Witchcraft, Murder and Demon Princes from Hell: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

After a disappointing and frustrating experience with Stalking Jack the Ripper back in 2019, I was extremely hesitant to read Kingdom of the Wicked. But, in the end, there were just too many of my favourite buzz words associated with it to resist.

Who, What, Where?

The story follows Emilia, a Sicilian witch who has grown up being told terrifying stories about the demon princes of the underworld. When she finds her twin sister, Vittoria, murdered, Emilia vows to track down the culprit and get revenge. However, Vittoria is only the latest in a string of dead witches. Desperate for answers, Emilia summons a demon. To her shock, it’s no lower level lackey who answers her call but one of the princes, Wrath, with his own reasons for wanting to investigate the murders. And so, Emilia and Wrath come to an agreement to work together. However, Wrath isn’t the only demon, or member of the royal family, who’s recently appeared in Palermo.

Too Fast, Too Slow

One of the main issues I had with KotW was Maniscalco’s writing style. First up, there’s quite a lot of telling vs showing going on, especially in the first half of the book, and often in the form of Q&A type conversations. Second, there were points where I couldn’t help feeling as though certain scenes/developments were slightly rushed and would have benefited from greater build up or descriptive detail. This would have enhanced the sense of drama and better helped the reader follow what was happening. Prominent examples include the discovery of Vittoria’s body and the book’s end sequence, during which I was muddled as to what exactly was going on. Then, on the other hand, there were other scenes where it felt like we lingered too long. Did I really need to read about Emilia preparing what I’m sure was a lovely bruschetta? Probably not.

All About that Atmosphere

The atmosphere in this book is great. The descriptions of the buildings, food, markets, sounds and smells of Palermo worked wonderfully in not only creating lush Sicilian settings but varying the story’s tone from chapter to chapter. One minute we’re in a sunny, bustling, seaside city with the characters enjoying tasty cannoli, the next Emilia is rushing around ominous, darkened streets with demons potentially around the corner. Yet, I do have to mention that as I was reading I had trouble placing when the story was set. Had I not gone back to check the blurb before writing this review, I still wouldn’t be sure. While KotW is a fantasy, it takes place in a real part of the world and aside from a few references to clothing, there aren’t many era indicators which would have better helped immerse me in the story.

Witch/Detective/Chef

As a heroine, Emilia is a mixed bag. While I appreciated her tenacity, love for her sister, and passion for food, she has a habit of making annoyingly naïve, rash and bad decisions. At first, I was willing to let these slide but there comes a point where you wish you could just shake some common sense into her. She gets fixated on illogical theories despite there being a valid explanation to counteract them and often charges into danger without a proper plan. Here’s hoping for some improvement in book two.

Not So Fairy Tale Prince

In comparison, Wrath is a more interesting and less frustrating character. Mysterious, slightly dramatic, kind of a flirt, and I enjoyed Maniscalco’s somewhat dry approach to his humour. The only problem is that even after a whole book, I still know barely anything about him, which is very disappointing, but I expect that will change drastically in the next book. The interactions between Emilia and Wrath take some time to properly get going but I really enjoyed their conversations and seeing them slowly learn to trust one another, despite their opposition to the other’s species. Plus, the sexual tension is definitely something I’m keen to see more of *winks*.

No Rest for the Wicked

When it comes to the actual plot, KotW took a good while to grow on me. After the original set up, the earlier chapters deal mostly with Emilia attempting to investigate the murders on her own. This isn’t exactly a bad approach, but considering my issues with her as a character, it wasn’t the most exciting time. There’s also the fact that Emilia starts out with very little to go off which results in a lot of her poking around in a somewhat aimless fashion, just hoping a clue will land her in her lap (which it does). The other thing that dampened my enjoyment somewhat is I expected Emilia to team up with Wrath far earlier than she did and this delay was mostly out of stubbornness.

Following approximately the halfway mark, I began to enjoy myself a lot more! The investigation became more focused, Emilia and Wrath were pleasantly bouncing off one another, the interactions with the different demon princes representing the seven deadly sins was fun, and the bigger impending threat of the story was introduced. By the time I reached the climax, I was genuinely disappointed the book was about to be over. While I wasn’t a fan of certain elements of the ending, I’m really looking forward to the exciting change of scenery it creates for the sequel.


As far as a final verdict goes, there were things I liked about this one and others that missed the mark. Still, it’ll likely appeal to a lot of other readers, especially if you enjoyed the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. I will say though, I do feel like it’s set things up for a really good sequel and I’ll be eagerly picking that up later this year.

3 stars

Top 5 Tuesday: Favourite Book Characters A-N

No, that is not a typo you see in the title. This week, instead of doing my usual, but infrequent, Top 10 Tuesday, we’re joining in the fun of Top FIVE Tuesday with the lovely Meeghan Reads! You may also be asking: Ashley, if you’re doing favourite characters from A-N, shouldn’t it be top fourteen Tuesday? Okay…you have me there.

To make a long story short. each of the T5T topics for this month have broken down the alphabet into groups of 5 letters (except for the last six). Me, being super late to the party, only discovered this at the point of K-O. Now, because I am (a) super disorganised and (b) stupid, I didn’t just join in for the remaining weeks. Instead, I’ll be breaking up the alphabet into two parts starting with A-N (Truth: I was going to do all 26 in one go, but I almost had a mental breakdown).

For this list, first names, last names and nicknames all count towards allocating characters to specific letters. Let’s begin!

A is for Alex Claremont-Diaz (Red, White & Royal Blue)

41150487. sy475

Alex could have made this list purely on the basis of his ability to make me laugh with his dialogue and shenanigans. Smart-mouthed, slightly too overconfident, immense potential to drive me up the wall were he ever to become real, and yet, I absolutely love him. Well-developed characters who are both sweet and hilarious? Irresistible. Also, yay for diverse romantic leads!


B is for Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)

10515068

Elizabeth is the 19th century version of a badass. This is a woman from a large & not particularly wealthy family, living in a time in which marriage is essential for young women, and she turns down not one but TWO proposals to men of a higher class than herself. Why? Because she knows what she’s worth and refuses to accept anything less. She’s also witty, protective of her family, speaks her mind and accepts her own failings. You go girl.


C is for Cassian (A Court of Thorns and Roses Series)

17927395. sy475

I have so much love for Cassian as a character. Despite experiencing loss, hardship and rejection, he still brings such levity to the lives of people around him. He’s constantly aware of everyone’s emotional states and is always doing his best to take care of them, even at his own expense. On a less serious note, he’s also a massive shit stirrer and is banned from one fey court because he destroyed a building.

…and for Cardan Greenbriar (The Folk of the Air Series)

26032825. sy475

I knew from the first moment I was introduced to Cardan that here was a character I shouldn’t like but I was darn well going to love anyway. He’s definitely an asshole at several points during the series, yet he has this annoyingly sympathetic backstory, fantastic chemistry with Jude, and enjoyable path of growth and self-reflection. Like, stop it already! It also doesn’t hurt that he has that dry, sarcastic sense of humour that’s like catnip for me in male book characters.


D is for Declan Murphy (Letters to the Lost)

30038855

Oh, Declan. On the outside, he’s this hardened, aggressive bad boy but on the inside there’s so much bottled up pain and grief about past family trauma. Letters to the Lost slowly peels back the layers to reveal the caring and intelligent person underneath. There were parts of Declan’s journey that hit me super hard. I just wanted to wrap him up in cotton wool and protect him from the world. But it was so wonderful to see him make progress by the end of the novel.


