Book Haul – 8 May 2021

It has been a while since I have done a Book Haul post, so I figured it was a good time to look back at some of the amazing books that I have received in the last couple of weeks.  I have actually received quite an impressive haul recently, made up of a number of exciting and intriguing books, including a few novels that I have been looking forward to for some time.  Each of the books below have a lot of potential and I am really keen to check them all out as soon as I can.

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 35: Homecoming by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Homecoming

Let us start this post off big with one of my most anticipated reads of 2021, the latest volume of the incredible Usagi Yojimbo comic series by Stan Sakai, Homecoming.  I absolutely love Usagi Yojimbo and each new volume of this comic series is a major highlight of the year.  I got this latest volume a couple of days ago and I pretty much read it as soon as I got it.  I will hopefully get a review up soon, but I don’t think anyone will be surprised that it was pretty damn awesome.

Firefly: Life Signs by James Lovegrove

Firefly Life Signs

Next up we have the latest Firefly novel by bestselling author James Lovegrove, Life SignsLife Signs is the fifth Firefly tie-in novel that has been released in the last couple of years (previous releases include Big Damn Hero, The Magnificent Nine, The Ghost Machine and Generations), with Lovegrove being the most active writer of this series.  This latest book, Life Signs, makes use of an intriguing unused storyline from the television show and sets the cast of characters on a dangerous heist into a notorious prison planet.  An outstanding read that I will review in the next few days.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun Cover

I was very intrigued to receive this copy of She Who Became the Sun, the much hyped debut novel of Australian author Shelly Parker-Chan.  She Who Became the Sun is a historical novel, apparently with some fantasy elements to it, that follows a young second daughter in China who attempts to claim a much more favorable destiny by impersonating her dead brother. I had not heard much about this book before I received a copy, but from what I understand there is a lot of buzz surrounding it.  I look forward to checking this cool sounding novel out and I have a feeling it is going to be one of the better debuts of 2021.

The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

Next on this post we have The Warsaw Orphan by Australian author Kelly Rimmer.  The Warsaw Orphan is a gripping and dark historical drama that explores the various horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto, as well as looking at two brave characters who tried to make a difference.  A powerful and captivating read, I was really happy to receive this book and I have already been blown away by its exceptional and moving narrative.

Red Wolves by Adam Hamdy

Red Wolves Cover

It looks like I am going to have a fun thriller in my future as I was luck enough to receive Red Wolves by Adam Hamdy.  Following on from his previous novel, Black 13, Red Wolves will follow protagonist Scott Pearce as he attempts to stop a deadly toxin from being unleashed.  I am very much looking forward to checking out this cool sounding read and I know that I am going to have an amazing time reading it.

Saint Death by Mark Dawson

Saint Death Cover

Another awesome sounding thriller I have received is Saint Death by intriguing author Mark Dawson.  Saint Death follows a former MI6 agent as he starts a fight with drug gangs down in Mexico.  I really like the sound of this fantastic new book and I cannot wait to see what happens in it.

The Paris Collaborator by A. W. Hammond

The Paris Collaborator Cover

I also received a copy of The Paris Collaborator by A. W. Hammond, a fantastic sounding historical thriller that forces a man to work for both the Nazis and the French Resistance to find two missing people.  This looks set to be a lot of fun and I am very keen to check it out.

#MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil

#MurderFunding Cover

The final book on this list is #MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil, an older book that I ordered in.  #MurderFunding is the sequel to the very fun #MurderTrending, an awesome young adult thriller that set a bunch of teens against a group of deranged, costumed killers on national television.  I really enjoyed #MurderTrending when it came out and I have been meaning to reader #MurderTrending for some time.  After reading McNeil’s exciting prequel novel, #NoEscape, earlier this year,  I thought this would be a good time to check #MurderFunding out.  I cannot wait to see where the series goes next and this should prove to be fantastica and fast-paced read.

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.

