Hogwarts-A-Thon Readathon TBR

Readers! It’s that time of year again when we’re all wondering how our letters to Hogwarts got lost in the post…again.

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To beat the I’m-not-going-to-Hogwarts blues, I’ve decided to join the Hogwarts-A-Thon Readathon, hosted by Lau Reads and Niffler Reads. After I enjoyed and was so successful with the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon in August, I thought I’d love to join another one, so when Faye invited me I couldn’t resist!

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Platform 9 3/4 – a sequel

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I always find I never get around to sequels because I leave it too long between each book. So I thought this would be the perfect chance to read Smoke in the Sun while Flame in the Mist is still quite fresh in my mind!

Welcome to Hogwarts – a book over 394 pages

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I knew I could only complete this readathon if my ARCs fit into it, and thankfully they do! I’m currently reading American Royals.

Sorting Hat – a book with your house colour on the cover

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I didn’t actually have a yellow book (I have a different ARC of Frankly in Love), so when I saw this on eBay I knew I had to pick it up. It’s not something I’d usually read now, but I loved Call it What You Want and I’m meeting Brigid Kemmerer next month!

Ghosts of Hogwarts – a contemporary

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Another book on my ARC shelf which I’m so excited for! I’m hoping to read this after American Royals.

Mr Ollivander – a book over 2 years old

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It took a while to find a book over 2 years old I want to pick up, but I eventually settled on this one.

Diagon Alley – a book with a lot of hype

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This is my last ARC on my TBR, but one I’ve seen a lot about and I’ve become more and more excited for with the hype.

Flourish & Blotts – a random book from your TBR

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I’m so looking forward to reading this one so I thought it’d be perfect to pick for the end of the month to get me into a Halloween mood!

BONUS: Forbidden Forest – a book with dark themes

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‘Dark themes’ is a pretty broad topic, but I think this one will fit? I also want to make sure I read it before meeting Brigid in October!

Are you joining this readathon?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow (#2) by Natasha Ngan

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Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan—it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei’s head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.
Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?

I was so grateful to manage to get an ARC of this book at YALC earlier this year (and get it signed by the beautiful Natasha!). I adored Girls of Paper and Fire and I was super excited for this one!

Girls of Storm and Shadow didn’t disappoint and it was great to be back in this world. Not only did we get to see more of it, but we also see beautiful descriptions of the world outside of the palace. It was so nice to feel more involved in the lush scenery and landscape of the surrounding world and palaces.

Lei has been one of my favourite female m/c’s in recent YA, and I adored her relationship with Wren. Seeing the relationship continue and develop under difficult circumstances felt so real and I loved reading about it. So many YA books don’t talk about relationships after the honeymoon period and seeing them dealing with what they went through in Girls of Paper and Fire was so needed. This book was focused around healing, and some of the more emotional scenes resonated with me deeply.

I really enjoyed the magic in Girls of Storm and Shadow, which I felt was discussed more than in the first book. It made the action scenes so intense and I flew through this in just a few days because of the well written, vivid action.

Even though I did love this book, I did unfortunately have more problems than with the first book, which was gutting as I adored it so much. I don’t know if it’s because I had a break between reading Girls of Paper and Fire and this one, but I found the side characters hard to follow, relate to or even sympathise with. I just wish there had been more character development to make the emotional scenes hit home a little more.

Another reason is I found the Moon Caste (fully demons) and Steel Caste (partly demon) characters very hard to picture. At one point, which stuck with me, Lei mentions how a Moon Caste is three times her height. Like, how does that actually work? I logistically can’t picture a world in which people are three times the heights of others. It’s not a big deal, but it bugged me a little.

Overall, this book was a great sequel and I loved being back in the world of Girls of Paper and Fire, one of my favourite books of the year so far! I wish this had lived up to the first, but it was still very enjoyable.

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon Wrap Up 2019

Hi all! I’m happy to say my first ever readathon was a great success! I joined in with the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon this August and thought I’d give a quick rundown of how it went. So, what are the N.E.W.T.s?

What is the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon? And how does it work?

The Magical Readathon is run by Book Roast on YouTube and is split into two parts: the O.W.L.s are in April and the N.E.W.T.s run throughout August. You aim for a profession using the wonderful career guide created by G (link below). Each profession includes the O.W.L and N.E.W.T levels you need to aim for to pass, including the level you need, that being A for Acceptable, E for Exceeded Expectations and O for Outstanding. Depending on your chosen profession, you’ll be aiming for more or less books than other professions!

