ARC REVIEW | The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Name: The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genres: Adult, Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Uncorrected Proof
Source: Bloomsbury
Rating: ★★★★★

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

I received an uncorrected proof copy for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Any quotes used in this review are subject to change upon release.

If you follow me on any form of social media and don’t know how I feel about Samantha Shannon then I think you may be blind. I’ve been an avid fan since the release of her septology, The Bone Season, aka one of my all-time fave series. If you follow me on any social media and don’t know how I feel about this book, then I wonder if you’ve been hiding under a rock because there was a huge thread on twitter about my reading experience. And yet, here I will try and somehow collate my thoughts, feelings and emotions into some form of coherent words because honestly, my instinct for this review is just to write lakshflkahflkdj fihefieOIDHuhihwlKHF odkshLDSKJLAKJDHKADJHFAHOF.

“You know how a knight rescued a princess from a dragon and … lived happily ever after. Everything you know is false.”

This book is AMAZING.

Honestly, I’m not exaggerating or being blinded by my SaySha love when I say that this is the best book I have ever read. Perhaps it isn’t a perfect specimen of epic fantasy for you, but for me, this book had every single thing I could possibly have asked for. Samantha Shannon is a master wordsmith, world-weaver and storyteller. You will not regret pre-ordering or buying this book, and the best part is that it can be repurposed as both a weapon and a shield as it is nearly 900 pages and heavy as a brick. True story.

“No woman should be made to fear that she was not enough.”

Fiercely feminist, while still having universal appeal for all genders of readers – This is the ultimate feminist reclaiming of the high fantasy genre. In an industry ruled by Tolkien and Sanderson and GRRM, Samantha Shannon is decimating the patriarchy one powerful chapter at a time. I applaud her. From the small tokens of having one of the central empires being referred to as a “Queendom” to empowering quote after quote reminding us that we are enough, and we deserve better.

At the same time, I don’t feel like this is so female-driven that it wouldn’t hold appeal for other genders. It has a healthy balance of genders and sexualities across the wide cast of characters, meaning that every part will hold appeal for someone. Naturally, I had favourites, but unlike A Song of Ice and Fire, I didn’t find myself skipping certain chapters because I wanted to read and know and experience the whole universe Shannon created.

“I do not sleep because I am not only afraid of the monsters at my door, but also of the monsters my own mind can conjure. The ones that live within.”

Complex, fully-formed characterisation across a varied ensemble – So in terms of characters, I’m going to say that Samantha creates an ensemble which is a cross between Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire. She tells the story from a close third-person perspective of four narrators (all of whom I will talk about in more detail in a moment), reminiscent of Bardugo’s style of storytelling, while the narrators spend most of the book apart, much like GRRM’s narrators. Not only that, but the entire cast, both narrators and otherwise, are incredibly diverse in terms of both race and sexuality.

  • Ead Duryan / Eadaz du Zāla uq-Nāra (West) – the central narrator and easily my favourite character. Ead is a lady-in-waiting to Queen Sabran Berethnet, ward of the Ambassador uq-Ispad of Lasia. However, her real name is Eadaz, a spy and bodyguard sent by The Priory of the Orange Tree to protect the Queen. Basically, a magical assassin / dragonslayer / bodyguard.
  • Tané of the South House (East) – an orphan, now warrior raised to one day join the ranks of the Miduchi, famous dragon rider’s of Seiiki. Early on in the book she achieves this dream and is paired with her dragon aka the best character ever. More on her later.
  • Lord Arteloth ‘Loth’ Beck (West) – A Lord of Inys, banished from his homeland for being too close to Queen Sabran, his childhood best friend, undertaking his own adventure in  neighbouring Yscalin to save his country. During her time in Inys, Ead had also become good friends with him.
  • Niclays Roos (East) – A scholar from Mentadon, exiled from Inys and banished from all the family he has left in the world. Now residing in Seiiki, he is bitter and resentful of the Queen, craving the lover he lost many years before. Also uses banging insults, such as, ‘witless cabbage’.
  • Queen Sabran IX of the House Berethnet – Queen of Inys and Queen of my heart. Sab is arguably the most powerful character in this book – she made me laugh, cry, love, grieve and so much more. The House of Berethnet has been the ruling house of Inys, a Queendom ruled only by Queens since the Saint defeated the Nameless One. The legacy of her rule, saying that the most evil dragon of all time, the Nameless One, cannot rise while a Berethnet sits on the throne of Inys, bears down on her. Sab is everything.
  • Nayimathun – an Eastern dragon, viewed as a God by the Seiikinese, and the dragon who chose Tané to be her rider. Nayimathun is wise and her words are so powerful they are already tattooed on my body. Yes, she talks. The dragons talk. More about dragons later.
  • Lord Kitson Glade – Best friend of Loth who journeys with him to Yscalin, comedic relief to this heavy story and all round nice guy.
  • Aralaq – OKAY BUT THE CREATURES OWN THIS BOOK. Aralaq is Ead’s good friend from childhood growing up in the Priory, he is an ichneumon and he is great. Again, a talking creature and he gives me life.
Samantha imagines Aralaq as a much larger version of a yellow mongoose.

“When history fails to shed light on the truth, myth creates its own.”

In depth world-building of multiple cultured inspired by both Eastern and Western history – It’s no secret the level of detail Samantha put in to researching this novel. If you search her twitter, you will find multiple threads on history, etymology and in-depth details of everything she has created here. Let’s talk about the world, each country is based on a different region in a particular period of history. For example, Inys is based on Elizabethan England and the myth of George and the Dragon, while Seiiki is based in Japanese lore. Yscalin has a very classical Italian feel about it while reading, though that is something I am projecting. Each country is incredibly well thought out and diverse, with it’s own history and laws. This book is honestly a feat of majesty.

“My blood is the sea, and it cannot be still.”

D R A G O N S – I’m sure by now you’re aware that this book is about dragons, specifically a war between Virtudom (Inys, Yscalin, Mentendon and Hróth) and the Nameless One, a Western dragon defeated by the Saint and buried beneath the Esyr. The premise of the novel is that the Nameless One is returning and everyone is trying to stop this happening. Therefore we have the evil draconic beings, these include wyverns, cockatrices, amphiptere, ophitaurs, jaculi and basilisks, and they generally reside in the West. Then there’s the Eastern dragons, the ‘good’ dragons who are revered as Gods in Seiiki and ridden by the chosen of Clan Miduchi. The level of detail Samantha puts into these beings, and all the mythical beings throughout the novel, is exceptional and intriguing. They add so much to the world and let’s not forget… the dragons talk.

My new tattoo, the words of the Great Nayimathun. I’m basically a dragon now.

“My heart knows your song, as yours knows mine. And I will always come back to you.”

