Review: Insurgent (#2) by Veronica Roth

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Tris Prior’s initiation day should have been marked by victorious celebrations with her chosen faction; instead it ended with unspeakable horrors. Now unrest surges in the factions around her as conflict between their ideologies grows. War seems inevitable; and in times of war sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge and choices will become ever more irrevocable. Tris has already paid a terrible price for survival and is wracked by haunting grief and guilt. But radical new discoveries and shifting relationships mean that she must fully embrace her Divergence – even though she cannot know what might be lost in doing so. 

Unfortunately, this book really fell flat for me. Luckily, I think I’ve only watched the movie once (looking back, I’ve probably watched Divergent more than once and that’s why it was so fresh in my mind), so it didn’t feel like such a re-read for me and I could see it with fresher eyes.

But Insurgent made me realise why everyone found Tris really annoying back when everyone was reading this series. It had serious second-book syndrome for me. I rarely find narrators I find as annoying as I’m finding Tris right now – she just cannot make a good decision. She spent this entire book pushing everybody away and taking childish, uncalculated risks that turned into mistakes. And I just couldn’t even bring myself to sympathise with her.

Cruelty does not make a person dishonest,

The plot fell flat too and just didn’t have the same kind of excitement for me as book one. I still got through it in a couple of days, but it felt slow and like not much happened for long stretches of time. I found the start of the book okay, the middle a slog, and then the last 30 pages or so finally ramped up, but by that point it was way too late.

Tris and Tobias feel like completely different people and I really did not enjoy reading about their relationship. This whole book is a back and forth about them doing stupid things and then forgiving each other with one kiss. I cannot take their sucky communication skills. They never seem to talk about anything and their relationship is unrealistic. I hope it takes a backseat again in Allegiant as it did in Divergent.

the same way bravery does not make a person kind.

Overall, this was not great. I still found it okay, and it was fun in parts. There are still glimmers of what I enjoyed about Divergent, and I’m hoping the third book picks up!


★★★

3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Divergent (#1) by Veronica Roth

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Beatrice Prior is on the brink of a decision that will change her life. In a society divided into factions all are forced to choose where they belong. And the choice Tris makes shocks everyone, including herself.
Once decisions are made, the new members are forced to undergo extreme initiation tests with devastating consequences. As their experience transforms them, Tris must determine who her friends are – and if the man who both threatens and protects her is really on her side.
Because Tris has a deadly secret. And as growing conflict threatens to unravel their seemingly perfect society, this secret might save those Tris loves… or it might destroy her.

This is one of those few books (and most of them are under the dystopian category) that I’ve watched the movies and never read the books. I’ve also watched the movies fairly recently, meaning in the past few years, so I started remembering what happened as I was reading. I didn’t know the first movie stayed so close to the book, but it felt like a reread to me and I found it so hard to rate because of it!

I read this partly on audiobook and partly a physical version (probably around 70/30) and I really enjoyed reading it that way. It made the book go so quick and I read it within a few days.

We believe in ordinary acts of bravery,

I’m finding it really hard to articulate my thoughts of the book, but overall, I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat as much as I think I would have been if I was reading it without watching the movies first, but I did still enjoy the plot. The biggest change for me was obviously being able to see inside Tris’ head, and I quite liked her as a character. Her inner torment was really interesting to read about and how she discussed the factions in relation to how she felt about her own mannerisms was fascinating.

I liked the other supporting characters, although I didn’t quite click with Four. Their relationship kind of got to me at times, and I just didn’t feel like they knew each other very well, or I knew him well enough to like him as a character. I felt like Tris didn’t own up to how she felt, and that really frustrated me. And some of the scenes between them were just so cringey.

in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.

The writing wasn’t particularly astounding, but it kept me hooked and interested. Some scenes were written particularly well and had me on edge, but most of the book felt quite mediocre.

Overall, I like the concept of this series, it feels quite original and was interesting and fun to read. It didn’t wow me, but I’m looking forward to carrying on with the series!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Boy Queen by George Lester

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Robin Cooper’s life is falling apart.
While his friends prepare to head off to university, Robin is looking at a pile of rejection letters from drama schools up and down the country, and facing a future without the people he loves the most. Everything seems like it’s ending, and Robin is scrabbling to find his feet.
Unsure about what to do next and whether he has the talent to follow his dreams, he and his best friends go and drown their sorrows at a local drag show, where Robin realises there might be a different, more sequinned path for him . . .
With a mother who won’t stop talking, a boyfriend who won’t acknowledge him and a best friend who is dying to cover him in glitter make up, there’s only one thing for Robin to do: bring it to the runway.

