Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

Angie Thomas can just do no wrong. I loved The Hate U Give and it’s been long overdue that I give On the Come Up a shot. I’m aware right now more than ever that we need to amplify Black voices and educate ourselves. And I will not be quiet, I will continue to educate myself and learn the importance of this beyond what is being shown (and slowly disappearing from) the news and social media cycle.

This book opened my eyes so much to Black culture. It opened my eyes to poverty and discrimination and the problems we face within our education systems. It left me shook to the core.

Let be real: We’re black kids from one of the worst neighborhoods in the city.

Bri was such a good character and I really liked reading about her story. Her passion and anger drove me to match her energy. She was young and flawed and made decisions which very much frustrated me in parts, but I understood why she reacted to certain situations with anger, which may have impaired her best judgement. On the Come Up did an incredible job of facing the difficulties of growing up, of family and friends, and paired them perfectly with the deep-rooted problems Bri faces with racism in the education system in particular.

Her passion for rapping and music was paramount, and I loved how it shone through in the plot. It gave her such an interesting way to release the anger she was feeling, and made the plot fast paced and have so much depth. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite hooked from the beginning and it took me a while to get used to being back in Garden Heights, which impacted my rating slightly.

All it takes is one of us messing up, and suddenly all of us messed up.

Once again, Angie Thomas has achieved in writing a beautiful, amazing and hard hitting novel tackling such important issues. Simply put, we all need to read books like this. This is just the beginning of educating ourselves.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

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Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife. When Lo-Melkhiin – a formidable king – arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice – leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king …if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it drew me in like I didn’t expect. This book is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, which I have never read but know the rough story of, so I had some idea of what to expect. Having the simple backing plot of the fairytale drew me in and kept me interested, and but the magic that sparked in the pages of this book made it stand out.

The narrator, who remains unnamed, I really loved reading about. She has a strength and fire and I really appreciated her as a female narrator. Even though this book is naturally sexist and shows women to be ‘lower’ than men, she has an amazing voice.

“I do fear him,” I said, which was close to the truth. “I fear him as I fear the desert sun and poisonous snakes.

The plot was slow burning, but it felt insignificant as most of the plot had already been laid out with it being a retelling. The pace picked up towards the end and offered a big payoff for reading the slower parts. I really enjoyed the slower parts too though, and the detailing of the palace where the narrator spends most of the story shined through. I appreciated the minute detailing of the surroundings, as it made the story enchanting and encompassing.

The King was a spiteful character, but his development throughout the story was so interesting and kept me on my toes as I never knew how to feel about him. The rest of the cast of characters were also brilliant, and the narrators sister I just adored. One conversation between her and her sister really stood out.

They are all part of the life I live. But the sun gives light, and snakes will feed a caravan if they are caught and cooked.”

Overall, this was quite an enchanting story that drew me in. The writing and plot were simple, which unfortunately led me to rate this lower than I would have liked. I also really enjoyed the magical elements, but they could be confusing in their descriptions, which is another factor that went towards a lower rating. Aside from this, I really enjoyed the book and it was an interesting twist on a classic story.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Queen of Shadows (#4) by Sarah J Maas

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Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain… 

This book was everything Heir of Fire was missing. I wanted everybody all together again, to be back in Rifthold and for Celena to be around Dorian and Chaol. I was so torn by Heir of Fire and how Celena was in a completely different part of the world. Although it was interesting to read about her, err, relationship with Rowan, I missed having everybody together.

The female strength that shines through in this book blows me away. I love having such strong and beautiful female heroines, and these books are full of them. Not only do we have Celena, but I really grew to like Manon in this book. Her story intrigued me in Heir of Fire, but I liked it a lot in this one.

She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers.

Celena has really matured throughout these books, and I love the cast of characters. My heart ached for Dorian, and seeing how he developed throughout this story was so intense. I really missed some interactions with Chaol and I feel like he wasn’t a major part of the story at all which was disappointing. I really liked Rowan and Celena’s relationship, but something about it just didn’t sit quite right with me. I’m not sure how distant their relationship is, but I swear they are cousins! I kept remembering this whenever I read…certain scenes, and I just couldn’t shake the thought from my mind.

The writing was beautiful as usual, and just gets better with each book. The action scenes are amazing, and I was so absorbed into the story, reading my daily pages first thing for the final few days because I just wanted to know what happened. Magic is written with such beautiful language, and I adored it. The writing made for an absolutely wild ride, and I was shook at the end of some chapters, even gasping out loud.

