Review: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

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Goodreads | Amazon

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.

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

It’s so unfortunate that I didn’t enjoy this book. It sounded so intriguing and like such a unique concept, but I was very disappointed with the book itself. I wish it hadn’t been such a let down!

The only way I can possibly think to describe The Marrow Thieves is it feels like there’s so much missing. Like, if I didn’t read the synopsis beforehand, I would have had no clue what was actually happening throughout the novel. It feels like nothing is ever explained in full and everything is quite a random series of events. I wouldn’t have been shocked if I found out someone had actually ripped pages or whole chapters out of my copy. This improved slightly towards the end of the book, but only as I became more involved in the story, and no where enough to recover from the disappointment.

‘Sometimes you risk everything for a life worth living,’

Unfortunately, the plot wasn’t the only problem. The characters also felt majorly underdeveloped and I struggled to connect with their stories because of it. Most of them were just names on the pages for me, and that meant the connection I should have felt in emotional scenes was just lost. I feel like the author concentrated fully on only a few of the characters, only one of whom I actually liked, and the others got lost along the way.

The reason I’m giving this book 2 stars instead of 1 is because the writing isn’t bad at all. At points, I even found myself sucked into some of the short stories within this larger story. In fact, I think this author could write some brilliant short stories and maybe they would be more developed and her forte?

‘even if you’re not the one that’ll be alive to see it.’

Overall, the concept was interesting but left unexplored and underdeveloped. I’d love to read more books exploring indigenous people and it’s definitely something I’d like to see more of, but this was a major disappointment with few things going for it. It’s definitely not the worst or most annoying book I’ve read, but it was by far from the best.

★★ 
2 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

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Goodreads | Pre Order on Amazon

Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see …
16-year-old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t?
When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass—or the people by her side.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for an ARC copy of this I won in a raffle at YALC 2019! This book is scheduled for release on October 1st, 2019.

I stormed through this book in around a day. I can be a fairly quick reader when I want to be, but under 2 days is always quick for me, and I literally didn’t put this one down. I always love books that can hold my attention as I struggle to read for 100s of pages at a time usually, but I read this in only a couple of sittings.

Reading from the perspective of a burns survivor was so interesting and heart wrenching at times. Ava’s story (and the stories of those around her) absolutely broke my heart and made me feel so sympathetic towards her. She was not without her faults, but I think her low times only showed how much she’d come through and how much of a warrior she was.

The writing and plot were definitely the strongest points for me. This is a story of Ava and her family/friends returning from one of the hardest things they will ever have to go through. It’s a story of growth and acceptance for all involved and I appreciated seeing it from a year after the fire, rather than directly afterwards. I felt there had been enough time since the fire to focus on moving forward and developing a new life, but of course still facing difficult and emotional issues.

I’d like to take a moment to mention how much I adored Ava’s family. Her adoptive parents, her aunt and uncle, faced so many hardships of her own having lost their own daughter to the same fire that left Ava scarred. The book didn’t shy away from their own struggles of facing a life without their daughter, but adopting their niece. I think if this hadn’t have been discussed, it would have left a massive hole in the narrative.

So, why not 5 stars? I don’t want to say this book lacked depth, because that would be a lie, but half of me wishes it had made me cry. It was such a quick and easy read for such an emotive subject, and although it moved me, I didn’t feel as gut-wrenchingly sad as I could have. It just felt like it needed an extra push, and I think that was partly down to character development.

That being said, this book was a very important read and one I’m glad to be seeing in 2019 YA. Watch this space!

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Top 5 Cover Buys

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.

Maybe the longer title of this post should be top 5 cover buys and whether I liked them or not, or something similar. I think we’d be lying if we didn’t buy books sometimes (or pick them up) because of their cover designs! They’re the first things we see and are obviously going to draw us in.

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Goodreads | Amazon

Twelve-year-old Jeanne Ann has doubts when her mom spends their savings on an old orange van and bundles them off to San Francisco to chase Mom’s dream of working as a chef. There, they camp on the street while her mother looks for a job she never gets. Before long, Jeanne Ann realizes that this van is the closest thing she has to a home.
Across the road, twelve-year-old Cal watches the homeless community parked just beyond his big house. Cal’s mom is busy with the upscale restaurant she owns, but they’ve always been close–until Cal does something his mom just doesn’t understand.
Then Cal and Jeanne Ann meet. Cal is too tall and too weird and too rich and wears all his emotions on the outside of his skin, and he just wants to help. Jeanne Ann is smart, she is funny, she is stubborn–hers is a royal-looking chin, in
Cal’s opinion–and she does not want his help. But a quirky, meaningful friendship develops between them, and as it does, the pair is buoyed by a remarkable cast of nuanced, oddball characters, who let them down and lift them up. When Jeanne Annn’s situation worsens, though, and Cal’s desire to help gets the better of him, will their friendship survive? And without it, can either of them find their way through this mess? 

I bought this book entirely on the cover. Bad, I know, but I’m guilty! It was on a buy-a-book-get-an-ARC table at YALC and I couldn’t resist but be drawn into this pretty design. However, I ended up enjoying it quite a lot and you can find my review here!

