Book Recommendations: Based On Aesthetics

I had this unusual idea: recommending books to you based on aesthetics. What I mean by this is that I’ll be listing out some aesthetics, with some tags, and recommend books based on them.

I don’t know if I’m the only one that does this, but I read books according to the kind of atmosphere that I’m craving at that particular moment. I never read what I might plan to read, because plans change. I’m kind of a go-with-the-flow person; a pantser-reader, if I may. For instance, if I’m craving something strange, mind-boggling and mysterious, I’ll probably pick something up by Blake Crouch. If I’m craving something heavy, high-fantasy and complex, I’ll probably pick something up by Leigh Bardugo or N.K. Jemisin.

Then there are feels: if I want something cool, light and beautiful, I pick up short stories or middle-grade books.

Does it make sense? Because this is how I do it. I already have the aesthetics figured out for all my books, so whatever feels right, I pick it up.

So, give it a try. Read whatever you crave. Also, note that I haven’t arranged these books according to their ratings, so don’t think that I absolutely love all of these books. They are here because they fit the aesthetics, and can take you where you want to be right now.

Let’s go!

Aesthetic #1: dark, grunge, Ozark, hills, forest, woods, trees, rain, lake, mist, fog, Cabin In The Woods

Stillhouse Lake: This is a mystery-thriller, set beside a dark lake with an aura oddly (but, beautifully) similar to the Netflix series Ozark. The ambience is mostly dark and mysterious.

In a Dark, Dark Wood: A wedding organised in a mansion located in the woods. The aura seems to be dark and ominous.

A Face in the Dark and Other Hauntings: Collected Stories of the Supernatural: A collection of horror stories set in the Himalayan hills, amongst deodar and pine trees. Some stories date back to the British Raj. The aura is rainy, misty and nostalgic.

The Troop: A horror novel based in a dark island, miles away from any human civilisation. There are woods and hills.

Aesthetic #2: island, sea, ocean, water, rain, beach, swimming, sunny, cloudy, mansion, Fantasy Island

We Were Liars: Set on an island. The weather is almost always sunny and the group of friends live by the beach.

And Then There Were None: Set on an island off the coast of Ireland. The characters live in a huge mansion.

The Guest List: An island off the coast of Ireland hosts a wedding. The weather is cloudy and rainy. The aura is ominous; it’s dark and misty as well. The weather gets windy, and thunder and lightning happen sometimes.

The Cousins: Estranged cousins are invited to an island where their grandmother lives. It’s sunny on the island.

Aesthetic #3: space, stars, spacecraft, Star Wars, Interstellar, futuristic, sci-fi, Ad Astra, The Expanse

Illuminae: Set amongst the stars, in three space battleships, millions of light years away from planet Earth. The atmosphere is futuristic and a lot like The Expanse.

A Memory Called Empire: An empire centred on Earth, with its colonies and space stations extending far and beyond.

Cress: This fairytale retelling is a sci-fi reboot that will give you all the space-shippy vibes you might need. Half of the book takes place in a desert, but we can’t complain.

Aesthetic #4: castle, schools, academy, old buildings, vintage, Hogwarts, Gothic architecture

Harry Potter series: A school/castle located on a hill, surrounded by green trees and a dark forest. Expect lit candles, mysterious passageways and tons of magic in the atmosphere.

Truly, Devious: An academy located on a hill in Vermont, for intellectually gifted children. Expect beautiful architecture, tunnels and caves and tons of mystery and Sherlock vibes.

Aesthetic #5: rainy night, neon, motel, diner, NY, ghosts, 1980s, Vacancy, dark woods

The Sun Down Motel: Expect ghosts, chill and Paranormal Activity in a haunted motel located in a secluded area. Two timelines – one in the 80s and the other in 2017 – with two women hunting a serial-killer in the same town.

These were the five aesthetics I thought you might like. Read whatever you find interesting. I’m sure I’ll be back with more aesthetic-recommendations for you!

Books I’ve Read And Enjoyed Recently

Hey, people. Happy Women’s Day, before I start with anything else. And this year, please make sure your that feminism is intersectional (i.e. including people across all sections of the society), because we’ve come far enough and we can’t let anyone feel left out.

