TBR

21 for 2021 TBR

I have not been setting myself TBRs lately, but 2020’s year-long TBR was a success, so I thought I might as well set one for 2021. 21 books is likely to be a fifth of the books I will read in the coming year, so these are important choices!

These are all books that are sitting on my shelf already. Fine physical specimens that are begging to read! I did not choose these books according to how popular they are, rather I have chosen them because I really feel I want to have read these by the end of the year because I think they will add something to my year.

It is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Last year I had a distinct separation of the two, but for 2021 I have not paid attention to how many fiction or non-fiction books they are. I simply went through all of the books on my shelf and chose these to prioritize.

1. They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Hanif Abdurraqib)

2. Flames (Robbie Arnott)

3. Don Casmurro (Machado de Assis)

4. The Flowers of Evil (Charles Baudelaire)

5. A Small Town in Germany (John le Carre)

6. Chronicles (Bob Dylan)

7. The Border (Diarmaid Ferriter)

8. Moonwalking With Einstein (Joshua Foer)

9. The Midnight Library (Matt Haig)

10. The Stationery Shop (Marjan Kamali)

11. The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years (Bernard Lewis)

12. Quell (Clare Littlemore)

13. Palace Walk (Naguib Mahfouz)

14 . Johannesburg (Fiona Melrose)

15. The Sport of Kings ( C E Morgan)

16. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Haruki Murakami)

17. Hamnet (Maggie O’Farrell)

18. The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry)

19. A Sweet, Wild Note (Richard Smyth)

20. In The Days of Rain (Rebecca Stott)

21. The Secret History (Donna Tartt)

I read a few books set in the Middle East towards the end of 2020 and I thoroughly enjoyed them, so I put a few more on my 2021 TBR. Because of that I also decided to include Bernard Lewis’ book, so I will get a better grasp of the region’s background.

I have signed copies of Hamnet and The Midnight Library, so really, I ought to get to those sooner rather than later. I have been meaning to read those ever since I got them, but always put them off! I am sure I wil love both, so there is no reason to, really!

There are a few by well-known authors that I have never read from, such as Murakami and Le Carre.

It’s a rather mixed bunch, but I hope I will enjoy them all.

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Darkdawn (Jay Kristoff)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Darkdawn (Nevernight Chronichles #3)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Harper Voyager in 2020

After winning the greatest games Godsgrave has ever seen and giving the gift of murder as her victor’s speech, Mia is being hunted by every Blade of the Red Church and every soldier of the Luminatii legion. Her mentor Mercurio has been captured and Consul Julius Scaeva stands on the edge of total dominance over the Republic. Truedark approaches and if Mia is to have any hope of defeating Scaeva and saving her family, she must make a perilous journey across the Republic seeking the final answers to the riddle of her life.

🌑🌘🌓

Let me start by saying I really loved the first book in the Nevernight series. It was brutal, it was very sarcastic and I loved it. The second book, Godsgrave, took me an age to read. It missed the humour that I loved so much in the first book and the plot did not manage to hold my interest. As a result I put off reading this final book for way too long. Luckily this one went a long way to redeeming the series for me, though not completely.

I felt the writing in this one had a bit more sass than the second book, even if the story was dark, dark, dark. See, I like a dark book when it can have a bit of fun with itself. This one did that, but only in places, and I wished it would have done that just a little bit more.

I felt really invested for two thirds of the book, but the final third felt a little too predictable for me. The plot pretty much went exactly where I expected it to go and held few surprises. I still enjoyed it, but I just wish it had had a few more twists and turns. Maybe I have read too many fantasy books in my time.

The characters were very hit or miss for me. Some characters I absolutely loved and others either just felt wrong or a bit flat. They just felt inconsistent. Also, I am not a fan of things happening and then finding out they did not actually happen, but that they were just a version of what COULD happen, a bit in the way a dream scene is often used. Not my thing.

However, I did find myself pondering several times that these books would probably make awfully good movies.

In the end, if you like a book with flawed, but sassy characters and an author that can occasionally take the you-know-what out of himself, you should read this series. If blood and gore and a lot of death and decay are not your thing, give it a miss.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · TBR Review

20 for 2020 TBR: Review

I am so glad I have managed to read al 20 books that were on my 2020 TBR. The list included fifteen works of fiction and five non-fiction books. I will likely have a similar ratio for my 2021 TBR. I do think that having this yearly TBR focused my reading and actually made me read the books I wanted to read. That may not make sense, but it really did help me. I will be setting my 2021 TBR shortly.

These were all books I really wanted to read, but there were quite a few I ended up not loving. Of the 20 books three were 7-star reads, ie new favourites, which were How To Stop Time by Matt Haig, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland and Wilding by Isabella Tree. Both will appear in my ‘favourite books I read this year’-list, I am sure. To my surprise beside that I only had five 6-star reads. The rest of the books i rated 5 stars or lower (seven 5-star reads, four 4-star reads and one 3-star read). I had definitely expected to lover more of these books.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett was the first book I read off this TBR and the last one was The Book of Lost Things, which I finished last week. Both of these were disappointing reads at only 4 stars.

