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.

Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Reads of 2019

It’s that time again. The one where I somehow pick 10 books out of the piles I’ve read over the past year to crown my favourite reads. Choosing favourites of anything has always been a tough ask for me, but I’m going to do my best anyway. This year I’ve read 73 books. While it’s not as many as last year, it’s still a sizable amount to narrow down from. To ensure variety I’ve excluded re-reads from eligibility. Now, in order from 10 to 1, here are the books I enjoyed the most this year.

10. The Boy Who Steals Houses – C. G. Drews | ★★★★.5 | Review

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I read several young adult contemporaries during 2019 and this little, Aussie gem was easily one of the best. I’ve found that, most of the time, the best books in this genre are the ones that are somehow able to bring you both joy and heartbreak and TBWSH does this perfectly. The book definitely has some sad and dark moments but it’s also a story about found families, brotherly love, and plenty of waffles. The characters are loveable, the autism and anxiety rep wonderfully done, and (despite some loose ends and minor problems with the writing style) it’s just generally a lovely read.


9. Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson | ★★★★.5

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After a so-so reaction to An Enchantment of Ravens, I went into Sorcery of Thorns with low expectations. Next thing I know, I’m having a great time! While I loved the characters – librarian, Elisabeth, sorcerer, Nathaniel, and his demon companion, Silas – it was the world that really hooked me. Monster books, library magical hot spots, deals of demonic servitude, historical battles won through the use of necromancy, I’d gladly read another book set in this universe. My only real gripe was some pacing issues, mostly around the middle. However, bonus points for a well-developed romance, sword fights, decent magic system, Nathaniel’s banter, and Silas shape-shifting into a cat.


8. Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee | ★★★★.5

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2019 was a year for broadening my reading horizons. In the search for something different I tried a couple of non-fiction reads. Eggshell Skull was one of them and I was shocked by how engaging it was. From the moment I picked it up, I had trouble putting it down. Learning about the Queensland court system’s approach to sexual assault cases from someone who has experienced it on two different sides – judge’s associate & complainant – was both fascinating and horrifying. It was extremely informative and I wish I could smush it in the faces of everyone who asks why women don’t report assault. The writing style may not always be smooth but the content is spot on.


7. Josh + Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating – Christina Lauren | ★★★★.5 | Review

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Sometimes all you need is a sweet, romantic contemporary to brighten up your week, and Josh & Hazel were the ticket for exactly that. This is the perfect read for those who gravitate towards a good friends to lovers story with a solid dose of humour and adorableness. I loved Josh and Hazel as characters and their opposites attract friendship, which eventually evolved into something more, was immensely enjoyable. Unfortunately, I had to deduct half a star for a not so great ending but it wasn’t enough to severely damage my overall positive feelings. This book is definitely the gateway drug to reading the rest of Christina & Lauren’s adult romances.


6. Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer | ★★★★.5 | Review

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LTTL feels like it came out of nowhere and stole my heart. I read a few YA contemporaries these days and most of them are enjoyable but not as many are really memorable. This book dealt with some heavy themes and it did so with such heart and honesty. The characters are wonderfully written, even the smaller ones, and the relationship between the two leads, Juliet and Declan, was beautifully done. I don’t often get emotional reading books but LTTL was very close to getting me there. The sense of catharsis I felt upon reaching the end of it is hard to put into words. The story may be a little melodramatic for some people but if you can get on board with it, it’s an enjoyable (if sad) read.


5. The Wicked King – Holly Black | ★★★★ .5 | Review

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In 2019, I can say that I binge-read this book not only once, but twice! And I loved it just as much the second time as the first. While The Queen of Nothing may have been disappointing, The Wicked King certainly wasn’t. This book was full of twists, devious characters, addictive romantic tension and political machinations. It expanded on the world building of the series somewhat, made me fall more in love with Jude & Cardan, and just generally had me glued to the page from start to finish. The book hangover was strong with this one!


4. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss | ★★★★★

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Say hello to the largest book I tackled in 2019. It may have taken me months to get there but the adventure & effort were worth it in the end. Sure, the writing can be a little wordy at times and there’s some issues with the story (e.g. female characters), there’s just something about this book! I’m not sure if it’s the witty, talented protagonist, the phenomenal world building (magic, currency, history, lore!) or just the general journey that the story takes you on from start to finish. Regardless, I really enjoyed this brick and I understand why it’s considered a fantasy masterpiece. I’ll surely read book two, The Wise Man’s Fear. Well, maybe when I know that book 3 is actually in sight.


3. The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang | ★★★★★

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On first glance, I was intimidated by the size of The Poppy War but in keeping with my resolution to read some bigger books in 2019, I gave it a go. I’m so glad that I did because it was absolutely fantastic. This was an emotionally intense ride full of violence, death and pain, and every time I thought I knew how things would progress, I was completely wrong. It’s beautifully written (drawing from Chinese history to shape it’s narrative), has a strong, well developed protagonist, great world building, and engrossing action. It also happens to include a few of my favourite fantasy tropes like training academies and mentorship. The fact that this is a debut novel is crazy to me and I’m looking forward to getting around to reading the sequel, The Dragon Republic.


2. Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston | ★★★★★ | Review

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I knew the moment I started reading RW&RB that it’d be on this list. I’m somewhat stingy with my five star ratings (I should work on that!) but had no trouble handing one out here. Much like Simon or TATBILB in 2018, this was a breath of fresh air- fun, romantic, great characters, diverse, and laugh out loud funny. The US first son falls in love with the Prince of Wales. That set up alone is pure gold. Throw in some potentially murderous turkeys, a bit of polo, a few Star Wars references, and some major queer positivity, and you have a winner! There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll re-read this down the line.


And here we are, at my number one read for 2019. If you’ve read through a few of my blog posts this year, you’re not likely to be surprised by this particular choice. It’s not only a great book but written by a fantastic author.

* Drumroll*

1. Skyward – Brandon Sanderson | ★★★★★ | Review

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The first half of 2019 was full of great books but looking back, Skyward was my favourite. I totally get the Sanderson magic now. This book had me completely gripped and made it so difficult to put it down (getting off my morning train was a sad moment). As someone who doesn’t usually visualise books as I read them, I was surprised at just how fantastically this novel played out in my head, much like an action packed movie. I fell in love with the characters, especially Spensa and her sassy talking ship, M-Bot, laughed at the dialogue, absorbed every bit of detail about the world, and overall just had an amazing time. If you enjoy science fiction with heart, this is the perfect read for you. I cannot wait to dig into Starsight!


What do you think of my 2019 top 10? And which book came out on top for you this year?

** Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl but which originated on the now retired blog The Broke and the Bookish. **

Let’s Talk: My 2019 Book Burnout and How I Finally Sent it Packing

2019 has been an interesting year for me. I wish I could say it’s because I read more amazing books than any year before but, in reality, it’s because for a large chunk of it I was in the midst of a book burnout. Before this year, while I was very used to seeing the phrase ‘reading slump’ pop up around the web, I had yet to experience one for myself. Goodreads always seemed to be full of status updates of people lamenting how badly they wanted to read things and feeling unable to do so, and on WordPress I’d see blog posts labelled things like, ‘Tips for Surviving the Book Slump’, or ’10 Books to Beat Your Reading Slump’. At the time, I sat there going: That sounds like it sucks. I’m lucky that never happens to me!

And…here we are.

