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ARC Book Review: ‘Spellbound’ by Allie Therin

Title: Spellbound

Author: Allie Therin

Length: ebook

Publisher: Carina Press

⭐️⭐️

This book is the first in a new series called Magic in Manhattan.

I read this book during Pride Month, were I only read books that featured LGBT+ plus mainly characters.

This book sounded perfect for me, an LGBT love story and magic. What a perfect combination. However something just missed the mark for me.

The story was interesting, but it just wasn’t interesting enough. It didn’t have me hooked. I found myself struggling pick it up to read it. The magic was there, it just wasn’t magical enough. The love story was there, it just wasn’t enough.

The whole premise sounded interesting. This book is set in old New York, during the prohibition area. I love that. I just don’t think it was explored enough. It wasn’t detailed enough. It was just lacking.

Then there was the magic, this is where the twist comes in. This is what would make this book other worldly, but it didn’t. It wasn’t explored that much, and when it was, it wasn’t interesting. Rory’s gift is being able to scry, which is could have been super exciting but again it just came off as dull. It also seemed that there was a villain they were working to stop, but in all honesty I’m still not sure who that is.

Now the love story, the bit I was most looking forward to. It was a slow burn romance, and you know I like that. But this one was very slow, leaning towards being boring. When the characters finally did get together, it was lacklustre. Then out of nowhere, the author tried to say they were meant to be together, meant to find each other. That didn’t come across to me. It wasn’t believable. It just made me think of better love stories.

There’s better books out there set in this era. There’s books with more imaginative magic. There’s better books with more heartfelt, genuine romance.

The writing was all over the place, it needed clarity. The action (when it finally happened) wasn’t exciting. The story was all over the place. It just totally missed the mark for me. It’s the first in the series, but will I be reading the next book? I don’t think so.

When I started this review, I had this book at 3 stars, but after writing this it’s gonna down to 2.

Thank you to Carina Press and Netgalley for a copy of this book in return for a honest, unbiased review. It’s comes out July 29th. Check it out, it might be the book for you.

Until the next review

JTH

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Book Review: ‘The Subtle Art of Blending In’ By Angelo Surmelis

Title: The Subtle Art of Blending In

Author: Angelo Surmelis

Length: 336 pages

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ve had this book on my kindle for a while. I sort of treasure my M/M books so I was waiting for the right time to read it and Pride Month seemed perfect.

Seventeen-year-old Evan doesn’t know where he fits in. He loves his family, but is terrorised by his abusive mother and confused by his father’s silence. He has friends, but one of them – Henry – has become distractingly attractive, and seems interested being more than just a friend. Oh, and yes, Evan kissed a boy this summer. As things with Henry heat up and the violence escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has always survived being silent.

‘The person who was supposed to love me the hardest – the most unconditionally – has always wanted me gone. No matter how hard I tried to be perfect. Now, this boy-who knows all my imperfections and has seen all my hurt laid bare- wants me to stay.’

This was another book I’ve read for Pride Month. Where I’m reading books only featuring LGBT+ characters. Once I got started on this book, I found it hard to put down. I read it in two days, that never happens.

Let’s talk about the romance first, shall we? At first I thought it was going to be the cliche of the gay guy in love with his best friend but thankfully it wasn’t. It turned out to be a good one. A slow burn. Just how I like them. Evan and Henry made a great couple, I could feel their chemistry. The most wonderful thing about it was the acceptance Henry had for Evan. It was so nice to read Evan opening up to him.

This book wasn’t all romance. It also deals with the issue of abuse. Wow, it was hard to read but in the right way. The way that makes you think, question. Evans Mother was so manipulative. It also showed how she justified her actions through religion. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who will see themselves in this situation, regardless of your religion. She wasn’t a just a villain though, towards the end of the book, you got to see that she had more depth to her.

Throughout the whole book I was rooting for Evan, for him to open up to Henry, for him to get away from his Mother, for him to question his Father. I think that was the best thing about this book, were the characters. They were so real, whether good or bad. I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t read it, but I raced towards the end to find out.

I recommend this book if you love YA M/M stories, it’s a good one. But it was more than that, this one had bit of depth to it. It’s a nice coming of age story.

Until the next review

JTH

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Book Review: ‘They Both Die At The End’ by Adam Silvera

Title: They Both Die At The End

Author: Adam Silvera

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I am a huge fan of Adam Silvera’s, he’s one of those auto-buy authors for me. When he releases a book, you’ll find me first in line.

