wrap up

2020 in review

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, no matter how you ended up spending it. We’ve been in Tier 4 since the Saturday before Christmas, which meant we had to hastily rearrange our Christmas plans – frustrating and sad, but I’d rather everyone be safe. And I’ve had a lovely time off regardless – which is why I’ve just not been posting. I’ve been enjoying just relaxing in the post-Christmas haze. I don’t think I’ve felt this relaxed since, well, probably Christmas last year!

Anyway, I’ve dragged myself back, Christmas food baby and all, to talk a little bit about my reading year!

Recap of the year

So I read 53 books this year, having set myself a goal of 60. I’m really happy with this, especially because I read barely anything in Feb (I was having a bit of a crap time, and couldn’t really focus on reading) and then lockdown happened in March. I didn’t read too much in the original lockdown, again because I can’t really focus on reading if I’m feeling anxious – my attention span was just really short!

By the time I started reading properly again (Sept/Oct time), I think I was about 16 books behind my reading target – so to finish the year off only 7 books behind is quite an accomplishment I think! I’m proud of myself, anyway. The best thing has definitely been rediscovering my love of reading and getting involved in the book community, both on here and Instagram.

My average rating for this year, according to Goodreads, was 3.5, which wasn’t bad going for me. I only give 5 star reviews to books I thought were amazing personally (so lots of objectively great books can’t get past 4 stars) and I’m also not afraid to hand out 1/2 star ratings – it is, after all, completely objective and my 1 star read could be another person’s 5 star. Overall, though, I think I’ve read a lot of really good books this year, and I’m excited to share my fave books of this year with you!

Favourite books of 2020

Let me just begin by saying these are my favourite books that I read in 2020; they weren’t necessarily released this year. My definition of favourite books are the ones I enjoyed most, the ones that spoke to me, or the ones that stuck with me for longest.

I had two stand-out favourites this year: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell and Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers. I discovered Hamnet through the Women’s Prize shortlist, and fell in love as soon as I started reading it. O’Farrell’s writing is lyrical and beautiful; I’m not always a fan of overly descriptive prose, but I found her writing style gorgeous. The story itself was moving, perhaps hitting too close to home in the year that we’re living through, and it stayed with me after I finished it. I’m actually considering re-reading it next year; I just think there will be even more to take from it in the second read. Small Pleasures was a book I’d seen a few people rave about, and I was immediately taken by the blurb. Chambers’ writing was charming, wry and full of humour. I felt so comforted reading her novel, and so absorbed in the characters’ lives. This was such a heart-warming and heart-breaking novel, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it after I put it down. I read Hamnet before starting my blog so don’t have a review for it, but I have a full review of Small Pleasures I’d you’re interested in hearing more.

In no particular order, here are the rest of my top books of 2020:

  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett

Honourable mentions also go to Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams, Furious Hours by Casey Cep and Sisters by Daisy Johnson. These I all rated 4 stars, but considering some of the other books I gave 4 stars too, I would bump these up to 4.5 stars.

Reflecting on 2020

This is the first year I’ve truly embraced non-fiction, and I’ve really enjoyed adding this extra dimension to my reading. Both The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and Furious Hours are non-fiction and are both excellent books, which I’d recommend especially to true crime lovers, but also to people interested in literature. Furious Hours focuses in the life of Harper Lee as well as the true crime case she was investigating, and Kate Summerscale writes about her true crime case in the context of Victorian crime and detective fiction. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more non-fiction in 2021.

I’ve also read more diversely than I probably have before, and this is something I’m looking to improve upon in 2021. I want to read more books in translation (something I rarely, if ever, did this year) and more books from non-western points of view. It’s no surprise though that all of my top picks for this year were written by women, considering that I would estimate 80-90% of the books I’ve read this year were by women – this has never been a conscious choice for me but I have always gravitated more towards books written by women.

Goals for 2021

So, I’ve touched on some of these above, but here are my reading goals for 2021:

  • Read 52 books next year
  • Read more diversely, especially books from non-western POVs
  • Read more non-fiction
  • Stick to more of a schedule on my blog – I think I want to aim to post min. 3 times a week
  • Finish all of my unread books on my shelves

So that was my 2020 recap and a brief look into my goals for 2021. I hope you enjoyed it! I also hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and I’m sending you all best wishes for a healthy and happy 2021.

