Are You the Weapon or the Target?: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Damn you, hype train, and your creation of excessively high expectations!

I was really, really hoping that this book would make all my fantasy-dark-academia dreams come true but, sadly, there were a few too many things missing for it to hit the high notes for me.

Who, What, Where?

Six of the most talented young magicians are chosen by The Alexandrian Society to be given the chance to join their ranks. It’s a secret society of advanced magical academics who act as caretakers for the prized knowledge of antiquity, and whose members usually rise to positions of wealth, power, and prestige. Candidates are to spend one year together with access to the believed lost Library of Alexandria, researching and experimenting in areas of arcane magic. The six include: Libby & Nico, rival cosmologists who control physical matter; Reina, a naturalist with a unique relationship with plants; Parisa, a telepath who relies on her looks and seduction skills to survive; Tristan, the son of a crime boss who can see past illusions; and Callum, an empath with terrifyingly powerful talents of persuasion. However, only five of them will be initiated.   

Playing Favourites

Although it’s called The Atlas Six, this book often feels like The Atlas Four and, even then, there’s an imbalance. While I understand that authors have their favourites, it’s important that other characters’ development doesn’t suffer because of it. Despite the rotating third-person POV, which I really liked, I feel as though I know very little about Callum and Reina and that both were underutilised considering their potential. In Callum’s case it’s problematic because of the villain-ish type role the story wants him to fill. Like, yes, his powers are terrifying, but I need more. With Reina, it’s almost as though she could have been deleted from the book and barely anything would have changed. It’s frustrating because from the small carrots that were dangled, there’s clearly so much more to explore.

Within “The Atlas Four”, I enjoyed Parisa, Nico and Libby (I’m torn on Tristan). They’re not exactly likeable characters – that’s dark academia for you – but there’s depth and intrigue there. The dynamics each of them has with the others are compelling, although often more about a power struggle than emotional connection – something the book could have done with more of. The level of conversation between the characters generally is also somewhat limited considering the story’s circumstances. Still, there’s something enthralling about a group of morally ambiguous magicians constantly alternating between the 3 states of – I want to f*** you, I want to kill you, and I need to remind you that I’m the hottest shit here. Make of that what you will.

Philosophical and Indulgent Prose

I genuinely believe I would have rated TAS a lot higher if I and the writing style had meshed better. There were times when I’d be really feeling it but then, suddenly, a switch would flip and the next thing I knew, everything sounded so overcomplicated, indulgent, and pretentious…The dialogue, especially, tended to quickly veer into this territory. For example:

“Every single one of us is missing something. We are all too powerful, too extraordinary, and don’t you see it’s because we’re riddled with vacancies? We are empty and trying to fill, lighting ourselves on fire just to prove that we are normal – that we are ordinary. That we, like anything, can burn.”

Perhaps I’m too simple-minded or impatient for this type of poetic and philosophising purple-prose. All I know is that if I were to describe dark academia as a writing style rather than just a genre, it’d be this book.


If you’re a reader who prefers plot-heavy novels, this won’t be for you. The opening chapters are great – not only as an intriguing hook but a fantastic introduction to the characters. After this, The Atlas Six rests largely on vibes and The Six themselves, at least until towards the end. It’s slowly paced, and most scenes are devoted to the characters reading/conducting research, having subtext-filled one-on-one conversations, and thinking A LOT. To an extent, I was okay with this because the characters were interesting and the tension was high. However, I’ll admit that I expected there to be much more structure to the initiation year – goals, more in-depth lessons, measures of success/failure, etc., but that wasn’t the case, and it felt somewhat odd and empty as a result.

The book does include a couple of plot twists. The first falls kind of flat, mainly because we’re aware of the gist of it from the blurb & prologue, but also because it bizarrely fizzles out by the end. The later twists, on the other hand, are much stronger and tease an exciting sequel.

Vaguely Scientific-Magic

I have no idea what was going on with the magic in this book. At a surface level, I can see that Blake was going for a scientific approach as we get mentions of things like gravity, matter, patterns of thought, and so on. The way these were utilised to explain aspects of magic in specific scenes was fine. However, the problem lies in that there’s no explanation for how magic works broadly. For instance – how are spells cast? Or, what governs the categories of magic magicians can do spells from? For example, others can perform aspects of Nico & Libby’s specialty but no one else seems capable of what Callum or Parisa can do. Honestly, I’m just lost.

Then, we have the world-building around magic, which is similarly vague. We’re made aware that magic users in this world are out in the open but not told much about what the world looks like. How do magic users fit into society? How has history deviated? Are magicians accepted? I feel like there’s so much potential, but I’ll have to wait until the sequel to see if it’s realised.

Overall, not a perfect read but enjoyable enough to convince me to continue with the series.

3 Stars

Alternative Models of Loving Each Other: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

The time has finally come to review one of my favourite standalones.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when writing a review I will have endless things to say…unless it’s something I loved. If I read a book and give it five stars you can almost guarantee that if I try to tell you WHY the only thing my brain will produce is an assortment of positive, but useless, adjectives. However, this is my second time through Conversations with Friends so here’s hoping that the power of repetition will help me coherently explain why I adore it as much I do beyond simply cry-saying: It’s just so good.

Who, What, Where?

Conversations centres around the mess of relationships between four core characters – Frances, Bobby, Melissa and Nick. Best friends/ex-es, Frances and Bobby, are students at Trinity who regularly perform spoken word poetry together. During one of their shows, they meet Melissa, a thirty-something journalist who asks to write a piece about them. The girls are drawn into Melissa’s upper-class lifestyle and introduced to her handsome but quiet husband, Nick, an actor who never really reached his full potential. While Bobbi is enamoured by Melissa, Frances begins a flirtation with Nick which evolves into an unexpectedly intimate affair. She soon finds herself navigating spiralling relationships, confronting deep personal insecurities, and thinking about her life and the type of person she is.