E is for Emika Chen (Warcross Duology)

37771077. sy475

Emika is ballsy, curious, quick thinking, creative and not afraid to be different. Although she may not be physically kicking ass like other characters on this list, she’s just as strong by virtue of her awesome hacking abilities. I love that she begins the duology as a very independent, can’t-rely-on-anyone-but-myself character who evolves to form meaningful friendships with people she can trust. Also, rainbow hair. Always rainbow hair.

…and for Evelyn Hugo (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo)

32620332. sy475

TSHoEH is one of my favourite books and as the strength of it rests on Evelyn herself and the events of her life, it’s no surprise she’s listed here. Evelyn is a beautifully complex, imperfect, ambitious and feminist character. She knows exactly what she wants out of her life and works her butt off in any way she can to get there. Evelyn evolves beautifully over the span of the novel and you can’t help but root for her, despite her flaws, through all the pain and heartache.


F is for Francis (Conversations with Friends)

35285193. sy475

Francis is another character that I really shouldn’t like (she’s often selfish, childish and spiteful) and yet, she seems to have taken up residence inside my head and refuses to leave. With her mess of flaws, she just feels so real to me and I can’t help but sympathise with her. Through all her loneliness, self-doubt and hurt, I so badly wanted her to be safe, happy and loved.


G is for Georgina Kincaid (Georgina Kincaid Series)

1239933

There’s something about snarky, strong, independent female leads in Richelle Mead books that I can’t help but adore. With her love of shoes & vodka, and the high level of importance she places on her appearance, Georgina doesn’t seem like the kind of character I would normally gravitate towards. But her winning dialogue, love of books, sense of humour, and fighting spirit are what hooked me.

…and for Ginny Weasley (Harry Potter Series)

93124

To say that Ginny got shafted by the Harry Potter film series is putting it mildly (it makes me so mad!). Although she starts out shy, awkward and naive, Ginny grows into a super independent, quick witted, assertive, brave, and magically talented young witch. She takes zero of Harry and her brothers’ crap and can always be counted on in a sticky situation.


H is for Helene Aquilla (The Ember Quartet)

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir: 9780448494517 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

When it comes to The Ember Quartet, Helene is officially my girl and she’s ridiculously underrated. She’s easily the most interesting of the protagonists and even though she’s technically on the side of the “bad guys”, she’s still generally a loyal and honorable person. I mean, awesome warrior, stands up to sexist, tyrant assholes, makes tough decisions but still questions the why of them, vulnerable and caring…just EVERYTHING. Basically Helene for empress, okay?

…and also for Hermione Granger (Harry Potter Series)

72193

Hermione was my childhood idol, plain and simple. I’ve gone to many a costume party dressed as her. To kid Ashley, she was both like me and everything I wanted to be – bookish, brave, kindhearted, a star student, supportive friend, and all of it without having to be drop dead gorgeous. As we all know, Harry and Ron would have been entirely lost (and very dead) without Hermione and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for her.


I is Adrian Ivashkov (Vampire Academy & Bloodlines Series)

2282133. sy475

While I was definitely a Rose x Dimitri shipper, as far as characters go, Adrian is one of my favourites. He’s another one of those seemingly arrogant, sarcastic, bad boys who aren’t really bad boys and use humour to hide their emotional baggage. It’s my type, okay? I love his fabulous one-liners, flirty nature, good heart, and the depth/conflict that comes with him being one of a select few spirit magic users.


J is for Jude Duarte (The Folk of the Air Series)

26032887. sy475

Jude is a character that I took a while to warm up to but after re-reading The Cruel Prince and getting stuck into The Wicked King, the fangirling began – pretty much just stab ’em all, girl. I love that she uses both her mental and physical strength to get what she wants. She’s smart, cunning, and will happily cut people down if they get in her way. There’s something fun and freeing about a character who’s morally ambiguous.


K is for Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows Duology)

23437156

As if I could forget old, dirtyhands Brekker. You can’t go past a good anti-hero and Kaz is certainly that. I adore Kaz’s fast working brain – constantly one step ahead, working through the different scenarios. The other fantastic thing about him is that you never know exactly what he’s going to do in a given situation – will he be a decent human being or just hightail it out of there with the money? I’m also a sucker for a tragic backstory.

…and for Kady Grant (The Illuminae Files)

23395680. sy475

The second hacker character on the list with colourful hair, Kady is one of the highlights in a wholly amazing book. She’s stubborn, independent, great under pressure and comes up with some enjoyable zingers (my weakness when it comes to favourite characters). Despite danger and fear, Kady doesn’t let anything stop her from doing whatever she can to protect the people she cares about. Bonus: she’s also the reason we got to enjoy more of AIDAN’S antics beyond book one so points for that, too.


L is for Lazlo Strange (Strange the Dreamer Duology)

29748925. sy475

Lazlo – my sweet, innocent and curious librarian. He must be protected at all costs. The thing that I like most about Lazlo is the beautiful, almost childlike way he sees the world. To him, everything is full of possibility & magic, and although evidence may be to the contrary, he always tries to see the good in people. The world would be so much better if more people were like him.

…and also for Lila Bard (A Darker Shade of Magic Series)

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) by V.E. Schwab

Thief, pirate, magician – Lila pretty much covers all the most interesting types of characters you find in a fantasy novel in one. She’s daring, proud, a bit devious, and highly adventurous, making her an exciting character to follow around. I mean, upon acquiring an object of immense power, the first thing she did was create a clone of another character purely to make it do a striptease. If that isn’t list worthy material, I don’t know what is.


M is for Mia Corvere (The Nevernight Chronicle)

29845906. sy475

Mia, my badass, shadow assassin bitch. How I love her and her amazing one liners. Mia comes off as cold, highly venomous and consumed by her quest for revenge. She’s calculating, manipulative when need be, and will brutally murder you without a second thought if you deserve it. Under the surface though, she has a hidden vulnerability, sense of honour and degree of goodness. I may also love her because her magical abilities are freakin’ awesome & she uses sword blades like a boss.


N is for Nikolai Lantsov (The Grisha Trilogy & King of Scars)

40930303. sy475

Isn’t Nikolai pretty much everyone’s favourite character? He was kind of legendary before I even read The Grisha trilogy. Then I read it and got what all the fuss was about. Cocky, flirty, unwilling to be deterred by bad odds, and just overall a fun character, Nikolai brightens up almost every scene he’s in. I love his rapport with Alina and Zoya, and the different layers Leigh Bardugo reveals of him as you progress through to King of Scars.

…and also for Nesta Archeron (A Court of Thorns and Roses Series)

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

I admit, it took me a good while to warm up to Nesta but I am now 100% on the love Nesta train and cannot wait for her starring role in the next ACOTAR book. She comes off as this stuck up, selfish, rude and bitchy person but once you actually understand her, you realise just how emotionally complex, hurt and traumatised she is. I am so excited about how much potential for growth and healing she has, and her back and forth with Cassian brings joy to my life.


Fourteen letters down, twelve more to go (including a few very tricky ones!). Would any of these characters feature on your alphabetised favourites list? Who else would you most want to include?

