➳ I was gifted an early copy of this book by Mira and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
When reading a synopsis of a book each of us have buzz words or themes that jump out and indicate this will probably be a book you really enjoy. This book had a few of those for me, some I didn’t discover until I started reading, so let me share those with you here:
➳ adventure/road trip ➳ old man/grandfatherly character ➳ found family ➳ character-driven ➳ humor
With a list like this there should be no doubt whatsoever as to why I loved this story. Norman is a lovely little boy with severe psoriasis who didn’t have many friends and definitely never had a best friend. That is until Jax came along. Jax managed to alienate every child in his class with his over-the-top behavior and potty mouth. So when he met Norman he knew he was likely his last chance at making a best friend and luckily Norman thought Jax was the best thing to happen to his class.
They were “The Bloody Rolls-bloody-Royce of bloody best friends,” as Jax so eloquently put it.
Jax and Norman were 12 years old and had been fast friends for six years until a terrible tragedy struck and Jax died, leaving Norman with a gaping hole in his world that he didn’t know how to fill. Out of desperation to lift Norman’s spirits his mother, Sadie, blurts out that she would take Norman to the Fringe, a comedy festival that Norman and Jax had always dreamed of performing at. And even though they weren’t planning to go for 3 more years Norman jumps on the opportunity to honor is friend by living their dream; even if Norman was the not-funny one.
Sadie, at a loss as to how she can possibly get her son a spot at the Fringe and also help him find his father, the second thing on his newly minted five-year plan list, she vents to her elderly friend, Leonard, about it who then decides he’s going to help Sadie and Norman make this dream come true one way or another. Sadie is worried that her son doesn’t have what it takes to get on the stage so Leonard arranges for Norman to perform at several open mic nights in various cities on their way to Edinburgh. But it turns out that Norman, Leonard, and Sadie learn a lot more than how to perfect a comedy show on this adventure full of hijinks, laughter, tears, and facing your fears.
“Hold on to your hat, Norman, old man! You’re going to the Fringe, Baby!”
As I listed above some of my favorite things in books are old men and adventures and character-driven stories and this book hits the nail on all three heads and doesn’t miss. Leonard is the perfect grandfatherly character with his wise advice, steady demeanor, and determination. Not to mention that he’s just adorable- especially how he worships his lovely wife, Iris. He is exactly the type of friend Sadie needs in her life and on this trip. While Sadie loves her son more than life itself she is also a realistic and relatable mother. She isn’t perfect, stiff, and coiffed. She has flaws, makes mistakes, and tends to be a bit unorganized. She’s a person that all mothers can see themselves in even if they don’t want to admit it. And while we’re on the subject of realistic characters, Norman fits the bill perfectly. So many books and movies for adults present us with a carbon copy child that rarely acts like the way a real child would but that isn’t the case with Norman at all. He’s so well-written he practically stands up off the page. Characters are definitely one of Julietta Henderson’s many strengths. She really seems to understand the human condition. Along the way we meet many other characters, both fun and some not so much, but Leonard, Sadie, and Norman are the stars of the show.
This story had me smiling so big nearly the whole time and when I wasn’t smiling it’s because I was outright laughing… and sometimes crying. Another thing this author does exceptionally well is balancing tragedy with humor. Our characters are each dealing with their own set of hardships, some of them together and others alone, but they always manage to have a good time and laugh through the tears. Jax may have passed but he’s just as present in this story as if he was still right there beside this family. Both Sadie and Norman really loved Jax and deal with their grief in their own ways but one thing they have in common is thinking fondly on his crazy hijinks and using his outrageous advice and ideas to keep them going. I just love Jax and how full of life he was… so full of life that even after he was gone he still blinded both the characters and readers with his presence.
Among everything else done well in this book I also thought the pacing was perfect. Just enough action to keep the momentum going until it rolls to a graceful stop at the end. This is a story of friendship, love, hope, and self discovery among a million other things. It may not have you on the edge of your seat and it may not be a literary masterpiece, But what it is is better than all that. It’s facing your fears and coming out the other side stronger. It’s accepting who you are and learning to love that person. It’s finding a place where you can think about the people you’ve loved and lost and smile instead of cry. It’s a story about a boy and his best friend and the people that love them.
