And That’s a Wrap: February and March 2022 Edition

Another month is over and, as usual, that means it’s time for a reading wrap-up! Let’s jump in, shall we?

February this year wasn’t a huge reading month but I finished an ARC I had, re-read a favourite, and finished a fantastic 1000 page novel that I’ve had on my TBR for like 5 years, so you’ll hear absolutely no complaints from me!

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive 1#) – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★★

I finally did it. I read the first (giant) book in The Stormlight Archive and it was fantastic. The first few chapters were slightly disorienting but after that, I enjoyed myself so much. The world-building is vast and impressive, and I loved the way the drama and action of the story ebbed and flowed over the course of the book. The climax, in particular, was so darn good – I just couldn’t stop reading. However, my favourite part was definitely the characters – they’re so well developed and it was really interesting seeing how their paths intertwined. I’m really keen to read the next book in the series so you can bet Words of Radiance will show up in one of these wrap-ups later in the year.

One Night on the Island – Josie Silver ★★ | Review

I really enjoyed Josie Silver’s One Day in December so I’d hoped this would be a similar experience, especially considering the cute blurb, but it was not to be. The setting for the book, a beautiful and remote Irish island complete with sweet locals, was great and I liked the story’s ideas of self-love and self-partnering (despite them feeling at odds with the romance). However, for something marketed as a romance, the relationship between leads Cleo & Mac seemed underdeveloped and downplayed in favour of their individual journeys. It also felt undermined by Mack’s unresolved marriage situation. Additionally, my warmth towards the characters themselves was…rocky. In the end, not for me.

Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney | Review ★★★★★

I love this book and it held up just as well the second time through as it did the first. I’d been planning on rereading this right before watching the adaptation (due in May) to refresh my memory but I got so excited about the prospect that I’ve done it several months early! Ah well. Worth it. Conversations won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but this is easily one of my favourite standalones.

Migrations – Charlotte McConaghy ★★★

I didn’t end up liking this as much as McConaghy’s most recent release, Once There Were Wolves, but it was a decent read. It’s slowly paced and tonally bleak due to its focus on humans’ devastating impact on the natural environment and the MC’s backstory. It’s about a woman named Franny who is desperate to find a place on a fishing vessel to follow the last migration of the Arctic Terns towards Antarctica. I know a lot of other readers have really loved Migrations and I can understand why that might be but I feel as though it took me a while to really understand Franny as a protagonist or the connection between her and her husband, something that was crucial to the emotional weight of the story. It’s very different from a lot of other books I’ve read, and I have this inexplicable feeling that I might enjoy it more in the form of the adaptation currently in the works.

March was a pretty good month for me reading-wise. I read 8 books (why are kindle books so much easier to read quickly??) and went on a brief historical-romance trip while waiting eagerly for the second season of Bridgerton to release on Netflix. However, my reading buzz came to somewhat of a screeching halt after reaching one book in particular. It won’t be hard to guess which from the star ratings.

The View was Exhausting – Mikaella Clements & Onjuli Datta ★★.5

I picked this up on a whim while at the book store one day. I had a good feeling about it and after seeing some Evelyn Hugo comparisons (the acting, fame, secret relationship vibe minus the historical setting), I was even keener. As it turned out, TVWE was okay but unmemorable. I didn’t dislike it but it didn’t inspire much of an I-need-to-keep-reading headspace. It’s about an actress called Whitman who has an on-off again fake relationship with a party boy named Leo which they utilise whenever her public persona needs a refresh. The characters were fine, although I can’t say I grew particularly attached to them and I found Whitman frustrating in the second half. The chemistry between Whitman and Leo was decent and I did want them to be happy together, but far from one of my favourite romances. Honestly, I don’t really have all that much to say about this one.

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons 2#) – Julia Quinn ★★

I had a lacklustre reaction to the first Bridgertons book (despite loving the Netflix series) but I was determined to try this anyway. I liked it slightly more than book one and enjoyed Kate but the big problem is that Anthony’s still an ass. Might be because he says things like: “I don’t like being denied my rights” when Kate asks to hold off having sex for a week. I get it’s historical but jeez…my ovaries just shriveled. There are also a couple of story elements that feel a little silly, like why Kate & Anthony get married. Don’t get me wrong, though, there was fun stuff, too – Kate’s troublesome corgi, Newton, the Bridgertons playing aggressively competitive Pall-Mall (like croquet), and Colin being an absolute shit-stirrer. Not sure if I’ll read book 3 but one thing’s for sure, if I have to read the word “rake” again for the 1000th time, I will gouge my eyes out.

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke 1#) – Tessa Dare ★★★★

After my disappointing experience with The Viscount Who Loved Me, I thought I’d give popular romance author Tessa Dare a try and, you know what, this was really good! As far as historical romance goes, it felt more on the modern side but I liked that because it meant we avoided a lot of the toxicity you often find in the genre. The writing was really funny, even slightly satirical at times, but so easy to get sucked into. I liked the characters, especially our heroine Emma, and thought the interactions between her and male lead Ash were sweet and fun. I wasn’t swooning or shipping as hard as I have with other romance couples but it was cute, fast-paced, and humorous so I’m definitely up for more. If you like rom-coms with historical flavour, this is a good choice.

The Governess Game (Girl Meets Duke 2#) – Tessa Dare ★★★★

I’d heard that a few people were disappointed with the second entry in this series but I actually enjoyed it slightly more than the first! Shocking, I know. I liked the setup for the story, the characters (especially the child wards of our male lead, Chase, one of which kept “killing” off her doll in a new way every day), the banter and chemistry, and Tessa Dare’s once again engaging and fun writing style. Clearly, I should be reading more of her books in the future.

Dead Silence – S. A. Barnes ★★★

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t super vibing with this at the beginning. It took a little while to get into the swing of things and I wasn’t sure what to make of the characters or the split timeline. Yet, once I got toward the middle, it seemed to find its footing and I began to enjoy myself. I feel like it manages the cross-over between sci-fi, horror, mystery and slight romance fairly well. The world-building is comprehensive enough to support the story and there are a couple of good creepy moments. I thought the twist and explanation for events were pretty reasonable but the fact that a couple of things were left unexplained was annoying. I also wish there’d been more development to the side characters to increase the emotional impact of the story.

Hook, Line, and Sinker (Bellinger Sisters 2#) – Tessa Bailey ★★★★.5

I loved this. Surprisingly, even more than the first book! It’s the perfect combination of sweet and sexy. The romance was super enjoyable and the chemistry between Fox and Hannah was fantastic. I adored them together – the intimacy, the trust, the ease of their interactions! – but also I just really liked both of them as characters. The growth and development they undergo over the course of the book alongside their somewhat slowburn romance was so nice to see, especially Fox overcoming his negative perceptions of himself. Plus, the smut was pretty fire, too, just in case you were wondering. It’s probably not the best example of friends-to-lovers because the friendship isn’t exactly “solid” but I’ve never been a huge fan of that trope so no bothers here.

The Atlas Six – Olivie Blake ★★★ | Review

Finally, after what feels like forever, I read The Atlas Six. I wish I could say it was everything I was hoping for but, unfortunately, not. While I really liked the premise and found the characters interesting (despite some being underutilised), the writing style and I didn’t fully gel. I also wish that there had been slightly more structure to the magic system and the book’s plot aside from a few decent twists. Some more emotional conversations between the characters rather than the frequent, but admittedly captivating, attempts at power play would also have gone a long way. Still, I’m intrigued enough to read the sequel.

Norweigan Wood – Haruki Murakami ★

There were several points during this that I should have DNF-ed and I regret not doing so because…oh, boy. Would someone please explain how this book was so popular that Murakami fled Japan to get away from the publicity? I don’t think I’ve ever had such an emotionally negative reaction to a novel before. Anger, disgust, boredom, frustration, disbelief – I ran the gamut. I mean, good lord, the red flags! The depiction of women, slight paedophilic vibes to some descriptions (actual paedophilia in one scene), handling of mental health, asshole MC that every character feels the need tell us is such a nice guy, suicide used FOUR times and not well, the constant (& pretentious) book/music title drops…I almost want to write a review just to rant and rage. I actually thought this was going to be fantastic but, plot twist, one star it is.


It’s been a lazy start to 2022 for blogging and of the limited posts that I’ve uploaded, a chunk of them have been book reviews. Admittedly, I don’t have a problem with that because, well, book blog. I’m hoping to up my posting frequency in April (the public holidays should help) but we’ll see how that goes since there will be a few things going on in my life over the coming weeks. Here are the posts from Feb & March that aren’t already linked above, just in case you missed them:


In life news, I’ve got a new job! I’ve been in my current position for several years now so I’m very excited (and a little nervous) about trying something new. My new role is in a different city from where I am now so over the next few weeks I’ll be getting ready to move, finding an apartment, buying furniture, and all that big stuff.

As far as non-bookish entertainment stuff goes, when it comes to TV I’ve been watching:

  • Love is Blind, S2: Bit of a frustrating experience this season and the editing is wild!
  • Arcane: League of Legends, S1: Why did I wait such a long time to watch this? It’s so good! The art is amazing and I really enjoyed the story. Such a bummer that season 2 will take so long to make. This is proof you can make good adaptations of video games if they’re done right.
  • Bridgerton, S2: I binged this like crazy. It was very different from the book, in some great and less problematic ways, but also some…not-so-good ways. There were too many subplots, I wasn’t a fan of the love triangle, and they dragged out the will-they-won’t they a tad too long. Some more post-marriage time would have been nice. However, the chemistry between Anthony & Kate and the last few minutes of the season, *chef’s kiss*.
  • Nevertheless, S1: I’ve never watched a K-drama before and my sister recommended this to deal with my boredom/post-Bridgerton depression (watching Pride & Prejudice helps, by the way). I’m not really sure what I think at this point or whether I want to continue but it’s always good to try different things.

For movies, the list is short. I went to see The Batman and loved it (despite all the people in the cinema trying to ruin it for me). So worth the wait. I’ve always wanted to see Batman actually act like his ‘World’s Greatest Detective’ moniker so this was right up my alley and I could definitely see the Seven, Zodiac, Bladerunner type influences. I also watched Deep Water on Amazon prime with Ben Affleck and Anna de Armas, and the only two things I’ll say are 1) the kid was adorable and 2) it’s 2 hours of my life I will never get back.

Gaming-wise, my The Sims 4 addiction has returned in a big way and kind of killed the progress I was making with Pokemon Legends: Arceus and Guardians of the Galaxy *sigh*.


And that’s it for February and March! I’m hoping you’ve all conveniently forgotten that I just skipped January when it comes to wrap-ups but what can I say, it wasn’t very eventful. I hope you’ve all had a great first quarter of the year and that more good things are yet to come.

