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

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

Special Mention: Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir | Review

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

10. The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter

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

9. A Ladder to the Sky – John Boyne

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

8. Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

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

7. The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

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

6. Twice Shy – Sarah Hogle | Review

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

5. The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood

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

4. Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff | Review

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

3. The Burning God – R F Kuang

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

2. The Push – Ashley Audrain

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

And now for the big one.

My favourite read of 2021 is….

*DRUMROLL*

1. If We Were Villains – M. L. Rio

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


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

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

My Favourite Reads of 2021 (So Far)

Once again, we’ve hit July and that means another half year has bit the dust. For the last few years I’ve made a habit out of doing a mid-year favourites post. It’s something I really enjoy because not only does it allow me to look back at the amazing books I’ve loved the most over the last six months, but it’s interesting to compare it with my end of year top 10 rankings. Some books manage to remain among my best of the best while others get knocked out by other fantastic reads. It’s a book eat book world out there, guys.

In 2021 so far I’ve read 30 books and I’ll admit, this is less than what I was hoping or expecting to be at by now. The main reason is that I hit a major slump around early May and my reading over the last two months has been abysmal. Up until yesterday, the last book I’d finished was around June 2nd. Fingers crossed I manage to snap out of it soon and better things are in store for July. As it stands, I currently have 5 books on this list. It’s not a lot but I can genuinely say I loved reading each of these. In no particular order, they are:

The Burning God – R F Kuang

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To say I was looking forward to this book’s release is an understatement, so there were definitely some high expectations there. To my relief, although there were a few plotlines I wish had been handled slightly better/differently, I wasn’t disappointed. This final installment secured The Poppy War Series as one of my absolute favourites. The Burning God was a complete emotional rollercoaster and ended in such a dramatic way that I almost couldn’t process the gravity and scale of what had happened. It again really drove home the brutal realities of war and reminded readers that there are never any true victors. The writing was fantastic and the story and characters remained compelling. Memorable right to the very end. I can’t wait to read whatever Kuang does next.


If We Were Villains – M. L. Ro

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I didn’t expect to fall in love with this book the way that I did. I really should have though considering its similarities to The Secret History but with Shakespeare instead of classical history. It follows a group of acting students whose friendships and lives start to destruct after one of them dies under tragic and dark circumstances. I was completely enthralled by this and got so invested in the characters (especially Oliver & James) who are designed like theater role stereotypes. The structure of the novel itself is so fantastically done as well and I really wish I had more knowledge of Shakespeare’s works so I could’ve appreciated all the little nuances even more. I regret not writing a proper review for this now. However, I did try at the time and had so much difficulty putting my thoughts into words. I’m sure I’ll reread it in the future so maybe then!


The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter

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The Good Daughter was my first introduction to Karin Slaughter’s books and I understand why she’s so popular because this was fantastically done. It’s technically a crime novel but the strength of the book is in its characters, particularly the two MCs, Sam & Charlie. They’re complex, well written and I really liked the way the book slowly dug into the childhood trauma surrounding their mother’s death and how this affected them into adulthood. The pacing is good and the ending is sastisfying, which is always nice for a novel like this. It’s definitely on the more dark and violent side of things, but I didn’t have a problem with it. I’ll 100% be trying out some of Slaughter’s other works.


The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

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I picked up The Heart’s Invisible Furies based on recommendations made because I loved A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. While the two books are very different, I ended up loving this all the same. The book follows Cyril, a gay man living in Ireland in the decades before the legalisation of homosexuality. It wasn’t what I expected but in a great way, mostly due to the writing which has this magical blend of comedy and tragedy. It’s super quirky and absurd at times but it works. I also have a thing for books which follow characters over lengthy periods of their lives and this fits into that category. Because of the time jumps I did feel a little like I had missed out on things sometimes but was able to move past it quickly. I wish I’d gotten to know certain characters better to properly appreciate their big emotional moments but regardless, this was amazing and I’ve already got several of Boyne’s other books lined up to read.


Twice Shy – Sarah Hogle

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This book was so sweet and uplifting, and it’s cemented Sarah Hogle as an auto-buy author for me. It does get a bit corny and odd at times but you can’t help but love it anyway. The story is another version of the forced proximity trope and involves our leads co-inheriting a large house, then working to fix it up together. The characters are super loveable – dreamer, romantic Maybell & anxious, vulnerable Wesley – and really wonderful together. They have this lovely and gradual journey to understanding each other which I loved and they deal with their issues in such a healthy, non-frustrating way. There’s less banter and humour than in Hogle’s debut but that’s completely fine. Definitely recommended for those with Covid or mid-week blues.


Help me defeat my slump! Recommend me one of your favourite reads of 2021 so far and tell me why you enjoyed it so much.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Book Openings

This week’s topic for Top 10 Tuesday (hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl) is centred around quotes pertaining to a central theme. After discovering that a previous topic I had missed involved favourite opening lines to books, I thought why not use that as my quote theme for this week. Now, I’m playing it a bit loose with the whole ‘opening lines’ idea to cover more than just the first sentence in some cases but my blog, my rules!

