Dystopian books are still going strong

As someone who named herself Utopia State of Mind, the concept of utopias and dystopias have always fascinated me – this concept of a utopia being an impossible idea and one that is based on a dystopia for someone else. When I was listening to my old iPod I found, I was thrown back into my teenage dystopia nostalgia. Today I’m going to be sharing my nostalgic love for The Hunger Games and some recommendations for similar vibes!

To begin with, I will never forget that my dad listening to The Hunger Games audiobooks is the whole reason I even picked them up. What can I say? Taste seems to run in the family. If you haven’t read or seen the books and film, it’s basically a world there are deadly survival games pitting the district representatives against each other. Throughout the series it becomes more than just a competition for survival and instead turns into rebellion and critique of their society. But since the beginning mostly revolves around a competition, my first two recommendations tackle different elements of the games itself.

You have to check out All of Us Villains if you like your competitions with deadly magic and also want a series to pour your heart into. This one has a similar constrained environment, like The Hunger Games, and mixes curses and dark magic with a fight to the death. My favorite element has to be the magic because it’s one that does not shy away from sacrifice. At the same time this one is multiple POV so if you were ever obsessed, like I was, with Finnick and wanted the most recent Hunger Games world novel to be him instead of Snow, then maybe a multiple POV story will be up your alley.

For an adult fantasy read that I am seriously obsessed with – and another series starter – you have to read The Blood Trials. This one has a serious Roman-esque vibe to the social structure and the main character, Ikenna, has to enter the Blood Trials to have a shot at figuring out who is responsible for killing her grandfather. This one channels the whole the-elements-could-kill-me which is also in The Hunger Games! So there’s danger from the elements and the competitors with a good dose of conspiracy as well.

For this next recommendation, there is no deadly competition, and I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s Survive the Dome. Jamal travels to attend and document a rally protesting police brutality, but the city is suddenly covered by a dome. This dome means that their city turns into a total militarized shut down and they have to fight the corruption. So while this doesn’t have the magical competition, I think that this appeals to the heart of the dystopia genre with social commentary and revolutionary unrest. This theme in The Hunger Games continues to grow as the series continues, so I wanted to include a book that touched upon this.

That being said, if you’re just like, give me the magical competitions, I compiled a list of honorable mentions. These aren’t dystopias, but feature magical competitions:

The City of Dusk – adult fantasy about heirs of houses somewhat competing to be named the next ruler of the city

A Far Wilder Magic – YA fantasy about a sharpshooter and alchemist who have to team up in a magical hunting competition

A Magic Steeped in Poison – YA fantasy with a deadly tea competition which also features court politics and betrayal

The Atlas Six – adult fantasy with multiple POVs about six magicians competing for entry into the society and a seemingly endless supply of knowledge

Summer romances we’re loving and looking forward to

I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but I’m sincerely over winter and have been looking forward to summer a lot lately. With some beautiful cover reveals, my TBR is firmly set in summer mode, so I thought I’d share some of my most anticipated releases from May through August! Is it a coincidence that most of these are romances? I don’t think so — summer is the perfect season for swooning!

As a big fan of Small Town Hearts, I am so excited for Lillie Vale’s sophomore novel, Beauty and the Besharam (May 10). Vale’s debut was full of coastal town vibes and dynamic characters, so you know I’m excited for an ambitious heroine who is paired with her nemesis during her summer job and then forced to compete in a series of challenges.

This whole post could be full of sophomore novels I’m excited for, and A Show for Two (May 10) by Tashie Bhuiyan would be on the list. Famously inspired by when Tom Holland went undercover at Tashie’s school, A Show for Two promises a deal between a secret celebrity and a heroine who wants to win a film competition.

With the success of Red, White & Royal Blue and One Last Stop, Casey McQuiston’s YA debut, I Kissed Shara Wheeler (May 3), already has a ton of buzz. I may have picked up the exclusive edition already in the last B&N preorder sale. Shara Wheeler is about rivals competing for valedictorian spots until Shara and Chloe kiss and Shara vanishes. Together with two other girls Shara kissed, Chloe and her unlikely alliances must try to find the missing teen.

The queen of rom coms, Rachel Lynn Solomon is gracing our bookshelves with See You Yesterday (May 17) this summer. And even more exciting, this latest release promises a twisty, Groundhog-Day romance with a girl who is forced to relive her first day of college over and over again and discovers a fellow student also stuck in the time loop. Can they escape together?

