Reviews

Influencer Island

FYRE FESTIVAL meets HUNGER GAMES in this dark psychological thriller about a social media competition that turns deadly.
Welcome to Influencer Island, an experience for ten competitors to travel to paradise and compete for social media glory. Overnight, millions of users send off their submission videos, hoping for the chance to party with the biggest influencers and celebrities in the world.

Or so they thought…

By the time the contest went offline, over a dozen influencers were declared dead or missing. No winner was announced. The only hope for a conclusion lay in an unaired podcast produced by Cal Everett, a young reporter with his own mysterious connection to the murderous contest creator, Wyatt James.

As listeners will soon discover, James designed Influencer Island to be more than a battle of social media wits. If the contestants hope to survive, they will have to answer the question at the very heart of the competition: How far would you be willing to go for fame?

I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games series so I was so interested by the concept of this book. I also remember the absolute wreck that was the Fyre Festival and enjoying the tell all documentaries about it. So I was very excited going into this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The plot was wild! Yet I could totally see it happening which says quite a lot about the culture of social media and influencers. Influencers aren’t necessarily a new thing as even before social media there were people trying to sell their lifestyle through magazines and tv. Social media provided standard humans with the ability to become influencers which resulted in the current ‘phenomenon’ which Google informed me started in 2009.

I loved the format of this book. It was basically a transcript of a podcast which I found to be very easy to consume and resulted in a super fast paced novel that just kept me hooked. I’ve read a few novels written in unusual formats and this is one of the better ones. The plot of this book meant that it just worked so well in this format. I’d totally have listened to this podcast if it happened in real life. However I’d much rather it didn’t because just wow!

I don’t know if I liked any of the characters. I don’t think that it was important to find them likeable. I don’t think I’d have had any interest in any of their public profiles. I liked the way that the characters reacted to their situation, some embracing the idea of harming their competitors and some being actual human beings and not being so keen.

The island location sounded absolutely horrific! I loved finding out more about the island and the more that I found out, the creepier it felt. This book was pretty violent and I’m not usually one for gore. However I felt that the gore wasn’t gratuitous. A lot of scenes hinted towards the violence more than describing it in detail which may be why I enjoyed it so much.

I loved the way that Carrie’s brother and Cal’s father contributed to the story. At first I was a little confused about their relevance and then I was so excited when everything started to come together. I did not guess what was happening but I was happy to just enjoy the ride!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I will be looking out for more books by this author as I just loved the concept.

Reviews

The Book of Gothel

Everyone knows the tale of Rapunzel in her tower, but do you know the story of the witch who put her there?

Haelewise has always lived under the shadow of her mother, Hedda—a woman who will do anything to keep her daughter protected. For with her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, Haelewise is shunned by her medieval village, and her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, of an ancient tower cloaked in mist, where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.

Then, Hedda dies, and Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the legendary tower her mother used to speak of—a place called Gothel, where Haelewise meets a wise woman willing to take her under her wing.

But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the Church strives to keep hidden. A secret that unlocks a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles behind the world Haelewise has always known…

I was so intrigued by the blurb of this book as I absolutely love both fairytale retellings and villain origin stories. This book sounded like it would fulfil both of those tropes and I was excited. However, I feel like the blurb lied to me a little. Or perhaps I misunderstood and expected there to be more about Haelewise being a witch and more references to Rupunzel. However, Rupunzel didn’t appear until about 85% through the book and it was a very ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moment. This was more of a historical fiction novel with some magical elements as opposed to a retelling/origin story. I am not generally a big fan of historical fiction set in our world so the limited amount of magic and fairytale elements left me feeling a little disappointed.

I have to say that Haelewise was one of the most infuriating protagonists that I’ve read about in a wee while. She had zero sense of self preservation and just wanted everyone to trust her. She instantly trusted strangers and would tell them her secrets in the hope that they would share theirs…this was a logic that I just couldn’t fathom. She also seemed incapable of understanding very basic instructions. Haelewise made some really odd choices which resulted in her being in more danger than she was already in. I appreciate that she was 17 but a. She’d been through a lot in her young life and at the beginning of the book, she seemed more mature and b. This book took place in the 12th century so I would have expected her to have been less huffy when things didn’t go her way.

