After a disappointing and frustrating experience with Stalking Jack the Ripper back in 2019, I was extremely hesitant to read Kingdom of the Wicked. But, in the end, there were just too many of my favourite buzz words associated with it to resist.
Who, What, Where?
The story follows Emilia, a Sicilian witch who has grown up being told terrifying stories about the demon princes of the underworld. When she finds her twin sister, Vittoria, murdered, Emilia vows to track down the culprit and get revenge. However, Vittoria is only the latest in a string of dead witches. Desperate for answers, Emilia summons a demon. To her shock, it’s no lower level lackey who answers her call but one of the princes, Wrath, with his own reasons for wanting to investigate the murders. And so, Emilia and Wrath come to an agreement to work together. However, Wrath isn’t the only demon, or member of the royal family, who’s recently appeared in Palermo.
Too Fast, Too Slow
One of the main issues I had with KotW was Maniscalco’s writing style. First up, there’s quite a lot of telling vs showing going on, especially in the first half of the book, and often in the form of Q&A type conversations. Second, there were points where I couldn’t help feeling as though certain scenes/developments were slightly rushed and would have benefited from greater build up or descriptive detail. This would have enhanced the sense of drama and better helped the reader follow what was happening. Prominent examples include the discovery of Vittoria’s body and the book’s end sequence, during which I was muddled as to what exactly was going on. Then, on the other hand, there were other scenes where it felt like we lingered too long. Did I really need to read about Emilia preparing what I’m sure was a lovely bruschetta? Probably not.
All About that Atmosphere
The atmosphere in this book is great. The descriptions of the buildings, food, markets, sounds and smells of Palermo worked wonderfully in not only creating lush Sicilian settings but varying the story’s tone from chapter to chapter. One minute we’re in a sunny, bustling, seaside city with the characters enjoying tasty cannoli, the next Emilia is rushing around ominous, darkened streets with demons potentially around the corner. Yet, I do have to mention that as I was reading I had trouble placing when the story was set. Had I not gone back to check the blurb before writing this review, I still wouldn’t be sure. While KotW is a fantasy, it takes place in a real part of the world and aside from a few references to clothing, there aren’t many era indicators which would have better helped immerse me in the story.
As a heroine, Emilia is a mixed bag. While I appreciated her tenacity, love for her sister, and passion for food, she has a habit of making annoyingly naïve, rash and bad decisions. At first, I was willing to let these slide but there comes a point where you wish you could just shake some common sense into her. She gets fixated on illogical theories despite there being a valid explanation to counteract them and often charges into danger without a proper plan. Here’s hoping for some improvement in book two.
Not So Fairy Tale Prince
In comparison, Wrath is a more interesting and less frustrating character. Mysterious, slightly dramatic, kind of a flirt, and I enjoyed Maniscalco’s somewhat dry approach to his humour. The only problem is that even after a whole book, I still know barely anything about him, which is very disappointing, but I expect that will change drastically in the next book. The interactions between Emilia and Wrath take some time to properly get going but I really enjoyed their conversations and seeing them slowly learn to trust one another, despite their opposition to the other’s species. Plus, the sexual tension is definitely something I’m keen to see more of *winks*.
No Rest for the Wicked
When it comes to the actual plot, KotW took a good while to grow on me. After the original set up, the earlier chapters deal mostly with Emilia attempting to investigate the murders on her own. This isn’t exactly a bad approach, but considering my issues with her as a character, it wasn’t the most exciting time. There’s also the fact that Emilia starts out with very little to go off which results in a lot of her poking around in a somewhat aimless fashion, just hoping a clue will land her in her lap (which it does). The other thing that dampened my enjoyment somewhat is I expected Emilia to team up with Wrath far earlier than she did and this delay was mostly out of stubbornness.
Following approximately the halfway mark, I began to enjoy myself a lot more! The investigation became more focused, Emilia and Wrath were pleasantly bouncing off one another, the interactions with the different demon princes representing the seven deadly sins was fun, and the bigger impending threat of the story was introduced. By the time I reached the climax, I was genuinely disappointed the book was about to be over. While I wasn’t a fan of certain elements of the ending, I’m really looking forward to the exciting change of scenery it creates for the sequel.
As far as a final verdict goes, there were things I liked about this one and others that missed the mark. Still, it’ll likely appeal to a lot of other readers, especially if you enjoyed the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. I will say though, I do feel like it’s set things up for a really good sequel and I’ll be eagerly picking that up later this year.
Time for another book tag! Some of you might remember that back in 2018 I completed the fantasy tropes book tag. Fantasy is easily one of my favourite genres so answering prompts based around my favourite (and not so favourite) tropes was a lot of fun. Another one of my go-to genres is romance so recently I wondered whether someone had created a similar style tag. While there were a couple of romance related book tags, I couldn’t seem to find any dealing specifically with tropes. And so, I decided why not make one myself? Thus, ‘The Romance Tropes Tag’ was born!
If you’d like to do the tag, feel free! Just make sure to link back to this post so I can see all of your wonderful answers.
You are welcome to use my graphics or create your own.
Although this is based around romance tropes, your answers don’t have to be romance books. Whatever fits the prompt!
RED, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
If there’s a limit to how many times I can say I love this book on my blog, please do let me know because I’ve probably long exceeded it already. After reading the first couple of pages of RW&RB I just knew I was going to love it. As it turned out, I was right and it ended up being my second favourite read of 2019. The book deals with the relationship between an alt-version of the prince of Great Britain and first son of the USA. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s sexy, just magical really. RW&RB is over 400 pages long which is chunkier than your average romance read but I was so invested and having such a good time that the pages just flew by. Queer romance gold.
Alina & The Darkling (The Grisha Trilogy – Leigh Bardugo)
I know, okay. I really do. This pairing is a complete toxic mess. The logical part of my brain recognises this fact. I never expected them to actually be end game while I was reading the books but *sigh*, the heart wants what it wants. Maybe it’s the whole light-dark symmetry, or that Mal bores me, or the fact that every conversation between Alina and the Darkling is just plain electric. Nah, in reality it’s probably more than likely because I love the drama that comes with the hero and villain being in love with each other but the plot persisting in pitting them against one another. Why, hello there angst.
Chain of Gold – Cassandra Clare
Every time a new Cassie Clare book comes out, FOMO rears its ugly head. While I read The Infernal Devices back in the day, I haven’t read the last Mortal Instruments book. When The Dark Artifices were releasing I was still determined to catch up but since then I’ve decided not to read any more Shadowhunter books because I just don’t enjoy them like I used to. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel seriously left out and pressured to change my mind with every new release. They’re ridiculously popular so they’re always all over the internet. When Chain of Gold came out last year I was so tempted. The cover was everywhere and the amount of fanart is crazy. I haven’t cracked yet but when the posters for Chain of Iron went up last month, trust me, the struggle was real.
