Review: Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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Goodreads | Amazon

Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.
Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum — a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?
In this gripping, stimulating and totally absorbing novel, black and white are right and wrong.

Well, that was a rollercoaster.

I know, I’m so late to the party with this one! I’ve seen it around and heard about it all of my life, yet somehow never picked it up myself. I thought at 19 it may be a little young and irrelevant for me, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

With Callum being a Nought (seen as a lower member of society) and Sephy being a Cross (more privileged), they defied normal expectations by falling in love. Noughts and Crosses just don’t mix. Of course we’ve seen this trope many times before (Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, hello), but bringing race into the mix made this book turbulent, upsetting and frankly heartbreaking.

‘I used to comfort myself with the belief that it was only certain individuals and their peculiar notions that spoilt things for the rest of us.’

Even though this book is almost 20 years old, I could still see it relating to today’s society. I’m proud to say I think the UK is far past the racial divide we see in Noughts & Crosses, but I was constantly reminded that the actions taken throughout this book have very probably happened to real people. It is so sad and hard hitting to read and ponder.

Noughts & Crosses carries weight. It was the early noughties The Hate U Give, and it crushes my heart into pieces that even when The Hate U Give came out, stories like this still need to be told. But much like with THUG, I’m very glad they are being put out into the world, for us to reconsider how we treat one another.

I found this book very character driven, but I actually really enjoyed it. Callum and Sephy have very upsetting lives for completely different reasons (due to their class divide and differences), and seeing the world and racial struggles from their PsOV really related to me, even being much older than them. Due to feeling so close to them both, I felt so gripped to the story and ended up finishing it in a couple of long sittings. The short chapters and younger language ensured I read over 100 pages at a time, which is unlike me!

‘But how many individuals does it take before it’s not the individuals who are prejudiced but society itself?’

Talking of the language, it’s a tricky one to define. Yes, it’s young, but that I expected and didn’t mind. It’s also over dramatic and includes way too many exclamation marks. Like damn girl, those were overused. Personally, I do believe it was more common in writing around the time, and for that I forgave the language quickly. Only in that way does this book show it’s age, but it would have been more enjoyable with more contemporary writing.

It’s very hard to describe how else Noughts & Crosses let me down. In some ways, I found Callum and Sephy felt a little…forced? In a way, it’s very obvious their romance is a big plot point, and because of that I missed a natural connection between them both. And although the ending was incredibly gripping, it was also a little over the top for me personally.

Even with these small criticisms, this book is still very enjoyable and I can see why it has so much love and attention. It’s definitely worth a read!

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

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Goodreads | Amazon

Cass can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead.
When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh. Here, graveyards, castles and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms.
But when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift”, she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil—and herself. And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

I was drawn to this book for a few reasons: 1. It has such a pretty cover, not going to lie. 2. It’s has such an intriguing synopsis. 3. I’ve never read a VE Schwab book before, and I thought MG might be a good introduction!

And I definitely wasn’t wrong. I don’t usually read middle grade at all, but it didn’t stop me from really enjoying this one. I read it in just over a day, and I just know I would have loved it in my pre-teen years!

‘”Stories have power,” she says.’

This book was so much fun and overall a great adventure. I’ve never visited Edinburgh myself, but this book has made me want to. It seemed to capture the history and essence of the city, and it was so atmospheric. The fact Cassidy was visiting a city for the first time herself too made it even more of an adventure, which I loved.

City of Ghosts is such an entertaining novel, fast paced and full of action. I really couldn’t put it down, even though the plot was definitely predictable for an older reader. Unfortunately this brings me to my only criticisms, this book lacked depth. Not much, I just wish the characters were a little more fleshed out and the plot a bit more intricate. It’s totally what I expected from a MG book and I completely understand the reasoning behind it, but that’s my opinion as an older reader.

‘”So long as you belive them.”’

Saying this, however, I still found depth in some of the more poetic lines and passages, and the relationships Cassidy had. Her somewhat complex relationship with Jacob was so interesting to read about and I’m interested to see where it heads in the further novels. I also found her relationship with her parents well written, and I really liked the scenes with her parents. They led such interesting lives themselves!

Overall, definitely a very enjoyable read, just lacking a little depth and leaving me wanting more. I’d definitely consider re-reading this around Halloween!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Stacking the Shelves #97

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

Hi everyone! I’m here again with more YALC books. Honestly, I’m going to be taking so many with me when we go, my suitcase will be so heavy! I still have a short list of books I want to buy, but I’m nearly there now 🙂 I think I’ll definitely be going on another book ban after YALC 😛

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Goodreads | Amazon

Cass can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead.
When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh. Here, graveyards, castles and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms.
But when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift”, she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil—and herself. And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

I actually picked this up a little on a whim in Dublin last weekend, knowing it would be a good introduction to VE Schwab’s work! I’ve already read it and enjoyed it, and you can see my review tomorrow.

