We are a quarter of the year down (somehow) and that means it’s time for another wrap up post. The last two months feel like they’ve passed quickly but I’m pretty sure I say that every wrap up. In recent months, I’ve had some good reads and some not so good reads, occasionally got off my butt and did some blogging, and as usual made frequent trips to the book store (I’ve gotta keep my TBR on its toes, after all). Here’s what’s been going on in March and April.
A bit of a mixed month in March – fantasy, thrillers, romance, even a classic. In the end though, there were a couple of eh reads and only one book managed to crack the 4 star rating threshold.
I feel like I say this a lot but, a great concept with disappointing execution. I really loved the idea – looking at the trauma that comes with being a prophesied saviour of the world. However, the reality was a slog to get through until the last third or so, which was really good but too little too late. I also had difficulty connecting with and getting invested in the characters which brought down the enjoyment factor a lot. Although this is Roth’s first adult novel, the characters and writing still have a very YA vibe to them but this makes sense within the context of the story. The book’s use of redacted files, newspaper clippings, etc. to provide background and world building was a fun touch.
The One – John Marrs ★★★.5
I now understand why people make Black Mirror comparisons with this book. A test that uses our DNA to determine our soulmate? What an intriguing idea for a novel. Although The One is classified as a thriller, it didn’t really feel like one for most of the time I was reading it. Only really towards the end. The short chapters and approachable writing made it really easy to get stuck into but the frequent cliffhangers, which often turned out to be nothing, became frustrating after a while (I just want to go to bed, okay?!). There are quite a few character POVs in this book, probably one or two too many, and I experienced plenty of moments where I was annoyed to leave a character I was interested in at a dramatic scene only to go back to a character I wasn’t. Overall, pretty well done but I wanted more.
Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco ★★★ | Review
Witchcraft, demons, murder, supernatural romance…there was no way I could resist giving this a read. It took me a while to really click with Kingdom of the Wicked and part of that was due to some issues with the writing style, however, I had a lot of fun in the second half. I found the lead, Emilia, frustrating and naive at times, and her love interest, the demon prince, Wrath, was interesting but underdeveloped. Still, I did like their interactions with one another. The atmosphere was great and I loved the transportive descriptions of Palermo. While the ending was rushed and confusing, I have really high hopes for an exciting sequel.
Final Girls – Riley Sager ★★
This was not what I was expecting. For a thriller, the pacing in Final Girls was extremely slow. Half the time the main storyline faded into the background in favour of monotonous scenes and an unnecessary side plot. Things did pick up eventually, thank goodness, but the ending didn’t really feel like it fit the rest of the story, which was a bummer. I’m still not sure how I feel about the MC, Quincy, as her journey was somewhat all over the place but I was happy with where she ended up. I also enjoyed Sager’s use of concurrent past and present timelines again which really served to increase the tension. Bonus points for the horror movie trope usage.
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier ★★★★
I’ve wanted to read Rebecca for years so I’m super glad I’ve finally done it. The story is great – more psychological suspense than the Gothic romance critics classified it as. I loved the idea of a young woman struggling to find herself in a new marriage and stuck in the shadow of someone considered to have been the epitome of charm, beauty and wit. Rebecca has its slow points but they don’t overstay their welcome and ensure a gradual build up to the big reveals. I liked and disliked the writing. There were times where I was glued to the page and others I was bored with the overwhelming amount of descriptive detail. The ending was also too abrupt for my liking. Yet, I can’t deny, du Maurier’s prose is beautiful. I do wish that I’d read the book first instead of watching the 2020 adaptation though, as I feel like it ruined the mystery and tension for me. I probably would have rated it higher had I done so.
Layla – Colleen Hoover ★★.5
This was not what I was expecting. At all. I somehow missed the fact that it’s a paranormal romance so I was really surprised when a ghost showed up. That aside, I was pretty apathetic towards Layla for the most part. The plot was slow and most of the characters felt underdeveloped. I also wasn’t a big fan of the MC, Leeds, who’s an asshole for reasons I can’t explain without major spoilers, and this made being stuck inside his head a trial. However, the twists at the end turned it around for me somewhat and boosted my rating, even though they’re a little over the top, coincidental and try to absolve Leeds of his dick-ishness.
April was a good month of reading! My lowest rated book was 3.5 stars and I certainly cannot complain about that. I did happen to read mostly books I’d just bought which isn’t exactly great for my existing TBR but what can I say, I’m a mood reader – sue me.
Our Year of Maybe – Rachel Lynn Solomon ★★★★
This was a great YA contemporary read. It’s a slightly more mature young adult novel, which I enjoyed, and tackles themes like chronic illness, coming out, losing your virginity, co-dependency, religious belief, and the way friendships change over time. However, it does so in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s talking down to its audience or underestimating their ability to relate/understand. The writing is good and the two lead POVs, Sophie and Peter, sounded different from one another as well as felt like real teens just trying to deal with big changes in their lives. After this, I’m looking forward to reading Rachel Lynn Solomon’s other books.
The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter ★★★★.5
This was fantastically written and I get why Slaughter has remained such a popular crime author for so long. While The Good Daughter does have an overarching crime plot – a school shooting – which is good but could have been slightly more meaty, where the book really excels is its complex, well rounded and emotionally crafted characters. The relationship between the two MCs, sisters Sam & Charlie, and the way the novel handles their shared trauma was really well done, especially the use of dual POVs. The pacing is great as well, starting out with a bang and, aside from a few overly lengthy conversations, retaining strong momentum throughout. If you’re not into graphic, dark and violent reads, this won’t be for you but otherwise, I really recommend it.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson ★★★★
There’s been a lot of hype around this book so I was cautious about getting my hopes up too high, but in the end this was a really enjoyable YA mystery read! I loved the use of mixed media with third person to tell the story and thought it was a fun and effective narrative choice that really made me feel like I was piecing the mystery together with the characters. The plot was engaging but still made room for emotional investment in the characters (Ravi and Pip were cute). My biggest thing, though, is that the climax wasn’t disappointing! Colour me shocked. There were definitely a few things that bugged me (the odd & corny epilogue, an unnecessary dog death, etc.) but I’ll 100% be reading the sequel.
