Top Ten Tuesday #192


Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a good New Year’s Eve, whether you were out partying the night away, sitting at home reading a book or anything in between. My family went out for dinner for New Year (Hogmanay it is here in Scotland) and we had a nice three course dinner and Prosecco when the bells went, so that was a nice way to bring in 2019.

Anyway, it’s not just the start of a New Year today, it’s also a Tuesday, which means another Top Ten Tuesday thanks to Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is all about looking back, I’m going to be sharing my Top Ten (actually Twelve) Books of 2018! I’m quite glad this topic was saved for today this year, because in 2017, the topic came up a bit early for me, so one of my favourite books of the year wasn’t on the list because I hadn’t finished it. This year you can be certain that this is my definitive Best of list, since 2018 is over. So here we go, my 2018 favourites:

  1. Firestarter-Tara Sim-5 stars

My favourite read of the year-although it doesn’t actually come out until the 15th, I was so lucky to get to read it early! It was a beautiful, emotional, soul crushing finale that pretty much destroyed me and yet I will still be thanking Tara Sim for it, because it was the perfect, epic conclusion to Danny and Colton’s story.

2. Children of Blood and Bone-Tomi Adeyemi-4.5 stars

Children of Blood and Bone was just so incredible. Such a brilliantly creative fantasy world, an amazingly diverse cast of characters, and such a great female friendship between Zelie and Amari. I read a lot of epic fantasy, but this one felt refreshingly different and after that ending, I can’t wait to see what Zelie and Amari get up to in the sequel!

3. Legendary-Stephanie Garber-4.5 stars

I didn’t think it was possible to love Legendary more than I did Caraval but I really did! Tella was an awesome narrator, we got to meet some amazing new characters, Garber expanded on the magical world she had created in the first book while creating something new and fresh with the game of Caraval this time around. I can’t wait to see what happens in the final book, appropriately titled Finale!

4. Vicious-VE Schwab-4 stars

I can’t believe it took me so long to get to this book! VE Schwab is the master of the villain, and this book just proves it. The a-linear format was so cleverly done, Victor and Eli were compelling, complex characters, there was a lovely gang of side characters who I adored, the EO power system was really well thought out and it was just generally a really fun story to read. I’m looking forward to getting into Vengeful, hopefully this year as I’ve heard amazing things and I NEED to know what happens after that ending.

5. Fawkes-Nadine Brandes-4 stars

My surprise of the year! I picked this book off a whim on Netgalley, literally because I thought the cover looked cool and the title drew me in. Little did I know that it was going to become one of my favourite books of the year. It’s a historical fantasy retelling of the Gunpowder Plot, told through the eyes of Guy Fawkes’ son, Thomas, in a London where everyone can use magic via a mask that manipulates colours. The magic system was so cool, I loved the setting, the main character was great and it was fun to read a standalone fantasy for a change! I hope more authors start trying to explore the Tudor/Stuart eras for fantasy because that history is ripe to be mined. I already have an e-ARC of Nadine’s next book, Romanov, and I can’t wait to read it.

6. Tower of Dawn-Sarah J Maas-4 stars

I almost skipped Tower of Dawn, I’ll be honest because Chaol…..yeah not my favourite Throne of Glass character. However, I’m really glad I didn’t because I ended up really loving it. It was so great to explore a different part of the Throne of Glass world, especially one so different to Erilea, and SJM really went in on the world building in this book which I loved. Yrene from The Assassin’s Blade returns in a bigger role this time and it was great to see her come to the fore. Chaol’s journey of healing was really wonderful to read about as well, so yeah, if you are a bit sceptical on Chaol, please do still read this book, because it’s a wonderful story!

7. The Language of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo-4 stars

I’m not usually one for short stories, but I really loved Leigh Bardugo’s fairytales with her signature Grisha twist, they were gloriously dark, wonderfully subversive and just generally a lot of fun to read-I would be quite happy reading more short stories from Leigh Bardugo after this.

8. The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven-4 stars

AGH, it’s months later and I still can’t get over how much I loved this book. It was everything I wanted to be, fabulously feminist and gloriously funny, Izzy was definitely my favourite new character of the year and it’s so great to have a book that talks about slut shaming and sex positivity in a way that is really funny and accessible to teens.

9. By A Charm and A Curse-Jaime Questell-4 stars

A fun little book, with an interesting take on the Circus theme that has become quite popular in recent years of YA. It was a unique little story, kind of like a cross between Pinocchio and the Disney princesses and it was fun to see a story where a kiss was the cause of a curse rather than the resolution to it. It was also nice to have quite a short standalone YA fantasy, I’m so used to reading fantasy books of 400 pages +, that an under 300 page book was a nice change of pace!

10. Everless-Sarah Holland-4 stars

I loved the concept for this one so much! The idea of time being used as currency was really creative and although I wasn’t so keen on the main character, the plot, the writing and the creativity of the concept and the world building made this a solid read for me.

11. A Spark of Light-Jodi Picoult-4 stars

And Jodi Picoult hits another one out of the park! A Spark of Light was a wonderfully gripping, incredibly powerful and emotional read and I was so glad that I enjoyed it as much as I did, because it was one I had been anticipating for a while and had quite high expectations for. I loved the cast of characters, Picoult’s writing was as always incredible and as always, it left me with a lot to think about after reading.

12. Our Dark Duet-VE Schwab-4 stars

I wasn’t that keen on This Savage Song, but Our Dark Duet took things to a whole new level, with a terrifying new monster, brilliant character development, much more action and a wonderfully emotional climax, alongside Schwab’s as always brilliant writing.

So there we go, those were my favourite books of 2018! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? What were your favourite books of 2018? What did you guys get up to for New Year? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with a new TTT, this time we will be talking about our Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019, so that should be super fun, especially as there are so many amazing books coming out in the firs half of the year.

In the meantime, I will have a few things for you guys over the next few days, I’m going to be sharing my 2019 Bookish Resolutions on Jo Talks tomorrow, and then I have a couple of reviews left over from last year to get to, so you should hopefully be getting those soon!


