2021 Releases I Didn’t Read (But Still Want To)

January 27th, 2022

Hi Readers!

Sharing the 2022 new releases I’m already getting excited about made me feel a little bit guilty about all those 2021 releases I said I couldn’t wait to read, but never actually got to. I only read 14 books that were published in 2021, so I am very behind on my new releases and I don’t want to forget about them. I can’t promise I’ll get to all of these in 2022, but here are some I definitely want to get to sometime.

In My Dreams I Hold A Knife by Ashley Winstead
This one wasn’t on my raider until I saw a few of my favourite booktubers reading and praising it and that obviously made me want to pick it up. This looks like such an atmospheric book, it’s a thriller and just sounds like exactly what I look for in a rainy day read.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
I have heard mixed things, and I’ve had mixed experiences with Rooney’s books before. I loved Normal People, wasn’t such a huge fan of Conversations With Friends, so this could really go either way. We’ll see, I think this will be one I pick up this year.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doer
This book sounds wild, but could possibly be amazing. This is the same author of All The Light We Cannot See which I liked but wasn’t enamoured by. But this one is about books and libraries and spans a long period of time, which I do love in a book.

The Plot by Jean Hanf Korelitz
I love books about books and this one sounds so intriguing. It’s a mystery thriller with an author as it’s main character and it sounds quite unsettling.

Velvet Was The Night by Silvia Mareno Garcia
I don’t see myself getting to this anytime soon as I still have her debut to get to (I know, I’m late to the party). This is a historical thriller which is apparently perfect for people who enjoy anti-heroes so I’m definitely intrigued.

Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
I want to read Say Nothing by Keefe first, but his newest non-fiction is also getting a lot of praise. This one chronicals how one of the richest families the Sacklers were responsible for the Opoid crisis.

The Love Songs of W.E.B Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
I haven’t actually much of this book online but it’s made quite a few ‘best books of 2021’ lists and it just caught my interest. It’s a historical fiction about race inspired by the words of Du Bois.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
This is a fantasy duology and I believe both books came out last year. I think I’ll be reading these pretty soon. I’m thinking February?

Defy The Night by Brigid Kemmerer
This is the first one in Kemmerer’s newest series. I loved her Cursebreakers series and this one has had some great reviews. But I think I’ll wait until we’re closer to the next book releases because I hate waiting!

The Women Of Troy by Pat Barker
I can’t wait to read this, but I saved it purposely because I really wanted to read The Iliad and The Odyssey first so I could get the full experience. I think I’ll be able to get to this one in the Summer, along with other books based on the Greek myths…

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
…Including this one. The cover is what sold me, but I also just really love mythology retellings and reimagining’s.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
It’s the cover that does it for me with this one. I don’t even know what it’s about! All I know is it’s fantasy based on Asian mythology?

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
This one will be read very, very soon. I literally have a copy out from the library ready to be read. I feel like this was the book club book of last year and I want in on the conversations!

A Net For Small Fishes by Luy Jago
This one might take a while to get to, but I don’t want to forget about it as I was really intereted in it when it first released.

What 2021 release did you not get to?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Exciting Book Releases For February | 2022

January 25th, 2022

Hi Readers!

February is going to be a great month for fantasy readers. There are a couple here that sound so incredible, and have the most beautiful covers, and I can’t wait to pick them up. There’s also a couple of non-fantasies that have also caught my eye.

A Storm of Sisters by Michelle Harrison

Releases: February 3rd, 2022
About: There are secrets hidden beneath the ice . . . bring the magic home in the frosty fourth instalment of the Pinch of Magic Adventures.

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

Releases: February 1st Penguin
About: Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.

This Woven Kingdom by Taherah Mafi

Releases: February 1st HarperCollins
About: To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight.

The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.

Earth of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas

Releases: February 15th, Bloomsbury
About: Book Two In The Crescent City, an Adult Fantasy series.

Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston

Releases: February 1st Balzer + Bray
About: Book Two in the Middle Grade fantasy series. Sequel to Amari and the Night Brothers.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

Releases: February 22nd Hodder & Stoughton
About: Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…

Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi

Releases: February 15th Faber and Faber
About: From National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi comes a companion novel to the critically acclaimed PET that explores both the importance and cost of social revolution–and how youth lead the way.

Iron Sword by Julie Kagawa

Releases: February 1st Inkyard Press
About: Book Two in The Iron Fey, Evenfall, a YA Fantasy series.

