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Most Anticipated Books of 2020!

It’s somehow time to start looking ahead to next year’s new book releases, and I’m all over it. 2019 was sort of the “year of new releases” for me, in that almost all of my favorite authors came out with new books, but so far, 2020 is looking just as fantastic on the new releases front. It might seem like it’s too early to start making lists like this, but personally, I like to look ahead to the next year rather than focus on this year winding down, and I like the feeling of having plenty of great new books to look forward to.

Caveat: this list is by no means comprehensive. I mainly focused on the first half of the year, since not all books coming out in the second half have been announced yet, and the list definitely skews in favor of my personal favorite authors and series I’ve already started. There are absolutely tons of great books that this list doesn’t encompass, and I’d love it if you guys can comment below with any other great 2020 releases you’re excited about. Last year, I ended up having to do a second post in January after I heard about even more intriguing titles, so there’s a fair chance that may be happening again. I’ve also noted which books I have ARCs or eARCs of, although that would never affect my reviews or my overall excitement levels about those books.

I listed these in order of tentative release dates, which are of course subject to change, and included links to Goodreads pages. I also added a few extra books at the end of the list that either aren’t confirmed or don’t have details yet.

Let’s do this!

 

Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire (anticipated release 1/7) – Like the rest of the bookish community, I’m always ready for a new novella in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. This fifth installment focuses on Jack, who has previously appeared in books 1 and 2, and presumably a return to the world of the Moors, a dark land of vampires and Dr. Frankenstein-esque science.

 

Followers

Followers by Megan Angelo (anticipated release 1/14) – I picked up an ARC of this one at BookExpo due to its relevant, buzzworthy premise. Goodreads says, “An electrifying story of two ambitious friends, the dark choices they make and the profound moment that changes the meaning of privacy forever. Orla Cadden dreams of literary success, but she’s stuck writing about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Orla has no idea how to change her life until her new roommate, Floss―a striving, wannabe A-lister―comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they so desperately crave. But it’s only when Orla and Floss abandon all pretense of ethics that social media responds with the most terrifying feedback of all: overwhelming success. Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything, even horrible things, to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks. Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.”

 

A Longer Fall (Gunnie Rose, #2)

A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris (anticipated release 1/14) – I absolutely loved Harris’s underappreciated 2018 release An Easy Death, the first book in a new alternate history Western series with fantastical elements, and I’m so glad we’re finally getting the second book. Protagonist Gunnie Rose is back and on a new crew, and her adventures this time will hopefully involve more of the Russian wizards, gunslinging, and creative worldbuilding we saw in book 1. I received an eARC of A Longer Fall from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and I’m hoping to read this one before the end of the year.

 

The Stars We Steal

The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne (anticipated release 2/4) – I was lucky enough to get an eARC of this one from NetGalley, and was drawn in by the concept of Jane Austen meets The Bachelor in space. After requesting, my friend separately introduced me to Alexa Donne’s BookTube channel, and now I’m a fan without even having started the book. Very interested to see how I like this one.

 

The Glass Hotel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (anticipated release 2/15) – I’ve been meaning to read more from this author since I read and loved Station Eleven; this book seems like I will (hopefully) love it as well. From Goodreads, “In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.”

 

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (anticipated release 3/3) – CANNOT WAIT for this one. Yes, I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment in Maas’s Court of Whatever and Whatever series, but this one sounds like the start of a series I’m also going to be obsessed with. It’s over 800 pages long, it sounds like a more UF take on fantasy, and I’m planning to either pre-order it or pick it up on release day and dive in. I’m including the entire length Goodreads synopsis, since it sounds so good: “Half-Fae, half-human Bryce Quinlan loves her life. By day, she works for an antiquities dealer, selling barely legal magical artifacts, and by night, she parties with her friends, savouring every pleasure Lunathion—otherwise known as Crescent City— has to offer. But it all comes crumbling down when a ruthless murder shakes the very foundations of the city—and Bryce’s world. Two years later, her job has become a dead end, and she now seeks only blissful oblivion in the city’s most notorious nightclubs. But when the murderer attacks again, Bryce finds herself dragged into the investigation and paired with an infamous Fallen angel whose own brutal past haunts his every step. Hunt Athalar, personal assassin for the Archangels, wants nothing to do with Bryce Quinlan, despite being ordered to protect her. She stands for everything he once rebelled against and seems more interested in partying than solving the murder, no matter how close to home it might hit. But Hunt soon realizes there’s far more to Bryce than meets the eye—and that he’s going to have to find a way to work with her if they want to solve this case. As Bryce and Hunt race to untangle the mystery, they have no way of knowing the threads they tug ripple through the underbelly of the city, across warring continents, and down to the darkest levels of Hel, where things that have been sleeping for millennia are beginning to stir…”

 

The Companions

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn (anticipated release 3/3) – This blurb from Goodreads with comparisons to two of my favorite books got me to instantly add this one to my TBR: “Station Eleven meets Never Let Me Go in this debut novel set in an unsettling near future where the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.”