I went through SO MANY books to find entries for this list. Finding ones I loved was harder than I though. As it turns out, books I’ve adored have not always had the strongest openers, and others which I didn’t enjoy as much came out of the gate stronger than I remembered. For the purposes of this list, I’ve stuck only to books I’ve read (or read part of), and because 10 seemed a bit limited for this topic, I thought I’d extend the number of entries somewhat.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.

Well, if this opening doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what else would. The dramatic tension contained within it is just fantastic. We know that someone is dead, our narrator, and people associated with him, are involved somehow, and the situation at hand has occurred in an unexpected way. But, why did this occur? How did it happen? What will they do in response to their grave situation? So many interesting questions to answer!

Red Rising – Pierce Brown

I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.

I find this a really strong opener – short sentences, blunt sentiment, and a sense of contrast created by the dichotomy between peace and war. We immediately understand that our central character is someone who feels he has been forced down the path the novel is to take, that he’s not the ‘bad guy’ in this scenario. It’s also just a super dramatic and badass start to a book.

It – Stephen King

The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

According to King, he has on many occasions spent months trying to write the perfect opening line to his books and IT’s is definitely one of his best. This first line gives the reader an instant sense of the gravity of the evil the characters in the book will face. It then contrasts it against something so innocent and innocuous as a floating newspaper boat. It’s jarring and eerie, but perfect.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size.

I’ve actually only read part of Red Sister but still, this opening gets a entry here on shock value. I mean, come on. How could you not want to read on after seeing an line like that? ‘Killing a nun’??? And that’s something which requires a large army? You immediately think: ‘I’m missing something here, and I need to find out what’.

Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir

In the myriadic year of our lord – the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death! – Gideon Nav packed up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.

I love this opening because not only does it give you really quick insight into the type of character Gideon is, it also hooks you with so many intriguing questions right from the get-go. Why is Gideon escaping? What is the House of the Ninth? And most importantly, how the hell has the king managed to reign for ten thousand years??

Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

On the second Sabbat of the Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky. Her skin was blue, her blood was red.

This is another book opener which really draws the reader in with questions – what is the city of Weep? Why is a girl falling from the sky there? And why is her skin blue? It creates a striking and vivid image in your mind almost immediately – you can see that bright red blood against the blue of her skin and track her falling towards the ground. Shocking and memorable.

Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

A classic literary opener. I’m sure this one is included on many people’s lists. Why? Because it so flawlessly sets up the novel. For characters such as Mr Bingley and Mr Collins, it’s very much true – they have money (or money coming) and, therefore, believe they should have a suitable wife. Then, in the case of Mr Darcy, it’s just a social construct – he is wealthy and thus society believes he should be interested in finding a wife. However, in reality, at the beginning of the book he’s entirely disinterested in doing so. Very clever.

Beartown – Fredrik Backman

Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.

Backman’s Beartown is another example of a novel kicking things off with a bold, dramatic moment which we’re suddenly desperate to understand the why and how of but can’t. A sneak-peek of events to come. It’s particularly shocking because not only do we have someone shooting somebody else but that someone is a teenager. It really drives home from the very first line that this is a story which will deal with the loss of innocence.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.

The opening to The Heart’s Invisible Furies is great because I feel as though it perfectly establishes the kind of book it’s going to be – a wonderful blend of humour and woe. Sure, as far as first sentences go, it’s on the wordy side but you’re immediately intrigued both by what has happened to reach this moment and what will happen next.

The Hobbit – J RR Tolkien

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

I really enjoy how easy-breezy the world building is in these opening lines to The Hobbit. Within moments we already know that these strange fantasy creatures, Hobbits, live in warm, cozy homes in the ground and that they love food and comfortable furniture. It’s such a lovely image and you can’t help but immediately develop a degree of fondness for them.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

This is such a simple opener to a book that’s considered a modern classic. But unlike quite a few other classic novels, with Rebecca I actually understand why the first line is so famous. We question where Manderley is, why our narrator is dreaming about being there, and why she isn’t physically there. More so, this isn’t the first time she’s dreamt about it, so what is it about Manderley that’s causing it to haunt her dreams? The more you think about it, the eerier it sounds.

A Darker Shade of Magic – V E Schwab

Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.

I adore the charm of this opening to Schwab’s ADSOM series. It’s so simple, talking about a piece of clothing, but we’re immediately introduced to the magic and mystery that this world is going to offer us. Kell’s coat is a significant element of his character and from page one we’re already able to identify him as someone different and special, purely by the fact that he owns a coat which is impossible even in the context of his own universe.

Scythe – Neal Shusterman

We must, by law, keep a record of the innocents we kill. And as I see it, they’re all innocents. Even the guilty.

