Blog Tour + Review: Lot by Bryan Washington

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In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys.
This boy and his family experience the tumult of living in the margins, the heartbreak of ghosts, and the braveries of the human heart. The stories of others living and thriving and dying across Houston’s myriad neighborhoods are woven throughout to reveal a young woman’s affair detonating across an apartment complex, a rag-tag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, and a reluctant chupacabra.

Thank you to Darkroom Tours and the publisher, Atlantic Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

What a poignant and raw, emotional collection of voices. Lot is a short story assembly championing Black and Latinx working class voices, discussing racism, poverty, family, friendship and relationships. The stories felt strong, powerful and honest, really packing a punch.

All of the narrators were men, which I found really interesting but I actually really enjoyed. I thought this was a great way to highlight toxic masculinity and the spotlight men can be put under in certain situations, and how harmful this can be. I felt really grateful for how this was portrayed in the narration.

Your eyes will show you what they want to

This book felt alive, the narrators were brutal and had me gasping at times, and I felt like I was breathing alongside the men I was reading about, living their stories alongside them. It really captured me. I liked the short story aspect, and the narrators changing occasionally kept me on my toes, however I did enjoy coming back to the same narrator. I thought it was really inventive to read about the same stories of people in the same neighbourhood.

My biggest problem with this book was the lack of connection to the narrators. I’m unsure whether this was due to the short stories meaning we spent a fairly short amount of time with them, or something to do with not knowing their names or a lot about their lives, only seeing rough snippets and not much more. But the lack of connection ended up meaning a lot to me and changed my viewpoint of the book a lot.

or whatever they think you should see.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book despite feeling distant from the characters themselves. It felt hard hitting and important, and it was unfortunate I felt like I was almost listening to these stories underwater – I just wish I could have felt more connected to them.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Kingdom of Ash (#7) by Sarah J Maas

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Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to assassin to queen reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world…
She has risked everything to save her people – but at a tremendous cost. Locked in an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will to endure the months of torture inflicted upon her. The knowledge that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, but her resolve is unravelling with each passing day…
With Aelin imprisoned, Aedion and Lysandra are the last line of defence keeping Terrasen from utter destruction. But even the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save the kingdom.
Scattered throughout the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian must forge their own paths to meet their destinies. And across the sea Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen – before she is lost to him. Some bonds will deepen and others be severed forever, but as the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight if they are to find salvation – and a better world.

Wow. Leaving this series behind after 8 books following this glorious cast of characters is going to be hard and leave a hole in my heart for a while. I can’t imagine not reading about them anymore!

This book has daunted me since it came out. In fact, I think it trumps Queen of Air and Darkness in being the longest book I’ve ever read. But it’s saying something that I really didn’t feel the length of this book at all, I never got bored and I left the book feeling like everything I needed answering had been answered. The pacing was just perfect for me. Reading this series with Alex has really helped me keep on top of reading them, but even when I fell behind in our schedule towards the end after a busy few days, I had no problem reading around 200 pages in a day to catch up with the schedule!

‘There are no gods left to watch, I’m afraid. And there are no gods left to help you now, Aelin Galathynius.’

I love the cast of characters we have followed over this series, and it was so satisfying to see them all reach different ends to their stories. Even though in some of the books I was more fixated on some characters than others, by the time we got to Kingdom of Ash, I just wanted to know about all of them. I never got bored or wanted to skip certain characters chapters, I wanted to know it all. I fell in love with all of them for their own reasons, and I truly felt like I was part of Aelin’s court myself and I never wanted to leave.

Despite this book being so long, I could definitely read more about these lovely characters if it was available to me, and I would totally lap up a novella like A Court of Frost and Starlight but for these characters. The only slight complaint I have that tainted the story for me was that everything felt a little too perfect. I just wish one or more of the characters could have been happy and badass on their own, and didn’t need to get married or have children in their future to be happy. Not that I didn’t ship everyone of course, it just made me almost roll my eyes sometimes!

Aelin smiled, and Goldryn burned brighter. ‘I am a god.’

