Happy book birthday to A.M. Shine and The Watchers! Today’s my turn on the Head of Zeus blog tour for this creepy horror novel set in the forests of Galway – one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, though of course my experience of the area was very different to the story told in this book…
Many thanks to Lauren and Head of Zeus for the review copy and having me on the Blog tour, and superstar agent John for ensuring we all get to read this wonderful story.
RELEASE DATE: 14/10/2021
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.
Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.
Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move? (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: I’ve gotten really into horror this year, and especially the kind of horror that creeps you out rather than splatters you with gore. And The Watchers is exactly that. Uncanny, thrilling and creepy. Set in the wonderful area of Galway in Ireland – which made me love the book from the get-go as I spent one of my favourite ever trips there – this story is very atmospheric, which adds so much to it. I adored the setting and premise, which are really characters in their own right. I would say that this is definitely one for readers who like to be scared a bit while reading and enjoy books on the creepier end of the spectrum. It’s not merely a suspenseful thriller – more of a slower paced story that might keep you up at night. It would not surprise me if this one will get nominated for all the awards next year.
I don’t want to say too much about the story itself as knowing too much will take away from the effect, but the concept of the watchers is *chef’s kiss* and the characters slot into the narrative structure and the atmosphere perfectly. And the plot definitely did not go where I thought it would. So a very excellent book. I don’t often get actually creeped out by reading a story, and this did have that effect on me, which made me love it even more.
It is a slightly slower paced story than many in the genre. This builds up tension more thoroughly in my opinion, focusing on the uncanny and the atmosphere rather than packing in as many events as possible. While this worked really well for me personally, I can see that this might put some readers off, so do check out a sample if that is something that tends to bother you.
And welcome back to Monday Minis, Switzerland Edition, the second. I’m still here, hanging out with my favourite person in the world (my grandma, sorry lads). I got to meet up with some lovely nerdy friends this weekend and eat lots of great food, so a fantastic time was had. Sadly, I didn’t have quite as much of a good time reading this batch of books… Once again, thank you to the wonderful publishers for sending me (e)ARCs for review, all opinions are my own.
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed is a fun YA contemporary with an added historical narrative woven into the story. Khayyam is spending the summer in Paris after losing an important art history essay competition and feeling like she has failed at everything she worked towards. And then she meets Alexandre. Alexandre Dumas, to be exact. Descendant of that Alexandre Dumas, the one who she was working on. Together, they follow her seemingly insane theory about a missing painting once belonging to Dumas, and thus end up following in the footsteps of Leila, a young Muslim woman living in the Paris of Dumas’ time. There is much here that makes a great story. But I ended up loving the premise a lot more than the actual book. To me, there were a lot of pieces that just didn’t quite fit together properly and the story and characters ended up like a puzzle with half the pieces missing or wrongly assembled. I might have approached it from the wrong perspective as someone very familiar with academic work in both history and art history, so it might well be that I am just the wrong reader for the book – but the way historical documents were treated in the story made me cry and that Khayyam’s parents (PROFESSORS!) encouraged her in this endeavour made me VERY upset. JUSTICE FOR RARE MATERIALS! I think this was a three star read for me, but ultimately more due to who I am than anything else.
Dare To Know by James Kennedy frustrated me to no end. It starts out very intriguing – it’s a high concept thriller about a narrator who works for a company which developed an algorithm able to predict people’s deaths, until one day, he is in an accident, which causes him to calculate the time of his own death… which is half an hour in the past. This leads him on a wild goose chase for his ex-girlfriend who is the only other person who knows his time of death and might be able to help. But the story loses itself in a confused stream-of-consciousness narration skipping through moments of the narrator’s past, ultimately not leading to much of a coherent plot line. What further annoyed me is that the narrator is a self-centred narcissist who thinks he is smarter than everyone around him and I could not stand the bastard. I was close to throwing the book across the room many many times because of what a dick the narrator is – I don’t think he has any redeeming qualities. And because the book is so closely focused on his experiences, that is a major aspect of the reading experience. So, sadly not one I’d recommend.
