The Stay at Home Book Tag

I don’t know if blogging slumps are a thing but, if so, I have fallen into one. I’ve read very few books in November so far, so I don’t have a review that I can post right now, and I’ve been struggling so much to come up with any other type of content! Suggestions and advice very gratefully accepted.

That being said, I have a lot of free time on my hands and a 24/7 urge to talk about books to anyone who will listen. So… as I sit at home, trying to figure out what I can do today that doesn’t involve leaving the house, here’s a very relevant tag that I found whilst panic-scrolling through Google this morning: The Stay at Home Book Tag

Laying in Bed – a book you read in a day

Threadneedle by Cari Thomas. This book is so long and literally took me the entire day to get through, but it was 100% worth it. I dedicated a solid 9 hours to sitting and getting sucked into the world of witches, vengeance and betrayal and didn’t even consider putting it down. After my introductory I don’t have a review to post spiel, I actually do have a review of this one, but I’ll be posting next year since it publishes in May. You can probably guess my rating already…

Snacking – a guilty pleasure book

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett. All of Jenn Bennett’s books are adorable, easy-to-read YA romances that, although not the most complex books I’ve ever read, are too cute not to read. This one is about a girl who ends up abandoned in the woods with the boy who broke her heart, which is total guilty pleasure book stuff. I would absolutely recommend it. Bonus points: it also taught me how to protect myself from bears if I’m ever stuck in the woods so… there’s that.

Netflix- a series you want to start

Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi! I’ve completely lost track of how many books are in this series (I own four but I think there are six? I don’t know) but it’s been on my TBR for longer than I can remember. I’m slowly working through the embarrassingly long list of books I own but haven’t read, and this one is definitely going to be one of the next ones I get around to (I hope).

Deep Clean – a book that has been on your TBR for ages

So many books. The first one that comes to mind is Arabesque by Aprilynne Pike. I read the Wings series when I was way younger and, from what I can gather, this is about the same characters, ten years in the future. I’ve had this book on my wishlist for years and finally got it this year, so this one is definitely up there on my priority TBR list.

Animal Crossing – a book you recently bought because of hype

I haven’t bought it yet, but I’m so close to buying These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. My entire twitter timeline yesterday was talking about it and I’ve seen it popping up everywhere for weeks, so I can’t imagine I’m going to be able to hold off buying it for much longer…

Productivity – a book you learned from or had an impact of you

Foreshadow by Nova Ren Suma and Emily X.R. Pan. This book is a gorgeous collection of short stories by lesser-known authors, with each story followed by an essay about a writing technique that was used within that story. The stories themselves were really enjoyable, but I especially loved that after every story, prompt or essay, I desperately wanted to put their suggestions into practice and write something myself.

Facetime – a book you were gifted

Another book that I got as a result of Twitter hype- Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia. I got this book for my birthday and am currently just over half-way through. It’s a style of horror that I haven’t read a lot of (more The Yellow Wallpaper than IT) and I’m really enjoying it so far.

Self Care – what is one thing that you have done recently to look after yourself?

I’ve been on more walks in the past few months than I’ve been on in my entire life. Sometimes I just blast music too loudly and other times I listen to audiobooks, but it’s definitely been a good way to clear my head after being stuck in my flat 24/7.

BONUS – name a book coming out soon

The first book that comes to mind is The Cousins by Karen McManus. From what I remember, this book is coming out the first week in December and I preordered it during a book haul I ordered from bookshop.org last month. I probably have unfairly high hopes for this book after One of Us is Lying, but I’m really excited to get into this as soon as it comes through my letterbox.

ARC Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Happy Halloween! My plan to spend an entire night reading has fallen through and, honestly, I think I’m going to nap my way through the rest of the evening, so I figured I’d get in the spooky spirit with a very Halloween-y review instead!

If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably already aware of how I feel about this book, but here’s my review of Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco (thank you so much to James Patterson Presents for the e-ARC!)…

Emilia has been brushing off stories about the princes of Hell for her entire life, chalking her grandmother’s fear up to superstition and folk tales. She was born and raised a witch so it isn’t that she doesn’t believe; it’s just that she and her sister know that these creatures of nightmares are too stuck in hell to be any kind of a threat.

