Review: Caraval (#1) by Stephanie Garber

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic.

This was my second time reading Caraval and I will be honest, I was a little hesitant going into this for the second time. The first time I read this, I hadn’t read a lot of fantasy and this provided a brilliant introduction to the genre. However, years on, I was worried I wouldn’t be quite as blown away by this as I was the first time. I wasn’t quite as blown away, which does make sense as I was obviously a bit aware of the plot from the first read.

I was still super impressed with this the second time. Although it is still a brilliant introduction to fantasy, it doesn’t feel in any way inferior because of it. I found this super easy to read and such a page turner, and is such an easy-going fantasy. It is so intriguing and captivating to read as the world is so involved and magical.

Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. 

The setting is definitely my favourite part of Caraval – it has an amazingly written setting and is very location heavy, which I loved. I pictured this world so clearly and vibrantly because of the setting. The world of Caraval and the game within it is so magical and enthralling. This series is like no other in the fact it is set within a game – the closest book I can think of is The Night Circus.

The way this book is written including a game is so impressive because as the reader, you never know what is real and what is part of the game. Even the second time, I found this such an amazing way of writing because I never knew what would happen at the end of the game and was so captivated by the plot because of it. The plot was so twisted, dark and full of secrets of and lives.

Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.

I adored this book once again the second time around and I am so happy. I once again absolutely fell in love with the enchanting plot and beautiful world I could picture so well. The characters are brilliant, and I love the strong female leads throughout this series in Scarlett and Tella. I can’t wait to continue with my re-read and first time reading Finale!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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April Wrap-Up + May TBR

Hi everyone! I managed to read 15 books in April which I’m super happy with, especially considering I went back to work recently. I also read all of the books on my TBR and completed the Ember in the Ashes series with Alex as a buddy read. I recently put up videos on my BookTube channel for both my April wrap-up and May TBR, which you can watch below.

Books I read in April

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

The magical Peter Pan comes to the night nursery of the Darling children, Wendy, John and Michael. He teaches them to fly, then takes them through the sky to Never-Never Land, where they find Red Indians, Wolves, Mermaids and… Pirates.
The leader of the pirates is the sinister Captain Hook. His hand was bitten off by a crocodile, who, as Captain Hook explains ‘liked me arm so much that he has followed me ever since, licking his lips for the rest of me’. After lots of adventures, the story reaches its exciting climax as Peter, Wendy and the children do battle with Captain Hook and his band. 

★★★
2.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Mary Lennox was horrid. Selfish and spoilt, she was sent to stay with her hunchback uncle in Yorkshire. She hated it.
But when she finds the way into a secret garden and begins to tend to it, a change comes over her and her life. She meets and befriends a local boy, the talented Dickon, and comes across her sickly cousin Colin who had been kept hidden from her. Between them, the three children work astonishing magic in themselves and those around them.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.
But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.
Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.
But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars 

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

This powerful YA memoir-manifesto follows journalist and LGBTQ+ activist George M. Johnson as they explore their childhood, adolescence, and college years, growing up under the duality of being black and queer. From memories of getting their teeth kicked out by bullies at age five to their loving relationship with their grandmother, to their first sexual experience, the stories wrestle with triumph and tragedy and cover topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, inequality, consent, and Black joy.

★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

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Review (2020) | Goodreads | Waterstones

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two. 

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review (2020) | Goodreads | Waterstones

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.
His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.
With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

I read a real mix of books this month and I feel like I had a very positive reading month. My least favourite was sadly Peter Pan and my favourite was With the Fire on High, which both surprised me for different reasons!

Books I Want to Read in May

Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
Ruin and Rising – Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows – Leigh Barugo
Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
King of Scars – Leigh Bardugo
Rule of Wolves – Leigh Bardugo
Don’t Breathe a Word – Jordyn Taylor
The (Un)Popular Vote – Jasper Sanchez
Threadneedle – Cari Thomas

May really is the month of Leigh Bardugo for me! I was planning on rereading King of Scars before reading Rule of Wolves, but I never expected to reread all of the Grisha books. However, here we are! I’m doing most of these as buddy reads with Alex, which is super lovely. I also want to read a few ARCs this month before their releases!

