Battle of the Book Covers: US VS UK (Round 1)

We all love a good book cover. As the thing that invites you to want to pick up a book in the first place, it’s something extremely important to get right. But what’s even more challenging? Trying to design to equally good covers for the same book for different markets. I definitely do not envy cover designers’ jobs! As we all know, UK and US covers can often end up looking very different and I think it’s safe to say, that we all have our preferences. In the past, I have even been known to order the US version of a book online where I massively prefer the US cover to the UK cover found in Australian stores. For this reason, I thought it’d be fun to do a comparison of some US vs UK covers to see which versions come out on top. I’ve seen this done by a number of people in the past and couldn’t resist trying it out for myself. For reference, US covers will be on the left and UK on the right.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

This is a set of covers where I actually like both versions despite them being completely different from one another – one light, one dark, one graphic and the other using a real model. Normally I’m not a big fan of models on covers but I feel like this shot actually captures the serious tone of the book. Meanwhile, I like how simplistic the US version is. It’s clean and striking. So for this one I’m going to sit on the fence and give both a point.

VERDICT: Tie


One Of Us Is Lying – Karen M. McManus

The bold red text was good choice for both of these covers – very striking. However, while the UK cover definitely has more Breakfast Club vibes (one of the book’s influences), I like the look of the US cover more. I think the picture cutouts look kind of cool and the marker effect on the text itself is a nice touch.

VERDICT: US Cover


The Devouring Gray – Christine Lynn Herman

This cover match up was an easy winner for me. There’s nothing wrong exactly with the US cover, but I just can’t resist that neon lettering and foggy landscape on the UK cover. You can tell they’ve clearly tried to cash in on the Riverdale market with the design but we’ll let that slide. Also, fun fact, the UK edition comes with pink stained page edges to match the text.

VERDICT: UK Cover


Caraval – Stephanie Garber

What a tough match up. Designers took a similar approach to the style of both of these covers, they just happen to use different colouring, fonts and shapes. Just looking at the images, I’d say that I lean ever so slightly onto the US side of things. I prefer the font choice and the use of the blue against the red is gorgeous. But, owning the UK edition, I know that the cover is foiled and to use a technical term, it’s pretty-shiny. I also really like the cute little stars. *sigh* Decisions, decisions. Okay, I’m going US. Choosing and sticking with it.

VERDICT: US Cover


Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

Now, here we have two completely different cover designs. This is another tough decision. The US cover looks so damn badass. I love the use of the shadows and the text is pretty awesome. On the other hand, the art on the UK edition is gorgeous. The longer you look at it, the more of the smaller elements you pick up on within the overall artwork. I also love how bold the coloured suns on the front and back look against the rest of the black and white. A close race, but I’m going UK on this one.

VERDICT: UK Cover


I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson

Although the rainbow lines on the US cover are certainly eye catching and the overall look is cheerful, the UK cover takes this one for me. I love the use of yellow, the way the text looks painted on (which fits perfectly considering one of the characters is a painter), and the inclusion of the sun itself.

VERDICT: UK Cover


The Wicked Deep – Shea Ernshaw

Visually, I think both of these covers are very pretty. They have similar font choices and image motifs scattered throughout. Still, I’m going US. I love the pastel sheen look to the imagery and the text against the night sky background. It’s just super nice to look at.

VERDICT: US Cover


Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Another US win for this round. I just adore the simplicity of it. Also, how cute is the little ‘&’ sign formed out of the headphones? The UK cover looks a little blah to me. I think it might be that the paper cutouts seem a bit weird and wonky.

Verdict: US Cover


Circe – Madeline Miller

Another match up of two beautifully designed covers. I really like the contrast between the black and the gold imagery on the US cover. The design itself fits well with the fact that the story is based around Greek mythology. And yet…my heart is set on the UK cover. If I hadn’t seen it in real life it may have been a closer decision, but as I have, I know just how nice that coppery cover looks in real life. That metallic background against the beautifully designed floral patterning is simply stunning.

Verdict: UK Cover


Call it What You Want – Brigid Kemmerer

As with Caraval, the designers of these two covers have taken a very similar approach with regards to image choice and layout. The pink and blue of the UK cover is very sweet and bright, still I have to say I’m ever so slightly more a fan of the US edition. I like how the text changes to give emphasis to certain words and the way the coloured hearts stand out against the blue background. A close call though!

Verdict: US Cover

And that’s the end of round one! At this point the scoreboard reads as follows:

US Covers: 6 points

UK Covers: 5 points

It’s pretty close so far. Guess I’ll have to see how things change after the next match ups.

How did you score these covers? Was it the US or UK covers that caught your eye more?

Stabtastic: 7 Assassin Reads for When you Feel Like Something Bloody & Murderous

I love a good stabtastic read on occasion (totally a real, not at all made up word). After all, a little moral ambiguity is good for the household bookworm. Plus, if there’s one thing assassin stories aren’t, it’s boring. Well, at least the majority of the time. But what books are out there to fulfill the occasional need for something a little dark and potentially messy? Here are 7 books that may fit the bill.

