Top Ten Tuesday: Books Too Good to Review Properly

I’m not exactly the most consistent blogger when it comes to writing reviews for the bulk of the books I read. Unfortunately, the perfectionist in me often means it takes a good while to write something that I’m happy to publish. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I find it especially hard to review books I really enjoyed or absolutely loved. Let’s be honest, having a whinge about something is always going to be simpler – it’s why angry customers are more likely to review businesses. Putting into words why something was so enjoyable or resonated so deeply with me can be difficult, especially if I’m having trouble narrowing down the exact reasoning. To put it bluntly, there are books for which I am simply not a good enough writer to accurately capture the magic they created in a thousand-ish word review. And I’m cool with that. So, for this week’s TTT topic freebie, here are ten books that were great but simply beyond my abilities to properly review in the way I would have wanted to. Who knows, maybe a future re-read will offer me a chance to change things?

The Poppy War Series – R. F. Kuang

I’m almost certain that those who frequent my blog are already aware of how much I love this military fantasy series, and I do. It’s absolutely fantastic. The characters are complex, the narrative is engaging and the world-building is rich. However, these books deal with some extremely heavy themes and ideas at various points during the story – genocide, racism and colonisation, addiction, rape, human experimentation, war violence, PTSD, and so on. These are huge things to try and address well in a review (there are some reviewers who do an amazing job, though). Not to mention the events of the series are inspired by mid-20th-century Chinese history (and culture), particularly the Second-Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, periods of history that I’m not very knowledgeable about. For these reasons, I never attempted to review any of the three books in the series – it’s something I’m happy to enjoy but leave detailed explanations of why it’s so amazing to others better able to capture the nuances.

If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio

Man, I love this little, pretentious, dark academia book. It was literally my favourite thing I read in 2021 and yet, NO REVIEW. I made notes as I read through it and upon finishing, I even tried to compile them into something resembling a review, but no matter what I did I couldn’t seem to put my thoughts on the page in the way I wanted to. I think part of the reason I was having such difficulty is because I understood that there was still so much amazingness to IWWV that I was missing due to my lack of experience with some of Shakespeare’s works (and having forgotten the ones I did have experience with). This is one of the few novels I’ve read where I’m genuinely tempted to go back and annotate my copy after having properly researched and analysed its themes, references, and subtext. My inner English student is raring to go! Maybe then, one day, I’ll go back and review it the way it deserves.

The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

In my defense, I actually attempted to write a review for this one. Got a substantial way through, in fact. I even made a joke about the only thing more daunting than starting this book being trying to review it…I mean, it’s over 1000 pages long and so full of EVERYTHING! Every amazing thing you could imagine wanting to talk about with an epic fantasy. The perfectionist demon kicked in and I got overwhelmed, okay? For something this vast and complex, it was difficult to put down what I wanted to say without blabbering inarticulately for the length of a full-blown novella. If there’s one thing I can say it’s that for one of the highest-rated books I’ve seen reviewed on Goodreads with a substantial number of ratings, I definitely understand the hype. It’s justified.

Know My Name – Chanel Miller

Reviewing memoirs and autobiographies is tough to do, especially with a subject matter as tough as this one. I mean, how do I (little, old, boring me) judge another person’s experiences? So, let me just say, this was wonderfully written, powerful, and emotional. How could I possibly hope to capture Chanel’s courage, resilience, and eloquence in one measly 1000-ish word review? I couldn’t and so I didn’t attempt to do so. Solid choice, I think.


The Push – Ashley Audrain

I’m so glad my all-over-the-place reading mood was feeling like something thriller-y and discovered this fantastic book at the perfect moment. Although it ended up being more along the lines of a psychological drama, the writing, themes, and characterisation were so wonderfully done that I ate it up completely. As with other books on this list, I once again did take notes as I was making my way through it but when the time came to actually sit down and turn them into a properly worded review, it just wouldn’t click for me. I’m still not sure why. Likely the giant love heart eyes clouding my vision. The mini-review-type summaries included in my favourites of the year list for 2021 and specially dedicated Instagram post mostly cover my thoughts, just in a super abbreviated way. I suppose I’m happy with that for now.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

Another fantastic book, another mysteriously absent review. I’m noticing a trend with a few of my favourite reads of 2021… Anyway, I’m not quite sure why I never ended up writing a review of this charming, yet sometimes sad, historical novel about a gay man growing up in Ireland. Perhaps because it’s pretty chunky (over 700 pages) and I think I may have been too wrapped up in it to take substantial notes to rely on later. It’s also a somewhat different and quirky sort of read, and I have a feeling I thought I wouldn’t be able to accurately capture all of its great idiosyncracies in a review. Funnily enough, I read Ladder to the Sky the year after, also by Boyne, also rated it highly, and once again didn’t review it. Shame, Ashley, shame!

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

Much like The Way of Kings, this is another example of a chunky-ass fantasy novel that I gave five stars to and never properly reviewed. TNotW was such a great novel, so much so that it cracked my top 10 favourite books the year I read it (and that was a competitive year!). I got swept up in the world, enjoyed the characters, and was taken on an immersive journey. However, this was definitely one of those times where I felt as though others had already said everything I could possibly hope to say about a book and far more articulately than I’d ever manage as well. So I was happy to leave this fabulous (and lengthy) reading experience reviewless.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

The book that kicked off the literary world’s obsession with dark academia, and deservedly so. TSH is a great read. So, why didn’t I review it, you ask? Well, this book falls under two categories already mentioned in this post: 1) I felt as though I had nothing new to add to the brilliant reviews already in existence for it (I mean, it was published in 1992, after all), and 2) I didn’t understand the ins and outs of it well enough to properly express just how brilliant it was beyond – ohmygod, it was soooo good! I’ll 100% have to give it a re-read at some point down the track and maybe then I’ll revisit it? Until that time, it’s bomb. I get the hype.

Carrie Soto is Back – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Okay, so the worst part about this particular entry on the list is that I made lengthy notes for it (still have them, too). I even intended to sit down and do it! But then I got all wrapped up in my feelings and well, we know how that turned out. Damn it. I think it’s probably because I didn’t read many books in 2022 that I was head over heels for, and this was one of them. Probably was bowled over in shock and joy, even more so because it was a SPORTS book. Who would have guessed? Anyway, I’m holding out hope I’ll finally pen a review for this in the future – if only to gush about TJR, her badass tennis champion Carrie and a wonderful underdog story.

A Darker Shade of Magic Series – V. E. Schwab

Now, this is a bit of a throwback. I used to mention this series a lot but because I haven’t for a while, I feel like it’s okay for it to raise its not-so-ugly head again, especially with Threads of Power coming…eventually. I’m mystified as to how I never reviewed any of the books in this series because I basically made them my whole personality for a while. Might have just been another case of my immense obsession with something overwhelming my ability to produce words articulately. The characters, the worlds, the magic, the story! AHHHHHH, SO GOOD. I’m going to have to reread them before I tackle any new installments and if they aren’t as good as they were years ago, my heart may break. Pray to the reread gods for me, please.

What books left you lost for review-worthy words? Do you struggle to review your most loved reads as much as I do?

Bookish Fun: 10 Bookish Travel Attractions I’d Love to Visit

While you all know how much I love books, something I also really enjoy is travel! Not that we’ve been doing all that much of it in recent years… Regardless, travel is back on the menu and it’s time to break out the bucket list of destinations again. With that in mind, here are 10 bookish-themed travel attractions that I haven’t yet but hope to one day see in person.

