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

Amazon.com: Girl, 11 (9780358418931): Clarke, Amy Suiter: Books

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?

Ghosts, Dark Magic, and Murder: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Now, this is a tough one.

Ninth House was easily one of my more anticipated releases for the second half of 2019. Magic, dark themes, secret Yale Societies and Leigh Bardugo. Why, hello there, irresistible combination. As Leigh’s first adult novel, I was also super intrigued to see how it would be different from her YA works. And yes, it’s definitely different. But good different or bad different? In the end, it’s a bit of both.

Who, What, Where?

Ninth House is set at a fictional version of Yale University. Here, the rich and powerful members of eight secret societies regularly engage in dangerous occult rituals dealing with everything from necromancy and portal magic to shape-shifting. These societies are kept in check by a smaller ninth house, Lethe. Every three years Lethe recruits a freshman to join its ranks, opening their eyes to the uses and potential dangers of magic. Twenty-year old Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern is a high school drop-out from LA with the ability to see ghosts or ‘Greys’. After somehow surviving an unsolved multiple homicide, Alex is mysteriously offered a scholarship to Yale and the freshman position within Lethe.

The book largely flicks back and forth between two time periods – Winter & Spring. The Winter chapters take place shortly after Alex’s arrival at Yale and deal with her starting to learn about magic and the societies through the assistance of a Lethe senior named Darlington. The Spring timeline occurs following Darlington’s bizarre disappearance, with Alex now largely handling the duties of Lethe on her own. When a young woman turns up dead on campus with several unexplained connections to the societies, despite being told to do otherwise, Alex decides to follow her gut and look into it.

Dark & Mysterious

If I were grading Ninth House on a lettered scale, it’d easily get an A for atmosphere. Leigh’s version of Yale is dark, dangerous and full of secrets. Ghosts roam the streets, magical substances exist to charm people and remove their free will, and wealthy, privileged students abuse dark magic for pleasure and power. It’s an intriguing setting and grounded well by Leigh’s ability to mix her own knowledge of the real Yale with her fantastical take on it. This twisted depiction of the University is further aided by the fact that it’s also populated by a multitude of morally grey, and sometimes black, characters – people willing to do whatever it takes to better themselves regardless of the costs to others. Even Alex, herself, is not so morally clean cut, but necessarily so to be able to survive in this kind of environment.

A Trigger Minefield

As I said above, Ninth House is not a young adult novel, by any means, and it won’t be for everyone. This book goes to some dark places and the trigger warnings list for it is lengthy. Drug addiction & overdose, murder, self-harm, child rape, forced consumption of human waste, toxic and abusive relationships, sexual assault involving video and date rape drugs, and more. For the most part, these things do tie into important plot elements and character development rather than being simply thrown in for extra colour, but it’s important to be prepared if any of these are things you’re sensitive to.

Connecting with Characters

One of the things I love about Leigh’s previous books is her ability to write interesting and loveable characters. With Ninth House, however, I had great difficulty connecting with them. Alex is a complex character with clear personality traits and a detailed backstory but at the same time, it just never really clicked for me. In terms of the other characters, Darlington was easily my favourite and yet, he’s only in a small portion of the book. Then we have Lethe’s support staff and perpetual PhD student, Dawes, and Lethe’s police liaison, Detective Turner, both of which I thought were okay, but was again missing that spark with.

There are a lot of side characters in this book and at some points it does feel crowded. Society members, Alex’s roommates, Yale faculty, ghosts/historical figures, people from Alex’s past, etc. Some are better fleshed out and more important than others, but I do feel as though there could have been a slight cut back to reduce messiness and confusion.

Stop & Start Plot

The plot of Ninth House is a lot like a dying engine, stopping and violently starting at a moment’s notice. This book could definitely have been shorter than 458 pages and there are a lot of sections in which the pacing is very slow, especially early on (& the info dumping doesn’t help). Momentum on the murder investigation takes a while to kick in and even when things do start to pick up, after every new puzzle piece discovered or dramatic moment that unfolds, there’s a long, drawn out pause. This is usually to shift to character backstory or something else. If you find these side-plots interesting, you’ll get by okay but if not, there’s likely to be some periods of boredom. While I wasn’t gripped in a constant state of excitement, I will say that, for the most part, I did remain consistently intrigued in how things would turn out, even though the ending wasn’t the satisfying conclusion I’d hoped for.


