Goodbye, 2019


2019 has been a terrible year for me, which is bittersweet as it was the first full year of this new life I've fallen into. 2019 was my first full year of marriage, of officially living away from home and my family (literally in another country), and the year of my first human loss. I got my heart broken this year in so many ways that the stitches I used to put it back together are now overlapping and a jumble of coloured string. Which I guess is okay, as at least it's stitched.

I can't begin to explain how hard losing my Nain has been, it just seems to get worse over time and I can see myself pulling away from people, but it's like I'm watching through a foggy screen and am refusing to handle it. Healthy? No. But it's what I think is necessary right now. It feels like each day something new is dawning on me.. She won't meet my husband, my children, I won't hold her hand again, we won't laugh about our mutual memories. We won't go for food together again, she won't playfully slap me when I say a dirty joke. I won't be stuck watching one her British murder mysteries or Star Trek again, bored out of my mind. We won't rewatch an episode of Barefoot Contessa or Ace Of Cakes. We won't sit in the bathroom together, chatting about absolute nonsense. I won't cut her hair again, or paint her nails. I won't hold her hand again, which I know I've already mentioned, but it's really the thing that's bothering me. She had bony hands that tended to shake when she was upset, she'd roughly rub the back of my hand when it was time to let go. She didn't do that this time, I guess I wasn't even holding her hand, but it just felt like I was when I missed her. Now it's just space. It's hard. I'm scared to return home next year as it will undoubtedly make it real. When I flew home for the funeral, it was a blur of clearing out closets, trying to juggle arrangements, guests, being there for my Granddad, and just.. change. But now we'll be doing the usual things we used to without her, and that will make it feel final. It terrifies me.

In regards to my relationship, this year has been an odd one. It was the first full year of marriage and the first full year of living together. With it came the usual marriage challenges--settling on a routine, being okay to depend entirely on each other. In 2018 my husband had shoulder surgery and was off work for most of the year, so 2019 felt like an entirely different pace. I had to come to terms with being alone for most of the day and not having someone to build my routine around, which was odd. And rather scary. In a sense this was a year of self discovery. I had to fill my days with things I enjoyed doing, and that was a pretty big task as I quickly realised that at home in UK most, if not all, of my hobbies were with my mother. I blogged at night when she would go to bed, or early in the morning when she'd be cooped up in her bedroom for hours. I never actually felt like I was doing something because I wanted to, instead it always felt like I was killing time until she was ready. I knew a marriage wouldn't work that way, so I had to reassess my.. well, everything.

As someone with chronic pain I had to also come to terms with not hating myself for not being able to do housework everyday, and I had to relearn to not push myself because of the guilt I'd feel at having seemingly sat on my butt as my husband worked. It made me more fearful of having children, and that's also something that I'm now dealing with in my own way. I struggled with control, I had too much of it when home alone, and that was most definitely a learning process. I learnt that sometimes for your sanity you have to depend on people, and sometimes those people are the ones you least expected.

Blogging wise, I semi fell back in love with the world. I started up an entirely new Instagram page dedicated to books, and that was 100% the right decision for me. I'm never not going to have a negative outlook toward social media after my trust got broken so many times, but a community filled with book lovers certainly helps. @BranchingPages reached over 1000 followers within a few months, and I couldn't of been prouder.

I'm not looking forward to 2020 as right now it just seems like another year of potential guilt, pain, and loss. But I think that's a part of adulthood, and it's okay to be scared. Everyone is scared, they just show it in different lights. Hopefully I will be proven wrong and in a years time, I will be in a much better place without so much shadow over my heart.

How was your 2019?

Book Stats + End Of The Year Reading Survey | 2019


It's time to officially wrap up my 2019 reading year. Yay! We've gone through a lot the past week or so, we've discussed my Best Books Of 2019, My Worst Books Of 2019, Most Disappointing Books Of 2019, and the Most Surprising Books Of 2019. But if you're a nerd like me you're asking the important question - Where are the stats!? In this hefty blog post I'll be answering the questions to this years Reading Survey, and I'll be going through my book stats for fun. Hope you enjoy!

Let's start with the best part, the stats..

Books Read: 117

Out of those books, I read..

  • 56 books I own
  • 27 physical books from the library
  • 31 audiobooks from the library
  • 12 ebooks
(some I double counted if I switched between the physical and ebook)

83 of the books were stand-alones, while 34 were in a series. 

My average star book rating was 3.8.

My most given rating was 5 stars (yay!) 


Not bad, not bad. Time for the questions..

How many books did you read? Did you meet your goal?
From the time I'm writing this post, I have completed 117 books in 2019. My goal was set a classic 100, so I can happily say that I surpassed my goal with sparkling colours. For 2020 I'm raising the stakes by aiming to read 125 books. Wish me luck.

