TOP TEN TUESDAY: Best Books I Read In 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week it’s all about our favourite books of the past year. I read 72 books this year which was great, but it did make it a bit difficult to narrow down by favourites. I managed it though and, in no particular order, here are ten of the best books I read in 2018.

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
I found The Garden of Evening Mists to be a beautiful story about war, forgiveness and growth.

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
I don’t think I read as much YA in 2018 compared to previous years but what I YA I did read was generally pretty good. The Nowhere Girls was the best that I read. It was funny, inspiring and I loved all the main girls and what they set out to do.

The Power by Naomi Alderman
I finally read The Power and I found it compelling and fascinating. It’s hard to read at times but that made it even more affecting.

The Three Musketeers by Alexadre Dumas
I’m so happy I’ve now read this classic. It was a great adventure story with interesting characters and it was a lot of fun.

Kartography by Kamila Shamsie
Events in Kartography were affected by the civil unrest when Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan, a historical event I knew very little about. My Read the World Project has made me read books set in countries during notable events in their history and I’m really enjoying that experience.

Thirty Days by Annelies Verbeke
It took me a while to get settled into Thirty Days but when I did, I loved the main character and his desire to help others, even when it was detrimental to his own happiness and relationships

Tales of Suspense: Hawkeye & the Winter Soldier by Matthew Rosenburg, Travel Foreman and Rachelle Rosenburg
I didn’t read many comics or graphic novels this year but Tales of Suspense: Hawkeye & the Winter Soldier was a lot of fun and memorable. Clint Barton is one of my favourite characters ever and I love seeing how he bounces off more stoic characters like the Winter Solider.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
The only book on this list that I didn’t review, but that’s mainly because I find it difficult to review thrillers that have a lot of twists and turns and surprises without giving everything away. Then She Was Gone was a book where I could figure out some of what happened, but never managed to get it all straight in my head before the big reveal – I think that’s the best kind of thriller.

Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell
This is one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read. It’s all about girls and women, and each character feels so real even though you only spend a dozen or so pages with them.

Lala by Jacek Dehnel
This story made me laugh and cry. It’s a sweeping family epic but it’s the little anecdotes and the ridiculous things that make a person, and their family, more real that stood out to me.

What were some of your favourite books you read in 2018?

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Happy New Year!

I hope you’re all having a lovely evening, seeing in the New Year however you want to. I’m seeing in 2019 at a friend’s house, and I’m going to be crashing on his sofa so I’m probably a little merry as this post goes live.

My 2018 was pretty good, there was nothing extraordinary but nothing too traumatic either. I made new friends, went on holiday to new places, and watched a lot of films. I hope 2018 has been kind to you, and if it hasn’t it’s gone now and I hope 2019 will be better.

REVIEW: Bumblebee (2018)

On the run in the year of 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, and tries to keep him out of the hands of the US military.

I’ll be honest, the first Michael Bay Transformers film is one of my go to comfort films and I really enjoy it. The rest of the films in the series are varying degrees of quality to say the least and I was very apathetic about The Last Knight. But I’m happy to say Bumblebee is like a breath of fresh air compared to the latter Bay films.

Bumblebee’s plot is so much simpler compared to some of its predecessors, and that allows the story to build on the characters and their relationships naturally. There are two Decepticons (voiced by Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux) searching for Bumblebee who enlist the US military to help them search for them. The main guy in the army you follow is Agent Burns (John Cena), he’s very much a shoot first, ask questions later kind of guy but weirdly, probably due to Cena’s charisma, the way he delivers jokes is more entertaining and almost more believable than the tough guy persona.

Hailee Steinfeld is wonderful as Charlie. She’s a bit of a loner and she’s even an outsider in her own family as she doesn’t feel like she fits in any more. Charlie is smart and caring and her relationship with Bumblebee is wonderful.

Bumblebee is charming and does a brilliant job of combining heart with spectacle. Like the previous Transformers films, there’s still battles between Autobots and Decepticons but this time the characters on both sides are seriously stripped back leaving those who are present more room to grow. When there are fights between robots, they’re easy to follow and entertaining.

It’s perhaps a bit on the nose with the 80’s inspired soundtrack, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The music is like a comforting hug and that, along with a story about a kid and an otherworldly creature, makes Bumblebee feel familiar and heart-warming. There are similarities to be made between Bumblebee and E.T. and The Iron Giant, both in terms of the plot but also because at its core is a wonderful friendship between a young person and a powerful creature.

Bumblebee is such a fun and lovely film, with so much heart and humour, that it feels almost old-fashioned in the best possible way. 4/5.

REVIEW: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agnieszka loves her valley home and her quiet village, even though it’s close to the Wood, a corrupted place full of malevolent power. Close to her village in a tower lives the Dragon, every ten years he chooses a girl and keeps her for that time. The next choosing is fast approaching and Agnieszka, just like everyone else, knows the Dragon will take Kasia, her best friend who the most beautiful and talented. But events don’t go how everyone predicts and when the Dragon arrives it’s Agnieszka, not Kasia, he chooses.

