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!

My Most Anticipated Releases of 2021

Let me preface this by saying that there are so many amazing looking books due to come out in 2021. I am ridiculously excited. So, that means, DO NOT BLAME ME THAT THIS POST IS LONGER THAN WAR AND PEACE, okay? My reading tastes tend to gravitate towards fantasy, romance and mysteries/thrillers (both YA & Adult), so expect to see a mix of books from these genres below.

Lore – Alexandra Bracken | January

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Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality. Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.

Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.

The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.


A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses 4#) – Sarah J Maas | February

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Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.


The Project – Courtney Summers | February

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Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.


The Mask Falling (The Bone Season 4#) – Samantha Shannon | February

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Dreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire.

The mysterious Domino Program has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim-her former enemy-at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.

As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them-and could end with them…


Sing Me Forgotten – Jessica S. Olson | March

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Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.

Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.

But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.

Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place.


Rule of Wolves (King of Scars 2#) – Leigh Bardugo | March

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The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.


Yolk – Mary H.K. Choi | March

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Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer. Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.


She’s Too Pretty to Burn – Wendy Heard | March

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The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot―full of adventure―and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect . . . one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.

Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, danger, and power.


Every Last Fear – Alex Finlay

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After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.


Twice Shy – Sarah Hogle | April

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Parrish has always been a dreamer and hopeless romantic. But living with her head in the clouds has long been preferable to dealing with reality, whether it’s navigating the wild world of dating apps or getting her coworkers to show her a little respect. So when Maybell inherits a stately old Tennessee manor from her Great Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.

But when she arrives at her new home, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the manor practically falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s just as grouchy as he is gorgeous–and it turns out he has a very different vision for the property’s future.

Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than any of the many other dying wishes Great Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls and silences, she realizes they might have more in common than she ever dreamed. And as the two slowly begin to let their guards down, they just might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.


The Forest of Stolen Girls – June Hur | April

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.


Life’s Too Short – Abby Jimenez | April

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Vanessa lives life on her own terms — one day at a time, every day to its fullest. She isn’t willing to waste a moment or miss out on an experience when she has no idea whether she shares the same fatal genetic condition as her mother. Besides, she has way too much to do, traveling the globe and showing her millions of YouTube followers the joy in seizing every moment.

But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, she is housebound, on mommy duty for the foreseeable future, and feeling totally out of her element.

The last person she expects to show up offering help is the unbelievably hot lawyer who lives next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. But as they get closer, Vanessa realizes that her carefree ways and his need for a structured plan could never be compatible for the long term. Then again, she should know better than anyone that life’s too short to fear taking the biggest risk of all.
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Girl, 11 – Amy Suiter Clarke | April

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Once a social worker specializing in kids who were the victims of violent crime, Elle Castillo is now the host of a popular true crime podcast that tackles cold cases of missing children in her hometown of the Twin Cities. After two seasons of successfully solving cases, Elle decides to tackle her white whale—The Countdown Killer. Twenty years ago, TCK abruptly stopped after establishing a pattern of taking and ritualistically murdering three girls over seven days, each a year younger than the last. No one’s ever known why—why he stopped with his eleventh victim, a girl of eleven years old, or why he followed the ritual at all.

When a listener phones in with a tip, Elle sets out to interview him, only to discover his dead body. And within days, a child is abducted following the original TCK MO. Unlike the experts in the media and law enforcement who have always spun theories of a guilty suicide, Elle never believed TCK had died, and her investigation was meant to lay that suspicion to rest. But instead, her podcast seems to be kicking up new victims. 


Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid | May

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Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over–especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud–because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth. Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there. And Kit has a couple secrets of her own–including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind. 


The Soulmate Equation – Christina Lauren | May

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Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: this Jess understands.

At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.


Tokyo Ever After – Emiko Jean | May

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Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?


Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir | May

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Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.


One Last Stop – Casey McQuiston | June

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For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.


The Maidens – Alex Michaelides | June

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Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge. Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.


Survive the Night – Riley Sager | July

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It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing—survive the night.


The Dead and the Dark – Courtney Gould | August

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Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.


The Heart Principle – Helen Hoang | August

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To most people, Quan Diep is nothing but a surly-looking, underachieving playboy. The problem is he’s not any of those things. And now that he’s the CEO of an up-and-coming retail business, he’s suddenly a “catch,” and the rich girls who never used to pay any attention to him are looking at him in a new way—especially Camilla, the girl who brushed him off many years ago.

Anna Sun dislikes Quan Diep almost as much as germy bathroom door handles. Or so she tells herself. She will never admit that she has a secret crush on him, especially because he only has eyes for her charismatic and newly engaged younger sister Camilla. Over the years, Anna has worked hard to overcome her OCD, but she’ll still need to find a way to bury her anxieties and seduce Quan so he doesn’t ruin her sister’s engagement, and with it, a crucial real estate development deal.

Slowly, Anna breaks down Quan’s dangerous and careless exterior while peeling off her own tough, protective shell. But when Quan discovers Anna’s true intentions, he’s forced to confront his own hurtful past and learn to forgive, while Anna must face her greatest challenge: truly opening herself up to love.


If the Shoe Fits – Julie Murphy | August

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After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.

Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own. 


Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff | September

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It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order couldn’t stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.

Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope: The Holy Grail.


Under the Whispering Door – T. J. Klune | September

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When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead. Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over. But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.


I’m stopping here before I break my blog. There are a few other books which are also rumoured to be coming out in 2021 but still not confirmed yet, e.g. Skyward 3# by Brandon Sanderson and V. E. Schwab’s first Threads of Power book, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Which 2021 releases are you most dying to get your hands on?

If You Liked This, Try These: ‘Ninth House’, ‘Illuminae’ and ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’

As you can tell from the title of this post, I’m back with more book recommendations! These suggestions are based on similar themes, moods, genres, character types and everything in between. If you liked the books below, fingers crossed that some of my suggestions will scratch the same itch but hey, there’s no accounting for personal preference (I myself don’t love every book listed here despite their similarities to ones I do love) so pretty please with a cherry on top don’t scream at me later.

Like with my previous recommendations, I haven’t read 100% of the books on this list. However, the ones I haven’t are highly educated guessed based on research and the reviews of others. Feel free to correct me though if you think I’ve really stuffed up somewhere.

Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo

A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik: I’m cheating here as this book isn’t out yet. Still, like Ninth House, A Deadly Education also has a story structured around an educational institution, a darker tone, some dangerous magic, and a tough, mixed race protagonist. It’s also similarly romance light.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt: As far as dark academia tales go, you can’t go past The Secret History. If you enjoyed the secret societies, rituals, morally questionable characters and bleak outlook of Ninth House, you’ll probably like this tale about a group of university classics students who perform a Bacchian rite and end up murdering someone. Like Ninth House, it also happens to be slower paced.

Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This recommendation is all about the mood and atmosphere. While they’re two different genres, there are fantastical elements to both books and each has a beautifully crafted, creepy setting. They also happen to share an ethnically diverse protagonist hunting down the truth about mysterious circumstances.

Vicious – V.E. Schwab: If the part you most enjoyed about Ninth House was Alex’s ability to see ghosts, then Vicious is packed full of people with special abilities. It, too, involves elements of academics gone bad/supernatural-ish, and also involves a bunch of morally grey characters.

