Babel by R. F. Kuang

After reading and really enjoying R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War trilogy, I’ve been super interested to see what she comes out with next, and now we have a new novel by her! Babel sounds like a very ambitious novel–also it’s very long–so I’m interested to see if it delivers on what it promises. I’m kind of concerned that this is going to be more about the ideas than the characters, but we’ll see. I am cautiously optimistic.

A Restless Truth by Freya Marske

I absolutely loved A Marvellous Light when I read it last year, so this one, which is its sequel, was an absolute no-brainer for me. I love fantasy, I love romance, and I just know this book is going to be the perfect blend of those two things. I don’t wanna speak too soon but I just can’t imagine myself not loving this.

The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri

Another no-brainer. The Jasmine Throne is one of my favourite fantasy novels, and I am so incredibly excited for this sequel. I have a feeling it’s going to be even better than the first book–the stakes are about to get so much higher!!! Tasha Suri is one of my favourite authors so I’ll pretty much read anything by her at this point.

Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

I feel like this one is gonna be on a lot of people’s fantasy lists this year. This series is unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I’m so curious to see where this story is gonna go next. I’m not even going to try to guess because I just know it’s going to be absolutely wild. Tamsyn Muir really keeps you on your toes. I need to reread the first two books in this series though because I remember nothing from them and also I’m pretty sure I missed/didn’t really get all the important plotty bits the first time around lol.

Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans

One thing I always look for for is fantasy novels that are more on the playful side, and this one sounds like exactly that. It looks like it’s going to be really fun, with characters who get into lots of Antics, so it’s definitely on my list. I have an ARC of this one so I’m hoping to get to it soon.

The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

I’ve heard sort of mixed reviews of this one, but even though I basically know nothing about it plot-wise, it sounds like a novel I might like–very atmospheric, and slower-paced than your typical plotty fantasy novel–so I have it on my TBR. We’ll see if I end up enjoying it, but I still want to at least try it out!

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

This one has been making the rounds on BookTube, and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews of it so far. It’s been so popular that Tor picked it up, which makes me very excited about picking it up (also exciting that I actually can pick it up now, since before it was only on Kindle, I think). The idea of a cozy fantasy very much appeals to me, so I’m really hoping I like this one.


Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

I’ve read and loved This is How You Lose the Time War, which was co-authored by Max Gladstone, and since then I’ve really wanted to try out one of his novels. This one sounds interesting and isn’t too long, plus seems to have a very cool world.

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

I’ve had this one on my TBR for ages and I still haven’t gotten to it lol. I read Sofia Samatar’s short story collection, Tender, a while ago and adored it, so naturally I was very excited when I found out she had a fantasy novel. This one is part of a duology, too, which means that if I enjoy this first book I can also get to its sequel.

The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

EVERYONE loves this series and I don’t wanna feel left out anymore lol. I’ve heard sort of mixed things about the first book (?), but I’ve also heard really rave reviews of this series as a whole (there are so many books in it omg), so I’m hoping that I at least enjoy this one so I can really dive into and become invested in this series. I love getting to see characters grow and develop over the course of a long series, so I’m optimistic about this one.

The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang

And finally, The Sword of Kaigen, which has been an indie fantasy hit, and which I found out about through BookTube. I don’t really know much about this one, but I haven’t heard a single bad thing about it, which is hopefully a good sign. This one I probably won’t get to till later since it’s only available on Kindle and I don’t get ebooks from there so…πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

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Characters repeatedly using each other’s names in conversations

This is one of my biggest literary pet peeves, and one of the ones that I just find SO distracting. Imagine two characters, John and Jane, having a conversation, and their entire back-and-forth is just: “Hi Jane.” “Hi John.” “How are you, Jane?” “I’m good, John. What about you?” “I’m doing great, Jane.” Like ?????? When I think about how I have conversations in real life, I almost never use the names of the people I’m talking to in the conversation, so seeing this coming up so often in novels drives me crazy. Some inclusion of names is fine, but when every single line of dialogue includes the characters’ names, it’s extremely irritating. (I DNF’d The Atlas Six like less than 20 pages in because this dialogue issue was EVERYWHERE, and also the writing was just generally awful lol.)