Central sapphic relationship – I realise this was kept quiet for a long time and a lot of people were surprised to hear this but I have been trying to shout about it for months. THIS BOOK FEATURES AN F/F RELATIONSHIP AND AT LEAST ONE OF THEM IS BISEXUAL. Yes, you heard me, queer ladies. Can I get a ‘FUCK YES’? I don’t want to talk too much about this because I want you to discover the beauty of this relationship for yourself, but let me tell you, this is possibly one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching slow-burn romances I’ve ever read and 100% my favourite F/F. I cannot tell you how in love with them I am.

So that’s all I have to say, folks. This is probably the longest review I’ve ever written, but if you still aren’t convinced, I would recommend checking out Ellie’s and Bethan’s reviews. They both write a bit more coherently than me and probably include information I forgot.

TL;DR – This is the best book I’ve ever read. A feminist fantasy masterpiece, plus DRAGONS. For fans of GRRM, Tolkien, Sanderson, Robin Hobb and Tamora Pierce.

Representation: LGBTQIA+ (primarily a central F/F relationship, and M/M relationship), mental illness (depression and anxiety), variety of PoC and varying cultures.
Content Warning: Miscarriage, death, violence, war themes, emotional manipulation, grief.

Are you anticipating Priory? Let me know if you’ve pre-ordered in the comments!

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ARC REVIEW | On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Name: On the Come Up
Author: Angie Thomas
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Walker
Format: Uncorrected Proof
Source: Walker Books YA
Rating: ★★★★★

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighbourhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

I received an uncorrected proof copy for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Any quotes used in this review are subject to change upon release.

This book. Guys, THIS BOOK. By this point, I hope we all know who Angie Thomas is and what she is bringing to the world, and let me tell you that The Hate U Give was not a one off. Her follow up, On the Come Up, is just as brilliant, diverse, and gives a voice to those who need it most. I adored it. While THUG very much focuses on police brutality and the fallout of a shooting, OTCU looks more into the every day life of another family also living in Garden Heights, the same area where THUG was set.

As a reminder, I am a privileged white woman from the UK, this book was not written for me, or with me in mind. The only possible thing I can take from this is how lucky and privileged I am and to make sure I check that privilege. With that in mind, I’m going to keep this review quite short.

However, if this book was written for you, if you are a underprivileged black teen living in America and would like a copy of this book, I am willing to send you my ARC copy. No strings attached.

“Gift. One word, one syllable. I don’t know if it rhymes with anything because it’s a word I never thought could be used when it comes to me.”

Themes and representation – As to be expected with a follow up of THUG, the representation within this novel is brilliant. Firstly, the poverty rep – I’m not going to pretend to know what life is like for families like Bri’s, but as an outsider, it was a very eye-opening look into people living on the line of poverty in first world countries such as the US and UK. I feel like this is a subject not often tackled, and it was done well. Secondly, being set in Garden Heights, OTCU featured a lot of similar themes of racism and black representation as THUG. Once again, Thomas creates something astounding, calling out those abusing their power and giving a voice to those who need it the most.

“Unarmed and dangerous, but America, you made us, only time we famous is when we die and you blame us.”

Bri’s lyrics – I love lyrics. They’re my favourite thing about music, and while I’m not generally a rap fan, Hamilton is my life, and I’ve been known to dabble in poetry. Bri’s lyrics are incredible. Now, Angie Thomas apparently was a teen rapper herself and is bringing her skills back for this and she does not disappoint. I would love to here Bri’s raps set to music, so can someone make that happen please?

“I’m lost. I’m so lost that I’m exhausted from trying to find my way.”

“Never let yourself drown while trying to save somebody that don’t wanna be saved.”

Importance of Angie Thomas – This woman is a gift to the world, especially living in a country currently run by bigots and racists, and yet she never gives in. She brought us a hard-hitting novel about gun violence and police brutality which has been on the NYT Bestseller list for 100 weeks (as of 5th Feb 2019) and sold over 850,000 copies (as of June 2018). Now she brings us another battleaxe of a book about raising your voice, about following your dreams despite the world telling you that where you’ve come from isn’t good enough. Angie Thomas is the voice this world needs right now.

“You’ll never silence me. I got too goddamn much to say.”

Representation: PoC (specifically black main and secondary characters), poverty rep, addiction recovery, LGBTQIA+ secondary characters.
Content Warning: Racism, grief, violence (including themes of gangs), abuse of power, discussion of past drug abuse / addiction, discussion of past neglect.

Have you pre-ordered On the Come Up? Let me know in the comments!

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JAN WRAP UP | The Books & the Stats

New year, new me, new attempt at blogging a wrap up every month. Let’s see how long this lasts! I’m going to try and keep it pretty simple and to the point, in the hope that I can keep it up for the whole year, but we’ll see how that goes.

  • jan2019A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers ★★★★★
    I loved this just as much as A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet but in a completely different way. Could not recommend Becky Chambers enough.
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
    I listened to this one via audio and it was enjoyable and I could way to pass the time, but I just wasn’t mad about it.
  • The Wicker King by K. Ancrum ★★★★★ (4.5)
    This was Dragon and Tea Book Club’s first read and I enjoyed this one so much. Such a brilliant portrayal of mental health and co-dependency.
  • Fire Falling (Air Awakens #2) by Elise Kova ★★★★☆
    Shout out to the amazing Jordan for gifting me this series, it is such a great fantasy series and I’m living for it so far.
  • The Wicked King (Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black ★★★★★
    Y’all, this is phenomenal. I couldn’t cope and I don’t know how I will survive the wait until Queen of Nothing. Full review here.
  • Beautiful Broken Things (BBT #1) by Sara Barnard ★★★★☆
    A beautiful contemporary that I read because I had an ARC of the second. It’s good, but the second is where it’s at. Full review here.
  • A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro ★★★★★ (4.5)
    This was gifted to me by woman of my heart, Melanie, and I read it for #CatchUpOnClassics. This was surprisingly dark and I loved it. Hopefully I’ll get a full review coming at you soon.
  • The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig ★★★★★
    This was such a lovely children’s short story, it warmed my heart and really helped me when I was having a really mad mental health week mid-month.
  • Fierce Fragile Hearts (BBT #2) by Sara Barnard ★★★★★
    This book. No words. Truly beautiful and again, exactly what I needed during my bad mental health. Sara Barnard is phenomenal. Full review is here.
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas ★★★★★
    I am so honoured to have been given an early copy of this, and it was brilliant. Set in the same neighbourhood as The Hate U Give, but telling a completely different story of racism, poverty and a girl with a dream. Full review here.
  • Sense and Sensibility By Jane Austen ★★★☆☆
    I read this one via audiobook (narrated by Rosamund Pike) for the Ardently Austen Book Club and while I enjoyed it, it just wasn’t gripping me, especially in comparison to Pride and Prejudice which I loved.
  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo ★★★★☆ (4.5)
    Wow. This book held a lot of nostalgia for me with so many references to both the previous Grisha series’ and it really did love it. It was, however, very much a set up book so I can understand why some people are saying it’s slow to start. The next book though, we all know will be banging.
2019 Reading ChallengeGoalActual

The below charts are taken from my reading spreadsheet, created annually by Brock Roberts.

