In 2018 I participated in a reading challenge called ‘52 books in 52 weeks’. Not only did this challenge push me out of my comfort zone genre-wise but it also taught me a tremendous amount about the craft of writing, formatting, and plotting.
If your someone who not only loves to read but also enjoys being part of a reading community then I highly recommend this challenge. That's right, it’s back for 2019, and you can find the Facebook group with further information HERE.
Now that the challenge is over I had the difficult task of sorting through all 52 books to come up with my top 10 reads. So here goes!
1. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
A couple of pages into the book is a list of characters. It gives you their name, age and a brief description of what they do or to whom they are related. I didn’t count them all, but if I had to guess there would be about 70. Intimidating I know. This massive number scared me at first, but not too far into the book I realised it was not going to be a problem for me. Each character was easily distinguishable from the next. I felt like they all had a different voice that was unique to their character, making it easy to work out who was speaking.
Evie black, the mysterious naked woman who appears to come from a magical tree, begins the worldwide phenomenon of women becoming encased in cocoons once they fall asleep. Although there is worldwide hysteria, the book focuses on a town called Dooling and its nearby woman's prison. Why don’t the men just rip the woman free from their cocoons you ask? Well, you will soon discover what happens when they do. If this were made into a movie, it would be quite gruesome.
Even though there were blood and guts throughout, I felt a few other emotions while reading this book. Some parts were quite sad, deaths that I didn’t see coming, and other scenes which made me want to giggle.
‘Battle of the sexes’ is the term which comes to mind once finishing this book. A male-dominated society which becomes altered, the balance shifted, once the women go to ‘sleep.’ Some readers have said it’s political and contains feminism, but I wasn’t left feeling that way at all. I was so captivated by the story that I didn’t notice, or it just didn’t affect me the same way it did for others.
This book was engaging all the way to the end causing me to spend many nights up until midnight unable to put it down. I loved it and can’t wait to read more from Mr. King.
2. TASTE: Vampire Magic: (Kingdom of Blood and Ash) by D.S Murphy
I'm afraid my words may appear as a jumbled mess. You see, I wasn’t expecting this level of greatness from D.S Murphy (no offence), and I've been left feeling a little rattled. I've said it a few times this year, but TASTE: Vampire Magic: (Kingdom of Blood and Ash) goes down as one of my top 5 reads for 2018.
Described as being a ‘Hunger Games meets Vampire Academy’ type read, absolutely played a part in discouraging me from picking up this book. I dislike remakes and knockoffs, or whatever you want to call them. TASTE does not fit into those categories. D.S Murphy's tale is unique, and like nothing, I've ever read before.
Visualize a post-apocalyptic world where Compound life forces you to hunt for survival, poisonous ash falls from the sky, and unique creatures (Slagpaws) lurk in the dark. Throw in a mad scientist king, a BADASS heroine, secrets, mystery, romance, suspense and conflict, and you have yourself a pretty epic adventure.
The relationship between the main characters Emily and Damien is complex and realistic. Their level of interaction is a result of how they got together. You can feel the romance between them slowly developing, which is perfect, I didn’t need them to be head over heals and trying to rip each other's clothes off, that would be absurd for their current situation.
Without giving anything away, I love the internal conflict that Damien experiences and how it is going to play out in the future.
It is fast moving!!! There are no overly descriptive passages, no boring subplots and has just the right amount of action.
The length of this dystopian masterpiece was perfect. At 259 pages I found it manageable and enjoyable. Being an author, blogger, book reviewer and mum means I don’t have time to read 600 plus novels very often.
My favorite element, how well the book has been set up to carry on as a series.
You will find me impatiently waiting for the next installment in this phenomenal series and reading other pieces of work from D.S Murphy.
3. Children of Blood and Bone By Tomi Adeyemi
How do you put into words something so powerful and great that it longs to stay with you forever?
Tomi Adeyemi ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ was sitting on my Wishlist since its debut four months ago. Every time I had the urge to get started something inside me made me put the book back down. Now I realize what was holding me back. I was intimidated, by the cover, the length and the way I knew the story would make me feel.
85 chapters and 525 pages later I regret not picking it up sooner.
This book was one hell of a ride from start to finish, and I don’t think I stopped to take a breath. Fast-Paced is an understatement. I was on the edge of my seat, gripping tightly, unable to put the book down and dying to find out what was going to happen next.
