Review: Fireborn (#1) by Aisling Fowler

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Ember is full of monsters.
Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them–so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her.
But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny–and the very fate of her world.

I don’t often drift towards middle grade but I couldn’t resist the pull of Fireborn, a beautiful adventure story following a heroine known as Twelve and her squirrel companion.

I listened to the vast majority of this book as an audiobook and really enjoyed the narration, although I do think this can be a little difficult to follow due to the flashbacks, which are italicised in the physical print. The plot was fast paced and full of adventure, and felt like a true quest story at heart which I loved.

The world was rich and vibrant with a great cast of characters who felt like a real found family – they had their disagreements and difficulties, but it just made them feel more like brothers and sisters to me.

I did personally follow the first half of the book much easier than the second half, but that could also be me becoming distracted while listening and struggling to follow. I picked up the physical book for the last 50ish pages, which I found easier to follow and stumbled across some beautiful illustrations too.

If I hadn’t been hindered by my personal difficulty with following a chunk of this book, I honestly think this would have easily been a 4 star read for me. However, if I do rate it as a personal experience, it feels more like a 3.5 star. But it was still a super enjoyable middle grade adventure story!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Vow So Bold and Deadly (#3) by Brigid Kemmerer

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Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace.
Fight the battle, save the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.
As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and a dangerous enemy returns, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly is the conclusion of the Cursebreakers series, a fantasy story loosely reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. This series has been really enjoyable so far, and I’m glad to finally be able to say I’ve finished reading it. I was also glad to find out there will be more books set in this series, in the Forging Silver Into Stars series set in the same world.

I definitely enjoyed this final book more than the second one, A Heart So Fierce and Broken. We had more of an equal balance of POV between characters, which I really enjoyed. It was great to see more chapters following Harper and Rhen, which I did miss in the second book.

I know trust is not something you win once, 

I once again really enjoyed the writing and the world-building, which gives these books a real comforting feel and is reminiscent of many YA fantasy books. I actually really enjoy this – this whole series feels unique while still feeling familiar.

I did enjoy the romance in this book, but I also felt like there was a slight lack of character development. This could be a risk of having (at least) four POV, and not being able to focus too much on specific characters.

but is instead something you must earn over and over again.

Overall, this one was entertaining but didn’t blow me away. At the end of this series, I definitely liked A Curse So Dark and Lonely the most and neither the second or the third book has quite lived up to the feeling I had from re-reading the first one. But I have enjoyed all of these books, and found them very easy to read.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Nothing More to Tell by Karen M McManus

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True crime can leave a false trail.
Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favourite teacher. The case was never solved, but she’s sure that the three kids who found Mr. Larkin’s body know more than they’re telling, especially her ex-best friend Tripp Talbot. He’s definitely hiding something.
When Brynn gets an internship working on a popular true-crime show, she decides to investigate what really happened that day in the woods. But the further she dives into the past, the more secrets she finds.
Four years ago someone got away with murder. Now it’s time to uncover the truth . . .

Thank you to Penguin for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been reading Karen M McManus’ books for a long time, and I always forget quite how much I enjoy them, until a new one comes along and surprises me. Nothing More to Tell is her newest release, and I always marvel at how she makes each book feel so unique. Being YA thrillers, they naturally all follow similar plots and groups of characters, but each of her books has something different about it. This book is set in a private school, and I really liked the premise and atmosphere.

I listened to the audiobook of this one for most of the book, and I felt like it was done really well. This book is told in alternate viewpoints of two characters, and I liked following both of them a lot. With around 80 pages left, I decided to pick up the physical version, and although I was only planning on reading a little bit physically and going back to the audiobook, I found myself not being able to put it down until it was finished.

The world would be a better place if more people knew when to stop talking. Everyone says too much, all the time.

This book kept me gripped until the very end, and I honestly did not guess where this one was going at all. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite Karen M McManus book so far, but it did feel like the most intricate. There was so many twists and turns, and every time I thought we were coming to a conclusion, something else happened to change that. We don’t find out who the killer actually is until the last 10 pages, and that really kept me hooked!

