Review: Emma by Jane Austen

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Although described by Jane Austen as a character ‘whom no one but myself will much like’, the irrepressible Emma Woodhouse is one of her most beloved heroines. Clever, rich and beautiful, she sees no need for marriage, but loves interfering in the romantic lives of others, until her matchmaking plans unravel, with consequences that she never expected. Jane Austen’s novel of youthful exuberance and gradual self-knowledge is a brilliant, sparkling comic masterpiece. 

I’m slowly making my way through Austen’s books this autumn, and I’ve been mainly doing that through audio. This one is no different, and I decided to pick it as my first October audiobook. I love reading Austen on audio and the narrator of this one was brilliant. The voices really reflected each character and the story shone through well.

I cannot make speeches, Emma…If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. 

However, this is sadly probably my least favourite Austen so far. I believe this is one of her longest books and I’m so glad I read it on audio because it did feel quite long and drawn out. I feel like this one has the least plot and most nonsense out of all of the Austen books I’ve read so far. I was never quite sure where this book was going and felt like there was not much of an end point to strive for.

Although Emma as a main character could be unlikable at times, I did enjoy the idea of her being a female heroine and not necessarily looking for love. However, some of the other characters were highly annoying (I’m looking at you, Miss Bates!) and let me tell you, the narrator did a great job as portraying them as such.

You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.

Overall, I feel like this one is going to be quite forgettable for me and feels very…scatterbrained. I’m still excited to read more from Austen and I didn’t dislike this book, just my least favourite so far!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Tea Dragon Trilogy by Kay O’Neill

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From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.
After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own. 

This review will be for the entire Tea Dragon trilogy.

I’ve heard so many amazing things about this graphic novel series and I honestly fell in love with it. We follow Greta, who learns about the art of caring for tea dragons. She meets so many beautiful people along the way and some gorgeous tea dragons too.

I absolutely adored the tea dragons in these books. They all have their own personalities and their stories allow for some really important discussions about grief and loss.

The illustrations in this are absolutely to die for, and the panels are so creatively drawn. I absolutely love the colour palettes, especially in The Tea Dragon Tapestry, which is the latest book and the most autumnal. Although the books all follow a variety of seasons, but the last one definitely feels the most autumnal and the entire series is perfect to read at this time of year!

The diversity throughout these books was incredible and felt so natural. We have a character who uses a wheelchair, a character who uses sign language (and this was so seamlessly woven into the story!), a non-binary character, a range of sexualities and identities!

Overall, I just absolutely loved these books so much and I would highly recommend them to anyone who feels like they may enjoy reading them. It felt like such a big and warm hug and is so easy to fall in love with.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: On a Night Like This by Lindsey Kelk

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Within days of wishing she could change her life, Fran Cooper is acting assistant to a celebrity, on a yacht in the Mediterranean, and en route to a tiny Italian island and the glittering Crystal Ball, along with the world’s rich and famous.
When she – quite literally – bumps into a handsome American called Evan, a man able to keep his cool in the face of chaos, the magic really begins.
Evan makes her a promise: no last names, no life stories, just one unforgettable night. Yet Evan belongs at the Crystal Ball and Fran is a gatecrasher. They may be soulmates, but their homes are an ocean apart, and their lives a world apart. They’ll never meet again – unless, on a night like this, everything can change forever…

Thank you to Harper for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

It has taken me way too long to finally pick up a Lindsey Kelk book, but I jumped on the chance to read and review her upcoming release, On a Night Like This! In this book we follow Fran, who accepts a mysterious job as a personal assistant to megastar singer Juliette. Fran is thrown into a world of stardom and ends up reconsidering everything about her life back home because of it.

This book was so funny. I was immediately thrown into witty writing and laugh-out-loud one liners. I don’t often laugh out lout at books, but this one really did make me chuckle over and over again. The writing was so easy and felt less predictable than I expected. Once I picked this one up, I didn’t want to put it down. I was so absorbed in Fran’s story and just wanted to find out more about her life and how it would change as the book went on.

Fran made such a lovely main character and I clicked with her almost immediately. I sympathised so much with her and her situation, and it was so amazing to see how she learned about herself and grew as a person. Her friendship with Juliette was so entertaining to read about but also had some really heartfelt moments.