Illuminae – Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Skyward – Brandon Sanderson: If you want to state the obvious, both the Illuminae Files and Skyward are YA sci-fi reads, but delve a bit deeper and you’ll find they also share strong female protagonists, an interesting & likeable AI, a good level of action, some decent twists, and plenty of enjoyable humour.

Aurora Rising – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: This one doesn’t take a rocket scientist to explain. Same authors, same genre, a similar approach to characters & humour, need I say more?

The Disasters – M. K. England: Like Illuminae, The Disasters is another YA sci-fi read featuring a motley crew of quirky characters on the run after witnessing something they shouldn’t have. Throw in a snarky narrator, fun writing, and plenty of action, and it might be a winner for an Illuminae fan.

Scythe – Neal Shusterman – Okay, this one is a big stretch. I know. Why? Because I’m basing it almost entirely off the fact that most of the people I know who like Illuminae also really like Scythe (myself included) . It might be the fact they share great characters, an AI, a futuristic setting, or some solid plot twists. Then again, it’s probably because they’re both amazing books.

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

Heartstopper – Alice Oseman: While Heartstopper may be a comic series, it and RW&RB both center around adorably sweet, gay romances with plenty of ‘awww’ moments. The two also share a plotline involving a character coming to terms with their sexuality and coming out to their family in a positive way. Mostly, both just leave you with a wonderfully joyful feeling.

Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall: RW&RB and Boyfriend Material hit a lot of common marks. Laugh out loud humour and winning banter? Check. Loveable characters with flaws? Check. Relationship difficulties courtesy of paparazzi? Yup. A fake dating, opposites attract, enemies to loves trope triple threat? Ohhhhh yesss. It may not hit the highs of RW&RB but it’ll do its best to fill the void left behind.

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell: As a YA fantasy read, Carry On is very different from RW&RB in terms of plot but, again, features a very shippable opposites attract & enemies to lovers type relationship between longtime magical roommates/mortal enemies, Baz and Simon.

Her Royal Highness – Rachel Hawkins: If you enjoy the concept of royalty falling for a commoner, HRH fits that to a tee. As a YA book, it’s less steamy than RW&RB but does included a queer romance with a happily ever after. Like Alex & Henry, Millie and her love interest, Princess Flora of Scotland, don’t hit it off right away but we get to witness the slow grow of their relationship into something more.


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

Most Anticipated 2020 Releases

Once upon a time, 2020 seemed extremely far away and now, here we are. As always, there are several books coming out at different points this year that I’m eagerly keeping my eyes open for. Whether I’ll actually read them in 2020 is another story but #bookwormlife, am I right?

Loveboat, Taipei – Abigail Hing Wen | Jan 7

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An own-voices, contemporary YA romance set in Taiwan featuring a Taiwanese-American from an immigrant family. All the yes. This book looks really cute and like it’ll be a lot of fun. It’s basically a bunch of teens going a little wild at a summer program (which explains the Crazy, Rich Asians comparisons) but still deals with a bunch of more serious things like accepting yourself, honouring cultural traditions, learning from one’s mistakes, and personal sacrifice. Also, can we take a minute and talk about how gorgeous that cover is? Cue love heart eyes.


The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious 3#) – Maureen Johnson | Jan 21

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The Hand on the Wall is the final book in the YA mystery series Truly Devious. These books aren’t perfect but they’re a lot of fun. After a cliffhanger ending to book two, The Vanishing Stair, I’ve been looking forward to book three finally giving us some much needed answers. With multiple mysteries still in need of a solution, it’ll be good to see teenage sleuth, Stevie Bell, back in action. However, considering the blurb tells us there’ll be another accident (Ellingham academy can’t catch a break, can it?) and a school wide evacuation due to a storm, I’m guessing the drama is far from over.


Ashlords – Scott Reintgen | Jan 21

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Now, this just sounds super cool. An epic, challenge-filled race using magical, phoenix horses in which injuring and sabotaging other contestants is encouraged. The story focuses on 3 of the contestants – the daughter of two former champions, a revolutionary’s son, and this world’s version of a popular YouTuber. It’s being pitched as The Scorpio Races meets Red Rising. While I haven’t read the former, I love the latter and if it’s anything as dramatic and high stakes as that, I’ll have a great time. This book is the first in a duology, which are all the craze these days.


House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City 1#) – Sarah J. Maas | March 3

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Come on, as if this was a surprise. I’ve had this book on my upcoming releases shelf since the news of its existence broke. While I’m not a huge Throne of Glass fan, I do love Sarah J Maas’s ACOTAR series so I am super keen to see how her foray into the adult fantasy world turns out. Fae, demons, angels, a seedy city underbelly, a bit of mystery, some romance – I’m just like: let’s go already. It’s looking to be a somewhat chunky read but how could I possibly resist that absolutely gorgeous yet bizarre cover?


All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban | March 17

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While I’m not a huge fan of the cover on this one, the blurb certainly has my interest piqued. AYTS is a YA mystery/thriller type read with One of Us is Lying and Agatha Christie like vibes. A bunch of high school stereotypes are mysteriously invited to a scholarship dinner only to find themselves locked in. In the room with them is a bomb, poison filled syringe and instructions to select one among their party to die within the hour or all of them will die. While I liked One of Us is Lying, it did have its let downs so I’m hoping this book will tick all the right boxes. Give me secrets, drama, tense situations and most of all, an ending that I’m not able to pick from a mile off.


Chosen Ones – Veronica Roth | April 7

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My experience with Veronica Roth so far has been limited to the Divergent series which started off great and ended in somewhat train wreck fashion with me DNF-ing Allegiant. Not exactly a glowing endorsement to read more of her books, but after seeing the blurb for Chosen Ones I’m super intrigued. From what I can tell, the book will take some common tropes like the chosen one, five-man band and big bad evil, and try to do something a bit different with it. In this case, look at what happens to the heroes after the evil has been defeated. Unlike her other work, this is an adult book and it’ll be interesting to see how her writing has matured.


The Betrothed – Kiera Cass | May 5

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Guys, I’ll be honest, the synopsis isn’t giving me the highest levels of excitement. It’s tropes galore and the plot revolves around a love triangle. HOWEVER, Cass’s The Selection books were the ultimate trashy, guilty-pleasure series so I’m going in with an open mind and hoping this is much the same. Sometimes a girl needs something light to read, ya know? The general gist is that a noble lady has been working her butt off for years to win the affections of the king. Finally he declares his love for her but then she meets a mysterious commoner and begins to question what will make her happy.


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins | May 19

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This book could either be fantastic or a complete disaster. I’m not entirely sure which yet (hopefully the odds are in our favour?) Honestly, it seems like a prequel book was completely unnecessary here, but am I going to read it anyway because I really like The Hunger Games? You bet I am. So far we don’t have all that much information about the story itself other than the fact that it’s set 64 years before the original series and deals with the 10th Hunger Games. A few people have been throwing Mags’s name around . I guess only time will tell.


Unravel the Dusk (The Blood of Stars 2#) – Elizabeth Lim | July 7

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After putting it off for a while, I read Spin the Dawn during the second half of 2019. Despite having some issues with it (the way it was pitched was slightly deceptive), I still enjoyed myself enough to want to read the sequel. The lead character, Maia, was left in a bit of a sticky position at the end of book one so I’m looking forward to seeing how she gets out of it/fixes things. Based on the synopsis, we’re also moving into a full scale war in the sequel which always sends the stakes right up and I’m totally here for it. Maia, grab your needle and let’s go kick some butt.


