Bookish Fun: Reacting to 1 Star Reviews of Books I Loved

Sometimes we fall in love with a book and sometimes…we really wish we’d spent our time doing something else. And, as we all know, just because you enjoy something that doesn’t necessarily mean other people will, too. Their reasons for this can vary from bizarre and hilarious to problematic to genuinely reasonable. With this in mind, I thought I’d try my hand at a post that quite a lot of other people in the community have done previously – reacting to some really negative reviews of books I loved. After all, sometimes it’s good to challenge your own viewpoint. So, I’ve scoured Amazon and Goodreads to find some short and complete opposite opinions to my own on a couple of my five star reads.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

I loved this book and even named it my favourite read of 2018. Here are a couple of people who were…less enthralled than I was.

While I loved the characters, I’m not going to argue with someone about not feeling the same way. Hate’s a strong emotion. At least they weren’t boring, right? In terms of ‘difficult to believe’, aren’t most of the crazy things that happen in Hollywood hard to believe? Seven husbands alone sounds ridiculous but, then again, Elizabeth Taylor got married EIGHT times. Plus, it’s a guarantee that many famous people in this era had to cover up the fact that they weren’t straight. Yes, the relationship between Evelyn and Celia isn’t perfect or entirely healthy but a large part of that is due to the stress of the circumstances and time. Besides, doesn’t that make it far more interesting from a literary perspective?

Hey, I’m sure plenty of other people wish that, too. Then they would’ve been further up the holds list at your library to read it.

Does every book need to do something profound or entirely new to be considered good or worthwhile? I mean, I love rom-coms largely for their predictable, fluffy formula. Everything has its purpose. As for particularly interesting, well, we disagree. I know plenty of people were divided over the content of the twist but placing it right at the end isn’t an uncommon way to use that device. As for boobs, lesbians, gossip columns, and green dresses, well geez, someone better call the literary police! We can’t have those infesting our books now, can we? Think of the children!


Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

The fact that the number of 1 star reviews for this book doesn’t even constitute 1% of the total on both Goodreads and Amazon gives me such warm fuzzies. But let’s check out that <1%.

Um, I may be missing something here but… how can something be overdramatic and super boring at the same time? But just speaking to the ‘boring and predictable’ part, I’m even more confused because this book has so much action. Literal SPACE BATTLES. Deaths, plot twists, alien attacks! Trust me, you missed a lot in those intervening pages.

“Teenage girl drivel”. *breathes heavily* What? Is it purely because Spensa is a teenage girl? Because if we’re talking stereotypical “teen girl” stuff (with which there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying, liking and/or partaking in), there’s basically nothing here. Spensa is training to become a pilot (a field dominated by men), she has almost no traditionally girly interests, and there’s no romance in the book whatsoever. It’s basically sci-fi Top Gun. Please, explain.

Not one? Really? Not a single, teeny, tiny thing? Even one vaguely amusing line of dialogue? Gosh, that sounds like absolute torture. I mean, I don’t give out 1 or 1.5 star reviews very often but even then I usually have at least something positive I can mention.


Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney

I’m probably asking for pain and suffering with this one because I know it’s divisive. Funnily enough, that’s what I’m actually expecting the 1 star reviews for CWF to say.

Hm, I guess it depends on your idea of “substance”. If we’re talking about plot, Rooney’s books are generally more about characters so the substance comes from them. However, I realise this is up to personal preference. Also, fair point about the lack of quotation marks. It is confusing before you get used to the flow and structure of Rooney’s writing. But mainly about lesbianism? That’s where you lose me. First, is this supposed to be a statement or a criticism? As far as statements go, it’s kind of wrong. Yes, f/f relationships play an important role in the book but the central character is bisexual and the central romance is between her and a straight man. Colour me confused.

Well, you’ll probably get just as much conversation from it as you would trying to converse with the book but you do you.