Overall, for one of my most anticipated releases of the year, Ninth House was somewhat of a disappointment for me. However, despite its flaws, I can still say I found it a mildly enjoyable, if bleak and at times confusing, reading experience. As to whether I’ll read the follow up, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

3 Stars

Upcoming Releases to Get Excited About | Part 2

2018 is coming closer and closer to the end and here I am with another three 2019 releases to get excited about and or possibly bemoan the wait period for depending on whether you’re a glass half full or empty kinda person.

Image result for a curse so dark and lonelyA Curse so Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer | 29th Jan

Fall in love, break the curse. 

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. 

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.


Anyone who knows me well knows that I love Beauty and the Beast. LOVE. While there have been quite a lot of retellings of it over the years (some better than others), based on the blurb, this one sounds great. Also, a strong, modern heroine with a disability? Um, yes! I’ve seen a few really positive early reviews so I’m hoping this will end up being a winner. However, my one nagging feeling is that someone mentioned that if you liked A Court of Thorns and Roses, you’d enjoy this one. Even though I ended up really loving that series, the first book was a bit average for me. Guess we’ll see.

Add on Goodreads

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36307634King of Scars – Leigh Bardugo | 29th Jan

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal. 


Another big name release that I couldn’t resist including. At the beginning of this month I re-read Shadow and Bone and then actually made it the rest of the way through The Grisha trilogy. Now, like everyone else, I’m so excited for this one. Pretty much everybody who reads the Grisha books falls in love with Nikolai and although he was different to what I expected (in a good way!), I did too. It’ll be great to see him take centre stage this time and find out how he handles Ravka after everything that happened with Alina and The Darkling. He’s also got some trauma of his own to process, too, so that’ll be interesting. Even better, both Zoya and, love of my life, the waffle queen herself, Nina Zenik, will be in this series. I’m sure there’ll be a love interest there somewhere. Unsure how I feel about it though. Regardless, hurry up January!

Add on Goodreads

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Image result for even if i fallEven if I Fall – Abigail Johnson | 8th Jan

A year ago, Brooke Covington lost everything when her beloved older brother, Jason, confessed to the murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke and her family became social pariahs, broken and unable to console one another. Brooke’s only solace remains the ice-skating rink, where she works but no longer lets herself dream about a future skating professionally.

When Brooke encounters Calvin’s younger brother, Heath, on the side of the road and offers him a ride, everything changes. She needs someone to talk to…and so does Heath. No one else understands what it’s like. Her brother, alive but gone; his brother, dead but everywhere. Soon, they’re meeting in secret, despite knowing that both families would be horrified if they found out. In the place of his anger and her guilt, something frighteningly tender begins to develop, drawing them ever closer together.

But when a new secret comes out about the murder, Brooke has to choose whose pain she’s willing to live with—her family’s or Heath’s. Because she can’t heal one without hurting the other.


So, I’m pretty sure this book is going to cause some intense heart break. It’s got deep, emotional YA contemporary written all over it but at the same time there’s a bit of a mystery element which I’m really here for (please don’t be disappointing!!). I really like this idea of showcasing human connection and compassion with regards to such a super complicated relationship. I mean, if someone’s sibiling had murdered your brother, the last thing you’d want is to hang around with them as a constant reminder of that fact. At the same time though, it’s not their fault. Ah! This is going to be so messy.

Add on Goodreads

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Are any of these on your 2019 TBR? Or if you’ve been lucky enough to get your hands on an ARC, how was it?

Top 10 Tuesday: Backlist Books I Want to Read

I’mmmmm backkkk! It’s been about a month and here I am again, ready to get stuck into some Top Ten Tuesday fun.

Is it just me, or are there about a zillion and one amazing looking books released every few months? I go to cross one anticipated release off my TBR list only to find I have to add five more to it. For this reason, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in new releases and neglect the poor book babies which have been angrily screaming, ‘You promised to read me last month’ for about five years.

I also need to consider that every so often I find my reading tastes and interests change or expand a little. This tends to open my eyes up to a whole bunch of amazing books from years ago which I may not have been aware of before. For example, I only really started getting into YA contemporaries last year which means I have a lot of catching up to do in terms of the super popular books in that category.

