My Favourite Reads of 2020 (So Far)

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a few years now (you poor souls) will know that I like to do a mid year check-in of sorts with regards to my favourite reads. The main reason being that it’s always fun to compare the halfway year list to the final top ten books at the end of the year – what’s come out on top, what’s been bumped off by something I enjoyed more, and so on. To keep things fair, re-reads are excluded because how boring would that be?

Now, by this time last year I’d read 39 books which was a decent number to pick a top 10 from. In 2020, so far, I’ve read…err..well…27 books. Yes, I know. But hey, I did say at the beginning of the year I was going to take things at my own pace. So no complaints. However, with a lower number of books to select from, instead of doing a top 10 this year I’ll be doing a top 6 for my mid-year post.

Here they are, in no particular order:

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara | Review

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If you’ve read my review for this book, you won’t be surprised to see A Little Life on this list. I loved this novel, which is such a strange word to use considering how difficult the content is and the fact that it broke my heart into a million pieces then drove a steamroller over them. The book follows a group of four university friends who move to NYC together and showcases the highs and lows of their lives over several decades. The writing is stunning and the characters are beautifully crafted. Although it’s a long book and has a couple of issues, it’s definitely worth the time investment and boxes of tissues you’ll go through in the last hundred or so pages.


Starsight – Brandon Sanderson | Review

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Skyward was my favourite read of 2019 so the fact that I enjoyed Starsight as much as I did was an enormous relief. It’s quite a different story from the first book in terms of the narrative direction, pacing and characters but still super engaging. Sanderson massively expanded his universe in this book which would ordinarily be a bit of a worry for me, but here it was done in such an interesting and logical way. I also really appreciated the growth and development of Spensa, the MC, in this book and I’m really excited to see how this continues. These books are quickly becoming one of my favourite series. I’m just ridiculously mad that I have to wait over a year for book 3, especially after THAT ending.


Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin | Review

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I’ve praised Wolf by Wolf repeatedly since I read it back in March (only because it’s so good!), so the fact that it’s showing up on this list isn’t a shock to anyone. I love competition narratives, historical fiction, fantasy, strong heroines, romance that doesn’t completely take over, and tragic backstories, so this book has pretty much everything I could possibly want. Set in a world in which the Axis won WWII, the book deals with an epic motorcycle race which our shapeshifting lead, Yael, enters in the hope of getting close enough to Adolf Hitler to assassinate him. The pacing is good, the story engaging, the characters likeable, and it ends on a twist that definitely makes me keen for book 2.


The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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I would never have expected to enjoy this book as much as I did. Like A Little Life, The Dutch House is set over a period of several years and more about characters than plot. It’s a slower, quieter read which unfolds very much like a modern fairytale (wicked stepmother included). The book revolves around the relationship between a brother and sister and their connection with their childhood home, the titled Dutch House. It’s very well-written, with some of my favourite scenes consisting of Maeve and Danny simply sitting and talking with one another. Also, having listened to the audiobook, I can definitely vouch for the narration of the wonderful Tom Hanks.


The Diviners – Libba Bray

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I’m really mad that I put off reading this for so long because it was such an enjoyable read! The Diviners is so different from a lot of the other young adult books I’ve read which was super refreshing. The 1920s setting is wonderfully vivid, full of life and easily one of my favourite parts of the book. However, it also has a dark and engaging story and a diverse group of characters that are layered, rich and likeable. Also, my magic/special ability loving little heart was very much in her element with this one. I definitely see why this is such a popular series and I predict I’ll be giving the sequel a go some time in the next few months.


Becoming – Michelle Obama

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This is another book I read early in 2020 and have mentioned my love for several times since. Becoming is a fantastic autobiography (I say with my very limited experience of biography reads). I really enjoyed learning about Michelle’s life all the way from her childhood on the second floor of her great-aunt’s house in Chicago to her time as FLOTUS in The White House. In retelling her journey, Michelle touches on so many valuable topics and she does it with such grace and engagement. This is a book I honestly think everyone would take something away from. Even if you’re not a massive fan of Michelle Obama, I would have no hesitation in recommending it.


What are some of your favourite reads of 2020 so far? I hope that while the events of the year have been downright awful, your reading has been the complete opposite. Here’s to many more amazing books in the next six months!

Not Your Average Haunted House: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (ARC)

When I stumbled across Mexican Gothic several months back, my first thought was definitely: I have to read this. Okay, it was probably more like, is it possible to marry and have babies with this cover? But the immense need to read it was a close second.

Who, What, Where?

Set in 1950s Mexico, the story follows a young socialite named Noemi. After receiving a troubling letter from her newly married cousin, Catalina, Noemi travels to High Place, a crumbling, English-style manor in the countryside, to check on her.  Following her arrival, it doesn’t take long for Noemi to realise there is something off about not only High Place but the cold and mysterious family who live there. Her only ally is Francis, the shy and kind youngest son with a fondness for fungi. Determined to find answers about Catalina’s failing health, her cousin’s new family, and the weird occurrences in the house, Noemi sets out to dig deeper into the past and its secrets.

A+ for Atmosphere

The setting of this novel is easily one of its highlights. If you’re fond of misty, craggy moors ala Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, you’ll feel right at home here. I really enjoyed the concept of an English style house dropped onto the edge of small-town Mexico and the interesting mixture of cultures and imagery it created. High Place itself gives off this wonderfully eerie feeling which is perfectly suited to a novel of this type. With its moulding books, peeling wallpaper, strange noises, and foggy grounds, you can definitely see the gothic influence here. Where is the Addams family when you need them? 

Multi-Thread Mystery

The plot of Mexican Gothic has several mystery elements which cover Catalina, the family’s recent and older history, High Place, and the town. They’re all woven together into a confusing ball of unknowns which Noemi has to unravel. I liked this side of the story, particularly the questions surrounding the family mine and death of Catalina’s sister in law. My curiosity for answers is definitely what pushed me through this book, especially with its slower pacing in the first half or so. However, I can’t help feeling like these plotlines fell somewhat short of their potential in that the actual investigating and clues were very limited before Noemi was given the answers in the climax.

Nightmares & Visions

The incorporation of Noemi’s dreams and visions inside the house was interesting and really added to the sick, haunted feeling of High Place. I also thought it was a great way of supplementing Noemi’s learning about the family history with additional details that it would take time to decipher. I will say though, I wish that the information presented had been clearer for the reader to understand, especially considering its importance.

Socialite to the Rescue

As far as protagonists go, Noemi is a likeable character. She’s stubborn, confident and resourceful, but also this flirty, spoilt party girl who’ll doll herself up just because she can (which I kind of loved). More importantly, she’s able to go toe to toe with others in intellectual debates and what can I say? I love smart female characters. This aside, I would have appreciated a more noticeable character arc for her and wasn’t a fan of several scenes which forced her into a helpless position for very little reason.

