Underrated Books #3

Oh boy I haven’t done one of these posts since my blog was a baby back in 2015!! Which means this is LONG OVERDUE! I have read *a lot* of underrated books since then, so I’m going to have to share them!

Echo North- I read this recently and you’re going to have to prepare yourself for hearing me talk about it *a lot*! I discovered this beautiful, wintry read courtesy of the lovely Kat @Life and Other Disasters and the wonderful Pages Unbound. I am so so happy I took their advice on this seriously underrated retelling. Elegantly written and with a touch of unique magic, this was a story I needed in my life.

Wolf in the Whale– this may not seem underrated, because I talk about it PLENTY… and yet not enough people seem to pick it up (according to goodreads). And that’s more than a bit of a shame, because this atmospheric read was so memorable. Its frosty images and haunting tale are imprinted in my mind. I have to put in the caveat that it may not be for everyone, thanks to its dark subject matter, yet if you can handle some hard themes, this is a historical fantasy you won’t forget in a hurry.

The Book of Hidden Things– okay, another one that may be a bit out there! BUT, this magical realism story is so so worth reading if you’re looking for something a bit different. Set in Southern Italy this delves into mysteries both past and present. I can’t quite shake the hold this story has over me.

The Furies– a witchy story set in a school may sound familiar- but don’t be fooled. There’s nothing typical about this underappreciated book. Moody and with subtle depths, I think more YA fans should check this out.

Toffee– moving onto something a little softer, but with a bit of a bite, Toffee is perhaps for a younger YA audience. I will admit this is by a popular author, yet not talked about much on the blogosphere. Dealing with hard themes, it was ultimately very sweet.

Boy Who Steals Houses– by contrast, many, many people on the blogosphere may know about this book by C G Drews/otherwise known as Paperfury, but my goal is to spread the love a bit further! This contemporary Goldilocks retelling is a delight (and something I’ve just given my sister to read 😊).

Exquisite– moving on to something a little darker, I cannot recommend this exquisitely written thriller enough. This was good both on a line-by-line level and had a killer plot. With themes centring on writing and obsessive romance, this hit the spot for me.

The Weekend Away– this is perhaps more of your typical pulpy thriller… and I dug it. If you need a quick getaway into a thrilling story, then this is the book for you.

All That Still Matters At All– well known in Hungary, but not so much outside of it, this heart wrenching poetry collection is definitely worth trying if you: enjoy poems, like words, want to feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. Just go for it- and maybe I’ll stop bringing it up every five minutes (I won’t).

Man in the White Sharkskin Suit– there’s so much packed into this memoir- from the story of the 20th Century exodus of Jews from Egypt, an account of family history and a hard-hitting personal journey. This is one of my favourite ever memoirs and more people should try it!

So, have you read any of these? Do you plan to? And what’s the most underappreciated book you can recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Feel Good Reads for Stepping Out of a Funk – *Books with Positive Vibes*

Because if books can’t help, what can? I was looking for lists of books that can really help get you out of a funk and couldn’t find one that quite fit what I was looking for, so naturally decided to write my own. I have tried to look for books in a range of genres and moods- but all of them should be equally life-affirming! Enjoy!

Obviously, Man’s Search for Meaning goes without saying (reread it recently, still brilliant). But if you’re looking for MORE MEANING- then why not try Frankl’s recently translated series of lectures on the subject? Life-affirming and uniquely insightful, I feel like this is the perfect place to turn if you’re searching for wisdom.

Eat Pray Love– I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s non fic- it’s honest, hearty and very inspirational. This globe-trotting memoir is so much more than a simple journey- it’s about rediscovering hope and finding your way into healing.

Furiously Happy– if you need an out-of-the-box non fic about mental health, then this could make you furiously happy! I laughed so much at this book and found it so unusual.

A Man Called Ove– the way I’d describe this book is as an adult version of Up, in book form! This deals with dark subjects, in a moving and ultimately uplifting way. Focusing on friendship and the power of human kindness, this book shines a light on all that is good in the world.

The Flatshare– what I love about this quirky romance is that it doesn’t just focus on finding new love- it’s also fundamentally about overcoming past hurts and heartbreak.

Bookish and the Beast– this fairy tale has always had elements of second chances- and that’s really evident in this retelling. Coupled with an exploration of opening your heart to new possibilities and coming to terms with what has passed, this is my favourite in the Once Upon a Con series so far.

Afterlife of Holly Chase– okay, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t mention this book again until next Christmas rolls around, but I can’t help it! I love this retelling of A Christmas Carol! It perfectly captures the spirit of the original, whilst also giving it new life. Just do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy ready for the next holiday season!! If you don’t, I’ll haunt you!

