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!

And That’s a Wrap 2020: Least Favourite Reads

You win some, you lose some. While I’m generally decent at picking entertaining reads for myself, sometimes I misstep and end up with something not so enjoyable or just not for me. Here are the reads which didn’t float my boat this year.

7. The Honey Don’t List – Christina Lauren

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The only reason this wasn’t included in my surprises and disappointments list earlier this week is that I massively lowered my expectations after seeing a few negative reviews. The Honey-Don’t List isn’t a bad book, it’s just an extremely mediocre one, especially compared to some of CLo’s other great romances. The story revolves around Carey and James who are assistants to a married couple of reality TV stars/home reno gurus. However, the two can’t stand each other so Carey and James are tasked with keeping things under control long enough for them to complete their book tour. While I liked Carey, I found James kind of boring and felt like the development of their relationship was rushed. The plot itself was underwhelming, the ending doesn’t provide a lot of closure, and the overall book was a lot more serious and less charming than I was expecting.


6. The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy 1#) – Marie Rutkoski

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I’m sorry guys, I don’t get the hype on this one. This year I read both the first and second books in The Winner’s Trilogy. While the second book was mildly more enjoyable than the first, as a lot of people said it would be, I just didn’t click with The Winner’s Curse. I’ll admit, the writing was good and, while it could have used more depth, the world building was okay, too. However, I was really apathetic about the story itself. It’s probably because the romance is the main focus and a lot of the bigger plot elements don’t become an actual thing until book 2. I also found that I wasn’t too keen on the characters. Kestrel is kind of a selfish ass and Arin repeatedly frustrated me. The intensity of their romance was far too quick for my liking as well.


5. Jane Anonymous – Laurie Faria Stolarz

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Based on the majority of reviews on this book, I’m in the minority. I was really interested in the concept for Jane Anonymous – a teen who gets kidnapped and held in captivity for 7 months, and then has to try and adjust to normal life again. I really liked the way the book was structured using both past and present timelines and the fact that it tried to look at Jane’s experience with PTSD afterwards. But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t connect with the characters (some of which behaved awfully) or get into the story. As a result, it started to drag after a while. What didn’t help is that I picked the twist early on and then had to deal with the frustration of the book acting like it wasn’t obvious. I also wish that Jane’s trauma had been explored with some more depth and nuance. Overall, this wasn’t the read for me.


4. The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell

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The Family Upstairs was an okay read for the most part. It deals with a woman inheriting an abandoned mansion which 25 years ago police were called to to find three bodies and a crying baby. What happened and where the other children who lived there went is unknown. The writing style made this book very readable, it was certainly the right degree of ominous and creepy at points, and I quite liked the use of concurrent timelines. However, I also found that the pacing was slow, especially for a thriller, a lot of the characters weren’t fleshed out, the twists were lackluster, and one of the plotlines was entirely unnecessary. The part that bugged me the most though was the ending which just seemed flat, odd, and unearned from a character standpoint.


3. Bookish and the Beast (Once Upon a Con 3#) – Ashley Poston

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I love Beauty and the Beast, I loved Ashley Poston’s first entry in this series, Geekerella, and yet I did not love this book. Massive sad face. Bookish and the Beast is a modern re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast about a high school student named Rosie and an actor named Vance who meet at a convention and are reunited after the accidental destruction of a rare sci-fi book. The two end up re-organising the owner’s library to make up for it. I had a lot of trouble forming attachments to the characters in this one – Rosie was bland and immature, and Vance acts like a dick for pretty weak reasons. I also had difficulty feeling the chemistry between the leads, mostly because they don’t spend enough time together. My other major problem was the book’s attempts to cling to the original story even where it seemed silly or forced in this setting. A bit of a flat and disappointing read in the end.


2. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins

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*sigh* Let it be said that despite questioning the need for this book I went in with an open mind. To be blunt: it wasn’t very enjoyable. Boy, did this book DRAG. It’s over 500 pages long and the story meanders around for ages with very little happening except for a stint in the middle and right at the end. I was so bored by part three that it took me over a week to read the last 100 pages. There’s just so little life in it. The characters are bland, the romance is bleh, there are too many song lyrics, the so called “villain” is half-assed, and if you’re looking for a gradually developed and nuanced villain origin story for Snow, you won’t find it here. The only real positive for me was that it was interesting seeing a much more stripped back version of the Hunger Games and learning about how they developed and would eventually evolve into what we know in the original trilogy.