I’ve already read a few of these books, so I’m pretty confident I can finish this TBR, I’m just unsure if I’ll be able to finish Threadneedle as it is quite chunky. I’m sure I’ll at least start it before the end of the month though!

What did you read in April and what are you hoping to read in May?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: War Storm (#4) by Victoria Aveyard

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Mare Barrow learned this all too well when Cal’s betrayal nearly destroyed her. Now determined to protect her heart—and secure freedom for Reds and newbloods like her—Mare resolves to overthrow the kingdom of Norta once and for all… starting with the crown on Maven’s head.
But no battle is won alone, and before the Reds may rise as one, Mare must side with the boy who broke her heart in order to defeat the boy who almost broke her. Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolishing everything—and everyone—in his path.
War is coming, and all Mare has fought for hangs in the balance. Will victory be enough to topple the Silver kingdoms? Or will the little lightning girl be forever silenced?

I have reached the end of the epic conclusion of Red Queen and honestly this series got a little better at the end. War Storm is an absolute beast and I’m glad I read this on audiobook as the paperback is a little daunting! I actually really appreciated the length of this book in some ways, however, because it allowed us so much time with the characters. Aveyard writes characters so well and some of the scenes in this book really allowed us some insight into their minds.

I actually found myself enjoying Evangaline’s chapters the most in this book, which was a shock to me. I found myself growing fonder and fonder of her character over the books and couldn’t wait to get to her chapters. I really like the variety of characters and the variations in their stories. Evangaline is the only LGBT character in the series and I like how her story was integrated.

I am different from what my world demands I be.

The more I read this series, the stronger I felt about how clever it is. Most of these characters were oppressed or looked down upon in some way, but for different reasons. This allowed for a lot of different narratives within the story, which I enjoyed. I also liked how War Storm has more narratives from the points of view of Silvers, including Iris. As with the other books, I really like Aveyard’s writing, which is very poetic and works particularly well in scenes in close scenes between a few characters, which were frequent in this book and enjoyable to read.

The plot was very up and down, and quite slow. For such a large book, I’m honestly struggling to remember what happened or find much to talk about, which is a bit of a disappointment. Saying that, I did find the ending satisfying enough and I really like the way Aveyard writes action scenes. I always find myself very caught up in the action and I felt immersed in the story.

And I am not worse for it.

Overall, I am torn about this book, and this whole series. I did really enjoy it and I think the concept is brilliant, but there is definitely something missing. I just feel like so much more could have been done, and over time I definitely drifted away from Mare’s story and more towards Evangaline.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Sky Beyond the Storm (#4) by Sabaa Tahir

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The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.
At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.
Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.
And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows. 

Good news, I managed to not skip 60 pages of this book like I did with A Reaper at the Gates. I’m glad to say that I’m fairly sure the issues I had with book 3 of this series were largely due to my problems and not problems with the book itself. I definitely managed to focus on this one more and enjoyed it a lot more because of it! After my strange experience reading A Reaper at the Gates I made sure with this one to really pay attention to the different points of view and focus on all of the information, which definitely helped.

I also definitely enjoyed this one more due to the way the characters began to intertwine once more. I struggled a little with them all having completely different narratives, being in different parts of the world and the side characters being different to. It felt jarring to change between their points of view for some of the story, but that definitely improved with this one.

You are broken. But it is broken things that are the sharpest. The deadliest.

I also liked the more character focused elements of this one, and I found it had a slightly slower pace with more scenes with just one or two characters. I definitely enjoy books that look in depth into characters and feel I have more of a connection to them, so that felt right to me. It also meant that when the characters were going through tough points in their lives, I could sympathise with them a lot more. I know a lot of people aren’t happy with how this book ended, and although I can see why, I didn’t mind the ending and felt like it closed off the story well.

The plot was good, but also felt a bit anticlimatic. I just didn’t feel as connected to the story as I wanted to be in it’s most crucial and climatic moments. I definitely enjoyed Elias’ viewpoint more than any other in this book, which was a bit of a shock to me. I have enjoyed reading about all of the characters throughout the series, but I really felt for him as a character fighting against himself and just found his subplot to be the most interesting to me.

It is broken things that are the most unexpected, and the most underestimated.

