Diverse Books, YA Books

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le – Book Review

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.

If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.

For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.

But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.

Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?

This is a cute fun story of two teens who despite being from rival family restaurants end up secretly dating after they are paired together to write reviews for local restaurants. I really liked both Linh and Bao. I also really liked their friends and how they supported and helped each other.

Although this has a cute romance there are also some more serious discussions that happen in the book too. Discussing the difficulties of growing up in a country that isn’t safe to live in, becoming a refugee and then having to start over in a completely new place. The racism that they face and this is something that both Bao and Linh also have to deal with.

Some of the things that Bao and Linh have to deal with this throughout this book was so relatable as a child of immigrant parents. Choosing between doing what you love and what will pay the bills and can they both be the same thing. Pursuing your passion which may disappoint your family or living up to their expectations. Surviving the gossip of the community and reducing yourself so that you aren’t the next target or living life on your own terms. I loved seeing these discussed in the story.

The first half is a little slow but the story picks up a lot in the second half and we learn that there could be more to the family rivalry than just rival restaurants and this added layer just made the story even more interesting. Linh and Bao both have their own individual arcs too in learning more about themselves and what they truly want from life and if they’re willing to take the risk to fight for it. I loved that their arcs wasn’t solely their romance.

But their relationship and how it slowly built was absolutely adorable. They helped each other in their lowest moments and also pushed each other to fight for their dreams. Bao especially stole my heart because he was so sweet, kind and thoughtful. Linh’s passion for art was so wonderful to see and how her teacher encouraged her to pursue it. How she really spoke through her art and showed the emotions through her it. I could picture it in my head.

I cannot forget to mention the food. All the food. The Vietnamese food was described throughout the book and was a big part of the story and it left my mouth watering. I loved how food was such a big part of both their lives and how it’s more than just food. It brings the community together and it is comfort and more.

Overall this was a great read and one that will stay with me for a long time.

Diverse Books, YA Books

Unleashed by Amy McCulloch – Book Review

Last year I read Jinxed by Amy McCulloch and absolutely loved it and it ended on a cliffhanger so I had been waiting for Unleashed to release ever since and the sequel did not disappoint! I loved it as much as Jinxed!

You can read my review for Jinxed here

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Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When Lacey Chu wakes up in a hospital room with no recollection of how she got there, she knows something is up. But with her customizable smart pet, Jinx, missing in action and Moncha, the company behind the invention of the robot pet, up to something seriously sinister, she’s got a lot of figuring out to do. Lacey must use all her engineering skills if she has a chance of stopping Moncha from carrying out their plans. But can she take on the biggest tech company in North America armed with only a level 1 robot beetle … ?

Once I started reading Unleashed I could not put it down and basically read it in two evenings. These books deserve all the love and I need everyone to go read them. It’s STEM girls saving the world, what more could you want?!

The story starts a month after the ending in Jinxed and there is a lot of mystery and intrigue because we don’t know exactly what’s happened and we are slowly given the information through Lacey trying to find out what has happened. It kept me hooked because I just needed to know what was happening and what had happened to Jinx.

This book was a little different to Jinxed because while Jinxed took place mostly in the school with the battles and classes, this book happened mostly outside of school. It gave the sense that the situation was bigger than just school, it was a community problem and could become an even bigger problem if it wasn’t dealt with.

One of my favourite things about this duology was the focus on friendships over romantic relationships and especially female friendship. Lacey and Zora are both smart, capable badass young women in their own ways. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses and they work together so well, encouraging and supporting each other. It was so great to see such a beautiful friendship. In the end it was the both of them who found out what was happening was able to put a stop to it. They did get some help from their other friends but it was two young women who saved everyone!

And lets not forget my favourite baku, Jinx! I love him so much! His sassy and sarcastic remarks and I adored his relationship with Lacey! They really looked out for each other and cared for each other. Honestly I just want my own baku like Jinx!

The ending was really great too, it wrapped up the story but also left it open in a way that we can imagine what these group of teenagers will do next. I really loved the message that the youth shouldn’t be dismissed because they’re young. They are capable of bringing about change and fighting for justice and a better world.

You should all read these books, they’re such great reads and will leave you with a lot to thing about and crying about baku’s not being real and so you can’t have one of your own.

Fiction Books, YA Books

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart – Book Review

Thank you to Dark Room Tours and Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

When I read the synopsis I was instantly intrigued and when I was accepted as part of the bookstagram tour I was so excited! And I really enjoyed it, it’s such a heartfelt read.

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Before, I was a million things. Now I’m only one. The Burned Girl.
Ava Lee has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.
A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.
But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theatre just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.

When I first heard about this book it sounded like Wonder but for YA and honestly if you loved Wonder then you will love this book too. It’s a story of loss and grief, of losing yourself and finding yourself again, of overcoming your fears and accepting yourself for who you are.

Everyone has scars. Some are just easier to see

Reading this it’s easy to connect to Ava and understand how she feels, even if we haven’t experienced the loss and life changing event she has. She is struggling to cope with her life now, she has no-one in her life that she can truly open up to and is so lonely. She misses her parents and cousin and she has cut contact with her friends and old life because she doesn’t want them to see what she looks like now.

She goes through such a wonderful story arc of learning to accept herself for who she is now and grieve for those she lost. It felt so real to read her story as it isn’t just a she goes to school and suddenly everything is fine. She struggles, she grows, takes steps forward but also goes backwards at times. It’s an everyday battle that she goes through.

