Top Ten Tuesday #333

Hi all! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, I had a lovely birthday on Sunday, lunch with my friend was so nice and I had my usual evening of musicals, my annual birthday watch of Moulin Rouge of course, and I also finally got around to watching In The Heights, which was a lot of fun (though I do slightly begrudge the whole new cinema releases being £15.99 to RENT on Amazon, if you’re going to charge me that much, I’d rather just buy the film!). I also binged the final series of Lucifer in 2 days and I HAVE FEELINGS. MANY MANY MANY FEELINGS, so if you’ve seen it and want to chat, then drop me a line in the comments!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so that means another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Books With Numbers In The Title, a topic we did two years ago, but it turns out there are quite a lot of books with numbers in the title, so I’m happily bringing it back for a part 2! Here we go, Books With Numbers In The Title:

  1. Ninth House-Leigh Bardugo

This one just missed the cut off for my last list on this topic as it wasn’t out yet! I have to admit, Bardugo’s adult debut isn’t my favourite of her books, as it has a major pacing problem and I didn’t really connect to any of the characters. Still I did love seeing a fantasy with University as the setting, and I do think the series has potential, so I’m hoping when the next book comes out, I’ll enjoy that one more now that all of the dense world building has been set up!

2. The Second Summer of The Sisterhood-Ann Brashares

The sequel to the first Traveling Pants book is probably my favourite of the four sequels (though I never actually read the fifth book!) though that was probably largely due to Bridget’s story of connecting with her grandmother and learning more about her mother, and Tibby coming to terms with her grief over Bailey’s death, as I can’t really remember much about Lena and Carmen’s stories!

3. A Thousand Perfect Notes-CG Drews

CG Drews (aka Paper Fury)’s debut is not my usual kind of book, I’m not a big contemporary reader and I did have some of the same problems I always have with contemporaries: pacing and lacking in plot. However, I did really like the characters and I thought Drews did a good job of portraying the abuse that Beck suffered at the hands of his mother, and the friendship between the two main characters was lovely.

4. The One Dollar Horse-Lauren St John

I don’t read all that many horse books anymore because they tend to be aimed for a younger audience: where are all the horse books for the horse obsessed kids who grew up to be still horse obsessed adults? Anyway, I was probably slightly above the target age range for this book when I read it at 16/17, but it was still a lovely read, a little unrealistic that an inexperienced rider with no money and a horse in incredibly poor condition would be able to get up to Badminton level in two years, but since horse fiction is all about wish fulfilment, it doesn’t really matter and this book definitely gave me lots of nostalgia for my childhood horse reads!

5. Split Second-Sophie McKenzie

I was such a massive fan of Sophie McKenzie from about 16-18, and this was one of my favourites of her books. It’s a dystopia, but definitely feels different to the Divergents, Maze Runners and Hunger Games of the world, as it’s more of a near future type dystopia, so the London featured feels very similar to our London, and the setting being in the UK was also fairly unusual as I can’t think of many UK set dystopias (or at least I’d read very few when I read this book, I know of a few more now). It’s such an action packed, explosive read, with tons of twists and turns and I highly recommend it if you like dystopia.

6. Second Glance-Jodi Picoult

Second Glance has always struck me as the most unique of Picoult’s books because it combines a lot of different genres into one book: you have the paranormal aspects, a bit of a murder mystery, historical elements etc. It doesn’t seem like it should work, but I found this a really fascinating read, especially learning about the Vermont eugenics project from the 1930s, which I have to admit, I knew next to nothing about before reading this book. My Sister’s Keeper is still my favourite Picoult book, but this one is definitely up there too.

7. 13 Minutes-Sarah Pinborough

I’m notoriously picky about thrillers, because I find that so often they really don’t shock me! But this one definitely took me by surprise, there were so many twists and just when I thought I’d worked everything out (and was feeling really smug about doing so), another twist came along, and knocked all that out from under me. The way that this book explores toxic female friendships is also really well done. If you’re wanting an incredibly well crafted mystery with lots of surprises, I highly recommend this book!

8. The Book of Two Ways-Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult’s most recent book is definitely not my favourite of hers, I didn’t really connect to the characters, and there was a bit of an overload of technical information about Egyptology and Quantum physics. I felt like the book tried to do too much to be honest, and had Picoult just focused on one strand and built up the characters more, I might have connected more to it.

9. Six Crimson Cranes-Elizabeth Lim

I’ve not read this one yet, I meant to, I even had an e-ARC from Netgalley, but I’ve been in such a slump this year that I never got around to it! I definitely want to at some point though, I’m always looking for unique fairytale retellings, and this one is based on “The Wild Swans”, a Hans Christian Andersen story that I’d not actually heard of before, so I’d be interested to see how Lim tackles it and incorporates East Asian folklore into the story as well.

10. A Thousand Ships-Natalie Haynes

Apparently this year has been the year of Greek mythology, between The Song of Achilles, Lore and Ariadne, I’ve been reading quite a bit of Greek mythology inspired stories, and adding even more to my TBR! I’m definitely looking forward to trying this one, as it retells the Trojan War from the perspective of the women involved which I think will be really cool, I love stories that traditionally focus on men being retold to centre women’s perspectives!

So there we go, more books with numbers in the title! Have you read any of these? Do you want to? What books with numbers in them were on your list this week? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is our annual Autumn TBR list, and though I’ve been doing terribly on my TBRs this year, I still always enjoy doing these topics!

Top Ten Tuesday #332

Hi all! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, I’ve been really busy at work, tomorrow is my last shift of four in a row and I’m looking forward to getting to relax a bit. It’s my birthday on Sunday and I’m going out for lunch with a friend, plus the final season of Lucifer is coming out just in time for my birthday so I’m looking forward to a lovely chill day!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so it’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic was meant to be Books Guaranteed To Put A Smile On Your Face, but I did that topic last year, so instead I decided to a different topic this week and talk about Books With Late Teens/Twenty Something Characters. I thought this one would be easier, as I’ve been trying to actively seek out books with characters closer to my age in the last few years, but it turns out it was still quite hard! More fantasies with characters in their twenties please! Anyway, these are some of my favourite books with 18-29 year old protagonists:

  1. A Darker Shade of Magic-VE Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic is a super great choice if you’re looking for an adult book that still feels YA in terms of pacing and characters having big self-discovery/emotional development/finding their place in the world arcs. The characters are on the younger side of the age range for this list, Lila is 19, Kell is 21 & Rhy is 20 and I was 19 almost 20 when I read the first book, so it was really great to see characters around my age having cool adventures! It’s one of my favourite books, and the book that made me fall in love with VE Schwab’s writing, so I highly recommend if you’re looking to branch into Adult from YA.

2. The Bone Season-Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season is kind of similar to A Darker Shade of Magic in that it works quite well as a crossover for both a YA and adult audience. The main character Paige is 19, and turns 20 in the fourth book of the series, and the series is very much about Paige’s emotional journey and coming into her powers so there’s definitely the high emotional stakes of YA, but it’s definitely a lot more complicated than most YA fantasy! Again if you’re looking to move into adult fantasy, this series makes a nice transition!

