Top 5 Friday – Books of 2020

I’ve had such an amazing year in terms of books, I seem to have read so many brilliant ones which hasn’t happened for a while! So, it’s going to be tough to just pick my five favourite reads of the year. In order to make it slightly easier for myself I’ve decided to just focus on those books that were published in 2020. Although, that’s still going to be a challenge!

These aren’t in any particular order as I loved all of them and couldn’t choose between them to even have a singular favourite out of the five! 

Cat and the City by Nick Bradley

This novel combines two of my biggest loves: Japan and cats, however this novel went way beyond what I was expecting. Whilst the novel sounds like it is a collection of short stories of different people in Tokyo, they are actually all related to each other in some way some with just subtle nods and others more detailed. Each story too is told in a different way, not only does Bradley wonderfully craft a brilliant cast of characters, but each segment is written in a different genre, from mystery fiction, to haikus, to manga this book has it all! Although the novel is written this way, it doesn’t feel disjointed in the slightest, in fact it makes it feel even more cohesive as it gives each character a unique voice and really emphasises how many different types of people there are in Tokyo (or any city, for that matter). It also emphasises how talented Bradley is as a writer.


Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This is easily one of the most unique novels that I have ever read. I was drawn to this novel by the beautiful hardback and the mysterious description. It’s impossible to capture the brilliance of this novel in just a few words, especially as going into this novel completely blind really makes the experience even more magical and more impactful. I loved the protagonist and the way he views, and catalogues, the world that he is in. After finishing the novel I just wanted to re-read it immediately and experience it all over again as I was in denial that it was over. Once I had finished Piranesi I just had to sit quietly for a while afterwards just absorbing what I had just read and, almost mourning the fact that I won’t get to experience the novel for the first time again. This narrative and story is one of the most unique I have ever read, I can’t think of another novel like it and I doubt I’ll find another one like it for years, if ever. 


These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

This is one of the strongest debut novels I have read in a long time and has me very excited, not just for the rest of this series but for any work Gong releases in the future. As an English Literature graduate, I love Shakespeare so I’m always intrigued by adaptations of his works and this was, without a doubt, one of the most refreshing takes on Romeo and Juliet since Baz Lurnham’s. This take on Romeo and Juliet is set in 1920s Shanghai, home to the blood feud of two rival gangs, with a slight fantastical element too, is just such a unique way to transform a classic work of literature. Don’t be fooled, however, just because you may have read and studied Romeo and Juliet there are still many surprises and twists that you won’t see coming. 


The Burning God by R.F. Kuang

This novel was very bittersweet for me, as I’m sure it was for everyone else. Not only was the novel a great ending to the series but it also means that the series has ended. Going into this book you know that you won’t get a ‘happily ever after’ ending, no matter how much you may want and wish for it. If you haven’t read any of these books, you need to do so in 2021 as they will have a huge impact on you. What I often worry about with the last book in a series is whether everything in the previous instalments were relevant to the ending or completely disregarded. However, that certainly wasn’t the case with The Burning God – Kuang continued to build upon the character development but there were also many callbacks to the first book too. This novel was a wonderful end to a wonderful series and I can’t wait to see what Kuang does next.


Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

I received this book as book mail from Bloomsbury, which was a complete surprise to me, and I adored this book. Alam is a very talented writer, who expertly managed to make even a list of items bought whilst shopping make me feel uneasy. I could have happily read another few hundred pages as the novel quickly sunk it’s claws into me, and still hasn’t completely let go even now. Which is even more impressive when barely any of the characters were even likeable, but that was all part of the books appeal-these characters are flawed, average, people not heroes or anyone special which had a much bigger impact when it comes to the suffocating and unsettling tone of the novel. I feel that this is another book that will continue to reveal different things to you on each read.

It was very difficult to narrow my favourites list of the year down to five books, and I still keep changing my mind on which books I want to feature! Hence why I’m posting this list now before I change my mind again…! I may have to do a part two focusing on books that I read in 2020 but wasn’t necessarily published in 2020… Let me know if you’d be interested in reading that!

What were your favourite books of the year? Did you read a lot of great books this year or did you have a slightly disappointing book year?

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Monthly Wrap Up – October 2020

Firstly in non-book news, this month I got a new addition to my family! After several years I have finally adopted a kitten – Yuki! He’s three months old and 90% fluff, he loves attention and sleep. He also makes an excellent alarm clock as he demands breakfast from 5am every morning.

