(Spoiler) Review: Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Warning: This is a SPOILER review. If you have not read QFG, or the rest of the SFGAE books for that matter, you may not want to read.

The School for Good and Evil is one of my favourite series of all time. When I found out a fourth book was coming, I was beyond excited for it. Writing another series within the same world has become so common nowadays, that maybe I shouldn’t have been as surprised. So, Quests for Glory kicks off with a 100 pages ‘where are they now?’ section. If you’ve read the Handbook of Good and Evil, you already have a good idea of it. Sophie is the Dean of Evil, Agatha and Tedros are getting married but their relationship is on the rocks – when is it not, let’s be honest? – Hort is a teacher for Evil, and the Coven have been given the task of finding a new school master. Phew, we’re all up to speed!

Because Hort and the Coven are given sections, this first part is quite lengthy. It’s very expositional but familiarises the reader with the characters again, so I’ll cut it some slack. But, along with the main characters, every other student in Agatha and Sophie’s year gets name dropped, telling you what quests they’re on too…

The plot finally gets rolling when Tedros can’t pull Excalibur out of the stone and a new enemy turns up: the Snake. There’s this pretty long winded explanation about The Lion and the Snake, another fairy tale that’s going to frame the book. When we meet the Snake, there’s the suggestion that he’s Rafal from the first trilogy but one thing is for sure: he’s evil.

We also get to meet Rhian, who shares a name with Rafal’s twin, the Good school master so that can’t be a coincidence. He’s all handsome and generally a better version of Tedros that Sophie can fall for. He actually has King Arthur’s blood. It felt like wish fulfilment. Sophie didn’t get the guy in the first trilogy, so we’ll just make her a new and improved version of the guy she wanted all along. But, with the foreshadowing of the evil connection, it’s not a surprise when Rhian’s too good to be true and turns out to be the villain. We’re also heavy-handedly told that Sophie ‘isn’t good at choosing guys’, so does it come as a shock? No. It’s exactly what we saw in The Last Ever After. I would have much preferred if Sophie didn’t fall for another cute evil guy because what does it say about the most powerful witch in the world if she needs a guy to goggle at?

Tedros, by the way, is a complete whiny child. He’s always moaning ‘this is my sword, my kingdom, I’m the king, blah, blah,’ that he comes off as so immature and not kingly at all! Agatha is downgraded to Tedros’ assistant and never really given her own moment to shine until the end when she works out who Rhian really is. They don’t work together as a couple – they don’t even feel like a couple, although we’re tricked into thinking they genuinely care about each other with a few small kiss scenes. I just don’t see them working and I need their relationship to have more depth. Show me they’re in love, don’t just tell me.

We also get introduced to some new characters – as promised – but they’re nothing more than names on a page for me. Nicola, the new Gavaldon girl, was the most fleshed out and introduced seemingly just as a love interest for Hort. She’s smart and captains the ship for their quest, but I don’t really know why Agatha or Sophie couldn’t have done that. They’re both equally capable. There was also Willam, Bogden, Kei and…maybe someone else, but like I said, I know so little about them that they seemed irrelevant when we were just focusing on the characters we knew. Nicola seemed to vanish once she’d served her purpose. I hope they all have a stronger presence as the series go on, and we don’t have to rely so much on Agatha and the gang to draw in readers…but then again, the new characters didn’t get enough screen time to be established, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re destined to the background forever.

At least there are some deaths in Quests for Glory. Chaddick, Tedros’ best friend who I’d completely forgotten about, was the first to be killed of on his mission. It came a bit too early for me to care, especially because there was no scene between him and Tedros beforehand to really assert their brotherhood. It was really relying on you knowing Chaddick from the first trilogy. Second to die was Lancelot, who, again, was a secondary, maybe even tertiary character and the least important adult. I’ll need at least one big main character death in this series for it to have some sense of believability. (My guess is Hester so that Sophie’ll take her place in the coven, especially if we’ve established that Anadil and Dot are besties within the trio, so Hester’s more isolated.)

We’re also introduced to this HUGE bit of lore about the school that would have probably been important to know in the first trilogy, and that is that there’s a house in the school specifically for kids that are being raised by evil parents but who are actually good, or vice versa. We learn that Rhian, Kei and Aric are all from this house. To have a grey area is a really good idea, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t that have been where Sophie and Agatha went? Sophie was raised good but she was evil, and Agatha was the opposite, so to add this convenient but important nuance to the school is too little too late.

