Review: The Desolations of Devil’s Acre by Ransom Riggs

Goodreads | Waterstones

The last thing Jacob Portman saw before the world went dark was a terrible, familiar face.
Suddenly, he and Noor are back in the place where everything began – his grandfather’s house. Jacob doesn’t know how they escaped from V’s loop to find themselves in Florida. But he does know one thing for certain: Caul has returned.
After a narrow getaway from a blood-thirsty hollow, Jacob and Noor reunite with Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children in Devil’s Acre. The Acre is being plagued by desolations – weather fronts of ash and blood and bone – a terrible portent of Caul’s amassing army.
Risen from the Library of Souls and more powerful than ever, Caul and his apocalyptic agenda seem unstoppable. Only one hope remains – deliver Noor to the meeting place of the seven prophesied ones. If they can decipher its secret location. 

So it’s been 7 years since I read the first Miss Peregrine’s book, and I finally finished the series! Thank you to the audiobook versions of the last two books in the series for helping me finally pick them up after owning them since release – I really enjoyed listening to these and it definitely helped with the daunting size of The Desolations of Devil’s Acre.

After following these characters for 6 books, it was definitely bittersweet to see them go, but I’m also ready to move on at the same time.

In the end, our real home had always been one another. 

Maybe it’s just me – but it honestly felt like Ransom Riggs crammed so much plot into this one book, that it’s almost on par with the plot of the first 3 books all together. I was honestly astounded by how much he managed to fit into this last instalment in the series, as I was definitely expecting a shorter wrap-up with not quite as much at stake, but this one definitely went out with a bang.

Although the plot packed a lot in and was quite action packed, it did also feel pretty predictable after 5 of these books. I never felt particularly worried for the characters or on edge, which did let me down. There was just such a lack of tension there for me.

My favourite part of the book was definitely the group of friends, and I couldn’t help but enjoy the ending. Seeing them band together throughout this book and witnessing their banter and the way they treat one another did warm my heart.

And a real home was all I’d ever wanted.

Although I enjoyed this one and the series as a whole, I sadly felt like there wasn’t enough tension to keep me hooked, feeling a bit predictable and quite long!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Paper Girls Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Goodreads | Waterstones

In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

I’ve been wanting to pick up Paper Girls for a long time, having seen it around everywhere and heard many recommendations for it. My boyfriend, Mark, bought me the first volume for my birthday last year, and I finally decided to read it. I’ve heard Paper Girls be compared to Stranger Things, and I loved the parallels between the 1980s paranormal sci-fi you can see in both series.

My brain hasn’t been able to focus much on reading lately, so picking up a graphic novel was just such a great format to be able to sit and digest in half an hour. The text is clear and well spaced, and isn’t overwhelming in the least. It’s also complemented well by a beautiful colour palette and striking illustrations.

I loved the group of characters, who are absolutely badass as a group but are also brilliantly bold with one another. At first, I was a little concerned about some comments one of the characters makes, but this is immediately called out.

This one definitely kept me on the edge of my seat and I loved the mixture of paranormal and real-life 80s neighbourhood. The ending and last few panels left me needing the next volume immediately!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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ARC Review: Skandar the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

Goodreads | Waterstones

Skandar Smith has always yearned to leave the Mainland and escape to the secretive Island, where wild unicorns roam free. He’s spent years studying for his Hatchery exam, the annual test that selects a handful of Mainlander thirteen-year-olds to train to become unicorn riders. But on the day of Skandar’s exam, things go horribly wrong, and his hopes are shattered…until a mysterious figure knocks on his door at midnight, bearing a message: the Island is in peril and Skandar must answer its call.
Skandar is thrust into a world of epic sky battles, dangerous clashes with wild unicorns, and rumors of a shadowy villain amassing a unicorn army. And the closer Skandar grows to his newfound friends and community of riders, the harder it becomes to keep his secrets—especially when he discovers their lives may all be in graver danger than he ever imagined.

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster, for sending me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and I was so excited when I received an advanced copy of it last year. The world of middle grade fantasy is rapidly expanding and seeing these new and exciting stories is so heartwarming. Giving out chapter samplers for this book at work has generated a lot of excitement, and I’ve heard a few parents mention how much their child is looking forward to the release after reading the first chapter – now I can see why!

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is jam-packed with magic, excitement, adventure and danger. It will help to generate a whole new generation of readers, and hooked me from the first page. Skandar has wanted to travel off the mainland to become a unicorn trainer for his whole life, but when he finally gets the chance, it doesn’t happen quite in the way he expected.

