May Reading Wrap Up

Well, it has happened – I have finally finished university. After a month of essay deadlines and exams, I’m amazed I read as much as I did. I think that’s been the standard theme of this year so far; my surprise each month that I actually found time to read. It definitely helped that I participated in a 30 day reading challenge, and I’m sure that’s why my totals this month (two books over 500 pages is quite the feat for me) are pretty darn fantastic.

First up this month was The Hero of Ages, the third and final instalment in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy that I started back in 2015! I read the previous two books the previous two summers, having saved them both all year for when I felt I had enough time to read them – and then the genius that is 2017 me decided I had enough time to read the final book over coursework season. If that’s not impressive, then I’m not sure what is.

Then as if that book wasn’t long enough, I followed it up with another final instalment to a trilogy: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas. This was pure guilty pleasure for me, and I devoured it within a week. Just pure fun, uncomplicated (in a good way) fantasy that you can just lose yourself in. Complete escapism at its best, and a series that has improved so much from its first instalment.

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After that, I finally read a book I’ve been promising myself, and my colleagues, that I would pick up for ages. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders was an unexpected joy, Saunders somehow redefining what it means to write fiction and do so in a way that reminds you just how much art there is in writing. He weaves his story from excerpts of various non-fiction literature on Lincoln, interspersed with his own pure fictional writing. The combination of non-fiction, fiction, and non-fiction crafted as fiction, created a completely new way of reading. Although the first few pages I found it difficult to process, once you get used to the formatting you can hardly put the book down.

It was after this that I read Animal by Sara Pascoe, ‘The Autobiography of the Female Body’. For this I’m just going to repeat what I said in Goodreads, which is that this was a great book separated into discussions on ‘love’, ‘body’, and ‘consent’. Pascoe manages to insert humour and charm, but still discusses serious, and upsetting, topics with a sincerity. This is a good book if you want a mix of entertainment, autobiography, well/explained science, and talks on bodies. Of course people who are well versed on the subjects will find fault with some of the scientific facts, but for me it was a perfect balance of digestible science I could understand and Pascoe’s own thought. Whilst Pascoe is addressing matters of the ‘female body’ and does in her footnotes clarify that this can apply to those who do and do not identify as being female or to those who weren’t necessarily born in a ‘female’ body, I think I would have liked more discussion on gender within her ‘body’ section. Overall the book raises some fantastic points that I definitely support, but for a book on bodies and love I think there should be more discussion dedicated to gender itself.

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If you want more beauties like this you should definitely check out my Instagram *wink wink nudge nudge*

After a successful non-fiction read, which I don’t read enough of, I decided to go for something else new – poetry. The only poetry I’ve really read is within my education, and whilst I’ve enjoyed it I’ve never gone out and read poetry for fun. This is why, to start off my journey, I picked up the bestselling collection Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. And, I’m sad to say, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea – which is why I’m going to do a full review either sometime later this week or next. It’s so difficult, because of course you can see how much heart the author pours in, and then to find you don’t really like it, I especially find it hard to give such negative feedback. One thing is for certain – I’m definitely going to pick up more poetry soon to find something I do love.

And that brings me to the end of May, so let’s look how the reading challenge is going:

 

  1. *4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. **A Baileys nominee
  4. *A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. **‘A Blue Cover’
  6. *A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. ***Finish a series you’ve started
  9. A friend’s favourite book
  10. *Poetry book
  11. *Book over 500 pages
  12. *Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. *An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. *A book from your TBR
  17. ****Book published in 2017

Thanks to Animal, I ticked off an autobiography because that word is within the subtitle so it definitely counts. Milk and Honey also ticked off poetry, so a pretty darn good month. The Hero of Ages and A Court of Wings and Ruin both added a notch to finishing a series you’ve started, as they were both the final instalments of two trilogies I’ve loved. Lincoln in the Bardo added a fourth notch to books published in 2017. Overall, a pretty great reading month. It means I’m still left with 3 Classics (I knew that was going to be a struggle to get to), a Horror Book, a friend’s favourite book, and a book with a character with your name. I definitely have books in mind for the latter two, but still haven’t found a Horror book that I want to read, so if anyone has any suggestions I’m all ears. After all, June is my birthday month so I’m planning to do a rather large book haul.

