ARC Review: Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach

*Thank you to Usborne for the e-ARC*

It’s taken me almost a month to get my thoughts in order about this book and, even now, I admit that this review is pretty much just a stream of consciousness about how much I ADORED it. It’s not uncommon for me to get obsessed with books, but it is actually pretty rare for me to love a contemporary as much as this one, and I’m so excited to finally share my thoughts on it!

Not Here to Be Liked tells the story of Eliza, editor-in-chief candidate for her school newspaper and all round academic perfectionist.

What she lacks in people skills, she makes up for with her desperation to be the best journalist their school has ever seen, and she’s obviously the ideal candidate to run the paper in her senior year…

Eliza’s plan to become editor-in-chief is completely foolproof – that is, until former footballer and reforming jock, Len, shows up and decides that he can steal her spotlight. Eliza is outraged that Len is running against her, and even more outraged that his popularity and masculinity seem to be ensuring he gets the position that she was always destined for.

The story that ensues is angry, feminist, and all too real, as Eliza fights for the position that is rightfully hers – against a boy who may have a little more to him than meets the eye.

This is easily the best contemporary I’ve read this year, and I haven’t stopped raving about it since I put it down. Eliza was sold as an unlikeable, angry protagonist and, whilst this would probably be true if she was in your class at school, she’s a really, really great character. She was very relatable, very real and completely honest with herself, which was so refreshing to read about. So many contemporary protagonists are unaware of their flaws or striving to be perfect, likeable individuals, but Eliza is a conflicted young woman with strong opinions, who is not afraid to admit her shortcomings, and I wish I’d read more protagonists like her when I was growing up.

Eliza wasn’t the only character I loved in this book, though. Len was the perfect love interest too. Not too ‘woke’ and perfect to be real (he definitely made his fair share of mistakes too…), he was still a completely likeable character that was easy to fall for. Serena was a prime example of taking the mean girl trope and flipping it on its head, and Winona was honest, tough, and incredibly relatable in her ambitions, so I found the entire cast to be entertaining and very well-developed.

This book tackles a lot of real life sociopolitical issues and, whilst feminism is becoming more and more prominent in YA, this book is definitely the best I’ve read so far that so openly explored the issue. It’s a masterclass in how to teach young readers about feminism in the real world and how to be an activist about it, without reading like a spoon-fed guide to gender politics and I (a woman who is possibly older than the intended target audience) came away with a refreshed outlook on the topic.

In case it isn’t already obvious, I’m completely obsessed with this book. It’s fun, easy, informative, important, and so entertaining to read, and I will definitely be recommending it to anyone who wants to listen.

Rating: 5/5

PS. If you’ve read it and loved it as much as I did, please let me know, I’d love to hype with you😂

ARC REVIEW: This is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore

Thank you! To Harper 360 YA for sending me an ARC of this very exciting new YA mystery. I’ve had my eye on it for a while and was SO excited for the opportunity to read and review 🙂

When Jenna Dallas, a high school student in a small coastal town, and Adam Cole, a student from Rockwood – a local boarding school – find the body of one of Jenna’s classmates on a local beach, the entire town is completely taken by surprise.

With every student at Rockwood a reformed teenage boy with plenty of secrets, and a whole lot of drama between the girls in Jenna’s class, everybody is suddenly a suspect – and the more time we spend uncovering their secrets, the more obvious it becomes that literally everyone has something to hide.

This was such a fun and easy read. The story was told from Jenna and Adam’s perspectives, as well as through various text chains and interviews, so it had short chapters and stayed really fast-paced all the way through. Even as I read their views and their sides of events, I couldn’t figure out whether I trusted anyone at all, so I read desperately to the end in order to could get the answers I needed without waiting. It only took me one afternoon to read the entire thing, and I’d definitely recommend if you’re in a reading slump and looking for something easy to get you out of it.

If you enjoy high-school mysteries, there’s a high chance you’ll enjoy this book. It definitely had some predictable tropes and some clichéd bad-boy/mean-girl characters, but they were unique and interesting enough that they didn’t feel completely overdone. The plot as well felt a little familiar in places, as can be expected when you’ve read as many high school thrillers as I have…, but it was overall surprising enough that I didn’t guess the majority of the plot twists or the final whodunnit!