Clap When You Land– in this moving contemporary YA, Acevedo shows us how hardship can bring us crashing down to earth, and yet also uplift us.

Bright Side– this one may be more of a kicker, so make sure you have tissues handy. It’s a beautiful romance about seeing the bright side in hard situations. Give it ago (when you are emotionally ready to have your heart ripped out).

Words in Deep Blue– I adore the way this book delves into grief- with such heart and deep thoughts. One of the most cathartic books I’ve ever read, it shows that there really is a road to recovery if you seek it.

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society– layered with moving stories, this unforgettable epistolary novel is about people rebuilding their lives after they’ve been shattered by WW2. It demonstrates that there is life and love to be found after disaster.

And that’s all for now! Do you agree with any of the books on this list? And do you have any uplifting recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Forgettable Books- Books I Can’t Remember… Though I Definitely Read Them (I think)

This has to be one of the most challenging posts I’ve ever written. Not because it’s going to be well thought out or involve any skill whatsoever… but because (for obvious reasons) I don’t remember which books I’ve forgotten! 😉 But I scavenged through my goodreads and found some books that I remember reading… however don’t remember anything about them.

Now, *big disclaimer here*, not all of these are bad books. There’s lots of reasons I might have forgotten them. For starters I like to forget as much as I can about books I plan to reread in a futile attempt to recapture the magic of reading them for the first time. Secondly, it might just have been pre-blogging/a really long time ago (part of the reason I love doing reviews is so that I don’t forget everything about a book!)

Anyway, that out of the way, I’m going to jump into it- starting with the most recent and going back in time:

Starless Sea– I read this book? No, seriously, I did read it, I swear. However, as soon as I finished a sentence/page/the whole darn book, I was left with only fragments of images. My mind became a bit numb to the very verbose style. There isn’t a lot of plot to speak of and I didn’t feel any connection to the (quite surface level) characters. Now, I’m sounding really harsh, but there were reasons I kept going with this story: it’s beautiful in parts and its premise centres on loving stories. It wasn’t my thing, yet I kinda knew there was a chance of that going in (hence it wasn’t on my disappointing books list).

Unwind– this is one that annoys me. Not because I remember something particularly egregious about this book… but because I don’t. What irks me is that I really liked Shusterman’s writing in Scythe and so am curious about his other works. And I’ve heard people I trust swear this one is great. ONLY I GAVE THIS 1* 5 YEARS AGO AND I DON’T KNOW WHY! I’d love to know if I was wrong about this book… yet I’m far too scared to pick it up again because there was probably a reason I didn’t like it. Maybe I should just read a spoilery review.

Slated- I’m including this cos it’s ironic 😉 This is a book about not remembering who you are, from way back in the dystopia craze. What’s really confusing to me is that I apparently didn’t like the first one… but ended up liking the rest of the series? Which is super weird and unusual for me- especially when it comes to YA dystopian series. Let’s be real though, I’m going to have to be content not knowing why cos I doubt I’ll ever pick it up again.

A Gathering Light– by contrast, I remember really like the atmosphere for this one. And not much else. And I have very little to say about it… Except that this is one I constantly see in libraries and have frequently been tempted to read it… only to remember I already have!

Across the Nightingale Floor- this is another one that haunts me. Mostly because I’ve seen people talking about this and been curious to try again with the series (mostly because of the setting). I’ve even put the rest of the series on my TBR in hopes I will get to it one day (I won’t).

Red Necklace– I really like this author… however this is not one of her memorable works. It can’t have been that good, to be honest, since I’m fascinated by this era and would’ve remembered *something* if it was.

Passage to India– okay, this is one I distinctly remember reading. I was in a post-essay writing haze at uni (I’d pulled an all-nighter because I was a masochist/bad student). And I remember being in the tutorial and talking about the book… I cannot for the life of me remember what I said. I don’t know if I kept my copy, so I can neither confirm or deny if I annotated it as well (I swear I remember nothing about this book! It’s like my mind sinks into a memory hole whenever I think of it!) Most bizarrely of all, when I looked up the synopsis I was confused cos I didn’t remember anything it described happening and had inserted false memories into the story. I should probably reread it to get to the bottom of this mystery (but I won’t).

King’s General– by contrast to a lot of the books on this list, I definitely want to reread it (in fact this came to my attention because I thought about how much I want to reread it and had the rather pleasant realisation that I don’t remember much about it). I read this back in my Du Maurier phase and loved it. And while I have the plots of my two favourite Du Mauriers imprinted on my brain, apart from certain aspects of the history and setting, I don’t remember this nearly as well. And I’m so excited to re-experience this one!

