“Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them--made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.”
This is an alternate-history book that follows 18-year-old Yael, a member of the resistance whose newest mission is to kill Hitler. She was experimented on during her time in Auschwitz, leaving her with the ability to alter her appearance at will. Using these abilities, Yael must transform into Germany's most famous female rider and win the Axis tour; a long distance motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo where the winner comes face-to-face with Hitler.
Wolf by Wolf was the first book I read this year and still remains one of the best. It explores good vs. evil and the area in between, racial supremacy and the "what ifs" of history. Yael is such a complex, inspiring character and I absolutely loved reading from her perspective. Themes of identity were explored through both Yael's personal story and the broader story itself, which detailed the aftermath of Nazi crimes. Because Yael is able to become anyone she desires, she has never truly had an identity of her own, and her sense of self is basically non-existent due to her inability to remember her own face. Her inner struggle is paired with a fast-moving and action-packed plot that involves love, betrayal, and jealousies. Everything was done so well, from the poetic writing and world-building to the plot twists and cliffhangers.
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Passenger - Alexandra Bracken
“It's our choices that matter in the end. Not wishes, not words, not promises.”
This book follows a violin prodigy named Etta and her journey across continents and centuries. She is forced into an unfamiliar world when she inherits a legacy from a time-travelling family she knew nothing about. The book also follows Nicholas, a young man working on a ship during the 1700's. He comes across Etta as a stowaway on board and they go on an adventure full of action, gorgeous locations, historical details, and romance.
Aside from being a gripping and engaging story, this book delves into themes of feminism and racism that are integrated into the book perfectly and really work to enhance the story. As Etta and Nicholas move through different time periods, we are able to see how the different cultures and societies treated Etta as a woman and Nicholas as a POC. It was interesting to see how far we have come when it comes to equality, but also how much further we can still progress.
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A Court of Mist and Fury - Sarah J Maas
“To the people who look at the stars and wish, Rhys."
Rhys clinked his glass against mine. “To the stars who listen— and the dreams that are answered.”
ACOMAF may just be my new favourite book of all time. It is the second book in the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy, so I can't say too much about the plot due to spoilers. Basically, this series follows Feyre the huntress and her journey across the wall to the land of the Fae. After murdering a wolf with hatred in her heart, she is forced to live out the remainder of her mortal life in the Spring Court with High Lord Tamlin. However everything is not as it seems, and Feyre must play a much larger role in the land of Prythian beyond what she ever imagined.
This book was very emotional and raw, dealing with topics such as PTSD, depression, and abusive relationships. Feyre is emotionally damaged following the events of the first book, and this installment explores how she copes with the subsequent changes in her life. The overall story focuses on growth, and how it is possible to rise from dark and painful situations and create a new destiny for yourself. The book definitely has it's upbeat moments, though, as it is filled with friendship, humour, romance, incredible world building and amazing characters. Seriously, I've read this book about four times and will never get enough of it. It is a true masterpiece.
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Six of Crows duology - Leigh Bardugo
“Many boys will bring you flowers. But someday you'll meet a boy who will learn your favorite flower, your favorite song, your favorite sweet. And even if he is too poor to give you any of them, it won't matter because he will have taken the time to know you as no one else does. Only that boy earns your heart.”
I read both books in the Six of Crows duology this year, and am having trouble picking a favourite because they were both so, so good. Six of Crows follows a diverse cast of criminals, spies, convicts, thieves and runaways who work together to pull off an epic heist. Kaz Brekker, a criminal prodigy in the international trade hub known as Ketterdam, recruits five others to help him pull off the riskiest and deadliest heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams.
This series has everything – an incredibly diverse cast, detailed action scenes, unexpected twists and turns, humour, romance, friendship and all the ships. Despite there being six point of views, and the plot being quite detailed, I was able to follow along easily and I became so invested in the story it became impossible to put down. The characters in this series have such a special place in my heart; from Nina who uses her magic to survive the slums, to Kaz the criminal with a devastating past, and to Inej who fights so hard for who and what she believes in. I could go on for days about how much I adore this series. It had the perfect ending as well – I was left wanting more, but I knew it had left off at just the right place.
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Nevernight - Jay Kristoff
“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us. I can see it in you, sure as I see it in me. You're a daughter of the words. A girl with a story to tell.”
In a land with three suns and a city built from bones, this story follows Mia Corvere and her road to vengeance against the people and powers who destroyed her family. She joins the Red Church, a school for assassins to learn the art of murder through various means–poison, killing, and seduction. A killer is loose within the halls of the Church, and Mia must ensure she survives long enough to complete her initiation and fulfill her quest for revenge.
Nevernight is dark, intense, violent, bloody... yet so, so amazing. There are very mixed reviews for this book due to the writing style–you either love it or hate it. I fall into the category of loving it, and I just couldn't read the poetic words fast enough. Mia is an awesome, kick-butt protagonist because she isn't perfect. She makes mistakes, is filled with fear, and is not the most drop-dead beautiful girl in the world. Her sidekick is a cat made of shadows named Mr. Kindly and he is pretty much the best thing ever. The book featured so many notable side characters who I adored as well, they all added something special to the story.