Top Ten Tuesday – Book I Need to Clear Off my to-read List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week, Top Ten Tuesday participants have been given a spring-cleaning freebie where we can do any list we want provided it falls within the general them of spring-cleaning.  In this spirt (even though it is autumn where I am) I have decided to list the top ten books that I need to “clean” off my to-read list by reading and reviewing them.

Over the years I have received or written about a huge number of different awesome novels, many of which I would love to read and feature on this blog.  However, there are only so many hours in the day, so quite a few books fall through the cracks, or more accurately they end up on a bookshelf, silently judging me.  I do fully intend to read these books at some point, especially as in several cases I have enjoyed previous entries in the series.  So, in the spirit of spring-cleaning, I have decided to focus this list on books I want to read that are currently clogging up my bookshelf (or digital equivalent). 

Using these criteria, I was able to come up with a list filled with an interesting variety of different books.  I tried to mainly feature amazing-sounding books that have been on my shelf for an extended period, but in a few cases I chose some more recent novels that I particularly want to check out.  I have featured several of these books in Waiting on Wednesday articles in the past, which adds to the reasons why I want to check them out.  Hopefully, this list will light a bit of a fire under me to encourage me to read some, if not all of these books, soon.  So let us see what was on the list.

 

Honourable Mentions:

Duplicity by Richard Evans

Duplicity Cover

 

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

Shorefall cover

 

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

Ashlords Cover

 

Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw

Grave Importance Cover

 

Top Ten List:

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

The Devil and the Dark Water Cover

The first entry on this list is one of the books that I most regret not reading last year, The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton.  The Devil and the Dark Water is the second novel from Turton following his epic debut, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which was one of my favourite books of 2018.  Due to how awesome Turton’s first novel was, I have been really keen to check out The Devil and the Dark Water for a while but have just not been able to add it into the reading schedule.  This is definitely one of the top books I want to read soon, and I look forward to seeing what sort of outstanding narrative Turton came up with in his second novel.

 

Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation Lost Cover

I have been meaning to check out Salvation Lost for a very long time ever since I finished off the preceding novel, SalvationSalvation was an exceedingly epic science fiction novel set on a futuristic Earth, filled with some cool technology, fantastic mysteries, and a subtle alien invasion.  I am a little annoyed with myself that I have completely failed to read Salvation Lost, especially as the third novel in the series, The Saints of Salvation, came out last year.  I really want to read this book this year and I know that I am going to love the complex tale contained within.

 

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell

War_Lord_cover.PNG

This is another book that I am quite surprised I have not gotten around to reading yet.  War Lord is the latest book from one of my favourite authors, Bernard Cornwell, and serves as the final entry in his long running The Last Kingdom series.  I have loved this series for a very long time, and I think I may be holding off reading it because I don’t want the series to end.  Still, this is one that I really must read this year and it should turn out to be another fantastic historical read.

 

#MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil

#MurderFunding Cover

The young adult thriller #MurderFunding is the intriguing sequel to the insanely entertaining #MurderTrending.  It sees several teenagers get brutally murdered on live television as they get caught up in a dangerous conspiracy.  I love the premise of this series and I am hoping to read this book soon, especially after I just finished off the prequel novel #NoEscape a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it.

 

Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller

Star Wars - A New Dawn Cover

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love Star Wars novels, so it should come as no surprise that one will show up on this list.  While I have plans to eventually read all the Star Wars tie-in novels, both in the current canon and in the Star Wars Legends range (an admittedly big job), the entry that I have been meaning to check out the longest is A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller.  Serving as a tie-in to the outstanding Star Wars Rebels animated series, A New Dawn is an awesome-sounding origin tale of two of the series’ main characters, and I have had it loaded on my phone for over a year.  I am particularly keen to check it out after enjoying one of Miller’s other novels last year, Star Trek Discovery: Die Standing, which was a particularly clever and impressive read.  Hopefully I will get through A New Dawn at some point this year, although I may have to prioritise several upcoming Star Wars novels first.