End of Year Check In (2018)

We made it everyone! The last day of 2018, honestly I wasn’t entirely sure we’d get here after all the trash-fire things that have been happening in the world this year, but we did, so congrats to all of us. As it’s the last day of 2018, I will be looking back at the goals I made in January (remember January, that month that happened a million years ago, and none of us are quite sure was actually part of 2018?) and see how well I did on them this year. So here we go, this is how my 2018 goals have worked out:

  1. Complete my Goodreads 2018 Challenge-SUCCESS

Yes I did in fact complete my Goodreads challenge this year! I started off with my usual challenge of 24, but I put it up back in July, and ended up on my final challenge of 35 books, which I just met two days ago. I would have liked to one up my 2017 challenge and read 37, but I’m still really proud of 35, especially given how stressful my most recent Uni semester has been.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR 2018 Challenge-SUCCESS

Yes, I completed my #RockMyTBR challenge, though like last year, I ended on 11 books rather than 12 because there was one book on my list that I just couldn’t finish-I’m not going to count it as a failure for the sake of one book, that would just be petty! Hopefully next year I will be able to finish all 12 though 🙂

3. Expand my Writing Corner Feature-Success, but could have done better

I don’t want to count this as an outright failure, because I did write a few more posts about my writing this year, though due to time constraints, I didn’t post as frequently through the end of the year as I would have liked and I didn’t do any collaborations on it. Having said that, I have written 6 posts for the feature this year, and I only had one last year, so in that respect it has been successful and I’m hoping that I will be able to grow it even more next year.

4. Look into querying agents/the first steps of the publishing process-SUCCESS

I’m actually feeling really good about this one. I’ve been bookmarking agents since January, so every time I have seen one on Twitter, I’ve added their agency’s page to the list. I also had to write a query for the #YA4YA competition, I’m pretty sure it was terrible, but hey it was a start! I have a list of tips about querying from a querying talk I went to with agents at YALC. I pitched my book to an agent at YALC as well as part of pitching practice and she said it sounded marketable, so that was also awesome! I’ve also been doing the most important part of getting ready for querying-revising my book. So yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about the preparations I’ve made for the next step in my publishing journey this year.

5. Finish Underground Magicians-FAIL

Yeah, this one was a pretty clear failure. I’ve only written one more chapter of this than I had last year. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, because having writer’s block is not something I can really help and I have made a lot of progress on TINALS this year, so I’m trying to focus more on where I’ve succeeded in my writing than where I haven’t.

6. Start giving a Bechdel Test rating for the books I read-SUCCESS

This went really well, in fact I’m going to continue it next year! The final results turned out to be 24 books passed and 11 books failed, so I was quite pleased with that and I’m hoping that next year, the pass/fail margin will be even narrower.

7. Read more of my YALC books from 2015/2016/2017-SUCCESS

So I did read some of my YALC books this year, I read The Exact Opposite of Okay, Rose Under Fire, The Fandom, Daughter of The Burning City & Days of Blood and Starlight this year, so that’s 6 more YALC books than I had last year. I could have done more, probably, but I have offloaded some of the YALC books that I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to read and my YALC book shelf is down to only 29 books now, so hopefully I should be able to knock off more next year (whilst of course acquiring more!).

8. Read more of my #otspsecretsister books-Success, but could have done better

I only read 3 #otspsecretsister books this year, so I still have 10 that I need to read, but since I didn’t set a number for this challenge, I’m still counting it as a success! Hopefully next year, I will be able to finish all of the books that I have received through the #otspsecretsister project.

9. Reread some of my old favourites-FAIL

Ha ha this one was just too optimistic to start off with! I don’t know why I thought I would have the time to do this, much as I used to love rereading, I do not read fast enough to justify it!

10. Make time to read a little every day-SUCCESS

I actually feel really good about this one! There were I think one or two days in November where I didn’t read, but much like my #RockMyTBR challenge, I’m not going to punish myself for a day or so when I was just too tired or stressed to read. I’m really pleased with how this goal went, because it kept me accountable for making sure reading was always a part of my day.

11. Carry on colloborating with other bloggers-SUCCESS

I did 3 collab posts this year, one with other people on my blog in January, which was super fun, I did my first guest post on This Northern Gal (which you can read here: which was amazing fun to do and something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. I also featured on Rae Coleman’s blog, as part of her Summer Spotlight blogger series, so I did an interview with her, which was also amazing to do and you can read that here: I also did an interview for Literary Lovers Magazine, but I’m not quite sure when that’s going to be available. I’d love to do some more collaborations next year, so if you’d like to contribute something to my blog (especially if you’re a writer!) or you would like me to contribute to yours, then you can get in touch with me via Twitter @iloveheartlandX or email:

12. Catch up with 2017 releases-Success, but could have done better

I had 12 books on this list and I’ve read 6 of them. So half. I could have done better sure, but I think this was a case of me being overenthusiastic rather than anything else, because thinking I would be able to read 12 missed releases this year was probably a bit optimistic!

So there we go, that’s how I did on my 2018 goals-10 out of 12 completed, I have to admit, I’m pretty satisfied with that, even if I could have done better on two of them, it’s the best I’ve ever done on my yearly resolutions! 2018 may have been a horrible year for the world, but it was a great year for my blog and I’m hoping that 2019 will be ever better. How about you guys? Did you make any goals for 2018? How did you do on them? Do you have any plans for goals for next year? Let me know in the comments!

You won’t have to wait too long to find out my 2019 goals, I think I’ll probably have them up on Wednesday. In the meantime, I will have my Best Books of 2018 up tomorrow as part of the first TTT topic of 2019, so stay tuned for that!

Jo Talks Books: On My Bechdel Test Experiment

Hi everyone! So it’s almost the end of 2018 (how did that happen?), and with that, I thought for my final discussion post of the year, I’d talk about a little experiment I’ve been running with my books this year. At the beginning of the year, I decided that one of my resolutions would be to analyse the books I read against the Bechdel Test, a test that looks at female representation in media, by asking three simple questions: a) are there two (or more) named female characters, b) who talk to each other and c) about something other than a man. This sounds like a pretty easy test to pass, but it’s actually more difficult than you would think. It’s usually used for films, but I figured why not try it on books? It’s been quite a fun and interesting little experiment and I thought I’d share the results with you guys here.

