I find it almost hilarious to put “2020” and “success or failure” together in a sentence. 2020 has been a year… or 20 years in one, which is why I won’t even attempt to sum it up. I wish I could say I was someone who was productive in all the various lockdowns… but I wasn’t. And usually I find inspiration in my midyear’s resolutions to *keep going*… but I didn’t. I pretty much gave up with most of my goals early on. Which is why my results are all over the place…
READ MORE NON FIC!
Starting off with a massive success- I have no idea how I did it, but I managed to read 26 non fiction books in 2020!!! This is an absolute record for me!!
(shame I didn’t cheat and add points to this in the mid-year post cos I could’ve done with picking up a few- even if I’d already read over my target…)
READ MORE CHALLENGING BOOKS!
Oof massive fail. I just wasn’t feeling this after Covid struck.
READ MORE POETRY!
Not a bad result considering I gave up on this too!
READ MORE PLAYS!
No idea how I did it… but I did it!! Really surprised and happy with this win!
DO SOME REREADING!
I did well here! Somehow I managed to read more than my target of 5! I’m especially happy with this cos I always enjoy rereading (but I wouldn’t do it if not for this challenge!) Every single one of these books was an absolute pleasure to revisit. Pratchett in particular was a real tonic! And I finally started rereading the His Dark Materials trilogy!
DO MORE ART!
Ehh as I mentioned in my mid-year’s post, this was a poorly defined goal. I should’ve done more for it, but at the same time, I’ve done a gazillion cartoons this year (off the internet). I’m counting this as a win.
Do more yoga!
So this is another big success! I completed three yoga challenges midway through the year and was actually inspired to keep going with another three challenges! So original challenge and extra credit combined gives me:
(if anyone’s interested in trying out the challenges, I did a bunch of the Yoga with Adriene ones- my favourites being Revolution and Home)
START A NEW WRITING PROJECT!
I did have some stretch goals, but let’s face it, they were too much of a s-t-r-e-t-c-h!
SORT THROUGH BOX OF STUFF
Yeahhh I still can’t believe I was in two lockdowns and didn’t manage to finish this… but there were reasons (I swear not excuses) that I didn’t. I mean, when I was doing nothing but working, I didn’t much fancy doing a clear-out with the limited free time I did have. Much better to just watch the Tiger King (yes I know I could’ve easily combined those two things shhhh). Anyway, this is over half empty.
Total Score: 48/60 = 80%
Ahh I’m actually really happy with that! Can’t believe I’ve scraped through with a B! I’ve done worse before and it wasn’t 2020… so I’ll take it! How have you done with your resolutions this year? Let me know in the comments! And a ***Happy New Year*** to you all!
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!
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!
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!
This is going to be a quick list! I just thought it might be fun to share some of my favourite inspirational and bookish soundtracks! All pics link to clips! Enjoy!
Hook– I love this soundtrack, not just because it captures the mood of Peter Pan, but because it makes me feel like I’m flying!
Game of Thrones– no matter what I feel about how the show ended, it always did have great production values, especially the music.
Lord of the Rings– it’s even good in the Hobbit films- and that’s saying something! (seriously though, this is perfection!)
Outlander– this is another one where I didn’t love the story- but I adored the way this soundtrack had such a Scottish and mystical feel to it!
Last Kingdom– speaking of historical-sounding music, I like how this has such an ancient feel to it. I don’t know much about the music from the time period, yet I can say that the music creates an incredible atmosphere.
Wolf Hall– I haven’t actually read the book for this one, even if it’s one of my favourite soundtracks. I really admire how this captures the essence of Tudor music.
Atonement– I don’t even love the book, but I think it’s a fantastic adaptation. And the soundtrack always gets me in the mood for writing!
So, do you enjoy any of these soundtracks? What soundtracks are your favourites? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments!
2020 has been… odd. While some good things have happened in my personal life, I haven’t done much or discovered a whole lot of exciting things or been one of those people that’s learnt new skills in lockdown… But let’s not dwell on that. Today is about celebrating the things I have enjoyed in 2020! While I don’t normally do *favourites* posts, I decided to make an exception this year, because we could all do with more good stuff in our lives! So, I’m going to be recommending some non-bookish things I’ve liked this year (don’t worry, the book wrap ups will come soon enough!) It won’t be a tremendously long list, cos about 95% of the things I enjoy are book related 😉 Let’s hop to it!
Love Wedding Repeat– yes, I’m mentioning this again 😉 This was the movie I had most fun watching this year. And (I can say from experience) it’s also the kind of film that I can happily rewatch!
The Queen’s Gambit– I was surprised by how much I loved this. I hardly thought that a TV show about being a chess champion could be so gripping and emotional! And when I look back on all the TV I watched this year (and I watched a fair amount 😉) it’s the one that stands out to me most. It’s a real winner.
Folklore– Taylor Swift’s surprise album drop just about made my week/month/year. As I predicted when I ranked the songs, my favourites have mostly changed (other than Invisible String, which is still my number one, cos it just continues to make me so happy). My new order is: Invisible String, Mad Woman, Illicit Affairs, Exile, Cardigan, Hoax… then it’s pretty much the same. Love this album- still my favourite from Swift! (And I’m writing this just as I find out she has another album out this year- SQUEEEEEE!!!)