This book was every bit as fabulous as I expected it to be. Boy Queen follows Robin, who is struggling with knowing what to do when he gets turned down from his dream drama school. Surrounded by his friends, he ends up exploring the world of drag, and blimey it is a ride.

Look, I don’t know much about drag. I watched a bit of Drag Race yearssss ago, and I don’t remember much about it. But this book feels like a staple for those who love drag, and those who only know a little about it. As Robin is only just being introduced to the wonderful world of drag himself, I was very much along for the ride, and what a ride it was.

I absolutely adored the characters. Robin’s mum was my favourite. She was smart, she was sassy, and she loved Robin more than anything in the world. I loved every line she came out with, and the relationship between Robin and his mum was so heartwarming. The book never talks about why Robin and his mum live alone, and I actually really liked that. I’ve found a couple of books recently that don’t discuss single parent relationships in too much depth, and I find it really strong and a great thing to normalise. Not that it’s not important, it just wasn’t the story Boy Queen was here to tell, and that’s okay.

Robin was surrounded by a lovely, diverse group of friends who stand up for him when it really matters. They have their differences, which feels real and is done really well, but they also stick together. And Robin himself, the fabulous little drama queen he is, was a great protagonist to follow. He even made me properly laugh out loud in parts, which I find rarely happens with a book and I really appreciated!

I read this book in a couple of days, and although the pacing can be a little slow at times, it feels like an all-singing, all-dancing heart-warming pick me up. It was warm and fuzzy, but not without it’s family feuds, break ups and drama! What an absolutely sparkling YA debut! I can’t wait to see more from George Lester.

cw: homophobia, physical attack/abuse, homophobic slurs

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Wonderland by Juno Dawson

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Alice lives in a world of stifling privilege and luxury – but none of it means anything when your own head plays tricks on your reality. When her troubled friend Bunny goes missing, Alice becomes obsessed with finding her. On the trail of her last movements, Alice discovers a mysterious invitation to ‘Wonderland’: the party to end all parties – three days of hedonistic excess to which only the elite are welcome.
Will she find Bunny there? Or is this really a case of finding herself? Because Alice has secrets of her own, and ruthless socialite queen Paisley Hart is determined to uncover them, whatever it takes.
Alice is all alone, miles from home and without her essential medication. She can trust no-one, least of all herself, and now she has a new enemy who wants her head…

Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review!

I haven’t read any of Juno’s fiction before and I was super excited for this. It was really intriguing and sounded wacky. I heard Juno read aloud from it back in February/March and I was so drawn into it, I knew I had to pick it up. I’ve had my copy since release, as I was lucky enough to receive a proof! However, I have only just managed to pick it up as part of our non-binary November readathon. I wanted to mention that I haven’t read the other two books in the ‘series’, but as I understand these are standalones that have cameos in each one.

The concept of this book was amazing and I really loved the idea. It is a modern reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland which follows Alice, who is a trans girl in a private school, and her friend Bunny, who is missing. The way this was written was incredible clever, with interwoven quotes and references to the story which I loved. The setting was a very exclusive party for the high class students of the school, called Wonderland. Alice managed to sneak into this following finding an invitation she found in Bunny’s locker. I loved the scenes travelling ‘down the rabbit hole’ to the party and the party itself. It was magical and reminded me of something out of Willy Wonka.

In fact, the setting was probably my favourite part. It felt fantastical and was, again, very clever. I also loved the discussion of gender and sexuality, with Alice discussing her own journey of being transgender and pansexual. She is very open about her body and sex-positive, and I feel like these discussions will be really important to some readers. I really felt for her and some of the things she had to go through felt exhausting.

But unfortunately, that’s where my love ended for this book. A lot of it actually felt quite problematic for me and I just felt slightly uncomfortable reading it. I personally didn’t enjoy the casual sex/sleeping around, as I just didn’t relate to it and how Alice felt. I also felt like the excessive drug use just wasn’t for me. I understand that because of the nature of Alice in Wonderland itself, it was kind of needed in terms of retelling the story, but it also didn’t sit right with me in terms of normalising a lot of this stuff for young people.

CW: Attempted date rape, bipolar episodes/hallucinations/ intrusive thoughts, suicide, drug use, casual sex.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

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Goodreads

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

So, going from I Wish You All the Best to this was a ride. I was not prepared for this much emotion, and once again, I don’t know if I can put into words how I feel about this book.