 

Docile

Docile by K. M. Szpara (anticipated release 3/3) – This book is getting amazing hype from readers with ARCs, and the premise sounds extremely unique. Goodreads says “Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles. To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future. Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.”

 

The City We Became

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin (anticipated release 3/26) – N.K. Jemisin is one of my all-time favorite authors, which is why I’m super excited about her new book even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the short story it’s based on. Goodreads says “Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin. Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.”

 

Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy, #2)

Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan (anticipated release 4/7) – the sequel to 2019’s Wicked Saints, which I enjoyed quite a bit but perhaps didn’t love. This dark YA fantasy sequel will continue following our three flawed and magical main characters as they deal with the fallout of Wicked Saints‘ intense conclusion.

 

Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love, #2)

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai (anticipated release 4/21) – I was lucky enough to be approved for an eARC of this one via NetGalley. 2019’s The Right Swipe introduced us to Rai’s Modern Love series, a lighter spinoff of the Forbidden Hearts trilogy centered around romance in the digital age, and Girl Gone Viral focuses on Katrina, a reclusive former model introduced as a side character in book 1. Since I’ve loved every Alisha Rai book I’ve read so far, and I was intrigued by Katrina’s backstory, I’m very much looking forward to this one, so my review will probably be up well ahead of this one’s release.

 

The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient, #3)

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang (anticipated release 5/4/21) – I really loved Hoang’s first book The Kiss Quotient, and although I was lukewarm on the second book The Bride Test, I have higher hopes for The Heart Principle since it features favorite side character Quan as the main protagonist in this rom-com.

UPDATE! I just found out that The Heart Principle has been postponed until 2021, but I’m still very excited about it, so I’m going to leave it on this list, just to make things more confusing for everyone, and so I don’t forget to include it next year.

 

Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle, #2)

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (anticipated release 5/5) – I really loved Six of Crows in space-esque Aurora Rising this year, since it featured what might be my favorite YA trope (a gang of misfits banding together for a heist) and also set up several really interesting relationship dynamics that I’ll be interested to follow. I also really enjoyed Kaufman and Kristoff’s previous science fiction trilogy, the Illuminae Files, so I have high hopes for this second book in the Aurora Cycle.

 

Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2)

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (anticipated release 6/2) – This is a book that I’ll be at the bookstore on release day for, considering it’s the sequel to my favorite book of 2019. If you haven’t yet read Gideon the Ninth, you still have about six months to get on board with this unique world of interstellar necromancy, sarcasm, and some of the most memorable characters I’ve read about in years.

 

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1)

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles (anticipated release 6/2) – I wished for an eARC of this new YA fantasy book on NetGalley, so fingers crossed. Goodreads says, “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…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.”

 

The Damned (The Beautiful, #2)

The Damned by Renee Ahdieh (anticipated release 6/9) – Ahdieh’s The Beautiful was a surprise YA favorite of 2019 for me, and its ending set up a great premise for the sequel, along with the potential for more magic and mayhem in historic New Orleans.

 

The Heir Affair

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (anticipated release 6/16) – yet another contemporary romance sequel, this one to 2015’s The Royal We, a sort of retelling of a William and Kate-esque romance with plenty of drama and fun. I loved listening to The Royal We on audiobook this year, and since a lot of the emotional conflicts seemed like they were still very much present toward the end of that book, I can absolutely see how a sequel could come into play. I’m hoping that we get more time with Freddie, the Prince Harry character, and maybe an eventual Megan Markle-esque follow-up book?

 

Flyaway

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings (anticipated release 7/28) – This Tor novella sounds like it’ll be right up my alley, with plenty of weirdness and possible magical realism. Goodreads says: “In a small Western Queensland town, a reserved young woman receives a note from one of her vanished brothers—a note that makes question her memories of their disappearance and her father’s departure. A beguiling story that proves that gothic delights and uncanny family horror can live—and even thrive—under a burning sun, Flyaway introduces readers to Bettina Scott, whose search for the truth throws her into tales of eerie dogs, vanished schools, cursed monsters, and enchanted bottles. In these pages Jennings assures you that gothic delights, uncanny family horror, and strange, unsettling prose can live—and even thrive—under a burning sun. Holly Black describes as ‘half mystery, half fairy tale, all exquisitely rendered and full of teeth.’ Flyaway enchants you with the sly, beautiful darkness of Karen Russell and a world utterly its own.

 

Reign (Stormheart, #3)

Reign by Cora Carmack (anticipated release 8/25) – the conclusion to Carmack’s Stormheart trilogy holds a lot of promise, since the end of the second book Rage set up a game-changing realignment of alliances. I really love this well-written, elemental magic and romance-focused series, and I’m hoping we continue to see strong character development for Roar.

