Review: Good Intentions by Kasim Ali

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.

Thank you to the publishers, Harper Collins, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I thought I’d like this book, but I didn’t quite expect to love it as much as I did. I picked this up because it reminded me a little of The Big Sick, which I really enjoyed. This one follows Nur as he struggles to face his parents about his relationship with Yasmina.

This one discusses culture, religion and race in a lot of depth, which was super interesting if a little difficult to read about. It flicks between Nur and Yasmina meeting to present day, where Nur has finally faced his parents and told them about his relationship. Even though we skip months of time in places, I still felt really close to Nur and the other characters.

Sometimes there is an emptiness inside him so large it would take the entire world to fill. 

Even though Nur makes a lot of questionable and regrettable decisions, I couldn’t help but relate to him on many levels. He suffers with anxiety and panic attacks, and I felt like these were quite emotional moments which I related to on a personal level.

There was a lot of discussions of difficult issues outside of this too, including depression and suicidal thoughts. I would have liked to have seen a discussion of therapy, but I did like the focus on friendships and family relationships. I listened to the audiobook of this one and I really enjoyed it, and it was easy to follow between the changing times and years.

It comes and goes as it pleases, triggered by nothing specific.

I must admit I felt really emotional at the end of this book, which I didn’t expect. I’m not 100 percent sure how I felt about the ending, but I will admit it really gave me a lump in my throat. I really enjoyed it overall and would definitely recommend it if it sounds like something you’d enjoy!

CWs: past self harm, racism, anti-Blackness, colourism, past attempted suicide, panic attacks

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Moominsummer Madness (#5) by Tove Jansson

Goodreads | Waterstones

The Moomins, in case you didn’t know, are kind, philosophical creatures with velvety fur and smooth round snouts, who live in a tall blue house in a beautiful woodland valley beside the sea.
One summer a grumbling volcano causes Moominvalley to flood, forcing the Moomin family to leave their beloved home and find refuge on a floating theatre. When this casts adrift, leaving Moomin, the Snorkmaiden and Little My marooned on land, Moominsummer Madness ensues. Will they all be reunited before the final curtain?

I’ve wanted to read a Moomin book for such a long time, and Courtney bought me this one for Christmas to sink my teeth into! Even though this is the 5th book in the series, she did some research and found this is the best one to start with.

I was thrown into this whimsical, magical world of the moomins, which was even weirder than I expected. There’s even a note in the back of this book commenting on how this one stands out for it’s weirdness. What I absolutely adored about this book was how heartwarming it was. Despite all of the randomness, there is also some beautiful sentences that really stood out for their beauty.

I can’t wait to read more from the Moomin adventures! I’d also like to find one of the TV shows to watch somewhere, because I love the look of the new Moominvalley show.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #80

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 all! It’s been a few weeks since I last updated you on the books I’ve picked up, and I’ve got some new ones to share with you.

Goodreads | Waterstones

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

I’ve actually already read this one, which I loved so much! It was so cute, and I immediately picked up….

Goodreads | Waterstones

Rio has been sent to live with a grandmother he barely knows in California, while his mum is in hospital back home. Alone and adrift, the only thing that makes him smile is joining his new friend Marina on her dad’s whale watching trips. That is until an incredible encounter with White Beak, a gentle giant of the sea changes everything. But when White Beak goes missing, Rio must set out on a desperate quest to find his whale and somehow save his mum.

This one! Hannah Gold’s second book, which I can’t wait to read.

Goodreads | Waterstones

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time… but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

Goodreads | Waterstones

I’ve also read both of these already too, they’re such cute graphic novels.

Goodreads | Waterstones

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 Nicolás 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. 

Amy very kindly gifted me her Fairyloot edition of The Atlas Six, which is beautiful.

Goodreads | Waterstones

Talking of Fairyloot, I also received my copy of Heartstopper Volume 2, just in time for the TV show.

Goodreads | Waterstones

Chloe Green has spent the past four years dodging gossipy, classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect daughter.
But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.
On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbour with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.
Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe – probably not, but maybe – more to Shara, too.

I received a proof copy of I Kissed Shara Wheeler from the publisher, which I’m so excited for! I love One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston, so I’m really excited to pick this one up!

