Review: Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

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Goodreads | Waterstones

When Dylan and Ellis’s secret relationship is exposed on social media, Dylan is forced to come out. To Dylan’s surprise they are met with support and congratulations, and an amazing reception at their highschool dance. Perhaps people aren’t as narrow-minded as he thought?
But Dylan’s happiness is short-lived. Ellis suddenly becomes angry, withdrawn, and as they drive home from the dance, he loses control of the car, sending it plunging into Hunter’s Lake. Barely conscious, Dylan is pulled free of the wreck, while Ellis is left to drown.
Grief-stricken, Dylan vows to discover what happened to Ellis that night and piece together the last months of his boyfriend’s life – and realises just how little he knew about the boy he loved.

Thank you to the publisher for an ARC copy!

I won this book at YALC last year in a competition and I was super excited. I’ve felt drawn to it for a while and I kept seeing amazing things about it online. And those thoughts were definitely not wrong, this book really impressed me!

The first thing I noticed was wow, this book is dark. I read the first 50 pages one night in one go and it was harrowing. I did not expect this to be so dark and truly upsetting, but it was also so downright beautiful. Dylan, Ellis and Mike were all such great characters. I felt so sympathetic towards sweet, emotional, sensitive Dylan and everything he had to go through. Although Ellis was up and down with the story, his charm and confidence made me chuckle. Mike and his family were downright some of my favourite characters, and the scenes with them touched my heart.

The mystery aspect of this novel was so compelling and made the pages fly. Once I got passed halfway I read the rest of the book in one night, I just didn’t want to stop and I was so drawn into the book and finding out what happened to Ellis and Dylan on that fateful night. I didn’t manage to pick this up often as I was reading it alongside the Throne of Glass books, but when I did, I didn’t want to stop.

The last part of the book left me with tears in my eyes. It was beautifully written, and really burrowed into my heart and made me feel so sad but hopeful. I think the best books leave you with that, a little bright ember of hope.

The book was written in a non-linear timeline, flicking between ‘then’ and ‘now’. This kept the pace so quick and the plot flying, and I always felt so intrigued to find out what was going to happen when we flicked back or forwards. But even though this book was most definitely plot-driven, it also showed the characters in a depth I really admired. I love how it didn’t shy away from Dylan’s difficult coming-out story, and his friend Mike’s difficult situation.

Overall, this book was a beautifully written, harrowing and poignant mystery with a great cast of characters.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Celaena Sardothien, royal assassin, is the King of Adarlan’s deadliest weapon. She must win her freedom through his enemies’ blood – but she cannot bear to kill for the crown. And every death Celaena fakes, every lie she tells, put those she loves at risk.
Torn between her two protectors – a captain and a prince – and battling a dark force far greater than the king, Celaena must decide what she will fight for: her liberty, her heart or the fate of a kingdom…

If Throne of Glass was good, Crown of Midnight was something different. Something new. Something quite magical. It had everything that Throne of Glass was missing. I wonder how much of this was due to the fact me and Alex decided to read The Assassin’s Blade before jumping into the second book, and I definitely felt a difference going into the book with the knowledge I had gained from reading the short story prequel collection.

I definitely had a new found respect for Celena having learned everything she went through before the events that occurred in Throne of Glass. I felt closer to her and more understanding of the decisions she makes throughout the book, and sympathetic towards her.

“You’ll figure it out. And when you do…” She shook her head, knowing she shouldn’t say it, but doing it anyway. 

Again, the castle and city were both beautiful, and some of the scenes in the library made me so happy, I love how integral the library is to the story. I cannot describe how Sarah J Maas approaches places, but I adore the way she does. I felt towards these places the way Feyre feels towards these places, they felt close to my heart, her bedroom, the castle, the library, the city, the grounds. I felt intertwined with it all.

The characters were brilliant and the romance surprised me, especially how much I adored reading about it so soon after reading The Assassin’s Blade. The brief part of this book that felt happy, felt like a pause and reset before we continued with the wild ride. And my, what a rollercoaster it was. I knew this series would be a complete series of ups and downs, and it really starts here. I never want to put it down, and the last few days I really wanted to pick it back up in the morning.

“When you do, I want you to remember that it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. It’s never made any difference to me when it came to you. I’d still pick you. I’ll always pick you.”

Overall, this book was such a ride and I loved it, definitely my favourite Throne of Glass book so far and it’s made me supremely excited for the rest of the series!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out. 

Alex and I were really unsure about when to read this collection and eventually decided on after Throne of Glass and before Crown of Midnight and I was really happy with reading it here! I think if we had gone into it before the first book I would have been confused and daunted by the world, but I’m happy to go into the rest of the books with the background knowledge that comes with The Assassin’s Blade.

This was a brilliant short story collection. Some were better/more enjoyable than others, but the flow between them all was really well put together. Having all of the stories in order of the time in which they actually happened allowed for the flow to be natural.

She was fire, she was darkness,

The writing was definitely better in this book too, Maas has grown as an author and grew past the first story too, really grasping my attention with the second. The emotion came through, I felt more connected to the characters, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series with a new found connection to Celena herself.

I did have a few questions about Celena while reading the first book and these stories pretty much answered them all. It gave me a better understanding of what she had gone through to get to the point of where Throne of Glass begins and I know I will sympathise with her much more now when she mentions certain characters!

she was dust and blood and shadow

I find short stories can be hit and miss and a few of these I genuinely do not remember much about merely days after reading them. However, The Assassin and the Desert and The Assassin and the Underworld were both favourites of mine and I became utterly enthralled with the stories.