The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – Victoria Schwab | Oct 6

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I adore Victoria Schwab’s books so when she mentioned at a signing that she’d been working on a novel about a girl who sells her soul to the devil for immortality but in exchange is to be forgotten by everyone she meets, I was immediately sold. It also happens to be a love story. Honestly, her brain is actual magic. Knowing that she’s been working on this book for over 8 years is insane and I really hope it’s absolutely wonderful because I want all her hard work and anxiety to pay off so badly.


What are some your most anticipated releases for 2020? I’m betting Chain of Gold will be high on a lot of other people’s lists.

Upcoming Releases: June 2019

Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson (June 4) | GR

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Elisabeth dreams of being a warden at one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries – those tasked with protecting the kingdom from magical grimoires which have the potential to transform into monsters. When an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, Elisabeth is implicated and sent to the capital to face justice. Left with no one to turn to, she finds an unexpected ally in the mysterious sorcerer, Nathaniel Thorn. As Elisabeth’s alliance with Nathaniel grows, she finds herself questioning everything she’s been taught about the evil of sorcerers, the Great Libraries, and herself, and soon becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could mean not only the end of the libraries but the world.


Magic for Liars – Sarah Gailey (June 4th) | GR

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Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha. But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.


When the Light Went Out – Bridget Morissey (June 4th) | GR

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It’s been five years since Marley Bricket died by accidental gunshot. On the night of the annual memorial, Olivia Stanton, the only witness to Marley’s death, gets an unexpected visitor in the form of Nick Cline. He’s the boy who pulled the trigger on what he didn’t know was a loaded gun. Since then, nothing in the quiet desert town of Cadence, California has ever been the same.

Nick’s surprise reappearance puts all the Kids of Albany Lane in one place for the first time since Marley died. The once-inseparable group of neighborhood friends, formerly led by Marley herself, has disbanded. But when Olivia discovers a scavenger hunt orchestrated by Marley before she died, the group must come together again to complete it, reopening old wounds and unearthing new questions about what really happened. Most importantly, did Marley know the gun was loaded?


Ghosts of the Shadow Market – Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson , Sarah Rees Brennan, Robin Wasserman , Kelly Link (June 4th) | GR

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The Shadow Market is a meeting point for faeries, werewolves, warlocks and vampires. Downworlders buy and sell magical objects, make dark bargains, and whisper secrets. Through two centuries, Brother Zachariah has been a frequent visitor. As a Silent Brother, he is sworn keeper of Nephilim laws and lore. But once he was a Shadowhunter called Jem Carstairs, and his love, then and always, is the warlock Tessa Gray.

Follow Brother Zachariah and see, against the backdrop of the Shadow Market’s dark dealings and festive celebrations, Anna Lightwood’s first romance, Matthew Fairchild’s great sin and Tessa Gray plunged into a world war. Valentine Morgenstern buys a soul at the Market and a young Jace Wayland’s soul finds safe harbor. In the Market is hidden a lost heir and a beloved ghost, and no one can save you once you have traded away your heart. Not even Brother Zachariah…


The Rest of the Story – Sarah Dessen (June 4th) | GR

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Emma doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories she told her about North Lake, where she grew up. Now it’s just Emma and her dad, until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family who she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little and who holds the key to her family’s history. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake and for Emma, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her.

But when it’s time to go home, which side of her will win out?


Like a Love Story – Abdi Nazemian (June 4) | GR

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It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.


Recursion – Blake Crouch (June 11th) | GR

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NYC cop Barry Sutton has been tasked with looking into the devestating new phenomenon dubbed False Memory Syndrome – a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. Neuroscientist Helena Smith has devoted her life to creating a technology that will not only preserve memories but allow people to relive them.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it. But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them? 


The Grief Keeper – Alexandra Villasante (June 11th) | GR

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Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American. What she never pictured was fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”. After her brother is murdered, her mother goes into hiding, and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is placed in jeopardy, she’s left with no choice but to attempt to cross the border. But when Marisol and Gabi are caught, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the US – become a grief keeper. Tasked with taking the grief of another into your body, it’s a risky and experimental study, but Marisol will do whatever she can to protect her sister. She just never expected to fall in love.


Dev1at3 (Lifel1k3 2#)- Jay Kristoff (June 25th) | GR

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Lemon Fresh has seen better days. Separated from Ezekiel and Cricket, she’s being hunted by corporate operatives set on using her ability to manipulate electricity as a weapon. She soon finds herself falling in with a band of fellow deviates led by a figure known as the Major who may have info about her past.

Meanwhile, Cricket falls into the possession of the puritanical Brotherhood, a religious cult set for a collision with the Major and his band. Searching for Lemon, Ezekiel finds a strange ally in an old enemy, and uncovers a plot that may see him reunited with Ana.

And inside Babel, a remade Eve hatches a plan to bring an end to the world.


Call it What You Want – Brigid Kemmerer (June 25th) | GR

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When Rob’s dad is caught embezzling funds from the town, Rob goes from popular to outcast. Worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone sees Maegan as an overachiever, but she has secrets of her own. When her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a project, they’re reluctant to let anyone past their walls. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan t fix his father’s mistakes, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

And there’s a snapshot of the month ahead. What new releases are you planning on snapping up this month?

Top 10 Tuesday: 2019 Releases I’m on the Fence About Reading

Technically this week’s topic is about upcoming releases but I’ve expanded it to include all 2019 releases, even ones that have come out. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you want to read a book or not. Maybe the blurb sounds good but the reviews don’t, perhaps there are conflicting reviews, or maybe it’s an author you love but the book itself just doesn’t sound like it’ll float your boat. Here are ten 2019 releases that I’m currently on the fence about reading:

On the Come Up – Angie Thomas

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Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.


Why the Fence? I read THUG in 2018 after being on the fence for ages. I ended up doing it because I’d heard it was amazing and also decided it concerned important topics I should educate myself on. This one, I’m unsure about. I’m not a rap or hip-hop fan at all so the plot of OTCU doesn’t really grab or interest me but Angie is a great writer so ugh! Indecision.

Children of Virtue & Vengeance (Legacy of Orïsha 2#) – Tomi Adeyemi

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Zélie and Amari have succeeded in bringing magic back to Orïsha. Not only to the maji but nobles with magic ancestry, too. Now Zélie must face the struggle to unite them. But when the monarchy and military unite to maintain of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari’s right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy’s wrath. With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.


Why the Fence? *sigh* There were things I liked about Children of Blood and Bone when I read it last year but also a lot of things that frustrated or bored me. In the end, I gave the book a 3.5-star rating. I’m just not sure if the good things are enough to get me to read the sequel.

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Slayer – Kiersten White

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Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, have grown up at the Watcher’s Academy. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead, she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic. That is, until the day she becomes the newest Chosen One. However, when bodies start turning up, Nina will have to use her new powers to put a stop to it or potentially risk losing someone she loves.


Why the Fence? I am a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. Enormous. So the idea that someone decided to write a YA book set in the Buffy-verse makes my nerdy heart go wild. The problem is that I’ve seen some really great reviews and some really…not so good reviews. Apparently, the humour is on point but it’s a slog to get through until the last third. I’m just super worried I’m going to end up disappointed.

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Romanov – Nadine Brandes

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Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before. Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .
That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other. 


