Review: Hungry Hearts by Various Authors

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Goodreads

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the pastries she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that can cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one in the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home. 

Thank you to MTMC tours for a copy of this book – I won a book of my choice in their giveaway and I chose this one! I’ve known about this one for a while and I really wanted to pick it up as I enjoy reading about food. Any descriptions of food in books or scenes that centre around food captivate me for some reason, I think it might be something to do with feeling connected to the book itself! One of my favourite examples is the patisserie in Serpent & Dove – I really started to fall in love with the book when I reached that scene.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s an anthology made up of 13 different stories about food and love by different authors. All of the stories centre around Hungry Heart Row, a place that has a lot of amazing restaurants and food ingrained into the occupants lives. Where people believe in magic, and think that magic and love are integral ingredients to any dish. Something I really loved about these stories, other than how integrated they are with one another, is that one particular character showed up in every single story (I think) to give the main character of that story a treat. I thought that was a delightful way to connect all of the stories, and it made me smile when that character appeared with a sweet pastry or treat!

I’m going to rate each story out of 5 and discuss a little about each below.

Rain by Sangu Mandanna – ★★★★★

A contemporary story about loss and family. This was an absolutely beautiful introduction to this anthology, a short story centering around a main character who has travelled from England to stay with her Aunt who lives near Hungry Heart Row. I adored this story, it had a beautiful discussion of grief and made me feel warm inside at the way food connected the family.

Kings and Queens by Elise Chapman – ★★★★

A dark contemporary story about gangs and Chinese restaurants. A really interesting and dramatic story full of plot twists. This is not something I expected and definitely showed me that this anthology was not going to be full of sweetness and fluff!

The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon – ★★★★

A contemporary romance story about stepping out of your comfort zone. I was so excited to see that Sandhya Menon had a story in this book – I have one of her books on my TBR and I was so glad to have an introduction to her work. I loved this story, which centered around being brave and trying new things. It was so cute and easy to read, but also provoked a lot of internal reflection for me that I really liked, it had a lot of depth to it!

Sugar and Spite by Rin Chupeco – ★★

A fantasy story, and also the only one by an author I had already read books by! I was so glad that Rin Chupeco had taken on the story of this particular restaurant, as it was infused with magic and fantastical elements. It was a beautiful story, but unfortunately I found it difficult to get into because of the second person narrative that I’m not used to!

Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid – ★★★★

I really enjoyed this story, which centered around a character who had travelled to Hungry Heart Row after hearing about it online. Their experience of depression made me very emotional, and I could feel their desperation jump off the page. This had a beautiful moral about finding magic in the every day and being grateful for what we have.

The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond – ★★★★★

This one was a ghost story, and I loved it. Again, it centered very much around family and upholding family legacy. The concept was so interesting and I could picture it so easily. It also discussed friendship and relationships and the expectations we have from those around us. Such a fascinating read that made me feel warm and fuzzy!

Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Cole – ★★★★★

Another beautiful story that looked at family relationships and being brave for those around us. The discussion of anxiety in this story felt visceral and jumped right off the page. I really related to how the main character felt and admired him for what he went through. The discussions of food were so lovely and warmed my heart! (Also, amazing title that made me smile.)

The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse★★

A story about a girl who just wants her mum back, when she becomes engrossed in the running of her restaurant. This one had a dark undertone and creepy twist I didn’t see coming, but I really felt for the main character and thought this was an interesting and different (darker) look at food and restaurants.

Hearts à la Carte by Karuna Riazi – ★★★★

Another one with a twist that I didn’t see coming and I thought it was really fun! I don’t want to say anymore than that because I will spoil the story – but I enjoyed how this one was set outside and around a family street food cart which I loved, as I could visualise more of Hungry Heart Row!

Bloom by Phoebe North – ★★

A story that centered around relationships and the way we see people. I really liked this one, it felt emotional and raw and honest. It was a unique romance story about discovering who you are yourself, loving yourself and had such an interesting discussion of how we present ourselves to other people.

A Bountiful Film by S.K. Ali – ★★★★

I knew I would enjoy this story as soon as I realised it was about film and the cinema. I noticed the cinema on the map in the front of the book and I was so happy to find it mentioned in a book! This one had such interesting stories about the neighbourhood interwoven throughout, and I really liked the discussions of family, friendship and connection.

