March TBR: Challenging Myself and Some Re-Reads

I don’t usually do posts like this, mostly because my mood reader little self hates boxing herself in unless it’s for a readathon. However, this month I feel like a small challenge (6 books instead of my usual 4 of late) and providing a sense of structure to March. One of the reasons for abandoning a large yearly reading goal for 2020 was to encourage myself not to be afraid to tackle bigger books and do re-reads. This month I feel like doing some of the latter. Here are the books I’ll be reading and re-reading this month:

RE-READS

Red Rising (red rising 1#) – Pierce Brown

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I first read the original 3 books in The Red Rising Saga back in early 2018 and absolutely loved them. Books 2 & 3 ended up sharing the no. 2 spot on my top 10 of the year and I count the series as one of my favourites. Lately I’ve been really craving a re-read and my recent purchase of Dark Age (book 5) has only made the feeling stronger. I still haven’t gotten around to reading Iron Gold (book 4) but I’m expecting that the momentum from re-reading the first three will carry me through into finally finishing it. I’m so keen to get back to Pierce’s amazing characters, exciting action and wonderful world building.

Clockwork angel (The infernal devices 1#) – Cassandra Clare

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Yes, I am caving to the Chain of Gold excitement. I can’t help myself. I know, I know, okay? I get terrible FOMO! My problem is though, the last time I read The Infernal Devices books they’d only just been released! In other words, I was 15 when I read Clockwork Angel. FIFTEEN. Baby Ashley. Anyway, my point is that I feel an extremely strong need to do a re-read of the series to (a) see if they’re still as enjoyable and (b) refresh my memory of the characters and world in this timeline. I’m kind of worried they won’t hold up, but I guess I just have to put my faith in Will Herondale and his cannibalistic ducks.

NEW READS

The Diviners (The Diviners 1#) – Libba Bray

I’m cheating with this one slightly as I started reading it in late Feb and am close to finishing it now. But as I’ll complete it in March, it counts towards this month. I remember picking up this book at the bookstore multiple times in recent years but somehow it took me until this year to buy it. Clearly I was sleeping on it in a big way. I never realised just how much love there was for this series about a group of teens with special abilities facing down ghosts in 20s New York. The last book in the series was released last month so at least I don’t have to wait in between installments.

The Bromance Book Club – Lyssa Kay Adams

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To balance out the heavier fantasy and sci-fi reads for this month, I thought I’d slide in this fun, little romantic contemporary about a bunch of baseball players in Nashville who start a romance book club to help them with their relationships. The MC, Gavin, turns to the club for help when his wife, Thea, requests a divorce. These types of books are always great mood boosters when you’re having a not so great day (or week) and I seem to fly through them very quickly. Hopefully it’ll give me a laugh and a few ‘aww’ moments. Plus, if I like it, the follow up novel – Undercover Bromance – releases this month.

The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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I’ve been sitting on an audible credit ever since I finished Becoming by Michelle Obama last month. This is mainly because I had no idea what to use it on but I feel pretty happy about my decision. The Dutch House has a 4.22 average Goodreads rating, it’s narrated by the loveable Tom Hanks, and it’s less than 10 hours long. Sounds good to me. Designed as a sort of modern fairy tale and taking place over five decades, the book focuses on a dysfunctional family, specifically the bond between a brother and sister, and their connection with their childhood home. It’ll likely be very different from the things I normally read but I’m looking forward to it.

All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban

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I’m probably starting to push it numbers wise for me at this point but eh, why not add another one. All Your Twisted Secrets is actually an upcoming release and will come out on the 17th. Based on the pricing for hardbacks that I can see, I’ll likely be kindle-ing this one. This book definitely captured my attention the first time I came across it – a dinner party in which a group of students are locked in with a bomb and forced to choose one among them to die by poison or risk all getting blown to smithereens. It’s a pretty exciting concept. Hopefully the execution of the idea is just as good. Fingers crossed.


That makes 6. I’m hoping that due to the sheer enjoyment factor I’ll get through a few of these faster than I ordinarily would. Also, since I’ll be covering physical, e-book and audiobook formats, I’ll be able to read multiple books at the same time. Anyway, we’ll see how things go.

What books are you tackling in March?

Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Friendships in Books

This week’s TTT topic, thanks to host Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl, is platonic relationships in books. I’ve decided to go all basic and just do friendships because there are few things I love more than balanced, well developed and amazing friendships in the books I read. So here are ten of my favourites, of which there are TOO many (and yes, expect to see a lot of frequented choices, sorry not sorry).

Will Herondale & Jem Carstairs (The Infernal Devices Series – Cassandra Clare)

  • They’re so close, they’re basically brothers
  • Jem tells Will when he’s being ridiculous, risky and over the top (demon pox). Will encourages Jem to get out and have hope for the future even though he’s technically dying
  • Even though they’re in love with the same girl, they’re both willing to accept Tessa’s choice and just be happy for their friend because they honestly believe he deserves it *heart tingles*
  • Badass parabatai warriors

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Rose Hathaway & Lissa Dragomir (Vampire Academy series – Richelle Mead)

  • Rose dedicates her whole life to protecting Lissa and is willing to beat up anyone who hurts her (even emotionally)
  • Lissa brought both Rose’s boyfriend, Dimitri, AND Rose back from the dead at risk to her own sanity
  • Their skills and temperaments make up for what the other half lacks and when they work together, they kick ass
  • They have a magical bond that allows Rose to know what Lissa is thinking and feeling, meaning she always knows when her friend needs support

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The Inner Circle (A Court of Thorns and Roses Series – Sarah J Maas)

  • They’ve managed to be friends for god knows how many years and still aren’t sick of each other (well, mostly)
  • Snow ball fights and jokes about wingspans
  • They perfectly span the spectrum of very serious to massive shit stirrer which makes for fabulous dinner parties
  • Would die for each other
  • Basically family and in some instances, probs a better family than actual family

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Harry Potter, Ron Weasley & Hermione Granger (Harry Potter Series – J. K. Rowling)

  • All bring something different to the table – humour, intelligence and…err, sass and chosen one-ish-ness in order to save the day, repeatedly
  • Do not give two stuff about school rules
  • Stick by each other even when things look awful
  • Took down big evil wizard and saved the wizarding world together
  • Bicker in a way I find very amusing
  • Just generally give me life, okay

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Sevro Au Bacca & Darrow (Red Rising Series – Pierce Brown)

  • Sevro stops Darrow from getting a big head when things are going too well and Darrow stops Sevro from going on massive murder sprees except where it serves his agenda= goals
  • Fought side by side during epic space battles and have saved each other repeatedly
  • Trust each other so much they’re willing to follow the other person’s plans even when they’re absolutely insane and more likely to get them killed than succeed
  • That banter

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Nikolai Lantsov & Alina Starkov (The Grisha Trilogy – Leigh Bardugo)

Choosing to ignore the whole potential romantic interest thing and focus on awesome friendship instead because it was honestly one of my fave parts of this series.

  • Can have serious heart to hearts but also two second later switch to Nikolai being a cocky bastard and Alina saying she doesn’t like him at all (LIES)
  • Just generally get each other
  • Alina not being freaked out by Nikolai even when he’s a flying, fangy, people eating darkness creature
  • Nikolai following Alina around while being said people eating creature and still recognising her

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The Losers club (IT – Stephen King)

  • Teaming up to throw rocks at asshole bullies
  • Brave enough to go into scary, dark, icky sewers looking for a child eating clown and to vow to come back and kill it if it ever returns
  • Put up with Richie being a little pain in the ass with terrible impressions (who’s still loveable somehow)
  • Help Bev clean her bloody bathroom after Pennywise badly redecorates

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Anne Shirley & Diana Barry (Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery)

  • Because they’re kindred spirits and bosom friends
  • Anne saves Diana’s little sister’s life when she gets super sick one night
  • Diana doesn’t get mad at Anne for accidentally getting her drunk off mulled wine when she thought it was raspberry cordial
  • Diana indulges Anne’s insane dramatics and fantasies
  • Anne encourages Diana to live a little and have fun, even though it may be bending the rules

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Eragon & Saphira (Inheritance Cycle – Christopher Paolini)

  • Can read each other’s thoughts – so basically know all the good and bad parts of each other
  • Work in sync to be the dream team in big epic battles
  • Tell each other when they’re being stupid – mostly Saphira telling off Eragon because he does a lot of stupid things and gives her plenty of opportunities for snarky commentary
  • Just generally have a great dynamic

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Kell & Rhy Maresh (A Darker Shade of Magic Series – V. E. Schwab)

Pretty much brothers but great friends too.

