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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Beautiful Quotes #136 / What If It’s Us

Beautiful Quotes is a weekly meme hosted by me, where I post some of my favourite quotes. Any other bloggers are welcome to join me in this and just link my blog!

Hi everyone! It’s been a busy week and I ended up on a great road trip and day out with Pete today, back to work tomorrow so I’m going to relax in bed this evening. I’m about to start reading American Royals, as I’ve joined the Hogwarts readathon and it fits one of my prompts on top of being out later this week!

Now let’s talk about a book that’s been out for a while now but I really enjoyed – What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli.

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“I barely know him. I guess that is every relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.” 
― Adam Silvera, What If It’s Us

Have you read any books by Adam or Becky? What’s your favourite?

-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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Stacking the Shelves #102

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga where we share books we’ve bought this week. Find out more and join in here!

This is actually a very belated Stacking the Shelves post for some books I bought a while ago but haven’t managed to post about yet. So, after the release of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before movie, which I believe was around a year ago now, I decided to reread the first book and purchase the hardback set I’d wanted for so long. I read the first book years ago and although I enjoyed it, didn’t enjoy it as much as the movie (*gasp*).

Unfortunately, as soon as I decided to take the plunge and purchase these beauties, of course they went out of stock everywhere. I ended up waiting until sometime early this year to finally buy them, but LOOK. I’m so happy I finally took the plunge just to have these on my shelves, even if they were a little expensive for me!

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I’m looking forward to rereading the first book and delving into the others fairly soon!

What did you buy this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

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Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.

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

It’s so unfortunate that I didn’t enjoy this book. It sounded so intriguing and like such a unique concept, but I was very disappointed with the book itself. I wish it hadn’t been such a let down!

The only way I can possibly think to describe The Marrow Thieves is it feels like there’s so much missing. Like, if I didn’t read the synopsis beforehand, I would have had no clue what was actually happening throughout the novel. It feels like nothing is ever explained in full and everything is quite a random series of events. I wouldn’t have been shocked if I found out someone had actually ripped pages or whole chapters out of my copy. This improved slightly towards the end of the book, but only as I became more involved in the story, and no where enough to recover from the disappointment.

‘Sometimes you risk everything for a life worth living,’

Unfortunately, the plot wasn’t the only problem. The characters also felt majorly underdeveloped and I struggled to connect with their stories because of it. Most of them were just names on the pages for me, and that meant the connection I should have felt in emotional scenes was just lost. I feel like the author concentrated fully on only a few of the characters, only one of whom I actually liked, and the others got lost along the way.

The reason I’m giving this book 2 stars instead of 1 is because the writing isn’t bad at all. At points, I even found myself sucked into some of the short stories within this larger story. In fact, I think this author could write some brilliant short stories and maybe they would be more developed and her forte?

‘even if you’re not the one that’ll be alive to see it.’

Overall, the concept was interesting but left unexplored and underdeveloped. I’d love to read more books exploring indigenous people and it’s definitely something I’d like to see more of, but this was a major disappointment with few things going for it. It’s definitely not the worst or most annoying book I’ve read, but it was by far from the best.

★★ 
2 out of 5 stars

-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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