Bookish Fun: Book Covers with Autumn Vibes

Everyone has a favourite season. Mine, by a long way, is Autumn. I love watching the leaves change colour from green to gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow, and finally getting to break out my warmer wardrobe again (I own A LOT of sweaters). While all you northern hemisphere people are enjoying the first few weeks of spring, in the southern hemisphere I’m currently throwing my usual ‘Thank god, summer is over party’. With this in mind, I thought I’d do a fun little post to showcase some book covers which really capture those Autumn feelings. Leaves, warm colour schemes, coziness, rustic vibes, all that wonderful goodness. Enjoy!

Did I miss any notable ones? What’s your favourite Autumn feeling book cover?

Battle of the Book Covers: US vs UK (Round 4)

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.

Verdict: Tie


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?

Bookish Fun: 10 Literary Recipes for Lovers of Books and Food

Christmas is my favourite holiday of the year. No contest. While the time off work, seeing relatives, receiving presents, and general feeling of cheer are great, we all know the real reason I love this time of year: the FOOD. If I’m not ready to slip into a food coma after Christmas lunch, something’s gone wrong. Recently we’ve been trying to work out the menu for Christmas day and it’s also got me thinking about bookish food – all the awesome sounding dishes that pop up in our favourite reads purely to make our tummies start rumbling and mouths salivate. In this spirit, here are ten scrumptious literary recipes courtesy of some fabulously talented food bloggers to whet your appetite.

November Cakes – Maggie Stiefvater (The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater)

Finn finds my left hand, opens my fingers, and puts a November cake in my palm. It oozes honey & butter, rivulets of the creamy frosting joining the honey in the pit of my hand. It begs to be licked.

Unlike the other recipes listed in this post, this one was actually created by the author herself after plenty of trial and error to ensure fluffy, sweet perfection. To give you a rough idea, these “cakes” are almost cinnamon bun-ish in consistency, baked in the shape of a muffin (but with a much more dimpled top). They’re then glazed in a honey-caramel sauce and drizzled with a simple sugary-icing. I’ve tried my hand at baking these and while it’s a bit of a lengthy process (plus there’s the whole metric conversion thing), they’re warm, sweet and lovely.

Give them a try here.


Brianna’s Bridies – Outlander Kitchen (Drums of Autumn [Outlander 3#] by Diana Gabaldon)

“Bridies! Hot Bridies!”  A high pitched screech cut through the rumble and racket of the hall, and Brianna turned to see an old woman elbowing her way robustly through the crowd, a steaming tray hung around her neck and a wooden spatula in hand.

The heavenly scent of fresh hot dough and spiced meat cut through the other pungencies in the hall, noticeable as the old woman’s calling.  It had been a long time since breakfast, and Brianna dug in her pocket, feeling saliva fill her mouth.

If you haven’t heard of a bridie before, they’re a bit like a pastie except usually with flaky pastry instead of shortcrust and filled with beef and onion. In other words, a comforting and hearty pastry dish. This recipe comes from Theresa Carle-Sanders who, alongside her blog Outlander Kitchen, has published two whole cookbooks with multitudes of Outlander inspired recipes. Theresa has added a few vegetables to her bridies to make them a bit more well rounded. Nobody likes scurvy, after all.

You can give these bridies a whirl here.


Sister’s Stew – Feast of Starlight (A Dance with Dragons [A Song of Ice and Fire 5#] by George RR Martin)

Lord Godric waved his spoon toward a chair. “Sit. Before you fall, set. My hall is cold and damp and dark, but not without some courtesy. We’ll find dry clothes for you, but first you’ll eat.” He shouted, and a woman entered the hall. “We have a guest to feed. Bring beer and bread and sister’s stew.”

The beer was brown, the bread black, the stew a creamy white. She served it in a trencher hollowed out of a stale loaf. It was thick with leeks, carrots, barley, and turnips white and yellow, along with clams and chunks of cod and crabmeat, swimming in a stock of heavy cream and butter. It was the sort of stew that warmed a man right down to his bones, just the thing for a wet, cold night.

There’s nothing like a good stew or chunky soup to warm you up in winter, and creamy soups are my weakness. The A Song of Ice and Fire series is full of references to drinks and dishes (so many that there’s an official cookbook). This recipe for Sister’s Soup served at The Three Sisters to Sir Davos Seaworth in A Dance with Dragons is from Deanna at A Feast of Starlight (her blog features recipes from books, TV shows, movies and games, and there are so many I want to try!). It’s a creamy seafood and vegetable soup which is very much like a less heavy chowder and served in a bread bowl. Yum!

Check it out here.


Strawberry Tarts – Sugar & Soul (The Selection by Kiera Cass)

I mulled this over as I bit into the strawberry tart. It was so sweet and the dough so flaky, every millimeter of my mouth was engaged, taking over the rest of my senses entirely. I didn’t mean to make the little moan, but it was by far the best thing I had ever tasted. I took another bite before I even swallowed the first.

Gosh, the moment these tarts popped up in The Selection my stomach started rumbling. Worse, the MC, America, remarks that they’re the best thing she’s ever tasted and her sister would probably cry upon eating one. If that isn’t a glowing endorsement, what is? This recipe was created by Rebecca at Sugar & Soul and adds some Nutella to the mix just to give the tarts something extra. I mean, strawberries, chocolate, flaky pastry and a dusting of icing sugar, served hot from the oven? YES, PLEASE!

Find the recipe here.


Peeta’s Cheese Buns – Yammie’s Noshery (Catching Fire [The Hunger Games 2#] by Suzanne Collins)

From the bag I pull two fresh buns with a layer of cheese baked into the top. We always seem to have a supply of these since Peeta found out they were my favorite.

Two food groups I love – cheese and bread. So thank god there are recipes like this one from Yammie’s Noshery to bring me the best of both worlds. Suzanne Collins doesn’t give us much detail about Peeta’s buns in the book but I am definitely not opposed to the idea of biting into a warm center of gooey mozzarella. They also have a topping of Colby and Swiss for extra cheesiness. I can definitely see why these were Katniss’s favourite.

Dive into cheese heaven here.


Pasta Puttanesca – Rosanna Pansino (The Bad Beginning [A Series of Unfortunate Events 1#] by Lemony Snickett)

For most of the afternoon, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny cooked the puttanesca sauce according to the recipe. Violet roasted the garlic and washed and chopped the anchovies. Klaus peeled the tomatoes and pitted the olives. Sunny banged on a pot with a wooden spoon, singing a rather repetitive song she had written herself. And all three of the children felt less miserable than they had since their arrival at Count Olaf’s.

If you were anything like me when you were young, you spent a lot of time reading the A Series of Unfortunate Events books. If so, you’ll probably remember the Baudelaires being asked to cook dinner for the dastardly Count Olaf and his acting troupe and deciding on this particular pasta dish. I love pasta dishes in all their carbalicious glory. This recipe is more glamorous than the siblings would have constructed with their limited ingredients but it’s probably far tastier for it. It comes from YouTuber Rosanna Pansino as part of her Nerdy Nummies series!

Try to please Count Olaf here.


Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake – Binging with Babish (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

The cook disappeared. Almost at once she was back again staggering under the weight of an enormous round chocolate cake on a china platter. The cake was fully eighteen inches in diameter and it was covered with dark-brown chocolate icing.

…”There you are Bogtrotter,” the Trunchbull said, and once again her voice became soft, persuasive, even gentle. “It’s all for you. Every last bit of it. As you enjoyed that slice you had yesterday so very much, I ordered Cook to bake you an extra large one all for yourself.”

If you’ve read any of my bios across various websites then you know that I love cake. If I could live on it without dying or getting fat, I would. With this in mind, I doubt any of you would be surprised to know that the chapter in Matilda during which Bruce Bogtrotter is required to eat an entire multi-layer chocolate cake is pretty much my dream. You call this a punishment Trunchbull? Think AGAIN. For this 3-layer recipe of chocolately goodness we can thank Binging with Babish. You can check out his Youtube channel for other great recipes.

Eat like Bruce here.


Vegan Pumpkin Chimichangas – That Was Vegan? (Geekerella – Ashley Poston)

“And may the force be with those chimichangas.”

In this cute Cinderella retelling, the MC Elle spends her days working in a pumpkin food truck, called The Magic Pumpkin, selling vegan snacks to the masses. One of the hot menu items is the chimichangas. I love pumpkin so the idea of using it in this way was super appealing to me. This recipe for baked chimichangas with a chipotle cream sauce comes from Barb at That Was Vegan? If you’re not as keen on pumpkin, you can substitute with sweet potato as well. Some heat, some crunch, a bit of sweetness, Mmmhmmm…

Live the fairytale food truck life here.


Butterbeer – Ashlee Marie (Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling)

Why don’t we go and have a butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks, it’s a bit cold, isn’t it?

I’m pretty sure it’s generally accepted at this point that if you’ve read Harry Potter you’ve wished you could try butterbeer at some point. While Universal studios serves hot, cold and frozen versions at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the recipes are kept top secret. However, because it tastes so darn good, people everywhere have worked hard on creating their own. Food blogger Ashlee Marie has recipes for all three types. They involve butterscotch syrup made from scratch and a butterscotch marshmallow cream to go on top. A drink for every season!

Try it for yourself here, here & here!

Lembas Bread – Jet Set Fork & Celebration Generation (The Lord of the Rings Series by J RR Tolkien)


In the morning, as they were beginning to pack their slender goods, Elves that could speak their tongue came to them and brought them many gifts of food and clothing for the journey. The food was mostly in the form of very thin cakes, made of meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the colour of cream.

There are two main bread-type foods frequently mentioned in the Tolkien verse – cram and lembas. Made by the elves, Lembas is pocket-sized, sweet, stays fresh for long periods (good for adventuring), nutritious and highly filling. Unlike cram, lembas seems to be more like shortbread or an energy bar in texture. There are a heap of different recipes online for this fictional food so I’ve decided to give you guys two – Jet Set Fork & Celebration Generation (gluten free recipe).

Try version 1 here & version 2 here.


Now, you’ll have to excuse me because that is the sound of my stomach rumbling and I need to go and stuff my face. Pronto!

What are some of your favourite foods to show up in books, both real and fictional? Bonus points if you have a good recipe for them!

Top 5 Tuesday: Favourite Book Characters A-N

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

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

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

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

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


B is for Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)

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


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

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

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

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


D is for Declan Murphy (Letters to the Lost)

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


E is for Emika Chen (Warcross Duology)

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

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

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


F is for Francis (Conversations with Friends)

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


G is for Georgina Kincaid (Georgina Kincaid Series)

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

…and for Ginny Weasley (Harry Potter Series)

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


H is for Helene Aquilla (The Ember Quartet)

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

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

…and also for Hermione Granger (Harry Potter Series)

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


I is Adrian Ivashkov (Vampire Academy & Bloodlines Series)

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


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

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


K is for Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows Duology)

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

…and for Kady Grant (The Illuminae Files)

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


L is for Lazlo Strange (Strange the Dreamer Duology)

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

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

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

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


M is for Mia Corvere (The Nevernight Chronicle)

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Binge Reading: How Many Adult Contemporary Romances Can I Read in a Week?

Now, looking at the title of this post you might be thinking: Why? Well, to that I say: Why not?

Okay, for a more expanded explanation: in August I finished a total of 2 books which is kind of sad and probably because I’ve been apathetic towards reading lately. Romantic contemporaries are always quick and easy reads for me so I thought, why not give my bookwormishness (what a monstrosity of a made up word) a jump start with an entire week of them?! I’m probably going to give myself whatever the bookish equivalent of a cavity after eating too many sweet things in one go is, but WHO CARES.

For fun, I’ll be scoring them using my usual star system but also doing individual ratings for sweetness, humour, sexiness/steam, and romance – just to give a better idea of their mood. I’ll also be mentioning whether they include any diversity because yo, it’s 2020. Let the week of romance begin!

Day 1-2: One to Watch – Kate Stayman-London

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Premise: A plus-sized fashion blogger goes on a reality dating show called Main Squeeze (a fictional version of The Bachelor/Bachelorette) and dates a bunch of hot guys whilst showing that bigger girls can be attractive and deserve love too.

  • Hurrah! A strong start to the week. I enjoyed this one, mostly because it was super relatable for me. As someone who’s far from a size 6, I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have a protagonist who shares many of the same insecurities about love and relationships that I do. Reading about the MC, Bea’s, journey was hard but also empowering and encouraging. The body positivity message is very, very on the nose but I can mostly forgive it.
  • Diversity wise, this book is amazing. Aside from Bea being plus sized, among the contestants there’s also a black man, an Asian-American, and an asexual man. They’re all portrayed as being desirable & unlike on real life TV, they all make it close to the end!
  • The Bachelorette concept was fun and definitely why this caught my eye. However, having Bea cycle through different dates does mean that the love interests share the limelight, reducing the ability to give them lots of depth but the real focus is Bea anyway. Still, there are plenty of sweet moments and a little bit of sexual tension.
  • The book plays around with style a lot using articles, tweets and text convos in between standard third person narrative. It’s somewhat jarring to get used to at first but fine after a while.

Sweetness: ★★★
Humour: ★.5
Sexiness/Steam: ★★
Romance: ★★★
Diversity: Yes! All the YES.


Oh god. A four star read out of the gate. It’s got to be downhill from here, right? Suddenly the books on my pre-made list seem risky and unappealing. What does Goodreads suggest instead…

This looks interesting. *checks Amazon* SIXTEEN DOLLARS? ON KINDLE? This better be worth it.

Day 2-3: You Deserve Each Other – Sarah Hogle

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Premise: Naomi and Nicholas seem like the perfect engaged couple but, in reality, these days they can barely stand one another. Now with only 3 months left til their wedding, the pair decide to try their best to get the other to end the engagement and foot the massive bill. But what if they turned their attention to working out what went wrong with their relationship instead?