2019 Reading AimsGoalSo Far
Backlist Must-Reads120
Friend Recommendations100
Graphic Novels60
Pre-1995 Books61
Male protagonist / author252

How did your January go? If you posted a wrap up, link me in the comments!

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ARC REVIEW | Fierce Fragile Hearts (Beautiful Broken Things #2) by Sara Barnard

Name: Fierce Fragile Hearts
Author: Sara Barnard
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Macmillan
Format: Uncorrected Proof
Source: My Kinda Book @ Macmillan
Rating: ★★★★★

Fierce Fragile Hearts is the stunning companion novel to Sara Barnard’s YA bestseller Beautiful Broken Things. It is about leaving the past behind, the friends who form your future, and learning to find love, in all its forms.

Two years after a downward spiral took her as low as you can possibly go, Suzanne is starting again. Again. She’s back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they’re about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you’re the one left behind?

I received an uncorrected proof copy for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Any quotes used in this review are subject to change upon release.

You may have noticed that I read Beautiful Broken Things just a few weeks ago, you can find my review of it here. I had to get that in quick because the lovely people at My Kinda Book sent me an ARC of this! Now, it’s worth noticing that this is a companion (and sequel, in that the events occur after those of BBT) however, I believe both books are readable as standalones. I think I probably connected with the characters more because I had read the first, but I feel like the strength of this story would shine through without the prequel.

To add to that, this book has everything that was missing from the first for me. Now, like I said in my review, I couldn’t exactly tell you what was missing, but something felt not quite right for me, hence the four stars. But this? This was phenomenal. It was everything BBT had, it was everything BBT was lacking, and it was everything I needed.

“They have this power, my friends, even after all this time, even though I don’t deserve it; they’re like lamp posts on midnight streets. Lights in the dark.”

The return of Suzanne, Caddy and Rosie – I know I hadn’t been out of their world for long, but diving back into it was really great, especially with the time jump. Seeing the whole gang three years on was really great, plus it’s set at my favourite point in life for YA – going to uni for the first time. This time of life is so tumultuous and so difficult. I remember it well – the fear, the anxiety, making new friends, fending for yourself, the independence, the homesickness, being thrown together with people you’d never normally socialise with. It is hectic. Seeing the girls go through this, and Suzanne watching from the sidelines is so intriguing. So many of the university scenes could have so easily been taken straight from my uni experience. Again, Sara Barnard nails the British teen experience.

It isn’t just the uni though, it was just having the girls back together that was amazing. Seeing how their friendship has blossomed, changed, grown and diminished in different ways over the time apart and the time being back together is truly wonderful. Friendships are living things, they change so much as you grow as a person and the time as a young adult, leaving home, independence, these are the times when friendships change the most because you are changing the most. Sara explores this idea so well and I felt all of it.

“When someone knows you’ve been broken, all they see is the cracks.”

Suzanne’s perspective – I think this was the most important thing for me. BBT was told from Caddy’s perspective, and while that was very important for that book, I think that was the reason why it disconnected a little for me. As I reader, I was more focussed on Suze rather than Caddy, and not having Suze’s perspective made it hard. But here it is, all of Suze’s thoughts and feelings. How she has grown up, survived and is trying to recover. I needed her voice, and getting it was the best thing that could have happened. Suze has had a hard past, that feels like an understatement, but it was rough. Importantly she’s still here. She’s survived and she’s still struggling. Recovery is never a straight line, and seeing her coping, living, trying, has been so important, and I think a lot of readers will agree with me when I say that it has meant so much to me to experience Suze’s story.

“This is what people like Sarah will never understand. What none of them will ever understand. How you can want help and not want it at the same time. It’s not even about levels. It’s just confusion all the way down.”

Mental health – Honestly this has some of the best mental health rep I have read. I relate too much to Suze and it was hella painful to read myself in her. Her self-destruction, her spirals. The above quote I felt in my bones, my blood and my soul. Being self-aware while suffering from depression is so hard. The wanting to get better, but the not wanting, the desire to wallow and spiral, but still hoping to save yourself. It is just confusion, and it’s horrible. Sara approaches this and explores it so perfectly. Again, Suze’s point of view really helped this book with the rep. BBT being from Caddy’s POV meant that there was a disconnect, and Caddy’s confusion and not knowing how to deal with it, while very realistic, made it seem like it was being portrayed in a skewed way, and that was the point. Experiencing this from Suze, put a lot of BBT into perspective for me. Another huge tick for Sara.

An aesthetic of a border terrier, three girls sat on the beach under a blanket, a piano and guitar, a quote that says, "someone's inability to love you is not your inability to be loved," a sketch of a geometric arrow tattoo and some daffodils.

“The people who have failed to love you simply do not know you. That is not your fault. This is your only life, and it is short. Surround yourself with people who love you.”

Dilys and Clarence – OKAY GUYS ARE YOU READY FOR THE GUSH. Dilys is without a doubt my favourite new addition in terms of characters (and there are quite a few great new characters). It’s hard to talk about without spoiling but Dilys is a next-door neighbour of Suze’s and Clarence is her dog. They bring so much to this story, and while they don’t get loads of airtime, the impact they have on the story as a whole is immense. They were such a highlight for me, and Dilys had a lot of wisdom which I personally really needed this week, so thank you Sara.

On the note of new characters, big shout out to Jade who is from Somerset and has an “amazing accent”.

“Any friend can make you laugh. Best friends make you cry.”

Recovery – More than anything, this book is about recovery, and recovery is something that doesn’t happen and then poof, you’re better. Recovery is something that you go through for the rest of your life and some days it will be better and other days will be worse. Sara depicts this so well through Suze’s story. We can see how much she has learned and how much she has grown in the three years away from Brighton, but continuing on, we see her learn more and more about recovery over the course of the book. You see her realise that her path is constantly changing and challenges will always be thrown her way but she can overcome them.

This is the book I needed when I was 18, leaving school lost and low. This is the book I needed at 19, going to uni alone and afraid. This is the book I needed at 20, running away from love because I was terrified of it. This is the book I needed at 22, moving out of home to a brand new city with no friends. And this is the book I needed at 23, this very week when my lows hit me hard and I didn’t know what to do. This book is so very powerful and so very needed. Thank you, Sara, for your words.

“Recovering isn’t about fresh starts, or new beginnings. It’s about the constant as well as the change. You build a foundation in layers, and that’s what makes it strong. Maybe sometimes it means taking a step back, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes you have to take a step back to get a better view of where you’re going.”

