I can’t believe it’s the middle of the year already! Where has the time gone? April lasted 20 years, May was gone in the blink of an eye and now it’s already halfway through June!
Anyway, here’s my bookish stats for the first half of the year, including my favourite read so far, my most disappointing read, and some books I still need to get around to.
1. Best book you read so far in 2020
The best book I’ve read this year so far is The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. I read it back in January and, while I’ve read a lot of good books, nothing compares to this.
The book follows Bagoas, a young boy who is forced to become a eunuch and a courtesan and eventually becomes the lover of Alexander the Great. Through Bagoas’ eyes, we follow the last seven years of Alexander’s life, including his famous conquests, his mutinous armies, assassination attempts, and Alexander’s own temper.
I absolutely love the relationship between Bagoas and Alexander. Bagoas was truly one of the only people in Alexander’s life who really knew him and cared for him (aside from Hephaestion). My absolute favourite scene comes at the very last page of the book where *SPOILER* Alexander lies dead on his bed and Bagoas has been sitting next to him for hours and he finally becomes aware of his surroundings to find everyone who was once in the room — all of Alexander’s generals — already gone, fighting over Alexander’s kingdom. Bagoas was the only one there, still caring for Alexander, even after death, while all the people who claimed to love him were only after his power. So powerful and so heartbreaking. This scene destroyed me.
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020
The best sequel I’ve read this year is The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons. It’s the third book in the A Chorus of Dragons series and takes everything that was great in the first two books and makes it even better in this one.
After the city of Atrine has been destroyed and Relos Var’s plan to free Vol Karoth, the god of demons, has been revealed, the end of the world is fast approaching. Kihrin, Teraeth, Janel and Thurvishar, as the chosen ones, must convince the Manol vané to perform a ritual that will strip them of their immortality and will keep Vol Karoth imprisoned for another two centuries. But the vané don’t want to perform the ritual and Kihrin’s connection to Vol Karoth is only growing stronger.
My favourite parts of this book are when Kihrin, Teraeth and Janel are getting closer to each other because the author has promised their relationship will become polyamorous and they flirt SO MUCH! I can’t wait to see how their relationship develops even more in the fourth book, out next year, especially after that ending.
3. New releases you haven’t read yet, but want to
4. Most anticipated releases for the second half of the year
5. Biggest disappointment
My biggest reading disappointment is Queen of Coin and Whispers. I so expected to love this book and was devastated when I didn’t.
The book follows Lia who, after the death of her uncle, the king, becomes the queen of Edar at eighteen. She is resolved to be a better monarch than her partying, money-spending uncle ever was, but first, she needs a spymaster to keep an eye on the people and politicians in her court who would see her dead. She meets Xania, a young woman far below Lia in rank and chooses her as the royal spymaster. The two women work together to prevent assassinations and begin to fall in love.
I found the plot to be confusing to follow many times. I couldn’t wrap my head around what, exactly, was happening in the story as there’s so many twists and turns, I couldn’t keep track of them. Also there’s too many characters to keep track of, all of whom are interchangeable and don’t have any defining personalities that they all got mixed up in my head. I also really didn’t like the ending as the last few chapters felt like they could have been spread out into another book entirely; instead the ending was super rushed and just so much happened.
6. Biggest surprise
The biggest surprise book I’ve read this year was The Shadows Between Us. And it was a surprise in a good way! I thought I would enjoy the book but I didn’t expect to love it so damn much.
The book is about Alessandra, who is used to being overlooked even though she knows she’s smarter than almost everyone in her life. So she makes a plan: she’s going to go to the annual ball, woo the infamous Shadow King, marry him, and then kill him and take his kingdom for herself. But no one knows much about the Shadow King, especially the extent of his power. And when Alessandra spends time with him, she discovers that wooing him was harder than she anticipated.
What attracted to me to this book was the tagline ‘a Slytherin romance’, and as someone who labels herself as a Slytherin, I knew I had to read it. Alessandra was an amazing protagonist: she is cruel, ambitious and judges every single person she comes across. I love her. We need more female main characters like her, especially in YA! And I absolutely love that *SPOILER* after Alessandra and the King get together, he doesn’t try to change her; he loves that she’s killed before and that she’ll do anything for power.
7. Favourite new author
I really loved Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s adult debut, based on the real life Vardø storm and the 1620 witch trials. Hargrave is definitely going to be an author I’m going to read more of.
