Review: A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft

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In the dark, gothic town of Wickdon, Maggie Welty lives in an old creaking manor. Maggie’s mother is an alchemist who has recently left town, leaving Maggie with just her bloodhound for company. But when Maggie spots a legendary ancient fox-creature on her porch, her fate is changed forever. Whoever tracks down and kills the hala in the Halfmoon Hunt will earn fame and riches – and if Maggie wins the hunt, she knows her mother will want to celebrate her. This is her chance to bring her home.
But the rules state that only teams of two can join the hunt, and while Maggie is known as the best sharpshooter in town, she needs an alchemist.
Enter Wes Winters. He isn’t an alchemist … yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, this is his last chance.
Maggie and Wes make an unlikely team – a charismatic but troubled boy, and a girl who has endured life on the outskirts of a town that never welcomed her. But as the hunt takes over, the pair are drawn together as they uncover a darker magic that may put everything they hold dear in peril…

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

I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I listened to the audiobook mostly, diving in at the end of the physical version, and I really enjoyed the experience. This one captured my attention from the start with brilliant world-building, a stunning atmosphere and beautiful writing. I listened to around half of this book driving across the English and Welsh countryside on a long drive, and it was the perfect autumnal setting to settle into this story.

I really loved the romance, which was very slow burn and a lot of lusting, but was written so well that I couldn’t help but fall for these two and really root for their relationship. There was also several different family dynamics explored, and I really liked reading about Wes’ relationship with his sisters, and Maggie’s life spent largely alone.

When she looks like this, flushed and hazy and haloed by the moon,

The fantasy aspect of this book was well done and gave another layer to the story, but was incredibly complex. If I had a slight complaint about this one, it felt like the fantasy elements were over complicated in places and the space could have been used to discuss the side characters in more depth, which frequently appeared but were sometimes not fully integrated in the story in my opinion.

I did, however, really enjoy the discussions of Irish folklore and culture, and although I cannot personally speak about the Irish Catholic and Jewish rep, I have read several other reviews discussing their positive feelings towards the representation. I also really liked the alchemy aspect, but it feels like it could have been explored in more depth. The time period and setting was largely ambiguous which I didn’t particularly mind but I can understand why it might bug some people as it was difficult to pinpoint!

he truly can believe God exists, and her name is Margaret Welty.

Overall, there was so much to love about this book, which had a delicious romance, an atmospheric setting, and beautiful writing. Although I had a few small criticisms, I’d recommend it!

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Salt and Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho

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Lari Ramires has always known this to be true. In Olinda, Brazil, her family’s bakery, Salt, has been at war with the Molinas’ bakery across the street, Sugar, for generations. But Lari’s world turns upside down when her beloved grandmother passes away. On top of that, a big supermarket chain has moved to town, forcing many of the small businesses to close.
Determined to protect her home, Lari does the unthinkable—she works together with Pedro Molina to save both of their bakeries. Lari realizes she might not know Pedro as well as she thought—and she maybe even likes what she learns—but the question remains: Can a Ramires and a Molina truly trust one another?

Thank you to Harper Collins for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book was everything I wanted it to be. It was an absolutely adorable romance with so many discussions of food and Romeo and Juliet inspired elements. It reminded me a lot of A Pho Love Story, which I read last year and really loved.

I expected this to be from multiple POV, but it was actually just from Lari’s POV, which I still think worked really well. The feud between the two families gave the book a whole other layer but I also enjoyed the discussions of independent businesses and bakeries that reminded me of Last Chance Books.

I always love when books include food, as it really makes me feel closer to the story (and made me feel hungry too!). The two characters were really likeable and I also really liked that this one was set in Brazil (somewhere outside of the US or the UK is always refreshing!).

The romance was so sweet and there was so many layers to the story. I feel like I could have connected to the characters ever so slightly more, but that’s a very small complaint considering how much I enjoyed reading Salt and Sugar.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Demon in the Wood (Grishaverse #0) by Leigh Bardugo and Dani Pendergast

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Before he led Ravka’s Second Army, before he created the Fold, and long before he became the Darkling, he was just a lonely boy burdened by an extraordinary power.
Eryk and his mother, Lena, have spent their lives on the run. But they will never find a safe haven. They are not only Grisha—they are the deadliest and rarest of their kind. Feared by those who wish to destroy them and hunted by those who would exploit their gifts, they must hide their true abilities wherever they go. But sometimes deadly secrets have a way of revealing themselves…

It’s no secret that I love the Grishaverse. Six of Crows is one of my favourite series of all time with some of my favourite characters of all time, but I also love the wider Grishaverse including Shadow and Bone and the Netflix series.

