Review: The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James

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Wealthy students from across the galaxy come to learn at the prestigious academy where Hugo toils as a watchmaker. But he is one of the lucky ones. Many androids like him are jobless and homeless. Someone like Dorian could never understand their struggle – or so Hugo thinks when the pompous duke comes banging at his door. But when Dorian’s broken time-travel watch leads them to discover a sinister scheme, the pair must reconcile their differences if they are to find the culprit in time.

What an absolutely charming novella. Lauren James is one of my favourite authors and an auto-buy for me. I picked this book up at YALC alongside a free necklace which is very cute (and I’m actually wearing right now)! I remember seeing the cover reveal of this and knowing immediately I wanted it on my shelves, and it didn’t disappoint.

Considering this book is only just over 100 pages, James manages to create a quietly vivid world with a great atmosphere. I honestly marvelled at some of the things she had dreamed up and described in ways I could picture so easily. The Starlight Watchmaker is set on a college campus, but is also in a very futuristic, sci fi world with different planets, androids and species. The college campus setting was recognisable enough and easy enough to picture for me as the reader to be able to comprehend the rest of this wonderful world.

Hugo as a character was brilliant. Lonely and trying to find a place in the world, hiding himself away and not realising how dire his need for friendship was until he meets Dorian. Both characters were cleverly written and I quickly sympathised with them in such a short amount of time.

Overall, this was such an enjoyable read as usual. The only reason I’m knocking off a star is purely because the language was a little young for me and felt very simplistic compared to her other novels. Obviously this is a very personal reason as I’m sure young teens would absolutely adore this!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

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It’s 1999 and the internet is still a novelty. At a newspaper office, two colleagues, Beth and Jennifer, e-mail back and forth, discussing their lives in hilarious details, from love troubles to family dramas. And Lincoln, a shy IT guy responsible for monitoring e-mails, spends his hours reading every exchange.
At first their e-mails offer a welcome diversion, but the more he reads, the more he finds himself falling for one of them. By the time Lincoln realises just how head-over-heels he is, it’s too late to introduce himself.
After a series of close encounters, Lincoln eventually decides he must follow his heart… and find out if there is such a thing as love before first sight.

This was my first read for my N.E.W.T.s TBR and I’m so glad it was because it was such a quick and enjoyable read. I’ve now read everything major Rainbow Rowell has written, and I don’t have a bad word to say about any of them. They all have soft spots in my heart for very different reasons, but Landline and Attachments do for their quirkiness.

Attachments follows Lincoln, who takes a job where he reads people’s work emails and feels creepy about it. Especially when he starts reading the exchanges of best friends Jennifer and Beth, he feels even more uncomfortable when he starts to fall for one of them.

I mean, evidently this book was made for me. Not only am I called Beth, but I was born in 1999! It was weird reading about the year of my birth, but also kind of nostalgic and super interesting. Having the book set in ’99 gave it so many quirks you wouldn’t see today, let alone the whole email concept and Y2K thing itself.

‘“I’d know you in the dark,” he said. “From a thousand miles away.”‘ 

Jennifer and Beth were immediately likeable and funny characters. The chapters are pretty much alternate between Lincoln’s prose and Jennifer and Beth’s emails. All of the chapters are short, but the fact Jennifer and Beth’s parts were shown in email form made it such a quick read for me and didn’t take anything away from the story. I still sympathised with them and found them both very relatable.

In fact, the entire cast of characters were just brilliant. Lincoln is so charming and lovable, and we can’t possibly feel weird about him reading Beth and Jennifer’s emails because we’re reading them too. It’s all very cleverly executed.

The larger cast was so heartwarming, too. I loved Jennifer’s subplot and really grew to like and sympathise with her. Lincoln’s weird but likeable friends were so great and different in their own ways. His mum, sister and Doris made me laugh and warmed my soul.

‘”There’s nothing you could become that I haven’t already fallen in love with.”’

Honestly, I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did. Rainbow Rowell has a habit of writing somewhat cheesy romances that have just been….elevated. It was awesome, and made me nostalgic for Landline!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Bone Season (#1) by Samantha Shannon

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The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant – and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.
It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

I left The Bone Season with such mixed feelings about it. It took me a while to get through but I found the ending much more compelling and enjoyable. So even though it was a slow read, I would like to continue with the series in the future!

