My Favourite Reads of 2018

It’s the end of another year; a time to reflect and reminisce. 2018 has been a big year for me: I graduated university and started my first full time job, so it’s been pretty busy. Amongst all that, though, I also found time to read some fantastic books. And so, in the true spirit of reflecting and reminiscing, here’s a countdown of my favourites and my thoughts on each!

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5. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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A beautifully written, fairy-tale-like story of magic set in medieval Russia, The Bear and the Nightingale tells the story of a conflict between invisible household spirits and the changing human world, and a young girl named Vasya who sits between the two sides. Arden does not rush her tale, giving plenty of time for the reader to get to know the characters, savour the prose, and build up the atmosphere – and the tension for the dramatic conclusion. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

4. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This contemporary novel may be an important read addressing and discussing trauma and mental health, but it’s also an uplifting story of friendship, acceptance, and hope for recovery. Protagonist Eleanor, despite having a seemingly normal, if slightly lonely, life, is an incredibly unique character with a fascinating worldview that hooked me from the first page. The mystery of Eleanor’s past, and the rollercoaster of emotions, from humour to bittersweet sympathy to shock and more, makes this a compulsive read.

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3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

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Although aimed primarily at children, this book is still immensely enjoyable for adults. It follows hat-maker Sophie when she gets magically turned into an old woman and seeks out supposedly fearsome wizard Howl in the hopes he will break her spell. It’s fun, enchanting, and whimsical, with all the charm and warmth of a bedtime story without being dumbed-down or patronising. (And with all the lovable characters and funny moments you could ever want!) Perfect for when you want a low-effort, high-spirited read to cheer you up!

2. Temeraire/His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

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While Novik’s prose in this book may be a little hard to get into, it’s only because it emulates the typical prose of the eighteenth century England in which it is set. But this isn’t a simple historical novel: it’s Novik’s take on what history would be like with dragons! It’s an immensely fun read, focusing mostly on navy captain Will Laurence and the baby dragon, Temeraire, who adopts him. Their relationship is incredibly heartwarming, and there’s plenty of action and drama too! And if there weren’t enough dragons in this book, don’t worry: there are another eight in the Temeraire series to go at! I personally am incredibly excited to read them.

Honourable Mentions

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

This was a very promising beginning to an epic saga! A richly detailed world, a vast host of interesting characters, and a plot full of mystery and action, what’s not to like?

The Secrets Between Us by Laura Madeleine

Set in the south of France during the Second World War, this book tells of the daughter of a baker and the close relationship she develops with a Jewish refugee. A charming and thoroughly enjoyable read full of ever-enticing family secrets.

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1. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

My number one read this year is one I only recently picked up – and then tore through and completed in no time! The Fifth Season and its sequels – The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky – are set in a world of apocalyptic natural disasters, people with the ability to control the earth (known as orogenes), and immortal stone creatures. They tell the story of orogene-in-hiding Essun as she searches for her missing daughter during the devastating aftermath of the planet’s single continent being ripped in two. And if simply trying to survive wasn’t hard enough on its own (what with all the ash, the acid rain, and earthquakes, not to mention a society hostile to orogenes), an old mentor brings her a mind-bending task which, if Essun accepts, will alter the fate of the world – whether she succeeds or not.

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There’s really no wonder this fantasy/science fiction series has won three Hugo awards: it trumpets a host of complex yet down-to-earth, realistic characters, in an epic and magical tale. Jemisin creates a complicated web of plot threads, but by the end of the third book, she has delicately woven them all together into something beautiful and incredibly satisfying to read. It’ll leave you mulling over all the details long after you’ve put the book down. Best of all, though, is Jemisin’s breathtakingly immersive prose. It pulled me in from the very first page and wouldn’t let me go until the very I’d read the very last. Jemisin laces every seemingly straightforward line with emotion and detail, and somehow manages to seamlessly blend wry humour into a story about the end of the world. As a writer, I couldn’t help but admire every word.

Of course, that’s not to say it was perfect – nothing ever is. The pace of the story is often a little slow, which I personally really like, but in places it did mean there could have been more tension and build up towards the climax of each book than there was. But the grand finale to the series more than made up for any previous deficiency in suspense and drama. And if that’s my only complaint for a trilogy that boasts believable characters, an intricate plot, a well-developed world, and subtle yet masterful storytelling, then I can’t really complain at all. The Broken Earth trilogy is expertly written and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

(And all that without even talking about the aspects of this series that I respect and admire and love the most because spoilers!!!)

