Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

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The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship – like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armour – April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world, and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the centre of an intense international media spotlight. 
Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

This is the kind of book you have to take a deep breath after you finish it and try and pause for a while, just to make sure your brain can soak in all of that information. Honestly, it was just complete and utter genius. I had no idea what I would make of this book or even what it was really about. I did not expect the rollercoaster of a journey this book took me on at all, but I really, really loved it.

April is a bisexual twenty three year old art school graduate in an unsatisfactory job that means she works all hours of the day and night. One night, walking through New York City at 3am, she comes across a giant sculpture. After phoning her friend, they make a YouTube video about the sculpture, who they name Carl. The video goes viral and quickly makes April and Andy famous. April then has to navigate the world of fame, and is still caught up in the mystery of the Carls, after finding out there are 64 of them all over the world, and have been placed in very mysterious circumstances.

Just because someone has power over you doesn’t mean they’re going to use it to hurt you.

Just wow. I have no idea how to begin how to describe this wild ride of a book, but it is the kind of story that will blow your mind and make you see the world at just a slightly different angle. I’m so glad I picked it up as part of the 48 hour readathon I was taking part in, because it was very hard to put down. I was constantly craving the next part, and I needed to know the rest of the story. It’s not often I finish a book and feel like I immediately need the next one, but I really do want the next book in the series right now.

I also ended up really liking the character of April. This was another unexpected factor, as April’s character is written to be unlikable. She makes so many questionable decisions and mistakes. But she is human, and she is real, and I kind of loved her. The way this narrative is written is so unique, and I think it’s what made me appreciate April for who she was. I also really appreciated the cast of characters that surrounded April, who were diverse and great in their own rights.

Hank Green really opens up so, so many conversations with this book. Topics on and off the world we know, about fame and social media, but also about control and human nature. It made the story so compelling, interesting and truly like nothing else I have ever read. It was super nerdy but also so amazingly clever.

People who believe that tend to either be: People who have been victims of that sort of behavior, or . . .People who, if given power, will use it to hurt you.

This was so witty, fun, entertaining but also had heavy topics interwoven throughout. It was such an entertaining and riveting read and I’ll be recommending it to many people!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Fangirl Vol. 1: The Manga by Sam Maggs, Rainbow Rowell + Gabi Nam

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Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, everybody is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath just can’t let go…
Cath doesn’t need friends IRL. She has her twin sister, Wren, and she’s a popular fanfic writer in the Simon Snow community with thousands of fans online. But now that she’s in college, Cath is completely outside of her comfort zone. There are suddenly all these new people in her life. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming boyfriend, a writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome new writing partner…

As soon as I found out there was a Fangirl manga coming out, I knew I wanted to read it. I haven’t read Fangirl in a really long time, but I really enjoyed it and thought this would be a great way to revisit the story. However, I’m finding it so hard to discuss or rate this book because it felt like an odd re-read of the first part of the Fangirl book.

The manga stays very faithful to the original story, and I couldn’t pick anything up that felt different (although it has been a long time since I read it). I did enjoy the art style and I felt like the story fit the art style well. It was very expressive and the characters looked exactly how I pictured them – especially Cath. I really liked seeing Cath in picture format and I could really feel her emotions leap off the page. I also feel like this can really stand alone as a manga without knowing the original story at all.

Check out the first 20 pages of the FANGIRL Manga! | The Fandom
Copyright Viz Media (2020)

I also really enjoyed seeing Snowbaz in this format and I felt like it fit them well. However, I did feel like the way Simon Snow’s story was blended into Cath’s story felt a little jumpy and didn’t always fit too well. I liked each in their own right a lot, but they didn’t quite work as well as the prose version in my opinion.

I’m both excited and apprehensive to see where this series goes as a manga, as I feel like there are parts of the Fangirl original story that I will find questionable as a reader now and would have turned a blind eye to when I read the story before. However, I do want to see where this manga goes and I am enjoying the style of it!

★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Stacking the Shelves #40

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 everyone! I’ve received a couple of books recently that are helping to complete some of the series I have or have read the first book of. I’m super excited to carry on with them!

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I read The Last Namsara a while ago and I really enjoyed it. Me and Alex are hoping to buddy read the whole series this year so I picked up the second one recently!

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Both of my copies of Chain of Iron also arrived recently around the release. I managed to nab this standard edition with a beautiful dust jacket, which was the virtual tour edition.