 

April Wrap Up

How is it May already, I mean seriously this is getting ridiculous. One minute you’re thinking ‘new year, new you’ and the moment you start making decisions on how to change your diet it’s almost halfway through the year. This past month has been packed with essays and finishing uni and my dissertation, but somehow it feels like I’ve read more than ever. I’ve been trying to do a 30 day reading challenge, which started off fantastically (reading at least 50 pages a day), but then I became really ill and didn’t read a word for several days. So, up and down, but what can you do?

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So first up for this month I finally finished reading Paradise Lost by John Milton, something which I have been reading for one of my university modules. I really enjoyed it actually, especially with all the classical references and allusions, and would highly recommend this edition (pictured above) if you’re interested in studying it. On every page there is an array of criticism so if you’re writing an essay on certain passages there is bound to be some great details that you can get in.

Then I finished The Art of the Publisher by Roberto Calasso, a short book about Calasso’s experience of being a publisher. It’s a short, quick read and really interesting if you’re interested in books and the process of publishing. There are some beautiful passages in there as well – my favourite being that of him describing the insert blurb of the book as a letter to a stranger.

If you’ve seen my last few posts, you’ll know that I finished the glorious Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, which I did a review of here. Definitely give the review a read if you’re curious about the book, but for now all I’ll say is it’s packed with magic, stories, and dreamers.

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This month I also finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I have been listening to on Audible for a good few months! I haven’t been listening to audiobooks much recently, so I was really happy to get back into the rhythm. This book was especially fantastic and, as I’ve found with all the Harry Potter books, the final quarter always has me up until the early hours of the morning listening with avid anticipation.

I picked up Saga as well this month, a graphic novel by Brian Vaughan. I’ve heard some really good things about it and was recommended it by a friend, and I can honestly say I loved it. Great sci-fi fun with a perfect balance of action, pathos, and humour with brilliant characters and an immense imagination.

Finally, last night, I also finished reading The Power by Naomi Alderman. When I try to think of what to say about it, I’m kind of lost for words, but to sum up I gave it four stars on Goodreads and wrote this when I finished it: The only thing I can say for a fact is that I’m conflicted. There are many elements of this story I loved, and think maybe overall it could have landed itself better as a short story. There are however elements that I wasn’t sure about. I think what the author was trying to do was very clever, and I agree that although the ending is unexpected and I’m not entirely sold on it, I can say that it is a challenging move for the author to make. Basically I just want to discuss this with someone – especially as some parts are really oversimplifying gender as we understand today.

SO, this is how I’m standing for this year in my reading challenge:

  1. *4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. **A Baileys nominee
  4. *A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. **‘A Blue Cover’
  6. *A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. *Finish a series you’ve started
  9. A friend’s favourite book
  10. Poetry book
  11. *Book over 500 pages
  12. *Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. *A book from your TBR
  17. ***Book published in 2017

Harry Potter was the only book I couldn’t find a slot for on my list, but for the others I could tick some things off! Art of the Publisher sorted out a Book under 150 pages, Saga ticked off the Graphic Novel, and I’m on my way with the 4 Classics target as Paradise Lost is being counted as one. Strange the Dreamer I chose as a book published in 2017, though really it’s as blue as blue gets so could have been another mark for ‘blue cover’, and The Power is nominated for this year’s Bailey’s prize! I’m really happy with the amount I finished this month, what with all the uni work that I had going on, and it’s terrifying to think that in my next wrap up I will have finished my exams and university completely! This year needs to slow down, stat.

March Wrap Up

 

Back again with another reading wrap up, this time for the glorious month of March. This is the month where I had the embarrassingly late realisation that I should probably count the books that I read for university in this wrap up, and maybe that way I’ll feel more motivated to keep reading them.

First up was the glorious Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab which I was very kindly sent by Titan Books for an honest review on the Waterstones website (and you can see what I said here – my review is titled ‘A Swashbuckling Finale’, which I was pretty proud of). It was a brilliant end to what has been a fantastic trilogy, and whenever I try to do my own writing for fun I think of how Schwab weaves together her masterpieces and marvel at her extraordinary imagination. If you enjoy fantasy filled with magic, pirates, parallel Londons, cross-dressing thieves, and a magical red coat, then this is the trilogy for you.

