The Queen isn’t the only cool royal out there- fiction is full of kickass kings and queens. I’m gonna share a few of them with you today!
American Royals– turns out if America had royals, they’d be the biggest drama queens in the world and I’d be first in line to see the show 😉
My Lady Jane– the only way that the Tudors could be more fascinating is if they could all turn into animals at the drop of a hat… and that’s what this alternate history offers! Sit back, throw historical accuracy out the window and enjoy this royal romp.
I Coriander– another take on history that’s *not quite* what really happened… but if you ask me, this version of the restoration is better 😉
Cinder– what list about royals would be complete without a fairy tale retelling or two? And this sci fi retelling of Cinderella is tons of fun 😊 Speaking of retellings…
Thorn– I love this take on the goose girl, particularly because it shows us what truly regal qualities are.
Abhorsen– I just love how this book engages with the topic of legacy and inheritance and titles. Like the others in this series, it explores the coming of age theme in a really original and emotionally deep way.
Prince Caspian– I may have included this more for Aslan than the titular prince 😉 No one is more royal than a lion!!
Stardust– very much in the vein of a classic storybook royalty- and yet because it’s Gaiman it could never be called anything but unique.
Princess Bride– perfect if you’re looking for a classic swashbuckling tale, featuring kings, queens and (evil) princes (and yes, this is me saying I finally read it!! Hallelujah!)
Iron King– this is one of those stories that starts off with the typical “oh you’re secretly the daughter of the fae king”… but then it goes in a *very* unexpected direction. Don’t be fooled, this YA fantasy is tricksier than it lets on.
Cruel Prince– because not all princes are charming 😉 And yet sometimes when they’re cruel, they’re all the more endearing 😉
Prince of Thorns– on the subject of unpleasant royalty, Jorg really takes the crown! But that’s what makes his story truly grab you.
To Kill a Kingdom– yeah this is the little mermaid, but wayyyy darker. Because in this version, the siren princess has to cut out the heart of princes… So if you want some more cutthroat royals, then this standalone is for you.
Game of Thrones– you win or you die as they say 😉 Frankly I’d rather take a dragon thousands of miles away from Westeros than sit on that very uncomfortable chair- however there’s clearly plenty of people prepared to fight it out for the pleasure. And my goodness is it fun to read about them doing so.
The Shadows Between Us– this is a book about a girl who knows what she wants- and what she wants is to be queen… at any cost! A Slytherin love story to die for, this takes scheming royalty to a whole other level.
That went in a much darker direction than I anticipated!What books featuring royalty do you love? Let me know in the comments!
I know we’ve been over this before, but I’m here to say it again: I love a good retelling! Fairy tales and myths are some of my favourite stories. They are timeless and transformative and irresistible- which is why I will always love fairy tale retellings. I’ve shared some cool ones before and now I’m showcasing even more! This time, I’m going to be focusing on some unusual ones that feature tales we don’t see being adapted often (and hopefully a few you haven’t come across before!) Let’s get to it!
Echo North– one of the best books I read last year, this gorgeous book combines two fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast and East of the Sun West of the Moon. And as I’m not particularly familiar with the latter, it felt even more fresh and dazzling. With original concepts and a unique way of characterising the female lead, this wasn’t your every day YA.
Uprooted– it’s hard to make Beauty and the Beast seem new and original- and yet Novik’s immersive Russian take does exactly that. Hate-to-love at its finest, this is unquestionably stunning.
Bloody Chamber– for something a little bit more adult, I have to insist on trying this creepy collection. Simultaneously deconstructing and venerating the originals, this divinely written work is well worth a read.
Winter Rose– a retelling of Tam Lin, this atmospheric book had me sold from the start. I felt wrapped up in the tendrils of this enchanted forest setting. It’s simply beautifully written and reimagined.
Owl Service– drawing from Welsh folklore, this is one of the most unusual books I’ve ever read. Uncanny and different, it’s like it was possessed by mythology rather than simply retelling an old tale again and again. This is trippy in the very best of ways.
Medusa– okay this one’s not a fairy tale per se, but it fits into the mythic theme and is definitely a book that springs to mind when I want to talk about newer retellings. Aside from the gorgeous illustrations, this is one of those retellings that manages to make us genuinely sympathise with the villain. Using real elements from history, this transforms the original story of Medusa into something every girl can relate to. It has a distinctly modern feel, whilst also being true to the realities of ancient Greece. I just love how this allows us to see the gorgons with new eyes and a modern vision.