  • Kell brought Rhy back from the dead by binding Rhy’s ife to his own. Now that’s friendship.
  • Rhy tricks Kell into going out to bars, drinking and socialising = basically the kind of friends my introverted, couch potato self needs
  • Kell is willing to threaten Rhy’s romantic interests with immense violence to make sure they don’t break his brother’s fragile little heart
  • Rhy encourages Kell to enter a magic competition to blow off some steam even though it is clearly a very bad idea

SPECIAL MENTIONS: Frodo Baggins & Samwise Gamgee (LotR), Mia Corvere & Mr Kindly (Nevernight – Jay Kristoff), Madeline, Celeste & Jane (Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty)


What are some of your favourite bookish friendships or other platonic relationships?

Let’s Talk: The Sins of Love Triangles

I’m going to suggest something controversial, so bear with me.

Love triangles aren’t as bad as we think they are.

Yep, that’s right. You heard me.

I can hear the collective gasp from here. But Ashley, you cry, love triangles are terrible! How can you say such a thing?!

Alright, put down those tomatoes you’re planning on throwing my way and hear me out.

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that LTs are an extremely overused trope, especially in the fiction I tend to read, but as we all know, there are some tropes out there that are extremely enjoyable in their trope-ishness. So why’s this one so bad? Let me just throw something out there:

It’s because they’re not well written.

Uh, huh. I said it. A LOT of authors do not know how to write a good love triangle. Let me tell you why.

A Clear Winner

Plot complications are meant to create drama. They’re supposed to be an emotional roller-coaster. But you know what ruins the fun? Knowing exactly how the damn thing is going to pan out.

One of the main sins of many LTs is a glaringly obvious outcome. Most of the time the author already knows exactly which character is going to win their fair maiden or…er, fair dude’s heart and they’re so damn happy about shipping them that they do an absolutely terrible job of hiding it in their writing. Take Vampire Academy for example. Were Dimitri and Adrian both great characters? You bet, but was there ever a chance in hell Rose was going to end up with our favourite mopey, alcoholic moroi? Not one.

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Even worse, once you know result, every bit of information or scene introduced to try and make it seem like the other side may have a chance (you aren’t fooling me red herrings!) feels like a waste of time and just ends up being extremely frustrating.

Sucky or Underdeveloped Suitors/Suitresses

In a well done triangle, readers should be able to root for both sides of the equation (how do you think Twilight got to where it was?). Going even further, they should be able to understand why the MC might end up with the either one of their potential partners even though it may not necessarily be the reader’s choice. One of the best examples of this is probably found in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices Series. While I may have been drawing hearts with Will and Tessa’s names in them I also adored Jem. Why? Because both suitors were well written and likeable characters, given an even amount of page time, and had vastly different dynamics with Tessa. This meant that Jem as a final decision would have been fine as it made just as much sense as Will did.

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In order for a triangle to work, all characters need to be given a little love by an author – they need their own stories and captivating personalities (I’m looking at you Mal from The Grisha Trilogy *glares* ). It sounds simple but so many authors fail to meet this, with members of their triangles ending up either two dimensional or just complete assholes.

Too Much Angst

It’s time for the worst reason of all. Angst. WHY IS THERE ALWAYS SO MUCH ANGST?? With a situation like a love triangle, of course there’s going to be some emotional turmoil. What would be the point of the plotline without it?

I mean, just sayin’, if there were two amazingly gorgeous men with six packs and killer smiles fighting over me, I’d have an intense internal dilemma too (if only, am I right?) and the same goes for if the person I liked was torn between me and someone else. The problem is, authors have a tendency to flog this emotional horse so hard that it’s died, zombified and then died all over again.

A little bit of pain and suffering among the characters is expected but so much moaning, back and forth, and whinging that I actually want to stab someone is NOT OKAY.

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Writers tend to have this problem when they don’t resolve their triangle quickly enough or they fail to give the plotline an intermission (e.g. the MC dates one suitor exclusively for a while, one suitor exits for a book, etc.).

So let’s be clear – we want some angst okay, just don’t make us take a bath in it.