Now, Ashley, I hear you saying, that’s all good and well, but why are you calling this a ‘burnout’? How’s it any different from your average, run of the mill slump? That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked. When I say, ‘book burnout’ I’m not just talking about, oh, I had trouble reading a few books. I’m talking about slumpageddon! (Yes, I realise I’m being a bit dramatic. Just let me live). I’m talking:

  • Having trouble engaging with/enjoying books & reading them at snails pace
  • Being disinterested in buying books and unable to make it past the first two sentences of a blurb because IT ALL JUST SOUNDS THE SAME
  • Getting behind on my yearly reading goal and then having an existential crisis about the purpose of said goal
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the number of must read, new releases coming out that I need to cover in order to keep up with the book community
  • Being unable to muster excitement for many of these releases at all
  • Then remembering the number of popular books already released that I have yet to read and feeling crushed by that, too.
  • Taking multiple month-long breaks from blogging and bookstagram because the creative spark has disappeared. GONE. POOF.
  • Questioning the quality of the content on my blog and bookstagram and wondering whether it’s even worth continuing.

Do you see why book slump just doesn’t cut it?

Having reached December, I can safely say that I’m now in a much better place about all these things than I was six months ago. As you can see, I’ve returned to blogging, I’m posting the occasional bookstagram photo, enjoying reading again, and eagerly looking out for new exciting books to add to my TBR. I’ve even submitted in a few ARC requests. And now, you know what that means…it’s time for my very own version of the ‘how to beat the slump’ post! Here they are, my top tips on how to kick a book burnout (or slump) to the curb:

Try Something New

As it turns out, it’s very easy to get bored with books when you’re reading and writing about the same things over and over. Seems like an obvious one, I know. And it has an equally obvious solution: try books from different genres. While I love a good YA fantasy, after a while you do start to see recurring tropes, stories and characters. This is why it’s important to shake things up once in a while. Lately, I’ve tackled sci-fi, romantic contemporaries, thrillers, even some non-fiction(!), and not only have I enjoyed it, I’ve bought more. Better yet, for the first time in a while I’m genuinely excited to sit down and read both my usual genres and others.

Focus Your Excitement

With Goodreads on hand it’s very easy to get carried away adding upcoming releases to the to-read shelf, especially when the latest ‘it’ book seems to be showing up everywhere. The reality is, there’s only a short list of books that I’m genuinely super excited, race out to the shops on release week, for. To counteract my feeling of being overwhelmed it was important for me to work out what those books were. A few months ago, I did a Top Ten Tuesday post about my anticipated releases for the rest of 2019. While I could have padded out the list to reach the full 10, I instead ended up with only six and instantly felt better about (and even excited for) the next few months looking at it.

A Creative Break

There can be a lot of self-imposed pressure as a blogger/bookstagrammer. In a sea of talented creators, it’s easy to feel lost and get down on yourself. Trying to come up with content that stands out and still post regularly can be a challenge. This year I took some time off to recharge and when I was ready, I decided to spend some time writing and taking photos without posting. As someone who doesn’t usually have their posts prepared very far in advance, creating without posting was extremely liberating. Not only was I able to look at my work in isolation and feel confident about it, but I built up a decent library of posts, organised a schedule for posting them, and spent as much time editing and playing around as I liked. No pressure! I wrote more reviews, had fun, and remembered why I spend my time doing this. 

Lower Your Expectations

This was the simplest thing I did and it’s ridiculous that it took me so long. Reading goal stressing you out? Just lower it! That’s all! There’s no rule that says you cannot adjust your yearly reading goal as you go. When I first set my 2019 goal, it was based on my 2018 result, but lives and schedules change. In 2018 I was spending extra time on public transport and whizzing through shorter books. While The Selection and The Name of the Wind both count as one book, the time and energy which goes into reading them is vastly different. Sure, there may be readers out there easily able to read over 100 books a year but there’s no point stressing yourself out trying to keep up with them.

It’s OK to Netflix (And Other Things)

Another obvious one. Reading is a hobby. It’s supposed to be fun. If you don’t feel like reading, then don’t. Simple as that. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go do something else whether it be baking, exercise, spending time with a friend, or browsing YouTube. Nowadays, if on the commute to work I feel like watching the show I’m currently bingeing instead of reading, then that’s what I do! You do you.