Arc N Book – Seoul, Korea

I’m sure if you asked any bookworm about their bookish travel wishlist, there’d be at least a couple of bookstores and libraries mixed into the bunch. Well, one of mine happens to be Arc N Book, a bookstore/community reading space in the heart of Seoul. Why this store, you ask? Let me tell you. 1) The famous book tunnel display (above). Come on, how awesome does that look? Tell me you don’t want to walk through that. Not to mention the lovely aesthetic going on in the rest of the store – lit arched doorways, red phoneboxes housing the catalogues, working streetlamps, park benches, and vintage-style counters & cabinetry. Heaven! 2) You’re allowed to read the books! That’s right, much like a library you’re allowed to come, sit and read the store’s books onsite. Even better, visitors are allowed to stay as long as they like and it’s FREE entry. 3) There are thousands of books, magazines, and e-books stocked in a wide variety of genres, even in English (luckily for me). 4) And, for those who have to drag their less bookishly inclined friends/family/partners along, there are multiple coffee shops and cafes inside which serve drinks, pizza, sushi, and even Thai food. Sounds pretty good to me.

Alice in Fantasy Book (絵本の国のアリス) – Tokyo, Japan

Who likes themed bars and restaurants? I DO. And luckily for me, Japan has plenty of them! This one is located in the trendy Shinjuku district of Tokyo and its decor and menu are all based around Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Funky chairs, murals, hedge privacy barriers, artfully decorated food, costumed wait staff…it just sounds like so much fun. I’m not expecting the food to blow my mind (these types of places are usually more focused on the overall aesthetic, as I’ve discovered with other themed eateries in the past), but the experience seems like something worth trying once just for the hell of it.

The Jane Austen Festival – Bath, England

This entry on the list is a destination and an event in one! As Austen fans likely know, Jane lived in Bath for a few years and featured the city in a number of her novels. As a result, Bath now plays host to a Jane Austen Festival in mid to late September each year and it’s the longest-running Jane Austen festival in the world. It started in 2001 for just one weekend and now runs for as long as 10 days. The festival involves a wide range of different events like costumed balls, theatre performances, guided tours, markets, dance lessons, regency promenades, and talks, so there’s something for everyone. Even better, tickets for individual events are purchased separately meaning you can pick and choose what you attend, over as few or as many days as you want. While you’re there, to achieve full Austen overload, you can also make a visit to the Jane Austen center where a guided tour will give you some insight into Jane herself and how Bath looked during her life.

Admont Abbey Library – Admont, Austria

I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few European countries in the past but haven’t made it to Austria yet. There are several things on my list to see and do there and one of them is a visit to the absolutely beautiful Admont Abbey Library. It’s the world’s largest monastery library, designed in 1764, and features gorgeous late-Baroque architecture with columns, ceiling frescoes, sculptures, and carvings. Honestly, it gives me serious Beauty and the Beast vibes. The library houses over 70,000 volumes and a portion of these are rare, valuable manuscripts from the 8th century, which is pretty cool. Admont isn’t the biggest tourist destination but you can easily take a train from Saltzberg or Vienna. While you’re there, why not make a trip to the Gesause National Park and experience the beauty of the Swiz Alps?

Greenway House (Agatha Christie’s House) – Devon, England

Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime, used to have a holiday house in Devon known as Greenway. She used to call it “the loveliest place in the world” and her family spent many Christmases and Easters there. Its beauty (and surroundings) also served as the inspiration for some of the settings in her books such as Dead Man’s Folly and Five Little Pigs. Nowadays, the house is open to the public (with paid admission) and set up as it would have looked when Christie occupied it in the late 30s/40s. The house is surrounded by gardens, stables, orchards, and conservatories, and is located right on the Dart river with its own gorgeous boathouse. The house itself stores thousands of items from the Christie family’s personal collection including photos, books, art, and artifacts from AC’s travels with her archeologist husband to places like Egypt, Syria, and Iran. It sounds like such an interesting and gorgeous place to visit, and that’s why it’s on my list!

Shakespeare & Company – Paris, France

Time for another quirky bookshop entry on the list. This time we’re in Paris, along the banks of the Sein, at a little place called Shakespeare & Company. The name may seem odd considering its French location but this is actually an English-language bookshop. The store was opened on the site of a 16th-century monastery in 1951 by an American named George Whitman and originally named ‘Le Mistral’. However, it was later renamed in honour of the famous bookstore owned by Sylvia Beach, which was a hotspot for authors like James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway until it was closed during the Nazi occupation in 1941. The store has sections dedicated to the writers who used to visit the original iteration of the store, modern releases, classics, and popular Paris-related reads. It has a resident cat called Aggie, offers a home to aspiring writers in exchange for a few hours working in the shop and a one-page autobiography, and has a companion cafe next door if you need a coffee and a slice of cake.

Wugan Books – Kaohsiung City, Taiwan

Alright, this is another bookstore. But it’s a cool one, I promise! Four words: Shopping in the dark. Yes, I can hear you saying ‘what?’ from here. The way it works is that the space itself is dark but the books are illuminated by small spotlights to give the impression that they’re floating (there are also reading lights on some of the desks if needed). And no, flashlights are not allowed, so put that phone away! Due to the design, the store only holds around 400 books but this ensures each book is given a good amount of attention. The store is designed to create an experience, but more importantly a connection between readers and books free from judgment or distractions. FYI though, this isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for the latest bestsellers as Wugan focuses more on books about topics like psychology, body image, erotica, art, and heavier subjects. For this reason (and the fact that they stock some more adult and…eclectic items aside from books), it’s an 18+ location. Might be a bit weird and whacky but hey, worth a look.

Edinburgh International Book Festival – Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is known for a few of its festivals, the major one being the Edinburgh Fringe, but did you know that it also annually hosts the largest book festival in the world? It usually takes place in August at the Charlotte Square Gardens (but has in recent years relocated to the Edinburgh College of Art) and runs for a period of three weeks. The itinerary is filled with hundreds of activities, discussions, readings, and talks hosted by a multitude of authors. Some previous attendees include V. E. Schwab, Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin, Diana Gabaldon, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Cassandra Clare, Toni Morrison and so many more. Occasionally you can find the odd political figure or actor there, too. I’ve never actually attended a literary festival before but this one sounds like it’d be a great experience.

Bran Castle – Bran, Romania

By now, I think we’re all aware that the famous fictional vampire, Dracula, was partially inspired by the historical figure Vlad the Impaler. But did you also know that Dracula’s castle was inspired by an actual castle in Romania? Funnily enough, Bram Stoker never visited the castle in person and based all of the imagery in Dracula off of a third-party description he had as well as an image found in a non-fiction book on Transylvania. Vlad the Impaler, however, may have passed through there on trips to and from his homeland of Walachia. History aside, it looks like a fascinating and gorgeous place to visit (especially with the surrounding Carpathian mountains covered in snow!). The castle even has a secret tunnel, perfect for setting off any trace of claustrophobia you may have.

Prince Edward Island, Canada

Okay, so this one is more of a destination than an attraction but like…Anne of Green Gables. I had to. The official tourism site for PEI even has an itinerary worked out for Anne lovers. It includes Green Gables Heritage Place, L. M. Montgomery’s home, church, gravesite and the country school she taught at, the Anne of Green Gables Museum, and even a showing of Anne & Gilbert: the Musical (WHAT?) as part of the Charlottetown Festival. If you haven’t seen photos of PEI, do yourself a favour and search because it’s an absolutely stunning and peaceful-looking place. Childhood me would be ecstatic at the idea of getting to visit and immerse myself in Anne Shirley’s world. Raspberry cordial by the lake of shining waters, please!

