Let’s Get Romantic: Reviewing the Goodreads Top 10 Romance Novels of 2021

So. The Goodreads Choice Awards. Every year I feel like by the time the winners are announced most people are in one of two camps: A) THAT book won?, or B) I have no idea what any of these books are. Let’s face it, these awards aren’t the greatest indicators of what the “best book” in any given genre is for the year. Mainly because GR bases nominations on the number of users adding, reading and reviewing books, missing out on some amazing indie releases and debut authors. Also, most of us voting are unlikely to have read all of the nominees by the time we place our vote. With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to try reading each of the ten books in the final round of the romance category and reviewing them to see just how closely my opinions line up with the actual votes. And for kicks, I’ll also determine how I would have ranked them had I been the sole voter in the awards (because I’m self-involved like that).

The final ten nominees for 2021 were (if you’d like to jump to a specific review, just click the title):

Let’s jump into the reviews! And prepare yourself for a LONG ass post…


People We Meet on Vacation – Emily Henry

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I’m beginning to think that Emily Henry and I are stuck in an ‘I really like you, I just don’t love you’ relationship. PWMoV is a friends to lovers, When Harry Met Sally inspired romance that revolves around Poppy and Alex who meet at university and become best friends. For the last 10 years they’ve taken a summer trip together, but since the events of their last trip two years ago, they’ve barely spoken. Hoping to repair their friendship, Poppy asks Alex to take one more trip. Now, she has one week to fix everything.

PWMoV is structured to alternate between the present and Poppy & Alex’s past trips, slowly building up to what happened 2 years ago. While I understand what EH was trying to do with all this backstory, there were moments where these flashbacks dragged for me. Then, once I finally reached the big reveal, there was a moment of, that’s it? For something that supposedly had such a big impact on their relationship, I expected something more…dramatic.

My favourite thing about this book was Poppy’s sense of humour. Her jokes and quips were a lot of fun and a large part of why I liked her character so much. Alex’s more reserved nature took longer to warm up to but, like Poppy, I came to appreciate just how lovely he was. Their opposites attract dynamic was great, full of sweet, vulnerable conversations and witty back and forths. Although the slow burn romance was easy to root for, I found their friendship really endearing, too.

Lately, contemporary romances seem to be incorporating more serious real-world topics. PWMoV involves bullying, death of a loved one, millennial burnout (VERY RELATABLE), and navigating personal insecurities. Yet, it does so without making the book feel heavy or dampening the romance. It still felt like something I could fluffily enjoy but with depth.

Overall, a great pick for a summer romance binge and to consider bringing on your next holiday.


The Spanish Love Deception – Elena Armas

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

The Spanish Love Deception seems like something I’d easily award five stars. This book’s marketed tropes sound like my personal romance bingo card. So, understand my disappointment when I say I’m only giving it 2.5.

Our heroine Catalina works for an engineering consulting company alongside the hero, Aaron. The two haven’t gotten along since a bad introduction 2 years ago. Catalina’s sister is getting married back in Spain soon and wanting to avoid the pity stares, Lina tells her family she’ll be bringing her (non-existent) boyfriend. To her shock, Aaron offers to play the role and, without options, Lina accepts.

While I know it’s a debut, some of the writing in this was noticeably clunky. There are a few odd word choices/phrases and a lot of the dialogue doesn’t use contractions, making it sound stilted. The sex scenes also aren’t my favourite – the descriptions were fine but every time Aaron would open his mouth I’d cringe. And the number of times he calls Lina ‘baby’…stop, please.

One of the main drawcards for me was ‘enemies to lovers’ but, honestly, I feel let down. Part of the reason I love this trope is snarky banter and there was so little here. Even the “enemies” dynamic was questionable because the rivalry seemed to only be in Catalina’s head. I also had trouble feeling the chemistry between Lina & Aaron at the start but, thankfully, it improved with time. Probably all the intense staring and casual brushing of body parts.

It took a while for me to get into this. I felt really disconnected early on but things picked up a lot once Lina and Aaron got to Spain. The fake dating plot wasn’t the best I’ve seen, but I still had fun with it. The interactions with Catalina’s family were also sweet (except the dick pic requests & ‘bubbies’ comments? WHYYYY?), and I wish we’d gotten more time with them.

Lastly, our leads. I really disliked Catalina to start because she came off childish and annoying. Plus, the endless pages of internal monologuing were tedious. She grew on me slightly but her obtuseness about Aaron was frustrating. Aaron, on the other hand, was nice but verged on being too perfect (except for his dirty talk…). In other words, fine but nothing I’m obsessing over.

Despite my ranting, this was okay but I don’t understand the hype. With the internet you win some, you lose some, I suppose.


It Happened One Summer – Tessa Bailey

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I’m not a Schitt’s Creek fan, I’ve never read a Tessa Bailey book before, and yet, here we are.

It Happened One Summer is a Schitt’s Creek inspired romance about an influencer named Piper who gets sent to a small fishing town by her step-father after hosting an out-of-control party and falls in love with a gruff fisherman, Brendan. The premise for this was really cute and I had a lot of fun with it. The plot surrounding Piper and her sister Hannah fixing up their father’s old bar was especially sweet. However, the book’s third act complications felt convenient and frustrating.

I knew going in that TB’s books were known for high levels of steam and IHOS certainly didn’t disappoint. I mean…*fans self*. This was easily some of the better written (and raunchier) smut I’ve read in romance. Still, if I’m being honest, I could probably have used slightly less steam, only because the sex scenes and sexual thoughts became extremely dominant in the second half at the expense of things like plot and character development.

As far as leads go, I enjoyed both Piper and Brendan (despite the latter being too alpha for my liking sometimes). Piper was such a cheerful, ditsy, entertaining character, and I loved reading as she became more independent and realised her value outside of social media. Meanwhile, it was lovely seeing Brendan lighten up, embrace more change and move on from the death of his wife. The chemistry between the two was also pretty fire and perfect for lovers of the grumpy-sunshine trope.

This was a great opposites attract/small-town romance, suited to those summer feels. I’ll 100% be looking out for the sequel.


The Soulmate Equation – Christina Lauren

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In recent years I’ve become a bit of a CL fan so I hit this up as soon as it came out. Our heroine is Jess, a statistician and single mother, who sends a genetic sample to a matchmaking company called Genetically, which supposedly can use DNA to find your soulmate. To everyone’s surprise, she gets an unheard-of 98% compatibility score with the company’s stubborn and standoffish founder, Dr River Pena. Hoping to maximise publicity of the match, the company offers to pay Jess to spend time with River.

I really liked the premise – it’s similar to John Marrs’s novel The One, if it had been a cute romance instead of a thriller. The book focuses a lot on whether love is about choice or fate/chemistry and I found this quite interesting. I’m not usually drawn to ‘Soulmate’ trope books but I was okay with how it was handled here. The fake dating trope, however, was somewhat weak. There were also some elements of the story that felt unbelievable and the pacing had moments where it felt either too slow or too rushed.

The main reason I didn’t rate this higher was the chemistry between Jess and River. As individual characters, I liked both of them. Jess was smart, independent and kind, and while River was slower to connect with, I eventually got on board with him as well (despite a rough patch at the end). However, I just wasn’t as invested in their relationship or convinced of their spark as I have been with CL’s other couples.

The book’s side characters were my favourite part. Jess’s grandparents were lovely, her daughter Juno was sweet and I adored Jess’s best friend, romance author Fizzy. Sassy, funny, supportive and a little dirty, we should all have a Fizzy in our lives (and our rom-coms). It was really nice to have an MC who was a single parent with a wonderful support network behind her.

The Soulmate Equation was an enjoyable science meets romance read but nothing special and far from my favourite CL book.


The Ex-Hex – Erin Sterling

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I’m don’t know which is worse, a bad book or one for which the only descriptor you have is: it’s ‘fine’.

The Ex-Hex is about a witch named Vivi who lives in a small, magic-fuelled town called Graves Glen. After a breakup with fellow witch Rhys Penhallow, Vivi jokingly (& drunkenly) curses him. Nine years later, Rhys returns to recharge the town’s magical ley lines and finds the curse in full force. Wanting to depart quickly, Rhys charges the lines but in doing so infects the town with his altered magic. And so, Vivi and Rhys team up to reverse the curse and fix the resulting mayhem.

This book isn’t bad. It’s just bland. It’s a light, fluffy read that reminds me of magical sit-coms like Bewitched or Sabrina the Teenage Witch but with less charm and laughs. I love easy-going books as much as the next person but I still need something fun or swoon-worthy to engage with. Here, I wanted more from everything.

I really liked the idea of the curse and Vivi & Rhys fixing it, but the execution was disappointing. The main reason was that the stakes felt really low. For something with the potential to destroy the town, I expected more magical hijinks. The pacing was also off. Towards the middle of the book the curse plot halts for Rhys & Vivi to have a sex marathon and by the time they remember their situation there aren’t many pages left, leaving the resolution feeling rushed and flat.

When it comes to the witchcraft and world building, there’s almost no explanation. I have no idea how magic works or how witches fit into the world. It’s very vague and as someone who loves magic, it makes me sad. However, I did like Graves Glen as a setting. It’s charming, autumn-y and full of romantic, small-town vibes. I wanted to join the Halloween festivities and eat my weight in hand pies.

Onto the romance which is, to use that word again, “fine”. The back and forth dialogue is okay, Rhys & Vivi are both likeable (if unmemorable) characters, and the smut is…eh. Honestly, I don’t really have any intense feelings either way. It’s kind of sweet, but there’s little depth and the two never deal with the reasons for their original breakup.

In the end, not really my idea of a great magical romance but good for those after some fluff during spooky season.


