Truth or Dare by Non Pratt – Interesting concept, not sure about the representation.

This was a really interesting book. It’s one of those books that’s kind of not really had a lot of buzz, so I didn’t know what I was going to get going into this.

Content warnings for: neurodisability, thrill seeking, sexual harassment, ace/aro-phobia, mental health problems, racism.

This is a book split in 2 halves, 1 side you read completely from Claire’s POV then it switches to Sef’s before alternating for the end.

The best friend of the main character is ace! She also then clarifies that she is also aro later on and I had no idea before going in and I was so pleasantly surprised. There is little to no representation of people who are ace/aro in books. I am pansexual/romantic so I am not the person to speak about the representation but I found this review on GR from someone who is own voices. I’m in 2 minds about the fact that it’s the side character rather than the main character, I wish there was more of a focus on representation in books but I also feel like sometimes it’s better for that to be more in the background so that it just slowly gets embedded into normal thinking. But, like I said, I can’t really speak on it. But for me I felt the representation was really good as it differentiated between ace and aro and it kind of subtly taught the reader about what that means. If you are ace or aro or both and feel like it wasn’t good representation please let me know and I will link to your review!

There was also representation as Sef is British Pakistani, but I really wasn’t sure about the representation. This review I found from Kamalia talks about their wish for the representation to be less westernised and I can 100% see why they were let down in that respect, but I’m also aware of many 2nd/3rd/4th generation Pakistani people living in the UK who have taken on board a lot of British traditions etc. But again I am white, I can’t speak on it.

I honestly just didn’t really like Sef, he reminded me a lot of the boys I went to school with who would be one person in private then a complete jerk with friends. I am very aware that he had a lot to deal with so I can’t fault him because we all deal with stuff in or own ways. From working with teenagers for my placement it’s become even more apparent to me. I think that’s one thing this book did deal with really well, was showing just the general life struggles that so many teens go through on a day to day basis. I felt that in that respect it was pretty realistic.

There is a lot of sexual harassment in this novel, and it’s shown in a negative light as well it should be, but it kind of reminded me of my experiences as a kid in high school of the things that felt like nothing at the time that now thinking back on I realise could be considered sexual harassment. Kids are absolutely awful to each other and I think this showed that better than a lot of novels have done, as many just show run of the mill slut shaming or boys being mean to girls. This book really went deep into how conniving teens can really be.

I read this book pretty quickly, it was paced well and felt super easy to get through and for the most part I enjoyed what I was ready. There were a few scenes that made me uncomfortable but that was on purpose.

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Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard – A book all about female friendships

I really enjoyed Barnard’s sophomore work A Quiet Kind of Thunder so I was eager to read her debut. It was a good book but I can definitely tell her writing has improved.

Content warnings for: abuse, attempted suicide, manipulative relationships and slut shaming (which is called out on the page).

A new girl has moved to town and threatens the friendship between Caddy and Rosie as Suzanne goes to Rosie’s school and spends more time with her. However Caddy starts to hang out with Suzanne due to jealousy but that morphs into a strong friendship, but even though Suzanne has a tough and carefree exterior there is so much more going on beneath the surface.

This book is pretty harsh; it shows the ugly fleeting side of friendships in teenagers that are harmful but just as important as lasting friendships in our development as humans. Some of the decisions made by these young girls made me want to jump into the page and shake then because they were behaving so rashly. But that is what youth is.

I felt like the voice of the MC came across a bit young when I was reading. At times she read more like a 13/14 year old than a 16/17 year old, apart from talking about sex.

One of my least favourite tropes exists in this: overprotective parents who do not listen to their children and are super over the top about it. Of course I understand where this comes from, but it drives me wild. I wish they would actually listen to their children. Yes parents “know what’s best” for their children, but just because they’re younger doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make their own decisions.

What I absolutely loved about this book is that this is very much about the friendship between 3 friends. There’s some mentions of relationships and flirting, but it is never the main focus. There’s a couple arguments because of boys but it’s always just something that is a catalyst for further arguments rather than the sole focus.

