ARC Review: A Pho Love Story

I haven’t really known what to expect from YA romance novels lately – they’ve been a bit disappointing. But A Pho Love Story by Loan Le gave me all the feels, honestly I felt like I had tears in my eyes for the last quarter of the book. If you want a book where you’ll care for all the characters, that has a deep, emotional plot, and will make you very, very hungry, then this is the story for you.

Star rating: 5 stars

The book has two points of view – the teenage kids of rival Vietnamese restaurant owners with businesses across the street from each other. Bao moves through life with no aims, assuming that he is destined for mediocrity. Linh has goals – she wants to be a painter, but her parents, Vietnamese immigrants, do not want her to have a hard life like they did and so disapprove.

Both characters had such strong stories and journeys that I couldn’t help but read this book in one sitting. Their parents both have different attitudes towards their kids, Bao’s just want him to have something, but Linh’s want her to have a secure career and life. One thing their parents do agree on is that they should avoid each other – and they often try to outcompete each other as restaurant owners. But is there more to these families than just being business rivals?

What captured me the most about this story was the family dynamics. Both Bao and Linh learn so much about their parents’ histories and it helps a reader see the disagreements from all perspectives. When Linh and Bao decide to put rivalry aside and get to know each other, as they tried to as young children, it really makes for a heart-warming story of growth, forgiveness, love and friendship.

With divine food descriptions (I really want to try Vietnamese food now), and a story I felt with every word, A Pho Love Story is not one to miss. It’s so much more than a love story, it’s the story of escaping war and wanting what is best for your kids, of realising they might not always be who you expected them to be and accepting it.

Will you be picking up A Pho Love Story? I truly believe this is a great book choice for teens and adults alike.

ARC Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Talia gave us Chloe Brown’s book, then Dani’s. Now it’s youngest Brown sister Eve’s turn, and I was excited to get stuck in to the final book in one of my favourite romance series. This book is grumpy and sunshine at his best, Eve is probably the sister that I relate to the most, and it has neurodiversity representation.

Star rating: 5 stars

Eve can’t seem to stick with one career. She doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life. Her latest attempt at wedding planning was fun but an incident with some doves leads to a bad review, putting an end to that one. Her parents are very frustrated and give her an ultimatum. Eve, furious, leaves the house and finds her way to a B&B – which happens to be looking for a new chef. Is it meant to be?

Jacob put his heart and soul into his B&B, but when his chef wins the lottery and leaves him stranded before a big event, he starts looking for a new one. Then Eve Brown walks into his life with her sunshine attitude. He thinks she’ll be an absolute disaster, but when an accident leaves him indisposed, he has little choice in the matter but to hire her…

Honestly, I loved the characters in this book so much – Eve in particular. I related to her struggles in passing her driving test, having to listen to music to concentrate, fear of failure and difficulty making friends. She also cares a lot about people and has a really strong empathetic nature. Jacob is also the perfect grumpy in the pairing – I loved his passion for the B&B, how he did so much to make his guests comfortable (even offering weighted blankets which was a nice touch). He’s also really comfortable with his autism diagnosis.

The romance is probably my favourite of the series! I love how considerate the characters are towards each other. Both characters get a point of view and I enjoyed both. The plot is also good – not too much drama which is always appreciated. It was good to have Chloe and Dani cameos too, I miss those two and now I want to re-read.

Overall, a perfect final book in this trilogy and probably my favourite overall. I was so happy that it also had autistic representation, especially in women. I wish their was a fourth Brown sister because I’m really not ready for this to be over!

Have you read any of the Brown sister books? I love them all, if you like adult romance you should definitely check them out.

ARC Review: Winter’s Orbit

This was a science-fiction romance novel that I didn’t know I needed. Everina Maxwell has created an excellent book with a rich military and political influence – I very much enjoyed the small details included. The romance is cute, the plot is fast-paced and intriguing and the characters are just out of this world.