Representation: Mental illness (depression and anxiety), LGBTQIA+ (coming out, bi rep, F/F secondary relationship), PoC side characters.
Content Warning: Emotional abuse and manipulation, physical abuse (past actions discussed), mild sexual content, grief. 

Have you read Beautiful Broken Things? Are you excited for the sequel? Let me know in the comments!

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REVIEW | Beautiful Broken Things (Beautiful Broken Things #1) by Sara Barnard

Name: Beautiful Broken Things (Beautiful Broken Things #1)
Author: Sara Barnard
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Macmillan
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift
Rating: ★★★★☆

I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

Sara Barnard was a name I had heard in the UKYA community long before I actually started reading her books. It took me a while to warm up to YA contemporary as a genre, only relenting shortly after starting my blog and realising that I loved it (hello The Exact Opposite of Okay and A Thousand Perfect Notes). However, I didn’t buy one of Sara’s books until it was recommended by, guess who, my all time fave, Samantha Shannon, at Northern YA Lit Fest last March. When I eventually read the book, Goodbye Perfect, I knew I was going to enjoy the rest of Sara’s work.

She has a way of writing about a very British upbringing in a way that is so relatable, while making you feel nostalgic, and then still be glad it’s over. I never got around to reviewing Goodbye Perfect, but let me tell you that she deals with difficult situations that arise in teenage life perfectly. She portrays the struggle, the uncertainty of how to deal with it, the messing up, the trying to get it right, the friendship that feels like it’s everything, just all of the things we knew as young women in a British school. She has it. It’s hard to explain, especially to an international person reading this post, but let me tell you that if you want an insight into growing up in the UK, Sara Barnard is it.

“Relief is a flat word for an emotion that feels so boundless.”

Complex friendships – For young girls, having a best friend is everything. Sure, you have friends from school, friends from this thing you do, but you only have one best friend. Or at least that’s the dream. That there’s one person who no matter what would drop anything and everything for you at any point and you’d do the same for her. That was always my ideal, but something I never had. I was always friends in threes and I felt like the third wheel. It took a lot in my life for me to realise that it doesn’t matter not having that one best friend and that you could have more than one person who you could rely on. I really felt the friendship between Caddy and Rosie as the friendship I had always dreamed of, the splintering when Suzanne came into the picture, and then the realisation that your friendships could be different with different people and still have the same value.

“But people we love come and go, Caddy. That doesn’t mean we loved them any less at the time.”

The portrayal of British life – I already mentioned it, but honestly, it’s perfect. There’s one scene where Caddy is arguing with her parents about drinking at parties and she thinks, ‘I’d been drinking at parties with my friends since I was thirteen years old. My parents could have raised me however they wanted, but I’d still have grown up in the world,’ and that whole scene is just a summary of drinking culture in the UK. That and them all drinking in the park until 1am.

“I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve lost control of your life. And I know you. Helping someone who feels like that isn’t in saying yes, Caddy. It’s in saying no.”

Mental health depiction – This I’ve saved til last, and you’ll notice my different format because I couldn’t really pinpoint my likes and dislikes in the same way as usual and the mental health side was a very grey area for me. You’re probably thinking, “but Imi, this book is about mental health, if that wasn’t handled well, why are you giving it 4-stars,” well, Reader, it’s because it wasn’t handled badly either. As someone who has struggled with mental health from a young age, I saw myself a lot in the struggles, I related to it and understood it. I also saw and related to the way Caddy and Rosie interacted with Suzanne, the way they tried to help, the way they didn’t help and the ways they enabled her. This, I feel, was all done very well. I think what jars me the most, is the way the adults approach mental health and Suzanne’s specific situation, and my biggest problem with it is that I cannot work out if it’s me as a person thinking, ‘this is awful, you can’t do that’ or me as a reader going, ‘this is awful, you can’t write that’. The more I think on it, the more I think that parents, teachers, guardians may well act that way to protect their families, other children, but the idea they would do it to the detriment of another hurts. It scares me that this is the reality of some, that they are written off as trouble makers, problem children. Honestly, this book was wonderful, and Sara writes it so beautifully.

Representation: Mental health, specifically depression and bi-polar.
Content Warning: Physical abuse, mental abuse, attempted suicide, slut-shaming, self-harm.

The sequel, Fierce Fragile Hearts, is out 7th February 2019.
Pre-order it here.

What have you read this week? Drop me a link in the comments!

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F/F FEBRUARY | Reading Challenge Announcement

A week ago, my best friend and fellow blogger, Kath, finished Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – a book that, If you haven’t read yet, you should pick up imminently. She immediately messaged our bookish group chat saying how amazing it was, by which began a long conversation about how amazing and soft the F/F relationship was, and how we should all read more Sapphic fiction. Another of the group, Ellie, and I jumped on this idea, and so was born F/F February.

“Her kisses heal the parts of me that the King broke. They tell me: You are strong, Lei. You are beautiful. You are mine. And, always, most important: You are yours.”

Girls of Paper and Fire released in November 2018 with Hodder & Stoughton.

Our aim is simple, we want to get as many people reading and talking about books that star female / female relationships as possible. The LGBTQIA+ book community is huge, but we all know that M/M relationships tend to feature so much more widely than any other, so we want to see more people talking about F/F.

To do this, we are hosting three challenges, running from 1st-28th February:

  1. A giveaway to win any book starring an F/F relationship, including the possibility of a pre-order of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, which releases at the end of the month. To enter this, all you have to do is tweet or post a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #FFFebruaryReads telling us about the F/F books you have read this month. We know that not every reads as much as others, so numbers don’t matter, just read what you can and talk about it A LOT.
  2. A bingo challenge – we will have prompts to help you pick your reads and completing a bingo (any three horizontally, vertically or diagonally) will win you an extra entry into the giveaway!
  3. A photo challenge – this one is for Instagram! Taking part will also gain you one extra entry to the giveaway.
Huge thank you to Becky for creating the art for the challenge.

Our prime aim is just to get more people talking about and reading F/F – be it in YA, fantasy, sci-fi, romance or contemporary. Anything goes, as long as there is a primary F/F relationship!

We’ll also be putting out a post with suggestions for what to read – an F/F masterlist! So get planning, we’d love to see as many people joining in as possible.


Sapphicathon is another reading challenge which is run on Twitter on 1st-7th February. We have made our challenge quite open on rules to take part so people can participate in both challenges. We are not trying to compete as we all want the same thing: for everyone to read more F/F fiction!

Will you be taking part in our reading challenge? Let us know below!

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REVIEW | The Wicked King (Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black

Name: The Wicked King (Folk of the Air #2)
Author: Holly Black
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Format: Hardback
Source: Waterstones Pre-Order
Rating: ★★★★★

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her, even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Much like the majority of the book community, I fell deeply in love with the story of Jude Duarte in The Cruel Prince last year. Much like the majority of the book community, I waited avidly for almost 365 days until I could get my hands on this bad boy. And boy did I devour it when I did.

“Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.”

I’ll admit to you now, my hands are still shaking as I type. I’m also terrible (as I’m sure you all know) at writing reviews as soon as I finish a book. But here we are, perhaps an hour after reading the closing sentence. My biggest thing I have to say is that Holly Black is not only the Queen of Faerie, but also the Queen of Sequels. I did not think anyone could top The Cruel Prince and yet here we are with an absolutely shocking, dark, sequel full of twists and turns that had me guessing from the get-go. I cannot breathe. I’m not sure I did breathe while reading the final hundred pages or so.

“It seems I have a singular taste for women who threaten me.”

One thing is for sure, there are so many snakes in Faerie that I did not know where the next betrayal was coming from. It was like playing a game of chess but all the pieces look like pawns until you realise they’re actually all queens.

  • Jude & Cardan’s relationship – the sexual tension, the trust, the lack of trust, the friendship, the hatred, the ‘kiss me until I’m sick of it’, the commands, the control, the lack of control. I don’t know but everything about this pair is golden.
  • The backstabbing – so much betrayal. Like I said, I could not have guessed what was coming next.
  • The Undersea – we finally meet Queen Orlagh and her court and if you know me, you know how much I love everything to do with the sea. Holly does not disappoint.
  • Jude’s fashion – sub-point completely unrelated to how good the book was, but honestly, every power move she made with each badass outfit just makes me require fan art of every scene.
  • The cliffhanger – the fact that I am going to have to wait another 365 days for Queen of Nothing is killing me already.

Representation: LGBTQIA+ (strong allusions to characters being bi and/or pansexual)
Content Warning: entrapment, slavery, graphic animal death, violence, mild sexual content

TL;DR: This book was everything I needed and more. If you loved The Cruel Prince, you will go insane for this book. Give me Queen of Nothing yesterday.

Have you read The Wicked King yet? What did you think? Link me to your review in the comments!

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2019 READING GOALS | Reading outside my comfort zone & smashing my TBR

HAPPY NEW YEAR ONE AND ALL! Now that 2019 is upon us, it’s time to find out what my reading resolutions are for the year! I’m sure you’ve already been inundated with posts about 2019 reading and blogging goals but hopefully you aren’t too bored of them just yet because here’s mine.

Thanks to my ridiculous book buying habits, subscription boxes and the lovely publishers who send me review copies, my TBR is once again overrun. But this is it. This is the year when I reduce my 174 unread physical books (I counted yesterday, ouch) down. I am smashing my TBR in 2019.

This is going to be my main goal this year, not my goodreads goal. My plan is to schedule my reading better (while still giving myself leeway for mood reads) and get rid of the massive stack of unread books I have.

But that’s not all, I also have some challenges I’m setting myself so that I read more widely – books I wouldn’t necessarily pick up myself, and books in categories that I don’t read enough of.

Let’s have a look at these challenges…


  • Read 85 books – not a lot to explain here, just my goodreads goal. I ended up reading 108 books in 2018, but, while I need to reduce my TBR, I also need to balance my time better.
  • Reduce my physical TBR to 100 – I know that every book I read in 2019 won’t be one I already own, and this is a pretty big reduction and a tall task. I only read 19 books from my pre-owned TBR last year. I may be asking too much of myself here, but I saw someone on twitter say that for every ‘new’ book they read, they have to read an already owned book afterwards. This is my goal!
  • Read my 12 must-read backlist books – I’m a sucker for mood reading so even when I want to read a book, I don’t always end up prioritising it. This year, I’ve chosen 12 that I have to read before the end of the year.
  • Read 10 friend recommendations – this idea I stole from the lovely Tes who did this in 2018 and the recs I’ve had so far have been great – I’ll pop a list down below!
  • Read 6 graphic novels – I’m not very good at reading anything other than books and I really want to get into graphic novels. Plus, The Steel Prince bind up comes out next year…
  • Read 6 pre-1995 books – in 2018 I only read two books published before I was born, Pride and Prejudice and A Study in Scarlet. I want to read more books from the 20th Century, more classics, more variety.
  • Read 25 books with a male protagonist and / or written by a male author – I’ve fallen into a habit of reading a lot of female authors and a lot of female protagonists. I know that’s not the worst trend, considering the publishing industry is still overrun with men, but I need to diversify more. 
  • Pre-order less books that are going to sit on my shelf unread – a fairly straightforward one. I used pre-orders in 2018 as a loophole for my book buying ban, but I need to be stricter with myself. No pre-orders unless I’ve read the rest of the series, it’s a by must-buy author, or I’ve been really anticipating it.

2019 Must-Reads

So these are the books that I personally think I should prioritise in 2019. I own all of them in physical copy (and in some cases, have done for many years).

  1. The Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3) – Sabaa Tahir
  2. Children of Blood and Bone (#1) – Tomi Adeyemi
  3. The Lies of Locke Lamora (#1) – Scott Lynch
  4. The Bone Witch (#1) – Rin Chupeco
  5. Now I Rise (#1) – Kiersten White
  6. Spellslinger (#1) – Sebastian de Castell
  7. Cracking – Emma Geraghty
  8. The Magicians (#1) – Lev Grossman
  9. Mort – Terry Pratchett
  10. How Do You Like Me Now? – Holly Bourne
  11. The Wicked Deep (#1)– Shea Earnshaw
  12. False Hearts – Laura Lam

2019 Friend Recs

  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt [rec’d by Tes]
  • The Name of the Wind (#1) – Patrick Rothfuss [rec’d by Melanie]
  • The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1) by Katherine Arden [rec’d by Kath]
  • Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor [rec’d by Lexy]
  • Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway [rec’d by James]
  • The Diviners (#1) by Libba Bray [rec’d by Wren]
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde [rec’d by Ellie]
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson [rec’d by Bee]
  • Dry by Neal Schusterman [rec’d by Jess]
  • Finnikin of the Rock (#1) by Melina Marchetta [rec’d by Josie]

2019 Pre-Orders

8 The Wicked King (Folk of the Air #2) Holly Black
8 Kingdom of Copper (Daevabad #2) S. A. Chakraborty
10 Superman: Dawnbreaker (DC Icons #4) Matt de la Pena
22 The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) Maureen Johnson
29 King of Scars (Grishaverse) Leigh Bardugo
29 Song of the Dead (Reign of the Fallen #2) Sarah Glenn Marsh

26 The Priory of the Orange Tree Samantha Shannon

7 A Girl Called Shameless (The Exact Opposite of Okay #2) Laura Steven
12 The Near Witch V.E. Schwab
2 The Wicked Saints (#1) Emily A. Duncan
2 The Devouring Gray (#1) Christine Lynn Hermann
4 The Boy Who Steals Houses C. G. Drews

…and that’s just the first four months.