At least, that’s what she believes, until one dark night in the monastery, her twin sister is found dead, missing a heart and being observed by a beautiful stranger with a devilish aura and a golden knife.

Not long after, as her motivation to find and punish her sister’s killer devours her, Emilia finds herself face to face with enough princes of Hell to see exactly why her grandmother has been warning her all along. And what’s worse is that working alongside one of them might be the only way to find out what truly happened to her sister, and why.

Words cannot express how much I loved Emilia as a protagonist. She was the most strong-willed, fearless character I have read all year and, despite wanting to scream at her in the beginning to stop and think before running into danger, I admired her commitment and believed within a few pages that she could handle anything that was thrown at her (and there was a lot!). Her dedication to her sister never faltered and Emilia didn’t come across as weak even once on her journey to hunting down what she needed to know.

Wrapped up in this story of vengeance was a wonderfully built world of wickedness that I could read about forever. The summonings, the demons and the spellbinding magic were effortlessly written and completely believable. If anyone ever tries to tell me that it’s possible to outgrow YA fantasy, this is the book I will recommend to convince them otherwise.

This story was beautifully crafted, grippingly fast-paced and devilishly creepy, with just the right amount of ethereally beautiful princes of Hell. I ordered a hardback copy before I was even halfway through the ebook because I knew that this would be a book I needed on my shelf and I can guarantee I will be recommending this to anyone who will listen, especially if they’re looking for an wicked tale to add to their Halloween TBR.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

I wasn’t sure whether or not to review this because I completely gave up on being impartial about Marie Lu’s books about 6 years ago- but in the end, I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. Surprise, surprise, this is not going to be a balanced review. It is instead going to be a short summary, followed by a post full of fangirling. You’ve been warned.

Skyhunter is the story of Talin, a specially-trained soldier, or Striker, for her struggling nation, Mara. Set far, far into the future, after the collapse of the world as we know it, Mara is the only land that remains un-colonised by the ever-growing Federation, and Talin is one of many, fighting on the front lines to defend from the oncoming attack, from humans, technological human experiments and ghosts, which are monstrous beings trained to obey the Federation’s every command.

When a presumed Federation soldier wanders into their territory, all but Talin are happy to watch him suffer for their actions, but Talin feels a strange connection that forces her to risk her own life for him. When he is later paired up as her partner, she discovers that there is more to him than meets the eye, and that he may become the key to their survival and a vital look into the Federation’s plans.

There are elements of Legend and Warcross in this book that were impossible for me to ignore. Marie Lu is incredible at writing dystopia, especially dystopia surrounding technology and world domination, and this book was really no different. The characters were as instantly fascinating as any of her books and I found myself loving and hating exactly who I was supposed to. Talin is a fierce, incredibly well-developed protagonist, suffering from a lot of internal struggle about her duties, her heart and her sense of belonging, and Red is an intriguing, unique and equally powerful character to read. Jeran as well, a close friend, a fierce soldier and a very useful translator for Red and Talin, was a particular favourite character of mine. I loved seeing him develop as the story went on, after finding myself particularly invested in him from the very beginning.

This story is fast-paced, exciting and completely immersive. I got sucked in so quickly to the world of Mara and the Federation that I completely forgot the outside world, caring only about their story and their survival. The technology Marie Lu invents is believable, the world is so detailed that it’s impossible not to find yourself in the story with them, and the characters are the kind that you want to keep in your mind forever.

Rather than recommending this book, I urge you to read it. Or read Warcross, or The Young Elites, or Legend, or The Kingdom of Back (which I also *cough* reviewed, here). Marie Lu’s books are incomparable: inclusive, diverse, thrilling, immersive and incredibly original. This book has further solidified her status as my favourite author of all time, and I can only hope that, if you take my advice and read it, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Rating: 5/5 (obviously…)

Book Review: Kpop Confidential by Stephen Lee

And… here we have another kpop/YA book review! At the same time as I received my ARC of Shine by Jessica Jung, I also received a finished copy of Kpop Confidential, so I am adoring the theme of my autumn reading so far.