Re-reading Faves

One of the problems I had during my burnout was a tendency to pick up books and within only a couple of seconds dismiss them as something I wouldn’t enjoy. A way of getting around this was to read something I already knew I loved and use the momentum from that book to read something new. This tactic didn’t always go as planned (I was still slow on my re-reads) but it was certainly an improvement.

Read Something Short, Light and Fun

After getting bogged down by more serious books, I found that reading a bunch of fun and easy-breezy romantic contemporaries in a row was a breath of fresh air. It also gave me some great reading momentum. Sometimes being able to switch your brain off for a while is a good way to jump start it. So, go out there, find your book version of a trashy reality TV show, and have some fun!


While book burnouts (or reading slumps) aren’t exactly fun, they do pass. Eventually. At the very least, I believe I’ve learned a few things from the experience that will hopefully prevent it from happening to me again. Or, well, at least not as hard.

Have you ever experienced a book burnout or reading slump? And if so, how did you get out of it?

The Mid-Year Freak Out Tag: 2019 Edition

Around this time last year I did the Mid-Year Freak Out Tag for the first time. It turned out to be a really great way of wrapping up the first half of the year so I’m bringing it back to my blog for a second go around in 2019.


Best Book of the Year So Far

I hate this question. Why? Why must you do this to me straight out of the gate? At this point, I’ve had a couple of 5 Star reads in 2019 (which I included as part of my top 10 reads of 2019 so far earlier this week) so this question is touggghhhh. I think I may hold out on answering this one for the moment. I know, such a cop out.


Favourite Sequel So Far

The Wicked King – Holly Black

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Oh good, an easy one. Phew. The Wicked King takes this award for now. This series is an addiction for me. I just want to devour it all as fast as possible. I had high hopes for this sequel and it didn’t disappoint, thank god. The problem is, that after finishing it in about 24 hours, the wait for book three seemed ESPECIALLY agonising. I’ll definitely be re-reading this at some point down the line.


A New Release You Have Yet to Read but are Excited To

Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson

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Most of my crazy-excited-for releases for 2019 either have already been read or are still yet to be released. However, Sorcery of Thorns is something I am looking forward to reading even if I’m not jumping out of my chair excited. The reviews have been good so far which is encouraging and I still find the blurb intriguing even after several months of it sitting on my Goodreads TBR. Fingers crossed for a good read when I get around to both buying and reading it.


Most Anticipated Release for the rest of 2019

This is another tough question. I recently did a Top Ten Tuesday on precisely this topic. There were six books on my list and I can safely say I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on all of them. The later months of the year can’t come fast enough. Still, if I absolutely had to narrow it down to just two, it’d likely be The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black & Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff – the minute those come out I’ll be locking myself in my room and reading until the late hours.


Biggest Disappointment So Far This Year

King of Scars – Leigh Bardugo

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KoS wasn’t a bad read, just an average one. Then again, expectations were super high on this one. I’m still madly in love with the characters (I’m officially head of the Zoya fan club now) but the plot in KoS was on the slow side for me. When we did finally find some momentum, I wasn’t majorly engaged by the choice of narrative direction (even with the inclusion of an awesome dragon). Plus the ending… talk about complicated feelings.


Biggest Surprise

Again, but Better – Christine Riccio

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Kind of a negative surprise with this one and mostly in terms of the number of issues there were with the writing. For someone who’s read as many books as Christine has in this genre and who’s actual job is talking about their pros & cons, I expected something better than this and was generally surprised that this was what she ended up with. More importantly, how her publisher and editor failed to course correct on a lot of things (e.g. extraneous detail) was also a little odd.


Favourite New to You or Debut Author

Colleen Hoover

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Despite having heard really good things about them, I had never read a Colleen Hoover book until this year. I can now say that I’ve read two and really liked both of them. It Ends with Us was an interesting look at an abusive relationship and it actually made me consider things in a way I hadn’t before. Verity, on the other hand, was dark and addictive, and very enjoyable. I’ll definitely check out more of her books in the future.