3. The Rose Code-Kate Quinn

This book was my first adult historical fiction, and since reading it, I’ve read two more (both also included on this list) and it’s definitely something I want to keep reading more of. I will admit, I had a slight moment when I realised that I was the same age as Beth (at least at the beginning of the book as it spans several years), the oldest of the three of the girls! At the start of the book, Osla is 18, Mab is 21/22 and Beth is 24 and we get to follow them over seven years so you really get to see their development, and as a 24 year old woman, it’s nice seeing women of a similar age navigating work and relationships (albeit in a very different time period and I’ve never had to deal with a war!). If you like historical fiction, I would definitely recommend this one as Bletchley Park is fascinating and the characters are brilliant.

4. The Daevabad Trilogy-SA Chakraborty

The main characters in the Daevabad trilogy are 18 & 20 in the first book, and 25 & 23 in the subsequent two after a five year time jump. If you love books with complicated world building, intense political scheming, and a smart and funny heroine, the Daevabad trilogy is definitely for you. It’s not as pacey as a lot of YA fantasy, but it definitely goes into a lot more depth in the world-building which I appreciated. I will say that in the second and third books, though Ali and Nahri are meant to be five years older, they really don’t feel like it, and I didn’t think it was entirely necessary as the plot of Kingdom of Copper could quite easily have taken place straight after City of Brass.

5. The Alice Network-Kate Quinn

Charlie, one of the POV characters in The Alice Network is 19 and turns 20 during the course of the book, and Eve, the other main character is 22 in her past timeline and 54 in the present timeline. I have to admit that I warmed to Eve more quickly, she’s stubborn, funny, incredibly smart and brave and obviously what she does as a 22 year old in WWI is incredibly impressive, I couldn’t have done half of what she does at 22. Charlie on the other hand is a lot harder to warm to, she’s quite immature, naive and in all honesty more than a little annoying at the start of the book. However she is just 19 years old, and those traits are quite common for a teenager! And she grows a lot over the course of the book, to the point where I really did feel for her in the end. Anyway, The Alice Network is a brilliant, emotional read and if you want to learn more about WWI spy networks, I highly recommend it.

6. The Last Bookshop In London-Madeline Martin

Grace Bennett is 23 at the beginning of this book, and probably has the most “normal” job of any of the characters in WWII books I’ve read (if anything in war can be called normal). She works at Primrose Hill Books, a slightly neglected bookshop with a gruff older owner. I loved this book precisely because of the smaller, quieter, nature of it, yes there’s a war on, and Grace spends her nights as an air raid warden, but most of the WWII books I’ve read have been about pilots and spies and codebreakers, so it was nice to read a story where a regular girl with a regular job was the star. Much as I love reading about 20+ year old women who work as spies or break Nazi codes, I could definitely relate more to Grace, a 23 year old who works in a bookshop and worries about her elderly landlady and is initially terrified in her work as an air raid warden. This book is such a lovely little story about community and hope and books and ultimately shows that the war wasn’t just the people on the front lines fighting the Nazis, it was also ordinary citizens pulling together and doing whatever they could to help their communities.

7. The Gilded Wolves-Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves is still very much YA, but the characters are slightly older, Laila is 19, Severin is 18/19, Zofia is 19 and honestly I’m not sure how old Enrique is, I think a little older than the others as he’s mentioned as having been to University, so I’d guess in his 20s? Anyway, I felt like this book gave me the best of both worlds, with more mature characters who are obviously self-sufficient, but you still get the self-discovery and messy feelings that comes with YA books.

8. Vicious/Vengeful-VE Schwab

Honestly there’s a wide span of character ages in both of the books in Schwab’s Villains duology, you have everyone from a 13 year old girl, to characters in their 30s and 40s and because the books jump between different timelines, the same characters can span several ages. So for example, in Vicious, Victor and Eli are 22 in the past timeline, but 32 in the present, where in Vengeful, Sydney is 18 in the present, but younger in flashbacks. The different timelines is one of the things that makes these books so interesting though, as you are able to literally piece together how the characters came to be who they are in the present timeline. If you love villians, I highly recommend this duology, as no one does villains like Schwab and it’s amazing how she can write a book where literally everyone is bad and you still fall in love with the characters.

9. The Priory of The Orange Tree-Samantha Shannon

The characters span quite a breadth of ages, the ones that fit the criteria for this list are Ead who is 26, Sabran who is 28 and Tane who is 19 but the narrators range in age from 19-64. It was quite funny for me when I read this because I sat pretty much bang in the middle of Tane and Ead, I was 22, almost 23. Priory is an absolute beast of a book, and a lot more dense than what I usually read (adult epic fantasy is still fairly new for me!), and I definitely struggled with the pacing and the characters were a little flat, but I did love how much agency the female characters had, and I liked that romance was a component but not the main part of the story.

10. King of Scars-Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars is again technically YA, but it’s set several years after the original Grisha trilogy, so the main characters are all either in their late teens or early twenties. I suppose if New Adult had been allowed to become a thing, this might be that? Honestly it probably helps that all the characters in Six of Crows felt very much like adults in their twenties anyway, so this book kind of carries that on, and obviously, the characters have more adult responsibilities now, like running a country and making sure it doesn’t collapse into ruin.

So there we go, those are some of the books with main characters in their late teens/twenties that I’ve enjoyed. I did struggle once I reached number 7, I’ll be honest but I’m quite pleased that I managed to find a good range across the ages and they weren’t all clustered down at the 18/19 end! Have you read any of these books? What are your favourite books with characters in their late teens/twenties (please give me recommendations, I’m desperate for them! Preferably with characters who are a little older so like the 23-28 age range would be great, I feel like I’m okay at finding books with characters in the 19-23 range)? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Books With Numbers In The Title, which is one I did last year, but I actually am going to do this one again, as it turns out there are lots of books with numbers in their title, so I can do it without repeating any I did last time!

Top Ten Tuesday #331

Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine was fairly quiet, which was nice after a busy couple of weekends. I do have some fun stuff coming up this week though, I have a riding lesson tomorrow and I’m meeting up with friends on Friday, so I’m looking forward to both of those things.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so it’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is meant to be Fictional Crushes, but as a 24 year old who reads a lot of YA, I felt a little weird about the idea of a list full of 16-18 year olds, so instead I’ve decided to share a list of my Top Ten Favourite Audiobook Narrators. I got back into audiobooks about two years ago, and I’ve discovered so many narrators I love since then, so I thought I’d share those today:

  1. Saskia Maarleveld (Books Listened To: The Rose Code, The Alice Network, The Last Bookshop in London)

Saskia Maarleveld definitely seems to have a genre niche as all the books I’ve listened to her narrate have been WWII fiction! Anyway, I love her so much as a narrator, she’s a really animated performer, she switches between accents flawlessly and she definitely makes every character feel and sound very different. I was going to read both The Alice Network and The Last Bookshop In London anyway, but I specifically chose to get the audios over e-books or physical copies because her narration of The Rose Code was so good.