Layla – Colleen Hoover
This book was not what I was expecting at all. Although, it’s likely my fault in this instance. Clearly I need to read the genre tags on Goodreads more because I somehow completely missed that this was a paranormal romance. The blurb does not suggest this in the slightest (or am I simply thick? Read it and let me know). There I was, thinking it was going to be a whole ‘other woman’ scenario (which I guess it sort of was but with a very different approach). So, you can imagine my shock when a ghost showed up a few chapters in. I wasn’t super keen on it for the most part but the twists towards the end certainly picked things up and tied them together somewhat.
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
I first read Lord of the Flies when I was in high school and hated it with a fiery passion. However, I ended up having to read it again a few years later during my university ‘Law & Literature’ elective and found that I enjoyed and appreciated it more the second time through. Published in the 1950s, the book follows a group of schoolboys who get stuck on a deserted island and try (and fail) to create their own version of an organised and lawful society. Sure, the characters were still stupid and nuts, but on reread I was better able to understand what Golding was attempting to say and demonstrate about society and humanity. From 1 to 3 stars. Not bad.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne
I don’t normally read lots of historical or literary fiction but I was determined to give this book a read. I’m glad I did because it was great and very different from much of what I’ve read in the past. The story centers around the life of a gay man named Cyril living in Ireland before homosexuality was legalised. I’m not sure how he does it but Boyne magically straddles the line between humour and tragedy throughout the book, jumping back and forth without ever giving you emotional whiplash. It’s a quirky, somewhat absurd read at times but super charming and immersive and I’m really looking forward to reading other books from Boyne’s backlist.
Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco
Originally I wasn’t going to read KotW because I’m not a huge fan of Stalking Jack the Ripper, but there were just too many things associated with it that I love – witchcraft, murder mysteries, demons, paranormal romance…so I gave in. It’s about a witch and a demon prince in 19th century Sicily teaming up to solve the murder of the witch’s twin sister. I was very unsure early on (I think it’s the writing, lots of tell rather than show) and the story took a good while to grow on me. However, by the second half I was having a much more enjoyable time – the plot had come together better and the dynamic between the two leads was working well. I was actually sorry to see it end so I’ll likely read the sequel later this year.
The Nevernight Chronicle – Jay Kristoff & Shades of Magic Series – V E Schwab
Why did I set myself such a challenging prompt? Crazy. Now I’m imagining all my beautiful books going up in smoke *hyperventilates*. I have quite a few favourite series so I’m approaching this prompt as: which two series would I hate to have to replace? With that line of thinking, and excluding Harry Potter to avoid sounding like a broken record, I’m going with The Nevernight Chronicle by Jay Kristoff and the Shades of Magic Series by V E Schwab. While I certainly adore both of these series for their great characters, amazing fantasy world building, and exciting story arcs, it more comes down to the fact that my copies are all signed (some personally addressed) by the authors so I would be heartbroken to lose either of them. Even if I were to buy them again, they wouldn’t be the same. I guess I’m going up in smoke with them then.
Before you start throwing things at me, I liked The Hating Game (I gave it 3.5 stars after all), but I didn’t LOVE The Hating Game. Considering how hyped this book was I was expecting something more. The banter was a lot of fun and the chemistry between Lucy and Josh was great, I even laughed a few times while reading. However, I really wish the whole enemies part of the enemies to lovers transition had lasted longer than it did and that Sally Thorne hadn’t felt the need to repeat certain descriptors over and over again. Josh’s frequent alpha-male asshole-ness also put me off at multiple points.
I’m going to do 2 answers for this prompt – one for fantasy and another for contemporary. These were both books that I came across during mid-high school and really started my love of the genre.
Fantasy: Twilight – Stephenie Meyer
I assume this would be a lot of people’s answer to this question. No avoiding it because it’s true. I have a little soft, squishy spot in my heart for The Twilight Saga. Probably always will. While it certainly has its many flaws, at the age of fifteen I was pretty obsessed with Bella, Edward and Jacob, and their supernatural love triangle woes. This book hurtled me into the depths of the paranormal romance genre, something I still guilty pleasure enjoy today, many years later. Would probably still reread at some point in the future, not gonna lie.
Contemporary: The Secret Dream World of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella
This book was a gift from my mum and I actually DNF-ed it the first time I read it. I still have no idea why but in my defense, this was a really long time ago. I gave it a second try on a trip to visit my grandparents and ended up racing through it. Having read many more contemporary romances now, were I to re-read it today it probably wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it used to be but at the time I remember it being a lot of fun – Becky and her crazy shopping/debt antics. In the years after I read a whole bunch of Kinsella’s other romcoms (including several in this series) and it’s probably where my love of these types of novels started.
Jude and Cardan (The Folk of the Air Series – Holly Black)
Once again, I’m mentioning my messy and stabby faerie x human power couple, Jurdan. Eventually you all will get sick of me mentioning them over and over (then again, maybe you already are), but for now we’re going to talk about them for the millionth time. These two are somewhat of a toxic clusterf*** at times. However, they just get each other so much better than anybody else does and they feel perfectly matched. Plus the conflict and sexual tension is simply *chef’s kiss*. I love it when they’re sniping at each other, stabbing one another in the back, working together, or being adorably sweet and vulnerable.
My two favourite romance tropes are enemies to lovers and fake dating. They’re massively overdone but I can’t get enough, especially when they’re in the same book. A book I enjoyed that featured both was The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. It’s about Olive and Ethan who hate each other but whose siblings are getting married. After the bride and groom wind up with food poisoning, our leads decide to make use of their all expenses paid honeymoon to Hawaii. However, certain circumstances result in them having to pretend to be newlyweds. It’s a lot of fun and I love a good CLo read, especially one with good verbal sparring.
I hope you all enjoyed trope-ing it up romance style with me and fingers crossed I managed to tick off most of your favourite tropes from the genre. I’m not usually one to tag other bloggers in these types of posts but I’d be absolutely thrilled if you gave the tag a go. If you’d like to, the prompts are listed below for easy copying and pasting. Until next time!
Love at First Sight: A Book You Fell in Love with Almost Immediately
Forbidden Love: A Romantic Pairing You Probably Shouldn’t Love but Do
Stuck Together/Forced Proximity: A Book You Felt Pressured to Read (By a Friend, Bookstagram, Bloggers, etc.)
