Hey everyone, and welcome to another installment of Rapid Reviews! I’ve been making a valiant effort to keep on top of reading new releases this year, so here are reviews of five books published in 2020 so far. I’ve gotten these from a mix of…
Tag: two star review
This might not work, but today I’m giving myself a little bit of a challenge. With two small children I don’t have as much time to review as I used to, but I’m still reading a ridiculous amount of books (I’m almost halfway to my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal despite the fact that I’ve already upped it) so today I’m trying to write ten book reviews in twenty minutes.
Yep, you read that right. I’m going to set a timer on my phone, and I’m only going to have two minutes to share my thoughts on each of the ten books I’ve chosen. Luckily I can type quite quickly, so I should be able to share a fair amount, but it probably won’t make a whole ton of sense.
If this works well? Brilliant! I can use this to catch up and then hopefully write more in-depth reviews in the future when I’m back on top of things.
If this doesn’t work? I am so sorry. This might be the messiest post I’ve ever written, but I love me a challenge so I’m going to give it a go anyway.
Here goes nothing…
The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh – 5 stars
The Beautiful is marketed all wrong. This book has been described as the return of the vampires to YA, but unfortunately they don’t actually appear until right at the end of the novel. It would have been a really exciting surprise if it hadn’t been the only thing I’d known about The Beautiful going in, so I found myself getting really frustrated that there weren’t vampires earlier.
That being said, this is still a great story. A murder mystery/coming-of-age tale following a girl who flees from France to New Orleans after murdering the man who attempts to rape her? That’s a pretty compelling tale on its own, even without the vampires. Can’t wait for the sequel.
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson – 2 stars
Really not a fan of this one. It’s the tale of a girl who has had a pretty crap life – abused by her father, bullied because she’s poor – and she doesn’t even get to be the protagonist of her own story. The actual protagonist, Kate, is a bit of a bore with a cliched story (fails to get into uni, won’t tell anyone because of the shame) and it would have been far more interesting to read Catalyst from Teri’s perspective.
I should have DNF’d this, but it’s only a couple of hundred pages so I couldn’t force myself to put it down. It’s just glorified poverty porn, and probably the worst Laurie Halse Anderson novel I’ve read.
The Crown by Kiera Cass – 4 stars
The last book in The Selection series, and actually the best installment. The ending was cliched as heck and I saw it coming a mile away, but it was satisfactory in the way that it all played out and it was on the cute side of cheesy rather than the cringe side.
If you haven’t read The Selection series I wouldn’t recommend picking it up – I think I gave the first book a four, and everything else struggled to get a three or less – but this was a pretty good ending to an additional duology which really didn’t need to exist.
Who knows, maybe I only liked this one because it meant that the series was finally finished and I wouldn’t have to force myself to pick up another one. At least they are really short – you can easily read each of the books in the series in a day, so if you have a spare week and you like the idea of a dystopian series of The Bachelor then this is definitely for you.
Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer – 2 stars
This was one of the first books Sean and I read together, and because we read it almost two years ago I can hardly remember anything about it. Following a vampire called Vladimir Tod as he enters the eighth grade, the concept was really fun but this book just didn’t have much substance. I can remember enjoying how wacky and wild some of the scenes were, but there’s a fine line between ridiculousness being funny and being downright stupid. This book definitely falls into the latter category.
I own the second book, might pick it up someday as they are really short, but I can’t see myself bothering to hunt down the rest of the series. A quick, fun read, but definitely not well written and very forgettable. Perfect for catching up on your Goodreads goal if you’re behind though!
The Eldritch Heart by Matthew S. Cox – 2 stars
I took part in the blog tour for The Eldritch Heart and disliked it so much that I couldn’t even write my review and had to ask for an excerpt instead.
Featuring a lesbian romance between a princess and one of her handmaidens (I think? It has been three years since I read this one) it’s a great concept but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been own voices. Some of the writing was a bit uncomfortable and made me feel as though the characters were being a little fetishised – that’s just what I can remember feeling, I don’t have any ‘receipts’ because it’s been so long so I might be wrong – but I can remember struggling to finish this one and almost putting it down a few times, and that was before I let myself DNF anything.
It has a sequel now and that seems to have good reviews, so I might give it another go in the future, but I’ve heard that Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst is similar and I think that’s own voices so I will probably try that one instead.
Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young – 4 stars
A feminist story following a group of girls at a finishing school, but with a twist. All of the girls are expected to be perfect young ladies, but when one of the girls mysteriously disappears – apparently sent home due to money concerns – the facade begins to crack and secrets are uncovered.