What were your favourite reads of 2018? And what are your thoughts on my favourites? Let me know in the comments!

Happy New Year!

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Why I Started A Bullet Journal

Before I started a bullet journal, I was skeptical that bullet journals would be any use. I thought, how is it any different to any other journal? Surely it’s just an overhyped trend that doesn’tΒ actuallyΒ work? What’s the point?

So, I tried it for myself!

Continue reading “Why I Started A Bullet Journal”

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: Book Review

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, published in 2017. The story follows the eponymous Eleanor, a thirty-year old woman who lives alone and works in an office. She eats the same meals every day, has a phone call with her judgemental mother at the same time every Wednesday, and spends her weekends drinking vodka to avoid thoughts of her past. People often find her difficult to get on with, but Eleanor doesn’t mind: she prides herself on her independence. When she spots a handsome singer at a gig, she becomes convinced they are destined to fall in love. But as she prepares herself to meet and pursue him, she and a new coworker called Raymond witness an old man fall on the street, and feel obliged to help him. Suddenly, Eleanor finds herself in the social world she has been an outsider to for so long. Will she learn to cope, or will she return to her old ways? And will she learn to deal with her past?

Continue reading “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: Book Review”

The Star-Touched Queen: Book Review

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is a young adult fantasy novel inspired by Indian mythology. The first in a duology, this book follows Maya, a princess who is spurned for the damning horoscope she was given at birth, as she is forced into an arranged marriage intended to end the war. But in the middle of the wedding, fighting breaks out, and one of Maya’s suitors, Amar, whisks her away to his kingdom, which she has never heard of, via the Otherworld, which Maya had always believed to be fictional. Bound by magic, Amar is unable to give her any answers to her questions about himself or his kingdom. And so Maya finds herself Queen of a kingdom she knows nothing about, married to a charming but mysterious husband, and cooped up in a strange, magical castle. As she counts down the days until Amar can finally reveal all his secrets to her, Maya hears a voice singing and calling to her from a foreboding door which isn’t always there. Despite the warnings, Maya feels drawn to investigate.

Continue reading “The Star-Touched Queen: Book Review”

Tower Of Dawn Book Review

 

img_20180604_194738_7871865508129.jpgTower of Dawn is the sixth book in Sarah J Maas’s young adult fantasy series Throne of Glass. Originally intended to be a companion novella to the series, this book follows former Captain of Adarlan’s Guard, now Hand to the King, Chaol Westfall, as he and the new Captain of the Guard, Nesryn Faliq, journey to the Southern Continent in the hopes of gaining the alliance of the Southern Continent – and of healing Chaol’s injury to his spine.

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Spring 2018 Writing Update

Since December 2017, I have been posting updates on the progress of the fantasy novel I’m writing, called The Secrets The Dead Keep! While I was forced to have a hiatus from this and my book reviews for the past six months due to university commitments, I have now completed my degree and can return to blogging! From now on, you can expect weekly posts – one every Wednesday – which will include book reviews, quarterly writing updates (rather than monthly ones, like I did last year), and occasionally some other bits and pieces too.

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My Best and Worst Reads of 2017

In 2017 I made a concerted effort to read more books, even though I was at university and couldn’t read as much as I wanted. According to Goodreads, I managed 19 books – nothing for some, but impressive for me – some of which were AMAZING, some of which were, well, just okay, and some of which I really wasn’t a fan of. So, even though it’s a couple of months overdue, here are my favourite and least favourite reads of 2017!

Favourites

The Hero Of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

I can’t believe I had never picked up a Brandon Sanderson book before 2017! But he’s quickly become one of my favourite authors, and the Mistborn trilogy became an instant favourite when I read it over the summer. Sanderson’s magic system and plots are outstanding throughout the series, but the third book, The Hero Of Ages, is particularly impressive; it’s epic, full of plot twists, and it brings the series to a satisfying yet unexpected and heart breaking finale. While Sanderson isn’t the best at characterisation and makes little attempt at pretty prose, I still found this to be an entertaining, engrossing, and endlessly exciting book.

Oh, and I got to meet Sanderson at his Oathbringer tour in December, and he signed my copy of The Hero Of Ages for me!

You can read my full review of The Hero Of Ages here.

