Babelicious Book Covers: International YA Covers

Something that never fails to give me those warm, happy tingles is discovering an aesthetically pleasing book cover. Oh, boy. It’s so good. There are a lot of factors that go into creating an awesome cover (I did an entire post on it, in fact) and sometimes publishers really excel while others, they bomb. Hard. I spend a lot of time talking about and comparing US and UK book covers which, being from Australia, makes sense. However, I thought it would be a fun change to have a look at some awesome international covers for popular young adult books. For reference, I’ll be popping the original US Covers towards the left and their international counterparts on the right.

Simon v the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli: Indonesia & Thailand

How cute is the Indonesian cover for Simon?! The colour scheme is fairly similar to the US cover but I love the illustration. You’ve got this great image of Simon literally hiding from the world, surrounded by objects relevant to the story – his laptop and phone for chatting with Blue, Oreos, and an iPod (music being super important to Simon and the overall book). Perfect cover choice!

While it’s not my favourite design, the anime-ish drawing of Simon on the Thai cover is pretty fun, especially with the mysterious, hooded Blue figure in the background. I also like the fact that they kept the idea of the speech bubble title and red background from the US cover.

A Darker Shade of Magic Series – V. E. Schwab: France, Indonesia & Bulgaria

Something I’ve noticed writing this post: France has some amazing book covers. Like, damn. The artwork for the “Shades of Magic” books in particular is gorgeous (the work of the ridiculously talented Charlie Bowater). The characters are almost exactly how I would imagine them to look plus the lighting, backgrounds, and colours are all fantastic.

Although I quite like the Indonesian cover’s font and the incorporation of the map into the ends of Kell’s coat, I’m not as fond of this one as the others. The Bulgarian cover, on the other hand, is awesome. I love the use of the compass in bold, bloody red and Kell at the centre.

The Lunar Chronicles – Marissa Meyer: Norway, Korea & Thailand

I’m not normally a fan of models in strange poses on book covers but I can’t help finding the editing on the Norwegian ones super pretty. They really do capture the great mix of fairytale and sci-fi that The Lunar Chronicles have. Although each image is quite different from the US versions (more about the people than the objects), it’s still easy to identify which fairytale the book is referring to.

I think what draws me to the Korean covers is their use of bold, solid colours which really makes the imagery and titles stand out. The art style is simple but fairly nice to look at as well. The Thai covers are heavy on the sci-fi side – space-y colours, planets in the background, obvious light sources… It’s different but it works.

Warcross – Marie Lu: Germany & Spain

As Warcross is set in futuristic Japan and centers around hacking and e-sports, this leaves a lot of room for bright, eye-catching, sci-fi cover designs. For some reason, the German cover gives me serious Ready Player One vibes. There’s this great dystopian feel to the way it showcases the contrast between the big, bright parts of the city and its darker underbelly (something Emika delves into). The title text is also really cool.

I feel like the Spanish cover perfectly captures the sense of wonder and possibility Emika experiences in being introduced to technologically advanced and exciting Tokyo. You really do get the sense that this is the sort of place where VR capture the flag type competitions could be a big deal. I do wish they’d done more with the text though.

The Selection – Kiera Cass: Vietnam & Persia

The Vietnamese covers for The Selection books are very similar in feel to the US covers except they use illustrations instead of photographed models. And well, I have absolutely no problem with this because the illustrations are pretty and suit the books just as much as the originals.

I’m not sure what it is about the Persian cover, but I like it. It probably doesn’t fit the actual story very well considering The Selection is supposed to be set in a dystopian future. However, I like the romantic, historical feel of it. Also points to both covers for remembering America’s red hair.

The Diviners – Libba Bray: Germany, Spain & Australia

Whoever is handling The Diviners covers around the world, you’re doing a top notch job. I adore the clear 1920s feel of both the German and Spanish covers. The costuming on the German version is lovely and the woman’s head popping up from the border on the Spanish cover is really cute. The title fonts on all three are great, too. I will say though that Australian cover probably captures the darkness and mysticism of the book more than the others.

The Grisha Trilogy – Leigh Bardugo: France

Okay, I really tried not to include another bunch of French covers, but WOULD YOU LOOK AT THESE GRISHA COVERS?? They’re just….*heart eyes*. Gosh I wish I’d continued with my French studies at university. The colouring, borders, font, imagery, it’s all so gorgeous and Alina looks like such a badass.

Caraval – Stephanie Garber: China, Russia & Iran/Persia

It turns out that Caraval has a smorgasbord of cool looking international covers. The Chinese cover is 100% my favourite. The artwork is stunning. I especially like the layout with the girl in the sweeping dress at the front, Caraval itself in all it’s glory, and then the back of Legend’s glorious top hat above the title. It just feels wonderfully mystical and adventurous.

The Russian cover has a few bits and pieces that look somewhat out of place (the woman on the left) but overall, it’s vivid and eye catching. The use of colour suits the story and I really like the idea of the big, voluminous dress flowing across the centre.

What I like about the Iranian/Persian cover is that it’s different from covers I usually see. I enjoy the simple red, white and black colour scheme and the use of silhouettes. It looks nothing like the other covers here but still manages to give the same sense of mystery and magic, although with a little danger mixed in.

Do you have a favourite non-US/UK cover for a young adult read? Link me up! I’d love to see it.

Let’s Talk: About Sex, Baby…in YA Fiction (Part 2)

Once upon a time, in the land of 2018, I wrote a post about the incorporation of sex into young adult fiction. Unsurprisingly for anything with the word ‘sex’ in the title, it’s one of the most popular posts on this blog. Except, funny story, it was always intended to be a two-parter. Better late than never, right? While part one dealt with the questions of whether sex should be included/discussed at all in YA books and if so, to what to degree of depth, here I’ll be looking at how I think sexual content should be represented/depicted.

Lacking Pornographic Perfection

Funny Sex GIF

Let’s get the big one out of the way first. Despite what Hollywood seems to want us to believe, sex is not a perfectly choreographed porno. It can be messy, awkward, unsatisfying, painful, scary and, because no one ever seems to want to show it as such, not what people expect it to be. This is especially true your first time with a new partner and more so your first time ever, a common thing for characters in YA lit.

The whole affair was the precise opposite of what I figured it would be: slow and patient and quiet and neither particularly painful nor particularly ecstatic. […] No headboards were broken. No screaming. Honestly, it was probably the longest time we’d ever spent together without talking.

‘The Fault in Our Stars’ – John Green

Although adult romances might often feature passionate and perfect sex where everyone orgasms simultaneously and feels perfectly blissful afterwards, this isn’t really a realistic way to depict sex in YA books. Sure, the desire and emotional connection may be there, but the physical side can sometimes be less glamorous and take time. Even more so if there hasn’t been a gradual process of experimentation leading up to the big moment (something YA lit often leaves out for fear of too much sexual content).  