Okay, I need to go take a nap now. Lists are hard….

The Netflix Book Tag

I love books. I love Netflix. This tag is thus a match made in heaven. Or is it (considering one usually distracts me from the other…)? I stumbled across this tag via Kristin at Kristin Kraves Books but it was originally created by A Darker Shade of Whitney over on booktube.

Recently Watched: The Last Book You Finished

Golden Son (Red Rising 2#) – Pierce Brown

25372230

A Golden Son re-read wasn’t even listed on my TBR for March. And yet, here we are. I should have known this would happen. You can’t just read Red Rising and not keep going. Even now I’m so damn tempted to just pick up Morningstar and let the good times roll. I love this series. I really, really do. I gave this book five stars the first time around and I feel completely confident in my rating after the second time through. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll re-read these books again in the future. If that isn’t a glowing endorsement, I don’t know what is.


Top Picks: A Book That Has Been Recommended To You Based On What You’ve Previously Read

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz 

12000020

I’ve had Ari & Dante mentioned to me quite a few times as something I’d probably enjoy and the consensus on it in general seems to be very, very good. I actually think this is something I’ll read eventually because I quite like the looks of the blurb. It feels like a really great character focused, coming of age story. It also happens to be a LGBTI book with two Mexican-American leads so yay for diversity. I’ve heard that the audiobook read by Lin Manuel Miranda is solid so maybe I’ll end up checking that out.


Recently Added: The Last Book You Purchased

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

24807186

I bought 3 books as my last purchase (blame book depository) and Wolf by Wolf is one of them. I stumbled across it watching one of Hayley in Bookland’s videos and thought it sounded really interesting, so why not give it a go? It’s an alternate history story in which the Nazis won WWII. Each year they hold a multi-continent motorcycle race to commemorate their victory, the winner of which gets to meet Hitler. Impersonating a previous winner, a former concentration camp prisoner, Yael, decides to enter the race to win and kill Hitler. The problem is that both the brother and former lover interest of the racer she’s pretending to be are also competing. The book has great reviews so I’m really excited to read it.


Popular On Netflix: Books That Everyone Knows (2 You’ve Read & 2 You Have No Interest In Reading)

Weird assortment of books, I know but this question was pretty broad.

  • Daisy Jones & the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid: Read it, liked it but didn’t love it like I did The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Kind of wish I’d listened to the audiobook but ah well.
  • All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven: Read. An okay YA contemporary but I wasn’t too keen on the ending and couldn’t help feeling like the story was a little emotionally manipulative.
  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins: The things I’ve heard about this one, particularly from my grandma, definitely make me not want to bother with it.
  • The Testaments – Margaret Atwood: I pretty much have zero interest in reading this one, mostly because it just seems unnecessary.

Comedies: A Funny Book

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

41150487. sy475

I had to pick this one. I haven’t properly laughed reading a book for good while and I did multiple times reading Red, White & Royal Blue. It’s so much fun. The texting and phone calls between Henry and Alex were fantastic. My favourite one, however, has to be in which Alex is stuck in his room with the turkeys set for presidential pardon the next day and calls Henry to complain. If I’m ever having a particularly tough week in the future, I know that re-reading this book would be a sure fire way to make me feel a lot better.


Dramas: A Character That Is A Drama Queen/King

Evie (The Diviners – Libba Bray)

Image result for the diviners

Having only recently finished this book, the characters are still fresh in my mind. Evie loves a bit of a drama and it certainly seems to follow her around, which makes for some fun situations. She does object readings at parties and reveals scandalising gossip, makes deals with the press on the sly to get her name in the papers, and will happily confront people for past slights in fiery fashion (despite saying she’ll leave it well enough alone). Things are never dull with Evie around. But hey, that’s the way she like it after all.


Animated: A Book With Cartoons On The Cover

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

16068905

I am not so secretly a big fan of these cute animated styled covers. I’ve noticed that they’ve become super popular in recent years, especially when it comes to contemporary romance books. They’re just so sweet and fun looking. It automatically puts me in a rom-com mood. As far as the actual book goes, I really enjoyed Fangirl. It’s a great celebration of nerd & fan culture and has a super relatable protagonist for so many introverted people dealing with things like anxiety.


Watch It Again: A Book Or Series You Want To Reread

Arc of a Scythe Series – Neal Shusterman

I love the Arc of a Scythe series. It feels so different from other things I’ve read and the world building is fantastic. The last book in the series, The Toll, was released in 2019 and because it seems like ages since I read books 1 & 2, I really want to do a re-read before I tackle book 3. I’ve definitely become one of those people who needs to do re-reads to refresh themselves on the important details of previous books before tackling a series’ new release. I enjoy them so much more that way.


Documentaries: A Nonfiction Book You’d Recommend To Everyone

Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee

39675781. sy475

I’ve started to read the odd non-fiction book now and again, and there are a few on my list to tackle in 2020. Eggshell Skull was one of my top 10 reads of 2019 and it’s one I’d easily recommend. It looks at how sexual assault is handled by the legal system in Queensland, Australia and I was engaged, horrified and saddened. The writing isn’t always perfect but it was very interesting to see the issue from the perspective of someone who has been on both sides – a judge’s associate in sexual assault trials and a complainant. It’s great at showcasing why women avoid reporting assault and the profound effects being a victim of assault can have on a person even years later.


Action & Adventure: An Action-Packed Book Or Series

Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series – Rick Riordan

As far as action and adventure go, Percy is always a suitable choice. Monsters, quests, sword fighting, the potential end of the world, vengeful Greek Gods – “action-packed” is one way to put it. It’s pretty much never a dull moment for Percy and his friends, but it certainly keeps things exciting…and well, dangerous.


New Releases: A Book That Just Came Out Or Will Be Coming Out Soon That You Can’t Wait To Read

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

44778083

In a choice that will come as a surprise to absolutely no one out there, I recently received my pre-order of Sarah J. Maas’s new book and I’m super keen to read it. My attitudes towards Sarah’s previous books vary a lot but I’m hoping that this one will be on the A Court of Mist and Fury end of my likeability scale. This is an adult book so I’m looking forward to seeing what SJM does with a bit more freedom (then again, her “YA” books have never truly been YA anyway due to their sexual content but eh). Angels, faeries, murder, romance, please let this be worth devoting 800 pages and my time to.


What are some of your favourite Netflix shows?

New Additions to My Goodreads To-Read Shelf | 20.02.20

Like the typical bookworm that I am, I’m always stumbling across books which manage to catch my eye for some reason or another. Next thing you know, BAM..I’ve added them to the to-read shelf. Currently, my to-read shelf is at a much more manageable level than it has been in the past so I don’t feel so bad about throwing a few extra things on there now and again. After all, how else am I suppose to remember the massive amounts of books that I want to read?! Here are a couple of novels that have recently been added to the list.

Slay – Brittney Morris

43723509

This book caught my eye while I was searching for something else at the book store a few weeks ago. The cover is really striking and once I saw the blurb, I knew I’d have to add it to the to-read list. As a gamer myself, there’s just something about video game stories. Slay is about 17-year-old Kiera who has developed a multiplayer online role playing card game called SLAY which is popular among Black gamers. None of the people in her life know this though. However, after a teen is murdered over an in-game dispute, SLAY is picked up by the mainstream media and labelled as racist and exclusionist. Kiera is left to deal with the consequences of this, including one particularly vicious troll, all whilst trying to keep her identity a secret.