Wind Singer– okay, I’m cheating by including this one, since there are parts (particularly to do with the beginning and ending) that I remember very well. However, I don’t remember all the details in between and actually would love to reread this one! (but am also scared it won’t be as good as I remember!)

So, have you read any of these? Did you find them more memorable than I did? And can you recall any books you don’t remember? 😉 Let me know in the comments! (And if you know what I mean, but can’t think of anything on the spot, feel free to come back later or make your own post! 😉)

Books that gave me a hangover

Usually when I finish a good book, it whets the appetite for another. Yet, on rare occasions, I am so intoxicated that I cannot read another one. These are just a few books that *ruined* me for others:

Wuthering Heights– heady and romantic and doomed… the kind of story that you can’t easily shake. It’s one of the first books I can remember giving me a hangover (when I was, I’ll admit, underage 😉). 

Jude the Obscure– after I finished this, I was so dumbstruck, all I could do was stare at the walls. I was completely unable to do anything, let alone read. It’s the kind of book that made me think “damn, never gonna do that again…” Needless to say, I don’t picture myself rereading it!

Sadie– there is no recovering from this any time soon- it delivers an absolute gut-punch of an ending.

High Lord– what started out much like any fantasy ended up breaking me. And I didn’t see it coming.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters– indeed there’s nothing quite like the perfect end to a series- and this dreamy Romeo and Juliet story of Angels and Demons was nothing short of *perfection*.

Winter of the Witch– I looked at my stats and didn’t remember any of the books I read after- they were all in its shadow. An enchanting end to an enchanting series.

Circe– I was so under this Odyssey retelling’s spell, that nothing measured up after. Circe completely captured my soul with its beauty and ingenuity.

Six of Crows– can you imagine what it was like not to have the next one when I finished this?? Such a brilliant series- but I recommend having both on hand at the same time (oh and maybe some tissues).

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue– I couldn’t stop thinking about this after I finished. And now you’re going to have to deal with me talking about this over and over 😉 Not one I’ll be forgetting in a hurry!

Carry On– a Harry Potter parody is not the kind of thing I would’ve expected to give me a terrible book hangover- and yet I loved this so much, after I was done, nothing else would satisfy me than picking it up and starting all over again!  

With the Fire on High– there was something so simply satisfying about this that I just didn’t find anything else as appetising after. Nothing was quite the same. It’s the kind of contemporary YA that just hits the spot.

So have you read any of these? Do you feel the same way? And what books gave you a book hangover? Let me know in the comments!

Top 20 for 2020!

Oh my goodness, I can safely say that even if 2020 was not an amazing year, I read some pretty phenomenal books! Which is why I decided to expand the list to twenty for a change! Yes, that’s right- the reason I’m not doing 2 posts this year is because there were just TOO MANY INCREDIBLE BOOKS TO TALK ABOUT! This was one of the hardest years to narrow down and rank because SO MANY OF THESE WERE OUT OF THIS WORLD! And even though I increased the number to 20, I still had too many books to talk about!! But since it’s my blog and I make the rules, here’s a few honorary mentions before we get started:

Yeah there’s a couple there that easily could’ve been in the top twenty in a normal year… which should give you an idea how good this list is going to get! ***As usual all pics link to reviews*** Now let’s kick off because there are so many great books to talk about! 

Sorcery of Thorns– I had loads of fun with this. The romance was adorable and the characters cute- but what I enjoyed the most was the magical library setting!

Winter Rose– I read my first two Patricia McKillip books this year and enjoyed both of them. While Atrix Wolf may have been technically better, this is the one that really snared me. I can’t explain it- I just have a weakness for creepy, enchanted forests… and this was done so exquisitely well.

Uprooted– this Russian-inspired Beauty and the Beast somehow managed to feel really fresh and different. The world was vivid, the protagonist striking and the romance especially tantalising. And one can only stand back and admire Novik’s writing style.

Enchantment of Ravens– it may surprise people that this is higher on the list than Sorcery of Thorns, but the heart wants what it wants! This is not a perfect book and yet I liked it so much more than I thought I would. I loved how Rogerson explored the idea of immortality here and found she made craft something special. I’ve been under this book’s spell for months and can’t shake the enchantment!

Winterwood– as I’ve said many times, I have a real weakness for witchy woods. This had an intensely dark and mysterious atmosphere- I couldn’t help but be captivated by it. I will admit that I could see a lot of the paths that this would take, yet that didn’t make them any less enticing and exciting. I couldn’t look away from this haunting tale. I gobbled it up faster than two lost children coming across a gingerbread house 😉

Labyrinth of the Spirits– this was not my favourite of the series, but it absolutely did the story justice. Taking us back through the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, along for stories of war and beyond, this tied everything together. Zafon clearly showed us he had the string to guide us through this labyrinthine saga all along. 