The Rooney Style

Like many other people, Normal People was the first book I picked up by Sally Rooney. At the time, I distinctly remember having trouble adjusting to her writing style with its direct prose, absence of quotation marks and nonlinear scenes. With Conversations, however, we clicked. The writing is so smooth and effortless, almost like a continuous stream of thoughts, dialogue and images. It feels like a long, get-things-off-your-chest chat with a close friend in the wee hours of the morning. Rooney’s prose seems so clean and innocuous that it’s tempting to brush it off as being simple but more and more I find myself rereading dialogue or small details, picking up on subtle nuances that enrich her scenes in beautifully real ways. Her prose isn’t for everyone but I frequently get lost in it.

It’s (Not) Just Sex

The relationship between Frances and Nick seems like something I should be adverse to. It’s an affair and a toxic one at times, too. Yet, I’m so captivated by it. There’s just something about these two shy, awkward people forming a deep connection but being unable to express it because they’re terrible at communicating about their feelings. And so, they make jokes and downplay it as just sex because they have low self-esteem and worry that if they did admit they care, it wouldn’t be reciprocated. As a result, they actively look for things to support this conclusion, feel hurt by what they find and then, in the case of Frances, lash out at the other person. Can you tell I have a lot of feelings about this relationship? I think I like it so much because it doesn’t feel idealised. Sure, there are bad moments but so many sweet ones as well.

Unlikeably Loveable

The main reason people cite for not enjoying this book is the characters, and I get it. They can be selfish, dishonest, pretentious, privileged, plus they’re wrapped up in messy relationship drama. But, for some reason, I can’t get enough of them. Despite their tendency to frustrate, disappoint, even anger me, I love how emotionally complex and real they feel. Each person has a distinctness to the way they speak, act and think, to the point that I can vividly imagine having a conversation with them. They’re not “nice” people, but these flaws make them so much more compelling and I cared for and sympathised with them all the same.

As our narrator, Frances often bears the brunt of the criticism. People have a tendency to write her off as being spiteful, childish and a stereotypical millennial, but I have such a soft spot for Frances. She’s wormed her way into my head and heart and refuses to leave. She feels so vivid to me – this mess of loneliness, insecurity, self-destruction, and the strong desire to be loved. There are parts of her that I relate to so deeply it hurts, even the uglier ones, but mostly, I just want so badly for her to be safe and happy.

Quiet but Memorable

Conversations is not the book to read if you’re looking for something plot-heavy. It isn’t a big, flashy drama full of cinematic moments, nor is it a swoon-worthy romance to get swept up in. And yet, both times I’ve read it I’ve been glued to the page from start to finish. It’s a quiet, emotionally resonant novel about people, their lives and relationships. It looks at themes like love, monogamy, mental health, youth and belonging in very personal and intimate ways. I truly felt this book, in more ways than one, and I suppose that’s what matters most.

Conversations with Friends is unlikely to be everyone’s perfect read but, to be blunt, I absolutely love this book and it’s something I’ll continue to think about for a long time.

5 Stars

The Hunger Games But Make Them Magicians: All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

I’m a simple person. I see descriptions of a book that say a The Hunger Games type competition with magic and Game of Thrones family dynamics, I read it. No questions asked.

Who, What, Where?

In the remote city of Ilvernath, seven families are bound by an ancient curse which requires that every generation they select one member to represent them as their champion in a tournament to the death. The winner earns their family exclusive control over the city’s high magic supply, the world’s most powerful resource. In the past, the villainous Lowe family has won nearly every tournament, but the recent publication of a scandalous tell-all book has suddenly thrust the competition into the international spotlight, providing the opportunity for another family to potentially take the crown.

Makin’ Magic

Magic is my literary crack. So, when a book has good magic going on, it gets major brownie points. The magic system in All of Us Villains is interesting. Sure, there are foggy elements, but while I do need more explanation than ‘it’s magic’, I don’t always require a complete scientific breakdown for a system to work. Here, spells & curses are crafted using recipes with specific ingredients and either common or high magic. After, they’re placed inside a vessel, e.g. a ring, until they’re cast by the holder. Spells have different power classes and this impacts their difficulty to craft and cast. Those made using high magic are far stronger, bumping up their class, which is why control of the town’s supply is so desirable. Here, magic fantastically walks the line between requiring planning/skill and still being flexible enough to use quickly in intense situations. You can tell the authors spent time thinking about how it would function within their world and this is great considering how crucial it is to the story.

I should mention though, when it comes to the world building beyond this, things are hazy in spots. It can be difficult to understand how the broader world functions beyond the competition. This is especially the case when you consider the tell-all book revealing the competition to the world.  

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

AoUV spends a good amount of time leading up to its competition. As a result, the book has the space to properly establish each of its major characters, their families, and the tension between them. Yet, it doesn’t linger long enough to kill the anticipation. The competition kicks off around halfway, at which point I was excited for some fast, furious and brutal magical conflict. However, after a few pages, the pacing slows down a lot and focus shifts towards alliances, collecting artifacts, and the personal obstacles facing certain characters. While I didn’t mind this exactly, I wish there’d been a couple more actively aggressive competitors present to raise the stakes for the others earlier on. In other words, there aren’t any deaths for some time, so don’t expect a bloodbath right from the get-go. Although, things do eventually pick up again making for some exciting scenes, one involving a giant sea dragon and another a river of blood.

Alongside the champions fighting it out, the arena also has a few magical extras to keep things interesting – landmarks and artifacts. Landmarks act as bases of operations or strongholds for whoever claims them first. Each has its own unique benefits, so champions need to strategise wisely about which to target. Then we have artifacts. These appear in the competition at random times and bestow special abilities upon the user, such as a cloak that protects the wearer from offensive spells. I loved the idea of these (especially where one’s appearance would force champions into conflict to try and get to it first) and am keen to see more of them in the sequel.

Break the Curse

You might (not be) surprised to hear that the book also involves a ‘break the curse’ plotline. I can’t say much because of spoilers, but my feelings are mixed. I really like the direction being taken into the sequel with regards to the plot itself. However, there’s a connected subplot that arises late in the book which I found frustrating as it seems like it’s only introduced to force a conflict between two characters.

