July Reading Wrap Up

It is past the halfway point for 2017, and I know that each one of these Wrap Up posts are sounding a bit repetitive now as in every single one, I think I’ve hardly read anything – and then I get to writing this update and realise that, hang on, I’ve actually done well. I’ll do my best next time to not mention it, but honestly it’s surprising how quickly you can read something and then completely forget about it if it didn’t make you feel something strongly – be that love or hate. I tend to remember books I hate far more than many of the books I love, instead of remembering all those mediocre books that probably deserve more love than I gave them.

Right, that’s enough blabbing, onto the wrap up.

First off was This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, a non-fiction book that is out later this year that I have honestly not stopped talking about since finishing. Adam Kay is a comedian, but used to be a junior doctor – and was one for many years. This book is an amalgamation of the diaries he kept as a junior doctor, and let me tell you the entries are heartwarming, hilarious, charming, gripping, and will make you cry with genuine despair and utter delight. This had me laughing out loud on the tube as well as sniffling on the bus, but I was unable to put it down. It is definitely a favourite for this year, and I can’t wait until everyone has a chance to read it – fingers crossed that it will help change minds and demonstrate just how much love we should be giving to the NHS (I’m looking at you, Jeremy Hunt).

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Next up is something that has been on my TBR for a long time, and that was The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye. Ever since I finished The Crown’s Game, I have been desperate to pick this one up. I enjoyed it and am so glad I got my hands on a copy, but have to admit that it didn’t quite have the same gripping, out-of-this-world feel to it as the first. Definitely a series to pick up if you’re a fan of CaravalThe Night Circus, or anything that involves magic, duels, or a fantasy reimagining of the past.

It has also taken me this long to realise that even short reads count towards the book goal, which is why I was very glad that a friend gave me Chess by Stefan Zweig for my birthday. Not only was it short, but it was a classic – that I loved! A rare find indeed, and I’d recommend this little treasure to anyone who wants to read more classic literature but either doesn’t have the time, dedication, or willpower to invest in a longer tome.

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After that I read Hold Your Own, a poetry collection by Kate Tempest – and let me tell you, I have a new love for poetry. After my struggles with milk and honey (see here for more details), I was worried that maybe poetry was not my thing – but then of course I would think of sonnets and Shakespeare and epic and think surely not. The same wonderful friend who gifted me Chess also gave me this delight from Tempest, a collection that is framed around the mythology of Tiresias. Not only was the Classics student and mythology enthusiast inside me satisfied, but the whimsical, creative part of me was overjoyed. This collection is raw, honest, and does everything I had hoped milk and honey would do, seemingly effortless.

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Next up is the book that had me delighted as well as terrified every time I brought it out of my bag in public, and that was I Love Dick by Chris Kraus. Honestly? I don’t even know what to say. Definitely not what I expected, as it is part memoir and part fiction. Whilst there have been books to genre blend fiction and non-fiction in the past that I’ve loved (looking at you Lincoln in the Bardo), this one was just not quite my cup of tea. I found myself skimming passages and then re-reading the same line over and over. Honestly, it made me feel quite inadequate and stupid, so I’m hoping my book club can enlighten me to all I missed when I was reading this.

Then, finally, we have Franny & Zooey by J.D Salinger, yet another short, delightful classic. It’s made me want to pick up The Catcher in the Rye as soon as I can, just because of the beautiful language. Each sentence is perfectly crafted and I can honestly say, as someone who isn’t a fan of classics, I enjoyed every moment. It didn’t feel like I was forcing myself to read an older piece of literature, but closer to just sitting back and simply relishing in brilliant writing that had me grinning every now and again. A brilliant portrayal of family relationships and our own relationships with religion.

And that is it! Six books this month and whilst two were short and one was a poetry collection, they all still count towards my reading challenge. Hurrah!

  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

So I now have two more notches for my ‘4 classics’ challenge, which means just one more to go thanks to Chess and Franny & ZooeyCrown’s Fate has another notch for the TBR challenge, Hold Your Own has another for poetry, and This is Going to Hurt gives yet another for the 2017 challenge. When I started these challenges this year, I originally had a book picked out for each category, but as I’ve gone along I’ve found it so much better to read whatever picks my fancy. I’m currently reading something for an uncompleted challenge, which makes me very happy, so here’s hoping August lets me tick a few more things off. So here’s to good books and talented authors, because who knows where I’d be without them.

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June Wrap Up

June proved to be a month of madness, reflecting in the utter lack of blog posts during the month. So as we enter into July, it’s time to look back to see whether I actually got any reading done in all that time I spent not writing for this blog. An apology feels inadequate at this point, so here’s a cute picture of my dogs on my bed to try and make up for it.

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Onto the books.

I first finished reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel last month, something which I have been wanting to read for a very long time and am happy to say did not disappoint. The setting is twenty years after a virus wipes out the majority of the population, leaving the world as we knew it in ashes and the survivors attempting to start again. We follow an array of characters and their lives, with snippets from the new world and the world before, all which are somehow tied to a Shakespeare company who travel around the new world to perform. Imaginative and extraordinary well crafted, this is a Sci-Fi novel that anyone can enjoy.