If you complete your O.W.L.s in April, you can use these to dive into the N.E.W.T.s, but I joined without completing any O.W.L.s at all and still had a great time. Once you know which exams you have to take, you can use the prompts letter to find out how to organise your TBR (link below). Each exam has different prompts, and you then pick a book to fit the prompt. Once you’ve completed them to the grade you need for your profession, you complete the exams!

Useful Documents and Links

These are taken from the description in the 2019 Magical Readathon N.E.W.T.s video!

My Chosen Career

I chose to aim for the Magizoologist career this year! To pass my N.E.W.T.s I needed an Outstanding in Care of Magical Creatures, an Exceeded Expectations in Charms and an Exceeded Expectations in Herbology. That means I needed to read 7 books to achieve my career. However, I also included the Outstanding prompts in my TBR in case I surpassed these. If you want to have a quick look back on my TBR post, you can find it here.

My Wrap-Up

Care of Magical Creatures

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The prompt for this one was to read a book that starts with the letter A. I’d recently picked up Attachments at YALC and thought it was perfect! I really enjoyed this book and rated it 5 stars.

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For the Exceeding Expectations grade, the prompt was to read a book under 300 pages. This one is only around 150, and I flew through it and gave it 4 stars.

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This was the only exam I needed an Oustanding in, and the prompt was read a book with a bird on the cover. What better than a phoenix? I gave this book 4 stars too.

Charms

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The prompt for Acceptable in Charms was read a book with a gorgeous cover. I decided to pick up this one and loved it! I gave it 4.5 stars.

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When I saw the prompt for Exceeding Expectations was to read a comic or graphic novel, I knew immediately it was the perfect excuse to pick up Heartstopper 2! Of course I had to give it 5 stars.

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I didn’t need to reach Outstanding for my career in Charms, but I finished early enough to read Girls of Storm and Shadow! I gave it 4 stars and loved being back in this world.

Herbology

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The prompt for Acceptable in Herbology was to read an audiobook or a book with a green cover. As I’m not one for audiobooks, I picked the greenest book I had and ended up really enjoying it. I gave this 4 stars!

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To achieve an Exceeding Expectations, I needed to read a book between 350-390 pages. They’re harder to find than you’d expect, but I read Scars Like Wings and loved it. It was another 4 star read for me, and I’d definitely recommend looking out for it on October 1st!

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I didn’t need to achieve an Outstanding in Herbology, but I ended up having enough time to read this one for a book with flowers on the cover. It was only a 2 star read unfortunately, but it allowed me to get Oustanding’s on all of my exams!

My Experience

I loved joining a readathon. I found it really pushed me to read as I wanted so badly to complete my TBR before the deadline of August 31st. I was part of a group chat which was fun too! I’ve already joined the Hogwarts readathon for September, and I’ll be talking about that on Friday 🙂

Did you join the magical readathon this year? Did you achieve your career?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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August Wrap-Up and September TBR

Hello everyone! I’m here with my August Wrap-Up, which I’m very happy to announce was a successful month despite some personal ups and downs. I managed to read 9 books after only reading 5 in July! Here are the 9 books I read.

Books I read in August

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My favourite book of the month was actually This Time Will be Different and my least favourite was The Marrow Thieves.

Books I bought in August

I actually didn’t buy any books in August, as I’m on a book-buying ban after YALC! However, I posted about the books I bought at YALC here and here, and I also posted about when I bought To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before a while ago.

Books I want to read in September

Smoke in the Sun – Renee Ahdieh
American Royals – Katherine McGee
Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer
Frankly in Love – David Yoon
Tonight the Streets Are Ours – Leila Sales
The Deathless Girls – Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Pumpkinheads – Rainbow Rowell
A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer

I’m joining the Hogwarts Readathon this month as the NEWTs worked out well for me (posts coming soon about these!), and these are the books I’m hoping to read. I don’t know if I’ll complete them all, but A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a bonus book so you never know.

What did you read in August and what do you want to read in September?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

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Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see …
16-year-old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t?
When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass—or the people by her side.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for an ARC copy of this I won in a raffle at YALC 2019! This book is scheduled for release on October 1st, 2019.

