Blackathon TBR

Information about the Blackathon can be found on the Twitter page here!

The hosts are:

  • Francina Simone and you can find her Blackathon TBR here!
  • Lauren @ The Novel Lush and you can find her Blackathon announcement video here!
  • Jesse @ BowtiesandBooks and you can find their Blackathon recommendations video here!

Give them a follow and get stuck in!

Details:

  • The readathon runs from 11th-25th February.
  • There are six challenges:
    • FEEL THE LOVE – Read a book (any genre) featuring romance between two black people (or one black person + a person of colour).
    • WAKANDA FOREVER – Read a graphic novel/comic w/ a black or African MC
    • HEAR US  – any work by a black/african author.
    • FEEL THE BEAT – Spoken word: listen to these 4 poems. Share your favourite on social media/with a friend. Discuss what it means to you & why it matters.
    • MORE THAN A COLOR. We house complexity within us. Read a book starring an intersectional black character (black & LGBT, black & neurodivergent, black & disabled, etc)
    • Read the group book – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Now, I know, I know.

Abby, you’ve failed at too many readathons and you’ve just posted about participating in the Year of the Asian Readathon, so why are you stressing yourself out with another?

Because I’m self-destructive, and I have a ton of awesome books by black authors I’m desperate to get to. I am going to be lenient as my February is totally packed with work, so I’m going to spread it out over the whole month rather than 11th-25th, which I’ve seen a few people planning.

Continue reading “Blackathon TBR”

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The Lola Quartet by Emily St John Mandel

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Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he’s fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. It’s early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly; the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression. The last thing Gavin wants to do is return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he’s drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he’s offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.

Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a child who looks very much like Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin’s high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago. Gavin—a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed properties, obsessed with film noir and private detectives—begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter who have been on the run all these years from a drug dealer from whom Anna stole $121,000.

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Like a lot of people I’ve seen talking about this book, I was brought to The Lola Quartet through a love of Station Eleven. I will say that if you’re going into it looking for a similar story, you’re going to be disappointed, but if you’re looking for more of Emily St John Mandel’s well-crafted characters and engaging writing style, you won’t go far wrong.

The Lola Quartet consists of Jack, Daniel, Sasha, and Gavin, all musicians in their senior year of high school, and Gavin’s girlfriend, Anna. The story isn’t told chronologically, so we only get glimpses of them in high school, meaning this doesn’t read YA, as the majority of the story is told ten years later when they are all adults. This format really worked well for me, and I found that I enjoyed slowly building up each of these characters through their points of view and different ages.

Growing up and loss of innocence are main themes in this book, and I think it was done incredibly well. I’ve never read a book that seemed almost like a neo-noir, something that the book seems to be aware of but doesn’t overdo. Gavin believes he is born in the wrong era, growing up watching crime noirs and wanting to be a private detective, but Mandel does a great job of showing how the real world likes to laugh at fantasies like Gavin’s. He ends up being a journalist for a failing newspaper, and he is just the first of the characters we are introduced to facing redundancy, budget cuts, and uncertainty. His progression as a character and the cyclical nature of it all was just very, very clever.

It’s a tone that is carried throughout the book (though maybe dwindled a little towards the end), and it really worked. The bleak and impersonal combined with the highly personal really got through to me. Not only that, it gave the book a whole new dimension. We don’t just have the Lola Quartet and Anna and the main narrative, we have this interesting and important backdrop that informs so many of the character’s actions.

One thing I will say is not to go into The Lola Quartet expecting a book about the friendship between these four people. Friendship is there, for sure, but the story isn’t about them being best friends against the world. They formed the band for the music, not because they loved each other, and it is mentioned that they weren’t that close even in high school. I enjoyed this element because I found it to be very realistic, but if I started reading with the expectation of an epic found family friend group, I would be disappointed. Just something to bear in mind!

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IF YOU LIKE:
  • Character-driven stories
  • Imperfect characters
  • Neo-Noirs
  • Theme of growing up and loss of innocence
  • Musical elements‪
  • To be able to read in one sitting

Then this book could be for you!

