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:

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!

A Hero Doesn’t Choose Her Trials: Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Skyward was my favourite read of 2019, so to say that I had high expectations for Starsight is verging on understatement. In the end, was it as good as the original? No, but I can safely say it was a very enjoyable ride all the same.

Who, What, Where?

Yeah, I can’t do this section for this particular review because the spoilers would be out of this world. Ha. Get it? Out of this…okay, moving on.

A Different Type of Adventure

Story wise, Starsight was a very different experience to Skyward. I’ll admit, I panicked when I first realised the direction the narrative was taking, but in the end I really needn’t have worried. Where book one was focused on a straightforward path of training and survival with clear heroes, enemies and goals, Starsight is more about subtlety, politics, and subterfuge. Because of this, the pacing is a lot slower at points. Still, despite the lack of ‘I-must-keep-reading’ momentum, I was never bored.  And if you’re someone who really enjoyed the battles in book one, don’t worry. Spensa spends plenty of time in the cockpit.

A Whole New World…or Universe

Over the years, something I’ve found that frequently ruins a good concept is an author attempting to take their stage from small to big. When I saw this was about to happen here, a large part of me wanted to scream: ABORT MISSION. As it turned out, I should have trusted a phenomenal world builder like Sanderson not to let me down. Starsight is the big bang of world building. It introduces new races, technology, planets, histories, culture, politics, everything you could possibly think of, and it does so fantastically. These inclusions are not only interesting but exponentially raise the stakes for the characters and expand the story in an exciting (and MAJOR) way. Even better, they make logical sense. Now that the door has been opened, I’m really looking forward to seeing what else is out there.

New Faces & Missing Familiar Ones

Starsight introduces us to a bunch of new characters. I can’t say much because of spoilers, but these new faces are very different to those we found in Skyward. They’re also completely distinct from one another in personality, physical appearance, and backstories. You can tell that Sanderson had a lot of fun crafting these characters and throughout the story they provided some great moments of humour, sadness and excitement. I really enjoyed them, both the “good” and the villainous.

Yet, while I liked the new characters, I have to say that I missed Cobb and the Skyward Flight gang in this book. For plot reasons, they don’t get much page time other than a few scenes here and there. Jorgen makes some bread (really) and gets the beginnings of a character arc, which will be expanded later, but for the others, it’s almost a blink and you’ll miss it situation. Although, I am happy to report that our faves, M-Bot and Doomslug, were very much along for the ride (complete with an existential crisis on M-Bot’s part) and gave me the usual snort laughs. And bonus, they even got some development of their own!

Spensa the Spy

Something I really loved about this book was just how much growth Spensa underwent. I loved Spensa and her crazy dramatics in Skyward, but in Starsight she becomes far more self-aware, realises the value of discipline and pre-planning, and re-evaluates her perspectives on war and what it means to be a hero. It was also great to see her tackle challenges in new, subtler ways and have to utilise skills not previously part of her strengths. By pushing Spensa out of her comfort zone, Sanderson has created an even better lead that I can’t wait to see develop further.

Sanderson, You Suck

That ending. I knew it was coming, but I’m still mad. How could you do this to me? And with at least a year to wait for the next book? Like, really? REALLY?


Although distinctly different from its predecessor in terms of scale, plot and pacing, Starsight is another fantastic read which massively expands the series’ overarching story and universe. While I may have enjoyed Skyward better, Starsight was still a great mix of action, humour, and heart that I’m sure I’ll re-read in years to come.

Now, someone wake me up when book three is out…

4.5 Stars

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Hope to Find Under my Christmas Tree (Or Will Just Buy Anyway)

It’s pretty much a guarantee that any time I’m ever asked to write a Christmas list, it’ll include books. A bunch of books. Let’s face it, I definitely won’t get everything on this list but that won’t stop me going out to buy a stack for myself on Boxing day.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Illustrated Edition – J. K. Rowling & Jim Kay

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Goblet of Fire is my favourite book in the Harry Potter series so I am beyond excited that the illustrated edition releases have finally reached this point. Normally I race out and buy these editions myself but this time around I’ve exercised some self control and added it to my Christmas list instead. Hopefully come x-mas I’ll be happily flicking through and looking at all of Jim Kay’s gorgeous illustrations and seriously considering a Harry Potter re-read.


