Category Archives: book recommendations

Books I Want to Read in 2018

There are approximately 200 books I need to read next year, so this was an incredibly hard list to narrow down. So I cheated a bit, and have split them up into quite a few categories.

Last year I chose 17 books I wanted to read in 2017. I managed to read 14 of them, except The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, A Conjuring of Light, Defy the Stars and The Ravenous – all of which are sitting on my bookshelf waiting patiently.

This year I started reading a lot more non-fiction, so if you have any recommendations for those coming out next year, please let me know. My knowledge is limited on that front!

Previously: 15 books I want to read in ’15 | 16 books I want to read in ’16 | 17 books I wanted to read in ’17

UKYA

There is some really amazing UKYA coming out in 2018, and these are some of the ones I really can’t wait for. There are plenty more though, including my own – there’s a semi-complete list here.

My Heart Goes Bang  | In Your Light | Second Best Friend  | Goodbye, Perfect

Bonus: Alice Oseman’s not yet announced new book, which I’ve already read cough-cough-cough

USYA

I have a difficult relationship with USYA, in that there’s a lot of hype about them and then they don’t always live up to expectations. So I tend to stay away from authors I’ve not read before these days. However, here are four authors who I really love, and I can’t wait to see what their next books are like. I’m particularly excited for Angie Thomas’ second novel!

Barbed Wire Heart | On the Come Up | Leah on the Offbeat  | Puddin’ (Dumplin’ #2)

Science Fiction

I am so excited about these that I am positively quivering. I love the free short story The Lady Astronaut of Mars, so I really can’t wait for the full length duology prequels coming this year (two! We’re blessed with an abundance of female scientists!). I will also read anything Becky Chambers chooses to bless us with, as her first two books make my top ten lists every year. Bring on the spaceborn few!

Time Was | Record of a Spaceborn Few | The Calculating Stars | The Night Masquerade (Binti #3)

Historical Magicians

In 2017 I had a reading epiphany: I have a favourite genre, and it’s not the one I write. It’s a niche sub-genre about historical magicians, like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Shades of  Milk and Honey (the golden intersection is also when they are rich murderers, of course).

Since I realised this was my ultimate jam, I’ve not had a single book slump, because I’ve stocked up on historical magic books. I love any and all of them I read. So here’s some new ones coming out that I’m very excited for. (I’ve already read advanced copies of Circe and  Chainbreaker and love love loved them.)

Sorcerer Royal (Sorcerer to the Crown #2) | The Dark Days Club #3 | Circe | Chainbreaker

Books about the ocean

Because who doesn’t love a good sea book? I love Kirsty Logan’s quirky magic, and I’m very much looking forward to having my heart torn out by Louise O’Neill twice this year, as her adult debut Almost Love is also coming out.

The Surface Breaks | The Gloaming | The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

Middle Grade

Most of these books don’t have covers yet, but I am incredibly excited for them none-the-less. These all have more than a hint of magic and there’s something so nice about reading books for younger readers occasionally. I think YORK was one of the underappreciated books of 2017 that doesn’t get discussed enough, and I can’t wait for the next part.

 The Clockwork Ghost (York #2) | A Spoonful of Murder (Murder Most Unladylike #6)

No covers yet:  The Storm Keeper’s IslandPages & Co

What books are you looking forward to in 2018? Except for mine (!) I have three releases this year. The US editions of The Last Beginning (February) and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe (July), and the UK edition of my fourth book (September). It’s going to be a busy one!

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My (personal) best books of 2017

It’s the season to round up our reading years! This year I read nearly 220 books, so it was difficult to choose my favourite ten, especially as I’ve read some truly excellent books this year. Some really important books about feminism and racism achieved the recognition they deserved this year, so those made it to the top of my list. These are all published in 2017.

If you’ve already read all these, then firstly – please send me some recommendations, as you clearly have excellent taste! Secondly – my top ten favourite books of every year since 2011 can be found here, for some things you might not have discovered.

Finally, a reminder from an author – if you’re making your own list of favourite books of 2017, please make sure you thank the author by adding your reviews to Amazon. It’s a small, quick thing that can make a huge difference to authors.

10. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

 

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Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun.

Achingly sad and beautiful, WE ARE OKAY is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time. Marin is an orphan, who was raised by her grandfather. When he dies, she runs across the country to university instead of facing her grief. Completely alone, she plans to spend her 25 day Christmas break in an empty dorm building, eating ramen and reading poetry about solitude. But her ex-girlfriend and lifelong best friend has other thoughts on the matter.

