My favourite comfort books

Hi everyone,

In these dark times, I’ve found myself strongly desiring books that are happy, comforting, encouraging or funny. I’m usually a person who adores the books that stab you in the heart, and don’t usually read many happy, calming stories. But I wanted to chat about the few that I have loved: if I, lover and enthusiast of books that will break you, fall in love with a happy book, the book must be pretty damn great!

Speculative fiction

The Afterward by E.K Johnston

The Afterward takes the heroic knight quest and twists it on its head. Instead of telling the story of the quest, it takes place after the quest is over. The main focus of the story is what happens to the knights after they’ve completed the quest? It is a slice of life, female centric, character drivem, f/f fantasy. When I read it, I felt so calm when compared to my usual fantasy reads filled with urgency, panic and tension.

I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

I Hope You Get This Message combines the mystery and magic of science fiction with the heavy character driven narratives of contemporary YA. It follows three teens trying to keep their families together, at the end of the world. It is a beautiful, touching and hopeful look at how humanity copes at the end of the world.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

One of my more recent reads, Upright Women Wanted was the biggest bundle of fun! Novella length, this was marketed as ‘queer librarian spies on horseback’ and it certainly delivers that! Set in a Western style world, this novella follows Esther as she tries to escape her village by hiding in the back of a librarian’s wagon. What follows is the queerest adventure across the US as Esther discovers what the librarians really do. I really hope we’ll get more books in this world because I loved it and the characters so, so much!

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith

I feel like I’ve spoken a lot about this book recently, and that’s because I’m pretty sure it will contend for one of my favourite books of the year. It is just THE BEST fun! It is a complete breath of fresh air in fantasy. It is the sassiest, snarkiest book with some of my absolute favourite characters. The Library of the Unwritten is all about Hell’s library, where all the unwritten manuscripts are kept. When a character escapes from the book to go meet their writer, Claire, Head Librarian, must hunt the character down and restore them to their manuscript. Of course, nothing goes right, and suddenly Claire finds herself in the midst of a war between heaven and hell. I also want to shout this book out as having the first on page pansexual rep I’ve ever read in fantasy, and so I love it even more.

The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

The Infinite Noise is another slice of life fantasy that blew me away. I came into the book completely new, having never heard of the podcast before. The Infinite Noise expands on characters from the podcast The Bright Sessions, a podcast about people with superpowers going to therapy. It is another character driven story, one about Caleb struggling to control his powers, and Adam, a schoolmate who seems to be able to calm Caleb down when he is struggling for control. Whilst it does have a strong depression plotline, this book is on my comfort read lists because I found it really hopeful and beautiful in the depiction, and I can’t wait to read more books in this world.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I’m sure a lot of people will have already heard of this one, it’s definitely one of the sci-fi books I see most recommended. But that’s because it is incredible! Goodbye heavy technical science ficiton, hello fun, character driven narratives that just so happen to be set in space! This is an absolutely joyous story about the rag-tag crew of the ship Wayfarer as they make their way into a warzone to create a ‘tunnel’ that will allow ships to easily fly there. The characters in this book are just phenomenal, I adored every single one. It is one of the sci-fi books that got me reading in the genre, and I can’t wait to read more like this.

Do you Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

And here’s the other book that got me reading in the genre! Do You Dream of Terra-Two? follows six young adults as they prepare to journey to Terra-Two, a potentially habitable planet. Set on an Earth where the Space Race continued and thrived after 1969, we follow the teens at their academy, where they have trained for this journey most of their lives, to their lives onboard the ship that will take them to Terra-Two. Each of the characters are brilliantly detailed and so realistic, and I loved reading every POV. In multiple POV books, I do often find there are some I just don’t care for and want to skip through, but in this book, I loved all of them! It’s one of my favourite sci-fi’s of all time and I can’t wait to read what Temi Oh writes next.

Witchmark by C.L Polk

I first read this book in the middle of a very stressful week, and it pretty much kept me together. I was completely blown away by the world and characters. I came away and the only word I could think to describe it is completely magical. It felt like magic. There is such a great mystery element, a wonderful romance, and I smiled the whole way through! The world is perfectly reminiscent of Edwardian England, with a twist: magic!


The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

The Exact Opposite of Okay holds position as ‘funniest book I’ve ever read’. Laura Steven is just so fucking hilarious I am in AWE. This book is relevant and so, so current, as main character Izzy fights back when pictures of her having sex with a politician’s son are released. It is both utterly hilarious and a feminist masterpiece.

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

This was such a fun and wonderful romance! I love love loved it. This is the queer cheerleader romance we have been looking for! Following straight-A cheerleader Sana and wannabe director Rachel, as they have to make a film together. There’s just one problem: Rachel hates Sana because years ago, Sana asked Rachel out and Rachel thought she was making fun of her. I really enjoyed this one, particularly because there was lots of focus on things outside of the romance. Every character had their own stories and own lives and we spent as much time chasing their dreams as we did on the fun romance. Looooooove.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Full Disclosure is another really funny and engaging YA, featuring sass, snark and absolutely full of queerness! The book follows Simone, an HIV positive teen as she starts at a new school and falls in love with Miles. Simone is just one of the best characters in YA: she is so fierce, snarky, confident and vulnerable, she gets shit wrong… But most of all, she sounds like she was written by an actual teen (which she was) and I think that really shines through throughout the book. There is also the most HILARIOUS sex shop scene ever and I will forever love Garrett for writing that.

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

A new favourite of mine, Only Mostly Devastated published very recently and I so hope this book gets the success it deserves. This is a reimagining of Grease, and imagine pretty much all your favourite 90s/early 00’s romcoms, but super super queer, and you will get this book! Ollie, the main character, feels so familiar: he is an anxious, snarky, sarcastic kid who loves red skittles (IT’S LITERALLY ME?!) and I love him.