Overall I have enjoyed this series but it hasn’t blown me away as much as I expected it to. I would still recommend it and I feel like I might find more of a connection to it in the future if I decide to reread it. It has definitely been a unique fantasy story, but I did find An Ember in the Ashes to be my favourite in the end!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: A Reaper at the Gates (#3) by Sabaa Tahir

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.
The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.
Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.
And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion – even at the cost of his humanity.

I have so many mixed feelings about this book, and it’s going to be so hard to judge because most of them are it’s not you it’s me problems. To start with, I’ve been trying to read 3 fantasy books at once, and this week I think it finally caught up with me. I very much struggled to keep up with all of the characters in this book. Secondly, I somehow managed to skip over 60 pages of this book. Because me and Alex have been buddy reading these, I somehow just skipped an entire day and went onto the next day. I was confused going forward, but I honestly felt like I was reading this in a daze anyway and just put it down to my mood. I didn’t realise this until about 80 pages from the end, when I went back to read the section I’d missed, and things did to start to make more sense. I also read this in the week when I went back to work and uni classes started up again, meaning I had a lot on and that may have contributed to me feeling a little out of it!

My major problem with this book is there are a few different points of view, and all of the characters have different roles in the story and different parts they are playing. They intertwine less in this book than in the others, and are often flitting between a completely different cast of side characters too. I mainly just found them very hard to keep track of or remember all of the names and roles they played within the story.

Curse this world for what it does to the mothers, for what it does to the daughters. 

I do love how this book gave us a good amount of time with the characters and focused on them a little more. I definitely sympathised more with Helene in this story and my favourite parts were the few scenes we got with one or two characters at a time, finally having some kind of character development that made me feel a little more emotionally invested in the story. However, I did find it strange how little Darin was mentioned and felt very pushed to the side after the events of A Torch Against the Night.

Another aspect I did enjoy was the atmosphere, especially when it comes to Elias’s chapters and his new role as this story developed. I like this world a lot and I’m glad we got to see more of it. Although I could take slightly more description, it did feel well written for the most part and I enjoyed picturing the surroundings.

Curse it for making us strong through loss and pain, our hearts torn from our chests again and again. Curse it for forcing us to endure.

Honestly, it’s very hard to tell whether the problems I had with this book were with the book itself or with the weird way I ended up reading it, which is why I haven’t rated it any lower than this. I just definitely felt a little disappointed when I compare it to the two previous books, and I hope I feel better about the last one (and manage to actually read it in a linear fashion)!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads | Waterstones

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy
.

I’ve been putting off this book for a while as I was a little hesitant about how much I would enjoy it. With The Invisible Life of Addie Larue grabbing top spot and being my favourite book of 2020, I am now so worried about not loving her other works quite as much. But although this didn’t quite match up, I still absolutely loved it!

The Near Witch is part fairy-tale, part love story, part nightmare. It opens on a scene where the main character, Lexi, is telling her little sister a bedtime story, and the book never strays far from that tone. Reading this book has the feeling of going on a rambling journey and becoming enchanted by a creepy tale. This definitely ended up being darker than I expected but in a gentle way that wasn’t too intense or overwhelming, and I really liked it. It was creepy in the way fairy-tales can be, rather than a typical horror!

Maybe one day the words will pour out like so many others, easy and smooth and on their own.

One of my favourite things about V.E. Schwab is her incredible writing. The writing in this was mystical and beautiful and I adored it. She chooses every word purposefully and it shows, and I feel like that’s the reason it took me slightly longer to read than I expected, as I wanted to make sure I really absorbed every part of this book and every single word on the page.

The writing also showcased the amazing world this book is set in. Near is a village on moorland, surrounded by rolling countryside and forests. I loved the vibe this gave off with the creepy, foggy, vast moor and forests, with cottages few and far between. I could picture the world so clearly and it felt like the perfect setting for this story. I also really liked the main characters and that bubbled along in the background of this story. And I could really empathise with how Lexi was struggling with how those around her were acting throughout this story.

Right now they take pieces of me with them.

Overall, this was a beautiful and haunting tale that I really enjoyed reading. It also had such an incredible atmosphere which I loved.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: A Torch Against the Night (#2) by Sabaa Tahir

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both. 