Favourite Fictional Crush

None of the characters in the books I’ve read so far this year have really done anything for me on this side of things. There have certainly been a lot of characters that I’ve really liked, just not ones I’ve sat there swooning over. A lot of the time I get really on board with shipping characters with each other but not with me. Check back at the end of the year!


New Favourite Character

Spensa Nightshade (Skyward – Brandon Sanderson)

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There are several good characters in the books I’ve read so far this year but I’ll go with Spensa for this one. She’s definitely someone who takes some getting used to at first (as in, she’s hugely intense) but after a while you see just how strong, hardworking, funny, loyal and kind she is. If I needed to pick a fictional character to have my back in a tough situation, Spensa would be high on the list. Bonus – she’s also a kick ass pilot.


A Book That Made You Cry

Always Never Yours – Emily Wibberly & Austin Siegemund-Broka

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I don’t really cry during books very often. It’s probably happened with only about three or four, so this one I base on getting that sad, hollow feeling in your chest. Always Never Yours is actually a fun and sweet, little contemporary, but for some reason, towards the end of the book, where Megan is feeling really lost and down on herself, it hit me harder than expected. Of course, it ends happily (as you would want in a book like this).


A Book That Made You Happy

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

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RW&RB very much gave me the happys. I had a huge smile on my face throughout large chunks of it which is partially why I rated it so highly. It’s such a sweet, positive and funny read. Honestly, if you’re having a bad day or even week, this book is definitely the medicine to rectify it. Bring a little Henry and Alex into your life.


Favourite Adaptation so Far

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As I mentioned recently in one of my wrap ups, I finally got around to watching seasons one and two of Killing Eve and massively enjoyed it. This show is an adaptation of the e-book novellas by Luke Jennings. The series blends espionage, thrills, drama and dark comedy into something unique and wonderful. The acting is fabulous (Jodie and Sandra = love) and I’m so keen for season three, whenever it makes itself known. And with only short season runs, it’s perfectly bingeable.


Favourite Post You’ve Written So Far This Year

Like last year, I’ll choose two posts for this prompt – a book review and a discussion. I have a bit of a soft spot for my Skyward by Brandon Sanderson review. I like the flow and the coverage. Discussion wise, I enjoyed writing about the importance of fanfiction and thought it was a cute and fun topic to look at.


Most Beautiful Book Bought

The Name of the Wind 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition – Patrick Rothfuss

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I took a chance and bought this special edition without knowing whether I’d like the book itself. But the darn thing just looks so damn pretty. There’s beautiful illustrations scattered throughout, a nice looking jacket, red stained page edges, info about money, calendars and a whole bunch of other things, and I rather like the front inner cover as well. No regrets at all.


Books you Want to Read Before the End of the Year

I definitely need to do a reread of both Nevernight books to get primed and refreshed for when Darkdawn releases later this year. It’ll probably take me a good long while, but I’d also very much like to tackle The Priory of the Orange Tree in all it’s bug smashing, paper weight glory. And if I were being super optimistic, I’d love it if I finally went back to and finished Iron Gold, especially considering The Dark Age will be released very, very soon. Hopefully they’re all achievable goals!

It’s crazy to think we’re more than halfway through the year now. If only I were halfway towards my Goodreads goal as well – eek! Still, despite this tag’s name, I wouldn’t say I’m freaking out too much this year. Hopefully I have a bunch of exciting books to tackle in the second half of the year.

Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Reads of 2019…So Far

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is actually supposed to be a character based freebie. However, as we’re now around halfway through 2019, I’m doing a list of my favourite reads of the year so far. I did a similar list in 2018 and found it really interesting to compare it with the final top 10 at the end of the year to see how things had changed. So here they are, in no particular order and excluding re-reads:

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

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The first of several obvious choices for this list. I don’t hand out five stars that often in my reviews but this fun book is one of a few that have successfully hit the jackpot in 2019. I had such a good time reading this – the characters are great, the dialogue is funny, it’s super queer positive, and the romance is so shippable it hurts. This is a perfect example of what new adult could be. As my eleven year old self would have said, Alex and Henry 4eva!