 

And here are some more possible 2020 releases I’m excited for, that are either coming out in the second half of the year or don’t yet have official covers/synopses/release dates:

A Sleight of Shadows by Kat Howard (sequel to An Unkindness of Magicians, book 2 in an adult fantasy series featuring warring magical houses, anticipated release June 2020, no cover or synopsis available)

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi (sequel to The Gilded Wolves, book 2 in a YA fantasy series, anticipated release 9/22)

The Lightness by Emily Temple (no release date yet, but an intriguing synopsis on Goodreads: “a fabulist and violent tale of mistaken fervor set in a Buddhist summer camp and following a tight-knit, secretive circle of teenaged girls with a dark history, weaving together ancient myth, fairy tale archetypes, occultist practices, legends of daring women, and Buddhist mores.”)

Between Earth and Sky by Rebecca Roanhorse: (anticipated release 2020, favorite author, great-sounding GR synopsis: “The great matriarchal clans of a prosperous cliff-city vie for power against a backdrop of political intrigue, celestial prophecies, rising rebellion & dark magic.”) There’s also the potential for a third book in Roanhorse’s Sixth World series in 2020, but it hasn’t yet been confirmed.

Ruinsong by Julia Ember (no release date, from an author/publisher I’ve really enjoyed in the past, YA fantasy with a great GR synopsis: “In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence must choose between the two. For years, she has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding. But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself. In this dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.”)

Untitled, A League of Extraordinary Women #2 by Evie Dunmore (no release date/cover/synopsis, but following Lucie and Tristan from Bringing Down the Duke, the first historical romance I’ve ever enjoyed)

 

What books are you most excited to read in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

November Reading Wrap-Up

November lasted approximately five minutes, which is probably why I didn’t get quite as much reading done as I expected. But I did read three Book of the Month books, and since I’m working with a significant BOTM backlog, that was definitely helpful. I was pleasantly surprised by a book in a genre I don’t normally read, and I also finished another ARC from BookExpo.

Here are my stats:

Number of books finished: 6

Audiobooks: 1

ARCs: 1

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

The Grace Year by Kim LiggettThe Witches Are Coming by Lindy WestMagic for Liars by Sarah GaileyBringing Down the Duke by Evie DunmoreWell Met by Jen DeLucaWhen the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

And here are my reviews:

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (3.75 stars) – It would be hard for me not to read a contemporary fantasy set at a magical school, and Magic for Liars was no exception. In this case, socially isolated private investigator Ivy is called into the magical high school her sister teaches at in order to investigate a murder, and in the process has to revisit her childhood insecurities about growing up normal with a magical sister and losing her mother at a young age. I found this an enjoyable read overall; at times it feels like a modern play on a noir detective story, and the magical elements often felt incidental rather than central. For that reason, it would be an easy dip into fantasy for readers who aren’t typically fans of the genre, but still has enough fantastical elements for genre fans. The characters and the school that Gailey sets up would definitely work well for the possibility of spin-off books set in this same world, possibly even with different main characters, that I would like to see, but also wraps up well for this being, from what I understand, a standalone book.

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore (4 stars) – Before picking up this book, I was ready to give up on the historical romance genre–not through any fault of the genre itself, but because I had yet to find a book or author I really clicked with. And then Book of the Month offered Bringing Down the Duke as one of its selections, and it had one of those cute cartoon romance novel covers that I vastly prefer to traditional bodice-ripper covers, as well as a feminist premise, and I decided to give historical romance one last shot. I’m so glad I did, it because this was such a fun read. I found that I loved Dunmore’s writing style and liked both main characters equally (which shouldn’t be rare in romance novels, but for some reason is for me?): suffragist and Oxford student Annabelle and icy aloof duke Sebastian. I also got some Pride and Prejudice vibes from their early interactions and in some ways the writing style, which is something that I’ve been looking to find done well in the genre but previously hadn’t seen. There was one plot point that I was NOT a fan of, but I do understand that it could be attributed to social norms of the time, and it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the read. There’s also a clear set-up for the next book in the series that I am very much on board for, with a romance between lead suffragist Lucie and a notorious rake taking center stage.

Well Met by Jen Deluca (3 stars) – A cute contemporary romance with an interesting setting (Renaissance faire!) and premise (out-of-towner-turned RenFaire tavern wench meets uptight English teacher/RenFaire pirate!) that I ultimately didn’t connect with writing-wise the way that I was hoping to. Relationship issues became repetitive, as did their solutions, and I wasn’t convinced by how quickly the relationship progressed.

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West (3 stars) – I found this essay collection on how pop culture influences our current political environment to be enjoyable, but ultimately disappointing, as I felt West didn’t necessarily choose the best examples to make her points, and was largely speaking to an audience who already agreed with her views. It’s an easy and short listen on audio, and if you like Lindy West, I’d still recommend it, but it’s not the strongest essay collection I’ve read on the topic.