Just to state up front, I haven’t read all of these so don’t hate on me if there’s something here that you weren’t so keen on.

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

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Let’s kick things off with the obvious pick – obvious because I freakin’ love this series. Nevernight is about a girl named Mia whose family is killed by the Emperor when she is ten years old. Six years later she sets out in search of a school for assassins called The Red Church in the hopes of making herself into a weapon strong enough to get revenge. The Red Church is hardcore though and if you can’t hack it as a student, you die. Simple as that. Mia also happens to be special in that she’s a Darkin – someone with the rare ability to control shadows. One of the ways her ability manifests itself is as a shadow companion in the shape of a cat which she calls Mr Kindly. Basically, it’s dark, bloody, sassy, a little smutty, and it’s fabulous.

Shelves: Adult, Revenge-Story, Training-Academy, Magic, Sass, Quotable.

Grave Mercy – Robin Lafevers

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This one is on my neverending TBR. Grave Mercy follows seventeen-year-old Ismae who is supposed to be married off to an older man. When a mark on her back identifying her as one of Death’s Daughters is found, she’s sent off to the convent at St. Mortain. Here, the nuns give her a choice – leave and marry, or stay and train as an assassin to serve as a handmaiden to Death (assassin nun). Following her training, she’s sent to court in Brittany to protect the young Duchess, Anne, from the French. To do this, she poses as mistress to Anne’s illegitimate half-brother, Gavriel Duval, who may or may not be acting against her. What will come as a shock to no one, Gavriel and Isame fall for each other. Like Mia in Nevernight, Isame also has special abilities in that she has an immunity to poisons and can talk to souls. Although the story does revolve around politcial espionage and mystery, it’s in large part a historical romance and does have a slower pace so keep that in mind.

Shelves: YA, Historical-Romance, Assassin-nuns, Alternate-History, Political-Intrigue, Mystery.

Red Sister – Mark Lawrence

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Sorry, did you just say you wanted MORE assassin nuns? Well, I aim to please. Red Sister is another book which utilises the good old training academy trope. It revolves around eight-year-old Nona Grey. Nona is taken in by the nuns of Sweet Mercy Convent after she shows signs of magical abilities derived from ancient bloodlines when she murders the son of a powerful man. The nuns offer her the opportunity to avoid execution by taking up a position as a novice and spending the next ten years training to become a fearsome warrior. RS spans over the first three years of Nona’s training. Much of the book is spent within the confines of the convent but there are also threats to Nona from the outside – the consequences of her actions before becoming a novice. Additionally, the book has a chosen one element and features a largely 90% female cast of badass characters.

Shelves: Chosen One, Magic, Assassin-Nuns, Strong-Female-Characters, Friendship, No-Romance, Training-Academies.

Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

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Come on, I had to do it. It’s not a fave of mine but could you imagine the rioting if I left it off? The Assasin’s Blade would probably be a better pick, but as ToG is the original, we’ll go with it instead. Book one in the series introduces us to Celaena Sardothien, trained assassin, and currently serving a life sentence in the salt mines of Endovier. In exchange for her freedom, Celaena is offered the chance to represent Prince Dorian as a candidate in his father’s to-the-death tournament to find a new royal assassin. Here she’ll be pitted against some of the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land, and either she’ll win or die trying. After books 1, 2 & the prequel, the series does direct focus away from the assassin vibe but Celaena’s history as an assassin and associated skills do play a big role in the other books. It’s high stakes fantasy with battles, faeries, magic and romance. But be prepared, the series is 8 books long so it’s going to take a WHILE.

Shelves: YA, Tournament, Royalty, Lost-Princess, Magic, Kickass-MC, Friendship, Book-Boyfriends.

Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb

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Robin Hobb is a big name in the fantasy genre and the Farseer trilogy is considered to be one of her best series. In Assassin’s Apprentice, we meet Fitz, the royal bastard. Fitz has difficulty finding his place, something made worse by the fact that he has a magical link with animals known as the Wit – a craft hated by the nobility. Once he gets older, Fitz is adopted into the royal household and begins training to become the royal assassin. The books follow Fitz’s adventures and trials, dealing with politics, war, loss and revenge. This is another series that starts out slow. However, the books were so popular that they spawned two more series about the character.

Shelves: High-Fantasy, Royalty, Magic, Mentor-Apprentice, Coming-of-Age, Politics, Underdog-Protagonist.

Graceling – Kristin Cashore

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Another kick-ass leading lady and another romance style fantasy. Our MC is Katsa – a girl born with a Grace (exceptional skill or talent) for killing people. Because of this, she serves as a thug for the king, her uncle, travelling across the land killing, torturing and instilling nightmares. However, as she grows up Katsa starts to question her role. One day she comes across Po, a graced man as talented in fighting as she is. He turns out to be a Prince who has come searching for his kidnapped grandfather. The two start up a friendship and set out together to track down the kidnappers. As you’d expect, the two also fall in love. The book is a series of three which changes focus characters each time around. It’s won a bunch of awards, has a 4.12 average GR rating, and known to contain one of the most loveable romantic interests around. Although, I should note that the feminism aspect to this novel is very much on the side of: reject all things considered to be feminine and girly.

