Room for (Home) Improvement: The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

When the world goes insane, there’s nothing like copious amounts of junk food and a solid romance novel to get you through. Having read two books by Christina Hobbs & Lauren Billings in 2019, The Honey-Don’t List was definitely on my radar for 2020. However, after seeing a bunch of mediocre reviews, I did what any reasonable bookworm would do: I lowered the hell out of my expectations.

Who, What. Where?

THDL follows two assistants named Carey and James who work for home renovation gurus and reality stars, Melissa and Rusty Tripp. The Tripps are on the verge of airing a new Netflix series and have just released a guide to marriage and relationships. The only problem is that they can’t stand one another. When Melissa finds out about Rusty’s latest affair, Carey and James are forced to join the couple on their book tour to help keep their image intact. Both would rather be anywhere else but with Carey needing to keep her medical insurance and James desperate to salvage his resume, they’re stuck. Although, the more time they spend together, the more it seems like this tour may be the start of something unexpected.

Carey & James

One of the major reasons I’ve enjoyed past CL books is their characters. THDL is told in alternating first person POV and while I thought Carey and James were likable characters, they weren’t exactly favourites. Of the two, I definitely found Carey more memorable and interesting. Carey has been with the Tripps since she was sixteen, back when they owned their first furniture store. Now twenty-six, she does all the design elements of their projects with zero credit whilst managing her dystonia and having almost no personal life. I really felt for Carey and it was great seeing her grow in confidence to eventually take charge of her life and stand up for herself.

James was hired by the Tripps as a structural engineer and to his frustration has somehow ended up Rusty’s babysitter. After the last company he worked for turned out to be acting illegally, he desperately needs something respectable in his work history. James is what you’d call the hot-nerd type – smart, clean cut, looks good with his shirt off, and caring. I really liked how supportive and understanding he was of Carey, but…he’s also a teensy bit boring which made connecting with him difficult.

Romance with Missed Potential

In terms of the romance, I’m on the fence, mostly because the relationship shifts felt rushed within the time-frame. The bickering between Carey and James becomes attraction very quickly, they “get together” at halfway, and say the ‘L’ word by the end. It’s too much, too fast and the development of the relationship is often sacrificed to serve The Tripps storyline (which feeds into Carey and James’s personal journeys). When it comes to the relationship itself, while they don’t have the ease of Josh & Hazel or banter of Olive & Ethan, I still found Carey and James well suited for each other and sweet to read about. With more attention and time given to their interactions, this relationship could have been something really good.

Less Laughs, More Drama    

One of the other boxes CL usually tick for me is humour. Whether it’s dialogue or crazy situations, they normally get at least a snort. With The Honey-Don’t List, not so much. The conversations don’t have the same charm and the story itself is more serious than past books. There’s a failing marriage, a muscle disorder, cheating, two young people getting taken advantage of by their bosses – it’s not a “fluffy” read. This isn’t a bad thing, just something to be aware of going in.

An Underwhelming Plot

As for the actual plot, it’s okay. Not keep-you-up-to-til-early-morning exciting, not boring. just middle of the road, ‘eh’. Things happen as expected but there’s enough going on with the characters to keep you mostly engaged. A few things to comment on though: first, I could have done without the police interview transcripts which frame the story and mess with the tone, two, I wish the ending had more closure on certain characters, and three, I wonder whether the story would have been better served by having it set filming the renovation series rather than on the book tour.


Overall, a quick and decent romantic contemporary, but missing a couple of things. If the blurb appeals to you, give it a go but if you’re after a great adult romance, I recommend picking up one of Christina and Lauren’s other works.

2.5 Stars

Let’s Talk: How Reliable Are My Past Book Reviews and Ratings?

This post is going to be several hundred words of me trashing myself. Just thought I would let you know in advance. Probably not the best decision for a book blogger, the whole basis of her blog being that people actually trust her reviews and ratings, but eh, let’s just go with it.

