Top 10 Tuesday: Fantasy/Sci Fi Sequels I Enjoyed More Than the Original *Gasp*

This week’s TTT topic is a genre based freebie so I’m looking at books which managed the impossible – they impressed me more than the original book in their series. Shocking! I know. Here are 10 sequels that made the cut.

Morning Star (Red Rising Saga 3#) – Pierce Brown

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I could have comfortably listed either Golden Son or Morning Star on this list but I’ve decided to go with entry 3 because it’s my favourite book of the original trilogy (before Pierce expanded the series). I’ve mentioned my love of these books quite a few times on this blog, recently even. So, why not mention it again for the zillionth time? I really like Red Rising, it’s fantastic, but it’s always those pages at the beginning which let it down. A 4.5 instead of the full 5 stars. Morning Star is just amazing from start to finish. Action, humour, friendship, THE EMOTION… There isn’t a dodgy sequel in sight with this book. Basically, if the series had ended here, I would have had no complaints.


A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR 2#) – Sarah J. Maas

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This entry will be a shock to absolutely no one. As I’ve said before, when I first read A Court of Thorns and Roses, I liked it, it was fine, but it wasn’t exactly my new obsession. I only continued with the series a good while later (after a re-read of book 1) because of how popular the sequel was. I ended up being so glad I did because I really loved it. The characters are so loveable and the dynamics between them are great. Also, the expansion of the world beyond the Spring Court was a lot of fun. And need I mention the romance? It’s awesome. Fictional ship gold right there. Mutual respect, passion, banter – I’m in love.


Siege & Storm (The Grisha Series 2#) – Leigh Bardugo

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Like ACOTAR, this is another series where I didn’t mind book one but I wasn’t blown away. In the end I decided to keep going with the series because (a) I liked the villain, (b) I loved the Six of Crows duology and, (c) I was determined to meet the famous Nikolai Lantsov. I ended up having a great time with Siege & Storm. There was a good amount of action and the book kicked into gear quickly. I appreciated certain characters a lot more and Nikolai was, well, everything people said he was. This book is easily my favourite of the three.


Legendary (Caraval 2#) – Stephanie Garber

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If you’ve read my re-read review of Caraval, you’ll know that despite liking the setting & atmosphere, and progressing through the book quickly, I had a few issues with the story, characters and world building. I never saw myself continuing the series but after seeing book 3 pop up everywhere on release and hearing that people with the same Caraval problems as me had enjoyed Legendary, I decided, stuff it, I’ll try it out. As it turned out, people were right. I liked Tella as a protagonist much more than Scarlet and the world building in this book was miles ahead of Caraval. Plus the introduction of Jacks was a lovely surprise. I’m almost tempted to read Finale. Almost.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter 4#) – J. K. Rowling

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Everyone who follows my blog will know by now that I’m a major Harry Potter fan. But in a series of seven books there’s, of course, going to be some you like better than others. While I love The Philosopher’s Stone, it’s the book that made me fall in love with the characters and world after all, Goblet of Fire has always been my favourite of the series in all it’s beautiful, chunky glory. A magical competition, dragons & merpeople, more wizard schools, and a Big Bang ending that completely changes the direction and mood of the series going forward. I’ve read it a hundred times and could probably stand to read it a hundred more.


The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air 2#) – Holly Black

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I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince when I first read it and I was certainly one of those people who eagerly awaited the release of The Wicked King before quickly going out and buying it on release day. Book two is definitely my favourite book in this series. I love the sense of momentum, plot twists, romance, and more morally grey characters doing questionable things. This book made me appreciate Jude as a protagonist a lot more which then translated over to my re-read of book one later on. Also, as a writer, if you’re looking for a way to end your novel that basically guarantees your audience will be desperate for the next one – this book is a prime teaching material.


The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle 2#) – Maggie Stiefvater

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After reading three books in The Raven Cycle, my response to this series is still somewhat apathetic but I’ll willingly admit that The Dream Thieves was the entry I enjoyed the most. I feel like I got to know the characters much better in this one which was nice. My favourite element of the novel, however, was Maggie’s inclusion and development of Ronan’s dream based abilities which made for some interesting plotlines and an exciting climax in seeing those powers tested against that of someone else’s. Overall, I liked the book enough to want to continue to book three and was a little sad I didn’t have the same level of engagement going forward.