Err…What?

The big reveal is where things got rocky for me. I have to give the author points for creativity and taking a direction I would never, ever have guessed. Yet, at the same time, I had trouble finding it believable, mostly because it’s…really weird and I’m still foggy on the nitty-gritty details of how it all works. This direction for the story’s climax felt fairly disjointed with the earlier, slower and more spooky parts of the novel, transitioning it from suspense to all out horror. I really wish I’d gotten the answers to the major questions with more graduality and build up than all together in a final rush to the finish line.

Chemistry Lite

The romance element of the book was, for lack of a better word, okay. I liked Francis, I liked Noemi, but I couldn’t see any particularly strong chemistry between them. This was especially the case for Noemi, who seemed to like Francis but never gave off a deeper romantic connection with him. She enjoys his company, finds him comforting and thinks he’s different from other men she’s met, but she’s always thinking about the fact that he’s unattractive and awkward. Still, I did enjoy some of their sweet interactions with one another.

Flat Characters

Other than Francis and Noemi, the characters in Mexican Gothic felt disappointingly underdeveloped. Despite Virgil, Catalina’s husband, showing up frequently, I know little about him besides him being attractive and a rape-y asshole. The family patriarch, Howard, whilst given some backstory and page time to espouse the value of eugenics, isn’t present enough to act as the threat he’s supposed to be. Catalina, meanwhile, is the catalyst for the entire story and having finished the book, I have absolutely zero feelings towards her whatsoever. And then we have Florence, Francis’s mother, who again, I understand nothing about beyond the fact that she’s completely awful.   


Overall, there were some things I enjoyed about this one but a lot of others that I wish had been done differently. While it may not have been the read for me, I see horror genre lovers finding something new and interesting in Mexican Gothic.

2.5 stars

**Thank you to Quercus Books who provided an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a review.**

The Disney Parks Book Tag

I love Disney. It doesn’t matter how old I get, the child within will always adore it. I’ve been wanting to take another trip to Disney World for some time now (despite my bank account pretty much screaming at the very idea). There’s just something about the rides, food, fireworks, shows and general sense of happiness wherever you go that’s irresistible. However, with the pandemic making a trip pretty much impossible for the foreseeable future, virtual travel will have to do for the moment. Cue this Disney Parks Book Tag created by Alexandra at Reading by Starlight. I stumbled across this one via Brittany at Perfectly Tolerable and knew I had to do it.

The Rules

  • Mention the creator of the tag and link back to original post [Alexandra @ Reading by Starlight]
  • Thank the blogger who tagged you
  • Answer the 10 questions below using any genre
  • Tag 5+ friends
  • Feel free to copy the heading graphics (thanks Alexandra!)

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It may not be a “jungle” cruise, but it’s definitely set along a river (which was a challenge for me to find in itself!) Just a more desert type one. Death on the Nile involves famous detective Hercule Poroit taking a trip to Egypt and, as usual, getting wrapped up in an investigation after a newlywed heiress and socialite is found shot to death in a cabin on his Nile cruise. As you’d expect from a Christie novel, there’s a solid cast of characters, each with mysterious backstories to unravel, and a vast array of clues, red herrings and motives. As far as quick, well crafted mystery novels go, and one from the queen of crime herself to boot, this is a good one.

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Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle 3#) – Jay Kristoff

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I have to say, I haven’t read all that many books which revolve largely around sea based travel. Maybe two? Three if I’m generous? While the majority of Darkdawn doesn’t take place on a ship, part of it does. A pirate ship to be exact, because any other kind wouldn’t be nearly as fun. The time on said ship introduces us to some quirky and memorable characters and gives us both sweet and angsty character moments. It also involves Mia & co. doing their best to stay afloat as they face off against a storm of epic proportions created by angry and powerful gods determined to stop them from reaching their goal. There may be a sea monster or two as well.

Verity – Colleen Hoover

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I’ve read a couple of thrillers now and Verity by Colleen Hoover has definitely been my favourite, part of the reason for which is the creepy atmosphere created by the isolated manor house setting. The book centres around a writer named Lowen, recently hired to finish a series by bestselling author Verity Crawford who has been seriously injured in a terrible accident. Lowen visits the family estate to go through Verity’s notes but ends up finding a autobiographical manuscript which details some troubling revelations about the years prior to Verity’s accident. Next thing you know, Lowen’s questioning what’s real, what’s not, whether she’s being watched…you get the vibe. I highly recommend this one!


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Illuminae (The Illuminae Files 1#) – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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YA fan favourite Illuminae will never not be a perfect answer for this type of prompt. It’s gripping from start to finish. I mean, the book opens with the invasion and evacuation of a planet and then later involves a zombie virus, crazy AI, space battles, and twists & turns galore. It’s just ridiculous amounts of fun. The characters are great, the story is super engaging and the writing format is really refreshing. Sitting down and reading this in one sitting is entirely reasonable because once you get stuck in, you have to keep going. Even if you’re not a huge sci-fi fan, there’s a high chance you’ll enjoy it.


The Sookie Stackhouse Series – Charlaine Harris

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The problem with reading a bunch of fantasy novels is that when geographical prompts like this come up, finding a suitable book becomes a tad bit difficult. Even more so when it’s this narrow. Luckily enough, I’ve read several of the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris which are set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. These are the novels that were adapted to create HBO’s True Blood. Just in case you weren’t already aware, the series is set in a world where humans know about vampires and it follows a telepathic waitress named Sookie who falls in love with a vampire, Bill. They’re not always the best written books but fun as far as paranormal romance goes. Plus, I quite enjoy the mystery elements in them. What’s love without a little murder?


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Not a castle in the traditional sense of the word but hey, that’s what Howl’s magical moving home is referred to, so why question it? The castle is a significant setting in the book. While the outside is held together by magic and has stone walls and turrets which billow smoke, the inside looks more like a welcoming cottage with a hearth and plenty of knickknacks. It also happens to have a magical front door which opens onto several different locations in the land of Ingary depending on which direction the knob above it is turned to. The windows, too, will often look out onto different places. The castle is home to self-absorbed ladies man/wizard Howl, his crabby fire demon Calcifer, Howl’s teenage assistant, Michael, and later Sophie, cursed to look like an old crone.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

I don’t think anyone can debate my answer for this prompt (especially since the ride is the Mad Tea Party). Were you to investigate the themes and subtext in Alice it may bring you to some less than whimsical ideas, but just reading the book for what it is, it’s definitely strange and unusual in a fun and playful way. This is especially so if you’re a kid reading it for the first time. Food and drink which alter your size, babies changing into pigs, a grinning Cheshire cat, a court trial over the theft of some tarts, and a hare who’s somehow always late – it’s certainly magical and mesmerizing. Caroll’s use of parody, poetry and nursery rhymes probably also help its case somewhat in the whimsical department.