Although the characters weren’t my favourite, I did like them a lot and they felt very 3 dimensional. I also really liked how they had reconnected as friends after a number of years. Neither of the main characters were perfect, but that’s what made them feel real. I find the balance of liking characters when they are all suspects hard to find, but this one was done well.

Ask them a simple question, and they’ll give you their entire life story. No one cares! Just say yes or no.

This was brilliant, and it made me so happy to be reading something by Karen M McManus again. If you’re looking for something fast paced, entertaining, easy to read and honestly unputdownable, look no further than McManus. Especially this newest release!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Any Way the Wind Blows (#3) by Rainbow Rowell

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In Any Way the Wind Blows, Simon and Baz and Penelope and Agatha have to decide how to move forward.
For Simon, that means deciding whether he still wants to be part of the World of Mages — and if he doesn’t, what does that mean for his relationship with Baz? Meanwhile Baz is bouncing between two family crises and not finding any time to talk to anyone about his newfound vampire knowledge. Penelope would love to help, but she’s smuggled an American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.
Any Way the Wind Blows takes the gang back to England, back to Watford, and back to their families for their longest and most emotionally wrenching adventure yet.
This book is a finale. It tells secrets and answers questions and lays ghosts to rest.

It’s been a while since I read the first (and second!) book in this series, but I was excited to dive back in and I didn’t find myself too confused by the story. I listened to this one as an audiobook, which I enjoyed and made this 500+ page book quite a lot less daunting. My only complaint is I feel like it would have gained quite a lot by being a full-cast audio (or even just by having a couple of narrators).

When I read the first book, I absolutely fell in love with it. Many years later, this series didn’t quite live up to my hopes, but I did still enjoy this one. It felt quite comforting, and I found I liked Baz and Simon’s romance almost as much as I used to. I did find this one a little more risque than I expected for a teen book, though!

What a ridiculous creature. Happy that I put butter on his sandwich. 

I’ve always quite enjoyed the characters, and the found family element of this book. Even though the narration could have done with a full cast, I did really like the multiple Points of View, and I didn’t feel like any detracted from the story.

My biggest, and really only major criticism about this book is I felt like it was lacking in a clear plot. Although I could see where the story was going, it almost felt like there was a lot of smaller elements to the book rather than a big plot point. These books have always felt quite high stakes and high action, and this one just let me down slightly in that aspect.

 As if I wouldn’t make the world spin backwards if I thought he’d like it better that way.

Overall, I did really enjoy this one, though, and I’m glad I read it. There’s a lot to love about this series, especially SImon and Baz!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan

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Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, who has two hobbies: tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, the latter to live out the dreams of her overbearing mother. The two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan–out and proud, and determined to have a fresh start–doesn’t want to have to keep their budding relationship a secret, Ruby isn’t ready to come out yet. With each girl on a different path toward living her truth, can they go the distance together?

I’ve wanted to read a Jennifer Dugan book for a while – I’ve heard so many good things about her books, especially Hot Dog Girl. I saw a collection of her hardbacks for sale at YALC, and couldn’t help but snap them up! I picked up Verona Comics, Melt With You, and Some Girls Do, which was the first one I decided to read.

I liked the idea of this book – with two distinct female characters. I was really excited to read about Ruby, a girl who both competes in beauty pageants and also loves mechanics. As a runner myself, I was also looking forward to reading about Morgan, a track athlete.

She shakes her head. “Because Tyler is a boy,” she says softly. Resigned. 

This book was super easy to read and I read most of it in less than a day. There was some tougher subjects tackled, including homophobia and abuse. The biggest issue I had with this book was that I didn’t find myself relating to either of the main characters. They both had a lot of issues and at times I felt like they were messing each other around quite a lot.