When a wound’s that deep, it’s the healing that hurts.

She thinks that no-one will want to be friends with her because of how she looks but when Asad tries to talk to her, she ignores him, making assumptions yet he truly is trying to be nice and wants to get to know her. Each character has a specific label at the beginning of the book and it was wonderful to see how each of them are so much more than their labels and they all learn and grown throughout the story.

Ava’s friendship with Piper and Asad was so lovely to read, how they both help her in school and help her to accept herself and continue to do what she loves, especially theatre. Her friendship with Piper was especially important in helping her grow. Yet their relationship is also complex as they are both struggling but also showed how important friendships can be when someone is going through a difficult time.

Her aunt and uncle were also such wonderful characters to read about. They have also had to deal with the loss of their daughter and are looking after Ava. They need her as much as she needs them yet it takes Ava a long time to understand how much she needs them in her life. But they stick by her through everything and love and support her in everything.

Scars Like Wings is a powerful story about self-acceptance and learning to grieve and move on in life and filled with important lessons and I highly recommend you all read it.

She conquered her demons and wore her scars like wings

Fiction Books, YA Books

Sorcery Of Thorns By Margaret Rogerson – ARC Review

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I kept hearing such great things about this book and when I heard that the main character is a librarian and there are talking books I knew I just had to read it! Also the cover is gorgeous! Although I did end up enjoying it but sadly I didn’t love it.

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Rating: 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.
Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.
As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

I have mixed feelings about this book. While I did enjoy the story and I loved seeing the libraries and the grimoires and that there were books so powerful that they could be dangerous, I didn’t fall in love with any aspect of the book enough for me to love this book.

Elisabeth has grown up in the library, surrounded by books and raised with certain teachings and beliefs. She has never really been outside the walls of the library enough to see what it is truly like. So she believes everything that she has been taught, this made her a little naïve but she is smart so she does learn quickly. Her beliefs are challenged as the story progresses and she doesn’t know what to believe any more and this leads her to discovering herself more outside of being a foundling. Despite all this I didn’t find her character to be very memorable so I couldn’t really feel invested in her story.

Nathanial is a handsome, socially awkward sorcerer who tries to act indifferent towards Elisabeth but ends up caring deeply for her. He regularly insults her and tells her that he won’t help her and is generally quite broody. Although he does help her in the end I just felt their romance was a little unnecessary and I fell they would be better as friends. I especially don’t understand Elisabeth’s attraction to him especially as he is so rude to her and regularly calls her an “absolute terror” despite his tragic backstory. I also felt that he also didn’t have much role further than showing Elisabeth that not all sorcerers are evil and being her love interest. I would have loved to see more of his character development.

I did however enjoy the sarcastic and sassy banter between Elisabeth and Nathanial and how they bounced off each other when they were working together.

My favourite character was Silas, he was so intriguing and mysterious and I just wanted to know more about him. We don’t learn very much about him or what he thinks past what we learn from Elisabeth and Nathanial and honestly, I just want more Silas! I would love to see his point of view and what he was thinking throughout everything that happened in the book. I want to know his motivation and reasoning for doing what he did and all we know is what he tells them, but is that the truth?

Overall I did enjoy aspects of the book but I felt the story was pretty predictable and I because I didn’t love the characters I ended up not loving the story.

Fiction Books, YA Books

Slayer by Kiersten White – ARC Review

Thank you to netgalley and Simon and Schuster for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Although I hadn’t watched all of Buffy I still found the book interesting and after reading it, it actually made me want to go watch Buffy!

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Rating: 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.
Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.
Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.
As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…
But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.
One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

So this book is set after the events that happen at the end of the show, Buffy. However I felt like I was able to keep up with what was happening despite not having watched the show fully. I do feel that I probably missed some references to the show that fans of the show would pick up on but it didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the book.

The book started of quite slow and we get a lot of information about what is going on and what has happened to the watchers and we get Artemis and Athena’s back story throughout the book too. It did take me a while to really get into the story but I did enjoy the second half a lot more than the first half.

The story itself is interesting with plenty of intrigue and suspense. You don’t know who to trust and everyone has a secret. We slowly learn what everyone is hiding throughout the book and how these secrets change relationships and the course of events. I also found that some things become quite repetitive which I found a bit annoying for example Athena’s feelings towards Buffy is repeated again and again.

Athena who is known as Nina to everyone, was the main character who learns she’s a slayer, which basically makes her a badass, but I found her to be quite irritating most of the time. I found it quite difficult to like her at times and felt that she spends too much time focusing on how everyone has wronged her in some way. I get that she has had a difficult life but then so had all the other teenagers she grew up with.

I did want to see more of the other characters as I felt we don’t get enough of them to really have great depth to the characters. Though I did enjoy reading about Rhys and Cillian. I loved how Rhys was a total booknerd and how cute him and Cillian were together.

We do get several plot twists throughout the book and while I predicted a few there is one at the end that I did not see coming at all. The ending was a lot more fast paced and lots of things are revealed. I liked how Athena uses her strengths to fight at the end and feel like that is when she truly becomes her own person and someone I can root for.

I think if you love Buffy or books with vampires and slayers then give this book a read as I think Buffy fans will enjoy the book.