Review: Allegiant (#3) by Veronica Roth

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Goodreads | Waterstones

What if a single revelation – like a single choice – changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.
But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

I didn’t have high expectations for Allegiant, I’m not going to lie. After reading Insurgent and finding it disappointing, I wasn’t sure whether this would be any better. I’d also heard more bad things about this book than either of the others. It was also the first book in which I didn’t really know what to expect, because the movie only covers a small portion of the book and is less similar to the story. However, I did know what the big spoiler was, and have known for years!

I actually enjoyed this book more than expected, and definitely more than Insurgent. It was so interesting to finally be outside of the city and learn about the world alongside Tris and Four. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Four having his own chapters, but I quite liked it. It gave a different dynamic to their relationship and I liked reading about how they both reacted to certain situations.

I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me.

Tris seemed to mellow a little, or at least she annoyed me less in this than she did in Insurgent. Her character was definitely less of an annoyance, and the plot became more of one. This book just felt so slow. I managed to read it in only a couple of days, and I read the second half of the book (about 250 pages) in a day. But even though I read it quite quickly, it felt like a slog. It felt like walking through custard. Not much happened, all was leading to an explosive (pun not intended!) ending that just fell quite flat for me.

I had little emotional connection to the characters too, which was disappointing considering how much I went through with them as a reader. The ending in general felt like quite a let down and was particularly unrealistic in parts.

I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.

Overall, I did enjoy this more than Insurgent but it still felt like quite a disappointment. I did like having two narrators for a change and I didn’t mind Four as a character. But I do wish I hadn’t found this quite so slow!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Divergent (#1) by Veronica Roth

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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: Wonderland by Juno Dawson

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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: Once & Future (#1) by Cory McCarthy and A.R. Capetta

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When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.
No pressure. 

This book was one of the weirdest and quirkiest things I’ve ever read. And I kind of loved it. Ari is the 42nd reincarnation of King Arthur, and she is a woman who lives in space. Merlin is destined to be her teacher, as he has been to all of the Arthur’s who went before her. And if he goes by the past reincarnations, Ari is pretty doomed.

This was fantastically strange and I really enjoyed it, despite having very little knowledge of King Arthur’s story that inspired Ari’s. It takes place on various planets in space, with our current world being referred to as Old Earth. At the start, I was a little worried I would find it hard to get to grips with the story, as it has a lot of different strands. However, as we went on I followed it easily enough and knew what was happening.

It’s true, I’m no murderer. 

One of the best things about this book is the characters. The queer rep in this was amazing, but also discussed at points, which I really liked. For example, one of the characters was enby, and at one point Merlin got their pronouns wrong, and it was addressed straight away by another character. This not only was a great, and very real discussion, but it made the characters feel very genuine too.

Their interactions were light and funny in places, and solemn and serious in others. It actually made me chuckle a few times, which I find happens rarely with books for me. My only complaint with the characters would be that the romance feels a tad forced and rushed at times, especially in certain situations. I was still rooting for the main couple though!

But I do have an impulse control problem. And a sword.

Overall, this wasn’t perfect but I really enjoyed it. It was inventive and clever and queer and funny. But it was also a great discussion of sexuality and friendship and relationships and family. I admire Cory and Amy a lot for what they’ve created, and I’ll definitely be reading The Sword in the Stars!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #30

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!

I’ve definitely been receiving less books in the past few weeks which is good as maybe I can finally start to tackle my physical TBR before Christmas a bit, but I did receive one book this week that I thought I’d tell you about!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.
As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….
Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?

Blue decided to pass on their beautiful Owlcrate edition of Horrid, which caught my eye a couple of months ago. It might be a bit morbid, but I absolutely adore this cover! This copy is also signed and has beautiful artwork under the dust jacket.

What have you bought recently?

-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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Review: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

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Goodreads

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

Wow. I wish I could find the words to give this book the review it deserves, but I feel like I will never be able to. Becky Albertalli sums it up so well as quietly groundbreaking, and this is the perfect way to describe this novel. It will change people’s lives. It will rock people’s worlds. It will make you laugh and cry, but most importantly, it will educate.

At the start of this book, Ben comes out as non-binary to their parents, which they don’t react well to and therefore kick them out of the house. They then move in with their sister, who they haven’t spoken to in around 10 years. The thing that hit me the most about this book is that there is really nothing else out there quite like it. I’ve never felt so informed about what non-binary people have to go through just to be who they are. It honestly broke my heart over and over again, but also filled me with hope to see Ben surrounded by the people who love them the most.

“Whatever happens”—his grip tightens a little—“I wish you all the best, Benjamin De Backer.”

The characters in this book are just amazing. Ben went through so much and were treated so unfairly by their parents, and to see them slowly open up was just such a beautiful story to witness. Ben’s sister is such a great character, strong willed and always wanting what is best for Ben. Her husband, Thomas is also so loving and warm. Ben’s friends at school were such a great group and overall Ben was surrounded by such a diverse group of people. I love how good family relationships were reinforced among Ben’s friends families and their relationship with their sister and brother in law. It really balanced out the bad relationship Ben had with their parents and warmed my heart.

