That’s right, the lizard and I still live!
I’ve been super busy recently. No, not with work (pffft) but with books!
There’s been a lot of reading and, most importantly, a lot of writing!
I’m super excited about what I’ve been working on, but I’m not gonna jinx it by giving it all away now. I can say that there’s gonna be a LOT of work to do, that 12 year old me would be very pleased with what I’m writing about and here’s a little hint about it:
Hah. Enjoy puzzling that one out.
Anyway, I decided to keep track of everything I read this year. I’ve never kept count of how many books I read or challenged myself to read more, so I was curious about how much I actually read.
And a couple of days ago I hit 50(2) !
What all this reading has really taught me is that I have got to branch out from my bubble of YA/fantasy/Sci-Fi- but I can’t stop! I love them so much!
It also taught me that NOTHING surprises me anymore. Someone please recommend a book with some amazing plot twists because I’ve read 52 books this year and I called every single ‘surprise’ plot twist in every single one.
Anyway, in no particular order, here’s a brief look at my favourite reads so far this year (not including any I’ve already reviewed)
1. Basically anything written by Claudia Gray
I’ve read so much from Claudia Gray this year! I picked up Lost Stars first, a story in the Star Wars canon set before the new trilogy. I don’t usually go for movie-books but I heard good things about this one and O.M.G. This book was incredible. The two main characters grow up believing that the Empire is a force for good and train to be pilots in the Imperial Academy. It was really interesting to get to see things from the Imperial side of things and get a better idea of why people would ever follow and support the things they do. But it’s more than just a Star Wars book (so read it even if you’re not a big fan); it’s a wonderful story about love and war, honour and duty, friendship and grief.
After that, I was hooked. I read Leia: Princess of Alderaan and Bloodline. I didn’t love them quite as much as Lost Stars and these are definitely more for the Star Wars fans. But, I did really, really enjoy them both. I mean, Leia is amazing so how could I not?!
I also read Claudia Gray’s own stories and loved them. The Constellation series is a great science fiction story about what it means to be human and the Firebird series takes place in multiple dimensions which means it is just a perfect package of adventures in different fascinating worlds.
2. To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
I’ve made a mistake. It started with a prince, as most stories do. Once I felt the thrum of his heart beneath my fingers, I couldn’t forget it
Don’t mistake the above quote as being romantic. Lira is a siren princess, the Prince’s Bane, and at the start of the book has ripped the hearts out of 17 princes’ chests; one on each birthday.
After she breaks the Sea Queen’s rules, she is punished and transformed into the one thing Lira hates above all else; a human. To return home, she must take the heart of Prince Elian, the siren killer. But, when she finds out that he is chasing a fairy tale to kill the Sea Queen, she decides to join the unsuspecting pirate/prince and bring down her mother for good.
You can see some inspirations and parallels with The Little Mermaid, but I would not describe it as a re-telling at all. It’s so much darker, bloodier, and brutal.
Lira is one of the best, ruthless anti-heroines I’ve ever read. Both she and Elian are fantastic, morally-grey characters and their chemistry, despite both wanting to kill each other, is great. In fact, all the characters are well developed and interesting, the worldbuilding is rich and wonderful and the writing is full of vivid imagery and action.
3. the Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel
The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability.
A narrative built through interviews, newspapers, recordings and diaries, this Sci-Fi series is incredibly compelling. I was worried that the way it’s written wouldn’t allow for very in-depth characterization, but it’s actually pulled off very well.
The story follows a team assembled by a mysterious stranger to find and piece together the scattered pieces of a gigantic robot that has been buried throughout Earth for centuries – long before humans had the technology to build such a machine.
It’s a really exciting, curious read and the second book actually did have twists I didn’t see coming!
The third one is already out and I neeeed it!
4. The Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden
These books (the first two anyway!) are so magically atmospheric; a beautiful and haunting fairy tale set in Russia that will make you feel a chill in your bones.
There’s an ongoing conflict between old superstition (with demons and fantastical creatures lurking in every shadow) and modern religions. Vasilisa, a spirited young girl, is one of the few people left willing to believe in and help the old spirits. It’s a world where woman have few choices in life and Vasilisa rejects them all.
Historical fantasy, frost-demons, forests and folklore… this is a dark and beautiful story.
5. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
You will find the way, daughter of the forest. Through grief and pain, through many trials, through betrayal and loss, your feet will walk a straight path.
This was a really lovely, enchanting book. I’ll be honest, it took me a while to really get into it and I think the start is a bit slower than it needs to be, but once I got into the flow I couldn’t put it down. It’s inspired by one of my favourite fairy tales and I loved it. To briefly sum up; Sorcha’s six brothers are cursed into swans by their evil stepmother and to free them she has to be mute for years and years while sewing together shirts spun from thorny plants.
She suffers some horrific, graphic abuse so be aware of this; it’s intense and often heartbreaking.
At the start of the book, I initially felt that Sorcha was a frustrating push-over but through her endurance and loyalty, you see that she has a different, softer kind of strength.
This book is lonely, hopeful, emotional and bittersweet.
6. The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White
These books are incredible.
The whole series is so dark and gritty and bloody and political and complex and badass and … just brilliant.
It’s not so much fantasy as a parallel universe historical fiction where Vlad the Impaler is a fierce, stubborn, savage young girl. It’s so fresh and original and ruthless.
Lada is one of the best anti- heroines I’ve ever read. She grows up determined not to let being a girl get in the way of earning her father’s love, or being stronger and more powerful than any man around her. She’s fiercely protective of her sweet and sensitive younger brother, and stubbornly loyal to her home country above all else.
Her brother, Radu, initially seems weak and delicate, but he slowly begins to discover his own way of gathering influence. Where Lada uses violence, Radu uses charm.
I loved, loved, loved the complexity of their relationship, and their relationship with son of the Sultan (and their captor), Mehmed. Navigating their changing relationships as they age and as war and politics wreak havoc in their lives was very real and raw and hopeful and hopeless and heartbreaking.
Also, Kiersten White has written a book about Elizabeth Frankenstein and one from the Buffy universe so OMGAAGHHHGSHKJHJ I think she may be favourite person on the planet. I can’t wait to read them!!
Those are some (but not all) of my top books so far this year. There’s so many amazing ones still on my to-read list! Feel free to recommend more for me, and I’ll see about getting some more reviews out!