 

IF YOU’RE NOT A FAN OF:
  • TW: drug use, body trauma, mention of suicide, child abuse, redundancy
  • Multiple POVs
  • Time jumps
  • Darker stories

Then you may not enjoy this one.

I really enjoyed The Lola Quartet and have added the rest of Emily St John Mandel’s books to my TBR!


Have you read The Lola Quartet or anything else by Emily St John Mandel? Let me know in the comments and we can chat!

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Year of the Asian Reading Challenge

Check out Vicky’s post for the official announcement and details!

Abby? Participating in a readathon? Unheard of?

Well, here I am, signing up and clocking in for the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge!

I’m not usually one for read-a-thons but I’m really trying to change that in 2019, and by participating in a year-long one, maybe it’ll encourage me to try out more! This particular readathon looks like so much fun, and actually fits into a lot of my reading plans/TBR for the year, which is always beaut.

YARC was created and is hosted by the wonderful:

And the gist is to read as many books by Asian authors as you can in 2019! There are different levels depending on how many books you want to read, and I’m going for 21-30 which means my badge is…

Continue reading “Year of the Asian Reading Challenge”

January Wrap Up (2019)

Welcome to the first wrap up of 2019 from me, and the first post after my hiatus! So happy new year and let’s get into it!

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17669036The Bear by Claire Cameron

This was a mixed one, for sure. This story is inspired by the true events of a bear attack, in which a couple on Bates Island in 1991 were killed. In the foreword, Cameron claims she took the story and ‘added the children’. The book follows these two children, Anna and Stick, trying to survive in the wilderness after their parents are killed. I was a little bit uncomfortable finding out that it was based on a true story but tried to put that aside to focus on the book itself.

At first, the tension was great, but then began almost bordering on traumatic, and there were moments when I had to put the book down. However, once the attack is over and it’s just the children trying to survive, I have to say I started to get bored. As the book is narrated in first person by a five year-old, it has that child’s inner monologue that slowed everything down so much, which was a feat for such a small book.

In the end, I was glad to have finished it. This was just a random book that was accidentally sent to me by the library, or I don’t think I would have picked it up.


23589309The Lola Quartet by Emily St John Mandel

This was a huge improvement on The Bear, another one I finished in one sitting. The Lola Quartet follows a group of musicians of the same name – consisting of Jack, Daniel, Sasha, and Gavin, and his girlfriend, Anna. When Anna disappeared at the end of senior year, Gavin moves on, despite rumours that she was pregnant. Ten years later, Gavin is given a photograph of a ten year old girl who looks exactly like Gavin’s sister. What follows is a story of love, desperation, poverty, a pissed off meth dealer, and a stolen $120,000.

I loved the tone, the characters, and the questions it raised in me. This is one of those books that the longer I sit on it, the more I see how clever it is.

Continue reading “January Wrap Up (2019)”

November Wrap Up (2018)

I’m writing this after a nine hour philosophy studying session, so my brain is a bit fried but I thought I could use talking about the books I read this month to wind down!

Books read: 7

Pages read: 2059

DNF: 1

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51CBSQW0CbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1) by Jeff VanderMeer

The first book I finished in November was inspired by the movie of the same name that came out this year, directed by Alex Garland. I absolutely fell in love with the film, how dark and fascinating it was, so I was very happy to find the book in a charity shop for 50p!

The premise of this science fiction story is that there is a stretch of land called Area X, a complete mystery behind its ever encroaching border. The only knowledge gleaned from the many, many failed missions to investigate it, is that there is a lighthouse inside Area X, perhaps where the centre of its energy lies. Each of the missions has ended tragically and there were no survivors as they each tried to make their way to the lighthouse. Now, four women are tasked with the twelfth expedition into the deadly and undiscovered Area X.

I was so engrossed with this book that I didn’t even look up from it for the first hundred pages, which for a book only slightly over double that length, is an achievement. The suspense and the nervous energy was so high, even when we hadn’t reached the climax of the scenes. My heart was pounding.

I would be pretty comfortable calling this a thriller as well as science fiction, because it is dark, and you are constantly looking over your – or the characters’ – shoulder. There’s such a presence Area X has, that was just so well done and made for a fantastic reading experience.


