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

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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.

November TBR: Picking Books Based on 5 Star Read Predictions

We are now officially in November which means there are only two months left of 2020. Considering the way this year’s been going, that’s probably a good thing but it also means we’re getting closer and closer to my annual top ten reads of the year post. I’ve read some great books this year but you know what? I want to make choosing my ten favourite a real challenge. I want some pained groans, frustrated hair pulling, face on desk smashes. Let’s up the difficulty. So, with this in mind, in November I’m going to be tackling a list of books I’m hoping will be just amazing enough to earn, or get close to earning, a spot in the top 10.

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

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The Poppy War was a five star read for me and hit number three on my favourite books of 2019. And yet, I still haven’t read the sequel. I’ve left it so long now that I had to re-read the first book last month to refresh my memory (it’s still amazing, by the way). Sequels are always a worry when the first entry in a series is so good, especially considering where book one in this series left off. However, considering it has an average GR rating of 4.34 and some wonderfully positive reviews, I am super confident in the fact that I’m going to love this book. Bring on the gods, monsters, war and heartache.


The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V. E. Schwab

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SCHWABY! I’m so excited that this book is finally out, I’ve been looking forward to it for aggggeeeesss. My copy is still slowly making it’s way over to Australia (the pains of deciding you like the US hardback better than the easy to get UK edition) so I won’t be able to read this one first up, but as soon as it gets here everyone better leave me the hell alone. I’m pretty sure of a high rating for this one for three reasons: 1) it’s written by one of my favourite authors, 2) the ratings and reviews for it have been ridiculously good, and 3) the premise sounds right up my alley – a girl who makes a deal with the devil for immortality in exchange for being forgotten by everyone she meets. Pretty please be good!


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

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How have I still not read this book? Arc of a Scythe is one of my favourite YA series and somehow I’ve put off reading this for pretty much a year. It’s even worse when I think about the massive cliffhanger Thunderhead left me on. Now that I’ve re-read books one and two in October, I feel fully ready to tackle this book. The first two entries in the series were five and 4.5 star reads for me so I’d say the odds are good that The Toll will be up there as well. I’ve seen a couple of disappointed reviews but also some super happy ones, then again the same thing happens with every popular series. Please just make sure my sweet, little cinnamon roll, Grayson Tolliver, is okay.


Know My Name – Chanel Miller

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I’ve been wanting to read this memoir since late 2019 and considering how woeful the non-fiction section of my 2020 TBR is looking at this point, there’s no time like the present. For those who don’t know, Chanel Miller is the young woman who was sexually assaulted by swimmer Brock Turner at Stanford University. Her victim impact statement was widely read and praised. Here she details the events leading up to and years following the incident – the emotional hardship, impact on her day to day life, and the long, painful journey to trial & conviction. It’ll be a difficult read but a really important one.


Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf 2#) – Ryan Graudin

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There aren’t many standalones on this month’s TBR, are there? Well, here we are with another sequel, this time to Wolf by Wolf which was one of the books I included in my ‘Favourite Reads of the Year so Far’ list back in July. This is another read that I should have jumped on earlier than now purely on the basis of the dramatic, cliffhanger-ish ending of the book before. But here we are. I’m very interested to see where the story goes without the structure of the motorcycle race this time and to find out whether the resistance will actually kill Hitler. A few people were disappointed in this book while others liked it better than the first entry. Only one way to find out which I am.



I’m feeling good about this month! But I guess there’s always the chance that I’ll be completely wrong and end up a bitter mess full of crushing disappointment. Please bookish gods, do not let this happen to me. What books are on your November TBR? Are there any that you’re almost positive will be five star reads?