Lair of Dreams– I’m rather excited to give this series a mention, because it is surely a definitely part of my reading year. And for once I’m not cheating and plonking the whole series on the list, just going with my favourite! (Although, honestly, if you get into book 1, why would you stop there?!) Starting out as a straightforward (but pos-i-tutely fab-u-lous) ghost story, this is the kind of series that expands in scope. What I loved most about this quartet was how the intriguing powers intertwined with characters and backstories. I also loved how all the family relationships, friendships and romances were to die for. Plus, let me tell you, I listened to the audiobook version, which was insanely long, and yet I was entertained for hours on end!

This is How You Lose the Time War– a hate-to-love story in space about two people on opposite sides of a time war falling in love?! Yes please! However, what ultimately makes this so vivid in my mind is how wonderfully written it is! By both authors!

The Huntress– this memorable historical fiction crosses deftly into thriller territory. Chasing a Nazi called the Huntress, this is a story of how the hunted become the hunters. With multiple timelines seamlessly interweaving, this story had so much scope. Everything about this story held power to me. I have definitely found a new amazing author to follow.

Art of War- (not to be mistaken for the war of art 😉). I learnt so much from this! No, I’m not planning on going to war any time soon 😉 I just found the advice more universal than I was expecting! 

Nevermoor– this perhaps deserves to be even higher on the list, because it’s one of the best MGs I’ve ever read! In a lot of ways it deconstructs the typical tropes of the category, whilst bringing all the whimsy and delight you’d expect. It’s really a wonderful take and I know I’d have loved it even more if I was a kid!

With the Fire on High– there’s no two ways about it: this was a delicious read. A masterful contemporary with colourful prose, this brought heart and soul to the table. The plot revolving around culinary ambitions and the realistic characters were paired perfectly on this plate. I especially appreciated how this gave light to stories we don’t typically see in YA.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase– this was more than just an enjoyable YA retelling of Christmas Carol. It had a depth I wasn’t expecting, taking the classic in a unique direction. Exploring every facet of redemption and what leads someone to become a Scrooge in the first place, this packed an emotional punch I wasn’t expecting. This got to the heart of the original and thought beyond it. That’s a bold and brilliant move. I also listened to this on audio and loved every second of it.

Alias Grace– no one is more pleasantly surprised than me that I loved this so much. I’ve always admired Atwood’s writing, but haven’t clicked with her stories… but this was different. It’s one of the books that made me the most obsessive this year. Not only is it masterfully written, it’s so addictive and layered and conjures incredible pictures to my mind even now.

Inheritance– I can’t stop thinking about this thrilling genealogical memoir. Set up like something of a detective story, I found myself turning the pages at an alarming rate, wanting to know what was going to happen! Beyond being utterly compulsive, I liked the depth of themes. It begins by tussling with the question WHO AM I and ends by getting to the root of WHO ARE WE? It doesn’t give you any firm solutions either- leaving you thinking. It’s truly an experience if you want to be intellectually stimulated and challenged.

Wild Swans– this is more than just an intergenerational memoir- this story covers so much of China’s history and gets into the truth about what happened under the Mao regime. This does more than take you on an emotional journey- it is a true education. Everyone should read it.  

Big Magic– an inspiration and a must-read for any creative, there’s something so delightful about this book. Elizabeth Gilbert has a way of bringing joy to her non fic. If you like to procrastinate, this will surely prod you in the right direction. And if you need it, this will give you the spark to keep going.

Ten Thousand Doors of January– I haven’t been able to shut up all year- and for good reason. This took me beyond this world- into countless others. A layered fantasy, it opens the door to something new.

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue– the more I think about it the more I just love this book. On the surface, it’s about a girl cursed in exchange for immortality. Yet it’s so much more than that simple description. It is quite simply one of the most unique and compelling books I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of story that stays with you. 

Once and Future Witches– this was undoubtedly my most magical reading experience of the year. I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK. Interlacing history and fantasy and myth in a remarkable way, this book utterly bewitched me. I couldn’t stop reading: for the characters, for the beautiful writing, for the story. Harrow must know something about how to command the ways and the words herself, because I am absolutely spellbound by her work. There’s more than a pinch of genius here.

