Review | The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson

Ya girl loves (and I mean, LOVES) mystery novels. Move over Sherlock Holmes, I’m on the case and I’m determined to find the real culprit of the crime before you do. Of course, I only ever get it right 50% of the time, but you win some, you lose some. The Good Girls Guide to Murder was the murder mystery thriller I didn’t even know I needed this year.

click cover for Goodreads page

This stunning UK Young Adult debut novel tells the tale of Pippa Fitz-Amobi – a determined A-Level student who is hell-bent on proving that Sal Singh did not murder his girlfriend Andie Bell. With a wide list of suspects, there are multiple reasons to follow the story along to the end; with the reveal leaving you reeling.

Pippa is such a feisty protagonist. Though she lacks an overall awareness of the implications of her questioning, she is in no way naive. The girl has mad detective skills, and serious guts to deal with the consequences of reopening the investigation. Jackson captures her characters perfectly through their actions and dialogue. They feel like real people, trapped in between the pages of a book; as if Jackson was writing about real people.

While Pippa was undoubtedly my favourite character in the entire book, I cannot continue the review without mentioning new fictional crush, Ravi Singh. As the older brother of the ‘murderer’ Sal Singh, Ravi has to deal with consequences of his brothers’ actions and suicide. With the town treating him and his family as social pariahs, Pippa’s interest in reviving the case of Andie Bell doesn’t bode down too well with him. It’s really interesting to see the character development and how Ravi interacts with Pippa and the investigation.

Back to the drawing board…

I will not sleep on the fact that this book has the perfect mystery factor. There were so many points in this book where I questioned whether Andie really was dead or alive. Until you hit the ending, you don’t even know! Perhaps even more refreshing is that there is absolutely no way you can easily predict the outcome. I’ve read so many mystery novels in my life, and this was undoubtedly gripping.

In no way was this book long and overdrawn. It seemed as if every moment in the story was cleverly placed – each chapter adding something further to the story. When my fingers itched to skip straight to the ending, something else pulled me into the current chapter. I. Was. Hooked. And even better than that, I finished the book within a few hours of buying it. It always makes me happy when I enjoy a book so much I finish it in record time.

Follow Holly Jackson on Twitter here

I’ll admit that because life has taken over recently, I vary rarely get out to local bookshops anymore. I found this little gem in a little bookshop in Ripon, North Yorkshire when I was visiting my partner. It was great to get back to UKYA after spending so long sticking to mainly American novels. I’m not sure whether it’s just me, but books feel a little more realistic when they’re set in the same country as you.

The gorgeous lady on the left is Holly Jackson, who has absolutely smashed it out the park with her debut novel. The only thing I can add now is that she has to have a strong follow-up novel to top this one – she’s really set the standard high.

So, let’s summarise shall we . . .

Overall rating | 5 out of 5
Characters | 5 out of 5
Plot | 5 out of 5
Tone/Pace | 5 out of 5
Recommend? | Damn straight.
Genre | YA Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller

Title | The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Author | Holly Jackson
Release Date | 2 May 2019 (UK)
Series? | No
Pages | 448 (Paperback)
Publisher | Electric Monkey (UK)

Buy the book @ Amazon (UK) | Waterstones | Book Depository

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?


Review | Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

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Title | Nerve
Author | Jeanne Ryan
Series | None
Pages | 294
Publisher | Simon & Schuster
Genre | YA Science Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Release Date | July 28, 2016

A high-stakes online game of dares turns deadly

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the game knows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it’s exhilarating–Vee and Ian’s fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they’re directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they’re playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE?

Admittedly, I will hold up my hands and admit that this book was only a pick-up because of the upcoming movie version involving Emma Roberts and Dave Franco. Heck, even my DAD wants to watch the movie. Lemme admit, I’m so glad that I picked up a paperback copy at my local ASDA. Taking around two hours to read, Nerve was a thrilling adventure of dare, personality and self-discovery.

We’ve learned an interesting rule about fame. Those who seem desperate for it are the people that others least want to see.

Vee was a risky girl who was sick of sitting in the shadow of her fabulous best friend. I mean, come on. Who doesn’t that appeal to? I adored Vee. She was ballsy, feisty but always stood up for what she believed in – as you may discover throughout the novel. Nerve instantly attracted Vee, which makes her an incredibly relatable character. In a society where social media has hooked the youth of today, the book has incredibly relevance and Vee will probably click with many teen girls her age. I know for a fact that something like this would definitely pique my curiosity. Would you wants to be a player or a watcher? And Ian . . . God Ian is a little cutey, even if he isn’t who he says he is. *wink wink*. But honestly, ever Ian I have ever come across is so freaking charming. First Ian Harding, now Ian from Nerve. These authors need to stop the fantastic guys or I’m just going to combust.

Strangely, Nerve reminded me of one of my earlier reads – NEED. The plot is incredibly different and never in my reading history have I come across a plot as strange yet capturing as this one. Whether the movie will keep up the story plot or not, I have no idea. But they should have, and I will be very mad if they haven’t. I’ve already noticed a few changes just through watching the trailer like a billion times. I adored the mystery and thrill that came from reading this book. Jeanne Ryan keeps you guessing with Nerve and you never quite know what’s going to happen until it does. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish, so she deserves mad props for that. Also, the cliffhanger at the end is absolutely appalling – even more so considering the fact that the author doesn’t see a sequel in the works. Why would you do this?

