Review: Hunting Prince Dracula (#2) by Kerri Maniscalco

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Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend. 
But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

I buddy read this book with Amy and Jo, who I buddy read the first book with and it was so much fun despite being deep in assignments and busy at work and only managing to read a very small amount a day! As with the first book, Maniscalco has the most amazing way of describing the world Audrey and Thomas are in. This book is set in snowy Romania, and funnily enough we ended up reading it over some of the days in the book, as it is written kind of in diary format and set in December!

I adored the setting of this book and it just felt so magical, especially in the snow. The first part of the book really reminded me of Murder on the Orient Express, and I loved how much I could picture it. The castle that most of this book is set in was also so well described, and I could picture it so well along with the nearby village they travelled in to.

You are not mine to take.” He brushed his lips against mine. Softly, so softly I might have imagined them there. My eyes fluttered shut.

As with the first book, Audrey Rose made for an excellent protagonist. I loved how strong and independent she is, and she just really holds her own, especially for the main character of a book set in the Victorian times. She continues to be such an admirable woman of her time and I really enjoyed reading about the decisions she makes in regards to her relationships.

Thomas was also a great love interest, despite a few questionable moments that Audrey certainly doesn’t let him get away with (and I love her for it!). Again, this story has another dark mystery which I loved. It felt sufficiently creepy and atmospheric, and I had no clue who the killer was until the reveal!

He could persuade me to build a steamship to the moon when he kissed me. We could orbit the stars together. “You are yours to give.

Overall, this is an excellent edition to the first, and I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read more about Audrey and Thomas and the adventures they get up to!


4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: This Winter (#0.5) by Alice Oseman

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The festive season isn’t always happy for Tori Spring and her brother Charlie. And this year’s going to be harder than most.
I used to think that difficult was better than boring, but I know better now…

This is a short story from Tori and Charlie’s perspectives (and a little bit of Oliver’s perspective (their little brother)). It is set over the course of Christmas Day in their house, with the perspectives told in a linear order. It is set before Solitaire and in the same timeline as Heartstopper Volume 4, so if you have read Solitaire you’ll be fine for spoilers, but you will get spoilers for the Heartstopper timeline if you haven’t read Solitaire. Hopefully that makes sense for anyone wondering whether you want to read it yet!

I really like the balance in all of Alice’s novels between hopefulness and sadness. Even in her short stories she manages to make me cry and break my heart. This novel discusses a lot of Charlie’s history with having an eating disorder, but it felt really well discussed. I really liked that this wasn’t shied away from and was also discussed in relation to Christmas and family gatherings, which can be hard for everyone but especially those with eating disorders.

I also really liked that this was told from all of the siblings points of view. They felt familiar, having read Heartstopper and Solitaire before (which is told from Tori’s perspective), and I really liked reading their takes on Christmas day. Of course Nick is amazing too, and such a supportive boyfriend to Charlie. It was so heartwarming to see him supporting Charlie. Having little Oliver in at the end with a little heartwarming scene with his mum was very cute.

I’m really glad I read this on Christmas Eve night, it felt like the perfect time to read it with Christmas the next day!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: I’ll Be Home for Christmas (#1.5) by Mason Deaver

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Goodreads

Ben has a plan for the ultimate Christmas present for Nathan. All it requires is taking a large golden retriever from one end of the country to the other. No pressure.
When a snowstorm rocks the east coast sooner than expected, though, Ben is trapped at the airport, and suddenly all their plans for a perfect first Christmas with Nathan are on the line.

This story was just adorable and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read it. It takes part after I Wish You All the Best, which I absolutely adored. As soon as I saw this advertised I knew I needed more stories about Ben and Nathan in my life and jumped at the chance. Their story opened my eyes so much about being non-binary and I’m so glad I read it. This novella was released as part of a ‘pay what you want’ charity donation program, to raise funds for the National Center for Transgender Equality.

This story takes part during Ben and Nathan’s first Christmas together, when Ben is trying to get Nathan’s dog across the country to be with him. I loved Ben’s stubbornness and could definitely relate to it, but also loved the family aspect with Hannah and Thomas and their completely natural worrying.

Even without the coming-out aspects, I was still reminded in a few of the scenes about how important gender identity is, and using the correct pronouns is to people! This was such a heartwarming Christmassy story and I’m so glad I saved it to a few days before Christmas. I’m going to read This Winter by Alice Oseman tonight and I’m so excited!