The difference between this book and Barnard’s second book is very obvious so I’m pretty excited to read her next book to see how she’s came along.

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – The Conclusion to End All Conclusions

I really don’t know how to talk about this book. Because it killed me. First of all, CW for starving, violence, death and addiction. This review will of course have spoilers for Six of Crows.

I was worried going into this because a lot of people had problems with the pacing, but thankfully I didn’t at all. Everything flowed so wonderfully. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I can’t believe the amount of twists Leigh put into this story that I had no idea were coming. I’m normally pretty good at guessing what happens next, but not with this book.

The character development is truly amazing in this. There is no loss of plot for the sake of characters. Honestly, I just felt so stressed out the whole book and thats a test to Bardugo’s skill in creating characters that I cared about. I was permanently worried about every single character. Not even just worried about deaths but about how anything was going to harm their emotional wellbeing. They’re all my kids who I hold close to my heart. I don’t know how it’s possible to create a character like Kaz Brekker. He’s so ridiculously multifaceted that I almost can’t bear it. I can’t help but love him even though he’s an evil genius.

After Six of Crows, Nina is addicted to Parem and something I absolutely adored in this book was the normalisation of addiction through this. Addiction is often shown in a bad light or treated like it’s something someone will eventually get over which is definitely not the case. People who are addicted to something will always be addicted and they’re still people, they’re not bad because they’re addicted and Bardugo really showed this through Nina.

I felt very emotional during this whole read through and I’m sad that I’m finished it because I want to feel those feelings again, and yes I can reread but obviously I won’t be reading it for the first time.

If you have any doubts about this series, don’t because it’s just absolute magic.

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The Lady of Royale Street by Thea De Salle – Everyone is back for a reprise but main romance is less than I hoped

Rain and Sol from The King of Bourbon Street are getting married (oops spoilers), and everyone is flying in to be there for the special day, but a week before the wedding the wedding planner dies after leaking all the wedding information. So income Theresa, Rain’s best friend, and Alex, Sol’s brother, to save the day, and maybe develop some feelings along the way.

I’ll be honest, this is my least favourite of the series so far. I wasn’t drawn to either of the characters and I didn’t find their relationship particularly compelling. It’s not a bad book, but it’s not as good as the previous two.

TW for ableism. There was a few parts where Theresa is described as being “crazy” or a “lunatic” which just felt really unnecessary. Other words could’ve been used.

What really helped this book for me was because it focuses around Rain and Sol’s wedding we get to see all the previous characters, whom I adore. We got to see my faves get married and continue to be absolutely wild.

Like I said in my Sanctuary review I’m super sensitive to Scottish descended characters and Theresa was the opposite of what I like in Scottish characters. She just felt super cringey to me, and it felt like the author was just putting it in there constantly. And she used the wrong form of whiskey.

It was just as easy to read as the previous novels from it’s style and you can definitely get through it in one sitting if you’re so inclined. And whilst I definitely had my qualms with this one I still enjoyed it.

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Sanctuary by Rebekah Weatherspoon – There’s 5 Dogs That’s All You Need to Know

Thank you Rebekah Weatherspoon for sending me a copy of this book! CW for violence, death, and bdsm sex scenes.

So if you haven’t read a Rebekah Weatherspoon book by now or at least added one to your TBR what the heck are you playing at? Her books are incredible.

After being attacked by a former client Liz needs to go into hiding for fear of her life. So she goes to upstate New York to stay on a farm with her coworkers brother, Silas, who is a huge grump. But he has 5 dogs, so it’s not all bad.

So the romance is so good. If you like hate to love/fake dating this is 100% for you, especially if you like some really heavy sex scenes. Liz is a dominant which is just great, it’s not often you find female doms in books. There’s so much discussion about it as well between the pair of them, like their comfort levels and how far they want to go. I just was so happy reading it because it’s so good to see on page discussion of kinks and stuff. It fills my heart with joy.