There were some scenes I really enjoyed, though. The more action-adventure scenes were the group was fighting the Snake – particularly in that trap-door room – was very cinematic and even though the ending felt a little rushed, the pacing meant I didn’t want to blink because that would mean taking my eyes off the page. It ended on a massive cliffhanger, if you think that Rhian pulling Excalibur from the stone, Tedros failing and the world being plunged into chaos was a surprise.

Overall, this book did a lot of setting the scene for the next two books in the trilogy. A World Without Princes is such a great sequel, and probably my favourite book from the first series, so my expectations are definitely high for the next book. I’ll be reading it, for sure, and just hoping that my Agatha is given some more of the limelight! Quests for Glory, as a first book, was promising and ambitious and did great things to already be establishing a threat as big (or bigger?) than Rafal. I just can’t believe I have to wait another year to read what happens next…

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Review: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

More Than We Can Tell is a companion novel to Letters to the Lost, following the main secondary character, Rev and a new character, Emma. It’s not necessary to read Letters to the Lost, but it does add to the charm of this book that you get to find out how Juliet and Declan are getting on now. I wish all books by the same author happened in the same universe, it’s such a sweet idea!

Rev was severely abused when he was a kid. His father contacts him for the first time in a decade and it brings back all of his traumatic feelings. It’s pretty descriptive and will almost definitely be triggering. He’s also dealing with his parents taking on a new foster kid and feeling helpless to stop aggressive reactions.

Continue reading “Review: More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer”

Winter Kindle Book Haul!

Because most of the books I read on my Kindle are ARCs and I’m getting them from the Document tab, I forget that I’ve got some other great already-published books sitting on my digital shelves. These are all books that I’ve bought in the last couple of months and really want to be reminded of so, and hopefully make up a Kindle TBR for 2018.

Replica by Lauren Oliver

We received a copy of Ringer from Hodder and Staughton, which was extremely generous, but it made me want to kick myself for always choosing something else over Replica when I came across it in a Waterstone’s Buy-One-Get-One-Half-Price deal. (Isn’t that always the way, the moment you decide to buy something, it’s full price?) After giving up on a bargain physical copy, I finally spotted this for 99p (!!) and although I’d love to add the pink-and-orange cover to our shelves, a digital copy will have to do. It’s a book from two different perspectives that you read one after the other, and after reading Truth or Dare by Non Pratt, I’m really interested to see how that narrative style will work out in this more paranormal genre. I’ve also heard people compare it to Stranger Things, which I love, so we’ll see!

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

After reading Love, Hate and Other Filters, I’ve really wanted to find more books with Muslim protagonists, and since hearing Ayisha Malik talk about the relationship between  the Islamic faith and dating at YALC, I’ve been super curious to pick up her book that’s described as a muslim Bridget Jones. I’m hoping that this one will be a lot of fun and introduce me to some perspectives I haven’t read from enough.

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne 

I read a sampler of this that I got at YALC and have been really intrigued to continue. When I saw this come up for 99p during it’s release week, I couldn’t resist, and seeing as I’ve got the rest of Holly’s stand alones of my Kindle, it only made sense to add this yellow beauty to my e-editions. It’s about a girl called Audrey who analyses the behaviour of guys in relationships on screen and it sounds wonderful, if a little didactic. I loved the Spinster Club series, so fingers crossed this one is also a hit.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Any #OwnVoices story, I want to jump on top of right this second. Although I normally go for any other letter in LGBTQIA+ than ‘G’ – because it’s the most represented of these underrepresented groups and I want to show the others more love – Adam Silvera is one of these authors I’ve only heard good things about and I feel like the last person to jump on the Silvera band wagon. This is going to make me cry, I’m sure of it, since it’s about Griffin grieving the loss of his boyfriend, Theo, but sometimes I like to punish my heart.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Corodova

Speaking of LGBT+, this one has a bisexual main character, I’m pretty sure. It’s witchy and spooky and Latinx, all the things I need more of on my TBR (although I’m thinking this one is a book that would fit way better with Bee’s reading aesthetic!) I’ve found a lot of Alice and Wonderland comparisons, which isn’t a story I’m fond of, but it has some great ratings on Goodreads, so hopefully, I’ll be one of them.

 

Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the Lost is all about Juliet, who leaves letters on her mother’s gravestone as a way to process her grief. Declan is the boy who’s doing community service and stumbles across her letter. He reads it and decides to write back. The pair then communicate through letters and emails, without ever telling each other who the other person is. What’s tricky is that they go to the same school, and while Declan figures out Juliet’s identity, she’s still in the dark.