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I’m having difficulty thinking of many books I’ve read that would fit this prompt (you’d think there’d be more mountain journeys in the fantasy I’ve read), so I’ll just go with the first thing that jumped to mind, The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve read the books or seen the amazing film trilogy, you’ll know that in the first entry of the series, The Fellowship of the Ring, the eleven members of the fellowship attempt to make their way across the narrow and dangerous pass of the Misty Mountains to reach the elven realm of Lothlórien. Due to a terrible blizzard, they’re forced to turn back. Instead, they take the route through the mountains and into the Mines of Moria which brings them a great deal of trouble and misery.


The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

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The Poppy War was one of my favourite reads of 2019. The first in an adult fantasy series, the world and story events are drawn heavily from China and its history, particularly the Second Sino-Japanese War including the Rape of Nanjing. For this reason, it can be a brutal read to tackle at times (the author doesn’t shy away from the atrocities of war), but it’s also exceptionally well done. The book follows Rin, an orphan who gets accepted to a prestigious military academy and works her butt off to eventually become a soldier in a long standing war. There’s action, great characters, magic, emotional moments, just an overall fantastic book.


Saga – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

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I’m going with a comic series for this one. Saga is 100% one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever read and yes, some of the stuff in it may be for shock value but it’s also a lot of fun to read. The plot has fantastic momentum and is a perfect blend of action, adventure, romance and comedy. The series is narrated by a girl named Hazel who recalls how her parents met, fell in love and escaped with a baby despite being soldiers on two different sides of a never-ending galactic war. In their quest to find a safe place to raise their daughter, the two come up against a host of obstacles including bounty hunters, alien monsters, ghosts, and more.


Have you ever been to Disney World or Disneyland? If so, what was your favourite part? Mine was definitely Space Mountain and the Mickey ice cream sandwiches!

If you haven’t, and you had the chance to go, what would be the thing you’d be most excited to do/try?

Bookish Fun: Video Games Inspired by Books

While reading is certainly one of the big hobbies of my life, something I’ve also been doing since I was pretty young is video gaming. Yes, I know, I’ve heard it all – it’ll damage your eyes, melt your brain, waste your time, blah, blah, blah. Regardless, I love raiding tombs, spending hours crafting an island paradise full of cute animals, ordering Sims around like a mini-God, working out puzzle rooms designed by a crazed computer, or defeating other civilisations with my superior ability to build a rocket. There are so many fabulous games out there for people with all different kinds of interests and skill levels. However, would you be surprised to know that there are a few which were actually inspired by books? Okay, you’re probably not that surprised, but I thought it might be fun to have a look at a couple.

Nancy Drew Detective Game Series | Nancy Drew Series – Caroline Keene

The Nancy Drew mystery series has been around since the 1930s(!) and it’s managed to remain pretty popular since then (there have been multiple adaptations in the last few years alone). I got into these books when I was around ten years old and not long after also discovered the video games. To give you an idea of just how popular these point and click adventures are, the first entry, Secrets Can Kill, was released in 1998 and only last year, they released installment number 33! These games are so much fun and super re-playable. They’re full of challenging & entertaining puzzles, interesting characters and exciting stories. While the plots differ from the books for the most part, they do feature all the popular characters including The Hardy Boys. I highly recommend these even if you’re not a gamer. Plus they’re usually super cheap during Steam sales (some of my favourites are Curse of Blackmoor Manor, Tomb of the Lost Queen and Shadow at the Water’s Edge).


American McGee’s Alice & Alice: Madness Returns | Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll

This gaming duology takes its concept from Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. People have often considered the Alice stories with regards to mental illness, but these video games take it a step further by having Wonderland exist as a mental retreat for institutionalised Alice’s traumatised mind. Here, Wonderland is a lot darker and more violent, but I suppose that’s necessary for a video game. The games feature a slightly older Alice battling her way across the land using a variety of weapons whilst attempting to repair her mind in the wake of her parents’ deaths. Fans of the stories will be happy to know that the games do include a lot famous faces such as the White Rabbit, Queen of Hearts and Cheshire cat. The design style leans towards comic book-ish but there are some super pretty and engaging environments, as one would expect of something set in Wonderland.


Metro Series | Metro 2033 – Dmitry Glukhovsky

If you’re a fan of first person shooter or survivor horror games, then you’ve probably heard of Metro 2033 and its sequels Metro: Last Light & Metro: Exodus. The original game is based on a book of the same name by Russian author, Dmitry Glukhovsky. Both are set in Moscow following the fallout of a nuclear war in which people are forced to live in underground bunkers and tunnels – a network called the Metro. Aside from the fallout radiation, survivors also have to deal with extreme human factions and dangerous mutant creatures. The story follows a man named Aryton who is tasked with journeying to the heart of the Metro to warn people about a threat known as the Dark Ones. The book and game share many similarities but also quite a few differences – most notably the game’s ability to make the player feel extremely uneasy for most of its run time and its different two endings.


The Witcher Series | The Witcher Series – Andrzej Sapkowski

If you’re considering video games with their origins in books, The Witcher games are definitely the most well-known. These are somewhat different to others on this list in that they don’t attempt to directly adapt the novels. Instead, they act as sequels. Well, at least they were sequels until the author realised how popular the games were, got ticked off at how things were handled, and went back to add extra books to the series. Because they’re follow ups, the games include a heap of prominent and smaller book characters and showcase many different parts of Sapkowski’s world in lush and fantastic detail. While it helps to have read the books to understand references, in-jokes, and backstories when playing, it’s not essential for enjoyment. Also, this is definitely a series which improves with each installment. Although the first game leaves a lot to be desired, it’s worth pushing through to eventually get to play Wild Hunt (one of my favourite games of all time).


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring | The Lord of the Rings Series – J RR Tolkien

There have been a HEAP of Lord of the Rings games and it’s easy to understand why: the franchise is ridiculously popular. One of my favourites is LEGO LotR, but considering how movie influenced it is, (and the fact I wasn’t a big fan of Shadow of Mordor) I’m going with The Fellowship of the Ring game for this list. Released the year after the film, you’d think it’d just be a basic, cash-in type thing but it’s actually very much a book adaptation. The characters are modeled using the book’s descriptions, not the actors, and the storyline includes a lot of sections from the novel which aren’t covered in the movie. This is particularly so where it comes to Frodo’s journey to Rivendell e.g. the Barrow Downs, Tom Bombadil, Farmer Maggot, etc. It’s not the best game around (oh lord, the graphics!), however if you’re a LotR fan it’s definitely fun running around fixing weather vanes as Frodo, battling trolls as Aragorn and using magic to defeat a Balrog as Gandalf.