Upcoming Releases: Books I Somehow Forgot Were Still Coming Out in 2020

A lot of books come out every year. Even in the hellscape of 2020. That’s my defense for the fact that my memory clearly has more holes than a sponge. Regardless, there are a few books that I’ve recently been made aware are still coming out in the two remaining months of this year, ones that I’m genuinely looking forward to. What makes me look even worse is that a few of them are pretty big releases. Here are the books that have somehow managed to slip through the cracks (well, my cracks. er…not the best way to phrase that…)

Ready Player Two – Ernest Cline | Nov 24

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According to my Goodreads history, I shelved this book to upcoming releases back in August. I have absolutely no memory of this. None. I came across it again about two weeks ago and went, what? WHEN? HOW? Let’s be real, this book was not necessary in the slightest considering how neatly book one wrapped up, but will I be enthusiastically reading it anyway? Yes, yes I will. My nerdy, video game loving self had such a fun time with Ready Player One so considering the premise to this book sounds similar to the first (a riddle, an Easter egg, an intense competition to win), hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable ride as well.


A Sky Beyond the Storm (Ember Quartet 4#) – Sabaa Tahir | Dec 1

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How I blanked on the release date for this is the biggest mystery of all. I follow Sabaa on both Twitter and Instagram and she’s talked about this book constantly for months And yet, for some unknown reason, I was under the impression it wasn’t coming out until 2021. But now I’m annoyed because there’s no way I’m going to be able to reread the 3 previous books in the series and still tackle this on release (I did book three without re-reads and regretted it immensely). This is the last book in the series which means I’m expecting plenty of pain and suffering but, I swear, if anything happens to Helene I’ll riot.


These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong | Nov 17

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Like the other books on this list, I remember coming across These Violent Delights a few months back and going: Oooooo…that looks good! But for some reason I didn’t add it to my upcoming releases shelf (why, Ashley, why?). However, this week I somehow ended up finding it again and was surprised to realise it was actually a November 2020 release! Unlike the other entries on here, These Violent Delights is not a sequel. It’s a Romeo & Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai involving rival gangs and a “monster” causing people to claw their own throats out. I mean, how darn cool does that sound? Early reviews have been good and this is the author’s debut novel so I really hope it’s enjoyable.


The Burning God (The Poppy War 3#) – R. F. Kuang | Nov 17

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Rebecca Kuang must write like her keyboard is on fire. I swear. These books aren’t short or simple and somehow she’s managed to release one each year since 2018. And it’s her first series! As The Dragon Republic only came out in the second half of 2019, I just assumed there would be a bigger gap before book three hit shelves. In my case though, my forgetfulness may also be largely due to the fact that I keep putting off reading book two (I’M DOING IT NEXT MONTH, ALRIGHT). However, the upside is that by the time I finish TDR, The Burning God will be right there waiting for me. I guess there are perks to being a massive procrastinator after all.


How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories – Holly Black | Nov 24

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So, this one is a novella rather than a book but because I’m in love with The Folk of the Air series and a sucker for anything to do with Jude & Cardan, it counts. News of this spread back in May of this year but perhaps I was still dealing with my disappointment over The Queen of Nothing and blocked it out. However, as Holly’s pretty much got me on a string, I’ll be back for more anyway. This entry focuses on Cardan and includes story from before, during and after the main series from his POV. They’ve also included some illustrations which is pretty cute and whimsical.


Are there any books still to release in 2020 that you’re super keen for? Perhaps I’ve missed even more than I thought.

Unpopular Opinions on a Sci-Fi Classic: Dune by Frank Herbert

Well, that was one of the more tedious books I’ve read. If ever there was a book I should have just stopped reading, it was this one. Honestly, it took me about two weeks just to finish the last 100 pages. But there ain’t no motivation like an upcoming film adaptation…

Who, What, Where?

Let’s get the summary out of the way first. Dune is set on the inhospitable desert planet of Arrakis which is famed for its rare and extremely valuable resource, Melange or “Spice”. When control of the planet is shifted by the emperor from House Harkonnen to House Atreides, this sets off a conflict between the two families. After Duke Leto Atreides is murdered, his heir Paul and concubine Jessica flee into the desert where they find sanctuary with the planet natives, the Fremen. Here, Paul plans to avenge his father and retake Arrakis.