If you’ve been reading my Monday Minis you might think I haven’t been enjoying the books I’ve been reading (I certainly have been getting that impression from myself!) – but I’ve also been reading some true gems. I loved Only A Monster by Vanessa Len, which isn’t out for another few months. I devoured this while I was at Fantasycon, sneaking chapters whenever I could. This is addictive YA fantasy as it should be written.
Many thanks to Kate Keehan and Hodderscape for the eARC. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 22/02/2022
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Don’t forget the rule. No one can know what you are. What we are. You must never tell anyone about monsters.
Joan has just learned the truth: her family are monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers.
And the cute boy at work isn’t just a boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to destroy her family.
To save herself and her family, Joan will have to do what she fears most: embrace her own monstrousness. Because in this story… she is not the hero. (from Hodder)
OPINIONS: Damn this is a good book. It’s exactly the kind of YA fantasy I adore. I raced through this one, sneaking chapters whenever possible and found it so addictive – I’ve been struggling to keep focused on a single book recently but this one managed to grab all my attention. I was pulled in by the V.E. Schwab comp (I’m a basic fangirl) but I stayed for the complex morality, compelling characters and fast-paced story.
I think my favourite element of the book was the magic system – the so-called monster families are able to steal time from other people, which they then can use to travel through time. And that presents them, and the readers, with interesting moral questions. Joan, the main character, isn’t truly aware of the extent of her family’s machinations and powers, and so she discovers what she and others can do along with the reader. There are still a lot of open questions by the end of the book, but it is open-ended enough that it looks like it will continue on and there’s plenty of space to continue on in later books. It’s definitely one of those books where morality isn’t quite so clear cut and no one is sure if they’re really on the right side, and I really appreciated that.
Another thing I really liked is that romance isn’t at the centre of this story. All too often YA focuses on romantic pairings over everything else, and this one doesn’t. It’s about Joan, her family and saving the future (and the present). It’s a book where teens are actually teens despite being faced with problems far bigger than themselves and overwhelming odds. Only A Monster is a good one. One of the best YA fantasies I’ve read this year, so definitely one I’d recommend.
Marissa Meyer’s books have a special place in my heart. I once did a casual cosplay of Scarlet from the Lunar Chronicles with a few friends for a con, and I remember how me and one of my best friends scoured every single English language bookshop in Rio de Janeiro for the new Marissa Meyer book that was supposed to come out the week we were there. We did not find it, but we had a great time. So to say I was excited to read another fairy-tale inspired book by her is an understatement – I love retellings and have been on a binge recently so this came at a perfect time.
Many thanks to Bethany at Faber for sending me a shiny ARC (she is the most wonderful ARC packager, they are always wrapped amazingly!). All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 02/11/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller’s daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.
Or so everyone believes.
When one of Serilda’s outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods. In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her… for a price. Love isn’t meant to be part of the bargain.
Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever. (from Faber Children’s)
OPINIONS: I really really enjoyed this one. Serilda is a fantastic YA heroine – she is a storyteller first and foremost, and most definitely not the meek and obedient type. She is unashamedly herself, even when it brings her into situations that aren’t the most comfortable. She talks big game and then is stumped when she actually has to follow up on her words and that makes her so damn charming – we don’t see girls like her enough. That kind of talking confidence is all too often reserved for guys. But she breaks those stereotypes, and ends up making deals with a king and a demon that have her in over her head.
And despite all of this, she is smart. All that she can rely on are her wits, as she doesn’t really have anything but that. And somehow, she needs to get out of that situation she talked herself into. Gilded is a compelling story, and while yes, it is inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, it is also something wholly its own. Meyer takes this story and crafts it into something both modern and ethereal, perfect for the boom in retellings we are currently experiencing and hitting on a lot of elements that work well for the older YA audience.
I can see Gilded doing really well once it is released next month. It is not a perfect book – I thought the pacing wasn’t quite right, and some parts were a tad too long and started dragging a bit – but it is a very solid one with characters I fell for. I am already looking forward to rereading it. If you’re into retellings, character-driven fantasy and smart-talking girls, then this one is for you.