The Mercies follows Maren after she and the other village women watch almost all the men of the village die in a freak storm. The women are forced to fend for themselves and manage to survive and even thrive for three years. That all changes when, three years later, a sinister figure arrives in the form of Absalom Cornet, a witch hunter and god-fearing man. He brings with him his new wife, Ursa, who is both fearful of her husbands power, but also attracted to it. But for the first time in Ursa’s life, she sees something she’s never before: independent women. And while Ursa starts to make a life in the village, forming an intense friendship with Maren, Absalom makes a plan to bring the town under his control.
I loved this book so much. Initially, I gave it 4 stars, but a week later I was still thinking about it, so I raised my rating to 5 stars. I loved the friendship between Maren and Ursa, how it grows from them being so hesitant and fearful of each other, to turning into love and eventually romantic love. But I also really liked Absalom, even though you’re not supposed to. He’s very much the villain in the story, but he’s also so earnest. He also loves Ursa so much, but in a really possessive way, and everything he does, he does hoping she will love him back.
8. Newest fictional crush
My new favourite fictional crush is definitely Princess Xiulan from Steel Crow Saga. She’s so sweet and wholesome, you can’t help but like her!
In Steel Crow Saga, Xiulan hires a thief named Lee to help her kidnap the prince of a rival nation before he can make it back to his kingdom to be crowned king. But things do not go as planned.
Xiulan is a massive nerd who spends most of her days reading detective novels and mirrors herself based on her favourite detective. Although she is a princess, she’s treated as a joke by her siblings as she’s about 28th in line to the throne. She tries so hard to prove herself and it’s amazing watching her do so. I love her so much!
9. Newest favourite character
My new favourite character is definitely Xie Lian! Oh gosh, I adore him so freaking much! When I say Xie Lian has never done anything wrong in his life, I mean it.
Xie Lian is the main character in Tian Guan Ci Fu (Heaven’s Official Blessing). The book is about His Royal Highness Xie Lian as ascends to godhood twice but is kicked back down to earth twice as well. Now he ascends for a third time and is considered a joke to the other gods, as he likes to spend his days collecting trash and cleaning. When Xie Lian meets Hua Cheng, he inadvertently ends up going on many adventures with his last believer, who just happens to be a dangerous and powerful Ghost King who is also madly in love with him.
This book is phenomenal. It’s over 2000 pages long, because it’s technically 5 books in one. Xie Lian is the sweetest character I’ve ever come across, a pure cinnamon roll. He suffers so much in his life and yet he only ever sees the good in people, even people who disrespect him or abuse him. Protect this boy (actually 800 year old powerful god) at all costs!
10. A book that made you cry
I am once again mentioning Tian Guan Ci Fu because this book had me sobbing. There were some parts where I couldn’t even read because I just had so many tears.
I already mentioned what the book I about in the previous question, so I’m just going to talk about how amazing the romance is between Xie Lian and Hua Cheng. I was literally in awe at how the author developed their relationship and how long Hua Cheng has been in love with Xie Lian. What do I have to do to get someone to yearn for me for 800 years? And when you find out the truth behind Hua Cheng’s love — there are no words.
Xie Lian is also an unreliable narrator, so he doesn’t explain his past until he’s absolutely forced to or the reader finds out during books 2 and 4 (which focus on his past). He’ll literally be standing in front of someone who previously abused him and show no emotion and it’s not until many hundred pages later that his past is revealed, and you’re in complete shock.
11. A book that made you happy
The first book that comes to mind is Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much from a book in ages.
Mrs Beatrice Martin is a widow and is 73 years old. She’s cranky and loves to boss people around and ignore her Terrible Nephew. But then Miss Violetta Beauchamps crashes into her life, seeking help as Beatrice’s Terrible Nephew won’t leave her boarding house. So the two women concoct ridiculous plan after ridiculous plan to get rid of him, and fall in love along the way.
This novella is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read. Beatrice and Violetta’s relationship is so wholesome and beautiful, I just want to hug them both. And the crazy plans they come up with to get rid of Terrible Nephew are hilarious!
12. The most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year
The most beautiful book I’ve bought this year is easily The Starless Sea Goldsboro Edition. I can’t stop looking at this stunning book, and what’s better is it sits on my floating shelf right across from my bed!
13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
Have fun doing the tag but don’t feel obliged to do it if you don’t want to!