Shelves: YA, Romance, Friends-to-Lovers, Adventure, Magic, Coming-of-Age, Action, Radical Feminism, Kingdoms-and-Royals

The Way of Shadows – Brent Weeks

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This book is one of those weird ones where the average Goodreads rating is high and the top reviews are negative. Probably because the story itself has some issues but people seem to enjoy it as a sort of guilty pleasure read? The first book in the Night Angel series introduces us to Azoth, a guild rat who lives a miserable existence in the slums. To escape his situation, he apprentices himself to renowned Wetboy (aka super assassin) Durzo Blint. Azoth is forced to leave his old life entirely behind and is given a new name, Kylar Stern. He then begins his training in magic, fighting and poisons to become a Wetboy himself. His skills are soon put to the test when his city is threatened. While the dialogue is supposedly questionable at times, and the attitudes towards women could use a lot of work, The Way of Shadows is supposedly an action packed and fast paced ride. If you enjoy fantasy tropes, this book includes a few of them. The book doesn’t involve much focus on world building, although the magic system is reportedly pretty interesting, and instead directs attention to plot and characters.

Shelves: Adult, Grim-Dark, Action, Magic, Coming-of-Age, Male-Protagonist, Mentor-Apprentice.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

What’s your favourite assassin themed book?

The Sims Book Tag

It’s book tag time! I actually discovered this tag last year and while I began working on my answers, for some reason I never ended up completing and publishing it. I’ve probably spent about half my life building up sim skills and moving them up various career ladders (what is this word ‘outside’ people keep throwing at me?) so this seems like the perfect tag for me.

The Original Sims – the Best Author Debut

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Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

There are quite a few books I could have picked for this one but I’ve gone with Outlander. The amount of research and detail in this book considering it’s an author debut is pretty darn amazing. Plus it has great characters, a fab romance, an engaging plot, and even made the bestseller list.

The Grim Reaper – Saddest Character Death

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My Sister’s Keeper (Jodi Picoult)

Only two questions in and already a super hard one as there are a lot of deaths in books that have really sucked. I’ve gone with this one because it hit me like a ton of bricks. I just wasn’t expecting it, at all, especially after everything with the trial had finally been resolved. There are only a couple of books that have actually managed to bring me to tears. This is one of them.

Bonus: Crooked Kingdom, Harry Potter Series

Sims Getting Stuck – a Character that Just Got in the Way

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Agatha Wellbelove (Carry On – Rainbow Rowell)

*sigh* Agatha, Agatha, Agatha. Baz thinks Simon’s still dating Agatha, Simon thinks Agatha’s having an affair with Baz, Agatha wants to break up with Simon, and really Baz and Simon just need to be together. But will Agatha just clear things up for everyone? Nope, that’d be too easy. And let’s not even get started on how NOT helpful she is at the climax of the novel.

Simlish – A Book with Amazing Writing

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The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

I’ve mentioned my love for this particular book before. It’s one of my favourites. The writing is lovely and by the end you feel like you’ve known the characters their entire lives. It breaks my heart a little more each time I read it.

Expansion Packs – A Series where the Books Keep on Getting Better

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Red Rising (Pierce Brown)

You guys know how I feel about this series. It started off a bit rough, picked up and then kept soaring skyward forever after. The battles get bigger and the stakes higher, you get more invested in the characters, and it’s just impossible to put the books down. Plus, it’s rare to find a series with as strong a finale as this one.

Sim Romance – The Worst Case of Insta-Love

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Fallen (Lauren Kate)

I really, really hate insta-love. I just can’t deal. My eyes always almost end up rolling out of my head, and unfortunately it comes up a lot in YA. I read Fallen back in high school and could not believe how ridiculous the romance was. Daniel is terrible to Luce for ages after that “meet” and she’s still like, ‘I’m so drawn to him’. No. Just stop.

Cheats – a Book that was Entirely Unrealistic

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The Paper Swan – Leylah Attar

I actually DNF this book at about half way because it was so awful and ridiculous. The plot of the story involves the main character being kidnapped to hold her father to ransom. She is treated absolutely abysmally by her kidnapper (we’re talking a severed finger here) and immediately after she finds out who he is (someone from her past – I mean, come on, really), it’s as if she completely wipes her memory of everything he’s done to her and decides to fall head over heels for him. Still can’t believe it.

Needs Fulfillment – a character who made all the wrong decisions

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Ned Stark (A Game of Thrones – George RR Martin)

Oh Ned, you were such a good guy and not at all cut out to the play the game you stumbled into. So many wrong decisions that unfortunately led to your head on a pike, which was unfortunately necessary for the plot to really get going.