Anyway- thank you so much to Chicken House for sending me a copy of this book!

Kpop Confidential follows a fifteen year-old Korean-American girl named Candace who, on a whim, enters a global competition to become a trainee at S.A.Y Entertainment in Korea, and suddenly finds herself being swept up into the not-so-glamorous lifestyle of a celebrity-in-training.

After a begrudging acceptance from her parents, Candace leaves behind her life in the United States for a summer, with the ultimatum that she will either end the summer as a debuted kpop idol or back as a high school student in New Jersey. She is rapidly inducted into a world of no social media, brutal dieting, dating bans and torturous hours of training.

As she faces the struggles of falling in love when dating is strictly prohibited, living in a dorm with the meanest girl in training, and not being able to dance when trying to debut in a dancing idol group, Candace has to commit wholeheartedly to her new trainee lifestyle and forget that there is anything at all outside the walls of her training HQ.

This book has a protagonist who, somewhat unwillingly, finds herself stepping on some toes to get to the top, an entertaining love triangle (with, in my opinion, an obvious favourite…) and some very strong friendships that were incredibly refreshing to read about against the backdrop of all the trainee backstabbing and blackmail.

I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps because of the fifteen year old protagonist, it seemed a little younger than a lot of the YA I’ve read lately, but it was still a cute, easy read with enough drama to keep me turning the pages throughout. Without spoiling anything, I loved the direction that the story ended up going in and found myself satisfied with this book from start to finish. I would definitely recommend to kpop lovers, YA lovers and anyone looking for a whirlwind of a story about dedication, passion, drama and friendship.

Rating: 4/5

ARC Review: Shine by Jessica Jung

I am not ashamed to admit that, from the second I discovered that this book existed (or was about to exist), I didn’t stop thinking about how to get one of the gorgeous proof copies until I finally got one. I don’t talk about kpop on the internet quite as much as I’d like to, but second-generation kpop idols basically own my life when I’m not reading YA. I wanted this to be the best book I’ve ever read and I knew that the minute I started it, I’d have to read the whole thing in one sitting.

So, as you can probably guess, I ended up getting a copy (ahh!!!!) in a giveaway from Electric Monkey (thank you, I love you) and I dropped my entire TBR to read it. And, thankfully, I loved it.

This is the story of Rachel Kim, a Korean-American girl who dropped everything to move to Korea and enter the intense and mysterious world of Kpop idol training. She spends half her childhood following rules, intensively training and juggling an attempt at regular schooling and her commitment to becoming a celebrity.

Shine explores everything about idol training that you don’t get to see on social media: the insane hours of effort, the impossibility of dating bans, the extreme dieting, the falsities and manipulation that go into achieving your dream at the expense of the people you’ve grown up with, and, of course, the pure talent and determination that it takes to become an international superstar.

Rachel is a likeable and inspiring protagonist, but she is absolutely not afraid to do what’s necessary to achieve her aspirations as she realises that she is rapidly approaching being ‘too old’ to be a trainee. She is nowhere near as harsh as some of the other trainees (some of whom are downright brutal), but she’s aware of what she needs to do and will obviously sacrifice plenty to achieve her goal.

It’s likely because of her history in the industry and the fact that she went through kpop training herself, but Jessica Jung has written such a realistic and believable story that I forgot multiple times that I was reading a work of fiction. I fully believe that the way Rachel is treated is the way trainees are treated in major Korean entertainment companies, and it was scarily realistic. I felt like I appreciated kpop idols before, but this book has taken my awe of them to an entire new level.

Basically, I recommend that anyone who likes kpop reads this book. It has an entertaining amount of romance, a healthy dose of drama, and a very strong, very committed female protagonist who doesn’t allow herself to be beaten down when circumstances are so clearly against her. It was funny, dramatic and eye-opening, and I’m so glad that it was everything I hoped it was going to be.

