It’s that time of the year again (very late I might add) for me to set myself some reading goals and embark on my next reading challenge. As the most unsurprising person ever… I am taking part in the Alphabet Soup Reading challenge for the third year in a row (maybe this time I’ll actually complete it). I’m kind of madly in love with this challenge because it gives me the flexibility I want without setting myself limits, although some of those letters are forever tricky to cross off.
Read a minimum of 50 books: The goal that never changes. Between work and adulting there’s not always a lot of time to read especially not as much as I’d like so I always keep my minimum goal to 50. That’s pretty much a book a week with a little time to spare. Once I hit 50 I always enjoy seeing how far over that goal I can go.
Read the books on my must-read shelf first: I have a bad habit of dithering through my tbr, never sure of what I want to read next and just adding books/requesting ARCs for the sake of it. Late last year I decided to split my tbr into “want to read” and you guessed it “must read”. Unless I desperately need to read something it might just end up sitting on my “want to read” shelf, collecting dust.
Write reviews for at least half of what I read in 2019: I am the absolute worst when it comes to putting my thoughts to paper (or in this case screen) about the books I’ve just read. The worst. I’ve found that I absolutely love and prefer the ‘mini review’ which I’ll include in monthly wrap-ups. Longer reviews I’ll save (and hopefully write) for any ARCs I read over 2019.
Read a minimum of 5 Classics/Gothic/Fantasy/Thriller/Horror/Historical novels: If there’s one thing I hate, it’s sticking to one genre and reading nothing else. I get bogged down in the repetitive storylines and copy-cat characters but maybe I’m just reading books that are too similar to each other, I don’t know? Reading as widely as possible makes things a little more interesting. Major props to anyone that can read nothing but one genre. I don’t know how y’all do it but it’s some type of magic.
Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge: A recap of the rules
Read one book that has its title starting with a letter of the alphabet. That’s 26 books. A’s and The’s can be dropped from the beginning of titles. The first main word needs to be the letter you are counting, except for Q, X AND Z titles then the word that starts with the challenge letter can be anywhere in the title.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Do you think you can read a book for each letter of the alphabet? Try it out. Create your own blog post or if you don’t own a blog, create a shelf on your goodreads account. 52 weeks. 26 books.
It was the year 2095, cars could fly, aliens ruled the world and Jess had finally ruffled together an update for her blog. Are you all shocked? Because I am. You’d be even more shocked if I told you that I had the time to write this post and pull together my ‘top reads of 2018’ post but you know the answer to that already, don’t you… I haven’t had the time.
If it helps ease your pain some of my highlights of 2018 include Baby Teeth, The Binding, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Dry, Thunderhead, The Death of Mrs Westaway… I’ve talked a lot about some of these books below and in my previous wrap-ups.
I promise I’ll be better in 2019 (or I’ll try at least). I’ll definitely try and do more book talk over on my twitter if my blog lays neglected for a little while.
1. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton ● rated 5 Stars
8 days. 1 Plague doctor. A house full of suspects. Murder on repeat. It’s time to dress for dinner. Turton’s debut is masterful, brilliantly plotted and utterly mind-bending. Please read it, it’s so so good.
2. Leverage in Death by J.D. Robb ● rated 5 Stars
1 suicide bomber. 11 dead. Families devastated. A Family tortured. After 47 books, J.D. Robb still manages to deliver these books with a bang and none of the whimper. Read my full review here.
3. Melmoth by Sarah Perry ● rated 4 Stars (ARC Copy)
Losely inspired by Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer, Perry’s latest novel follows Helen Franklin, a English translator who did something she cannot forgive herself for. Melmoth is there to witness every cruelty and violation created by man, luring them to spend life at her side. A book riddled with darkness, despair and hope, I’d highly recommend this literary tale of the macabre.
4. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson ● rated 5 Stars
The Haunting of Hill House is a tale of quiet horror and narrative unease. Claustrophobic and disorientating, Shirley Jackson proves why she is the Queen of Horror and the Queen of my Gothic Heart because I loved this. Read my full review here.
5. Vengeful by V.E.Schwab ● rated 5 Stars
So here’s the tea: Victoria Schwab can’t write a bad book. I don’t know what else you need to know? This series is superpowers and vengeance and morally grey humans with a penchant for violence and super stabby female characters. What more could I ask for? Don’t ask any more questions… just read it. You won’t regret it.
6. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White ● rated 5 Stars
Written for the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, White pens a beautiful feminist and haunting retelling of the horror classic.
7. Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor ● rated 4 Stars
4 out of 5 stars because I can’t stomach the utterly cringe and nauseating scenes between Lazlo and Sarai. I wanted a war between humans and demi-gods and everything was just too nice and easily solved and smothered in Lazlo/Sarai love feels and odd demi-god/ghost sex.
8. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas ● rated 5 Stars
My little band of warriors, I’ll miss them. Whilst this one fell a little flat for me at the end and was cheesy as hell (booooring!) I still had to give it 5 stars… out of loyalty. I’m a sucker for this series (and anything SJM writes). Don’t judge me.
9. Empress of all Seasons by Emiko Jean ● rated 3 Stars (ARC copy)
An expansive world steeped in Japanese mythology, Mari must conquer the enchanted seasonal rooms to marry the prince. Fiesty, feminist but sadly suffering from carbon-copy syndrome. While the premise was fresh, the characters were not. I would still recommend as this will definitely appeal to many.
10. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier ● rated 5 Stars
No year is complete without reading at least one Du Maurier novel. Chock full of intrigue and scandal, Du Maurier crafts a beautiful love story between Dona, a discontent noblewoman confined to the expections of the 17th century woman, and the ‘Pirate’, handsome and well-read, your very own French version of Robin Hood. I’m still bitter about the ending though.
11. A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan ● rated 4 Stars (ARC Copy)
Set against the backdrop of World War I, a group of people convene at Blackwater Abbey, off the Devon coast, for a spiritual gathering. Only things aren’t what they seem, and they soon find themselves trapped on the island when murder strikes. Ryan creates the perfect mix of espionage, mystery, supernatural and that little dash of romance. I’m practically begging for this to be turned into a series.
12. Dry by Neal and Jared Shusterman ● rated 5 Stars
Doomsday preppers are seriously on to something. This book left me thirsty as hell and with the extreme urge to walk into my closest supermarket and stockpile as much food and water as I can. If you’re into apocolyptic type stories then this is the one for you.
13. The Binding by Bridget Collins ● rated 4 Stars (ARC copy)
A beautiful and haunting piece of magical realism with an unexpected love story between a poor farmer’s son and the nephew of a wealthy aristocrat. A book bound by themes of unwanted memories, trauma and morals – books are objects of fear in this immersive tale. This is one book that will definitely live up to its hype, and if it’s not on your radar… it should be!
14. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage ● rated 5 Stars
Baby Teeth is the type of story many authors (and readers) would shy away from. Divisive, uncomfortable and chilling, Stage explores the relationship between a 7 year old girl with psychopathic tendencies and the mother she intends on killing. One of the best books I’ve read so far this year and one that will definitely stick with me for many years to come.
How was your bookish 2018?
Read any of the books above or a choosing to in 2019? Got a book you think I’ll be interested in? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Elizabeth Lavenza hasn't had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her "caregiver," and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything--except a friend.
Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable--and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.
But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth's survival depends on managing Victor's dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.
“I have waded through hell to deliver you heaven.”
Written for the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, White pens a beautiful and haunting retelling of the horror classic. Told from the perspective of Elizabeth Lorenzo, Victor’s childhood friend, and later, wife, we delve into the dark dwellings of the Frankenstein manor and what lies beyond: murder, corruption and scientific experiments.
Elizabeth Lorenzo gains agency in this retelling: crafty, cunning and clever, she stops at nothing to secure her place in the Frankenstein family and in Victor’s heart. No longer an object for Victor to own and dominate, Elizabeth Lorenzo fights back in ways that would be far too spoilerish to share. In other words, please gentle readers pick up this delightfully creepy little tale, you will not regret it.
Best read by those familiar with Shelley’s tale, White offers an interesting twist on the original material and layers it with plenty of homages (“I will be with you on your wedding night” anyone?).
I absolutely adored this book, especially the final third of it. Kiersten White has such a gift when it comes to writing historical retellings and I will gladly read each and every one of them.
KIERSTEN WHITE is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, the And I Darken series, comprised of And I Darken, Now I Rise, and Bright We Burn; the Paranormalcy series; Slayer, and many more novels. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, which, in spite of its perfection, spurs her to dream of faraway places and even further-away times.
In this twisty psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Before, an actress plays both sides of a murder investigation.
A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.
Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.
Then the game changes.
When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.
Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?
I received this arc from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This was without a doubt the craziest and most grossly unrealistic book I have ever read and I loved every second of it.