One thing that I was really so happy about is that Silas is half Scottish and Rebekah actually seemed to do her research for Scottish stuff. Like she used the correct form of whisky. If a whisky is made in Scotland it doesn’t have an e in it. And it drives me absolutely mad when people write it with the e. The other half of Silas’ heritage is polynesian, which was super cool to read. Liz is black as well so it’s just got some good representation all around. There’s some on the page talk of what it’s like to deal with assault as a black woman, versus how it would be if she was white.

There’s some inputs from Liz’s friends, who are all such sweet women and I’m SO HERE for positive female friendships. One of Liz’s friends is our heroine from the last Beards & Bondage novel and it was nice to read about them.

I’m really excited to read whatever Rebekah comes out with next because I’m always going to jump at the chance to read it and so should you!

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Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – Yay F/F fantasy!!!! Boo Slow read

Denna has left her home land to get married to the man she has been betrothed to since childhood. However Denna has magic in a world that is so anti magic, and being away from home has put her in so much more danger. She needs to learn to ride a horse, leading her to spending time with the Princess Mare. But then a series of magic related killings take place.

I was in a bit of a slump when I read this. I wasn’t reading it fast enough to my liking and it just felt super sluggish. But I don’t know if that was me or if that was the book. I still enjoyed it but I feel like it took longer than it should’ve done. I will say that something about the pacing was a bit off. At times it felt like it was moving along ok and other times it was just super slow. I didn’t get that “I can’t put this down” feeling.

Whilst I did love reading a fantasy book with an f/f romance, there should definitely be more, I felt like there wasn’t enough of a burn. Obviously I knew who the romance was between so as I knew it was building, but it didn’t feel like anything was happening between the pair. It wasn’t believable for me. Maybe I personally just want more from romances in books.

The world building was great. There was heretics and illegal magic. There were different countries at war with each other and being political and everything I look for in good world building.

This is a stand-alone fantasy novel and I feel like if you’re going to do a stand-alone this is how you do it. And I’m glad it is as well because I’ve started too many series.

I felt like the characters could’ve done with a little bit more development. I think because it’s a stand-alone I couldn’t get the feel for them that I would normally get from fantasy. Denna felt a bit flimsy at times, like I wasn’t sure what she was wanting to do with herself.

In the end though, I am glad I read this because I always need more f/f in my life, especially in fantasy where it’s SO sparse.

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Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell – Hot romance with a side of good representation

Thank you to netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Gavin has been suspended from the NFL and put on house arrest for attacking someone on camera. He needs a PA to do stuff for him whilst he’s stuck in his house. He chooses Noah despite Noah’s obvious disdain for Gavin and his career. Eventually the tension turns into sexual tension.

I’ve really fallen down the Santino Hassell hole. I can’t stop reading what he’s written. Eventually I’ll read the Five Bouroughs series, I just don’t have the money for it.

I adore the hate to love trope so this was exactly what the doctor ordered when I was in the mood for some erotic romance.

I loved that it had bisexual sports star rep. Kind of reminded me of the story I wrote a few years ago where a rugby star came out, but lets not talk about that. It also tackles a lot of the issues in the sports world with prejudice.

I flew through this and I think that speaks for the quality of it. the characters, though sometimes weren’t very likeable, were all very well developed and I can’t wait to read some more of them in the rest of the series.

Overall this was a fun, fast, raunchy read that I think everyone should read when they’re in the mood. It also helps that this is a m/m book written by a guy, which is super important as a lot of the biggest m/m books are written by women and that’s sad.

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There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins – All Romance and Barely Any Horror

Thank you to netgalley and Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Makani has moved to Nebraska after an incident in her home of Hawaii but her classmates are being killed off slowly, one by one. The town is in complete shock as it is a small town, but the police aren’t used to having to deal with a crime like this and things only seem to go from bad to worse.