Mistaken Identity: A Book that Wasn’t What You Were Expecting
Second Chance Romance: A Book or Series You Enjoyed More the Second Time Around
Opposites Attract: A Book You Love from a Genre You Don’t Usually Read
Enemies to Lovers: A Book Whose Second Half is Better than its First OR A Series that Gets Better Over Time
Love Triangle: Your House is on Fire & You Can Only Save One Series! Which Two Series Do You Die Trying to Choose Between?
Friends to Lovers: A Book You Wanted More From
Meet Cute: A Book that Got You Hooked on Romance
Soulmates: Two Characters Who Are Made for Each Other
Bonus: Your Favourite Romance Trope/s & A Book that Features It
Something I hadn’t realised until recently is that this is the first time I’ve ever actually done a book haul post. Pretty crazy, especially considering I’ve been blogging since 2017. It’s probably because I tend to list my hauls as part of my monthly wrap ups. But there’s a first time for everything after all, and now seemed like the time. With my newbie status in mind, I made sure to check out some other blogs for hints on how to format this. From what I could see, most people tend to copy the book covers off Goodreads, list the synopsis and some brief thoughts, and go on their merry way. Smart, efficient, practical. But me, oh no. Past Ashley was like, I should take proper photos of everything!
Never. Again. Let it be said here: past Ashley is stupid.
Moving along, as the title suggests, recently I’ve been really in the mood for mystery/thriller type reads and, as you do when you get fixated on something, I’ve bought a few of them over the last couple of weeks. Okay, more than a few. Here are the new additions to my shelves in all their (annoying printed sticker) glory.
Final Girls – Riley Sager
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
Surprisingly, I’ve already finished this one! I was really in the mood for a quick, satisfying thriller one day and after enjoying Sager’s The Last Time I Lied earlier this year, I thought this might be just what I was after. As it turned out, it wasn’t quick or satisfying. The main story took so long to finally get going and I wasn’t very keen on most of the characters. The big reveal was disappointing, too. Another one of those cases of a good premise and poor execution, I’m afraid.
Stillhouse Lake – Rachel Caine
Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom. With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.
But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.
This book was on my 2020 TBR and I never got around to buying or reading it. So, when I found it on sale on the kindle store last month for less than $2, I couldn’t resist hitting that ‘buy now’ button. I think it’s the cheapest book I’ve ever bought! I’ve seen quite a lot of positive reviews for Stillhouse Lake and the premise is intriguing, however I know it’s the first installment in a series and there’s a cliffhanger ending, which I’m sure will drive me crazy.
The Nowhere Child – Christian White
Kimberly Leamy is a photography teacher in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-six years earlier, Sammy Went, a two-year old girl vanished from her home in Manson, Kentucky. An American accountant who contacts Kim is convinced she was that child, kidnapped just after her birthday. She cannot believe the woman who raised her, a loving social worker who died of cancer four years ago, crossed international lines to steal a toddler.
On April 3rd, 1990, Jack and Molly Went’s daughter Sammy disappeared from the inside their Kentucky home. Already estranged since the girl’s birth, the couple drifted further apart as time passed. Jack did his best to raise and protect his other daughter and son while Molly found solace in her faith. The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal fundamentalist group who handle poisonous snakes as part of their worship, provided that faith. Without Sammy, the Wents eventually fell apart.
Now, with proof that she and Sammy are in fact the same person, Kim travels to America to reunite with a family she never knew she had. And to solve the mystery of her abduction—a mystery that will take her deep into the dark heart of religious fanaticism where she must fight for her life against those determined to save her soul…
I realised looking at my 2020 reading stats that although I live in Australia, I read barely any books by Australian authors or ones set there. It’s kind of sad, so consider this my first step in trying to improve that somewhat. From the blurb this seems like an interesting approach to the kidnapping type story so I’m looking forward to getting around to reading it. The Nowhere Child was shortlisted for quite a few Australian literature awards (what gave it away I wonder, could it be ALL THE PRINTED STICKERS??!!) so fingers crossed it’s a good read.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson
Everyone in Fairview knows the story.
Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.
But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?
Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
I’ve been meaning to buy A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder for a while now so the fact that I finally did isn’t much of a surprise. Unlike the other books on this list, it’s a YA Mystery read. I’ve been burnt by other YA books in this genre before so I’m a little wary but I’ve seen so many great reviews that I’m really hoping for a home run with this one, particularly since there’s another two books in the series after it.
In the Woods – Tana French
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
In one of my recent posts I mentioned wanting to give some of Tana French’s books a try and In the Woods is the first in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. You can read them out of order but I’m a bit of nut when it comes to that sort of thing so the first book it is. She’s a popular author in the genre so I hope I enjoy this because it’ll mean I have plenty of other books from her back catalogue to work my way through.
The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter
Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind.
Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father—Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney—devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.
Twenty-eight years later, Charlotte has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself—the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again, and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized, Charlotte is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress–because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever.
Like Tana French, Karin Slaughter is another big crime author with a healthy backlog that I’ve wanted to give a go for some time. Picking where to start with her books was a tough decision but The Good Daughter is one of her highest rated on GR and the blurb for it definitely grabbed me more than for some of her other books. I know that my grandma enjoys her books occasionally so, at the very least, I’ll have someone to chat to about it.
Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie
The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything – until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting, nothing is ever quite what it seems…
Let me first say, Agatha Christie is a literary queen and amazing. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t buy this because of how pretty the hardback special edition is. I’m not sure how I missed this but over the last few years Harper Collins has released a couple of Christie’s books with brand new, special foiled covers. They have a chosen quote on the back and nice, patterned end pages. As you might have guessed, I’m now determined to collect them all. I decided to go with Death on the Nile first as I know the new adaptation is releasing soon. While I’ve seen other adaptations before, I’ve never read the book and there’s no time like the present, right?
And that’s that! While I have bought a few other reads recently, they’re from other genres and I’ll probably save those to include as part of my end of month wrap up, as per usual. What books have you recently purchased and are looking forward to reading? Have you read any of these books and if so, what did you think? Or even better, do you have any other good mystery/thriller recommendations for me?
As a book blogger, I’m always trying to come up with interesting and different post ideas to explore. However, I also have a selection of post types that are favourites of mine to write. But are the posts I enjoy writing also the ones I gravitate towards the most as a reader? Well, yes and no. On occasion, I do find that there are some types of posts I really enjoy reading from others which I find tedious to write myself. Then, on the flip side, there are posts that I like writing even though I know I’m unlikely to read something similar from another blogger. Bizarre, but that’s the truth. So, here are the categories of book blog posts that I find I enjoy/click on the most.