I always said A Court of Thorns and Roses was my Sarah J Maas series, but you know, this one is up there. I can’t believe how much I adored this series and these characters and this world, and the battle scenes were immense. Thank you for another wonderful fantasy series, Sarah J Maas. Now I can’t wait for the next one!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Tower of Dawn (#6) by Sarah J Maas

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Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Faliq have arrived in the shining city of Antica to forge an alliance with the Khagan of the Southern Continent, whose vast armies are Erilea’s last hope. But they have also come to Antica for another purpose: to seek healing at the famed Torre Cesme for the wounds Chaol received in Rifthold.
After enduring unspeakable horrors as a child, Yrene Towers has no desire to help the young lord from Adarlan, let alone heal him. Yet she has sworn an oath to assist those in need—and will honor it. But Lord Westfall carries shadows from his own past, and Yrene soon comes to realize they could engulf them both.

This book was exactly what I’ve been waiting for throughout this entire series. It was everything I wanted and more. Ever since Crown of Midnight, I’d felt disappointed that every single Throne of Glass book since just didn’t capture my love for the world and characters like that one did. I didn’t expect Tower of Dawn to be that book, but I’m ever so glad it was.

Ever since knowing Tower of Dawn was set on a different continent in a parallel timeline to Empire of Storms, I was unsure what to think. But while reading the fifth book and beginning to guess who it would be following, I knew I was going to like it, I just never guessed how much.

I will cherish it always.
No matter what may befall the world.

Tower of Dawn feels like the calm before the storm. It was much calmer and slower than the previous books, instead becoming much more character based, which I adored. It felt like such a breath of fresh air, a new look at the world with different eyes. Following Chaol, who is struggling with being in a wheelchair following an accident, Maas begins to tackle disability. I really enjoyed reading about Chaol’s inner battle with his new situation, it felt authentic and real, and it didn’t shy away from the embarrassment he felt.

A new setting and new characters also meant new cultures, which I loved. Maas does an absolutely wonderful job at creating lush and beautiful cities, in fact I think it’s one of the things she does best, and Tower of Dawn was no different. I relished the scenes that would give me more views of the city, the torre, the palace and the world around. It was breathtaking.

No matter the oceans, or mountains, or forests in the way.

The characters we come across are vibrant and wonderful. Yrene is a delightful edition, a young woman you may remember from The Assassin’s Blade, with a temper and strength I admire greatly. I loved Nesryn, even though her and Chaol’s relationship was frustrating at points. The side characters, such as the royals, healers and Nesryn’s family, all held their own roles and added to the story.

Overall, I can see why this book isn’t for some readers. But it was definitely for me. The study of characters, the focus on the relationships and inner battles, was exactly what I enjoy reading about. I felt close to the world and characters because of it. It was beautiful, and my favourite so far in the Throne of Glass series!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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ARC Review: How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi

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Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy–he just didn’t think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?
Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature… until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I unfortunately went into this book with an already negative viewpoint as the author had twisted the words of a reviewer I personally know and attacked them on social media. However, I decided to push on anyway and pick this one up, more out of curiosity than anything.

The story follows Amir, who is 18 years old and earns money by writing Wiki articles for payment. When he is blackmailed with a photo of him kissing another boy, he uses his money to escape to Italy, where he befriends a group of older, gay men. This in itself felt problematic and somewhat predator-ish, how he was very quickly taken under the wing of these men, even living with one of them for a while and being made to feel uncomfortable by another, which appears to not change how his friends feel about this man at all, and has no negative impact on him. Even any other side characters were one-dimensional and unimaginative.