I stormed through this book in around a day. I can be a fairly quick reader when I want to be, but under 2 days is always quick for me, and I literally didn’t put this one down. I always love books that can hold my attention as I struggle to read for 100s of pages at a time usually, but I read this in only a couple of sittings.

Reading from the perspective of a burns survivor was so interesting and heart wrenching at times. Ava’s story (and the stories of those around her) absolutely broke my heart and made me feel so sympathetic towards her. She was not without her faults, but I think her low times only showed how much she’d come through and how much of a warrior she was.

The writing and plot were definitely the strongest points for me. This is a story of Ava and her family/friends returning from one of the hardest things they will ever have to go through. It’s a story of growth and acceptance for all involved and I appreciated seeing it from a year after the fire, rather than directly afterwards. I felt there had been enough time since the fire to focus on moving forward and developing a new life, but of course still facing difficult and emotional issues.

I’d like to take a moment to mention how much I adored Ava’s family. Her adoptive parents, her aunt and uncle, faced so many hardships of her own having lost their own daughter to the same fire that left Ava scarred. The book didn’t shy away from their own struggles of facing a life without their daughter, but adopting their niece. I think if this hadn’t have been discussed, it would have left a massive hole in the narrative.

So, why not 5 stars? I don’t want to say this book lacked depth, because that would be a lie, but half of me wishes it had made me cry. It was such a quick and easy read for such an emotive subject, and although it moved me, I didn’t feel as gut-wrenchingly sad as I could have. It just felt like it needed an extra push, and I think that was partly down to character development.

That being said, this book was a very important read and one I’m glad to be seeing in 2019 YA. Watch this space!

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Top 5 Cover Buys

This Top 5 Wednesday series is inspired by the weekly meme on Goodreads which you can find here. I no longer follow the topics and instead use my own.

Maybe the longer title of this post should be top 5 cover buys and whether I liked them or not, or something similar. I think we’d be lying if we didn’t buy books sometimes (or pick them up) because of their cover designs! They’re the first things we see and are obviously going to draw us in.

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Twelve-year-old Jeanne Ann has doubts when her mom spends their savings on an old orange van and bundles them off to San Francisco to chase Mom’s dream of working as a chef. There, they camp on the street while her mother looks for a job she never gets. Before long, Jeanne Ann realizes that this van is the closest thing she has to a home.
Across the road, twelve-year-old Cal watches the homeless community parked just beyond his big house. Cal’s mom is busy with the upscale restaurant she owns, but they’ve always been close–until Cal does something his mom just doesn’t understand.
Then Cal and Jeanne Ann meet. Cal is too tall and too weird and too rich and wears all his emotions on the outside of his skin, and he just wants to help. Jeanne Ann is smart, she is funny, she is stubborn–hers is a royal-looking chin, in
Cal’s opinion–and she does not want his help. But a quirky, meaningful friendship develops between them, and as it does, the pair is buoyed by a remarkable cast of nuanced, oddball characters, who let them down and lift them up. When Jeanne Annn’s situation worsens, though, and Cal’s desire to help gets the better of him, will their friendship survive? And without it, can either of them find their way through this mess? 

I bought this book entirely on the cover. Bad, I know, but I’m guilty! It was on a buy-a-book-get-an-ARC table at YALC and I couldn’t resist but be drawn into this pretty design. However, I ended up enjoying it quite a lot and you can find my review here!

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Misa Sugiura is back with another smartly drawn coming-of-age novel that weaves riveting family drama, surprising humor, and delightful romance into a story that will draw you in from the very first page.
Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.
She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.
Then her mom decides to sell the shop — to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.

Although I did also spot this at YALC because of the cover, I can ensure you I did read the synopsis too! Luckily I can say this lived up to it’s pretty cover. Review here!

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Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.
Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

Although I didn’t pick this up because of the cover, I keep buying them purely for the aesthetic, as I’m up to date with the Webcomic so have read all of them already! I just can’t resist having the beautiful spines and covers on my shelves.

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Raised in isolation and home-schooled by her strict grandparents, the only experience Birdie has had of the outside world is through her favourite crime books.
But everything changes when she takes a summer job working the night shift at a historic Seattle hotel. There she meets Daniel Aoki, the hotel’s charismatic driver, and together they stumble upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—is secretly meeting someone at the hotel.
To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell, and in doing so, realize that the most confounding mystery of all may just be her growing feelings for Daniel. 