 

Alien: Echo by Mira Grant

Alien Echo Cover

This next entry is an intriguing young adult science fiction novel that ties into the Alien franchise, Alien: Echo.  I must admit that while I have never had an amazing amount of interest in the Alien films or expanded universe, this is one book that I am particularly keen to check out.  The main reason for this is that it was written by the outstanding Mira Grant.  Grant is a talented author who has come up with some epic horror reads, including the incredible Into the Drowning Deep (killer mermaids!), the cool-sounding Newsflesh trilogy, and even a great entry in a Night of the Living Dead anthology.  Due to how awesome her previous books are, I really want to see her take on an Alien novel and I have a feeling that Alien: Echo is going to be pretty amazing.

 

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

The Ruin of Kings Cover

The Ruin of Kings is an intriguing fantasy novel that I have been trying to read for over two years now.  I really loved the concept of The Ruin of Kings, the first book in the A Chorus of Dragons series, when I received it and I then went on to hear some amazing reviews from a substantial number of fellow reviewers, making it an extremely appealing option to check out.  I will have to read it at some point, especially as I also received copies of The Ruin of Kings’ two sequels, The Name of all Things and The Memory of Souls.  A fourth book in the series, The House of Always, is set for release in a couple of months (with a really gnarly octopus cover on it), and it would be cool if I could read The Ruin of Kings before that.

 

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance Cover

I had to include the epic novel Words of a Radiance on this list as I have been thinking about reading it for some time.  The second novel in Brandon Sanderson’s massive and highly acclaimed Stormlight Archive series, Words of Radiance follows on from the outstanding The Way of Kings, which is quite frankly one of the best fantasy books I have ever read.  Words of Radiance continues the amazingly complex story started in The Way of Kings, and I really want to see what happens to the captivating characters next.  However, I honestly have just not had the time to check out Words of Radiance due to the sheer length of the book.  The Way of Kings was the longest audiobook I ever listened to and Words of Radiance is even longer, with a 48+ hour runtime.  Finding that sort of window in my reading schedule is hard, but it will probably be worth it, especially as it will allow me to finally get onto the copies of the third and fourth books of The Stormlight Archive that are currently on my shelf (I received copies of Oathbringer and Rhythm of War), both of which I have not touched because I wanted to read Words of Radiance first.

 

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower Cover

This is the latest novel from rising fantasy star Melissa Caruso, set in the same world as her awesome Swords and Fire series.  I absolutely loved all three novels in the Swords and Fire series (The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire), so I am extremely keen to see how Caruso continues her epic universe.  Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to read The Obsidian Tower when it came out and it has languished on the shelf ever since.  I really want to read this book and I will have to check it out soon before Caruso releases her next novel, The Quicksilver Court, in November this year.

 

Bright Steel by Miles Cameron

Bright Steel Cover

The final entry on this list is the outstanding sounding release Bright Steel by Miles Cameron.  Bright Steel is the third and final entry in the Masters & Mages series, which charts the adventures of a farmer’s son who is thrust into the midst of world-altering events.  I had an incredible time reading the first two novels in the series, Cold Iron and Dark Forge, both of which were amazing five-star novels, and I have been hoping to read this final book for some time.  I will probably get around to finishing this trilogy off later this year, although I will be reading Cameron’s latest novel, Artifact Space, first.

 


That is the end of this latest Top Ten list.  I think it came out quite nicely and hopefully it will entice me to read some of the above novels soon.  All of the above sound really cool and I am highly confident that I will have a blast reading each and every one of them.  While I get around to doing that, why don’t you let me know which books you want to clean off your to-read list, as well if you have enjoyed any of the above

#NoEscape by Gretchen McNeil

#NoEscape Cover

Publisher: Freeform Books (Hardcover – 8 December 2020)

Series: #MurderTrending – Book 0 (prequel)

Length: 344 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Bestselling author Gretchen McNeil returns with another murderous young adult thriller with #NoEscape, a gripping and fantastic prequel to her amazing #MurderTrending series.

