Fun, frothy and fantastical reads for when you’re in need of a distraction!

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Granted, that title has doubtless got you thinking about *that thing going on outside*. A bit like playing “the game” (we’ve all just lost the game!) Even so, I think we could all do with a break from impending doom life at the moment- which is why I wrote this list of the ultimate distracting reads! No way you can focus on anything other than turning these pages…

crown of feathers

Crown of Feathers– a book about phoenixes, because WE WILL RISE FROM THE ASHES! (or all go down in flames… 😉)

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox– but if you want to throw yourself into even more mythological, why not take a trip to Iwagoto? See if you can spot some tricksy kitsune along the way…

six of crows

Six of Crows– on the note of tricksters, the dregs will look after you if you’re looking to score (and doubtless pick your pocket on the way 😉)

to kill a kingdom

To Kill a Kingdom– if you need something else with a bit of an edge, then I always recommend deep-diving into this Little Mermaid retelling. No doubt this book siren song is calling to you right now 😉

the young elites

Young Elites– of course, talking of dark YA fantasy, I can scarcely neglect this beauty. Sharp and a little different, it has one of my favourite heroines in the genre.

thief

The Thief– on the note of protagonists I love, Gen’s perspective makes this book a real hidden gem. Personally, I do only recommend the first one, but fortunately it works as a standalone, so you can’t go wrong!

vicious

Vicious– ahh this is my *go to* book if you need something you absolutely cannot put down. This supervillains story is guaranteed to keep you on your toes.

renegades

Renegades– take flight into a world of heroes and villains! With great characters and a riveting romance, I was gripped from the start (incidentally I’m going to be taking my own advice with this one, cos I’ve just ordered the third in the series and will be jumping into the action again soon 😉)

Red Rising Pierce Browns

Red Rising– for something a bit gutsier and adult, you could try this take on Romans in space! (which I am recommending for the millionth time because it’s amazing!)

scythe

Scythe– now I don’t know about you, but beyond entertainment, I’m also craving some depth, and this high concept dystopia is cutting edge in that regard. There are ideas here I’ve not seen in YA before- or dare I say- even in adult!

one word kill

One Word Kill– and if you want mind-blowing, mathematically inspired time travel, then I have the series for you. Dramatic and character-driven, you can whizz through this at the speed of light!

And that’s all for now! Do you agree with my choices? And- more than ever I need your advice- what fantastical books would you recommend for distraction? Let me know in the comments

Hyped Books I’ll Never Read – Spring Cleaning My TBR

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Usually I’d never say never, but we are in the End Times- JK! JK! This is a promise to myself- life’s too short- let’s see if I can keep to it.

cursed child

Cursed Child– starting with a book that needs no introduction! When this came out, I picked this up in a book shop and I was pretty unimpressed. I then went and spoiled myself for the plot… annnd I’m glad I didn’t try to read it. Apart from graverobbing the original series, it’s just doesn’t sound like a good story to me.

testaments

Testaments– in case you didn’t see my ranty unpopular opinions post on books I don’t like that everyone loves, I’m no fan of Handmaid’s Tale. I’m not opposed to reading more Atwood- she’s an impressive writer- but I’m not giving this series another try- sorry!

go set a watchman

Go Set a Watchman– this was another BIG RELEASE that I was cautious about and then decided to just read a plot synopsis in advance… and it sounds worse than Cursed Child!! I cannot fully express my fury that this book ruined Atticus Finch’s character- but let’s just say it made me go bananas! To Kill a Mockingbird is a personal favourite and I don’t care how this monstrosity came about- I’m not reading it.

normal people

Normal People– this is the toughest one so far, because while I didn’t like Conversations with Friends, I’ve heard that people usually like one and not the other. So, I am tempted to see if I can find out what the fuss is about this author… and yet, something about her writing style just didn’t gel with me last time and I don’t want to risk it.

raven king

The Raven King– I’ll admit, I was weak and read the first Foxhole Court book after I was to avoid it. I’ve not heard from anyone that shares my views on the first one that it gets better- I’ve got to stay strong and not read it (as much as my eye is drawn to it like watching a car crash…)

chain of gold

Chain of Gold– this is less about the specific book and more that I just don’t plan to read any new Cassandra Clare book. It’s nothing personal, I’ve just outgrown her world and stories that always end up being exactly the same (okay, maybe it is a little personal 😉)

lady's guide to petticoats and piracy

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy– as you may know I was pretty disappointed with Gentleman’s Guide, so as much as the title appeals to me, I just don’t see any reason to continue the series. Plus I wasn’t a fan of Felicity’s character in the first one- I doubt I want to read an entire book about her!

infinity son

Infinity Son– when Silvera announced he was publishing a fantasy book, I was intrigued and a little excited. I’ve enjoyed his books and I’m always up for some fun fantasy. Alas- when I read the blurb, I wasn’t enamoured. The premise just doesn’t light my fire and I could see the twists a mile off (something that reviews have since confirmed). I think it might leave me a bit heated, so I’m gonna give it a miss.