Star rating: 5 stars

Kiem is the prince with a reputation for partying in causing trouble. He’s all over the news for his outrageous antics, but he uses his people and diplomacy skills to get himself out of trouble. One day, the Emperor, his grandmother, arranges a marriage for him to a representative from the planet Thea, in order to save a treaty. Jainan is the exact opposite of Kiem – he’s academic, socially awkward and quiet. He lost his previous husband and has to marry Kiem to save the treaty that keeps Thea part of the Iskat Empire. Will it be the case of opposites attract?

I really loved the way this book handled sexuality – each culture had their own way of expressing gender which was super cool. It was up to the people to choose what they expressed and nobody challenged it. The romance is also adorable – these two guys are absolute disasters but both of them are so cute in their own way.

The plot is very fast-paced and includes plenty of opportunities for Kiem and Jainan to showcase their unique skills. I loved how the characters supported each other’s differences. The side characters are also great – I particularly enjoyed Bel, who is Kiem’s personal aide. She was very no nonsense and definitely kept Kiem in check!

Overall this is a really heartwarming story, though it does contain some darker elements such as domestic abuse. I really liked the integration of military with politics, it made for a realistic alternative universe. Really happy I got approved for this arc, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this good!

ARC Review: Liberté

I was super excited for the sequel to Enchantée by Gita Trelease and I felt like this follow up was as strong as the first book. The book has a more feminist focus than the debut, re-uniting us with Camille, Sophie and Lazare whilst also introducing new characters in The Lost Girls. In a world where France has ordered all magicians to be killed, Camille must do what she can to survive.

Star rating: 4 stars

After the events of book one, Camille and Sophie are living in Seguin’s mansion, no longer struggling to find food and pay rent. Sophie is still making hats that are in demand across the aristocrats, and Camille finally has her printing press. One day, Camille saves a flower seller, Giselle, from a man who wishes to hurt her. After this, she is introduced to The Lost Girls.

I really enjoyed the introduction of The Lost Girls and the stories that Camille prints about them. Their story made for a good plotline in addition to the magician hunting too. I wish The Lost Girls had a larger role to play in the story!

Gita writes so beautifully – I loved the continuation of the romance between Camille and Lazare. The other side characters also return such as Chandan and Blaise. There are some really heartbreaking moments in the story, amplified by Camille’s strong emotions.

Overall, this was a solid finale to this duology (at least I think it’s a duology, it wrapped up very neatly). I enjoyed the ending a lot, and can’t wait to see what else Gita writes in the future.

ARC Review: Winterkeep

When I found out Kristin Cashore was releasing another book in the world of the Graceling series I was ecstatic – it was one of my favourite series as a teen, with Fire still being on my all time faves list. So, what did I think of Winterkeep? Well, I read all 500 pages in one sitting, that’s what.

Star rating: 5 stars

Winterkeep expands the universe the series is set in, through new lands to explore and a mix of new and old characters. We are re-united with Queen Bitterblue (5 years after Bitterblue the book ended) and Giddon, and introduced to Lovisa, a teen from Winterkeep.

After two of her men go missing, Bitterblue and Giddon head to Winterkeep for the first time – a nation that has advanced technology beyond their wildest dreams. What happened to her men? What can she learn? Will she see her ex-lover Katu over there since he hasn’t been in touch?

Lovisa is a new character – she’s studying politics at Winterkeep’s school being the daughter of two prominent politicians, uniquely from opposing political parties. I enjoyed Lovisa’s character, but I won’t say too much because of spoilers.

My absolute favourite part of this book was its love of animals and the environment. There are telepathic foxes (one even gets a point of view), seal like creatures called silbercows that can communicate through images, cats, poodles and farm animals. I loved it, it was so comforting and made me happy cry in places.

So while I may have not had the same attachment to the characters as I did in Graceling and Fire before this, I loved the world-building so much. Overall, this is such a great follow up in one of my favourite series (thank you Kristin!)

ARC Review: When Life Gives You Mangoes

Middle grade isn’t normally my thing but When Life Gives You Mangoes is a heartwarming, authentic story about friendship, family, loss and grief. UK people better mark 1st October 2020 in their calendars because this special book deserves to be pre-ordered right now. Also, doesn’t it have the cutest cover? (P.S I think it releases in the U.S on September 15th…go,go,go!

