Books · Fantasy · Magic · Read in 2020 · Reviews · Wrap up · Young Adult

2020 wrapped up! My top 5 books from the last 12 months (and one more for luck)!

A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J Maas
Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …
Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

★★★★★

Magical, heart-breaking, wonderful.

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“Don’t feel bad for one moment about doing what brings you joy.” – Sarah J Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses.

As a huge fan of Sarah J Maas and her Throne of Glass series the very moment that I finished with the Kingdom of Ash, I picked this right up. 
A Court of Thorns and Roses was an absolutely solid start to what eventually went on to become one of my all-time favourite book series (and I do not say this lightly). 
To summarize for potential new readers of the series.
– It’s probably a good idea to have the next 2 books in the series lined up because you are going to want to dive straight in after finishing this one.
– At its core this story is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but with a magical, fae twist. 
– There is a huge world with exceptional world-building and characters. 7 distinct fae courts all with their own leaders. 
– Magic, so much magic!
So to start off with let’s take a look at the characters.
– Feyre (Fay-ruh) – what a weird name, but I like it! Feyre is the heroine of the story and I really loved her. She has a typical book family (i.e. horrible). We have no mother, a “might as well be absent” father and her two sisters, one of whom is quite nasty but neither of which are particularly nice. She is miserable but you can tell from the start that she is strong and that everything she does, she does with her family in mind.
– Tamlin – I won’t write too much about Tamlin because a LOT of the twists and turns in the story revolve around Tamlin and his relationship with Feyre. I’ll just leave that there but you will love how it turns out. I swear I got whiplash from this relationship.
– Lucien – Lucien is very likeable overall and I found became more so as the book progressed. He is loyal to a fault but you learn why he is the way he is as his backstory is explored in all 3 books.
– Rhysand – This guy. I mean what can I even say?! I think that in this particular book you are really not supposed to like him. Rhysand is the bad guy after all but stick with me on this okay?! It is going to blow your mind!
– Amarantha – The big baddie, the villain of the story. This is one hateful, cruel, psychopathic witch. The shocks and the moments that make you really gasp stem from this woman. How she makes the characters feel. The fear she instils. It’s pretty special.
Overall this first instalment does a pretty spectacular job of introducing all of the characters and building the world and although some parts of it can feel a little bit slow it all comes together at the end in an amazing way that makes you literally unable to wait for the next book. I genuinely picked it up the moment the last page was turned. I am in love and there is no going back.
*** I have chosen to review only the first book in the series although I have read all three books and am eagerly awaiting book four (due to be released Feb 2021!) I decided to go this to avoid spoilers as this is a series that in my opinion just gets deeper, more shocking, more heart-breaking and just basically BETTER as it progresses. By the end of the series please do expect to be a blubbering mess.
 

Surprising, fun. The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor!

“True love is usually the most inconvenient kind.”
― Kiera Cass, The Selection 


Okay, I have to admit that when I picked this up it was sort of for the giggles. I didn’t expect to like it and the only thing it really had going for it was this stunningly beautiful cover. Everyone was reading this though. I remember it was the start of lockdown, everyone was miserable and I just wanted something to make me smile and I thought this would do the trick.

I got so much for than I hoped for with this story!

Don’t get me wrong, this book is trash. Good, old fashioned YA trash. I loved it anyway! I mean this is like some mash-up between The Hunger Games and a crazy dating show but with royalty and beautiful dresses. There are Love triangles and angst galore in this book!

So the characters! Our female lead of the story is America Singer, she is a singer and yes I did laugh and still do. I think the author knew exactly what she was doing when she named these characters. From the start, I expected to dislike her but she was not at all the character I expected her to be. America is determined, strong, willful and does not swoon and sigh at the idea of winning the heart of Prince Maxon. In fact, his heart is the last thing she wants as she has already given hers to someone else! America is so clever and she really, really cares. She cares about her family and when she heads into the contest her relationship with the other girls and particularly her maids is just lovely, really heartwarming. The only thing I did not like nor understand was her love for Aspen. Man, that guy is a massive douche. I really did not like Aspen at all and I felt America deserved better. She deserved Maxon. That’s another funny thing about this book. You really expect the prince to be something else. Some snotty, spoilt brat who has his pick of 35 beautiful girls but in reality, he is sweet, kind and sensitive and although America doesn’t want to be there you quickly find yourself rooting for her and Maxon. You want Maxon to pick her. You want her to be The Selected!

I think what I loved the most about this book was not so much the story but the characters. The way the girls all interacted with each other, formed rivalries as well as alliances in a contest that is all about winning the affections of the prince. They all start to care about each other and it really is a special book that caught me off guard and I continued to love it right to the end of the series. Absolutely, surprisingly one of my favourite books of 2020.
The Selection – Kiera Cass
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  • For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
  • ★★★★

 

A real page-turner. Thrilling, unique and shocking.

“Don’t let the chance to be happy pass you by.”
― John Marrs,  The One 


What a ride! This was a very quick read for me; in fact, I finished it up in a little over five hours according to my library app. Where and how do I even begin to write down my thoughts on this book? I knew I wanted to read it from the moment I saw it recommended. It is not often when you read as much as I do that you see a completely, wildly new concept that is like nothing you’ve ever read before. The book is written from the perspective of a few different “main” characters. Each character has their own little backstory that is slowly explored and unravelled over the course of the book. I found the narrative hard to follow but only for the first few chapters. When you get to know each of the characters, the entire story seems to glue itself together nicely and it all starts making sense. What I like most about this book is the twists and turns, the shocks, the laughs. I mean imagine being a serial killer and getting matched? It is so interesting to see how it all plays out and whether the concept of DNA matching is actually a good thing for the world or if we might have been better just leaving well alone! This is a book is tough to review without spoiling the story so ill leave it there but for anyone who enjoys a good thriller, this is a must-read!
The One John Marrs
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    How far would you go to find The One?
     
