I review & talk about books 🖤 I read just about every genre but my go-to is definitely fantasy 🖤 runners-up are sci-fi, contemporary, romance, middle grade, & graphic novels 🖤 I used to be a gamer but I haven't played in a while, although I would if something really caught my eye 🖤 I'm an animal lover & a mother 🖤 I work with senior citizens as a CNA in a long-term & rehab facility but I want to be a librarian one day 🖤
“I hate men” seems to be a well-worn phrase used by many heterosexual women. The work it takes when looking for a romantic partner, from dating to dolling yourself up, just to be let down yet again in the end, becomes a tiring exercise that eventually convinces a lot of women that there are no good men left. Add a previous sexual assault to the mix and the idea of finding a good man becomes even harder to believe.
Holly Bourne’s Pretending follows April, a sexual assault victim and charity worker, who’s been desperately searching for the man of her dreams but finds that all the men she meets are completely predictable, eventually scattering her hopes and breaking her heart. Until she decides she’s done being the vulnerable, nice girl and brings “Gretel”, her alter-ego, to life.
Please enjoy an excerpt from Pretending by Holly Bourne:
I hate men.
There, I’ve said it. I know you’re not supposed to say it. We all pretend we don’t hate them; we all tell ourselves we don’t hate them. But I’m calling it. I’m standing here on this soapbox, and I’m saying it.
I. Hate. Men.
I mean, think about it. They’re just awful. I hate how selfish they are. How they take up so much space, assuming it’s always theirs to take. How they spread out their legs on public transport, like their balls need regular airing to stop them developing damp. I hate how they basically scent mark anywhere they enter to make it work for them. Putting on the music they want to listen to the moment they arrive at any house party, and always taking the nicest chair. How they touch your stuff instead of just looking; even tweak the furniture arrangement to make it most comfortable for them. All without asking first—never asking first.
I hate how they think their interests are more important than yours—even though twice a week all most of them do is watch a bunch of strangers kick a circle around a piece of lawn and sulk if the circle doesn’t go in the right place. And how bored they look if you ever try to introduce them to a film, a band, or even a freaking YouTube clip, before you’ve even pressed Play.
I hate their endless arrogance. I hate how they interrupt you and then apologize for it but carry on talking anyway. How they ask you a question but then check your answer afterward. I hate how they can never do one piece of housework without telling you about it. I hate how they literally cannot handle being driven in a car by a woman, even if they’re terrible drivers themselves. I hate how they all think they’re fucking incredible at grilling meat on barbecues. The sun comes out and man must light fire and not let woman anywhere near the meat. Dumping blackened bits of chicken onto our plates along with the whiff of a burp from their beer breath, acting all caveman, like we’re supposed to find it cute that we may now get salmonella and that we’re going to have to do all the washing up.
I hate how I’m quite scared of them. I hate the collective noise of them when they’re in a big group. The tribal wahey-ing, like they all swap their IQs for extra testosterone when they swarm together. How, if you’re sitting alone on an empty train, they always come and deliberately sit next to you en masse, and talk extra loudly about macho nonsense, apparently to impress you. I hate the way they look at you when you walk past—automatically judging your screwability the moment they see you. Telling you to smile if you dare look anything other than delighted about living with stuff like this constantly fucking happening to you.
I hate how hard they are to love. How many of them actually, truly, think the way to your heart is sending you a selfie of them tugging themselves, hairy ball sack very much still in shot. I hate how they have sex. How they shove their fingers into you, thinking it’s going to achieve anything. Jabbing their unwashed hands into your dry vagina, prodding about like they’re checking for prostate cancer, then wondering why you now have BV and you still haven’t come. Have none of them read a sex manual? Seriously? None of them? And I hate how they hate you a little just after they’ve finished. How even the nice ones lie there with cold eyes, pretending to cuddle, but clearly desperate to get as far away from you as possible.
I hate how it’s never equal. How they expect you to do all the emotional labor and then get upset when you’re the more stressed-out one. I hate how they never understand you, no matter how hard they try, although, let’s be honest here, they never actually try that hard. And I hate how you’re always exhausting yourself trying to explain even the most basic of your rational emotional responses to their bored face.
I hate how every single last one of them has issues with their father.
And do you know what I hate most of all?
That despite this, despite all this disdain, I still fancy men. And I still want them to fancy me, to want me, to love me. I hate myself for how much I want them. Why do I still fancy men so much? What’s wrong with me? Why are they all so broken? Am I broken for still wanting to be with one, even after everything? I should be alone. That’s the only healthy way to be. BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE. I hate men, that’s the problem. GOD I HATE THEM SO MUCH—they’re so entitled and broken and lazy and wrong and…and…
Holly Bourne is a bestselling and critically acclaimed UK-based YA and Adult Fiction author and is an Ambassador for Women’s Aid. Inspired by her work with young people, and her own experiences of everyday sexism, Holly is a passionate mental health advocate and proud feminist. In 2019, she was an Author of the Day at the London Book Fair, and was named by Elle Magazine’s weekly podcast as one of “Six Female Authors Changing the Conversation in 2019”. Pretending is her US debut.
At night when I’m holding on to my mother because she’s trying to get away from you so she can have a few hours of peace, I think about ways you might die. I’d love to stab you, to pull your dreamy blue eyes from your head. I’d love to hear you scream, too see you beg for your life and then take it from you anyway. You’re a plague and pestilence, and the way you carry your manliness likes it’s a permission slip from God to act like you rule everything and everyone in your path, like you can do whatever you want-well, I think the guillotine is a good option. I’d love to watch your head roll across the grass.
Mayhem and her mother, Roxy, find themselves back in Santa Maria, California, after Mayhem’s abusive stepfather takes things too far. After the death of Mayhem’s father, Lucas, many years before, Roxy packed her daughter in her car and left Santa Maria, her twin, and her mother, with no intentions of ever looking back. Until now. It’s quite clear to Mayhem that there is more to this town, old house, and family, than meets the eye and she is determined to uncover the legacy her mother ran from all those years ago and to finally take her own place in in the Brayburn family.
A diary exists in which the Brayburn women have added their own stories and experiences in the hopes that it would help the next generation own their power while also staying true to themselves. Mayhem finds this diary and the reader learns alongside her about the magic in her family. Throughout the book we are given glimpses into this diary and learn quite a bit about where the Brayburn Legacy originated and why. The magic of the Brayburn women was ultimately born of powerlessness. Starting with the rape of Mayhem’s great-great-grandmother, the brayburn magic manifests in the water found in a cave near their home. While the water loves Brayburn blood and the strength of the magic varies for each person, it is not required that you be a Brayburn to consume the water and adopt the power from it. Although, it is said that if you’re not a Brayburn the water will eventually drive you mad.
Drink the water.
Find true love.
Embrace your fate.
Protect Santa Maria and you protect yourself.