I really enjoyed the sense of rebellion among the women. I liked the tower and the purpose of the tower as well as the magic of the area of Gothel. I would have loved to have known a bit more about The Mother.

This was an ok book, as historical fiction, it was enjoyable enough. If you like historical fiction then this may be for you. If you’re looking for a Rupunzel/Mother Gothel origin story, this wasn’t it.

There were some sexy times in this book that made me queasy. One of the participants had been in a cell for at least a month and definitely wasn’t bathing during that time. It gave me the ick. Especially as they washed the next day!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review

Reviews, Scottish Reads

What Happens In Dubai

Everyone’s favourite Glaswegian girl is back!

After having her heart well and truly broken, Zara Smith is more interested in fun than forever. But she’s starting to wonder if she’s slept with every (somewhat) eligible bachelor in Glasgow… and if there’s such a thing as too much fun?!

With competition ramping up in Glasgow, Zara and her friends at Individualise can’t pass up an opportunity to promote their aesthetics clinic – especially not when it involves an all-expenses-paid trip to Dubai! It’s THE summer destination for the sexy, rich and famous. Cue sun, sand and disastrous flirtations for everyone. But it’s okay because what happens in Dubai stays in Dubai, right?

I preordered this book the second that preorders were available. I’ve been super excited about this book for months. Imagine my excitement when I saw this book on NetGalley! I promptly requested to read an advanced copy of this book and was delighted to be accepted. I absolutely loved A Glasgow Kiss and was super excited to return to Zara and her escapades.

I was so giddy to read about Zara’s return to the dating game. I expected hilarious results and I was not disappointed. The book took a whole 6% before I was full on cackling! I apologise to my neighbours who surely heard my loud laughter. I tried to stifle it but honestly, I couldn’t hold it in.

I really enjoyed the gang’s wee trip to Dubai. It was so interesting to read about a lavish and glamorous holiday, especially after the last few years! This gave me a better insight into the awesome relationship between Zara and her colleagues, they really were like a wee family.

I loved getting to see Zara get to prove that she was an intelligent business woman. It could be so easy to just think of Zara as just a fun loving, party girl but she was so much more than that. She may not have showered as often as socially acceptable but she was really driven and was willing to take a risk in order to succeed. I also loved getting more time with Ash. I enjoyed the dynamic of having Ash in the flat.

I just found myself rooting for Zara to just have excellent things happen to her. I found myself shouting at the book trying to stop her from making some choices but I appreciate that I can’t control what happens in books.

This was such a wonderful sequel as it had everything that I’d loved from the first book; it was utterly hilarious and kept me guessing as I never knew what Zara was going to get up to next. I also loved the wee found family vibe going on at the clinic

I don’t think I’ll ever eat sweetcorn again and now have a new fear of getting sand in awkward places. Heavily recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the first book

Huge thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ebook in exchange for an honest review. I’m definitely going to tab for when I need a giggle

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish- July Wrap Up

What an excellent month of Reading Scottish! I read 6 books by Scottish authors in July. This was a big surprise to myself as I’d miscalculated and was convinced that I had read 5.

My Reading Scottish Wrap Up Vlog

This month I read some gritty Scottish crime novels: The Quaker – Liam McIlvanney and Hold Your Tongue- Deborah Masson. These books were set in Glasgow and Aberdeen, respectively, and having lived in both of those cities I felt like I got an extra little something from them. Turns out I’m a huge fan of Scottish crime featuring serial killers.

After all of the serial killer reading, i needed something a bit cheerier. I had been recommended Elle McNicoll as an author and since their entire back catalogue was available on Amazon prime, I ended up reading all three of their books. I enjoyed A Kind of Spark, Show Me Who You Are, and Like a Charm. These were delightful middle grade books.

I rounded off my month of Scottish reads with What Happens in Dubai by Sophie Gravia*. You may remember my cackling while reading A Glasgow Kiss which was this author’s previous novel. This was just as hilarious and I cackled once again.

If you’ve read any excellent Scottish fiction that you’d recommend, please let me know in the comments.