This book is a great addition to a popular genre, and I’m fully here for it. With its creepy small town setting, its suspicious cast of characters and its fun and easy format, it made for a really exciting afternoon of reading.

Rating: 4/5

ARC Review: Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

Thank you! to Bloomsbury for the e-ARC of this wonderful book. I feel like every review I’ve done recently has been five-stars and this is no exception, but it fully. deserves. it.

Defy the Night is the dual-perspective story of the cruel Prince Corrick, brother of the King, and Tessa, an outlaw, smuggler and local people’s hero, as their paths converge on the brink of civil unrest. The two find themselves in very difficult but equally conflicting situations as they try to ultimately reach the same goal of preventing a civil war.

This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I didn’t want to put it down for even a second and, the few times I had to, I found myself itching to pick it back up. Multiple times I found that my heart was actually racing or that I was holding back tears, and I definitely became far too emotionally attached to Tessa, Corrick, and even Palace Master Quint, or Corrick’s brother King Harristan. It was gripping from the first page and I found myself hooked instantly.

The story is of civil unrest, so there are a lot of political undertones, but I found learning the politics of Kandala much more exciting and necessary than I expected to. It was fascinating to learn about the inner workings of all sides, and have these all be tied together with violence, action and romance. I likewise loved watching the characters’ romances building with dangerous intensity as the story went on, and found myself very invested in my ship from far too early in the story.

It’s hard to talk about this book without spoilers, but I absolutely urge any YA lover to read this. It has a gripping storyline, wonderful characters and so many climactic points that it’s impossible to put down, and I’ll absolutely be reading Brigit Kemmerer’s other books now to see if they’re all as truly incredible.

Rating: 5/5

The Fall Bucket List Book Tag

Hi everyone! I know it’s been Autumn for a little while now, but it’s only starting to feel like it now with the colder weather and the sudden switch from iced lattes to cappuccinos! And to celebrate the sudden change in season, I decided to do this super fun tag that I stumbled across recently: The Fall Bucket List book tag, created by Read With Tiffany.

First up: Light a Scented Candle – A Book That’s Lighthearted

The Island Home by Libby Page is the first book that came to mind for this! If you like k-dramas, it’s the adult fiction equivalent of Hometown Cha Cha Cha and I absolutely loved how easy and relaxing it was to read. (PS. If you want to read my review, it’s here!)

Drink Pumpkin Spiced Lattes – A Book That Has a Lot of Hype

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Sáenz! I think this one came to mind because I’m so excited to read the sequel, and it absolutely deserves all of the love it gets, but it’s definitely one of the more hyped up books I’ve read recently.

Go Apple Picking – A Book That Has Fun Friendships

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria. Although this book is mostly about family (and dragons), the friendships were done really well. The main character Dani developed such strong friendships throughout the story, both with her animal companion and her non-magical friends, and it was really lovely to watch these develop.

Wear a Cozy Sweater – A Book That Warms Your Heart

Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach! This is an intensely feminist story with a potentially very unlikeable protagonist but, serious themes aside, it was such a heart-warming and lovely read. Girls weren’t pitted against each other just because they were from different ‘cliques’, the romantic storyline was adorable, and the character growth in so many of the characters really restored my faith in humanity.

Bake Cinnamon Rolls – A Character Who’s a Talented Chef

To Lahore, With Love by Hina Belitz! I read this book last year and honestly don’t remember that much about it, but I do remember that every chapter was introduced with a recipe that made my mouth water, stolen from the protagonist’s recipe book.

Jump Into a Pile of Leaves – A Book That Made You Jump For Joy

Rebel by Marie Lu! This book made me jump for joy simply by existing, and by being released as somewhat of a surprise years after I fell in love with Legend and Marie Lu’s books in general. But it definitely also made my jump for joy by giving me closure on a few things that I spent years waiting for answers on, and for giving me more of June and Day as characters, who I absolutely adore.