27366528Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3) by Seanan McGuire

As this is the third in the Wayward Children series, I won’t give a spoilery synopsis, but if you don’t already know, the WC series follows children who return from portal fantasy worlds, back into our world. The stories are really about what happens when these children return, the idea of home and identity, and what lengths you’ll go to to hold onto those values.

I read Beneath the Sugar Sky for Lalathon, and decided to go the audiobook route, as I was already physically reading a book. I have to say that maybe that wasn’t the best idea, because I was a little let down by this?

I have no issues with the audiobook, I thought it was narrated brilliantly and I did enjoy listening to it, but it just didn’t have that same oomph the other books gave me, so I think physically reading the Wayward Children series is the way forward for me from now on.


8d6be556f1d456393d10e8deb861a77e.jpgRevival by Stephen King

This is the first Stephen King I’ve read in a while, after I burnt myself out reading all of his massive books (I’m looking at you Under the Dome, It and The Stand).

Revival follows a man named Jamie Morton through childhood to late adulthood, and how his old pastor Charles Jacobs and his obsession with electricity haunt him through his life.

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this book, mostly because there wasn’t as much of the thriller aspects as I’d been expecting, and so when I was reading pages and pages of this guy just living his life, I was left wanting more.

However, I have to say that when those thriller moments jumped up, they were suitably creepy. Not quite as terrifying as some of his other books, but I think this book was more rooted in reality than previously – that is, until the ending, which I’m still not sure what to think of.


A1IwQuYSFFL.jpgA Room Away From The Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

I listened to this book on audio through Scribd after reading and absolutely loving Nova Ren Suma’s other book, The Walls Around Us. I have to say that I did enjoy Walls more, but I still really enjoyed A Room Away From the Wolves. 

This book centres around Catherine House, a place for wayward girls, with dark secrets. When Bina runs away from home to the big city, to pursue the dreams she once shared with her mother, she finds herself on the doorstep of Catherine House, and entangled in a history she had no idea about.

It had all the creepiness and atmosphere of Nove Ren Suma books, but as with Seanan McGuire, I think I’m better at physically reading her books.


34433755Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1) by Natasha Ngan

Ohh, wow. Maybe new addition to my favourite fantasy list? Maybe new addition to my favourite book of the year?

I loved every second of reading Girls of Paper and Fire, and I can’t wait to see where Natasha Ngan takes this story, and anything else she writes. I just connected so much to the writing, the plot, and these characters.

I have a full review here full of my thoughts, but I highly recommend you pick up this book at the first chance you get. Trigger warnings for violence, sexual assault, and rape.


51DXoB9h2eL.jpgBridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

I won’t get too far into my thoughts on this book as I have a review coming out this week, but I absolutely adored it. This book had me bawling at midnight, and then kept me up until the early hours long after I’d finished, just thinking about it.

Bridge of Clay follows five brothers and their failed relationship after the death of their mother. The story jumps between present day with the brothers, and back to their parents’ childhood, and how they met. It’s a story about dysfunctional families, grief, and forgiveness, and totally broke my heart.

I know there are a lot of mixed reviews and I will say that if you go into it expecting it to be like The Book Thief, you’ll be disappointed. It’s very slow and very character driven, and a bloody big book, but I thought it was amazing.


51QKsHAoy0L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

I barely made it through 10% of this book before I knew it wasn’t for me. Ragdoll is a crime thriller, and it really didn’t pull me in. I had the biggest problem with the writing. The was so much purple prose and redundant filler words that really slowed down the pacing.

The characters just were not likeable. Either they were immature and insensitive, or just purely unrealistic.

I could go on, but I don’t see the point and don’t want to criticise something that is cleared up after the point I stopped reading.

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Well, I loved pretty much all of what I read in November! I can only hope for another beaut reading month in December too!

What did you read in November? Have you read any of these books? Let me know and we can chat! 

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Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan Review

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Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

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TW: sexual assault, rape, violence, death.

I flew through this book so fast, considering I was sick when I read it, and when I couldn’t pick it up, the story and the characters were always on my mind. I don’t often stay up late because I’m always exhausted, but this book kept me up long into the night.