Book Clubs

Finally, I’m joining in with some group reads that span the multiple months hosted by dear friends of mine.

This is hosted on goodreads by my good friend, Melanie, and her co-host, Amy. Every month they’re having a group buddy read and the first one begins today with The Wicker King by K. Ancrum!

Mel always has amazing recs, so I know this is a great choice for me as I trust her taste implicitly. The book club will be focusing on diverse books from own voices authors and marginalised voices.

This is hosted on instagram by another amazing friend of mine, Tes, and her co-host, Natalie. This will be a monthly ‘read at your own speed’ readalong of, you guessed it, Jane Austen novels beginning with Sense and Sensibility for January! This challenge really helps me with my pre-1995 goal!

This is again hosted by Mel, and co-hosted with Dani. Again, this will be a great help with my pre-1995 challenge, but also for every classic, there’s a group watch of an adaptation and some further reading for modern retellings!

JAN A Study in Scarlett – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A Study in Charlotte – Brittany Cavallaro
A Study in Pink (2010) – BBC Sherlock
FEB Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
PBS Wuthering Heights mini-series (2009)
MAR Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
BBC Sense and Sensibility mini-series (2005)
SEP Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
PBS Rebecca mini-series (1997)
OCT Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
Jack Clayton’s 1983 film adaptation
NOV Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Joe Wright’s 2012 film adaptation

What are your reading goals for 2019? If you’ve written a blog post, link me to it below!

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2018 WRAP UP | Top reads and top releases of the year

It’s wrap up time! If you follow me on instagram, you’ll have seen my top 2018 books already but here’s your not-very-concise summary of my favourite books of the year, plus a statistical round up of what I’ve read!

Total Books Read: 108
Pages Read: 38,789
Hours of Audio: 239.81
Total Reviewed: 43


Clean [2018] – Juno Dawson

A beautiful story of recovery, friendship and inner strength. Though it centres around a character will a drug problem, it is very relatable for other types of recovery. This book was everything I needed to read as a survivor and everything I wish I’d had while I was still at my worst.

Truly Devious (#1) [2018] – Maureen Johnson

A brilliant mystery, set at an old boarding school. The story switches between the present day and the 1920s, as the protagonist tries to solve a cold case murder and stumbles upon a new case of her own.

A Thousand Perfect Notes [2018] – C.G. Drews

A stunningly heartbreaking tale of a young pianist. The lyrical prose flows like the music Cait describes and I felt every word in my soul. It made me crave performing again, more than I have since I stopped five years ago.

The Hate U Give [2017] – Angie Thomas

I don’t feel like I need to talk too much about this. Every single human that walks this earth needs to read this book.


“It aches in minor, like butterflies and broken wings.”

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews

“I wish I could be as subtle and beautiful. All I know how to do is scream.”

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman


The City of Brass (Daevabad #1) [2018] – S.A. Chakraborty

A lavish middle-eastern fantasy, rich with world-building, fantastical characters and intriguing plot. This was a very early read in the year for me, and it’s stood the test of 365 days and still remains a favourite. I’m crazy excited for The Kingdom of Copper, and if you haven’t picked this up yet, you should.

The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air #1) [2018] – Holly Black

This came in my January Fairyloot box and yet for some reason I put it off until March. Foolish because, as I’m sure you’re all aware by this point, it’s an incredible book. Morally grey characters, fair folk and a determined, kick-ass, warrior of a human girl. Count me in.

To Kill A Kingdom [2018] – Alexandra Christo

Seriously one of the best Little Mermaid retellings in existence. Ariel as a Siren, Ursula as her mother, and Eric as a Siren-hunter prince. Can you guess how that goes down? Nope, because it’s even better than whatever you’re thinking right now.

Nevernight (#1) [2016] – Jay Kristoff

One of my final reads of the year and honestly, it took the cake. Female assassin with a sharp wit, sarcastic not-cat and a dozen other characters who could all kill me and I would thank them. Jay Kristoff, you have become my new auto-buy.


“Cock is just another word for ‘fool.’ But you call someone a cunt, well …” The girl smiled. “You’re implying a sense of malice there. An intent. Malevolent and self-aware. Don’t think I name Consul Scaeva a cunt to gift him an insult. Cunts have brains, Don Tric. Cunts have teeth. Someone calls you a cunt, you take it as a compliment. As a sign that folk believe you’re not to be lightly fucked with.”

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

“He has eyes like vast pools and a jaw made from shipwrecks and broken coral. Every movement he makes is as quick and fluid as a tidal wave. He belongs to the ocean. He is made from it, as much as I am.”

To Kill A Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

“You’re some kind of thief, then?”
“That a very narrow-minded way of looking at it. I prefer to think of myself as a merchant of delicate tasks.”

The City of Brass – S. A. Chakraborty

H I S T O R I C A L / M Y T H O L O G I C A L

A Sky Painted Gold [2018] – Laura Wood

This was my pick of the summer and still one of my favourites by the end of the year. A beautiful, easy-reading novel set in 1920s Cornwall following a young girl struggling with the life laid out for her – marry a man, settling down, having children. Instead she goes off for a summer of fun when a wealthy family comes in to town. So, so enjoyable.

The Song of Achilles [2011] – Madeline Miller

A beautifully written adaptation of The Iliad from the point of view of Patroclus. It’s a must-read for any lover of the classical or Homeric world, and any lyrical prose lover besides. I am planning on devouring Miller’s second book, Circe in 2019. 

The Silence of the Girls [2018] – Pat Barker

A fierce and shocking look at the Trojan War from Briseis’ point of view. A lot of discourse on slavery and rape, so not a pleasant read, but definitely an important one. As much as I loved A Song of Achilles, it does romanticise the brutal events that mythologically took place.
I had the pleasure of hearing Part Barker speak about the book at the Manchester Lit Fest, and I couldn’t recommend seeing her speak enough.

Mythos [2017] – Stephen Fry

If you love myths but can’t remember them all, or don’t know anything about them and are slightly intrigued, Mythos is the perfect read for you. A contemporary and amusing commentary on the old classics by our national treasure, Stephen Fry. I actually listened to the audiobook of this, and would highly recommend it to everyone, continuing the oral tradition of myth – also read to you by Fry himself.


“Perhaps it was time for fathers to teach their sons how to behave around young women. They were not born superior, no matter how society falsely conditioned them. We were all equals here.”

Hunting Prince Dracula – Kerri Maniscalco

“We’re going to survive–our songs, our stories. They’ll never be able to forget us. Decades after the last man who fought at Troy is dead, their sons will remember the songs their Trojan mothers sang to them. We’ll be in their dreams–and in their worst nightmares too.”

