Review: The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

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

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, and it really didn’t let me down. This book had a similar trope to fake-dating but with a twist, and I loved it. It was witty, clever and laugh-out-loud funny, but with deeper, dark moments too. It was fun, but also so much more emotional than I expected.

As someone who is moving slowly and cautiously away from YA fiction, especially contemporary YA fiction, I definitely need something with a twist to keep me interested and on my toes, which is exactly what The Falling in Love Montage did. This book was about that part of the rom-com film where the couple goes on dates and have a cute montage of them, well, falling in love. It’s the bit after the meet-cute and before the devastation, and it is exactly what the main characters of this book had planned for the summer.

“See, the thing about the falling in love montage,” she said, her voice hoarse,

What I expected from this story was a cute, summer romance. And I’m not saying it didn’t provide that, because it did, but it became so much more. I had tears in my eyes from reading about Saoirse’s story, which was a lot darker than I expected. Not only did she have a messy relationship and friendship history, she also had a mum with dementia who was only in her 50s. This really hit me harder than expected, and although I have no experience in the subject, I felt like it was written very well. I connected to Saorise a lot throughout this story, and the situation with her mum brought me close to tears at various points.

Saorise is a bit of an arrogant, stroppy teenager throughout this book, but I kind of loved it. Her witty comebacks were so funny, and her sarky attitude to life was highly entertaining. Even when you wanted to throw the book across the room at her decisions, she was completely self aware at how she was acting, which made it work. Also, she kind of has enough justification for being angry about a lot of the crap she has gone through. Her voice was unique and so was the writing style, which showed her thought processes really well.

“is that when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love.”

It was also lovely to see a YA book set in Ireland and with so many mentions of Irish culture. It is definitely something we don’t see a lot of in YA and really made this book stand out – it was such a joy to read about!

Overall, this was a really lovely story with a fun summer romance and also some emotional discussions. It was incredibly well written and unputdownable, and was a lovely journey to go on even if it was a little predictable in places.

CW: Dementia

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

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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.

Yay for my first Jane Austen book, second classic of the year and first one of my Wordsworth set that I am actually reading this copy of! This is a book Mark recommended to me, and I knew I wanted it to be the first one I read in this set. If a cold Autumn day is the best time to read a Jane Austen book, maybe a snowy winter one can be second. I felt so cosy settling down with this book in the evenings with my fairylights on, it was just perfect.

Like many classics, I did find this a little dense. I’m not much of a classics reader usually (I’m really trying to get into them this year a little more!). I always find it takes me a while to settle into a classic and get used to the writing. I also have to get used to it taking me around double the amount of time it takes me to read YA fantasy and contemporary which I’m reading for most of the time! I definitely think a reread would be beneficial.

I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.

Something that really surprised me about this book was how humorous I found it. The writing is so poetic and beautiful, but also funny. Austen can be sassy and brutal and I loved it, it made me chuckle to myself in parts. I loved the writing in every sense, other than it being naturally a little difficult to read due to just not being used to the time period. It was lyrical and I wanted to savour it, and I definitely made sure to take my time with it and really appreciate the writing.

Anne made for a very likable main character and her discussions of love, friendship, women in society and family were so interesting and well done. I loved the subtle romance between her and Captain Wentworth, which was pining but not overwhelming to the story. The letter everyone talks about when it comes to this book is so beautiful and such a high point for this book. I love how we spend the whole book with Anne, to see the letter in return. What a beautiful scene.

None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.

Overall, this was a beautifully told tale full of romance, lust and persistence. I felt very involved in the story, I loved the setting and the writing, and I can’t wait to read more from Jane Austen!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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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. 

I expected to like this book. Hell, a part of me thought I might even love it. But I didn’t expect to find an emotional connection to it so deep that it made me cry.

This book is the story of Penny and Sam, a woman who has just started at college and a man who works in a coffee shop. Their paths cross somewhat unexpectedly, and they find themselves drawn to one another but are, of course, too socially awkward to do anything about it. When Penny saves Sam from having a panic attack on the street, they become each other’s ’emergency contacts’, just, y’know, in case something happens.

You can see where this is going. Penny and Sam become texting buddies, talking about anything and everything all hours of the day and night. They become each other’s support through difficult stages in their lives – dealing with mom trouble, girl trouble, friend trouble and everything in between.