The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood

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The hype around The Love Hypothesis has been insane so I was almost positive there was no way it could be as good as people were saying. But sweet Jesus, this book. It’s just so cute and lovely, and darn it, I think I’m in love. It’s about a biology graduate student named Olive who abruptly kisses grumpy professor, Dr Adam Carlson, in an attempt to convince her BFF that she’s dating someone new. When their supposed “relationship” hits the rumour mill, Adam and Olive realise they can both get something out of perpetuating the idea of a fake relationship. But, as with any fake dating scenario, real feelings start to get involved.

I loved Olive & Adam’s relationship. The banter and flow of their conversations were top-notch and genuinely funny. I could really feel the chemistry and was seriously rooting for them to get together for real. It was all so wonderfully wholesome, but still had room for an A+ sex scene (minus one questionable move involving a boob. How?). It was also super exciting to see a female lead who’s demisexual.

I really enjoyed the STEM setting and story revolving around Olive trying to continue her pancreatic cancer research. YES TO WOMEN IN SCIENCE. Sometimes these other narratives can get lost against the central romance but not so here, and I was interested in how things would turn out. You can tell the author has a background in scientific research because it felt very believable.

As a romance, TLH is super trope-y. One hotel room, workplace romance, grumpy-sunshine, not enough chairs, miscommunication, etc. But it uses them in such an enjoyable and self-aware way that it gets away with it, especially if you find these things comforting in your romcoms. Yet, the miscommunication element does get utilised slightly too many times which felt frustrating at points.

Basically, the internet told me so and they were right.


One Last Stop – Casey McQuiston

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Into awkward PDA-ing on the subway? This may be the book for you! One Last Stop is a F/F romance based around bisexual uni student/waitress, August, who has recently moved to New York only to meet an amazing girl named Jane on the subway. As it turns out, Jane is displaced in time from the 1970s, bound to the train line and unable to remember her past or how she got stuck. So August sets out to save her.

First things first, at over 400 pages, this was too long and it showed in the pacing. I’m confident it could have been cut down and still achieved its aims. Things started to drag around the middle, part of which was probably due to Jane being stuck on the subway and the repetition of having scenes in the same place. However, despite this, it also felt like there were a few too many things battling for attention. There are 3 main plot points – Jane’s dilemma, August’s missing uncle, and the fight to save Billy’s Pancake House, but also a bunch of small ones and it can feel like a lot.

The side characters in OLS were really likeable. You can never go wrong with a super sweet found family theme and, here, it was like being enveloped in a warm, welcoming hug. The cast was so charming, diverse and supportive, and I loved their uniqueness. Aside from being a LGBTI romance OLS really felt like a love letter to the queer community. It includes elements of queer history (remembering those who suffered and fought), incorporates the New York drag scene, and generally advocates for love, acceptance and pride in who you are.

Now, the romance. Fingering on a crowded train aside…it was good, but I wasn’t blown away. I could see the chemistry, I thought the sex scenes were done well and the ending was satisfyingly adorable, yet there was something missing I can’t quite put my finger on.

Two more small points:

  • Casey’s writing – still good! Approachable, easy to get into, and solid humour (even though I didn’t laugh as much as I did with RW&RB)
  • The time travel elements – a little iffy. The characters try to explain but it’s not the clearest, especially as to how August fits in.

Not my favourite read on this list but I’m still looking forward to CM’s YA debut I Kisssed Shara Wheeler.


Neon Gods – Katee Robert

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I had low expectations going into Neon Gods, mainly because I know my own tastes (I’m not just making a dig). It ended up being slightly better than I thought but far from a win.

NG is a Greek mythology reimagining. It’s set in the modern city of Olympus which is ruled over by a powerful body of thirteen, each with a title named after a Greek god, and headed by Zeus. Persephone, our heroine, flees after her mother tries to marry her off to Zeus, despite him supposedly murdering his previous wives. She finds refuge with Hades, who holds a grudge against Zeus for the murder of his parents. The two form a bargain to enter a public sexual relationship to reduce Persephone’s appeal to Zeus and get back at him.

The word people constantly use to describe this book is “spicy”. Now, if we’re measuring by the amount of sexual content, sure, it’s level 10 because there are a lot of sex scenes. But, even for erotica, something this length doesn’t need 8+ sex scenes. Don’t get me wrong, they started out hot and fun but after a while, it gets repetitive. I can only read about so much fingerbanging. Also, from the way this was marketed and early chapters teasing Hades’ “tastes” and “playroom”, I was expecting more kink, D/S or S&M scenarios but aside from some exhibitionism, it’s quite vanilla.

The world building is ambiguous and odd. Is there magic? Some elements suggest yes, but almost everything else feels contemporary (e.g. the thirteen aren’t Gods, just corrupt leaders). Then there’s Olympus itself – where is it? The book makes it sound like America, but I’m not sure and if so, why is everything named after Greek mythology? Does that lore exist in this world? Speaking of which, the actual mythology links in this are light. It’s a very loose retelling and the only real ties are the character names, division of the city, occasional references such as Persephone’s safe word (Pomegranate), and Zeus being a dick.

The plot is minimal. If you’re looking for meaty drama to go with your romance (or sex, really), there isn’t much here. The Zeus conflict ramps up around 80% but resolves in an anticlimatic and overly neat fashion with plenty of unanswered questions. The book’s focus is the central relationship, which I have mixed feelings about. There were parts I liked and I could feel the connection between Hades & Persephone. Still, I wish it’d been more of a slow burn fitting the myth and that the two of them had been given better developed character arcs. Also, Hades’ constant mother-henning of Persephone started to annoy me after a while.

I didn’t strongly dislike this, but I get the feeling that erotica might not be for me.


Act Your Age, Eve Brown – Talia Hibbert

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The order to read a series in is 1 and then skip straight to 3, right? Great, that’s what I thought.

Our heroine is Eve. Her life is a mess and when her parents cut off her trust fund, she finds herself interviewing for a job as a cook at a small B&B. The owner, Jacob, is organised, controlled, and wants chaotic Eve nowhere near his business. That is, until she accidentally hits him with her car, leaving him with a broken wrist and little choice but to hire her.

The story is predictable but in a cozy, comforting way. There isn’t much plotwise outside the relationship but I was completely fine with that since I loved the setting and liked the characters. The climax is tedious (DAMN YOU, MISCOMMUNICATION!) and you see it coming but I appreciated how quickly the characters overcame it.

Once again, Talia Hibbert brings the diversity goods. Two leads on the autism spectrum? A female MC who’s black and bigger in size? All the yes. It’s so wonderful to have some variety! Plus, I loved that these traits were important to Eve and Jacob’s characters and played a role in their interactions, but didn’t dominate their stories.

If you love ‘grumpy-sunshine’ and ‘enemies-to-lovers’, look no further. Eve is bubbly, charming, and unabashedly herself. She’s an endearing sweetheart and it was great seeing her journey of self-discovery unfold. Jacob, I went back and forth on, mainly because he’s an ass at the beginning but reveals himself to be considerate, supportive, and romantic underneath. There’s a lot of good banter between the two as they fire shots at one another and some wonderfully vulnerable moments as well.

In Talia Hibbert fashion, AYAEB is steamy. There’s a good build-up before the big moment (well, in pages if not time), and I liked that the sex didn’t completely take over, a problem I had with Chloe Brown. Still, there were a few lines I could have done without (vaginas dissolving into glitter, um what?) and I had trouble connecting Jacob’s bedroom persona with his everyday one.

Definitely would recommend! Guess I’ll have to go back and read Take a Hint, Dani Brown, won’t I?


Seven Days in June – Tia Williams

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I love surprises. And this book was the good kind.

SDIJ is about Eva & Shane who met in high school fifteen years ago. After sharing one crazy, loved-up week together Shane mysteriously disappeared, leaving Eva heartbroken. Both have since gone on to become authors – Eva of a bestselling fantasy-romance series and Shane of award-winning literary fiction. While Eva lives in New York with her daughter Audre and manages debilitating migraines, Shane is almost two years sober and working teaching underprivileged kids. The two reconnect when Shane visits NY to attend a literary event and find that the spark is as strong as ever.  

This was so refreshing. Not only does it feature a female lead who’s a single mum and dealing with a chronic pain condition, but both romantic leads are black. I really enjoyed Eva’s relationship with Audre and thought that the representation of her disability was handled really well. It was also great to read about characters who were so unapologetically black and for the book to not only comment on the challenges they face but celebrate their successes, especially through the lens of the literary world.

I’m not usually a big second chance romance fan but I was committed here. I loved the idea of Eva and Shane having this electric connection but the timing just being wrong because they hadn’t had the time and space to develop into the people they were meant to be yet. The fact that their bond had such a profound impact on them that it basically shaped their novels was pretty romantic, too. However, I wish that the flashbacks to their original week together had been expanded on slightly to better reinforce its impact as they felt somewhat brief and drug-hazed at times.

Writing-wise, I think SDIJ strikes a fantastic balance between levity, romance, and drama. While the side characters are fun and Eva & Shane have great chemistry, you still feel the weight of the story’s intense themes. Although, one negative for me was the amount of pop culture references and slang terms which, at times, made the book feel like it was trying too hard to sound young and cool. It’s also likely to date quickly going forward.

The characters were really well written. Both Eva and Shane felt like complex, real people with histories, dreams, fears and demons. I loved reading about the positive trajectory their lives had taken despite having to battle against immense hardship. I really wish we’d gotten more info about Eva’s family history, though, because it sounded so interesting!

This was a great read and I strongly recommend it if you enjoy slightly more dramatic contemporary romances.


Phew! We’re done. Ten reviews. I need a nap. A long one. I don’t think I’ve ever written this many book reviews so close together in my life. How do you review-everything type bloggers do this? Anyway, moving on to the rankings.