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I also managed to grab one of these beautiful Waterstones editions and have it redirected it to my house as it was going to the shop I work at. I’m so glad it arrived safely. Even though I haven’t read Chain of Gold yet and I’m not planning to read this series soon, I’m super happy to have them all on my shelf because they look so beautiful.

Which books did you buy or receive this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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February Wrap-Up + March TBR

Hi everyone! I’m here today with my February Wrap Up and March TBR. I managed to read 11 books in February, which I’m pretty happy with. I read a mix of books with most of them being 3.5-4 stars, so it was a solid month with a lot of enjoyable reads!

Books I Read in February

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Emilia and her twin sister Victoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Victoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to discover who did this, and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.
Then Emilia meets Wrath, the outlier among the seven demon brethren, always choosing duty over pleasure. He’s been tasked by his master with investigating a series of women’s murders on the island. When Emilia and Wrath’s fates collide, it’s clear this disturbing mystery will take a bewitching turn…

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.
And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

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A sharpshooter. A dreamer. A damn good liar.
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it s an unforgiving place, especially if you re poor, orphaned, or female.
Amani Al Hiza is all three. She s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she s destined to wind up wed or dead.Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she d gallop away on a mythical horse or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

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Once, in the desert country of Miraji, there was a Sultan without an heir.
The heir had been killed by his own brother, the treacherous Rebel Prince, who was consumed by jealousy and sought the throne for himself.
Or so it was said by some. There were others who said that the Rebel Prince was not a traitor but a hero…
In the final battle for the throne, Amani must fight for everything she believes in, but with the rebellion in pieces, and the Sultan’s armies advancing across the desert plains, who will lead, who will triumph, who will live and who will die?

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For Penny Lee, high school was a nonevent. She got decent grades, had a few friends, and even a boyfriend by senior year but basically she was invisible. Having just graduated from high school, she’s heading off to college in Austin, Texas, and she’s ready for it.
Sam has had a rougher time over the last few years. He grew up in a trailer park and had to bail when he caught his addict mom taking out credit cards in his name to buy more crap from the Home Shopping Network. He gets a job at a café whose owner is kind enough to let him crash on a mattress in a spare room upstairs. He wants to go to film school and become a great director but at the moment he has $17 in his checking account and his laptop is dying.
When Penny and Sam cross paths it’s not exactly a Hollywood meet cute: they’re both too socially awkward for that. But they exchange numbers and stay in touch—almost entirely by text message, a form that allows them to get to know each other while being witty and snarky and intimate without the uncomfortable weirdness of, you know, actually having to see each other in person. 

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

What does persuasion mean – a firm belief, or the action of persuading someone to think something else? Anne Elliot is one of Austen’s quietest heroines, but also one of the strongest and the most open to change. She lives at the time of the Napoleonic wars, a time of accident, adventure, the making of new fortunes and alliances.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

What if death is only the beginning?
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.
Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone. Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her. But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy. 

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

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Dive into the epic world of international bestselling author Leigh Bardugo with this beautifully illustrated replica of The Lives of Saints, the Istorii Sankt’ya, featuring tales of saints drawn from the beloved novels and beyond. Out of the pages of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, from the hands of Alina Starkov to yours, the Istorii Sankt’ya is a magical keepsake from the Grishaverse.
These tales include miracles and martyrdoms from familiar saints like Sankta Lizabeta of the Roses and Sankt Ilya in Chains, to the strange and obscure stories of Sankta Ursula, Sankta Maradi, and the Starless Saint.
This beautiful collection includes stunning full-color illustrations of each story.

My favourite read this month was definitely Emergency Contact, and my least favourite was The Guest List.

Books I Want to Read in March

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Twilight: Life and Death – Stephanie Meyer
Serious Moonlight – Jenn Bennett
Red, White and Royal Blue – Casey McQuinston
King’s Cage – Victoria Aveyard

I don’t have a super set-in-stone TBR for March, but I do want to read these if I can!

What did you read in February and what are you hoping to read in March?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Stacking the Shelves #38

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga where we share books we’ve bought or received this week. Find out more and join in here!

I don’t have a massive amount of books on preorder right now, but this was one of them. Although I haven’t actually read the 5th book in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children yet, I definitely want to finally finish this series! I enjoyed the original trilogy a lot and I liked A Map of Days, so I am looking forward to carrying on with this story. As far as I’m aware, this is actually going to be the last Miss Peregrine’s book, but we shall see!

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What have you bought this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James

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Goodreads | Waterstones

What if death is only the beginning?
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.
Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone. Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her. But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.

