The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag (2020)

Holy wow, I honestly can’t believe that it’s already mid-year. Time is a funny thing normally but in 2020 it’s just outrageous, as the year itself has been! The year got off to a pretty strong start despite quickly falling sick towards the end of January (it wasn’t corona!) after which everything basically spiralled downward and that’s when my reading really tanked. With all the negative energy that has been projected worldwide, it’s a miracle I managed to read anything at all, but I’m thankful I had the blog tours (the majority of which will no longer be mentioned!) to keep me motivated and reading. This year I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge to 100 books and despite it all, I think I’ve done quite well and I’m even 27 books ahead of schedule.

I’ve been seeing a lot of people do this tag lately and so of course I’m hopping on board too albeit a little late. I did my first mid-year freak out tag in 2019 and it was fun to look back and see what was and wasn’t making my hit list last year. So before I go off on another long-winded spiel, let’s check in to see what my 2020 reading is looking like right now!

Best book you’ve read so far in 2020?

This is probably (obviously) the hardest question. I am really torn because I’ve had a surprising number of amazing reads so far, but I think I’m going to pick Words in Deep Blue. This sent me on a wild rollercoaster of emotions and it was endlessly quotable. I think this is such an underrated gem and you can read my review here. Now I’m going to cheat a bit and mention my other top contenders: The Kinder Poison, The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, Nevermoor and Vengeful.


Best sequel so far of 2020?

Surprising no one, I haven’t read many sequels so far this year but of the ones I’ve read I’m going to have to pick this great contemporary romance: The Guy on the Left. Let’s just say that after completely loving book one but really not loving the character who would be our hero in book two, I was shooketh to read it and love it perhaps even more than the first! If you like romance, second chances, slow burns, and some deliciously steamy encounters, do yourself a favour and pick this up!


new release you haven’t read yet, but want to?

Eherm… Now where do I even start? (I’ve got those *shame bells a la GoT* ringing in my head!) This hasn’t been a super great year for me reading outside of my blog tour reads so there are plenty to choose from, ha! But I’m going to go for Beach Read because 1) It was released on my birthday, 2) I’ve heard countless praises for it and 3) I’m hoping to read it this summer (loose use of the term as it’s perpetually summer in the tropics)!


Most anticipated release for the second half of 2020?

Another one that’s super difficult to narrow down because there are so many amazing releases and I can’t choose? But also, my latest TTT post was about this so you can check out my list of top ten most anticipated releases (although in reality there’s obviously plenty more)! I’m currently reading an eARC for one of my most anticipated reads: Unravel the Dusk, and though it’s still early days I’m loving it!


biggest disappointment?

It hurts me just as much as it might hurt you for me to say this but my biggest disappointment was The Toll, the third and final book of the amazing Arc of a Scythe series. I was just… Expecting more and it really fell short. While I did still enjoy what we were given, it wasn’t the series ending that I thought we would get and I feel the story deserved to end on a much better note! But anywho, those are just some of my thoughts but you can read all my thoughts in my review!


biggest surprise?

It’s for definitely going to be the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend. I wasn’t expecting to fall head over feet in love with a MG fantasy this year but wow, I loved the books in this series so much! If you’re looking for something that will make you nostalgic for your days reading Harry Potter as a kid this is the book you should read! But it also has so much more to offer. It has an incredible world, quirky and hilarious characters, a feisty MC in Morrigan Crow and a villain who I feel falls more on the morally grey scale (albeit the darker side) than on the pure evil scale? (maybe that’s just me though) TL;DR: Read it! You won’t regret it!


Favourite new author (Debut or new to you)?

I’m so torn! It’s so hard for me to choose because as I’m going to be repeating over and over again, I’ve read so many great books so far in 2020! But… If I had to choose I’d pick Jessica Townsend because her Nevermoor series is seriously going to be one of my all time favourites. Funny that, last year I picked Jane Harper, who is also an Aussie author like Jessica! The Aussie’s are hitting it big 😍


newest fictional crush?

Ugh why do I torture myself? Hmm… I can’t decide so I’m going to cheat and give you three of my new fictional crushes. I’m choosing Ryder from Only When It’s Us, Reid from Love Lettering, and Zach from Let’s Get Textual. If you’ve read any or all of these, I guess you might figure I have a type 🤣 All three had me swooning throughout these reads and I loved every minute of it!


newest favourite character?

I going with Maia Tamarin from Spin the Dawn for this one. I love her spirit and her fierce determination to see that her family suffers no more loss than they already have. She puts family first and works countless hours to achieve her goals and honestly, she’s such an admirable character. I’d often forget her age because she has a maturity to her that made her relatable to me.

I kind of want to cheat a little and given an honorary shout to Zahru from The Kinder Poison because she’s feisty, full of snark and although her naïveté sometimes drove me a little crazy, she was a fierce character (who can also talk to animals!) that brought me so much joy!


Book that made you cry?

The question should be: what book didn’t make me cry?! Hah. Kidding… Sort of!

No, but in all honesty the book that really hit me hard in the feels and made those angry/sad silent tears stream down my face was The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones. So relevant with everything that’s happening in America right now and I think a good introduction to difficult topics for younger readers written by an own voices author. Don’t let this one pass you by, friends! If you’re curious to know more, check out my review.


