Hello! I CANNOT believe it’s already time for this tag; half the year is over and with it half the amount of time you have to reach your reading goals for 2021. I’m doing pretty well this year. I’ve been bouncing between 2-7 books behind schedule. So nothing that isn’t easily remedied by the end of the year.
As of right now I’ve read 73 books but when I sat down and made some graphs to share and decided on my answers I had only read 65 so all my stats and book choices will be based on those 65 books. Let’s start off with some general book stats!
Graphs are fun, are they not?? Its always so interesting seeing these results. Also, shocking. Like the fact that I read more contemporary/romance than I did fantasy or sci-fi?? Who even am I? Although, there is actually an explanation for this. Audiobooks. I love them. But over the last couple of years I have discovered that I have a hard time enjoying fantasy in that format so I stopped trying. I’ve turned to bingeing long romance series instead- mostly during my commutes and housework. Well, they add up! Not only that but if you combine fantasy and sci-fi together which I often do it brings that section up to 26 books. Back to an even (almost) playing field! I had a feeling I would be leaning more into the adult classification this year. I still love both YA and middle grade and don’t plan on giving up on either of those but I’ve definitely found that YA hasn’t been grabbing my interest as of late. Although I do still have a bunch of YA books on my TBR that I can’t wait to read. As for the publication graph- I have been trying to read more indie whether that be an indie author or indie publisher. Partially because I’ve collected so many and I really need to prioritize them and also because I love finding those hidden gems. I could still do better in this department but I can say for absolute fact that this ratio is an improvement on last year. Lastly, I have to say I’ve been a little more stingy with five star ratings this year. I’m not a critical reader by any means but I have been making an effort to save those top tier ratings for the best of the best.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s move on to the tag questions:
Best book so far this year.
The Silver Cage is so good I’ve already read it twice this year. Both times in one night. It’s not a happy book. Actually, it’s downright heartbreaking, but any book that can emotionally touch you like this book did me deserves the top spot. So far no other book has touched it.
Worst book so far this year.
I wasn’t originally going to choose this book for my answer to this one. But then I realized the book I was going to choose will actually answer the “most disappointing” question coming up so this was it’s runner up. I’m sure this is an unpopular opinion but I didn’t like Severance. It was meandering and pointless. I know this story was a metaphor for some profound message blah, blah, blah. I don’t care.
Best sequel you’ve read so far.
This is such a tough one- I’ve read some excellent sequels so far! I’m going with Heartstopper Vol. 4 but there are a few honorable mentions: The Silver Cord by Anonymous, Meat Cute by Gail Carriger, & Beautiful by Christina Lauren. Also, Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare is both a sequel and a series starter which is why I didn’t choose it but it absolutely fits for this question as well.
New release you haven’t read yet but want to.
I’m going with a lesser known title for this one- there are many more popular titles that would also work for this question (The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab for instance) but I feel like those books get talked about enough in the book community. I love anything to do with the Titanic, Acrobats (or circus themes in general) the time period and asian culture. So Luck of the Titanic should be a win for me.
Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.
Easiest question ever: Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff. Hands down my most anticipated release of the whole damn decade (ok, not really)- I’m literally counting down the days! An honorable mention would be My Favorite Thing is Monsters Vol. 2 by Emil Ferris (I’m hoping beyond hope for this to release this year).
The award for biggest disappointment goes to This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone. This book was hyped to the freakin’ rafters. I’ll never understand why. Pretty prose isn’t enough to make this a great book. The story should also make sense and be set in a world that you can actually envision in your head. That would be a big nope for this one. Runner up for most disappointing would go to On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. While I didn’t hate this one I was expecting to LOVE it and I didn’t. It was good- but that’s it.
Another easy answer- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I realize this book got a lot of hype in its day but that doesn’t matter. I’m not a huge lover of contemporary so I thought I’d enjoy this well enough, check it off my list, and move on. Yeah…no. I loved this book. Levi carved out a little inconspicuous hole in my heart and will stay there forever. Who knew? Certainly not me.
Favorite new author (debut or new-to-you).
I’ve only read one book by Layne Fargo so far but she left an impact. I loved They Never Learn and immediately purchased her debut, Temper. a couple other new favorites are Andy Weir (The Martian) and Heather O’Neill (The Lonely Hearts Hotel).
Newest favorite character.
I’m going with Mark Watney- he’s an excellent character and I still remember him in detail like I just read The Martian yesterday- but if I could cheat and choose a book from after the 65 book cut off I would absolutely, without a doubt, choose A.Z. Kimrean (specifically Adrian- the A half of A.Z.) from This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us by Edgar Cantero (another new favorite author that I discovered in 2019 with Meddling Kids).
