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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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 Book Reviews: What If It’s Us, Wundersmith & Only Love Can Break Your Heart

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera & Becky Albertalli

What If It’s Us is co-authored by two of YA contemporary’s favourite authors, Adam Silvera (History is All You Left Me & They Both Die at the End) and Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), about two boys and their charming love story. Arthur and Ben first meet in a New York City post office. They’re both attracted to each other, but being rather awkward boys, they don’t swap numbers. And so the hunt is on to track each other down! 

I was lucky enough to attend Becky and Adam’s event in London for What If It’s Us and hear them talk about how much they loved working together, how the story came about, and why it was important for them to tell it. It was a really good event – plus it was filled with teenagers, which was lovely to see, as book events are often full of people from the publishing industry!

Arthur and Ben are completely adorable… as is their story. I enjoyed their dates (and do-over dates). What If It’s Us is not a plot-heavy book, but sometimes it’s just lovely to forget about the world and read about a cute relationship.

“I barely know him. I guess that is every relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.”

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

I read Nevermoor earlier in the year and it became one of my all-time favourite books. I wanted to re-read Nevermoor before the sequel, and I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much (which happens sometimes) but it was just as fantastic and made me feel right at home. Morrigan Crow is a brilliantly lovable character and during my re-read, I related to her a lot. She frequently worries that she’s to blame, that she’s not good enough, and that people dislike her. I love that she’s a heroine with doubts and anxious thoughts, but she still does the thing anyway. Morrigan very much feels like a character who’s been shaped by their past. 

“Where is he? she muttered.”
“He’ll be here.”
“What if he doesn’t make it?”
“He’ll make it.”
“What if he doesn’t?”

In Wundersmith, Morrigan and her best friend Hawthorne are now proud scholars in the elite Wundrous Society, but the anxiety hasn’t left. Morrigan’s still coming to terms with being a Wundersmith, her ‘knack’ is classified, and not everyone’s supportive – even though she’s left the Republic, people are still scared of her. But Hawthorne and Jupiter will see to that! 

Wundersmith is full of magic, adventure and new faces, and I enjoyed it just as much as Nevermoor. It was sold as a planned trilogy, but I really hope there are many more books to come because it’s just getting started! 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Only Love Can Break Your Heart is the second novel by my friend and UKYA-er Katie Webber, who also wrote Wing Jones. Reiko’s older sister died a few years ago and she’s still struggling to come to terms with it – especially as she rarely talks about her sister, and certainly doesn’t tell people that she can still see and speak to her. When she becomes unlikely friends with Seth, she learns that there’s more than one way to break a heart.

Seth shares Reiko’s love for the desert – specifically in Palm Springs, Calinfornia – which is her favourite place to be; where she can be herself, and where she feels at home. Over the summer, Reiko and Seth enjoy many sunset-filled nights together amongst the sand and rocks, and they fall in love. I’ve never been to Palm Springs, but Katherine Webber describes it so vividly and beautifully.

I had assumed that Only Love Can Break Your Heart would be a cute and simple love story, but it’s much more complex. Should Reiko and Seth really be together, or do they just like the idea of each other? Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a colourful yet heart-breaking YA contemporary novel, and Reiko’s a great main character who’ll you find yourself rooting for.

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Mini Book Reviews: The Couple Next Door, Floored & City of Ghosts

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

I’m not a massive consumer of audiobooks, but when I do listen to them, it’s in bed – and I never thought that a psychological thriller would be the perfect choice. I don’t get to read thrillers often, but when I saw that The Couple Next Door was available to borrow on Libby, I had to download it. 

The Couple Next Door is about Anne and Marco Conti, who are at a party next door while their tiny baby, Cora, is at home asleep. When they come home, Cora is missing.

The Couple Next Door was a great audiobook choice because it’s not violent – I didn’t have to worry about listening to someone describe murder in graphic detail whilst lying in my bed at night – but it was still incredibly gripping. I almost didn’t want to go to sleep when the next chapter started. I had my suspicions and the story didn’t go the way I expected. I was often frustrated at the characters – from Marco the husband to the police detective Rasbach – and desperately wanted the baby to be found alive.

I’ll definitely be listening to Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House. If you have any other thriller/mystery audiobook recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

Floored by Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Lisa Williamson, and more

Floored is described as The Breakfast Club meets One Day; a unique collaborative novel by seven YA authors: Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood.

I’ve been in a reading slump for the past few months and knew what I needed was a fun, fast-paced YA contemporary novel. Floored is about six teenagers – six strangers – who meet when they get stuck in a lift with a man who suffers a heart attack, and continue to meet up on the anniversary of his death every year.

Floored is definitely about the characters’ friendship – and how that one day impacted all of their lives – rather than the plot, which was absolutely fine with me. I loved getting to know each of the teenagers, seeing how they developed and changed over the years. I managed to correctly guess which authors wrote which character for a few of them, particularly my fave Holly Bourne! (MyKindaBook tweeted the reveal here). I adored each character in their own way, but my favourites have to be Velvet, Kaitlyn and, I’d hate to say it… Hugo (although I love a Good Boy and so would have to throw Joe in there too). 

Floored was the perfect pick-me-up and made me want to get stuck into even more contemporary!