Why the Fence? I love Anastasia – both the animated movie and the fascinating history surrounding the Russian Revolution so this caught my interest easily. There’s also magical elements which, as you guys know, I’m like a moth to a flame for. My worry is that this’ll be another instalove, sappy and overly dramatic relationship that’ll dominate all other aspects of the plot. I’ve been burnt too many times before. Do I risk it and perhaps end up finding something really good or skip it?

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There’s Something About Sweetie – Sandhya Menon

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Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death. Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.

Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other.


Why the Fence? This book sounds super cute and I love the fact that it features a female lead with a bigger body type wanting to enjoy being her best self. My issue is that when I read Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, I had a lot of issues with the story like rushed romantic development, annoying characterisation, and frustrating and unnecessarily drawn-out conflict scenarios. My worry is that I’ll have the same issues here.

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Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson

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Elisabeth dreams of being a warden at one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries – those tasked with protecting the kingdom from magical grimoires which have the potential to transform into monsters. When an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, Elisabeth is implicated and sent to the capital to face justice. Left with no one to turn to, she finds an unexpected ally in the mysterious sorcerer, Nathaniel Thorn. As Elisabeth’s alliance with Nathaniel grows, she finds herself forced to question everything she’s been taught about the evil of sorcerers, the Great Libraries, and herself, and soon becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could mean not only the end of the libraries but the world.


Why the Fence? The blurb for this book sounds awesome – magic, powerful books and libraries, conspiracies. This could be right up my alley. Plus the cover looks so good! My main issue is that I read Margaret Rogerson’s debut, An Enchantment of Ravens, and was disappointed by its average-ness (including the rushed romance). It wasn’t bad, just not great either. I wonder if Sorcery of Thorns will be different?

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Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan

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A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.  Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war. In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. 


Why the Fence? I am so torn on this one. I’ve heard that it’s dark, a little gothic, a good pick for Leigh Bardugo fans, and got a great magic system. And yet, apparently, it’s got a serious case of instalove. Worse, this romantic storyline renders the female lead a bit stupid and naive. Ugh, I can already feel the frustration brewing.

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Kingsbane (Empirium 2#) – Claire Legrand

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Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien — but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist. Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption — fear of becoming another Rielle — keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted — by embracing her mother’s power, or rejecting it forever. 


Why the Fence? Like with Children of Blood & Bone, this is another book where I enjoyed parts of the first one but also had several issues that might dissuade me from continuing. Still, I’m tempted because I feel as though this book will fill in a lot of the knowledge gaps I had in book one and considering where Eliana’s story finished, her story is likely to be more interesting this time around. Hm, guess I’ll see.

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The Storm Crow – Kalyn Josephson

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In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.


Why the Fence? So, this is like Eragon but with crows. Part of me is like YES and the other is like, magical crows? Wtf? I also happen to have a massive bird phobia, so there’s that. The world building has been said to be a little iffy. but the book is supposed to have great friendship, a banter-y romance, some twists and well developed female characters. Could go either way for me, really.

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Dev1at3 (Lifel1k3 2#) – Jay Kristoff

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Lemon Fresh has seen better days. After the climactic battle in Babel, she finds herself separated from Ezekiel and Cricket in the wastelands. Lemon’s abilities to manipulate electricity mark her as a deviate, and deadly corporate operatives are hunting her to use as a weapon in the war between BioMaas Incorporated and Daedelus Technologies. Instead, Lemon finds herself falling in with a group of fellow deviates—a band of teenagers with astonishing abilities, led by an enigmatic figure known as the Major, who may hold the secrets to Lemon’s past.

Meanwhile, Cricket finds himself in possession of the puritanical Brotherhood, a religious cult set for a head-on collision with the Major and his band. Searching for Lemon, Ezekiel finds a strange ally in an old enemy, and uncovers a plot that may see him reunited with his beloved Ana.

And inside Babel, a remade Eve hatches a plan to bring an end to the world.


Why the Fence? I love Jay Kristoff. He’s easily one of my favourite authors. I liked Lifel1k3 when I tackled it last year but I wasn’t in love. While I was pretty sure I’d read the sequel then, with time I’ve become less positive. This particular book seems to focus on Lemon who I did like but I’m unsure whether I’d want a book centred around her. Yet, after where book one finished, part of me is still keen to see where it leads.

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Which 2019 releases are you on the fence about?

For more Top 10 Tuesday Topics, visit That Artsy Reader Girl.

And That’s a Wrap: September Edition

Nine months of 2018 down, only three to go. Somebody pass me some chocolate stat, because I’m freaking out. Anybody got a timeturner? That’d be much appreciated too. No? Okay, well, I better get on with looking back at another month that went all too damn fast.

Books I Read

Other than my first read of the month, September was a bit of a bleh month with a lot middle of the road star ratings. I managed to get through almost all my sister’s TBR picks except for The Poppy War and added in Wildcard (which I was too keen to wait til October for). Overall, seven books isn’t bad and I’m satisfied with the effort for the month.

Sep reads

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★★| Review

Gosh, I loved this book. Definitely one of the best novels I’ve read all year. The plot is interesting, the characters are layered and feel real, it’s diverse, the structure is well done…just everything really. A perfect example of fantastic historical fiction!

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diane Wynn Jones ★★★.5

My tendency to like whichever medium I come across first holds true with this one – it turns out that I’m more a fan of the anime film, which is very different to the book. I liked the book, don’t get me wrong, it just felt a little young in style at times and I often found my thoughts wandering. The characters are endearing though and the creativity of the world building is still great.

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli ★★★.5

More proof that Becky knows how to write inclusive and sweet stories with relatable characters. The plot is slighly juvenile and it’s not the most compelling one I’ve ever read but with the characters the age they are, I can understand it. I really related to Molly and a lot of her thoughts were ones I’ve had, myself, in the past. The chemistry with her love interest, Reed, was also really adorable. However, the diversity was a little forced at times, a lot of the side characters felt kind of underdeveloped, and I really wish Molly had found her confidence without the help of a relationship.

My Oxford Year – Julia Whelan ★★★★

My sister & I  picked this one expecting it to be light, fluffy chick-lit but about half way through, the book completely changed tone with the reveal of a big secret about the male lead.  I quite liked both Ella, our American MC, and Jamie, her British romantic interest, and the chemistry between the two is great, but I have to say, this book broke my heart a little. The ending isn’t exactly break down in tears sad but it definitely leaves a hole in the chest. Still, I liked that the book encourages you to pursue your passions and make the most of important people and experiences in your life while you have them.

Stormdancer – Jay Kristoff ★★★.5

Normally I’m a big fan of Jay’s books but this one was lacking in a lot of areas for me. I was even tempted to DNF after the first fifty or so pages. The world building is quite complicated and there’s a lot of mish-mashing of different asian inspirations which left me feeling lost. It also takes ages for the story to finally get interesting. After a while though, things did pick up and I ended up having a fairly enjoyable time. The best part is definitely the relationship between the lead, Yukikio, and Buruu, the legendary Arashitora (Thunder Tiger) which gave me major Eragon vibes.

Wildcard – Marie Lu ★★★| Review

I had high hopes for this one after really enjoying Warcross earlier this year. The plot is quite focused, complex and deals with some big ethical questions. Some elements, such as the resolution of the kidnapping storyline, were well done, while others ended up feeling messy and unbelievable. I was let down by Emika’s role, which is largely passive for most of the book, and the ending itself, which felt almost rushed and failed to attribute appropriate consequences to actions/events. The climax of the book managed to recapture some of the magic from book one but overall I was a bit disappointed with this installment. Darn, high expectations! Get yourselves under control!