And That’s a Wrap 2021: My Favourite Reads of the Year

It’s the final day of 2021 and that means the time has come to rave about the best books I read this year. In 2021 I read 60 books and, like last year, I had a lot of middle-of-the-road, 3-3.5-ish star reads. This meant that the books I loved (and the ones I didn’t) stood out a lot more than they would have otherwise. Yet, it also means I didn’t have as many 5 star reads as I would have liked. In fact, in 2021 I only rated 2 books 5 stars. Sad, but true. However, I did have a handful of 4.5 star ones, which is nothing to turn my nose up at either. And so, here are my 10 favourite reads of 2021…

Special Mention: Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir | Review

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I went back and forth for ages over what to rate this book. It came so close to getting an entry on this list so I feel I’d be remiss not to mention it because I had such a good time while reading. PHM follows a man named Dr. Ryland Grace who wakes up from a coma onboard a spaceship with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. As he starts to piece things together, he realises he’s on a mission to save humanity. While there’s a lot of science-speak and Ryland does bear similarities to The Martian‘s Mark Watney, the story is super engaging from start to finish and full of questions you can’t help but keep flipping pages until you reach the answers for. There’s also a surprising and wholesome friendship that became one of my favourites of the year. Good to know that Andy Weir is back on form.

10. The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter

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I used to read a lot of crime books back in high school but since then I’ve tended to pick them up a lot less. Karin Slaughter is one of the bigger names in the genre and has been successfully publishing for around 20 years. Now, having finished The Good Daughter, I understand why because her writing is exceptional. The overarching crime plot of the book (a school shooting) is engaging enough and maintains a good sense of momentum, however, the depth and strength of her main characters, sisters Charlie & Sam, are where it shines. I really appreciated the way the book slowly dug into their childhood trauma and how the events surrounding their mother’s death affected them into adulthood. I also liked the way it dealt with the complex nature of their familial bonds. It’s a dark and violent read at times but worth the time investment if you can handle the themes. I’ll be making sure to check out more of Slaughter’s backlog in the future.

9. A Ladder to the Sky – John Boyne

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The true winner of my 2021, it seems, was John Boyne with not only one but two books on this list! A Ladder to the Sky was one of my 5 star predictions and while it just fell short, I thought it was fantastic. It’s about an attractive & charming aspiring novelist named Maurice who possesses great writing talent but little creativity for coming up with original ideas. And so, he climbs the literary fame ladder by getting close to, manipulating, and stealing the stories of others. As time goes on, he has to go to greater lengths to stay in the spotlight. The dialogue in this book is great and I really enjoyed its criticism of the literary world. I loved the moral greyness of the characters, the dark humour, and that the shifts in time and narration kept me on my toes as to what would happen next. If you enjoy love to hate characters, this will be right in your wheelhouse. Even the ending was unexpected perfection. Aside from a couple of slower points, pretty darn good.

8. Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

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I finished this beautifully written and heartbreaking memoir in under two days. I’ve never really been a fan of Japanese Breakfast’s music but after hearing so many wonderful things about singer/songwriter Michelle’s book, I knew I had to read it. I completely understand why this was picked as Goodreads’ best memoir & autobiography for the year. It details Michelle’s complicated relationship with her mother and the deep pain of losing her to cancer when Michelle was only 25. The sections outlining Michelle caring for her mother and worrying about having lost her link to her Korean heritage following her mum’s death absolutely broke my heart. I also loved reading about Michelle’s bond with food and how important it was in connecting with her mum and her Korean identity. I’m not sure if this book made me want to curl up into a ball or eat until I explode. Probably both.

7. The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

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I wasn’t really sure what to expect with THIF. All I knew was that it was immensely well-reviewed and deservedly so. The book follows a gay man named Cyril and tells the story of his life in Ireland in the decades prior to the legalisation of homosexuality. As you can imagine, the story deals with some tough topics such as the religious and public persecution of LGBTI people as well as the AIDS crisis. Boyne’s writing is fantastic and perfectly straddles the line between comedy and tragedy. The style is a little absurd at times, especially the characters’ interactions, but if it’s something you can gel with you’ll have a lot of fun (well, with plenty of pain, too). I loved following the characters over a large part of their lives, although I do feel like I missed out on some things due to the time jumps. Still, this was an amazing read and I’ll be looking to pick up more of Boyne’s books in 2022.

6. Twice Shy – Sarah Hogle | Review

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The fact that this book was not read by more people is a crime because it’s SO LOVELY. At this point, I’m starting to think Sarah Hogle is one of those authors who could write a shopping list and I’d read it. TS is about optimistic and romantic, Maybell. She inherits a large house after the death of her great aunt with plans to turn it into a hotel only to find she’s actually co-inherited it with the grouchy groundskeeper, Wesley. The two then work together to fix it up but with different end goals in mind. Gotta love that forced proximity trope. It’s a little corny at times but so darn adorable and uplifting. I loved the characters, their romance (especially the grumpy-sunshine dynamic), and that they handled their issues in such a non-annoying way. It wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as Sarah’s debut but I was okay with that. The perfect medicine for a rubbish day.

5. The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood

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I went into this fully prepared for it to be an overinflated product of the hype train. Guess the joke’s on me. This book was the perfect bundle of sweet, trope-y, sunshine-y fluff and I had so much fun. It’s about a grad biology student called Olive who starts a fake dating ruse with one of the university’s grumpy professors, Adam, to convince her best friend she’s over a guy. The banter and chemistry between Olive & Adam was so enjoyable and comforting, and I was super eager for them to finally get together. The STEM setting for the book was also great and felt developed & believable (probably because of Hazelwood’s science background). The miscommunication trope was utilised a touch too much for my liking but I lapped up the book’s self-aware approach to the ample other romance tropes included. Easily one of my favourite romances of 2021 and I would 100% reread it.

4. Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff | Review

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When you’ve been waiting over 2.5 years for a book, expectations get high. To my immense relief, EotV mostly managed to meet them. JK has brought scary, rip-your-throat-out vampires back in a big way. The book is set in a world in which the sun has disappeared and vampires now rule. Gabriel de Leon, last of a holy order, awaits execution and is compelled to tell his life’s story to a vampire historian, including his journey to find the holy grail. It’s full of gore, violence, smut, foul language, moody-vibes, religious themes, revenge, and emotional moments, and I had a blast (well, except for when my heart was being crushed at the end). The world-building is fantastic, pacing spot on, and although I started out on rocky ground with some of them, the characters grew on me a lot. There are a couple of questionable things that let the book down a little, but overall, an amazing blend of action, adventure, romance, horror and drama. Give me the sequel, stat!

3. The Burning God – R F Kuang

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I really wish I wasn’t this predictable but here we are, with another entry from The Poppy War series. After books one & two took out spots on my 2020 and 2021 lists, I don’t think any of you are surprised to see The Burning God here. I was massively looking forward to this last installment in the series and while it wasn’t a perfect read, I wasn’t disappointed with the final experience. There were a couple of plotlines that I wish had played out a little differently but this was still such a fantastically action-packed, twisty, exciting and heartwrenching book. The ending wasn’t what I was expecting but still fit the trajectory of the series, despite its shocking nature (my brain literally had trouble processing it). I can safely say that TBG secured The Poppy War trilogy as one of my favourite series of all time and I’m excited to go back and reread it all one day.

2. The Push – Ashley Audrain

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Back in August, I was starting to get worried about the state of this list. Then The Push came along and holy hell. This book just breezed right on in and not only captivated me from start to finish but sent me on an absolute emotional rollercoaster. It’s about a woman named Blythe who becomes convinced that there’s something…off about her daughter, Violet. When tragedy strikes, Blythe believes Violet to be the one responsible. But is it all in her head? There have been quite a few books revolving around an ‘evil’ child dividing parents but it’s done so well here. The writing is just *chef’s kiss* – raw, stunning perfection. The Push seems to have been marketed as this big twisty thriller but it’s more of a psychological drama that explores things like grief, mental health, societal expectations, and family life. It also delves into this complex and often brutal idea of motherhood in contravention of stereotypes. It’s short, memorable, crushing and so worth a read.

And now for the big one.

My favourite read of 2021 is….

*DRUMROLL*

1. If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio

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Dark academia reigns supreme this year! I have no idea how to explain why I’m so obsessed with this book, but I am. Literally, the minute I finished, I wanted to reread it. IWWV follows a group of acting students studying the works of Shakespeare at a prestigious college. Their friendships and lives implode after one of them dies under tragic and mysterious circumstances. It’s a bit pretentious but, apparently, I’m into that. The book explores the ideas of life imitating art & art imitating life. I loved the way the story was structured like a modern tragedy, the characters were designed like theatre role stereotypes, and that the plays performed tied into the group’s reality. Even though it’s a mystery/thriller, what I was most enthralled by was seeing the secrets, guilt, jealousy, and love eat away at the characters and their relationships. I loved exploring their strengths, insecurities, and desire to change the way they’re perceived. However, I really wish I were better versed in Shakespeare’s works to fully appreciate all the nuances and subtext because I’m sure there’s so much that I’m missing. Ugh, this book was just so GOOD. I loved it so much, and that’s why it takes my number one spot.


And that’s it from me for another year. I hope you’ve all had a fantastic 12 months full of wonderful books and that many, many more are in store for you in 2022.

What were your favourite reads of 2021? (So I can add them to my enormous TBR).

And That’s a Wrap 2021: Surprises and Disappointments

It’s time to move onto day 2 of my 2021 wrap up and today I’m looking back at the books I read which surprised or disappointed me. Now, I should probably explain, a book does not need to have received a super high rating to be considered a surprise and the same goes for terrible ratings and disappointment. It’s all about expectations – were they exceeded, met, missed? For example, something that I really thought I’d love could be listed as a disappointment even though it ended up with a 3 star rating. On that note, let’s get stuck in.

Lock Every Door – Riley Sager | Review

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I’ve had some varied experiences with Riley Sager’s books. So, with my reading experience of Final Girls still fresh in my memory and having read a few not exactly glowing reviews, I went into Lock Every Door with low expectations. As it turned out, I liked this a lot more than I thought I would! Yes, the concept is completely over the top and hard to believe but after deciding to go with it, I had fun. The pacing and tension were pretty good and I found myself reading most of it in one sitting. As a lead, Jules wasn’t always the sharpest but I understood her motivations and appreciated her determination. The big reveal is kind of nuts and I’ll admit, I did sit there and go ‘wtf’ for a bit but eh, rich people. For all of you who saw my least favourite reads of 2021 list: see, I do enjoy the thrillers I read from time to time.

It Happened One Summer – Tessa Bailey

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You all know I love contemporary romance but originally I didn’t intend to pick this one up. I’d never read anything by Tessa Bailey before and based on what I’d heard, I didn’t really think her books would be my thing. Plus, with this being a Schitt’s Creek inspired romance and me not exactly a fan of the show, I thought it best to skip it. However, after Chandler on Booktube raved about how much she loved it, I decided to give it a go and, to my surprise, it ended up being a 4 star read. While there were a couple of things I wasn’t so keen on (the frustrating reliance on miscommunication, male lead Brendan’s alpha tendencies, and the abundance of sexual content in the second half), I really enjoyed the plot and thought Piper & Brendan had great chemistry. A good summer read.