Now, this is a type of post that I both enjoy writing and reading. From a reader perspective, it’s always fun to see how other bookworms rank or organise certain books (or things connected to them) in relation to specific topics. You get a lot of insight into the types of books, narratives and characters bloggers enjoy and there’s nothing like finding someone else who has the same favourites as you do. Even better, a lot of the time I end up finding new books to read because people have spoken so passionately about them or ranked them so highly.
Book Reviews for Anticipated or New Releases
When it comes to singular book reviews, I tend to only check out book blogs for those dealing with new or upcoming releases. Sorry, guys! Normally it’s because I’ve been looking forward to these books and am interested in reading a somewhat lengthier and more in depth review about them. I know this isn’t the best approach as it means I’m cutting myself off from potentially being introduced to some amazing backlist books I have yet to hear about. Unfortunately, it’s just the way I am. Despite often writing backlist book reviews for my own blog, I find that I usually source my reviews for these types of books in bulk through Goodreads (in other words, if you’d like to be GR friends, hit me up & I will happily read your backlist book reviews!).
Wrap Ups/Mini Book Reviews
Being someone with questionable patience and a short attention span at times (I’m flawed, I know), I really appreciate a good wrap up or mini-reviews post. I love getting a broad overview of what others have been reading and seeing people’s brief thoughts on a bunch of different books. I’m not especially picky when it comes to the types of books covered, but I do tend to click on posts which feature books I recognise. Personally, I always find writing wrap ups and mini reviews tough because once I get stuck into writing a review, the words keep spewing out. Luckily many bloggers are much better at this than I am.
Like lists, this is another post that falls under the ‘enjoy readingand writing’ heading. It’s purely because they’re so much fun and, again, give you insight into bloggers’ favourite things. Depending on the prompts, the way certain tags are answered can also encourage me add books to my TBR for particular tropes, character types or qualities that I would never have known about just by reading the blurb. Tags with quirky themes which link into my other interests are super enjoyable, too, particularly when they involve prompts that are tricky or different from the norm. Bonus interest points for when people try their hand at creating new tags.
Book Hauls & TBRs
My reason for enjoying these types of posts is extremely simple: I love seeing what other people are excited to read! There’s something so uplifting about seeing a stack of books that you just had to splurge on because they all sounded so wonderful or a list of titles that you can’t wait to get stuck into this month, hoping they’ll all be 5 stars. I especially enjoy when that excitement rubs off on me and I end up going out to pick up one of those same books for myself. Added bonus, these types of posts are usually quick, easy reads and great for when you only have limited time to check in with other bloggers.
Blogging Guides & How To Posts
I’ve been blogging for a few years now so I have a basic understanding about many of the things associated with it (emphasis on basic though, very basic). But, there are always so many new things for me to learn and others that I could improve or be doing better at. This is where the experience of other amazing bloggers comes into play. I love reading helpful posts with tips and guides on content, graphics, photography, SEO, and everything you can possibly think of that could assist me on my blogging journey. Blogging can be hard work sometimes and it doesn’t always pay off in the way you hope, so it’s great to find a post to assist you in better achieving your goals and making you feel a bit less stupid.
Everyone enjoys something different so I know not all of my most enjoyable types of posts to read will be the same as yours. What are your favourite types of posts? Are there any post categories that you actively avoid?
As much as I hate to say it, Chosen Ones is another one of those books with a great concept but not so great execution. I mean, taking the chosen one trope and grounding it in reality by looking at the aftermath and trauma that comes with it? Such a good idea! If only this fantastic potential had been better taken advantage of.
Who, What, Where?
Fifteen years ago, five teens – Sloan, Matt, Inez, Albie and Esther – were singled out by the government as potential chosen ones, prophesied to defeat a powerful entity known as The Dark One. Following his defeat, the world seemingly returned to normal. Now adults, the group is trying to adjust to living as regular people again. But how can they when they’re the most famous people around? More so, after everything that’s happened to them? Sloane, in particular, has had a hard time moving on – nightmares, PTSD, and secrets about her kidnapping by the Dark One that she hasn’t told anyone. Around the tenth anniversary of their triumph, one of the five shockingly dies and the remaining chosen ones are sent hurtling into another prospective battle with a new Dark One.
Too Long to Reach the Good Stuff
If I had to use one descriptor for this book, it would unfortunately have to be ‘a slog’. The last third or quarter of Chosen Ones is actually pretty enjoyable. Plotlines come together, secrets are revealed, there’s action, our villain develops a backstory…but gosh, does it feel like a trial to get there.
The pacing for most of this book leaves a lot to be desired. My interest would register in short bursts only to disappear again for large stretches of time. The earlier chapters deal with establishing the chosen five (plus their baggage) and the world ten years after the defeat of The Dark One. This was fine at first but after a while I found myself wondering where it was all going. Once part two hit, a major and unexpected shift in the narrative occurred which led me to believe things would start to pick up. Instead, I got some wandering around the city, character squabbling, and boring magic instruction (something I’m normally crazy about). Finally, at long last, some new characters were introduced and I began to get a better sense of the overarching conflict, allowing me to feel more engaged in the story. However, by this point, I couldn’t help but feel as though it was a case of too little, too late.
Not My Chosen Ones
When it comes to slower reads, I’m 100% fine provided I have characters I can connect with and get invested in. This wasn’t really the case here. I enjoy the occasional abrasive, emotionally complicated and typically ‘unlikeable’ character, but for some reason I just didn’t click with Sloane. I’m not sure whether it was the distance created by the third person narration but I never really felt as though the book got as emotionally deep with her trauma as it should have. Regrettably, I felt the same way about the rest of the chosen ones and for a book that I believed was going to focus on exactly this theme, it’s hard not to be disappointed.
In the end, my attitude towards most of the characters in this book can only be explained as indifferent. While I thought Albie was sweet, Ines disappeared for most of the book, Matt was annoying and boring, and Esther was…eh. Both Mox and Ziva were likeable with solid potential but because of their point of introduction in the story, there wasn’t enough time to properly develop them into anything substantial.
Documents and Files
One of the things I quite liked about the book was its use of files, reports, newspaper clippings, etc. to break up the third person narrative. There may have been one or two inclusions that I found a little pointless (poems?), but overall, these were a nice way to provide context to some past events in a different way than the standard flashback. Each excerpt isn’t always relevant at the exact moment it arises, but they do provide useful world building and background information for events further on down the track.
All Grown Up?
Chosen Ones is Veronica Roth’s first adult classified book. Despite it being targeted at an older audience, there’s a definite young adult vibe here. A couple of the themes seem slightly more mature, but the characters and writing often still have that YA feel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I can understand why such an approach would fit this particular story. Here, we have several adults who lost a significant part of their teenage years training to fight a mass murderer magician in a fight they weren’t even sure they would survive. Consequently, they didn’t go through the usual milestones, learning experiences and development of normal teens and this has impacted on how they interact and behave as adults. Sure, it can be a bit frustrating to read about adults acting like bickering teenagers, but it’s believable in the context of the narrative.