And that’s the tag! I’m tagging a lot of people to do this one and cannot wait to steal book recommendations from everyone’s answers… 🙂

Tagging: KoosReviews.com

Jackie at BookishCoffeeBlog.com

Sophie at LoveandLiterature.co.uk

Dorothy at starlitshelves.wordpress.com

Morgane at BookMeSomeTime.wordpress.com

Solara at plaidreaders.com

Kristin at kristincravesbooks.com

Caitlyn, Cossette, and Mary at TeaTimeLit.com

And Jess at comfortreadsbookblog.wordpress.com

😊

OCTOBER TBR

Happy October! I had a pretty good reading month in September and I’m crossing my fingers for an even better (and scarier) reading month in October. My TBR isn’t quite as spooky as I initially planned, but there are definitely some dark YA fantasies in the mix that I’m excited to read.

Without further ado, my October TBR:

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino – if you saw this on my September TBR, pretend you didn’t… I started it last month and am loving it so far so will definitely get round to finishing it this month. And it’s a horror-y enough way to start my spooky October reading.

Steelstriker by Marie Lu– I’ve ordered two copies of this to buddy read with my fiancé and I can. not. wait. Every Marie Lu book I’ve ever read has been amazing and I really loved Skyhunter, so I’ve been anticipating this one for EVER.

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len– a dark fantasy romance about monsters is exactly what I wanted to read this month and Harper approving my request on NetGalley just in time seems like a sign that I need to read it ASAP. This seems like a pretty unique edition to a super fun genre and I’m really excited to check it out.

Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier – Having just loved Defy the Night (a story about a royal court, an apocalyptic plague and an unexpected romance), this book with all the same tropes seems pretty perfect. I’m super excited to start this one and hope that it lives up to my very high expectations.

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Herman – The Hunger Games with high magic?! This book sounds amazing and, if it lives up to its description, it stands a chance at becoming a new favourite! I’ve been approved for it on NetGalley for longer than I’d like to admit and really hope I get round to reading it this month.

After the Rain by Natalia Gomes– I’ve been trying to get into this book for a while and haven’t been able to really get into it, but it does seem like an easy, important and emotional read. I’m giving it another try this month and think it will be quite drastically different to everything else I’m planning to pick up in October.

And that’s it! Let me know your most anticipated read for October in the comments (even more appreciated if it’s a Halloween-y book that I can add to my list!) 🙂

September Reading Wrap-Up

It’s nearly October! Which means it’s nearly time for Halloween reads only and horror and spooky books, and I’m SO excited for it. That being said, September was also a pretty incredible month for reading. I really expected to finish more books this month and the fact that I only read five might be disappointing if the majority of them just weren’t so good! Anyway, here’s my brief but very exciting September reading wrap up:

Gilded by Marissa Meyer – I LOVE this book. I never read the story of Rumpelstiltskin so I have no clue how heavily it referenced the fairytale, but it was an incredibly told story either way. The descriptions were magical, the characters were fascinating and the story was well-told, in sections that felt almost like individual short stories but tied together perfectly. 5/5 (the first of many this month…)

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – like Marissa Meyer, Brigid Kemmerer is another bestselling author that I’ve been missing out on for a pretty long time. This book is fast-paced, unique, very intense and emotional, with a strong, very moral protagonist, a swoon-worthy royal love interest and a fascinating story. I loved it. 5/5

Fools in Love by various authors – this was a really sweet short story collection entirely about love, with each story being based on a popular YA romance trope such as ‘only one bed’ or ‘friends to lovers’. The stories were very diverse and representative and, although some were much better than others, it was really fun overall. 3/5

This is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore- if you like traditional YA high-school murder mysteries, you will absolutely love this book. It’s a super quick read with a high-school whodunnit storyline and a very suspicious cast of characters. I would definitely recommend if you’re looking to get out of a slump or for an easy, gripping story. 4/5

Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach – !!! This book exceeded my expectations by SO much. I was hoping for an easy contemporary romance read and, whilst I definitely got that from this book, it also discussed so many important themes and topics alongside its romantic storyline. This book is a masterclass on how to use fiction to genuinely educate on issues without forcing the message and making the story feel artificial, and I adored it. 5/5

And that’s it! Let me know in the comments if you loved any of these as much as I did, and what your favourite read of September was 🙂

ARC Review: Gilded by Marissa Meyer

First of all, THANK YOU to Faber for the eARC of this incredible book. I dropped my entire TBR to read it and regret absolutely nothing.

