Review: You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M McManus

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Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Back in middle school they were best friends. So, when Cal pulls into campus late for class, and runs into Ivy and Mateo, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn a bad day around. They’ll ditch school and go into the city. Just the three of them, like old times. Why did they stop hanging out, anyway?
As soon as they pull out of the parking lot Cal knows why. Ivy’s already freaking out about missing class, and heartthrob Mateo is asleep in the backseat, too cool to even pretend like he wants to be there. The truth is they have nothing in common anymore.
At least they don’t until they run into the fourth student ditching school that day. Brian “Boney” Mahoney is supposed to be accepting his newly won office of class president. Which is why Ivy follows him into an empty building, only to walk into the middle of a murder scene. Cal, Ivy, and Mateo all know the person lying on the ground of that building, and now they need to come clean. They’re all hiding something. And maybe their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all.

Thank you so much to Penguin for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Karen M McManus has been an auto-buy author for me for a while now, and I was so excited to receive this one as a proof ahead of release – thank you Penguin! I’ve been wanting one of the beautiful ARCs of her books for a while so as you can imagine I was super excited to get my hands on this one.

I read The Cousins back in October finally and I really enjoyed it, so I was even more excited to pick this one up. I have to say, I really enjoyed it and it reminded me yet again how hard I find these books to put down! In previous books by McManus we’ve had small town and even island settings, but this one was a little different in being set just outside of Boston. Even though I did still enjoy this setting, I did slightly miss the small community vibes of other books by her.

You can be right in principle

As usual, this book was super fast paced and I really enjoyed going into it with no idea of the plot as my proof copy had no information on it. I immediately felt intrigued by the 3 main characters and their story, and I feel like McManus has nailed the multiple POV approach. I honestly didn’t want to put this one down, especially towards the end, and finished it in a couple of days.

I always like the mystery element and this one was no different, but as I’ve seen other people mention, the motive was definitely not my favourite. I really liked the family element of The Cousins, and I think in comparison this one just felt a little impersonal in the motives. I did really like the characters, however, and although they’re all flawed in their own ways I still found them likeable and enjoyed how they interacted with one another.

and still wrong in approach.

Overall, this one was another quick and enjoyable thriller from McManus and she definitely remains an auto-buy author for me.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers by Jen Campbell and Adam de Souza

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Do you dare read this collection of terrifyingly gruesome tales? In this gripping volume, author Jen Campbell offers young readers an edgy, contemporary, and inclusive take on classic fairy tales, taking them back to their gory beginnings while updating them for a modern audience with queer and disabled characters and positive representation of disfigurement.
Featuring fourteen short stories from China, India, Ireland, and across the globe, The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers is an international collection of the creepiest folk tales. Illustrated with Adam de Souza’s brooding art, this book’s style is a totally original blend of nineteenth-century Gothic engravings meets moody film noir graphic novels. Headlined by the Korean tale of a carnivorous child, The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers is a truly thrilling gift for brave young readers.

Thank you to the publisher, Thames & Hudson, for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

As soon as I saw that this book existed, I wanted to pick it up. This is something I’ve seen recently more with short stories becoming more diverse and retellings changing aspects (Vampires Never Get Old comes to mind)! This one is aimed at a middle grade audience, which also made it interesting to read.

I loved a lot of aspects about this book. The illustrations were drop dead gorgeous and complemented the stories beautifully. The whole design and layout of the book was so beautiful, and I also love how this took the fairytales from all over the world.

As always with short story collections, there are ups and downs. I liked a lot of these stories, but most of them didn’t blow me away and I didn’t love them. My favourite was definitely The House That Was Filled With Ghosts and is the only one that really stood out for me as being really enjoyable. I don’t know if that was because it was the least gruesome story and therefore just suited me a little more, so if you feel like you’d enjoy more twisted and dark stories this one is definitely for you!

I read this one in one sitting and it was such a fun and interesting journey. If it sounds like something you’d enjoy, I’d definitely recommend it, just be aware it does live up to it’s name!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

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When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.
Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.
But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.
When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Oh my gosh. I wasn’t sure if TJ Klune could steal my heart in the same way he did with The House in the Cerulean Sea, but he did (review here!). He did it again. The House in the Cerulean Sea is my favourite book of the year so far, and this one is very close behind. In this book, we follow Wallace Price, who is dead. He’s lead, by a reaper, to a small tea shop in a forest, a tea shop that people are lead to on their way to the afterlife.