Error Code 12 – A Series that Started off Great but went Downhill from there

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The Mortal Instruments Series – Cassandra Clare

Many years ago, I completely fell in love with City of Bones. It had witty and hilarious dialogue, fantastic world building, some mystery, a great ship, and strong female characters. I devoured City of Ashes and City of Glass as they came out, and then came City of Fallen Angels. *shakes head* I have never been so disappointed in my life. The characters were annoying, the plot ridiculous, and even the humour had lost its lustre. I’m determined to go back and finish the series though so that I can read The Dark Artifices which I think may have returned to quality.

Special mention: Divergent Series

The Sims Vortex – a book/series that completely engrossed you

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Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

I adore this series. Just powered through in a way I haven’t with many books in recent years. I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on Darkdawn and find out how it all ends. It’s funny, gory, exciting, and Mia is the ultimate badass. A definite favourite.

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As always, no tags. If you want to do it, GOOOOOOOOO for it.Love Ashley

Top 10 Tuesday: My Favourite Series

Recently I stumbled upon an old video by book vlogger, Christine Riccio, in which she was talking through her top ten favourite book series. Suddenly I thought, you know what, why don’t I do that as a Top Ten Tuesday topic? (I mean, I never seem to do the set topics like I’m supposed to anyway…)

Of course, then I realised that picking my favourite series is actually ridiculously hard and involves a lot of questions of ‘would I rather read this or that’? And, ‘is it how I feel about the series now or are we going retrospective here’? Decisions, decisions… *shakes head* Anyway, so these are the ten I’ve ended up with and to my surprise there’s actually a lot of books I’ve only discovered in the last two years.

So the rules are simple:

  1. The series must consist (or will consist once they’re all released) of at least three books. That means no duologies – sorry, Six of Crows.
  2. I must have read at least two books in the series for it to count.

Sounds simple enough right?

Of course it’s not bloody simple. Being a bookworm is NEVER simple, I tell ya. But regardless, here they are, in no particular order (because having to do it like that might actually kill me):

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As if you didn’t see this coming. HP is my favourite series of all time. I could read these every year until the day I die and still not get sick of them (…probably). I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up with them but they’re still just as good as the first time. Every time I read them, I laugh, fall into the pits of sadness, and experience that strange sense of wonder that only the magic of Harry Potter can provide. These are the ultimate comfort books and one day, if I ever have kids, I’ll be cracking out my illustrated editions to hopefully instil the same love and appreciation in them.

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Ah, VA. You have such a terrible name and teenager-y covers and yet, the wonders you hold inside… I’ve read this series so many times and I love it. Love, love, LOVE it. So many vampire books from this period slowly became cliché or lost their “sparkle” as I aged (get it? I made a terrible Twilight joke) but these ones are still gold.  Rose remains one of my favourite protagonists, I adore the friendship between Rose and Lissa, there’s an adequate amount of kicking ass, and the dialogue is still hilarious. Plus, I’ll likely ship Rose & Dimitri til the day I die. In other words, it’s the perfect recipe for a great series as far as I’m concerned.

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My discovery from 2017 and I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT IT. Book three doesn’t come out until later this year but good things come to those who wait. The series has a unique, amusing and sometimes brash narrator, world building based on ancient Rome, an absolute bad-ass main character in Mia, and really interesting magical elements.  Godsgrave was the first sequel in a while that I was desperately keen to get my hands on the day and minute it came out (and I wasn’t disappointed!), and I feel like that adequately sums up my love for these books.

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Ah, Schwaby. Your novels make my little bookish heart sing. I adore the characters, world building, magic, and storytelling. Her writing is fantastic and I love it so much that I can’t wait to read them all again without having to wait in between novels.  This series has parallel universes, powerful magics, charismatic pirates, a thief, racially and sexually diverse characters, and an exciting plot in every book. Adventuring with Kell, Rhy, Lila and Alucard is where it’s at, guys.

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I fell in love with this series when I was about ten years old and it’s still one of my favourites. Sure, it has a lot of stuff I now know to be fantasy tropes but I don’t really care. Alanna is the definition of a strong female MC – willing to spend years as a boy just to become a knight. There’s a love triangle with a prince and a thief, a war,  a conniving magician after the throne, quests to far off places, magical artefacts, goddesses, and well, everything my fantasy loving heart desires. Better yet, the books are super short and perfect for reading in an afternoon when you’re stuck at home.

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Yep, I’m a cookie cutter YA fantasy fan. I ain’t ashamed  of it. You guys know all about this one, I’m sure. This series re-interested me in faerie stories. While book one was a bit average, books two and three are fantastic. The fantasy world is well developed, all of the major characters are fleshed out and loveable, there’s a strong and emotionally realistic female protagonist, and the romance is gradually built up and balanced. There’s magic (which I’m always a sucker for), battles, betrayals, many, many couples to ship, and emotional turmoil. Definite winner.

