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MY FAVOURITE READS OF 2020

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

What better way to lean into a lockdown than to pick up a book about another pandemic? The story takes place in Dublin, 1918, over three days at the height of the Great Flu. It is a short, claustrophobic tale of Nurse Julia Power and the women she meets, works with and takes care of in the maternity ward at an understaffed hospital in the city centre. In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways.

I was more than a little bit destroyed by this one. I found it so powerful, the characters so brilliantly portrayed, and the scene and the atmosphere gave me chills. Absolutely loved it.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

In 18th century France, Addie LaRue is forced into a marriage she does not want. Willing to sacrifice anything to avoid a life in captivity, Addie makes a Faustian bargain for her freedom. Her wish is granted, of sorts, she becomes immortal – and free! – but is cursed to be forgotten by everyone has ever known, or will ever meet again. This is a perfect quiet story, but one that leaves ripples and waves in your mind nonetheless. One story that will never be forgotten, even if its title character is cursed to be. It is lyrical and melodic, genius in its own quiet way, and will stir up thoughts inside anyone who opens its pages.

The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart by Margarita Montimore

This is an absolute gem of a novel, all about a woman living her life out of order. A premise so completely my cup of tea, and the story was just as emotional as it promised to be. I loved the writing style. Very polished and clean, no messing around with purple prose, no focus on imagery. Everything was focused on bringing the characters to life, which Montimore achieved with a clear expertise. All of the characters were enjoyable, likeable, and 100% felt like real people – real people I immediately connected with. Highly recommend.

Why We Eat Too Much by Andrew Jenkinson

Quite possibly my favourite Health book of all time. A bold claim, but the scope of this book, everything the author delved into and how brilliantly he explained everything was remarkable. And as far as non-fiction, goes I don’t think I have ever felt so compelled by a read. We We Eat (Too Much) is a great starting-point book for further personal research on your weight loss journey. Understanding my own biology has been a massive part of my weight loss journey, and this book was an incredible help. Excellently-written and easy to understand, with game-changing research and health advice.

Circe by Madeline Miller

An excellent telling of the Greek myth Circe; feminist and thrilling – a really enjoyable read. The story definitely stirred my dormant childhood obsession with Greek mythology, and brought along Miller’s additional insights and flair. Circe is a phenomenally complex, yet relatable character. I cared about her from the start and was enthralled with her story and her relationships from the start. Beautiful, poignant, and quietly, thoroughly badass. Such recommend!


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MY MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2021

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

I love a different feel of Fantasy, and The Chosen and the Beautiful is giving me all the right vibes. Set in the US in the 1920s, Vo’s debut is a queer, Asian-American reimagining of The Great Gatsby, with what looks like a strong focus on spirits, East Asian folklore, and the lives of magicians.

I have never been a Gatsby fan, but I’m always down for a retelling, especially with elements as interesting as these: magic and jazz, drama and politics, spirits and queerness in a coming-of-age Fantasy – sign me the hell up.

In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland

A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead.

Need I say more?

In a world where magic-wielders are assigned undead spirits to guard them—and control them, Rovan is thrown into a world of palace intrigue and deception when her spirit starts to control her. Rovan will have to start a rebellion in both the mortal world and the underworld (oooh!), all while navigating a love triangle (less oooh), and honestly I’m already hooked.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas

The first in an unconfirmed trilogy (?) sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses, aka my second favourite book series of all time. This sequel follows Nessa, the fiery and angry sister of Feyre I can’t wait to read more about. I didn’t quite get her when I first read the trilogy, but by my second reading I was living for her. I am 1000% ready to continue this story and really get into the nitty gritty with Nesta, and all my beloved characters from this series. Cannot bloody wait.

(I’m not sold on the cover though. Had to add that. Legally.)

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

As much as I loved The Fault in Our Stars, John Green is, in my opinion, a better podcaster than he is a novelist. He has several shows (which I listen to religiously), and this book is based on one of them: The Anthropocene Reviewed, wherein Green self-indulgently reviews miscellaneous aspects of the current geological age and the human experience within, such as Tetris and viral meningitis. The paperback version adapted from the podcast is said to be ‘a deeply moving and insightful collection of personal essays‘, and will probably be just as fascinating and meaningful as the podcast I have enjoyed for years.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

I have never been tempted by a Jay Kristoff novel, but this one is just too intriguing. It’s a … Christian lore-based vampire epic dystopia? Whatever it is, it sounds like it has a lot going on, and I’ve somehow ended up vibing with it.

This is a world where the sun has not risen in twenty-seven years, and vampires have basically claimed the land because why not. Protagonist Gabriel de León is part of a holy order and has killed the vampire king, and while imprisoned he tells he story of his life, including his quest to find the Holy Grail along with the one person in the world who knows where it is: a smart-mouthed teenage urchin named Dior. *adds to cart*

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.