I’m drawn to these opening lines because they so clearly state the moral dilemma of all “good” Scythes. If you were given the power over life and death, who would you deem innocent enough to spare? Who would be bad enough to kill? And among those bad ones, how terrible do they have to be for you to be able to kill them without feeling some kind of distress or guilt? As a reader, you’re instantly drawn into why our narrator is killing people and within what social context. It’s a strong start to a great read.

The Martian – Andy Weir

I’m pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked. Six days into what should be one of the greatest two months of my life, and it’s turned into a nightmare.

Okay, this opening’s here because it’s funny. Like, the dude has literally been left behind on Mars. What else is he supposed to say? This aside, it also quickly shows the reader that our main character is relatable and that despite this being a science based story, it’s going to be an approachable one.

Emma – Jane Austen

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to united some of the best blessings of existence, and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her. . .

Yes, another Austen. I know. You must think I’m a crazy Austen fan at this point, but honestly these are just two books with fantastic openers. I really like this one because with the way our narrator describes the leading lady, you can’t quite tell whether Austen wants us to like her or hate her out of pure jealousy of her perfectness. I also love how it so clearly suggests that there are plenty of vexing things due to come Emma’s way some time soon.


What are some of your favourite openings to books? What was it about them that grabbed you?

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:

Top 5 Tuesday: Favourite Characters O-Z

It’s time to finish what I started! Last week for Top 5 Tuesday, I began my character countdown through the alphabet up to the letter N. This week we’re running through the remaining (and more challenging) letters of O-Z. If you missed part 1, you can find it here. It also explains why my ‘top 5’ is not even close to being a top 5 numbers wise (spoiler alert – I’m always late to the party and somewhat disorganised).

FYI, Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Shannah at Bionic Book Worm and now hosted by Meeghan at Meeghan Reads. If you’d like to participate next week, you can find the October topics here.

O is for Finnick Odair (The Hunger Games Series)

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Finnick, Finnick, Finnick, you charming bastard. I’ll be forever mad at Suzanne Collins for what happened to you. Reasons Finnick is on this list: He 1) wields a trident like it’s nobody’s business, 2) adores his girlfriend/wife Annie, 3) has sugar cubes on hand for awkward meetings, 4) hasn’t let his treatment by the Capital and President Snow kill his sense of humour, 5) will happily walk around in his underwear, and 6) would die for those he loves.


P is for Patroclus (The Song of Achilles)

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Patroclus is one of those quiet characters that, despite the story being told from his perspective, is easy to dismiss as a side kick at first. But as the story unfolds you come to recognise his bravery, compassion, and awareness of his own strengths & weaknesses. Honestly, he has the purest heart and is basically my sweet, little, ancient Greek cinnamon roll.


Q is for Quan Diep (The Kiss Quotient Series)

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Quan is pretty much a favourite of everyone who reads The Kiss Quotient books. He’s a side character but a super memorable one. While he seems like this bad boy player complete with tats and a shaved head, he’s actually a massive sweetheart. Quan is super supportive of his autistic brother, Khai, very conscious of other people’s body language and feelings, and even offers to marry Esme, the female lead in The Bride Test, to allow her to stay in the United States. He also makes me laugh. I’m so keen to read his love story, The Heart Principle, in 2021.


R is for Rose Hathaway (Vampire Academy Series)

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It’s an extremely rare occurrence for me to be able to say that my fave character in a series is the main protagonist. Rose is one of those special cases and I love her dearly. She’s immensely passionate, a caring and dedicated friend, a hell of a fighter, wonderfully snarky, and so enjoyable to read from the POV of. She grows so much over the series and no matter how many times I read VA, there’s nothing like being back inside her head.


S is for Spensa Nightshade (Skyward Series)

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Ah, Spensa. On my first read of Skyward, Spensa definitely took some getting used to. Overconfident, a flair for the dramatic, and a massive chip on her shoulder, as far as characters go she’s…a lot. Over time though I came to love her for her unwavering determination to achieve her dreams in the face of a lot of hardship and obstacles. She’s also funny, very hardworking, and unwilling to leave a teammate behind. What can I say? I’m a sucker for an underdog.

…and also for Sadie (Sadie)

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Sadie is another one of those characters that has been through so much awfulness that I want to wrap her up in a blanket, hold her and tell her everything will get better. But I can’t. She’s such a broken and vulnerable character with so much darkness and pain her life. At the same time, she has this amazing determination, strength and courage in the face of doing something so destructive and dangerous. While I didn’t always agree with her choices, Sadie was definitely a fighter and I rooted for her all the way to the very end.


T is for Carswell Thorne (The Lunar Chronicles)

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Hey, don’t say I didn’t warn you about my weakness for attractive male characters with slight bad boy streaks and a sarcastic sense of humour who are actually good guys. Because here we have another one. Thorne is probably my favourite character in TLC books. He’s a massive flirt with a decent sized ego and I get so much enjoyment out of reading about his interactions with other characters, especially innocent & sweet Cress.


