ARC Review: How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★
2 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Blog Tour + Review: Supper Club by Lara Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

if it even exists at all.

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

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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BookTube: Mid Year Freak Out Tag 2020

Hello lovely readers! Argh, I can’t believe I haven’t posted in almost a week – I’ve missed you guys and I really need to get back on top of posting! Anyway, last time I was here I wrote out my Mid Year Freak Out post and today I am coming to you with the video version.

-Beth

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Book Tag: 2020 Mid Year Freak Out

Hi everyone! I’m here today with a book tag, and it’s time to freak out about being over halfway through the year and realising you still have around the same number of books on your physical TBR as when the year started…

But…anyyyywayyy. Let’s not focus on that, and focus on answering the questions instead! I’ve taken these questions from Paper Fury’s blog, you can find their post here. I have a video version of this blog post coming next Wednesday, but I also wanted to write one up!

1.How much have you read?

I’ve read 37 out of 50 books so far this year! I’m 12 books ahead of schedule which makes me very happy as I definitely think I’ll easily complete my goal for 2020.

2. What have I read this year?

I’ve been reading a pretty even mix of fantasy and contemporary with some other genres in between!

3. Best books you read so far in 2020?

It’s difficult to pick between these three which have all been so good for different reasons!

4. Best sequel you’ve read so far this year?

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Goodreads | Waterstones

I’m currently reading the penultimate book in this series alongside Alex, but I don’t think any of them will beat the sequel. I loved it!

5. New release you haven’t read yet but want to

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Goodreads | Waterstones

I just received my copy of this book and I’m so excited to read it, hopefully soon.

6. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

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There are so many books on my list I’m excited about, but my copy of Loveless arrived today and I cannot wait to read it!

7. Biggest disappointment of the year so far?

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This was my first read of the year and unfortunately also the most disappointing as I’d been so excited to read it.

8. Biggest surprise?

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I really didn’t think this book was for me and I ended up adoring it so much. It was so much more hard hitting than expected and I really felt the importance of the story.

9. New favourite author

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I had this recommended to me by a customer in the bookshop where I work and I ended up loving it so much. I can’t wait to read her other book too!

10. Underrated gems you’ve discovered recently?

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I read this book recently and it was SO GOOD. It definitely deserves more attention!

11. Rereads this year

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The only re-read I’ve done this year is Heartstopper! I struggle to re-read when I have so many unread books on my TBR, but I still read the physical editions of Heartstopper as they are released even though I’ve read them all online.

12. Book that made you cry

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Goodreads

I read this early in the year after reading Everything Leads To You and I adored it. But it definitely made me cry!

13. Book that made you happy

This also has to be Heartstopper! I adore these graphic novels and they always make me smile.

14. Most beautiful book you have bought so far this year (or received)

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Goodreads | Waterstones

I’ve bought a few books that are drop dead gorgeous, but I think this one is the most beautiful. I saw the cover and had to buy it straight away!

15. Goals for the rest of the year

  • Read 50 books in 2020
  • Read the Grisha trilogy
  • Read more series
  • Have less on my physical TBR at the end of the year than I currently do! (84 books)

Did you take part in this tag? Leave a link below to your post!

-Beth

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BookTube: Would You Rather? Book Tag

Hi all! I’m sorry I’ve been around less – things have been a little busier now they are getting back to normal, especially now I’m back at work! But I managed to film a video today, and I finally answered Alex’s bookish Would you rather tag questions. You can find her video here and mine below.

-Beth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #20

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! I’m back with another book! I’ve been a little busy being back at work and able to go and visit my boyfriend now which is so lovely. But it means less blog posts for a while as I get used to having other commitments again!

Anyway, onto the book I bought this week. I received my copy of You Should See Me in a Crown, which I bought for Black Publishing Power. I’ve heard so many good things about this book and I’m really excited to read it!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

What did you buy this week?

-Beth

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Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #19

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 everyone! Another week has gone by and of course I bought another book. I’m so excited to share this beauty with you!

I had an email from Harper Voyager about one of their new books and I just couldn’t resist the beauty – I admit this one was mostly a cover/edition buy. I was at work at the time and my manager told me we had two copies in, and I knew I wasn’t leaving without having one of them in my hand!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

In the dark days following a failed French Revolution, in the violent jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, young cat-burglar Eponine (Nina) Thenardier goes head to head with merciless royalty, and the lords of the city’s criminal underworld to save the life of her adopted sister Cosette (Ettie).
Her vow will take her from the city’s dark underbelly, through a dawning revolution, to the very heart of the glittering court of Louis XVII, where she must make an impossible choice between guild, blood, betrayal and war.

Isn’t this cover so pretty? I’m so excited to read it too, all I’ve heard is good things and it sounds interesting too.

-Beth

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Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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