Release Day Review – ‘Plain Bad Heroines’ by Emily M. Danforth

TITLE: Plain Bad Heroines
AUTHOR: Emily M. Danforth
GENRE: Gothic Horror, LGBT+
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 640 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Harper Collins Australia on October 21st, 2020
RRP: $32.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.

Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.

A story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period illustrations, Plain Bad Heroines is a devilishly haunting, modern masterwork of metafiction that manages to combine the ghostly sensibility of Sarah Waters with the dark imagination of Marisha Pessl and the sharp humor and incisive social commentary of Curtis Sittenfeld into one laugh-out-loud funny, spellbinding, and wonderfully luxuriant read.

In the early 1900s, a series of deaths at the Brookhants School for Girls leads to its closure with rumors of a curse plaguing the school. In the present day, Brookhants is reopened for the filming of a movie about those tragic past events, spurring a new rash of strange and inexplicable events…

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ARC Review – ‘Written in the Stars’ by Alexandria Bellefleur

TITLE: Written in the Stars
AUTHOR: Alexandria Bellefleur
GENRE: Contemporary Romance, LGBT+
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Harper Collins on November 10th, 2020
RRP: $35.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.

Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy… a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle’s new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because… awkward.

When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they’re dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family over the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship.

But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?

Written In The Stars is a fun and frothy queer rom-com with a nod to Pride & Prejudice. Rather than taking the form of a straight-forward retelling, the main pairing in this book is instead just loosely inspired by Darcy and Elizabeth and the disaster that is their first meeting, which is a fun choice as it means that the story isn’t as predictable as expected.

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Book Review – ‘A Deadly Education’ by Naomi Novik

TITLE: A Deadly Education
AUTHOR: Naomi Novik
GENRE: Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 304 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Penguin Australia on September 29th, 2020
RRP:$27.99 AUD (paperback)

Lesson One of the Scholomance

Learning has never been this deadly

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students. 

This was my favorite read of the month, I urge you all to treat yourself to a copy of this fantastic book if you haven’t already. 

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Release Day Review – ‘Piranesi’ by Susanna Clarke

TITLE: Piranesi
AUTHOR: Susanna Clarke
GENRE: Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 160 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Bloomsbury Australia on September 15th, 2020
RRP: $27.99 AUD (hardcover)

Blurb from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

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.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Piranesi is a stunning, dreamy tale that’s rich with atmosphere and mystery. The protagonist seems content living in solitude in a splendidly impossible House with an infinite number of rooms containing all kinds of strange and surreal sights, with tides moving through the lower Halls and clouds reigning in the upper Halls. He resides in the middle Halls and spends his time cataloguing what surrounds him, like the pattern of the tides or the position, size and subject of the multitudes of statues. 

While Piranesi is happy to devote his entire life to appreciating the beauty of the House, it’s clear to the reader that there is something dreadfully wrong. The mystery slowly unfolds from the off-hand observation that Piranesi isn’t his name (although he cannot remember what it used to be) to the missing pages in his otherwise meticulously maintained journals to the shifty manner of The Other, whose comments and possession of a ‘shiny device’ hints at greater knowledge of Piranesi’s plight than he’s letting on. Piranesi is so innocent and easily trusting that he believes in every word from The Other when we readers can see how suspicious his behavior is, creating a simmering tension and dread in the background.

To say that this book is magical would be an understatement. Reading this is like entering the wardrobe to Narnia or stepping through the barrier onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters. It transports you to another world of beauty and danger and stark isolation with an endearing sweet and simple protagonist whose entire existence is a mystery. Following him on the journey to self-realization as he unravels the clues to his past is rewarding, enchanting and a little heartbreaking. This is a uniquely creative, spell-binding story told with an effortless charm – if you’re looking to escape this mundane world, open up Piranesi and disappear into the endless Halls of this hypnotic, majestic House.

Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book Review – ‘Love, Creekwood’ by Becky Albertalli

TITLE: Love, Creekwood
AUTHOR: Becky Albertalli
GENRE: YA Contemporary, LGBT+
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 128 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Penguin Books Australia on September 1st, 2020
RRP: $12.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Fall in love all over again with the characters from the bestselling Simonverse novels in this highly anticipated epilogue novella. Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli, the movie Love, Simon, and the new Hulu series spin-off, Love, Victor!

It’s been more than a year since Simon and Blue turned their anonymous online flirtation into an IRL relationship, and just a few months since Abby and Leah’s unforgettable night at senior prom.

Now the Creekwood High crew are first years at different colleges, navigating friendship and romance the way their story began—on email.

