Mini Review Monday #87

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 A Restless Truth by Freya Marske. Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Tor for sending me an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Maud Blyth has always longed for adventure. She’d hoped for plenty of it when she agreed to help her beloved older brother unravel a magical conspiracy. She even volunteered to serve as an old lady’s companion on an ocean liner. But Maud didn’t expect the old lady to turn up dead on the very first day of the voyage.

Now she has to deal with a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and the lovely, dangerously outrageous Violet Debenham. Violet is everything Maud has been trained to distrust, yet can’t help but desire: a magician, an actress and a magnet for scandal.

Surrounded by open sea and a ship full of suspects, Maud and Violet must learn to drop the masks they’ve learned to wear. Only then might they work together to locate a magical object worth killing for – and unmask a murderer. All without becoming dead in the water themselves.

Publication Date: 10th November

TW: murder, death, torture, sexism, infidelity, homophobia, violence, blood

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

A Restless Truth was a steamy, salacious and sensational sequel. 

A Marvellous Light was a flirty, raunchy and romantic book that blended history, mystery and fantasy brilliantly. This sapphic sequel was a murderously fun romp, feeling like Murder on the Nile meets Knives Out with plenty of queerness. I love Marske’s writing style for how descriptive and full of magic it is. She has that light touch of pure joy that contrasts so well with the occasional darkness of the subject matter. It effortlessly blends the humourous with some razor sharp moments of tension. The central mystery was well-constructed and engaging as well, with plenty of twists and turns to enjoy. 

I really enjoyed the central romance and their ever-changing dynamic – leading to some very fun and sexy moments. Their spark was undeniable and watching their flirting was so fun. Maude and Violet are both intensely products of their environments, surviving in the ways they know best, but they allow each other to crack those facades ever so slightly. They allow one another to help them grow and evolve beyond their trappings of the past. Their initial sketches are so far from their entire truth. 

I enjoyed the more academic exploration of magic here, compared to the more intimate examination in A Marvellous Light. It was also intriguing to learn more of the overarching history and particularly more about the Forsythia Club. This helps lay the groundwork and develop the series even more, although I was hoping for a tad more worldbuilding. However, this is still such a strong outing from Marske. This series is such ebullient escapism and the blend of genres on show is compelling. 

A Restless Truth lives up to its pitch perfectly – providing plentiful entertainment for those long wintery nights. 

Next up, I’d like to talk about When The Lights Go Out by Chris Curran. Thank you to HarperCollins UK and One More Chapter for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Who can you trust…WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT

A group of new friends. But can she trust them?

For struggling actress Ava, landing a role with the Chimera Theatre Group could lead to her big break. And relocating to a remote country village means stepping out from the shadow of her boyfriend-despite his determination not to let her go.

Everyone in the group seems so welcoming, they’re one big happy family. But, like all families, they each have secrets. And someone in the group doesn’t want certain secrets to get out…

Publication Date: 8th December

TW: death, murder, violence, stalking, abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, gaslighting, stalking

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

When The Lights Go Out is a dark thundercloud looming on the horizon. It slowly builds its complex dynamics up into an explosive conclusion. 

This book really lives up to its fascinating premise and I adore how little the synopsis really gives away. The theatricality and pretence of actors really defines this book, alongside the intense dynamic of the enclosed setting. You question to what extent how people are acting is genuine. There is almost always an underlying motivation that you have to try and untangle. I really enjoyed the slow burning sense of paranoia and mistrust that seeps its way into the book. It’s a book that really plays with suspense and tension, building up a catalogue of creepy and unnerving events that tie into something much larger. The set up and character types are fairly familiar, but those entangled dynamics and connections between them were highly entertaining to unpick. It all builds to a climatic, adrenaline rush of a finale sequence and a surprising reveal right near the end. 

Speaking of characters, I really enjoyed hearing Ava’s voice. She is firmly the centerpoint of the story, with some intriguingly vague flashbacks to her childhood slowly starting to piece together into the main plot. The dysfunctional family imploding atmosphere that colours both her and the entire central group simmers constantly. There is a pretence of happiness and harmony, but the cracks become evident all too soon. Her relationships and the way she interacts with each character reveals a lot about her characteristics and goals, but also spotlights their motivations. Especially when you revisit those conversations with more knowledge, there is a minefield of carefully fraught ground being trodden. 

When The Lights Go Out was a layered and compulsively entertaining read that kept me racing through the pages. 

Finally, I’d like to delve into They’re Watching You by Chelsea Ichaso. Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

When a secret society has you in their sights, it can lead to power, privilege… or death.

It’s been two weeks since Polly St. James went missing. The police, the headmistress of Torrey-Wells Academy, and even her parents have ruled her a runaway. But not Maren, her best friend and roommate. She knows Polly had a secret that she was about to share with Maren before she disappeared― something to do with the elite, ultra-rich crowd at Torrey-Wells.

Then Maren finds an envelope hidden among Polly’s things: an invitation to the Gamemaster’s Society. Do not tell anyone, it says. Maren is certain her classmates in the Society know the truth about what happened to Polly, though it’s no easy feat to join. Once Maren’s made it through the treacherous initiation, she discovers a world she never knew existed within her school, where Society members compete in high-stakes games for unheard-of rewards―Ivy League connections, privileges, favors.

But Maren’s been drawn into a different game: for every win, she’ll receive a clue about Polly. And as Maren keeps winning, she begins to see just how powerful the Society’s game is―bigger and deadlier than she ever imagined. They see, they know, they control. And they kill.

Publication Date: 3rd January 2023

TW: death, murder, violence, manipulation, gaslighting, kidnapping, imprisonment, torture, psychological abuse

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

They’re Watching You is a fantastic YA dark academia thriller, with truly shocking reveals. 

Maren was a really enjoyable protagonist. Her determination, loyalty and drive endeared me to her instantly. That passion and ferocious love for her friends shines through, especially as it manifests with alliances and betrayals throughout the course of the book. Ichaso’s ability to just pull you in and root for her is commendable. The surrounding cast of characters is deftly sketched, giving each of them enough to stand out and be memorable. They’re all entangled in this shadowy web of secrets though. Every character had something to hide, so I was constantly suspecting everyone and doubting their real motivations. 

I enjoyed the claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere born from the tightly plotted web of secrets at the heart of this book. The society really thrives on emotional and psychological manipulation and torture. This makes for an incredibly intense and fast-paced read, perfectly designed for bingeing. The games are incredibly high stakes and always have a flourish of something unexpected. I liked how you had to try and unpick the puzzles. It always helps me engage in the book that much more, trying to decipher the riddles and piece together the bigger picture. 

The secret society shenanigans were fascinating as well and always creeping into darker and darker territory. I am a sucker for a bit of dark academia, with secrets in the halls and institutionalised privilege being weaponised. Ichaso interrogates that inherent class dynamic, with the excess and glamour of the society belying a gaudy extravagance. It all disguises a dark and twisted secret at the heart of this school. The sheer amount of twists in this book is brilliant, changing how you view characters and events in an instant. 

When reading They’re Watching You, ensure that you question everything, because nothing is as it seems.

3 thoughts on “Mini Review Monday #87

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