I wish I could say I enjoyed it other than that, but I’m far from done yet. As pointed out by other reviewers, this book does not take the opportunity to fully represent and discuss Muslim culture. Although the main character is Muslim himself, and makes it very plain that his sexuality would be a problem for his family due to their religion, this is the point in which the discussion of religion stops. Rather than feeling like I learned more about Muslim culture, I was left questioning whether Amir or his family even followed any Muslim practices as they are not at all mentioned in the narrative.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the problems for me. Although I adored the setting in Italy, Italian culture was very much stereotyped, full of pizza, pasta and Vespas. I’ve not visited Italy myself, but I’m damn sure there is more to it than that. I also want to bring up the subject of how panic attacks were represented, which, having suffered from panic attacks myself luckily only a couple of times in my life, felt completely unrealistic to me. Amir had a seemingly normal conversation with a guy in a bookshop, in which he seemed perhaps a little lovestruck. He then went back to his apartment and lay down, in which I thought ‘oh, he’s tired/going to have a nap’, and then proceeded to say how bad his panic attack had been. Now, I completely understand how different people experience panic attacks differently, but I was so disappointed by how this was represented. I had no idea Amir had had a panic attack, because he displayed no common symptoms. It felt like a missed chance to explain to the reader how a panic attack may feel, completely missing the mark for me.

That being said, I was intrigued by this book and absolutely sped through it, wanting to know what would happen next. Despite Italy being stereotypical, it made for a beautiful setting and I enjoyed the descriptions of the architecture and surroundings. Other than finding him vulnerable and frustrating, I liked Amir as a main character and sympathised with him. If this book didn’t have so many damn problems, I even might have enjoyed it. *sigh*

★★
2 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Blog Tour + Review: Supper Club by Lara Williams

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Twenty-nine year old Roberta has spent her whole life hungry – until the day she invents Supper Club.
Supper Club is a secret society for hungry women. Women who are sick of bad men and bad sex, of hinted expectations to talk less, take less, be less. So they gather after dark and feast until they are sick. They drink and dance and roar. And, month by month, their bodies expand.
At the centre of the Supper Club stands Roberta – cynical yet anxious, precocious and lost. She is seeking the answer to a simple question: if you feed a starving woman, what will she grow into?
This is a story about the hunger that never goes away. And it is a story about the people who make us what we are – who lead us astray and ultimately save us. You look hungry. Join the club.

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

This book was not what I was expecting at all. It was raw, honest and in-your-face. It is full of rage and passion and hunger. It is disturbing and kind of brilliant, all at once. It reflects a starvation I think all women feel at some point or another in their lives – the need to fill a space we are made to feel we are not allowed to fill.

But in the way that hunger is presented, it transcends into darkness I was not prepared for. It is written full of anger, bluntly discussing rape, self harm and abuse in a way that made me feel almost repulsed. In the middle of a conversation it will bring in the most point blank feelings and thoughts that will jar you out of any sense of connection with the book.

The line between pleasure and revulsion can seem so very thin,

Supper Club follows Roberta through her life at university and 10 years later in an unsatisfying office job with an intern, Stevie. Stevie and Roberta end up living together and start supper club, an answer to their feelings as women of being made to feel small and non-threatening to the world around them. Supper club begins as a gathering of women, and evolves into something bigger and more criminal, with dumpster diving and breaking into venues. These are all an assertion of anger, a way to stand up and say women can take over whatever space they believe they can.

The book is peppered with descriptions of food. Even though these threw me a little when they spoke about meat in a certain way (as a vegan, this became jarring in itself), they were all around beautiful and they reflected the story quite well in the sense of growth, of ever changing and becoming something beautiful.

The plot was interesting and I thought it was paced well, the flashbacks between university and current day were long enough to not confuse the reader, and explained what had made Roberta so angry, the relationships and interactions that left imprints on her for the rest of her life.

Despite this, I still didn’t quite click with Roberta as a main character. Sometimes I related to her, and other times she came across as a selfish brat. I felt like the men in her later life were often dismissed and not sympathised with because of the men she had dealt with in her university years. It almost felt like a pure hate-letter to men in general at points, which just plainly goes against any moral feelings I have. What I felt was missing in Supper Club was the realisation that in fact Roberta and these women were fighting problems they had with society, and not with men.

if it even exists at all.