2. Andrew Cotter (Books Listened To: Olive, Mabel and Me)

Andrew Cotter is a sports commentator, so naturally he’s good at audio work, and I knew when I saw that he was releasing a book about his two Labradors Olive and Mabel (who became famous over lockdown after he posted videos of them with him doing sports style commentary over the top) that I had to get it in audio. I was not disappointed: Andrew’s relaxing Scottish tones whilst relaying his dogs antics was the recipe for a perfect listening experience.

3. January LaVoy (Books Listened To: The Diviners Series)

January LaVoy is another audiobook narrator who really performs the book to the full! She captured the creepy atmosphere of The Diviners series so well that I honestly couldn’t imagine having experienced the books any other way. She’s wonderful at switching between voices too, which was so important in a book with such a sprawling cast of characters, and she even sings when there’s songs included in the book. I highly recommend listening to the audiobooks if you’re considering The Diviners, because it really made it an experience for me!

4. Neil Gaiman (Books Listened To: Coraline)

Neil Gaiman has the kind of voice that is perfectly suited for bedtime stories, and I honestly can’t describe it any better than that (think people like David Tennant or David Attenborough-it is just a coincidence I went with two Davids for this, they just have the kind of voice that when you listen to it, you can almost hear it reading you a bedtime story) which is perfect for Coraline really, because it’s definitely the kind of book I can imagine asking my Dad to read me when I was a kid. He narrates a lot of his own audiobooks and I definitely want to try more!

5. Santino Fontana (Books Listened To: You)

Yes, Hans from Frozen, or if you want a more niche reference Original Greg from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend also narrates audiobooks. I’d actually watched the series before listening to the audiobook, so I did already have Penn Badgley’s voice in my head for Joe, but Santino made me forget that pretty quickly. He captures Joe’s creepy douchebaggery so perfectly, does brilliant accents and definitely heightened the book for me because there were times where I wasn’t really enjoying it, but his listening kept me going.

6. Laura Bates (Books Listened To: Men Who Hate Women)

Not every author is a good narrator, though I have had good luck with author narrated books I’ve read so far. Laura is clearly super knowledgeable about her subject (and I’m both massively impressed and slightly terrified that she went undercover with these extreme misogynists) and explained everything really clearly and succinctly. I learned so much about the online communities that these extreme misogynists are part of and though it was terrifying, I definitely feel better informed now!

7. Jordan Cobb and AJ Beckles (Books Listened To: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin)

This was the first book I listened to with multiple narrators, and it was definitely a good choice to have different voices for Malik and Karina, it allowed you to get into both characters heads better and made sure that both characters had a distinctive voice. Cobb and Beckles both did a really great job at engaging me in the story and making me feel connected to Malik and Karina.

8. Nicola Barber (Books Listened To: Hunting Prince Dracula, Escaping From Houdini, Capturing The Devil)

Nicola Barber was such a great narrator for this, she really captured the atmosphere of the books, and I fell so much more in love with Thomas Cresswell after hearing her accent for him. She does really great accents (as you can tell from this list, accents are really important for me!) and her voice is generally just lovely and soft and soothing. I would definitely happily listen to her narrate more books.

9. Carey Mulligan (Books Listened To: The Midnight Library)

Carey Mulligan has such a good voice for audiobooks, it’s so easy to listen to. Her performance was the highlight of this book for me because I actually didn’t love the story as much as I would have hoped to. I would definitely listen to Carey Mulligan do more audiobooks though.

10. Soneela Nankani (Books Listened To: The Kingdom of Copper and The Empire of Gold)

I finished the Daevabad trilogy in audio due to the sheer length of the sequels (and the first book wasn’t exactly short!) and I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed Soneela Nankani’s narration. She definitely has a really dramatic voice, which made the book feel engaging even when it was fairly slow paced.

So there we go, those are some of my favourite audiobook narrators. How about you? Have you listened to any of these? Do you have any particular favourite audiobook narrators? What makes a good narrator for you? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is meant to be Books That Make Me Smile, but since it’s a topic I did last year, I’ve decided to go for a different topic again (I swear I will get back to the regularly scheduled topics at some point). So instead I’m making up my own topic, and I’m going to share my Favourite Books With Characters In Their Late Teens/Twenties (so basically 18+) as I’ve definitely been getting into reading more adult books in the last few years and I want to share some of my favourites.

Top Ten Tuesday #330

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I was in London again this weekend to see Back To The Future, the new musical that’s just opened. It was good, though I have to admit, not quite as great as Hairspray was, although it’s probably not really fair to compare the two, as I’ve loved Hairspray for years!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so it’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic was meant to be Books I Wish I Could Read Again For The First Time but I already did that topic a few years back, and I don’t think the list has changed much since then, so I decided to go in a different direction. Instead of that, today I’ll be talking about Most Hyped Books Still On My TBR. Honestly hyped books do tend to sit on my TBR for a bit longer, because I get scared that they won’t live up to the hype! So here we go, the most hyped books that are still sitting on my TBR:

  1. The Bear and The Nightingale-Katherine Arden

This is one of those books that I feel like I see everywhere, it’s a perennial feature on other blogs and everyone raves about how good it is. I definitely want to try it sometime, but I am slightly scared that I won’t love it as much as everyone else does. I’ll also probably get the audiobook and I’m not sure I’ll have enough credits for it this year.

2. Rule of Wolves-Leigh Bardugo

Honestly I was super excited for this one after watching Shadow and Bone but I’ve been in a reading slump all year, particularly with physical books and I didn’t want that to affect this book as it’s the last Grishaverse book we’re going to get for a while. I’m hoping to maybe get around to it early next year, as I really do want to see how she wraps up Nikolai’s duology.

3. Good Girl, Bad Blood-Holly Jackson

I meant to read this last year after reading A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, but I never got around to it. I may read it before the end of this year, but I’m very much going with my mood this year and just seeing what I want to read rather sticking to any sort of reading plan, so we’ll see!

4. House of Earth and Blood-Sarah J Maas

I’ve been putting this one off for ages simply because it’s so long. Even with the audiobook, which is how I plan to read it, it’s over 30 hours long and I’ve not been in the mood for that kind of reading commitment this year. I’m sure at some point, I will be in the mood for a chunky audio, but not right now.

5. Mister Impossible-Maggie Stiefvater

This one only came out in May, so comparatively speaking hasn’t been on my shelves as long as the others but I’m still a little nervous because I didn’t love Call Down The Hawk as much as I was hoping to. Middle books in trilogies are always dangerous too, they can be amazing or terrible and there’s usually not much in-between. Here’s hoping Mister Impossible falls on the good side!

6. The Tattooist of Auschwitz-Heather Morris

I’m kind of torn on this one to be honest, because it’s been super hyped, won a lot of awards etc and a friend whose reading taste I share liked it. However, there has also been a lot criticism about the accuracy of its portrayal of historical events, and whilst I do understand creative licence from what I’ve read, some of the basic details about Auschwitz in the book are wrong. So this is where my problem comes in, I want to read it because it sounds like an interesting story, but from the perspective of someone who studied history, I don’t want to read something that gets even the basic details wrong, and is an inaccurate portrayal of the experience of a real life person. It’s a tricky one for me, I don’t usually have this problem with historical fiction because even where they’ve been inspired by real people/events, the characters themselves are usually fictional.

