Review: You and Me at the End of the World by Brianna Bourne

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Goodreads | Waterstones

This is no ordinary apocalypse…
Hannah Ashton wakes up to silence. The entire city around her is empty, except for one other person: Leo Sterling. Leo might be hottest boy ever (and not just because he’s the only one left), but he’s also too charming, too selfish, and too devastating for his own good, let alone Hannah’s.
Stuck with only each other, they explore a world with no parents, no friends, and no school and realize that they can be themselves instead of playing the parts everyone expects of them. Hannah doesn’t have to be just an overachieving, music-box-perfect ballerina, and Leo can be more than a slacker, 80s-glam-metal-obsessed guitarist. Leo is a burst of honesty and fun that draws Hannah out, and Hannah’s got Leo thinking about someone other than himself for the first time.
Together, they search for answers amid crushing isolation, but while their empty world may appear harmless . . . it’s not. Because nothing is quite as it seems, and if Hannah and Leo don’t figure out what’s going on, they might just be torn apart forever.

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

I was a little hesitant going into this one as it sounded a little cliche, and I wasn’t wrong. This book felt very teen to me, and was definitely something I would have enjoyed more if I was younger, so I would definitely recommend this one for a pre-teen/young teen audience.

This book is told in alternate points of view and flicks between our two main characters, Hannah and Leo. Both of the characters have awoken in a world where they are the only two people left, and they have no idea why. 5 days later, at the start of this book, they stumble across one another and find they’re not alone in the world.

Sometimes it’s easier to be strong

One of my major concerns going into this story was that Hannah and Leo would be overly characterised, and they definitely were. Hannah was very much a ‘Ballet Chick’ (and was literally referred to as this by Leo on multiple occasions) and whenever Leo was shocked by something Hannah said or did, I almost rolled my eyes. Leo was the classic ‘Bad Boy’ with softer undertones that Hannah wasn’t expecting. As I said, this was something I would have probably looked over as a younger reader but did slightly annoy me as an adult.

The most intriguing part of this book was definitely the whole apocalypse. I was so intrigued to find out why Hannah and Leo had been left as the last people on earth, and this book kept pulling me in by teasing what could be happening. Without spoiling any of the book, I was a little concerned about where this could have been going but I actually quite liked the ending and felt like it was done quite well.

if someone else is showing cracks.

Overall, this was definitely mixed but I did enjoy reading it and I liked it, I just didn’t fall head over heels for it. If it sounds like something you’d like, I would definitely recommend it, just be aware that it does read a little younger in my opinion!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost …
In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.

This book has been recommended to me more than once by friends, because I’m a bookseller myself at a large UK based chain of bookshops, Waterstones. I decided to finally pick this one up on audio and I’m really glad I did – I’m not a big lover or reader of non-fiction so reading this memoir as an audiobook definitely helped it become more accessible for me. Even though Bythell doesn’t read this himself, the narrator suits the book really well in my opinion.

Shaun writes this in a day-to-day diary with some really insightful information about the online orders the shop sends out per day and the daily takings, which I found super fascinating as somebody who not only works for a chain but would love to own my own bookshop one day!

I am putting a mental jigsaw together of what a hobbit looks like,

Any booksellers out there will find this relatable, I can almost guarantee. Although some of the customers and situations Shaun finds himself in might seem funny or even far fetched to some, once you’ve worked in a bookshop for a while you quickly find yourself having these conversations. I honestly want to thrust this at people around me and say ‘this! This is what my job is like! This is what happens in a bookshop!’.

My only slight complaint is that this book can be a little repetitive, but it is the nature of the book and the way it’s been written as a day-to-day diary. The discussions about Amazon, online bookselling and chain bookshops such as the one I work for were all super interesting. There’s even a bit of history and reflection on the industry as at the point of Bythell writing this book, he has owned The Bookshop for around 15 years.

based on a composite of every customer I have ever sold a copy to.

