June Reading Wrap Up

June is always the month I look forward to the most. In my mind, June is the perfect month – halfway through the year, not too far in that you can’t change how the year is going and also far enough that whatever you’ve done so far doesn’t mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. June is summer, sun, beaches, lazy mornings, salads for lunch that you actually choose to have because anything warm is a huge ‘no no’. For me, June also means my birthday, again perfectly in the middle so I have a little wait when it hits June 1st but also not too long. Most importantly, June is the month for sitting outside with a book, jumping from reading in the sun to scurrying back to the shade because your poor, english skin is unused to such weather.

This June, I did pretty darn well when it came to books – and I base that solely on the first book that I read, no, that I conquered, because ‘read’ is too light a word for completing the masterpiece that is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. WHAT a book. It’s been on my TBR so long that I almost don’t recognise the list without that title on there. An incredible re-imagining of what ancient gods would be like in the 21st century, and which new gods have been created to worship over time. This in a fantastic road-trip esque romp through the US, leading to the battle between old and new – with plenty of twists and turns throughout. Gaiman once again proving to be an incredible storytelling.

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After that, I was very easily swayed by a lot of friends in my decision to pick up HeartburnI by Nora Ephron. This was an unexpected gem, and one that I truly enjoyed. Bound in the new Virago Classic covers, this gorgeous looking book is, as the author prefaces, a novel/memoir/nonfiction/fiction journey. An examination of the days around the fallout of her second marriage, Nora tells the story with new names and a few reimaginings, but at the heart is Nora herself. The more I try to describe it, the worse I become at explaining exactly what this book does, but I recommend it all the same.

Whilst I like to think of June months as hot moments in the sun reading, the truth is I spend most of my week at work and do most of my reading on my commute. As I’m sure many can relate, the tube is so disgustingly unbearable in summer that trying to focus on some lovely chunky book that you can sink into, I can barely concentrate on a few lines before thinking ‘god, it’s bloody hot in here’. This is why the next two books I decided to read were two more of the Penguin Modern Mini Classics.

The first I decided to pick up was The Skeleton’s Holiday by Leonora Carrington. A small bind-up of some of her very short stories, this was an enjoyable read and perfect for dipping in and out of. They made me think of small vignettes rather than explored ideas, just a glimpse of a story without more meat to it, but enjoyable all the same. A couple I truly loved and would read again, but others definitely felt like they went straight over my head.

The second mini, and last book I read in June, was The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson. If I quite liked The Skeleton’s Holiday, then I absolutely loved The Missing Girl. This has definitely convinced me to pick up a Shirley Jackson, and I definitely plan to do so when Halloween is approaching later on this year. Creepy and unsettling, this different stories were all expertly told and addictive, ones that you just have to devour (before they devour you).

And that was my June! July is already off to a flying start for me, mainly because I started off with a couple of fantasy books to get my reading juices flowing again, so I look forward to telling you all about them next month.

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May Reading Wrap Up

And just like that, we’re approaching the half-way mark for 2018. Mad, exciting, worrying, and ever so slightly terrifying, this year has flown by – which I know I probably say every year, but at least I’m consistent.

Reading wise, May has been my best yet with 5 books devoured. The first of which was particularly monstrous, as I finished the Laini Taylor Trilogy with Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Breathtakingly creative, this series has been one that is as inspiring as it is impressive. There are moments of hilarity as well as heart-wrenching sadness, with characters that are diverse, charming, and well-crafted. Laini Taylor has had be won over as an author since reading Strange the Dreamer last year, and I’m so glad I decided to read this imaginative, fantastical series.

Somewhere during my reading of Dreams of Gods and Monsters, I went to an incredible talk by Louise O’Neill, an author who manages to deliver books that punch you in the gut and leave you reeling, wanting to change the world. You can see my review of Asking for It here, a book that I’ve thought about often since finishing, so I knew I had to pick up her latest book The Surface Breaks. A feminist retelling of ‘The Little Mermaid’, this treasure of a book is one I’d recommend to anyone in their early teens – as I wish I had had it when I was that age. Closer to the original story rather than the Disney version, this tale is of a young girl who is paraded around as a commodity and something to possess rather than an individual with her own voice, her body something to be used and decorated and belonging to the men around her. This is a story of her reclaiming her body and her voice, despite losing it. The Sea Witch is an incredible character, one who I want to have her own story, and never before is it made so painfully clear that the heroine goes from one abusive relationship to the next, her life dictated by the men she tries to love, until she finally wakes up and sees the world for what it is. Buy it for your daughters, nieces and sisters, and especially buy it for your sons, brothers and nephews. A powerful, important book.