Gretchen McNeil is a fantastic author who specialises in amazing young adult novels with horror or suspense twists to them.  She is probably best known for her Don’t Get Mad series of novels (which were adapted into the Netflix series, Get Even), and her 2012 novel Ten, which was turned into a Lifetime movie.  Other works of McNeil include Possess, 3:59 and I’m not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl, all of which sound like fun and entertaining reads.  I am most familiar with McNeil due to her latest series of novels, the #MurderTrending books.  This series started in 2018 with #MurderTrending, which followed a group of young felons, known as the Death Row Breakfast Club, who had to survive their brutal public execution on reality television.  #MurderTrending was an extremely fun and thrilling book that not only presented an exciting narrative for a group of great character, but which also parodied society’s love for social media and reality television shows.  McNeil followed up this first entry in the series with the sequel #MurderFunding, an awesome-sounding book that followed another deadly reality television show.  While I really liked the sound of the second #MurderTrending novel, I did not get a chance to read it, although I might try to read it later this year.  Her latest novel, #NoEscape, serves as a prequel to #MurderTrending and is set 20 years before the events of the first book.

Seventeen-year-old Persey has been beaten down her whole life by her abusive parents and her overachieving brother.  While everyone considers her to be useless, Persey knows that there is one thing she is good at: escape rooms.  After solving a supposedly unbeatable escape room, Persey is given a chance by the parent company, Escape-Capades Ltd, to compete in an elite escape room challenge with a multi-million-dollar reward for whoever wins it.

In desperate need of the money, Persey reluctantly accepts the invitation and is taken to the Escape-Capades headquarters in Las Vegas with several other gifted teen competitors, each with substantial escape room experience.  Persey and the other participants are shocked when the challenge begins almost as soon as they arrive at the headquarters.  Entering a series of elaborate rooms, the group are instructed to work together to succeed within the set time frames.  While at first the challenges seem like normal escape room fare, it soon becomes apparent that something is off.

After one challenge that puts each contestant in mortal risk, they players are shocked when someone is killed in front of them.  Convinced it was faked as part of the game, the escapees continue to advance until someone else is killed.  As each room becomes more and more deadly, it becomes apparent that someone is out for blood and is determined to make the escapees suffer.  Forced to solve a series of gruesome and bizarre puzzles to survive, Persey begins to realise that each of her fellow participants has a secret they would die to protect.  Each contestant is related to each other in some way, and whoever is running the game is seeking vengeance.  Can Persey and her new friends survive, or will they become the first victims of a sick killer with dangerous ambitions for the future?

In this latest novel, Gretchen McNeil has come up with an exceptional tale of manipulation and vengeance as the protagonist finds herself trapped in a series of deadly escape room with a group of unpredictable allies.  This is an extremely fun and exciting novel that blends a tense situation, excellent characters and a series of clever twists to create a deeply compelling and highly addictive read.  I read through this book in one night as I became deeply engrossed with the plot and couldn’t wait to see how the story unfolded.  I love the idea of a group of teenagers caught in an escape room designed to expose secrets and kill its participants, and McNeil utilised her plot design to maximum effect, creating a dark and high-stakes read.  The novel features a great collection of distinctive and fun characters, each of whom stand out in their own way and bring something different to the story while also bringing in some excellent drama with their conflicting personalities.  The main protagonist and point-of-view character, Persey, is particularly intriguing, and the author spends significant time exploring her past, showing a series of flashbacks that highlighted her emotionally abusive parents and damaged brother.  All of these characters have some major secrets, and McNeil cleverly weaves hints of them into the plot before they are eventually revealed.  This book features a lot of excellent and cleverly written twists and turns, and while I was able to predict a good deal of them, it was still a lot of fun seeing them unfold and I was every taken by surprise with several major reveals.  Overall, this is a fantastic and fast-paced narrative that readers will quickly become addicted to and which has an outstanding and powerful conclusion.