Continue reading “Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer”

Review: Truly Wildly Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

Note: We received this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I was really excited to read this after loving Stargazing For Beginners, earlier this year. I literally jumped when I saw this come up on NetGalley, because no way was I getting to read two new Jenny McLachlan books in a year. This definitely followed in the same style, and there’s so much to love about it.

First of all, Annie, the main character, has cerebral palsy and uses both a wheelchair and crutches in the book. I haven’t read about that many visibly disabled characters, and this is something I hope to change in the coming year. The discussion of Annie’s disability and her mentality surrounded it was really well handled, and although I can’t speak on behalf of those with CP, I felt it was respectful and insightful without trying to tell someone else’s story.

Second, it’s set at a sixth form and the representation of that environment is absolutely spot on. For the classes and cafeteria dynamic, to the desperate need to reinvent yourself and find new friends, I absolutely loved the setting. It took me right back to my sixth form years which were a delight.

Of course, it can’t be set in a school and not have English classes as a prominent feature. Throughout the novel, Annie and the boy she sits next to, Fab, are constantly arguing about Wuthering Heights. It felt like a copy and paste of my own A level lit lessons, as that was one of the texts we studied and I hated it. Jane Eyre, now that’s a book I can get behind. But, it was great to see how the book reflected Annie and Fab’s relationship and how it inspired the final 20% of the book in a very Sara Barnard style way. (Also, the style of the moors makes the cover beautiful!)

Annie and Fab are an interesting couple, mostly because they’re not a couple for most of the book. It’s obvious that Fab likes Annie, but Annie is apprehensive to be in a relationship. There’s a back-and-forth between them about this, and some classic miscommunication that could have been resolved quicker, in my opinion, and maybe I would have liked more reasoning for Annie’s disinterest in romance. She was showing a lot of demiromantic and asexual tendencies, and I got too excited about those possibilities when they weren’t canon.

I loved the scenarios that Annie and Fab were put in, like a costume party, a Polish wedding and a date involving berry-picking. It was all cute and lovely, exactly what I want in a contemporary romance.

Annie’s  mum was something special too. Close mother-daughter relationships are my favourite thing (see Radio Silence by Alice Oseman).  She was someone that Annie actually talked to about her problems and I loved her parental prominence.

Overall, I really liked Truly Wildly Deeply, if you couldn’t tell already, and give it 4 stars. There were a few things that I didn’t gel with, and there were a few pacing issues but they didn’t take away from how just lovely this book was. If you’re looking for disability rep, a love-tolerate romance and quirky plot points, I’d totally recommend this book.

Let’s Talk About The GoodReads Choice Awards!

The GoodReads Choice Awards have been going on for nine years. The only category I’ve voted in consistently since joining GoodReads in 2013 is the Best YA of the Year. I thought it would be fun to look back at all the previous years and see the winners, the voting numbers and whether it was a good indication of what YA people were reading that year.

2009
Winner – Along For the Ride by Sarah Dessen – 547 votes
Runner Up – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – 534 votes

As the first Goodreads Choice Awards, when the website was only two years old, these are some pretty good numbers for people reading YA. It’s also cool to know that these authors are both still writing eight years later, with many of Sarah Dessen’s later books making it to at least the first round of the challenge. Although I can’t speak for Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen is definitely a staple of YA, especially when you’re first transitioning from middle grade.

2010
Winner – Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – 825 votes
Runner Up – Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter – 655 votes

It seems so weird that a fourth book in a series was the runner up for this category, seeing as all of the winners have been stand alones. You go Ally Carter! She was also working on Heist Society simultaneously so had two different series in the category before Sarah J Maas ever did. As for Before I Fall, this definitely sets the trend for the next two years, when books about death (in some way) come out on top. Everyone just loves a bit of morbid YA, apparently. (Also, the film came out this year and was surprisingly good, so well done Lauren Oliver for keeping this book relevant for seven years.)

2011
Winner – Where She Went by Gayle Forman – 4221 votes
Runner Up – Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – 3352 votes

Now we’ve moved into the era where YA books are getting thousands of votes. 2011 was the year TFIOS was published and when everyone started paying attention to this age group. The Year of The Spin-offs. I’m surprised that Lola is the first Stephanie Perkins book to make the final two, seeing as everyone on BookTube raved about Anna so much! As for Gayle Forman, is it just me, or has no-one really heard from her since I Was Here? What’s she doing now?