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The newest addition to this list. I actually had to make some modifications to my original draft because I knew I needed this one on here. For the first 50 or so pages of RR I was so bored but then we hit Darrow’s transformation from red to gold and I was hooked. Space battles, squabbling and politics between powerful families, revenge vendettas, a group of rebels determined to overthrow a cruel regime, friendships and betrayals, gasp worthy twists, just everything really. Impossible to put down sci-fi.

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Okay, I’ll admit, I still haven’t read the last book in this series – I WILL GET THERE! I’ve read book 3 once and I’ve read books 1 & 2 a bazillion times. Once again this is another series I now know has a lot of fantasy tropes in it but don’t care. I love it. It’s the definitive dragons in fantasy series for me. Eragon and Saphira make the perfect team and I love nothing better than following them around Alegaesia in their quests to overthrow the evil  Galbatorix. There’s also amusing dwarf sidekicks, MORE magic and an awesome warrior-elf princesses. Just don’t talk to me about that travesty of a movie.

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This series is just so much fun. It’s funny, ridiculously action packed, and has actually managed to successfully get me with multiple plot twists. I mean, a hacker with pink hair, crazy AI, zombie-like outbreak, and an interstellar war. Who could say no to that? I’m really excited to get my hands on book three in March because I know it’s bound to be awesome. I also love the variations in writing style which are so different from the things I normally read and give the books a little something extra.

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Everyone needs a guilty pleasure series and this is mine. Richelle Mead is one of my favourite authors. She writes complex, witty female characters (which Georgina is, for sure), and she’s always able to make me laugh out loud. I’ll admit that this series does have a bit of a weak point around book four but overall it’s fun, sexy and really entertaining. But then again, what else would you expect of a series about a succubus?

Bonus

This was HARD okay. I just love too many books. AHHHH!! So two more bonus series just for fun.

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This isn’t a series for everyone – there’s a lot of information to take in about the world itself but if you can get past that, it’s fab. The story evolves quite a bit over time with different elements of the world and characters being fleshed out as you go along. Paige is a solid protagonist in her balance between strong and vulnerable, there’s an interesting magic system, and a good blend between the bigger stakes of the dystopian world with the issues of the criminal underworld.

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The good old Hunger Games. What can I say about this except that it’s a fantastic dystopian YA series with good world building, a strong protagonist, and a great concept. I’ve read these through several times and they’re still exciting reads that manage to drive knives through your gut (repeatedly) whilst still managing to give you some hope for the future.

Let’s Talk:

What are some of your favourite series? Are any of these in your top 10 or are you thinking about reading them some time soon?

Love Ashley

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books of 2017

And it’s time to get back into good old Top Ten Tuesday. This week is a nice, easy topic – my favourite reads of this year. So far, I’ve read 40 books in 2017 which is pretty decent for me – I watch far too much TV and play a lot of video games. I marvel at all you amazing people who reach over 100. Teach me your ways! Anyway, here were the books I enjoyed most this year (plus links to the reviews I actually got my lazy butt to write). There’s nothing surprising or niche here, but hey, just means these books deserve the hype they get which is a great thing.

1. Nevernight (Jay Kristoff) – 5 STARS

Pure amazingness. It was the book I didn’t even know I needed in my life until I read it. The sequel was just as fab and probably should have been on this list too. Can’t wait for the next one.

 2. A Conjuring of Light (V. E. Schwab) – 4.5 STARS

A fantastic conclusion to one of my now favourite series, from one of my now favourite authors. Victoria Schwab, you are amazing. Your characters, writing, and world building completely stole my heart.

3.  A Court of Mist and Fury (Sarah J. Maas) – 5 STARS

The book that helped me understand the craze that is SJM and made me fall in love with the series. Such a fantastic novel and it flew by like it was nothing. Thank god I pushed myself to give this sequel a go.

4. Strange the Dreamer (Laini Taylor) – 4 STARS

 In one word – gorgeous. The writing, the characters, the world building. Much love.

5. Gemina (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff) – 4 STARS

Non-stop action, humour, great characters, and a lot of fun. I love this series and I can’t wait for Obsidio to come out next year!

 6. An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaar Tahir) – 4 STARS

Another book that managed to take me by surprise. I had a great time reading this one and have already bought the sequel ready to go.

7. Cinder (Marissa Meyer) – 4 STARS

I majorly underestimated this book and it ended up being really enjoyable. I’ve heard amazing things about this series for ages and I’m glad I finally decided to give it a go.

8. Geekerella (Ashley Poston) – 4 STARS

My second attempt at reading YA contemporary for 2017. Such a fun, light book that ended up being so much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Plus, it appeased my inner geek girl.

9. This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab) – 4 STARS

The concept for this one alone makes it a standout. Schwab once again creates great characters and surrounds them with a really engaging concept.

10. The Bone Season (Samantha Shannon) – 4 STARS

Yes, it was a re-read but it counts because it was just as awesome as before. Heavy world building, yes, but very enjoyable.