None Shall Sleep – Ellie Marney ★★★.5
If, like me, you’re into Silence of the Lambs or Mindhunter, and are interested in seeing a YA approach, None Shall Sleep is the book for you. This was an addictive read and I loved how much tension Marney managed to instill into her scenes, especially the conversations between our lead Emma, and her sociopathic interview subject, Simon. The writing is on the clinical side which works well in some instances but lessens the emotional impact of character centered moments and may be why I feel like the book didn’t delve as deeply into the two main characters’ traumas as it could have. The climax is really gripping and exciting but I can’t help wishing that Emma and Travis’s investigative efforts had paid off more and that the actual investigation itself had been drawn out longer.
No ARCs this time but there’s always purchases. As usual, I bought more books over the last two months than I’ve got listed here but these are the ones from the bunch that I still have yet to read. Overall, not too bad, especially when I consider the fact that most of these aren’t ridiculously long reads. People in the Trees and A Ladder to the Sky are books by two authors I’ve already read something from and loved so I’m really hoping lightening strikes twice. Death on the Nile and The Nowhere Child were bought during my mystery craze in March and I have high hopes for them.
Here are the posts you may have missed over the last two months:
Lately, I’ve been spending more time on video games than I have in a while. I’ve recently gotten into Stardew Valley, something that’s supposed to be relaxing (it’s a farming sim) but I’ve come to realise that I’m too highly strung for relaxing games to actually be, you know, relaxing. I’ve also finished a couple of Nintendo switch games recently like Luigi’s mansion 3 and Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu, but my newest obsession is Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I’m addicted.
TV wise, I’ve been binge watching my way through seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (I’m still a million years behind airing television though) and season 2 of The Circle US on Netflix. I’ve also casually been watching this wonderfully sweet Australian series called Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds. It’s about a study which pairs elderly people with young kids to help improve the adults’ quality of life and the kids’ social skills. It’s can be sad at times but it’s mostly really uplifting and nice. Perfect for dark Covid times.
Over the last few weeks I’ve also been trying to incorporate more exercise into my routine. It’s been a challenge getting up an extra hour or so early in order to fit it in before work and I’m so unfit it’s ridiculous, but I know it’s really important for my health, physical and mental, so I’m going to do my best to keep with it. Even though a dodgy ankle is making it more difficult than expected…
That’s it from me! Last year I got a bit slack when it came to my wrap ups and by the time I wanted to do my end of year posts I struggled remembering everything. So, in 2021 I’m going to make sure I’m much more consistent with it.
How have your last few months been? What have you been reading? Any new favourites to report?
Back in September of last year, I tried out a post idea created by @ReadingMaria called ‘Last Year I Was Reading’. I had fun with it in comparing my different reading tastes so this week I thought, why not do it again? The general gist is to look at what you’re reading now, what you were reading at the same time last year, and compare the two reads. Easy peasy!
None Shall Sleep – Ellie Marney
My current read is None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney (woo, an Aussie author!). It’s set in 1982 and is about two eighteen-year-olds, Emma & Travis, who both have personal experience with serial killers and are recruited by the FBI to interview juvenile offenders for information on cold cases. They soon get involved in consulting on an active case which leads them to speak to an incarcerated killer: super-intelligent sociopath, Simon Gutmunsson. Gutmunsson is highly dangerous and extremely manipulative but the advice he’s providing them with may be necessary to save lives. But what is his connection to the current murders and should they be concerned about his growing interest in Emma?
I went into this expecting it to be a young adult version of Mindhunter but once I got stuck in, I realised it’s actually more of a YA Silence of the Lambs. Regardless, I’m very much here for it. I’m loving it’s maturity, darkness and sense of tension. The writing is pretty matter of fact but I’m not opposed to it. I’m really excited to see how the rest of the book plays out because the reviews I’ve seen have been mostly really positive.
Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
At this point in April 2020 I was coming to the end of the confusing, ambitious and badass sci-fi-fantasy, Gideon the Ninth. It’s about a bunch of necromancers and their sword-wielding bodyguards from eight royal houses coming together on a mysterious planet to compete to discover a secret knowledge and win the favour of the emperor. Our lead is Gideon who is tasked with protecting the heir to the Ninth House, Harrowhark. Things take an unexpected turn though when house members start getting murdered.
Gideon is a polarising book – either you enjoy it or it’s really not your thing. The main reason for this is that it’s complicated and there’s very little hand holding to help the reader understand. Either you just go with it until it makes sense or you get steamrolled. While I was super lost through large chunks, I still enjoyed it and thought it was a super interesting and unique read. The characters were fun and snarky, the ending was fantastic and the story was engaging.
Just like the last time I did this, both of the books involved are very different from one another. One is YA, the other is adult. Gideon is sci-fi/fantasy and set in the future, while None Shall Sleep is a Thriller/Crime book set in the past. The writing styles are completely different, too. I mean, both books have a degree of mystery, violence and murder to them and also involve a team of two major characters working together to achieve a particular goal, but I’m abstracting a lot to create that commonality. At this point I can’t really say which of the two books I prefer over the other, but I really hope my current read is a high starred one.
Have you read either of these books? What did you think? What book were you reading this time last year and how does it compare to your current read?
Something I hadn’t realised until recently is that this is the first time I’ve ever actually done a book haul post. Pretty crazy, especially considering I’ve been blogging since 2017. It’s probably because I tend to list my hauls as part of my monthly wrap ups. But there’s a first time for everything after all, and now seemed like the time. With my newbie status in mind, I made sure to check out some other blogs for hints on how to format this. From what I could see, most people tend to copy the book covers off Goodreads, list the synopsis and some brief thoughts, and go on their merry way. Smart, efficient, practical. But me, oh no. Past Ashley was like, I should take proper photos of everything!
Never. Again. Let it be said here: past Ashley is stupid.