The setting of the tea shop was absolutely beautiful and I just loved it. It felt like such a cozy setting and I didn’t mind the fact we didn’t really leave the tea shop at all throughout the story. I love how familiar it allowed us to get with the tea shop and the people who lived in it.

The first time you share tea, you are a stranger. The second time you share tea, you are an honored guest.

For obvious reasons, this book talks a lot about death. Of course this made it very sad and emotional in places, but I also felt like it was handled so well and with such gentleness and care. Talking of emotion, this book really brought out the tears. I cried intermittently throughout this book and I admire how TJ Klune can draw me into a characters story within a few paragraphs and make me emotional over their story.

The writing, again, was so beautiful and I absolutely loved it. It felt so encompassing and although I read it quite quickly, it felt slow in the best way. I didn’t want this to end but equally couldn’t put it down at the same time. It was meandering and lovely, warming and beautiful. I became so attached to these lovely characters and by the end of the book I was sobbing constantly. I cried pretty consistently for the last 40 pages and sobbed for the last 10. I must point out this isn’t because it’s sad necessarily, although it is sad in places. It’s more beautifully bittersweet and full of hope, which is just the kind of ending I love.

The third time you share tea, you become family.

This book felt like a warm hug, being wrapped in a blanket, or that feeling of sipping hot tea and it warming your body on a cold winters day. It’s definitely a new favourite yet again!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop by Rebecca Raisin

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Flora loves Christmas more than anything else in the world, so she’s gutted when her Scrooge-alike boss fires her from Deck the Halls Christmas emporium. But now she finally has a chance to follow her dreams – and what better place to start than the home of Christmas?
Before she can say ‘sleigh bells’, Flora’s on her way to Lapland in a campervan-cum-Christmas-shop. She can’t wait to spend her days drinking hot chocolate and taking reindeer-drawn carriage rides, but something Flora didn’t expect was meeting Connor, a Norse god of a man who makes her heart flutter and snowflakes swirl in her stomach. There’s just one problem: Connor hates Christmas.
Can Flora convince Connor of the joys of Christmas – and will she find a festive romance along the way?

Thank you to HQ Stories and Midas PR for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I don’t usually pick up festive books as such but this one called out to me and I couldn’t resist reading it! If you love cozy Christmas books and Hallmark movies, this one is definitely for you, and I had so much fun picking it up.

Flora’s story was so fun and I loved her eccentric nature and how she was true to herself. At the start of this book, Flora’s life is falling apart and she decides to follow a new Christmas dream to go to Lapland and set up a Christmas shop out of her campervan. I loved the setting of Lapland and the market Flora moves to just feels so festive and beautiful. I feel like the author did a great job of creating a festive atmosphere that shone throughout the book, and I could picture the locations really well.

Although I loved the characters, one of my big problems with this one was the dialogue. The writing wasn’t brilliant, but did get better as the book went on. A lot of my problem was in the dialogue. It wasn’t broken up properly in the text and most of the dialogue felt really unnatural. This book was also very far fetched in some ways and felt like a Hallmark movie, but if you can overlook and accept that, it’s a great festive read!

Overall, I did enjoy this one even though it didn’t blow me away. I appreciated how escapist it was and definitely put a smile on my face and made me excited for Christmas!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World (#2) by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.
Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.
The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I read the first book in this series earlier this year after receiving a copy from the publisher, and I was lucky enough that they sent me a copy of the second one too! I really enjoyed the first book and it felt like an absolute staple of the LGBTQIA+ YA genre. I sped through reading it and this one was no different.

I decided to pick this one up as an audiobook and there was something about it that really worked. Both of the audiobooks are read by Lin Manuel-Miranda and there was no better voice to read this story. The first book had beautiful poetic, lyrical writing and this one was no different. However, having this one read out loud gave it entirely new dynamic that just worked so well.

I’m sorry that the world is what it is. 

I wasn’t 100% sure how the story would carry on from after the first book, but I actually really liked how the plot developed. As before, I loved the surrounding characters and especially the families of Ari and Dante. There was sub-plots and stories from the parents of the two boys that had me crying. I got so emotional so many times over such small parts of this book. There was just something about the writing that was incredibly emotive and beautiful.

The plot was unpredictable and I had no idea how the book would end – which I think is partly why I found it so emotive. I was crying by the end (and at many parts in the middle!) and I just couldn’t help but root for these two boys. This book is set in the late 1980s if I remember rightly and discussed a lot of important issues surrounding AIDs. It felt so sad and visceral but also full of hope.

But you’ll learn how to survive – and you’ll have to create a space where you’re safe and learn to trust the right people. And you will find happiness.