Are any of these on your travel list? If not, what bookish travel attraction would you most like to see or do? Asking for a friend, of course.

The TikTok Hype is Right (For Once): The Serpent and the Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent

Well, that was unexpected. I honestly thought I was in for some From Blood and Ash-type disappointment here with the whole vampire-fantasy-romance thing and super high average rating. But, for once, both BookTok and Stupid Ashley’s tendency to want to read stuff that Logical Ashley knows will likely be bad can claim a win. Trust me, no one is more surprised than me (SORRY, CARISSA BROADBENT!)

Who, What, Where?

Moving on to the book, which shall be hereafter referred to as TSatWoN because the title is so much of a mouthful that I get tired halfway through. Our story is about Oraya, a human adopted by the vampire king Vincent after her family was killed when she was a child. Now an adult, and tired of constantly feeling afraid living among vampires, Oraya enters herself into a tournament called the Kejari, the winner of which will be granted a wish by the Goddess of Night, Nyaxia. To survive the trials, Oraya not only needs to defeat dozens of ruthless competitors from the three vampire houses but form alliances. She finds herself drawn to Raihn, a powerful warrior from an enemy house. Despite their rough introduction, the two eventually grow closer, causing havoc with Oraya’s carefully laid plans and forcing her to rethink her views on her father, the world, and herself.

Not Just Romance in a Fantasy Land

When it comes to fantasy-romance, one of the biggest issues I run into is an imbalance between the two genres. Too often the fantasy components end up feeling like decoration for a melodramatic romance involving paranormal creatures. You have no idea how happy I am to say that’s not the case with this book. To be fair, it did take me a little while to really get hooked, but for a novel that’s over 500 pages, I’m willing to let it slide. There are three major components to the story – first, the Kejari trials and downtime between them; second, the vampire political situation brewing between the ruling Hiaj vampires and formerly reigning Rishan clan; and third, Oraya’s relationships with Raihn and Vincent.  

Vampire Hunger Games

As we all know, I love a good competition plot and it’s a large part of what drew me to TSatWoN. I mean, come on. Vampires battling one another in magical, monster-y, messy arenas. Yes, please. The trials in this were quite interesting and exciting, and I enjoyed that they were based around interpreting legends about the goddess Nyaxia. Creating the need for competitors to team up for certain stages was also a fun narrative choice. However, I do wish that one or two trials had been changed up slightly as there are a couple that involved the competitors fighting either creatures/one another.

Needs More…Info Dumping?

Normally, we fantasy lovers criticise books for info-dumping or giving us too much world-building too soon. I think this may be the first time I’ve said this, but I actually wish we’d been given more info-dumping. I know, right? I believe I would have appreciated the first half of the book more had I been given a better understanding earlier of the dynamics between the different vampire clans/factions and the relevant history. While I did get the general gist, I felt a little lost at times as to the depth behind certain expressed ideas and emotions. For the most part, though, my little vampire-loving heart was living. I really loved how Broadbent was able to utilise what’s come before in the genre and create not necessarily something new but certainly her own enjoyable take.

Dynamic Relationships

I loved the romance in this book. Are we surprised, though? Probably not. It’s basically my favourite type of fictional relationship – slow burn, enemies to friends to lovers, supportive and powerful equals…Throw in some light banter and training together, I’m sold. Also, there’s just something about a strong, slightly cocky hero with vulnerability and no alpha male baggage. Someone who builds the heroine up and is, of course, completely bananas for her. Swoon. Basically, Raihn for book boyfriend 2023.

The other great relationship in this story is that between Oraya and Vincent. It’s such a fantastically complex and engaging dynamic, creating the opportunity for some great exchanges between them (page 308 in the kindle edition, is a personal favourite). Sure, it’s quite toxic at times, but I liked that I was constantly kept guessing as to Vincent’s true motivations and that Oraya’s perception of their bond was increasingly challenged as time went on. It was especially interesting considering Vincent’s role in Oraya’s tendency towards being distrustful, fearful, and closed off – things she discovers she needs to work on to survive the trials.

Ending with a LARGE Bang

Can I just say, the climax of this book – it’s a lot. So many massive things happen in a short period of time that I was left sitting there half-dazed. Is it too much? Maybe. I’m still not sure. But at the very least it goes out with a bang. Several. Some of it predictable, some of it not – at least for me. I’m not sure how things are going to play out in book two after heading in the chosen direction. Still, it doesn’t make me any less keen to read it, so let’s go sequel!

TSatWoN was such a wonderfully surprising and enjoyable read. It’s also one of the few examples where publishers have used the ‘for fans of X’ ploy when promoting a book where I would genuinely agree with the recommendation, which in this case is Sarah J Maas. So let me just say, 1) this book was awesome, 2) I’m so keen for The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King, and 3) if you’re an SJM fan, you should probably add this to your TBR stat.  

4.5 Stars

First Lines Friday | 3.03.23 | Deciding My Next Read

Once again, it’s a Friday and I am not only in between books but unsure of what I feel like reading next. So, as I did previously, I’m going to tweak the format of First Lines Friday and look to it to solve my dilemma. Seems like sound logic to me. First Lines Friday was previously hosted by Taking on a World of Words.


By the time I’d busted my ass five times in a row, I figured it was time to call it quits.

At least for the day.

My butt cheeks could handle another two hours’ worth of falls tomorrow. They might have to if I didn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, damn it. This was the second day in a row I hadn’t been able to land a damn jump.

This opener probably sounds a bit odd if you don’t understand the context. Which I do, of course. But hey, we like a determined heroine. Clue time!

  1. I just finished a book by the same author
  2. It’s a sport-related romance
  3. A popular BookTok read (I know – danger zone, right?).


A passerby discovered a toddler sitting on the chilly concrete of an alley, playing with the wrapper of a cat-food container. By the time she was brought to the hospital, her limbs were blue with cold. She was a wizened little thing, too thin, made of sticks.

She knew only one word, her name. Wren.

Because of how hugely anticipated this book was (including by me), I’m sure a heap of you will be able to work it out either from the main character’s name or having already read it. Still, I play fair so here are your clues:

  1. It’s the first book in a spin-off duology
  2. The story revolves around faeries
  3. The author’s surname is a colour.


Carcass. Cut in half. Stunner. Slaughter line. Spray wash. These words appear in his head and strike him. Destroy him. But they’re not just words. They’re the blood, the dense smell, the automation, the absence of thought. They burst in on the night, catch him off guard. When he wakes, his body is covered in a film of sweat because he knows that what awaits is another day of slaughtering humans.

Now that’s a story hook. Jeez. Even if I didn’t know what this book was about, I’d be intrigued instantly. It sounds intense. For those who aren’t sure what it is, some hints…

  1. It’s a dystopian horror novella
  2. It was originally published in Spanish and later translated into English
  3. The story deals with cannibalism

The Reveal


OPTION 1: From Lukov with Love – Marianna Zapata

If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.

After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.

But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.

Including Ivan Lukov.

OPTION 2: The Stolen Heir – Holly Black

A runaway queen. A reluctant prince. And a quest that may destroy them both.

