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

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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

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

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

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

Sometimes it’s easier to be strong

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

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

if someone else is showing cracks.

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

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Anticipated Releases January-March 2022

It’s 2022 and there are so many exciting books coming out! I thought I’d do a little wrap-up of some of the books I’m excited for in the first quarter of the year. The dates on these might not be exactly the same as the release dates in your country, but hopefully they’ll be within the same month at least.

January

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January 11th

Goodreads | Waterstones

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.
Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.
To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

I didn’t pre-order this one but it looks so beautiful and I’ve heard so many people talking about it! I’m hoping to pick it up soon now it’s out.

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January 11th

Goodreads | Waterstones

Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.
In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.
Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?

This isn’t one I would normally be drawn to if it wasn’t for my friend Sophie, who loves this author and this book! All of her hype has definitely made me want to pick it up.

February

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February 1st

Goodreads | Waterstones

To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight.
The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.

I have an arc copy of this one which I’m hoping to pick up this month before the February release. I’m so excited to see how it is!

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February 3rd

Goodreads | Waterstones

I loved the first book in this series and I’ve already pre-ordered the second, which I can’t wait to read when it comes out.

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February 15th

Goodreads | Waterstones

This one is definitely one of my most anticipated books of the year. I read the first one, House of Earth and Blood back in August, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one hopefully soon after release.

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February 22nd

Goodreads | Waterstones

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.
Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.
Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.
But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking… 

This book looks absolutely beautiful and I loved XOXO by the same author when I read it last year. This looks very different to her first book, but I’m super excited for it.

March

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March 1st

Goodreads | Waterstones

Sixteen-year-old Olivia Prior is missing three things: a mother, a father, and a voice. Her mother vanished all at once, and her father by degrees, and her voice was a thing she never had to start with.
She grew up at Merilance School for Girls. Now, nearing the end of her time there, Olivia receives a letter from an uncle she’s never met, her father’s older brother, summoning her to his estate, a place called Gallant. But when she arrives, she discovers that the letter she received was several years old. Her uncle is dead. The estate is empty, save for the servants. Olivia is permitted to remain, but must follow two rules: don’t go out after dusk, and always stay on the right side of a wall that runs along the estate’s western edge.
Beyond it is another realm, ancient and magical, which calls to Olivia through her blood…

And we’ve reached my absolute most anticipated book of the year – Gallant by V.E. Schwab. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue is my favourite book ever, so I can’t wait for this one.

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March 1st

Goodreads | Waterstones

The world’s best young magicians accept the opportunity of a lifetime.
Six are chosen. Only five will walk away.
The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few…
– Libby Rhodes and Nicolas Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.
When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.

I’ve heard so many good things about The Atlas Six, and I’m so glad it’s getting a big publication! I’m hoping to pre-order a copy soon.

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March 8th

Goodreads | Waterstones

It’s the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve and Nur is steeling himself to tell his parents that he’s seeing someone. A young British Pakistani man, Nur has spent years omitting details about his personal life to maintain his image as the golden eldest child. And it’s come at a cost.
Once, Nur was a restless and insecure college student, struggling to present himself after being transplanted from his hometown with only the vaguest sense of ambition. At a packed house party, he meets Yasmina, a beautiful and self-possessed aspiring journalist. They start a conversation–first awkward, then absorbing–that grabs Nur’s attention like never before. And as their relationship develops, moving from libraries and cramped coffee shops to an apartment they share together, so too does Nur’s self-destruction. He falls deeper into traps of his own making, attempting to please both Yasmina and his family until he no longer has a choice. He must finally be honest and reveal to those who raised him the truth he’s kept hidden: Yasmina is Black, and he loves her.

I’ve had an arc of this one for a while and I’m hoping to read it soon.

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March 22nd

Goodreads | Waterstones

I read the first book in this series, The Bright and the Pale, last year, and I’m hoping to re-read it when this one comes out so I can marathon the series together.

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March 29th

Goodreads | Waterstones

Bailey and Vanessa shared everything: laughter, secrets, and packets of Pop Rocks to ward off bad days. But that all changed the night Vanessa left Bailey’s, headed for home, and ended up swerving off a cliff nowhere near her house. Now Bailey, who thought she knew Vanessa better than anyone in the world, is left with a million unanswered questions, and the only person with answers is gone.
To help grieve her loss, Bailey creates a chat bot of Vanessa using years’ worth of their shared text messages and emails. The more data she uploads to the bot, the more it feels like she’s really talking to her best friend. That is, until the bot starts dropping hints that there was more going on with Vanessa than Bailey realized–a secret so big, it may have contributed to Vanessa’s death.