Book reviews and ratings are extremely subjective. What one person loves and gives five stars to, another person might hate entirely or not even bother to finish. Then there’s the fact that everyone has their own rating systems and ideas about what a specific star level means. It’s chaos, chaos I tell you! But what about the subjectivity between the reviews and ratings of an individual reviewer? If I look back at my reading, reviews and ratings of the last few years there’s definitely some major changes evident in the types of books I read, ways I review and things I consider in deciding my opinion of something. As you might expect, this makes me question the reliability of my past ratings and reviews.

Scaredy Pants Reviewer

I’ve mentioned in the past that, until recently, the idea of using low and really high star ratings was something that made me extremely nervous. Lord knows why. Where my silly brain was concerned, five stars was the god-tier reserved exclusively for Harry Potter and a one star rating was pretty much non-existent. Anything I loved was 4 stars, ‘okay’ or somewhat flawed reads got 3 stars, and to get 2 stars, heaven forbid, you really had to grind my gears. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this isn’t something I worry about too much anymore. If I really love something, it’s five stars. If it sucks or it’s not for me, 1 and 2 star ratings exist for a reason. However, looking back at the large number of 3 star and 4 star books that make up the bulk of my Goodreads ‘read’ shelf, I can’t help but wonder where things would sit if I had rated them with my current attitude and closer to how I really felt.

Change in Interests, Tastes & Reading Experience

The things we enjoy and the reasons we enjoy them change substantially over the course of our lives. Music I had on loop as a teen, in most cases, isn’t my go to in my mid-twenties (except maybe Taylor Swift & The High School Musical Soundtrack – those will always bop). The same thing applies to books. Over the years, as I’ve read more books from different genres and authors I’ve been exposed to a range of tropes, clichés, character & story archetypes, and writing styles. As a result, things that I once thought were original, exciting or humorous are now…less so. With this experience, my tastes and interests have also gradually shifted toward other things. For these reasons, I’m almost positive that were I to read certain books from years ago now, I’d feel very differently about them. But does that make my reviews and ratings of them less reliable?

This is a bit of a tough call. Although older and more widely read Ashley has better taste and awareness (I hope), my younger self was: (a) experiencing those books for the first time, (b) for YA reads, closer in age to the intended target audience and better able to relate to the characters’ emotions and experiences, and (c) perhaps reading about certain tropes, stories & character types before they became overused. Would I still love Harry Potter as much had I read it for the first time in my twenties? Maybe, maybe not. I hope so, at least, but I guess I’ll never know.

However, with this in mind, I will say that I often have to resist the urge to go back and edit my old reviews (they’re tragic, really) and ratings to make them more in line with my current ideas. It’s extremely tempting, but something I know I need to avoid to prevent further damaging their reliability.

Memory Based Ratings

Now for another tricky one. Review websites have only existed for a certain number of years and it’s fair to say that most people will have read a lot of books before ever deciding to start formally rating, reviewing and discussing them online. By the time we begin to do so, there’s a degree of separation between now and when we actually read those books, leaving us to rely largely on our memory of the content and how we felt about it.

I don’t know about you, but I often forget whether I remembered to unplug my straightener and pack my charger of a morning. So the very suggestion that I’m also able to remember how much I liked a book I read five plus years ago well enough to accurately rate and discuss it seems like a pigs flying kind of scenario. Do I have a general idea? Sure, but is it detailed enough to consider my casual clicking of the Goodreads star buttons for books I read pre-the site entirely reliable ratings? Eh, probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, for books I obsessively loved or hated, this is probably less of a problem as the emotions associated with them are particularly strong, but with the ones in the middle, perhaps take them with a grain of salt.


So, how reliable are my past reviews and ratings? I suppose the answer is: it’s complicated. It all depends on the book, really – when I read it, what I rated it, how memorable it was, and so on and so forth. If that sounds messy to you, you’d be right! Then again, the fact that there are variations in the accuracy and quality of the reviews of an individual reviewer is no different than the mixed bag we usually sift through from multiple reviewers in deciding whether to read a book or not. I suppose it all comes down to finding reviewers who share your interests, tastes and views. When they recommend something, sometimes they’re on the money and other times they’re not. How reliable I am is up to you.