Side Work by Sara Farizan – ★★★★★

This was one of my favourite stories in the whole anthology, it was so cute and anything I wanted from the story was quickly delivered. It had a quiet, queer, beautiful romance and a really lovely story about how food connects us to our families.

Panadería ~ Pastelería by Anna-Marie McLemore ★★★

I was so excited to get to this story as it included the character who was mentioned throughout the book in every story, but this fell a little flat to me. It was extremely short (I know all of these are short stories, but this one was shorter than most), and I just didn’t connect to the main character in the way I wanted to. However, this bakery was probably one of my favourite parts about this book and the pastries sounded delicious! This story also had a trans love interest and was very diverse.

In fact, this whole anthology was diverse and I really adored the discussions of different cuisines and cultures. It was one of my favourite things about this short story collection! In no particular order, my favourite 5 stories were Rain, The Grand Ishq Adventure, The Slender One, Gimme Some Sugar and Side Work.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker + Wendy Xu

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Goodreads | Blackwells

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.
Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.
Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

I’ve wanted to read this since before it was released. In fact, I even had an e-arc on Netgalley, but unfortunately I couldn’t download the file for some reason. I’ve been looking for a copy ever since but could never find them, and I finally managed to get one a month or so ago! I think they’ve been reprinted as there is still a few available on Blackwell’s and Forbidden Planet if you’re looking for one.

I was a little hesitant that this wouldn’t live up to expectations as I’ve wanted to read it for over a year, but it really did. This was gorgeous. The artwork was absolutely beautiful and the colours were stunning. As soon as I opened the book I knew I was going to love the art style. I devoured this and read it in two sittings (it would have been one if I didn’t stop for a phone call in the middle!).

I loved that this was a contemporary book with paranormal elements that just feel ‘normal’ for the story. It talked about family, friendship and relationships but also demons, magic, witches and werewolves. And I felt like it just worked. Nothing felt forced, it was a perfect combination. There was also so much diversity, with Asian-American main characters, a non-binary main character, queer relationships and even a main character with a hearing impairment. This all felt natural and flowed really well in the story, but are still discussed in relation to it. Nova’s hearing impairment was discussed in relation to her magic, and is not ignored in the face of anything.

I adored everything about this. The characters are lovely and so well written – I related to them instantly and loved their relationships. The world was super interesting. The plot was adventurous, but the story didn’t shy away from important and hard-hitting discussions. The artwork was vibrant and utterly addictive. I’m so, so glad I read this, it felt like a hug, a warm blanket, a cup of hot chocolate. I feel like it’s one I will re-read again and again!

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Born into an oppressive colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. After their marriage, disturbing rumours begin to circulate, poisoning her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is driven towards madness.
This is a fully annotated edition of Jean Rhys’s late literary masterpiece, which was inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and is set in the lush, beguiling landscape of Jamaica in the 1830s.

Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books of all time. It’s probably my most re-read book as I’ve read it every couple of years since I was about 11 years of age. It makes me cry every single time, even though I’ve read it about 4 times. But not once have I stopped to consider that there was a whole other story I was missing – the story of Bertha Mason.

But Jean Rhys did stop to think of Bertha’s story, and decided to tell her own re-imagined version. Wide Sargasso Sea is the story of Antionette Cosway, who becomes the mad-woman in the attic. She is a Creole woman living in Jamaica shortly after the abolition of slavery. The point of view of Mr Rochester is bookended by the views of Antionette herself, growing up and later in the attic of Thornfield Hall.

You can pretend for a long time, but one day it all falls away and you are alone.

Personally, I found Part One of the story quite dense and hard to get to grips with. I felt like I had been plunged into the story and unsure of my surroundings and the characters in particular, but the writing was my favourite part. The descriptions of the Jamaican countryside were lush, seductive and rich. I felt absorbed in the landscape, picturing the beautiful countryside. The discussions are contradictory to those in Jane Eyre, with much darker undertones and jarring topics of Antionette’s descent into madness.