Goodreads | Waterstones

Monique lives a perfect life – a preacher’s daughter and the girlfriend of the town’s golden boy. But it’s not that simple. She’s torn between her parents who want the pure virginal daughter, and her boyfriend, Dom, who wants to explore the more intimate side of their relationship.
Tired of waiting, her boyfriend breaks up with her, spurring Monique to discover she has a medical condition that makes her far from perfect and she concocts a plan to fix her body and win him back.
With the help of her frenemy, Sasha, the overly zealous church girl Monique’s mum pushes her to hang out with, and Reggie, the town’s not-so-good boy, Monique must go on trips to unknown and uncomfortable places to find the treatment that will help her. But in doing so, she must face some home truths: maybe she shouldn’t be fixing her body to please a boy, maybe Sasha is the friend she needed all along and maybe Reggie isn’t so bad at all.

I also received a proof copy of this one, which I’m super happy about as I really enjoyed Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by the same author! Thank you Hot Key!

What have you bought or received this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Desolations of Devil’s Acre by Ransom Riggs

Goodreads | Waterstones

The last thing Jacob Portman saw before the world went dark was a terrible, familiar face.
Suddenly, he and Noor are back in the place where everything began – his grandfather’s house. Jacob doesn’t know how they escaped from V’s loop to find themselves in Florida. But he does know one thing for certain: Caul has returned.
After a narrow getaway from a blood-thirsty hollow, Jacob and Noor reunite with Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children in Devil’s Acre. The Acre is being plagued by desolations – weather fronts of ash and blood and bone – a terrible portent of Caul’s amassing army.
Risen from the Library of Souls and more powerful than ever, Caul and his apocalyptic agenda seem unstoppable. Only one hope remains – deliver Noor to the meeting place of the seven prophesied ones. If they can decipher its secret location. 

So it’s been 7 years since I read the first Miss Peregrine’s book, and I finally finished the series! Thank you to the audiobook versions of the last two books in the series for helping me finally pick them up after owning them since release – I really enjoyed listening to these and it definitely helped with the daunting size of The Desolations of Devil’s Acre.

After following these characters for 6 books, it was definitely bittersweet to see them go, but I’m also ready to move on at the same time.

In the end, our real home had always been one another. 

Maybe it’s just me – but it honestly felt like Ransom Riggs crammed so much plot into this one book, that it’s almost on par with the plot of the first 3 books all together. I was honestly astounded by how much he managed to fit into this last instalment in the series, as I was definitely expecting a shorter wrap-up with not quite as much at stake, but this one definitely went out with a bang.

Although the plot packed a lot in and was quite action packed, it did also feel pretty predictable after 5 of these books. I never felt particularly worried for the characters or on edge, which did let me down. There was just such a lack of tension there for me.

My favourite part of the book was definitely the group of friends, and I couldn’t help but enjoy the ending. Seeing them band together throughout this book and witnessing their banter and the way they treat one another did warm my heart.

And a real home was all I’d ever wanted.

Although I enjoyed this one and the series as a whole, I sadly felt like there wasn’t enough tension to keep me hooked, feeling a bit predictable and quite long!

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Paper Girls Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Goodreads | Waterstones

In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

I’ve been wanting to pick up Paper Girls for a long time, having seen it around everywhere and heard many recommendations for it. My boyfriend, Mark, bought me the first volume for my birthday last year, and I finally decided to read it. I’ve heard Paper Girls be compared to Stranger Things, and I loved the parallels between the 1980s paranormal sci-fi you can see in both series.

My brain hasn’t been able to focus much on reading lately, so picking up a graphic novel was just such a great format to be able to sit and digest in half an hour. The text is clear and well spaced, and isn’t overwhelming in the least. It’s also complemented well by a beautiful colour palette and striking illustrations.

I loved the group of characters, who are absolutely badass as a group but are also brilliantly bold with one another. At first, I was a little concerned about some comments one of the characters makes, but this is immediately called out.

This one definitely kept me on the edge of my seat and I loved the mixture of paranormal and real-life 80s neighbourhood. The ending and last few panels left me needing the next volume immediately!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: Skandar the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

Goodreads | Waterstones

Skandar Smith has always yearned to leave the Mainland and escape to the secretive Island, where wild unicorns roam free. He’s spent years studying for his Hatchery exam, the annual test that selects a handful of Mainlander thirteen-year-olds to train to become unicorn riders. But on the day of Skandar’s exam, things go horribly wrong, and his hopes are shattered…until a mysterious figure knocks on his door at midnight, bearing a message: the Island is in peril and Skandar must answer its call.
Skandar is thrust into a world of epic sky battles, dangerous clashes with wild unicorns, and rumors of a shadowy villain amassing a unicorn army. And the closer Skandar grows to his newfound friends and community of riders, the harder it becomes to keep his secrets—especially when he discovers their lives may all be in graver danger than he ever imagined.