And that’s all for now! Do you think I’ve made any big mistakes with this list? Or do you have any books you *absolutely will not* read? Let me know in the comments!

Hyped books I didn’t love and thought were *just okay*

orangutan list

Ahh the dreaded hype train- whether we know it’s going to take us somewhere awesome or if it’s gonna leave us in the dust, we’ve all jumped on board at some point or another. I’ve talked about when the hype was right and I’ve talked about when it fell flat on its face for me– today I want to talk about books that just didn’t quite make it. These weren’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination… but I also didn’t think they were the best thing since libraries were invented. I tried to pick things that I didn’t have especially strong feelings about- and for the most part, I succeeded 😉 So here’s my meh list:

gentleman's guide to vice and virtue

Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue– I kinda got why this was popular… and I also didn’t. The characters felt a bit too 21st century to me and I also thought it was a little long. I was especially bummed about this one cos I thought it would be right up my street. Sadly, not for me!

children of blood and bone

Children of Blood and Bone– this one also pains me, because it had so much potential. The world building was brilliant and the writing pretty good… it was just fell a bit short of the mark in the story and character department for me.

one of us is lying

One of Us is Lying– the twist is good… if you haven’t read And Then There Were None. Plus, I hated the murder victim so much I wanted to reach into the book and throttle him myself!

Caraval-150x225

Caraval– another twisty story… that snapped my patience towards the end. It didn’t help that I wasn’t remotely enamoured with the so-purple-it’s-sprouting-flowers language- which is saying something for me!

kiss of deception

Kiss of Deception– I thought I had a bit of a mixed reaction to this series- then I realised I don’t have a single nice thing to say about it. I quite liked the main character… until the last book when I grew bored of her. I thought the plot was okay… but it lost me somewhere in the middle. And the romance just never captured my imagination.

a curse so dark and lonely

Curse So Dark and Lonely– there were some good things that made me understand why it was hyped- the main character was dynamic and I thought her disability was well handled. That said, I simply didn’t find the story unique enough. For me, a retelling has to have a bit more oomph there, and this fell a little short.

Eragon_book_cover

Eragon– this one tends to divide people into *love* or *loathe* camps annnnd I thought it was just okay. Sure it was flawed (as you’d expect from a 14 year old writer) but I could see the fun in it.

And that’s all I have for now! (thank goodness!) Do you agree or disagree with me on any of these? What hyped books just about missed the mark for you? Let me know in the comments!

Some Fun Alternative History I Actually Like

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As I mentioned the other day- I do like a fair amount of alternative history- which is why I thought I’d share a quick list today!

american royals

American Royals– an alternative history where the Washingtons set up a 250-year dynasty? Yes please! Plus, *bonus points* for all the romance and drama!

my lady jane

My Lady Jane– you guys know how much I love this fun and totally off-the-wall take on Lady Jane Grey. It doesn’t give a hoot about historical accuracy- but at the same time it really manages to cleverly embrace the past- and I love that about it!

what the wind knows

What the Wind Knows– I mentioned this in my last post- because yeah, it’s not super realistic to time travel back to the fight for Irish independence… but it is entertaining as heck!

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V For Vendetta– a hallmark dystopic graphic novel, this gives us a view of what a totalitarian Britain might look like.

noughts-and-crosses

Noughts and Crosses– an old one, but a good one- Blackman’s now classic YA series reimagines racial division, intertwining the story with reflections on history and star-crossed lovers.

diviners

Diviners– for something a bit more fantastical, I’m thoroughly enjoying the Diviners series (I’m up to book 2). Set in a more magical and spookier 1920s New York, this is one hell of a wild ride! Also, I’ve recently been listening to the audiobook version and I can’t recommend it enough!

city of masks

City of Masks– sticking with the fantasy, the Stravaganza series gives us a taste of Renaissance Italy, as teens step from one world to the other. What I really like about this series is how it allows each of the characters to grow and come to understand their own issues through their journeys.

ten thousand doors of january

Ten Thousand Doors of January– thinking about other portal fantasies featuring historical elements, this more recent release springs to mind, for the way it balances modern sensibilities whilst maintaining a degree of authenticity. I especially liked the way the otherworldly element became an extended metaphor for finding your place in the world.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children– not always a popular book, because it is highly unusual, I stand by how fascinating a take this is on the holocaust, imagining WW2 through the metaphor of monsters and peculiarities.