All of Us Villains – Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman | Review

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Considering All of Us Villains was likened to The Hunger Games with magic and a touch of Game of Thrones, you’d think I would have gone in with super high expectations. You’d be wrong! I’ve been burnt by so many of these comparisons before, especially with YA fantasy, that I’ve learned to just read the book and see how things go. In this case, though, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed myself. Was it a mind-blowing, absolutely amazing read? No, but gosh did I have fun. The characters were really well done and I had a blast with the magic. The plot had a couple of pacing problems around the middle and I wish one subplot hadn’t been included, but there were a lot of exciting elements to the competition that have me looking forward to the sequel.

The Nowhere Child – Christian White | Review

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It may sound weird but, even though I’m Australian, I don’t read very many books from Australian authors. I know, bad Ashley. In the spirit of trying to improve on that, I decided to pick up the kidnapping mystery The Nowhere Child and was surprised to discover a really engaging 4 star read. White’s writing style is great and it’s so easy to read a chunk of chapters without realising it. I really liked the book’s focus on characters and their relationships as well as the use of dual timelines to unravel the mystery. There are a couple of plot points that could have been expanded on slightly and perhaps a few moments where things slowed down somewhat but overall, I really enjoyed this and will probably check out White’s other two novels in the future. Note to self: read more Oz books!


A Court of Silver Flames (ACOTAR 4#) – Sarah J. Maas

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Like many others, ACOSF was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I was so excited I bought an ebook to read while I waited for my hardback. I actually gave this 3.5 stars and generally enjoyed it but there were a lot of things that disappointed and frustrated me. Nesta & Cassian are two of my fave characters so I had high hopes for a book focused on them. However, there was such an overreliance on sex scenes to build their relationship. I love good smut but this was just gratuitous. It was also super annoying that SJM felt the need to include a Feysand storyline that kept stealing the limelight (and boy, I hated Rhysand). I really enjoyed Nesta’s journey plus the strong focus on female friendship & empowerment, but when it comes to the major plotline of the book, honestly, I could not have cared less. Basically, this did not need to be 750+ pages. I liked it but I’ll definitely be lowering my expectations for the next entry in the series.

Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked 2#) – Kerri Maniscalco | Review

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Even though I only gave KotW 3 stars, I was so excited for KotC. There were so many things to look forward to – an exciting new setting, an intriguing plot direction, and more room to build on the romance. And…I only ended up with a slightly higher 3.5 stars. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the romance in this book and the increased steam factor but the rest of the plot was confusing and messy. I’m still lost on what was going on. It felt like there were a million things happening that weren’t properly or gradually developed. My expectations regarding the setting weren’t exactly met either, mostly because we didn’t get to see much of it until the second half. Emilia, as a protagonist, also has a weird habit of flicking back and forth between being a badass and annoyingly stupid. *sigh* Guess I’ll just have to lower those expectations right on down again for book three.

Life’s Too Short – Abby Jimenez | Review

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I’d heard so many good things about Abby Jimenez’s books and the blurb for Life’s Too Short made it sound like it’d be right up my alley. Alas, it was a disappointing 2.5 star read for me. I’m okay with romances including serious topics but the tone of this one fell too much on the heavier side for my liking, especially considering it was marketed as a rom-com. Our heroine, Vanessa, had so many difficult things going on for one person and I wasn’t a fan of how the ALS storyline played out, with Vanessa continuing to believe she was dying but remaining unwilling to get a medical eval. The romance itself was okay, despite a melodramatic and cheesy climax/ending. I found it comforting and enjoyed the sexual tension, however, I didn’t fall in love with Vanessa & Adrian as characters like I have with other contemporary romances. Unfortunately, this one missed the mark for me.

A Lesson in Vengeance – Victoria Lee

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A Lesson in Vengeance is another book that, because I had such high expectations, ended up disappointing me (even though I gave it a decent rating of 3 stars). The witchy, dark academia vibes were a big part of why I picked it up and, luckily enough, the atmosphere was perfection. I enjoyed the ambiguity as to whether the supernatural elements were real or not, the relationship between leads Felicity & Ellis, and appreciated Lee’s ability to make an obvious plot twist feel unexpected for me. Where the book let me down is the historical angle. I expected there would be much more time devoted to the plot surrounding the group of so-called “witches” that died at the school and that we’d get some twists there but it was pretty lacklustre. I also found the pacing slow at times and there were elements of the story that felt unbelieveable and pretentious, even for DA. A good read but disappointing nevertheless.


Which books of those you read in 2021 were surprises and disappointments? Were any of yours the same as mine?

And That’s a Wrap 2021: My Least Favourite Reads of the Year

At long last, the misery that has been 2021 is about to come to an end, and you all know what that means: it’s time to look back at the books I’ve read this year. The good, the bad, the weird, the swoon-worthy, the disappointing, and everything in between. I’ve always been a big proponent of the ‘bad news first, good news last’ approach so with that in mind I’m kicking off wrap-up week with my least favourite reads of the year.

As usual, these books weren’t all published in 2021. They just happened to be read by me this year. I’m always behind on new releases so I do a lot of backlist reading. I should also mention that just because I didn’t happen to like these books doesn’t necessarily make them “bad” (despite my ranting and raving). If you read and loved them, that’s great! These just happen to be my own personal opinions so try to avoid pelting my house with rotten eggs in the near future, okay? Okay.

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson | Review

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We’re starting off with a book that’s on this list mainly because it wasn’t my thing. Perhaps I’m not intelligent or analytical enough to appreciate its complexity but, I confess, I found this mostly quite dull. It’s a short read and, yet, it felt like it took ages to finish. There are so many scenes devoid of plot or engagement. It does pick up at points and have a couple of creepy sequences, but largely I was waiting for something to happen. Aside from the pacing, I found I also didn’t gel very well with the writing – lots of long rambling sentences broken up by commas and semi-colons. Although, the dialogue did succeed in breaking it up somewhat. My other major problem was that I didn’t like the characters. They just felt flat to me and didn’t really reach their suggested potential. In the end, not the haunted house story I was looking for.

The Maidens – Alex Michaelides | Review

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Let me preface this by saying I was not one of those people who was obsessed with The Silent Patient, but I was genuinely looking forward to reading this. It had so much potential and my dark academia loving self was hopeful for something fun. *sigh* And here we are. Don’t get me wrong, there were things I liked about The Maidens – its atmospheric setting and depiction of grief, for instance. They were just very much outweighed by things I didn’t like. For one, so many aspects of the story didn’t feel believable – the way the police behaved, that a questionable “study group” was never looked into by the university, and don’t get me started on the ending. Throw in some clunky and unnatural dialogue, a few pointless and underdeveloped plot threads, and a female lead who does some ridiculously silly things, and you have one of my least favourite reads of 2021.

Rock Paper Scissors – Alice Feeney

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I’m starting to wonder whether it’s me, not the thrillers I’m reading. I hope not. Regardless, I’m in the minority with this opinion, but RPS was not my cup of tea. It’s about a married couple who take a weekend trip to Scotland to help their degrading marriage after winning a competition through work. However, things start to go wrong upon their arrival. This is another book where I really loved the setting and atmosphere – in this case, a spooky, repurposed church during a snow storm. The plot twist was also really well done and one I didn’t see coming. However, prior to the twist, I was bored a lot of the time and the uninteresting nature of the characters didn’t exactly help. It also felt like the book changed directions halfway through which was…odd. Similarly, the ending was a confusing choice. Safe to say, not for me.

The Duke and I – Julia Quinn

The Duke and I (Bridgertons Book 1), by Julia Quinn—A Review – Austenprose

Funnily enough, this was my first read of 2021. Was it an omen of the year to come? As I’m sure you can guess, I read this because of the Netflix series (I’m a basic bitch who reads something whenever there’s an adaptation). I enjoyed the first half more than the second. Yes, there’s a lot of dialogue, the ‘not like other girls’ trope rears its ugly head, and Julia Quinn repeats certain details over until I want to die, but the banter and the friends to lovers aspect are good. The second half is…eh with a side of icky. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing sexy about a man who tells his wife he “owns” her and a woman taking advantage of her drunk husband to have a child against his wishes. It’s annoying because I liked both of them up until then. Very small amends were made by the end but, honestly, the last few chapters are so darn sappy I could feel my soul cringing. We get it, you love each other. Please stop talking.

Final Girls – Riley Sager

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Another thriller, I know. I was really hoping I’d like this after a good experience with The Last Time I Lied but nope. The blurb sounded so good and the execution was so disappointing. My main problem was pacing – it was just so slow! Half the time I forgot I was even reading a thriller, probably because it kept wanting to focus on uninteresting and frustrating subplots until close to the end only to let me down. I’m still not sure how I feel about the MC Quincy. While I liked where she ended up, her journey was a rocky one with a bunch of stupid decisions and constant mentions of her need for a Xanax. The side characters were also a mixed bag, although I did like the whole past & present timelines approach to the story. Guess I’ll just have to live with the idea that Sager’s books are hit or miss for me.

Ready Player Two – Ernest Cline

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I knew going into this that (a) it was unnecessary and (b) there’d been not-so-great reviews. Still, I was determined to give it a try. You can see how that turned out. I went through stages with this book. There were bits I enjoyed (e.g. parts of the John Hughes planet were fun) but there were so many others where I was bored or frustrated. First up, what the hell happened to Wade between the first book and this one? What a selfish, idiotic, man-child. Then we have the info-dumping. Good lord. So much telling over showing. Moving onto the plot, it’s basically a regurgitation of RP1 but with a shitty antagonist, less fun, and more contrivances. I don’t normally skim but I found myself doing it a lot in this book, especially the Prince quest. It’s also weirdly convenient that each of the core characters (EXCEPT WADE) are experts in a specific quest. And let’s not discuss the side characters introduced only to solve plot obstacles or the bizarre mess of an ending. It’s a no from me.

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire – Jennifer Armentrout | Review

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So, my experience with this book was kind of a trainwreck. I didn’t mind From Blood and Ash so I was hoping that with certain things already established, KoFaF would be a good read. Yeah…no. I honestly felt like I was playing a game of Where’s Wally with the plot. Where the hell was it? Almost nothing happens and the book is over 600 pages! The relationship between Poppy and Cas was extremely tedious and angsty. Their conversations feel like a copy and paste edit half the time and I will never understand why a fake dating trope was necessary. Poppy as a character also massively tested my patience. Her whole personality is basically: is violent & asks lots of questions. Oh, wait, there’s also: likes to go on excessive and repetitive internal monologues. The only reasons I didn’t completely 1 star this book were Kieran, a couple of steamy scenes with more of the vampire romance element, and the dramatic cliffhanger ending.


At least I can be glad that out of 59 reads for this year only 7 of them were 2 stars or less. Fingers crossed there will be even less in 2022.