A future-y, science-y, but also mystery-y thriller-y sort of novel – a bit of a vague description but a compelling one nonetheless. It’s pitched as Black Mirror meets We Were Liars and follows two separated sisters, one living on an abandoned island with an android with no idea how she got there, the other a STEM prodigy on a potential path to save humanity.

Review: The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon

Welcome to book four in The Bone Season series, bringing us new territory, new emotions, and all-in-all, an exciting change of pace. After the last two instalments, which had felt a little flat and same-y in my opinion, The Mask Falling feels fresh and interesting, and is definitely the book I have enjoyed the most since the first in the series.

This book takes us to the Scion citadel of Paris, a setting I was massively interested in. I loved falling into ‘dystopian’ Paris, a city reminiscent of the real one but with a slight futuristic tilt and an emphasis on the underground, the carrières. Paige is still reeling from the events of the last book, recovering from torture at the hands of the Rephaim and the PTSD she now deals with, which was a great addition to the character development (and the best-written part of the entire book). But Paige can’t hide herself away with her struggles – she has an important new assignment for the mysterious Domino Programme …

I will never not be impressed by the world Samantha Shannon has created. The spirits and clairvoyance, the dystopian future with a uniquely Victorian tilt. I will always keep coming back for each bookly portion of world-building this series spoon-feeds us. The other elements, the filling to the sandwich if you will, may not be my favourite – they may not leave me satisfied – but I remained entertained throughout. Like every instalment in this series, I found the plot to be well-structured but lacking in substance most of the time. The plot elements felt very separate from each other throughout the story, with the plot not properly advancing until the very end, laying the groundwork sure, but the trade-off was a narrative that felt jagged and disjointed, without a clear picture of what we were building to. And I found that slightly frustrating.

Not as frustrating as the romance, though – yeesh. I am not one for romance, but I will happily accept a subplot if I can clearly feel like chemistry between the characters. But when it comes to Paige and Arcturus, it is just not there for me. All I’ve ever felt between those two is cringe; and maybe my intense dislike for the ‘hundred-year-old-fantasy-being-falls-for-teenage-human-girl” trope has drowned out the excellent romance-writing from Shannon – don’t know, can’t say. But if the chemistry is there, I can’t see it. And my annoyance at the romantic subplot definitely colours my overall enjoyment of the series.

Nontheless, the world keeps me captivated, and I really enjoyed being in Paris and getting into the underground-spyish-type zone this instalment fostered. I liked the struggle Paige was going through and I enjoyed the plot enough to remain intrigued. Do I wish for the end of the romantic subplot? Yes. Do I lament the lack of Jaxon and the waning focus on spirits and clairvoyance in this series? Completely. Am I still tangled in the web of this series, unable to tear myself away? Yeeeeeeeesssssssss.

MY 5 FAVOURITE READS OF LOCKDOWN #1, 2020

As we careen gracelessly into Lockdown 2 here in the UK in the year of our Lord 2020, I see a lot of people pledging to use their newfound free time to engage with their hobbies. Reading is definitely up there as a top pick, which had got me feeling reminisce-y. So I thought I would look back on some of the cracking reads I devoured during our first 2020 lockdown, and maybe give some of you out there a few ideas of what to pick up.

So, what did I read in Lockdown 1?

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

Was it, in hindsight, a great idea in the current climate to purchase a post-apocalyptic novel where humans are extinct and the robot race who destroyed them are following in the footsteps?

Yes. Yes, it was.

Sea of Rust packed a punch – with a likeable, ballsy robot protag and a very unique setting. I was drawn in by the world and the social commentary. I stayed for the bants. More lighthearted than anticipated. Recommend!


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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

An utterly brilliant generational saga beginning with two sisters, Effia and Esi, born in different villages in Ghana during the 18th century. They never meet. Effia becomes the unwilling wife of a slave trader. Esi is captured and sold as a slave. What follows is two hundred years of history and gut wrenching personal stories of both Effia and Esi’s descendants.

The stories and perspectives were engrossing and the characterisation was basically perfection. A gritty, detailed and excellently crafted story well worth picking up.


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The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

“Blame the germs, the unburied corpses, the dust of war, the random circulation of wind and weather, the Lord God Almighty. Blame the stars. Just don’t blame the dead, because none of them wished this on themselves.”

What better way to lean into lockdown than to pick up a book about another pandemic? The story takes place in Dublin, 1918, over three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. It is a short, claustrophobic tale of Nurse Julia Power and that’s all I’m going to reveal … I was more than a little bit destroyed by this one. I found it so powerful, the characters so brilliantly portrayed, and the scene and the atmosphere gave me chills. Absolutely loved it.