Ouch! Okay, yes, the characters aren’t the best people but that’s why I find it interesting. They’re layered and very flawed, and I get why they won’t be for everyone. But, come on, you read a book dealing with US attitudes towards race and this made you angrier? Sounds pretty suss to me. Now, a blurb that claims you can read this as a romantic comedy or feminist text? That can’t be right. *flicks through Goodreads* Oh god. As much as I hate to say this, he’s right. Whoever wrote the blurb for that edition, how do you read this as a romcom?! Romcoms are FLUFFY. I love this book but never in a million years would I call it a romcom. And while there are feminist commentaries in the book and it does involve strong female characters, I don’t know if I would label it a “feminist text” per se. I’m afraid you may have been misled here a bit, buddy. I blame the publisher.


The Poppy War – R F Kuang

I love this series but it’s one I can understand people not liking because of their tastes regarding things like violence. These books get DARK. However, as usual, there are always people who conflate ‘not for me’ with ‘not for everyone’ or just plain terrible. *sigh*

  • I might be wrong but the only similarities I see between TPW & Nevernight are that they’re fantasy and both involve the training academy and mentorship tropes (my faves!). I suppose there are Gods? But these aren’t important in Nevernight until book 3. Oh, and MCs who are orphans with something to prove, perhaps. Hmmmm…
  • Sure, there are some common fantasy tropes so I understand this. But also keep in mind it’s inspired by Chinese history so there are some limits to originality.
  • I sincerely hope the 45% mark was before all the violence otherwise this is worrying on many levels.
  • It’s kind of a chunky book. You can’t start the violence that early or it’ll run out of steam. But also, why are you actively waiting for violence?
  • Why skip pages? Just stop reading.
  • If you’d kept reading, you would have found out.
  • *eyerolls back* Sorry, it’s all I could think to say because I wanted the same number of points.

Firstly, TPW is classified as Adult, not YA. Second, ah yes, I can clearly see the glorification of drug use in: If you continue using drugs to commune with the gods, eventually you will go so insane that we will lock you up in a prison where you will remain trapped in rock but self-aware for the rest of eternity. Yep, gimme some of that. It just sounds so appealing!

Lord, where do I even start? This may not have occurred to you before so brace yourself, but, some women do not want to be mothers. Whoa! Crazy, I know, but true, and calling childbearing ‘the greatest gift a woman has’ is absolute sexist rubbish. Women have so many fantastic qualities. Some become mothers and some don’t. Either way, they’re amazing. There are so many women out there who know that motherhood is not what they want even from a young age and struggle for years to find a doctor who respects their autonomy enough to give them a tubal ligation or hysterectomy, even when they have existing medical conditions. Rin may be young but she knows that she doesn’t ever want to have children. If she’s old enough to prepare to fight in a bloody and brutal war, she’s old enough for us to respect her decision on this. It is in no way a judgment on those women who do want children and what their capabilities are.


If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio

Oh, ho. I’m expecting some very unhappy campers on this book because it’s somewhat polarising. I’m also expecting A LOT of ‘terrible copy of The Secret History‘ comments.

Two seconds in and we have a The Secret History mention. I’m not even going to argue because yep, IWWV is pretty much The Secret History but Shakespearean. I love both so you won’t catch me complaining. As for being pretentious, I’ll give you that as well because you bet it is, but I’m known for liking the occasional pretentious book so… Let’s be real though, The Secret History is pretentious as hell, too. You can’t accuse one without the other.

I had a giggle over the title of this one. Can’t really argue with most of the points made because it’s all subjective and since I loved it I obviously disagree. Yet, I do think one or two of the characters could have been given more attention. To some extent, I find most dark academia to be a bit unrealistic but isn’t that all part of the fun? As for plagiarism, you do realise that plagiarism is trying to pass off the work of someone else as your own without acknowledgment right? Trust me, Rio acknowledges The Bard. Many, many, MANY times. Not to mention the plays themselves.

Don’t worry, I gave it 5 stars and still think I’m too dumb to fully appreciate it.


Okay, this is where I stop because otherwise I’ll never get out of the vicious spiral starting to occur whereby I question all of my reading taste (do I have any?) and whether I’ve somehow missed a million problematic elements of my 5 star reads. I know I poke fun at some of these reviews but everyone is entitled to their own opinion of what they read. We’re not always going to love the same things and that’s great because it allows for a more diverse publishing market.

What was the last book you gave 1 star to? (Mine was Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami).