    A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner the one you are genetically made for.
     
    That’s the promise made by Match Your DNA. A decade ago, the company announced that they had found the gene that pairs each of us with our soul mate. Since then, millions of people around the world have been matched. But the discovery has its downsides: test results have led to the breakup of countless relationships and upended the traditional ideas of dating, romance and love.
     
    Now five very different people have received the notification that they’ve been “Matched.” They’re each about to meet their one true love. But “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Because even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking than others…

Another fantasy masterpiece by Sarah J Maas.

““Remember that you will die, and enjoy each pleasure the world has to offer.”
― Sarah J Maas – House of Earth and Blood


WOW. This was a long book but it absolutely took my breath away. I know I am a Sarah J Maas fangirl. We all knew that I was going to love this. What I didn’t expect was how much I was going to love it. From start to finish there were laughs, gasps and tears. By the end, I was curled up in a ball not wanting it to end! The initial pages of the book were all about world-building and character building. Then everything started happening. It even tells you in the blurb what happens but I was still not emotionally prepared. I was surprised by how invested I was so quickly in the friendship between Bryce and Danika, it really was a lovely thing. Both girls are so gritty, strong and funny as well as pretty vulgar too. I think Sarah decided she was going to fill this book with as much smut and dirty language as she could, to be honest. I love the relationship between Bryce and Hunt. It is definitely a slow-burner but I think that is a good thing. I am not really for the whole love at first sight thing anyway. The chemistry is just, wow. It sizzles! Lehabah is so adorable and lovely. She is just this wonderful, huge personality in her tiny fire-sprite body. There are definitely characters that I hate as well! Sabine, Micah, Sandriel and sometimes Jesiba too. This is one of those books that just gets better and better and better until before you know it you can’t put it down and you realise you’ve been reading all night and you have to do the school run but then you have to put it down and that is the worst possible thing you can imagine. I could write a review, pages and pages long about my favourite characters in this book and why they are so amazing. My favourite scenes, my favourite quotes but I really want to be careful not to spoil for potential readers because I promise you that this is something very special.
House of Earth and Blood – Sarah J Maas
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  • Bound by blood.
    Tempted by desire.
    Unleashed by destiny.

    Bryce Quinlan had a perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

    Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

    As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

    With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.
Scythe – Neil Shusterman
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

In a world without death. Thou shalt kill.

“Without the threat of suffering, we can’t experience true joy.”
― Neal Shusterman

So in this book, we are in a world where death is no longer an issue. People live forever and death is one of those things that just happens to other people in the background, the likelihood of a scythe coming for you is so small as to be a non-issue. Obviously, in a world where you have no death, you have an issue with overpopulation and that is where the Scythes come into play. A scythe is basically a sanctioned murderer. Their job is to cull the population. This story follows two apprentice scythes (both unwilling to say the least) in their journey to become killers. All the characters are pretty awesome. You have Citra and Rowen, your two young apprentices. Both of whom are strong lead characters. They are both pretty badass, to be honest. They have a great mentor in all things murdery in Scythe Faraday, who himself is a very deep and interesting character as you work your way through the books. The Scythedom have a lot of rules, customs and politics which are all incredibly interesting to learn about. Corruption is deeply rooted and the Scythes who see themselves as good are actually in effect, terrifying and evil bad guys that you will love to hate. All in all the idea of living in such a world is quite terrifying. This is not a lighthearted book. There is very little humour or romance but it really doesn’t need any of that to make it fantastic. It sets the pace for what is an incredible series of books that easily make it into my top reads of 2020.
 
Away with the Penguins – Hazel Prior
Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .
Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick. Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone. She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’). Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies. But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

Heart-warming, funny, PENGUINS!

“There are those who make the world worse, those who make no difference and those who make the world better. Be one who makes the world better, if you can.”

Why read a book about penguins you ask?
You don’t really like penguins?
I guarantee that you will love them by the time you have finished reading this book. 
Here we have the story of Veronica McCreedy. She is 85 years old and a millionaire. She lives alone in a big old house with only her cleaner coming in to help her keep the house in order. She has no family, no friends but at her memory is still very much intact, she says! Veronica is tough as old boots. She is grumpy, willful and absolutely hilarious. When Veronica realises that she is coming toward the end of her life and she has no one to leave her vast fortune to she decides to do a bit of digging into her family and manages to come across an estranged grandson (Patrick). On a whim, she decides to meet this grandson but is bitterly disappointed when she discovers that he is, in fact, a waste of space. He is jobless, on benefits and on drugs and living in a scruffy little bedsit. She disapproves of course and wishes she hadn’t bothered. After the disappointment of this meeting, Veronica decides to go on the adventure of a lifetime after watching a documentary on TV about the Adelie penguins of Antarctica. Despite the best efforts of the scientists at the research centre to stop her from going Veronica goes ahead and books herself passage anyway. 
This really is a heartwarming story that tells the tale of the two main characters, both Veronica and Patrick. Over the course of the book, you will learn a lot about who Veronica is and what happened in her past to make her the no-nonsense woman that she is. Patrick’s past is unravelled and you realise that although he has not made good choices in life that he is at his core a wonderful person who cares about his granny and isn’t in it for the fortune at all!  And then there are the penguins of course. Those loveable, fluffy little penguins are the true heroes of the story and if you don’t come away from this book wanting a penguin of your very own then I think there might be something wrong!
On the surface, this book does not sound like much but it really is a treasure and one of my top reads of 2020. I recommend you run as fast as you can to pick up your own copy!
 
All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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