Rating: 5/5

Shine publishes on 15th October⭐

BOOK REVIEW: THE NOTHING MAN by Catherine Ryan Howard

*Thank you to Corvus for sending me a copy in exchange for a review*

The Nothing Man is a book within a book, and both of these are equally fascinating. It follows Jim Doyle, supermarket security guard and uncaught serial killer, as he reads a recent true crime thriller by the sole survivor of his most gruesome attack. As he reads about the crimes he committed as a younger man, Jim finds himself thrilled by his ‘achievements’ and itching to commit one last murder.

I have never read a thriller in this form before, with a large part of the book being written by the victim (as a published book, with chapters, acknowledgements and a fake ISBN, which I definitely geeked out about), and the rest being told by the killer himself. It was a fascinating concept that was very well executed, and I didn’t realise I could enjoy reading the perspective of a character I intensely disliked as much as I did.

Jim is annoying and disturbed, and yet reading the story of his fairly uninteresting present life mixed into Eve’s investigative tale was gripping, as I found myself constantly waiting to see if he would do anything deadly. Reading from Eve’s perspective was also enjoyable, and I found myself excited every time part of her story came about to hear about whether she was any closer to finding Jim. It was a chase, told from both sides, and was very interesting to see play out.

The story itself primarily takes place in the past but it remained fascinating even as Jim’s killer past was discussed and it started jumping closer to his present. Parts were a little slow and the most gruesome moments of the story were largely glossed over, but I loved the concept and found myself hooked from beginning to end.

This book was an enjoyable read that certainly terrified me enough to keep me awake after reading too late, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a thriller that’s a little bit different but still equally gripping.

AUGUST WRAP-UP

As mentioned in an earlier post this month, I have never done a monthly TBR, so I think that now would be a good time to mention that I’ve also never done a monthly wrap-up. But I’m so excited to post one this month.

Not only did I read more books in a single month than I have for the rest of the year (yes, I only read seven, but it’s still a step-up for me), but I enjoyed every single one! Every single book in this wrap-up is 4+ stars and I’m unbelievably happy about that.

So without further ado, the books I read this month:

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

There’s a review up on my blog for this one already, and it’s gushing. The writing style was gorgeous, the plot was gripping, and it’s definitely been a while since I read a book where I cared so much about an entire group of characters. I adored this book and already can’t wait for book two.

5/5

We Were Liars by E Lockhart (a re-read)

I say ‘a re-read’, but what I mean is my eighth re-read. This is my favourite stand-alone ever and I always find myself being drawn to it when I’m in a reading slump. This time, I read it on the beach (the perfect place to read this book, in case you were wondering) and I’m so happy that I found myself noticing little things that I never spotted before, even after reading it so many times.

In case you couldn’t tell from the favourite stand-alone ever part: 5/5

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

This is the first audiobook I’ve listened to in possibly over a year, and I really enjoyed it. It was mostly just half-an-hour here and there whilst I was walking to and from work, but I really got into the story. The narrator definitely helped and I would absolutely recommend the audiobook version specifically, but it’s generally just a poignant, funny and incredibly thought-provoking story.

4/5

The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

This was a very gripping and very disturbing thriller. It didn’t have as much murder as I was expecting, for some reason, but it’s definitely the kind of story that makes you scared to leave your room in the middle of the night, in case a serial killer is waiting behind it. I read this in the space of a couple of days, and was creeped out the entire time so, honestly, I’m calling that a win.

4/5

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I read Six of Crows!!! After months of telling book-twitter that I was going to!!! And after owning a copy for years!!! I’m not really sure what to say about this book other than that I completely understand the hype. The characters are incredible, the plot is intelligent and gripping, and Leigh Bardugo’s world-building is art. I’ve been ignoring everyone’s suggestion that I read this book for years and now I’m mostly just mad at myself for doing that.