The Wicked King – Holly Black

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You know those books that you’re so excited for, you binge read them in about a day? It’s rare for me these days but TWK was one of them and not a disappointment at all. The twists keep coming, the characters are still devious little bastards, the romance smolders just a bit, and we get more info on the world. I can’t get enough of this series and I’m counting down the days until The Queen of Nothing releases.


The Poppy War – R. F. Kuang

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I like big BOOKS and I cannot lie…especially if it’s this book. The Poppy War was an intense ride (how could it not be drawing from especially bloody moments in Chinese history) but dramatically enjoyable all the same. This book had some turns I didn’t see coming and ended in a way that had me going, did that really just happen? Like other books on this list, is has great characters and a fascinating setting. It also features a layered protagonist, plus bonus points were awarded for catering to some of my fantasy trope fettishes.


Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

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Why, hello there kickass sci-fi written by a fantastic fantasy writer. This book is basically a movie in literary form, in the best way possible. There’s humour, friendship, action, compelling world building, an engaging plot, and characters that grow on you like moss. The sequel to Skyward is another one of my most anticipated releases for the rest of the year because after that ending, I need to know where we go from here. But also I miss Spensa’s random proclamations of blood and violence.


Verity – Colleen Hoover

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If I had one word to describe Verity, it’d be ‘addictive’ because this was one book I had a lot of trouble putting down. It’s different from Colleen’s usual romantic reads (there is a romance though) but it goes to show, she can do thrillers just as well as her usual genre. A creepy setting, a story which makes you question everything, and then an ending which goes from 0-100 – definitely a book I’ll be recommending to friends.


The Boy Who Steals Houses – C. G. Drews

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TBWSH was an unexpected gem. This novel was such a perfect mix of sweet and fluffy, and tear your heart out sad. It’s got memorable characters, great autism rep, fun banter, and lovely sibling relationships. And waffles, can’t forget the waffles. As far as YA contemporaries go, a good choice and from an Aussie author to boot!


Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

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This book is one of the most loved YA contemporaries around and in January, I finally sat down and read it. I honestly expected the hype to be massively over the top on Fangirl, but I ended up really enjoying it. As a bookworm, I think it’s hard not to relate to Cat on some level in all her crazy fan ways. I liked the fact that the book was a little older in feeling than some other YA out there and also that it took the time to deal with some not so light topics whilst still feeling sweet overall. Worth a reread down the line.


The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

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It only took me about four months but it was certainly worth the time and effort. The amount of work that’s gone into this book is pretty staggering and even if I hadn’t enjoyed the story itself, that alone would be impressive. However, I did enjoy the story. There will likely be people out there who’ll find the direction and pacing a bit slow but for me, I was there for it from start to finish. Now the question is: do I read book two knowing book three is nowhere near release or hold off? Hm…


It Ends with Us – Colleen Hoover

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Colleen is doing very well as far as my 2019 is concerned. This was my first experience with her writing and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, only that it would involve a romance and some form of complication. Here she manages to take something as dark as domestic violence and handle it fantastically with all of its emotional complexity. It really helped me think about things differently than I had before. The characters are also likeable, deep and really help connect you with the story itself.


The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

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While the plot is slower at points, the strengths of this particular book are it’s rich and diverse characters, and fabulous world building. Chamber’s universe is full of a multitude of vastly different species all with their own languages, cultures, and histories, and just travelling the universe with her lovely, little Wayfarer crew (or family) is a wonderful ride in itself. There’s adventure, humour, romance, friendship, and most importantly, acceptance of anyone and everyone for exactly who they are.

And that’s my top ten reads for 2019…so far. I expect things to shift a lot by the time we reach the end of the year if 2018 is anything to go by. From what I can see at this point, I’ve read quite a lot of good books over the past six months. Here’s hoping for a bunch more during the rest of the year!