U is for… I am Useless at Finding a Character starting with ‘U’


V is for Virginia “Mustang” Au Augustus (Red Rising Saga)

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There are a lot of amazing and loveable characters in the Red Rising saga but I’ll always have a soft spot for women who can kick serious butt with both their bodies and minds. Virginia is a person that others underestimate at their own peril. She’s cautious, cunning, well spoken, and highly intelligent. However, she also loves fiercely, is loyal and empathetic, and has a strong sense of right and wrong. The perfect balance to our lead, Darrow.


X is for…Xylophone

I’m kidding. Sorry guys, I tried. I really did, but I came up empty.


W is for Willem Ragnarsson (A Little Life)

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This book permanently damaged my heart and soul. It’s full of so much sadness but Willem, for the most part, is a little spark of happiness. He’s such a kindhearted and beautiful person who doesn’t allow fame and success to change him into something he’s not. Also, the relationship between Willem and Jude is one of my favourite parts of the book. *SPOILERS* I was absolutely devastated after what happened to him and haven’t cried so hard reading anything in years.


Y is for Yael (Wolf by Wolf Duology)

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As a survivor of Auschwitz and a shapeshifter, Yael certainly has a lot of emotional baggage and identity issues to deal with. But as far as characters go, she straddles the line between strong and vulnerable perfectly. She’s highly capable, smart, and hasn’t let her painful and loss filled past completely close her off to others. Although her mission to kill Hitler does require tough decisions, her underlying kindness frequently shows through.


Z is for Zoya Nazyalensky (The Grisha Trilogy & King of Scars)

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There was no way I was leaving my girl Zoya of this list. Who cares if it might as well be called the Leigh Bardugo character list. I was definitely far from Zoya’s biggest fan when she was first introduced in The Grisha trilogy. I mean, she was kind of a bitch. But then as the books progress and we move into King of Scars, she undergoes so much growth and development, and gets a chance to really shine. I love how sassy, strong, powerful and resilient she is. Plus, her rapport with Nikolai is perfection. Can someone just crown her Queen of Ravka already?


We made it! We survived! Wooooooooo!

Okay, chill out Ashley. It’s not like you just wrote War and Peace.

If you had picked favourite characters for these letters, who would have made the cut? (Plus, any suggestions for my missing letters? First names, surnames and nicknames all count. Let me know!)

My Favourite Reads of 2020 (So Far)

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a few years now (you poor souls) will know that I like to do a mid year check-in of sorts with regards to my favourite reads. The main reason being that it’s always fun to compare the halfway year list to the final top ten books at the end of the year – what’s come out on top, what’s been bumped off by something I enjoyed more, and so on. To keep things fair, re-reads are excluded because how boring would that be?

Now, by this time last year I’d read 39 books which was a decent number to pick a top 10 from. In 2020, so far, I’ve read…err..well…27 books. Yes, I know. But hey, I did say at the beginning of the year I was going to take things at my own pace. So no complaints. However, with a lower number of books to select from, instead of doing a top 10 this year I’ll be doing a top 6 for my mid-year post.

Here they are, in no particular order:

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara | Review

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If you’ve read my review for this book, you won’t be surprised to see A Little Life on this list. I loved this novel, which is such a strange word to use considering how difficult the content is and the fact that it broke my heart into a million pieces then drove a steamroller over them. 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. The writing is stunning and the characters are beautifully crafted. Although it’s a long book and has a couple of issues, it’s definitely worth the time investment and boxes of tissues you’ll go through in the last hundred or so pages.


Starsight – Brandon Sanderson | Review

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Skyward was my favourite read of 2019 so the fact that I enjoyed Starsight as much as I did was an enormous relief. It’s quite a different story from the first book in terms of the narrative direction, pacing and characters but still super engaging. Sanderson massively expanded his universe in this book which would ordinarily be a bit of a worry for me, but here it was done in such an interesting and logical way. I also really appreciated the growth and development of Spensa, the MC, in this book and I’m really excited to see how this continues. These books are quickly becoming one of my favourite series. I’m just ridiculously mad that I have to wait over a year for book 3, especially after THAT ending.


Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin | Review

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I’ve praised Wolf by Wolf repeatedly since I read it back in March (only because it’s so good!), so the fact that it’s showing up on this list isn’t a shock to anyone. I love competition narratives, historical fiction, fantasy, strong heroines, romance that doesn’t completely take over, and tragic backstories, so this book has pretty much everything I could possibly want. Set in a world in which the Axis won WWII, the book deals with an epic motorcycle race which our shapeshifting lead, Yael, enters in the hope of getting close enough to Adolf Hitler to assassinate him. The pacing is good, the story engaging, the characters likeable, and it ends on a twist that definitely makes me keen for book 2.


