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 She’s Gone by David Bell. Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
When a girl disappears, who do you suspect?
When 17-year-old Hunter Gifford wakes in the hospital on the night of homecoming, he’s shocked to learn he and his girlfriend, Chloe Summers, have been in a terrible car accident. Hunter has no memory of the crash, and his shock turns to horror when he is told Chloe’s blood has been found in the car―but she has disappeared.
Back at school, his fellow students taunt him, and his former best friend starts making a true-crime documentary about the case―one that points the finger directly at Hunter. And just when things can’t get any worse, Chloe’s mother stands in front of the entire town at a candlelight vigil and accuses Hunter of murder.
Under mounting pressure from the police, Hunter takes matters into his own hands by questioning anyone who might know the truth and posting videos to prove his innocence. When Hunter learns he and Chloe were seen arguing loudly outside the dance, he faces a sickening possibility. Was he angry enough to kill the person he loved?
Publication Date: 1st November
TW: death, murder, blood, violence, sexual harassment, stalking, emotional abuse
Goodreads | Waterstones
She’s Gone is a punchy, twisty and exhilarating YA thriller that keeps you on your toes.
This is a book you will race through. The short chapters, pacy writing style and drip feed of information makes the pages just fly past. I love it when a thriller is all-consuming and you just have to binge your way through it. This is definitely that style of book, keeping the tension thick and the stakes rising ever higher. The pacing was spot on, never truly allowing you to pause for breath. Instead, you get bogged down in this dark web of secrets and lies.
There are so many colliding aspects of the story that take it into darker and darker territory. That rippling effect of death and destruction steamrolls over every character’s lives in this book. No one truly remains unscathed by the end. I love it when a book really delves into the realistic impacts of certain actions and sits within that grey area of morality.
I liked how much the characters resonated with me. As always with a thriller, everyone is a suspect and the narrative here is often murky and ambiguous. Hunter is a layered character, with his memory clouded by his amnesia, yet I never quite allowed myself to trust him. He presents a fractured and flawed version of events that slowly piece together to reveal the truth. However, he is also a deeply caring and passionate person, desperate to find Chloe and the truth – however difficult it may be. My favourite character of the book was definitely Olivia and her snarky protectiveness. She sparkled in every scene she was in for me, adding a little verve and passion.
She’s Gone is a fast-paced, entertaining thrillride moving into ethically dubious and ever darkening territory.
Next up, I’d like to talk about Strike the Zither by Joan He. Thank you to Text Publishing for sneidng me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
The year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty, and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured into three factions and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves.
But Zephyr knows it’s no contest.
Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist of the land and serving under Xin Ren, a warlordess whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged—while Ren’s honor draws Zephyr to her cause, it also jeopardizes their survival in a war where one must betray or be betrayed. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp to keep Ren’s followers from being slaughtered, she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But there are more enemies than one—and not all of them are human.
Publication Date: 1st November
TW: war, blood, violence, deaths, major character death, animal death, eye horror, death of parents, vomiting, verbal and physical abuse, starvation and famine, body shaming, xenophobia
Strike the Zither is an intriguing and incredibly layered YA fantasy. This is a superb YA fantasy inspired by Three Kingdoms, a classic of Chinese literature.
Joan He is one of those authors that bowls me over every single time. Her writing is so complex and nuanced, systematically destroying every last expectation you have. I love how twisty her books are and how they circumvent genre conventions at every turn. This is no exception – providing a claustrophobic and intense vision of political turmoil and a country torn apart at war. He does not hold back, delving straight into the brutality and backstabbing that defines war. I loved the ethical dilemmas of the strategists and watching these elaborate plans unfurl. Behind that, there is a slowly burning and brilliant plot twist that explodes everything you thought you knew. It is genuinely stunning and made me reevaluate everything I had seen. All I can recommend is allowing yourself to get immersed in this intricate plot and go along for the wild ride you are in store for.
Zephyr is a fascinating and complex protagonist, among some of the most unique characters I have been on a journey with. She is exceptionally smart and ruthless, but there is also a deep desire for connection and family within her. I loved the exploration of her strength and how that presents itself in several different facets. There is some serious three-dimensional chess and anticipation seven moves ahead going on here. Every conversation is a way of gaining leverage and power, balanced with the desperate need for survival. The dynamics she has with the surrounding characters are so complicated and ever-changing, creating some interesting tension in different forms.
Strike the Zither is a jaw-dropper of a book.
Finally, I’d like to delve into Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. Thank you to Penguin Random House Children’s UK for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
An end-of-summer party.
A prank gone wrong.
A body on the beach.
Who’s to blame?
Tegan Sheffield’s annual end-of-summer beach party is the only way to start their senior year. At least that’s what Jake Healy tells his girlfriend Jessica Sanchez.
But when a video prank from the party goes viral and a body is discovered at the beach, Jake and Jessica find themselves at the centre of a national media storm and a police investigation.
It’s a race to uncover the truth before the killer strikes again.
Publication Date: 3rd November
TW: death, murder, violence, sexual assault, drugging, manipulation, abuse
Friends Like These knocked me off my feet with incredible and genuinely shocking twists and turns. This is a tornado, sweeping everyone in its path off course.
I really enjoyed Lies Like Wildfire when I read it last year. It was a tangled spider web of secrets, lies and complex relationships that slowly unspins, leading you on a journey of fire and blood. Its ending is stellar and will leave you with your jaw open. Similarly, Alvarez continues that pattern of stories that slowly descend into utter chaos and bloodshed. This is a book that constantly surprises and took the story into incredibly dark and somewhat unexpected territory. The topics covered are handled with sensitivity and nuance, highlighting the gritty truth of these issues that many readers will recognise.
Once again, Alvarez’s writing has that delectably bingeable quality. I spent an evening happily getting lost within this raging inferno of a story. The way Alvarez ultimately spins the story around toxic relationships and widens the scope to show the destructive impact of this on everyone around them. This is heightened by the claustrophobia of the setting and the suffocating intensity of the sharp focus on our central characters. They are both implicated and dragged into the central mystery from very different initial emotional entanglements, only for it to spiral so much further from there. I liked how developed they were, slowly opening up other aspects of themselves to the readers. At the same time, they are deeply untrustworthy narrators, hiding their own secrets. Personally, I think I connected more with Jake and his overarching storyline resonated with me a touch more.
Friends Like These is an intricately plotted and layered story, casting a shadow over everything and everyone around it.