February was the month of audiobooks, of sci-fi and gay love. I devoured so many books, I’m surprised at myself. I have a new found love for audiobooks, especially ones with a full cast because oh damn, they are amazing.
Anyway, here’s what I fecking read and listen to in February.
I’m off to a good start by using the word ‘heck’ in my title.
This is my 2018 January wrap up, aka what the heck did I read because I barely remember what I ate for breakfast. I think it was Crunchy Nut. I could be wrong.
January started off amazing with long days reading in bed with a cup of tea and some mood music. The middle picked up with more work, more experimentation with Booktube and Twitter. And the end, well… I’d rather not talk about it.
I read 10 books in January, and lemme quickly chat to you about them.
Thank you so much to Elizabeth for sending me a copy of her novel. However, in no way does it impact my review.
Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Synopsis: When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?
But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.
After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about her mother, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.
I haven’t read a lot of middle grade for a long time. In fact, I haven’t read middle grade since I was in middle grade (or early high school). Picking up Esme’s Wish was a lovely break and I found myself immersed in the magic that Elizabeth Foster has weaved together so wonderfully.
Esme’s Wish is a coming-of-age tale that starts off as a contemporary and wonderfully transitions into an incredible fantasy as Esme searches for her long lost mother in a mystical realm. Filled with mystery, magic and dragons, the world of Esperance is so lush and vividly described, I felt like I’d been transported there myself.
Foster does an amazing job with her characters. She brings to life Esme’s tension with her family, her grief and self-discovery as she journeys along with her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, across various places. She’s also brilliant at crafting real friendships and dialogue – the interactions between the three were very much entertaining – showcasing the ups and downs of being a teenager despite what world you’re from.
Esme’s Wish is the book I wish I had as a teen. Not only is it enchanting, it harnesses the essence of magic, love and friendship. As an excellent high Middle Grade novel, it’ll spark joy in your heart.
I have one question: how the heck did 2017 wrap up so quickly? It doesn’t feel like 12 months have passed at all. However, 2017 brought into my possession a great deal of amazing books. Yet I’ll only be picking seven, so here they are.
Wrapped in murder, mystery and intrigue, Stalking Jack the Ripper kept me fascinated on every page. I adored the relationship between Audrey Rose and Thomas, and the authenticity of Jack the Ripper within the story. An overall amazing YA historical fiction.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I have a confession: I watched the show before I read the book. Before you hate on me, I found the book to be just as raw and heartbreaking as the show. Despite the subtle changes to some characters, the grittiness and pain in Offed’s words will resonate with me for a long time.
A book about an Asian-American girl and the Monkey King from an Asian author – how could I not read it? Not only is the writing amazing, the characters are hilarious and down-to-earth, and I loved how Yee integrated the story of the Monkey King into a modern setting. A definite favourite!
I have so many feelings about this book, it’s not even funny. It’s so squishy and adorable. The writing is brilliant, the characters are extra cute and the message within the story are lovely. I’m getting all mushy thinking about it.
A fantastic debut by an Aussie author. This fantasy tale swept me off my feet and gave me so many feelings. I loved how well Scheuerer executed multiple perspectives and delivered a refreshing twist on YA fantasy. This is a must-read if you haven’t picked it up already.
The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell
Breathtaking, beautiful and macabre. Campbell has a way with words and weaving together intricate tales of love, loss and pain. Out of the 12 short stories, my favourite was Little Deaths. It was so strange that I fell in love so quickly.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
I’m just as surprised as you to see this book on my favourites list. I really wasn’t expecting to like it, let alone love it, but I did. The way Green wrote about Aza’s anxiety through metaphors was beautiful. While the plot itself is rather thin, its the characters that bring this book to life.
Synopsis: When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.
For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study… as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first. Mia and Jules’ different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.
In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race’s secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race…
If you like Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider and being in outer space, Unearthed is the book for you. Co-written by two fabulous authors, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, Unearthed is their second collaboration and it’s a fantastic introduction to their newest duology.
A scavenger and an academic = best banter ever.
I’m a complete sap for complete opposite characters, hence why I absolutely loved the dynamic between Jules and Mia. Their alternate perspectives showcased how a scavenger and academic can find common ground in the face of insane riddles within an alien temple. I liked how they clashed – Jules is looking to preserve artifacts while Mia wants to steal them for money to save her sister – but they were able to combine their skills to solve the puzzle (even if they were casually insulting each other along the way).
Gaia felt like the perfect planet to try and save the human race.