Gladiators, Shadows, and More Bad-Ass-ery: Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

5 stars

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It’s book review time! So, I may or may not have been getting a little carried away with my gif usage these days and for this reason I’m stating up front that there will be no gifs in this review. None. Nada. Zip. For today, I’ll just have to rely on my natural born wit and grasp of the English language. *crickets* Yeah…let’s see how this goes.

I’d be pretty much lying if I didn’t say that as soon as I got my hands on this little beauty I was rushing to page one, existing TBR be damned. “But what about usss…?” called the books that had been sitting on my shelves for several months already. Too bad little bookies, Godsgrave waits for NO MAN! (Or woman).

All I can say is, by the gods it was good.

Usually, with such a strong first entry in a series, there’s always the worry that the next book will suffer from sequel-itis: a condition known for its ability to incite high levels of disappointment whilst simultaneously being the ruin-er of all literary dreams. But to quote Aragorn, my friends, it is not this day! Err…book. This book is the bringer of all things nice. And by nice I mean lots of fantastically gratuitous violence, smuttiness, shady characters, and twisty-turn-y plot-y bits.

Plot

According to Mr Kristoff, Godsgrave begins about 8 months after the end of Nevernight. Can I just say, I hate big time jumps in books and TV series. Despise them. I always end up feeling like a bunch of my friends went on holiday without me and have come back with a whole lot of in jokes, serving as a constant reminder of the fact that I missed out. So you can imagine the panic that set in when he said this at the book signing. However, thank my lucky stars, it wasn’t a problem here. As with book one, Godsgrave utilises a sizeable amount of flashbacks to slowly build our understanding of what’s happening in the present to a more dramatic effect. Here, these flashbacks serve to fill in the events of that eight-month gap and both storylines are so equally entertaining that you’re not sure whether to be happy or disappointed when you suddenly swap between the two.

Like Nevernight, Godsgrave is definitely a roller coaster. While we may have moved past Mia waking up to a rooms full of poisonous gas, there’s definitely no shortage of threats to keep her on her toes. This is especially so considering she’s made the career change from assassin to gladiator in this book (Mia’s clearly not into jobs which come with a decent life expectancy or dental). Remaining a revenge tale at its heart, Godsgrave centres on Mia’s most recent plan as to how to get justice for the deaths of her family but as you can probably expect, this road ain’t exactly a smooth one. I believe Mr Kindly best summed this up when he claimed:

“… this entire plan is oversight and folly, stitched together by jiggery-fuckery…”

However, the lack of forward thinking didn’t make the journey any less fun. I absolutely loved the scenes depicting Mia’s gladiatorial fights. They’re fast paced, exciting, and the right degree of gore-y that we’ve come to expect from Kristoff by now. Plus, I never get tired of seeing Mia kick a little ass.

Once again, the story is not without romantic elements, which provide a nice balance to the intrigue, secrets and violence.  Now, because I’m a nice person who doesn’t spoil things for people (ahem, except that one time where I accidentally revealed the end of La La Land to someone), let’s just call this person ‘Viper’. The back and forth between Viper and Mia is quite well done. This relies on maintaining a very delicate balance between growing attraction and affection, and deeply rooted feelings of betrayal and mistrust. I actually grew to like this relationship (shockingly) because despite everything Viper’s done, by damn if they aren’t a witty, morally ambiguous, and enjoyable character. I mean, this person has done a crap-ton of bad stuff but by the end I was like: mass murder, what mass murder? Oh that. Minor mishap. Probably deserved it. But my appreciation for the relationship was more in terms of the conversations had and the reactions brought out in one another rather than the actual romance itself. If I had to choose, it’d be Mia and Tric every time.

Some of this book’s bigger plot twists were a little on the predictable side but because they make sense as well as serve as good narrative choices, it’s easily forgiven. The only other minor problem for me was the massive amounts of unanswered questions. Yes, I understand that this is a SERIES and that there’s still another book to go but after all the loose threads that were dangled in book one, I feel like we were offered very little progress on them at all, particularly when it came to Mia’s abilities.  I mean some tentacle-y thing saves your life then spouts a whole bunch of darkin related riddles at you and you don’t even bother to pick up a book? Shame on you Mia Corvere. Also, damn you, Jay Kristoff and your gloriously distracting fight sequences involving enormous killer worms!

Writing

For those of you wondering, yes, the footnotes are back. Although, I now have it on good authority (aka Mr Kristoff) that they’re not actually required reading. They’re intended for those interested in knowing more about the world and you can skip them if you wish. But will I skip them? Of course bloody not. I’m a completionist, damn it! And I shall read every footnote in this book until useless facts about Itreya are bleeding out of my eyeballs…Okay, (a) gross and (b) makes no sense…moving on. Believe it or not, the footnotes have actually started to grow on me. Probably because there were less of them this time around, meaning fewer interruptions during important bits. That is, except for that one footnote before the first chariot race which was so gold, I’m not even mad.