And never, ever tell another about the spring.
We are none of us invincible. We are all of us made of flesh and bone.
It is for us alone to carry.
I am fascinated by this concept. Estelle Laure created this interesting magic system set in a contemporary world where women who are so often powerless are given this unimaginable power and they use it to fight the injustices visited upon them. Over the years it becomes the duty of the Brayburn’s to protect their town and the people within it are grateful and show their thanks by leaving gifts at their home. Laced within this story there is also a serial killer on the loose and the constant threat of Lyle returning to take Roxy back to their old life. Meanwhile, Mayhem is learning where she fits into the family and is starving for details of her past, especially of her father, but her mother is self-medicating leaving Mayhem to learn what she can from her Aunt Elle and her aunt’s adoptive kids. Roxy and Mayhem’s relationship irked me at times. So many situations arose that I wish had been dealt with differently by both of them and I also wasn’t sure what relevance the author was attempting to portray by having Mayhem call her mother by her given name. This detail created a divide between mother and daughter that I didn’t think was realistic considering that the two of them only ever had one another for love and protection and I’m not convinced that a relationship cultivated in that type pf environment would leave room for such a thing between them. I don’t consider this a fault of the story; I love that this book leaves so much room for interpretation from the reader and this is just one small example of that. At the conclusion of the story I found Roxy and Mayhem’s relationship and the moments they experienced to be pretty accurate of what a mother/teen might experience.
There is so much to unpack from this story. Mayhem is not for the feint of heart. It deals with many heavy topics and while there is an underlying theme of hope, it’s still very much a dark tale. There are a lot of contradicting personalities, especially from the group of kids that Mayhem meets when she first arrives in Santa Maria. I found Neve to be especially abrasive and didn’t care for her character much. Here is a book about women taking their power back and yet no one ever challenges Neve or her behavior in a meaningful way and I felt this contradicted the purpose of the story. I also would have liked if Elle was a stronger character. This story would have benefitted from a strong matriarchal presence and Elle had so much potential to fill that roll but then sort of fell flat when faced with any sort of challenge. Most of the characters are really fleshed out and I was able to connect with them as the story progressed but for some reason I didn’t have that same connection with Kidd. I kind of felt that her character was unnecessary and sometimes annoying. All in all these are small criticisms that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book in any substantial way.
I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Summer of Salt, The Wicked Deep, and Sawkill Girls. Mayhem is set in the 1980’s but definitely has that seaside, magical feel with an underlying theme of darkness, similar to the settings of the titles I’ve listed above. Also make sure to be aware of extensive trigger warnings (taken from Estelle Laure’s website):
➽Rape: the Brayburn family’s backstory centers around the matriarch’s rape and explores the ensuing generational trauma and its effects on the women within its lineage. The rape is on page but is not graphically depicted.
➽Suicide: a suicide takes place off page.
➽Drug use: there is one scene in which multiple adolescents take hallucinogenic mushrooms. There is much use of pills and alcohol by one of the adults in the story as a coping mechanism for chronic pain and trauma.
➽Serial kidnapping and murder: part of the story centers around an active serial kidnapper and killer. There is also murder depicted throughout, sometimes on the page and sometimes off, including the murder of two of the children’s parents, which takes place in dialogue and is not explicitly on the page.
➽Child abuse: central to the story is a depiction of violence experienced by a child.
➽Domestic violence, intimidation, and emotional abuse: also central to the story is long-term domestic violence and its attendant cycle. This is mostly off stage, however there are several scenes of emotional manipulation and intimidation, and one scene that contains stalking and breaking and entering and a physical altercation.
✦ The quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.✦
About the Author
Estelle Laure (pronounced lore/lor) is the author of critically-acclaimed books for young people. She is best known for her novel, This Raging Light, which has been translated into twelve languages. She has five forthcoming young adult novels, including Disney’s City of Villains series (book one fall 2021) and Mayhem (July 14, 2020) with Wednesday Books/St. Martin’s. She is also very pleased to be fulfilling a dream by stepping into the world of picture books, the first of which will be out with HarperKids in 2021. In addition to writing her own stories, Estelle is an editorial consultant, writing coach, and educator.
Thank you William Morrow for sending me an early copy of this book. The following opinions are my own.
Survivor Song is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. Here are a couple of things that this story is not:
This is not a zombie novel.
This is not an apocalypse novel.
This book follows Dr. Ramola Sherman and her best friend, Natalie, after an outbreak of a super rabies illness. This illness is unlike the rabies we know and love where the symptoms can take several weeks to appear and we have all kinds of time to treat it before it becomes fatal. The super rabies has an incubation time of an hour or even less in some cases. Once it passes the brain barrier there is no hope of return.
Natalie calls Ramola when her husband is viciously attacked and killed by an infected neighbor and shares the news that she, too, has been bitten. Natalie is due to give birth in 15 days. As Natalie pulls into the driveway of Ramola’s home the clock starts ticking. The two women head out determined to get Natalie treated before the illness can do permanent damage and kill her friend and possibly her child.
This entire book, with the exception of the ‘postlude’ at the end, spans several hours as Ramola desperately tries to get Natalie to a hospital and a vaccine before it’s too late. On this journey through a chaotic Massachusetts that’s been set upon by the outbreak, everything that can happen does. It becomes a survival of the fittest type of situation and Ramola is willing to do just about anything to save her best friend. The chapters alternate between Ramola’s and Natalie’s point of view and the reader starts waiting with bated breathe to see if Natalie will mentally deteriorate like those all around her or if she was vaccinated in time to save her. One thing is for sure, though. They must deliver the baby by emergency c-section to save the child’s life in the event Natalie does not survive. Ramola doesn’t spare a single thought for anything else other than Natalie and her unborn child.
The story was gripping the whole way through. At every turn the two women face another challenge and you never know what they will do to meet it. They find themselves face to face with infected people and animals, conspiracy-believing zealots, car crashes, and two teenage boys who become more entangled in the story than expected. It’s a wild ride from beginning to end. This book goes a bit deeper than that, though. What I saw when reading this was the love and loyalty these women shared and what they were willing to do to help each other. I saw a doctor who is extraordinarily compassionate and held on to her morals with an iron fist no matter what. So while this is a horror novel about rabies-infected humans going around chewing on each other, it’s also a story about resilience and hope and I couldn’t put it down.
Some other aspects of the book I really liked were the creepy pages with the gothic writing peppered throughout and I also loved that the main character, Ramola, is a half white, half Indian, asexual woman with a British accent. Her character represented these qualities, not to further the plot, but just because that’s who she was. She has a really interesting background story that features her parents who are in an interracial relationship. I’d love to see more of this representation in books just for the sake of being there and not because it’s the focus of the story.