Here are ten books published at least 2 years ago which I’d like to read at some point:

Image result for siege and stormSiege & Storm – Leigh Bardugo (2013)

I now own all three books, and having finally done my re-read of Shadow and Bone at the end of October, I’m planning to push on to Siege & Storm soon. I’m looking forward to finally getting a proper introduction to Nikolai, who people can’t seem to discuss without swooning. I didn’t mind book one but I wasn’t in love with it. Still, I’m willing to give the rest of the series a go because 1) Leigh is awesome and 2) I’d really like to read King of Scars when it comes out.

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Related imageFangirl – Rainbow Rowell (2013)

As I mentioned above, I only jumped on the YA contemporary bandwagon last year so I’m still working my way through the so called holy grail books of the genre. Fangirl seems to be one of them. Weirldy enough, I’ve already read Carry On which came after (and only because of) this book so it’ll be interesting reading the fan fiction sections. Hopefully I find it as cute and relatable as people (constanty) keep saying it is. I mean, I am a bit of a hermit and I have written fan fiction so the odds are in its favour.

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28165439The Long Walk – Richard Bachman aka. Stephen King (1979)

I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled across this one. I think I may have been googling lists of the best Stephen King books? (Totally normal bookworm behaviour, of course). This one peaked my interest. It’s about a race in which 100 boys have to keep walking above a certain speed for as long as possible. They have three warnings and if they exceed them, they get murdered. Winner gets whatever their heart desires. It sounds super dark but really compelling. It’s also a reasonable length, unlike some of King’s more famous pieces, but then again, he published this one under a pseudonum. I’m hoping it’s an interesting read.

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10576365The Darkest Minds – Alexandra Bracken (2012)

I’ve mentioned this one on some other lists recently so apologies for being an uncreative and repetitious dork. I was never super motivated to actually read TDM until the movie came out but everyone raves about these books so I think I need to find out what the fusss is about. Also POWERS. I LOVE POWERS! I’m hoping to find some loveable characters but I’m a little worried about the book just feeling like every other dystopian YA I’ve read. I also tend to get bored with over the top military/government organisation involvement in certain kinds of stories so fingers crossed it doesn’t happen with this one.

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16069030The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski (2014)

This series seems to come up a lot in YA fantasy/dystopian circles, especially when people are talking favourite ships. I’ll admit, the books look a little trashy – the covers give me some serious The Selection vibes (which my guilty pleasure lovin’ self had sooooo much fun with) and I’m worried there will be a heap of tropes, instalove and a lack of proper development. STILL my curious brain cannot be dissuaded. I have to do it. I’m hoping they end up being as enjoyable as everyone says. If so, they’re short reads and they’ll look gorgeous in my bookshelf, triple win!!

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10626594The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater (2011)

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been in the bookstore, picked this one up, thought about buying it and then decided to hold off. The plot sounds really exciting (intense live-or-die race involving water horses? Um, Yes!) and I’ve heard a heap of good things about it (it’s slow but really atmospheric and poignant). Plus, it’s a standalone so no need to wait years for pesky sequels which may or may not live up to expectations. I may not always adore Maggie’s books but I have to admit that she always has interesting characters and concepts.

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943402Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist (2009)

I’ve been curious about this one ever since I saw the american adaptation years back. I’ve now seen both the Swedish and US versions so I’d really like to read the source material to see how it compares. After how romanticised vampires have become in literature over the years, it’ll be cool to read something with a darker, scarier, and more violent approach towards them. I’ve heard it’s quite intense and creepy so it should be a good change of pace.

 

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Image result for the name of the windThe Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss (2007)

I’ve been putting this one off for a very long time for three reasons. First, it’s not a small book  and 2018 Ashley seems to find that frightening. Second, I’ve heard it takes some time to really grab you. Third, it’s taking Rothfuss FOREVER to write the series, and who needs that pain and suffering in their life? However, pretty much everyone who loves fantasy has really enjoyed this series and I’m looking forward to seeing what all the hype is about. Please don’t end up being boring and disappointing.

