YA Review: My Teeth in Your Heart

Title: My Teeth in Your Heart
Author: Joanna Nadin
Edition:
Kindle ARC
Rating:
5/5

My Teeth in Your Heart

Another Netgalley ARC from UCLan Publishing, and another surprising, smart YA romance with compelling characters and plenty of emotional depth. I was hooked from the first page, and the story only became more gripping as the author built up the stories of Billy and Anna, two women in the same family, finding first love fifty years apart.

But there’s so much more to the story. The book opens in 1975 with Anna, 17 and accidentally pregnant. She had been aiming for good A-level results and a place at Cambridge, but instead she’s dealing with her mother’s disapproval – and there’s no way she can go to university now.

In 2024, Anna’s granddaughter Billy is studying for her A-levels, but spending time when she should be in class hooking up with a boy she can’t tell anyone about, because he has a girlfriend, and because her best friend has a crush on him.

Their stories are told in parallel, with alternating chapters. We learn that, until the summer of 1974, Anna had lived in Cyprus – a good, academic girl in the ex-pat community. She spent her time studying, swimming with her fashionable friend Nancy, and at her secret job in a bookshop. Her parents wouldn’t approve of her working – and certainly not alongside the Cypriot boy she’s falling in love with. With the threat of invasion growing, Anna is torn between her safe ex-pat life, and the lives of the local families who have nowhere to escape to. We follow Anna through the summer of 1974 as she discovers her independence and makes choices that will transform her life, and the lives of the people around her.

Meanwhile, Billy’s discovery of her grandmother’s diary gives her an insight into her grandparents’ lives, and a family history she hadn’t suspected. Anna had lost contact with her Cypriot friends after the Turkish invasion, and a 2024 trip to Cyprus gives Billy and her mother the chance to piece together the events of 1974, and to discover their own shared history.

This is a truly wonderful story. The characters are beautifully drawn and absolutely real as they live through terrifying events and face impossible choices in 1974, and follow in those footsteps in 2024. The dual narration is brilliantly handled, and provides a framework for the author to reveal the full story slowly, with maximum impact for the characters and the reader.

I adored this book. Emotional, relatable, intriguing and unpredictable – absolutely a five-star read.

My Teeth in Your Heart will be published on July 4th. Thank you to NetGalley for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read My Teeth in Your Heart? What did you love about it – the characters, the story, the settings? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: My Teeth in Your Heart cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis

Title: The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis
Author: Roxy Eloise
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis

I love a good, original YA Dystopia, and this ticked all the boxes! A training centre for teenagers learning to be Enforcers of curfew and other laws, arranged marriages, strict relationship rules, games with life-changing rankings for the winning teams, friendships and romances, a mysterious commander with a grudge against the narrator, and a really interesting twist with a setup for book two.

Aurora has been raised in the Boulderfell Institute for Young Enforcers. Her only memories of a life before the institute are dreams of running with her friend Tayo, and being caught by Enforcers at the age of three. The book begins with her move from the children’s quarter to the adult section, following her sixteenth birthday. The author captures the fear and anxiety of the move – relatable for anyone who has changed schools or employers and worried about how they will survive in a new environment.

And Aurora is right to be anxious. The adult section brings the potential for an arranged engagement, a step up to dangerous competitive games, patrols in the outside world, and conflict with the commander of the Institute. It doesn’t take long for her to find herself in serious trouble, betrothed to a stranger, and targeted by older trainees who are threatened by her physical abilities. When she discovers someone from her past at the institute, everything she believes about herself is challenged, and she must decide who – and what – to believe.

I loved this book. I loved the story and the setup. I loved the characters, and Aurora in particular. I loved the people who supported her, however secretly, and I loved the twist at the end. This is the beginning of an excellent YA dystopian series, and I’m looking forward to book two!

Have you read The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis? What did you think of Aurora’s story?Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Guidal – Discovering Puracordis cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces

Title: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces
Author: Linda Cheng
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces

Confession time: I love ‘behind the scenes in the music business’ stories. Think Daisy Jones and the Six, Coyote Ugly, Espedair Street or Almost Famous. I even loved Julie and the Phantoms. I don’t know what it is about catching a glimpse behind the curtain at the off-stage antics and work ethic of band members, but I’m hooked.

So how could I resist Gorgeous Gruesome Faces, which promised dark secrets, female rivalries, personality clashes, and the gruelling selection process for a K-Pop band? Sign me up!

And the book delivered. From the flashbacks to narrator Sunny’s former band, a disastrous love triangle and the death of a band-mate, to the competition to become part of a new K-Pop sensation, everything I was looking for was there, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

What I wasn’t expecting was the dark twist, and the genuinely unsettling psychological horror of the present-day storyline. This element of the story builds slowly, with flashbacks introducing the theme, and gradually creeps into the narrator’s experiences as she works to win her place in the band. I’m not usually a horror fan, but this had me gasping, turning pages late into the night, and desperately trying to work out what was going on.

