Lifestyle Reviews

What I’ve been reading recently

We are halfway through March and I’ve now read 26 books so far this year. My Goodreads goal this year is to hit 75 (I fell short of my goal last year) so hopefully I can get there.

You can catch up on my past book round ups. Here’s my most recent one before this. 

Rawblood by Catriona Ward
It had all the elements of a gothic romance, but it didn’t quite pull it off. It follows the story of a family followed by bad luck, revenge and a curse through several generations and centers around their isolated Dartmoor manor house. I struggled with the language a bit. I felt that Ward was being obliquely poetic for the sake of it, but not actually using her words with purpose and force at times. 3 stars.

The Queen Of The Tearling: (The Tearling Trilogy 1) by Erika Johansen 
So this book is marketed as the “Hunger Games” meets “Game of Thrones” and that’s bullshit. However, I enjoyed this first novel immensely on its own merits. It’s set in a fantasy realm and follows the journey of Kelsea to claim her rightful crown in a world with a lot of danger and moderate magic. You could tell it was a set up for the whole series but it hooked me, and I bought the second on kindle before I’d finished this one. 4 stars.

The Invasion of the Tearling: (The Tearling Trilogy 2) (Queen of the Tearling) by Erika Johansen
In this second instalment, Kelsea has a tentative hold on the throne, but that doesn’t prevent disaster after disaster. I really enjoyed watching her come to terms with herself. I felt genuinely excited to see what happens next. 4 stars.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer 
So I loved, loved, loved Meyer’s “Lunar Chronicles” so I was super pumped about this “Alice in Wonderland” spin off. I really loved 3/4ths of it, but I resented the ending. I should have realised that that was the way it was headed given the source material, but I love me a happy ending and you most certainly are not given one. 3 stars. 

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed 
“Are you the book or the movie?” I’ll never be able to think about “Wild” now without thinking of the “Gilmore Girls”. I went through a whole gamut of emotions with Cheryl – at times I mourned with her, at times I laughed with her and at other times I hated her. But that’s being human, isn’t it? It didn’t affect me as deeply as I think the novel would have wanted to, though it did make me want to go hiking.  3 stars. 

Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 
This is a series of essays that Coates writes to his young son about race in America today. It’s a supremely thoughtful examination of the way America treats black bodies and the systematic construction of a framework in America meant to oppress. (Mass incarceration and police brutality are both touched upon.) I think it should be required reading in high school. It’s heartbreaking and profound. 5 stars.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 1: 1/3 by Laini Taylor
This book is about the fight between angels and monsters and is semi-set in Prague. It was definitely a fluffy YA fantasy read (and it is full fantasy) but it didn’t push any creative boundaries. 3 stars. 

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay 
A woman is kidnapped in Haiti and her father refuses to pay her ransom. This book was so hard to get through due to its *graphic* subject matter. It’s brutal and should come with all kinds of trigger warnings. It’s Roxane Gay’s first fiction novel and I’m excited to read more in the future. My biggest piece of criticism is that some of the relationships seem very one-dimensional and I wish they had been developed a bit more. 3 stars. 

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Rodard 
Set in Paris in a complicated world where fallen angels rule and neighbourhoods are divided up amongst different factions (houses). I really liked our protagonist, Phillippe, but the plot really failed to excite. Humans harvesting angel bodies for magic shouldn’t be dull but it was. 2 stars.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: How to stop spending time you don’t have doing things you don’t want to do with people you don’t like by Sarah Knight.
This isn’t going to necessarily change your life, but Knight’s book centers around giving you tips on how to care less so that you have more time for the things that you really do care for. At times I laughed along, and I definitely made my own lists as she encouraged us to, but there is a slightly repetitive nature to the book. 3 stars. 

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi 
I found the gorgeous cover and the blurb about the book more appealing than the actual book itself. It follows a first-generation Polish-American girl named Boy Novak as she starts a new life for herself outside of New York City. It was marketed as a fairy tale re-telling and I think that was a huge marketing misstep because it set up completely false expectations within the reader, and the dialogue never really rang true. However, to it’s credit, I did find it engrossing. 3 stars. 