Eight years have passed since the Battle of the Serpent. But in the icy north, Lady Nore of the Court of Teeth has reclaimed the Ice Needle Citadel. There, she is using an ancient relic to create monsters of stick and snow who will do her bidding and exact her revenge.

Suren, child queen of the Court of Teeth, and the one person with power over her mother, fled to the human world. There, she lives feral in the woods. Lonely, and still haunted by the merciless torments she endured in the Court of Teeth, she bides her time by releasing mortals from foolish bargains. She believes herself forgotten until the storm hag, Bogdana chases her through the night streets. Suren is saved by none other than Prince Oak, heir to Elfhame, to whom she was once promised in marriage and who she has resented for years.

Now seventeen, Oak is charming, beautiful, and manipulative. He’s on a mission that will lead him into the north, and he wants Suren’s help. But if she agrees, it will mean guarding her heart against the boy she once knew and a prince she cannot trust, as well as confronting all the horrors she thought she left behind.

OPTION 3: Tender is the Flesh – Agustina Bazterrica

Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans —though no one calls them that anymore.

His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.

Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.

Three completely different reads – adult romance, YA fantasy, and a horror novella. At least I can say I read widely, right?

How many did you manage to guess? Which one should I get stuck into?

Bookish Fun: More Awesome International Book Covers

It’s time to take another trip around the world using international language edition cover art! Woo hoo! My previous two posts (1 & 2) showcasing a few different covers from countries other than the US/UK were so much fun to do that I thought I’d go back and check out a few other books. For reference, the US or UK cover is pictured on the far left followed by four other language editions. Let’s dive in!

The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

Indonesia, Germany, Spain & Poland

Kicking things off with one of my favourite fantasy series – The Poppy War. There are some pretty great international covers for this series. The German ones are quite nice, I’d happily own those. The Spanish cover goes for something a bit different in terms of layout. The Polish covers are very dramatic and the art is lovely but they do seem a little too focused on looking stereotypically beautiful than accurately representing the story. However, I think everyone agrees that the Indonesian covers are stunning. If you haven’t already, do a quick search. The illustrations are gorgeous.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

Germany, Turkey, Italy & Russia

Alright, I confess. I haven’t read this one. But I will not be stopped from looking at international covers! The German edition is pretty. The frozen colour palette does lend a slightly sinister edge, but I love the forest imagery and the way the trees frame the text and figures at the centre. Now, the Turkish cover is majorly dramatic but in a good way. I think it might even be my favourite of the bunch. I love the greyscale art, the way it draws your eye to the boy bracing himself against the intense storm, and that small pop of blue in Gaiman’s name. The Italian edition is…different, I suppose is the word. It’s a little odd but I enjoy the colour palette and the unique choice of perspective. Russia’s take is a lot more fantasy-esque and blends photography with digital art. It’s certainly eye-catching and gives me Guillermo del Toro vibes for some reason.

Red Rising – Pierce Brown

Bulgaria, Japan, Hungary & Persia

I’m not sure why I didn’t include this in my original post but here we are, with a series of intense-looking covers. A few other countries have continued the US edition’s use of wings and I really enjoy the Hungarian take – making the wing look like a rock face with a figure climbing it. The Japanese cover looks super sci-fi apocalyptic. I can definitely see Darrow needing to take that society down. The art on the Persian cover is also nicely done. The armour is probably a bit different from what’s in the book but Darrow looks right and there’s a good sense of drama to it (and we all know Darrow is all about that drama).

This is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Spain, Russia, Catalan/Valencia & Germany

I couldn’t see a heap of different covers for TiHYLtTW but there were a couple of nice ones. I really like the Spanish cover. It’s another example of taking a similar concept to the original and using a different illustrative style to produce something equally attractive. I don’t even like birds but, damn, those birds look cute. The Russian cover plays into the sci-fi/fantasy of the novella but in a cool way and I enjoy how it showcases the robotic vs natural worlds of red and blue. The Valencian language edition is simple but pretty – you can’t really go wrong with florals. Plus, more bird imagery. The German edition is also quite simple but still manages to feel connected to the story through the balanced use of technology and nature elements. Also, points for featuring berries which play an important role in the narrative.

Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Italy, Korea, Mexico & Poland

Something I’ve discovered about international covers for Mexican Gothic: everyone else in the world was just as obsessed with the US cover as I was, but obviously didn’t have the rights to the imagery so attempted to recreate it for themselves…just not as strikingly. Seriously, have a flick through Goodreads and you’ll see. It’s almost funny. To avoid boring you, I decided to showcase a few completely different approaches to the cover. The Italian one is interesting – I like the style of the old Hollywood film poster. It even has mushrooms! The Korean one is a little surrealist but still works well with the story. The Mexican cover focuses instead on the house itself and it’s appropriately gloomy and foreboding. I don’t mind the Polish cover either. The title text is nice and the darker tones used befit the gothic nature of the novel.

An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

Sweden, Bulgaria, Vietnam & The Netherlands

This series has gone through a few different cover iterations just for the English language editions so it was interesting to see what other countries had done with theirs. As it turned out, a few good ones and a few…odd ones. The covers for the Swedish and Vietnamese editions were definitely my favourites. I love the art and use of colour in the former – there’s a sense of badassery to it. Meanwhile, the latter looks more in the vein of an Arabian Nights tale, which with the series’ use of things like Djinns works well!

One of Us is Lying – Karen M. McManus

Romania, Georgia, Vietnam & Serbia

Alright, for something different, let’s throw a little YA contemporary into the mix. Get some colour popping! It’s safe to say that the Romanian cover is my favourite. It’s not even that special (I do like the imagery, though) – it’s just that I’m obsessed with that particular shade of orange-yellow. It’s so darn happy looking, not that this is a particularly happy read… The Vietnamese cover is kind of fun in its use of swirls and bright colours, and I appreciate the Serbian cover’s attempt to go notepad style and play with the text layout.

A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

Finland, Spain, France & Portugal

The A Song of Ice and Fire series has been going for a while now so I assumed there’d be a few interesting covers, and I was right. I love the scene-based art on both the Spanish and Portuguese editions. It really helps suck you into the story and visualise certain locations – something I always appreciate as a reader. The Finnish art looks like some kind of creepy children’s folktale, in the best way, of course. I love the imagery of Ghost the direwolf standing next to the heart tree with those striking red leaves against the stark black and white (I really wish that ‘Stark’ pun had been on purpose but alas, not so much). Although, this is another time where I’m going to gush about the gorgeousness of French cover designs because lord, I am love. France seems to have broken the books up into smaller, more manageably sized releases and that means a whole host of great covers to look at. If you’re curious, search for Le Trône de fer.

All Systems Red – Martha Wells

Thailand, Finland, Estonia & Latvia

There are some amazing covers for the first entry in the Murderbot series. It was genuinely hard to narrow it down to 4 to showcase, so I definitely recommend having a search for yourself. I mean, look at how cool these are?! Then again, sci-fi does give cover artists a lot of space to exercise their creativity. Get it? Space? …I’ll see myself out. I love the array of colours across the space suit on the Finnish cover, while the Estonian version looks so badass. It’s like secret agent murderbot. I like the simplistic use of shapes and colour on the Thai cover and the Latvian art looks like an alternate style of the US design, but still aesthetically pleasing. Overall, A+ marks all around!

