Review: If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So

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Elsie has a crush on Ada, the only person in the world who truly understands her. Unfortunately, they’ve never met in real life and Ada lives an ocean away. But Elsie has decided it’s now or never to tell Ada how she feels. That is, until her long-lost best friend Joan walks back into her life.
In a summer of repairing broken connections and building surprising new ones, Elsie realises that she isn’t nearly as alone as she thought. But now she has a choice to make…

I had very high hopes for this book, and it didn’t let me down. I don’t read too much YA anymore, but this one definitely fell to the older end of YA, which I appreciated. At first, Elsie felt quite young and some of the comments she was making did make her seem a little immature. But I definitely saw her change and grow as the book went on, and she did seem to mature throughout.

There was definitely a lot of nostalgia for Tumblr-era fanfiction, and I really enjoyed reading about Elsie’s love for comic books and the fact she ends up working in a comic-book shop was relatable to me as a bookseller too!

Maybe loving someone shouldn’t feel like missing them.

Elsie doesn’t always make the best choices, but these are justified and discussed with the people around her for the most part, and in the few instances where it felt like these decisions affected those around her, they were usually faced in some way. I did really like the side-characters and there was a lot of mystery surrounding Elsie’s family history which I really enjoyed reading about and kept me reading on.

I read this book with Courtney on holiday, and we read it in less than 24 hours. There was so much depth to the characters and I loved the exploration of identity and sexuality that was discussed throughout. Elsie is Chinese-British and there was a lot of introspective discussion of this.

Like you’re constantly reaching for something that isn’t close enough.

This book had a lot of heavy discussions and I loved the way it made me think. It felt quite emotional and the idea of loss was prevalent throughout – loss of friends, time, love, family, contact. There was so much to love and I’m so glad I picked this up alongside Courtney.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Children of Blood and Bone (#1) by Tomi Adeyemi

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They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

I’ve been meaning to read this series for such a long time, and I finally picked it up as a buddy read with my friend Courtney on our reading holiday this year. We listened to the start on audio and picked up the rest in physical format. This book is quite a chunky fantasy at over 500 pages, and it did feel daunting for both of us going in, but we quickly found it quite easy to read and not as intimidating as either of us expected.

This book is quite an intricate epic fantasy but it is YA, and felt quite accessible to read and dive in. The pacing was really well done, and I did find it quite quick to read. I must say though, it did feel very long and at times felt like a bit of a slog to get through.

I teach you to be warriors in the garden

I really liked the main characters, of which we have four and this book is told from multiple perspectives. There is two main romances, which I didn’t mind but never really connected with necessarily, they were both a bit too instant for me. I also found that because we had a number of main protagonists, there was quite a few side characters, and because of the sheer amount of names to remember, I never felt connected. There were a couple of instances where something would happen to one of the side characters, and although the main characters were affected, I didn’t feel….anything.

There is a lot crammed into these pages, and the plot was super fast paced. There was a number of times where I felt like the next part of the story would take the majority of the book, and it would then only take a couple of chapters to progress. I didn’t mind this too much, but it was a lot to take in.

so you will never be gardeners in the war.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and I will be continuing with the series. It wasn’t perfect and I did have a few annoyances, but I can see why this book gets a lot of love.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Princess Princess Ever After by Kay O’Neill

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When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means—and how they can find it with each other.

I read The Tea Dragon Society last year and absolutely loved it, and quickly knew I wanted to read all of Kay O’Neill’s back catalog. When I recently came across Princess Princess Ever After in Gay’s the Word in London (a brilliant independent LGBTQIA+ bookshop I’d highly recommend), I decided to pick it up. This one is super short at only 80 pages, and is following Sadie and Amira, two princesses as they adventure across the kingdom and attempt to defeat a jealous sorceress.