One of the major appeals of this book is that it serves as a great prequel to #MurderTrending and #MurderFunding.  This makes it an opportunity to highlight the origins of some of the characters (mainly the antagonists) that appeared in the later books in the series.  Fans of the series will really love the excellent way McNeil ties the narrative into the other #MurderTrending novels and there are a lot of clever and fun references scattered throughout this latest book.  There is really no requirement for someone to read either of the other novels in the series first before trying out #NoEscape, and new readers will be able to easily enjoy this cool and exciting tale.  Indeed, this novel could even serve as a fantastic entry point into the series, and I would definitely recommend that anyone who enjoyed #NoEscape should definitely read #MurderTrending next.  I personally wish that I had read #MurderFunding first, as there were a couple of reveals that did not have as significant an impact on me as I think they were supposed to.  Still, I had an outstanding time reading this latest book from McNeil and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.  After getting hooked on this latest book, I might try and read #MurderFunding this year, especially if McNeil is planning any additional entries to this awesome series.

I really liked how McNeil utilised escape rooms in this novel, and it proves to be a fantastic setting for this amazing young adult thriller.  The author has come up with a huge range of intriguing and clever challenges for her participants to try and overcome, and I loved seeing all the various riddles and puzzles.  As the escape room continues, the rooms become more and more deadly, and it was quite fun to see all the unique and elaborate murder contraptions that the author imagines.  Some of the challenges and the deaths in this book were really over the top, and it proved to be exhilarating and nerve-racking to watch the protagonists attempt to overcome them, especially when a particularly fun character’s life was on the line.  McNeil also uses her novel to examine and somewhat parody the current escape room trend, with each of the characters being a major escape room user with a huge amount of enthusiasm for them.  As a result, this ends up being a particularly fun read for anyone who has done an escape room in the past, although I can guarantee that you will be rather suspicious about the next challenge that you undertake.  I had a lot of fun getting through these deadly escape rooms in the story and I cannot wait to see what McNeil uses as the major plot setting in her next novel.

Like the previous entries in this series, #NoEscape was written for a young adult audience and follows several teenage protagonists.  This is excellent novel for teenage readers; I know I would have loved to read this when I was younger.  I particularly liked how the author did not write down for a younger audience, instead presenting a detailed and complex tale, filled with intriguing characters, compelling story elements and several very dark sequences.  I would say that, due to the sometimes gruesome content, this book is probably best read by older teenagers, especially those who have a love of escape rooms.  This is also one of those young adult novels that can be easily enjoyed by adult readers, who will enjoy all the excitement and clever twists.  There are also a huge number of cool pop culture references throughout the book that will prove appealing to readers of many different ages, as McNeil covers a massive range of different genres and forms of entertainment, ranging from classic horror movies (there is a great clue hidden in one reference that older readers will particularly enjoy), anime, professional wrestling, books and movies (I loved one of the character’s Harry Potter themed shirt; shame it got blood on it).  Overall, this is a great young adult book, and I really appreciate the fact that McNeil has made it appealing to very wide audience.

#NoEscape is another fun and exciting young adult thriller from the amazing Gretchen McNeil.  Serving as a fantastic prequel to #MurderTrending, this is a clever and captivating read that is really worth checking out.  Readers are going to love this exhilarating and deadly narrative, and you are guaranteed to speed through this outstanding and thrilling novel in a very short amount of time.  Highly recommend.

Book Haul – 13 January 2021

It has been a while since I have done a Book Haul post, but seeing that I received several interesting books today, I thought I would quickly do one to highlight some of the best books I have gotten in the last few weeks.  Each of the below books sound extremely cool and captivating, and I cannot wait to see how they all turn out.