What are some of your favourite reads of 2019 so far?

Top 10 Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019

I’ll be honest, at the moment I’m kind of experiencing a bit of book burn out, or a slump, or whatever you want to call it. In order to help with it, I’ve limited this list just to books that I’m crazy excited about. As in, wish-I-had-them-in-my-hands-right-now-because-the-waiting-is-killing-me kind of excited. While I do have some other books that I’m definitely interested in reading that have yet to come out in 2019 (e.g. Spin the Dawn or Wilder Girls), they don’t quite meet my hype criteria so I’ve left them off. As a result, this list is only a top 6 Tuesday.

Darkdawn (Nevernight 3#) – Jay Kristoff | Sep 3

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Surprise, surprise. I know. It’s not like I don’t talk about this series all the time. Originally this book was slated for a much earlier release but because Jay is a masochist is writing a ridiculous number of things at the moment, he needed some extra time to perfect this one. As the finale to one of my favourite series, I’m so excited for this book. I need to know how Mia’s big revenge story ends. I’m assuming it won’t be happy or blood free.


The Toll (Arc of a Scythe 3#) – Neal Shusterman | Nov 5

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Nearly every entry on this list is a sequel. As with Darkdawn, The Toll also happens to be another conclusion to a series and it’s similarly one I’m dying to get stuck into. Book two in the Arc of a Scythe series ended in a major cliffhanger. We’re talking ridiculously cruel here. By the time this book comes out, fans will have been waiting only a couple of months less than two years to find out what happens next. To say that I’m keen to find out what happens to Citra, Rowan and Grayson is an understatement.


The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War 2#) – R. F. Kuang | Aug 6

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The Poppy War has been one of my unexpected loves of this year and I think it’s pretty much guaranteed that it’ll make my top ten list of the year (even though we’re only halfway through 2019). It’s intense and extremely dark at points but it’s also amazingly done. After the events of the climax of book one, I honestly have no idea where things are going to go in the sequel but boyyyyyyy…..am I ready for it. Or maybe I’m not, if it throws me for a loop just as much as the first one did. Guess I’ll just have to see.


The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air 3#) – Holly Black | Nov 19

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So, I basically absorbed The Wicked King when it was released earlier this year (or I might as well have with how quickly I finished it). Originally The Queen of Nothing was set to release in 2020 but Christmas came early and the release date was unexpectedly moved up to Nov 2o19. I flipping love this series. I can’t even explain why – its just so dark and twisty and magical and addictive. After the dramatic end to book two, I can barely contain my excitement for book three. Give me more Jude & Cardan already!


Starsight (Skyward 2#) – Brandon Sanderson | Nov 26

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Skyward is another book almost guaranteed to make my top ten books of 2019. It’s the novel that showed me just how damn amazing Brandon Sanderson is as a writer because I cannot even express how much I enjoyed it. I’m kind of glad I waited a little bit to read it – less time to wait for Starsight! There were a few truth bombs dropped at the end of Skyward so it’ll be interesting to see how things play out in the sequel. I’m also really looking forward to seeing how the characters continue to develop and getting more of that great humour.


Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo | Oct 1

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Ninth House is only non-sequel entry on this list but unsurprisingly it’s from an author I already know and love. This book is a slight change of pace from Leigh’s previous books. For one thing, it’s set in the real world rather than a fantasy one. The story focuses on secret societies, the occult and a bit of mystery. The cover makes it seem like it’ll be a little bit darker and more sinister than some of the other YA books out there which I’m definitely here for. Fingers crossed it’s good!

And that rounds out my six. There are more books that I’m excited for but unfortunately I can’t expect them to show up until 2020 rolls around which is still AGGGGGGEEEEEESSS away. Hopefully I’m come across some more books over the next few months that are amazing enough to burn that obsession fire in me like these ones have. Until then, this is where my burnt out bookworm butt is sitting on the anticipated releases front.