7. A Promised Land-Barack Obama

This is 100% solely down to length. I’m sure Barack Obama’s presidential memoir will be very interesting, but it’s also almost 800 pages and I’ve just not been feeling long books this year, so this one may be going on the back burner for a while!

8. The Girls I’ve Been-Tess Sharpe

I only bought this in May, so compared to some of the others, it hasn’t been on my TBR for that long. I’ve not really got a particular reason for not reading this book yet, I’ve just not been in the mood. I’m also always a little wary with YA thrillers, because they have a tendency to not “thrill” me much!

9. Thunderhead-Neal Shusterman

I’ve been meaning to read this one for YEARS, I think I bought it in 2018/2019, but as it’s a longer book, it’s one of those that just keeps getting shuffled down my TBR pile. Whilst I liked Scythe, I didn’t LOVE it, so I’ve basically just not really felt the urge to get to this one. I would like to read it one day, but it’s not a priority at the moment.

10. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle-Stuart Turton

I’ve heard so much good stuff about this one, my friend really enjoyed it and it sounds super up my street, but again, it’s a longer book and I’ve been putting it off. I’m also slightly nervous just because the hype has been so great around this one, so hopefully it lives up to it.

So there we go, those are just some of the most hyped books on my TBR that I’ve still not read yet. Have you read any of these? Which should I start with? Do you put off hyped books for a long time too? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is meant to be Fictional Crushes, but as a 24 year old who reads mostly YA, it feels a little weird to making a list of 16/17 year old fictional crushes. So instead, I’m going to do Favourite Audiobook Narrators, as I think I’ve listened to enough audio now that I can make a list of these!

Top Ten Tuesday #329

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these. I had a great weekend, Hairspray was really amazing, the show was generally incredible anyway, but the atmosphere in the theatre was so electric because we’d all been away for so long, it was a really awesome audience to be a part of, which made the show even more amazing I think because everyone was so excited to be there and so appreciative of all the actors. I’m back down in London over the weekend for another show, the new musical, Back To The Future, which I’m super excited for, we wouldn’t usually do two theatre shows on back to back weekends, but my mum was really excited for this one as she loves the film.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, which means another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Favourite Places To Read. I’ve slightly twisted the topic as I tend to read in one of maybe like four places regularly, so instead I thought I’d do an update on a topic I did a few years ago, Books I Read On Holiday as being on holiday is one of my favourite places to read, so it does kind of fit the theme this week:

  1. Things A Bright Girl Can Do-Sally Nicholls-Carcassonne

I read at least part of this one whilst I was on holiday with my family in France in about three years ago, I was hoping to be reading sun soaked by the pool but sadly the weather wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for on this holiday and I read most of it inside!

2. The Dead Queens Club-Hannah Capin-Stirling

Not the most exotic or far flung of locales, but I go back to my University city quite a lot as my family has connections to the area, and when we were back up there on holiday last summer, this was the book I was reading, I’ve read a lot in Stirling over the years, from family holidays when I was a kid, to Uni, and various trips back since.

3. Into The Crooked Place-Alexandra Christo-Carcassonne

I didn’t read much of this in Carcassonne, in fact I think I finished almost all of it on the flight over and just finished the last few pages when I arrived in France, but I’m counting it anyway! I really enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel whenever this reading slump of mine finally breaks!

4. Truthwitch-Susan Dennard-Cape Town

Naturally since I was in Cape Town for almost three months last year, I read quite a bit whilst I was out there and this was one of them. I remember sitting and trying to read this on the beach whilst the other volunteers were surfing and the pages kept blowing away because it was so windy!

5. Stalking Jack The Ripper-Kerri Mansicalco-Carcassonne

I read this one on the same holiday that I read Into The Crooked Place, this was the other book I brought as I’d almost finished Into The Crooked Place. I have to admit, this series was kind of uneven, and there was too much focus on romance in later books, but I really enjoyed this first instalment.

6. Circe-Madeline Miller-Cape Town

I started this just before I left for Cape Town, but I did read the large majority of it whilst I was out there. This was the book I was reading whilst we were on the Garden Route tour, so I was soaking up Circe’s adventures whilst we were driving through the most beautiful African landscapes, which was pretty cool!

7. Blind Beauty-KM Peyton-Coach through UK, France and Switzerland

The first time I went to Switzerland with Guides when I was about 11, we took a coach there (our second trip when I was 14, we flew) and so it was quite a few days on the coach before we actually got to Switzerland, which naturally meant a LOT of uninterrupted reading time, so this was one of the books that I read on that coach trip.

8. Allegiant-Veronica Roth-Carcassonne

I started reading this book just before Christmas in 2015, and my family was in France for New Years, so this was the book I was reading whilst I was over there celebrating New Years. I remember finishing it on the super long car journey back from France, this was a good couple of days in the car reading the book and being super frustrated with it!

9. Challenger Deep-Neal Shusterman-Amsterdam

I think I started this in the airport whilst I was waiting to get my flight home, so I didn’t read very much of it in Amsterdam (my main book for that trip was Empire of Storms, which I mentioned in my other post) but since I did start it there, I think it still counts!

10. Night Spinner-Addie Thorley-Cape Town

Reading this in Cape Town was kind of a funny contrast because the setting in the book is so cold and frosty and I was obviously reading this during Cape Town’s summer but I’ve never been one for seasonal reading anyway. This was one of my favourite books I read out in Cape Town, such a fun and creative retelling of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

So there we go, my updated edition of Books I’ve Read On Holiday. I can’t wait to be able to add more to this list when we are finally able to travel a bit more, though I don’t think I’ll be adding any non-UK destinations till next year! Have you read books in any cool places? Have you been to any of the places on my list? Any fun stories about books you’ve read on holiday? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is meant to be Books I Wish I Could Read Again, but I did that topic a few years ago and I’m not sure I have anything new to add, so I think I’m going to go off in my own direction again. I thought I’d do Most Hyped Books On My TBR That I’ve Not Read Yet.

Top Ten Tuesday #328

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine was fairly quiet, I was mostly working and watching the Olympics again, it was a little strange yesterday when I woke up and there was nothing on! I’ve got an exciting week coming up though, I get my second vaccine dose on Thursday so I will finally be double vaccinated, and I’m going to see Hairspray on Saturday, which I’ve waited a whole year for after it was cancelled last year. It will also be my first time in a West End theatre in almost two years (the last time was when I saw Waitress in October 2019) and I can’t even explain how happy I am about it!

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, which means another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Secondary Characters Who I Wish Had More Page Time. Often I love secondary characters even more than main characters, so this week’s topic was really fun for me. Here we go, secondary characters I’d like to have seen more of:

  1. Zuzana-Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy-Laini Taylor

I fully admit, I loved Karou’s best friend way more than I loved Karou! Zuzana is super funny and feisty and I like her love story way more than Karou and Akiva’s. I really loved Night of Cake and Puppets where Zuzana was the main character, and though she didn’t really fit all that well in the second book, I would much rather have seen more of her than Karou. If Laini ever does a full length Zuzana book, I would be super happy to read it.