Next up was The End We Start From by Megan Hunter, which is a short novella that blends poetry and prose. We follow a woman just after she has given birth whilst there has been a climate disaster, leaving London flooded. As she tries to navigate motherhood, she is also trying to survive in this new world (seems there is a theme to the books I read this month). This is a book about love, old and new, relationships, motherhood, survival, and hope. It’s beautiful, poignant, and just such a lovely read – not to mention an important portrayal of what global warming can cause and why we should be looking after our planet more than we do.

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Bar one, I read all of these books in June – all courtesy of the wonderful people at Pan Macmillan. 

I somehow managed a very strong start to the month of June, and read What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi next. A beautiful short story collection, and what connects them are the images, references, and inclusion of keys. Be it keys given as gifts, keys lent to house sitters, or even keys lost – this thread between each narrative can be the central focus or merely a passing moment. Perfectly paced and written in gorgeous prose, this has only made me want to read more short stories.

My final book of June was Who Runs The World? by Virginia Bergin. It’s set in a world a couple of generations away from our own, where a virus has taken over the world and affects only men, meaning that the remaining survivors are taken away to special enclosed camps – leaving women to run the world. The premise is incredibly interesting, but I found that the speaker was a bit too young for me and left me getting bored or frustrated with the narrator. It is a book aimed at YA, but I feel it should be advertised as young teen. It’s an interesting take on a difficult subject and, as I’ve seen in the past, it can be very difficult to write about gender and sexuality without getting something wrong (see my comments on The Power for an example). The author is clearly conscious and knows her subject, speaking very eloquently about gender in interview, but I found this did not come across as well in her novel. Still interesting to read, but not my favourite.

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And that was June! Although I’d like to include a book I finished yesterday within the list, I’m resisting that temptation. It also seems that, apart from the Helen Oyeyemi, all of the books from June were about new worlds being remade after the old ones were destroyed by viruses and natural disasters. If this blog needed a theme, I think this post would definitely fit under the ‘new worlds’ heading, or maybe ‘survival’. My favourite quote is definitely from Station Eleven, which in turn pinched it from Star Trek, which is ‘survival is insufficient’.

Onto the list:

  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

Station Eleven has ticked off another book from my TBR, whilst The End We Start From and Who Runs The World? has ticked off a book published in 2017 (again). I think I’ve exhausted that category. It’s apparent that I’m reluctant to tackle that ‘classics’ challenge, but I think I’m going to try to add at least one more classic to my reading pile for July. I’m still, however, searching for a horror book – so recommendations are still more than welcome.

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.

 

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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teen.com

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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Moving on to 2017

Instead of writing a December Wrap Up, I thought I’d talk about my reading year overall and what I plan to do next year. December has been an awful month of reading, as it’s been a chaotic mess of essays, food, and being distracted by the dog (not to mention the Sims 4 City Living expansion which I put off buying until Christmas). So although I started a couple of books (I’m almost halfway through The Northern Lights, and also have started Fat is a Feminist Word for a book club), not much reading was done in December. Essays are still looming, and I also have to read Paradise Lost for a module that starts in January (help), but I’m sure everything will be fine.

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Looking back, I’ve read some absolutely incredible books this year. My top five, in no particular order, are:

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir – this book surpassed all my expectations, delivering a surprisingly witty read that had me hooked from the get-go.
  2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – the only book this year that made me cry, slam it closed, and curse out loud on a train. Fantastic writing, a beautiful heart-wrenching story, and characters that truly feel real.
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I was so excited to discover this author, and this book has been the one to which I judge other fantasy fairytales (none so far are able to compare).
  4. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman – this book still stuns me as it was such a dynamic read. Never before have I read anything like it with the interesting formatting and variety of ways of presenting the story. I really need the sequel.
  5. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – a book so beautiful and enticing that I’m doing it for my dissertation. Rich with detail and transforming a story I thought I knew so well, it’s the perfect example of reimagining a well known story.

Honourable mentions of course to The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye and A Darker Shade of Magic books one and two by V.E. Schwab.

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It’s been a great year of reading for me, and I’m shocked that only two fantasy books were in my top five. But one thing I will say is that, although it was great to reach my goal, there were times when I felt slightly stressed about hitting that target. So, instead of saying that in 2017 I’m going to read ‘x’ amount of books, I’ve decided to do something a bit different. In 2017, I’m going to attempt to complete 17 book challenges, and these are the ones I’ve chosen:

  1. 4 ‘Classics’ (I really haven’t read enough)
  2. A Man Booker nominee
  3. A Baileys nominee (another book award)
  4. A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. ‘A Blue Cover’
  6. A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book (I never read this genre)
  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
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I, for one, am excited to get started on 2017’s reading. I wanted a challenge that encouraged me to branch out and read different things – I never really read plays, graphic novels, poetry, or horror, nor do I read much non-fiction outside of university. Having a challenge like this means that I’ve got room to read whatever I like, whether they count towards the challenge or not. In total, if I complete all the challenges, it means I’ll need to read a certain 20 books. As I read just over 50 this year, I’ll be able to get in quite a lot of other books in addition to the challenge (especially my favourite fantasy books).

Here’s to another great year of reading. Hope you all had a great Christmas and best of luck for the new year (whether it’s filled with books or not).

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