Love from A to Z by S.K Ali

This is one of my favourite YA contemporaries, it’s one of the first I read in the genre and so shall always be the level to which I hold all others! Love From A to Z is just one of the greatest love stories ever, following Adam and Zayneb from when they first meet on a plane, carrying the same ‘Marvels and Oddities’ journal, to when they fall in love. Zayneb is another of my favourite characters in YA. She is such a passionate, driven person, fighting to right the wrongs of the world. This book was such a fulfiling and calming read, it was so full of love and hope and strength, and I really urge everyone to read this if you get the chance!

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I couldn’t write a list of comfort books without featuring Red, White & Royal Blue. I’m sure there isn’t much I could say about this that you don’t already know. The love story of Alex, bi icon and son of the President of the US, and Prince Henry. I’m SO CLOSE to picking this up and rereading despite the pile of other books I really need to read instead. But this is just the most joyful, most fun, most queer, love story and I adore it.

Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough

Another hilarious f/f romance on this list (clearly I have a specific comfort book type). Amelia Westlake is set at a posh, Australian school, and follows Harriet, school prodigy, and Will, school bad girl, as they work together to highlight all the school’s problems. This book is so Australian, I couldn’t stop laughing. The humour is so dry and hilarious, Will and Harriet are so much fun and I really can’t wait to read more from Erin Gough.

On my TBR

I also wanted to shout out some of the books on my TBR which, from what I can see, look to be future comfort reads. I really can’t wait to start all of these and be comforted and calmed in these scary times.

Finna by Nino Cipri

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

It Sounded Better in my Head by Nina Kenwood

The Lightning-Struck Heart by T.J Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune

The Love Hypothesis by Laura Steven

That’s it for my list of comfort reads. I really need to add some more – the large majority of my books are definitely not ‘comfort’, as much as I do adore them! What are your favourite comfort books?

Book review: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Title: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Publisher: Tor

Publication date: March 2019

Genre: Science fiction | Adult

Page extent: 462 pages


Goodreads blurb: Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

I’ve read a lot of reviews for this book, and they all say it’s one of the most unique science fiction novels they’ve read. And I don’t want to repeat that – but, it’s difficult to find the words to describe this novel otherwise. It is one of the most unique science fiction novels I’ve ever read. It is both murder mystery, political thriller, a love letter to poetry and a science fiction novel.

A Memory Called Empire will not be to everyone’s tastes. It took me 150 pages until I really began to get stuck into the style. Intensely introspective, the book takes place mostly in the mind of the main character, Mahit. Mahit is the Ambassador from an independent outer world mining station, yet to be inhaled into the massive Texicalaan Empire where Mahit serves as Ambassador. Urgently rushed to Texicalaan, Mahit arrives to find her predecessor murdered and herself embroiled in a detailed and complex political battlefield. To save herself, as well as her country, Mahit finds herself in a battle of wits between the players of this political game.

The introspective nature of this novel is hard to get into. Mahit comes from a mining station with advanced neurological technology, where memories and personality can be condensed into technology and placed into others minds – meaning those dead, can survive in the minds of others. Mahit has the memories of her predecessor in her mind, and therefore much of the bulk of this novel takes place in her mind. Her thoughts are as much a battlefield as her interactions with others, as she must discuss and talk with the predecessor embedded inside her. It’s complicated. Like, so fucking complicated. It took me 150 pages to get used to the style, and understandably, many people just won’t want to put the work in to reach enjoyment of a book. But once I did pass the 150 page mark, the style did seem to click into place. I got used to the way the plot weaves unhurridely and unrushed to focus more on Mahit and the political shenanigans around her. I got used to the poetry, the language of Texicalaan and how intensely different it is to any other book I’ve read. And I got so involved in the plot. I sped through the latter half of the novel, desperate to know what the everloving fuck was going on. The political twists and games are just phenomenal, keeping you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. It is most definitely not a novel for everyone; but if you can get used to the style, it is a detailed political mystery set in the heart of an overwhelming science fiction empire.

Also, it is SO GAY. The relationship between Mahit and her cultural liaison, is both sweet and hilarious. The two bring a lightness that is needed in such a stylistically heavy book. Their flirting and sarcasm is a joy to behold, their ease with each other, the slow burn romance, their relationship is just a wonderful addition to the book, and one that does a great job at bringing some humour to the empire.

“I could have told her the truth,” Mahit said. “Here I am, new to the City, being led astray by my own cultural liaison and a stray courtier.” Twelve Azalea folded his hands together in front of his chest.

“We could have told her the truth,” he said. “Her friend, the dead Ambassador, has mysterious and probably illegal neurological implants.”

“How nice for us, that everyone lies,” Three Seagrass said cheerfully.”

I really enjoyed this one. I’ll admit, at page 50, I almost gave up. I couldn’t get into the writing style, it felt overly complicated, and I considered just putting it down. But some of my favourite bloggers really loved this book, and so I persevered and I am so glad I did. It is definitely not the easiest book to read, it’s ridiculously complex, incredibly politically detailed, but I also thought it an absolutely masterful, completely unique combination of science fiction and art, a love letter to poetry, and a brilliant, creative new world.

Book review: Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

Title: Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: 9 July 2019

Genre: Science fiction | Adult

Page extent: 320 pages


Goodreads blurb: A lethal virus is awoken on an abandoned spaceship in this incredibly fast-paced, claustrophobic thriller.

They thought the ship would be their salvation.

Zahra knew every detail of the plan. House of Wisdom, a massive exploration vessel, had been abandoned by the government of Earth a decade earlier, when a deadly virus broke out and killed everyone on board in a matter of hours. But now it could belong to her people if they were bold enough to take it. All they needed to do was kidnap Jaswinder Bhattacharya—the sole survivor of the tragedy, and the last person whose genetic signature would allow entry to the spaceship.