And my least favourite read of the year was…

1. Dune – Frank Herbert

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Dune is easily my least favourite read of 2020. No contest. The only reason I didn’t DNF it is because by the time it occurred to me to do so, I was already too close to the end for my stubborn self to give in. It took me ages to finish the last 150 pages. I had such little motivation to read that I started another book. I get that it’s a sci-fi classic okay, I do. The world building is great and the actual concept is decent, it’s just that the way it unfolds and is told is so bad. No suspense, the Gary Stu to end all Gary Stus as a protagonist, stereotypical and useless antagonists, clunky ass dialogue, heaps of inner monologues, a boring & meandering plot, rampant sexism, just…no. No, no, no. And to think I’ve been wanting to read this for years.


What were your least favourite reads of 2020? What was it about them that didn’t work for you?

And That’s a Wrap 2020: Favourite Book Covers

By now I’m pretty sure you’re all aware how much I adore pretty book covers. I have been known to pay ridiculous prices for individual books purely because the US cover looks nicer than the UK version. I’m just that damn superficial. So in wrapping up this monstrosity of a year I thought it’d be nice to have a look at some of my favourite covers among 2020’s releases. I haven’t read many of these but hey, that doesn’t stop me from being able to admire their cover designs.

  • The House on the Cerulean Sea – TJ Klune: There’s something so peaceful about this cover. I like the illustration style and colour choices. The title font also matches the scenery very well.
  • Where Dreams Descend – Janella Angeles: That imagery, those rich reds, goodness I’m in love. The perfect amount of drama and mystery for a story about dueling magicians at a circus.
  • Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia: I’ve been talking about my adoration for this cover all year. I love the colour contrast, perfectly spaced out title letters, and the eerrieness of it all
  • Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall: Sure, it’s another romance cover with the cute illustration trend but doesn’t it look like so much fun? I love the use of red & blue and the designs of Luc & Oliver.
  • You Had me at Hola – Alexis Daria: SUCH A GORGEOUS ILLUSTRATION. You can feel the sizzling chemistry. I love the shading, bold, sunset style colours, and swoonworthy-ness of it all.
  • Charming as a Verb – Ben Philippe: This is a super cute illustration but what I like the most is the way it’s framed with the characters between the buildings on the crosswalk.
  • Harrow the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir: Isn’t this the most badass cover ever? The bone style text, the skeletons, Harrow’s powerful posture. So cool. Perfect for a story about necromancers.
  • We Free the Stars – Hafsah Faizal: This colour scheme is gorgeous – those oranges and purples… Also, the way the image layers over itself to create depth from background to foreground is great.
  • Burn Our Bodies Down – Rory Power: It’s tough pinning down what draws me to this cover. I think it’s the mysteriousness and danger of it, the intensity of the woman’s gaze through the field.
  • The Sun Down Motel – Simone St. James: I appreciate when covers get creative and manage to incorporate titles into an image rather than as an overlay. The design also perfectly suits the novel.
  • A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik: What I like about this one is that it looks like the cover of a magical textbook, one you should be especially wary of.
  • Dark and Deepest Red – Anna-Marie McLemore: I love the use of silhouettes here and the way the red script of the title takes center stage. It’s dark but still whimsical.
  • To Sleep in a Sea of Stars – Christopher Paolini: Staring at this cover is like looking into a pocket galaxy…underwater. The blue is gorgeous and really draws the eye. I can’t help finding it calming.
  • Clap When you Land – Elizabeth Acevedo: The duality is what makes this cover so interesting. There are so many great little touches e.g. using green & pink to create harmony and difference, the text which looks like an old airport board, the planes to divide the image. It’s great overall.
  • The Shadows – Alex North: This is a really simple cover but it employs fantastic use of graphic design with the image of the skeletal hand formed by the shadows of the walking figures.
  • All Our Shimmering Skies – Trent Dalton: This cover is a riot of colour. It draws the eye immediately and I especially enjoy the way the text looks as though it’s sitting among the flowers.

What were some of your favourite 2020 covers? And what was it about them that grabbed your attention?

And That’s a Wrap 2020: Surprises and Disappointments

In just a few days, it will finally be the end of 2020. And you know what that means…it’s time to wrap up the year that was! Well, reading wise, that is. First up are the surprises and disappointments I discovered this year among the 60 books I read.