I am so thrilled I found a debut author for this post and Andrea Mosqueda’s Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster (May 24) revovles around a girl’s mission to find a date for her sister’s quinceañera. In her search, she must confront her bisexual feelings as well as the ways her relationships to her friends may have changed. And don’t even get me started on how much I love the title!

As a longtime fan of Sarah Henning, I’m so excited for It’s All in How You Fall (May 31) which features gymnasts! I always support more sports YA novels, and I would gladly read about gymnasts as someone who grew up in the sport. This one is about a gymnast well on her way to stardom who has a career ending injury. She then meets someone who will help her “date” different sports and in return, she will play matchmaker.

I am obsessed with all of the covers on this list, but Zyla & Kai (June 7) is in my top three! On a school trip, Zyla and Kai run away together, which wouldn’t be surprising, except they’ve been broken up for months. Told alternately over the past and the present, Zyla & Kai comes from romance expert Kristina Forest, who is an auto-buy author for me.

Dahlia Adler’s latest release, Home Field Advantage (June 7), tells the story of Amber, aspiring cheerleader captain, who is suddenly pitted against new student Jaclyn (the new quarterback) except then she starts to fall for her. Adler’s stories have been some of my favorite YA romances and this sports romance (WE LOVE SPORTS!) will cause Amber to pick between her dreams and her love.

Julie Abe’s YA romance debut, The Charmed List (July 5), tells the story of Ellie, who is committed to her anti-wallflower checklist. But one of the items goes wrong, and instead of taking revenge on Jack Yasuda, she ends up trapped on a road trip with him. I’ve loved Abe’s MG series, Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch, and I have the highest hopes for this new YA endeavor!

And finally is Those Summer Nights (August 23) by Laura Silverman. Hannah’s dreams of a soccer career are over and a series of bad decisions results in a year of boarding school. Her summer job at an entertainment multiplex seems to offer some harmless flirting, but a competition from the multiplex forces her to confront her past dreams and her ex-best friend.

There were so many releases from May alone that I could write a whole post just on releases in that month. But I hope that this list will give you a somewhat balanced list for you to enjoy all summer long. Who else is looking forward to summer reading, picnics in the sun, and swoony stories?

Books to catch up on before the sequels are released in 2022

You know when you want to read a book and you add it to Goodreads….and then you don’t get to it. Or is that just me? It can’t be, right? Today’s blog post features books you might have wanted to read and forgotten about, but you should definitely prioritize now because the sequel is coming in 2022!

There are so many amazing sequels coming and one of them has to be The Oleander Sword, which is the sequel to The Jasmine Throne. Tasha Suri has been an auto-buy author for me since Empire of Sand. If you missed one of the three in the Sapphic Trifecta that was going around in 2021, then consider this your sign to pick up this magical and political story inspired by the history and epics of India. Plus these covers are seriously stunning, and I love looking at them on my shelf!

The next is An Unreliable Source of Magic by Rin Chupeco and features the new character art of Tala. The series starter, Wicked As You Wish, got a new illustrated cover to match and it is stunning. Book two in this YA fantasy series is about found family and features a whole host of magical, mythical, and folktale stories. As someone who has read practically all of Chupecho’s work, I can tell you that this has the backbones of family and action, but there are also moments of hilarity.

Are you a fan of tea? If so, A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a charming novella by the talented Becky Chambers. It’s about a tea monk who meets a robot and together they begin to explore philosophical questions about what the purpose of life is and where we see ourselves. This was certainly less action driven than what I’m used to for Becky Chambers books, but it was a quiet and thoughtful novella that you should read before the radiant sequel, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, is released.

Do you ever wonder what your AI thinks of you? What your Alexa and Google Home would say if they could? The Infinity Courts is Akemi Dawn Bowman’s latest series and features a character navigating an afterlife ruled by an AI. It’s a story about rebellion, uncovering answers, and inheriting a war. The sequel, The Genesis Wars, is coming out this year and now is the perfect time to catch up!

If you love epic science fiction journeys where leadership and ethics are questioned, then you have to read Charlie Jane Anders’ Victories Greater Than Death. I was entirely swept away by the action and the mystery swirling in the stars, but what really makes up the core of this series is the main character, Tina, and the themes of found family. The sequel, Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, is coming this year and I cannot wait for the action!

And finally, the last one is a sort of sneaky cheat, but it’s A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I Lin. The first book, A Magic Steeped in Poison, isn’t out until March 29, but it’s my recent obsession and I couldn’t not talk about it – I’m sorry! I just need everyone to read this story about the preparation of tea, a magical competition, and plenty of politics and betrayal. Seriously, I need the sequel ASAP and it’s coming out just a few months after the first – what a treat!