I also want to mention that I was able to listen to a large portion of this on audio and I highly recommend it. The narrator does the three main characters voices beautifully and with aplomb. The nuances she added while reading, especially the funny parts, really elevated the reading experience. This story is great no matter how you consume it but if you like audiobooks you should add this one to your list!
Content Warnings: suicide (off page), death of a friend, death of a parent, bullying, grief, illness.
About the Author
I was brought up in a book-loving family in the rainforests of North Queensland and I’ve been writing professionally for more than 25 years.
My work has appeared in books and publications in the US, UK and Australia. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is my first novel.
I divide my life between my home town of Melbourne, the UK and wherever else I can find winter!
Thank you to Netgalley & Park Row Books for an advanced copy of this title. The following opinions are my own.
“I know who I am, but who are you? I woke up during the sunrise, and your hair and your skin and the freckles on your nose glowed like gold. Honey-gold. I think you are my wife, and I will call you Honey Girl.”
And so begins the sapphic romance between Grace Porter and Yuki Yamamoto; two lonely souls who found each other in the desert. Grace and her two roommates and best friends, Ximena and Agnes, are on a mini vacation in Las Vegas to celebrate Grace’s PhD in Astronomy. On their last night in the city Grace meets a girl with rose-pink cheeks and pitch-black hair. When she wakes up the following morning in her Las Vegas hotel room she finds a photo, a business card, and a note on the bed next to her. These are the only items she has connecting her to the woman she drunk-married the night before. She doesn’t remember her name but she can’t forget how the beautiful girl made her feel. With only these memento’s and snippets of a champagne-bubble dream, Grace and her girlfriends get on a plane and fly back to Portland, Oregon, where Grace must once again face her stark reality. The only thing Grace knows for certain is that she doesn’t want to give up her wife, whoever she is, or the connection they inexplicably have.
I’ll admit that this book started out on a bit of a bumpy course for me. The story felt a little disjointed and the prose didn’t seem to flow well. Dialogue didn’t smoothly segue into thought. Unfortunately when I read a book that starts out this way I have a hard time deciphering whether it’s the book or just me. I also felt the pacing was a little off with the first 40% of the book following Grace and her friends from day to day and then in the second half there were quite a few time jumps. This was necessary for the progression of the story but the book would have benefitted from a more consistent timeline. All in all these are pretty minor infractions. Where the book really shines is in the characters and their growth throughout the story.
Grace’s mother lives in Southbury, Florida where Grace grew up among the trees in their orange grove. Grace’s father, the Colonel, took Grace and moved to Portland when she was quite young. Growing up in an unfamiliar city with only her father and lovely stepmother, Sharone, Grace slowly built her own family- an eclectic group of colorful humans that love and support one another above all else. Her two roommates, Agnes, the girl with claws and sharp teeth, and Ximena, the Spanish goddess who is the glue that holds them together, lean on one another and pick each other up when they need it.
Grace works at the Tea House owned by the lovely Indian family that has adopted Grace as their own. Meera is the calm and supportive sister-figure, while Raj plays the role of big brother and protector. Baba Vihaan, their father, lovingly embraces Grace as if she is his own. Later, we meet Yuki, the gorgeous Japanese storyteller that Grace married in the desert along with her 3 roommates. Sani, the Native American MMA fighter, Dhorian, the dark-skinned resident doctor, and Fletcher, the silly and loving school teacher.
The diversity in both ethnicity and sexuality make this a decadent and vibrant story. Different cultures and beliefs are touched upon throughout the book in subtle ways. Biracialism is front and center; Grace is half black and half white. The struggles she faces in both her life and her career are heartbreaking and appalling. Intersectionality also plays a big role in this book. The Colonel is both black and disabled; he lost a portion of his leg in the war. Grace is not only biracial but suffers with mental illness as well. And she isn’t the only one. Agnes is thriving with Ximena and Grace but she’s still battling with her illnesses.