Every year there are books I go into expecting (or hoping) for something amazing, only for them to fall short. Then there are others which I pick up not expecting much at all and find myself very pleasantly surprised. These books don’t always end up part of my favourites & least favourites of the year but I feel like it’s interesting to have a look back on them all the same.

The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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The Dutch House was my first experience with Anne Patchett and although I’ve heard good things about her novels, I certainly never expected to enjoy this book as much as I did. The story is set over a period of several years and focuses more on characters than plot. It’s a slower paced read which somehow manages to fly by and acts a lot of like a modern fairytale. It’s wonderfully written and I really loved the focus on the relationship between brother and sister, Danny & Maeve. Some of my favourite moments were scenes involving them simply sitting and talking about their childhood home. This was also one of the few audiobooks I listened to this year and I can highly recommend the soothing voice of the lovely Tom Hanks.


In a Holidaze – Christina Lauren

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After a bleh experience with The Honey Don’t List (and hearing not great things about the prior release), I went into In a Holidaze with low expectations. I was really happy to find an adorable, fun Christmas romance perfect for ending a rubbish year. Friends to Lovers isn’t usually one of my favourite tropes but Christina & Lauren are doing their best to change my mind. The story revolves around Mae who joins her family and their friends for Christmas at their usual cabin. She gets stuck in a ground-hog day type time loop after making a plea to the universe to help her find happiness. This gives her the chance to pursue a relationship with her long time crush Andrew. Not my favourite CLo book, and it could have used more of the groundhog day element but an enjoyable ride all the same.


Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney

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As much as I’m trying to avoid using the same books in multiple wrap up posts, this had to be included. I loved Conversations with Friends and was not expecting to at all. I bought it on a whim for something different and went in with low expectations, mostly because I read Sally Rooney’s Normal People in 2019 and only rated it 2.5 stars. For some reason, things that bothered me about Normal People, such as Rooney’s aversion to quotation marks, just didn’t feel like a big deal anymore (perhaps I’m more used to her style?). Weirder still, almost none of the characters are particularly likeable or “good” people and yet, I was so invested in what happened to them. I’m 100% positive that I’ll reread this in the future.

You Deserve Each Other – Sarah Hogle

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You Deserve Each Other was the second book I tackled during my romance binge in September. Before then I had never even heard of Sarah Hogle or this book (it’s her debut). Considering romance reads can be hit or miss, I wasn’t really sure how this would go, but it was so good! It was such an enjoyably fresh take on the enemies to lovers trope (which I love) and I certainly didn’t expect to laugh out loud and get hit with the feels as much as I did. It’s about a engaged couple named Naomi and Nicholas who don’t get along anymore but both are too stubborn to call off the wedding. What follows is a combination of trying to get the other person to back out and attempting to repair the relationship. I’ve already added Sarah’s next book to my anticipated releases for 2021.

The Toll (Arc of a Scythe 2#)- Neal Shusterman

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I love the first two books in this series. They’re fantastic and I rated them 5 and 4.5 stars. So as the last book, The Toll had some big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, it just didn’t get there for me. Behold my disappointed but solid 3 stars. My main issues: the story felt like it dragged and went on for longer than it needed to, I thought the direction of the book was kind of odd, the two main characters barely interacted at all (Rowan’s storyline felt especially pointless), and I was very disappointed with what happened to Goddard’s character. Not what I was hoping for or expecting at all.

The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue – V. E. Schwab

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You all know how much I love Victoria Schwab, but sadly I was in the minority on this one. I liked TILoAL but wasn’t bowled over. Trust me, the disappointment hurt because it was probably my most anticipated release of the year. For me, this book had so much potential and while I thought the writing was beautiful, the themes it tackled were great, and I appreciated the ending, there were just aspects of the story and characters which were a miss with me. The book follows Addie who makes a deal with a dark god for immortality. The catch is that no one retains memory of her after she disappears from their sight. Two-hundred years later she comes across a bookseller named Henry who somehow remembers her.


Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Ah, Mexican Gothic. The part that kills me the most is that only weeks before reading this, I included it in a 5-star predictions post. I was so deflated. It’s set in 1950s Mexico and revolves around a socialite named Noemi, who, after receiving a troubling letter, travels to a country mansion to check on her newly married cousin. She soon finds that there is something wrong with the house and the family that live there. The atmosphere is fantastic. It’s beautifully eerie and perfect for a Gothic horror novel. I was also quite fond of stubborn & confident Noemi and appreciated the idea of the different mystery elements for her to solve. But it was the flat surrounding characters, lack of chemistry between Noemi and her love interest, and the bizarre direction for the story’s climax that let me down.