How was your reading year for 2020? What was your favourite book and how many did you read overall?

book review

Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Publication date: 5 Jan 2021

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperFiction for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Reader, I did not enjoy this book.

The Wife Upstairs claims to be a ‘modern day retelling’ of Jane Eyre. Jane is a dog walker for the rich families in Thornfield estates, where she meets Eddie Rochester, a man who seems too good to be true. He’s handsome, rich and seems to like Jane – but he also seems to be hiding a big secret.

The reason I said this novel ‘claims’ to be a modern day retelling of Jane Eyre is because it’s not, really. It’s a novel that takes the names from the novel, bookends it with two events that happen in the original novel, and then departs completely from the plot, theme and spirit of Jane Eyre.

I have to admit here that Jane Eyre is my favourite novel – and so maybe I am the wrong audience for this book? Maybe I shouldn’t have been expecting a retelling of the book – perhaps then I wouldn’t have been disappointed so much by this book? I know there is a lot of criticism around JE – lots of people feel that Rochester and Jane shouldn’t have ended up together etc – but I personally love it, faults (St John and the cousins storyline) and all. And this book just didn’t stick to any of the novel. Which makes it feel disingenuous, like a marketing ploy to capitalise on the name of a classic – rather than born out of love for the original book. To be honest, if this book felt like a retelling of anything, it was Rebecca, not Jane Eyre.

But my biggest problem with this book is that, even if you put aside the JE factor, it’s an average thriller at best. The characters are unlikeable and the plot is simultaneously unbelievable and unpredictable at best. I guessed the ‘twist’ as soon as the Bea flashbacks were introduced. There’s no fun in reading a thriller when you already know what was going to happen.

So yeah, this book just wasn’t for me, which is especially disappointing as I was so interested/excited by the idea of it to begin with. But I have given it two stars as I feel like others out their will enjoy it.

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

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book review

Review: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Three Women By Lisa Taddeo

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Lisa Taddeo is a journalist who set out to write about female desire; through her research, three women consented to have their stories told and that’s how ‘Three Women’ was born. It’s an immersive look into the desires of three American women (Maggie, Lina and Sloane) – and charts their lives from sexual awakening to where they are now. This book deals with a lot of important and difficult subjects, including rape and statutory rape.

The depth that Taddeo goes into the lives and thoughts of these women is impressive. This is the style of non-fiction I personally enjoy; non-fiction narratives that feel almost fictional. I’ve seen comparisons to In Cold Blood, and though I would be cautious to say that, it does have the same narrative style Truman Capote uses.

I found each of the three women’s stories heartbreaking. I think I was expecting more of a ‘taking back of control’/’women are sexual beings too’ theme to run through the book, but actually what the book really seemed to be saying (to me, at least) is even when these women thought they fully controlled their own sexual behaviours and wants, they were ultimately lead and effected by men. Take Maggie, who had a sexual relationship with her teacher at 17 – at the time, she thought she was following the object of her desire; later, she realises she was abused. Lina is a housewife stuck in a relationship with a man who doesn’t want to touch her. When she separates from him and starts an affair with an old childhood sweetheart, she thinks she is taking back control of her sex life. But the man doesn’t treat her well, doesn’t love her back, uses her for sexual release and nothing more. She is, ultimately, at his beck and call. And Sloane, who engages in sex with other men because her husband likes it – but is not sure she likes it.

Though it tells some important stories, I really think this book could’ve been improved by expanding it’s scope wider. All three women are white, and two of them are middle-class, live in surburbia with kids and a husband. It tells the stories of a certain type of woman, and I think it could really have been improved by expanding it’s diversity. You can’t really claim to be depicting female sexuality when you aren’t representing any other type of woman. For example, women from other cultures, gay or bi women, trans women, women who don’t want marriage and kids. There’s a lot missing from this book – and I know it only ever claims to be about three women, but how can you ever claim to have reported on ‘American women’s desires’ when you have such a narrow sample?