So I read 35 books this year, more than 2016, slightly less than 2017. Of those 35 books, a pleasing 24 of them passed the Bechdel Test, whilst 11 of them did not. In this post, I’m going to take a closer look at the books that did and didn’t pass the test, and look at some of the limitations of the Bechdel Test as well, since it’s not a perfect science.

Almost all of the books I read which passed the test were written by female authors, and had female main characters (the only one which passed the test and was written by a male author was Midnight by Derek Landy, but the main character in the book is female. VE Schwab’s Vicious was the only one with a male main character that still passed the test, but in that case, the author is female). I don’t know how much of this was just that I read more female written and female led stories than not, and 35 is a relatively small sample size, so I can’t really conclude anything definitive from this, only that the books I read, the ones written by women with female lead characters were more likely to pass the test than others.

I will say that one issue of using the Bechdel Test on books is that because of the nature of the test, it is somewhat biased against books that are told from a male main character’s perspective. Because the test requires two named female characters to speak to each other about something which isn’t a man, if the book is narrated by a male character, the likelihood of two female characters speaking without the male character present is highly unlikely, so even if the book does have good representation of women, it will automatically fail the test because the narrator is male.

This happened for me with The Burning Maze and A Thousand Perfect Notes-both books have quite nuanced, interesting female characters, but because they are narrated by a male main character, they automatically fail because the male character is always involved in their conversation in some way-we are seeing it through their eyes. This also happened with Firestarter, the book has plenty of wonderful female characters, Daphne, Cassie, Leila, Jo, Charlotte etc but because the main character is male, all of their conversations revolve around him and the one conversation that would have counted, between Daphne and her mother, fails because Daphne’s mother is not given a name, she is merely Mrs Richards.

The opposite of this problem is Vicious, which is a male led book that does pass the Bechdel Test, but it really only does so on a technicality-there is a brief conversation between Sydney and Serena that is not about men. That’s not to say that Sydney and Serena aren’t well drawn characters, they are, but it is definitely the men (Victor and Eli) who are the stars of that story, and Sydney and Serena are very much supporting. This is one of the reasons why I’m so excited for Vengeful, because we get to see the women in charge!

There were two books I read this year that failed because they only had one named female character in them: the first was Fawkes, the only main female character was Emma, the love interest of the narrator, Thomas, and I was actually pretty disappointed that this book failed the test, because it would have been easy enough to give Emma a female friend to talk to, and Emma was such a great character, it seemed a shame that Fawkes failed simply because she was the only one there. The other book was Not If Save You First, where Maddie was the only named female character in the book, which again, how difficult is it to just have one other female character who has a name? It’s a low bar people, low bar.

Then there were the books that failed because their conceit demanded it. For instance, Louise O’Neill’s Almost Love failed the test by design, because the only thing that Sarah can talk about to her friends is Matthew, since she’s in a toxic, obsessive relationship with him. In this case, the failure of the test works quite well for the book, because it shows how deep Sarah is in with this man, that he is affecting every part of her life. The other book which failed because its conceit demanded it was Night of Cake and Puppets-it’s the story of Zuzana and Mik’s first date in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone world and whilst Karou does pop up from time to time via text, their conversations do revolve around Mik, since that’s what the book is about-honestly I would have been quite surprised had the book passed.

Finally we come to the books that should have passed the test but didn’t. Hero At The Fall for instance, should have passed the test. It had numerous named female characters: Leyla, Shazad, Amani, her aunt whose name I can’t remember right now, but she definitely had one, there were so many opportunities for this book to pass the test and yet it just didn’t because whenever the female characters were together, they were talking about the men in the book. Wintersong had Liesel, her sister and her grandmother, there were enough women there to pass and yet, not a single conversation that didn’t revolve around a man. Sea Witch had Evie and Annemette, it would have been so easy for them to talk about something other than Iker and Nik and yet…..nope, that’s all they could talk about! If I found a mermaid, I would have far more questions about that than about her crush on a boy. The Enchanted Sonata had Clara and Zizi and yet the two of them barely interacted, it would have been so easy for them to have a short conversation that wasn’t about Nutcracker and yet again, there was nothing.

Then we come onto the books that did pass. There was a lot of variation between them as to the level of interaction between female characters and discussions of things other than men. There were the books that obviously and definitively passed, like The Exact Opposite of Okay, A Spark of Light, Rose Under Fire, Moxie, Things A Bright Girl Can Do which had numerous named female characters and multiple conversations between them that were not about men.

There were those that did pass, but at the lowest level of the test, they met the requirements but that was about it. By A Charm and Curse was one of those books, had it not been for a conversation between Emma and her best friend about food at the beginning of the book, it probably wouldn’t have passed. Vicious only passes on the basis of a brief conversation between Serena and Sydney. The Hazel Wood, I had to hunt very hard and it was only at the end of the book that I found a conversation which counted. For A Muse of Fire only passed based on a brief conversation between Jetta and Cheeky about clothes and Tower of Dawn because of a brief conversation between Yrene and Hafiza about healing (although with the latter two, I would argue that both have good representation of women, even if it was difficult to find conversations that weren’t about men, these women have agency and their plots do not entirely revolve around the men in their lives).

The problem with the Bechdel Test is that it’s not the most sophisticated test in the world, it’s relatively easy to pass, but just because a book passes, doesn’t necessarily mean that it has great representation of women because all it requires to pass is literally a few short sentences exchanged that aren’t about men. It also doesn’t say anything about race representation, or sexuality representation, or disability representation, so you can have a book pass the test purely on the presence of straight, cis, ablebodied white women and I’m sure none of us would say that’s the best or only representation of women we want in our books.

It is also as I have already explored, incredibly biased towards female led or multiple POV books, male POV books largely don’t stand a chance of passing the test, even if they do have valid and nuanced representations of women because it’s a lot harder to include a conversation between two women that the POV character (in this case, the man) is not included in.

The Bechdel Test is designed to favour quantity of female interactions in books, rather than quality, a book that has a two sentence exchange can pass, where a book with a great, nuanced representation of women can fail because there is only one woman present, even if the representation of that one woman in that book is better than the two sentence exchange in the book that passed. Some of the books that failed have great, complex multifaceted female characters, and the fact that they don’t pass an arbitrary test, doesn’t take that away. However, it doesn’t always have to be quantity over quality, all the books I talked about above, which had multiple female characters with multiple interactions, had both: they had complex, nuanced female characters and they had multiple interactions, so it is possible to not favour quality over quantity, but by design of the test, that is what tends to happen.

I also think that using the Bechdel Test as an indicator of how feminist a work is as opposed to a marker of female presence is a big mistake, because often so many of the conversations that we have as feminist involve men, so therefore they wouldn’t pass the test! The Bechdel Test was never meant to be some complicated test of how feminist a piece of work is, it’s a simple, by the numbers test, to see how often women talk to each other about non-man related things in a piece of media. A book could pass the test and still be sexist, whilst a very feminist book could fail-it’s not a perfect science, nor was it ever intended to be.

It’s also quite difficult to work out what counts as a conversation, so it’s very often up to the person doing the analyzing, what books I think pass the Bechdel test, someone else might think don’t because we have different ideas about what counts as a conversation.

Overall, I’ve had a fun year applying the Bechdel test to my reading and it’s been quite eye opening to see what has/hasn’t passed the test. I think I’m going to carry on doing it into next year, because it’s quite fun to do, it’s not something I see on any other blogs and I’d like to have a larger sample size to see if the results from this year carry on into next year (or if I have a larger proportion of one or the other!). One thing I think I’m going to change though, is putting the Bechdel Test rating at the top of my reviews, so you guys don’t have to scroll all the way through to find them if you’re interested!

I’m going to have another discussion post for you quite soon, my first of 2019, as I want to talk about my 2019 Reading/Writing/Life Resolutions! In the meantime, I will have my last review of the year and my End of Year Check In up hopefully tomorrow, my End of Year Check In will definitely be tomorrow, my last review of the year might end up being my first review of 2019!


2018 End of Year Book Survey

The End of Year Book Survey is an end of year event created by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner as a way of looking back and hopefully celebrating, our year of reading and blogging. I’ve been doing it since 2015 and have found it a great way to wrap my year, so I’m doing it again this year. You can find the questions on Jamie’s blog here:

2018 Reading Stats:

Number of Books You Read: 35

Number of Re-Reads: 0

Genre You Read The Most From: Fantasy

Best In Books

  1. Best Book You Read In 2018

Tara Sim’s Firestarter doesn’t come out until the end of January, but I luckily got it off Edelweiss to read in October and it was INCREDIBLE. Emotional, high stakes, creative, with the most adorable m/m romance I think I have ever read, it was everything I wanted in the finale of this trilogy and more and blew pretty much everything else I read this year out of the water.

2. Book You Were Excited About And Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t

I think Hero of The Fall was probably my biggest disappointment of the year, I loved Rebel of The Sands so much and enjoyed Traitor To The Throne and it seemed like Hero was going to be a super exciting conclusion but I found it kind of lacklustre and overly long, which was such a shame because the series had so much promise originally.

3. Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read?

I would probably say Nadine Brandes Fawkes! I had never heard of it, or her before I red it, requested it on a whim because it sounded really good and I ended up really enjoying it!

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read and They Did?

I don’t know if I have a specific book, but I know I’ve been flailing about V.E. Schwab everywhere this year, so I guess her books?

5. Best series you started in 2018? Best Sequel of 2018? Best Series Ender of 2018?

Funnily enough, my three favourite books of 2018 all fit in these categories-though not necessarily in the order given!

Best series I started in 2018 was the Legacy of Orisha series, with Children of Blood and Bone. Children of Blood and Bone was so refreshingly new and different (albeit with some familiar tropes) and it was just such a fun, diverse, action packed adventure story and I can’t wait to see what happens in the sequel next year.

Best sequel of 2018 was Legendary (funnily enough Caraval was my answer for the first part of this question last year), it was even better than the first book in the series and I loved getting to dive back into the world of Caraval through Tella’s eyes this time.

Best series ender of 2018 was without a doubt Firestarter, it was beautifully written, a rollercoaster of emotions and such a damn satisfying conclusion to the Timekeeper trilogy.

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2018?

AH NO FAIR. I discovered so many amazing new authors this year, it’s ridiculously hard to pick one, so I’m going to be a bit of a cheater and list several, whose have books that I’m already ridiculously excited for releasing next year:

-Tomi Adeyemi-Obviously Children of Blood and Bone was a masterpiece and I cannot wait to see how Zelie and Amari’s story continues in Children of Virtue and Vengeance next year (funny story, I have listed it as one of my most anticipated reads so often on Instagram, my phone now remembers it!).

-Laura Steven-The Exact Opposite of Okay was so wonderfully hilarious and I’m so excited to see more of Izzy’s hijinks in A Girl Called Shameless next year (my phone has also learned this book title because I’ve talked about it so much already!). She’s also amazing on Instagram and her black labrador puppy Obi is so cute!

-Amanda Foody-I really enjoyed both Daughter of The Burning City and Ace of Shades this year and I’m super excited to see what happens next in Enne and Levi’s adventures in King of Fools. Also I love her Instagram, her cat Jelly Bean is the cutest thing ever!

-Nadine Brandes-I’ve already talked about how much I loved Fawkes, and I’m already stoked for her release next year, Romanov, which is a retelling of the Romanovs but with magic. The fact that I know there is someone out there doing fantasy retellings of historical events makes my history nerd, fantasy loving heart very happy.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Well it wasn’t really out of my comfort zone, since I have been a long time lover of Jodi Picoult’s books, I’ve been reading them since I was like 13, but considering I don’t read a lot of non fantasy adult fiction, A Spark of Light certainly counts as a book from a genre I don’t usually read much of, yet of course I loved it, because Jodi Picoult is a master of storytelling.

