Hello everybody! Today, I’m back with another (very overdue) review post, even though it’s very overdue (the original date in my diary for this was October 15th, besties), and these are all books I’m delighted to have been sent by the publishers and thoroughly enjoyed. From now on, these posts will be probably be called heaven sent, because I just love it as a title, and it’s such a great song by SPINN! Onto the post!
Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I read this back in the summer, with my friend Sophie, and I loved this deliciously dark mix of fact and fiction; inspired by the life of little-known female serial killer Belle Gunness. We meet her when she is still young and living in Norway, then follow her as she emigrates to New York. Her ambition and disgust towards misogyny and sexism soon sets her on her killing spree, and though the book is slow to start, it gets so gripping by the end that I could barely put it down. The humour is absolutely pitch black and the story is not for those faint of heart, but if you’re looking for something a bit different and something that combines the historical and thriller genres, I think you might really like this. Belle is a fascinating character, despite not being particularly likeable, and I’m so glad I read her story. I know this is a pretty short review, but it truly is so hard to talk about this book without spoiling the whole thing! Trust me, you want to gasp at the most shocking moments.
Dead Good Detectives by Jenny McLachlan and illustrated by Chloe Dominique (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This was another buddy read, with Sophie and also our friend Izzy, and as we all really like the Roar trilogy we were excited to pick up the start of Jenny’s new series. It follows two friends, Sid and Zen, as they attempt to help a pirate ghost fulfill his last wish and find peace. The friendship between the two of them is full of banter and so fun, the pirate ghost is as eccentric as you’d probably expect, and I also loved the comedic touch of Elizabeth the parrot and her favourite little phrases that she was constantly repeating. The blend of mystery and fantasy is something I always enjoy too, and as ever, Jenny McLachlan is so great at worldbuilding even though this is a more contemporary setting than the fantastical world of Roar. In addition, I found the ending very interesting and kind of unexpected, and definitely plan to pick up the next installment once it’s out.
The First Thing About You by Chaz Hayden (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I hadn’t heard of this before I was approached by the publicist about it, but I’m always down to read books with disability rep, so I obviously said yes. It follows a boy named Harris, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, as he moves to a new town and starts school. He soon gets paired with an enigmatic new carer/personal assistant named Miranda, who changes his life completely. I really enjoyed this- obviously I have a different condition and not everything applied, but some of the rep in here really resonated with me, and I love that it puts the Harris/Miranda working relationship at the centre of the book. My experiences at school aren’t something I discuss publicly, because reasons, but I had some amazing assistants at uni and I wouldn’t be the same person without having met them (fun fact: one of them is now actually a close friend!). Furthermore, it is hilarious and I laughed SO much, and the exploration of making friends and having crushes as a disabled person was also so great. Overall, I’m a big fan of this debut, and I definitely want to read more from Chaz in the future.
Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review) This is such a unique story, set in a future where virtual reality gaming has a huge amount of importance. It follows a girl named Rayna, who is at this exclusive summer camp for gamers, and she is keeping this huge secret that she is one of the top players in the amateur virtual reality gaming sphere, competing in the tournament that is really intended for older players and keeping her gender a secret due to the rampant sexism female players face. As you’d expect, there is amazing commentary on misogyny and the problems women face, particularly in the world of sport, as in this world, virtual reality gaming has turned into a professional sport. I read this around the time of the Lionesses’ historic win, and I think it made it even more enjoyable and thought-provoking as I could see some very similar things happening in the real world. It’s also absolutely gripping and high octane, the perfect fast paced read with lots of action and drama! I’m so excited to read more from this author, particularly her MG fantasy!
The Light Thieves by Helena Duggan and illustrated by Katie Kear (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
To my great shame, I’ve somehow never finished the Perfect series despite thoroughly enjoying the first two books, but when I was offered a copy of this I thought it would be a brilliant read, as well as hopefully jolting me into FINALLY reading the Battle for Perfect. This follows a boy named Grian, who lives in a world where the sun is apparently dying, and his journey to save his sister when she mysteriously vanishes, seemingly because of a sinister billionaire with a plan to save the world from ‘the Tilt’, alongside his new friends Jeffrey and Shelli. It’s super fast paced, with very inventive worldbuilding and very memorable characters- especially the villain, but the protagonists are great too. Just when you thought you knew what was going to happen, there was another twist or turn, that completely changed everything, and on the whole, I was just gripped by this adventure. I’m definitely intrigued enough to pick up the next book, especially given the tantalising set up the ending of this book provides it with. And, hold me to this, I *will* read the Battle for Perfect in 2023!!
