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 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 / Nevermoor, Out of the Blue & I Was Born for This

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

I love, love, loved Nevermoor. I know every children’s book under the sun has been compared to Harry Potter, but in this case it’s accurate and very well-deserved.

Morrigan Crow has the unluckiest birthday of all – Eventide. She’s cursed and therefore blamed for everything, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and it means that on the next Eventide, her 11th birthday, she’ll die. But just before, a mysterious man called Jupiter North appears and whisks her away to the Deucalion Hotel in a magical city called Nevermoor, and it’s there that Morrigan learns all about the famous Wundrous Society (I so desperately want to be member, please).

I couldn’t stop thinking about Nevermoor. I’d go off to bed, wondering what thrilling twists awaited my return, falling asleep dreaming of the dangerous trials, and desperately rooting for Morrigan to earn her place in the society. Nevermoor is fantastically crafted. It captures your imagination and doesn’t let go until you’ve reached the last page. And accompanying the magical story is a sensational cast of characters, from Jupiter and his colleague Fen (a giant sarcastic cat, if you must know) to fellow children Hawthorne and Jack.

Nevermoor is one of the most fun, inventive and brilliantly written children’s books I’ve read, and I cannot wait to go on another adventure with our heroine in Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow. 

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron

A YA novel set in Edinburgh? Yes please! Edinburgh is one of my absolute favourite places. I’ve visited a few of times and recently took myself there on a solo holiday. I was grateful to Out of the Blue for taking me back.

Jaya and Rani set off to the city because their father’s chasing angels. 10 days after their mum died, angels fell from the sky, smashing down to Earth so fast that not one has survived. Until now. Jaya discovers one on Arthur’s Seat and brings her back to their rented flat, where she’s named Teacake. As someone who’s very particular about paranormal, I was wary! And yet the fallen angels plot line felt comfortable within the contemporary setting and storyline. Through Teacake, Jaya begins to explore her grief and make new connections, particularly with siblings Allie and Callum.

I adored the trio’s antics across the city as they learned more about each other – Allie is disabled and bisexual – and enjoyed seeing the relationship between Allie and Jaya become something more. Out of the Blue has a lot happening in such a short book, but at its core, it’s all about finding your place in this world.

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

Alice Oseman’s I Was Born for This was one of my most anticipated books of the year – I adored Radio Silence and couldn’t wait to see what Alice came up with next.

Angel Rahimi is off to London (and a fancy part at that) to stay with her best friend Juliet from the interwebz. They have tickets to a meet and greet/gig for their favourite boy band of all time, The Ark aka Lister, Jimmy and Rowan. For Angel, there’s nothing more to life than The Ark. And her encyclopaedic knowledge of them rivals any fan’s. The book’s second point of view is from Jimmy. He’s constantly in the spotlight due to being a member of one of the world’s most famous bands, previously outed as being trans to the incredible support of his fans, and secretly suffers from severe anxiety. Both characters think they know what the other is like, until their lives unexpectedly collide…

I Was Born for This brilliantly weaves in someone vs. the idea of someone. Angel thinks she knows everything about the boys, but she can only know how they’re portrayed. And, as soon as she meets her bestie Juliet, their friendship dynamic isn’t quite how Angel imagined. As a huge music fan as a teenager – I blogged about music, went to monthly gigs, listened to music all morning/afternoon/evening, and even did my university dissertation on music and fandom – I resonated with I Was Born for This. I remember reading that blogpost by Josh from Paramore and questioning everything I thought about the band – it made me feel funny inside, and affected how I interpreted their album Brand New Eyes.

I probably don’t even need to tell you that the characters that Alice creates are honest, accurate and realistic. Alice does an absolutely brilliant job of writing about the teenage experience and making it read from someone who actually gets it because they’ve gone through it – from fandom to mental health. I Was Born for This is for anyone who’s ever been a fan.

What I’ve Read / Wonder, The Bookshop Girl & The Girl of Ink and Stars

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder has been popular since it was published in 2012. I started to feel like the only one in the world who hadn’t read it it… so I finally picked it up. Wonder, as I’m sure you know, is about 10-year-old August. Auggie just wants to be normal, but his facial abnormality means that starting middle school is more difficult for him than it is for other children.

As well as Auggie, we get to hear his story from several people in his life: Olivia (Auggie’s sister), Jack and Summer (Auggie’s friends), Justin (Olivia’s boyfriend) and Miranda (Olivia’s friend). Wonder is difficult and painful to read at times – we all know how cruel schoolchildren can be, and I marvelled in August’s courage to face them. Wonder is an uplifting story about overcoming those bullies. At times, it read to me like a novel written for adults, such as Emma Donoghue’s Room, although I know that children all over the world have loved Auggie’s story.