There are only a couple small criticisms I have as far as this book goes. One being that the chapters, especially Rams (Ramola), are very long. This doesn’t hurt the story and luckily this is a very fast-paced read so those long chapters don’t drag like they sometimes do in other books. I just prefer shorter chapters. And the second being that I don’t understand what the purpose was behind the decisions the teenage boys, specifically Luis, made after leaving Romola and Natalie. I thought that was an odd addition to the story and it felt like it didn’t fit. I think I would have enjoyed that part more if specifics from their background had been revealed and we could have learned what their secret was in more detail.
Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. I enjoyed this infinitely more than The Cabin at the End of the World. If you weren’t a fan of that book but want to give Paul Tremblay another shot or if you haven’t read anything by him and want to then I’d definitely pick this one up when it releases in July. I love Paul’s writing. It’s really fantastic, and I felt that way when reading the previous book as well. But here the storytelling and writing are in sync to create an awesome book.
Beware of some triggers for: blood/gore, violence, loss of a spouse/loved one, animal deaths, and xenophobia.
➸ ARC provided by Park Row and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
25 years ago Maggie’s best friend Eve Knox was brutally beaten and left to die in the local caves that run under the small town that they live in. Worse yet, it was Eve’s unusual little sister, Nola, and Maggie herself, that found her. Police Chief Kennedy, Maggie’s dad, did everything he could to find Eve’s killer but the case eventually went cold with no arrests made.
Now 25 years later a new piece of evidence has been found and Maggie is the detective on the case. She is determined to see if new technology can pick up anything they missed all those years ago so that she can put her friend to rest at last. Everyone involved closely in this case has a different idea of who did what and they all have more than just Eve in common. They all have secrets too, some uglier than others.
Reading this book was like watching a drama unfold before my eyes. Even though this book didn’t have any really seriously shocking twists it was still gripping and I really had no idea which one of them was the killer. It helped that all the people in this book were twisted in their own way and could easily have been the culprit. Maggie didn’t have much personality but I only really noticed that in the beginning when there wasn’t a whole lot to focus on. Eve’s sister Nola is as weird as weird gets. The neighbors are creepers. Eve’s ex boyfriend is a jerk. And they all have secrets that are slowly uncovered as the story unfolds.
Throughout the book we are following Maggie in current day and also flashing back to the few days before, and of, Eve’s murder. My favorite aspect of this was following from Eve’s POV during these flashbacks as we got closer and closer to her time of death. We are also following Nola in both the current story and flashbacks. So, as we’re reading the book we are also slowly following Eve up to the fateful moment of her death and I thought this part was extremely well done. It kept me right on the edge of my seat the entire time, especially knowing that we would eventually see her death through her eyes, rather than be told what happened from an outside party. This really enhanced the book in my opinion.
I also really loved the very accurate dementia representation in this book. Maggie’s father has dementia and therefore can remember things quite clearly from years ago but has a very bad short-term memory. This added another layer of suspense to the story because he was the original detective on the case and you get the idea that he might know something that he’s keeping close to his chest but on the other hand you can’t trust anything he says due to the dementia. This was a great aspect to throw into the story for a little added mystery. It also shows the hardships that families dealing with dementia deal with and how truly devastating this disease can be for them. This aspect of the book touched close to my heart as I am deeply familiar with the disease and can therefore judge its authenticity in this book and I found it to be really well done and realistic.
For me what made this book a real gem wasn’t the shocking reveals but the unfolding of the story and drama involved. Even though I wasn’t shocked to find out who the killer was I still really enjoyed the journey to that moment. What really made me drop a star from my rating of this book was the fact that some things had to work a bit too perfectly for some important scenes to pan out and it really pulled me out of the story. There was also an element of the book that was never revealed. This element wasn’t a massive part of the book but it was present enough that I wanted to discover the truth and was disappointed when it was never explained in the end. I also would have liked to know more about Nola and what she was up to. It’s alluded to, of course, but I really wanted more where she was concerned.
Luckily, I can happily recommend this book to all the mystery and suspense lovers out there. I really enjoyed my time reading this but just beware of some potential triggers: loss of a parent, loss of a friend, loss of a sibling, domestic abuse (both mental & physical), hoarding, assault, rape, miscarriage, animal dissection, murder (described from the victims POV as she died).
About the Author
Heather Gudenkauf is the Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden and Not A Sound.
Heather was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing loss (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father’s students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.
Heather Gudenkauf graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages and continues to work in education as a Title I Reading Coordinator.
Heather lives in Iowa with her family and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading and hiking. She is currently working on her next novel.
Many People are now familiar with the annual Reading Rush read-a-thon hosted by Ariel Bissett and Raeleen Lemay every year. It’s become one of the most popular read-a-thon’s out there and it’s a lot of fun! Inspired by our continued isolation, the creators of The Reading Rush have decided to host a mini Stay Home read-a-thon from 4/16-4/19. They’ve also created a tag! I’m going to answer the questions and then share my mini TBR with you all!
Q1 How is your reading going staying at home?
There hasn’t been much of a change in my reading since the quarantine started. I work in healthcare and am considered essential so my life really hasn’t changed all that much! I can say my reading has been a bit slower this year and that hasn’t changed, unfortunately.
Q3 What is the best book you’ve read during isolation?
I read and loved Us Against You by Fredrik Backman, the sequel to Beartown. Fredrik Backman can’t write a bad book. Or at least that’s been my experience and I’ve read many of his books now. I can’t recommend this author enough and I also think he writes extremely versatile books as well. Anyone can read them regardless of genre preference.
Q4 What is your favorite feel-good book?
I struggled a bit trying to think of an answer to this question. “feel-good” isn’t my go-to when looking for a book to pick up. I really prefer the dark and twisted stories, whether it be fantasy or contemporary. But a great book that I did read recently that definitely falls under the “feel-good” category is A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood. I never expected to love this book as thoroughly as I did. I do love how the 1920’s setting feels and it was because of the time period and the stunning cover that I picked this book up. It didn’t disappoint. It’s one of those books you enjoy like a dessert, savoring every page. I highly recommend it!
Q5 What book do you wish you could buy or borrow from the library if it’s not available?
Oh man, this I can answer very easily! Although, the reason I don’t have the book/s is not because I can’t buy them or because they’re not available. One of my favorite series of all time is the Nevernight series by Jay Kristoff. Unfortunately, by the time I discovered these books the UK hardbacks for both Nevernight and Godsgrave were long out of print. This broke my heart because I so badly wanted to own them in the UK editions. Needless to say, when Illumicrate announced that they would be working with the publisher to do a one-time-only reprint of the first two books I was literally hysterical. I vowed right then and there that I would get a set of those books even if I had to crawl to the UK to get them. I did end up getting a set and waited not-so-patiently for the shipping date in March to arrive. When the books showed up at Illumicrate’s warehouse, they noticed a finishing touch was missing from the books and they had to send them back. Am I grateful that their attention to detail means I will get the best possible quality book? Absolutely! Am I dying a little inside because I just want to have them in my hand? YEEEESSSS. As of right now we are still waiting for a new shipping date. Ho hum.