Loving someone was traumatizing. 

I adored the messed up characters of Penny and Sam. This book is told in alternating POV between the two of them, and both of them leap off the page. They are both real, with real problems, friendships and relationships that made me sympathise with them. But the reason I fell in love with Penny and Sam so deeply was because they reminded me of my own relationship. A few months before me and my boyfriend started dating, we started texting. And just as Penny and Sam did, we would message at all hours about anything and everything. We would have deep conversations in the middle of the night. And we fell in love.

As this book went on, it reminded me more and more of me and Mark. And my connection to this book deepened. I saw myself on the page – I saw our sweet interactions and first kisses. I realised how grateful and lucky I am to have found my emergency contact.

On a less subjective note, this book dips between being quite slow (it’s definitely a slow-burn romance!) and really addictive. I did find it slow at first but this is definitely more of a character focused than plot focused book and is bound to be a little on the slow side! I really liked how this didn’t shy away from some of the difficulties young adults face, especially as they moved away from home and the relationship with their parents changed. There are many real life issues discussed through the main characters and side characters – nothing is shied away from. It is dark and depressing in places, but it is reflective of real life and real struggles.

You never knew what would happen to them out there in the world. Everything precious was also vulnerable.

I can totally understand why this book is not for some people. It is slow in parts and the characters can be unlikable. It’s also super dark in places and sometimes that’s not what people look for in fiction. But personally, I absolutely adored it. I admit that is partly because of how I related to it on a personal level, but I think that’s okay sometimes!

CW: rape, pregnancy, drug use, drinking, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, racism

★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

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Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

This was such a heartwarming read. I’ve heard some really good things about this book and have been looking forward to it for a long time – I bought it for my mum, who adored it and passed it to me a while ago! I had a feeling I would like it, but I didn’t know I’d be finding a new favourite that I just couldn’t put down.

This story follows Tiffy, who is an Assistant Editor about to move out of her ex-boyfriends flat with not much cash and nowhere to go. She ends up flatsharing (or bedsharing!) with Leon, a palliative care nurse who works nights. They share the flat, and the bed, but work opposite shifts and never expect to meet…

Remind myself that there is no saving of people —people can only save themselves.

This was a story full of strength, growth and friendship. Acceptance, love and forgiveness. It was beautiful, and it made me laugh and cry (sometimes at the same time!). There are so many stories in this, as it follows both Leon and Tiffy in alternate points of view. As well as their story sharing the flat, they have stories and lives of their own. Tiffy is recently out of an abusive relationship and is trying to find herself again. Leon is in a relationship of his own that doesn’t feel quite right somehow, and has a brother who is wrongly imprisoned.

I could not put this down. Once I got to 100ish pages, I was absolutely and utterly sucked into Tiffy and Leon’s story. I wanted to find out what happened to them and everyone else in this story, and I read the last 250 pages in two sittings and on the same day. The short and alternating chapters made it too easy to fly through, and I just loved it. At first, I found Tiffy a little annoying, and I found Leon’s chapters a little hard to read (he skips a lot of words and writes just as I imagine he thinks, with very few words!), but that quickly became easier and quicker to read.

The best you can do is help when they’re ready.

This book was so heartwarming and emotional, with depth and real characters. I really fell in love with it and the characters, and I couldn’t put it down. I would definitely recommend it and I’m looking forward to reading more by this author!

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Book vs. Movie: P.S. I Still Love You

Hi lovelies! Today I’m going to be talking about the differences and similarities between the P.S. I Still Love You book and the movie. This isn’t a review as such (although I may do a post like that about the movies soon!), it’s specifically comparing them to each other! I found the way the movie approached some topics really interesting, and as I only read the book in the week before watching the film, I picked up on tiny differences.

Fair warning that this will include a lot of spoilers for the movie – so please only read if you’ve watched it or don’t mind finding out major plot points! With that covered, let’s delve right in!

Differences

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Lara Jean’s first proper date with Peter K. Now, this was all pretty much the same, and it was lovely in both, but I noticed a big change in the movie. They go to a Chinese Lantern Festival. In the book, they go for dinner and walk around the university campus at night that they both want to attend.