This one was very short and sweet, with a beautiful art style and some great dialogue that made me chuckle along the way. The romance was so cute and left me feeling very happy at the end of the story. I’m so excited to track down a copy of Aquarian Cove, the only graphic novel by Kay O’Neill that I have yet to read.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Mina and the Undead (#1) by Amy McCaw

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17-year-old Mina, from England, arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. After growing up in Whitby, the town that inspired Dracula, Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie.
She can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…
And it gets even better when Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate, co-worker and fellow horror enthusiast.
But the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s…
Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.

I’ve wanted to read this book for such a long time, and recently finally picked it up! This book is a must read for any YA gothic/horror fans, and a perfect summer read. I love the setting of New Orleans, which also crops up in V.E. Schwab’s series City of Ghosts in the last book, Bridge of Souls. My love for that book and series made me want to pick Mina and the Undead even more, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Mina is from Whitby, which was so fun to hear discussed as I’ve visited Whitby a number of times and I could picture it perfectly. New Orleans also makes for such an atmospheric setting, with the horror house being a great summer location for the book. There’s a number of undertones to this book, from romance to mystery, and I really enjoyed finding out what was happening with the killings.

This book is steeped in 80s/90s culture and nostalgia, but younger readers won’t be lost, either. I loved the references to various horror films (The Lost Boys especially!) and felt the same aura as Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series, a series I have fond memories of.

I really enjoyed Mina as a character and the tension between her and her sister Libby was well-written. I also enjoyed the friendships and relationships explored. I’m really looking forward to seeing where the series goes with the next instalment, Mina and the Slayers, only a couple of weeks away now!

I would also like to say I adore the design of this book cover/design in general – it’s so clever.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Some Mistakes Were Made by Kristen Dwyer

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Ellis and Easton have been inseparable since childhood. But when a rash decision throws Ellis’s life—and her relationship with Easton— into chaos she’s forced to move halfway across the country, far from everything she’s ever known.
Now Ellis hasn’t spoken to Easton in a year, and maybe it’s better that way; maybe eventually the Easton shaped hole in her heart will heal. But when Easton’s mother invites her home for a celebration, Ellis finds herself tangled up in the web of heartache, betrayal, and anger she left behind… and with the boy she never stopped loving.

Sometimes, you just need a YA romance/contemporary that you know is going to leave your heart aching and reforming all over again. That you know will bring back your teen angst and make you grieve those long lost years.

I picked this book up at YALC because the cover and synopsis really called out to me. I ended up listening to the audiobook, and I really enjoyed it. I also knew I wanted to pick this up in the summer, and I’m glad I decided to. It felt like a sad, angsty summer contemporary, and was just perfect for the time.

When did we get here? At this place of tallied wrongs and rights.

I really liked (and in a lot of ways, related to) Ellis. She is not perfect, she has been through a lot and has been left feeling heartbroken and shattered. She’s at a place in her life when she’s trying to figure out the next step for her, while struggling to let go of everything that happened in her life a year or more ago.

This book is completely about found family, with darker undertones about the family you’re born into verses the family you create. I was also drawn into the stories of those around Ellis – such as the parents and siblings of Easton. There is just so much to be wrapped up in.

This place where we speak the same language but cannot understand each other’s words.

If you’re looking for a YA romance that makes you nostalgic for teen readers but still feels a little older, check this one out. I loved so much about this book, and I would definitely like to re-read it in the future. It’s not often I ally with a publishing company, but HarperTeen does it again!

A rare occasion where I’ve decided to up my star rating from 4 stars to 4.5 stars on reflection after a few weeks, because I’m still thinking about this book.

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

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Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.
But it’s the 1960s, and despite the fact that she is a scientist, her male peers are very unscientific when it comes to equality. The only good thing to happen on her road to professional fulfilment is a run-in with famous colleague Calvin Evans, legend and Nobel nominee. He’s also awkward, kind and tenacious. Theirs is true chemistry.
But life is never predictable and three years later Elizabeth Zott is an unwed, single mother and star of America’s best loved cooking show Supper at Six. Her singular approach to cooking – ‘take one pint of H2O and add a pinch of sodium chloride’ – and empowering message prove revolutionary. Because Elizabeth isn’t just teaching housewives how to cook, but how to change their lives.
Meet the unconventional, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott.

