Tuesday 31 January 2023

Book Review | My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix | prettylittlewriter

'Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act….different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?’

This was such a fun read. 

I loved diving into the 80’s era; the fashion, the roller skating scenes, amongst other things, really set the vibe and it felt very authentic!

The overall theme of the book is a mashup of some familiar things, like The Exorcist and Carrie, and it really feels very nostalgic to read. Although I wasn’t born until the 90’s, I’ve watched plenty of TV and movies from/about the 80’s, some of which blended into the 90’s, so it felt quite familiar to me.  I also loved that there were so many references to pop culture, such as Madonna, and certain songs/lyrics were threaded throughout the story, including a particular song that actually helped Abby during an incredibly difficult moment.

Abby and Gretchen’s relationship was cute, although Abby could be quite selfish on occasion, but you could clearly tell they were made to be best friends. It was a brilliant dynamic between them, and it was clear that Abby was desperate to help her friend, even when no one else could see that she’s wasn’t okay, and Abby was actually frozen out by a lot of people (Gretchen’s parents really pissed me off!).

The exorcism side of things was cleverly done also, I enjoyed the character of Christian, and although felt disappointed that he wasn't as good an Exorcist as we were first led to believe, it meant that Abby had her 'moment'. 

It’s the usual balance of Horror and comedy that you see with Grady’s writing, and in my opinion, it works incredibly well. I cannot fault a thing about this novel, I enjoyed it 1000% and will definitely be recommending it to plenty of people!

I can’t really say much else without fully going into details and spoiling it, so I’ll just leave you with the fact that it is wonderfully clever, and I am yet to be disappointed by one of Grady’s books!

5/5 stars

Friday 27 January 2023

Book Review | My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite | prettylittlewriter

 'When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other...'

This is a brilliantly clever and hilarious story, based around a deadly sisterly bond. 

I had a lot of empathy for Korede, especially when Ayoola seemed to show no remorse for what she'd done after each murder, and when she started having a relationship with the guy that Korede really liked, I was very concerned for her, as it was quite clear that he was going to be Ayoola's next target. 

The relationship between the two sisters was quite toxic at times, mainly stemming from Ayoola's selfishness, and what I can only describe as a fucked up past surrounding their father. 

I liked that the chapters were short and snappy, it kept me wanting to read on, and I ended up finishing the novel in just a few hours. 

There are some funny moments, Korede's dry humour and sarcasm keeping me entertained, and I liked her authority around the other members of staff at the hospital, it allowed for some funny scenes. I also liked her relationship with the coma patient (I've forgotten his name already, oops), and how she gave him strength to say no to his own family. 

The only thing I would say is that I would have liked to have seen a bit more growth with Korede's character. She did so much for everyone around her, and was constantly taken advantage of, so it would have been nice to see her put her foot down and say no herself for once, and to put herself first for a change. 

Overall though, a brilliant story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

4.5/5 stars

Monday 23 January 2023

Book Review | The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena | prettylittlewriter

‘Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all--a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they've kept for years.’

This was gripping from start to finish. I read it in two days, hours really as for half the days I was working, and I just couldn’t put it down!

My first Shari Lapena novel, I’d heard great things about her books so I picked this one up with high hopes and I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

I really felt for Anne, suffering from post-partum depression to start with, and then having her baby taken away and having to deal with that really would have sent anyone over the edge into a breakdown. I hated that Marco was flirting with her neighbour all night too, it really pissed me off as flirtation in general is one thing, but to do it in front of your other half, is just cruel.

So when we get into the story, and we find out that it wasn’t just a bit of flirting, I wasn’t surprised.

I also wasn’t surprised when we found out what Marco had done.

What I was surprised by, was how the story ended. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Well, there were two aspects I wasn’t expecting. The person who orchestrated the entire kidnapping plan, and the murder that took place after.

Shari really knows how to pull you in and throw in some absolute shock factor content!

I won’t say anything else as I wouldn’t want this review to have any real spoilers, all I will say, is that if you love a crime novel, then definitely read this!

5/5 stars

Saturday 21 January 2023

Book Review | The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan | prettylittlewriter

'We have your daughter'

Frida Liu is a struggling mother. She remembers taking Harriet from her cot and changing her nappy. She remembers giving her a morning bottle. They'd been up since four am.

Frida just had to finish the article in front of her. But she'd left a file on her desk at work. What would happen if she retrieved it and came back in an hour? She was so sure it would be okay.