The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

25489134. sx318

I remember being intrigued by TBATN a good while ago but for some reason never added it to my to-read shelf. I think I ended up falling on the side of: I don’t know if this will be my cup of tea. However, while writing my recent post showcasing YA books set in other countries, it came back onto my radar and I decided to give it a go. The book is based on Russian folklore and tells the story of Vasilisa, who lives with her family in a small village. Vasilisa is special in that she can see & speak to the creatures/spirits that live on the land. After her father re-marries and a new priest enters the community, attitudes towards these beings and Vasilisa’s abilities change, leaving her an outcast and previous superstitious practices abandoned. Soon things in the village begin to go wrong such as failing crops and sinister things emerging from the forest. Now Vasilisa must use her gifts to save her loved ones.


Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett

45183786. sy475

Foundryside is another book that I took note of a while back but for some reason just didn’t end up adding to my shelf for future reference. Having recently gone back, read the blurb and some reviews, and stared at the gorgeous cover for a good few minutes, I’ve decided this will probably be something I’ll like. The book is about a thief named Sancia who is hired to steal a magical artifact with immense power and the potential to revolutionise a magical technology known as scriving. However, in stealing it, Sancia angers the powerful merchant houses that control the technology and now they want her dead. Her only way out is to gather allies and learn to use the power of the artifact for herself.


Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid

45163258. sy475

Lately I’ve been adding more adult contemporary fiction to my TBR. Such a Fun Age has been popping up a lot over the last few weeks and I’ve heard some good things about it. It’s about two women – Alix & Emira. Emira is the 25-year-old, black babysitter to Alix’s daughter and currently juggling multiple jobs whilst trying to work out what to do with her life. Alix, on the other hand, is a wealthy, white, feminist blogger and influencer who has doubts of her own. After Emira is accused of kidnapping Alix’s daughter, Briar, whilst out at the supermarket one evening, the whole altercation is caught on camera. Emira wants to forget and move on but Alix is determined to get justice for her. So begins a story about race, friendship, white saviourism, privilege, and parenthood.


Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb 1#) – Tamsyn Muir

42036538

This book could go very well or not so great at all based on what I’ve seen from reviews. Apparently there is a long period of not having a clue what’s going on. Yet, I can’t help but be super intrigued. It’s centred around a smart mouthed swordswoman named Gideon. Harrow, a necromancer, has been summoned by the emperor to compete in a set of mysterious trials to potentially ascend to something that will bring immortality. But, Harrow is unable to compete without a cavalier at her side. Enter Gideon. However, when the other necromancers and cavaliers start getting murdered, Gideon not only has to worry about assisting Harrow but keeping the both of them breathing and tracking down the culprit. It’s dark, queer, unique, and I’m super excited to read it.


There we have it, five additions to the list. Lord knows when I’ll actually get around to buying and reading any of them. Then again, I do have a habit of letting books skip the queue because I’m a serious mood reader. Guess, we’ll have to see.

Have you recently added anything exciting to your to-read shelf?

Bookish Fun: Around the World in 20 Young Adult Books

Recently I published a post outlining some things I really wish were found in YA lit more often. One of the items on my list was more books set in countries other than the USA or England, as these two settings seem to dominate the market. This got me thinking: what YA books out there ARE set in other countries? Well, it took some time to track them down but here are 20 of them. While I haven’t read many of the books listed, I’ve certainly found a lot to add to my TBR. Now, I present to you, a trip around the world courtesy of YA novels. Be prepared for plenty of live abroad situations, many estranged overseas relatives and a LOT of romance.

Note: I apologise in advance for the gaps in this list, particularly where it comes to South America and Africa. I had trouble finding YA books set in these locations. If you know of any that you’d like me to add, send them my way!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is plane-divider.jpg

Scotland: Her Royal Highness – Rachel Hawkins

41734205

We’re starting out in the land of kilts, rolling green hills and fabulous castles. I’ve actually visited Scotland and it’s an absolutely beautiful place so, note to self, find more books set there. This YA contemporary follows Millie, an American teen who moves to a prestigious boarding school in the Scottish Highlands after a bad break up. To her surprise, she ends up roommates with Flora, not only a princess in personality, but the princess of Scotland. Prepare yourself for an fluffy, sapphic, enemies to lovers romance with a stop off at friendship along the way in a stunning UK setting.

Spain: The Fountains of Silence – Ruta Sepetys

43220998. sy475

After less rain and more sunshine? Perhaps some tapas? Well, Spain is the answer. The Fountains of Silence is set in 1950s Madrid during the dictatorship of General Franco in which tourists were encouraged to visit the country to help improve its financial problems. Eighteen year old photographer Daniel arrives with his family, hoping to learn more about and connect with the place of his mother’s birth. Here, he meets hotel maid Ana who slowly begins to educate him on the buried secrets of the country at great risk to herself and her family. The story follows several characters as they make their way through a dark and painful period of history.

The Netherlands, Austria, Italy, & Czech Republic: Wanderlost – Jen Malone

26244548

Ever wanted to do a multi-country trip through Europe? Then this will be right up your alley. After her sister Elizabeth gets into some trouble, Aubree agrees to help her out by taking over Elizabeth’s summer job leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe. The problem is, Aubree knows very little about European countries and it doesn’t take long before things start to go completely pear shaped. Then, to make matters worse, the tour picks up an unexpected guest: the company director’s son, Sam. Aubree can’t help falling for Sam but how can she possibly be herself when she’s supposed to be pretending to be her sister? And what would happen if he ever found out?

Greece: Love & olives – Jenna Evans

52765415

Greece has been on my holiday dream list for years now. There’s just something about its wonderfully rich history and the beauty of its islands. At some point I’ll get there, but until then perhaps Love & Olives can help pass the time. Now, this is actually an upcoming 2020 release but eh, who cares. The book introduces us to Evie, a Greek myths enthusiast. Upon receiving a postcard from her estranged father, she hops on a plane to Santorini to assist with his National Geographic Documentary about theories of Atlantis. As the shoot goes on, Evie has to deal not only with the emotions associated with seeing her father again for the first time in years but also his charismatic protege, Theo.

Romania: Hunting Prince Dracula – Kerri Maniscalco

33784373

We’re slowly making our way over to the east of Europe, and our next destination is Romania. It’s home to Dracula, stuffed cabbage leaves and preserved medieval towns. Woo! While the first book in this series is set in London, the sequel sees the two leads, Audrey Rose and Thomas, journeying to one of Europe’s best forensic science schools, which also happens to be a castle. Cause when in Romania, right? Then, as you’d expect, corpses start turning up, and not just the ones scheduled for dissection. Rumours soon spread that Vlad the Impaler himself has returned and is out for blood. So it’s up to our plucky duo to solve the mystery.

Russia: The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

25489134. sx318

Like Greece, Russia is one of those countries that I’ve wanted to visit for some time but it’s also one I’d prefer to do with a friend. Anyone up for a trip with me? Incorporating Russian folklore, TBATN is about a girl named Vasilisa who lives with her family in a small, northern village. Vasilisa is special in that she can see and converse with the creatures/spirits that live on their land. But after her father re-marries and a new priest enters the community, attitudes towards these beings and Vasilisa’s abilities change, leaving her an outcast and old superstitious practices abandoned. Soon things in the village begin to go very wrong such as failing crops and sinister things emerging from the forest. Now it’s up to Vasilisa to use her gifts to save the people she loves most.