Rightfully Hyped World Building & Decent Concepts

Much like with The Lord of the Ring and fantasy, I can see why Dune had such an important influence on the science-fiction genre. At the time it was written, this would have been something new and pretty revolutionary, and I definitely understand why people praise the world building as much as they do. It’s interesting, complex, and grounded in research about real cultures and landscapes. Herbert touches on ecology, economics, religion & mythology, politics, and a whole host of other things to create a rich and believable universe. But, unfortunately, world building alone is not enough to make a book good or enjoyable.

Dune’s story has some decent ideas – squabbling between familial houses, a chosen one, an elite group of influential women trying to bring about a prophecy, conflict over control of a precious resource… And yet, the way it all unfolds and is actually told is…bad. It’s just so bad .

Suspense, Plot Twists…What are Those?

There is almost no suspense in this book whatsoever. Why? Because Herbert tells us almost every major plot point well in advance, largely using “excerpts” from historical texts at the beginning of every chapter. Is Paul the prophesied Kwisatz Haderach? Who’s the traitor? What are the Harkonnens planning? We’re told it all in the first few chapters. Worse, the moment we do get to anything slightly more dramatic such as a battle, duel, or assassination attempt, it’s skimmed over in the blink of an eye.

Paul Gary Stu Atreides

I have often said that I can forgive plot failings in a book if it’s got great characters. That was not the case here. I honestly did not care what happened to any of the characters in Dune. If they had simply died in the desert half way through, it wouldn’t have made a difference as far as I’m concerned. Paul, especially, annoys the shit out of me. He just knows everything, spouts prophetic nonsense, goes on about his “terrible purpose” and somehow becomes this perfect, all-powerful and talented leader without really earning it. And the time that we could have potentially seen him earning it is skipped over in a 3 year time jump. Just…why.

Antagonists without Nuance

What is up with the antagonists in this book? No, really. The Harkonnens are so stereotypically, almost cartoonishly, evil (fat, prone to incompetence, plot/boast in overly long monologues, pedofelic) that it’s practically ridiculous. Then there’s the emperor, whose motivations I still have no freakin’ clue about. And to make matters worse, despite the page time these guys get, they end up being essentially useless because, as I mentioned above, Paul is supreme. Ugh.

Dodgy Dialogue

As I said earlier, the writing in Dune leaves a lot to be desired. The dialogue especially is clunky as all hell and there were times where it felt as though two characters were talking at each other rather than with one another. Stylistically, I wasn’t much of a fan of Herbert’s use of third person omniscient with its substantial amounts of boring and fragmented inner monologuing. For example, there’s literally a scene in which Leto thinks the same sentence in italics about 5 times! In general though, I just found the writing confusing, disjointed and uninteresting.

Women + Power = Cannot Compute

Ah, the sexism. *sigh* I know it’s the 60s, but come on. This is supposed to be set in the future and women are still somehow entirely defined by their relationships with men. What frustrates me the most is the fact that Herbert actually created female characters like Jessica and Chani, Paul’s mother and lover, with all the necessary things in place for them to be strong and powerful but simply relegated them to subordinate roles! Then we have the Bene Gesserit – a group of powerful, intelligent women who can control men with a word, integrated into all the major powerhouses of the universe, and yet, their job is essentially breeding while they wait on some prophesied male child?? REALLY? I can’t. I just can’t.


As you can see, this really wasn’t for me. Perhaps if I’d grown up and read it at the time it was first released, I might have a different opinion. But because this is 2020, if anyone asks, I read it, survived it, and can thoroughly explain why I did not like it. To all the sci-fi lovers out there who consider this their bible, please don’t hurt me.

1.5 Stars

Binge Reading: How Many Adult Contemporary Romances Can I Read in a Week?

Now, looking at the title of this post you might be thinking: Why? Well, to that I say: Why not?