Star rating: 4 stars

Clara is 12. She used to love the sea and surfing, but now she can’t even step in the water. She can’t remember last summer at all, and is acting out of character. This summer, Clara wants to have the best time with her friend Gaynah, and maybe get to know the new girl Rudy. Clara goes on such a journey in this book, having to come to terms with her trauma. What she goes through at 12 is so tough, and I love that her parents stand by her when some of the other people in the village are critical of her behaviour. I also really like Rudy’s character – she was such a fun, unique girl with great style, and I think she was such a good friend for Clara.

I loved Sycamore, the imagery Kereen Getten gave me from her writing was spectacular, with mango trees and Clara’s Uncle’s home being standouts.

The ending is super sweet and it definitely made me tear up a bit. Sometimes that happy sadness feeling is a great feeling, you know? Anyway, I’m really glad I gave this a go because it was nice to be transported back to the life of a 12 year old, and it really gave me a feel for Sycamore. Thanks Pushkin Press for the eARC.

Will you be reading When Life Gives You Mangoes? I highly recommend it for all ages as it’s a complex story with a wonderful central character that you can’t help but want to protect.

ARC Review: Legendborn

This book gave me so many nostalgic feelings of 2008/9. It takes a familiar premise and elevates to another level – it is unique in it’s representation of fantasy in YA. The magic system is interesting, but it also explores Black history in a way I wasn’t expecting. It is honest, full of characters that quench curiosity and Tracy Deonn absolutely knows how to tell a story. Legendborn is not one to miss, and I see it being an awesome TV series in the future if handled correctly.

Star rating: 5 stars

Bree Matthews loses her mother at only 16 years of age. Right before she dies, they fought over Bree’s acceptance to an Early College program in Carolina. Still grieving, Bree moves into dorms with her best friend Alice, and they begin their life of independence. While Alice settles into her academics, Bree is drawn into a secret magical society that is somehow connected to her mother. Built on legacy, she is an outsider who knows too much to ignore.

The magic system is routed in the legend of King Arthur, with family lines driving the future of the society. Nick and Selwyn are Bree’s main companions throughout the book. Nick is set to be the next leader but he doesn’t want to be. Selwyn is a Kingsmage (a Merlin) set to serve Nick. I don’t want to detail the structure of the society too much because of spoilers, but it makes for a great competition and interesting politics.

What elevates this book is its discussions of African American history and slavery, particularly the way it handles the magic system. I loved the flashbacks, the family dynamics. Bree’s personality also works so well with her story, I honestly couldn’t find out what happens fast enough.

Fast paced with a great balance between action and detail, Legendborn is absolutely a book to look out for in the future. I can’t wait for the sequel, and can’t wait to add the final copy of this book to my shelves. Do you think you will read Legendborn? I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed. Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for the early copy.

ARC Review: Queen of Volts

This review contains Spoilers for Ace of Shades and King of Fools.

Oh wow, where to begin? We left King of Fools with the world knowing Enne’s identity as the last living Mizer, creators of volts that everybody fears. She destroyed her relationship with Levi after killing his best friend Jac under influence from the Omerta cast upon her by Vianca. But now, Levi and Enne are free of Vianca’s influence once and for all, but the other, Bryce Balfour, is their new problem. And there’s a new game to play, and not everyone can be a winner. This is a fantastic, twisty end to The Shadow Game trilogy, with more characters and more points of view than before.

Star rating: 5 stars

This is a book with many points of view – Enne, Levi, Sophia, Lola and Harvey all get their own time with the reader now. The gang are more divided than ever thanks to previous events, but they’ll have to work together to overcome the new threats. A new game of cards has pitted them against each other, and it makes for a wonderfully written plot where the reader is never quite sure what these morally grey characters are going to do.

