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 herehttps://twitter.com/hojay92

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?

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Mini Review | The Boyfriend Bet by Chris Cannon

Title | The Boyfriend Bet
Author | Chris Cannon
Series | Boyfriend Chronicles, #2
Pages | 240 pages
Publisher | Entangled: Crush
Genre | YA Contemporary Romance
Release Date | August 22, 2016

Zoe Cain knows that Grant Evertide is way out of her league. So naturally, she kisses him. Out of spite. Not only is Grant her brother’s number-one nemesis, but he has zero interest in being tied down to one girl. She’s shocked—and secretly thrilled—when they start spending more time together. Non-exclusively, of course, but that doesn’t mean Zoe can’t change his mind, one PDA and after-school detention at a time.

Zoe’s brother claims Grant is trying to make her his “Ringer,” an oh-so-charming tradition where a popular guy dates a non-popular girl until he hooks up with her, then dumps her. Zoe threatens to neuter Grant with hedge clippers if he’s lying but Grant swears he isn’t trying to trick her. Still, that doesn’t mean Grant is the commitment type—even if winning a bet is on the line.

Admittedly, this will be a short review, simply because I do not have any idea on what I can actually say about this book. I’m still pretty speechless now, a few days on after reading it. While I’ve mentioned it before, I’ll mention it again. Entangled: Crush books are brilliant stories and Chris Cannon’s The Boyfriend Bet is absolutely no different. The simple little romance story wrapped up in a tale of teenage life was a really cute read. However, in all honesty, it was frustrating at times, but as is every book.

“Sad, but true. Maybe I’ll spill something on him in Foods class, or accidentally stab him with a knife.” And I might have stabbed him, given a chance, but he wasn’t in Foods class.”

The characters were fairly two-dimensional and basic. I’d hate to use the word ‘flat’ but that is a word I would use to describe the characterisation in this story. The characters were fairly likeable, don’t get me wrong. Zoe had spunk, style and sass. She was fairly hilarious and brought a comedy element to the novel. Grant I wasn’t a massive fan of. He was quite arrogant, indecisive and an all around jerk. His actions sometimes felt a little foolish and I often found myself questioning why he was a main character. Pacing was fairly quick, making this book a perfect read for a holiday or for travelling. The cute little romance also warms you up and makes you smile, so it definitely has the feel good factor. Tone of the novel was impressive, if not pretty basic in places.

“My mom says no guy is perfect, you just have to find one that makes you happy seventy percent of the time.” That was an odd equation.

“What about the other thirty percent?”

“That’s the time you fantasize about hitting him in the head with a frying pan.” I laughed.

“So prince charming is a guy you only want to kill a third of the time? That doesn’t sound right.”

“No one’s perfect.” 

To conclude, I’d definitely read the first novel in the series. I was in an iffy mood when reading this book, thus why this review is so little and not very descriptive. This is the type of book I like to read, and I was not disappointed. It’s just a shame I can’t find the words to give a brilliant review.

e x c e r p t

Amber stuck to me like glue as we exited the cafeteria, lucky for me, her next class was in the opposite direction so she had to leave. I caught up with Zoe and fell into step beside her.

She made a show of looking around me. “Lose your barnacle?”

I laughed. “Interesting description. Not inaccurate.”

“Even I know the quickest way to make a guy run away is to throw yourself at him.”

“But you threw yourself at me yesterday.”

Her mouth fell open and then she laughed. “Wrong. I used you to annoy my brother.”

“Used me?”

She glanced at me from the corner of her eye grinned as we rounded the corner and headed for Foods class. “You were convenient.”

“Convenient?” I pretended to be offended.

“Pretty much.”

“Is this some sort of reverse psychology? Because if I wanted to kiss you again, I’m one hundred percent sure you’d kiss me back.”

“Keep telling yourself that.”

We were twenty feet from the classroom door, but ten feet from a side hall, which led to the restrooms. And I wanted to wipe the all knowing grin off her face. No teachers in the immediate area. What the hell?

When we came even with the side hall, I grabbed her hand and tugged her down the hall.

“What are you doing?”

Answering would take too long. I leaned in and pressed my mouth against hers. She froze for a second, and then she kissed me back. The noise from the hall faded away as she leaned into me.

“Mr. Evertide.”

Damn. I stepped away from Zoe and turned to find the principal glaring at me.