John Ambrose McClaren uploaded by lily on We Heart It

This was a bigggg change for me! In the book, John Ambrose McClaren never volunteered at the retirement village. He did reply to Lara Jean’s letter, and most of the other details remain the same, but he never actually volunteered – he’s Stormy’s grandson!

The Credits Scene In "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" Perfectly ...

This is a different GIF to the scene I’m referring to – but there is a party fairly near the start of the movie where Lara Jean is talking to Lucas about how she’s feeling, and then her and Peter K text from across the room, which Lucas teases them for. I didn’t remember this scene at all from the book, and then was shocked to discover the exact scene in the start of the third book, Always and Forever Lara Jean instead!

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The Starball is pretty accurate to how it happened in the book – the major difference being in the book it is a USO/1940s themed party. And although it snows in both, in the book Lara Jean and John Ambrose are snowed into the retirement home and have to stay there together!

Similarities

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I’m really pleased to say the Korean New Years celebrations are pretty much exactly how it happened in the book, and it was lovely. Even the sassy comments from Kitty were kept in!

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Although everything plays out ever so slightly differently, Lara Jean’s dad and Mrs Rothchild from across the street do date in both the book and the movie – and both times with help from Kitty!

holland taylor To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You | Explore ...

Stormy, who is a resident at the care home where Lara Jean volunteers, remains the exact same and I love her for it.

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It may seem like a small thing, but Lara Jean makes cherry turnovers in both the book and the movie. I’ve since made them myself and I adored them! In fact, Valentine’s plays out similarly in both the book and the movie too.

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All of the treehouse scenes remained pretty much the same too, even in the flashback!

Overall, these movies are pretty good adaptations, and are some of the rare ones I really adore and think have done an excellent job. Even though there is some differences, they included the majority of the things I loved about the books, and made them beautiful for screen.

-Beth

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Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (#3) by Jenny Han

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And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.
Life couldn’t be more perfect!
At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.
Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

I’m so glad I finally continued with this series, and I’m so thankful to Netflix for making such good adaptations that made me want to carry on with reading the books. It doesn’t often happen that I prefer movies over books, but it did happen with the first To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before book. I just preferred the feel of it on the big screen.

I had mixed feelings about this whole trilogy, and it was by no means perfect, but I still enjoyed it all the same. My love for the Song-Covey family grew stronger with every book, and it certainly grew with the events in Always and Forever Lara Jean. I also found the few scenes with Chris and the other friends/friends of the family warmed my heart so much, especially a certain roadtrip the girls went on.

Is this how it goes?

I still questioned Peter throughout this whole book, and I never quite fell for his character the way I truly wanted to. I understand they are both young and make mistakes, and no relationship runs smooth one hundred percent of the time, but I do wish Peter acted differently in certain scenarios.

I think one of the major factors of my love for this story comes from my adoration of Lara Jean. I see so much of myself in her. Her love for baking, reading and her family is exactly how I am. She’s a hopeless romantic, just like me, and I can only hope I have even a fraction of her cute style and all-around creativity.

You fall in love, and nothing seems truly scary anymore, and life is one big possibility?

These books are not perfect, but they truly warm my heart on cold winters days, and once I picked them up I couldn’t easily put them down again. They’re cute and fluffy, but they do their thing really well. I know I’ll pick them up again, and I can definitely see the movies becoming frequent re-watches. It’ll be great to see this final chapter on the big screen!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Meet Cute by Various Authors

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Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors. 
Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants. 
This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to short story collections, because they can be so hit and miss. But this one didn’t let me down, and overall I enjoyed all of the stories in some capacity. In some ways the stories being so short (20-30 pages each) was good, because I didn’t have to spend too much time on those I didn’t like as much.

I really liked the concept of these books, with each short story being about two people meeting, and you have no idea where the relationship heads afterwards. It’s such a cute idea, and leaves a lot up to the imagination of the reader! A few of these were LGBTQIA+ and diverse in other ways, including race and a plus size character.

‘”What do you think the difference between wanting to be friends and wanting to be more than friends is?”

As with anthologies, this book included many different concepts that varied by author. This was so fun – we had a lot of contemporary, but also some magical realism and fantasy! I’m going to go through each one to give my opinions.