I much preferred Part Two of the story, finding myself on more comfortable ground with the point of view of Mr Rochester himself. The beautiful writings and descriptions continue, but I found myself managing to keep up with the day-to-day life of him and Antionette much easier. This section of the story is centered around their honeymoon, and I will sadly be seeing Mr Rochester in a much less favourable light next time I re-read this story. He finds out certain things about his wife’s family history that portrays her in a new light, and begins to exploit her and project his own feelings and thoughts onto her. Here begins her slow descent into hysteria, which is a maddening, confusing and brutal experience.

Part three, the last part of the story, shows Antionette now in the attic at Thornfield, and flicks between different days. Reading this feels like reading in a daze – Antionette is unsure of her surroundings, what day it is, or why she is there. She doesn’t believe she is in England and hangs on to anything she owns that feels familiar to her. I really felt the links to Jane Eyre here and it nicely rounded off the story for me.

We are alone in the most beautiful place in the world…

If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on the classic novel, I would definitely recommend reading Wide Sargasso Sea. It is the kind of book that will change your perspective on writing, on your favourite novels and favourite characters. I will be interested to see how it changes my view of the characters in Jane Eyre next time I read it!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Let’s Discuss! Series I Want to Read in 2021

Hello and welcome back to another book about 2021! Am I milking the new year? Totally. But I’m really enjoying spending time reflecting on my reading year in 2020 and thinking about my reading in 2021.

I spent the last 5 months of 2020 reading a series every month that had been on my TBR for a while, and I really liked doing it that way. I’m not sure if I’ll carry on doing this for 2021, as it took up a lot of my reading for each month and I’d quite like to mood-read for a while, but here are a few that I would like to get to soon. I actually don’t have that many complete series on my physical TBR left, which is a crazy thought!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

A sharpshooter. A dreamer. A damn good liar.
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it s an unforgiving place, especially if you re poor, orphaned, or female.
Amani Al Hiza is all three. She s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she s destined to wind up wed or dead.Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she d gallop away on a mythical horse or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

I’ve had this complete trilogy for a while, but I haven’t read this one yet! I actually started reading the first book years ago (when it first came out), and I just couldn’t get into it at the time. However, I felt like I might enjoy it more at another time…that time just hasn’t come yet.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

When the lift cranks open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone – an army of boys welcomes him to the Glade, an encampment at the centre of a terrible maze. The Gladers have no idea why they’re there, or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything to find out.

This is another series I’ve had for years and still haven’t read. I feel like I might find these a bit young for me now, but I still want to finally read it!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind them
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.
In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

I’ve only had this sat on my shelves for a few years, but the series daunts me so much I haven’t read it yet! Maybe 2021 will be the year?

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Kell is one of the last Antari-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons. There is Red London, where life and magic are revered, Grey London, without magic and ruled by mad King George III, and White London, a city slowly being drained through magical war, down to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London… but no one speaks of that now. Officially, Kell acts as an ambassador and messenger between the Londons, in service of the Maresh Empire. Unofficially, he’s also a smuggler, a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences-as proved when he stumbles into a setup with a forbidden token from Black London. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cutpurse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive… Prepare to be dazzled by a world of parallel Londons-where magic thrives, starves, or lies forgotten, and where power can destroy just as quickly as it can create.

This one is only very recently completed as I just ordered the last one I needed to complete the series today, but I loved The Invisible Life of Addie Larue so much that I’m really excited to read this series now!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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.

I completed this series about a year ago when I was sent an ARC of the second book, so I decided to buy the first. I feel like I’ve heard so many amazing things about this duology but I just haven’t picked it up yet!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

This is a world divided by blood—red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance—Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart. 

There are a few series I haven’t included on this list because I want to re-read the first book(s) in the series, but I thought I would include this one. I read Red Queen when it very first came out and I never carried on with the series. I have them all now but I just can’t remember what happened in the first one and definitely want to re-read it before I carry on!

Which series do you want to read this year?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Bizarre Romance by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Internationally bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger, and graphic artist Eddie Campbell, of such seminal works as From Hell by Alan Moore, collaborate on a wonderfully bizarre collection that celebrates and satirizes love of all kinds. With 16 different stories told through illustrated prose or comic panels, the couple explores the idiosyncratic nature of relationships in a variety of genres from fractured fairy tales to historical fiction to paper dolls. With Niffenegger’s sharp, imaginative prose and Campbell’s diverse comic styles, Bizarre Romance is the debut collection by two of the most important storytellers of our time.