Also may have *accidentally* preordered the stunning Fairyloot edition the second I finished reading it… Anyway –

Gilded follows Serilda, a miller’s daughter who has been blessed by the God of Lies with an ability to spin stories, as she catches the attention of an evil undead ruler and lies her way into his favour.

Convinced that Serilda has the ability to spin gold from straw, the Erlking draws her back at every opportunity and Serilda finds herself trapped between the dead and the living, trying her hardest both to escape the web of lies she’s found herself in and find a way to ensure nobody she cares about gets harmed in the crossfire.

I’ve never read any of Marissa Meyer’s other retellings, but I’ll absolutely be reading them all after this one. Gilded is in part beautiful and magical, and in part grotesque and gothic, as every good Grimm-inspired fairytale should be. The descriptions were so beautifully written that I found myself fully immersed in the villages, castles and forests as Serilda was, and the plot twists were so dark and often unexpected that the amount of scene-setting didn’t slow the pace for even a page. It became obvious early on where the general direction of this story was going, but the twists and turns weren’t predictable and I found myself excitedly awaiting each new section of the story.

Serilda is a bold, impressive protagonist with an unexpectedly solid moral compass for someone so adept at lying, and the cast of characters she surrounds herself with are equally fascinating, from the schoolchildren, to the forest folk, to the dark king himself. Gild (the castle’s mysterious resident poltergeist) was, unsurprisingly, my absolute favourite character, with his intricate and beautifully-told backstory and his adorably charming personality.

I knew halfway through this book that it was going to be one of my favourite reads of this year, and the second half fully lived up to my expectations. Gilded is a dark, magical, twisty tale, and I’m seriously begging for a sequel.

Rating: 5/5 !

Gilded publishes in the UK on 2nd November 🙂

Book Review: Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria

*Thank you to Hodder for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review*

Fire With Fire tells the story of Dani and Eden Rivera, who could almost be your average competitive sisters if not for one added complication: they come from a family of well-renowned and highly dedicated dragon slayers. Eden is the responsible older sister and Dani is the reckless teenager with little interest in the family’s business but, so as to be as unfair of possible, Dani is of course the young dragon-slaying prodigy that excels in every aspect of her training.

As if life isn’t complicated enough for the Rivera sisters, everything becomes a little more confusing and a lot more dangerous when Dani stumbles across a dragon one night and finds that they may not be the lethal, heartless creatures that she’s always been taught that they are. With dragons, slayers, high school romances, sorcerers and rivalries, Fire With Fire is an exciting story about sibling rivalries gone too far, loyalties, and how it isn’t always easy to know who you can trust.

Although I enjoyed it from the beginning, it took me quite a while to get into this book. When I did get hooked though, around 40% in, it became completely impossible to put down. The plot was exciting and the action scenes were well-written, but my favourite thing about this book by far was the wonderful cast of characters. The lengths that her anxiety and pride take Eden to make her a fascinating character, and Dani’s growth was possibly even more gripping to read about. The entire set of side characters – Nox, Tomas, Sadie, Kieran – were also really likeable, and the strength of their trust and friendships was so pure and refreshing to read about.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Its combination of intense and detailed fight scenes, teen angst, magic, sibling rivalry and great representation made it a fun, unique read that I would absolutely recommend.

Rating: 4/5

August Wrap-Up & September TBR

Hi! How is everyone? Hope August was a wonderful reading month!

I’m back from my first ever blog hiatus and excited to share my August wrap-up and September TBR 🙂 I took it easy in August and had some me-time, so I’m back with an overwhelming amount of books to read – once again – and even more to talk about.

