Top Five of 2018

I made a good decision last year to add all the books I thought worthy of my top five into a list as I finished them. It worked out well because I didn’t have to scramble and try and remember anything I had read or try to recall plot points and emotional responses come December. I ended the year with 5 books on that list, perfect, easy, ready to go and then there came an 11th hour addition on 31st December which made me rethink the entire thing and kick one of my books out. In the end, I think I chose the right books.

This year I have brought back the Honourable Mentions because a couple really do need mentioning. I have also started a Top Five Picture Books because they were remarkable as well and didn’t want to crowd my list. If I was really enthusiastic I might make it a top ten and just merge them together but that is a lot of pressure for next time. This way I can highlight some amazing picture books as well. Click the title to read my review.


A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews

This was the first book I added to my list as soon as I finished it back in May. I patiently waited for this to publish and was not disappointed at how spectacular it was.






Ready Player One (#1) by Ernest Cline

I adored this book. If you love cleverness, video games and are forgiving about having the 80s shoved down your throat then you will love this. There is a sequel coming after the popularity of the movie. I’m not sure I agree but I am willing to give it a go.




The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

I could not put this book down. I listened to the audio and literally had it in my ears from dawn till dusk. It is amazing and so well planned out.





Loving Lakyn by Charlotte Reagan

Technically a prequel, technically a sequel but it can be read on its own. Either way, it is amazing and I fell hard and fast for these characters. The emotional journey I went on with these boys was incredible and heartbreaking. If I could read about them forever I would.




What If? by Randall Munroe

I had been reading this book on and off for weeks, piece by piece at night before I went to sleep. I finally finished it on NYE and something about it made me instantly decide to add it to my list. It was clever, funny, creative, fascinating. All of these wonderful things the entire time but it was upon finishing it I realised how much I genuinely loved this book. Therefore I had to bump another contender and rise this up the ranks.



Top Five Picture Books

A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Eric the Postie by Matt Shanks

Naughty Kitty by Adam Stower

A Boy, a Bear, and a Balloon by Brittany Rubiano

What’s Up Top? by Marc Martin


Honourable Mentions

Soulless (#1) by Gail Carriger

Truly Devious (#1) by Maureen Johnson

Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford

What the Fluffy Bunny Said to the Growly Bear by P. Crumble

Penguin Problems by Jory John


Loving Lakyn (#2) by Charlotte Reagan

Published: 20th November 2017 Goodreads badge
Pages: 206
Format: eBook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Lakyn James is sixteen years old and hating every second of it. He was supposed to be done, he’d tapped out. End of story, unsubscribe here. Suicide “attempt”, they said. His intentions had no “attempt” in them. 

Re-entering normal life after ‘trying’ to take his own is weird. Especially when the world keeps going like it never happened. He still has to eat breakfast, go to school, and somehow convince a cute boy that he’s too damaged to date. 

Scott White comes with his own problems, namely a habit of drinking too much and being indecisive about rather he wants in the closet, or out of it. Lakyn can’t stand him; he also can’t help smiling when Scott’s around. 

Unfortunately – or fortunately – for Lakyn, life has decided to give him a second chance. He’s not happy about it, but maybe, with a lot of hard work and a good therapist, he can learn to be. And maybe he can hold Scott’s hand at the same time. 

No promises though. 

It’s called Loving Lakyn and genuinely one sentence in I was in love with Lakyn. This is probably a biased opinion because I’d fallen in love with him reading Just Juliet so you can understand my absolute joy when I discovered there was another story about those characters and him in particular. This is a prequel/overlap kind of story from Just Juliet. It follows Lakyn’s story but we also see the backstories of Juliet and Scott which were only briefly touched on in the first book. Knowing how it all ends takes nothing away from how fascinating and brilliant this book is.

There are a few content warnings to be aware of, Reagan has a full list available here, A few obvious ones from the blurb and a few not. There are scenes of cutting, constant reference to suicide attempts and scars, and references to neglect. There are also sex scenes, nothing overly graphic, but there are details. I actually liked how these sex scenes are written actually, they are tasteful but honest and Reagan doesn’t make it anything other than what it is. I promise this isn’t all dark and depressing, Reagan balances out the heavy subjects alongside love and friendship and family. Lakyn is the central character and with the reader inside his head your understanding is unavoidable, and this is where you see how much he is trying to heal but doesn’t know how, he hasn’t got the emotional tools or the strength to do it on his own.

There are brilliant, powerful sentences that pack a punch straight to your heart as well as the story. It’s an emotional journey but it’s enthralling to see Lakyn go through it. Reagan doesn’t give us easy solutions and drives home that Lakyn’s is a complicated life to recover from. I saw parts of myself in him as well as read about things I’ll never be able to understand, but Reagan is brilliant at telling his story. You understand his struggle and it never feels fake, contrived, or dramatised. It felt real and your heart will break for him.

Reagan’s writing is addicting and I loved falling back into this world. I smiled every time I picked up this book and it was the hardest thing to draw myself away from. Every spare minute I had I read, even if it was only another couple of pages. I was drawn in by Lakyn’s story and whether it was the hard parts, or the mushy adorable romance parts it was fantastic. Lakyn and Scott together always made me smile before, and just seeing them together again brought back those memories but this time with greater understanding of their connection.