What were your least favourite reads of 2021? (Don’t worry, I won’t be offended if one of yours ends up being one of my favourites).

And That’s a Wrap: September and October 2021 Edition

Would you look at me, being all good, and once again sticking to my plan to be consistent with my wrap up posts every two months? I had some mostly enjoyable picks over the last few months with only a couple of prominent disappointments thrown into the mix. We’re getting closer to the end of the year now so I’m still hoping to find a few more blow-my-socks-off 5 or 4.5 star reads as I’ve only really found one recently.

I didn’t end up getting through as many books this month for the Magical Readathon as I would have liked but considering one of them was over 700 pages long I’m going to cut myself some slack.

Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff ★★★★.5 | Review

You can already tell by the rating I loved reading this one. The world-building was fantastic – super compelling and explained without bogging the story down. The sense of momentum was also great and I don’t think there was ever a point where I was bored, which is impressive for a book this size. The characters took some time to grow on me but after a while I came to really like a bunch of them. I especially enjoyed the relationship between lead Gabriel and street urchin Dior. There are a couple of little things that let the book down (e.g. some questionable humour choices) but I think if you enjoyed Nevernight you’ll probably like this. It’s a good mixture of action, adventure, romance, horror and devastating heartbreak. Also, the illustrations are freakin’ gorgeous.

Rock Paper Scissors – Alice Feeney ★★

I went into Rock Paper Scissors without any real expectations except that it would involve a decent twist, but this just wasn’t really my kind of thriller. The atmosphere of the spooky, repurposed church in a snowstorm was excellent and the major plot twist, which I didn’t pick, was actually pulled off pretty well so props for that. However, the characters fell flat for me and I found myself bored by the plot during large chunks. It also felt as though it weirdly changed directions halfway through? The ending was somewhat confusing and not my cup of tea, too. In other words, I don’t really get the bunch of 4 and 5 star ratings I’ve seen for this one.

A Lesson in Vengeance – Victoria Lee ★★★

I was really looking forward to this one. There’s something about those witchy, dark academia vibes that I can’t resist and they were definitely on point here because the atmosphere was *chefs kiss*. I enjoyed the ambiguity as to whether the supernatural elements were real or just in MC Felicity’s head and that the author somehow managed to make the obvious plot twist feel strangely unexpected (well, for me). I didn’t mind the central relationship between Felicity & Ellis, and the dark turn it took. However, I wish more was done with the plot surrounding the historical “witches” they were researching and that the side characters were better fleshed out. The plot did get a bit slow at times and there were a few elements that I found kind of unbelievable, even for dark academia level pretentiousness. I’m also still unsure how I feel about Felicity as a lead. Overall, good but not amazing.

I had fun getting into the Spooktober spirit this month with ghosts, demons and crazed human killers. And then there’s that one random and very out of place looking contemporary romance that was unplanned but I was just really in the mood for at the time.

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson ★★ | Review

This was a disappointing start to spooky season. For how short Hill House is, it really shouldn’t have taken me as long to finish as it did. Mainly because I was bored for such large stretches of it. There were a couple of creepy and more interesting moments, especially the ending which went out with a bang, but they were buried amongst so many other meandering and mind-numbing scenes. The fact that I wasn’t particularly keen on the characters or the writing style probably didn’t help either. However, having done a bit of searching and reading into some of the book’s themes and ideas I can see how this might be something you need to discuss and analyse to fully appreciate it.

The Book of Accidents – Chuck Wendig ★★★.5

This was so different from what I was expecting. I went in thinking it was going to be a haunted house story but it was much more complex. TBoA centres around the Graves family, Nate, Maddie and Oliver, who move into Nate’s childhood home after the death of his abusive father only for weird things to start happening. At 500+ pages, it’s chunkier than many other books I’ve read recently and probably could have been shorter without sacrificing quality, but for the most part I was okay with the pacing. The supernatural elements do feel a little…out there at times but the story’s largely grounded by the familial bonds at its heart. While I did enjoy this, I didn’t love it and found that by the end I still had quite a few unanswered questions. Plus, the author tended to harp on about the miseries of the world too much at times, which was kind of a mood killer.

Kingdom of the Cursed – Kerri Maniscalco ★★★.5 | Review to come

KotC wasn’t originally on my TBR for this month but only because I didn’t think I’d actually find it in stock at my local bookstores. So I was pretty surprised and excited to find it. The feel of this was really different from KotW, mainly because while the first book was YA, this one is definitely more new adult with a lot more sexual content (which I actually think suits it better). The first half felt mainly like a romance and the fantasy elements didn’t kick in until later on. The romance was pretty enjoyable and hot except for one uncomfortable chapter, but the other plot elements confused me a lot, especially the ending. I also wish we’d gotten to see more of the different parts of Hell than we did and that there’d been some more plotting and scheming akin to The Folk of the Air series.

My Heart is a Chainsaw – Stephen Graham Jones ★★★ | Review

I was actually pretty excited about this book and while I didn’t get exactly what I was hoping for, it wasn’t an unenjoyable read. It deals with an outsider named Jade who is obsessed with horror (in particular slasher) films. She becomes convinced that a real-life slasher is starting in her small town after bodies start showing up. There are an enormous amount of horror references in this that can feel overwhelming if your knowledge is limited. After a great opening, the pacing is also pretty slow for the first three quarters of the book, which requires patience and concentration, before culminating in a gory, action-packed, slasher-fun-filled climax. This is another read where I wasn’t super keen on the writing style or the characters but I like that it brings some Native-American rep to a normally very white genre.

It Happened One Summer – Tessa Bailey ★★★★

This most certainly was not on my Spooktober TBR but I wanted something light to read on my kindle whilst trying out my new bathtub and next thing I knew I was bingeing it. IHOS is a fun Schitt’s Creek inspired romance about an influencer party girl named Piper who gets sent to a small fishing town by her step-father after an out-of-control party and falls in love with a gruff fisherman. It’s very steamy as far as romances go – I probably could have used a little bit less steam to be honest because it was very dominant in the second half. Brendan as a love interest also verged into being too alpha for my liking at times. Overall though, the premise was cute, the chemistry between Piper and Brendan was great, and I thought the characterisation & journey of both leads was done really well.

Most of the books shown here were bought during one very enthusiastic trip to the bookstore after being stuck in lockdown for around 2.5 months. You have no idea how overjoyed I was to be standing in an actual store again after dealing with extensive postal delays for online purchases in previous weeks. As usual, there would be more books listed in this section but I read a couple of my purchases straight away. I’m really excited to get stuck into all of these because they sound so good!

I was also approved for an ARC of One Night on the Island by Josie Silver the other day which was a nice surprise. It doesn’t come out until Feb 2022 so I’m not in a massive rush to read it but the premise sounds cute and I really enjoyed Silver’s One Day in December when I read it last year so I might end up reading this sooner rather than later when the need for another romance binge hits me.

Other than the book reviews linked above, here are the posts you might have missed over the last few months:

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

tv & Movies

New Netflix Series 'Squid Game' Drops Its Ensemble Poster and Main Trailer  - ZAPZEE

Being stuck inside meant there was a lot of watching going on over the past few months. Here are some of the things I got through:

  • Squid Game – Yes, I caved to FOMO and binge watched this over 2 days. I love competition plots so no surprise that I really enjoyed it. It’s great to see a non-US show taking the world by storm for a change.
  • You, S3: Another binge watch. I liked the start but it did get a little ‘eh’ around the middle before picking up again. Some elements of the show are starting to get a little repetitive though. Biggest shock was ending up loving Sherry and Cary by the end.
  • Sex Education, S3: YES. I’d been waiting for this for ages and wasn’t disappointed. I love how much growth some of the characters had this season and still adore my girl Aimee. I’m not sure how next season will go and am starting to worry it’s about to run its course. Really hope I’m wrong though because this show brings me such joy.
  • Lucifer, S6: Having to say goodbye to one of my fave shows was pretty heartbreaking. I had a few issues with the series’ overarching plot but the showrunners showed so much love to the fans. The ending was perfectly bittersweet.
  • SO MANY Horror Movies: For Spooktober, my sister and I watched & ranked 20 horror movies. I’m a huge wimp so I usually avoid horror films but I took the plunge. Some of our favourites were Scream, The Cabin in the Woods, A Nightmare on Elm Street and It Follows.

games

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition high quality poster (9162x12960 resolution)  (download link is in the first comment) : r/masseffect

There was also a lot of gaming going on during lockdown…

  • Batman Arkham Series: I’ve been getting back into replaying these lately. I have so many new games to play but there’s something about the old comfort ones that are so good. I’ll blame the hype around the 2022 Batman movie.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: I finally finished! This was a long game but I really enjoyed it. I’m keen to replay at some point and take a different pathway to experience a new storyline and give characters different endings.
  • Mass Effect Legendary Edition: This is one of my favourite video game series ever so it was super exciting to play through them all again with remastered graphics and on the PS4 instead of PC. Still amazing.

Life

As I mentioned, I was extremely happy to finally get out of lockdown at the beginning of this month so I’m once again back at work, double vaccinated, and just trying to return to normal. This weekend I’ll be leaving the city for a few days for the first time in ages to visit some family which will be really nice. In more mundane news, I went to the hairdresser for the first time in a year, thank god, and tried something new by going red. I’m still getting used to it when I look in the mirror but it’s a fun change. This month I also started posting to my Bookstagram again. I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with it and the algorithm has been extremely disheartening after such a long break, but we’ll see how things go.


That’s it from me for another wrap up. I hope I haven’t entirely bored you to death and that you’re all doing really well, finding joy surrounded by piles of wonderful books. Until next time, happy reading!

And That’s a Wrap: July and August 2021 Edition

So, you know how I said I was going to be consistent about doing wrap up posts to help when it came to my end of the year wrap up? Yeah, how about we just forget about that because it failed pretty much after April. Probably because I intended to do May and June together, hit a reading slump, finished only 1 book total in June and simply continued onward in the hopes that things would improve. Now, here we are.

The Maidens – Alex Michaelides ★★ | Review

I was really keen to read this one but tried not to let my expectations get away from me. Luckily I didn’t because I wasn’t the biggest fan by the end. The book revolves around a group therapist trying to solve some murders at Cambridge University, under the belief that they’re connected to a Greek tragedy professor and his female “study group” called ‘The Maidens’. While there were things I liked such as the setting, atmosphere, and way the book dealt with the MC’s grief, I couldn’t get past the weird dialogue choices, stupid decisions of the lead, underdeveloped subplot elements and multitude of unbelievable story components, especially the ending.

All of us Villains – Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman (ARC) ★★★★ | Review to Come

This book is pitched as The Hunger Games with magic so you can imagine how excited I was to get an ARC. It’s about a group of families who every generation are bound by a curse to send one of their teens into an arena to fight to the death for control of the town’s reserves of high magic. It wasn’t as bloody and action packed as I was expecting from the HG comparison but I still had a great time. The characters are really well crafted, the magic system is decently constructed and there’s an adequate build up to the arena. It also has romance elements which don’t overwhelm the story and some exciting plot threads that make me really keen for the sequel. There were a few things which could have been improved upon but, overall, a great YA fantasy read.