I hadn’t heard of this one since I read about it in an email from the publisher last week, and it looks so interesting!

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March 29th

Goodreads | Blackwells

Eighteen-year-old chauffeur’s daughter Jane Marlow grew up among the domestic staff of a wealthy LA rock producer, within reach of bands she idolizes, but never a VIP. Every summer, Jane and her father head to the Sierras to work at the producer’s luxury lodge at Lake Condor—a resort town and the site of a major musical festival.
The legendary family who runs the festival are the Sarafians, and Jane’s had a longtime crush on their oldest son, Eddie—doltish but sweet. So when a long-distance romance finally sparks between them, she doesn’t hesitate to cross class lines.
But Jane’s feelings about Eddie are thrown into question after she returns to the lake and reconnects with his alluringly intense brother, the dark horse of her placid summer plans. A fellow lover of music—and hater of the game—Fen Sarafian has been ousted from the family and is slumming it at a vinyl record shop. He burns for Jane like a house on fire and will do anything to sabotage his older brother, even if it means taking a wrecking ball to a multi-million-dollar music festival. Or Jane’s heart.

I will read anything Jenn Bennett writes and even though I still need to pick up a few of hers, I’m hoping this will be one of them!

Which books are you excited for in the next few months?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Stacking the Shelves #68

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! I haven’t posted a Stacking the Shelves so far this year, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t gained any books! I haven’t actually spent any money on books so far this year, but I have picked some up.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

My first purchase of the year was on a gift card, and I bought The Sad Ghost Club 2! I didn’t know this existed or had come out, so when I spotted a signed edition I knew I wanted to pick it up.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world. 

I really didn’t need another copy of I’ll Give You the Sun, but Alex offered me this beautiful American paperback, and I just couldn’t bring myself to turn it down.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

I had the Fairyloot edition of Our Violent Ends on pre-order and it arrived in the past few weeks. I haven’t read the first book yet but I’m hoping to soon now I have both of the books in the series!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Would you choose to find out the length of your life?
One spring day, small wooden boxes arrive for every person, all over the world, from suburban doorsteps to desert tents. All the boxes feature the same inscription, “The measure of your life lies within,” and vary in only two ways: the name of the recipient and the length of the single string inside. Instantly, the world is thrust into a collective frenzy, first to ascertain their origin and meaning, and then to confront the truth of the strings.
Told through multiple perspectives, The Measure introduces an unforgettable cast of characters whose lives weave and interlock with one another upon the arrival of the strings: a doctor who cannot save himself, a couple who thought they didn’t have to rush, best friends whose dreams are forever entwined, pen pals finding refuge in the unknown, and a politician whose string becomes a powder keg in an increasingly turbulent world.
As society divides itself, the truth has the power to unravel their long-held beliefs and relationships all while forging new alliances and philosophies about our time on this earth and our place in the community.

HarperCollins sent a box of proof copies to work, and this book was among the selection. It sounds super interesting so I picked it up!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My lovely friend Courtney passed on her copy of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo after she read it and loved it so much that she bought a hardback copy! I can’t wait to finally read this one as I’ve heard so many good things about it.

Which books did you buy or receive this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Series I Want to Finish This Year

Hi everyone! Welcome to 2022! I’m hoping to not only post more in the new year, but also do some more discussion posts and I’m starting the year off with some series I want to finally finish. I’ve been trying to finish off these series I’ve been in the middle of for a while now, and I want to make this year the year for finally reading them!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

It’s been a long time since I read The Wrath and the Dawn, probably 5+ years. I loved it a lot when I read it, but I never continued with the series for some reason. I’ve had the second book for a while now but I’m definitely at the point of needing to re-read the first book to carry on with the series.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother, Fox, 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 wanted to read the rest of the series early last year after picking up The Bone Witch in November 2020, but of course I never got to the rest of the series and it’s been so long now that I’d like to re-read the first book before continuing.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

This one is a series I’d like to finish soon, but unlike others, I won’t have to re-read the first book to continue! This is a contemporary series following different characters, so they’re more companion novels than a continuous series, which is useful for me. I have the whole set now and I’d like to finish it soon!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.
These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.
Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. 