What book release are you looking forward to in February?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

January 24th, 2022

| Released: January 4th 2022 |
| Genre: Fantasy |
| Length: 384 |
| Age: Young Adult |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ |

Hi Readers

This fantasy sounded like something I would love and it was the first book release of 2022 I was excited for. It had magic, family drama, royalty and romance. It really was a recipe for success, but the results were slightly disappointing.

Synopsis

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good.

Thoughts

Two stars is a harsh rating. I do think this will find its audience because it’s not unreadable and I definitely see other fantasy readers finding something to love about this. I just struggled to get through it, and when that happens, it has to be a two star.

My main issue was the characters. I wasn’t endeared to any of them. In fact I found most of them dislikable. Kaleb was the most interesting but his siblings I couldn’t stand. I think they were meant to come across as rebellious, but I’m afraid I just read them as selfish, spoiled rich kids feeling sorry for themselves and running away from their responsibilities and betraying their family. Didn’t make me route for them.

One thing that most intrigued me about this book and made me want to pick it up was that it followed four siblings. Normally I love that dynamic but I didn’t get the sense of any sibling bond between there characters. They felt like four disconnected strangers to me, not people who literally grew up together.

It does pick up towards the end, and it does have a good plot twist. But I’ve definitely read it before. Actually, I feel like I’ve read this all before. It’s a very tropey YA with nothing that I feel was overly unique or captivating.

My first disappointment if 2022, but I still have a lot of fantasy books to look forward to.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

(Almost) 100 Books On My Immediate TBR For 2022

January 19th, 2022

Hi Readers!

In my ‘Goals For 2022’ I mentioned I’d like to reach the target of reading 100 books again. I’ve gone a step furthur and actually written a list of almost 100 books that, at this moment in time anyway, I would very much like to get to in 2022. Obviously I don’t know how the year will play out, and my reading tastes may very well change. But I think it’ll be quite interesting to return to this list at the end of 2022 and see how many of these books I actually read…

Classics

The Iliad & The Odyssey by Homer
Crime and Punishment by Fyoder Dostoevsky
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
Tess Of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
A Passage To India by E.M. Forster
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
Childhood, Boyhood, Youth by Leo Tolstoy
The Old Curiosity Shop, Nicholas Nickleby, The Pickwick Papers & The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Every Bronte Book (With the Brotealong)
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Non-Fiction

My goal for 2022 is to read 15 non-fiction, but as you can see, I actually have a lot more than that I’d like to get to as soon as possible. As you can see, it’s mostly historical/literary non-fiction I’m most interested in.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
SPQR by Mary Beard
Ancient Egypt by Tobey Wilkinson
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell
Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee
Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann
Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster
The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell
Jane Austen Files by Helen Amy
Sapiens: A Brief History Of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harris
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore
A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft

Contemporary

Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo
Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
In My Dreams I Hold A Knife by Ashley Winstead

I do see myself reading more contemporary than this, but these are the ones on my raider right now.

Fantasy

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
House In The Ceruleon Sea by T.J. Flune
Chain of Gold Trilogy by Cassandra Clare
A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin Duology by Roseanna A. Brown

Historical Fiction

Girl With the Pearl Earing by Tracy Chevalier
Z by Therese Anne Fowler
Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Rereads

The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante
Throne Of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Howards End by E.M Forster
Pride And Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park & Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

If I’m able to read all of these books, I see myself having an incredible reading year!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Most Exciting 2022 Book Releases

January 14th, 2022

Hi Readers!

In The Margins by Elena Ferrante

Releases: March 15th

Ferrante is a favourite author of mine, and this book feels like she’s just answered all of my prayers. This is a non-fiction ‘On The Pleasures of Reading and Writing’. I audibly gasped when I saw this and I can not wait to get my hands on it!

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Releases: May 3rd

Emily Henry has become a firm favourite. She’s been releasing these cute romantic contemporary books for the past few years and so far I’ve loved everything she’s written. This one, however, sounds like it could become top of the list. It just sounds like everything I love in one book.

A Storm of Sisters by Michelle Harrison

Releases: February 3rd

This is a middle grade fantasy series I read and loved last year. It follows three sisters who have such a great bond and fun constrasting personalities. These books are so heartwarming and fun, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next one in the series.

