And That’s a Wrap 2020: Surprises and Disappointments

In just a few days, it will finally be the end of 2020. And you know what that means…it’s time to wrap up the year that was! Well, reading wise, that is. First up are the surprises and disappointments I discovered this year among the 60 books I read.

Every year there are books I go into expecting (or hoping) for something amazing, only for them to fall short. Then there are others which I pick up not expecting much at all and find myself very pleasantly surprised. These books don’t always end up part of my favourites & least favourites of the year but I feel like it’s interesting to have a look back on them all the same.

The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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The Dutch House was my first experience with Anne Patchett and although I’ve heard good things about her novels, I certainly never expected to enjoy this book as much as I did. The story is set over a period of several years and focuses more on characters than plot. It’s a slower paced read which somehow manages to fly by and acts a lot of like a modern fairytale. It’s wonderfully written and I really loved the focus on the relationship between brother and sister, Danny & Maeve. Some of my favourite moments were scenes involving them simply sitting and talking about their childhood home. This was also one of the few audiobooks I listened to this year and I can highly recommend the soothing voice of the lovely Tom Hanks.


In a Holidaze – Christina Lauren

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After a bleh experience with The Honey Don’t List (and hearing not great things about the prior release), I went into In a Holidaze with low expectations. I was really happy to find an adorable, fun Christmas romance perfect for ending a rubbish year. Friends to Lovers isn’t usually one of my favourite tropes but Christina & Lauren are doing their best to change my mind. The story revolves around Mae who joins her family and their friends for Christmas at their usual cabin. She gets stuck in a ground-hog day type time loop after making a plea to the universe to help her find happiness. This gives her the chance to pursue a relationship with her long time crush Andrew. Not my favourite CLo book, and it could have used more of the groundhog day element but an enjoyable ride all the same.


Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney

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As much as I’m trying to avoid using the same books in multiple wrap up posts, this had to be included. I loved Conversations with Friends and was not expecting to at all. I bought it on a whim for something different and went in with low expectations, mostly because I read Sally Rooney’s Normal People in 2019 and only rated it 2.5 stars. For some reason, things that bothered me about Normal People, such as Rooney’s aversion to quotation marks, just didn’t feel like a big deal anymore (perhaps I’m more used to her style?). Weirder still, almost none of the characters are particularly likeable or “good” people and yet, I was so invested in what happened to them. I’m 100% positive that I’ll reread this in the future.

You Deserve Each Other – Sarah Hogle

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You Deserve Each Other was the second book I tackled during my romance binge in September. Before then I had never even heard of Sarah Hogle or this book (it’s her debut). Considering romance reads can be hit or miss, I wasn’t really sure how this would go, but it was so good! It was such an enjoyably fresh take on the enemies to lovers trope (which I love) and I certainly didn’t expect to laugh out loud and get hit with the feels as much as I did. It’s about a engaged couple named Naomi and Nicholas who don’t get along anymore but both are too stubborn to call off the wedding. What follows is a combination of trying to get the other person to back out and attempting to repair the relationship. I’ve already added Sarah’s next book to my anticipated releases for 2021.

The Toll (Arc of a Scythe 2#)- Neal Shusterman

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I love the first two books in this series. They’re fantastic and I rated them 5 and 4.5 stars. So as the last book, The Toll had some big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, it just didn’t get there for me. Behold my disappointed but solid 3 stars. My main issues: the story felt like it dragged and went on for longer than it needed to, I thought the direction of the book was kind of odd, the two main characters barely interacted at all (Rowan’s storyline felt especially pointless), and I was very disappointed with what happened to Goddard’s character. Not what I was hoping for or expecting at all.

The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue – V. E. Schwab

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You all know how much I love Victoria Schwab, but sadly I was in the minority on this one. I liked TILoAL but wasn’t bowled over. Trust me, the disappointment hurt because it was probably my most anticipated release of the year. For me, this book had so much potential and while I thought the writing was beautiful, the themes it tackled were great, and I appreciated the ending, there were just aspects of the story and characters which were a miss with me. The book follows Addie who makes a deal with a dark god for immortality. The catch is that no one retains memory of her after she disappears from their sight. Two-hundred years later she comes across a bookseller named Henry who somehow remembers her.


Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Ah, Mexican Gothic. The part that kills me the most is that only weeks before reading this, I included it in a 5-star predictions post. I was so deflated. It’s set in 1950s Mexico and revolves around a socialite named Noemi, who, after receiving a troubling letter, travels to a country mansion to check on her newly married cousin. She soon finds that there is something wrong with the house and the family that live there. The atmosphere is fantastic. It’s beautifully eerie and perfect for a Gothic horror novel. I was also quite fond of stubborn & confident Noemi and appreciated the idea of the different mystery elements for her to solve. But it was the flat surrounding characters, lack of chemistry between Noemi and her love interest, and the bizarre direction for the story’s climax that let me down.


Blood for Blood – Ryan Graudin

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Wolf by Wolf was one of my favourite reads of this year – good characters, great balance between action and quieter moments, a dramatic ending… So, as you’d expect, I went into the sequel hoping for something just as enjoyable. Sadly, while I ended up giving it 3 stars, Blood for Blood just didn’t hit the same highs for me. I was disappointed in the direction taken with some of the characters (especially Felix) and not as keen on this book’s version of the journey plot which was mostly a roadtrip back to central Germany. Things dragged at points and there were times where it felt as though very little was happening. Worth reading to complete the story but definitely an easy inclusion on this list.


