Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

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So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Meh. Unfortunately this book was very mediocre. I had fun reading it, sure, but it really didn’t impress me. Weirdly, I read the sequel, Twelve Days of Dash and Lily before the first book! It’s the only series I’ve ever read backwards, but I don’t think it particularly mattered too much.

I found Lily a bit whiny in this one too – but actually not so much! I just saw both characters as flawed, genuine 16 year olds, and that was okay. They had their qualms and struggles, but it displayed teenage angst accurately.

“You think fairy tales are only for girls? Here’s a hint – ask yourself who wrote them. I assure you, it wasn’t just the women. It’s the great male fantasy – all it takes is one dance to know that she’s the one. All it takes is the sound of her song from the tower, or a look at her sleeping face.”

Unfortunately, I also didn’t feel particularly festive during this one? I was thinking back to when I’ve read other festive books, and I feel like this one could have had a little more…oomph. I wanted Christmas trees on sale on corners. I wanted Gingerbread houses. I wanted MORE SNOW. Snow flurries in Central Park and with ice skating and UGH just more.

I think part of the problem was the fact that this book took place both before and after Christmas, as I felt more festive at the start of the story. I just wish I’d seen Christmas day with their families, and I know that decision was obviously part of the plot, but I would have liked just one family Christmas scene to make me feel like it truly included that special day.

“And right away you know – this is the girl in your head, sleeping or dancing or singing in front of you. Yes, girls want their princes, but boys want their princesses just as much. And they don’t want a very long courtships. They want to know immediately.”

Overall, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this book. It was a fun read with moments of hilariousness and also moments that touched my heart. It did have the bits of Christmas that sparkled, and I enjoyed reading both characters stories. I thought it was brilliant that Dash made a great bookworm and relatable character for us readers. I had fun, but that was all unfortunately!

★★★
3 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

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Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. 
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. 
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. 
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Eh. I’m always very sceptical when it comes to E. Lockhart. How To Be Bad and We Were Liars are both up there with some of my favourite reads. And her other books are with some of my worst. But I thought I’d give this one a go, and picked up a copy when it was released. It’s taken me until now to pick it up, and for good reason. I just didn’t enjoy this read.

This book kind of reminded me of Gone Girl, and I really didn’t like Gone Girl. For one, we have an unlikable protagonist. This is one of my pet hates of a book. If I can’t relate to or sympathise with a main character/narrator, I end up not enjoying the book. At the end of the day, if you don’t care what happens to the main character, what’s the point in even reading?

I found Jule to be a selfish, unreasonable and downright hateful character, and I had nothing in common with her. If I felt like this, why even read?

“Do you think a person is as bad as her worst actions?…I mean, do our worst actions define us when we’re alive?”

I carried on reading because I wanted to give this one a go, but unfortunately this book was told in reverse. Someone tell me, please, who would think ‘Oh I’ll write a mystery! And write it in reverse so everyone finds out what happens right at the start’! I mean this may not be exactly true, as what I believed to be the main event happened around halfway through the book. But I guessed that event when I read the blurb.

I guess Lockhart wanted us to understand the hows and whys of these big events, but for me that just didn’t work. Maybe I should have understood Jule’s reasoning behind what she did, but she’s so twisted and sick that there was no way I could even begin to understand.

“Or, do you think human beings are better than the very worst things we have ever done?”

Overall, the only reason I actually continued reading was to see if anything else was going to happen. I gave the book a chance for the first 100 pages, but this read was so short that I thought I may as well finish it anyway.

I’m glad I gave this one a go, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.


1 star

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

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It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.
Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.
But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

I can’t even explain to you how much I adored this book, but I’m going to damn well try. Shirin is a teenage girl in America just after 9/11, and she is Muslim. I cannot even tell you how much I adored this concept. So often, YA is too focused on a romance, friendship, family, dystopia or fantasy world. Never, is religion the focus. And I absolutely loved that this book centered more than anything else around Muslim culture.

I may not have experienced this kind of discrimination first hand, but I have friends who have suffered because of their religion. I’ve listened to their stories, and every time, they break my heart into tiny little pieces.

“I didn’t believe it was possible to hide a woman’s beauty. I thought women were gorgeous no matter what they wore, and I didn’t think they owed anyone an explanation for their sartorial choices.”