This is a somewhat special post. The Cheltenham Literature Festival is running from the 8-17 of October 2021 and has a fabulous programme full of interesting events around books and literature. To get the word out, Midas PR invited me and a whole bunch of other bloggers on a huge book tour to spotlight a surprise book from one of the authors featured at the festival! You can see the full schedule for week one of the tour up top – it’s a two week tour.
I was sent the wonderful Grimwood by Nadia Shireen, who will be doing an in-person event at the festival on Saturday 9th of October, showing readers how she draws the characters from her book and doing a bit of a reading. You can get tickets for what is sure to be a very fun afternoon here. I loved the book so much and am already plotting how to get it into the hands of children I know.
Many thanks to Sofia Saghir at Midas PR and Simon and Schuster for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
SUMMARY: Fox cub siblings Ted and Nancy are on the run from Princess Buttons, the scariest street cat in the Big City. They flee for Grimwood, expecting to find refuge in the peaceful countryside. Instead, they are met with thieving eagles, dramatic ducks, riotous rabbits and a whole host of unusual characters. Grimwood is… weird. But when Princess Buttons tracks them down, Nancy and Ted and the animals of Grimwood must unite in a mind-bending race against time… (from Simon and Schuster)
OPINIONS: Grimwood is absolutely delightful. It is laugh-out-loud funny, adorable and just a fantastic children’s book. I devoured it in a single sitting and it massively improved both my day and my mood and I want to throw this at every single child I know. The story follows fox siblings Ted and Nancy who are sweet and charming, crafty and prone to mischief as they get themselves in and out of trouble. An unfortunate incident with resident mean cat Princess Buttons sees them running to Grimwood where they meet new friends and get into many new adventures – and ultimately have to face their enemy again.
This is probably good to be read to kids five and up, and easy enough for young readers getting comfortable reading on their own to understand and read. It is highly illustrated throughout in black and white, which further enhances it and makes Grimwood a lovely packaged book. This is definitely one to watch and I can see Nadia Shireen being a major new children’s author for years to come.
If you have children in your life in any way, they’ll probably enjoy this. I think it’s best suited for ages seven to nine, but grown-up me loved it too. You can experience the magic of Grimwood by adding it on Goodreads here or ordering it from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Welcome to Monday Minis, Switzerland edition. I’m finishing up writing these as I am on the train from one end of the country to the other. I’m on a bit of a recuperation trip seeing friends and family until the middle of next week, so who knows how much I’ll be posting. Sadly, this week’s books are all ones that I didn’t get on great with even if I was really excited for all of them – keep reading to see why. Many thanks to all the publishers for sending me eARCs via NetGalley.
What is it with sequels not living up to the potential of the first book recently? I feel like The Monarchs by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige is the latest in a series of second books following up on great initial novels that just left me wanting more. I read The Ravens, the first book, a couple times, both before it released for my review and after it came out and loved the characters, setting and approach to magic. But this second book felt very generic and lost a lot of the magic that sucked me into the first one to begin with. The plot takes a long time to get going – the main arc doesn’t really start until about halfway through – and much of what happens is basically petty drama. Honestly, I just ended up not being emotionally invested in this and constantly thinking of more interesting directions that the book could have taken. I think as a whole it is fine, and it ends up in a mostly satisfying ending to the duology, but it could have been so much better. While The Monarchs really focuses on just Vivi and Scarlett – and shows much less of their fellow Ravens – it seems to do so superficially, and not really explore their dynamic, which for me was one of the most interesting parts of the first book. So a solid three stars from me.
The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl has such an interesting concept which is total Fab catnip – it made it onto my October hype post even. But, I struggled to even finish it. It ended up being more of a rage read than anything else. The story follows four girls at an elite boarding school after the death of one of their own as they slowly figure out that they’re actually set to repeat fairy tale tropes and their destinies are set. The concept is great, but that is pretty much the only thing the book has going for itself. The writing isn’t great – and in a crowded YA fantasy market, clunky writing is really something that does put me off. The characters were bland and because they fell into stock tropes, not characterised deeply enough. I didn’t feel like I got a proper sense of any single one. And while the book as a whole had a sense of casual queerness, I was rather upset to realise that the Beauty and the Beast insert characters included casting the only trans character in the book as the “Beast”… which is certainly a choice. I was quite excited when I realised that the book was set in Switzerland – and quite close to where I grew up too – but that soon turned to dismay when I realised that the setting was not well crafted, but relied on stereotypes and a lack of basic research. All in all, this is a book that I found underperformed in all aspects and would not recommend, as tempting as the premise is.