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Goodreads | Amazon

I knew I wanted to pick up the second book in this series eventually, so I managed to get a semi-cheap matching edition to the first book.

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Goodreads | Amazon

In case you’re wondering, this is not a love story.
My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.
Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.
I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.
I really don’t.

I actually ordered the new pink paperback of this, but of course they sent me the wrong one. The good thing is I managed to get a refund without sending the book back, so I’m going to use it as a trial to see if I want to buy Alice’s other books!

Did you buy any books this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: Arctic Zoo by Robert Muchamore

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Goodreads | Pre-Order on Amazon

From London . . .
Georgia gets straight As at school, writes essays for fun, has been placed first in twenty-six drone races and has a serious addiction to buying Japanese stationery. She plans to follow her older sister Sophie and become a doctor, but her worldview is shattered when Sophie commits suicide.
To Lagos . . .
Julius lives in Ondo, a Nigerian state where half the population lives on less than a dollar a day. But he isn’t one of them. His uncle has been governor of Ondo for more than a decade and his mother is the power behind that throne. He finds refuge in a derelict zoo with best friend Duke, but as the two of them grow close, the world outside becomes more and more hostile.

Disclaimer: Thank you so much to Hot Key Books for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected or changed my opinions in any way.

I really didn’t know what to expect with this book, and I was surprised in a big way. From the synopsis, I expected most of the book to be set in a mental institution, but instead I found a journey to both characters ending up there. I love how Arctic Zoo book flickered backwards and forwards between different times in the characters lives, often enough to feel fast paced but not often enough to make the reader confused.

In fact, let’s talk about these delightful characters. I honestly loved them both for different reasons, and I was shocked by how well the alternate PsOV from both characters worked so well. They lead very different lives, with Georgia being in the UK, a girl with straight As, who has been brought up on drone racing and has a difficult home life, especially when her sister commits suicide. Georgia, who has always looked up to her sisters achievements and followed in her footsteps, realises there might be more to life than studying.

Julius is a very different story. A young gay man in Nigeria, coming to terms with his sexuality and struggling with his family’s political status. His coming out changes his life in many ways, and the book explores his relationships, family/home life, school and friendships, all in a politically turbulent time and place.

Both of the characters, however different, lead very unique yet equally compelling and intriguing lives. Before long, I felt sucked in to both of their stories and I was struggling to put the book down, finishing it’s 400+ pages in just a few days. Sometimes, with books of different PsOV, I find myself favouring one character over the other and I struggle to give completely equal attention to both. This wasn’t the case with Arctic Zoo, and I think that’s because their stories are so different and not often intertwined. Some readers might find it disappointing that they actually don’t spend much time together, but I found it refreshing and well-paced, as the alternate view points would be a break from the one before. I never felt stuck in one persons reality, and knew something fresh was just a few pages away.

I even enjoyed how the characters ended up in different countries for the majority of the book. It still amazes me how Muchamore wrote Julius’ chapters in Nigeria having never visited the country himself. I can be no judge for accuracy, but I felt fully immersed in the story and it felt real. It shows that he had people who had experienced life in Nigeria check his work.

The only downside for me was actually Georgia’s story, towards the end. It just felt a little…rushed? I left feeling as though everything had happened too smoothly, and too quickly, and without much room for full explanation. I won’t go into it too deeply in fear of spoiling the ending, but I just wanted a little more in way of description of how everything slotted into place at the end. Unfortunately for me it left me feeling disjointed about her story as a whole, which I had otherwise really enjoyed.

However, this was a very small disappointment in the grand scheme of what turned out to be an incredibly enjoyable, heartbreaking but hopeful read. If you want something a little different in YA but still relatable and easy to read, this one is perfect!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Let’s Discuss! My Trip to Dublin

Hi all! I’ve briefly mentioned recently that I was travelling to Dublin to meet Sophie from Mind of a Bookdragon, and today’s post is all about that!

A little background: me and Sophie met through the bookish Instagram community years ago. We’re not exactly sure of the year, but we think it’s about 5 years! We’ve talked a lot since then, and video called, but never had the chance to meet as I live in the UK and she lives in the USA. Until now! We were lucky enough to find ourselves close enough for me to pay her a visit, so I flew over for the day to Dublin, which is a brand new city for me!

This is the exact place Sophie and I saw each other (and of course ran to give each other hugs) for the first time! The photo of us was taken just minutes after we first saw each other 🙂

We spent a very full day exploring the city, which Sophie knows better than me and showed me around. It’s such a beautiful city!

We visited The Book of Kells and the Long Room together, and we were definitely the perfect people to see this place with. I believe it’s from this scene in Harry Potter.

Other adventures were bookish and non-bookish! By complete chance, I happened to be visiting on the day of the Pride Parade, which we went to see. It was absolutely brilliant and so fun, it really gave the city a different vibe and I felt so lucky to be there to see it.