Everything hurts, every single thing including the weight of him and I’m crying because it hurts and he’s telling me he’s sorry over and over again, and I figure that somewhere down the track we’ll work out the right way of doing this but I don’t want to let go, because tonight I’m not looking for anything but being part of him. Because being part of him isn’t just anything. It’s kind of everything.

‘On the Jellicoe Road’ – Melina Marchetta

Consistently depicting sex as the ideal scenario often sets young readers up for unrealised expectations and unnecessary fears. While I’m sure there are some teens who do have amazingly perfect sex, it’s important to show all different types of experiences. Authors shouldn’t be afraid to have characters who are unsure about what they’re doing or miss the mark at first. It’s the human elements that make it memorable and real.

Consent & Protection

When it comes to sex, these are two extremely important topics. And yet, for some reason they’re frequently skimmed over in books because they “ruin the mood”. Sex education is terribly lacking in a lot of places. It isn’t fiction’s job to educate teens but it’s something many turn to for guidance and also a safe space for them to pick up new information. As an author, if you’re going to include sexual content in a book targeted at the most impressionable and curious age group for it, you need to do it right. Furyborn by Clare Le Grand features more explicit sexual content than what’s probably suitable in YA, but it does include a sex scene with clearly established consent and contraception. And did those things kill the mood? Not at all. In fact, I would argue it made the interaction even hotter.

Sexy Francia Raisa GIF by grown-ish

Despite the apparent simplicity of consent (to me, at least), a lot of people still fail to grasp the concept. In my own country Australia, it’s been estimated that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 25 men have experienced at least 1 sexual assault since the age of 15. For this reason, it’s so important that YA books featuring sexual content touch on consent, even if only in passing. Nowadays there’s an increasing number of great YA novels being published which deal with sexual assault and lack of consent (e.g. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake, Asking for It by Louise O’Neill, etc.) Having stories which cover issues such as revoked consent, the inability to consent, or sexual coercion are valuable in helping readers of YA lit understand what healthy, respectful and safe sexual relationships look like.

However, while I appreciate increased discussions around absent consent, I do wish more YA books featured affirmative consent or respect of an unwillingness/inability to give consent. A sweet example, albeit just regarding kissing, can be found in Francesca Zappia’s Eliza and her Monsters. Eliza’s love interest Wallace writes her a note asking if he can kiss her. Eliza wants to kiss Wallace but the idea of it right then makes her anxious, so she writes back:

Yes, but not right now.

I know it sounds weird. Sorry, I don’t think it’ll go well if I know it’s coming. I will definitely freak out and punch you in the face or scream bloody murder or something like that.

Surprising me with it would probably work better. I am giving you permission to surprise me with a kiss. This is a formal invitation for surprise kisses.

See? Consent can be sexy and adorable.

Contraception, on the other hand, is something I find authors frequently fail to mention (especially in YA fantasy). Worse, when it is discussed it’s largely because the lack of it has resulted in unwanted pregnancy.

Larry Wilmore Television GIF

The most annoying part is that it’s something which can be covered so easily in just two sentences of dialogue or a thought by the POV character. YA contemporaries have a bunch of options to choose from but even in fantasy it’s not difficult to introduce a tea, powder, or the like for that purpose. In Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series characters take a herb called Seabane while in Tamora Pierce’s Tortall universe women wear healer made pregnancy charms. Aside from reinforcing the idea that protection is an integral component of having sex, the inclusion of contraceptives also has the benefit of advocating the sexual agency and empowerment of female characters, a fantastic thing to impart on readers.

Hitting the Emotions Hard

Sexual representation includes a significant emotional and mental dimension. As I mentioned in part one, sex in YA novels shouldn’t be gratuitous and needs to serve plot and character development. Consequently, the emotional representation is arguably more important than the physical. The decision to have sex can be a big deal for teens and there are a wide range of motivations for doing so including fun/experimentation, romantic connection, peer pressure, or distraction from emotional issues. These provide a multitude of avenues for character exploration in YA books. Alongside these are an array of fears, excitements, insecurities, and expectations, e.g. body self-consciousness, worry about sexual performance, doubts about readiness, newfound closeness to a partner, etc. It’s important that YA authors deal with these types of issues in the prelude and aftermath of sexual interactions to provide for more realistic and relatable depictions.

A Bit of Self Love

Masturbation is a normal part of sexual experience. During teen years, when everything is new and different, it’s a great way for young people to learn about their bodies and work out what they enjoy. Having this awareness can be super empowering and allows for more satisfying sexual encounters later in life. Researchers have found that by the age of 14 more than 60% of boys and 43% of girls have engaged in self-love, and it only increases as they get older. So, if we’re talking about representing sex in YA fiction, masturbation is probably something we should be seeing more of. By shying away from it, we’re losing a key component of characters’ sexual journeys and encouraging the idea of it as something taboo or dirty.

Masturbating Sex And The City GIF

Just like with other sex scenes, it’s not difficult to depict masturbation in YA books without heavy graphic detail. A good example of this is by Becky Albertalli in Simon v the Homo Sapiens Agenda in which the MC, Simon, fantasises about his mysterious pen pal, Blue:

I picture it. He kisses me…There’s this electric tingly feeling radiating through my whole body and my brain has gone fuzzy and I actually think I can hear my heartbeat.

I have to be so, so quiet. Nora’s on the other side of the wall.

His tongue is in my mouth. His hands slide up under my shirt, and he trails his fingers across my chest. I’m so close. It’s almost unbearable. God. Blue.

My whole body turns to jelly.          

Again, it’s important that these scenes are contextualised within the broader novel. Is it helping us to understand the depth of one character’s attraction to another? Is a character trying to get a sense of their body before taking things further with a partner (e.g. Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky) or perhaps it’s a coming of age moment? It would be great to see more positive depictions of this in YA stories, especially for girls as their sexual gratification and language surrounding their anatomy is absent far more often than boys.

The representation of sex in YA books is a complex and diverse topic, and I could easily talk about it for far longer than this. There are so many other elements beyond what I’ve mentioned here – communication between characters about sexual experience, how characters of different sexualities play into representation, virgin/slut shaming, just to name a few!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not advocating for all YA books to throw in sexual content. There is always a time and a place for it. But just as we need books under this classification which don’t have any sexual content at all, it’s also important that readers have the option to read books which do. Of those, it’s equally key that authors ensure sex is being represented in a meaningful, relatable and realistic way. Based on some of the issues I’ve talked about, there are still a few things young adult books could change or include to better achieve this.  

What are your thoughts on the representation of sex in young adult books? It’s completely fine if you disagree with me entirely!

Have you read any YA books with good sexual representation?

Just in case you were interested in reading more on this topic, here are a few of the materials which assisted me with this post:

Book Tag: The Flower Book Tag

Many of you will be aware of the fact that I live in Australia. This means that while all you Northern Hemisphere babies are currently enjoying my favourite season, Autumn/Fall (can you feel my jealously from here?), in the Southern Hemisphere we’re in the last month of Spring. Lately I’ve been feeling somewhat put out by all the Autumn themed tags that have been popping up on my feed so I decided, why not do something spring-y instead? And what screams spring more than FLOWERS?