The Ice Whisperers by Helenka Stachera is a middle grade fantasy that takes readers back to the Ice Age. The framing narrative is set in pre-revolutionary Russia, and the story then transports readers and characters into a dream-world close to the Ice Age. It centres Bela, who was raised as something of an orphan by extended relatives and never truly felt like she belonged, as she discovers that there is more to her parentage as she ever suspected. There is a lot to this story that is sweet, and I can see many young readers enjoying Bela’s adventures. But it is also not one that stands out enough in terms of writing and characters for me to recommend this over some of the other middle grades I’ve been reading. I think this is an author to watch, even if this particular book isn’t quite a standout success yet.
You’ve probably all seen my gushing review for The Cabinet from last week – the book that basically sent me on a binge of translated fiction. So when I had the opportunity to review this adorable book – The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, translated by Louise Heal Kawai – that featured books and cats – two of my very favourite things in the world – I quite literally jumped at it. I also did a silly and didn’t take a proper picture before I left the UK (I’m finally visiting my family in Switzerland) which means you have to make do with the cover image. However, it does not do it justice at all, the final cover is SO MUCH PRETTIER – it’s got this gold foil sprinkling that is so gorgeous… that alone is worth getting it!
Many thanks to Alice at Picador for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 16/09/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Grandpa used to say it all the time: books have tremendous power. But what is that power really?
Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. Inside, towering shelves reached the ceiling, every one crammed full of wonderful books. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse.
After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone… (from Picador)
OPINIONS: This is such an adorable book. I don’t quite know how to categorise it – it’s not a children’s book, but you wouldn’t go amiss reading this with an eight year old. But at the same time, an elderly litfic aficionado would get just as much out of it as a young genre reader. I think this might be the kind of book that has universal appeal to people who love books (and probably cats) and that’s pretty much all of us. A love letter to books, bookshops and the magic that comes with them. And that is quite something.
The one thing that did irritate me a bit was how it seemed to be so oriented towards Western literature. It is sprinkled full of references to French and English classics and I was just sad that all the touchstones it used seemed to be so outside of what the world it was set in was – though I’m not sure to what extent that is standard in Japanese fiction. And maybe this was influenced by being read in such close succession to The Cabinet, which made no concessions towards Western readers, which made the contrast seem much starker than it actually was.
But as a whole, the book was absolutely wonderful. I think part of why I connected so much with it is because Rintaro inherits this bookshop from his grandfather, it is this sentimental place that reminds him of his favourite person. And for me, my grandma is my favourite person. She is that touchstone. And I am very lucky to still have her around – I actually get to spend some time with her right now – and she loves books and cats (especially cats) just as much as I do. So I guess it reminds me of her.
So like, if you like a hug in a book, this is the one to get. And if you love cats and books and wonderful and adorable, this is the book you need to read. Add The Cat Who Saved Books to your Goodreads here, or order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis started out as the exact kind of book I’ve been craving as part of my dark academia binge. I mean, girls disappearing at an elite boarding school outside of New Orleans, mixing cold cases with new tragedy, a young, atttractive teacher and a hardened cop turned small-town sheriff? Sounds pretty good, right? The combination of late-twenties Audrey and her teen students as narrating points of view mean that the book is interesting to both YA and adult audiences, as well as catnip for potential adaptation. However, the book didn’t manage to live up to its potential. Much of the adults’ behaviour did not follow any sort of logic, especially not when considered from a perspective of an educators responsibility to keep their students safe. The somehow insta-love between sheriff and teacher didn’t manifest in any kind of flirting, which would have been odd enough while her students kept dying, but in him constantly expressing worry about HER safety while not being worried about the students at all. WHO KEPT DYING. And then, around the middle of the story, Native Americans were brought in as a red herring. It was very clear that it was supposed to be a red herring – we never actually encounter one of them, their only purpose in the story is that they keep getting mentioned as some sort of barbarian people who perform rituals on the school grounds and thus are suspects in the girls’ disappearances. Which, no thank you. There is no reason why this is necessary – and no benefit to the plot of this specific book. The only reason I did not rage-quit when this was brought up, is because I needed to know exactly how angry I needed to be. Do not recommend.