We pick this book up directly where An Ember in the Ashes leaves off, and are immediately thrown into the action. Again, Alex and I buddy read this book and will be continuing to buddy read the rest of the series, and we both really liked how the story continued seamlessly on. Although I’m not sure how that would feel if I had left any time between reading each book!

This book brings a new point of view in addition to those we are already familiar with of Laia and Elias. I really enjoyed the addition of Helene’s point of view, especially as she has an interesting relationship and dynamic with the other characters. I’m looking forward to seeing her grow as a character in the next few books, as she feels naive to the actions of the Empire and is only just opening her eyes to the impacts of the actions of those around her. I also appreciated having her view of the world from a different side of Elias or Laia, as she shows what is happening in Blackcliff Academy.

Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. 

I was a little worried this book may have second book syndrome, which I often find in the second book in a series that feels like a bridge to the next. However, I feel like Helene’s point of view was a brilliant way to keep A Torch Against the Night fresh. I also felt like the plot continued to be interesting and the pace was kept consistent throughout this book. The end of this book especially had so many twists and turns and part of it really made me gasp!

I loved the cast of characters so much, and there was some aspects of this book that made both me and Alex emotional. There are some new characters introduced in this book and I really loved Tas, a friend of Elias as the book goes on. The friendship between Elias and Tas, Laia and Izzi and many of the others really warmed my heart.

I also really enjoyed how this book in particular gave us a look at the wider world outside of Blackcliff Academy, and I can picture the world really well. I’m enjoying the world building and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the surroundings in the last two books in the series.

Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.

Overall, this was an excellent sequel which I really enjoyed and I’m still loving the writing, which is emotional but really easy to read and compelling! I couldn’t put this book down and I always wanted to find out what would happen next.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: An Ember in the Ashes (#1) by Sabaa Tahir

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Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

I’ve been hearing so much about this series recently and after finding out how much my lovely friend Charlotte enjoyed it, I knew I wanted to read this series. I’ve been buddy-reading this series with Alex and I’m so glad we’re reading it together! This felt like YA fantasy with a slight twist, and I really enjoyed it. I also loved the two points of view, which I was hesitant about going into the story as I sometimes find multiple POV mean you want to skip one and go to the next. However, I enjoyed these two equally and for different reasons, and felt like they worked well together.

These two points of view include Laia, who ends up as a slave for the somewhat evil commandant of the Blackcliff Academy, who she is also spying on. The commandant also happens to be the mother of our second character, Elias, who is a soldier at the academy. Both of these characters are questioning authority for different reasons, and are brought together by the decisions they make along the way.

You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius.

This story is definitely a more of a character and plot driven story than a location heavy one, which let me down slightly. I personally love setting heavy stories and a lot of world building, and I did struggle to vividly picture the world throughout the story. Some scenes were better than others, and I’m hoping as the series goes on we learn more about the world and surroundings. I also really liked the characters and felt a lot of sympathy for them – both me and Alex were getting emotional towards the end! I found myself thinking about these characters even when I wasn’t reading (or had picked up something else when I finished my pages for the day), which proves how much I was drawn to their stories.

The plot definitely drove the story which was perfect for reading it over a 4 day readathon. The writing was so easy to read and I didn’t want to put the book down, which bodes well for the rest of the series! But despite it being super compelling, Sabaa Tahir didn’t steer away from difficult topics. The beautiful writing occasionally gave way to brutality and violence, which neither me or Alex quite expected so much of. This is definitely not one for the fainthearted, and has a lot of mentions/scenes of killing, rape and torture.

You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.

I’m holding out my 5 stars for now as I feel like this has got more to give and I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes. However, this was a really enjoyable, fast-paced fantasy read with likable characters and an unpredictable plot that made me want to keep on reading!

CW: sexual assault, torture, violence, death, imprisonment

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: King’s Cage (#3) by Victoria Aveyard

Book Cover

Goodreads | Waterstones

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven continues weaving his web in an attempt to maintain control over his country – and his prisoner. As Mare remains trapped in the palace, the remnants of the Red Rebellion continue organizing and expanding. As they prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows, Cal – the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart – will stop at nothing to bring her back. In this breathless new novel from the bestselling author of the RED QUEEN series, blood will turn on blood and allegiances will be tested on every side. If the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

I’m so happy to say that we have passed the 2nd book mark and this series has definitely picked up again. We join this book immediately after Glass Sword, where Mare is trapped back in the palace she knows well as Maven’s prisoner. I felt like this part could have been slow and boring, but I actually quite enjoyed it. It gave way to character development and I liked having the opportunity to get to know Mare and her pain felt tangible.