The story is told through the eyes of Zelie, the protagonist, Amari, the runaway princess and Inan the prince. Each character is complex, further developing and revealing more as the story goes on. I adored that the dynamics between the characters changed regularly, its ever-evolving and unpredictable and at times left me cursing.
I was genuinely fascinated by the rich West-African culture and tradition that was present throughout. The clothes, ceremonies, language, so beautifully written I could almost feel myself inside their world.
Upon ending when I finally had a moment to reflect, I reached the authors note, and as if I had held in all my emotions the whole way through, they came tumbling out at full speed, and I cried. You need to read Tomi's words !!!
This extraordinary young adult fantasy novel has changed me. Behind the magic, fantasy, and mythical creatures is a deeper meaning, and it's so very sad.
I'm going to reread it, revel in it again and then patiently wait for the sequel.
4. All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire
Jamie McGuire tells a beautiful story of Catherine and Elliot, two outcasts who form an unbreakable bond, and their journey of first love.
Their powerful connection is blown apart when tragedy strikes Catherine's family, and Elliot is forced to leave without saying goodbye. It’s a heartbreaking time when she needs him the most and Catherine is left broken and devastated.
Elliot eventually returns to the small town to reunite with his first love, but all is not forgiven, and he sets out to win her back. Elliot now a football star and Catherine working for her mum's B&B, they have become different people.
Catherine is finally ready to forgive Elliot again when he suddenly becomes the prime suspect in a disappearance case. It brings them closer together, and they support one another, but there is something else that could get in the way of their happiness.
Catherine holds a secret. A juicy one. You're going to want to find out what it is.
The mystery surrounding Catherine's secret bubbled away throughout the whole book, grabbing hold of me and preventing me from wanting to put the book down. I knew something big was coming, and at one point I thought I had figured it out, but I was wrong, and I'm so glad I was.
The ending of this book BLEW ME AWAY !!!
There were no clues, giveaways or indications of what was about to happen. It shook me to the core. I don’t think I've ever been more surprised in my whole life.
I wasn’t expecting such an in-depth book and the angst, tension, and emotion that I would feel along the way. Jamie McGuire courageously touches on the topics of bullying, racism, mental health and violence in the home but in a light not too heavy sort of way. It doesn’t bog the story down.
I fell in love with the two main characters. Catherine made me sad, reading about her struggles and feeling her sadness, I wanted to reach out and hug her. Elliot made me proud; he’s strong, devoted, protective and sweet.
This book also taught me that secrets could sometimes do more harm when not shared.
Catherine and Elliot, I'm not ready to let go, I want to know more.
5. Dear You by Derra Nicole Sabo
Derra Nicole Sabo was born with a rare disorder, and in this touching story, she takes you on a journey of her life in the form of beautifully written letters to family and friends. I don’t think I've ever read a book that has made me feel so emotional.
I felt like there was no better way to write a review for this book that to do it in the form of a letter.
I love the relationship you have with your dad - all the fun and games when mum wasn’t around, the indoor water fights and the ear piercing dare. The bit that choked me up the most was the two of you sitting on the window pane, you unable to see the progress of the new house and dad sitting right there beside you to support you through it.
Scaring the shit out of your little brother was a highlight. Unfortunately, I have no siblings to torture.
I'm pretty sure I had the same poo bear watch if it wasn’t the same it was very similar.
I'm glad you have made EB your bitch!!!
If a shiny invitation into heaven ever appears in your letterbox of life again throw the fucker out, better yet rip it into a thousand pieces and spit on it, this world needs someone as important as you.
From Rheeby xxx
P.S I'm thankful for discovering you in 2018 and have thoroughly enjoyed watching your creativity bubble away. I can’t wait to see what comes from Derra Nicole Sabo in 2019.
Sound intriguing? Do yourself a favor and read this very personal and honest book by an amazing up and coming author.
6. Forbidden By Clare Connelly (Short Story)
YES, YES, YES!!! (Insert orgasm face)
That’s how I feel after reading this short and knee-weakening book. Clare Connelly, this is everything I love and more.
Not only is ‘Forbidden’ constructed with short gratifying chapters that leave you begging for more, but it also contains sex that makes you blush and lovable characters that have a connection you just can’t deny.
How Clare managed to put so much heart and soul into such a small amount of pages is astounding. Each character is their own, equipt with clear individual voices that have unique personalities and differences between them.
I want more. I need to know more about Astra and Manning. Please, someone, tell me it’s a possibility, perhaps someday shortly there will be another installment!!!