 

The Frenchman by Jack Beaumont (Trade Paperback)

The Frenchman Cover

An intriguing debut from a former French spy, The Frenchman is a cool and impressive spy thriller novel that I finished off today.  I am hoping to get a review for this one up soon, and it is an amazing novel to check out.

 

#NoEscape by Gretchen McNeil (Hardcover)

#NoEscape Cover

#NoEscape is the awesome and ultra-exciting prequel to #MurderTrending, the young adult thriller that saw delinquent teens murdered on live television.  This prequel contains an impressive story which sees a new group of protagonists locked in a murderous escape room.  Extremely fun reading.

 

Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious: The Knight, the Fool and the Dead by Steve Cole (Hardcover)

Doctor Who - The Knight, The Fool and The Dead Cover

A somewhat dark, but enjoyable Doctor Who tie-in novel that follows the Tenth Doctor as he attempts to stop death itself.  A very interesting read, especially for fans of the franchise.

 

City of Vengeance by D. V. Bishop (Trade Paperback)

City of Vengeance Cover

City of Vengeance is an intriguing historical murder mystery debut that I have looking forward to check out for a while now.  It has an amazing sounding story and I cannot wait to see how this mystery in historical Florence unfolds

 

The Devils You Know by Ben Sanders (Trade Paperback)

The Devils you Know Cover

A fun and intriguing thriller novel, The Devils You Know looks set to be an amazing read that I am keen to check out.

 

The Imitator by Rebecca Starford (Trade Paperback)

The Imitator Cover

The Imitator is a particularly compelling new novel that follows a young women recruited to MI5 during World War II.  Written by Australian author Rebecca Starford, The Imitator sounds extremely interesting and I think that it has a lot of potential to be a compelling and intense historical thriller.

 

The Shaman by Roland Perry (Trade Paperback)

The Shaman Cover

The final entry in this Book Haul post is the fantastic sounding thriller, The Shaman by bestselling Australian author Roland Perry.  With a really fun sounding plot that seems loaded with excitement, The Shaman should be an amazing read and I am very keen to check it out.

 

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.

WWW Wednesday – 6 January 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?


The Frenchman by Jack Beaumont (Trade Paperback)

The Frenchman Cover

This is a really cool spy thriller novel which is apparently written by a former French intelligence agent.  I have made some good progress on this book and I am getting pretty caught up in the clever story, especially as it is loaded with a ton of intriguing depictions of tradecraft and fascinating information about France’s intelligence agencies.

Altered Realms: Ascension by B. F. Rockriver (Audiobook)

Altered Realms cover

I was in the mood to try something a little different this week, so I thought I would check out a LitRPG novel, a fantasy sub-genre I am not too familiar with.  I ended up going with this debut novel, Altered Realms: Ascension, which follows a NPC within a video game who gets transformed into an adventurer and must quest to save his digital world.  I am about a quarter of the way through this book at the moment and it has so far proved to be an extremely fun and entertaining book that I am really enjoying.

What did you recently finish reading?

Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker (Trade Paperback)

Call of the Bone Ships Cover


Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas (Audiobook)

Cyber Shogun Revolution


#NoEscape
by Gretchen McNeil (Hardcover)

#NoEscape Cover


Doctor Who: The Knight, The Fool and the Dead
by Steve Cole (Hardcover)

Doctor Who - The Knight, The Fool and The Dead Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Fool Me Twice by Jeff Lindsay (Trade Paperback)

Fool Me Twice Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Waiting on Wednesday – #MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.

For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday, I check out an upcoming thriller that is probably going to be one of the most entertaining and bloody young adult books of 2019, #MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil.

#MurderFunding Cover.jpg

#MurderFunding is the sequel to last year’s crazy young adult hit, #MurderTrending, which featured a pretty awesome and over-the-top plot. #MurderTrending followed a Breakfast Club styled group of teens fighting for survival on a reality television show broadcasting their state-sanctioned executions by a gallery of eccentric killers. #MurderTrending was an exciting action-packed novel that was really enjoyable and featured quite a distinctive and addictive story. This sequel is set to be released in just a few weeks and I am loving some of the details that have already been released. Not only is #MurderFunding keeping the cool cover design that was first utilised in #MurderTrending but the plot synopsis also sounds incredibly intriguing.