Lark and Kasim Start a Revolution by Kacen Callender (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is the story of a nonbinary aspiring author named Lark, and what happens when their ex best friend Kasim posts something about being in unrequited love on their twitter, which Lark pretends was them in order to save Kasim from the embarrassment. Their friendship/relationship is unconventional and complex, but a very compelling centrepiece of the book. I think my favourite thing about this, aside from the fact the characters are all so flawed and interesting, was that it explores so many important subjects. It looks at racism, for example, as well the marginalisation of many different groups within the LGBTQ community. Furthermore, I’ve never read a book that discusses polyamory or nonmonogamy before, so that was pretty fascinating too! This was such a thought-provoking, unique read, and it’s solidified that I really want to read some MG from Kacen Callender as well; they’re such a brilliant writer. Someone make me do it next year please!
Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One by Maggie Horne (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is, without doubt, up there with my very favourite middle grade contemporaries; so if that doesn’t convince you to read it, I don’t know what will. It’s about a girl named Hazel, who becomes embroiled in trying to bring down a nasty online sexual harassment scheme at her school, alongside her new friends Ella Quinn and Ryley. The humour in here is so exactly my vibe and I laughed a ton, and the feminist vibe and queer rep is just EVERYTHING as well. Hazel is an incredible protagonist, and someone I could relate to a lot, and the friendships and sisterhood solidarity made me so happy. This is for sure a tough read in places because people like Tyler are all too real, but on the whole, reading it made me feel so empowered and joyful ; the ending is a ridiculously perfect blend of resolving the major issues while being realistic that misogyny and sexism probably won’t ever go away for good. I can’t wait to read this again (oh yeah, that’s how much I loved it!), and to read more from Maggie! Her next book sounds amazing and I hope there will be many more afterwards as well!
Autumn Moonbeam: Spooky Sleepover by Emma Finlayson-Palmer and illustrated by Heidi Cannon (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This could have went in my upcoming (hopefully very soon) spooky season review post, but I decided to pop it in here instead! It is the second chapter book following Autumn Moonbeam, who lives in a world that’s very like ours but with a more magical slant, and her experiences being part of a magical dance/gymnastics club. This installment sees them having a team-building sleepover event, but when it seems like they’re being haunted, they have to investigate before someone potentially gets hurt. The whole idea and execution of it is so much fun- there are some fabulous puns- and I love the diverse array of characters, and the the Heidi Olivia Cannon brings them to life, so much. In addition, I loved the reveal of who was behind the spooky goings on, and I think this series is just adorable- a perfect palate cleanser for adults who read younger books, and something sure to ensnare children who are new to reading. I hope to see more Autumn Moonbeam books next year for sure!
What’s New, Harper Drew: Talent Show Takeover by Kathy Weeks and illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
Again, this is set around Halloween, and the snake content definitely made it scary, but it’s another one I decided to put in this post instead. It’s the second in the hilarious Harper Drew series, which follows a girl and her delightfully dippy family’s madcap antics and mishaps. This time round, Harper is trying to organise a Halloween talent show to fundraise for her local foodbank/save her brother’s skin after he does something extremely silly, and in the background, a pet snake has gotten loose in their neighbourhood. The snake situation made me laugh SO much, as did the general mayhem that surrounds the Drews and those around them; I just absolutely love the humour of these. The characters are all deeply loveable despite their flaws, especially our brilliantly funny narrator Harper. If, like me, you desperately wish the Ally’s World series would make a comeback/you plan to reread them someday hopefully soon for the nostalgia and joy, this series is seriously perfect for you!
How to Hide an Alien by Karen McCombie (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
Throughout her career, Karen McCombie has turned her hand to just about every genre you can think of, but all of her books have the same humour and heartwarming vibe to tie them all together, meaning that this diehard Ally’s World and Stella Etc. fan has followed her through literally all of it. This is the second in her contemporary sci-fi series, which follows an alien named the Star Boy who has ended up stuck on Earth, and Kiki and Wes, two humans going through a lot of tough personal stuff who barely knew each other before his arrival, who band together to help him adapt to his new life and also keep him safe from those who would harm him. The friendship trio is so adorable and lovely, the supporting cast are all brilliant and I really felt like each one of them could be a real person that you could meet, and I love the sci-fi elements of the Star Boy discussing his home. It made me giggle in so many places, and I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear or two at the end! I’m not sure if there’s going to be another book in the series, as I feel it could go either way with the ending of this one, but no matter what Karen writes next, you absolutely know I’ll be reading it!
Thank you so much for reading! What have you been reading recently? Do you have any thoughts on the books I’ve mentioned? I’d love to chat in the comments!
2 thoughts on “Reviews: Heaven Sent, part 2”
Triflers is not my usual fare at all, but I have to admit I’m intrigued!
I have a copy of the Light Thieves here too, but haven’t got to it yet. But you’ve just reminded me that I never read the final Perfect book either!
I loved Felix, so I might see if there’s an audiobook of Lark and Kasim at some point…
I liked Hazel Hill but felt it sat really oddly age-wise, a bit neither here nor there in the no man’s land between core MG and teen.
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We should buddy read it!!! X