Alternative Models of Loving Each Other: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

The time has finally come to review one of my favourite standalones.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when writing a review I will have endless things to say…unless it’s something I loved. If I read a book and give it five stars you can almost guarantee that if I try to tell you WHY the only thing my brain will produce is an assortment of positive, but useless, adjectives. However, this is my second time through Conversations with Friends so here’s hoping that the power of repetition will help me coherently explain why I adore it as much I do beyond simply cry-saying: It’s just so good.

Who, What, Where?

Conversations centres around the mess of relationships between four core characters – Frances, Bobby, Melissa and Nick. Best friends/ex-es, Frances and Bobby, are students at Trinity who regularly perform spoken word poetry together. During one of their shows, they meet Melissa, a thirty-something journalist who asks to write a piece about them. The girls are drawn into Melissa’s upper-class lifestyle and introduced to her handsome but quiet husband, Nick, an actor who never really reached his full potential. While Bobbi is enamoured by Melissa, Frances begins a flirtation with Nick which evolves into an unexpectedly intimate affair. She soon finds herself navigating spiralling relationships, confronting deep personal insecurities, and thinking about her life and the type of person she is.

The Rooney Style

Like many other people, Normal People was the first book I picked up by Sally Rooney. At the time, I distinctly remember having trouble adjusting to her writing style with its direct prose, absence of quotation marks and nonlinear scenes. With Conversations, however, we clicked. The writing is so smooth and effortless, almost like a continuous stream of thoughts, dialogue and images. It feels like a long, get-things-off-your-chest chat with a close friend in the wee hours of the morning. Rooney’s prose seems so clean and innocuous that it’s tempting to brush it off as being simple but more and more I find myself rereading dialogue or small details, picking up on subtle nuances that enrich her scenes in beautifully real ways. Her prose isn’t for everyone but I frequently get lost in it.

It’s (Not) Just Sex

The relationship between Frances and Nick seems like something I should be adverse to. It’s an affair and a toxic one at times, too. Yet, I’m so captivated by it. There’s just something about these two shy, awkward people forming a deep connection but being unable to express it because they’re terrible at communicating about their feelings. And so, they make jokes and downplay it as just sex because they have low self-esteem and worry that if they did admit they care, it wouldn’t be reciprocated. As a result, they actively look for things to support this conclusion, feel hurt by what they find and then, in the case of Frances, lash out at the other person. Can you tell I have a lot of feelings about this relationship? I think I like it so much because it doesn’t feel idealised. Sure, there are bad moments but so many sweet ones as well.

Unlikeably Loveable

The main reason people cite for not enjoying this book is the characters, and I get it. They can be selfish, dishonest, pretentious, privileged, plus they’re wrapped up in messy relationship drama. But, for some reason, I can’t get enough of them. Despite their tendency to frustrate, disappoint, even anger me, I love how emotionally complex and real they feel. Each person has a distinctness to the way they speak, act and think, to the point that I can vividly imagine having a conversation with them. They’re not “nice” people, but these flaws make them so much more compelling and I cared for and sympathised with them all the same.

As our narrator, Frances often bears the brunt of the criticism. People have a tendency to write her off as being spiteful, childish and a stereotypical millennial, but I have such a soft spot for Frances. She’s wormed her way into my head and heart and refuses to leave. She feels so vivid to me – this mess of loneliness, insecurity, self-destruction, and the strong desire to be loved. There are parts of her that I relate to so deeply it hurts, even the uglier ones, but mostly, I just want so badly for her to be safe and happy.

Quiet but Memorable

Conversations is not the book to read if you’re looking for something plot-heavy. It isn’t a big, flashy drama full of cinematic moments, nor is it a swoon-worthy romance to get swept up in. And yet, both times I’ve read it I’ve been glued to the page from start to finish. It’s a quiet, emotionally resonant novel about people, their lives and relationships. It looks at themes like love, monogamy, mental health, youth and belonging in very personal and intimate ways. I truly felt this book, in more ways than one, and I suppose that’s what matters most.


Conversations with Friends is unlikely to be everyone’s perfect read but, to be blunt, I absolutely love this book and it’s something I’ll continue to think about for a long time.