Bioshock | Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

Okay, this one is a bit less straightforward. Good thing I named this post “inspired by” and not “adapted from”. Bioshock is a first person shooter set in the rundown underwater city of Rapture. Philosopher/writer, Ayn Rand, is all over this game. In their development of the philosophy behind Rapture, the game’s creators relied heavily on Rand’s theory of Objectivism from Atlas Shrugged, which advocates for individuals focusing on their own interests over those of others with minimal state intervention (radical selfishness, in essence). Rapture is basically a depiction of just how bad strictly applied Objectivism can be, especially when its ideas become warped. The game also has other links to Rand and her work, e.g. the similarities between Rapture’s creator, Andrew Ryan, and Rand, smaller references to the novel such as posters stating ‘Who is Atlas?’, and the links between the plight of John Galt and the game’s backstory events. It seems philosophical texts can make good games just as well as fantasy books.


Sherlock Holmes Series | The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

Much like Nancy Drew, the Sherlock Holmes series is a set of adventure-mystery games which feature Doyle’s famous detectives, Holmes and Watson, investigating some sort of crime in an attempt to solve it. The player solves puzzles, locates hidden clues and analyses them, and talks with suspects. The games’ storylines are largely original (with a few exceptions such as in Crimes and Punishment) and don’t really adhere to the novels but still seem to maintain the feeling of them. The series has been around since 2002, with the latest game released in 2016, and it’s remained fairly popular during that time, even winning a couple of awards. So if you’re a Sherlock fan and enjoy a good mystery game, this might be a fun series to give a try during your spare time.


And that’s it from me for now! Are you someone who loves playing video games? Have you played any of the ones in this post? (Psssst…If you’re as obsessed with the Nancy Drew games as me and my sister, let me know your favourite!).

Room for (Home) Improvement: The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

When the world goes insane, there’s nothing like copious amounts of junk food and a solid romance novel to get you through. Having read two books by Christina Hobbs & Lauren Billings in 2019, The Honey-Don’t List was definitely on my radar for 2020. However, after seeing a bunch of mediocre reviews, I did what any reasonable bookworm would do: I lowered the hell out of my expectations.

Who, What. Where?

THDL follows two assistants named Carey and James who work for home renovation gurus and reality stars, Melissa and Rusty Tripp. The Tripps are on the verge of airing a new Netflix series and have just released a guide to marriage and relationships. The only problem is that they can’t stand one another. When Melissa finds out about Rusty’s latest affair, Carey and James are forced to join the couple on their book tour to help keep their image intact. Both would rather be anywhere else but with Carey needing to keep her medical insurance and James desperate to salvage his resume, they’re stuck. Although, the more time they spend together, the more it seems like this tour may be the start of something unexpected.

Carey & James

One of the major reasons I’ve enjoyed past CL books is their characters. THDL is told in alternating first person POV and while I thought Carey and James were likable characters, they weren’t exactly favourites. Of the two, I definitely found Carey more memorable and interesting. Carey has been with the Tripps since she was sixteen, back when they owned their first furniture store. Now twenty-six, she does all the design elements of their projects with zero credit whilst managing her dystonia and having almost no personal life. I really felt for Carey and it was great seeing her grow in confidence to eventually take charge of her life and stand up for herself.

James was hired by the Tripps as a structural engineer and to his frustration has somehow ended up Rusty’s babysitter. After the last company he worked for turned out to be acting illegally, he desperately needs something respectable in his work history. James is what you’d call the hot-nerd type – smart, clean cut, looks good with his shirt off, and caring. I really liked how supportive and understanding he was of Carey, but…he’s also a teensy bit boring which made connecting with him difficult.

Romance with Missed Potential

In terms of the romance, I’m on the fence, mostly because the relationship shifts felt rushed within the time-frame. The bickering between Carey and James becomes attraction very quickly, they “get together” at halfway, and say the ‘L’ word by the end. It’s too much, too fast and the development of the relationship is often sacrificed to serve The Tripps storyline (which feeds into Carey and James’s personal journeys). When it comes to the relationship itself, while they don’t have the ease of Josh & Hazel or banter of Olive & Ethan, I still found Carey and James well suited for each other and sweet to read about. With more attention and time given to their interactions, this relationship could have been something really good.

Less Laughs, More Drama    

One of the other boxes CL usually tick for me is humour. Whether it’s dialogue or crazy situations, they normally get at least a snort. With The Honey-Don’t List, not so much. The conversations don’t have the same charm and the story itself is more serious than past books. There’s a failing marriage, a muscle disorder, cheating, two young people getting taken advantage of by their bosses – it’s not a “fluffy” read. This isn’t a bad thing, just something to be aware of going in.

An Underwhelming Plot

As for the actual plot, it’s okay. Not keep-you-up-to-til-early-morning exciting, not boring. just middle of the road, ‘eh’. Things happen as expected but there’s enough going on with the characters to keep you mostly engaged. A few things to comment on though: first, I could have done without the police interview transcripts which frame the story and mess with the tone, two, I wish the ending had more closure on certain characters, and three, I wonder whether the story would have been better served by having it set filming the renovation series rather than on the book tour.


Overall, a quick and decent romantic contemporary, but missing a couple of things. If the blurb appeals to you, give it a go but if you’re after a great adult romance, I recommend picking up one of Christina and Lauren’s other works.

2.5 Stars

And That’s a Wrap: March and April 2020 (+ O.W.Ls Magical Readathon Results)

Another two months of this crazy and unpleasant year down. Slowly, at least in the southern hemisphere, we’re making our way towards winter time. Horray! I’ve read some really great books over the last two months (and some pretty average ones), and, despite the struggle, ended up completing my O.W.Ls magical readathon with almost all the subjects I wanted to.

March

I had a great month of reading in March numbers wise. I read nearly everything on my planned TBR except one book and ended up finishing on a total of eight books. Considering I read about four a month at the moment, this was a nice surprise.

The Diviners – Libba Bray ★★★★.5

Why did I put this off for so many years? The Diviners was like and yet so different from other stuff I read. I loved the 1920s New York setting, which was so vivid – the language, music, costumes, controversies, attitudes. The other standout was the great cast of characters each with their own quirks, personalities and special abilities. The story was engaging, fabulously dark, and a little bit ballsy for a YA novel. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the rest of the series and getting to know the characters even better. Bring on the ghosts and magic.

Red Rising & Golden Son (red rising 1 & 2) – Pierce Brown ★★★★.5 & ★★★★★| Reviews

These two books were rereads for me and both were just as good the second time around. It’s always nice to reaffirm your original feelings about a book or series. I finished them in about a day or so each because, much like before, once I started I couldn’t stop. Red Rising still has a slow start (which is the reason for the less than 5 star rating) but overall I love it. This is definitely one of my favourite series.

The Bromance Book Club – Lyssa Kay Adams ★★★.5

As far as romances go, this was a pretty cute and original story. I really enjoyed the fact that instead of focusing on two people falling in love for the first time it was about a couple working on saving their marriage. The story gets contrived at points, the characters frustrated me a teensy bit, and I wish I’d been able to laugh a bit more, but overall an enjoyable and sweet read. Plus, bonus points for the smart commentary on sexism and gender roles. A very self aware romance!

