ARC Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow (#2) by Natasha Ngan

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Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan—it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei’s head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.
Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?

I was so grateful to manage to get an ARC of this book at YALC earlier this year (and get it signed by the beautiful Natasha!). I adored Girls of Paper and Fire and I was super excited for this one!

Girls of Storm and Shadow didn’t disappoint and it was great to be back in this world. Not only did we get to see more of it, but we also see beautiful descriptions of the world outside of the palace. It was so nice to feel more involved in the lush scenery and landscape of the surrounding world and palaces.

Lei has been one of my favourite female m/c’s in recent YA, and I adored her relationship with Wren. Seeing the relationship continue and develop under difficult circumstances felt so real and I loved reading about it. So many YA books don’t talk about relationships after the honeymoon period and seeing them dealing with what they went through in Girls of Paper and Fire was so needed. This book was focused around healing, and some of the more emotional scenes resonated with me deeply.

I really enjoyed the magic in Girls of Storm and Shadow, which I felt was discussed more than in the first book. It made the action scenes so intense and I flew through this in just a few days because of the well written, vivid action.

Even though I did love this book, I did unfortunately have more problems than with the first book, which was gutting as I adored it so much. I don’t know if it’s because I had a break between reading Girls of Paper and Fire and this one, but I found the side characters hard to follow, relate to or even sympathise with. I just wish there had been more character development to make the emotional scenes hit home a little more.

Another reason is I found the Moon Caste (fully demons) and Steel Caste (partly demon) characters very hard to picture. At one point, which stuck with me, Lei mentions how a Moon Caste is three times her height. Like, how does that actually work? I logistically can’t picture a world in which people are three times the heights of others. It’s not a big deal, but it bugged me a little.

Overall, this book was a great sequel and I loved being back in the world of Girls of Paper and Fire, one of my favourite books of the year so far! I wish this had lived up to the first, but it was still very enjoyable.

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Top 5 Books That Intimidate Me

This Top 5 Wednesday series is inspired by the weekly meme on Goodreads which you can find here. I no longer follow the topics and instead use my own.

Hi all! I’ve decided today to look at the top 5 books on my physical TBR that intimidate me. Of course I’m excited for all of the books on my TBR, but that doesn’t mean they also scare me too. I’m usually intimidated by books I think I might not like as much as I want to, or just look so big they scare me off!

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Goodreads | Amazon

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

I’ve heard nothing but good about this book, and I’m fairly sure I’ll enjoy it. But come on, that is a commitment and a half.

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A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies. Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive. How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?
As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

I’ve always found Patrick Ness very hit and miss, and I think that’s why I’m daunted by this one. I really need to get to it soon though as it’s been on my TBR for such a long time!

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WHEN BEAUFORT SWAN MOVES TO THE gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edythe Cullen, his life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With her porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edythe is both irresistible and enigmatic.
WHAT BEAU DOESN’T REALIZE IS THE closer he gets to her, the more he is putting himself and those around him at risk. And, it might be too late to turn back…

I picked this up cheap pretty much when it came out. And yet I still haven’t read it! I think it’s because this book is actually twice as long as it looks – I only need to read Life and Death.

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Goodreads | Amazon

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind them
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.
In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

I know so many people who love these books, and I myself love the movies. But all I’ve heard is that they’re so hard to get through and I’m so intimidated by them!

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In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.
Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted
.

I have no doubts I will love this series. I adored A Court of Thorns and Roses so much! But that series took me long enough to get through, and I just know that when I start Throne of Glass, it will be a massive commitment.

Which books on your TBR are you intimidated by?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Beautiful Quotes #136 / What If It’s Us

Beautiful Quotes is a weekly meme hosted by me, where I post some of my favourite quotes. Any other bloggers are welcome to join me in this and just link my blog!

Hi everyone! It’s been a busy week and I ended up on a great road trip and day out with Pete today, back to work tomorrow so I’m going to relax in bed this evening. I’m about to start reading American Royals, as I’ve joined the Hogwarts readathon and it fits one of my prompts on top of being out later this week!