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The next book I read was Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, which I read for the Feminist Book Club I am a part of. It had such a powerful effect on me that I had to write a review on it straight away, which you can read here. I had to put this book down several times because I physically couldn’t read it all in one go just due to how painful to read it was – in a good way. It follows the story of a girl who lives in a small town who gets raped, and how her friends and family react to it. What makes this a very difficult novel to swallow is the fact that we see this girl before the rape, and she isn’t someone that you root for – she lies to her friends, maliciously degrades them, and overall just isn’t someone you want to hang around. As a reader, it’s very difficult to be thrown into a narrative alongside a character like this, especially as all you want to do is sympathise with her when she does get raped. And of course you do sympathise, and the author is powerfully demonstrating the message that there is no circumstance in which rape should be pardoned. A brilliant book with a very important message.

To recover from that book hangover, I read Blood For Blood by Ryan Graudin. The follow-up of Wolf by Wolf, this marked the end of a duology. I think I may have preferred the first book, but that by no means meant that this wasn’t a great conclusion. The characters are certainly explored and developed more, and I think the end was very fitting, if not very hard to accept personally due to what happens to some characters – and that’s as much as I’ll say.

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Following that I read two plays for university: The Island by Athol Fugard and Thebes Land by Sergio Blanco. Both were for a module on classical reception, the first of which is a famous reception of Antigone, the latter a reception of the Oedipus myth. Both were very dynamic reads, especially when you know the mythology inspiration behind them, and I wish I could see them performed.

Finally for March, I read Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, a book that I’ve put off reading because I loved Illuminae, the first in the series, so much that I was gutted to find out the sequel focussed on different characters. But oh my god how I’m glad it did, because the characters you meet in Gemina are, dare I say it, almost even better than the ones in Illuminae. A brilliant sic-fi read and the most interesting, using not prose but an amalgamation of emails, transcripts, the occasional transposed video blog, diagrams and more. It’s fun and a new way to read, one that I absolutely adored.

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Which brings us to my total of 12 books read so far this year, excluding the books that I read on my Kindle (because Amazon is the devil and we should support bookshops as much as possible). So to look to my 2017 reading challenges, this is what it looks like so far:

  1. 4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. *A Baileys nominee
  4. *A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. **‘A Blue Cover’
  6. A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. *Finish a series you’ve started
  9. A friend’s favourite book
  10. Poetry book
  11. *Book over 500 pages
  12. Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. *A book from your TBR
  17. **Book published in 2017

Conjuring of Light ticked off the ‘Book over 500 pages’, Asking For It ticked off the ‘Feminist Book’ because although it isn’t non-fiction it is based on true events and it’s powerful enough to deserve that place. Blood For Blood sorted out ‘finish a series you’ve started’, the two plays obviously ticked off the ‘play’ challenge, and Gemina ticked off ‘Blue cover’ once more. So I have eight challenges left to complete this year: the four classics, a graphic novel, a horror book, a friend’s favourite, poetry, a book under 150 pages, a book with a character with my name, and an autobiography. The only ones I’m worried about are the classic challenge, the horror and the autobiography – mainly because I don’t know what to read. So if you have any recommends for horror books, hilarious autobiographies, or your favourite classics, then let me know in the comments. Please. I beg.

 

February Wrap Up

I actually managed to get through another three books this month which I’m especially proud of, what with the sudden onslaught of university work that came my way – and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up any time soon. Still, there’s always a few moments I can grab to do some reading (and although I’m not mentioning them, I also read two books on my Kindle this month, both of which were easy, fun, and the complete opposite of uni reading).

First up was ‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber, which I’ve discussed previously in a blog earlier this month. It’s definitely for lovers of magic and fantasy, for fans of The Night Circus, The Crown’s Game and Schwab’s Darker Shades of Magic series. It definitely has that unputdownable element, as I read it late into the early hours of the morning. Fast-paced with fun characters and great twists at the end, after I finished I thought it was one of the greatest books ever. Once I’d had some sleep and reflected, I thought that whilst it wasn’t the best book ever, it’s certainly a great debut novel.

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Next up I read Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. Inspired by Labyrinth with David Bowie as the Goblin King, this book follows Elizabeth as she tries to get her sister back. Surprisingly poetic, this is a book that is indeed pretty and dark at the same time. I almost wish it wasn’t tied to The Labyrinth as the writing really took off when it departed from the structure inspired by the classic. I did love how our heroine is always described as ‘unlovely’ of appearance, mainly because we were able to explore the different facets of her character. It was great fun to read, and I have a serious love/hate relationship with that ending.

