My Top Ten Books for 2019

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As ever, I’m tremendously excited to talk about my favourite books from this year (pretty much bouncing off the walls!!!). And as ever, this is a really mixed list in terms of genre- though all of them are top quality! Of course, not all of these were released in 2019, though there are a few! And of course, I’m not including rereads. All book covers link to reviews as well. Okay, I think I’ve covered all my bases- let’s just jump into it and talk about some *brilliant books*!!!

number 10

skyward

Skyward– here’s a joyous read to kick off the list. Spensa has stolen my heart and become one of my all-time favourite heroines. This was so much fun and drama from beginning to end- really recommend this space opera and can’t wait to continue with the series!

number 9

wolf in the whale

Wolf in the Whale– this deliciously dark and highly unusual captured my imagination. A wintry fantasy, where Vikings meet Inuit culture, has been a bit of a divisive new release this year. And I get why- some of the events were pretty chilling, so obviously it’s not going to be for everyone. Yet, I found this completely absorbing and was impressed that it wasn’t afraid to show the past as it really was.

number 8

wayward son

Wayward Son– this very late addition was another book that brought me joy (though not always joyful). Really though, given how I’ve carried on about Carry On over the years, is it any surprise I had a soft spot for this second Simon Snow story? Guaranteed to satisfy long term fans and make you smile- even through tough times.

number 7

radio silence

Radio Silence– this book just meant so much for me. I know that there a lot of people who say “this book spoke to me”, but guys, this book really felt like it was speaking to me. That’s the magic of a truly relatable story- somehow it connects with so many different people, from all different backgrounds.

number 6

Impossible Times trilogy– aka One Word Kill/Limited Wish/Dispel Illusion– yeah, yeah, I know I’m cheating by counting this as one book, but I do it every year, so are you surprised? 😉 Also, you can whizz through them so fast you may very well feel like it was one book/you have a time machine 😉 To be honest, every book in this series earned its place here. No other book series has entertained me as much as this in 2019! And I was blown away by the cleverness. I know that in the future, I’m gonna look back on this with nothing but happy memories 😊

number 5

winter of the witch

Winter of the Witch– Arden *one hundred percent* managed to stick the landing. The Winternight series has easily become one of my favourite series of all time. A perfect ending to a perfect trilogy. What’s amazing is how good the other books were to beat this out of the top three. Any other year and this easily could’ve taken the number 1 spot, which is just my way of telling you to get excited about the books that are above this on the list 😉

number 4

beowulf

Beowulf– I loved every second of this. I’m so happy I finally picked this up- but even more grateful I read the Seamus Heaney version, thanks to Joelendil, because it truly was a masterclass in translation.

number 3

in order to live

In Order to Live– now we’re getting to books that made me emotional. I don’t have a full review for this one, because I just struggle to find the words, so I’m gonna try my best to describe how poignant, powerful and important this book is. This memoir was a memorable portrayal of life in North Korea. I learnt so much from it and was moved to tears. It’s just one of those *must-read* books, so you must read it if you haven’t already!

number 2

the man in the white sharkskin suit

Man in the White Sharkskin Suit– this is another book which made me cry. It’s the story of the 1950s Jewish Exodus from Egypt, told in a very personal way, where Lagnado really showcases her relationship with her father. Rather sadly, Lagnado passed away this year, after a lifelong struggle with cancer. Her voice survives in this beautiful book.

number 1

sadie

Sadie– ahh this book- I can’t seem to stop recommending it! Beautifully told and immensely powerful, the reason this book is so good is because too often serials/podcasts/true crime focuses on the perpetrators. I think it’s time we gave the victims a voice and no book could have done a better job than this. It also introduced me to the wonders of a well-done audiobook- for which I am immensely grateful. And yes, it made me cry (a lot).

So, have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? And what was your favourite book(s) of 2018? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – October

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Phew- I’ve gotta admit my thoughts about this month were a bit like this for me…

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Thank goodness it’s October, the month of spookiness, pumpkins and maybe even a little controversy 😉 But, more on my blogging plans later! For now, let’s talk about the *ridiculous* amount of reading I did to get me through last month. As you’ll notice, I was not only on a MASSIVE thriller kick, but I also felt the need to talk about most books I read last month. So, strap in, it’s gonna be a long one!

death of mrs westaway

The Death of Mrs Westaway– such a strong thriller to start on! Let’s break it down:

One, the sorrowful opening had me intrigued, flying into that old magpie nursery rhyme many of us have ingrained since childhood and nesting layers of mystery.

Two, the gothic vibes and overt links to Rebecca really worked for me, especially as we journeyed into Cornwall. Yet, don’t be fooled! It’s far from a straightforward retelling…

Three, the girl is the magician figure at the heart of the story- a tarot reader upturning the perfectly ordered world of the Westaways, reading more than she should in the cards.

Four, the boys on which the clues converge caught my eye.

Five, the silvery writing kept me engaged throughout.

Six, the golden promise of the premise, leading me down one path, only to about turn down another. I suspected the outcome early on, but Ware’s nicely played sleight of hand fooled me so that I couldn’t properly foresee the outcome.