A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes 2#) – Sabaa Tahir

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In all fairness, this is only the tiniest bit higher than book one but we’ll take it because I love it when a sequel does well. Book two is fairly different to book one. It really feels like a proper adventure and I enjoyed the cat and mouse dynamic between Elias and Helene. As Helene is probably my favourite character, I loved getting to see her given more presence & independence with her own challenges and plotlines. There’s a great level of political drama with the new emperor in charge and the Commandant pushing for power. Also in its favour is an exciting prison break sequence and a few major things happen with big consequences in book 3.


City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments 3#) – Cassandra Clare

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I was obsessed with this series in high school. I wanted all of my friends to read them and almost jumped out of my skin when I finally got to hold City of Glass on release. Back in the day, this book was my favourite of the bunch mostly because of the high stakes of it all and the fact that some of the other characters got more of a chance to shine. After re-reading the first four books in recent years, while books 1 & 2 have slightly diminished with time (we don’t talk about City of Fallen Angels…), City of Glass hasn’t and it’s still my favourite of the series (later additions included, even though I still haven’t read book 6. But let’s face it, there’s no way it’d be better than City of Glass).


The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson & The Olympians 5#) – Rick Riordan

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Percy Jackson is another one of those super popular series. It’s also happens to have quite a few books, ergo there’s always a favourite among the bunch. As a whole, I liked PJ&O – they were fun, creative novels full of adventure, mythology and likeable characters. Yet, being intended for a middle grade audience, they did feel on the young side for me in my mid-twenties. However, I really, really liked The Last Olympian. In fact, many of my reasons for this are similar to City of Glass – action packed & dramatic battles, real stakes, and more characters in the spotlight. With the characters around 16 at this point, the book also read much older, which I appreciated. Major points to an author who can grow with their audience.

If You Liked This, Try These: One of Us is Lying, American Panda, and Six of Crows

Ever read a book you enjoyed so much that upon finishing it all you wanted was to find something just like it? Yep. Me, too. Well, here I am to save the day and give you a few book recommendations based on things you might have already read and liked. Maybe they have similar characters, settings or plots? Or perhaps they have some common themes? Regardless, hopefully one of these books will help fill the void.

Now, I should state up front, I haven’t read every book in this post and that’s where reviews, tags, blurbs, genres and other factors come into play. Still, I’m pretty confident that even the books I haven’t read will be suitable recommendations for the books below. If not, give me a heads up. Although, in my defense, just because the books may be similar that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll love every book in the group. Everyone’s got their own personal preferences after all!

One of Us is Lying – Karen M. McManus

  • The Cheerleaders – Kara Thomas: Like OoUiL, The Cheerleaders has a small town murder mystery type plot in which teens take on the investigating role because of a personal involvement in the deaths (in this case, the mysterious deaths of 5 cheerleaders within a short time period). Both books tackle some heavier topics and share a solid friendship element.
  • A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson: Again, more small town murder vibes. If you were a fan of Bronwyn and her sister Maeve in OoUiL, you’ll probably like MC, Pip. There’s also a romantic subplot if enjoyed that about OoUiL. I haven’t actually read this one yet but I’ve heard amazing things.
  • All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban: This book also features a group of characters fitting high school stereotypes, The Breakfast Club style, being thrown into the deep end (here, a potentially deadly dinner party). AYTS is more thriller-y than OoUiL and less drawn out timeline wise, but they definitely share similarities.
  • Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson: If you’re looking for something in the YA mystery genre that isn’t exactly similar to OoUiL but still has quirky high school characters and a fun, out-there scenario, Truly Devious is a good pick. It also involves the death of a high school student, only this time it’s at a prestigious high school in the mountains and our investigator is a girl named Stevie who has a fascination with crime.