Overall, this book had such a beautiful mixture of self love, friendship and romance. It was both cliched in the best way put unpredictable at the same time. I really enjoyed reading it and I’m so glad I’ve finally picked up a Lindsey Kelk book!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (#2) by Hank Green

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The Carls disappeared the same way they appeared, in an instant. While they were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction without ever lifting a finger. Well, that’s not exactly true. Part of their maelstrom was the sudden viral fame and untimely death of April May: a young woman who stumbled into Carl’s path, giving them their name, becoming their advocate, and putting herself in the middle of an avalanche of conspiracy theories.
Months later, the world is as confused as ever. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online about the world post-Carl; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda infiltrates a new scientific operation . . . one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension.
As they each get further down their own paths, a series of clues arrive—mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers; unexplained internet outages; and more—which seem to suggest April may be very much alive. In the midst of the gang’s possible reunion is a growing force, something that wants to capture our consciousness and even control our reality.

I was a little concerned this second book wouldn’t live up to the first one. I read An Absolutely Remarkable Thing earlier this year and I absolutely fell in love with it and read it in one afternoon. However, I went into the first book with little to no expectation, and had much higher expectations. But as soon as I picked up this one I knew I was going to just fall in love with it. The narrative is so, so unique and I don’t think I will ever find a series quite like this one.

I had no idea where this series would go, but I love where we ended up. This is told from quite a few different points of view, but it really worked. I feel like multiple POV is hard to get right when there is more than just two, but this one got it just right. The chapters were quite short and I really didn’t want to put this one down. I constantly wanted to get to the next chapter and find out what was happening in different parts of the story.

You will always struggle with not feeling productive until you accept that your own joy can be something you produce.

I loved reading about these characters, who aren’t entirely likeable as such but I feel like these books really feel like you are inside their heads and relate very closely to them. Because the characters felt so familiar from the first book, I very smoothly dived into this one even though it’s been 6 months since I read the first book.

Without giving too much away about the plot, these books are kind of sci-fi contemporary, which makes it super intriguing and easy to read. This book follows the characters trying to find out more information about what happened to April-May at the end of book one, and also so much more. There are so many levels to these books and I found each of them easy to follow but equally intriguing.

It is not the only thing you will make, nor should it be, but it is something valuable and beautiful.

Overall, this series is just incredible and I couldn’t not rate this one 5 stars. I absolutely loved both books and I’m so glad I carried on with this series!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

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Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave. 

Ahh, this book was so good. I’m a bit late to the party with this one and I’ve already heard so much about it, as soon as I spotted a beautiful hardback I knew I wanted to pick it up. Even though I bought the hardback, I actually read this as an audiobook and I would highly recommend it – it was read by a trans, Latinx narrator and their passion really shone through in the narration. There is also an interview between the narrator and Aiden Thomas at the end of the audiobook, which I would highly recommend giving a listen if you have access!

This book follows Yadriel, who is a trans Latinx boy who wants to prove to his community that he is a real brujo by summoning the ghost of his cousin, Miguel. Instead, he summons the resident bad boy of the school, Julian, who doesn’t want to go quietly into death before finding out what happened to him.

No, it wasn’t the end. 

I loved the narration of this so much and I connected to the characters and the story almost instantly. Yadriel being trans gave such an interesting extra layer and depth to this story and I really loved how this wasn’t a coming-out story necessarily and was about a trans character in a fantasy genre with a completely different focus. Despite that, this book still includes some very important discussions about being trans and deadnaming.

I loved the entire concept of this book and it was such a perfect time of the year to read it! Reading about Latinx culture and particularly finding out more about Latinx folklore was so interesting and evoking. I loved the magic system, the food and the family/friendship/community aspects. The entirety of the world-building was so clever and vivid, really drawing me into the story. I loved it.

It was a better beginning.

My only tiny criticism of this book is that I found the plot a little predictable at times, but I still enjoyed the ride a lot and I’m so glad I picked this one up!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Death Cure (#3) by James Dashner

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The trials are over. WICKED is planning to restore the survivors’ memories and complete the final cure for the Flare.
But Thomas has already remembered more than they think. And he knows WICKED can’t be trusted.
The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine. Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

It’s been almost ten years since this book came out and I finally finished this book and the original trilogy! It’s taken me long enough.