Taiwan: The Astonishing Color of After – Emily X.R. Pan

35604686

We’ve jumped continents and it’s time to see what Asia holds for our YA travels. First up we have the story of Leigh. After her mother’s suicide, Leigh travels to Taiwan to visit her grandparents for the first time. She is convinced that her mother has been reincarnated as a red bird and is somehow trying to speak to her. This takes her on a journey in which she develops bonds with her grandparents, comes to terms with her mother’s mental illness, and learns more about her mother’s history and Taiwanese culture. In turn, she also gains a greater understanding of herself. It’s a story about grief, mental health, family and identity.

Hong Kong: Somewhere Only We Know – Maurene Goo

36992163. sy475

While Hong Kong may not be the best travel destination at present, we always have travel in the form of books. Somewhere Only We Know is a YA contemporary romance. Lucky is a huge K-Pop star currently preparing for her big American debut. When she sneaks out of her hotel room in search of some fast food, she accidentally runs into Jack, a tabloid reporter who has slipped in searching for a story. The two end up deciding to spend a day together adventuring around Hong Kong, free from the stress and rules of their normal lives. Only problem is, neither party is being honest with the other.

Japan: I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn

39828159. sy475

Japan! Another country on my to-visit list. Cherry blossoms, great food in quirky locations, gorgeous scenery, ridiculous numbers of vending machines, what’s not to like? I Love You So Mochi is, once again, a YA contemporary romance. Kimi loves fashion and spends her spare time creating outfits for herself and her friends. However, her mum sees this as nothing more than a distraction from her painting portfolio. When Kimi is invited by her grandparents to spend Spring break in Kyoto, she decides to take the chance to get away for a while. In Japan she meets Akira, a med student and part time mochi mascot. Over the course of her trip, Kimi embraces everything Japan has to offer, forges new bonds with her family, falls in love, and evaluates her future.

Pakistan: Written in the Stars – Aisha Saeed

22521951

Say hello to southern Asia. This time we’re in Pakistan, the fifth most populated country in the world! Our next book follows the story of Naila, a teen from a highly conservative American-Pakistani family. After falling in love with a boy named Sarif against her family’s wishes, Naila’s parents quickly whisk her off to Pakistan to visit their relatives in the hopes of re-immersing her in their culture. However, Naila is soon shocked to discover that her parents have actually brought her there for an arranged marriage. Cut off from everything she knows and stuck in a situation she sees no way out of, Naila has no choice but to remain strong and hope that Sarif will find her before it’s too late.

Iran: Darius the Great is Not Okay – Adib Khorram

37506437

Iran – home to beautiful architecture and a welcoming population. Darius is about to take his first trip to Iran and it’s exciting but also overwhelming for a chubby, geeky guy with clinical depression, zero social life and a difficult relationship with his father. Upon arrival, Darius feels somewhat out of step with the language and culture. That is, until he meets Sohrab – a boy who just gets Darius and not only shows him what it’s like to have a best friend but to feel Persian for the first time. The trip offers Darius a chance to understand and accept himself, and to form new, close relationships with members of his family. Set among the bustling background of Yazd, this is a story about friendship, self-acceptance, depression, identity and family.

Qatar: Love from A to Z – S. K. Ali

40148146. sy475

And…we’re back to romance, this time in Doha – the place to go for huge buildings, swanky hotels, amazing shopping, and well, if you want to feel poor. Our two main characters here are Zayneb and Adam. After confronting her teacher for anti-Muslim remarks, Zayneb is suspended and her parents send her to her aunt’s in Doha. College student Adam is dealing with both the recent loss of his mother and a multiple-sclerosis diagnosis (something he’s avoided telling his father and sister about). When the two meet on the flight to Doha, an unexpectedly wonderful connection forms. This is a book which deals with some heavy topics but if you’re after an un-apologetically muslim, own voices novel, this is one to think about.

Saudi Arabia: A Girl Like That – Tanaz Bhathena

29451548

Time for YA contemporary, but told a little differently and this time set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This is a story that begins with the deaths of our lead and her love interest. Zarin is a bright student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also someone parents call ‘troublemaker’ & whose romances are endlessly gossiped about. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. And yet, eighteen year old Porus has only ever had eyes for her. But how did Zarin and Porus end up dead, crashed on the side of a highway? When the police arrive, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is plane-divider.jpg

Egypt: In a Perfect World – Trish Doller

32333213. sy475

Egypt is another country on my ‘must travel to before I die list’ and although I’m not great with hot weather, I’m determined to see those Pyramids. Once again, we’ve got ourselves a contemporary romance. In a Perfect World centers around Caroline, whose perfect summer plans are completely thrown out the window when her mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo. Instead of soccer camp and a job at the amusement park, Caroline will be spending not only her summer but her final year of high school in Egypt. Despite her cultural shock, Caroline finds herself opening up to new experiences, food and culture and falling for a boy who challenges everything she thought she knew about life, love and privilege.

South Africa: Deadlands – Lily Herne

16166049

Ever been to South Africa? Well, here’s your chance. The catch: zombies. Ten years after a zombie apocalypse, the dead freely roam the suburbs of Cape Town while survivors cluster on farms and in urban shantytowns. They are protected by mysterious, robed figures known as Guardians who are somehow able to control the zombies. Each year the Guardians hold a human lottery in which 5 teens are chosen to leave the enclave for an unknown purpose. Seventeen year old Lele can’t help but resent her current situation – a school run by a fanatical, Guardian devoted cult, the recent death of her grandmother, and a lack of freedom. So when she’s selected during the lottery, Lele sees it as an opportunity to get answers to some of her biggest questions.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is plane-divider.jpg

Beliz & Guatemala: Wanderlove – Kirsten Hubbard

9807262

We’ve hit the bottom of North America and this time it’s two destinations in one. Wanderlove is a travel story centered around 18-year old Bria who accidentally signs up for a trip to the wrong Central America. On tour she runs into diving instructor Rowan and his humanitarian twin sister, Starling, and decides to ditch her group in favour of a trip more off the beaten path. As they travel through islands and villages, Bria soon realises that her and Rowan are in search of the same thing: escaping their past. However, with time, Bria learns that in order for her to move forward, first she’ll have to deal with her baggage.

Canada: The Gathering – Kelly Armstrong

7896345

Skipping over the USA, we’re heading up to Canada and this time to a paranormal/fantasy read set on Vancouver Island. Maya knows very little about her past, specifically her parents. Her only clue is a paw-print shaped birthmark on her hip. She’s never had much reason to think about it, until now. All of sudden strange things have started happening – unexplained deaths, cougars just showing up and following her around, and her friend, Daniel, getting weird ‘feelings’ about people and situations. Then there’s the hot, new guy, Rafe and his damaged sister, Annie. Seems like there’s more to town than there seems.

