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.

Advertisements

Childhood Favourites

There are so many books that make me think of childhood, from the picture books that I remember (Dear Zoo was such a classic) to the first series that I ever read (my thanks to Judy Moody for getting me reading). But there are some books that I didn’t read as a child, and instead saw their film adaptations, and over the past year I’ve picked up a few of those that always make me think ‘I should read that’.

First up we have the gorgeous, the beautiful, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I absolutely adored the film when I was younger, and can still quote the lyrics to the song off by heart. I didn’t actually discover that it was originally a book until a few years ago, when I saw the most stunning book cover (shown below). Gold background, shiny writing, and a majestic unicorn – what more do you need? So I asked for it one Christmas but, despite specific instructions, received a different cover which just wasn’t the same. Then last year I decided to just read it, so I did, and I adored it. There is so much dark humour and subtle jokes that I completely missed as a child, and the main character of the unicorn was no longer this pretty, sparkly image that I had when I was young, and instead was this unemotional mythical creature that really didn’t care about the stupid humans around her. Then, as if the universe was smiling down on me for finally reading this great book, I find the golden, gorgeous edition at my shop. It was meant to be.

IMG_0092.jpg

Shortly after that, I found a stunning edition of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie whilst at work, and of course decided that I had to read that as well. We all already know how much of a cover girl I am (exhibit a: everything I’ve written about The Last Unicorn just now), so it’s no surprise that I fell in love with this edition. Once again, it was completely different to how I imagined it as a child, and the film really doesn’t encapsulate all the little nuances of the book. We already know it’s about a flying boy who never ages, but there is so much more magic within the book – more along the lines of magical realism. There was one image that I loved at the beginning of the book, which was of Mrs Darling coming into the children’s room whilst they were asleep to sort out the ‘drawers’ of their minds, tucking all the bad thoughts away at the bottom of the drawers and leaving the fresh happy thoughts on top for them to put on in the morning. Little moments like that made the book so much more magical and enjoyable to read.

 

Oh, and not to mention the fact that the inside of the book was just as gorgeous as the outside.

FCC925AF-B26E-4192-9460-1B527506A133.jpg

You can probably sense a trend here, but once again I picked up another childhood favourite due to the fact that I fell in love with a cover. I was always aware that The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman was a fantastic book, and I had heard multiple times that the film was utter tripe, but still never got around to giving the series another go. I tried when I was in primary school to read the first book and only got about a third of the way in, but just never picked it up again. So when I saw an edition that had all three books in one, I thought it was time to give it another try. Although it took me a few weeks alongside uni, I absolutely adored it – the writing style is flawless, the details and descriptions brilliant, and the imagination is just awe-inspiring. I admit that I did love the film, but now that I’ve read the book I completely understand why everyone lost their minds. A brilliant read, and I will definitely make time in the future to read the sequels – especially as Pullman has just announced a new series.

IMG_0093.jpg

And finally, the book series which I have finally started over the last year, is Harry Potter. I know, I know, I’m crazy/mental/stupid etc not to have read them up until this point but I have my reasons. (My older brother read them, and no way was I going to copy him) I downloaded the first one on audible and really enjoyed it, and as I had a subscription for a couple of months I bought the next two. It wasn’t until the third one that I fell in love with them, to the point where I wasn’t going to sleep so I could listen to the next few chapters. It was my first experience of audiobooks as well as the books, even though I’ve seen all of the movies. I’m now on Order of the Phoenix and am planning to keep listening until the very end.

It just goes to show that even though books are marketed towards a certain age group – in this case, children – there is no reason why anyone can’t read them and, more importantly, enjoy them. I highly recommend it to everyone to read something not necessarily tailored towards you, because you just might find a new love.

October Wrap Up

Considering the month of October included university work unlike the likes I’ve ever seen, a trip to the US, and continued working on the weekends, I’m surprised I managed to read anything at all. Yet somehow, my Goodreads account claims I’ve read one more book than I thought I had. As I’m unsure where I’ve messed up, and don’t particularly want to go through all 2016 wrap up blogs alongside my Goodreads logs, we’re just going to pretend there’s no mistake whatsoever.

shit-happens-rick.gif
uproxx

So first up I read Frostblood by Elly Blake, which was far bester than I expected it to be. I actually received the book back in the July Fairyloot box, but just hadn’t picked it up yet. I had just finished The Crown’s Game, mentioned in my previous wrap up, and was still riding that fantastical high. A book about people controlling fire and ice sounded like fun, and although I wasn’t expecting much, Frostblood had an interesting setting, a great build up, and a surprisingly great ending – although the ‘big twist’ wasn’t much of a shock. I expect there will be a sequel, and in that I hope Blake manages to develop all of the characters even more – especially the secondary ones, which I don’t think were always used to their full potential – although I personally have no idea where she’s going to take the plot from here on out, so I look forward to seeing what she does.

