The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings - Book Review

The Murder Complex is a thrilling blood soaked dystopian novel by Lindsay Cummings, set in a futuristic world where the 'Initiative' are in control, and the death rate is higher than the birth rate. People are being murdered every single night, and sixteen year old Meadow Woodson will do anything to ensure she isn't one of them. Feisty, tough, and unapologetic, Meadow will do anything to survive. It's kill or be killed, and she will always choose the former.


But for Zephyr James, life isn't so clean cut. He spends his days cleaning up the bodies that litter the streets, and his nights in turmoil over the people he has murdered. He can't control it. He can't stop it. The plot takes a dark twist when Zephyr and Meadow meet, and unbeknown to them, they both play a vital part in the disturbing experiment that is 'The Murder Complex'. 

We have seen an increasing amount of YA dystopian fiction burst onto the scene in recent years, and yes, the Murder Complex features some of the recurring tropes of the genre. A dangerous, controlling society. A kick ass protagonist. Love. Death. Family. Rebellion. The Murder Complex contains all of those things, but twists them into something fresh, original, and arguably darker than other YA dystopian novels. While Lindsay's inspirations are clear, her voice and writing is completely original, and she is a very, very welcome addition to the genre. 

An easy 5/5 Stars. 

Please check out my video review of The Murder Complex (Spoiler Free).

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Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - Book Review

In my June book haul I said if the book was even half as good as the amazing cover, I would love it. It was. It is just a stunning book, written beautifully with complex characters. 

Shatter Me tells the story of Juliette, a teenage girl who has a lethal touch. Hidden away in an asylum, Juliette hasn’t had contact with another person in months, she is seen as a threat and it isn’t until her new cellmate Adam comes to join her that she finally gets to speak to another human being. She soon realises that she knows Adam from her childhood, as the only boy who was ever kind to her. But The Reestablishment have plans for Juliette and want to use her as a weapon.

Tahereh Mafi has a beautiful writing style which is intense, poetic and almost lyrical, and I found myself being pulled in to the story with her words very quickly. I did have a few issues though, I found it distracting the way the numbers were written, ‘2’ as opposed to ‘two’, it wasn’t needed and I didn’t feel it added to the writing style, if anything it lessened it. The strike out were clever, but overused in my opinion. I felt like these two decisions were a little gimmicky, and contradicted the flow of Juliettes stream of consciousness narration style, which was a shame.
Click to watch the book review on YouTube!

The book is very fast paced, and the characters of Adam and Warner were very interesting to read. Yes, this is another YA love triangle novel, but because Warner played the role of the antagonist in addition to the love interest, it didn’t come across that way. Warner wants to use Juliette as a weapon, and is desperate for her to welcome her inner darkness in the same way he does, and I found that very interesting.

I am aware that some people have had issues with the ‘insta love’ aspect of Shatter Me, but I understood why Tahereh Mafi wrote the book in this way, both Adam and Juliette have had very difficult and isolated lives, and I feel that justifies their instant attraction, in addition to the fact that they did know each other as children. As far as Warner goes, I think he is a brilliant character and I am very intrigued to find out more about in Unravel Me.

Overall, I loved this book. I feel the fact that Juliette can touch both Adam AND Warner requires some explanation, and I am sincerely hoping that it will be explained, otherwise it will look very convenient. But I am in this series for the long haul, and I cannot wait to start reading Unravel Me.


If I Stay by Gayle Forman - Book Review

 If I stay is a coming of age story, dealing with the harsh realities of love, loss, death and continuing to live despite everything that life throws at you. Mia has the world at her feet, she's a talented classical musician, she has the perfect rocker boyfriend, a family she loves and a little brother she actually gets on with. But everything is shattered when the family are involved in a horrific car accident, and Mia is thrown from the car.

Standing at the side of the road, Mia is cold, scared and alone. Until she sees herself, lying on the ground. In an outer body experience, that can only be likened to that of being a ghost, Mia has to watch the next twenty four hours unfold, and make a choice, should she stay?

