Recent Reads #82

As ever, today I will be briefly reviewing all the books I’ve read since my last post in approximately fifty words. 

I want to share my full thoughts on some of these books in the future, so I’ll share a brief idea today with the full review to come.


Strike the Zither by Joan He

⭐️🏳️‍🌈

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

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.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reader, I Murdered Him by Betsy Cornwell

⭐️🏳️‍🌈

TW: death, murder, sexual assault, abuse, parental abuse, emotional abuse, manipulation

This is like lightning in a bottle, dark and dangerous but you are still entirely captivated by it. Its retelling aspects are superbly executed, bringing marginalised narratives to the centre and blending them into bloody new territory. Immediately, we have that sense of the vigilante style of revenge and justice, causing many debates and dilemmas surrounding that increasingly treacherous tightrope. It is a blood tinged and atmospheric moment that draws you in and from there, you becomes evermore ensnared in this twisted spider’s web.

Full review to come.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Bloodmarked by Tracey Deonn

⭐️🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: racism, death, grief, violence, life-threatening injury, discussed rape, non-consensual drug use, non-consensual memory & perception manipulation, imprisonment, slavery, kidnapping, medical trauma, gore, injury

Legendborn became a new obsession for me in 2020. Bloodmarked takes every aspect of the previous book and elevates it to new heights. That deep rooted exploration of grief and trauma expands in an intimate and deeply emotional story. The reconciliation of the generational abuse and trauma Bree faces is immense and Deonn does not shy away from showcasing just how impactful dealing with this legacy is. It is a challenge that threatens to overwhelm Bree, consistently alienating her and providing yet more challenges.

She really goes through it in this book. Her vulnerability and moments of release really hit hard, as you fall ever more in love with her. She is a truly phenomenal protagonist. 

Full review here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A Restless Truth by Freya Marske

🏳️‍🌈

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

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 really enjoyed the central romance and their ever-changing dynamic – leading to some very fun moments. The mystery was well-constructed and engaging as well, though I was hoping for a tad more worldbuilding. It was intriguing to learn more of the overarching history though.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Wicked Remain by Laura Pohl

⭐️🏳️‍🌈🧠💙

TW: violence, gore, parental abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, cancer, suicide attempt, death by suicide, fatphobia, sexual assault, transphobia, child abuse

The Grimrose Girls flipped the script on what you may expect from fairy tale retellings with a dash of murder, mystery and the power of female friendships. The Wicked Remain takes it a step further, drenching the book in even more blood and darkness.

I liked how we delved more into the origin of the curse and the differing impact it has on each of our characters. After the initial mystery of the first book, there is still plenty more to discover and Pohl does not lay it out on the table immediately. Instead, we learn through glimpses and flashes, with a few horrible surprises lurking in there as well. 

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Babel by R F Kuang

⭐️🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: death, kidnapping, physical abuse, racism, sexism, xenophobia, classism, child abuse, hate crime, death of a parent, misogyny, gun violence, slavery, torture, confinement, cultural appropriation, fire/injury, racial slurs, murder, blood, colonialism, violence, imperialism, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide, grief, trafficking, police brutality

I know I will merely be another voice easily declaring Babel as one of my favourite books of the year and Kuang as a genius.

This is an impeccably well-constructed book, unpicking the systemic structures of oppression, colonialism and empire that still influences and shapes our present. Her mind is incredible – I mean those concepts and the characters are perfect. The sheer exploration of language and how it is weaponised, before potentially becoming open to reclamation is fascinating. As well as this, the additional footnotes sent me off in such a spiral of research. Also, be prepared for emotional devastation. As The Poppy War trilogy taught me, Kuang will rip your heart into shreds.

This is a tome well worth pouring over time and time again. Kuang will always ensure there is a new rabbit hole for you to lose yourself in.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston

TW: blood, death, murder, body horror, violence, grief, manipulation

Fuston takes that performative nature and steps it up a gear into a high stakes and claustrophobic competition of wits. It is a game where little is truly as it seems and there are layers upon layers of plots, many of which are tinged with blood and death. The personal dynamics really wrap this up, with unknown relationships and connections slowly coming to life. You fall in love with these ragtag found families and their varied personalities. They all have different reasons and method for pursuing vengeance as well, which leads to some really interesting discussions. Where is that line between justice and vengeance and who draws it? 