Most read genre?
I've been a little boring this year and my most read genre was undoubtedly the good ole general fiction. With 45 books being in categorised as 'general fiction' and my runner up being fantasy with 25 books. Yeah, it wasn't even close.

Longest and shortest books you read.
My longest was Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix at 870 pages. My shortest was The Night Before Christmas which was quite the struggle at a whole 3 pages. Honestly don't know how I managed it, heh. In all seriousness, my husband read this classic Christmas tale to me on Christmas Eve, so if we're just talking about books I read myself then it would be We Should All Be Feminists which was 55 pages. So still quite small.

Favourite book published in 2019?
This is an easy question to answer as my favourite book published in 2019 was also my favourite book of the entire year - Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This fictionalised story surrounding a band from the early 70's quickly stole my heart with it's quirky interview format and strong female characters who each demonstrate feminism in her own way. I was already a fan of Reid's work after reading The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo in 2018, but I was still surprised to discover that her writing wasn't a 'one hit wonder' for me. Would recommend to absolutely everyone. I'll link to my full review at the end of this post.

Favourite debut book in 2019?
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. I didn't know that this was a debut novel when I borrowed it from my library, so that came as a pleasant surprise when the Goodreads Choice Awards came around. Queenie tells the story of a 20-something Jamaican British woman who lives in London and is going through some man troubles which are really only the band aid on top of a troubled young woman. This was brilliantly written with witty characters and a realistically flawed protagonist. A truly great debut novel, I look forward to seeing what else the author comes out. I also read Miracle Creek by Angie Thomas which got released this year, but it just didn't entirely live up to the hype that I'd heard so though I rated it the same as Queenie, it didn't feel right to choose it.

Favourite book not published this year?
Surprising to even me, I have to go with Valley Of The Dolls by by Jacqueline Susann. I never would've predicted my love for this 1966 released novel. A story of three young women living in New York right after the end of WWII. I've already written a full review for this book, which I will link to at the end of this post. But yes, I absolutely loved it and the story has just glued itself to my heart for some odd reason.

A book that lived up to the hype.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This novel had been on my TBR pile for years but I was always reluctant to pick it up as I never knew what the tone of the book would be (I've never watched the movie adaption). It most definitely lived up to the hype. The story was charming, heartfelt, and I held a fondness for all the women involved in the story. So many people say that this is one of the all-time great modern books, and I can now hardheartedly agree with that. If you've been putting this book off, go ahead and pick it up. You won't regret it.

A book that did NOT live up to the hype.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I had seen so many glowing reviews for this arguably modern classic, and having read The Goldfinch earlier in the year and enjoying it, I was super psyched to pick this up. Alas, I loathed this book. Not bad enough to give a 1 star, thank God, as the writing was most definitely beautiful but the story and characters were close to unbearable. I'd sooner rip a nail out before ever giving this a reread.

Book that felt like the biggest accomplishment?
Different prompt, same author. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This book has the capability to commit a murder with how huge it is - 784 pages. Ad though I did rather enjoy it, it's the definition of a dense read so it felt like such a huge achievement when I turned that final long-winded page.

Favourite character.
This is the most difficult question on this survey for me as I'm not sure. My initial mental answer was Daisy Jones. But then after thinking about it, I realised that she wasn't a favourite character of mine from the book, I just found her so refreshing. She's the most realistically written feminist that I've read about, and that made my brain run away with my heart. However after sitting on this answer for a few days, I just have to go with Nana from The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Not only is he a cat, but he's a well written character who you can't help but love.

Least favourite character.
Every single character in The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn. I loathe this book, I loathe the characters, and I would quite happily use it's pages to start a fire.

Most shocking book/moment.
Though not really a 'shocking' moment I was very surprised by the last few chapters of The Last Letter To Your Lover by Jojo Moyes. That story took some turns that I did not see coming, and it was truly a nice change of pace from some historical fiction that lays all it's cards out on the table before the book has even kicked off.

Favourite couple/OTP.
Though not the main focus of the book, I have to go with Ove and Anita from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. They were the definition of a charming couple, and though the story wasn't focused around their romance, they truly stole the show.

The best written book you read this year.
Though I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott this year and liked it, I have to go with A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This is a sci-fi character driven story that doesn't become a mess with the mass amount of information Chamber had to give us. I never felt lost in the story, and it never seemed like a info dump of species and space battles. It flowed beautifully and I came to care for all the characters, which I didn't expect given the many crew members we meet.

Book that you pushed the most people to read in 2019.
It's not really surprising that my answer is Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - fitting as it was my favourite book, eh? I've recommended Daisy to so many people both in real life and in the world of Bookstagram. It's perfect for everyone!