American Panda – Gloria Chao

  • Loveboat, Taipei – Abigail Hing Wen: If you really liked Mei in American Panda, you’ll probably also enjoy Ever. Both girls dream of dancing but their parents expect that they’ll become doctors instead. These books share similar themes of self-discovery, family, love and straddling two cultures. Loveboat is more drama filled, has a larger cast of characters and is set in Taiwan, but both are fun reads.
  • Frankly in Love – David Yoon: American Panda and Frankly in Love look at family dynamics and the difficulty in reconciling traditional cultural values with modern American ones. This is especially so where it comes to dating. Like Mei, Frank falls for someone he knows his family wouldn’t approve of and has a similar history of having a sibling cut off for their choice of partner. The characters handle things differently but the challenges they face are alike.
  • I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn: Like Loveboat and American Panda, this is another book featuring a heroine trying to weigh up her own creative dreams (fashion) against parental expectations. Again, we have a sweet story of journeying to self-awareness, romance and complicated family relationships. However, unlike AP this book is set in Japan.
  • Always Never Yours – Emily Wibberly & Austin Siegemund-Broka: Those who enjoyed the coming of age, identity and romance elements of American Panda, will find plenty to love in Always Never Yours. It involves a group of students putting on a production of Romeo & Juliet and an MC whose exes always seem to find ‘the one’ right after she breaks up with them.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch: While TLoLL is an adult fantasy, like Six of Crows it features a gritty city setting, band of likeable thieves pulling off a heist, and an intelligent, plotting, money-loving leader with a decent heart. There’s also the found family trope that SoC fans love so much.
  • The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire is, again, an adult fantasy. Similarly to SoC, it has good world building, great action, a group of not so reputable characters carrying out a plan, and a witty, criminal mastermind. If you like the magical grisha elements of SoC you’ll probably also love the magic system here which is wonderfully unique and based around metals. And for the romance shippers, yes, there is a romantic subplot.
  • Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett: In Foundryside, you have another adult fantasy featuring some great world building, thieves with appropriate levels of snark stealing important artifacts, exciting magic, and fun action. Much like the women of SoC, this book also includes a strong, independent female lead with unique abilities.
  • The Diviners – Libba Bray: At first glance, these two books seem to be completely different. However, the strength of both lies in their cast of well crafted and loveable characters. SoC & The Diviners also share darker story elements, romantic subplots, strong friendships, magic, and rich world building. The plot & setting may be different but the vibes are similar.

What books would you recommend for lovers of these picks?

The Netflix Book Tag

I love books. I love Netflix. This tag is thus a match made in heaven. Or is it (considering one usually distracts me from the other…)? I stumbled across this tag via Kristin at Kristin Kraves Books but it was originally created by A Darker Shade of Whitney over on booktube.

Recently Watched: The Last Book You Finished

Golden Son (Red Rising 2#) – Pierce Brown

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A Golden Son re-read wasn’t even listed on my TBR for March. And yet, here we are. I should have known this would happen. You can’t just read Red Rising and not keep going. Even now I’m so damn tempted to just pick up Morningstar and let the good times roll. I love this series. I really, really do. I gave this book five stars the first time around and I feel completely confident in my rating after the second time through. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll re-read these books again in the future. If that isn’t a glowing endorsement, I don’t know what is.


Top Picks: A Book That Has Been Recommended To You Based On What You’ve Previously Read

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz 

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I’ve had Ari & Dante mentioned to me quite a few times as something I’d probably enjoy and the consensus on it in general seems to be very, very good. I actually think this is something I’ll read eventually because I quite like the looks of the blurb. It feels like a really great character focused, coming of age story. It also happens to be a LGBTI book with two Mexican-American leads so yay for diversity. I’ve heard that the audiobook read by Lin Manuel Miranda is solid so maybe I’ll end up checking that out.


Recently Added: The Last Book You Purchased

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

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I bought 3 books as my last purchase (blame book depository) and Wolf by Wolf is one of them. I stumbled across it watching one of Hayley in Bookland’s videos and thought it sounded really interesting, so why not give it a go? It’s an alternate history story in which the Nazis won WWII. Each year they hold a multi-continent motorcycle race to commemorate their victory, the winner of which gets to meet Hitler. Impersonating a previous winner, a former concentration camp prisoner, Yael, decides to enter the race to win and kill Hitler. The problem is that both the brother and former lover interest of the racer she’s pretending to be are also competing. The book has great reviews so I’m really excited to read it.


Popular On Netflix: Books That Everyone Knows (2 You’ve Read & 2 You Have No Interest In Reading)

Weird assortment of books, I know but this question was pretty broad.

  • Daisy Jones & the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid: Read it, liked it but didn’t love it like I did The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Kind of wish I’d listened to the audiobook but ah well.
  • All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven: Read. An okay YA contemporary but I wasn’t too keen on the ending and couldn’t help feeling like the story was a little emotionally manipulative.
  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins: The things I’ve heard about this one, particularly from my grandma, definitely make me not want to bother with it.
  • The Testaments – Margaret Atwood: I pretty much have zero interest in reading this one, mostly because it just seems unnecessary.

Comedies: A Funny Book

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

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I had to pick this one. I haven’t properly laughed reading a book for good while and I did multiple times reading Red, White & Royal Blue. It’s so much fun. The texting and phone calls between Henry and Alex were fantastic. My favourite one, however, has to be in which Alex is stuck in his room with the turkeys set for presidential pardon the next day and calls Henry to complain. If I’m ever having a particularly tough week in the future, I know that re-reading this book would be a sure fire way to make me feel a lot better.