“I am here, says the darkness inside Grace. I am listening.”
Both Grace and Raj are buckling under the weight of their father’s expectations but in very different ways. While the Colonel is extremely strict and refuses to give an inch, Baba Vihaan is loving and warm but their culture demands the eldest son take over the family business when the patriarch dies whether Raj wants that life or not.
When Grace decides to take some time for herself after eleven grueling years of non-stop education and job rejections that are based on her race and sexuality rather than her above board and absolutely stellar resume, she does so against the wishes of her very strict father. For the first time in her life she is making a decision for herself rather than someone else. Little does she know that flying to NYC and getting to know her wife will become the catalyst she needs to finally face her fears, confront the people that have hurt her, and begin the arduous task of freeing herself from many self-inflicted burdens.
Grace is a brilliant astronomer, vastly knowledgable, and has the degrees and doctorate to prove it but when it comes to knowing her inner-self, the things she needs to make her happy, she is woefully inept. Following along on her journey of self-discovery is both heartbreaking and inspiring; I have a feeling her story will resonate with many people of color, especially women. These beautiful humans can read this story and feel seen. Whether the reader is black, biracial, Indian, Spanish, Japanese, Native American, disabled, Buddhist, lesbian, bi, gay, or straight- this story is a love letter to you. That being said I highly recommend reading an own-voices review; a review from someone who has shared the experiences of our main character. I suggest the following reviews for your perusal: Mina Reads & Ahtiya (BookinitWithAhtiya).
If you’re someone who loves diversity, strong female leads, found-family, or self-discovery in your stories than look no further. Morgan Rogers did a phenomenal job representing so many marginalized people. This is a novel that I read with google open on my phone to search all the new things I discovered while reading, whether it was about culture, food, or ethnicity. This is an absolute feast of a book!
The quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.
About the Author
Morgan Rogers is a queer black millennial. She writes books for queer girls looking for their place in the world. She lives in Maryland and has a Shih Tzu named Nico and a cat named Grace that she would love to write into a story one day. Honey Girl is her debut novel.
Thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book. The following opinions are my own.
I was on the blog tour for Emma Lord’s debut Tweet Cute last year. I really liked Emma’s writing style and decided to request an early copy of her sophomore novel as well. And…WOW. You Have a Match was excellent. Emma put on display her total mastery of the art of storytelling in this book. I liked her debut but it can’t hold a candle to her second novel in my opinion.
You Have a Match opens with Abby Day and her best friends, Leo and Connie, submitting a DNA test for an anthropology paper they’re working on. When the results come back revealing that Abby has a full-blooded older sister she is in complete shock. And when she realizes her older sister is the instagram Influencer Savannah Tully and that she lives only 30 minutes away she can’t turn her back on the opportunity to meet her and to possibly uncover the truth of the why behind her secret sister’s existence.
It’s so hard to decide where to start with a book that encompasses SO MUCH. You’ve got wholesome and 100% fleshed-out characters, you’ve got a lovely doggy sidekick, a wonderful and warm grandpa (in memory), friend groups you’ll downright envy, organic character growth, love interests with ALL THE CHEMISTRY, a summer camp setting with huge skies and bonfires and nature that will bury you in nostalgia, and the family-owned coffee shop lending its smells and cozy atmosphere to the story. There is photography and foodie wars and so much more. I wanted to LIVE in this story. After the third time I lost count how many times the tears ran down my face- these characters just touch your heart so deeply.
Where Twitter was the foundation of Tweet Cute its Instagram in You Have a Match. Savvy’s adoptive parents are quirky and rich and absolutely obsessed with health and wellness. In an attempt to make something that can be all-consuming into something fun Savvy and her best friend Mickey started an Instagram account highlighting all the ways to incorporate healthy living into your life while also making it enjoyable. She’s also very open with her sexuality on her account, not shying away from the fact that she likes girls. Throughout the book we see how something that starts out as fun can become all-consuming and mean that you’re missing out on important experiences happening all around you and how it can be hard to juggle being an influencer and also being just human.