On September 5th, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torres and Rufus Emeterio to give them so bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure – to live a lifetime in a single day.

‘ I’ve spent years living life safely to secure a longer life, and look where that’s gotten me. I’m at the finish line but I never ran the race.’

This was the first book I chose as part of my LGBT+ Pride Month Readathon. Where I only read books with main characters within the LGBT+ community.

Now I have to confess I’ve had this on my bookshelf for nearly two years. I’ve just always thought this book was going to be special so I wanted to wait for the right moment. And Pride Month was the perfect moment. I’m reading all queer books this month.

I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved. I don’t even know what to say apart from that. It’s a tricky book to review.

Well let’s start with premise. It’s genius, really genius. Such a clever idea! Even though it was set in the real world, it made it feel other worldly. And the fact this book takes place all in one day is amazing.

The characters, Rufus and Mateo are one of the best things (among many) about this novel. Their different personalities shine off the page, yet blend so well together. I was really rooting for them to get together. And it was so satisfying when they did.

When I realised this book was going to be set over a day, I was a bit worried things might become rushed. But I didn’t need to worry. This book in a less talented author could’ve been a problem, but Adam Silvera is such a master he makes it work. Everything happened naturally and the romance even felt like a slow burn.

Look, this books called ‘They Both Die At The End’ so I knew it was going to be heartbreaking. But did I expect heartbreak in the first 50 pages? No. They way both characters handle the news that they’re going to die today is natural, that’s why it’s so sad. As they deal with family and friends. Saying goodbye. Yet they meet each other and it’s gone this book an element of hope. I was even hoping they’d both survive.

This it little snippets (mini chapters?) of other people dealing with getting the call from death cast (the company that lets you know it’s your last day). These broke up the story in a nice way and the way they were all connected was genius.

This book is sad, heartbreaking. But it’s never depressing. It’s such a fine line and Adam balances it perfectly. The end may have made me shed a few tears ( I was full on ugly crying in the bath). Ugh, That ending. And it was a clever ending, there was some good foreshadowing.

Well, I don’t know if you can tell that I loved this book. I can’t recommend it enough. Read it! Give it to your friends and let them read it. I love it. I believe I used the word genius a lot in this review!

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: ‘On My Life’ by Angela Clarke

Title: On My Life

Author: Angela Clarke

Length: 367pages

Publisher: Mullholland Books

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Crime books are not my usual read, I have to be honest. But I think Angela Clarke might have just made me a fan.

Jenna thought she had the perfect life: a loving fiancé, a great job, a beautiful home. Then she finds her stepdaughter murdered; her partner missing. And the police think she did it… Locked up to await trial, surrounded by prisoners who’d hurt her if they knew what she’s accused of, certain someone close to her has framed her, Jenna knows what she needs to do: Clear her name, save her baby, find the killer. But can she do it in time?

This book was like a rollercoaster. It had ups and down, twists and turns but you don’t want to get off. If you hate rollercoasters then ignore that metaphor and just know that you’ll love the book.

We follow Jenna, who’s been accused of murdering her step-daughter and her fiancé. We read about her life before, leading up to the events of that afternoon, and her life in the present, as she endures the hardships of prison.

Both times were just as thrilling. As we read about Jenna meeting her fiancé, falling in love and dealing with her future in laws. I found myself looking for little snippets to see who committed this murder. It’s in this time that we also learn about Jenna’s background and family life.

In the ‘present’ time, we see Jenna’s life in prison. Which I have to say is absolutely fascinating. It’s so detailed, so intricate. You can tell this story has meticulously researched. It just adds to the richness of this story. While the main plot is a ‘who done it’, there are so many sub-plots in the prison story that were so entertaining, they had me on the edge of my seat. We also meet a character called Kelly, who will absolutely steal your heart, then break it.

This book didn’t end the way I thought it would. Like I said, the prison story took a turn I didn’t see coming but had me totally hooked. There was so many points in this book that I thought different people had committed the murder. I had so many suspects, but I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t believe who it was. I never would’ve guessed them. I was shocked. But it worked so well. Such a great ending.

The writing is so sharp, so suspenseful. I couldn’t put this book. Seriously, I cancelled plans so I could stay in and read. I had to know. I mean, it’s a testament to great writing when you can’t figure out the mystery and aren’t disappointed when it’s revealed.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If you’re not sure about crime books, Angela Clarke is the best place to start. She’s certainly made me a fan of her work.