Favorite book cover of the year.
My answer for this was hard to decide on, as my gut wants to say Less by Andrew Sean Greer as I really like the illustration, the mix of blue and pink, and the simpleness of it. But I equally want to choose Educated by Tara Westover as I think the cover is both beautiful and approachable, which is unlike most non-fiction book covers. Let's face it, non-fiction tends to look hella boring.

Favorite book adaptation.
In 2019 I didn't watch any adaption that I had also read, even though I read The Goldfinch purely so I could go watch the movie. Yay! The adaptions I watched that I hadn't read were IT Chapter II, Good Omens, Let It Snow, Pet Cemetery, and The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. I didn't wholeheartedly love any, so there's that.

What book made you cry the most?
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa. I needed to down a few hydration pills after finishing this fictional story about the bond between a lonely man and cat. What I really liked about this was that the story wasn't written with the intention to be sad, unlike some animal-themed books that tend to play on your emotions. This was a truly beautiful story, which I urge anyone to pick up. I cried both happy and sad tears during the short read, which is truly a testament to how well-written it was.

What book made you laugh the most?
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. This is a non-fiction read that lands somewhere between being a memoir and a book on self help. In it Lawson discusses her own personal struggles with mental health and chronic pain, but she does so with such wit and almost crude-like honesty that you can't help but laugh as tears fall from your eyes from relating to the woman. I've never felt more heard when reading a book, non-fiction or fiction, which is never not a beautiful thing.

A new favourite author you discovered this year.
Celeste Ng author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You. I read both these contemporary books back-to-back and it was a great time. I fell in love with Ng's style of writing. I can't wait to see what else she comes out with.

Guilty pleasure read of the year.
A tie between The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and The Hating Game by Sally Throne. Both are women's fiction with unrealistic plots and whirlwind romances that make you want a glass of red and a bubble bath as you read, but I loved them. I devoured both books with an impressive speed, and the characters have truly stayed with me. Ultimate guilty pleasure.

Favorite book you re-read this year.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I try and give this a reread every year, and it always pulls at my heart strings and helps me fall back in love with reading.

What is the best non-fiction book you read this year?
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I've already mentioned this book during this survey so I won't go on about it, but yes, an incredibly hilarious yet warm book on mental health and chronic pain. If you can relate to what she goes through, you'll feel like you have a new best friend when the book comes to an end.

Were you happy with your reading year?
Yes and no. I'm happy with the quantity but I don't really feel like I made a dent in my physical TBR. Next year I want to focus more on the books that have been sitting around for years on my shelves, and make books I think I'm going to love more of a priority.

Here's hoping for a great 2020 reading wise. 
What's the first book you're hoping to get to in 2020?

Most Surprising Books Of 2019 | Yearly Wrap-Up


Surprising books can be a difficult one to define. I personal see a book as surprising if I go into it not really expecting to love it, and instead finish with a desire to keep reading either the story or the author. It rarely happens to me as I don't really expand my reading taste that much. However, this year I was able to put together a few books that completely took my expectations and flew with them.

In An Absent Dream
by Seanan McGuire
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. This is the forth novella in the Wayward Children book series. I liked the first and second, hated the third, but the fourth came as a huge surprise when I couldn't put it down and even wanted to reread it the moment I turned the last page. This story is focusing on an older character from the first book, and how she became a woman in a child's body and it was beautifully written. Here's hoping the fifth book lives up to this one. (I realise I have the first book in the series pictured, but sometimes my library doesn't fill every one of my desires. Rude, I know.)

Harry Potter
by J.K. Rowling
In 2019 I accidentally read the entire Harry Potter series for the first time ever. When trying to get into audiobooks I figured it was best to start with someone that I was already familiar with story-wise to fully get a feel for the entire experience. So, I chose Harry Potter. And before I knew it I was flying through all the audiobooks and staying up way too late to finish each story. I was never a huge fan of the movies, so I just never had the interest to read about this magical world. I was an idiot. Though similar to the movies (obviously) the last few books in this series have such a more depth-filled story than the movies. The characters all shined far better as written characters (except Ron, I still hate his character.), and I really enjoyed getting to know more about the side characters who never got that much screen-time. Basically, I loved them. If you've been reluctant to pick up the books, I strongly recommend listening to them instead. They're very soothing, so also great for anxiety filled nights.

Rosemary's Baby
by Ira Levin
Rosemary and her struggling actor husband Guy move to their dream New York City apartment building only to be greeted with a supposed suicide, overbearing neighbours, and a home with a reputation for evil. When Rosemary finds out she's pregnant she becomes increasingly isolated, and soon finds herself not knowing who to trust. This horror novel isn't as creepy as I was expecting, but definitely gave off a vibe of claustrophobia and an almost Gothic atmosphere (Think Carrie by Stephen King). The story itself was gripping and I couldn't help but keep reading, which surprised me as I truly thought it would be boring. Got to stop judging books too early, Anne. This surprised me to the point of instantly picking up another Ira Levin novel, which is probably the biggest of compliments.