Instagram also plays a part in Abby’s life; not only does she take staged photos of Leo’s amazing food creations for his account, but Leo himself created an instagram for Abby’s photography and takes it upon himself to share her best photos there. Abby is too shy to share her work so Leo does this in an attempt to show her how wonderful her photos truly are. Abby is also too shy to tell Leo how she really feels about him, especially after an embarrassing incident happens and changes their friend group dynamic. Connie also plays a part in the miscommunication that’s running rampant between the friends.
“I breathe in the sticky warmth of the air, the pine and the electricity and the ache of something deeper than I can name, knowing that no view I can capture will ever compare to this feeling-seeing it through my eyes while seeing it through his, letting us both bleed into a world where those two thing can be the same.”
Savvy and Abby’s worlds collide when they go to the same summer camp with the goal being to uncover as much as possible of their shared past. But when Abby discovers that Leo and Savvy already know each other from this camp it truly becomes a merging of all their lives and the drama unfolds from there.
Emma Lord does a fantastic job with this storyline, incorporating both current times and nods to the 1990’s/2ooo’s that’ll ensure that every reader no matter the age will find this book inclusive and fun. She is also the queen of metaphors; some made me literally laugh out loud.
“Savvy ducks her head down so Mickey can untangle the tag from her wet ponytail, but the two of them are cracking up so hard at how ridiculous Savvy looks with her head upside down and her arms extended out like she’s about to burst into the world’s most aggressive jazz hands that they aren’t making much progress.”
This probably isn’t as funny without the context behind it and I could share a million more like it but each reader should experience the wonder of Emma’s writing themselves. All of the characters are significantly different from one another- some are goofy, some are witty, some are shy- but the one thing they all have in common is how lovable they are. You’ll find yourself rooting for them while also wishing you could give them all a hug. Go ahead and get yourselves a box of tissues when you settle down with this book because there is no way you won’t tear up a time or two as you watch these characters bear their hearts to one another and help each other heal. It’s just so damn good.
“…I hear Poppy’s voice in my head-If you learn to capture a feeling, it’ll always be louder than words. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel one louder than this.”
After reading both of Emma’s books she is definitely on my auto-buy list and that’s really saying something coming from me as I don’t normally love YA contemporary and rarely buy from this genre. But there is no denying that this is an author to watch and I can’t imagine anyone giving this book less than five stars.
Quotes shared in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.
“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.
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.
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.
Hello, Friends!! In the month of August I participated in the Magical Readathon hosted by G from the YouTube channel Book Roast. This is a two-part read-a-thon that begins with the O.W.L.S. in April and finishes with the N.E.W.T.S. in August each year. The read-a-thon is themed after the wizarding tests taken in the Harry Potter books and they are so much fun! If you love to read, whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, I enthusiastically recommend joining us in April of 2020 for the next round. It’s an amazing community and adds a bit of a challenge to your reading which just spices things up a bit! Ok, enough about that; let’s get to the books!
I actually found that I read a bit less than my average in August which is totally fine but surprising. Although, I did read a couple lengthier books! My Stats for August:
Reading Goal: 129/150 (28 books ahead of schedule)
Books Read: 14
Pages Read: 5,249
Longest Book: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4) By Sarah J Maas 645 pgs
Shortest Book: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter 296 pgs
Genres Read: 8 YA/Adult Fantasy, 5 YA/Adult Contemporary, 1 Horror (of these 14 books 12 are physical books, 1 is Audiobook, and 1 is a Graphic Novel. 8 are Young Adult, 6 are Adult.)
And finally… here are the books from lowest rated to highest! 🖤
The Bookshop of Yesterdays completed the challenge: Herbology- Read a book between 350 and 390 pages.
