Review: The Balloon Thief (#1) by Aneesa Marufu

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For Khadija, the only escape from her father’s arranged betrothal is the sky. When she spots a rogue hot air balloon fighting against its ropes, she leaps at the chance for adventure.
Khadija soon finds an unlikely ally in a poor glassmaker’s apprentice, Jacob. But Jacob is a hāri, and Khadija a Ghadaean.
The hāri are oppressed and restless―their infamous terrorist group, the Hāreef, have a new fearsome leader. And the ruling Ghadaeans are brutal in their repression. Soon, a deadly revolution threatens their friendship and their world. The Hāreef use forbidden magic, summoning jinn―wicked spirits made of fire―to enact their revenge, forcing Jacob and Khadija to choose what kind of a world they want to save… 

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

This book drew me in from the very first page, and I really loved the concept and focus on hot air balloons. It was such a unique idea and I love how the world building centred around the balloons from the very start.

I listened to the audiobook, which at the start of the book really drew me in and I enjoyed Khadija’s chapters a lot. The concept of her escaping her possessive and controlling father gave an added layer to the story that felt really important and well written. We also had a POV of Jacob, a Hari, who were looked down upon by society.

The unlikely friendship struck between these two meant the prejudices and divergences between the two characters were faced head on and discussed throughout the book. I really enjoyed seeing the divisions dissolve between the two main characters and this felt like an important theme.

However, this book did start to let me down in the second half, as more and more started to happen. We went from a story focusing on family, friendship and prejudice, to a highly complex world including terrorism, Jinn, protests, attacks and dark magic. There was an introduction of a large amount of characters that left me feeling confused and struggling to focus on the story.

Overall, this book started so strong and I really loved the concept throughout, but lost me as it became overly complex and seemed to drift away from the original plot and point to the story. A solid debut with great world building, but I most likely won’t be continuing with the series.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Horror Hotel by Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren

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When the YouTube-famous Ghost Gang—Chrissy, Chase, Emma, and Kiki—visit a haunted LA hotel notorious for tragedy to secretly film after dark, they expect it to be just like their previous paranormal huntings. Spooky enough to attract subscribers—and ultimately harmless.
But when they stumble upon something unexpected in the former room of a gruesome serial killer, they quickly realize that they’re in over their heads.
Sometimes, it’s the dead who need our help—and the living we should fear.

I spotted this one earlier in the year at Forbidden Planet, and decided to pick it up for spooky season. The cover drew me in, the concept gripped me and I liked the idea of a shorter read (this one clocks in at just over 200 pages).

The best part of this book was that it was a quick and entertaining read, but I sadly don’t feel like it achieved much more than that. I got through it very quickly and read most of it in one sitting, and I did like the concept and wanted to read on.

It’s nice to have someone who knows you that well 

However, I do feel like several aspects of this book let it down. It’s not often I comment on the writing, but this one did feel like a debut, especially at the start. The writing seemed quite underdeveloped to me. The characters were also all pretty unlikable and didn’t feel like they had distinct personalities.

Although I didn’t try to guess who the killer was, it was the most obvious choice for a murderer and didn’t have any kind of shock factor. There was a lot of gruesome parts and gore, but I also didn’t find this as creepy as I wanted or expected to.

and still wants to see your face every day.

Overall, this was definitely fun and entertaining and I enjoyed the ride enough to keep turning the pages, which is why I’m still going to give it 3 out of 5 stars. But if you’re looking for anything more than entertaining and fast paced, you might want to give this one a miss.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

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On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

I had a feeling from the very start that I would fall in love with this book. There is something about a love story that isn’t about romantic love that drew me in from the start, and I knew I would be able to relate to. Days after finishing Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, I am unsure how to talk about it. The way I feel about this book and the topics it spans is very difficult to truly explain in words. It hit me in every single way I expected it to, and more. It broke my heart into little pieces and warmed my heart, too. It gave me hope, and it gave me hurt too. The audiobook was also a masterpiece.

“What is a game?” Marx said. “It’s tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. It’s the possibility of infinite rebirth, infinite redemption.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow centres games and game development, which I loved reading about and found fascinating to read about as a gamer myself. You definitely don’t need to have a love of games to appreciate this book for what it is, but I also felt like I could relate to it on a more personal level because of my love and appreciation for games.

My favourite part of this book was definitely the writing. There was constantly quotes that I wanted to save and shout from the rooftops, and I am already considering buying another edition just to read again and highlight. This book is quite long and has some interesting writing styles, which on paper feel risky but I fell in love with every time. I’ve never annotated a book before, but this one makes me want to start. I treasured the experience I had reading this book, and I just want to experience it over and over again. And I feel like with each re-read, it will become even more of a favourite. Even re-reading quotes and thinking about this book a week or so after finishing it is making me emotional.