  • Yes, it was easily worth the $16. This was so unexpectedly enjoyable! I love a good enemies to lovers trope but it was great to see it used in a fresh way. I will gladly read another book about two people finding themselves again and remembering why they loved one another in the first place.
  • One of the best parts of this book was easily the humour. I was surprised by how funny it was. Like, actually laugh out loud funny. The banter between Naomi and Nicholas is great, mostly because, as a couple who’ve been together for a while, they know exactly how to push each other’s buttons. Particularly where Nicholas’s mother is concerned.
  • The characters are very likeable, too. With the way Naomi acts at times, I should have found her childish and petty but honestly, I loved her boldness and vulnerability. Nicholas, meanwhile, can just marry me. A man who can banter, loves skittles, proudly owns a How to Train Your Dragon tie and will fight for his relationship – swoon.
  • I should also mention how seamlessly the book’s mood changed from light and fun to serious and emotional. I loved that I could enjoy myself reading about Naomi and Nicholas’s antics one moment then sympathise with their difficulties in repairing their relationship and behaviour the next.

Sweetness: ★★★
Humour: ★★★★
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★
Romance: ★★★★
Diversity: Nope.


We’re definitely going down now. It’s inevitable. Maybe I need something completely different. Well, different within the confines of contemporary adult romance. Just kidding. More enemies to lovers it is. But with cupcakes. Cause I love cupcakes.

Day 3 – 4: Kiss my Cupcake – Helena Hunting

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Premise: Blaire Calloway is excited to finally be opening her own cupcake & cocktail cafe. However, her parade is rained on when she discovers hottie Ronan Knight opening a sportsbar next door on the same day. The two clash, setting off a competition for customers. But when a chain of popular bars opens their newest location across the street, the two have to work together to keep their businesses afloat.

  • Can I just say, this book has SO MANY CUPCAKES. Thank god I had left over birthday cake in the house while I was reading this because I might have died of cravings otherwise (it’s possible, okay).
  • I quite enjoyed the chemistry between Blaire and Ronan. Blaire is somewhat over the top in her reactions to things (especially at the climax of the book) but overall she’s okay. Ronan is hot – physically and in personality. He can stay. Enough said.
  • At the end of each chapter, the book incorporates “tweets” supposedly posted by Ronan and Blaire’s businesses but honestly, they’re mostly cringy alcohol & cupcake puns which offer nothing to the story. I have no clue why they’re included.
  • With romance novels I always expect some drama around the 80% mark before the couple makes up and sails off into the sunset. Unfortunately, the dramatic climax of this book is super disappointing. In fact, it’s almost non-existent and just makes Blaire look bad for thinking so badly of Ronan with barely anything to go off. That this is then followed up by an over the top and cheesy ending put a dampener on my enjoyment of the overall book.
  • The story is told in split perspectives between Ronan & Blaire but the balance between the two is really uneven, leaving Ronan with only a couple of chapters. I found this a somewhat odd choice which made me question the reason for the split at all.
  • KMC is definitely the most steamy of the books I’ve read so far this week. As in, there’s an actual sex scene. There’s also noticeable sexual tension throughout the book. So if this kind of thing floats your boat, *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*.

Sweetness: ★★★★
Humour:
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★★
Romance: ★★
Diversity: Nooopppee


Alright, let’s turn up the “romance” rating a bit more. I want some swoon-worthy love story here. Real depth of emotion with boomboxes outside windows. I will accept no substitutes.

Day 4-5: One day in December – Josie Silver

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Premise: When Laurie locks eyes with Jack riding the bus home one day, it’s practically love at first sight for the both of them. That is, until the bus drives away with him on the curb. She then spends the next year searching London for him until finally she finds him – introduced as her roommate Sarah’s new boyfriend. What follows is ten years of missed opportunities and complicated choices.

  • Based on the few reviews I’ve read of this book, I honestly didn’t expect to like ODiD as much as I did. Then again, I’ve always had a soft spot for stories told over several years in characters’ lives. I just love watching people grow, change, and experience life.
  • Normally I’m 100% in the camp of NO to love at first sight but somehow, this book actually made me believe in it for its duration. Now, if that ain’t magic, I don’t know what is.
  • The characters in this book aren’t always logical and don’t consistently do the right thing by themselves or each other, but that’s people. For the most part, I cared about what happened to Laurie, Jack & Sarah, and genuinely wanted them to get their happy endings. ODiD is definitely one of those books where you do have to be invested in the characters and their lives to enjoy it, otherwise it’s going to be pretty darn boring.
  • I should warn you, if you hate cheating plotlines, there’s an element of it here. Physically only minor but emotionally, plenty.
  • My two main gripes are: 1) I wish the ending had been handled differently as it felt odd and abrupt when fit into the rest of the story (I mean, we’d been waiting TEN YEARS by this point). Perhaps another time jump afterwards would have helped? And, 2) I would have liked more done with Laurie’s career considering its importance to her.
  • Less of a fluffy read than the other books so far this week, but very enjoyable.

Sweetness: ★★★
Humour: ★★
Sexiness/Steam: ★.5
Romance: ★★★★
Diversity: No, again. More straight, cis, able-bodied, white people problems.


I’ve just realised that this post is lacking a noticeable amount of gay so we should rectify that right now. Bring on the LGBTI romance!

Day 5: Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall

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Premise: As the son of two rock legends, Luc has always been in the spotlight. After a compromising photo puts him in hot water with his employer’s donors, Luc is told to clean up his image by finding a respectable boyfriend. Enter Oliver Blackwood – vegetarian, barrister and in need of a date for a big event. And so the two strike up a deal: a fake relationship for a few weeks and then go their separate ways. But what happens when real feelings get involved?

  • Did I pick this book because it reminded me of Red, White and Royal Blue? Yes, you caught me. And I’m so glad I did because it was the perfect combo of adorably sweet & hilarious. I had an absolute ball.
  • The humour in this is great, mostly found in the lengthy sections of dialogue. Part of it stems from the banter and chemistry between Luc and Oliver, but the rest can be attributed to the fun supporting cast. This includes Luc’s vague co-worker Alex (my favourite) and his publisher friend Bridget.
  • I loved the relationship between Oliver & Luc. It’s an opposites attract situation which requires time to sort through the kinks but develops into something wonderful. I really enjoyed how good an impact they had one one another, especially with regards to Luc’s self-esteem and trust issues.
  • Aside from the romance, BM also involves a plot to do with Luc’s estranged, famous father. However, for something that took up a chunk of the novel, it ended up weirdly…fizzling out. It’s even more disappointing considering how much Luc’s life was impacted by his dad’s choices and lifestyle.
  • Speaking of family, there’s also an incident involving Oliver’s which I wish had been built up to more over the novel instead of becoming a factor all of sudden in the later stage of the book.
  • This book is boyfriend material in more ways than one – would for sure recommend snuggling up with it on a night in.

Sweetness: ★★★★
Humour: ★★★★★
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★.5
Romance: ★★★
Diversity: Yes! We have straight, bi and gay characters in this one.


I might be able to squeeze in one more book. Just ONE more.

Day 6-7: Get a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert

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Premise: After a near death experience, chronically ill computer geek, Chloe Brown writes herself a list of tasks designed to help her “Get a Life”. Realising she’ll need a hand in completing it, Chloe enlists the help of talented artist (and her building superintendent) Redford Morgan, who has baggage of his own to deal with.