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Image result for the well of ascensionThe Well of Ascension – Brandon Sanderson (2007)

I’ve had this book in my bookcase for a few years now and I keep putting it off because I know I’ll need to re-read The Final Empire before I read it. My memory is basically swiss cheese these days and I remember nothing about book one. Okay, nothing other than the fact that the magic system is super cool and that Sanderson actually surprised me by killing off a major character before the climax. This is another series everyone who loves the fantasy genre gushes about. I enjoyed the first book and it’ll be interesting to see where the series goes after how it ended. Sanderson is a really amazing writer so it’ll be nice to get some more exposure to him.

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Image result for since you've been goneSince You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson (2011)

Morgan Matson is another one of those YA contemporary authors that people seem to really enjoy. I read the blurb of this one and though it’d be a great choice for my first book of hers. The cover gives me such Summer vibes so don’t be surprised if this one shows up on a summer reads related post later on. I really love reading about well written female friendships in books and it seems ike Since You’ve Been Gone will have one at it’s core. Give me some cute moments and make me feel all the feelings, pretty please!


What are some of the backlist books sitting on your TBR at the moment? Why haven’t you gotten around to them yet? Perhaps you’re like me and keep getting distracted by shiny, pretty new releases! 

Let’s Go Save the World: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

3.5 stars
WW

If you’re looking for a badass female character, it’s hard to go past the amazingness that is Diana Prince, aka. WONDER WOMAN. She’s strong, brave, looks fantastic in red boots, can use a whip like it’s nobody’s business, and has the kindest heart. What more can you ask for? I mean, look at her:
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Ultimate girl crush.

For this reason I was so excited to get my hands on Wonder Woman: Warbringer. I mean Diana and Leigh Bardugo? Now that’s match up! Which is why I eagerly bought the book and then tore into it like 30 seconds later.

Kidding.

I put it on my shelf and didn’t pick it up again for about six months.

Yep, sounds completely logical to me too.

Moving along, I have read it now! *Dances* So here’s the gist physicist:

WW:W, much like the 2017 film, is a Diana origin story. In this book Diana is seventeen, living her life on Thermiskyra, and is constantly reminded that she is not in fact a true Amazon. In typical hero fashion, she’s keen to get out into the world, quest it up and prove her bad-ass ness (okay, fine, it might be her heroic-ness).

Enter Alia, a teen from New York City on holiday with some friends when her boat explodes right near the Amazonians’ border. Just like in the movie, except replace Steve with Alia, Diana dives into the sea and rescues her. Except, major problem: Alia is a Warbringer, a descendant of Helen of Troy and part of a blood line that causes immense conflict to break out in the world whenever one of them comes of age. Guess who’ll be having the right numbered birthday soon?

In other words, it’s QUEST TIME. Diana sets out with Alia, and several others, in search of a mystical spring in Greece in the hopes of curing Alia of her warbringerness before the next moon cycle. As you can imagine, hijinks ensue.

Why You Should Read This Book:

Shield Sisters

“Sister in battle,” murmured Diana, “I am shield and blade to you.”
“And friend.”
“And always your friend.”

The friendship in this book, guys. The FRIENDSHIP. It’s lovely to see and so empowering! The central women in the novel are all well developed and very different from one another. They have each other’s backs whilst still recognising the ability of the others to take care of themselves. They encourage each other to believe in themselves and to go outside their comfort zones, but most importantly, they trust in each other’s decisions.

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As with any book of this kind, we get the big moments, the physical displays of friendship, but the best moments are the quieter ones – the conversations between Diana, Alia and Nim which showcase their hopes, fears and sadness.

Boredom? Nah.

Something Leigh really gets right with this book is that it’s constantly moving. It might not always be in a way you’d like or be guns blazing and car chases (okay, maybe in the second half it is) but there’s a sense of direction and progress right from the beginning. The action picks up in the second half – army dudes, epic plane escapes, god possessions and big fight sequences – but still allows for some nice character development and sweet moments between our heroes.

All Shapes and Sizes…And Ethnicities, and Sexualities, and everything really!

This book is a diversity dream. There’s a little bit of everything thrown in with this cast of characters and it creates a wonderful dynamic. Plus, Leigh doesn’t shy away from commentary on important topics like racism, body image, and growing up LBQTI. For example, there’s a scene in which Alia and Diana are in Target, Alia with missing shoes. She explains to Diana the necessity of getting in and out quickly because she’s bound to be targeted for a theft check based on her colour. Like, man, what can I even say to that?