Uprooted is a fantasy story with magical creatures and a beautiful magic system. How the magic worked for different characters and how different magic users would craft spells was always interesting to me. The Dragon is a wizard and he likes things in order and logical, especially when it comes to magic and spells. Agnieszka on the other hand, is more chaotic and organic when it comes to weaving spells. Her learning about her abilities and how it differs from so many traditional wizards and witches was both fun and interesting.

The Wood is such a unique villain as it were. It’s something that is alive and has thoughts and goals that are sometimes beyond what people could imagine. It’s an unsettling presence throughout the story and when someone is taken by the Wood, it won’t give them back easily. It corrupts creatures, people and the land around it. There’s not only the Wood to worry about, there is also political intrigue with Kings and courts that Agnieszka and the Dragon have to deal with.

The problem I had with Uprooted was I never felt the urge to pick it up and continue on to the next chapter until I hit the 300-page mark – that was almost three quarters of the way through the book! I think that was down in part to the writing style, it paints a very eerie yet beautiful picture, and while stuff did happen before page 300, it was all building to that moment but it hadn’t really pulled me in. I mainly read Uprooted for my A-Z Reading Challenge. It’s a few days before 2019, the only letter of the alphabet I hadn’t completed was the letter U, so I did persevere with Uprooted when under normal circumstances I would have probably put it down.

Uprooted is a good magical story that somehow manages to feel whimsical and haunting at the same time. The setting feels like a fairytale but it has a darker undertone too. On the whole, the characters and their relationships were compelling, but the story never did enough to enthral me. 3/5.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Hope you all have a wonderful day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and spend the day having fun and doing exactly what you want to do.

Christmas is a small affair for me as I have a small family. The whole day is very relaxed as we eat a lot of food and we watch a lot of films. So when you read this, that’s probably what we’re doing!

REVIEW: Bird Box (2018)

When a mysterious force decimates the population, the one thing survivors do know is that if you see it, you die. Blindfolded and following her last hope for safety, Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and her children embark a dangerous journey down a river to the one place that may offer sanctuary.

Bird Box starts with Malorie telling her two children the rules about what they’re about to do, the most important one being – never take off your blindfold. As they set off on their journey, the film goes back to six years earlier and that’s where you slowly start to learn how Malorie ended up in this dire situation and how the world started to collapse.

For the most part, the film manages these two plots well as there’s multiple flashbacks and in fact the majority of the film is about Malorie meeting other people and them all learning how to survive together. However, having these two plots does make it a bit over-stuffed and potentially a bit longer than it needs to be.

Sandra Bullock is fantastic. Malorie manages to be strong, desperate, thoughtful and cold all at once. She is the focal point of the film and you can feel her terror. The supporting cast is great too, some have less to do than others – it’s easy to forget about Jacki Weaver’s character – but when they’re on screen they all bring something to this desperate and very different group of people.

Bird Box knows how to amp up the tension and bring the scares when needed. It’s all about less is more, and it’s the fear of the unknown that puts you on edge. An eerie score along with tight direction makes the story which could verge on the outrageous, be more uncomfortable and enthralling.

Bird Box is tense and, at times, horrifying. The performances suck you in and at times it can be a heart-pounding experience. It’s now available on Netflix and is definitely worth a watch. 4/5.

Thoughts on… Blogmas

Blogmas is almost over and it’s been an interesting experience. I’ve felt I haven’t really given the blogmas challenge my all, especially in the past week, and that’s been due to life, a lack of inspiration for posts and not being as prepared as I hoped to be.

I’d decided I wanted to try and do blogmas way back in October. I had some blog ideas, had even started drafting some, but didn’t have anything properly written or scheduled. Then I was without a laptop for almost three weeks in November due to mine dying and having to be sent away to fix. I was able to borrow a laptop from work, but I definitely didn’t get as much blogmas prep done compared to if I’d had my own computer.

I took part and completed blogtober last year and towards the end of that challenge I was finding it hard to think of things to write about, so because blogmas is shorter (by six days but still) I thought it’d be easier. In some ways it was. I fell back on weekly posts like Book Blogger Hop and Top 5 Wednesday to help me out, and I had my usual weekly film and book reviews, but that still left three or four other days each week to fill. I did write some posts I’m proud of. I loved writing all my thoughts on audiobooks and how my attitude towards them have changed, and the Avengers: End Game trailer led me writing a trailer reaction for the first time in ages and one that was almost 800 words long.

I do enjoy how events like blogmas gets me to push myself when it comes to blogging. It gets me to think of more creative posts than my usual book and film reviews, but at the same time it makes me appreciate my weekly book and film reviews. I like having a routine with my blog, both because it’s nice for me and, I presume, my readers like the regular mix of film and books and don’t mind my eclectic tastes that much.

Blogmas, like blogtober and the A-Z in April Challenge, taught me that I can write more and manage to post everyday – whether that’s through being organised and scheduling days or weeks ahead, or by getting something up at about 10pm like this post is going to be. But I don’t want the pressure of posting every day if I don’t have to have it. Blogging should be fun, and for me it still is even after having this blog for five years now. That’s an achievement to me and I hope I still enjoy blogging just as much in five more years – if blogging is still something I want to be doing of course!