I only read a book per week last month so it’s quite a modest wrap-up, but there are some really fun books on here. So, without further ado, my August wrap-up:

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria – 3.5/5

This was a really fun read with a lot of action, rivalry, drama and… dragons. It was a fun and easy read with an interesting cast of humans, sorcerers and dragons alike and, if you’re a big fantasy reader, I’d recommend.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – 4/5

I was in the middle of a slump when I picked this book up, and it pulled me out of it so quickly. This is a fast-paced, set-in-real-time thriller with a lot of twists, a lot of tension, and an insanely unreliable narrator.

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan – 4/5

A story about a girl caught between two rival faerie princes from the Seelie and Unseelie courts??? Honestly, I’m not sure I need to say more, but this was a fun, Cruel-Prince-esque fantasy about handsome princes, dark magic and a fierce heroine.

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson – 5/5

I think I’d read any book in existence about AIs/VR/futuristic tech at this point. This is a gripping thriller about a girl who falls in love with her morally-corrupt AI and all of the havoc that ensues as a result. It’s such a quick read and I one-billion percent recommend.

And that’s it for August! If you’ve read any of the above, I’d love to hear what you thought!

Although I’m happy with my August wrap-up, I definitely need to be slightly more ambitious with my September TBR to keep on track with my GR goal, so I have quite a lotthat I want to get through this month.

First up, Fools in Love, a short story anthology based on all of the most popular romance tropes out there right now. I’m partway through this and really enjoying it, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – this is absolutely not my usual type of book but my fiancé is obsessed with it right now and really wants me to check it out. I’m really looking forward to trying something difference and seeing what the hype is all about.

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan – this has been on my ARC TBR for so long and I don’t know why I haven’t picked it up already. It’s an intense fantasy YA (ie. right up my street!) and I’m really excited to check it out.

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – another that has spent too long on my ARC TBR and another that I’m insanely excited about. Corruption, action and a star-crossed romance? Yes please.

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino – I started this one a while ago and really enjoyed it, so I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t finished it sooner. I’m only about 20% in but really excited to see where this one goes. It’s been a while since I read YA Horror, so it’ll be such a fun change from the rest of the month’s reading.

And that’s it! I’d love to read more, but I got some advice to put less on my TBR than I plan to read so that I can branch out a little, and that’s what I plan to do.

What’s the number one book on your September TBR? I’d love some more recommendations and to hear what you’re excited to read.

ARC REVIEW: Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

First things first: THANK YOU to Hodder for sending me an eARC of this amazing book in exchange for a review. I spent half a day screaming when my request got accepted, and then spent the rest of the day reading it so… thank you!

Evangeline has always believed in true love, fairytales and happily ever afters, but her world is turned completely upside down when she discovers that Luc, the love of her life, is engaged to someone else. Convinced that her love’s betrayal is the result of a curse or magic, she runs to the Prince of Hearts – the mysterious Jacks – and begs him to stop the wedding.

But Evangeline soon realises that you should never make a deal with a Fate, as one small agreement with Jacks sets her life on a whole new path, full of danger, betrayal and dark magic.

Caraval is one of my favourite series’ and I’ve had Once Upon a Broken Heart preordered since last year so my hopes were incredibly high, but it lived up to all of my expectations and more. Evangeline was a great protagonist, with a great combination of selflessness, determination and intelligence, without being needlessly reckless like a lot of YA fantasy protagonists are. She was so easy to root for all the way through and I really think she’s one of the most entertaining protagonists I’ve read this year. Jacks was, as expected, the fascinating character that I remember him being, although I definitely loved him more this time around. He was unpredictable all the time and so consistent with his character in Caraval that it was easy to get sucked back into his story almost immediately.

Stephanie Garber’s world-building is incredible, and her writing never fails to impress me. Every setting felt both real and magical, from the little trinket shop to Wolf Hall, and the story that combined them all was a fast-paced quest with elements of romance, fantasy and adventure that kept me hooked from the very first page. I read this entire book in one sitting because I genuinely couldn’t put it down, and even though I finished it over a month ago now, it’s still completely stuck in my head, in the same way that all of her books so far have been.

I genuinely loved every aspect of this book, from the protagonists, to the story, to the setting, and I’m already desperate to read the next book in the series. Once Upon a Broken Heart is absolutely a new favourite for me, and I’ll definitely be telling every fantasy-lover I know to read it.

Rating: 5/5