And finally, I finished Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. I can easily recognise that this book is beautifully written, but for now I think I need to digest it and discuss it with others who have read it in order to truly understand what on earth has just happened. It seems I have more questions than answers, and I don’t know yet if that’s a good thing. I think I’ve found that I tend to prefer books that aren’t so literary, mainly because I find it difficult to escape within its pages to a different world. It’s a difficult one, as there are plenty of books considered to be literary that I’ve loved – take A Little Life, for example, which is still one of my favourite books. But as a wannabe writer, it’s good for me to see that complicated messages and symbolism don’t work for everyone, but that doesn’t make it any less of a good book.

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So for an update on the reading challenge – I can tick off Man Booker nominee thanks to Hot Milk, and both Caraval and Wintersong were published this year so that’s another one! I’ve decided in this ongoing process that books cannot have two ‘stars’ each or count for two different categories, just to make this more challenging for myself.

  1. 4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. *A Baileys nominee
  4. A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. *‘A Blue Cover’
  6. A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. Finish a series you’ve started
  9. A friend’s favourite book
  10. Poetry book
  11. Book over 500 pages
  12. Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. An autobiography
  15. A play
  16. *A book from your TBR
  17. **Book published in 2017

Here’s to March!

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January Wrap Up

It’s been a slow month for me, thanks to the onslaught of uni work and reading and other extra instances of stress (aka I had my wisdom tooth out and it was awful, would not recommend, you lose over a week of reading. Bad time). But we made it to February, and I even have a couple of goals I can already cross off!

First up for me this month was The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. It’s definitely inspired an upcoming blog post about children’s books, especially the classics, and I’m so happy I finally got around to reading this gem. I fully understand why everyone was so angry with the film, and really wish that they had been able to include the finer details along with that insane ending – so many twists and turns I didn’t know what to do with myself. Absolutely adored it, and here’s hoping I’ll be able to get to the sequels some point soon.

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Then, in one very long night, I read Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. I had read 40 pages on one evening and had to put it down to do some work, but after trying to read more of Paradise Lost, I decided to keep reading Truthwitch. Next thing I know it’s 2am, my eyes are burning and my head is aching but I’m still so happy because that book took me for quite the ride. I received it for review from work, and so dutifully posted a review on the website the next morning when I had actually had some sleep. A brilliant first book of a series, and my only critiques were a need for more world building (and details) along with more character development, which I’m sure we’ll see through the series. Great for anyone looking for a new fun fantasy, with a great female friendship at its centre.

The third and final book I read was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche which was for a feminist book club that I’ve joined. Technically I finished it on the 1st of February, but I put so much effort into reading this in January that I’m counting it as a January read for sure. It was so difficult to read alongside university, especially as I wanted to savour the words on every page. It’s one of those books where, really, you don’t really mind what happens plot-wise – you just want to soak up all of the words and thoughts the author has, translated in beautiful prose. I loved being able to talk about this book in such a big group of people, as the topics explored – racism, feminism, mental illness, immigrant experiences and more – needed the time we gave for full discussion. A brilliantly written, powerful book which deserves all the attention it’s had and more.

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And so here is my updated 2017 challenge list, with a star at the beginning of the ones I’ve completed:

  1. 4 ‘Classics’
  2. A Man Booker nominee
  3. *A Baileys nominee
  4. A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. *‘A Blue Cover’
  6. A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. Finish a series you’ve started
  9. A friend’s favourite book
  10. Poetry book
  11. Book over 500 pages
  12. Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. An autobiography
  15. A play
  16. *A book from your TBR
  17. Book published in 2017

Americanah was shortlisted for the Baileys fiction prize, Truthwitch has a blue cover, and Northern Lights is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long, longlong time. I’m pleased that all three managed to tick off a challenge, as that was completely unintentional. I think instead of crossing off those challenges completely, I’ll add a star each time I complete it – for example, if I read another Baileys nominee I’ll add a second star. That way I can see which challenges I’ve completed, and which ones I’ve utterly destroyed.

Here’s to February.

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October Wrap Up

Considering the month of October included university work unlike the likes I’ve ever seen, a trip to the US, and continued working on the weekends, I’m surprised I managed to read anything at all. Yet somehow, my Goodreads account claims I’ve read one more book than I thought I had. As I’m unsure where I’ve messed up, and don’t particularly want to go through all 2016 wrap up blogs alongside my Goodreads logs, we’re just going to pretend there’s no mistake whatsoever.