I love how raw this book is. The events were so emotional and sad, but hit home so much for me. I cannot even begin to express how important this book is. This is so different to anything I’ve read in YA, and frankly, it’s about time that a Muslim teen gets to tell her story. In fact, we are way past that time. This should be normal, this should happen every day. But unfortunately, we still live in a world that experiences events just as Shirin does in this book. But stories like these, words like these? They’re the most amazing kind of start.

I loved Shirin in every way. She was such a well-rounded and well-developed character, and I loved the conversations she has with her brother, her teachers, her friends, her family. Everyone is included in this book and it was done so well. Ocean was a beautiful contrast to Shirin as a love interest, and it was brilliant how he broke down her barriers and had such a deep love for her.

“Different women felt comfortable in different outfits.”

Honestly, this might be one of my favourite books of this year. It has absolutely blown me away. Along with all of these compliments, it took me under 2 days to read this beauty. I have only one criticism for this book, which is that I wish Shirin’s parents would have found out about Ocean. I loved the relationship Shirin had with her family, and it would have been such an interesting scene to read about.

This book broke my heart a thousand times over, and glued it back together with strings of hope as strong and as bright as the stars.

★★★★★
5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Songs About a Boy (#3) by Chris Russell

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Just as Charlie allows herself to succumb to Gabe’s charms, the explosive revelation about her mother’s death threatens to pull them apart. Meanwhile, a media circus has exploded around the future of Fire&Lights – when they announce a US tour to show the world that they are stronger than ever, Charlie gets the opportunity to accompany them. New York City, here she comes! But it’s not all fun and games. Charlie is still feeling all kinds of awkward around Gabe and knowing that her mother’s last days were in America touring with her band, Charlie uses the opportunity to uncover some more truths about her mother’s death.
As Fire&Lights try to win over the world again, and as Charlie and Gabriel uncover the true story that links their pasts, will Charlie finally be able to follow her heart?

I can’t believe the thought ever even crossed my mind to dismiss these books as cheesy, trashy fanfic. They are so much more than that. I picked this 400+ page book up on Sunday night, and I had finished it by Tuesday. For me, that’s absolutely insane. And I’ve not exactly been at home all that time – I’ve been looking after the flat, going out and going to uni. But this book just absolutely flew by for me, and whenever I had a spare minute I would pick it up and dive right in.

That being said, I can’t totally dismiss the cheese or the trash. Because honestly, it does have those elements. It’s a bit like looking back on High School Musical. You can’t believe how cheesy it is, but you would watch it with your girlfriends any day of the week. It’s unrealistic, dramatic and far fetched. But goshdarnit, it is good.

This is for sure a complete guilty-pleasure read, but I can’t deny that it’s very well written. Every single character in this book holds their place and has a lot of depth, and that’s just so hard to do! To be able to build such individuality into so many people – especially the band, the management team and even Melissa’s family – is so impressive.

Being 19, I’m definitely way out of the target audience for this series. But the 13 year old inside me couldn’t put this down, and made me reminiscent of the simpler way I used to read. It’s perfect nostalgia for those years, of loving the sweet teenage relationships and band obsessions.

Unfortunately, I can’t put enough emphasis on the far-fetched concept of this book. Charlie is a 16 year old girl flying around the world photographing a band, with little to no equipment or professional photography training. As I’m studying photography at uni, this was a little hard to get out of my mind. No one around me would even dare to dream of having an opportunity like this, and most of those people are already starting their professional careers.

Overall, I would definitely say go for these books! Just make sure you clear your mind beforehand, and understand that this is going to be a drama-filled, unrealistic but wonderful rollercoaster. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

★★★★
4 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

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Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price. This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

This book is absolutely stunning. I can’t believe it’s taken me until now to read this, but I find short stories so hit and miss! Some (*cough* Tales of Beedle the Bard *cough*) can be blatant gimmicks. And others, like this, can be downright beauty.

I am so, so happy that this one fell into the latter. All 6 of these stories are based on classic fairytales, but with a new and fresh take set in the Grisha universe. I haven’t actually read the Grisha trilogy yet, but I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom! What I love about this book is you don’t actually have to read any of Bardugo’s books to understand any of the tales.

“They pray that their children will be brave and clever and strong, that they will tell the true stories instead of the easy ones.”

I actually can’t chose a favourite of these stories, because they’re all so beautiful in their own ways. Ayama and the Thorn Wood, The Witch of Duva and The Water Sang Fire definitely all stood out for me though! I love how each story took up around 50 pages, and I think having that time and space is just crucial for the reader to know the character enough to connect fully to the story.

