Review: The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas

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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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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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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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Review: The Lido by Libby Page

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We’re never too old to make new friends—or to make a difference.
Rosemary Peterson has lived in Brixton, London, all her life but everything is changing.
The library where she used to work has closed. The family grocery store has become a trendy bar. And now the lido, an outdoor pool where she’s swam daily since its opening, is threatened with closure by a local housing developer. It was at the lido that Rosemary escaped the devastation of World War II; here she fell in love with her husband, George; here she found community during her marriage and since George’s death.
Twenty-something Kate Matthews has moved to Brixton and feels desperately alone. A once promising writer, she now covers forgettable stories for her local paper. That is, until she’s assigned to write about the lido’s closing. Soon Kate’s portrait of the pool focuses on a singular woman: Rosemary. And as Rosemary slowly opens up to Kate, both women are nourished and transformed in ways they never thought possible
.

I was so unsure about picking this book up. It appealed to me at first because of the outdoor swimming theme, I love outdoor swimming myself. And then I had a customer in the bookshop I work in recommend it to me after a conversation about wild swimming, and knew I had to try it.

I finally decided to pick it up the other night, and let me tell you I was blown away. God, this book was amazing. I’m not used to reading adult contemporary and often find it hit and miss, but this one was just so delightful and heart-warming and was exactly what we all need right now. I picked it up one night intending to read a chapter and ended up reading around 50 pages. Every time I picked it up after that I felt so happy to be a part of this story.

‘Love is love,’ says Rosemary. ‘Just like a tree is a tree.

The characters in this book were beautiful. Kate was such a lovely soul with a warm heart and so many struggles. Seeing her blossom throughout this book felt like an honour. Rosemary was such a delightful, warm person to read about, and I joked with my boyfriend that I was so much like her, even though she was 86. I loved the way The Lido included flashbacks of Rosemary’s life with her husband and tackled some really difficult themes. The wider cast of characters were diverse and wonderful in their own ways.

The way Kate tackles her own mental health felt so raw and I really felt for her, especially some of the conversations she has with those around her on her journey. This book just radiated warmth and the heartfelt scenes often had me in tears, even only 150 pages in.

It can be a sapling or a hundred -year-old oak, but it still has roots and life and is at the mercy of the seasons.’

I can’t explain how much this book meant to me. It was full of hope and love and warmth, and was written from the heart. It absolutely warmed my soul, and I’m so happy I picked it up.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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ARC Review: Night Owls and Summer Skies by Rebecca Sullivan

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Emma Lane’s forced to face her fears when her mother unceremoniously dumps her on the doorstep of Camp Mapplewood, abandoning her for the summer while she heads off on a cruise with her latest husband. It’s the last place Emma wants to be with scary creatures, creepy crawlies, and much that can go bump in the night. When Emma breaks into the tool shed on her first day there, the fall out from her escapades leads her right into the path of her counsellor, Vivian Black. . . .

Thank you to Netgalley and Wattpad for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

This book intrigued me, a pretty cover, a summer romance, the great outdoors. What’s not to love? Well, unfortunately a lot more than I expected. This book wasn’t necessarily bad. It just wasn’t very good either.

Emma was problematic from the off. She flitted from being scared, depressed and anxious to being cocky, arrogant and just….kind of unlikable. I would just begin to relate to her and like her when she would do or say something that would brush me the wrong way. In fact, most, if not all of the characters, were completely not fleshed out and underdeveloped. I had soft spots for some of them, mostly Vivian, the rest of the Black family and Emma’s dad. But Emma herself seemed to be so unsure of herself, or as if the author had been unsure of how to write her.

The location was great and I loved the idea of a camp romance. I could really picture the scene and it reminded me of my few days at camp years ago! The plot was okay, predictable but mainly enjoyable to read. Once I passed the 50% mark I found it easy to pick up and more compelling. The parents of Emma were both well written for their own ways, and I actually found myself enjoying the relationship between Vivian and Emma.

Although I can see the problems with the romance, and it did make me a little angry that they were often overlooked by other characters such as Vivian’s family, I actually did like the scenes between them.

Overall, this book was…weak. It had enjoyable factors, but too much bad outweighed a possibility for it to be good. There was so much potential for it to be good, but so much was lost.

★★★
2.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Call Down the Hawk (#1) by Maggie Stiefvater

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Ronan Lynch is a dreamer. He can pull both curiosities and catastrophes out of his dreams and into his compromised reality.
Jordan Hennessy is a thief. The closer she comes to the dream object she is after, the more inextricably she becomes tied to it.
Carmen Farooq-Lane is a hunter. Her brother was a dreamer . . . and a killer. She has seen what dreaming can do to a person. And she has seen the damage that dreamers can do. But that is nothing compared to the destruction that is about to be unleashed. . . .