8. Most action packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Probably Firestarter! It did take a little bit to get into but once it got going, man it didn’t let you go and I swear, by the final ten chapters I was like, I cannot put this down, I need to know how this ends for my faves!

9. Book You Read In 2018 that you would be most likely to re-read next year?

Probably none! I’m coming to accept that I just don’t have time to reread anymore, I don’t have much time with Uni, so I kind of have to prioritise potential new favourites over much loved old ones!

10. Favourite Cover of A Book You Read In 2018?

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic (Grisha Verse, #0.5, #2.5, #2.6)

It was so hard to pick a favourite cover for this year, because so many books I’ve read have had such beautiful covers, but I have to go with this beautiful Bardugo cover, it’s so perfect for a fairy tale book, but with that little bit of bite that you would expect from Leigh Bardugo.

11. Most Memorable Character of 2018?

This one is actually quite easy this year, I have to go with Izzy O’Neill from The Exact Opposite of Okay. I have never read a book with a character that reminded me so much of myself before, Izzy surpasses even Hermione on that level, reading about her and my friends was like seeing somewhat of a reflection of my own life, which was so wonderful.

12. Most beautifully written book of 2018?

Without meaning to sound like a broken record, I have to go with Firestarter again for this one. Tara Sim just has such a wonderful way with words, and her writing just seeps into your soul and clings onto it, it’s that good.

13. Most Thought Provoking/Life Changing Book of 2018?

I’ll have to go with A Spark of Light here. Jodi Picoult’s books are always incredibly powerful and thought provoking, and although A Spark of Light more reinforced what I already believed about abortion (I’m pro-choice), it’s always good to see a wide range of perspectives and to understand why people think the way they do and ultimately to start a conversation and I will definitely be using Picoult’s book as an example of why choice is so vital if ever asked!

14. Book You Can’t Believe You Waited Until 2018 To Finally Read?

Vicious! I mean granted, I only discovered VE Schwab in 2016, so I haven’t been reading her books for long, but Vicious was so wicked and twisty and just generally amazing that I can’t believe it took me this long to get to it.

15. Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read in 2018?

“You see, some people are born with a piece of night inside, and that hollow place can never be filled – not with all the good food or sunshine in the world. That emptiness cannot be banished, and so some days we wake with the feeling of the wind blowing through, and we must simply endure it as the boy did.” -The Language of Thorns, Leigh Bardugo

This quote is just beautiful and really resonated with me.

16. Shortest and Longest Book You Read in 2018?

Shortest Book: Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor-256 pages

Longest Book; Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Maas-672 pages (yup she’s back in the top slot!)

17. Book That Shocked You The Most?

Our Dark Duet! That ending completely blew my mind, I had to read it again, to make sure that I’d actually understood what was happening.

18. OTP of The Year

Danny and Colton! I was rooting for the two of them so hard during Firestarter.

19. Favourite Non-Romantic Relationship of The Year

I’m going to go with The Dregs for this one, I know there are romantic relationships between the different members of the group, but overall, they are great, if slightly dysfunctional friends and I love the witty banter between them.

20. Favourite Book You Read In 2018 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

Legendary by Stephanie Garber! I loved Caraval, but I thought Legendary was just an incredible step up and I cannot wait to see how she ties up the trilogy in Finale.

21. Best Book You Read In 2018 That You Read Based Solely on A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram etc:

I read Children of Blood and Bone largely off the recommendation from a bookseller in my local Waterstones and I loved it! Thank you Louise 🙂

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2018?

I have to go with Dante for this one, we don’t really get to know him much in Caraval but he really comes to the fore in Legendary, and it’s easy to see why Tella falls for him.

23. Best 2018 debut you read?

Children of Blood and Bone without a doubt! I cannot wait to see where Tomi Adeyemi goes next after her explosive debut.

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?

I have to go with Fawkes for this one, the whole colour magic system with the magic being controlled by different coloured masks, all within Stuart era London, was inspired!

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most Fun To Read?

The Exact Opposite of Okay wins hands down for this one, definitely the funniest book that I’ve read all year, but with a very important message.

26. Book That Made You Cry/Or Nearly Cry In 2018?

Rose Under Fire. I felt so strongly for Rose and her friends that when I read the terrible things happening to them in Ravensbruck, especially knowing that these things happened to real people, I couldn’t help but cry, which is unusual for me!

27. Hidden Gem of The Year?

By A Charm And A Curse by Jaime Questell, it’s kind of like Pinocchio combined with a circus story and it was pretty darn awesome!

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Firestarter. I mean I loved it, but damn it hurt me. Tara Sim, why did you wish to crush my feelings? Why?

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2018?

I think I’m going to have to go for For A Muse of Fire with this one. Heidi Heilig balanced French Colonialism with Asian cultures so beautifully, and I have to say it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before, particularly given that it had a main character with a mental illness which is actively talked about, which is annoyingly rare in YA fantasy.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad?

Sea Witch made me incredibly mad because I was expecting it to be this amazing Ursula retelling and I ended up finding it super boring.

Your Blogging/Bookish Life

  1. New favourite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube Channel You Discovered in 2018?

I’m going to plug my friend here, and tell you all to visit my friend Hannah’s blog, Books, Life and Other Oddities, because she has some great content, and she also has an awesome Bookstagram account under the same name.

2. Favourite post you wrote in 2018?

I didn’t get much response to this one, which was a shame because I really loved writing it but I thought I’d share it here because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, I talked about the concept of guilty pleasures and why I think quite frankly, that it’s bullshit.

3. Favourite bookish related photo you took in 2018?

I quite liked this one of my newly acquired purchases in July, I think they’re very pretty books and my shelf looked great. Bonus-I’m reading all of these as part of my #RockMyTBR Challenge in 2019!

4. Best bookish event you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, etc)?

I have to go with YALC again this year, we got to see so many great authors, Hannah brought her friend Hannah (yes they’re both called Hannah, it’s confusing) along, so there were even more of us this year and I bought some great books.