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Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Anyway, this lovely tag is courtesy of Veronika & Sabrina over at Wordy and Whimsical. Let’s get to it.

ROSES: Traditionally Given as an Expression of Love

Favourite Romance In A Book


Josh + Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating – Christina Lauren: Gosh, what is it about tags wanting me to pick favourites? Don’t you know that’s IMPOSSIBLE? How dare you! One of my favourites will just have to do and that’s Josh & Hazel. I love these two and all their opposites attract, friends to lovers wonderfulness. They just interact together so smoothly, flitting back and forth between funny and sweet with ease. Sure, I wish their ending had been a little different (and it’s the only reason this book didn’t get 5 stars), but I would gladly reread this over and over just to see them fall in love again.

Stargazer Lilies: Named for Their blooms that Face Skyward

Favourite Ambitious Character

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Stevie Bell (Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson): Again with the favourites. STOP. Because I seem to mention Mia, Spensa and Jude constantly, today we’re using Stevie Bell. Stevie’s dream is to become a famous detective just like Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot and she believes solving the decades old mystery of Ellingham Academy is what’s going to get her there. However, there’s also the recent death of one of her classmates to keep her busy. Stevie is enthusiastic, intelligent, determined, and willing to do whatever she has to to find answers (even if it means putting herself at risk or nosing into other people’s business). She’s quirky, but it only makes her more endearing.

Peace Lilies: Known as Being One of the Easier Houseplants to Care For

A Book You Think Anyone Could Love


Simon v the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli: I really, really wish I had something under the radar to use for questions like this but I don’t and honestly, I can’t think of a better answer than Simon (well, provided you aren’t homophobic, of course). There’s so much to love about this book and considering how popular it was when it came out, a heap of people agree with me. It’s just so darn sweet and uplifting. It’s also diverse, funny, and romantic without being sappy. I challenge anyone to finish this without a big smile on their face. I’m thinking 2021 might be the year for a re-read…

Chrysanthemums: Given on Mother’s Day in Australia

Favourite Fictional Mother

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Miss Honey (Matilda – Roald Dahl): Okay, so Miss Honey isn’t Matilda’s biological mother but she certainly acts like an amazing mum long before the adoption makes it official. Despite growing up in an abusive home with her terrible aunt, Miss Honey is kind, caring, smart, and loves her students. Most importantly, she recognises just how special Matilda is and constantly encourages her education, even if she has to press Matilda’s parents to ensure she gets the opportunities she deserves. If only we all had parents and teachers as wonderful as Miss Honey.

Spider Plants: Easy to Propagate

A Hyped-Up Book You Love

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The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss: There are A LOT of options for this one because I am a massive sheep when it comes to my book choices. I’ll go with TNotW for this prompt because when I order my GR Read shelf by average rating, this one is pretty close to the top and I gave it 5 stars. The immense degree of hype surrounding this book had me super worried I would end up massively disappointed but as you can see, I wasn’t. It may be chunky, but it’s worth it. The journey! World building! Witty protagonist! Despite the couple of problems I had, there’s just something about it. Plus, there’s a magic academy so…sold.

Lily of the Valley: Pretty but Poisonous

A Book with a Beautiful Cover that was Disappointing


Wilder Girls – Rory Power: The cover for Wilder Girls is gorgeous. I fell in love the first moment I saw it. Unfortunately, the book itself just didn’t reach the amazing highs I’d hoped for. See, this is the problem with having expectations! While 3.5 stars is not a bad rating, don’t get me wrong, I can’t deny that I was disappointed with several elements. I enjoyed the atmosphere, body horror and variations in writing style at certain points, but wasn’t so keen on the open ending, mass of questions I was left with, and underdevelopment of both the characters and romantic subplot. I still think I’d read another book from the author though.

Orchids: One of the Oldest Flower Types Known to Man

FavoUrite Classic Novel


The Secret History – Donna Tartt: I don’t read many books classified as classics and of those I have, there are a limited number that I like. To avoid using Pride & Prejudice again, I’m going with a modern classic – The Secret History. I read this a few months back and was super surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The narrator is unreliable, the pacing is slow, none of the characters are particularly good people and there’s an air of pretentiousness about it all. And yet, I really liked it. In fact, I would probably reread it in a few years just to see if I can pick up more of the details and foreshadowing I missed the first time around.

Peonies: Require Lots of Care

A Bookish Friendship that was Caring and Supportive


House of Earth and Blood – Sarah J. Maas: I love a book with a great friendship. As I only just read it in September, HoEaB is still fresh in my memory. I had some issues with this book but I really liked the friendship between Bryce and her werewolf bestie Danika. This relationship is the heart of the novel and the driving force for the story. While the nature of it is a little complicated as Danika is dead for most of the book, that doesn’t diminish the novel’s ability to showcase the strength of their connection and the immense, sisterly love they have for one another. I can’t say too much more without delving into spoiler territory but honestly, the loyalty, faith and trust between these two is unwavering and wonderful.

Hyacinths: Have a Sweet & Lingering Fragrance

The Sweetest Novel You’ve Read


10 Blind Dates – Ashley Elston: I’ve read quite a few books that I’d say are sweet and heartwarming. Most of them are YA contemporaries. To avoid using the same picks again, I’m using 10 Blind Dates. This book is definitely sweet and fluffy, plus it’s set at Christmas time which gives it some extra sweet points. The book revolves around the MC, Sophie, being set up on a bunch of fun and interesting dates by her relatives to help get her over her breakup. It’s a pretty innocent and enjoyable premise but what I liked most about this one was the family dynamics. Sophie’s big, crazy, Sicilian family is just so warm, quirky and supportive that you can’t help but love them.

Tulips: Bright, Popular & Showy

FavoUrite Larger Than Life Character


Sevro Au Barca (Red Rising Series – Pierce Brown): While he’s not exactly “bright”, Sevro is certainly larger than life with his own sense of…er, flair. He’s one of those extremely memorable fictional characters with a highly defined appearance, voice and personality which makes him so easy to visualise in your head. He’s cunning, scrappy, vulgar, quick witted and never fails to go against society’s expectations. Basically, you’ll be hard pressed to forget he’s present in any scene he happens to be in (in the best way). However, deep down he’s also extremely loyal and has a sensitive side.

Water Lilies: Can be Difficult to Eradicate

A Novel that has Stood the Test of Time & Remained Your Favorite Through the Years


The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger: I can’t even remember how old I was when I first read The Time Traveler’s Wife. Twelve, maybe thirteen? It feels like such a long time ago now. The book was a gift from my mum who, based on a recommendation from someone at the bookstore, thought I’d enjoy it. I loved this novel and it’s one of the few that has ever made me cry. I’ve re-read it a few times over the years (not recently though) but it still gives me the same feelings every read through. I appreciate the characters and enjoy following them through their lives, adore the love story, and my heart breaks at the ending.