Q6 Who is an author that you want to shout out right now?
First I want to give a shout-out to all the authors out there offering up free e-copies of their books during this time of crisis, and also to companies like Scribd who are giving away free service so people with no access to books can still read while in isolation. I think it’s wonderful to see the community come together in this way to help each other!
As for an author I’d like to shout out… well I have several favorites that I could choose from, but the first author that came to mind when I read this question wasn’t one of my favorites, but a newly discovered author. Tessa Bailey. I want to shout her out for writing and releasing Reborn Yesterday because it’s literally been so much fun reading this book! I’m not quite done with it but I am loving it, and right now I’m very grateful for that! When I heard that a popular contemporary romance author was releasing a vampire love story, I was all-in! And let me tell you.. it’s been a fun ride!
And now for the long-awaited (probably not) TBR. There are four prompts to choose books for and they are:
Read a book with a house on the cover.
2. Read a book in the same room the whole time.
3. Read a book set somewhere you wish you could go.
Here are the books I am most excited for this year. I say ‘so far’ because as things are announced I may add to this list later on! There are 21 books on this list and 15 honorable mentions. I’m going to post the books in publication order instead of my personal excitement level… It’s simply too hard to rate them that way. Enjoy!
➼ I read and rated both volumes 1 & 2 five stars last year and have been waiting very impatiently for this 3rd volume to release. Luckily, it release in just days.. maybe even before this post goes up! If you love cinnamon roll, queer contemporary then this is the graphic novel for you!
Synopsis: (beware of minor spoilers for the first two installments andpossibly forSolitaire as well!)
In this volume we’ll see the Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…
Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?
➼ Rin Chupeco puts out books at the speed of light, which is great for us. Everything she writes really calls to me as if it’s written for me alone. This book is no different. Wicked As You Wish is a fairytale, alternative history story. It seems like a mish-mash of many different fantastical elements and I’m here for it! If you’re looking for fantasy with the found-family trope, look no further. This is also own-voices for Filipino representation.
Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends.
And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….
➼ Listen, I’ve been dying to get my hands on this freaking book. I am so hyped to see what Maas does with adult urban fantasy. I bet it’s fantastic. And I need it. ASAP.
Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.
➼ I’ve been Shadowhunter trash since the beginning of time and I always will be trash for these books. I have absolutely zero shame about it. I think it’s funny how every popular YA series of all time eventually grows a mass of people that ‘hate’ them. Like it’s totally uncool to like that super popular series so I’ll just jump on the hate bandwagon instead. oi vey. These books are good and this one will be no different. Early buzz on this new series starter is very positive and I simply cannot wait for it!This series follows the children from the main characters of the Infernal Devices series. It will feature a Persian MC name Cordelia as well. This series is for anyone who loves historical fiction/fantasy and looking for themes of family, friendship, and love.
Synopsis: (beware of spoilers for the Infernal Devices trilogy and possibly other books in the Shadowhunter books as well!)
Chain of Gold is the first novel in a new trilogy that stars the Shadowhunters of Edwardian London.
Welcome to Edwardian London, a time of electric lights and long shadows, the celebration of artistic beauty and the wild pursuit of pleasure, with demons waiting in the dark. For years there has been peace in the Shadowhunter world. James and Lucie Herondale, children of the famous Will and Tessa, have grown up in an idyll with their loving friends and family, listening to stories of good defeating evil and love conquering all. But everything changes when the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London…and so does a remorseless and inescapable plague.
James Herondale longs for a great love, and thinks he has found it in the beautiful, mysterious Grace Blackthorn. Cordelia Carstairs is desperate to become a hero, save her family from ruin, and keep her secret love for James hidden. When disaster strikes the Shadowhunters, James, Cordelia and their friends are plunged into a wild adventure which will reveal dark and incredible powers, and the true cruel price of being a hero…and falling in love. (less)
➼ My Dark Vanessa is a book I’ve seen makingthe rounds in the book community. I was intrigued by the dark atmosphere of it’s cover and decided to check it out. This book ended up being about a bit of a taboo subject; a student having an inappropriate relationship with her teacher. This is not the only reason I’m excited to read this, though. The synopsis really drew me in and convinced me this is an author to watch out for. I guess we’ll see if that turns out to be true. I think this is going to be a great book and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.
2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.
2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?
Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessais an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.
➼ I’ll be honest and say that I am not that familiar with Mandel. I know she wrote the very popular and award-winning Station Eleven, which I haven’t read yet. But her books are so strange and unusual and that’s something I find I’m really drawn to. The Glass Hotel differs from Station Eleven in that it is categorized as literary fiction. I’m definitely intrigued. I’ve read that even though this book is nothing like her most-loved prior book that if you enjoy Mandel’s writing style then you will most likely love this book as well. I’m excited for it!
From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts, and moral compromise in which a woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania and a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it.
Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass and cedar palace on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, Vincent’s half-brother, Paul, scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship. Weaving together the lives of these characters, The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.
➼ I read an ARC of the first book in this series, Foundryside, last year and was blown away by it! I was instantly in love and waiting for the sequel and it’s finally coming this year! This is fantasy unlike anything else I’ve ever read, where inanimate objects have awareness and can be misdirected in order to think they are something else and in turn act like something else. It sounds strange but it’s SO good. If you’re looking for more unique adult fantasy in your life please consider picking up this series!
Synopsis: (Beware of spoilers for the first book in the series!)
The upstart firm Foundryside is struggling to make it. Orso Igancio and his star employee, former thief Sancia Grado, are accomplishing brilliant things with scriving, the magical art of encoding sentience into everyday objects, but it’s not enough. The massive merchant houses of Tevanne won’t tolerate competition, and they’re willing to do anything to crush Foundryside.
But even the merchant houses of Tevanne might have met their match. An immensely powerful and deadly entity has been resurrected in the shadows of Tevanne, one that’s not interested in wealth or trade routes: a hierophant, one of the ancient practitioners of scriving. And he has a great fascination for Foundryside, and its employees – especially Sancia.
Now Sancia and the rest of Foundryside must race to combat this new menace, which means understanding the origins of scriving itself – before the hierophant burns Tevanne to the ground.
➼ This is the third installment in the amazing The Black Witch Chronicles. Laurie Forest is such an underrated author. This series is simply brilliant. She manages to weave modern (and historical) issues of race and acceptance into this beautiful high fantasy series that features several different races of beings. It is so well done! The Black Witch created some heated controversy over the books subject matter and I landed 1,000 percent on the side of the author, as did so many fans of these books. If you love high fantasy with fantastical beings, the chosen one trope, friend groups, or enemies-to-lovers, then you will adore this series!
Synopsis: (beware of spoilers for the first 2 books!)
