The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan is an addictively intriguing mystery novel about teenage girl Zoe who was involved in a tragic accident that left three of her classmates dead. Now, three years later, after serving her time, Zoe and her mother is trying to start over and create a “second-chance life” for themselves. Zoe’s mother therefore demands Zoe to keep the past tucked far away, hiding it even for her new husband. But this new life and new husband soon turns out not to be so perfect after all.
Gilly Macmillan makes a great job in keeping you in the dark about the plot twists all the way through the end. For a long time, when I read the book, I had no idea what to expect – is it turning into a murder story, a love story, a suspense novel or what? - which is such a good thing. (Don’t you just hate it when you can figure the whole intrigue out just by reading the blurb of a book?) What’s so different about “The Perfect Girl” is that the death of Zoe’s mother is not the surprise in this book and that the mystery plot is not really centered around what happened, but around exploring the facets of the characters’ lives that brought them to that moment in time. What Zoe, and the readers, soon finds out is that the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.
The story is told from the first person perspectives of Tessa, Zoe’s aunt, and her loving yet alcoholic husband, Richard, as well as Zoe, her stepbrother, Lucas, and Sam, Zoe’s attorney, which gives you a chance to get into their minds and to see the messy, dysfunctional family from different perspectives.
Gilly Macmillan is so good at keeping the characters secret and only slowly and deliberately revealing them one by one, keeping you itching to learn more about the persons and their reason for behaving the way they are.
This slow-burning, intriguing book proves that a good crime book doesn’t need complicated twists or excessive violence to be a compelling read. This touching story with strong three-dimensional characters is an excellent, addictive page-turner nevertheless.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Gilly Macmillan
This reading tips this week is actually three, the darkly, magical Half Bad trilogy by Sally Green – “Half Bad”, “Half Wild” and “Half Lost”. I absolutely loved the books. This trilogy is so unique and original that I almost don’t want to try and explain it; I’m afraid to spoil the magic of the books that way. Sally Green tells an amazing story. The books are gripping, fast-paced and tragically marvellous. I just finished reading the last book in the trilogy and I am so gonna miss Nathan! And Gabriel and…
This trilogy is absolutely unique and original, both in the way it's written and in the darkness of the story itself. The writing is really different, it flips back and forth from second to first person. The timeline is also not quite linear, instead it flips back in time every now and then to explain the current. I loved it, as it's makes the book stand out and also makes you feel really close to the characters. I’m glad I started reading the series when all three books were published; I literally could not put the books down until I’d finished all of them.
Also, the series is kind of brutal, to say the least. It’s set in modern-day Europe, where witches secretly lives alongside humans (fains). The witches are either white (good) or black (bad), aside from 17-year-old Nathan who is half of both. His absent father is the most notorious black witch alive and his mother is dead. It’s as gloomy as it sounds. When we first meet Nathan he is trapped in a cage and abused. Actually, a lot of the book looks back at how Nathan has been mistreated, even tortured, from a very young age because of who his father is, and how eventually he is trapped by the Council of White Witches and put in a cage for cruel tests. Nathan desperately has to escape before his seventeenth birthday, to receive three gifts from his father and his magical ability and become a full-fledged witch. Otherwise, he will die.
Nathan is such a wonderful character. He goes through some absolutely terrible things, but he always has hope and never gives up. Nathan receives help from a series of characters, notably the black witch Gabriel who has lost his powers due to an accident.
In the second installment, “Half Wild”, Nathan has escaped and managed to gets his gifts. Now he must decide whether to join the rebelling alliance of free witches and stop the white witch counsel from suppressing and experimenting on black witches, or live a lonely, but free, life. Nathan’s story then comes to close in “Half Lost”, where the battle is continued and Nathan is being hunted by both sides. I’m not gonna tell too much about the ending, more than that Sally Green definitely knows how to write an epic finale that will shock you.
Of all three books, the second one, “Half Wild” is my favorite. This is where the love story between Nathan and Gabriel finally takes off for real. It’s such a sweet, wonderful, love story in the midst of all the terrible things going on. It's also something of a surprise, as inititially Nathan's love life seems to be heading in another (Annalise) direction.
Some of the best things with the Half Bad Trilogy is the surprising love story between Nathan and Gabe, and that it plays with "grey areas". White witches aren't just good and black witches aren't just bad. Strangely enough, even though Half Bad is about witches, there's not much magic in it, which is actually a good thing. The story is magical enough in itself.
Find out more about the Half Bad World and the author Sally Green here: Penguin authors Sally Green
This reading tips this week is the Under the Never Sky Trilogy by Veronica Rossi. The trilogy starts off with “Under the Never Sky”, followed by “Through the Ever Night” and “Into the Still Blue” as second and third installments.