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fix The System, Not The Women by Laura Bates

TW: sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, rape, sexual assault, violence, death, murder, police brutality, harassment, stalking, FGM, emotional abuse, physical abuse

Laura Bates’ work makes me want to just unleash all the stored up anger many women hold close to their hearts. This is another well-researched and through exploration of the ways systems of political and social power work to oppress women. She illustrates her astute argument with heart-breaking but all too familiar examples from the Everyday Sexism project, emphasising how desperately change is needed.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When The Lights Go Out by Chris Curran

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

I really enjoyed the slow burning sense of paranoia and mistrust that seeps its way into the book. 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.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

They’re Watching You by Chelsea Ichaso

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

I enjoyed the claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere born from the tightly plotted web of secrets at the heart of this book. Every character had something to hide, so I was constantly suspecting everyone and doubting their real motivations. The secret society shenanigans were fascinating as well and always creeping into darker and darker territory.

Full review here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

TW: murder, death, graphic death scenes, illness, drowning, fatphobia, classism, eating disorder, emotional abuse, child abandonment, misogyny

I was sort of enjoying the darkly humourous nature of this book, but feel like it does not fully live up to its premise. There is not really that much murder and when there is, it is waylaid with long dramatic monologues and tangents. The motivation also felt incredibly flimsy for some of the characters and that ending destroyed most of my enjoyment. It came out of nowhere and just undercut everything that had gone before in a negative way.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Restless Dark by Erica Waters

🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: murder, PTSD, abduction, domestic abuse, violent intrusive thoughts, violent mugging, arson, fatal accident, death, child abuse, religious trauma, strangulation, knife violence, manipulation, blood, violence, injury/injury detail, emotional abuse, abandonment, suicide, sexism

Waters’ blend of pulse-pounding mystery and that unnerving sense of something beyond your comprehension, combined with unapologetically queer characters, creates something you have not seen before. That representation is amazing to see, with these queer girls finding themselves and their own path through these horrific situations.

In particular, I loved Lucy, Carolina and Maggie. They’re all intense and interesting characters, with plenty of layers to delve into. Waters keenly focuses on the impact of trauma in the book, with different ghosts of their pasts resurfacing to affect their psyches and provide insight into their motivations. This well-developed trio invites you to allow them into your hearts, only for them to break them once more. 

Full review to come.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales

⭐️🏳️‍🌈

TW: toxic relationship, emotional abuse, infidelity, misogyny, sexism, biphobia, abandonment, gaslighting

We all secretly love a bit of reality TV – the drama, the dynamics and the characters we take from it. This book offers a peek at the manipulation and intricate framing of these events through the fantastic characters of Maya and Skye. Jordy is an absolutely vile human being and watching the construction of his downfall is immensely satifsying. Also the dynamic between Maya and Skye is *chef’s kiss*.

Full review to come.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson

⭐️🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: death, blood, murder, alcoholism, drug abuse, panic disorder, death of a child, gore

Maureen Johnson has done it again.

This is an ingenious and incredibly well-plotted mystery. I adore this series with my whole heart and Stevie Bell is an icon. The way this series has grown and adapted is brilliant, with these new stories adding so much more to our characters and their development over the series.

Full review to come.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron

⭐️🏳️‍🌈🧠

TW: death, murder, violence, blood, racism, classism, sexism, harassment, blackmailing, gaslighting

I finished This Book Kills and just sat there in complete and utter shock. It instantly shot up to become one of my favourite YA mysteries of all time. This is such a slick, smart and compulsively readable YA thriller that you need to have on your TBR. I love the exploration of privilege Guron weaves in as well. It’s an incisive and insightful look at manipulation and the way power allows you to twist situations and people to your advantage.

Full review to come.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Chosen Ones:

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