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9. Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith

A philosopher dons a wet suit and journeys into the depths of consciousness to tell a bold new story of how nature became aware of itself.

A fascinating look at how evolution makes our brains think, told through the mysterious actions of octopuses. That cover deserves awards alone, too.

292372118. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. 

I’ve seen this around for years (it’s a particular favourite of booktubers) but never picked it up. Finally my friend Kat forced it into my hands, and I’m so glad she did. I devoured all 8 volumes and now eagerly await new issues. Not for younger readers – it’s very explicit.

7. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart 33843362.jpg

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

A worthy follow up to We Were Liars, this genderbent The Talented Mr Ripley, told in reverse chronology, is a masterclass in writing unlikeable female characters who are unapologetically evil.

 

6. Binti & Binti Home by Nnedi Okorafor25762847

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

These short novellas can be read in one sitting. They highlight how white and homogeneous alien races in science fiction can be, by showing how a real diverse alien race might be. Binti’s culture mirrors an African tribal cultures.  This also features a STEM-studying female character (a rarity in fiction – my list numbers only 30, and I wrote 3 of them). Binti is truly unique and I will happily read another dozen stories about her.

326133665. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. 

Hugely important, in every way. Beyond that – wonderfully told, with an unmistakable voice.

338717624. The Power by Naomi Alderman

WINNER OF THE 2017 BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION

What if the power to hurt were in women’s hands? Suddenly – tomorrow or the day after – teenage girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death.

The perfect answer to people who think there’s no need to be a feminist today, because sexism has been ‘fixed’. It amplifies all the little everyday niggles of inequality that it’s so easy to overlook, by examining what would happen if it was reversed. It’s noticeable then, for sure.

3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi30849411

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. 

This is such a unique (and horrifying) way of showing what national identity has been lost by Africans taken into slavery. Hugely important and powerful, and destined to become a classic.

2. Sourdough by Robin Sloan33916024

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.

The perfect mix of science & magic to leave you dreaming of sentient bread. A book I wish I had written.

1. The Pearl Thief (Code Name Verity prequel) by Elizabeth Wein34593693

Sixteen-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart is returning to her family’s ancestral home in Perthshire for one last summer. Tensions are already high when a respected London archivist goes missing, presumed murdered. And then she notices the family’s treasure trove of pearls is missing.

I’m a huge fan of thirties detective novels like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, and this is my perfect spin on that – there’s murder, rich people living frivolously, dogs, Bronze age marine archaeology, castles, cross-dressing Cabaret shows, TREASURE-HUNTING, pearls, buried treasure (did I mention the treasure?), river trawling and Harriet Vane mentions. I’m so into it in every way.

Ellen and Frank are brilliant love interests, and Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stewart must be the most iconic female character in YA history. She’s smart, sassy and always says the unexpected. She goes off to fight in World War II in Code Name Verity as a spy, she kisses whoever she pleases, and as Ellen put it, takes whatever she wants. She had a really brilliant character arc in this book – you really see her blossom from an unsure fifteen year old into the person she’s going to become in Code Name Verity.

Reading this has made my heart ache all the more for her and what happens in the next book, and I’m very afraid that I’ll never be able to read CNV again for fear of my heart quite literally exploding in sadness.


 

Bonus – my favourite books published before 2017:

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

 

Books which you might like if you enjoyed The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

Books about isolated characters:

 

The Yellow Wallpaper (free eBook) | Lirael The Diary of a Young Girl

Books about internet culture:

fandom

FangirlKiss Me First Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World

Books with a twist:

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K-Pax | We Were Liars | We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Books about survival:

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Life As We Knew It A Closed and Common Orbit | Aurora

17 books I want to read in ’17

Previously: 15 books I want to read in ’15 | 16 books I want to read in ’16

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen #2) by Alison Goodman

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Now I Rise (The Conquerer’s Saga #2) by Kiersten White

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

No covers yet:

Girlhood by Cat Clarke

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

Warcross by Marie Lu

The Ravenous by Amy Lukavics

In Your Light by A.J. Grainger

 

 

 

Favourite books of 2016

As we’re approaching the end of 2016, I thought I’d share some of the best books I’ve read this year. I’ve read over 175 books, and these are the cream of the crop!