The Nowhere Child – Christian White ★★★★ | Review

Look at me actually reading some Australian fiction for a change! I probably should read more if it’s like this. The Nowhere Child is a split timeline book set both in the present and 1990s which deals with an Australian woman discovering she’s the victim of a 20+ year old kidnapping case in a small US town. This was a lot less of a dramatic thriller type mystery and more of a slower burn one than I expected. It focused on characters, relationships and how the kidnapping impacted the town, but I really enjoyed it. I was engaged pretty much right until the end and though that White’s writing was great, especially for a debut novel.

An Ember in the Ashes (Ember quartet 1#) – Sabaa Tahir (Re-Read) ★★★★.5

I’m finally doing my Ember re-read so I can read A Sky Beyond the Storm (I know I’m super behind). I was a little worried when I first started that it wasn’t going to be as good as I remembered but once I got past the opening chapters, I had a great time and sped through it. I still love Elias and Helene, and I think Laia grew on me more this time through. The plot is well constructed and entertaining, the world building is fantastic, and I like that the ending isn’t highly predictable. Maybe I just have a thing for competition plots. The last time I read this I gave it 4 stars but considering the YA fantasy books I’ve read since, I feel I undervalued it a little so I’m going to bump it up to a 4.5. I’ll try to reread the next book soon.


Blood of Elves (The Witcher 1#) – Andrzej Sapkowski ★★★

I rewatched the first season of The Witcher in late July and as, you can tell, suddenly became very interested in reading the first novel (I’ve already read the short stories). I didn’t mind this but there were plenty of times where I sat there wondering what the overall plot was. The middle of the book, in particular, felt very aimless. There are a lot of lengthy conversations and a great deal of time is spent world building, politically especially, in ways I’d probably find overwhelming if I weren’t already familiar with aspects of it. Still, I like Yennefer, with her brand of bitchy-snarkiness, and enjoy Ciri’s bond with both her and Geralt. Hopefully the next book has more magic/sword badassery and eventful plot drama now that Ciri has received both witcher and sorcery training.

The People in the Trees – Hanya Yanagihara ★★.5 | Review to Come

*Sigh* I started this book in June and didn’t finish it until more than halfway through August, an achievement considering I thought about DNF-ing it numerous times. It’s a fictional memoir which details the life of a Nobel-prize winning scientist who after travelling to a remote island in Micronesia discovers that a turtle there brings a sort of immortality to those who eat it. This book was super hard for me to rate and review because while I didn’t like the story (sometimes I was engaged, others I was super bored), I can’t deny that I’m impressed by it as a piece of literary fiction. It’s not an easy read and deals with super dark themes (e.g. child rape), but the narrative style and voice is extremely well done. It also explores ideas like colonialism and the destruction of the environment in impactful ways. It may not be a favourite, but I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come.

Lock Every Door – Riley Sager ★★★★ | Review

This was $3 on the kindle store and one of the last two Sager books I had yet to read. My experiences with Sager have been varied so I wasn’t sure how this’d go but I enjoyed it. The concept is farfetched and over the top but I decided to just go with it. It’s about a woman who takes an apartment sitting job in a fancy New York building but starts to suspect something is wrong when one of the other sitters mysteriously disappears. Unlike The Final Girls, the pacing in this was really good and I read nearly all of it in one sitting. The level of tension is decent as well without being too much. As far as heroines go, I liked Jules – she was a fighter and I clearly understood the motivations for her actions. The big reveal is…a lot and brought down my rating somewhat, but like with The Last Time I Lied I found that it didn’t massively affect my overall enjoyment. No regrets about spending a lockdown day reading this one.

In the Dark – Loreth Anne White ★★★

This was good but I didn’t love it. In Agatha Christie fashion, In the Dark follows eight people as they travel to a wellness spa in isolated British Columbia. The group quickly finds that all is not as it seems and they’ve been invited there for sinister purposes. I really liked the set up for this, and the eerie vibes of the setting were great. The decision to concurrently feature the police & SAR investigation was mostly well done (if a little detail heavy) and tied in nicely to the other timeline. Plus, this plotline featured two strong characters I wouldn’t mind reading about again. However, there were points during the book where things lagged for me. The first two thirds were more enjoyable than the last, during which the tone shifted, and I found the ending slightly flat with more exposition than necessary. Also, while I appreciate what the story was trying to say about the effects of stress on group dynamics and people’s selfish sense of self-preservation, I do wish events had been more calculated (as was first insinuated) than spur of the moment.

The Push – Ashley Audrain ★★★★★

My second 5 star read of the year, hurray!!! Considering this book is on Goodreads’ list of the most read books of 2021 so far, I can’t believe it took me this long to hear about it. Because, holy moly, this steamrolled me emotionally. The writing was just raw, heartbreaking perfection. Loneliness, resentment, anxiety, defeat, and completely gut-wrenching grief, I felt it all with the main character. While it’s largely “pushed” as a thriller, it’s more of psychological drama with a heap of tension. The Push tells the story of Blythe, who becomes convinced that there is something wrong with her daughter Violet. Is she right or is it all in her head? This is a complex, brutal, and layered view of motherhood that contravenes the usual stereotype of perfection, completion and unconditional love. It’s a short, punchy read and I cannot recommend it enough!


Up until the last week or so, I’d bought almost no books at all in the last two months. I know, I’m shocked, too. Mainly because a) I’ve been unable to physically go to a bookstore (more on that later) and b) I haven’t been in a reading mood. One Last Stop was a gift from one of my best friends, sent as part of care package to boost my mood (which it did!). I was so excited to receive it and I’m looking forward to reading it in September. After going back and forth over what edition of EotV to buy for around a month, I finally pre-ordered the special Aussie red paperback edition. It should get here sometime next week, however, I was lucky enough to receive the first 300 or so pages early via Netgalley so I’ve started reading already to get a head start.

Yesterday I also ordered A Lesson in Vengeance and Once There Were Wolves online. I’m super keen for both and the latter will be signed by the author, which is pretty cool. My last purchase is a kindle one which can be attributed entirely to the fact that I re-watched Bridgerton S1 on Netflix last week. Even though I two starred the first book, I was kind of like, ‘what the hell, let’s just do it’ and bought the sequel. Let’s see what happens.


As usual, here’s the list of posts from the last two months additional to the book reviews already linked above. Just in case there’s something you missed that you’d be interested in:


Life wise, the only real update I have for you all is, unfortunately, Covid-19 related. Back in July, after months of zero cases, my home state in Australia experienced an outbreak of the Delta variant. A few weeks later Sydney was placed into lockdown and when numbers continued to grow, several government areas were placed under heavier restrictions. These limit people from leaving those areas (or your home) except for specific reasons. Unluckily, I live in one of the affected regions and have been unable to leave my house except for the occasional walk. My work hours have been reduced by a large amount (I’m still able to do some from home), but thank goodness I’ve been able to receive government support to cover this.

While the conditions here are nothing compared to what some countries have experienced, being stuck inside my house for a month, with more to come, hasn’t been the easiest time. It’s even harder in the face of people consistently flouting public health orders by hosting parties, refusing to wear masks, and attending anti-lockdown protests. Our case numbers are still awful at the moment but hopefully things will improve soon. Regardless, I’m extremely happy to have received my first vaccine dose this week.


I hope that you’re all doing well at the moment, in both life and reading, and that you and your families are staying safe. It’s scary to think that we’re already in September. I feel as though both this year and last have simultaneously taken forever and gone by in the blink of an eye. So, here’s to, fingers crossed, a great new month of reading! Much love.

And That’s a Wrap: March and April 2021

We are a quarter of the year down (somehow) and that means it’s time for another wrap up post. The last two months feel like they’ve passed quickly but I’m pretty sure I say that every wrap up. In recent months, I’ve had some good reads and some not so good reads, occasionally got off my butt and did some blogging, and as usual made frequent trips to the book store (I’ve gotta keep my TBR on its toes, after all). Here’s what’s been going on in March and April.

A bit of a mixed month in March – fantasy, thrillers, romance, even a classic. In the end though, there were a couple of eh reads and only one book managed to crack the 4 star rating threshold.

Chosen Ones – Veronica Roth ★★.5 | Review

I feel like I say this a lot but, a great concept with disappointing execution. I really loved the idea – looking at the trauma that comes with being a prophesied saviour of the world. However, the reality was a slog to get through until the last third or so, which was really good but too little too late. I also had difficulty connecting with and getting invested in the characters which brought down the enjoyment factor a lot. Although this is Roth’s first adult novel, the characters and writing still have a very YA vibe to them but this makes sense within the context of the story. The book’s use of redacted files, newspaper clippings, etc. to provide background and world building was a fun touch.

The One – John Marrs ★★★.5

I now understand why people make Black Mirror comparisons with this book. A test that uses our DNA to determine our soulmate? What an intriguing idea for a novel. Although The One is classified as a thriller, it didn’t really feel like one for most of the time I was reading it. Only really towards the end. The short chapters and approachable writing made it really easy to get stuck into but the frequent cliffhangers, which often turned out to be nothing, became frustrating after a while (I just want to go to bed, okay?!). There are quite a few character POVs in this book, probably one or two too many, and I experienced plenty of moments where I was annoyed to leave a character I was interested in at a dramatic scene only to go back to a character I wasn’t. Overall, pretty well done but I wanted more.

Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco ★★★ | Review

Witchcraft, demons, murder, supernatural romance…there was no way I could resist giving this a read. It took me a while to really click with Kingdom of the Wicked and part of that was due to some issues with the writing style, however, I had a lot of fun in the second half. I found the lead, Emilia, frustrating and naive at times, and her love interest, the demon prince, Wrath, was interesting but underdeveloped. Still, I did like their interactions with one another. The atmosphere was great and I loved the transportive descriptions of Palermo. While the ending was rushed and confusing, I have really high hopes for an exciting sequel.

Final Girls – Riley Sager ★★

This was not what I was expecting. For a thriller, the pacing in Final Girls was extremely slow. Half the time the main storyline faded into the background in favour of monotonous scenes and an unnecessary side plot. Things did pick up eventually, thank goodness, but the ending didn’t really feel like it fit the rest of the story, which was a bummer. I’m still not sure how I feel about the MC, Quincy, as her journey was somewhat all over the place but I was happy with where she ended up. I also enjoyed Sager’s use of concurrent past and present timelines again which really served to increase the tension. Bonus points for the horror movie trope usage.