Goodreads Synopsis:

WELCOME TO WHO WANTS TO BE A PANIAC?, the latest reality TV show on the hunt for the next big-hit serial killer. But don’t worry—no one is actually going to murder anyone, as real as the fake gore and pretend murder may appear . . . uh, right?

Seventeen-year-old Becca Martinello is about to find out. When her perfectly normal soccer mom dies in a car crash, a strange girl named Stef appears to let Becca know that her deceased mom was none other than one of Alcatraz 2.0’s most popular serial killers—Molly Mauler. Soon, Becca ends up on Who Wants to Be a Painiac? to learn the truth about her mom’s connection to Molly Mauler, but things turn sinister when people are murdered IRL. Will Becca uncover dark secrets and make it out of the deadly reality show alive? Or will she get cut?

Based on the plot synopsis, I think #MurderFunding is going to be an excellent sequel to the first book. Not only has McNeil come up with another dark television show to focus the story on but it looks like she has chosen an interesting way to tie this book into #MurderTrending, by focusing on the daughter of one of the original book’s villains. I am also assuming, from the name of the book, that the author will continue to examine the dark side of social media in this book. Having the story punctuated by social media posts analysing and revelling in the carnage of the reality television show was a memorable part of the first book, and I really hope that McNeil continues to utilise it in #MurderFunding.

I had a lot of fun reading the first book in this series and I have no doubt that the sequel will be just as entertaining and over-the-top as the #MurderTrending. It sounds like McNeil has come up with a cool new story for #MurderFunding, and I look forward to seeing how she parodies our fascination with reality television once again.

#MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil

#MurderTrending Cover.jpg

Publisher: Freeform Books

Australian Publication Date – 25 September 2018

World Publication Date – 7 August 2018

 

From one of young adult fiction’s most thrilling authors comes a dark and captivating story of death and madness that is really going to trend online.

When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera awakens in a strange room dressed in a princess outfit, she knows she is about to be executed on live TV.  Falsely convicted of the murder of her stepsister, Dee has been sentenced to die on Alcatraz 2.0, America’s most popular reality television show.  Created by a mysterious television producer known only as The Postman, Alcatraz 2.0 is an island prison where America’s most notorious inmates are hunted down by a series of flamboyant and beloved executioners.

So when Dee comes face to face with one of these killers, she’s supposed to run into his murder room and suffer a terrible death for the entertainment of the masses.  However, Dee has other plans, and goes off script in a major way.  Her actions will make her the most notorious girl in the world and move her to the top of every executioner’s kill list.  Teaming up with a posse of other teenage inmates, Dee needs to quickly learn the rules of this island and figure out a way to avoid being picked off by the psychopaths stalking her.  Can Dee and her new friends, the Death Row Breakfast Club, stay alive long enough to prove Dee’s innocence?  A ghost from her past is haunting her, and Dee doesn’t have much time before her execution goes viral.

Gretchen McNeil is an experienced young adult fiction writer, whose previous work includes several books aimed at the older teen audience.  These include the horror suspense book Ten, the supernatural thriller Possess and teen murder mystery series Don’t Get Mad.  #MurderTrending is the seventh book from McNeil, and it follows in a similar vein to her previous books, with teenage protagonists fighting against a dark, murderous force.  #MurderTrending is an extremely fast-paced and crazy read that proves to be very entertaining, and is the first part of McNeil’s MurderTrending series.  A second book in this series has already been announced and #MurderFunding will be released next August, with an interesting-sounding connection to the first book.