Moving along, as the title suggests, recently I’ve been really in the mood for mystery/thriller type reads and, as you do when you get fixated on something, I’ve bought a few of them over the last couple of weeks. Okay, more than a few. Here are the new additions to my shelves in all their (annoying printed sticker) glory.
Final Girls – Riley Sager
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
Surprisingly, I’ve already finished this one! I was really in the mood for a quick, satisfying thriller one day and after enjoying Sager’s The Last Time I Lied earlier this year, I thought this might be just what I was after. As it turned out, it wasn’t quick or satisfying. The main story took so long to finally get going and I wasn’t very keen on most of the characters. The big reveal was disappointing, too. Another one of those cases of a good premise and poor execution, I’m afraid.
Stillhouse Lake – Rachel Caine
Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom. With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.
But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.
This book was on my 2020 TBR and I never got around to buying or reading it. So, when I found it on sale on the kindle store last month for less than $2, I couldn’t resist hitting that ‘buy now’ button. I think it’s the cheapest book I’ve ever bought! I’ve seen quite a lot of positive reviews for Stillhouse Lake and the premise is intriguing, however I know it’s the first installment in a series and there’s a cliffhanger ending, which I’m sure will drive me crazy.
The Nowhere Child – Christian White
Kimberly Leamy is a photography teacher in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-six years earlier, Sammy Went, a two-year old girl vanished from her home in Manson, Kentucky. An American accountant who contacts Kim is convinced she was that child, kidnapped just after her birthday. She cannot believe the woman who raised her, a loving social worker who died of cancer four years ago, crossed international lines to steal a toddler.
On April 3rd, 1990, Jack and Molly Went’s daughter Sammy disappeared from the inside their Kentucky home. Already estranged since the girl’s birth, the couple drifted further apart as time passed. Jack did his best to raise and protect his other daughter and son while Molly found solace in her faith. The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal fundamentalist group who handle poisonous snakes as part of their worship, provided that faith. Without Sammy, the Wents eventually fell apart.
Now, with proof that she and Sammy are in fact the same person, Kim travels to America to reunite with a family she never knew she had. And to solve the mystery of her abduction—a mystery that will take her deep into the dark heart of religious fanaticism where she must fight for her life against those determined to save her soul…
I realised looking at my 2020 reading stats that although I live in Australia, I read barely any books by Australian authors or ones set there. It’s kind of sad, so consider this my first step in trying to improve that somewhat. From the blurb this seems like an interesting approach to the kidnapping type story so I’m looking forward to getting around to reading it. The Nowhere Child was shortlisted for quite a few Australian literature awards (what gave it away I wonder, could it be ALL THE PRINTED STICKERS??!!) so fingers crossed it’s a good read.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson
Everyone in Fairview knows the story.
Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.
But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?
Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
I’ve been meaning to buy A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder for a while now so the fact that I finally did isn’t much of a surprise. Unlike the other books on this list, it’s a YA Mystery read. I’ve been burnt by other YA books in this genre before so I’m a little wary but I’ve seen so many great reviews that I’m really hoping for a home run with this one, particularly since there’s another two books in the series after it.
In the Woods – Tana French
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
In one of my recent posts I mentioned wanting to give some of Tana French’s books a try and In the Woods is the first in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. You can read them out of order but I’m a bit of nut when it comes to that sort of thing so the first book it is. She’s a popular author in the genre so I hope I enjoy this because it’ll mean I have plenty of other books from her back catalogue to work my way through.
The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter
Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind.
Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father—Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney—devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.
Twenty-eight years later, Charlotte has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself—the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again, and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized, Charlotte is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress–because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever.
Like Tana French, Karin Slaughter is another big crime author with a healthy backlog that I’ve wanted to give a go for some time. Picking where to start with her books was a tough decision but The Good Daughter is one of her highest rated on GR and the blurb for it definitely grabbed me more than for some of her other books. I know that my grandma enjoys her books occasionally so, at the very least, I’ll have someone to chat to about it.
Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie
The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything – until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting, nothing is ever quite what it seems…
Let me first say, Agatha Christie is a literary queen and amazing. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t buy this because of how pretty the hardback special edition is. I’m not sure how I missed this but over the last few years Harper Collins has released a couple of Christie’s books with brand new, special foiled covers. They have a chosen quote on the back and nice, patterned end pages. As you might have guessed, I’m now determined to collect them all. I decided to go with Death on the Nile first as I know the new adaptation is releasing soon. While I’ve seen other adaptations before, I’ve never read the book and there’s no time like the present, right?
And that’s that! While I have bought a few other reads recently, they’re from other genres and I’ll probably save those to include as part of my end of month wrap up, as per usual. What books have you recently purchased and are looking forward to reading? Have you read any of these books and if so, what did you think? Or even better, do you have any other good mystery/thriller recommendations for me?
It’s been a while since I last put some US and UK book covers in a battle to the death. Okay, it’s not that dramatic. Still, I think it’s time to put the score board back up and see which region’s covers reign supreme. Just in case you need a catch up, here are rounds 1, 2 and 3. At this point the US is in the lead on 17 points with the UK right behind on 16 points. You guys know the drill by now, US covers on the left and UK on the right. Let’s dive in!
Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell
While I do like the idea of the renaissance style painting and the text on scripts of parchment on the US cover, I love the elegance of the UK version. The gold, nature based designs around the letter are stunning.
Verdict: UK Cover
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V. E. Schwab
This was an easy decision, especially considering how much money I forked out to get a copy of the US cover sent to Australia (UGH). I’m not sure what it is about the UK Cover, but I’m just not really a fan. The squiggly lines look a little odd and I wish that the text had been more elegant. The US cover is so simple but the text with the star constellation incorporated is magical.
Verdict: US Cover
The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
Now this is a tough one. I love the semi-abstract nature of the imagery on both covers. There’s so many organic, flowing lines. I also feel like both covers capture the idea of two sisters being different parts of a whole very well. In the end though, I’m going to go with the UK cover but only just! It’s mostly because I find the colour scheme easier on the eyes than the shades of blue, green, orange and pink blended together on the US version.