The later parts of Chosen Ones give me hope for a more enjoyable sequel, yet I don’t really see myself picking up the second entry in this duology. I’m sure that the big bang ending to the book will pull a lot of readers in on curiosity to see how events play out, but I don’t think I can trudge through another 400 or so pages if I’m wrong.
Once again, it’s time for another installment of Top 10 Tuesday (hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl). This week’s topic is ‘Books on my 2021 Spring TBR’. But, as you know, I’m Australian so Autumn TBR it is! Here are some reads I’m really looking forward to starting this season.
Our Year of Maybe – Rachel Lynn Solomon
Over the last few months, I find that I’ve been gravitating towards more adult reads than I ever used to. However, lately there have been a few YA reads that have caught my eye, one of which is Our Year of Maybe. It’s about two best friends, Peter and Sophie. Peter is a pianist and in need of a kidney transplant, while Sophie, a dancer who has had a crush on him for years, turns out to be a match. Hoping the transplant will elevate their relationship to the next level, Sophie decides to donate. Things don’t exactly turn out as planned when post-operation, Peter finds himself drawn to Chase, a guitarist in his new band. I’ve heard that Solmon’s books read on the older side for YA and that she talks about a lot of topics which aren’t frequently represented in young adult books. I have high hopes for this one so fingers crossed.
She Who Became the Sun – Shelley Parker-Chan
After finishing the last book in The Poppy War series by R F Kuang earlier this year, I am so ready for some more Asian inspired fantasy x historical fiction, and from an Australian author, too! What I’ve heard of this book so far has been fantastic (pleeasssee don’t be a disappointment). It’s pitched as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles and I’m just like…two of my favourite things? Yes, please! The story is about a brother and sister whose futures are predicted – the boy, greatness, but the girl, nothingness. After their family is attacked by bandits and her brother dies, Zhu takes on his identity to enter a monastery as a male novice and achieve his fated destiny. I was super lucky to receive an ARC of this book and I’ll definitely be getting stuck into it very soon.
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
It’s time to tick off another classic! I’ve been wanting to read Rebecca for years but always seem to talk myself out of it. I think I’m just worried it won’t be my kind of book because it’s more about the atmosphere and writing than it is about plot but I should really stop underestimating my ability to enjoy different kinds of novels. I was originally hoping to read it before I saw an adaptation but well, that failed…so here we are. As I’m sure everyone is aware, the book follows a young woman who meets and marries a wealthy widower named Maxim de Winter and moves into his large estate called Manderley. There she has to deal with the shadow Maxim’s former wife Rebecca casts over their lives. It’s all very gothic and creepy.
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
The only Murakami book I have ever read (or attempted to read) is 1Q84 and it was…weird. Very weird. So, I’m hoping for a different result with my second attempt at his work. Norwegian Wood, on the other hand, is supposedly one of Murakami’s more straightforward books (no sci fi or magical realism) and funnily enough, it’s also probably his most popular. Even the author himself is confused as to why. It deals with a 37-year old man looking back on his life 20 years ago and his first love. It’s supposed to be a pretty dark read at times and heavily deals with things like suicide and mental illness. I get the feeling this one is going to hurt but then again, that’s not always a bad thing.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown – Talia Hibbert
I definitely feel like I’ll be in the mood for some contemporary romance very soon because I’ve yet to read any in 2021. The bright yellow cover for Take a Hint, Dani Brown is definitely calling my name. As is the fact that it’s another faking dating story. I read the prequel, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, in 2020 and had fun so I thought, why not give the second installment a try? This book is about Dani who’s not really looking for a committed relationship right now. However, after she gets photographed being rescued by security guard Zaf during a fire drill, the internet starts shipping them together. Zaf asks Dani to play along to help with publicity for his children’s charity and Dani agrees. As you’d expect, cue sparks. This sounds like a sweet and sexy read so I hope it’s enjoyable!
Layla – Colleen Hoover
Here I am again, reading another Colleen Hoover book, although one that’s a bit different from her usual novels. This one is about a couple named Leeds and Layla who try to get their relationship back on track after an almost fatal attack by staying at the bed-and-breakfast where they met. But then weird things start happening that can’t be explained and Leeds turns to another guest for comfort. I’m not really sure what to expect with this one other than that it’s a paranormal romance of sorts. Confession though, I’m already about a quarter of the way through and still really on the fence about what to think. Here’s hoping it ends up being a Verity sort of scenario, which I really liked.
This is How you Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
I’ve never been much of a novella or short story reader. Usually I like books to have more room to breathe in terms of their narratives and characters. However, after enjoying Becky Chambers To be Taught, If Fortunate, I thought I’d give this one a go as I’ve heard so much about it. The novella deals with two time-travelling spies from different worlds, Red and Blue, on opposites sides of a conflict who fall in love via letters. I’ve seen two general reactions to this, 1) it was really confusing and weird and I was not a fan, and 2) This book was so amazing and I will need multiple re-reads to fully appreciate its beauty. My thoughts right now: intimidated. I really hope I like this and it certainly sounds really unique, but at least if it’s not my cup of tea it’s only around 200 pages long.
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars – Christopher Paolini
I’m starting to realise that the books I’m tending to let sit on my TBR for extended periods are the doorstoppers. I’m afraid if I don’t start reading some of them, they’re going to launch a protest, rise up and bury me somehow. So, we’re going to try and tackle To Sleep in a Sea of Stars because it’s the scariest looking one and would probably be the ring leader in such an assault. This is a Sci-fi first contact story which follows a xenobiologist named Kira who comes across an alien artifact on a moon. This has big consequences for her and her crew, and triggers the start of an intergalactic war against humanity. It sounds really intriguing but I’m definitely worried about the amount of world building and whether the book will drag. Guess I’ll have to find out.
The Soulmate Equation – Christina Lauren
So, this book doesn’t actually come out until May but hey, it’s still Autumn. I’m also including it because I know it’s unlikely I’ll resist reading it for very long after it comes out. As you guys probably already know if you’re regular visitors to my blog, I love a good CLo Romance and this one sounds really good! It’s about a single mum named Jess who signs up for a DNA based match-making service which claims to be able to find your soulmate. She ends up matched with the company’s founder, Dr River Pena, with an unheard of 98% compatibility. The company offers to pay her to give the match a chance as a form of promotion for its stock. It’s an opposites attract type story and I can already partially predict how the plot will play out but I’m still really keen.
