Hello everybody! So, I’ve spent a lot of this past month feeling pretty ill, whether physically or mentally or both, so a lot of the time I’ve been gravitating to books I was pretty sure would be 5 star reads for me. Here are all the ones I was right about, including a couple that actually surprised me and snuck into this post!
The Wedding Season by Katy Birchall
As you may remember, I’m a big fan of Katy Birchall in general and I’ve read basically everything she’s ever written for any age category, but I had never loved one of her books more than her adult debut the Secret Bridesmaid, which came out last year. Somehow, she’s managed to better it in her new romcom, though, because this is basically my ideal book. It’s the story of a woman named Freya, who is brutally dumped the day before her wedding, who then has to attend a series of seven other weddings over the course of the summer while navigating her heartbreak. To make this easier for her, her besties Ruby and Leo decide to give her a unique challenge to complete at each event, and a new love interest named Jamie pops up to make things even better. I genuinely laughed at least once a page in this, there are so so funny moments and the dialogue absolutely SPARKLES. My very favourite bit, which I reread over and over, is to do with a tattoo. If you know, you know. It also does a really good job of making all the weddings feel equally special, and I am utterly in love with all the characters except for Matthew, but most of all with Freya because she’s such an organised, put together queen and she is strong as HELL. Oh, and FYI Jamie is my new book boyfriend (why do I have like three book boyfriends called Jamie???). Anyway, I’m basically counting the days till Katy brings out her next adult release, because I think this genre is so perfectly suited to her writing style and stupendous sense of humour.
Twice Hexed by Julia Tuffs (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
Hexed was one of my very favourite books in 2021, so I was dying to read this and this is a bold statement but I think it may have been even better. It sees our feminist witch Jessie starting her GCSE year at school, while also dealing with the new arrival of Sloane, a fellow witch with some darker ideas and actions that are putting Jessie, her friends and the school at large at immense risk. This is every bit as hilarious as book one, and it continues to call out misogyny and promote inclusive, intersectional feminism. Slowness is a fascinating antagonist with so much depth who had me constantly on edge yet unsure if maybe I’d misjudged her, Jessie makes mistakes and isn’t perfect, but is likeable nonetheless, and as with book one I am obsessed with the friendship group and the complex but loving dynamics within. The climax had me so tense I could hardly breathe, and I thought this was a duology, but the ending strongly implied that this isn’t the last we’ll see of Jessie and co, so roll on book three!!
How to be True by Daisy May Johnson (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I read How to be Brave a couple months ago, after a year of everyone insisting I would love it, and they were all spot on. This is the companion book following one of Calla’s best friends at their school run by non-religious nuns, Edie. The school is going on a trip to her native Paris, and this is the first time in forever that she has been home and had to deal with her rather difficult relationship with her grandmother, who is her guardian given the fact her parents are away on a lengthy trip. Then Edie becomes embroiled in protecting a painting in her grandmother’s extensive collection from theft, and she and her friends unearth the heartbreaking historical story behind it. Simply put, I knew after How to Be Brave that Edie was one of my new favourite characters of all time, and this book absolutely confirmed it for me. She is bold and brave, loyal and fiercely loving, and I just couldn’t love her anymore. The friendship trio is another fave of all time, so supportive and like a sisterhood, and I found Edie’s grandmère a rather fascinating woman. The narration is quirky and hugely amusing, and the ending legitimately made me weep, so I can’t wait to hear more details about the next book, which will presumably be book-loving Hanna’s time to shine.
The Midnighters by Hana Tooke (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I really enjoyed Hana’s last book the Unadoptables, which I read last year I believe, so when my friend Izzy suggested reading this together, I was thrilled. It’s a mystery-adventure with a sort of speculative vibe, following a girl named Ema who has always been a little bit different to other people, as she meets a girl named Silvie after moving in with her eccentric uncle and feeling like she has found true friendship for the first time in her life. Then her new friend goes missing, and Ema discovers a mysterious organisation named the Midnight Guild is somehow involved, where she also uncovers a murder mystery. The gang of children she meets there are all so wonderful and I adored them, the gothic vibe of the Guild was amazing and I desperately wanted to visit (especially the botanical garden, which we never actually see but hear about!!) and I think Ema becoming more comfortable in her own skin is such a special thing to read.The denouement of this really reminded me of the Mentalist, and that’s one of my favourite shows EVER, so it totally cemented my love for this book and made me kind of hope it may be the start of a series?