Honestly, if you’re a bookseller this is a must read, and if you know someone who works in a bookshop or are a general book buyer yourself, I’d highly recommend it!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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ARC Review: Messy Roots by Laura Gao

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Goodreads | Pre-Order from Waterstones

After spending her early years in Wuhan, China, riding water buffalos and devouring stinky tofu, Laura immigrates to Texas, where her hometown is as foreign as Mars–at least until 2020, when COVID-19 makes Wuhan a household name.
In Messy Roots, Laura illustrates her coming-of-age as the girl who simply wants to make the basketball team, escape Chinese school, and figure out why girls make her heart flutter.
Insightful, original, and hilarious, toggling seamlessly between past and present, China and America, Gao’s debut is a tour de force of graphic storytelling.

Thank you to Harper 360 for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This graphic novel was so good. Even though I can’t relate to Gao’s own experience, I enjoyed educating myself with her story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

The idea of this being a graphic novel was one I was hesitant to read as this isn’t the lightest topic, and I wasn’t sure if the format would provide enough space for the story. But I must say, it worked so well. This wasn’t as heavy as I expected which worked well, but still tackled some difficult topics and discussions about the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of the things I loved about this book was the authors depictions of Wuhan. I feel like the past 2 years have given us such a skewed and narrow view of Wuhan and China with the portrayal in the media earlier in the pandemic, and it was just so refreshing and lovely to read about someone’s love for the city and country.

The artwork was also so beautiful and I can’t wait to see a full colour version of the whole book. My proof copy had a small section at the front in full colour which was just stunning, but the black and white drawings were beautiful too. The art style works so well for the story and the writing complemented it beautifully.

Overall, this was such a gorgeous book and the balance of difficult topics and beautiful memoir was done so well. I’m so happy I had the chance to read it early, and I absolutely loved it!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (#1) by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers – magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…

Apparently I’m on a morally grey character kick at the moment, but I’m so glad I finally picked up this book. I actually tried to read this one a couple of years ago, but I got around 60 pages in and realised it wasn’t quite the right time for me to pick it up. I’m so glad I waited, as I definitely enjoyed it more now I’m reading more fantasy as I understood it a lot easier!

There’s definitely something so unique about Schwab’s stories and I loved the concept of having multiple London’s that each had their own features. I read this one with Alex and I read the sections so quickly each day. I read a mixture of physical reading and listening to the audiobook, which was a mixed experience. The audiobook was good, but the narrator didn’t quite fit for Lila’s parts and I did prefer reading it physically.

I’d rather die on an adventure

The plot was super quick to get through and full of action and adventure which I loved. I can already tell this series is going to be a quick and entertaining one to read as we go on! I really like the characters as even though they’re very morally grey, I like the portrayal of their vulnerabilities and they seemed very real to me.

I like how the romance didn’t take centre stage in the story and didn’t feel very lovey-dovey, but I did miss a sense of tension that might have come with the closeness of the characters. I feel like one of the only things missing out of this book was the stakes sometimes feeling lower because of it.

than live standing still.

I’m super excited to see where this series is going to go and I’m so happy to be reading something else by V.E. Schwab!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .
The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

This book is one I’ve wanted to read for a while and I’ve had recommended to me multiple times because of my love for Gothic stories such as Jane Eyre. I must say it was a good recommendation and I ended up really enjoying it! I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book, other than a Gothic romance with darker undertones.

This book starts off slowly, and honestly didn’t pick up for me until around 300 pages in, which was definitely the most disappointing thing for me. I was still enjoying the book, but it felt quite sudden and inconsistent when it really got going. The first part of this book focused largely on the relationship between the main character and her new husband and they move back to Manderley, her new husbands property.

I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve,

One of the biggest surprises I found with this book was the discussions of mental health, especially anxiety. Mrs de Winter suffered from anxiety, even though it wasn’t necessarily named as such. I related to a lot of the way she talked about her feelings, which was something I didn’t expect to get from this book at all. The characters were also very morally grey, which I found super interesting to read about because there was a part of me that couldn’t help but love the characters in a way.

Once the plot picked up, I honestly couldn’t put this book down. Even though I wanted to read it before this point, I found it so much more compelling after the plot changed around the 300ish page mark. Without going into the plot too much as I don’t want to spoil the book, the plot becomes quicker and more compelling, and I kept reaching cliffhangers and not wanting to put the book down.

and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.