There’s an edginess, an element of danger, that I loved about this book and I can see it appealing so much to younger readers. It feels almost forbidden with the edge of darkness but was still crammed full with adventure and entertainment.

My only small complaint is it felt a little long and the characters felt a bit underdeveloped for the length of the book, but I still enjoyed the read. I can definitely see this one being a big middle grade release of the year and I think a lot of younger readers are going to love it!

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Conference of the Birds (#5) by Ransom Riggs

Goodreads | Waterstones

With his dying words, H—Jacob Portman’s final connection to his grandfather Abe’s secret life— entrusts Jacob with a mission: Deliver newly con­tacted peculiar Noor Pradesh to an operative known only as V. Noor is being hunted. She is the subject of an ancient prophecy, one that foretells a looming apocalypse. Save Noor—Save the future of all peculiardom.
With only a few bewildering clues to follow, Jacob must figure out how to find V, the most enigmatic, and most powerful, of Abe’s former associates. But V is in hiding and she never, ever, wants to be found.
With enemies behind him and the unknown ahead, Jacob Portman’s story continues as he takes a brave leap forward into The Conference of the Birds. 

Let me just start by saying I see these six books as two separate trilogies. It’s been absolutely years since I read (and really liked!) the first three in the series, and going back to A Map of Days felt a little unnecessary. I was happy with how the series had ended, and I didn’t feel like we needed more. But I did also enjoy reading the series, and found myself wanting to know what would happen when the gang toured America.

It’s been a while since I read A Map of Days, and although I didn’t feel like I needed in-depth knowledge of the first 3threebooks, I did want to refresh myself on the fourth book. I used this recap guide by Penguin Teen and watched the video linked at the bottom of the same post, and I must say that it allowed me to dive straight into the fifth book without any problem!

There’s an art to fleeing casually. 

I chose to listen to the audiobook of this one, and I did quite enjoy it, even though I feel like you miss some of the ambience by not being able to view the pictures interspersed throughout the story at the same time as reading. I did make sure to go back and flick through my physical version, but it’s not quite the same. I thought the narration was really good, but it did make me realise how stereotypically British these characters are. I think part of this is because some of the characters are from the 1940s, and they do use some very British turns of phrase that may have been more current to the time. It didn’t annoy me too much, but it could have easily got on my nerves a little!

Although this book definitely didn’t blow me away, I did still enjoy it, and I remember feeling the same about A Map of Days. These books aren’t amazing, but they’re fun adventure stories with characters I will always root for, so I made sure to enjoy the book for what it was.

It’s not easy, running from something that might kill you while not attracting stares.

Mostly due to the fact I read the audiobook, I actually managed to read this in a day. It was just so easy to listen to and I had a day of doing mindless cleaning tasks at work, which allowed me to read most of the book. I sped through it and I found the story very entertaining, they just don’t feel super unique at this point.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #80

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga where we share books we’ve bought or received this week. Find out more and join in here!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve managed to write a Stacking the Shelves post, but unless I’m somehow missing a lot of books off of this list, I’m actually not doing too badly!

Goodreads | Waterstones

Imagine making friends with a polar bear… The Last Bear is perfect for readers of 8+, beautifully illustrated throughout by Levi Pinfold – winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and illustrator of Harry Potter 20th anniversary edition covers.
There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

Goodreads | Waterstones

What if you could communicate with a whale?
Rio has been sent to live with a grandmother he barely knows in California, while his mum is in hospital back home. Alone and adrift, the only thing that makes him smile is joining his new friend Marina on her dad’s whale watching trips. That is until an incredible encounter with White Beak, a gentle giant of the sea changes everything. But when White Beak goes missing, Rio must set out on a desperate quest to find his whale and somehow save his mum.

I picked up both of Hannah Gold’s books in hardback over the past few weeks and have already read The Last Bear, which I absolutely loved. I can’t wait to read The Lost Whale!

Goodreads | Waterstones

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time… but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

Goodreads | Waterstones

On a school field trip to the river, Sandy wanders away from her classmates and discovers an empty turtle shell. Peeking through the dark hole, she suddenly finds herself within a magical realm. Filled with sculptures, paintings and books, the turtle’s shell is a museum of the natural world. But one painting is incomplete, and the turtle needs Sandy’s help to finish it.

I also bought and have already read Nightlights and Hicotea, a cute graphic novel duology!