Verdict: UK Cover
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
I’m definitely a fan of the starry sky background on the top half of the UK cover but the rest of it is kind of boring, especially the snooze-worthy title font. The US cover, on the other hand, is an example of a simple cover which still looks engaging. I love all the little images inside the ovals. They remind me of airplane windows. The colour contrast of the yellow and orange with the navy is nice, too.
Verdict: US Cover
Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo
Another difficult match up, again because the concepts are similar but the styles are different. I love how both covers utilise half the girls’ faces and a clear sense of colour contrast. I think I like the more realistic art style of the UK cover better, however I prefer the colour scheme (the use of green and pink to create harmony and difference is well done) and layout of the US cover.
Verdict: US Cover
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is another pairing where the publishers have executed a same-same vision with small differences. It’s a tough choice. I think the title stands out better on the UK cover and I like the way the dress falls at the bottom. I also feel as though the brown wall offers good contrast against the green. However, the US cover screams old Hollywood more and I believe it captures the sexy, glamorous image Evelyn portrayed to the world a lot better. Very Marilyn Monroe.
Verdict: US Cover (By a smidge!)
If I Had Your Face – Frances Cha
My god, that yellow and red overlay on the US cover is gorgeous. I love the way the title text takes up a lot of space and cuts through the colour so cleanly. Yet, the UK cover is really eye-catching, mostly because it’s super weird to look at. You just find yourself staring at it trying to make sense of what’s happening. I’m torn on this one, guys. There’s stuff to like about both. Tie it is then.
If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio
Considering how much I loved this book, I wish I’d bought the US hardback now. The skull, script and dark lighting are making all my dark academia dreams come true. The UK cover (which has since been redesigned) is very simple. I like the ’embossed’ bordering and big dramatic title text, however the dead sparrow image only really makes sense if you’ve read the novel and look kind of odd if you haven’t.
Verdict: US Cover
The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
There’s something very soothing about the US cover for The Bone Clocks. Maybe it’s the reflected sky or perhaps it’s those beautiful layers of perfect circles, one after the other. Still, I definitely find the UK cover more striking and visually dynamic. The colours, sense of movement, and all the tiny details to pick apart make this one the stronger cover in my opinion.
Verdict: UK Cover
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson
Both the US & UK covers have the same concept here – a messy looking murder board – but they go about it slightly differently. I have to say, I’m more a fan of the US cover and it’s mostly because the title text is better integrated into the image than the splat-on-the-page approach of the UK cover. I also feel like the slightly grayer background feels more ominous looking than the stark white which is what you want for a mystery novel.
Verdict: US Cover
City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert
This is another set of covers with somewhat similar concepts, this time with the use of showgirl costume feathers. I appreciate the colour scheme and bold, theater style text on the US cover, but there’s something about the image of the showgirl peering over the top of the text in the UK version that I really like.
Verdict: UK Cover
My Dark Vanessa – Kate Elizabeth Russell
I have to say, I don’t really like the US cover for My Dark Vanessa. I appreciate the incorporation of the butterfly as a reference to Vladimir Nabokov who wrote Lolita (which is referred to many times in this book), but the image doesn’t do much for me. The UK cover, however, features one of my favourite colour combos on covers – orange and blue, a complementary pairing. I also love the bold, blocky title text woven into the hair strands. So clean looking.
Verdict: UK Cover
Okay, better stop before I get too carried away (which is easy to do when you’re looking at a bunch of cool book covers). Time to check the score board!
US Covers: 24 Points
UK Covers: 22 Points
It seems that the US is still in the lead. Hm, interesting. Better get your act together UK, you’re falling behind. As always, how would you have decided these match ups? Any favourite covers among the bunch?
A new year, a new probably unrealistic list of books I’d like to tackle before the end of the year. In 2020 I set myself a list of 30 books I wanted to read from a bunch of different genres. I ended up only reading…well, 14 of them. Er, yeah. It could have been better. Anyway, here’s hoping that this year is more productive and less subject to intense shifts in my reading mood.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte: I bought a Penguin faux leather copy of this and it’s too pretty not to be read. Hopefully I like it a lot more than I did Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier: I’ve been putting this off for YEARS. Now that I’ve watched an adaptation, I feel I really, really need to finally read the book.
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott: Yes, this book was on my 2020 list. Yes, it’s here again.
The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson: Lately I’ve been wanting to try my hand at writing a ghost story. I should probably see how one of the experts does it.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benhamin Alire Saenz: I’ve heard so many amazing things about this book and it sounds so good.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne: Heaps of positive reviews, an interesting sounding blurb and recommended for those who liked A Little Life (which I did). Please don’t make me cry.
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami: I tried reading 1Q84 many years ago and found it super weird. This is supposedly less so. I might hate it, might love it. Trying it for something different.
The Comeback – Ella Berman: There’s something intriguing about this book. It just seems like something I’d like. Plus very topically relevant in today’s day & age.
If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio: I read The Secret History back in 2020 and really liked it. This has been regularly recommend as being similar in feel. Yay, dark academia & murder!
The Boy From the Woods – Harlan Coben: I came across TBFtW while perusing the GR Choice awards noms. I do enjoy a good mystery from time to time and this one certainly sounds exciting.
The Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager: It’s bizarre, I am so keen on reading Sager’s books despite having this nagging feeling that I won’t love them. This one is set at a camp which is cool yet creepy.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson: This is my next stop in the search for an amazing YA crime/thriller book. I’ve been burnt before but reviews have been great so fingers crossed!
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars – Christopher Paolini: The size is definitely intimidating but as if I’m going to pass up new Paolini, and an interesting sounding one with a gorgeous cover at that.
Dark Age (Red Rising 5#) – Pierce Brown: You guys already know how much I love this series. I FINALLY read Iron Gold last year so that means it’s time for Dark Age. I’m preparing my heart.
Ready Player Two – Ernest Cline: Reviews on this one haven’t been great but a) I got it for Christmas and b) I really liked the first book. So we’re doing it in 2021.
