My Reading in 2019 and my Bookish Goals for 2020

It’s the start of a new year which means it’s time to look back at the past one. Today I’m looking at what I read last year, if I met my goals and what my reading plans are for this year. In 2019 I read 72 books (bang on the same amount as 2018 funnily enough) which beat my Goodreads goal of 52 books, and I reviewed 46 of them which beat my goal of reviewing 26. You can find a full list of what I read here (the links go to the reviews) and I shared what are my top ten favourite books of the year earlier this week. The OWLs and the NEWTs readathons certainly helped me have good reading months, and in June I was on holiday where I read 8 books in 10 days.

I didn’t really have reading challenges or goals for 2019 – especially compared to 2018 when I had like three things I signed up for! In 2019 I continued to put £1 in a pot for every book I read meaning I had £72 to put in the bank. I’m sure I’ll use that money to buy more books. I continued with the Read the World Project and almost half of all the books I read in 2019 counted towards that project. I read 35 from different countries. Once again, I tried to get my TBR down to 50 books from 100 books and after Christmas gifts, my TBR now stands at 85 books. So at least it went down!

I always try to keep an equal split of male/female authors that I read and I succeeded at that in 2019. In fact, it was more female heavy which is fine by me. In 2019 I also kept track of whether the books I was reading were by white authors or authors of colour. In my goals last year I said I wanted at least 25% of the books I read to be by people of colour. I’m happy to say I achieved that and 40% of the books I read (which makes 29 of them) were by people of colour. I think my Read the World project definitely helps with this.

Now for my reading goals of 2020.

My reading goals aren’t that different to what they’ve been the last few years to be honest. I’m going to continue to put a £1 in a jar for every book I read, and I’m going to increase my Goodreads challenge goal a bit and want to read at least 60 books and to review at least 30 of them. I also want to continue to read books from at least an equal split of men and women authors, and to have at least 30% of the books I read are by people of colour. I’ll also say (once again) that I’d like to get my TBR down to 50 books. I did make some headway with my TBR in 2019 so I hope I can continue that trend, or at least be more open to unhauling books I have no interest in anymore. I’m not signing up to any year-long challenges but I think I will join many readathons throughout the year to give me that extra push to read.

In 2019 I hit 100 countries read for my Read the World Project! I’m so happy with that number but I do have 122 countries to read in the next 21 months if I want to meet myself imposed deadline. I own books for 6 more countries, but I have many more on my radar so reading books for my Read the World project will definitely be a priority this year. Really, I need to read at least 60 books for this challenge to make my deadline of reading a book from every country in the world before my 30th birthday. I’m not sure if that’ll happen but I hope it will. If you have any suggestions for books from around the world, I’d love to hear them! You can see what countries I’ve already read here.

Those are my reading goals for 2020. Do you have any reading goals for the year? I’m always interested in the reading goals people set themselves and if they have any tips or tricks to help them achieve them.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Favourite Books I Read in 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. And so another year comes to an end so it’s time to look back at the books I read this year and figure out what were my favourites. Without further ado, in no real particular order, here’s my favourite books of 2019 and I’ve linked back to my reviews (if I reviewed them that is!).

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
The Exact Opposite of Okay was one of the first books I read this year and it has stuck with me since then. I thought it handled the subject of revenge porn so well while still having a main character that was sarcastic and strong while still hurting. Think this (and its sequel which is also great) will be all-time favourites.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
I’m probably one of the last people to read this book but I definitely got why Children of Blood and Bone received so much hype. It was a gripping magical adventure and though I didn’t like the romance at all, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Safe as Houses by Simone van der Vlugt
This was a creepy thriller and one where it was so tense and that all hope seemed to be lost for so long that I wasn’t even sure if everything would turn out OK in the end.

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Considering I found The Shadow of the Wind tough to get through (enjoyable but slow-going) I found The Angel’s Game to be so readable. I loved the mystery, the setting and how it linked to The Shadow of the Wind.

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
I’d not read a John Grisham book before but this one was great. It was gripping and intriguing and I was never really sure how the central court case would end up.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This is the kind of book that makes me want to read more science-fiction. The characters, the setting, the writing; it was all so good. I want to read the next books in this sort-of series but as I’m so bad at reading series we will see how soon that happens!

Internment by Samira Ahmed
This book was tough to get through at times because it unfortunately felt so close to our reality. It was a gripping book though with characters you couldn’t help but root for.

Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal: The Lives and Careers of Two Tennis Legends by Sebastián Fest
I went to the Laver Cup in Geneva and had such an amazing time watching tennis legends Federer and Nadal play. Before I went, I read this book and found it a fascinating insight into the two of them and their legacies.

Old Man Hawkeye Volumes 1 and 2 by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto, Andres Mossa, Francesco Mobili and Ibraim Roberson
I didn’t read a lot of graphic novels or comics this year, but I did read all of the Old Man Hawkeye series. It’s a prequel to Old Man Logan (which I also really liked) and I thought it did a great job at connecting to story while adding new things. Plus, it focussed on Hawkeye, an older-version of Hawkeye but one that still is Clint Barton deep down.

What are some of your favourite books you read this year?

My Top Ten Films of 2019

As there’s just two more days of 2019 and I’m not going to be watching any new 2019 releases over those two days, here’s my ten favourite films of 2019. These are based on UK releases and I reviewed a lot of these films so will link to my review if I did so.

I have contributed to the HeyUGuys Online Critics Top Ten once again (though my top ten on there is slightly different as I’d forgotten a film that I loved) and do think it’s a cool and interesting thing to check out. I honestly found it more difficult than normal to even think of ten films that I really loved from this year but without further ado, here are my favourite films of 2019 in kinda of order.

10. Capernaum
This film was brutal but brilliant. The very young star was incredible and how the filmmaker got such a genuine performance out of a young child and a baby is astounding. Capernaum is a film I would highly recommend to anyone but it’s not one that I could watch again any time soon. It’s just so sad.

9. Crawl
This is like the perfect monster movie. It’s tense, atmospheric, with so many surprises. It’s a film where it knew exactly what it was – alligators going after a trapped father and daughter (and a dog) in a hurricane – and did it very well.

8. Hustlers
Hustlers is a funny and vibrant film with great performances and sharp storytelling. I love how it gives space for you to make your own judgements on these women that conned men out of hundreds of thousands of dollars but also made a family too.

7. What They Had
This is another film that I think is great with brilliant performances and a touching story but not one that I’d want to watch again anytime soon. What They Had hit close to home as it’s about a family dealing with a relative going through Alzheimer’s. That’s something I’ve been dealing with for over five years and I think the writer and director captured the highs and lows of it all perfectly.

6. Shazam!
Shazam! was an unexpected delight. It’s so much fun and sweet and young cast are great. It has one of my favourite tropes – found family – and it works so well and I cannot wait for a sequel.

5. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Spider-Man: Far From Home is a film I almost forgot came out this year even though it’s so great. I love all the twists and turns and illusions and those post-credit scenes are fascinating to me and I can’t wait to see what they mean.

4. Unicorn Store
I really need to rewatch Unicorn Store. Gosh I loved it so much when I watched it in the Spring because it resonated with me so much. Just that feeling of not knowing what you were doing our why and who you’re meant to be – it really struck a chord and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for ages.

3. Instant Family
Having rewatched this film yesterday I am very happy to give it such a high spot on my favourites of the year. It makes me laugh and cry and it gets me right in the feels.

2. Knock Down the House
This is such a fantastic documentary that’s equal parts frustrating and inspiring. To see women fight for what they believe in, a better country for normal people, and how some might not make it but there’s still ripple effects because of their actions – it makes you want to stand up for what you believe in.

1. Avengers: Endgame
Oh boy. What can I say about Endgame?! It was such a satisfying ending to a lot of these characters arcs, it was big and bold and I full on sob for the last 10 minutes or so every time I watch it (and I’ve seen it four times now).

What are some of your favourite films of 2019?

READ THE WORLD: Bangladesh – The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam

Maya Haque – outspoken, passionate, headstrong – has been estranged from her brother Sohail for almost a decade. When she returns home to Dhaka hoping for a reconciliation, she discovers he has transformed beyond recognition. Can the two, both scarred by war, come together again? And what of Sohail’s young son, Zaid, caught between worlds but desperate to belong?

I didn’t realise this until I went to Goodreads to mark this book as read, but The Good Muslim is the sequel to A Golden Age. I didn’t know The Good Muslim was a sequel and I don’t feel I really missed out on anything as it reads like a standalone novel.

The chapters alternate between different points in time, the early 1970s and the mid-1980s. The chapters in the early 1970s are during the aftermath of the Bangladesh Liberation War, as Sohail comes back from the war and he and his family attempt to get used to what peace means. The chapters in the 1980s are when Maya has returned home after being away for over seven years. She struggles to reconnect with her brother and a nephew she doesn’t know. The vast majority of The Good Muslim is from Maya’s point of view, in both the flashbacks and the present day.

A lot of the tragedy of these two siblings drifting apart comes from the fact that they are so different. They are either headstrong or reserved, and either they don’t listen to one another or are unwilling to talk about their experiences. Sohail is haunted by his actions during the war, while Maya has been dealing with the aftereffects of the war as she has worked in clinics across the country, performing abortions on women who were raped by soldiers and were shunned by their families. Both Maya and Sohail are affected by the conflict but they deal with it in different ways and it can be frustrating to see how they keep meeting at cross-purposes when they clearly did care about one another.

The rift that developed between Maya and Sohail is ultimately down to religion. After the war, Sohail becomes very religious, in fact he’s almost a zealot who appears to have his own followers and he forgets about all other responsibilities and attachments as he pursues his commitment to his faith. Maya doesn’t understand this or how much her brother could change after the war. Maya’s stubbornness is frustrating at times as she is so convinced that her idea of religion is the correct one and barely even attempts to understand her brother and his beliefs. Meeting her young nephew, she tries to help him as he doesn’t go to school and has no structure to his life. This adds to the conflict between Maya and Sohail as he has vastly different ideas of what his son should be learning and how he should be living.