Thorn– goose girl is one of those stories that doesn’t get adapted nearly as often as others- and this adaptation also happens to be an absolute delight. What I especially like is how it explores the question of the heroine’s victimhood and challenges our very perceptions of passivity. This isn’t a story about yet another kickass heroine punching her way to victory- but a quieter more profound story of what we are willing to sacrifice for others. I feel like its distinctive morality strikes to the heart of what fairy tales are really about.
The Princess and the Fangirl- every instalment of the Once Upon a Con retelling series is thoroughly enjoyable! Give me all the geeky fairy-tale-inspired stories please! The reason I chose this one is not just because it features a sapphic romance, which doesn’t come up enough in retellings, but because it also happens to be a retelling of the Princess and the Pea… and how often do we get to read one of those?! This is a particularly perfect retelling as well- which is nothing less than I’d expect from a story with a perfectionist theme 😉
The Boy Who Steals Houses– I have never come across another Goldilocks retelling- and it couldn’t have been better- because this one was just right! With a main character you will want to protect with your life and a found family you’ll want to adopt, Boy Who Steals Houses *absolutely* stole my heart!!
Call it What you Want– I don’t read many contemporary retellings OR takes on Robin Hood- and this does both! Not only is it unusual, it’s also extremely well done, with deep character work. It’s my favourite of Kemmerer’s work to date!
And that’s all for now! I’m definitely on the hunt for more! What retellings do you think I should check out next? And what do you think of these? Let me know in the comments!
Do you guys remember me doing this post previously? Nah- neither did I. I took *way too long* to get round to reading all my predicted 5* reads- but I’ve finally done it! So, even if this is far less relevant than it was supposed to be, I’m going to update you:
Dark Age– as predicted, this was a massive success! I love this series and this one seriously raised the stakes. I can’t wait for the finale.
Wayward Son– also a success! Very different to the first and somewhat meandering… and yet it worked for me. It moved the plot in an interesting direction- looking forward to seeing what that is!
Ninth House– a fair 4* read. This didn’t have much in common with Bardugo’s other work and it was good to see the author branch out.
Crowfall– obviously a success 😉 This grimdark series was great. Beyond its vivid writing and world building, it had a strong emotional heart.
Night Country– not quite as sensational as Hazel Wood, though I did enjoy reading it. And I still have faith in the author and am looking forward to reading Tales of the Hinterland soon.
Starsight– 4*. While I didn’t fall for this quite as much as the first, this was a solid sequel. The spy subplot is not my favourite direction the story could have taken. I feel like *spoilers for book 1* finding out all of humanity is locked up in a prison, should make you feel small and powerless. And this didn’t do that, so it didn’t quite land for me.
Call Down the Hawk– this one could’ve gone either way. And as always, I did appreciate Stiefvater’s beautiful writing. It just didn’t quite blow me away.
Dispel Illusion– another success. Plus, I don’t need to time travel to tell you I enjoyed the trilogy’s conclusion as well. There can be no illusion that I enjoyed this sci fi series.
The Secret Commonwealth– either this was a very long short story or I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to read this… or both. Regardless it wasn’t five stars.
Small Spaces– I’ve read the first two in this series and gave them both 4 bananas. They were somewhat unsettling but also felt safely MG- definitely glad I picked them up.
And that’s all for my updates! Time to make some new predictions!
I decided this time around to go for books I’ve been planning to read for ages and already own, so hopefully it won’t take as long to get to! (barring any other unforeseen events that stop me reading again). Without further ado, here they are:
And one bonus book that’s not out yet:
Phew! Finally done this post! Hopefully next time I won’t take years to do a follow up 😉 Now want to know- have you read any of these books? Were they five stars for you? What books do you predict being your next five star reads? Let me know in the comments!
I’ve been thinking about endurance a lot lately- which made me (obviously) relate it back to books. There are many reasons a book may be a test of endurance- but today I just want to look at the most common reason: length. Powering through a tome can be a challenge. Sometimes it’s rewarding… and sometimes it’s really, really not. Let’s talk about some of my experiences:
Les Miserables– according to Goodreads this is longer than War and Peace– I don’t know how they figured it out. Either way, this was a fantastic book. There were parts that dragged, as you might expect of a book this long, but overall it was a stonkingly good read.
War and Peace– I challenged myself to read this a few years ago and was actually surprised by how much it blew me away. Highlighting the horrors of warfare, this book is an immersive and complex exploration of humanity.