(But as a suggestion, maybe, just maybe check the year on individual reviews & ratings, and hold tasteless, illegible, teen Ashley to a lower standard. Please and thank you!)

Alternate History, Shapeshifting and an Epic Motorcycle Race: ‘Wolf by Wolf’ by Ryan Graudin

Something I have difficulty coming up with recommendations for is underrated or hidden gem type books. Because, let’s be real, when it comes to my reading choices, I have a strong tendency to stick to novels and authors which are popular, talked about or considered “good”. This is extremely silly because I’m likely to miss out on some amazing books. Books like Wolf by Wolf for instance, which is now officially my “hidden gem” pick.

What If…?

Wolf by Wolf is an alternate history story set in 1956 in a world in which the Nazis and Japanese won WWII. Between the two powers, they now control most of the world. To honour their victory, each year the legendary Axis tour is held – an epic, cutthroat, and gruelling motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo. Eighteen-year-old Yael is a survivor of the camp at Auschwitz where she was experimented on, leaving her with the ability to shapeshift. Now part of the resistance, Yael is set the almost impossible task of assassinating Adolf Hitler. However, in order to get close enough, she must first disguise herself as former tour winner, Adele Wolf, and win the race. It won’t be easy though, especially with Adele’s brother, Felix, and Luka, who has history with Adele, among the competitors.

On the Road

I’m not usually drawn to travelling/journey type plots, but Wolf by Wolf is a wonderful exception. This is a book with both a fantastic premise and great execution. The bulk of the novel follows Yael through the different legs of the Axis Tour as she deals with the elements, potentially life-threatening sabotage attempts by other racers, and maintaining her cover as Adele. I loved the competitive aspect. It was exciting, fast paced and a lot of fun. Plus, the couple of unexpected moments thrown into the mix made it even more enjoyable. Even better, the book managed to sustain this degree of momentum right til its last moments.

Slowing things Down

Graudin balances out the action-packed sections with plenty of slower, character-oriented moments. The book flicks back and forth between the present and flashbacks to Yael’s past. These start with her arrival at Auschwitz at five years old and lead up to her resistance training before the race. Yael’s memories are heartbreakingly centred around the people she’s lost and reveal the evolution of her character in an emotional way. I’ve found that books which utilise this method of storytelling sometimes end up feeling a bit choppy but the transitions here were well done.

In the present, the book also works at developing Yael’s relationships with both Luka and Felix during pit stops and rest breaks. Both these characters were very likeable in different ways. I couldn’t help smiling at Luka’s cocky, flirty, bad boy persona and sympathising with Felix who is desperate to avoid losing another sibling. Each brings out something different in Yael and often forces her to rethink notions about Germans and herself.

A Touch of Romance

Yes, there’s a romantic subplot in this book but to my immense relief, it (a) isn’t cheesy and (b) doesn’t take over the main story. It’s there, but just enough to add to the story and aid in Yael’s character development/journey.

Lone Wolf

As far as leads go, I really liked Yael. She walks the line between strong and vulnerable very well – physically and mentally very capable, but at the same time with deep emotional baggage. Also, major point in her favour, she’s not stupid. As a character, Yael has a complicated relationship with identity in that she no longer remembers what she actually looks like, often has to act out other personas (as she does with Adele), and has been separated from her family, culture and heritage. The events of the novel really force her to think about who she is and how her past & abilities define her.

A Few Extra Points:

  • The book takes a couple of chapters to kick into gear but once it finds its stride, it really gets going
  • Some of the side characters are somewhat like window dressing – they pop up when needed and fade into the background the rest of the time
  • The writing style gets a little bit “artsy” at points but as someone who’s not usually a fan of this, I found it alright for the most part

Wolf by Wolf was a huge surprise for me – the really good kind, and I’m so glad I stumbled across it. If you like historical fiction, competition-based plots and well written heroines, I can’t recommend this book enough.