The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt
When an explosion in a museum kills his mother, 13-year-old Theo finds himself still standing, concussed, with the notorious painting The Goldfinch in his bag. Worth millions and mourned for by the art world, the teenager doesn't know how to go about returning it. In this book by the author of The Secret History, we follow Theo as he becomes a man and the trails that goes hand-in-hand with ageing. This is one hefty book, with an even heftier story. The writing was beautiful, I devoured Donna Tartt's way of describing near about everything. Which is good, as she does describe literally everything that Theo comes into contact with. I vastly preferred the first third of this 500+ page novel, as the last portion dragged at times. Though I think that's to be expected. The characters were written wonderfully and I found myself truly caring for Theo - even when he was being a complete dumbass. If you enjoy literary fiction that's been made to be all pretty in the writing, then pick this up. If over writing bothers you, run like hell.

Normal People
by Sally Rooney
Told during their high school and college days, Connell and Marianne are the most unlikely of couples. In high school he's the popular guy and she's the intense 'weird' girl (think 'She's All That'). But when they some into contact, they release that they have a connection unlike anything they've yet to experience. Skip forward a few months, and their roles have switched in university. She's now the popular attractive girl and he's the lost student. This book seems to be a love or hate it situation, I've read such varying reviews. I personally loved it. It was devastating, the story was sad and I do think that's why so many people hated it. You have to be prepared to get your heart shattered. I initially gave this a 4 star rating, but the longer it sat with me, I couldn't get the characters out of my mind. So, I pumped this to a sparkling 5 star rating.

Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is a modern classic, and yet I was reluctant to pick it up as I just didn't know what to expect. Now I know that this follows the story of teenagers Kath, Tommy and Ruth as they come to question the world that awaits them outside of their boarding school. Vague, I know. But you have to go into this being a little baffled. The writing was beautiful, the characters flawed, and I did like the questionable pacing of the novel. Many people love this because of the 'twist', however I had already seen the movie trailer which gives away the entire plot, so I knew that part going in. However, what surprised me was how truly atmospheric and beautiful this book was. It almost felt like some sort of new poetry, which is very odd, but yes.. didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did. Would it make it to a list of all-time favourites? No, but it's definitely taken up a spot in my heart.

What book took you by surprise in 2019? 

Most Disappointing Books Of 2019 | Yearly Wrap-Up


Giving a book a 3 star rating doesn't seem bad, right? I think the entire Goodreads community sees 3 stars as a 'meh' verdict. Not great, not bad. I can think of worse things to give a book. However, when you go into a book expecting to give it a shining 5 stars, it can be so disappointing to end up giving it an okay review. All the books on this list I truly thought I'd love, but instead they left me with a bitter taste of disappointment. 

Crazy Rich Asians
by Kevin Kwan
You probably know what this hyped book turned movie is about without me giving it a description, but let's go for it anyway. When Rachel, a young New Yorker gets invited by her boyfriend to  travel to Asia for a wedding, she jumps at the opportunity. But he isn't telling her a vital thing: his family is lavishly rich. I wanted to enjoy this, I was expecting a funny rom-com type book that'd make me happy. Eeehhhh. I hated it. Okay, that's a bit strong. I hated the characters, and the plot. I feel as though the author wrote this book solely to educate people on the lavish lifestyles that some Asians live, and it read like that. The characters had no substance and Rachel and Nick were horrible as a couple. If you're thinking of reading this, just watch the movie. It'd be over faster.

The Virgin Suicides
by Jeffery Eugendies
The Summer that the Lisbon sisters all commit suicide was hard for many people, most notably their parents and the boys who had become infatuated with them. Why did they do it? This takes a look back through the eyes of one of the boys who lived across the street from the Lisbon's as he tries to find the answers. You've likely heard of The Virgin Suicides, whether it be the book or movie. It's popular and that made me all the more excited to finally pick it up, but.. meh. It just fell flat for me. I couldn't bring myself to care for the characters and the lack of overall dialogue in the book made it feel all the more lacklustre. It was okay, not great. Beautiful writing but a dull story. The epitome of 3 stars.

The Light We Lost
by Jill Santopolo
Told over a lengthy period of time, this follows the story of two people whose lives are intertwined by the tragedy that was 9/11. A love story of 'what could've been''s and fate. This was a Reese Book Club pick so I instantly wanted to pick it up, but... eh. I guess the characters just didn't do it for me..? Or maybe I was expecting some devastating love story, but was instead given a couple who really weren't suited, a bunch of dickish guys, and an ending that I really didn't care about. (Am I heartless? Maybe.) I didn't hate it per say, it just didn't make much of an impact on me. I'd still say give it a go, you may enjoy it more.