Back to the list.

This year, as of today, I’ve read 25 books. Even while I’m aiming to read at least ten books a month, this aim is becoming harder and harder to achieve as I get close to my final examinations. But I don’t like to make excuses, so I can definitely assure you that I’m not losing my mind in any way (fingers crossed). But, yes, it has become increasingly difficult for me to make time for my favourite activity – the only activity that gives me solace when I get tired of the real world – and that has been heartbreaking. But, I guess it’s going to be even harder in the future, so I’ll definitely not give up reading books anytime soon.

Sorry, I got carried away. But, now, I present to you a list of books that I’ve really enjoyed recently.

The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

A brilliant fantasy based on the 20th century China which is not a game for the light-hearted. Because this book deals with war, and all the disturbing and nightmarish things related to it, the monsters wars create and the lives they poison. I felt myself flinching and putting this book down time and again, because it is not easy but it is rewarding in the end.

I cannot explain how terribly I craved reading about schools based in semi-fantasy lands, deep friendships and an imperfectly-perfect protagonist, who is so real and lovable that I can’t put it down in words. This narrative is so expansive and large, that it is difficult to find any flaw in it. I, personally, felt euphoric reading about such an unforgettable world-building. It is simply magnificent, and brilliant at all levels.

I look forward to reading the sequels soon, but not soon enough, because of, you know, heavy subjects matter.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Great danger is always associated with great power. The difference between the great and the mediocre is that the great are willing to take the risk.

R.F. Kuang, The Poppy War

Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

This story does not have heroes; it has two friends-turned-foes, hell-bent on inflicting revenge on each other, even if it leads them to murdering several innocents in the way. The ball is in your court: which villain would you be cheering for?

This book has a good pace, and Schwab’s impeccable writing makes it so easy to get through. The only downside is that you’ll crave for more in the end, so much so that you might end up picking up the sequel right after finishing this.

I love the characters, because morally-grey and morally-compromised, vindictive and unstoppable hombres do the trick for me in fiction. That is all I want: a couple hundred pages of passion and malice. Gimme more.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Because you don’t think I’m a bad person,” he said. “And I don’t want to prove you wrong.”

V.E. Schwab, Vicious

The Institute by Stephen King

The Institute by Stephen King

This was my first from Stephen King, and will definitely not be my last. It is gripping and scary, because we’re talking about Stephen King here (duh).

There are frightening and cruel parts to it, which I found rather unpleasant to get through. But, that’s just it: that is the fun. It was disturbing and dark, in the most unforgettable way, and I loved it. Some parts did feel stretched out and it didn’t have to be 500-pages long. But, I did end up enjoying it.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It came to him, with the force of a revelation, that you had to have been imprisoned to fully understand what freedom was.

Stephen King, The Institute

Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

Gemina by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

Gemina is the sequel to Illuminae, the first book in the series The Illuminae Files. This isn’t just a book: it’s literally a file, a collection of written records, conversations, graphics, diagrams, drawings, audio transcripts and chats. It is so innovative and interesting to read, and listening to the audiobook was a different level of experience altogether.

While I don’t like the stereotyped characters so much, and queer rep is compromised here, I definitely love the overall story and the world. I would wish to see more works based in this universe in the future.

It is unforgettable and a one-of-a-kind work. And it’s sassy.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

And now, born from the ashes, she’s a warrior in bloodied black.

Amie Kaufman, Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2)

Yay, you’ve reached the end! Bye xx

ARC Review: A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine

C.W.: death, PTSD

Rep.: lesbian MC.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

Thoughts

A Desolation Called Peace is an exquisite and de luxe sequel, that definitely lives up the hype that its prequel received. Intricate, sophisticated and entertaining – this follow-up to A Memory Called Empire is definitely the superior one of the two books in the Teixcalaan series. Crafted with adequate amounts of mystery and fun, along with its definitive portrayal of xenophobia, colonialism and cultural chauvinism, this book is simply elegant to the core.

The grandeur of these books can only be appreciated by a few. The craft of storytelling is close to perfect here, and the writing is too beautiful to be forgotten. This is an amazing space opera that should not be missed this March.