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi ★★★.5 or ★★★★ (Depending on End)

Okay, so technically I’m not finished this one yet but I will be by tonight! This book was HUGELY hyped but unfortunately, I just don’t think I’m as on board as everyone else. It’s certainly good in parts and the fact that the world is African-inspired is fantastic, but there’s just a few things that have bothered me. The book starts off really strong but after a while I started to get frustrated with the fact that the characters seem to change attitudes/ideas in the blink of eye – it’s giving me whiplash. I also don’t get why everyone in the core group of characters has to be in a romance with one another. The plot itself also seems to just hit points of being well…kind of boring. I keep varying between feeling like ‘eh’ and then perking up when something engaging, such as the gladitorial-boat sequence or prison break out, happens. Guess I’ll see how this ending goes – apparently there’s a twist.


Books I Bought

September Purchases

This month’s purchase total is a reasonably healthy figure of 6 (+ 2 comics). I’m not feeling too bad about this because I read two of them straight after purchasing and the rest are short YA contemporaries (okay, I’ll Give you the Sun is a little chunkier) so they shouldn’t take very long. I’ve got a few popular ones here and I’m looking forward to seeing what the fuss is all about.

Have you read any of these? Thoughts?


Blog Posts

Another light month. I’ve been low on time and focus.

Top 10 Tuesday

Books by my Favourite Authors, and Authors with the Potential to Become Favourites, that I Still Haven’t Read

Binge-Worthy TV Shows

Discussions

Picking Books to Review

Other Book Reviews

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Miscellaneous

WWW Wednesday | 19.09.18


Hiatus

As you may have seen in last month’s wrap up, I’ve been thinking about taking a hiatus for a little while now and have decided to take it now going into October. Work is quite busy at the moment and it’s been messing up my schedule so finding time to write and edit my posts has been challenging.

A hiatus will also be a nice break for me to think about looking at some of the writing ideas that have come to mind in the last few months which I haven’t had time to do anything with yet. I’m still unsure if I want to tackle NaNoWriMo again this year so this is the perfect time to figure that out. Plus, I think I’d like the chance to do a few other R&R activities for a bit to rest and recharge. I’ll definitely still be around the blogsphere though, reading your wonderful posts!

So until next month…maybe…

Ash

A Lost “Princess”, a Kraken, Exploding Robot Dogs, and Some Big Moral Questions: Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff

4 starsLifel1k3

If any of you have spent time looking through my blog, you’d know that I love Jay Kristoff books. As in, would give up red velvet cake (one of the best things in the world) forever to get my hands on the third Nevernight book.

Alright, alright, maybe for like a month. Forever seems a little bit harsh.

Anyway, for this reason I was practically jumping out of my seat in excitement when I saw Jay was starting a new YA series. Robots! Awesome female characters! Romance! Crazy adventures across a radiation filled wasteland! I was like, GIMMIE.

[Insert witty blurb summary here]

Joking.

Lifel1k3 centres around Eve, a scavenger/bot fighter with a killer faux hawk. When she and her friend Lemon Fresh (I kid you not, the girl was named after a washing detergent) discover the remains of a human looking AI, a Lifelike named Ezekiel, their lives suddenly get massively complicated. Next thing they know, Eve’s grandpa has been kidnapped, everyone from street gangs to a gun toting preacher is trying to kill them, they’re trapped in a kraken’s stomach, and what are these strange visions Eve keeps seeing?

Why You Should Read This Book

Jay Does Characters Right

One of Jay’s strengths has always been his characters. They’re diverse, deep, and always successfully walk the line between strong and vulnerable. These characters are no exception. Here, our central four are Eve, our MC, Lemon, her smart mouthed best friend, Cricket, Eve’s small robotic companion and voice of logic, and Ezekiel, the lifelike with the perfect dimples. I quite liked these characters. They’re well written and very different from each other, and because of that the dynamic between them is a lot of fun. Their interactions during the book’s times of crisis can essentially be summarised as:

*Obstacle arises*
Eve: I have to save my grandpa, so here is my highly dangerous plan! But you guys should go home, I don’t want you to get hurt.
Lemon: I am a babelicious badass. You need me and I refuse to deprive you of my witty commentary.
Cricket: This is a very, very bad idea. Do not do this highly dangerous plan.

*outvoted*

Cricket: I hate democracy.
Ezekiel: I will throw myself into said extremely dangerous situation for you Eve because I’m basically indestructible and feeling guilty over some mysterious secret.
Kaiser (Eve’s robot dog, built fitted with explosives): Woof!

I have to say though that part of me was slightly more interested in the side or “bad” characters. We don’t get a heap of development on them but based on the end of this book I’m expecting a lot more in the next one. Give me robot emotional drama!!!!

Pop Culture Puzzle Pieces

*Minor spoiler* Alright, I admit, it took me a shamefully long time to recognise the fact that this was, in part, an Anastasia retelling. I majored in history at university and adore the animated film, and yet, I was about three quarters of the way through before my slow brain finally went, wow, this family all has names super similar to the Romanovs, and they were murdered TOO, and the daughter…oh.

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I really loved this aspect of the story. I mean, dystopian Anastasia with robots? You can’t beat that. These tie ins also added elements of mystery and tragedy to the story but don’t worry, they don’t also make it over the top predictable.

Lost “princesses” aside, Lifel1k3 delivers on the whole bunch of pop culture references found on its cover and it does so without feeling cliché or mishmashed. There’s a dramatic car chase that screams Mad Max, there’s a teensy bit of X-men awesomeness to one character, and if you enjoyed Blade Runner you’ll definitely find a lot to like here.

  • Destroyed world? Check.
  • Humans with God complexes? Er, check.
  • Major moral questions about the rights of artificial intelligence and what is human? Dooouubbble check. Actually, make that triple check.

In other words, the plot has action, emotion, and depth along with Jay’s usual, quirky kind of humour scattered throughout.

Twisty

Kristoff always gets you right at the end. Jackass.

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Just kidding. I love you and your awful (aka. great) plot twists (aka. gut punches).

Ending and Sequel potential

Jay leaves this book in an interesting place going forward. The fallout of the twist pushes the characters in an unexpected direction and I’m not exactly sure where it’ll end up. Additionally, there are a lot of big players (major tech companies and other Lifelikes) mentioned during the book that are missing from the climax of Lifel1k3 which I’m really excited to see show up further down the track.

Why it Might Not Be For You

Are you Speaking English?

Along with all the other world building, Jay’s also created his own assortment of new slang and jargon. While it’s certainly realistic (new terms get invented so quickly these days that I have trouble keeping up. On fleek? Bae? Who comes up with this shit?) it does tend to create a bit of fish out of water syndrome. At the start of this book, I had no clue what anyone was bloody talking about.

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Eventually it clicks but by then it’s become just plain frustrating. I mean, why the hell does Lemon have to refer to Eve as her “bestest” CONSTANTLY???
To help you out, the two main terms to know are:
Fizzy – good, awesome
True Cert – surely, for sure, honestly

Romance…Eh

So yeah, there’s some romance. There are moments where it’s sweet and all, but it’s also a bit wishy-washy and fast which is a bit disapponting considering how important it is to part of the plot.