I have to say, this series has been gradually getting worse with each book if I’m honest. I actually liked the first one a lot more than I expected, The Scorch Trials was a little bit of a disappointment, and this one was definitely my least favourite one.

Minho looked at Thomas, a serious expression on his face. “If I don’t see you on the other side,”

I just felt like the author didn’t know where to go with this book. Having read other reviews, there is definitely a lot more that could have been done and a lot of other places this book could have gone. In reality, I could have summed up this book in a couple of sentences. It felt a little all over the place and I never felt much connection to the characters. Considering how emotional this book should have been, I just kind of didn’t….care, or really relate to the characters at all.

However, I must say this was once again super easy to read and the writing was compelling enough for me to get through this in just a couple of days. Each one of these books has only taken me a couple of days to get through each time and I’m so glad I’ve finally finished the first three. I will be reading one of the prequels, The Kill Order because I own it, but I won’t be picking up The Fever Code I don’t think!

he said in a sappy voice, “remember that I love you.

Overall, this one was okay and I wouldn’t say I disliked it as such, but it was definitely the one I’ve been least impressed with while making my way through this series.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review | Of Curses and Kisses (#1) by Sandhya Menon

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Will the princess save the beast?
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.

I’m so glad I finally picked this up after having it on my TBR for a long time. Thank you to the Magical readathon for needing a book set in a school, as it made me finally be drawn to this one on my shelves! I read this one in a couple of days and I enjoyed it so much. It was such a fun ride and so entertaining.

This one really had Romeo and Juliet vibes and I couldn’t help but be drawn into the drama. We follow a Princess who wants to get revenge on a Lord and decides to try and break his heart, which initially I was a little worried about as I thought this would make me dislike the main character. However, I actually found them both more and more likable as the book went on and couldn’t help but falling for them.

Love? Does love make you feel ill, like you’re being tossed about on a stormy sea?

The plot was a little predictable at times but did leave me guessing and wanting to constantly read on. Even though some of the chapters felt quite long, I still only took a couple of days to read this as I felt like I was constantly being left on a cliffhanger. The writing was also so easy to digest and so easy to get through – I’ve only read a short story from Sandhya Menon before and I already knew I would love the writing.

I loved the mixture of fantasy and contemporary, and it’s something I’ve found out recently that I really love in books. The contemporary feeling made it so easy to read, but the fantasy idea gave a lot more depth to the story and made the plot slightly more unpredictable. It also kind of felt like a classic fairytale, which I actually really enjoyed.

Does it steal your sleep and make you feel like your insides are on fire?

Although this one was a little cliche and predictable at times, I still really enjoyed reading it and it felt a little like a guilty pleasure! I think I might pick up the others in the series at some point.

★★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: This Poison Heart (#1) by Kalynn Bayron

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Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.
When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.
When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

I love that this is a retelling of The Secret Garden, and it was done so damn well. I read Cinderella is Dead by the same author earlier this year and I really enjoyed it, and I knew I wanted to pick this one up. Trust me, it didn’t disappoint! This was such a clever and modern twist on the original story, and I loved the way it reflected the original book while bringing something so fresh and interesting.

Briseis was such a great main character and I loved her a lot. She spends this book struggling with her own power, learning about herself and those around her. She also has an amazing support network in her parents, and I loved their sapphic relationship! It was so wholesome and felt so real, and I just fell in love with their family dynamic.

The people we love are never really gone from us,” Mom said. “Try to remember that. I know it’s hard.

The house itself felt like a true reflection of the manor in The Secret Garden and I could picture it so well. It was perfectly creepy but also beautiful, and I loved how it bought out Briseis’ power. I loved how visual Bayron’s writing was, and it made picturing the entire story so easy. I chose this book for my bookoplathon TBR for the prompt gods/myths/legends, as it was steeped in Greek mythology, but in a way I found so much more accessible than some other books I’ve read recently

The plot was so compelling and I honestly found it hard to put this book down. It was so easy to read and the plot was changing all the time. Especially towards the end, we had so many unpredictable plot twists that made it so hard to stop reading!

 It feels like the whole world should just stop spinnin’, but it doesn’t. And we’ve gotta find a way to pick up the pieces.