The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling is a fun romance centred around Vivi, witch, lecturer and chaotic young woman. A decade ago she accidentally hexed her ex, hot Welsh witch Rhys, which they only just found out as he’s in town for a big ritual. This is basically one big comedy of errors as the two bicker and eventually fall back in love as they try to save the town and undo the curse. The Ex Hex is lighthearted and entertaining, with charming characters, though it lacked substance for my taste. I felt like it was just this tad too easy of a read and wished there was a bit more of an underlying issue. Part of it was probably also that this was a cishet romance, which is not something I pick up often – I was drawn in my the witchy aspect, and it was definitely more romance than witchy novel. So I think this is exactly what it says on the tin, and if that’s what you crave, go for it! Just don’t ask it to be anything that it’s not trying to be.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong made my favourite books of 2020 list. I adored the book and thought it combined so many things seemingly effortlessly, so I was very excited for Our Violent Ends, the sequel and end to the duology. However, it didn’t manage to get anywhere close to the magic of the first book and I ended up very frustrated with it despite all my efforts to try and love it as much as I did the first book. It felt like it needed a lot more editing (and it might well be that some of the issues I noticed will be resolved in the finished copies). Much of the plot seemed to be stuck in endless loops of the same over and over again rather than propelling itself forward, which to me was a less than ideal reading experience, combined with a lot of artificial pining between Roma and Juliette. I did enjoy the development of some of the minor characters, though partially that was more on principle than because their storylines felt natural. Ultimately the story did come to a somewhat satisfying conclusion, but the book as a whole did not come close to the magic I felt reading the first book. I’ll still be following what Chloe Gong does next, but Our Violent Ends was more miss than hit for me.
If you only read one translated book this year, make it The Cabinet by Un-su Kim, translated by Sean Lin Halbert. This is probably the most unique book I’ve ever read – at least the most unique book I remember. It is truly something special and hits that sweet spot between speculative and literary fiction.
Many thanks to the wonderful Caroline at Angry Robot for sending me an ARC. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 12/10/2021
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Cabinet 13 looks exactly like any normal filing cabinet. Except this cabinet is filled with files on the ‘symptomers’, people whose weird abilities and bizarre experiences might just mark the emergence of a new species.
But to Mr Kong, the harried office worker who spends his days looking after the cabinet, the symptomers are just a headache; from the woman whose doppelganger broke up with her boyfriend, to the man with a ginkgo tree growing from his fingertip. And then there’s that guy who won’t stop calling, asking to be turned into a cat… (from Angry Robot)
OPINIONS: This is a mind-blowing book. I’ve been raving about it at everyone who would listen for the whole time I was reading it, which, for my standards, has been a very long time. This isn’t the kind of book you sit down and devour in a single sitting, it is the sort of story you savour slowly, over the course of weeks, which you digest bit by bit and come back for more again and again. It is truly something special, something absolutely weird and wonderful. If you only read one translated novel this year, make it this one – not that you shouldn’t read far more translated fiction than that. I’m reading a few others at the moment, and I’m really enjoying it. I think The Cabinet is inspiring me to seek out more Asian speculative writing, which is really the highest compliment I can give a book.
In this, Un-su Kim unashamedly writes away from what we consider Western conventions of story-telling – it is easy for me to say that The Cabinet is utterly unique – it certainly is from my perspective as a European reader, but perhaps that is also showing my ignorance of Korean literary conventions that he is moving within. I can say that it is a very special book though. It is the story of a man, a sort of mash-up between curator and janitor, tasked with taking care of Cabinet 13, the titular cabinet, which contains files on all sorts of weird and wonderous occurrences, showing where the magical intersects with the mundane. These vingnettes intersect with the framing narrative, and paint a vivid picture of a world where anything is possible. In some ways, it is reminiscent of the Russian fantastic literature of the sort written by Gogol, vaguely remembered from the early semesters of my literature degree, but not quite.
