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?

IMG_0565.JPG

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.

4AE4F871-447E-46CB-8C63-D55A8625EC18

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.

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.

Funny-Magic-Reaction-Gif.gif

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.

knowledge-bomb.gif
fairfaxunderground

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!

lets-get-ready-to-rumble-batman-vs-darth-vader-who-will-win.gif
tigerdroppings

 

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.

ariel-the-little-mermaid-i-want-more-gif.gif
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.

2013-10-04-31-sherlocksle.2c4dc.gif
mashable

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.

9353926.gif

 

November Wrap Up

It happened – I finally hit 50 books. This means that although 2016 was a complete mess in general, at least I was successful when it came to reading. Thank God.

im-fine

First up was Throne of Jade, the second book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. Just like the first one, I absolutely adored the main characters – the relationship between Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire, is just perfect. However it took my a long time to get through this book, only partly due to university obligations. I just found that although I adored the characters, I didn’t need to know anything more. The plot isn’t exactly fast paced, and with a multiple book series I think it could have benefitted with a more gripping narrative. So although I did like it, I’m not incited to read the rest of the series.

Then I had the true joy of reading Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, a childhood book that I had never read before and it’s been on my list for years. Unexpectedly, it was even better than I imagined it could be – and has definitely inspired an upcoming post about children’s books. A lovely story, a sarky narrator, and magical realism alongside the real magic. Sweet, charming, and just a brilliant read – helped greatly by a great edition with gorgeous pictures.

fcc925af-b26e-4192-9460-1b527506a133

Then I read Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, which I ended up giving three stars. Based on a Russian folklore, this story is crazy beyond belief without much clarity. If you ever pick it up, I’d highly recommend reading up on the folklore beforehand, as the story makes very little sense without it – unlike other modern takes on fairytales, such as Novik’s Uprooted. I didn’t anticipate one of the twists at the end which was a great surprise that I enjoyed, but overall I think the book could have benefitted with some more character work as I didn’t actually like the two main characters, Vassa and Erg.

I then read a YA book about witches, called The Graces. Very easy to read, I finished it in a few short days and, although it was intended to be YA, it read more like teenage fiction. However the final twist at the end was also hugely unexpected, and I loved it once I realised all the clues that had been dropped through the narrative. Apart from that, the overall story was a bit simplistic and it was like Twilight but with witches. Essentially, the setting is a new girl in town at a school where there is this family rumoured to be witches that always hang out together and are super popular and everyone adores them. Every girl in school is in love with the boy character, including the protagonist, but she gets close to them and pretends that she isn’t in love with him, whereas she’s completely obsessed. Thought it would have been brilliant if this was played up a bit more, so the reader is completely turned off and even concerned about the main character and her obsession, but that doesn’t come to pass. Still, a fun, easy read.

babe

Finally, I read Fire Inside You by Jennifer L Armentrout and, as I usually do with her books, read it in one sitting. There’s not much I really feel like I need to say – Armentrout has a great style of keeping you hooked, dropping lines at every chapter end that make you think ‘Ok, after the next chapter I’ll stop’. She makes her characters likeable and overall it’s just lovely to read.

That means I’m on 51 for the year! I’m so excited that I met the goal, and have already planned a new challenge for next year which I’ll announce with my December Wrap Up. I’m currently on book 52, but it’s not taking priority at the moment as I focus on getting my university work done and dusted before Christmas. Best of luck to any of you attempting a reading challenge, let’s do well in something this year.

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.

post-43043-please-dont-freak-out-gif-Imgu-JBwk.gif

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.

tumblr_inline_na5e5lzogv1qiwgw3

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.

tumblr_n3f7nvkovh1twas4to1_500

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.

February Wrap Up

I had anticipated a very bad wrap up for this month considering university work, but I’m happy to say that I did good this month (well, for me).

So we start off the month with an easygoing Kindle flick called Legend which I thought was perfectly enjoyable, thank you very much. A solid three stars from me. Then I hit perhaps my earliest reading slump out of all my years due to the book Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M. Elliott. Now maybe that’s a bit mean and I’m sure plenty of people will like this book, but it just really was not for me. Admittedly there were parts that I enjoyed, which is why I gave it two stars, but the supposedly strong female heroine of the novel was pretty wishy-washy in my opinion. For those of you who don’t know, this is a historical romance (fiction) which is about the woman who is in Leonardo Da Vinci’s first portrait. I have read almost no historical fiction, so going in I was excited to see if I liked this, but found that I didn’t like it at all. I would have far preferred to see more of Leonardo himself in the book and the character Sancha, who was far more interesting than the main character. There was a great piece of imagery in the prologue of ‘excuse me, I am a mountain tiger’ with the comment on the juxtaposition of ‘excuse me’ to that of the unfaltering ‘mountain tiger’. It intrigued me, and I wish that it would have held that edge throughout. I may also be a little bit biased as well, due to the fact that I didn’t particularly like the cover of this book at all but did like the hardback book underneath which had a small embossed tiger on it. Much nicer.

giphy.com

After that I decided that I was going to read something that’s been on my ‘to be read’ shelf for a long long long time, and that was The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I had only read one other of his books, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which I enjoyed but didn’t think it was brilliant. Yet every time I mentioned this to someone, particularly customers buying his books, I was almost hit on several occasions by outraged fans of his, on account of the fact that I didn’t start with his Chaos Walking trilogy. Welp, I started it, and did enjoy it but found it all a bit confusing and overwhelming to start with. You’re thrown into the middle of everything, with no clue what’s going on or what’s happening or anything really, and the main character is just as stumped as you are. You turn a few pages and think ‘huh?’ so turn a few more, think ‘I’m even more confused’, a few more ‘what the eff?’ and so it goes on.

giphy.com

Next up is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells thanks to the inclusion of it in the February Owlcrate (which you can find a review of below this post), and I was glad to read a proper Sci-Fi classic for a change. I probably should have been able to finish it in a day, but I admit it did take two. And of course I listened to the audiobook of the first Harry Potter book this month, and finished it around this point in the month – and it was great fun. Loved Stephen Fry’s narration of it, especially impressed with all of his different voices, and I’m starting the second one immediately. After that I entered the biggest reading marathon of my life, and that was when I finally bought a copy of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab. I mean, wow. Once again, I love fantasy – and it’s because I can read books that include cross-dressing, pirates, magicians, thieves, and all of it set across parallel Londons. There’s nothing like reading about a place where you live and know about – I absolutely loved it. So much so that I went out the next day as soon as I finished it and bought the sequel, which I finished yesterday on the 1st of March so I’m not counting it in this wrap up. Still, brilliant, brilliant, absolutely smashing. Read it. Five stars without fail.

www.thefleamarcat.com

So, drumroll please…that means that I read five ‘proper’ books this month (yes I’m counting the audiobook, that took over eight hours of my time) and six in total. That means my overall total is 11/50 for my reading challenge and fourteen overall, which I’m incredibly proud of.