Leigh, I ❤️ You

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Something that rarely ever ceases to shine is Leigh’s writing. Her descriptions aren’t overdone, and character internalisation is balanced well against occurring events. Her dialogue is smooth and always seems to achieve the right tone, whether that be dramatic or amusing, without feeling forced. Also important in a book like this, Leigh’s conflict scenes are well written and very easy to follow. It’s not hard to see why she’s so popular amongst YA readers (myself included!).

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Why you Might Want to Skip It

The Darkling, This Villain Ain’t

For most of WW:W there isn’t really an antagonist we can point to as being a major bad guy. Sure, there are elements that pose challenges for our heroes but overall there’s no clear cut individual or body (which is something I think the book could have benefited from).

That is, until the climax of the novel.

And let’s just say, I wasn’t mighty impressed with the antagonist or their motivations.

Image result for unimpressed gif

To be blunt, they felt a bit ridiculous. I actually didn’t predict the twist but despite the impact it should have had, I couldn’t muster the energy to care, likely because I wasn’t too interested in this particular character. I kind of just sat there going, really mate? Really? However, points for a satisfying defeat of said individual using both Diana’s smarts and strength.

Modern Setting

This is more a personal preference. In the comics, Diana’s story begins in a WWII setting and in the film, it’s WWI. WW:W is set in the modern world and for some reason I’m a little sad at the loss of a historical setting. I know, the contemporary setting was crucial to a lot of Leigh’s story and the issues she addressed, but somehow Diana riding the subway just doesn’t have the same appeal as us joining her in the wonder of discovering wartime London.

Silly Story Elements

While Leigh is good, she isn’t infallible. There were a few small elements of WW:W that came up on occasion which broke the flow of the book slightly by coming off cartoonish. The villain aside, the prime example was Leigh’s use of the war based gods, with their random appearances often feeling pointless and silly. I mean, possessions followed by some cackling and taunting? Um…nope.

Diana, is that You?

As I mentioned earlier, Diana is a great character. So, one of my main issues with this book is that for large chunks of it, Diana’s character felt a little…flat, as though it could have been any unmemorable YA protagonist filling her shoes. Yes, it’s an origin story and I know Diana isn’t Wonder Woman yet, but I still expected more of a spark in her character. There were moments where I felt as if she simply faded into the background or I forgot completely who she was supposed to be. However, in Leigh’s defence, this improved in the second half and, thank goodness, righted completely by the time the climax kicked into gear.

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I enjoyed Leigh’s take on Diana and whilst I think there could have been a few improvements, I’d recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of Wonder Woman or looking for a fun read with some great, diverse characters.

My only problem: the end has left me with a craving for Bardugo’s take on actual Wonder Woman. Damn, that ending is such a teaser!

3.5 Stars

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What did you guys think of Wonder Woman: Warbringer?

Love Ashley

 

Let’s Talk: The Five-Star Novel Checklist

Recently I’ve been feeling the strong urge to try and resurrect my efforts to write a novel. I’ve had the same idea for years and years now, always remaining in the planning stage, but I constantly lose motivation after coming up against wall after wall after wall of PLOT HOLES. Regardless, I’ve been thinking hard about what it is that my favourite reads seem to include or do right and these are just a couple of things I’ve noticed:

Image result for check boxLayered & Complex Characters

This applies to both heroes and villains alike. I don’t want to read about completely pure of heart main characters from which the sun shines out of every orifice, without weaknesses, demons or quirks. It’s flipping BORING. I want to see people push through vulnerabilities, fail on occasion, and sometimes make the wrong choices. They’re a work in progress, constantly being shaped by the events of the story and the characters around them. This is why anti-heroes are so popular these days. Everyone enjoys a little unpredictability in their protagonists and there’s nothing better than watching someone grow as a person during the course of a novel.

The same goes for the antagonist of the story. Even though I don’t necessarily agree with what that group or individual is doing, I want to be able to understand it – to sympathise. Depth is important. If they’re an awful person, how did they come to be that way? What are the stakes for them? I mean, it’s not like they popped out the womb that way. Crazy men who just want to watch the world burn only work in certain circumstances. Okay, just one – this guy:

Image result for the joker gif animated series

That’s about it.  Everyone else better have some realistic motivations.  There is absolutely no logic to having a villain who wants to end the world just cause.