Overall, my only complaint at the end of this one was the slight inconsistency in the plot, but I did really love the book. The Gothic atmosphere was impeccable and I was definitely a little creeped out in places, which I loved! I only wish I’d managed to read it in autumn.


★★★

4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Lore Olympus: Volume One by Rachel Smythe

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Scandalous gossip, wild parties, and forbidden love—witness what the gods do after dark in this stylish and contemporary reimagining of one of mythology’s most well-known stories from creator Rachel Smythe. Featuring a brand-new, exclusive short story, Smythe’s original Eisner-nominated web-comic Lore Olympus brings the Greek Pantheon into the modern age with this sharply perceptive and romantic graphic novel.

What a beautiful book. I’m so glad I decided to pick up the stunning Illumicrate edition of this book and I decided to squeeze it in as my last read of 2021. As a graphic novel, it’s super quick to read but is definitely not without substance and style.

The colouring and artwork in this graphic novel are absolutely gorgeous and I’ve not seen the kind of colour combinations used throughout this comic. Each character has an allocated colour, which looks beautiful and made it easy to follow as someone who doesn’t know much background information about the Greek Gods.

Lore Olympus: Volume 01: Amazon.co.uk: Smythe, Rachel: 9780593160299: Books

I love the idea of this being the Greek Gods ‘after dark’ and it does tackle some difficult issues, with a content warning at the start of the book. I’m hoping to re-read this one later in 2022 when volume 2 comes out and focus more on the beautiful panels and artwork.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Kill Order (#0.4) by James Dashner

The Kill Order - Maze Runner Series 4 (Paperback)

Goodreads | Waterstones

Sun flares have unleashed devastation on the earth. Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and against the odds they survived.
But now a violent and high contagious disease is spreading like wildfire. Worse still, it’s mutating, and people are going crazy. Mark and Trina will do anything to save their friends – if only they can avoid madness and stay alive…

I’ve seen a lot of people discussing the point of this book, and I must agree with the many reviews that are saying this book doesn’t really add anything to the series at all. We see the original characters from The Maze Runner for a couple of pages at the start of the book, and then follows a group of (maybe) teenagers during a disease spreading throughout their already desolate world.

But as with all of these books, I did still enjoy it and I was pleasantly surprised in some ways. All of these books are just kind of easy in a way, and I always find them very quick to get through.

Scared. That’s good. A fine soldier is always scared.

There’s a lot about this entire series I find very mediocre, and this one was sadly no different. The plot was okay, it was easy to follow and I read it quickly. The characters were likeable enough but I didn’t feel completely connected to them or emotional over their story. The writing is easy to read and does make these books more enjoyable than I initially expected, but is equally nothing special. The location is predictable considering the story.

The main part of the book I enjoyed was the action and the short chapters, which meant I read this mostly in one sitting and managed to read it within 24 hours or so. I did find that some of the plot points felt quite random and somewhat reminiscent of some of the plot points in the other books, which felt a little lazy.

Makes you normal. It’s how you respond to it that makes or breaks you.

Overall, this was fun and I’m glad I’ve finally read this series, but I won’t be picking up The Fever Code any time soon.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Goodreads | Waterstones

The narrator is a downed pilot in the Sahara Desert, frantically trying to repair his wrecked plane. His efforts are interrupted one day by the apparition of a little prince, who asks him to draw a sheep. “In the face of an overpowering mystery, you don’t dare disobey,” the narrator recalls. “Absurd as it seemed, a thousand miles from all inhabited regions and in danger of death, I took a scrap of paper and a pen out of my pocket.” And so begins their dialogue, which stretches the narrator’s imagination in all sorts of surprising, childlike directions.

I’m…not quite sure what to make of this book. I have to say though, it actually completes my reading of the Wordsworth edition set, which I managed to read all of in 2021! I just squeezed this short one in before the end of the year to complete reading the set. I’ve been intrigued by this book for a while and I’ve been really looking forward to reading it, but there was something that just passed over my head with it in the end.

All grown-ups were once children… 

There is definitely something about this book that feels like it will only capture the whimsical, nonsensical attention of children, and it did remind me of books I read and loved as a child such as The Wishing Chair stories and The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. However, there is a level of pretentiousness that comes along with the assumption that if you don’t like this book, it’s just because you’re too much of a ‘grown-up’. I don’t like the idea of this being put on the reader, and I felt a sense of guilt for not enjoying this book as much as I wanted to.

