Mini Reviews: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) & In At the Deep End

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

I’d wanted to read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle ever since it was nominated for the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards last year. I cannot resist books that everyone’s talking about.

I loved the premise of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle: Evelyn has been killed hundreds of times, and every day, Aiden Bishop, who wakes up in a different body, is too late to save her. It’s a fabulous time-travelling, Agatha Christie-style whodunnit mystery. I enjoyed discovering which character our puzzle-solver would wake up as next. I read most of it curled up on a beanbag in the Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room.

Even so, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was perhaps a little too long for me, especially as a lot is going on at the same time. I felt it could’ve been shorter, but I generally feel that way about most books!

Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by Lev A.C. Rosen

Has anyone else been in a reading slump this year? You know that feeling when you want to read, but can’t bring yourself to pick up a book, or you end up reading the same novel for weeks? I needed something funny to pick me up and Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) was the perfect choice: part Pretty Little Liars, part Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. A much filthier version.

Jack Rothman is 17 years old and loves partying, makeup and boys. He’s the school’s fave to gossip about. Jack begins writing an online sex advice column and starts to receive mysterious love letters… except they’re threatening, dark, and stalkerish. Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) is a liberal joy. I know a lot of teenagers will find it helpful, whether they’re a gay man or not.

Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) is also one of those books where the side characters shine through. I really enjoyed Jack’s relationship with his friends Jenna and Ben – although Jenna, I think, is one of those slightly problematic friends where you can’t quite decide whether they’re good for the other person or not – and his mum. Jack of Hearts is a wonderful mix of mystery + contemporary, and I have been telling everyone to read it!

This photo was taken by my lovely friends Beth @ Books Nest. We went book-shopping and she bought both books after my recommendations!

In At the Deep End by Kate Davies

As of next week, I’m 30 years old, but I rarely read books about marriage, divorce, affairs, mortgages, or having children. I’m still on that millennial bridge between teenager and adult, and enjoy books about young people like me, such as Tiffy and Leon in The Flatshare – people who are still figuring out life, discovering who they are, and working on their career, friendships and relationships, but who never feel like they know what they’re doing.

At the start of In At the Deep End, Julia has a one-night stand with a man who accuses her of breaking his penis. It’s this pretty awful night that makes Julia really think about what she wants. She begins questioning her sexuality, and eventually the ‘right’ way to be a lesbian and a feminist, making some pretty big changes in her life.

In At the Deep End is straight-talking and hilarious – not only because it’s sexually graphic – and a really fantastic read. I still feel like a newbie to the world of LGBTQIA+ (I only started reading LGBT+ YA books a few years ago). I was as clueless as Julia at the start of the book, but she becomes a more open person as she throws herself into being a lesbian. But even being part of a supportive, friendly community doesn’t mean you’re immune from toxic relationships. Julia begins a relationship with a woman that turns more and more toxic, and she once again needs help from her friends.

In At the Deep End is another book I’ve been telling everyone to read. I’m becoming a fangirl of filthy books, it seems.

#gifted: Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) and In At the Deep End were obtained for free in exchange for an honest review. I borrowed The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle from a friend.

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What’s on my shelves?

Here are some of the new books I’ve added to my bookshelves recently!

Gifted: My first publisher event of the year was Stripes’ EqualiTea and I was particularly excited to be given a copy of LGBTQ+ anthology Proud, edited by Juno Dawson, which is full of stories, art and poems from authors and illustrators who are part of the community. I’m also looking forward to delving into romcom My So-Called Bollywood Life, about Bollywood film fanatic Winnie who meets fellow film geek Dev. It sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun to read!

I bought Erin Gough’s pretty book from Readings Books in Melbourne. I hadn’t heard about it before (it doesn’t yet have a UK publisher, it seems), but it sounds fantastic. Amelia Westlake won the Readings Young Adult Book Prize 2018 and is about two gay girls + a fancy school + a feminist campaign (plus the cover reminds me of Madeline, so what’s not to like?). I bought my friend Charlie a copy for Christmas, too!

Gifted: I attended a fabulous blogger event at Bonnier with Lucy Adlington (author of The Red Ribbon) interviewing Heather Morris about her global bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Heather’s interview was more like a chat we happened to overhear, which I really enjoyed. Lucy Adlington – a fashion historian – was also great and I can’t wait to read her story. I’ve not read historical fiction for a while, but I’m looking forward to delving back in. I picked up a signed copy of Heather’s book for my mum, too!

Gifted: I also went to a publisher event at Scholastic, where we got to hear all about their 2019 titles. I’m excited to read Beth Garrod’s Take a Chance on Me, Simon James Green’s Alex in Wonderland, and Sabina Khan’s The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali, which we were given a copy of! It’s all about 17-year-old Rukhsana, who tries to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans for her future fall apart.

Are any of these books on your TBR?