Big World, Little Reader

The world in Lifel1k3 has a lot to it. Gangs, crazy geographical features like glass storm wastelands, robot krakens running around the ocean floor, warring and wealthy tech companies, robots… it’s complicated. We often complain about authors info-dumping to the point where our brains explode. My problem at the beginning of this book is that there wasn’t enough info. I was thrust into a world with language, culture, technology, and environments that I was entirely clueless about and Kristoff kind of carries on with the story as if he just assumes you too have seen his super-secret world building word document. It certainly improves with time but there’s still a lot I don’t know. I’m sure book two will help me out.DividerWhile it’s certainly no Nevernight, I can safely say that Lifel1k3 was an largely enjoyable sci-fi, dystopian, action packed ride with a lot of heart, and I’ll highly likely be picking up the sequel when it comes out.

4 StarsLove Ashley

The End’s Not Near, It’s Here: Obsidio (The Illuminae Files 3#) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

4 stars

Obsidio photo

And just like that chums, The Illuminae Files come to a close.

Our characters have faced bombs, zombie viruses, crazy AIs, trained mercenaries, brain sucking alien worms, the potential collapse of the time space continuum, and in this installment they now come face to face with the scariest thing of all…

People.

Desperate, stubborn, follow orders blindly, people.

So, let’s get to it.

The Gang’s All Here!

After the events of the first two books, all of our major characters are now in the same place at the same time. *Cheers* This means that we get to see some nice little interactions between familiar faces. Are you in need of some Kady and Ella bonding time over their technical wiz skills? We got that. How about Hanna and Kady boosting one another’s moral in adorable ways (hint: there may or may not be sketches involved)? Yep, that too. Or, what about Ella turning her famous sass on a certain confused AI? Check. But I’m telling you, the best part, the thing I never even realised I needed in my life until now, was:

An Ezra-Nick bromance.

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OH, YEAH BOYS AND GIRLS. We have a winner.

I don’t want to get into specifics because spoilers (okay just one little spoiler: Parachute. Have fun with that one). However, one thing I should note about Obsidio is that there felt like a lot less fun character interactions than we saw in Gemina or Illuminae. While those books seemed to balance their plot’s oh-shit-we’re-all-going-to-die elements against character development and humour equally, this one doesn’t manage to do so as much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s there, just bogged down a bit by the accumulation of all the crap that’s happened to the characters. Part of me wonders whether it’s because the roster of characters has gotten too large now to showcase individuals in depth or simply because these characters have already had their respective books to shine and it’s now our new characters’ time in the spotlight.

New Faces

Aside from our existing fan favourites, in the series’ usual fashion, Obsidio introduces two more central characters to the roster – Asha Grant and Rhys Linden. So it turns out that after the evacuations from Kerenza, a whole bunch of people were left behind on the planet under BeiTech occupation and, as you can probably imagine, life pretty much sucks down there. Low food, freezing cold, BeiTech soldiers locking up families as motivation for the miners, and shooting civilians for even the most minor infractions. This place is in desperate need of a resistance. Good thing its got one.

If Asha’s surname sounds familiar, it’s because she’s Kady’s cousin. She’s a pharmacy student and a member of the Kerenza resistance. Like the other Illuminae women, Asha is smart, brave and good-hearted, but still manages to feel distinct from the previous MCs. She isn’t amazing with computers, doesn’t know martial arts, but damn, girl can take a punch and is still brave enough to whack a soldier in full armour with a chair when it matters. Twice.

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Rhys, in true star crossed fashion, is a tech specialist recently reassigned to Kerenza as part of the BeiTech invasion force and also happens to be Asha’s ex-boyfriend. How do ya like that for coincidence? Or as writers like to call it: PLOT. Upon arrival, Rhys is horrified to learn exactly what he’s ended up a part of but soon comes around to assisting the resistance. Rhys is definitely likeable – he’s ace at cards and never without perfect hair, but perhaps overshadowed slightly by the male characters that have come before him. Still, both Rhys and Asha have a great dynamic and are worthy additions to our crew.

Let’s Get Serious

When Jay and Amie spoke about the book at launch, they said it was the one they were most proud of. No aliens, no viruses, just people doing what they genuinely believe is right. This explanation certainly fits when applied to the conflict between the crews of the Heimdall and Hypatia. Each side strongly believes they know the right course to take and despite their dodgy actions, deep down, both are coming from a place of good.

Where our authors’ explanation falls down a little is the BeiTech soldiers. Obsidio gives a decent amount of page time to these guys– they play cards, share stories, and go about their duties, all in an effort for us to say: hey, these guys are human beings just doing their jobs. They didn’t ask to be here, their survival is now at risk, and to them, these Kerenza civilians are criminals.  These are the explanations offered to validate their side of things and make this a shades-of-grey equation. The only problem is, it’s not very successful. Instead, their protestations come off as either: (a) I will kill a whole bunch of people as long as it helps me up the career ladder or off this damned planet, or (b) I will cling to whatever explanation will help me remain in denial and live with myself. While the BeiTech soldiers may not be moustache twirling villains, they’re most certainly the bad guys here. Why? Because there’s always a choice: to stop, to question, to act. And nearly all of them failed.

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Yet, the story and characters still work very well on a different level because of their ability to act as a reflection of the real world. Were you to look for similarities in the present day and throughout history, you’d find them easily and that’s why the story is so believable, horrifying and well-written.

Not a Bang, Not a Whimper, Somewhere in Between

We all know Illuminae is fond of its bang, crash endings and massive, screw you plot twists (I’m still not over book one. I died a little and never recovered). However, Obsidio doesn’t really have anything to match the twists found in the first two books. There’s a moment in the middle of the story which is pretty awful (emotionally, not plot wise) but because of the character it concerns, it’s not unexpected (plus it’s foreshadowed). There’s another similar ‘oh no’ moment towards the end of the story but by this point it’s kind of like, I ain’t falling for that again, folks. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me and er…fool me three times, nuh uh. Not happening, you big kidders.

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You know these books are full on when even a big space battle with nukes feels like a tame way to climax the series, but I understand Jay and Amy’s need not to go too big this time around because they needed to be able to pull it back far enough in order to provide nice resolution. Speaking of which, there is a nice resolution. Cuteness and joy abounds, emphasised by a lovely final image by Marie Lu. Don’t you dare go flipping for it though!

To sum up, while Obsidio may not have been my favourite book of the trilogy, it was most certainly an exciting, well-crafted and amusing read, and a worthy conclusion to an absolutely fantastic series. I can’t wait to read Amy and Jay’s next collaboration and if you haven’t read any of The Illuminae Files books yet, now’s the time to start. Get moving!

4 Stars

Q: Have you read this one yet? If so, what did you think?

Love Ashley

Obsidio Book Launch: Q&A with Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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On Wednesday night I was lucky enough to attend the Sydney launch of Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman’s new book Obsidio, the final novel in the bestselling Illuminae Files series. Guys, I love this series. I really do. So even though I had to ask to leave work early, basically run half way across the city, and turned up looking like I was the melting wicked witch of the west, it was So. Damn. Worth. It.

I know that a lot of people don’t get to attend these kinds of events, hell, I barely got to attend the event, so I thought I’d transcribe the main part of the Q&A for you guys. I’ve edited some of it for clarity – spoken phrases can sound a bit weird written down sometimes and vice versa. This Q&A was structured by Caz from the booktube channel, Little Book Owl.