2012
Winner – The Fault in our Stars by John Green – 37438 votes
Runner Up – Easy by Tammara Webber – 8890 votes

Ah, John Green, the king of YA. Of course TFIOS was going to win, everyone saw that coming but 37,000 votes to 9,000?? Are you kidding me? The Nerdfighters were so strong this year, and probably did wonders for getting more people to use GoodReads. Also, has anyone heard of the runner up book? Me neither.

2013
Winner – Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – 21818 votes
Runner Up – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – 17124 votes

This is such a funny year. Rainbow Rowell’s biggest competition was herself! That’s the dream, right there. Personally, I prefer Fangirl, but this is iconic. 2013 will forever be remembered as the Year of the Rainbow. It’s also interesting that Eleanor and Park was blurbed as ‘For Fans of John Green’, so that probably had some sway over the 37,000 people from the year before…

2014
Winner –  We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – 33948 votes
Runner Up – Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins – 20352 votes

Before I even looked at the results, I knew We Were Liars would be number one. This was the book that nobody would stop talking about and really proves the wonders of a good marketing campaign, particularly when it comes to getting BookTubers on board.

2015
Winner –  All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – 31978 votes
Runner Up – P.S I Still Love You by Jenny Han – 26274 votes

ATBP is marketed for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell. Basically, if a book gets compared to previous winners, or a John Green quote is on the cover, it’s bound to do well. Thinking about it, didn’t that happen with We Were Liars too? That man has a lot of power. I’m pleased to see a Jenny Han book in second, because although it’s my least favourite book in the series, it’s the first #OwnVoices, racially diverse book to make it to the top two and that shows a lot of promise. The gap between the two books is also super close. 2015 seemed like a good year for YA.

2016
Winner –  Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – 29122 votes
Runner Up – The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L Armentrout – 20168 votes

I was really surprised by these top two, because Salt to the Sea feels very left-field compared to the rest of these books. It’s historical fiction for one, and very, very serious. Bordering on sad the whole way through. As for Jennifer L Armentrout, I knew she was big with the Lux series, but I didn’t really get a sense that this would be the second best book of the year. The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo also made it to the list, and they’re equally diverse and #OwnVoices, so I think it would have been cooler to see one of those in top spot!

Side note: Let’s appreciate that Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour got just under 150 votes in 2009, and The Unexpected Everything got 16,200. Talk about reaching a bigger audience!

2017
Winner – The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas – 59571 votes
Runner Up – Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – 52517 votes

This year’s winners was the biggest ‘of course’ moment of the year. It’s amazing that John Green’s book, which came out in October, mind you, managed to get so many votes when THUG has been on shelves since February. THUG has set a trend for social justice books, with POC protagonists and that’s something I’m really glad has come about this year. From the look of it, 2018 is going to be even better. Hopefully, next year’s nominations will be even more inclusive!

Of the 18 books that have been called the cream of the crop by GoodReads users, I’ve read 10. Maybe next year, I’ll try and read the other 8, as a time wrap into YA history. Overall, I’d say the winners get more and more expected, based on how much buzz the book has in the year. Apart from 2016 – that came out of nowhere.

We might have a look at the fantasy awards, but really, it’s just Suzanne Collins for two year, Veronica Roth for three (seriously, how did Allegiant win when literally everyone disliked the ending??) Cassandra Clare for one (I thought she’d won a lot more than that!) and Sarah J Maas for the most recent three years. We really need to diversify our fantasy reading as a community!

Let me know how you feel about the GoodReads Choice Awards! It’s good to remember that they’re very US publication oriented, but do you think the winners are a good representation of the year?

 

Review: Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Note: We received this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This book comes to you in two very distinct parts. The first is a version of All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, with our main character, Maya, attracting the interest of two boys: the very sweet parents-approve Muslim and the most popular guy at school that Maya’s had a crush on for years.

In the first chapter, she seems really into Kareem. They meet at an Indian wedding and have a lot in common, with Kareem encouraging Maya to pursue her dream of being a film-maker. It was cute and I was looking forward to the romance unfolding, following in the footsteps of When Dimple Met Rishi. 

Then Paul gets introduced later and there’s this contrived way from them to hang out: teaching Maya to swim. Paul was an exciting prospect because I haven’t read many interracial relationship before, but I couldn’t get behind their romance because Paul was already in a relationship. He’s hanging out with Maya in a definitely romantic fashion, and neither of them show any remorse for the fact that what they’re doing is cheating. It wasn’t okay in Anna and the French Kiss and it’s not okay here. I can’t root for a couple when I know there’s another girl outside the page that’s getting her heart broken.