If you haven’t read this series by now (I feel like I’m very late to the party!), I would highly recommend the audiobooks. I just absolutely loved the way the writing came across and it showcased the lyricalness beautifully.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Ex Hex (#1) by Erin Sterling

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Vivienne Jones handled the biggest break-up of her life the way that any witch would: vodka, bubble baths, and a curse on her ex.
That was nine years ago. Now Rhys Penhallow, descendant of the town’s founders, breaker of hearts and still irritatingly gorgeous, is back. Rhys has returned to the quaint town of Graves Glen to recharge the ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival. But when his every move results in calamity, Vivi realises that hexing her ex might not have been so harmless after all…
As the curse starts to affect the magic of the town, resulting in murderous wind-up toys, an outraged ghost, and a surprisingly talkative cat, Vivi and Rhys must put their personal feelings aside and work together to break the curse and save not just the town, but also Rhys’s life.

I’m usually drawn to contemporaries when they have some kind of twist – like the magical twist in this one! Unfortunately this one came out only just before Halloween, because it would have been even more perfect to read it in October. But reading it as a buddy read with my friends in November was definitely a close second best!

This book genuinely made me laugh out loud from the very first couple of pages. It was so fun to read and had a lot of entertaining aspects. I’ve heard it be described as Hocus Pocus but with sex, and it honestly did remind me of Hocus Pocus in parts!

the best cure for anything

I loved the two main characters and there was brilliant chemistry between them. This book had the perfect amount of spice and the sex scenes were funny as well as passionate. The writing was so easy to read and I could have very easily sped through this one.

I also really liked Rhys as a love interest. I loved that he was Welsh and the small Welsh elements and bits of Welsh language really won my heart! The setting was perfect too and I could really picture the small-town American Halloween events.

was candles and a bath

If you’re looking for a spicy romance with witty writing and an entertaining plot, definitely go and pick this one up!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey

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Don’t you just love the smell of old books in the morning?
Madeline Moore does. Books & Moore, the musty bookstore her family has owned for generations, is where she feels most herself. Nothing is going to stop her from coming back after college to take over the store from her beloved aunt.
Nothing, that is—until a chain bookstore called Prologue opens across the street and threatens to shut them down.
Madeline sets out to demolish the competition, but Jasper, the guy who works over at Prologue, seems intent on ruining her life. Not only is he taking her customers, he has the unbelievable audacity to be… extremely cute.
But that doesn’t matter. Jasper is the enemy and he will be destroyed. After all—all’s fair in love and (book) wars. 

I’ve been really looking forward to reading this one and it did slightly surprise me when it ended up appearing in my tbr for the prompt of lowest rated on my Goodreads shelf! Due to the low ratings, I was naturally a little hesitant to dive in, but I actually came out with a lot of love for this book.

I’ve heard this one is similar to You’ve Got Mail (surprise surprise, a movie I have never seen but am actually rectifying while writing this review), and this one follows Madeline and Jasper, who work at rival bookstores. I love the setup of this book and the premise has appealed to me for a while. What’s not to love – a girl wanting to save her family bookstore while also flirting with the cute guy from across the street?

And there really was a lot to love in this one. It was so entertaining and fun. It made me laugh, constantly. I listened to the audiobook and it had me chuckling all the time at witty one-liners. I admire authors who can make me laugh so much, because I don’t find I laugh out loud at books all that much. The only problem I had with the audiobook is that I really disliked the narrator at first, but I did manage to get used to it.

For the most part, I really liked Madeline, the main character. Although her initial views of relationships and commitment annoyed me slightly, I couldn’t help but root for her cause of trying to save the family bookshop. I also saw myself in her with her determination and stubbornness.

Although the family element of this one was quite toxic in places and the characters were hard to like sometimes, I liked how the book discussed these darker subjects. A large part of this book is following Madeline and her difficult relationship with her mother and rest of her family. Reading these aspects gave a completely different dynamic to the book that I found really interesting.

Overall, I can see why this book had low ratings but I really enjoyed it! It wasn’t without a few little problems, but it was super fun to read and had such entertaining elements.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Blood & Honey (#2) by Shelby Mahurin

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After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.
To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

I’ve heard a lot of mixed (and frankly bad) reviews for Blood & Honey, and I was a little hesitant going into this one. Serpent & Dove was my second-favourite book of 2020, and re-reading it recently reminded me of just how much I loved the opening of this series.. However, Blood & Honey is a little different.

