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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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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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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N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon Wrap Up 2019

Hi all! I’m happy to say my first ever readathon was a great success! I joined in with the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon this August and thought I’d give a quick rundown of how it went. So, what are the N.E.W.T.s?

What is the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon? And how does it work?

The Magical Readathon is run by Book Roast on YouTube and is split into two parts: the O.W.L.s are in April and the N.E.W.T.s run throughout August. You aim for a profession using the wonderful career guide created by G (link below). Each profession includes the O.W.L and N.E.W.T levels you need to aim for to pass, including the level you need, that being A for Acceptable, E for Exceeded Expectations and O for Outstanding. Depending on your chosen profession, you’ll be aiming for more or less books than other professions!

If you complete your O.W.L.s in April, you can use these to dive into the N.E.W.T.s, but I joined without completing any O.W.L.s at all and still had a great time. Once you know which exams you have to take, you can use the prompts letter to find out how to organise your TBR (link below). Each exam has different prompts, and you then pick a book to fit the prompt. Once you’ve completed them to the grade you need for your profession, you complete the exams!

Useful Documents and Links

These are taken from the description in the 2019 Magical Readathon N.E.W.T.s video!

My Chosen Career

I chose to aim for the Magizoologist career this year! To pass my N.E.W.T.s I needed an Outstanding in Care of Magical Creatures, an Exceeded Expectations in Charms and an Exceeded Expectations in Herbology. That means I needed to read 7 books to achieve my career. However, I also included the Outstanding prompts in my TBR in case I surpassed these. If you want to have a quick look back on my TBR post, you can find it here.

My Wrap-Up

Care of Magical Creatures

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The prompt for this one was to read a book that starts with the letter A. I’d recently picked up Attachments at YALC and thought it was perfect! I really enjoyed this book and rated it 5 stars.

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For the Exceeding Expectations grade, the prompt was to read a book under 300 pages. This one is only around 150, and I flew through it and gave it 4 stars.

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This was the only exam I needed an Oustanding in, and the prompt was read a book with a bird on the cover. What better than a phoenix? I gave this book 4 stars too.

Charms

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The prompt for Acceptable in Charms was read a book with a gorgeous cover. I decided to pick up this one and loved it! I gave it 4.5 stars.

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When I saw the prompt for Exceeding Expectations was to read a comic or graphic novel, I knew immediately it was the perfect excuse to pick up Heartstopper 2! Of course I had to give it 5 stars.

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I didn’t need to reach Outstanding for my career in Charms, but I finished early enough to read Girls of Storm and Shadow! I gave it 4 stars and loved being back in this world.

Herbology

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The prompt for Acceptable in Herbology was to read an audiobook or a book with a green cover. As I’m not one for audiobooks, I picked the greenest book I had and ended up really enjoying it. I gave this 4 stars!

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To achieve an Exceeding Expectations, I needed to read a book between 350-390 pages. They’re harder to find than you’d expect, but I read Scars Like Wings and loved it. It was another 4 star read for me, and I’d definitely recommend looking out for it on October 1st!

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I didn’t need to achieve an Outstanding in Herbology, but I ended up having enough time to read this one for a book with flowers on the cover. It was only a 2 star read unfortunately, but it allowed me to get Oustanding’s on all of my exams!

My Experience

I loved joining a readathon. I found it really pushed me to read as I wanted so badly to complete my TBR before the deadline of August 31st. I was part of a group chat which was fun too! I’ve already joined the Hogwarts readathon for September, and I’ll be talking about that on Friday 🙂

Did you join the magical readathon this year? Did you achieve your career?

-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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“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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Top 5 Cover Buys

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.

Maybe the longer title of this post should be top 5 cover buys and whether I liked them or not, or something similar. I think we’d be lying if we didn’t buy books sometimes (or pick them up) because of their cover designs! They’re the first things we see and are obviously going to draw us in.

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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 Annn’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 bought this book entirely on the cover. Bad, I know, but I’m guilty! It was on a buy-a-book-get-an-ARC table at YALC and I couldn’t resist but be drawn into this pretty design. However, I ended up enjoying it quite a lot and you can find my review here!

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Misa Sugiura is back with another smartly drawn coming-of-age novel that weaves riveting family drama, surprising humor, and delightful romance into a story that will draw you in from the very first page.
Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.
She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.
Then her mom decides to sell the shop — to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.

Although I did also spot this at YALC because of the cover, I can ensure you I did read the synopsis too! Luckily I can say this lived up to it’s pretty cover. Review here!

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Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.
Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

Although I didn’t pick this up because of the cover, I keep buying them purely for the aesthetic, as I’m up to date with the Webcomic so have read all of them already! I just can’t resist having the beautiful spines and covers on my shelves.

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Raised in isolation and home-schooled by her strict grandparents, the only experience Birdie has had of the outside world is through her favourite crime books.
But everything changes when she takes a summer job working the night shift at a historic Seattle hotel. There she meets Daniel Aoki, the hotel’s charismatic driver, and together they stumble upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—is secretly meeting someone at the hotel.
To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell, and in doing so, realize that the most confounding mystery of all may just be her growing feelings for Daniel. 

I haven’t actually read Serious Moonlight yet, but my first Jenn Bennett book was a cover-buy when I read a lot more contemporary romance, and I’ve picked up her others for the aesthetic factor alongside the guilty pleasure.

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Pixie’s defenses are up, and it’s no wonder. She’s been uprooted, the chickens seem to have it in for her, and now her beloved sister, Charlotte, has been stricken with polio and whisked away into quarantine. So it’s not surprising Pixie lashes out. But her habit of making snap judgements–and giving her classmates nicknames like “Rotten Ricky” and “Big-Mouth Berta”–hasn’t won her any friends. At least life on the farm is getting better with the delivery of its newest resident–a runt baby lamb. Raising Buster takes patience and understanding–and this slowing down helps Pixie put things in better perspective. So too does paying attention to her neighbors, and finding that with the war on she’s not the only one missing someone. As Pixie pushes past her own pain to become a bigger person, she’s finally able to make friends; and to laugh about the fact that it is in places where she least expected it.

This was another cover-buy from the ARC table at YALC, and I’m so excited to find out whether I enjoy it. It sounds so unique and intriguing!

Which books have you picked up because of their covers? And did you enjoy them?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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