Book that made you happy?

Okay but all of the books I enjoyed made me happy in some kind of way? I’m a ‘laugher’ so it really doesn’t take much to make me laugh. I’ve laughed through a lot of the books that I’ve read this year but the most recent one was Walk of Shame. Although it wasn’t my favourite romcom I had a really good time laughing at and with our characters.


favourite book to movie/tv adaptation that you saw this year?

Okay this is kind of weird to admit but… I don’t think I’ve watched any book/movie/show adaptation this year? I actually can’t remember the last time I watched a movie/show I read the book of and it has also been a while since I’ve actually sat and watched something thanks to books and ACNH. But if there’s one show that I think will be a favourite (if I do get to watch it!) and it’s Normal People. The book has weirdly and unexpectedly become a favourite and I really like the look of the show!


favourite review you’ve written this year?

Hmm… This is tough but I think I’m going with my review for The Silence of Bones because I loved this book. It makes me sad that it’s one of the more underrated releases of 2020 because it honestly deserves so much more love and attention. You can tell how much work Hur put into that book with all the details about this dynastic period and it was fantastic! Check out my review for more about it but I really recommend it 😉


most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)?

I actually have a few new gorgeous books on my shelves but I’m going with The Mountains Sing. I got my copy personalised and signed by the author as she was living in Jakarta at the time of the release, and that’s always a treat! This story felt like non-fiction and I felt as if I was hearing it being told to me first hand. Immersive and powerful! Check out my review to learn more about it.


what books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Omg if I actually listed what books I “need” to read by the end of the year we might be here forever. So I’m just going to mention a few (cough*twenty*cough) that I’m very excited to get my grabby hands on and that I’m really hoping will get read by year end!

I had a lot more fun doing this post than I thought I would. Granted I didn’t give myself too much time to dwell on my answers and I think that made it easier for me to do! Looking forward to seeing how the rest of 2020 goes… Have you done a mid-year freak out tag?
How are you doing with your reading? At the end of the day what matters most is that you’re enjoying yourself!

Goodreads Monday – The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.

This week’s featured book is The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind by Jackson Ford. This is book one in The Frost Files series and has a 3.67 rating on Goodreads!

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Goodreads Monday – The Summer Children by Dot Hutchinson

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.

This week’s featured book is The Summer Children (The Collector #3) by Dot Hutchinson. This is book three in thriller/horror The Collector series and has an impressive 4.28 rating on Goodreads!

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Goodreads Monday – The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.

This week’s featured book is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This contemporary mystery was published in 1993 (wow, I had no idea it was published that long ago!) and has an impressive 4.10 rating on Goodreads!

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Goodreads Monday – If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.

This week’s featured book is If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. This mystery/thriller was published in 2017 and has an impressive 4.10 rating on Goodreads!

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Top 5 Saturday: Books Set Near/On the Sea

We’re back with another Top 5 Saturday! Just in case you don’t know Top 5 Saturday is a weekly meme created by Mandy @ Devouring Books and it’s where we list the top five books (they can be books on your TBR, favourite books, books you loved/hated) based on the week’s topic. You can see the upcoming schedule at the end of my post 🙂 This week’s topic is: books set near/on the sea.

This is a great topic that I don’t think I’ve ever answered in a meme before. Now that I’m thinking about it, I realise that I have a lot of books set near/on/in the sea, so it’s clear I love the idea of a story set by the sea or on the sea. I say I love the idea because these are all on my TBR (*cough*) LOL

It’s funny when I think about it because when I think of books set on the sea I always think of fantasy (mostly YA) and when I think of books set near/by the sea, a lot of the time I think about women’s fiction books that are set in the summer and revolve around quaint sea-side towns and have cute fluffy romances! That said, when thinking about books for this list none were the latter but one was the former 😂 I’m looking forward to reading all of these though and I’m really hoping I’ll be able to get to them them at some point this year!

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Goodreads Monday – Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.

This week’s featured book is Romanov by Nadine Brandes. This is a standalone Young Adult Historical Fiction/Fantasy re-telling about the famous Romanov family. This was released in May 2019 and currently has a 3.80 rating on Goodreads!

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Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Note: This review was originally posted on my Goodreads in January 2019.

Goodreads: Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Panda Rating:


Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

2020 note: I was super excited to read this book because there was a helluva lot to be excited for and so I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t love it more. I know it’s a super unpopular opinion because everyone adored this book. So, JFYI, there’s an unpopular opinion coming right up! 😅 Also, soz it’s a bit of a chunky review!


I’m kind of torn on how I feel about this one. I was super excited to start reading it and while I did enjoy it— especially the world that the author created—I think the story just fell a bit flat for me. I’m feeling disappointed because I wanted to enjoy it so much more than I did. That said, with her debut, Natasha Ngan presents a wild fantasy that is not only rich in detail, but has a diverse and representative cast of characters and a very open narrative on sexuality and on sensitive issues such as abuse. There is action, politics, coverage of social issues such as discrimination and poverty, and there is also a blooming f/f romance. TW: violence and sexual abuse.