Official GRCA Results

FYI, this is how the books ranked in the awards based on the number of votes submitted:

My Rankings

I had a couple of books that ended up with the same star rating so I did have a dilemma organising things, especially when it came to the 4 star reads. In the end, this is where I settled:

I feel like a cliche but I loved The Love Hypothesis so it takes my number one spot. I’m always shocked when I buy into the hype train. With Eve Brown, It Happened One Summer and Seven Days in June, it just came down to overall enjoyment level because these were all great reads. I’m sad that I didn’t love People we Meet on Vacation as much as others did (seeing as it won the awards), but I’ll still be reading Henry’s next book. Two books I didn’t really understand the obsession with were The Spanish Love Deception and Neon Gods, both of which have been crazy popular on Booktube (or so I’ve heard) However, I’d still be willing to try other books from the authors.


Okay, I’m officially romanced out for the moment (well, except for a romance ARC that I really need to get to soon). This was definitely a challenge but I like that I managed to do it (even though I started to wonder why after three 2.5 or lower books in a row).

Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think and what are your thoughts on my ranking order?

My Most Anticipated Releases of 2022 (Jan – Aug)

It’s another year and you know what that means: stacks of brand new, amazing-looking books heading our way! Just when you thought that you were finally starting to make some progress on your backlist and 2021 releases, 2022 books are here (well, sort of) to inflate that TBR to epic proportions again. Here are some of the books that I’m most looking forward to reading that are releasing between January & August:

To Paradise – Hanya Yanigihara | January

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In an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). The fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means. In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist’s damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him—and solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearances.

These three sections are joined in an enthralling and ingenious symphony, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another: A townhouse in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village; illness, and treatments that come at a terrible cost; wealth and squalor; the weak and the strong; race; the definition of family, and of nationhood; the dangerous righteousness of the powerful, and of revolutionaries; the longing to find a place in an earthly paradise, and the gradual realization that it can’t exist. What unites not just the characters, but these Americas, are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: Fear. Love. Shame. Need. Loneliness.


Violeta – Isabel Allende | January

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Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first girl in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life will be marked by extraordinary events, for the ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth.

Through her father’s prescience, the family will come through that crisis unscathed, only to face a new one as the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life she has known. Her family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. There, she will come of age, and her first suitor will come calling…

She tells her story in the form of a letter to someone she loves above all others, recounting devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy. Her life will be shaped by some of the most important events of history: the fight for women’s rights, the rise and fall of tyrants, and, ultimately, not one but two pandemics.


House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2) – Sarah J. Maas | February

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Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

x


The Paris Apartment – Lucy Foley | February

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Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge. Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.


Delilah Green Doesn’t Care – Ashley Herring Blake | February

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Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood where she was little more than a burden to her cold and distant stepfamily. Her life is in New York, with her photography career finally gaining steam and her bed never empty. Sure, it’s a different woman every night, but that’s just fine with her.

When Delilah’s estranged stepsister, Astrid, pressures her into photographing her wedding with a guilt trip and a five-figure check, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town that she used to call home. She plans to breeze in and out, but then she sees Claire Sutherland, one of Astrid’s stuck-up besties, and decides that maybe there’s some fun (and a little retribution) to be had in Bright Falls, after all.

Having raised her eleven-year-old daughter mostly on her own while dealing with her unreliable ex and running a bookstore, Claire Sutherland depends upon a life without surprises. And Delilah Green is an unwelcome surprise…at first. Though they’ve known each other for years, they don’t really know each other—so Claire is unsettled when Delilah figures out exactly what buttons to push. When they’re forced together during a gauntlet of wedding preparations—including a plot to save Astrid from her horrible fiancé—Claire isn’t sure she has the strength to resist Delilah’s charms. Even worse, she’s starting to think she doesn’t want to… 


Dead Silence – S. A. Barnes

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Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed—made obsolete—when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.

What they find at the other end of the signal is a shock: the Aurora, a famous luxury space-liner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick trip through the Aurora reveals something isn’t right.

Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Words scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold onto her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora, before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate.


Gallant – V. E. Schwab | March

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Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?


One Italian Summer – Rebecca Serle | March

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When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.


The Book of Cold Cases – Simone St. James | March

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In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect–a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases–a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?


Hook, Line, and Sinker (Bellinger Sisters #2) – Tessa Bailey | March

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King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he’s a guaranteed good time–in bed and out–and that’s exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She’s immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his… personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah’s in town for work, crashing in Fox’s spare bedroom. She knows he’s a notorious ladies’ man, but they’re definitely just friends. In fact, she’s nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport’s resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker’s eye… yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can’t deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she’s walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and… and… man overboard! He’s fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he’s all in, she’ll choose him instead?


The Golden Couple – Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen | March

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If Avery Chambers can’t fix you in 10 sessions, she won’t take you on as a client. Her successes are phenomenal–she helps people overcome everything from domineering parents to assault–and almost absorb the emptiness she sometimes feels since her husband’s death.

Marissa and Mathew Bishop seem like the golden couple–until Marissa cheats. She wants to repair things, both because she loves her husband and for the sake of their 8-year-old son. After a friend forwards an article about Avery, Marissa takes a chance on this maverick therapist, who lost her license due to controversial methods.

When the Bishops glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.


All My Rage – Sabaa Tahir | March

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Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding.

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.


Portrait of a Thief – Grace D. Li | April

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History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now. Will Chen plans to steal them back.

A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son that has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a shadowy Chinese corporation reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.

His crew is every heist archetype one can imagine—or at least, the closest he can get. A conman: Irene Chen, Will’s sister and a public policy major at Duke, who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering student who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.

Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted attempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.


Book of Night – Holly Black | May

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In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.


I Kissed Shara Wheeler – Casey McQuiston | May

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Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny. But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.


The Hacienda – Isabel Cañas | May

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In the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father is executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost. But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined.

When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. The weight of invisible eyes follows her every move. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark its doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano? Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will help her.

Desperate for help, she clings to the young priest, Padre Andrés, as an ally. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to battle the malevolent presence haunting the hacienda. Far from a refuge, San Isidro may be Beatriz’s doom.


Something Wilder – Christina Lauren | May

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Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession…or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.

Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.

But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.


Siren Queen – Nghi Vo | May

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“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.


Book Lovers – Emily Henry | May

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Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.


The House Across the Lake – Riley Sager | July

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Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.


Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution – R. F. Kuang | August

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1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?


Husband Material (Boyfriend Material #2) – Alexis Hall | August

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Wanted: One (very real) husband. Nowhere near perfect but desperately trying his best.

In BOYFRIEND MATERIAL, Luc and Oliver met, pretended to fall in love, fell in love for real, dealt with heartbreak and disappointment and family and friends…and somehow figured out a way to make it work. Now it seems like everyone around them is getting married, and Luc’s feeling the social pressure to propose. But it’ll take more than four weddings, a funeral, and a bowl full of special curry to get these two from I don’t know what I’m doing to I do.

Good thing Oliver is such perfect HUSBAND MATERIAL.


Love in the Time of Serial Killers – Alicia Thompson | August

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Turns out that reading nothing but true crime isn’t exactly conducive to modern dating-and one woman is going to have to learn how to give love a chance when she’s used to suspecting the worst. PhD candidate Phoebe Walsh has always been obsessed with true crime. She’s even analyzing the genre in her dissertation-if she can manage to finish writing it. It’s hard to find the time while she spends the summer in Florida, cleaning out her childhood home, dealing with her obnoxiously good-natured younger brother, and grappling with the complicated feelings of mourning a father she hadn’t had a relationship with for years. It doesn’t help that she’s low-key convinced her new neighbor, Sam Dennings, is a serial killer (he may dress business casual by day, but at night he’s clearly up to something). But it’s not long before Phoebe realizes that Sam might be something much scarier-a genuinely nice guy who can pierce through her armor to her vulnerable heart underneath


Love on the Brain – Ali Hazelwood | August

Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project—a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia—Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school—archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle. Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas…devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing. But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?


Which 2022 releases are you most looking forward to?

2022 TBR: 20 Books I Want to Read in 2022

Happy new year, bookworms! I hope you’ve all been celebrating and that you’re ready to take on 2022. As I’ve done for the past two years, here I am again with a list of some of the books I’m hoping to read over the course of the next 12 months. These books are usually a mix of backlist reads and newer releases from the last 1-2 years that I, unfortunately, didn’t get around to when they first came out. New 2022 releases are a story for another day (aka. another post).

Confession time: I don’t have the best success rate when it comes to these posts. Over the past two years, I’ve managed to read about half the books I’ve planned to. Not bad, but er…could be better. However, I have higher hopes for this year’s list! Why? Because (a) I’m more determined and (b) I reduced the list down to 20 books. Want to achieve more? SET SMALLER GOALS! I’ve even re-added the handy little checkboxes I used in 2020 to help tick them off as I go. Now, let’s jump in.