After thoroughly enjoying the new Marvel film, I decided to keep that love going by picking up Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. He is such a clever writer, and more and more I find a more suitable title for him is wordsmith. He crafts sentences and stories in a way that sweep you to another place, and definitely makes his mark on these myths – some well-known, and others less so. I honestly could have read this in one sitting, but managed to pace it out with various tube-journeys. Would highly recommend to those who are new to Norse mythology, and even old hands who want to revisit the grand stories told in a different style.

Clearly not over my onslaught of fantasy, after that I delved into Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I’ve seen this book several times over the last few years, and always thought it would be something I’d enjoy (hello, dragons). A very different kind of fantasy book, this one is set in an old-fashioned world and written in a language to reflect this setting. It’s a world of court and dragons, and a girl stuck between the two worlds. Well-told, this was definitely a slow-burner for me but definitely worth the wait.

Then finally, I read ‘The Custard Heart’ and other stories by Dorothy Parker, all wrapped up in the new beautiful Vintage covers. Along with two other tales, ‘The Custard Heart’ was a well-told short story with a strong female lead and interesting side-characters. Each had a loud, boisterous heroine and tackled various themes and topics. Whilst they didn’t have my heart soaring, I did enjoy them as short reads and am glad to have had a taster for Dorothy Parker’s writing style. A great way to finish off the month of May.

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April Reading Wrap Up

We’re already past the halfway point for May, but seeing as I’ve been so behind on updating my blogs, my April wrap up is happening now. I haven’t really had the inspiration to blog much recently, but luckily that hasn’t extended to my reading.

In the month of April, I finished reading 4 books – the first of which was The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, a mammoth of a book that took up most of my March reading time. I truly enjoyed it – the writing style was beautiful, the world perfectly crafted, and such interesting characters. However, I wanted just a little bit more from it (which isn’t what I thought I’d say about that beast of a book). Despite it’s length, I felt some of the characters didn’t get enough time to be developed. As I don’t want to spoil it, all I can say is that there were certain characters who were set up fantastically, but didn’t really have much of an ending or story-arc. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, and hope that the un-finished stories of the characters that I felt deserved more are merely indications of further novels dedicated to them.

After that, I went into full fantasy mode starting with Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Illuminae Files series, and the final instalment was not exception. It had me on the edge of my seat, in denial half of the time and in pure disbelief for the rest of it. Fast-paced, action-packed, and full of life, laughter, and such brilliantly created characters, this is a sci-fi series I’d recommend to everyone. One page can have you sniggering, and the next moment you’re tearing up and cursing the authors. This series also has the added impact of the non-prose led narrative, the story told instead through accounts, images, recorded conversations, and other various pieces of information to create the ‘files’. I already miss this series and its unique way of telling a story, and can only hope that these authors collaborate more in the future.

Next, I listened to everyone, falling to peer pressure (and I am so glad that I did) to pick up Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Clearly I wasn’t ready to let go worlds such as those created in the Marvel film Black Panther, and this book definitely filled that void. Similarly fast-paced, the world-building was stunning and had such a action packed plot that I could barely catch my breath from one scene to the next. This is fantasy at its best, with challenging characters, adventure tales that keep you guessing, and a world you want to sink into. I loved it.

The final book I read in April was The Bone Season, the first book in a series by Samantha Shannon. I’ve been so intrigued by this author and her writing, and I’m glad that I picked up The Bone Season. This is definitely a book devoted to world-building, set in a dystopian world that has an alternate history with the addition of people with certain abilities. In the end, I really enjoyed the writing and the storyline, the world clearly heavily developed and researched. My only issue was that, whilst it was flawlessly researched and hugely developed, the first third of the book felt like an information-dump. An overload of facts and points and info that, frankly, I couldn’t keep up with. I’d read snippets during commutes only to have to go back and re-read the next time I picked it up. Whilst I enjoyed the book, it felt like a battle before I could be fully immersed into the story. Still, it has definitely not put me off reading more from this clearly talented author.