Goodreads | Waterstones

The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few…
– Libby Rhodes and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.
When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.

My lovely friend Amy gifted me her Fairyloot copy of The Atlas Six, which is so pretty and will match the gorgeous Waterstones edition of The Atlas Paradox perfectly!

Goodreads | Waterstones

I also received my beautiful copy of Heartstopper Vol 2 from Fairyloot. What perfect timing for the Netflix show!

What have you bought or received this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Nightlights and Hicotea by Lorena Alvarez Gomez

Goodreads | Waterstones

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time… but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

I’m not entirely sure if this is a children’s book or a graphic novel, but on reflection I think this probably is aimed at children, and but has a magical, whimsical tone to it similar to Neil Gaiman stories that makes it feel applicable to a range of audiences.

The story was slightly strange but had absolutely stunning drawings and I loved seeing the characters come to life throughout. Our main character, Sandy, draws characters that seem to come to life around her. Although I’m a bit unsure, I think this story is a representation of Sandy’s imagination, and the second book is another story, another day. The mixture of whimsical, magical fantasy with the real world could be a bit confusing, but was really beautifully illustrated.

My favourite part of the story was definitely the artwork, which is just stunning and has a delightful colour scheme. I feel like this is the kind of series you’ll take from it what you want, and will be different for every reader, which I liked.

I feel like this is one I’ll keep with me and read throughout my life, and I can see the meaning changing every time I read it!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Shadow of the Wind (#4) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Goodreads | Waterstones

Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, one cold morning in 1945, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Julián Carax.
Captivated by the novel from its very first page, Daniel reads the book in one sitting. But he is not the only one interested in Carax. As he grows up in a Barcelona still suffering the aftershocks of a violent civil war, Daniel is haunted by the story of the author, a man who seems to have disappeared without trace after a duel in Père Lachaise cemetery.
Then one night, in the old streets of the city centre, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from ‘The Shadow of the wind’, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax’s works in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julián Carax, and to save those he left behind.

I hardly ever read historical fiction – it’s just something I’m never really drawn to. But I’ve wanted to pick this one up for a while ever since knowing that it’s one of BooksNest’s favourite books, and the synopsis sounded so interesting. I read the audiobook of this one, and I must say from the first chapter I knew I’d enjoy it. The writing (which is both a testament to the original author, translator and narrator), is so easy to get into and is also beautifully written.

The beginning of this book was my favourite part, and I was immediately drawn into the story. Sadly, it did dip in the middle for me slightly, but it definitely picked up again towards the end. I just felt that this had the promise of so much intrigue and I felt slightly let down with the level of mystery. The only reason I didn’t give this one 5 stars is because of the slight lack of something. Either a bit more romance, or a little more of a thriller aspect would have been great.

Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it.

I loved the European settings and the range of characters, who I really liked and found their friendships to be enjoyable to read about. I also really liked the idea of this being a book about books, and the bookshop/library settings were very enjoyable to see.

I will admit that I did guess the mystery element quite early on, so it didn’t quite surprise me when we got to the end of the book. However, I feel like the mystery is only a small part of the book, and it is more of a labyrinthine ramble through Carax’s life leading up until Daniel finding The Shadow of the Wind.

Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.

Although this isn’t something I’d usually pick up, I did enjoy it a lot and I will definitely carry on with the series! I also thought the audiobook was really enjoyable and I’m glad I picked it up as an audio version.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

Goodreads | Waterstones

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

Wow. This was everything I love about middle grade (and children’s books in general) rolled into a gorgeous little parcel and tied with a bow. Throughout reading this one, I kept thinking back to what I loved as a child and I just know I would have adored this one if I picked it up.

We follow April, an animal loving girl who travels to a remote island with her father so he can look after the weather station there. While living alone with her father on this island, she makes friends with Bear, a polar bear who isn’t meant to be on the island.

There were so many aspects of this book I adored. I loved the relationship April had with Bear, it was so sweet and moving but also made April reflect on other aspects of her life, such as climate change and her relationship with her father.

Although this one is emotional and does discuss grief, it never felt too heavy or overwhelming and felt like the perfect level for children to understand and relate to. The discussions of climate change also felt quite appropriate for children, while also being passionate and important.

The adventure aspects of the story made it so easy to escape into, and I loved being able to pick it up and fly through some pages. I honestly think this is perfect for adults and children, and I never felt like I was reading a story that wasn’t applicable to me, despite it being written for a much younger audience.