Honestly, if this is what to expect from the Throne of Glass world, I’m really excited by what’s to come! And I feel like I will want to re-read a few of these stories when I get further into the series itself.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Throne of Glass (#1) by Sarah J Maas

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Goodreads | Waterstones

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.
Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted? 

It’s been a while since I read A Court of Thorns and Roses and absolutely adored it! I’ve been looking forward to reading Throne of Glass ever since but also daunted by the size of the, and the worry I wouldn’t enjoy them quite as much as the other series. I’ve heard so many people say either one Sarah J Maas series or the other is your series, but I think they just offer different things.

I realised quite early on in this book how different it is to A Court of Thorns and Roses. It just feels different in so many ways, and one of those was definitely the writing. I could tell this was Maas’ debut in the writing style, and it didn’t quite live up to the level of writing I became used to in the ACOTAR series. However, I actually found it made the book easier to get used to and become involved in.

“You could rattle the stars,” she whispered. 

It was lovely to feel an early easiness with this book, and I found it helped me with not feeling daunted for the rest of this long series. I kind of needed the writing to be slightly less complex for me to easily slide into this series and get used to the world.

Although I felt a slight lack of richness to the description of the surroundings and world, I could still picture the castle and tests well and really enjoyed reading about them. I also think there is a slight lack of development in the characters, but I think the foundations have been laid for me to get to know them better in future books. I already have a soft spot for Celena which is the main thing and I know I’m going to enjoy reading about her as a protagonist!

“You could do anything, if only you dared.”

Overall, this was a really positive start to a series I’ve been daunted by for a while. I’m so excited to carry on and see what Sarah J Maas has to throw at me throughout Throne of Glass! Shoutout to Alex for buddy reading these with me, I’m loving reading them together.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Date Me, Byrson Keller by Kevin van Whye

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Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new–the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he’s never really dated before.
Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.
Kai Sheridan didn’t expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there’s more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he’s awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this “relationship” will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight . . . right?

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

I was so happy to receive an ARC from this through work. It caught my attention from the cover and synopsis, to the little rainbow Penguin logo on the spine. And I wasn’t wrong – I loved it.

This book drew my attention from the start, and I really liked the concept of the dare and Kai as a character. Although I was a little confused about his actions at times, I did sympathise with him quite a lot, and I found reading about the racism and homophobia he faced so heartbreaking. His friends and family were all brilliant, I love a good YA book that includes close family.

Although I found it difficult to like Kai’s parents at times, I really liked reading about some moments with them and his sister, Yazz, was just brilliant in every way. Kai’s supportive friends were lovely side-characters and so was Byrson and his family, the main scene in Bryson’s house warmed my heart so much.

The plot was so compelling, especially after the first half or so, and I ended up reading almost half of the book in an hour or two. I really enjoyed the pace, short chapters and day-by-day sections, and it made me rush through it and just want to read a couple of extra tables.

Overall, this was a great LGBT contemporary with some lovely family scenes and tackling difficult topics. I loved it!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

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Goodreads

A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.
Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.
At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

I was very unsure going into this book – I don’t usually read short stories like this and most of the time just didn’t know what to think. Although this book was beautiful and whimsical, I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. I was very confused throughout about who the characters actually were, and found I had to completely put it out of my head to enjoy the story.

And I have to say, the writing was lovely. I loved the idea of having fairytales sprinkled throughout the story, and I became very engrossed in those. I also loved the Asian and feminist rep!

“Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.”

I can see the good in this story and in parts I really loved it. But unfortunately most of the time I was left feeling confused and overwhelmed with little idea of what was happening. I enjoyed it once I let myself get lost in the story, but it just simply wasn’t long enough to allow the read to sympathise with the characters.

I really enjoyed some aspects of this book and it was beautiful, but it left me feeling like a lot was missing, and the premise was just better than how I ended up feeling about the story.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Gumiho: Wicked Fox (#1) by Kat Cho

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.
But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.
Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.
With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

I had such mixed feelings about this book, and when I started it I really didn’t think it was for me at all. I had come into a world I felt like would only make sense if I really, really worked for it, and you know what, I just couldn’t be arsed. For a start, this book has an entire glossary, and it isn’t a small one. I could see myself flicking between the glossary constantly and the mere idea of it annoyed me.

But I stuck with it, mainly because this was the only book I had that was under 800 pages that fit into my OWLs TBR for the transfiguration prompts. And I was determined to finish my OWLs. But you know what, I was shocked. After around 50 pages, this book hooked me a little. I really started to enjoy it.

“Maybe it’s wrong for us to hold any one person as our whole world. Maybe…” Jihoon trailed off with an odd expression.

Not going to lie, it wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t a favourite. But I quickly started to see a lot of good in this book – it came up in scenes and moments that I really enjoyed. I would easily read 100 pages at a time and they flew by, the chapters short and easy to get through. I liked the characters, even if I didn’t feel a great connection to them. And the Korean representation was great too, and not something I’ve seen enough of in YA.

But unfortunately, Wicked Fox still just…lacked for me. I felt little connection to the characters, which meant I didn’t feel enough when the most devastating things happened to them. Because of the disconnect, I rarely focused enough on what was happening in the book, instead skimming the pages and reading the occasional really good scene.

“Maybe it’s wrong of us to owe all of our happiness or sadness to one person.”

So overall, this book was….good. But it just wasn’t enough. Which was such a shame, but I think maybe it just wasn’t for me.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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