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is another one of those aforementioned large books threatening to hurt me if I don’t read it soon. I’ve found myself glancing at this one on my shelves a lot lately (probably because of the pretty nature patterned, olive green spine) so I’m sure I’ll probably crack soon and just sit down to read it. The text is quite large in this edition so I’ll take comfort in the fact that it looks a lot bigger than it probably is. As almost everyone knows by now, this is a coming of age story about four sisters, Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy, in 1860s Massachusetts. This novel is on my classics TBR so I’m looking forward to being able to finally check it off.
I’m feeling good about the next couple of months and hopefully I discover some more books to add to my annual favourites list. If everything could just be a five star read from here on out, that would be great. Thank you.
What books are you most looking forward to reading over the next few months of Spring/Autumn?
Everyone has a favourite season. Mine, by a long way, is Autumn. I love watching the leaves change colour from green to gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow, and finally getting to break out my warmer wardrobe again (I own A LOT of sweaters). While all you northern hemisphere people are enjoying the first few weeks of spring, in the southern hemisphere I’m currently throwing my usual ‘Thank god, summer is over party’. With this in mind, I thought I’d do a fun little post to showcase some book covers which really capture those Autumn feelings. Leaves, warm colour schemes, coziness, rustic vibes, all that wonderful goodness. Enjoy!
Did I miss any notable ones? What’s your favourite Autumn feeling book cover?
As hard as it is to believe, we’re already two months down on 2021. Summer is over and I am so ready for Autumn to hit me up. I’ve been watching less TV over the last few months and reading more than normal, which is why I’m around 6 books ahead of where I was this time last year. Who would have thought, in order to make reading goal progress you just have to…read more? I know, I’m shocked too. Now, before you scroll down and see for yourself, let’s just get it out of the way early: yes, there’s a lot of ACOTAR going on in this wrap up.
In January I read a total of 9 books. *blinks* I’m still confused as to how I did this, especially since several of them were pretty chunky.
The Duke and I (Bridgertons 1#) – Julia Quinn ★★ | Review
As you can already tell, I liked the adaptation better than the book here. I didn’t mind the first half. Sure, there’s A LOT of dialogue and we’re reminded that Daphne knows about men because of her brothers 50 million times, but the banter is good and the friends to lovers shift is nice. The second half, however, is.. icky. Simon telling Daphne that he “owns” her, NO. Daphne taking advantage of drunken Simon to get pregnant against his wishes, MILLION TIMES NO. Also my god, the last couple of pages are so sappy I was inwardly cringing. Not what I was hoping for.
The Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager ★★★★
I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. The story revolves around the reopening of a summer camp that three girls went missing at 15 years before. The camp setting was a great choice and provided some quality, creepy atmosphere and tension. I really liked the way the book utilised past and present timelines and how these wove together. The idea of an unreliable narrator was good but I do think it could have been used to better effect. There are parts of the climax that feel unbelievable and lazy, although the epilogue is great. I only wish that the reveals presented in it had been integrated into the main story rather than just the last couple of pages. I’ll definitely be checking out Sager’s other books.
The Burning God (The Poppy War 3#) – R. F. Kuang ★★★★.5
This series is officially one of my favourites. I finished TBG and stared at the wall for ten minutes trying to process the emotional roller-coaster of it all. There were a couple of plot threads I wish had been handled more satisfyingly or with greater purpose (e.g. The Trifecta) but overall, this was great and I wasn’t disappointed. The writing and world building is still fantastic, and I continue to remain in awe over how complex Kuang’s characters, relationships and plotlines are. Nothing is ever easy or what it seems, characters always exist in shades of grey, and despite what the victors lead you to believe, there are no true winners in war. The Burning God is grim, compelling, bloody, and memorable right til the end.
A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR 1#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★
This is the third time I’ve read this book and my thoughts haven’t changed much. It’s still a solid three star read for me – enjoyable but nothing mind-blowing. I think that’s mainly because most of the action doesn’t start until well into the book, many of my favourite characters aren’t introduced until book two and Feyre as a lead is on the boring side until later.
A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR 2#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★★.5 | Review
ACOMAF is my favourite of the original series, but I think that’s the general consensus. I still loved it but while my original review was 5 stars, on re-read I’m knocking it down to 4.5. The second time around I definitely felt the length of the book. As much as I adore the slow-burn of Feyre and Rhys, overall it’s a bit slow at times and probably could have been cut down somewhat. Also, the storyline outside the romance could be better handled and I still agree with myself that the climax is rushed and kind of convenient.
A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOTAR 3#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★.5 | Review
ACOWAR was also noticeably less enjoyable on re-read. Not hugely so, but enough to push it down from 4 stars to 3.5. I still had fun and love the characters but a couple of things impacted the enjoyment factor. First, the constant uses of ‘mate’, ‘female’ and ‘male’ bugged me more this time and were pretty uncomfortable. Second, there’s a few too many Feysand sex scenes. I love a bit of steam but there comes a point where it becomes repetitive and boring. Third, having just binge-read the previous two books, I found that the 700 page run dragged a lot more this time. And lastly, there are some major plot conveniences, especially when it comes to the death count of characters we know the names of.
From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash 1#) – Jennifer L. Armentrout ★★.5 | Review
Blame Goodreads. The hype made me do it. While it may not have lived up to it, I had an alright time just the same. This book is a trope mine-field and very predictable because of it. The pacing is messy at times and the world building is questionable, too. There’s also a couple of noticeable and repetitive issues with the writing itself. Regardless, it’s a pretty addictive read with decent characters and an engaging enough romance. Not the best fantasy-romance I’ve read by a long shot, but fun enough for me to want to read the sequel.
A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash 2#) – Jennifer L. Armentrout ★.5 | Review
I’d heard that the sequel was better than the first book. Um, no. Definitely, no. My main issue with AKoFaF was the lack of plot. Almost nothing happens and for a 600+ page book, that’s saying a lot. The Poppy-Hawke angst was really frustrating and repetitive, and I will never understand why JLA decided that the fake dating trope route was the way to go. This felt a lot more romance based than book one and the vampire aspect was definitely played up more too (which I did like). I’m kind of annoyed because I wasn’t planning on reading the next book but then I got to the last few chapters and they were actually interesting so now…ugh. I think I’m in for more suffering.