Elloren Gardner hides the most powerful secret in all of Erthia – she is the Black Witch of Prophecy, and destined to triumph…or be used as the ultimate weapon of destruction. Separated from everyone she loves, isolated and hunted, Elloren must turn to the last person she can trust, her fastmate, Commander Lukas Grey. With the Mage forces of Gardneria poised to conquer all of Erthia, Elloren has no choice but to ally with Lukas and combine their power to keep herself out of the hands of the Gardnerian leader Marcus Vogel…the holder of the all-consuming Shadow Wand. With just weeks to train to become a warrior, and no control over her magic, Elloren finds unexpected allies among those under orders to kill her. It’s time to step up. To fight back. And to forge onward through the most devastating loss yet.
➼ Stephen King has long been an auto-buy author for me. I heard recently that there was some controversy over something King said (I have no idea what was said) and I saw many people vowing to never purchase one of his books again. If you are one of these people than I hope it doesn’t offend you to see this book on my list. I simply do not subscribe to that type of thing and will continue to buy King’s books because I find immense enjoyment in them. If you choose not to do so than I totally understand and would never judge. To each their own! If It Bleeds is an anthology, of which Stephen King is famous for. His short works are known to be some of the best out there and I can’t wait to see if these ones will hold up under that mighty praise! I’d say if you don’t enjoy horror stay away from this title!
From #1 New York Times bestselling author, legendary storyteller, and master of short fiction Stephen King comes an extraordinary collection of four new and compelling novellas—Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life of Chuck, Rat, and the title story If It Bleeds—each pulling you into intriguing and frightening places.
The novella is a form King has returned to over and over again in the course of his amazing career, and many have been made into iconic films, including “The Body” (Stand By Me) and “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” (Shawshank Redemption). Like Four Past Midnight, Different Seasons, and most recently Full Dark, No Stars, If It Bleeds is a uniquely satisfying collection of longer short fiction by an incomparably gifted writer.
➼ For some reason I am always super drawn to Jenn Bennett’s books. They always seem so whimsical and warm so when I see a new release by her I automatically want it! If you like contemporary romance, especially YA, then this would probably be the book for you.
In this coming-of-age romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, scandal and romance collide when an ambitious teen returns to her hometown only to have her plans interrupted after falling for the town’s “bad boy”—a.k.a. her childhood best friend.
Sometimes to find the good, you have to embrace the bad.
Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.
What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.
Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…
➼ I’m pretty sure this is one title that will be found on many most anticipated lists in 2020. I was just as shocked as everyone else to hear a new book was coming out in The Hunger Games series. It’s always a gamble when an author adds a book to a completed series years later but I think the fact that this is a prequel does help the odds. I’m curious to see where this book goes!
Ambition will fuel him. Competition will drive him. But power has its price.
It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.
➼ I can’t even begin to contain my excitement for Harrow the Ninth. I travelled to Bookcon in NYC with the sole purpose of acquiring and ARC of book 1 in this series and succeeded. I then read and fell head over heels in love. Gideon is the love of my bookish life and I need book 2 like yesterday. also, look at the cover. It’s so grim and beautiful. Be still my heart. This book is perfect for anyone looking for unique and queer adult fantasy.
Synopsis: (Beware major spoilers for book 1 in the series!)
Harrow the Ninth, the sequel to the sensational, USA todaybest-selling novel Gideon the Ninth, turns a galaxy inside out as one necromancer struggles to survive the wreckage of herself aboard the Emperor’s haunted space station.
She answered the Emperor’s call.
She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.
In victory, her world has turned to ash.
After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.
Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?
THE LOCKED TOMB TRILOGY BOOK 1: Gideon the Ninth BOOK 2: Harrow the Ninth BOOK 3: Alecto the Ninth
➼ I am an absolute sucker for books that even whisper at a carnival- or magical games-type theme so of course this went on my most anticipated list immediately. This book sounds properly dark and awesome and is one of the most intriguing YA debuts of the year in my humble opinion. If you like this type of book too then I’d keep a look out for this one!
In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.
As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.
The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost
The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told
The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide
Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.
➼ This title has two things that I love: Humor, and retellings of classics. Not to mention that Cynthia Hand can write her butt off and I’ve yet to read something by her that I haven’t liked. I don’t think I’ve read anything by the other two authors but I’m up for anything. This is book 3 in The Lady Janies series these 3 co-author together but I believe this is a standalone series and each book can be read on their own. I could be wrong here but I’m pretty sure that is the case! This series would be good for anyone who loves humor in their books and also just anyone who likes YA. I’m sure these books can be enjoyed even if you haven’t, and never intend to, read their classic counterparts.
Welcome to 1876 and a rootin’-tootin’ America bursting with gunslingers, outlaws, and garou.
JANE (a genuine hero-eene)
Calamity’s her name, and garou hunting’s her game—when she’s not starring in Wild Bill’s Traveling Show, that is. She reckons that if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.
FRANK (*wolf whistle*) Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler is the Wild West’s #1 bachelor. He’s also the best sharpshooter on both sides of the Mississippi, but he’s about to meet his match. . . .
ANNIE (get your gun!) Annie Oakley (yep, that Annie) is lookin’ for a job, not a romance, but she can’t deny there’s something about Frank she likes. Really likes. Still, she’s pretty sure that anything he can do, she can do better.
A HAIRY SITUATION After a garou hunt goes south and Jane finds a suspicious-like bite on her arm, she turns tail for Deadwood, where there’s been talk of a garou cure. But things ain’t always what they seem—meaning the gang better hightail it after her before they’re a day late and a Jane short.
➼ I have been a fan of Amanda Hocking since she was self publishing her books on kindle and selling them for $1.00. The First book I ever read by Amanda was Switched, the first book in the Trylle series. I absolutely fell head over heels in love with the entire series so needless to say when I saw the whole set sitting on the shelf for sale at Walmart I was overjoyed for Amanda’s deserved success. Since then 2 trilogies have been released in the Trylle world and I never thought we’d be getting more… fortunately, I was wrong! The Lost City is the first book in a new trilogy following the Omte, another species of troll. Trolls in the series are not what most people probably picture and are much like humans. Enough so that they can be hidden successfully among us. If you love light but awesome YA fantasy romance than you will love this. It will bring you back to the earlier days of fantasy!
Synopsis😦May be minor spoilers for previous books in the Trylle universe)
New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking returns to the magical world of the Trylle with The Lost City, the first book in the final Trylle arc.
Nestled along the bluffs of the forested coast lays the secret kingdom of the Omte—a realm filled with wonder…and as many secrets.
Ulla Tulin was left abandoned in an isolated Kanin city as a baby, taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many of the trolls of mixed blood. Even knowing this truth, she’s never stopped wondering about her family.
