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2019 in Review

A new decade has officially begun! It’s crazy how fast 2019 went by. And what better way to welcome in the new year than by looking back at all the books I read last year? Plus, I’ll let you see some of the books I’m planning to read this year, too! (Not my whole TBR pile, of course – just the highest priority and imminent reads!)

You probably all know that Goodreads provides a Year in Books summary for users, with tons of cool statistics and highlights. If you’re interested in seeing what mine looks like, feel free to go check it out. Sadly, I did not reach my goal of 100 books, nor did I beat my record of 82 books read throughout 2017, but I did beat last year; I managed 58 books in total. That’s more than a book a week, so I guess that’s still pretty good!

Here are a few of the most noteworthy books that I read this past year, and a short summary of why I liked them so much:

  • The Dark Artifices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. I finished the first two and am partway through the third at the moment. I adored The Mortal Instruments series, and just love how these books follow a different group of characters, while still updating us on the original characters that we know and love. Seeing how everyone has grown up is just lovely, and I’m really growing fond of the new group, too. I’m invested in their issues, and I really feel their pain. The ending of Lord of Shadows near killed me; I’m still so shaken and sad.
  • The Astonishing Colour of After (which I reviewed here). An interesting angle on grief, with strong fantasy elements. The writing was just wonderful and the whole book was incredibly emotional.
  • The final two books in Alice Broadway’s Skin Books trilogy. (I loved the first one, too, but I read that in 2018 so thought it didn’t belong in this post.) A unique story, intriguing and exciting. The plot really did thicken throughout each of the books, and the series ended nicely, too.

And finally, here are some of the books I plan to read over the next year. I’m aiming for 100 books again, so I obviously won’t be listing them all here!

How many books did you manage to read this past year? Any particularly noteworthy? And what’s your goal for 2020? Do you have any specific books you’re planning to read?

I hope you all have a wonderful new year, and that everyone finds a new book love!

2018 In Review

Another year is over! I’m not sure how it happened so fast, but happy New Year! I’m going to list off my top five most noteworthy books from the last year. (That is, the ones I read last year – not necessarily ones that were published within it.)

1822182First up is A Note of MadnessI’ve read three of Tabitha Suzuma’s books and absolutely adored them all. There is so much emotion, suspense and pain in her writing. This particular series was incredibly emotional for me as it strongly reminded me of someone close to me. It was incredibly accurate and potent.

As you know, I always recommend books that discuss mental health. I’d definitely suggest reading this if you’re interested in that area. This addresses bipolar depression and suicide in particular.

30626556Next is History is All You Left MeIt was the first of Adam Silvera’s books that I’ve read, and I immediately fell in love with his writing. Again, this is an incredibly emotional novel, and was particularly relevant to me. The biggest thing I took away from this book was how to stop feeling guilty for replacing a deceased lover. At the time, my boyfriend was still sort of grieving for an ex, and I felt as if “competing with a ghost” (a beautiful quote from this novel). It is also an LGBTQ+ novel, which is always a bonus. It nearly made me cry, too, which is very rare!

7069333Another book I thoroughly enjoyed was the first HG Wells CollectionObviously, this is a collection of several different stories, my favourites being The Time Machine and The First Men in the Moon. It’s a staple for any sci-fi lover for sure. It’s a bit dated, but timeless at the same time. I adored Wells’ writing, feeling fully immersed in each story. The descriptions were lovely, leaving enough to your own imagination while still setting the scene perfectly. I would highly recommend this to anyone, even if you’re not particularly familiar with the genre.

32827036.jpgThe fourth book in this list is Ink, a book I picked up on a whim in the bookstore. I never actually posted a review of this one as I decided to read it purely for enjoyment, without constantly taking notes. I talked to everyone I knew about this and remember it in great detail. It’s about a society where everything in your life is written on your skin as tattoos. Even the bad things – displayed for the whole world to see. But then there are the Blanks, a feared group of unmarked people. I won’t give too much away but there is a lot of exciting, unexpected twists in this and I just loved it. I’m dying to start the sequel!

42192885Finally I’ve chosen Bone & Bread. This was another mental-health-related book, though it was rather different from any others I’d read. Beena is the narrator of this, switching between recalling childhood memories, later events and the current time. Overall, this is about her sister, Sadhana. She’s dead. Her heart gave out due to complications from her eating disorder. Beena notes the early symptoms of her sister’s illness, the struggles they went through together. What made this so unique is that not only is it told from an external point of view, but Beena isn’t sympathetic at all. She’s almost harsh about it. The way the illness is described is accurate, in my opinion, and not romanticised at all.