So, have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? And what was your favourite book(s) of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

My Most Disappointing Reads 2020

We’ve made it! It’s the end of 2020! Luckily for me, books haven’t been such a big disappointment this year, so I haven’t made it to a full list of ten (for the second year in a row!!) As per usual, this is not necessarily going to be the worst books I read this year, just the most disappointing (amazingly, some books that I didn’t like surpassed my expectations and didn’t make it onto the list). I’ve only written reviews for some of these- which are linked- but a fair number will be the first (and last time) I’ll be talking about them… So enjoy the rants while they last! 😉

Girl Woman Other– this was undoubtedly the worst book of the year- possibly of any year- but it wasn’t as disappointing as some of the other books on this list. Partly because a) I shouldn’t have bothered reading it given my track record with prizewinners lately and b) I should have stopped reading once I realised the writing was so shocking (I did stop once, yet saw so much praise, I had to go back and see if there was any merit to it. There wasn’t). So, you see my expectations weren’t that high to begin with- however since I hated it this much, I couldn’t reasonably leave it off the list altogether. Putting it last is a compromise.

The Hand on the Wall– I was too generous when I reviewed this one, cos I wanted to like it so badly. But really, the solution to the mystery was not satisfying enough and too many subplots took over (*spoiler alert*: I didn’t invest all that time for it to be all about money). In truth, I should’ve seen the writing on the wall after book 2 plummeted into politics-ville.

Bringing Down the Duke– in retrospect, I don’t know why I hated this book quite as much as I did, because it really is supposed to just be a bit of fun. However, for me, something grated about the historical inaccuracies and I ended up not loving it as much as I wanted to.

Foundation– this was quite simply not my cup of tea- I didn’t enjoy the fact it was more philosophy than storytelling and didn’t click with the writing.

Slaughterhouse Five– this is another one that just wasn’t for me. Not just because it was a bit odd, but because I never enjoy stream of consciousness. I wasn’t the right reader for this book.  

Wait for Me– this would have been a fairly “meh” read if not for a couple of issues that really irked me. One, I’m not totally on board with the whole Nazi/German rehabilitated romance. It’s a weird trend that’s not to my taste. Two, the writing killed the atmosphere. There was very little sense of place except for the occasional “aye”. Worse still, the teens didn’t just sound modern, they sounded very immature. From the writing, I’d have guessed this was a MG, but the romance was a bit too much of a central focus for this to be aimed at 12 year olds. Either way, it’s safe to say I’m not the target audience for this book, so please bear that in mind.

Queen of Ruin– this was worse the more I thought about it. My biggest issue with this was the fact that characters need to grow in sequels… otherwise what’s the point? Especially in this case- where they didn’t finish the first story as the best version of themselves. After starting strong in book 1, Nomi had made a big mistake, meaning she needed to toughen up and stop being so naïve. Serena had gotten really tough in the first book, but it could have been interesting for her to learn to soften. It would’ve been great to see both characters meet somewhere in the middle and realise that both parts of their personality were important. Instead, nothing happened to their character arcs. It was all action and not-so-subtle lecturing. Very disappointing indeed, since it had so much potential as a series.

Unorthodox– ugh I hate even talking about this book… which is why this’ll be the first (and probably last) time I ever mention it. I didn’t have a good experience reading this. Not because it was shocking (which it is) or because it’s unfamiliar territory (which it is) but because I couldn’t quite find my feet with the narrative. A lot of things didn’t add up. After doing some research, I found a lot of claims disputed. Add to that the fact she deliberately changed (vital) parts of her story (sometimes to supposedly “protect the anonymity” of people… whose pictures she included). That’s just not something I’ve come to expect from “true stories” and made it hard to take the story at face value. It felt more like he-said, she-said rather than a typical biography and I don’t feel that comfortable getting in the middle of it. Let’s just say it’s an unorthodox way to write a memoir and leave it at that.

War of Art– not to be mistaken for the Art of War 😉 I don’t know why, but something about this just rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve already ranted about this, so I’ll keep it brief. I expected quite a lot from this book- especially after enjoying some inspirational books on similar topics- but it let me down faster than a whoopie cushion.

So- dare I ask- what do you think of these? Have you read any of them? And what were your worst books of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Books I successfully DNF’d #2

A few months back I did a post talking about books I successfully DNF’d. What I loved about doing that post is it encouraged me to give up on books I’d have otherwise powered through… So I decided to do another one for the other books I’ve DNF’d this year! I might even make a tradition of it (if I can keep up the DNFing that is). For now, let’s just jump into it:

Devouring Gray– at first, I thought there was no real reason to DNF this, cos I liked the opening and thought it was pretty atmospheric. Still, I hit a roadblock at 43% and couldn’t seem to get passed it. I simply didn’t care where it was headed and I was trying to have more pleasurable reads in the pandemic, so quit while I was ahead, thinking I could try it again at some point. I really wanted to like it, so a month or so later, I picked it up again… only to get stuck again at 15%. That’s when I realised the problem wasn’t in my head. I think there’s a serious pacing and character issue for me here.   