The Clockwork Angel (The infernal devices 1#) – Cassandra Clare ★★★★

Considering I haven’t read this since it first came out about ten years ago, I knew going in I’d probably feel differently about it. It’s definitely still good – a great setting, likeable characters, and the story’s pretty enjoyable as well (if slow at points). However, I will say that I found Tessa a bit blander, Will more angst-y, and the humour not as laugh out loud funny this time around. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for it? Jem is still a precious cinnamon roll though and I love his and Will’s friendship.

The Dutch House – Ann Patchett ★★★★.5

One of two surprises this month, I really liked this one! The Dutch House is the first Ann Patchett book I’ve read and it’s so nice to finish something where the hype is accurate. This isn’t my typical read but there’s something about well-written books which follow certain characters through chunks of their lives which stick with me. It’s a slower, quieter type of read (sort of a modern fairytale) which focuses heavily on the relationship between two siblings and their connection to their childhood home. Some people won’t be so keen, but I found it weirdly relaxing. Then again, it may just be Tom Hanks’s soothing narration on the audiobook…

Jane Anonymous – Laurie Faria Stolarz ★★

I was super intrigued by the concept for this one – a teen who gets kidnapped and has to try to reintegrate into her life after 7 months in captivity. I liked the structure of the book in switching back and forth between the past and present, and the way it dealt with Jane’s mental state following what happened. Yet, for some reason, I couldn’t get into the story or connect with the characters. It also didn’t help that I could see the “twist” coming from miles away which ruined the suspense somewhat. However, this might be a case of it’s not you, it’s me.

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin ★★★★.5 | Review

Surprise of April no. 2. Wolf by Wolf is my new hidden gem recommendation. It’s an alternate history story set in a world in which Germany and Japan won WWII. They celebrate their victory every year with an epic and cutthroat motorcycle race which, this year, the resistance decide to use as an opportunity to assassinate Hitler. The plot has great momentum, I really liked the characters (especially the lead, Yael, a shapeshifter and survivor of Auschwitz), the romance doesn’t overwhelm the story, and it ends on an exciting note. I’m massively looking forward to reading the sequel.


April

In April I participated in the O.W.L.s Magical Readathon hosted by G at Bookroast. If you missed my original post about the readathon, you can find it here. Normally I find that readathons spur on my reading but this time around, it put me on the verge of a slump. The first half of the month was very slow. I ended up putting one book down 100 pages in because I knew I wouldn’t finish anything else if I continued. In the end, I was able to read enough to fulfill the subject requirements for my career choice, Trader of Magical Tomes, and one of the two bonus courses I’d planned to do. However, this was only because the comic I intended for my second bonus course fit the prompt for Charms (and made up for the book I abandoned). Phew!

history of magic: Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb 1#) – Tamsyn muir ★★★★

This is definitely one of the weirder things I’ve read. It’s also confusing, dark and quite unique. So pretty much what people said it would be. I have complicated feelings toward GtN. While I enjoyed it and was super interested in the world, magic and characters, there’s not a lot of explanation for things and feeling massively lost through large chunks of the book certainly put a dampener on it. It also takes a little bit of time for the plot to find momentum. However, there’s so much awesome potential here and I’m excited to see what happens in the sequel.

transfiguration: Sword of Destiny(The Witcher 0.75#) – Andrzej Sapkowski ★★★★

Weirdly, I think I enjoyed this second short story collection more than the first. Geralt does a lot less monster slaying here but the adventures were so much fun – mermaids, a quest to kill a dragon, Geralt running around Novigrad with Dandelion trying to catch a shapeshifter… I wasn’t as fond of the Yennefer related material (it reads very melodramatic, but perhaps it’s the translation?) but really enjoyed Geralt and Ciri’s introduction. A pretty easy read. I’ll likely pick up the first novel further down the line.

Ancient runes: The Honey Don’t List -★★.5 stars | Review to come

This wasn’t my original choice for the Ancient Runes prompt but it’s what I felt like reading by the time I got around to completing it. I went into this one with low expectations after reading some mediocre reviews and while it definitely wasn’t anywhere near as good as other CL books I’ve read, it wasn’t a bad read either. The concept was decent and I liked that there was a good focus on both of the romantic leads’ individual stories. However, I wish there had been more humour and much more time devoted to building the romance.

Charms: Fence Vol. 1 – C.S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad, Joana Lafuente ★★★★

My usual attitude towards anything sports related is: Zzzzzz… So I was super surprised by how enjoyable this was! It’s pretty short (being a comic) but the story’s fun, the characters have strong personalities, and it’s quite funny too. I even went looking to buy the second volume as soon as I finished. It’s safe to say I’ll be continuing with the series.

Herbology: Morning Star (Red Rising 3#) – Pierce Brown ★★★★★ | Review

Just like my re-reads of books 1 & 2 in March, this was similarly amazing. Morning Star is my favourite book of the series and I loved getting to experience it a second time, despite all the emotion the darn thing involves! I’m sure I’ll read these books again in the years to come. Now, I’m ready to try my hand at Iron Gold again, finally.

I bought a few books over the last couple of months and after feeling ready to start requesting ARCs again, I ended up getting two Netgalley approvals as well, Bookish and the Beast & Mexican Gothic, which I’m looking forward to. Here are the new additions to my shelf which I still have yet to read.

My blogging has been lower in frequency lately, especially this month due to my new Animal Crossing addiction *facepalm*. Still, here are the posts if you missed them:

Instead of blogging, reading and taking photos for my bookstagram, these are some of the things that have been occupying my time lately.

With the whole cinemas being closed thing, I’ve been watching more new TV than movies. However, shortly before everything shut, my sister and I went to see the latest adaptation of Emma which I enjoyed. It does get a little slow around the middle but otherwise, it’s good. The scenery and costumes are great and Anya’s really well suited to the role.

TV wise, much like with The Circle, in March I caved to FOMO and watched Love is Blind. I know, I know. As expected, it was a mindlessly enjoyable trainwreck. Also in March I binge-watched my way through season 3 of Elite, one of my favourite guilty pleasure shows.

More recently, I finished Normal People. I’ve read the book the show is adapted from and surprisingly, this is one of those cases where I liked the adaptation a lot more, despite the two being very similar. While I was lukewarm about the book, I thought the show was great. It’s shot wonderfully and the acting is fantastic and heart-wrenching. I found the linear storytelling much easier to follow and the slightly altered ending was a big improvement. I’ve also already hit the soundtrack up on Spotify.