While Lakyn is not the strongest emotionally, he is also someone who knows who he is. He is not ashamed of being gay, he doesn’t announce it to the world because for him it’s both not a big deal and none of anybody’s business, but he won’t let anybody make him feel ashamed of it either. I related in some way to Lakyn and Reagan expresses his thoughts and feelings in a believable and frankly unsettlingly familiar ways. It just goes to show how believable these characters are. They could be anybody, they could be people we know and that’s what make their stories so beautiful and heartbreaking because they felt real.

With the other characters, it was nice to see Juliet’s journey and understand who she is, especially since we didn’t explore that as much the first time around. I still felt that Rick and Mr James weren’t fleshed out as much as they could have been. I understand that the story focuses on the teenagers and their lives, but so often Rick and Mr James were a bundled deal and felt like a single character. Granted they are slightly more fleshed out this time since they are in this story a bit more, but Rick I think gets left behind.

Despite the big subjects there are also fun and heart-warming moments and the exploration of a new relationship. This story deals wonderfully with the complications of having a closeted relationship, where one person is not ready to be who they are publically. While this is Lakyn’s story, Reagan does a great job exploring Scott’s emotional journey and past. His struggle with accepting his identity and his conservative parents, and his social life at school which he is trying to protect. About halfway through I wanted a third book that focused on Scott’s back story, but by the end of the book it was so beautifully fleshed out alongside Lakyn’s that I felt I understood Scott a lot as well.

Teenage boys falling in love with each other is adorable because they’re both dags and they don’t know what they’re doing and seeing them flounder can be the best thing to read about. I was grinning and making ‘aww’ noises over these two, I was reading page after page with a smile on my face but I loved it. It’s not cheesy it’s adorable and I want more of it.

You can purchase Loving Lakyn via the following

 Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Book Depository

 Fishpond | B&N | Publisher | Book Bub


Just Juliet (#1) by Charlotte Reagan

Published: 17th September 2016 Goodreads badge
Pages: 224
Format: eBook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Juliet represents the road less travelled. Will Lena take it? 

Lena Newman is 17, her best friend’s a cheerleader, her boyfriend’s a football player, and as far as everyone is concerned, her life is sorted. But that’s before she befriends the new girl. Juliet is confident, slightly damaged, drop-dead gorgeous and a lesbian. 

Lena realizes that her interest goes beyond just friendship. She sets off on a path of self-discovery where the loyalty of those closest to her will be tested. 

I am in love with this book. It’s not perfect but it makes you feel warm and fuzzy and as a person who doesn’t like super romancey stuff, this is a sweet and adorable romance and it makes you all squishy inside.

The story takes place over the final year of high school for Lena and her friends. From the first day of school through the weeks and months Reagan progresses the story through the year, often jumping time. It doesn’t feel rushed but it keeps a good pace, the whirlwind of new friends and a budding romance pulls you along comfortably.

I liked how Reagan uses Juliet and a focal point from the get go. She’s the thing that’s caught Lena’s eye and it starts the story with intrigue and interest. From there we enter Lena’s world and discover her friends and her family and her discovery about who she really is.

Lena’s exploration about her own attraction and sexuality is slow and believable, having gone through 17 years of thinking one way it’s a lot to process when you start thinking another. I enjoyed this slowness between Lena and Juliet, it’s a great progression from friend to girlfriend and with self discovery thrown in the mix it’s bound to take some time. I liked that Reagan allowed Lena time to be confused and to be uncertain, and having a confidant to explore her feelings.

There are some excellent characters to fall in love with. Lakyn, Scott and Juliet are great, complex characters and people who Lena feels a connection with, something with Reagan brings across in her writing. I often felt that Juliet, Lakyn and Scott were more developed characters than Lena’s existing friends. Even though I understand we focus on them a lot more and have time to develop their characters, having these other friends as a featured part of the story meant they had a role to play in Lena’s life. Best friend Lacey is a full enough character, her personality is a curious choice but Reagan makes it work. But there are side characters in Georgia and Kiki who get almost no personality or story. They are portrayed as being slightly disinterested in Lena’s life I think to save them having to be fleshed out, but Reagan gives us Georgia, who we get an almost throwaway sentence that she is a teen mum and I found myself wanting to know more about her, where is this baby boy? How is she coping and wouldn’t her friends be more interested in how her kid is? I wanted her story as well. I don’t need it in a new book, though I wouldn’t say no, but I just wanted her more fleshed out because Reagan gave her such a big story. Compared to Kiki who gets no real drawcard or any depth and so I wanted nothing from her but honestly, I often forgot about them both.

Characters I did love were Lakyn and Scott. I loved those boys so much and from the moment they’re introduced I felt connected to them. Their fun relationship is adorable to see and while Lena and Juliet were wonderful as well, there is a delightful charm about those boys that made me smile.

There are a few tough topics briefly discussed such as drug use, and a brief discussion about suicide, but it isn’t the focus of the story and instead helps to expand on characters and their lives. Reagan is also clear on how talking is important and seeking professional help has changed things for the better so nothing is glorified but neither is it dismissed.

A small thing I loved was the chapter headings. They are done in the wonderful style of phrases and sentences which not only relate to the chapter events, but are also said by characters. It was a clever change from an overall title, or basic numerals. Another things Reagan did really well was the ending. In an epilogue but not an epilogue way she manages to wrap up all these characters lives in a lovely way that feels true to the people we’ve come to know.

I’m really glad I picked this book up because not only does it have wonderfully real characters, but it has diversity and challenges that are relatable to everyone, even if they aren’t teenagers.

You can purchase Just Juliet via the following

 Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery | Book Bub

Angus & Robertson | Book Depository

 Fishpond | B&N | Publisher | Audible