Very gripping, very surprising, and a great look at the different ways that women have been controlled by men in the past and continue to be shaped by them in the present. Also works well as a standalone which is satisfying – I am looking forward to reading the sequel, but the ending works quite well if you don’t want to carry on with the rest of the books in the series (trilogy? There are at least two more, not sure if there will be more announced in the future!).
Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence – 4 stars
Wasn’t a huge fan of Lawrence’s debut, Orangeboy, so I put off this book for far too long considering I ended up absolutely loving it.
The relationship between Bailey and Indigo is very realistic, and I found myself rooting for them harder than I’ve rooted for most couples in YA that I’ve read this year.
Loved Indigo’s style and her music taste is impeccable, but I also loved the fact that Lawrence wasn’t afraid to show the way that childhood trauma can deeply impact upon people for a very long time – it isn’t something that you just grow out of or get over, and oftentimes the people who have been through that trauma don’t even know themselves how deeply they have been affected. Quite a predictable twist at the end of the book, but it was handled with tact.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – 5 stars
Absolutely adored this book. Perfect use of verse – there was no other way that this story could have been told, and telling a story about a poet in verse is genius.
Explores the importance of music in teen relationships, an aspect which is quite often overlooked but does have a huge part of the way that people bond at a young age and find common ground between each other despite different backgrounds and personalities.
Also explores the conflict between parental beliefs and expectations and your own personal interests, and the way that that can often come to a head in a rather explosive way. I challenge you not to get emotional during one scene in particular between the main character and her mother. Was welling up with tears while reading.
What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini – 4 stars
Read this one the morning after my son was born, and if I’m completely honest I can remember hardly anything about it.
There was a boy called Rainbow, which was an interesting choice, and his parents lived in the forest or something because they were survivalists and didn’t like the government? Wasn’t a fan of the relationship between him and the main character, but I did find the fact that they got caught having sex in the forest to be very funny: teens are often criticised as being uncontrollably horny monsters but they don’t really act upon it in YA, so this felt very authentic!
I remember the climax being very explosive but I can’t remember exactly what led up to it… I can remember being gripped, though, and wondering how our main character was going to manage to get out of everything.
I mean it kept me interested and I read the whole thing in one go despite the fact that I had a newborn, so it definitely deserved the four stars… I just don’t remember why. Might have to reread…
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw – 5 stars
One of the best books I read last year, and one of the strongest debuts I’ve read in an extremely long time.
Shea Ernshaw is an author who really makes the setting into a character in itself, and that is one of my absolute favourite things in books.
The Wicked Deep tells the story of three sisters who are drowned because they are accused of being witches, and due to that they come back every year, possessing the bodies of three girls from the town to take boys from the town and murder them. Our protagonist, Penny, falls in love with a boy whose brother was taken after he comes to town to try and get his revenge, but it’s not going to be as easy as he first thinks.
There is a twist which I saw coming, but it paid off so beautifully that I was beyond excited that I’d worked it out – I was literally screaming because the reveal was handled so beautifully. As I said, this was one of the best books I read last year (with Shea Ernshaw’s second novel Winterwood, being even better).
That went… Better than expected? I mean I’m typing so quickly that my laptop is struggling to keep up with the words that I’m producing, so I think that proves that this has given me the kick up the bum I needed to stop dithering and just get my thoughts on these books out as quickly and succinctly as possible. If you’ve ever read any of my reviews before you’ll know I love a good babble.
If you liked this idea please let me know in the comments! I had a lot of fun doing it so will probably try to do more in the future, but I’d love to know what you thought.
‘When my sister was eight years old, she disappeared. At the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. And then she came back.’
It’s hard to share my thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne without getting spoilery. I’m warning you now, I’m going to give away EVERYTHING in this review. That’s why I’ve waited until after publication date to post it, because it makes me feel a little less guilty for being unable to resist going on a bit of a tirade.
If you haven’t read The Taking of Annie Thorne and want to retain some element of surprise, look away now.
The rest of you ready? Well, let’s dive right into this then.
The Taking of Annie Thorne focuses on Joe Thorne, Annie’s older brother, who has returned to the town of Arnhill with revenge in mind. Revenge against Stephen Hurst, his old ‘friend’, a man who he has some serious dirt on.
The dirt? That Stephen murdered his sister, Annie.
Everyone thinks Annie disappeared for two days before she came back, covered in dirt and acting differently, but Joe remembers the truth. He knows that the head injury inflicted by Stephen’s crowbar isn’t something that an eight-year-old could have survived, and whatever came back from the mine wasn’t Annie.
So Joe has returned to Arnhill, planning to threaten Stephen into giving him enough money to pay off his gambling debts in return for his continued silence. But Stephen Hurst has always been a powerful man, and Joe’s plan isn’t going to go as smoothly as he was expecting it to.