Okay, for a more expanded explanation: in August I finished a total of 2 books which is kind of sad and probably because I’ve been apathetic towards reading lately. Romantic contemporaries are always quick and easy reads for me so I thought, why not give my bookwormishness (what a monstrosity of a made up word) a jump start with an entire week of them?! I’m probably going to give myself whatever the bookish equivalent of a cavity after eating too many sweet things in one go is, but WHO CARES.

For fun, I’ll be scoring them using my usual star system but also doing individual ratings for sweetness, humour, sexiness/steam, and romance – just to give a better idea of their mood. I’ll also be mentioning whether they include any diversity because yo, it’s 2020. Let the week of romance begin!

Day 1-2: One to Watch – Kate Stayman-London

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Premise: A plus-sized fashion blogger goes on a reality dating show called Main Squeeze (a fictional version of The Bachelor/Bachelorette) and dates a bunch of hot guys whilst showing that bigger girls can be attractive and deserve love too.

  • Hurrah! A strong start to the week. I enjoyed this one, mostly because it was super relatable for me. As someone who’s far from a size 6, I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have a protagonist who shares many of the same insecurities about love and relationships that I do. Reading about the MC, Bea’s, journey was hard but also empowering and encouraging. The body positivity message is very, very on the nose but I can mostly forgive it.
  • Diversity wise, this book is amazing. Aside from Bea being plus sized, among the contestants there’s also a black man, an Asian-American, and an asexual man. They’re all portrayed as being desirable & unlike on real life TV, they all make it close to the end!
  • The Bachelorette concept was fun and definitely why this caught my eye. However, having Bea cycle through different dates does mean that the love interests share the limelight, reducing the ability to give them lots of depth but the real focus is Bea anyway. Still, there are plenty of sweet moments and a little bit of sexual tension.
  • The book plays around with style a lot using articles, tweets and text convos in between standard third person narrative. It’s somewhat jarring to get used to at first but fine after a while.

Sweetness: ★★★
Humour: ★.5
Sexiness/Steam: ★★
Romance: ★★★
Diversity: Yes! All the YES.


Oh god. A four star read out of the gate. It’s got to be downhill from here, right? Suddenly the books on my pre-made list seem risky and unappealing. What does Goodreads suggest instead…

This looks interesting. *checks Amazon* SIXTEEN DOLLARS? ON KINDLE? This better be worth it.

Day 2-3: You Deserve Each Other – Sarah Hogle

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Premise: Naomi and Nicholas seem like the perfect engaged couple but, in reality, these days they can barely stand one another. Now with only 3 months left til their wedding, the pair decide to try their best to get the other to end the engagement and foot the massive bill. But what if they turned their attention to working out what went wrong with their relationship instead?

  • Yes, it was easily worth the $16. This was so unexpectedly enjoyable! I love a good enemies to lovers trope but it was great to see it used in a fresh way. I will gladly read another book about two people finding themselves again and remembering why they loved one another in the first place.
  • One of the best parts of this book was easily the humour. I was surprised by how funny it was. Like, actually laugh out loud funny. The banter between Naomi and Nicholas is great, mostly because, as a couple who’ve been together for a while, they know exactly how to push each other’s buttons. Particularly where Nicholas’s mother is concerned.
  • The characters are very likeable, too. With the way Naomi acts at times, I should have found her childish and petty but honestly, I loved her boldness and vulnerability. Nicholas, meanwhile, can just marry me. A man who can banter, loves skittles, proudly owns a How to Train Your Dragon tie and will fight for his relationship – swoon.
  • I should also mention how seamlessly the book’s mood changed from light and fun to serious and emotional. I loved that I could enjoy myself reading about Naomi and Nicholas’s antics one moment then sympathise with their difficulties in repairing their relationship and behaviour the next.

Sweetness: ★★★
Humour: ★★★★
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★
Romance: ★★★★
Diversity: Nope.