7. The Key To Death's Door by Mark Tilbury
I smashed this book, finishing 80% on a Monday and the remainder the following day. From the very first page, I couldn't put it down. With the dominant opening line ‘The day before I died started off pretty much like any other’ I was instantly hooked and captivated by the intriguing boy named Lee and his best mate Charlie Finch.
When Lee dies in a swimming accident, he is transported to a past life where he is given the message to ‘mend what has been broken.’ I want to tell you who Lee wakes up as, but the character plays such an essential role in the story that I’m not going to give it away.
Daryl Finch holy shit!!! He is the bad guy, and I don’t think I've ever come across a character as evil as him. There were numerous times I wanted to jump into the book and kill him myself.
If torture, domestic abuse, animal cruelty and vulgar language are not your things, then this is not the novel for you. I'm not a fan of reading about any of those, but I still loved the book.
One thing that stuck out to me was Mark Tilbury’s way of settling my stomach between chapters with the friendship and banter between the two young boys. With so much horror present is was nice to experience feel-good moments where I giggled out loud and relished in the bond between Lee and Charlie.
This book is a psychological thriller with a touch of supernatural. Don’t be discouraged if supernatural is not your genre of choice because Mark Tilbury very cleverly implants it into this troubling tale. It's not far-fetched or unrealistic, and it most definitely does not take away from the thriller storyline. I found it to be a nice touch.
Mark Tilbury and his book “The Key to Death’s Door” did not disappoint. He is now one of my new favs, and I look forward to reading more of his books such as ‘The Liar’s Promise' and ‘The Abattoir of Dreams.’
8. Above All by Rebecca Brooks
I read a lot of books this year that had the cliché older man younger woman scenario but what I found refreshing about this book was the roles were reversed. It’s an emotional love story about Casey, the older woman, and Ben the younger man.
Divided into seasons ‘Above All’ isn’t a quick fling romance, Casey and Ben’s budding relationship simmers up and down over the space of a year. This format gives you a real insight into the ups and downs of a relationship in a real-world time frame.
Although it feels like love at first sight not long after sharing a first kiss and another passionate embrace cooking together in Casey's kitchen, Ben recoils and leaves the Paper Lake campsite to return to culinary school.
After spending the entire summer thinking about him, Ben shows up unexpectedly at Casey's cabin door. He is only there for one night before having to head back to NYC, and so one thing leads to another, and they have mind blowing sex.
After a few back and forth trips Ben declares that once he graduates from culinary school, he will return to Casey and the campsite for good. Unfortunately, all doesn't go to plan, and the outcome is devastating.
This scene is the part of the book that made me emotional. I wanted to slap Ben, shake Casey and run up to Paper Lake and talk some sense into the both of them. Casey is so vulnerable, self-conscious and sweet, it had taken her a long time to let anybody in, and it made me want to ugly cry.
Told entirely through Casey's viewpoint I would have loved to know what Ben was thinking. Was he equally as smitten with Casey when they first me? Was he worried that she might be far more experienced than he? Was he blown away by their outdoor rendezvous?
Want to know how this erotic romance ends? Well, I'm not going to tell you, you're going to have to read it yourself.
Rebecca Brooks once again does an outstanding job of describing the setting. I could practically feel the icy water of Paper Lake, smell the campsite fires and taste the delectable food that Ben presents to Casey.
The character building was spot on, main characters and secondary ones. I loved everything about Casey, even her annoying insecurities, and Ben, HOLY MOLEY would I like to meet him (don’t tell my husband I said that)
9. Waterfell Tweed Cozy Mystery Series by Mona Marple
Be careful reading Mona Marple’s Waterfell Tweed Cozy Mystery Series; you'll become addicted as I have. I only intended to read the first book, but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Waterfell Tweed and the relatable characters who began to feel like friends. Two days later and I’m three books into the series.
Sandy Shaw is a baker and bookseller in the small village of Waterfell Tweeds. She is a fun, quirky character who runs a shop called ‘Books and Bakes.’ Sandy becomes the prime suspect when Reginald Halfman is murdered, forcing her to put down her cake tins and baker’s hands and solve the mystery herself.
There is never a dull moment in this delightful novella. It’s a short and easy read full of information and mystery from the moment you start. Plotted exceptionally well I had no idea who the murderer was and was kept on high alert, ready for anything as I tried to figure it out. There is a subplot too, cleverly placed within the story to keep you interested and entertained.