It felt so good to be back in the world of the raven boys. I loved the original series and it always felt so unique and like nothing I had ever read before, especially The Dream Thieves. It was always hard to pick a favourite from the series, but I’m fairly sure The Dream Thieves was up there for me. When I heard this new series would be about Ronan and his dreams, I honestly couldn’t think of a better tangent to go off. I was excited.

And I’m not about to say that excitement was misplaced, it wasn’t….but maybe this one wasn’t quite for me as much as I would have liked it to be.

You are made of dreams 

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this book. It drew me in and I became addicted to the story of the Lynch brothers and our new cast of characters. When I picked it up, I would read over 50 pages at a time and never want to put it down. The short chapters allowed me to fly through the story.

But. It just constantly felt like it was missing. Some of the scenes were great. Some of the moments were exactly what I was looking for. And others were just somehow lacking. Lacking in references to any of the original characters from the series I loved so much. Lacking in love, I was living for the brief, scattered scenes with Ronan and Adam.

The writing was of course, beautiful. Stiefvater has an ethereal, otherwordly way of writing, almost dreamlike. I adored it, and felt like I was floating along on a journey that although I didn’t quite understand, I still enjoyed all the same.

and this world is not for you.

This book was excellent in parts, and it did really capture my attention. I just wish it had been a little bit more, and I didn’t feel like I was looking for something constantly out of reach.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Frankly in Love David Yoon

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Frank Li is a high school senior living in Southern California. Frank’s parents emigrated from Korea, and have pretty much one big rule for Frank – he must only date Korean girls.
But he’s got strong feelings for a girl in his class, Brit – and she’s not Korean. His friend Joy Song is in the same boat and knows her parents will never accept her Chinese American boyfriend, so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom.
Frank thinks fake-dating is the perfect plan, but it leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love – or himself – at all.

Frankly, I loved this book. I was so unsure about it in the first couple of chapters and I thought it was going to be slow going, but I ended up flying through it once I got used to the tone. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it really did take a few chapters to get used to the narrative. Yoon has a unique tone I haven’t really seen before in YA – it feels like a specific dialect.

I love books that explore cultural identity well – and this book seemed to do it well. The tension between Frank Li and his parents was tangible, and even though I didn’t like them very much because of their obvious racism, I ended up feeling a softness and love towards them which I’m sure was mirrored by Frank’s own feelings.

If you have the will to do something, and you keep at it, and you don’t give up, you can do anything.

One of my favourite parts of this book was the side characters. Frank’s friend Q was just awesome, and I really enjoyed reading about his classmates and classes, especially his teacher Mr Soft. I won’t lie – Frank wasn’t great sometimes and he did annoy me in a few places, but overall I was pretty sympathetic towards him.

Something that majorly shocked me about this book was it made me laugh out loud. It’s so hard to pinpoint books that actually make me chuckle, but this one did. It stood out for it’s silly sense of humor, some of which annoyed me, but most I loved.

And there’s no greater will than the will to love who you want.

Overall, what a great read. It wasn’t perfect, and the ending made me have tears in my eyes but left me with hope. I’m glad Frank didn’t push me over the edge as he very easily could have, and I’m glad the racism was written tastefully, as it could have become problematic. A really enjoyable read!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

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For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.
Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.
Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

Wow. What a book. I am on such a contemporary kick right now and I knew Alice Oseman wouldn’t let me down! I think this ended up being my favourite novel of hers so far, and she is definitely worthy of auto-buy status.

First off, the characters in this book are just brilliant. Angel reminded me of myself from my early teens, with a passion and love for her friends I only hope has remained with me now. The cast of characters were immense and real, with each character dealing with their own problems. Angel herself is open about her own struggles throughout the book, and her friends are discussed in detail too. The band are vibrant and emotional, and I loved having the POV of both Angel and Jimmy – at first I questioned whether they would have too dissimilar lives from each other but their narratives work together beautifully.

That’s why people get into fandom and bands and stuff. 

The plot, especially once it picked up, was so compelling I couldn’t put it down. The ending all happened so fast, but it meant I just wanted to rush through it and find out what was going to happen. If I had any small complaints about this book, it would be that the ending came across as a little rushed and I didn’t feel as satisfied as I hoped by the outcome of all the character ARCs.

But other than that, this book was excellent. I was blown away by the raw discussions it has about fandom, facing the good and bad side of fame and fortune and the internet. The most important factors for me were the blatant discussions about mental health, paranoia, anxiety and panic attacks that felt so real and naked. I went through everything with Jimmy and Angel, and I felt grateful for being allowed to be a part of it.

They just want something to hold on to something that makes them feel good. 

Overall, another Alice Oseman gem! I can’t wait to read the last one for me, Radio Silence, and for Loveless to come out later this year.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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