2. Sonia Rhienschild-Unwind Series-Neal Shusterman

Sonia is a super interesting character, she and her husband Janson are the architects behind the technology of unwinding, with the intention that it be used to improve organ donation and not the horrific process it eventually became. She becomes a leader in the resistance against unwinding, and rescues AWOL unwinds. I found her whole backstory super fascinating, but though she’s a really important part of the series, she only really appears into two of the four books. I would have loved to see more of her, and if Shusterman ever wanted to write a book, or even a short story about the Rhienschilds one day, I would definitely read it.

3. Razu-Daevabad Trilogy-SA Chakraborty

Razu is a fairly minor character in the Daevabad trilogy but I would have loved to see more of her. I feel like she was kind of a missed opportunity, because she and Nahri had the potential for a really beautiful friendship (they’re both thieves and have a similar sense of humour and just seem like they get on really well) and this wasn’t explored enough.

4. Lourdes Alfero-The Shadow Game Trilogy-Amanda Foody

Lourdes is the catalyst for the whole series, as Enne goes to the City of Sin to find her, and yet, we only really get snippets of information about her life through the series. From what we do find out about her though, she sounds fascinating, she’s a journalist, genderfluid, supported the monarchist cause and was involved in the Revolution of the New Reynes. I would have loved to maybe have had a few more flashbacks to her in the main series, we learned a bit about her life, but there’s still so much more to discover. I said in a previous TTT post that I’d love her to have her own book, and I stand by it. We’ve barely scratched the surface of her adventures!

5. Shazad Al’Hamad-Rebel of The Sands Trilogy-Alwyn Hamilton

I feel like poor Shazad really gets short changed in the latter two Rebel of The Sands books. We get to see quite a bit of her in the first book, and her friendship with Amani is a real highlight. However in Traitor To The Throne, and Hero At The Fall, her role decreases significantly which I thought was a real shame, because she was such a strong character in the first book.

6. Eliza-Stalking Jack The Ripper series-Kerri Mansicalco

One of my biggest gripes with the Stalking Jack The Ripper series is that Maniscalco focuses more on Audrey Rose’s relationship with Thomas, than her friendships or family relationships. I really loved her cousin, Eliza, or Liza as she’s known in the book but she has a fairly background role, only really popping up briefly in Books 1 and 3, and I wish we’d got to see more of her and Audrey Rose together, as I feel like it was a missed opportunity for female friendship and camaraderie in these books.

7. Evrane Nihar-Witchlands series-Susan Dennard

Evrane for me is one of the most interesting characters in the series, she has a really interesting power (Waterwitch with a healing speciality), and she’s a Carawen monk, but we know very little about her life, how she came to be a monk, her relationship with Aeduan, I feel like there’s a lot more to fill in about her story and would love to see her get more page time in future books, or maybe even her own book one day.

8. Nehemia Ytger-Throne of Glass series-Sarah J Maas

I think we all know that Nehemia gets the short end of the stick in the Throne of Glass series, she should definitely have been expanded beyond the Black friend who dies to fuel the white main character into action, because that is a super problematic trope. Nehemia is probably a more interesting character than Aelin in all honesty, and I would have loved to have seen more of her work with the rebels from Eyllwe.

9. Renata Galygina-The Crown’s Game duology-Evelyn Skye

Honestly, even four years after reading the books, I’m still super miffed with how Renata was treated. Her only purpose is to have a crush on Nikolai and pine after him and she doesn’t get at all developed beyond that. I felt so bad for her because she’s basically a prop of a character, an obstacle between him and Vika, and even after it’s established that Nikolai doesn’t return her feelings, she doesn’t get any more of her own character development. If this book could be done over, I definitely think it should have included more of a plot for Renata outside Nikolai.

10. Yuilana Romanov-The Crown’s Game duology-Evelyn Skye

Again I wish Yuilana had been expanded more. She’s typecast as the stone cold bitch because she’s clearly far more suited for ruling than her brother but not given the time of day because she’s a girl. She’s so underutilised, I think there’s a lot more to her than the book presented but because we never really get to see her POV, she just comes across as a flat one-dimensional villain. Again if these books could be done over, I would definitely have expanded Yuilana’s role.

So there we go, those are some secondary characters that I think should have had more page time. Do you agree with me? Have you read any of these books? Which characters did you include on your list this week? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, the topic is meant to be Favourite Places To Read, but I read in one of about four places and that’s it, so I’m going to tweak it slightly and do a Part 2 to a topic I did a few years back, Books I Read On Holiday.

Top Ten Tuesday #327

Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I’ve had a very busy weekend of work, I was working Saturday, Sunday and yesterday so I’m happy to have a couple of days off now. I’ve been really enjoying watching some of the equestrian events at the Olympics, I managed to catch some of the cross country in the eventing, and caught up with the eventing showjumping after work yesterday evening, it was so great to see Team GB win the gold! I’m looking forward to seeing the individual showjumping final tomorrow, the GB riders did great in qualifying today, so I’m excited to see how they go tomorrow. It was also amazing to see Keely Hodgkinson get a silver in the 800m, we haven’t had a medal in that one in a while!

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Covers/Titles That Made Me Want To Read/Buy The Book and as I do love a good cover post (and often judge books by their covers, shush we all do) I’m going with Covers That Made Me Want To Read/Buy The Book. Here we go:

  1. Blanca & Roja-Anna-Marie McLemore
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Cover Designer: Daniella Mazzella di Bosco

I have to admit I’m not really a magical realism fan, I’m definitely one of those people that needs magic to have rules. But the cover of Blanca & Roja is so, so pretty that as soon as I saw it, I thought, yes, I have to read this. It doesn’t hurt that I’m also a sucker for sister stories.

2. The Gilded Wolves-Roshani Chokshi

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Cover art by James Iacobelli, Design by Kerri Resnick

The designs for The Gilded Wolves trilogy are among the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen, and whilst I do love heists and found families and the book sounded right up my street anyway, I definitely bought a physical copy of the book rather than getting the audio or e-book because the cover was so beautiful. I really loved the book, so it was definitely worth it!

3. The Language of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo

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Cover Designer: Natalie Sousa

I don’t usually read short stories, I’m not the biggest fan of them and I’ll admit, whilst I do love Leigh Bardugo, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get this. Then I saw the beautiful cover and was like “yup, I have to add it to my collection”. I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed the stories (and loved Sara Kipin’s beautiful illustrations) and I definitely have Natalie Sousa’s beautiful cover to thank for that.

4. This Poison Heart-Kalynn Bayron

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Cover Designer: Raymond Sebastien

I probably would have read Kalynn Bayron’s second book anyway as I really enjoyed Cinderella Is Dead. But I have to admit, much as the idea of a girl with magic plant powers and a creepy old dilapidated house sounded right up my street, it was seeing the beautiful cover that had me hooked on this book.

5. The Gilded Ones-Namina Forna

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Cover Designer: Johnny Tarajosu

I love the colours on this one, so vibrant and it’s been great to see all of these covers with beautiful Black girls coming out over the last few years. I have to admit, I wasn’t massively pulled in by the description, I’ve been finding a lot of YA fantasies kind of samey over the last few years, so the beautiful cover was definitely what convinced me I should give it a try.