There was definitely some growth throughout the book, and I did enjoy the amount of side-plots which added extra layers to the story. The amount of interests both girls had did make them quite 3 dimensional, and I liked reading about Ruby’s love for cars and Morgan’s love for running.

“And girls aren’t supposed to like other girls.”
“Well some girls do,” I say.

Overall, this one was an enjoyable read, but definitely wasn’t perfect by any means. I would have liked a little more depth to the story, and the characters to be a little more likeable.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

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Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.
Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.
And Sam picks up the phone.
In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

I don’t often pick up books that I see as ‘TikTok books’, but the synopsis of this one (along with the beautiful hardback design and that cover) drew me in and I knew I wanted to pick it up. I actually read this one as an audiobook, and I really enjoyed the narration.

I was drawn in from the very start – this is such a sad but beautiful story following Julie after the death of her boyfriend, Sam. I was unsure where this book would go or how it would conclude, but I knew I’d enjoy the magical realism elements and some of the concept reminded me of Your Name, one of my favourite films.

Letting go isn’t about forgetting. 

The writing was definitely my favourite element of the book, which was poetic and beautiful. The group of friends was another part I loved, including Julie’s friendship with Oliver, which was a really joyous platonic relationship to read about. I found Julie’s grieving process believable (although obviously different due to her connection with Sam), and I liked reading about how she re-built a connection with Sam’s family.

This book does leave you with questions – but it’s a short, sweet and quite well formed. There was a few scenes towards the end, however, that I felt were slightly unneeded, including an argument between Julie and Sam.

It’s balancing moving forward with life, and looking back from time to time, remembering the people in it.

Overall, I did really enjoy reading this one even though it wasn’t quite perfect. Perhaps it would have made me more emotional if I’d have read the physical version, but I also didn’t cry, although I had tears in my eyes at the end of the book.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Heart So Fierce and Broken (#2) by Brigid Kemmerer

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Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.
Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?
The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed re-reading A Curse So Dark and Lonely and I knew it was finally time to continue with the series (sorry it took me so long, Bloomsbury!). This one was yet again super easy to dive into and I immediately fell in love with the writing style, which is so easy to follow.

We are introduced to new characters in this sequel, which I was a little hesitant about and definitely did impact my enjoyment of the book. I really loved the main characters of Grey, Harper and Rhen from the first book, so to see new people in this one did throw me a bit.

“I am crying because you are a prince,”

However, I did find myself really enjoying Lia Mara’s chapters, and she became a great female protagonist in the absence of Harper. I also really enjoyed seeing some of the side-characters from the first book become more prominent in this one, including Harper’s brother and his boyfriend.

The biggest let down for me was the lack of focus on Rhen and Harper, and I honestly felt like Rhen was really left on the back burner. His character seemed pretty unrecognisable and went from being someone I really liked reading about to being almost non-existent and when he was mentioned, pretty unlikable. I’m hoping the final book in the series focuses more on Rhen, and he has a redemption arc from this point!

I say softly. “And I…” I let out a breath. “I am not a princess.”

The writing is definitely the best part of this series for me, and I loved the descriptions of the world. Although I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first book, I’m still looking forward to continuing with the series in A Vow So Bold and Deadly.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Book Haul #1 | Recent books I’ve received from publishers

Hi all and welcome to a new segment of the blog! I used to take part in Stacking the Shelves, wrapping up the books I received and bought during the week on the weekends, but I’ve decided to start a new series where I share book hauls whenever I choose to.

For the first issue of this series, I’m thanking a few publishers that have provided me with some wonderful advanced copies of books I’m super excited for in the next few months!

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On the outskirts of Tokyo, in a neighbourhood crossed by a commuter railway, local cats weave their way through the lives and homes of their owners as they navigate difficult times.
A cat named Chobi sends silent messages of courage to a young woman, willing her to end a faltering relationship; a gifted artist fatally misunderstands her boss’s enthusiasm for her paintings; a manga fan shuts herself away after the traumatic death of her friend, while her cat Cookie hatches a plan to persuade her outside; a woman who has dedicated her life to a distant husband learns a lesson in independence from her cat.
Against the urban backdrop of humming trains and private woes, SHE AND HER CAT explores the gentle magic of the everyday. Populated by both the friendly and the feral, it reveals – with heartstopping clarity and warmth – how even in our darkest moments, community and connection may lead us to a happier place.