  • The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive 1#) – Brandon Sanderson  ☐
    • Yes, it’s finally happening. I’m going to put on my big girl pants, ignore the enormous page count and see what the hype is about. Don’t let me down Sanderson!
  • Jade City – Fonda Lee ☐
    • I mentioned Jade City a couple of times in my December posts so I doubt you’re surprised to see it show up here. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting invested in another Asian fantasy series.
  • The Atlas Six – Olivie Blake ☐
    • I’ve wanted to read this for a while and with the new hardcover version being released in March, seems like the universe is trying to tell me something. Besides, I need a new dark academia book to obsess over.
  • The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor 1#) – Katherine Addison ☐
    • I only came across this book a little while ago but it sounds like a great fantasy read with a cinnamon roll lead, and I feel like 2022 will be my year of fantasy/sci-fi books.
  • A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes 4#) – Sabaa Tahir ☐
    • It’s happening this year. I WILL finish this series. I’m manifesting it happening.
  • Cytonic (Skyward 3#) – Brandon Sanderson ☐
    • Continuing on with one of my absolute favourite YA series. I’m praying it’s as good as the last two, otherwise I may cry.
  • Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb 2#) – Tamsyn Muir ☐
    • I’ve had this sitting on my desk for a year now because I need to read a detailed summary of Gideon before I tackle it. Bring on the mind boggling world building and badass necromancers.
  • This is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone ☐
    • It’s a novella. I have absolutely no excuse. Also, time travelling, rival spy lesbians.
  • The Likeness – Tana French
    • I’ve been wanting to try a Tana French book for a while. The Dublin Murder Squad series can be read out of order and since this one is a dark academia read, I’m keen to read it first.
  • The Hollows – Mark Edwards
    • It’s a thriller so, with me, that means it could go either way. It was cheap on the amazon store and involves a creepy campground in the forest. Fingers crossed.
  • The Burning Girls – C. J. Tudor
    • Every time I’m in the mood for a thriller/mystery read I come close to downloading this but change my mind. It sounds great so this year I’m determined to finally read it
  • My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix
    • I feel like everyone’s been telling me how good this book is for years. I bought it as part of my 2021 post-lockdown haul so I’m doing it this year. There are like 3 Grady Hendrix books on my TBR so I’m looking foward to crossing one off.
  • Blonde – Joyce Carol Oates
    • Another chunky read that I’ve been putting off. But since the adaptation starring Ana de Armas is coming out in 2022, I better get on it!
  • Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid
    • I put this off for the second half of last year because the right mood just didn’t arise, but I like TJR’s historical fiction and I’m interested in reading this one, so 2022 it is.
  • Migrations – Charlotte McConaghy
    • I really enjoyed McConaghy’s 2021 release, Once There Were Wolves, so I’m going back to her first adult besteller. It’s another environmental themed plot with personal drama thrown in. Hopefully it’ll be a good, short read.
  • The Lighthouse Witches – C. J. Cooke
    • This is a new addition to my TBR. It sounds very atmospheric & interesting, and I love a good Scottish setting. I’ve heard there are similarities to Netflix’s series ‘Dark’ but as I’ve never seen that it should still be surprising for me.
  • The View was Exhausting – Mikaella Clements, Onjuli Datta
    • It’s contemporary but somehow this book is giving me Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo vibes. I’m not sure how it’ll go but this is the first book in a while I’ve spontaneously bought without doing a full online investigation first.
  • Seven Days in June – Tia Williams
    • I’ve been making my way through the GR choice award romance finalists for 2021 and this is the second last one on my list. I’m not usually a big second-chance-romance fan but I’ve heard great things, plus it’s about two authors which sounds cool.
  • The Charm Offensive – Alison Cochrun
    • I needed at least one contemporary romance and seeing as I picked this up in the sales, here it is! I’m looking forward to some Bachelor-esque romance fun with a twist.
  • Norweigan Wood – Haruki Marukami
    • Yes, it’s here again. Look, I almost started in December but eventually decided against it so we’re DEFINITELY doing it in 2022. Promise.

There you have it! 20 Books from a mix of different genres. Okay, yes, there’s a chunk of fantasy/sci-fi on there but I’m vibing with it at the moment. Completing this list should hopefully reduce my physical TBR pile by a good amount which is a major plus. Wish me luck, guys.

What books are on your 2022 TBR?

And That’s a Wrap 2021: My Favourite Reads of the Year

It’s the final day of 2021 and that means the time has come to rave about the best books I read this year. In 2021 I read 60 books and, like last year, I had a lot of middle-of-the-road, 3-3.5-ish star reads. This meant that the books I loved (and the ones I didn’t) stood out a lot more than they would have otherwise. Yet, it also means I didn’t have as many 5 star reads as I would have liked. In fact, in 2021 I only rated 2 books 5 stars. Sad, but true. However, I did have a handful of 4.5 star ones, which is nothing to turn my nose up at either. And so, here are my 10 favourite reads of 2021…

Special Mention: Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir | Review

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I went back and forth for ages over what to rate this book. It came so close to getting an entry on this list so I feel I’d be remiss not to mention it because I had such a good time while reading. PHM follows a man named Dr. Ryland Grace who wakes up from a coma onboard a spaceship with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. As he starts to piece things together, he realises he’s on a mission to save humanity. While there’s a lot of science-speak and Ryland does bear similarities to The Martian‘s Mark Watney, the story is super engaging from start to finish and full of questions you can’t help but keep flipping pages until you reach the answers for. There’s also a surprising and wholesome friendship that became one of my favourites of the year. Good to know that Andy Weir is back on form.

10. The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter

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I used to read a lot of crime books back in high school but since then I’ve tended to pick them up a lot less. Karin Slaughter is one of the bigger names in the genre and has been successfully publishing for around 20 years. Now, having finished The Good Daughter, I understand why because her writing is exceptional. The overarching crime plot of the book (a school shooting) is engaging enough and maintains a good sense of momentum, however, the depth and strength of her main characters, sisters Charlie & Sam, are where it shines. I really appreciated the way the book slowly dug into their childhood trauma and how the events surrounding their mother’s death affected them into adulthood. I also liked the way it dealt with the complex nature of their familial bonds. It’s a dark and violent read at times but worth the time investment if you can handle the themes. I’ll be making sure to check out more of Slaughter’s backlog in the future.

9. A Ladder to the Sky – John Boyne

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The true winner of my 2021, it seems, was John Boyne with not only one but two books on this list! A Ladder to the Sky was one of my 5 star predictions and while it just fell short, I thought it was fantastic. It’s about an attractive & charming aspiring novelist named Maurice who possesses great writing talent but little creativity for coming up with original ideas. And so, he climbs the literary fame ladder by getting close to, manipulating, and stealing the stories of others. As time goes on, he has to go to greater lengths to stay in the spotlight. The dialogue in this book is great and I really enjoyed its criticism of the literary world. I loved the moral greyness of the characters, the dark humour, and that the shifts in time and narration kept me on my toes as to what would happen next. If you enjoy love to hate characters, this will be right in your wheelhouse. Even the ending was unexpected perfection. Aside from a couple of slower points, pretty darn good.

8. Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

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I finished this beautifully written and heartbreaking memoir in under two days. I’ve never really been a fan of Japanese Breakfast’s music but after hearing so many wonderful things about singer/songwriter Michelle’s book, I knew I had to read it. I completely understand why this was picked as Goodreads’ best memoir & autobiography for the year. It details Michelle’s complicated relationship with her mother and the deep pain of losing her to cancer when Michelle was only 25. The sections outlining Michelle caring for her mother and worrying about having lost her link to her Korean heritage following her mum’s death absolutely broke my heart. I also loved reading about Michelle’s bond with food and how important it was in connecting with her mum and her Korean identity. I’m not sure if this book made me want to curl up into a ball or eat until I explode. Probably both.

7. The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

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I wasn’t really sure what to expect with THIF. All I knew was that it was immensely well-reviewed and deservedly so. The book follows a gay man named Cyril and tells the story of his life in Ireland in the decades prior to the legalisation of homosexuality. As you can imagine, the story deals with some tough topics such as the religious and public persecution of LGBTI people as well as the AIDS crisis. Boyne’s writing is fantastic and perfectly straddles the line between comedy and tragedy. The style is a little absurd at times, especially the characters’ interactions, but if it’s something you can gel with you’ll have a lot of fun (well, with plenty of pain, too). I loved following the characters over a large part of their lives, although I do feel like I missed out on some things due to the time jumps. Still, this was an amazing read and I’ll be looking to pick up more of Boyne’s books in 2022.

6. Twice Shy – Sarah Hogle | Review

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The fact that this book was not read by more people is a crime because it’s SO LOVELY. At this point, I’m starting to think Sarah Hogle is one of those authors who could write a shopping list and I’d read it. TS is about optimistic and romantic, Maybell. She inherits a large house after the death of her great aunt with plans to turn it into a hotel only to find she’s actually co-inherited it with the grouchy groundskeeper, Wesley. The two then work together to fix it up but with different end goals in mind. Gotta love that forced proximity trope. It’s a little corny at times but so darn adorable and uplifting. I loved the characters, their romance (especially the grumpy-sunshine dynamic), and that they handled their issues in such a non-annoying way. It wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as Sarah’s debut but I was okay with that. The perfect medicine for a rubbish day.

5. The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood

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I went into this fully prepared for it to be an overinflated product of the hype train. Guess the joke’s on me. This book was the perfect bundle of sweet, trope-y, sunshine-y fluff and I had so much fun. It’s about a grad biology student called Olive who starts a fake dating ruse with one of the university’s grumpy professors, Adam, to convince her best friend she’s over a guy. The banter and chemistry between Olive & Adam was so enjoyable and comforting, and I was super eager for them to finally get together. The STEM setting for the book was also great and felt developed & believable (probably because of Hazelwood’s science background). The miscommunication trope was utilised a touch too much for my liking but I lapped up the book’s self-aware approach to the ample other romance tropes included. Easily one of my favourite romances of 2021 and I would 100% reread it.

4. Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff | Review

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When you’ve been waiting over 2.5 years for a book, expectations get high. To my immense relief, EotV mostly managed to meet them. JK has brought scary, rip-your-throat-out vampires back in a big way. The book is set in a world in which the sun has disappeared and vampires now rule. Gabriel de Leon, last of a holy order, awaits execution and is compelled to tell his life’s story to a vampire historian, including his journey to find the holy grail. It’s full of gore, violence, smut, foul language, moody-vibes, religious themes, revenge, and emotional moments, and I had a blast (well, except for when my heart was being crushed at the end). The world-building is fantastic, pacing spot on, and although I started out on rocky ground with some of them, the characters grew on me a lot. There are a couple of questionable things that let the book down a little, but overall, an amazing blend of action, adventure, romance, horror and drama. Give me the sequel, stat!

3. The Burning God – R F Kuang

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I really wish I wasn’t this predictable but here we are, with another entry from The Poppy War series. After books one & two took out spots on my 2020 and 2021 lists, I don’t think any of you are surprised to see The Burning God here. I was massively looking forward to this last installment in the series and while it wasn’t a perfect read, I wasn’t disappointed with the final experience. There were a couple of plotlines that I wish had played out a little differently but this was still such a fantastically action-packed, twisty, exciting and heartwrenching book. The ending wasn’t what I was expecting but still fit the trajectory of the series, despite its shocking nature (my brain literally had trouble processing it). I can safely say that TBG secured The Poppy War trilogy as one of my favourite series of all time and I’m excited to go back and reread it all one day.

2. The Push – Ashley Audrain

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Back in August, I was starting to get worried about the state of this list. Then The Push came along and holy hell. This book just breezed right on in and not only captivated me from start to finish but sent me on an absolute emotional rollercoaster. It’s about a woman named Blythe who becomes convinced that there’s something…off about her daughter, Violet. When tragedy strikes, Blythe believes Violet to be the one responsible. But is it all in her head? There have been quite a few books revolving around an ‘evil’ child dividing parents but it’s done so well here. The writing is just *chef’s kiss* – raw, stunning perfection. The Push seems to have been marketed as this big twisty thriller but it’s more of a psychological drama that explores things like grief, mental health, societal expectations, and family life. It also delves into this complex and often brutal idea of motherhood in contravention of stereotypes. It’s short, memorable, crushing and so worth a read.

And now for the big one.

My favourite read of 2021 is….

*DRUMROLL*

1. If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio

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Dark academia reigns supreme this year! I have no idea how to explain why I’m so obsessed with this book, but I am. Literally, the minute I finished, I wanted to reread it. IWWV follows a group of acting students studying the works of Shakespeare at a prestigious college. Their friendships and lives implode after one of them dies under tragic and mysterious circumstances. It’s a bit pretentious but, apparently, I’m into that. The book explores the ideas of life imitating art & art imitating life. I loved the way the story was structured like a modern tragedy, the characters were designed like theatre role stereotypes, and that the plays performed tied into the group’s reality. Even though it’s a mystery/thriller, what I was most enthralled by was seeing the secrets, guilt, jealousy, and love eat away at the characters and their relationships. I loved exploring their strengths, insecurities, and desire to change the way they’re perceived. However, I really wish I were better versed in Shakespeare’s works to fully appreciate all the nuances and subtext because I’m sure there’s so much that I’m missing. Ugh, this book was just so GOOD. I loved it so much, and that’s why it takes my number one spot.


And that’s it from me for another year. I hope you’ve all had a fantastic 12 months full of wonderful books and that many, many more are in store for you in 2022.

What were your favourite reads of 2021? (So I can add them to my enormous TBR).

And That’s a Wrap 2021: Surprises and Disappointments

It’s time to move onto day 2 of my 2021 wrap up and today I’m looking back at the books I read which surprised or disappointed me. Now, I should probably explain, a book does not need to have received a super high rating to be considered a surprise and the same goes for terrible ratings and disappointment. It’s all about expectations – were they exceeded, met, missed? For example, something that I really thought I’d love could be listed as a disappointment even though it ended up with a 3 star rating. On that note, let’s get stuck in.

Lock Every Door – Riley Sager | Review

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I’ve had some varied experiences with Riley Sager’s books. So, with my reading experience of Final Girls still fresh in my memory and having read a few not exactly glowing reviews, I went into Lock Every Door with low expectations. As it turned out, I liked this a lot more than I thought I would! Yes, the concept is completely over the top and hard to believe but after deciding to go with it, I had fun. The pacing and tension were pretty good and I found myself reading most of it in one sitting. As a lead, Jules wasn’t always the sharpest but I understood her motivations and appreciated her determination. The big reveal is kind of nuts and I’ll admit, I did sit there and go ‘wtf’ for a bit but eh, rich people. For all of you who saw my least favourite reads of 2021 list: see, I do enjoy the thrillers I read from time to time.

It Happened One Summer – Tessa Bailey

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You all know I love contemporary romance but originally I didn’t intend to pick this one up. I’d never read anything by Tessa Bailey before and based on what I’d heard, I didn’t really think her books would be my thing. Plus, with this being a Schitt’s Creek inspired romance and me not exactly a fan of the show, I thought it best to skip it. However, after Chandler on Booktube raved about how much she loved it, I decided to give it a go and, to my surprise, it ended up being a 4 star read. While there were a couple of things I wasn’t so keen on (the frustrating reliance on miscommunication, male lead Brendan’s alpha tendencies, and the abundance of sexual content in the second half), I really enjoyed the plot and thought Piper & Brendan had great chemistry. A good summer read.

All of Us Villains – Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman | Review

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Considering All of Us Villains was likened to The Hunger Games with magic and a touch of Game of Thrones, you’d think I would have gone in with super high expectations. You’d be wrong! I’ve been burnt by so many of these comparisons before, especially with YA fantasy, that I’ve learned to just read the book and see how things go. In this case, though, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed myself. Was it a mind-blowing, absolutely amazing read? No, but gosh did I have fun. The characters were really well done and I had a blast with the magic. The plot had a couple of pacing problems around the middle and I wish one subplot hadn’t been included, but there were a lot of exciting elements to the competition that have me looking forward to the sequel.

The Nowhere Child – Christian White | Review

The Nowhere Child – Affirm Press

It may sound weird but, even though I’m Australian, I don’t read very many books from Australian authors. I know, bad Ashley. In the spirit of trying to improve on that, I decided to pick up the kidnapping mystery The Nowhere Child and was surprised to discover a really engaging 4 star read. White’s writing style is great and it’s so easy to read a chunk of chapters without realising it. I really liked the book’s focus on characters and their relationships as well as the use of dual timelines to unravel the mystery. There are a couple of plot points that could have been expanded on slightly and perhaps a few moments where things slowed down somewhat but overall, I really enjoyed this and will probably check out White’s other two novels in the future. Note to self: read more Oz books!


A Court of Silver Flames (ACOTAR 4#) – Sarah J. Maas

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Like many others, ACOSF was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I was so excited I bought an ebook to read while I waited for my hardback. I actually gave this 3.5 stars and generally enjoyed it but there were a lot of things that disappointed and frustrated me. Nesta & Cassian are two of my fave characters so I had high hopes for a book focused on them. However, there was such an overreliance on sex scenes to build their relationship. I love good smut but this was just gratuitous. It was also super annoying that SJM felt the need to include a Feysand storyline that kept stealing the limelight (and boy, I hated Rhysand). I really enjoyed Nesta’s journey plus the strong focus on female friendship & empowerment, but when it comes to the major plotline of the book, honestly, I could not have cared less. Basically, this did not need to be 750+ pages. I liked it but I’ll definitely be lowering my expectations for the next entry in the series.

Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked 2#) – Kerri Maniscalco | Review

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Even though I only gave KotW 3 stars, I was so excited for KotC. There were so many things to look forward to – an exciting new setting, an intriguing plot direction, and more room to build on the romance. And…I only ended up with a slightly higher 3.5 stars. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the romance in this book and the increased steam factor but the rest of the plot was confusing and messy. I’m still lost on what was going on. It felt like there were a million things happening that weren’t properly or gradually developed. My expectations regarding the setting weren’t exactly met either, mostly because we didn’t get to see much of it until the second half. Emilia, as a protagonist, also has a weird habit of flicking back and forth between being a badass and annoyingly stupid. *sigh* Guess I’ll just have to lower those expectations right on down again for book three.

Life’s Too Short – Abby Jimenez | Review

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I’d heard so many good things about Abby Jimenez’s books and the blurb for Life’s Too Short made it sound like it’d be right up my alley. Alas, it was a disappointing 2.5 star read for me. I’m okay with romances including serious topics but the tone of this one fell too much on the heavier side for my liking, especially considering it was marketed as a rom-com. Our heroine, Vanessa, had so many difficult things going on for one person and I wasn’t a fan of how the ALS storyline played out, with Vanessa continuing to believe she was dying but remaining unwilling to get a medical eval. The romance itself was okay, despite a melodramatic and cheesy climax/ending. I found it comforting and enjoyed the sexual tension, however, I didn’t fall in love with Vanessa & Adrian as characters like I have with other contemporary romances. Unfortunately, this one missed the mark for me.

A Lesson in Vengeance – Victoria Lee

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A Lesson in Vengeance is another book that, because I had such high expectations, ended up disappointing me (even though I gave it a decent rating of 3 stars). The witchy, dark academia vibes were a big part of why I picked it up and, luckily enough, the atmosphere was perfection. I enjoyed the ambiguity as to whether the supernatural elements were real or not, the relationship between leads Felicity & Ellis, and appreciated Lee’s ability to make an obvious plot twist feel unexpected for me. Where the book let me down is the historical angle. I expected there would be much more time devoted to the plot surrounding the group of so-called “witches” that died at the school and that we’d get some twists there but it was pretty lacklustre. I also found the pacing slow at times and there were elements of the story that felt unbelieveable and pretentious, even for DA. A good read but disappointing nevertheless.