As far as I’m aware, this graphic novel expands on a previously published short story of the Darkling’s origin, and if I remember rightly this was also shown in the Netflix series at the start of the penultimate episode.

I honestly had no idea how much I needed this book exactly when it arrived. I’ve been struggling to pick up books in the past couple of weeks, but this was perfect, it was exactly the right amount of focus I could comfortably give to a book. I flicked through this in one sitting while also listening to music, and I fell in love with it.

The artwork is beautiful and Dani Pendergast has given such a brilliant atmosphere to this story. The colours are subtle but work so well and gives the book such a consistent feel too. Leigh crafts yet another amazing tale that I really enjoyed delving into, and I loved being back in this world so much, even if it was just for a taste.

If you’re a Grishaverse fan, I would really recommend picking this one up. It was so beautifully composed and felt familiar, yet added a new layer to the universe and story.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: i love this part by Tillie Walden

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Two girls in a small town in the USA kill time together as they try to get through their days at school.
They watch videos, share earbuds as they play each other songs and exchange their stories. In the process they form a deep connection and an unexpected relationship begins to develop.
In her follow up to the critically acclaimed The End of Summer, Tillie Walden tells the story of a small love that can make you feel like the biggest thing around, and how it’s possible to find another person who understands you when you thought no-one could.

This book is one you will read in only a few minutes but will stay with you for so much longer. I’ve wanted to read Tillie Walden’s books for a while and after recently reading On a Sunbeam, I decided to pick up i love this part. Despite this being a much shorter book, I actually preferred this one and found it much more closely aligned with my reading taste.

This book follows the relationship of two girls and I never thought a relationship could be captured in only dialogue, in only 68 pages. But this book truly does capture the essence of meeting somebody and falling for them through the are you okay?‘s and the is it just me and the listening to the same songs together and the sharing of breath, of space, of life. It encapsulates everything and more in a few short pages.

I have so much admiration for Walden that has grown even more after reading i love this part, and every page I could happily have as a print and put on my wall. I love Walden’s art style so much and the colour scheme was subtle but beautiful too.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Crumbs by Danie Stirling

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In a very special town, there’s an even more unusual bakery with a selection of baked treats hand-crafted to help your dreams come true. For Ray, a quiet young woman with special powers of her own, the order is always the same: a hot tea with a delicious side of romance.
When Ray meets Laurie, the kind barista who aspires to be a professional musician, she gets a real taste of love for the first time. But even with a spark of magic, romance isn’t so simple. Both Ray and Laurie are chasing their own dreams and even when Ray starts to see the future, she can’t predict her fate with Laurie.

Thank you to Harper Insider for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

As soon as I saw this book, I knew I wanted to pick it up. It just seemed so perfect for autumn – a cozy romance with a bakery and magic. And it definitely didn’t let me down.

I loved the artwork and would have loved to have read this in colour, but as I read an ARC copy, the printing was only in black and white. I obviously won’t be taking this into account with this review, but I would love to see the finished copy as the artwork was gorgeous.

The story was super sweet and I liked seeing both of our main characters have their own storylines and individuality. There did seem like quite a heavy focus on Ray’s job, which I didn’t mind but did make the story feel a little disjointed at times and left the world-building feeling slightly muddled.

However, I only have slight complaints and overall this was a super-sweet story and I adored the relationship and friendship group. The baking element was so lovely and heartwarming but didn’t take as much of a central pillar in the story as I expected.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Horror Hotel by Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren

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

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

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

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

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

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

and still wants to see your face every day.

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

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Fireborn (#1) by Aisling Fowler

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Ember is full of monsters.
Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them–so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her.
But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny–and the very fate of her world.

I don’t often drift towards middle grade but I couldn’t resist the pull of Fireborn, a beautiful adventure story following a heroine known as Twelve and her squirrel companion.