When Ulla is offered an internship working alongside the handsome Pan Soriano at the Mimirin, a prestigious institution, she jumps at the chance to use this opportunity to hopefully find her parents. All she wants is to focus on her job and the search for her parents, but all of her attempts to find them are blocked when she learns her mother may be connected to the Omte royal family.
With little progress made, Ulla and Pan soon find themselves wrapped up in helping Eliana, an amnestic girl with abilities unlike any they have ever seen before—a girl who seems to be running from something. To figure out who she is they must leave the city, and possibly, along the way, they may learn more about Ulla’s parents.
➼ Ever since falling in love with Alice Oseman’s work in Heartstopper and Radio Silence I’ve been on the lookout for anything she writes. I was super hyped to see that she was releasing yet another title this year and immediately added it to this list.Alice’s novels usually consist of fun and easy to read contemporary that also explore much deeper topics. I’m sure this one won’t be any different. You can also expect to find queer and diverse representation in most of her work, also!
The fourth novel from the phenomenally talented Alice Oseman – one of the most authentic and talked-about voices in contemporary YA.
Georgia feels loveless – in the romantic sense, anyway. She’s eighteen, never been in a relationship, or even had a crush on a single person in her whole life. She thinks she’s an anomaly, people call her weird, and she feels a little broken. But she still adores romance – weddings, fan fiction, and happily ever afters. She knows she’ll find her person one day … right?
After a disastrous summer, Georgia is now at university, hundreds of miles from home. She is more determined than ever to find love – and her annoying roommate, Rooney, is a bit of a love expert, so perhaps she can help.
But maybe Georgia just doesn’t feel that way about guys. Or girls. Or anyone at all. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe she can find happiness without falling in love. And maybe Rooney is a little more loveless than she first appears.
LOVELESS is a journey of identity, self-acceptance, and finding out how many different types of love there really are. And that no one is really loveless after all.
➼ No, your eyes are not deceiving you! The second book in Amanda Hocking’s new trilogy is being released justone month after the first and I’m not mad about it! It’s so rare that we get the second book in a trilogy within a month of the first but it’s happening with this one and I’m anticipating it just as much as the first!
Synopsis😦Beware of spoilers for book one in this trilogy and other books in the Trylle universe.)
New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking returns to the magical world of the Trylle with The Morning Flower, the second book in the Omte Origins arc.
Nestled along the bluffs of the forested coast lays the secret kingdom of the Omte—a realm filled with wonder… and as many secrets.
When Ulla Tulin took her internship at the Mimirin, the only mystery she thought she’d have to solve was that of her birth parents. After a girl named Eliana gets kidnapped while in her care, Ulla knows she has to find out the truth of who Eliana really is—and the only way to do that means traveling to the Omte capital, the place she suspects her mother is from.
Ulla didn’t expect that when she arrived she would discover the identity of a Skojare man who crossed paths with her mother—a man who could very well be her father. When the head of the Mimirin learns Ulla’s father is connected to the Älvolk, a secret society who believes they were tasked with protecting the First City and the only ones who know its location, he sends Ulla and Pan to Sweden where they find him living among the Älvolk. But all is not what it seems with the Älvolk and their urgent quest to find the Lost Bridge to the First City leaves Ulla feeling uneasy—and possibly in danger.
➼ The Gilded Wolves got mixed reviews butI fell on the side of loving it. It was compared to Six of Crows which is what initially drew me to the book but after reading it I am not so sure I agree with that comparison. It does share a few elements; The found family trope and a heist does take place in both books. But the similarities end there. The magic system is extremely unique and very complex in The Gilded Wolves and it’s setting is much more luxurious and less street urchin. I adore Six of Crows, it’s one of my favorite books of all time.. and I also adore this series. I recommend both to anyone looking for YA Fantasy that heavily relies on found familyand is also very character driven.
Synopsis😦Beware major spoilers for the first book in the series.)
They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.
Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumoured to grant its possessor the power of God.
Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.
As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.
A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.
➼ Let’s take a second to appreciate this stunningly creepy cover. I’ll admit that this is what drew my attention at first. But Katrina Leno is known for her contemporary books laced with magical realism and they’ve gotten rave reviews. That’s the second reason this book made this list. The third reason is that this book has been compared to Stephen King and Agatha Christy and put solidly in the horror genre. Enough said.
From the author of You Must Not Miss comes a haunting contemporary horror novel that explores themes of mental illness, rage, and grief, twisted with spine-chilling elements of Stephen King and Agatha Christie.
Followingher father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented. As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….
Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?
➼ Now here is the second volume to the most amazing and beautiful graphic novel I’ve ever laid eyes on. When I read Volume 1 of My Favorite Thing is Monsters I was completely blown away. It took me some time to get through the whole thing and it was a bit pricey (and worth every damn penny!) yet I was still aching to get my hands on the next installment. I wanted more immediately. I then learned there wasn’t even a release date for the next book. Needless to say, I am so damn happy to finally be putting this book on this list because it means I will have it in my hands before the end of the year! This is definitely for an adult audience and explores extremely heavy topics including sexuality, suicide, murder, abuse,drug use and addiction, and the list goes on. If you can handle these topics than I can’t recommend this enough!!
Synopsis😦Beware minor spoilers for the first volume.)
In the conclusion of this two-part graphic novel, set in 1960s Chicago, dark mysteries past and present abound, and 10-year-old Karen tries to solve them.
Karen attends the Yippie-organized Festival of Life in Chicago, and finds herself swept up in a police stomping. Privately, she wrestles with her sexual identity, and she continues to investigate her neighbor’s recent death. She discovers one last cassette tape, which sheds light on Anka’s heroic activities.(less)
➼ When Victoria Schwab says she’swriting a new book, that is literally all I need to hear. She can take all my money because I will buy every book she ever writes. She is a queen and writes some of the best books I have ever read. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what this is about. I don’t need to. But I’ll post it below just like all the others. 😎
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever―and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name
2020 Honorable Mentions: (I’m interested and plan to add these to my collection!)
➼ Whew, that’s one heck of a list! 2020 is looking really promising for great books and this is just the tip of the iceberg! I hope you found something that sounds good here and that I could inspire you to pick something up. What is your most anticipated book of 2020? I’ll be back with more bookish content soon! 😘
➼ ARC provided by Wednesday Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Foul is Fair is a brutal retelling of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Macbeth. In this take of the story, main character Jade, and her three closest friends, Mads, Jenny, and Summer, crash a St. Andrews Prep party to celebrate Jade’s sweet sixteen. These four girls are the ruling circle among their peers and are practically untouchable. Every other girl either hates them or wants to be them. Until the night of her sixteenth birthday when St. Andrews Prep golden boys choose Jade as their next victim.
Over the next several weeks Jade and her coven plan her vengeance against every single person who played a part that fateful night. Jade enters St. Andrews Prep as a student and quickly climbs the social hierarchy using Mack, an all-around good boy whose ambition will be used against him.