Enne is a great character – but she’s no longer the innocent, sheltered kid from Bellamy. Killing Jac has scarred her, and she’s jumpy and quick to fight. Levi is mourning the death of his best friend but he still has the Irons to handle. Both of them need to decide what to do with the Scarhands and the Doves, both leaderless and either an asset or a threat. Sophia’s parentage is still a big mystery – as is her split talent that she gave to The Bargainer. She is also mourning Jac, and has found herself bound to Vianca’s son, Harrison, through Omerta. Lola is Enne’s second but her friend does something she can’t forgive. Leaving the Spirits, she is now with The Bargainer, who has taken something she didn’t know she was giving up. Finally, Harvey is a confusing character. In love with Bryce, he gave up his freedom to Harrison to save him. The story of where his loyalties lie and the character growth was immense.

I love the diversity in this book – a world where same sex relationships are not treated any differently. There are some really cute romances, which brought some light to a very dark plot. Amanda did a great job and drawing the loose ends to closures, with the book solving mystery after mystery from Enne and Sophia’s parentage to the loyalties of the characters.

Honestly, I really love the concept of this series – especially the family talents, the card games (this final book definitely has the best, most complex game out there). There are many characters to keep track of, but this isn’t made particularly difficult. I’m amazed Amanda managed to fit all of their stories in so few pages (which is probably why it reads so fast).

Are you looking forward to Queen of Volts? It’s published on 1st September 2020 so not long to wait! Thanks to NetGalley and HQ for the eARC.

ARC Review: Furia

I absolutely LOVED Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez . It’s emotional, feminist and a YA set in Argentina which I have never come across before. It is also about football, which appealed to my inner child who watched the sport with her Grandad in the evenings. Set in Rosario, it has such powerful descriptions of the setting and the food. I was totally blown away by how good this is. Here is why! (Also, I LOVE this cover)

Star rating: 5 stars

A standout for me is that Camila Hassan is such a likeable character. She is so determined, strong, but also kind, and is always fighting for what she wants. She plays football for a girls team, but always seem to be in the shadow of her brother who plays for the local men’s team, and her childhood love Diego who has made it big and plays for Juventus in Italy – he is tipped to be the next star of the national team like Messi. Camila’s father is also abusive towards his family, which broke my heart. We hate men who are jerks over here.

Camila is mature beyond her years, particularly when it comes to Diego, who she had a crush on in the past. She makes such good decisions when it comes to her future, putting herself before boys and I love how powerful that makes her. Even though she is bold, her compassionate side definitely shines through whilst she’s teaching kids English, including a bright girl called Karen.

Overall I loved this book. It gave me such a roller coaster ride of emotions and I am so glad I got to read it early. The romance is good, but the feminism is the real deal. Definitely picking this one up when it comes out!

Do you think you’ll read Furia when it releases? I hope you do because it’s a wonderful, heartwarming story.

ARC Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

I can’t even begin to describe how this book made me feel. Understood? Seen? Nothing has ever quite got me like The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I have enjoyed V.E. Schwab’s other books, but they’ve never hit my quite like this. There is something special here, and I am going to treasure this feeling for a while!

Rating: 5 stars (the best 5 stars I have ever given)

So what is this beautiful book about? Addie LaRue, a 23 year old woman from a small village in France, makes a pact with the devil in order to save herself from an unhappy life tied-down going nowhere. She trades her soul for immortality, but there’s a catch – everyone she meets will forget her almost as soon as she leaves them. One day, she meets a boy in a bookstore who remembers her, and everything changes.

I honestly can’t explain why I love it so much. The words spoke to me in a way that hasn’t happened since Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. I was gripped with Addie’s character immediately and couldn’t get enough. And then along came Henry, a character that I love with all my heart, who I see myself in, who I just want to give the biggest hug. Reading his chapters had me in pieces, and with his entrance to the story the book became the best thing I’ve read.

It’s not just the characters – the plot is intricate, spanning multiple time periods and settings across the world. The writing is absolutely V.E. Schwab’s best work and the standard is already high. I feel like this is a more personal story which elevated it about her others for me. It is deep, I can already imagine the details a second read will reveal.

My heart hurts but I am also so happy to have read this book. Huge thanks to V.E. Schwab for writing this masterpiece that will be very hard to forget. I can’t wait t get my hardback version to really treasure those pages. Thanks to NetGalley and Titan Books for the advance copy.

You can find a review from my friend Meaghan over at Paragraphs and Pages here.