Overall, I really loved this book and I feel like it’s one I will remember for a while to come. If you’re a fan of The Secret Garden but want something with a twist, this is perfect!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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ARC Review: Once Upon a Broken Heart (#1) by Stephanie Garber

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Evangeline Fox was raised in her beloved father’s curiosity shop, where she grew up on legends about immortals, like the tragic Prince of Hearts. She knows his powers are mythic, his kiss is worth dying for, and that bargains with him rarely end well.
But when Evangeline learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, she becomes desperate enough to offer the Prince of Hearts whatever he wants in exchange for his help to stop the wedding. The prince only asks for three kisses. But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’s pledged. And he has plans for Evangeline that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy…

Thank you so much to Hodder for sending me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Caraval remains to be one of my favourite books, but sadly Legendary and Finale didn’t quite meet my the same 5 star rating. Which meant I was all the more curious when it came to Once Upon a Broken Heart. Would it have the same magic as Caraval did the first time I read it, or would it feel lacking like the rest of the series?

I have to say, this one didn’t let me down. Following a new point of view of Evangeline worked really well, and this one felt so different to the world of Caraval. Even though the world did feel familiar, it only made the whole reading experience reminiscent of being wrapped in a warm blanket. Stephanie Garber has used the story of the fates from Finale and expanded on a completely different side of it, which felt so clever and I really enjoyed reading it.

I really liked Evangeline as a main character and it was interesting to see a different relationship between two sisters, much like Scarlett and Donatella in the Caraval trilogy. We definitely glimpse some of the magic I felt with the original books, and it shone through in the location and my personal favourite parts – the animals and food. I always feel like food makes me feel so grounded in a story, and this one was no different.

I felt so enveloped in this story and struggled to put it down. Stephanie Garber has a knack of keeping the reader completely on their toes, and I read this over 2 days because it was so easy to read and absorbing! I’m so excited to be part of this new story and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Just a note to say although this story is a brand new series, I would recommend reading Caraval first. You certainly don’t have to and there is only minor spoilers for the original trilogy, but I would still say you’ll get more enjoyment out of the book by reading it after the Caraval trilogy.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Jay’s Gay Agenda (#1) by Jason June

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There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all this friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.
Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs, where he can flirt with Very Sexy Boys and search for love. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones…because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.

Do you ever just want to….throw a book against a wall? Because that is exactly how I felt with this one, over and over again. It’s not often I rate a book lower than 3 stars. I either know what to avoid, or I can find some good in it. Sometimes I slip up though, and want to try a book that could go either way. And there is just not enough good in this book for me to actually say I liked it.

Jay is one of the most self-centered and annoying characters I have ever come across in fiction. He repeatedly lies (or at best, emits the truth) to everyone around him without realising it is only going to end badly. He cheats (honestly one of the worst tropes I personally could ever read about), but with the softest, most vulnerable and kind hearted boy ever, which just made it so much worse.

My whole body wanted him, my entire soul too, and it hit me that an item on the Gay Agenda always should have been to find Albert.

I understand that the aim of this book was to write a coming-of-age novel about a gay teen who has never been around other queer people. I get that it was trying to be sex-positive and open about finding yourself and making a lot of mistakes in the process, but it really backfired in my opinion. There was a lot of diversity, including a gender queer side character, but I also found an issue early on in the book that made me uncomfortable from then on.

The gender queer side character, Max, has a conversation with Jay about pronouns. Max says, I quote, ‘I’m an open book, so none of the pronouns really feel one hundred percent right. But you can address your Gay Guide as he/him or she/her. My body is male, my energy is feminine, and I’m down for paying tribute to both.’. So we’ve addressed that Max uses multiple pronouns, but for the rest of the book, Max is only referred to as he/him. By the narrator (Jay), and by other characters. What was the point of having a character using multiple pronouns and having a conversation about it if they’re never going to be used?

After noticing this, I looked into the author, who also uses he/him and she/her pronouns. So this feels like something that should have been celebrated rather than ignored, and makes me worry if it was changed further down the line in editing or proofreading. If anyone else has read this I would really appreciate a comment letting me know if you think this is an issue too/picked up on it! I have had a lot of conversations with others about this while reading, and I would love to hear any other viewpoint.

To find the guy who could set my spirit and sexuality on fire all at the same time.

This book wasn’t all bad, and did have some interesting conversations about stereotypes and sexuality. I also loved some of the side characters, and these two redeeming qualities are the only reason why my rating is two stars rather than one.

★★
2 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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