I can’t believe it’s already time for another hype post! September has just flown by – which I guess you can tell by the fact that I’ve barely been posting on here apart from blog tours… My dissertation is due soon and so I’ve been running around like a headless chicken. But there are many great books coming out in October that deserve your attention, not least of all, two that I’ve already been raving about: there is Alix E. Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches, which I reviewed on here earlier this year. This is absolutely the witchy book of my dreams and I can’t wait to get my finished copy and reread it! For more details, go check out my review here which includes pre-order info. Then, October also brings THE BEST BOOK EVER, which is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, my heroine. I reviewed that one over at Grimdark Magazine – have a read here. I might have pre-ordered five separate copies of this book, not like I’m obsessed or anything…
Another adult release I’m very excited for is Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth. The US edition is out on the 20th of October (the UK edition won’t come out until 2021). It’s a sapphic horror-comedy set in a boarding school in 1902 – which sounds exactly like what I need to read during spooky season! I’ve only heard great things about this one, so I’m super keen to get my hands on this one in time for Halloween! Order a copy from Amazon here!
The next book on my list, Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston has one of the most beautiful YA covers I’ve seen – entirely made out of flower petals! This is another one perfect for those colder fall vibes, a dark fairy tale perfect for cozy evenings curled up with a cup of tea. As I love these kinds of books, I’ve been waiting for this one to come out for ages, and it also features a fox (I love the adorable creatures!). It’s also out on the 20th, and you can get a copy from Amazon here.
The second YA I want to point your attention to is Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz. Magic tournament with dragons, yes please! This book is also written by a Latinx author, set from the perspective of the Puerto Rican team – a country I know far too little about and look forward to learning more about, and features several LGBTQ+ characters! Sounds like a great read, very sad that no one let me read an ARC… This is out very soon, on the 6th of October. Do yourself a favour and order a copy from Amazon here.
There are books you simply HAVE to read. Vampires Never Get Old was one of those for me. I first heard of the anthology ages ago, I think somewhere back in summer 2019 and have been anxiously waiting for it to come out – I admit, mainly because it contains V.E. Schwab’s first stand-alone short story. (Yes, I’m a fangirl, sue me) But this anthology is so much more than a single story – it is a diverse collection of stories reclaiming vampires from the Twilight craze of the early 2010s!
Thank you so much to Hear Our Voices for letting me join in the massive blog tour – check out the schedule here, and make sure to have a look at all the content produced by my wonderful co-hosts!
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 22/09/2020
SUMMARY: In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out—and going out for their first kill—and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.
Welcome to the evolution of the vampire—and a revolution on the page.
Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley. (from Imprint)
OPINIONS: I fell in love with Vampires Never Get Old at first bite (well, first story). Book opener Tessa Gratton manages to seduce readers into the world of vampires, just as the bisexual protagonist of her story has to make the choice whether to let herself be seduced by the pair of vampires and the allure of eternal life or stay human. Every story is accompanied by a short commentary by the editors about central themes of the story, how they relate to vampire lore and what the editors particularly liked – which I really enjoyed, as it gives insight into their thought process about putting together this anthology.
As a whole, the anthology is incredibly strong and does not have any stories that are particularly weak – I did not love all of them but I didn’t dislike any. Vampires Never Get Old is also an incredibly diverse anthology, which is wonderful – I think every single story features marginalised characters in one way or another, doing so organically. And damn, we need more books like this. Zoraida Cordova and Natalie C. Parker did a wonderful job chosing the authors and stories and putting together a great anthology.
Interestingly, my favourite story of them all wasn’t one of the ones I was expecting, but the one by probably the least well-known author out of the bunch: Kayla Whaley’s “In Kind”. The story of a so-called mercy killing, where a father murdered his severely disabled teenage daughter – only for her to be resurrected as a vampire was harrowing and emotional and raised many moral and ethical considerations that society needs to reconsider. Incredibly well-written, the frustrations of disabled people struggling to be heard in today’s society become clear in “In Kind”. If you only read one story out of this anthology, make it this one.