The cheating thing felt especially bitter when Kareem was so lovely and an all around great guy. I didn’t understand that something which started quite flirty quickly fizzled out into ‘let’s just be friends’. I’ve never been on the ‘wrong’ side of a love triangle before, so this was an interesting experience and one that I hope never to have again.

So, if you haven’t got the sense already, this is definitely a contemporary romance. It stays that way for around 60-70% of the book. The rest of the story takes a complete U-turn from this.

At the end of every chapter, you get this tiny scene that slowly tells the story of a suspected suicide bomber that shares the same surname as Maya. They are in no way related, but the town reacts as if Maya’s family is responsible for the trauma. The 15% where this storyline is pursued feels like a different book. I wish it had played a bigger part in the book as a whole, because it felt like I was waiting and waiting to get to the moment described on the blurb, and the romance was just filler until then. Regardless, this plot line was powerful and will always be relevant to what’s going on in the world, but particularly this year when every day we seem to wake up to news of another terror attack, or more mass injuries. It was jarring to place these two things together, but realistic in the way that a terror threat is always going to deeply disturb a normal life.

However, if I didn’t know this book was going to have such a powerful perspective on the repercussions of prejudice, hatred and Islamophobia, I don’t think I would have kept reading beyond the halfway point.

I’m so pleased that more books like this are being published, and that I got the chance to read about a character so far from my own perspective. It’s definitely inspired me to try and find more books like this in 2018 – and also finally get round to The Hate You Give…

Review: Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

*Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
(First posted on Goodreads on 4th November, having read the book on October 29th)

I’ve been really delayed in writing my review for this seeing as I finished it at the end of last week, but I was hoping that if I left in for long enough and I mulled over ‘Goodbye, Perfect’ I’d love it as much as I did Sara Barnard’s other books. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. (Hence why the rating in the featured image and the actual review are different – I had to be more honest with how I felt about the book, and not just be lenient with my rating because I loved Sara’s previous two books.)

I knew nothing about the plot before I started reading, which was definitely a good thing because if I’d have known it was about a student-teacher relationship, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up – not matter who wrote it. That relationship is one of my most hated buzzwords. Luckily, it’s from the perspective of the girl who’s best friend is groomed, delusional and ‘in love’ with her music teacher, which made it more manageable and definitely had me questioning the strength of loyalty in the face of a criminal offence.

My opinion was very firm. Even if Bonnie is Eden’s best friend, she doesn’t know how much danger she’s in so Eden needed to tell the police everything. And while I was sympathetic to the difficult situation Eden was in for the first fifty pages, I couldn’t deal with the same thought processes throughout the whole book. How this book managed to feel so long winded (slow paced and – dare I say it? – dull) at just over 300 pages is beyond me.

The saving grace of the book for me was Eden’s relationship with Valerie, her older sister that she struggled to bond with when she was first adopted, and Eden’s boyfriend Connor who was just an all around great guy. (Having a character in YA be in a committed relationship before the book began and NOT have any drama surrounding that relationship during the narrative was so refreshing!) These characters were both most prominent in the last fifty pages of the book where things started to get interesting for the first time.

Another thing that kept me reading despite feeling like I wasn’t getting enough out of the story was the newspaper inserts and text message exchanges. I was just waiting for what ridiculously warped thing Bonnie was going to say about how happy she was to be with Jack (ugh.) I love that multi-media is becoming more and more prominent in YA, at least!

There were also a lot of things happening in the background of this story that were super interesting but not developed enough for me. For example, Eden’s little sister Daisy and her descent into being a young troublemaker/following the path of Eden from years ago. Or the fact that Connor was a young carer for his mother. Or the relationship Eden had with her birth mother. Or Eden’s identity as biracial (with a Brazilian father). All of these things could have added a little zest to a story that was too consumed by Bonnie running away.

Also, (rant incoming) I’m never a fan of narratives that make a straight-A student/generally ‘good’ girl feel like she’s missing out on the ‘teenage experience’ (which doesn’t exist!) Being a teenager isn’t a check list of underage drinking and disrespecting your authority figures. I was told this way too much by people in secondary school that made fun of me thinking a nice evening consisted of watching Call the Midwife and knitting. Just because Bonnie cared about her exam results, that doesn’t make her boring or not worthy of her story being told.