Lavender: Has Many Uses – Landscaping, Food, Cosmetics & Essential Oils

A Book You Love That Fits in More than One Genre


This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab: I really enjoyed this duology. I’m also still majorly impressed by how good the concept is: Monsters which manifest as a result of humans’ dark deeds and a city split in half based on the different approaches to dealing with them. The plot moves along at a decent pace and there’s a few twists thrown in here and there. The main characters are likeable, too, and their friendship is very well done. It’s fantasy, horror, and dystopia all wrapped up in one great little package that very easily keeps you turning pages until the end.

What’s your favourite flower? Mine is sunflowers! They’re just so bright and happy. While I was travelling in Italy over ten years ago, we drove past an entire field of them and it was such a beautiful sight.

I hope you’re all staying well and that you’ve got some great books to keep you company.

November TBR: Picking Books Based on 5 Star Read Predictions

We are now officially in November which means there are only two months left of 2020. Considering the way this year’s been going, that’s probably a good thing but it also means we’re getting closer and closer to my annual top ten reads of the year post. I’ve read some great books this year but you know what? I want to make choosing my ten favourite a real challenge. I want some pained groans, frustrated hair pulling, face on desk smashes. Let’s up the difficulty. So, with this in mind, in November I’m going to be tackling a list of books I’m hoping will be just amazing enough to earn, or get close to earning, a spot in the top 10.

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War 2#) – R. F. Kuang

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The Poppy War was a five star read for me and hit number three on my favourite books of 2019. And yet, I still haven’t read the sequel. I’ve left it so long now that I had to re-read the first book last month to refresh my memory (it’s still amazing, by the way). Sequels are always a worry when the first entry in a series is so good, especially considering where book one in this series left off. However, considering it has an average GR rating of 4.34 and some wonderfully positive reviews, I am super confident in the fact that I’m going to love this book. Bring on the gods, monsters, war and heartache.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V. E. Schwab


SCHWABY! I’m so excited that this book is finally out, I’ve been looking forward to it for aggggeeeesss. My copy is still slowly making it’s way over to Australia (the pains of deciding you like the US hardback better than the easy to get UK edition) so I won’t be able to read this one first up, but as soon as it gets here everyone better leave me the hell alone. I’m pretty sure of a high rating for this one for three reasons: 1) it’s written by one of my favourite authors, 2) the ratings and reviews for it have been ridiculously good, and 3) the premise sounds right up my alley – a girl who makes a deal with the devil for immortality in exchange for being forgotten by everyone she meets. Pretty please be good!

The Toll (Arc of a Scythe 3#) – Neal Shusterman


How have I still not read this book? Arc of a Scythe is one of my favourite YA series and somehow I’ve put off reading this for pretty much a year. It’s even worse when I think about the massive cliffhanger Thunderhead left me on. Now that I’ve re-read books one and two in October, I feel fully ready to tackle this book. The first two entries in the series were five and 4.5 star reads for me so I’d say the odds are good that The Toll will be up there as well. I’ve seen a couple of disappointed reviews but also some super happy ones, then again the same thing happens with every popular series. Please just make sure my sweet, little cinnamon roll, Grayson Tolliver, is okay.

Know My Name – Chanel Miller

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I’ve been wanting to read this memoir since late 2019 and considering how woeful the non-fiction section of my 2020 TBR is looking at this point, there’s no time like the present. For those who don’t know, Chanel Miller is the young woman who was sexually assaulted by swimmer Brock Turner at Stanford University. Her victim impact statement was widely read and praised. Here she details the events leading up to and years following the incident – the emotional hardship, impact on her day to day life, and the long, painful journey to trial & conviction. It’ll be a difficult read but a really important one.

Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf 2#) – Ryan Graudin


There aren’t many standalones on this month’s TBR, are there? Well, here we are with another sequel, this time to Wolf by Wolf which was one of the books I included in my ‘Favourite Reads of the Year so Far’ list back in July. This is another read that I should have jumped on earlier than now purely on the basis of the dramatic, cliffhanger-ish ending of the book before. But here we are. I’m very interested to see where the story goes without the structure of the motorcycle race this time and to find out whether the resistance will actually kill Hitler. A few people were disappointed in this book while others liked it better than the first entry. Only one way to find out which I am.

I’m feeling good about this month! But I guess there’s always the chance that I’ll be completely wrong and end up a bitter mess full of crushing disappointment. Please bookish gods, do not let this happen to me. What books are on your November TBR? Are there any that you’re almost positive will be five star reads?

Upcoming Releases: Books I Somehow Forgot Were Still Coming Out in 2020

A lot of books come out every year. Even in the hellscape of 2020. That’s my defense for the fact that my memory clearly has more holes than a sponge. Regardless, there are a few books that I’ve recently been made aware are still coming out in the two remaining months of this year, ones that I’m genuinely looking forward to. What makes me look even worse is that a few of them are pretty big releases. Here are the books that have somehow managed to slip through the cracks (well, my cracks. er…not the best way to phrase that…)

Ready Player Two – Ernest Cline | Nov 24


According to my Goodreads history, I shelved this book to upcoming releases back in August. I have absolutely no memory of this. None. I came across it again about two weeks ago and went, what? WHEN? HOW? Let’s be real, this book was not necessary in the slightest considering how neatly book one wrapped up, but will I be enthusiastically reading it anyway? Yes, yes I will. My nerdy, video game loving self had such a fun time with Ready Player One so considering the premise to this book sounds similar to the first (a riddle, an Easter egg, an intense competition to win), hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable ride as well.

A Sky Beyond the Storm (Ember Quartet 4#) – Sabaa Tahir | Dec 1

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How I blanked on the release date for this is the biggest mystery of all. I follow Sabaa on both Twitter and Instagram and she’s talked about this book constantly for months And yet, for some unknown reason, I was under the impression it wasn’t coming out until 2021. But now I’m annoyed because there’s no way I’m going to be able to reread the 3 previous books in the series and still tackle this on release (I did book three without re-reads and regretted it immensely). This is the last book in the series which means I’m expecting plenty of pain and suffering but, I swear, if anything happens to Helene I’ll riot.

These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong | Nov 17

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Like the other books on this list, I remember coming across These Violent Delights a few months back and going: Oooooo…that looks good! But for some reason I didn’t add it to my upcoming releases shelf (why, Ashley, why?). However, this week I somehow ended up finding it again and was surprised to realise it was actually a November 2020 release! Unlike the other entries on here, These Violent Delights is not a sequel. It’s a Romeo & Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai involving rival gangs and a “monster” causing people to claw their own throats out. I mean, how darn cool does that sound? Early reviews have been good and this is the author’s debut novel so I really hope it’s enjoyable.