The high-stakes, life-changing competition and the clever psychological storyline work so well together, and I couldn’t put the book down. Interesting characters, burning rivalries, and deadly mistakes come together to produce an un-put-downable novel. The end was not the resolution I had been expecting when I opened the book, but it is definitely a satisfying ending for the narrator. Recommended if you’re looking for a dark twist on the K-Pop celebrity dream.

Have you read Gorgeous Gruesome Faces? What did you think of Sunny’s story? Did you guess what was happening? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Gorgeous Gruesome Faces cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Where Sleeping Girls Lie

Title: Where Sleeping Girls Lie
Author: Faridah Abike-Iyimide
Edition:
Kindle ARC
Rating:
3.5/5

YA Review: Where Sleeping Girls Lie

An intriguing take on the unreliable narrator trope, Where Sleeping Girls Lie follows Sade as she finally leaves home to attend an expensive boarding school, following the death of her wealthy father. Her mother died when Sade was ten, and we very quickly learn that the teenager is haunted by visions and flashbacks of an unnamed girl she couldn’t save from drowning.

The formerly homeschooled Sade is shown round the sprawling school grounds by her roommate, Elizabeth, who helps her through the culture shock of the world of uniforms, timetables, and sneaking into places you shouldn’t have access to. But when Elizabeth disappears less than twenty-four hours after Sade’s arrival, the plot twists begin to pile up, and Sade discovers that there is more to her new school than lessons, sport, and clubs.

The key word in the title is ‘lie’. Everyone in the story lies, misrepresents themselves, and disobeys the rules – including Sade. As the story progresses, and the reader finds out more about Sade’s background and her reasons for coming to this school, the extent of the lies and omissions start to come into focus. In time all the pieces come together – what happened to Elizabeth, why Sade blames herself for the death of the girl who haunts her, and which of her friends are lying to protect a disturbing secret. It’s an interesting read, because figuring out the truth is almost impossible until Sade uncovers the secrets and puts the connections together.

Touching on sensitive subjects, including sexual assault, suicide and grief, Where Sleeping Girls Lie is a cathartic story – and an uncomfortable one. The constant lies, threats, and physical danger enhance the feeling of being lost in a new environment, and ignored by the people in authority who should be offering protection. There are some lighter moments – Sade’s friendship with Baz, Elizabeth’s best friend before her disappearance, is lovely, as is the growing affection between Sade and Persephone – but these elements of the story act as a contrast to emphasise the secrets and lies.

I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to recommend this book, but I’m still thinking about the story – and that’s probably as good a recommendation as any.

Where Sleeping Girls Lie will be published on March 14th. Thank you to NetGalley for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read Where Sleeping Girls Lie? What did you think of Sade’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Where Sleeping Girls Lie cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Black Heat

Title: Black Heat
Author: Bex Hogan
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: Black Heat

My absolute favourite book of 2023, Black Heat completely consumed me. Three strong female leads with very different lives, all affected by – and contributing to – a war they have been powerless to prevent. What do the princess, the blacksmith and the midwife have in common, and how will their individual actions shape their common goals?

I loved every part of this book. The three women have different motives and different positions in society, and each brings a different type of strength to the story. Marzal, the princess, searches for ways to survive and protect herself in a royal court where everyone is playing dangerous games, and no one can be trusted. Rayn, the blacksmith, seeks revenge for the deaths of her family while negotiating her own survival on a battlefield dominated by dangerous men. Elena, the apprentice midwife, must trust in her abilities and find a way to protect herself and the secret she carries.

Their stories, while told in individual strands, all play essential roles in the search for peace in a war-torn country – and in the need for revenge.

The world-building is fantastic. Telling the story from three points of view, three locations, and three utterly different social positions allows the author to paint a comprehensive picture of the setting without infodumping or excessive description. We see what we need to see, and the different points of view allow the reader to witness the war and its effects, from the palace to the battlefield, and the homes of the people caught up in the fighting.

This isn’t a romance. This isn’t a story about men, or women chasing men. This is a story about female strength and perseverance in the face of a war, and a political struggle in which they have no part. Men – good and bad – appear in the story, but the focus is always on Marzal, Rayn, and Elena, and the choices they make for survival, peace, and revenge.

Did I mention that I love this book? It’s an absolute treat to read. If you enjoy strong female leads, dangerous plots and dangerous secrets, and a satisfying dose of revenge – what are you waiting for?

Have you read Black Heat? What did you think of the three women and their stories? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Black Heat cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Pretties

Title: Pretties
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

Tally and Shay are living in New Pretty Town, but when a friend from their past arrives with surprising news, Tally is once again forced to decide how – and where – she wants to build a life, and where her loyalties lie.