Of course I also loved V.E. Schwab’s “First Kill” – a Romeo and Juliet-esque story about a vampire and a vampire-hunter falling in sapphic love. I don’t think the woman can write anything I won’t adore, to be honest. Two girls, doomed love, secrets, what more is there to want! There are many other stories in this anthology that are wonderful, looking at so many different facets of vampires and the vampire mythology of the past few decades – the stories do tend to be based on modern vampires rather than the concepts taken from Dracula or Nosferatu. I won’t go into detail about all the stories here, but do rest assured that Vampires Never Get Old is an anthology you shouldn’t miss!
So get out your garlic bread to ward off any potential vampires, add Vampires Never Get Old to your Goodreads here, and order a copy from your favourite retailer ASAP. In the UK you can get a copy from Portal Bookshop here and from Hive here.
I think this might be a record, two blog tours on the same day! But both of these books are excellent and worth reading about. The Trouble With Peace is the second book in Joe Abercrombie’s The Age of Madness trilogy, following up on 2019’s A Little Hatred. A true work of Grimdark fantasy, this trilogy is set in a world more inspired by the eighteenth century than the Middle Ages, which makes it rather unique. There is technology, but no less war and manipulation, and fans of the genre will devour it.
Thank you to Patricia Deveer and Gollancz for including me in this blog tour and sending me a copy of The Trouble With Peace! I highly recommend you also head over and check out some of the posts of my wonderful co-hosts.
RELEASE DATE: 15/09/20
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Conspiracy. Betrayal. Rebellion.
Peace is just another kind of battlefield . . .
Savine dan Glokta, once Adua’s most powerful investor, finds her judgement, fortune and reputation in tatters. But she still has all her ambitions, and no scruple will be permitted to stand in her way.
For heroes like Leo dan Brock and Stour Nightfall, only happy with swords drawn, peace is an ordeal to end as soon as possible. But grievances must be nursed, power seized and allies gathered first, while Rikke must master the power of the Long Eye . . . before it kills her.
Unrest worms into every layer of society. The Breakers still lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while noblemen bicker for their own advantage. Orso struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only for his enemies, and his debts, to multiply.
The old ways are swept aside, and the old leaders with them, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace, lasts forever. (from Gollancz)
OPINIONS: While it took me a very long time to get settled with A Little Hatred, I enjoyed The Trouble With Peace far more from the start and found it extremely compelling – I ended up reading the five hundred page novel in two installments over a couple days (while I was already tired from working on my dissertation, so good job, Mr. Abercrombie, don’t let it get to your head!). These books are very addictive once you get into them and sort out the different strands in your head. Pro-tip: there is a list of characters at the end which helps a lot, consult that throughout, not just at the end! The ending of The Trouble With Peace is both very satisfying and an evil cliffhanger making you want more immediately, so I’m very glad that there is more to come – the third volume in the trilogy will be published next year and I can’t wait to read and review it too!
I think my favourite part of the series so far is that the women are the ones with the brains, pulling the strings, and manipulating, whereas the male of the species tend to be brawny – and to an extent, naive. Believing themselves to be one thing when they are not, only to be led in a different direction by the women close to them is wonderful to see. It is no wonder that my favourite characters in the series are Rikke and Savine. Fiercely independent women set to have their own way no matter the cost to themselves and others. That is not to say that they are portrayed as positive characters – as is befitting a Grimdark novel, they, as are the remaining characters, are multi-layered and morally murky, selfish and power-hungry.
The world-building is also excellent, as is the writing, sprinkled in with humour. Never boring, the Age of Madness trilogy is a must-read for any fan of Grimdark fantasy! Add it on Goodreads here, and order yourself a (signed) copy of The Trouble With Peace via Waterstones here.
Very fittingly, this review is going up on a D&D day! Even If We Break is a locked-house thriller set around an RPG weekend in which a group of teenagers try to salvage their friendship… or do they? Featuring amazing queer and disability rep, as well as my favourite thing, RPGs, Marieke Nijkamp has managed to craft a unique contribution to the YA canon that will make a lot of young people feel seen!
Thank you to Midas PR, Amber Choudhary and Sourcebooks Fire for including me in this blog tour and sending me an ARC of Even If We Break! I highly recommend you also head over and check out some of the posts of my wonderful co-hosts.
RELEASE DATE: 15/09/20
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.