Chain of Thorns by Cassandra Clare

Releases: November 1st

This one doesn’t even have a cover yet, so I’m using the cover for the first book of The Last Hours series. I haven’t started this series yet. In fact, I’m very behind on Cassandra Clare books. But I would like to catch up in 2022 and be able to read this along with everyone else when this comes out. Especially because I believe this is the last ever Shadowhunter book? I might be wrong, but that’s what I’ve heard. It’ll be sad to see this world come to an end, but all good things must.

The House Across The Lake by Riley Sager

Releases: June 21st

Another go to author. Despite ‘Survive the Night’ being a little bit of a disappointment, he’s still one of my favourite authors (and I’ve also got my Mum on reading his books now too) and I always look forward to his thrillers. This one from it’s description and title, sounds quite tropey, but knowing Sager, he’s going to twist that in ways I could never have guessed. I’m so excited!

You Made A Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

Releases: May 24th

I wasn’t even aware of this book until Kristen told me about it. Seeing as this author made my ‘Favourite Books of 2021’ list, it immediately made this list. I don’t want to know too much about it, but it looks like it’s a romance (yay!) about grief and healing, which just sounds so up my alley.

Companion Piece by Ali Smith

Releases: April 7th

As she did with the ‘Seasonal Quartet’ she’s just completed, Companion Piece will be another very current, written in the moment piece. It’s a celebration of companionship in all its timeless and contemporary, legendary and unpindownable, spellbinding and shapeshifting forms.

The Last Party by Claire Mackintosh

Releases: August 4th

This sounds like everything I love, and not just because it’s Clare Mackintosh who wrote it. This will be the first book in a series following DC Ffion Morgan investigating a New Years Eve murder in her small village. How cosy does that sound? I know it comes out in August, but you can bet I’ll be saving it for New Years so this may be one I end up reading in 2023 (which sounds like the distant future wth?)

I’m sure there’s lots I’ve missed, and lots that have yet to be announced. What 2022 release are you excited for?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | A Little Princess by Frances Hodgsen Burnett

January 13th, 2022

Hi Readers!

Growing up I watched the movie adaptation to this book so many times. I had it recorded on video, and would watch it every time it came on TV. I’m not sure when I became aware that it was adapted from a book, or when I realised the author of that book also wrote one of my favourite books of all time ‘The Secret Garden. But somehow, it’s taken me until now to finally pick it up.

| Published: 1905 |
| Genre: Children’s Classic |
| Themes: Imagination, Poverty |
| Length: 242 Pages |
| Age: Childrens |
| Source: Own (Wordsworth Edition) |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

Sara Crewe is intelligent and imaginative and the apple of her fathers eye. He’s distraught by the thought of parting from his daughter. But without a mother to care for her, he leaves her at a boarding school for young ladies with Miss Minchin and her doll, Emily. They both look forward to the day they’re reunited, but when tragedy strikes, the now penniless Sara is forced to move into the cold dark attic and work for Miss Minchin as a servent.

My Thoughts

Reading this in December, towards the end of the year on the final days of that festive season, was the perfect time to read this book, which has all the ingrediants of a cosy childrens classic. It’s a heartwarming story that isn’t without it’s trials for our protagonist Sara.

Sara was my role model when I was younger, she was everything I wanted to be. Kind, resilliant, and full of imagination. She was a great character for me to look up to when I was a kid but even as an adult I learnt something from her. She’s so easy to love which makes it all the harder to read when life becomes very hard for her.

“Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”

I will say, I think this was adapted brilliantly, and made some small story changes which really just added to it. For example, this was written before WWI, but the movie changed the setting to WWI I think to make sure the audience felt how reluctantly Sara and her father was being parted, as he goes off to fight in the war. I won’t spoil anything, but I also preferred the movies ending.

But I’m so glad to have finally read this wonderful book. Burnett was such a brilliant writer, and I think I’ll have to pick up more books by her in the future.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

My Reading & Other Goals For 2022

January 11th, 2022

Hi Readers!

2022 has come around far too quickly for my liking. But like any New Year, I have a renewed excitement for what’s ahead, and a lot of that includes reading plans.

I always start a year with the best intentions, but this year I really hope to stick to these goals. None of them feel like ‘tasks’. This is what I want to do, what I’ve been wanting to do for ages now. So I’m hoping setting my goals to things I want to do is the recipe to success.

Read 100 Books
Against all odds, I was able to do this in 2021 (just.) I don’t know what 2022 has in store, but I know that no matter what, books are my constant and I never want that to change.