  • Once again, yay for diversity: this book features a black, curvy protagonist with a chronic illness. Even better, Chloe’s condition isn’t forgotten about whenever it’s convenient. It actually factors into her behaviour and how the romance plays out. It sounds like such a small thing but I adored the fact that Red was so attentive about Chloe’s pain & exhaustion, and that he always kept her condition in mind when they did things together.
  • It was interesting having a male lead who looks physically strong dealing with getting out of an abusive relationship. Not just physical abuse but emotional, too. Seeing how this trauma impacted Red’s self esteem and his painting really added something different to the novel.
  • To my complete shock, GaLCB ended up being the most steamy book I read this week! From the description and cover, it seems super cutesy but then BAM masturbation scene, public acts of indecency, dirty talk, erections & taut nipples galore…!! To be honest, it was probably too much for my liking. There were quite a few conversations between Chloe and Red which I wish had been more emotional and less I-can’t-stop thinking-about-your-body-on-mine.
  • Based on the blurb I was under the impression that there would be more elements to completing Chloe’s list and that this theme would provide a more structured plot. I was also expecting that doing these things would be the reason for Chloe’s new lease on life but it ended up mostly being about her opening up to Red. This was nice and all but I wanted something a bit more.

Sweetness: ★★★★
Humour: ★.5
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★★★
Romance: ★★★
Diversity: YES!


There we have it – 7 days, 6 adult contemporary romances. Phew! I’m pretty happy with myself to be honest. I had a fun week of reading, beefed up my Goodreads tracker for 2020 and I’m already looking forward to the next book I tackle. FYI, it will not be a contemporary romance. I’m starting to feel the bookworm cavities… Too much of a good thing.

Are you a romance reader? If so, what are some of your favourite picks?

Should I try doing this with a different genre in the future?

Bookish Fun: 16 MORE Book, Reading and Author Related Facts

That’s right, it’s time for some more fun, bookish trivia! You guys seemed to enjoy my original version of this post back in January so much that I thought, hey, why not go for round two (it may or may not also be because I’m running low on posting ideas at the moment…but we’ll keep that just between us). Besides, who doesn’t love learning fun, useless facts perfect for bringing up during long, awkward silences?

Bookish Facts

  • ‘Tsundoku’ is a Japanese term which refers to a person who acquires reading materials with a tendency to let them pile up unread. They know me, they really know me!
  • While we’re on the topic of bookish language, ‘Bibliosmia’ means enjoying the smell of good or old books. I have to say, the smell of books is definitely one of the reasons I prefer physical books to e-copies. Gimme that mustiness.
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  • The Harry Potter books are some of the most banned novels in America due to religious complaints. Can’t have none of that nasty witchcraft potentially infecting the minds of the young now, can we?
  • According to the NOP World Culture Score Index, the countries which read the most on average per week are India (10.42 hrs), Thailand (9.24 hrs) and China (8 hrs). I think that’s more than even I usually read in a standard week! Go Asia!
  • Slate magazine conducted a study which revealed the most commonly used sentence in The Hunger Games trilogy is “My Name is Katniss Everdeen”, in Harry Potter it’s ‘Nothing happened’ and in the Twilight series it’s “I sighed”. The more you know, I suppose.
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  • The longest title of a book has over 26,000 characters (!) and was published in Kyrgyzstan in 2019. If you’d like to see the full title (it is LONG, man), you can find it here.
  • Where the Wild Things Are was originally supposed to be about horses but when author Maurice Sendak began to draw the illustrations he quickly realised he couldn’t actually draw horses (I can relate – horse are hard!). As you can imagine, these eventually changed into the wild “things” we’re familiar with. Horses, can you even imagine?
  • The first draft of Lolita by Vladamir Nabokav was written on notecards. They had the entire text of the novel plus edits, additional notes and drawings. I don’t know about you, but I can feel the eye strain from here.
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  • I don’t know if I should label this a fun fact or a horrifying one, but Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James is the third bestselling book in the UK (it falls short only to The Da Vinci Code and, you probably guessed it, Harry Potter).
  • Back in 2008, the first ever Kindle sold out in less than 6 hours and stayed out of stock for 5 months. Also interesting to note, it only had about 250MB of storage. To put that into perspective, a Kindle Paperwhite today has 8GB. That’s certainly a lot more book space.

Author Facts

  • Sadly, Jane Austen’s novels were published anonymously until after her death. She was only identified as their author for the first time in a eulogy written by her brother Henry which was included in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously. Ah, the trials of being a female author.
  • Mary Shelley first wrote Frankenstein as part of a ghost story competition proposed by English poet Lord Byron while they were stuck in Switzerland following a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. The idea apparently came to her in a nightmare. Ahem, where is my literary gold dream, huh?
  • Danish fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen used to bring a coil of rope with him whenever he stayed in hotels, just in case a fire emergency required him to flee out the nearest window. Amusingly, if you visit his museum in Denmark they actually have some rope on display. I guess you can never be too prepared.
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  • George RR Martin still writes his books on a DOS machine using word processing software that was popular during the 80s. No wonder his fans have been waiting so long for the next book…
  • C.S. Lewis and J RR Tolkien became friends after they met at an Oxford English faculty meeting and each encouraged the other to produce their most famous pieces of literature. Tolkien even helped convert Lewis to Christianity, the themes & imagery of which are quite prominent in his Narnia works.
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  • Last but not least, Shakespeare can be credited with over 1,700 words in the English language. A few of them are addiction, courtship, bloodstained and assassination. And people think millennials come up with a lot of new terms!

Hopefully you picked up at least one new interesting thing. Got any fun bookish or author related facts to share? I want to hear them!

Bookish Fun: Video Games Inspired by Books

While reading is certainly one of the big hobbies of my life, something I’ve also been doing since I was pretty young is video gaming. Yes, I know, I’ve heard it all – it’ll damage your eyes, melt your brain, waste your time, blah, blah, blah. Regardless, I love raiding tombs, spending hours crafting an island paradise full of cute animals, ordering Sims around like a mini-God, working out puzzle rooms designed by a crazed computer, or defeating other civilisations with my superior ability to build a rocket. There are so many fabulous games out there for people with all different kinds of interests and skill levels. However, would you be surprised to know that there are a few which were actually inspired by books? Okay, you’re probably not that surprised, but I thought it might be fun to have a look at a couple.

Nancy Drew Detective Game Series | Nancy Drew Series – Caroline Keene

The Nancy Drew mystery series has been around since the 1930s(!) and it’s managed to remain pretty popular since then (there have been multiple adaptations in the last few years alone). I got into these books when I was around ten years old and not long after also discovered the video games. To give you an idea of just how popular these point and click adventures are, the first entry, Secrets Can Kill, was released in 1998 and only last year, they released installment number 33! These games are so much fun and super re-playable. They’re full of challenging & entertaining puzzles, interesting characters and exciting stories. While the plots differ from the books for the most part, they do feature all the popular characters including The Hardy Boys. I highly recommend these even if you’re not a gamer. Plus they’re usually super cheap during Steam sales (some of my favourites are Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Tomb of the Lost Queen and Shadow at the Water’s Edge).