Champions with Something to Prove

For me, one of the best parts of AoUV was its characters. The book is written in limited third person from the perspective of four of the seven champions, and each has their own distinct personality, family backstory, and goals. Our cast consists of: Isobel, a talented spellcrafter pressured into representing the shady Macaslan family after being named champion by the media; Alistair, of the powerful and sinister Lowe family, raised to win from birth and taught to be a monster to survive; Briony, who has always dreamed of being the Thorburn champion and achieving hero status by winning; and lastly, Gavin, the champion of the weak and dismissed Grieves who is desperate to prove himself and regain respect for his family, whatever it takes. All four were compelling leads and I really enjoyed spending time with them. Still, I can’t help but wish they’d been slightly more “villainous” at times to increase the twists and drama.

All of Us Villains is a fun and engaging YA fantasy read that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did. While there are things that could be improved upon, I highly recommend picking this up if it interests you. I know I’ll be looking out for the sequel next year to see how everything wraps up.  

4 Stars

All of Us Villains will be released on November 9th 2021.

**Thank you to Netgalley & Tor for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review**

Making Vampires the Stuff of Nightmares Again: Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

Until this month, I’d been waiting to read EotV for forever. Okay…in truth, it was more like a few months short of 3 years, but this led to some pretty high expectations – something I generally try to avoid for fear of heartbreak. Yet, to my complete surprise, this book managed to meet them, mostly.

Who, What, Where?

EotV is set in the world of Elidaen – an empire conquered by vampires after its sun disappeared one day twenty-seven years ago. In a prison cell, awaiting his death for murdering the vampire emperor, Silversaint Gabriel de Leon, the last of a holy order dedicated to defending humans against monsters of the night, is compelled to tell his life’s story to a vampire historian. Gabriel details his youth at the monastery of San Michon, rise to fame as a Chevalier of the realm against invading vampire forces, forbidden love, and journey with a small band of allies to find the Holy Grail, prophesised to bring an end to the eternal night.

It’s a Vampire’s World

First off, the world building in this book is fantastic! It’s complex, intriguing, intricate, and somehow JK breaks it down for the reader in ways that are easy to understand without bogging down the story. I was engaged in the world right from the very beginning and really enjoyed learning about its vampire lore and bloodlines, the Silver Order, Elidaen’s religion, and how the loss of the sun and vampire invasion affected people’s lives (a diet involving lots of potatoes, apparently). There were a couple of things raised and not fully explained but there’s got to be material left for the sequels, right? The one thing that bothered me a little was the use of random French words like ‘oui’ or ‘ma famillie’. It’s weird because the spoken language isn’t really discussed so it looks like they’re there purely to try and French-ify things.

Nevernight Vibes

I think it’s safe to say that if you loved JK’s Nevernight books it’s likely you’ll enjoy EotV. While there aren’t any footnotes (thank God), it’s similarly full of violence, revenge, corruption, foul language, moody-vibes, smut, religious themes, and emotional moments. It’s DARRRKKK. Vampires bathing in the blood of babies dark. The kind of dark and scary vampires should be. However, part of my reasoning for dropping that .5 of a star is that some of these things were slightly overdone in places. In the case of gore and violence, over time I felt myself becoming desensitised to the horror described, having read so much of it. Dead children littering the ground? Well, alrighty then! Likewise with the swearing and crassness, in that some lines came off feeling forced and excessive – we get it, they’re badasses with dirty mouths. And for the love of all that’s holy, please, no more ‘your mother/wife’ jokes. The audience is not a bunch of twelve-year-old boys.

Full Steam Ahead

There was no point while reading this book where I felt bored, and for a 700+ page novel, that’s pretty darn impressive. The plot of EotV is like if The Name of the Wind, The Witcher and The Last of Us had a threesome in a vampire nest with a twist from The Da Vinci Code thrown in. I have no idea if that sounds appealing, but it was. Gabriel’s tale switches back and forth between two different parts of his life. The first details his teenage years, during which he studied with the Silver Order and built his legend as The Black Lion. The second looks at more recent events – Gabe’s journey with a small group protecting a teenage street urchin named Dior in connection with the Holy Grail. At first, I was bothered by this structure but after seeing that it didn’t negatively impact the momentum, I realised it was a clever narrative choice. This is because it: a) stopped the book from being stuck in one place for too long, and b) allowed JK to slowly unfold certain plot elements to dramatic (and heartbreaking) effect. My only minor complaint is there were a couple of character-oriented moments in the first timeline which were summarised rather than shown to allow the book to move on to other events that I wish we’d actually seen.

A Grumpy “Hero”, Talking Sword and Scrappy Pickpocket

Talking about EotV’s characters without spoilers is a minefield, but I can safely say I liked a lot of them. Our lead, Gabriel, has been through a great deal and is akin to a more broken, bitter and arrogant Geralt of Rivia. He’s lost his faith and self-respect, and generally adopts a ‘F*** off’ attitude. While Gabe frustrated me early on, I came to understand and appreciate his interesting mix of heroic and asshole-ish qualities. His relationship with Dior was one of my favourite parts of the book and I loved seeing them come to trust and care for one another despite negative original perceptions. The surrounding cast of characters were also good but time with them was limited in some cases. A few standouts for me were Aaron, Gabe’s Silversaint nemesis turned friend; Ashdrinker, Gabe’s crazy, talking sword; Bellamy, basically Dandelion from The Witcher but more battle adept; and of course, Dior, our locking picking, smart-mouthed dynamo.  

Magical Illustrations

It would be a crime not to mention the stunning illustrations by Bon Orthwick in this book. As someone who doesn’t see books play out like movies in their head, these artworks truly enhanced my reading experience and helped me to feel and visualise scenes. HOWEVER, that one piece – you’ll know when the time comes – how DARE you squash my heart like that?

As I’m sure you already know, I had a blast reading this crazy, bloody, vampire ride of a paperweight and I’ll be looking forward to the next book in the series, whenever it finally makes an appearance.