The idea that if you keep playing, you could win. No loss is permanent, because nothing is permanent, ever.”

To say that Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a novel about games would be as limiting as it is infinite. I believe that games have the power to be life changing and world altering, carrying strength and hope and love and friendship. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow both showcases and includes all of these themes. It is a novel about games. But it is also a novel about the world. A novel about love, beauty, greed, wealth, friendship, hope, self-reflection, disability, motherhood, gender identity and Super Mario. It is a reflection within a reflection. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I get the sense I will carry it with me always.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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August Wrap-Up

Hello all! I’m a little late, but I really wanted to do a monthly wrap-up this month as I read so much in August and I’m really proud of myself for how much I managed to read. I read 21 books, and even though a lot of those were graphic novels, I still think that’s a really impressive number!

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

NEW ORLEANS FANG FEST, 1995. MINA’S HAVING A SUMMER TO DIE FOR.
17-year-old Mina, from England, arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. After growing up in Whitby, the town that inspired Dracula, Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie.
She can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…
And it gets even better when Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate, co-worker and fellow horror enthusiast.
But the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s…
Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Ellis and Easton have been inseparable since childhood. But when a rash decision throws Ellis’s life—and her relationship with Easton— into chaos she’s forced to move halfway across the country, far from everything she’s ever known.
Now Ellis hasn’t spoken to Easton in a year, and maybe it’s better that way; maybe eventually the Easton shaped hole in her heart will heal. But when Easton’s mother invites her home for a celebration, Ellis finds herself tangled up in the web of heartache, betrayal, and anger she left behind… and with the boy she never stopped loving.

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.
Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

★★
3 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means—and how they can find it with each other.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

★★
2 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Elsie has a crush on Ada, the only person in the world who truly understands her. Unfortunately, they’ve never met in real life and Ada lives an ocean away. But Elsie has decided it’s now or never to tell Ada how she feels. That is, until her long-lost best friend Joan walks back into her life.
In a summer of repairing broken connections and building surprising new ones, Elsie realises that she isn’t nearly as alone as she thought. But now she has a choice to make…

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

Review | 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.

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

In grey, 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against the conventions of the time, all the while knowing that she will one day have to marry someone her parents choose – someone rich enough to keep the family estate alive. But she longs for so much more – for adventure, excitement, travel, and maybe even romance.
When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Italy with her bohemian uncle and his fiancée, a whole world is opened up to Bea – a world that includes Ben, a cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. Sparks fly between the quick-witted pair until one night, under the stars, a challenge is set: can Bea and Ben put aside their teasing and have the perfect summer romance?
With their new friends gleefully setting the rules for their fling, Bea and Ben can agree on one thing at least: they absolutely, positively will not, cannot fall in love…
A long, hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds – but storm clouds are gathering across Europe, and home is calling. Every summer has to end – but for Bea, this might be just the beginning.

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

When Dani and Dorian missed the bus to magic school, they never thought they’d wind up declared traitors to their own kind! Now, thanks to a series of mishaps, they are being chased by powerful magic families seeking the prophesied King of Witches and royals searching for missing princes.
But they aren’t alone. With a local troublemaker, a princess, and a teacher who can see the future on their side, they might just be able to clear their names…but can they heal their torn kingdom?

★★
3 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It’s the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program.
It’s not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the “greater good” that Bayt-Sajji’s military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined.
Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Hello, come in.
Maybe you can help me?
A young girl lives in a haunted house, but has never seen a ghost. Are they white with holes for eyes? Are they hard to see? She’d love to know! Step inside and turn the transparent pages to help her on an entertaining ghost hunt, from behind the sofa, right up to the attic. With lots of friendly ghost surprises and incredible mixed media illustrations, this unique and funny book will entertain young readers over and over again.

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Because of a hearing disability, Kohei is often misunderstood and has trouble integrating into life on campus, so he learns to keep his distance. That is until he meets the outspoken and cheerful Taichi. He tells Kohei that his hearing loss is not his fault. Taichi’s words cut through Kohei’s usual defense mechanisms and open his heart. More than friends, less than lovers, their relationship changes Kohei forever.

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

Review | Goodreads | Bookshop.org

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.
There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.
Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

My favourite book of the month was Under a Dancing Star, and my least favourite was Children of Virtue and Vengeance. I managed to read a lot because of a lovely reading retreat I went on with my lovely friend Courtney, and we even read a good chunk of these books together!