“Sir?”

“Are public displays of affection allowed in this school?” His tone took condescending to a new level.

“No, sir. It won’t happen again.”

“To make sure it doesn’t, you both have detention in my office after school. Now, get to class.”

Zoe shot me a this is all your fault look and headed to class. I followed along, tempted to gloat, but figured it might be better to wait until she wasn’t so angry.

Seconds after we took our seats, Ms. Ida launched into a speech about the different kinds of vanilla. Not that I cared, but I pretended to be fascinated to avoid eye contact with Zoe.

“All right, class. Back to the kitchens and start mixing your cupcakes.”

Jumping out of her seat, Zoe made it to the kitchen before me and started sorting ingredients on the countertop. I strolled back to meet her.

She met my gaze and laughed. “Don’t you look pleased with yourself.”

“Because I was right.” I leaned in like I was checking out the recipe on the countertop and whispered in her ear. “One hundred percent right.”

A quick inhalation from Zoe meant what? Anger? Irritation?

She retrieved a large mixing bowl from one of the cabinets. Grabbing our Ziploc bags full of ingredients, she dumped their contents in the bowl. “Yes, and you are one hundred percent giving me a ride home from detention, because my brother has to work tonight.”

That was not part of my plan. “I don’t-”

She bumped me with her hip, knocking me off balance. “Wrong answer. Try again.”

I caught myself on the counter.

“You brought this on yourself.” She shoved the bowl at me. “Stir this while I crack the eggs.”

“You’re bossy.”

“I prefer to think of myself as confident.”

Why did I suddenly feel like she’d manipulated this entire situation?

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 | The Way It Hurts by Patty Blount

Title | The Way It Hurts
Author | Patty Blount
Series | None
Pages | 352
Publisher | Sourcebooks FIRE
Genre | YA Contemporary Romance
Release Date | August 1, 2017

There may be two sides to every story, but sometimes there’s only one way to set things right…

Music is Elijah’s life. His band plays loud and hard, and he’ll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he’d rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town…until the lead starts to sing.

Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother’s. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program―and being the star in her high school musical isn’t going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.

Elijah can’t take his eyes off of Kristen’s performance, and his swooning face is captured on camera and posted with an out-of-context comment. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don’t stay online…they follow them into real life. 

The name Patty Blount is a name synonymous with some of the best young adult fiction available – novels such as TMI and Some Boys. While these books had me absolutely hooked and willing to read on, her latest fictional piece – The Way It Hurts – sadly did not. Although the plot did seem pretty solid, the pacing and the execution of the novel seemed too slow and drawn out for me. Because of this, I only read up to page 179, regrettably making it part of my DNF (did not finish) shelf.

Music was peace to me – sanity in all the chaos Anna caused.

The book itself has a pretty strong story to it – girl needs boy, boy needs girl, sexual chemistry and boom! Together by the finish. However, as I stated before, the execution of such a story seemed far to drawn out for me. Whether it was such to establish narratives from both Elijah and Kristen, I’m not entirely sure. But something about it just didn’t work for me. The plot does seem like a few books I have read previously, and while I’m sure that The Way It Hurts is an entirely original piece of fiction, I could just not shake off the boredom.

“You know, Richard, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”

“Of course, Mother. I was merely catering to my audience, as you taught me.”

Two characters I did absolutely adore from what I read, were Elijah and Etta. As soon as Etta was introduced, I fell in love with her brutal honesty and unwitting charm. She had some serious personality for a fictional character, and I saw one of my closest friends in her phrases and mannerisms. Patty Blount brilliants portrays her fabulously privileged character through her behaviour in the story. In reality, it would have been a hard task not to fall in love with Etta.

As for Elijah, the situation with his disabled sister Anna really broke my heart. It was adorable to read how he used music to communicate when she could not. The bathtub scene at the start was something I absolutely loved, and his desire to protect his younger sister was admirable. In all the rush of being Elijah, the Rock Star, he didn’t forget his sister. Instead she was his motivation.

She smiled brightly. “And now I know I am far too self-absorbed to love any man more than I love myself.”

Despite only reaching page 179 before calling it quits on the book, this has in no way coloured my opinion of the author or her books. Writing is an incredibly hard thing to do, and the fact she has already blessed the YA world with so many stories is wonderful. Although I could not personally read the rest of The Way It Hurts, that does not mean to say that anyone else should be discouraged from reading it.