Firstly, Penguin sent me a copy of Makoto Shinkai’s newest release, She and Her Cat, which is based on Shinkai’s first animated work from 1999. I’m a big fan of Shinkai’s more recent work (especially Your Name), so you can only imagine how excited I was to receive this!

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Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favourite teacher. The case was never solved, but she’s sure that the three kids who found Mr. Larkin’s body know more than they’re telling, especially her ex-best friend Tripp Talbot. He’s definitely hiding something.
When Brynn gets an internship working on a popular true-crime show, she decides to investigate what really happened that day in the woods. But the further she dives into the past, the more secrets she finds.
Four years ago someone got away with murder. Now it’s time to uncover the truth . . .

Also from Penguin, I received a copy of Nothing More to Tell, which is Karen M McManus’s latest release! She’s definitely the queen of YA thrillers and this is the only book by her I haven’t read yet.

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Three months after Fang Fest, Mina’s settling into her new life.
Despite the teething problems in her relationship with Jared, she has her sister back, new friends and a part-time job to die for.
Over Halloween, Mina and the gang have planned a spooky week of Gothic restaurants, horror movies, ghostly tours, creepy carnivals and a costume ball.
But the fun doesn’t last. Mina is on work experience with Detective Cafferty while the police are investigating a savage masked killer and a rise in suspicious ‘animal attacks’.
During her own investigations, Mina discovers a mysterious group of slayers, who are battling to control the rogue vampires.
The threats circle closer as Mina spends her days with the police and nights with the slayers.
Will she and her friends survive Halloween without being staked, stabbed or bitten?

The lovely people at Uclan publishing sent me a copy of Mina and the Slayers, the sequel to Mina and the Undead, which I read recently and really enjoyed! I’m hoping to dive into this one soon and continue the series.

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Lari Ramires has always known this to be true. In Olinda, Brazil, her family’s bakery, Salt, has been at war with the Molinas’ bakery across the street, Sugar, for generations. But Lari’s world turns upside down when her beloved grandmother passes away. On top of that, a big supermarket chain has moved to town, forcing many of the small businesses to close.
Determined to protect her home, Lari does the unthinkable—she works together with Pedro Molina to save both of their bakeries. Lari realizes she might not know Pedro as well as she thought—and she maybe even likes what she learns—but the question remains: Can a Ramires and a Molina truly trust one another?

The lovely El at Harper Insider (a section of Harper Collins for Waterstones booksellers), sent me a parcel of proofs, including this one. I’m a keen baker and this one sounds so good – I always love books that focus on food!

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Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible.
When her parents drop the news that they can no longer afford her tuition, even with the scholarship, Alice hatches a plan to monetize her strange new power—she’ll discover the scandalous secrets her classmates want to know, for a price.
But as the tasks escalate from petty scandals to actual crimes, Alice must decide if it’s worth losing her conscience—or even her life.

I’ve been seeing this one around a lot so I was super excited to receive my own copy – how beautiful is that cover as well?!

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Kelly Quindlen meets Casey McQuiston in this sapphic Jewish twist on the classic Christmas enemies-to-lovers rom-com, as college freshman Shani’s internship is interrupted by a whirlwind winter fling.
It all starts when Shani runs into May. Like, literally. With her mom’s Subaru.
Attempted vehicular manslaughter was not part of Shani’s plan. She was supposed to be focusing on her monthlong paleoichthyology internship. She was going to spend all her time thinking about dead fish and not at all about how she was unceremoniously dumped days before winter break.
It could be going better.
But when a dog-walking gig puts her back in May’s path, the fossils she’s meant to be diligently studying are pushed to the side—along with the breakup.
Then they’re snowed in together on Christmas Eve. As things start to feel more serious, though, Shani’s hurt over her ex-girlfriend’s rejection comes rushing back. Is she ready to try a committed relationship again, or is she okay with this just being a passing winter fling?