Book that made you cry.
The Silver Cord is the Prequel to The Silver Cage. This book didn’t break my heart like the first book but it did make me cry. Not like The Silver Cage, though, in which I cried all the way to work the morning after reading it.
Book that made you happy.
Meat Cute will make any fan of the Parasolverse smile. Gail Carriger has a knack for writing silly stories that you find yourself invested in 100%. This short and sweet story finally explains the infamous Hedgehog Incident.
What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
This is a very long list- even if I exclude all the ARCs I need to read, sequels, and rereads. But if I had to pick just a few I’d go with Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, Dark Waters by Katherine Arden, and The Last by Hanna Jameson. Again, there are several super hyped and recently released novels that I could have added but I chose to forgo those since they are always talked about. While these are still popular they aren’t being talked about every time I turn around and they are either highly anticipated (Dark Waters) or have been on my TBR forever (all the rest, haha).
And thats a wrap- if you’ve read anything great (or terrible) be sure to let me know in the comments! Talk to you soon 🖤
➸ I was gifted a copy of this book by the author in return for an honest review.
Sam Young, an up-and-coming defense attorney with psychic abilities, finds himself caught up in the investigation of a serial killer when a young nun named Camille Paradisi approaches him outside the courthouse one evening. Camille also shares journal entries that have been showing up piecemeal at the church that she believes could have been penned by the killer. The journal begins in the 1940’s, Argentina, and tells the life story of a person who claims to have mind control and to be the descendant of fallen angels cast out of heaven by God. Identifying the killer could put the pastor at the church at risk if they can’t find the murderer before he kills again.
When I was asked to read and review this book I was bit on the fence about it. Legal thrillers are not normally my jam but with the supernatural addition I thought it might be something I’d enjoy. To my welcome surprise I really, really liked this book. Our main character Sam is likable, funny, smart, and enterprising. As we follow Sam through the day to day of being a lawyer we are introduced to a multitude of diverse and interesting characters. At the time I thought that while interesting, meeting all these people seemed to be just filler and not actually necessary to the story. But I was quite wrong on that front. You don’t know it at the time but all the relationships Sam is cultivating with his clients become quite relevant later on in the book. I was actually impressed with the way the author brought the story full circle with details I didn’t even realize were important at the time. One of the major strengths of this novel is definitely the characters and being a character-driven reader this really appealed to me.
A couple other aspects I really liked about this story was the writing style and expertise. The author, Christopher Leibig, is a criminal defense lawyer with a postgraduate degree in forensics and it really shows. He was able to make this story more realistic and interesting with his intimate knowledge on the subject. He also wrote in a way that didn’t bore the reader to tears with all the forensic jargon. I quite liked the time spent in court and talking about evidence; two things I never really thought were capable of entertaining me on any real level. On another note, I find that most books I really like usually have some humor in them so it’ll be no surprise that I found our main character to be pretty funny in a dry way. I found myself smiling a lot during the dialogue bits.
So, what took off a star? In the beginning of the book when we are first being introduced to characters, I found that the authors way of describing women and overweight people to be insensitive and unattractive. When the nun, Camille, came into the picture the descriptions used to describe her were a bit too sexual for my taste especially given her life choice. He also emphasized her attractive and youthful appearance as if only old and unattractive women could be a nun. A short time later we meet an overweight woman who was described using words like “huge” and “colossal”. The main character did treat the women with empathy and caring but the insensitive way of describing them didn’t sit well with me and this may turn off some readers, especially those who consider themselves to be overweight. Looking back I really don’t think the author meant anything derogatory by the way these characters were written and hopefully his future books will be written with more sensitivity in that department.
That is really the only criticism I have for this book. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this and will be picking up the sequel, Almost Damned, very soon. I’m very curious to see where this story will go next. I recommend this to both legal thriller and fantasy fans. And if you’re like me who normally wouldn’t read something like this but are intrigued? Give it a go! You won’t be disappointed.
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.
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! 😘
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.
ARC provided by Netgalley and Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review.