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier ★★★★

I’ve wanted to read Rebecca for years so I’m super glad I’ve finally done it. The story is great – more psychological suspense than the Gothic romance critics classified it as. I loved the idea of a young woman struggling to find herself in a new marriage and stuck in the shadow of someone considered to have been the epitome of charm, beauty and wit. Rebecca has its slow points but they don’t overstay their welcome and ensure a gradual build up to the big reveals. I liked and disliked the writing. There were times where I was glued to the page and others I was bored with the overwhelming amount of descriptive detail. The ending was also too abrupt for my liking. Yet, I can’t deny, du Maurier’s prose is beautiful. I do wish that I’d read the book first instead of watching the 2020 adaptation though, as I feel like it ruined the mystery and tension for me. I probably would have rated it higher had I done so.

Layla – Colleen Hoover ★★.5

This was not what I was expecting. At all. I somehow missed the fact that it’s a paranormal romance so I was really surprised when a ghost showed up. That aside, I was pretty apathetic towards Layla for the most part. The plot was slow and most of the characters felt underdeveloped. I also wasn’t a big fan of the MC, Leeds, who’s an asshole for reasons I can’t explain without major spoilers, and this made being stuck inside his head a trial. However, the twists at the end turned it around for me somewhat and boosted my rating, even though they’re a little over the top, coincidental and try to absolve Leeds of his dick-ishness.


April was a good month of reading! My lowest rated book was 3.5 stars and I certainly cannot complain about that. I did happen to read mostly books I’d just bought which isn’t exactly great for my existing TBR but what can I say, I’m a mood reader – sue me.

Our Year of Maybe – Rachel Lynn Solomon ★★★★

This was a great YA contemporary read. It’s a slightly more mature young adult novel, which I enjoyed, and tackles themes like chronic illness, coming out, losing your virginity, co-dependency, religious belief, and the way friendships change over time. However, it does so in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s talking down to its audience or underestimating their ability to relate/understand. The writing is good and the two lead POVs, Sophie and Peter, sounded different from one another as well as felt like real teens just trying to deal with big changes in their lives. After this, I’m looking forward to reading Rachel Lynn Solomon’s other books.

The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter ★★★★.5

This was fantastically written and I get why Slaughter has remained such a popular crime author for so long. While The Good Daughter does have an overarching crime plot – a school shooting – which is good but could have been slightly more meaty, where the book really excels is its complex, well rounded and emotionally crafted characters. The relationship between the two MCs, sisters Sam & Charlie, and the way the novel handles their shared trauma was really well done, especially the use of dual POVs. The pacing is great as well, starting out with a bang and, aside from a few overly lengthy conversations, retaining strong momentum throughout. If you’re not into graphic, dark and violent reads, this won’t be for you but otherwise, I really recommend it.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson ★★★★

There’s been a lot of hype around this book so I was cautious about getting my hopes up too high, but in the end this was a really enjoyable YA mystery read! I loved the use of mixed media with third person to tell the story and thought it was a fun and effective narrative choice that really made me feel like I was piecing the mystery together with the characters. The plot was engaging but still made room for emotional investment in the characters (Ravi and Pip were cute). My biggest thing, though, is that the climax wasn’t disappointing! Colour me shocked. There were definitely a few things that bugged me (the odd & corny epilogue, an unnecessary dog death, etc.) but I’ll 100% be reading the sequel.

None Shall Sleep – Ellie Marney ★★★.5

If, like me, you’re into Silence of the Lambs or Mindhunter, and are interested in seeing a YA approach, None Shall Sleep is the book for you. This was an addictive read and I loved how much tension Marney managed to instill into her scenes, especially the conversations between our lead Emma, and her sociopathic interview subject, Simon. The writing is on the clinical side which works well in some instances but lessens the emotional impact of character centered moments and may be why I feel like the book didn’t delve as deeply into the two main characters’ traumas as it could have. The climax is really gripping and exciting but I can’t help wishing that Emma and Travis’s investigative efforts had paid off more and that the actual investigation itself had been drawn out longer.


No ARCs this time but there’s always purchases. As usual, I bought more books over the last two months than I’ve got listed here but these are the ones from the bunch that I still have yet to read. Overall, not too bad, especially when I consider the fact that most of these aren’t ridiculously long reads. People in the Trees and A Ladder to the Sky are books by two authors I’ve already read something from and loved so I’m really hoping lightening strikes twice. Death on the Nile and The Nowhere Child were bought during my mystery craze in March and I have high hopes for them.


Here are the posts you may have missed over the last two months:


Stardew Valley

Lately, I’ve been spending more time on video games than I have in a while. I’ve recently gotten into Stardew Valley, something that’s supposed to be relaxing (it’s a farming sim) but I’ve come to realise that I’m too highly strung for relaxing games to actually be, you know, relaxing. I’ve also finished a couple of Nintendo switch games recently like Luigi’s mansion 3 and Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu, but my newest obsession is Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I’m addicted.

Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Twelfth Season: Amazon.ca: Ellen Pompeo;  Patrick Dempsey; Justin Chambers; James Pickens Jr.; Chandra Wilson;  Jessica Capshaw; Sarah Drew; Jerrika Hinton; Camilla Luddington; Kevin  McKidd; Sara Ramirez; Caterina Scorsone;

TV wise, I’ve been binge watching my way through seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (I’m still a million years behind airing television though) and season 2 of The Circle US on Netflix. I’ve also casually been watching this wonderfully sweet Australian series called Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds. It’s about a study which pairs elderly people with young kids to help improve the adults’ quality of life and the kids’ social skills. It’s can be sad at times but it’s mostly really uplifting and nice. Perfect for dark Covid times.

Over the last few weeks I’ve also been trying to incorporate more exercise into my routine. It’s been a challenge getting up an extra hour or so early in order to fit it in before work and I’m so unfit it’s ridiculous, but I know it’s really important for my health, physical and mental, so I’m going to do my best to keep with it. Even though a dodgy ankle is making it more difficult than expected…


That’s it from me! Last year I got a bit slack when it came to my wrap ups and by the time I wanted to do my end of year posts I struggled remembering everything. So, in 2021 I’m going to make sure I’m much more consistent with it.

How have your last few months been? What have you been reading? Any new favourites to report?

And That’s a Wrap: Jan and Feb 2021 Edition

As hard as it is to believe, we’re already two months down on 2021. Summer is over and I am so ready for Autumn to hit me up. I’ve been watching less TV over the last few months and reading more than normal, which is why I’m around 6 books ahead of where I was this time last year. Who would have thought, in order to make reading goal progress you just have to…read more? I know, I’m shocked too. Now, before you scroll down and see for yourself, let’s just get it out of the way early: yes, there’s a lot of ACOTAR going on in this wrap up.

In January I read a total of 9 books. *blinks* I’m still confused as to how I did this, especially since several of them were pretty chunky.

The Duke and I (Bridgertons 1#) – Julia Quinn ★★ | Review

As you can already tell, I liked the adaptation better than the book here. I didn’t mind the first half. Sure, there’s A LOT of dialogue and we’re reminded that Daphne knows about men because of her brothers 50 million times, but the banter is good and the friends to lovers shift is nice. The second half, however, is.. icky. Simon telling Daphne that he “owns” her, NO. Daphne taking advantage of drunken Simon to get pregnant against his wishes, MILLION TIMES NO. Also my god, the last couple of pages are so sappy I was inwardly cringing. Not what I was hoping for.

The Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager ★★★★

I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. The story revolves around the reopening of a summer camp that three girls went missing at 15 years before. The camp setting was a great choice and provided some quality, creepy atmosphere and tension. I really liked the way the book utilised past and present timelines and how these wove together. The idea of an unreliable narrator was good but I do think it could have been used to better effect. There are parts of the climax that feel unbelievable and lazy, although the epilogue is great. I only wish that the reveals presented in it had been integrated into the main story rather than just the last couple of pages. I’ll definitely be checking out Sager’s other books.

The Burning God (The Poppy War 3#) – R. F. Kuang ★★★★.5

This series is officially one of my favourites. I finished TBG and stared at the wall for ten minutes trying to process the emotional roller-coaster of it all. There were a couple of plot threads I wish had been handled more satisfyingly or with greater purpose (e.g. The Trifecta) but overall, this was great and I wasn’t disappointed. The writing and world building is still fantastic, and I continue to remain in awe over how complex Kuang’s characters, relationships and plotlines are. Nothing is ever easy or what it seems, characters always exist in shades of grey, and despite what the victors lead you to believe, there are no true winners in war. The Burning God is grim, compelling, bloody, and memorable right til the end.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR 1#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★

This is the third time I’ve read this book and my thoughts haven’t changed much. It’s still a solid three star read for me – enjoyable but nothing mind-blowing. I think that’s mainly because most of the action doesn’t start until well into the book, many of my favourite characters aren’t introduced until book two and Feyre as a lead is on the boring side until later.

A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR 2#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★★.5 | Review

ACOMAF is my favourite of the original series, but I think that’s the general consensus. I still loved it but while my original review was 5 stars, on re-read I’m knocking it down to 4.5. The second time around I definitely felt the length of the book. As much as I adore the slow-burn of Feyre and Rhys, overall it’s a bit slow at times and probably could have been cut down somewhat. Also, the storyline outside the romance could be better handled and I still agree with myself that the climax is rushed and kind of convenient.

A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOTAR 3#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★.5 | Review

ACOWAR was also noticeably less enjoyable on re-read. Not hugely so, but enough to push it down from 4 stars to 3.5. I still had fun and love the characters but a couple of things impacted the enjoyment factor. First, the constant uses of ‘mate’, ‘female’ and ‘male’ bugged me more this time and were pretty uncomfortable. Second, there’s a few too many Feysand sex scenes. I love a bit of steam but there comes a point where it becomes repetitive and boring. Third, having just binge-read the previous two books, I found that the 700 page run dragged a lot more this time. And lastly, there are some major plot conveniences, especially when it comes to the death count of characters we know the names of.

From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash 1#) – Jennifer L. Armentrout ★★.5 | Review

Blame Goodreads. The hype made me do it. While it may not have lived up to it, I had an alright time just the same. This book is a trope mine-field and very predictable because of it. The pacing is messy at times and the world building is questionable, too. There’s also a couple of noticeable and repetitive issues with the writing itself. Regardless, it’s a pretty addictive read with decent characters and an engaging enough romance. Not the best fantasy-romance I’ve read by a long shot, but fun enough for me to want to read the sequel.

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash 2#) – Jennifer L. Armentrout ★.5 | Review

I’d heard that the sequel was better than the first book. Um, no. Definitely, no. My main issue with AKoFaF was the lack of plot. Almost nothing happens and for a 600+ page book, that’s saying a lot. The Poppy-Hawke angst was really frustrating and repetitive, and I will never understand why JLA decided that the fake dating trope route was the way to go. This felt a lot more romance based than book one and the vampire aspect was definitely played up more too (which I did like). I’m kind of annoyed because I wasn’t planning on reading the next book but then I got to the last few chapters and they were actually interesting so now…ugh. I think I’m in for more suffering.