I have to say that Girls of Paper and Fire is definitely harrowing at times, to the point where I was cringing for pages, and wanted to just reach inside the story take the characters out of the horrible situations they found themselves in. That being said, I think Natasha Ngan did a very good job of making these difficult scenes effective and painful, without ever dipping into romanticisation or the violence becoming gratuitous. I found everything to be done with a great deal of respect, while also delivering that gut punch when it needed to.

Continue reading “Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan Review”

October Wrap Up

October flew by in one snap, and I can’t even pinpoint whether it was a good or bad month. I can barely remember what I did! At least that means there’s no long intro this month!

PS: I know this is so, so late, but hey – I’ve been sick! On the mend now, though.

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1. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

This graphic novel was just a total delight. I loved each and every character, the art, the story, the feels, and just the whole vibe. It really made me nostalgic for some reason, but ultimately I couldn’t stop grinning while I was reading. Nimona follows a young shapeshifter girl taken in by a villain, who is in turn plotting to expose the heroes in the kingdom for the frauds they are. But there’s more to the relationship between Blackheart (the villain) and Goldenloin (the lead hero). There’s the trope of the bad guy being terrible at being evil, which is something I love so much. It’s a very quick read, if you’re looking to squeeze in a book to bump up to your Goodreads challenge!

2. The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Unfortunately this was my only DNF of the month. The synopsis is purposely vague and I didn’t get too much of the bigger picture, but it follows a boy/young man as he returns to an isolated retreat called The Loney with his family and their church group. There’s an overarching mystery which I didn’t get far enough to dig into.

I did enjoy the very beginning of the book and found it atmospheric enough, but I was uncomfortable with the way the main character’s disabled brother was used in the plot, as well as a girl introduced at the 25% mark. I lost interest and didn’t want to pick it back up, so I set it aside.

3. The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This is a perfect choice for a short Halloween book if you’re still feeling spooky! It’s one of the Penguin Little Black Classics, so really is short, but packs a punch. The first story The Yellow Wall-Paper, which follows a woman struggling with her mental health in the 1800s. Her husband is a doctor and confines her to her bed and forbids her to do anything more strenuous than taking a turn in the fresh air. She is forbidden from writing, but manages to write in her diary in the moments he isn’t looking, and it is these entries we read.

There’s a whole lot of symbolism that isn’t too taxing, and I just loved the central feminist theme. It is is also genuinely creepy. The other stories were also very entertaining. I’m willing to bet Gilman had a few men in her life in mind when she was writing these!

Continue reading “October Wrap Up”

Lalathon TBR

Lalathon is basically a read-a-thon running from November 1st – November 9th, which I believe stemmed from Lala wanting to re-read her favourite books, and snowballed into a read-a-thon where we all read her favourite books! She explains it better in her video.

I’m really excited to participate in this read-a-thon because I have similar reading tastes to Lala, and going through what she considers her favourite books gave me a push to finally pick up these few books that I’ve had my eye on for a while.

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332942001. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

This book is, from what I can gather, written in verse and follows a young Afro-Latina girl called Xiomara Batista, who discovers slam poetry as a way of combating the various obstacles in her life. I think it’s a book about frustration, adolescence, religion, and finding your voice, which honestly sounds incredible. I’m going to try and find the audiobook for this one because I’ve heard good things!

Continue reading “Lalathon TBR”

2018 Marvel Avengers Book Tag (Original-ish?)

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this on my blog before but I am a huge Marvel fan, the MCU in particular. I never grew up with comics or graphic novels because they both were expensive and gave me migraines, but I’ve grown up with the films.

I’ve wanted to do this tag for a long time and know there are a few variants floating around, but I couldn’t find one with all of the characters I loved. So, I’ve decided to do a mashup of all of the Marvel tags I could find, and then added/adapted a few of my own.

Credit to: YA By the Way

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1. Captain America – A character you would follow into battle.

Elias from An Ember in the Ashes (review here) is a character I would follow to the end of the earth. Granted, I would probably die, but I’m too far gone for that to stop me now. He messes up but his heart is always in the right place. Plus, Laia would (and does) give him hell if he was being too reckless.