When the Sky Fell On Splendor by Emily Henry (3 stars) – Excellent band of misfits friend group at the center of this story, but ultimately a plot that I just didn’t love. I really enjoyed Henry’s A Million Junes, and this didn’t quite live up, despite the characters that I would have happily followed in a different story. I almost felt like the science fiction elements of this story detracted from its impact; when you have such strong characters that readers can connect with so easily, sometimes a simpler plot allows them to shine more.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (2 stars) – The Grace Year was one of my most anticipated books of 2019, mainly because it was pitched as sort of a YA version of The Handmaid’s Tale, and while that’s an apt description, the book itself unfortunately didn’t work for me. I had issues with the logic of the premise–in their sixteenth year, the girls of “the county” are sent into the woods for a mysterious “grace year” in order to rid themselves of the magic they supposedly possess before they fully join society to become docile wives for workers–and the fact that neither the county itself nor the surrounding world was ever explained, but that wasn’t my only issue with this one. Our main character, Tierney, felt more like a fictional YA protagonist than she did a fully developed person; the book’s side characters remained one-dimensional, despite us as readers spending a year with them, and overall I felt like there was too much summarizing in the narrative and not enough action or dialogue. I also really disliked the romance storyline; I think I’d have greatly preferred the story without it, and focusing on female friendships instead. I did like the direction the book took towards the end with regards to certain realizations Tierney came to (trying to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers), and the potential for interesting developments in the future, but this unfortunately just wasn’t the book for me. I received an ARC of The Grace Year from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

October Reading Wrap-Up!

Yes, we’re belated again, but last month I promised that I would stop talking about how belated all of my monthly wrap-ups are, so we’re just going to move on and forget that I already broke that promise.

October was such a fun month–in addition to experiencing October-ish things, like hiking in nearby Letchworth State Park, going on a ghost tour of an allegedly haunted old mansion, and going to a set of five haunted houses, I soaked up all of the fall weather and Trader Joe’s pumpkin-related products that I could find. I was also in Orlando for a week for a work conference, but went early enough that I was also able to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios for the first time, which made me ridiculously happy–I nerded out hard with my friend as we got frozen Butterbeer (delicious), went on the Hogwarts ride (the experience of waiting in line inside the castle was honestly more fun than the ride itself, but I mean that in a good way), explored Knockturn Alley, and picked out a wand at Ollivander’s (I ended up choosing Narcissa Malfoy’s wand, as it best matched my overall aesthetic, plus the actress also plays Polly in Peaky Blinders, so it was a double win). I may end up doing a separate post with a more full/thorough review of my experience there as someone who isn’t traditionally a theme park person–what do you guys think?

My October reading didn’t go quite as expected–I had set aside a dark fantasy TBR stack for the month that I didn’t end up picking from as much as intended–but I still had some really great reads, including a great YA historical fantasy, a novella from one of my favorite science fiction authors, and a re-read of a favorite from 2018.

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 4

Audiobooks: 0

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Emergency Skin by N.K. JemisinGet a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia HibbertThe Deep by Rivers SolomonThe Beautiful by Renée AhdiehTrail of Lightning by Rebecca RoanhorseStorm of Locusts by Rebecca RoanhorseLove Her or Lose Her by Tessa BaileyAphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista MateerTo Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (re-read) (5 stars) – Update: upon re-reading, I changed my rating from 4 to 5 stars, because this book is fantastic. In the world of Trail of Lightning, a series of rapid catastrophic climate-change-related events have fractured what was once the United States and buried much of it underwater on an accelerated timeline. In the aftermath, the Navajo nation of Dinetah has formed in what was once the Southwestern United States, and Navajo legends and magical powers are manifesting among its people. Our main character Maggie possesses gifts that help her to slay the monsters that threaten her people, but also have her questioning whether she herself may be monstrous as well. An especially strange new monster has Maggie set on a new path, where, in between fighting monsters and dealing with beings out of Navajo legends, she grows closer with an attractive young medicine man while being haunted by her history with her former love, the legendary Monsterslayer. Urban fantasy can be very hit-or-miss for me, but I really enjoyed this book. With its post-apocalyptic setting and mythology-laden world-building, I think it would be great for readers of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. I loved that Rebecca Roanhorse took the very real threat of climate change as inspiration for the book’s setting and used that as a jumping-off point to introduce Navajo mythology into the world. It was so interesting getting to learn more about Navajo myths and legends. Maggie is a prickly, somewhat isolated main character at the beginning of the book, but we see a lot of growth even during this relatively short novel. I found it very easy to root for her, and I loved the concept of the clan powers, which played a large role in the book. The book’s secondary characters were also great; I especially loved Kai, her mysterious medicine-man love interest, and of course his grandfather Tah as well, but also thought Coyote was a great character. I think the world that Rebecca Roanhorse created has the potential for so many more stories, and I’m very excited to see where she takes Maggie next. Definitely recommend. I received a free signed copy of Trail of Lightning at an autographing session at BookCon.