-Beth

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Review: Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

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Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.
There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.
Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

Sometimes you just want a book that might not absolutely blow your mind, but will be a thoroughly enjoyable end of summer contemporary. This book was just what I wanted, and needed, to pick up, and I really enjoyed the audiobook version.

Although this book was predictable at times, I found myself easily falling into this story, rooting for Henri much more than I expected to, and falling in love with his best friend Ming. Charming as a Verb felt like a great encapsulation of end-of-high-school, beginning-of-the-rest-of-your-life, with all the pressures that comes with it. But what I really appreciated about this book was the level of depth in all other aspects just under the surface.

Montreal is nothing like Manhattan; it’s smaller and more concentrated, and unlike the city that never sleeps, 

I loved the way Henri’s relationship with his parents was written, which felt genuine and relatable. I loved the way his mum was striving for her own new pathway, and his dad was willing to evolve to support his son. I loved the relationship Henri had with his uncle, and how not only him, but his family, would go to his uncle for difficult conversations. I love how this felt like a love-letter to the streets of New York City, but ended up with a small footnote to Montreal too.

There was an underlying tone to this book that explored living with money worries and a class divide too, which I felt was handled really well. Although Henri wasn’t always the perfect protagonist, and definitely makes some mistakes, for the most part I agreed with the direction this story took and enjoyed the ride.

Montreal feels like a city that’s gotten a good night’s rest and woken up in time for a bike ride alongside the Saint Lawrence River.

Young Adult contemporaries don’t often surprise me anymore, but this one is definitely a pleasant surprise. Although it was still predictable at times and I did question some of our narrators actions and the way they were handled, I enjoyed it a lot and it was the light and fluffy contemporary I needed!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Hooky by Miriam Bonastre Tur

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When Dani and Dorian missed the bus to magic school, they never thought they’d wind up declared traitors to their own kind! Now, thanks to a series of mishaps, they are being chased by powerful magic families seeking the prophesied King of Witches and royals searching for missing princes.
But they aren’t alone. With a local troublemaker, a princess, and a teacher who can see the future on their side, they might just be able to clear their names…but can they heal their torn kingdom?
Based on the beloved webcomic from WEBTOON, Hooky is in stunning print format for the first time with exclusive new content sure to please fans new and old.

I’d seen Hooky a couple of times while browsing bookshops before I finally decided to pick it up. The art style really called out to me, and the concept itself sounded similar enough to the adorable Kiki’s Delivery Service that I thought it would be a fun one to pick up.

However, Hooky didn’t impress me quite as much as I was hoping. Although the art style never let me down, and was utterly beautiful and incredibly detailed throughout, the story itself felt kind of disconnected.

This may be due to the fact this was originally published as a Webtoon, but I haven’t felt the same about other Webtoon publications such as Lore Olympus. It also just felt like there was a lot going on. I wanted a sweet story following two kids across a magical land, but it almost felt like there was too much crammed into these pages, and it distracted from what I wanted and hoped for from the book.

This was still really cute, and I did love a lot about it, especially the art style. But it sadly did let me down in places.

★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.

I read Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by the same author last year, and I’ve wanted to read The Henna Wars ever since! I picked this up alongside Courtney while we were away, and it was great to read together. We also listened to a big chunk on audio, which we enjoyed too and was easy to follow.

This book discusses a lot of heavy issues, including racism and homophobia. These issues are dealt with well in the contemporary, school setting, but can sometimes be difficult to read (see a list in the front of the book for content warnings).

What I want more than anything else in the world is to feel like being myself isn’t something that should be hidden and a secret.

Nishat and Flávia definitely grew on me as the book went on, but I must say I did feel like there were a few issues glossed over within the book. Although all of my concerns were addressed, I sometimes wanted a bit more of a discussion before we moved on. I’m unsure if it’s just that there was a lack of physical space within the story, but this did lead to me feeling that some situations were slightly glossed over and brushed under the rug.

The concept of this book was unique and added an extra layer to the story with the girls’ businesses. I also found that the dialogue was really funny in places, and made me and Courtney chuckle a few times while reading. The romance was also really sweet, and it was cute to see the initial dates between the two girls and watch them realise they were falling for one another.

What I want is for my parents to be outraged that someone betrayed me, not ashamed of my identity.

Overall, this book had some brilliant discussions about race and homophobia, but could sometimes feel a bit young for me personally and like some of the difficult topics were glossed over.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Some Mistakes Were Made by Kristen Dwyer

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Ellis and Easton have been inseparable since childhood. But when a rash decision throws Ellis’s life—and her relationship with Easton— into chaos she’s forced to move halfway across the country, far from everything she’s ever known.
Now Ellis hasn’t spoken to Easton in a year, and maybe it’s better that way; maybe eventually the Easton shaped hole in her heart will heal. But when Easton’s mother invites her home for a celebration, Ellis finds herself tangled up in the web of heartache, betrayal, and anger she left behind… and with the boy she never stopped loving.