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts was my first Victoria Schwab (aka V.E. Schwab) book. It was my Halloween pick, set in one of my favourite cities: Edinburgh, Scotland. I adored City of Ghosts as soon as I opened the page to a map of the city. 

City of Ghosts introduces us to young Cassidy Blake and her best friend – who happens to be a ghost – Jacob. Cass’ parents are The Inspectres, a famous ghost-hunting duo, but she’s the only one who can really see ghosts. That is, until she travels to Edinburgh to film the first episode of her parents’ new TV series and meets Lara, who is on a mission to send ghosts back to where they belong. As for the setting, you really feel like you’re in Edinburgh, walking through Grassmarket and visiting Blackwell’s on South Bridge (although I didn’t know about the underground vaults – I’ll have to visit!). 

I loved all the characters we meet in City of Ghosts. Cassidy, our protagonist, is not wholly into the whole seeing-ghosts-thing, although she completely adores Jacob and couldn’t imagine ever sending him away, even if she feels he’s keeping something from her. Cassidy’s parents are wonderful and show up in the story quite a bit, as does her new frenemy Lara. And what’s more, it’s full of Harry Potter references. It made me feel warm and cosy inside, which isn’t quite what you’d expect from a Halloween read, but it was a perfect choice nonetheless. 

City of Ghosts the first book in the Cassidy Blake series and I cannot wait to see where her next adventure takes her. 

“What you feel, Cassidy Blake, is called a purpose.”

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Mini Book Reviews / Open Road Summer, Bibliophile & The Summer of Impossible Things

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Who doesn’t love the idea of American road trips, especially with country music (old school Taylor Swift-esque)? Open Road Summer is about Reagan O’Neill, who spends the summer with her bestie Lilah Montgomery (aka Dee). Lilah is a country superstar, about to embark on a 24-city tour… and she’s suffering from heartbreak. Reagan’s here to help her navigate the world of singledom, paparazzi and nasty rumours, but when Matt Finch joins the tour, Reagan has to learn how to follow her own advice…

Open Road Summer was exactly how I expected it to be, but with sassier, not-so-perfect characters. Lilah aka Dee is super adorable and you cannot help but love her. Open Road Summer is all about the characters, and the musical backdrop just adds to the fun. Matt is everyone’s perfect Good Boy book-boyfriend; gorgeous, talented, flirty and fun, while Reagan’s there to shake things up a bit.

As much as I wanted to love her, I did have a difficult time supporting Reagan. She absolutely despises girls other than Dee – frequently making comments about their looks, and calling them “desperate” for having a crush on Matt (when she fancies him herself!) – and that was a real shame because I think she could’ve been a brilliant feminist sidekick. I’m all for characters having flaws, but it’s difficult to like a girl who constantly puts other girls down. 

When We Collided is still my favourite, but I’m glad I finally got to read Emery Lord’s debut.

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

I was sent a copy of Bibliophile by my bookish buddy Katrina because I’ve been working with the publisher for my day job (you can win a signed copy over on Caboodle!). This really is my sort of miscellany. Jane Mount is super talented – I have been coveting a bookstack print myself – and Bibliophile is full of literary facts, book recommendations, and bookshop spotlights, and it kept me entertained during my lunch breaks.

As one would expect from an illustrated miscellany, it’s packed full of Jane Mount’s gorgeous illustrations – on every single page, which I loved. But it’s not just about the pictures. Jane’s fascinating chapters are well-researched, well-written and incredibly up-to-date and varied, so it makes a great read as well as a beautiful object. I particularly loved the recommendations (Jane’s covered everything from dystopia to romance), the feature on bookshops all around the world, reminding you that they’re the best place to be, and the chapters on incredible book covers.

Bibliophile is the perfect book for anyone who calls themselves a bookworm, and I’ll be treasuring my copy!

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

“I think men that read books are the most attractive kind.”

I was fortunate to get a copy of The Summer of Impossible Things at my first ever Lush Book Club. It was a wonderful evening, full of bookish chat, Lush bath bombs, and delicious cupcakes. I was unfamiliar with the story up until the event – that’s what’s so great about the book club! – and it has taken me a while to pick it up because I have Too Many Books (as my family keep telling me), but this summer I was determined to read it. And so I met Luna, our time-travelling protagonist, and her sister Pea.

After the death of their mother, Luna and Pea head to Brooklyn to sell their mother’s house and learn more about her past. But what Luna doesn’t expect is to be suddenly transported to 1970s Brooklyn, where she comes face-to-face with her mother as a young woman. 

As a fan of a little magical realism, I fully got behind Luna’s time-travelling abilities. As a physicist, even she’s not quite sure what’s going on, but she cannot resist getting to know her mother, Riss. The Summer of Impossible Things is a cosy read. Luna and Pea are sweet, likeable protagonists and you really feel for them, and the difficult decision Luna has to make – should she try and attempt to change the past, even if it’ll mean she doesn’t exist in the future? I loved meeting all the characters from Riss’ past and Luna’s present – lovely Michael especially – but it did make me glad that I didn’t grow up in 1970s Brooklyn!

The Summer of Impossible Things is about “family, courage, sacrifice and love in all its guises”. It’s easy to forget that our parents had an entire life before us, and in this novel Luna is on a mission to find out what really happened.

“Stories are the only things that can ever really change the world.”

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