Best Books of 2019

2019 has been a pretty good reading year for me. Although I’m glad I studied English Literature at uni, it did for a while dampen my love of reading. I didn’t have much time to read for pleasure, and when I finished the degree, I still couldn’t get back into loving reading in the same way I had before. In the last few months though I’ve really started loving reading again and I’m excited (having been two years since I finished my degree) to finally be really back into enjoying it again.

I reached my Goodreads reading goal of reading 20 books this year which I’m really happy with. Now that I’m enjoying reading more I’m probably going to up my target a bit for 2020. Most of my favourite books I’ve read this year happen to be fantasy. I’ve read a couple of disappointing contemporary books and haven’t read any amazing sci-fi either.  

The best book I read in 2019 has to be Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It’s the only book I’ve given 5 stars this year. I can’t even put my finger on why exactly, for some reason this book had a certain spark and I completely fell in love with it. When I finished reading it, all I could think was ‘wow’, because it was just so imaginative, vivid and brilliant.

I’m so glad I discovered Sarah J. Maas a couple of years ago because I’ve loved all her books I’ve read so far. A Court of Thorns and Roses really surprised me as it was slow to start but got really intense and suspenseful in about the last quarter. That ending section Under the Mountain was just so good that it made up for the slowness at the start. I’m currently reading the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, and loving that too.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Books I Didn't Get to in 2019

There are so many books I wanted to read in 2019 but didn’t end up getting to! I have so many books on my TBR. So here are a few books I wanted to read this year in particular but didn’t end up reading.

T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy – A King Arthur retelling set in space? I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard the concept for it. I also got my hands on the Illumicrate special edition. But I just didn’t get round to reading this one. It’ll be high up on my TBR for 2020.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – This book has been really hyped this year but I have a lot of fantasy books on my TBR and just didn’t end up having time to read this one. The second book is out already so this is another series I’m going to get behind on!

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Top 10 Tuesday: Series I Haven't Finished Yet

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday is a freebie, and I’ve decided to list the top 10 series I really want to finish! I’m not very good at finishing series, even ones that I love. I don’t like reading books in a series one after another, and there will often be a year in between me reading each book. I do need to stop leaving such long gaps in between as I do forget what happened in the previous book!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Where has this series been? Why didn’t I read it sooner? Daughter of Smoke and Bone is (so far) my only five star read of the year, so I’m excited to read the rest of the trilogy.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – Having devoured the first two books in this series last year, I haven’t ended picking up another one this year. I really need to rectify that next year, though it’s a long series so I don’t know when I’ll end up finishing this one!

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Book Review: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal            

Publishing Info: April 2019 by Titan Books

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.

Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.

Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.

The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.

The Devouring Gray really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. Christine Lynn Herman does an amazing job of creating a spooky and suspenseful atmosphere throughout the book. The opening drew me in and the book held my attention the whole way through. The writing has a good balance of description and I found her writing to be very evocative and engaging. I’ve seen The Devouring Gray repeatedly compared to Stranger Things, but I haven’t watched that show so can’t say if that’s an accurate comparison.   

The book switches between the perspectives of several different characters, but I found it easy to follow and didn’t get any characters mixed up. Violet’s grief for her lost sister and the difficult relationship she has with her mother is really well portrayed. She has been brought up away from Four Paths and doesn’t know anything about the Gray or her family’s role as founders. In books there is often a main character who is brought unknowingly into a magical world of some sort, but what I liked about this book is that we also see the perspectives of characters who already live in that ‘world’. This made a change from solely seeing the perspective of the ‘newcomer’. It was interesting to see how Violet learned about Four Paths, but also to see through the eyes of characters seeing a ‘newcomer’ arriving to their town and how that shifted things for them.

Each of the characters has their own story, conflict and secrets. I loved Harper’s character and her determination to overcome what’s happened to her in the past and the prejudice she now faces. Justin, despite from the outside appearing to be the perfect founder, is actually struggling with his own problems and secrets too. I felt a connection to all the central characters and enjoyed seeing how their individual plot strands came together.   