So that’s it! My top five books from 2018. What did you guys read? What were your favourites? A ton of great books were released that I never got round to reading, so if you have then feel free to tell me about them! Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to 2019!

Book Review: History Is All You Left Me

Wow. Just… wow.

Okay so the main/underlying theme in this is the death of Griffin’s closest friend and first love, Theo. We’re given alternating excerpts from different moments in the past (such as when Theo and Griffin first got together, fun memories they made, sad moments etc) and excerpts from “now” (after Theo’s death). While this alone is a huge topic that is so important to address, this book manages to discuss several other issues at the same time.

The most important part of this book (to me) was Griffin learning how to move on without feeling guilty for betraying Theo. My boyfriend lost someone a few years ago and sometime’s I get scared I’m “competing with a ghost” (which is a fantastic quote from in this book, but I won’t tell you who said it because that’s a pretty big spoiler). I can only imagine how awful it must feel to lose someone you love, and how crap you’d feel for ‘forgetting’ them. But Griffin tackles this, not quickly or easily, but through mistakes and heartache and small realisations. It’s a very realistic portrayal of the journey, I think, and offers hope at the same time.

Other themes include homozexuality – which is explored through four different characters, as opposed to just one or two – and even OCD. Griffin’s OCD isn’t by any means the “main” plot, but it impacts everything in his life – which is, of course, very true for anyone with a mental illness like that. It reveals itself in tiny ways throughout his life, and is even seen as a sort of “quirk” by Theo. I especiay liked how Griffin’s new love interest at the end of the book tackles his compulsions so differently to Theo – he encourages him to move on and fight them, rather than just accepting them and letting them rule both Griffin’s and his behaviour.

I’m not sure if this counts as a theme, but there’s also the big issue of Griffin actually meeting the boy Theo was dating when he died. (Theo moved away to go to college, and his relationship with Griffin came to a weird end-but-not-quite. Theo found a new boyfriend, Jackson.) Jackson and Griffin had spent months hating each other, and refusing to even try to get on. But after Theo’s death, Griffin realises that this is the only other person who understands exactly what he’s going through. Although he hates that they had their own history together he knows that it means Jackson is grieving in the same way as Griffin. They eventually decide to help each other through the first month following his death, but when Jackson reveals how Theo told him some very personal information from Griffin’s childhood, Griffin begins to see Jackson as a weapon. Since his death, Griffin has been talking to Theo in his head. Now he wants him to watch as he has sex with his boyfriend.

Like I said, Griffin makes a lot of mistakes. He knows that. He made mistakes while Theo was alive, too – there are references to the “taboo” issue between him and Theo and the betrayal Griffin felt he committed that we are later informed about. But Wade, their closest friend since childhood, becomes the rock that Griffin had never expected. He helps Griffin see that Theo is in the wrong by asking him to wait for them to get back together when he has clearly moved on himself. Wade later helps Griffin see that Theo would be happy to see him move on, too, and that despite being his first love, Theo doesn’t have to be his only love.

So yeah, a pretty emotional book with a hell of a lot of twists. I loved it. I have another book by Adam Silvera on my shelf to read (I bought it back before I’d found this) and I am seriously looking forward to it now. Amazing book: 5 stars.

Book Review: Alice in The Looking Glass – A Mother and Daughter’s Experience of Anorexia

I’m probably more obsessed with ED books than is healthy, but it’s so reassuring to read other people’s experiences that are similar to my own. This book was absolutely fantastic – not only did it help me see that I’m not alone or abnormal, but I was also able to read a mother’s point of view on the experience. I understand now how awful it must have been for my own mother during my inpatient hospital stay and the initial battle of getting a diagnosis.
I found it interesting that they gave Jo (the mother)’s perspective first, instead of Alice herself. We learn about what she witnesses before we find out exactly what Alice was actually thinking and feeling.

They don’t include weights or numbers in this, which is tremendously helpful. Like Jo says, this is a competitive illness, and even parents seem to want to compete in having the “most poorly” child. But it’s so triggering for other people to read about how much weight someone lost, and it’s not really relevant. Weight loss is just a side affect of the illness, and not the main issue itself.

The reality is addressed so honestly in this book, all the feelings and experiences that we may be ashamed to admit are written in black and white. It made me feel a lot less guilty about things that I’ve felt, knowing other people have felt the same way, too. And the recovery aspect was not unrealistically easy or happy; Alice is not completely recovered even at the end of the book, but is managing her illness. That is how most of us will live for a long time, if not for the rest of our lives. But Alice expresses how she is so much happier “managing” her anorexia than she was when she was suffering years ago. It gives hope – even if you don’t fully recover, life can be good. 