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster, for sending me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and I was so excited when I received an advanced copy of it last year. The world of middle grade fantasy is rapidly expanding and seeing these new and exciting stories is so heartwarming. Giving out chapter samplers for this book at work has generated a lot of excitement, and I’ve heard a few parents mention how much their child is looking forward to the release after reading the first chapter – now I can see why!

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is jam-packed with magic, excitement, adventure and danger. It will help to generate a whole new generation of readers, and hooked me from the first page. Skandar has wanted to travel off the mainland to become a unicorn trainer for his whole life, but when he finally gets the chance, it doesn’t happen quite in the way he expected.

There’s an edginess, an element of danger, that I loved about this book and I can see it appealing so much to younger readers. It feels almost forbidden with the edge of darkness but was still crammed full with adventure and entertainment.

My only small complaint is it felt a little long and the characters felt a bit underdeveloped for the length of the book, but I still enjoyed the read. I can definitely see this one being a big middle grade release of the year and I think a lot of younger readers are going to love it!

★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Conference of the Birds (#5) by Ransom Riggs

Goodreads | Waterstones

With his dying words, H—Jacob Portman’s final connection to his grandfather Abe’s secret life— entrusts Jacob with a mission: Deliver newly con­tacted peculiar Noor Pradesh to an operative known only as V. Noor is being hunted. She is the subject of an ancient prophecy, one that foretells a looming apocalypse. Save Noor—Save the future of all peculiardom.
With only a few bewildering clues to follow, Jacob must figure out how to find V, the most enigmatic, and most powerful, of Abe’s former associates. But V is in hiding and she never, ever, wants to be found.
With enemies behind him and the unknown ahead, Jacob Portman’s story continues as he takes a brave leap forward into The Conference of the Birds. 

Let me just start by saying I see these six books as two separate trilogies. It’s been absolutely years since I read (and really liked!) the first three in the series, and going back to A Map of Days felt a little unnecessary. I was happy with how the series had ended, and I didn’t feel like we needed more. But I did also enjoy reading the series, and found myself wanting to know what would happen when the gang toured America.

It’s been a while since I read A Map of Days, and although I didn’t feel like I needed in-depth knowledge of the first 3threebooks, I did want to refresh myself on the fourth book. I used this recap guide by Penguin Teen and watched the video linked at the bottom of the same post, and I must say that it allowed me to dive straight into the fifth book without any problem!

There’s an art to fleeing casually. 

I chose to listen to the audiobook of this one, and I did quite enjoy it, even though I feel like you miss some of the ambience by not being able to view the pictures interspersed throughout the story at the same time as reading. I did make sure to go back and flick through my physical version, but it’s not quite the same. I thought the narration was really good, but it did make me realise how stereotypically British these characters are. I think part of this is because some of the characters are from the 1940s, and they do use some very British turns of phrase that may have been more current to the time. It didn’t annoy me too much, but it could have easily got on my nerves a little!

Although this book definitely didn’t blow me away, I did still enjoy it, and I remember feeling the same about A Map of Days. These books aren’t amazing, but they’re fun adventure stories with characters I will always root for, so I made sure to enjoy the book for what it was.

It’s not easy, running from something that might kill you while not attracting stares.

Mostly due to the fact I read the audiobook, I actually managed to read this in a day. It was just so easy to listen to and I had a day of doing mindless cleaning tasks at work, which allowed me to read most of the book. I sped through it and I found the story very entertaining, they just don’t feel super unique at this point.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Stacking the Shelves #80

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!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve managed to write a Stacking the Shelves post, but unless I’m somehow missing a lot of books off of this list, I’m actually not doing too badly!

Goodreads | Waterstones

Imagine making friends with a polar bear… The Last Bear is perfect for readers of 8+, beautifully illustrated throughout by Levi Pinfold – winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and illustrator of Harry Potter 20th anniversary edition covers.
There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

Goodreads | Waterstones

What if you could communicate with a whale?
Rio has been sent to live with a grandmother he barely knows in California, while his mum is in hospital back home. Alone and adrift, the only thing that makes him smile is joining his new friend Marina on her dad’s whale watching trips. That is until an incredible encounter with White Beak, a gentle giant of the sea changes everything. But when White Beak goes missing, Rio must set out on a desperate quest to find his whale and somehow save his mum.