Fix Her Up– this really didn’t work for me as a “fake girlfriend/boyfriend” story. They started getting it on pretty fast- so it doesn’t really qualify. It also didn’t help that I didn’t find the characters very likeable. However, what absolutely killed this book for me was how awkward the descriptions were for the romance- things like rashes are just off-putting and shouldn’t be anywhere near a sex scene. Worst of all, while they’re making out, the male lead thinks she’s looking at him like she’s going to “harvest his organs”- how… sweet?

Hygge Holiday– I borrowed this for my sister, but of course, once it was in my hands, I thought I might give it a try too… I got a few chapters in before deciding “not for me”.

Nine Perfect Strangers– I borrowed this on overdrive, cos I loved Big Little Lies by the same author. Yet, after two weeks of struggling to get into it, I realised it wasn’t going to work. Sadly, the characters remained strangers to me and I just couldn’t connect with any of it. Plus, the reviews weren’t looking too positive, so it didn’t seem worth powering through. 

Angel Mage– this book did nothing for me, unfortunately. I got about 2/3 of the way in before I started skimming. At that point I knew it was only a matter of time before I DNF’d. I think I only had 10% left before I gave up.

The Secret Barrister– I couldn’t stand the longwinded pomposity. I quit after 2 (very long) chapters. I think he was trying to copy Kay’s success with a professional memoir… but this is nothing like This is Going to Hurt. It’s got none of the charm, humour or heart- just plenty of virtue signalling.

The Ragwitch– I just had a completely different view of what this book would be. I thought it was going to be a spooky story, but it was in actuality a slightly MG adventure story. Not a bad thing, but not the kind of thing I wanted to be reading.

Hot Milk– this is my latest (and really recent) DNF. I tried with this one, but I just couldn’t stick out the 200 pages to the end! Unfortunately, after a well-written opening, it just became a bit staid and samey and wasn’t doing anything for me. I’m blaming the morose tone and flat voice- after the year we’ve all had, I just didn’t want to be in this Debbie Downer’s head a moment longer.

Annnnd that’s all I have for now! Not bad for me- but could be better! Especially since there was a real stinker that I DNF’d and picked back up again (which will be mentioned in my most disappointing of the year).

But what I want to know is- did I make a mistake with any of these? If you’ve read them, do you recommend finishing? Or did you get more out of them? Let me know in the comments!

A Few Books I Found Relatable (And Why…)

Hello all! As I mentioned in my last post, I feel like a lot of talk about “relatable” books, without really going into the *whys and wherefores*. So, today, I’m going to do just that! To avoid making this list ridiculously long, I’m going to keep this list short, sticking to books I found relatable for multiple reasons. Let’s get right into it!

Isla and the Happily Ever After– I related so much to Isla as a character: she’s shy, awkward and (unlike other characters in the series) doesn’t have everything figured out. Most importantly, I really got her sappy, romantic attitude… and simultaneous struggle to accept good things happening. It’s like this character was written just for me! Also, I reread this recently, and I was shocked by how much I still related, despite how much older I am since I first read it (which I guess says a lot about my maturity 😉).

Cress– okay, no, an evil witch-queen doesn’t keep me hostage in a space station. And okay, no, I didn’t fall to earth with a handsome stranger… But I did really relate to this character’s romantic outlook and her geeky out-of-step personality.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean– Lara Jean is the kind of down to earth character that lots of us relate to. And her family bonds come across as very realistic. For me, the part that hit close to home was how it dealt with the process of getting into uni. It didn’t give us the typical sunshine and roses version- which I feel a lot of us will get. I loved how this didn’t have things go according to plan and how it spoke to the struggle of growing up. Surprisingly, this fluffy YA had a more mature response to the topic. 

Radio Silence– this is one of those rare books that *frequently* gets the moniker “relatable”, because there’s so much about it that’s realistic and familiar. Apart from capturing the way teens talk, this also highlights significant aspects of what it’s like to be a young person in Britain today. Loads of people talk about liking how this brings up fandoms, internet culture, creativity and so much more! Personally, I liked how it handled the topic of uni. So often, including in books, it’s hyped up, which can be tough if the whole journey doesn’t quite live up to expectations. This narrative shows us the many sides of the stories that don’t get told- and I loved it for that.