For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways—a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they’ve been playing for the past three years. But they’re all dealing with their own demons, and they’re all hiding secrets.
Finn doesn’t trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.
When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it’s a race against time before it’s game over—forever.
Are you ready to play? (from Sourcebooks Fire)
OPINIONS: Please please, dear authors, write more books featuring nerd-catnip like RPGs! I absolutely devoured Even If We Break over the span of a few hours last week and I think this unique twist was my favourite part about it. On top of that, the book featured a very diverse cast of protagonists in terms of gender and disability, and addressed a host of issues faced by young people growing up in today’s society.
As the author themselves is gender non-conforming, autistic and has EDS, all represented in the book, these portrayals are well-crafted and nuanced rather than being there merely for show or harmful. Finn is a trans boy with EDS (not explicit on the page but confirmed by Marieke on Twitter), Maddy is autistic, and Ever is non-binary. While the group is ethnically not as diverse, they actually poke fun at that fact themselves in the story. (Prescription) drug abuse and social class are further issues addressed in Even If We Break, making it a multi-layered story past the surface plot.
And that is where the book’s great value lies in my opinion. There are amazingly crafted characters with aims, dreams and elaborate backstories that only shimmer through in the book itself. There is a world behind the story that will help many teens feel seen, and that is incredible. For me, that more than makes up for the fact that the mystery itself in Even If We Break was quite transparent, and I figured out what was going on relatively early on. Nevertheless, the story was well-written, and the inclusion of the RPG cleverly done.
Today is my stop on the Iron Heart tour run by Caffeine Book Tours! Click here to see the full schedule and to support this awesome book and my hard-working co-hosts. Iron Heart is the sequel to Crier’s War and concludes the duology about a human and an android falling in love and it’s beautiful and emotional and amazing.
I am incredibly grateful to Shealea and Caffeine Book Tours for choosing me to be part of this tour and letting me read Iron Heart early, and a massive thanks to HarperTeen for providing me with an eARC!
RELEASE DATE: 08/09/20
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: For too long the cruel, beautiful Automae have lorded over the kingdom of Rabu, oppressing the humans who live there. But the human revolution is on the rise, and at its heart is Ayla. Once handmaiden, now fugitive, Ayla escaped the palace of Lady Crier, the girl Ayla had planned to kill . . . but instead fell in love with. Now Ayla has pledged her allegiance to Queen Junn, whom she believes can accomplish the ultimate goal of the human rebellion: destroy the Iron Heart. Without it, the Automae will be weakened to the point of extinction.
But playing at Ayla’s memory are the powerful feelings she developed for Crier. And unbeknownst to her, Crier has also fled the palace, taking up among travelling rebels, determined to find and protect Ayla.
As their paths collide, neither are prepared for the dark secret underlying the Iron Heart. (from HarperTeen)
OPINIONS: Crier’s War was good, but Iron Heart is even better – you can tell that Nina Varela is really coming into her own as a writer, becoming more confident and escaping the dreaded second-book-syndrome. Iron Heart is grippingly written, I tried to space out reading it in bits over the course of a day, but every time I tried to take a break, I was back at it within a couple of minutes. And I have really been struggling to stay focused on my reading. So congrats Nina, great job!
And oh, the tension, the longing, the buildup between Crier and Ayla. It really is an epic love story. It is only really hinted at in Crier’s War, but the sequel picks up right after the end of the first book and the relationship keeps developing organically. Even though the two girls spend large chunks of the story apart, they remain connected in so many ways, which is wonderful. They also both grow so much over the course of the story – from idealistic kids to women part of leading a rebellion.
Seriously, I need more of this kind of writing – well-written sapphics with real character growth, alchemy, rebellion, history and the all-important question of what it means to be human and alive. Nina, please keep writing and supplying us with wonderful queer YA for many years to come!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nina Varela is a nationally awarded writer of screenplays, short fiction, poetry, and novels. In May 2017, she graduated magna cum laude from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a BFA in Writing for Screen & Television. Crier’s War was her debut, and this is the sequel. She is originally from Durham, North Carolina, where she grew up on a hippie commune in the middle of the woods. She now lives in Los Angeles.