Finally, he shook his head. “No. You’ll sing for them.” He wiggled his phone at me.

Perhaps in the future I can attempt to re-read the story and find it more to my taste. Yet at this current moment in time, I cannot. I would like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review. The Way It Hurts will only receive one star from me.

Review | Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee

Title | Love in the Friend Zone
Author | Molly E. Lee
Series | Grad Night, #1
Pages | 200
Publisher | Entangled Teen
Genre | YA Contemporary Romance
Release Date | August 14, 2017

The only thing worse than not being able to tell your best friend you’re head over heels in love with him? Having to smile and nod when he enlists your help to ensnare the girl of his dreams.

Braylen didn’t even want to go to Lennon Pryor’s epic graduation-night party, but when Fynn begs her to be his “wingwoman,” she can’t deny him. Talking up her BFF—how he’s magic behind a camera, with a killer sense of humor and eyelashes that frame the most gorgeous blue eyes in the history of forever—is easy. Supporting his efforts to woo someone so completely wrong for him? Not so much.

Fynn knows that grad night is his last shot before leaving for college to find true love. And thanks to Bray, he gets his chance with the beautiful Katy Evans. But over the course of the coolest party of their high school careers, he starts to see that perhaps what he really wants has been in front of him all along. Bray’s been his best friend since kindergarten, though, and he’d rather have her in his life as a friend than not at all.

Where should I start with this review? Entangled fiction tends to be simplified romance that is cute and sweet. They’re great to pass time, and better to help you get over book hangovers. Love in the Friend Zone, although a Entangled fiction story, completely smashed my stereotype. Molly E. Lee has written such a fabulous tale of romance that I cannot stop thinking about. And I finished the book a week ago!

“That sounds either super Prince Charming-y of you or borderline rapey.”

Love in the Friend Zone is story of a girl who is in love with her best friend, but is all secretive about it. It’s got the whole cliche ‘everybody knows but you two’ element, but it was tasteful. The main thing I loved about the book was that it was a story of a single day, spread out over 300 pages. Normally, this kind of thing just doesn’t slide with me. It can get boring, and I can literally want to shoot myself. Not once did that I get that feeling with this book though. NOT ONCE! Instead, the books pacing and tone was so perfectly executed the novel sort of just drifted by. Once second I’m sitting down with my kindle, the next I’m cursing because I’ve spent four hours fixated to a screen. It didn’t get boring at all. It didn’t feel overly-simplified and the plot was really cute to follow.

There were times when I thought of Zoey as the most intelligent girl I knew, and then there were time I wanted to strangle her for making everyone else’s problems look so easy to fix.

This was one of the latter times.

The characters were adorable. I’m not going to lie; I did expect there to be this awkward-as-hell love triangle going on for a while. If there is one thing I hate in a romance novel, it’s a love triangle. Simply not got the time for them. But Braylen and Fynn were simply two cute for words. While the characters were quite two-dimensional, merely as they didn’t have to face much more than relationship issues, they were quite charming. I appreciated Braylen’s love of Fynn, but her need to preserve her friendship and ensure her best friend’s happiness. I mean, who wouldn’t? I’ve been there and I’m sure many other millions of girls have. Fynn was also incredibly adorable, but I constantly wanted to beat him around the head with the book and tell him to man up. 

My reading has been few and far between recently with a list of family issues myself, but this was perhaps the easiest book I’ve read this year. The flow and movement of the plot, the characterisation and the flawless writing from Molly E. Lee have definitely made this one of my favourite romance books. I think I’ve just gained a story I can come back to during a book hangover.

Clearly the universe is sending me a million signs not to explain things to him.

Perhaps my only grievance with the book is that I live in the United Kingdom. This book was simply amazing, but to add it to my physical collection would be a costly task – as the prices here would be between £15 and £20 for a paperback edition, not including shipping. However, this will not affect the scoring of Love in the Friend Zone as that is an issue for the publisher and not the author. However, if you are able to get your hands on a physical copy; go ahead and do it! This book deserves to be read, and the author definitely deserves massive support. I’m giving Love in the Friend Zone a high five snowflakes for simply peeking up my summer and making me feel the burn to read again. Thanks Molly E. Lee!

Kim @ Kimberly Faye Reads says “Love in the Friend Zone was a sweet friends to lovers book.”