Siege Etiquette by Katie Cotungo ★★

This story was about two people meeting in the bathroom at a party and kind of hitting it off. Unfortunately it felt flat to me, had a weird writing style I wasn’t used to, and I really didn’t see the connection between the characters. A poor start!

Print Shop by Nina LaCour ★★★★★

Thankfully, the book greatly improved for me with Nina LaCour, who frankly will never let me down. I love the creative idea, with the main character working in a print shop and meeting one of her clients when her order went wrong. Very cute with great characters!

Hourglass by Ibi Zoboi ★★★

I don’t want to give this a bad rating but the fact I don’t remember anything that happened is really not a good sign? It definitely wasn’t all bad, featuring a girl who doesn’t want to go to prom and her friend who does. Great diversity with a cute ending, but unfortunately very forgettable.

Click by Katherine McGee ★★★★

This one featured an interesting futuristic concept where people meet via an app in which they are matched with others. It reminded me of the Black Mirror episode Hang the DJ, and I really enjoyed it. It had a unique concept that stood out for me, and sent out a good message!

The Intern by Sara Shepard ★★★

Another one which wasn’t bad as such but was just lacking. Of course this book includes many stories and it’s hard to stand out from the crowd, and this one blended in too much for me. It was very insta love, with a celebrity and intern who worked at a music shop.

Somewhere That’s Green by Meredith Russo ★★★★

This story included a transgender character and a character struggling with accepting her sexuality. They had great chemistry and an interesting story. I loved the different PsOV, and found the characters compelling and touching.

The Way We Love Here by Dhonielle Clayton ★★★★

The only fantasy story in this collection and that definitely made it memorable! I’m not usually one for stories like this, but I really enjoyed it. The two main characters are born on an island where everyone has soulmate bands that lessen as the date to meeting their soulmate gets closer. It was so touching and heartwarming with enough twists to keep me on my toes.

Oomph by Emery Lord ★★★★

I read a review on Goodreads that describes this story as a Hayley Kiyoko song, and I cannot describe it better. Two girls meet in an airport, and one overcomes her anxieties to connect with the other. Overall, a fluffy and cute read that worked.

The Dictionary of You and Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout ★★★★

Another really cute read, but set in a library. Yes, the perfect setting for bibliophiles to read a romance story set in. This story was so sweet and touching, and I loved the awkward but adorable characters.

The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love – Jocelyn Davis ★★★★★

This story was definitely one of my favourites, and followed a girl studying the statistic of whether she was going to see a guy she was attracted to on the subway. I loved it all. The concept, the characters (the classmates were super cute), the setting. So well executed!

259 Million Miles by Kass Morgan ★★★

This one focuses on two people interviewing to be sent off on a mission to mars, and end up being locked in a room for 24 hours as part of their interviews. I loved the concept, but the ending really let it down. I just didn’t feel enough hope for these guys to be honest.

Something Real by Julie Murphy ★★★

This story was cute, and had really good elements, but I also didn’t click with it as much as I’d have liked. It featured two girls competing for a date on a reality TV show, and ended up liking each other instead. It was definitely the funniest of the stories, but something felt so cliche about it and let it down a little.

Say Everything by Huntley Fitzpatrick ★★

I had such high hopes for this story because of how much I love My Life Next Door, but ugh, no. It focuses on a waitress going on a date with one of her customers, and then finds out she has a weird connection to him. This one just felt kind of creepy and sinister, and didn’t work for me in such a short format? It needed more explanation to work!

The Department of Dead Love by Nicola Yoon ★★★★★

I loved this one. Of course Nicola Yoon wouldn’t let me down! This story is set in a futuristic world where you can have your memories of someone erased, have relationships studied by experts etc. and that’s what our main character thinks he wants. It had such a cute twist and I adored the concept.

‘”Some people you want to get to know and some people you want to know you. I think that’s the difference.”’

So overall, such a mix of short stories, but only let down by a few. I’d love to go back and read my favourites sometime, and it’s definitely a book you can just pick up if you want a heartwarming read.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Lady Midnight (#1) by Cassandra Clare

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It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Clare never fails to astound me, and I honestly think she may have nabbed my top spot on my favourite authors list! To prove a point, I started this book on Friday and finished it on Tuesday. And I know there are many fans who would have been able to read much quicker than I did, but for me, 5 days is pretty damn quick.