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Goodreads | Amazon

Misa Sugiura is back with another smartly drawn coming-of-age novel that weaves riveting family drama, surprising humor, and delightful romance into a story that will draw you in from the very first page.
Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.
She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.
Then her mom decides to sell the shop — to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.

Although I did also spot this at YALC because of the cover, I can ensure you I did read the synopsis too! Luckily I can say this lived up to it’s pretty cover. Review here!

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Goodreads | Amazon

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.
Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

Although I didn’t pick this up because of the cover, I keep buying them purely for the aesthetic, as I’m up to date with the Webcomic so have read all of them already! I just can’t resist having the beautiful spines and covers on my shelves.

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Goodreads | Amazon

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. 

I haven’t actually read Serious Moonlight yet, but my first Jenn Bennett book was a cover-buy when I read a lot more contemporary romance, and I’ve picked up her others for the aesthetic factor alongside the guilty pleasure.

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Goodreads | Amazon

Pixie’s defenses are up, and it’s no wonder. She’s been uprooted, the chickens seem to have it in for her, and now her beloved sister, Charlotte, has been stricken with polio and whisked away into quarantine. So it’s not surprising Pixie lashes out. But her habit of making snap judgements–and giving her classmates nicknames like “Rotten Ricky” and “Big-Mouth Berta”–hasn’t won her any friends. At least life on the farm is getting better with the delivery of its newest resident–a runt baby lamb. Raising Buster takes patience and understanding–and this slowing down helps Pixie put things in better perspective. So too does paying attention to her neighbors, and finding that with the war on she’s not the only one missing someone. As Pixie pushes past her own pain to become a bigger person, she’s finally able to make friends; and to laugh about the fact that it is in places where she least expected it.

This was another cover-buy from the ARC table at YALC, and I’m so excited to find out whether I enjoy it. It sounds so unique and intriguing!

Which books have you picked up because of their covers? And did you enjoy them?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: Parked by Danielle Svetcov

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Goodreads | Amazon

Twelve-year-old Jeanne Ann has doubts when her mom spends their savings on an old orange van and bundles them off to San Francisco to chase Mom’s dream of working as a chef. There, they camp on the street while her mother looks for a job she never gets. Before long, Jeanne Ann realizes that this van is the closest thing she has to a home.
Across the road, twelve-year-old Cal watches the homeless community parked just beyond his big house. Cal’s mom is busy with the upscale restaurant she owns, but they’ve always been close–until Cal does something his mom just doesn’t understand.
Then Cal and Jeanne Ann meet. Cal is too tall and too weird and too rich and wears all his emotions on the outside of his skin, and he just wants to help. Jeanne Ann is smart, she is funny, she is stubborn–hers is a royal-looking chin, in
Cal’s opinion–and she does not want his help. But a quirky, meaningful friendship develops between them, and as it does, the pair is buoyed by a remarkable cast of nuanced, oddball characters, who let them down and lift them up. When Jeanne Ann’s situation worsens, though, and Cal’s desire to help gets the better of him, will their friendship survive? And without it, can either of them find their way through this mess? 

I picked a very advance copy of this up at YALC, and I’m so glad I did! I spotted the gorgeous cover and quickly became intrigued by the synopsis, so I decided to check it out. What a charming and heartwarming read this turned out to be!

I have to say, I think this is the first YA/MG book I’ve read that fully centres around homelessness. It’s something I witness a lot in the city I live in, so unfortunately I have to admit is something I’ve become so accustomed to as it’s just part of everyday life. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget there are children like Jeanne Ann out there, and that’s why I found this book so intriguing.

This book was a love letter to San Francisco. It was a love letter to food (who doesn’t love reading about food?). And it was a love letter to books. I found Jeanne Ann such an interesting but lovable character who I related to easily due to her love of reading and the library. Over my life, I have spent many hours volunteering and stacking shelves in libraries, and I found myself sympathising with Jeanne Ann because of that.

Cal was such a sweet character. Having the alternate chapters of him being in a big house and trying to help Jeanne Ann without fully understanding her situation gave such a nice contrast between the chapters! They complimented each other really well as main characters.

The side characters were so great too. I loved the cast of people who lived in vans alongside Jeanne Ann, and then Cal’s family was so lovely too. They all had their own quirks which made them all interesting and unique!

Unfortunately this book wasn’t without it’s faults, however small, and I’m going to mention them here. Although I loved all of the characters, I sometimes couldn’t tell who was who. There was a kid in the book who I only realised was the same character as somebody else towards the end, because he kept being called by two separate names. That really confused me! Without going into too much detail, I also found the pacing slow in parts (maybe from pages 150-250ish), and took quite a dip in the middle.

However, I found myself speeding through most of this book due to the short chapters! My favourite part had to be the very end which made up for the pacing problems, as the scenes towards the end just warmed my heart. One of the most touching things for me was the constant love of food and love letter to food. It was so fun and entertaining to read about and made this stand out even more.

If you’re looking for a quirky, fun but also touching and heart wrenching Middle Grade read, check this out, due for release February 4th 2020!

