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 Nothing More To Tell by Karen McManus. Thank you so much to Harriet Venn at Penguin Random House’ Children’s for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Someone got away with murder. The most terrifying part is that they’re back – or maybe they never left…
Five years ago, Brynn quit Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favourite teacher. The case was never solved, but Brynn’s sure that the three kids who found Mr. Larkin’s body on school grounds know more than they’re telling.
Brynn’s ex-best friend Tripp was one of them. Thanks to Tripp’s testimony none of them were found guilty of the murder and now, five years later, the trio are at the top of the school’s social ladder.
When Brynn gets the internship of a lifetime working on a new true-crime show, and decides to investigate what really happened that day in the woods for herself. But the further she dives into the past, the more secrets she uncovers-about Saint Ambrose School, about Mr. Larkin, and even about her ex-best friend.
Publication Date: 1st September
TW: murder, death, abuse, violence, stalking, blood, alcoholism, coma, car wreck, PTSD, trauma
Nothing More To Tell is another smash-hit, twisty and addictive read for an undisputed queen of YA thrillers.
Karen McManus has such a fiendish mind and I have adored her previous work, owning all her books in one form or another. Her writing style is so delectably easy to read, flowing really well and pulling you completely into the mystery. So, when I heard her new book had elements of true crime investigations and Dark Academia, I was utterly sold.
This book really showcases her developed character work, really digging into their individual backstories and intricacies. I always love her usual of multiple perspectives and the dual narrative here really serves to gradually tease out the events of that fateful day, as well as adding different layers to the present day narrative. Tripp and Brynn carry the weight of this unsolved mystery heavily on their shoulders, though in differing ways. Their interactions and dynamic are so fun to watch evolve over the course of the book.
Brynn has that journalistic instinct and attention to detail, with an added passion and determination to find the truth. Her heart is ultimately in the right place, but her naivety means that the full repercussions of her actions are not always immediately apparent to her. Tripp is undeniably haunted by the secrets he is keeping about what truly happened and the exploration of the ongoing effect this has on him is fascinating.
The central mystery is, as to expected with McManus, extremely twisty and throws you for a loop every time you think you have it all pieced together. Seeing how all the fragments fit together is such a good reveal. It’s an extremely satisfying conclusion, but the actual mystery has so many thought provoking layers to it. This is no clear-cut case, with plenty of murky ethical dilemmas and social commentary woven into it.
Nothing More To Tell is a fantastically constructed mystery, sure to delight and surprise you.
Next up, I’d like to talk about With Fire in Their Blood by Kat Delacorte. Thank you to Candy Ikwuwunna at Penguin Random House Children’s for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
When sixteen-year-old Lilly arrives in Castello, she isn’t impressed.
A secluded town in the Italian mountains is not where she saw her last years of high school playing out.
Divided for generations by a brutal clan-family war, the two halves of Castello are kept from destroying each other by the mysterious General, a leader determined to maintain order and ‘purity’. . . whatever the cost.
Lilly falls in with the rebellious Liza, brooding Nico and sensitive Christian, and sparks begin to fly. But in a city where love can lead to ruin, Lilly isn’t sure she can trust anyone — not even herself.
And then she accidentally breaks Castello’s most important rule: when the General’s men come to test your blood, you’d better not be anything more than human…
Publication Date: 1st September
TW: murder, suicide, mass killing, violence, blood, injury, death, death of parent, murder, suicide ideation, addiction, immolation, self harm, confinement, emotional and physical abuse, child abuse
With Fire in Their Blood is a beguiling and darkly enchanting gem of a book. It combines intriguing fantasy concepts, excellent character work and a spine-tingling examination of tyrannical rule and ideology.
The plot was consistently surprising, ensuring that you could never fully trust any character. Every single person has some sort of ulterior motive or allegiance that you were not aware of. This kept me on my toes throughout the book and added to the serpentine nature of the book. The twists and turns were brilliant as well and completely unexpected. It helped that our central characters were so well-defined and developed, allowing me to really connect with them. Also, there are some excellent and heavily charged scenes that showcased the dynamics between certain characters. This was perfectly matched by the sybaritic writing style Delacorte oozes comfortably, effortlessly matching the exact atmosphere of each scene. It felt decadent and immensely evocative at times, gritty and blood-drenched at others. That balance of styles is what truly makes it a Gothic infused story for me.
The exploration of religious themes and family were some of the highlights for me. This is a book unafraid to really go there when necessary and this leads to some incredibly uncomfortable and terrifying scenes. I think it was the realism at the core of the book, that fanaticism and rule of terror that characterises Castello, which really scared me. It parallels aspects of real life so well and reminds us how easy it is to be swayed by this type of ideology. In terms of the fantastical, I enjoyed the exploration of the magic and lore of the town. It was such an interesting magic system and how it parallels the user’s inner character and emotions. That historical villainization and ostracisation of those it does not understand is also mirrored here.
With Fire in Their Blood is a Gothic infused fantasy that will bewitch you and ensure you fall in love with it.
Finally, I’d like to delve into The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling. Thank you to Titan for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
A haunting new imagining of gothic horror set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England that is not to be read alone at night. For fans of Crimson Peak, Shirley Jackson, Mexican Gothic and Rebecca.
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town.
Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to.
Publication Date: 20th September
TW: death, violence, medical trauma, graphic surgical descriptions, body horror, gore, death, drug use, miscarriage, gaslighting
The Death of Jane Lawrence was that classic kind of Gothic that buries itself beneath your skin and refuses to let you forget it.
This is a book that truly thrives on its atmosphere. I adore that chilling Gothic atmosphere of candles, darkness, a touch of romance and the stench of death. However, this is also a story that challenges every expectation you have. That rotting, unsettling sense of something not being quite right destabilises you and throws everything you think you know into question. I also loved how this is a familiar but ever so slightly different world to the one we are used to, with references to unfamiliar religions and the war that never was. Even that slight alteration is something that throws you off-kilter and into this twisted world.
Right from the start, you know little will be as you expect and indeed, the story delves into some truly bizarre and frightening territory. This is a gory book, knee deep in blood and gore and everything that goes bump in the night.. Starling ensures that you are constantly on guard, with the nightmarish visions and apparitions that surround you. In particular, the manor on the hill becomes its own character and you can envision that fading glamour and the numerous secrets it holds within its walls. The way Starling eventually makes this intersect with the central themes of the book and the interiority of the characters is so, so clever.
I read this through the darkness of night and that definitely embellished certain scenes. Ambiguity is a difficult tool to wield but Starling does with great effect, particularly towards the last segment of the book. Horror is often infinitely more frightening when you do not see everything and I think that is executed to amazing effect here.
The Death of Jane Lawrence is a macabre gem, twisting your mind with its deceptions and darkness.
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