Lauren James never fails to blow my mind with her books. She has written some of the most original, unique stories I’ve ever read. Every time I read something new by her, I am astounded by her creativity and imagination. I always forget how amazing the twists and turns are, and how the endings absolutely hook you. I was left shocked in places with all of the plot twists, most of which I didn’t see coming! Whereas Lauren James usually writes science fiction, this book is very much paranormal.

This book starts with Harriet Stoker, a uni student who goes into an abandoned building in the grounds of her university to take photos, and falls to her death. She then becomes a ghost who is stuck in the building alongside every other ghost who has died on the grounds over the years. Harriet becomes frightened and in a panic, tries desperately to return to her grandmother. This makes her try everything and anything, making deals with the darker souls of the building and taking things from others.

Those early humans weren’t interested in entertainment. It hadn’t been invented yet. 

I found Harriet a very unlikable character for most of this story, which made me struggle to sympathise with her. I always struggle to truly enjoy a book where I dislike the main character, which is sadly what I found for most of this novel. Although she does have a redemption arc, and she isn’t the only one with a POV, it just felt like a large chunk of the book was not as enjoyable for me because of it.

We do learn more about why Harriet acts the way she does, which I very much appreciated and could sympathise with her more. She is also part of an amazing group of ghosts, centered around a particular friendship group, most of whom passed away in 1994 as residents of the building when it was student accommodation. This friendship group had such a lovely ‘found family’ feel to it which I loved, and the characters were really diverse. This was probably the best part of the book for me, alongside the amazing ending!

There were no happy endings or romance or heroes. The stories nearly always ended in death. 

I did find quite a lot of this book quite slow, and I did really notice the fact it was all set in one place. The ending almost makes up for it in terms of pace, as it is quite a payoff, but I still had mixed feelings about the pacing,

Overall, this was an incredibly creative read with some really well developed, interesting characters and amazing plot twists. Not everything was perfect, but it had such a great atmosphere and was such an easy, engaging read to fly through!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Capturing the Devil (#4) by Kerri Maniscalco

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Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London they knew. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.
Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve heard of before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him—and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device—is another.
Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end—together and in love—or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?

I really didn’t know if Kerri could top Escaping from Houdini and then she pulled this out of the bag. I knew I was saving that half star for a reason and she didn’t let me down! I’ve been reading this series with my lovely friends Amy and Jo and it’s been so fun – we’re also going to be buddy reading Kingdom of the Wicked soon and I can’t wait to read it. This series improved ever so slightly with every book and I could see Kerri’s writing getting better and more enthralling.

The characters in this book are my absolute favourite and I adore them. I became more connected to Thomas and Audrey Rose with each book and I really went on a rollercoaster with them throughout Capturing the Devil! It left my gasping, shocked, in tears and also with a warmth in my heart. Even though I had an idea of where this book would lead, I was absolutely hooked at the twists and turns.

Love is immortal. 

Audrey Rose is honestly one of my favourite female leads ever. Her character and romance with Thomas is absolutely timeless. Her determination and individualism is amazing, especially for the time, and I admire her so much. She suffers from an injury at the end of Escaping From Houdini that leaves her with a limp and she uses a cane throughout this book. Not only is this disability rep, but is also Own Voices as Kerri has a disability herself!

I adored the setting of this book and I really enjoyed reading about New York and Chicago! Reading about the Chicago World Fair was enchanting and I loved that element of the book, it allowed me to really picture it. I also really enjoyed the Author’s Note at the back of the book which explained the inspirations for the story, what was based on real events and places, and even how to visit where the locations of this book are set! I really appreciate Kerri adding these little details as it fascinated me.

Death can neither touch nor steal it.

Overall, this was an epic rollercoaster of a conclusion to a series I’ve really enjoyed. It has some of the best characters I’ve read and has made me fall in love with a historical series which I would not usually pick up! Thank you Amy for introducing me and Jo to this series!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Stacking the Shelves #35

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 only been a few weeks since my last Stacking the Shelves post, but I’ve gathered quite a few books since then…I’ve been trying to focus on buying books that are not quite as readily available as others, which means I’ve been going a bit mad!

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Goodreads

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

I managed to snag myself a copy of the Illumicrate copy of Addie Larue, which might be my favourite edition. It’s so pretty!

