Review: The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads | Waterstones

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy
.

I’ve been putting off this book for a while as I was a little hesitant about how much I would enjoy it. With The Invisible Life of Addie Larue grabbing top spot and being my favourite book of 2020, I am now so worried about not loving her other works quite as much. But although this didn’t quite match up, I still absolutely loved it!

The Near Witch is part fairy-tale, part love story, part nightmare. It opens on a scene where the main character, Lexi, is telling her little sister a bedtime story, and the book never strays far from that tone. Reading this book has the feeling of going on a rambling journey and becoming enchanted by a creepy tale. This definitely ended up being darker than I expected but in a gentle way that wasn’t too intense or overwhelming, and I really liked it. It was creepy in the way fairy-tales can be, rather than a typical horror!

Maybe one day the words will pour out like so many others, easy and smooth and on their own.

One of my favourite things about V.E. Schwab is her incredible writing. The writing in this was mystical and beautiful and I adored it. She chooses every word purposefully and it shows, and I feel like that’s the reason it took me slightly longer to read than I expected, as I wanted to make sure I really absorbed every part of this book and every single word on the page.

The writing also showcased the amazing world this book is set in. Near is a village on moorland, surrounded by rolling countryside and forests. I loved the vibe this gave off with the creepy, foggy, vast moor and forests, with cottages few and far between. I could picture the world so clearly and it felt like the perfect setting for this story. I also really liked the main characters and that bubbled along in the background of this story. And I could really empathise with how Lexi was struggling with how those around her were acting throughout this story.

Right now they take pieces of me with them.

Overall, this was a beautiful and haunting tale that I really enjoyed reading. It also had such an incredible atmosphere which I loved.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #41

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 everyone! I haven’t actually bought too many books recently, although I have ordered a few more recently that I’m very excited to arrive. I might be speaking too soon, but I definitely feel like adding to my TBR has gotten better, and I’m buying more duplicate editions instead! Whether that’s a good thing or not is your own judgement 😉

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly – proud, swift to anger and slow to forgive. And since the war – since being made High Fae against her will – she’s struggled to forget the horrors she endured and find a place for herself within the strange and deadly Night Court. The person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred, winged warrior who is there at Nesta’s every turn. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. And when they are forced to train in battle together, sparks become flame. As the threat of war casts its shadow over them once again, Nesta and Cassian must fight monsters from within and without if they are to stand a chance of halting the enemies of their court. But the ultimate risk will be searching for acceptance – and healing – in each other’s arms.

This edition is actually the edition that turned up with my Illumicrate dust jackets, which are absolutely beautiful! I also picked up my Waterstones edition.

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Goodreads

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
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.

I had one last collectors edition of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue to pick up, which was this gorgeous Forbidden Planet version. I recently managed (with some help from my boyfriend) to pick up this edition, which looks amazing as part of my collection!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

I’ve also had two out of three copies of Rule of Wolves that I had preordered arrive – the Waterstones and Illumicrate versions. They have the same dust jackets but the designs underneath are absolutely drop dead gorgeous!

Which books did you buy or receive this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: A Torch Against the Night (#2) by Sabaa Tahir

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both. 

We pick this book up directly where An Ember in the Ashes leaves off, and are immediately thrown into the action. Again, Alex and I buddy read this book and will be continuing to buddy read the rest of the series, and we both really liked how the story continued seamlessly on. Although I’m not sure how that would feel if I had left any time between reading each book!

This book brings a new point of view in addition to those we are already familiar with of Laia and Elias. I really enjoyed the addition of Helene’s point of view, especially as she has an interesting relationship and dynamic with the other characters. I’m looking forward to seeing her grow as a character in the next few books, as she feels naive to the actions of the Empire and is only just opening her eyes to the impacts of the actions of those around her. I also appreciated having her view of the world from a different side of Elias or Laia, as she shows what is happening in Blackcliff Academy.

Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. 

I was a little worried this book may have second book syndrome, which I often find in the second book in a series that feels like a bridge to the next. However, I feel like Helene’s point of view was a brilliant way to keep A Torch Against the Night fresh. I also felt like the plot continued to be interesting and the pace was kept consistent throughout this book. The end of this book especially had so many twists and turns and part of it really made me gasp!

I loved the cast of characters so much, and there was some aspects of this book that made both me and Alex emotional. There are some new characters introduced in this book and I really loved Tas, a friend of Elias as the book goes on. The friendship between Elias and Tas, Laia and Izzi and many of the others really warmed my heart.