I can’t write this blog post without telling you all about the incredible illustrations that come with the hardback edition I own! Round every single page there’s a band of illustrations which build up as the story progresses. For example, in one story we start with a fox, and slowly the band builds up until we have trees and other forest creatures around the perimeter of the double-page spread. I can’t even begin to explain the beauty here, the amount these drawings add to each story and make them feel like fairytales.

“They pray for sons with red eyes and daughters with horns.”

I honestly have so much to say about this book that I’m going to have to stop myself from rambling and just say this. Leigh Bardugo, you have done short stories right. I have never experienced a novella quite like this one. It stands out in the fairytale experience, and it took me to many different worlds between the pages. I found it perfect for this festive time of year, so comforting and interesting. I’m sure these stories are ones I will come back to many times again!

★★★★★
5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

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Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe.
Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop.
Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand. New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children. Their story is again illustrated throughout by haunting vintage photographs, but with a striking addition for this all-new, multi-era American adventure—full color.

I really enjoyed the Miss Peregrine’s original trilogy and it was awesome to have something so refreshing and different without taking too much away from the story! Before I start, I feel like I should tell you guys that I read the first 3 books like 2 years ago? And I was so worried that I wouldn’t understand the story, having forgotten most of the plot of the first 3 books. But even though this book starts right after Library of Souls, I had absolutely no trouble picking up the story. It’s different enough to be able to grasp it right away and I loved that!

“All my life, normal people had mostly baffled me-the ridiculous ways they strove to impress one another, the mediocre goals that seemed to drive them, the banality of their dreams.”

So much felt unique about this book. I felt the same way with the first 3, but it feels even more enhanced with this one. Taking the Peculiars to America seemed like the perfect way to go, and it was so fun to read about them in the modern world. There are endless scenes that could be great to tackle in this world, and I think Riggs handled them brilliantly.

It was so authentic to read about the children becoming more independent in the modern world, and wanting to explore more on their own. They seemed to really grow in this book and I loved how sweet the story is.

“The way people rejected anything that didn’t fit their narrow paradigm of acceptability, as if those who thought or acted or dressed or dreamed differently from them were a threat to their very existence.”

The only small niggle I had with this book is it felt a little…slow at times? I don’t know, there just seemed to be large gaps in the plot where it could have just been summed up in a couple of sentences. But I have to say, it didn’t detract from my experience too much, because I felt like I could flick through quickly and still enjoy the slower parts.

★★★★
4 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

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I always have an issue reading small books/novellas and add ons like this. They’re tiny, they’re not ‘full’ books. Do they count towards my Goodreads goal really? But now I’ve hit my 50 book goal for 2018, I thought I’d go through the books on my shelves that aren’t necessarily ‘full’ books.

My boyfriend brought Tales of Beedle the Bard with him when we moved in together and it fits perfectly on our Harry Potter shelf! It was such a cute little read that probably took me less than an hour overall.

“No man or woman alive, magical or not, has ever escaped some form of injury, whether physical, mental, or emotional.”

I really enjoyed reading these little stories, and having Dumbledore’s notes at the end of each one really helped understand the meaning behind each one. They really reminded me of Aesop’s Fables, which I loved as a kid. I loved how each story had a real moral.

“To hurt is as human as to breathe.”

But unfortunately, it’s not all rosy. I did enjoy these stories, but they felt sooo far apart from the whole wizarding world. Dumbledore connected them to a degree, but I still felt like they were just a bit..gimmicky? I’m all for add-on Harry Potter books like The Art of Harry Potter, but this felt a bit thrown together to please the fans and give them something new. But really, who am I to complain? Because as Adam Silvera said when I saw him at a talk a few weeks ago, I am so much of a Potterhead that I would even read Dobby’s story if J.K. Rowling wrote it.

★★★
3 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

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Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.
Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?
What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?
But what if it is?

If there are two people who are destined to write together, it’s Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. They go together like salt and pepper, and I love what came out of their partnership in What If It’s Us!

I’m a big fan of both authors and I felt their characters complimented each other perfectly, but still had their own voices. I could just about feel the differences between the way both characters were written that gave them each a unique feel.

“I barely know him. I guess that is every relationship.”

I loved the plot! I remember Adam talking when I met him last week, and I know him and Becky really wanted to write about the difficult parts of relationships as they develop and not just the getting together part. I loved how this book tackled the struggles and not just the Broadway worthy scenes, and it made this book so relatable.