Between the breather masks, the dried food rations and the remnants of the Undying, the setting of Gaia was brilliant for adventure and exploring an alien race. I loved the mystery behind the Undying, the expanse of the planet as the characters traveled along, and the danger of not only encountering another life form, but other humans looking to strip the planet bare of its resources. Oh, you found a cool temple that has been untouched for thousands of years. Sure, blow it up! I also liked the descriptions of each riddle as Jules and Mia make their way through the temple – they were vivid and I could totally sense the Indy or Lara Croft vibe.
The character development was A+
The book really shows that first impressions aren’t always right, and there is more to a person than their occupation. Mia’s scavenger role from the beginning of the novel is quite ruthless. At first glance, she’s selfish and looking out for herself. But her development is quite incredible as we’re given an insight into why she’s taken such an illegal path to get what she needs. She’s brave, witty and intelligent, fast on her feet when it comes to solving riddles. When paired with Jules in a rather shaky alliance, it was fun to see them help each other out of dangerous situations while being somewhat annoyed with each other.
Then there’s Jules. He’s not what I expected at all. He’s sweet, sensitive and way too smart. He’s also quite sheltered and naive when it comes to the harsh reality of his situation on Gaia. With Mia, he’s forced to overlook his initial thoughts of her (she’s a scavenger, the one group of people who destroy what he wants to protect), and work with her. I enjoyed watching him grow in confidence and trust himself more.
Just a side note, the romance is hella adorable. Their romantic interludes are sweet but swift, adding to the ominous atmosphere of the novel as they are always on the lookout for danger.
Unearthed is a fantastic and thrilling outer space adventure with alien puzzles, breathtaking romance and amazing characters. The ending has me excited for the sequel and I can’t wait for it!
Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.
Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.
Ever since high school, I have been fascinated with Jack the Ripper. It only took me picking up Stalking Jack the Ripper to recollect all my musings and theories around the horrendous events. I remember being so adamant that it was a doctor who had to be Ripper, taking on a persona of a madman to hide his cold, calculating profession.
Weaving together historical fact and delicious fiction, Kerri Maniscalco has nailed it with this fictional adaption of the serial killer.
Audrey Rose is a captivating narrator.
As a woman stuck in the bounds of 18th century England, Audrey knows she is unable to pursue what she wishes: a career in forensic science. Instead of fawning over suitable husbands, she’s cutting up cadavers with her uncle’s assistant, Thomas Cresswell. With such witty banter between the two, she is a clever, confident and sassy character that is aware of her chains, and yet goes out to break free from them. There were moments when Audrey’s narration dragged the novel along, but the plot made up for it.
The Victorian setting is captured perfectly.
From dank alleyways, the murky fog and the historical locations of the Ripper murders, Maniscalco does a fantastic job at setting the scene and atmosphere. The underbelly of London is dark, gritty and oh so fascinating. From upper class to the working class, it was easy to navigate the city. It’s worth mentioning that Audrey’s narration is inquisitive and feminist as she travels along the cobblestone streets, considering her gender and her position in society, especially in regards to the Ripper victims being prostitutes. They were not just prostitutes, but mothers, wives and daughters. It was great to see this rather feminist tone in Audrey alongside the Victorian setting.
110% Sherlock and Watson vibes
Thomas Cresswell and Audrey Rose Wadsworth make such a dynamic crime solving duo. Their banter, flirtations and rare serious moments are so gripping I couldn’t put the book down. What I loved about Thomas was he treated Audrey as an equal, not any less intelligent because of her gender.
Stalking Jack the Ripper is a thrilling read with an unexpected heroine. It’s a must-read for all those who love historical fiction, a good mystery and a lot of sexual tension.
When I picked up An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson,I was under the assumption this would be another story with a arrogant sandalwood-smelling faerie warrior who is here to sweep our naive protagonist off their feet.
But it’s not.
It’s really not.
I was truly enchanted from the first page to the last.
It has been a while since I have read women’s fiction or anything in the literary fiction genre, but These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung intrigued me. While the title, from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, was interesting, it was the novel’s exploration of the struggles of women, the pressures of society and how women are treated in the face of adversity that really made me pick this up.
These Violent Delights is a compelling read, packed with information and thorough research on sexual assault victims and trauma. The story is narrated by four women, one being a prominent journalist and the other three are victims of assault by an English high school teacher at Windemere School for Girls. Through these multiple perspectives, the novel offers a greater exploration of sexuality, victimisation and what it means to be a woman in modern day society.
31st of October marks Halloween, an old Celtic tradition where fires were lit and people dressed in costumes to ward away ghosts and supernatural creatures. The boundary between life and death was blurred.