This is the book that doomed my reading this month. I was so bored with it that it took up an entire week of my life and prevented me from reading anything else. I know I should have DNFed it but the mystery involved had me intrigued enough that I wanted answers. Once I got them I was pretty underwhelmed and regretted my decision to continue reading long past the ‘I’d rather go to the dentist than continue this book’ stage. No one is to blame but myself for this one! The writing isn’t bad but the main character is extremely annoying, the relationship between the MC and her boyfriend is completely unnecessary to the story and not even a good representation of what a relationship should be like. The MC is also spoiled rotten and terrible to her mother which was never addressed. Instead it was meant to be accepted because of the sad things that happened to her. BOO-HOO. No. You’re a crap person, Miranda. Please don’t show up in any more books.
Ironside completed the Challenge: History of Magic-Read a fantasy.
I read this book as part of the Faerie-A-Thon as well as the N.E.W.T.S. Faerie-A-Thon is hosted by the sweet and truly lovely Melanie from the YouTube channel Meltotheany. She can also be found at her blog of the same name. If you do anything at all today, visit Melanie. You will instantly love her! This read-a-thon is also hosted by the wonderful Alexa from the YouTube channel Alexa Loves Books, Kristin from the channel Super Space Chick, who is so sweet and gives me serious bookshelf envy, and Jane from the fantastic YouTube channel It’sJaneLindsey. If you’re ever looking for some BookTubers to follow these gals are a great place to start. As for the book; it was mediocre. Not bad but about what you’d expect from a YA Fantasy book published in 2007. It was entertaining, a super easy read, and a great introduction into Holly’s world of faerie which is the same world the The Cruel Prince (The Folk of Air, #1) is set along with the rest of the series and her other previous books!
Say You Still Love Me completed the challenge: Muggle Studies- Cover that includes an actual photo element.
I received this as an ARC for review from Netgalley and Atria books. To see my full review of this book visit this post. I was really hoping to love this book since I had heard such rave reviews for Tucker’s previous novel, The Simple Wild, which I have on my shelf and haven’t read yet. I found this book to be pretty average. It definitely wasn’t a bad book but it didn’t do anything special or manage to stand out in my mind in any meaningful way. If you like second chance romances with a female MC in a position of power I’d recommend this. I think there are a lot of people who will love this book; it just wasn’t for me.
Britt-Marie Was Here completed the challenge: Herbology- Read a book with green on the cover.
Fredrik Backman has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I’ll read anything he writes. He’s just so gifted with words and really specializes in human emotion. He just GETS people. All of Backman ‘s books tell poignant stories about self-discovery, self-reflection, and relationships. That being said this was my least favorite book I’ve read by Backman so far. Even so, this book is still really well done and funny. Britt-Marie is a character we first meet in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. In that book I pitied Britt-Marie but I didn’t like her. I found her to be meddling and annoying. This companion novel promised to tell her story and change the way you see her once you know who she really is at heart. It succeeded. I ended up caring about Britt-Marie and hoping for everything good in the world to happen for her. I’d recommend this book and anything else written by this author… even his grocery list.
Vassa in the Night completed the challenge: Astronomy- Read a book with the word night in the title or series name.
Vassa in the Night is an extremely strange retelling of the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful. This book made no sense at all and all the sense in the world. It’s twisty, weird, maniacal, and entertaining as hell. Even though this is possibly the strangest book I’ve ever read I still marveled at the authors imagination and ability to draw you in and keep you reading. The writing was spectacular. If you were to pull elements of this book apart and look at them separately you’d probably find that you weren’t interested in this book. Amputated hands that do their master’s evil bidding, a convenience store that dances on chicken legs, a talking wooden doll. All of these things seem so childish on their own but brought together they work seamlessly to create an extremely dark and creepy tale. This isn’t a book that can be explained, you just need to read it for yourself.
The Wicked Deep completed the challenge: Astronomy- Read a book with a moon on the cover or anywhere in the title.