Drama and Danger by J.T Williams (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I buddy read this with my lovely friend Rachael, as we are both huge fans of Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine, both authors this has been compared to, so we were sure it would be a hit for us and thrillingly, we both loved it equally. I read the introductory short story in the Very Merry Murder Club and adored it, and this first full length book brought me the most immense joy because it is exactly what I needed to fill the Murder Most Unladylike shaped hole in my life. It follows two Black girls who live in Georgian London, Lizzie Sancho and Dido Belle, who lock eyes one night at the theatre where Lizzie’s father Ignatius is almost killed when he takes to the stage as Othello. They set about investigating, and the way their friendship blossoms is so beautiful and perfect, and there is a quote around the time Belle meets Lizzie’s family that made me cry because it just so perfectly encapsulates the feeling of what friendship should be. The secondary characters were all super interesting too, with my particular favourites being Meg and Lizzie’s parents. The exploration of Black history and in particular slavery/the abolitionist movement was weaved into the book so expertly, and it was both incredibly interesting to read about and utterly enraging that it ever happened at all.
The People on Platform Five by Clare Pooley
I really enjoyed Clare Pooley’s first book the Authenticity Project a few months ago, so when I finished that I preordered her second release at the library straight away. I’m actually now kind of regretting that decision because I will definitely reread this and I need my own copy, but I digress! This is a multiple POV story, that follows a group of people who all have their own issues that meet on a train and become an unlikely but utterly wonderful support system for one another. Iona, a magazine therapist who is being slowly pushed out of her current job, is the instigator of these relationships and if you don’t love her, I do not understand you. She is so strong and fierce and inspiring, not to mention often absolutely bloody HILARIOUS. Her fellow passengers won a spot in my heart too; I was rooting for Emmie and Sanjay to just hurry up and get together already, I related a painful amount to Martha’s feeling that she was an outcast, and though you’d never guess at the start of the book, Piers ended up making me cry and I was just so unbelievably proud of his journey. This is a book about hope and looking out for our fellow humans, and I think it is both super enjoyable and so important.
Something Certain, Maybe by Sara Barnard
I’ve loved Sara Barnard since before I even started this blog, so a WHILE, and I have given everything she’s ever written 5 stars. She is one of my favourite authors, and I have been BEGGING her for years to finally complete the companion trilogy that comprises of this, Beautiful Broken Things and Fierce Fragile Hearts, by finally writing a Rosie book. This follows Rosie as she starts uni, and it’s very different to her expectations and she’s kind of struggling with it on all fronts, while also dealing with complex friendship stuff with her best friends from home Caddy and Suze, her mum’s health issues and the huge bright spot of her budding relationship with Jade is the only thing keeping her going. The romance is ADORABLE and I seriously ship it, but if you’ve read Caddy’s book or Suze’s, you know that the focal point is the friendship trio and I am bowled over with love for the love they have for each other and the way they always show up for one another, even when they’re individually falling apart. I adored this, and as ever, I am in awe of Sara’s talent for combining some really weighty topics with a funny, lovely, ultimately comforting read. In a way, I’m kind of devastated that this is the last time I’ll see my girlies, because they’ve been in my life for 6 years now, but I think this leaves them in a beautiful, hopeful place, and I’ll just have to mend my fragile heart with some rereads. One thing I know for certain, though, is that Sara’s books will continue to be incredibly special, and I plan to read every single one.