There’s something so special about The Dark Artifices, and it makes me constantly realise how incredible Clare is to write numerous Shadowhunter series with different characters and yet have them stand so far apart from one another. The Infernal Devices, The Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices all have very special places in my heart, and for different reasons.

“These pictures are my heart.”

I loved The Mortal Instruments so much, but I could very clearly see that Clare was developing her writing. Now on the third series, her writing is better than ever and it made Lady Midnight amazing for me. I could love no one as much as Tessa, Will and Jem, but I became so attached to Emma, Julian and his family throughout this book. The children are so diverse and vibrant and I love them all for it.

This book was full of twists and turns, especially after the initial couple hundred pages. I do think this book took a while to adjust to because it’s quite far removed from the other series, but as soon as it got going, I loved the differences. I literally couldn’t put this book down!

Also I would definitely like to point out that you really need to read Clare’s other books before this series! Not only would this spoil a lot for you, the cameos of other characters mean everything to me. I loved them.

“And if my heart was a canvas, every square inch of it would be painted over with you.”

I cannot even explain how much I adore the cast of this series. Each character was so great in there own ways and I admire Clare endlessly for creating such a vast range of characters. I can’t finish this review without a quick mention of the diversity in this book. Not only do we have gay faeries (and my favourite warlock you know who I mean), and a new Latinx Mexican friend who I adored, but also A CHILD WITH AUTISM. Ahh I could scream with how much I just appreciate this? Ty is so well represented, so well described and I’m so overly happy he is part of this world.

And I didn’t mean to descend into full on fangirling, but I think I managed to explain how much I love this book.

★★★★★ 
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: My True Love Gave to Me – Various Authors

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On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …This beautiful collection features twelve gorgeously romantic stories set during the festive period, by some of the most talented and exciting YA authors writing today. The stories are filled with the magic of first love and the magic of the holidays.

As this book is full of little stories, I’m going to review them all separately! This was such a fun read and it was perfect for the festive season.

Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell – 5 out of 5 stars
Let’s start this on a high! I’ve read this short story before and it’s honestly brilliant, 26 pages flies by with this year-by-year tale. It’s so simple but focuses on the characters which I adored, the ability to build characters in such a short amount of time is incredible. Perfect for New Year, as it’s set on New Year’s Eve hence the title!

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link – 2 out of 5 stars
Honestly, this one really didn’t do it for me. The only real positive is that it did have a Christmassy feel, but otherwise it was downright confusing and a little weird. I’m all for a little weird, but I just didn’t know what was going on. At all.

Angels in the Snow by Matt De La Pena – 4 out of 5 stars
This story was so cute! I’m all for Christmas fantasy, but adorable festive contemporary romance is where its at. This story is one of Shy and the girl upstairs over Christmas, and it manages to not only be cute but be raw and honest and kind of beautiful in such a short amount of pages.

Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han – 4 out of 5 stars
This story was so overwhelmingly Christmassy! You can’t get much better than a story set in the North Pole for Christmas, surrounded by elves. I liked the protagonist, Natalie, who was the only human to ever live in the North Pole. It made such a unique story which was so fun to read!

It’s a Yuletide Miracle… by Stephanie Perkins – 5 out of 5 stars
Perkins does it again! I remember this from Summer Days and Summer Nights – if anyone can write an amazing short, it’s Perkins. This story was unique, with likeable characters and a beautiful backdrop. I would read a whole book about these two happily.

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan – 4 out of 5 stars
I always find levithan a little hit and miss, but I really enjoyed this story! It’s about a guy called Connor who asks his boyfriend to dress up as santa to keep Christmas magic alive for his little sister. It was a really cute contemporary with a cast of different characters who I enjoyed reading about, however I do feel like too many conversations with different characters were fitted into a very short story!

Krampuslauf by Holly Black – 3 out of 5 stars
I’m really not sure how to feel about this one. Build up a quirky contemporary with a group of friends and a New Year’s party on a trailer park, throw some drama in and then sprinkle it with magic. I think the magic was my main issue, because it just felt forced and like a last minute edition. It threw the story off kilter and threw me off too. Very weird.