The Bride Test
by Helen Hoang
Khai's mother brings over Esme, a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, to America to seduce and marry her son. Thinking this could be the break her family needs, Esme jumps at the chance and wills to become the perfect woman for Khai. But it proves to be harder than she initially thought. I was so excited to read this as I loved The Kiss Quotation. And I originally thought this was a sequel revolving around the same two characters, but instead it revolves around Khai, a side-character from the first book. Which, okay. I was still enthusiastic. Alas, I don't know what it was about The Bride Test but it fell flat for me. The characters weren't as likeable as The Kiss Quotation's main duo and I felt that the story dragged a little. It was also very repetitive, certain lines such as "I touched his sleeve as to not startle him"seemed to be on every other page. My favourite part of the entire book was the authors note, so.. that kind of says it all. It wasn't bad, but not nearly as good as the first book in the series.

The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah
Thirteen-year-old Leni Allbright's life gets turned upside down when her father, recently returned from the Vietnam War, announces that they're packing up and moving to Alaska. It is there our story starts. We follow Leni and her parents as they become self efficient and learn how to navigate this new world of living off the land, wolves, and black Winters. I was pretty darn sure this was going to be a 5 star read (check out my 5 Star Book Predictions blog post for the proof) so I chose to kick off the readathon with it. I'm so very disappointed. This wasn't necessarily a bad book, but it definitely warrants a standard 3 star rating. The overall story had promise but I feel as though it ought to of ended at least 5 plot-twists before the end. It. Just. Kept. Going.

What was the most disappointing book you read in 2019?

Worst Books Of 2019 | Yearly Wrap-Up


When you read over 100 books in 365 days, you can pretty much guarantee that some will just not mesh well with you. In harsher terms, you're going to pick up some crappy books. All books are a personal experience and I really needn't do a disclaimer, I'm going to do one anyway as the Internet can be a harsh place.. Just because I didn't enjoy these books, doesn't mean they're bad or that you won't like them. I mean no disrespect to the authors, this is merely me going over which books ranked the lowest for me in terms of enjoyment this year. Let's get on with it..

The Woman In The Window
by A.J. Finn
Dr. Anna Fox is a woman who suffers with agoraphobia. The house is her safe space while simultaneously being her prison. She abuses alcohol and her meds to forget. However, when she witnesses something awful through the escape of her window and no one believes her, she realises that she'll have to take the 'case' in her own hands. Though this book is on the older side of hyped thrillers, I do think it will have a second-wind next year when the movie starring Amy Adams comes out. I mainly picked it up because one my favourite actresses recommended it (I'm easily influenced), however, I absolutely hated it. The only reason I gave it 2 stars was because the end wasn't as mind numbingly stupid as it could've been. I felt absolutely no empathy toward our main character, and at the 250 page mark, I realised that I just didn't care what happened. A thriller is meant to be the epitome of a page turner, however this was an absolute bore to me.

Call Me By Your Name
by Andre Aciman
A 'romance' story between an adolescent boy and a guest who's staying with the young man's family for the Summer. This has a queer couple, the backdrop of Italy, and a coming-of-age story. I ought to of loved this, but it was just so... weird. As in, masturbating with a peach weird. I couldn't bring myself to care about the so-called 'romance' and all the characters were so idiotic that I forgot about them the moment I put the book down. I get that this book/movie isn't really targeted toward me, and though I'm glad it's brought peace to some readers who have etched this book into their hearts, I just couldn't find any enjoyment in my reading experience. It was pompous, boring, and just weird.

Beneath The Sugar Sky
by Seanan McGuire
I read every book in the Wayward Children series this year, and I surprisingly enjoyed them. The short novella-like books were fast reads that left me with an aftertaste of wacky fun. However, the third book Beneath The Sugar Sky was pure nonsense. If you haven't heard of this popular fantasy series, it's a story set in a world of worlds (kind of). Children find doorways into other worlds that can be all sorts of crazy, and as a doorstop we have Eleanor West's school for troubled or "returned" children from said worlds. It's semi hard to explain. Each book has a completely different story/world usually with a character and the school to tie each book together. The third book was just pure idiocy. I didn't grasp what was happening half the time, one of the characters just repeatedly fat-shamed herself, and the story/outcome was stupid. Read if you want to be disappointed.

by Steaphanie Danler
Moving to New York from a place that feels like nowhere to live, twenty-two-year-old Tess lands a job at a renowned Union Square restaurant and begins to navigate the chaotic and punishing life of a waiter. Her appetite awakens for food, wine, drugs and sex But she also finds herself drawn into a dark, alluring love triangle. Pretentious writing, hopeless characters, and a story that lacks in every way possible, this was an utter 'meh' book. The only thing that was preventing this from being a 1 star read was the rare but notable paragraphs that actually read as beautiful (and not pompous). This was so disappointing. Like a bad CW show.