Which books of those you read in 2021 were surprises and disappointments? Were any of yours the same as mine?

And That’s a Wrap 2021: My Least Favourite Reads of the Year

At long last, the misery that has been 2021 is about to come to an end, and you all know what that means: it’s time to look back at the books I’ve read this year. The good, the bad, the weird, the swoon-worthy, the disappointing, and everything in between. I’ve always been a big proponent of the ‘bad news first, good news last’ approach so with that in mind I’m kicking off wrap-up week with my least favourite reads of the year.

As usual, these books weren’t all published in 2021. They just happened to be read by me this year. I’m always behind on new releases so I do a lot of backlist reading. I should also mention that just because I didn’t happen to like these books doesn’t necessarily make them “bad” (despite my ranting and raving). If you read and loved them, that’s great! These just happen to be my own personal opinions so try to avoid pelting my house with rotten eggs in the near future, okay? Okay.

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson | Review

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We’re starting off with a book that’s on this list mainly because it wasn’t my thing. Perhaps I’m not intelligent or analytical enough to appreciate its complexity but, I confess, I found this mostly quite dull. It’s a short read and, yet, it felt like it took ages to finish. There are so many scenes devoid of plot or engagement. It does pick up at points and have a couple of creepy sequences, but largely I was waiting for something to happen. Aside from the pacing, I found I also didn’t gel very well with the writing – lots of long rambling sentences broken up by commas and semi-colons. Although, the dialogue did succeed in breaking it up somewhat. My other major problem was that I didn’t like the characters. They just felt flat to me and didn’t really reach their suggested potential. In the end, not the haunted house story I was looking for.

The Maidens – Alex Michaelides | Review

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Let me preface this by saying I was not one of those people who was obsessed with The Silent Patient, but I was genuinely looking forward to reading this. It had so much potential and my dark academia loving self was hopeful for something fun. *sigh* And here we are. Don’t get me wrong, there were things I liked about The Maidens – its atmospheric setting and depiction of grief, for instance. They were just very much outweighed by things I didn’t like. For one, so many aspects of the story didn’t feel believable – the way the police behaved, that a questionable “study group” was never looked into by the university, and don’t get me started on the ending. Throw in some clunky and unnatural dialogue, a few pointless and underdeveloped plot threads, and a female lead who does some ridiculously silly things, and you have one of my least favourite reads of 2021.

Rock Paper Scissors – Alice Feeney

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I’m starting to wonder whether it’s me, not the thrillers I’m reading. I hope not. Regardless, I’m in the minority with this opinion, but RPS was not my cup of tea. It’s about a married couple who take a weekend trip to Scotland to help their degrading marriage after winning a competition through work. However, things start to go wrong upon their arrival. This is another book where I really loved the setting and atmosphere – in this case, a spooky, repurposed church during a snow storm. The plot twist was also really well done and one I didn’t see coming. However, prior to the twist, I was bored a lot of the time and the uninteresting nature of the characters didn’t exactly help. It also felt like the book changed directions halfway through which was…odd. Similarly, the ending was a confusing choice. Safe to say, not for me.

The Duke and I – Julia Quinn

The Duke and I (Bridgertons Book 1), by Julia Quinn—A Review – Austenprose

Funnily enough, this was my first read of 2021. Was it an omen of the year to come? As I’m sure you can guess, I read this because of the Netflix series (I’m a basic bitch who reads something whenever there’s an adaptation). I enjoyed the first half more than the second. Yes, there’s a lot of dialogue, the ‘not like other girls’ trope rears its ugly head, and Julia Quinn repeats certain details over until I want to die, but the banter and the friends to lovers aspect are good. The second half is…eh with a side of icky. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing sexy about a man who tells his wife he “owns” her and a woman taking advantage of her drunk husband to have a child against his wishes. It’s annoying because I liked both of them up until then. Very small amends were made by the end but, honestly, the last few chapters are so darn sappy I could feel my soul cringing. We get it, you love each other. Please stop talking.

Final Girls – Riley Sager

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Another thriller, I know. I was really hoping I’d like this after a good experience with The Last Time I Lied but nope. The blurb sounded so good and the execution was so disappointing. My main problem was pacing – it was just so slow! Half the time I forgot I was even reading a thriller, probably because it kept wanting to focus on uninteresting and frustrating subplots until close to the end only to let me down. I’m still not sure how I feel about the MC Quincy. While I liked where she ended up, her journey was a rocky one with a bunch of stupid decisions and constant mentions of her need for a Xanax. The side characters were also a mixed bag, although I did like the whole past & present timelines approach to the story. Guess I’ll just have to live with the idea that Sager’s books are hit or miss for me.

Ready Player Two – Ernest Cline

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I knew going into this that (a) it was unnecessary and (b) there’d been not-so-great reviews. Still, I was determined to give it a try. You can see how that turned out. I went through stages with this book. There were bits I enjoyed (e.g. parts of the John Hughes planet were fun) but there were so many others where I was bored or frustrated. First up, what the hell happened to Wade between the first book and this one? What a selfish, idiotic, man-child. Then we have the info-dumping. Good lord. So much telling over showing. Moving onto the plot, it’s basically a regurgitation of RP1 but with a shitty antagonist, less fun, and more contrivances. I don’t normally skim but I found myself doing it a lot in this book, especially the Prince quest. It’s also weirdly convenient that each of the core characters (EXCEPT WADE) are experts in a specific quest. And let’s not discuss the side characters introduced only to solve plot obstacles or the bizarre mess of an ending. It’s a no from me.

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire – Jennifer Armentrout | Review

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So, my experience with this book was kind of a trainwreck. I didn’t mind From Blood and Ash so I was hoping that with certain things already established, KoFaF would be a good read. Yeah…no. I honestly felt like I was playing a game of Where’s Wally with the plot. Where the hell was it? Almost nothing happens and the book is over 600 pages! The relationship between Poppy and Cas was extremely tedious and angsty. Their conversations feel like a copy and paste edit half the time and I will never understand why a fake dating trope was necessary. Poppy as a character also massively tested my patience. Her whole personality is basically: is violent & asks lots of questions. Oh, wait, there’s also: likes to go on excessive and repetitive internal monologues. The only reasons I didn’t completely 1 star this book were Kieran, a couple of steamy scenes with more of the vampire romance element, and the dramatic cliffhanger ending.


At least I can be glad that out of 59 reads for this year only 7 of them were 2 stars or less. Fingers crossed there will be even less in 2022.

What were your least favourite reads of 2021? (Don’t worry, I won’t be offended if one of yours ends up being one of my favourites).

An Epic and Scientific Space Adventure to Save Humanity: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Would you look at that, only a few short weeks before the end of the year and here I am with a fantastic sci-fi read. Huh. Colour me shocked and impressed.

Who, What, Where?

Project Hail Mary follows Dr Ryland Grace, who mysteriously wakes up from a coma onboard a spacecraft with no memory of who is he is, how he came to be there or why. All he knows is that the rest of the crew is dead, there’s plenty of scientific equipment on hand and he’s nowhere near Earth. As Ryland slowly begins to piece together his history and mission, he discovers that he’s the only person standing between humanity and extinction.  

Get Your Science On

Let’s get the negatives out of the way. Firstly, most of the side characters are underdeveloped. They’re around for specific purposes but there isn’t much depth or attachment beyond that. Second, and more importantly, this book is really science-y. Like, really. Yes, I do realise it’s science fiction. I’m not a complete dummy. But, you don’t understand. It’s just SO science-heavy. I now know more about physics and the physiology of made-up microscopic species than I ever wanted to. To be fair, Weir does a great job trying to break down scientific theory and concepts for layman readers. Plus, it helps that his main character is a high school science teacher, accustomed to doing exactly this. Some of it is pretty interesting and a lot of it is extremely important to the story. It certainly enhanced the realism of the mission. Yet, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t paragraphs where I found myself skimming.

What in Outer Space is Going on Here?

PHM was an intense ride. That sounds weird considering there are so many stretches where the characters are conducting research or working through a problem, but it’s true. I’m sure there will be others who’ll find it snooze-worthy but, me, I was engaged in the story almost from start to finish. The plot has elements of Sunshine, The Martian, and Arrival woven into it, but it still feels like its own thing. I was hooked right from the first page and immediately intrigued by finding out what the hell was going on, why, and how Ryland of all people had ended up in this position. The first two questions are resolved without too much of a wait but the third takes far longer. I really liked the way the book’s mysteries unfolded gradually through Ryland’s discoveries and flashbacks as he remembered more and more of his past. I was also extremely invested in his efforts to solve humanity’s dilemma. The need for answers kept me flipping pages until the end, experiencing the successes and setbacks alongside the characters.

First Contact

BEWARE SPOILERS. During his mission, Ryland comes across an alien ship and ends up in a first contact situation with a being he names ‘Rocky’. I wasn’t expecting this plotline but I loved it, and the interactions between Ryland and Rocky were my favourite part of the book. It was such a wholesome and great friendship that I was willing to overlook how quickly they bridged the language barrier (I’ve seen Arrival, okay. Alien languages are complicated!). There were moments with buddy comedy vibes, which were fun, and I loved reading about the two working together and learning more about each other’s races.

Mark 2.0

As a main character, Ryland has some big similarities to The Martian’s lead, Mark Watney. Both are scientists, astronauts (technically), lone humans in remote locations, and rely on humour in their narration to lighten the mood. Admittedly, there are some differences – Ryland is a molecular biologist and generally avoids real curse words while Mark was a botanist and his favourite word was four letters long and started with an ‘F’. Ryland also gets ridiculously excited about science in a way I don’t remember Mark doing and has much more to worry about than his own survival. Regardless, if you weren’t a fan of The Martian for character reasons, you’ll likely have similar gripes here. Personally, I found Ryland easy enough to spend 500 pages with and I enjoyed his sense of humour, even though he’s terrible at naming things (or is he fantastic? It’s hard to tell).