Now, the state has decided that Frida is not fit to care for her daughter. That she must be re-trained. Soon, mothers everywhere will be re-educated. Will their mistakes cost them everything?’

This was an interesting read.

It started out with the heart-wrenching scene of Frida having her daughter taken from her. At first, I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for Frida herself, more for Harriet, her daughter, as she should not have left her home alone. Everyone knows that, especially at such a young age.

However, as things kept escalating, with Frida being assigned to the school for re-training, rather than having supervised visits for a while and then getting her back (not that I know how these things work really anyway), it became clear that this wasn’t an ordinary story.

When Frida arrives at the school, she is introduced to lots of different Mothers that have all done something to endanger their child to end up there, and some of them were a hell of a lot worse that what Frida did. Each mother was treated the same, and none of it was in a nice way.

They were introduced to the ‘dolls’ that were their temporary children during their stay, and had to show that they could take care of them before a judge would decide whether they could see their own children again. The dolls were pretty creepy to start with, but slowly I started feeling like they weren’t just dolls, and it seemed like the feelings that were programmed into them, were actually real, and I started feeling incredible sympathy for them and actually kind of wanted Frida to end up with her doll as her daughter, just so she had some love in her life.

The main issues being tackled within this book by Chan are very much sexism (the mothers are treated differently and unfairly compared to the fathers that are also doing the same thing) and the stereotype of a woman's role when she become a mother; they are basically not allowed to have any feelings that aren’t positively related to their child. Some mothers start having relationships between each other, they are punished for this, and when they meet the fathers from the other school, Frida meets a man she likes and instantly is told that she cannot be involved as she will lose her child. This is incredibly unfair, as you do not need to have your sole focus in life as your child for them to grow up well and be cared for, every parent deserves to have other aspects of life too.

Although this was a good read as the dystopian storyline was interesting and infuriating at times, it was also very slow. I was constantly waiting in anticipation for Frida to possibly get her child back, but it wasn’t until the last 80-90% of the book that we had the outcome, which was also not what I expected or hoped for. For such a painful and raw storyline, it was hard to read with it being so long. It took me longer than usual to get through this length of book, mainly because it just felt like a chore being so slow.

Overall, it’s a very thought-provoking story, but it also felt a little redundant as there was no resolution at the end, Chan actually threw in something else as an ending which would have only caused more problems for Frida, which is not what I wanted for her character.

2.5/5 stars

Wednesday 18 January 2023

Book Review | The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber | prettylittlewriter

‘After Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she'll never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.

But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.

Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can. . . .’


I cannot believe how this ended. Thank you Stephanie for making me so desperate for the next book that I don’t think I’ll survive the wait!!


Ballad starts right where Broken Heart left off, Evangeline having been betrayed by Jacks and feeling alone.

The entire story is Evangeline deciding whether to help Jacks open the Valory Arch, and locating the stones that are required for this. With new curses put upon Evangeline and Apollo, she is eventually persuaded to help. She has no idea what will happen when the Arch is opened, or why Jacks wants to open it up, but she goes along with it in the hopes there will be something within the Arch that can save Apollo.


Now, I will say this. Evangeline actually irritates me quite a bit. Jacks is mean, manipulative and deceitful, yet she is constantly finding a reason to still care for him and want to be with him. I understand that the enemies to lovers trope is massive (I enjoy it myself too) however, her need to find a tiny shred of humanity within him is just infuriating. Apart from saving her life a couple of times, he treats her very shitty and I just don’t think he deserves it. I think I’d much rather her end up with Apollo or even Luc at the moment (but I think we can all agree that that’s not where this story is going!)


Stephanie’s writing is just so brilliantly done, she keeps you hooked right from the start, and after every chapter you find yourself saying, ‘just one more’ until you’ve actually finished the book without realising! It also helped that none of the chapters were ridiculously long (I like them short and snappy!).


Each individual character is incredibly interesting, from LaLa to Chaos, I wanted to know more about them and their pasts, and some unexpected characters were involved quite a lot too, which I enjoyed. Chaos was especially interesting, and his story takes a turn I did not expect!


I love the ideas within the book, including the story curse, that changes all stories after each time they’ve been read, so the truth can never really be revealed. It’s very cleverly done.

There is a little bit more sexual tension in this novel that in the first, which I was surprised to see within a YA novel, but I’m certainly not complaining. It can’t be denied that Evangeline and Jacks have some intensely good chemistry!