Game of Thrones– loads of GRRM Books end up on this list, so I decided to just mention the series. Personally, I think this books have an excellent grasp of character and the plots are completely invigorating… HOWEVER, *controversial opinion time*, I don’t think they justify their length. There is a lot about the writing style that I don’t like and could have been cut down for more brevity.
Atlas Shrugged– oof this is the most painful book on the list. Sorry, not into Rand’s dull propagandistic drivel. This didn’t feel like reading a story at all and was just painful to get through.
Count of Monte Cristo– contrast that with one of my faves- this book is so thoroughly entertaining. Don’t be put off by the length, it’s one of the most exciting books I’ve ever read. And it has interesting things to say about what the thirst for vengeance does to you as well.
Gone with the Wind– if you enjoy war dramas, there’s a fighting chance you’ll like this book. This didn’t quite do it for me. There were too many things my modern eyes couldn’t ignore and I couldn’t get past. Besides, it didn’t help that I hated the heroine.
Bleak House– there were a couple of Dickens in the running as well, but I decided to go with the one I liked most. Dickens is always good value entertainment and this is no exception. Full of vivid characters and a powerfully descriptive setting, it’s easy to visualise the Dickensian world. For me, this book has some distinct passages and images that have left their mark on me.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell– the only one on this list I DNF’d. Sadly, I didn’t connect with the writing style, so I can say it’s a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.
Wise Man’s Fear– ach this did not live up to its predecessor. With Name of the Wind, I felt the length was justified with just enough action and elegant prose. Yet here everything I liked was snuffed out and replaced with a smokescreen of pointless subplots. It didn’t feel like the overall narrative advanced at all: Kvothe ended up more or less back where he started, but with a few extra skills (chiefly swordsmanship and apparently being oh-so-fabulous in bed). I’m hoping this was just middle book syndrome and whatever sure-to-be-monstrous-sized tome follows it will justify its length.
Kingdom of Ash– I didn’t end up loving this finale quite as much as I thought I would, though I can’t entirely blame that on the length. To be fair to the book, every scene had a weight to it and felt significant. Unfortunately, plot isn’t the only thing that matters in a big book. In this case, there were simply too many characters and I couldn’t sustain an interest for all of them. Unrelated to length, I also didn’t like the *dramatic* perspective shifts, which I heard Maas say was to frustrate the reader. Frustrate me it did- I kept putting the book down, which meant it took me even longer to get through than it should have.
As you can see, a bit of a mixed bag! Have you read any of these? Did you love them or loathe them? And what’s the longest book you’ve ever read? Let me know in the comments!
Okay, it’s time for me to fess up, sometimes I’m a hypocrite when it comes to books. There are complaints I make OVER AND OVER about things I *hate* in books… and yet sometimes there are exceptions to the rule and please-don’t-hate-me-but-I-actually-let-some-books-and-authors-off-the-hook-I’m-sorry. I was inspired to admit this because I saw two book tubers- Liene’s Library and Merphy Napier– owning up about all the ways they’re hypocrites. I decided to just stick to books that do things I don’t like well, since anyone can do a good thing badly 😉 That’s why these are all books I love but I’m a teensy-tiny-bit of a MASSIVE hypocrite about them:
Grapes of Wrath– I’ll be the first to admit I complain constantly about politics and propaganda in books… but I always let Steinbeck off the hook. Look, if you can write like Steinbeck, you can do whatever you want 😉
Once and Future Witches– okay, it’s not just Steinbeck who can do whatever they want- as far as I’m concerned so can Alix E Harrow. Now her writing is hardly as propagandistic as Steinbeck’s buuut there is a hint of politics in there. And I have to say I’ve let lesser writers off for even the mere mention of politics (doesn’t matter whether I agree with it or not). But damn, she’s just so talented and I love every second of her books!
His Dark Materials– it’s interesting reading this as an adult, because it pushes post-modernism quite a bit more than I would normally like. Yet, I make excuses because it’s not overly preachy or propagandistic. Plus, I’m completely intoxicated by the world, characters and overarching plot of the series.
The Secret History– normally I hate books with pretentious characters and the theme of almost-but-not-quite fitting in with posh people… and I yet I FRICKIN LOVE THIS. Not only is it done so so well, it also has so much going for it. There’s a murder mystery and an intricately woven plot and some fascinating prose… it’s just a lot better than the average book set in uni.
