Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Goodreads: Mexican Gothic
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Review: It’s rare that a book becomes a five star read for me just a few chapters in, but this book is one of those few. Mexican Gothic is the haunted house thriller I’d always dreamed of, it’s so unassuming and just as you think you know what’s happening this book will twist round and bite you.

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Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Series: These Violent Delights #1
Goodreads: These Violent Delights
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks Hodder & Stoughton.

I’ve been struggling with this review in the same way I struggled to finish this book. I think it may be a case of covid brain and an ill-timed Hades play-through that meant I read this in bits and couldn’t settle into it, but I’m going to try my best to explain why I didn’t click with this book.

The Shanghai that Chloe Gong developed was so intricate and interesting, and I really felt as though I was walking the city streets alongside Juliette and Roma. It’s vivid, and the clashes between the different cultures alongside the colonisation of Shanghai, and Juliette’s discomfort with the westernisation of her home is palpable. Juliette was certainly my favourite part of the These Violent Delights. She’s tough, whip smart, plus I loved the fact she was torn between her loyalty to the gang and working with Roma to save Shanghai. Juliette returns to the city from America with something to prove and a lot to lose, and you can really feel how on edge she feels walking round an often unfamiliar Shanghai. She’s wonderfully well developed, and I was always disappointed when we moved away from her perspective!

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Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Goodreads: Piranesi
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

Review: This book, gosh this book it’s just so gorgeous. The world that Susanna Clarke builds in Piranesi is so sumptuous and mysterious, I was instantly drawn in and this book effortlessly became a five star read for me.

The novel is actually a set of journal entries written by Piranesi himself. This format can be a little jarring, but Piranesi is so knowledgeable and fascinating as a character that this feeling left as soon as it came. Piranesi makes you take your time reading it, I’m a notoriously quick reader, but my pace dramatically slowed so I could absorb all of the details. Our protagonist takes his time explaining his world and how it works in minute detail, and so despite it’s short length the story feels so fleshed out and gorgeous.

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Review: Into The Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Goodreads: Into the Drowning Deep
Publisher: Orbit
Book Depository
Synopsis: The voyage of the Atargatis set off on a journey to the Mariana Trench to film a ‘mockumentary’ bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. She was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart, this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found beneath the waves.
But the secrets of the deep come with a price . . .

Review: So this book was recommended to me by the wonderful Moose, and oh man am I glad they pointed it out to me. How could I resist an LGBTQ+ horror with fricken mermaids man.

Trigger warnings: gore, violence, death, and your usual horror stuff

This book is just plain fun, it’s a fantastic example of a horror with heaping’s of tension. The story is initially kind of slow and probably could have used some trimming, it takes a while to get to the mermaids after they’re introduced in the opening chapter, you know where the book is going and it’s a shame it takes so long to get there. Once Into the Drowning Deep gets going though its an unstoppable force, Grant gives the book the momentum of a boulder rolling down a hill and I couldn’t put it down.

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Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

Goodreads: The Ghost Tree
Publisher: Titan Books
Book Depository
Synopsis: When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in her hometown, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won’t find the killer. After all, the year before her father’s body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids.

So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can’t just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realises that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the centre. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks Titan Books!

Trigger Warnings: Gore, underage sex, grooming, graphic violence

We’re starting spooky month a little early this year, and I was very happy when Titan Books approved me for The Ghost Tree! This mysterious small-town horror follows all the usual conventions, and I have to say it worked for me. There’s just enough tension and mystery around what’s happening in the community to keep you engaged without going overboard, and once I sat down and sunk my teeth into the story I couldn’t stop reading.

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Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Series: Alex Stern #1
Goodreads: Ninth House
Publisher: Gollancz
Book Depository
Synopsis: Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Review: Right, first off there a bunch of trigger warnings that come alongside this book. The book is dark, and as Leigh herself said, definitely not a Young Adult title: There’s graphic sexual assault including child rape and a magical date rape drug, violence, abuse, suicide, substance abuse, and self-harm. As always if this is something that you are not comfortable reading then this probably isn’t the book for you. It is also worth mentioning here that nothing I’ve ever read by Leigh Bardugo before has been quite like Ninth House. This is a testament to Bardugo’s talent, but also means that you shouldn’t be disheartened if you don’t like this as much as the Grisha-verse.

I, admittedly, absolutely devoured Ninth House. I love the way Leigh Bardugo writes, she always manages to drag me into the story and not let me go until the end. I picked this book up when I attended Leigh’s signing in Oxford back in October, which was amazing by the way, and it took me forever to read because of a rather long reading slump. I think I also put the book off due to some of the discourse surrounding a few of the triggers listed above, I definitely don’t mind dark and edgy, but I was a little worried that some of it would come across as gratuitous.

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Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Goodreads: Descendant of the Crane
Publisher: Titan Books
Book Depository
Synopsis: Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

Hello I have just now discovered that this is a stand-alone title, and I’m opening this review with a uh what the heck!! That ending, no sequel, what the heck am I going to do?? This blog is mostly spoiler free so no details, but ho boy am I disappointed there won’t be another book coming my way!

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Review: S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett

Series:  S.T.A.G.S #1
Goodreads: S.T.A.G.S
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Book Depository
Synopsis:

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…

Review: I think I have to preface this review by saying that I’m picky with thrillers; I don’t often pick them up, usually because the mystery very rarely lives up to my expectations, but the blurb of S.T.A.G.S really caught me so I grabbed a copy at YALC last year.

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If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch

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Goodreads: If I Die Before I Wake
Publisher: Vintage
Amazon: UK|US
Synopsis: Everyone believes Alex is in a coma, unlikely to ever wake up. As his family debate withdrawing life support, and his friends talk about how his girlfriend Bea needs to move on, he can only listen.

But Alex soon begins to suspect that the accident that put him here wasn’t really an accident. Even worse, the perpetrator is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger.

As he goes over a series of clues from his past, Alex must use his remaining senses to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him, and try to protect those he loves, before they decide to let him go.


Review: I received this book as an Netgally ARC for review from Vintage, and I was pretty darn excited to get stuck into such a unique concept.

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One of us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Goodreads: One of Us Is Lying
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Amazon: UK|US
Synopsis: Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Review: So I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, and it’s taken me awhile to get round to reading it but here we are.

This book was a major let down for me. I had heard so many good things about it, and I was really excited to finally sit down and read it, but it just didn’t float my boat. Firstly, I just didn’t enjoy the writing style, so I knew the book was always going to be a tough read; first person is just not my jam, especially when it’s a book with multiple perspectives.

It felt more like a teen drama with a murder mystery shoved in; the book doesn’t really deal with the murder until the latter half, and it was obvious that none of the four protagonists did it. One of Us Is Lying just didn’t bring that nail biting tension you’d expect from a thriller; I was never on the edge of my seat desperate to get to the next twist, and when the twists came some of them were rather predictable.

The character development was the one redeeming factor for me in this novel. The characters grow from generic high school archetypes, into fully fledged human beings with more to them than a label. Addy was one of the characters I ended up loving the most by the end of the novel, despite starting out as my least favourite. Bronwyn and Nate’s relationship is another redeeming factor of the book; I loved their interactions and the way the relationship developed, it was honestly one of the biggest reasons that this book didn’t end up as a DNF.

I think this book just wasn’t for me. I can see why others loved it, but for me it felt a little boring when I compare it to some of the fantastic YA I’ve read this year. It’s riddled with cliches, and I was expecting a more intense thriller and less teenage angst.

Recommend: Nah. The murder mystery is lacking, and it felt more like a novel about the characters teen angst than about clearing their names.

Stars ★★


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