4.5 stars

Beware Guests Who Never Leave: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

The Family Upstairs is one of those books that I was excited to read the moment I first saw the cover and read the blurb. Mysterious deaths, a creepy house in London, I was like, sign me right up.

Who, What, Where?

The main gist of the story is that back in the 1980s, three people were bizarrely found poisoned to death in a Chelsea mansion. Upon arriving at the scene, police discovered a letter proclaiming a group suicide and a ten-month-old baby girl. The circumstances surrounding the deaths never became entirely clear and the other children said to have been living in the house prior disappeared entirely. Now twenty-five, the baby, Libby, has inherited the house by virtue of her parents’ will. After being made aware of the mystery surrounding her parents’ deaths, Libby begins to look into what happened all those years ago.

A Mystery of Past & Present

The Family Upstairs is told in a mixture of first and third person, focusing on two timelines and three central characters. At first, it’s slightly confusing working out who’s who, what’s going on, and how things connect, but this doesn’t last for very long. In the past we have Henry, the son of the owners of the Chelsea house. He recounts the years leading up to the deaths in which several guests with sinister motives come to stay but never leave, completely altering his family’s lives. In the present, the storylines revolve around Libby (and her investigation into the family with a journalist named Miller) and Lucy, a mother of two living on the streets in France.

Both Henry and Libby’s stories involve a great deal of set up to progress the book’s later events and some readers may find the pacing slow because of it. As the book goes on, the two plotlines increasingly begin to tie into each other and accelerate. Henry reveals certain puzzle pieces in the mystery and Libby discovers others, allowing the reader to gradually construct a timeline. I liked this concept, but I do feel as though it could have been utilised more effectively in terms of Libby’s discoveries contextualising or leading into events in Henry’s timeline.

Too Many POVs

Lucy’s storyline, on the other hand, is something I feel I could have done without. I generally don’t mind books utilising multiple POVs, provided they’re done well and enhance the storytelling. While Lucy’s story is sometimes interesting, when viewed against the main trajectory of the novel, the events of it are largely an unnecessary distraction until close to the end. This time would probably have been better served developing the other characters in the book, especially young Lucy considering her importance to the story.

Missing Charisma

Speaking of characters, there are quite a few in this story. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that a lot of them don’t feel particularly well fleshed out. This left me feeling somewhat apathetic at big moments, particularly when certain characters from the past showed up in the present. One character which could definitely have used extra attention was David, our villain of sorts who eventually turns the inhabitants of the Chelsea house into a cult. We’re told that David is intelligent and charming and yet, from what I was shown in the novel I still have no idea how he managed to hold such influence over so many people, especially the women. Considering how crucial this was to the novel, it severely damaged the realism of it for me.

Engaging and Ominous

Despite my issues above, I have to say, I found this book highly readable. Lisa Jewell has a very easy-going writing style, which makes getting sucked in simple, and a great sense of place (busy London, a bizarre market, the streets of Nice, the slow decay of the house from glamourous to oppressive). She also excels in instilling ominous and creepy feelings where necessary. Once I got past the early chapters, I was engaged in what was happening and genuinely looked forward to finding out how things would end. The book throws in a couple of twists, some of which utilise an unreliable narrator, and although they’re not particularly surprising, I was generally okay with them.

The End…?

One of the things that really damaged my enjoyment of this one was the ending. With thriller reads, I always go in expecting an exciting and dramatic climax. After all, the author has just spent a lengthy number of pages building tension, laying the groundwork, and you assume there’ll be a payoff for it. However, the climax here ended up feeling…flat. Whether this is because of the writing style or slow build up, I’m not sure. Worse, I’d hoped that the ending would be able to rectify it somewhat but no. Instead, I ended up with something weird, unrealistic, unearned (character wise), and incomplete.