I also really enjoyed how this book in particular gave us a look at the wider world outside of Blackcliff Academy, and I can picture the world really well. I’m enjoying the world building and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the surroundings in the last two books in the series.

Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.

Overall, this was an excellent sequel which I really enjoyed and I’m still loving the writing, which is emotional but really easy to read and compelling! I couldn’t put this book down and I always wanted to find out what would happen next.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: An Ember in the Ashes (#1) by Sabaa Tahir

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

I’ve been hearing so much about this series recently and after finding out how much my lovely friend Charlotte enjoyed it, I knew I wanted to read this series. I’ve been buddy-reading this series with Alex and I’m so glad we’re reading it together! This felt like YA fantasy with a slight twist, and I really enjoyed it. I also loved the two points of view, which I was hesitant about going into the story as I sometimes find multiple POV mean you want to skip one and go to the next. However, I enjoyed these two equally and for different reasons, and felt like they worked well together.

These two points of view include Laia, who ends up as a slave for the somewhat evil commandant of the Blackcliff Academy, who she is also spying on. The commandant also happens to be the mother of our second character, Elias, who is a soldier at the academy. Both of these characters are questioning authority for different reasons, and are brought together by the decisions they make along the way.

You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius.

This story is definitely a more of a character and plot driven story than a location heavy one, which let me down slightly. I personally love setting heavy stories and a lot of world building, and I did struggle to vividly picture the world throughout the story. Some scenes were better than others, and I’m hoping as the series goes on we learn more about the world and surroundings. I also really liked the characters and felt a lot of sympathy for them – both me and Alex were getting emotional towards the end! I found myself thinking about these characters even when I wasn’t reading (or had picked up something else when I finished my pages for the day), which proves how much I was drawn to their stories.

The plot definitely drove the story which was perfect for reading it over a 4 day readathon. The writing was so easy to read and I didn’t want to put the book down, which bodes well for the rest of the series! But despite it being super compelling, Sabaa Tahir didn’t steer away from difficult topics. The beautiful writing occasionally gave way to brutality and violence, which neither me or Alex quite expected so much of. This is definitely not one for the fainthearted, and has a lot of mentions/scenes of killing, rape and torture.

You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.

I’m holding out my 5 stars for now as I feel like this has got more to give and I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes. However, this was a really enjoyable, fast-paced fantasy read with likable characters and an unpredictable plot that made me want to keep on reading!

CW: sexual assault, torture, violence, death, imprisonment

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.
But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.
Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, and it really didn’t let me down. This book had a similar trope to fake-dating but with a twist, and I loved it. It was witty, clever and laugh-out-loud funny, but with deeper, dark moments too. It was fun, but also so much more emotional than I expected.

As someone who is moving slowly and cautiously away from YA fiction, especially contemporary YA fiction, I definitely need something with a twist to keep me interested and on my toes, which is exactly what The Falling in Love Montage did. This book was about that part of the rom-com film where the couple goes on dates and have a cute montage of them, well, falling in love. It’s the bit after the meet-cute and before the devastation, and it is exactly what the main characters of this book had planned for the summer.

“See, the thing about the falling in love montage,” she said, her voice hoarse,

What I expected from this story was a cute, summer romance. And I’m not saying it didn’t provide that, because it did, but it became so much more. I had tears in my eyes from reading about Saoirse’s story, which was a lot darker than I expected. Not only did she have a messy relationship and friendship history, she also had a mum with dementia who was only in her 50s. This really hit me harder than expected, and although I have no experience in the subject, I felt like it was written very well. I connected to Saorise a lot throughout this story, and the situation with her mum brought me close to tears at various points.

Saorise is a bit of an arrogant, stroppy teenager throughout this book, but I kind of loved it. Her witty comebacks were so funny, and her sarky attitude to life was highly entertaining. Even when you wanted to throw the book across the room at her decisions, she was completely self aware at how she was acting, which made it work. Also, she kind of has enough justification for being angry about a lot of the crap she has gone through. Her voice was unique and so was the writing style, which showed her thought processes really well.

“is that when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love.”

It was also lovely to see a YA book set in Ireland and with so many mentions of Irish culture. It is definitely something we don’t see a lot of in YA and really made this book stand out – it was such a joy to read about!

Overall, this was a really lovely story with a fun summer romance and also some emotional discussions. It was incredibly well written and unputdownable, and was a lovely journey to go on even if it was a little predictable in places.