I do really like the start of this book and the drawings are super cute and add something genuine and real to the story. It was more the later parts of the book that felt a little pointless and more flowery, lacking anything grounded.

but only few of them remember it.

All I can say is I wish I’d read this as a child, as I feel like I would have understood it on the level I wanted to, but I would like to re-read this in the future to see if my opinion changes!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Frostheart (#1) by Jamie Littler

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Way out in the furthest part of the known world, a tiny stronghold exists all on its own, cut off from the rest of human-kin by monsters that lurk beneath the Snow Sea.
There, a little boy called Ash waits for the return of his parents, singing a forbidden lullaby to remind him of them… and doing his best to avoid his very, VERY grumpy yeti guardian, Tobu.
But life is about to get a whole lot more crazy-adventurous for Ash.
When a brave rescue attempt reveals he has amazing magical powers, he’s whisked aboard the Frostheart, a sleigh packed full of daring explorers who could use his help. But can they help him find his family . . . ?

I’ve heard such good things about this middle grade and I was recently offered a copy by a friend, so I decided to pick it up. I really wanted to read this in winter and ended up reading it in the last week of December, which was perfect! This is not a Christmassy book at all, but it’s more of a polar fantasy focusing on a boy called Ash who discovers he has magical powers and his yeti guardian, Tobu.

There’s a lot to love about this book and I can definitely see why so many people love it, but sadly it did miss the mark a little bit with me. The main downside for me was I just couldn’t help but feel a little disconnected from the story and I don’t really know why. I did read this fairly quickly, but as this one is a middle grade I expected to speed through it. I just found myself struggling to focus on what the characters were up to or really take any of the story in.

However, I did really like the found family group and the focus on the importance of friendship. This book is also illustrated throughout and has some beautiful drawings to accompany the writing that just adds another dimension to the reading experience! This one also feels so unique and stands completely alone from other middle grade books I’ve read.

I can see why this one has a lot of fans, but sadly there was just something here that didn’t keep me gripped and therefore it ended up falling a bit flat for me!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Nottingham, 1906
Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered. At the wishes of her family, she will be obligated to marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But when a mysterious new toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in her life. Although Drosselmeier’s magic is darker than Marietta could have imagined…
When he constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself walking through a land of snow-topped fir trees leading to a frozen sugar palace silent with secrets and must find a way to return home.
In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

Thank you to the publisher, HarperCollins, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been anticipating this book for a long time, as this publisher sent out hardcover proof copies to some booktubers and book bloggers late 2020, and I’ve been wanting to read this ever since! I pre-ordered one of the beautiful independent bookshop editions and I was also lucky enough to be sent a paperback proof copy not long afterwards.

This is a nutcracker retelling, and although I haven’t read the original story and I’m not very familiar with it at all, I was really fascinated by this idea of a retelling. This one has some resemblance to The Night Circus and Caraval, which are some of my favourite books of all time.

Chasing after your dreams is a peculiar kind of suffering; it is not for the weak-hearted or cowardly-minded.

I love that this was set in Nottingham, a place I’m familiar with but is not often used as a location! I think the author may be from Nottingham herself, and I loved seeing it portrayed as an Edwardian city. Although I’m not a dancer myself, nor have I ever been, I did like reading about Marietta and her passion for ballet.

I don’t want to say too much about this one because I don’t want to spoil it for others – but there’s elements of Narnia, female friendship, romance (but one that doesn’t overshadow the story!) and family. The world in this book is absolutely gorgeous and I’m so glad I read it around Christmas as it is set over Christmas Eve! I have to say though, not all of the focus is on Christmas and a lot of it is more wintery which I loved.

It requires deep strength and endless determination.

Overall, this is absolutely beautiful and gorgeously written book that I’m so glad I read around Christmas! I sped through this one over a couple of days and I really enjoyed the story and the characters. I just didn’t feel quite as much connection to them as I perhaps could have, which is why I’ve decided to deduct half a star.

★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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