Without going into the storyline too much as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that has yet to read Ballad, I think it’s a brilliant sequel with some great twists and turns, and the ending shocked me TO THE CORE.

I now desperately need to read book #3 to find out how Evangeline’s story is going to end!

 ps. how beautiful is the fairyloot edition?!

5/5 stars

Friday 13 January 2023

Book Review | A Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan | prettylittlewriter

When the department store she works in closes for good, Carmen has perilously little cash and few options. She doesn’t want to move in with her perfect sister Sofia, in Sofia’s perfect house with her perfect children and her perfectly ordered Edinburgh life.
Frankly, Sofia doesn’t exactly want Carmen there either. Her sister has always been sarcastic and difficult. But Sofia has yet another baby on the way, a mother desperate to see her daughters get along, and a client who needs a retail assistant for his ailing bookshop, so welcoming Carmen might still have some benefits for everyone.
At Sofia’s behest, Carmen is thrown into the daily workings of old Mr. McCredie’s ancient bookshop on the streets of the old dark city. Can she use her design skills to revamp the store and bring it back to popularity in time to benefit from Christmas shopping traffic? Can she choose between bad boy literary rock star Blair and quiet Quaker student Oke? And will she heal the rift with the most important people of all: her family?’

This was a lovely heart-warming read.


I always like to read Christmas stories over the holidays, but I ended up finishing this in January because there’s just never enough time between seeing friends and family and having a break from work!


At the start of the novel, I didn’t like Carmen. She was mean, and very selfish. But that didn’t last very long. Once she arrived at her sister’s and started working for Mr McCredie, she really turned into an MC that you like and are rooting for.

I loved watching the bond develop between her and her sister, Sofia. The fact that they hated each other to start with, and Carmen hated children, to then have them being incredibly close and the children, especially Phoebe, gravitating towards Carmen all the time, was just lovely to see.


I would say, I was waiting for the romance part of the novel to come into it a lot sooner, and as soon as we met Blair, I knew that this could not be the guy she ended up with, as he was a complete narcissist, so when it took nearly 3/4’s of the book to have a real chance at romance between Carmen and Oke, I found it slightly disappointing. It was also incredibly infuriating reading them either missing each other constantly, or one of them getting the wrong idea about another person that they were seen with, I was getting quite impatient!


I love that Carmen ended up helping Mr McCredie in more ways than one, the bookshop and his own past, with the introduction of some family member’s he didn’t know he had. It was so heart-warming and sweet to read.


Jenny has done a wonderful job of creating the most magical bookshop ever. If it existed, I would want to live there! Once Carmen had done her thing and started bringing in new decorations, and books that people would actually read, it just felt so cosy and I wanted to jump into the book and go shopping there!


Overall, I absolutely loved this book, and it really is the perfect festive read!


4/5 stars

Friday 6 January 2023

Book Review | Gifts by Laura Barnett | prettylittlewriter


Maddy runs the bookshop on Market Square. She's struggling to choose a gift (a watch? a wine subscription? a weekend bag? all too much?) for her old school friend Peter, who's just moved back from London following a messy divorce.

Peter doesn't have a clue what to get for his teenage daughter Chloe - furious with her mother, she's decided to up sticks and move to Kent with him, but he worries that he really doesn't know her at all.

Chloe wants to buy something special for her grandmother Irene, who lives alone on the other side of town.

Irene doesn't get out much these days, but she'd really like to find the right gift for Alina, who's so much more than a carer, really - always stops to chat for a bit, have a cup of tea, even if it makes her late.
And Alina, meanwhile, has her eye on something for...’

I think this is probably going to be an unpopular opinion, but I didn’t enjoy this novel that much.


The idea of 12 interlinked stories is appealing, and at the start of the novel, I was enjoying it quite a bit, reading about Maddy and Peter, but then when it kept switching character after those two, I completely lost interest. I was invested in seeing Maddy and Peter get together, so I felt let down that we had no real outcome for them. I was also very sad that we didn’t have more from Jake, he deserved to have some happiness, and the small thing from Eddy just wasn’t enough IMO.


As it’s a fairly short book, I kept reading until I finished it, but I did stop enjoying it after about 50 pages.


I will say however, that Burnett has jammed some really interesting things into each chapter for each individual character, and you do get to know each of them quite well to say they only have a short section about them.

I think this novel will work really well for those that enjoy multiple different POVs, but personally, it just wasn’t for me.

2/5 stars