But what Zahra and her crew could not know was what waited for them on the ship—a terrifying secret buried by the government. A threat to all of humanity that lay sleeping alongside the orbiting dead.

And then they woke it up.

Salvation Day is a science fiction thriller with an edge of horror, and perhaps shouldn’t be read whilst there’s a deadly virus outbreak happening around the world….

Set in a world hundreds of years after the first Collapse of Earth, a new society has been born. Councils rose to fix the wrongs of the past. But outside of the Council’s protected cities lie groups of people either escaping the Councils and their control, or refugees desperately trying to enter the cities. One such group, a cult from the North American desert, have found their chance to escape to freedom in the skies. Years ago, House of Wisdom, one of the biggest ships ever built, was destroyed in a virus outbreak. But now, the cult members have a plan to reach the ship and rebuild it to support their colony. Except then they wake up what was waiting on the ship….

Going into Salvation Day, I think I expected more horror elements than we got. It’s definitely a science fiction novel first and foremost, with a focus on space travel and somtimes intricate details of the House of Wisdom ship and it’s workings. Whilst there is a focus on the virus and the outbreak that killed everyone, particularly in the first section of the novel I didn’t find myself as scared or unsettled as I would usually feel with such a concept. And I think it’s because the heavy sci-fi focus probably muted the horrory virus aspect. BUT! There are definitely moments where it began to get to more horror and I was racing through the book to see WTF was going on! Some of my favourites (as spoiler free as possible…):
– The bathroom door
– ‘What are you doing with the knife’
– The realisation on the Bridge

I really enjoyed the breaks between the POVs of extracts from the House of Mourning Star, one of the old Earth ships from when humans tried to escape the Collapse hundreds of years ago. This way of structuring a book is something I’ve been really enjoying lately, I just love how it gives the reader that sense of all knowing because it really makes everything so much scarier.

Something I wasn’t so sure of was the cult aspect. It kind of felt like it was out of a totally different novel – it just didn’t gel together with the really sci-fi element to me. The motivations didn’t seem to line up with the stakes they were involved with, and I’m not sure I was ever satisfied with why Adam (the cult leader) was doing any of what he was. Of the characters, Jas was my favourite. He was written well, his anxiety attacks around the ship felt genuine given his past. I also really loved the Jas/Zahra ending – it was probably one of my favourite moments of the book.

The political aspects I also think needed a bit more backstory. The SPEC and their desires felt randomly added to the end of the story, and I think that plotline would’ve worked better with a few more hints earlier in the story.

All in all, I enjoyed Salvation Day. Whilst it wasn’t as horrory as I expected from a virus story, it was still a tense and fast paced thriller and I really liked the ending!

Book review: I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

Title: I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication date: 22 October 2019

Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Science fiction

Page extent: 400 pages


Goodreads blurb: Seven days. Seven days. The Earth might end in seven days.

When news stations start reporting that Earth has been contacted by a planet named Alma, the world is abuzz with rumors that the alien entity is giving mankind only few days to live before they hit the kill switch on civilization.

For high school truant Jesse Hewitt, though, nothing has ever felt permanent. Not the guys he hooks up with. Not the jobs his underpaid mom works so hard to hold down. Life has dealt him one bad blow after another — so what does it matter if it all ends now? Cate Collins, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she’s never met, the man she grew up hearing wild stories about, most of which she didn’t believe. And then there’s Adeem Khan. While coding and computer programming have always come easily to him, forgiveness doesn’t. He can’t seem to forgive his sister for leaving, even though it’s his last chance.

With only seven days to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide even as their worlds are pulled apart. 

Quiet SFF won 2019, yes I said it. This is another genre-blending book combining the mystery and magic of science fiction with the heavy character driven narratives of contemporary YA. In I Hope You Get This Message this results in an emotional portrayal of three teens at the end of the world, trying to keep their families together.

The book follows three POVs: Jesse, a kid who struggles with depression and has had a hard life after his dad died with high debt; Cate, living with her schizophrenic mum as her hallucinations worsen, trying to track down her father at her mother’s request; Adeem, desperately hurt and angry at the sister who abandoned him two years ago but desperate to find her before the end of the world. These three stories take all three to Roswell, where their journey to find their families and discover what matters to them at the end of the world will merge, and end.

I Hope You Get This Message is a wonderful debut. Each of the three POVs have their own voice and unique character which makes it a really easy and unconfusing read, which is a fault I often find with multiple POV books. Of the characters, I do think Jesse’s voice shone above the rest. I can’t say I liked him as a person (he seems to have a bit of the ‘I’ll destroy everything good in my world then blame the world for it’ trait), but his voice was so incredibly strong. I also think his flaws are incredibly realistic for the life he has held – so whilst I don’t necessarily like him because of them, I understood him and his actions so well. But sometimes I did just want to scream through the pages at him ‘JESSE NOOOOO’. I also thought the portrayal of his depression was well written; particularly the handling of his self-harm/wrist cuff: to clarify, there are no scenes of self harm, just mentions of the past event, but when it is discussed it really grabs you with the intensity of emotion.

Cate and Adeem are both still strong, but I think perhaps lacked a bit of the intensity of Jesse. Cate’s journey to find her father is interesting, living as she is for her mother’s desires and not her own. It was interesting to see her come to terms and accept that this is how she lives across the book, with an exceptional line ending her last POV. Adeem has another very interesting journey with his sister: from the strong desire to find her to reconnect his family, to the anger that courses through him that she left, his feelings are complicated and in-depth.