I found Gayle Formans writing to be beautiful, enough that it made me cry and very few books actually manage to do that. Despite Mia being in limbo, unable to feel and connect with those around her, I really felt for her as a character. The flashbacks that take place over the twenty four hours, some see as unnecessary - but I see them as crucial. We needed them in order to understand the enormity of what Mia has lost.

A book that made me feel this way, would normally be given 5/5 stars. However, I had two gripes with the book. The first was that I felt it was too short, the ending felt too abrupt and I didn't feel like the book gave me the pay off that I was expecting towards the end.

(Click to watch a video review of this book on YouTube)

But regardless of the few issues I had, I still absolutely loved this book, it was beautiful and and I cannot wait to see the film adaptation next month. (Trailer)

Sarah Jane

June Book Haul and Youtube Channel

Book Hauls and YouTube

June was quite a pricey book buying month, I ended up purchasing quite a few books to add to my already intimidation TBR pile, which is discussed in my very first You Tube video! Go check it out if you are intruiged to see what I bought.

The Book Life now also has it's very own You Tube Channel, where I will be discussing all things book and writing related several times a month. The YouTube account is a personal extension of The Book Life, and I am really looking forward to delving further into the ever growing 'BookTube' community!

To head straight to the channel, just click the picture above!


July Competitions

Last month absolutely flew by, so here's a run down of the competitions and opportunities that have deadlines in July. July is quite a quiet month for contests, but there's still some great opportunities worth looking at. 

Mslexia have several submission requests this month, which I'll round up together for easy reading.
Please check the mslexia website for submission information.

Monologue: For writers of script: send up to 200 words on any topic in a single character’s voice. This quarter we're looking for monologues in the voice of a mermaid. (14th July)

Pen Portrait: Convey a character in second or third person, and in more than 200 words. This quarter we're looking for a pen portrait of a transvestite. (14th July)

How I did It: Send us 200 words on how you achieved publication of your book with the subtitles, 'The Book', 'The Long Haul' and 'The Advice' )with roughly 65 words in each section. 

How I Keep Going: 200 words of advice on how to keep the creative fires burning in the face of discouragement and rejection.

Writing Group: In 200 words, please explain how you run your meetings, and describe a recent exercise for other groups to follow.

Please visit the Mslexia website for information on submissions. Mslexia pay for submissions printed in the magazine, for a full list of what they pay visit

Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition
Short stories up to 1,200 words, publication in Wrekin Writers anthology.
Prizes: £150, £70, £40
Entry fee: £3
Closing date: 14 July
Competition secretary, 29 Christine Avenue, Wellington, Telford. TF1 2DX

Cinnamon Press Debut Novel or Novella Prize
The first 10,000 words of an unpublished novel or novella by a debut novelist.
Prizes: £1000 plus publication.
Entry fee: £12
Closing date: 31st July
Cinnamon Press New Writing Prizes, Meirion House, Glan yr Afon, Tanygrisiau, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, LL41 3SU

Wells Festival of Literature
Poetry, up to 40 lines, short stories 1,000-2,000 words. Crime novel, up to 3,000 words and a synopsis up to 1,000 words.
Prizes: £500 £200, £100 for poetry and short stories, £100 and readin by agent and publisher for crime novel. Local prize £100.
Entry Fee: £5, £10 for novel.
Closing date: 31st July
WFL Competitions, No2 The Gardens, Wells BA52SE

Bloody Scotland Writing Competition
Crime short stories based on the theme of ‘ESCAPE’. You can interpret the theme of Escape in any way that inspires you, but we are looking for work that is crime themed. Short stories up to 3,000 words.
Prizes: £1000, weekend pass to the 2014 festival, and a bottle of Deanston whiskey. 
Closing Date: 31st July.
Website: (submission form on website)

If you know of any competitions with July deadlines, please comment below with the websit elink and any information you may have,and I will look it up and add it to the blog post!

You are welcome to share this list on your own blog, but please link back to The Book Life in your post.

See you in August!