Infernal DevicesSeries– there’s lots of things I don’t like here: not least that characters quote poetry at each other and love triangle (yes these are some of my somewhat specificpet peeves). Nonetheless, I like this series best of Clare’s work, because the romance is done so so well. Every move makes sense and I could completely get behind it without compromising my morals. The quoting reams of poetry randomly and pretentiously still irritates me though 😉
Anna and the French Kiss– okay, I have zero justification for this. Anna has the worst kind of cheating love triangle. I don’t even know why I still like this book… but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I think it helps that the characters at least feel bad for their shitty behaviour? Yeahhh that doesn’t make it much better… Moving on…
How I Live Now– this might be even worse because it has a truly icky plot point. Normally for me the whole cousin thing would be a hard no. Something about this book is so strange and disturbing that I wasn’t quite as thrown by it in context (still weird though).
Carry On– okay by contrast, I’m completely justified for liking this book. Yes, I normally hate Chosen Ones with the burning passion of a Dark Lord… BUT this is a parody darn it! And it works so well! And on the subject of comedies…
My Lady Jane– normally I have a lot criticism of alternate history… yet not in this case. Not only does it play with history in such a fun way (that weirdly makes sense) it also made me laugh… so it’s off the hook for everything. I just have a lot of fun with these author’s books- they can do no wrong!
American Royals– another alternate history/contemporary that’s mostly just soapy drama. A lot of it isn’t entirely logical and I don’t know how much makes sense. I just ate it all up.
Crown of Feathers– I’ve heard some criticism of the info-dumping in this series. And, yes, I see it. Even if it’s in little snippets at the start of each chapter, it’s still often considered a no-no to squeeze world building in that way… And yet I didn’t care for a change? This phoenix-led fantasy was just plain enjoyable and I want to dive into more of the series!
Supernova– yeah the finale for this superhero story left some things open ended for a future instalment- which normally would annoy me… buuuut I’m just excited. I want more!
Daisy Jones and the Six– admittedly this doesn’t have the most substantial plot and it’s pretty character led. That can often be an issue for me with books… though can I say I care here? Nah- I just found it super immersive on audiobook and well worth listening to! SO PEACE OUT!
Okay- glad I got that off my chest! Do you also feel like a bit of a hypocrite about some of the books you love? Which ones? Let me know in the comments!
A couple of months back I talked about *all the positives with negative reviews* and one of the things I mentioned was how they can get you to EVEN MORE read books. And today I’m proving that point with a list of books that I read because of negative reviews. Sometimes you just need more of a kick to get to something you’ve been putting off; sometimes negative reviews point out things you might love! Here’s just some of the times it happened for me:
Hazel Wood– I have to admit, I was first lured into checking this book out because of the cover. Then I heard it was about fairy tales and my interest was piqued. Because it was an unknown author, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to give it a try, especially given some of the mixed reviews that were coming out. HOWEVER, when I actually read the reviews complaining about its slow pace, I stopped worrying, because while that criticism is valid, when I’m in the right mood for it, a leisurely plot is exactly what I need. And some of the other complaints were so invalid… I picked the book up in spite of them! Really glad I did because it’s one of my favourite fantasy reads!
Bear and the Nightingale– I was a little hesitant to start this because of all the hype. HOWEVER, I actually found negative reviews helpful in lowering my expectations. Not only did they make me aware of the slow pace before going into it, one review helpfully said the reason they didn’t like it much was because as an Eastern European they were so familiar with the stories it didn’t feel as cool as people were making out… For me personally this just added points for authenticity!
Daughter of Smoke and Bone– in the days before blogging, I heard good and bad things about this book. Ironically, I didn’t feel like I shared the same taste as some of its and in the end was more curious about what some of critics were saying… who knew I would end up raving about how much I love this book forever?!
An Enchantment of Ravens– the weird thing about this book was that I saw mostly negative reviews for it- and still my curiosity was there. In the end, reviewers arguing that it didn’t measure up to the author’s second book, Sorcery of Thorns, pushed me to read it sooner rather than later, because I figured I wouldn’t want to have that negative comparison in my head (funnily enough, while I love Sorcery of Thorns, I sometimes feel even more enchanted by Enchantment of Ravens– they’re both great books for different reasons!)
Cruel Prince– obviously I’d heard of this book because it was ridiculously hyped. And I’d read some good stuff by the author before, so I was vaguely curious. But what made me desperate to pick it up was actually someone critiquing it who didn’t like YA. Their candour pointing out everything they didn’t like made me realise “hey, this has all the ingredients of YA fantasy that I LOVE”. So, of course, I raced to get a copy and I’m really glad I did! If you need a fun YA series, then this will be right up your street!