Now let’s talk about a book that’s been out for a while now but I really enjoyed – What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli.

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Goodreads | Amazon

“I barely know him. I guess that is every relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.” 
― Adam Silvera, What If It’s Us

Have you read any books by Adam or Becky? What’s your favourite?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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August Wrap-Up and September TBR

Hello everyone! I’m here with my August Wrap-Up, which I’m very happy to announce was a successful month despite some personal ups and downs. I managed to read 9 books after only reading 5 in July! Here are the 9 books I read.

Books I read in August

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My favourite book of the month was actually This Time Will be Different and my least favourite was The Marrow Thieves.

Books I bought in August

I actually didn’t buy any books in August, as I’m on a book-buying ban after YALC! However, I posted about the books I bought at YALC here and here, and I also posted about when I bought To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before a while ago.

Books I want to read in September

Smoke in the Sun – Renee Ahdieh
American Royals – Katherine McGee
Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer
Frankly in Love – David Yoon
Tonight the Streets Are Ours – Leila Sales
The Deathless Girls – Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Pumpkinheads – Rainbow Rowell
A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer

I’m joining the Hogwarts Readathon this month as the NEWTs worked out well for me (posts coming soon about these!), and these are the books I’m hoping to read. I don’t know if I’ll complete them all, but A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a bonus book so you never know.

What did you read in August and what do you want to read in September?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

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Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.

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

It’s so unfortunate that I didn’t enjoy this book. It sounded so intriguing and like such a unique concept, but I was very disappointed with the book itself. I wish it hadn’t been such a let down!

The only way I can possibly think to describe The Marrow Thieves is it feels like there’s so much missing. Like, if I didn’t read the synopsis beforehand, I would have had no clue what was actually happening throughout the novel. It feels like nothing is ever explained in full and everything is quite a random series of events. I wouldn’t have been shocked if I found out someone had actually ripped pages or whole chapters out of my copy. This improved slightly towards the end of the book, but only as I became more involved in the story, and no where enough to recover from the disappointment.

‘Sometimes you risk everything for a life worth living,’

Unfortunately, the plot wasn’t the only problem. The characters also felt majorly underdeveloped and I struggled to connect with their stories because of it. Most of them were just names on the pages for me, and that meant the connection I should have felt in emotional scenes was just lost. I feel like the author concentrated fully on only a few of the characters, only one of whom I actually liked, and the others got lost along the way.

The reason I’m giving this book 2 stars instead of 1 is because the writing isn’t bad at all. At points, I even found myself sucked into some of the short stories within this larger story. In fact, I think this author could write some brilliant short stories and maybe they would be more developed and her forte?

‘even if you’re not the one that’ll be alive to see it.’

Overall, the concept was interesting but left unexplored and underdeveloped. I’d love to read more books exploring indigenous people and it’s definitely something I’d like to see more of, but this was a major disappointment with few things going for it. It’s definitely not the worst or most annoying book I’ve read, but it was by far from the best.

★★ 
2 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

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Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see …
16-year-old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t?
When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass—or the people by her side.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for an ARC copy of this I won in a raffle at YALC 2019! This book is scheduled for release on October 1st, 2019.

I stormed through this book in around a day. I can be a fairly quick reader when I want to be, but under 2 days is always quick for me, and I literally didn’t put this one down. I always love books that can hold my attention as I struggle to read for 100s of pages at a time usually, but I read this in only a couple of sittings.

Reading from the perspective of a burns survivor was so interesting and heart wrenching at times. Ava’s story (and the stories of those around her) absolutely broke my heart and made me feel so sympathetic towards her. She was not without her faults, but I think her low times only showed how much she’d come through and how much of a warrior she was.

The writing and plot were definitely the strongest points for me. This is a story of Ava and her family/friends returning from one of the hardest things they will ever have to go through. It’s a story of growth and acceptance for all involved and I appreciated seeing it from a year after the fire, rather than directly afterwards. I felt there had been enough time since the fire to focus on moving forward and developing a new life, but of course still facing difficult and emotional issues.