The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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I would never have expected to enjoy this book as much as I did. Like A Little Life, The Dutch House is set over a period of several years and more about characters than plot. It’s a slower, quieter read which unfolds very much like a modern fairytale (wicked stepmother included). The book revolves around the relationship between a brother and sister and their connection with their childhood home, the titled Dutch House. It’s very well-written, with some of my favourite scenes consisting of Maeve and Danny simply sitting and talking with one another. Also, having listened to the audiobook, I can definitely vouch for the narration of the wonderful Tom Hanks.


The Diviners – Libba Bray

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I’m really mad that I put off reading this for so long because it was such an enjoyable read! The Diviners is so different from a lot of the other young adult books I’ve read which was super refreshing. The 1920s setting is wonderfully vivid, full of life and easily one of my favourite parts of the book. However, it also has a dark and engaging story and a diverse group of characters that are layered, rich and likeable. Also, my magic/special ability loving little heart was very much in her element with this one. I definitely see why this is such a popular series and I predict I’ll be giving the sequel a go some time in the next few months.


Becoming – Michelle Obama

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This is another book I read early in 2020 and have mentioned my love for several times since. Becoming is a fantastic autobiography (I say with my very limited experience of biography reads). 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 valuable topics and she does it with such grace and engagement. This is a book I honestly think everyone would take something away from. Even if you’re not a massive fan of Michelle Obama, I would have no hesitation in recommending it.


What are some of your favourite reads of 2020 so far? I hope that while the events of the year have been downright awful, your reading has been the complete opposite. Here’s to many more amazing books in the next six months!

Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Reads of 2019

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

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

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


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

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


8. Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee | ★★★★.5

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


3. The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang | ★★★★★

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


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

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


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

* Drumroll*

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

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


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

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

Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Books Published in the Past Ten Years

I can say with 100% certainty that this was not one of the easiest Top 10 Tuesday topics I’ve ever done. And by not easy, I mean extremely difficult. Not only did it require a good deal of research but, is it just me or are a crazy number of amazing books all from the same publication year? For this reason, I wouldn’t really consider this to be a true favourite books list. There are some years where I really didn’t read all that many things I absolutely adored, while there are others which sent me into a massive meltdown with just how many books I wanted to list. So, I may…have cheated and done multiples for certain years. I’m terrible at choosing things, alright??? With 2019 only less than half way through, this list will cover 2009-2018. Gosh, I hope I got the publication years right…*breathes heavily*


2009

city of glass (The Mortal Instruments 3#) by cassandra clare

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As I’ve recently re-read this one, I’m confident that I still really enjoy it. It’s a worthy favourite from 2009 (not that there were many options to pick from). I was off the charts excited for this release when I was a teen, back during my big Cassie Clare fan period. This book is probably my favourite TMI book overall – the side characters get more of the limelight, there’s a big battle between shadowhunters and demons, a lot of the major questions get answered, and & Alec and Magnus are just cute.

2010

The Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices 1#) by Cassandra Clare & Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy 5#) by Richelle Mead

Another Clare book, surprisingly. I’ve always had a thing for Victorian English settings and the fact that Clockwork Angel has great characters, hilarious dialogue and features the shadow hunter world building from TMI, means it hooked me pretty quickly. The series also happens to feature one of the only love triangles I’m okay with. I definitely have to do a reread of this one at some point.

I really love the VA books (she says for the millionth time). I remember being so excited when this finally came out. I started reading it as soon as my mum popped it into my hot little hands. While book four was just okay, I really enjoyed book five. A prison break out, trip to Vegas, hopes for my favourite ship rekindled, and a twist ending. I was mighty keen to get book six as soon as possible.

2011

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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While I read this in 2018, it was actually released seven years before and somehow I missed it! I loved this book, far more than Miller’s later (and, I think, more popular) release, Circe. It’s just the perfect blend of everything you could possibly want – romance, action, history and mythology, and even though you know it’s going to end tragically, you still hope for a happier ending. Honestly, I would gladly get my heart broken over and over again by this book.

2012

The Selection by Kiera Cass

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This was a struggle year to pick for because unlike some of the others further down, I haven’t read many books published in 2012 that I consider to be the-best-thing-ever. In the end, I’ve gone with The Selection in all its trashy glory because yes, it’s ridiculous, stupid, fluffy and has a protagonist who’s incredibly frustrating at times, but it’s the perfect choice for when I want to switch my brain completely off. This is comfort reading at its best. I can’t tackle literary masterpieces all the time.

2013

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

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This year was still slightly a struggle to pick for because while I do have a couple of books I quite enjoyed from 2013, they’re still only 4 star reads. I’ve read The Bone Season twice now and raced through it enjoyably each time. Sure, there’s quite a bit of info dumping to get through and the magic system is kind of confusing but the plot is engaging, the characters are likeable, there’s romance without it taking over everything, and I just can’t help getting swept up in it all.

