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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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.

Books I’m desperate to read

I’ve been terrible at keeping up to date on blog posts since starting full-time at work, which of course wasn’t helped by me going on holiday, but I’m back and hoping to post more than I have been. So, to get back into things, here’s a post about all the books I wish I had more time to read – because my problem is that I want to read all of these books now. (What a nice problem to have).

First up is a book that has been on my list for a long, long time, and that is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Ever since reading Neverwhere, I’ve wanted to read as much as I possibly can from Gaiman and instead I’ve read nothing more. American Gods sounds like a book that I’ll adore, but my problem at the moment is launching into another chunky read – which is clearly a trend I have, as another book I’m desperate to read is called Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Another chunky read, this book has been recommended to me again and again by my colleagues and I so want to start it, but the size is making me nervous. This is a ridiculous thought, however, as some of my favourite books are huge – take A Little Life, one of my all-time top books, which is a monster. There’s just something about big books that gets me this way – before starting all I think is ‘oh man, this is going to take ages’, but as soon as I’ve finished the feeling of pride and sense of accomplishment is so high that I wish it was longer.

 

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A snap I took at work, because these books are just so pretty (and This is Going to Hurt is marvellous)

Whilst we’re talking about big books and Neil Gaiman, I am also desperate to read his Norse Mythology. I adore mythology, a love that has only been encouraged by a degree in Classics where my dissertation was all about myths and most of my modules were on ancient literature, which encapsulates stories and myths. Now that I’m out of uni, I’m not learning about new myths that are more ridiculous than the last, and I’ve always been interested in Norse mythology. When Gaiman released a book on the subject, I was so excited that I immediately bought a copy – but have not found the time to actually read the thing. You can be sure though that, as soon as I do read it, I’m not going to stop talking about norse myths for a good long while.

I’m normally pretty bad at reading non-fiction, which is why I want to read Norse Mythology so badly, but after asking around even more friends recommended Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts to me. This is an author I have heard so much about, and one friend of mine mentions Argonauts in most conversations I have with her, so I’m sure that it’s one that I need to pick up pretty damn soon.

 

I’ve spoken before about my sheer love of book covers, and I need to do another post about it pretty soon to show off all the new pretty books I’ve acquired which include, drum roll, a set of Virginia Woolf books. Mrs Dalloway, Orlando, A Room of One’s Own, and every other Virginia Woolf is something that I just need to read. I’ve read parts of them for uni, but never sat down and appreciated the whole text – which Woolf deserves.

 

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I bought the above edition of His Dark Materials towards the end of last year/beginning of this one, and read Northern Lights earlier this year – and loved it. Yet everyone has told me that the sequels are on a whole other level, which just makes me think that they’ll become my top top favourites, considering how much I loved the first one. Couple that with the fact that the new Philip Pullman is being released next month, these books are ones that I want to read as soon as physically possible. (Just as soon as I’ve convinced myself out of reading five others).

And so concludes the books that, at this moment in time, are at the top of my TBR pile. At this rate, I’ll have planned out everything I’m reading for the rest of this year (not that that’s a bad thing…). Let me know if you’ve read anything I’ve mentioned, or have recommendations because of course what I need is more books to add to the pile!