CW: Dementia

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Mary Lennox was horrid. Selfish and spoilt, she was sent to stay with her hunchback uncle in Yorkshire. She hated it.
But when she finds the way into a secret garden and begins to tend to it, a change comes over her and her life. She meets and befriends a local boy, the talented Dickon, and comes across her sickly cousin Colin who had been kept hidden from her. Between them, the three children work astonishing magic in themselves and those around them.

I’m so glad I finally picked up this book as recommended to me by Alex, as it is her favourite book! Thank you Alex for all of your encouragement when it came to finally getting me to pick this one up, I really enjoyed it.

As you’ve probably picked up by now, I didn’t read many children’s classics when I was an actual child, and I’m only getting around to reading them now. I find this to be hit and miss, but The Secret Garden has been one of my favourites so far in this little experiment. I really enjoyed so much about this book! All I knew is that there was a garden (I wonder how I figured that out?) and that this book followed a little girl. Who knew how much more this book had to offer?

It made her think that it was curious how much nicer a person looked when he smiled.

Firstly, I loved the character of Mary. She moves to Yorkshire from India at the start of this story to live in her Uncle’s house. She is rude to everyone, very spoilt and arrogant to all those she meets. However, she learns so much about people and herself throughout this story, which I loved. She has a genuine redemption arc which was a joy to read about, and she’s not the only character who does. Many of the characters throughout this story grew and learned about how to treat other people. It was beautiful, and I loved their friendships with each other and the adults around them.

The garden itself was also a delight, and I could visualise the beautiful plants and flowers. I loved the symbolisation of the growth of the garden reflected in the characters, and watching the garden grow with them was so lovely. I read this book over a few days, and I read 300 pages of it in a day as part of a readathon. I actually found my enjoyment of the book grew the longer I was reading it, as it just felt like the perfect amount of time to immerse myself in the story. It was so easy to carry on reading as there was so many hints and mysteries dropped throughout the book, and I just wanted to find out what was going to be revealed next.

She had not thought of it before.

Although this book wasn’t perfect, and I sadly felt a little disconnected in the last few pages, there is so much to love about this book. It had the most beautiful, immersive surroundings and lovable characters. I think I would have really loved it as a child!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

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Goodreads | Waterstones

The magical Peter Pan comes to the night nursery of the Darling children, Wendy, John and Michael. He teaches them to fly, then takes them through the sky to Never-Never Land, where they find Red Indians, Wolves, Mermaids and… Pirates.
The leader of the pirates is the sinister Captain Hook. His hand was bitten off by a crocodile, who, as Captain Hook explains ‘liked me arm so much that he has followed me ever since, licking his lips for the rest of me’. After lots of adventures, the story reaches its exciting climax as Peter, Wendy and the children do battle with Captain Hook and his band.

This was so much weirder than I expected. I’ve only ever seen the Disney animation of this story and it’s been a long time since I last watched it – I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen the whole thing all the way through. I also saw a pantomime version years ago, which I barely remember. But I’m glad I went into this story with some knowledge, even if it was such a little bit. I found going into this story was like jumping into the deep end of a pool, because I felt so confused.

I just felt like there was absolutely no introduction to any of the characters or the story, and I found it difficult to follow what was happening. I was relying so much on my previous knowledge of the story from other mediums, which also felt like a very odd experience. I’m not exactly sure why I felt like this was not explained at all, but it disappointed me a lot and wasn’t a great start to the story.

Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.

I also felt like this story was like reading a hallucination. It reminded me a lot more of Alice in Wonderland than I expected in the reading style, because nothing felt real or tangible. It all felt a bit like reading a really wacky dream, and I found it hard to connect to the story because of it. My favourite part of this story was the setting of Never-Never Land, which definitely portrayed a mystical landscape with a lot of intricate detail. I also loved the whole concept of the book itself, and the discussions of childhood/adulthood.

I liked the characters in some ways, but there was so many of them and I quickly lost track. Tinkerbell was one of my favourites, with her cheeky sassiness. I also liked and related to Wendy and her mothering instincts towards the other characters, and the scenes in their house were some of my favourites in the book. The sense of adventure is clear throughout the book and I can see how this book is brilliant for children, who are more likely to be able to visualise this story and have a more vivid imagination than me!

You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.

Overall, I can see the enjoyment in this story and I feel like I might reread it in the future and see if I can find a stronger connection to it. I’m also definitely tempted to re-watch the Disney animation now I’ve read the original story. It’s just a shame that I felt such a disconnect to the story and it did hinder my enjoyment of it a lot.