As usual, I also loved the settings so much. Seeing more of the world always intrigues me, and the last twenty pages or so were probably my favourites of the whole book simply to be able to see a little more of the world.

She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.

Overall, this was probably my second favourite Throne of Glass book so far. It didn’t quite beat Crown of Midnight, but I will be very happy if this series continues to get better – I can really see it happening!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

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Goodreads

Oh wow, I adored this book. I’ve been seeing this around on social media for a while, especially last year around it’s release date. I’ve been drawn to it for a while and I loved the cover, but I never knew how much I would really enjoy it.

Rosa is a girl who lives in a beautiful seaside town with her grandmother, who wants to know more about her Cuban heritage. She has a rocky relationship with her mother, and also with the sea, as she has been led to believe the women in her family are cursed when it comes to the sea, and especially the men who live and work on it. But when Rosa becomes attached to a boy who lives on the ocean, she has some answers to seek.

My first time in the sea felt like returning to something. I thought of my mother and abuela, the image of them sharp and sudden. I wanted to see what was on the other side.

This book was damn beautiful in so many ways. I adored the town, and the scenery was so well described. The relationships Rosa had with her friends and family were sometimes rocky but also beautiful and real. They all supported her so well. The writing was just delightful too, and some of the passages were heartbreaking, leaving me with tears in my eyes in parts.

The food was described in such detail, and was a big part of Rosa’s Cuban heritage. I can’t help but fall for books that describe food like this one did, which was so vivid, just like much of this book. It was absolutely beautiful, a love letter to family, food, Cuba and the sea. I was hooked.

I wanted to find what was lost. I wanted to know how to move forward… My only offering heart, humility, and these coins. My tongue was heavy with the wrong language.

The ending, although I enjoyed it, was the only thing that shocked me a little. It suddenly felt a little too mystical and out of reach, leaving me feeling a little detached from the final pages. Unfortunately it didn’t quite reach 5 stars for me because of that, but I absolutely loved this book all the same and would highly recommend it!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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May Wrap Up

Hi all! I’m here today with my May Wrap Up. I only read 6 books in May unfortunately, mainly due to finding it hard to read alongside Throne of Glass. I also read The Empress of Salt and Fortune in the last day of April, which is why it missed the list and ended up on this one!

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Review | Goodreads

A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.
Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.
At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Everyone at Fairvale Academy knows Bryson Keller, the super-hot soccer captain who doesn’t believe in high-school relationships. They also know about the dare Bryson accepted – each week he has to date the first person who asks him out.
A single school week is all anyone gets. There have been no exceptions to this. None.
Until me, that is.
Because brilliant Bryson Keller forgot one thing. He never said it could only be girls . . .

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness. 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?

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. She’s at last returned to rescue her once glorious kingdom to confront the shadows of her past, but before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight. She will fight for her cousin. She will fight for her friend. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal King and awaiting their lost Queen’s triumphant return. 

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

 The New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series reaches new heights in this action-packed, heart-wrenching and fantastically addictive sequel to Sarah J. Maas’s epic debut Eighteen-year-old Celaena Sardothien is bold, daring and beautiful – the perfect seductress and the greatest assassin her world has ever known. But though she won the King’s contest and became his champion, Celaena has been granted neither her liberty nor the freedom to follow her heart. The slavery of the suffocating salt mines of Endovier that scarred her past is nothing compared to a life bound to her darkest enemy, a king whose rule is so dark and evil it is near impossible to defy. Celaena faces a choice that is tearing her heart to pieces: kill in cold blood for a man she hates, or risk sentencing those she loves to death. Celaena must decide what she will fight for: survival, love or the future of a kingdom. Because an assassin cannot have it all . . . And trying to may just destroy her. Love or loathe Celaena, she will slice open your heart with her dagger and leave you bleeding long after the last page of this New York Times bestselling sequel, in what is undeniably THE hottest new fantasy series.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

A sublimely twisty LGBTQ+ thriller that subverts expectations at every turn, Hideous Beauty probes the hidden secrets that haunt a seemingly perfect relationship in the wake of a terrible tragedy. Compulsively readable and engaging, Hussey’s YA spine-tingler is a future classic of the genre. Dylan is forced to come out after his secret relationship with Ellis is exposed on social media, but to his surprise, everyone is really supportive – or appears to be. But Dylan’s and El’s happiness is short-lived, and following a tragic accident, Dylan begins to realize how little he knows about the boy he loves…or those closest to him.