Tales of Mystery & the Macabre (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural) by Elizabeth Gaskell 
Gaskell is known for her pioneering social novels in the 1840s, but she also wrote a lot of macabre Gothic lit as well. It’s not a collection of Victorian ghost stories as there aren’t a whole lot of actual ghosts in the novels. But they are creepy and macabre in other ways. As a collection it’s a really mixed bag of stories, but a solid 3 stars.

The Fate of the Tearling: (The Tearling Trilogy 3) by Erika Johansen
This series was so freaking good that I want to disown the last 50 pages of the finale. It was awful and it ruined the whole series. I don’t want to spoil anything but it was such an authorial cop out that I am pretending that it wasn’t the real ending so that I can continue to enjoy the series retrospectively. 2 stars. 

Agnes Grey (Wordsworth Classics) by Anne Bronte 
This totally seems like the original nanny diaries. And because I have been a nanny it really resonated with me. Though, thank god, I’m not working in the 1800s. I’m not sure that the romantic element worked for me. but it was a quick “classic” read. 3 stars. 

The Burning Page (The Invisible Library series) by Genevieve Cogman 
The latest instalment in the “Library” series. I actually enjoyed this one more than the last. I am a huge Irene-Vale shipper and there were some tantalising bits in this. 4 stars. 

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty 
I’ve seen the film multiple times but I’d never read the novel that it was based on. Of course, reading it now, it was hard to get the film out of my head. It was different enough to the film to still have some elements that were exciting in their newness, but there are still some elements of the plot that are a bit vague to me. (I have the same problem with the film, in all fairness). Not for the faint of heart when it comes to language. 3 starts. 

Of All That Ends by Gunter Grass 
I adored some of Grass poetry. It was really great to see his art too. This book was a collection that looks back on his long life and his preparations to pass on one day soon. 3 stars. 

The Doll-Master And Other Tales Of Horror by Joyce Carol Oates 
A collection of short horror stories. Some were markedly better than others so it’s a difficult thing to judge. I’d give it a safe 3 stars as a collection. 

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer 
I generally like Amy Schumer’s comedy. And I liked reading her book – but it didn’t rock my world so to speak. (She’s covered a lot of it in other formats in the past.) I couldn’t help but compare it to Lindy West’s novel which was phenomenal. 3 Stars. 

The New Garconne: How to Be a Modern Gentlewoman by Navaz Baltiwalla 
I really enjoyed this. It did feel like reading a study magazine, in some ways (short articles, snippets). But I absolutely loved getting a peek into the wardrobes of and the inspirations to some of the most influential women working in media and art today. 4 stars. 

Bloom: navigating life and style by Estee Lalonde 
I honestly applaude Estee for being so successful so young, but it felt like this book was hugely under-developed. She touches on some really interesting concepts in her essays, but fails to examine them enough to make it worth reading. It’s very cotton-candy self-acceptance without getting to the meat of it. However, I’d overlook that for the most part except that this book was not edited. Or if it was, this editor was awful. There were grammar and spelling errors, as well as glaring typos galore! It’s a pretty coffee table book, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Just read her blog instead. 2 stars. 

The Devil’s Daughters by Diana Bretherick 
Never has there been a novel about a serial killer as boring as this one. The blurb on the back sounded amazing, but the writing is dull. I’ve never quit a book after starting it due to boredom, but this was almost a first for me. 2 stars. 

The Harrowing by James Aitcheson
My inner history nerd really enjoyed this tale of 5 strangers in England during the time of the Norman invasion. I did have to keep flipping back to the glossary at the beginning to translate place names into their modern equivalents but it was a light piece of historical fiction. 3 stars.  

The Fireman by Joe Hill
This was my favourite Joe Hill novel that I’ve read so far. At 700+ pages it was a time investment, but it flew by. It reminded me of Stephen King’s “The Stand” but only in the best possible ways. I very much enjoyed this semi-post apocalyptic novel. Plus I really appreciated some of its pop culture references. 4 stars. 