The problems I had with the book stemmed mainly from being shocked by the content, so if you are deciding to pick it up, I would recommend it with a harsh warning of the jarring scenes. The execution was actually, I found, quite excellent, the writing passionate and beautiful. Just be prepared to be disturbed, forced to be introspective and constantly question your role as a woman in the modern age.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Empire of Storms (#5) by Sarah J Maas

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The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.
With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Wow, Throne of Glass just seems to step up and up with each book. I’ve been enjoying the emotional rollercoaster, but this one was on a whole other level. Alien and her court are back together, travelling across the beautiful land. It was so cool to see more of the land and other wider characters in this book.

Talking of, this seemed to be the one where more of the storylines begin to intertwine and I loved it. Although I appreciated Manon’s strength and female power, her story bored me a little up until the past book or two. I slowly became more and more invested in it for it to lead to the events of Empire of Storms, and it was worth it. This book made me appreciate all of the storylines that came before, if only to see the group together and love the Court together and as individuals.

I love you. There is no limit to what I can give to you, no time I need.

This book also felt more readable than the previous – it felt like the pacing had improved. I enjoyed the slow scenes between the characters, which rounded and built them perfectly. And I enjoyed the fast paced action scenes they led up to, especially the incredible ending.

I missed a certain character and I am looking forward to Tower of Dawn for that reason. But the edition of new characters and certain storylines really improved the story. Instead of feeling like I have before, which is wanting to get through certain chapters to reach others, I was really invested in all of the characters for a change!

Even when this world is forgotten whisper of dust between the stars, I will love you.

Overall, Empire of Storms was really enjoyable but still doesn’t quite match up to how much I loved Crown of Midnight – I’m at the point of not knowing whether it can be beaten, but I’m looking forward to finding out!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

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Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

Angie Thomas can just do no wrong. I loved The Hate U Give and it’s been long overdue that I give On the Come Up a shot. I’m aware right now more than ever that we need to amplify Black voices and educate ourselves. And I will not be quiet, I will continue to educate myself and learn the importance of this beyond what is being shown (and slowly disappearing from) the news and social media cycle.

This book opened my eyes so much to Black culture. It opened my eyes to poverty and discrimination and the problems we face within our education systems. It left me shook to the core.

Let be real: We’re black kids from one of the worst neighborhoods in the city.

Bri was such a good character and I really liked reading about her story. Her passion and anger drove me to match her energy. She was young and flawed and made decisions which very much frustrated me in parts, but I understood why she reacted to certain situations with anger, which may have impaired her best judgement. On the Come Up did an incredible job of facing the difficulties of growing up, of family and friends, and paired them perfectly with the deep-rooted problems Bri faces with racism in the education system in particular.

Her passion for rapping and music was paramount, and I loved how it shone through in the plot. It gave her such an interesting way to release the anger she was feeling, and made the plot fast paced and have so much depth. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite hooked from the beginning and it took me a while to get used to being back in Garden Heights, which impacted my rating slightly.

All it takes is one of us messing up, and suddenly all of us messed up.

Once again, Angie Thomas has achieved in writing a beautiful, amazing and hard hitting novel tackling such important issues. Simply put, we all need to read books like this. This is just the beginning of educating ourselves.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

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Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife. When Lo-Melkhiin – a formidable king – arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice – leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king …if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it drew me in like I didn’t expect. This book is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, which I have never read but know the rough story of, so I had some idea of what to expect. Having the simple backing plot of the fairytale drew me in and kept me interested, and but the magic that sparked in the pages of this book made it stand out.

The narrator, who remains unnamed, I really loved reading about. She has a strength and fire and I really appreciated her as a female narrator. Even though this book is naturally sexist and shows women to be ‘lower’ than men, she has an amazing voice.

“I do fear him,” I said, which was close to the truth. “I fear him as I fear the desert sun and poisonous snakes.

The plot was slow burning, but it felt insignificant as most of the plot had already been laid out with it being a retelling. The pace picked up towards the end and offered a big payoff for reading the slower parts. I really enjoyed the slower parts too though, and the detailing of the palace where the narrator spends most of the story shined through. I appreciated the minute detailing of the surroundings, as it made the story enchanting and encompassing.