The Cabinet is a work of speculative fiction, but not one that will appeal to every reader of genre fiction. It skews more literary and requires a different sort of reader than the sort of epic fantasy novel likely to hit bestseller lists. It is an intellectual book, one that requires the right mood – but one that is worth every second you invest in it. I think it is one that I will be returning to again and again, one that will be staying on my mind for a very long time.
Our friend (and wonderful blogger) Peat mentioned that he was working on a tag based on the frustrating things cats do. I (Fab) loved the idea (my favourite ever D&D character that I’ve played was a very annoying Tabaxi) – so I’m very excited that it’s live now – check out THE EVIL CAT BOOK TAG over at Peat’s blog here! I snagged Kat and here are our choices for Peat’s prompts (prompts and flavour texts are copied from him).
Knocking shit off of high places – A book with a cliffhanger
We’ve all seen it right? The majestic leap up high. The tentative dab of the paw at something on the high surface. The crash if you don’t get to them quick enough. Hopefully it wasn’t breakable. Or your wedding ring. But, really, this wasn’t the cat’s fault. It’s yours. Some things shouldn’t be left near cliffs…
Fab: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia is the first book in a duology about two sapphics who fall in love while married to the same guy in a terrible system and burn down the status quo in the process. It ends in a way that I did not see coming, and the wait for book two was truly torture. This is a series where you really need to have both books ready to binge.
Kat: Dying on Second is the fourth book in the Marie Jenner Mystery series by E.C. Bell. Marie has a secret – she can see and speak with the deceased. Like her mother before her, she helps the dead to move on to the next plane of existence. Needless to say, because of her unique abilities, she’s seen and experienced some pretty heavy stuff, but nothing compares to the situation she faces in the conclusion of book 4 – talk about a cliffhanger! To see what happens to Marie and how she gets out of this latest mess, readers will have to check out book 5 in the series, Hearing Voices.
Howling at 3am – A book you didn’t sleep to finish
To you, it is sleep time. To the cat, it is playtime. Or maybe they’re hungry. Or just evil, for ’tis the witching hour. Whatever the reason, you should be awake. The cat says so. Some books are similarly insistent…
Fab: All of Us Villains by Christine Lynn Hermann and Amanda Foody (finally out in November…) was one of those books that I simply could not put down. Think Nevernight meets Gossip Girl, with a dash of The Hunger Games. Addictive YA at its best, with a cast of morally grey characters who compete for power and survival. Magic that has been kept secret now unveiled by a tell-all book, and perhaps working together might be a solution after all? This one definitely kept me reading until I was done, and I’m still impatiently awaiting the sequel. Even though book one isn’t published yet.
Kat: I read the entire first trilogy of Ilona Andrew’s Hidden Legacy series in three days. That’s right folks – three books, three days. Needless to say sleep was not a priority. This series is near perfection for me, and Burn for Me will knock your socks off with its action-packed plot and inventive magic system. The over-arching, series-wide plot is well-paced, each book contributing significantly to the development of the conspiracy and uncovering more hints as to the identify the ultimate big bad. The romance is slow-burn, with tension building over the course of the first two books, exploding with steam in the second, and then coming to the HEA conclusion at the end of the first trilogy. Highest of recommendations to fans of Urban Fantasy Romance!
Hiding before a vet visit – A book with a self-destructive character
Some people have a sixth sense for impending calamity. Most cats have a sixth sense for an impending visit to the vet and hide. Who cares if it’s for their own good? We’ve all read someone like that…
Fab: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo is an excellent book. But damn, Alex Stern is a self-destructive character. She has no sense of self-preservation or caution. She leaps head-first into danger without thinking twice about what could happen. Partially because that girl carries a shit ton of baggage around with herself, partially because of who she is. But I can’t think of a more self-destructive character than our dear Galaxy.
Kat: I think we can all agree that our favorite detective has issues with self-preservation. Storm Front is the first book of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series, and our introduction to Harry’s peculiarly adept ability to put himself into danger. I mean, how many wizards do you know willingly visit a powerful blood-sucking vampire at night in her demesne and then exposes her true form for everyone to see? Terrible idea, Harry. Terrible. That’s not the last time Harry puts himself in a terrible situation in this book, and certainly not the last time across the broader series. Despite his assertion otherwise, Harry Dresden has a serious death wish.