I’d like to take a moment to mention how much I adored Ava’s family. Her adoptive parents, her aunt and uncle, faced so many hardships of her own having lost their own daughter to the same fire that left Ava scarred. The book didn’t shy away from their own struggles of facing a life without their daughter, but adopting their niece. I think if this hadn’t have been discussed, it would have left a massive hole in the narrative.

So, why not 5 stars? I don’t want to say this book lacked depth, because that would be a lie, but half of me wishes it had made me cry. It was such a quick and easy read for such an emotive subject, and although it moved me, I didn’t feel as gut-wrenchingly sad as I could have. It just felt like it needed an extra push, and I think that was partly down to character development.

That being said, this book was a very important read and one I’m glad to be seeing in 2019 YA. Watch this space!

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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ARC Review: Parked by Danielle Svetcov

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Twelve-year-old Jeanne Ann has doubts when her mom spends their savings on an old orange van and bundles them off to San Francisco to chase Mom’s dream of working as a chef. There, they camp on the street while her mother looks for a job she never gets. Before long, Jeanne Ann realizes that this van is the closest thing she has to a home.
Across the road, twelve-year-old Cal watches the homeless community parked just beyond his big house. Cal’s mom is busy with the upscale restaurant she owns, but they’ve always been close–until Cal does something his mom just doesn’t understand.
Then Cal and Jeanne Ann meet. Cal is too tall and too weird and too rich and wears all his emotions on the outside of his skin, and he just wants to help. Jeanne Ann is smart, she is funny, she is stubborn–hers is a royal-looking chin, in
Cal’s opinion–and she does not want his help. But a quirky, meaningful friendship develops between them, and as it does, the pair is buoyed by a remarkable cast of nuanced, oddball characters, who let them down and lift them up. When Jeanne Ann’s situation worsens, though, and Cal’s desire to help gets the better of him, will their friendship survive? And without it, can either of them find their way through this mess? 

I picked a very advance copy of this up at YALC, and I’m so glad I did! I spotted the gorgeous cover and quickly became intrigued by the synopsis, so I decided to check it out. What a charming and heartwarming read this turned out to be!

I have to say, I think this is the first YA/MG book I’ve read that fully centres around homelessness. It’s something I witness a lot in the city I live in, so unfortunately I have to admit is something I’ve become so accustomed to as it’s just part of everyday life. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget there are children like Jeanne Ann out there, and that’s why I found this book so intriguing.

This book was a love letter to San Francisco. It was a love letter to food (who doesn’t love reading about food?). And it was a love letter to books. I found Jeanne Ann such an interesting but lovable character who I related to easily due to her love of reading and the library. Over my life, I have spent many hours volunteering and stacking shelves in libraries, and I found myself sympathising with Jeanne Ann because of that.

Cal was such a sweet character. Having the alternate chapters of him being in a big house and trying to help Jeanne Ann without fully understanding her situation gave such a nice contrast between the chapters! They complimented each other really well as main characters.

The side characters were so great too. I loved the cast of people who lived in vans alongside Jeanne Ann, and then Cal’s family was so lovely too. They all had their own quirks which made them all interesting and unique!

Unfortunately this book wasn’t without it’s faults, however small, and I’m going to mention them here. Although I loved all of the characters, I sometimes couldn’t tell who was who. There was a kid in the book who I only realised was the same character as somebody else towards the end, because he kept being called by two separate names. That really confused me! Without going into too much detail, I also found the pacing slow in parts (maybe from pages 150-250ish), and took quite a dip in the middle.

However, I found myself speeding through most of this book due to the short chapters! My favourite part had to be the very end which made up for the pacing problems, as the scenes towards the end just warmed my heart. One of the most touching things for me was the constant love of food and love letter to food. It was so fun and entertaining to read about and made this stand out even more.

If you’re looking for a quirky, fun but also touching and heart wrenching Middle Grade read, check this out, due for release February 4th 2020!

★★★★ 
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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