Sometimes, you just need a YA romance/contemporary that you know is going to leave your heart aching and reforming all over again. That you know will bring back your teen angst and make you grieve those long lost years.

I picked this book up at YALC because the cover and synopsis really called out to me. I ended up listening to the audiobook, and I really enjoyed it. I also knew I wanted to pick this up in the summer, and I’m glad I decided to. It felt like a sad, angsty summer contemporary, and was just perfect for the time.

When did we get here? At this place of tallied wrongs and rights.

I really liked (and in a lot of ways, related to) Ellis. She is not perfect, she has been through a lot and has been left feeling heartbroken and shattered. She’s at a place in her life when she’s trying to figure out the next step for her, while struggling to let go of everything that happened in her life a year or more ago.

This book is completely about found family, with darker undertones about the family you’re born into verses the family you create. I was also drawn into the stories of those around Ellis – such as the parents and siblings of Easton. There is just so much to be wrapped up in.

This place where we speak the same language but cannot understand each other’s words.

If you’re looking for a YA romance that makes you nostalgic for teen readers but still feels a little older, check this one out. I loved so much about this book, and I would definitely like to re-read it in the future. It’s not often I ally with a publishing company, but HarperTeen does it again!

A rare occasion where I’ve decided to up my star rating from 4 stars to 4.5 stars on reflection after a few weeks, because I’m still thinking about this book.

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Tashikazu Kawaguchi

Goodreads | Waterstones

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

I’ve wanted to read Before the Coffee Gets Cold for a very long time, and I recently finally picked it up (on audio, of course…). I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about this book, but it is a beautiful story of wanting to spend every last second with a person, even if you know going back in time isn’t going to change the present, or future.

This book (and I believe, the one that comes afterwards) reads almost like short story collections, following a set of characters as they visit a cafe where they can go back in time, with some (many) restrictions. I loved how this book played with an idea I think about a lot – that people all around us have lives just as complex as our own. We see a number of different characters with completely opposing narratives, but they all face different struggles, and have different loves.

She wanted to do things without having to worry what others thought.

I read this one on audio and I really liked the narration. The book itself isn’t very long and each chapter of the story was told as one continuous audio chapter of around an hour each – perfect for a long run or car journey. I liked the opportunity to have these snippets of somebody’s life in one go, and be able to fully absorb myself into their story.

These characters are ever so slightly intertwined, but are merely mentioned in one another’s perspectives – leaving the full attention on them and their story. The focus on each character left me so invested in each story that I found myself feeling quite emotional as I discovered certain aspects of their life, or left them at the end of the chapter.

She simply lived for her freedom.

I can see why this book might not be for everybody, as it does have a balance of magical realism I haven’t seen before, and could sometimes become confusing with many different characters. I do also wish we could have re-visited the characters at the end of the book, as some of the endings felt quite abrupt. But overall, I really loved these stories and I will definitely be reading the second book.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Noah’s Gold by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Goodreads | Waterstones

Being the smallest doesn’t stop you having the biggest ideas.
Eleven-year old Noah sneaks along on his big sister’s geography field trip. Everything goes wrong! Six kids are marooned on an uninhabited island. Their teacher has vanished. They’re hungry. Their phones don’t work and Noah has broken the internet. There’s no way of contacting home . . . Disaster!
Until Noah discovers a treasure map and the gang goes in search of gold.

This book was so much fun. I can’t even tell you how many times this book made me chuckle and fully laugh out loud, which I always find rare with books.

This one follows Noah, who has snuck in the back of the minibus on his sister’s geography field trip. The unlikely gang end up on a deserted island, and now they have to band together to try and survive on the island and maybe also fix the internet too (I still don’t quite understand what that bit was all about!).

I loved this unlikely group, who were so much fun to read about and had some great interactions. Noah made such a funny narrator with a lot of honesty that I think so many kids will relate to. The illustrations were so good and complemented the story so well too. This one is definitely an adventure story at it’s heart, and I really enjoyed blasting through it and seeing where it was going to go.

The friendship group were so heartwarming to read about and there was also some interesting discussions of living without technology too. It’s great to see these kinds of stories being so popular with children.

Although there was a lot of fun plot, I didn’t quite understand where the ‘internet’ aspect fit, which did let it down a little bit for me. I just feel like this book was strong without this extra seemingly quite random aspect to the story that also didn’t feel fully fleshed out.

Overall, this one was so much fun and I’ll definitely be recommending it to a lot of kids at work!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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