Image result for check boxHumour

I tend to read a lot of fantasy novels in which the characters are forced to come up against some pretty dramatic and trying circumstances. So, things can get pretty dour without the occasional burst of humour. I’m a massive fan of the occasional witty throw-away line of dialogue, burning comebacks and sarcastic retorts, or recurring inside jokes. What would Cassandra Clare’s shadow hunter stories be without their amusing exchanges between the characters. For example:

“Do you remember back at the hotel when you promised that if we lived, you’d get dressed up in a nurse’s outfit and give me a sponge bath?” asked Jace.

“It was Simon who promised you the sponge bath.”

“As soon as I’m back on my feet, handsome,” said Simon.

“I knew we should have left you a rat.”

_______________

“We came to see Jace. Is he alright?”
“I don’t know,” Magnus said. “Does he normally just lie on the floor like that without moving?”

Image result for check boxPlot Twists & Unpredictable Events

Without sounding like an arrogant ass, I’m someone who is usually quite good at predicting how stories will turn out. Usually this is because there are certain lines that most authors refuse to cross e.g. they won’t kill off main characters, they want their key characters to be at the centre of their plot twists, so on and so forth. There’s nothing I love more than reaching a moment in a book that I did not see coming and which sends my mind reeling.

Game of Thrones, in its early books, is a great example in that George RR Martin was willing to brutally murder off many of the characters his readers thought were here for the long haul (we know much better now, of course).

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The first instalment in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is another book that managed to get me, while the twist three-quarters in Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae also hit me real hard *shakes fist at sky*.

I will say though that even if I’m able to predict a plot twist, I’m perfectly okay with it as long as it makes sense and it’s entertaining. The last thing I want is to accidently roll my eyes out of my head at the complete cliché-ness of it all.

Image result for check boxA Gradually Developed Romantic Relationship

As much as I’d love to be able to say: who needs romance, I can’t because the majority (not ALL, but the majority) of my favourite books involve a romantic relationship in some form or another. I really enjoy having some variation in the dynamics between characters. I want something to root for, to ship! However, when I say romance, I do not mean insta-love. One of the things that annoys me the most about romantic relationships in books is how often authors fail to properly develop it before the characters are dropping the ‘L’ bomb and diving headfirst into danger to save the other person. Insta-lust, totally cool. Love, nope, nope, I’m out.

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I’m looking for a gradual build up and an understanding of one another. More importantly, I don’t want the relationship to serve to damage or limit the involved characters. If it’s a story intending to show off a toxic relationship, that’s fine as it’s another kind of plot all together. But if this is something you’ve been dangling in front of my face for an extended period like the carrot before a donkey and it involves two characters I already love, the last thing I want is to see them reduced to shadows of their former selves. In other words, no “I forbid you to do that” or stupid, petty actions that are ridiculously out of character. A perfect example of this is Sarah J Maas’s relationship between Feyre and Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury (however, not all authors have the luxury of spending the majority of a 600 page book developing their romances). Also important is that the relationship serves to add to the entertainment of the story, not make me want to bash my head against a wall in frustration.

Image result for check boxFantastic Friendships

I mentioned romantic relationships earlier but friendships or close bonds between characters are another must for me in books. I love, love, love watching small groups of people with strong ties come together to support one another or fight against a greater threat. As you read, you can’t help but feel a part of the social circle yourself – whether it be a group of mothers as they support each other through domestic violence, false accusations of school bullying and general feelings of inadequacy in Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, or a gang of thieves as they attempt to rake in money for their own selfish exploits as in Six of Crows or The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Image result for friendship gif

Where would Eragon have been without the wise-cracking dwarf, Orik, or Gansey without Blue and the rest of the Raven Boys? Exciting plots may be one of the biggest parts of a great novel, but the best bits are the smaller movements between characters.

Image result for check boxExciting World Building

There is nothing I love better than falling into an original and amazing new world – one full of possibility, secrets, histories, maybe even magic. You know a world is great when you’re lapping up any chance to see more of it. Part of the wonder of the A Darker Shade of Magic books, for me, was the excitement of having so many different versions of the same city scattered through different dimensions. And then on top of that were the parts of Kell’s world alone which we never got to see. Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse was so wonderful that people were willing to read a whole different set of books just to see more of it. Meanwhile, Tolkien basically began the modern fantasy genre with the creation of Middle Earth. Never underestimate the power of an expertly crafted world. Just don’t rub my face in every little unnecessary detail of it (I’m looking at you, Tolkien).