 Lessons in Chemistry was such a unique book. I don’t tend to pick up historical (although the 1960s hardly seems historical!) fiction, but Elizabeth’s Zott story has appealed to me for a while. I’ve heard such good things about this book, and all of the positive thoughts and feelings I’d heard were well deserved.

Elizabeth Zott was such an interesting character, who was headstrong and brave. Her story was full of honesty about growing up as a woman in science. I loved hearing about her relationship with Calvin, and with her daughter, Mad.

Courage is the root of change—

There were multiple characters introduced throughout this book, and by the end of the story it felt like a lovely found family. I really enjoyed the stories of the side characters too, and I was rooting for them by the end. I rooted for Elizabeth, but I rooted for all of the characters around her as well.

One of my favourite side characters was the dog, Six Thirty. He was the most unique animal companion I’ve seen in a book. The focus on family and friendship was so beautiful and it made me very emotional in places!

and change is what we’re chemically designed to do.

Overall, this book had so many important messages and I really enjoyed the story. I also listened to the audiobook which had an interview with the author at the end and I really liked the narration!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

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Dr. Cliff Miyashiro arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue his recently deceased daughter’s research, only to discover a virus, newly unearthed from melting permafrost. The plague unleashed reshapes life on earth for generations. Yet even while struggling to
Among those adjusting to this new normal are an aspiring comedian, employed by a theme park designed for terminally ill children, who falls in love with a mother trying desperately to keep her son alive; a scientist who, having failed to save his own son from the plague, gets a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects-a pig-develops human speech; a man who, after recovering from his own coma, plans a block party for his neighbours who have also woken up to find that they alone have survived their families; and a widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter who must set off on cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.
From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead, How High We Go in the Dark follows a cast of intricately linked characters spanning hundreds of years as humanity endeavours to restore the delicate balance of the world. This is a story of unshakable hope that crosses literary lines to give us a world rebuilding itself through an endless capacity for love, resilience and reinvention
.

It’s been a few weeks since I finished reading this book, and I’m still not quite sure how to write a review for it. I read this book while I had Covid, which I honestly wouldn’t advise as this book focuses heavily on a global illness, but it hit me even harder because of it.

This book is a collection of short stories that interconnect throughout the book and provide different perspectives on a worldwide epidemic. Short stories that discuss death, and friendship, and illness, and love – all types of love. Love between a parent and child, love between married partners, love that happened in the wrong place at the wrong time but in one way or another, succeeded, even just fleetingly.

How High We Go in the Dark made me cry, multiple times. It made me cry just 60 pages in, and again, and again, throughout the book. It managed to both capture and break my heart so many times over the course of just under 300 pages.

The writing was super slow and the sadness emanating from the pages of this book sometimes prevented me from picking it up, but it was so beautiful too. This book is in no way fast, it is a sprawling collection of stories that are interwoven in the same fragile way everything in our universe somehow is.

I loved this book in many ways I didn’t quite expect to. It was so dark and so sad, but I felt so connected to some of the perspectives and after some of the stories I was just blown away by the beautiful intricacies of it all.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood

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Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn….
As an environmental engineer, Mara knows all about the delicate nature of ecosystems. They require balance. And leaving the thermostat alone. And not stealing someone else’s food. And other rules Liam, her detestable big-oil lawyer of a roommate, knows nothing about. Okay, sure, technically she’s the interloper. Liam was already entrenched in his aunt’s house like some glowering grumpy giant when Mara moved in, with his big muscles and kissable mouth just sitting there on the couch tempting respectable scientists to the dark side…but Helena was her mentor and Mara’s not about to move out and give up her inheritance without a fight.
The problem is, living with someone means getting to know them. And the more Mara finds out about Liam, the harder it is to loathe him…and the easier it is to love him.

I never expected to adore The Love Hypothesis as much as I did….but it turned out to be one of my favourite books of the year so far. Almost immediately after reading it, I wanted to dive into anything else by Ali Hazelwood, and I finally got around to picking up one of her novellas. After talking to my friend Charlotte about each of the premises, I decided to go for Under One Roof, which follows Mara as she moves into a house left to her in a will, but she has to share with Liam.