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Caz: For those of us who aren’t familiar with Illuminae, would you mind giving us a brief rundown?

AK: It’s only 1800 pages long. *laughs* Look, we like to describe Illuminae as Battlestar Galatica meets 10 Things I Hate about you. It’s about a couple who’s just broken up and thinks they’re having a really bad day, and then that’s put into perspective when their planet gets carpet bombed and they end up on a refugee spaceship fleet.

Book two we like to describe as…it’s like Die Hard meets Alien. And again, it features a couple of teens in space who think they’re having a bad day until their entire space station is invaded by a gang of bloodthirsty mercenaries and they are all that stands between the mercenaries and not only their destruction but destruction of the multiverse. No pressure.

Caz: I do not envy those characters.

AK: I mean, this isn’t a story about the best days of their lives, I’ll be honest.

JK: They’re certainly memorable, if not enjoyable.

Caz: What is your co-writing process from conception of the ideas to who writes what, etc. How do you go about writing these books?

JK: We plot about 100 pages in advance. We found out that if we plot any further than that we tend to think of cooler stuff as we’re writing and it tends to be time wasted so Amy and I will get together, usually at a pub-

AK: …Always

JK: Always at a pub. Amy doesn’t drink.

AK: No. I eat fries. *laughs* He drinks.

JK: Watches me drink and about…drink five is when the magic starts. There was a moment when we’d got together, kicking around ideas for Gemina. We had the setting and knew who the main characters were but we didn’t have what the twist was going to be. I was heading home on the tram and I texted Amy: This could be the Jack Daniels talking, but what do you think about multiverse?

AK: In fact, the exact text was: Am I drunk or genius? And I texted back: Both. Definitely both.

JK: So we write 100 pages in advance and then we break those pages down into characters, who is going to be the POV and we break up writing scenes according to characters. Amy will write Kady, and I’ll write Ezra and so forth.  Then we go away and write our individual bits, send them to one another via e-mail. You guys know the story of the shoe-maker and the elves? The shoemaker puts out leather the night before and wakes up the next morning and there are shoes there. It’s kind of like that. You’d send your bit, forget about it for a couple of days, open up your e-mail, and there’s more book there.

AK: It’s magical. We’re talking every day, we’re on g-chat every day, we’re texting everyday, you know, popping ideas back and forth, checking stuff, and debating what format we should use for each individual section. We were going to do this this way but I’m only half way through what this person was going to do and it’s already three times the size it was supposed to be so we might break this into two bits…Just sort of constantly massaging things.

Obsidio

Caz: You’ve mentioned in the past that you’re kind of the master of spreadsheets…

JK: It’s all Amy.

AK: Hi *waves*

JK: Mistress of spreadsheets.

N: So what kind of things do you include in these spreadsheets? I know you’ve mentioned to the minute timelines of everything.

AK: Yeah, so there’s only two things that go in my many, many spreadsheets and that’s timelines and death.

*Everyone laughs*

AK: No, you guys, this is a real tip. If you’re gonna write a book and kill a lot of people, keep count from the start. Anyone who’s read the Illuminae books knows that there’s a lot of technical detail in there so they won’t say a lot of people have died, they’ll say 27% of our people are dead and there’s another 32% casualties. You can’t just throw those numbers around because the people will do the maths-

JK: Some jerk on the internet is going to do the math.

AK: If only it was just one jerk. They will e-mail you and tell you what you get wrong. So you have to have absolutely everything laid out in spreadsheets.

JK: And the only person worse at math than Amy-

* Both point to Jay*

AK: Yeah, is that guy there. For real, not our strong suit. So we have a spreadsheet. For Illuminae, for instance, it shows everyone in the story and after each major event where everyone is. So you’ve got this many people on Kerenza, then this many people go to the Copernicus, the Hypatia, and the Alexander, and then the Copernicus gets blown up, so we have this many people dead and from there you go to… We talked about the idea that some people got forcibly conscripted so we’ll move this many people across to the Alexander and you know, write down a baby got born. Add one. It was the only time we’ve ever added.

JK: There was actually a moment where we did the math in Illuminae when Kady had come across to the ship, there’s like a blip in the stats which a couple of people called us out on the internet. The internet’s that kind of place.

AK: Ah, internet.

JK: And they were telling us that the math was wrong. The percentage of infected people had gone up when it should have gone down or something.

AK: Nah, other way round.

JK: Other way round. It should have gone down.

AK: Cause it was rising. Saying this percentage is infected, then this many infected, and this many infected and then it suddenly went down. And they went, well, people didn’t get unafflicted, did they?

JK: Well they sort of did because…they killed each other.

AK: And I was like, in your face! The math’s right. So many afflicted are dead, Kady represents a larger overall percentage of the population and as the sole unafflicted person, she is now a higher percentage.

JK: And if you don’t believe us, we have the spreadsheet.

AK: Yeah, I have the spreadsheet to prove it! Which is really handy, because when you get to Obsidio and a character says, tell me what you’ve been doing so far, someone else can casually say, we had this many people here and that many people did that. You can’t just go back to Illuminae, you have to have written it down as you went. I’m not a great details person but thank you past Amy. Good job.

Caz: In Obsidio, I spotted a mention of Where the Wild Things Are (To Jay), which is one of your favourite books-

JK: It’s my favourite book of all time.

Caz: Did you sneak in any other references like this, or what other things did you draw upon?

AK: Did we ever. *Laughs* So in Gemina, there’s a line that sounds a lot like a line from Hamilton, and a lot of people said, is that a Hamilton reference? The answer was no, because Hamilton had not yet been publically released when we wrote that book. But when you find the Hamilton references in Obsidio, however, those are all deliberate. He’s never listened to the Hamilton soundtrack so he doesn’t know where they are, and I haven’t told him. He still has no idea.

JK: I mean, we’ve got a Rocky Horror Picture Show quote in Gemina, the line is broken, something about-

Together: Antici…pation.

JK: That’s Frankenfurter from Rocky Horror Picture Show.

AK: We have Seven of Nine from Star Trek, Princess Bride…

JK: Princess Bride, yeah, ‘As you Wish’, which is kind of a running gag.

AK: We have, a leaf on the wind.

JK: Yeah, a Firefly reference, a whole bunch of bands I listen to… Like, one of the lines we use in Obsidio is on the cover, ‘Live a life worth dying for’. That’s from an incredible song called ‘Momento’ by a band I love called Architects. There’s a Sound Garden reference in there…

AK: We could go on and on…

JK: And unless you’re us, and even if you are, you’d have to be both of us to get them all…You may not know it to look at her, but Amy’s not a fan of Suicide Silence, so she doesn’t get my Suicide Silence references.

AK: Heavy metal…not my thing. Which is really hard cause when we go on tour in the US, we often ask if we can get a car because fitting this *gestures to Jay* on an aeroplane is just not anyone’s idea of a good time. So we ask if we can get a car, and the problem is that he drives and the driver picks the tunes.

JK: That’s not a problem. That’s an education.

AK: I spent a lot of time listening to metal music, imagining my happy place.

JK: She made me listen to Taylor Swift the brief moment she got behind the wheel.

AK: Yeah, it was the best!

JK: She’s like: Yep, you know what, I’ll drive to Texas. It’s 12 hours, but I’ll drive to Texas.