Author website — https://www.ninavarela.com/
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/ninavarelas_/
Twitter — http://twitter.com/ninavarelas
Fabienne’s summer of Arthuriana continues! I’ve been lucky enough to get to read an eARC of the wonderful Legendborn a few weeks ago and I can assure you that it is worth every ounce of hype that it is getting! A thoroughly modern reimagining of the Arthurian legends meets Black girl magic featuring a set of amazing characters – I loved it and I cannot wait to read more! My finished copy is on its way and I will be rereading it as soon as I can.
Massive thanks to Netgalley and Margaret K. McElderry Books for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.
RELEASE DATE: 15/09/20
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.
A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.
And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight. (from Margaret K. McElderry Books)
OPINIONS: As I’m in the process of writing my MA dissertation on modern reinterpretations of medieval mythology and legends, I have read an awful lot of them over the course of the last few months, so please trust me when I tell you that Legendborn truly is one of the very best. It is diverse, it is feminist, and it is a fantastic YA fantasy on top of exhibiting a deep understanding of the Arthurian corpus and making it its own. It is not merely a retelling of the classic King Arthur story, but it twists it in a way that is surprising and refreshing, mixing it up and turning it into something unique.
Not only that, but it mixes Arthuriana with Black girl magic, of which this world always needs more – Bree is a wonderful heroine, and the way Tracy Deonn manages to weave colonialism and slavery into the story and the Arthurian tradition is truly masterful. It makes Legendborn multi-faceted and layered – yes, it is a story that can just be read and enjoyed, but there was so much in the various timelines that a history nerd like me saw and got excited about and at the same time many things that people like me, who grew up white in Europe, often tend to forget and overlook because we are not personally confronted with them.
Another thing I absolutely loved about Legendborn is the fact that Bree is a very smart girl. The story is set on a college campus, and she has just entered early college. As someone who graduated High School early and went off to Uni at 16, I am always very excited when I get to read about characters I can identify with in that way – something that is incredibly rare. I’m not talking about characters that are constantly studying and great at doing homework, but naturally clever, and have a personality that truly enjoys learning and research. Thank you, Tracy, for giving me a book that makes me feel seen and combines it with my passion for medieval legends!
P.S. Legendborn also features two hot boys. There’s Nick, straight-laced cute boy, and Selwyn, resident slightly gothy bad boy… I recommend you add Legendborn on Goodreads ASAP and pre-order yourself a copy so you can decide whose team you’re on! You can get the UK edition via Waterstones here, and the US edition via Book Depository here.
Many thanks to Will O’Mullane and Orion Books for sending me a review copy of this wonderful genre-bending historical novel in exchange for my honest thoughts! A unique high-concept story blending the French Revolution with the Prague Spring and even the future, this was a joy to read and get lost in.
RELEASE DATE: 06/08/20
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: On the day the comet came, a girl named Heloise was born. She would live a fine life, and inherit a fortune, but would meet a cruel, untimely death.
Years later, strange dreams plague Katya Nemcová, a teenager burdened with a rare and curious gift. Memories come to Katya in her dreams – images and stories from a past that isn’t her own. Are these ghosts real? And what of the memory she seems to have of Heloise’s treasures, two centuries old? (from Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
OPINIONS: Following a line of strong women able to see memories of their ancestors back to Heloise, with whom the line started, this story is unique and haunting. Full of tragedy, but never losing hope. Heloise, Katya, and all the women in between endure hardship, and have to fight to make their way in the world, but don’t let it break their spirit. They are determined to be their own person without fail.
The Many Lives of Heloise Starchild is excellently written, gripping and pulls the reader into its world. It forces you to suspend disbelief, and accept the story at face value, as really, it is not about the individual events, which are often hard to believe if taken by themselves, but about the women and their determination. The stories should be considered illustrations for the characters, as which they function very well, making this a book about family, love, and ambition.
More literary than speculative fiction, The Many Lives of Heloise Starchild is mostly a historical novel set in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, although part of it takes place in the future. While there are supernatural elements, I do think that this will appeal to readers of literary fiction more than the traditional readers of SFF due to its writing style. It is a relatively slow, character-driven story, with many interwoven plot strands, featuring lyrical prose. Also, look at the beautiful cover!!!