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Returning home from his lavish eighteenth birthday party, Bruce Wayne stops a criminal’s getaway – disobeying the police and crashing his car during the chase.
Sentenced to community service in Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum, he encounters some of the the city’s most dangerous and mentally disturbed criminals. Among these, Bruce meets the intriguing Madeleine who has ties to the Nightwalker gang that is terrorizing Gotham City.
She’s a mystery Bruce has to unravel but can he trust her? The Nightwalkers target the rich, and Bruce’s name is next on their list.

I also managed to find myself a second-hand copy of this hardback and have finally finished my hardback collection. They look so nice together and I can’t wait to dive in!

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I read The Bone Witch back in November and I decided to grab a copy of the second book.

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Goodreads | Waterstones

I also nabbed a few books that I’ve already read – one of those being The Crow Rider. I read this as an eARC before the book came out, and finally got a hardback to match the first book. I really enjoyed these and how they handle mental illness in a fantasy environment.

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Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, but after the events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, he isn’t sure who he is any more. 
When the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. 
Whoever this Simon might be… 
Join him on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray and Magnus Bane. The series features characters from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments, Infernal Devices, Dark Artifices and the upcoming Last Hours series.

I borrowed this one from a friend years ago and never got my on copy, so I finally grabbed one!

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I also got the third book in this series to complete the set and I’m really looking forward to reading the second and third.

What have you bought this week?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Hungry Hearts by Various Authors

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A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the pastries she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that can cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one in the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home. 

Thank you to MTMC tours for a copy of this book – I won a book of my choice in their giveaway and I chose this one! I’ve known about this one for a while and I really wanted to pick it up as I enjoy reading about food. Any descriptions of food in books or scenes that centre around food captivate me for some reason, I think it might be something to do with feeling connected to the book itself! One of my favourite examples is the patisserie in Serpent & Dove – I really started to fall in love with the book when I reached that scene.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s an anthology made up of 13 different stories about food and love by different authors. All of the stories centre around Hungry Heart Row, a place that has a lot of amazing restaurants and food ingrained into the occupants lives. Where people believe in magic, and think that magic and love are integral ingredients to any dish. Something I really loved about these stories, other than how integrated they are with one another, is that one particular character showed up in every single story (I think) to give the main character of that story a treat. I thought that was a delightful way to connect all of the stories, and it made me smile when that character appeared with a sweet pastry or treat!

I’m going to rate each story out of 5 and discuss a little about each below.

Rain by Sangu Mandanna – ★★★★★

A contemporary story about loss and family. This was an absolutely beautiful introduction to this anthology, a short story centering around a main character who has travelled from England to stay with her Aunt who lives near Hungry Heart Row. I adored this story, it had a beautiful discussion of grief and made me feel warm inside at the way food connected the family.

Kings and Queens by Elise Chapman – ★★★★

A dark contemporary story about gangs and Chinese restaurants. A really interesting and dramatic story full of plot twists. This is not something I expected and definitely showed me that this anthology was not going to be full of sweetness and fluff!

The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon – ★★★★

A contemporary romance story about stepping out of your comfort zone. I was so excited to see that Sandhya Menon had a story in this book – I have one of her books on my TBR and I was so glad to have an introduction to her work. I loved this story, which centered around being brave and trying new things. It was so cute and easy to read, but also provoked a lot of internal reflection for me that I really liked, it had a lot of depth to it!

Sugar and Spite by Rin Chupeco – ★★

A fantasy story, and also the only one by an author I had already read books by! I was so glad that Rin Chupeco had taken on the story of this particular restaurant, as it was infused with magic and fantastical elements. It was a beautiful story, but unfortunately I found it difficult to get into because of the second person narrative that I’m not used to!

Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid – ★★★★

I really enjoyed this story, which centered around a character who had travelled to Hungry Heart Row after hearing about it online. Their experience of depression made me very emotional, and I could feel their desperation jump off the page. This had a beautiful moral about finding magic in the every day and being grateful for what we have.

The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond – ★★★★★

This one was a ghost story, and I loved it. Again, it centered very much around family and upholding family legacy. The concept was so interesting and I could picture it so easily. It also discussed friendship and relationships and the expectations we have from those around us. Such a fascinating read that made me feel warm and fuzzy!

Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Cole – ★★★★★

Another beautiful story that looked at family relationships and being brave for those around us. The discussion of anxiety in this story felt visceral and jumped right off the page. I really related to how the main character felt and admired him for what he went through. The discussions of food were so lovely and warmed my heart! (Also, amazing title that made me smile.)

The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse★★

A story about a girl who just wants her mum back, when she becomes engrossed in the running of her restaurant. This one had a dark undertone and creepy twist I didn’t see coming, but I really felt for the main character and thought this was an interesting and different (darker) look at food and restaurants.