The Burning God (The Poppy War 3#) – R. F. Kuang | Nov 17

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Rebecca Kuang must write like her keyboard is on fire. I swear. These books aren’t short or simple and somehow she’s managed to release one each year since 2018. And it’s her first series! As The Dragon Republic only came out in the second half of 2019, I just assumed there would be a bigger gap before book three hit shelves. In my case though, my forgetfulness may also be largely due to the fact that I keep putting off reading book two (I’M DOING IT NEXT MONTH, ALRIGHT). However, the upside is that by the time I finish TDR, The Burning God will be right there waiting for me. I guess there are perks to being a massive procrastinator after all.

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories – Holly Black | Nov 24

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So, this one is a novella rather than a book but because I’m in love with The Folk of the Air series and a sucker for anything to do with Jude & Cardan, it counts. News of this spread back in May of this year but perhaps I was still dealing with my disappointment over The Queen of Nothing and blocked it out. However, as Holly’s pretty much got me on a string, I’ll be back for more anyway. This entry focuses on Cardan and includes story from before, during and after the main series from his POV. They’ve also included some illustrations which is pretty cute and whimsical.

Are there any books still to release in 2020 that you’re super keen for? Perhaps I’ve missed even more than I thought.

Unpopular Opinions on a Sci-Fi Classic: Dune by Frank Herbert

Well, that was one of the more tedious books I’ve read. If ever there was a book I should have just stopped reading, it was this one. Honestly, it took me about two weeks just to finish the last 100 pages. But there ain’t no motivation like an upcoming film adaptation…

Who, What, Where?

Let’s get the summary out of the way first. Dune is set on the inhospitable desert planet of Arrakis which is famed for its rare and extremely valuable resource, Melange or “Spice”. When control of the planet is shifted by the emperor from House Harkonnen to House Atreides, this sets off a conflict between the two families. After Duke Leto Atreides is murdered, his heir Paul and concubine Jessica flee into the desert where they find sanctuary with the planet natives, the Fremen. Here, Paul plans to avenge his father and retake Arrakis.

Rightfully Hyped World Building & Decent Concepts

Much like with The Lord of the Ring and fantasy, I can see why Dune had such an important influence on the science-fiction genre. At the time it was written, this would have been something new and pretty revolutionary, and I definitely understand why people praise the world building as much as they do. It’s interesting, complex, and grounded in research about real cultures and landscapes. Herbert touches on ecology, economics, religion & mythology, politics, and a whole host of other things to create a rich and believable universe. But, unfortunately, world building alone is not enough to make a book good or enjoyable.

Dune’s story has some decent ideas – squabbling between familial houses, a chosen one, an elite group of influential women trying to bring about a prophecy, conflict over control of a precious resource… And yet, the way it all unfolds and is actually told is…bad. It’s just so bad .

Suspense, Plot Twists…What are Those?

There is almost no suspense in this book whatsoever. Why? Because Herbert tells us almost every major plot point well in advance, largely using “excerpts” from historical texts at the beginning of every chapter. Is Paul the prophesied Kwisatz Haderach? Who’s the traitor? What are the Harkonnens planning? We’re told it all in the first few chapters. Worse, the moment we do get to anything slightly more dramatic such as a battle, duel, or assassination attempt, it’s skimmed over in the blink of an eye.

Paul Gary Stu Atreides

I have often said that I can forgive plot failings in a book if it’s got great characters. That was not the case here. I honestly did not care what happened to any of the characters in Dune. If they had simply died in the desert half way through, it wouldn’t have made a difference as far as I’m concerned. Paul, especially, annoys the shit out of me. He just knows everything, spouts prophetic nonsense, goes on about his “terrible purpose” and somehow becomes this perfect, all-powerful and talented leader without really earning it. And the time that we could have potentially seen him earning it is skipped over in a 3 year time jump. Just…why.

Antagonists without Nuance

What is up with the antagonists in this book? No, really. The Harkonnens are so stereotypically, almost cartoonishly, evil (fat, prone to incompetence, plot/boast in overly long monologues, pedofelic) that it’s practically ridiculous. Then there’s the emperor, whose motivations I still have no freakin’ clue about. And to make matters worse, despite the page time these guys get, they end up being essentially useless because, as I mentioned above, Paul is supreme. Ugh.

Dodgy Dialogue

As I said earlier, the writing in Dune leaves a lot to be desired. The dialogue especially is clunky as all hell and there were times where it felt as though two characters were talking at each other rather than with one another. Stylistically, I wasn’t much of a fan of Herbert’s use of third person omniscient with its substantial amounts of boring and fragmented inner monologuing. For example, there’s literally a scene in which Leto thinks the same sentence in italics about 5 times! In general though, I just found the writing confusing, disjointed and uninteresting.

Women + Power = Cannot Compute

Ah, the sexism. *sigh* I know it’s the 60s, but come on. This is supposed to be set in the future and women are still somehow entirely defined by their relationships with men. What frustrates me the most is the fact that Herbert actually created female characters like Jessica and Chani, Paul’s mother and lover, with all the necessary things in place for them to be strong and powerful but simply relegated them to subordinate roles! Then we have the Bene Gesserit – a group of powerful, intelligent women who can control men with a word, integrated into all the major powerhouses of the universe, and yet, their job is essentially breeding while they wait on some prophesied male child?? REALLY? I can’t. I just can’t.

As you can see, this really wasn’t for me. Perhaps if I’d grown up and read it at the time it was first released, I might have a different opinion. But because this is 2020, if anyone asks, I read it, survived it, and can thoroughly explain why I did not like it. To all the sci-fi lovers out there who consider this their bible, please don’t hurt me.

1.5 Stars

Top 5 Tuesday: Favourite Characters O-Z

It’s time to finish what I started! Last week for Top 5 Tuesday, I began my character countdown through the alphabet up to the letter N. This week we’re running through the remaining (and more challenging) letters of O-Z. If you missed part 1, you can find it here. It also explains why my ‘top 5’ is not even close to being a top 5 numbers wise (spoiler alert – I’m always late to the party and somewhat disorganised).

FYI, Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Shannah at Bionic Book Worm and now hosted by Meeghan at Meeghan Reads. If you’d like to participate next week, you can find the October topics here.

O is for Finnick Odair (The Hunger Games Series)


Finnick, Finnick, Finnick, you charming bastard. I’ll be forever mad at Suzanne Collins for what happened to you. Reasons Finnick is on this list: He 1) wields a trident like it’s nobody’s business, 2) adores his girlfriend/wife Annie, 3) has sugar cubes on hand for awkward meetings, 4) hasn’t let his treatment by the Capital and President Snow kill his sense of humour, 5) will happily walk around in his underwear, and 6) would die for those he loves.

P is for Patroclus (The Song of Achilles)


Patroclus is one of those quiet characters that, despite the story being told from his perspective, is easy to dismiss as a side kick at first. But as the story unfolds you come to recognise his bravery, compassion, and awareness of his own strengths & weaknesses. Honestly, he has the purest heart and is basically my sweet, little, ancient Greek cinnamon roll.

