Top Ten Tuesday | Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

Blimey! My book buying ban really went out the window during the lockdown; but my pre-order list is teeming with some fantastic, diverse fantasies that I cannot wait to sink my teeth into. So I'm saying this is a win-win. Today' I am going to be sharing my top 10 that are currently on my radar.

Top Ten Tuesday is the brainchild of The Broke and the Bookish and has since been taken over The Artsy Reader Girl. You can find upcoming topics, here.

From left to right:
1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
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Release Date | October 12th

2. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
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Release Date | September 15th

3. Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee 
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Release Date | July 1st

4. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
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Release Date | July 9th

5. The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson 
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Release Date | July 21st

From left to right:
6. Star Daughter by Shveta Thakra 
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Release Date | September 3rd

7.  Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron 
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Release Date | August 6th

8. The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinka
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Release Date | August 4th

9. The Bone Shard's Daughter by Andrea Stewart 
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Release Date | September 10th

10. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhouse 
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Release Date | October 13th

Are any of these books you are looking forward to? Have I missed any that you think I would love? Let me know and come join me in the comments!

Book Review | Queen of Coin and Whispers (#gifted)

Queen of Coin and Whispers
Helen Corcoran
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UK Publisher | O'Brien Press
UK Release Date | June 2nd, 2020
Format | Paperback
Page Count | 464
RRP | £11.99
DISCLAIMER: I received this book from the publisher for free. All views and opinions remain my own. 
When Lia, an idealistic queen, falls for Xania, her new spymaster--who took the job to avenge her murdered father--they realise all isn't fair in love and treason.

Lia won't mourn her uncle: he's left her a bankrupt kingdom considered easy pickings by its neighbours. She's sworn to be a better ruler, but if she wants to push through her reforms, she needs to beat the Court at its own games. For years, Xania's been determined to uncover her father's murderer. She finally gets a chance when Lia gives her a choice: become her new spymaster, or take a one way trip to the executioner's axe. It's an easy decision.

When they fall for each other, their love complicates Lia's responsibilities and Xania's plans for vengeance. As they're drawn together amid royal suitors and new diplomats, they uncover treason that could not only end Lia's reign, but ruin their weakened country. They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other.

I have waited for longer than I thought it would be necessary for the YA industry to feed my insatiable desire for a book that centers on political intrigue and serve it with a side of queer romance. Thank you to The O'Brien Press for gifting me a copy.

Queen of Coin and Whispers is a duel perspective YA fantasy. First, we have Lia, the recently-crowned monarch who is determined to right the wrongs set by her Uncle that have lead to the kingdom to almost bankruptcy; and then we have Xania, a cynical, intelligent woman hell-bent on uncovering the truth behind her father's death and exact revenge. When a mutual close friend, Mathias, introduces Xania to Lia and suggests her for the role of the Queen's Whispers (spymaster). What we have here are two very different women, both with compelling with points-of-view, that works together to create two dynamic voices that I didn't struggle with who was who. 

As well as the two protagonists, the majority of the cast of characters are women, of all different backgrounds, in power. They were nuanced, each recognisable with their own set of trials and tribulations. It was a breath of fresh air to see!

I found the romance to be compelling, because these woman were both strong and capable people, for different reasons, and so became complimentary to each other's personalities without either one becoming lesser than to fit. I found it the gradual love to be realistic, staying well clear of that insta-romance trope that seems to be the bane of my existence in YA fantasy. 

And didn't I mention that Corcoran has incorporated so much on page queer rep? Lia and Xania are lesbian, and Xania is also demi. But then, there's also the supporting characters, who Corcoran so casually mentions significant others of the same sex, and it's accepted. There was no homophobia (accept the part where they would prefer Lia to marry a man to produce and heir)!

Now, onto my favourite part, the politicking. For once we see the title of Queen as a job, with it's own responsibilities. There are the usual murder and betrayals that fall to the forefront, but Corcoran manages to brilliantly show the cogs of the wheel that Lia and Xania must fit together in order to keep the queendom of Edar ticking and produce the changes and results Lia is determined to make. The discussion and meeting were never glossed over, making for a highly entertaining read, even when grain distribution was up for debate. 

I want to briefly mention the cover because I'm obsessed. Designed by Emma Byrne, this really evokes the rich tapestry of love, betrayal, and the delicate decadence that can be found in any corner of historical royal courts. It's so wonderfully simple and doesn't rely on overly complex graphics. I really hope to see more of Byrne's work in the future! 

Helen Corcoran's debut cements Irish YA fantasy as something that shouldn't be ignored. Queen of Coin and Whispers is here to say lesbian rights and is a must-read for anyone interested in the interworkings of statecraft.

HELEN CORCORAN grew up in Cork, Ireland, dreaming of scheming queens and dashing lady knights. After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, she worked as a bookseller for over a decade. She lives in Dublin, writing fantasy novels and haunting coffee shops in search of the perfect latte.
Helen can be found over on Twitter, or on her Website.

Book Tag | The Mid-Year Book Freakout

Lauren, here (cause who else would it be, let's be honest) and we are finally into the second half of the year-that-crawled-out-of-Hell.
In summary, I am way ahead of my Goodreads goal, already hitting 57 out of 100 (thank you lockdown); my blog went silent for longer than I had intended; and I am back to square one of finding a job. So, swings and roundabouts, as they say.
The Mid-Year Book Freakout tag was created by ReadLikeWildfire and Earl Grey Books.