I really loved the crossovers between the POVs. Side characters we know cross between these three lives but without the three at the centre knowing this. I love that sense of all knowing as a reader, and I loved seeing the three characters come together and intersect as the book progressed.

The sci-fi element, whilst forming the basis of the premise for this novel, is not at the forefront. Instead, it’s an ever constant but quiet guiding force throughout the book for the characters. I enjoyed the short interludes interspersed throughout the book about the aliens discussing the fate of Earth, which kept the sci-fi more central, though I felt these short sections lacked a sense of urgency. There was no progression of tension amongst them, as I would have expected as the aliens get closer and closer to their deadline of Earth destruction.

All in all, I think I Hope You Get This Message is a brilliant debut. With easy, everyday diversity (take note SFF authors, this is how to do it!!!), well developed characters and the different discussions of family, this is definitely one to pick up!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah

Title: The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication date: 29 October 2019

Genre: Science fiction | Young Adult

Page extent: 320 pages

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Goodreads blurb: Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–and her father might be lost forever.


The Light at the Bottom of the World was one of my most anticipated 2019 releases. It didn’t quite live up to my hopes but was still an interesting and exciting premise.

I’m not sure if I somehow misread all marketing material for this book, but what I read was entirely unlike what I anticipated. Going in, I expected to see more mystery and investigation in London, leading up to the big race (this is what I gathered from the blurb). However, the race happens in the very first few pages, so what followed was a book completely unanticipated for me! Which was quite exciting as I has absolutely no idea what was going to happen.

Leyla lives in a world where Earth flooded, so the humans took to the seas. Above the water line, fierce storms rage making any possibility of living on the surface unlikely. Below, a new Britain has emerged. In London, Leyla lives under the water, using submersibles to get around the city. When she is randomly selected to take part in the annual City marathon, she is delighted. If she wins, she gets to ask the Prime Minister for anything she desires and he will grant it. Leyla plans to ask for her father’s release. Months ago, Leylas father was arrested for something he didn’t do, and she is determined to find him. However, things don’t quite go to plan (ofc not), and Leyla finds herself on a frantic hunt to find her father and run from a corrupt government.

The first incredibly exciting and unexpected element for me were the sea creatures! I don’t want to give too much away, but they are SO COOL. Several different creatures have been genetically engineered by humans for various different purposes and I really want to find out more about the creation of these. It looks like we might find out in the sequel so I am waiting with baited breath!!

Second was the corrupt government. Yes somehow I missed that on the blurb. I really just saw ‘underwater London’ and wanted it. The discovery of the government’s corruption is slow, but it creates a very mysterious and tense atmosphere. As with the sea creatures, I just wish there had been a little bit more to sate my curiosity.

Of the main characters, Armen is definitely the strongest and my favourite. He had such a fabulous air of intensity and mystery about him. His backstory is so compelling and I loved hearing about his life and where he came from. Sadly, Leyla, our protagonist just wasn’t as strong for me. She felt very naive and young for the story. Her constant ‘oh my god, what on earth, I am surprised’ six reveals in really got on my nerves. Given her backstory, I really don’t think she would be that trusting and naive. She felt very very young for the story. I realise this is a YA, but Armen felt so much older and level headed than she did. The difference between how these two behave and act is really quite striking. Either he is a lot older (in which case the romance is really weird) or Leyla’s behaviour didn’t match her age. I did appreciate her strong love for her family though, her driving force throughout the novel.

As a debut novel, I really was impressed with the scope and idea behind this world. But there were a few flaws with execution: dialogue felt stilted at times to me, and I didn’t flow through the story. It really jumped from action to action with no flow.

However! Please don’t let that put you off. Leyla really comes into her own by the end of the novel, and I’m really keen to read the next in the series to find out more about the mystery behind Leyla’s father and the sea creatures!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

2020 TBR: Science fiction

Hi everyone,

Continuing the let’s all add to our TBRs series, it’s time to get spacey. Science fiction is a genre I traditionally haven’t read much in. However, I read some absolutely epic SF books in 2019 and I hope to continue that next year! Here are some of the techy reads coming your way…


Oasis – Kataya de Becerra

Quick summary: Thriller at an archaeological dig in a sandstorm

Release date: January 7

Goodreads blurb: The oasis saved them. But who will save them from the oasis?

Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archaeological dig site in the desert with four close friends . . . and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.

With their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed . . . until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage. 

The answers turn Alif and her friends against one another, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave . . .

Katya de Becerra’s new supernatural thriller hides a mystery in plain sight, and will keep you guessing right up to its terrifying conclusion.

The Seep – Chana Porter

Quick summary: Dreams can become reality, what happens when you’re left behind?

Genres: Science fiction, adult

Release date: January 21

Goodreads blurb: A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut is perfect for fans of Jeff VanderMeer and Carmen Maria Machado.

Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.

Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.

Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.

The Stars We Steal – Alexa Donne 

Quick summary: The Bachelorette in space

Release date: February 4

Goodreads blurb: Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.

Malice – Pintip Dunn

Quick summary: God I love virus novels. Here for this trope. 

Release date: February 4

Goodreads blurb: What I know: a student in my school will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.

What I don’t know: who it is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out their identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill them. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice she’s lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way―because now she’s drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved…

The Sound of Stars – Alechia Dow

Quick summary: Alien born in a lab, with feelings and forbidden creativity 

Release date: February 25

Goodreads blurb: Don’t miss this spectacular debut novel… Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity? This road trip is truly out of this world! A beautiful and thrilling read for fans of Marie Lu and Veronica Roth.

Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.

Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.

Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.

Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.

Rebelwing – Andrea Tang

Quick summary: C y b e r n e t i c D r a g o n s 

Release date: February 25

Goodreads blurb: Business is booming for Prudence Wu.