The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson

Brazil, China, Bangladesh & Croatia

Another fantasy series, I know. They just seem to have more international covers to choose from! There were a few great covers for The Final Empire and I like all of the ones above for different reasons. The mid-scene shot on the Brazillian cover perfectly pulls me right into the action of the story and gives me a feel for it. On the other hand, I really love the Chinese cover. That purple is stunning and the composition with Rin in the front, the city at the back, and the smokey border is awesome. The Bangladeshi cover looks fairly plain at first glance but then you look closer and notice a bunch of smaller, story-tied details like the coins and symbols – majorly lovely. Then we have the Croatian cover. It’s much heavier, darker, and focuses purely on the cityscape. It definitely makes the city look oppressive and ominous, especially with the way the red sun casts the spires in that sinister glow.

And…we’re back. What a trip, hey? I really enjoy seeing how other countries interpret characters, concepts, genres, etc. through their book covers. Sometimes they’re even miles better than the originals! If only I were talented enough to understand more than one language. Ah well, guess I’ll just have to be satisfied with staring at these editions online.

Would you want to add any of these foreign language editions to your bookshelves? And do you have any other favourite foreign cover designs?

7 Reading, Writing and Blogging Goals for 2023

It’s always good to have goals for the year. Do I usually achieve them? Eh…questionable, but here we are anyway. It’s a bit like new year’s resolutions, I suppose. Last year I skipped doing this post but I’m bringing it back again for 2023 because we’re going to try and be more HOPEFUL this year. Anyway, here are a couple of the things I’m aiming to achieve in relation to blogging, reading & writing in 2023.

1. No Reading Goal

If you think this seems more like an anti-goal, you would be right! I know I’ve mentioned this before but my blogging and increased attachment to Goodreads haven’t always had the best impact on my reading habits. I’ve become very preoccupied with my reading speed, monthly book counts, the types of books I’m reading, whether what I’m reading can be considered a “book”, and so on. Doesn’t sound very positive, does it? So, as I did in 2020 & 2022, I’m once again choosing not to set a yearly reading goal, and this time I’m going to mentally adhere to it. If I finish 20 books in 2023, that’s more than fine as long as I enjoy myself.

2. Write Something. ANYTHING.

This goal is also making a return to the list. When I was younger I dreamed about writing a novel. However, progress on this stagnated massively a couple of years ago. Sadly, I haven’t written anything other than blog posts since NanoWriMo 2017. I often have ideas for stories but, after having them bounce around inside my head for several months, I never seem to do anything about them. I’m not sure whether I’ve become lazy, disheartened, or lacking in confidence (maybe all three) but this year I’d really like to write something. Doesn’t matter how long, how terrible, or if it goes absolutely nowhere, it’s a start (if you guys want to throw some reminders my way this year, they wouldn’t be unwelcome).

3. More Smaller Sized Reads

In 2023 I really want to tick off some shorter reads like comics and novellas. I have a couple that I’ve been wanting to read for a while now but I keep putting them off because my stupid brain maintains the idea that they can’t count toward my yearly reading goal. It’s really dumb, I know. They do and they should. The fact that I’m not doing a proper reading goal should help with readjusting my brain.

4. Five Reads Over 500 Pages

I’ve noticed in recent years that I’ve become very impatient when it comes to my reading. These days I get very fixated on how quickly I’m progressing through a book and how long something is going to take me to finish. In other words, my patience has hit extremely low levels. As you’d expect, this means that I’ve stopped reading many longer books, despite genuinely wanting to do so. This year I really want to go back to enjoying reading without worrying about timing, speed, size, etc. So, in 2023 I’m setting myself a mini-goal of reading five books over 500 pages.

5. Continue to Grow my Blog

I’ve been book blogging for almost six years now and it’s been lovely to see my blog grow and evolve over that time. In 2021, The Infinite Library grew so much in terms of viewership, interactions and followers, so (after having taken a large hiatus in 2022) I would love to see that continue in 2023. Basically, my goal here is to just keep doing more of what I’ve been doing, perhaps with a bit more regularity!

6. Spend 30 Minutes a Day Reading

Since my move last year, and the reduction in my daily commute, I’ve had to adjust to the idea of actually making time to read. In 2022 I was a bit…slack on this front so in 2023 I’d like to set myself the goal of reading for at least 30 minutes per day. If I read more that’s amazing but this seems like a nice easy goal that I should be able to fit in before bed. It’ll help me avoid looking at screens right before I sleep and calm me down – win!

7. Write More Book Reviews – Even Short Ones!

I always struggle to remember details about the books I read or why I rated something the way I did, even if I really loved it. Being a blogger, this does make it difficult to post about them at a later date or create compilation lists for a particular theme. So in 2023, I’d like to write short reviews for most of the things I read to ensure I process how I felt about them and ensure I remember them better several months on (particuarly for books that are part of a series!)

Bonus – Non-Bookish Goal: Get Fitter & Healthier

I know you’ve all seen this goal before, probably from zillions of people by this point, but I genuinely would like to make improvements in this area. I started making a few changes late in 2022 like adding more physical activity into my lifestyle and altering some (emphasis on SOME) elements of my diet, but I’d really like to continue with it and do even better in 2023. I’m not asking for anything revolutionary, only that I’d really like to feel stronger, more energetic, more confident, and manage some of my health issues better.

There we have it: my goals for 2023! It’s not a complicated or long list, and I hope that means I’ve got a good chance of actually fulfilling some of them. For those of you who have also set yourself some bookish (and non-bookish) related goals for this year, I wish you so much luck with them. Let’s go kick 2023’s butt!

Something in My Eye, Allergies or Just a CoHo Romantic Drama: Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover

Before I get stuck into this review, where’s that bulletproof vest I left lying around? Can’t be too careful when discussing a Colleen Hoover book, these days. Despite Hoover currently being public enemy number one in the book community, I neither proudly nor sadly say that this is my fifth trip on the CoHo express. Destination love, with plenty of f-ed up personal trauma along the way.

Who, What, Where?

As usual, first the plot lowdown. Our FMC is Kenna, who has recently finished serving five years in prison for manslaughter following the death of her boyfriend, Scottie, in a car accident. She returns to his hometown hoping to finally meet her and Scottie’s four-year-old daughter, Diem, being raised by Scottie’s parents and best friend/bar owner, Ledger. However, Diem’s grandparents want Kenna nowhere near their family. Despite his anger and hurt, Ledger is the only one willing to give Kenna a chance but as the two grow increasingly closer, they risk a highly destructive fallout.

Who’s Cutting Onions?

I admit I wasn’t super enthusiastic going into this. I’ve had some mixed reactions to Hoover books in the past and this didn’t seem like my cup of tea. I expected stupid, only-in-a-romance-novel type character names (Ledger, Diem – TICK), melodrama (oh, boy tick), and plenty of plot conveniences (again, tick). What I wasn’t expecting was for this damn book to make me tear up every couple of pages. I wish I could blame it on that time of the month but alas, I can’t. My eyes were leaking like a dodgy faucet. Jeez, I didn’t come here to…feel things. Jokes aside, I ended up finding this to be a heartfelt story with sympathetic, yet mixedly developed, characters. Aside from Kenna’s constant crying (then again, I guess I can’t judge), I connected with her and her story, and appreciated her journey toward rebuilding her life and finding self-forgiveness. It was a lot for one person to battle through and I really wanted to see her come out the other side. Even Scotty, who’d been dead for several years, made a nice impression in just a couple of flashbacks. I loved Hoover’s use of Kenna’s letters to Scottie to showcase their history and Kenna’s thoughts and feelings, even though I knew how these would eventually affect the plot…sigh.  

As a male lead, Ledger’s development is a little on the flat side and as a romance hero he may be (mostly) kind and generous, but there isn’t anything particularly memorable enough for the book boyfriend mantle. I’m willing to cut CoHo a little slack here as there are a couple of nice side character inclusions. These involve Kenna’s neighbour Lady Diana, willing to marry someone for a PlayStation and Pokémon cards, and Ledger’s friend Roman, whose unrequited love for a mysterious, married woman at the bakery drives him to constantly buy a million cupcakes.

Less Romance, More Parent-Child Drama

When people pick up a CoHo book, they’re normally looking for some heavy romantic drama. Now, while the romance in RoH is certainly important, it does take a somewhat supporting role to the plot surrounding Kenna and Diem. I know people might complain about this because it’s more akin to women’s lit than romance, but I can’t say I minded. For me, the two storylines worked well in tandem as part of a bigger picture, rather than simply coming together at the end. The relationship between Kenna and Ledger isn’t amazing or perfect but it’s pleasant enough for the most part. There are some slight instalove vibes to their early interactions (mostly on Ledger’s side) and Ledger’s hurtful comments about Kenna potentially using him to get to Diem when he’s the one constantly showing up are mighty questionable.  However, I do feel as though an opportunity was missed by not having a greater focus on Kenna moving on from loving and losing Scottie (or the reminders of him, as it were), especially with Ledger being her first relationship since his death and Scottie’s best friend to boot.

A Bit Too Neatly Wrapped

With the main plotline, there are things that work and others that don’t. While I believe the emotional weight is there, the pacing and events leave something to be desired at times. There are certainly points where there’s a sense of repetition and lack of forward momentum to Kenna’s attempts to connect with Diem. Come on girl, fight a little! Also, without spoiling anything, there isn’t much of a twist to speak of with this book, more of an emotional climax. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that, but it is what it is. I also have to say that the way everything is wrapped up is rushed, predictable, and far too neat. Did I tear up again? …Yes. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been handled better.

Overall, I enjoyed this. Sure, it’s over the top, perfectly wrapped up, and at times a little cringy to read aloud, yet, I suppose that’s what you sign up for. Say what you will about Colleen Hoover, but her writing is approachable, emotive, and easy to pass the hours away with. Will I read more of her books in the future? Potentially. Am I going to join the BookTok cult that worships her as romance’s lord and savior? Not likely.

3.5 Stars

Note: For anyone planning on raging at me for giving CoHo more money, I got this on Kindle for $2. Two Dollars. I did what I did.

2023 TBR: 15 Books I Want to Read in 2023

Happy New Year bookworms! It’s 2023 and that means it’s time for a new year-long TBR. Now, last year was a bit of a disappointment on the reading front but this year I’m hopeful! When creating last year’s TBR I reduced the number of books down to 20 in the hopes I’d complete more of it but err…that didn’t work out so well (I read half, in case you were wondering). SO, once again I’m cutting the number down – this time to 15. I mean, come on, 15 should be achievable, right? RIGHT?

  • Cytonic (Skyward 3#) – Brandon Sanderson
    • The first of 3 reappearances from my 2022 list and two BrandoSando books. Considering how much I love this series, I’m shocked I still haven’t gotten around to reading Cytonic so 2023 it is.
  • Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive 2#) – Brandon Sanderson ☐
    • The second Sanderson book of the list! The Way of Kings was my favourite read of 2022 so here’s hoping the next (also 1000+ page) entry in the series creates the same magic.
  • Babel – R. F. Kuang
    • I really want to read this but, at the same time, I’m terrified of doing so. I loved The Poppy War series so much and Babel has had such ridiculous hype since its release, I’m worried it won’t hit for me. Guess I just have to dive in and find out!
  • Jade City – Fonda Lee
    • Another 2022 repeater. I’m determined to read Jade City this year but I have to be in the right mood/mindset to process a whole new fantasy world and large cast of characters.
  • They Never Learn – Layne Fargo
    • Sometimes I get really in the mood for a quick thriller. I’ve heard lots of good things about this one. Plus, as the stunning Anya Taylor Joy once said, I have a thing about feminine rage.
  • Tender is the Flesh – Agustina Bazterrica
    • This dystopian novella about cannibalism is a bit left field for me and could go either way but I’ve been curious about it for so long, I feel like I have to finally do it. If it’s not my thing, at least it’s short.
  • A Flicker in the Dark – Stacy Willingham
    • After adding Stacy’s upcoming 2023 release to my Goodreads shelf, I came across her debut. It sounded intriguing so here it is. The reviews seem to be strong and Emma Stone has optioned it for a limited series – need I say more?
  • Punk 57 – Penelope Douglas
    • So, this is likely another example of me engaging in some very risky decision-making. I like romance but I’m more on the fluffy side of the genre and Penelope Douglas is well…not. However, I feel like it’s something I need to try in order to tick off. If I end up loving it, win.
  • Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid ☐
    • This is the last of my 2022 repeats, I promise! I got distracted by TJR’s 2022 release, Carrie Soto (which was amazing btw) so in 2023 I will definitely do Malibu Rising, okay? Bring on the family drama.
  • Pachinko – Min Jin Lee ☐
    • Everyone has been raving about Pachinko since it came out and it keeps giving me FOMO so that’s it, we’re doing it. I like reading historical novels every so often so this will be a nice change of pace between other reads.
  • All Rhodes Lead Here – Mariana Zapata
    • MZ is another author that pops up a lot in romance circles, especially when it comes to a good slow burn – a trope I looovvveee. People really seem to have enjoyed this one so I’m thinking it might be a good place to start, even though it involves outdoorsy stuff like hiking which is totally not my vibe. *shivers*
  • Wolfsong – TJ Klune
    • I keep adding TJ Klune books to my Goodreads shelves (because they all sound so good) but not reading them, so this year I want to change that. Wolfsong has been on there the longest and I’ve recently bought the paperback so let’s do it. Werewolf love story, woohoo!
  • A Lady for a Duke – Alexis Hall ☐
    • I’d hoped to read this last year shortly after it came out but we’ll blame my slump. It’s on the longer side for a romance but I loved Hall’s Boyfriend Material and a historical setting featuring a trans heroine and disabled hero just sounds too good not to pick up.
  • Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow – Gabrielle Zevin ☐
    • This is another book that everyone keeps raving about and making me feel left out. Even more so now that it’s a GR Choice Award winner. So I’ve bought the pretty, shiny paperback and we’re doing it. I love video games and stories that take place over several years so the signs are good.
  • Writers & Lovers – Lily King
    • Somehow I missed hearing about this book until now? It sounds great and like my type of read so I’m kind of like, how did that happen? It’s about life, grief, romance, and writing. I expect to feel all the emotions, please and thank you.

Hurrah! There we have it, 15 books. I’m excited to get stuck in. Then again, aren’t I always when the new year starts? Hmmm… Anyway, here’s hoping I’m able to tick off more than 10 this year.

What books are on your 2023 TBR?