If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio ★★★★★
To my surprise, I loved this book! There are a lot of similarities to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History but as blasphemous as it sounds, I liked this slightly more. The story follows a group of Shakespeare players/friends who slowly implode after they let one of their number die. Watching the lies, secrets and guilt slowly tear everything apart was enthralling and I was hooked. I love how Shakespeare’s plays were incorporated into the story (life imitates art) and the way the book was structured like a Shakespearean tragedy. The characters are designed to feel like stereotypes but Rio tries to get underneath the surface to explore their strengths, insecurities, and relationships. James and Oliver’s bond in particular was so good and their scenes were magnetic. Honestly, I’m shocked this was a debut and I’m positive I’ll re-read it in the future.
February was closer to my usual reading pace, still slightly ahead of normal though, and included two of my most anticipated 2021 releases. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up with as many high rated books as I did in January (then again, part of January was taken up by re-reads) and I finished up on 6 books.
Lore – Alexandra Bracken ★★★
I really thought I’d love this book considering it was pitched as The Hunger Games meets Percy Jackson but, in the end, I couldn’t get past a 3 star rating. I really liked the use of Greek mythology and world building (the NYC setting gave me serious Mortal Instruments vibes) but I found myself disinterested in the plot and characters for large stretches. My engagement picked up after the halfway mark but not as much as I wanted it to. One of the other problems I had was that the main villain of the story felt very flat in that there was barely anything to him aside from wanting power for power’s sake, which is super boring. Still, a fairly well-done YA urban fantasy.
I’d been really looking forward to reading The Project ever since it was announced because I loved Sadie. While this didn’t reach the highs of Sadie in terms of emotional intensity and immersion for me, I still enjoyed it. Well, as much as you can “enjoy” a book about a cult with such dark themes and content. It’s a slow read which takes time to really showcase what it’s trying to say but it’s also very clever, subtle and insidious in how it goes about it. I like that Summers isn’t afraid to use typically unlikeable heroines and that the heart of the book was another complex sisterly relationship. The ending may have let me down in some ways but overall, a strong and emotionally grounded story.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne ★★★★.5
I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this. It follows the life of an adopted, gay man named Cyril living in Ireland in the decades before homosexuality became legalised. The writing in this is so darn good! I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that’s managed to blend comedy and tragedy together as well as this book does. The dialogue is perfection – it’s so quick-witted and flows beautifully. It’s a quirky read and feels a little absurdist at times with the events that occur and coincidences that pop up, but it works. I only wish that I’d gotten to know certain characters better to properly feel the emotional moments surrounding them. I’ve already added two of Boyne’s other books to my to-read shelf.
A Court of Frost and Starlight (ACOTAR 3.1#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★ | Review
Like the other ACOTAR books, ACOFAS has also gone down rating wise on re-read. I like that the novella tries to show the impact of the war, but it does feel a lot like fan-fiction-ish fluff. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and as a lover of these characters it’s fun seeing them get drunk, have snowball fights and hang out. However, there’s a lot of shopping, talking about gifts for solstice and SO MUCH Feysand acting like sex-crazed teens for such a short read. Can you not for just two seconds? Feyre’s sections also felt more tedious this time through. I do appreciate the way it sets up Cassian and Nesta’s story in ACOSF though.
A Court of Silver Flames (ACOTAR 4#) – Sarah J. Maas ★★★.5 | Review to Come
What a ride. There were certain parts of ACOSF that I really liked and others that were a let down or just frustrating. In the good column was Nesta’s journey. I would have liked a teensy bit more gradual mental/emotional development to go with the physical, but overall I was really happy. Also in that category was the friendship element which I adored. Super sweet and so much female empowerment. In the ‘not so good’ column was the human queen/magician/Eris plot, which I honestly did not care about except for cool magical objects, and the over reliance on sex scenes to build the Cassian-Nesta relationship. Finally, in the GTFO column, we have the Feysand storyline. Like, why? Why are you trying to steal my babies’ limelight? And Rhys, you’re massively on my shit list after this book.
Piranesi – Susanna Clarke ★★.5
This is one of those ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ experiences. For the first 70 pages or so I was bored, confused and considered DNF. Yet, I decided to stick it out to page 100 and shortly after that it started to grow on me. There were definitely stretches of this that I enjoyed but l feel in the end that I wanted so much more from it. Viewed broadly, I like the basic concepts of Piranesi‘s tale (a labyrinth classical mansion in another universe, scholars with crazy theories, an unreliable narrator who has to unravel a mystery of sorts, etc.) but I feel like it either should have been shorter, to cut down the empty beginning, or longer to properly develop the background events, characters, and dramatic reveals. On the whole, different, weird, and something I see other people really liking but not for me.
So, I actually bought a couple more books over the last two months but since I managed to read them during this period as well, I’d rather not list them here again and double up. Besides, it makes me feel better about how much money I spent. Living in a state of denial works for me, thank you very much. A few very different types of books here and I’m looking forward to each of them. I’m so excited I got approved for an ARC of She Who Became the Sun. It’s due out in July which makes me want to hold off on reading it for a while but that may be difficult as it’s being promoted as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles which, as you can imagine, makes me do love heart eyes.
Just in case you missed them, other than my book reviews which are linked above, here are the posts I published over the last two months:
Not much to report so far. Lately I’ve been trying to get some online courses done which relate to qualifications I need to stay in my job. It’s been pretty time consuming and painful, and motivation is low. This month I also started posting the occasional photo to my bookstagram again. The effect my long absence has had on how the algorithm shows my posts to people now compared to how it did a year ago has been disheartening and frustrating but I guess the only thing to do is keep at it, I guess.
On the social side, I finally got to see one of my closest friends recently after not having seen her in over a year. I’m sure you can all relate to this – the struggles of Covid-19. We’re extremely lucky that we live in Australia where our government has managed the virus so well but border restrictions and closures since things first started have made it very hard to see people in different states. My friend and I had a good catch up and went to see Frozen The Musical which was a lot of fun but definitely an experience in having so few people in the audience.
I hope 2021 is treating you all well so far and that good things are in store for March. Let me know what your favourite reads from the last two months were and what you’re most looking forward to next month!
Hello, hello, hello, bookish friends! Today I’m looking at five authors who I want to try reading books by at some point soon. Soon-ish. Sort of soon. Okay, at some point before I inevitably die (because isn’t that just bookworm life?). Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm and is now hosted by the lovely Meeghan over at Meeghan Reads.
In recent years I’ve been gravitating towards the occasional mystery/thriller type read, something I was pretty big on in my later teen years. Tana is one of the major authors in this genre and I seem to see her books pop up a lot because they’re pretty darn popular. I’m keen to read the first few of her Dublin Murder Squad books, especially The Likeness because of my recent interest in dark academia books. I’m not 100% sure whether I’ll like her writing but I guess there’s only one way to find out.