This was the August pick for my reading group on Goodreads, The Reading Frenzy. There are 4 of us MODs and we create new read-a-thons and challenges each month to keep reading fun. Anyone can join, it’s a group for lover’s of all books and all genres. September’s Pick is A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab and we have something special and exciting planned for October 👻☠️🎃👀. As for the Wicked Deep, I went into this with very low expectations based on some of the reviews I had seen. Due to that I was pleasantly surprised. I quite enjoyed this witch-y book set on a spooky island, completely separated from the town. Ernshaw knows how to build up the atmosphere, that’s for sure. I love being surprised by a book and even though some of the plot twists were predictable there were some that I never saw coming. If you haven’t read this yet and want to I’d recommend holding off until we really get into Fall. It’s the absolute perfect book for the Halloween season.
The Right Swipe completed the challenge: Muggle Studies- Read a book set in our world.
I read this book with the Goodreads Dragon’s and Tea Book Club hosted by Melanie (meltotheany) and Amy (acourtofcrownsandquills). This reading group focuses on marginalized and own-voices authors. I’ve been reading with them for several months and have had a successful reading experience so far. This month they are reading Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson. Y’all should definitely check it out! For the first time since joining this book club I was wavering on whether to join in on The Right Swipe; mainly because I had such a lengthy TBR already and it just wasn’t a book that was on my radar. After seeing so many people getting excited closer to its release I decided to go for it. I’m really glad I did. This book was great. It features an intersectional MC, which is always refreshing to see represented. The book doesn’t explicitly say that the MC has any mental health issue but it’s clear that she does have something going on. It read to me like anxiety and I personally thought it was well represented and realistic. This book also features a woman of color in a position of power and she’s tough as nails. I felt she was too tough at times but was able to understand her better by the conclusion of the story. If you like diversity, second chance romance, feminism, or football players 😉 than I wholeheartedly recommend this book!
Origin is the only title I read outside of the Magical Readathon this month. I listened to this on audio.
What is there to say about this book? It’s an oldie but goodie that I just recently discovered! I’ve been slowly listening to this series from book one. It’s become my guilty pleasure when driving to and from work or running errands. Although, guilty pleasure is just a figure of speech; I’m not feeling guilty at all. 😉
Wilder Girls completed the challenge: Herbology- Read a book with a flower on the cover.
Ever since the day this cover was revealed I wanted to read this book. I didn’t even need to know anything about it. I’m exciting to do a post at the end of 2019 featuring my favorite covers of the year. This one will be at the top of the list, guaranteed. I read this book with my Goodreads book club, The Reading Frenzy, for the Bookish Treasure Hunt Read-a-thon that I created. This was another creepy island story but instead of witches and ghosts like you find in The Wicked Deep, this story features an all girls school quarantined to their island while a sickness called The Tox spreads from the plants to the wildlife to the girls and women who live there. Grotesque things are happening to their bodies and rarely are any two girls sharing the same symptoms. When one of the girls in a particular friend group disappears after a flare up it becomes clear more is going on than meets the eye and the story really takes off from there. This book was fantastically gory and creepy and twisted. I loved it. The only real criticism I have is a pretty big one and one that prevented me from giving this five stars and that is the ending. The ending was bad. Period. This is a stand-alone story and yet the book just abruptly ends with a lot of things still unanswered. This isn’t a spoiler as many things are cleared up and the way in which it ends is still a mystery if you haven’t read it but if you go to Goodreads and read any random review you will see the majority of people complaining about the same thing. The terrible ending. Maybe some people could see past it and maybe it’s supposed to have some metaphorical meaning, but I didn’t see it. I was just annoyed. I’d still recommend this though if you like body horror. it’s a damn good book.
The Grand Dark completed the challenge: Arithmancy- Read a book that ends on an even page number.
I reviewed an ARC of this book that was provided by Netgalley and Harper Voyager. To see my full review visit this post. This was the month of strange and unconventional books. This is another title that was so unlike anything else I’ve ever read. It felt like a mixture of steampunk, gothic architecture, 1920’s Noir, and a bit of a lovecraftian feel to polish it off. The world was brutal and dark. The characters range from savages, disabled, desperate, poor, rich, sick, healthy, powerful, and weak. The is a twisted story set in a twisted world and I definitely recommend it!