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Crescendo (#2) by Becca Fitzpatrick

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Nora Grey’s life is still far from perfect. Surviving an attempt on her life wasn’t pleasant, but at least she got a guardian angel out of it. A mysterious, magnetic, gorgeous guardian angel. But despite his role in her life, Patch has been acting anything but angelic. He’s more elusive than ever (if that’s possible) and what’s worse, he seems to be spending time with Nora’s archenemy, Marcie Millar.
Nora would have hardly noticed Scott Parnell, an old family friend who has moved back to town, if Patch hadn’t been acting so distant. Even with Scott’s totally infuriating attitude, Nora finds herself drawn to him – despite her lingering feelings that he is hiding something.
If that weren’t enough, Nora is haunted by images of her murdered father, and comes to question whether her Nephilim bloodline has anything to do with his death. Desperate to figure out what happened, she puts herself in increasingly dangerous situations to get the answer. But maybe some things are better left buried, because the truth could destroy everything – and everyone – she trusts. 

The second book in the Hush Hush series had a lot more mixed feelings from me. Again, I read it partly on audiobook and only a small amount in physical format. However, the part I did read in physical format I found hard to put down, and I’m actually quite excited for reading the last two completely in physical format to see how I feel about it. I have a feeling I’m actually going to enjoy them more reading them in physical format and really feel the guilty pleasure aspect. At least, that’s what I’m hoping!

This book seemed better in some ways and worse in others, but I felt similarly about it to the first book in the end. The part that I really disliked was the romance in this book. There were some scenes in this book between Nora and Patch that made me want to personally murder the both of them. They act like children, cannot talk to each other without shouting abuse, and just act stupid. They do not discuss anything, instead ignoring each other, refusing to communicate or talk anything through, and generally ignore each other instead.

Any happiness, no matter how brief, seemed better than the long,

I found this aspect of the book incredibly frustrating. The vast majority of the story was the back and forth between them and them getting back at each other for stupid things. I found it really hard to read about her and Patch and I really couldn’t get on board with how either of them, but especially Nora, was acting. I struggle to enjoy books in which I dislike the author, and this one was no different.

However, I do feel like it got better after the first half. I think once we had the big fight at the start it got more bearable and their drama did take a backseat, thankfully. I did enjoy the subplot and some of the scenes in this book and it managed to balance out the annoying part to a degree. I had an inkling who the villain was, but I wasn’t as sure as I was in the first book. I really enjoyed the very last part of the book and the dramatic ending was much more enjoyable to read.

simmering torture of waking up day after day, knowing I could never have him.

I am still going to carry on with this series and I am definitely looking forward to seeing how addicted I get when reading the physical books, I think it could really change things for me!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Hush Hush (#1) by Becca Fitzpatrick

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Romance was not part of Nora Grey’s plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.
But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.

This is the kind of book I would have probably loved as a young teen, but I couldn’t help but pick out a lot of problems with now. I read this mostly on audibook (I actually only read 2 chapters of the physical version in the end), and I did enjoy it. I feel like if I’d have read the physical version I would have found it very addictive and hard to put down, and I think I’ll find out as the last two books in the series don’t have audiobooks on the app I use. The only problem I found with the audiobook was a bad Irish accent….

I found the characters not so great, although for the most part Nora was okay, thankfully. I struggle to enjoy books when I don’t like the main character, but Nora was just a troubled, confused teenager. She did annoy me a few times with her desperation for a character who was quite obviously bad news, but I managed to push it away for the most part.

All this time I’ve hated myself for it. 

The plot was really interesting and I definitely wanted to keep reading and find out what was happening. I did guess who the killer was, but it still retained a lot of mystery. Patch was an up and down character, I definitely grew to like him more as the book went on, but there was a lot of problematic scenes that made me cringe with discomfort for Nora.

I also found a lot of problems with gender and sexuality in this book. It just isn’t diverse at all. And I know this book was written in an era which was less diverse, but after reading some amazingly diverse books recently I did struggle with it. The writing was simple but addictive – definitely what I expected from this book and I wasn’t disappointed. It was kind of cringey and cheesy, and I definitely wanted to roll my eyes at some points. But if this is the kind of thing you enjoy, you’ll love it!

I thought I’d given it up for nothing. But if I hadn’t fallen, I wouldn’t have met you.

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, go for it! It’s one of those books that is quite cheesy but really easy to like.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Find Me (#2) by Andre Aciman

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Elio believes he has left behind his first love – but as an affair with an older man intensifies, his thoughts turn to the past and to Oliver.
Oliver, a college professor, husband and father, is preparing to leave New York. The imminent trip stirs up longing and regret, awakening an old desire and propelling him towards a decision that could change everything.
In Call Me By Your Name, we fell in love with Oliver and Elio. Find Me returns to these unforgettable characters, exploring how love can ripple out from the past and into the future.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book after not enjoying Call Me By Your Name when I read it a few years ago. However, I was intrigued by Find Me, especially when I found out it contained a story about Elio’s dad. The discussion Elio has with his dad in Call Me By Your Name was one of my favourite parts of the book, so when I heard I could read more about him I jumped at the chance.