Next I finally finished the audiobook for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which I once again loved. I’d completely forgotten some of the details of certain characters and events, especially towards the end, so there were still moments that were completely new to me. There’s a lot that wasn’t included in the films, which I expected, but honestly I love coming across these little pieces of new information and plot. I especially love everything to do with Hermione’s S.P.E.W and the ghost Peeves, who I wish could have been in the films.

giphy-3.gif
giphy

The third and final book I finished in October was The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, which I read for my dissertation. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, mainly due to Campbell’s beautiful writing style. There were passages that I had to write down, just for his use of phrase and imagery to encapsulate the world of the ancient hero. If you have any interest in ancient classics, mythology, or the hero trope, I highly recommend it.

So even though I’ve also read about two thirds of another book in October, I’m happy with these three – especially as I mentioned in my last wrap up that I just needed to read three books a month in order to get to my goal. I’ve also, unsurprisingly, read a couple of Kindle books in the past month, so in terms of overall reading I’ve managed to get through a lot. As I’ve told myself that I just don’t have the time to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, which I’m very unhappy about despite the fact that it’s for my own good (head over to my writing blog alwayslovetowrite.wordpress.com to read more), this means that I should have some more time for recreational reading. I did count Campbell in with this month, even though it was for university, and I should have another university book in November’s wrap up – so maybe next year my goal will be books not included for uni, although that may be a bit cruel to myself.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and here’s hoping that we’ll reach our reading goals!

Another Illumicrate!

It’s that wonderful time of the month when there is a wonderful parcel waiting for me – and that would be the joy that is Illumicrate. Honestly, just seeing the white and yellow box fills me with excitement, yellow is definitely the happiest colour without fail. After my last review (see here!), Daphne gave me a discount for this box so, honestly, double the excitement.

She did not disappoint.

IMG_0932

First up was the classic tote bag but with ‘in omnia paratus’, which is Latin for ‘ready for all things’. I mean, what is more enticing to a Classics student than Latin on a tote bag? (Nothing, that’s what) The design is so cute with the umbrellas, and being in London you always need an umbrella to be prepared so it fits perfectly. It was only afterwards that I found out that it was from Gilmore Girls, which although I don’t watch it makes more sense for this bag! Loved it.

Then we have two items that just go perfectly together, and with the mug from the last Illumicrate I have a perfect set! Two Harry Potter coasters, one with the original gang from the movie and the other matching the cast from the grown up Cursed Child trio! They’re absolutely beautiful, and I almost don’t want to use them and just have them framed on my wall. To go with my coasters is a packet of tea with a classic Lewis Carroll quote ‘It’s always Tea Time’ – truer words have never been spoken. Two more beautifully thought out items.

Colouring is just a good time, which is why having two prints to colour in and add to my wall of random things is just perfect. Not to mention the four mini posters with just gorgeous designs to pin up as well! There was also a discount for the most awesome looking bookmark ever, which had me incredibly excited. But not as excited as what’s coming up next.

IMG_0937

As you know, I attended YALC, my first ever book convention, and managed to find Daphne and give her a hug. Yet there was a book there that my friend and I thought looked particularly good called The Graces. There was a cool little quiz where you could find out what ‘witch’ you are, which my friend and I chose for each other and apparently I’m a Fire Witch – whose animals included wolves and horses, so, buzzing. Now what do I find in my box but a proof copy of said book?? You have no idea how much I squealed (no shame) and read through the author letter and immediately stuck in my signed book plate.

And then, a curve ball. It was the most wonderful, unexpected surprise of the whole box, but before I get into let’s tell a small story. The story of when Eleanor saw a cool proof at work of an upcoming fantasy book and thought ‘wow that looks good, I’ll have to pick that up at the end of the day’, only to discover that someone else thought it also looked good. End of shift arrives, and the bloody book has been taken away by someone else with very good taste. So comes the disappointment that one can only get when the one (book) gets away . But not to fear, Illumicrate is here to the rescue.