The second book ‘A Tale of Two Bodies’ was even better than the first. Once again I didn’t work out who the murderer was until the very end. The story contains the same characters as well as some new ones and continues on from the first book. I do have to mention each book can be read as a standalone; Mona Marple does a perfect job of reintroducing the characters without it being repetitive between books.
Prepare yourself; the wording used to describe the baked goods is mouthwatering. Mona transported me right into the bakery with Sandy. I finished reading ravenous for sweets and lucky for me book two ends with a honey cake recipe - Method and suggested variations included. I bet you can guess what I'm making sometime this week.
I love romance, and the Waterfell Tweed Cozy Mystery Series has just the right amount. So far a relationship is developing between two of the characters as each book goes on. It doesn’t invade the story or take away from it being a mystery what so ever.
If you take a look at the cover design of all the books in the series, it gives you a good indication of what these books are like. They are for everyone, young or old, and are fun, lighthearted, witty and beautifully written.
10. Self Approved by Kat Trimarco
‘Self Approved Pleasure’ is divided into two sections
Part one is a memoir where you get to follow Kat Trimarco's journey from childhood all the way through into adulthood. Early on it’s the turmoil that comes from divorced parents and toxic relationships with stepparents. It’s the power of three words useless, worthless, undeserving, yelled in her face and how that affected her for years later. Eventually, things escalate to drug and alcohol addiction, but it was the describing of her first sexual experience at 13yrs old that I found myself relating to the most.
I think for most women your first time is awkward and confusing, but did anybody else feel the overwhelming need not to be a disappointment? Did you feel like you had to pretend to like it? To go as far as faking a persona that you thought would be more acceptable by the male, only to be left feeling exposed, unloved and worthless. Before reading this book, I hadn’t thought about it. I didn’t realize that my experience affected me so much, and I wish I would have had more confidence and self-worth back then.
This memoir is raw, and real, and gives you an insight into how Kat was able to create change.
Don’t be tempted to skip over the memoir, it’s essential, and boy did it help me feel more connected to Kat and her experiences!!!
Part two is the ‘Be Yourself Blueprint.’ Seven steps to work through in your quest to find the real you, to live the life you really want to live and to self-love. It ‘s a manual that I could, no I will, be reading over and over again.
What I loved about part two the most was that each chapter has a story to it. Each step is written with a real-life example from Kat herself to help you understand the process and assist you in your analysis and application. I was worried that part two would be too complicated for me, but this method made it so easy to follow.
When I read that there would be self-reflection exercises I rolled my eyes, I mean, haven't we all come across those at some point. Their dull, generic, pointless, meaningless and I can't connect with them. Kat’s blew my mind !!! It feels like she wrote them especially for me. I haven't yet completed them all because I want to take my time and finish them with the respect that they deserve. That’s how momentous and sacred they feel for me. I deserve to complete them. I need to complete them.
In chapter 8- Mindfulness Kat Discusses her smoking addiction and how she forced herself to become present while smoking. No distractions like a phone or other thoughts allowed, just her and her cigarette. Even though I'm not a smoker, this made a lot of sense to me. I do the same thing but with food. At the end of the night after finishing a million and one mummy duties I sit down with a massive bowl of chips, biscuits, lollies, and binge watch my favorite shows. I don’t focus on the food. I'm not enjoying it. I'm distracted by what I'm watching and shovel it in.
Now I'm not obese, but for the longest time, I haven't felt like I’m at my best health and fitness wise. So last night I turned everything off and got real with my big bowl of crap. The first thing I said to myself was "this is ridiculous, I'm not even hungry." I WASN’T HUNGRY!!!! And you know what, not only did I feel good about myself in the moment, when I threw it all in the bin, but I also felt so much better when I got out of bed in the morning.
One thing this book is not is a quick fix. Thank god for that because in my experience anything that claims to be a quick fix is bullshit. I'm grateful that It’s represented as a journey, a program that’s not about perfection.
If you are looking for an author who shows vulnerability, is authentic, brave, relatable and inspiring then this divine human being is the lady for you.
I WAS born for something more – a divine assignment – a mission I was destined to fulfill but have not been living out. So thank you, Kat Trimarco, you're my new hero xxx
What were your favourite books this year?
Will you be participating in any challenges in 2019, reading or other??
🌟 Keep an eye out on my Instagram page because I'm 🌟
participating in Sarra Cannon's #2019notebookchallenge
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