I also think the book is missing a lot of Lisa’s voice – the prologue is, for me, the best part of the book. She could’ve interspersed the chapters from Maggie, Lina and Sloane’s point of view with more of her own thoughts and observations. I would also say that Lina’s story is heartbreaking, but Maggie’s is the most powerful in the book (and Sloane’s is overshadowed by both of these).

Ultimately, this book was interesting and gripping. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it. But, there was much further that the author could’ve gone with it. And maybe that wasn’t the book that she wanted to write, but I feel like it would’ve been a more ground-breaking book than the one she did write.

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book review

Review: Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Murder Most Festive

Murder Most Festive is set a Christmas in 1930s Britain. The Westbury family and assorted family have gathered to celebrate Christmas; however, their plans are ruined when one of their party is found dead on Christmas morning. Detective novel enthusiast Hugh thinks it’s murder and sets out to solve the crime.

This is a fun, festive, camp novel for fan of Agatha Christie and murder mysteries. It was exactly what I needed – it was fast, easy to read, and made me smile. The characters felt real, if over-the-top, and though I had my suspicions from early on about whodunnit, this novel keeps you guessing/questioning yourself.

I would definitely recommend this as a fun and quick festive read for murder mystery lovers! And, as a bonus – I got it for 99p on Kindle, so it may still be around that price point.

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book meme

WWW Wednesday | 16 Dec 2020

Hi everyone! I’m back with another WWW Wednesday, hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The three Ws to be answered are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

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I’m currently reading Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff, a book I found on Kindle for 99p. I really liked the idea of reading an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery set at Christmas. So far, this is my one concession towards seasonal, festive reading. I know a lot of people read Christmas-themed romances at this time of year, but I’m mostly put off by their covers. That’s obviously very surface-level of me, and I should probably give some of them ago!

Anyway, this book is set at Christmas in 1938. The Westbury family and their friends have gathered to celebrate Christmas, but their plans are ruined when one of their party is found dead Christmas morning. Amateur sleuth and detective novel obsessive Hugh suspects there is foul play and so starts to investigate the death. I’m about 40% of the way through this book and I’m really enjoying it! It’s everything that I wanted: fun, Christmassy, doesn’t take itself too seriously. I haven’t yet worked out whodunnit, but I have my suspicions about a few people. I would definitely recommend this if you’re into the idea of a Christmassy murder mystery.

What did you recently finish reading?

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I read all of Sisters by Daisy Johnson on Sunday. I think I’m going to give this book 4 stars – I really loved it in lots of ways but there was just one thing that let it down for me. I’ll talk about it more in my review, which should be posting this week!

Sisters tells the story of two sisters and their mum, who move houses to run away from something that happened. The story is disjointed, mirroring the unsettled feeling you have right from the very start. It’s not a long book – just under 200 pages – and it’s perfect for the story it’s telling, as you feel the tension all of the way through. Johnson is a superb writer and it’s a really atmospheric read!

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This week I also finished listening to Three Women by Lisa Taddeo on audiobook. I mentioned it in last week’s WWW post so I won’t summarise it again. I really listening to it though – the stories of these women were so immersive and heart-breaking. I left the book feeling quite angry at the world actually, especially due to Maggie’s story. I would definitely recommend this if you like non-fiction, especially ones that follow in-depth explorations of people’s lives.

What do you think you’ll read next?

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Hmmm, this is a difficult one! I am wondering whether to try out another Christmassy read – I know I just said that they don’t really appeal to me, but I feel like I should push through this prejudice as I think we could all do with more festive cosiness in our lives. I’ve seen a few good reviews of the The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss, so potentially that.

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I also have Serpent & Dove on my tbr for this month, so that could be my next read. But after reading The Bone Season and The Mime Order back-to-back, I’m not sure if I’m quite ready for another long fantasy novel yet. Feels like it might be a bit heavy, you know?

I finish work on Friday though, so I’m hoping to get a lot of reading done during the Christmas break.

I guess you (and I!) will find out in next week’s WWW post what I chose!

What are you currently reading? How are you finding it?