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Review | Goodreads | Waterstones

Consumed by guilt and rage, Celaena can’t bring herself to spill blood for the King of Adarlan. She must fight back…
The Immortal Queen will help her destroy the king – for a price. But as Celaena battles with her darkest memories and her heart breaks for a love that could never last, can she fulfil the bargain and head the almighty court of Terrasen? And who will stand with her?

My least favourite book of the month was The Empress of Salt and Fortune (including it as it made the list), and my favourite was Crown of Midnight! I can’t wait to see how the rest of the Throne of Glass books live up to that one.

I have a few more books than this on my June TBR, so I’m hoping I can push myself to read a little more!

What did you read in May?

-Beth

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Review: Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

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When Dylan and Ellis’s secret relationship is exposed on social media, Dylan is forced to come out. To Dylan’s surprise they are met with support and congratulations, and an amazing reception at their highschool dance. Perhaps people aren’t as narrow-minded as he thought?
But Dylan’s happiness is short-lived. Ellis suddenly becomes angry, withdrawn, and as they drive home from the dance, he loses control of the car, sending it plunging into Hunter’s Lake. Barely conscious, Dylan is pulled free of the wreck, while Ellis is left to drown.
Grief-stricken, Dylan vows to discover what happened to Ellis that night and piece together the last months of his boyfriend’s life – and realises just how little he knew about the boy he loved.

Thank you to the publisher for an ARC copy!

I won this book at YALC last year in a competition and I was super excited. I’ve felt drawn to it for a while and I kept seeing amazing things about it online. And those thoughts were definitely not wrong, this book really impressed me!

The first thing I noticed was wow, this book is dark. I read the first 50 pages one night in one go and it was harrowing. I did not expect this to be so dark and truly upsetting, but it was also so downright beautiful. Dylan, Ellis and Mike were all such great characters. I felt so sympathetic towards sweet, emotional, sensitive Dylan and everything he had to go through. Although Ellis was up and down with the story, his charm and confidence made me chuckle. Mike and his family were downright some of my favourite characters, and the scenes with them touched my heart.

The mystery aspect of this novel was so compelling and made the pages fly. Once I got passed halfway I read the rest of the book in one night, I just didn’t want to stop and I was so drawn into the book and finding out what happened to Ellis and Dylan on that fateful night. I didn’t manage to pick this up often as I was reading it alongside the Throne of Glass books, but when I did, I didn’t want to stop.

The last part of the book left me with tears in my eyes. It was beautifully written, and really burrowed into my heart and made me feel so sad but hopeful. I think the best books leave you with that, a little bright ember of hope.

The book was written in a non-linear timeline, flicking between ‘then’ and ‘now’. This kept the pace so quick and the plot flying, and I always felt so intrigued to find out what was going to happen when we flicked back or forwards. But even though this book was most definitely plot-driven, it also showed the characters in a depth I really admired. I love how it didn’t shy away from Dylan’s difficult coming-out story, and his friend Mike’s difficult situation.

Overall, this book was a beautifully written, harrowing and poignant mystery with a great cast of characters.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas

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Celaena Sardothien, royal assassin, is the King of Adarlan’s deadliest weapon. She must win her freedom through his enemies’ blood – but she cannot bear to kill for the crown. And every death Celaena fakes, every lie she tells, put those she loves at risk.
Torn between her two protectors – a captain and a prince – and battling a dark force far greater than the king, Celaena must decide what she will fight for: her liberty, her heart or the fate of a kingdom…

If Throne of Glass was good, Crown of Midnight was something different. Something new. Something quite magical. It had everything that Throne of Glass was missing. I wonder how much of this was due to the fact me and Alex decided to read The Assassin’s Blade before jumping into the second book, and I definitely felt a difference going into the book with the knowledge I had gained from reading the short story prequel collection.

I definitely had a new found respect for Celena having learned everything she went through before the events that occurred in Throne of Glass. I felt closer to her and more understanding of the decisions she makes throughout the book, and sympathetic towards her.

“You’ll figure it out. And when you do…” She shook her head, knowing she shouldn’t say it, but doing it anyway. 