If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio ★★★★★

To my surprise, I loved this book! There are a lot of similarities to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History but as blasphemous as it sounds, I liked this slightly more. The story follows a group of Shakespeare players/friends who slowly implode after they let one of their number die. Watching the lies, secrets and guilt slowly tear everything apart was enthralling and I was hooked. I love how Shakespeare’s plays were incorporated into the story (life imitates art) and the way the book was structured like a Shakespearean tragedy. The characters are designed to feel like stereotypes but Rio tries to get underneath the surface to explore their strengths, insecurities, and relationships. James and Oliver’s bond in particular was so good and their scenes were magnetic. Honestly, I’m shocked this was a debut and I’m positive I’ll re-read it in the future.


February was closer to my usual reading pace, still slightly ahead of normal though, and included two of my most anticipated 2021 releases. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up with as many high rated books as I did in January (then again, part of January was taken up by re-reads) and I finished up on 6 books.

Lore – Alexandra Bracken ★★★

I really thought I’d love this book considering it was pitched as The Hunger Games meets Percy Jackson but, in the end, I couldn’t get past a 3 star rating. I really liked the use of Greek mythology and world building (the NYC setting gave me serious Mortal Instruments vibes) but I found myself disinterested in the plot and characters for large stretches. My engagement picked up after the halfway mark but not as much as I wanted it to. One of the other problems I had was that the main villain of the story felt very flat in that there was barely anything to him aside from wanting power for power’s sake, which is super boring. Still, a fairly well-done YA urban fantasy.

The Project – Courtney Summers ★★★.5 | Review

I’d been really looking forward to reading The Project ever since it was announced because I loved Sadie. While this didn’t reach the highs of Sadie in terms of emotional intensity and immersion for me, I still enjoyed it. Well, as much as you can “enjoy” a book about a cult with such dark themes and content. It’s a slow read which takes time to really showcase what it’s trying to say but it’s also very clever, subtle and insidious in how it goes about it. I like that Summers isn’t afraid to use typically unlikeable heroines and that the heart of the book was another complex sisterly relationship. The ending may have let me down in some ways but overall, a strong and emotionally grounded story.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne ★★★★.5

I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this. It follows the life of an adopted, gay man named Cyril living in Ireland in the decades before homosexuality became legalised. The writing in this is so darn good! I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that’s managed to blend comedy and tragedy together as well as this book does. The dialogue is perfection – it’s so quick-witted and flows beautifully. It’s a quirky read and feels a little absurdist at times with the events that occur and coincidences that pop up, but it works. I only wish that I’d gotten to know certain characters better to properly feel the emotional moments surrounding them. I’ve already added two of Boyne’s other books to my to-read shelf.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (ACOTAR 3.1#) – Sarah J. Maas (REREAD) ★★★ | Review

Like the other ACOTAR books, ACOFAS has also gone down rating wise on re-read. I like that the novella tries to show the impact of the war, but it does feel a lot like fan-fiction-ish fluff. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and as a lover of these characters it’s fun seeing them get drunk, have snowball fights and hang out. However, there’s a lot of shopping, talking about gifts for solstice and SO MUCH Feysand acting like sex-crazed teens for such a short read. Can you not for just two seconds? Feyre’s sections also felt more tedious this time through. I do appreciate the way it sets up Cassian and Nesta’s story in ACOSF though.

A Court of Silver Flames (ACOTAR 4#) – Sarah J. Maas ★★★.5 | Review to Come

What a ride. There were certain parts of ACOSF that I really liked and others that were a let down or just frustrating. In the good column was Nesta’s journey. I would have liked a teensy bit more gradual mental/emotional development to go with the physical, but overall I was really happy. Also in that category was the friendship element which I adored. Super sweet and so much female empowerment. In the ‘not so good’ column was the human queen/magician/Eris plot, which I honestly did not care about except for cool magical objects, and the over reliance on sex scenes to build the Cassian-Nesta relationship. Finally, in the GTFO column, we have the Feysand storyline. Like, why? Why are you trying to steal my babies’ limelight? And Rhys, you’re massively on my shit list after this book.

Piranesi – Susanna Clarke ★★.5

This is one of those ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ experiences. For the first 70 pages or so I was bored, confused and considered DNF. Yet, I decided to stick it out to page 100 and shortly after that it started to grow on me. There were definitely stretches of this that I enjoyed but l feel in the end that I wanted so much more from it. Viewed broadly, I like the basic concepts of Piranesi‘s tale (a labyrinth classical mansion in another universe, scholars with crazy theories, an unreliable narrator who has to unravel a mystery of sorts, etc.) but I feel like it either should have been shorter, to cut down the empty beginning, or longer to properly develop the background events, characters, and dramatic reveals. On the whole, different, weird, and something I see other people really liking but not for me.


So, I actually bought a couple more books over the last two months but since I managed to read them during this period as well, I’d rather not list them here again and double up. Besides, it makes me feel better about how much money I spent. Living in a state of denial works for me, thank you very much. A few very different types of books here and I’m looking forward to each of them. I’m so excited I got approved for an ARC of She Who Became the Sun. It’s due out in July which makes me want to hold off on reading it for a while but that may be difficult as it’s being promoted as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles which, as you can imagine, makes me do love heart eyes.


Just in case you missed them, other than my book reviews which are linked above, here are the posts I published over the last two months:


Not much to report so far. Lately I’ve been trying to get some online courses done which relate to qualifications I need to stay in my job. It’s been pretty time consuming and painful, and motivation is low. This month I also started posting the occasional photo to my bookstagram again. The effect my long absence has had on how the algorithm shows my posts to people now compared to how it did a year ago has been disheartening and frustrating but I guess the only thing to do is keep at it, I guess.

On the social side, I finally got to see one of my closest friends recently after not having seen her in over a year. I’m sure you can all relate to this – the struggles of Covid-19. We’re extremely lucky that we live in Australia where our government has managed the virus so well but border restrictions and closures since things first started have made it very hard to see people in different states. My friend and I had a good catch up and went to see Frozen The Musical which was a lot of fun but definitely an experience in having so few people in the audience.


I hope 2021 is treating you all well so far and that good things are in store for March. Let me know what your favourite reads from the last two months were and what you’re most looking forward to next month!

And That’s a Wrap 2020: Top 10 Favourite Reads

Here we are, both the last day of 2020 and my final wrap up post of the year! Today is the day that I get to gush about the amazing books I read this year *happy dance*.

According to my reading tracker, my most frequent ratings for books this year were 3 and 3.5 stars. I also did quite a few re-reads in 2020 (which I exclude from these types of lists). With these two things in mind, picking my top 10 this time around wasn’t as difficult as it has been previously. However, it also means that this list only includes a couple of books that I actually rated 5 stars. For those who saw my mid-year favourites post, you’ll notice some familiar faces here.

Like in 2019, I’ll be ordering this list from the bottom to my top read of the year. Now, let’s start the count down!

10. To Be Taught, If Fortunate – Becky Chambers

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This fantastic, little novella swept in at the last moment to score a position on this list. For something so short (only 135 pages, in fact), it crafts such a wonderfully immersive journey. The story follows a four astronaut research team sent to explore far off planets and study their local lifeforms. It’s a quiet, gradual story, more focused on scientific discoveries, the joy of exploration, and the bonds between the characters than action or high speed adventure. The writing can be quiet science heavy at points but it really does add to the believability of it all. I loved how diverse the cast was, both ethnicity and LGBTI wise, and how hopeful the story felt. However, I do wish that the mental health of the astronauts had been dealt with in more depth, especially during one troubling part of their mission. As a whole though, beautifully done.


9. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

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Classics usually aren’t my thing, even the modern ones. In the interest of trying new things I decided to give The Secret History a go hoping to find some murderous, dark academia magic. Shockingly, I really enjoyed it. I’m still kind of mystified as to how it happened really – slow pacing, unreliable narrator, characters who are all shitty people, general sense of pretentiousness, and YET it’s so good! The best way I can summarise it is: a group of university classics students who try a Bacchian rite end up killing someone and have to cover it up. Dark, immersive, mysterious, over the top, tension-filled…insert a multitude of other adjectives here. The only reasons I couldn’t rate it higher on this list are my complicated feelings about the ending and a slight lull in the middle. Still, I can definitely see myself re-reading it in a few years time to see what I missed.


8. Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall

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I confess, I picked this book up because it gave me serious Red, White and Royal Blue vibes. In the end, it was different but wonderfully enjoyable all the same. It’s about the son of a rock legend named Luc who, in an effort to clean up his public image, makes a deal with a barrister called Oliver to fake a relationship for the press. Although it was super sweet, Boyfriend Material was also so much funnier than I expected it to be. The banter and chemistry between Luc & Oliver was fantastic but the supporting cast was hilarious as well. While a plotline involving Luc’s dad didn’t really end in a satisfying way, I didn’t mind so much because of how much I loved the way the opposites attract relationship developed. Easily one of my favourite romances of the year.


7. Know My Name – Chanel Miller

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Many of you will be aware of the Stanford Rape Case in which swimmer Brock Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman behind a dumpster during a frat party. For years, this woman was known only to the world as Emily Doe but, in fact, her name is Chanel Miller. In this memoir, Chanel tells her story in her own words. It’s so difficult to rate and review memoirs, especially one as difficult to put to paper as this would have been. However, this is honestly one of the most beautifully written, raw and powerful things I’ve read. I was expecting this to be a hard book to read, what I wasn’t expecting was how fantastic a writer Chanel would be. Everyone should read this and I cannot recommend it highly enough.


6. Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

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I’ve been raving about this book all year (to the point where I think you guys are glad it’s almost 2021 just so I’ll finally stop). As if it wasn’t going to make an appearance on this list. Wolf by Wolf is an alt-history story set in a world where the Axis won WWII and now hold an annual, deadly motorcycle race across the world. Yael, a shapeshifter, survivor of Auschwitz and member of the resistance enters the race as part of a plan to assassinate Hitler. I’m not usually big on journey narratives but I love a good competition plot and this one was handled fantastically. The pacing is good, the MC is strong yet vulnerable and well developed, the story itself is engaging, the romance is subtle and there’s a great cliffhanger ending. If only the second book had been this good but hey, it was a high bar to overcome.


5. Becoming – Michelle Obama

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By the looks of my top 10, I should be reading more biographies/memoirs. Becoming is a fantastic autobiography and I’m so glad I decided to go with the audiobook. What could be better than Michelle herself telling you her story? 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 important topics such as politics, parenting, relationships, the experiences of Black Americans, and the difficulties of the working class. This is the kind of book I believe anyone could take something away from. I know I certainly learnt a lot. Even if you’re not a Michelle Obama fan, it’s a thumbs up from me.


4. Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney

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As I mentioned in my surprises and disappointments wrap up, I did not expect to love Conversations with Friends as much as I did. This little book came out of nowhere, stole my heart and I’m still shocked. The characters are largely unlikeable people and yet they’re complex and just feel so real and human. The book deals with love, intimacy, monogamy, loneliness, and youth, and I honestly couldn’t stop thinking about it for days afterwards. It’s about a college student named Francis and her ex-girlfriend Bobby who are drawn into the world of a journalist named Melissa and her husband, Nick. Francis soon begins an affair with Nick which changes her outlook on life and herself. 