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

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I’ve been eagerly awaiting the final book in the Arc of a Scythe series for a little while now, especially after the cliffhanger that was the ending to Thunderhead. Ordinarily I would have gone out and bought this on release week (I almost did, in fact!) but I thought holding off and requesting it as a Christmas present might give me enough time to do a re-read of books 1 & 2. As you can probably guess, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way but fingers crossed I still find a copy under the tree come December 25th. If so, 2020 will 100% feature a full series read.


Starsight (Skyward 2#) – Brandon Sanderson

Skyward was one of my favourite reads of this year, so you can bet I had this sequel added to my to-read shelf before you could blink. I actually planned to buy this on the last day of November and even added it to my purchased books in the wrap up for that month. However, schedules changed and I didn’t have time. So, what’s a girl to do? Well, add it to her Christmas list, of course! This is a book I’ll be guaranteed to go out & buy right away if it doesn’t show up under my tree. Then I’ll have to deal with the agony of waiting until 2022 for book three! Ugh!


A Court of Thorns & Roses Collector’s Edition – Sarah J. Maas

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I have no idea what it is about special editions, but whenever they’re released I’m suddenly overcome with the desperate need to own them. The first book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series wasn’t my favourite, but there’s no way I can resist that beautiful, gold embossed hardback designed by Charlie Bowater. Clearly I was a magpie in another life – I’m just hopelessly attracted to shiny things. At least it’s a good excuse to re-read the series.


Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

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I’ve been thinking about reading Little Fires for a while now and have yet to get around to buying and reading it. Knowing that the adaptation will be coming out next year has certainly given me a push to get my butt in gear. I’ve heard amazing things about this novel, it even took home the 2017 Goodreads choice award for fiction. Here’s hoping for something dramatic and enjoyable (and also that it’s currently wrapped up in paper with a bow somewhere!)


Know My Name – Chanel Miller

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This year I’ve read several books both fiction and non-fiction which have dealt with sexual assault. It’s an issue I’m very passionate about and one that breaks my heart. I remember following the Brock Turner case back in 2016 and I also remember being disgusted by how it played out. The fact that Chanel Miller was willing to not only sit down and write a memoir about her experiences but put it out into the world under her own name is incredibly brave. I know it’s likely to be a tough read but it’s one that I want to do to support her.


The Whisper Man – Alex North

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Keeping with my ‘try to read more widely’ vibe in the wake of my book burn out woes, I’m really interested in giving The Whisper Man a go. This is a crime/thriller read, something I’ve started to take more of an interest in of late. The book has a heap of great reviews and the word on the street is that it’s gripping and a teensy bit scary. I’m really craving something creepy that’ll keep me hooked until the end. It’s been a while since I read something unputdownable. Pretty please, with a cherry on top.


10 Blind Dates – Ashley Elston

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It’s summer time, so I couldn’t write out a Christmas book list without asking for at least one YA contemporary! This book looks both super cute and fun, and the reviews I’ve seen so far have been really positive. I even love the cover with the title done up in gold balloons. The fact that it’s set at Christmas time also makes it a perfect read for this time of the year. It’s only a bit over 300 pages long so if I do happen to find it under my tree come Christmas day, maybe I’ll be able to squeeze it in before new years?


Sword of Destiny – Andrzej Sapkowski

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Adaptations. They always get me scurrying for the book/s. I read the first collection of The Witcher short stories, The Last Wish, back in 2018. I’ve always planned to continue with the series but haven’t gotten around to it. At the time I wrote my x-mas list, the Netflix series was only a few weeks away from release and my keenness to read Sword of Destiny was in full force. Now that I’ve watched all 8 episodes, it’s even more so. I’ve heard some of the stories in this collection aren’t as good as others but as it features Ciri’s introduction and her meeting with Geralt, it’s pretty important. Plus, one of my favourite episodes in the series is drawn from a short story in this collection.


Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour – Morgan Matson

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Okay, so I haven’t read the last Morgan Matson book I bought yet (The Unexpected Everything) but that hasn’t stopped me from adding Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour to my Christmas list anyway. A road trip story with diners, cheap motels, meeting interesting people, Graceland, and two characters getting to know one another. From the sounds of it, it’s a solid summer read with some emotional baggage involved as well. I really loved Since You’ve Been Gone so I hope that Morgan’s debut is just as enjoyable.


Christmas is just one sleep away! I’m definitely looking forward to stuffing my face with amazing food, playing board games, and seeing my family open their gifts. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and that a couple of great books end up coming your in your direction.

**Top 10 Tuesday originated at The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo | Oct 1

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

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

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

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