Orla and the Wild Hunt by Anna Hoghton (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I loved Anna’s first book the Mask of Aribella back in 2019 when I read an advanced copy over my Christmas break from uni, and so I’ve been anticipating this for a very long time, especially as it features Irish mythology and I feel like that isn’t something I’ve read a lot about. It didn’t let me down, because I think it is even cleverer and funnier and more poignant than Anna’s first book. It follows siblings Orla and Apollo as they go to visit their Granny Ireland for the first time since their mum died, and she vanishes in the night, seemingly abducted by the sinister Wild Hunt. Orla and Apollo (also known as Olo and Polo) are such well written protagonists and I loved the way their relationship grows and changes into something so loving after their very rocky start at the beginning of the book. The pooka is an absolutely irrestible character and I defy you not to love them, whether for their humour or duplicity or secretly soft centre and I also really loved the part Fionn and Connor played in the story. Anna is unbelievably talented, and the exploration of grief as well as what makes it possible to live despite it is so well done. I can’t wait to see what she does next, because I will undoubtedly be reading it.
A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin
I don’t read a lot of historical romance, but if they’re all as good as this then I’m going to have to start!! This joined my TBR because Sophie followed me on Instagram, I followed her back, and her bio stipulated that all followers had to pre-order. So of course I did! It’s the story of Kitty Talbot, who has been left with crushing debt and four sisters to care for after the death of her parents, as she goes to London for the Regency marriage season more in search of a huge fortune rathee than a husband she’ll actually love. She ensnares young Archie de Lacy, and it seems like a done deal, until his older brother Lord Radcliffe begins to suspect this isn’t a love match and intervenes. The romance in this is amazing; the chemistry positively sizzles and it’s one of the best enemies to lovers I can ever remember reading. I also enjoyed the historical setting, which any fan of Bridgerton will no doubt appreciate, and Kitty herself is a flawed yet utterly lovable heroine that it’s impossible not to root for, given how much she wants her sisters to be safe and happy, to the point she is willing to sacrifice this for herself. I assume the next book will focus on another Talbot sister, and I am deeply excited to read it whenever it’s out!
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
I’ve read both of Emily Henry’s other adult books and really enjoyed them, so I was expecting to like this, but it ended up being a new fave in the genre. It follows a woman named Nora, who is a spiky, yet soft on the inside literary agent, as her pregnant younger sister drags her to a small town in North Carolina for an impromptu holiday, where she runs into her work nemesis Charlie Lastra and they end up spending a lot of time together. Nora is such a layered and interesting character and to make things even better for me, a tall girl, she is TALLER THAN ME. And not only does Charlie not care, he likes it?! So yeah, he is like the Dream Man, lots of points to Charlie; also in his favour he’s got an incredibly dry sense of humour and he is so dedicated and caring with his family, just like Nora is with Libby. They’re a perfect match, honestly. The small town setting was also amazing and just my sort of thing, but the reverse Hallmark kind of vibe also really did it for me because I prefer my romances with a bit more bite to them (sorry, I know some people will think that’s sacrilegious). I already can’t wait for Emily Henry’s next book, not least because I heard it involves FAKE DATING aka my absolute most favourite trope!
The Last Fallen Moon by Graci Kim
I absolutely loved the first book in this series, so I was pretty certain the second one would be another hit, and I was absolutely correct because I think I maybe even preferred this to book one?! Which is not a sentence I thought I’d be writing! This one picks up after the dramatic ending of the last book, which saw Riley accidentally strip the entire Gom clan of their healing powers and everyone in her life except for her sister forgot who she was. In a bid to try and fix things after her family home gets cursed, she goes into the Spiritrealm to try and find someone in Cheondang who can restore the Gom clan’s powers, but she has to first navigate the seven hells of Jiok. As with book one, I absolutely loved learning more about Korean mythology and I can’t understand why we’re not all obsessed with it because it’s so layered and interesting and CLEVER. Like seriously, can anyone please recommend me more books about it?? Graci Kim takes these traditional stories and spins them into something modern and I honestly think the worldbuilding is genius. Riley is such a brilliant character who feels like an outsider and can’t see how strong and cool and brave she is, and her “tour guide” Dahl was such a fun new addition, and Yeowu stole my heart so she also deserves a mention!! I already can’t wait to read the third book, but at the same time I hope this is extended beyond a trilogy because I can’t bear the thought of there not being more past 2023!
Thank you so much for reading! What have your most recent 5 star reads been? Have you read anything I’ve included in this post, and if yes, what did you think? I’d absolutely love to have a chat in the comments about all things brilliant books!