Synopsis

Lsel Ambassador Mahit Dzmare and her cultural liaison Three Seagrass unite again as a mysterious alien race lurks around the Teixcalaani space. Out of options, the empire recruits the pair in their last bid to communicate with the dangerous enemy. Meanwhile, Mahit tries to break out of political ambitions and intimidations of the leaders of her station.

Characters

Mahit Dzmare: the main protagonist is trying to figure out a way through all the politics around her.
Three Seagrass: Mahit’s only solace and romance.
Nineteen Adze: the imperial highness, facing a new threat in her Empire.
Nine Hibiscus: yaotlek, the Empire’s fleet commander, face-to-face with an unimaginable enemy.
Eight Antidote: the eleven-year-old heir to the throne.

Plot

The plot is appreciable. The chapter-length felt a tad too long sometimes, but it doesn’t affect the story much. The ending is tear-jerking. The overall length of the story is sufficient. 

A division of the story into smaller chapters might have helped the book more. I’d love to see a more thorough exploration of each character’s emotions and life-journey in the future. I’d also like to see more of their past lives being discussed in the next installments. The telling-not-showing style of the author is sometimes tiring and difficult to follow.

Final Thoughts

An amazing follow-up, which will definitely please the readers of A Memory Called Empire.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A big thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for sharing this ARC with me in exchange for an honest review.

These Books Are Over-Hyped (a.k.a. Books That Don’t Deserve The Hype)

Since it’s February and I’ve got almost nothing to lose, I thought about trashing some books. In case you didn’t know, I love criticising books. But that thing is sometimes tiring. I’d rather blabber hate about the books that I don’t like, because…well, we’re in the 21st century and we’ve got other things to be cautious about (shade on you, COVID).

Just note this – these are not the books that I hate (those atrocities will be covered in another article) but these are the ones that I hate and they have a lot of hype (acclaim) around them. Hope I have cleared that up.

I don’t like Normal People

A boring, boring book that thinks it’s unique: my takeaway from this book. I wasn’t able to finish it because I felt my brain cells waving a goodbye to me as I went on.

Maybe I can be a bit humble and say that it just wasn’t for me. But everyone will know that I’m lying. I just hate this book, and I definitely think that you shouldn’t read it.

Firstly, the writing style…because perhaps Sally Rooney thought that her yucky writing style would actually make us fall love with it, but no. It isn’t cute, or remotely extraordinary. It’s just shitty and unworthy of all the hype. Period.

I don’t want to read sex scenes comprising two awkward and unlikable characters. Because that’s just disgusting. I couldn’t go on. And I wouldn’t ever again.

What’s the deal with A Wrinkle In Time?

Another book…that’s just mediocre. Or just below average, considering my taste. Sci-fi and fantasy – two of my most favourite genres – meet in this lackluster middle-grade read. I couldn’t stand it.

I hate when authors mess up my favourite genres. I mean, why would you mess up a fantasy, for god’s sake? I hate that this book has so many unwarranted religious elements in it, as that would surely not please some readers like me. I couldn’t relate, and it felt unnecessary.

The writing style was not in my league. It was just boring…yet, outrageous.

The characters? Unlikable and weirdly stupid, considering the choices they make.

The Selection sucks

The world in this book doesn’t make sense. The protagonist is not relatable, at all. I can’t seem to care about it at all.

Maybe, I did like it the first time I read it. I mean, I didn’t hate it then. But, now, I don’t want to continue with the series ever again. I wouldn’t like that…at all.

The love triangle was not good. I couldn’t stand it (duh). And I don’t know how people can read it and like it.

I think I have PTSD.

Perhaps, The Night Circus was just not for me

Alright. There are some books that I don’t understand why I don’t like. I would love to know, but I just can’t.

This book was the first book I ever read. I liked it at the time, but the second time around, I didn’t find anything special in it. I know, it’s just me. And I’m sure some people will like it, so they probably should read it anyway.

But, again, not for me. I don’t understand the hype. And I found it…undeserving.

To Kill A Kingdom is the boring fantasy ever

I genuinely thought I’d like it, since it has an enemies-to-lovers trope. But, no, odds were not in my favour when I read it.