Armageddon with a Smile

Something I really appreciated about PHM was its amusing and upbeat tone. Despite the serious nature of plot, the story doesn’t feel extremely heavy and bleak all the time. There’s hope, positivity, persistence, humour, and every time the characters hit a major speed bump, they’re disappointed, but they keep working the problem. The ending is also pretty uplifting and suited to Ryland’s character, although I do feel it could be slightly divisive.


Altogether, this was a great sci-fi read and I feel bad for putting it off for so many months. After hearing lots of not-so-positive things about Artemis and deciding to give it a miss, it’s good to know that Weir’s writing is back to the standard he set with The Martian.

4 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Hope Santa Brings 2021

Are those the sounds of Santa I hear on my roof? I should bloody well hope so or I’ll be asking a burglar where my book-shaped Christmas presents are.

It’s that magical time of the year again: Christmas. Or, as I like to call it, the holiday where I write out a massive wishlist of books for my family members only for them to completely disregard it, leaving me to buy things in the boxing day sales. Still, we live in hope. Here are ten books I’m visually manifesting into appearing under my tree in 2021.

A Sky Beyond the Storm – Sabaa Tahir

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As I mentioned recently in a Christmas song themed book tag, A Sky Beyond the Storm is definitely on my Christmas book wishlist for 2021. Admittedly, by this point, I’d hoped to be further along (or well, finished) my series re-read but…I suck, okay. Regardless, I still really want to add this to my bookshelf. Hopefully, it’ll give me that extra kick in the butt I need to race through books 2 & 3 to finally start it (no promises, though). I’m looking forward to seeing how everything turns out but I’m guessing it’s going to be a wild ride. Be kind to me Sabaa or I should say be kind to your characters.


Cytonic (Skyward #3) – Brandon Sanderson

Cytonic | Rakuten Kobo Australia

This book was always going to be near the top of my list with how long I’ve been waiting in anticipation. Originally I was planning to go out and buy Cytonic on release day, but then I realised that I should probably reread Starsight and tick off the new novellas set in between first. In which case, why not ask for it as a Chrissy present? Honestly, I am so excited for this book and will probably riot if I don’t find it under my tree. Or cry, bitterly.


Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

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I have yet to hear anything bad about this memoir. Probably why it won the Goodreads Choice Award by such a big margin. I haven’t read any non-fiction in a while so this seems like a nice change of pace. Well, if by ‘nice’ I mean heartbreaking. I’m not a Japanese Breakfast fan but sometimes you just want to read an interesting, beautifully told, and emotional story. Also, plenty of food descriptions to send me reaching for my delivery apps. This book details Michelle’s experiences growing up as a Korean American in Oregan, losing her mother to cancer in her twenties, how she found her way into the music industry, and her path in coming to terms with her own identity.


Migrations – Charlotte McConaghy

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After recently reading CM’s newest novel, Once There Were Wolves, and giving it four stars, I’ve decided to go back and read Migrations, which was quite popular when it first came out. This is another book that focuses a lot on issues surrounding the environment. It’s about a woman who travels to Greenland to follow the migration of the last Arctic terns to Antarctica and, in doing so, escape her past. I’m expecting it to be a little slow with some lovely writing, so I can save it for a time when I’m feeling like something less action-packed and more heartfelt.


Jade City – Fonda Lee

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Okay, so I’m determined to read this in 2022 (despite being wary of the size and complexity). This means I need someone to pop this little beauty under my Christmas tree! I’ve wanted to read Jade City for ages now but now that the last book in the series is out, I’ve run out of excuses. It’s an Asian-inspired fantasy about an island dominated by crime syndicates who control the supply of rare magical jade. The jade grants those with certain training special abilities. However, trouble starts brewing between rival crime families when a drug comes about allowing more people to wield the jade.


Legendborn – Tracy Deonn

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Yes, I’m finally cracking under the weight of FOMO and nobody being able to stop talking about this book since it came out. Originally I didn’t have plans to read this because I was worried about it feeling like a rehash of other YA fantasies (like TMI). However, I’m going to trust you all and hope it’s the kick-ass King Arthur retelling everyone claims it is. It’s about a girl named Bree with magical abilities who infiltrates a school for training ‘Legendborn’ (secret society descended from King Arthur’s knights who hunt demons) to find out the truth behind her mother’s death only to discover that a war is brewing.


The Charm Offensive – Alison Cochrun

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Come on, as if you weren’t expecting at least one adult romance. We all need some comforting fluff at times. Well, at least I do. I wish I could have bought and read this before now but I got sidetracked with a bunch of other contemporary romances so, hopefully, Santa can help a gal out. This is another bachelor-ish reality show romance. It revolves around Charlie, disgraced tech whiz and star of the new season, and Dev, one of the show’s producers. While Charlie doesn’t believe in true love and wants only to repair his image, Dev is a fan of fairytale romance and an expert at crafting perfect on-screen love stories. Bring on the cuteness!


The Absolutist – John Boyne

The Absolutist by John Boyne - Penguin Books Australia

I’ve read two amazing books from John Boyne this year so with that kind of track record, why not try my hand at another? This one is set after WWI and is about a soldier named Tristen who travels to Norwich to deliver a parcel of letters to the sister of his wartime friend, Will. However, the real reason for his visit is to unburden himself of a secret. And so, he recounts his friendship with Will from their first meeting to their final goodbye, including the horrors of their time in the trenches. I’ve heard this one’s pretty sad but as weird as it sounds, I like the occasional sad read.


The Song of Achilles (10th Anniversary Edition) – Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles, Special Anniversary Edition by Madeline Miller |  9781526648174 | Booktopia

Okay, yes, I already own a physical copy of the TSoA. I admit it. But this edition is SO DARN PRETTY. Just look at it! The blue, the foiling, the golden end pages, the back cover quote….I think I’m swooning a bit. In my defense, I loved this book and would 100% read it again at a later date, so I’m fine with having two different copies of it. Super beautiful, special editions are usually the only time I can justify that kind of thinking to myself because bookcase space is limited. It’s also very reasonably priced for a special edition. So, pretty please, Santa?


Crownchasers – Rebecca Coffindaffer

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This one is a more recent addition to my wishlist but I’m super intrigued by it. I mean, it’s a competition plot, in SPACE! It just sounds so darn cool. It’s about a galaxy where the emperor becomes gravely ill and to choose his successor, he calls a crownchase – a quest to find the royal seal hidden somewhere in the empire. Whoever can solve the series of clues to find it first gets the throne. Apparently, there’s plenty of action, twists, LGBTQIA rep, and the romance doesn’t overtake the story. I’m so keen. Someone wrap this and pop it under my tree, stat!


Which books are on your holiday wishlist?

Battle of the Book Covers: US vs UK (Round 6)

I don’t know what it is about these posts but if my stats are anything to go by, you guys really seem to enjoy them. Or maybe you just really like looking at book covers. Either way, here’s another round in the ongoing battle between US and UK book covers, with points calculated completely subjectively and entirely by me. Woo. If you’ve missed any of the previous rounds and would like to check them out, you can find them here: one, two, three, four, five. Now, to remind us of where the current tally lies:

The US is in the lead by 4 points. Can the UK make a comeback from behind? Let’s find out!

People We Meet on Vacation – Emily Henry

This match-up is interesting in that it’s not just the covers but also the titles that are different. When I first saw these I thought I preferred the US edition because of the layout and popping orange background. Yet, the more I look at them, the more I love the brightness of the pink hues against the blues on the UK cover. I also like that the characters are looking at each other rather than in opposite directions. I will concede, though, that there’s too much text on the UK cover.

VERDICT: UK Cover


Six Crimson Cranes – Elizabeth Lim

Can I just say, whoever’s responsible for Elizabeth Lim’s covers, keep doing what you’re doing because these are both STUNNING. They’re two very different styles but so beautifully eye-catching, and I’m not normally a fan of people’s faces on covers (although, I do make exceptions for art over photography, like this one). On the US cover, I love the feathered background, the way it swirls around the girl, and the bold red text. Meanwhile, the UK version offers the sweetest, most dreamy pastel palette. I couldn’t possibly choose. Points for everyone!

VERDICT: Tie!


She Who Became the Sun – Shelley Parker-Chan

The covers for She Who Became the Sun are another difficult match-up. The colours on the UK cover are absolutely gorgeous. They just glow with such a wonderfully sunny warmth. You couldn’t miss this book on a shelf even if you tried. Yet, there’s just something I love about the composition of the US cover – the sun, watercolour blacks, image of the army with the general at the head. It looks pretty darn epic. Where it lets me down is the text fonts which are very blah looking

VERDICT: US Cover


Once Upon a Broken Heart – Stephanie Garber

I love having two completely different covers to compare, as we do for Once Upon a Broken Heart. The US version’s glittery, abstract-ish space heart is very pretty (I like the stars in the middle) but I can’t help finding it a little odd. The UK approach is quite whimsical – I like the pops of colour in the arch, the lovely title font and the cheeky-looking suits of armour. It’s very fairytale-esque, which is probably what they were going for. I think you can tell which way I’m leaning on this one.

VERDICT: UK Cover


Billy Summers – Stephen King

I actually like both of these covers, but I suppose when you’re as big as Stephen King they hire experienced designers. The UK cover has my fave orange-blue colour combo and it’s as striking as ever. The text is wonderfully clean as well. However, I think I’m going with the US cover on this one. I keep finding my eyes drawn to those vivid, red trees. I also really like the way the page tear divides the cover, plus the tan text stands out really well.