AK: Well if you insist. I have other songs than Shake it off, maybe as many as three or four.

JK: They played it like four times. Repeatedly.

AK: He was in the backseat and couldn’t get to the controls. His screaming and thrashing was entertaining to us so we just kept hitting repeat.

JK: It’s an abuse of power.

*Everyone laughs*

Caz: Could you tell us a bit about the inspiration for the concept?

JK: I mean Obsidio’s the new book, so we’ve got to talk about it…

AK: Do we? *smiles*

JK: It’s also probably the one I’m most proud of in terms of the theme we’re exploring. In Illuminae you’ve got the phobos virus that sends people crazy, you’ve got these rage virus zombies running round the ship. So there’s a struggle within the ship as authority figures and people who are trying to do what they think is best clash, but there’s also this external threat of the crazy people. In Gemina there was the same thing, a mercenary band who came on board and there was also the lanima, those creepy, alien, snake things. No spoilers if you haven’t read it.

AK: You know my favourite thing that’s happened this week is Jessica Spotswood – she’s an author and if you haven’t read her stuff, you should – was instastorying as she was reading Gemina to get ready for Obsidio and she sent this picture that was just a big blanket and then her eyes and the book. She was like, I’m reading under a blanket because I’m so afraid of the lanima. I was like, they can find you there Jess. *everyone laughs*

JK: I don’t think that blanket’s going to be enough, but anyway. In the third book there’s no big external threat, no aliens, no rage virus, it’s just people against other people. And people with diametrically opposed viewpoints, people whose mind you’re never going to change. So that to me is the scariest opponent, someone you just cannot convince of the righteousness of your cause. Like if you’re an occupying soldier. From the POV of the soldier, you’re doing your job, you’re defending your country, corporation or whatever.

AK: And this planet you’ve come to is full of criminals. It’s an illegal settlement, let’s be real. These aren’t innocents. Everyone who went there was breaking the law when they went there.

JK: And they chose to do it. But from the POV of someone whose planet you’ve invaded you’re an invader, you’re a conqueror, you’re the enemy. There’s no way those two sides are ever going to see eye to eye.

AK: Everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing and in some cases everyone’s doing the wrong thing. It sounds a little bit like the world we’re living in at the moment, that everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing and imagines the other side of whatever argument they’re in to be simply, completely wrong, I mean, to pull a John Green quote, to imagine the other more complexly, because there’s always more to the other side of the argument. Even if it’s wrong, there’s always a reason that the person has come to that belief…There’s never been a better time to try and have those conversations constructively.

JK: There’s no villain in Obsidio. No moustache twirling bad guy that gets killed in the final boss fight. There’s just people. Everyone is a person who thinks they’re doing the right thing and is seen as a villain by the people around them.

AK: Also a cat, there’s a cat as well. People, cat, and one very strange computer.

Caz: So the format of the series is mixed media. Were there any formats you wish you could have included but didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

JK: There were some pie charts. I remember we did it early on. It was actually a pretty funny gag. Well, it wasn’t my gag, it was Amy’s gag so I can say it was funny. Initially we were talking about doing pie graphs about…it was the percentage of communication Ezra had sent to Kady vs she had sent to him pre-breakup. And it was like, 99% was Ezra and 1% was Kady…but yeah, that gag didn’t make it in. We didn’t have time. We wanted to kick off with more of a bang and start with the invasion so the pie graph gag never made it in.

AK: Ah, I’d forgotten about that! That was fun, wasn’t it? But sometimes you have to give away bits that are really good and funny that you love but don’t fit.

JK: But no, as far as anything else we wanted to do, our publishing house back in America and here in Australia have been amazing.

AK: Enablers, frankly.

JK: There was an incident early on. Cause we sold the book unfinished, we only wrote the first hundred and thirty pages, we thought it’d be too weird for anyone to buy so we didn’t want to write 600 pages of something that was never going to see the light of day. When the book actually got sold and we were finishing off the writing process, we sent an e-mail to our editor saying, we’re thinking maybe we could put in a schematic of the Alexander, the big battle ship in the book, do you think we could do that?

AK: We thought we were being so cheeky.

JK: Cause you need like a spaceship designer. She wrote back to us saying, there’s three ships in this story, shouldn’t there be three schematics? We were like oh, so it’s gonna be like that.

AK: Yep, so if you ever wondered what the moment was that we were completely let off the leash, became very hard to control and started saying things like, what if we had a number 1 New York Times Bestseller as our illustrator, it all goes back to that one moment where we were like, ohhhhh.

JK: Given a blank cheque.

Caz: This is the end of the Illuminae files but not the last collaboration we’re going to see from you. What can you tell us about the next series?

AK: I can tell you book one’s written.

*gasps*

JK: The series formally known as ‘Andromeda’. It’s not called that anymore.

AK: Cause science.

JK: It was originally going to be set in the Andromeda galaxy and then we had a talk with Brian Cox. A mind blowing talk, and he went about explaining the vastness of the galaxy we live in, the Milky Way. The distances will break your brain if you think about it, so putting it in another galaxy seemed a bridge too far for us. So we’ve set it in the Milky Way. Andromeda doesn’t work anymore, so the name has been scrapped and we can’t tell you what the new one is because…of reasons.

AK: You’ll find out.

JK: The new book, we’re pitching it as The Breakfast Club goes to Starfleet academy. Room for losers and misfits, and reprobates, who are at a kind of Starfleet-eque type academy, thrown into the deep end and have to save the universe.

AK: Yeah, so we were kind of tag lining it, they’re not the heroes we deserve, they’re just the only one we could get.

JK:  They happened to be in the room at the time.

AK: That’s taking up most of our time at the moment. We’re editing that as of yesterday…And as I said before, my very first solo baby came out yesterday. I’m really excited and a little bit terrified because I’ve never had anything I didn’t do with a friend before, so that’s here. It’s called Ice Wolves. It’s got wolves, and dragons and shapeshifters and magic and lots of stuff I like. And it’s not in space. We go very high up a mountain but we don’t go into space. You also have a novel coming soon Mr Kristoff?

JK: Yeah, I have a new book coming out in May. It’s called Lifel1k3. I think I’m coming up here for a launch so it’d be great to see you all again…It’s been pitched as Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max: Fury Road with a little bit of Blade Runner on the side. But I’m talking all the good Blade Runner, not the bad Blade Runner.

AK: I read it in six hours without putting it down, not speaking to anyone around me.  I actually ended up buying airport lounge passes to get people with me into the airport lounge and being like, look there, free food, go away.

JK: Be honest, it was your mum.

AK: It was my mum *laughs* I was trying to make myself sound slightly cooler…At least I took her to the lounge before I stopped talking to her. I mean, she raised me to be a reader so you reap what you sew.

Divider

There was a questions from the audience section after this but to be frank, I just cannot muster the effort required to transcribe it.

Obsidio releases this coming week and Amie & Jay will be continuing their book tour into the US now that they’ve finished in Australia. If you get the chance, I definitely recommend going to see them. They bounce off one another so well and are pretty hilarious, just like their writing. Plus, signed copies of however many of their books you can carry to the signing. Win!

Happy reading!


Obsidio (The Illuminae Files 3#) – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff | Goodreads | Amazon

Ice Wolves (Elementals 1#) – Amie Kaufman | Goodreads | Amazon

Lifel1k3 – Jay Kristoff | Goodreads | Amazon

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