2014

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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This is another series that I’ve mentioned many times on my blog since I read it in 2018, but it’s only because I enjoyed them so darn much. After a slow start, RR really found its feet and it ended up being a little bit Hunger Games-esque only with more scheming, blood, and on a grander scale. This was actually only a 4.5 Star read for me and I even rated the next two books higher, however, in comparison to other books I’ve read from 2014, this one comes out on top (but only just slightly!).

2015

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo & A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Lord help me. Remember those meltdowns I mentioned? Half of them were because of this damn wonderful year of books. As I’ve already given the Red Rising series some love, it’s SoC & ADSOM who’ll be taking the prize for this 2015.

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t heard of these two amazing reads? Both of them feature fantastic fantasy worlds and a great cast of characters who very quickly force you to fall in love with them. There’s adventure, humour, magic, friendship, strong women, high stakes, and I enjoy every minute of these two stories. If people are looking for fantasy recommendations, these books are 100% at the top of the list.

2016

A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR 2#) by Sarah J. Maas & Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Twenty-Sixteen was another glorious year for books, friends. Even narrowing it down to these two was hard, not that they’ll come as a surprise.

While ACOTAR was an average read for me, ACOMAF was five stars all around. It introduces so many fabulous characters, and the slow burn romance is just, like, YES. This is what I want and never seem to get. Another series I really need to re-read.

Nevernight is the bloody, dark, and exciting read I didn’t know I needed. Assassin school is probably all I really needed to know. Yeah, the writing style is odd to get used to at first, but afterwards it’s easy to get on board. Mia is my girl and the fact that I once lived without knowing Mr Kindly, is sad indeed.

2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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TSHOEH was my number one read of 2018 and while there were some really great books published in 2017, this one is the definite winner. I adored this novel. The characters and setting are wonderfully rich and detailed, the romance is beautifully done, the sexual diversity is fantastic, the structure and style is perfectly suited to the story being told….really, I could go on for ages. It’s brilliant and I’ll recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

2018

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

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Gosh, I loved this book. I tend to gravitate more towards fantasy than sci-fi normally but it’s books like this that remind me just how much I enjoy it. Sanderson is absolute magic. His characters are great, the plot is exciting, world building exceptional, and it’ll even make you laugh. I already know this will be on my best reads of 2019 list (yes, I know I took a while to finally read it). I honestly can’t wait for the sequel later this year.

There we have it! Ten years in books. It was really interesting to look at just how long it took me to read certain books after they were published, especially ones that ended up being favourites. The fact that I now read a lot more books during the year and that these tend to be ones published in the last couple of years made certain entries for this list quite challenging but it was certainly an experience.

What are some of your favourite books from the last ten years?

TTT is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl

Top 10 Favourite Reads of 2018

No, it’s not Tuesday but with the end of the year finally here, it’s time to start wrapping up on all the books I read in 2018. For this reason, here I am, counting down my favourite reads of the year. I am terrible when it comes to comparing and ranking things which is why my top tens are never ordered. Yet, this time around I’m actually going to try and do a proper countdown all the way up to my favourite read of the year. Can you hear me hyperventilating already? The pressure is intense, man. PANIC. To put it into perspective, I’ve read 89 books this year (I’m going to try my best to crack the big 9-0 before the year ends *crosses fingers & toes*) and have to pick TEN. JUST TEN.

So, here they are, in order, my 10 favourite reads of 2018:

10. THE CRUEL PRINCE – HOLLY BLACK | Review

34913691Let’s kick things off with a majorly hyped book. The Cruel Prince has some big flaws – lacking world building, slow pacing for the first half of the novel, a lot of unlikeable or eh characters, and am I completely addicted anyway for some inexplicable reason? Oh…..yes. The backstabbing, murder, political machinations, toxic romance, shades of grey characters, dark and twisty writing – I’m kind of in love with it all in an almost guilty pleasure kind of way. The second half of this book and especially the ending is just so addictive and exciting that I’m practically itching to get my hands on The Wicked King. It’s my most anticipated 2019 release, easy.

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9. The HATE U GIVE – ANGIE THOMAS | Review

34530151A lot of people are going to wonder why this one is so low on my list so let me explain. The Hate U Give is fantastic. No, really, the fact that this is an author debut is insane. It’s wonderfully written, the characters are rich and very well developed, and the story itself is topical, emotional and impactful. I admire THUG for all of these reasons and recommend that everyone read it at least once to better understand privilege, racism, and the importance of standing up for what is right. However, at the same time, it’s not something I would ever see myself re-reading or a book I could say I “loved” or was completely transfixed by, which is why it sits at number nine.

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8. TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE – JENNY HAN | Review

21028311This is another hyped up and somewhat flawed read which for some reason I couldn’t help gobbling up like an all-you-can-eat buffet complete with a chocolate fountain at the dessert table. To All the Boys is the fluffy, adorable, and sweet YA contemporary I didn’t even know I needed that would be able to make me smile even on an absolutely terrible day. Sure, it’s predictable, the plot is a little silly, and the ending is incomplete (to put it mildly), but it’s not meant to be a heavy read and I had such a wonderful time reading it that I immediately tracked down and read books two and three. Also, the fact that it features a mixed race protagonist is great. Basically just LJ x Peter K forever.