Overall, while there were some things to like about this one it just wasn’t the read for me. I’m in the minority here though, so if you’re a big thriller fan I’d recommend giving The Family Upstairs a go – you might really enjoy it.

2 Stars

Heartbreaking and Beautiful: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

If there were a pause button for our emotions, I would use it in a heartbeat to recover from this novel. To put things into perspective, I haven’t cried reading a book in around ten years. During the last 100 pages of A Little Life, I was a wreck. I’m not talking one cinematic tear down my cheek. I’m talking throat closing over, eyes so blurred it’s difficult to see the page, and snot running down my face like a waterfall. It was ugly. Lord knows how I’m going to write a structured and articulate review on this one.

Who, What, Where?

A Little Life tells the story of four friends, who after meeting at university, move to New York together. There’s Willem, the caring & good looking aspiring actor; JB, a snarky artist hoping to eventually make it to the big time; Malcolm, a junior architect slaving his way at a big firm, waiting for his moment to shine; and Jude, the withdrawn and intelligent legal associate that they all seem to revolve around. The book takes place over several decades of their lives, dealing with the highs and lows, but particularly with how Jude’s traumatic and horrific past has come to dictate his present and that of his friends as well.

An Emotional Roller Coaster

This won’t be for everyone. At 720 pages, A Little Life is a long read and could probably have been slightly shorter. For the most part, it’s not a happy one either. Sure, there are plenty of lovely moments sprinkled across the story but this is a book that deals extensively, and sometimes graphically, with issues of child physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, suicide, depression, grief/loss, drug addiction, self-harm, and a whole host of other things. To say that it’s difficult to read is putting it lightly. My heart hurt through about two thirds of it and page 641 probably fractured my soul. If you connect with the characters, it’ll put you through the emotional ringer and, if this is your kind of book, trust me, you will.

Real People

If I were ever to write a book of my own, I would be grateful even to write characters half as rich, tangible and layered as the ones in A Little Life. Each are beautifully crafted with their own passions, goals, talents, fears, failings, and histories. By the end of the book I felt as though I had spent years looking through a window into the lives of real people that I truly cared about. To be blunt, the characterisation in this novel is simply fantastic. However, while there are certainly quite a few players (Willem & Jude’s father figure, Harold, were my personal favourites), this is most certainly Jude’s story. As the book starts to make this clear, we spend less time with the perspectives of other characters, notably JB & Malcolm. In a short list of critiques of this book, I will say, this is something which disappointed me somewhat and I feel as though some chapters could have been diverted from Jude in service of his friends without harming his journey.

Jude is a talented, kind, and intelligent man but he’s also severely damaged, both physically and mentally. He goes through a great deal over the course of the novel in both past and present. The story slowly develops the difficult trajectory of his past and delves into how it influences both his sense of self and relationships as an adult. There were points where I had to wonder, how can so many terrible things happen to one person? Yet, at the same time, because Jude and the story felt so real to me, in asking this question I can’t help but feel like I’m questioning the events of someone’s life and so, I have to put my doubts aside. Jude is a complex character and A Little Life spends a lot of time helping the reader to understand his emotions and thought processes. You do grow very attached to him and genuinely feel his moments of happiness and despair.

Beauty in Prose

The writing in this novel is gorgeous. The prose is honest, flows, and sometimes Yanagihara phrases something so perfectly, you have to stop and admire it. I should note, however, that due to the length of some sentences, comma use, and the novel’s constant, almost seamless transitions between memory and present, you do need to concentrate on what’s happening or risk being momentarily confused about where and when you are.

Friendship & Love

While A Little Life is very much about trauma and self-worth, it’s also about so much more: love, friendship, and the nature of life itself. It looks at how friendships grow and change with time, how they can be lost and repaired, and the dynamics within them; it showcases inexplicable and unconditional love in all its forms, our need of it and us being deserving of it even when we cannot see that ourselves; and most of all, it’s a book about how life may be full of darkness but that there will also be light and to find joy in even the smallest of things.    