Blood for Blood – Ryan Graudin

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Wolf by Wolf was one of my favourite reads of this year – good characters, great balance between action and quieter moments, a dramatic ending… So, as you’d expect, I went into the sequel hoping for something just as enjoyable. Sadly, while I ended up giving it 3 stars, Blood for Blood just didn’t hit the same highs for me. I was disappointed in the direction taken with some of the characters (especially Felix) and not as keen on this book’s version of the journey plot which was mostly a roadtrip back to central Germany. Things dragged at points and there were times where it felt as though very little was happening. Worth reading to complete the story but definitely an easy inclusion on this list.


What were some of your biggest surprise and disappointment reads of 2020? Not necessarily your favourites or least favourites but books that turned out different from what you expected for better or worse.

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

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

March

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

The Diviners – Libba Bray ★★★★.5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dutch House – Ann Patchett ★★★★.5

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

Jane Anonymous – Laurie Faria Stolarz ★★

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

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

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


April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

And That’s A Wrap: Jan and Feb 2020 Edition

Just like that, the first two months of 2020 are over. It feels as though it’s gone fairly quickly even though I’ve done basically nothing except work, read, blog and watch TV. Exciting stuff, I know. So far I’m really enjoying this more laid back approach to my yearly reading goal. There’s been a lot less stress and I’ve managed to tackle a few bigger books. There are also so many books that I’m super excited to read and re-read in the coming months which is such a great feeling. But let’s get to recap, shall we?

JANUARY

The Whisper Man – Alex North ★★★.5 | Review

A solid start to the year. The Whisper Man was an enjoyable read and well written. The characters were developed and realistic, and despite a few lulls in momentum, the story was engaging. As far as crime or thriller novels go, it was a decent book but where the novel really excels is its focus on grief and father-son relationships. The potential paranormal element was also a nice surprise.

Skyward – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★★ | Review

A re-read before tackling Starsight. Skyward was my favourite read of 2019 and after a second go around, I’m still 100% sure it was the right decision. I love this book – the characters, story, action, world building, humour and writing. It’s just fantastic all around.

Starsight – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★.5 | Review

I was nervous going into this but, in the end, I shouldn’t have been because Starsight was a great sequel. It was certainly different to Skyward in terms of its approach to plot, sense of momentum and themes, but still good different. I did miss some of the characters from book one but I loved seeing Sanderson’s universe expand in an exciting way and seeing our lead, Spensa, continue to grow.

Loveboat, Taipei – Abigail Hin Wen ★★★.5 | Review

Summer camp in Taipei! I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. While it’s pretty predictable, has too many side characters and tries to cover more heavier themes than it should, it’s still a good read. Loveboat does well where it looks at ideas of belonging, family and identity, and I really sympathised with the MC, Ever, and her classmates’ difficulties. The setting is a lot of fun and I picked up quite a few new bits of info about Taiwan. Also, yes, there is a love triangle but as both sides of it were likeable, it didn’t bother me much.

FEBRUARY

Becoming – Michelle Obama ★★★★★

I went with the audiobook on this one and I’m so glad I did. Listening to Michelle tell her own story, all the way from childhood through to leaving The White House, was both engaging and inspiring. I learnt a lot from this autobiography and in it Michelle discusses a wide range of things including politics, family, parenting, relationships, growing up working class, and the experiences of African Americans. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara ★★★★★ | Review

I did not see this book coming. I decided to read it on a whim and it ended up being the most surprising and emotional reading experience I’ve had in a long time. The writing was gorgeous and the characters just felt so real to me. It’s a long read and deals with some extremely tough subject matters (e.g. child sexual abuse, suicide, domestic violence, etc.) but despite the few issues I had, I honestly loved this book. It broke my heart and I cried. Hard.

10 Blind dates – Ashley Elston ★★★

This was a sweet, rom-com-esque holiday read. It’s nothing particularly memorable and unlikely to bump your favourite YA romance reads off their thrones, but it’s fun. 10 Blind Dates is exactly what it claims to be – a girl being set up on a bunch of blind dates with different guys to help get her mind off a break up. Plus, there’s a happy ending. I liked Sophie as a heroine and really loved her crazy, enormous, Sicilian family, which is really the heart of this book. If you’re after something light and cute (which I needed after A Little Life), this is a good choice.