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse (4 stars) – After re-reading Trail of Lightning, I could not have been more excited for the sequel, and although I did absolutely still enjoy the read, this one didn’t quite work for me as well as the first book did. It’s a month after the events of the first book, and Maggie Hoskie, our badass, monsterslaying protagonist, is living with her elderly friend Tah, whose nephew and Maggie’s love interest, Kai, is still MIA. So Maggie’s been taking on jobs with the local Thirsty Boys mercenary crew to fill the time, and after a job goes sideways, she finds herself the guardian of a young teenage girl named Ben, and from there on the road after Kai, who seems to have been abducted by a cult leader called the White Locust. I still absolutely love Maggie as a main character; she’s tough, but is learning to care about people more and more; newcomer Ben added more to the story by bringing out Maggie’s protective side and casting her into a big sister role. The world Roanhorse created with this series is fascinating, and I would easily read ten books set here; every time we see a new angle of the Sixth World, I’m impressed with her creativity all over again. What was missing for me this time was Kai and Coyote, two of my favorite main characters from the first book, who are both pushed to the back burner for this one and aren’t given enough time to shine. I like both of their dynamics with Maggie, and I felt that the side characters from this book didn’t hold as much interest for me, with the exceptions of Ben and Rissa. Quite a few interesting things are set up towards the end of the book that definitely bode well for future stories in this series, and I can’t wait for the next installment.

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (4 stars) – I’ve seen the phrase “vampires are back!” associated with The Beautiful more than anything else, and although I’m not averse to the idea (although I don’t believe vampires in literature really went anywhere in the first place, nor did I want them to), I think it’s misapplied to this book in particular. It sets up Twilight-esque expectations, or maybe a new version of True Blood, when that’s simply not the case. The Beautiful is a lot of things, but I absolutely would not call it a vampire book. That being said, I absolutely loved it. Check out my full review here.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon (4 stars) – The Deep is a short but profoundly impactful novel that blends history and fantasy together to tell the story of Yetu, a young woman who shoulders the intense burden of being the historian for her people, the wajinru, who are mer-people descended from enslaved pregnant African women who were thrown overboard on the journey to the Americas. While all other wajinru are able to spend most of their lives spared from reliving the horror of the collective memories of their people, Yetu must constantly bear it all, and, understandably, she’s struggling to do so and still survive. When her people gather together for an event where they periodically share the memories, guided by Yetu, she flees, and embarks on a journey where she learns more about herself and her people. It’s a powerful story, one that deserves to be widely read, and one that I would absolutely recommend. I received an ARC of The Deep from the publisher at BookExpo.

Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin (3.75 stars) – Technically a short story, but I’ll take anything I can get from N.K. Jemisin, who’s one of my favorite authors. “Emergency Skin” is science fiction, told in second person, and follows a soldier sent back to a destroyed Earth from an extraplanetary colony that abandoned our planet centuries previously, in search of genetic information that would help to ensure the survival of his society. It’s a very quintessentially N.K. Jemisin story that utilizes several hallmarks of her writing (twists, second person narration, commentary on current societal issues), but, having recently read her fantastically amazing short story collection How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?, I’d say that overall it wasn’t one of her strongest stories for me. I’d definitely still recommend the read, though, especially as it’s free if you have Amazon Prime.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (3.5 stars) – This contemporary romance, set in England, follows web designer Chloe Brown, a guarded woman dealing with her fibromyalgia diagnosis, and Redford Morgan, an artist-turned-property-manager, who’s dealing with insecurity and the aftermath of a traumatizing relationship. Our story kicks off when Chloe undergoes a near-death experience and decides that she needs to, well, get a life–to stop being afraid to make bold life decisions and go out and experience the world. She initiates this by moving out of her family’s house, but stalls trying to accomplish any of the next few tasks (ride a motorcycle, travel the world with minimal luggage, have meaningless sex, etc) until she meets Red, who she seems to think is the sort of “dangerous” guy who could help her with her list, but who in actuality is a complete sweetheart who happens to ride a motorcycle. While working through Chloe’s list, with some necessary modifications, the two confront their mistaken first impressions of each other (Red assumes Chloe is a rich snob, Chloe assumes Red is carefree and full of himself) and end up falling for each other. You can read my full review here; I received an eARC of Get a Life, Chloe Brown from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey (3 stars) – Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this second installment in Bailey’s Hot and Hammered series quite as much as the first book, Fix Her Up, but it was still a fun, quick read that I think a lot of contemporary romance readers will likely enjoy. Love Her or Lose Her follows a married couple (unusual for a romance novel!), Rosie and Dominic, who, despite a deep love for one another that began when they were childhood sweethearts, find themselves at a point in their marriage where they’re only truly able to connect in the bedroom; otherwise, their communication has completely broken down. Rosie in particular has been feeling the strain, and kicks off the novel by leaving Dominic, as she’s feeling unappreciated and unsatisfied both professionally and in their relationship. The plot of the novel revolves around Rosie and Dominic’s attempts to reconnect through a hippie version of last-ditch couples counseling Rosie initially proposes as a challenge to Dominic, thinking there’s no way he’ll let his guard down enough to try therapy, and Rosie’s efforts to start her own restaurant, which she’s been dreaming about her entire life. My full review is linked here; Love Her or Lose Her comes out on January 14th. I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer (3 stars) – I didn’t enjoy this poetry collection nearly as much as Mateer’s other collection Honeybee, which I read earlier this year, but it’s a gorgeously designed book with a great concept that I think a lot of readers will likely appreciate. Although I love Greek mythology, the poetry in this collection was in parts too pared down and in other parts too over-explained for my personal preference.