Hearts à la Carte by Karuna Riazi – ★★★★

Another one with a twist that I didn’t see coming and I thought it was really fun! I don’t want to say anymore than that because I will spoil the story – but I enjoyed how this one was set outside and around a family street food cart which I loved, as I could visualise more of Hungry Heart Row!

Bloom by Phoebe North – ★★

A story that centered around relationships and the way we see people. I really liked this one, it felt emotional and raw and honest. It was a unique romance story about discovering who you are yourself, loving yourself and had such an interesting discussion of how we present ourselves to other people.

A Bountiful Film by S.K. Ali – ★★★★

I knew I would enjoy this story as soon as I realised it was about film and the cinema. I noticed the cinema on the map in the front of the book and I was so happy to find it mentioned in a book! This one had such interesting stories about the neighbourhood interwoven throughout, and I really liked the discussions of family, friendship and connection.

Side Work by Sara Farizan – ★★★★★

This was one of my favourite stories in the whole anthology, it was so cute and anything I wanted from the story was quickly delivered. It had a quiet, queer, beautiful romance and a really lovely story about how food connects us to our families.

Panadería ~ Pastelería by Anna-Marie McLemore ★★★

I was so excited to get to this story as it included the character who was mentioned throughout the book in every story, but this fell a little flat to me. It was extremely short (I know all of these are short stories, but this one was shorter than most), and I just didn’t connect to the main character in the way I wanted to. However, this bakery was probably one of my favourite parts about this book and the pastries sounded delicious! This story also had a trans love interest and was very diverse.

In fact, this whole anthology was diverse and I really adored the discussions of different cuisines and cultures. It was one of my favourite things about this short story collection! In no particular order, my favourite 5 stories were Rain, The Grand Ishq Adventure, The Slender One, Gimme Some Sugar and Side Work.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Born into an oppressive colonialist society, Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. After their marriage, disturbing rumours begin to circulate, poisoning her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is driven towards madness.
This is a fully annotated edition of Jean Rhys’s late literary masterpiece, which was inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and is set in the lush, beguiling landscape of Jamaica in the 1830s.

Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books of all time. It’s probably my most re-read book as I’ve read it every couple of years since I was about 11 years of age. It makes me cry every single time, even though I’ve read it about 4 times. But not once have I stopped to consider that there was a whole other story I was missing – the story of Bertha Mason.

But Jean Rhys did stop to think of Bertha’s story, and decided to tell her own re-imagined version. Wide Sargasso Sea is the story of Antionette Cosway, who becomes the mad-woman in the attic. She is a Creole woman living in Jamaica shortly after the abolition of slavery. The point of view of Mr Rochester is bookended by the views of Antionette herself, growing up and later in the attic of Thornfield Hall.

You can pretend for a long time, but one day it all falls away and you are alone.

Personally, I found Part One of the story quite dense and hard to get to grips with. I felt like I had been plunged into the story and unsure of my surroundings and the characters in particular, but the writing was my favourite part. The descriptions of the Jamaican countryside were lush, seductive and rich. I felt absorbed in the landscape, picturing the beautiful countryside. The discussions are contradictory to those in Jane Eyre, with much darker undertones and jarring topics of Antionette’s descent into madness.

I much preferred Part Two of the story, finding myself on more comfortable ground with the point of view of Mr Rochester himself. The beautiful writings and descriptions continue, but I found myself managing to keep up with the day-to-day life of him and Antionette much easier. This section of the story is centered around their honeymoon, and I will sadly be seeing Mr Rochester in a much less favourable light next time I re-read this story. He finds out certain things about his wife’s family history that portrays her in a new light, and begins to exploit her and project his own feelings and thoughts onto her. Here begins her slow descent into hysteria, which is a maddening, confusing and brutal experience.

Part three, the last part of the story, shows Antionette now in the attic at Thornfield, and flicks between different days. Reading this feels like reading in a daze – Antionette is unsure of her surroundings, what day it is, or why she is there. She doesn’t believe she is in England and hangs on to anything she owns that feels familiar to her. I really felt the links to Jane Eyre here and it nicely rounded off the story for me.

We are alone in the most beautiful place in the world…

If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on the classic novel, I would definitely recommend reading Wide Sargasso Sea. It is the kind of book that will change your perspective on writing, on your favourite novels and favourite characters. I will be interested to see how it changes my view of the characters in Jane Eyre next time I read it!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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