The Arrangement
by Sarah Dunn
A married couple decide to have an open relationship for 6 months, to escape from the comfortable routines they're falling into (you know, marriage) and their autistic son. I've never read a book that was equally as dull as it was infuriating. Not only were the characters unlikable, but the whole point of the story was semi vetoed by the husbands utter idiocy. Parts of this book were also so unbelievably problematic such as eating disorder glorifying and slut shaming. Just.. no. Hard pass. Hate it, hate it, hate it. (Not photoed in the book stack as I already donated it. Yup, hated it that much.)

Sometimes I Lie
by Alice Feeney
"One day, you're going to wake up in a coma." wait.. no, that's a line from Buffy. This one is about a woman that wakes up locked inside her mind, in a coma. How did she get there? That is the million dollar question. I'll hand-on-heart say that I only picked this up because of Sarah Michele Gellar's announcement that her and Ellen DeGeneres are making this into a mini-series. And.. I was really disappointed. This was one weird book. The overall story was good, but there were just too many weird moments to look past. Huge trigger warning for sexual assault. But if we're just looking at the plot, meh. I guessed the end at around 35% of the book. And I honestly can't remember a single character's name without Google. Not good, never good.

What was your lowest rated book in 2019?

Best Books of 2019 | Yearly Wrap-Up


2019 was a great reading year for me. I smashed my Goodreads challenge of reading 100 books, I found new authors who have since made it onto the list of my all time favourites, and I've stepped outside of my comfort zone way more than I did last year. It's always hard narrowing down things like this to my best-of-the-best but I'm going to give it a good go. This post is about the best books I read this year, and I will have a follow-up blog up soon discussing the books that surprised me positively. Like with everything, we'll also have a few posts talking about the worst/most disappointing books I unfortunately picked up. We all love a good yearly wrap-up! Without further ado...

Daisy Jones & The Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
When party girl Daisy Jones joins the 60s-70s rock band The Six, they are dubious as to whether she'll fit the bands image. Billy, the lead singer dislikes her attitude and she isn't all too fussed about him either. Can two people who dislike each other get along for the music that will undeniably skyrocket their careers? This is already well loved online, but boy, I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. Hands down my favourite book of the year. This is a beautiful story filled to the brim with strong women who you want to not only befriend, but you want to become. I never felt so inspired by a fictional group before, it was such a unique reading experience. As this novel is told through an interview format, I recommend you listen to this rather than read it. I personally picked up the book physically but a part of me wishes I had had the pleasure that so many people gained from listening to it's fully cast audiobook.

Valley Of The Dolls
by Jacqueline Susann
Anne, Neely, and Jennifer are three women trying to make a life in New York in the aftermath of WWII. Each has her own story to tell in this almost frowned upon classic that became a cult classic movie. It took me by surprise how much I fell in love with this book, as it really isn't like anything I've ever enjoyed in the past. The characters were so flawed and the story took a heavy look into the downsides of fame. In other words, this was a dreary book. Yet it was honestly so addicting and the characters stayed with me after I put the book down, names and all. I've written up a full review gushing about this novel will I will link to at the bottom of this post.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles
by Hiro Arikawa
This a beautiful story of man and cat as they travel across Japan to visit people from the man's past. I went into this book expecting a few laughs (it's mostly written from the cat's POV) and heartbreak. I got both, but I also got a 5 star read that I would recommend to near enough anyone. This isn't a fictional travel memoir, which the synopsis made it seem. It's a book with heart and though I think you'd get more from this book by being a cat lover, it is also filled to the brim with wonderfully written characters who each hold up on their own.

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
After sitting on my TBR for way too long, I finally picked up this modern classic in 2019. Set in the 1960's in Mississippi, society girl Skeeter decides to put together a book interviewing all the black women living in the town who have spent their lives raising and serving the white women. I didn't know what to expect going into this as I haven't seen the movie and was only vaguely aware of the backlash it seems to get online for being not factual (but.. I mean.. it's marketed as fiction), but I absolutely adored it. I loved the characters, and I so badly wanted to know most of them in real life. Despite it being written in multiple POV's, I never felt disappointed when jumping from character to character - a rarity for me. I'd most definitely recommend you giving this a go.

The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn
The year is 1915 and Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans. When she unexpectedly gets her chance and is recruited to work as a spy, she's sent into enemy-occupied France to be trained by the mesmerising Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose. Thirty years later, and haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the matter where it leads. I knew I was going to enjoy this book as it ticked so many boxes--historical fiction, empowering female characters, and wasn't marketed as a romantic tale. Yeah! But it actually came as a surprise how much I enjoyed this tale. The mingled stories of past and present captured my heart and refused to let it go.

Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng
Being a Chinese family living in Ohio in the 70's, the Lee's are just trying to be the perfect portrait of an American family. So when their sixteen-year-old daughter's body is found in the local lake, they struggle to come to terms with the news. This is a beautiful family centred story of the troubles and expectations that go with being different in such a time. Jumping between the past and present, you'll find yourself growing to care about the characters as though this were a 1,000 page book. (It's only 292 pages). The parents are frustrating but you still find yourself understanding their reasoning behind actions, and you'll want to take their children into your heart and give them a safe place to curl up. It's been a long while since I read a book by an author and immediately picked up some other work by him/her because I loved it so much. Much like Little Fires Everywhere, this is a domestic fiction novel centred around a family. But oh, this was so good. And if you're choosing between Celeste's work, then I'd suggest you go with this one first.

Big Little Lies
by Liane Moriaty 
At heart, this is a book about the obstacles that women go through in their 20's and 30's. We have a single mother, a woman with a seemingly perfect life, and a mother going through the trouble of shared custody with her ex husband. But if you go by synopsis's alone, this is a "who did it? what happened?" thing after a murder takes place. I did not expect to love this book as much as I did, in fact, I'd go as far as to say that this would make it onto my favourite books of all time list. Even if domestic fiction isn't your usual genre, or even mysteries, I'd suggest you give this a go. It's surprisingly witty and you'll grow to adore all the characters.

So, there we have it. The best books I read in 2019. See any that you also loved? What was your top book of the year? Let me know!

Read my full review of Daisy Jones & The Six HERE.

Read about who I'd dreamcast in the TV adaptation of Daisy Jones & The Six HERE.

Read my full review of Valley Of The Dolls HERE.

Valley Of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susann | Book Review [spoiler free]


Anne, Neely, and Jennifer are three young women trying to make it in the dazzling city of New York during the aftermath of WWII. Anne has recently moved from a small town and has fulfilled her dream of moving to this vast city where she quickly gets employed by a talent agency as their secretary. Neely is seventeen and waiting for her big break in the entertainment industry, she's sure of herself and refuses to accept less than what she deserves. Jennifer is the oldest of the three, a woman forced into this life of beauty and perfection in a ditch effort to get herself married, with children, and happy. She sends money back to her mother due to the guilt-ridden calls she receives from her, and is usually found hanging off a different man's arm selling her soul for a piece of fame and maybe a mink coat.

Prior to picking up this novel, I had no idea what the story was actually about. I haven't ever seen the movie and knew only that it was said to be ahead of it's time and a huge step for women in general. It was written about three sensual women and not targeted toward men. Basically the Sex And The City of it's time.

Though the three women's lives intertwine, each character gets her own path in this book and through the years we read how each finds herself turning to pills--otherwise known as 'Dolls'--to cope with different aspects of their lives. I feel the need to review each story separately to give you a more in depth look/review into the novel. So, let's get to it.

Anne is arguably the main focus of the story, she seems to be the orbit and Jennifer and Neely hover around her. She's the classic symbol of the virgin Mary who hasn't yet realised how beautiful she is. Through her secretarial work, she meets Lyon. A man recently returned from the war who hopes to write a book about his experiences, he is often found with a different woman hanging from his arm and everyone warns good-girl Anne just that. Yet she can't help feeling drawn to the charming English man. I liked Anne during the first half of the book, she was the character who had her head on her shoulders and was the most relateable of the three, yet she was beyond fickle to the point of being annoying. I kept waiting for her character to come into her own, to realise that she deserves more than what she's given, and become the feminist we all want to read about but it just never happened. I get that this book was written in a different time, but I think one of the main reasons it got so much recognition as a 'seductive mind-blowing ahead of it's time' novel was due to strong-minded women Susann wrote. The three enjoyed sex, knew their beauty, and sought after men instead of waiting to be courted. Anne never changed from being the innocent one. One could argue that this was the entire point, that she never changed herself, but the world changed her actions thus the 'Dolls'. The people she surrounded herself with turned her into a doll, of sorts, if you enjoy a good pun. I just wanted a more hardcore ending for the woman who constantly got backlash and taken for grated for her success.

Speaking of success, we have Neely. The youngest character who is seeking fame as though it will solve all her problems. She's the charming girl-next-door who vows to quit her career the moment she marries, to have babies and be a good wife. When Anne pulls a few strings and gets Neely a bigger part in the theatre production she's a part of, she's quickly and surprisingly shot to fame. She's the talk of the town, the newly discovered talent that everyone wants a part of. But it breaks her in more ways than one. She can't handle stardom and it turns her into one of the most vile characters I've ever had the displeasure of reading. I wanted to reach into the book and shake her so many times. She's the epitome of all those celebrities we read about who go off the rails once their name is in shining lights. Her story is the most drastic plot wise, as it takes various turns that I didn't see coming.

