Monday, 11 May 2020

What Goes Around Comes Around: YA Vampires Rise Again!

You've heard the news. The vampires are back in town. That's right, Midnight Sun, the fifth book in Stephenie Meyer's ever-popular Twilight saga is finally coming to a bookstore near you on August 4th. 

If you don't know the story behind Midnight Sun, which is a saga in itself, then you're so not a Twihard. Long story short: Midnight Sun which, if you didn't know, is Twilight told from Edward Cullen's perspective, was meant to hit shelves way back in the day, but after the manuscript leaked online, Meyer put the book on hold indefinitely.  Why Midnight Sun (all 672 pages of it - because, according to Meyer " Edward over-thinks everything) is finally releasing now, is anyone's guess, but since we've already seen a gender-flipped version of Twilight (2015's Life and Death), I think it's fair to say this is one author who is determined to squeeze every last drop out of her sparkly cash cows. And why not. I mean, if you could, then you probably would. 

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer || Release date: August 2020

Anyway, all the talk about Midnight Sun (really not a fan of this cover!) got me thinking about vampires in YA fiction. It's true, they shuffled off into the shadows for a while, to be replaced by angels (whatever happened to that YA trend?), werewolves,  dystopian fiction and the rest,  but even before Midnight Sun was announced, vampires were slowly but surely making a YA comeback. Vampires never truly die, that's the thing. There's always a doppleganger or an antidote to save the day...

If the impending release of Midnight Sun has got you all hot and bothered and craving some good old vampire action - I'm assuming you have already devoured Richelle Mead's excellent Vampire Academy series - then here are some recent and upcoming YA vampire releases to help keep you sated until your August 4th date with the sparkliest of them all!

Will you be reading Midnight Sun ?
 How about any of the new breed of YA vampire releases? 
Maybe you're done with  YA vampires for good?
Let me know in comments!


The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh || Release date: October 2019

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she's forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city's glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group's leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien's guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.


Crave by Tracy Wolff || Release date: April 2020

My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.

Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.

Which could spell death for us all.

Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally—as the bait.

-- (This one sounds fun and Twilight-y -right down to the cover art!)


Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite || Release date: Sept. 2020

Eleven fresh vampire stories from young adult fiction’s leading voices!

In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out―and going out for their first kill―and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.

Welcome to the evolution of the vampire―and a revolution on the page.

Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley.


Friday, 17 April 2020

Book Review: In Five Years by Rebecca Serle.

Product details:
Publisher: Quercus.
Hardcover, 272 pages.
Release date: March 10th 2020.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan has been in possession of her meticulously crafted answer since she understood the question. On the day that she nails the most important job interview of her career and gets engaged to the perfect man, she’s well on her way to fulfilling her life goals.

That night Dannie falls asleep only to wake up in a different apartment with a different ring on her finger, and in the company of a very different man. The TV is on in the background, and she can just make out the date. It’s the same night – December 15th – but 2025, five years in the future.

It was just a dream, she tells herself when she wakes, but it felt so real… Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four and a half years later, when Dannie turns down a street and there, standing on the corner, is the man from her dream…

In Five Years is a love story, brimming with joy and heartbreak. But it is definitely not the love story you’re expecting.

 Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan is one of life’s great planners. In fact, from the moment she wakes in the morning to when she falls asleep at night, Dannie plans her days down to the minute. It’s not just her days Dannie plans; it’s her weeks, months and years, too. On the day we meet her, Dannie plans to ace her job interview at a prestigious law firm. Which she does. She also plans on her boyfriend, David, proposing marriage during a celebratory dinner at New York’s iconic Rainbow Room. Done. What Dannie doesn’t plan on, though, is a dream which propels her five years into the future; a dream in which far from being happily married to David, Dannie instead finds herself in a strange apartment getting intimately acquainted with a man she has never laid eyes on before.

Well, that wasn’t in Dannie’s five year plan! But it was just a dream, right? Maybe. But it felt so real.

As the action moves forward four-and-a-half years, we expect to find Dannie married to David. That’s not the case. Whatever happened to that plan? Dannie and David are still together. Still seemingly happy, too. However, meticulous planner Dannie somehow hasn’t gotten around to planning her wedding. She insists this isn’t a big deal; insists that everything is still on track. While that strange dream from five years ago sometimes plays on her mind, to the point where she discusses it with her therapist, Dannie knows that it was just a dream. After all, it couldn’t possibly be real. The guy from Dannie’s dream isn’t in her life. He’s not on her radar. He doesn’t exist. And then he does. His name is Aaron Gregory. And he’s dating Dannie’s best friend, Bella.

Now that definitely wasn’t in Dannie’s five year plan!