However, I unfortunately can’t say I enjoyed this much more. It was mainly quite bland and just okay. I read it mostly on audiobook (probably around 80% and 20% physical) and I’m glad I did. Although Aciman’s writing is very beautiful, it is quite deep and therefore difficult to get through in my opinion. Reading the audiobook definitely helped with this!

Each of us is like a moon that shows only a few facets to earth, but never its full sphere.

I’ve heard a lot of readers were disappointed by this book because they expected more Elio and Oliver, and I can see why. The first half of the book follows Samuel, Elio’s dad, which I actually enjoyed the most. He meets a woman by chance on a train, called Miranda, and they fall in love in a whirlwind 24 hour journey. Although I felt it was quite unrealistic, I loved the stark honesty of their feelings for each other and some of the discussions they had. However, the romance did feel odd at times, in the pure desire and love they felt for each other merely hours after having met. There was also some incredibly odd and problematic scenes and discussions between them, including some very problematic discussions of sex and abuse.

Elio’s story follows, and then Oliver’s. They are all set years after Call Me By Your Name, and I think Oliver’s section was set 20 years after. I quite enjoyed Elio’s story, which was also a whirlwind romance with a strange amount of mystery surrounding a sheet of music, which it became clear was the idea for the chapters of the book. The relationship in Elio’s section felt more realistic, but was not without it’s problems in discussion.

Oliver’s section of the book showed him married, but seemingly fantasising at length about a threesome with two of his friends. This just felt uncomfortable and conflicting to the story. We eventually end the book with the characters all coming together, in a way.

Most of us never meet those who’ll understand our full rounded self. I show people only that sliver of me I think they’ll grasp.

As I felt about Call Me By Your Name, this book was very problematic in some of it’s discussion and in a lot of ways, feels like a way for the author to play out his own very weird fantasies. Although I did enjoy some elements of this book, including the beautiful setting and beautiful writing, there was just too many problems for me to enjoy it.

★★★
2.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

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France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.

This is the kind of book that grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go. It draws you into the pages until you know nothing else, and you are left gasping for air. It shakes you up and makes you never, ever want it to end. This book was astounding. Beautiful. Clever. Brilliant. And I will never have enough words to describe how much I adored it. After all, the hardest reviews to write are the ones for the books that you fall in love with.

This book follows Addie LaRue, a girl who is cursed to be forgotten. Until one day, after nearly 300 years of wandering the earth without leaving a mark, she meets a boy who remembers. Told over those 300 long years of Addie’s life, we flit between everywhere she has been, and modern day New York, where she meets Henry, who remembers her name.

Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. 

This is a romance. A mystery. A historical fantasy. It is so many things, but in every way it is utterly encapsulating and absolutely breathtaking. I fell for Addie’s story and the way she wandered the earth, learning more about herself with every situation she found her in. She was broken by the curse she was under, but also stronger and a lover of life because of it. Her story was unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I couldn’t resist the urge to know what happened to her.

It is about the world and wandering it, friendship and love, life and death, loss and hope. It is a beautiful narrative of a girl who longs to be remembered, and a boy who longs to forget. The prose is written in such a way that I wanted to savour it as it if it was the last chocolate on earth, and I also wanted to keep on turning the pages. It was truly enthralling, and so intense.

After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?

I wish I could tell you how much this book made me feel. Intrigued. Sorrowful. Overjoyed. Infatuated. Heartbroken. Hopeful. I sobbed more than I ever have at a book before, but was still left with a warmth in my heart that I don’t think will ever leave. I have always struggled to pick out a favourite book, but V.E. Schwab, you may have just gone and done it. Thank you so much for such a breath of fresh air, that I just want to push into the arms of every reader I come across, and tell them to read it, savour it, let it take you on this wild, beautiful ride.

I will say your name, Addie LaRue. I will carry you with me and I will not forget.

I remember you.

★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Four (#0.1-0.4) by Veronica Roth

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Readers first encountered Tobias Eaton as “Four” in Divergent. His voice is an integral part of Allegiant. Readers will find more of this charismatic character’s backstory told from his own perspective in Four: A Divergent Collection. When read together, these long narrative pieces illuminate the defining moments in Tobias Eaton’s life.
The first three pieces in this volume – “The Transfer,” “The Initiate,” and “The Son” – follow Tobias’s transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless, his Dauntless initiation, and the first clues that a foul plan is brewing in the leadership of two factions.
The fourth story, “The Traitor,” runs parallel with the events of Divergent, giving readers a glimpse into the decisions of loyalty – and love – that Tobias makes in the weeks after he meets Tris Prior.