Paige was such a great female lead. She was headstrong and independent but not immune to her own personal struggles. Paige was definitely one of my favourite things about this book, and I really liked reading about her personal journey.

“There was no normal. There never had been.”

However, many other parts of this book let it down. Coming from a reader who enjoys a lot of YA and hasn’t read much fantasy until the past few years, I found this book incredibly daunting and somewhat annoyingly intricate. Shannon has created a very unique and impressive world by inventing so much, but unfortunately this included so many people and so much slang that it was confusing at the best of times. Hence, I definitely began to enjoy this read a lot further into the book as I finally understood more about what was going on. Luckily, there is a glossary to help put the pieces together!

I’ve seen a lot of reviews describing this book as dense, and I can definitely agree. The pacing is slow, but somewhat addictive, especially towards the end. Just expect to put some effort in if you do pick this up!

I can safely say the worldbuilding and all around confusing aspects were definitely the worst part for me. Despite it, there were many times I sat there thinking ‘god, this book is good’. I found myself so invested in those amazing, passionate action scenes.

“”Normal” and “natural” were the biggest lies we’d ever created.”

From what I understand, this book was Samantha Shannon’s debut. Going off that, I’m intrigued to see how much her writing has developed, and I’m super excited to read The Priory of the Orange Tree. If it wasn’t for the intense worldbuilding and issues surrounding the confusing aspects, I would definitely be giving this a much higher rating!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Solitaire by Alice Oseman

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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 have to say, I think this book is going to be one of the hardest I ever review in my whole blogging history. I’m looking at this screen right now and my mind is blank, because it’s very hard to put into words how you will feel as a reader before you actually read this book. From reading other reviews, it’s a very love/hate, depending on whether you can relate to Tori herself. I’ve definitely had times in my life where I’ve felt like Tori did throughout this novel, therefore I found it very meaningful for me personally. Saying this, I can also see why people hated it. If you have a different mindset to Tori, you could easily see her as the most whiny, pessimistic person on the planet and want for her to ‘just snap out of it already’. This reaction But she is totally not. She just suffers in her own way.

“But books–they’re different. When you watch a film, you’re sort of an outsider looking in.”

Tori Spring has to be the most raw, honest and emotive main character I’ve read in YA. Ever. Because of this, I found myself on a very intense emotional rollercoaster, in which I would take a break from this book and just have to pause for a minute.

I think the easiest way to describe Tori is that she says everything we have all thought at some point in our lives but sound crazy in our heads. She express worries we have probably all had and dismissed. And because of that, she is one of the most relatable girls in YA, to the deepest and darkest parts of you.

The reason this book is so intense and difficult is because the main subject is Tori’s deep and personal struggling. It becomes more and more apparent throughout the book how much she is dealing with when it comes to her mental health, and the massive affect this is having on her life.

“With a book–you’re right there. You are inside. You are the main character.”

Moving on from Tori herself, this book is also about family and friendship. And let me tell you, there are not enough books in this world about family and friends, and too many about romance. This book was also about mystery, and the addition of the whole Solitaire sub-plot kept the pages turning so fast for me.

I’m going to leave by saying that personally, this book wasn’t without it’s problems, and it did leave me slightly annoyed in some places, and in need of more explanation in some. But for a debut, it makes me super excited to explore Alice’s other works.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

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A century ago, scientists theorised that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. Today, ten astronauts will leave a dying Earth to find it. Four are decorated veterans of the 20th century’s space-race. And six are teenagers, graduates of the exclusive Dalton Academy, who’ve been in training for this mission for most of their lives.
It will take the team 23 years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years spent in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong. And something always goes wrong. 

When I saw this author was going to be at YALC, I was intrigued right away. YA book about space exploration? I am THERE. And I have to say, I haven’t been left disappointed.

Granted, this book was not perfect. But it was so intriguing, enjoyable and had so much depth to it. We follow ten astronauts, 6 of which are young people who have been picked for the long journey to Terra-Two, a brand new habitable planet.