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker


The Kiss Quotient [2018] – Helen Hoang

An absolutely stunning romance about a woman on the autism spectrum who wants to learn how to date so hires an escort. I’ve read this trope quite a bit, ‘girl hires escort to lose her virginity and they fall in love’ or some such thing, but this was not predictable in the same way at all. Beautifully written and heart-warming, I devoured this in a single sitting.

All Your Perfects [2018] – Colleen Hoover

Y’all know I’m a sucker for a CoHo book, and yet again this one ruined me. I wouldn’t place it as one of my favourites, but it’s the one that made me weep the most. Perhaps it’s because I have reached the time in my life where I can see myself in these characters more than ever. It wasn’t perfect, but I ugly cried and I felt everything.

Atheists Who Kneel and Pray [2017] – Tarryn Fisher

Just like CoHo, I’m a sucker for Tarryn too. This I wouldn’t necessarily class as a romance, but with every Tarryn book, it’s hard to find a box to put her in. AWKAP was everything I am and everything I needed. It resonated in my soul and I felt every inch of Yara’s fear of falling, fear of forgiving, her wanderlust. Everything.

Pride and Prejudice [1813] – Jane Austen

You all know it, but have you actually read it or just watched the film? I’m not a massive fan of classics, I often find them difficult to read and I don’t think as much store should be set on them as there often is, but this was a joy. I tried to read this years ago and stopped about halfway, but upon acquiring the audiobook, I devoured it in days. Brilliant.


“You can be strong and have moments of incredible despair. Those moments are not weaknesses. They are simply moments. And they are not you.”

Hate to Want You – Alisha Rai

“You don’t forgive because they deserve it. Most of the time they don’t. You forgive to keep your heart soft. To move forward without bitterness. Forgiveness is for you.”

Atheists Who Kneel and Pray – Tarryn Fisher

S C I – F I

Obsidio (Illuminae #3) [2018] – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

The epic conclusion of the Illuminae Files, and due to my not reading Gemina until this year, this spot could have gone to either book. However, as in love with Nik and Hanna as I was, having the main characters from the previous two books and two new protagonists come together to save the universe really gave Obsidio the edge. If you haven’t read this series yet, what are you waiting for?!

Light Years (#1) [2018] – Kass Morgan

This one actually shocked me – I wasn’t expecting to love it quite as much as I did. The beginning of a new sci-fi series from the author of The 100, Light Years has an intriguing and diverse cast of characters to sink your teeth into.

Vengeful (Villains #2) [2018] – V.E. Schwab

This is my #1 2018 release. I was so anticipating it as I read and adored Vicious last year and it was such a joy to read. The found family of Syd, Mitch, Victor and Doll makes me smile so wide and all the new additions were perfect. Could not recommend this series enough.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Wayfarers #2) [2014] – Becky Chambers

This was my joint #1 read of the year and my joint #1 best book of all time. That is how incredible this book is. Beautiful found family, beautiful diversity and acceptance of beings despite race, species, sexuality and gender. Honestly, it was stunning.


“Perhaps she was glass. But glass is only brittle until it breaks. Then it’s sharp.”

Vengeful – V. E. Schwab

“Patience and Silence had one beautiful daughter. And her name was Vengeance.”

Gemina – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

“People can do terrible things when they feel safe and powerful.”

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

“We cannot blame ourselves for the wars our parents start. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away.”

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

“No sapient could sustain happiness all of the time, just as no one could live permanently within anger, or boredom, or grief.”

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

If you couldn’t guess, I really liked The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and it’s very quotable so…

F E M I N I S T & L G B T Q I A +

Girls of Paper and Fire (#1) [2018] – Natasha Ngan

Honestly one of my favourite books of the year. The most beautiful and empowering book about girls who are taken from their homes to be the king’s concubines and falling in love with each other. This book was everything.

Furyborn (Empirium #1) [2018] – Claire Legrand

A new fantasy trilogy with implied bisexual protagonists (I think, own voices) who live a millennium apart. Full of fierce women, fighting for themselves and their people. Plus, there’s so many Phantom of the Opera vibes and I loved it.

Sawkill Girls [2018] – Claire Legrand

Claire smashed it out the park for me this year – a creepy tale centring around three girls who are gay, bisexual, asexual, PoC and plus-sized between them. And it’s natural. It’s not diversity bingo. It’s beautiful.

Every Heart A Doorway (Wayward Children #1) [2016] – Seanan McGuire

The beginning of a fantasy novella series which I like to describe as a diverse Faraway Tree for adults. It has so much representation that I can’t even begin to list it, but notably an ace protagonist.


“You are strong, Lei. You are beautiful. You are mine. And, always, most important: You are yours.”

Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan

“I couldn’t quite believe how much I seriously loved Aled Last, even if it wasn’t in the ideal way that would make it socially acceptable for us to live together until we die.”

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman


The Exact Opposite of Okay (#1) [2018] – Laura Steven

This book gets a special mention because I didn’t actually read it this year, though it was released in 2018. This made my top 2017 reads and so I had to just drop in and say, hello this is fantastic, hilarious and incredibly important contemporary about slut-shaming and revenge porn. Every young woman and every parent of a young woman should absolutely read this book. I made my mother read it, make yours.

The Priory of the Orange Tree [2019] – Samantha Shannon

I honestly have no words for the masterpiece that is this book. If you do not have it on pre-order yet, I implore you to stop what you’re doing right now and do it. This book is the next big thing in the world of high fantasy, and shooting it’s way into a genre filled to bursting with male authors, Shannon’s prose is a breath of fresh air. This is the feminist Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings we have been waiting for. Plus, DRAGONS.

“My blood is the sea, and it cannot be still.”

The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

GIVEAWAY: For the chance to win one of the books featured in this post, check out my Instagram later on today!

I’d love to hear about your top 2018 reads and / or releases, so let me know in the comments or link me to your post!

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IMI RECOMMENDS | Socially important millennial fiction

We always hear about the books that shaped history, the classics which were ahead of their time, leading social change. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Orwell’s 1984, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and so many more. But what about the books of our generation, which are shaping our lives and socially important now? Well, here’s my list!

A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) by Khalid Hosseini

Adult, Historical

Why You Should Read This Book: I read this book when I was 16 and it has since remained the most important book I have ever read. It follows two generations of Afghani women across 30 years and taught me more about the history of the conflict in Afghanistan than any news source ever could. It shattered my heart and enlightened my soul. If you’ve read The Kite Runner, then should should undoubtedly read this, but even if you haven’t, this book hits powerful chords in relation to war, family, women’s rights and survival.

Representation: PoC, mental health, immigration.
Content Warnings: Suicide, war themes, domestic violence, rape, abuse, miscarriage, death, severe misogyny, stoning.


“Learn this now and learn it well. Like a compass facing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.”