Seven, all the secrets that unfold. Each one is more satisfying to uncover than the last. The one thing holding me back from rewarding this with all the bananas is that the perp is the *usual suspect*. Still, I’d highly recommend this:

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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the woman in cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10– so the pitch for this thriller is pretty straightforward: Rear Window- on a boat! It’s a fun idea and kept me absorbed throughout, but I couldn’t say it made a big splash overall. Perhaps it was cos I was drowning in thrillers this month, yet a lot of this felt like it was treading water trying to be different and still felt samey. I wasn’t hugely taken with the mc and the twists didn’t really wash. Still, I do like how Ware weaves in inspiration from other sources and will keeping a keen eye out for more of her books:

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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last time I lied

Last Time I Lied– to tell the truth, this was my favourite thriller of the month. Reading this was pretty much a no brainer after Lock Every Door– and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Beginning with a powerful use of second person pov, I was instantly gripped by the descriptive prose and tragic backstory. As is the case in many thrillers, I wasn’t quite able to connect with the characters, but the plot more than made up for that. Last Time I Lied was compelling, unpredictable and led down slippery paths. Though I knew something bad would happen, I could never count on the whens, whys, hows. I was as lost as the protagonist. My attention dipped momentarily… only for the BIG TURN to pick up the pace again. The *freaky* turn of events grabbed my attention. I was practically shouting at the reveals. I had been led to believe I was in for a straightforward ending… but I was completely deceived. *WOW*- it blew my expectations right out of the water. All in all, this was a super summery thriller. Sager has now made a habit of keeping me up at night. I can’t lie: I want to read more from this author.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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final girls

Final Girls– with a cool horror-movie-themed concept and a gripping opening, I thought I was guaranteed another rollercoaster ride. Unfortunately, I found the flashback scenes far more interesting than the present-day narrative. I’ve mentioned before I have difficulty making sense of thriller-characters- and the protagonist’s boyfriend and mum were the best example of this- what the eff was up with their attitudes?! I mean, they spent the entire book thinking the mc ought to be completely normal after her ordeal, even though it was completely understandable that she wasn’t! I did like the unreliable side to the protagonist, especially since it blended well with her cookie-cutter façade. Still, I did enjoy the vast majority of the plot and where a lot of the breadcrumbs led. The problem is, I just wasn’t crazy about that final twist. Once again, I thought I could guess the twist… but I got it all wrong. Yet this time it was because the lead was buried too deep. After the more intriguing premise, highlight for spoilers, I felt the *here’s another random sociopath again* disappointing. It was just another guy without a proper motive. So, the bait and switch with the baddies felt unnecessary. I did like this book, but it wasn’t the best:

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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wife between us

The Wife Between Us– I’m divided on my feelings for this book. It was particularly well written, had a strong premise and a great midpoint turn, alas- it just wasn’t the mind-blowing book I was hoping for. It was a typical thriller focusing on domestic violence. Nothing about it truly shook me to my core or shocked me. I could see a lot of the story beats a mile off. This was by no means bad, but I can’t see why the hype train was so wedded to this book 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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witches of east end

Witches of East End- an atmospheric opening, a cool concept, a story I already liked from the show- what could go wrong? Well, sadly, a few things. Even though the show is a vague memory at this point, I did remember that some aspects were done better and I just preferred the TV take. I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I had when I watched the show. Fortunately, the plot did keep me on my toes. Since it was so long since I’d seen the show, I enjoyed the twists and turns throughout. And the ending definitely had a strong hook to make the reader want to pick up more… if only I had been more in love with the rest of it!

Rating: 3/5 bananas

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beastly

Beastly- well this is another one where I’d seen the adaptation first, buuut I ended up preferring the book to the film! Success! Given that this is a retelling, I don’t suppose it mattered much that I already knew the story. Besides, I thought this was a spunky, modern take on the classic. While I’m not usually keen on text-speak, I did like how it was used here to spark a bit of humour. The story also felt deeper than the movie- yes, the message of inner beauty being more valuable was repetitious- but at least it made more sense than in the Hollywood version where everyone was conventionally attractive throughout. I particularly preferred the book’s ending- it had some nice, unexpected turns and was more dramatic. All in all, I didn’t go in expecting anything fresh, so was pleasantly surprised to find this blossomed into a sweet romantic YA.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Beowulf– this was *hands down* the best book I read all month. This exquisite translation by Seamus Heaney gave me a newfound respect for his work and I owe thanks to the fantastic Joelendil for recommending it to me. I absolutely adored the way the alliterative language leapt off the page and painted a vivid picture of the past. While I don’t personally know Old English, I found it fascinating to have a bilingual edition, because I could easily compare individual words and phrases. The story itself was a lot more entertaining than I thought. Every part worked in tandem to create thrilling tension and awe-inspiring drama. This took me to grim depths and dragon-soaring highs. I cannot recommend it enough!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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eugene onegin

Eugene Onegin– there was a lot to like about this: the story, the character and Pushkin’s conversational tone all shined through in Roger Clarke’s translation. Sadly though, something does feel lost in this rather literal translation. Something of old Russia is evoked, but not as much as I’d have liked. I felt like I was only getting half the wonder, a glimpse of the beauty, a fraction of the emotion. Ah well, not every translation can all be as good as Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf. It was still worth the read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas 

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So, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!