I will be taking nine of these books off my shelf to find new homes for.

2021

I have a feeling my 2021 TBR will be looking a bit different, I should be completing and posting that one before the end of the year. Again, all the books on this TBR will be books I actually already have on my shelves.

I am still deciding whether to set a 2021 series TBR or not. I really did not read that many series in 2020. I managed to complete a few, so I am not complaining, but I definitely did not read/complete as many as I had hoped. Still, I would love to get back into reading more fantasy. I may start with reading some standalone fantasy books and completing the ones I am already books into.

What books are likely to be on your 2021 TBR?

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Destiny’s Embrace (Beverly Jenkins)

★★★★★★☆

Title: Destiny’s Embrace
Author: Beverly Jenkins
Genre: Fiction/Historical Romance
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

 Logan Yates, a self-important ranch owner, must confront his feelings for his beautiful, free spirited housekeeper, Mariah Cooper. 

Well, this one was fun for sure. After a bad run with romance novels, I finally picked up this one as I had heard good things. I am glad I did, because it restored my faith that good romance novels do exist.

This story takes place on a ranch in 1880s California and I was surprised to find I really enjoyed the setting. Although the relationship moves forward VERY quickly, the characters were fun and feisty and the romance was actually kind of sexy and sweet at the same time. The sexy times scenes were not over the top or too graphic, which I really appreciated. I don’t need dot-to-dot descriptions, people!

Overall, this was one of the better romances I have read in a while. The tone was good, there was no unnecessary conflict (another pet peeve of mine) and the setting and side characters were nicely developed. There was a little more to it than just the romance, which I always appreciate.

If you fancy a bit of romance to take your mind off all the worrying stuff going on right now, this novel might just do the trick.

I definitely want to read more books by this author, because she can definitely pen a good story!

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Book of Lost Things (John Connolly)

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: The Book of Lost Things
Author: John Connolly
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Fairytale Retellings
First published: 2006
Edition: Paperback, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2007

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

⚔📕🏰

My thoughts and rating for this book are definitely a question of taste and do not necessarily reflect the quality of the writing. Fairytale retellings are not really my kind of thing. Fairytales ARE not my kind of thing and going into this book I did not know that was exactly what this book is.

It is by no means a bad book. In fact, it weaves a whole plethora of wellknown fairytales into a coherent interesting story. I just did not enjoy it very much. It simply was not my thing. It was not even that the fairytales were very dark and twisted into something else entirely. Many original fairytales were gruesome. I just did not care enough for the story itself and it was the fairytale elements I enjoyed the least.

David, the main character struggles with the death of his mother and fitting into a new family when his father marries another woman and has a child with her. He ends up in a strange dark world and while he is there David grows as a person. I did enjoy his character arc and the ending was satisfying as well, which does help.

The actual writing was fine. The story itself objectively was fine. It just was not for me. If dark fairytale retellings are your thing, you will probably enjoy this a whole lot more than I did.

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Mini Reviews: 3 Christmas Romances

I do like a good Christmas romance and I had three on my Kindle, and since December is the perfect month to read them, here’s my lot for this year. I have read books by all three of these authors before. I have read two books by Carole Matthews (both of which I liked), two by Mandy Baggot (one I liked, one I didn’t) and one by Holly Martin (which I didn’t like). So let’s see how it goes!

1. Christmas at Lilac Cottage (Holly Martin) ★★★☆☆☆☆
Published: 2015 (Kindle e-book)

I had read one book by this author before and did not like it, but I liked the synopsis, so thought I would give her one more chance. Unfortunately, her execution of her stories are really not my cup of tea. The writing style is absolutely fine and her characters are actually fine, but it is her plot devices I don’t like. In this book there was a completely unnecessary sexual harassment plot and i have no idea why she put it there. It added nothing to the story. The romance was too quick, the sex unimaginative, and conflicts arose too quickly and then were resolved almost instantly. To be honest, this story could have been condensed into a much shorter novel and would have made a more enjoyable story. It was ok, but I don’t think I will be reading from this author again.

2. Christmas for Beginners (Carole Matthews) ★★★★★☆☆
Published: October 2020 by Sphere (Kindle e-book)

This was such a cute book. This is the third book by this author that I have read and I always enjoy them. There is something very wholesome about her stories. She breaks the fourth wall a few times in this book and it kind of made you feel more connected to Molly, our main character. This is not so much a romance, as a story about relationships, of all sorts. Relationships starting, ending and changing. Molly’s rather maternal relationship with her partner’s son Lucas was everything! Definitely a book to curl up with by the fire.

3. One New York Christmas (Mandy Baggot) ★★★☆☆☆☆
Published: 2018 (Kindle e-book)

This could have been such a good one. I liked the plot, but the execution really did nothing for me. The characters were great, including the side characters and the New York setting was great, but I found the writing too cringey for my tastes. I have read a couple of this author’s books before and I really liked one of them, so I know she can write a book I like, but this one was just a bit meh for me. I am a bit disappointed.

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: To The Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: To The Lighthouse
Author: Virginia Woolf
Genre: Fiction/Classic
First published: 1927
Edition: Paperback, published by Collins in 2013

The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.