Obvious/simplistic mannerisms or gestures

Another thing I’ve found that I don’t like: when authors give characters the most boring, simplistic gestures or mannerisms. “What do you think about this?” character A asked, putting her fingers to her chin and tilting her head inquisitively. Like, no. The characters start to feel like cartoons when their gestures/mannerisms are so obvious. Would love to see more subtlety than just tilting their head when they’re asking a question. 😬

Characters knowing things they can’t possibly know

I hate this so much. I can suspend my disbelief for a lot of things, but this is one that really annoys me. I’ll be reading a novel and then the character will just discover extremely detailed and specific things from A Look that another character gave them or whatever. People know a lot of things from studying other people, reading their body language, etc., but when characters start gleaning very convenient, important plot-relevant information just from a basic Look, I have trouble suspending my disbelief.

Gender essentialism

This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a major red flag for me, especially in romance, and will pretty much immediately lead me to DNF if I find it pervasive in a novel. I’ve seen so many egregious examples of gender essentialism in romance; there are truly so many wild examples I can think of (“a feminine chair” ??? really??).

Magical realism short stories whose entire plot is just “weird things happen”

I love short stories, but I encounter so many magical realism collections that are not trying to make any point or tell any kind of story beyond “weird things happen.” Throwing a bunch of “magical” stuff at me does not make your story an actual story lol. Would love something at least narrative-adjacent, or that has some degree of finesse.

Being told something without it being shown

Another self-explanatory one, but I see this so often, and it annoys me to no end. Character A will be like “wow, Character B is so funny!” when Character B has not shown anything even vaguely resembling a sense of humour. It takes me out of the story so fast, and really makes me distrust the book’s writing. I don’t want to be told to believe things that I don’t actually believe, based on the evidence from the novel.

Overly romanticized writing about books

Omg I find this so irritating. I hate books–especially fiction–about books. I love reading, as I’m sure a lot of us do lol, but I cannot stand overly romanticized writing about books that’s like Wow, that new book smell! I love cracking spines! Like ?? It doesn’t resonate with me at all; I don’t like to read because of the new paper smell or whatever. This kind of writing just strikes me as trying super hard to be Quirky and Special when sometimes reading is really not that deep. People like to read because people like to read. It doesn’t have to become this weird thing that Only Special People Do.

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hello hello πŸ‘‹ Today i have an original book tag to share – my first ever original book tag, in fact!!* I’m calling it The Book Reviewing Tag, and as you can probably tell from the title, it’s all about book reviewing.

Book reviewing mostly tends to focus on the books themselves, which makes sense–that’s what the reviews are for, after all–but with this tag I wanted to take a more a meta approach to book reviewing. The questions in the tag, then, are about the review writing process in general, as well as your thoughts on specific book reviews you’ve written. (If you’ve been reviewing books for a long time, and have a hard time choosing answers for some of the questions, you can narrow it down to books you’ve reviewed this year, this quarter, etc.)

That being said, if this book tag sounds interesting to you, please feel free to copy the questions and share it to your book blog/booktube channel/bookstagram/whatever platform you share your bookish content to. Just make sure to tag me in the posts so I can see your responses! 😊 (All my social media are linked at the end of this post.)

*I did do a search through WordPress and Google to see if anyone’s done something similar to this before and didn’t find anything. That being said, if you have do a have book reviewing tag that’s pretty similar to this one, please let me know!

What’s your review writing process like (do you write notes somewhere, make annotations, highlights, etc.)?

Generally speaking, I like to take notes in my Notes app while I read, and also highlight any quotes that I like while reading the book. I’ve been trying to incorporate more quotes into my reviews because personally, I find them such an effective way of convincing me to read a book, and also because I think they give you a good idea of what kind of writing you’re likely to find in that book. I’d say those are pretty much the only two things that I tend to do in terms of prepping for book reviews.

What do you struggle with most when it comes to writing book reviews?

Timing. The more time passes between my finishing a book and writing a review for it, the less likely I am to actually end up writing a review for that book. Mostly, this is because the book isn’t as fresh in my mind anymore, so it’s harder to think of things to say about it and also to be more specific when talking about it.