The Bahamas: Learning to Breathe – Janice Lynn Mather

36373389. sy475

Sun, sand, and…teenage pregnancy. Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules – study hard, be respectful, and never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially while living in her mother’s shadow. When Indy is sent to live with relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth. Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found it. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls – it’s about the people she chooses to share it with.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is plane-divider.jpg

Australia: On the Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

2999475

Welcome to my happy home in the land down under. As far as Aussie YA goes, I pretty much had to include a Melina Marchetta book. OtJR is about a girl named Taylor who was abandoned by her mother when she was young and now lives in a boarding house for troubled and neglected kids. Here, Taylor acts as a leader for the residents in their territory wars with the local townies and cadets. Her closest friend is a woman named Hannah who lives on the edge of the school grounds. However, when Hannah mysteriously disappears and Taylor sets out to find her, she comes across a journal about five friends who used to live in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. This leads her on an emotional journey to uncover what happened to her mother and why she left all those years ago.

New Zealand: Antipodes – Michele Bacon

35804605

Heading just across the channel to NZ, it’s time for some extreme sports, fabulous scenery and lots of sheep. When Erin arrives in Christchurch for her work-study abroad program, her life and reputation are a bit of a mess. She’s lost her boyfriend, been kicked off the swim team, and severely damaged her future college prospects. This trip seems like the perfect opportunity to get things back on track but Erin’s less than impressed when she’s introduced to her host family, their cold & cramped living conditions, and her itchy school uniform. Yet, the more Erin opens herself up to her new surroundings and the people around her, the more she starts to rethink her priorities and realise the kind of person she wants to be.


That concludes our journey! I hope you’ve had a wonderful trip – saw some new sights, experienced some wonderful things. Okay…maybe just found a few new books to add to the ever growing TBR pile. What are some of your favourite reads set in other countries? What countries would you most love to travel to?

Most Anticipated 2020 Releases

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

Loveboat, Taipei – Abigail Hing Wen | Jan 7

Image result for loveboat taipei

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


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

45240918

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


Ashlords – Scott Reintgen | Jan 21

42281865

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


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

44778083

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


All Your Twisted Secrets – Diana Urban | March 17

Image result for all your twisted secrets

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


Chosen Ones – Veronica Roth | April 7

40944762. sy475

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


The Betrothed – Kiera Cass | May 5

36071008. sy475

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


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

51901147. sy475

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


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

36683940

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


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

50623864

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


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

Breakfast and Books: The Pancake Book Tag

I love pancakes. LOVE THEM. Maple syrup, lemon & sugar, Nutella, all of it. Load me up and then get ready to wheel me out the door when I’m done. Breakfast food is the best, honestly. So, how could I possibly resist doing a pancakes themed book tag? I can’t. It’s impossible. This sweet tag (along with the ridiculously cute pancake graphics) was created by Becky over at Blogs of a Bookaholic and which I stumbled across thanks to another breakfast lover, Kat at Novels & Waffles. All this food talk is making me very hungry…

Image result for pancakes gif

The Rules

  • Link back to the original creator (Becky @ Blogs of a Bookaholic)
  • Feel free to use any of the pancake graphics in your post, or create your own!
  • Tag 5 other people at the end of your post, and let them know you’ve tagged them. 

The Pancake Book Tag 1
13611052

I have to agree with Becky on this one – while I wasn’t head over heels for the characters and plot in Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (it’s certainly very…different), the writing is beyond lovely. I’m not usually one for flowery descriptions or phrases that attempt to be deep and profound, but some of the lines from this book are just beautiful. Reading it is, well, to quote the book itself, “Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars.” As a book about a magical and mysterious circus, the fantasy of the writing is perfectly suited to its story.


The Pancake Book Tag 3
34347493

Kvothe from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is the first character that comes to mind on this one because he’s sharp in both wit and temperament. Intellect wise, he’s basically a prodigy, especially where it comes to magic and music. However, it’s his wit and snappy tongue that get him in to trouble when he reaches university. Pissing off the sons of wealthy nobles with a lot of pride and influence is not always the best idea… But hey, at least it’s entertaining: “I even started a few rumors that were pure nonsense, lies so outrageous that people would repeat them despite the fact that they were obviously untrue.”


the-pancake-book-tag-2.png
15749186

God, I love pancakes & nutella..*drools* There are a few books that are for sure comfort reads for me (usually YA contemporaries), but this time around I’m going with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Honestly, that whole series in general is the sweetest, most easy-breezy, comforting set of books. And so quick to finish, too! Lara Jean is such an adorable protagonist and, despite their issues, I love LJ and Peter together. Even the side characters are loveable. It just gives me all the warm fuzzies.


The Pancake Book Tag 9
26032887. sy475

The Wicked King by Holly Black – the book hangover was strong with this one. I guess that’s what happens when you sit and do nothing else but read for hours on end until the book is over and then have to remember what you normally do with your life. I was so excited for this release and hooked from start to finish. Then it ended on a big twist and I was like….what. I have to wait a year to get the next one? Brain does not compute. Why. Why. Why.


The Pancake Book Tag 6
32620332. sy475

I’m going with one of my faves, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid for this prompt. Indulgent? Check. Feels? A million times check. I flippin’ love this book. Its such a dramatic ride and it really manages to hit you in the guts at several points. Despite its many issues, I can’t help being intrigued by the gliz and glamour of old school Hollywood, which is what drew me to this book originally. Plus, I can never resist a well developed romance, even when I know it’s going to break my heart to pieces.


The Pancake Book Tag 4
32768522

Ah, Baz. You start out so rude and potentially murderous only to turn out to have the hots for the chosen one. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is such a bizarre yet fun book and Tyrannus Basilton “Baz” Grimm-Pitch is easily one of the best parts. He’s all like, why yes, I may have tried to kill you on more than one occasion, potentially stole your girlfriend and constantly acted like an ass for about six years, but I am in fact sensitive, possess a traumatic backstory, currently dealing with my vampirism, and very much in love with your blue eyes and bronze curls Simon Snow. Winner.


The Pancake Book Tag 5
37632716. sy475

The plot in The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton definitely kept me guessing, mainly because it’s so intricately done and tricky to pin down until the last third or so. There’s just so much happening with all the different timelines and characters. For large chunks of the book, the main character is even more confused than the reader is. Still, it all manages to come together in the end. This book is surely one of the more creative mystery stories I’ve ever read. It’s nice to read something that isn’t really predictable from the get-go.


The Pancake Book Tag 7
39340341. sy475

A weird choice considering I haven’t read past book 4, but for some reason my brain keeps flashing it up – Aelin & Rowan from the Throne of Glass series. When Rowan was introduced in book 3, I was still hung up on Aelin & Chaol so I was sitting there going, please, please don’t become a romantic thing (even though I could see it coming from a mile away). But, then the idea grew on me over Queen of Shadows. Since then I’ve seen a lot of snippets, recaps, and discussions of the later books and I think that if I actually finished the series I’d be very much on board with the ship because of how loyal they are to one another and how much crap they go through together.


The Pancake Book Tag 8
25558608

Don’t worry, Becky. I’m not much of a fan of Peanut Butter either, except for Reese’s Peanut Butter cups weirdly enough. Anyway, ugh Marcus Farrar from The Ember Quartet by Sabaa Tahir takes the cake (or pancake) on this one. The guy just makes my skin crawl and for good reason. He sexually assaults slaves, hurts people for the pleasure of it, and just murders as he likes. I can’t say too much because of spoilers, but Marcus does some seriously messed up stuff during the series, especially during book 2 – A Torch Against the Night.


the-pancake-book-tag-10.png
39863498

I may have had a few problems with The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi but the characters were not one of them. In fact, they were the best part! And they’re so fabulously diverse. We’ve got Algerian-French, Indian, Filipino-Spanish, Polish, and Haitian-French covered just in the main cast alone. There’s straight characters, bi characters, curvy characters, skinny characters…ahhhh…it makes my heart do a little happy dance. They’re all so quirky and brilliant, and create this perfect little found family. If only more books achieved this.