🌦⛅🌧🌤

I am so glad I finally read this one. It had been languishing on my bookshelves for far too long!

It took me a little while to get into. The writing style is quite dense and very introspective. I did eventually get into the flow of this novel. It is quite philosophical and it explores human emotions and relationships in quite an extraordinary way. The perspective changes all the time and sometimes I had to back up a few sentences to figure out what was going on and who was thinking what, but I did find that after a while I definitely got used to this style of narration.

The book is basically split in two parts, set ten years apart. Much has happened in the intervening years and people have changed, or not, as the case may be.

Woolf’s writing is often lyrical and beautiful, but I did find it jarring sometimes and I found it hard to keep my mind on it for some reason. It never quite pulled me in, though I am not sure whether it was meant to. For all the deepest emotions that the characters reveal to you, the writing still felt rather cool.

This is a book i would like to get back to at some point. I think I need to stew on it for a while first though.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · FIVE

FIVE on Friday: Books I Want to Re-Read

Like most readers I know, I don’t re-read books as much as I would like. When I do though, I tend to really love it. I figured I would name five of my favourite books from the past that I would love to re-read soon. I hope by naming them here, I will make an extra effort to read these in the coming months (though I probably won’t!).

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)

This is a book I read in my late teens/early twenties and I loved it so so much! If someone asks me for my favourite book, I always say this one, but I actually haven’t read it for almost twenty years. I would love to read it again, but I am a bit apprehensive as well. What if it is not as good as I remember?

2. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

Another classic. I read this in 2002 whilst I was travelling through Australia in my early twenties. I really loved it quite a lot! I have always meant to re-read it, but it’s such a big book! I may decide to listen to this on audio. There are a few audio versions out there. I just need to pick the right one! The audio books are VERY long though…

3. House of Tribes (Garry Kilworth)

I have read this a few times, but not for many many years. I always loved it a lot! It is a story a bit like Watership Down, but with mice! I remember it being really well done. I recently got a hardback edition of this as my paperback is pretty worn out. Would love to re-read!

4. Bambi (Felix Salten)

Another animal story. This is the book that the Disney movie is based on, but the book is so much darker. No Thumper or Flower in sight. Very gruesome in parts too. Definitely not for small children! I loved it though. I am sure I read it three or four times in the past, but not for many many years. Time to re-read soon, I hope.

5. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)

I read this a couple of times in my early adult years and really loved it. It has been on my re-read radar for a long time, but I just never pick it up.

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 9 December 2020

I have had a stronger reading week than I have had for a while, mainly thanks to some easier type reads. Maybe that is what I need right now? But then, I did feel after a couple of fluffy reads, I needed something more challenging, so who knows!

***

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

What am I currently reading?

I have finally started to read To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. It is my first book by this author and I am only 20 pages in. The font is small and the writing quite dense, which takes a bit of getting used to.

I am about a third into Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga. It’s a long audio book, but it is incredibly interesting.

Because To The Lighthouse is so dense, I did not really find it that great for bedtime reading, so I have picked up my third Christmas themed book of the year, which is One New York Christmas by Mandy Baggot.

Finally, I am proof reading a book my friend has written, which is about her experience with her gifted child in the existing school system. This one obviously takes priority this coming week.

What did I recently finish reading?

I finished Lab Girl, which was a good read, but not one that will stick around for very long. Apart from that I have read a couple of Christmas chick lits; Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin wasn’t great, but I did like Carole Matthews’ Christmas for Beginners. Those reviews will come after I have read my third Christmassy novel.

What do I think I will be reading next?

I have a few books I really want to read before the end of 2020, so I will prioritise those. From my 2020 TBR there is The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly and I would love to complete another series, in which case the most likely is Jay Kristoff’s Darkdawn.

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Lab Girl (Hope Jahren)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Lab Girl
Author: Hope Jahren
Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir/Biology/Science
First published: 2016
Edition: Paperback, published by Fleet in 2017

This is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work. Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

🌱🌴🌳🌵🌿

I had been wanting to read this book for quite a while. It sounded so interesting! And it was interesting, but it did not quite grab me the way I wanted it to.

Essentially the author is telling a story about relationships. Not only with people, such as her long time friend Bill, but also with herself, her career and with her research.

Over the years she develops a unique friendship with Bill and it was kind of beautiful to read about that. They go on plenty of adventures together. Some funny, some kind of tragic, some endearing. I loved the way she writes about him. However, this is also so much about the way she sees herself and the way she relates to her own life, her character and her accomplishments. Maybe it also tells us something about the way we all see ourselves and how we perceive ourselves. The author’s mental health problems are touched upon, but not really delved in to too much, as if she simply accepts that these are a part of her. I thought that was interesting. The main focus of this book is her friendship with Bill and the labs they build together over the years, but it is clear that she goes through quite a transformation herself as she finds her feet. Life shifts as you get older. At least, it does for most people.

Little tidbits of plant science are dotted throughout the narrative and I kind of liked that. I kind of wanted a little bit more of that, but this is essentially a memoir and not really about all the sciency stuff!

Overall I really enjoyed this book, but it is not one I am likely to pick up again.

5 out of 7 stars