Dramas: A Character That Is A Drama Queen/King

Evie (The Diviners – Libba Bray)

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Having only recently finished this book, the characters are still fresh in my mind. Evie loves a bit of a drama and it certainly seems to follow her around, which makes for some fun situations. She does object readings at parties and reveals scandalising gossip, makes deals with the press on the sly to get her name in the papers, and will happily confront people for past slights in fiery fashion (despite saying she’ll leave it well enough alone). Things are never dull with Evie around. But hey, that’s the way she like it after all.


Animated: A Book With Cartoons On The Cover

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

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I am not so secretly a big fan of these cute animated styled covers. I’ve noticed that they’ve become super popular in recent years, especially when it comes to contemporary romance books. They’re just so sweet and fun looking. It automatically puts me in a rom-com mood. As far as the actual book goes, I really enjoyed Fangirl. It’s a great celebration of nerd & fan culture and has a super relatable protagonist for so many introverted people dealing with things like anxiety.


Watch It Again: A Book Or Series You Want To Reread

Arc of a Scythe Series – Neal Shusterman

I love the Arc of a Scythe series. It feels so different from other things I’ve read and the world building is fantastic. The last book in the series, The Toll, was released in 2019 and because it seems like ages since I read books 1 & 2, I really want to do a re-read before I tackle book 3. I’ve definitely become one of those people who needs to do re-reads to refresh themselves on the important details of previous books before tackling a series’ new release. I enjoy them so much more that way.


Documentaries: A Nonfiction Book You’d Recommend To Everyone

Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee

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I’ve started to read the odd non-fiction book now and again, and there are a few on my list to tackle in 2020. Eggshell Skull was one of my top 10 reads of 2019 and it’s one I’d easily recommend. It looks at how sexual assault is handled by the legal system in Queensland, Australia and I was engaged, horrified and saddened. The writing isn’t always perfect but it was very interesting to see the issue from the perspective of someone who has been on both sides – a judge’s associate in sexual assault trials and a complainant. It’s great at showcasing why women avoid reporting assault and the profound effects being a victim of assault can have on a person even years later.


Action & Adventure: An Action-Packed Book Or Series

Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series – Rick Riordan

As far as action and adventure go, Percy is always a suitable choice. Monsters, quests, sword fighting, the potential end of the world, vengeful Greek Gods – “action-packed” is one way to put it. It’s pretty much never a dull moment for Percy and his friends, but it certainly keeps things exciting…and well, dangerous.


New Releases: A Book That Just Came Out Or Will Be Coming Out Soon That You Can’t Wait To Read

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City 1#) – Sarah J. Maas

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In a choice that will come as a surprise to absolutely no one out there, I recently received my pre-order of Sarah J. Maas’s new book and I’m super keen to read it. My attitudes towards Sarah’s previous books vary a lot but I’m hoping that this one will be on the A Court of Mist and Fury end of my likeability scale. This is an adult book so I’m looking forward to seeing what SJM does with a bit more freedom (then again, her “YA” books have never truly been YA anyway due to their sexual content but eh). Angels, faeries, murder, romance, please let this be worth devoting 800 pages and my time to.


What are some of your favourite Netflix shows?

Beware Guests Who Never Leave: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

The Family Upstairs is one of those books that I was excited to read the moment I first saw the cover and read the blurb. Mysterious deaths, a creepy house in London, I was like, sign me right up.

Who, What, Where?

The main gist of the story is that back in the 1980s, three people were bizarrely found poisoned to death in a Chelsea mansion. Upon arriving at the scene, police discovered a letter proclaiming a group suicide and a ten-month-old baby girl. The circumstances surrounding the deaths never became entirely clear and the other children said to have been living in the house prior disappeared entirely. Now twenty-five, the baby, Libby, has inherited the house by virtue of her parents’ will. After being made aware of the mystery surrounding her parents’ deaths, Libby begins to look into what happened all those years ago.

A Mystery of Past & Present

The Family Upstairs is told in a mixture of first and third person, focusing on two timelines and three central characters. At first, it’s slightly confusing working out who’s who, what’s going on, and how things connect, but this doesn’t last for very long. In the past we have Henry, the son of the owners of the Chelsea house. He recounts the years leading up to the deaths in which several guests with sinister motives come to stay but never leave, completely altering his family’s lives. In the present, the storylines revolve around Libby (and her investigation into the family with a journalist named Miller) and Lucy, a mother of two living on the streets in France.