American McGee’s Alice & Alice: Madness Returns | Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll

This gaming duology takes its concept from Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. People have often considered the Alice stories with regards to mental illness, but these video games take it a step further by having Wonderland exist as a mental retreat for institutionalised Alice’s traumatised mind. Here, Wonderland is a lot darker and more violent, but I suppose that’s necessary for a video game. The games feature a slightly older Alice battling her way across the land using a variety of weapons whilst attempting to repair her mind in the wake of her parents’ deaths. Fans of the stories will be happy to know that the games do include a lot famous faces such as the White Rabbit, Queen of Hearts and Cheshire cat. The design style leans towards comic book-ish but there are some super pretty and engaging environments, as one would expect of something set in Wonderland.


Metro Series | Metro 2033 – Dmitry Glukhovsky

If you’re a fan of first person shooter or survivor horror games, then you’ve probably heard of Metro 2033 and its sequels Metro: Last Light & Metro: Exodus. The original game is based on a book of the same name by Russian author, Dmitry Glukhovsky. Both are set in Moscow following the fallout of a nuclear war in which people are forced to live in underground bunkers and tunnels – a network called the Metro. Aside from the fallout radiation, survivors also have to deal with extreme human factions and dangerous mutant creatures. The story follows a man named Aryton who is tasked with journeying to the heart of the Metro to warn people about a threat known as the Dark Ones. The book and game share many similarities but also quite a few differences – most notably the game’s ability to make the player feel extremely uneasy for most of its run time and its different two endings.


The Witcher Series | The Witcher Series – Andrzej Sapkowski

If you’re considering video games with their origins in books, The Witcher games are definitely the most well-known. These are somewhat different to others on this list in that they don’t attempt to directly adapt the novels. Instead, they act as sequels. Well, at least they were sequels until the author realised how popular the games were, got ticked off at how things were handled, and went back to add extra books to the series. Because they’re follow ups, the games include a heap of prominent and smaller book characters and showcase many different parts of Sapkowski’s world in lush and fantastic detail. While it helps to have read the books to understand references, in-jokes, and backstories when playing, it’s not essential for enjoyment. Also, this is definitely a series which improves with each installment. Although the first game leaves a lot to be desired, it’s worth pushing through to eventually get to play Wild Hunt (one of my favourite games of all time).


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring | The Lord of the Rings Series – J RR Tolkien

There have been a HEAP of Lord of the Rings games and it’s easy to understand why: the franchise is ridiculously popular. One of my favourites is LEGO LotR, but considering how movie influenced it is, (and the fact I wasn’t a big fan of Shadow of Mordor) I’m going with The Fellowship of the Ring game for this list. Released the year after the film, you’d think it’d just be a basic, cash-in type thing but it’s actually very much a book adaptation. The characters are modeled using the book’s descriptions, not the actors, and the storyline includes a lot of sections from the novel which aren’t covered in the movie. This is particularly so where it comes to Frodo’s journey to Rivendell e.g. the Barrow Downs, Tom Bombadil, Farmer Maggot, etc. It’s not the best game around (oh lord, the graphics!), however if you’re a LotR fan it’s definitely fun running around fixing weather vanes as Frodo, battling trolls as Aragorn and using magic to defeat a Balrog as Gandalf.


Bioshock | Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Okay, this one is a bit less straightforward. Good thing I named this post “inspired by” and not “adapted from”. Bioshock is a first person shooter set in the rundown underwater city of Rapture. Philosopher/writer, Ayn Rand, is all over this game. In their development of the philosophy behind Rapture, the game’s creators relied heavily on Rand’s theory of Objectivism from Atlas Shrugged, which advocates for individuals focusing on their own interests over those of others with minimal state intervention (radical selfishness, in essence). Rapture is basically a depiction of just how bad strictly applied Objectivism can be, especially when its ideas become warped. The game also has other links to Rand and her work, e.g. the similarities between Rapture’s creator, Andrew Ryan, and Rand, smaller references to the novel such as posters stating ‘Who is Atlas?’, and the links between the plight of John Galt and the game’s backstory events. It seems philosophical texts can make good games just as well as fantasy books.


Sherlock Holmes Series | The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

Much like Nancy Drew, the Sherlock Holmes series is a set of adventure-mystery games which feature Doyle’s famous detectives, Holmes and Watson, investigating some sort of crime in an attempt to solve it. The player solves puzzles, locates hidden clues and analyses them, and talks with suspects. The games’ storylines are largely original (with a few exceptions such as in Crimes and Punishment) and don’t really adhere to the novels but still seem to maintain the feeling of them. The series has been around since 2002, with the latest game released in 2016, and it’s remained fairly popular during that time, even winning a couple of awards. So if you’re a Sherlock fan and enjoy a good mystery game, this might be a fun series to give a try during your spare time.


And that’s it from me for now! Are you someone who loves playing video games? Have you played any of the ones in this post? (Psssst…If you’re as obsessed with the Nancy Drew games as me and my sister, let me know your favourite!).

Books To Avoid During a Pandemic

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of lists centered around books that are perfect for occupying one’s time during the social isolation periods of a pandemic. There’s long books, uplifting books, gripping books, and everything in between. But what about books you SHOULDN’T read? Ones full of the world ending, awful viruses and infections, and post-apocalyptic wastelands. Probably not something people want to be thinking about at the moment, huh? So, why not look at a couple of them anyway?

The Stand – Stephen King

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I’m pretty sure a lot of people predicted this book would show up. Like IT, The Stand is a doorstopper of a read at over 1100 pages and is considered to be one of Stephen King’s best. The Stand is set in a post apocalyptic world in which 99% of the population has died as a result of a super flu. The scattered survivors end up drawn to two camps led by very different individuals. Nebraska is home to Abigail Freemantle, a 108 year old woman who supposedly receives visions from God. In Las Vegas, Randall Flagg reigns – a man with supernatural powers who thrives off death and destruction. It’s a story about the struggle between good and evil and how quickly things like human greed and corruption can flourish when allowed to do so.


Year One (Chronicles of the One 1#) – Nora Roberts

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Another book, another population murdering, world ending virus. However, if you like your apocalyptic stories mixed with fantasy, this is the one for you. In Year One, the plague (“The Doom”) is rooted in magic and after the decimation of humanity, magic starts to spring up rapidly among the immune survivors. Some fall on the light side of things – faeries, good witches, clairvoyants, etc. Then there are those gifted with dark powers who are interested in torture, rape and murder. To make matters worse, the government is also rounding up survivors in the hopes studying and testing them to determine the reason for their immunity. The book follows three groups of characters as they flee the city in search of safety and a new start.


Contagion – Erin Bowman

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Now for something different, Contagion is a YA sci-fi read. Much like in the movie Alien, this book involves a team from a small ship called ‘Odyssey’ responding to an SOS signal from a mining crew on a distant planet in the hopes of carrying out a search and rescue mission. When they arrive, they find a bunch of dead bodies, rotten food and an abandoned site. And so, as you’d expect, they try their best to find out what happened. The next thing they know, an unknown contagion has infected the crew with potentially catastrophic consequences if it gets out. Not exactly comfort reading in today’s climate, huh? Also, there may or may not be some space zombies and a fight for survival thrown in the mix.


Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

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Like The Stand, Station Eleven is a book which involves the wiping out of 99% of the population by means of a flu. In this case, “The Georgian Flu”. The book focuses on two timelines. The first details the lead up to the outbreak in which Arthur, a stage actor, is attempting to reboot his career by performing Shakespeare. Instead, he dies on stage and shortly after everything changes. The second skips forward into the future to follow the lives of several survivors and shows how they connect with one another through a group of actors and musicians called The Traveling Symphony. It’s a novel about nostalgia but also about just surviving versus actually living.


The Fireman – Joe Hill

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Time for a different sort of pandemic from your average flu – one that involves the spread of highly contagious spore which causes black and gold “scales” to appear across the skin prior to spontaneous human combustion. I guess Coronavirus doesn’t sound so bad after all… The story revolves around a nurse named Harper who, after contracting the spores, disregards a pact she made with her husband to kill themselves if they were ever infected. This is so she can hopefully live long enough to deliver her baby. When her community begins to devolve into chaos and her husband abandons her, Harper finds aid in the form of a mysterious figure known as The Fireman, who has somehow learned to control and use his Dragonscale affliction.


Blindness – José Saramago

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In Blindness, we, again, have a very different epidemic. The book begins with a man spontaneously losing his sight while waiting at a traffic light. He then sees a doctor to find an explanation for his condition who, after some time, also goes blind. All of a sudden, the city is rife with it, bright-white blindness spreading from one person to the next without warning. In an attempt to halt it, authorities confine those affected to an empty mental hospital where a criminal element soon takes over. Among it all, the doctor’s wife somehow retains her sight and does her best to look after those trapped but without revealing her unaffected vision. It’s a bleak view of society and a terrifying look at what people will do out of fear. Fun fact, this book won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.


The Maze Runner Series – James Dashner

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This might not apply to the first book as much because the full context for events doesn’t become apparent until further in. Still, the series as a whole fits this list. *major spoiler warning* In The Maze Runner books, the world has been affected by a man-made disease known as ‘The Flare’, intended to reduce the world’s population due to limited resources. Instead of eventually disappearing as planned, the disease mutated, became airborne and spread across the world, reducing those infected to savage, cannibalistic beings. In an attempt to combat it, the group WICKED was formed and began to conduct experiments on the small percentage of the population who were not affected by the The Flare (such as sticking them inside a ginormous maze), hoping their brain patterns/responses would reveal a path to a cure.


The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton

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A team is deployed to retrieve a military probe, recently returned to Earth after a mission to take samples from the outer fringes of space. They quickly become uncontactable. Then the aerial satellite images of the closest township, Pidemont, Arizona, come through – the entire population deceased, as if they simply dropped dead in the street. The government quickly initiates ‘Operation Wildfire’, putting a small group of scientists in a race to discover how to stop a deadly alien organism, needing only a few seconds incubation, before it becomes catastrophic. This is the book for those who love highly scientific and technical based reads.


Wilder Girls – Rory Power

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If the whole quarantine element is what keeps you up at night, maybe avoid Wilder Girls. Also, body horror, because there’s a fair bit of that here if you’re squeamish. The book is about a bunch of girls from a boarding school on an island off the coast of Maine being infected with some kind of crazy and painful, body altering disease called the Tox. The girls are kept isolated on the island where they’re forced to deal with limited supplies (ain’t no chance to go to the shops and panic buy here), bad weather and aggressive animal attacks. It’s dark, atmospheric and mysterious.


And there we have it, nine books to avoid reading during the current COVID-19 pandemic if you want to keep those anxiety levels and crazy dreams about the end of the world under control.

In all seriousness though, I hope you and your families are all doing well, staying safe and remaining isolated as much as you possibly can. As much as I like to joke about all this apocalyptic fiction type stuff, this is in no way our current predicament. Things may seem frightening, stressful, and lonely right now, but just know that you’re not alone. Despite all the darkness, things will be okay again. It’ll take some time, but we’ll get there. In the meantime, take up a new hobby, write that book you’ve been putting off, play Animal Crossing: New Horizons til your fingers cramp, whatever keeps you sane.

And most important of all, stay positive.

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Battle of the Book Covers: US VS UK (Round 3)

That’s right, we’re back again to match up US and UK cover designs in a battle to the death to see which comes out on top! Looking at the scoreboard from rounds 1 & 2, the US is currently in the lead by two points with 12 to the UK’s 10. Let’s see what happens in round 3.


The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern

As with Erin’s first book, The Night Circus, I love both covers. However, this time, the designs are completely different in style. I like the simplicity and clearness of the US cover. It’s very understated and elegant. On the other hand, the paint swirled background of the UK cover is so lovely. I also think it’s really cool that they’ve tried to make it look like a battered hardback. If it weren’t for the weirdly placed male silhouette in the middle, I probably would give this to the UK but as it is, it’s a tie.

VERDICT: Tie


Call Down the Hawk – Maggie Stiefvater

Both of these covers use the same image of the hawk in flight, however, to different scales and with varied colour schemes. While I like the style of the title on the US cover and the orange is visually striking, I definitely prefer the UK cover. I love a good bit of pastel and the background here is both warm and soft. I also really appreciate that the burning trees in the bird wings are much more visible and bright.

VERDICT: UK Cover


The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

This is a very easy decision from where I’m sitting. Out of these two, the UK cover does absolutely nothing for me. I plan to buy this book at some point in the future and am 100% sure I’ll be ordering the US version. The font, colour contrast, ominous & fairy-tale-eque look of the image…the US cover wins.

VERDICT: US Cover


The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

I actually really like both of these covers. They’re doing a lot of things right. Both have nice colour schemes, easy to read fonts, and elements that catch the eye. I enjoy the ‘painted on the side of a building’ look of the UK cover with the figures sitting on top – it’s different and rustic. However, for some reason my eyes keep darting back to the US cover’s tree with its gorgeous autumn coloured leaves.

VERDICT: US Cover (It’s a close call though)


Wayward Son – Rainbow Rowell

These two books give me a very similar vibe – the text is similar, the art style is the same (just a different image), and both go well with the Carry On US Cover. The colour contrast between the yellow and aqua on the US cover is eye catching and I’m loving the smirk Simon has going on. And YET, I have to go with the UK Cover. I mean, just look at Baz’s suit! LOOK AT IT. Bonus points for the addition of Simon’s tail wrapping around the title and the fun image at the bottom which really suits the road trip story.

VERDICT: UK Cover


The Flat Share – Beth O’Leary

With the US cover, I appreciate that they tried to do something different by using the painted image. Unfortunately, the painting just isn’t my style. I can’t help feeling that it looks too basic, almost like something a 12 year old would paint in art class? I do really like the layout though, with the title down the middle on the door. The UK Cover is simple but clean. I enjoy the colour palette, the font choices, and the texture provided by the bedspread and paneled flooring.

VERDICT: UK Cover


The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

Fun fact, the US cover for this book is actually a redesign done in response to Americans saying how much they wish they had the UK cover. As someone who owns the UK/Aus cover, I can definitely see why because it’s pretty darn nice. So nice, in fact, that even with a redesign the US cover still doesn’t top it. The look of the city against the water, title fonts, sneaky little silhouette of Locke looking like he’s about to steal everything you own – it’s simply a great cover.