Where the previous two books felt like a build up, this one is the start of the game. And the game is a political chessboard of kings and queens. I love how political this book is getting with the houses and the royalty – but it still comes across as quite accessible for readers who might not be used to political fantasy (*cough* me *cough*).

Now I’m in a king’s cage. But so is he. 

I also really love these characters. All of the characters in this book have so many layers. I have been shocked so many times by their decisions. Nobody is good or evil, everyone has times where they are either one or the other, which I loved. It makes the characters feel so real and have a lot of depth, and also kept me on my toes as a reader. I could never predict how anybody would act, because everything could so easily go so many different ways, which I kind of love.

I was also shocked to find we have more points of view in this book, including Evangaline. We have Cameron’s chapters interspersed throughout, which gave much needed insight to what was happening with the Scarlet Guard while Mare was entrapped in Maven’s palace. Then, later in the book, there are a few chapters from Evangaline’s point of view. I was hesitant throughout about these chapters, but I feel like they did add a lot to the story and I actually found it easy to sympathise with the other characters shown in these POV.

My chains are Silent Stone. His is the crown.

Overall, I did enjoy this one more than Glass Sword and feel like the story has developed in pace and character. I love the banter between the friends in the Scarlet Guard and Mare’s family, who I like more which each book. I’m looking forward to diving into War Storm very soon!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Court of Silver Flames (#4) by Sarah J Maas

31050237

Goodreads | Waterstones

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.
The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.
Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.
Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

This is a book I was simultaneously so excited and so hesitant to read, mainly because it’s been a while since I finished the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I also wasn’t planning on reading it so soon, as I tend to read series together, but I gave into the hype eventually and I’m glad I did! Firstly, I don’t think you need to read this directly after the ACOTAR series due to this being from Nesta’s point of view (the sister of the narrator of ACOTAR). It’s been a good few years since I finished ACOTAR and I still fully understood everything that happened in this book and didn’t feel out of the loop.

This book was very much character driven, and focuses heavily on Nesta’s relationships with those around her. I loved seeing her slowly realise she did have the support of characters around her, and discover a found-family of her own. I also enjoyed reading about her relationship with Cassian which was highly entertaining on every level (if you know you know). And even though this book lacked action in some ways, I did fly through it and read it in around 2 days. I had forgotten how purely addictive and immersive Maas’ writing is, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and found it very hard to put down!

It’s common knowledge that Nesta is a bit of a b*tch, and I admire Sarah J Maas so much for taking that stereotype and flipping it on it’s head. The way Nesta is written about throughout this story is so, so clever and I adored it. We see inside her head for the first time and begin to understand all of the darkness she tackles on a daily basis. I just loved the way her mental health is written about, especially as this is something we rarely see explored in fantasy. Although no specific terminology is used, the way Nesta is described includes symptoms of PTSD and depression, which are discussed openly and honestly throughout the book. This made Nesta such a relatable character that I sympathised with easily and quickly grew to like and root for.

Welcome back to the Night Court, Nesta Archeron.

I couldn’t help but compare this book to my opinion of the ACOTAR series, which is one of the reasons why this book didn’t quite reach the full 5 star rating, although it very easily could have done. The first reason is I sadly felt like I was missing out on seeing some of the city itself. I know this is probably due to Nesta’s situation, and I did love any other world-building, but I did miss reading more about Velaris. I also adored the nature of the house itself, which almost becomes one of the central characters in many ways. My other, very small complaint is it did sometimes feel like the relationship between Nesta and Cassian overtook most of the focus of the story. We know by now that Sarah J Maas is famous for her smut, and although I enjoyed it as much as the next person, I did feel like it took some of the focus off the action and plot, which should have been at the forefront in places.

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable journey back to Velaris and I adored it. Nesta really grew on me as a character and the discussions of mental health felt crucial to this novel. I can’t wait to see where this series goes in the future!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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