This book was without a doubt the weirdest, wackiest, most bizarre I’ve ever read. And I loved it. It turned out to be nothing like I expected, and instead of being about the authors’ relationship like I thought, it ended up being about love of art, of animals, of people, of magic and mystical beings. I really liked finding where love came into each story, whether it was a comic with fantasy elements or literary fiction.

As with any collection of short stories, I preferred some over others. I found the art style jarring at times, but I still really liked some of the comics. I ended up having two joint favourites, Thursday’s, Six to Eight p.m. and The Church of the Funnies. Thursday’s, Six to Eight p.m. was the first story in this book, and was in comic format. This story was pretty standard fiction, and I really liked it being about a bibliophile. It was very unexpected with twists and turns and I was hooked for the whole story! The Church of the Funnies was the penultimate story in this collection, and was a love letter to art (at least, in my mind). It left me with a smile on my face. The vast majority of these stories were published before for different reasons, and this one was actually a sermon written by Niffenegger and was delivered at Manchester Cathedral as part of Manchester Literary Festival in 2014.

I also ended up really liking some of the stories with fantasy elements, like the unexpected ghost story Secret Life with Cats, and the darker ones such as Digging Up the Cat. Every story had something I liked, and I related to each of them on one level or another. It appealed to the deepest, darkest and weirdest parts of me, and when I embraced it, I really enjoyed it.

I’m going to do a quick list with summaries of each story and my ratings of each!

Thursday’s, Six to Eight p.m.★★★

Comic. As I mentioned, my joint favourite story in this series. A couple get married, but he wants to have two hours on a Thursday night to himself, and doesn’t explain why. After a while, she gets suspicious and tries to find out why he wants the time alone….

The Composite Boyfriend – ★★★

Prose. This one was a lovely introduction to the prose in this book. A short story about a history of boyfriends, all of them being not ‘the one’.

RoseRedSnowRidingBeautyShoesHoodSleepingWhite – ★★★

Comic. A very odd fantasy story about siblings looking for Halloween costumes, but ended up being mystical, magical and poignant.

Secret Life, With Cats – ★★★

Prose. Another one of my favourites and I really enjoyed it. A surreal ghost story with love being a central theme (and a lot of cats).

The Ruin of Grant Lowery – ★★★

Comic. A very odd story about a man who meets a group of faeries in a bar, with an ending that made me laugh.

Girl on a Roof★★★

Prose. A short story about a girl called Nan who has not seen her girlfriend Sylvie since the floods began in New Orleans. A beautiful love story that had such a heavy, poignant feeling.

Jakob Wywialowski and the Angels – ★★★

Comic. Another wacky comic about a man with angels in his roof, that he gets the pest control in to deal with. Again, this one had a surprising, emotional ending that I really liked.

At the Movies★★★

Prose. Another one I quite enjoyed, about a couple making a movie. A simple but heartfelt story I resonated with.

Motion Studies: Getting out of Bed – ★★★

Comic. An odd story about a woman who posed for life drawing classes and was now part of what was seemingly a photography project. I really enjoyed how the thoughts and feelings of the woman were intertwined with the drawings.

The Wrong Fairy – ★★★

Prose. Another poignant story about an elderly man who had been committed to a mental asylum. Again, we had fantasy elements which were wacky but really enjoyable.

Digging up the Cat – ★★★

Prose. As previously mentioned, another one of my favourites and I really liked this one. A dark story about a family who were digging up their pet cat who had been buried for 7 years, and wanted to add another recently deceased pet to be buried with it.

The Church of the Funnies – ★★★

Prose. A joint favourite for me alongside Tuesday’s, Six to Eight p.m.. A love letter to art that I really liked and left me quietly chuckling to myself.

Backwards in Seville – ★★★

Comic. An emotional story about a middle aged woman had joined her aging father on a cruise. This ended up being very sweet and I quite liked the art style.