Tale-within-a-tale graphic novel set in pre-history Arctic
Social and gender politics thousands of years in the future

Review – Goldenhand by Garth Nix

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Published by Hot Key on 4th October 2016

Genres: Fantasy, adventure, paranormal

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon UK

Blurb: For everyone and everything there is a time to die.

Lirael is no longer a shy Second Assistant Librarian. She is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, with Dead creatures to battle and Free Magic entities to bind. She’s also a Remembrancer, wielder of the Dark Mirror. Lirael lost one of her hands in the binding of Orannis, but now she has a new hand, one of gilded steel and Charter Magic.

When Lirael finds Nicholas Sayre lying unconscious after being attacked by a hideous Free Magic creature, she uses her powers to save him. But Nicholas is deeply tainted with Free Magic. Fearing it will escape the Charter mark that seals it within his flesh and bones, Lirael seeks help for Nick at her childhood home, the Clayr’s Glacier.

But even as Lirael and Nick return to the Clayr, a young woman from the distant North braves the elements and many enemies in a desperate attempt to deliver a message to Lirael from her long-dead mother, Arielle. Ferin brings a dire warning about the Witch With No Face. But who is the Witch, and what is she planning?

Once more a great danger threatens the Old Kingdom, and it must be forestalled not only in the living world but also in the cold, remorseless river of Death.

Review: So, I recently listed Lirael, the main character of Goldenhand, as my ultimate Book Girlfriend. Here’s what I said about her:

“If there’s anyone who’s a direct inspiration for Clove, it’s Lirael. She lives in a huge underground library and is too shy to even talk to the other librarians. Instead she spends her time exploring its thousand year old depths with her magic dog sidekick. She also can transform into a otter.

It’s hard to articulate how much Lirael meant to me as a teenager. It feels very weird to make jokes about what a babe she is, because I just think that she’s absolutely wonderful. I used to really wish she was a real person. She may be my literary soulmate. I’m so excited to see where Garth Nix takes her in Goldenhand, out next month. I’ve missed her.”

Because of that blog post, Hot Key were lovely enough to send me a limited edition gold signed copy of Goldenhand. It made my month. It’s glorious.

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So, obviously the series means a lot to me. I’ve been waiting, like, a decade for this book. (When I first read the series, I remember having to look up the word ‘disreputable’, because I thought it meant that the Disreputable Dog was really smelly. I was tiny.)

Goldenhand didn’t let me down. It ties up all the plots that were left hanging, gives satisfying cameos of old favourites (sometimes too brief, in the case of Mogget, the Disreputable Dog and Touchstone), and casts a whole new dimension onto the existing books.

Lirael was as wonderful as ever, and the new character Ferin lived up to the impossibly high standard Lirael had set. She’s a very Katherine Rundell-esque feral wild girl, and I feel like I’ve not spent enough time with her yet.

I loved seeing Lirael training as Sabriel’s Abhorsen in waiting. Their relationship is so great, and I could have easily read 200 more pages of their interactions. I want spin offs of their day to day life, without the intensity of having a Big Disaster to distract them. In fact, I want a Parks & Rec spin off of the whole family – Sam and Ellimere and Touchstone and Nick and Mogget and the Disreputable Dog, all getting in and out of hijinks.

(Spoilers ahead) 

The story itself focuses on the surviving Big Bad of the trilogy, Chlorr of the Mask – also known as Clariel, the focus of Nix’s last book. Nix never covers old ground, and is constantly expanding his world in new directions – literally going off the map, in this case. That’s why these books feel so real. You can tell there are layers and layers of world-building behind what’s seen on the page (an offhand reference to what created a kind of alternate universe/nuclear wasteland left me absolutely desperate to know more, and I’m sure if asked Nix would have all the answers. Here’s hoping he writes another book about it.)

I was expecting a similar kind of battle to the one in Abhorsen, but in fact the climax of the book is quiet and unsettling and genuinely unique – I’ve never read anything like it.

The romance of the book was the only part which disappointed me a bit. I was bracing myself for this going in, as I’ve changed so much as a person since I first read the trilogy that I knew that whatever happened, it wouldn’t be what I had made up in my head when I was young.

For me, the romance was entirely unnecessary. I would have much preferred to see Lirael as a strong, independent, single woman. Her chemistry with Nick felt forced and painful and unneeded. It seemed to take away from both characters, rather than building them up.

Overall though, this was an amazing end (or continuation? I want more please, Garth!) to one of my all time favourite series. I am so, so happy with it – and I wish I could send it back in time to the Lauren who was aching for it as a teenager.

5 stars