4.5 Stars

Note: Thank you to Harper Collins AU and Netgalley for a large sampler of this book which allowed me to get started early!

Religious Fanatics, Families with Secrets and an Unsolved Kidnapping Case: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

The Nowhere Child is a good reminder as to why I should read more books from Australian authors. It’s honestly such a shame that I cover so few because this was a great mystery read, especially for a debut.

Who, What, Where?

TNC centres around Kim, a photography teacher living in Melbourne whose life quickly changes when a man informs her that he believes Kim to be the victim of a 26 year old US child kidnapping case. As much as she tries to deny it, the more Kim looks into it, the more obvious connections become apparent between herself and the missing toddler, Sammy Went. Needing to know more, Kim travels to the small town of Manson, Kentucky to try to find out the truth about her “mother” and past.

Write Like the King

Something I really liked about this one was White’s writing style. It’s engaging, easily digestible in large amounts and I found that fifty pages often went by in the blink of an eye. White’s also very good at paying attention to the right kinds of small details to develop vivid settings and meaningful characters without overwhelming the reader. As a result, there’s a good sense of place and it was easy for me to imagine Manson as a real small town in Kentucky – the way it looked, felt and the type of people who lived there (religious extremists with a thing about snakes apparently). White’s approach to storytelling in parts of this actually reminded me a bit of Stephen King, particularly books like Salem’s Lot or The Institute, but still with its own distinct feel and no supernatural elements, of course. Considering White supposedly took cues from King’s On Writing, this makes sense.

More About the People

I was expecting The Nowhere Child to be a twisty, thriller type read. As things turned out, it was more of a slow build mystery with characters and relationships at its heart. The book is told in dual timelines. In the present we have Kim realising who she is, travelling to the US and connecting with people from Sammy’s past. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, we follow multiple characters in Manson and witness how Sammy’s disappearance impacts her family and the town as a whole. Some of the things the book focuses on include the marriage between Sammy’s parents, influence of The Church of the Light Within, bias of the town towards people of certain backgrounds, and pressure on the police force to find the culprit. A few of the plot threads, such as the darker side of the church, could probably have been expanded on slightly, and I wish there had been more meat to the POV of Sammy’s teen sister, Emma. Regardless, I can’t complain too much as I felt like most of the major characters were satisfyingly fleshed out to the degree they needed to be for the story to have an impact. Although several of them made some questionable choices, I was able to sympathise with nearly all of them in some way. A couple could probably have been better utilised in the present timeline but I can understand the desire to focus on Kim’s journey.

Unraveling a Kidnapping 

The novel gets stuck into the main kidnapping plot pretty much straight from the get-go but does eventually slow down somewhat. Still, I found that the use of the dual timelines kept momentum going for the most part (along with the shorter chapters). While I had plenty of moments of frustration when one timeline cut off at a dramatic moment, I was quickly engaged in whatever was happening next in the alternate story. The 90s chapters involve the police trying to investigate the kidnapping, however, not much comes of these efforts for a long time so the book doesn’t get into the real substance of the mystery until a fair way in. For this reason, after some time I started to get increasingly worried that I’d be disappointed with the ending. As it turned out, the book finished strongly with events culminating in an exciting climax and an ending which felt mostly believable with the puzzle pieces previously given to the reader. There were also a few small, emotional moments for some of the characters which I appreciated, too.

As you can probably tell, I had a great time reading this one and will definitely be giving Christian White’s second novel, The Wife and the Widow, a read in the future. If you’re looking for a well-written and engaging take on the old kidnapping mystery story, I highly recommend giving The Nowhere Child a look.

4 stars

Not Exactly The Secret History: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

I didn’t have crazy, unreachable expectations for this book. I went into it knowing full well it wouldn’t be the next The Secret History. Still, I’d hoped it would be a fun mystery read with some secret society shenanigans, a dash of classic mythology and a decent twist at the end. And yet, I was still disappointed.

Who, What, Where?

Mariana Andros is a London-based group therapist still reeling from the tragic death of her husband a year prior. But when her niece Zoe calls from Cambridge after her friend, Tara, is found murdered, Mariana quickly finds herself caught up in the investigation. Of particular interest is Edward Fosca, the charismatic Greek tragedy professor and Tara’s potential lover, known for heading an exclusive, all female “study group” (aka secret society) known around campus as ‘The Maidens’. As Mariana looks closer at the crime and more bodies start to turn up, the more convinced she becomes that Fosca is the guilty party, alibis be damned. But how exactly to find the evidence to prove it?

Alright, let’s start with the good stuff first…

 A Portrait of Cambridge

The majority of The Maidens is set on the grounds of Cambridge University in the UK and Michaelides does a great job of helping his reader to really visualise it. You can tell he’s spent a lengthy amount of time researching everything from the positioning of the river, to the various pubs and eateries people haunt, to the way the buildings are laid out. It’s easy to imagine the surroundings of the characters in almost every location and this helps in maintaining the atmosphere and tension.

Loss and Grief

Something I wasn’t expecting the book to spend as much time on as it did was its depiction of grief. Having lost her husband, Sebastian, a year ago while on a trip to Greece, Mariana is still deeply feeling his loss and this shapes her thoughts and actions throughout the story. With Mariana and Sebastian having fallen in love while they themselves were at Cambridge, Mariana’s visit there is full of reminders of what she’s lost. I thought this was handled well and it helped me to sympathise with her as a character. The book also does a decent job of exploring Mariana’s family background which gives the reader a better grasp of her emotional baggage.

Insight Into a Killer

Spread throughout the book are short chapters posed as diary entries written by a mysterious man. They detail this person’s current inner turmoil and the troubling events of their childhood. While I wasn’t impressed with the revealed significance of these segments, I did enjoy the chapters themselves and found them interesting from a character building perspective.

Time to move onto the things I was less happy about.