I didn’t know how much I missed the Simonverse until I read 𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦, 𝘊𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘬𝘸𝘰𝘰𝘥. ❤ Normally I don’t read novellas because I find them too much of a tease, but I’m so grateful to Becky Albertalli for giving us this follow-up so we could catch up with our favorite characters!⁣

𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦, 𝘊𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘬𝘸𝘰𝘰𝘥 is told in the form of email exchanges between Simon, Blue, Abby, Leah and the rest of the gang. It’s set in their first year of college as we check in to see how Simon and Blue are doing with the long-distance relationship scenario as well as how Leah and Abby’s romance is faring in its honeymoon period. ⁣

A novella is the perfect treatment for this because it allows us time to flash in and out of the characters’ lives over the course of days, weeks and months in that tumultuous first year as adults living away from home without growing tired of the email format. I also loved the explanation for why these tech-savvy teens are emailing in this day and age – because Abby’s Android doesn’t want to play nice with everyone else’s iPhones, haha, so plausible!⁣

This is a brilliant feel-good read that had me bubbling over with joy and excitement as I read the fun banter between the loved-up couples and the long-time best friends. 😀 I loved all the nerdy references and cackled at the witty repartee, I had to stop and re-read some lines because it amused me so much. There were also unexpected moments of tender angst and well-meaning brutal honesty which led to character growth and a sweet conclusion. ⁣

If you’re a fan of the Simonverse, it’s a no-brainer must-read, you will love this!

Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.

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Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

ARC Review – ‘Blood & Honey’ by Shelby Mahurin

TITLE: Blood & Honey
AUTHOR: Shelby Mahurin
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 432 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Harper Collins Australia on September 1st, 2020
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

The hotly anticipated sequel to the New York Times and IndieBound bestseller Serpent & Dove—packed with even steamier romance and darker magic—is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.

In case you missed the news, 𝘚𝘦𝘳𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘵 & 𝘋𝘰𝘷𝘦 was originally a duology and has been extended to a trilogy, so note that there is still another book to come after 𝘉𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘥 & 𝘏𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘺 and the story isn’t fully resolved in this instalment!

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ARC Review – ‘The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker’ by Lauren James

TITLE: The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker
AUTHOR: Lauren James
GENRE: YA Paranormal Fantasy/Horror
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 432 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Walker Books Australia on September 2nd, 2020
RRP: $18.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

“Congratulations, new kid. Welcome to the afterlife.”

What if death is only the beginning?

When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.

Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone. Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her. But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.

Lauren James is an author better known for her YA sci-fi novels, but with The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker, she ventures into a new YA genre of paranormal fantasy with light horror elements. Pitched as a ‘horror-rom com’, this book features a villain protagonist with Harriet Stoker creating havoc in the previously quiet and relatively uneventful premises of Mulcture Hall. Despite being long abandoned and fallen into dangerous disrepair, Harriet disregards all the warning signs and breaks in to take photos for her class, little knowing that she would never walk out alive.

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Book Review – ‘If I Can’t Have You’ by Charlotte Levin

TITLE: If I Can’t Have You
AUTHOR: Charlotte Levin
GENRE: Thriller/Suspense
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 416 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Pan Macmillan Australia on July 14th, 2020
RRP: $32.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Samuel, the day we met I knew I’d finally found what I’ve been waiting for.

You.

Happiness, at last.

Then you left me.

And now I am alone.

Everyone I love leaves in the end.

But not this time.

I’m not giving up on us.

I’m not giving up on you.

When you love someone, you never let them go.

That’s why for me, this is just beginning.

Isn’t that blurb just chilling? You know right away that the speaker is unhealthily obsessed and on the verge of making some really bad decisions! This is the type of character who is usually portrayed as the psycho ex-girlfriend or some sort of scorned vengeful rival, someone to be pitied and despised, a villain we root for the hero to overcome. And yet in this book, that character is the protagonist! Told from a first person perspective, the masterful debut novel If I Can’t Have You takes us down the rabbit hole of infatuation, betrayal and revenge…and makes us mostly sympathize with the damaged lead in the process.

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Book Review – The Omte Origins: Books 1 & 2 by Amanda Hocking

TITLES: The Lost City & The Morning Flower
AUTHOR: Amanda Hocking
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages & 416 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Pan Macmillan Australia on July 14thAugust 11th, 2020
RRP: $17.99 AUD (The Lost City)$17.99 AUD (The Morning Flower)

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I’ve never read a book by Amanda Hocking before, but I’ve heard her name enough times through bookstagram where she’s well-known for her beloved Trylle universe. So after the publisher sent me the first two books in her new trilogy set in the same universe and which are meant to be accessible to newcomers, I decided to start reading over the weekend and see what all the fuss is about.

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ARC Review – ‘Harrow Lake’ by Kat Ellis

TITLE: Harrow Lake
AUTHOR: Kat Ellis
GENRE: YA Horror
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 320 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Penguin Australia on August 18th, 2020
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot.

The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking Lola’s every move.

The more she discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her…

Harrow Lake is a fantastic YA horror/psychological thriller that successfully maintains a creepy, chilling atmosphere from start to finish, keeping us off balance with an unreliable narrator to create almost unbearable suspense about what is real or not.

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