5 Stars

Page to Screen: 8 Book Adaptations I’m Looking Forward to in 2022

Book adaptations – sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re disasters you wish you could permanently erase from your memory. Still, we live in hope that our favourite books will not only make it to the big or the small screen one day but that they’ll be something worthy of the amazing novel they’re created from. While 2021 certainly featured some great ones, 2022 has some promising movies and TV shows on the way. Here are nine of the adaptations currently expected to release this year that I’m most looking forward to seeing:

The Time Traveler’s Wife (TV Limited series, HBO)

Audrey Niffenegger’s Sci-fi romance, The Time Traveler’s Wife, has been one of my favourite books ever since I was in high school. Then again, I haven’t re-read it for years now so here’s hoping that’s still the case. It follows a man named Henry who has a condition called Chrono-Displacement Disorder which causes him to spontaneously time travel to moments within his own timeline – past and future. Because of this, he meets, falls in love with, and eventually marries an artist named Clare. The book details their lives and the impact Henry’s condition has on them. I found the 2009 film somewhat of a letdown so I’m really looking forward to seeing what HBO is able to do with a six-episode limited series in the hands of Steven Moffat, especially since my favourite Doctor Who episode was not only written by him but inspired by this exact novel (It’s The Girl in the Fireplace, in case you were wondering). The series will star Theo James and Rose Leslie, which I’m not sure how I feel about, but I’m keeping an open mind. It’s due to release sometime in the Northern Hemisphere’s Spring.


Conversations with Friends (TV Limited Series, BBC 3/Hulu)

I think you’re all aware just how much I adore Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney so when I say this is the adaptation I’m most excited for on this list, you won’t be surprised. This book is another one of my favourite standalones and it’s about two friends/exes, Frances and Bobby, who meet a writer named Melissa after one of their spoken poetry shows and start to spend time with her and her quiet, actor husband, Nick. Soon after, Frances begins an affair with Nick which changes her perspective on a lot of things. I absolutely adored the adaptation of Rooney’s second novel, Normal People, and many of the people who were involved in that production have returned to work on CWF so I’m really hopeful the series will be another winner. It’s due to release in the US in May and, like Normal People, will consist of 12 episodes of approx. 30 mins each.


Daisy Jones and the Six (TV Limited Series, Amazon)

I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about this adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s popular 2019 novel for a while now (ever since Reese Witherspoon’s production company bought the rights), but it seems as though the TV series will finally be released this year. The book is a fictionalised oral history account of the rise and split of a popular band in the 1970s and takes some inspiration from Fleetwood Mac. Production was massively delayed due to Covid but they were finally able to start shooting in September last year, which is exciting! The casting looks super solid too – Riley Keogh will play Daisy and Sam Claflin has been cast as Billy, the band’s lead guitarist, writer and singer. I’m interested to see how the music from the book gets translated into the series and the way the documentary-style storytelling will be approached. I know a lot of people are looking forward to this one so hopefully they aren’t disappointed!


Blonde (Film, Netflix)

I confess, I’ve had this brick-sized book by Joyce Carol Oates sitting on my desk TBR pile for many months now but I’m determined to read it before the adaptation comes out. There’s been a lot of talk about this movie in recent weeks due to the announcement of its US NC-17 rating but I’m super intrigued to see how the movie turns out. It’s a fictionalised and highly edited account of the life of Marilyn Monroe and, at a times, a very dark, violent and ugly one. Then again, Marilyn’s life wasn’t exactly sunshine and daisies. I have no idea if this is going to be something I enjoy, the book or the movie, but there’s just something about Marilyn that draws me in. Ana de Armas will be playing Marilyn and I’ve liked what I’ve seen from her in the past. I’ve heard there were some challenges in navigating her Cuban accent but I really hope she nails the role.


House of the Dragon (TV Series, HBO)

Even after the nonsense that was season 8 of Game of Thrones, I’m still looking forward to this adaptation of Martin’s Fire & Blood. Am I going in with measured expectations? That would be a yes, but we’ll see how things go. It could be awesome, it could be the biggest flop ever. Who knows? This series is set 300 years before the original and deals with the lead-up to the Dance of Dragons – a civil war within the Targaryen house that killed many dragons and severely weakened the Targaryens, contributing to their eventual downfall. I have no idea how much money HBO is throwing at this, it must be a lot considering how many dragons will have to be involved and the scale of the conflicts, so here’s hoping it looks pretty spectacular.