I love a cozy Christmas romance, and I always like having one on hand for winter. This one looks so cute, and I love the cover!

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Falling for a superhero is dangerous. You have to trust that they’ll catch you.
Astrid isn’t a superhero, not like the ones she sees on the news, but she has something she thinks of as a small superpower: she has a perfect sense of time. And she’s not going to waste a single second.
Her plan for college is clear—friends, classes, and extracurriculars all carefully selected to get her into medical school.
Until Max Martin, a nerdy boy from her high school, crashes back into her life. Things with Max were never simple, and he doesn’t keep to her schedule. He disappears in the middle of dates and cancels at the last minute with stupid excuses.
When a supervillain breaks into her bedroom one night, Astrid has to face the facts: her boyfriend, Max Martin, is a superhero. Double-majoring as a premed was hard, but now Astrid will have to balance a double life. This wasn’t part of her plan.

Lastly from Harper, I’ve also been seeing this one all over social media and it looks so cool! I love the cover, the title, and the concept sounds pretty cool too.

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Not every love is meant to be.
After Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she’ll never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.
But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.
Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can. . . .

I forgot to take a picture of this final book in the stack, but it definitely deserves a mention because I was so, so excited to receive a proof copy and I never expected to get one! You can see in the picture below how excited I was.

I love Stephanie Garber’s writing and Caraval is one of my favourite books. I really loved the first in this spin-off series when it came out last year, and I can’t wait to continue!

That’s all the books I’ve received from publishers in the past few weeks – thank you so much everyone! What did you buy or receive recently?

-Beth

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Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

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On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

I had a feeling from the very start that I would fall in love with this book. There is something about a love story that isn’t about romantic love that drew me in from the start, and I knew I would be able to relate to. Days after finishing Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, I am unsure how to talk about it. The way I feel about this book and the topics it spans is very difficult to truly explain in words. It hit me in every single way I expected it to, and more. It broke my heart into little pieces and warmed my heart, too. It gave me hope, and it gave me hurt too. The audiobook was also a masterpiece.

“What is a game?” Marx said. “It’s tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. It’s the possibility of infinite rebirth, infinite redemption.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow centres games and game development, which I loved reading about and found fascinating to read about as a gamer myself. You definitely don’t need to have a love of games to appreciate this book for what it is, but I also felt like I could relate to it on a more personal level because of my love and appreciation for games.

My favourite part of this book was definitely the writing. There was constantly quotes that I wanted to save and shout from the rooftops, and I am already considering buying another edition just to read again and highlight. This book is quite long and has some interesting writing styles, which on paper feel risky but I fell in love with every time. I’ve never annotated a book before, but this one makes me want to start. I treasured the experience I had reading this book, and I just want to experience it over and over again. And I feel like with each re-read, it will become even more of a favourite. Even re-reading quotes and thinking about this book a week or so after finishing it is making me emotional.

The idea that if you keep playing, you could win. No loss is permanent, because nothing is permanent, ever.”

To say that Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a novel about games would be as limiting as it is infinite. I believe that games have the power to be life changing and world altering, carrying strength and hope and love and friendship. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow both showcases and includes all of these themes. It is a novel about games. But it is also a novel about the world. A novel about love, beauty, greed, wealth, friendship, hope, self-reflection, disability, motherhood, gender identity and Super Mario. It is a reflection within a reflection. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I get the sense I will carry it with me always.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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August Wrap-Up

Hello all! I’m a little late, but I really wanted to do a monthly wrap-up this month as I read so much in August and I’m really proud of myself for how much I managed to read. I read 21 books, and even though a lot of those were graphic novels, I still think that’s a really impressive number!