Now, it’s an annual holiday with trick-or-treating, pumpkins carved into jack o’lanterns and much more adventurous outfits. But whether you’re a believer in the supernatural or not, there are things out there that will scare you.
So to keep you in the spooky mood of Halloween, here are the top 5 books that will make your skin crawl:
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
Like father, like son. In this collaborative novel, Sleeping Beauties asks one question: what would the world be like if the women disappeared? Set in a small town, the women fall asleep and become encased in a cocoon. If the gauze around their bodies is disturbed, the women wake up, feral and violent; if undisturbed, they sleep and go to another place. The men become primal, and among all this is a woman named Evie who has not fallen asleep yet. What is most horrifying about this book is it could potentially happen – the future is filled with possibilities.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This classic Gothic novel defined the sci-fi genre, and Shelley utilises horror conventions like a master. A cautionary tale about playing God and the power of science, Victor Frankenstein assembles a creature with stolen human body parts and animates it. The hideous creature, rejected by his creator, sets about exacting revenge. Asking questions about the nature of humanity, bio-terrorism and responsibility, this novel will thrill you.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
This is a children’s tale, but don’t let it fool you, it is downright scary. The protagonist, Coraline, moves into a new home with thirteen doors and twenty-one windows. However, there is a fourteenth door, and it is locked. On the other side is a brick wall. But when Coraline unlocks the door, she finds a passage to an apartment just like hers, but things are different. In fact, they’re better. But everything has a price, and Coraline realises the cost of living in the new apartment comes with changing herself completely. The film is also amazing, so check it out if you can.
The Passage by Justin Cronin
This apocalyptic story features a desolate world overrun by vampire-like creatures enhanced by a virus, one that was created and unleashed by a secret U.S military department. With a handful of survivors left, it’s a constant struggle between predator and prey. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is haunted by his past, and encounters a six-year-old orphan named Amy Harper Bellafonte, a refugee from the military project that started the end of the world. Fighting to keep her safe, and unaware of Amy’s role in the new world, this novel will take you on a suspensful and chilling journey that documents the endurance of humanity in the face of extinction.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
This supernatural thriller is a part of the works that defined the horror genre. Truly terrifying, the story follows four people who arrive at Hill House looking to encounter a scary phenomena: Eleanor, a woman who is well informed about poltergeists; Dr. Montague, an occult scholar searching for evidence of a haunting; Theodora, his assistant; and Luke, the heir to Hill House. But the house has its own agenda, and looks like one of the four will have to stay in Hill House.
Disclaimer: I received a e-ARC of this book from Netgallery for an honest review.
Drawn in by the allure of dragons, old stories and a sweeping romance, The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli felt like my kind of book. I mean, it has dragons. Do I need to say more? But while it was an enjoyable read, I did have some gripes with it.
Here are my thoughts on The Last Namsara.
Asha is a flawed and feared protagonist.
Asha is feared, loathed, and yet respected to the highest degree. Her history is intriguing. Her fascination with old stories is relatable (because why not like the one thing that attract dragons). It’s her attraction to old stories that drives the plot, as well as her own development. In this world, stories have the power to destroy – she’s playing with fire every time she tells one. I personally liked that she wears her disfigurement with pride. She knows her strengths and weaknesses. So as Asha grows throughout the story, she grows on you too.
The mythology and old stories were so rich and incredible.
I loved the immersion of mythology and dragons and old tales throughout the book. It added that layer that kept me hooked. The book jumps between Asha’s perspective and the past, which read like a fairy tale. There are many stories: creation stories, ones about Namsara and Iskari, about forbidden romance and grief, about defying death and corruption. They are weaved into the book like a parallel story line, gorgeous in detail and lore. They were definitely one of the best aspects of the book.
The imbalance in the romance was not my cup of tea.
The romance in The Last Namsara was not appealing to me because of personal taste. I’m not a massive fan of imbalanced relationships, so I didn’t find myself interested in Torwin and Asha’s relationship. The master/slave trope didn’t win me over, and I found the romance moved too quickly to be realistic to both the characters and their personalities.
The supporting characters were great to read about. Safire and her story was intriguing, and I liked the exploration behind Asha’s relationship with her brother.
The theme of slavery left me a little uncomfortable, especially considering it was from an oppressor’s POV.
Jarek = tool. The end.
The Last Namsara is a fiery debut with a lot of ambition and gorgeous stories. If you’re into dragons, a rich fantasy landscape and a pretty interesting protagonist, get on this.
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.
These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.
Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.