Q is for Quan Diep (The Kiss Quotient Series)

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Quan is pretty much a favourite of everyone who reads The Kiss Quotient books. He’s a side character but a super memorable one. While he seems like this bad boy player complete with tats and a shaved head, he’s actually a massive sweetheart. Quan is super supportive of his autistic brother, Khai, very conscious of other people’s body language and feelings, and even offers to marry Esme, the female lead in The Bride Test, to allow her to stay in the United States. He also makes me laugh. I’m so keen to read his love story, The Heart Principle, in 2021.

R is for Rose Hathaway (Vampire Academy Series)

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It’s an extremely rare occurrence for me to be able to say that my fave character in a series is the main protagonist. Rose is one of those special cases and I love her dearly. She’s immensely passionate, a caring and dedicated friend, a hell of a fighter, wonderfully snarky, and so enjoyable to read from the POV of. She grows so much over the series and no matter how many times I read VA, there’s nothing like being back inside her head.

S is for Spensa Nightshade (Skyward Series)

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Ah, Spensa. On my first read of Skyward, Spensa definitely took some getting used to. Overconfident, a flair for the dramatic, and a massive chip on her shoulder, as far as characters go she’s…a lot. Over time though I came to love her for her unwavering determination to achieve her dreams in the face of a lot of hardship and obstacles. She’s also funny, very hardworking, and unwilling to leave a teammate behind. What can I say? I’m a sucker for an underdog.

…and also for Sadie (Sadie)

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Sadie is another one of those characters that has been through so much awfulness that I want to wrap her up in a blanket, hold her and tell her everything will get better. But I can’t. She’s such a broken and vulnerable character with so much darkness and pain her life. At the same time, she has this amazing determination, strength and courage in the face of doing something so destructive and dangerous. While I didn’t always agree with her choices, Sadie was definitely a fighter and I rooted for her all the way to the very end.

T is for Carswell Thorne (The Lunar Chronicles)

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Hey, don’t say I didn’t warn you about my weakness for attractive male characters with slight bad boy streaks and a sarcastic sense of humour who are actually good guys. Because here we have another one. Thorne is probably my favourite character in TLC books. He’s a massive flirt with a decent sized ego and I get so much enjoyment out of reading about his interactions with other characters, especially innocent & sweet Cress.

U is for… I am Useless at Finding a Character starting with ‘U’

V is for Virginia “Mustang” Au Augustus (Red Rising Saga)


There are a lot of amazing and loveable characters in the Red Rising saga but I’ll always have a soft spot for women who can kick serious butt with both their bodies and minds. Virginia is a person that others underestimate at their own peril. She’s cautious, cunning, well spoken, and highly intelligent. However, she also loves fiercely, is loyal and empathetic, and has a strong sense of right and wrong. The perfect balance to our lead, Darrow.

X is for…Xylophone

I’m kidding. Sorry guys, I tried. I really did, but I came up empty.

W is for Willem Ragnarsson (A Little Life)

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This book permanently damaged my heart and soul. It’s full of so much sadness but Willem, for the most part, is a little spark of happiness. He’s such a kindhearted and beautiful person who doesn’t allow fame and success to change him into something he’s not. Also, the relationship between Willem and Jude is one of my favourite parts of the book. *SPOILERS* I was absolutely devastated after what happened to him and haven’t cried so hard reading anything in years.

Y is for Yael (Wolf by Wolf Duology)


As a survivor of Auschwitz and a shapeshifter, Yael certainly has a lot of emotional baggage and identity issues to deal with. But as far as characters go, she straddles the line between strong and vulnerable perfectly. She’s highly capable, smart, and hasn’t let her painful and loss filled past completely close her off to others. Although her mission to kill Hitler does require tough decisions, her underlying kindness frequently shows through.

Z is for Zoya Nazyalensky (The Grisha Trilogy & King of Scars)

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There was no way I was leaving my girl Zoya of this list. Who cares if it might as well be called the Leigh Bardugo character list. I was definitely far from Zoya’s biggest fan when she was first introduced in The Grisha trilogy. I mean, she was kind of a bitch. But then as the books progress and we move into King of Scars, she undergoes so much growth and development, and gets a chance to really shine. I love how sassy, strong, powerful and resilient she is. Plus, her rapport with Nikolai is perfection. Can someone just crown her Queen of Ravka already?

We made it! We survived! Wooooooooo!

Okay, chill out Ashley. It’s not like you just wrote War and Peace.

If you had picked favourite characters for these letters, who would have made the cut? (Plus, any suggestions for my missing letters? First names, surnames and nicknames all count. Let me know!)

Top 5 Tuesday: Favourite Book Characters A-N

No, that is not a typo you see in the title. This week, instead of doing my usual, but infrequent, Top 10 Tuesday, we’re joining in the fun of Top FIVE Tuesday with the lovely Meeghan Reads! You may also be asking: Ashley, if you’re doing favourite characters from A-N, shouldn’t it be top fourteen Tuesday? Okay…you have me there.

To make a long story short. each of the T5T topics for this month have broken down the alphabet into groups of 5 letters (except for the last six). Me, being super late to the party, only discovered this at the point of K-O. Now, because I am (a) super disorganised and (b) stupid, I didn’t just join in for the remaining weeks. Instead, I’ll be breaking up the alphabet into two parts starting with A-N (Truth: I was going to do all 26 in one go, but I almost had a mental breakdown).

For this list, first names, last names and nicknames all count towards allocating characters to specific letters. Let’s begin!

A is for Alex Claremont-Diaz (Red, White & Royal Blue)

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Alex could have made this list purely on the basis of his ability to make me laugh with his dialogue and shenanigans. Smart-mouthed, slightly too overconfident, immense potential to drive me up the wall were he ever to become real, and yet, I absolutely love him. Well-developed characters who are both sweet and hilarious? Irresistible. Also, yay for diverse romantic leads!

B is for Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)


Elizabeth is the 19th century version of a badass. This is a woman from a large & not particularly wealthy family, living in a time in which marriage is essential for young women, and she turns down not one but TWO proposals to men of a higher class than herself. Why? Because she knows what she’s worth and refuses to accept anything less. She’s also witty, protective of her family, speaks her mind and accepts her own failings. You go girl.

C is for Cassian (A Court of Thorns and Roses Series)

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I have so much love for Cassian as a character. Despite experiencing loss, hardship and rejection, he still brings such levity to the lives of people around him. He’s constantly aware of everyone’s emotional states and is always doing his best to take care of them, even at his own expense. On a less serious note, he’s also a massive shit stirrer and is banned from one fey court because he destroyed a building.

…and for Cardan Greenbriar (The Folk of the Air Series)

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I knew from the first moment I was introduced to Cardan that here was a character I shouldn’t like but I was darn well going to love anyway. He’s definitely an asshole at several points during the series, yet he has this annoyingly sympathetic backstory, fantastic chemistry with Jude, and enjoyable path of growth and self-reflection. Like, stop it already! It also doesn’t hurt that he has that dry, sarcastic sense of humour that’s like catnip for me in male book characters.