I could sit here and talk for ages about more common threads like magic and training sequences but we’d be here forever. So I’ll leave it for now.

What characteristics do your favourite novels tend to have? It could be anything, small or big! General or specific! action sequences, poignant writing, wars, multiple character perspectives, a romantic relationship between best friends – what’s something that makes you fall in love with a story? I ask totally not to help me in my writing pursuits *cough*…

Love ash 2

 

Top 10 Tuesday: Villains, Criminals & Other Nasties

As usual, TTT is a weekly meme by the The Broke and the Bookish and it’s currently on hiatus so that means picking whatever takes my fancy from the list of previous topics. This week I’m doing villains. In no particular order here are some of what I consider to be the best:

Voldemort (Harry Potter Series –  J. K. Rowling)

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Snake-like face, soul split into multiple pieces in order to cheat death, set on murdering teenagers year after year… yep, as if I wasn’t going to put him on this list.

Ramsey Bolton (A Song of Ice and Fire – George RR Martin)

I’d wager that when you think about the crappiest of the Song of Ice and Fire villains your mind either jumps to a) Joffrey Baratheon or b) this little shit:

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When your favourite past times include flaying, raping, dismemberment, and feeding people to your dogs, you definitely deserve a spot on a top 10 villains list.

It or Pennywise (It – Stephen King)

Books don’t usually manage to scare me, but I’ll admit that for most of this novel I was a little bit nervous. If you aren’t afraid of clowns, this’ll help you understand why someone could be. A creepy, clown shaped, ancient entity that can make your worst fears a reality and spends his time eating children…

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Nope. Nope. Nope. I’m out.

Amy Dunn (Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn)

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I wish I could find a better way to describe Amy than this, but here it is: This bitch be crazy. Like verging on sociopath material. In a book full of shades of grey characters, it’s saying something that Amy’s able to stand out. I won’t say much about the why and how because SPOILERS but trust me, she belongs here for a reason.

The Darkling (Shadow & Bone – Leigh Bardugo)

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This is probably one of the few likeable villains on my list. And by likeable I mean I actually sat around thinking: if this guy basically succeeded in killing everyone else in the book right now, I’d probably be cool with that. That is some solid charisma right there. I can’t even explain it, he’s evil. Really, really evil. But do I like him more than the love interest? Yep, 100%.

Count Olaf (A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket)

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Count Olaf isn’t what you’d call a successful villain but you do have to give him points for determination. No matter how many times he’s defeated by three intelligent orphans, he’s back at it in the next book with another not so brilliant plan, a terrible disguise, and and high levels of self-confidence.

 

Annie (Misery – Stephen King)

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The second of the two King villains on this list. Anyone who will smash your legs with a sledgehammer to get you to write a novel, uses individual hairs as a security system, and can survive being hit in the head with a typewriter is someone to be very, very afraid of. Annie is, to put it bluntly, freakin’ crazy.

Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal – Thomas Harris)

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I love intelligent villains. Sure, crazy ones are fun on occasion but having a villain that actually poses a challenge for the hero in more than just a physical sense is fantastic. Hannibal is a great example of this. He’s articulate, calculating, suave, and well, happens to be a cannibal. While he’s not actually the central villain of either of these novels, there’s never a moment when you’re not wondering exactly what’s going on inside his head and suspecting that it’s something sinister.

The White Witch (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis)

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Anyone who can manage to turn sweets into something dodgy is bad news in my books. Sure, there’s the turning people into ice sculptures, killing Aslan, stopping the change of seasons and well, kind of removing all joy from the world, but honestly, for me, her biggest act of villainy is probably stopping Christmas from ever happening. How dare she! I LOVE Christmas.

The Witch King of Angmar (The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien)

So originally I was going to put Sauron in this spot but then I realised that he kind of does stuff all and just sits around on his fiery butt while everyone else does all the work for him. And then we have this guy…

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Head of the Nazgul, rides a massive dragon-like creature, almost kills Frodo with a poisoned blade, wields a mace like a nutjob, and is just generally creepy as all hell. No man can kill this guy. Lucky we had Eowyn.