The King was a spiteful character, but his development throughout the story was so interesting and kept me on my toes as I never knew how to feel about him. The rest of the cast of characters were also brilliant, and the narrators sister I just adored. One conversation between her and her sister really stood out.

They are all part of the life I live. But the sun gives light, and snakes will feed a caravan if they are caught and cooked.”

Overall, this was quite an enchanting story that drew me in. The writing and plot were simple, which unfortunately led me to rate this lower than I would have liked. I also really enjoyed the magical elements, but they could be confusing in their descriptions, which is another factor that went towards a lower rating. Aside from this, I really enjoyed the book and it was an interesting twist on a classic story.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Queen of Shadows (#4) by Sarah J Maas

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Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain… 

This book was everything Heir of Fire was missing. I wanted everybody all together again, to be back in Rifthold and for Celena to be around Dorian and Chaol. I was so torn by Heir of Fire and how Celena was in a completely different part of the world. Although it was interesting to read about her, err, relationship with Rowan, I missed having everybody together.

The female strength that shines through in this book blows me away. I love having such strong and beautiful female heroines, and these books are full of them. Not only do we have Celena, but I really grew to like Manon in this book. Her story intrigued me in Heir of Fire, but I liked it a lot in this one.

She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers.

Celena has really matured throughout these books, and I love the cast of characters. My heart ached for Dorian, and seeing how he developed throughout this story was so intense. I really missed some interactions with Chaol and I feel like he wasn’t a major part of the story at all which was disappointing. I really liked Rowan and Celena’s relationship, but something about it just didn’t sit quite right with me. I’m not sure how distant their relationship is, but I swear they are cousins! I kept remembering this whenever I read…certain scenes, and I just couldn’t shake the thought from my mind.

The writing was beautiful as usual, and just gets better with each book. The action scenes are amazing, and I was so absorbed into the story, reading my daily pages first thing for the final few days because I just wanted to know what happened. Magic is written with such beautiful language, and I adored it. The writing made for an absolutely wild ride, and I was shook at the end of some chapters, even gasping out loud.

As usual, I also loved the settings so much. Seeing more of the world always intrigues me, and the last twenty pages or so were probably my favourites of the whole book simply to be able to see a little more of the world.

She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.

Overall, this was probably my second favourite Throne of Glass book so far. It didn’t quite beat Crown of Midnight, but I will be very happy if this series continues to get better – I can really see it happening!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

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Oh wow, I adored this book. I’ve been seeing this around on social media for a while, especially last year around it’s release date. I’ve been drawn to it for a while and I loved the cover, but I never knew how much I would really enjoy it.

Rosa is a girl who lives in a beautiful seaside town with her grandmother, who wants to know more about her Cuban heritage. She has a rocky relationship with her mother, and also with the sea, as she has been led to believe the women in her family are cursed when it comes to the sea, and especially the men who live and work on it. But when Rosa becomes attached to a boy who lives on the ocean, she has some answers to seek.

My first time in the sea felt like returning to something. I thought of my mother and abuela, the image of them sharp and sudden. I wanted to see what was on the other side.

This book was damn beautiful in so many ways. I adored the town, and the scenery was so well described. The relationships Rosa had with her friends and family were sometimes rocky but also beautiful and real. They all supported her so well. The writing was just delightful too, and some of the passages were heartbreaking, leaving me with tears in my eyes in parts.

The food was described in such detail, and was a big part of Rosa’s Cuban heritage. I can’t help but fall for books that describe food like this one did, which was so vivid, just like much of this book. It was absolutely beautiful, a love letter to family, food, Cuba and the sea. I was hooked.

I wanted to find what was lost. I wanted to know how to move forward… My only offering heart, humility, and these coins. My tongue was heavy with the wrong language.

The ending, although I enjoyed it, was the only thing that shocked me a little. It suddenly felt a little too mystical and out of reach, leaving me feeling a little detached from the final pages. Unfortunately it didn’t quite reach 5 stars for me because of that, but I absolutely loved this book all the same and would highly recommend it!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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