The turd dangling from their behind – A sequel that was a bit, er, turd
Sometimes cats eat hair. And sometimes when they do, it gets stuck post-defecation, with a little bit of said defecation attached to it. So when your darling cat goes by and you get excited, you soon realise there’s something horrible behind them. Just like a bad sequel…
Fab: I have to admit, I wasn’t as hyped about Children of Blood and Bone as most of my friends were. But I still enjoyed it quite a lot and was excited for the sequel. (And, I truly hate being negative about books on the blog! Peat, you’re worse than a cat with a turd stuck to its butt for making me be mean on purpose!) Children of Virtue and Vengeance was probably my biggest disappointment of 2020. Not the worst book I’d read – I mean, I did finish it – but in terms of what I expected and what I felt when reading.
Kat: What’s worse than a sequel that’s a bit of a turd? The final book in a trilogy that’s a bit of a turd. I absolutely adored the first two books in Amanda Bouchet’s The Kingmaker Chronicles series. I blew through them so quickly with the fresh Greek-mythology-based world-building. I was genuinely excited to see how the series would end, and unfortunately I DNF’ed the final book, Heart on Fire. To me, it seemed to be a complete departure from the tone and focus of the first two books. It was almost like it was written by someone else entirely! Very disappointing. However, the first two books are solid, so if you’re the type of person that doesn’t need to read the full series to feel complete, I highly recommend them!
Puking on the carpet – A book with a betrayal
We all know this one. And we all know it’s not really the cat’s fault. But why now? And especially, why there? Why not a nice easy to clean surface? Right or wrong, it feels like a betrayal…
Fab: With a title like A Lesson in Vengeance, Victoria Lee’s latest book is bound to be prime real estate for those backstabbing sapphics. Felicity and Ellis spend most of the book betraying each other and the people to various degrees and it’s a joy to read. Highly recommend this for some premium cat puking on the carpet betrayal energy.
Kat: Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie is one of the best revenge books out there. But in my opinion, it is also contains one of the most powerful betrayals I’ve ever read in that it subverts the entire quest for vengeance and exposes its futility. You’ll have to read the book to discover the details of the betrayal, but suffice to say it helps solidify Abercrombie’s well-deserved reputation as the master of grimdark fantasy.
Dragging in live animals – A book with shocking violence
One time I heard a great commotion and looked up to see a pigeon flying up my hallway, pursued by a mighty predator bounding away. I get that you are a mean lean hunting machine, but do you have to bring me the final act to watch? Sometimes it all just seems a little over the top…
Fab: There are a lot of books that have a liberal approach to violence. But knowing Peat and his tongue in cheek approach to this (and the cat chaos energy of this tag), there was only one choice for me: When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey. Yes, this is a delightful sapphic found family witchy YA novel. But also, it starts with an accidental murder by exploding penis. I am not kidding. It’s also not a spoiler because it’s the inciting incident for the story. So yeah. That’s that. Highly recommend the book. It is actually quite wholesome.
Kat: Grace Draven is not one to hold back on graphic content, and that’s not just limited to explicit sex. There is often a strain of brutality and rawness in her books that can be quite unexpected for Romance readers. When I first read Radiance, I didn’t know what to expect; so, when I reached the torture scene (I won’t spoil who is tortured by whom or why), I was shocked. While not the most violent scene found within her canon, this scene was my first encounter with violence in her books. It’s honestly one of the things I appreciate about her as an author, though – she is graphic across all aspects of her writing!
Looking you in the eye before misbehaving – A book with a character desperate for attention
It’s one thing to be naughty, nay, malevolent. But to look right at me before you do it? Just to make sure your cry for attention will get attention? Why not lie in front of the television ins- oh, you did that too. Cats just really love attention…
Fab: I did not have to think long about which character I think is the biggest attention whore when Gideon is right there. The star of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is swagger incarnate. Just look at her on that cover. She needs to be the focus of every room that she walks into. Especially if she is supposed to be lying low. Subtlety is not one of her strengths. But that is part of why I am so damn in love with her.