Felix is a trans boy who is still questioning his identity. He has a best friend called Ezra and goes to art school. And his story captured my heart. The thing about this book is it really allows the characters to be messy and real. Felix was far from perfect, and he made me angry at times. But I couldn’t help but forgive him because he was so soft and just trying to work out how he could be himself, in his own body.

I’m not flaunting anything. I’m just existing. This is me. I can’t hide myself. I can’t disappear. 

This book is about revenge. It’s about love. It’s about questioning your identity and coming to terms with yourself. It’s about family and friends and relationships. It’s freaking beautiful. Felix is constantly being bullied and struggling daily because of the negative way people treat him because he’s queer, Black and trans. And sometimes, he messes up. And the people around him mess up. But this book teaches so much about forgiveness, about being angry and being able to stand up for yourself and those around you.

I got through this so quickly, in just over 24 hours! I’ve been reading quickly at the moment anyway, but with this being over 350 pages, I thought it would take me a bit longer. But as soon as I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. It was so cleverly written, with a revenge plot and mystery thrown in too, that didn’t feel unrealistic or like it was forced in. It felt natural and I couldn’t help but be hooked by the story, I just wanted to find out what was going to happen.

And even if I could, I don’t f**king want to. I have the same right to be here. I have the same right to exist.

I had full body shivers/goosebumps at some parts of this book, especially at times that really meant a lot to Felix (I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t say any more than that!). I had tears in my eyes multiple times. Again, this book is just so needed right now. It was raw and honest and vulnerable. It will change lives.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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BookTube: Fairyloot Blood & Honey Collectors Edition Unboxing

Hi everyone! In today’s video I unbox the collectors edition box of Blood & Honey. In other booktube news, we hosted a live reading party on Sunday night for the start of the non-binary November readathon which you can also check out on our channel!

Do you have a bookish subscription to a box?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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October Wrap Up + November TBR

I managed to read a few more books in October than I did in September, and I’m pretty happy with 7! That means if I stay on track and manage to read just one extra, I’ll easily finish my Non-Binary November TBR. I also read all 4 books on my October TBR!

Books I Read in October

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.
And love makes fools of us all.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed.
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Imogen should be nice to her little sister Marie. She should be nice to her mum’s boyfriend too. And she certainly shouldn’t follow a strange silver moth through a door in a tree.
But then… who does what they’re told?
Followed by Marie, Imogen finds herself falling into a magical kingdom where the two sisters are swept up in a thrilling race against time – helped by the spoiled prince of the kingdom, a dancing bear, a very grumpy hunter… and even the stars above them.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.
Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Seventeen-year-old Margot Allan was a respectable vicar’s daughter and madly in love with her fiance Harry. But when Harry was reported Missing in Action from the Western Front, and Margot realised she was expecting his child, there was only one solution she and her family could think of in order to keep that respectability. She gave up James, her baby son, to be adopted by her parents and brought up as her younger brother.
Now two years later the whole family is gathering at the Vicarage for Christmas. It’s heartbreaking for Margot being so close to James but unable to tell him who he really is. But on top of that, Harry is also back in the village. Released from captivity in Germany and recuperated from illness, he’s come home and wants answers. Why has Margot seemingly broken off their engagement and not replied to his letters? Margot knows she owes him an explanation. But can she really tell him the truth about James?

I really loved Serpent & Dove and it was definitely my favourite book this month. My least favourite was The Retribution of Mara Dyer, and the whole series was really just okay for me.

Books I Want to Read in November

The Bone Witch – Rin Chupeco
You Should See Me in a Crown – Leah Johnson
Boy Queen – George Lester
Radio Silence – Alice Oseman
Felix Ever After – Kacen Callendar
I Wish You All the Best – Mason Deaver
Wonderland – Juno Dawson
Once and Future – A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy

All of these books are the ones on my non-binary November TBR, and I’m so excited for all of them!

What did you read in October and what do you want to read in November?

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #29

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

Hi everyone and welcome to another week on Stacking the Shelves! This week, I received a preorder and Blue gave me a book in exchange for a few things, thank you Blue!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.
There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal.
Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.
El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.
Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.

This is the book Blue gave me as they decided it didn’t sound like something they would enjoy, so handed over the Illumicrate edition to me! It’s so pretty and the naked hardcover is lovely too, and it sounds like something I’ll love.