6. For A Muse of Fire-Heidi Heilig

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Cover Designer: Leo Nickolls

I was already pulled in by the description of this book, it sounded really different from a lot of other YA fantasy I’d been reading, with the main character’s skill at binding souls to shadow puppets and the fact that she was mentally ill which is still something that is super lacking in YA fantasy protagonists. But it was the cover that really had me sold on getting a physical copy, I couldn’t not have it with the incredibly vibrant covers and that really striking dragon.

7. The Fair Botanists-Sara Sheridan

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Cover Designer-Charlotte Day

I saw the author tweet the cover reveal for this book, and was instantly obsessed. I loved the little illustration of Edinburgh Castle, and I really love the colours, I think everything is super well balanced, with the brightly coloured flowers and the green leaves. The purple type used for the title is also one of my favourite colours so I loved that.

8. Six Crimson Cranes-Elizabeth Lim

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Cover Designer: @_afterblossom_

I actually wasn’t the biggest fan of Spin The Dawn, and wasn’t planning on reading another Elizabeth Lim book, but then I saw the beautiful art for Six Crimson Cranes, and thought I might actually give another of her books a try after all!

9. Night Spinner-Addie Thorley

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Cover Designer: Kylie Alexander

This was 100% a cover pick. Sure, the idea of a gender-swapped Hunchback of Notre Dame retelling sounded pretty cool, but it was the gorgeous blues and the way the silhouette forms the night sky, with Orbai (the bird who features in the book) blending into Enebish’s face that made me want to pick up this book. And I’m so glad I did, because I would have missed out on a great story if I hadn’t. Sometimes shameless cover picks do lead to really great stories!

10. Girl, Serpent, Thorn-Melissa Bashardoust

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Cover Designer: Sasha Vinogradova

This is one of the better uses of the YA book snake in recent years! I wasn’t a fan of Melissa Bashardoust’s first book, Girls Made of Snow and Glass, so I wasn’t sure about her second one but it was the cover which convinced me. The white and the pink are so lovely together, and I love the combination of beauty & danger with the snake and the roses, it really fits the book.

11. The Scorpio Races-Maggie Stiefvater

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Cover Designer: Christopher Stengel

This was actually my first Maggie Stiefvater book, before The Raven Boys. I knew nothing about her work, nothing about this book and literally picked it up and bought it just because of the gorgeous cover. Maggie Stiefvater’s covers are always amazing, but there’s something about the vibrant red of this one, with the heart design and the big black horse that really pops. This is not my favourite Maggie Stiefvater book, I definitely prefer The Raven Cycle, but I’m glad I read it, because it was my introduction to her books.

12. The Priory of The Orange Tree-Samantha Shannon

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Cover Designer: Ivan Belikov

This was 1000% a cover buy. I was never going to read the incredibly chunky Priory in physical hardback format, it just would not have been practical, as I’m very much an on the move reader (I read a lot on public transport!) but when I saw how gorgeous the cover for this book was, especially that magnificent dragon, I had to have it for my collection (and I got it as part of a ticket for an event Shannon was doing anyway, so £18 for the event and the book seemed very reasonable considering the hardback by itself would have been I think £25+). No regrets, the book is stunning!

So there we go, those are just 12 covers that made me want to read/buy the book, I could definitely have come up with a lot more! Covers are super important, they’re your first impression of a book and whilst I will still read a book that doesn’t have a great cover if I like the sound of the story, a good cover can make or break things for me if I’m on the fence! How about you? Have you ever bought a book because of the cover? Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’ll be talking about Secondary/Minor Characters Who Deserve More Love.

Top Ten Tuesday #326

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I had my friend Hannah to stay over the weekend, which was really nice, we had a very chill time as usual, eating pizza and chatting about books. We may not have got to go to YALC again this year, but we still had a fun weekend together anyway. I’ve also been watching some of the Olympics, mostly the gymnastics and equestrian events as that’s where my main sports interest lies, and it was so exciting to see the GB women’s gymnastics team get a bronze today, it’s been such a long time in the making for them! It was also great to see us get team bronze in the Dressage as well, though I do have to admit, when it comes to Equestrian, Eventing and Showjumping are definitely the ones I prefer watching!

Anyway, enough of my rambling about sports, since it’s Tuesday, I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded on A Deserted Island. Now honestly, if this year has taught me anything, it’s that isolation is SEVERELY OVERRATED and I need to be able to see my friends regularly. Also I hate the heat, so a deserted island would not be the place for me, I’d probably do better in an isolated mountain cabin, curled up in blankets and drinking an inordinate amount of hot chocolate. But anyway, if I were on a deserted island, these are the books I’d want with me (for series I love, I chose my favourite book as I thought it would be cheating to pick the entire series!):

1. The Battle of The Labyrinth-Rick Riordan

I couldn’t be without at least one Percy Jackson book if I was stranded on a desert island, and I picked this one. I love the entire series, but for me The Battle of The Labyrinth is one of the most exciting, the whole quest through the Labyrinth is brilliant, we have lots of development on the Percy/Annabeth front and the stakes are sky high as we build towards the big fight with Kronos. I could definitely see myself whiling away a couple of hours with this one on a desert island.

2. The Hunger Games-Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games was such an addictive read, I remember I was so glued to what was happening, that I could hardly put it down. It would definitely be a great read to while away the time whilst I was waiting for someone to come and rescue me from the deserted island. I also might be able to pick up a few survival tips, and it would be a great reminder that even if I was stranded on an island, at least I’m not a teenager involved in a death match.

3. Dangerous Girls-Abigail Haas

The setting for this is definitely suited to being stranded on an island, since it all takes place on Aruba. It’s another really fast and addictive read as well, so I could definitely forget about the tedium of isolation whilst I was gripped by this sun-soaked thriller. I’d also like to see if I could pick up the clues to the murderer this time around, now that I’ve read it once and know who did it.

4. Rebel of The Sands-Alwyn Hamilton

Again, this book would really suit being stranded on an island, given the desert setting. It was also a really fun and pacey story so I think it could easily distract me in my isolation.

5. To Kill A Kingdom-Alexandra Christo

Again, the setting here makes it perfect for a deserted island read, it’s all set in the ocean, it has brilliantly immersive writing so it would be easy to just sink into and distract me and it was just a lot of fun, so I would definitely love to have it with me in my isolation.

6. A Darker Shade of Magic-VE Schwab

Of course I have to have my favourite VE Schwab book with me whilst stranded on a deserted island. I can think of no better way to pass the time than with one of my favourite books, and I know that the hours would fly by as I enjoyed Kell, Lila, Rhy and Holland’s adventures all over again.

7. Vengeful-VE Schwab

Are you at all surprised to see another VE Schwab book on here? You shouldn’t be! Vengeful is another of my favourite VE Schwab books, it’s incredibly pacey for a nearly 600-page book, it has brilliantly complicated villains, SO MUCH FEMALE ANGER and is really just an absolute masterclass in writing, worldbuilding and character development. I would be much happier in isolation if I had this book with me.