 

Have you read any of these? How did your October reading go?

Book Review: The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1)

 

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: YA historical fantasy

Release date: 10/1/19

 

I’ve seen the phrase “vampires are back!” associated with The Beautiful more than anything else, and although I’m not averse to the idea (although I don’t believe vampires in literature really went anywhere in the first place, nor did I want them to), I think it’s misapplied to this book in particular. It sets up Twilight-esque expectations, or maybe a new version of True Blood, when that’s simply not the case. The Beautiful is a lot of things, but I absolutely would not call it a vampire book. That being said, I absolutely loved it.

A much more accurate description of this book would be that it’s a young adult romantic historical fantasy, which is, I guess, a less succinct genre tag than “vampires,” but, I don’t think, a less appealing one. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that express disappointment over the lack of vampires in The Beautiful, and a lot of ratings that may be lower than the book deserves, but all of this could have been avoided if different expectations had been set.

But I’m going to stop talking now about expectations and ratings, and talk about the book itself, which I don’t think we’re hearing nearly enough about. The Beautiful is the story of feisty, headstrong, fun-loving Celine Rousseau, the antithesis of a timid, clumsy, Bella Swan-type YA heroine, who flees to New Orleans haunted by what she had to do to survive in her hometown of Paris. In the company of several other girls from around the world, Celine takes up residence in a convent while awaiting viable marriage proposals and becomes drawn into the seductive underworld of New Orleans society when she meets a mysterious, confident, pants-wearing woman who wants to employ her for her dressmaking skills. While Celine is visiting the headquarters of this attractive, dangerous underworld known as the La Cour des Lions, a murder is committed, and Celine becomes sucked into the investigation as well as the orbits of two former friends and present enemies, dark and alluring leader of the Cour des Lions Sebastien Saint Germain and savant police detective Michael Grimaldi.

So, why did I like this book? The New Orleans setting was a huge part of that. Ahdieh’s descriptions of the lush, vibrant, diverse city portray a New Orleans that’s both alluring and sinister, and the perfect setting for a fantasy story. Celine is a heroine who isn’t afraid–of danger, of intrigue, to do what needs to be done, or to just have a good time, and I very much appreciated that. Female friendships and side characters aren’t overlooked in favor of the romance; I liked both Pippa, Celine’s conventional and loyal British friend, and Odette, a member of La Cour des Lions, who flaunts conventions and gender norms in every scene she steals. And the romance itself was a lot of fun to read about; I wasn’t aware that this book actually had a love triangle, and although I know a lot of readers can’t stand those, I am definitely not one of them. Did I need a lot more backstory about why Bastien and Michael hated each other? Yes. Did it make any sense that Michael was somehow the best police detective in New Orleans at age nineteen? Of course not. But if that’s what needed to happen so that we could set up an angsty love triangle, then I’m on board.

If you enjoy romance-centric YA, and the idea of a series that’s lighter on fantasy but heavy on atmosphere appeals to you, I think you’ll also really like The Beautiful.–just don’t expect it to be Twilight.

 

I received an ARC of The Beautiful from the publisher at Book Expo in exchange for an honest review.

End of the Year Book Tag!

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I was already thinking about posting a combination TBR for November and December (particularly because I’m not sure how much reading I’ll be able to fit in during these two months, with a possible NaNoWriMo and Chrismakkuh shenanigans happening) when I discovered the End of the Year Book Tag, which was created by Ariel Bissett. 

Basically, we’ve got a bunch of questions about what we’re planning on doing with the remainder of our reading year, which somehow is only about 2 more months. Now is definitely about the time when I start assessing what and how much I’ve read over the course of the year, and try to self-correct and pick up books I’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t yet. I always end up feeling like I haven’t found enough favorites, and waffle between putting pressure on myself to find new 5-star reads and trying to use the last few months of the year to pick up books I’m genuinely excited about and think I’ll love. And on that note, let’s get to the questions!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett. This was one of my most highly anticipated ARCs from BookExpo, and I started it last month but put it on indefinite pause when I realized that I was really not liking it. I’m determined, however, to persist and see if I can find out what all the hype is about, or whether it’ll end up being a miss for me.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

Deathless (Leningrad Diptych, #1)

Sort of! I’ve always thought of Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente as a very autumnal book, or at least a fall/wintery one, and I started it the other night with the goal of finally, finally reading it (it’s been on my TBR shelf for literal years).