Bridgerton, Season 2 (TV Series, Netflix)

As if this wasn’t going to be included. This is another case of an adaptation where I have the book but just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet (I’m hesitant after my issues with the first book). Gotta love a good guilty pleasure watch. But yay for a diverse heroine and good, old-fashioned enemies-to-lovers tale. The story revolves around Anthony finally deciding to get married and setting his sights on a woman named Edwina. However, her older sister Kate has heard all about Anthony’s rakish ways from Lady Whistledown and wants to keep Edwina as far away from him as possible. But then oopsie, they fall for each other instead. I wasn’t a big fan of Anthony in the first season/book – he’s somewhat of a pratt so fingers crossed this season and Kate can redeem him. Season 2 will release on March 25 and you can bet I’ll be bingeing it.


Where the Crawdads Sing (Film, Netflix)

Another adaptation, another book I haven’t read. I’ve been wanting to read Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdads Sing for a few years now, probably because it was all people could talk about for a while, but never got around to it. Now the movie is coming out in June and I’m feeling the time crunch. This is another one of the projects being produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine company and I’m excited that they’ve cast Daisy Edgar Jones in the lead role because I loved her in Normal People. I’m also expecting some beautiful scenery after what I’ve heard of the environments in the book. The novel is about a girl named Kya who lives in the wilderness as she was abandoned by her family when she was young. Treated as a social outcast, she becomes the prime suspect in a murder when a popular boy from town is found dead.


The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (TV Series, Amazon)

This is the 2022 adaptation I’m most conflicted about. As some of you may know, I’m not a big fan of Tolkien’s books but I’m completely nuts for Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. So, my dilemma is that while I’m intrigued, I’m still very unsure about how good it will be. Amazon has thrown absolutely enormous sums of money at this first season – legit, $465M was spent – meaning at the very least I have high hopes for the production quality. The story itself is based on Tolkien’s collection of appendices rather than an actual novel, which suggests there will be a lot of jigsaw puzzling and creative license going on to form the narrative. It seems to be dealing with the second age, covering Sauron’s rise and the forging of the Rings of Power. This could prove to be super interesting but I guess we’ll have to wait until September to find out.


Which book adaptations coming out in 2022 are you most excited to see?

Battle of the Book Covers: US vs UK (Round 5)

It’s time for another battle of the book covers! I’ve been doing these posts for a while now and, as it turns out, they’re some of the most high traffic ones on my blog. So clearly you all enjoy them. Just to recap, the scoreboard currently reads at US: 24 points, UK: 22 points. It’s surprisingly still a very close race but I have a feeling the US is going to pull further ahead this round.

The Four Winds – Kristin Hannah

Starting off with Kristin Hannah’s latest release. I like both of these covers. This is another match up where you can see that the brief was similar but the designers did something slightly different with it. I love the fresh looking blue background on the UK cover and it contrasts well with the gold wheat/text. However, I find the layout of the US cover cleaner, and the black background makes the wheat stalks stand out even more.

VERDICT: US Cover


Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir

Once again, same design brief, different results. This one is tricky because while I like the Sci-Fi style font used for the text on the US cover, I think the use of the red embers and smoke in the background of the UK cover is more visually striking. Plus, the US cover has a printed sticker and you all know how I feel about THOSE. The UK cover does have a lot of text on it though which makes it somewhat cluttered. If only they could have combined the elements of both, they would have had a perfect cover! In that case, tie it is.

VERDICT: Tie


Ace of Spades – Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Can I just say, these are both absolutely awesome covers! I love how they each take the playing card inspiration and run with it to create something very dynamic. I really like the spade cut out used to break up the text and imagery on the UK cover and the way the figures are facing each other. Yet, I think I’ll have to give it to the US cover on this one – the way the colour scheme is used, the layout, the art, even the title font…it’s all so well done. *Chef’s kiss*

VERDICT: US cover


The Road Trip – Beth O’Leary

Now, this is another tough one because I really wish I could mix elements from both covers together to create a great Franken-cover. On the US cover, I like the script style title and bold blue background but I’m not a fan of the blobby art style, especially when you look closely at the figures. With the UK cover, I like the art a lot more but find the white background super boring. Alright, we’ll give it to the US cover but only by a hair.

