December Wrap Up and Favourite Books of 2018

It is mad that it’s already January 12th – I feel like New Year’s Eve was only yesterday, and I was planning to write about the books I read in December not that long ago. Yet, here we are, and I’m left having to do a great 2-in-1 deal of a post. First up: what I read in the month of December.

I read 4 books in December, which meant that I ended the year on 44 books out of my 45 goal – which I’m really happy about. I read Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, a book that I felt was so poignant for the world we’re living in at the moment in terms of the attitudes that we have and that need to be changed, that I ended up buying it as a Christmas present for someone. A very quick read, you could definitely finish this one in a couple of sittings.

Then I read what ended up being my (spoiler) favourite book of 2018, which was Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton. This is a non-fiction memoir all about love, be that romantic love or familial or the love between friends. Dolly is an incredible writer, and managed to capture the atmosphere of the places she is in so well. In the opening chapters where she talks about relationships as a young girl, chatting on MSN and characteristics of her friends, had me laughing after only a few minutes reading. She writes with the relatable flair that feels like she’s talking directly to you, and it’s so easy to sink into her narrative. There are moments of harsh reality, devastating moments of pain and anguish alongside memories filled with laughter and fun. It’s a book I feel that I’ll need to reread over the years, and I desperately hope she writes more in the future.

Following this non-fiction marvel, I read the acclaimed, Waterstones book of the year Normal People by Sally Rooney. This is a book that I have seen everywhere, and have had friends raving about it. I struggle with books that are considered to be ‘literary’, especially when authors have an aversion to using speech marks. Rooney, however, has made me see that you don’t need to have a PhD to enjoy a book such as hers. It charts the relationship between two young people from very different backgrounds who grew up in the same town, and dip in and out of each other’s lives for various reasons. I definitely had a lot to say about this book, from some of its infuriating characters to scenes that really affected me. A great modern day classic.

The final book I read in 2018 was The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke. This is a fantasy that follows a group of girls who are paid to end the lives of those suffering, be it from incurable diseases to old age. It’s a reimagining of Beowulf, with the girls hearing about a monster plaguing lands, so they decide to go on a quest to fight the beast. On the way they meet witches and all manners of marvels. I enjoyed the novel, and thought the pace of the book worked well. It wasn’t my absolute favourite book, but I by no means disliked it. I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a fantasy novel that isn’t a behemoth, and plays around with characters and setting.

And so, this leads me to my favourite books of 2018. I decided to go for my favourite five, as it seems silly to list almost a quarter of the books I read in a Top 10.

As we know, Everything I Know About Love was my ultimate, but the others are in no particular order – and, no surprises here, they are all fantasy books.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor has to make the list. Laini’s imagination is unrivalled, and her stories never fail to fill me with awe and wonder. You could describe each of them as fun and fantastical, but at the same also heart-wrenching with moments of real poignancy. It’s everything I love about fantasy, and Muse of Nightmares was no different. Muse was one of my most anticipated sequels, with Strange the Dreamer one of my favourite books from previous years. I can only hope that one day I will have half the creative talent that Laini does.

Next up is of course The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, which publishes February 2019. This beast of a book has plenty of elements that I knew I was going to adore: strong leading female characters, retellings of legends (in this case of George and the Dragon) and, of course, dragons. A standalone fantasy, it’s no shock that this book is a giant, and I truly adored the escapism and sweeping epic of a tale it was.

There was also another book by one of my favourite authors, which ended up as a true favourite of 2018: Vengeful by V E Schwab. Another author I can only dream of emulating, Schwab has a way with words that is just unbeatable. Her characters all feel like they could have books just about them, and her plots are intricate, twisting, and perfect in every way. She has also written middle grade, along with adult fantasy and YA, and at this rate I think I just need to read everything she has ever written.

Finally, it’s Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This. Book. I truly think Tomi has opened up fantasy to a whole new generation of readers, and simply from using characters that aren’t white – this shouldn’t be revolutionary, but it is and I love her for it. This fast-paced, action-packed book had me turning pages so quickly that my hands ached by the end of it. She manages to have not one story climax, but five or more, so you’re never certain that there is ever a moment of calm in the story. She puts her characters through the hell, and her imagination and little details are wonderful. I cannot wait for the sequel, also out in 2019, to see what happens next.

And those are my favourite books of 2018. Do let me know what you read and loved last year, and especially what you’re looking forward to reading in 2019.

 

 

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Favourite Books of 2017

2017 was a brilliant year for me in reading terms, with only a few books that I didn’t give four or five stars. Still, there were a few that still shone out from the rest, so these are my Top 10 favourite books I read in 2017. First of all though, honourable mentions go to The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson, A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas, and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. All three fantasy books were definitely some of my favourites read this year, two of which were final instalments of trilogies I adored.

Moving on to the top 10, this ordering of the list is subject to change many times due to my inability to be decisive when it comes to things I love and choosing between them, as really there’s no comparing a few of them. Can anyone truly say that their adoration of an epic fantasy book is in any way comparable to a piece of emotive literary fiction that had their heart clenched within its grip from start to finish? I get very different versions of enjoyment and entertainment from different genres, so as much as I want to list my top three fantasy, top three fiction, top three non-fiction and so on, I’m just going to stick them in an order that works for me at this moment in time.