A black-market-media smuggler and scholarship student at the prestigious New Columbia Preparatory Academy, Pru is lucky to live in the Barricade Coalition where she is free to study, read, watch, and listen to whatever she wants. But between essays and exams, she chooses to spend her breaks sweet-talking border patrol with her best friend, Anabel, in order to sell banned media to the less fortunate citizens of the United Continental Confederacy, Inc. 

When a drop-off goes awry, Pru narrowly escapes UCC enforcers to find that her rescuer is, of all things, a sentient cybernetic dragon. On the one hand, Pru is lucky not to be in prison, or worse. On the other, the dragon seems to have imprinted on her permanently, which means she has no choice but to be its pilot. 

Drawn into a revolution she has no real interest in leading, Pru, Anabel, and friends Alex and Cat become key players in a brewing conflict with the UCC as the corporate government develops advanced weaponry more terrifying and grotesque than Pru could have ever imagined.

Finna – Nina Cipri

Quick summary: Be gay, do multiverse time travel 

Genres: Science fiction, adult 

Release date: February 25 

Goodreads blurb: When an elderly customer at a big box furniture store slips through a portal to another dimension, it’s up to two minimum-wage employees to track her across the multiverse and protect their company’s bottom line. Multi-dimensional swashbuckling would be hard enough, but our two unfortunate souls broke up a week ago.

Can friendship blossom from the ashes of a relationship? In infinite dimensions, all things are possible.

A Pale Light in the Black – K.B Wagers

Quick summary: Military competition to see who’s the best at boarding ships and other space military things 

Genres: Military science fiction 

Release date: March 3

Goodreads blurb: The book centers on the rivalry between military branches, which plays out through the Boarding Games—a competition pitting service members against each other to see just who is best in events like tactical problem is solving, piloting, fencing and martial arts, and, of course, boarding actions. And while other military science fiction features the exploration and defense of far-flung reaches of space, the Neo-G protects the area closer to home—a force we could very well see in our own lifetime. Made up of a band of retired veterans and raw recruits with sub-par equipment and the scorn of the military establishment, the NEO-G are the ultimate underdogs.

The first book in the NEO-G series comes out in hardcover in Spring 2020 from Harper Voyager, starting with A Pale Light in the Black. There are currently two books planned in the series, with the option to continue.

Bonds of Brass – Emily Skrutskie

Quick summary: Pilot falls for heir to galactic Empire and most choose rebellion or the empire

Release date: April 7

Goodreads blurb: A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend–the man he trusts most and might even love–only to learn that he’s secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.

Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres–his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.

But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?

Goldilocks – Laura Lam

Quick summary: Shit this sounds good, like a cross between Becky Chambers and Emma Newman: space thriller when trying to find livable new planet 

Release date: April 30

Goodreads blurb: Ravaged by environmental disaster, greed and oppression, our planet is in crisis. The future of humanity hangs in the balance – and one woman can tip it over.

Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.

It’s humanity’s last hope for survival, and Naomi, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity like this – to step out of Valerie’s shadow and really make a difference.

But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi starts to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret – and realises time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . .

This is Station Eleven meets The Martian – a bold and thought-provoking new high-concept thriller.

Last Girls – Demetra Brodsky

Quick summary: End of the world bunker situation, stunning cover 

Release date: May 5

Goodreads blurb: No one knows how the world will end.

On a secret compound in the Washington wilderness, Honey Juniper and her sisters are training to hunt, homestead, and protect their own.

Prepare for every situation.

But when danger strikes from within, putting her sisters at risk, training becomes real life, and only one thing is certain:

Nowhere is safe.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins 

Quick summary: Hunger Games prequel! 

Release date: May 19

Goodreads blurb: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.

Fragile Remedy – Maria Ingrande Mora

Quick summary: Genetically engineered humans to cure diseases 

Release date: June 16

Goodreads blurb: Sixteen-year-old Nate is a GEM—Genetically Engineered Medi-tissue created by the scientists of Gathos City as a cure for the elite from the fatal lung rot ravaging the population. As a child, he was smuggled out of the laboratory where he was held captive and into the Withers—a quarantined, lawless region. Nate manages to survive by using his engineering skills to become a Tinker, fixing broken tech in exchange for food or a safe place to sleep. When he meets Reed, a kind and fiercely protective boy that makes his heart race, and his misfit gang of scavengers, Nate finds the family he’s always longed for—even if he can’t risk telling them what he is.

But Gathos created a genetic failsafe in their GEMs—a flaw that causes their health to rapidly deteriorate as they age unless they are regularly dosed with medication controlled by Gathos City. As Nate’s health declines, his hard-won freedom is put in jeopardy. Violence erupts across the Withers, his illegal supply of medicine is cut off, and a vicious attack on Reed threatens to expose his secret. With time running out, Nate is left with only two options: work for a shadowy terrorist organization that has the means to keep him alive, or stay — and die — with the boy he loves.

Goddess in the Machine – Lora Beth Johnson

Quick summary: I adore technology seen as gods years in the future trope 

Release date: June 30

Goodreads blurb: Andra wakes up from a cryogenic sleep 1,000 years later than she was supposed to, forcing her to team up with an exiled prince to navigate an unfamiliar planet in this smart, thrilling sci-fi adventure, perfect for fans of Renegades and Aurora Rising.

When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning.

Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists–including her family and friends–are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth.

Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne–if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her. 

With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?

All These Monsters – Amy Tinterra 

Quick summary: Monster fighting girls 

Release date: July 7

Goodreads blurb: Seventeen-year-old Clara is ready to fight back. Fight back against her abusive father, fight back against the only life she’s ever known, and most of all, fight back against scrabs, the earth-dwelling monsters that are currently ravaging the world. So when an opportunity arises for Clara to join an international monster-fighting squad, she jumps at the chance.