Despite its few issues, the connection I had with this book and the emotional response it instilled makes it feels wrong to give it anything less than five stars. A Little Life is a long, difficult ride, but one that’s beautiful, worthwhile, and utterly unforgettable.

5 Stars

Lock Your Doors, Latch Your Windows: The Whisper Man by Alex North

One of my bookish resolutions for 2020 was to read more broadly than my constant marathon of fantasy and YA contemporaries. Cue: The Whisper Man by Alex North, a crime/thriller novel with an intriguing premise, rumoured to be a little bit creepy, and featured on quite a few people’s top ten lists of 2019.

Who, What, Where?

“If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.
If you play outside alone, soon you won’t be going home.
If your window’s left unlatched, you’ll hear him tapping at the glass.
If you’re lonely, sad, and blue, the Whisper Man will come for you.”

The novel is set in the small town of Featherbank in which a young boy named Neil Spencer has recently been abducted after hearing whispers at his bedroom window. The kidnapping is deeply unsettling for police as twenty years ago a serial killer with the same MO named Frank Carter, and known as ‘The Whisper Man’, was arrested. The body of his final victim was never found and at the time, the lead inspector on the case, DI Pete Willis, believed Carter might have an accomplice. Shortly after Neil’s disappearance, Tom Kennedy and his seven-year-old son, Jake, move to town, hoping to find a new start following the death of Jake’s mother, Rebecca. However, to Tom’s dismay, Jake soon begins acting strangely – talking to invisible children, sleepwalking, and spouting information he shouldn’t know. But then Jake, too, begins to hear the whispering.

More Than Your Standard Police Procedural

While TWM is marketed as a fantastic crime novel, and its mystery elements are definitely solid, where this book excels is its focus on themes like parenthood, specifically the relationship between fathers and sons, grief and trauma.  The key relationship here is between Tom and Jake. Several months after Rebecca’s death, Tom and Jake are both grieving in different ways and struggling to understand one another. Tom loves his son and desperately wants to connect with him but at the same time he’s also learning to be a single parent and dealing with the complex emotions associated with his loss. He worries about Jake fitting in and dealing with finding Rebecca’s body but more that he’s doing the right thing by Jake in terms of his parenting. His struggles also inevitably make him think about his problematic relationship with his own father.

Well-Rounded Characters

The characters in TWM are fleshed out and feel like real people, with all the flaws and failings that come with it. As a reader, we genuinely feel and understand Tom’s conflicting emotions of sadness and anger over his wife’s death, Jake’s guilt in being what he feels is a disappointment to his father, Pete’s struggles not to give in to his alcohol addiction, and DI Amanda Beck’s desperate need to do the right thing by Neil Spencer and his family. The book shifts perspectives between each of these characters, and later the killer, in a very fluid and easy to follow way.

Enjoyable but Not Gripping

In terms of the mystery itself, I found it mildly enjoyable but not to the level hype had set my expectations. However, I feel as though this is likely more a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. As I mentioned above, TWM is about more than just an investigation. In order to facilitate this (and because there are points where the police are low on leads), the pacing is slower for large sections. It’s almost as though the mystery takes a back seat to character development and exploring the book’s overall themes, which is fine but not what I was anticipating.Something I also really enjoy in my thrillers/mysteries are intense moments and big/smart reveals. TWM does have a few creepy and dramatic moments, and the later chapters are certainly fast paced, but the majority of the reveals didn’t really encourage a reaction from me more than, ‘Okay, I’m cool with that. That makes sense’. Overall, I can say I was consistently interested in what was happening but not necessarily glued to the page, on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen.

I See Dead People (Maybe?)