The ending of The Good Muslim is what has the most impact, but unfortunately the kind of slow burn of a plot as you gradually learn more about Maya and Sohail’s experiences during the war and how that shaped them into who they are today, does take a bit too long to pull you in and make you deeply care about the two of them. 3/5.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope you are all having a wonderful day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and you’re having fun, and doing what you hoped to be doing at Christmas.

Christmas is a very chilled out affair for me as I’ve got such a small family so Christmas day, and the whole Christmas break really, is just an excuse to chill out, eat a lot of food, watch films and read books.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week it’s all about the books we’d love to receive for Christmas. I signed up for the TBTB Secret Santa again this year and as of writing and scheduling this post, I haven’t opened my parcel so some of these books may now be in my possession which is very exciting. Nowadays my bookish wishlist is always a combination of books from international authors for my Read the World Project and anything else that grabs my fancy.

Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo
This is the first novel from Madagascar ever to be translated into English and is about the brutal history of 19th-century Madagascar.

The Conspiracy by Israel Centeno
A thriller about a would-be revolutionary sniper who misses his shot on the President of Venezuela and must hide from the authorities and former friends who are out for revenge.

The End of the Dark Era by Tsveendorjin Oidov
This is a book of Mongolian poetry and that’s all I know about it!

A Girl Called Eel by Ali Zamir
This book is apparently a story told in a single sentence, which may be a bit difficult for me to read because paragraph breaks are my friend, but it’s from an author from the Comoros Islands so I’m intrigued.

Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad by Krystal A. Sital
A memoir about a grandmother, mother and daughter who learn long-buried secrets about the family’s past.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
I feel this book needs no introduction as it’s been everywhere! It’s an epic fantasy inspired by Chinese history and I do love to get immersed in a fantasy epic every now and then.

Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller
I love contemporary YA about girls helping one another out as they tackle some big real-world problems. This one is about teen pregnancy and how difficult it is getting an abortion and having to deal with the emotions surrounding it.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
This is an alternate-history where extinction-level global warning gets kickstarted by a meteor strike in 1952 and women become involved with the mission to colonise the Moon and then Mars.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
A story about a monster hunter in an apocalyptic world where gods and monsters of Native American folklore roam the Earth.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
This YA romance seems to have been everywhere this year and I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things and while I rarely read romance, this seems so sweet and funny that I want to give it a go.

What books are you hoping are going to come into your life soon?

REVIEW: Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

With Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) seemingly back from the dead, an old but deadly force threatens the galaxy. While Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) seeks him out, Rey (Daisy Ridley), under the guidance of Leia (Carrie Fisher), finishes her training.

The Rise of Skywalker is almost too much film. There is so much going on as Rey, Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) go on an adventure together, the Resistance prepares for battle and new (and old) characters are introduced. It goes by at a relentless pace but it works because seeing these characters interact, working together solving seemingly insurmountable problems, is still one of the highlights of these films.

The cast are still as charming as ever. Unfortunately some characters are pushed to the side (Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose being the biggest casualty of this) while some new characters don’t get too much to do at all. Adam Driver continues to be a standout in the series, giving a nuanced performance as Kylo Ren and his continuous struggles with his heritage.

The Rise of Skywalker continues the Star Wars tradition of having interesting and quirky alien creatures, brilliant set design and costuming, and great cinematography. Every planet the heroes (and villains) visit is different and the space battles and lightsaber fights are a way to show off different sides to a characters personality while still being engaging.

The final act of The Rise of Skywalker is pure spectacle and completely Star Wars. There’s the battle of good vs evil, inner conflict, hope, and more spaceships than you could shake a stick at. It’s exciting and is such a rush of space wizard magic – especially when John Williams’s wonderful score kicks in.

Some of the issues I have with The Rise of Skywalker comes from the issues I have with the new Star Wars trilogy film as a whole, like how some plot/character elements I feel are a wasted opportunity. As they can be applied to all the films and not just this one, it feels unfair to solely judge The Rise of Skywalker on the fact it didn’t capitalise on elements that the series hasn’t really revisited since The Force Awakens.

It’s a joy being with the characters of this new trilogy again and while some aspects of this saga are wrapped up too neatly while others aren’t wrapped up enough, The Rise of Skywalker is thrilling, action-packed and a lot of fun. 4/5.

EDIT: I wrote and scheduled this review after seeing The Rise of Skywalker on Thursday. Since then I’ve been seeing all the debates and thoughts (both positive and negative) about this film on social media. Some of it I agree with to an extent or understand, some of it I don’t. My opinion of this film may change when I see it again, or it may not. I just know I was so very happy to see Rey, Finn and Poe going on adventures together and working together that I can forget about or forgive some of the things I might not have liked as much.