There is nothing that explains this book as well as this quote from the introduction of the book itself, and I couldn’t sum it up better myself: “sometimes romantic, sometimes star-crossed, or merely discombobulated, but all are at least a tiny bit bizarre.”

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Olivia and her twin brother, Aidan, are heading alone back to Earth following the virus that completely wiped out the rest of their crew, and their family.
Nathan is part of a community heading in the opposite direction. But on their journey Nathan’s ship is attacked and most of the community killed. Only a few survive.
Their lives unexpectedly collide. Nathan and Vee are instantly attracted to each other, deeply, head over heels – like nothing they have ever experienced.
But not everyone is pleased. And surrounded by rumours, deception – even murder – is it possible to live out a happy ever after . . . ?

Thank you to Penguin UK for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Welp. I wondered if I would struggle reading this story because it’s about a virus. As it turns out, I did struggle reading this story. And it was nothing to do with it being about a virus. This book has been on my TBR for around 3 years and I was hesitant to pick it up. At least I’m somewhat glad I picked this out of my TBR jar so I finally forced myself to read it.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. And at points I was really enjoying it. But the further I got into the story, the lower it went down in my ratings. This is a love story set in space, with lashings of mystery that didn’t seem to be explained at all. There was massive plot holes (that I’m only just realising now), that left me unsure of who actually committed the crimes and whether we even had a big reveal, or if it was just brushed off in favour of the romance.

Ahh, the romance. Let me tell you, it was awful. It was all a big, overdramatic and unrealistic insta-love story, with absolutely no logic behind it. These characters were young and desperate and fell in love as soon as they laid eyes on one other. I understand Vee had been alone with her brother for 3 years, but girl, you knew you’d be trapped on a ship with this new guy for god knows how long, at least take it slow. The pacing of this romance was so ridiculous, it was quite obvious what would come next. Even when the romance took a downturn, I couldn’t revel in it because it made me so angry. Nathan was possessive anyway, but asserts his dominance in a way that made me uncomfortable, and that’s putting it mildly. His behavior made me physically cringe, and makes me worry for the audience. Although it is explained that this behavior is not okay, it is not discussed as much as I would have liked at all.

As another review I read mentions, this book switches between being too explicit, to being cringey and cliched, and misses the mark altogether. I’m really not sure who the audience is at this point, because the topics are too dark for younger readers, but the writing is definitely not suited to older readers. The main character, Vee, was probably the best of the lot. She wasn’t without her own annoyances, but for the most part she remained brave and calm in the face of danger and whatever life threw at her didn’t break her.

The main reason I read on was due to the plot being super fast and the mystery element being somewhat compelling. Even though I guessed who the killer was very early on, I wasn’t sure of their exact motivations. Even though this was readable, and even enjoyable in places, I couldn’t help my desire to roll my eyes every few pages at the idiocy of the whole thing. Overall, it was just kind of an unfortunate mess.

★★
2 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Let’s Discuss! Reading Goals for 2021

Hi everyone! I tend not to set myself too many reading goals per year, especially because, as we have very well learned in 2020, you just don’t know what life is going to throw at you! However, I did fairly well on my 2020 resolutions, and with my reading speed improving in the latter half of the year, I thought I would make some resolutions for 2021.

  • Read 100 books

I have no idea if I can complete this, but I really want to try. If I continue my reading speed of the past 6 months, I can definitely do this! I also want to utilise audiobooks and graphic novels more to help complete this. Obviously, we have no idea what 2021 will throw at us and if I end up not being able to complete this then that’s okay!

  • Read more series on my TBR

I did super well with completing a similar resolution in 2020 by reading a series a month for 5 months and knocked 6 whole series off of my TBR, and completed a few others. I actually don’t have many series left on my TBR now, and I would love to get most of them off my TBR this year!

  • Read more classics

I set myself a goal of reading only one classic in 2020, which I actually don’t think I completed, other than re-reading the audiobook of A Christmas Carol. But this year will definitely be different, because I have purchased myself the entire wordsworth classics set, and I want to start working my way through those!

  • Stop buying so many books!

I’ve had a couple of years now where I really haven’t knocked anything off my TBR, despite going on book bans and trying to control my book-buying. As I’ve just treated myself to the wordsworth set, my TBR is currently the highest it’s ever been (help) at 107 books. I really need to make sure I don’t buy so many books this year, as I just don’t have the space for them and I want to get that TBR under control in 2021!