I was excited for this book because I’ve enjoyed previous Stephenie Perkins novels in the past, but I wasn’t sure if I would like it because I’m not normally partial to horror/thrillers. BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE IT’S JUST NOT SCARY. Look I didn’t hate it, I finished it and thought it was ok. It was easy to read. BUT, and that’s a big but, for a book that was supposed to be scary I never once felt scared reading it. It focussed far too much on the romance. The murders didn’t feel very threatening at all. I think had they been written in a different way it might’ve changed thins because there’s were creepy elements to it, but at times it felt so campy. It felt more like Scary Movie than an actual scary movie. And that would’ve been fine had it been advertised like that, but it wasn’t.

Makani was OBSESSED with this incident that happened in her past. She constantly made reference to it and was worried that anyone would find out she’d done it. But then you find out what it is and it’s just so ridiculous that it just angered me that there was all that build up. Same goes for the killer. When you find out who it is it just feels fake.

I didn’t mind Makani, when she’s not stressing out about her past she’s ok and it’s nice to have an MC in a horror story that isn’t white, as she has a Hawaiian mother. There is also a trans secondary character which I felt was dealt with well, but I could be wrong on that. Olly, the love interest is a weird one. He starts off with a really odd vibe, he obtains Makani’s number through illegal methods and I really felt a bit sketchy about him but as the novel goes on I found myself coming around to him. But because it was so romance heavy it did leave me feeling a bit sour about the whole thing.

I think because I’m not a huge horror reader this was ok for me, but if I got this specifically for the horror aspect I would be sorely disappointed and if you’re a fan of horror don’t bother.

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The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember – Gender Fluidity Rep Let Down by Poor Plot

I have a lot to say about this book. Thank you to netgalley and Xpresso Book Tours for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Please be aware that there is misgendering in this book and there is violence.

Tashi has to escape the capital as their life is in danger. They’re an inhabitor, which means they have a really close connection with an animal, to the point where they can inhabit the animals body. However when they go to a monastery it is quickly taken over by enemy forces and they decide to spy.

The world building was really good in the sense it had a really good religious system, which a lot of books skip over. The inhabitor part of this book was an interesting idea but the way it was written just didn’t read very well. I found it hard to distinguish between what was going on with Tashi and what was going on with the tiger.

Xian read really weirdly, he was complex but was just too complex. He didn’t know whether he was coming or going and it was just really annoying. Sometimes he came off really nice and then other times he was an absolute jerk, and I just can’t get behind him. It made it hard for me to read the scenes between him and Tashi.

Tashi is supposed to be in love with Pharo, who they ran away to the monastery with but it literally did not read like that at all. They never saw him or checked on him. And I get that it’s hard for them because they’re trying to be covert, but it barely felt like they liked him to be honest. It just felt completely underdeveloped.

Look, I think this book is super important because it has a gender fluid main character, but the plot could use a lot of work. I think this could be really good for people who are gender fluid, though I can’t speak for the representation, and I couldn’t find reviews from anyone who is gender fluid, but if you have read it and are gender fluid hmu and I’ll link to your review. C.W. also posted a review of this book and raised some issues about the Chinese coding of some of the characters so I would recommend checking that out.

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The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan – Everything’s Kicking Off

Annabeth has gone missing and it’s all kicking off. Percy and the newly awoken Thalia need to go find her with some new friends added to the mix.

I liked the change up in this novel of it not being set in the summer, it made it less repetitive. I don’t mind when novels are over the same period just a year later every time but sometimes it can get annoying.

I really enjoyed getting to know a few other demi-gods. For example we meet Thalia, Zoe and Nico who all were really well developed characters.

My one complaint with this book and generally with the PJ books as a whole up to this one is that I sometimes feel like things happen very quickly. The novels are quite short and they are made for 10-12 year olds so it’s totally fine for them to be like that. But sometimes I just wish things would last a little longer. Like some big dramatic scenes or fighting scenes are over pretty quickly, and whilst the threads are all tiedI just want more.

Overall I’m pretty happy with where this book went and I could feel the tone changing between this and the first couple. You can feel like this is the novel where you know it’s going to go pear shaped soon. Kind of like how I felt with the third Harry Potter. There was a slight change to the overall tone and I put this down and was excited to see what was going to happen next.

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