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

The Witches Are ComingThe Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3)In the Dream HouseDead Astronauts

There are 4 new releases coming out this month that I’m really looking forward to: The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (essay collection), The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black (YA fantasy, third book in trilogy), In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (memoir), and Dead Astronauts by Jeff Vandermeer (science fiction).

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Magic for LiarsMiddlegame

My top three books to read by the end of the year are three of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and all happen to be fantasy: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey, and Middlegame by Seanan McGuire.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

This is such a hard question. I’d really love for any of my three most anticipated books to become a new favorite, but also in general, I’d really love to find a bunch of new 5-star books in the coming months. If I had to guess, I’d say Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is a strong contender for a 5-star read, given my past track record with that author.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2020?

The City We BecameHarrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2)The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient, #3)House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)

Heck yes! My 2020 shelf on Goodreads is currently at 33 books I’m looking forward to, and I’m planning on a post sometime in December focused on my most anticipated reads of next year. The covers above are a sneak peek at what I’ll be freaking out about in that post.

 

What are you looking to read before the end of the year? Let me know in the comments!

September Reading Wrap-Up

I had set a vaguely defined goal for myself for September (something like “read lots of books”) and I’m happy to report that I accomplished that. Not only did I finish more books than I have in the past few months, but I read several books that I rated over 4 stars, and I honestly enjoyed every single thing I read in September.

Let’s go to the stats and reviews:

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 2

Audiobooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Sapphire Flames by Ilona AndrewsKill the Queen by Jennifer EstepThe Future of Another Timeline by Annalee NewitzShame Is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary LambertParkland by Dave CullenWe Died in Water by Meg FloresBloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovernRadio Silence by Alice OsemanThe Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews (4.5 stars) – Sapphire Flames is technically the fourth book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, although it’s also technically the start of a new trilogy featuring the younger sister of books 1-3’s protagonist. I’ve actually just finished this one and LOVED it; I’m an Ilona Andrews superfan, but this was actually one of my favorites of hers. It’s set in a version of our world that features warring dynasties of magical families, and our main character Catalina has a very unique power; we follow her trying to solve a friend’s mother’s murder, protect her own family, and maybe connect with her crush, Alessandro, who has more than a few secrets up his sleeves. Honestly, this book is SO GOOD, and I think it’s also a great starting point for readers new to Ilona Andrews.

Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary Lambert (4.5 stars) – An impactful, striking, shiver-inducing autobiographical collection of poems that discuss sexual assault and its aftermath, falling in love, heartbreak, mental illness, and survival. There were several poems in this collection that made me pause, re-read, and take a moment to consider how Lambert used so few words to say so much. Her writing style is sometimes fluid and sometimes jarring; the poems are relatable and very readable but contain a lot of depth. I’d definitely recommend this one.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (4.25 stars) – I absolutely loved this YA contemporary retelling of Twelfth Night that dealt skillfully with mental illness and sibling relationships; my full review will be up soon. I received an ARC at BookExpo from the publisher.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (4 stars) – really well done YA contemporary, revolving around two misfits and a science fiction podcast. I absolutely loved the main characters, and the writing and perspective felt extremely authentic. I did feel that the plot stumbled a bit towards the end, but overall I really loved this one.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (4 stars) – Creative, feminist time-travel science fiction, set mainly in the 1990s and 1890s. Check out my full review here.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen (4 stars) – A very necessary and topical read. I listened to Dave Cullen’s Columbine on audiobook last month and was impressed by his research and thoroughness, and I wanted to pick up Parkland especially because it focuses almost exclusively on the March for Our Lives kids and movement rather than the school shooting itself; although the books are related, they emphasize very different things. The Parkland kids are so impressive and inspirational, and I think Cullen did a great job capturing what they are trying to accomplish.

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern (4 stars) – the first graphic novel I’ve picked up in literally years, because it’s by the author of a webcomic I adore (My Life as a Background Slytherin). It’s a parody of historical/Regency romances, with an added fantastical element, and I quite enjoyed it. We follow Lucy, our heroine, who feels like a misfit under the constraints of proper society; Lord Byron (“from books!”), a poet with a very short attention span and a penchant for stabbing any vampire he sees; and Sham, a mysterious vampire hunter, on their adventures around England while trying to infiltrate a secret vampire society but keep getting sidetracked. I found it very cute, quirky, and funny, although for me it maybe wasn’t quite as consistently hilarious as McGovern’s webcomic tends to be, likely because there’s a lot more plot in a graphic novel than a 1-page webcomic. The art style and colors are likewise adorable and fun, and I’m definitely glad I picked it up.