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman – 4 out of 5 stars
Contemporary romance definitely suits festive short stories better than contemporary and a weird mix of fantasy. I’m still holding out for a full on fantasy though? Anyway, Forman really brought out holiday cheer with carol singers and pie and a little twist with Hannukah which I loved! It’s the story of (surprise) Sophie Roth, a college student who isnt yet home for Christmas. Its about new discoveries and making mistakes, and although it wasn’t perfect, I damn well enjoyed it!

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire – 3.5 out of 5 stars
I can’t say I disliked this story, it was Christmassy enough and enjoyable. But I just found it strange and I felt so disconnected to the characters! It followed a guy who had to do community service for a church at Christmas, which was an interesting concept but it just wasn’t all there for me!

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten white – 5 out of 5 stars
Yes! I didn’t think I would find another story to match Stephanie Perkins, but this one sure did. It follows the story of a girl who lives in Christmas, CA and their Christmas traditions. It was heartwarming, heartbreaking and heartfelt. All in 40 pages.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter – 4 out of 5 stars
Another story, another Christmassy town ! I really enjoyed this one too, although it lacked the depth that made me love Welcome to Christmas, CA so much. Still a unique and heartwarming tale of a girl trying to escape her life and ends up finding a family of her own.

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – 2 out of 5 stars
This was so weird?? I don’t even know what was going on? I stand by the fact that fantasy doesn’t work as well as contemporary in these kinds of situations usually – world building just isn’t possible in 30 pages. I didn’t properly understand the world or the story, therefore I didn’t enjoy it. The pages were used to explain the town rather than the characters, and I related only to the protagonist. It didn’t feel Christmassy either! It did have a satisfying ending, however.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it was perfect to start the New Year with. Although the stories are very mixed, it’s great to give new authors a chance with books like this one. Sure, I didn’t enjoy a few but that’s bound to happen. And I loved a number of stories enough to rate this book highly! I’ll definitely be giving some of these a re-read next Christmas.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Songs About a Boy (#3) by Chris Russell

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Just as Charlie allows herself to succumb to Gabe’s charms, the explosive revelation about her mother’s death threatens to pull them apart. Meanwhile, a media circus has exploded around the future of Fire&Lights – when they announce a US tour to show the world that they are stronger than ever, Charlie gets the opportunity to accompany them. New York City, here she comes! But it’s not all fun and games. Charlie is still feeling all kinds of awkward around Gabe and knowing that her mother’s last days were in America touring with her band, Charlie uses the opportunity to uncover some more truths about her mother’s death.
As Fire&Lights try to win over the world again, and as Charlie and Gabriel uncover the true story that links their pasts, will Charlie finally be able to follow her heart?

I can’t believe the thought ever even crossed my mind to dismiss these books as cheesy, trashy fanfic. They are so much more than that. I picked this 400+ page book up on Sunday night, and I had finished it by Tuesday. For me, that’s absolutely insane. And I’ve not exactly been at home all that time – I’ve been looking after the flat, going out and going to uni. But this book just absolutely flew by for me, and whenever I had a spare minute I would pick it up and dive right in.

That being said, I can’t totally dismiss the cheese or the trash. Because honestly, it does have those elements. It’s a bit like looking back on High School Musical. You can’t believe how cheesy it is, but you would watch it with your girlfriends any day of the week. It’s unrealistic, dramatic and far fetched. But goshdarnit, it is good.

This is for sure a complete guilty-pleasure read, but I can’t deny that it’s very well written. Every single character in this book holds their place and has a lot of depth, and that’s just so hard to do! To be able to build such individuality into so many people – especially the band, the management team and even Melissa’s family – is so impressive.

Being 19, I’m definitely way out of the target audience for this series. But the 13 year old inside me couldn’t put this down, and made me reminiscent of the simpler way I used to read. It’s perfect nostalgia for those years, of loving the sweet teenage relationships and band obsessions.

Unfortunately, I can’t put enough emphasis on the far-fetched concept of this book. Charlie is a 16 year old girl flying around the world photographing a band, with little to no equipment or professional photography training. As I’m studying photography at uni, this was a little hard to get out of my mind. No one around me would even dare to dream of having an opportunity like this, and most of those people are already starting their professional careers.

Overall, I would definitely say go for these books! Just make sure you clear your mind beforehand, and understand that this is going to be a drama-filled, unrealistic but wonderful rollercoaster. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

★★★★
4 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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