Annnnnnndddddd…now I’m dying for pancakes. Why do I do these things to myself. *cries* Speaking of which, are you guys team pancakes or team waffles? I think I prefer pancakes but I absolutely love both. Give me a breakfast smorgasbord, pretty please.

I’m going to do my usual no tagging thing but if you love pancakes and feel like giving this tag a go, I strongly recommend it. I had a blast. Just make sure you eat beforehand!

You’ve Got Mail with Added Emotional Baggage: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Since I first started getting into YA contemporary a few years back, there have been some misses, some solidly enjoyable reads, and a few books that have made me sit there and go, ‘Wow, I really loved that’. Letters to the Lost falls squarely within category three. This is a story that’s honest, emotionally deep, fantastically written, and somehow enjoyable, despite its often sad content.

Who, What Where?

LTTL follows high school seniors Juliet and Declan. Juliet, still grieving the death of her mother killed in a hit and run several months ago, is having difficulty moving on with her life. She takes comfort in writing letters to her mother as if she were still alive and leaves them at her grave. Declan is serving community service at the local cemetery as punishment for drunk driving a car into an office building. After finding one of Juliet’s letters among the headstones, Declan finds himself writing a reply. And so begins an exchange of anonymous letters that will have a profound impact on them both.

Dealing & Moving On

I thoroughly enjoyed the plot of LTTL. The novel has three main overarching storylines: 1) Juliet coming to terms with her mother’s death and trying to engage in life again, 2) Declan dealing with his past family trauma and current family difficulties, and 3) the relationship between the two characters. Each of these stories is given a great degree of attention and depth, and all three are seen through to a satisfying conclusion. As a reader, seeing Juliet and Declan work to overcome their demons and emotional weights is extremely cathartic, and I’ll admit, there were several scenes towards the end that had me feeling some intense…things. Yet, I will say that there are some aspects of the story that do verge into melodramatic territory, but if you can get on board with this early you’ll likely enjoy the ride.

You Get Me

The relationship between Juliet and Declan is beautifully handled and layered. On the one hand, we have their written relationship in which the two feel comfortable to share their guilt, grief, secrets and thoughts about life within the safety of anonymity. At the same time, we also have their real-life interactions which, while starting off on very shaky ground, eventually grow and develop as they come to know more about one another. It’s the perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge someone before you truly know them or what they’ve been through.

Characters, Big & Small

Although the writing is amazing, it’s the characters that really made me fall in love with this one.

Declan: On the surface, Declan seems very much like the aggressive, angsty bad boy with a terrible reputation and we see this clearly from Juliet’s early interactions with him. However, Kemmerer wonderfully pulls back the layers on Declan bit by bit to reveal this caring, smart and guilt-wracked person who I so badly wanted to see find some peace, kindness and closure.

Juliet: Unlike Declan, I took some time warming up to Juliet as her grief makes her a little prickly in the earlier stages of the book. As the story goes on though, we get to understand and empathise with her a lot more. I loved seeing her open up to Declan in her letters/e-mails and using these conversations as encouragement to make changes in her life, especially where it came to her friends, family and photography.

Rev: Declan’s friend, Rev, was easily one of the best characters in the book. As an abuse survivor, Rev has his own internal battles to deal with, but he’s also a great friend, kind of awkward, very sweet, and in possession of a dry sense of humour. With this much potential, I’m really looking forward to seeing him in a lead role in More Than We Can Tell.

Wonderful Adults Galore: Can I just give a big shout out to all the gorgeous adult characters in this book. Sure, there’s definitely a few…not so good ones, but the others definitely make up for them in spades (especially since I find that adults frequently get the shaft in YA contemporaries). There’s Mr. Gerardi, who encourages Juliet to get back into photography, Mrs Hillard, who pushes Declan academically and persists despite resistance, Juliet’s dad, a massive sweetheart just trying to do the best for his daughter, and “Melonhead”, Declan’s community service supervisor, who helps him talk through some of his feelings and experiences.

You’ve Got Mail

The writing in LTTL is A+. The story alternates between Juliet and Declan’s first-person perspectives and their letters/e-mails to each other. These letters were one of my favourite parts of the novel as they showcase Juliet and Declan gradually opening up to and trusting one another with intimately personal details about their lives as well as thoughts they’ve never spoken about with anyone. This style choice also allowed for the seamless transition between the two characters’ POVs. These were fantastically done as well, with each character possessing an individual voice and Kemmerer able to perfectly capture their emotions on the page in a way that I couldn’t help but connect with them. 


While I may not have been able to fully get aboard the Kemmerer fantasy train with A Curse so Dark and Lonely, I am 100% full steam ahead when it comes to her YA contemporaries. LTTL is not a light book by any means, but despite its moments of over the top drama, it always feels true, raw, and compelling. After a book that’ll make you feel some things but is still enjoyable? This is the ticket.

4.5 Stars

Mutant Crabs, Body Horror and Lots of Questions: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Like a few of the other books I’ve read in recent months, Wilder Girls is another example of a novel with a great premise which manages to get a few things right but ultimately isn’t as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. Being classified as feminist horror by a lot of people, the story is a little bit Lord of the Flies in an Annihilation like setting with some added lesbianism, gore, friendship and a military cover up.

Who, What, Where?

Our story takes place at Raxter School for Girls, a boarding school located on an island off the coast of Maine. The school has been quarantined for the past 18 months following the outbreak of a mysterious disease referred to as the Tox. Over time, the Tox has killed most of the teachers and some of the students. The infected that remain suffer as the disease continues to mutate their bodies in gruesome and painful ways. The creatures in the surrounding woods have been similarly affected, leaving them aggressive and a constant threat. Facing difficult weather conditions and minimal food supplies, all the students can do is wait and hope for the speedy arrival of the promised cure.

Creepy & Mysterious Vibes

The atmosphere and setting for Wilder Girls are spot on. It’s bleak but works perfectly for the story being told. A decaying boarding school, population constantly dwindling, buildings gradually being torn apart for whatever resources the girls need to stay alive, and surrounded by expansive forest areas inhabited by mutated, vicious animals. Power provides us with just enough detail about her world to visualise it and still be intrigued to find out more. There are some serious Annihilation-like vibes here – it’s fascinating, mysterious, ominous and, at times, downright horrifying.

Aside from setting, Power’s novel also excels where it comes to the body horror elements – something she shows a clear talent for. The book doesn’t shy away from the pain and suffering the girls experience at the hands of the Tox which affects them in a variety of terrifying and sometimes awfully gruesome ways. Scaled hands, second spines, gills, sealed eyes, extra organs, blistered skin, mouth sores that spontaneously burst, the outlook is bleak. It’s bloody and bound to make those with weaker stomachs’ skin crawl. However, I do have to say that I feel as though Power could have made better use of the Tox as an allegory for women’s struggles in society and done more with the Tox mutations as a take on puberty (or at least, that’s how I interpreted it).

