Book Review: The Lady Upstairs


Halley Sutton

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 17th November 2020
spoilers? tried to be vague

Goodreads

A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men…then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con.

Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles–handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.

When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting–bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet–and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.

A delicious debut thriller crackling with wit and an unforgettable feminist voice, The Lady Upstairs is a chilling and endlessly surprising take on female revenge.

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Book Review: These Violent Delights


Chloe Gong

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 17th November 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

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.

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Book Review: Yellow Jessamine


Caitlin Starling

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 5th September 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Powerful shipping magnate Evelyn Perdanu lives a tight, contained life, holding herself at a distance from all who would get close to her. Her family is dead, her country is dying, and when something foul comes to the city of Delphinium, the brittle, perilous existence she’s built for herself is strained to breaking.

When one of her ships arrives in dock, she counts herself lucky that it made it through the military blockades slowly strangling her city. But one by one, the crew fall ill with a mysterious sickness: an intense light in their eyes and obsessive behavior, followed by a catatonic stupor. Even as Evelyn works to exonerate her company of bringing plague into her besieged capital city, more and more cases develop, and the afflicted all share one singular obsession: her.

Panicked and paranoid, she retreats to her estate, which rests on a foundation of secrets: the deaths of her family, the poisons and cures that hasten the dissolution of the remaining upper classes, and a rebel soldier, incapacitated and held hostage in a desperate bid for information. But the afflicted are closing in on her, and bringing the attention of the law with them. Evelyn must unearth her connection to the spreading illness, and fast, before it takes root inside her home and destroys all that she has built.

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Book Review: The Inheritance Games


Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 3rd September 2020
spoilers? nope

Goodreads

An utterly addictive and twisty thriller, full of dark family secrets and deadly stakes. Perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

She came from nothing.

Avery has a plan: keep her head down, work hard for a better future. Then an eccentric billionaire dies, leaving her almost his entire fortune. And no one, least of all Avery, knows why.

They had everything.

Now she must move into the mansion she’s inherited. It’s filled with secrets and codes, and the old man’s surviving relatives – a family hell-bent on discovering why Avery got ‘their’ money.

Now there’s only one rule: winner takes all.

Soon she is caught in a deadly game that everyone in this strange family is playing. But just how far will they go to keep their fortune?

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Book Review: Throwaway Girls


Andrea Contos

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 1st September 2020
spoilers? possibly but I tried to keep them vague

Goodreads

Caroline Lawson is three months away from freedom, otherwise known as graduation day. That’s when she’ll finally escape her rigid prep school and the parents who thought they could convert her to being straight.

Until then, Caroline is keeping her head down, pretending to be the perfect student even though she is crushed by her family and heartbroken over the girlfriend who left for California.

But when her best friend Madison disappears, Caroline feels compelled to get involved in the investigation. She has her own reasons not to trust the police, and she owes Madison — big time.

Suddenly Caroline realizes how little she knew of what her friend was up to. Caroline has some uncomfortable secrets about the hours before Madison disappeared, but they’re nothing compared to the secrets Madison has been hiding. And why does Mr. McCormack, their teacher, seem to know so much about them?

It’s only when Caroline discovers other missing girls that she begins to close in on the truth. Unlike Madison, the other girls are from the wrong side of the tracks. Unlike Madison’s, their disappearances haven’t received much attention. Caroline is determined to find out what happened to them and why no one seems to notice. But as every new discovery leads Caroline closer to the connection between these girls and Madison, she faces an unsettling truth.

There’s only one common denominator between the disappearances: Caroline herself.

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Book Review: The Sin in the Steel


Ryan Van Loan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 21st July 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

A sparkling debut fantasy set in a diverse world, featuring dead gods, a pirate queen, shapeshifting mages, and a Sherlockian teenager determined to upend her society.

Buc:
Brilliant street-rat
Her mind leaps from clues to conclusions in the blink of an eye.

Eld:
Ex-soldier
Buc’s partner-in-crime.

No. Not in crime―in crime-solving.

They’ve been hired for their biggest job yet―one that will set them up for a life of ease.

If they survive.

Buc and Eld are the first private detectives in a world where pirates roam the seas, mages speak to each other across oceans, mechanical devices change the tide of battle, and earthly wealth is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few.

It’s been weeks since ships last returned to the magnificent city of Servenza with bounty from the Shattered Coast. Disaster threatens not just the city’s trading companies but the empire itself. When Buc and Eld are hired to investigate, Buc swiftly discovers that the trade routes have become the domain of a sharp-eyed pirate queen who sinks all who defy her.

Now all Buc and Eld have to do is sink the Widowmaker’s ship….

Unfortunately for Buc, the gods have other plans.

Unfortunately for the gods, so does Buc.

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Book Review: The Year of the Witching


Alexis Henderson

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 23rd July 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy.

The daughter of a union with an outsider that cast her once-proud family into disgrace, Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol and lead a life of submission, devotion and absolute conformity, like all the women in the settlement.

But a chance mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood that surrounds Bethel – a place where the first prophet once pursued and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still walking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the diary of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realises the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her…

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Book Review: Rural Voices


ed. by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 13th October 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Think you know what rural America is like? Discover a plurality of perspectives in this enlightening anthology of stories that turns preconceptions on their head.

Gracie sees a chance of fitting in at her South Carolina private school, until a “white trash”-themed Halloween party has her steering clear of the rich kids. Samuel’s Tejano family has both stood up to oppression and been a source of it, but now he’s ready to own his true sexual identity. A Puerto Rican teen in Utah discovers that being a rodeo queen means embracing her heritage, not shedding it…

For most of America’s history, rural people and culture have been casually mocked, stereotyped, and, in general, deeply misunderstood. Now an array of short stories, poetry, graphic short stories, and personal essays, along with anecdotes from the authors’ real lives, dives deep into the complexity and diversity of rural America and the people who call it home. Fifteen extraordinary authors – diverse in ethnic background, sexual orientation, geographic location, and socioeconomic status – explore the challenges, beauty, and nuances of growing up in rural America. From a mountain town in New Mexico to the gorges of New York to the arctic tundra of Alaska, you’ll find yourself visiting parts of this country you might not know existed – and meet characters whose lives might be surprisingly similar to your own.

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Book Review: Mostly Dead Things


Kristen Arnett

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 2nd July 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates—picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose—and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.

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Book Review: Melt My Heart


Bethany Rutter

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 23rd July 2020
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Lily Rose is used to people paying attention to her gorgeous twin sister, Daisy. But even though Lily loves her own fat body, she can’t shake the idea that no one would ever choose her over Daisy – not when they could have the thin twin.

That is, until she meets Cal, the gorgeous, sweet guy from New Zealand who can’t seem to stay away. The gorgeous, sweet guy who also happens to be Daisy’s summer crush. Lily can’t seem to figure out why she isn’t as into him as she should be. She should be head-over-heels in love, not missing time at the ice-cream shack with her life-long best friend, Cassie. Not wondering what Cassie is getting up to with Cal’s friend Jack, or what she’s thinking about when they’re alone . . .

With university threatening to tear Cassie and Lily apart at the end of summer, trying to keep Cal a secret from Daisy and a growing right-wing threat disturbing the usual quiet of their pleasant seaside town, Lily’s summer is set to be far from relaxing.

Melt My Heart is a hilarious and inspiring coming-of-age YA novel from Bethany Rutter: influencer, editor and a fierce UK voice in the debate around body positivity.

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