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7. WARCROSS – MARIE LU

36160193Warcross was my very first introduction to Marie Lu and what a fabulous one at that. I raced through this book like crazy, ridiculously keen for answers to all the story’s big plot questions. The warcross matches themselves were so much fun and a feast for the imagination – it’s basically virtual reality capture the flag on speed. The characters in Warcross were also really well done too, especially the MC, Emika, who became one of my favourite characters of 2018 (well, if we ignore Wildcard *cough*). She’s smart, talented, and pretty kick ass. I may not have been that keen on one of the major twists of the book but that didn’t stop me desperately craving book two the minute I finished it. I’ll definitely be checking out more of Marie’s books in future after the fun time I had with this one.

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6. SADIE – COURTNEY SUMMERS | Review

34810320Sadie was not a light read by any means – murder, child sexual abuse, loss, poverty – but from the get go I was hooked. There’s just something about this dark, little book which grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The writing and pacing are so perfectly done with the divide between first person and podcast transcripts. Sadie, herself, was both strong and vulnerable, and I wanted nothing more than to protect her from the world’s evils on her journey toward revenge. The ending of this one will be gnawing at me for a long time to come.

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5. THE SONG OF ACHILLES – MADELINE MILLER | Review

Image result for the song of achillesI’d heard amazing things about this book for ages before finally reading it, and people weren’t wrong. This was the book that reminded me just how much I love history. It’s the perfect blend of mythology, magic, war, romance, and emotional trauma wrapped up in one innocent looking, book shaped package. Miller’s attention to detail is phenomenal and blended with her straightforward writing style, immerses you without ever feeling overwhelming. The characters are beautifully developed, both good and bad, and even though the story is an old one, Miller tells it in an emotional and impactful way that really does manage to hit you hard in the feels. The perfect reminder that I need to branch outside of YA more often.

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4. SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA – BECKY ALBERTALLI | Review

19547856As if this wouldn’t make the list. It feels like so long ago that I read Simon. I mean, it kind of is a long time ago as it was one of the first books I read in 2018. At the time, Simon was the latest in my attempts to branch into the YA contemporary genre and it’s probably what encouraged me to read so many of these kinds of books this year. This book made me feel so happy, so good about the world at the end of it, that I just couldn’t wait to write a review. Honestly, I believe Simon could win over even the most cynical of readers. There’s great LGBTI representation, the writing itself is actually laugh out loud (or in my case, snort) funny, and it really does take you on an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs. If you’re in a reading slump, this is the novel cure for you.

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3. SCYTHE – NEAL SHUSTERMAN | Review

Image result for scythe neal shustermanI waited ages to get my hands on this book, meaning the expectations were very high because of all the positive reviews I’d seen during that period. To my relief, it wasn’t a let down in the slightest, mostly because Shusterman’s world is wonderfully original and fantastically constructed. I sucked up every detail like a ginormous sponge. The concept is compelling, a little crazy, somewhat terrifying, and perfectly executed even with the slower pace of the plot. The characters themselves are likeable and layered, and I really enjoyed reading through their arcs.  Also, a big plus, the romantic subplots are properly developed and don’t take over the main storyline. Simply put, I loved this book (and the sequel, too!).

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2. GOLDEN SON & MORNING STAR (RED RISING 2# & 3#) – PIERCE BROWN | Review

umqxjlfoedq7lj67v7w0Yes, this is two books but both of them have to be on this list and I feel weird about giving them separate slots so here they are, bundled together. This series gave me serious life at the start of 2018. My god, this is sci-fi at its best. I don’t even know where to start. Once they got going, and they really, really do, I could barely put them down until I finished. The story is so full of action, twists and turns, and backstabbing/plotting, it’s phenomenal. The characters are memorable, complex, have a wonderful dynamic, and when things go wrong for them, it really plays with your emotions. The other star of this series is Brown’s world building, or should I say ‘universe building’, which is just so damn good. The scale of it all is crazy. I will definitely be rereading these at some point.

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And that brings us to my final pick of the year, my favourite read, which was…

….

Are you ready?

1. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO – TAYLOR JENKINS REID | Review

33160963Ta dah! Evelyn Hugo is my number one read for 2018. Not that it should be a big surprise to anyone who’s read my review. I knew this book would be magic from the very beginning. I just had that feeling, you know the one, and I was right. Honestly guys, I love this book. Adore it. It’s actually joined The Time Traveller’s Wife as one of my favourite books of all time. The characters in this story are so real and multifaceted, the love and care Reid gives them simply jumps off the page. This is especially so for Evelyn, herself, with all her imperfections. The LBGTI representation is fantastic, particularly with regards to the historical context. Honestly, I could sit here forever and talk about all the reasons I love this book and we wouldn’t even scrape the surface. The writing, structure, heartbreaking romance, old Hollywood setting, ah! It’s so good. Read it, read it, read it.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS:

faves

*Exhales* Made it! That wasn’t so hard was it? I’m kidding. That was agony. I’ll probably think about this list for the next week agonising about what I coulda, shoulda, woulda done. But hey, sometimes you just have to pick and stick with it.