Claire is a struggling British actress living in New York City willing to stop at nothing to achieve her dreams (and pay the rent). Unable to get a real job due to her visa restrictions, Claire lands the role of a lifetime… luring married men to agree to affairs and catching it on film. But that’s where things get a little tricky. What happens when one man turns her down and his wife turns up dead the next day? Claire finds herself embroiled in the investigation, teaming up with the NYPD/FBI to put her acting skills to the test and bait out a dead woman’s killer. The rest as they say is not history but a mad collection of many, many, many twists and turns that will leave you wondering: what’s real? (and probably a nice helping of whiplash on top because damn, there’s a lot of twists and I’m still getting my head around it).
Steeped heavily in references to Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil, Delaney opens up an interesting dialogue on the influence of literature and media on its recipients and their actions. Can books really turn people into a psycho serial killer? In this case, it can. Sinister, alluring and complex you don’t know where this book or the killer will go next. Nothing is ever what it seems and there’s no straight road to the truth. Who can you trust? Claire is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Are we just falling for her act or is she really just a marionette on some strings? Paul is the grieving widow. Are we just falling for his sad sob story or is there really something darker beneath the surface? Delaney keeps you guessing right up until the very (explosive) end. This book may not be everyone’s cup of tea but this is one rollercoaster journey you don’t want to miss.
TL;DR: A brilliantly absurd thriller about an ambitious actress embroiled in a murder investigation where nothing is ever what it seems and there’s no straight road to the truth. Who can you trust?
-- From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.
On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.
Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.
Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.
Deeply atmospheric, and steeped in the Gothic, The Death of Mrs Westaway is by far the best book Ruth Ware has written thus far (and I say this having read all of them bar The Lying Game but I’ll assume my statement will still stand after reading that one too).
Harriet ‘Hal’ Westaway is a tarot reader at the Brighton Pier. Broke, in trouble and alone she receives a letter from a mysterious benefactor bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. With limited options and a loan shark on her back, Hal decides to fradulently claim this inheritance as her own, but when she arrives as the Westaway family home, she quickly finds herself immersed in a rich family history breaking apart at the seams. There’s something dark and sinister at bay in this family built upon betrayal and greed.
I truly cannot rave about how much I loved this book enough. Gone was your typical unreliable (and often alcoholic) narrator and instead was Hal Westaway: brazen, headstrong and determined to survive. She had depth and relatability and was such a joy to read. I couldn’t rest until I had my answers, and even though Hal’s real father was glaringly obvious from the moment she met the Westaway’s, the reveal itself was shocking and a delightful twist.
If Ruth Ware continues to write more books like this one then I will be impatently waiting for every new release because I need more books like The Death of Mrs. Westaway.
TL;DR: Deeply atmospheric, and steeped in the Gothic, Hal Westaway learns that sometimes blood isn’t thicker than water and sometimes it is. Ruth Ware’s best book yet.
Have you read Believe Me or The Death of Mrs Westaway?
Let me know what you thought in the comments below.
September is such a GOOD month for releases (mainly because it includes the releases from some of my ultimate favs: V.C. Schwab, J.D. Robb and Kiersten White). I’m already 100 pages deep in Robb’s latest In Death novel and I am loooooving it. If you’ve got time to read 47 books then I highly recommend this series… tough and savvy female cop, female friendship, empowerment, love, billionaire husband. What could be better?
There are some other interesting titles out this month i.e. Strange Grace which has such an enticing summary. I’m always game for anything a little dark and devillish.
But that is enough babble from me… check out all the summaries below and see which books tickle your fancy and find their way onto your evergrowing tbr piles.
Lieutenant Eve Dallas puzzles over a bizarre suicide bombing in a Wall St. office building in the latest in the #1 New York Times bestselling series…
For the airline executives finalizing a merger that would make news in the business world, the nine a.m. meeting would be a major milestone. But after marketing VP Paul Rogan walked into the plush conference room, strapped with explosives, the headlines told of death and destruction instead. The NYPSD’s Eve Dallas confirms that Rogan was cruelly coerced by two masked men holding his family hostage. His motive was saving his wife and daughter―but what was the motive of the masked men?
Despite the chaos and bad publicity, blowing up one meeting isn’t going to put the brakes on the merger. All it’s accomplished is shattering a lot of innocent lives. Now, with the help of her billionaire husband Roarke, Eve must untangle the reason for an inexplicable act of terror, look at suspects inside and outside both corporations, and determine whether the root of this crime lies in simple sabotage, or something far more complex and twisted.
Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.
Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.
But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.
The sequel to VICIOUS, V.E. Schwab’s first adult novel.
Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.
Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.
Once, a witch made a pact with a devil. The legend says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all? Find out in this lush, atmospheric fantasy novel that entwines love, lies, and sacrifice.
Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.
Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.
Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.