violence, poisoning, manipulation, abuse, self-harm, gore, blood, description of illnesses, parental neglect, past suicide attempts
Well, I’ve found a new favourite YA fantasy to obsess over this year.
Belladonna is the type of book that sits on your mind long after the final page. It is a poisoned apple of a book, trapping you forevermore under its spell.
I adored the dark Gothic atmosphere, entwined with a captivating mystery and a unique medium of meditating on life, Death and Fate. This is a darkly entrancing book that you cannot tear yourself away from. Grace’s writing flows so easily, with that literary lilt to it, allowing you to lose yourself in the story. The mystery is so well-constructed, offering up plenty of clues, hints and red herrings. I was really invested in that aspect of the story, as well as the emotional exploration of death and family. This is a book that really sits with those themes, interrogating all aspects of Death and how it intertwines with life itself. Grief is also explored in a really poignant and beautiful way, showing its varied and fracturing effects. This particular theme is manifested in a truly Gothic way, keeping that menacing atmosphere flowing throughout.
On top of all this, Signa was a brilliant protagonist, discovering her power and coming to despise the restrictions placed upon her by societal expectations. I loved her initial naivety and how it blossomed into an assured confidence within herself. Her journey was so easy to connect to and I fell in love with her early on, continuing to root for her throughout. Her power set is an absolutely fascinating and creative part of the story as well, creating some thought-provoking discussions and motifs that I will continue to ponder. Safe to say, I will definitely be picking up the sequel (Foxglove) when it comes out.
Belladonna is as deadly as its title, combining mystery, fantasy and a touch of romance in a heady concoction that will intoxicate you.