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

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Uncategorized

Sisters by Daisy Johnson

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Sisters: the exhilarating new novel from the Booker prize shortlisted  author of Everything Under: Amazon.co.uk: Johnson, Daisy: 9781787331624:  Books

Sisters is an incredible novel by Daisy Johnson, which charts the dysfunctional relationship of sisters July and September, set to the background of a discomforting house and with the looming presence of something unknown (to the reader) that happened a few months ago and changed everything. And that’s all I will say on the plot, as I think this is one of those books it’s best to go into blind.

The creeping sense of dread and unease that Johnson paints is astonishing; it’s there from the very beginning and sustained right throughout the novel. I loved the scattered, snapshot telling of the story, jumping back and forth in time – it added to the building sense of unease and the tense atmosphere. I read this book all in one day and it’s because it pulls you in and carries you along – you need to know what happened and what is happening now.

Johnson draws a complex portrait of a dysfunctional family, both before and after the incident. July’s chapters were captivating, dark and disorientating, but I also really enjoyed the more clear-headed chapters from the point of view of her mother, which shed more light on the situation and also proved that the darkness in the family was there long before the incident.

This book is gorgeous in every way, which was what made it more intensely disappointing to me that I guessed the ‘twist’ about half-way through. As soon as I guessed it, I hoped that I was wrong (but unfortunately wasn’t), as I think it’s a bit overdone and unoriginal. This took away from what otherwise was a 5 star book for me. However, it’s the best version of this trope that I’ve seen, and I still absolutely recommend it to everyone! Daisy Johnson’s writing is phenomenal and I’m very excited to see what she does next.

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book review

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Mime Order (Bone Season): Amazon.co.uk: Shannon, Samantha:  9781632868497: Books

Just a note before I start this review – I will not be spoiling any of The Mime Order in this review, but to explain the plot there will be spoilers from The Bone Season. So proceed at your own risk!

The Mime Order continues where The Bone Season left off – with Paige and her gang on a train to London, having just fled Sheol I. From there, Paige dives back into the syndicate – the London voyant underworld – and tries to resume her life as it was, but she knows that she can’t stand by and forget what happened in Sheol I.

It was really nice to see Samantha Shannon settle into her own in a lot of ways. The work she put into building the world really paid off in this novel, and I think I definitely benefitted from reading the books back-to-back, as I found myself stumbling a lot less over some of the language used. There were other things I preferred in this novel: I think Warden and Paige sort of grew more into their feelings about each other; I found it much more believable in this novel. Warden also felt more human – I’m not sure I would say this is that consistent with his characterisation in the first book, but it made him feel much more likeable. He even had a sense of humour! It was great!

However, for all the things I think Shannon does better, there are some I thought weren’t as good. The pace was the main thing that let this book down. Warden doesn’t reappear until about 200 pages in, bringing with him the main plotline of the novel. Until then, it feels a bit purposeless and all over the place. Paige spends the first 200 pages sneaking around behind Jaxon’s back and talking to people, and it isn’t until Warden and the Rephiam reappear that she has more of a purpose/mission.

From there though, the pace does really pick up, and the last 100 pages were relentless, making it very difficult to put down. I felt the same way about The Bone Season – once Shannon arranges everything how she wants to, it seems like it’s just a straight shot through to the end from there.

The novel ended on a really good cliffhanger – however, I had worked out what was coming quite a bit of time. But just because I guessed it, doesn’t mean it was predictable and I still found it shocking, if that makes sense – and I’m excited to see where it leads in the next book.

There were one or two points in the book where I would say there were plot holes/things not well enough explained, but I’m not going to describe them here as I’d have to be very spoiler-y to do so. However, that also dampened my enjoyment of the book as it took me out of the world and had me thinking about it too much.

Overall, this book is still a four stars from me – it was enjoyable, the character development was great and Shannon’s world-building is unbeatable. I’m very much looking forward to reading the other books and seeing what the rest of the series has to begin.

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book meme

WWW Wednesday | 9 Dec 2020

Hi everyone! I’m participating in WWW Wednesday again today, which was originally hosted at Daily Rhythm and has been revived by Taking on a World of Words.

The three Ws to be answered are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

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I just finished The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon last night, so I have to choose my next physical book. I’m not sure whether to go straight onto The Song Rising or to take a break from that series and then come back after to read The Song Rising and The Mask Falling back-to-back.

