Review: Aftermath by Clara Kensie


Charlotte survived four long years as a prisoner in the attic of her kidnapper, sustained only by dreams of her loving family. The chance to escape suddenly arrives, and Charlotte fights her way to freedom. But an answered prayer turns into heartbreak. Losing her has torn her family apart. Her parents have divorced: Dad's a glutton for fame, Mom drinks too much, and Charlotte's twin is a zoned-out druggie. Her father wants Charlotte write a book and go on a lecture tour, and her mom wants to keep her safe, a virtual prisoner in her own home. But Charlotte is obsessed with the other girl who was kidnapped, who never got a second chance at life--the girl who nobody but Charlotte believes really existed. Until she can get justice for that girl, even if she has to do it on her own, whatever the danger, Charlotte will never be free.

Aftermath is such a good title for this book, because it is such a good book about the Aftermath of a life changing event, like being held captive for four years. The actual abduction took up a tiny bit of the book and the majority of the book covers Charlotte adapting to life afterwards. It's a life she never imagined.

Charlotte spent her days in the attic dreaming of her family. She imagines them without her, living their lives and it's a comfort so for her to get away and see her family now broken is a shock to the system. Her twin - one half of her whole - is now a troubled rebellious teen and her parents are divorced and cracking. It's tragic and it's awful and Kensie writes the emotions so realistically and raw. 

The most heart breaking moment of this book comes when Alex and Charlotte break down their emotions and Alex realises just why Charlotte stayed. It's so heartwrenching and beautiful and this real moment or epiphany in the book.

Aftermath is not a book that I will read again. Not because it's a poorly written book, or because the characterisation is bad. Because of the opposite - because it's so good and so raw and so painful that my heart could not bear to read this book again.

Book released 1st November 2016 by Merit Press
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

Heart of Thorns (Heart of Thorns, #1)

In the ancient river kingdom, touch is a battlefield, bodies the instruments of war. Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose has pledged her life to hunting Gwyrach: women who can manipulate flesh, bones, breath, and blood.

Not women. Demons. The same demons who killed her mother without a single scratch.

But when Mia's father suddenly announces her marriage to the prince, she is forced to trade in her knives and trousers for a sumptuous silk gown. Only after the wedding goes disastrously wrong does she discover she has dark, forbidden magic—the very magic she has sworn to destroy.

That blurb is incredibly misleading, because I was expecting a book where we have this kick-ass, hunter girl who is told she is marrying a prince and we see her getting used to the castle and the restrictions. Instead, by the time this book starts Mia is already in the castle, and in fact we're only a day away from her wedding. That already put me off the book.

Still, I persevered with this book to give it a chance, even though the start was slow and the writing felt forced and I think I already knew that I was not going to love this book.

That didn't change.

Look, a few years ago I would have enjoyed this book a lot more. This year there are so many amazing fantasy novels coming out that this one didn't stand out. It just didn't hold it's own against books like Long May She Reign. It felt flat and the characters were irritating and I felt that the world building was lacking. 

More than that though, there were some plot devices which were used to build drama and push the story that I just disagree with. As soon as a fantasy novel uses sexual abuse as a plot device to make a woman more 'vulnerable' - a strong woman as well, I'm gone. There are some books that it sort of works with, and that I can deal because the character grows and it fits the plot and the characters. This was not one of them. I could rant about this for hours but I won't. Just know that what was an okay-ish book just lost it's appeal to me after that. I finished the book but a could not have cared less about what happened.

Look, just... learn from this. Don't market a book as feminist or 'strong female characters' if you're just going to force the feminism down my throat at every turn and then just flip that on it's head for a gratuitous rape scene. K... thanks. Bye.

Book released 31st July 2018 by Katherine Tegan Books
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Dial Em for Murder by Marni Bates

Dial Em for Murder

Sixteen-year-old Emmy Danvers was just trying to write a halfway decent romance novel when a senile old man mumbled a cryptic warning, tackled her to the ground in the middle of Starbucks, and...died right on top of her.