Overall, this book gets 2.5 stars from me and I’m beyond disappointed that I can’t call this Sara Barnard’s best book yet. But she’s still one of my all-time favourite YA authors and I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that her next book is more my thing.

(Spoiler) Review: Follow Me by Sara Shepard

*Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 
This review will spoil the contents of The Amateurs so be warned if you are yet to read the first book! 

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I read The Amateurs. It was such a well paced and excitingly driven story with a plot twist that I really didn’t expect. Of course, I was pumped to read the sequel, but in comparison to the first book, it fell flat.

The main reason for this, I think, is because we knew from the very beginning who Seneca and the gang were hunting down. Brett, the guy from The Amateurs who helpfully joined their team, pointing them in all the right directions, only to be the killer himself. Since then, Brett’s changed his identity but not his MO, so we follow the group as they try and rescue Chelsea Dawson, a beautiful Instagram-obsessed teen from his dangerous clutches. Part of what made the first book so great was not knowing and so this felt like an entirely different genre: a mystery turned thriller, as we knew what Brett was capable of. But, because the book is so short, we never got to linger in the more menacing moments and so everything was a little…underwhelming.

There’s also the half-baked romance subplot between Seneca and Maddox that’s very much banking on their relationship and way they interact with one another being set up in the first book so the scenes between them lacked emotion. And romance in the middle of a thriller is just the biggest case of ‘now is not the time’ ever.

Also, whereas everyone in the group had a part to play in the first book, Aerin and Madison felt like they were just along for the ride. It was difficult to pinpoint what they were contributing to the situation. It seemed like social media was doing most of the work for them.

But then, I really did enjoy how reasonably everything was figured out, though. You could actually imagine that this is the way a bunch of teenagers would solve a crime by doing a little internet stalking and cross referencing comments on Instagram posts. The access to details the group had in the first book was a bit far fetched, but this had genuine logic to it.

I was also really interested in the way the police responded to Chelsea’s kidnapping and how they read it all as a bid for more followers on social media. I think there was some thought-provoking critique on how adults perceive teenagers’ behaviour nowadays.

The very last page about Brett kidnapping Aerin…well, it didn’t feel like there was enough groundwork to that for me to believe it would happen. And even then, because Aerin didn’t play a huge part in the narrative – being replaced by Chelsea – I don’t know if I care enough to know what happens next?

Overall, I’m giving it 3 stars. I definitely enjoyed Follow Me less than the first book, but if you’re in the mood for a quick kind of thriller read, I’d recommend it.

Review: Songs About Us by Chris Russell

*Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Songs About Us was a lot of fun and the perfect sequel to Songs About A Girl (which will get its own mention when Bee and I recommend our favourite books about music during Blogmas! Ooh, a little teaser there for you!)

Charlie Bloom, budding photographer, had connections with Fire & Lights, this book world’s version of One Direction, basically. You’ve got all the classic boy band personalities of the quiet, sensitive type, the comic goofball, the moody and broody. Charlie’s got to know two of the band members quite well, Olly (the down to earth, take home to your parents one) and Gabriel (the Harry Styles one). In the first book, there’s some suggestion of romance for Charlie with both boys and this book takes it beyond suggestion.

I don’t know which boy band member I’d prefer her to be with. It’s a bit annoying that both boys make a great couple with Charlie. But, I think Olly is definitely stealing more of my heart than Gabriel. She gets cute moments with both of them, nonetheless, but there’s no doubt that when she’s with Gabriel, things get a little more…serious.

Songs About Us has a darker tone than the first book as Charlie delves deeper into the mystery of her mother’s past and just how much more she has in common with Gabriel than she realises. I loved the way that this came together – speaking of which, that cliffhanger?? Completely unfair. I need the final book this instant.

I absolutely loved any boyband fantasy moment, like when they were mobbed by fangirls, when they were on the private jet, when the boys walked out of a TV interview, when they were mobbed by fangirls…did I say that already?

I also felt like I got to know the other band members a little more in this book, and I hope that they become even more prominent in the final book. (Also looking forward to Carrie, Charlie’s famous female idol, being part of the story too – I could always do with some more female friendship.)

Songs About Us is definitely on par with the first book, and continues all the guilty pleasure plot threads that fangirls can only dream about. It’s fast paced, silly fun and I’ll definitely be picking up the final book in the series to see where it ends up. Until then, I’ll be listening to the Fire & Lights songs Chris has recorded.