When Clara starts training with her teammates, however, she realizes what fighting monsters really means: sore muscles, exhaustion, and worst of all, death. Scrabs are unpredictable, violent, and terrifying. But as Clara gains confidence in her battle skills, she starts to realize scrabs might not be the biggest evil. The true monsters are the ones you least expect.

Crownchasers – Rebecca Coffindaffer

Quick summary: Lara Croft meets Star Wars, there needs no further summary 

Release date: September 29

Goodreads blurb: Lara Croft meets Star Wars in this young adult space opera, in which a wisecracking intergalactic adventurer becomes the odds-on favorite to win a deadly, cross-galaxy contest to become the quadrant’s next emperor; too bad she has no intention of winning.

Winters Orbit – Everina Maxwell

Quick summary: Queer space opera previously published on AO3 

Release date: I hope Winter 

Goodreads blurb: Winter’s Orbit is a queer, romantic space opera. In an unforgiving empire, a scandal-prone prince and a dutiful scholar, who are forced into a political marriage, try to prevent an interplanetary war. It’s about empire and notoriety and the media, but also about being locked in your own head. It starts with a diplomat who’s determined to endure his own private hell if that’s what duty requires of him, and it’s about what happens when the wall around him starts to crumble. 

(Previously published online as Course of Honour)


It was only when I made this list that I realised pretty much all the SF I am looking forward to is released in February, with a few books in other months, and that cannot possibly be right?!

So, please let me know the science fiction you are looking forward to reading next year! I need more sci-fi on my TBR! (Preferably not Feb, but I’ll take any recs…)

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

My favourite October releases

So I have known for months now that October is THE month for book releases this year for me. I have so many I am looking forward to. I have been filled with both dread and excitement at the thought of all the books I want to read. So here’s just a few that I want to jump and dance about!

Crier’s War – Nina Varela

Pub date: 1 October

Queer, f/f, enemies to lovers, SIGN ME UP RIGHT NOW. This is one of my most anticipated books of the year.

Goodreads blurb: After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

The Beautiful – Renée Ahdieh

Pub date: 8 October

I am so keen for vampires to come back into book fashion. I need more vampires in my life – and this one sounds so sultry and mysterious!

Goodreads blurb: New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

The Never Tilting World – Rin Chupeco

Pub date: 15 October

I was lucky enough to get on the blog tour for this book, run by Shealea at Caffeine Book tours! It’s my first blog tour and I can’t wait to read this!

Goodreads blurb: Frozen meets Mad Max in this epic teen fantasy duology bursting with star-crossed romance, immortal heroines, and elemental magic, perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands. 

War Girls – Tochi Onyebuchi

Pub date: 15 October

Everything about this book just sounds incredible – family dynamics, dystopian climate change destroyed world, incredible tech!

Goodreads blurb: Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther–inspired Nigeria.

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

Acclaimed author Tochi Onyebuchi has written an immersive, action-packed, deeply personal novel perfect for fans of Nnedi Okorafor, Marie Lu, and Paolo Bacigalupi.

Tarnished are the Stars – Rosiee Thor

Pub date: 15 October

Another of my hotly anticipated queer October releases! This sounds so steampunky! I always love any form of media (film, tv, books!) that has an epidemic at the centre of it so this book sounds perfect!

Goodreads blurb: The Lunar Chronicles meets Rook in this queer #OwnVoices science-fantasy novel, perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer and Sharon Cameron.

A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.

Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.

Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.

When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.

I Hope You Get This Message – Farah Naz Rishi

Pub date: 22 October

How cool does this premise sound?! 7 days till the world might end! What do you do when you’ve been given 7 days to live?

Goodreads blurb: Seven days. Seven days. The Earth might end in seven days.

When news stations start reporting that Earth has been contacted by a planet named Alma, the world is abuzz with rumors that the alien entity is giving mankind only few days to live before they hit the kill switch on civilization.

For high school truant Jesse Hewitt, though, nothing has ever felt permanent. Not the guys he hooks up with. Not the jobs his underpaid mom works so hard to hold down. Life has dealt him one bad blow after another — so what does it matter if it all ends now? Cate Collins, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she’s never met, the man she grew up hearing wild stories about, most of which she didn’t believe. And then there’s Adeem Khan. While coding and computer programming have always come easily to him, forgiveness doesn’t. He can’t seem to forgive his sister for leaving, even though it’s his last chance.

With only seven days to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide even as their worlds are pulled apart.

The Light at the Bottom of the World – London Shah

Pub date: 29 October

This is one of the books I’ve been most excited for all year, it just sounds so unique! Weird and intriguing virus, everyone lives underwater, and a mystery to save family!

Goodreads blurb: Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture-and her father might be lost forever.

A River of Royal Blood – Amanda Joy

Pub date: 29 October

Another one that has family at its heart and sounds oh so good – two sisters having to fight it out to win the crown, assassins, and magic!

Goodreads blurb: An enthralling debut perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone set in a North African-inspired fantasy world where two sisters must fight to the death to win the crown.

Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of marrow and blood–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa’s death or her own.

A River of Royal Blood is an enthralling debut set in a lush North African inspired fantasy world that subtly but powerfully challenges our notions of power, history, and identity.

Beyond the Black Door – A.M Strickland

Pub date: 29 October

I don’t know what to say to make this more interesting than the blurb already does, it sounds INCREDIBLE! Soulwalkers! Opening the door to your own soul! Court mystery! Queer!

Goodreads blurb: Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen …

Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.

But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.

When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.

A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom …

Full Disclosure – Camryn Garrett

Pub date: 29 October

Full Disclosure is a book that sounds so deeply powerful and emotional, and I know will likely be a rough, but hopeful and empowering read about acceptance and love!