Jennifer, the third and final main character, was my favourite. Not as young as everyone thinks, Jennifer takes life with more gusto than Anne or Neely. She feels as though her clock is ticking down in the entertainment industry and longs to settle down with a man who cares for more than just her looks, because boy, does she have looks. She's the sex symbol of New York, women send her death stares as men ogle her with admiration. Jennifer could've easily become the vapid character that Neely was, but she was instead the most graceful of the three. Her story was one of great sadness as we see her constantly belittled and yet put above others solely because of the way she looks, she's the definition of what fame used to be. What I most enjoyed about her character was how modern she was for the time, she was a girls-girl and never put down other women to lift herself. She had insecurities that are nowadays talked about. She would've thrived in the modern day world.

The book spans over many years and because of that we get to see each woman go through big life changes. Marriages, children, flings, deaths, cosmetic surgery, and the drug dependency. I wasn't expecting such a length of time to transpire throughout the book as Anne's first chapter took up almost 200 pages and yet only covered a week or so of her life. Because of that, the pacing felt really off. I had whiplash from the amount of times we skipped a few years just as I got into the current situation one of the ladies found herself in. Did it make the story more interesting? Perhaps, but yet I still wish it hadn't skipped so much time. Give me another 100 pages to make this happen, I wouldn't of minded.

It's surprising how much I fell in love with this book as it isn't usually something I would pick up. And to be entirely honest, I can't put my finger on why this book ran away with my heart. Perhaps a mix of the flawed women, forbidden romances, and almost Gossip Girl like world. In a way it reminded me of The Seven Husband Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which was my favourite read of last year. Probably down to the old Hollywood feel and fame hungry men who you really want to punch in the face.

If this book has been on your TBR for a long time but you've been too intimidated to pick it up, this is your push. It read surprisingly easy and felt like it could've easily been released last year. Though as with all older released books, certain aspects of the story did not age well. The constant negative use of the word 'fag' and how anti-gay the characters were really bothered me, and though I shouldn't really take away some of my rating to that as it was a problem of the time not the author, it still kept throwing me out of the story and left a horrible taste in my mouth. So, it lost half a star and was downgraded to a 4.5. Fair? No. But necessary in the sense of rating from my enjoyment.

4.5/5 stars.

End Of The Year Book Tag


In a sense, this is a duo of tags as I did the Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag earlier this year. Now we're in ultimate panic mode as the New Year is fast approaching and let's face it, we all still have multiple books on our TBR that we thought we'd of finished by now. Yikes. Let's just get to the questions that are likely to shame me..

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?
I rarely start a book and don't finish it. Usually if I choose to put it down, I won't then pick it back up as there's something that just hasn't clicked with me. So far this year those books have been The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman, Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer and The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman. I have, however, started the Harry Potter series this year and am hoping to complete the audiobooks before 2020. (Future Anne adding in: I finished Harry Potter a week or so ago, so yay, I'm home free!)

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?
Not a specific book, but I do usually reach for thrillers and YA fantasies more at this time of year. Thrillers are a no-brainer what with the spooky season and eerie atmosphere that Fall gives us. And I equally crave the dark worlds that fantasy offers with forbidden romances, magical powers, and yes, usually love triangles. It's a guilty pleasure!

Is there a new release you're still waiting for?
Surprisingly, no. I was awaiting the second ever book by Stephen Chbosky 'Imaginary Friends' but coming in at a whooping 700+ pages and receiving not so great reviews, I'm in a box of my own fear and am now reluctant to pick it up.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?
The three that have continuously been put on my monthly TBR only to be pushed aside for something else are Becoming by Michele Obama, Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, and Let It Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson. The latter two were kept aside for the festive season, but I have no excuse for Becoming. It just keeps getting forgotten.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?
Regrettably, no. A big statement, but I've read so many 5 star books this year that I don't see anything knocking off something. Maybe if I randomly pick up a Taylor Jenkins Reid book? Or if I finally get to Jane Eyre. Oh, you know what, The Secret History by Donna Tartt. That's been on my TBR for so long and I'm determined to pick it up before the end of the year.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2020?
Yes and no. Me and my husband usually do the Popsugar Reading Challenge together, but we're thinking of giving it a miss as it really put us in a rut this year. I love a good prompt and/or a readathon, so maybe we'll join in on more of those. For personal reading plans, I've put together a book of 20 books that I will 100% try to read next year.

Have you made book plans for 2020 yet? Let me know!

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