Legendary completed the challenge: Defense Against the Dark Arts- Read a book that’s black under the dust jacket.
Reading Legendary was so exciting since I had been waiting for what seemed like forever to get to it. I wasn’t disappointed. While this book was much darker than the more whimsical setting of Caraval, the main character’s had much better chemistry and the angst was palpable between them. I am so glad I have Finale already on my shelves after that kicker of an ending!
Heartstopper Vol. 2 completed the challenge: Transfiguration- Read a book with LGBTQ+ representation.
This graphic novel is everything. These characters were first featured in the full length novel, Solitaire, as side characters; this is the second volume of their back story. The MC’s are literally precious and I just want to hug them. Alice Oseman has a very distinct art style that I’m living for. The color scheme is beautiful as is the story she tells. If you’re looking for a queer graphic novel than look no further. This is a gem of a book!
An Easy Death completed the challenge: Defense Against the Dark Arts- Read the first book you remember from your TBR.
Charlaine Harris is an auto-buy author for me. She writes two of my favorite series, the Sookie Stackhouse series which is the inspiration for the HBO show True Blood, and the Midnight, Texas series, which was adapted into a T.V. show on NBC. I would never have picked up a book classified as a western under normal circumstances but all I needed to know before purchasing this book was that Charlaine wrote it. I was not disappointed. This book is so unique; I’ve never read anything even remotely like it. At first I was weirded out by the writing style because it was unusual and nothing like the author’s other books. But I quickly realized that she wrote the whole book in the way the MC thinks. It’s genius, honestly. The next book in this series, A Longer Fall, releases January 2020. I’ve requested an ARC so hopefully I’ll have a review up soon. Fingers crossed!
Queen of shadows completed the challenge: History of magic- Read a book that includes a map.
I’ve been slowly making my way through my reread of this series along with the girls hosting the #TOGreadalong, Kassie from MissSassyKassie & Brittni from Brittni’s Book Finds. Queen of Shadows was just as amazing the second time around. Shit. Goes. Down. in these books and I’m living for it! I’d lay down and die for my boy Rowan. I don’t think there’s much to say about this series. People either love it or hate it. How you could hate it is beyond me but hey to each their own! Next up is Empire of Storms and then there is only one book between me and Kingdom of Ash! I cannot wait to finally read the last book in this series… I’m sure it’s gonna kill me but sacrifices must be made.
That’s it for last month’s reading wrap-up. Also, I am now a Book of the Month YA affiliate! Click on the links on my page to sign up. I receive a small commission when you do, thank you kindly! I’ll see you soon for more bookish content!
Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker is a second chance romance between two people from very different worlds. In their teens, Kyle and Piper both attend summer camp as counselors and quickly fall into an intense romantic relationship. When Piper’s father finds out that his daughter is dating the child of a criminal from the wrong side of the tracks he demands that Piper end the relationship immediately. When she fails to follow his orders and finds herself getting into compromising situations that land her in a load of trouble, the summer comes to an abrupt end and Piper doesn’t hear from Kyle again. That is until he reappears thirteen years later as a security guard for the building her family owns and in which she is the VP of the company. Yet, when Piper approaches Kyle he seems to have forgotten her name… and their romance entirely.
I really wanted to love this book. I had heard many good things about this author’s previous novel, The Simple Wild, and was expecting her most recent novel to be similarly good. And it was, but nothing more. The story alternates between the past when Kyle and Piper were teens at summer camp and current times when they are reconnecting after thirteen years. The current timeline was very dull. Chock full with the day to day luxurious life of Piper and her job as VP of a huge real estate company. At first I thought this was just a slow burn type of romance and I was totally down with that. Well, it was a slow burn all right. So slow the flame nearly snuffed itself right out. At the 40% mark of the book there was still nothing happening between Piper and Kyle. Instead we were learning about her job and family dynamics. The flashbacks were the only element carrying this story along and I found I enjoyed those chapters infinitely more even though it had turned this adult romance into more of a YA romance. The scenes between the two MC’s at camp were steamy and pretty graphic, while the adult portion was the polar opposite. Even after Piper and Kyle’s adult story finally starts moving along the steamier parts are pretty much grazed right over. This isn’t a huge deal to me but I was a bit surprised since the scenes involving them as teens were so detailed.