Suspend Reality

What drove me nuts about this book was how unbelievable it felt. First, Mariana’s involvement in the investigation. Why she comes to Cambridge in the first place is fine but somehow, she just sort of jumps into looking into the murder without much prelude at all. Three different people encourage her to do so right from the get-go with no more reason than she’s a group therapist. Even though this isn’t her field, she has no forensic experience and there’s already a consultant working with the police. Um…okay.

Speaking of the police, their actions are a mess. Early on, they arrest a suspect simply because no-one can corroborate his alibi, even though Mariana tells us there’s no evidence to tie him to the death. More confusing still, they exclude a suspect by claiming a conversation he had with someone else provides an alibi BUT later arrest the same person who provided the alibi. Like, what? The second suspect can provide an alibi for the first but not the other way around?

Then we have the maidens, a group of attractive, wealthy, young women from prominent families who are being collected into a “private study group” by a charismatic professor for late night drinking and tutoring sessions. Yet, nobody bats an eyelid. No one? Really? God help the students at this university.

The cherry on top is the ending. The book gets points because the red herrings fooled me and I didn’t predict it. However, I have to deduct a gazillion points because it’s also stupid and makes little sense. Why did the killer carry out their plan under the existing circumstances? What did they hope to get out of it? Why did some of the victims willingly go with them? What’s up with the nonsensical attitudes of the maidens toward their dead friends? I have questions, okay, so many questions.

Weird Dialogue

Some of the dialogue exchanges in this book were really odd and unnatural for different reasons. For example, Mariana’s first meeting with Chief Inspector Sangha is super stilted, almost like talking with a robot programmed to act like an officer. Bizarrely, he warns her that this is his case and not to get involved when Mariana hasn’t done anything of the sort yet. On the other hand, the scenes with Mariana and Professor Fosca can only be described as melodramatic in the extreme. There’s literally a comment made by Fosca about Mariana seeing into his soul. Ick.

Do You Have a Death Wish?

While I appreciated Mariana’s grief story, I have to say that as a character, lord, does she do some stupid things. Honestly, I question whether this woman has any regard for her personal safety at all. Thinks dude is a murderer, agrees to have dinner alone with him and proceeds to get drunk. Believes person is involved in the murders, goes with them to an isolated location and gives them access to a weapon. Knows she’s likely being stalked by a patient, does nothing. Can you sense my frustration? Admittedly, she doesn’t fall for the red herrings I did, and you’d think this would be a good thing, but nopppeee. It’s actually because she refuses to consider any evidence that doesn’t fit with her own stubborn notions. *sigh*

Plot Teases

There were quite a few underdeveloped plot threads in this book that felt pointless or disappointing. First, with the way The Maidens was marketed, I expected the secret society and Greek mythology elements to play a larger role. Particularly as this is what attracted me in the first place. But, for the most part, these felt flat, lacking in substance and more importantly, irrelevant. The book tries to dive more into the mystery of the maidens towards the end, which I did find interesting, but by that point it all felt rushed and too late.

Second, there’s the issue of Mariana’s troubled, stalker patient, Henry. I want the wasted minutes of my life back. It’s frequently mentioned and built up to only to be resolved in two seconds flat and the most unsatisfying way possible. I’m still lost on what the point was.

Third, we have Mariana’s “curse”. After Mariana and Sebastian’s fateful trip to Greece, she is somehow under the impression that she’s been cursed by Persephone/Demeter and not only is this why her husband died but it’s why people keep inadvertently making references to it. It’s such a strange addition because it’s not developed well enough at a plotline, pops up at random times and seems out of place in the narrative.

Last, but not least, there’s Mariana’s not-so-romance with Fred, a premonition having, mathematics graduate student she meets on the train to Cambridge. I’m still confused as to whether I find Fred endearing or creepy and as for his relationship with Mariana, words fail me. Am I supposed to want them to be together? I don’t know. I don’t even think the author knows. The whole dynamic is just off.

As you can probably tell, I won’t be adding The Maidens to my list of favourite dark academia reads. However, if you were a big fan of The Silent Patient, you might still want to give this one a go.

2 Stars

If You Liked This, Try These: ‘The Song of Achilles’, ‘Normal People’ and ‘Daisy Jones & the Six’

If you’re anything like me, once you read something you love, all you can think about is finding something similar to keep the good times rolling. But where to find a good readalike, you wonder. Well, here I am to help (I hope) with another instalment of ‘Liked This, Try These’. Today’s three books are backlist reads but super popular ones that continue to be read in massive numbers, just ask the Goodreads’ most read sections. So, for those of you who’ve only just discovered these fiction dynamos and those sick of re-reading them for the twentieth time, here are a few recommendations that’ll help scratch that specific itch.

While I always like to showcase books I’ve actually read, there are some on this list that I haven’t. As always, where this is the case I’ve made sure to research the book using the reviews of others to support the reasoning for my recommendation.

The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS – PAT BARKER: Enjoyed reading about the siege of Troy in The Song of Achilles? Well, here it is from two different perspectives – Briseis and Achilles to be exact. Some of this will be familiar territory to you but expect a much more brutal take this time around which really showcases the ugliness of war. In other words, don’t go into this looking for romance. Also, without the sweet, admiring narration of Patroclus, be ready to find Achilles a much bigger asshole than before.

THE CAPTIVE PRINCE TRILOGY – C. S. PACAT: I always feel weird about recommending this series because it’s controversial and involves uncomfortable themes (e.g. slavery, rape, etc.). So just be prepared. My recommendation here is more about the second and third books than the first (I enjoyed the sequels far more). It’s about two opposing kingdoms – Akielos and Vere. When the prince of Akielos, Damen’s, half brother seizes power, he is stripped of his identity and given to Vere’s Prince, Laurent, as a slave. The two eventually have to work together in the face of plots against them and war breaking out between the kingdoms. If you enjoy the romance of TSoA and its wartime setting, you might enjoy these as guilty pleasure reads.