This one pleasantly surprised me, actually. I actually left this book trying to analyse why I may have enjoyed this ever so slightly more than the series itself, and I think it all comes down to Four. This book followed Tobias before and during his transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless, and the first time he meets Tris. Even though you learn a lot about his history in the Divergent series itself. it was really enjoyable to read from his point of view.

I stopped allowing myself to dream, 

I think a lot of this comes from how annoying I found Tris as a narrator of the main series. I enjoyed reading from Tobias’ point of view in Allegiant and finding out that he was meant to be the main character of the series surprised me. I think I may have enjoyed it a lot more as a whole if he was! I thought some of his dialogue in the main series was quite harsh, but reading from his point of view made a lot more sense to me.

Even though I knew the bare bones of most of Tobias’ story, I did quite enjoy reading it and finding out his justifications for his actions. I read this in about 12 hours and a couple of sittings, it was super quick!

because it was more painful to long for things and never get them than to deal with whatever was in front of me.

Overall, I can’t believe I enjoyed this more than the series, but it really shows how much a character can change things.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Allegiant (#3) by Veronica Roth

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What if a single revelation – like a single choice – changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.
But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

I didn’t have high expectations for Allegiant, I’m not going to lie. After reading Insurgent and finding it disappointing, I wasn’t sure whether this would be any better. I’d also heard more bad things about this book than either of the others. It was also the first book in which I didn’t really know what to expect, because the movie only covers a small portion of the book and is less similar to the story. However, I did know what the big spoiler was, and have known for years!

I actually enjoyed this book more than expected, and definitely more than Insurgent. It was so interesting to finally be outside of the city and learn about the world alongside Tris and Four. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Four having his own chapters, but I quite liked it. It gave a different dynamic to their relationship and I liked reading about how they both reacted to certain situations.

I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me.

Tris seemed to mellow a little, or at least she annoyed me less in this than she did in Insurgent. Her character was definitely less of an annoyance, and the plot became more of one. This book just felt so slow. I managed to read it in only a couple of days, and I read the second half of the book (about 250 pages) in a day. But even though I read it quite quickly, it felt like a slog. It felt like walking through custard. Not much happened, all was leading to an explosive (pun not intended!) ending that just fell quite flat for me.

I had little emotional connection to the characters too, which was disappointing considering how much I went through with them as a reader. The ending in general felt like quite a let down and was particularly unrealistic in parts.

I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.

Overall, I did enjoy this more than Insurgent but it still felt like quite a disappointment. I did like having two narrators for a change and I didn’t mind Four as a character. But I do wish I hadn’t found this quite so slow!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Insurgent (#2) by Veronica Roth

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Tris Prior’s initiation day should have been marked by victorious celebrations with her chosen faction; instead it ended with unspeakable horrors. Now unrest surges in the factions around her as conflict between their ideologies grows. War seems inevitable; and in times of war sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge and choices will become ever more irrevocable. Tris has already paid a terrible price for survival and is wracked by haunting grief and guilt. But radical new discoveries and shifting relationships mean that she must fully embrace her Divergence – even though she cannot know what might be lost in doing so. 

Unfortunately, this book really fell flat for me. Luckily, I think I’ve only watched the movie once (looking back, I’ve probably watched Divergent more than once and that’s why it was so fresh in my mind), so it didn’t feel like such a re-read for me and I could see it with fresher eyes.

But Insurgent made me realise why everyone found Tris really annoying back when everyone was reading this series. It had serious second-book syndrome for me. I rarely find narrators I find as annoying as I’m finding Tris right now – she just cannot make a good decision. She spent this entire book pushing everybody away and taking childish, uncalculated risks that turned into mistakes. And I just couldn’t even bring myself to sympathise with her.

Cruelty does not make a person dishonest,

The plot fell flat too and just didn’t have the same kind of excitement for me as book one. I still got through it in a couple of days, but it felt slow and like not much happened for long stretches of time. I found the start of the book okay, the middle a slog, and then the last 30 pages or so finally ramped up, but by that point it was way too late.

Tris and Tobias feel like completely different people and I really did not enjoy reading about their relationship. This whole book is a back and forth about them doing stupid things and then forgiving each other with one kiss. I cannot take their sucky communication skills. They never seem to talk about anything and their relationship is unrealistic. I hope it takes a backseat again in Allegiant as it did in Divergent.

the same way bravery does not make a person kind.

Overall, this was not great. I still found it okay, and it was fun in parts. There are still glimmers of what I enjoyed about Divergent, and I’m hoping the third book picks up!


★★★

3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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