Unfortunately for Emmy, the incident wasn't quite as random as she thought, and it turns out that the old man might have taken a bullet for her. Not only that, he slipped something into her pocket: a digital tablet containing secrets that she has no idea how to unlock, but that others are ready to kill for. Thrust into a world where nothing is as it seems, Emmy must try to track down her absentee father, deal with a flirtatious bad boy who may or may not be on her side, and, oh yeah, stay one step ahead of the killers lurking in the shadows of an exclusive prep school. The old man's parting advice to "trust nobody" doesn't sound so crazy after all....

Dial Em for Murder really didn't hit the mark for me.

I was confused by the plot, the mystery wasn't mysterious and the big reveal wasn't interesting but that wasn't the worst of it.

The worst of it was Emmy as a whole. She was so obsessed with the boy she liked and her father that she seemed totally unfazed by everything else that was going on in the book and it just didn't ring true for me. I didn't like her voice and she was just a walking cliche.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book, but admittedly I skimmed the second half of the book.
Book released 4th November 2016 by Simon Pulse
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

I wanted to enjoy American Panda a lot more than I actually did, and for that I'm very sorry. Maybe my hopes were too high going in, or maybe I just didn't really click with the story but so much of this book just didn't work for me.

Let me start with the good; I liked Mei's voice, and I loved the inclusivity this book tried to show. I really enjoyed watching Mei as a character develop over the course of the book and how that also was reflected on the relationships she has with those around her. One character that I particularly loved was Xing, and the scenes with her mum near the end were so well done.

But I just couldn't get to grips with Mei's relationship with Darren, which seemed liked a catalyst for her development but as a result was just instant romance. I hated all of he mandarin sprinkled in. I get that it was to outline the culture, but I don't know mandarin and it sort of disrupted my reading experience. 

I also feel like in some ways this book could achieve the opposite of what it sets out to. Sure, I get that a lot of Asian families are as traditional as Mei's, but some of the scenes seemed so extreme and so outrageous that I didn't really get Mei's family and instead had a negative view of them. Mei's germophobia is a plot device to show that she feels pressure to be a doctor but it's not what she wants, but it was dealt with is such a rough, untidy way that felt sort of angry and forced and selfish to me. That's the main issue that I had with the book.

On top of that, the pacing in this book was jerky and all over the place.

I think that American Panda could have been such a strong and meaningful book, but I think the approach lacked finesse, and the finished result just didn't resonate with me as a reader. 

Book released 6th February 2018 by Simon Pulse
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby

The Stranger Game

When Nico Walker's older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah's daily cruelties.

Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.

But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She's thin and drawn, where Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah's retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she's been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah. . . .

This book is completely a mystery, but also not even a mystery.

I've Wikipedia hopped enough to know how this story was going to end. Still, the suspense and the atmosphere was enough to keep me reading, and the snippets of Sarah's story made me feel even more engrossed in the story. this was a book that could have felt pushy or cluttered or messy but it was so completely clear and well written.

I loved the emotions through this book. Nico is broken and guilty at the way she feels and Sarah is mysterious but their relationship grows and they get this bond that it sort of makes your heart hurt when answers start coming in and the story stitches itself together. 

And despite the fact that this is a book which covers some pretty heavy topics, it never felt overly forced or limiting. This isn't an issue book, trying to make some statement that comes across as convoluted or overly flowered up, this is a suspenseful mystery book that keeps readers guessing even when they know where it's going.

Overall, The Stranger Game was a suspenseful and emotional read that kept me gripped all the way through. Cylin Busby has impressed me before, now she is impressing me again.

Book released 25th October 2016 by Balzer and Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

So much sadness. So much disappointment.

What had so much potential to be a top fantasy novel in the vein of Poison Study or Graceling lost it's identity in a mix of predictable characters and laughable cliffhangers. The romance was so shallow - if you're going to do a romance between a girl and her father's apprentice, at least make it like Riley and Beck in the Demon Trapper's series. Don't let is get washed down by tropes and predictability and shallowness.