My Most Anticipated Releases of 2023 (Jan – June)

Goodbye to 2022 (and good riddance) and happy new year 2023! As always, new year, new releases on the horizon. And in the case of some of the entries on this list, very, very closely on the horizon. I have a bad habit of not getting around to reading a large chunk of the books I include on these lists but at this point, these are the reads I’m most looking forward to in the first half of the year…

The Stolen Heir – Holly Black | Jan

Eight years have passed since the Battle of the Serpent. But in the icy north, Lady Nore of the Court of Teeth has reclaimed the Ice Needle Citadel. There, she is using an ancient relic to create monsters of stick and snow who will do her bidding and exact her revenge.
Suren, child queen of the Court of Teeth, and the one person with power over her mother, fled to the human world. There, she lives feral in the woods. Lonely, and still haunted by the merciless torments she endured in the Court of Teeth, she bides her time by releasing mortals from foolish bargains. She believes herself forgotten until the storm hag, Bogdana chases her through the night streets. Suren is saved by none other than Prince Oak, heir to Elfhame, to whom she was once promised in marriage and who she has resented for years. 
Now seventeen, Oak is charming, beautiful, and manipulative. He’s on a mission that will lead him into the north, and he wants Suren’s help. But if she agrees, it will mean guarding her heart against the boy she once knew and a prince she cannot trust, as well as confronting all the horrors she thought she left behind.

Hell Bent (Alex Stern #2) – Leigh Bardugo | Jan

Alex Stern returns in another tale of murder and dark magic set among the Ivy League elite…

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of hell—even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale. But Alex is playing with forces far beyond her control, and when faculty members begin to die off, she knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if Alex is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.

All the Dangerous Things – Stacy Willingham | Jan

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.

How to Sell a Haunted House – Grady Hendrix

When their parents die at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, Louise and Mark Joyner are devastated but nothing can prepare them for how bad things are about to get. The two siblings are almost totally estranged, and couldn’t be more different. Now, however, they don’t have a choice but to get along. The virus has passed, and both of them are facing bank accounts ravaged by the economic meltdown. Their one asset? Their childhood home. They need to get it on the market as soon as possible because they need the money. Yet before her parents died they taped newspaper over the mirrors and nailed shut the attic door.

Sometimes we feel like puppets, controlled by our upbringing and our genes. Sometimes we feel like our parents treat us like toys, or playthings, or even dolls. The past can ground us, teach us, and keep us safe. It can also trap us, and bind us, and suffocate the life out of us. As disturbing events stack up in the house, Louise and Mark have to learn that sometimes the only way to break away from the past, sometimes the only way to sell a haunted house, is to burn it all down. 

Secretly Yours (A Vine Mess #1) – Tessa Bailey | Feb

Hallie Welch fell hard for Julian Vos at fourteen, after they almost kissed in the dark vineyards of his family’s winery. Now the prodigal hottie has returned to their small town. When Hallie is hired to revamp the gardens on the Vos estate, she wonders if she’ll finally get that smooch. But the grumpy professor isn’t the teenager she remembers and their polar opposite personalities clash spectacularly. One wine-fueled girls’ night later, Hallie can’t shake the sense that she did something reckless–and then she remembers the drunken secret admirer letter she left for Julian. Oh shit.

On sabbatical from his ivy league job, Julian plans to write a novel. But having Hallie gardening right outside his window is the ultimate distraction. She’s eccentric, chronically late, often literally covered in dirt–and so unbelievably beautiful, he can’t focus on anything else. Until he finds an anonymous letter sent by a woman from his past. Even as Julian wonders about this admirer, he’s sucked further into Hallie’s orbit. Like the flowers she plants all over town, Hallie is a burst of color in Julian’s gray-scale life. For a man who irons his socks and runs on tight schedules, her sunny chaotic energy makes zero sense. But there’s something so familiar about her… and her very presence is turning his world upside down.

Happy Place – Emily Henry | April

Harriet and Wyn are the perfect couple – they go together like bread and butter, gin and tonic, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. Except, now they don’t. They broke up six months ago. And they still haven’t told anyone.

Which is how they end up sharing a bedroom at the cottage that has been their yearly getaway with their best friends for the past decade. For one glorious week they leave behind their lives, drink far too much wine and soak up the sea air with their favourite people.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth. The cottage is for sale so this is the last time they’ll all be together here and they can’t bear to break their friends’ hearts. So, they’ll fake it for one more week. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). But how can you pretend to be in love with someone – and get away with it – in front of the people who know you best?

In the Lives of Puppets – T.J. Klune | April

In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots–fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio-a past spent hunting humans. When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

Chain-Gang All-Stars – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah | April

Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death-matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, she considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games, but CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.

Yellowface – R. F. Kuang | May

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars: same year at Yale, same debut year in publishing. But Athena’s a cross-genre literary darling, and June didn’t even get a paperback release. Nobody wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.

So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers to the British and French war efforts during World War I.

So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song–complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree. But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.

Witch King – Martha Wells | May

“I didn’t know you were a… demon.”
“You idiot. I’m the demon.”
Kai’s having a long day in Martha Wells’ WITCH KING….

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence? Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions. He’s not going to like the answers.

Love, Theoretically – Ali Hazelwood | June

The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.

Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and broody older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And that same Jack who now sits on the hiring committee at MIT, right between Elsie and her dream job.

Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?

What new release books are you most excited about for the first half of 2023?

And That’s a Wrap: My Favourite & Least Favourite Reads of 2022

2022 is a little different from the last couple of years. The reason being, I did not read several piles of books from which to choose a fabulously chunky list of favourite reads. I’ve only read, ahem, 37. This is not to shade anyone for whom that amount of books is a big achievement – well done to you, if so. Any number of books is always a win in the bookworm world. However, for me, who usually hits around 50 by year’s end, it’s a slow one. For this reason, naming 10 books that I’d consider to be my greatest, and not-so-great, of the year seems somewhat unrealistic. So, this time around we’re sticking with five. Five fabulous books that I’m glad to have spent hours with, eagerly turning pages (or tapping a kindle screen) and falling in love with a story, characters and/or a world. And because the universe needs balance and sometimes I’m a bitter, bitter girl, five books that I wish I could get the hours of my life back that I spent reading them.

Favourites of 2022

5# My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

Now, I know I only gave this book 4 stars but, in my defense, it came very close to getting 4.5. Also, the combination of me not reading that many books and being a picky 5-star rater means that MBFE cracks the favourites list. I had a lot of fun reading this one. In the best way, it reminded me of watching one of the teen supernatural dramas I used to watch when I was in high school (okay, still watch). The 80s vibes, paranormal storyline, fab female friendship at the centre – so good! Honestly, may we all find a bestie as willing to blow up their life to save our immortal soul as Abby was for Gretchen. There were a couple of things that I wish we’d been given more information on and a few small editing issues, but I had a blast. I’ll make sure to give some of Hendrix’s other novels a read in the future! Also, the paperback cover is so cool.

4# Hook, Line, and Sinker – Tessa Bailey

I know a bunch of people weren’t huge fans of this sequel, but that’s too bad because I liked it more than the first book. This is one of those times where I can see the flaws in something yet can’t really find it in myself to care all that much because of the sheer enjoyment I had while reading. Is Fox’s big dilemma being too hot for his own good? Pretty much. BUT, I don’t care! The story is simply the perfect combination of sweet and sexy, and the chemistry between Fox & Hannah is fire. I loved the intimacy, the romance, the spice (Oo la la)…I especially loved the character growth they experienced over the course of the novel – yes Hannah, you are a leading lady! This one was kind of advertised as a ‘friends to lovers’ read which it isn’t exactly the best example of, and is probably what turned some people off, but since I’m not a huge fan of that trope and I got slow burn and forced proximity instead, I’m a happy girl. Overall, love.