I picked up both of Hannah Gold’s books in hardback over the past few weeks and have already read The Last Bear, which I absolutely loved. I can’t wait to read The Lost Whale!

Goodreads | Waterstones

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time… but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

Goodreads | Waterstones

On a school field trip to the river, Sandy wanders away from her classmates and discovers an empty turtle shell. Peeking through the dark hole, she suddenly finds herself within a magical realm. Filled with sculptures, paintings and books, the turtle’s shell is a museum of the natural world. But one painting is incomplete, and the turtle needs Sandy’s help to finish it.

I also bought and have already read Nightlights and Hicotea, a cute graphic novel duology!

Goodreads | Waterstones

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 Nicolás 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.

My lovely friend Amy gifted me her Fairyloot copy of The Atlas Six, which is so pretty and will match the gorgeous Waterstones edition of The Atlas Paradox perfectly!

Goodreads | Waterstones

I also received my beautiful copy of Heartstopper Vol 2 from Fairyloot. What perfect timing for the Netflix show!

What have you bought or received this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Nightlights and Hicotea by Lorena Alvarez Gomez

Goodreads | Waterstones

Every night, tiny stars appear out of the darkness in little Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning brings them back to life in the whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time… but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

I’m not entirely sure if this is a children’s book or a graphic novel, but on reflection I think this probably is aimed at children, and but has a magical, whimsical tone to it similar to Neil Gaiman stories that makes it feel applicable to a range of audiences.

The story was slightly strange but had absolutely stunning drawings and I loved seeing the characters come to life throughout. Our main character, Sandy, draws characters that seem to come to life around her. Although I’m a bit unsure, I think this story is a representation of Sandy’s imagination, and the second book is another story, another day. The mixture of whimsical, magical fantasy with the real world could be a bit confusing, but was really beautifully illustrated.

My favourite part of the story was definitely the artwork, which is just stunning and has a delightful colour scheme. I feel like this is the kind of series you’ll take from it what you want, and will be different for every reader, which I liked.

I feel like this is one I’ll keep with me and read throughout my life, and I can see the meaning changing every time I read it!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Shadow of the Wind (#4) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Goodreads | Waterstones

Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, one cold morning in 1945, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Julián Carax.
Captivated by the novel from its very first page, Daniel reads the book in one sitting. But he is not the only one interested in Carax. As he grows up in a Barcelona still suffering the aftershocks of a violent civil war, Daniel is haunted by the story of the author, a man who seems to have disappeared without trace after a duel in Père Lachaise cemetery.
Then one night, in the old streets of the city centre, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from ‘The Shadow of the wind’, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax’s works in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julián Carax, and to save those he left behind.

I hardly ever read historical fiction – it’s just something I’m never really drawn to. But I’ve wanted to pick this one up for a while ever since knowing that it’s one of BooksNest’s favourite books, and the synopsis sounded so interesting. I read the audiobook of this one, and I must say from the first chapter I knew I’d enjoy it. The writing (which is both a testament to the original author, translator and narrator), is so easy to get into and is also beautifully written.

The beginning of this book was my favourite part, and I was immediately drawn into the story. Sadly, it did dip in the middle for me slightly, but it definitely picked up again towards the end. I just felt that this had the promise of so much intrigue and I felt slightly let down with the level of mystery. The only reason I didn’t give this one 5 stars is because of the slight lack of something. Either a bit more romance, or a little more of a thriller aspect would have been great.

Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it.

I loved the European settings and the range of characters, who I really liked and found their friendships to be enjoyable to read about. I also really liked the idea of this being a book about books, and the bookshop/library settings were very enjoyable to see.

I will admit that I did guess the mystery element quite early on, so it didn’t quite surprise me when we got to the end of the book. However, I feel like the mystery is only a small part of the book, and it is more of a labyrinthine ramble through Carax’s life leading up until Daniel finding The Shadow of the Wind.

Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.

Although this isn’t something I’d usually pick up, I did enjoy it a lot and I will definitely carry on with the series! I also thought the audiobook was really enjoyable and I’m glad I picked it up as an audio version.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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