The concept of a group of people being hunted or pitted against each other in an isolated area with the whole world watching is an idea that has been utilised many times before.  Movies and shows such as The Condemned, Death Race, Battle Royale, Dead Man Wonderland and The Hunger Games have all used this concept in one way or another.  I personally think that the plot of #MurderTrending is very similar to The Running Man, with eccentrically dressed hunters chasing after criminals, although it is easy to build a connection between this book and The Hunger Games due to the focus on teenagers.  I think that the author is very aware of these previous movies, as not only does the main character mention The Hunger Games within the book, but one of the other protagonists continually quotes old action movies, including several Arnold Schwarzenegger classics.  While this plot device has been used before, McNeil introduces some new elements, while also doubling down on the concept by making his killers and their executions as crazy and over the top as possible.  The killers in particular are extremely eccentric and include among others, an explosive orientated hipster, two murderous twins, a fashionista with some deadly accessories and a Prince Charming stand-in who hunts girls dressed as princesses through a trap-filled maze while brandishing an oversized cake knife.  As a result, this version of the prison reality television show is particularly amusing, and the over-the-top kills sometimes come across as more humorous than sinister.

While the overarching plot premise of an island prison has been used before, McNeil cleverly enhances this story with some great imitation of the current social media and internet communities.  The entire adventure is being livestreamed to the outside world, and is considered to be the most popular form of entertainment in America.  As a result, the world is constantly talking about the murders on social media, and the author has included sections of a number of fictional forums at the end of several chapters, where various online personalities talk about the events in a number of ways.  This includes praise for the inventive kills, requests, opinions on the various inmates, conspiracy theories and competitions to make the most viral #.  These are particularly intriguing and compelling inclusions that also add a bit of realism to the story, as the reader can easily imagine that social media activity like this would totally happen in a dystopian world where executions are streamed as a form of entertainment.  In addition to all the discussion and use of social media in the story, the protagonist also talks about the various internet fandoms, fan clubs, gambling, merchandise, shipping, fan theories, fan fiction and message boards that have formed up around Alcatraz 2.0.  This is again a fascinating inclusion, with a smack of predictive realism to it, and I utterly loved McNeil’s inventive and modern inclusions around the classic murder prison/reality show concept.  It also sounds like this concept will become a major part of the next book in the series, and I am very keen to see how that turns out.

I thought that the overall story for this book was very well done and created an intriguing and entertaining narrative that was really easy to enjoy.  In addition to her ingenious use of the overarching plot device and setting, McNeil has also created a compelling and thrilling story that is filled with a number of great twists and intense scenes where the book’s fun characters are put into real peril.  While the reveal of the final boss is strongly tied into the character’s past, and isn’t too shocking, how that character gets there is fairly clever, and the twist about the mastermind of the island was pretty surprising.  While the ease with which the protagonist was able to defeat some of the infamous murderers who served as secondary antagonists at the end of the book is a bit unbelievable, I did find myself really hooked on this great story, and I powered through the book to find out how it was going to end.

#MurderTrending is marketed towards a young adult audience, and it’s the sort of amusing and crazy book I would have enjoyed when I was younger.  Due to the large amount of violence and pretty graphic killings, I would suggest that this book is probably more appropriate for an older teenage audience, but based on today’s standards it’s really not too bad.  Out of all the potential readers, the older teenage audience will probably enjoy McNeil’s use of social media and internet cultures the most, as they will be able to relate to the characters and fandom subculture of the people posting on social media within the book.  This is one of those young adult books that would really appeal to older readers, and I would really recommend this to anyone who is looking for an enjoyable and over-the-top read.

Gretchen McNeil is once again at top form as she presents a bloody and action-packed young adult adventure.  Featuring a fun and unrestrained take on a classic fictional plot device and some very ingenious use of current social media and internet trends, this extremely entertaining story is a fantastic read for both teenagers and older readers alike.  #MurderTrending is one of the craziest reads of 2018, and I cannot wait to see what insanity McNeil brings to her next adventure.

My Rating:

Four stars