D is for Declan Murphy (Letters to the Lost)


Oh, Declan. On the outside, he’s this hardened, aggressive bad boy but on the inside there’s so much bottled up pain and grief about past family trauma. Letters to the Lost slowly peels back the layers to reveal the caring and intelligent person underneath. There were parts of Declan’s journey that hit me super hard. I just wanted to wrap him up in cotton wool and protect him from the world. But it was so wonderful to see him make progress by the end of the novel.

E is for Emika Chen (Warcross Duology)

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Emika is ballsy, curious, quick thinking, creative and not afraid to be different. Although she may not be physically kicking ass like other characters on this list, she’s just as strong by virtue of her awesome hacking abilities. I love that she begins the duology as a very independent, can’t-rely-on-anyone-but-myself character who evolves to form meaningful friendships with people she can trust. Also, rainbow hair. Always rainbow hair.

…and for Evelyn Hugo (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo)

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TSHoEH is one of my favourite books and as the strength of it rests on Evelyn herself and the events of her life, it’s no surprise she’s listed here. Evelyn is a beautifully complex, imperfect, ambitious and feminist character. She knows exactly what she wants out of her life and works her butt off in any way she can to get there. Evelyn evolves beautifully over the span of the novel and you can’t help but root for her, despite her flaws, through all the pain and heartache.

F is for Francis (Conversations with Friends)

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Francis is another character that I really shouldn’t like (she’s often selfish, childish and spiteful) and yet, she seems to have taken up residence inside my head and refuses to leave. With her mess of flaws, she just feels so real to me and I can’t help but sympathise with her. Through all her loneliness, self-doubt and hurt, I so badly wanted her to be safe, happy and loved.

G is for Georgina Kincaid (Georgina Kincaid Series)


There’s something about snarky, strong, independent female leads in Richelle Mead books that I can’t help but adore. With her love of shoes & vodka, and the high level of importance she places on her appearance, Georgina doesn’t seem like the kind of character I would normally gravitate towards. But her winning dialogue, love of books, sense of humour, and fighting spirit are what hooked me.

…and for Ginny Weasley (Harry Potter Series)


To say that Ginny got shafted by the Harry Potter film series is putting it mildly (it makes me so mad!). Although she starts out shy, awkward and naive, Ginny grows into a super independent, quick witted, assertive, brave, and magically talented young witch. She takes zero of Harry and her brothers’ crap and can always be counted on in a sticky situation.

H is for Helene Aquilla (The Ember Quartet)

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir: 9780448494517 | Books

When it comes to The Ember Quartet, Helene is officially my girl and she’s ridiculously underrated. She’s easily the most interesting of the protagonists and even though she’s technically on the side of the “bad guys”, she’s still generally a loyal and honorable person. I mean, awesome warrior, stands up to sexist, tyrant assholes, makes tough decisions but still questions the why of them, vulnerable and caring…just EVERYTHING. Basically Helene for empress, okay?

…and also for Hermione Granger (Harry Potter Series)


Hermione was my childhood idol, plain and simple. I’ve gone to many a costume party dressed as her. To kid Ashley, she was both like me and everything I wanted to be – bookish, brave, kindhearted, a star student, supportive friend, and all of it without having to be drop dead gorgeous. As we all know, Harry and Ron would have been entirely lost (and very dead) without Hermione and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for her.

I is Adrian Ivashkov (Vampire Academy & Bloodlines Series)

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While I was definitely a Rose x Dimitri shipper, as far as characters go, Adrian is one of my favourites. He’s another one of those seemingly arrogant, sarcastic, bad boys who aren’t really bad boys and use humour to hide their emotional baggage. It’s my type, okay? I love his fabulous one-liners, flirty nature, good heart, and the depth/conflict that comes with him being one of a select few spirit magic users.

J is for Jude Duarte (The Folk of the Air Series)

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Jude is a character that I took a while to warm up to but after re-reading The Cruel Prince and getting stuck into The Wicked King, the fangirling began – pretty much just stab ’em all, girl. I love that she uses both her mental and physical strength to get what she wants. She’s smart, cunning, and will happily cut people down if they get in her way. There’s something fun and freeing about a character who’s morally ambiguous.

K is for Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows Duology)


As if I could forget old, dirtyhands Brekker. You can’t go past a good anti-hero and Kaz is certainly that. I adore Kaz’s fast working brain – constantly one step ahead, working through the different scenarios. The other fantastic thing about him is that you never know exactly what he’s going to do in a given situation – will he be a decent human being or just hightail it out of there with the money? I’m also a sucker for a tragic backstory.

…and for Kady Grant (The Illuminae Files)

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The second hacker character on the list with colourful hair, Kady is one of the highlights in a wholly amazing book. She’s stubborn, independent, great under pressure and comes up with some enjoyable zingers (my weakness when it comes to favourite characters). Despite danger and fear, Kady doesn’t let anything stop her from doing whatever she can to protect the people she cares about. Bonus: she’s also the reason we got to enjoy more of AIDAN’S antics beyond book one so points for that, too.

L is for Lazlo Strange (Strange the Dreamer Duology)

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Lazlo – my sweet, innocent and curious librarian. He must be protected at all costs. The thing that I like most about Lazlo is the beautiful, almost childlike way he sees the world. To him, everything is full of possibility & magic, and although evidence may be to the contrary, he always tries to see the good in people. The world would be so much better if more people were like him.

…and also for Lila Bard (A Darker Shade of Magic Series)

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) by V.E. Schwab

Thief, pirate, magician – Lila pretty much covers all the most interesting types of characters you find in a fantasy novel in one. She’s daring, proud, a bit devious, and highly adventurous, making her an exciting character to follow around. I mean, upon acquiring an object of immense power, the first thing she did was create a clone of another character purely to make it do a striptease. If that isn’t list worthy material, I don’t know what is.

M is for Mia Corvere (The Nevernight Chronicle)

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Mia, my badass, shadow assassin bitch. How I love her and her amazing one liners. Mia comes off as cold, highly venomous and consumed by her quest for revenge. She’s calculating, manipulative when need be, and will brutally murder you without a second thought if you deserve it. Under the surface though, she has a hidden vulnerability, sense of honour and degree of goodness. I may also love her because her magical abilities are freakin’ awesome & she uses sword blades like a boss.

N is for Nikolai Lantsov (The Grisha Trilogy & King of Scars)

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Isn’t Nikolai pretty much everyone’s favourite character? He was kind of legendary before I even read The Grisha trilogy. Then I read it and got what all the fuss was about. Cocky, flirty, unwilling to be deterred by bad odds, and just overall a fun character, Nikolai brightens up almost every scene he’s in. I love his rapport with Alina and Zoya, and the different layers Leigh Bardugo reveals of him as you progress through to King of Scars.

…and also for Nesta Archeron (A Court of Thorns and Roses Series)

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I admit, it took me a good while to warm up to Nesta but I am now 100% on the love Nesta train and cannot wait for her starring role in the next ACOTAR book. She comes off as this stuck up, selfish, rude and bitchy person but once you actually understand her, you realise just how emotionally complex, hurt and traumatised she is. I am so excited about how much potential for growth and healing she has, and her back and forth with Cassian brings joy to my life.