*gifted

Vlogs

Reading For 24 Hours

I hate summer. I’ve said it before and I will say it every summer. The summer heat, mixed with the dampness of the Scottish air, always makes me ill. So I decided to treat myself to a solid 24 hours of reading with zero expectations or obligations, other than to relax.

This was such a chilled readathon, possibly because it was self induced. I managed to finish 3 books, one of which I had started previously. I’m taking this as a win!

I read: Leah and the Offbeat by Becky Abertalli, A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson*, and Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield.

I also went for a wee walk because I do love a stroll through the woodland and park. Mainly, I just hope to see more deer and squirrels, the seal is usually out this time of year but I didn’t see him. I did see a swarm of ducks though, which was lovely. I’ve added a little bit of my walk to the end of the Vlog for anyone who wants to see the Aberdonian green areas.

My Reading Vlog

*gifted

Reviews

A Dowry of Blood

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A Dowry of Blood is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

I feel like I saw this book everywhere last October, maybe I just think I did because I saw it somewhere and knew I wanted to read it. I am very happy to tell anyone who will listen, that my favourite classics are Dracula and Carmilla. I like my classics to be gothic and bloody…despite feeling faint if I even think about veins for too long. There’s something about a gothic vampire story that calls to me like a siren’s call. This book promised to be a retelling of Dracula through the eyes of his bride and it delivered. I found this book to be utter perfection!

The book started with Dracula (who is not names during the book because it’s not about him) finding a dying peasant woman who he ‘rescues’ and takes as his bride. The book the covers events from their meeting in the 15th century, right up until the 20th century. I really enjoyed that the book covered such a span of time and included some very interesting locations during some very exciting or dangerous times.

Actually, the book started with a very exciting statement that hooked me right away.

I loved Constanta as a character. I enjoyed her character growth from 15th century peasant to the Bride of Dracula and living in various grand homes. I wanted only good things for her. She was so protective and caring. I respected her attitude towards feeding only on those who mistreated women and children. My heart broke for her when the veil dropped and she started to see her husband for who he was. I enjoyed her relationship with her found family and how much they cared for each other.

This book was beautifully written. While the book took the format of a memoir or journal, it was almost lyrical. I just devoured this book and could not put it down. This was a relatively short book and I read it over an afternoon because it was just so compelling.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ebook in exchange for an honest review. I now need to get myself a physical copy as I can see me rereading this book again and again.

Reviews

Hooked

Once invited, always welcome.
Once invited, never free.

Captain James Hook, the immortal pirate of Neverland, has died a thousand times. Drowned, stabbed by Peter Pan’s sword, eaten by the beast swimming below the depths, yet James was resurrected every time by one boy’s dark imagination. Until he found a door in the sky, an escape. And he took the chance no matter the cost.

Now in London twenty-two years later, Peter Pan’s monster has found Captain Hook again, intent on revenge. But a chance encounter leads James to another survivor of Neverland. Wendy Darling, now a grown woman, is the only one who knows how dark a shadow Neverland casts, no matter how far you run. To vanquish Pan’s monster once and for all, Hook must play the villain one last time…

I have always hated Peter Pan. Not the book, the character. I enjoyed the story of Peter Pan but childhood me always found the character of Peter Pan to be really creepy. He swooped in and stole children, like some sort of flying Pied Piper. I remember a period where I couldn’t sleep with the windows open because I was so scared that he could steal me away. So, this resulted in me always having a soft spot for Captain Hook. He’s one of my favourite villains and this is what drew me to this book. Im so glad to have picked it up because I absolutely loved this story!

This wasn’t a villain origin story but sort of a redemption story for Hook/James. When an old enemy started picking off victims in London, Hook and Wendy found themselves both drawn back to the wonder of Neverland. I really enjoyed the beast! It was such an interesting angle.

I thoroughly enjoyed having more body added to characters that I already knew. I loved getting some backstory to Hook/James. Despite not being an origin story, there was some interesting character building on him and I thought that this really worked. I absolutely loved his story, it was so tragic and sort of explained everything about Hook. I loved the almost way that Hook and James were sort of like Jekyll and Hyde. I didn’t like Wendy’s daughter that much. I found her character to be a little annoying but considering that she was grieving and struggling to cope with what happened in Neverland in a previous book, I think her character made sense.