ARIADNE – JENNIFER SAINT: After a completely different Greek mythology retelling? Perhaps Ariadne is up your alley. Like TSoA, Ariadne spans over a period of many years and follows the story of the titular character, the daughter of King Minos, and her sister Phaedra. The book links into a few different Greek myth stories, one of the bigger ones being that of Theseus and the Minotaur. This one really puts women at the forefront of the story and focuses heavily on character exploration, showcasing well known events from an alternate perspective.

MYTHOS – STEPHEN FRY: If what you loved most about TSoA was just the Greek mythology and you’re eager to learn more about the various gods and stories, might I suggest picking up Fry’s Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold? In this collection Fry retells a bunch of classic Greek myths including those of Prometheus, Echo, and Persephone, to name a few. As you’d expect from Fry, he does so using his typical wit and flair, commenting on some of the more ridiculous and comical aspects of these tales. I should also note, for a Norse alternative, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology might similarly hit the spot.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – ANDRÉ ACIMAN: CMBYN is a much more modern form of historical fiction than TSoA and it’s not a retelling, but I still feel like there are lot of things to like about it if you loved TSoA. Both books include: a) lovely prose you’ll want to underline for later, b) a super intense m/m relationship, and c) endings that poke holes in your heart. It’s set in the ’80s in the Italian Riviera and is about the romance between teenage Elio and a graduate student, Oliver, who comes to stay with Elio’s family as a research assistant for the summer.

Normal People – Sally Rooney

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS – SALLY ROONEY: This seems like cheating because it’s by the same author but my reasoning is that it feels like so many people have read and loved Normal People but for some reason not read Rooney’s earlier novel. If you’re one of them, please rectify this because I love this book! Like NP, CwF features complicated and flawed characters, and coming of age themes. Rooney’s writing style is the same except that events are in chronological order. It’s about two university age friends, Francis & Bobby, whose lives change when they get involved with a wealthy married couple.

ONE DAY IN DECEMBER – JOSIE SILVER: If what you enjoyed the most about Normal People was the romance, ODiD might be for you. It’s more in the contemporary romance category but still has a good degree of emotional weight to it. Like NP, the central relationship is a complicated mess of friendship and romantic longing with bad timing. It follows Laurie who falls in love at first sight with a man she sees waiting at a bus stop. She spends months searching for him again only to eventually find him in a relationship with her best friend. Cue 10 years of missed opportunities, ups and downs.

AMERICANAH – CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE: Americanah will likely appeal to NP fans because it, too, follows two teens in love into adulthood and takes place over a period of several years. If NP’s non-linear storytelling appealed to you, Americanah takes a similar approach. This one is somewhat different though in that its characters originate from Nigeria before ending up in the UK & US. Because of this, the book comments on issues such as race, immigration, and identity. The novel follows Ifemelu and Obinze who meet at high school in Lagos. While Ifemelu leaves to study at Princeton, Obinze travels undocumented to London. They meet again in Nigeria 15 years later and realise how much their experiences have changed them.

NORWEIGAN WOOD – HARUKI MURAKAMI: Like Normal People, Norwegian Wood is written in clean, simple prose and deals with university age characters experiencing a coming of age. The book also deals with similar difficult topics like suicide, mental illness and outgrowing relationships. It’s about two characters, Toru and Naoko, who are in love but whose relationship hasn’t been the same since the death of their friend. While Toru begins to adapt to his new environment and finds himself increasingly drawn to someone else, Naoko withdraws under the responsibilities of her life.

Daisy Jones & the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

SONGS IN URSA MAJOR – EMMA BRODIE: If what drew you to DJ&TS was the music, the time period and the romantic plotline, this one’s for you. Much like Daisy Jones drew inspiration from Fleetwood Mac, Songs in Ursa Major is loosely based on the relationship between James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. The story revolves around a girl named Jane who gets catapulted to stardom when her band steps in to play at a music festival following famed performer Jessie Reid’s motorcycle accident. In the aftermath, Jane and Jessie bond, and Jane has to come to terms with the challenges of being a successful young woman in the music industry.

THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV – DAWNIE WALTON: As far as a DJ recommendation goes, this is a good one. 1970s setting? Check. Drugs, affairs, rock n’ roll and rampant sexism? Check. Oral history format utilising multiple character voices? Double check. The story, however, is where things differ. The Final Revival involves a young black woman from Detroit, Opal, being discovered by white British singer/songwriter, Nev, at an open mic night in NYC. The two agree to make music together and sign on to a record company. After the release of their first album, they’re propelled into the spotlight following an altercation involving a Confederate flag. The story details their time together and what broke them up. Like with DJ&TS, the audiobook is said to be great.

MALIBU RISING – TAYLOR JENKINS REID: Yes, this is another example of recommending a book by the same author because TJR has heaps of books. Like Daisy Jones, Malibu Rising is historical fiction but set in the 80s rather than the 70s. While it’s not told in interview format, it does similarly showcase common events from the perspective of multiple different characters (although over a far more condensed period of 24hrs). Like DJ&TS the book also deals with things like drugs and alcohol abuse, cheating, and the dark side of fame and money. The plot follows the famous Riva family who throw an unforgettable end-of-summer party.

CITY OF GIRLS – ELIZABETH GILBERT: City of Girls is, yep, another historical fiction read. It’s set in the 1940s and deals with theatre rather than the music industry. Like DJ, this involves a character looking back on the past and recounting their story from many years later, but this time in the form of a letter. It’s also a book that includes strong female characters pushing the envelope for their time and going after what they want. The book revolves around nineteen year old Vivian whose parents send her to stay with an aunt in New York City for the summer. Viv’s Aunt Peg owns a mid-town theatre and she ends up becoming a costumer as well as meeting a bunch of interesting and unconventional characters.

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

Mini Reviews | Let’s Get Romantic: Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle and Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez

Fun fact: I recently noticed there are quite a few 2021 contemporary romance releases with yellow covers. Weird. Clearly everyone decided that yellow was the must have look for this year. Can’t say I’m mad because yay for cheerful looking books. But are the insides as cheerful? Not always.