This month I changed things up a bit on my blog with a fresh new theme and I have dropped the WordPress from my domain! I’m so happy with the changes that I have made and feel this blog is much more me and what I envisioned the site to be when I first started up again. 

I also joined the ‘bookstagram’ community, so you can now find me over there too! Whilst I’m not new to Instagram, I am new to bookstagram so if you have any tips, then please let me know!

You’ll notice that this month I did endeavour to read spookier novels to get into the spirit of things. It was quite refreshing to change up genres for a bit and I’ll be sure to sprinkle in some of these reads throughout my year in future. 

Books read this month

This month I read a total of 14 books (8 physical books and 6 ebooks).

  1. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  2. The Wolf and the Water by Josie Jaffrey (ARC)
  3. The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett (ARC)
  4. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  5. Letters From the Dead by Sam Hurcom (ARC)
  6. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata (ARC)
  7. Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda
  8. Dracula’s Child by J.S. Barnes
  9. A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden (Review request)
  10. The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
  11. Mango Bay by Serena Fairfax (Blog tour)
  12. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
  13. The Dead of Winter by Nicola Upson (Blog tour)
  14. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
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Favourite books read this month

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
This is one of the most unique novels that I’ve read in a long time. It’s so mysterious and magical that it’s difficult to describe. For risk of saying anything that could be remotely deemed a spoiler, all I can do is urge you to check this novel out for yourselves – there’s nothing quite like it! 

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Whilst this is only a short novel, so much is packed into it and it left me speechless by the end. I had no idea what to expect and as each page passed I became more and more surprised and gripped. I loved how complex the characters were and their situations, it was a very refreshing read. 

Dracula’s Child by J.S. Barnes
This spiritual successor of Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula could easily have been a sequel that Bram Stoker had written himself. Barnes captures everything that makes Dracula great and creates a sensational story. I loved how this novel didn’t feel like a contemporary novel at all and how it was just as gripping, perhaps more so, than its predecessor. 

The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
The Ghost Tree feels like a classic dark fairytale, despite it being set in 1980s America. When two girls are found brutally murdered the most shocking thing about this novel is how the town reacts to the fact. In this novel Henry has created a wonderfully unsettling community which leaves you feeling intensely uneasy. 

On Earth Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong 
This novel is a beautifully written letter from the protagonist to his mother. It is a brutally honest letter which covers many important topics that should be spoken about. Covering the Vietnam war, sexuality and racism, this novel doesn’t shy away from the difficulties some people faced and still face to this day. 

How was your October? Did you focus on spooky reads too or do you read them throughout the year? Let me know in the comments!

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Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date:
15/09/2020
Length: 245 pages
Genre:
Literary Fiction | Mystery

CW: n/a

Blackwells.co.uk

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

GoodReads
Continue reading “Piranesi by Susanna Clarke”

Book Haul – September 2020

My September 2020 book haul

This month I went a little rogue and went over the budget I allow myself for books… But I just couldn’t resist! I think a lot of these books have an autumn feel to them, books that I can get all cozy with. After reading the most books I’ve ever read in a month in August, I was very excited to restock my shelves! Check out the GoodReads description for the books below. 

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld 

I thought about being too small for so much, but that no one told you when you were big enough … and I asked God if he please couldn’t take my brother Matthies instead of my rabbit. ‘Amen.’

Jas lives with her devout farming family in the rural Netherlands. One winter’s day, her older brother joins an ice skating trip; resentful at being left alone, she makes a perverse plea to God; he never returns. As grief overwhelms the farm, Jas succumbs to a vortex of increasingly disturbing fantasies, watching her family disintegrate into a darkness that threatens to derail them all.


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship–the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.


The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes

Jocasta is just fifteen when she is told that she must marry the King of Thebes, an old man she has never met. Her life has never been her own, and nor will it be, unless she outlives her strange, absent husband.

Ismene is the same age when she is attacked in the palace she calls home. Since the day of her parents’ tragic deaths a decade earlier, she has always longed to feel safe with the family she still has. But with a single act of violence, all that is about to change.

With the turn of these two events, a tragedy is set in motion. But not as you know it.


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.


Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

What would you change if you could go back in time?

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .


The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.


Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

Have you read any of the books I got this month? Are any on your wishlist? Let me know!

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