VERDICT: UK Cover


Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mendel

Now these are two completely different covers and they’re both lovely. I love astrophotography. It’s gorgeous, magical and always makes you feel small in a big universe. The use of it on the US cover is really nice and the fact that they’ve kept the text simple works very well. On the UK Cover, I’m a big fan of the bold, pink title in contrast to the black & white image. I also love how the cover looks almost like a paper tole craft with all the different cutout layers. The white border is super pretty and really stands out.

VERDICT: US Cover (Another super close race!)


City of Ghosts – Victoria Schwab

For these covers, the compositions are very similar. It’s almost as if two artists were given the same brief and asked to do a design in their own personal art style. While I usually love red covers, my preference here is definitely for the US cover. It looks so much more eerie with the grey-white background and blurred image of the girl & cat. I also think I prefer the design of the city skyline more on the US cover compared to the UK.

VERDICT: US Cover


Normal People – Sally Rooney

This was an easy pick in the UK’s favour. There’s something about the faces on the US cover that give me the creeps. Maybe it’s the fact that the eyes are just blank circles? Who knows? I appreciate the clean, blocky title text on both versions but it looks so much clearer and bolder on the UK cover because of the colour scheme. I have to give brownie points to whoever was bold enough to release a book in olive green because it certainly stands out in a bookstore.

VERDICT: UK Cover


And that ends round 3. Let’s take a look at the updated points:

US Covers: 17 Points

UK Covers: 16 Points

After all that, it’s still a very close race which actually surprises me! For some reason I thought the US had won more covers this round than it actually had. Guess it just goes to show, there are some good and bad covers on both sides of the ocean.

How would you have decided these match ups? Are my tastes in covers completely different from yours?

Bookish Fun: Around the World in 20 Young Adult Books

Recently I published a post outlining some things I really wish were found in YA lit more often. One of the items on my list was more books set in countries other than the USA or England, as these two settings seem to dominate the market. This got me thinking: what YA books out there ARE set in other countries? Well, it took some time to track them down but here are 20 of them. While I haven’t read many of the books listed, I’ve certainly found a lot to add to my TBR. Now, I present to you, a trip around the world courtesy of YA novels. Be prepared for plenty of live abroad situations, many estranged overseas relatives and a LOT of romance.

Note: I apologise in advance for the gaps in this list, particularly where it comes to South America and Africa. I had trouble finding YA books set in these locations. If you know of any that you’d like me to add, send them my way!

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Scotland: Her Royal Highness – Rachel Hawkins

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We’re starting out in the land of kilts, rolling green hills and fabulous castles. I’ve actually visited Scotland and it’s an absolutely beautiful place so, note to self, find more books set there. This YA contemporary follows Millie, an American teen who moves to a prestigious boarding school in the Scottish Highlands after a bad break up. To her surprise, she ends up roommates with Flora, not only a princess in personality, but the princess of Scotland. Prepare yourself for an fluffy, sapphic, enemies to lovers romance with a stop off at friendship along the way in a stunning UK setting.

Spain: The Fountains of Silence – Ruta Sepetys

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After less rain and more sunshine? Perhaps some tapas? Well, Spain is the answer. The Fountains of Silence is set in 1950s Madrid during the dictatorship of General Franco in which tourists were encouraged to visit the country to help improve its financial problems. Eighteen year old photographer Daniel arrives with his family, hoping to learn more about and connect with the place of his mother’s birth. Here, he meets hotel maid Ana who slowly begins to educate him on the buried secrets of the country at great risk to herself and her family. The story follows several characters as they make their way through a dark and painful period of history.

The Netherlands, Austria, Italy, & Czech Republic: Wanderlost – Jen Malone

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Ever wanted to do a multi-country trip through Europe? Then this will be right up your alley. After her sister Elizabeth gets into some trouble, Aubree agrees to help her out by taking over Elizabeth’s summer job leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe. The problem is, Aubree knows very little about European countries and it doesn’t take long before things start to go completely pear shaped. Then, to make matters worse, the tour picks up an unexpected guest: the company director’s son, Sam. Aubree can’t help falling for Sam but how can she possibly be herself when she’s supposed to be pretending to be her sister? And what would happen if he ever found out?

Greece: Love & olives – Jenna Evans

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Greece has been on my holiday dream list for years now. There’s just something about its wonderfully rich history and the beauty of its islands. At some point I’ll get there, but until then perhaps Love & Olives can help pass the time. Now, this is actually an upcoming 2020 release but eh, who cares. The book introduces us to Evie, a Greek myths enthusiast. Upon receiving a postcard from her estranged father, she hops on a plane to Santorini to assist with his National Geographic Documentary about theories of Atlantis. As the shoot goes on, Evie has to deal not only with the emotions associated with seeing her father again for the first time in years but also his charismatic protege, Theo.

Romania: Hunting Prince Dracula – Kerri Maniscalco

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We’re slowly making our way over to the east of Europe, and our next destination is Romania. It’s home to Dracula, stuffed cabbage leaves and preserved medieval towns. Woo! While the first book in this series is set in London, the sequel sees the two leads, Audrey Rose and Thomas, journeying to one of Europe’s best forensic science schools, which also happens to be a castle. Cause when in Romania, right? Then, as you’d expect, corpses start turning up, and not just the ones scheduled for dissection. Rumours soon spread that Vlad the Impaler himself has returned and is out for blood. So it’s up to our plucky duo to solve the mystery.

Russia: The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

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Like Greece, Russia is one of those countries that I’ve wanted to visit for some time but it’s also one I’d prefer to do with a friend. Anyone up for a trip with me? Incorporating Russian folklore, TBATN is about a girl named Vasilisa who lives with her family in a small, northern village. Vasilisa is special in that she can see and converse with the creatures/spirits that live on their land. But after her father re-marries and a new priest enters the community, attitudes towards these beings and Vasilisa’s abilities change, leaving her an outcast and old superstitious practices abandoned. Soon things in the village begin to go very wrong such as failing crops and sinister things emerging from the forest. Now it’s up to Vasilisa to use her gifts to save the people she loves most.

Taiwan: The Astonishing Color of After – Emily X.R. Pan

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We’ve jumped continents and it’s time to see what Asia holds for our YA travels. First up we have the story of Leigh. After her mother’s suicide, Leigh travels to Taiwan to visit her grandparents for the first time. She is convinced that her mother has been reincarnated as a red bird and is somehow trying to speak to her. This takes her on a journey in which she develops bonds with her grandparents, comes to terms with her mother’s mental illness, and learns more about her mother’s history and Taiwanese culture. In turn, she also gains a greater understanding of herself. It’s a story about grief, mental health, family and identity.

Hong Kong: Somewhere Only We Know – Maurene Goo

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While Hong Kong may not be the best travel destination at present, we always have travel in the form of books. Somewhere Only We Know is a YA contemporary romance. Lucky is a huge K-Pop star currently preparing for her big American debut. When she sneaks out of her hotel room in search of some fast food, she accidentally runs into Jack, a tabloid reporter who has slipped in searching for a story. The two end up deciding to spend a day together adventuring around Hong Kong, free from the stress and rules of their normal lives. Only problem is, neither party is being honest with the other.