I really loved this book. I’d urge anyone with a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder (or has one themselves) to read this, as it would really help seeing both perspectives on the journey. 5 stars.

Manga Review: Bleach 3-in-1 Volume #1

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As usual, I will try not to ruin the plot for anyone who wants to read it. I’ll just say that Ichigo can see ghosts, and one day comes across a soul reaper – who accidentally gives her powers away and is stuck in a temporary human body. Together, they work as soul reapers to rid the world of “evil” hollows – which takes them through some pretty sad memories.

The writing is great – I found this so so comedic, and just enjoyable to read all the way through. I read all 500+ pages in one afternoon!

There’s also some.seriously sad stuff in there – dead family members make guest appearances, and I actually found some of the scenes so touching and painful. The entire volume was just written so fantastically.

The art is amazing, too – I especially liked the odd blank page with just a small illustration that peppered the book. It was artistic, yet still presented the story well.

This is probably gonna be a favourite of mine for a long time. I cannot wait to read on – the end of the third volume in this collection is very intriguing! 5/5 stars.

Book Review: Whisper to Me

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Whisper to Me by Nick Lake – Paperback, 530 pages – Published May 5th 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

This book is fantastic. I know it sounds cheesy, but I literally could not put it down.

The plot isn’t just one simple story line; it’s twists and turns and ups and downs all over the place. Cass is writing to someone – who is never named, actually – recapping events. The style means that she can switch from talking about the past to describing her current situation and feelings, in the present. She’s able to reflect on the past, add a whole new level to the story. I loved it. And when “you” are in the story, she describes you but also skips the mundane details that you would already know, keeping the story really interesting. It really sounded like she was writing to someone.

Cass’s letter/email is an apology, an explanation, for hurting someone. She acknowledges this right from the start, but it takes a long, long time to get into what really happened. Not in a boring, dragged-out way, but in a suspenseful way. Constantly, I wanted to know what she was referring to, what had happened to require the writing of this email.

So the plot is, as I said, not a straight line at all. But some important things are:

  1. Cass starts to hear a voice. A voice that’s not there, not really.
  2. Cass meets “you” and the voice is quiet and everything is great. But things go wrong. Things go so, so wrong.
  3. Cass’s dad has issues – untreated PTSD from serving as a MARINE.
  4. Cass has some, uh, unacknowledged issues caused by the death of her mother.
  5. Cass meets Paris. Paris is sunshine and love and happiness.
  6. There’s a serial killer on the loose.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in this book. I won’t tell you how all the things link together, but it’s so clever. And oh, so heartbreaking.

Let’s just say that you know it’s coming – you can tell by Cass’s choice of language that something is going to happen – but you still hope for some miracle.

Leading on from that last point, the characters are fantastic. Paris is honestly just amazing; I really fell in love with her. Probably more than Cass’s actual love interest. Oops. And Cass’s dad is so complex, clearly struggling with some stuff, and although he does wrong and he gets angry and he scares Cass sometimes you don’t hate him, not really, and neither does Cass. He’s her dad and she loves him, and he’s trying his best and I could really feel that.

Some books really do just click with you, and this was one of those for me. I made excuses to read for longer than planned, stayed up later. It was lovely to have that excitement back when reading, even if I do feel kind of sad and empty now it’s finished.

Part of me wants some kind of follow-up, but I also know that that would kind of ruin the whole mysterious, imaginative element that the ending leaves. I don’t know.

I would completely definitely certainly recommend it. It covers so much – mental illnesses and single parents and love and death and sex workers and just so many different aspects of life that you maybe wouldn’t expect to find thrown together into one book. But Cass doesn’t seem crazy, isn’t made out to be some kind of mental patient. And no single theme dominates the story – this isn’t just about love, or just about murder. It’s about life.

Definitely 5 stars. I adored this book.

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Book Review: Somewhere In Between

pro_readerI was provided with a free copy of this book via NetGalley, so a huge thanks to Kung Fu Girl Books for granting me access to this title!

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Somewhere In Between by Katie Li – eBook, 93 pages – Published August 25th 2015 by Kung Fu Girl Books

According to Katie Li, this novel was intended to quash her desire for an anime book. I’m not quite sure what she means by that (I’m pretty sure there are a lot of books that are also animes) but there you go.

This is only a really short book at 93 pages (that I somehow managed to drag out for over a month), full of magic and mystery. It’s so mysterious, in fact, that I’m not quite sure what really happened.

Rom and Magnolia are old friends, who used to visit the in-between place together. It was a magical place that changed every time they went, the door to which was sometimes nothing more than a painting on a wall. Rom is no longer with his girlfriend and Magnolia is dealing with a lot after the death of her boyfriend when they see each other again.