I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy of this book from Louise Swannell At Hodder & Stoughton in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out in ebook now and comes out on paperback on the 11th July. Check it out.

Until the next review

JTH

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ARC Book Review: ‘Bethlehem’ by Karen Kelly

Title: Bethlehem

Author: Karen Kelly

Length: 304 pages

Publisher: St. Martins Press

This is a tricky book for me to review. I’ve had it on my Netgalley shelf for a while, so I thought I’d get started on it.

A young woman arrives at the grand ancestral home of her husbands family, hoping to fortify her cracking marriage. But what she finds is not what she expected: tragedy haunts the hallways, whispering of heartache and a past she never knew existed. Inspired by the true titans of the steel-boom era, Bethlehem is a story of temptation and regret, a of secrets and the cost of keeping them, a story of forgiveness. It is the story of two complex women – thrown together in the name of family – who, in coming to understand each other, come to finally understand themselves.

The story is set in two different times, the 1920s and the 1960s. I love a book that uses this format. It’s so interesting to see characters at different points in their lives. How the their life has shaped them. So the style was just what I like. The premise intrigued me also.

I have to be honest, the first half of this book I did not enjoy. At all. If I hadn’t got this from Netgalley, in all honesty I think I would’ve DNF’d it.

Nothing happened, in the first half of the novel. It was dull. Also, there were just so many characters and they all had nicknames. I couldn’t remember everyone, or figure out who was who. It just made the whole book unenjoyable. I’ve seen a few other people think this way too.

However, I’m so glad I didn’t give up on this book. The second half I loved. Seriously, I looked at my kindle it was 50% when I started to enjoy this book.

Honestly I couldn’t put it down. The story became interesting. There was a romance, that was so sweet and sincere, I loved it. There was some mystery, that had a very satisfying ending. Both of the stories just became better. The writing picked up. The whole second half was just cleaner. It had more direction. It also had one of my favourite epilogues. Sometimes they can make it break a story, but I loved this one.

The best thing was the characters became much more likeable, I mean what’s a book without it’s characters. I had such empathy for them. They turned this book around.

This is a difficult one for me to recommend but I think ultimately I would. Maybe read it if you’re a patient reading who really likes to let a story build. Is it my favourite historical fiction book I’ve read this year? No. But it’s certainly not the worst.

I have to thank Netgalley and St. Martins Press for gifting me with a copy of this book, in return for an honest, unbiased review. This book is out 9th July.

Until the next review

JTH

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June Wrap Up

Well, can you believe it? Another month has come and gone. Time flies when you’re reading some fantastic books.

As I’m sure you know, this month has been Pride Month. So, as my own personal little challenge, this month I’ve only been reading books that feature main characters that are LGBT+.

Also, I’m here to tell you some very exciting news… I’ve broken my personal best! I’ve managed to read 8 books this month. That’s right! 8! I’m honestly shocked. Let’s hope I can keep it up next month.

🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈

So here are the LGBT+ plus books I’ve read this month:

First up was ‘They Both Die At The End’ by Adam Silvera. What a brilliant book. Quite possibly my favourite YA read of the year so far. Genius premise, genius execution. I loved it.

Second up was ‘Jack of Hearts (and other parts) by L. C. Rosen. I enjoyed this book. It felt very real. The teenage characters felt real. It had a mystery that kept me guessing till the end, although it was a little disappointing. Worth a read though.

Thirdly was ‘What If It’s Us’ by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. I’ve been waiting to read this one for a while, I’ve been looking forward to it. I was a little disappointed. Maybe my expectations were to high? I don’t know. But I didn’t like that ending.

Fourth up was ‘Days without End’ by Sebastian Barry. Loved it! So beautifully written. So descriptive yet lyrical. A masterpiece of a novel. So glad I picked it up in my local Waterstones pride section.

Fifth this month was ‘the dangerous art of Blending In’ by Angelo Surmelis. I’ve had this book on my kindle for a while. I enjoyed it. It was a sweet romance with another layer that was hard to read, but in the right way.

Sixth up was ‘Less’ by Andrew Sean Greer. I’d heard mixed reviews on this one, but I loved it. Absolutely loved it. It worked it was into my soul. A beautiful twist at the end. I can’t recommend this one enough.