We’re definitely going down now. It’s inevitable. Maybe I need something completely different. Well, different within the confines of contemporary adult romance. Just kidding. More enemies to lovers it is. But with cupcakes. Cause I love cupcakes.

Day 3 – 4: Kiss my Cupcake – Helena Hunting

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Premise: Blaire Calloway is excited to finally be opening her own cupcake & cocktail cafe. However, her parade is rained on when she discovers hottie Ronan Knight opening a sportsbar next door on the same day. The two clash, setting off a competition for customers. But when a chain of popular bars opens their newest location across the street, the two have to work together to keep their businesses afloat.

  • Can I just say, this book has SO MANY CUPCAKES. Thank god I had left over birthday cake in the house while I was reading this because I might have died of cravings otherwise (it’s possible, okay).
  • I quite enjoyed the chemistry between Blaire and Ronan. Blaire is somewhat over the top in her reactions to things (especially at the climax of the book) but overall she’s okay. Ronan is hot – physically and in personality. He can stay. Enough said.
  • At the end of each chapter, the book incorporates “tweets” supposedly posted by Ronan and Blaire’s businesses but honestly, they’re mostly cringy alcohol & cupcake puns which offer nothing to the story. I have no clue why they’re included.
  • With romance novels I always expect some drama around the 80% mark before the couple makes up and sails off into the sunset. Unfortunately, the dramatic climax of this book is super disappointing. In fact, it’s almost non-existent and just makes Blaire look bad for thinking so badly of Ronan with barely anything to go off. That this is then followed up by an over the top and cheesy ending put a dampener on my enjoyment of the overall book.
  • The story is told in split perspectives between Ronan & Blaire but the balance between the two is really uneven, leaving Ronan with only a couple of chapters. I found this a somewhat odd choice which made me question the reason for the split at all.
  • KMC is definitely the most steamy of the books I’ve read so far this week. As in, there’s an actual sex scene. There’s also noticeable sexual tension throughout the book. So if this kind of thing floats your boat, *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*.

Sweetness: ★★★★
Humour:
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★★
Romance: ★★
Diversity: Nooopppee


Alright, let’s turn up the “romance” rating a bit more. I want some swoon-worthy love story here. Real depth of emotion with boomboxes outside windows. I will accept no substitutes.

Day 4-5: One day in December – Josie Silver

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Premise: When Laurie locks eyes with Jack riding the bus home one day, it’s practically love at first sight for the both of them. That is, until the bus drives away with him on the curb. She then spends the next year searching London for him until finally she finds him – introduced as her roommate Sarah’s new boyfriend. What follows is ten years of missed opportunities and complicated choices.

  • Based on the few reviews I’ve read of this book, I honestly didn’t expect to like ODiD as much as I did. Then again, I’ve always had a soft spot for stories told over several years in characters’ lives. I just love watching people grow, change, and experience life.
  • Normally I’m 100% in the camp of NO to love at first sight but somehow, this book actually made me believe in it for its duration. Now, if that ain’t magic, I don’t know what is.
  • The characters in this book aren’t always logical and don’t consistently do the right thing by themselves or each other, but that’s people. For the most part, I cared about what happened to Laurie, Jack & Sarah, and genuinely wanted them to get their happy endings. ODiD is definitely one of those books where you do have to be invested in the characters and their lives to enjoy it, otherwise it’s going to be pretty darn boring.
  • I should warn you, if you hate cheating plotlines, there’s an element of it here. Physically only minor but emotionally, plenty.
  • My two main gripes are: 1) I wish the ending had been handled differently as it felt odd and abrupt when fit into the rest of the story (I mean, we’d been waiting TEN YEARS by this point). Perhaps another time jump afterwards would have helped? And, 2) I would have liked more done with Laurie’s career considering its importance to her.
  • Less of a fluffy read than the other books so far this week, but very enjoyable.