The Hate U Give (2017) by Angie Thomas

YA, Contemporary

Why You Should Read This Book: With the number of black people being unjustly killed in the US every day, it is astounding that everyone in the world has not read this book. And they should. I say this as someone who has only just finished it. It should not have taken me so long to pick it up and if you haven’t, you should this very minute. There’s even a film now if you’re not into reading.

Representation: PoC main characters and black culture, mental health (grief and implied PTSD), strong familial relationships, second chances / rehabilitation.
Content Warnings: Shooting, gang themes, riots, violence, loss of loved ones, grief, substance abuse, drug dealing, police brutality, racism. Please research for more if you think this book may be triggering.


Thoughts from others…

“It demonstrates why representation in YA lit matters so much and that despite previous reticence of publishers, books written by PoC make money (which is sadly their bottom line).” – Josephine Boyce, author of the Rebellion duology

“It shows people what being African American in the USA is like, what it’s like to grow up in the inner city, how you have to deal with other people’s perception of you, and about prejudice.” – Colleen (@jedithebookpup)

“You know. We all know. Masterpiece. Especially in the US where police brutality is rampant.” – Melanie (blogger at Meltotheany)

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (2014) by Becky Chambers

Adult, Sci Fi

Why You Should Read This Book: This is the single most diverse book I have ever read and bonus points, it’s set in space. There are so many different species with beliefs of acceptance and prejudice across gender, sexuality and race. It’s a futuristic and fantastical look at the prejudices that divide the human race and is incredibly eye opening.

Representation: A racially (in terms of species) and sexually diverse cast of characters, so many different species and cultures, so much rep I can’t even list it.
Content Warnings: War themes, death, loss of loved one. Please research for more if you think this book may be triggering.


“People can do terrible things when they feel safe and powerful.” 

Girls of Paper and Fire (2018) by Natasha Ngan

YA, Fantasy

Why You Should Read This Book: This book is a beautiful and powerful embodiment of women fighting for themselves, their bodies and their rights in a fiercely misogynistic and patriarchal society. It explores caste systems and social segregation through the demonic castes, but further that that, explores a woman’s right to be treated as a human being despite her caste, her right to give her body to whoever she chooses and keep it from those she does not.

There are some very graphic scenes in this book – Natasha wrote a very beautiful and important and detailed author note at the front so please read that if in doubt. 

Representation: Asian PoC, F/F romance, racial castes (defined through demon, half-demon, human).
Content Warnings: Rape, sexual assault, slavery, sex trafficking, loss, murder, abduction, captivity, torture, physical abuse, war themes. Please research for more if you think this book may be triggering.


“You are strong, Lei. You are beautiful. You are mine. And, always, most important: You are yours.”

It Ends With Us (2016) by Colleen Hoover

New Adult, Contemporary

Why You Should Read This Book: This is one of the most impactful novels I have read. The lessons this book taught me about love and abuse will stay with me forever. I still don’t think domestic violence is talked about enough, we all know about it, we may know someone who has experienced it, but what are we doing about it? In this book, Colleen Hoover is doing something, she’s giving victims a voice, she’s giving them strength. 

Representation: Female friendship, homelessness, mental health.
Content Warnings: Domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse, attempted rape. Please research for more if you think this book may be triggering.


Thoughts from others…

It Ends With Us does a great job exploring how ‘easy’ it is to fall into an abusive relationship, and how confusing feelings can be in that situation.” – Victoria (@victoriaeellis2).

“It’s one of the first contemporary novels to touch on how relationships can slowly unravel and an abusive one can begin without noticing. It explores the cycle of children of abusive relationships falling into ones of their own and the realisation that it can happen when you least expect it.” – Bee (blogger at Beauty and the Books)

“Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love.”

I asked other bloggers, bookstagrammers and fellow book nerds what they thought the most socially important millennial books were – here are some answers!

Symptoms of Being Human (2016) by Jeff Garvin

“It’s the first person POV of a gender-fluid teen navigating high school. Being unfamiliar with what exactly being gender fluid meant, I felt it was a really eye-opening read for me. And Riley, the narrator, has such an honest voice that easily draws the reader in.” – Jennifer (bookstagrammer at

Sawkill Girls (2018) by Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls was the first book I’ve read where I’ve seen on page ace representation, that is not only introduced seamlessly throughout the story but explored and discussed with respect a partner. There is also further queer rep and PoC rep, which is important for a multitude of young readers seeing themselves in the protagonists..” – Lauren (blogger at Northern Plunder)

Our Own Private Universe (2017) by Robin Talley

“It is not only a very romantic contemporary featuring two queer women, one of who is a person of colour and bisexual, but it also talks about the importance of safe sex which is rare in ya contemporary and almost non existent in sex education when it’s about same sex relationships” – Kayla (@mskayla.reads)

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2016) by Becky Albertalli 

“Because straight and white should not be the default, and it gives LGBTQ teens a happy ending when there are many books and TV shows that do the opposite for these characters.” – Lauren  (@leakycauldrons)

The Astonishing Colour of After (2018) by Emily X. R. Pan

“This book is all mental health and identity and is probably the book that meant the most to me all year. I have never read a book that discusses depression better than this one.” – Melanie (blogger at Meltotheany)

Girl Made of Stars (2018) by Ashley Herring Blake

“This is an important book because it showcases the aftereffects of sexual abuse and rape. It also has bi rep, gender fluid rep, talks about anxiety and PTSD. Great book to have in this day and age.” – Felicia (bookstagrammer at

The Long Song (2010) by Andrea Levy

“It’s about racial inequality, slavery and social unrest in a British colony. It’s a powerful story of love and  survival.” – Jess (blogger at Jessica Writes)

Looking for Alaska (2006) by John Green

“Because of it’s cult-like status it has made more people read across a range of ages, and sparked conversations about YA, the glorification of misery, and the manic, pixie dream girl.” – Julie (@LessonInGravity)

The Fifth Season (2015) by N. K. Jemisin

The Broken Earth trilogy tackles white supremacy, racism, and oppression head on, and reminds us that we shouldn’t vote on who gets to be people. ” – Melanie (blogger at Meltotheany)

The Female of the Species (2016) by Mindy McGinnis

“It’s mostly about rape, but not only. It also talks about how women are seen and it really resonated with me. The protagonist is morally grey, and yet, a lot of the way she spoke up and fought during the book made me heavily reflect on how people tend to remain silent and watch from afar instead of taking action.” – Camilla (blogger at Reader in the Attic)

Noughts & Crosses (2006) by Malorie Blackman

“It handles incredibly relevant and damaging social issues – the lasting impact of racism and segregation, with a twist that compels entitled audiences to consider the alternative side of their privilege – whilst being extremely accessible for children and young adults through making them and their struggles the focus.” – Becky (@padabecky)

This list is by no means conclusive, so please feel free to list the books you think are social important in this generation in the comments!

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