5. Best moment of blogging/bookish life in 2018?

I reached 1000 followers in October, and I was so thrilled by that, my blog has been going from strength to strength in the last few years, I got the highest number of views ever this year and I reached this milestone following, so I’m feeling incredibly proud and grateful for this little blog right now.

6. Most challenging thing about your blogging/reading life this year?

This probably won’t change until after next year when I’m no longer a Uni student (AHHHHHHHH!), but again, balancing blogging/reading with Uni.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

I did this by views last year, so I’m going to go by comments this year, even though I always get a lot more views than I do comments. I wasn’t actually expecting this particular post to be my most commented on, I mean I know my most commented posts are always Top Ten Tuesdays, but I honestly couldn’t even remember what #148, Books We Could Re-Read Forever was! Still I’m glad you guys liked it.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Aside from the discussion post I mentioned earlier, I would love it if this post got a little bit more love as it was quite a personal one for me:

9. Best bookish discovery this year?

Ooh you know, I don’t think I have one!

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Yes! You’ll have more details of them when I post my End of Year Check In on New Year’s Eve.

Looking Ahead

  1. One Book You Didn’t Get To Into 2018 But Will Be Your Number One Priority In 2019?

Well I started Kingdom of Ash, my most anticipated release for 2018, but I didn’t finish it, so I will definitely be prioritising that!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2019 (non-debut)?

Has to be Priory of The Orange Tree! I mean I’m not going to lie, the size intimidates me, but I will read anything with dragons in it and Samantha Shannon has yet to let me down, so I’m diving in!

3. 2019 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Has to be The Devouring Gray! I’ve been hearing so much about it, and it sounds so up my street, so I’m looking forward to finally reading it.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating In 2019?

I’m going to do one for each here, because there are two books that fit this perfectly. Children of Virtue and Vengeance because I can’t wait to see what happens next in Zelie and Amari’s story and Finale because I can’t wait to see how Tella and Scarlett’s wraps up.

5. One Thing You Hope To Do/Accomplish In Your Reading/Blogging Life in 2019?

I really want to get my Netgalley ratio up to 80%! I have a pretty high ratio anyway, at 71% now, and I get approved far more than rejected, which is great, but I’d like to reach that all elusive 80% next year!

6. A 2019 release you’ve already read and recommended to everyone?

Well I’ve only read Firestarter, but I have recommended it to everyone, so it counts! It’s out January 15th!

Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2)


Book: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2)

Author: V.E. Schwab

This was my #RockMyTBR read for December after I swapped Wonder Woman out with it because I wasn’t really feeling it. I was a little unsure about this one because I wasn’t all that keen on This Savage Song, but I’m glad that I decided to finish out this duology, because the second book was so much better than the first one! The pacing was still a little off, the first couple of parts were pretty slow and the second two were racing along at breakneck speed, but the characters were far more fleshed out in this one, the emotional stakes felt higher and I just generally found it more enjoyable. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Kate Harker is a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human. Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is a terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows -one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons- Kate must face a monster she thought she’d killed, a boy she thought she knew and a demon all her own …

I have to admit right off the bat that I barely remembered any of This Savage Song when I picked up this book! I mean I’ve read 64 books between This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet, so naturally, I don’t remember much of what happened in This Savage Song. Honestly, it didn’t really matter much though, I remembered enough of the end and getting into the story, there had been a six month time jump anyway, so it wasn’t like going into ACOL after AGOS where it picked up from the same point it left off.

The writing, as expected from Victoria Schwab was stunning. The prelude was especially gorgeous, honestly, Victoria Schwab has a way of creating sheer magic with the power of her words and I wish that one day I might be able to write as beautifully as she does. It never feels overdone as well, like in some books, every word choice is simple, but effective and it makes her writing a joy to read. The free verse was an unexpected treat as well, I don’t usually like poetry but I thought it worked so well here.

I loved the titles of the different sections and the way that like in the first book, the book was split into “verses” as well as a “prelude” and an “elegy”.

As I said in the beginning, the pacing was a little off. The first two verses were a little slow and it seemed as if in the last two verses, Schwab almost overcompensated, and they were faster paced than the story could handle. Still it helped that the chapters were relatively short, as this helped stem some of the pacing issues, not completely, but it would have been far worse if the first two verses had had lengthy chapters and been slow paced. It also took far too long for Kate and August to be reunited, given that their dynamic is central to the story.

I didn’t feel like the sections with Kate in Prosperity at the beginning really added much, we don’t get to learn much about Prosperity, Kate’s “friends” kind of just seem like fill in characters, they’re not really developed enough for you to care about them and because you’ve missed the past six months of Kate’s life you don’t really understand why she cares about them so much.

There is some decent diversity in this book, Kate’s new friend Riley from Prosperity is gay, there is a new monster Soro who is non-binary, Kate herself is deaf in one ear, Ilsa is mute and Emily Flynn is black, so it’s not a cast made up of entirely straight, white, cis, ablebodied people.

I enjoyed seeing the character development of both Kate and August in this book, Kate felt somewhat bland in the first book, but this second book embraces all of her flaws and complexities and we really get to see her come into her own character rather than attempting to be a carbon of her father. August’s journey is equally interesting, as he starts off trying to emulate the coldness of his brother Leo and embrace his monstrous side more, so his journey is more about trying to reconnect with the person he once was which was great to see. Both characters felt more raw and real to me in this book and I found myself connecting with them more, which was great.

I didn’t love that Kate and August’s previously platonic friendship from the last book had to be extended into something romantic here-granted it’s only one kiss and doesn’t get explored much further but we have such a dire lack of strictly platonic male/female friends that it felt like a bit of a slap in the face, not to mention unnecessary pandering to shippers to have that kiss in there. Kate and August have never shown any hints of romantic interest in each other and the random kiss just didn’t really fit.

I would have liked Soro to be more developed, I think he had the potential to be a really interesting character but he wasn’t really given the space for development, so he felt kind of flat. I felt the same way about Ilsa, she’s such an interesting character, but I didn’t feel like she was utilised well enough.