This book covered love, loss, grief, survivor’s guilt and I think it was just excellent and handled these topics very well. My wee heart broke for Hook when he was dealing with his loss, his loss hit me the hardest. I really enjoyed his character being a sort of tortured soul who was just looking for peace.

I believe that this is a standalone novel but I would still like to read Wendy Darling as there were some references to things that happened in that book that I’d like to know more about. I really enjoyed reading a story taking place in a world I knew (Neverland) but with protagonists who didn’t give me the heebie jeebies! I cannot fault this, it was perfection and I didn’t want it to end.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Black Dog

Declan dreams of becoming a writer. It’s a dream that helps him escape the realities of his life – going through the motions at college and stacking supermarket shelves part-time, whilst fighting a battle with the ever-darkening thoughts in his head.

He has his pet Labrador for companionship and his best friend-turned-mentor, a pseudo-intellectual who works as a greenskeeper at the local municipal golf course, both of which help keep the worst of his anxieties at bay. But following a drunken row with local gangsters, Declan’s worries threaten to spiral out of control.

James Cavani – Declan’s idol and his hometown’s claim to fame – is a renowned writer, director and actor. But despite his success, his past hasn’t relinquished its hold of him, and through his younger sister’s battle with drug addiction, he finds himself returning to a world he thought he had escaped.

At face value, their lives couldn’t be more different, but perhaps fate has a way of bringing kindred spirits together – and perhaps each holds the other’s redemption in their hands
.

I’m a huge fan of Kevin Bridges’ comedy, which tends to feature comedic tales. Based on his stand up, I viewed him as a gifted storyteller. So I was beyond excited to read his first work of fiction and I was not disappointed!

The characters in this book were excellent.
Declan was just a wee lamb! Trying to hold it all together but struggling with anxiety and doubt. I loved his character growth. His mum and sister were amazing too. Doof Doof was the friend that everybody needs! He was just such an amazing character and supportive friend. I know he was more of a side character but he was my favourite character and I want only amazing things for him.

Even the ‘baddies’ felt realistic. I’ve read so many books that feature Scottish gang culture and they’ve all handled the topic so well. It would have been so easy to make them caricature gangsters. While these gangsters had some moments of hilarity, it didn’t detract from the very realistic threat of danger. There was a point where I was just chuckling away and then remembered that it probably wasn’t going to end well because ‘baddies’ were likely to do bad things. They did but it did include quite a few laughs.

I’ve never enjoyed a scene involving a running race quite as much as in this book! I genuinely cried with laughter.

I found this book to be heartwarming and hopeful while covering some quite tough topics such as; gang culture, violence depression, and fear. There were enough moments of laughter to lift me out of the sadness, this is something I very much enjoy in a book that covers gritty topics.

The only negative I have from this book was that I’d have loved chapters instead of parts. This is purely due to my inability to put a book down mid-chapter. This resulted in a couple of later nights for me as I needed to finish the part. This is definitely a ‘me problem’ and not an actual issue with the book but I know a lot of others feel the same about chapters. So be prepared and don’t start reading just before bedtime unless you’re happy to pause midway through a part. I do feel that the decision to use parts instead of chapters made sense as the parts each covered a very distinct part of the story.

This was such an enjoyable book. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Single Taken Cursed

Heard enough happily ever afters? In Single Taken Cursed, Scottish comedy writer Nicki reveals some of her worst dating exploits. From a guy impersonating Zac Efron to another pretending to be a farm animal, you’ll discover the bizarre and exhausting side of single life.

As told in stories like “The MLM tool” and ‘No Dealer’ this account of contemporary dating is evidence that it could indeed always be worse.

I did not plan to read this book in one sitting. I’d planned to just dip in and read one or two of the stories…cut to a couple of hours later and I’d finished the book and had cried off my eye cream (I was reading in bed with all my lotions on, it was Friday night and I was feeling wild!). This was absolutely hilarious and I have to give this 5 shiny stars.