They Render the MC an Annoying, Senseless Idiot

Most of the LTs you find feature a female character at their centre. Yet, for some reason these storylines have a habit of turning once smart, witty and generally wonderful women into complete morons. Suddenly all they can do is think about their love interests, fall into pits of tear filled despair, and make some really awful life choices. It’s like, girl, get your ass into gear and worry about saving the world! BOYS CAN WAIT.

Then, even worse, there’s the MCs that become almost insufferable in the face of love triangle-dom. Case in point, America Singer from Kiera Cass’s The Selection series. Now there was a girl I wanted to hit with something heavy. Like a dictionary. Or a bus. JUST BLOODY PICK MAXON ALREADY, WE KNOW YOU WANT TO.

If a book has to damage the quality of its MC to make its LT work, it’s doing something wrong.

Let’s Stack Tropes

A LT is a well-used trope on its own. What potentially sends it heading for an iceberg is when authors layer tropes on tropes. It’s like playing a game of Jenga, you’re just waiting for that sucker to fall. One of the most common and annoying ones is the BFF vs New Shiny Object trope. How many times have you read a LT in which one of the suitors is a long-time friend of the MC who’s only just decided to make a move and the other is an intriguing newcomer to their life?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I have faith in the idea that, one day, I will eventually find some other non-cringe worthy love triangle plotlines. ONE DAY. And sure, it’s always easier to criticise than to do but eh, that’s bookish discussions for you.

Its Not Really A Love Triangle At All Its More Of A Mess GIFs - Get the  best GIF on GIPHY


Let’s Talk: Are you guys avid haters of the LT trope? What LTs out there have you found that defy the odds? What are some of the worst ones you’ve seen?

The Stranger Things Book Tag

I love Stranger Things and haven’t done a book tag in a while. I’ve seen this one pop up a few times over the last few months so I thought I’d give it a whirl.


EPIC INTRO

THE OPENING SEQUENCE OF STRANGER THINGS IS AMAZING AND REALLY GRABS YOUR ATTENTION. NAME A BOOK THAT GRABBED YOUR ATTENTION FROM THE FIRST PAGE.

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie doesn’t start off with a bang, it’s actually quite a subtle and slow build up to the action, but because you know where the story is going, you hang off every detail and word.

Illuminae by Amie Kauffman & Jay Kristoff – I can’t explain why, but I was hooked from the start. There’s a break up, a planet gets attacked and evacuated, and then the fleeing ships are being chased down by a villainous corporation. Pretty good start if you ask me.


DUNGEONS & DRAGONS

NAME A FANTASY WORLD YOU WOULD LIKE TO EXPERIENCE YOURSELF.

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I wish I could be unpredictable, I really, really do but…I’m not. So let’s just say I want to go to Hogwarts and move right along (I’d also take Diagon Alley or Hogsmead too if they’re up for grabs).


 SQUAD GOALS

WHEN ELEVEN MET MIKE, DUSTIN AND LUCAS IT WAS A *MOSTLY* PERFECT TEAM. NAME YOUR FAVOURITE BOOKISH GROUP OF FRIENDS.

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To go for something other than Six of Crows or ACOTAR, I’m going to pick the shadowhunters of the London Institute in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series. Tessa, Will, Jem, Charlotte, Henry and Jessamine each have their own quirky personalities but they work really well together and never fail to make me smile.


ABC’S & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

JOYCE BYERS GOES MAD WITH GRIEF AFTER WILL GOES MISSING. NAME YOUR FAVOURITE MENTALLY UNHINGED CHARACTER

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Let’s go with Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs for this one. He’s nuts, a cannibal, and yet also intelligent and charming. Hmmm….


THE UPSIDE DOWN

NAME A BOOK THAT WAS THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU EXPECTED.

Geekerella

I’m actually going to pick Geekerella by Ashley Posten for this one. Not because it was different from what I expected story wise but because I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. As you guys know, I don’t read much YA contemporary and I read this after being disappointed by When Dimple Met Rishi, expecting another bleh book. To my surprise it wasn’t, it was fun!


MAD SCIENTISTS

BRENNER LIKES TO GET FREAKY WITH HUMANITY. NAME THE FREAKIEST DYSTOPIAN GOVERNMENT YOU CAN THINK OF.

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Gilead of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Hands down. There are a lot of crazy governments in dystopian books that I’ve read but this one actually terrifies me. It’s because it’s so much more believable as Atwood drew only on practices that have actually happened at some point in some part of our world to create it.