VERDICT: US Cover


The Mirror & the Light (Thomas Cromwell 3#) – Hilary Mantel

If anyone wants to disagree with my choice on this match-up, you do you, but I’m going to need you to explain why, because….how. This is a UK winner for me, hands down. The US cover is just so flat and boring. Like, this series has won the Booker prize twice and that was the best you could come up with? Seriously? Yes, the text on the UK cover does blend in somewhat, but the artwork in the background is colourful and visually dynamic. I love the sense of movement (apologies if I’m starting to sound like a high school art essay).

VERDICT: UK Cover


Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

I’ll be quick on this pairing – I prefer the US cover. I have nothing against the imagery on the UK version, but the text is so boring. Also, the red background on the US cover is so much more vivid. The noodles split between the chopsticks is cute, too.

VERDICT: US Cover


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong

While the orange, autumn style leaves against the starry sky on the UK cover are nice to look at, this is another US pick for me. There’s something so intimate and touching about the photography of that hug. You feel it. In case you were interested, the image comes from a photographer named Sam Contis and is called “Embrace”. The one downside is that the text gets a bit lost in the photo in some places but that’s always a challenge with full cover photography.

VERDICT: US Cover


Anxious People – Fredrik Backman

I know people are going to disagree with me on this one but let’s throw caution to the winds anyway. In terms of amazing, memorable covers, neither of these is really up there but they’re not bad either. The US cover is, once again, a believer in the orange-blue colour scheme, although the shade of orange they’ve chosen isn’t my favourite. The image is fine but it’s also on the bland side. The UK cover is, yes, mostly empty space but I like the salmon-y red colour and enjoy the little windows displaying all the different people, offering glimpses into their lives. It’s simple but cute.

VERDICT: UK Cover


The Court of Miracles – Kester Grant

There’s nothing wrong with the US cover for The Court of Miracles but come on, do you see that UK cover? It’s SO PRETTY. And even better, the gold is FOILED! I’m sorry guys, but foiled nearly always wins. It just has to. It’s like a rule, or something. I really like the duality and contrast of the image as well. It’s very dramatic and grand looking.

VERDICT: UK Cover


The Hating Game – Sally Thorne

Both the US and UK covers for The Hating Game use almost the exact same colour scheme, which I like because it’s quite striking. However, the text style and imagery are different. I don’t mind either of these covers but I think I might prefer the UK one the teeniest, tiniest bit more. Mostly because I find the image of Lucy and Josh stuck centimetres away from each other with giant squiggles of frustration over their heads funny. However, I will say, the yellow pops more on the US cover.

VERDICT: UK Cover (by a hair)


Once again, it’s time to check back in with our scoreboard, or should I say MY scoreboard as you’re all probably sitting there, disagreeing with every second decision I make. Anyway…here’s where we are now after round 6 (geez, I really need to come up with new post ideas).

And would you look at that, the UK has closed the gap slightly, but the US remains in the lead. Lately, I’ve been finding that more publishers are sticking to using the same cover for both regions. That is, except for romance and thrillers, which is annoying because the alternate UK versions feel really lazy a lot of the time. Anyway, hopefully, I’ll find a few more matchups over the coming months to be able to continue the ongoing battle.

Which covers would you have picked to win these matchups? Do you agree with my picks or am I blind?

Book Tag: The Christmas Songs Tag

It’s December! The month of my favourite holiday, hurrah! And that means it’s time for a Christmas-themed book tag. This festive, Christmas music-themed tag comes from our Top Ten Tuesday guru Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Jana actually does this tag annually and so limits her answers to those books she’s read in the past several months to keep things fresh and interesting. Just in case I also end up wanting to redo it, I thought I might do the same and stick with answering using books I’ve read in 2021 (easier said than done for some prompts, though). Here we go…

“All I Want for Christmas Is You”: Favorite Bookish Couple

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I’ve had quite a few great couples in books this year, which is wonderful, so picking one favourite is a big challenge. To avoid repeating myself in posts a bunch this month (always a problem with December wrap ups), I’m using Emilia & Wrath from the Kingdom of the Wicked series. It’s probably a super problematic pairing but eh, they’re hot together. That sexual tension just sizzles on the page. This romance is why I enjoyed Kingdom of the Cursed as much as I did because the rest of the plot is kind of a mess. I loved the conversations, the flirting, the fights…so good. Plus, the whole witch and demon prince dynamic is right up my alley.


“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”: A Book Where a Character is Away From Home (School, Vacation, Etc.)

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As you can probably tell from the title, the characters in You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry spend most of the book on a variety of different summer holidays. I know this is set in the northern hemisphere but had it been set in the southern where I live, they’d be the Christmas holidays! The book is about two best friends, Poppy & Alex, who take a trip together every year but fell out following the events of their Croatia holiday 2 years ago. After Poppy reaches out, the two agree to head to Palm Springs together, with Poppy determined to get their friendship back on track. But what if they’re meant to be more than friends?


“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”: Your Favorite “Little” Book (Children’s Book, Short Story, Novella, Etc.)

Unfortunately, I haven’t read any novellas, comics, or short stories this year but there are a few I really want to read. I’ve had This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone on my physical TBR pile for a few months now but I keep putting it off. Both volumes 2 & 3 of the Fence comic series by C S Pacat are on my shelf as well, but again, procrastination is my middle name. Also, with the next book in the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson finally out, I have three novellas to read in connection with it – Sunreach, ReDawn & Evershore. No idea when I’ll get to all of these things but hopefully sooner rather than later.


“Santa Claus is Coming to Town“: What Book(s) Do You Hope Santa Brings You This Year?

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As this question is the subject of a whole separate post for me, I’ll just list one of the books on my Christmas wish list and that’s A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir. I’ve been trying to work my way through re-reading the first three books in the Ember quartet before finally reading the last book. My progress has been pretty slow so far (as usual) but I’m hoping to finish my re-read this month, so it seemed like a good idea to ask Santa for this one. I’m really excited to see how it all ends. Hopefully it’s not too painful but considering Sabaa’s track record, I’m pretty sure I’m being set up for heartbreak.


“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Which Book Turned Your Nose Red (Made You Cry)?

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As I’m always pointing out, I’m not a big book crier. However, there are plenty of books that have made me feel…things. Sad, gut-wrenching things. One of the books that hit hard in the feelings this year was Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy. I can’t explain too much about why without giving away major parts of the book but the story deals with themes like sexual assault, abuse, trauma, and humans’ relationship with the environment, which weigh heavily at times. In other words, it’s beautifully written but prepare to hurt.


“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Your Favorite Book/Kind of Book to Read During the Holidays

This is a tough one for me because I don’t really have a specific book that I tend to read around the holidays, nor do I stick to just one genre or type of read either. If I had to say anything, it’d probably be that I read a couple of romances and thrillers in the lead-up to the New Year. They’re good summer picks and perfect for binge-reading to beef up my reading stats for the year, especially if I’m behind on my goal. Even though I’m not behind this year, I know I’ll be reading some over the next few weeks.


“We Three Kings”: Your Favorite Trilogy

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As usual, it’s impossible for me to choose a singular favourite but if we’re talking trilogies, The Poppy War series by R F Kuang is easily one of my faves. Every entry has featured on my top 10 of the year posts and received either 5 or 4.5 stars. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what else is. I don’t normally read military fantasy but I should if they’re as good as these. The characters are fantastic, the world-building and magic are amazing, the pacing is spot-on, and lord, the emotions. THE EMOTIONS. This series crushed my poor heart repeatedly (especially The Burning God which I read back in January). I should probably mention it less because you guys are eventually going to get sick of hearing about it but we’ll just ignore that for now.


“Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”: A Character You Would Love to be Snowed in With

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Weirdly enough, I’m picking a character from my current read for this – Dr Ryland Grace from Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I’m only roughly halfway through at the moment but I’m still pretty confident about my choice. Since Ryland spends most of the book on his own, trapped on a spaceship far from Earth, I already know that he’s funny, resourceful, and makes the best of a really crappy situation (basically perfect for being snowed-in with). Plus, he’d probably teach me a bunch of fun science-related facts while we were waiting for the snow to melt. Ooo, we could do experiments! Fun!


“Last Christmas”: A Book that Seriously Let You Down

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I had a couple of options for this prompt, but The Final Girls by Riley Sager it is. I was on a sort of high after enjoying The Last Time I Lied so when I saw the blurb for this and that it involved final girls getting murdered, I was like: sign me up. However, it wasn’t what I was expecting or hoping for. For a thriller, this was just so darn slow, I legit forgot what type of book I was reading. It was almost like the main plot was left to sit in the background until near the end when things finally became interesting only to let me down with the big reveal. *sigh* The characters were also somewhat of a mixed bag, although I did like the whole past & present timelines approach. Good premise, lacking execution.


“White Christmas”: An Upcoming Release You’re Dreaming About

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To avoid having my queen, R F Kuang, dominate this post by using Babel (which I’m so damn excited for), I’m going with Husband Material by Alexis Hall. This is a sequel to Boyfriend Material, which I read back in 2020 and loved. I only recently discovered the existence of this book and now I’m sitting here going: I have to wait until August, like really? WHYYYYY. The first book was so much fun and I laughed a lot, plus I shipped Oliver and Luc hard, so the fact that this follow-up could include them getting married….just gimme already.


Only a few more weeks until Christmas. Is anyone else frantically trying to get as many books read as possible before the end of the year? Or is it just me? I’m always like this in December. The logical part of my brain knows it’s silly but I do it anyway in the hopes of having a few extra books to add to my various wrap-up posts. *Sigh* I’m also currently in struggle town thinking about what presents to get people. I love this time of the year but it can also be a lot. I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying your current reads!