I’m also listening to Three Women by Lisa Taddeo on audiobook (thanks to NetGalley and the publishers). I’ve always wanted to read this book and when the option came up for the audiobook on NetGalley, I automatically requested it. So far, I’m really enjoying it. Lisa Taddeo is a journalist who immersed herself into the lives of three women to learn about female desire. This is one of those non-fiction books that reads like fiction, which I enjoy. So far, Taddeo is letting the lives of the women do the talking, but I would like to also see some more explicit discussion from her about the concept of desire – a bit like what we got in the prologue. Excited to see where this one goes!

What did you recently finish reading?

The Mime Order (The Bone Season, #2)

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon. I haven’t written my review yet so I haven’t fully sat down and thought about what I thought of it, but I will say that the first 200 pages of the book were very slow and it took a long time to get started. But, like the first book, the final 100 pages or so were almost unputdownable.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Sisters: the exhilarating new novel from the Booker prize shortlisted  author of Everything Under: Amazon.co.uk: Johnson, Daisy: 9781787331624:  Books

I think that I probably will take a book from the Bone Season series, just so I can read The Song Rising and The Mask Falling back-to-back, rather than read three in a row and then take a break before the final one. I’m really enjoying the series but it is quite heavy going and the books are quite long.

I think next I might read Sisters by Daisy Johnson. It’s quite short and a different genre, so will hopefully be a nice change of pace from what I’m reading now.

Well, that’s it for me this week! What are you reading?

book review

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon | Waterstones

The Bone Season is an adult dystopian/fantasy novel, set in the future where England is a republic run by Scion and clairvoyants exist and are outlawed under this regime. Paige, our main character, is a clairvoyant working for an underground network of voyant criminals in London (called the syndicate) – the only way to stay safe as a clairvoyant is in gangs. When she is caught by Scion guards, she assumes she will be taken to the Tower and killed, but she is transported to a penal colony called Sheol I, where she discovers there’s more to fear than just Scion.

Samantha Shannon creates an incredibly immersive, well-built and fully developed world in this novel. She uses language to help create the world that Paige lives in, giving the members of the syndicate vocabulary based on London slang, and using familiar-but-altered words to describe the new things she’s created in the world. It’s clever, but I think sometimes slightly too clever – as well as the slang and new concepts to grapple with, Shannon has also created a highly-intricate voyant classification system. At the beginning of the book, the seven ‘orders’ of clairvoyants are laid out, but past that you only learn new terms as they are brought up in the text. It’s a lot to learn/get your head around, on top of the slang and other new words. Shannon doesn’t baby her readers, which is commendable, but as this is the first book in the series, I think some more hand-holding was needed to make the world fully understandable. There is a glossary in the back of the book, but I never understand them being placed there because why would I be looking in the back of the book? I didn’t discover it until after I’d finishing reading the novel. (This could just be my own idiocy though!)

I loved the character of Paige; she was interesting, strong and definitely a fighter. The other characters of the world were also well-built; the members of the syndicate are vividly real, despite them not really being present for the majority of the book. I liked the character of Warden too, and enjoyed seeing the relationship between them grow subtly. As for the romance aspects: I enjoyed it, and want the two characters to be together, but thought that there was too much last minute. You see their friendship/mutual respect grow, but there is the barest hint of romance before they are suddenly all over each other – there wasn’t enough romantic groundwork to work it believable. It was sort of caught in a weird middle-ground of a really slow burn turned instalove?

I think the underdeveloped romance and the fact that I think the world-building could’ve been better explained are why I haven’t given this book five stars. Overall, it’s a well-paced, fully-developed novel with a really interesting premise and an intricate setting. I want to know what happens to everyone, and so will be picking up The Mime Order straight away!

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

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book review

Mini reviews: From Blood and Ash & A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I’m going to talk a little bit about books 1 and 2 in the Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout today.