I love the title of the trilogy, it immediately drew my attention. The ‘never sky’ sounds so beautiful and intriguing, and luckily, the books turned out to live up to the expectations. This series is not overly dystopian, more like YA fantasy in a really good way, I would say. It’s a trilogy that just pulls you in. It’s a quick, fast-paced read, with nuanced characters and a complex, fascinating futuristic world.
This story is a kind of sci-fi Romeo and Juliet-tale with sheltered Aria meeting savage Perry and being forced to form an uneasy partnership to survive as outcasts. Aria has lived a protected, virtual, life in the enclosed city of Reverie; through the make-believe worlds she accesses through her ‘Smarteye’; the eyepatch that lets her tap into her virtual reality. Peregrine (Perry) is a savage from the outside world, where reality in the wasteland is harsh and dangerous. When Aria is expelled from the security of her dome, she has no-one but her wits and Perry to fall back on.
The narrative is told from dual perspectives, but from a third person perspective. Quite unique, but I liked it. It really helped build the characters of Aria and Perry. Truth be told, it’s actually Perry that is the most interesting character, who drives the story. He’s got all the manly hero attributes - tough, protective, and strong – yet Veronica Rossi managed to make him into one of the nicest guys ever in literature. Also, in the beginning he’s not that into Aria at all, but finds her fragile and annoying, with her artificial breeding and her aroma of rot. She in turn thinks he’s disgusting. It takes a lot of adjustment for them to begin to even see each other as people, rather than a means to an end.
Together they set out through the three books to find redemption, their lost loved ones and to unite the two people of Dwellers and Outsiders. The books are adventurous and thrilling, with interesting sci-fi tech and virtual reality aspects, and with the slow-romance between Aria and Perry as the draw. Basically, I think that the Under the Never Sky Trilogy is a perfect mix of adventure and romance, sci-fi and dystopia, entertainment and heartbreak.
A perfect weekend-read in other words!
Find out more about the books and the author Veronica Rossi here: veronicarossi.com/books
Every Friday from now on, I will share my tips for a good weekend read. Sometimes a new book release, sometimes an oldie but goodie.
Starting off with the Rebel-series by Alwyn Hamilton - "Rebel of the Sands" and "Traitor to the Throne".
The Rebel-series is to be a YA trilogy, but so far only the first and the second instalments have been released.
If you haven’t yet read the first book in the series, ”Rebel of the Sands” you’re up for a real treat! This is a story you will be drawn into and won’t want to put down until you’ve reached the end. It’s really a YA master piece – it’s fun, fast paced and with lovable characters.
Amani, an orphan tomboy, has always been “more gunpowder than girl” and know- as the ‘Blue-Eyed Bandit’. Her whole life, she’s been trying to leave Dustwalk, the unforgiving dead-end dessert town she’s grown up in, without success. Until she meets a stranger, Jin, in a sharpshooting competition. Taking her chance, she follows him on a dangerous journey through the deserts.
What’s special in this series is the mythology that Alwyn Hamilton weaves into the tale. The story is spiced with fairytale animals, like the ‘Buraqi’, a sand horse that can be turned into a real steed by a girl, ‘Nightmares’ that remains in the sands, coming out only at night to inject humans with venom that infects the mind and body, ‘Skinwalkers’ that shift their form from one victim to another, ‘Djinns’; men made of out of smokeless fir and others.
During the journey, Amani’s and Jin’s banter grows into love, but after rescuing a wounded Jin to a safe haven he’s pointed out, Amani finds out that Jin is not just an ordinary boy, but the brother of the rebelling Prince fighting to overthrow the Sultan. When Amani gets over the betrayal, she soon also finds out that she is a ‘Demdjii’ with supernatural powers and gets pulled into the uprising.
“Traitor to the Throne” follows the victory in the end of the first book, with the rebels continuing to gain power and hope to eventually defeat the Sultan. As the fight continues, Amani has to face betrayal and rely on her desert-girl’s instincts of cunning and espionage, to infiltrate the Sultan’s palace. This is a great sequel, continuing the adventurous story at a heart-pounding pace. I missed the love story between Amani and Jin somewhat though, as they spend most of the book separated, but that will most likely change in the exciting conclusion of the series. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the third book next year and hoping for a ‘happy ever after’!
Find out more about the books and the author Alwyn Hamilton here: rebelofthesands.co.uk
Hi! I'm Annie, a Swedish bookworm, YA addict and coffee lover, who writes romantic YA books in English. I'm the author of the Angelheart Saga series (First Came Forever and Forever Disguised).
I love YA books and want to share what I read with you too, so check out my reading tips here!
Below you can find the reviews per author as well.