3. Starsight (Skyward 2#) – Brandon Sanderson

Another entry from my mid-year favourites list which managed to make its way onto my end of year list. As soon as I finished Starsight, I knew it would be sitting on this top ten somewhere. Skyward was my number one pick of 2019 so I was incredibly relieved that the sequel was so darn good. While it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting and very different from the first book in terms of narrative, pacing and characters, it was still a really engaging and entertaining read. I loved the expanded world building and additional character development, and I am crazy excited for the next book in 2021.


2. A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

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This is another book that I haven’t shut up about this year so no one should be surprised to see A Little Life in the number 2 slot. With its very difficult content and 700+ page count, this definitely isn’t a book for everyone. But despite the fact that it completely wrecked me emotionally, I adored it (clearly I’m a masochist). 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. I loved the writing and have a special place in my heart for the characters. I don’t know if this is a book I can recommend exactly but I can say that I thought it was beautiful, memorable and worth all the tears.


Okay, time for the big one, my favourite book of everything I read in 2020…

1. The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War 2#) – R. F. Kuang

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Yes, that’s right. While The Poppy War may have cracked the number three spot in my top reads of 2019, it’s The Dragon Republic which takes out the number one for 2020. When the first book in a series is amazing, I always get super nervous about the sequel but this one blew me away. I loved every minute of its 650-ish pages. The world is amazing, characters fantastic, battles engrossing, and the plot is the chef’s kiss, it’s so, so good. There’s so much action but Kuang manages to balance it out perfectly with emotional content and character development. I easily consider this series among my favourites now and I cannot wait to read the final entry. Perhaps it’ll take out the crown in 2021?


And that’s it for 2020! For those who’ve been following my blog for a while now, thank you for your continued support, it means the world to me. To those who discovered me this year, welcome! I hope my little blog has, at the very least, helped take your mind off what’s been a troubling year for many people. I’d like to wish you all and your families a very happy new year and plenty of five star reads for 2021.

My other wrap ups for 2020:

And That’s a Wrap 2020: Book Adaptations I Watched

If there’s one things that’s for certain, it’s that Hollywood will always turn to books instead of trying to come up with their own original ideas for movies and TV shows. Sometimes they’re good and others…err, let’s just say we’d prefer to forget them or hope for a remake.

Due to Covid 19’s impact on cinema access, 2020 was a difficult year when it came to movie releases but for streaming services like Netflix, it was golden. Here are the book adaptations released this year that I got around to watching (the titles with a star next to them are those I’ve read the book for):

Little Women

Film | Based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Synopsis: Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women, each determined to live life on her own terms.

While this movie came out in most countries in 2019, in Australia it wasn’t released until New Years Day 2020. I really enjoyed this one and have rewatched it several times since I first saw it in cinemas. The cast is fantastic and it was definitely the start of my obsession with Florence Pugh. The score is gorgeous, the costuming is great and it’s 100% pushed me to want to read the novel. We just have to overlook Emma Watson’s frequent accent breaks…


To All the Boys: PS. I Still Love You ★

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020) - IMDb

Film | Based on P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Synopsis: Lara Jean and Peter have just taken their relationship from pretend to officially official when another recipient of one of her old love letters enters the picture.

I was super excited for this release because I love the books and really enjoyed the first movie. I have to say though, I was kind of disappointed. While Jordan Fisher as John Ambrose is perfection casting if I ever saw it, the movie feels like it’s trying too hard a lot of the time and there are some frankly bizarre direction choices at points (the THREE different aerial shots of a car driving at the beginning, Lara Jean randomly lip-syncing down a school hallway, the bizarre floating kiss at the end?). On the whole though, the movie (as well as Lana & Noah) is still charming enough to be enjoyable, it just isn’t one of my favourites.


Emma ★

Film | Based on Emma by Jane Austen

Emma (2020) - Movie Posters (2 of 2)

Synopsis: Beautiful, smart and wealthy, Emma Woodhouse navigates her way through misguided matches, romantic missteps and the challenges of growing up — all to finally realize the love that has been there all along.

I saw Emma back in March and little did I know that it’d end up being my last trip to the cinema for 2020 (thanks Covid). There are a few changes from the original novel, especially in the later parts of the film, but they’re not entirely unwelcome in that they add humour, modernise the story slightly, and give audiences more insight into some of the characters. I enjoyed this movie. It drags a little around the middle (similarly to the book) but the scenery and costumes are great, Bill Nigh is fantastic as Mr Woodhouse, and I liked both Anya Taylor Joy and Johnny Flynn’s performances as Emma & Mr Knightley. Their chemistry is also great to watch. Overall, it’s a fun take on Austen even if it isn’t a perfect adaptation.


All the Bright Places ★

Film | Based on All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Synopsis: The story of Violet and Theodore, who meet and change each other’s lives forever. As they struggle with the emotional and physical scars of their past, they discover that even the smallest places and moments can mean something.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of the original book on this one and I felt pretty similarly about the adaptation. My issues with the mental health and suicide representation aside, there just isn’t all that much of a plot and the relationship between the two characters is really bland. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t rectify this. My sister and I were so darn bored watching it that we found ourselves checking how much longer we had to go several times. The film also cuts out quite a few key components from the book that contribute to the depth of the characters e.g. Finch’s abusive father. Book or movie, sorry, not for me.


Normal People ★

Limited Series | Based on Normal People by Sally Rooney

Synopsis: Normal People follows the relationship between Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron, as they navigate adulthood from their final days in secondary school to their undergraduate years in Trinity College.

This is one of those rare cases where I enjoyed the adaptation more than the book. To give you an indication of how much I loved it, I watched it twice within the space of about three months. The book and series are fairly similar but I really appreciated the adaptation’s switch to presenting events chronologically and the small changes it made to the narrative such as the altered ending (it makes so much more sense). The acting here is also phenomenal. The chemistry between the two leads is unbelievable and I’m telling you, it’s almost impossible not to feel something when Paul Mescal is crying. As a fun bonus, the soundtrack is top notch, too.


The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen's Gambit (TV Mini-Series 2020) - IMDb

Limited Series | Based on The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

Synopsis: Abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s, Beth Harmon discovers an astonishing talent for chess while developing an addiction to tranquilizers provided by the state as a sedative for the children. Haunted by her personal demons and fueled by a cocktail of narcotics and obsession, Beth transforms into an impressively skilled and glamorous outcast while determined to conquer the traditional boundaries established in the male-dominated world of competitive chess.

2020 was certainly the year of The Queen’s Gambit. It may be slow at first but once it really gets started, you’re just gripped. The cinematography is wonderfully done and I adored all of the period details from the cars to the fashion. Anya Taylor Joy is absolutely amazing in the lead role and I will never stop being impressed with hers and the rest of the cast’s ability to play all of the chess games from memory (the speed chess scenes are insane!). You don’t have to be a chess fan to get lost in this one.


The Haunting of Bly Manor

The Haunting of Bly Manor movie review (2020) | Roger Ebert

TV Series | Loosely Based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Synopsis: After an au pair’s tragic death, a man hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with their chef, groundskeeper, and housekeeper. Little does the nanny know that the manor is haunted.

THoBM is quite different from Henry James’s novel but it uses The Turn of the Screw as a foundation for the story. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Haunting of Hill House so I was hoping that I’d enjoy this more. Unfortunately, no. It started out promising but I quickly grew bored with how insanely slow it was. By the end, I realised I didn’t really like the story of the lady in the lake and was frustrated by the way certain things were explained (or not explained). Honestly, the last episode was probably my favourite because it felt like an entirely different show but also because the acting by Victoria Pedretti and Amelia Eve was so good. I’m guessing I should give up on watching any further in this anthology.

After We Collided

Film | Based on After We Collided by Anna Todd

Synopsis: Tessa finds herself struggling with her complicated relationship with Hardin; she faces a dilemma that could change their lives forever.

Don’t ask me why I keep doing this to myself. I recognise the fact that this series is an absolute trainwreck. I really, really do. The plots are terrible and the relationship is as toxic as ever. It’s essentially just Hardin and Tessa alternating between fighting and having sex. Hardin does something stupid and Tessa forgives him. And still, I continue to watch. Then again, maybe we need the occasional bit of rot your brain garbage, and perhaps in 2020 more than ever. I can say though that Hero Fiennes Tiffin was slightly less of a wooden board acting wise than he was in the first one (but I guess that’s not really saying much, is it?).


Tiny Pretty Things

TV Series | Based on Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

Synopsis: After tragedy strikes Chicago’s most prestigious ballet school, where every dancer is both friend and foe who compete fiercely for coveted roles, it threatens to unravel close friendships and to expose a constellation of secrets that could bring down a world-renowned institution.

Admittedly, I’m only a couple of episodes into this series so try not to spoil me too much in the comments. I’ve heard that the adaptation has some big differences from the book here. It’s set in Chicago rather than New York, the characters are less cutthroat, it’s centered around a mystery which isn’t a big deal in the novel, there’s a lot more sex, and the ending is altered. For me, this feels like just another teen drama except with ballet. It has those Pretty Little Liars vibes. Nothing particularly new but will I probably still binge watch the rest of it? Um…Yes.


Rebecca

Rebecca (2020) - IMDb

Film | Based on Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier

Synopsis: A young newlywed arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death.

I really, really wish I’d read the book before watching this adaptation. I was going to hold off but Netflix kept bringing it up and next thing you know… As someone who didn’t know much about the story going in, I can say that while I found it intriguing there did feel like there was something missing, a hollowness of sorts, which kept the movie from landing the way it should have. I quite liked Lily James in the lead role but as much as I love Armie Hammer, I can’t help feeling like he wasn’t the right choice here. On the upside, visually the movie is gorgeous – the cliffs in Monte Carlo, Gothic shots of Manderly at night, Armie’s statement mustard suit, it’s a feast for the eyes.


Bridgerton

Bridgerton (TV Series 2020– ) - IMDb

TV Series | Based on The Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn

Synopsis: Wealth, lust, and betrayal set in the backdrop of Regency era England, seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family.

If you’ve heard that this series is basically Gossip Girl crossed with Pride & Prejudice, you’ve heard right. It’s far from a dramatic marvel but it’s a fun guilty pleasure watch for over the Christmas/New Year break. From what people have said, there are a few changes from the book series but it’s visually striking, sexy (beware if you’re planning on watching with family), and features a diverse cast. I should mention, however, that there has been some controversy over a particular sex scene in episode 6 so just be aware. Otherwise, if you enjoy a bit of romance, this would be a good pick. I’ll definitely be on the look out for season 2.


What were some of the best and worst book adaptations you watched this year? Which ones are you most looking forward to in 2021? Mine are Shadow and Bone, Conversations with Friends, A Discovery of Witches Season 2, The Witcher Season 2, and Daisy Jones & the Six!