Arthur and Ben were just the cutest, but they were so flawed too! There were parts when I couldn’t help but feel like both of them were just being assholes, but that’s the charm of these characters. They’re so real, they mess up, they accept it, they move on.

“You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.”

I also loved the side characters, friends and family! Not enough YA includes intimate family scenes and I love how their whole lives were included, as well as scenes at home. There’s a specific scene including both of Arthur and Ben’s parents, and it was so heartfelt and lovely.

The only slight issue I had with this book is that it took a long time for me to get into. Maybe 100/150 pages in I got it, but when I did get into this book I couldn’t stop reading! It took me almost a week to read 100 pages, and then a couple of days to read the last 300. So I’d definitely say it’s worth the wait.

★★★★
4 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

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Part ghost story, part Nordic thriller – this is a twisty, tense and spooky YA debut, perfect for fans of CORALINE and Michelle Paver.
Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma’s cabin and became blind in one eye.
Determined to understand her strange ability, Martha sets off to visit her grandmother, Mormor – only to discover Mormor is dead, a peculiar boy is in her cabin and a terrifying creature is on the loose.
Then the spinning wheel starts creaking, books move around and terror creeps in . . .
Set in the remote snows of contemporary Norway, THE TWISTED TREE is a ghost story that twists and turns – and never takes you quite where you’d expect.
 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hot Key Books in exchange for an honest review. This has not changed my views in any way.

The Twisted Tree was the perfect book to read this week around Halloween! The story follows Martha, a girl who can read people by touching their clothes. She travels to Norway to visit her grandmother, who she later finds out has recently passed away. In her abandoned cabin, she finds an interesting boy hiding. Together, they will find themselves in the midst of some eventful, and creepy, times..

I really enjoyed this book and I’m so glad I read it in October. I found this read so interesting and unique, and I loved the Norse mythology and Norwegian setting. Both things are ones that I don’t often see in YA, and were great to read about.

“You write the story of you every day with your thoughts, words and deeds.”

I loved Martha as a main character, and the female power in this book! Martha talks a lot about her ancestors, and it was awesome to read about the strong link between Martha, her grandmother and her ancestors before then. Martha was perfect as the heroine of this story. She was scarred, struggling and dealing with so much. I loved her flaws, and it was so interesting (and felt realistic) to read about her struggles with having a visual impairment.

“You create yourself. You get to decide your story. No one else. You.”

This book is urban fantasy, set in the real world, and I found that just brilliant. It was awesome to feel the genuine struggle of Martha and Stig coping with their struggles in the real world. I also loved reading about Martha’s mum and the rest of her family. It added an extra depth to the story that was lovely to find out about.

So overall, this book was a really good read perfect for Halloween! Look out for it on January 10th!

★★★★
4 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course. 
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart. 
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

It’s rare that a book completely lives up to the hype, but this one really did. I went in with mixed expectations, having loved They Both Die at the End but had mixed feelings about More Happy Than Not. But this one is definitely up there, and even above my love for They Both Die at the End. It’s definitely been my favourite Silvera novel and I’m so excited for What if It’s Us!

“People are complicated puzzles, always trying to piece together a complete picture, but sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we’re left unfinished.”

I found History is All You Left Me so raw and beautiful. It follows the story of Griffin, a boy who lost his first love and ex-boyfriend way too young. Griffin also suffers with OCD and I loved the way Silvera spoke about how he struggled through life with OCD. I found his disorder so believable and well written.

I began by having doubts about Jackson, but honestly I think that just shows how great the writing is, because I liked him more just as Griffin did, as they got to know each other throughout the book. I will openly admit I cried at least a couple of times throughout this story, and I closed the final page with tears in my eyes.

“Sometimes that’s for the best. Some pieces can’t be forced into a puzzle, or at least they shouldn’t be, because they won’t make sense.”

I also found the flashbacks really worked, and it definitely takes a talented author to write past and present like that! The plot also twisted and changed throughout, which isn’t too common in contemporary and it provided a reason to keep turning the pages. I really have to point out that I found this book perfect for reading in a couple of sittings. I usually have to have a break while I’m reading and I struggle to read in long sittings, but not with this book!

I just felt it would be very hard to get bored of the story, especially with the plot. I read most of the book on a long train journey and I finished it in 5 days! I honestly can’t find anything wrong with this book, and it’s going to have to be 5 stars. It’s beautifully written, emotional, honest and raw. What’s not to like?

★★★★★
5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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