★★★
2.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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March Wrap Up + April TBR

Hi all! Today I’m here with my March wrap-up and April TBR. I read a whopping 16 books in March, which I’m so proud of! This was definitely helped massively by the Bookoplathon, which you can read my blog post about here. I read 8 books that one weekend, and 8 more books over the rest of the month! I also managed to read all of the books I mentioned in my March TBR on this post, which is always good. You can see this post in video format on my YouTube channel here and below.

Books I Read in March

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

WHEN ISABELLA SWAN MOVES TO THE gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and enigmatic.
WHAT BELLA DOESN’T REALIZE IS THE CLOSER she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those around her at risk. And, it might be too late to turn back…
DEEPLY SEDUCTIVE AND EXTRAORDINARILY suspenseful, Twilight has enraptured millions and become a modern classic, redefining genres within young adult literature and inspiring a phenomenon that has had readers yearning for more.
This special tenth anniversary dual edition includes a foreword by the author as well as a complete reimagining of the original novel. Turn this book over to read Life and Death.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Little Women is one of the best-loved children’s stories of all time, based on the author’s own youthful experiences. It describes the family of the four March sisters living in a small New England community. Meg, the eldest, is pretty and wishes to be a lady; Jo, at fifteen is ungainly and unconventional with an ambition to be an author; Beth is a delicate child of thirteen with a taste for music and Amy is a blonde beauty of twelve. The story of their domestic adventures, their attempts to increase the family income, their friendship with the neighbouring Laurence family, and their later love affairs remains as fresh and beguiling as ever.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Raised in isolation and home-schooled by her strict grandparents, the only experience Birdie has had of the outside world is through her favourite crime books.
But everything changes when she takes a summer job working the night shift at a historic Seattle hotel. There she meets Daniel Aoki, the hotel’s charismatic driver, and together they stumble upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—is secretly meeting someone at the hotel.
To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell, and in doing so, realize that the most confounding mystery of all may just be her growing feelings for Daniel.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince.
As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Good Wives is the second story about the March family. Three years on from Little Women, the March girls and their friend Laurie are young adults with their futures ahead of them. Although they all face painful trials along the way – from Meg’s sad lesson in housekeeping to Laurie’s disappointment in love and a tragedy which touches them all – each of the girls finally finds happiness, if not always in the way they expect. The book includes a behind-the-scenes journey, including an author profile, a guide to who’s who, activities and more.. 

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.
The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.
Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.
Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Cassandra Cain is the daughter of super-villains and a living weapon trained from birth to be the ultimate assassin. But that doesn’t mean she has to stay that way, right? She’ll have to go through an identity crisis of epic proportions to find out. But how do you figure out who you’re supposed to be when you’ve been trained to become a villain your entire life?
After a soul-shattering moment that sends Cass reeling, she’ll attempt to answer this question the only way she knows how: learning everything she possibly can about her favorite hero–Batgirl. But Batgirl hasn’t been seen in Gotham for years, and when Cass’s father threatens the world she has grown to love, she’ll have to step out of the shadows and overcome her greatest obstacle–that voice inside her head telling her she can never be a hero.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

The “IT” book of the early 2000s with the original cast is back–Nico! Karolina! Molly! Chase! Old Lace! And, could it be…GERT?!
The heart of the Runaways died years ago, but you won’t believe how she returns! Superstar author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Carry On) makes her Marvel debut with fan-favorite artist Kris Anka (ALL-NEW X-MEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL) in the series that will shock you and break your heart! Did Chase and Gert’s love survive their time apart? Have Karolina and Nico’s feelings made their friendship impossible? What emotional landmines lie in wait to DESTROY the Runaways?!

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Review | Goodreads | Blackwells

Lewis Carroll’s classic story of Alice and her incredible adventures in Wonderland is brought to life in this brand new slipcase edition. Follow curious Alice as she ventures down a rabbit hole and into a magical world, filled with unforgettable characters such as the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts. Illustrated with John Tenniel’s iconic original drawings, this beautiful book is guaranteed to enchant young readers aged 7 and up.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.
Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, everybody is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath just can’t let go. Now that they’re in college, Cath must decide if she’s ready to start living her own life. But does she even want to if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Cath doesn’t need friends IRL. She has her twin sister, Wren, and she’s a popular fanfic writer in the Simon Snow community with thousands of fans online.  But now that she’s in college, Cath is completely outside of her comfort zone. There are suddenly all these new people in her life. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming boyfriend, a writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome new writing partner … And she’s barely heard from Wren all semester!

