3.5 star

Review: The Controlled by P. J. Willett

The Controlled is an urban science fiction about a group of disparate characters, trapped in a school by a gang of
deranged students. It is set in a post-Brexit nation, where cruelty trumps competence, and inequality is intensifying.

A selection of Subs (the school’s worst students) undergo an experiment designed to teach them restraint. But, when
something goes wrong, their minds are trapped in bodies they cannot control – passengers in the unravelling nightmare.

As the Subs’ violent rampage threatens to expose the school’s dubious practice, someone must risk everything to save them all. However, in a society that reveres malice, justice rarely prevails.

Told from the perspective of each of the varied characters, a gradual reveal of consequences builds to a claustrophobic
finale, challenging our original impression of who anyone really is.

The Controlled focuses on the events of a single day in the not-too-distant future, that will give rise to the spread of an
epidemic in the dumbest of dystopias.

Note: Thanks to the author for providing a copy of his book for review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.

In the most dystopias of dystopias is where The Controlled takes place. The setting takes place where humanity is barely humanity, and it is really more of a war of attrition on literal human resources and what happens when one day an experiment goes wrong at one of the facilities. Told over the course of everyone’s POV who is involved, this was a fast-paced, thrilling book, which challenges a lot about how we perceive our world.

The characters were all terribly unloveable. But I would say that in a good way, since this is a dystopian book, so kudos to the author for that. I hated them each deeply and I certainly wasn’t rooting for anyone in this crazy situation that breaks out. Each character has their own unique flaws and it is ugly as they all come out to play (or rather, fight). Building each of the characters through the perspective of all the other characters was actually something that was well done.

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3.5 star, YA

Review: Five Survive by Holly Jackson

The brand new unmissable crime thriller from Holly Jackson, best-selling, award-winning author of the Good Girl’s Guide to Murder trilogy.

Eight hours.
Six friends.
One sniper . . .

Eighteen year old Red and her friends are on a road trip in an RV, heading to the beach for Spring Break. It’s a long drive but spirits are high. Until the RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere. There’s no mobile phone reception and nobody around to help. And as the wheels are shot out, one by one, the friends realise that this is no accident. There’s a sniper out there in the dark watching them and he knows exactly who they are. One of the group has a secret that the sniper is willing to kill for.

A game of cat-and-mouse plays out as the group desperately tries to get help and to work out which member of the group is the target. Buried secrets are forced to light in the cramped, claustrophobic setting of the RV, and tensions within the group will reach deadly levels. Not everyone will survive the night.

Overall Recommendation:

Hard to compete with the super high bar Holly Jackson’s bestselling series brought, but Five Survive holds up well enough as a locked room type thriller. Secrets were fun to guess and the ultimate mastermind behind what should’ve been a fun road trip wasn’t immediately obvious. Kudos for branching out in the genre but I did wish for more suspense as there wasn’t really enough stakes for it.

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3.5 star, YA

ARC Review: A Thousand Heartbeats by Kiera Cass

“Love has a sound. It sounds like a thousand heartbeats happening at the same time.”

Princess Annika has lived a life of comfort—but no amount of luxuries can change the fact that her life isn’t her own to control. The king, once her loving father, has gone cold, and Annika will soon be forced into a loveless marriage for political gain.

Miles away, small comforts are few and far between for Lennox. He has devoted his life to the Dahrainian army, hoping to one day help them reclaim the throne that was stolen from them. For Lennox, the idea of love is merely a distraction—nothing will stand in the way of fighting for his people.

But when love, against all odds, finds them both, they are bound by its call. They can’t possibly be together—but the irresistible thrum of a thousand heartbeats won’t let them stay apart. 

Kiera Cass brings her signature sparkling romance to this beautiful story of star-crossed lovers and long-held secrets.

Overall Recommendation:

A Thousand Heartbeats presents itself as a grand romance and it truly does deliver in that aspect, although I personally believe the enemies-to-lovers trope was too rushed to fully satisfy the perfect angst that was set in the beginning. The fantasy half was subpar with very little originality besides the entangled history between the characters’ two kingdoms. If you come at this as a romance with some fantasy, I guarantee this will be a fun read. If you want more of a fantasy, be warned this will probably not meet your expectations.

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