Largo is a bike currier in Lower Proszawa, traveling all over the city dropping packages to the rich, the poor, and everyone in between. The Great War has just ended and the people of this ravaged city drown themselves in sex, drugs, and parties to forget the terror recently visited upon them. As they give themselves up to pleasures of all kinds they fail to notice that the reality around them is dire. Automata are running the streets, taking jobs from the humans when they most need them, more and more genetically engineered creatures being kept as pets or instruments of war, and the general morbidity of the The Grand Darkness, where very realisitic murders are played out on stage in all it’s gory glory. Despite being a drug addict, Largo makes it to work each morning and when the Chief Courier goes missing his job is offered to Largo. Things seem to be looking up for him, with a new promotion, his beautiful girlfriend, Remy, and all the drugs he could possibly need, Largo is living in a state of bliss. But all good things must come to an end.
This book was a beautiful chaos. It was like a mish-mash of gothic architecture, 1940’s noir, automatons, and a bit of a lovecraftian feel to polish it all off. Lower Proszawa is a place you can’t picture the sun shining or any life outside of its reality. I listened to the audiobook while reading along because the names and places were entirely impossible to pronounce; the names and places making me think it was inspired by the German language. Men and woman are referred to has “Frau”, “Herr”, and “Fräulein”. While listening a lot of the accents also sounded French. Yet there was nothing that implied that these places even existed in the world. Simply put, this world is entirely unique and palpable. While reading I felt completely immersed. I was THERE. Kadney truly is a gifted storyteller with a vivd imagination.
Largo and his actress girlfriend, Remy, along with most of the population, are addicted to a drug called Morphia. When they aren’t using Morphia, they are sniffing cocaine or getting drunk, seeing morbid plays that use a type of remote control doll to enact bloody scenes of murder and death, or having sex. In the absence of war, the people of the city have given themselves entirely to pleasure. But just below the surface dark and terrible things are stirring and there’s word that the war will be coming again. The Bollocks, or police, are trying to sniff out the people in the resistance and in turn end up brutalizing and jailing innocent people. Walking down the street isn’t safe, especially from the law. On every street corner the Iron Dandies can be found. Men that have returned from the war so maimed and disfigured that they must wear iron masks to cover their faces. There’s word that people are being abducted from the streets by slavers and everyones jobs are constantly at risk of being taken over by the Mara’s, genetically enhanced creatures that some keep as pets. And to top it all off there is a plague, known as The Drops, inflicting random people and no one is sure how it is contracted. It’s a bleak world and all anyone wants is to hide from reality.
I really loved the characters in this book. This story features a m/m relationship along with a few bi or pan (not entirely sure which) characters as well. There is also a lot of disability representation in general but two of the main characters specifically. One is blind and the other is disfigured and disabled. They were all well fleshed out and interesting and they all showed amazing character growth throughout. Some of them were utterly unrecognizable by the end of the story. I loved how most of them reacted when faced with hard decisions and the things they were willing to do to protect the ones they loved. Previously seen as frivolous and uncaring, they now showed outstanding grit and determination in the face of their adversaries. The plot was fast-paced and held my attention until the last page. Most of the places this story took us I never saw coming and it was brutal. Kadney held nothing back, there’s blood and gore and death aplenty.
This is definitely a book that speaks more for itself than I can. It’s very hard to explain a world this detailed that is pulled from so many different things to create this one amazing place. Lower Proszawa is really a character all it’s own with it’s carnival, its slums and upper-classes and all it’s crisscrossing streets and alleys; it has it’s own personality and moods. Kadney really created something unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m only sorry it ended like it did. As far as I know this is a standalone. It did resolve the most important plot points but there are a few burning questions that never got answered. That is really my only criticism.
There are some triggers to be aware of: Addiction (alcohol and both real and invented drugs), PTSD (maimed & disfigured soldiers are very prominent), Homophobia, Police Brutality & abuse of power, minor animal cruelty (not that any is ok!), Violence (a lot of blood and gore), Sex (not really a trigger but there is a lot of sex or sexual behavior throughout the book), Spreading of Disease/plague, Brutal Death of a Parent (witnessed by child), Brutal Death of a close friend (witnessed by child).
I don’t know what it is about a big fat book that grabs my attention. Maybe it’s knowing that there must be a grand story within its many, many pages, or maybe it’s just the feeling of that substantial weight in my hands. Whatever it is, I love big books (and I cannot lie!). But, for some people, an enormous tome can cause anxiety and intimidation. It can seem like a much bigger task than they had originally set out for; just looking for a fun book to read on the beach, or at a doctors office while waiting for their appointment (ugh, I HATE the doctor). So, with that sort of person in mind, and anyone else who may be interested, I’ve put together a short list of books that are 260 pages or less. I have attempted to vary the genres in the hopes of pleasing everyone, but we all know that is not always possible!