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Mini Reviews: Fierce Fragile Hearts, Giant Days & The Night Olivia Fell

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard

I re-read Beautiful Broken Things before picking up Fierce Fragile Hearts and it really helped me appreciate the story more, I think. It reminded me how friendships were formed and about the different dynamics. It was great to go from Caddy’s to Susanne’s POV – I hope we get to hear from Rosie’s perspective someday!

Fierce Fragile Hearts is set two years laterSuze is back in Brighton and ready to catch up with her best friends, even thought they’re about to head off to university. After moving into a studio flat (and befriending the older lady downstairs, Dilys), she finds that her new life won’t be easy.

In the previous book, we didn’t really get to know Suze properly, but Fierce Fragile Hearts gave us the chance to go deeper. Suze is still very emotional, affected by her past, and really quite lonely. She is warned away from Matt, the charismatic musician, which she of course ignores. She is trying to make her life better – whilst simultaneously sabotaging herself. That’s what sums up the book for me: Suze developing as a character, and her two friends around her (even when they aren’t physically there). Sara Barnard still, for me, writes some of the most realistic portrayals of friendship, and I really enjoyed this follow-up!

Giant Days by Non Pratt

Even though I’ve only read the first volume of the graphic novels, I was so excited to hear about this book inspired by the Giant Days series – and written by one of my favourite YA authors! In Giant Days, we follow the lives of “three university first-years: Daisy, the innocent home-schooled girl; Susan, the sardonic wit; and Esther, the vivacious drama queen”.

As I’ve said on Pretty Books before, I adore novels set in university. I loved that each of the girls’ first-year experiences is different: Daisy’s going through homesickness and loneliness, and tries to deal with this by doing All the Things; Susan’s having to deal with her past when a boy called McGraw shows up; and Esther’s just making it up as she goes along.

I found it a little difficult at first to jump quickly between the three characters, but once we were introduced to the three girls and their time at university, it got easier to follow their misadventures and mishaps.

I also love that my friend Grace is a character in the book!

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

I’ve been in *such* a reading slump this year. It has nothing to do with the books I’ve been reading and all to do with me. What I needed was a fast-paced book… a thriller seemed like the perfect choice! I hadn’t heard about The Night Olivia Fell before picking it up (which, if you’re a fellow blogger, you’ll know is very unusual and exciting!).

Abi Knight is woken up in the middle of the night and told that her teenage daughter has had an accident. Olivia slipped and fell from a bridge into the icy water below, and is now on life support – not only that, she’s three months pregnant. But what if she didn’t fall? What if she was pushed?

The Night Olivia Fell is all about discovering what really happened to Olivia that night. Was it an accident? Did someone want her dead? And if so, who? And who is the father of her baby?

The Night Olivia Fell did the trick – it only took three days to read – and was enjoyable, if not the most memorable thriller. (I did spot two instances of ‘I let out a breathe I didn’t know I was holding’ – sorry! I can’t help it!). It was so much fun piecing together all the ‘evidence’ as the narration switched between Abi and Olivia. The novel is marketed as adult, but it could easily be YA,, too. If you need non-violet, fast-paced thrillers, The Night Olivia Fell could be one to try!

#gifted: All three books were obtained for free in exchange for an honest review.

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Mini Reviews: The Rumour, The Flatshare & Don’t You Forget About Me

The Rumour by Lesley Kara

I really want to read more thrillers. They’re just so much fun. I especially love them without gore and trauma (for the reader!) like, The Couple Next Door – and The Rumour. In Lesley Kara’s suspenseful novel, single mum Joanna hears a rumour that Sally McGowan – the notorious child killer – is living in her small town. Sally was only 10 years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death 48 years ago… but does helping to spread the rumour mean that Joanna’s now in danger?

Lesley Kara kept me guessing throughout the book to the point where I suspected all the characters of being Sally McGowan. The reader has to decide: Is Sally really living there? And is she who everyone says she is? Lesley keeps the reader on edge right until the very end.

The Rumour isn’t the sort of thriller where Sally McGowan is painted as the villain and that’s that. The reader is encouraged to think about what it’d be like living under witness protection, and whether someone deserves to be punished for something that happened when they were a child – especially a child with horrendous family circumstances. It makes you wonder whether the group of Flinsted-on-Sea mums are guilty of more crimes than a child…

I’m keen to read Lesley Kara’s next book, Who Did You Tell?, out later this year. Her writing style reminds me of Rosamund Lupton, a thriller writer I adored years and years ago!

What are your favourite thrillers?

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare was technically one of my favourite books of 2018, despite being published this year!