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November 2019 Wrap Up

This month has been fairly quiet so I’ve managed to get a decent amount of reading and writing done, and also wrote several blog posts for this month too. I’ve made a start on Christmas shopping but still have quite a few things left to buy. It’s my choir’s winter concert next weekend so I should probably do some more practicing this weekend!

Reading

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was a little disappointing. I didn’t love it and I just think it wasn’t the right book for me. I finally got round to reading Defy the Worlds, the sequel to Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars, which I absolutely loved. Although I didn’t like it quite as much, the sequel is still thrilling and a great read! I requested one eARC from Netgalley – A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr. The world building is great, but other aspects weren’t so strong, and I ended up being disappointed by this one too.

Book Haul

This month I only bought one book and it’s due to arrive in the post today! When I was looking at Black Friday deals on Amazon I discovered the 10th Anniversary edition of City of Bones by Cassandra Clare at half price so made an impulse purchase. I love Cassandra Clare’s books and City of Bones will always be special as the first of her books that I read.

Writing

I only have a few chapters left to write in my current WIP and I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the year! I’ve been a bit stuck on another novel that I’ve been redrafting for the last couple of years. Something about it just wasn’t gelling, but I randomly had a massive idea last night that would radically change it, but might just make it work. It’s a story I love so I would really like to try and get it published one day once everything clicks into place. It’s nearly there, it just needs something.  

I can’t believe there’s only one month to go in 2019. This year seems to have gone really fast.  

Book Review: A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr (eARC)

A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: eARC from Bonnier Zaffre  

Pages: 352

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

In a world where the flightless are ruled by those who can fly…

When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother – ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors. 

With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.

Written in rich detail and evocative language, this is the start of an irresistible, soaring duology about courage, broken loyalties and fighting for your place in the world.

Thank you so much to Bonnier Zaffre and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

The concept for this book’s world is what first caught my attention. Also, the cover is striking and the title, A Throne of Swans, is clearly similar to A Game of Thrones. In this book’s world, shape-shifters are the rulers and the flightless, those who cannot transform into birds, are inferior. This is the strongest aspect of A Throne of Swans. This societal structure is well thought out and depicted, including integration into the characters’ language and interactions.

Aderyn is a likeable but uninteresting protagonist. She has a strong character arc, as she seeks to overcome her own fears and regain her ability to fly. However compared to most of the other characters she seems entirely honourable and above reproach. Lucien criticises some of her actions, as she thinks before she acts at times, and is unversed in court manners. But I felt her character lacked depth. Other characters were quite one-dimensional, and the antagonists weren’t intimidating and lacked motivation beyond a need for power. Any reasons for their actions are left a mystery, making them into almost caricature power-hungry villains plotting to take the throne. One antagonist in particular features substantially in the book, having multiple conversations with Aderyn, and giving the authors ample opportunity to provide insight into that characters motivations. But sadly that wasn’t explored at all, missing an opportunity to add more depth. 

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Writing Corner: Is My Book YA?

For today’s Writing Corner, I’m going to talk about categorising your novel by age. I see a lot of people on Twitter and forums who aren’t sure where their novel fits, or how much it matters. If you want to be published, it does matter, because that is how the publishing industry categorises fiction, but don’t get too hung up on it.

Middle grade (MG)

MG is generally written for, and features characters, aged from around 8 to 13 years old. These books are usually shorter than young adult books, and don’t have as much romance or violence. They often (but not always) have fun adventures and although they can touch on more serious subject matter, don’t explore it in as much detail as young adult books.

Young adult (YA)

YA is aimed roughly at those aged 13-18, with characters in that same age range, though characters are most commonly 15-18 years old. YA explores more serious subject matter than MG, including more mature content, with romance playing a much bigger role. YA also has more self-reflection and focuses more on the personal evolution of a central character. These novels are often coming of age, looking at the ups and downs of being a teenager. They can explore relationships, sex, mental illness, death etc. far more than MG. As well as this, they can often present more of a reflection on our society and current issues, and explore the characters finding their place in the world.

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