Your favourite review(s) that you’ve written

It usually takes me a long time to write reviews, and that’s mostly because I like writing in general, and really try to challenge myself and my writing with those reviews. My favourite book reviews, then, are ones whose writing I’m happy with, and that I think effectively conveyed not just what the book is like, but also why I liked it/how it made me feel.

I’d say my favourite reviews that I’ve written are generally ones that I wrote for books I loved. More recently, I was very happy with the review that I wrote for The Other Mother by Rachel M. Harper, which has been my favourite book of the year so far. I also loved the reviews I wrote for The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter (tr. Frank Wynne) and Trust by Hernan Diaz–two very different books whose content I really enjoyed delving into in their reviews. As for last year, I loved the reviews I wrote for Abigail by Magda SzabΓ³ (tr. Len Rix), Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung (tr. Anton Hur), and Homesickness by Colin Barrett.

A review that you struggled to write

The hardest reviews for me to write are always the ones for books I really loved–the 4.5- or 5-star books. When it comes to books I dislike, I always have a running list of what I dislike about them as I read them so that by the time I sit down to write the review, it pretty much writes itself. The review effectively becomes a space for me to vent about all the things I disliked about the book lol (e.g. my review of The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan).

With books I loved, though, it’s hard because I always feels like everything I say pales in comparison to how the book actually made me feel and how much I actually loved it. (Every time I write a review for a book that’s a new favourite I have to do a Ctrl+F search for “so”–“I loved these characters so much,” “the story was so compelling,” etc.–because I inevitably end up overusing it to compensate for how hard I find it to express how I felt about that book. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ)

General thoughts aside, I found this to be especially the case when writing my reviews for The King of Infinite Space by Lyndsay Faye (my favourite book of last year), Little by Edward Carey (my favourite book of the year before that), and Milkman by Anna Burns, which was such a strange and utterly unique book that I didn’t even know how to begin talking about it.

A review you still want to write

I have so many books for this one. There are a lot of amazing books I read last year that I just never ended up writing reviews for, and would love the chance to talk about so I can hype them up a bit more. Namely, Alligator by Dima Alzayat, Devotion by Hannah Kent, and Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger. From this year, I also really want to review Either/Or by Elif Batuman and A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandria Rowland. All of these are favourites, so you can see why I’ve been dragging my feet when it comes to writing reviews for them.

A review that you don’t want to/won’t write

Pretty much any romance novel that I’ve given 3 stars to. Though I do read a lot of romance, most of it tends to fall into the category of just okay or enjoyable but forgettable. Those are the books that I don’t write reviews for because they just leave zero impression on me. I have nothing to say about them, so writing a book review for them seems like a bit of a moot point.

Your most popular review(s)

Every single one of my most popular reviews is a negative review, which I guess isn’t all that surprising. I think my most popular review ever is the one I wrote for Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, which somehow–I have no idea how this happened tbh–shows up as the first search result on Google when you look up “Hamnet negative review.” It is consistently my most popular blog post, which is funny because I didn’t promote it or talk about it any more than I did with my other blog posts. It just kind of blew up out of nowhere. (Maybe because it won the Women’s Prize?)

My other most popular reviews are on Goodreads: by far the most popular one is my 1-star review of Find Me by AndrΓ© Aciman, which continues to be one of the worst books I have ever read. Another book whose review is pretty popular and which I also continue to despise is The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo.

How you feel about your book reviewing this year

I feel really good about my book reviewing this year, actually! I feel like last year I read a lot, but I didn’t really make reviewing a priority as much as I wanted to, and got lazy when it came to writing reviews for most of the books I was reading (especially the ones I enjoyed). This year I’ve made the conscious decision to write reviews for most, if not all, the books I read, so long as I have something to say about them. And I’ve been doing well when it comes to sticking to that decision. Out of the 58 books I’ve read this year, I’ve written reviews for 33 of them (and that’s not counting the reviews I’ve written for books I’ve DNFd)–which is a number I’m happy with. Hopefully I can continue to do that throughout the year.

Anyway, that’s all for me!! I had a lot to say, which is pretty much the reason I wanted to do this tag in the first place lol. Please let me know if you decide to do this tag and feel free to tag anyone else if you do decide to do it! 😊

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