5/5

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield

I’m going to be posting a review of this one shortly, but I will happily say now that I loved it. I’ve really struggled to get into YA horror in the past, and I often find myself disappointed in the big reveals and the jump-scares, but this book genuinely gave me nightmares. It was fast-paced, perfectly creepy, and an excellent mix of traditional horror themes and modern YA. It’s a very quick and easy read, and absolutely worth it (especially as we’re getting closer to Halloween).

5/5

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Last but not least is definitely the odd one out on this list: a contemporary romance. I went to Waterstones on a mission for a cringey, sugary YA love story, and I have to say that I was struggling to find one. When I saw this one, about a girl, her high school crush, a cute wedding planner, and her sister’s wedding, I figured it might be exactly what I was looking for. And although there was a lot more family drama and a lot less romance than I was expecting, this book definitely fulfilled the reading craving that I’ve been having lately. It was cute, funny and a very easy read to end the month.

4/5

So that’s my August wrap-up! I’m still in the process of picking the books that I want to get through this month, but I’m so happy that it was such a good reading month and am praying for another good month as of now.

What was your favourite book that you read this month? I’d love some recommendations to add to my ever-growing TBR!

BOOK REVIEW: THE COURT OF MIRACLES by Kester Grant

I finished this book nearly a month ago (an e-ARC that I got from Netgalley, so thank you to Harper Voyager!) but have been so ill lately that I struggled to finish writing this review (or any review… in case you’ve noticed my short, involuntary hiatus). But I finally got round to finishing the review today, after being gifted a gorgeous physical copy for my birthday yesterday, and I’m so excited to share my thoughts on this book.

The Court of Miracles is a Les Misérables retelling, kind-of, that draws the Revolution into a whole new, underground world of criminals and thieves.

It cleverly throws Eponine (now Nina) and Cosette (Ettie) into a whole new context, giving them their own secret lives and fascinating plots that make you forget that you ever thought you knew characters with these names before (a feat, when you’re in love with Les Mis). We follow them on a gripping and terrifying journey as Nina navigates the criminal underworld in search of ways to save her sister from the evil Guild Lord that has snatched her.

You do not have to have watched Les Misérables to appreciate this book, but I found the parallels to be well-done and incredibly entertaining. The two plots diverge greatly and some of the characters are barely recognizable (Javert’s new character in this book is art), so I truly think any fantasy or historical fiction lover would appreciate this book. It is a fast-paced story that paints a brutal picture of Revolutionary France, with a strong-willed, incredibly powerful protagonist to tell it, and an artfully invented underworld that sucks you in completely.

On the topic of characters, every single one was completely fascinating. Nina is strong from the beginning, but the confidence, capability and cunning that she develops throughout make her one of the toughest protagonists I’ve read for a while. Ettie was sweet and instantly likeable, developing alongside Nina in a way that it’s implied the world forces them to be. And the boys in this book all had their own charms: St Juste, with his indignation and dedication, was my particular favourite, but Montparnasse with his obvious soft spot for Nina despite his villainous role in the Court, and the Dauphin, who only became more fascinating with every meeting, were both equally interesting to read as well. I could go on about all of the Guild Lords, and villains, and even Those-Who-Walk-By-Day, but I would strongly encourage you to discover them yourselves.

The story is incredibly fast-paced, and I found it really impressive that Nina could do so many insanely dangerous things in this book, but have them all seem so believable and doable for her character. I loved slowly developing an understanding of the workings of the Court and absolutely need more about this world and these characters as soon as possible.

In case it’s not clear, I adored this book. Five stars is not enough for the masterful writing and completely engrossing world that Kester Grant has created, and I would encourage anyone looking for some escapism to get absorbed in this book. I cannot wait to see what Kester Grant writes next, and will waiting desperately for next year, and book two.

RATING: 5/5

MY AUGUST TBR

Okay, so quick disclaimer (confession?): I’ve never done a monthly TBR. Ever. I just read whatever I pick up, meaning I might read one book in a month, or fifteen (people who are able to read more than that seriously intimidate me. HOW?), and I’m so jealous of everyone who is able to set monthly reading goals and stick to them!