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig: The Goodreads Choice Awards Fiction winner for 2020! This book sounds so good and I’m almost 100% positive that I’m going to love it.
The Burning God (The Poppy War 3#) – R F Kuang: I’m legit obsessed with this series. Book two was my favourite read of 2020 and I’m SO keen for the last book. Pain is coming, I can tell.
Piranesi – Susanna Clarke: Shiny foiling on covers, I can’t resist it. Piranesi sounds super different from other things I’ve read in recent years and I’ve seen some amazing reviews, too.
The Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2#) – Brandon Sanderson: I have a sudden desire to go back to this series (blame Skyward maybe?). I read The Final Empire back in 2015 but for some reason didn’t continue onward. I’ll have to reread it before tackling TWoA but I’m really looking forward to it.
Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett: I’ve had Foundryside on my radar for a while now and I think it’s finally the time. Magic, politics, a heist, adventure…sign me up!
Layla – Colleen Hoover: It’s been hit or miss with Colleen Hoover reads, but I like the sound of this. Hopefully it’s more Verity & It Ends with Us than Confess. I also got it for $2 on kindle, SCORE.
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird – Josie Silver: The concept for this sounds kind of weird but I enjoyed Josie Silver’s One Day in December so I’m keen to give this a whirl.
From Blood and Ash – Jennifer L. Armentrout: Blame the hype. I have to see what people are talking about. I’m sure it’ll be tropey and cringey to the max but the FOMO is too intense.
Today, Tonight, Tomorrow – Rachel Lynn Solomon: This looks like a solid ya rom-com. It also features enemies to lovers (= my crack). I’m worried about rushed development because of the time frame but we shall see.
What’s on your list of backlist books to read in 2021?
Let me preface this by saying that there are so many amazing looking books due to come out in 2021. I am ridiculously excited. So, that means, DO NOT BLAME ME THAT THIS POST IS LONGER THAN WAR AND PEACE, okay? My reading tastes tend to gravitate towards fantasy, romance and mysteries/thrillers (both YA & Adult), so expect to see a mix of books from these genres below.
Lore – Alexandra Bracken | January
Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality. Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.
Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.
The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.
A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses 4#) – Sarah J Maas | February
Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.
The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.
Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.
Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.
The Project – Courtney Summers | February
Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.
When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.
The Mask Falling (The Bone Season 4#) – Samantha Shannon | February
Dreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire.
The mysterious Domino Program has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim-her former enemy-at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.
As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them-and could end with them…
Sing Me Forgotten – Jessica S. Olson | March
Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.
Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.
But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.
Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.
Rule of Wolves (King of Scars 2#) – Leigh Bardugo | March
The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.
The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.
The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.
King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.
Yolk – Mary H.K. Choi | March
Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.
On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer. Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.
She’s Too Pretty to Burn – Wendy Heard | March
The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot―full of adventure―and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect . . . one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.
Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, danger, and power.
Every Last Fear – Alex Finlay
After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.
The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.
When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.
Twice Shy – Sarah Hogle | April
Parrish has always been a dreamer and hopeless romantic. But living with her head in the clouds has long been preferable to dealing with reality, whether it’s navigating the wild world of dating apps or getting her coworkers to show her a little respect. So when Maybell inherits a stately old Tennessee manor from her Great Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.
But when she arrives at her new home, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the manor practically falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s just as grouchy as he is gorgeous–and it turns out he has a very different vision for the property’s future.
Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than any of the many other dying wishes Great Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls and silences, she realizes they might have more in common than she ever dreamed. And as the two slowly begin to let their guards down, they just might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.
The Forest of Stolen Girls – June Hur | April
Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.
To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.
Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.
Life’s Too Short – Abby Jimenez | April
Vanessa lives life on her own terms — one day at a time, every day to its fullest. She isn’t willing to waste a moment or miss out on an experience when she has no idea whether she shares the same fatal genetic condition as her mother. Besides, she has way too much to do, traveling the globe and showing her millions of YouTube followers the joy in seizing every moment.
But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, she is housebound, on mommy duty for the foreseeable future, and feeling totally out of her element.
The last person she expects to show up offering help is the unbelievably hot lawyer who lives next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. But as they get closer, Vanessa realizes that her carefree ways and his need for a structured plan could never be compatible for the long term. Then again, she should know better than anyone that life’s too short to fear taking the biggest risk of all...
Girl, 11 – Amy Suiter Clarke | April
Once a social worker specializing in kids who were the victims of violent crime, Elle Castillo is now the host of a popular true crime podcast that tackles cold cases of missing children in her hometown of the Twin Cities. After two seasons of successfully solving cases, Elle decides to tackle her white whale—The Countdown Killer. Twenty years ago, TCK abruptly stopped after establishing a pattern of taking and ritualistically murdering three girls over seven days, each a year younger than the last. No one’s ever known why—why he stopped with his eleventh victim, a girl of eleven years old, or why he followed the ritual at all.
When a listener phones in with a tip, Elle sets out to interview him, only to discover his dead body. And within days, a child is abducted following the original TCK MO. Unlike the experts in the media and law enforcement who have always spun theories of a guilty suicide, Elle never believed TCK had died, and her investigation was meant to lay that suspicion to rest. But instead, her podcast seems to be kicking up new victims.
Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid | May
Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over–especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.
The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud–because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.And Kit has a couple secrets of her own–including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.
By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.
Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.
The Soulmate Equation – Christina Lauren | May
Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.
But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: this Jess understands.
At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.
Tokyo Ever After – Emiko Jean | May
Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.
In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.
Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?
Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir | May
Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.
His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.
One Last Stop – Casey McQuiston | June
For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.
But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
The Maidens – Alex Michaelides | June
Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.
Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?
When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.
Survive the Night – Riley Sager | July
It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.
Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?
What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing—survive the night.
The Dead and the Dark – Courtney Gould | August
Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.
Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.
The Heart Principle – Helen Hoang | August
To most people, Quan Diep is nothing but a surly-looking, underachieving playboy. The problem is he’s not any of those things. And now that he’s the CEO of an up-and-coming retail business, he’s suddenly a “catch,” and the rich girls who never used to pay any attention to him are looking at him in a new way—especially Camilla, the girl who brushed him off many years ago.