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The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart by Margarita Montimore

This is an absolute gem of a novel, all about a woman living her life out of order. The story was just as emotional as it promised to be, and I loved the writing style. Very polished and clean, no messing around with purple prose, no focus on imagery. Everything was focused on bringing the characters to life, which Montimore achieved with a clear expertise. All of the characters were enjoyable, likeable, and 100% felt like real people – real people I immediately connected with. Oona Lockhart is a real accomplishment: made me think, made me feel, and most of all, made me excited for what the author is going to bring us next.


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Circe by Madeleine Miller

“I had stood beside my father’s light, I had held Aeëtes in my arms, and my bed was heaped with thick-woolled blankets woven by immortal hands. But it was not until that moment that I think I had ever been warm.”

A fulfilling and feminist interpretation of the Greek tale of Circe, the witch-goddess daughter of Helios, Titan and god of the sun. The story definitely stirred my dormant childhood obsession with Greek mythology, and brought along Miller’s additional insights and flair. Circe is a phenomenally complex, yet relatable character. I cared about her from the start and was enthralled with her story and her relationships from the start. Highly recommend.


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Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

“And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue is the most enchanting release of 2020. I love a premise that sets up a question, one speculative element that creates a whole story. In V.E. Schwab’s latest adult novel, that question is: what if you were cursed to be forgotten by everyone you ever meet?

In 18th century France, Addie LaRue is forced into a marriage she does not want. Willing to sacrifice anything to avoid a life in captivity, Addie makes a Faustian bargain for her freedom. She is willing to trade her soul for an eternal life living by her own rules, but The Darkness will not agree without a time limit.

“You want an ending,” she says. “Then take my life when I am done with it. You can have my soul when I don’t want it anymore.”

The Darkness is intrigued by her offer, enticed by a new game. He grants her wish to become immortal, but in turn she is cursed to be forgotten by everyone has ever known, or will ever meet again.

One of the most compelling premises I have ever come across, and the story absolutely did not disappoint. The prose is indulgently purple, the similies were plentiful (three to an e-page at times, I counted), but the floweryness of the writing is the perfect fit for the type of story this is. It’s a slow walk along a river, it’s a late evening spent in good company, it’s a reflection on a what-if, but a reflection on ourselves as well. Who are we, without our relation to others? How do you build a meaningful life when it’s almost like you don’t exist? And, in Addie’s own words,

“What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”

I loved how the story is laid out, jumping back and forth between Addie’s early years struggling with immortality and the consequences of being forgotten, and present day when she meets another special character – Henry, the first person to remember her in three hundred years. As a character, Addie is not exactly overflowing with personality. She is a muted character, but her quietness worked with the quietness of the story, and she shows a lot of quiet strength in her own ways – and that was refreshing to read about. The non-linear set-up really works for the story, as we can learn about Addie’s early pain and troubles, but skip to in and out of her future where she has overcome, learnt, and devised her own manner of making her way in the world. I was really invested the minutia of her life – I wanted to know how she could eat, how she could afford anything, how was she going to solve this problem and the next? But where I was most compelled were when it came to Addie’s relationships.
There are many throughout the novel, and no matter how small, all are poignant. Her biggest relationship is the one she has with the Devil who granted her wish, who shows up every year on their anniversary, to see if she is ready to hand over her soul. The story of a human and the Darkness they make a deal with is nothing new, but in Schwab’s hand it is fresh and peculiar and intimate – and just fantastic to read.

“Do not mistake this—any of it—for kindness, Adeline.” His eyes go bright with mischief. “I simply want to be the one who breaks you.”

Though I loved their dynamic, the game they played for Addie’s soul, their whole relationship, really … I feel like it could have been structured better. We do get to a point in the novel where the Devil is just showing up in each consecutive chapter, dancing the same dance, throwing her the same lines and arrogance, not really progressing the story or their relationship in a meaningful way. This did slightly impact my enjoyment of that particular subplot, just because the repetition got so tedious.
Another area I didn’t connect with so much was Henry’s storyline. I really liked what he represented, his struggles with mental health and addiction were very well portrayed. But as a character, he didn’t grab me. He, much like Addie, was a quiet character, but in Henry’s case he needed to be a bit louder because I just could not hear him – connect with him. We got a lot of backstory on Henry (and his friend circle which, to be honest, didn’t bring anything to the table – they were just annoying), and for me, it just turned into a bit of a skip-fest. I kind of wish we had just stuck with Addie and her POV for the whole book; that said, the Henry chapters definitely had their moments, so that’s not a hill I’ll be dying on!

Though I may have stumbled over a few parts in this story, my whole reading experience was nevertheless and absolute delight from start to finish. This is one story that will never be forgotten, even if its title character is cursed to be. It is lyrical and melodic, genius in its own quiet way, and will stir up thoughts inside anyone who opens its pages. A real gem of a novel, not one to miss out on.