You might be thinking right around now that In Five Years sounds like a fun read - pure escapism. Let me stop you right there. In Five Years is not the book you think it to be. Also, this is a difficult one to review without veering into spoiler territory, so I’ll stop right there. What I will say is that is that In Five Years, at its core, is a book about friendship. The central relationship of this book is not between David and Dannie, nor is it between Dannie and Aaron Gregory. Instead the true romance of this story belongs to Dannie and Bella, the kind of lifelong friends who are there for each through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, no matter what. Dannie knows for sure that she would never betray Bella – but that dream of five years ago is still playing on her mind. And then, one day, Dannie walks into an apartment, which though strange, seems so very familiar. It is the apartment from Dannie’s dream. It is also the beginning of Dannie’s living nightmare.

A tender and heartfelt tale of love, friendship, and best-laid-plans gone awry, Rebecca Serles’s In Five Years will take you by surprise in the very best way.

Read it if you liked  One Day by David Nicholls, The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris, Everything I KnowAbout Love by Dolly Alderton.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Review Round-Up: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson, Follow Me by Kathleen Barber & You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen.

Malcom Kershaw appreciates the riddle of a good mystery more than most. As the co-owner of Old Devils, a bookshop specialising in the crime and mystery genre, Mal has experienced enough red herrings and plot twists to last him a lifetime. These days, Mal can anticipate those so-called unexpected plot twists long before they actually occur on the page. It’s all left him a little jaded, truth be told. Mal is definitely one of those hard-to-please readers who never finds a happy in any ending. 

It’s a good thing then that FBI agent Gwen Mulvey has come along to brighten up Mal’s day with some real life unsolved murders – murders which are seemingly linked to a long-forgotten blog post of Mal’s entitled ‘Eight Perfect Murders.’ Like most bloggers, Mal assumes that people don’t actually take the time to read his blog, much less pay attention to it, but somebody does…and that somebody has murder in mind.

In a sometimes crowded genre, Peter Swanson stands out as a writer who delivers every time - and has fun while doing so. While Swanson is a writer who unashamedly wears his influences on his sleeve, most notably in 2015’s The Kind Worth Killing, his work finds originality in both richly-drawn characters (I’ll never forget Lily Kintner) and in intricately-woven plotlines that make for a truly pleasurable reading experience.

Fans of crime classics such as Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Agatha Christie’s A.B.C. Murders will savour some delicious twists as they accompany unassuming Mal (who has a few secrets of his own!) and Agent Gwen Mulvey (who, you guessed it, is harbouring a few secrets too!) as they strive to uncover the face behind a series of seemingly perfect murders.

Four Stars
Published March 3rd 2020 by William Morrow


Audrey Miller is living the dream. A successful Instagram influencer, with one million followers and counting, Audrey has just scored her dream job as social media manager at the Smithsonian. Sure, her new job means that Audrey will have to up roots from New York to D.C., but Audrey is up for the challenge, and while D.C. may not be as ‘grammable as NYC, Audrey is sure that the city has its charms. Unfortunately, those charms do not include Audrey’s new apartment, which is basement level, with a broken lock, and a creepy upstairs neighbour to boot. No matter. Audrey’s not the kind of girl to let such trivialities get her down. After all, she’s got more important things to worry about – like keeping her online fans happy. Gotta update the ‘gram.

Follow Me opens with an author’s note that piqued my interest and got me thinking about my own online behaviour: the takeaway being that I really should place a sticker over my webcam. Audrey Miller needs to do the same. Though Audrey is tech savvy, she is not entirely internet safe, often revealing personal information, along with her real-time whereabouts. It’s no surprise that among her one million followers, Audrey has accumulated the usual bots and trolls. Unfortunately for her, Audrey has also acquired a stalker, one who knows where she lives…One who sneaks into her apartment at night and watches her sleep…

Ugh. Creepy! 

An entertaining thriller with an excellent premise, Follow Me kept me guessing right till the end, with multiple suspects to choose from and a whole lot of red herrings too. While, for me, a lot of thrillers fall flat right at the end, I’m pleased to say that this one didn’t. The ending is unconventional and even fun – in a very twisted kind of way.

Read it if you liked YOU by Caroline Kepnes.

3.5 stars
Published February 25th 2020 by Gallery Books
Received for review


Shay Miller’s life is in freefall. Ever since Shay witnessed a suicide on a subway platform, her life has gone from already bad to even worse. For one, since she witnessed the suicide, Shay hasn’t been able to bring herself to take the subway, which has impacted her already not-so-great career prospects. Secondly, Shay can’t get the dead woman, a nurse called Amanda Evinger, out of her head. Shay goes so far as to attend the Amanda’s memorial service, in order to hopefully gain some closure, but it doesn’t work. Worse still, Shay feels entirely alone in the city that never sleeps. She eats alone. Sleeps alone. Shay has no one to turn to. No one to talk to. 

Enter the Moore sisters. Savvy, successful and stylish, Jane and Cassandra Moore are everything that Shay is not – and everything she wishes she could be. When Shay meets the sisters at the memorial service for their friend, Amanda, she is charmed by their warmth and grace. When Jane and Cassandra extend an offer of friendship, Shay is flattered, quickly accepting any and all social invitations that come her way. Jane and Cassandra go above and beyond in their friendship with Shay, treating her to fun makeovers and lavishing her with expensive gifts. But to what end? And why, when she looks in the mirror lately, does Shay see Amanda Evinger staring back at her?