Anna Sun dislikes Quan Diep almost as much as germy bathroom door handles. Or so she tells herself. She will never admit that she has a secret crush on him, especially because he only has eyes for her charismatic and newly engaged younger sister Camilla. Over the years, Anna has worked hard to overcome her OCD, but she’ll still need to find a way to bury her anxieties and seduce Quan so he doesn’t ruin her sister’s engagement, and with it, a crucial real estate development deal.
Slowly, Anna breaks down Quan’s dangerous and careless exterior while peeling off her own tough, protective shell. But when Quan discovers Anna’s true intentions, he’s forced to confront his own hurtful past and learn to forgive, while Anna must face her greatest challenge: truly opening herself up to love.
If the Shoe Fits – Julie Murphy | August
After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.
Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.
Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff | September
It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.
Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order couldn’t stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.
Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope: The Holy Grail.
Under the Whispering Door – T. J. Klune | September
When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead. Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over. But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.
When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.
I’m stopping here before I break my blog. There are a few other books which are also rumoured to be coming out in 2021 but still not confirmed yet, e.g. Skyward 3# by Brandon Sanderson and V. E. Schwab’s first Threads of Power book, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Which 2021 releases are you most dying to get your hands on?
I honestly cannot believe there’s only around a week left until Christmas. Mentally, I’m still back in like…July. But that’s just 2020, isn’t it? If you’re like me and in need of a nudge to help find that Christmas spirit this year, here are 10 books bound to bring on some solid holiday vibes:
In a Holidaze – Christina Lauren
With how popular holiday romances are, expect to see a few in this post. In a Holidaze, follows Maelyn Jones whose life is a bit of a mess. The bright spark of her year has always been the holiday season spent at a cabin in Utah with her family and their friends, including Mae’s long time crush Andrew. However, Mae’s good mood quickly disappears upon finding out that Andrew’s family will soon be selling the cabin. Things get worse when Andrew catches her hooking up with his brother, Theo. In desperation, Mae sends out a silent plea to the universe for help. The answer? A ground-hog day time loop which forces her to live through the trip over and over again. Now Mae will need to find a way to break free of her holiday purgatory and in the process figure out what will truly make her happy.
The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia 2#) – C. S. Lewis
It would be impossible to forget this British classic about four children entering a magical land through means of an upstairs wardrobe. Upon arriving in Narnia, the siblings discover that it is ruled over by the tyrannical White Witch whose powers keep it locked in an eternal winter but without Christmas. Yet, once the witch’s powers begin to weaken and The Great Lion Aslan’s (the true king) grow, the children are greeted by Father Christmas who gives them each gifts to assist in the uprising to free Narnia.
A Christmas Carol and Other Stories – Charles Dickens
A Christmas literary classic which has remained popular since 1843. Even if you’ve never read A Christmas Carol, I’ll bet that you still know the story or have seen it adapted in one form or another. It’s the tale of stingy, miserable grump Ebenezer Scrooge who on Christmas Eve is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come which encourage him to become a kinder, better man. As a story which promotes the idea of the Christmas spirit and importance of generosity, it’s easy to see why it’s a favourite at this time of the year.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Agatha Christie
Just like romances, crime books also frequently feature holiday settings because there’s nothing like a bit of death to go with your pudding and presents. This mystery from the Queen of Crime features Detective Hercule Poirot trying to solve the murder of a wealthy patriarch. Simeon Lee is found dead after inviting each of his adult sons and their families home for Christmas with the intention of playing tricks on them. Clearly his plan backfired. This is classic Christie – an isolated location, set number of suspects each with a motive, a couple of red-herrings, and Poirot having to use his little grey cells to put it all together.
One Day in December – Josie Silver
Another romance, don’t say I didn’t warn you. One Day in December is about Laurie and Jack who lock eyes through a bus window on a snowy December day. It’s love at first sight although the two never speak. Laurie spends ages looking for her bus boy but only finds him when he’s introduced to her at a Christmas party as her roommate Sarah’s new boyfriend. Cue 10 years of heartbreak and missed opportunities. While the story isn’t limited to December, a lot of its bigger events tend to happen at Christmas time, making it a good pick for this time of the year if you can handle the emotions.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase – Cynthia Hand
For a twist on the traditional A Christmas Carol tale, The Afterlife of Holly Chase gives us the story of a girl named Holly who, unlike Scrooge, failed to change her ways after being visited by the Ghosts of Past, Present and Future. Now she’s dead, frozen at the age of seventeen while her family and friends go on with their lives, and stuck working as the newest Ghost of Christmas Past. Five years later she’s assigned a teenage boy whom she has a lot in common with. It’s a light, kind of silly, fun, and feel-good read for the Christmas season.
Letters from Father Christmas – J RR Tolkien
As a kid, it’s pretty common to write letters to Santa Claus. However, in Tolkien’s household every year the children received a special letter from Father Christmas in return, detailing the many adventures of him and his friends at the North Pole. Pesky goblins, a polar bear who falls through a roof, wandering reindeer, Tolkien details it all in loving detail and beautiful calligraphy. This book collects each of the letters written over a period of 20 years and, one again, showcases Tolkien’s creativity and attention to detail as well as his immense love for his children. As far as sweet, heart-warming Christmas reads go, this is a solid one.
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Little Women isn’t a Christmas book exactly but it’s often associated with the holiday season due to volume one being book-ended by it. The novel opens with the March girls experiencing their first Christmas without their father (who is fighting in the American Civil War), bemoaning that they can’t have a big celebration due to lack of funds. But in generous Christmas spirit, they end up using what money they do have to buy gifts for their mother and donating their breakfast to a family in need. The first part of the book ends with their father’s return on Christmas day a year later and them finding happiness in each other’s company. It’s a sentimental, selfless and innocent view of Christmas which people find comforting.
Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon – James Lovegrove
Okay, it’s not Conan Doyle but if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan and looking for a Christmas themed mystery, James Lovegrove has one for you. Days before Christmas, Holmes and Watson are visited by a new client, Eve Allerthorpe, who claims that she’s being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit called Black Thurrick (a dark inversion of Father Christmas). Suspiciously though, Eve is soon to inherit a fortune but only if she’s found to be of sound mind. So is she actually being harassed by a frightening creature or simply someone seeking to have her institutionalized? Its up to our dynamic duo to find out.
10 Blind Dates – Ashley Elston
This particular YA contemporary is a holiday two for one as it covers both Christmas and the New Year. After her boyfriend breaks up with her, Sophie takes refuge at her grandparents house where her large Sicilian family is gathered for the holidays. To brighten up her mood they devise a plan to set her up on 10 blind dates each devised by a different family member. And so begins a week and a half of ugly sweater parties, living nativities, and other surprises. It’s fluffy, sweet and all about that spirit of togetherness which many of us love so much about this time of year.
No matter where you are in the world right now and what may be happening in your lives, I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season full of good food & laughter, and surrounded by those you love.
We are now officially in November which means there are only two months left of 2020. Considering the way this year’s been going, that’s probably a good thing but it also means we’re getting closer and closer to my annual top ten reads of the year post. I’ve read some great books this year but you know what? I want to make choosing my ten favourite a real challenge. I want some pained groans, frustrated hair pulling, face on desk smashes. Let’s up the difficulty. So, with this in mind, in November I’m going to be tackling a list of books I’m hoping will be just amazing enough to earn, or get close to earning, a spot in the top 10.
The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War 2#) – R. F. Kuang
The Poppy War was a five star read for me and hit number three on my favourite books of 2019. And yet, I still haven’t read the sequel. I’ve left it so long now that I had to re-read the first book last month to refresh my memory (it’s still amazing, by the way). Sequels are always a worry when the first entry in a series is so good, especially considering where book one in this series left off. However, considering it has an average GR rating of 4.34 and some wonderfully positive reviews, I am super confident in the fact that I’m going to love this book. Bring on the gods, monsters, war and heartache.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V. E. Schwab
SCHWABY! I’m so excited that this book is finally out, I’ve been looking forward to it for aggggeeeesss. My copy is still slowly making it’s way over to Australia (the pains of deciding you like the US hardback better than the easy to get UK edition) so I won’t be able to read this one first up, but as soon as it gets here everyone better leave me the hell alone. I’m pretty sure of a high rating for this one for three reasons: 1) it’s written by one of my favourite authors, 2) the ratings and reviews for it have been ridiculously good, and 3) the premise sounds right up my alley – a girl who makes a deal with the devil for immortality in exchange for being forgotten by everyone she meets. Pretty please be good!
The Toll (Arc of a Scythe 3#) – Neal Shusterman
How have I still not read this book? Arc of a Scythe is one of my favourite YA series and somehow I’ve put off reading this for pretty much a year. It’s even worse when I think about the massive cliffhanger Thunderhead left me on. Now that I’ve re-read books one and two in October, I feel fully ready to tackle this book. The first two entries in the series were five and 4.5 star reads for me so I’d say the odds are good that The Toll will be up there as well. I’ve seen a couple of disappointed reviews but also some super happy ones, then again the same thing happens with every popular series. Please just make sure my sweet, little cinnamon roll, Grayson Tolliver, is okay.
Know My Name – Chanel Miller
I’ve been wanting to read this memoir since late 2019 and considering how woeful the non-fiction section of my 2020 TBR is looking at this point, there’s no time like the present. For those who don’t know, Chanel Miller is the young woman who was sexually assaulted by swimmer Brock Turner at Stanford University. Her victim impact statement was widely read and praised. Here she details the events leading up to and years following the incident – the emotional hardship, impact on her day to day life, and the long, painful journey to trial & conviction. It’ll be a difficult read but a really important one.
Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf 2#) – Ryan Graudin
There aren’t many standalones on this month’s TBR, are there? Well, here we are with another sequel, this time to Wolf by Wolf which was one of the books I included in my ‘Favourite Reads of the Year so Far’ list back in July. This is another read that I should have jumped on earlier than now purely on the basis of the dramatic, cliffhanger-ish ending of the book before. But here we are. I’m very interested to see where the story goes without the structure of the motorcycle race this time and to find out whether the resistance will actually kill Hitler. A few people were disappointed in this book while others liked it better than the first entry. Only one way to find out which I am.
I’m feeling good about this month! But I guess there’s always the chance that I’ll be completely wrong and end up a bitter mess full of crushing disappointment. Please bookish gods, do not let this happen to me. What books are on your November TBR? Are there any that you’re almost positive will be five star reads?
A lot of books come out every year. Even in the hellscape of 2020. That’s my defense for the fact that my memory clearly has more holes than a sponge. Regardless, there are a few books that I’ve recently been made aware are still coming out in the two remaining months of this year, ones that I’m genuinely looking forward to. What makes me look even worse is that a few of them are pretty big releases. Here are the books that have somehow managed to slip through the cracks (well, my cracks. er…not the best way to phrase that…)
Ready Player Two – Ernest Cline | Nov 24
According to my Goodreads history, I shelved this book to upcoming releases back in August. I have absolutely no memory of this. None. I came across it again about two weeks ago and went, what? WHEN? HOW? Let’s be real, this book was not necessary in the slightest considering how neatly book one wrapped up, but will I be enthusiastically reading it anyway? Yes, yes I will. My nerdy, video game loving self had such a fun time with Ready Player One so considering the premise to this book sounds similar to the first (a riddle, an Easter egg, an intense competition to win), hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable ride as well.
A Sky Beyond the Storm (Ember Quartet 4#) – Sabaa Tahir | Dec 1
How I blanked on the release date for this is the biggest mystery of all. I follow Sabaa on both Twitter and Instagram and she’s talked about this book constantly for months And yet, for some unknown reason, I was under the impression it wasn’t coming out until 2021. But now I’m annoyed because there’s no way I’m going to be able to reread the 3 previous books in the series and still tackle this on release (I did book three without re-reads and regretted it immensely). This is the last book in the series which means I’m expecting plenty of pain and suffering but, I swear, if anything happens to Helene I’ll riot.