Read (At Least) 15 Non-Fiction
I have a lot more than that number on my TBR list (which I will share with you soon). But I have an annoying habbit of not getting to them. So I’m going to keep the goal to a (hopefully) realistic number.

Read 1 Shakespeare Every 2 Weeks
This originally started as every single week, but I’ve got to admit to myself, I can’t read a Shakespeare play in one day. In order to take my time, I’d like to read one every two weeks. I may not do this, but by the end of 2022, I could have read around 20?

Read More Poetry!
Before 2021 I didn’t even own a poetry book. Now I have quite the collection and a long list of poets I want to read. I’m thinking maybe a poem a day?

Read (At Least) 5 Books I Hadn’t Heard Of From My ‘Reading Around the World’ List
In 2021 I made plans to start a ‘reading around the world’ project, and never got started on it. I want to keep the number at a less challenging five books, but the plan is for those five books to one’s I’ve never heard of, but are huge in their country or origin.

Non-Bookish

Read, Listen & Watch More About the Craft of Writing – I have a long list of books, an entire playlist on YouTube, and some Podcasts saved that all focus on writing. I’ve let them sit around for too long. In 2022, I’d like to actually get to them.

Keep up with Duolingo Italian – The past few January’s I’ve done the same thing. I’ve redownloaded Duolingo, started strong, but then I lose it somewhere around March. It’s usually because I start trying to juggle French and Italian, and I just don’t have the brain capacity to try and learn two languages at once. So, for 2022 and until I’ve completed it, I want to focus on Italian. I’ve chosen Italian purely because of my yearning to read My Brilliant Friend in it’s original language. One day. One day.

Try More Teas – I drink a lot of tea. I don’t like coffee, so tea is my primary beverage. But I only drink the classic English brew (strong, a little milk, no sugar). I know there are other flavours out there and I’d like to try them.

Watch More Movies – I make this resolution every year. I just don’t watch movies, but I always want to. But I end up hardly watching any because I feel so unproductive when I do. However, I’ve now solved that with my new hobby, knitting! I can do it whilst watching TV, and I’ve never watched so much TV in my life. I’m actually caught up on BookTube for once!

Learn To Knit Jumpers, Cardigans, Socks, etc – Speaking of knitting, I want to try and challenge myself in 2022. I only learnt in September 2021, but I already feel quite confident and I feel like it’s doable. I’m currently knitting a blanket, but once that’s done, I might get started on a cardigan.

Learn More About Art – Before 2021 I knew next to nothing about Art but it’s always been a subject that’s interested me, and I hated that I had this huge gap in my knowledge. I’ve now got a notebook dedicated to Art and I’d love to learn more about the history behind some of my favourite works.

We’ll come back to this at the end of 2022 and see how many of them I accomplished!

Thank You For Reading,
Jess X

Top 10 Favourite Books of 2021!

January 7th, 2021

Hi Readers!

It’s here! 12 months of reading has all come down to this moment, the top 10 books of 2021! I read 101 books in 2021, I liked a lot, I hated a few, but these very carefully selected 10 books are the ones that I loved. These are the books that reminded me why I read, that found me at the right time, that got me through hard moments (and boy where there a lot of those this year). These are 10 more books I’m going to spend the rest of my life emploring other people to read and here’s hoping I’m able to convince a few of you.

Firstly, some honourable mentions. Because these were the books that I still had a great time reading, but were slowly knocked out of the top 10:

The Birds by Daphne Du Maurier
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The Waves by Virginia Woolf
The Travelling Cat Chronicals by Hiro Arikawa
The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore
Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne
A Vow So Bold And Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer
The Phantom of the Opera by Leo Tolstoy

10. Where Angels Fear To Tread by E.M. Forster

This is an unexpected one for me, just because I read quite a few of Forsters books this year, and I just was not expecting this one to be the one I loved. But this had some beautiful writing and the passages where he describes certain places in Italy just transported me there. I’ll tell you from experience, this book is best read whilst sunbathing.

‘I am fated to pass through the world without colliding with it or moving it.’

Where Angels Fear To Tread

9. Longbourn by Jo Baker

I always put a lot of pressure on finding the perfect book to start a year on and in 2021 I picked a good one. This was the first book I read in 2021 and when I finished it, I knew immediately it would make my top 10.

This is a kind of Upstairs, Downstairs retelling of Pride and Prejudice and follows the servants of Longbourn, where the Bennet sisters live. Let me tell you, reading this book will give you a whole new perspective on the Bennet family.