Again, the castle and city were both beautiful, and some of the scenes in the library made me so happy, I love how integral the library is to the story. I cannot describe how Sarah J Maas approaches places, but I adore the way she does. I felt towards these places the way Feyre feels towards these places, they felt close to my heart, her bedroom, the castle, the library, the city, the grounds. I felt intertwined with it all.

The characters were brilliant and the romance surprised me, especially how much I adored reading about it so soon after reading The Assassin’s Blade. The brief part of this book that felt happy, felt like a pause and reset before we continued with the wild ride. And my, what a rollercoaster it was. I knew this series would be a complete series of ups and downs, and it really starts here. I never want to put it down, and the last few days I really wanted to pick it back up in the morning.

“When you do, I want you to remember that it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. It’s never made any difference to me when it came to you. I’d still pick you. I’ll always pick you.”

Overall, this book was such a ride and I loved it, definitely my favourite Throne of Glass book so far and it’s made me supremely excited for the rest of the series!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas

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Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out. 

Alex and I were really unsure about when to read this collection and eventually decided on after Throne of Glass and before Crown of Midnight and I was really happy with reading it here! I think if we had gone into it before the first book I would have been confused and daunted by the world, but I’m happy to go into the rest of the books with the background knowledge that comes with The Assassin’s Blade.

This was a brilliant short story collection. Some were better/more enjoyable than others, but the flow between them all was really well put together. Having all of the stories in order of the time in which they actually happened allowed for the flow to be natural.

She was fire, she was darkness,

The writing was definitely better in this book too, Maas has grown as an author and grew past the first story too, really grasping my attention with the second. The emotion came through, I felt more connected to the characters, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series with a new found connection to Celena herself.

I did have a few questions about Celena while reading the first book and these stories pretty much answered them all. It gave me a better understanding of what she had gone through to get to the point of where Throne of Glass begins and I know I will sympathise with her much more now when she mentions certain characters!

she was dust and blood and shadow

I find short stories can be hit and miss and a few of these I genuinely do not remember much about merely days after reading them. However, The Assassin and the Desert and The Assassin and the Underworld were both favourites of mine and I became utterly enthralled with the stories.

Honestly, if this is what to expect from the Throne of Glass world, I’m really excited by what’s to come! And I feel like I will want to re-read a few of these stories when I get further into the series itself.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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BookTube Newbie Tag

Hello lovelies! I’ve got something really exciting to share with you all tonight. Yes you read the title right, it’s about BOOKTUBE! If you’ve been around for a while (and I mean a while) you will know I used to be on booktube many moons ago. I’ve always had a part of me that wanted to get back to it, and today was the day.

And I’m not alone! Faye, Alex and myself have joined up to create a joint account called Library of Books and Daydreams. We’ll all be posting videos once a week and hopefully you’ll have something a little different from us all. To start off we decided to each do the BookTube Newbie Tag, and I’ve left mine below for you to watch!

Do you have a BookTube account? Drop the link below so we can follow each other!

-Beth

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Review: Throne of Glass (#1) by Sarah J Maas

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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? 

It’s been a while since I read A Court of Thorns and Roses and absolutely adored it! I’ve been looking forward to reading Throne of Glass ever since but also daunted by the size of the, and the worry I wouldn’t enjoy them quite as much as the other series. I’ve heard so many people say either one Sarah J Maas series or the other is your series, but I think they just offer different things.

I realised quite early on in this book how different it is to A Court of Thorns and Roses. It just feels different in so many ways, and one of those was definitely the writing. I could tell this was Maas’ debut in the writing style, and it didn’t quite live up to the level of writing I became used to in the ACOTAR series. However, I actually found it made the book easier to get used to and become involved in.

“You could rattle the stars,” she whispered. 

It was lovely to feel an early easiness with this book, and I found it helped me with not feeling daunted for the rest of this long series. I kind of needed the writing to be slightly less complex for me to easily slide into this series and get used to the world.

Although I felt a slight lack of richness to the description of the surroundings and world, I could still picture the castle and tests well and really enjoyed reading about them. I also think there is a slight lack of development in the characters, but I think the foundations have been laid for me to get to know them better in future books. I already have a soft spot for Celena which is the main thing and I know I’m going to enjoy reading about her as a protagonist!

“You could do anything, if only you dared.”

Overall, this was a really positive start to a series I’ve been daunted by for a while. I’m so excited to carry on and see what Sarah J Maas has to throw at me throughout Throne of Glass! Shoutout to Alex for buddy reading these with me, I’m loving reading them together.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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