Both Henry and Libby’s stories involve a great deal of set up to progress the book’s later events and some readers may find the pacing slow because of it. As the book goes on, the two plotlines increasingly begin to tie into each other and accelerate. Henry reveals certain puzzle pieces in the mystery and Libby discovers others, allowing the reader to gradually construct a timeline. I liked this concept, but I do feel as though it could have been utilised more effectively in terms of Libby’s discoveries contextualising or leading into events in Henry’s timeline.

Too Many POVs

Lucy’s storyline, on the other hand, is something I feel I could have done without. I generally don’t mind books utilising multiple POVs, provided they’re done well and enhance the storytelling. While Lucy’s story is sometimes interesting, when viewed against the main trajectory of the novel, the events of it are largely an unnecessary distraction until close to the end. This time would probably have been better served developing the other characters in the book, especially young Lucy considering her importance to the story.

Missing Charisma

Speaking of characters, there are quite a few in this story. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that a lot of them don’t feel particularly well fleshed out. This left me feeling somewhat apathetic at big moments, particularly when certain characters from the past showed up in the present. One character which could definitely have used extra attention was David, our villain of sorts who eventually turns the inhabitants of the Chelsea house into a cult. We’re told that David is intelligent and charming and yet, from what I was shown in the novel I still have no idea how he managed to hold such influence over so many people, especially the women. Considering how crucial this was to the novel, it severely damaged the realism of it for me.

Engaging and Ominous

Despite my issues above, I have to say, I found this book highly readable. Lisa Jewell has a very easy-going writing style, which makes getting sucked in simple, and a great sense of place (busy London, a bizarre market, the streets of Nice, the slow decay of the house from glamourous to oppressive). She also excels in instilling ominous and creepy feelings where necessary. Once I got past the early chapters, I was engaged in what was happening and genuinely looked forward to finding out how things would end. The book throws in a couple of twists, some of which utilise an unreliable narrator, and although they’re not particularly surprising, I was generally okay with them.

The End…?

One of the things that really damaged my enjoyment of this one was the ending. With thriller reads, I always go in expecting an exciting and dramatic climax. After all, the author has just spent a lengthy number of pages building tension, laying the groundwork, and you assume there’ll be a payoff for it. However, the climax here ended up feeling…flat. Whether this is because of the writing style or slow build up, I’m not sure. Worse, I’d hoped that the ending would be able to rectify it somewhat but no. Instead, I ended up with something weird, unrealistic, unearned (character wise), and incomplete.


Overall, while there were some things to like about this one it just wasn’t the read for me. I’m in the minority here though, so if you’re a big thriller fan I’d recommend giving The Family Upstairs a go – you might really enjoy it.

2 Stars

March TBR: Challenging Myself and Some Re-Reads

I don’t usually do posts like this, mostly because my mood reader little self hates boxing herself in unless it’s for a readathon. However, this month I feel like a small challenge (6 books instead of my usual 4 of late) and providing a sense of structure to March. One of the reasons for abandoning a large yearly reading goal for 2020 was to encourage myself not to be afraid to tackle bigger books and do re-reads. This month I feel like doing some of the latter. Here are the books I’ll be reading and re-reading this month:

RE-READS

Red Rising (red rising 1#) – Pierce Brown

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I first read the original 3 books in The Red Rising Saga back in early 2018 and absolutely loved them. Books 2 & 3 ended up sharing the no. 2 spot on my top 10 of the year and I count the series as one of my favourites. Lately I’ve been really craving a re-read and my recent purchase of Dark Age (book 5) has only made the feeling stronger. I still haven’t gotten around to reading Iron Gold (book 4) but I’m expecting that the momentum from re-reading the first three will carry me through into finally finishing it. I’m so keen to get back to Pierce’s amazing characters, exciting action and wonderful world building.

Clockwork angel (The infernal devices 1#) – Cassandra Clare

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Yes, I am caving to the Chain of Gold excitement. I can’t help myself. I know, I know, okay? I get terrible FOMO! My problem is though, the last time I read The Infernal Devices books they’d only just been released! In other words, I was 15 when I read Clockwork Angel. FIFTEEN. Baby Ashley. Anyway, my point is that I feel an extremely strong need to do a re-read of the series to (a) see if they’re still as enjoyable and (b) refresh my memory of the characters and world in this timeline. I’m kind of worried they won’t hold up, but I guess I just have to put my faith in Will Herondale and his cannibalistic ducks.