And, last but not least, I recently bought myself a Nintendo Switch Lite and a copy of Animal Crossing New Horizons and…it’s taken over my life. I named my island Isla Sorna, after one of the islands in Jurassic Park, and have been fishing, chopping trees, selling fruit, and getting into the stalk market! This thing chews up hours of my time and I’m having so much fun designing my island.


And that’s a wrap on March and April 2020! I hope you’re all well and taking care of yourselves under the difficult circumstances. Let me know what you’ve been up to and the books/things that have been getting you through social distancing/isolation.

Let’s Talk: How Reliable Are My Past Book Reviews and Ratings?

This post is going to be several hundred words of me trashing myself. Just thought I would let you know in advance. Probably not the best decision for a book blogger, the whole basis of her blog being that people actually trust her reviews and ratings, but eh, let’s just go with it.

Book reviews and ratings are extremely subjective. What one person loves and gives five stars to, another person might hate entirely or not even bother to finish. Then there’s the fact that everyone has their own rating systems and ideas about what a specific star level means. It’s chaos, chaos I tell you! But what about the subjectivity between the reviews and ratings of an individual reviewer? If I look back at my reading, reviews and ratings of the last few years there’s definitely some major changes evident in the types of books I read, ways I review and things I consider in deciding my opinion of something. As you might expect, this makes me question the reliability of my past ratings and reviews.

Scaredy Pants Reviewer

I’ve mentioned in the past that, until recently, the idea of using low and really high star ratings was something that made me extremely nervous. Lord knows why. Where my silly brain was concerned, five stars was the god-tier reserved exclusively for Harry Potter and a one star rating was pretty much non-existent. Anything I loved was 4 stars, ‘okay’ or somewhat flawed reads got 3 stars, and to get 2 stars, heaven forbid, you really had to grind my gears. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this isn’t something I worry about too much anymore. If I really love something, it’s five stars. If it sucks or it’s not for me, 1 and 2 star ratings exist for a reason. However, looking back at the large number of 3 star and 4 star books that make up the bulk of my Goodreads ‘read’ shelf, I can’t help but wonder where things would sit if I had rated them with my current attitude and closer to how I really felt.

Change in Interests, Tastes & Reading Experience

The things we enjoy and the reasons we enjoy them change substantially over the course of our lives. Music I had on loop as a teen, in most cases, isn’t my go to in my mid-twenties (except maybe Taylor Swift & The High School Musical Soundtrack – those will always bop). The same thing applies to books. Over the years, as I’ve read more books from different genres and authors I’ve been exposed to a range of tropes, clichés, character & story archetypes, and writing styles. As a result, things that I once thought were original, exciting or humorous are now…less so. With this experience, my tastes and interests have also gradually shifted toward other things. For these reasons, I’m almost positive that were I to read certain books from years ago now, I’d feel very differently about them. But does that make my reviews and ratings of them less reliable?

This is a bit of a tough call. Although older and more widely read Ashley has better taste and awareness (I hope), my younger self was: (a) experiencing those books for the first time, (b) for YA reads, closer in age to the intended target audience and better able to relate to the characters’ emotions and experiences, and (c) perhaps reading about certain tropes, stories & character types before they became overused. Would I still love Harry Potter as much had I read it for the first time in my twenties? Maybe, maybe not. I hope so, at least, but I guess I’ll never know.

However, with this in mind, I will say that I often have to resist the urge to go back and edit my old reviews (they’re tragic, really) and ratings to make them more in line with my current ideas. It’s extremely tempting, but something I know I need to avoid to prevent further damaging their reliability.

Memory Based Ratings

Now for another tricky one. Review websites have only existed for a certain number of years and it’s fair to say that most people will have read a lot of books before ever deciding to start formally rating, reviewing and discussing them online. By the time we begin to do so, there’s a degree of separation between now and when we actually read those books, leaving us to rely largely on our memory of the content and how we felt about it.

I don’t know about you, but I often forget whether I remembered to unplug my straightener and pack my charger of a morning. So the very suggestion that I’m also able to remember how much I liked a book I read five plus years ago well enough to accurately rate and discuss it seems like a pigs flying kind of scenario. Do I have a general idea? Sure, but is it detailed enough to consider my casual clicking of the Goodreads star buttons for books I read pre-the site entirely reliable ratings? Eh, probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, for books I obsessively loved or hated, this is probably less of a problem as the emotions associated with them are particularly strong, but with the ones in the middle, perhaps take them with a grain of salt.


So, how reliable are my past reviews and ratings? I suppose the answer is: it’s complicated. It all depends on the book, really – when I read it, what I rated it, how memorable it was, and so on and so forth. If that sounds messy to you, you’d be right! Then again, the fact that there are variations in the accuracy and quality of the reviews of an individual reviewer is no different than the mixed bag we usually sift through from multiple reviewers in deciding whether to read a book or not. I suppose it all comes down to finding reviewers who share your interests, tastes and views. When they recommend something, sometimes they’re on the money and other times they’re not. How reliable I am is up to you.

(But as a suggestion, maybe, just maybe check the year on individual reviews & ratings, and hold tasteless, illegible, teen Ashley to a lower standard. Please and thank you!)

Alternate History, Shapeshifting and an Epic Motorcycle Race: ‘Wolf by Wolf’ by Ryan Graudin

Something I have difficulty coming up with recommendations for is underrated or hidden gem type books. Because, let’s be real, when it comes to my reading choices, I have a strong tendency to stick to novels and authors which are popular, talked about or considered “good”. This is extremely silly because I’m likely to miss out on some amazing books. Books like Wolf by Wolf for instance, which is now officially my “hidden gem” pick.

What If…?

Wolf by Wolf is an alternate history story set in 1956 in a world in which the Nazis and Japanese won WWII. Between the two powers, they now control most of the world. To honour their victory, each year the legendary Axis tour is held – an epic, cutthroat, and gruelling motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo. Eighteen-year-old Yael is a survivor of the camp at Auschwitz where she was experimented on, leaving her with the ability to shapeshift. Now part of the resistance, Yael is set the almost impossible task of assassinating Adolf Hitler. However, in order to get close enough, she must first disguise herself as former tour winner, Adele Wolf, and win the race. It won’t be easy though, especially with Adele’s brother, Felix, and Luka, who has history with Adele, among the competitors.

On the Road

I’m not usually drawn to travelling/journey type plots, but Wolf by Wolf is a wonderful exception. This is a book with both a fantastic premise and great execution. The bulk of the novel follows Yael through the different legs of the Axis Tour as she deals with the elements, potentially life-threatening sabotage attempts by other racers, and maintaining her cover as Adele. I loved the competitive aspect. It was exciting, fast paced and a lot of fun. Plus, the couple of unexpected moments thrown into the mix made it even more enjoyable. Even better, the book managed to sustain this degree of momentum right til its last moments.