DEMOGORGON

NAME A SCARY BOOKISH CREATURE THAT YOU WOULD NOT WANT TO COME THROUGH YOUR WALLS.

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So, I forget entirely what it’s called but there’s a giant worm in Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff which vomits up its own stomach to trap people before sucking it back in. I vaguely remember there being some kind of acid involved too.  In other words, no thanks…


CLIFFHANGER ENDING

NAME A BOOK THAT LEFT YOU WANTING MORE.

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Everything definitely went to crap at the end of A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab (for the characters that is, not in terms of story quality). So I was definitely super keen to get my hands on book three but unfortunately had to wait several months.


As always, if you feel like engaging in a little book tag/Stranger Things fun, go for it and tag me so I can see your answers!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Favourite Fictional Couples in Books

For those who don’t know (I’m not sure if there is actually anyone still out there), TTT is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new topic is posted for people to express ten thoughts on a particular theme. The meme is on hiatus until August but because I’ve never done a TTT before there are HEAPS for me to choose from and have fun with in the meantime. The fictional world is full of wonderful couples that make us swoon, and squeal, and yell “I will go down with this ship!”. Here are 10 of my favourites (in no particular order).

1. Henry & Clare (The Time Traveller’s Wife)

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“I place my hands over her ears and tip her head back, and kiss her, and try to put my heart into hers, for safekeeping, in case I lose it again.”

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“I hate to be where she is not, when she is not. And yet, I am always going.”

2. Jamie & Claire (Outlander)

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“When the day shall come that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

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“You are my courage, as I am your conscience,” he whispered. “You are my heart—and I your compassion. We are neither of us whole, alone. Do ye not know that, Sassenach?”

3. Feyre & Rhys (ACOTAR)

Charlie Bowater
Rhys and Feyre by Charlie Bowater

“I fell in love with you, smartass, because you were one of us—because you weren’t afraid of me, and you decided to end your spectacular victory by throwing that piece of bone at Amarantha like a javelin. I felt Cassian’s spirit beside me in that moment, and could have sworn I heard him say, ‘If you don’t marry her, you stupid prick, I will.” 

4. Ron & Hermione (Harry Potter)

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‘OK, write that down,’ Hermione said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, ‘then add this conclusion I’ve written for you.’

‘Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever met,’ said Ron weakly, ‘and if I’m ever rude to you again -‘

‘- I’ll know you’re back to normal,’ said Hermione.

5. Anne & Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables)

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For a moment Anne’s heart fluttered queerly and for the first time her eyes faltered under Gilbert’s gaze and a rosy flush stained the paleness of her face. It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps…perhaps..love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

6. Katniss & Peeta (The Hunger Games)

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[W]hat I need to survive is not Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that. So after, when he whispers, “You love me. Real or not real?” I tell him, “Real.”

7. Rose & Dimitri (Vampire Academy)

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“She was right about something else too,” Dimitri said after a long pause. My back was to him, but there was a strange quality to his voice that made me turn around.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“That I do still love you.”
With that one sentence, everything in the universe changed.

8. Alec & Magnus (TMI)

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“What welcome?” Magnus asked. “I’d say it was a pleasure to meet you, but it wasn’t. Not that you aren’t all fairly charming, and as for you—” He dropped a glittery wink at Alec, who looked astounded. “Call me?”
Alec blushed and stuttered and probably would have stood there all night if Jace hadn’t grasped his elbow and hauled him toward the door, Isabelle at their heels. 

9. Kaz & Inej (Six of Crows)

meabhd: “ I mean.. I said I would… Redbubble ” I am dead. Thank you, @meabhd ❤️

“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.”

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“I can hear the change in Kaz’s breathing when he looks at you.”
“You… you can?”
“It catches every time, like he’s never seen you before.”

10. Will & Tessa (TID)

I don’t have enough Wessa on my tumblr, this needs to be fixed.
by Taratjah

“Marry me,” he said. “Marry me, Tess. Marry me and be called Tessa Herondale. Or be Tessa Gray, or be whatever you wish to call yourself, but marry me and stay with me and never leave me, for I cannot bear another day of my life to go by that does not have you in it.” 

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Who are some of your favourite couples in books?

Love Ashley