This one was awfully predictable and difficult to get through. I don’t think I read the same book as those people who really liked it.

It deserves – and, so I gave it – 2 stars. Life is difficult sometimes, and we have to make difficult choices. But this one was a tad too easy.

That’s it for this list. Hope to see you soon. Peace out xx!

ARC Review: The Good Lie by A.R. Torre

C.W.: rape, kidnapping, brutality

The Good Lie by A.R. Torre

Thoughts

The Good Lie is suspenseful and spine-chilling, and a perfect epitome of what a mystery-thriller ought to be. It keeps the reader at the edge of their seat, giving little away from the brilliant mystery that builds up piece by piece, and unveils it in the end, through an intelligent plot and writing by A.R. Torre.

For me, as a reader, a perfect mystery-thriller must have the following aspects: early foreshadowing that doesn’t give away any secrets, unpredictability, complexity of the ‘main plot mystery’ and a unique way to deliver the climax. This thriller fulfilled all those requirements, along with having complex and morally grey main characters who are still easy to vouch for and a perfect length, which means that it will be easy for readers to finish it in one sitting.

Synopsis

Dr. Gwen Moore, a psychiatrist and an expert on killers, is hired by defence attorney Robert Kavin to draw the profile of the Bloody Hearts Killer, a notorious murderer of six teens in the state of California. However, he is representing the suspect and the alleged killer of his own son, also a victim of the Bloody Hearts Killer, who he claims is innocent. But, for Gwen, the lies have only just begun, and there is a deep sea of secrets to uncover.

Characters

Gwen’s career as a psychiatrist and the stresses and risks that come along with it are explored. Her relationship with Robert has a catch, and both of them are visibly distrustful of each other. More individual character-depth could have helped the story, but it all worked out at the end.

Plot

Again, the author has intelligently constructed the plot of the story. The foreshadowing is perfect. The sub-plots, such as Gwen and Robert’s relationship, Gwen’s struggles with her own clients and Robert’s grief, are sufficiently explored. A wider plot range could have helped the story a bit more.

Final thoughts

It is mysterious, steamy, unpredictable and enjoyable. There is almost nothing more one can ask for in a book.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A thanks to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for sharing this ARC with me in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My Goodreads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Genre: YA, fantasy, adventure.

C.W.: not needed.

Rep: Jewish protagonist.

Jacob Portman’s grandfather sees things. He speaks of monsters and an imminent danger to his life. His family does not believe a word he says, and neither does Jacob, until one day, when Jacob sees those monsters killing his grandfather. He barely believes in what he saw and others too dismiss his claims as a false notion.

When he discovers a few strange photographs and a letter from a stooping lady called Miss Peregrine among his grandfather’s things and remembers that he told him on his dying breath to go to Wales, Jacob finally gives in to his gut, and travels to the country with his father. There, he discovers an eerie ruin of an old building, and gets transported back to the year 1940 and the day September the 3rd. He uncovers an orphanage for peculiar (special) children, under the headmistressship of Miss Alma Peregrine. He makes friends, discovers unique secrets and fights dangerous enemies, all along with finding his own identity and peculiarity.

I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.

Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1)

If I hadn’t watched the movie before reading the book, I would say I was pretty surprised by how interesting this book turned out to be. Being an avid craver of all kinds of adventure, this book was especially a savoury treat for me.

I loved the world building, the pinch of mystery, the story progression and the overall plot. I’ve come to admire all kinds of schools/homes for special children in the literary world. The weirdly unique picture collection in this book is adorable too. That is perhaps what makes this book a bit interactive, which I crave.

A Picture From Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
A Picture From Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

On the downside, I’d say there is plenty to note here. Firstly, the book length could have been a bit longer, since the plot was quite complex and there was ample to unbox here. We could have had more of the characters. Character building, other that the narrator’s, was not developed enough for me to consider it memorable. The theme of friendship could have been more adequately discussed. And most people will find it difficult to get into in the beginning.

However, this book is part of an anthology, which will have a total of six books. I’m excited to get into the second book, but that will not happen soon enough.

Overall: definitely recommended for YA adventure fans.

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