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.
In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.
That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

My least favourite book was definitely Life and Death, which I actually published a YouTube video about because I had so much to say about it! My favourite book was definitely An Absolutely Remarkable Thing which was a massive surprise to me.

Books I Want to Read in April

Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Falling in Love Montage – Ciara Smyth
An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir
A Torch Against the Night – Sabaa Tahir
A Reaper at the Gates – Sabaa Tahir
A Sky Beyond the Storm – Sabaa Tahir

I’ve already read a few of these books as part of a readathon over the Easter weekend, and me and Alex are going to be reading the Ember in the Ashes series over the month!

What did you read in March and what are you hoping to read in April?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

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Goodreads | Waterstones

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship – like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armour – April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world, and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the centre of an intense international media spotlight. 
Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

This is the kind of book you have to take a deep breath after you finish it and try and pause for a while, just to make sure your brain can soak in all of that information. Honestly, it was just complete and utter genius. I had no idea what I would make of this book or even what it was really about. I did not expect the rollercoaster of a journey this book took me on at all, but I really, really loved it.

April is a bisexual twenty three year old art school graduate in an unsatisfactory job that means she works all hours of the day and night. One night, walking through New York City at 3am, she comes across a giant sculpture. After phoning her friend, they make a YouTube video about the sculpture, who they name Carl. The video goes viral and quickly makes April and Andy famous. April then has to navigate the world of fame, and is still caught up in the mystery of the Carls, after finding out there are 64 of them all over the world, and have been placed in very mysterious circumstances.

Just because someone has power over you doesn’t mean they’re going to use it to hurt you.

Just wow. I have no idea how to begin how to describe this wild ride of a book, but it is the kind of story that will blow your mind and make you see the world at just a slightly different angle. I’m so glad I picked it up as part of the 48 hour readathon I was taking part in, because it was very hard to put down. I was constantly craving the next part, and I needed to know the rest of the story. It’s not often I finish a book and feel like I immediately need the next one, but I really do want the next book in the series right now.

I also ended up really liking the character of April. This was another unexpected factor, as April’s character is written to be unlikable. She makes so many questionable decisions and mistakes. But she is human, and she is real, and I kind of loved her. The way this narrative is written is so unique, and I think it’s what made me appreciate April for who she was. I also really appreciated the cast of characters that surrounded April, who were diverse and great in their own rights.

Hank Green really opens up so, so many conversations with this book. Topics on and off the world we know, about fame and social media, but also about control and human nature. It made the story so compelling, interesting and truly like nothing else I have ever read. It was super nerdy but also so amazingly clever.

People who believe that tend to either be: People who have been victims of that sort of behavior, or . . .People who, if given power, will use it to hurt you.

This was so witty, fun, entertaining but also had heavy topics interwoven throughout. It was such an entertaining and riveting read and I’ll be recommending it to many people!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

This was an absolutely wonderful, diverse retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I haven’t actually read Pride and Prejudice yet, although it’s on the cards for this year! So this is a little bit of a strange one to review as a retelling, and I am tempted to re-read it after I’ve read the original story.

I love the whole idea of this book, taking the themes of Austen (female strength and class in particular) and bringing them into a Black neighbourhood in Brooklyn. This book is written from the point of view of Zuri, who has 5 sisters and lives in a one bedroom apartment with her family. The neighbourhood she loves so much is changing, and this is especially highlighted when the Darcy’s move in opposite, a wealthy family new to the neighbourhood.

We’re not gonna throw away the past as if it meant nothing. See?

I loved how rich the culture was in this book. Zuri feels like such a genuine character who has so many layers to her, and I really liked her as a strong, kick-ass female main character. We need more female role models like her in YA who are definitely not scared to stand up for themselves!

Zuri’s growth throughout this book may have been my favourite part. I really enjoyed reading about her thoughts, feelings and pride for her neighbourhood and her family. The group of sisters were a joy to read about and I loved how strong they were as a family unit. There was an interesting – although not particularly memorable – cast of side characters, who did make me smile along the way.

I liked the romance and felt like it was really well written and genuine. I really enjoyed how the characters got to know each other over the course of a few dates and had some difficult situations which they overcame together. Some aspects didn’t feel quite as fleshed out as I wanted, but for a short contemporary they were enjoyable enough to read about!

That’s what happens to whole neighborhoods. We built something, it was messy, but we’re not gonna throw it away.

I loved how much Zuri talked about her culture, family and pride for the neighbourhood. She also stood completely on her own as a strong, independent women and the romance didn’t feel necessary to her life, which I really liked. Overall, this was a great, very diverse contemporary which I really enjoyed!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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