Have you read any of these? Do you like them? Do you have any alternative history books you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!

More Ways to March On- Inspiring Books About Perseverance!

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Despite all my talk of taking breaks lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of perseverance. It is an age-old idea that comes up in so many stories- from high fantasy to contemporary to memoirs! I’ve been mulling over what makes a character get up off their knees and live to fight another day; I’ve been thinking about what makes memoirs so memorable and impactful; I’ve been considering what makes us root for these stories and find them so inspirational. I decided to share some of the best examples. Let’s power through this!

the-lord-of-the-rings-book-cover

Lord of the Rings– okay, yes, this sort of ends in Frodo’s failure and yes, he very nearly gives up… but this list isn’t necessarily about protagonists persevering. Because, at the end of all things, we have Sam, fighting to keep hope alive. What’s so beautiful here is how it isn’t just an individual’s struggle in the face of evil- ultimately it is friendship that gets us through.

skyward

Skyward– not many characters have Spensa’ tenacity- and that’s why I love her! But as with Lord of the Rings, this isn’t a story that’s just about gritting your teeth and getting on with it, this is a story about learning to work with others and trust your squad to have your back.

dark matter

Dark Matter– thinking more about sci fi, I had to include this unusual story of time travel. What I love about the main character is no matter what variation of him it is, no matter how many times he is put through the mill, he still picks him up and keeps going.

holes

Holes– this is a quintessential MG story about picking yourself up when fate is against you. Yet, what Sachar shows here is that even when cursed, you can find a way to change your destiny.

between shades of grey

Between Shades of Grey– one of Sepetys strengths as a writer is finding areas of history often neglected in media- and that is what makes the story of Lithuanian exile to Siberia under communism doubly powerful. Though this doesn’t offer much in the way of optimism, I still see this as a remarkable tale of human endurance in the face of immense suffering.

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Always and Forever– I was delighted to find an unusual subject covered in the last of the Lara Jean series: what happens when you don’t get what you want. In typical Lara Jean fashion, she finds a way to follow her heart to a new dream, and I think that’s a lovely message.

A Little Princess

A Little Princess– moving on to a more traditional story about not giving up, no matter how bad things get, I simply had to include this classic for this list!

Chinese_Cinderella

Chinese Cinderella– I read this years ago, but it left such an impression that I’ll never forget it. A story about struggling to find self-worth, when deemed worthless by everyone around her, this is one of the most uplifting memoirs I’ve ever read.

man's search for meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning– another of my favourites, Viktor Frankl has the ability to bring light into the darkest subjects. His visionary book- that is part Holocaust memoir, part exploration of psychology- gives hope for the survival of the human spirit, against all odds.

in order to live

In Order to Live– an inspirational memoir about escaping from North Korea, this goes beyond mere physical survival, instead exploring what it is to break your mind free from the shackles of indoctrination.

And that’s all for now- have you read any of these books? Do you have any favourite books about perseverance? Let me know in the comments!

Literary Fiction I Actually Like

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You guys may have noticed I have a tendency to complain about literary fiction. That’s cos, for me, it’s very hit or miss (with no room for the in-between). I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, if I read a string of bad literary fiction, I wonder why I bother going back to the genre. But then, I simply remember a few of my favourite things and then I don’t feel so bad I recall why I keep picking them up. Today’s post is a long-overdue celebration of some of the finest literary fiction out there.