Fourteen letters down, twelve more to go (including a few very tricky ones!). Would any of these characters feature on your alphabetised favourites list? Who else would you most want to include?

Okay, I need to go take a nap now. Lists are hard….

If You Liked This, Try These: ‘Ninth House’, ‘Illuminae’ and ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’

As you can tell from the title of this post, I’m back with more book recommendations! These suggestions are based on similar themes, moods, genres, character types and everything in between. If you liked the books below, fingers crossed that some of my suggestions will scratch the same itch but hey, there’s no accounting for personal preference (I myself don’t love every book listed here despite their similarities to ones I do love) so pretty please with a cherry on top don’t scream at me later.

Like with my previous recommendations, I haven’t read 100% of the books on this list. However, the ones I haven’t are highly educated guessed based on research and the reviews of others. Feel free to correct me though if you think I’ve really stuffed up somewhere.

Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo

A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik: I’m cheating here as this book isn’t out yet. Still, like Ninth House, A Deadly Education also has a story structured around an educational institution, a darker tone, some dangerous magic, and a tough, mixed race protagonist. It’s also similarly romance light.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt: As far as dark academia tales go, you can’t go past The Secret History. If you enjoyed the secret societies, rituals, morally questionable characters and bleak outlook of Ninth House, you’ll probably like this tale about a group of university classics students who perform a Bacchian rite and end up murdering someone. Like Ninth House, it also happens to be slower paced.

Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This recommendation is all about the mood and atmosphere. While they’re two different genres, there are fantastical elements to both books and each has a beautifully crafted, creepy setting. They also happen to share an ethnically diverse protagonist hunting down the truth about mysterious circumstances.

Vicious – V.E. Schwab: If the part you most enjoyed about Ninth House was Alex’s ability to see ghosts, then Vicious is packed full of people with special abilities. It, too, involves elements of academics gone bad/supernatural-ish, and also involves a bunch of morally grey characters.

Illuminae – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Skyward – Brandon Sanderson: If you want to state the obvious, both the Illuminae Files and Skyward are YA sci-fi reads, but delve a bit deeper and you’ll find they also share strong female protagonists, an interesting & likeable AI, a good level of action, some decent twists, and plenty of enjoyable humour.

Aurora Rising – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: This one doesn’t take a rocket scientist to explain. Same authors, same genre, a similar approach to characters & humour, need I say more?

The Disasters – M. K. England: Like Illuminae, The Disasters is another YA sci-fi read featuring a motley crew of quirky characters on the run after witnessing something they shouldn’t have. Throw in a snarky narrator, fun writing, and plenty of action, and it might be a winner for an Illuminae fan.

Scythe – Neal Shusterman – Okay, this one is a big stretch. I know. Why? Because I’m basing it almost entirely off the fact that most of the people I know who like Illuminae also really like Scythe (myself included) . It might be the fact they share great characters, an AI, a futuristic setting, or some solid plot twists. Then again, it’s probably because they’re both amazing books.

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

Heartstopper – Alice Oseman: While Heartstopper may be a comic series, it and RW&RB both center around adorably sweet, gay romances with plenty of ‘awww’ moments. The two also share a plotline involving a character coming to terms with their sexuality and coming out to their family in a positive way. Mostly, both just leave you with a wonderfully joyful feeling.

Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall: RW&RB and Boyfriend Material hit a lot of common marks. Laugh out loud humour and winning banter? Check. Loveable characters with flaws? Check. Relationship difficulties courtesy of paparazzi? Yup. A fake dating, opposites attract, enemies to loves trope triple threat? Ohhhhh yesss. It may not hit the highs of RW&RB but it’ll do its best to fill the void left behind.

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell: As a YA fantasy read, Carry On is very different from RW&RB in terms of plot but, again, features a very shippable opposites attract & enemies to lovers type relationship between longtime magical roommates/mortal enemies, Baz and Simon.

Her Royal Highness – Rachel Hawkins: If you enjoy the concept of royalty falling for a commoner, HRH fits that to a tee. As a YA book, it’s less steamy than RW&RB but does included a queer romance with a happily ever after. Like Alex & Henry, Millie and her love interest, Princess Flora of Scotland, don’t hit it off right away but we get to witness the slow grow of their relationship into something more.

What do you think of these recommendations? And what books would you recommend to lovers of these three novels?

Last Year I Was Reading… | 17.09.20

In a surprising turn of events, we’re doing something different this week (woo!) and engaging in a little Throwback Thursday fun times. Maria @ReadingMaria came up with the cute idea of ‘Last Year I Was Reading’ in which you compare your current read to the book you were reading at the exact same time last year. You consider how they differ/are alike, which one you like better and mention any specific facts you feel like mentioning.

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


Here it is, my current read, in all of its 803 page, door-stopping glory. After powering through six romance novels in the first week of this month, I couldn’t see why I shouldn’t spend the rest of it tackling one of the bigger books on my TBR. HoEaB is an adult urban fantasy book full of fae, vampires, angels, shapeshifters and a bunch of other magical beings. The story revolves around a half-fae party girl named Bryce teaming up with a disgraced angel, Hunt, to investigate the brutal murders of Bryce’s friends. There’s magic, family drama, characters with plenty of baggage, a bit of violence, and romance typical of a Maas book.

At this point, I’m about 600 pages in and so far so…relatively good. It’s definitely a bigger book than it needed to be, the writing is questionable at points, and I’m still confused about elements of the world building. Still, for the most part, I’m enjoying it. I’ve heard that the last 200 pages get pretty crazy so I’m looking forward to finding out what happens.

The Institute – Stephen King

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In September of 2019 I was making my way through Stephen King’s newest release, The Institute – a sci-fi, fantasy, thriller mix. It involves a group of kids being abducted for their telepathic and telekinetic abilities and taken to a secret facility in Maine (it’s always Maine). Here, they undergo testing to enhance their powers for some mysterious reason before being sent to another part of the complex after which they are never seen again. This was King’s first book in a long time focusing on child characters, which he still writes fantastically. It was very well received, even scoring a win for best horror novel in the 2019 Goodreads choice awards (I wouldn’t consider it much of a horror book though).

I enjoyed The Institute but not as much as I did IT. The characters were certainly likeable and the story did build up to an action packed (if somewhat rushed) climax. Yet, the pacing was a bit too slow in some sections and the neatly packaged ending was disappointing. There was also something missing from it that I still can’t quite put my finger on.

These are two very different books so comparing them is tricky. They both involve fantasy elements I suppose but that’s where the similarities end – vastly different settings, characters, lengths and moods yet still enjoyable. Of the two, I would say that House of Earth and Blood is my preferred read but only because my love for magical creatures comes out just ahead of my obsession with humans with superpowers. I will say though that these are two books that could have had smaller page counts and improved story momentum in spots.

What book were you reading this time last year? Was it more or less enjoyable than your current read?