Just Answer My Questions

By and large, Wilder Girls is not something I’d describe as fast paced or action packed. The story spends a fair amount of time establishing the current state of things – the disease, the student’s systems for survival, the world itself, etc. before eventually moving on to something more plot oriented and even then, these plot points aren’t exactly numerous. It took me a while to engage with the story and mostly out of an intense desire to get my questions about the disease answered. However, the answers themselves ended up being either unsatisfying, vague or non-existent. If you’re looking for something with a clear sense of closure like me, this won’t be a good pick for you. The ending itself feels rushed, incomplete and confusing, and I’m left with a frustrating amount of questions.

The Trio

There are three main characters in Wilder Girls – Hetty, Byatt & Reese, the first two of which serve as the story’s narrators. The girls are close friends and have learnt to have each other’s backs to ensure their survival. These relationships are important as it’s Byatt’s disappearance which causes Hetty and Reese to go out looking for her, setting off a chain of events. Each of the girls are what I’d consider capable and strong. Power has given them different personalities and I have no problems with their characters from what I saw of them. Yet, at the same time, I still don’t feel as though I really know them and would have appreciated some more depth, development and backstory, especially with Byatt who was the least clear to me.

Poetic & Artsy?

One of the things I found myself thinking about a lot while reading was Power’s writing style. The reason being that it’s a little odd at times and frequently adopts the kind of sentence structure that would send any grammar check program into panic mode. For example, ‘Over my shoulder, the gloom thickening, and every sound an animal prowling through the trees’ or ‘Here the beginning of a path, there an open patch of grass, rubble scattered like gravestones’.  When you consider that the book is written in first person from the POV of 16-year old girls, it does make you wonder. While I wasn’t as keen on the use of this approach during quieter moments, it works well in dramatic scenes, helping to emphasise the tension and get across the tendency of the brain to process things very quickly.

Power plays around with style a lot more during Byatt’s segments of the novel – fragmented sentences, run-ons, etc. This in combination with choppy memory flashbacks can make these sections confusing at times but, for the most part, it effectively reflects Byatt’s current state of mind.  

Romance Light

As a book featuring almost an entirely female cast of characters, it’s the perfect set up for a sapphic romance. Wilder Girls starts out well on this front and lays the building blocks for a lovely and complex relationship between Hetty and Reese. Following Byatt’s disappearance, the two start to understand each other and communicate better, they have some sweet and intimate moments, and then…poof. It’s gone. Okay, not gone, but any further development does seem to halt. While I’m not someone who needs massively dramatic romance storylines to be happy, as far as side plots go, for me, this one was underdeveloped.

While Wilder Girls may not have given me the answers I wanted and could have benefited from greater depth to some of its story elements, it was certainly an interesting read and its world building and mysteries kept me engaged until the end. If you’re after something quick, slightly darker in tone, with strong female characters and a more open ending, this should be right up your alley. Added bonus: An absolutely stunning cover to add to the bookshelf.

3.5 Stars

Claim the Stars: ‘Skyward’ by Brandon Sanderson

And thus, I finally understand the magic that is Brandon Sanderson. Don’t get me wrong, I liked The Final Empire, and I have a massive appreciation for its world building and magic system, but was I in love? No. Skyward, I loved. Basically, in future if anyone ever derides the fact that I read YA novels, I’m going to direct them straight to this and watch them eat their words. It’s just that freakin’ good.

Who, What, Where?

In Skyward, humans live trapped on a planet called Detritus. For decades, they’ve been locked in an airspace war for survival against a race they refer to as the Krell. For this reason, pilots are valuable and prestigious with high mortality rates. The story centres around Spensa whose dream is to fly with the DDF, just as her father did, and prove herself. However, for most of her life she’s had to live with the fact that her father was branded a coward after supposedly turning tail during the legendary Battle of Alta. When Spensa stumbles upon the wreckage of an ancient, but advanced, ship, she realises that she may just have a shot at showing people what she’s truly capable of, that is, if she can survive flight school.

Blood of My Enemies

There are some books you read where you reach a point and think: huh, has anything major actually happened yet? That’s not the case here. The pacing of this book is perfect. There are moments of tense, action-packed excitement – epic battles, shots flying, but also scenes of quieter character bonding and emotion – grieving the loss of a friend, Spensa worrying about whether she might be a coward herself because she’s scared. Honestly, I cannot say that there was one part of this book where I wasn’t genuinely sad to stop reading. And maannnnnn, that climax. That is some movie level excitement. My eyes haven’t been that glued to a page in a while. The ending itself is also wonderfully crafted and I’m so keen to see how things progress in book two.

Call Sign: Spin

As a lead, Spensa is jarring to get used to. She’s grown up on stories of epic heroes and because of that and her father’s legacy, she’s…a little dramatic. As in spontaneously utters things like, “I will hold your tarnished and melted pin up as my trophy as your smoldering ship marks your pyre, and the final resting place of your crushed and broken corpse.” …Yeah. However, once you see past this, you realise how dedicated she is. This is a girl who’s dealt with a lot of crap over the years, and she’ll live in a cave and eat rats if it means she gets the chance to achieve her dream. Spensa’s funny, hardworking, caring, spunky, and won’t leave a teammate behind. Yet, at the same time, she does mess up – says things she shouldn’t, judge people, act rashly, but she works to overcome her failures and I think that’s why I root for her so hard. Then again, I also love a good underdog.

Skyward Flight

Spensa’s team of pilot cadets features a range of loveable and interesting characters with distinct personalities. Even the ones with less screen time still manage to make an impression, and characters that start out as unlikeable (such as the Spensa’s flight leader, Jorgen) manage to undergo development to fix that. Without realising it, you become attached to this cast of brave misfits and watching them die, fail, and hurt hits hard. One of my favourite parts of Skyward was seeing them evolve into a kind of oddball family. Basically, friendship for the win. I should also mention how much I loved Skyward Flight’s instructor, Cobb, who was the perfect mixture of tough, unintentionally funny, compassionate, and damaged. If I could give the guy a hug, I would.

Lay Low & Catalogue Mushrooms

During the story, Spensa discovers a broken-down ship with advanced technology. Seeing its potential, she, with the help of her bestie Rodge, undertake the task of repairing it. As it turns out, the ship can talk (oh, can it talk) and has its own quirky personality involving a mushroom obsession and tendency to compliment shoes. I really enjoyed M-Bot and the story relating to his repair, often involving Spensa having to steal parts. M-Bot is a little like AIDAN from Illuminae but, of course, minus the bat-shit crazy elements. He’s fabulous comic relief but the interactions between the ship and Spensa are also great.

Other Points

  • The world building here once again shows off that Sanderson is the bomb when it comes to crafting engaging worlds. The detail is fantastic.
  • There are some awesome drawings of ships and flying maneuvers to help you visualise.
  • The dialogue is so well done – it differentiates the characters and it’s often very funny.
  • There’s no romance! Perhaps something that could develop into one in book two (yay for slow burns), but for now, friendship wins the day.

If you’re up for an exciting, sci-fi read with great characters, humour and emotional impact, this is an amazing choice and I cannot recommend it highly enough. All aboard the Sanderson fangirl train. Woot, woot!

5 Stars