What were some of your biggest surprise and disappointment reads of 2020? Not necessarily your favourites or least favourites but books that turned out different from what you expected for better or worse.

November TBR: Picking Books Based on 5 Star Read Predictions

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Know My Name – Chanel Miller

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


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

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



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

Top 10 Tuesday: Books on my TBR I Predict will be 5 Star Reads

I’ve never done a post like this before. Why? It’s simple, I don’t give out many 5 star ratings. Check my Goodreads ‘read’ shelf and you’ll see that books with those five shiny things after them are in short supply. Remove all 7 Harry Potter books, and the list gets even shorter. The reason for this is that I don’t often read books that I absolutely crazy adore and have very few negative things to say about. I know I sound like a snob, and perhaps I have too higher standards, but unfortunately, it’s just the way I am. Because of this, posts like these have always seemed unrealistic for me. However, today we’re making an exception and attempting to be optimistic! Okay, not over the top optimistic which is why there are only 8 books on this list instead of 10. As far as final ratings are concerned, I’ll still consider it a win if any of these books manage to get a 4.5 star rating.

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

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The Poppy War was one of my favourite reads of 2019. I even gave it one of my rarely awarded 5 star ratings. With sequels is always hard to know whether they’ll live up to the original and before TDR was released, I was very nervous. After the ending of book 1, I wasn’t sure where the story could go but I now have a good feeling about this one! The average Goodreads rating is high, reviewers I trust have said super positive things and the blurb sounds great. So I’m pegging this for another 5 star read and I think the odds are high.


A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

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I’ve only just started this book but I’m willing to make a bet that A Little Life will crack the big five stars. Now, this is in no way a short read – it’s over 700 pages long, and I’m fully aware of the fact that the story is supposed to be emotionally grueling (majorly so). Yet, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it – the writing, the realistic and wonderfully crafted characters, the fact that it doesn’t leave you until long after you’ve finished it. I’m looking for something that’ll worm its way into me and stay there. I really hope this is it.


Educated – Tara Westover

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As I’ve mentioned a few times over the last couple of months, non-fiction reads have started to grow on me and Educated is a book I’ve had on my TBR for a few months now. I actually started it a little while back and got distracted but I’m determined to go back. A story about a young woman from a survivalist family, who with little education at all, managed to teach herself enough to be admitted to university and eventually earned a doctrate sounds like the kind of story I need in my life. I’ve seen some rave reviews of this book so I’m hoping it lands 5 stars with me also.


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

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This is another book where I’m basing a five star prediction on the fact that I rated previous books in the series highly. Scythe was a 5 star read and Thunderhead a 4.5 star read so the chance of another high rating seems likely here. I really love this series so it would be heartbreaking for it to stumble at the final hurdle. Book two ended in a major cliffhanger and I’m super excited to find out what happens next (well, after I re-read books one and two to refresh my bad memory). I’ve seen some amazing reviews and some disappointed reviews. I’m desperately crossing my fingers hoping I’ll be in the former camp.


The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

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Another enormous book and another one I’ve started and will have to return to at some point. While the few pages that I’ve already read of Priory weren’t exactly grabbing me in a choke-hold of engagement, with a book this big I’m willing to put the time in to reach a point where I’m sure things will pick up in a major way. I still have a good feeling about this one being an amazing read. I’m trusting the hype train to be right here. It has everything I need – dragons, a badass female ruler and warrior, magic, a good verses evil battle. Don’t let me down Samantha Shannon!


The Wise man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

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Time for another sequel. In 2019 I finally, FINALLY read The Name of the Wind and to my immense relief, I thought it was fantastic. It ended up being a 5 star read and got a place on my top 10 list of the year. Now, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll enjoy the sequel. I’m guessing another 5 star rating is likely but the problem is, the third book is still nowhere in sight and it’s already been YEARS. Who knows if it’s ever coming??? As a result, I think I’ll be putting TWMF on hold for a while even though I know it’ll be good. Don’t worry Kvothe, I’ll come back for you eventually.


Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Now, Mexican Gothic hasn’t even been released yet so with this one I’m going entirely off a great blurb, good feeling in my gut and gorgeous cover. It’s a little scary though because these days I’m such a Goodreads rating snob. I’m really hoping that this book is what the movie Crimson Peak could have been if it had actually lived up to its potential and not gone…well, off the rails. A haunted house, creepy family, debutante heroine, suspense, mystery, and all in 1950s Mexico. I’m super excited. Please be gooooooooodddd.


Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff

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Jay’s Nevernight series is one of my favourites and I’m hoping that lightning strikes again with EotV. Teenage Ashley was majorly obsessed with vampires and I’ll admit, I still have a guilty pleasure love of them so I’m super keen on the idea of a darker, more adult fantasy approach. If anyone can pull it off, Jay can. As with Nevernight, this seems like another historical based world which is also really exciting. Basically bring on the violence, blood, romance, witty dialogue and emotional trauma. And GIVE ME A 5 STAR READ, PLEASE.


What do you think of my 5-star predictions? Way off base or likely to hit the mark. I’m crossing all my fingers and toes.

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl.

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**