Look, I had so many high hopes for this book. I wanted Britta to be this strong independent woman who don't need no man but I have no idea how she got so far in life, she was so completely incompetent and blind to the most obvious things. Obtuse is the word. Yes, obtuse. Don't even get me started on Cohen, the love interest... who apparently smells very very nice. I don't care Britta.

And what is this new fantasy trope of having the main character almost be the victim of sexual assault. I just can't with it.

I could go on and on about how I just did not enjoy this book and how I am so let down by where it went but I won't. I'm just going to shut up and end this review knowing that I most certainly will not be picking up the next in this series.

Book released 27th December 2016 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Long May She Reign

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

Yas. Yas Yas Yas!

I read Rhiannon Thomas' debut novel a few years ago and whilst I enjoyed it, it never blew me away.

That being said, Rhiannon Thomas is from the same city as me, and I felt a kinship in needing to read Long May She Reign when I saw it. I am so glad that I did. Freya is the fantasy MC that I have been searching for since I first met Katsa and Yelena and whilst she isn't quite there, she's almost there. She's smart and thoughtful and doesn't easily buy into the crap people are giving her and I respected that.

Yes, there was some level of convenience in the story line where something happens which conveniently leads to some kind of important discovery, but it's not glaringly obvious.

I loved the court intrigue and how that took centre stage in this book. Freya is thrown into this world and she has to navigate it with no experience. She never wanted to be queen and never thought she would need to be but here she is and she has to do the best she can, while uncovering the killer of the royal family. I loved it.

Rhiannon Thomas is slowly cementing herself to be a real heavyweight in fantasy fiction.

Book released 21st February 2017 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: This Tiny Perfect World by Lauren Gibaldi

This Tiny Perfect World

When Penny wins a scholarship to a prestigious theater camp, she thinks it’s the start of a perfect summer. But when she arrives at camp, Penny is thrust into a world of competition and self-doubt. And as she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that her own dreams may be bigger than she ever imagined.


This book is what it is... it's a fun little summer camp book that doesn't take to long to read and has some young characters making decisions and growing up. It's not offensive it's just not going to change the world.

I liked this book at the start. I liked Penny and Logan and Faye, they were close friends and you can see how much they both meant to Penny.

I just didn't like the way she changed after just a few days at summer camp. I get feeling stuck, and I get wanting bigger things, but Penny seemed to want things just because she felt like she ought to, not because she wanted to. I like how supportive Faye was as a friend, and I loved the relationship between Penny and her. That being said, I felt that Logan just got walked all over. He loves Penny, they are best friends and their families are expecting them to get married and make babies and they make such a cute couple but Penny just drops him for no really explained reason... then three pages later she's seeing him again and saying that she wants to be with him.

Chase was there for no other reason than a plot point to make Penny think about what she wants. He just has no substance for me aside from the whole big city dreams side of things.

Look, this book was ok, I finished it... but it's just teenagers making bad decisions for no reason. For that reason, I can't really buy into it.

Book released 27th February 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: My Plain Jane by The Lady Janies

My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies, #2)

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Take one of the best gothic romances of all time, add in spoonful of ghosts and mystery and copious amounts of hilarious pop culture references and pure wit and what do you get? The latest hilarious novel by the Lady Janies.

Now I have to be completely candid and admit that I didn't love this book quite as much as My Lady Jane. Still, I loved it nonetheless.

For the most part, the first half or so of this book runs pretty linear to the Jane Eyre story we all know, just with more humour thrown in and the whole ghost thing taking a big part of it. The second half though is like some crazy haywire story with people running everywhere and almost dying and making heroic rescues and ghost possession and honestly it was hectic and fast paced and consistently hilarious.

There was not a single character in this whole book that felt weak. Everyone was so unique and witty in their own ways. For me, Blackwood and Bran were my top two, but Charlotte and Helen and Jane and even Rochester and the Duke and seriously everyone was great. A book is only a strong as it's weakest character and this book is titanium. It's such a gem. It's diamond. I loved it.

I cannot wait to read more from these authors because individually, none of them are my favorite authors but they come together to make my favorite author team of all time.

Book released 26th June 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review