September Reading Wrap Up

Well, September was quite the month. I read what will most likely be one of my favourite books of 2018 – possibly two of my favourite books of 2018 – along with a book that has taken me over a year to finish. Halfway through the month I thought I’d only finish 2 books, and it got to the end of the month and I somehow realised that I’d read far more than anticipated.

The first book I finished in the month of September was an 800+ page beast of a book, The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Thanks to very good friends and the lovely world of publishing, I managed to get my hands on an early review copy. As we all know, I adore all things fantasy and dragons – and this tome did not disappoint. Sweeping landscapes, extensive character lists, and intricately intertwined plots made this standalone epic a true delight. I truly hope that Shannon has a chance to write more in this world, as it’s probably the first 800+ page book that I’ve ever finished and wished for more. Highly recommend to any fantasy lovers, or those looking for a fresh, feminist take on typical fantastical tropes found in legends and lore.

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The next book I read was On Writing by Stephen King – an unexpected gem. I’ve been desperately trying to get back into a good writing habit, and thought a little bit of non-fiction writing wisdom from one of the greats might inspire some motivation in me. This book did that and more – it told the story of how Stephen King became, well, Stephen King, along with the tools and habits that he picked up on the way. There are snippets of advice, hints, and tricks to guide you on your way, along with incredibly poignant and moving episodes and anecdotes that came as a complete surprise to me. I found myself wanting to highlight passages like it was a textbook I needed to study, and now that I’ve finished it I know I’ll be dipping back into its pages to try and unlock even more.

Then came the book that I’ve been literally reading for over a year. It’s no secret that I’ve been trying to get through the Harry Potter books on audiobook, and I was enjoying listening to them so much that I thought it would help me get through other, very different, titles. After finishing The Order of the Phoenix, I decided to listen to something else before continuing my listening journey with Harry and the gang – what a mistake. A year and several months after starting, I have finally finished listening to 36 hours of Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I can’t quite collect my thoughts on this book just yet, so thrilled I am to be finished, but it is finally, finally, over. Goodbye Esther and Jarndyce, it’s been quite a ride.

The last book I finished this month was a sequel I never thought I’d get to a book I never thought could get better – Vengeful by V.E Schwab. Honestly, Vicious was one of my favourite books when I read it, an incredible reimagining of the Frankenstein myth in a new, superhero format with dark edges, twisting plots, and brilliant characters. Vengeful was like Vicious at 100 miles per hour. The characters were even better, with new characters that definitely fit the current mood of the world where all women want to burn everything to the ground (which is exactly what we got with Marcella). Schwab has a great way of setting up lots of different plot lines and little details, some that she’ll use later and some that she won’t, and drawing all of them together in a huge, climactic finale that has you reeling. Beautifully written, gripping all the way through – it is no surprise that I finished this book in just a few sittings.

And that was my September. It’s going to be a struggle to top it in October, but I suppose with the cold nights drawing in and the increase in evenings spent curled up in blankets with candles lit, I’m sure I’ll get some good reading in.

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Storytime

Over the past year, I’ve started to become occasionally nostalgic for ‘story time’; those moments as kids, when someone would read or recite a story to you. Now I don’t just mean listening to a book, which has already been recreated in the form of audiobooks (which I still love, don’t get me wrong), but the sharing of stories. The way someone uses different voices and rhythms, the way they tell that story, and you share it with someone, going on the journey together.

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There was something about stories and books and reading that I absolutely loved as a child – and not much has changed. I remember when I was very young, I would play teacher and put all of my beanie babies into different reading classes. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t in the top reading set in primary school, and I wanted to be the one who had the power to say what was good or not. Regardless, I would set each beanie baby ‘group’ a different book and I would go from group to group reading passages out loud from different books. This meant that there were occasions I would be reading four or so books at the same time, which I can’t even dream of doing now not just because of time constraints, but because I’m forgetful and can’t keep track.

Another memory, of being in year six (around 10 or 11 years old) and at the end of the day the teacher would hold a sort of story time, where she would read aloud from a book – I think we read Alice in Wonderland as we were putting on the play later that year (I was the Queen of Hearts, mainly I think due to the fact I had a loud voice which worked well with the ‘Off with her head!’ line). This was when all of my classmates would move into more comfortable positions, sitting on top of tables or slouching in their seats. My friend and I preferred to lie on our bellies under the table, elbows to the ground and resting chins in our hands.

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Drifting pages – wordpress

Moments like these remind me why I was so enraptured by reading and books and stories. There was another time when I was in Year 5 and the teacher started to read The Diamond of Drury Lane to the class, and I so loved the book that I bought it and read ahead. By the time the teacher had read about half of it to us (and afterwards gave up), I had finished the book as well as its sequel.

Reading is such a wonderful and important thing, but we sometimes forget the simple joy of that shared aspect of it. Sure, we now have the internet in order to connect with other people who have read the same books and we have book groups, but they’re just not the same thing. I miss the pure joy of sitting and reading with someone, which I suppose the closest thing I’ve found to that is buddy reading. Whilst we mainly think of reading as something very solitary, I think it’s important to make sure that we don’t keep it all to ourselves. Sometimes there is nothing better than reading a book with someone, to share something quite unlike anything else.

Audible review

It shouldn’t be news to you (unless you’re new, in which case hi, welcome, and don’t hate me for what I’m about to say) that I haven’t read Harry Potter. Many reasons, the main one being that my brother read them and when I was younger I was determined to be nothing like him. Many years later brings us to present day where every weekend I work in a bookshop with people who, no surprise, have read the Harry Potter books and look ready to kill me whenever I mention that I haven’t. Then, one probably-not-beautiful-or-sunny-and-most-likely-rainy day, one of my colleagues recommended Audible. As the first month was free and you received a credit to buy a book, I thought ‘why not’ and signed up.

I should add at this point that this isn’t sponsored, but I would so be up for being sponsored. Publishers, I’m looking at you.

Audible is pretty simple. Using your amazon account, you can download it onto your phone or tablet, or any device you want it on really, and buy as many audiobooks as you want. Each month you get one ‘credit’ with which you can purchase any audiobook, and as they vary in prices this can be very very handy. With my experience so far, I’d say they have the best customer support I’ve found in a long long time. I emailed asking about prices, concerned that I wouldn’t be able to afford £7.99 a month as a student, and immediately they dropped the price for me.

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As you may have already guessed by now, which my credit I chose to purchase the first Harry Potter which is read by the magnificent Stephen Fry and, let me tell you, this is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made all year. You have not lived until you’ve had Stephen Fry reading to you with his incredible talent at voices. His Hagrid? Oh man.

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Now that I walk to university, I’m unable to read on my journey which has actually cut out a huge chunk of my reading time. I did try to read whilst walking one day and, admittedly, I managed not to fall over on the way there (although I did trip several times), but on the way back it started raining and there was chaos. Now with Audible, I’m able to listen to the book and I’m surprised at how much I love it. I’m already on the second Harry Potter book with this month’s credit, and with both books being over eight hours long it truly is fantastic. I walk for about an hour and ten minutes every day, so it’s a solid amount of ‘reading’ time. Every now and then I’ll also listen for a while before I go to sleep because, let me tell you, having someone read you before you sleep is something that shouldn’t be restricted to children.

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So I would highly recommend Audble, whether you walk to work/uni/school or whether you drive or whether you just want someone to read to you. It’s truly a delight I wish I’d invested in sooner, and a must for those days when you want to read but you also just want to close your eyes.

Oh, and yes, I am enjoying Harry Potter and I’ll talk more about that another time, don’t worry.

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