These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong | Nov 17
Like the other books on this list, I remember coming across These Violent Delights a few months back and going: Oooooo…that looks good! But for some reason I didn’t add it to my upcoming releases shelf (why, Ashley, why?). However, this week I somehow ended up finding it again and was surprised to realise it was actually a November 2020 release! Unlike the other entries on here, These Violent Delights is not a sequel. It’s a Romeo & Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai involving rival gangs and a “monster” causing people to claw their own throats out. I mean, how darn cool does that sound? Early reviews have been good and this is the author’s debut novel so I really hope it’s enjoyable.
The Burning God (The Poppy War 3#) – R. F. Kuang | Nov 17
Rebecca Kuang must write like her keyboard is on fire. I swear. These books aren’t short or simple and somehow she’s managed to release one each year since 2018. And it’s her first series! As The Dragon Republic only came out in the second half of 2019, I just assumed there would be a bigger gap before book three hit shelves. In my case though, my forgetfulness may also be largely due to the fact that I keep putting off reading book two (I’M DOING IT NEXT MONTH, ALRIGHT). However, the upside is that by the time I finish TDR, The Burning God will be right there waiting for me. I guess there are perks to being a massive procrastinator after all.
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories – Holly Black | Nov 24
So, this one is a novella rather than a book but because I’m in love with The Folk of the Air series and a sucker for anything to do with Jude & Cardan, it counts. News of this spread back in May of this year but perhaps I was still dealing with my disappointment over The Queen of Nothing and blocked it out. However, as Holly’s pretty much got me on a string, I’ll be back for more anyway. This entry focuses on Cardan and includes story from before, during and after the main series from his POV. They’ve also included some illustrations which is pretty cute and whimsical.
Are there any books still to release in 2020 that you’re super keen for? Perhaps I’ve missed even more than I thought.
As you can tell from the title of this post, I’m back with more book recommendations! These suggestions are based on similar themes, moods, genres, character types and everything in between. If you liked the books below, fingers crossed that some of my suggestions will scratch the same itch but hey, there’s no accounting for personal preference (I myself don’t love every book listed here despite their similarities to ones I do love) so pretty please with a cherry on top don’t scream at me later.
Like with my previous recommendations, I haven’t read 100% of the books on this list. However, the ones I haven’t are highly educated guessed based on research and the reviews of others. Feel free to correct me though if you think I’ve really stuffed up somewhere.
Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo
A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik: I’m cheating here as this book isn’t out yet. Still, like Ninth House, A Deadly Education also has a story structured around an educational institution, a darker tone, some dangerous magic, and a tough, mixed race protagonist. It’s also similarly romance light.
The Secret History – Donna Tartt: As far as dark academia tales go, you can’t go past The Secret History. If you enjoyed the secret societies, rituals, morally questionable characters and bleak outlook of Ninth House, you’ll probably like this tale about a group of university classics students who perform a Bacchian rite and end up murdering someone. Like Ninth House, it also happens to be slower paced.
Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This recommendation is all about the mood and atmosphere. While they’re two different genres, there are fantastical elements to both books and each has a beautifully crafted, creepy setting. They also happen to share an ethnically diverse protagonist hunting down the truth about mysterious circumstances.
Vicious – V.E. Schwab: If the part you most enjoyed about Ninth House was Alex’s ability to see ghosts, then Vicious is packed full of people with special abilities. It, too, involves elements of academics gone bad/supernatural-ish, and also involves a bunch of morally grey characters.
Illuminae – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Skyward – Brandon Sanderson: If you want to state the obvious, both the Illuminae Files and Skyward are YA sci-fi reads, but delve a bit deeper and you’ll find they also share strong female protagonists, an interesting & likeable AI, a good level of action, some decent twists, and plenty of enjoyable humour.
Aurora Rising – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: This one doesn’t take a rocket scientist to explain. Same authors, same genre, a similar approach to characters & humour, need I say more?
The Disasters – M. K. England: Like Illuminae, The Disasters is another YA sci-fi read featuring a motley crew of quirky characters on the run after witnessing something they shouldn’t have. Throw in a snarky narrator, fun writing, and plenty of action, and it might be a winner for an Illuminae fan.
Scythe – Neal Shusterman – Okay, this one is a big stretch. I know. Why? Because I’m basing it almost entirely off the fact that most of the people I know who like Illuminae also really like Scythe (myself included) . It might be the fact they share great characters, an AI, a futuristic setting, or some solid plot twists. Then again, it’s probably because they’re both amazing books.
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
Heartstopper – Alice Oseman: While Heartstopper may be a comic series, it and RW&RB both center around adorably sweet, gay romances with plenty of ‘awww’ moments. The two also share a plotline involving a character coming to terms with their sexuality and coming out to their family in a positive way. Mostly, both just leave you with a wonderfully joyful feeling.
Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall: RW&RB and Boyfriend Material hit a lot of common marks. Laugh out loud humour and winning banter? Check. Loveable characters with flaws? Check. Relationship difficulties courtesy of paparazzi? Yup. A fake dating, opposites attract, enemies to loves trope triple threat? Ohhhhh yesss. It may not hit the highs of RW&RB but it’ll do its best to fill the void left behind.
Carry On – Rainbow Rowell: As a YA fantasy read, Carry On is very different from RW&RB in terms of plot but, again, features a very shippable opposites attract & enemies to lovers type relationship between longtime magical roommates/mortal enemies, Baz and Simon.
Her Royal Highness – Rachel Hawkins: If you enjoy the concept of royalty falling for a commoner, HRH fits that to a tee. As a YA book, it’s less steamy than RW&RB but does included a queer romance with a happily ever after. Like Alex & Henry, Millie and her love interest, Princess Flora of Scotland, don’t hit it off right away but we get to witness the slow grow of their relationship into something more.
What do you think of these recommendations? And what books would you recommend to lovers of these three novels?