I read the first book in this series before YALC in 2019 where I met the author, and me and Alex have been wanting to buddy read the rest of the series ever since. I think we’ll be re-reading the first book in order to continue though, as it’s been a while!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Fall in love, break the curse.
Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Another series here that me and Alex want to buddy read together, and we’re also thinking of re-reading the first book. I loved A Curse so Dark and Lonely when it first came out but I didn’t continue with the series as the rest of the books were released – so I think we’re going to re-read the whole series!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

The Miss Peregrine’s series is one I feel like I’ve been reading for years, because I have! I read the original trilogy, and then I read A Map of Days when it came out, but I never carried on with the series. I’m hoping I don’t have to re-read the series before carrying on, but I still have the 5th and 6th books to go.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.
But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.
Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.
With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.
 

I read this book a while ago and never continued with the series, but I’ve been seeing it about again recently and I decided to pick the duology up! I definitely want to read the first one again before I pick up the second.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Sephy is a Cross: she lives a life of privilege and power. But she’s lonely, and burns with injustice at the world she sees around her.
Callum is a nought: he’s considered to be less than nothing – a blanker, there to serve Crosses – but he dreams of a better life.
They’ve been friends since they were children, and they both know that’s as far as it can ever go. Noughts and Crosses are fated to be bitter enemies – love is out of the question.
Then – in spite of a world that is fiercely against them – these star-crossed lovers choose each other.
But this is love story that will lead both of them into terrible danger . . . and which will have shocking repercussions for generations to come

My boyfriend Mark bought me Crossfire and Endgame as part of a surprise book haul we did on my YouTube channel, which I’ll link down below if you want to give it a watch! I’ve read the other four books in the Noughts & Crosses series, and it’ll be interesting to see where the last two books go.

Which series would you like to complete reading this year?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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

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

All grown-ups were once children… 

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

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

but only few of them remember it.

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

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It requires deep strength and endless determination.

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

★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Julia has followed her mum and dad to live on a remote island for the summer – her dad, for work; her mother, on a determined mission to find the elusive Greenland shark. But when her mother’s obsession threatens to submerge them all, Julia finds herself on an adventure with dark depths and a lighthouse full of hope…
A beautiful, lyrical, uplifting story about a mother, a daughter, and love – with timely themes of the importance of science and the environment.

I’ve read a lot of Kiran Millwood Hargrave books across different ages, and I’ve liked them all a lot. Loved them, even. But none have captured my heart like Julia and the Shark did. There was something else about this book that made it feel like it was the story Kiran and Tom are trying to tell. It was told from the heart, from the centre of their souls. If you didn’t know, Kiran and Tom are a wife and husband team and I love that. Tom is an artist and he illustrated this book, and there’s something about the emotion in it that really shows.

This is a middle grade story about a girl called Julia who moves to an island off the coast of Scotland because her mum is in search of a Greenland shark. But this story is about so much more than that. It’s about family and mental health and adventure. It’s about growing up.

That’s another thing about words: there’s space in them. They change according to whose mouth they’re coming out of. 

I read this with my friend Alex, and she said this book reminded her of A Monster Calls, and I completely see why she felt that way. There was so much emotion crammed within these pages, these beautiful words. I flew through this book in one sitting, because I couldn’t put it down, especially after the first half.

I was a little hesitant at first how much this book would discuss mental health, and it was a bit darker than I expected. However, I do think this one handles depression for children in a really approachable way. It’s sad, and it’s difficult, but it’s real. I did find myself getting so emotional while reading, but it was also so full of hope and light that I loved the ending.

Sometimes they change so much in mine they become something else entirely, but Dad says these are called lies.

This book was just so beautiful and so easy to fall in love with. It has quickly become one of those books I would recommend to anybody, and feels so very needed.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Black Joy by Various Authors

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Edited by award-winning journalist Charlie Brinkhust-Cuff and up-and-coming talent Timi Sotire, join twenty-eight inspirational voices in this uplifting and empowering anthology as they come together to celebrate being Black British, sharing their experiences of joy and what it means to them.

Thank you to Penguin for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction but this one was a must-read for me. This was a collection of essays by Black British people from across disciplines and industries, and it is full of Black joy. It was beautiful.