NEW READS

The Diviners (The Diviners 1#) – Libba Bray

I’m cheating with this one slightly as I started reading it in late Feb and am close to finishing it now. But as I’ll complete it in March, it counts towards this month. I remember picking up this book at the bookstore multiple times in recent years but somehow it took me until this year to buy it. Clearly I was sleeping on it in a big way. I never realised just how much love there was for this series about a group of teens with special abilities facing down ghosts in 20s New York. The last book in the series was released last month so at least I don’t have to wait in between installments.

The Bromance Book Club – Lyssa Kay Adams

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To balance out the heavier fantasy and sci-fi reads for this month, I thought I’d slide in this fun, little romantic contemporary about a bunch of baseball players in Nashville who start a romance book club to help them with their relationships. The MC, Gavin, turns to the club for help when his wife, Thea, requests a divorce. These types of books are always great mood boosters when you’re having a not so great day (or week) and I seem to fly through them very quickly. Hopefully it’ll give me a laugh and a few ‘aww’ moments. Plus, if I like it, the follow up novel – Undercover Bromance – releases this month.

The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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I’ve been sitting on an audible credit ever since I finished Becoming by Michelle Obama last month. This is mainly because I had no idea what to use it on but I feel pretty happy about my decision. The Dutch House has a 4.22 average Goodreads rating, it’s narrated by the loveable Tom Hanks, and it’s less than 10 hours long. Sounds good to me. Designed as a sort of modern fairy tale and taking place over five decades, the book focuses on a dysfunctional family, specifically the bond between a brother and sister, and their connection with their childhood home. It’ll likely be very different from the things I normally read but I’m looking forward to it.

All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban

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I’m probably starting to push it numbers wise for me at this point but eh, why not add another one. All Your Twisted Secrets is actually an upcoming release and will come out on the 17th. Based on the pricing for hardbacks that I can see, I’ll likely be kindle-ing this one. This book definitely captured my attention the first time I came across it – a dinner party in which a group of students are locked in with a bomb and forced to choose one among them to die by poison or risk all getting blown to smithereens. It’s a pretty exciting concept. Hopefully the execution of the idea is just as good. Fingers crossed.


That makes 6. I’m hoping that due to the sheer enjoyment factor I’ll get through a few of these faster than I ordinarily would. Also, since I’ll be covering physical, e-book and audiobook formats, I’ll be able to read multiple books at the same time. Anyway, we’ll see how things go.

What books are you tackling in March?

And That’s A Wrap: Jan and Feb 2020 Edition

Just like that, the first two months of 2020 are over. It feels as though it’s gone fairly quickly even though I’ve done basically nothing except work, read, blog and watch TV. Exciting stuff, I know. So far I’m really enjoying this more laid back approach to my yearly reading goal. There’s been a lot less stress and I’ve managed to tackle a few bigger books. There are also so many books that I’m super excited to read and re-read in the coming months which is such a great feeling. But let’s get to recap, shall we?

JANUARY

The Whisper Man – Alex North ★★★.5 | Review

A solid start to the year. The Whisper Man was an enjoyable read and well written. The characters were developed and realistic, and despite a few lulls in momentum, the story was engaging. As far as crime or thriller novels go, it was a decent book but where the novel really excels is its focus on grief and father-son relationships. The potential paranormal element was also a nice surprise.

Skyward – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★★ | Review

A re-read before tackling Starsight. Skyward was my favourite read of 2019 and after a second go around, I’m still 100% sure it was the right decision. I love this book – the characters, story, action, world building, humour and writing. It’s just fantastic all around.

Starsight – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★.5 | Review

I was nervous going into this but, in the end, I shouldn’t have been because Starsight was a great sequel. It was certainly different to Skyward in terms of its approach to plot, sense of momentum and themes, but still good different. I did miss some of the characters from book one but I loved seeing Sanderson’s universe expand in an exciting way and seeing our lead, Spensa, continue to grow.

Loveboat, Taipei – Abigail Hin Wen ★★★.5 | Review

Summer camp in Taipei! I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. While it’s pretty predictable, has too many side characters and tries to cover more heavier themes than it should, it’s still a good read. Loveboat does well where it looks at ideas of belonging, family and identity, and I really sympathised with the MC, Ever, and her classmates’ difficulties. The setting is a lot of fun and I picked up quite a few new bits of info about Taiwan. Also, yes, there is a love triangle but as both sides of it were likeable, it didn’t bother me much.