Who knew a top 10 needed such a preamble. ONTO THE LIST.

10. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I loved reading this book, but I’ve grown to love it even more since finishing it and discussing it with others. There was a lot of ‘hype’ and anticipation going into it, which is probably why I was so conflicted about my feelings of it, as although I thought it a brilliant piece of fiction it didn’t change my whole world. Yet, I admit, since discussing its nuances and clever points with friends, I can say that it deserves all of the praise it receives.

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9. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Perhaps one of my favourite fantasy authors, the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy was the first book of Schwab’s that I picked up. I finished the first two in as many days, and before the third was released I read several of her other books and equally adored them, so to finish the trilogy that started my love for this author was bittersweet. I’m so happy with how it ended, and can’t wait for what this author will bring in 2018.

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8. The Northern Lights series by Philip Pullman

Maybe cheating a little, but I’m listing the whole Northern Lights series as my number 8 for 2017. I read the whole series last year, a feat I’m rather proud of, and plan to read The Book of Dust sometime this year. The first instalment was my first read of 2017, and definitely set the standard for the books that I read afterwards. A brilliant series, one that took me by complete surprise, and I’m so grateful that I finally got a chance to read it for myself.

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7. Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

I’ve been thinking about reading more poetry since finishing university, and after a friend highly recommended Kate Tempest I was so glad that a) my friend has good taste and b) Kate Tempest exists. A beautiful collection, one that is inspiring me to read more and more poetry (recommendations are more than welcome please and thank you).

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6. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Damn, it’s hard to pick between your favourite reads – as if they’re all children who have fulfilled your every wish. The Secret History is a book that everyone and their mothers have been badgering at me to read and, finally, I can say that I fully understand why. Prose so eloquent and rich that I felt like I had to reread sentences, because I was pretty certain that just reading  them once wouldn’t be enough to fully appreciate the complexity of graceful talent that exists within every one.

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5. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Ah, Pachinko, you still make my heart ache. Whilst it wasn’t as gutting and soul-destroying as A Little Life (in a good way), it was still emotive enough to have me texting friends at all hours with updates of where I was for emotional support. A beautiful piece of fiction, and a family-saga the likes of which I’ve never enjoyed more.

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4. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Perhaps one of the most important pieces of non-fiction to read in 2017, and I hope that it’s one that everyone does read. Charming, hilarious, and moving, this has you crying from laughter one moment and just all out crying from despair the next. Brilliantly told, and its message is unmistakable; we need to help our NHS, and we need to do it now.

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3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Ah, the top three. What a wonderful place to be – and in third Laini Taylor has more than earned her spot, her Strange the Dreamer winning my heart within mere pages. It was fantasy the likes of which I can’t ever remember reading before, the type that would make your heart feel full and send your spirit soaring. Strange the Dreamer felt like it was written just for me, for all those dreamers and book-lovers in the world who find solace within the written word and see stories and adventures where other people would see lines on pages. After reading this book, I bought the whole of her previously written trilogy without even reading the blurb of it, knowing that this author would not fail me – and having just finished the second in the series this afternoon, I’m pleased to say that this statement holds true.

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2. Insomniac City by Bill Hayes

I don’t think I’ve stopped talking about this book since I finished it. I also have continued to recycle the same sentences when trying to describe it, telling everyone that it is a love letter to New York and captures Hayes’ life with partner Oliver Sacks. It’s filled with stories of his work as a photographer and the people he meets, and the love story between him and Sacks pretty much had me in a constant state of vulnerability and warring emotions as I tried not to descend into sobs. Truly beautiful, and it’s a book that has sparked a need inside me to read more and more non-fiction – I honestly feel like I owe so much to this one book. An incredible writer without doubt, and there is no reason that I could think of as to why someone wouldn’t like this book.

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And, finally, my number one.

1. Circe by Madeline Miller

This book hasn’t even been published yet, but it still remains as my favourite read of 2017. The Song of Achilles holds its spot at the top of my all-time favourite reads, and Circe joins it in the ranks. It’s everything I want from a book, with classical inspiration, beautiful prose, and characters that make me want to fling myself into the narrative just so I can spend some time in their company. Miller’s use of language is skilled and seemingly effortless, and the Classicist within me is so grateful and overjoyed to have her writing such excellent fiction based off of myths. She manages to rewrite them in ways that make them seem fresh and new, without changing anything fixed – she merely adds elements that, if you didn’t know any better, Homer must have just left out. She brings new life to these old characters, and even though you know how their stories end she still manages to keep you hooked, and also cruelly gives you a glimmer of hope that tragedy will not come their way. Just superb.

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And that, reader, is my list of my top 10 reads of 2017. Let me know your favourites and what you’ve read, or if you agree with any of my favourites. Go forth, read widely and diversely, and report back. I personally hope to gain even more from what I read in 2018, from reading more non-fiction to reading more from POC authors. It’s very apparent that I have hardly any POC authors near the top of my list, which definitely means that I’m not reading enough by them. If anything, reading opens up the world in a way that nothing else can, and it’s very clear that if I only read white authors, that’s the only view from which I’ll be able to understand the world around me – and I’m a girl who likes her varied vantage points.

So, once again, let’s smash 2018.