‘Things could change so entirely, in a heartbeat; the world could be made entirely anew because someone was kind.’

Longbourn

8. A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

This was one of those books that just found me at the right time. I read these at a time when I needed a bit of comfort and childish hope and this series about three sisters who are gifted magical objects were just what I needed.

‘A curse could only bring darkness. And what could be darker than death?’

A Pinch of Magic

7. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

This was unexpectedly emotional. You would think, going by the title of the book, that knowing what happens would lessen the impact of it. But it has so many layers to it that this book ended up grabbing hold of my heart and breaking it. It’s not often I cry at a book anymore, but this one had me in tears.

‘Some people can’t see softness without wanting to hurt it.’

The Death of Vivek Oji

6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I wouldn’t normally include rereads in top 10’s, but this one honestly didn’t feel like a reread and I had such contrasting feelings this time around that I just had to include it. To think, I originally gave this book 2 stars, and now it’s my sixth favourite book of the year! The characters and their dynamics with eachother was absolutely the best thing about Six of Crows but I also loved the heist.

‘The heart is an arrow. It demands aim to land true.’

Six of Crows

5. A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas

At the beginning of 2021 I didn’t even notice the release of this book. I’d honestly lost my interest in fantasy and Sarah J Maas books and was convinced I’d probably never pick one up again. But for some unexplicable reason I had the overwhelming urge to read some fantasy romance in the Summer and the ACOTAR series was the only thing I owned. So I started a reread, and quickly got sucked back into Prythian.

A Court of Silver Flames may not have the best writing, but it was fun, and I had a great time reading this. It was one of those books where even when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. It just had to be on this list.

‘I cannot survive without reading’

A Court of Silver Flames

4. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

This was a late edition to this list, just because I somehow forgot I’d even read this in 2021. But I kind of ended up reading it twice. First at the very start of the year (when the UK went into a rather long lockdown) and then again when I noticed Emmie and Caroline reading it for their Dicken’s Vs Tolstoy book club.

War and Peace is a book a lot of people find daunting, and whilst the historical aspects of this book did make parts a bit of a slog, this has some of the most beautiful writing, and I know one day I’ll have to read this for a third time and really go heavy on the annotating.

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”

War and Peace

3. A Room Of One’s Own by Virignia Woolf

I read all of Woolf’s fiction books last year and so many of them could have made my top 10. But then I read her lecture/essay about women and fiction and I was blown away like I have never been blown away by a book before. To the point where I was reaching for my pencil every couple of lines, reading passages outloud (to my dogs) and instastorying my entire journey because there were just so many good quotes.

‘Lock up your libraries if you like; there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that can set up the freedom of my mind.’

A Room of Ones Own

2. The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This one I remember more for the writing than the story. But it’s worthy of second place all the same because Roy’s way with words and language was so incredibly moving. She just wrote this story in a way that made me look at literature in a whole new light.

‘That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.’

The God of Small Things

1.Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

No other book could top this one is 2021, and I think it might be a long while yet before anything does. It’s funny, because I actually went into this with low expectations. I think a part of me felt Taylor Jenkins Reid just couldn’t do it a third time in a row, but she proved me wrong!

I’ve never cared about characters the way Reid made me care about the Riva’s family. They felt so real and I felt their joy, their anxieties, their sadness. This book had me hooked and I had the absolute best time reading it this past Summer.

‘How were you supposed to change- in ways both big and small- when your family was always there to remind you of exactly the person you apparently signed an ironclad contract to be.’

Malibu Rising

Here’s to 2022 having just as many amazing reads. What was your favourite book of 2021?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgsen Burnett

January

Hi Readers!

How do you review a book that has meant so much to you for so long? How can I possibly put into words everything this book has given me? Every memory, every emotion, every lesson. Since childhood this book has had a place in my heart, and I’m going to try and make sense of that in this review.

| Published: 358 Pages |
| Genre: Children’s Classic |
| Themes: Gardening, Growth, Healing |
| Age: Children’s |
| Length: 358 Pages |
| Source: Own |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

When Mary Lennox becomes an orphan her Uncle takes her in and she’s forced to move from the heat of India to the Moors of Yorkshire. She soon finds the house is full of secrets and forbidden places and, like any child who’s bored and lonely, seeks to uncover them.

My Thoughts

This story has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The 1993 movie adapation with Kate Maberly and Maggie Smith is ingrained in my mind because I watched it so much growing up, and because I loved the movie so much I decided I wanted to read the book. I borrowed my Nan’s copy, and I think it was probably the first ‘proper book’ I ever read.