What were your favourite reads of 2018? And what’s the last book you plan to read for the year?

Top 10 Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read in 2018 (So Far)

This week’s top ten Tuesday topic is a list of your favourite reads of 2018 so far. I touched on this briefly when I did the mid-year freak out tag a few weeks ago but since it’s always fun talking about fantastic books, I thought, why not expand on it here. Creating this list was really tough in places because I’ve read some great books this year. If you were to ask me the same question again tomorrow, I’m likely to have changed the list by then, it’s just that hard. I’m so indecisive – did I like this book better than this book? Oh, but I rated this book higher, but then I read this one super quick, it’s just crazy. So here are the ten I’ve come up with for today. The books are listed in order of the date I read them (because who wants the grief of trying to rank them, heaven forbid)


1

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Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli)

★★★★★

I feel like I’ve raved about this one enough for you guys to know how much I enjoyed it. Like I said in my review, it’s better than Oreos – sweet, funny, emotional, and uplifting, this is the definition of a good YA contemporary.

Review here.


2

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A Torch Against the Night (Sabaa Tahir)

★★★★

It’s always a nice thing when books avoid sequel suckage syndrome. This was a great adventure. I love both Helene and Elias so it’s was really interesting watching them play cat and mouse across the country. The prison scenes were also extremely entertaining and the book ended in a place that left me super excited to read A Reaper at the Gates.


3

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The Cruel Prince (Holly Black)

★★★★

I’ve never been a huge fan of fairy books, with a few exceptions, but it’s books like this that have started to change my mind of late. Yes, the world building is a little lacking and some of the plot is on the slow side but I had a great time reading this one. The characters are morally ambiguous, there’s scheming and backstabbing, and the ending is fabulously dramatic. I can’t wait for The Wicked King.

Review here.


4

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Red Rising Series (Pierce Brown)

★★★★★

Yes, this is three books so I’m cheating but 1) they were all excellent and 2) I didn’t want a third of this list to just be RR books. I loved this series. LOVED. Well written characters, epic action scenes, dramatic twists, amazing world building, and some intense emotional moments, what more do you want? Also, unlike some other series, it finishes even stronger than it begins. Definitely would recommend to sci-fi fans!

Series review here.


5

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Call Me By Your Name (Andre Aciman)

★★★★

This book was such a change of pace for me. I picked it up after falling in love with the film and the novel is just as magical. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the book itself is just heartbreaking but so, so worth it.


6

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Warcross (Marie Lu)

★★★★.5

This was my first experience with Marie Lu and it was wonderful! The Warcross matches themselves were so much fun and Emilka was a strong, smart and well developed MC. The plot twist at the end is predictable but still enjoyable because of the direction it takes the story. The sequel, Wildcard, is one of my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2018.


7

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Scythe (Neal Shusterman)

★★★★★

I had to wait for ages to get this book in Australia but it was worth it. The world is unique and extremely well constructed, the book deals with some big questions about morality, power, and life itself, and the characters are complex but likeable. The plot will be a bit slow for some people but I enjoyed it immensely!

Review here.


8

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Leah on the Offbeat (Becky Albertalli)

★★★★.5

I’ve had a good year so far with Becky Albertalli books. Leah was one of my least favourite characters in Simon but after this book, I gained such a new appreciation for her. She has her stubborn moments but she’s also super relatable and I loved the development of her relationship with Abby. Plus I got to spend some more time with the other adorable Simon characters. Winner!


9

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The Last Olympian (Rick Riordan)

★★★★.5

Up until this book I’d had fun reading the Percy Jackson series but I had yet to reach a book where I was genuinely super keen to find out how it would end. That was this book for me. The plot was exciting and actually felt like it’d have a lasting impact on the world of the books instead of just being Percy and co’s latest adventure. I loved that the stakes felt real and there was a chance for characters to showcase true bravery. It was a much more mature read and I really appreciated that!


10

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The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)

★★★★.8

Wow. I cannot believe I waited so long to read this one because it was AMAZING. Miller puts so much detail into the book but without bogging down the story. I loved Patroclus as a narrator and the romance between him and Achilles is beautifully done. The downside, however, is that the book leaves you an emotional wreck at the end.

Review to come soon!

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And that rounds out my top ten! Are there any favourites we’ve shared? What have been some of your best reads of 2018 thus far?

Here’s to many more fantastic books in the second half of the year!

Love Ashley