There’s only so much an author can do within 112 pages, but I was gripped from the outset. We jump into this story when the action is picking up, and then go back through the months they’ve spent living together. I really enjoyed reading about Liam softening and Mara and Liam getting to know each other, even though it was pretty predictable in plot.

My main complaint for this book is that the non-linear format did throw me a bit, and I couldn’t quite remember how we got to the first bit of the book by the time we looped back around. But there is only so much that can be jammed into such a short book, and it seemed like quite a small factor overall.

This was such a fun novella and I couldn’t put it down! I’ll definitely be picking the others up and I’m looking forward to the collection being released in paperback in 2023.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Love, Creekwood (#3.5) by Becky Albertalli

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It’s been more than a year since Simon and Blue turned their anonymous online flirtation into an IRL relationship, and just a few months since Abby and Leah’s unforgettable night at senior prom.
Now the Creekwood High crew are first years at different colleges, navigating friendship and romance the way their story began—on email. 

It’s been a long time since I originally joined the Love Simon universe and read Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I’ve since read all of the books in the Simonverse, watched the film adaptation and I’m currently watching the most recent season of Love, Victor with my boyfriend. As soon as I saw this little novella was being released, I knew I wanted to dive back into this world.

This book is a short collection of emails between Simon, Bram and the gang from Creekwood. It includes their personal emails to one another and their group emails. I found this such a fun and heartwarming way to follow the gang after all of the books are set – especially as the emails pack a lot in with discussions of how the friends are struggling with and adapting to their next steps.

When we say we want to freeze time, what we mean is that we want to control our memories. We want to choose which moments we’ll keep forever. We want to guarantee the best ones won’t slip away from us somehow. 

I really love these characters and I’d definitely recommending reading all of the books in the Simonverse before this one. Most of the emails in this collection are like love letters, and honestly made me want to write a love letter to my boyfriend, they were so sweet. I also loved seeing the emails between Leah and Abby from Leah on the Offbeat and also seeing them all talk as a friendship group.

I think the biggest disappointment about this novella is just that the emails can be a little repetitive after a while. Simon and Bram talk so much about missing each other that sometimes it feels as though the emails are copy and pasted. I understood how they felt, but I wanted something else, I guess.

 So when something beautiful happens, there’s this impulse to press pause and save the game. We want to make sure we can find our way back to that moment.

Overall, this was a really sweet addition to the Simonverse and I’m glad I picked it up. It’s nothing amazing, but it’s definitely worth reading if you like and miss these characters (also check out Love, Victor!)!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Dangerous Remedy (#1) by Kat Dunn

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Camille, a revolutionary’s daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl’s no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she?
In these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she’s forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.
 

I’ve been looking forward to finally picking up this series for a while now. I saw Booksnest discuss it on her channel and it sounded like something I’d really enjoy, so I decided to pick it up. It sounded kind of similar to Six of Crows with a historical French setting.

We dive straight into the action with this first book, with the gang flying above the Paris skyline in a hot air balloon. The group of Battalion des Mortes spend their lives performing rescue missions and saving people from the Guillotine.

Hindsight always makes us into fools. 

I really enjoyed a lot of elements about this book. The action was great and filled the pages, meaning it was super quick to read. The chapters were also very short so flicked by quickly, and once I picked it up I was finding it very quick and easy to read.

I’m usually not a big fan of historical fiction, but this one is different as it’s a historical fantasy, which I really enjoyed. I also liked the Paris setting and I loved the characters too. There are a few different dynamics in this book, and there’s a relationship I really loved reading about and could picture really clearly.

The only path open to us is to do the best we can with the knowledge we have.

The only thing I have to say is that I never completely felt absorbed in the story, and I never truly related to the characters in the way I wanted to. Although I liked all of the elements a lot, I couldn’t help but feel as though the story kind of passed over my head most of the time. I did still enjoy this one though, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes in the next book.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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