I can see why people dislike this book, because it is just very different from the first one. I think expecting less from this one because of other people’s reviews definitely helped, as I went into this not knowing what to expect from it. Whereas the first book focuses a lot more on the developing relationship between Lou and Reid, this one moves away more towards the action focused subplot of book 1.

What you are now is not what you’ve always been, nor is it what you always will be.

From the very start, this book was action scene after action scene. It never let up and became darker and more rushed. Each scene felt unpredictable and stressful and I never knew what was going to happen – which I really love about these books. I feel like nobody is safe and anything could happen – and Blood & Honey proved that!

I do wish this book had made me more emotional, I feel like some of the scenes should have made me cry but didn’t. Although I do love the characters and I feel like there is a real feeling of found family in this book especially, I did miss the character development and focus on the relationships and friendships we had in the first book.

You are a snake. Shed your skin if it no longer serves you. Transform into something different. Something better.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where Gods & Monsters goes after this one! Although I didn’t quite enjoy this one as much as Serpent & Dove, I think the main thing to keep in mind is that these are two very different books. It’s just a shame that this one was missing some of my favourite parts of book 1!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood

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Growing up in her sleepy Cornish village dreaming of being a writer, seventeen-year-old Lou has always wondered about the grand Cardew house which has stood empty for years. And when the owners arrive for the summer – a handsome, dashing brother and sister – Lou is quite swept off her feet and into a world of moonlit cocktail parties and glamour beyond her wildest dreams.
But, as she grows closer to the Cardews, is she abandoning her own ambitions… And is there something darker lurking at the heart of the Cardew family?

I’ve wanted to read a Laura Wood book for so long – partly because BooksNest on YouTube shouts about her work so much and loves her books! When my friend Jo suggested picking this one up as a buddy read, I was so happy to finally read something by her. This one is a kind of retelling/inspired by The Great Gatsby, but there is definitely no need to read it before picking this one up as it works well as a standalone novel.

However, I must say I am glad that I read The Great Gatsby for the first time earlier this year as it did add an extra dynamic to the story for me. I had so much fun reading this one and trying to see where the inspiration had come in for settings, scenes and characters. I was excited to find that this one is set between Cornwall and London instead of New York!

The characters were one of my favourite aspects of this book – I loved Lou as a main character and this is definitely a coming-of-age novel about her last summer before deciding what to do with the rest of her life. As this book is set in the late 1920s, there is a lot of interesting discussions about the pressures of marriage and growing up in that era. My only slight complaint with this book is that it took me a while to get used to the younger narration and the time period – at some points it just didn’t quite click together for me.

I loved the plot and the slight mystery element that was woven throughout – although at times I did wish for a little more emphasis on the mystery itself. As the book went on, I found myself becoming more and more wrapped up within the pages and wanted to read on until the end. I must say I absolutely loved the ending of this one too, it was so beautifully done and made me emotional!

I can’t wait to read more from this author and some of her other retellings – she’s releasing a Pride and Prejudice retelling in 2022 and I’m definitely going to be picking that one up!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice, which opens with one of the most famous sentences in English Literature, is an ironic novel of manners. In it the garrulous and empty-headed Mrs Bennet has only one aim – that of finding a good match for each of her five daughters. In this she is mocked by her cynical and indolent husband. With its wit, its social precision and, above all, its irresistible heroine, Pride and Prejudice has proved one of the most enduringly popular novels in the English language.

This is such a difficult book to review, so many years after publication. I’ve been reading Jane Austen books on audiobook and this one was no different – I read this one on audio too and I really enjoyed it. I’d never read this book before, and I’ve never seen any of the film or TV adaptations either (but I will be rectifying this soon, I promise!).

I loved the start of this book and I feel like this is one of Austen’s clearest books in some ways, which may be part of the reason it is probably her most famous. I felt wrapped in the story immediately and I really liked the characters. The way Mrs Bennet and her husband chattered was so humorous to read about and I liked the family quickly.

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! 

As always, I loved the writing so much. Austen has a way with words that transcends space and time. The writing is so witty, funny and entertaining. Reading about the group of characters and their social dynamics was very interesting, and I love the family aspect of Austen’s work.

My biggest problem with this book is I did switch off a little in the middle. This is likely completely because of me and my own problem with not paying as much attention to the audiobook that day, but I definitely found the start and the end of the book much more enjoyable. I have to applaud Austen for her progressive attitudes to love and marriage, however I can’t help but yearn for an Austen book that ends in complete independence rather than marriage. I do like the romance aspect, but they do end up feeling a little predictable in the end.

When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.

Overall, this has been one of my favourite Austen’s so far, but Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are just about above it in my opinion.

★★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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