As I got into it in my last post, it’s a pretty hard genre to define… which makes it hard to choose from the right selection of books! For the sake of this post, I’m not counting classics- because for me this is a marketing category that promotes contemporary writers. And I also didn’t feel like including heavyweights in genre fiction (Madeline Miller, Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern etc)- because I don’t feel like beautiful prose is restricted to literary fiction and they weren’t originally marketed in this category.

kite runner

Kite Runner– kicking off the list with one of the best literary fiction books I’ve ever read, the story caterwauling to impossible highs and lows.

a thousand splendid suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns– yes, I’m immediately putting two books by the same author on here- what can I say? Hosseini is just that good. And where I’d say Kite Runner is one of the best literary fiction books out there, it’s safe to say I think this is even better. Detailing the lives of women under Taliban rule, it’s impossible to remain unmoved by the tale.

eleanor oliphant is completely fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine– while I didn’t know this was literary fiction when I picked it up, I can safely say this is a great example of what amazing literary fiction can be. Giving incredible insights into the human condition and portraying an authentically odd soul, this ended up being an even more emotionally rewarding read than I was expecting.

a man called ove

A Man Called Ove– Backman is undoubtedly one of the most skilled writers of this generation. And for me, this poignant tale- which I’d describe as a more adult version of Up– is a beautiful character study exploring what we owe to each other.

perks of being a wallflower

Perks of Being a Wallflower– a moving coming of age story, this is the kind of book that leaves an infinite impact.

the secret history

Secret History– I’m still a little astounded by how remarkable this was. A murder mystery told in reverse, it’s a fascinating portrait of college life.

never let me go

Never Let Me Go– a terrific dystopian novel, centring on the themes of growing up, getting old and ultimately what is to be human. This terrific take on the genre is a long-time favourite for me.

the bell jar

The Bell Jar– this is a weird one for me to put down, because I didn’t give it an especially high rating, as it depressed the hell out of me. That said, I do admire the incisive writing style and it’s stuck with me years after reading it. I feel like this is the kind of book I like more every time I think about it- and you can’t say fairer than that.

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The Road– another gloomy read- and yet I cannot deny how much I admire this book. I read it in one sitting years ago and, like the Bell Jar, it’s stuck with me all this time. I especially like how McCarthy experiments with writing in such a way that doesn’t leave the reader behind- which is a really hard feat to pull off!

homegoing

Homegoing– an utterly unique novel, this story takes an intergenerational approach, telling a different story of one family’s descendants in each chapter. Miraculously this is far from jarring- it flows into a brilliantly narrative, spanning the scope of centuries into one great story.

memoirs of a geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha– not the most popular book nowadays, yet I cannot help but love this story of lost love and constancy.

shadow of the wind

Shadow of the Wind– I did umm and ahh over whether this is historical or literary fiction… and ultimately came down on the literary side, because while the setting plays a huge (and atmospheric) part, this is more about the love of books. And this gives me another opportunity to plug one of my favourite novels 😉

book thief

The Book Thief– another book I wasn’t sure whether to place on this list… and yet it doesn’t fit comfortably into any category. A genius book from the perspective of death, I will never cease to be amazed by it!

So, have you read any of these? What do you think of them? And what literary fiction do you particularly admire? Let me know in the comments!

Books That I Think Will Be Future Classics #2

orangutan list

Alrighty then, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about books which I think will be future classics… so I thought I may as well go for round 2! And since I did a massive preamble in my previous post, I won’t bore you by repeating myself. All I’ll quickly say is that I’m going to (try) not just including books because I love them and try to pick books I genuinely think are worthy of study one day. I’m a little overcautious when it comes to that, which is why I leave out a lot of *maybes*. Anyhoo, let’s get into it!

circe

Circe– this is as good as it gets when it comes to retellings- it’s perfect and as wonderful as reading classics from ancient sources.

bear and the nightingale

Bear and the Nightingale– speaking of exquisite mythological books, you can’t go wrong with Arden’s (future) classic.

the secret history

Secret History– I said it when I reviewed it and I’ll say it again (and again and again)- this is worth studying. Endlessly complex and the kind of book you can never quite move on from, Tartt’s book is nothing short of a masterpiece.

perks of being a wallflower

Perks of Being a Wallflower– I feel like I’m going to get a lot of “but it’s already a classic” for this one, so I should probably clarify that I think it’ll stand the test of time.

summer that melted everything

The Summer that Melted Everything– if nothing else, that writing is to *die for*.

book of hidden things 3

Book of Hidden Things– maybe we’re moving into wishful thinking territory, yet there’s something intensely seductive and powerful about this book.

going postal

Discworld– okay, yes, I broke the rules again, going for a personal fave- I’m a very naughty monkey! But I really think there’s a great argument to be made for Pratchett’s entire satirical works to become classics- I feel like they are the best fantasy parodies ever written (and the best we’re ever going to get!)

Well I think it’s safe to say I pretty much failed at choosing books for the right reasons… So, it’s time to turn the question over to you: do you agree with any of my picks? And which books do you think will be future classics? Let me know in the comments!