The Six of Crows Book Tag

No Mourners, No Funerals

I’m sure there have been a whole heap of these already (including the booktube one which honestly didn’t really float my boat) but I’ve decided to do it anyway.  It’s been on my mind for ages to create my own Six of Crows tag. I’ve never made a tag before and I really love Six of Crows, so why not just go for it? The characters in Six of Crows are so diverse and fantastic that they just scream book tag so here they are – 6 characters, 6 questions. Sounds easy, right?

Rules:

  1. Link back to my blog, The Infinite Library, so I can check out your answers!
  2. Thank the person who tagged you.
  3. Answer the questions
  4. Tag as many or as few people as you wish to spread the fun and Six of Crows love

The Thief

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KAZ BREKKER: A LAYERED OR COMPLEX CHARACTER

Holland – A Darker Shade of Magic Series by V. E. Schwab: Holland’s an interesting character in that you’re unsure for quite a while as to what his nature truly is. A Conjuring of Light was great in that we learnt more about Holland’s history and how he came to be where he was when we first began the series. He’s a character far more on the grey scale than Kell due to the nature of the life he’s led. Although Holland’s means aren’t always the purest, deep down his intentions are good.


The Wraith

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INEJ GHAFA: A BOOK WITH A TWIST YOU DIDN’T SEE COMING

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – There’s a twist about two thirds of the way through which I really wasn’t expecting. It turned out not to be true later on but at the time, I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe I’d been so easily manipulated for so many chapters, much like one the main characters. Pesky AI…


The Sharpshooter

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JESPER FAHEY: AN AUTHOR THAT NEVER MISSES THE MARK

I’m going to cheat a little here and say Richelle Mead for this because until I read Soundless, I absolutely loved every book of hers I’d ever read and trust me when I say that her books take up a good shelf and a half of my bookcase all on their own.


The Heartrender

Nina

NINA ZENIK: A BOOK THAT BROKE YOUR HEART OR GAVE YOU ALL THE FEELS

My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult: This book was a roller coaster emotionally. The characters are written so well that you feel everything they do as if they were your own family. And just when you reach the end and you think it’s all over, the story punches you in the gut with the most devastating moment ever. I cried, massively. Then I re-read the book a few years later, and cried again. The final chapter was an absolute sob-fest.

Also special mention to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: So many character deaths plus having to deal with it being the end to one of my favourite series ever. * cries*


The Convict

Matthias

MATTHIAS HELVAR: A CHARACTER CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

Two for the price of one for this question.

Simon Lewis – The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare: Simon is a vampire and thus a downworlder. This makes things a little tricky as the members of his close circle of relationships are nearly all shadowhunters who don’t always have the best interactions with the downworlder community. Finding his place in between the two sides and working out where to stand on certain issues is a constant challenge for him but it also adds interesting conflict to his storylines.

Eugiene Markham (Dark Swan Series): Eugenie is a shaman, which means she’s paid to deal with troublesome fey who make their way into the human world. However once she becomes queen of a fairy dominion, things become very messy. She often faces difficulty reconciling the needs of her fey subjects with what she knows to be the right thing to do for humans. And of course, the fact that her two potential love interests also fall on different sides of the equation makes it even harder.


The Explosives Expert

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WYLAN VAN ECK: A BOOK THAT WENT OUT WITH A BANG OR A CLIFF-HANGER

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – It was all happening at the end of this book. We had a massive lightning bolt blow up an arena, Katniss being rescued by the resistance, finding out about the existence of District 13, Peta’s capture, and a whole host of other things. Definitely a bang.


And there you have it!

If you feel like engaging in a little bit of Six of Crows tagging fun, I tag you! Go forth and enjoy! Otherwise, here are nine lovely people I tag to share in the fun. As usual, if you don’t want to or don’t usually do these, I completely get it.

Nadwa @ Painfully Fictional

Mandy @ Book Princess Reviews

Raven @ Dreamy Addictions

Jackie @  Too Much of a Book Nerd (Maybe this will push her to actually read it!)

Nicole @ Live Life Reading (Same for you, Nicole!)

Judith @ Chain Interaction

Emma @ A Dreamer’s Library

Kawther @ The Villain Library

Sydney @ Fire and Rain Books