Little Women– there’s a lot I love about Little Women– I love the sisterhood, the family and the romances. But one of the things that makes this story so close to my heart is how much I relate to (and aspire to be like) Jo. I feel like this is something many, many aspiring writers will get. Her story encapsulates the highs of falling in love with writing… and the lows. What I love is how this shows us the difficulty of staying true to your art and not selling your soul to be published. It’s very idealistic- but that’s something I very much appreciate about this story.

Eliza and Her Monsters– speaking of creativity, Eliza’s story centres on her web comic. I related to this for a few reasons- not just what it feels like to make friends on the internet, but also what it’s like to get the sense of an ending and the endeavour to execute it well. I also liked how this explored mental health (and will admit parts of that hit close to the bone).

Shadow of the Wind– this one’s a little less personal, because Shadow of the Wind is one of those rare books that I feel *everyone* that loves reading will be able to relate to. Zafon beautifully captures that feeling you have when you fall in love with reading that we all relate to (partly by making you fall in love with his book 😉). That’s why I recommend all readers give this a try!

And that’s all for now! Did you relate to any of these as well? What books did you find really relatable? Let me know in the comments!

My favourite memoirs!

I’m very excited for this post, because one of my great joys in reading these days discovering people’s true stories. There will be some crossover with my must read non fics, because, well, I can’t help it! 😉 I will, however, resist the urge to mention Man’s Search for Meaning for the millionth time… although I kinda just did 😉

Eat, Pray, Love– part self-help, part memoir, this was really worth reading. Not just because it offers a trip across the globe at the budget price of a book, it also offers a lot of positivity and spiritual guidance.

This is Going to Hurt– this one absolutely will sting a bit. Not just for the personal stories, but how it points to the current state of the NHS and what a junior doctor goes through. However for all of the discomfort and emotional moments, this does offer some medicinal humour to make the pill less bitter.

Educated– I didn’t review this, because the experience of reading this was so unusual that I couldn’t quite pin down my thoughts. What’s interesting about this memoir is that Westover doesn’t give her retrospective feelings or impose her will on the writing- she let’s you draw your own interpretations from events. It is a unique way of telling a lifestory and all the more compelling for it. It also happens to be a memoir that occupies my thoughts long after reading.

Infidel– it’s been a long time since I mentioned this- however I can’t think of many books more important. This is the origin story of a champion of free speech and a woman of tremendous courage. Before this, she was a refugee, an intellectual and a former member of the Dutch parliament.

March– I read this in the graphic novel version. And I found this moving and important and well worth reading.

Maus– speaking of graphic novels, this was a book that proved to me how great the format can be. It was heartbreaking, powerful and original. I loved how this intertwined Spielberg’s parents painful experiences with his own story growing up with them. It was beautiful how the narrator came to understand them with the telling of it. I can’t recommend it enough.

In Order to Live– I’ll admit I had this in the last list, but I simply couldn’t leave it out! Park is a North Korean defector and she gives a peek behind the iron fences of that regime. Her perseverance in the face of such adversity is inspiring beyond belief.

Wild Swans– this family epic made me so emotional. Spanning three generations of Chinese women, it gives a close look into China’s history, including of Maoist China. It’s not just worth reading for the personal stories, but for the significance of the history. It can help understand the modern context of China.

Man in the White Sharkskin Suit– oh this one made me cry- for many, many reasons. Telling of the 20th Century exodus of the Jews from Egypt, it has a personal touch, developing Lagnado’s relationship with her family across its pages. Beautifully written, it was not a book I expected to love quite as much as I did, and yet it had a great impact on me. 

Becoming– I listened to the audio version of this and completely get the hype around it. What’s interesting is I found the parts pre-presidency far more compelling (mostly because, for good reason, there were a lot of things in those 8 years she couldn’t talk about) and I recommend it more for her story than anything else. 

Inheritance– this is a book I read recently and can’t get out of my head. In this genealogical detective story, Shapiro discovers the truth about her parentage. Fundamentally, it is asking the question “who am I”, but I felt like it was answering the question “who are we”? It explores everything that goes into making us who we are and how we guide each other through life.

*BONUS!!!*

I Partridge, We Need to Talk About Alan- AHA we have a winner! Okay, yes, this isn’t a real memoir, but it is a damnably hilarious parody of celebrity memoirs! Definitely worth a read- but all the more fun if you’re at all familiar with the character Alan Partridge!

And that’s all for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? And what are your favourite memoirs? Let me know in the comments!