“Why should I pay to watch when I can be paid to play?”

The dual narration which occurs at the beginning of the novel really does make you curious. Yet certain parts of the book didn’t seem to make sense. I would really like for Jeanne Ryan to clear up the mystery of Abigail, Ian and Vee’s parents. Still I will admit that I did enjoy nerve, earning it a cool three out of five. While it was a good book, it wasn’t anything to sing and dance about. Also, please clear up the above questions Ms Ryan. Now excuse me while I sign offline and go find myself the next cinema showing.

Ines Ninous says “It was a very nice read.”

Carly @ Books Are My Kind of Thing says “Awesome, just not executed well.”

Review | The Border by Steve Schafer

Title | The Border
Author | Steve Schafer
Series | None
Pages | 364
Publisher | Sourcebooks FIRE
Genre | YA Contemporary Mystery Thriller
Release Date | September 5, 2017

One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families’ murders have put out a reward for the teens’ capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape…

Honest and harrowing, The Border by Steve Schafer is a painful reality for many Mexicans. Before reading this novel, I was completely oblivious to the dealings of Mexican gangs such as La Frontera, so it’s pretty safe to admit that this book not only moved me emotionally but it was also pretty eye-opening. The author has touched on a subject that you tend not to see: which only highlight’s its relevance in today’s society.

“There’s nothing flashy about her, but she shines. I’ve noticed her before, though never quite like this.”

I think what impressed me most about the book is how believable the whole tale is. Days are dragged out in the book simply because the days turn into months for the characters. While the story is fiction, The Border cleverly shines a light on the fact that this is so many other people’s reality. There is no beating around the bush – this is the long, drawn out journey of those who risk their life to make a better one. And it’s utterly heart-breaking that in 2017, there are still people forced to owe their lives to coyotes who can help them cross. With a clever reference to Donald Trump’s promise of building a wall, all I could think was ‘thank God this hasn’t happened yet’. The journey seemed treacherous enough without there being a physical wall too.

How can trillions upon trillions of stars, planets, moons all appear exactly the same night after night, while my life is nothing like it was yesterday or even an hour ago.

Steve Schafer does not glamorise any of the characters in this story – he keeps them as these regular, everyday people who have to deal with a lot of bad things happening to them. Pato, Argo, Marcos and Gladys all have this air of authenticity around them, and the things that they encounter are genuine, believable events. It’s safe to say that the book is full of moments that sound disgusting and gross, but they are things that we cannot control as people. You feel for each of the characters and their way of coping with what is actually happening to them. And as the events that unfold around occur, you can’t but help sympathise for them. Even secondary characters such as Sr. Ortiz had such a way of tearing your heart apart.

Narcos,” Sr. Ortiz says in a scornful tone. “They’re not people. They’re prests. No, they’re a disease. An incurable disease we all suffer from.”

Living in the United Kingdom, we do not share borders with anything serious such as this. There is no real danger when I step foot out of my house, and I definitely do not need to be wary about someone trying to kill me at a teenage birthday party. But for Pato, this is something he has to worry about. And to think that somewhere in Mexico, this could be happening right now is absolutely terrifying. Although challenging to read at times, and after crying for a little bit, I am glad that Steve Schafer took the time to write such a wonderful piece of fiction. The themes and story plot is one that must be spoken about – because we need to realise that people are actually dying.

I’m a liability in my world. I need a new one.

You need to buy this book. Read it, talk about it, make it a trend on twitter. This is something that can really speak out to people. And I cannot wait to see the impact it can make. Steve Schafer, you have earned an easy five stars.

Alternatively, here are a few fresh perspectives on the novel:

Heather @ Heather Reviews says “An incredible debut that I would recommend to everyone.”

Sarah @ Bickering Book Reviews says “I found the characters interesting. Their journey was compelling, though grueling and gritty.”

Review | Follow Me Back by Nicci Cloke

Title | Follow Me Back
Author | Nicci Cloke
Series | N/A
Pages | 336
Publisher | Hot Keys Books
Genre | YA Contemporary Mystery Thriller
Release Date | February 4, 2016

There was no sign of a struggle, they whisper to each other. She took her phone but left her laptop behind.
Apparently, she’d met someone online, they write to each other in class, phones buzzing.
She ran away. She was taken.

The first time Aiden Kendrick hears about Lizzie Summersall’s disappearance is when the police appear at his front door. He and Lizzie used to be friends; they aren’t anymore. And when Aiden finds out that Lizzie had been talking to strangers on Facebook; that the police think she went to meet one of them, he begins to wonder how well he ever really knew her, and Aiden doesn’t know it yet, but with Lizzie’s disappearance his life is about to take a twisted and desperate turn.