The writing is still very funny, in large part due to the interactions between Mia’s familiars, Mr Kindly and Eclipse, and the fact that Kristoff’s narrator is once again in fine form. There were several moments where I actually laughed out loud and got some weird looks from people on the train during peak hour. Don’t worry mate, I’d give me funny looks too. But humour aside, Kristoff continues to spout some quite wonderful phrases definitely worthy of a good highlight on the old kindle. Here are a couple of my favourites:

“If Vengeance has a mother, her name is Patience.”

“Problem with being a librarian is there’s some lessons you just can’t learn from books. And the problem with being an assassin is there’s some mysteries you just can’t solve by stabbing fuck out of them.”

“I know this much. Some answers are learned. But the important ones are earned.”

Characters

Mia is back at her murderous, sharp-tongued best in book two, as are several other familiar faces. Due to the change of setting, we’re also introduced to a bunch of new characters this time around. Instead of crafty, pick-pocketing assassins, we’ve got sword-wielding, piss in your porridge, and sing opera in the bathtub gladiators. Cue the yells of “Are you not entertained?!” Kristoff does a great job of explaining the ins and outs of his world on a regular basis but I found the stories of each gladiator, particularly their lives before slavery and how they ended up sold into it, a fantastic other window into what Itreya is really like beyond the big city lights of Godsgrave. Okay, more like big city torches. Even though many of these characters may not have been featured very heavily, each individual provided interesting dialogue and a sense of spark to the novel, especially during the quieter moments. They also served an important role in helping Mia to retain that vital sense of humanity necessary to a great anti-hero.

Overall, a fantastic follow up to an amazing first novel. I feel like my attitude to this book can be summed up perfectly in one question: WHERE IS THE NEXT ONE? If you haven’t started this series yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough. What are you waiting for? Snap to it!

5 wonderful stars

Assassins, Shadows, and just General Bad-Ass-ery: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

5 stars

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I finished Nevernight this week and this is a pretty accurate summation of the state I was in:

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I put off  buying Nevernight for months – my addiction to Goodreads in terms of picking books really didn’t work in my favour in this case. Every time I’d log on, I’d chicken out because boy are the reviews strongly at each end of the spectrum for this one. Let’s just say that with those who didn’t enjoy it, you can feel the searing hate through your screen. Now here we are, and my response to past Ashley for taking so long to get her ass into gear and read this is pretty much:

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There’s no other way to say it except that this book was the bomb and officially one of my new favourites.

Plot

The central character of the novel is sixteen-year-old, Mia Corvere. She’s small, skinny, a total bad-ass, and set on getting revenge against those who destroyed her family. Yep, this story is at its very heart a revenge tale. But in order for Mia to achieve her goals, she needs to shape herself into the kind of weapon that can take on powerful members of the political structure and win. And that means it’s training time. Woo! *dances* You guys know how much I love training sequences in books, and this one is almost entirely devoted to them as Mia learns the ins and outs of becoming a skilled assassin at a specialised school known as ‘The Red Church’. Just think Hogwarts except with fewer students, more sword fighting, suckier food, and if Snape had actually been allowed to poison people throughout the year. As time passes we see Mia develop her abilities in a number of areas including physical combat, theft, toxicology, and er…more subtle, persuasive and information gathering arts. If this doesn’t already sound exciting to you (what is wrong with you?) then let me say that Kristoff is an author who excels  at constantly keeping readers on their toes. Just when you think events are starting to calm down, BAM… a student’s been murdered, BAM…Mia and friends are fleeing from city guards, or BAM…the room is filling with poisonous gas.

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It’s an exciting ride full of twists and turns in which you never know exactly who to trust or what will happen next. There’s action, gore, romance, mystery, magic, and sand krakens, what else could you want from a fantasy plot?

Writing

Writing wise, the world Kristoff has created is very interesting but quite complex and clearly takes a degree of inspiration from Ancient Rome. I’ll admit, that there’s a great deal about it that I don’t fully understand yet but that’s probably due to the fact that (a) Mia spends most of the novel away from it all and (b) there’s a crap-ton to grasp because we’re given insights into so many different aspects of the world.

And finally we’ve arrived at that dreaded subject: the footnotes. I don’t know about you guys, but up until now I’d never seen fiction with footnotes before and I had a very love-hate relationship with them here. They’re a split between the narrator’s commentary on particular scenes and providing information about objects, people, locations and events that pop up in passing throughout the story. On many occasions, they’re quite funny. The reader isn’t told exactly who the narrator is, only that they’re someone who knew Mia well, and I enjoyed their sarcastic attitude. On other occasions, the footnotes act merely as an annoying distraction only to provide a sometimes very long winded explanation of something I really couldn’t care less about (wine, anyone?). Some of this info proves relevant later in the novel but some of it doesn’t. Perhaps in Godsgrave?

A lot of people who disliked the book pay lots of attention to Kristoff’s writing style and his love of similes and metaphors, among other things. In my case, after the first fifty pages or so I really didn’t notice these things much because I was far too engrossed in the story. When I first started, I was a bit uneasy – there wasn’t a clear divide between past and present and the style was slightly odd (particularly, in the use of ‘O, this’ and ‘O, that’) but for me these wrinkles were soon smoothed out and events became so much clearer, especially in terms of the flashbacks. So push through guys! But honestly, with dialogue gems like, “If you’d like to go somewhere and quietly fuck yourself, I’ll be waiting here patiently for your return”, quit your complaining.