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Goodreads | Book Depository

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

I also had a pre-order for this special edition of Caraval. I love this book and I already have a couple of editions of it, so I couldn’t resist this one. It is so beautiful and comes in a red slipcase!

What have you bought recently?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Stacking the Shelves #28

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

For the first time since my book ban started, I’m finally on top of these posts and I feel like it’s paying off, even if only slightly!

I only received one book this week, and it was a proof copy through work that I’m super excited for! This book looks amazing and I can’t wait to read it.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be. 

What have you bought recently?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Stacking the Shelves #27

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

Hi everyone! Today’s post is a bumper one because it’s been my birthday this week and I was lucky enough to receive some books. I’ll start with ones I pre-ordered or bought, and then move on to the others I was gifted!

Goodreads

Dive into the epic world of international bestselling author Leigh Bardugo with this beautifully illustrated replica of The Lives of Saints, the Istorii Sankt’ya, featuring tales of saints drawn from the beloved novels and beyond. Out of the pages of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, from the hands of Alina Starkov to yours, the Istorii Sankt’ya is a magical keepsake from the Grishaverse.
These tales include miracles and martyrdoms from familiar saints like Sankta Lizabeta of the Roses and Sankt Ilya in Chains, to the strange and obscure stories of Sankta Ursula, Sankta Maradi, and the Starless Saint.
This beautiful collection includes stunning full-color illustrations of each story.

I had this gorgeous edition on pre-order from Illumicrate and it arrived on my birthday! It was such a lovely present for myself.

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Goodreads

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.
In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

I also had this arrive, which I ordered for the non-binary readathon in November! It’s our group book for the readathon, and I’m super excited.

Birthday Gifts

The Stalking Jack the Ripper Series Hardcover Gift Set (Hardback)

Goodreads | Waterstones

In this spine-chilling gothic murder mystery set in gritty Victorian-era London, a resourceful lord’s daughter named Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her brilliant friend Thomas Cresswell find themselves inescapably embroiled in the investigation of a ghastly serial killer known as Jack the Ripper.

My mum gifted me this gorgeous set, on recommendation from my lovely friend Amy. We are going to start reading it alongside our friend Jo tomorrow, and I’m super excited!

Pride (Paperback)

Goodreads | Waterstones

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

The rest of the books were gifted to me from my gorgeous boyfriend, the first of which I picked up in a bookshop in the summer and he saved for me! I’m super excited to read this.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Learn about identities, true histories, and anti-racism work in 20 carefully laid out chapters. Written by anti-bias, anti-racist, educator and activist, Tiffany Jewell, and illustrated by French illustrator Aurélia Durand in kaleidoscopic vibrancy.
This book is written for the young person who doesn’t know how to speak up to the racist adults in their life. For the 14 year old who sees injustice at school and isn’t able to understand the role racism plays in separating them from their friends. For the kid who spends years trying to fit into the dominant culture and loses themselves for a little while. It’s for all of the Black and Brown children who have been harmed (physically and emotionally) because no one stood up for them or they couldn’t stand up for themselves; because the colour of their skin, the texture of their hair, their names made white folx feel scared and threatened.
It is written so children and young adults will feel empowered to stand up to the adults who continue to close doors in their faces. This book will give them the language and ability to understand racism and a drive to undo it. In short, it is for everyone.

I also picked this up at the same time and it looks so good and it is beautifully illustrated.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth – four “little women” enduring hardships and enjoying adventures in Civil War New England The charming story of the March sisters, Little Women has been adored by generations. Readers have rooted for Laurie in his pursuit of Jo’s hand, cried over little Beth’s death, and dreamed of travelling through Europe with old Aunt March and Amy. Future writers have found inspiration in Jo’s devotion to her writing. In this simple, enthralling tale, both parts of which are included here, Louisa May Alcott has created four of American literature’s most beloved women.

He also picked me up this lovely copy of Little Women! I haven’t ever read it, and I’ve really wanted to for years, especially since watching the 2019 film a grand total of four times in cinema!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

She will become a legend but first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning …
Diana is desperate to prove herself to her warrior sisters. But when the opportunity comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law to save a mere mortal, Alia Keralis. 
With this single heroic act, Diana may have just doomed the world. 
Alia is a Warbringer – a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies, mortal and divine, determined to destroy or possess the Warbringer. 
To save the world, they must stand side by side against the tide of war.

The last and by no means least, he managed to get me this rare signed copy if Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo. I feel so very lucky 🙂

What have you bought recently?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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