Slowing things Down

Graudin balances out the action-packed sections with plenty of slower, character-oriented moments. The book flicks back and forth between the present and flashbacks to Yael’s past. These start with her arrival at Auschwitz at five years old and lead up to her resistance training before the race. Yael’s memories are heartbreakingly centred around the people she’s lost and reveal the evolution of her character in an emotional way. I’ve found that books which utilise this method of storytelling sometimes end up feeling a bit choppy but the transitions here were well done.

In the present, the book also works at developing Yael’s relationships with both Luka and Felix during pit stops and rest breaks. Both these characters were very likeable in different ways. I couldn’t help smiling at Luka’s cocky, flirty, bad boy persona and sympathising with Felix who is desperate to avoid losing another sibling. Each brings out something different in Yael and often forces her to rethink notions about Germans and herself.

A Touch of Romance

Yes, there’s a romantic subplot in this book but to my immense relief, it (a) isn’t cheesy and (b) doesn’t take over the main story. It’s there, but just enough to add to the story and aid in Yael’s character development/journey.

Lone Wolf

As far as leads go, I really liked Yael. She walks the line between strong and vulnerable very well – physically and mentally very capable, but at the same time with deep emotional baggage. Also, major point in her favour, she’s not stupid. As a character, Yael has a complicated relationship with identity in that she no longer remembers what she actually looks like, often has to act out other personas (as she does with Adele), and has been separated from her family, culture and heritage. The events of the novel really force her to think about who she is and how her past & abilities define her.

A Few Extra Points:

  • The book takes a couple of chapters to kick into gear but once it finds its stride, it really gets going
  • Some of the side characters are somewhat like window dressing – they pop up when needed and fade into the background the rest of the time
  • The writing style gets a little bit “artsy” at points but as someone who’s not usually a fan of this, I found it alright for the most part

Wolf by Wolf was a huge surprise for me – the really good kind, and I’m so glad I stumbled across it. If you like historical fiction, competition-based plots and well written heroines, I can’t recommend this book enough.

4.5 stars

Future TBR: Classics I’d Like to Try Reading

I am not a classics lover. In fact, of the limited number of classic books that I’ve actually read, probably about 80% of them I’ve disliked. However, in the spirit of the whole ‘broaden your reading horizons’ vibe I’ve had going on in recent months, lately I’ve been thinking more and more about giving classics another chance. So, I’ve been doing my research (looking at the many ‘classics for beginners’ lists available across the bookish web), thinking back to classics adaptations that I’ve enjoyed, and making heart eyes at the Penguin Clothbound Classics editions. Finally, I have myself a list of 8 classic novels that I’d like to give it my best shot at reading and hopefully enjoying.


Emma – Jane Austen

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Technically I’m already 100 pages into this one but as I’ve yet to finish it, it counts. As I mentioned above, there aren’t many classics I can say I’ve read and enjoyed but Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is one of the few. So, why not try another of her books? At this point I’ve seen two adaptations of Emma (plus Clueless) and really enjoyed them. As a character, Emma is full of herself and bit of a spoiled brat, but I kind of love her for it. The story is basically just her setting people up and meddling in people’s affairs. As you can imagine, romantic shenanigans ensue. Despite this lighter plotline, the book actually takes a great look at issues like social class and the oppression of women. Sure, there’s a somewhat…uncomfortable age gap between Emma and her love interest, Mr Knightly, but eh. Different times.


Dracula – Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This will sound weird, but I’m not sure if I’ve already read this. When I was in high school, we were studying representations of Dracula in film and TV but (bizarrely) did not have to read the book. Me, being me, borrowed it from the library anyway. However, to this day, I’m still unsure if what I read was one of those dumbed down/revised/changed language versions for students or the real book. I was sick at the time and it was about 11 years ago, so the only way to find out for sure is to read it (or re-read it?). I’ve always been a vampire fangirl and Dracula is pretty much the original vampire story. The book is about a lawyer named Jonathan Harker who travels to Transylvania to assist Count Dracula with a London house purchase. In doing so, he makes some horrifying discoveries which set off a chain of events back in England.


The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle

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How could I possibly go past trying out a classic Sherlock Holmes story? The majority of Conan Doyle’s Holmes tales were short stories but The Hound of the Baskervilles is slightly longer, and probably the most famous. In perfect Gothic novel fashion, the story is set in a creepy mansion among the dark and misty, English moors. Here, a dark curse is believed to be upon the Baskerville family involving a spectral dog, said to hunt down any members who risk wandering the grounds at night. After the death of his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville, Dr. James Mortimer calls upon Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson, to investigate and hopefully protect Charles’s heir, Henry, from a similar fate. It’s said to be a little scarier than your average Holmes story but perhaps that’s why it’s so fun.


The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Going back to those ‘classics for beginners’ type lists I mentioned above, Dorian Gray is a book which seems to feature on a lot of them. This is probably for two reasons – (a) it’s shorter than a lot of other classic novels, and (b) the writing and themes are somewhat easier to grasp. This was the only novel Wilde ever published as the rest of his works were plays. While at university, I saw a production of The Importance of Being Earnest and thought it was fantastic so if I’m going to try classics, this seems like a good choice. The novel is about a man who sells his soul for eternal youth and ends up falling into a spiral of debauchery and desire. It’s full of morally ambiguous characters (yes!) and the themes are still highly relevant today.


The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas pere

Yes, I know. I’m already crying at the sheer size of this gargantuan book. It’s over 1200 pages long (blame publishers who though paying authors by the word was a good idea)! But, hey, at least if I end up hating it or bored out of my brain I’ll have a fabulous, new paperweight. Still, I’ve seen & heard some amazing things about this book. It’s a tale of adventure and suffering, but above all it’s about REVENGE! And I just can’t help loving a good revenge story. After being condemned for a crime he didn’t commit, Edmond Dantes is sent to the fortress of If. Here he learns about a treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo. Dantes becomes determined to escape, find it, and use it to destroy the three men responsible for his incarceration.


Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

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I’m one of those people that as soon as they see a movie they really enjoy suddenly feels a strong need to read the book it was adapted from. Sometimes I’m able to wait out the desire until it goes away but other times, not so much. As you’ve probably guessed, I saw Greta Gerwig’s Little Women back in January and guess what, I still want to read it. Yes, I know there are issues with the ending and it’s not a small book by any means, but still. A lot of the classics on this list were written by English writers so it’ll be nice to see how an American classic compares. Also, a book about four women, written by a woman back in 1868? That’s pretty darn special in and of itself.


A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings

Have you really tried to get into classics if you haven’t given something by Dickens a red hot go? Apparently not, or at least so I’ve heard. A Christmas Carol is one of those stories that’s just massively loved and re-read over and over, especially at the most wonderful time of the year. It’s only a shorter read so I feel like it’ll be a good way for me to dip my toes into Dickens without getting stuck into one of his larger novels (which seem to have mixed reviews despite still being memorable “classics”). I’m also somewhat familiar with the plot here courtesy of it showing up in things like The Muppets and The Simpsons – this is supposedly helpful if you’re someone looking at trying out classic authors/books.


Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Okay, after the unpleasant experience that was Wuthering Heights, I’m willing to give the Bronte sisters another chance. Here’s hoping Charlotte does better by me than Emily did. Jane is another one of those romantic classics that people talk about a lot. I’ll admit, one of the reasons I’m inclined to read it is the strength and independence of Jane herself which, considering when this was written, is pretty admirable. I also like the fact that the two central characters in this book aren’t your typical romantic leads. Again, this is a classic I’ve seen an adaptation of so even if I have some difficulty with the writing style, I should still be able to follow what’s going on.


What do you think of my classics reading list?

If you’re someone who really enjoys classic novels, I’d love to hear which books you’d most recommend to someone starting out with them. Or better, what is your favourite classic novel and why?

April TBR: O.W.Ls Magical Readathon 2020

It’s April! And that means it’s time…for another O.W.Ls Magical Readathon! If you’ve been following my blog for some time then you’ll know this is the third year I’ve done this particular Harry Potter themed readathon, created by G at Book Roast. However, for those of you who are new to it, the magical readathon has two parts, O.W.Ls (April) and N.E.W.Ts (August), and it’s based around the exams Hogwarts students take in their fifth and seventh years of schooling. For O.W.Ls, participants are given a series of prompts, each of which relate to one of the subjects young wizards study. In order to pass a subject, all you have to do is read a book, comic, manga, graphic novel, etc. which fits the prompt. Easy, peasy!

My Magical Career & Required Subjects

For those readers who want an extra challenge, there’s also the choice of a wizarding career! In 2019, G created a guide book to the fun and bizarre range of jobs that we young wizards (I wish) can choose to “pursue” during the readathon. But just like in the boring muggle world, each career has a list of pre-requisite subjects which must be completed, thus shaping which prompts you do.

This year I’ve decided to work towards the glamorous and illustrious career of…Trader of Magical Tomes. Acquiring, selling and learning about magical books? Um, yes please. Okay, maybe not The Monster Book of Monsters but otherwise, sounds good. Also, having my own bookshop sounds amazing. In order to succeed in my chosen career, I need to complete 4 O.W.Ls – Ancient Runes, Charms, History of Magic, and Transfiguration.


Heart rune: Heart on the Cover or in the Title

Heartless – Marissa Meyer

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This was a tough pick for me. Not because there aren’t books which meet the prompt but for some reason none of them were grabbing me and screaming: you must read this! For now, I’ve decided to go with Heartless. I’ve heard positive things about this book in the past and having read three of The Lunar Chronicles books and enjoyed them, I know Marissa Meyer does well when it comes to re-imagining existing stories in creative ways. I’m interested to see how she does with the Queen of Hearts and the world of Alice in Wonderland. Definitely have to find myself a copy of the hardback though because that jacket-less cover is fabulous.


Lumos Maxima: A White Cover

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

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There were two different covers available to me when I picked this one up at my usual bookstore. I’m glad I ended up going with the white rather than the red (which didn’t really float my boat) so I could use it for this prompt. I’ve been thinking about reading In Cold Blood for a while now. It’s something I’ve definitely been curious about and is even listed on my 30 books to read in 2020 list. I never read true crime novels and this book is considered one of the defining books of the genre so it’ll be a new experience for me and I really hope I find it interesting. It’s also only around 300 pages which makes it great for a readathon pick.


Witch Hunts: A Book Featuring Witches/Wizards

Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb 1#) – Tamsyn Muir

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I’ll be honest, I was determined to find a way to read this book because I’m super excited about it even though there’s about a 50-50 chance I’ll like it due to the confusion factor. GtN is a sci-fi and fantasy genre blend, but the book deals with necromancers which is a type of magic/wizardry as far as I’m concerned. Just a very dark kind. The book follows a swordfighter named Gideon who travels with a necromancer (& planet ruler) named Harrowhark to attend a competition between necromancers to win the favour of the emperor. However, things go a bit haywire when the other competitors start to get murdered.


Animagus Lecture: Book/Series that Includes Shapeshifting

Sword of Destiny (Witcher 0.75#) – Andrzej Sapkowski

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Yes, it’s taken me more than a year and a half to get there but I’m finally reading the second collection of The Witcher short stories. I was hoping to tackle this earlier in the year (tried to buy it at x-mas but they were all sold out!) but as it turns out, it’s a good thing I didn’t, because then I wouldn’t have been able to use it for this prompt. This collection includes dopplers, which are shapeshifters, and introduces us to Ciri, a vital character in the main book series. It also includes the story, The Bounds of Reason, which is about a dragon hunt and was used as the basis for one of my favourite episodes in the Netflix TV series.


Additional Courses, Seminars & Training Subjects

Now, aside from the careers and their subjects, G has made a new addition to this year’s readathons and that is ‘courses, seminars and training’. These are optional add-ons which cover things like animagus training, dragon tamer training and learning to operate magical trains. Each course or seminar, should you choose to do them, provide additional subject requirements. Some are more difficult than others.

Alongside my career, I’ve decided to also take two extra courses:

  • Magical Shop Management (Essential if I want to run my own magical book shop, Flourish & Blotts better watch out!)
    • Additional subject required: Arthimancy
  • Merpeople Linguistics (Might be useful in my magical research? Okay, maybe not. It just sounds quirky and fun, and I have to do it)
    • Additional subject required: Herbology

Magical Qualities of Number 2: Balance/Opposites – Read Something Outside Your Favourite Genre

Fence, Vol. 1 – C. S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad, Joana LaFuente, Jim Campbell

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I think it’s fairly obvious that my favourite genre is fantasy. I read a lot of it. You know what I don’t read? Books about sport. You know what I also don’t read a lot of? Graphic novels & comics. So why not simply jump off the deep end and try Fence Vol 1. What have I got to lose? I’ve heard really great things about this series. It’s supposedly plot driven, fast paced, LGBTI positive and has great characters. I read C. S. Pacat’s The Captive Prince trilogy a while back so it’ll be interesting to see how her writing changes with a different genre and medium. I hope I find a new fave!


Mimbulus Mimbletonia: Title Starting with an ‘M’

Morning Star (Red Rising Saga 3#) – Pierce Brown

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As some of you may have seen in my recent posts, I’ve been doing a re-read of the first three Red Rising books with the intention of pushing on into Iron Gold and Dark Age (which are sitting on my shelf already). I read books 1 & 2 last month and now I’m moving on to Morning Star. This is my favourite book of the original three so I’m super excited to experience it for a second time. Because it’s something I know and love, I’m hoping I’ll be able to read it super quickly, just like I did with RR and Golden Son.


Will you be participating in the O.W.Ls magical readathon this year? If so, what career have you chosen and which books are you most excited to read?