Tiffy Moore needs a room. Leon Twomey needs extra money. The solution to their problems? To share a bed, of course… You’ve heard about flatsharing, but bed sharing? It may sound unusual, but in today’s London, with sky-high rents and extortionate house prices, it probably does exist. Tiffy and Leon are never in their flat at the same time due to different work hours, and so have never actually spoken – aside from through Leon’s nosey girlfriend and the Post-It notes they leave each other. And yet, over time, love blossoms…

The Flatshare was so incredibly believable – aside from the fact that neither of them seemed to have a sick day! – and I became so throughly immerse in Tiffy and Leon’s romantic and adorable story that I finished the book in a day. I tend to struggle with contemporary female writing, not because I’m a book snob (I’m really not!), but because I cannot relate to characters that are married with children, and so The Flatshare was absolutely perfect for me.

I loved Tiffy and Leon, and the entire cast of characters. Tiffy and her quirky ways endeared me. She’s a fave. And I adored Richie’s part (Leon’s wrongly imprisoned brother) in getting Leon and Tiffy together.

The Flatshare is out in April and is the perfect romcom, especially for fellow millennials.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

I heard that Mhairi McFarlane was the contemporary romcom writer to read and so I made Don’t You Forget About Me my last book of the year (2018 needed extra fuzziness).

Georgina is fired from her job at the grottiest restaurant in town and comes home to find her boyfriend, Justin, in bed with someone else. He’s dumped, obviously, but it really is a shitty day for G. Georgina takes the first job she’s offered – a barmaid at the cosy local pub – and it’s here that she bumps into her school boyfriend, Lucas McCarthy.

Lucas is a striking character. I kept imagining him as an Irish Patrick Dempsey but much more aloof and sarcastic. I would’ve loved even more tension and adorableness (totally a word) between the two, but I still throughly enjoyed the pair’s cutesy drama. After all, Don’t You Forget About Me is actually a story Georgina at Life at 30 – and the romance is just one part of that.

Justin is the actual worst. Don’t You Forget About Me and The Rumour both do a great – and incredibly important – job of highlighting emotional abuse (particularly gaslighting), so it’s wonderful that we’re getting more books like these.

I want to check out Mhari McFarlane’s It’s Not Me, It’s You, which I also have, next!

#gifted: All three books were obtained for free via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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9 Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

Here are nine books out this year that I’ll definitely be reading as soon as I can!

JANUARY

Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson
Lisa’s Williamson’s one of my favourite YA contemporary authors (and she’s an all-round lovely person), so I can’t wait to read her newest novel, Paper Avalanche.

“When it comes to flying under the radar, Ro Snow is the expert. It may be lonely but at least this way the truth remains where it should: hidden. Then Tanvi Shah, the girl who almost died, comes tumbling back into her life and Ro finds herself losing control of her carefully constructed lies.”

The Binding by Bridget Collins
I’ve been hearing so many awesome things about The Binding (it’s meant to be one of 2019’s biggest books for bookish peeps), so obviously I have to check it out this year!

“For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away.”

FEBRUARY

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard
I’ve actually already read Fierce Fragile Hearts – review to come soon – but it’ll have been on my list anyway. I really love Sara Barnard’s novels and Fierce Fragile Hearts is a companion novel to Beautiful Broken Things, all about Suzanne.

“Suzanne’s back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they’re about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you’re the one left behind?”

MARCH

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James
I really enjoyed The Loneliest Girl in the Universe so cannot wait to read Lauren James’ next sci-fi novel – and the cover is beautiful!

“Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence.”

APRIL

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Another one I’ve already read, but had to include because I enjoyed it so much. It shouldn’t work: you’ve heard about flatsharing, but bed sharing? I read it in a day, immersed in Tiffy and Leon’s story.

“Leon has a flat that he only uses 9 to 5. Tiffy works 9 to 5 and needs a place to sleep. The solution to their problems? To share a bed of course… As Leon and Tiffy’s unusual arrangement becomes a reality, they start to connect through Post-It notes left for each other around the flat.”

JUNE

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie
Well, obvs. Lucy’s one of my best friends (who I’m extremely proud of!) and I cannot wait to read her first YA contemporary novel, The Paper & Hearts Society.

“Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in with her classmates. It’s like she hasn’t found her people… That is until she moves to a new town where a book club, The Paper & Hearts Society, is recruiting.”

JULY

Loveless by Alice Oseman
I’m looking forward to Alice Oseman’s fourth novel – although I still haven’t read Solitaire, so I really need to get to that first!

“Georgia’s eighteen, never been in a relationship, or even had a crush on a single person in her whole life. Georgia’s is now at university and determined to cure herself of her lovelessness.”

SEPTEMBER

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab
Of course, as it was one of my favourite books of 2018, I’ll pick buying the sequel to City of Ghosts when it’s out! I cannot wait to meet up with Cassidy and Jacob again.

OCTOBER

‘Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay
Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt was one of my favourite books of 2017 and this is his second book. I really love Adam’s sense of humour and passion for the NHS, and I’m sure this’ll be a brilliant follow-up.

“Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is the hilarious, poignant and entertaining story of the life of a junior doctor at the most challenging time of the year.”

Are any of these your picks, too?

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