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2. Thor – A book you finished and made you immediately shout – ANOTHER!

The last book that did this to me is The City of Brass (review here). I have no idea how I’m going to be able to wait for the next book in January.

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3. Okoye – A female character you would fight alongside/hide behind.

It’s difficult to think of someone other than Okoye I would want to fight alongside, mostly because she’d deal with any situation in the seconds it would take for me to get my weapon out. But, if I had to go for another wing woman, I would go with Zélie from Children of Blood and Bone. Not only could she kick anyone’s ass, I would die just to see her and Okoye in five feet of each other.

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4. Iron Man – A character with a big ego, but a bigger heart.

I’m going with Cole from The Darkest Minds trilogy. I’ve only read the first two books so I’m not sure if this changes in the last book, but Cole always has his confidence and swagger, but he seems to genuinely care about his brother and

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5. T’Challa and Shuri – Siblings who mess with each other, but would rip you apart for doing the same.

Zélie and Tzain from Children of Blood and Bone came to mind straight away when I came up with this question. I loved their banter and the love and exasperation they have for each other, and I would not want to mess with Zélie and Tzain, or T’Challa and Shuri.

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6. Phil Coulson – PSYCHE! A character who would pretend to be dead just to mess with the other characters.

You know I’ve got to go with Nimona. Nimona is the ultimate jokester and would drive me to probably throttle her if I ever had to spend any time with her. I’ll give it to her that she would make me laugh, though.

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7. Loki – A character with kickass development/arc.

Laia from An Ember in the Ashes! Listen, you know how much I love Laia’s character development and the journey she goes through not only in the first book, but the rest of the season. I go way more in depth in my review but yeah, I adore her. She’s head and shoulders above Loki!

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8. Bucky – A character who needs a hug but could also kill you in the same second.

Dara from The City of Brass, without a doubt. I love him so much, and want nothing more than to just hug him and tell him everything will work out, but I have a feeling he would just tell me to shut up and break my neck or something. I think he and Bucky would get along either very well, or end up killing each other within the first ten minutes of meeting one another.

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9. Rhodey/Sam Wilson – ‘The people that shoot at you usually wind up shooting at me.’ – A character who’ll stand by their friend, but also exasperatedly try to drag them out of dangerous situations.

I’m going to do a full post on this soon, but the character who inspired this was Jacob from City of Ghosts. He is the level-headed, rational one trying to reign Cassie in, but when he’s unsuccessful, he’s going with her anyway. You definitely see that with Rhodey and Sam, as well as with Zélie and Tzain again, too. It’s a trope I never get tired of seeing. ALL THE FRIENDSHIP ALL THE TIME, OKAY?

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10. Shuri – A beautiful, clever bean who must be protected.

Confession – I wrote this question initially without a character in mind, and so have left it blank for a few days. That was until I read Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, and I immediately thought of Shuri. Binti is the cleverest protagonist I’ve read, with more courage than I can ever hope to have, and who I would protect with my life. And it fits even more because Nnedi Okorafor is writing the Shuri comics right now! Please, if you haven’t picked up Binti yet, you must.

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11. Spiderman – A character you want to take under your wing.

Another recent read, I’m going with Sadie from Sadie by Courtney Summers. While I wouldn’t be a mentor to Sadie, I just want to wrap her up in a blanket and tell her not to worry. I’m very protective over my girl and never want anything bad to happen to her, because she’s had enough of that in her life.


It would be awesome if you wanted to do this tag, so I tag you! Please link back so I can check out your answers!

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Sadie by Courtney Summers Review

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Congratulations,Class of 2018!

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.


TW: murder, rape, sexual assault, pedophilia, child abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism, death.

Congratulations,Class of 2018! (1)And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.

This is a book I went into knowing I was probably going to love it and give it five stars, which as you can see, ended up happening, but I still managed to underestimate how much I loved Sadie. 

I listened to the audiobook, and it is without a doubt, my favourite ever audiobook. There are so many voices, and the podcast formats just lends itself so well to audio. Every performance was superb, and just took the emotion to a whole new level. If you can get your hands on the audiobook, I’d definitely grab it!

Continue reading “Sadie by Courtney Summers Review”