  • Stay organised!

This marks my second year of using a reading spreadsheet by Reader Voracious. You can find it here and it includes things like keeping track of your reads, books you bought, blog stats, ARCs, buddy reads, new releases and an entire calendar for the year. I adore using it and I find the stats it produces fascinating! If you’re looking for something similar, I’d highly recommend it.

What are some of your resolutions for 2021?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Recklessly loyal.
That’s how seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley has always thought of herself. Caring for her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But lately she’s grown resentful of everyone—including her needy best friend and her absent mom—taking her loyalty for granted.
Then Arden stumbles upon a website called Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, who gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express. He seems to get her in a way that no one else does, and he hasn’t even met her.
Until Arden sets out on a road trip to find him.
During one crazy night out in New York City filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.

I have a really specific pet-peeve of getting annoyed by books that claim they are road trip books, but actually spend a really small amount of time in a car. And this, sadly, turned out to be one of those books. You see, I really have a soft spot for road trip books, so I just find myself being left feeling disappointed when they don’t do what they claim to do.

I found myself simultaneously being annoyed by but also relating to Arden. I could see myself in her and understand why she acted the way she did, but she also made me want to throw the book at the wall. She is a frustrated teenage girl who is loyal to those around her, and realises she doesn’t get the same back. I can relate to this, but then she started really taking it out on those people around her, which I struggled to read about.

Love means sometimes sacrificing the things you want in order to make somebody else happy. 

Don’t get me wrong, I did like this book. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. It just seemed to bring out more negativity than positivity and honestly left me feeling a little let down, which is not the kind of book I want right now. Although I could appreciate the morals and values in this book, I found it hard to feel happy that Arden was learning them. It was just kind of hard to swallow.

The plot is kind of slow, but easy to read. I really got into the swing of it when I got to the blog posts, and I found myself being more engaged in them than in the book itself. The concept is actually really clever and definitely made me read ahead and want to get through the book quickly – I was very drawn into finding out about Peter’s life.

It means being there for them, even when maybe you don’t feel like it, because they need you.

There are definitely parts of this book I enjoyed, and I really liked the subject of Arden learning more about herself and learning to love herself. Seeing her grow throughout the story was probably the best part, alongside learning about Peter and the blog. I think one of the reasons this book let me down a little was due to the fact I was comparing it to Radio Silence, which I enjoyed much more!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Let’s Discuss! Top 10 Books of 2020 Countdown

Hi all! 2020 was a pretty good reading year for me. I read 87 books overall, which is probably the most I’ve ever read in a year. I’m super proud of that amount and it’s allowing me to push myself for 2021! I recently sat down and filmed the video below, which covers my top 10 books of 2020. I wasn’t planning on ordering anything beyond the top 3 (or even just my favourite), but I naturally ended up numbering them, so I thought I’d do a countdown from my 10th favourite to my absolute favourite of 2020.

So, let’s get to the countdown!

10. Rules for Being a Girl

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Marin is a smart, driven, popular girl – she’s headed for Brown when she graduates and has a brilliant career as a journalist ahead of her. Especially in the eyes of English teacher Mr Beckett. He spends a lot of time around Marin, and she thinks it’s harmless . . . until he kisses her. 
No one believes Marin when she tells them what happened, so she does the only thing she can: she writes an article called ‘Rules for Being a Girl’ for the school paper to point out the misogyny and sexism that girls face every day. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and rewrite her own rules.

This book was such a shock for me. I received an unsolicited ARC from the publishing company and even though it didn’t sound like one for me, I thought I’d try it. And I ended up devouring it. This was so good and I really believe every teenage girl should read it!

9. Boy Queen by George Lester

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Robin Cooper’s life is falling apart.
While his friends prepare to head off to university, Robin is looking at a pile of rejection letters from drama schools up and down the country, and facing a future without the people he loves the most. Everything seems like it’s ending, and Robin is scrabbling to find his feet.
Unsure about what to do next and whether he has the talent to follow his dreams, he and his best friends go and drown their sorrows at a local drag show, where Robin realises there might be a different, more sequinned path for him . . .
With a mother who won’t stop talking, a boyfriend who won’t acknowledge him and a best friend who is dying to cover him in glitter make up, there’s only one thing for Robin to do: bring it to the runway.