If there’s one thing I took away from Wonder it’s that we should all be a little kinder than is necessary. I’ll be heading to the cinema to watch the adaptation this winter!

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop & Ashley King

The Bookshop Girl is a bonkers story. Property Jones is so-called because she was discovered as a five-year-old in the lost property section of a bookshop and adopted by the bookish Jones family. Property loves books. She really does. But she’s hiding a secret: she cannot read.

One day, the Jones family win a prize draw to run the famous Montgomery Book Emporium. With the help of an extremely grumpy and oddball cat, the Jones family must solve a dastardly mystery or lose everything – books an’ all.

I adore stories that feature books, bookshops and booksellers… and The Bookshop Girl has them all. I loved the quirky Montgomery Book Emporium: the world’s first mechanical bookshop. It’s a magical place, containing hordes of rooms filled with books. To browse the bookshop, just press the levers and rooms loop round like a Ferris wheel, with each one decorated appropriately. The Room of Space Adventures, for example, is ‘painted all over in deep indigo, speckled with twinkling lights’. Delightful.

It’s also apparent that I am Property Jones, since I accidentally dress like her…

The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I picked up The Girl of Ink and Stars after it won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. I don’t normally read middle grade fantasy, but The Girl of Ink and Stars is an enchanting, magical adventure and is stunningly written (plus the book itself is pretty, too!).

The Girl of Ink & Stars follows Isabelle Riosse – a cartographer’s daughter – as she goes on a treacherous journey to rescue her best friend, Lupe. Lupe has disappeared into the island’s Forgotten Territories and because of her father’s teachings, Isabelle is well-versed in reading the stars and maps, and so is Lupe’s best chance of being found.

Adventure. Friendship. To me, that’s what sums up the sparkly The Girl of Ink and Stars. I adored the realistic and intense friendship between Isabella and Lupe, but I struggled occasionally with all the magic and mystic because it’s quite outside my usual genre. Even so, Kiran’s beautiful writing kept me going – I needed to know whether Lupe would be found!

“Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow.”

What I’ve Read / Iron to Iron, Love and Other Alien Experiences & Another Together

Mini Reviews
I have mini reviews of three eBooks for you today!

Iron to Iron by Ryan Graudin

Wolf By Wolf was one of my favourite books of last year so I absolutely had to download Iron to Iron, a novella that takes place before the events of the first book.

Iron to Iron is narrated by Luka Lowe as he tries to figure out newcomer to the world famous Axis Race, Felix Wolfe – Adele Wolfe in disguise. Even though we already know the outcome of the dangerous motorbike race, the relationship between Luka and Adele is still a little bit of a mystery, so it was great to get to know them both better (since Adele is rather… occupied in Wolf By Wolf). It’s still just as tense as ever and I’d really love to re-read Wolf By Wolf, to see whether the novella has affected how I see Luka. It was a great way to whet my appetite before the highly anticipated sequel, Blood For Blood. It’s definitely worth reading if you loved the first book.

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfry

I had wanted to read fellow YA blogger Kerry’s novel for a while and so when I was in a reading slump, whereby I could only read fun contemporary young adult novels, it seemed like a perfect choice.

Mallory Sullivan has suffered from severe anxiety and agoraphobia since her father left without warning. She hasn’t left her house in weeks and is humiliated when her classmates pick her to be on the school prom committee. Because high school is cruel, they start the #stayathome hashtag and she desperately tries not to follow the nasty things they tweet about her. As a lover of all things paranormal, she instead finds solace in talking to her friend (or is he more than that?) BeamMeUp on the We Are Not Alone online community.

Even though Mallory feels alone, her brother Lincoln, best friend Jenni, and the neighbourly Kirkpatrick boys are also there to help. Even with their support, it’s tough to see how judgemental people, especially your own family, can be. Mallory feels like she’s the town “freak”, but she’s a fantastic, intelligent character with a lot of wit and sarcasm (a Sullivan family trait) and a surprising talent for flirting. It’s the characters that bring this story to life (but the puppies help, too). Even though it may seem serious, the characters’ conversations and relationships are light and fun – something which helps Mallory more than she thought. Love and Other Alien Experiences will be available in print next spring and you’ll definitely want to pick it up!

Another Together by Lauren James

If wonderfully written historical romance and time-travelling sound like your cup of tea, then The Next Together should be on your wishlist. Another Together is a standalone short story set in the same world. It’s 1940 and war is upon us. Kitty and Matthew, codebreakers at the famous Bletchley Park, are determined to solve a different kind of puzzle – a murder has taken place and the investigation isn’t all as it seems.

Another Together is a sweet story that provides a more insight into the relationship of one of 2015’s favourite literary couples, set during a time that’s always fascinated me. It’s over super quick, but it’s a little bit of fun to get you ready for the companion novel, The Last Beginning. Let the reincarnation romance continue!