I also would have liked a little more world building, we barely get to know anything about Prosperity and even after two books in Verity, I don’t feel like I know it all that well and we know nothing about the other places in the world.

I felt the same way about the Chaos Eater monster, I thought it was a great idea, a monster that takes over people’s brains and makes them do violent things, but we don’t get enough real information about it, how it came to be, why it doesn’t affect Kate in the same way as everyone else. As much as I thought it was a great monster, I would have loved to know more about it. It also seemed incredibly easy to get rid of, for something supposedly so dangerous, I felt like that part of the book was a little rushed. Still, Schwab has proven time and time again that she knows how to write a good villain, between Alice, Sloan and the Chaos Eater, the villains in this book were off the charts!

I loved the action scenes in this book-they were so much better than the last book and the darkness quotient was definitely upped, which I really loved. I particularly loved the climactic fight between Kate and Alice, I thought Schwab did an excellent job with that one.

It was really interesting to see Kate interact with August’s family, I don’t think they did in the last one, so it was nice to see how that dynamic unfolded through the book.

There were quite a few editing errors, I’m wondering if Schwab didn’t have as long to work on this one as some of her others, because there were a couple of easy mistakes in the book in terms of spelling and grammar that I don’t usually find in her books.

The whole Sloan hunting down Kate’s lookalikes thing was incredibly creepy-I realise why Sloan’s POV was necessary in this book, but his was definitely my least favourite.

Some of the climax did feel a little rushed, but it was ultimately satisfying-I did not see that ending coming at all, and I was quite surprised by how emotional it made me. I can totally understand why Schwab chose to end it like that, and a happy ending would not have fitted at all, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a gut punch! I do personally prefer more closed endings, but in this book, I don’t think it would have fitted, so Schwab made the right call.

The Elegy, I felt this time around was somewhat unnecessary, although ending it at the end of Verse 4 would have been brutal, I felt like leaving it on that emotional punch would have been better, but maybe I’m just sadistic like that!

Overall, this was a much better book than This Savage Song and whilst I don’t think the Monsters of Verity duology will ever be my favourite Schwab series, I did enjoy this book a lot more than I was expecting to, so I am really pleased with that!

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Mony and Kate have a conversation about weapons in the Flynn compound.

My next review, which will be either my last of 2018 or first of 2019 depending on when I finish it, will be of Heather Dixon Wallwork’s The Enchanted Sonata.



Top Ten Tuesday #191


Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week in the run up to Christmas, and that you all got the presents that you wanted under the tree this morning! My family usually has a relatively quiet Christmas, we opened presents this morning and we’ll be having our Christmas lunch later on (duck for me and my mum, turkey legs for my dad-my mum and I aren’t massive turkey fans!) and vegging out in front of the TV for the rest of the day. Which brings me quite nicely on to today’s topic. We were meant to be talking about Books We Hope To Find Under The Tree This Morning, but as expected, I did not receive all that many books (though I did get two great ones courtesy of my sister) so instead, I’m talking about Christmas TV/Movies I’m Looking Forward To Watching Over The Festive Period (basically between now and New Year’s Day):

  1. Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special-Today

The Strictly Christmas special is a tradition in our house, we watch it every year, so I have no doubt that we will be watching again this year, it’s such a feel good show, so a great thing to have on  Christmas Day!

2. Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show-Today

My family loves Michael McIntyre, we first went to see him on tour when I was 13 and my parents complained that the jokes were all way too inappropriate for me (they weren’t). Anyway, we enjoy Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, so we’re quite likely to watch the Christmas special.

3. Call The Midwife Christmas Special-Today

The Call The Midwife Christmas special is another annual tradition in our family, although why Call The Midwife wants everyone in floods of tears on Christmas Day, I do not know!

4. The Great Christmas Bake Off-Today

Unfortunately The Great Christmas Bake Off is on at the same time as Call The Midwife, and since I’m the only one in my family who really likes Bake Off, I imagine I will probably be watching it on catch up in the next few days. Baking and Christmas is the perfect combination!

5. Spy In The Snow-30th December

This is another one of those hidden camera shows, where you get to see how wildlife interacts in their natural habit through the use of hidden cameras and I always find them super sweet so I will probably be watching this one.

6. Graham Norton’s New Year’s Eve Show-31st December

I don’t think I’m actually going to be in to watch this, since my family is going out on New Year’s Eve, but I would really like to watch it, since Olivia Colman is going to be on and I’m hoping that she might be talking about the new series of The Crown!

7. Doctor Who New Year Special-New Year’s Day

It’s going to be a little strange watching Dr Who on New Year rather than Christmas this year, but I’m really excited for the New Year special-Jodie Whittaker is the first doctor I’ve actually enjoyed since David Tennant so I’m excited to see her first special as the Doctor.

8. The Great Festive Bake-Off-New Years Day

The second of Bake-Off’s festive specials, although I might miss a little of it, because of the Dr Who special, but I definitely want to watch it, as I said before, there’s nothing better than baking and Christmas.

So there we go, a slightly shorter list this time around, but there’s not as much that I want to watch over the festive season this year. What are you looking forward to watching over the festive period? Do we share any? My international followers, what kind of things do you get on TV over Christmas? Let me know in the comments!

Well that was it, the last TTT of 2018! I’ll be back with another TTT next week, for my first one of the New Year, where we’ll be talking about our Best Books of 2018, a nice way to round off 2018 and look forward to 2019.

In the meantime, I have a lot for you to still look forward to before 2018 is over, I’ll be getting my final discussion post of December, my End of Year Survey, my last #RockMyTBR update of 2018 and my End of Year Check in, all up in the next few days, so stay tuned!

Quarterly Rewind (September-December ’18 edition)

Hi everyone! It’s nearly Christmas, I can’t believe how fast this year has sped by, it felt like January went on forever and yet here we are, blink of an eye and it’s December. Anyway, since today is the Winter Solstice and the official beginning of Winter (though Winter started in Scotland pretty much in November), it’s time to do another Quarterly Rewind, a feature started by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner, where we look back at the season just gone and look forward to all the things we have coming up next season. This post will cover 23rd September-20th December:

Image from this Autumn:

christmas 2018

My friends came up to visit from Saturday-Tuesday and I took them up to see Stirling Castle on Sunday (our first trip there since they started coming four years ago!). This was a picture we took up there.