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Heartstopper Volume 2 by Alice Oseman

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Goodreads | Amazon

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. An LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the second volume of HEARTSTOPPER, for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon. 
Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t. 
But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself. 
Heartstopper is about friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us. 

What can I say other than I love Heartstopper and having these books in physical form makes me so happy? I’m actually up to date completely with the webcomic, but I love reading these as they come out.

Anything Alice Oseman ever does will warm my heart and being able to sit down and just devour these books makes me feel so cosy. I read this in about half an hour in the middle of a thunderstorm and it was perfect. Oseman’s art style is lovely and has such a good flow, I can easily flick through the pages.

Volume 2 focuses a lot on Nick coming out and discovering himself, and normalising that it’s okay to question who you are was such a central theme of the book. As always, Nick and Charlies’ friends and family are great and make for entertaining scenes. Some of my favourite scenes are naturally with Nick’s dog and the little ‘borks’ never fail to make me smile!

Overall, if you’re looking for a cute, heartwarming graphic novel that flows beautifully and centres around LGBT characters and coming out, please pick this up.

Or, go and read it on Tumblr or Tapas!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

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Goodreads | Amazon

Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.
She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.
Then her mom decides to sell the shop — to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.

I don’t know how, but I seem to be getting so lucky with books with great, female protagonists recently! I’m so glad I picked this up at YALC because it was exactly what I needed, and lived up to the beautiful cover 100%.

I seem to only read/enjoy contemporaries with a twist now, and this one definitely had enough twists for me. CJ was such a great main character, who was strong and empowering and surrounded by brilliant, beautiful women. This book made me want to stand up and scream about how strong and resilient and focused women can be!

‘“Look at these wildflowers.” Hannah sweeps her arm around. “They’re not fancy, they’re not prizewinning orchids or roses.”‘

There was just so much good in this book. Alongside the strong women, we have strong people of colour. And strong LGBTQIA+ people. This book was diverse in every way and focused heavily on LGBT and racial issues. I loved the subplots that included tension between POC and brought up Japanese-American internment camp issues and how these mistreatings still have an effect on people today.

Hannah’s dysfunctional family were so lovable and enjoyable to read about. I love how we saw the flaws of CJs family and friends, but ended up seeing their soft sides too (e.g. CJ’s mum and Brynn). Some of the topics discussed in the book really resonated with me and I find are not discussed enough in YA or in the media in general. Some of these included abortion, pregnancy and single parenthood.

Sugiura has such a captivating and enthralling writing style I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve been having a hard week and I’m surprised I managed to pick up a book at all, but This Time Will Be Different definitely helped me battle through and I ended up reading the last 80ish pages in one go. I’m sure under different circumstances I would have absolutely stormed through this book in just a few days!

“But they don’t care. They’re just wildflowers, doing their thing, and they’re beautiful. Be like them, sweet pea. Just be you and be happy.”’

The only downside I have is how CJ could be super annoying at times. I loved her despite that, but I feel like it was just too out there occasionally. The story still could have been very enjoyable without me wanting to throw it against a wall in annoyance! Due to that, I’m going to knock off half a star unfortunately, but it was a very minor factor in the entire book.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

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Goodreads | Amazon

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected. Despite loving The Wrath and the Dawn, I read it years ago (pretty much when it came out), I’m not sure what I’d think of it now. I’ve seen very mixed reviews of all of Ahedieh’s books, so I went into this one with low/mixed expectations.

However, I’m pleased to say it was really good! I hadn’t actually seen anything saying this was a Mulan retelling, but I quickly came to that conclusion myself and loved it for it. Mulan is one of my favourite Disney films and stories, and Flame in the Mist seemed to take all the best parts from it.

‘”Have you ever loved anyone?” “Yes.”‘

Mariko was such a great protagonist for me personally. We do not have enough strong, female role models in books and I admired Mariko as a rarity. She was a total badass who stood up for what she believed in even if it meant risking everything.

Her story was so entertaining, it felt so fun to read this book. Honestly, once I got stuck in the pages would fly by. I could read tons at a time because it was easy and enjoyable. The scenes were thrilling and all-encompassing. The chapters were short and the writing was beautiful. I have always admired Ahdieh most for her writing style, and she didn’t let me down here!

The world really sucked me in and I enjoyed that it was set in Japan. A small downside for me was the lack of understanding over some Japanese words, but my edition did have a glossary in the back and in the end I just found it all added to the atmosphere of the novel.

‘”Did it feel like magic?” “Sometimes it does” but his smile was not from the heart. “Other times, it feels like an endless siege.”‘

I do want to quickly mention the romance before I wrap this up. This book had much less romance than The Wrath and the Dawn and I enjoyed that. The romance that was included was very enjoyable to read about, and didn’t take over the plot!

The only downside for me was the fact I can’t seem to remember anything that happened, and I seemed to read it in a bit of a fog too. I did take longer breaks than usual between reading it, and I just forgot a few things along the way and found it hard to delve straight back into it. Hopefully that will change in Smoke in the Sun!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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