This time, they chose the wrong girl.
Sweet sixteen is when the claws come out.
Whew, where to even start! This book is so unique and Hannah Capin really has a way with words. The writing is so sharp it’ll cut you if youaren’t careful. This story is brutal and bloody. Every girl who has ever been a victim will let out a war cry when reading this book. I loved the protagonist, Jade. She was strength and bravery incarnate. A girl pushed to the ground who refused to stay there and then decides to make her abusers pay. Her friend group, or coven, was one of the best elements of the book. The relationships were portrayed beautifully and realistically; each girl having their own identities and personalities. I particularly loved Mads, Jade’s very best friend. Described as a beautiful dark-skinned warrior and someone who would stop at nothing to defend her friends. I am pretty sure she is a trans girl based on how she was described in the book. It wasn’t explicitly said but it was made pretty clear. I also loved Summer for the simple fact that we share a name and also because she is more a lover than a fighter but can still be counted on to do whatever it takes to help the rest of the coven. Summer is also either a lesbian or bisexual. This was also not explicitly stated but implied. It’s been a long time since I’ve loved a girl friend group as much as I did in this book.
I know better than I’ve ever known anything: every second in my whole life has just been practice for what I’ll do to these boys. This is why I’m alive.
This story is portrayed very dramatically, which is fitting since it is a retelling of a play. Because of this many metaphors are used and the reader has to parse out the true meaning of the words at times. I really enjoyed this part of the story but can easily see how some people wouldn’t care for it. Some suspension of belief is required to fully enjoy this book as well. In the real world many of the things that the characters did would’ve been discovered by police pretty quickly. Another aspect that may require a suspension of belief is the fact that upon meeting Jade, Mack is willing to do and believe anything she tells him. Even though they’ve only known each other for a matter of hours. I think all of this plays into the drama of the story though and I found it easy to accept.
I am deadly. I’m a poisoned blade. I’m all the power he thinks he has and more.
There are trigger warnings galore for this book which I’ll add at the end. When it is said that this story is brutal, make no mistake, it IS. There is a lot of blood and violence happening. There is also poisoning, and stabbing. This is a revenge story after all and it wouldn’t be much of one without these gory elements! If this is something that doesn’t bother you than I’d say definitely give this book a go. This story does deal with very important but sensitive topics. So please be sure to read the trigger warnings before picking this up if you are at all worried about any of the more sensitive aspects of the book.
TW: sexual assault (not depicted), rape culture, violence, an abusive relationship, a suicide attempt, and a brief scene with transphobic bullying.
➼ All quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proofand are subject to change upon publication.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hannah Capin is the author of Foul is Fair and The Dead Queens Club, a feminist retelling of the wives of Henry VIII. When she isn’t writing, she can be found singing, sailing, or pulling marathon gossip sessions with her girl squad. She lives in Tidewater, Virginia. Find Hannah on twitter @tldaaollf.
➸ ARC provided by Wednesday Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Tweet Cute is a retelling of the 90’s classic, You’ve Got Mail, and it may be even better than its predecessor. Enter Pepper, a country girl at heart living in the Big Apple where her mother is the CEO of a big restaurant chain called Big League Burger. Even after four years of living in NYC and going to her fancy private school Pepper still feels like she doesn’t fit in with her peers and dedicates all of her time making sure she gets the best grades, keeps her position as the captain of the swim team, and, above all else, doesn’t disappoint her mother like her sister did. So, When her mother asks her to tweet back to this small deli who has accused BLB of stealing their famous grilled cheese recipe Pepper doesn’t want to say no.
Jack can’t believe this burger chain would stoop so low as to steal HIS grandmother’s famous grilled cheese recipe and so against his father’s direct orders Jack decides to take matters into his own hands and tweet back to BLB’s snarky twitter posts and before he knows it a Twitter war has begun with half the world for an audience. All’s fair in love and cheese…
Unbeknownst to both Pepper and Jack they are also speaking to each other anonymously on an app called Weazel. An app that Jack made for the student body at their high school and has purposely tweaked to keep their real names a secret from one another but when they start having feelings that go beyond friends Jack wonders if he should just out themselves to one another once and for all.
At some point, it stopped being a war and started being a game.
Above all else what I really find this book to be is relatable. Underneath the snarky twitter war and sarcastic teenagers are two young adults struggling under the pressure that society has put them under. The need to be the best at everything, the constant competition between themselves and other students, and also the expectations of parents. Although success is important it shouldn’t be at the expense of friendship, letting loose once in a while, and having heart to hearts with the people you care about. Emma Lord did a masterful job of showing a relatable and realistic portrayal of what a teen is facing in today’s society. Many teens, and even older adults, will be able to see themselves in this story and that’s a big deal.
I also love how Emma Lord put her own little spin on the characters. Let’s face it, we see teens in high school as our main setting in a million books today. But I’ve never read about a a young country girl moved to the big city who also happens to be from a middle class family and now is living among the elite of the social classes. Those are big changes and also a huge step away from what we expect in YA contemporary. This also makes it so much easier for Pepper to relate to Jack, who is one of the very few students at their private high school not to come from money. It’s an interesting take.
I’m starting to think we’re the only ones who weren’t born with silver spoons in multiple orifices.
On a lighter note, this book is simply adorable. I love Pepper and Jack. I think both of their characters are extremely likable and believable. I think adding the social media aspect into the book makes it more relevant, even if I didn’t care for that aspect as much as other parts of the story. Another awesome part of this story is the baking blog between Pepper and her sister, Paige. The names of their baked goods were brilliant, made me laugh out loud, and just made the book more wholesome. This book also portrays a good example of expectation vs. reality. What is expected of a person based on the box they’ve been shoved in versus where that persons interests truly lie and what makes them happy. The romance is so sweet and I was rooting for #Pepperjack the whole time!
There you have it folks. A fitting end to the cheesiest romance ever told, and a love we can all brie-live in.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who loves a feel-good, laugh-out-loud, YA contemporary romance. This one truly stands out from the masses by being unique, relevant, and relatable.
➸ All quotes included in the above review were taken from an Advanced Readers Copy and are subject to change.
About The Author
Emma Lord is a digital media editor and writer living in New York City, where she spends whatever time she isn’t writing either running or belting show tunes in community theater. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in psychology and a minor in how to tilt your computer screen so nobody will notice you updating your fan fiction from the back row. She was raised on glitter, grilled cheese, and a whole lot of love. Her sun sign is Hufflepuff, but she is a Gryffindor rising. TWEET CUTE is her debut novel. You can find her geeking out online @dilemmalord on Twitter.
My people had a saying about home, as they did about so many of the important things in life: a Varenian can never be lost at sea, because he calls the entire ocean home.