IMG_0938

That’s right, my pain was somehow felt and cured with a beautiful hardback copy of Nevernight in my box along with another signed bookplate, a card poster, and a bookmark! I can’t convey the happiness I felt at seeing this book, and may have said a little prayer of thanks to the Book Gods that keep watch over me.

IMG_0945

So another beautiful box and I couldn’t be happier with it. Each item was wonderful, and the two books were ideal for me especially. Daphne has outdone herself, and you should definitely check out Illumicrate, a quarterly book subscription service! Follow them on twitter @illumicrate and on Instagram for bookish joy. You won’t regret it!

May Wrap Up

Ah May, the month of exams and stress, stress, stress. You can tell that I tried to escape reality by the amount of Kindle books I powered through at the beginning of the month. Although they weren’t all great, for the moments I read them they served their purpose of helping me forget I had responsibilities.

theodysseyonline.com

First up we have the beautiful Temeraire by Naomi Novik, which I started in April and finished on the first of May which seems a bit unfair but oh well. It’s counted toward the May total anyway. Everyone and their mothers know I love dragons, so it’s no surprise that I adored this book. Uprooted is one of my favourite fantasy novels this year, so when I saw the author had written a series all about dragons? Amazing. The relationship between dragon and handler was stunning, and the character of the dragon Temeraire was witty, charming, and just perfection. Five stars without doubt. I think I need to write a full review soon before I burst.

Now it’s time to list the Kindle books. Brace yourself. First we had the first in the new Dive Bar series by Kylie Scott, which I thought was (and I quote from my ‘what i read’ journal, which I write in as soon as I finish a book) ‘ok, but not earth shattering’. Thought it had a strong beginning with interesting premise (involved a runaway bride breaking and entering), but felt that interest wasn’t maintained and I grew bored.

Then we had Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole which I liked to start with as thought the main character’s back story was dark with horrible happenings so thought it would be a serious, interesting contemporary, but once again I just grew bored.

Next is Evil by Tijan, which was much better for me as I always seem to enjoy Tijan’s books. I may read a lot of fantasy, but I haven’t read paranormal in ages so this was great fun to read. Funnily enough I picked up fantasy book Radiance after that by Grace Draven, which had the very interesting concept as far away from insta-love (my most hated trope, where two characters instantly fall in love) as you can get. Our two main characters are from different ‘clans’ if you will, one human and one not, and both detest the sight of the other. Having two characters repulsed by the other’s appearance? I’ve never enjoyed it more.

Then one final kindle buy, Rule by Jennifer Blackwood, and I gave it two stars. Again I’ll quote my reasons why from my journal, ‘Was enjoyable enough and would have been three and a half stars with a better ending that wasn’t so predictable. Too easy, felt like a cop-out’.

giphy.com

I also finished listening to the third Harry Potter this month, and it’s my favourite so far for definite. I had my first experience with this series where I couldn’t stop listening, and I really couldn’t go to sleep yet because things were getting so good and amazing and Stephen Fry read faster we need to know what happens and it’s already 1am.

The second, and final, physical book I read this month was The Bricks that Built the Houses by Kate Tempest, and if you’re interested I’ve already written my review of it here. I think my favourite quote was ‘the sky is the sea is the sea is the sky’ to describe sitting on a beach and looking out to the ocean. A beautifully crafted book.

And so concludes this month’s wrap up! That brings us to 22/50 for physical books and 38 in total! As we’re almost halfway through the year, I’m pretty happy with where I am reading wise. Hopefully by the end of June I can say I reached the 25 book goal to make halfway, but who knows – maybe it will be slightly more!

tumblr.com

March Wrap Up

It seems every month I have an excuse ready as to why I haven’t read so many books, but that just seems ridiculous – why should I apologise for reading less books one month to another? We all have lives outside of reading (as simple as they may or may not be) and it seems stupid to keep explaining why my life that doesn’t involve reading is taking priority, as much as I wish it didn’t sometimes. Despite all that, I think I did pretty well this month with maybe a few more Kindle reads than anticipated. I’ve got a busy few months ahead, what with exams and essays, but by June my university work will be over for another year and all I’ll have to do during the Summer is work at my job, try to get an internship, and do reading for my dissertation. Yeah, life isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

thelittleaslam.com

First up this month is a book I’ve already sort-of reviewed, and that is A Gathering of Shadows by V.E Schwab. I literally finished it in one day, which happened on the first day of this month. Five stars without hesitation, a fantastic sequel and yet another book series that I would do almost anything to have the final book right now.