I’ve frequently reread The Secret Garden my whole life, and as I get older it’s become a firm comfort read. Knowing the story so well definitely plays a part, but this whole story is one of hope and growth and it never fails to be so cosy and comforting for me.

‘Is the Spring coming?’ he said. ‘What is it like? You don’t see it in rooms if you are ill.’
‘It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working underthe earth.’

It follows a small cast of characters, all of whom will bury their way into your heart and settle there. At first, Mary is a spoilt and unhappy child who isn’t very friendly to anyone. But when she finds the garden, something unlocks inside her and it’s so lovely to see her grow into a determined, happy little girl who wants to make things come alive.

‘The is such a big lonely place,’ she said slowly, as if she were turning matters over in her mind. ‘The house is lonely, and the gardens are lonely. So many places seem shut up.’

The gardening sections are what took me back to my childhood. My Dad and Grandparents are enthusiastic gardeners and when I was younger I used to love to help out because of this story. I had my own watering can and gardening gloves, and when I would dig up the dirt and plant the bulbs I would feel like I was Mary Lennox.

She searched until she found a rather sharp piece of wood and knelt down and dug and weeded out the weeds and grass until shemade nice little clear places around them.
‘Now they look as if they could breath.’

The language can be quite strange as a lot of the characters have strong Yorkshire accents, and I’m amazed my younger self understood it because I definitely struggled at times. It is also very dated in parts, especially in terms of it’s ignorant language towards people of colour, so definitely be aware of that before going into this.

‘Let her play th’ fresh air skippin’ an’ it’ll stretch her legs an’ arms an’ give her some strength in ’em’

The Secret Garden is a story with a soul. It’s about healing and growth and it book comes attached with a lot of memories for me. Books that remind us of a particular person are priceless in my eyes and when I read this I feel so close to my Nan and that was really needed as this year has definitely been a scary year health wise for her. I can see reading this book is going to be a very emotional experience from this point on, but in all the best ways.

One of the strange things about living in this world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live for ever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender, solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange, unchanging majesty of the rising sun – which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment of so.

Thank You For Reading,
Jess X

January TBR | 2022

January 3rd, 2022

Hi Readers!

Even though I have a long list of end of year/reflecting on 2021 posts I want to share, I felt it was wrong to not do a January TBR. I’m mostly hoping to dive into some big classics this January and I also have a long list of non-fiction I want to read in 2022 to make a start on.

I am so ready to make the most of the cold weather. I have a bunch of long classics that I am going to hide inside with as much of January as I can…

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I’m thinking, hoping, that 2022 will be the year of Dickens for me. I had a lot of them on my shelf and I’ve always enjoyed everything I’ve read by him. I want to start, however, with a reread. It’s been a long while since I’ve read Great Expectations and I just want to refresh my memory of what a lot of people call his ‘greatest novel’.

The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie
I also want to start reading more Agatha Christie. She’s my Nan’s favourite author and, again, I’ve liked everything I’ve read by her so far. I know you don’t have to read the Poirot books in order, but I wanted to at least start with book one.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I’ve wanted to reread this for a while now. I did read this many years ago and I remember absolutely hating it. I don’t really think my opinion will change at all, but I don’t remember a lot of the plot, so a reread is in order. I think I may eventually read/reread all of the Bronte novels in 2022.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Last year I got the urge to buy this book so I can annotate/tab it and really learn the true story of Hamilton, and compare the musical with the source material Lin Manuel-Mirander used. I’m hoping to read a lot more non-fiction in 2022.

Childhood, Boyhood, Youth by Leo Tolstoy
I definitely blame Caroline and Emmie from the book club Dickens Vs Tolstoy for my renewed interest in there two authors. I’ve read his two famous works and absolutely adored both. I have a little bit of this one and, as it’s one of his earlier works, I don’t think it’s quite the same standard. But I want to read it all the same just so I can watch the debate they had about it last year.

Those are really the only set books I have on my January TBR. I have some others I want to read. I want to finish Lord of the Rings which I started in December. I also started annotating Pride and Prejudice which I’d like to complete. I also have Shadow of the Wind which keeps catching my eye, it’s been a while since I’ve read that one. I may also pick up the Throne of Glass series again…

We’ll see what January brings us. Right now there’s a lot of talk that there will be a lockdown, but we’ll see.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X