Pretties is a great follow-up to Uglies, showing the reader life in New Pretty Town from the inside, and giving us an understanding of the characters’ choices – who chooses to become Pretty, who chooses to stay, and what might persuade them to leave. Once again, Tally provides a relatable point of view for the reader. We understand her motivations as we follow her life as a Pretty, and her surprise when she is offered an alternative to the easy, luxurious lifestyle of New Pretty Town.

The alternative proves to be more complicated than Tally expected, and as she discovers more about the world beyond New Pretty Town she begins to understand her place in the rigid structure of her society. Where the first book introduced Tally and her friends to the idea of living outside the society they grew up in, Pretties brings another dimension to the ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups, and what might make people reject the expected progression from Ugly to Pretty, and on to employment, family, and children.

There’s plenty of adventure and danger, and the ever-present threat of the Specials keeps Tally from fully enjoying her life, even in New Pretty Town. The bad guys are still scary and believable, and we learn more about their motivations as Tally uncovers the complexities of the wider world. Old friends return, and old grudges shape new relationships as the worlds of the Pretties and those who escaped collide.

Pretties is a fast-paced, gripping read with a breathtaking cliffhanger ending. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Have you read Pretties? What did you think of Tally’s choices in the second book? Would you have done the same? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Uglies

Title: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

Tally and Peris have been best friends forever. The three-month gap between them has never been a problem, until Peris turns sixteen and has the operation. He is transformed from an Ugly to a Pretty, and moves with the other sixteen-year-olds to New Pretty Town. He promises to keep in touch, but Tally only receives one brief message from her friend. With three months to go before her own operation, she’s desperate to see Peris again, even though Uglies are banned from New Pretty Town.

While she waits for her birthday, Tally meets another Ugly who is also counting down the days until she turns sixteen – but Shay isn’t like Tally. She doesn’t want to go through the operation and become someone else’s idea of pretty. There’s no way to escape the operation without running away, but Shay has a plan, and somewhere to run to. As she spends time with Shay, Tally is torn between the friend who abandoned her, and the friend who wants to leave the city for good.

Uglies is an engaging YA dystopia that takes a critical look at what it means to grow up. Do you live your best life by conforming, changing yourself to fit in, and living in luxury – or by staying true to yourself, and working hard to survive outside the society that won’t accept you as you are? The author is careful to present a balanced choice. New Pretty Town is a place of constant parties where everything – food, drink, shelter, clothing – is provided and the biggest concern is wearing the right outfit in order to fit in. It sounds like a fun place to live, and the Pretties certainly seem to enjoy their lives. Living outside the city is hard work. Food must be hunted or grown, clothes must be made by hand, and surviving every day involves hard physical work. Tally is genuinely torn between her two possible futures, and her two best friends, and it is easy to see what makes her uncertain.

Tally is a relatable main character, trying to make the right decisions at every point in the story. She doesn’t always succeed, but she understands that living with those decisions might mean taking brave actions to make up for her mistakes. The characters around her feel real, and her relationships with them are not always straightforward. As she faces the decisions she must make as she reaches her sixteenth birthday, Tally’s doubts and uncertainties are entirely understandable, driving the story to unexpected places. The bad guys are scary without ever slipping into cartoon-villain territory, and the world building is just detailed enough to create a believable dystopian setting.

I enjoyed Uglies, and picked up the second book in the series as soon as I’d turned the final page.

Have you read Uglies? What did you think of Tally’s story? Would you have made the same choices? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Archivist Wasp

Title: Archivist Wasp
Author: Nicole Kornher-Stace
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

I picked up this book because the author described it as ‘zero-romance YA’, and as someone who writes friendship-based YA I wanted to experience someone else’s take on non-romantic relationships. I’m absolutely thrilled to say that I loved it – I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I loved the die-for-each-other friendships.

Archivist Wasp hunts ghosts in a world haunted by a terrible past. A war created the Waste, and destroyed a civilisation. For hundreds of years, an Archivist has protected her town from ghosts – hunting them, catching them, studying them, and destroying them. But every year, the Archivist must fight other girls to retain her title – and it is always a fight to the death.

Wasp has retained her title for the last three years. The book’s Prologue throws the reader directly into high-stakes action, as she fights for her life and a fourth year as Archivist. The danger feels absolutely real, and from the first page we understand what Wasp is fighting for.

Life as an Archivist is hard. The people she is protecting leave offerings to make sure she is fed and clothed, but no one will socialise with her. The only people she can spend time with are the priest, who steals her offerings and hunts her down when she tries to escape, and the upstarts, who spend their lives preparing to defeat her and take her job. When she meets a ghost who needs her help, she sees a way out of her isolated existence. Together they set out on a journey that will change them both.