Over the last few weeks I’ve ticked two 2021 romance novels off my TBR, both of which I was super keen for. The first was Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle, which I added to my to-read shelf as soon as I knew it existed because I loved Hogle’s debut in 2020, You Deserve Each Other. The second is Abby Jimenez’s third entry in her The Friend Zone collection. I haven’t read either of the previous two books but apparently you don’t have to read them in order. I’d heard good things about her novels and this one sounded good, so why not? Here’s how things went…

Twice Shy – Sarah Hogle


Maybell Parish is a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when she inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start. Yet when she arrives, she realises not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the grouchy & gorgeous groundskeeper who has a very different vision for the property’s future.

Convincing Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a formidable task. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath his scowls, and as the two begin to let their guard down, they learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.

It’s official: Sarah Hogle is now one of my auto-buy romance authors. Because, darn if this wasn’t just the sweetest, most adorable, uplifting book. Yes, it might start to verge into corny at times but I can’t even be bummed about it, because this novel is a cinnamon roll if there ever was one.

The characters in Twice Shy are super endearing and loveable. Both have such a great level of depth. You really understand who they are, where they’ve come from, and what they want for their future. On the one hand, we have Maybell who’s this big-hearted dreamer, romantic and optimist who hasn’t experienced a lot of genuine love and care in her life and is trying to recapture the one time in which she did. On the other, there’s Wesley – a soft, sexy, vulnerable artist/gardener who cares deeply about animals and suffers from severe anxiety. Marry me already.

The interactions between Maybell & Wes, once I got past their early conflicts, were warm-fuzzy wonderfulness. Their note chain conversations were especially adorable. There was this lovely, gradual development of their relationship as they came to understand each other better and look beyond the surface. While their exchanges didn’t have the same degree of banter or snarky-ness as Nicholas and Naomi’s in You Deserve Each Other, I enjoyed them just as much but in a different way. I particularly loved how the characters were able to talk about their issues in a healthy way and be there for one another. Ugh, they’re just so ridiculously perfect together, okay?

Plot wise, most of the book revolves around Maybell and Wesley working to fix up Maybell’s Great Aunt Violet’s large and run-down house after they co-inherit it. FORCED PROXIMITY TROPE FOR THE WIN. They both have different ideas about what they want to do with the house but that’s part of the fun. This one is more of a character journey type book (e.g. Wesley dealing with his anxiety, Maybell realising her worth) than an external complication type thing, which means the climax is akin to a small speed bump rather than a major drama and this might feel underwhelming for some people.

I will admit, I didn’t find this one as laugh out loud funny as I did Sarah’s debut, but I can forgive that. Not every book needs to be jokes to the max. The one thing I did find somewhat…weird was Maybell’s tendency to slip into romantic day-dream interludes about her ideal man and imaginary café. Sure, it’s part of her charm and helps drive home her eventual realisation that reality can be better than imaginary perfection, but still…odd.

Basically, I read this in about a day and it’s the perfect medicine for when you’re feeling crappy.

Life’s Too Short – Abby Jimenez

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Vanessa lives every day to the fullest and isn’t willing to waste a moment when she has no idea whether she might share her sister’s fatal genetic condition. But when her half-sister leaves Vanessa custody of her infant daughter, Vanessa must put her life as a successful travel Youtuber on hold. The last person she expects to show up to help is Adrian Copeland, the hot lawyer next-door. 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.

Life’s Too Short was one of my most anticipated romance reads for 2021. I’m not sure whether I just wasn’t in the right mental space for it or couldn’t reconcile my expectations with the reality, but either way I have mixed feelings.

One of the things I wasn’t super keen on was the plot. I’m not averse to darker, heavier reads, but that is not what I come to romcoms for. While I want them to have depth and I’m fine with serious undertones, I found this one to be too tonally unbalanced, especially being marketed the way it is. Vanessa’s story is A LOT and the book would have benefited from her family baggage being stripped back somewhat. She believes she may have the terminal illness which killed her sister, her half-sister is a drug addict and has left her baby for Vanessa to deal with, her mother died in a car accident, her father is a hoarder and was a negligent parent, her step-mother abandoned them, and her half-brother is a lazy moocher. To top things off, the novel’s main complication is that Vanessa is convinced she’s going to die in about a year. Pretty bleak for something the blurb claims is: “A brilliant and touching romantic comedy”, huh?

In terms of the romance itself, I enjoyed Adrian and Vanessa’s opposites attract, strangers-to-friends-to-lovers relationship. Their scenes together were nice, had a good level of back-and-forth and felt weirdly comforting. I found the balance between their sexual tension and sweet bonding solid and really liked the dynamic being responsible for Vanessa’s niece, Grace, brought to their romance (even though she felt like a flat plot device at times). On the downside, there are some early insta-love vibes, the book really doesn’t need to drive home how attracted Vanessa is to Adrian as hard as it does, and some of the dialogue is super over the top and not how people would speak, but, on the whole, it’s a tentative thumbs up.

As individuals, I liked both Vanessa and Adrian, yet didn’t fall in love with them the way I have many other romcom leads. I enjoyed Vanessa’s sense of humour, adventurous spirit, and love for her family. However, this was tainted by my immense frustration with her stubborn unwillingness to consult a medical professional about her self-diagnosed ALS. Meanwhile, Adrian is the straight and narrow lawyer – organised, tidy, likes routine, not great with work-life balance, but caring and kind. I liked Adrian’s family subplot and interactions with his assistant Becky, but I feel as though the character’s anxiety could have been handled better than it was.

Another thing that didn’t really click with me on this one was the climax and ending, which felt extremely melodramatic, cheesy, and too neatly resolved. I think the reason it feels so exaggerated is because of how much heavy “reality” is crammed into the rest of the book. It’s a big, crazy romcom ending for a book that isn’t really a romcom.

Overall, Life’s Too Short has some good underlying parts but didn’t really hit the mark for me as much as I would have hoped.