Sweetness: ★★★
Humour: ★★
Sexiness/Steam: ★.5
Romance: ★★★★
Diversity: No, again. More straight, cis, able-bodied, white people problems.


I’ve just realised that this post is lacking a noticeable amount of gay so we should rectify that right now. Bring on the LGBTI romance!

Day 5: Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall

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Premise: As the son of two rock legends, Luc has always been in the spotlight. After a compromising photo puts him in hot water with his employer’s donors, Luc is told to clean up his image by finding a respectable boyfriend. Enter Oliver Blackwood – vegetarian, barrister and in need of a date for a big event. And so the two strike up a deal: a fake relationship for a few weeks and then go their separate ways. But what happens when real feelings get involved?

  • Did I pick this book because it reminded me of Red, White and Royal Blue? Yes, you caught me. And I’m so glad I did because it was the perfect combo of adorably sweet & hilarious. I had an absolute ball.
  • The humour in this is great, mostly found in the lengthy sections of dialogue. Part of it stems from the banter and chemistry between Luc and Oliver, but the rest can be attributed to the fun supporting cast. This includes Luc’s vague co-worker Alex (my favourite) and his publisher friend Bridget.
  • I loved the relationship between Oliver & Luc. It’s an opposites attract situation which requires time to sort through the kinks but develops into something wonderful. I really enjoyed how good an impact they had one one another, especially with regards to Luc’s self-esteem and trust issues.
  • Aside from the romance, BM also involves a plot to do with Luc’s estranged, famous father. However, for something that took up a chunk of the novel, it ended up weirdly…fizzling out. It’s even more disappointing considering how much Luc’s life was impacted by his dad’s choices and lifestyle.
  • Speaking of family, there’s also an incident involving Oliver’s which I wish had been built up to more over the novel instead of becoming a factor all of sudden in the later stage of the book.
  • This book is boyfriend material in more ways than one – would for sure recommend snuggling up with it on a night in.

Sweetness: ★★★★
Humour: ★★★★★
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★.5
Romance: ★★★
Diversity: Yes! We have straight, bi and gay characters in this one.


I might be able to squeeze in one more book. Just ONE more.

Day 6-7: Get a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert

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Premise: After a near death experience, chronically ill computer geek, Chloe Brown writes herself a list of tasks designed to help her “Get a Life”. Realising she’ll need a hand in completing it, Chloe enlists the help of talented artist (and her building superintendent) Redford Morgan, who has baggage of his own to deal with.

  • Once again, yay for diversity: this book features a black, curvy protagonist with a chronic illness. Even better, Chloe’s condition isn’t forgotten about whenever it’s convenient. It actually factors into her behaviour and how the romance plays out. It sounds like such a small thing but I adored the fact that Red was so attentive about Chloe’s pain & exhaustion, and that he always kept her condition in mind when they did things together.
  • It was interesting having a male lead who looks physically strong dealing with getting out of an abusive relationship. Not just physical abuse but emotional, too. Seeing how this trauma impacted Red’s self esteem and his painting really added something different to the novel.
  • To my complete shock, GaLCB ended up being the most steamy book I read this week! From the description and cover, it seems super cutesy but then BAM masturbation scene, public acts of indecency, dirty talk, erections & taut nipples galore…!! To be honest, it was probably too much for my liking. There were quite a few conversations between Chloe and Red which I wish had been more emotional and less I-can’t-stop thinking-about-your-body-on-mine.
  • Based on the blurb I was under the impression that there would be more elements to completing Chloe’s list and that this theme would provide a more structured plot. I was also expecting that doing these things would be the reason for Chloe’s new lease on life but it ended up mostly being about her opening up to Red. This was nice and all but I wanted something a bit more.

Sweetness: ★★★★
Humour: ★.5
Sexiness/Steam: ★★★★★
Romance: ★★★
Diversity: YES!