Wasp is an interesting character. She earned her name in the fight she won to become Archivist, and throughout the story she shows a determination to survive, and to make life better for herself. She’s not always entirely likeable, but she is completely understandable. She has come from a harsh background and a community that relies on her while pushing her to the edges of survival.

Her relationship with the ghost develops during their journey. There is never any hint of romance or attraction – they both have a job to do, and a goal to reach, and they do everything they can to protect each other on the way. This is a relationship of friendship and respect, and of a gradual building of trust for two characters who usually work alone. The friendship feels authentic, and it is wonderful to read the story and live through the development of trust and understanding between Wasp and the ghost.

The world building is subtle and effective. There’s no infodumping, and we know enough about the post-apocalyptic society to understand Wasp’s motivations and decisions without heavy-handed descriptions or back story. Throughout their journey, the reader discovers more about the setting through the experiences of the two travellers, ensuring that we feel fully immersed in the action and the plot.

There’s a place for romance in YA books, but there is also a place for life-changing friendship. I loved this book, and the lives-on-the-line relationship between the characters. More like this, please!

Have you read Archivist Wasp? What did you think of the story? Did you enjoy the emphasis on friendship instead of romance? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Steel Tide

Title: Steel Tide (Seafire #2)
Author: Natalie C Parker
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

I’m so pleased I headed straight to the second book in the Seafire trilogy as soon as I finished Book One. After a brief pause for Caledonia to recover from the events of the final pages, the story is off and running again, and I avoided my book hangover by diving straight back in.

Caledonia thought she was protecting her ship and her all-female crew when she sent them away. She refused to involve them in her personal mission of revenge against an old enemy, but when the smoke clears she needs to find them again. Reuniting the family she has built for herself will be dangerous, and she needs the help of new friends to bring them back together. She needs to ensure their safety, and she needs to continue the fight against Aric Athair and his ruthless pirates. And then there’s the problem of the boy she allowed onto her ship. Who is he, and can he still help her to find someone she thought she had lost? Caledonia must convince new friends and old enemies to work with her against Aric, gambling the safety of everyone around her on promises she’s not sure she can trust.

This is a fantastic follow-up to Seafire, throwing Caledonia and her crew into danger again, and raising the stakes in the battle against Aric. Secrets are revealed, alliances are made in unexpected places, and Caledonia is forced to chose between her conscience and her crew. She’s still a fascinating morally grey character, and this book pushes her into darker actions and darker decisions. She continues to be supported by her loyal crew – characters she loves and cares about, and risks everything to protect.

This is another addictive book, and I read it in a single day. I can’t believe I have to wait until November to read Book Three in the series! I’ll be thinking about Caledonia and her crew until the next book is in my hands. This is a story that will stay with me long after the final page, and I’m already wondering how dark the author is willing to make the ending of her trilogy. I can’t wait to find out!

Have you read Steel Tide? What did you think of the story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Seafire

Title: Seafire
Author: Natalie C Parker
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

How has it taken me so long to find this book? Pirates, rebels, sea battles and survival with an awesome all-female crew – I loved it.

Caledonia Styx is the leader of a crew of girls who fight back against Aric Athair’s ruthless pirates. It feels as if everyone else on the seas and islands he controls has given up. They hand over their children to fight for him in exchange for their own lives. They keep his fleet supplied with everything he needs in order to keep themselves safe. Challenging his power would risk their lives, their homes, and their families, so they keep their heads down and survive instead.

But Caledonia has already lost everything – her family, her home, and her safety – to Aric’s pirates. She has built a crew of young women like herself, with nothing left to lose but each other, and she is determined to bring Aric down. Attacking his food barges, and the supply of the drug he uses to control his recruits, has hurt his operation enough to gain his attention. Her crew is a target for every ship under his command, and when she sails into a trap set by the pirates she is forced to reassess her attitude to Aric – and to his recruits. Will she break her own rules to save an enemy? Will she risk her crew for the sake of one of the pirates she fights, and for the information he offers?

This is a perfectly balanced story. Aric and his pirates are unquestionably bad – cruel, ruthless, and power-hungry. Caledonia is fighting for people like herself, and for a world where the pirates don’t abuse their power, and don’t control the sea. She is engaging Aric’s forces on their terms, fighting and killing if she has to, while remaining loyal to the crew she commands. She is certain of her mission and she feels responsible for the lives of everyone on her ship. Her aim is not to defend other people – her aim is to disrupt Aric’s operation and see an end to his power. She might be fighting for the good guys, but she’s a morally grey character – and that makes her a fascinating protagonist.

Add in her wonderful female crew, her ship with its intriguing technology, adventures on sea and on land, and her troublesome prisoner, and you have the ingredients for a gripping, fast-paced, addictive story. I couldn’t put the book down, and when I turned the final page I headed to Amazon immediately to download Book Two.

Have you read Seafire? What did you think of Caledonia’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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