These essays are perfect for teenagers, but great for those of any age. All of them are around 10 pages long and are spaced out with illustrations and block quotes, making them accessible to read and approachable to read one or two at a time. It took me a while to read this one as I mainly read a chunk a day, which is exactly what I’d recommend if you’re going to pick this one up!

I loved the different subjects and aspects of Black Joy that were discussed throughout this collection. There’s essays about music, radio, literature, love and romance, to barber shop culture and connecting to nature. The way the authors weave in their own subjects and things that bring them Black Joy throughout their stories is beautiful.

There was not one essay in this book that didn’t capture my attention or make me want to read on. Every one made me feel more educated and I would recommend this one to anybody.

★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

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Goodreads | Blackwells

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.
Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. She lost all her friends. Her boyfriend dumped her. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.
But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

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

Well, this was adorable. I picked this one up as an audiobook which I really enjoyed, and it had all of the cozy winter vibes without being too Christmassy which I appreciated! This would be the perfect book to pick up a snowy winters day, and it just made me want to snuggle up in a blanket and grab some hot chocolate.

We follow two main characters, Adam and Whitney, who went from being friends to enemies (or frenemies?) and are now maybe finding their way back to being friends again. My main worry going into this story was whether this whole rift between them would feel realistic, but I was pleasantly surprised. Their friendship felt quite believable, my only complaint being that I didn’t fully understand the backstory of what caused the rift between them – so enemies to lovers might be pushing it.

Whitney and Adam were both likeable characters and I loved the nerdy parts of this book. Adam was such a pinball fanatic which was so unique and made him stand out so much. I also loved the sub-plot of Adam featuring a non-fiction pinball book, The Art of Pinball, in his chapters. There was so much depth to this book in ways I didn’t imagine, including some discussions about grief and loss, family troubles and relationships/friendships breaking down. Seeing Whitney grow as a character throughout the story was also so lovely to read about.

Although not perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and if you’re looking for a book with cozy winter vibes and not too much focus on Christmas, I’d highly recommend it! The audiobook was really enjoyable to listen to as well.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Stay Another Day by Juno Dawson

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Goodreads | Waterstones

When three very different siblings, Fern, Rowan and Willow, go home for a Christmas reunion at their family home in Edinburgh, it’s not long before some VERY BIG SECRETS threaten their cosy holiday …
The McAllister house on Arboretum Road has seen 120 Christmases since its completion.
This year, FERN is bringing her gorgeous boyfriend home and she wants everything to be perfect.
But her twin brother ROWAN would rather go on the pull than pull crackers with the family.
And their younger sister WILLOW is terrified of Christmas Day.
With FOUR sleeps till Christmas,
THREE secretive siblings,
TWO hot houseguests,
And ONE juicy secret …
This Christmas, there will be some BIG surprises under the tree.
Sometimes at Christmas, you don’t get what you want, you get what you need…

I don’t tend to read that many festive books, but I was drawn to this one and I ended up buddy reading it with a couple of friends for our December book club pick which was a lot of fun! I’ve read some of Juno’s books before and found them quite mixed, so I was a little hesitant going into this one but I really enjoyed it.

I was half expecting a thriller, from the taglines on the front of the book and synopsis. However, this is more of a high drama contemporary set around a family and written from the points of view of the 3 siblings. I really enjoyed the family drama and I could never guess where the book was going, which kept me interested throughout. I also liked the close-knit group involved in the story, and the side-characters began to feel like main characters the more we read about them.

There were a lot of heavy discussions throughout, including discussions about self harm and eating disorders. Although I can’t give my opinion on this from any kind of personal experience, I felt these discussions were handled with care and attention, and I appreciated the trigger warnings in the front of the book.

The characters were messy and chaotic, but Juno weaves something so clever throughout the story and I couldn’t help but root for them. They might make mistakes and not always treat people brilliantly, but they have their own reasons and it makes them real.

I also appreciated the non-binary and bisexual rep, and I loved having a non-binary side character without a coming-out story or discussion of their gender in depth, it just came across naturally. The discussions of racism, sexism and gender were witty and sharp, and again, felt very real.

Overall, there was a lot to love about this book and the short chapters and constant chaos made it very hard to put down. Although it was a little too neatly wrapped for the amount of mess that happened throughout the story, I couldn’t help but be happy for the characters and root for them. And it is Christmas, after all.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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