I can’t wait to read more from this author and dive into her newest release The Lost Whale. I also would like to congratulate Hannah on winning the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2022, which is so well deserved!

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: How to Kidnap the Rich by Rahul Raina

Goodreads | Waterstones

Ramesh is an ‘examinations consultant’. He is a cog in the wheel that keeps India’s middle classes thriving. When he takes an exam for Rudi – an intolerably lazy but rich teenager – he accidentally scores the highest mark in the country and propels Rudi into stardom.
What next?
Blackmail. Reality television. Grotesque wealth.
And after that?
Kidnap. Double-kidnap. Reverse kidnap.
In a studio filled with hot lights, with millions of eyes on the boys, and a government investigator circling, the entire country begins to question: who are they? 

I don’t often pick up thrillers, especially this kind of thriller, but something drew me in with the synopsis. This book sounded intriguing, and it definitely lived up to expectations on that front. How to Kidnap the Rich follows Ramesh, who impersonates his clients in exams to help them in their next stages.

But his life changes when he impersonates Rudi and accidentally scores the highest mark in the country, propelling Rudi into stardom. Here begins a story of the two being intrinsically woven together through thick and thin, having to do anything to get people to stop looking their way.

It is our great contribution to world culture,

There was a lot to like about this book, and I can definitely see it being a brilliant movie. The aspects of the stardom Rudi achieves would look amazing on film. It also made me laugh out loud in multiple places with absurd and witty comments keeping the atmosphere lighthearted even through the most difficult times. The satirical look at Indian culture and class divide was so interesting to read about, and I really enjoyed the snappy commentary on the middle class.

However, the biggest disappointment for me in this book was the pacing. I needed it to be quicker, and the 10-20 page chapters definitely didn’t help. I just didn’t quite get the turn-paging aspect I wanted, and I wasn’t propelled to pick this one up when I wasn’t reading it. By the end, I was drawn in and read the last 100 pages much quicker than the first 200, which made me feel like there was just too much build up with not enough payoff.

that and the bhangra song they play at gora weddings.

Overall, mixed feelings. But I still enjoyed it, and if you’re looking for a snappy, satirical and laugh-out-loud funny book about Indian class divide with thriller elements, this one is for you!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #79

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga where we share books we’ve bought or received this week. Find out more and join in here!

Hi all! After a good few weeks, I’ve definitely ended up buying a few more these past few days. I also visited London this week and did a little bookshop tour, which also prompted me to pick up a few books I was super excited to find!

Goodreads | Waterstones

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.
That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.
Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

Firstly, I received this beautiful copy of The Love Hypothesis from Illumicrate. I’ve heard such good things about this book and it’s been recommended, so I’m happy to finally have a copy!

Goodreads | Waterstones

Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in the north of Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.
But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.
Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with three hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can’t avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship…
Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly… is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?

I bought this book for my mum when it first came out in paperback, and she’s read it and has now passed it on to me. We both loved The Flatshare so I’m excited to read this one too!

Goodreads

Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. 
But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s notebook. Tristan chases after it–is that a doll?–and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. 
Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. 

My first London find was the first book in the Tristan Strong series, which I’ve heard really good things about but I’ve never managed to pick up because it’s not usually sold here in the UK.

Goodreads

Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch before her thirteenth birthday. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic forever. For most young witches and wizards, it’s a simple enough test:
One: Help your town, do good all around.
Two: Live there for one moon, don’t leave too soon.
Three: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks.
The only problem? Eva only has a pinch of magic. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers and gets a sunburn instead of calling down rain. And to add insult to injury, whenever she overuses her magic, she falls asleep.
When she lands in the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, the residents expect a powerful witch, not a semi-magical girl. So Eva comes up with a plan: set up a magical repair shop to aid Auteri and prove she’s worthy. She may have more blood than magic, but her “semi-magical fixes” repair the lives of the townspeople in ways they never could have imagined. Only, Eva’s bit of magic may not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she’s grown to love. Eva must conjure up all of the magic, bravery, and cleverness she can muster or Auteri and her dreams of becoming a witch will wash away with the storm.

I also found another American release which my friend recommended to me. It looks so cute and gives me Kiki’s Delivery Service vibes, so I can’t wait to pick it up!

Goodreads

Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid–and Caitlin herself.

I’ve read a few books by Nina LaCour and I absolutely love her writing. Hold Still is one I’m yet to pick up, so I couldn’t help grab it when I saw it!

What have you bought or received this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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