Kat: He may groan about being called the Thorn of Camorr, but make no mistake, Locke Lamora loves to be the center of attention. From his elaborate disguises and public performances to his desire that his targets know who bested them, the protagonist of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series is a just bit of an attention whore. The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first book in this thrilling series centered around this lovable yet frustrating character and his merry band of trouble-makers.
Shredding things- A book with a destructive character
Soft furnishings. Wrapping paper. Your jeans. The loo roll. If a cat can shred it, a cat will shred it. One of my cats once got into a multi-pack of loo roll and pretty much redecorated the house. Some types are just inherently destructive…
Fab: Zetian in Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow is the female badass version of a suicide bomber. She joins a special ops division purely to get revenge for her sister’s death at the hands of a mecha pilot – and proceeds to kill him within a few chapters. She has no moral qualms, is out for revenge and her own survival is an afterthought. Neither she nor this book take any prisoners, and I knew within a few pages that I was in love. Read this as soon as you can.
Kat: Need someone murdered? Beat-up? Blown-up? Dani, a super-human vigilante, from Kit Rocha’s Mercenary Librarian series has got you covered. She’ll be the first person to offer up her destructive services and is downright excited at the prospect! In Deal with the Devil, she doesn’t understand why her team doesn’t think a rocket launcher or C-4 are appropriate items to pack for their quest. When things go south, she doesn’t hesitate to comment, “Now aren’t you sad I didn’t bring the C-4?”
Has never been fed, never – A series you can’t get enough of
Whether it’s the incessant yammering whenever in the kitchen, the attempts to trip you up and get their food quicker, or the naked theft from your plate, many cats give the impression of having never been fed before. But hey, we all know what it’s like to be insatiable, right…
Fab: I’m not the best at reading whole series. Because I tend to read books as they come out, I forget about series as I wait. But I’ve recently been obsessed with the Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan, starting with A Natural History of Dragons. I still haven’t quite forgiven my friends for letting me sleep on these books for so long. They’re smart, featuring a nerdy, ambitious female lead who is prickly and not always the most charming and sociable – someone who is a lot like me. I raced through the five books of the series this summer, mostly in audio book, and I highly recommend them.
Kat: I cannot get enough of Tessa Dare’s Girl Meets Duke series. There are so many things to love about this Victorian-era Historical Romance series, the least of which is the fact that the MMC in the first book, The Duchess Deal, swears in Shakespeare! Her wit, humor, and banter are thoroughly entertaining, but what I really can’t get enough of is the quirky band of eccentric women who attract and join forces with an equally unique group of misfit men. Oh, and did I mention the steam? Whew! I am not-so-patiently waiting for the next book!
Be so cute you forgive them anyway – A book with a wicked MC you like
This set of tags might make you think I hate cats, but I love my little hyperactive gremlins like few other beings. There’s many reasons for it, but one is they’re so bloody cute. Some characters definitely have that energy too…
Fab: Everyone’s got to have one problematic fave, and Mia Corvere from Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight series is mine. She is such a messed up character, but she is also a bisexual icon and she helped me figure out who I am. She would also fit into so many other categories in this tag – she is also both self- and outwardly destructive, the books in the series have kept me up late reading and they most definitely end on cliffhangers. They are also bloody and addictive. Yes, there are problematic aspects to the series, and I will not deny them (one of the characters is named after the Jewish word for God that is not supposed to be uttered, the name for the society infamous for blood sorcery is very close to a subset of the Jewish people and a society presented as barbarian in the books can be read as similar to the Aborigines/Maori people), so do approach these books with caution.
Kat: I have to admit that I shouldn’t like Ryder as much as I do, but what can I say – I’m a complete sucker for his over-the-top brand of wickedness. In Fighting Destiny, we are introduced to a deliciously sexy and wicked MMC who is clearly terrible for our female heroine on multiple levels. But as the book – and series – progressed, I found myself increasingly intrigued and rooting for this unlikely and oftentimes morally ambiguous MMC. Let’s be honest – his wickedness just made him even more hot!