Which books still to come in 2019 are you most excited for?

** Top 10 Tuesday is currently hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl**

Reading, Writing and Bookish Related Goals for 2019

Yes, I realise it’s already about a week into February and therefore, probably a little late for discussing goals for 2019 but I’m lazy, okay? Let me live my procrastinating, couch potato, I’ll-do-it-tomorrow best life. Looking back on 2018, there are a few things I’d like to do differently and achieve this year.

1#: Read 80 Books

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Last year I set my original reading goal at 50 books. This then became 70, later 80, and then 85, only for me to finish on 90. No one was more shocked than me. Now that I have a much better understanding of my reading pace based on my current lifestyle, I think I’ve picked a good goal to aim for. Reachable, hopefully without the need for any bizarre last-minute cramming like I did in 2018, and something that’ll allow me to achieve some of my other goals.

2# More Re-Reads

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Back in the good old days, I used to do a little something called ‘re-reading’. What’s that, you ask? Well, it involves reading a book you enjoyed for a second, or maybe even third, time. Shocking, I know. In the last few years, I’ve gotten so caught up in constantly trying to read new (or new to me) books that existing favourites have been severely neglected. I miss spending time with familiar characters, returning to beloved worlds, and picking up on new details in great stories. In my rush to get through my growing TBR, I’ve also often skipped re-reading books for lack of time ahead of tackling a new sequel, even though I’ve forgotten a whole bunch of important plot/character details. As a result, I’ve not enjoyed them as much as I should or would have if I ’d just done the re-read. This year, I’ll make the time for it.

3# Be Less Afraid of Big Books

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As my reading goals and TBR have gotten bigger, so has my fear of tackling chunky books. There used to be a time where I’d happily race through a 1,000-page Outlander book or instalment of A Song of Ice and Fire. These days, I see a book over 450 pages and the first thing my brain does is PANIC. However, if there’s something my recent read of The Poppy War has taught me, it’s that if a big book is a good book, it’ll feel like no time at all, and if it isn’t a good book, you can always DNF. There are some amazing looking novels out there such as City of Brass or The Name of the Wind that I’ve been putting off for ages purely because of length. This year I want to change that attitude. I’ll look at the blurb of the story and if I want to read it, I’ll do it. Big books don’t have to be scary.

4# Try an Audiobook

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Confession, I have never tried listening to an audiobook. Weird, right? It’s just never been something I’ve felt the need to do. These days though, I’ve been trying to think of ways to motivate myself to go out for walks or entertain myself while doing tedious things, and an audiobook feels like a great solution. Now I just need to find one with a good narrator, and of a book I both haven’t read and want to read.

5# Write

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It sounds so simple but it feels so hard! After trying NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2017 and actually finishing, 2018 was a dud year creatively. Early on, I tried to keep working on my draft but quickly found myself tied up in plot holes. This led to a lack of direction and eventually killed all motivation to write. Since then, I’ve had snippets of ideas which have never really grown into what they need to be, but then again, I haven’t really sat down and tried to work them through either. This year I want to plan and I want to write. Something, anything! I just need to get off my butt and do it (even if it’s bad) because it’s the only way I’ll push through this block of a fog that seems to have permanently settled over me.

6# Reduce my Purchased TBR

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This one’s pretty self-explanatory and I’m pretty sure has been on every bookworm’s goal list since the end of time. I made good progress in November and December last year by successfully adhering to a book ban. I ended up finishing the year with only about 12 physical books on my TBR! Considering only a few months before I’d been on about 28, this was a big win. In 2019 I want to keep the momentum going and get it down to, dare I say it, 8.

Six goals. Doesn’t seem too hard, right? I think I’ve got this. Go, Ashley, go! I mean, I hope I’ve got this…

Err…oh dear.

What are your bookish, blogging, reading, writing related goals for 2019?

Also, got any audiobook suggestions for my first adventure into audible? Help a girl out!