Goodreads blurb: In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…


Let me know if you’re excited for any of these books, or if there’s any others I’ve missed but you are excited to read!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Top 5 Tuesday: Dystopian

So I missed the first August Top 5 Tuesday because life was sucking and blogging was hard, but I’m back now for Dystopian week!

I thought this would be waaaaay easier, but I seem to have not read very many dystopians?! And I didn’t want to choose the more obvious ones like THG or Handmaid’s Tale, so there may be one or two debatable choices on this list – but I consider them dystopian so here they are!

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

What a shock, The Fever King is the book I want to talk about first on dystopian week. This isn’t just the best dystopian novel ever, I currently consider it my favourite book EVER, and I cannot keep recommending it to everyone. The Fever King is set in a future US, where a virus (magic) has wiped out most of the population. Several hubs of survivors have risen out of the wreckage, including Carolinia, where Noam, our MC lives. The son of an immigrant, Noam survives the virus and wakes up with technopathy, an ability to control technology. He is recruited by one of the most powerful men in Carolinia, Calix Leher, and goes to train at a special school for magic-wielding survivors. There he meets Dara, Ames and the rest of a crew, tries to take down the government, and falls in love.

This book is just everything. It is such an amazing story, with lots of action and drama, and characters I would die for. What it does not have: the SEQUEL which isn’t out until MARCH. C’mon time, please hurry up. You can read my full review of this book here!

I Still Dream by James Smythe

I Still Dream is probably more sci-fi than dystopian, but I think the topics discussed in the book do make it dystopian, hence it’s appearing on this list. I Still Dream tells the story of Laura, who at 17 created an artificial intelligence called Organon. Laura uses it almost like a diary, inputting her thoughts and desires into Organon who supports her as she grows. Meanwhile, the world advances, technology changes, and corportations develop their own AI. But their AI is very different to Laura’s. Laura’s was only ever designed for her; and as Organon has developed, it has done so with Laura’s humanity and her morals. The mega-corps? Of course they didn’t care about putting controls in their AI! Why would they do that?!

This is probably my absolute favourite AI book I’ve read. Despite the plot revolving around Organon, the book really focuses on Laura which I love. We follow Laura throughout her life as she and Organon grow and develop together, from her 17 year old self, to when she’s old. I Still Dream discusses what it means to be human, and shows how we can destroy ourselves for power. It’s such a brilliant tale, with incredible character development in Laura, and a brilliant look at how technology and humanity might interact in the future.

Sealed by Naomi Booth

Sealed is a very creepy, horror-esque dystopian novel set in a future where pollution has damaged the enviornment. Cities are covered in smog; food is grown only in sterile labs, and now a virus which causes skin to grow over any openings on your body is infecting everyone. To escape, pregnant Alice and her partner escape to the mountains, where she hopes the cool, fresh air will protect her from the epidemic. Of course, things aren’t quite as expected in the mountains. Something is very wrong.

Sealed is such a fantastic book – it had me on the edge of my seat the whole way through, and is one of the most terrifying books I’ve read. I actually found the ending a little disappointing, but a lot of people LOVED the ending so it’s probably just me… I wanted a bit more resolution of the virus, which is why I picked up the book (because I have a really weird obsession with media about virus epidemics), but we didn’t. Otherwise, this was a super suspenseful and chilling book.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

The Natural Way of Things is a very Handmaid’s Tale-esque, feminist dystopian. Yolanda and Verla wake up drugged in an abandoned property in the middle of the Australian desert. Along with 8 other girls, they’ve been kidnapped from their lives and left there, forced to do hard labour each day. Two jailors and a nurse accompany them, watching over their every move. As they begin to bond with each other, we discover that each girl has a secret, a history of a sexual scandal with a powerful man – and this is what led to their kidnapping.

This is an extremely dark and uncomfortable novel discussing gender, the patriarchy, and misogyny. You can see the Margaret Atwood inspiration, but it’s such a modern look at the issues Atwood wrote about 35 years ago.

It’s pretty depressing this shit never seems to change.

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

I just finished this book last week, a book I have been looking forward to read for months, and it didn’t disappoint! The Kingdom is new theme park, one where wishes come true; where happy ever after isn’t just a hope, it’s enforced. Ana is one of seven fantasists, extremely human-like robots who are employed by The Kingdom to make wishes come true. Ana is also standing trial for murder. The Kingdom is split between Ana’s POV in the years before the trial; and in snippets of interviews and videos from the trial.

What a brilliant concept and great mystery! This book was pretty dark and gritty, despite how it first seems. Ana is very naive and unaware of The Kingdom’s seedier side, and so we discover along with her. This book has such brilliant discussions about what makes someone human, about how choices make humanity, and how dark and awful we really can be. I did wish the ending had been a bit darker – it felt a little too hopeful for me for the concept, but as it’s setting up a sequel, I’m interested to see what happens next. I have a full review of this book coming soon!

And that’s it for this week’s Top 5 Tuesday Dystopians! Let me know what you think of these books – and if you haven’t added The Fever King to your TBR yet, DO!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: Planetfall by Emma Newman

Title: Planetfall by Emma Newman

Publisher: Ace/Roc

Publication date: 3 Nov 2015

Genre: Science fiction| Adult

Page extent: 336 pages

Content warnings: severe warning for anyone suffering from anxiety as this book is very difficult to read.

Planetfall is the first of Emma Newman’s Planetfall series. Both Planetfall and Before Mars (#3) are stand alone novels and I read Before Mars earlier in the year and really enjoyed it. Planetfall is just as good – in fact, I’d even say I enjoyed it more. The mental health represenatation is absolutely exceptional. Planetfall is very much a character-driven sci-fi novel with more of a focus on people and trauma than on science or technology. This book was absolutely amazing – until the last 20 pages. The ending really didn’t satisfy me, hence why this isn’t a 5 star read.