VERDICT: US Cover


Recursion – Blake Crouch

Here are two very different but similarly eye-catching covers. I love the vivid electric green on the US cover and the imagery of the infinity symbol, extremely fitting for the story. Overall, it’s a very clean, modern sci-fi cover. The UK cover effectively utilises the orange-blue complementary colour scheme to really make things pop and the layers upon layers of those curved interlocking rooms is quite visually captivating, too. For some reason it gives me The Matrix vibes. Ah, this one is really tricky!! I think I’m going US but barely.

Verdict: US Cover


Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney

These two covers for Conversations with Friends have super similar vibes. Yellow backgrounds, highly similar fonts. The only real differences are the art and layout. I love how neat the US cover looks without all the extra promotional text e.g. quotes, award wins. Yet, having seen the full face images of the art used, it’s put me off somewhat because they look really odd. I also don’t remember either of the main characters have closely cropped hair? Or am I wrong?. On the UK cover, I’d like to think we have Bobby on the left, looking for a new adventure and Francis on the right, trying to hide herself away.

Verdict: UK Cover


A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness

The UK cover in this comparison is actually a recover and was done to match the first and second books with a midseries change for the third book. While the UK cover is clean, simple and the red looks nice against the black (I enjoy the way the colour gradually shifts over all three covers in the series), it’s also fairly boring. The US cover, on the other hand, is slightly busy for my liking, but I like the midnight blue background and the way they’ve incorporated the alchemical imagery. It definitely looks very old school mystical and magical.

Verdict: US Cover


Anna K – Jenny Lee

I’m not super keen on either of these covers but there’s something about the US cover that feels super lazy to me. It’s just a model floating in blue space. Yes, the title font is nice but I expect more. On the UK cover, the pink and gold background is certainly very striking and works well to make Anna stand out. Although, I do think that the use of the magenta for the title wasn’t the best as it blends a little with the blue of the coat.

VERDICT: UK Cover


Ariadne – Jennifer Saint

Okay, I’m in love with both of these covers. They’re stunning. The layered design of the US cover using the burnt orange against the navy is so nice. The layout is perfectly done as well. HOWEVER, the UK cover has foiling. Shiny, shiny foiling. And, as we all know, I am a massive magpie when it comes to shiny covers. Those leaves are so darn pretty against the blue background. Even the design itself with the tree, ship, snake and border is lovely. Sorry US cover, you’re nice but SHINY!

Verdict: UK Cover


Cinderella is Dead – Kalynn Bayron

My verdict on this one is purely about personal preference regarding the art style. There’s something about the body positioning (especially the neck) and the lighting in the US cover that I find…weird. But I really like the fact that they’ve incorporated an ominous enchanted forest background. The art style on the right looks more real to me, especially those thick bouncy curls, and I like the fact that she’s got a few cuts, tears and bruises – much more badass.

Verdict: UK Cover


Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid

I’ve used Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books a few times on these lists. Probably because her books always seem to have different US and UK covers. I’ll be blunt, I’m going with the US cover on this match up. Mostly because that stupid printed sticker on the UK cover is driving me absolutely nuts. Every time I look at the cover, my eyes are drawn there first. Don’t get me wrong, the colours in the sky and ocean are super pretty but I can’t do it. With the US cover, I like the variations in the blue of the ocean and how nicely the text stands out against it.

VERDICT: US Cover


Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

We have two completely different covers for the US and UK editions of Never Let Me Go. While the US version tries to use the facial close up to get across the idea of purity and innocence, the UK cover showcases movement and life, almost like children running around, playing. I’m split about this comparison as they both have nice qualities to them and I wouldn’t mind having either in my bookcase.

VERDICT: Tie


Just as I thought, the UK has taken a hit this time around and the US is pulling ahead more. Let’s check out the updated scoreboard:

Who would have won these match ups in your eyes? Am I on the right track or clearly blind?

Missed any of the previous rounds? You can find them here: ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR.

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: