4 star, YA

ARC Review: These Deadly Games by Diana Urban

Let’s play a game.

You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies. If you call the police, she dies. If you tell your parents or anyone else, she dies.

Are you ready?

When Crystal Donavan gets a message on a mysterious app with a video of her little sister gagged and bound, she agrees to play the kidnapper’s game. At first, they make her complete bizarre tasks: steal a test and stuff it in a locker, bake brownies, make a prank call.

But then Crystal realizes each task is meant to hurt—and kill—her friends, one by one. But if she refuses to play, the kidnapper will kill her sister. Is someone trying to take her team out of the running for a gaming tournament? Or have they uncovered a secret from their past, and wants them to pay for what they did…

As Crystal makes the impossible choices between her friends and her sister, she must uncover the truth and find a way to outplay the kidnapper… before it’s too late.

Author of All Your Twisted Secrets, Diana Urban’s explosive sophomore novel, These Deadly Games, will keep you riveted until the final twist is revealed.

**These Deadly Games comes out February 1, 2022**

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Fast paced, exhilarating and full of twisted games, These Deadly Games had me on the edge of my seat the whole time as we race with Crystal against the clock to save her sister.

This is Diana Urban’s second novel and I fell in love with this one even more than the first. Written in the same storytelling method I have come to expect from her, we are not given too much information about certain aspects of the protagonist and friends’ past that only slowly unfolds as we move forward in the present time. How this impacts the present day characterization of the main group of friends we are following is brilliant as it shaped who they each are.

Besides characterization, the mystery flows super well that it’s very hard to put down. Right from the get go, we know Crystal’s group is up for a gaming tournament with high chances of winning the team component. Is someone hunting them down one by one so they wouldn’t qualify for it? There are plenty of motives and suspects who may not want to see any of them succeed. Guessing who the culprit(s) may be was fun, though I will admit I had a sneaking suspicion who it was around the 50% mark, but that didn’t lessen how much fun it was to see it all being pieced together.

This book is also aptly named because, oh boy, those sure were some DEADLY games this unknown entity put Crystal through. What seemed like innocent enough gestures alone soon became separate ways that were hurting people she loved. And if the “truth” of these deadly acts came to light, all the evidence would point to Crystal alone, wouldn’t it? It was such a brilliantly devised plan and this evil mastermind had me applauding their, well, genius the whole way. They were so creative, and I have to praise Urban for devising up such things.

There was a lot to love about this book. I felt the secondary characters, all of Crystal’s gaming group, were unique enough although we don’t get to spend a lot of time with each since we really are just following Crystal during this 24 hour period. It also explored some of Crystal’s family life and the feelings she had about the dysfunction present there, along with her instinct to put her little sister above all else. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite give it a 5 star rating. I felt like it was just missing a “wow” factor, but that really could only be me since I might’ve guessed whodunnit rather early on.

However, how the ending wrapped up was pretty solid and amazing. I can’t give away much, but let me just say it made a lot of sense and still had me gripping my seat until the very last page. I think Urban couldn’t have written a better ending for this story with the perfect amount of allure and openness. It was definitely far better than the dumpster wreck ending of her debut.

I would definitely recommend you pick this one up when it comes out if you’re looking for a fast read that takes some turns you may not expect. These Deadly Games is sure to thrill and have you flipping through the pages to find out how it would all resolve.

Overall Recommendation:

These Deadly Games is a wonderful mystery/thriller that features a cunning mastermind tormenting Crystal and her friends on the weekend eve of a big gaming tournament they’re posed to win. Its fast-paced storytelling set in a 24 hour period as Crystal races against the clock to save her kidnapped sister had me rushing to get to the bottom of it. I enjoyed the characterizations of Crystal’s friend group, but particularly learning who Crystal was and the lengths she’d go to juggle the hardest decision she’d ever have to make: save her friends or her sister. The ending was spectacularly handled, although I kind of guessed who the mastermind was some time earlier. Overall this was a solid mystery but may have missed a little wow factor for me to reach 5-star. Diana Urban’s sophomore novel definitely set the bar and I look forward to seeing where she goes next because it’s only getting better!