We Died in Water by Meg Flores (4 stars) – We Died in Water is a memoir told in short prose poems that focuses on themes of love and leaving, using the ocean to help tell the author’s story in a variety of metaphors. The memoir itself mirrors the waves in structure, by repetition of the stories of loving and heartbreak that both the author and her mother experienced, stories that echo each other and force both the author and the reader to wonder if we are doomed to repeat our families’ pasts. As someone who’s always loved the ocean (as you can probably garner from my account name), I loved the integration of waves and ocean imagery into the author’s retelling of her story, and I found the writing overall to be lovely and fluid, while still retaining clarity, which can be difficult in a book with a nontraditional structure. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful little book, and I’d recommend it if you enjoy unconventional structures, poetry, and the ocean.

I received an early copy of We Died in Water from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep (3.75 stars) – Mistakenly thought this was UF when I picked it up (the leather pants threw me off!) but it’s actually a really fun, fast-paced royal revenge plot in a full fantasy world with a writing style that reminds me of UF. I really enjoyed it–our main character Everleigh, a minor royal, survives an assassination attempt on the royal family, and joins a gladiator troupe, where survival turns into a desire for vengeance. She has to use the magic she’s kept hidden her entire life as well as every ounce of the cold rage that fuels her in order to do what she’s never even imagined–try to kill the queen. It’s got action, humor, and the hint of a romance, plus literally every character is wearing black leggings at all times, which is a fantasy world I can really get behind. There’s also a really interesting magic system featuring everything from enhanced senses, shapeshifting, and elemental magic. I’m about to start the second book, Protect the Prince, and I’m really interested to see where the story goes from here.

 

Have you read any of these, or are any of them on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

Genre: science fiction

Rating: 4 stars

I have mixed feelings about time travel-focused science fiction; it’s never an element that draws me toward a story, but I’ve found it to be an interesting plot device in the hands of the right author (prior to picking up this book, namely Connie Willis, whose writing style I love). One of the things that can make or break a time travel plot is the method of time travel presented, and this was an element that I really enjoyed in The Future of Another Timeline: time travel is geology-based, and centers around specific rock formations in several locations around the world. We’re never sure whether the rock formations are a natural occurrence or whether they’re a remnant of a past advanced or alien civilization, but we know that one travels through time by tapping out specific patterns into the rock, and that humanity has barely scratched the surface of what the machines are truly capable of, and that explanation/non-explanation worked for me, because it felt unique, somewhat organic, and added a persistent oddness and potential for twists in the story.

The Future of Another Timeline follows time-traveling geologist Tess, who is ostensibly a researcher focusing on the late 1800s but in actuality is part of a secret organization dedicated to fighting for women’s and non-binary persons’ rights and preserving their contributions to society by manipulating the timeline and fighting against a shadow organization attempting to suppress women and non-binary persons in the past so that they can create a male-dominated future. We’re also following Beth, a teenager in the 1990s in California who is enmeshed in riot grrl culture and who’s dealing with a complex and precarious family situation, as well as the fact that she and her friends have just killed a rapist. We bounce back and forth between these two storylines throughout the book, with a few interludes from other perspectives, as Tess and her organization strategize about how to save the future while Beth deals with both emotional fallout and rising danger.

I found the writing style of Timeline to be concise, clear, and quick-moving; Newitz’s background as a science journalist feels clear in the story’s telling. It’s a fascinating premise, and one that could be intimidatingly complex if not told as succinctly as it was. The emotional depth of the story, however, was more inconsistent; I felt much more connected to Beth’s story than Tess’s, and not just because one involved time travel and one didn’t, but because Beth felt like a more fully realized character, whereas I never truly felt like I had a handle on who Tess was, beyond her fight for societal justice.

Beth’s portion of the plot, as well, was more gripping for me, probably because it was much more personal and immediate; it was as though, strangely, even though this is a book about time travel, it may have been a stronger story without the time travel element altogether, and just focusing solely on Beth. Newitz creates a fully realized vision of 1990s California, rife with punk rock, hypocrisy, the allure of freedom, and the crushing weight of restrictions placed on teenagers that prevent them from fully realizing that freedom as it lurks just out of reach with the escape of college. There were parts of Tess’s story that did work for me as well, particularly the parts featuring the other members of her society, the Daughters of Harriet (named for Harriet Tubman, who became a senator in this version of history), but for me the parts set in the 1890s tended to drag and felt oddly paced.

If you enjoy fast-paced, well-written science fiction that focuses on politically relevant issues, I do think you’ll enjoy this one. The Future of Another Timeline comes out tomorrow, September 24th.

 

Thank you so much to the publisher for the opportunity to pick up an ARC of The Future of Another Timeline at BookExpo.