My top 3 picks from this bunch? “Between the World and Me” “The Fireman” and “The Tearling series”. 

Have you been reading anything recently that is excellent and that you’d highly recommend?

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  • I love the Queen of the Tearling series too – and wholeheartedly agree re. the ending. Let’s write our own! Ps. 26 is excellent progress!!

    • I don’t want to spoil it for people who are in the middle but it’s just…UGH. We definitely need to catch up, especially now that we have a new book ending to write! x

  • 26 books in less than 3 months? impressive! I did that many in the whole year last year:)

    • Haha, thanks Tanja! I got 20 of them read on honeymoon so my progress has really slowed down since then! x

  • BAH! You always make me feel like such an illiterate pleb with how much you read. I’m not reading anything right now and I feel sooooo guilty. Just like blogging guilt, reading guilt is a thing. My life is just guilt these days. Dammit, I’m charging my eReader. 5pm tube, there will be reading.

    • You have no reason to feel guilty because you are doing 100 million other life things. I’ve jus spent more time reading than talking lately. (Sorry Sam!) Plus 90% of these books were read in Thailand whilst relaxing so it will never be this many again. x

  • SO MANY BOOKS. I’m sooo disappointed to hear the ending of Tearling is bad!!! I’m waiting til payday to buy book 2 and now I’m scared haha xx

    • Book 2 is really good. And so is 90% of Book 3. It’s just the ending that’s the worst. But like Emma said below, we can just invent our own *better* ending. x

  • Oh wow this is so impressive! I’m really behind the mark this year but hoping I’ll be able to make it up x
    Sophie Cliff

    • You have so many excuses to be behind your reading goal that it makes sense! Wedding planning year is the most randomly busy – I know I fell behind my goal last year, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about! xx

  • You are killing it in the reading game! This is my second semester of grad school, so my reading has really fallen behind this year so far, and it’s so sad.

    In other news, your bookshelf is lovely.

    • Oh man, when you’re in grad school all bets are off. I think I only read like 3 books for fun the entire time I was doing my MA! x

      • Yeah! It’s definitely a struggle, but I still try to fit it in where I can!

  • Wow that is impressive, virtual high five to you! I wasn’t doing too badly at the start of the year but this month I’ve really slowed. I will definitely have to give Between the World and Me a go really soon. I recently finished reading The Ashes of London which was really good. I’ve been a bit at a loss as to what to get started on next so I will definitely be checking out some others of these too! x

    • Oh! I’ll have to put Ashes of London on my goodreads list then! Thanks for the suggestion! x

  • OH MAN. I wish we could get together with a cup of coffee and discuss Heartless. I freaking LOVED it. But then again, I have a strong thirst for revenge. And Meyer’s set up the lead so well with all the horrible people around her and everything going to shit. It felt like a very satisfying and a, controversially, happy ending to me. But not in the traditional sense obviously. Now, I’m going to need you to go read Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas and come get obsessed with this series with me. I’m on the fourth book and loving it. How unusual to have a lead in a YA novel be confident about her abilities and not feel like a freak. Also, she has a strong thirst for revenge, so obviously I relate. Oh man….I should start a new blog called: Long Comments I leave On Amanda’s Blog. xx

    • I’m adding Throne of Glass to my list as I type.

      Haha, I just desperately wanted the hatter to not go mad, though, obviously, I knew he was going to! A girl just wanted to make some cakes, you know? πŸ˜‰ xx

      • I agree, Throne of Glass and Mass’ other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses is just as good (if not better). Also, my pet hate is poorly-edited books. Drives me crazy!

  • Ooh, awesome job keeping on top of your reading so far this year! You’re definitely putting yourself in a good position to meet that yearly goal. I’ve actually only read one book off this list, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I definitely seemed to enjoy it a lot more than you but YA reads are my go-to so it’s not too surprising. Do you plan on reading the rest of the series?