8. The Exact Opposite Of Okay-Laura Steven

The Exact Opposite Of Okay is so funny, it would definitely be a perfect book to have with me on a deserted island as I would spend so much time laughing that I would forget about the potentially precarious situation.

9. Code Name Verity-Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity has everything: humour, heartbreak, intense female friendship and blinding plot twists. It would be a bit of a change of pace from some of the other books on here as it’s definitely a slower build, but I think if I wanted a break from the fantasy/thrillers/dystopia that make up the bulk of my list, Code Name Verity would definitely be a good one to go for. I also would want to have at least one historical with me, as I love historical fiction.

10. The House of Hades-Rick Riordan

And we come to my favourite of the Heroes of Olympus books. This is definitely a Percabeth heavy book, which is one of the main reasons that I love it so much, but it’s also super action packed, the stakes are really high as again we race towards the climactic battle with Gaea in the next book and I feel like we get a lot of great character moments in this one. Also it’s probably the darkest book of the series, and me being me, I love that!

So there you go, those are the books I would want with me on my deserted island. Have you read any of these? What did you think? What books did you choose to have with your on your deserted island? Did we share any? Let me know in the comments!

Next week is Titles or Covers That Made Me Want To Read/Buy The Book so I will definitely be going with Covers That Made Me Want To Read/Buy The Book since I definitely judge buy the cover!

The Unbound (The Archived #2) Review

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Book: The Unbound (The Archived #2)

Author: Victoria Schwab

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Mackenzie and Dallas talk about her problems.

Content Warnings: PTSD, death, grief, incidence of self-harm, dissociative episodes, blood, mention of attempted sexual assault, incidence of drugging a drink, hospital & scenes of a medical nature, mental torture, explosions

I first read The Archived in 2017, and I’ll be honest, I’d been putting off reading The Unbound, because I knew the series was unfinished and not knowing if the third book was ever going to come out, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read the second book knowing we might never get the proper ending. I definitely had to familiarise myself with what happened in The Archived before reading this, which I don’t usually do, but it had been so long, I’d definitely forgotten a lot of stuff! Still, this year I finally decided to dive into The Unbound as one of my #RockMyTBR Challenge books and I have to admit, I was disappointed. It was a really slow paced book, taking me almost three months to get through, and I still didn’t really connect with Mac as a character. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy-not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She’s sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she’ll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

So as I said at the top of the review, my biggest problem with this book was definitely the pacing. I had the same problem with the first book, but it felt even worse here. The pace didn’t really start to pick up until around the last three chapters, so that’s a very long time to not feel massively invested as a reader. Honestly if it hadn’t been Schwab, I probably wouldn’t have finished this book. It was a slog to get through the first half and then the ending felt really rushed, so you didn’t really have time to take in all the stuff that was happening. A lot of the chapters were overly long as well which added to the slow pace.

This book is focused a lot around Mac’s time at her new school, which I found kind of dull, though I’m sure actual teen readers would probably like that more. This was definitely more of a me thing, at almost 25, I don’t really relate to school stories anymore, which is why I read more YA fantasy than contemporary, but the problem here for me was that there was so much focus on the mundane day to day of Mac’s school life rather than the fun fantastical elements.

I appreciated once again that her parents were actually present in this book, and I feel like this was a really good example of how including parents can actually increase rather than take away the drama from characters’ lives as Mac’s parents were somewhat of an obstacle to her adventures in the Archive. I actually felt kind of bad for Mac’s parents and didn’t blame them for not trusting her, she was constantly lying to them and even though I know she couldn’t tell them the truth, she did seem quite harsh on them when all they wanted to do was protect her (I’m clearly getting old being on the side of parents in YA books!).

I was glad that Mac’s trauma from the first book was addressed in this book: she’s really struggling after the confrontation with Owen at the end of the last book. It was super frustrating to see her refuse help, I understand that she couldn’t tell anyone about The Archive, but I felt like she could definitely have dealt with her other issues. Still, that is probably coming from a privileged place, never having dealt with the kind of trauma that Mac is in this book, and I’m sure there are a lot of people dealing with mental health issues that find it hard to ask for help, so on that front it did feel realistic, it was just more frustrating from a reader perspective because you so want her to deal with everything that’s happened to her. I was so glad when she finally did get to a therapist though, and it was really refreshing to see a YA fantasy book actually deal with the trauma that a main character faced, as honestly, pretty much all YA fantasy heroes could probably use therapy!

It was super frustrating that Schwab threw Mac into another love triangle situation, with Mac, Wesley and Cash in this book. Not only did it feel unnecessary because it was so clear that Mac and Wesley were going to get together, I felt genuinely bad for Cash because he seemed like a really sweet guy. It also just felt like super contrived drama to keep Mac and Wes apart.

It was frustrating that even though Mac ostensibly had a little circle of friends in this book, that she kept them all at arms’ length and seemed like she only used Amber in particular to get information because of who her dad was. I also didn’t love that the only people Mac seemed able to form proper connections with were the boys, her connection with Amber was very superficial, Safia seemed to hate her for no reason and the same with Sako. Schwab does seem to have a bit of problem with allowing her female characters to have proper and meaningful friendships with other women, which is something that I’ve seen carry through in her work: aside from Vengeful, and her Cassidy Blake books, her other books really aren’t that great with female friendship and I hope this is something that she works on in future!

Surprisingly, I didn’t think the writing in this one was all that great? I mean this was one of her earlier published books, so naturally she’s improved a lot since it was released, but even compared to The Archived this one wasn’t that great. There were a lot of overly long, clunky sentences and it didn’t have the same atmosphere as The Archived. The dialogue at least was still good, Schwab has always done great dialogue.

The cycling of settings was very repetitive, we were either at the coffee shop, at school, in Mac’s apartment building or in The Archive building, so once again, you really don’t get a good sense of the world. I still have a lot of questions about The Archive: how do they decide on who gets to be a Keeper? It’s clearly a genetic thing as it seems to get passed down through families but what is it in your genes that makes you a good Keeper? I was hoping that Schwab would expand on the world of The Archive more in this book but it didn’t seem like that was the case.

I wasn’t massively invested with the villain in this book, without wanting to spoil anything, I wish Schwab had gone in a different direction as to who was responsible for the people disappearing into the voids. The villain reveal felt kind of cheap and I feel like had she gone in a different direction, it would have actually resulted in a more interesting plot.

I don’t really get why Mac looked up to Da so much? I mean I understand he was her grandfather and she loved him, but he threw her into this life that she doesn’t even really seem to want and lied to her so much, I was surprised that she wasn’t angrier with him to be honest.

The characters in this all felt kind of flat. I had that problem with Mac in the first book and it didn’t seem to have improved any in this one. The villains were also surprisingly two-dimensional for a Schwab book when she’s usually so good at villains. Even Wesley who I really loved in the first book came across as kind of a jerk, at least in the first part of this book, though he did improve towards the end.

Mac made a lot of stupid decisions in this book, which yes, realistic for traumatized teenager, but very frustrating as a reader! She could have let Wes in on her plans, especially when she went to break into the crime scene and it didn’t really make sense to me when she didn’t. She cuts Wes out a lot in this book, which didn’t really make much sense to me as he’s literally the only person in her life who she can actually be honest with.