“We might be Paper Girls, easily torn and written upon. The very title we’re given suggests that we are blank, waiting to be filled. But what the Demon King and his court do not understand is that paper is flammable.

And there is a fire catching among us.”

We follow 17-year-old Lei as she is forcibly taken from her village to become an unprecedented ninth Paper Girl, where on her journey she discovers unexpected friendships and her first love, while also navigating the dark and harrowing experiences that come with being forced to be a consort to the Demon King.

Ngan stated that she wanted to tell a story that has diverse representation, one that more young readers can relate to, and I think she did a wonderful job delivering on that. Even though I’m not “young” anymore (lol), I thoroughly enjoyed reading a YA story that was so heavily influenced by Asian, specifically Chinese-Malaysian cultures, which also have many similarities to my own Indonesian culture. I found it refreshing to read a YA fantasy where I recognized words from my own native tongue and other familiar references from Asia in the text. I found that the cultural influences added an extra special element to the world building, which Ngan creates with a wonderfully bizarre fusion of human and animal forms, mixed with the rich spiritual beliefs and ritualistic practices from Asian cultures. Ngan’s writing offers such rich and vivid imagery that breathes life, not only into the characters, but into the surroundings, making it easy to picture exactly what’s being painted.

This was also the case when we encounter the ‘darker’ scenes in the story that involve abuse (sexual and physical). Although there was a CW/TW at the start, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read a YA novel that’s as explicitly dark as this. If you’re okay with confronting and reading about these topics, then this book is suitable for you. Though I think that because Ngan is so open about it in her writing, it provides a good platform where young readers can gain an understanding, engage in discussions and explore these difficult issues in private or in safe spaces such as book clubs. Not only that, but I think the openness allows people to gain a sense of empowerment from the main character Lei—who ultimately chooses to not let what has happened to her define her life.

While Lei’s character was admirable in how she dealt with her situation, I have to admit that I didn’t really connect with her—which I think is perhaps the main reason why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected to. Yes, she’s undoubtedly brave for having stood up to the Demon King, but I also felt that (ironically) her character was a little helpless and lacked strength. Her emotions and actions were so dependent on other characters pulling her through and what I found really frustrating was that she would dive into these situations without any forethought into how it would affect others; especially if she failed, which she did almost every time. I know this is YA, and really, Ngan does a great job in capturing the internal coming-of-age struggles of a teenage girl and an even better job at capturing the struggles of a young woman discovering her sexuality. However, Lei’s character just didn’t latch on to me. In many ways, I see Lei as being so far from the typical ‘fierce, strong, warrior, self-saving heroine’ that YA fantasy is full of and this is definitely not a bad thing but for some reason she just didn’t work for me…

It was unfortunate that the majority of the Paper Girls and other characters experience little to no growth, save for one other Paper Girl, Aoki, who goes through just as much change as Lei. It was actually quite painful (in the best way) to see how Aoki’s character develops, especially in relation to Lei’s, and I can see her playing a much bigger and potentially more sinister role in the upcoming book(s). The next one is meant to come out towards the end of 2019 and Ngan will apparently make an announcement about the upcoming book’s title very soon. I personally hope that how I feel about Lei’s character improves or changes in the next book and that the pace of the story picks up a little bit. I felt the pacing was a bit slow for me at times and the climax I was anticipating towards the end, also didn’t hit that ‘satisfying’ spot for me.

But it really wasn’t all negative for me—even though maybe this review might make it seem so. I did enjoy this book, just not as much as I hoped to. That won’t stop me from picking up the next one though! I look forward to diving back into Ikhara and seeing where the story takes us next 🙂

Have you read Girls of Paper and Fire or is it on your TBR?

Top 5 Saturday: Books from Male only POVs

We’re back with another Top 5 Saturday! Just in case you don’t know Top 5 Saturday is a weekly meme created by Mandy @ Devouring Books and it’s where we list the top five books (they can be books on your TBR, favourite books, books you loved/hated) based on the week’s topic. You can see the upcoming schedule at the end of my post 🙂 This week’s topic is: male POVsI’m taking this to mean male only POVs

Okay wow, I didn’t think I’d struggle as much as I did to think of a list for today’s prompt! Turns out, a lot of the books I own on my TBR aren’t written from male (only) POVs 🙃 I also don’t think I ever properly paid attention to this before (oops! 🙈) but that’s pretty interesting to note! Also interesting was that when I took to Google and Goodreads (as I usually do to jog my memory for these prompts), it turns out a lot of male POV lists are either romance or YA related (or both), with little to no mention of contemporary fiction, mysteries/thrillers, adult fantasy or the sub-genres. So that wasn’t really useful… but after deep-diving into my failing memory (and my Kindle shelf!) I’ve managed to make a list of five books from mixed genres including adult fantasy, middle-grade fantasy and contemporary fiction!

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Goodreads Monday – Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.

Wooh, it’s been a hot minute since I did one of these but I’m glad to be back with it!
This week’s featured book is Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw. This is a standalone (I think) Young Adult Fantasy that was released towards the end of last year and it currently has a 3.82 rating on Goodreads!

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