Wilder Girls– everyone that’s read reviews for this book will know it’s really hit or miss. Naturally, I heard plenty of the criticisms before giving it a try. AND YET, I was so swayed by the concept, I didn’t care. It turned out the issues people had with it being gory and strange were fair… but the praise made sense too! For me, the good definitely outweighed its flaws! I’m glad I listened to my gut on this one.
Red Rising– okay, this is more of a case of my interest being SUPER HYPED that I didn’t feel I could read it. I was so scared of it not living up to my expectations that I talked myself out of reading it. But eventually I came across a review saying it took too long to get going… weirdly this made me more ready to pick it up! I figured even if I didn’t enjoy it at the start it would get better and my expectations were lowered enough to give it a go. Turns out I had nothing to fear because this was exactly my cup of tea!
Stranger on the Beach– weirdly enough, I heard about this book in a lukewarm review from someone who nearly always gives positive reviews. And even more strangely, when I read the book, I understood why she wasn’t crazy about it… BUT I also saw a lot of cleverness to the writing and I ended up incredibly impressed!
Catcher in the Rye– I heard so so many negative things. I went in assuming that I would be one of the many people that didn’t enjoy this book… but from the second I started reading I was pulled in by the voice. I saw instantly why people didn’t like it- however I also saw the realism and depth that had gone in to creating such a strong sense of character. Holden Caulfield may think I’m a phony for saying this, but
My Lady Jane– I was very worried about this not living up to all the acclaim- especially given how it can be really hard to gauge whether the humour will land. I stopped overthinking it after I saw some negative reviews saying they didn’t find it funny- I figured if I was in the same boat, I wouldn’t be alone. LUCKILY, the joke was on me once I read it, cos I thought it was hilarious. I shouldn’t have been so hesitant.
So, have you read any of these books? What books did you find thanks to negative reviews? Let me know in the comments!
Hope I’m not overreaching myself with this one 😉 Title’s pretty self-explanatory- let’s take off and fly into the sun.
Dr Faustus– yes let’s start with the guy who sold his soul to the devil (seems like a very good place to start… or not 😉).
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue– on the subject of selling souls, Addie Larue comes to mind. This book is so intricate, it makes me think of many different themes, yet at the centre of them all is a girl brimming with ambition. Too bad about that deal though.
Vicious– okay, yes, I’m including two Schwab books on this list- but I can’t help it! No one does books about hubris quite like her! And yet, this is so very different to Addie Larue… because these buckos aren’t always quite as sympathetic (and yet I love them!!)
Cruel Prince– thinking of more characters with an edge, Jude comes to mind. Her ambition is perhaps a little less vicious, yet still has a bit of a bite.
Red Rising– taking off in a different direction, let’s head into space… where we get a rather ambitious tale of Roman-themed warriors fighting it out Hunger Games style.
School for Good and Evil– okay this is a bit less gory than the last one, don’t be fooled by the title 😉 This MG follows two girls, whisked off to a fairy tale school to be good or evil. And while one of them always dreams of going to this school to be good… the catch is she’s there to be evil. A very fun concept, enjoyably executed.
Jude the Obscure– someone else desperate for an education was Jude… fair warning, this book is by Thomas Hardy, so it doesn’t quite work out (okay, I feel like I should say a bit more IE WARNING WARNING THINGS GO BADLY WRONG HERE!!)
Macbeth– on the topic of things going badly, Shakespeare’s ambitious Scottish play drops a few unsubtle hints about *why it’s a bad idea to kill a king you have over to stay*. It could get you into a spot of bother 😉
Game of Thrones– oh gosh this is jam-packed with characters trying to kill kings/bastards/boys/anyone with a head still on their shoulders… Suffice to say, if you’re looking for an ruthless read, this fits the bill (oh and given each book is a tome and there’s five out so far, getting into this series is a bit of an undertaking!)
Circe- but if you need something moreambitious, then definitely pick up this *outstanding* retelling. Staying true to the age-old myths and yet putting a new spin on them is quite an achievement in and of itself. However, even more impressive is how it handles the topic of hubris. I won’t spoil anything, except to say this surpassed my every expectation.
Daisy Jones and the Six- back to the real world and a very different kind of kickass female lead, this vibey book beats to its own drum, recording the exploits of a fictional rock band. What’s great about this one is how it explores meeting creative goals!
The Great Gatsby– finally, if you’re needing something *even more* glamorous, then here’s something that sparkles. Full of unfulfilled desires, this book achieves gorgeous prose and captures the exquisite pain of failure. It is a masterpiece.
And that’s all for now! Do you agree or disagree with any of the books on this list? Are there any books you would add? Let me know in the comments!
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!
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!
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!