Book I read thanks to blogging (that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise)

Okay, yes, this post could easily go on forever! Which is why I (mostly) decided to go with books *directly* recommended by individual bloggers- which actually makes this post a DOUBLE WHAMMY of recommendations for reviewers as well as books!! *SURPRISE!!* This was so hard to narrow down- which is why I decided in advance I’m going to need to do multiple posts on this! Watch out for those in the future! For now, let’s jump straight into it…

Red Rising– I’ve read so many books on the *spectacular* Kat @Life and Other Disasters suggestions, so much so I could have filled an entire post with just those! Nonetheless, I chose this, because I didn’t have much space in my life for sci fi before this 😉 It’s a bloodydamn brilliant series-an adult Hunger Games, with heavy Roman inspiration… in space! And in case that wasn’t enough, it’s got characters to die for! I can’t thank Kat enough for this rec!!

Prince of Thorns– the GREAT Drew @Tattooed Book Geek is another person who I could feature again and again! I had to pick this, cos I never would’ve tried grimdark if not for Drew’s regular recommendations for this book. In fact, this is one that year’s earlier I thought was not for me. AND YET, now that I’ve grown older (though perhaps not wiser) I’ve found the cleverness and weight in series like these. And I have Drew to thank for that!

Wolf in the Whale– okay, I’m going to be a bit boring and say I had multiple cool recs from the lovely Liis. However, my reason for picking this *chillingly beautiful* read is that I’ve basically never read anything else like it! And the reason I even heard about it was because of Liis’ fantastic review!

Ten Thousand Doors of January– I can’t seem to shut up about this book, because it’s an open and shut case of how good it is! And, as I’ve mentioned before, it was all thanks to the wonderful Witty and Sarcastic Book Club’s riveting review!  

Winter Rose- McKillip is an author I’d never heard of until I started blogging (perhaps she’s not very well known in the UK?) but I frequently saw her recommended on the BRILLIANT Bookstooge’s site. So much so that I simply had to check her out. And I’m so glad I did- her writing has a beautiful, dreamlike, fairy tale quality. Her stories sucked me in. She’s not the easiest author to come by across the pond, but I’m happy to go out of my way for more of these bad boys!

Neverending Story– by contrast, Neverending Story is one I’d definitely heard of! But, it was thanks to a recommendation from the *fab* Zezee that I finally adventured into the wilds of this book. And it truly was wild! This book doesn’t just take you on a journey into a fantasy world, it takes you into the very heart of books and shows us their beauty.

Beowulf– another story I was (of course) aware of- and yet I was thoroughly intimidated out of reading. But I needn’t have been… thanks to the fantastic Joelendil’s suggestion of trying the Seamus Heaney’s translation. I loved every moment of this.

V for Vendetta– I never would’ve attempted graphic novels if not for the *stupendous* Lashaan @Bookidote’s personalised recs- so I owe him a great debt! And this is a stellar example of his suggestions- emotional, clever and with a unique artistic style. If you crave graphic novel suggestions (and many other books besides) you’d be a fool not to check out his reviews!

Exquisite– I had a hard time recommending just the one of the many, many books the MARVELOUS Meggy @Chocolatenwaffles got me to read! I really credit her with encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and start me on thrillers with her exquisite reviews! And this was a real zinger- sublime writing and intriguing twists. I was hooked on this read… almost as much as I’m hooked on Meggy’s suggestions!

Bright Side– contemporary romance is another genre I didn’t read… until I came across the delightful Deanna @A Novel Glimpse’s blog!! And thanks to her glowing mentions over the years, I put this on my tbr (with a caveat that I must be prepared to be in a weepy mood). Once again, this was a book that blew me away (and made me go through a considerable number of tissues!)

Secret History– I was so reluctant to try this book, because sadly Goldfinch wasn’t for me. AND YET, I saw an inspiring review on the amazing Meltotheany’s blog and I simply had to know more about this murder mystery told in reverse. And you know what? She was right- this one’s a winner!

Huntress– I’ve had a weird relationship with historical fiction- let’s just say a writer-who-shall-not-be-named put me off for half a decade 😉 BUT thanks to the AWESOME Beware of the Reader and her suggestion on my blog, I just had to see what all the fuss was about! And gosh, this was far better than I ever could have imagined. Gripping from beginning to end, I fell in love with the characters and was *so invested* in their stories! Can’t recommend this- and the Beware of the Reader blog- highly enough!

Before I go, as a bonus, I thought I’d mention a few books that I was inspired to pick up after seeing them more generally round the blogosphere, just to give a tiny sense of how many good books you can find from blogging (in case you don’t already know):

So, have you read any of these? Did you like them as much as I did? What’s the best recommendation you’ve ever received from blogging? And do you plan to check out these lovely people? Let me know in the comments!