There were definitely elements of this story that I liked quite a bit. Piper is snarky and smart and I really liked her character. I liked seeing how she handled being a woman in a position of power in a male dominated world. She’s down to earth without being unrealistically so and I really enjoyed that, too. I liked that Kyle was a bit different than your average teen love interest with his lip piercing, faux hawk, and tattoos. The chemistry between the two of them was palpable. I just wish there had been more of that chemistry in their adult relationship. Several times I found myself laughing out loud. The characters were definitely witty and interesting. Unfortunately, I felt like I was waiting for the entirety of the book for something to happen and when it did it kind of fell flat. I enjoyed my time with this novel but it was nothing to write home about.
There was very little diversity, a gay couple was mentioned once or twice and the story features a disabled MC, but that’s really it. There are themes of divorce, absent parents, cheating, underage drinking, loss of virginity, and some derogatory comments towards women and the people who work for the wealthy. Nothing I would consider majorly triggering.
💜 This tag was originally createdby booktubersChami&Ely.
When going back through the books for the first half of the year (from jan 1-jun 30) I was really surprised to see that many of them were rereads! So that left me with a somewhat limited amount of books to assign to each question. Still, I think this is a fun idea and I had a good time looking back on what I’ve read! I’ll start with my stats so far and then get to the questions. 😎
MY 2019 STATS (so far)
Reading Goal: 108/150 (was originally 100 but I bumped it up to 150 once I met my original goal) I am 27 books ahead of schedule.
Out of the 90 books I read as of June 30th 16 of them were rereads.
What is the best book you’ve read so far this year?
For me this is always the hardest question to answer. So many books are the best in their own way! But, I had to choose just one, so I’m going with: Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston! I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise to many but it sure was a surprise for me! I’ve read a lot of contemporary this year but I’m primarily a fantasy reader/lover and I never suspected that my favorite book so far would be a contemporary!
What is the best sequel you’ve read so far this year?
I haven’t read a ton of sequels so far. That will definitely change in the second half of the year but as of now I didn’t have a whole bunch to choose from that weren’t books that I was re-reading. Even if I had read multitudes of sequels, though, I have a feeling this one would still make my list of favorites: The Wicked King by Holly Black. I’m sure this is also a book people will see a lot of on top 10/favorites lists this year as well!
What is a new release that came out in the first half of the year that you haven’t read yet?
I don’t know what it was aboutWarrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller that had me waiting with bated breath for it’s release but I pre-ordered it and waited for the mailman….and still haven’t picked it up! Who knows why we, as book lovers, consistently do this! I want to get to this soon, though. I just have a feeling I’m going to love it.
What is your most anticipated book for the second half of 2019?
Hands down the answer for this is Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff and that’s saying a lot considering how many epic titles are releasing in the second half of the year!
What was your biggest disappointment so far thisyear?
Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry came highly recommended by Booktuber Emmabooks so I’m not sure why I was so surprised but I think it’s because of HOW MUCH I loved this. I expected to like it but not to adore it like I did!
A List of Cages by Robin Roe is possibly the saddest book I have ever read. I had no idea going into this what I was facing.. It was like a sucker punch to the emotions. Man, even now thinking about this book breaks my heart.
This was a fun way to see what I’ve been reading and to take a moment to think about books that I read earlier in the year and just revisit my thoughts on some of them. So often I feel like I’m reading at the speed of light and some books I don’t think about again for a long time if ever! I also think it’s interesting how differently you see or feel about a book after some months have passed; I found in a lot of cases my view had changed quite a lot from my original thoughts! Anyway, I’ll be back soon with more Riveting content! 👏😂