There we have it – 7 days, 6 adult contemporary romances. Phew! I’m pretty happy with myself to be honest. I had a fun week of reading, beefed up my Goodreads tracker for 2020 and I’m already looking forward to the next book I tackle. FYI, it will not be a contemporary romance. I’m starting to feel the bookworm cavities… Too much of a good thing.

Are you a romance reader? If so, what are some of your favourite picks?

Should I try doing this with a different genre in the future?

Summer Romance with Depth: Beach Read by Emily Henry

I think it’s time that I list adult contemporary romance as one of my favourite genres. They’re just so enjoyably bingeable. The banter, the sweetness, the steam – it’s the perfect little package I can’t resist. Almost like wiggling a Mars Bar in my face. And that’s pretty much what hearing the premise for Beach Read was. Two authors, living in beach houses, engaging in some friendly competition to see if they can write a book in the other’s genre, bouncing off one another until they eventually crack and rip each other’s clothes off… You see what I mean, right?

January & Gus

The two leads in this book are great. They’ve got complexity, great chemistry and, most importantly for romance, appropriate levels of personal baggage to dramatically bring up at opportune moments. January is a romance writer who after the death of her father and discovery of his mistress has been suffering from severe writer’s block. In the hopes of finally getting something written and recovering her sunny, hopeful disposition, she moves into her dad and his girlfriend’s empty beach house. To her surprise, her new next door neighbour is her former university classmate, and now successful literary fiction author, Augustus Everett.

Unlike January, Gus is cynical, broody, and more than happy to murder fictional characters. But he’s also sweet, funny and somewhat mysterious. Also, to my immense joy, he has none of that Alpha male type bullshit typical of romantic leads these days. Look romance writers: Proof that you can be nice and still have sex appeal!

Banter-ific!

As you can probably tell, this is an opposites attract kind of relationship and it works really well on that level. January and Gus’s interactions are perfectly balanced between fun banter and get-things-off-my chest emotional. Even when there’s not much happening plot wise, the book is enjoyable simply by having them be around each other, whether they’re terribly line dancing or writing notes Taylor Swift style through their windows. These interactions make up the bulk of the novel so thank goodness their exchanges work as well as they do.

Battle of the Authors

I really enjoy books about authors and writing so the idea of a competition between two writers involving them producing work vastly outside their comfort zones was a massive draw card here. Yet, while the competition is present and does result in January and Gus doing several research activities, it isn’t as prominent as I would have liked. Mostly because it tends to take a backseat to their romance and dealing with past troubles, particularly in the middle. It does, however, pop more to the forefront toward the end of the novel.

In Cheesy Territory

Beach Read is cute, okay. It is. It’s fun and sweet and mostly enjoyable. But it’s also kind of… cheesy and over the top at points. There were certainly a few lines of dialogue (“I don’t need snowflakes.” He kissed me. “As long as there’s January.”) and moments I could have done without to avoid the cringe factor. This is especially so considering the seriousness of some of the plot points. The book also frustratingly leans into the age old complication of failure to communicate properly. I could see it coming and resigned myself to the fact, but I really wish it hadn’t been done twice. There were also a few points at which I feel January behaved somewhat annoyingly irrational but hey, you can’t have everything.

Deceptively Fluffy Covers

I feel I should mention that because of the genre, blurb and cover imagery, this is a book people will go into expecting fluff, levity and laughter but, like me, will probably be surprised to find there’s a heaviness to it, too (something that’s become common in romance reads lately). Infidelity is a big theme in this book but there’s also the death of January’s father, Gus’s research into a cult, and both our leads’ somewhat fractured outlooks on love and life to contend with. In other words, be prepared for things not to be constantly sunshine and daisies.


As far as contemporary romance goes, this is a good choice. It’s got more emotional gravity than you’d expect from something titled Beach Read, but that’s perhaps what makes it more memorable. While I wouldn’t count this among my favourite romance reads, it’s definitely a good way to spend a few hours. If this seems like something you’ll like, there’s probably about a 90% chance that it is.

3.5 stars