Top 10 Tuesday: Books on my 2021 Winter TBR

It’s TBR time again – courtesy of this week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic (hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl). I’ve hit a rather large slump recently and haven’t done much reading for the last month. Making this list was kind of a challenge because I’m in that nothing-feels-appealing-to-me-right-now mood. However, I did manage to come up with a couple of titles that I’m keen to try and get through over the next few months. It isn’t 10 but with the way things have been tracking for me, perhaps 8 is a more reasonable number. HA, who am I kidding? It’s likely too LARGE a number already!

Just Last Night – Mhairi McFarlane

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When I have been reading lately, it’s been mainly a romance mood and Just Last Night is one I’m hoping to read soon. This is a 2021 release and unlike a lot of the other books in the genre that I usually read this isn’t really a romcom (at least they aren’t trying to market it as such because I’ve been burned by that before). Going in, I know to expect some heavier themes like forgiveness, grief, loss, betrayal, but I’m cool with that. It’s about a group of thirty-somethings, Eve, Ed, Susie and Justin, who have been friends since their teens. Eve has been in love with Ed for years but he’s long been in a relationship with his unlikeable girlfriend Hester. However, one night, tragedy occurs and their lives are irrevocably changed. In the aftermath, Eve learns shocking new things about her friends which cause her to question how well she really knows them.

A Ladder to the Sky – John Boyne

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne - Penguin Books Australia

Some of you might remember that a few months ago I read one of John Boyne’s other books, The Heart’s Invisible Furies. I thought the writing was fantastic and enjoyed it so much I gave it 4.5 stars. After having a browse through Boyne’s other works, there ended up being several others I’d love to read. A Ladder to the Sky is the first on the list. It deals with a young man named Maurice Swift who wants more than anything to be a famous novelist. He makes his name by cosying up to an aging, closested gay author and uses the story of his youth in Nazi Germany to write an international bestseller. Maurice then continues to use his charm, manipulation and deviousness to steal stories from others and continue climbing the ladder to success.

The Maidens – Alex Michaelides


I read Michaelides debut, The Silent Patient, back in August 2019 when there was a heap of hype surrounding it. It only took me about a day to finish but I wasn’t really sure why people were going as gangbusters for it as they were. Still, I can’t help feeling super excited to give his second book, The Maidens, a read. I think it might be the dark academia draw card. I’m fascinated and obsessed with the genre at the moment. The Maidens centres around a series of murders taking place in connection with Cambridge University. The main character is Mariana, a group therapist, who starts looking into the deaths when her niece, Zoe’s, friend is killed. She comes to suspect one of the professors, Edward Fosca, who runs a cult like secret society of female students called The Maidens who deal in ancient Greek rites. Mariana becomes determined to catch him and drama ensues.

The People in the Trees – Hanya Yanagihara

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I’ve actually started reading this one. I’m not sure whether it’s the book itself or my reading rut, but it’s been slow going and my motivation has been low. I might have to stop and come back to it next month. I do really want to read it though as I loved Yanagihara’s A Little Life. I know TPITT is supposed to be quite different but I really hope it’ll be a great read, too. It’s written in the style of a memoir and is about a doctor who takes a trip to a remote island in Micronesia where he discovers a tribe of locals who have obtained a kind of physical (but not mental) immortality by eating a rare turtle – a condition he names ‘Selene Syndrome’. He brings knowledge of this back to the US and also adopts a bunch of the children he meets on the island, both of which have severe consequences.

An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir (Re-Read)

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The last book in The Ember Quartet was released in 2020 but as usual, being me, I haven’t read it yet. That’s largely due to the fact that I’d always planned to do a full re-read of the previous books in the series beforehand. Here we are, several months later and I haven’t even started. Since re-reads are a good way to help snap out of a slump, now might be the perfect time for me to finally start and refresh my memory with An Ember in the Ashes. I know I’ve probably forgotten a heap of stuff as it’s been like four years since I first read this. I vaguely remember there being some kind of competition to become emperor or something? I’m looking forward to spending more time with my girl Helene. What a badass.

Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir

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I really enjoyed Weir’s debut, The Martian, when I read it back 2017. I’d actually planned to read his follow up Artemis but after hearing some disappointing things, I eventually decided to give it a miss. So when Project Hail Mary was announced, I was interested but tried not to get my hopes up too high. However, this time around the reviews have been great and now I’m really excited to give it a read, especially since I’ve been feeling like I might be in the mood for some Sci-Fi soon. The story follows a middle-school science teacher who wakes up alone on space ship light years from home with no idea why or how he got there. Eventually he comes to realise that he is Earth’s only hope at stopping an impending extinction level threat. As with The Martian, Project Hail Mary is supposed to include quite a bit of scientific explanation but packaged with great story and fun humour.

All of Us Villains – Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

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Now, All of us Villains doesn’t actually come out until November which is still a good while off. Luckily for me though, I was recently approved for an ARC. Yay! This book is like The Hunger Games crossed with A Song of Ice and Fire plus magic. All the yes as far as I’m concerned. It tells the tale of a city where every generation seven families name a champion to compete in a fight to the death to win control of the city’s magic supply. One house normally wins every time but this year it seems like things will be different due to previously unseen publicity levels and attention on the event. I’ve been interested in reading other books by Amanda Foody before but have never really seemed to get around to them, so I’m glad to be giving this one a read.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars – Christopher Paolini (Again)


Yes, it’s here again. After I failed to get to it in Autumn. Don’t come at me, okay. This thing is enormous and scary. I’m working my way up to it. Slowly. Very slowly. It’s going to happen eventually. But, hopefully I don’t have to also include it on my Spring TBR post…*facepalm*. This is a first contact story about Kira, who discovers an alien relic during a survey mission on an uncolonised planet. Cue craziness and a potential war. Apparently there are no space dragons but there are alien squids. Make of that what you will. It took a gazillion years for Paolini to write this so I hope it’s good.

What books are you looking forward to reading over Winter/Summer? Are they mostly new releases or are you tackling your epic backlist?

Last Year I Was Reading… | 20.4.21

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?