Book Review Holiday Reads

Mini Reviews of Recent Reads – Part I

You may (or may not!) have noticed that things went a little quiet on Jo’s Book Blog recently.  This is partly because I had a week on Boa Vista, one of the islands in the Cape Verde.  However, I also took a bit more time away from blogging than expected, as I found that I needed a break – I found myself in a bit of a reading slump, and I wasn’t enjoying blogging as much, which in turn affected my reviews which I felt weren’t up to scratch.

But now I’m back, thoroughly refreshed, slightly less pale than usual, and maybe a little heavier than I was before 😀

I managed to fit in quite a bit of reading during my break, and being able to read my own books without the (entirely self-imposed) guilt of not reading review copies was thoroughly refreshing.  I’ve split my mini reviews into two posts, and the second will follow later this week.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

sleeping beauties

All around the world, something is happening to women when they fall asleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed, the women become feral and spectacularly violent…

In the small town of Dooling, West Virginia, the virus is spreading through a women’s prison, affecting all the inmates except one. Soon, word spreads about the mysterious Evie, who seems able to sleep – and wake. Is she a medical anomaly or a demon to be slain?

The abandoned men, left to their increasingly primal devices, are fighting each other, while Dooling’s Sheriff, Lila Norcross, is just fighting to stay awake.

And the sleeping women are about to open their eyes to a new world altogether…

I enjoyed this novel which looks at what might happen if women were to disappear from the world, leaving the men to their own devices.  Whilst it’s co-written by Stephen and Owen King, Sleeping Beauties had many of the hallmarks of a Stephen King novel, and if you like his work then I think you’ll enjoy this.

Stephen King likes a small town setting, and it allows him to go into detail about the place and its inhabitants, which really do bring the books to life.  However, I did find it a little difficult to keep track of all of the characters in this novel, although there is a character guide at the beginning to help with this.

Sleeping Beauties is an interesting and original story and I liked the ending, but it did feel a little too long at times.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

the hunger

After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

Based on the true story of The Donner Party, The Hunger is an eerie, shiver-inducing exploration of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.

I absolutely loved The Hunger in which Katsu put a supernatural spin on the tale of the ill-fated Donner party.  Whilst I vaguely remember learning about them in school, I couldn’t tell you much beyond the outcome of their journey, but no prior knowledge is needed to enjoy this novel.

The Hunger is rich in historical detail and interesting, if not entirely likeable, characters, and Katsu builds up the tension and imparts a sense of dread from the very beginning of the novel, even when things don’t look too bad for the party.  Recommended if you’re looking for a creepy, literary horror.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Girls by Emma Cline

the girls

Evie Boyd is fourteen and desperate to be noticed.

It’s the summer of 1969 and restless, empty days stretch ahead of her. Until she sees them. The girls. Hair long and uncombed, jewelry catching the sun. And at their centre, Suzanne, black-haired and beautiful.

If not for Suzanne, she might not have gone. But, intoxicated by her and the life she promises, Evie follows the girls back to the decaying ranch where they live.

Was there a warning? A sign of what was coming? Or did Evie know already that there was no way back?

The Girls is a novel that I wanted to read when it was first published in 2016, but didn’t actually purchase until late last year after being given a nudge by a friend of mine.  I’m so glad I listened to her!

It is fiction, but The Girls explores the pull of charismatic cult-leaders, and what inspires such devotion in the followers of individuals such as Charles Manson as Evie become ever more involved in a small commune made up of several young girls and their leader, Russell Hadrick.

The characters aren’t particularly likeable, but I did still want to shield Evie from what she was getting into, and I enjoyed the way in which Cline portrayed her conflict between her upbringing and doing what’s right versus the desire to “prove” herself to these girls and their leader.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh




‘To your knowledge, is there anything that would preclude you from serving on this jury?’

Murder wasn’t the hard part. It was just the start of the game.

Joshua Kane has been preparing for this moment his whole life. He’s done it before. But this is the big one.

This is the murder trial of the century. And Kane has killed to get the best seat in the house.

But there’s someone on his tail. Someone who suspects that the killer isn’t the man on trial.

Kane knows time is running out – he just needs to get to the conviction without being discovered.

Thirteen is absolutely brilliant!  I haven’t read Cavanagh’s other novels featuring Eddie Flynn, but I didn’t feel that I was missing out on any essential background to the plot or characters by diving straight into this one.

I don’t want to say too much about this – the premise of a serial killer sitting on the jury is a fantastic one, and whilst I wasn’t sure how he’d make it work, he did.  Wonderful, twisty, and clever, I highly recommend Thirteen.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


    1. Yes – I was very naughty and skipped straight to Thirteen without reading the others! Eva @ Novel Deelights said I could! 😀

  1. I SO need to dive into my copy of Sleeping Beauties – just the long list of characters at the start intimidates me though 🤣 I also can’t wait to read Thirteen!

    1. Yeah – there are a lot of characters to get to grips with! 😂 Worth reading if you can make time for it though…
      And Thirteen is so good!

  2. I loved the hunger as well!
    I still haven’t read Sleeping Beauties, which is kinda shocking, considering i read all King stuff as soon as they are out. 😀

    1. Wasn’t it amazing?!
      Sleeping Beauties is worth a read – I find King a bit hit and miss, but I enjoyed this 😊

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