I read From Blood and Ash (book 1) back in July(ish) – it was my first read by JLA in a long time – and I devoured it. It really cut through the lockdown book slump I was having, where I was really struggling to pay attention to anything long enough to read. It was just what I needed to kick me into gear, and I really loved it. When I finally got around to reading AKOFAF this month, I decided to re-read FB&A first as I like to have that immersive experience and make sure I haven’t forgotten anything before moving onto book 2! They’re such easy-to-read books as well, so I knew it wouldn’t take me too long.

From Blood and Ash

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers. […] Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

Goodreads summary

From Blood and Ash is a fantasy novel, set in mythical location where humans are ruled by the Ascended – humans that have been blessed by the gods and have gone through the ‘Ascension’, a secretive process that makes them almost immortal and very powerful. Poppy is their ‘Maiden’, chosen from birth and put on a pedestal – she must wear a veil, cannot speak to anyone but a select few, and must live a sheltered life until she can Ascend and ‘usher in a new era’. When a new Royal Guard called Hawke enters her life, things start to unravel as she begins to want what she can’t have.

I love Jennifer L. Armentrout. I love her characters, her stories and the charm, humour and fun she injects into all of her novels. She is an auto-buy author for me, because her books always, always make me smile. From Blood and Ash is addictive from the start; I’ve read it twice this year (very unusual for me!) and I’ve ploughed through it both times, loving every second.

Poppy is fun, fierce and full of heart. She doesn’t enjoy her life and takes risks so that she can experience things that aren’t allowed to her – which is how she first meets Hawke. She’s a very conflicted character, both wanting to do what is right for everyone (be found worthy by the gods and Ascend) and also wanting to live her life how she chooses. Hawke is a usual Armentrout hero – attractive, flirty, strong but mushy underneath when it comes to the person he loves. And the only ones who can’t see he loves Poppy are him and Poppy. I loved reading the banter between Poppy and Hawke, and watching their relationship grow.

There’s lots of twists and turns in this book, and of course, everything is not what it seems. There’s a rebel faction who believe that the Ascended have wrongfully stolen the throne, there are humans who want to know where their third-born children go when they are chosen to ‘serve the gods’ at the Rite every year, and there are questions about who the Ascended really are what, exactly, Poppy’s role is as the Maiden. This book never stops moving, taking you from twist to twist at breakneck pace.

If you want to escape from the world and fall into a fast-paced, fluffy and fun book, I heartily recommend this book to you!

And I’m now going to talk about AKOFAF, so if you don’t want spoilers for FB&A, I suggest you stop here! Even the blurb for AKOFAF will spoil it for you!

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.

Summary from Goodreads

I think I preferred A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire to From Blood and Ash?! I was worried about second book syndrome and how this book would progress (I was especially worried about Poppy forgiving Casteel too quickly) but I really, really enjoyed it – it was an excellent addition to the series.

Poppy has entered a whole new world: separated from everyone she knows, she is surrounded by Atlantians who mostly hate her guts and a man who betrayed her. In this novel, Poppy has to work out whose side she is on, and navigate a relationship that she doesn’t know was every true to begin with.

I really liked seeing Poppy truly come into her own in this novel; no longer forced to wear a veil and act like a Maiden, she is able to be the person she really wants to be. She is someone with a strong spirit and sense of righteousness, someone who will no longer let anyone muzzle her. We also see her relationship with Casteel, which is rocky, to say the least. I said going in to the novel that I didn’t want Poppy forgiving him straight away, which she definitely didn’t do, but there is potentially slightly too much back and forth and angst for me in this one. He’s spent so long putting on act with her that she doesn’t know what was real and what wasn’t, which puts up her guard and makes her want to hide how she feels – this goes round in circles in a way that is entertaining, tense and fun, but does perhaps get a little bit old by the final time.

I think this novel could’ve felt a bit like it was moving pieces around a bit in preparation for book 3, but Armentrout balances this by making sure that we get more information and surprises as well as outright action and ‘physical’ story progression. I like what we learn about the Atlantians, as well as what we learn about Poppy herself.

And finally, that cliffhanger!!! I should’ve know Armentrout had something like that up her sleeve, but I think my mouth was absolutely gaping when I finished the book. It leaves you at exactly the right moment to make you desperate for more – so I will definitely be picking up the next book as soon as it’s released.

Have you read these books? I’d love to know what you think!

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