TWM also includes a potential paranormal plotline. Having gone into this book expecting a gritty murder mystery grounded in reality, this was a surprise for me, but one I really enjoyed. This part of the story revolves around Jake and his tendency to see and speak to children which no one else can. Jake also often says things that make Tom wonder where he would have picked up the information. This complication added an extra dimension to Jake and Tom’s relationship and really enriched the sections of the novel from Jake’s perspective. They also tie in nicely to the overall mystery narrative, making certain moments that little bit more emotional and dramatic.      


All things considered; I liked this one. It was well written and I’d probably read another book from the same author in the future.

3.5 Stars

A Hero Doesn’t Choose Her Trials: Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Skyward was my favourite read of 2019, so to say that I had high expectations for Starsight is verging on understatement. In the end, was it as good as the original? No, but I can safely say it was a very enjoyable ride all the same.

Who, What, Where?

Yeah, I can’t do this section for this particular review because the spoilers would be out of this world. Ha. Get it? Out of this…okay, moving on.

A Different Type of Adventure

Story wise, Starsight was a very different experience to Skyward. I’ll admit, I panicked when I first realised the direction the narrative was taking, but in the end I really needn’t have worried. Where book one was focused on a straightforward path of training and survival with clear heroes, enemies and goals, Starsight is more about subtlety, politics, and subterfuge. Because of this, the pacing is a lot slower at points. Still, despite the lack of ‘I-must-keep-reading’ momentum, I was never bored.  And if you’re someone who really enjoyed the battles in book one, don’t worry. Spensa spends plenty of time in the cockpit.

A Whole New World…or Universe

Over the years, something I’ve found that frequently ruins a good concept is an author attempting to take their stage from small to big. When I saw this was about to happen here, a large part of me wanted to scream: ABORT MISSION. As it turned out, I should have trusted a phenomenal world builder like Sanderson not to let me down. Starsight is the big bang of world building. It introduces new races, technology, planets, histories, culture, politics, everything you could possibly think of, and it does so fantastically. These inclusions are not only interesting but exponentially raise the stakes for the characters and expand the story in an exciting (and MAJOR) way. Even better, they make logical sense. Now that the door has been opened, I’m really looking forward to seeing what else is out there.

New Faces & Missing Familiar Ones

Starsight introduces us to a bunch of new characters. I can’t say much because of spoilers, but these new faces are very different to those we found in Skyward. They’re also completely distinct from one another in personality, physical appearance, and backstories. You can tell that Sanderson had a lot of fun crafting these characters and throughout the story they provided some great moments of humour, sadness and excitement. I really enjoyed them, both the “good” and the villainous.

Yet, while I liked the new characters, I have to say that I missed Cobb and the Skyward Flight gang in this book. For plot reasons, they don’t get much page time other than a few scenes here and there. Jorgen makes some bread (really) and gets the beginnings of a character arc, which will be expanded later, but for the others, it’s almost a blink and you’ll miss it situation. Although, I am happy to report that our faves, M-Bot and Doomslug, were very much along for the ride (complete with an existential crisis on M-Bot’s part) and gave me the usual snort laughs. And bonus, they even got some development of their own!

Spensa the Spy

Something I really loved about this book was just how much growth Spensa underwent. I loved Spensa and her crazy dramatics in Skyward, but in Starsight she becomes far more self-aware, realises the value of discipline and pre-planning, and re-evaluates her perspectives on war and what it means to be a hero. It was also great to see her tackle challenges in new, subtler ways and have to utilise skills not previously part of her strengths. By pushing Spensa out of her comfort zone, Sanderson has created an even better lead that I can’t wait to see develop further.

Sanderson, You Suck

That ending. I knew it was coming, but I’m still mad. How could you do this to me? And with at least a year to wait for the next book? Like, really? REALLY?


Although distinctly different from its predecessor in terms of scale, plot and pacing, Starsight is another fantastic read which massively expands the series’ overarching story and universe. While I may have enjoyed Skyward better, Starsight was still a great mix of action, humour, and heart that I’m sure I’ll re-read in years to come.

Now, someone wake me up when book three is out…

4.5 Stars