Japan: I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn

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Japan! Another country on my to-visit list. Cherry blossoms, great food in quirky locations, gorgeous scenery, ridiculous numbers of vending machines, what’s not to like? I Love You So Mochi is, once again, a YA contemporary romance. Kimi loves fashion and spends her spare time creating outfits for herself and her friends. However, her mum sees this as nothing more than a distraction from her painting portfolio. When Kimi is invited by her grandparents to spend Spring break in Kyoto, she decides to take the chance to get away for a while. In Japan she meets Akira, a med student and part time mochi mascot. Over the course of her trip, Kimi embraces everything Japan has to offer, forges new bonds with her family, falls in love, and evaluates her future.

Pakistan: Written in the Stars – Aisha Saeed

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Say hello to southern Asia. This time we’re in Pakistan, the fifth most populated country in the world! Our next book follows the story of Naila, a teen from a highly conservative American-Pakistani family. After falling in love with a boy named Sarif against her family’s wishes, Naila’s parents quickly whisk her off to Pakistan to visit their relatives in the hopes of re-immersing her in their culture. However, Naila is soon shocked to discover that her parents have actually brought her there for an arranged marriage. Cut off from everything she knows and stuck in a situation she sees no way out of, Naila has no choice but to remain strong and hope that Sarif will find her before it’s too late.

Iran: Darius the Great is Not Okay – Adib Khorram

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Iran – home to beautiful architecture and a welcoming population. Darius is about to take his first trip to Iran and it’s exciting but also overwhelming for a chubby, geeky guy with clinical depression, zero social life and a difficult relationship with his father. Upon arrival, Darius feels somewhat out of step with the language and culture. That is, until he meets Sohrab – a boy who just gets Darius and not only shows him what it’s like to have a best friend but to feel Persian for the first time. The trip offers Darius a chance to understand and accept himself, and to form new, close relationships with members of his family. Set among the bustling background of Yazd, this is a story about friendship, self-acceptance, depression, identity and family.

Qatar: Love from A to Z – S. K. Ali

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And…we’re back to romance, this time in Doha – the place to go for huge buildings, swanky hotels, amazing shopping, and well, if you want to feel poor. Our two main characters here are Zayneb and Adam. After confronting her teacher for anti-Muslim remarks, Zayneb is suspended and her parents send her to her aunt’s in Doha. College student Adam is dealing with both the recent loss of his mother and a multiple-sclerosis diagnosis (something he’s avoided telling his father and sister about). When the two meet on the flight to Doha, an unexpectedly wonderful connection forms. This is a book which deals with some heavy topics but if you’re after an un-apologetically muslim, own voices novel, this is one to think about.

Saudi Arabia: A Girl Like That – Tanaz Bhathena

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Time for YA contemporary, but told a little differently and this time set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This is a story that begins with the deaths of our lead and her love interest. Zarin is a bright student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also someone parents call ‘troublemaker’ & whose romances are endlessly gossiped about. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. And yet, eighteen year old Porus has only ever had eyes for her. But how did Zarin and Porus end up dead, crashed on the side of a highway? When the police arrive, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

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Egypt: In a Perfect World – Trish Doller

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Egypt is another country on my ‘must travel to before I die list’ and although I’m not great with hot weather, I’m determined to see those Pyramids. Once again, we’ve got ourselves a contemporary romance. In a Perfect World centers around Caroline, whose perfect summer plans are completely thrown out the window when her mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo. Instead of soccer camp and a job at the amusement park, Caroline will be spending not only her summer but her final year of high school in Egypt. Despite her cultural shock, Caroline finds herself opening up to new experiences, food and culture and falling for a boy who challenges everything she thought she knew about life, love and privilege.

South Africa: Deadlands – Lily Herne

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Ever been to South Africa? Well, here’s your chance. The catch: zombies. Ten years after a zombie apocalypse, the dead freely roam the suburbs of Cape Town while survivors cluster on farms and in urban shantytowns. They are protected by mysterious, robed figures known as Guardians who are somehow able to control the zombies. Each year the Guardians hold a human lottery in which 5 teens are chosen to leave the enclave for an unknown purpose. Seventeen year old Lele can’t help but resent her current situation – a school run by a fanatical, Guardian devoted cult, the recent death of her grandmother, and a lack of freedom. So when she’s selected during the lottery, Lele sees it as an opportunity to get answers to some of her biggest questions.

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Beliz & Guatemala: Wanderlove – Kirsten Hubbard

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We’ve hit the bottom of North America and this time it’s two destinations in one. Wanderlove is a travel story centered around 18-year old Bria who accidentally signs up for a trip to the wrong Central America. On tour she runs into diving instructor Rowan and his humanitarian twin sister, Starling, and decides to ditch her group in favour of a trip more off the beaten path. As they travel through islands and villages, Bria soon realises that her and Rowan are in search of the same thing: escaping their past. However, with time, Bria learns that in order for her to move forward, first she’ll have to deal with her baggage.

Canada: The Gathering – Kelly Armstrong

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Skipping over the USA, we’re heading up to Canada and this time to a paranormal/fantasy read set on Vancouver Island. Maya knows very little about her past, specifically her parents. Her only clue is a paw-print shaped birthmark on her hip. She’s never had much reason to think about it, until now. All of sudden strange things have started happening – unexplained deaths, cougars just showing up and following her around, and her friend, Daniel, getting weird ‘feelings’ about people and situations. Then there’s the hot, new guy, Rafe and his damaged sister, Annie. Seems like there’s more to town than there seems.

The Bahamas: Learning to Breathe – Janice Lynn Mather

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Sun, sand, and…teenage pregnancy. Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules – study hard, be respectful, and never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially while living in her mother’s shadow. When Indy is sent to live with relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth. Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found it. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls – it’s about the people she chooses to share it with.

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Australia: On the Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

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Welcome to my happy home in the land down under. As far as Aussie YA goes, I pretty much had to include a Melina Marchetta book. OtJR is about a girl named Taylor who was abandoned by her mother when she was young and now lives in a boarding house for troubled and neglected kids. Here, Taylor acts as a leader for the residents in their territory wars with the local townies and cadets. Her closest friend is a woman named Hannah who lives on the edge of the school grounds. However, when Hannah mysteriously disappears and Taylor sets out to find her, she comes across a journal about five friends who used to live in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. This leads her on an emotional journey to uncover what happened to her mother and why she left all those years ago.

New Zealand: Antipodes – Michele Bacon

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Heading just across the channel to NZ, it’s time for some extreme sports, fabulous scenery and lots of sheep. When Erin arrives in Christchurch for her work-study abroad program, her life and reputation are a bit of a mess. She’s lost her boyfriend, been kicked off the swim team, and severely damaged her future college prospects. This trip seems like the perfect opportunity to get things back on track but Erin’s less than impressed when she’s introduced to her host family, their cold & cramped living conditions, and her itchy school uniform. Yet, the more Erin opens herself up to her new surroundings and the people around her, the more she starts to rethink her priorities and realise the kind of person she wants to be.


That concludes our journey! I hope you’ve had a wonderful trip – saw some new sights, experienced some wonderful things. Okay…maybe just found a few new books to add to the ever growing TBR pile. What are some of your favourite reads set in other countries? What countries would you most love to travel to?