5-star reviews

I give very few books 5 out of 5 stars. There has to be something extraordinary about the book and/or my experience of it for me to give this rating. They are always books that I would love to find the time to read again.

In 2020, I gave four books 5 stars:

Dead Famous by Greg Jenner book cover

Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen by Greg Jenner

I gave a non-fiction book 5 stars! Jenner makes history accessible, fascinating and often very funny. All that combined with the mind-bogglingly impressive volume of research behind this book meant I could only give it the maximum rating.

The Moon's a Balloon by David Niven - autobiography cover


The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven

It’s no surprise this is a huge best-seller and regarded as a masterpiece of celebrity autobiography. Niven not only had an extraordinary life, he is also the master of telling a cracking yarn. Not a dull moment from start to finish.


The Mirror and the Light book cover


The Mirror & the Light (Thomas Cromwell Trilogy #3) by Hilary Mantel

I’d give all the books in this trilogy 5 stars. I read the first two – Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies – before I started blogging. I don’t have the words to do them justice in a review and can only say that all three books are masterpieces and a triumph of meticulous research and boundless imagination.


A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik book cover


A Deadly Education (Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik

A brilliant book about a school of magic which is trying to kill the students. There are no teachers, but if the kids fail to learn, it’s very likely they will die. But it’s the first-person narration of the wonderful El which makes the book so fantastic. Can’t wait for the next installment!


In 2019, I gave one book 5 stars:

This is how you lose the time war by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone book cover

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Such a strange and beautiful book. And an even greater achievement when you consider it was a seemless collaboration between two highly-talented writers.



In 2018, I gave one book 5 stars:

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

I absolutely loved it! Truly enchanting from the first page to the last. Also, see my 5-star books from 2016 below, where I also gave Miller’s equally brilliant The Song of Achilles the maximum rating.


In 2017, I gave two books 5 stars:


The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

This is a wonderful story with a terrific heroine. The YA tag is irrelevant: this is a book all ages can enjoy and appreciate. Part thriller, part romance, part mystery and part coming-of-age tale, The One Memory of Flora Banks has something for everyone.



A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V. E. Schwab

A fantastic conclusion to this wonderful series. If you enjoy fantasy fiction and haven’t picked up this series yet, I can’t recommend it enough. The first book is A Darker Shade of Magic. I also gave that one 5 stars (here’s my review).


In 2016, I gave three books 5 stars:


I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

This is the first in the Jasper Dent trilogy. I didn’t enjoy the next two installments quite as much as this gripping opening chapter, but they’re still very good and worth reading. Besides, this book works as a standalone so, if you like thrillers/serial-killer stories, you should pick this one up.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

You don’t have to have read Jane Eyre or like Charlotte Bronte’s classic to enjoy this fantastically fun take on the Victorian plain Jane story. If you’d ever wished the heroines of Victorian literature had shown a little more spine, this is the book for you!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This is an original imagining of events which are the stuff of legends: the story of Achilles and the siege of Troy. It is a beautiful, superb book and I can’t recommend it highly enough. However, it’s also heart-rending, so best to read it when you’re in a happy place.


In 2015, I gave five books 5 stars:

Top five books of 2015 Claire Huston

Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

Once you get used to the way this story is told, this is a heart-pounding tale of things going very wrong in space. It’s also surprisingly creepy in places.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

A truly amazing book. If this doesn’t move you, you have no heart.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab.

Magical, absorbing and incredibly imaginative. A must-read for fans of fantasy fiction. And I gave the sequel – A Gathering of Shadows – 4.5 stars, so if you’re worried about committing to the trilogy, don’t be!

Vicious by V. E. Schwab.

A story of antihero superheroes.

The Martian by Andy Weir.

I recommend this book to absolutely everyone. Don’t be put off if you think you don’t like sci-fi. This is a survival story and one of the most gripping things I’ve ever read. It’s also very funny.