Favourite Quote from A Book You Read This Autumn:

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.” -A Spark of Light, Jodi Picoult

There are so many amazing quotes from this particular book, Jodi Picoult is an incredible writer, but this one just especially touched me.

This Autumn In One Word:


Most Popular Review This Autumn:

I read 6 books in the period that this Rewind covers, and have reviewed 5 of them (the sixth was an ARC and the review will be coming closer to its release date). The most popular of these (just!) was my review of For A Muse of Fire. Here is my review of it:

Top Two Books I Read This Autumn:

Another relatively easy choice for me this time, as two books I read this autumn definitely stood out above the others:

  1. Firestarter-Tara Sim-My absolute favourite book of the year, it was such an action-packed, dramatic and emotional finale and the perfect ending to this wonderful trilogy. I cannot wait to see what Tara Sim writes next because she’s quickly becoming one of my favourite writers.
  2. A Spark of Light-Jodi Picoult-I’ve been waiting for such a long time to read a Jodi Picoult book that tackled abortion and I was not disappointed by the results, it was a powerful, emotional and nuanced look at the topic and not a story I will be forgetting anytime soon.

Two Things I’m Looking Forward To This Winter:

  1. Christmas-Let’s start with the obvious, Christmas is on Tuesday and naturally I’m really excited about it, it’s my favourite time of the year.
  2. HAMILTON-I’m going to see Hamilton in February-actually two months today! I WILL BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS PEOPLE (I have absolutely no chill when it comes to Hamilton, you’ll get used to it) and I could not be more excited.

Three New Obsessions This Winter:

  1. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel-I actually watched S1 all the way back in March, so I probably should have included it in that rewind post, but if anything, I loved S2 even more than I loved S1, so colour me truly obsessed now. It’s basically everything I love: comedy, strong women and fifties clothing!
  2. Anna and The Apocalypse-My friends and I went to see this Christmas zombie musical in the cinema a couple of weeks ago, and it has the most amazing soundtrack!
  3. A Star Is Born soundtrack-I love the soundtrack to this movie, it’s so beautiful, I just want to cry every time I hear it.

Five Most Popular Blog Posts This Autumn:

As always, my five most popular blog posts this autumn were all Top Ten Tuesday posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday #182-My most popular Top Ten Tuesday post was this one, where I talked about the Villains Books on My TBR. You guys clearly love your villains!

2. Top Ten Tuseday #190-This was actually this week’s topic, where I talked about the books on my Winter TBR. I was really happy that this one did so well, as I haven’t really had the time to go blog hopping in the last few weeks, so my views have been kind of down, it was nice to see them go back up again!

3. Top Ten Tuesday #180-I wasn’t actually expecting this one to be so popular, I talked about the longest books I’ve ever read. I tell you, compared to some of the answers I saw on this week, the longest books I’ve ever read are practically short!

4. Top Ten Tuesday #181-I’m so happy that this one made it onto my most popular posts of autumn, because it was one of my favourite ones to put together, I loved getting to go through the internet and look at all the beautiful pictures of bookstores and libraries around the world. I hope one day, I actually do get to visit them all.

5. Top Ten Tuesday #179-This post was all about the characters I’d love to meet and it was a super fun one to write because I got to think about all the fun things I’d get to do if my favourite fictional characters were real.

Four posts I’ve enjoyed on other blogs this Autumn:

  1. Vicky C did this great post about how YA and the YA book community isolates teens, she brought up some really notable problems that the publishing industry should be trying to work on, especially the fact that YA is really far too broad, and there should be more of a distinction between upper and lower YA.

2. Rae from Bookworm Chronicles did this awesome post about women not having children and how it should be something that is more normalised in our society and as someone who has been pretty certain in their decision not to have kids from quite a young age, I really appreciated this post.

3. Vicky C also did a guest post on Sprinkle of Dreams about the objectiveness of ARC reviews and I found it really insightful because it’s honestly something I’ve never really thought about before, I always just assumed my reviews were my honest opinions, but she is right, there are outside factors which influence those, that we maybe don’t take into account as much as we should. Basically what I’m saying is that you should all go follow Vicky because she does some great discussions!

4. Cait at Paper Fury did a great post looking at her most anticipated reads of the year and seeing if they met her expectations-it’s something I might think about borrowing next year, because it’s a cool idea, looking back at what you put on your most anticipated list and seeing if they actually lived up.

Five Things That Happened This Autumn

  1. I went to Sarah J Maas’ book event for Kingdom of Ash with my friend Nicola-it’s hard to believe that’s the last one for that series!
  2. My friends came up to visit for their annual Christmas trip, my favourite time of the year.
  3. I went to the Edinburgh Christmas market with my friends from Uni, Rebecca and Nicola.
  4. I reached 1000 followers on this blog!
  5. I wrote my 70th article for The National Student.

Six Songs I Listened To Way Too Often This Autumn:

  1. The Hamilton Instrumentals-I’ve found the Instrumental versions of the Hamilton soundtrack an incredible help to me whilst I study!
  2. The Math of Love Triangles-Crazy Ex-Girlfriend-I’ve had this song stuck in my head ever since I rewatched Crazy Ex this autumn.
  3. The End of The Movie-Crazy Ex-Girlfriend-Much like Math of Love Triangles, this song has been stuck in my head ever since my rewatch.
  4. It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas-Michael Buble-This has basically been on repeat ever since the Christmas season started.
  5. How Far I’ll Go-Moana-I’ve been listening to this one a lot since I watched the movie.
  6. Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Will Never Rescue You-The Last Five Years-This one comes up a lot on my shuffle.

So there we go guys, my last Quarterly Rewind of 2018! What have you enjoyed most on my blog this year? What have you been up to this Autumn? What are you looking forward to this Winter, books or otherwise? Let me know in the comments!