The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell ★★ | Review to Come

For the majority of its run, I found The Family Upstairs a decent read. Even with the cult, child abuse, and mysterious deaths, it somehow gives off this weirdly laid back vibe which makes it very readable. I think it may be the writing. I liked the concurrent past and present timelines and although the twists in the story aren’t particularly shocking, I was okay with them. This would have been a 3 star read if not for the ending, which felt flat, weird and lazy, and my realisation that almost an entire plotline could have been removed without damaging the story at all.

To avoid you guys having to see the same book covers over and over again, I’m only going to include the books that I bought over the last two months and still have yet to read. Plus, it makes me look so much better spending wise. Also, although Crescent City was purchased this month, because it’s a pre-order, I won’t get it till after release day on March 3rd.

Just in case you missed them and there was something that would have interested you, here are my posts from Jan & Feb (excluding the book reviews which are linked above).

Life

As I mentioned earlier, life for me has been largely uneventful for the last two months. However, as I’m sure you’ve heard, I can’t say the same for my country. This summer has brought absolutely terrible bushfires, devastating floods, an extension of our longest and worst drought in history, and now a cyclone. Australia has always been a land of extreme weather, but this year’s has been far more extreme than ever before. I am extremely lucky to live in a city area where the impacts of things like this aren’t as prevalent but so many others haven’t been so fortunate. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch the news everyday for months on end and see images of people crying over the ruins of burned down homes, wildlife injured, killed or without habitats, and farmers desperately praying for rain in regions that look like dusty wastelands with the remaining livestock almost skeletal in appearance. The photos below come from near my grandpa’s farm in an area of regional NSW where fire destroyed more than 21,500 hectares of forest in just one day. I hope that things will get better soon because honestly, anything has to be better than this.

TV & Movies

On to something less serious. Here are some of the TV and Movies that have been occupying my time over the last few months. There’s a weird mix. There was the amazing (Sex Education S2, Unbelievable), good (Ready or Not, The Little Drummer Girl, Little Women), terrible yet addictive (The Circle), disappointing (P.S. I Still Love You, Titans S2) and just not my thing (Midsommar, Marriage Story). And yes, I may have fallen in love with Florence Pugh just a little bit.


And that’s a wrap on January and February 2020! I hope you’ve had a good start to the year and that there are plenty of fabulous books on the horizon for you.

And That’s a Wrap: 2019 Edition

Happy New Year everyone! 2019 has finally come to an end and that means it’s time to look back at the year that was to get ready for the one ahead. This year was a different one for me. I read a lot fewer books than in 2018 and found myself stuck with some serious book burnout for a large part of it. I also feel as though there weren’t as many books this year that I can say I truly loved as there have been in the past. Still, that doesn’t mean it was a bad year – I re-read more books, read a couple of bigger books, and gave audiobooks a go. As for the nitty-gritty, here is my 2019.


Reading Stats

Favourite Covers


Books I Wasn’t So Keen On

  • Again, but Better – Christine Riccio: ABB had a cute premise and some funny/sweet moments but in the end was let down by multiple writing issues, an uninteresting first half, and the MC baring a little too much resemblance to the author…
  • The Unbecoming of Mara Dwyer – Michelle Hodkin: Tropes. Oh, the tropes. A damaged lead, a bad boy love interest, mean girl nemesis, and an outsider bestie. I had a lot of trouble finding & understanding the paranormal plot buried underneath the not so great romance in this one.
  • Middlegame – Seanan McGuire: While I appreciate what this book was trying to do, unfortunately the slow pacing, lack of connection with the characters, and confusing timelines meant it wasn’t the book for me. I’m in the minority here though.
  • After – Anna Todd: I only have myself to blame. I went into this one expecting it to be awful but curiosity got the better of me. The relationship is toxic as hell, there’s pretty much no plot to speak of (argue, have sex, and repeat) and the writing is atrocious.
  • Nos4A2 – Joe Hill: Disappointed is the feeling here. There were sections I enjoyed but overall, I found it too long, the tone confusing, characters not likeable enough, and the execution of an interesting concept not as enjoyable or gripping as I’d hoped.
  • Caraval – Stephanie Garber: Even on reread, I really wanted to like Caraval, but it just has so many issues – a boring protagonist, vague magic system, game that’s not really a game, and a melodramatic climax. It does get points for atmosphere & speed-readability though.