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Characters

Last, but certainly not least, the characters. I really liked Mia as a protagonist. She’s a strong woman but she does have her vulnerabilities which mean that despite the violence of her actions, she never loses her human quality. As a darkin, Mia also has access to a specific kind of magic centred around shadows. These abilities are accompanied by a familiar of sorts which takes the form of a cat whom she refers to as ‘Mister Kindly’. MK and Mia have a great sense of back and forth – there’s the occasional amusing witticism and MK often acts as a voice of reason in certain situations where impulsive Mia requires one. Mia’s love interest and friend, Tric, is also very likeable. He too is a strong character but in a different way from Mia. He’s got an interesting backstory, a cool quirk in his heightened sense of smell, and his romance with Mia doesn’t turn the two of them into complete blithering idiots. So, there’s that. Mia’s friend Ash is free-spirited, will steal anything not nailed to the ground, and more complex than she originally seems. The other characters are a bit smaller in scale but all serve to add to the story rather than existing merely as two-dimensional window dressing.

Basically, I’m in love. I need Godsgrave. I need more. If you’re looking for me, I’ll just be patiently standing over here, staring at the ceiling until September arrives.

5 stars

(Also: New graphics! Let me know what you think).

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Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School

So, first up, sorry for the lack of posts last week. Turns out that getting home at 8 PM multiple days in a row is not conducive to publishing blog posts but I promise that this week I will back in full force – tags, memes, reviews and discussions. Let’s get the ball rolling with TTT.

This week’s topic is Back to School and the lovely ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish  have given us quite a bit of freedom as to how we interpret this. I’ve decided to go fairly literal and discuss books that involve schools or academies of some kind. It’s a bit of an odd collection of books but eh, my blog, my list. In no particular order…

1. Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

My current, amazing read. This novel features a “school” of sorts except that in this instance it’s focused on shaping its students into proficient assassins. With the teachers not above theft, poisoning, dismemberment, and torture, the trick is surviving the training process. Yikes!

2. Vampire Academy Series – Richelle Mead

I was the biggest fangirl of this series in my mid and later high school years. You’d think it’d be the most trope-y, lame thing ever, but it’s not (well, in my opinion). This series was when I first fell in love with one of my favourite authors – Richelle Mead.  A school that teaches it’s students to use elemental magic and kill bad vampires, yep, sign me up.

3. This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab

To be honest I actually wasn’t expecting a school setting for the first half of this book.  I don’t know what I was expecting, really. Regardless, the two main characters meet at school while one is doing reconnaissance and it all ends up a mess from there (for the characters that is, not the plot because this book was great!).

4. Nineteen Minutes – Jodi Picoult

Quite a socially relevant book for the United States when it came out, a time in which school shootings were regularly in the news. It’s an interesting look at the students, teachers and families linked to a high school in the lead up to and aftermath of a shooting by one of the students. Both emotional and a little scary.

5. Harry Potter Series – J. K. Rowling

I’ll probably use Harry Potter on almost every list I ever create from here until the end of time but I think you can see why it’s justified here. Hogwarts: the most awesome magic school in literature. Enough said.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

The events that make up this novel are triggered by the main character, Charlie, starting high school. It’s here that he meets the interesting cast of characters that we follow throughout that year. We get the usual high school story plot points – the big dance, relationship dramas, bullying, house parties – and yet they never seem to feel cliché here.

7. The Raven Cycle – Maggie Stiefvater

The focus of these books isn’t the school setting, especially considering the characters always seem to be busy dealing with other things like disappearing forests, mixed up timelines, searching for dead kings, and so on. However, Aglionby Academy does play a role in shaping the characters’ identities – Ronan’s disregard for his studies, Adam’s dedication to them, Gansey’s outward appearance as the almost stereotypical Aglionby student, etc. Plus, it’s the whole reason the boys are referred to as ‘The Raven Boys’.

8. The Austere Academy – Lemony Snickett

Across the thirteen books that make up A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaires find themselves in every possible setting you can imagine – a circus, a reptile house, ski slopes, a submarine, a mill, and of course, a prestigious preparatory academy. As with every book in the series, it’s weird and yet very enjoyable.

9. The Mediator Series – Meg Cabot

Going back to my tween years with this one. I used to love this series. Suze is a catholic school student with the ability to see ghosts. She often has to work with her school principal, Father Dominic, to work out what’s going on with restless spirits in order to get them to move on. The first book involves her trying to rid her school of a very angry former student turned poltergeist.

10. IT – Stephen King

I’m probably stretching things with this one but whatever. In one of the two concurrent story lines, the characters are all kids aged about 12 or 13 and attend the same school which is how they meet one another. It also means they all happen to attract the attention of the same awful, older bully.