So all in all April was a good month, filled with fantastical stories and brilliant characters that I’m sure I’ll want to go back to and re-read one day. May so far has been a similarly good month, and equally filled with plenty of fantasy. Let the days continue to be warm and sunny, so I can continue to laze about and read in the park on my weekends.

March Reading Wrap Up

So March came and went, completely passing me by. One day I think of a nice review to write on this blog, and the next thing I know it’s April 4th and I need to do a wrap up of all the books I read last month.

For the first time, I actually set a TBR (to be read) list last month – normally I don’t like having them, as I quite like having the freedom to um and ah over what I’ll read next with no plans in mind. However, I thoroughly enjoyed having one. It’s great to look back and see what changed, as of course a TBR isn’t a set, permanent fixture that can’t be moved around a little. It’s also nice to have something to work towards, whether you’re determined to achieve something or just see how much you can read in one month. So, the books I had hoped to read, of course anticipating I wouldn’t read them all, were:

 

 

 

  1. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  2. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
  3. Eat, Sweat, Play by Anna Kessel
  4. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and/or Dreams of Gods and Monstersby Laini Taylor
  5. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof

I did indeed pick up Orlando first, and boy what a book that was. I have to say that I was excited as well as cautious to read dear Virginia, but I can say that I did like it. Whilst I took a long time reading it, I definitely could appreciate the quality of the writing and I found the plot, as mad as it was, incredible interesting. The fact that Woolf was challenging gender norms all those years ago is incredible to me, seeing as I feel the world is only really starting to have an open conversation about gender being fluid. As an introduction to her work, I thought it a fantastic one.

At the beginning of the year I stated that I’d like to read more non-fiction, so before facing the mammoth of a book that is The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, I decided to read Eat, Sweat, Play. I loved this book so much that I wrote a blog about it on my other site (you can read it here). I’ve been getting back into exercise over the last couple of months, and this book truly spurred me on. Discussing women in sport, it covers everything from how we talk to young girls about sport to how we advise women about exercise during pregnancy. It’s the kind of book that will definitely stay with me for many years to come, and I know that if I ever have daughters one day I will use this book like my bible to make sure I encourage them to enjoy sport in every way possible.

Next up, I decided I’d pick up the beast that is The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, but as it is such a heavy (and pretty) book I knew I didn’t want to carry it in my bag or read it on the tube. That’s why I picked up one of the new Penguin Vintage minis, and the one I read was called The Breakthrough by Daphne du Maurier. Despite it being my designated tube read, I ended up making time one evening to finish it just because I was enjoying it so much. Whilst I may not have enjoyed it had it been 200 pages long, this short story was perfect for me – the writing style was beautiful yet precise, the characters seemingly fleshed out in a few mere sentences, and a plot fast paced enough to keep me hooked without feeling dazed. It has certainly convinced me to pick up some more of her writing, so I’m definitely going to read more of these Vintage minis in the near future.

I ended up finished three books in March, even though I spent most of it reading Orlando and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. I finished the latter a couple of days ago, so technically that has to come under my April Wrap Up. Still, I’m happy with what I read in March, and can happily say that I’m reading Obsidio now, which was number 5 on my TBR list.

For April, I’m planning to have a mini sci-fi and fantasy-a-thon, as it feels like I haven’t read any for a long ol while. The books I have in a pile by my bed, ready for this month, are:

  1. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristof
  2. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  3. Dreams of Gods and Monstersby Laini Taylor
  4. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  5. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Again, there is no chance that I’ll be able to read all of these in April (unless I have an absolutely incredible month), but I’m so excited to read all of them at some point. As I said, I’m reading Obsidio now (and of course loving it), but I think I’ll have to read the Adeyemi next due to all the incredible press that it has had, and unbelievably positive reviews. High fantasy that has everyone on social media going wild and a fantasy book that finally has a majority non-white cast and a book that’s said to be like Black Panther? Sign. Me. Up.