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

NEW ORLEANS FANG FEST, 1995. MINA’S HAVING A SUMMER TO DIE FOR.
17-year-old Mina, from England, arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. After growing up in Whitby, the town that inspired Dracula, Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie.
She can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…
And it gets even better when Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate, co-worker and fellow horror enthusiast.
But the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s…
Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Ellis and Easton have been inseparable since childhood. But when a rash decision throws Ellis’s life—and her relationship with Easton— into chaos she’s forced to move halfway across the country, far from everything she’s ever known.
Now Ellis hasn’t spoken to Easton in a year, and maybe it’s better that way; maybe eventually the Easton shaped hole in her heart will heal. But when Easton’s mother invites her home for a celebration, Ellis finds herself tangled up in the web of heartache, betrayal, and anger she left behind… and with the boy she never stopped loving.

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.
Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

★★
3 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means—and how they can find it with each other.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

★★
2 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Elsie has a crush on Ada, the only person in the world who truly understands her. Unfortunately, they’ve never met in real life and Ada lives an ocean away. But Elsie has decided it’s now or never to tell Ada how she feels. That is, until her long-lost best friend Joan walks back into her life.
In a summer of repairing broken connections and building surprising new ones, Elsie realises that she isn’t nearly as alone as she thought. But now she has a choice to make…

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Scandalous gossip, wild parties, and forbidden love—witness what the gods do after dark in this stylish and contemporary reimagining of one of mythology’s most well-known stories from creator Rachel Smythe. Featuring a brand-new, exclusive short story, Smythe’s original Eisner-nominated web-comic Lore Olympus brings the Greek Pantheon into the modern age with this sharply perceptive and romantic graphic novel.

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

In grey, 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against the conventions of the time, all the while knowing that she will one day have to marry someone her parents choose – someone rich enough to keep the family estate alive. But she longs for so much more – for adventure, excitement, travel, and maybe even romance.
When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Italy with her bohemian uncle and his fiancée, a whole world is opened up to Bea – a world that includes Ben, a cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. Sparks fly between the quick-witted pair until one night, under the stars, a challenge is set: can Bea and Ben put aside their teasing and have the perfect summer romance?
With their new friends gleefully setting the rules for their fling, Bea and Ben can agree on one thing at least: they absolutely, positively will not, cannot fall in love…
A long, hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds – but storm clouds are gathering across Europe, and home is calling. Every summer has to end – but for Bea, this might be just the beginning.

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

When Dani and Dorian missed the bus to magic school, they never thought they’d wind up declared traitors to their own kind! Now, thanks to a series of mishaps, they are being chased by powerful magic families seeking the prophesied King of Witches and royals searching for missing princes.
But they aren’t alone. With a local troublemaker, a princess, and a teacher who can see the future on their side, they might just be able to clear their names…but can they heal their torn kingdom?

★★
3 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It’s the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program.
It’s not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the “greater good” that Bayt-Sajji’s military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined.
Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Hello, come in.
Maybe you can help me?
A young girl lives in a haunted house, but has never seen a ghost. Are they white with holes for eyes? Are they hard to see? She’d love to know! Step inside and turn the transparent pages to help her on an entertaining ghost hunt, from behind the sofa, right up to the attic. With lots of friendly ghost surprises and incredible mixed media illustrations, this unique and funny book will entertain young readers over and over again.

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Because of a hearing disability, Kohei is often misunderstood and has trouble integrating into life on campus, so he learns to keep his distance. That is until he meets the outspoken and cheerful Taichi. He tells Kohei that his hearing loss is not his fault. Taichi’s words cut through Kohei’s usual defense mechanisms and open his heart. More than friends, less than lovers, their relationship changes Kohei forever.

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.
There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.
Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

My favourite book of the month was Under a Dancing Star, and my least favourite was Children of Virtue and Vengeance. I managed to read a lot because of a lovely reading retreat I went on with my lovely friend Courtney, and we even read a good chunk of these books together!

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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