My Top Ten Books for 2019

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

number 10

skyward

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

number 9

wolf in the whale

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

number 8

wayward son

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

number 7

radio silence

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

number 6

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

number 5

winter of the witch

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

number 4

beowulf

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

number 3

in order to live

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

number 2

the man in the white sharkskin suit

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

number 1

sadie

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

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

Winter of the Witch was *CAPTIVATING*

winter of the witchMany of you will know of my love affair with the Winternight Trilogy. A Russian fairy tale retelling, full of wonder and magic, it was only natural I fell head over heels for it. My admiration reached fever pitch with the second instalment, as it went to deliciously dark places and blew my mind with its intensity. Needless to say, I was eager for the finale. And *WOW*, it did not disappoint.

Thrown straight back into Arden’s wintery world, the story promised action and beauty from start. With writing as gorgeous as the last two books, this picked up immediately from where Girl in the Tower left off and felt literally darker from the outset. I was utterly absorbed every time I picked it up. Indeed, it was a most welcome return to the story.

Unlike the first two books, which almost felt like self-contained stories, this leaned heavily on the earlier narratives. Plotwise it was a completely wild ride. The story bolts forward from the first page, bearing enchanting little gifts…

…Only to throw you from the horse and break your heart a little. Because this gives us some seriously moving moments. From the romance to the family connections, this story didn’t let up for a second. Again and again, the narrative took risks and delivered on an emotional level that somehow surpassed the previous books. I don’t want to spoil anything, so all I’ll say is that it brought tears to my eyes more than once.

Beyond that, the story travelled into far deeper territory than I could have expected. Building on the previous world building, Winter of the Witch takes the reader into the realm of storytelling and dreams. Entering into the land of midnight, it feels like the heroine is moving around the globe like the second hand on a clock. In this patchwork country, the very notion of reality is questioned.

This intriguing idea was further developed in the characterisation. What I especially liked about this aspect was how it presented the idea that magic can drive you to distraction- if you change too much reality, you might forget what is real. Not only did this present a brilliant consequence for magic, it also allowed for so much of the main character’s growth and forced her to push herself to the limit.

And Vasya isn’t the only one who’s stretched here. Every character is challenged- including some of the more demonic beings. Which allows for another interesting development: this story creates confusion over what is and isn’t monstrous. This presents such a nuanced, clever take on monsters in fairy tales. It’s a point of eye-widening genius; it’s a powerful take on the complexity of good vs evil.

Above all, the story presents a notion of unity. Not only does this tie together the strands of the first and second books, but it also draws this in line with historical events. Incredibly, Arden answers some of the questions I’ve seen about the first book, especially pertaining to the representation of Christianity as opposed to Paganism. This is particularly subverted by Sasha’s role as priest- which I was kind of remiss not to mention in my last review – especially as he plays an even greater part here (also I can’t be the only one to have been remind of Alyosha Karamazov- which made him an instant favourite 😉 ). In the end, the concepts were married together superbly and, at least for me, everything clicked into place.

Ultimately it was a sensational end to a sensational series. I believe I had a fair amount of faith in this finale- but even so, it was better than I ever could have imagined. All the wishing wells, genies and shooting stars in the world couldn’t have conceived something so magical. If you’re looking for a fairy tale retelling, this is quite simply something you need to check out. It’s very rare for me to give a whole series all the bananas- and yet here we are:

Rating: 5/5 bananas                               

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Also look how pretty all my books look together:

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So is anyone surprised that I loved this? 😉 And have you read this? Do you plan to? What do you think of the Winternight series? Let me know in the comments!

Girl in the Tower was *ENCHANTING*

*Received this book off Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the  gushing you’re about to see is all me*

girl in the towerAnd dark, and scary and made me feel all tingly. For anyone that doesn’t remember all the way back to December, I fell absolutely head over heels for Bear and the Nightingale, the first in the Winternight Trilogy. So when I received a last minute ARC for the second one, there was actual screaming, guys. And when I got to the end of this, well, let’s just say this raised my love to practically fever pitch.

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Straightaway I was plunged into Arden’s atmospheric world. With stunning visuals, chuckle-worthy dialogue and mysteries building, I found myself sucked straight back in. Most of my notes devolved to just “WOW” and “AMAZING” pretty quickly. Cos let me tell you, everything about Arden’s writing is wonderful. The haunting style made me shivery and weak at the knees.

From the outset, I felt a creeping sense of dread and that didn’t let up until the crazy-dramatic end. You know that cliché “I hadn’t realised I’d been holding my breath”- well I exhaled (loudly) when I got to the end and I hadn’t realised I’d been holding my breath- so there you go, proof it actually happens. I was so absorbed in the good old fashioned storytelling that I didn’t notice. Nor I did I notice the night ticking away until it was Crazy O Clock in the morning and the story was done (whoops).

Timeless and magical, the plot loops round, playing with strands of the story and then joining the threads. When I could finally see the full tapestry, my face cracked into a smile of pure joy– it’s been a while since I’ve seen chronology twisted so successfully. This seemingly slight touch allowed minor characters to step more into the spotlight, which was excellently done. Carefully, characterisation through the eyes of others and through the smallest of gestures, brought the world more vividly to life. Little things, like the humorous horse character, made my toes curl in pleasure.

And speaking of pleasure, the romance in this book melted my heart. There were only hints of romance in the previous book and, even though I discussed it offline, I’d been scared of scaring it away- but man I wanted this. I don’t know where it’s going, since there’s a terrifying combination of miscommunication and magic involved, but I’m loving the slow build so far. Arden sure knows how to take her time.

I also loved the direction Vasya took in this book. She’s certainly grown into an increasingly wonderful heroine. As with the last book, I loved her unconventionality, her cleverness and how unusual she was (including her looks). She’s such a great role model for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider. And what made her even more powerful was the presence of a truly killer villain. He both mirrored her and reflected back her goodness with darkness… and I won’t say any more for fear of spoilers. But he’s a good un (well, technically bad 😉 )

What was incredible was how much more complexity and scope there was to Girl in the Tower. There were multiple layers to the story and I felt like there was so much more under the surface, waiting to be discovered. I honestly don’t feel like one review could do it justice (I can already see that I would benefit from rereading this story). One thing I will say that I enjoyed the most about this book was the elements of appearance vs reality. The hidden world of folklore, tucked out of sight for most people, gave the impression that there was more to this reality than meets the eye. I really appreciated how that theme bled into the narrative, the character’s gestures even and the portrayal of different beliefs. I marvelled how the unseen and the seen blurred together at moments, in a way that screamed UNCANNY and UNSETTLING. I revelled in what could be regarded as a clash of civilisations.

Ultimately, this book took everything about the first book and made it better. No middle book syndrome here- only pure, unadulterated bliss. I’d read a few reviews and thought “pff could it be better?”- the answer is yes, yes it could and it was. And I must say it was perfect with hot chocolate and Bailey’s after an exhausting day 😉

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Have you read this or the first one? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!