I listened to the vast majority of this book as an audiobook and really enjoyed the narration, although I do think this can be a little difficult to follow due to the flashbacks, which are italicised in the physical print. The plot was fast paced and full of adventure, and felt like a true quest story at heart which I loved.

The world was rich and vibrant with a great cast of characters who felt like a real found family – they had their disagreements and difficulties, but it just made them feel more like brothers and sisters to me.

I did personally follow the first half of the book much easier than the second half, but that could also be me becoming distracted while listening and struggling to follow. I picked up the physical book for the last 50ish pages, which I found easier to follow and stumbled across some beautiful illustrations too.

If I hadn’t been hindered by my personal difficulty with following a chunk of this book, I honestly think this would have easily been a 4 star read for me. However, if I do rate it as a personal experience, it feels more like a 3.5 star. But it was still a super enjoyable middle grade adventure story!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Vow So Bold and Deadly (#3) by Brigid Kemmerer

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Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace.
Fight the battle, save the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.
As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and a dangerous enemy returns, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly is the conclusion of the Cursebreakers series, a fantasy story loosely reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. This series has been really enjoyable so far, and I’m glad to finally be able to say I’ve finished reading it. I was also glad to find out there will be more books set in this series, in the Forging Silver Into Stars series set in the same world.

I definitely enjoyed this final book more than the second one, A Heart So Fierce and Broken. We had more of an equal balance of POV between characters, which I really enjoyed. It was great to see more chapters following Harper and Rhen, which I did miss in the second book.

I know trust is not something you win once, 

I once again really enjoyed the writing and the world-building, which gives these books a real comforting feel and is reminiscent of many YA fantasy books. I actually really enjoy this – this whole series feels unique while still feeling familiar.

I did enjoy the romance in this book, but I also felt like there was a slight lack of character development. This could be a risk of having (at least) four POV, and not being able to focus too much on specific characters.

but is instead something you must earn over and over again.

Overall, this one was entertaining but didn’t blow me away. At the end of this series, I definitely liked A Curse So Dark and Lonely the most and neither the second or the third book has quite lived up to the feeling I had from re-reading the first one. But I have enjoyed all of these books, and found them very easy to read.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Nothing More to Tell by Karen M McManus

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True crime can leave a false trail.
Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favourite teacher. The case was never solved, but she’s sure that the three kids who found Mr. Larkin’s body know more than they’re telling, especially her ex-best friend Tripp Talbot. He’s definitely hiding something.
When Brynn gets an internship working on a popular true-crime show, she decides to investigate what really happened that day in the woods. But the further she dives into the past, the more secrets she finds.
Four years ago someone got away with murder. Now it’s time to uncover the truth . . .

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

I’ve been reading Karen M McManus’ books for a long time, and I always forget quite how much I enjoy them, until a new one comes along and surprises me. Nothing More to Tell is her newest release, and I always marvel at how she makes each book feel so unique. Being YA thrillers, they naturally all follow similar plots and groups of characters, but each of her books has something different about it. This book is set in a private school, and I really liked the premise and atmosphere.

I listened to the audiobook of this one for most of the book, and I felt like it was done really well. This book is told in alternate viewpoints of two characters, and I liked following both of them a lot. With around 80 pages left, I decided to pick up the physical version, and although I was only planning on reading a little bit physically and going back to the audiobook, I found myself not being able to put it down until it was finished.

The world would be a better place if more people knew when to stop talking. Everyone says too much, all the time.

This book kept me gripped until the very end, and I honestly did not guess where this one was going at all. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite Karen M McManus book so far, but it did feel like the most intricate. There was so many twists and turns, and every time I thought we were coming to a conclusion, something else happened to change that. We don’t find out who the killer actually is until the last 10 pages, and that really kept me hooked!

Although the characters weren’t my favourite, I did like them a lot and they felt very 3 dimensional. I also really liked how they had reconnected as friends after a number of years. Neither of the main characters were perfect, but that’s what made them feel real. I find the balance of liking characters when they are all suspects hard to find, but this one was done well.

Ask them a simple question, and they’ll give you their entire life story. No one cares! Just say yes or no.

This was brilliant, and it made me so happy to be reading something by Karen M McManus again. If you’re looking for something fast paced, entertaining, easy to read and honestly unputdownable, look no further than McManus. Especially this newest release!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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