There is a slight romance in here, but nothing major really. I’m honestly not quite sure what the actual plot was, but it was pretty cool. However, they never seemed very shocked by the magical world they discovered, and I have no idea what was going on when weird happenings began to occur in their ordinary day-to-day lives.

I will admit that this could easily be improved, but I like the idea of the in-between place and honestly there are a few ways I can relate to Magnolia personally. The characters aren’t incredibly in-depth in themselves, but they each have their own back-stories which is good. The ending was a bit strange and, well, so as the whole book, so I’m going to give it 2.5 – 3 stars out of 5.

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Book Review: Unbearable Lightness

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Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi – Paperback, 309 pages – Published July 2011 by Simon & Schuster UK

Oh. My. God.

This was such an amazing book. I may have to buy myself a copy to read over and over and over again.

I’ve never really known much about Portia de Rossi. I knew she was the wife of Ellen DeGeneres, who I absolutely love, but that’s about it. Never would I have known how much I could relate with her and her life struggles.

This book is so truthful, and so inspirational. Portia tells us the details of her childhood issues with weight and eating, and how her habits developed into bulimia and a serious case of anorexia. She talks about every little thought and habit, her reaction to everything that was said to her. For anyone dealing with similar issues, it is wonderful to read someone else’s experience and know that you are not alone. I’ve always felt ashamed about certain details of my eating disorder, but I now know that Portia seems to have had very similar thoughts, emotions and habits.

Portia is also struggling to accept her homosexuality, and to feel accepted by those around her. She feels like she has to fit into everything – the sample sizes of clothing on set, society’s idea of beauty, even a certain category of lesbianism. But eventually she realises that it isn’t important to be what others expect you to be. It’s only important to be happy and healthy and just enjoy life.

The epilogue of this novel nearly brought me to tears. Portia knows things are not perfect – they probably never will be. But things have certainly changed for the better. She’s married Ellen and she’s come to terms with how to eat normally and maintain a healthy weight without obsessing over her appearance. She’s managed to find links between her childhood, her sexuality and her desires to be thin. She knows why she binged, she knows why she starved herself. And she knows why she wants to get rid of anorexia once and for all and live her life properly.

This is most definitely one of my favourite books ever. It made me rethink my life – I’m going through a tough patch with my anorexia right now, and Portia’s story has made me think twice about the road I’m going down. She doesn’t hide the ugly truth, she embraces it and brings attention to every detail. She is truly an inspirational woman. 5 stars for certain.

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Book Review: The Complete Alice

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The Complete Alice (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass / What Alice Found There) by Lewis Carroll – Hardback, 466 pages – Published July 4th 2015 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Alice in Wonderland has got to be my favourite story. I just love everything about it! Hence why I got this book for Christmas; it’s a really gorgeous book.

I don’t think I need to go into much detail regarding the story; everyone knows Alice in Wonderland! What I will say is that the extra bits are lovely; there are letters from Carroll himself, details about how the story was written and printed, and other notes.

As for the illustrations… I love them! The original Tenniel illustrations are all in full colour, displayed wonderfully throughout the book. It just all looks so gorgeous!

So as I said, I won’t want to go into too much detail. The story is obviously fantastic, and it’s nice to see it all together – even with the “deleted scene” from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. The poems and songs and riddles… Fantastic!

Everything about this book is lovely. The cover, the layout, the red shine around the edge of the pages. Love it! A huge favourite of mine. 5 stars for definite.

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Book Review: An Inspector Calls

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An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley – Hardback, 81 pages Published January 12th 1992 by Heinemann Educational Books

My GCSEs are coming up soon, and I was told that this play may be included. I remember a few people saying how much they loved this book and my school had a spare copy so I thought I may as well give it a read.

Wow. I didn’t really look into the synopsis of this before I read it, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. The story unfolded so beautifully, and the Inspector’s questions kept me gripped throughout the whole play. I was just desperate to know what had happened!

This is a pretty unique book in the way that they all talk about what happened in the past. Basically, a police inspector arrives and begins asking the group about a girl who has apparently committed suicide. None of them know her at first, until the inspector reminds them of the nasty things that they had each done to her. Slowly, we learn of the girl’s life and put together all the pieces from each person’s story.

This really is a great book! Honestly, I’m not much interested in plays and scripts, but this was just such a great read. It really makes you think about how your actions and words may affect someone in the long-run, and how much of an impact you can have on a stranger’s life.

I sped through most of this in one evening. It is a short book, but the main reason I read it so fast is just because it was so very gripping and interesting. This is definitely a new favourite of mine; 5 stars!

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