    I’ve both curious and afraid after reading your thoughts on The Tearling Trilogy. I remember seeing a lot of hype for it when it was published but have sort of forgotten about it. Your thoughts on the first two made me excited about it and then your thoughts on those final 50 pages – eek! I’ve read series where the finales have ruined my enjoyment of the whole thing and those are heartbreaking every time. Not sure I can handle another.

    Anyways, keep it going! I love reading your brief thoughts on all your reads.

    • Hahaha I read a LOT of YA too, “Daughter Of” just didn’t do it for me. (I like the monster element, but find the angels a bit dull?)

      My feelings on the Tearling Trilogy are so divided. On one hand I RACED through them because 2 3/4 were brilliant. I’d say read it and then try to erase the memory of the ending from your mind πŸ˜‰ Though that’s totally biased – some people really like the ending! (I especially liked the second book in the series.) xx

      • Ah, that’s fair enough! The first of the Daughter of Smoke and Bones series was my favorite so if you weren’t fully feeling it from the get go, I’m not sure I’d recommend continuing. (Though I do believe I’m in the minority for that particular series.) In the meantime, I’ll have to see if I can fit the Tearling Trilogy onto my TBR. Thanks πŸ™‚ x

  • woodenwindowsills

    What a brilliant list to go through, I really like the sound of The fireman – have you read Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel? That’s sort of post-apocolyptic and was a fantastic read! Alice xxx

    • I read Station Eleven last year and really enjoyed it! One of my favourite subplots in that was with the famous actor before the post-apocalyptic nightmare began. (Though that was all good too.) x

  • Laura Torninoja

    Oh my goodness! I’m so impressed by this list – I’ve only read two books so far! πŸ˜€ I need to step up my game. Luckily there’s a lot of good recommendations here haha x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

    • Haha it’s only because I had some much reading time whilst we were on honeymoon – otherwise I’d have about 20 fewer books on this list! x

  • OMG, I absolutely agree with you on the Tearling saga! I was so excited with the first two books and soo eagerly waited the third book and then the ending happened and I wanted to through the book out. It was kind of nice to see the kind of world that was in the end, but to me it just ruined this story πŸ™


    • YES! I’m so glad that someone else understands! I was so excited for that third book and then hated the end. I don’t want to post spoilers here on what I think should have happened instead but……. I know how I think I would have preferred it to end…. x

      • I can understand that! I too was imagining a very different ending. I probably need to write it down to replace the other ending in my mind, haha πŸ˜€

  • That’s a lot of reading

  • And here I am struggling with my Goodreads goal of 12 books! I love this list and will be putting some of these on my to read list! Love all the fantasy books. I haven’t read a good one in a while! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks lovely! I read most of these books were read on honeymoon – I’ve definitely slowed down since we’ve been back! I fell short of my goal last year, so hopefully this year I won’t! x

  • All I can see here is TWENTY SIX BOOKS! Wow, that’s awesome! I have 20 as my annual goal – I’m a fairly slow reader, so am always in awe of fast readers!
    Great list!
    I’ve just finished Magpie Murders for my book club – it was OK…
    I like the Sarah Knight book, indeed thought I’d like it more, but keep picking up and putting down for others!
    You’re going to smash that 75 goal!!!
    Holly xxx ///

    • Thanks Holly! I’ve always been a fast reader, but I’d still say that the vast majority of these books were read on honeymoon – I’ve definitely slowed down since we’ve been back!

  • I am super-impressed by your reading!!!

    I want to read both more nonfiction and more older fiction, so I have a few ideas from your list. πŸ™‚

    • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and “Shrill” by Lindy West have been my favourite non-fiction reads of the past year! x

  • 26!!! that is so impressive. I only managed to read 3 so far. I haven’t read most of the books in your list – am excited to rummaged the book store soon!

  • Okay is that your library in the top photo? Because I have major bookshelf envy!

    • It’s one of my shelves. We have one wall floor to ceiling with shelves in the living room because we just have so many books! x