We also went to the castle, the National History Museum, the Library and St Stephen’s Green, among many other places while exploring the city together! We also visited so many bookshops, including Hodges Figgis which is the Irish version of the British bookshop Waterstones and Ireland’s Oldest Bookshop.

Thank you again to Sophie for the many years of friendship and for our long awaited day together. I can’t wait to do it all again one day 🙂

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Top 5 Books Set in Places I Want to Visit

This Top 5 Wednesday series is inspired by the weekly meme on Goodreads which you can find here. I no longer follow the topics and instead use my own.

Hi everyone! I’ve just finished a book that made me really want to visit the place it’s set (read on to find out which!), and it made me think deeper about the topic itself. So today we have my top 5 books that made me want to visit a place – in this post we’re discussing real life places, but I’d love to do a fantasy version too!

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Goodreads | Amazon

Amy Curry is having a terrible year. Her mother is moving all the way across the country and needs Amy to drive their car from California to the East Coast. But since the death of her father, Amy hasn’t been able to get behind the wheel of a car. Enter Roger, the son of an old family friend, who turns out to be unexpectedly cute.

I had to start with this one because I love road trip books! First Love, How To Be Bad and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour are some of my favourites. How To Be Bad made me really want to visit Disneyworld and the Epcot Center! Amy and Roger is full of notes, playlists, photos and receipts from real-life places across the states, and I’m desperate to follow in their footsteps.

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Goodreads | Amazon

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.
Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.
And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately
.

Another book set in the USA, can you see a pattern emerging? 😉 I’m choosing this one because for me it perfectly captured the feeling of summer, and made me really want to visit California.

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Goodreads | Amazon

Cass can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead.
When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh. Here, graveyards, castles and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms.
But when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift”, she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil—and herself. And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

On a very different note (and a lot closer to home!), this is the book I just finished. City of Ghosts is set in Edinburgh, and I really want to visit Scotland! As I’m in England myself, it’s super close for me and I definitely need to take a trip soon.

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Goodreads | Amazon

It’s been a year since Milly, Elyse and Leonie’s dad died, and a year since their last trip to Rome. Summer’s here again, and once again they are heading with their mum to Italy – but what’s it going to be like going without Dad? Rome still holds its familiar charms – the sun is still as warm, the gelato as delicious, the people as welcoming. But nothing is quite as it once was … 
With grief still raw for all of them, Milly is facing the additional awfulness of having to see Luke again – gorgeous, gorgeous Luke, who she had a fling with last year, and who she made a total fool of herself with – or so she thinks. What’s going to happen this time? What’s more, things between Milly, her sisters and their mum are rocky – Leonie is being tempestuous and unpredictable, Elyse is caught up with her new boyfriend, and Milly feels like she just doesn’t know how she fits in any more. 
Over one Italian summer, can Milly find a way back to the life she once had? 

Italy is a place I’ve wanted to go for a long time but unfortunately haven’t yet. This book was so perfectly atmospheric and summery, and it furthered my desire to pay this beautiful country a visit!

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Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I know, I know, another book set in America. But I would love to see New York too and I haven’t mentioned it yet! Obviously the dream would be to be there for Bookcon..

Which books made you want to visit somewhere new?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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June Wrap-Up and July TBR

Hi all! Another month has passed and now I have under a month to read as much as I can on my YALC TBR, wish me luck 🙂 Unfortunately I didn’t manage to read as much in June, I got in a few small slumps and I started a new job, but I did still read 6!

Books I read in June

Review | Goodreads | Amazon

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Review | Goodreads | Amazon

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Review | Goodreads |

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Review | Goodreads | Amazon

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Review | Goodreads | Amazon

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Review to come! | Goodreads | Amazon

I really loved a lot of these, but my favourite has to be Girls of Paper and Fire and my least favourite was either Meet Cute or The Last Namsara (even though I still enjoyed both).

Books I Bought in June

Bought
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali – Sabina Khan
Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan
Meet Cute – Various authors
A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Shwab
The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli
Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman
The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon
Do You Dream of Terra Two? – Temi Oh

Received
The Storm Crow – Kalyn Josephson
Tonight the Streets Are Ours – Leila Sales
Made You Up – Francesca Zappia
Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake
One Dark Throne – Kendare Blake
Two Dark Reigns – Kendare Blake

I was so lucky to receive a copy of The Storm Crow from Sourcebooks Fire (thank you!). All of the other ‘received’ were gifts from my lovely friend Chloe – thank you again Chloe. The many books on the ‘bought’ list were in preparation for YALC, as usual.

Books I Want to Read in July

Arctic Zoo – Robert Muchamore
A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Shwab
Do You Dream of Terra Two? – Temi Oh
Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman

I just want to get through Arctic Zoo and then read as many books off my YALC TBR as possible to be honest! These are at the top of my list, although there are many more :p I need all the luck I can get!

What did you read in May and what’s on your June TBR?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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