In the ocean city of Varenia law dictates that whichever girl the council of elders decides is the most perfect, the most beautiful, will move to the city of Ilara and marry the prince. This has been the tradition of the Varenian people for as long as they can remember. It is considered an honor to be chosen, or at least that is how you are expected to feel. In exchange for the beautiful bride the Ilarans will continue to trade with Varenia, buy their pearls, and keep the drinking water available to the community. The Varenians survival hinges upon this arrangement. Never are the Verenians allowed to travel on land and so they are at the mercy of the Ilarans.
Zadie and Nor are beautiful twins and the most likely to be chosen to marry the prince. Until Nor sustains an injury that leaves a scar upon her cheek and leaves Zadie to be the chosen one. But then the unthinkable happens and Zadie is gravely injured and Nor must go to Ilara in her place. Nor has always dreamed of traveling to land and discovering the world so this seems like it could be a dream come true for her until she learns the price that must be paid to be chosen for royalty. Prince Ceren, her betrothed, ends up being a cruel man who lives in a castle carved into a mountain where there is no sunlight or warmth. As Nor becomes close to Prince Ceren’s brother, Prince Talin, she begins to learn unbearable truths about her people and the maidens that were chosen before her. She also realizes that her family and all the other Varenians could be in grave danger and she is the only one who can help them.
The premise of an ocean city is what originally drew my attention to this book. The city is not below the ocean, but above. Houses are built on stilts and traveling from place to place requires a boat or you must swim. This turned out to be the most interesting part of this story. The plot is heavily reliant on the beauty trope for the first half of the book. At least for girls who have a chance at being chosen to marry a prince. The family of that girl is in turn heavily rewarded and would not have to worry about starving or the fact that they are able to find less and less pearls to trade to Ilara or less fish to feed to their family. In this case Nor and Zadie’s mother is completely obsessed with keeping Zadie absolutely perfect. She must not sustain an injury or have a scar of any kind. She must be perfect. Which is why it made no sense to me that she was allowed to go diving in dangerous places and continuously put herself at risk.
Nor and Zadie are extremely close. Nor has accepted that she will never go to Ilara and instead dedicates her life to protecting her sister and diving for pearls to feed their family. Zadie is the more demure of the two as she has been constantly practicing to be a queen since she was old enough to talk. She seems very willing to do her duty and leave Varenia forever no matter how much she’ll miss her family. That’s why Nor is shocked when Zadie requests the impossible from her. But Nor cannot refuse her beloved sister anything and the events that follow leave Nor going to Ilara in Zadie’s place. I did enjoy the portrayal of sisterhood. The two sisters really loved and cared for one another and Nor grieved the loss of Zadie pretty hard.
Unfortunately there are parts of this book I found lacking. Once in Ilara Nor uncovers many truths about both Ilara and Varenia. The conflicts during this second half of the book were simply not convincing. I felt the problems could have easily been fixed with much simpler solutions than putting an entire community of people at risk. There was one scene in particular where Nor could have made a very simple and easy decision that would have in turn saved both the Ilarans and Varenians in one fell swoop… and she just didn’t. It went against her morals. I found this to be extremely annoying. It just didn’t add up.
As for the courtier life and relationships that Nor built once in Ilara, I found that part of the book to be very bland. Not much happens at all until the end of the book when a large plot twist is revealed. The plot twist was probably my favorite aspect of the book and the only part of the story that made me even slightly compelled to read the next book. The building romance left me feeling nothing at all. I didn’t care about it. I felt it had potential when we were first introduced to the character but then it just fell flat. I’d say that the book would do fine without it but so much of what happens next will be reliant on that relationship. I especially wish it had been a more interesting element since it’s so necessary to the story.
The book was definitely written well and I liked the main character and her gumption but the other characters were not fleshed out well enough and in turn did not inspire me to care about them at all. The story didn’t have enough intrigue to make it shine among a million other books just like it in the YA fantasy genre, either. Even though some of the aspects were definitely unique and not something I had seen before, the bare bones of the story were just like so many others before it. I do think this book offers a sense of adventure for someone who’s looking for that in a book. It’s also pretty easy reading. Between these things and the strong main character I think this book could definitely appeal to some people, it’s just not the book for me.
↝ARC received by Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review.↜
“The only thing death has never been is lonely.”
Renaissance Raines, newly resurrected, is now a psychopomp, a guide that leads the souls of the dead through the Seven Gates of the Underworld. Until she shows up at the supposed death of a boy name Ramses St. Cyr to find that he has managed to escape his moment of death. As she starts to investigate where her soul has gone she ends up in the thick of a plot created by the Gods. When she discovers who is responsible for the escape of Ramses there will be hell to pay.
Gather the Fortunes is the second installment in the Crescent City series by Bryan Camp. In this book we return to the world of New Orleans and gods and tricksters. The storyline is focused on the underworld, psychopomps, and loa which was only touched upon in the first installment. The atmosphere in this book is still just as palpable as it was in the first book, very creepy and dark and it was really good to visit this world again. Many of the characters that you meet in the first book, The City of Lost Fortunes, make an appearance in this one. The main character being Renai, who ends up being somewhere between the living and the dead, helping souls travel through the underworld. The plot is not as twisty in this second installment but in turn it is also much easier to follow.
Many of the chapters follow the same vein as the first book where they begin with different beliefs and mythologies throughout many different cultures; each usually focusing on one theme that is relevant to the chapter. Knowledge of the greek gods and mythology would make this book more enjoyable, I suspect, but it certainly isn’t required. I have very basic knowledge myself and still enjoy this series immensely.
“What’s a life-bringing rain god doing in the underworld?” “Same thing a god does anywhere else,” Sal said. “Whatever the F**k he wants.”
throughout this book Camp has touched on some extremely important subjects such as destruction, injustice, slavery, racism, and many other issues prominent today and in the past. He laces these important issues seamlessly throughout the book and uses his MC Renai as a voice of justice. I love her as a character. She is angry at the world for all the ways people can hate each other and she uses that anger as a powerful gift to take down her enemies. I think it’s really well done. Bryan Camp is a phenomenal writer with such intelligence I couldn’t help getting lost in the language of the book. If you read this series you will immediately understand my meaning. His books are filled to the brim with diversity of character and culture. I think there is something in these books to make almost anyone feel seen no matter where they hail from or what type of environment they grew up in. I love how the foundation of this story is built with Hurricane Katrina at its core and it speaks of a community torn apart but who refuse to stay down and are determined to rebuild again and again. In the Crescent City books New Orleans is a living, breathing character. Her Voice, Magic, and Luck being bestowed on some of my favorite characters in the books. Simply put, I doubt you’ll ever read a book like this one. If you enjoy learning about mythology, culture, gods, race, history, or the city of New Orleans specifically you will love this. I also recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy and magic in their books. This one is chock full of it. If you’re looking for a book with a young black woman as a main character, look no further. You’d be hard pressed to find another like Renaissance Raines.