But I’ve been really busy lately and both my reading and my blogging (and writing and Duolingo and really any hobbies except online shopping, but we won’t get into that) have been… lacking. So I figured, what better way to get back into reading than guilt-tripping myself with a list of books that I’m making myself obligated to read. Right?!

That being said, here’s my (very modest) August TBR:

The Court of Miracles, by Kester Grant-

This is kind of cheating because I’m already most of the way through, but I will finish this book this month. It’s such an incredible story that I have no idea why I didn’t read it sooner. The Les Miserables references are making my life, and I’m finding myself getting invested in more characters than I knew I could care about.

Shine, by Jessica Jung-

This one depends on when it arrives, but I have an ARC due to be delivered towards the end of August and I’m so desperate to read this book. It combines my true loves of YA and K-pop and I have ridiculously high expectations. Also, THANK YOU to Electric Monkey for doing a YALC giveaway contest for ARCs of this- you made my year.

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo-

The fact that this book is still on my TBR is embarrassing- especially now that I own two copies of it- but I can feel that August is finally the month I’m going to do it. I have hopes that this is going to become one of my favourite books (thanks Twitter) so I need to force myself to sit down and finally give it a go.

A Girl Made of Air, by Nydia Hetherington-

This book caught my eye massively when the trailer came out, and I made it my mission to get an ARC. I ended up getting it on Netgalley and, although I actually have very little idea about the plot, I’m so, so excited to give it a read! All I know is that it involves a circus and, really, that’s all I needed to know…

There’s a whole load of other books on my TBR and Netgalley shelf that I would love to get through in August, and maybe I will, but for now- this is it. I’m hoping four books will be ridiculously easy and will kickstart monthly TBRs for years to come.

I’d love to know what your reading goals are this month! If you have a book that you’re really excited to read in August, let me know down below- I’m always looking for ways to expand my ever-growing TBR…

ARC REVIEW: THE STORY OF BABUSHKA by Catherine Flores

*Thank you to Catherine Flores for sending me an e-ARC of this book to read and review*

The Story of Babushka follows a Russian Nesting Doll (a Babushka) who goes in search of the meaning of life. Her five bodies each represent different elements of her character (beauty, wealth, talent, intelligence and love) and they all go off independently throughout the story to find purpose and meaning, based on their own individual traits. This book is intended for children aged 8-14, but definitely has potential crossover interest for an older audience looking for something sweet and easy.

This was an absolute pleasure to read. It’s obviously intended for an audience slightly younger than me (I’m 21…) but I found myself just as engrossed in this story as I would have been ten years ago. Babushka’s struggles resonated with me as an adult, and I found the message to be one that would be equally understandable and enjoyable for children who are starting to ask themselves what they want to do when they grow up, as well as one that makes you really think about your own interests and ambitions, whatever your age. Babushka’s five bodies are instantly likeable and only have good intentions, so I feel that she could be a good role-model character and I’m sure that all children could instantly connect with at least one of her major traits.

The subject matter is just as fascinating as the characters. A lot is included in this story, with struggles including political and social issues, and relationship problems, all addressed in a way that may enlighten children without completely overwhelming them. A couple of the struggles that the characters face aren’t ones that are frequently addressed in younger reads, but it is written in such an accessible and understandable way that I genuinely think children would understand and learn a lot. It has a beautiful moral and such an important plot that I would certainly recommend this as an enjoyable read for adults and parents, and an educational one for slightly younger readers.

Reading this book was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I cannot recommend it highly enough, for its gorgeous illustrations, its poignant message and its genuine portrayal of emotional struggles that so many people go through at some point in their lives. It’s a quick and easy book that I finished almost a week ago now and still haven’t been able to get out of my head.

Rating: 5/5

PS: As an added bonus, the author linked me to a website for the book (https://thestoryofbabushka.com/) which is absolutely stunning! The interactivity with the animated elements is adorable, and I’m sure that young readers who are interested in the book would love this too!