February Reading Wrap Up and March TBR

Whilst January seemed to drag, like an unwanted, uninvited guest who just won’t leave your house despite your many hints, February was gone in a flash. One second I was celebrating the fact that I’d made it through January, and the next I’m wondering why it’s March and snowing.

Despite the very short month, I managed to fit in some brilliant books – and, quite aptly, started off with Winter by Ali Smith. I have to say, I’m never sure whether I really like Ali Smith or if I’m just confused by her writing – and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s both. I far preferred Winter to Autumn, and I’ve started to get used to her style. Usually I tend to prefer great plots, but with Ali Smith’s books I have to leave that view point behind and just let her lead the way. There are time jumps, narrative changes, and almost no plot to speak of – instead you have these incredible characters, beautiful writing that flits between prose and a more poetical style, and insight into the world around us. Definitely the kind of writing that you would savour and read slowly, as a fast-paced read is not what you’re signing up for with Ali Smith – or, at least, that’s how I feel when I read her books.

Then, I had the delight of reading the short story collection by Jen Campbell, The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night. The way this author’s mind works is unbelievable, and the stories that she creates are as beautiful and charming as they are mad. With darker elements mixed in with the magical, this collection dipped into so  many different subjects, like love, deceit, relationships, friendship, and more. Each story was so vastly different from the next, but they all contained that thread of the fantastical. Not quite magic, but more of a suspense of disbelief, as the collection takes you on an adventure you won’t want to end.

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If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I ended the month reading the most wonderful, charming, heartbreaking, uplifting, beautiful tale of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I’m linking in my review of it here, just because I needed a whole post just to work through my feelings about this book. I can honestly say that it’s by far the best book I’ve read in 2018, and even though we’re only in March, this book will definitely stay with me for years to come.

As this is a very short recap of the three marvellous books I enjoyed in February, I wanted to talk a bit about my plans for March. With International Women’s Day coming up, I thought for March I wanted to make sure that I only read books by women. Though, as I say this, when I look back at what I’ve already read this year, everything I’ve read apart from the short poetry collection by William Blake has been written by a woman. Still, I’m going to continue this trend for March.

Whilst I don’t expect to get through all of these, as well as half anticipating that I’ll change my mind for what I’m going to read, these are the books I hope to pick up in March.

  1. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  2. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
  3. Eat, Sweat, Play by Anna Kessel
  4. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and/or Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
  5. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Ok, so the last one is half written by a man, but I’ve been looking forward to the finale of this trilogy for what feels like years. Jay Kristoff can stay.

Hopefully by the time April swings around, the weather will have improved and be warmer (one can only dream) so that I won’t have to read either curled up in a thousand blankets or on the tube whilst wearing gloves. Honestly, it’s so hard to turn a page with gloves on. Anyway, here’s to March and reading words written by wonderful women.

January Reading Wrap Up

Buckle up kids, it’s the first reading wrap up of 2018. I’ve set myself a target of 45 books on Goodreads, but I’m not planning to get so caught up in numbers this year – instead, I want to connect with the books I read more. I’ve already started writing my mini 2018 book journal to keep track of what I read and what I think as I’m reading it. So far, so good, and I’m looking forward to what this year will bring. For now, a summary of what January brought me.

First up was Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, the second book in her trilogy which I am thoroughly enjoying. Since finishing it, I’ve decided to save the third and final instalment for a little bit so that I don’t have the same problem I had last year when reading series in one go, and become bored. I think I enjoyed this sequel more than the first, or at least I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the first half of book one. Laini Taylor is an incredible storyteller, and she somehow makes every book seem unique with new ideas and unthought of tales, which makes reading even more enjoyable. If you’re looking for something fantastical, this is the series for you.

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To make sure that I didn’t go from one fantasy to the next and have some variety in what I read, next I picked up Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake. I really enjoyed this collection of his poems, and it’s definitely made me want to keep discovering more poets and their different styles. A strange reading experience, as although I’ve never sat down and read any Blake before other than snippets, I wasn’t expecting to know a lot of his works. Yet so many of his poems triggered so many different memories, knowing that I’d heard snippets and refrains of his before now. As someone who feels like they don’t know that much about poetry, I truly enjoyed reading Blake.