FEBRUARY

Becoming – Michelle Obama ★★★★★

I went with the audiobook on this one and I’m so glad I did. Listening to Michelle tell her own story, all the way from childhood through to leaving The White House, was both engaging and inspiring. I learnt a lot from this autobiography and in it Michelle discusses a wide range of things including politics, family, parenting, relationships, growing up working class, and the experiences of African Americans. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara ★★★★★ | Review

I did not see this book coming. I decided to read it on a whim and it ended up being the most surprising and emotional reading experience I’ve had in a long time. The writing was gorgeous and the characters just felt so real to me. It’s a long read and deals with some extremely tough subject matters (e.g. child sexual abuse, suicide, domestic violence, etc.) but despite the few issues I had, I honestly loved this book. It broke my heart and I cried. Hard.

10 Blind dates – Ashley Elston ★★★

This was a sweet, rom-com-esque holiday read. It’s nothing particularly memorable and unlikely to bump your favourite YA romance reads off their thrones, but it’s fun. 10 Blind Dates is exactly what it claims to be – a girl being set up on a bunch of blind dates with different guys to help get her mind off a break up. Plus, there’s a happy ending. I liked Sophie as a heroine and really loved her crazy, enormous, Sicilian family, which is really the heart of this book. If you’re after something light and cute (which I needed after A Little Life), this is a good choice.

The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell ★★ | Review to Come

For the majority of its run, I found The Family Upstairs a decent read. Even with the cult, child abuse, and mysterious deaths, it somehow gives off this weirdly laid back vibe which makes it very readable. I think it may be the writing. I liked the concurrent past and present timelines and although the twists in the story aren’t particularly shocking, I was okay with them. This would have been a 3 star read if not for the ending, which felt flat, weird and lazy, and my realisation that almost an entire plotline could have been removed without damaging the story at all.

To avoid you guys having to see the same book covers over and over again, I’m only going to include the books that I bought over the last two months and still have yet to read. Plus, it makes me look so much better spending wise. Also, although Crescent City was purchased this month, because it’s a pre-order, I won’t get it till after release day on March 3rd.

Just in case you missed them and there was something that would have interested you, here are my posts from Jan & Feb (excluding the book reviews which are linked above).

Life

As I mentioned earlier, life for me has been largely uneventful for the last two months. However, as I’m sure you’ve heard, I can’t say the same for my country. This summer has brought absolutely terrible bushfires, devastating floods, an extension of our longest and worst drought in history, and now a cyclone. Australia has always been a land of extreme weather, but this year’s has been far more extreme than ever before. I am extremely lucky to live in a city area where the impacts of things like this aren’t as prevalent but so many others haven’t been so fortunate. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch the news everyday for months on end and see images of people crying over the ruins of burned down homes, wildlife injured, killed or without habitats, and farmers desperately praying for rain in regions that look like dusty wastelands with the remaining livestock almost skeletal in appearance. The photos below come from near my grandpa’s farm in an area of regional NSW where fire destroyed more than 21,500 hectares of forest in just one day. I hope that things will get better soon because honestly, anything has to be better than this.

TV & Movies

On to something less serious. Here are some of the TV and Movies that have been occupying my time over the last few months. There’s a weird mix. There was the amazing (Sex Education S2, Unbelievable), good (Ready or Not, The Little Drummer Girl, Little Women), terrible yet addictive (The Circle), disappointing (P.S. I Still Love You, Titans S2) and just not my thing (Midsommar, Marriage Story). And yes, I may have fallen in love with Florence Pugh just a little bit.


And that’s a wrap on January and February 2020! I hope you’ve had a good start to the year and that there are plenty of fabulous books on the horizon for you.

Bookish Fun: Books Which Give Me Summer Vibes

To my immense relief, at the end of this week summer will finally be over in Oz for yet another year. What’s that sound, you ask? Oh, just me screaming with joy. I don’t do well with hot weather, guys. Not at all. I melt and it’s super gross. However, books can always make something sucky more positive and lately I’ve been thinking about what books I most easily associated with summer as a season. So, here are the books that give off definite summer vibes for me:

The Unhoneymooners – Christina Lauren

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Romantic contemporaries have strong summer vibes in general but The Unhoneymooners feels especially summery for me. Most of the book takes place in Hawaii as the story involves a best man and maid of honour using their siblings’ honeymoon after everyone at the wedding but them gets food poisoning. There are mai tais, sexy massages, snorkeling, and some steamy moments. The perfect summer holiday read. I mean, just look at that cover! How could you think otherwise?


Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman

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The fact that this book is set over the course of one summer is probably a good indication as to why I’ve listed it here, but it may also be the fact that it’s about love and set at a villa in the gorgeous Italian riviera. People spend lazy afternoons by the pool, at the beach or cycling through the countryside, fresh produce and seafood abound, and the characters sit and drink wine well into the evening discussing things like music, language and poetry. In the midst of all this, the book explores a consuming, obsessive, intimate and bright burning love affair between a teen and a grad student in beautiful and raw prose. Summer vibes all around.


We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

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I’m not a big fan of this novel while others absolutely love it. Yet, that doesn’t seem to prevent it from very clearly coming to mind when I think of summer. The book is set on an island which the wealthy characters of the story return to every year for part of the summer. The story has a mystery element due to the main character, Cady’s, memory gaps from last year’s trip (and we all know that aside from romance, mystery is summer’s favourite genre). There’s also some family drama, heartbreak, much time spent at the beach, and a twist ending. It makes you think about youth, the loss of innocence and forgiveness.


Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson

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Morgan Matson has a lot of books that scream summer, but I’m going with Since You’ve Been Gone. I believe the exact words in my review of this book were, ‘This book is summer in literary form’, and it is. SYBG is about a girl named Emily who is left a list of 13 tasks to complete over the summer by her friend Sloane who has mysteriously disappeared. Over the course of the book, Emily makes new friends, falls for a boy, gets a job at an ice-cream parlour, camps in her backyard, goes skinny dipping, crashes a party, and just generally learns to come out of her shell. The book is fun, light, sweet and a lovely story about female friendship.


Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

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When summer rolls around, we break out the romance and the mystery novels. This is obviously one of the latter. If you’re after a good crime book, you can never go wrong with the queen of crime, Agatha Christie. Death on the Nile gives me those summer feels because, as you can tell from the title, it’s set on a river cruise in Egypt. After a newlywed socialite and heiress is found shot to death, famous detective, Hercule Poirot, hits pause on his holiday to determine who caused her untimely demise. Ruins, relentless sun, plenty of linen suits, jealously, and a lot of death. Sounds like summer to me. Okay, maybe minus the death part.


Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

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Summer in Singapore. This is another fun and light, but slightly trashy, read. It’s full of drama, crazy socialites, judgmental families, extravagant parties and ridiculously expensive things. If you’re the kind of person who binges soap operas or reality TV during summer (like me) for some mind-numbing entertainment, this is on par with that. Some of the storylines are somewhat ridiculous but as a bit of a satire, it’s what you’d expect. It also has a romance based story, so there’s that.


IT – Stephen King

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This is a weird one, I know. Go with it. My favourite parts of IT are the ones involving The Losers Club as kids and the bulk of this timeline takes place over the course of a summer. Sure, the characters spend most of it terrified and fighting to protect themselves from a creepy, child eating, clown shaped entity from another dimension. However, in between they also have some nice moments in support of the book’s friendship and coming of age themes. As the group solidifies, they spend a lot of their days hanging out with one another – riding around town on bikes, going to the movies, or seeking refuge in an area they call The Barrens. Here they play in the stream, build a dam, and even construct a hidden clubhouse. Feels like a childhood summer to me.


The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

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As far as YA contemporaries go, this one falls into the forgettable 3-star mush of ones I’ve read but it definitely rises to the surface of my brain when I think about summer vibe books. I mean, each book in the series deals with a summer in the life of a group of friends as they go to different places and have varying experiences. In the first book, one travels to Greece, another to Soccer camp, another takes a summer job at home, and the fourth goes to visit her dad. They make new friends, tackle emotional challenges, fall in love, and get out of their comfort zones. At the heart of the book is strong bonds of female friendship and being there for someone when they most need it.


Circe – Madeline Miller

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Circe is a book that gives me strong summer vibes but I guess that’s just Greek mythology. A lot of the story takes place on a mythical island called Aeaea. Beautiful, but also a prison for poor Circe. Over the years, she occupies her time tending her garden, raising animals (both real & illusions), weaving, and developing her witchcraft. People come and go from Aeaea, the decent of which get to experience Circe’s hospitality by enjoying large feasts and sharing stories. Despite the loneliness of Circe’s life at times, this book makes me think of the parts of summer that I actually like – 1) the quiet, picturesque moments of natural beauty, 2) the social gatherings where people chat, eat, drink and enjoy each others’ company as the sun goes down, and 3) that sense of adventure in experiencing something new.


Which books most remind you of summer or give you serious summer vibes?