Let’s Talk Bookish – Do Book-Buying Bans Work For You?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where they discuss certain topics, share their opinions, and spread the love by visiting each others’ posts.

JANUARY 14: DO BOOK BUYING BANS WORK FOR YOU? (Jillian @ Jillian the Bookish Butterfly)

The book community is full of consumerism. People want to not just read their favourite books, but own them as well. Sometimes this can get…a little out of hand. How do you control your spending/buying books you don’t have time to read? Does setting a book buying ban work for you? How long do you usually ban yourself for?

Welcome to another LTB here at DTRH! Today’s topic is certainly interesting, and I always love hearing about different strategies the community has to tackle the same problem. Definitely let me know what you all do in the comments below!

I personally don’t have the hugest problem with buying too many books. I’m a fairly frugal person so I tend not to buy anything if I don’t have to. That being said, of the things I do like to buy, books would definitely be way up there. So I suppose, proportional spending-wise, books do probably take up way more of the budget.

I think I’m generally financially responsible though, so money-wise it isn’t the biggest deal. But bookshelf space definitely is a big deal. Honestly, that’s probably the biggest deterrent for me not to buy books—where would I even put it?! So I guess it’s not exactly a book-buying ban, but more of a self-restraint to save my bookshelf space

I often self-restrict from going to the bookstore too often, as that is often a big trigger for me to “unintentionally” buy books—I’m sure many of you can relate to that. Lately, with the whole world situation, it hasn’t been the biggest deal, as it isn’t recommended to go out anyway. So I suppose for me it isn’t really a book-buying ban as much as it is a bookstore-going ban.

I don’t think I’ve ever set an actual book-buying ban before for myself, though I have definitely resisted buying many a book at the bookstore before. I’m not sure a ban would work for me, since I doubt I would adhere to it on any sort of time basis. I much prefer to just overall buy books less, rather than have periods of time where I can buy unrestrictedly versus times where I can’t.

One thing that actually does help me get over this book-buying is by buying books for friends! I get the feeling of buying a book, it doesn’t take up my bookshelf, and a friend is happy to receive the book. It’s a win-win all around, except for maybe my wallet. But it does solve the “buying too many books” problem a tiny little bit. (Unless money is your main issue!)

What do you all do to stop yourselves from overconsumption of books? Do let me know below!

covers, discussion

Look Alike Covers Part 1

Hello blogging friends! I am unfortunately still feeling sick since Sunday and hope I’m on the recovery process soon, so this post will have to be a shorter one.

I wanted to discuss with you today something I’ve noticed on infrequent occasions where covers just look soooo similar to one another. I know no one lives in a vacuum so of course people get inspired by one another, but these ones just have a bit of an uncanny similarity between them.

I think I will make this into a series at some point, so this will only be part 1. Let’s begin!

Defy (Sara B. Larson) & Graceling (Kristin Cashore)

Both are high fantasy stories featuring a badass heroine who can totally handle herself well. While I know dagger pictures aren’t uncommon (maybe I should do a post of covers with swords sometime?), the green background and simplistic focus on the dagger do bring out similarities. A bookstagram friend pointed out this similarity to me.

What do you think? Look alike or no?

Long May She Reign (Rhiannon Thomas) & Control (Lydia Kang)

I suppose when YA people think of SCIENCE in their stories, you automatically get a beaker on the cover. Personally, I really like both covers a lot, and the blue hues contrasting the black background make it stand out.

What do you think? Look alike or no?

The Vanishing Deep (Astrid Scholte) & The Corridor (A.N. Willis)

Okay, this last one was the MOST uncanny resemblance I have EVER seen in book covers. Is this the same model doing both? Regardless of the model though, the whole positioning of it with the girl having her head stick out from some watery substance is just…I have no words.

What do you think? Look alike or no?

These are my pairings for now! What do you think about these covers? Have you observed any uncanny similarities between two books before? Let me know in the comments below!