Next up is a book by an author who is always a one-click buy for me, and that is Jennifer L Armentrout’s The Power. I mean, come on, it’s a sequel in a spin-off series that’s all about the Greek Gods and Goddesses. I’m a Classics student who is currently planning a dissertation about ancient greek mythology – these books are my jam. Speaking of, that’s a pretty odd phrase – do people all have particular jams they like so much that this saying was born? Anyway, back to mythology – these books are so readable and you finish them without even realising how much you’ve already read. Action and adventure and drama on every page, no filler scenes whatsoever to bulk out the books. I’d recommend her books in a heartbeat to anyone who likes a bit of fantasy in a more YA setting with funny dialogue, lovable characters, and fast-paced reading. Her Lux series starting with Obsidian was one of the first I bought when I received my Kindle, and I’ve been buying all of her books since. Yes, it won’t win any literary prizes anytime soon, but they’re fun and enjoyable and isn’t that what we want to read?

pinterest.com

I wanted a short read next, so I picked up The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman, which was definitely short and sweet exactly. This is the point in the month where I think I was so fed up of doing reading for uni, that I just wanted some Kindle reads to breeze through and not have to focus on them. You’ve been warned, let the kindle read marathon begin.

There’s Beautiful Lies and Beautiful love by Kendall Ryan, which I actually gave one star to – very trashy book that brought mindless reading to it, but there was an offer on them to purchase. Then Fisher’s Light by Tara Sivec which I’d seen so many reviews for, but I only rated it two stars; it was a nice story I guess, but I couldn’t connect at all with the characters so I ended up just not caring at all about what happened. Then there’s Sparrow, which I rated half a star more than Fisher’s Light, by L.J Shen and the description I wrote in my little reading journal is ‘Not so fluffy, interesting idea, not such an obvious end’. I think that says it all really. Then we finally have Wall of Winnipeg by Mariana Zapata, which I rated three stars (highest rating so far) and I’m glad as it was in the top rankings for ebooks. Again, I have an illuminating description of ‘lovely read and thankfully long’ – clearly I’ve been upset too many times by kindle books being so short just so they can sell multiple books which really could easily be condensed into one.

tumblr.com

Then I finally picked up an actual book again, and it was The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry which was the book featured in last month’s Owlcrate. I gave it three and a half stars, which now looking back on all of those ebooks I think was maybe a bit too harsh. Let’s say 3.45 so it can be rounded up. I think it’s because it took me a while to get into so I spent a long time reading it, but it did really pick up the pace at about 65% of the way through. An, as far as I can tell, original idea and a fantastic debut novel. There was a ‘story’ element to it, in so far as many stories were told (good explaining there, Eleanor), and I loved that aspect far too much. There also seems to be a theme in what I liked this month with books, as another big ‘plus’ point for me was that I didn’t guess the ending or the twist or, well, anything really. Lovely writing and a beautiful note from the author – definite recommend for anyone looking out for new authors of a sci-fi nature with a love story that literally transcends time.

Next up is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, read on audible, and once again I loved it. Stephen Fry is by far the best narrator of the series without a doubt.I finished it alongside another Kindle buy, I’m afraid, and that was The Promise by Kristen Ashley who has a knack for writing long, drama-packed books and has a very typical style and format which just works for a quick flick with fun characters and witty passages.

tumblr.com

And finally for this month, I finished it with a proof copy of On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. Such a cute book, very much like Andrew Kaufman with the magical elements, but had really fantastic moralising undertones. She has beautiful intentions with this fairytale-esque story with not over-emphasised discussions on sexuality and emotional manipulation – I wrote a mini review of it on my Instagram, but there should be a full review on another website which I’ll let you know about soon.

12328270_808377222629781_386797458_n

https://www.instagram.com/stammydodger/

All in all, not a bad month. Six book-books for me, including The Power and the Harry Potter audible book, my reasoning for The Power being that it was long, great, and I always just buy her books on Kindle for price reasons. Then six ebooks on top of that, although they weren’t all so great. So for my reading challenge I’m on 17/50 and 26 in total! Although my Goodreads tells me that for book-books I’m on 18, but to be honest I can’t think what I’ve missed out. Oh well, that just sums me up really – good at reading, bad at maths. Here’s to March.

gifcentral.blogspot

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.

buzzfeed.com

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.

tumblr.com

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.

bookskeepmesane.wordpress.com

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.

bustle.com