The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name Of The Wind is the first book in The Kingkiller Chronicle, a fantasy unlike any other. The trilogy follows once-legendary Kvothe, now in hiding as a village innkeeper, through the challenges and adventures of his youth, as he seeks to learn magic and unravel mysteries, and begins to garner a hero’s fame.

While they are both fantasy writers, Rothfuss and Sanderson are almost opposites; unlike Sanderson’s books, Rothfuss’s books excel in their prose and characterisation, and it was these rather than any epic plotlines which had me falling head over heels for this book. Rothfuss plot is a little slow, but the world and the writing is beautifully crafted and immersive. It’s a story with a lot of tension and even more feeling, and it’s truly un-put-down-able.

You can read my full review of The Name Of The Wind here.

Least Favourites

Twelve Kings (in Sharakhai) by Bradley P Beaulieau

The first book of The Song Of Shattered Sands, Twelve Kings follows orphaned fighter Γ‡eda in her quest for revenge and answers. Other than my own, I’ve actually only read very few bad reviews of this book. And to be fair, that’s because it’s not a bad book. The premise is interesting; the worldbuilding is good; the writing and the plot are decent. The series promises to become epic, but I’m not going to be reading it. Why? Twelve Kings also promised to be epic – and fast-paced and badass and exciting. It was none of these things. I couldn’t even get attached to the characters either. By the time I finished reading it, over a year after I’d started it, I was frankly sick of it. And also quite disappointed – I’d gone through all that, for a finale and “plot twist” which I didn’t even find that exciting or satisfying.

So while I didnt enjoy and wouldn’t recommend this book, I also won’t go around yelling that no-one should read it. Just don’t expect anything bombastic.

You can read my full review of Twelve Kings here.

Talon by Julie Kagawa

It’s a book about dragons. What more do you need to know?

Except you do need to know more. Because it’s not just about dragons, it’s about teenage human-dragon shapeshifters. It’s about their summer at the beach, which they spend mostly in their human forms. It’s also about the evil organisation that ‘protects’ them. And also some angst, some rather rash decisions, and a love triangle.

So, again, it’s my expectations being disappointed (and very, very annoyed, by the protagonist who I didn’t like, and the writing style which I didn’t like, and the love triangle which I saw coming a mile off) which is bringing down my opinions of this book. But I’m not going to say “it’s good, just beware of your expectations”. Not this time. Instead I’ll say, if you want a good fantasy story, don’t bother. But if you want a teenage romance that happens to involve dragons? Go ahead.

You can read my full review of Talon here.

So those are my best and worst reads of 2017! Do you agree with my choices? What are your best and worst reads of 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Jane, Unlimited: Book Review

20171128_121946 (1)Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore is a mix between a standalone novel and a collection of short stories, which Cashore describes as something resembling a choose-your-own-adventure story. It follows the title character, Jane, as she follows her late Aunt Magnolia’s advice to go to Tu Reviens, a mysterious grand house on its own island, if ever she gets the chance. The book is split into six sections: Tu Reviens, which introduces the characters and the situation, and five short stories, each in their own genres, and which each follow Jane as she makes a particular choice. The stories are, however, designed to be read in the order, as they do have a plot arc between them.

I picked up Jane, Unlimited because Cashore is one of my favourite authors: I loved all of her previous books, Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue, which are all standalone but related fantasy novels. So I knew that, even though it’s completely different, I would love Jane, Unlimited too.

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November Writing Update

Another month has come and gone, so it’s time for another writing update! For those who don’t know, I’ve been posting monthly updates on the progress of my fantasy novel, The Secrets The Dead Keeps, throughout 2017 – at the beginning of the year, I was about to start work on my third draft, and I’m now on Draft Four!

My goals for November were to keep editing and keep improving my worldbuilding and my characterisation. But my most important goal was to write something every day.

So, how did I do?

Continue reading “November Writing Update”

The Slow Regard Of Silent Things, Kingkiller Chronicle 2.5: Book Review

The Slow Regard Of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss is a companion novella to Rothfuss’ bestselling Kingkiller Chronicle. It follows Auri, a strange girl who lives under the University, who Kvothe, the protagonist of the Kingkiller Chronicle, meets during the first book of the series. If you haven’t read my reviews for the first two books in the series, The Name Of The Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, here and here. Continue reading “The Slow Regard Of Silent Things, Kingkiller Chronicle 2.5: Book Review”