Wizard of Oz Bookmark from Bookworm Heaven– yes, I’ve showed this off before. And yes, I said I wouldn’t show off any bookish stuff in this post. However, this is the exception to that rule, because isn’t it pretty?! You can check out the Etsy here for more designs (notspon).
Philips IPL device– this was my sister’s idea to include, cos as you may have noticed, I’m not really one that knows a lot about beauty products (though if you want *much* better tips in that department, check out her blog!). In fact, it was also her idea to take advantage of all the months in lockdown to do something practical for the future and try out these hair removal devices. I’m not as far along in the programme as she is (having only started in our second lockdown) but I can say the results are looking really good so far! If you’re interested, the Philips device I’m using is not only super easy to use, quick and painless! It’s pretty revolutionary!
Yoga with Adrienne– I don’t know if this counts as something from last year, but we gotta take the wins where we can get them! And one thing that has just been more and more vital to me this year is yoga. While there are a lot of online yoga classes and apps to try, the one I consistently come back to is Yoga with Adrienne, because she just has the loveliest, most encouraging, fun personality. I can’t recommend her channel enough if you’re already into yoga, do a little bit of it, or just want somewhere to start!
Merphy Napier– I have no idea if I’ve mentioned Merphy Napier before, though I certainly should have! She’s my favourite booktuber (and youtuber overall). Her content has been consistently awesome all year long! (Love this video in particular cos it shows you how creative her lists are and gives you a good idea of her taste at the same time)
Foil Arms and Hog– I actually discovered this last year… but who cares? This comedy channel consistently gets me chuckling. They’ve a huge back catalogue to get through- which I’ve made a reasonable attempt at 😉 Plus, even in the pandemic, they’ve been putting out sketches weekly!
Holderness Family– finally something *great* that I found in 2020! Thanks to By Hook or Book, I discovered their spoofy songs (a lot of them on Covid). And my favourite of the bunch is easily they’re hilarious takes on Hallmark Christmas movies!!
And finally…THE PLAGUE!!
With his best bud Tiptoe the Rat… Yeahhh I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for faves in 2020, but to be fair, I was really delighted that my friend sent me this (rather cute version of the) Bubonic Plague (also known as Hugo the Bubo 😉 ).
Annnnd that’s all I have for now! (because most of my faves this year consist of *books*!) What have you enjoyed this year? Let me know in the comments!
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!
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.
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!
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!
There’s nothing new under the sun… except for these beauties! Originality is so hard to come by- and even harder to pull off without a hitch- which is what makes these unique reads special. There’s no two books the same here! And I can recommend them all for very different reasons:
Illuminae– this series has such a u n i q u e format!! It felt a little far out at first- but I soon got swept up in this spectacular space opera. The plot, the characters, the romance, the villains, the drama- all had me on the edge of my seat. It was such a ride!!
Horrorstor– designed like an Ikea catalogue, this was funny and entertaining and horrifying all at once. I was surprised by how much I liked this, considering I’m not much of a fan of scary stories or furniture for that matter 😉
The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle- this would be original for the premise alone: Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day. But this cross-genre novel goes further than that, exploring complex and unexpected themes. It was completely different to anything I’ve ever read before.
Homegoing– I loved the way this innovative cross-generation epic progresses the story with a character from each generation. It had so much scope!
Secret History– a murder mystery told in reverse, it is all the more compelling for it!
The Trial– there’s a reason the term Kafkaesque exists- no one writes quite like Kafka. This is an oddly prophetic novel… emphasis on *odd*.
Master and Margarita– equal parts strange and sublime, I’ve never read anything quite like this. Surreally realising reality, this is an unusually philosophical read that will make you question everything.
Life of Pi– similarly (and yet totally different) Mantel challenges the very notion of what is real with this survival novel.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children– using old, unusual photographs, Riggs builds a very peculiar narrative indeed. Simultaneously an alternate history of the holocaust and an adventure fantasy, it’s not your typical read!
Wolf in the Whale– I simply had to include this for its unique subject: when the history of Inuits and Vikings collided. It feels refreshingly different.
Night Circus– I’ve seen a lot of books compared to the Night Circus– but it’s a pretty impossible feat, because nothing is like Night Circus. The structure, writing and world are all completely original. Don’t believe me? Pick it up for yourself and you’ll see how unbelievably delightful it is.
Wilder Girls– this is a hard one to pin down. In parts it’s a straight horror; other parts read more like a Sapphic romance; and sometimes it just feels like a straight retelling. For all those, it’s not your usual YA.
Scorpio Races– no one writes quite like Stiefvater. Not only is her world building very original, this is so atmospheric, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped out of reality.
Phantom Tollbooth– eccentric and charming, I can’t think of another book to compare it to… because there isn’t one! Playing with language and just plain playing around, this is one of my all-time favourite children’s books.
Good Omens– all of Gaiman’s and Pratchett’s works are so OUT THERE, I didn’t know which one to spotlight… so I decided to go for the one where the great duo teamed up! The concept for this post-apocalyptic story is wildly different and so much fun. And, of course, as you’d expect from these two authors, it’s also completely hilarious.
And that’s all for now! Do you like or dislike any of my picks? And what books have you read that stood out as unique? Let me know in the comments!