Then, my guilty pleasure of the month, Brave by Jennifer L Armentrout. I adored her books as a teenager, which managed to blend fantasy with comedy with the pure fun that exists in teenage literature. Whilst her books are now classed as Young Adult, I’m so glad that they have that element of fun that make reading her books such a delight. It’s interesting to see the development not only of her writing but her ideas, as I’ve noticed the darker themes she has taken on over the years in her work – I, for one, think she does it fantastically well, especially as she still incorporates laughter and lightness in her stories.

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My fourth and final read of the month was my first piece of non-fiction of the year, and what a good one it was. Bitch Doctrine by Laurie Penny was utterly wonderful, and I’m so glad that I’ve made a pledge to read as much non-fiction as possible this year. Each chapter of Bitch Doctrine felt like a rallying cry, and I wanted to answer every one. I wanted to discuss this book with everyone, and I nearly did. Penny manages to tackle so many different ideas and themes, and not once do you feel like any point they make lacks substance or depth. What I especially appreciated was that this was by no means a ‘white feminist’ book, and instead made such an effort to look at intersectional feminism, and how race, gender, sexual orientation, and more comes into play – and why each of them have feminism in common. Strong arguments, persuasive points, and just brilliant writing – this is definitely a book that I’ll remember.

And those are my January 2018 reads! I’m currently reading my second ever Ali Smith novel, and also have such a huge tower of a TBR pile that I’ve given up being daunted by it. I’m so excited to start all of these wonderful books, and my only concern is that I won’t be able to get to them all this year.

A good problem to have, I think.

December Reading Wrap Up

Well we made it – only a few hours to go and then it will be 2018. It’s been one hell of a year and I’ve read some fantastic books, but before I write about my top books of 2017, here is my December Reading Wrap Up.

First off, I finally finished the Northern Lights series with The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. An incredible finale to such an amazing series, which was far more complex and richer than I had anticipated. The first book was your classic fun-loving fantasy adventure, but over the course of the sequels it morphed into this fantastical essay about religion and life, with very strong ties to Milton’s Paradise Lost. I’d recommend this to people of all ages, and I’m so glad that after a short break I was able to get back into the series with such excitement.

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After so much fiction, I decided I needed some non-fiction to give my imagination a rest and challenge my mind a little. I picked up Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, a memoir that looks at gender, her marriage, and motherhood. A truly brilliant piece of literature, and I want to encourage so many people to pick up this little gem. Filled with insightful thought and intelligent notions, this truly encapsulated the themes perfectly.

Clearly after that I was craving fantasy again, as I whizzed through Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I adored her book Strange The Dreamer, so I was expecting to enjoy this immensely – I just didn’t anticipate how quickly I’d get through it. Whilst I found the first half more engaging than the second, it definitely set up the world and had me desperate for more. I’ve already read half of the sequel, which I plan to finish early 2018 and pick up the final instalment soon after.

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Finally, I finished off the year with the Queen of Roman History, Mary Beard, and her new novella Women & Power. Short but definitely not sweet, this book gets right down to the nit and grit of our past responses to women and their association with power. It definitely could have been a whole novel, and I hope one day she uses this as a starting point for such a piece of literature, but this was the perfect size to incite the mind and get my blood boiling. Once again, I would highly recommend.

And that was 2017. I’ve ticked off another feminist book, a series I’ve started, a blue cover, and a book from my TBR. I’m so happy with how my 17 challenges have gone so far this year, and only two weren’t completed. The 4 Classics goal was almost completed, but I made the mistake of listening to my 4th classic Bleak House on Audible, so I still have a long way to go. The other challenge that is left uncompleted is the character with my name, but I’m not too fussed about that.

  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

 

I already have a few challenges in mind for 2018, and whilst I’m not going to do 18 challenges to mimic this year, I’m certain that it will keep me busy. So far, my goal is to read more non-fiction (for every 2 fiction books, I’d like to read a non-fiction book) and I’m also hoping to read a lot, if not all, of Virginia Woolf’s books. I’ve read so many extracts from them, but never read one cover to cover, so that is my main goal for 2018.

I’m sure I’ll think of other challenges along the way, but for now I’m going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the last moments of 2017. So Happy New Year everyone, and may your 2018 be filled with books!