Nicci Cloke is one of my favourite young adult thriller writers, and after reading Follow Me Back, it’s really not hard to see why! The book is gripping, devastating and absolutely relevant to today. It surrounds the mystery disappearance of Lindsey Summersall, and the investigation lead by her friend, past-beau and potential suspect, Aiden Kendrick.

I love me a good mystery book. If you tell me someone has gone missing and the book is ALL about that, then you have one very happy girl and a finished book. I think the main reason this book was so good for me, was because I love the genre so much. I’m biased on that, I’ll admit it.

Admittedly, the characters in this book lack a lot of depth and humility; Aiden was flat as a protagonist, Lindsey was over-dramatic and other characters were pretty damn predictable. It took a while for me to actually get to like Aiden, though this could be down to the tone and pacing of the story. He just didn’t seem to be reliable as our narrator (though, any human narrator would be biased).

“We’ve got to carry on as normal, and hope that she’ll come home. She knows we love her. She knows we’re waiting, doesn’t she?”

If there is one thing I’m slowly coming to dislike in books, however, it is the whole POV thing. One minute we’re in Aiden’s POV, then suddenly we have mystery POVs popped up all over the shop. Sure, it provides a better story as you can see other viewpoints – but it becomes tiresome. Surely there would have been a more fluid way of execution? In addition to this, the book did admittedly have chapters that seemed irrelevant, or clearly were for the purpose of filling the book. They felt unnecessary to the story and acted as a bit of a deterrence.

The plot was probably my favourite thing about the book, as you may have guessed. I was able to guess the ending correctly, though I’m not sure whether this is down to the predictability of the characters, or whether I have no life and just read too many of these things. (My money is on the latter). However, Cloke did add in a few unexpected (but very much welcome) twists and turns which made the story a lot more bearable and allowed me to stick with it for as long as I did.

While I’m pleased that I finished Follow Me Back, I’m not sure whether I’d unarchive it and reread it. The book was perfect for my bus journey however, and made the time fly by rather quickly. Though probably not Cloke’s best books, I do still really like it. Despite all my criticism, I would like to give it a low four – but a four none-the-less. I did enjoy it, I really did.

Alternatively, here are a few fresh perspectives on the book:

Hozzie B @ Hozzie B Writes says “Overall, I guess I would recommend this book to you guys because it did keep me interested from start to finish and it’s nice as a light read. However it’s not particularly groundbreaking or anything. “

Jess @ Bookends and Endings says “If you’re a lover of mystery books, I would definitely recommend giving this book a read.”

Aimee @ My Life in Books says “The ending was left kind of up in the air. I think it’s up to the readers to make up their own minds about what happens next.”

Series Review | Black Angel Chronicles by Kristen Orlando

I’m starting to really adore young adult action books, whether it’s in a spy school like Gallagher Academy with Ally Carter, chasing gangs around America with Catherine Doyle, or being a special operative with Kristen Orlando. I really do love it.

I wanted to wait until I had read all three books before I posed judgement on the series. But I’m going to admit that it was amazing – easily one of my favourite book series ever.

You Don’t Know My Name was amazing when I first read it, from cover to cover. I couldn’t believe how amazing it was. From the get-go you are immersed into Reagan’s world and the journey she must face.

The book actually deals with real issues such as anxiety and panic attacks: something which is commonly glossed over in books and both reality. I liked how the book included anxiety to really make Reagan more of a rounded character.

It’s fast-paced nature and tone really keep you interested in the book. You really want to stick around to the end to see exactly what goes down. Orlando also highlights the importance of decision-making, highlighting how certain choices, such as reckless decisions, can change or alter life.

Book rating: 8 out of 10.

You Won’t Know I’m Gone is just as brilliant as the first instalment, if not better. The book maintained the intrigue from the first novel, and it was interesting to see just how Reagan dealt with going rogue.

As the story develops, we’re introduced to more characters and see a lot more character growth from those we grew to love in the first book.

Admittedly, some parts felt a little tedious, though these were few and far between. The book certainly lived up to the standard set by its predecessor.

Book rating: 8 out of 10

You Won’t See Me Coming honestly had me on the edge of my seat for the ENTIRE novel. It was a brilliant conclusion to the whole series, and cemented my adoration for the book series as a whole.

Reagan’s growth and experiences are unforgettable and harrowing, but there is some truth to Reagan. Many people go through similar issues. Kristen Orlando kept a certain realness to the whole series, and ended the book with such stunning precision.

Book rating: 9 out of 10

Plot: 9 out of 10
Action: 10 out of 10
Characters: 9 out of 10
Romance: 8 out of 10
Series: 9 out of 10
Tone/Pace: 8 out of 10

Alternatively, here are some fresh perceptions on the books:

Raven @ Dreamy Addictions says “The ending was totally shocking though and I really want to know what happens next.” (on You Don’t Know My Name)

Alice @ Married to Books says “The fast-paced ride definitely kept me excited to read on to the very end!” (on You Won’t Know I’m Gone)

Confessions of a YA Reader says “There is a lot of fast paced action throughout the book. It made it hard to put down and I flew through it at times.” (on You Won’t See Me Coming)

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Adorable picture by One Way or An Author [click picture for link to review]