I somehow only found out about T J Klune towards the end of 2020. Flash forward to now and I have four of his books on my TBR. Three of them I’ve heard wonderful things about (they’ve all got like 4.4 average stars on Goodreads, like WHAT?) and one comes out later this year which sounds super cool from the blurb. The word is that he writes really heartwarming, diverse and funny stories, and I really, really hope that they live up to expectations because I’ll be a little bit heartbroken if they don’t.
N. K. Jemisin
At this point, I think I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve seen rave over the amazing-ness of Jemisin’s books. The fact that she’s won both a Hugo and a Nebula award is pretty damn impressive, too. I’ve definitely had The Broken Earth series on my radar to read for ages but as usual, I keep putting it off. I recently also added The City We Became to my TBR because the concept just sounded so different and intriguing that I felt I had to give it a go. I’m not sure when I’ll finally get around to giving her work a try but it’s certainly on the list for the future.
I’m sure you guys know that I’ve been reading a lot more adult contemporary romances over the last two years and having a heap of fun. Abby Jimenez is an author I’ve seen come up quite a few times during my scouring of the interwebs for some good reads to tackle during my romcom binges and I’m almost positive that one of her books will be included in my next one (whenever it may be). Her 2020 release, The Happy Ever After Playlist, was actually nominated for a GR choice award last year and I’m really looking forward her upcoming April 2021 release, Life’s Too Short, which sounds great.
Rachel Lynn Solomon
There are a couple of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s books that have grabbed my interest of late and I’m really excited to give them a read. From what I’ve heard, her YA books tend to fall on the older end of the age bracket in terms of themes and characters, something I really like the idea of, plus she has a couple of adult reads which seem interesting too. Right now Today, Tonight, Tomorrow and Our Year of Maybe are the two books at the top of my priority list (as an added bonus they have pretty cute covers, too).
What authors are on your list to try out in the future? Which books of theirs are you most interested in?
So, let’s not add ‘join a cult’ to our bucket list. But then again, I guess no one really plans to join a cult, do they?
Who, What, Where?
Following the death of her parents in a car wreck, thirteen-year-old Lo Denham was left in the care of her great aunt when her sister, Bea, mysteriously joined The Unity Project, a religious charity organisation working across Upstate New York. Now nineteen and alone, Lo hasn’t heard from her sister in years and spends her days working as an assistant to the head of SVO magazine. One day a stranger recognises her by name shortly before throwing himself in front of a moving train. The man’s father blames The Unity Project for his son’s death. Lo has always believed there’s more to the organisation and its charismatic leader, Lev Warren, than meets the eye and sees this as the perfect opportunity to not only expose the group and find her sister but to make her name as a journalist. To her surprise, Lo is granted permission to write her story and full access to both The Unity Project and Lev himself, the organisation hoping to prove once and for all that they have nothing to hide. Yet, the more Lo begins to investigate, the more she starts to question who to trust and what the truth is. But is the truth really what she’s looking for?
One of the things Courtney Summers is known for is her unlikeable but complex leading ladies, and Gloria ‘Lo’ Denham definitely fits the mould. I started out somewhat unsure about Lo. She’s acerbic, ambitious, stubborn, and because of the loss, rejection and trauma in her past, it often feels as though she walks around with a giant rain cloud hovering over her head. My connection with Lo is complicated in that while I never grew to “like” her as a person, with time I did come to care about what happened to her and to appreciate her emotional depth. Seeing other characters take advantage of her loneliness, fears and insecurities was difficult to witness and I hoped that she would find some level of peace by the end.
Having A Sister is a Promise
Like Sadie, at its heart The Project is a novel about the bond between sisters. The story is told effectively in dual timelines between Bea in 2012 and Lo five years later. Early on, I found it difficult to invest in Bea and Lo’s relationship as their scenes together are limited and mostly take place either when Lo is a baby or not fully conscious after the car accident. Yet, Summers managed to successfully build the connection over time through the intensity of the girls’ thoughts and actions to create a messy, raw and painful depiction of unconditional love.
There’s a beautiful contrast between the progression of Lo and Bea’s stories that I really enjoyed. Both girls start out with vastly different attitudes towards religion, The Unity Project, and themselves, and it’s interesting to see Bea’s eyes slowly open to the issues around her whilst Lo simultaneously seems to close hers for want of family, safety and belonging.
The Project is not a twists galore, drama-filled book. It’s a very slow build that takes time to get into, and as I was reading there were several points at which I wondered where it was all going. I later came to understand that this pacing is crucial to the story it’s trying to tell. As an Average Joe, it’s difficult to grasp the psychology behind people who willingly join and remain parts of religious cults. More so, how cult leaders can hold such power and sway over their members. The Project takes the time to illustrate this in a believable way. Through both Bea and Lo’s stories we’re able to see just how much influence a person can wield over those who are isolated, lost and broken by making them feel seen and valued, and giving them hope and purpose. The manipulation, control and gaslighting within The Unity Project is subtle and insidious. By the time the darkness underneath starts to reveal itself, the reader (like Lo) has been led into such a false illusion of peace and comfort that it’s difficult to recognise or process the acts of abuse so casually mentioned.
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
Something I’ve come to realise about Summers’s books is that while they’re classified as YA and the writing feels like YA, her stories, characters and themes are much more mature and adult in essence. After Sadie, I expected The Project would be dark, especially considering the premise. And dark it was. This is a book which isn’t afraid to delve into the bleaker sides of humanity and religion. It deals with child abuse, suicide, grief, murder, torture, manipulation, PTSD, and intimate partner violence, just to name a few topics. Some of these elements take a while to creep up and rear their ugly heads, but eventually they do. While I enjoy these types of grittier narratives for their gravity and realism, I know a lot of other readers prefer to steer clear. However, I should note that despite its tough subject matters The Project manages to retain a strong underlying sense of hope and goodness in the world that will somehow shine through no matter how dark circumstances may seem.
Mixed Bag Ending
I have mixed thoughts on the ending for this one. There are parts that I liked, but there’s certainly one major component I wasn’t fond of at all, largely because there’s no explanation for it. Over the course of the novel there are several instances of events which characters interpret as being miracles but each of these have alternative real-world explanations. The sequence of events at the end of the book, on the other hand, does not appear to have any sort of non-miracle reasoning. My issue with this is that not only does it make the ending feel too neat but it has caused me to rethink the book’s overall scepticism towards religion as truth, leaving me confused as to how to interpret some of its overarching ideas.
While The Project may not have been as completely immersive and devastating an experience as Sadie, I enjoyed this book and feel as though it mostly succeeded in what Summers was trying to achieve. If you’re looking for a well written, strong and emotionally grounded story, and are willing to be patient for a pay-off, you’ll likely enjoy The Project.