I haven’t actually read Serious Moonlight yet, but my first Jenn Bennett book was a cover-buy when I read a lot more contemporary romance, and I’ve picked up her others for the aesthetic factor alongside the guilty pleasure.

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Pixie’s defenses are up, and it’s no wonder. She’s been uprooted, the chickens seem to have it in for her, and now her beloved sister, Charlotte, has been stricken with polio and whisked away into quarantine. So it’s not surprising Pixie lashes out. But her habit of making snap judgements–and giving her classmates nicknames like “Rotten Ricky” and “Big-Mouth Berta”–hasn’t won her any friends. At least life on the farm is getting better with the delivery of its newest resident–a runt baby lamb. Raising Buster takes patience and understanding–and this slowing down helps Pixie put things in better perspective. So too does paying attention to her neighbors, and finding that with the war on she’s not the only one missing someone. As Pixie pushes past her own pain to become a bigger person, she’s finally able to make friends; and to laugh about the fact that it is in places where she least expected it.

This was another cover-buy from the ARC table at YALC, and I’m so excited to find out whether I enjoy it. It sounds so unique and intriguing!

Which books have you picked up because of their covers? And did you enjoy them?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: Parked by Danielle Svetcov

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Twelve-year-old Jeanne Ann has doubts when her mom spends their savings on an old orange van and bundles them off to San Francisco to chase Mom’s dream of working as a chef. There, they camp on the street while her mother looks for a job she never gets. Before long, Jeanne Ann realizes that this van is the closest thing she has to a home.
Across the road, twelve-year-old Cal watches the homeless community parked just beyond his big house. Cal’s mom is busy with the upscale restaurant she owns, but they’ve always been close–until Cal does something his mom just doesn’t understand.
Then Cal and Jeanne Ann meet. Cal is too tall and too weird and too rich and wears all his emotions on the outside of his skin, and he just wants to help. Jeanne Ann is smart, she is funny, she is stubborn–hers is a royal-looking chin, in
Cal’s opinion–and she does not want his help. But a quirky, meaningful friendship develops between them, and as it does, the pair is buoyed by a remarkable cast of nuanced, oddball characters, who let them down and lift them up. When Jeanne Ann’s situation worsens, though, and Cal’s desire to help gets the better of him, will their friendship survive? And without it, can either of them find their way through this mess? 

I picked a very advance copy of this up at YALC, and I’m so glad I did! I spotted the gorgeous cover and quickly became intrigued by the synopsis, so I decided to check it out. What a charming and heartwarming read this turned out to be!

I have to say, I think this is the first YA/MG book I’ve read that fully centres around homelessness. It’s something I witness a lot in the city I live in, so unfortunately I have to admit is something I’ve become so accustomed to as it’s just part of everyday life. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget there are children like Jeanne Ann out there, and that’s why I found this book so intriguing.

This book was a love letter to San Francisco. It was a love letter to food (who doesn’t love reading about food?). And it was a love letter to books. I found Jeanne Ann such an interesting but lovable character who I related to easily due to her love of reading and the library. Over my life, I have spent many hours volunteering and stacking shelves in libraries, and I found myself sympathising with Jeanne Ann because of that.

Cal was such a sweet character. Having the alternate chapters of him being in a big house and trying to help Jeanne Ann without fully understanding her situation gave such a nice contrast between the chapters! They complimented each other really well as main characters.

The side characters were so great too. I loved the cast of people who lived in vans alongside Jeanne Ann, and then Cal’s family was so lovely too. They all had their own quirks which made them all interesting and unique!

Unfortunately this book wasn’t without it’s faults, however small, and I’m going to mention them here. Although I loved all of the characters, I sometimes couldn’t tell who was who. There was a kid in the book who I only realised was the same character as somebody else towards the end, because he kept being called by two separate names. That really confused me! Without going into too much detail, I also found the pacing slow in parts (maybe from pages 150-250ish), and took quite a dip in the middle.

However, I found myself speeding through most of this book due to the short chapters! My favourite part had to be the very end which made up for the pacing problems, as the scenes towards the end just warmed my heart. One of the most touching things for me was the constant love of food and love letter to food. It was so fun and entertaining to read about and made this stand out even more.

If you’re looking for a quirky, fun but also touching and heart wrenching Middle Grade read, check this out, due for release February 4th 2020!

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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