Like Nikki, I have had many a disastrous date en route to finding my lobster. I love funny reading stories about the dating game as it reminds me so much of conversations with my friends when we were single and looking for love. This book was written is such a friendly way that it felt like chatting with a pal, or reading an agony aunt page in Bliss magazine. It was such a joy to read.

I laughed so hard during this book! I am about the same age as the author so I loved the references to Bebo, MSN messenger, blue hair mascara, the gorgeousness of Nick Carter (who has aged like a fine wine!). The nostalgia made me so happy! It’s so fun for me to read something set in the 00s/2010s that I get to relate to. There were also references to empties and Pizza Hut dates but I wasn’t cool so didn’t get invited to empties nor did I have a Pizza Hut date until I was in my mid 20s, so it was nice to read about what I had missed out on.

This book is set in Scotland and took place in familiar locations to me which is something I always enjoy in a book! I started my dating life after moving to uni in Glasgow round about the same time as some of these stories so it felt pretty relatable. I did have the fear that one of these stories may have been about an ex of mine and may have gotten hiccups for laughing so much at the prospect! After finishing the story I am now certain that it wasn’t but it was that sort of book where there was something just so relatable about it.

This gave me so many laughs but also some moments of boking! I gagged at the bathmat story but hey, he was still a gentleman. The spot story genuinely made me gag! I was not sad about my lack of teenage dating during that tale.

This was such a fun and entertaining book about the dating perils of millennials over the years. It was light and enjoyable to read. I finished it during one evening because I didn’t realise how long I’d been reading until I was at the end.

I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely loved it! At the end of the book it says that the author plans to release four more books in 2022, I plan to read those books.

Reviews

The Dragon’s Promise

Princess Shiori made a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner, but keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She must journey to the kingdom of dragons, navigate political intrigue among humans and dragons alike, fend off thieves who covet the pearl for themselves and will go to any lengths to get it, all while cultivating the appearance of a perfect princess to dissuade those who would see her burned at the stake for the magic that runs in her blood.

The pearl itself is no ordinary cargo; it thrums with malevolent power, jumping to Shiori’s aid one minute, and betraying her the next—threatening to shatter her family and sever the thread of fate that binds her to her true love, Takkan. It will take every ounce of strength Shiori can muster to defend the life and the love she’s fought so hard to win.

This story was just excellent and such an excellent continuation to Six Crimson Cranes (which I also loved). I found myself struggling to put this down, I devoured it over one weekend and it was a really enjoyable reading experience. I adored this book as much as Six Crimson Cranes and gave it 5 shiny stars!

This story picked up right where the last book had left, with Shiori about to embark on an epic quest. I was instantly brought into an adventure which was so exciting. There was no slow build or recap of the last book, instant excitement and adventure.

I loved the character growth and enjoyed all of the characters from the first book having their time to shine. I loved the changes that I saw in Shiori and Takkan. I also enjoyed meeting new characters. Kiki was as bossy and hilarious as always and I think may be my favourite character. She was far more vocal in this book and I loved it! I found myself crying about a paper crane and I do not feel silly about this because I just loved her.

I feel like so many of my questions from the first book were answered. I did have a lot of unanswered questions from the first book, or just things that I wanted to know more about. Each of the adventures in this book revealed some more about a character or plot element. The book was just filled with little breadcrumbs! I absolutely loved getting more backstory, I think that was my favourite part.

I really enjoyed getting to know more about the world and the different environments. The book took place in these new places, under the sea and new islands. I absolutely loved the island with the snakes, I think that was my favourite location and favourite part of the story.

During the last 15% of the book I could barely read the words as I was crying so hard (full on ugly sobbing!), but I persisted and was rewarded with a beautiful ending. This book included some inspiration from a fairytale or myth that I wasn’t familiar with at the time but am now because I went down a Google rabbit hole immediately after finishing this book. I adored learning tales from another culture.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I just think that it was a beautifully written, fantasy quest which is one of my favourite genres. I will be rereading this series in the future because it made me just so happy. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ebook in exchange for an honest review. I have this book on preorder and cannot wait to own a physical copy!