Most Frequented Authors

  • Holly Black (4): Technically 3 books though as I read The Wicked King twice in 2019.
  • Jay Kristoff (4): I re-read the first two Nevernight books, finally got to read the third, and also tackled Jay’s new collaboration with Amie Kaufman, Aurora Rising.
  • Cassandra Clare (3): I continued with my TMI re-read/read and now only have 1 more book in the series to go.
  • Colleen Hoover (3): Hoover was a new author to me this year. While she’s not likely to be a favourite, I’ve certainly enjoyed her books so far.

Surprises

  • Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson: After a lukewarm reaction to An Enchantment of Ravens, I wasn’t sure whether I should read this. I’m so glad I did, because I ended up loving the characters and the world building. Magic, monster books, demons, sword fights, all the good stuff. Would 100% read a follow up if it were ever published.
  • Legendary (Caraval 2#) – Stephanie Garber: So, it turns out that people were right when they said the sequel was better. While I still had issues with Legendary, I enjoyed it more than I expected. The world & characters were better fleshed out, Tella was a more interesting protagonist than Scarlett, and, of course, there was Jacks.
  • Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee: As someone who previously avoided NF like the plague, I was shocked by just how engrossing, heartbreaking, and horrifying this was. To everyone out there who asks why women don’t report sexual assault, I wish I could make you read this.
  • The Boy Who Steals Houses – C. G. Drews: I’ve only ever been able to read PaperFury reviews in small doses so I went into this with low expectations. It ended up being a fantastic YA read with wonderful autistic rep, a sweet brotherly relationship, great use of the found family trope, and plenty of genuine emotion.

Disappointments

These 3.5 star entry disappointments can all be narrowed down to too high expectations on my part.

  • Aurora Rising – Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman: I LOVED The Illuminae Files so I was majorly looking forward to this release. AR wasn’t a bad read, just missing that spark. I had trouble connecting with the characters and found the choice of antagonist… odd. However, points for world building and plot momentum.
  • King of Scars – Leigh Bardugo: Another case of not a bad book, but unmet expectations. The characters, world and dialogue are great, but unfortunately the plot bored me in sections and by the time it picked up, it wasn’t really what I was looking for.
  • The Queen of Nothing – Holly Black: You have no idea how excited I was for QoN – this series has been my addiction. In the end, a lack of twists, scheming & violence, and several not properly/satisfyingly wrapped up plotlines put a damper on it for me.
  • The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi: I went in expecting a Six of Crows-esque heist in historical France with magic. What I got was A LOT of confusion. A great cast of diverse characters and good plot momentum certainly lessened the blow, though.

Favourite Characters

  • Spensa Nightshade & M-Bot (Skyward – Brandon Sanderson)
  • Alex Clairmont-Diaz (Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston)
  • Daniel Arlington (Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo)
  • Louise le Blanc (Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin)
  • Zoya Nazyalensky & Nikolai Lantsov (King of Scars – Leigh Bardugo)
  • Silas (Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson)
  • Jude Duarte & Cardan Greenbriar (The Folk of the Air Series – Holly Black)
  • Declan Murphy (Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer)

Favourite Ships

  • Henry & Alex (Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston)
  • Josh & Hazel (Josh + Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating – Christina Lauren)
  • Jude & Cardan (The Folk of the Air Series – Holly Black) AGAIN
  • Elisabeth & Nathaniel (Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson)
  • Andie & Clark (The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson)
  • Owen & Megan (Always Never Yours – Emily Wibberley & Austen Siegemund-Broka)

Re-Reads

One of my goals for 2019 was to do more re-reads. In the end, 8 of the books I read this year were re-reads which is not too bad at all. I think I’ll try to aim for something similar in 2020.


2019 Posts I’m Proud Of


Favourite Adaptations

  • The Witcher – I was eagerly awaiting this one. Sure, they were things that could have been improved but I really enjoyed it. It’s even encouraged me to go back to the books.
  • Looking for Alaska – I liked this so much more than the book. It really added additional depth to the characters whilst still retaining the general flow of the novel.
  • Killing Eve – While I haven’t actually read the books KE draws from, I’m addicted to this series. The acting is fantastic, the twists keep coming and once I started, I couldn’t stop.
  • His Dark Materials – It’s always good to see an adaptation respect the book/s it draws from. The series looks fantastic and the casting is perfect.

And that’s a wrap on 2019! I’m looking forward to a new year filled with wonderful books (fingers crossed) and wish you all the best going in 2020.