1. What is the best book you've read so far in 2020?
The Migration
Helen Marshall
I really tried avoiding books that deal with apocalypses, pandemics, and grief quite early on during the lockdown. It had been a while since I had read the synopsis, so I didn't know that it featured a virus pandemic and the death of a loved one.
Marshall, just had this way of writing that even after finishing the book, it stuck with me and kept making me think. It was exactly the kind of speculative fiction that I wish I had the guts to pick up more often. A tender exploration of hope and human morality. If you can handle reading about this subject, it is one that I completely recommend you check out.

2. What is the best sequel you've read so far in 2020?
Bloodwitch (The Witchlands #3)
Susan Dennard
I still can't believe that I put off reading this for the best part of a year. I ended up taking part in Rachael Marie's weekend readathon (before I knew all the terrible things she has said and done) and picked up Truthwitch for a reread. And the rest is history.
This is, by far, my favourite book in the series. So many revelations. So much character growth. BAEDUAN.

3. What new release haven't you read yet, but want to?
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Roseanne A. Brown
I don't think this is actually out in the UK until July 9th, but I know in the states it's been out since the start of June.
This just sounds exactly like the kind of YA fantasy I tend to reach for. Inspired by West African folklore, this is a duel perspective fantasy with slow-burn enemies to lovers (WITH PINING). AND THE COVER?! Wow. If anyone knows who the cover artist is, please let me know!

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
V.E. Schwab
*pretends to be shocked*
I feel like I have been waiting an age to read this; maybe since it was mentioned during V's This Savage Song UK Tour?
I've seen the pieces that have been posted of V's socials and have teared up many times at just the brief encounter I have been allowed to see. I know Titan Books have created a sample of the first 100 pages, but I am so terrified to read it. Just, please, be Vicious-level phenomenal.

5. What is your biggest disappointment read so far in 2020?
Wonderland: An Anthology
Edited by Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane
This is the second of Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane's anthologies that I have read this year. I really loved Cursed, and the stories that had been curated for that collection, so I had high hopes for Wonderland.
Then it crashed.
I only really like L.L. Mckinney's, which acted as an extension for her A Blade so Black trilogy (I really must get to that), and the rest was either not my cuppa or eeeehhhhh.

6. What has been the biggest surprise?
Skein Island
Aliya Whiteley
This is one that I have just finished. I was initially intrigued by the blurb when it landed in my inbox, and then got worried when I saw quite mixed reviews. It is certainly not a book for everyone and comes across as a bizarre mix of mythology, horror, and literary fiction.

7. Have you discovered a favourite new author (debut or new-to-you)?
Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Talia Hibbert
Looking through the books I've read this year, I've come to realize that there aren't that many contenders, except possibly Helen Marshall and Aliya Whiteley. So, I'm cheating with this one because I haven't even finished this book. Let that be an indicator of how talented Talia Hibbert's is as an adult-romance author.

8. Newest fictional crush?
A Throne of Swans
Katherine & Elizabeth Corr
I struggled with answering this question last year, for the exact same reason - I just don't get book crushes anymore?
That being said, I really loved Lucien Rookwood from A Throne of Swans and the developing relationship with Aderyn.
It wasn't perfect, and perhaps moved a bit too quickly for my liking, but it was still top tier swoon.

9. Newest favourite character?
Strangeworld's Travel Agency
L.D. Lapinski
Feel like I'm cheating again for this question, because I'm not just talking about one favourite character, but two.
Flick and Jonathan, from L.D. Lapinski's The Strangeworld's Travel Agency.
Their dynamic reminded me so much of the relationship between the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler that it just made my little heart happy. I can't wait to see where Lapinski takes her series, with the multitude of worlds we can visit and the chaos that Flick could wreak.

10. Have there been any books that have made you cry?
Ashley Poston
I did not expect to cry reading Geekerella. At all. I was hoping for cute, fluffy romance that would have my heart soaring for the afternoon. However, you know the scene in Disney's Cinderella, where the sisters are ripping apart her mother's dress? When we came to the equivalent in Poston's writing, I just couldn't push through that without unleashing the tears. My mum is no way like Catherine, however there was something about the unwillingness to accept Elle and Elle's father's love of a Sci-fi show and how that has shaped her into the person she is. As well as how a SFF can act as a lense to learn about the world, doesn't mean that we can't be grounded in "reality" really got to me.
11. Have there been any books that have made you happy?
The Stone Rose
Jacqueline Raynor
I got sad. Bought the audiobook. Its narrated by David Tennant. Best money I've ever spent. Do I need to say more?

12.  What is the most beautiful book you've bought this year (or received)?
The Queen of Innis Lear
Tessa Gratton
The Queens of Innis Lear made its rounds in the book community quite a while ago. The UK cover is just stunning.
I was initally interested because of the cover and ended up finally buying a copy after reading the opening chapters whilst browsing Waterstones (remember when that was still a thing *sobs*)

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
The House of Shattered Wings
Aliette de Bodard
I have every book in the series, and yet, I am so intimidated to start the series. I mean the UK type font is tiny and I've heard this can be quite confusing. I still remain determined though.

Descendant of the Crane
Joan He
I know this has been out, technically, since 2019, however Descendant of the Crane has only just recently been released by Titan Books over here in the UK. Again, this sounds like the kind of fantasy that I will really enjoy... fingers crossed.

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