Seventh was ‘Top Secret’ by Sarina Bowen and Ellie Kennedy. Did I enjoy this? Yes. Will I remember it? Probably not. There’s wasn’t much plot. But it was romance, with some graphic sexual scenes. Not what I’m used to reading but it was a quick read.

Eight was ‘Spellbound’ Allie Therin. I was given this book from Netgalley. It has an interesting magic twist which is enjoyable. Not my favourite read of the month. But certainly not the worst. Comes out 29th July.

Until the next review

JTH

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Books: How they helped me cope with grief.

Well this is a different kind of post for me, but it’s a post that I feel I need to do.

For many years, since my late teens (I’m 27 now) reading has been important to me. I’ve loved it. All thanks to ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd. That book was is my first love.

But last year, my wonderful, caring, loving, strong Mother passed away. It was sudden. It shocked me to my core. It broke my heart. It still is broken. It will always be.

For months after I couldn’t read, I just couldn’t. Reading brings me too much joy, and joy was something I couldn’t handle back then. I didn’t think I ever could again. It’s still a struggle to now.

But after a few months. I did start to read again. Then I felt like I needed something positive in my life, so I started a Bookstagram, which led to this blog. I truly believe all these things saved my life. They allowed me to let light in my life again. It gave me a sense of purpose. I didn’t feel so lost.

So now, I’m going to talk about some books that helped me through that time, some books that I think speak about grief in personal, true way.

So first up is:

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

I was a fan of this book before my mother died, but after it’s become other worldly to me. It’s my bible. It’s all about the loss of Cheryl’s mother. Cheryl grief is so raw, it floors me. I understand this book and it understands me. If often find myself just holding this book. I’m truly grateful ‘Wild’ exists.

‘Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance… my life both ended and begun in that premature place where she’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her, but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could fill.’

‘Brave Enough’ by Cheryl Strayed

This one is actually a book of Cheryl’s quotes. But there’s one quote in there that my mother found comforting when she lost her mother, now it’s become a comfort for me. I try to remember this on the hard days.

Grief if tremendous, but love is bigger. You are grieving because you loved truly. The beauty in that is greater than the bitterness of death. Allowing this into your consciousness will not keep you from your suffering, but it will help you survive the next day.’

‘Dear Lily’ by Drew Davies.

I read this book recently, and was left sobbing. This book says things that could’ve been my own thoughts. They still are my own thoughts. I had to process this book, sit with it for a while. It was amazing to see grief represented this way.

Why wasn’t there enough time? Mum had our future all mapped out. I had it all mapped out too. You ruined them, Lil. You went and left, and it’s so unfair of you, because there was so much more.’

‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama.

This is obviously a book about Michelle’s life, but she does touch on her own grief and I think she got is so right.

‘It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open a fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look as something you’d otherwise find beautiful – a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids -and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.

‘History is All You Left Me’ by Adam Silvera.

This book is about romantic love, therefore romantic grief. But grief is grief right? This shows how grief affects your decisions. How you cope.

The pain you’ve left isn’t pain I can see myself having the strength to face again’

‘The Secret Life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd.

This book will always mean a lot to me, now even more so. They lose their sister. It’s so beautifully dealt with in this novel. This book feels like home.

‘It was the oldest sound there was. Souls flying away.’

‘Wishful Drinking’ by Carrie Fisher.

Now this may seem like a strange one, but Carrie died a short while before my Mother and I found great comfort in Carrie as a person. Some of her thoughts expressed my own. How grief encompassed itself in my soul. I was grateful to have her words in this time.

‘That’s what can take simple sadness and turn it into sadness squared. It’s what revs up the motor of misery, guns the engine of an unpleasant experience, filling it with rocket fuel and blasting into a place in the stratosphere that is oh-so-near to something like a suicidal tendency – a place where the wish to continue living in this painful place is all but completely absent.’

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Brown

Now this one may seem like a strange also, but it’s the first book I read after. The first book I was brave enough to pick up. It reminded me that Joy in something you love is ok.

‘Autoboygraphy’ by Christina Lauren.

This book is on the list because it’s the first book I bought on my Kindle. Which was my Mothers. I know use it. I get to think of her every time I do. I thought it would be strange, but this book was so good I found myself loving both the book and my Kindle.

So there it is. My reason why my love for reading is so strong. I hope reading has helped some of you like this. Let me know if there’s any books out there that I’ve missed, that speak about grief.

Until the next review

JTH