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So first up I read Frostblood by Elly Blake, which was far bester than I expected it to be. I actually received the book back in the July Fairyloot box, but just hadn’t picked it up yet. I had just finished The Crown’s Game, mentioned in my previous wrap up, and was still riding that fantastical high. A book about people controlling fire and ice sounded like fun, and although I wasn’t expecting much, Frostblood had an interesting setting, a great build up, and a surprisingly great ending – although the ‘big twist’ wasn’t much of a shock. I expect there will be a sequel, and in that I hope Blake manages to develop all of the characters even more – especially the secondary ones, which I don’t think were always used to their full potential – although I personally have no idea where she’s going to take the plot from here on out, so I look forward to seeing what she does.

Next I finally finished the audiobook for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which I once again loved. I’d completely forgotten some of the details of certain characters and events, especially towards the end, so there were still moments that were completely new to me. There’s a lot that wasn’t included in the films, which I expected, but honestly I love coming across these little pieces of new information and plot. I especially love everything to do with Hermione’s S.P.E.W and the ghost Peeves, who I wish could have been in the films.

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The third and final book I finished in October was The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, which I read for my dissertation. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, mainly due to Campbell’s beautiful writing style. There were passages that I had to write down, just for his use of phrase and imagery to encapsulate the world of the ancient hero. If you have any interest in ancient classics, mythology, or the hero trope, I highly recommend it.

So even though I’ve also read about two thirds of another book in October, I’m happy with these three – especially as I mentioned in my last wrap up that I just needed to read three books a month in order to get to my goal. I’ve also, unsurprisingly, read a couple of Kindle books in the past month, so in terms of overall reading I’ve managed to get through a lot. As I’ve told myself that I just don’t have the time to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, which I’m very unhappy about despite the fact that it’s for my own good (head over to my writing blog alwayslovetowrite.wordpress.com to read more), this means that I should have some more time for recreational reading. I did count Campbell in with this month, even though it was for university, and I should have another university book in November’s wrap up – so maybe next year my goal will be books not included for uni, although that may be a bit cruel to myself.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and here’s hoping that we’ll reach our reading goals!

September Wrap Up

In my head, I thought September was an ok reading month, but now looking back I see that I actually read some fantastic books and – after spending hours last night finishing a book that I literally couldn’t put down – it seems like my reading is picking back up again.

So first off we have Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter. By the time I reached the end and had some time to think about it, I liked it far more than I thought I would. A combination of prose and poetry, it looks at grief within a family throughout the eyes of those who are left behind along with the strange character of the Crow, inspired by Ted Hughes’ poem, that has a very Tim Burton vibe. There was a good balance of dark humour along with beautiful passages and, although I was confused by a lot of it, I did love it in the end.

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Then I read the spectacular sci-fi novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. The world building took up most of the book, and it was incredibly well done, but it was the characters that kept me reading. I absolutely loved how we saw their relationships play out, and how everyone was very distinct. Even when something terrible happened, I felt like it was happening to someone I know – and that’s when you know that the author has really succeeded in writing.

After that was The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L Armentrout, an author who I usually read on kindle and love – she has this way of writing which is just effortless to read, and I’ve always bought her books from the Lux Series beyond. Her New Adult books are usually my favourite, and although this one was perhaps a little younger it was still a lovely read. The secondary characters, and this goes for all of her books, remain to be my favourite.

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Then came the usual mid-month Kindle extravaganza, with Retrieval, Drive, The Boss, and Machine. As usual, they were light, easy-reading, and great flicks.

The final book I finished this month was The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, which I’d heard some great reviews on and, honestly, they weren’t lying. I adored this book, and the magic within it was perfectly done. Like the other books of this month, it was all down to the characters once again, and I am honestly desperate for the sequel. Like seriously – I need it immediately. What was that ending? What happened? I literally spent hours online searching for someone who knew the answers I’m sure only the author knows, so basically I need the sequel because I need to know what happened.

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On that note, for my physical books that brings me to 43/50! I am just seven books away – and with October already under way, I’ve already finished a book (as mentioned previously, due to the late-night-can’t-stop-reading phase). It’s so exciting as the year goes on to actually see progress, and to think that from October-December I need to have read 7 books I’m even more motivated. If I read three books a month, I will pass my  goal – and although university is kicking off and the work is piling on, I hope that I’ll make sure I find the time to read, read, read.