I was enjoying The Taking of Annie Thorne until it took the turn into the fantastical. Expecting a traditional psychological thriller – child gets kidnapped, returns marked by the events that they’ve experienced and changes their family’s lives for good – I didn’t see the twist of Annie’s death coming. It ruined the entire story for me.
The first half of the novel blew me away. The foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed, but the brutal way that Joe is treated by the people from his past upon his return to the village was shockingly violent. It made the story far darker than I was expecting, making me excited to find out exactly what happened to Annie all those years before.
It was a shame that the reveal caused my enjoyment of the book to plummet so rapidly. Perhaps I would have felt differently if C.J. Tudor had focused on why the events happened, but instead the characters seem to blindly accept the fact that something about Arnhill makes children come back from the dead.
There are some insinuations that the land itself is magical – the tragic events take place a burial ground filled solely with children’s bones – with hints towards the same thing happening to more children after Annie. However, there’s no concrete history that cements it in the story of the village and makes it more believable.
It gives it the impression that C.J. Tudor was halfway through the story, had an idea and decided to turn it on its head, but didn’t completely think things through. This becomes even more apparent during the last couple of chapters, where nonsensical events happen like dominoes falling. It made me feel as though my copy was missing a chapter or two at the end that actually explained things, but unfortunately that was not the case.
I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews for The Taking of Annie Thorne, so I’m definitely in the minority having not enjoyed this novel. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I’d known what I was letting myself in for, but I’ve also never been a huge fan of novels which blur the lines between genres, so perhaps this was never meant to appeal to me.
If you’ve already read The Taking of Annie Thorne, let me know what you thought in the comments down below!
When Saffron discovers a briefcase in the attic of her family home, she discovers that her father has lied to her. Ten years ago, he told her that her mother was dead, but she’s alive and out there somewhere and Saffron is determined to find…
When Josephine’s mum announces that she has breast cancer, it turns Josephine’s life upside down. Instead of worrying about getting invited to the hottest party in school, she’s now counting down the days until her mum has to have life-saving surgery. Josephine doesn’t want anyone…
I don’t know why I keep picking up Megan Abbott’s novels, because they never impress me as much as I hope they will. I’ve already read The End of Everything and The Fever, and although I enjoyed Abbott’s writing style throughout both novels, I’ve constantly struggled with her pacing, as the stories seem to drag to a halt and limp along until they reach a rather inevitable conclusion.
The exact same issue crops up during You Will Know Me. The beginning of the story is gripping: we’re introduced to Devon Knox, a gymnast with Olympic potential who only starts performing as a form of rehabilitation after losing two of her toes in a freak accident during her childhood.
As soon as the characters are established, a spanner is thrown in the works: Ryan, the boyfriend of the head coach’s niece, is killed in a hit and run accident. Katie, Devon’s mother and our protagonist, she fluctuates between sympathy for Ryan and concern for her daughter, who should be focusing on the Senior Elite qualifiers that are rapidly approaching.
But when it seems increasingly likely that one of her family members was directly involved in Ryan’s death, Katie learns just how far she’ll go to protect her family, and Devon’s dreams.
There’s a problem with describing this book as a thriller, and it’s that the majority of the story moves at a snail’s pace. It’s the same issue that I’ve had with Abbott’s previous releases, so it didn’t surprise me too much. However, the others are focused on the coming-of-age development of girls, whereas this one looked like it was going to be very action-based, which is why I felt so disappointed.
Sadly, compared to the other novels of Abbott’s which I’ve read, the characterisation was lacking throughout You Will Know Me. The Knoxes are hyper focused on gymnastics, but that’s basically all you need to know about them. There’s the implication that Eric might be about to embark on an affair with the mother of one of the other gymnasts, but nothing ever comes of it. Katie is naive and ineffectual, and being inside her head is painful. The constant repetition is draining, and the flashbacks to the Tiki Party – at which nothing of substance really seemed to occur – had me groaning and skim reading huge swathes of text, something I always resist doing.
I borrowed You Will Know Me from the library at the same time as Abbott’s newest release, Give Me Your Hand, which I’m still planning on reading but am now feeling far less enthused for. On paper Megan Abbott should be one of my favourite authors, because the stories that she writes should be right up my alley, but unfortunately something always gets lost in translation.
If you’re interested in learning more about You Will Know Me, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
When Spelling Bee champion Winter Halperin tweets an ill-advised joke about the skin colour of the latest winner, she finds herself the most hated person on the Internet… For a little while. But while the rest of the world are infuriated for a couple of…