It seems that Shay has started living Amanda Evinger’s life. She’s even living in the dead woman’s apartment. Shay is not quite sure how that happened, and as for the blood-stained clothes on the floor, she has no idea where those came from. But Shay is sure that her new friends, the Moore sisters, will help. Only problem is, Jane and Cassandra Moore are no longer taking Shay’s calls….

While not as deliciously twisty as their debut, The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen nevertheless kept me invested – and certainly kept me guessing - with this expertly-plotted and often surprising tale of sisterhood, obsession and revenge. 

3.5 Stars
Published March 3rd 2020 by St. Martin's Press
Received for review

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Book Review: Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth.

Product details:
Publisher: The Borough Press.
Hardcover, 400 pages.
Release date: February 20th 2020.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Jenny McLaine is an adult. Supposedly. At thirty-five she owns her own house, writes for a cool magazine and has hilarious friends just a message away.

But the thing is:

• She can’t actually afford her house since her criminally sexy ex-boyfriend Art left,
• her best friend Kelly is clearly trying to break up with her,
• she's so frazzled trying to keep up with everything you can practically hear her nerves jangling,

• she spends all day online-stalking women with beautiful lives as her career goes down the drain.

And now her mother has appeared on her doorstep, unbidden, to save the day…

Is Jenny ready to grow up and save herself this time?

Deliciously candid and gloriously heartfelt, ADULTS is the story of one woman learning how to fall back in love with her life. It will remind you that when the world throws you a curve ball (or nine), it may take friendship, gin & tonics or even your mother to bring you back…

Jenny McLaine is living the dream. At thirty-five, she is a property-owning, single-lady-about-town, with a pretty cool job as a writer for FOOF - an online feminist magazine. But that’s not the dream I’m talking about. No – Jenny is living the Instagram dream. Her real life, though it looks good on paper – and even better with the right Instagram filter – is something of a mess.  Jenny’s single lady status is due to a recent split with her live-in boyfriend of seven years, a photographer named Art, while her status as a property owner is on shaky ground due to the fact that she no longer has someone with which to split the bills.  Still, if you were to take a look at Jenny’s painstakingly crafted grid, you wouldn’t know any of this. It’s not like Jenny’s Instagram dream is problem free – the algorithm is a constant worry and her Instagram idol Suzy Brambles still hasn’t liked any of her posts– but Jenny can deal with that. As long as she doesn’t have to deal with her actual real life problems, Jenny can deal with almost anything.

First impressions count and I’m sorry to say that my first impression of Jenny McLaine was not a good one.  The opening chapter of Adults sees Jenny obsess over an Instagram post of a croissant – to hashtag or not to hashtag – to the point of tears. I mean, seriously, this thing with the croissant went on for a whole chapter and, in the end, Jenny didn’t even eat the croissant. She just got it for the 'gram. While this opening chapter serves to show that Jenny has much bigger problems than an unhealthy obsession with Instagram, I have to admit that I found it a chore to read. Even though I’m not all that much older than Jenny, I couldn’t relate to her at all. I rolled my eyes at her antics a number of times. I just found her entire existence to be so vacuous. Does anybody – who is not a professional ‘influencer’ – really invest this much time in social media? Have we seriously come to the point where people measure their self-worth in Instagram likes? I hope not.

While Jenny has problems, she’s not without a support network, including her mother, a vivacious, wonderfully drawn character, and her best friend Kelly, a single mother, who listens to Jenny’s problems, while never speaking of her own. That’s because Jenny doesn’t want to hear Kelly’s problems. She only ever wants to talk about herself. Her problems. But not her real problems. Just inane ‘problems’ like whether or not her croissant requires a hashtag. While it’s clear that Jenny’s Instagram obsession serves as a ‘real life’ avoidance tactic, this knowledge doesn’t make her any more likeable. Jenny also has an annoying habit whereby, instead of confronting an issue head on, or you know, solving a problem by talking face to face, she composes emails to those she takes issue with, many, many emails, which she never sends. Seriously, Jenny, you’re too old for this.

Underneath it all, there is an inkling of the actual, functioning person Jenny used to be before her life took a downward turn. Through flashbacks, we bear witness to incidents where Jenny stood up, spoke up, and did the right thing. We see that, once upon a time, Jenny used to care, not just about herself - about other people too. But that was before everything went wrong in her life. And I get it. I get that real life can be ugly and that the right Instagram filter can make everything seem better – if only temporarily. I get that. I also get that there is more to Jenny than her Instagram self. I get that she’s been knocked down and that she can’t quite find the strength to get back up. I get it. But still. I can’t say I ever warmed to Jenny. Or to this book.  Sorry, Jenny, I tried, but just can’t bring myself to give you a ‘like.’
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