I also can’t write this review without mentioning how positive Ben’s relationship with their therapist was. She was such an amazing character and I love the conversations she had with Ben about informed consent, medication, and other important aspects of having therapy. Nothing was shied away in this book and everything was discussed.

He says it with a smile. “You deserve it.”

I wish I could tell you how much this book meant to me because I can really see how many lives it will change. It gave me goosebumps, made me cry, made me laugh, warmed my heart and broke it so many times. Again, I am going to leave you with the quote from Becky Albertalli, because she sums it up better than I ever could:

“Heartfelt, romantic and quietly groundbreaking. This book will save lives.”

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Bone Witch (#1) by Rin Chupeco

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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. 

This book follows Tea, a bone witch/necromancer, who has also brought back her brother from the dead. After finding this out, Tea travels to another land, with a mentor, to be taken to a school to become an asha. From what I understood, Asha are kind of like Geisha, in that they learn to perform for others, dance and sing, and are recognised by their outfits, which in this case is hua.

They also have heartglasses, which hang around their necks, and change colour with the emotion of the wearer. Silver heartglasses means you can draw runes and fight, as an asha (for women) or a soldier (for men). Heartglasses are also exchanged with the person you fall in love with, which can be dangerous as they are essentially a part of you.

Then perhaps we should carve a world one day where the strength lies in who you are

There was a lot I liked about this book, but I did feel mixed about it. For a start, I felt like I was being thrown into this story almost as if it was a sequel. The world feels very fantastical and for a good chunk of the book, I just felt a bit..lost. If you enjoy high fantasy, I think you’ll get on with this just fine and enjoy it. But for me, who has only recently gotten into fantasy, I still find it hard to wrap my head around some things and it felt like I was being plunged in at the deep end sometimes! I also couldn’t quite grasp who was telling the in-between chapters, even though I enjoyed them I have since learned it is also Tea, telling the same story but in the present, whereas the main narrative is Tea in the future, telling the tale.

All that aside, there are some really cool parts of this story. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. The pacing isn’t exactly fast, but I didn’t want to put it down in the second half either. The writing is just beautiful, magical and weirdly comforting, and I really enjoyed reading about the world.

I also want to say I love how Rin discusses gender. Even in a regimented world in which there are two genders and they both have their roles, gender issues are discussed. The fact that Asha face criticism as females is not shied away from. The characters as a whole were great, and I really loved Tea’s mentor and some of the older Asha’s. Her relationship with her brother and friendship with Likh were also lovely to read about.

rather than in what they expect you to be.

Overall, I had mixed feelings about this but overall quite enjoyed reading it. This world has so much potential and I will definitely be carrying on with the series, now I have more understanding about how the world works I think I’ll really enjoy it!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying.
Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As.
You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl.
They don’t. They make a podcast.
In a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio silence?

This was my last Alice Oseman novel and I had no idea that I would fall in love with it the way I did. I’ve heard mixed things about this and I was unsure how I would feel about it. Even the first hundred pages or so, I was unsure about it and how I would end up feeling about it by the end of the book.

And then I absolutely fell for it. Oseman has a way of writing that has this raw and beautiful honesty, like the characters are speaking directly to you. Like they are hiding nothing. And they are broken, and they are emotional, and they are real. I loved them for it.

I wonder- if nobody is listening to my voice,

This story follows Frances, the listener of a podcast, and Aled, the creator. It is about how they find each other in a time when they both need somebody to save them. It is about friendship, not romance, which felt so refreshing. I love how Oseman decided to write about a friendship and face it up front, even addressing it in the book (You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl. I just wanted to say—we don’t). It felt so amazing to have such a diverse cast of characters with different friendships and relationships, with no relationship being the focus of the story.

It dealt closely with sexuality in places, with one of the characters discussing demisexuality which I was surprised by and absolutely warmed my heart, identifying as demi myself. This book also dealt with emotional abuse and family issues, all the while showing an absolutely heart warming family in Frances and her mum that felt so incredibly well done. The diverse friendship group was amazing and supported each other through everything. I loved them.

The plot had just enough mystery in it that I never wanted to put it down, and I read this in less than 24 hours. I read some of it on audio, but at least half in physical format, and I couldn’t put it down. The podcast being woven into the story played into this, as I wanted to find out what happened in the Universe City world too.

am I making any sound at all?

It also discussed a lot of issues surrounding school and university, which as somebody who could be classed as a ‘school refuser’ at one point in my life, I related to and found it such an important conversation which I’m so glad Oseman faced head on. It was fascinating and encouraging to see a book that talked about healthy alternatives to higher education, and I loved it.

Overall, wow did this blow me away. I had no idea how much I would fall for it and that it would become my favourite Oseman book!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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