Planetfall follows Renata, an engineer in the colony of a new planet, as she reacts to a surprise new arrival from somewhere else on the planet. Out of the wilderness of the planet walked Sung-Soo, a person who bore a remarkable resemblence to the Pathfinder who had led them to the planet. And who shouldn’t exist.

As Renata reacts to this new arrival, we find out there’s move involved than meets the eye. Something happened all those years ago when the crew made planetfall, and Renata has buried the trauma so deeply, it tears her apart as the truth is revealed.

The mystery and tension of the story is brilliant – Newman creates a very thriller-esque sci-fi, as we get hints and reveal of murder and trauma that happpened at planetfall, but we see these glimspes from the eyes of Renata, someone who has hidden these memories away so deeply she can’t remember. The mystery around the events of planetfall centre on this living organism called God’s City – a giant structure that we see as Renata explores within it. There seem to be remenants of intelligent live within the city, and we know the events of first planetfall happened here. The mystery was very engaging and I really wanted to find out what this city was and more about it. The writing was hugely visceral when within the city, and you very much got the impression it was definitely a living thing – this was paritcularly evident in scenes where Renata was forced to cut through the city. It was very realistically gross!

I adored Renata. She is by no means a likeable character – she is shown at times to be ruthless and uncaring. And yet, at the same time it is very clear she has suffered, and is suffering. Renata’s mental illness was very overwhelming to read. A big, big warning to any anxiety sufferers – this was probably the closest I’ve gotten to having to physically stop reading a book because of the level of anxiety I was feeling whilst reading. I have a huge admiration for Emma for being able to write so brutally realistically.

Sung-Soo was a character I disliked very much from the start, pretty much entirely because of the awful way he pushed Renata to force her to be open with him despite her mental illness. It was very jarring and awful to see Renata so stressed and anxious because of him. I think because of this, I was very wary of him as a character.

In saying that, I did love the ending of Sung-Soo’s arc. I thought it was absolutely perfect, and I just wish the book had ended there! The last 20 pages or so as Renata found out the mystery of God’s City kind of just felt like it should have been a totally different book? It just didn’t hugely make sense to me and felt very random and totally out of character of the rest of the book.

But despite the ending, I did really enjoy this book! Emma Newman has such an incredible ability to write mental illness into her characters in such an awfully realistic way that it is truly difficult to read. It was such a gripping book, and I definitely recommend this series to everyone!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

Book review: The Sin Soldiers by Tracy Auerbach

Title: The Sin Soldiers by Tracy Auerbach

Publisher: Parliament House Press

Publication date: 23 July 2019

Genre: Science fiction | Young adult

Page extent: 350 pages

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an electronic ARC in exhcange for an honest review.

Content warnings: implication of sexual assault (though never discussed), violence, addiction 

Sadly The Sin Soldiers is another recent read for me that had a very interesting concept but just didn’t quite work. There were lots of inconsistencies and I was just quite bored throughout, and didn’t care much for any of the characters.

Kai has been kidnapped by the Eastern Forces, and taken to a base where they inject teenagers with different compounds (meant to represent three of the seven sins – wrath, gluttony and sloth) in order to train them into soldiers. These compounds are created from crystals found on the planet. The soldiers are used to guard the mines and mine the crystals, which keep the Eastern Forces in power. Kai is brought to the compound and lives with three other characters, each on a different type of compound. 

I was quite disappointed by the book. I thought the premise of a sci-fi novel which examined addiction was really quite interesting, but I really just didn’t get into the book at all. All of the characters were just a bit meh. Their emotions and drive just changed constantly from page to page when they weren’t on the compounds. There was no consistency in their motivations at all. This seemed to be the case for the four MCs we’re supposed to root for, as well as the villains of the piece, the Eastern Forces. They’re supposed to be this really evil organisation, forcing drugs into young kids to make them zombie like creatures who’ll fight for them….and yet they let them have loving relationships? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I didn’t really find any of the villains particularly villainous. Kai, the POV we see from for most of the book wasn’t well developed. Her thoughts and feelings made no sense to me (for example, her level of hurt over the ‘betrayal’….by someone she met a day ago.) A lot of the motivations just didn’t really gel. 

The characters who came into play closer to the end, Aric and Dex, were equally confusing. Of all, I think Aric has the most potential. He’s characterised as more evil than the Eastern Forces, and this is successful – he comes across as quite creepy (and not inconsistently so!) so he’s definitely one of the better reads. Dex is just a mess who seems to not care at all for the sister he apparently spent a week worrying over and trying to rescue. I literally scoffed out loud when it got to his protective brother ‘stay away from my sister, champ’ speech. 

I don’t really have much to say about the plot. The book only lasts a week of time, and that’s just far too rushed for the amount of changes in character motivations. Perhaps the constant changing in motivation would’ve made more sense if it had actually happened over a longer period of time, instead of a day. 

I did think the concept and discussions around addiction were interesting, and I enjoyed the idea behind using these different compounds to evoke different responses in the soldiers. One of my favourite scenes was the glass in the tunnel scene, as I felt that really portrayed the evilness of the Eastern Forces as well as the trauma and feelings of addiction. I also thought the concept of the planet itself was great – I really like books based on the human race destroying Earth and embarking on a voyage to a new planet. Unfortunately, that was a very small part of the story and wasn’t mentioned much. I’d hoped we’d find out more about how the society began after escaping the dying Earth, but we didn’t. 

I really wanted to like this book. The concept was fantastic, the cover is AMAZING. I really enjoy reading books which have a good portrayal of mental illness. Unfortunately, this wasn’t it. I just didn’t get into this one – the characters really let it down for me. 

Paws out,
Rach + Draco