This book was so much fun and I absolutely loved it. It introduced me to the world of drag and it was so fabulous, but with heartfelt and heavy moments.

8. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state candidate – as long as he’s behind the scenes. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.
Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is cancelled, her parents are separating and now her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing – with some awkward guy she hardly knows …
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worstthing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer – and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural crush of the century is another thing entirely.

I’ve really enjoyed all of Becky’s books and this was no different! I loved this partnership with Aisha and the political subject was actually so interesting.

7. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying.
Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As.
You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl.
They don’t. They make a podcast.
In a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio silence?

Another big surprise for me was Radio Silence. I’ve enjoyed everything by Alice Oseman, but some more than others, and I thought this one would fall to the bottom of the list as I feel like Alice has developed over time and this is one of her older books. However, this was absolutely amazing and became my favourite book of hers!

6. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callendar

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

I absolutely adored this and it opened my eyes so much to being transgender. It really hit me in the feels and at some points I had all over goosebumps and chills from the pure emotion of this book.

5. The Lido by Libby Page

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.
But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido for a posh new apartment complex, Rosemary’s fond memories and sense of community are under threat.
As Kate dives deeper into the lido’s history—with the help of a charming photographer—she pieces together a portrait of the pool, and a portrait of a singular woman, Rosemary. What begins as a simple local interest story for Kate soon blossoms into a beautiful friendship that provides sustenance to both women as they galvanize the community to fight the lido’s closure. Meanwhile, Rosemary slowly, finally, begins to open up to Kate, transforming them both in ways they never knew possible.

I didn’t expect to adore this one quite as much as I did, but it was like picking up a warm cup of tea on a cold winters day. I was actually recommended this book by a customer at work because of our mutual love of outdoor swimming, and I’m so glad I took the recommendation to heart!

4. I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

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Review | Goodreads

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

This was another book that absolutely opened my eyes. I read it as part of Non-Binary November and I loved it. It made me so emotional, but was so heartfelt and beautiful. I also recently read I’ll Be Home For Christmas which is a novella about the same characters which was super cute!

3. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

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Review | Goodreads

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart. 

I read this one back in January 2020 and it stayed with me the whole year. It was so beautiful, but so sad and tackles grief and friendship and love. I’ve read a couple of books by Nina LaCour now and I’ve loved them all.

2. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.
And love makes fools of us all.

I adored this book. I thought I’d like it, but I had no idea that I would fall in love with it the way I did. It was beautiful, I loved the setting, the romance and the characters so much. I savoured this book and I never wanted it to end. I thought it would be my favourite of the year, until….

1.The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.

This was incredible. I didn’t read it until early December but it quickly surpassed all of my other reads of the year so far and I just adored it. It broke my heart and made me cry, but it utterly stole my heart too.

Which were your favourite books of 2020?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Stacking the Shelves #34

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga where we share books we’ve bought or received this week. Find out more and join in here!

Hi all! I’ve been buying a few books recently that I have struggled to find for various reasons. I also received a book this week which I’ll talk about below! I have actually also been buying the Wordsworth classic collector’s editions, which I haven’t included here because of a couple of reasons:

  1. There is…16 of them. So far. (I’m collecting them all over the next few weeks).
  2. I’m filming a vlog for Library of Books and Daydreams, so I’m going to include them there instead!
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Goodreads | Waterstones

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

I finally bought my own copy of this book that I really loved when I read it back in November. I had borrowed a copy from Courtney (thank you Courtney!), and I’m happy to have my own now.

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Goodreads

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the pastries she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that can cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one in the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home. 

I actually received this as a gift, as I won it from MTMC Tours back in November. Thank you – I’m super excited to read this one as I always enjoy reading fiction that mentions food!

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Goodreads

I received the collectors edition of A Conjuring of Light for Christmas, and I already had the first book. So I managed to track down a copy of the second book this week. I’m happy to add this whole series to my TBR!

What have you bought this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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