3# Heartstopper: Volumes 1 – 4 – Alice Oseman

I’m grouping volumes 1-4 of this series together because (a) I read them all in 2022 (within 4 days right at the end if you want to be specific) and (b) they were all faves. Reading Heartstopper is honestly like being enveloped in the warmest, most reassuring, wonderful hug imaginable. It’s so comforting and sweet to read. Charlie and Nick are absolutely adorable and the characters are so diverse and inclusive. Volume 4 also tackles some heavier mental health issues but in a very positive, healthy, and real way, which is always such a nice thing to find. It’s easy to breeze through these in like an hour and sure, some of the volumes are light on “plot” but I don’t care. Once again, I’m reminding myself to read more comics and graphic novels going forward (drop your recs for me below). Love, love, LOVE.

2# Carrie Soto is Back – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Let it be known that I am not a sports person. In the slightest. It bores me enormously. Yet, there’s one sport I can watch and actually enjoy: tennis. It’s fast-paced, easy to understand, and the athletes are certainly…characters. Something I also enjoy is a Taylor Jenkins Reid historical drama. And what do you know, when you blend those two things together, this amazing, exciting, tender, satisfying, hooks-you-completely novel is the result. CSIB follows retired tennis champion, Carrie Soto, known for her record number of grand slam titles. But when British superstar player Nikki Chan looks set to break it, Carrie decides to make a comeback at the age of 37 to reclaim her title. Once again, TJR creates characters that feel wonderfully real and a journey that is so easy to get invested in. It’s a book about a father-daughter relationship, finding joy in the things we do rather than just excellence, loving and accepting people for who they are, and giving something a go even though the world says you shouldn’t. Is the story a little predictable? Yes. Did the dialogue in Spanish without translations make me feel left out? Sure. Still, if you’re looking for a story with heart that you can root for, this is the perfect choice.

1# The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive 1#) – Brandon Sanderson

This is another one of those times where people talk about how amazing a book or series is for years, and then I finally read it and go: you know what, they were right. That was absolutely amazing. Why did I wait so long? I read The Way of Kings back in January and I’m still thinking about it a year later (okay, partially because I want to remember things for when I read book two in 2023). It’s a complete chonker of a book – over 1,000 pages long – so there are always worries in the back of your mind when you first start. While the first few chapters were disorienting, once I got past the (3!) prologues I found myself really enjoying the pacing and the fantastic cast of characters, which were probably my favourite part of the novel. There are such emotional highs and lows for them, and a real sense of a proper journey from start to finish. Plus the climax is so darn good (I’m a sucker for the ‘here comes the cavalry’ trope, sigh). The scale of the world-building here is insane. It all feels so vivid and Sanderson generally does a great job of walking you through it all. To say I’m keen to read the sequel would be putting it mildly, just have to find the headspace for another 1000-page fantasy tome! I have no doubts whatsoever about naming this book as my favourite read for the year.

Least Favourites of 2022

5# One Night on the Island – Josie Silver

Let me preface this entry by saying that its inclusion is probably more of a subjective me thing than the book itself but, either way, it wasn’t up my alley. I really enjoyed Silver’s One Day in December and was looking forward to ONotI so it’s disappointing that we’ve ended up here. I think the main issue was that the romance didn’t really work for me and for a book marketed as a romance that’s a major problem. There was potential but not enough development of the relationship to really convince me. The fact that the male love interest was still not over his wife (yep, wife. Not ex-wife) was also a somewhat major obstacle to my warm fuzzies. Not to mention, the story had a ‘self-partnering’ plotline going on which seemed somewhat at odds with you know, a ROMANCE. However, I was a fan of the lovely Irish island setting and its quirky, welcoming inhabitants so some positives. I’d still read more of Josie’s books down the line.

4# Kingdom of the Feared (Kingdom of the Wicked 3#) – Kerri Maniscalco

If I had done a disappointments list for this year Kingdom of the Feared would definitely have been on it but I’m not so least favourites of 2022 will have to do. I won’t rage too much here as I already did so at length in my full review but can I just say…what a mess. An overreliance on repetitive sex scenes between the horniest central couple on the planet, a lacklustre plot with a flat-ass climax, and a bunch of hanging plot threads left to service a future spin-off… *sigh*. For something that’s supposed to be one of my guilty pleasure series, there certainly wasn’t a lot of pleasure going on. Well, on my part that is. Sadly, I think I’m stuck in a toxic relationship whereby I’ll still read the aforementioned future spin-off series. Pray for me.

3# Neon Gods (Dark Olympus 1#) – Katee Roberts

For those of you who read my reviews of the top 10 romance nominees of the 2021 GR Choice Awards, you’re probably not too surprised to see Neon Gods here. I’ll keep this one short. I didn’t hate this book but I definitely wasn’t a fan. It’s fantasy erotica and despite it being a greek mythology reimagining, there’s very little plot going on alongside the sex (something I need to enjoy a book). The world-building is vague and lacking, and the actual links to the mythology are weak. While I did feel the chemistry between Hades and Persephone, I wish there’d been a more gradual evolution of the relationship. There are a TON of sex scenes for a novel of this length and they soon become repetitive (spoiler – there’s a lot of fingering). Considering Hades is into the BDSM scene, I was expecting some more actual spice for something people kept calling “spicy” in every review. In reality, it’s pretty vanilla. I may give another of Katee’s books a go but, at this point, it seems like erotica probably isn’t for me.

2# The Hollows – Mark Edwards

Sometimes I like to read thrillers and sometimes they don’t work for me. The Hollows was my first read of 2022 and I was hoping it’d be a good way to kick things off. Unfortunately, not so much. To be fair, I quite liked the premise for the book and I’m always up for a creepy campsite setting, plus Edwards does well at creating a sense of unease and tension during the first half or so. However, it’s the way everything plays out in the second half that really didn’t gel with me. The explanations behind all the goings-on just felt really silly, predictable, and frustrating. The ‘creepy twins’ trope isn’t my vibe when it’s so heavily relevant to the plot. It’s too soap opera for my liking. There are also a lot of pop culture references and random barbs directed at young people which I found somewhat grating. The characters themselves aren’t exactly the most engaging or likeable either – Tom is kind of bland and his daughter Frankie annoyed the hell out of me. Overall, not my cup of tea.

1# Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murkami

I’ve wanted to read this book for years and heard so many amazing things about it. So for it to end up being this. This. Colour me mystified. How is this so popular? For one, the main character is awful. What a pretentious, selfish, dickhead, and somehow women are throwing themselves at this douche-nozzle and telling us what a “good guy” he is for the entire book. Dude literally has sex with a woman having a complete breakdown and has the audacity to question afterward whether he should have done so. Speaking of women, all 3 of the major female characters read like some kind of whacked-out, misogynistic male fantasy, e.g. the submissive and fragile damsel, the oh-so-quirky, sex-crazed pixie dream girl, etc. Such ick factor. Then there are the paedophilic undertones in some of the descriptions, especially the sex scenes. Not to mention the inclusion of the non-consensual seduction of a 30-ish-year-old woman by her manipulative 13-year-old piano student with HEAVY emphasis on how wet the teacher was. And to hit a full home run on NO, gosh mental illness is handled badly. Naoko, you deserved better. When all else fails, just throw in another suicide, right? What an absolute train wreck. This book is why I should learn to DNF more.

And that’s that. I’m hoping for a much more competitive group of books for next year’s list – the favourites that is, not the least favourites. So fingers crossed!

What were your favourite and least favourite reads of 2022?