Honestly I wasn’t really sympathetic with Mac wanting to keep on with her Archive duties, because it felt to me like it actually would have been better for her if she’d been declared unfit for duty as she clearly wasn’t in a place to be handling Archive work. I mean I get why she was so adamant about wanting to hide it because she didn’t want her mind altered, but it was tough to read about her pushing herself way too far when she clearly wasn’t ready. I didn’t think Roland was actually really helping her out by covering for her, I think having the one adult she could trust pretend like she was able to do something she was clearly struggling with, actually made things worse for her.

There were quite a few YA cliches that as an adult reader kind of made me roll my eyes, like Wes being the guy that all the girls fawn over and Mac drooling over his abs. Again this is just a me thing, I’m sure actual teens would probably be able to relate to it more than I could!

There were a few kind of unrealistic things that bothered me: the fact that Mac was able to function as well as she did on less than four hours sleep a night was kind of unbelievable. Also I went to a private school, and okay maybe it’s different in the US, but I found it hard to believe that the Hyde school party dress code would be so strict that everyone wore uniform to it. When we had no uniform days at my school, as long as you weren’t wearing anything too short (like super short shorts and crop tops), you could wear pretty much whatever you wanted.

The action when it finally did happen at the end of the book was great, I just wish there had been more of it throughout.

Honestly Mac was supremely lucky throughout the book that things went her way, a lot of her plans were not well thought through and it was sheer chance that anything came off. It seems like Mac has nine lives the amount of times she managed to overcome what were surely fireable offences in this book!

Despite me really not getting along with this book, I really do hope that the third book eventually comes off because the way the book ended was not conducive to a proper ending and I want to see Mac and Wesley get a proper send-off. I also think Schwab has improved so much as a writer since writing this book, that Archived #3 will probably be the best book of the trilogy-if or when it happens!

Overall, I was really disappointed in this book. It was poorly paced, had flat characters and the things that Schwab usually does well like world building and villains just weren’t up to standard here. Maybe that is just a sign of how much she’s improved as a writer since 2014 though. Either way, I do still hope that she gets a chance to end this series on a high and in the way she always intended to.

My Rating: 2.5/5 (it kills me to give a Schwab book such a low rating, but here we are).

My next review will be of my June audiobook read, The Poppy War, by RF Kuang.

Top Ten Tuesday #325

Hi everyone, I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these! The UK is currently melting in a heatwave, and honestly I am just waiting for it to be over, I’m really not a summer person, definitely more of a cool Autumn breeze kind of girl. Still it does mean time reading out the balcony which is one of my favourite things to do so that is an upside. My week has been fairly quiet, but my friend Hannah is coming to visit over the weekend so I’m really excited for that.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is meant to be Books I Read In One Sitting but honestly even when I was a faster reader than I am, I never really read books in just one sitting. So I decided to twist this topic to suit me better and do Books I Read In Less Than 2 Weeks (which seems to be my average reading time):

  1. The Perks of Being A Wallflower-Stephen Chbosky-2 days

Perks is a very short book, under 300 pages so naturally it didn’t take me very long to read. This is one of the rare times where I actually preferred the movie, the book is in an epistolary format and I just don’t get along all that well with those, I find it hard to grasp the narrative.

2. Speak Up!-Laura Coryton-3 days

This one is definitely aimed for much younger readers, but it was a nice quick read and definitely a good introduction to activism for young girls.

3. The Daughter of The Pirate King-Tricia Levenseller-4 days

I always tend to read faster in the summer when I spend hours outside reading. This was a really fun, light read with a great main character and a large dose of humour which made it very engaging. I really do need to get around to the sequel at some point!

4. City of Ghosts-Victoria Schwab-4 days

Middle grade books are always very quick to get through because they’re so short and Victoria Schwab’s middle grade debut was no exception. It was a nice refreshing break from all the dense fantasy that I tend to read, a fun little read with friendship at the heart rather than romance (YA books take note: you could do this too.)

5. Daughter of The Burning City-Amanda Foody-6 days

Another of my post-exam reads, I raced through this one whilst reading out in the sun. This was such a creative story, I loved the combination of the murder mystery in a circus setting and it was a wonderfully atmospheric read. This is one of few YA fantasy books that I actually thought could have benefitted from being a bit longer, because the world building was a little lacking. I don’t think Foody is ever going to do a sequel, but I would love it if she did as I feel there’s a lot more of Gomorrah to be explored.

6. Six of Crows-Leigh Bardugo-7 days

7 days for an almost 500 page book may be quite a long time for most people, but for me that is very quick! I was so addicted to the characters that even though there were definite pacing problems in the beginning, I raced through it and I’m so happy that it was my introduction to the Grishaverse as if I’d started with Shadow and Bone, I’m not sure I would have actually read onto this one? For me, this is definitely still Bardugo’s best book.

7. The Song Rising-Samantha Shannon-7 days

I know Shannon has said this has been her least favourite book to write in The Bone Season series so far, but it has definitely been my favourite to read. It’s much pacier than the rest of the books, and more tightly plotted and just generally worked better for me as a reader. I will admit, having a five hour train journey to Scotland whilst reading this book did help me finish it faster, but I was so engaged with the story, that I didn’t really want to put it down for long.

8. The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven-7 days

It’s no surprise that this one was a fast read, it’s short and funny and Izzy O’Neill is one of my favourite main characters of any book ever. I’m not usually a massive fan of contemporary YA but occasionally one comes along that’s right up my street and The Exact Opposite of Okay was that for me.

9. Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer-Rick Riordan-8 days

Again, 8 days might seem like a while for really fast readers, but for me, a 500 odd page book in just over a week is very good. Rick Riordan’s books are always very quick reads for me, they’re funny, pacey, lots of action and I always love the characters, The Sword of Summer was no exception to this.

10. The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy-Mackenzi Lee-9 days

Given the length of the chapters in this book, I was quite surprised I finished it as fast as I did (again for me) but the long summer days reading outside definitely helped. It was also the height of lockdown number one, so I didn’t really have anything else to do other than read. I didn’t love this as much as Monty’s book, but I still really enjoyed it, Felicity was great as the main character and I loved how focused on female friendship this book was.

11. Stalking Jack The Ripper-Kerri Maniscalco-10 days

This was an engaging historical murder mystery. I loved Audrey Rose as the heroine, a traditionally feminine women in STEM in a historical fiction book was definitely a protagonist I could get on board with, and whilst I had theories on who the killer was, I didn’t find it super easy to guess, I was on the wrong track for ages.

12. The Language Of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo-10 days

I’m not usually a short story reader, but I loved this collection of folktales from the Grishaverse. I probably could have finished this faster if it hadn’t been for my exams as it was fairly short. It’s such a fun addition to the world Bardugo has created, and I really loved the illustrations, they definitely enhanced the stories.

So there you go, those are some of the Books I Read In Less Than Two Weeks. Have you read any of these? Did you like them? What’s your average reading time? Do you read a lot of books in one sitting? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Books I’d Want With Me On A Deserted Island, so that should be a fun one.