First of all, I adored that this focused on young people. Due to the long journey and need for the astronauts to still be fairly young when they reach Terra-Two, this book also shows them growing up and maturing as the teenagers they are. A 23 year space exploration journey isn’t going to be without it’s problems and sufferings, but throw in 6 teenagers and you have yourself some kind of twisted reality style story. And I loved it.

Seeing the difficulties these teens faced as they dealt with so many struggles on and off the ship was deep, meaningful and hit home for me. And it’s not just the teens, the adults face their own kind of problems too. Each character was deeply troubled in their own way and had suffered their own loss and guilt, and I adored that because it made them real. Of course these astronauts are brave and strong and completely badass, but they have to learn to work with each other no matter their differences.

The setting of space gave these characters a unique backdrop for their rendezvous, and the whole notion of Terra-Two was so interesting to me. Although I couldn’t picture the ship perfectly, I had some idea from the description for the more important scenes.

Unfortunately, I did have a few other small issues with the book that let this review down from 5 to 4 stars. I found the pacing very off. Yes, this book is definitely a slow burner, and in a lot of ways that did work. But I just wish I’d been more driven to pick up this book in the earlier pages, and only found myself fully hooked for the last couple of hundred. I also found that because of the large cast of characters and third person view, some of the more emotional scenes weren’t as gripping as they could have been.

However, these were very small issues in what turned out to be a very enjoyable, somewhat gripping, drama filled novel. It’s a very strong debut, and I’d love to pick up more of Temi Oh’s work in the future.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Blog Tour & Review: The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

Hello readers! I was lucky enough to be selected by Source Books Fire through Midas Public Relations to take part in this blog tour. It was such an exciting tour to be a part of and I’m really grateful for the ARC copy they sent me in exchange for this honest review. Thank you again, Source Books Fire!

I’m finishing up this tour alongside DMCI Reads and The Library Looter. Go check them out!

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In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.
That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.
But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it. I mean, the beautiful cover is a pretty good start, right? As soon as I started reading, I felt somehow comforted, in the sense I just knew I was going to enjoy this one.

It felt so lovely to read a good fantasy. I recently read The Last Namsara, and even though I liked it, The Storm Crow just seemed to add the things I missed in that one. For a start, the world was beautiful and so well described – I felt enveloped in the rich, lush description of the lands and kingdoms. The writing was poetic and lovely.

One of my favourite parts of this book was the first chapter. It was full of action and intrigue, and kept me intrigued for the lulls and slower parts. And unfortunately, the only downside for me was that this book did lull. Although the writing was great, the pacing unfortunately wasn’t. The action was very sporadic and I felt left for the majority of the book without any. Part of me understands due to Thia’s mental health, and the slow plot did make me sympathise with her personal struggles.

But that’s where my complaints end – I adored everything else about The Storm Crow. Thia resonated deeply with me in a way characters in fantasy don’t usually. I find with fantasy there can be some disconnect if the characters seem unattainable or unrealistic. With Thia, things are different. She struggles openly with grief and depression, and the way this was discussed felt so important. She was still a badass, passionate and heroic woman, but she was also struggling and surviving day by day. It made her so much more real.

My love for the characters doesn’t end there. This book had a great cast of side characters too, and I loved them all for their own roles. Thia’s relationship with her sister felt well written, and so did her friendship with Kiva, who I loved. Her friendship with Caylus and difficult friendship with her husband-to-be also offered interesting, dynamic relationships I became quickly invested in. And I can’t write this review without giving a shoutout to a villain I absolutely loved to hate, Razal.

The whole crow element to this book is something I’ve not really seen before in YA, and I loved it. Having such a strong connection to the magic and animals gave the story a whole different dynamic and focus, rather than just the politics. Instead, the story flickered between politics and magic and Thia’s passionate love for the crows, which kept me on my toes and interested.

Overall, this book encompassed me in such a love for a rich world, diverse (in all ways), lovable characters, magic and passionate writing. All in all, the only reason this didn’t quite get 5 full stars from me is unfortunately the pacing – everything else was there and I loved it.

★★★★★ 
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

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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

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